Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Man From Branford

August 2nd, 2007

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The Announcement

I have a normal practice. I treat people who have problems with their drinking, with depression, with the way that they’re seeing the world. I help them get through that, and try to steer them to a better view of life. I’ve been doing it for about 15 years now, and I like my work. I think that I’m making a difference, and I think that I’m helping people.
I live in a medium-sized town in Texas, a couple hundred thousand people. Not East Podunk, but not New York City. People are fairly polite, pretty nice, but they can get into bad situations, and they need someone who can talk to them, and give them advice. I’m not the only psychiatrist, but I care about my patients, and I see to it that they get only the best from me.
I want to make it perfectly clear from the outset that I am not a crusader for pseudoscience. I am grounded in science, in the real world, in my relationships within my community. I do not look for outlandish explanations to people’s problems, I don’t believe in regressive hypnotherapy, I don’t believe in past lives. Or, at least I didn’t.
There was a very hot summer, a couple of years ago, that I noticed a large upsurge in patients. I don’t know, maybe there was something about the heat that was just setting everyone on edge. Many of my long-time clients were feeling anxious, most of my new clients seemed to be of the violent sort, and I was beginning to think that maybe I should find another line of work or else retire. You get those thoughts, sometimes. You can’t help them. Psychiatrists are weighed down with a lot of cares, and if they don’t have a good therapist of their own to talk to, it can be very hard to carry on.
So, it was a terrible summer, and my professional life wasn’t giving me any satisfaction. I was thinking of taking a vacation, but with the upsurge in business, I didn’t think that I could abandon anyone for my own selfish desire to sit on a beach with my wife and sip Margaritas. I was feeling stressful, and needed a rest, so I took a day off. It’s nice to be able to play hooky for a little while. I cancelled all my appointments, painfully in some cases, and I took a drive to Austin for a long weekend with Francine, my lovely bride.
It was sheer heaven. Austin, if you’ve never been, is an oasis of goofiness in the vast desert of Texas’ sanity. There are people there who could make you believe the Sixties never ended, and that they never began. It appeals to the conservative and the liberal. A fascinating city for people-watchers like myself, and a wonderful opportunity to catch up on culture for Francine.
“Tom,” she said to me as we drove down Highway 79 towards that lovely Mecca, “when we get there, can we stop at the Whole Foods on Lamar? We can get some of their fresh fruit, a little bread, some wine and cheese, and have a nice little picnic down in Zilker Park.” She laid her hand across my shoulder and gently massaged. “Wouldn’t that be romantic? You and me, a blanket, all-natural… and au natural later on, if you want.” Her hand slid down my arm and gave my thigh a squeeze, very close to my favorite spot for her to squeeze.
“That sounds wonderful.” I glanced at her smiling face, then turned back to the road. “Maybe we can find one of those nice secluded spots on the rock island.”
Her head leaned over and rested on my shoulder. Her short black hair had a lovely scent of jasmine and rosemary, and I breathed it in. My wife can be positively intoxicating at times. I had been missing moments like this for almost a year. That can place a strain on any marriage, but Francine had been very understanding, thank god.
We had reached the stretch of road outside of Hutto that is almost nothing but farmland when I saw a man on the side of the road. There was nothing to block my view of him, so I was able to observe him from a couple of miles away. He was only wearing shorts, nothing unusual in the Texas summer, but he didn’t seem to be either jogging or hitching. He seemed to be stumbling.
“Francine, does that man look all right?” We were about to pass him, so she shaded her eyes and squinted to get a better look. I slowed down some, but we still shot past at a good clip.
Francine’s gasp made me slow down almost to a stop. “Jesus, Tom, that man has some kind of head wound.” My foot hit the brake and I swerved onto the shoulder, then started backing up, watching the man grow increasingly larger in my rearview mirror.
He was a man of average size, blond hair, skin reddened by exposure to the sun, and he was a mass of bruises. His nose and lower face were covered in blood, and his eyes were glazed over. As soon as we were within ten feet of him, I stopped the car and ran out to him.
He didn’t react to me at all. I grabbed him by the arm and looked into his eyes, and they were almost fully dilated. That meant that he was probably blinded by the bright sunlight all around us. “Sir, can you understand me?” His face turned to me, but it remained expressionless. “I’m a doctor. I’m going to help you, get you to a hospital. Can you understand?” He made no sound, and I was beginning to think that he must have been severely concussed by whatever had happened to him. I started walking him to my car, and Francine got out and opened the back door to help him in. “It’s going to be all right. I think you have a concussion, but we’re going to get you to some help.” I didn’t think he was hearing a word I was saying, but you never know, and it’s best to be smooth and reassuring in moments like that.
As we came to the car door and I started to help him in, he turned to me and pulled me very close to his face. “They’re coming now. They’ve got me, and they’re coming now for the rest of you.”
“Who’s coming now?” My opinion at this point was that he was probably suffering delusions after the head trauma, which was quite understandable. I did my best to remain calm and soothing.
“The others. They’ll be here, and there isn’t anything we can do to stop them. They took the only one who could.” He allowed me to bend his head so that he could fit into the back seat, and I closed the door on him. Francine got in and started reassuring him, too.
When I got in, she was caught up in the conversation with him. “They’re not here now, so you can relax, sir. Don’t worry. What’s your name?”
“Tim Johnson.” He came to life a little bit. “I’m from Branford.”
“I never heard of that. Is it a small town?”
“Everything’s small here in Connecticut.”
I glanced over at Francine and shook my head. There was no need to tell this man where he was and give him any further shock.

