I woke up in a strange place

By Marc Heiden, since 1997.
See also: a novel about a monkey.

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January 10, 2005

This was supposed to be my last day at work, but my supervisor called in sick, so I'm not sure what to do. Just hang around, I guess. But do I come back tomorrow? If they wanted me back for the finite period of one day, presumably there were tasks to complete in that day, and I have completed no tasks today, so the 'day' has not actually taken place, although I fully intend to get paid for it. Semi-employment is confusing.

As soon as the work dries up here in Connecticut, I will move back to Chicago, probably in the next couple of days. O, city of my origin! I know what lies in wait for me; Chicago will have a raft of truly shitty weather ready when I tramp around in search of an apartment. The vicious ways of Chicago weather define my sense of season, and since I have been away for a while, my internal thermometer is screwed up. With only one day of snow last year, Kyoto never really made it out of late fall for me. Eventually, winter had to be crammed into three hours at the monkey hot springs at the beginning of March. I was almost back on track after a blistering summer, but then I went to Russia for a while, and Siberia was in deep autumn. As you can probably imagine, that place is fucking emphatic about autumn, so it was pretty well fixed in my head. But then I landed in Connecticut, which was having a warm, balmy fall. There has been no serious weather up here, and Chicago reliably provides at least one screaming motherfucker of a scorched-earth snowstorm by this point in the season. I am disoriented; although I know where I am, my sense of when I am is shot. It'll come back, eventually.

(news) Civil War buffs are getting access to a treasure trove of information — thousands of original maps and diagrams of battles and campaigns between 1861 and 1865, all posted on the Internet. The items depict troop positions and movements, as well as fortifications. There also are reconnaissance maps, sketches and coastal charts and theater-of-war maps.


The multi-purpose room is a-buzz. JEFF, an accounts manager from Naperville, throws open the doors. The crowd gasps as he points an accusing finger at TED, vice superintendant of the public works department in Downers Grove.

JEFF: You've got a lot to answer for, Ted.
TED: Is this meeting in session?
JEFF: You're damn right it is. You --
TED: Then you will address me as General.
JEFF: Now, you listen to me --
TED: You're out of line, Lieutenant.
JEFF: Don't you try to --
TED: You will address me as General Early, do I make myself clear?

JEFF turns to the crowd, waving a sheaf of papers.

JEFF: I just downloaded these from the internet. It is my sad duty to inform the Society that the troop positions and movements from our re-enactment of the Battle of Chancellorsville - drawn up by this man - were completely fucked!

The crowd cries out. Two men faint.

JEFF: What do you have to say about that, Ted?
TED: I've already told you once.
JEFF: What about the Battle of North Anna River?
TED: You will address me as General Early.
JEFF: What about Wauhatchie?
TED: You listen to me --
JEFF: Was any of it true?
TED: I believe I portray someone who has earned the right to be called General!
JEFF: What about Antietam?

Furious, TED stands up from his folding chair.

TED: You have gone too far, sir. You have said enough. You have questioned my integrity, sir, and I will not have that. This is altogether too much.
JEFF: I've said --
TED: No, you've had your turn. Now it's my turn. You have called me a liar, sir, and you have made accusations that are slanderous in nature, and now I will answer them. I have given my life to this Society. More than that, I have given my honor to this Society. My life is a small thing, and I surrender it gladly for the work of the Society. But my honor is altogether another thing. No, sir, I will not sit idly by as you trample upon it. You have accused me of violating the principle on which this great Society is founded, the principle of accuracy. That is an insult, sir, and it is a vicious slander. I drew the plans for the re-enactment of Chancellorsville with the greatest commitment to accuracy using every resource available to me.
JEFF: Look...
TED: It is my great honor to portray a great General of the South, and it is my great honor to have the trust of this Society when I plan our re-enactments. Like you, I heard of the new documents on the internet. For my turn, I rejoiced, and I felt great, calamitous excitement at the prospect of integrating them into our re-enactments. I approached those internet documents in a spirit of accuracy. You, sir, however, went to those documents in a spirit of distrust. Not every man can portray a General, but he can conduct himself with dignity, unless his character explicitly requires otherwise. Your character does not. It is you who have failed the Society. Not I.

TED addresses the crowd.

TED: Mistakes were made, my fellow Society members. But I ask you once again for your trust. Let me examine these new internet documents, and let me build with them. Let us not tear down with them. Let us build with them. I cannot do the work of this Society if every man runs to the internet to fact-check every decision I make for every re-enactment of every incident of the War Between the States. I ask you to place in me the same trust that you would feel for Jefferson Davis, or for Abraham Lincoln, as the case may be. Let me hold that trust, and I pledge to you, I will make the necessary corrections, and I will use these new documents to lead the Society unto an era of untold accuracy in re-enactment, for that is the goal we share, is it not?

The room is silent.

JEFF: It is...General.

There is a murmur of agreement, which builds into applause. TED nods, wipes his brow and sits down.

TED: Thank you. Now, to our first item of business. The First Baptist Church of Westmont has sent us their rental charges for next weekend's re-enactment of Grant's surrender at Appomattox, and I believe they are reasonable.

End scene.

I woke up in a strange place is the work of Marc Heiden, born in 1978, author of two books (Chicago, Hiroshima) and some plays, and an occasional photographer.

Often discussed:

Antarctica, Beelzetron, Books, Chicago, College, Communism, Food, Internet, Japan, Manute Bol, Monkeys and Apes, North Korea, Oregon Trail, Outer Space, Panda Porn, Politics, RabbiTech, Shakespeare, Sports, Texas.


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Written by Marc Heiden, 1997-2011.