It starts in South Lansing, Michigan. I'm walking to work past the nearest Meijer Thrifty Acres store in the snow, with Toejam and a few others. We take off our shoes where the pavement is clear. (2 Apr)
- Toejam's a superhuman who helped me out last month. We're both still hanging around South Lansing - because I've just been assigned there.
- Shoeless isn't unusual for Toejam. He airs his feet outside whenever he gets the chance, to forestall their inevitable stench. I try it too, just to show I can. But I don't think I'll make a habit of it.
I'm supposed to patrol a certain range of addresses in the neighborhood, because the type of neighborhood should be familiar to me from when I was growing up. And I'm teamed with the equivalent of Captain America. (3 Apr)
- Why? I've been drafted by the U.S. Gov on behalf of the Patriotic Homeland Corps. The Corps founder Rupert Mafekinger has a grudge against me now, so he's getting even. As for the legality, I vaguely recall signing a U.S. draft registration form back in 1979.
- Ho hum, the Gov's nationalized me yet again. And they've noticed I live in Michigan, so I patrol there now. This beats the last time they nationalized me. They sent me to invade Iraq a year and a half ago, but they weren't happy with the results. We'll see how long this one lasts.
- As regards familiarity with the neighborhood... By U.S. Gov standards, this just means South Lansing, Michigan (my assigned neighborhood) is about equal to Clermont, Indiana (where I grew up). I'd have to say, their only similarity is that they're both in the Midwest. South Lansing is industrial and multi-ethnic. Clermont is suburban, mighty white, and redneck from being stuck between Indiana's two greatest race tracks: one NHRA drag strip, one Indy 500.
- As for the rest of my enemies, they're probably still ignoring me for the moment, because they're in the middle of the Black Arts Olympics this year. After that, maybe they'll have new grudges and forget about me. Of course, they could be coming up with ways to torment me and win a contest at the same time...
Of course, I expect hell. All my fellow patrollers are former inmates, and they were supposed to make life hell for me. But as often happens in real life, after one confronts the unknown, it's not so threatening.
- I still can stop by convenience stores on patrol, and I can still carry my wallet, so I can still buy liquor. And my new teammates know where to hide the liquor so the sergeant doesn't find it. A couple of shots a day will do, just like the Royal Navy used to. So we're all happy. (4 Apr)
- They do prank me one day, by sabotaging my pants so they fall apart on patrol. As inmate stunts go, this hardly counts. Good thing I carry safety pins. (9 Apr)
One day on patrol, I walk up a snowdrift and sit on the roof of a high school, but soldiers are patrolling and take my cell phone at gunpoint. (11 Apr)
- Why? Apparently the aliens are broadcasting mind-control messages to deranged human snipers, as part of the Saucer War. The citizens of America are responding by saying, Save Our Children!
- And I'm patrolling. Here I am at Lansing Everett High School, famous home of Magic Johnson.
- Don't ask me about the snow. It shouldn't be snowing here in April, but here it is. Nature forces may be on a rampage.
- The snowdrifts help me get up the trees, and the trees help me get to the roof. Which surprises the other guards. Good thing they're patrolling against aliens, not against determined human opponents... yeah, right.
I'm not even determined, but they're not even patrolling. If I had to guess, they all got inducted this week and they haven't been to basic training yet. There is an induction center a few blocks from here...
- Of course, they say my cell phone's out of bounds for the exercise, and I signed an agreement not to bring my own communication device on patrol, and yada yada. But after the first several years the phone's kind of flakey anyway, and it's one of those models the phone company refuses to support. It's time I got a replacement. This way I can honestly file an insurance claim, and say the phone was stolen.
Then I get an unexpected transfer...
My friend Jen's having a class to train aerobics teachers. I'm going dressed as Spider-Man. The guy in the Doctor Doom armor would rather not have to take this class, though. (12 Apr)
- Jen's from Massachusetts, but she'll go wherever customers are. East Lansing, in this case.
- Jen's a member of Body Up and licensed by the Gov, so it's okay for me to work with her. It not only counts as patrolling, it counts as training.
- Right now, Jen's training aerobics teachers and other community leaders to respond to threats, such as friendly comic-book Spider-Man and enemy comic-book Doctor Doom. This seems unsubtle to me, but perhaps subtlety of menace is the next level of training.
- Jen and I used to be champion role-players together, so I'm happy to dress up for one of her events.
- Too bad she has to call it off. Weird snowstorms are happening in Massachusetts, just like Michigan. Ultimate Low C, the Champion of Cold, must be having the time of his life this year.
I've been cleared to tour some more with Jen, once she catches up. I'm taking planes from Michigan to Los Angeles via Atlanta and Honolulu; they say the plane can't land at L.A at 2 am. I'll be in window seats all the way. That sucks, for those of us with active bladders. (13 Apr)
- I've got laundry to do when I arrive. A woman and I get to the washers at the same time. There're enough washers for both of us, but who'll get to the dryers first? (13 Apr)
- Then, back to Massachusetts. Boy, Jen's schedule sucks. In Oxford I've got my choice of pubs to eat lunch in, but I need to get away from a grandfather first. By then it's 3 pm. I have to get back to Douglas for dinner, rolling furniture down the road. I hope it gets up the big hill. (15 Apr)
- As an agent of fitness, I join a nine-hour dodgeball game for a charity nursing home. Soon I find, the middle isn't the best strategic position - unless you can duck. (18 Apr)
- Back in Lansing, there's an array of breast cancer ribbons set up for an upcoming foot race. One of those breast cancer things. Of course I'm on fitness duty, so I'm putting in an appearance. My own charity of preference is disadvantaged children, but most charities are fine with me. (20 Apr)
- I once again dump laundry in the nearest available machine, then head for a river trip with some American Gladiators. But my kayak gets messy, and Paul McCartney is objecting. I understand how I got sucked into reality TV, but what's Sir Paul doing here? He must be the celebrity judge. (25 Apr)
- Richard Gere and his wife (no, not Julia Roberts, apparently one Carey Lowell) have opened up their mansion to lodgers, as part of a freelance disaster preparedness program. I got a card that gives me one room. Okay, I saw a room in a Hollywood mansion. But in case of disaster, I doubt I'll make it there. (28 Apr)
All in all, patrol duty is haaard, I say whinily. Even if my friends are helping me avoid the really hard sort of patrol, I say because I've been in Iraq. But then, life itself is hard too.
But at least one good thing is coming out of it. People are offering me private-sector jobs again - albeit as an aerobics instructor. A gym is checking whether I can take over for an aerobics teacher who's way too easy. I'm probably busy all summer (still in the public sector, one might say), but I've got a friend who can help. (14 May)