In 1975, mob executioner Frank Sheeran dumped the cremated remains of Jimmy Hoffa into Lake Michigan. The cremation had been performed at Grand Lawn Cemetery, a short drive from the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Jimmy Hoffa
Jimmy Hoffa
Nobody had expected Hoffa to settle into a quiet retirement. For relaxation, Jimmy enjoyed boating trips wherein he and friends would chum the waters, shoot sharks with Thompson submachine guns and/or beat sharks to death with nail studded baseball bats.
Yet he had entered a whole new league of trouble when he threatened to reveal the mob's entanglement with Teamsters pension funds -- even though he himself turned the Central States Pension Fund into the Mafia's private piggy bank.

The mob weren't the only people wanting to eliminate Hoffa. The White House feared Hoffa's plans for the labour movement. In 1964 Hoffa had succeeded in bringing virtually all North American over-the-road truck drivers under a single national master freight agreement. His ambition now was to an agreement for all transport workers, giving him the power to paralyze America. The interests of the White House and the mob converged. Naturally, "they" had organized the hit.

~ entry by Steve Payne from Counter History in Context - You're the Judge!

In 1994, Lyn Nichols published Mahogany Dreams.

In Nichol's alternate America of 1981, John Hinckley, Jr. assassinated Ronald Reagan. In the immediate aftermath, Secretary of State General Alexander Haig asserted before reporters that I'm in control here - the quotation became seen as an attempt by Haig to exceed his authority. In fact Haig had assumed the emergency powers of President, as he did seven years before when Nixon spent all his time in the bottle hiding from the ugly truth of Watergate.

This time though, Haig and CIA Chief Bill Casey had prepared a contingency plan for the passing of the seventy-year old Reagan. President Pro Tempore of the US Senate Strom Thurmond was disgraced by business links to Columbian drug cartels, Air Force Two had a mysterious accident in which VP George Bush is killed and House Speaker Tip O'Neil had a few extracts of Foxglove added to his tea to bring on the heart attack many would expect if he assumed the Presidency.

Actually, Haig had a contingency plan for the contingency plan, and Casey also had an early demise brought on by an unexpected accident – it wouldn't do to have the continued safety and strength of the Country threatened by a power-hungry little man like the chief of the CIA.

With the Chief Justice's swearing in as President clearly in hand, Haig ordered a pill from his secretary Martha. He needed to combat a tension headache that was building up. Self-involved, he popped the pill without looking up to see a lady very much like his secretary Martha hurry out of the office.

Alexander Meigs Haig, Jr. was now feeling decidedly unwell. Come to think of it, he was feeling downright ill. He thought about the pill. The lady that looked very much like Martha. OMG. Perhaps Bill Casey had put in place his own contingency plan.

~ variant from Steve Payne: extensive use of original content has been made to celebrate the author's genius.

In 2015, Chief Archivist of the United States Newt Gingrich declassified the report of the Danforth Commission, a high-level US commission of inquiry which thoroughly investigated the apocalyptic events of the summer of 1980.

During the critical 19 day period, a security breach at a secret US facility led to the escape and spread of a human-made biological weapon, a superflu (influenza) virus known formally as "Project Blue" and colloquially as Captain Trips.

The resulting epidemic threatened to kill most of the human population in North America. The Top Brass lost control and decided to push the doomsday button. Panicking, General Starkey issued the orders "Rome Falls", authorising US Agents to travel to dispersion points around the world where they released the superflu.

At the Atlanta Plague Centre, microbiologics discovered why Stuart Redmond was alive and eating breakfast tacos whilst his buddies from the East Texas berg of Arnette were all dead. Georgia Giant Jimmy Carter had a strong moral compass, but by then Starkey and his henchmen were running the country. And they were fully aware of John F Kennedy's observation regarding the Chinese proverb that within every threat lay an opportunity. Consequently a serum was issued within the United States but an executive decision was made to delay release to Russia and China.

