A Gun in the First Act Always Goes Off in the Third

The youth football played in South Central Los Angeles wasn’t just a game. It was a matter of survival, a refuge keeping the kids off the streets and out of the gangs for at least one day a week. And if a kid was lucky, it was a way out.

It had been for Kermit. Growing up in Watts in the 50’s, he’d found on the gridiron a release for his anger. He was allowed to run and hit and tackle at will. And he did it like no one else. But at the age of twelve he let his short-temper surface during a game and his father made sure to end it right there. Coming out of the stands he yanked Kermit off the field. “You’re embarrassing me... Sit down until you can control yourself!”

Kermit behaved after that; well enough to escape South Central through a scholarship to UCLA. Ten successful years in the pros followed.


He often returned to the stage of his youth, going to football games around the city. On September 21, 1974, one particular game jogged his memory clearly. As Kermit watched from the stands, an eight-year-old boy, the most obviously-talented boy on the field, was letting all of his rage go, just as Kermit had done years before. As the boy was dragged kicking off the field, Kermit thought of himself and said “somebody needs to help that boy.” But Kermit wasn’t that “somebody.”


Kermit recognized the defendant at last when the trial began.

“Oh my God...”

It was Tiequon Cox, the eight-year-old footballer from a decade earlier whom Kermit thought someone needed to help. Now it was too late. And it was too late to help Kermit Alexander’s mother, sister, and nephews too; victims of the gangland murder-for-hire gone wrong.


and it turned upon the point of a lance

Adhemar rolled over and coughed dryly. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust around the gleaming torchlight before he recognized the figure standing over him. He sat up in a cloud of dust and ran his fingers upward through his beard.

“Oh... it’s you. Is there movement?” The words barely escaped his parched throat.

“No, your Excellency,” the page replied, “it’s a miracle, come see!”

With much difficulty, Adhemar got to his feet and limped to the window. Outside was the Basilica of Saint Peter and at its entrance a large crowd was illuminated by a hundred fiercely burning torches. At the open doors, a skinny man, naked except for a tattered shirt, stood facing the crowd, holding something above his head.

“Who is that? What’s he got there?” Adhemar asked.

“It’s that visionary,” said the page, “He’s found the spear!”

At these words, color appeared in Adhemar’s face where none had been for weeks.

“Nonsense!” he screamed. “Damn that peasant. And damn those stupid enough to believe him. Our men need food and water and what does he do? He gives them...”

Adhemar de Monteil, Bishop of Puy-en-Velay and Papal Legate, caught his breath as he looked back down at the crowd. It had almost doubled in size. Every man was kneeling.

“He gives them... hope... yes, so be it. Hope.” He leaned out the window and bellowed, “Deus Vult!”

The object that Peter Bartholomew dug up on June 14, 1098 wasn’t even a spear; it was the cap to a standard. But it was close enough for the starving Franks. Abandoned by the Greeks, barricaded behind the walls of Antioch and on the brink of disaster, they rallied with their new relic of Longinus to scatter the superior Muslim armies, ensuring continuance of the First Crusade.


The National Movement for Abolishing Theatre Queues

About twenty kilometers west of London, in the little village of Stoke Poges, Eleanor closed the gate at St. Giles cemetery and shuffled down a rutted path. She’d just placed a little wreath on the marker of her deceased husband. He’d died during the Great War. Not in the war, just coincidentally during it; a heart attack while reading a Times story about the overthrow of the Russian Tsar. Eleanor always blamed the communists for his death and considered him a “wartime casualty,” even though the War Office consistently refused her demands for benefits.

With this thought on her mind she returned home to start a kettle for a cup of tea. Waiting for the water to boil, she turned on her crystal radio and plugged in the earpiece. A discussion of Gray’s “Elegy” was just concluding, one of her favorite pieces. But after just a moment, a familiar voice broke in.

“We interrupt this program with breaking news... There’s been a demonstration by the unemployed in London... The crowd has now passed along Whitehall and, at the suggestion of Mr Popplebury, Secretary of the National Movement for Abolishing Theatre Queues, is preparing to demolish the Houses of Parliament with trench mortars...”

Eleanor gasped, “Bolshevists! I knew this day would come!”

“...and the clock tower has just fallen to the ground...”

Before tuning out and rushing over to break the news to her neighbors, she heard the announcer mention that since there was no more Big Ben, Greenwich Time would instead now be obtained from Edinburgh on Uncle Leslie’s repeating watch.

If Eleanor, and a million other British listeners, had listened a little more attentively and trusted the new media a little less, the January 16, 1926 national panic caused by Father Ronald Knox’s burlesque broadcast might not have happened.


A Field Test on the Pedernales

By June 7th, 1844, the reputation of the Rangers had already been established. Deadly. The Comanche raiders who had slaughtered and raped their way north into Central Texas from the no-man’s lands of the Rio Grande certainly knew of it. And they knew that their return to Mexico would not go unchallenged by those stone-faced Anglos.

The Comanche though, had established their own reputation. Fearless in battle, lethal with the bow, they were arguably the finest horsemen to have ever lived. They’d developed flawless tactics that drew wasted fire from their enemies, enabling them to swoop down upon them with overwhelming force as they dismounted to slowly reload. So, when the scouts peered over the flinty ridge along the Pedernales River and saw only fifteen Rangers circling a campfire, they raced back to their camp to tell of the advantage.

Before those scouts even mounted their horses, Captain John Coffee Hays had already begun speaking softly to his men.

“I reckon’ you all saw that... probably have a little war dance tonight and attack when the sun comes up. Now, they’ll be seventy-five... at least. And they’ll try to draw us apart; don’t let ‘em. Wait ‘til they form up. We stay mounted. Now get some sleep.”

The next morning unfolded as predicted, and when the Rangers fired their single-shot rifles, the Indians confidently advanced with a terrifying cry. Facing five to one odds on open ground, not a single lawman should have been left alive. But the Rangers had some five to one odds of their own. For the first time, the new Colt Paterson 5-shot-revolver was used in the field; “one bullet for every finger.” Fifty-three Comanches fell in those violent fifteen minutes while the Rangers suffered only four casualties.

A new era in American/Indian relations was dawning.


And if you believe that...

As the two beat-cops strolled by, George adjusted the carnation on his breast and checked his watch. 11:30 a.m. on March 1, 1928. He had an hour and a half until they returned.

Ten minutes later, a handsome young couple came strolling across the bridge. The man was pointing as they walked, the woman nervously nodding her head. George greeted them with a warm smile. “Ah, I see you’ve brought the little miss!”

He bowed deeply and took the lady’s hand and pressed it to his lips. He addressed her in a tone of deep respect, “Madam, it’s an honor to have met you. You should not only be proud of your husband for the hard bargain he commanded of me, but proud of the future he’s ensured you and the wee one you’ll soon be bringing into this wonderful land of opportunity by the purchase he’s made. Your folks back in County Cork... well, just imagine what they’ll say when they hear that just three days off the boat, you’ve become real property owners! I congratulate you and sincerely welcome you to America!”

With an unquestionably confused look upon her face, the woman put a finger to her chin and she made movement to reply but George had already turned away, his broad arm coiling around her husband’s back. She stood there with her mouth agape as she watched her husband hand over nearly all of the money they’d brought with them.

The young immigrants would find out from the beat-cops later that day that they could not set up their toll-booth as planned. And George C. Parker would later that year begin a life sentence at Sing Sing prison after three decades of selling the Brooklyn Bridge, in addition to Madison Square Garden and the Statue of Liberty.