The Danforth Commission reached the conclusion that the US must now give a full account of the catastrophe in order to be re-accepted in the International Community.

~ variant by Steve Payne from: extensive use of original content has been made to celebrate the genius of both authors (Stephen King and Robert L. O'Connell).

In 2009, the TV networks presented episode twenty-two of So What If?. H. Beam Piper discusses Washington death at Germantown, explaining how Benedict Arnold became president.

~ entry by Steve Payne from Counter History in Context - You're the Judge!

In 1935, Officer John Bruce of the Tank Corps Regiment delivered the most extraordinary announcement to the world's media. This revelation followed the recent death of a Private Shaw of the Tank Corps in a motorcyle accident at Clouds Hill.

Shaw was a false name for Colonel TE Lawrence, hiding from both a murky past and also unwanted hero worship. The hero worship had been partly caused by the British Government.

Trying to move the focus off the meatgrinder of the Western Front, the Government had shifted the attention of the home front by glorifying Lawrence's role in the so-called "Arab Revolt".

In fact, the significance of the campaign has been questioned by military historans even since - seen by many as a reckless side show with dangerous long-term side affects for the people of the Middle-East. In "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" Lawrence had penned his war diary setting out a somewhat different account. Actually, in the first version, a very different account.
Clouds Hill CottageThe diary had been immediately written following the fall of Damascus in October 1918, which Lawrence marked as the end of the "Arab Revolt". Written whilst the events were fresh in his mind, this seven volume account ran to over 250,000 words.
Lawrence's Woodland Retreat
Actually Lawrence kept extensive notes throughout the course of his involvement in the Revolt. He began work on a clean narrative in the first half of 1919 while in Paris for the peace conference and, later that summer, while back in Egypt. By December 1919 he had a fair draft of most of the ten books that make up the Seven Pillars of Wisdom but, in an act of monumental absent-mindedness and misfortune, lost it (except for the introduction and final two books) when he misplaced his briefcase while changing trains at Reading railway station.

National newspapers alerted the public to the loss of the "hero's manuscript", but to no avail: the draft remained lost. Lawrence refers to this version as "Text I" and says that had it been published, it would have been some 250,000 words in length.

In a statement that rung true, John Bruce said that anyone who believed that story, would believe anything.

~ entry by Co-Historian Steve Payne from Counter-history – You're the Judge!

King João II of Portugal
King João II of..
In 1482, a new day dawned at St. George El Mina Castle on the Gulf of Guinea. Purpose built to the precise instructions of a distant monarch who never saw it, King João II of Portugal had laid down the plans for the Castle.
It was a long-term investment for João, he desired the African hinterland native gold commerce for the Portuguese Crown monopoly. And the passage of twenty million shrieking African souls to the new World.

~ entry by Steve Payne from Counter History in Context - You're the Judge!

In 1967, USAF flying ace George Walker Bush was shot down in a mission over Vietnam. Despite being a Congressman's son, he refused special treatment and was imprisoned for six long years alongside fellow ace John Murtha. Both were amongst the first United States prisoners of war to be released by the Viet Cong in 1973. During .. George Bush
George Bush
.. the 2004 Presidential election, Bush and Murtha ran on the republican ticket and easily defeated democrat John Kerry. In an unintended pun, the folksy Texan told reporters that Kerry was holed under the waterline by his “soft and brief service” on Swift Boats in Cam Ranh Bay during 1968. Bush and Murtha were languishing in a Viet Cong prison hell-hole at that precise moment. This defining image was emphasised in the campaign advertisement showing footage of Kerry set to background music of “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. The scene quickly cut to Bush and Murtha stepping of the plane with fellow prisoners in 1973 to the tune of David Bowie's “Heroes”.

~ entry by Steve Payne from Counter History in Context - You're the Judge!

In 1917, Tsarist representatives at the Paris Peace Conference adopted a blended approach to the concepts of possession and territorial integrity. Formally, the Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin contended that Eastern Europe, including Galicia and Besserabia where provinces of the Russias. In effect, what was there's, was ..
.. there's. Contemporaneously, a slightly modified version of the concept was being explored at the Elysees regencia hotel. The magician Grigory Rasputin was sleeping with the Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna.

~ entry by Steve Payne from Counter History in Context - You're the Judge!

In 1996, on this day Adrienne Gormley published “Children of Tears". In the alternate world of this counter-factual novel, rather than stay the course, the British have prematurely withdrawn from the Raj in India during the early post-war years. Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
A woman recounts how her family are directly affected by the fictional sectarian partition that follows. The essence of of Gormley's genius is to present an anti-imperialist Winston Churchill and ask the question What If Churchill had meant it when he said he would preside over the end of the British Empire?

~ entry by Steve Payne from Counter History in Context - You're the Judge!

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