JULY 17, 2016



So anyway, it's been overcast and positively drizzly at times around here while other parts of the Bay Area have been awash in cool sunshine. All over the place, wherever there blazed a patch of sun left unencumbered by developers lifting their scaffolds, tomatoes and roses swelled in profusion. Corn plants stood about three feet high in some yards and ruby-throated hummingbirds zapped this way and that from feeder to feeder.

Mr. Spline got called off of the Whistleblower Watch up on the hill, where he had been conducting surveillance of the Greek chapel in which Joshua Rainman had taken refuge, so as to help stake out the home of suspected Islamicists on Santa Clara. The name of the family allegedly living in the alleged Islamacist house was Jeddah, which Ms. Felcher back in the CIA office had found to be a name of a city in Saudi Arabia. Also the alleged Mr. Jeddah sported a suspicious beard and had never been seen going to synagogue or church. This, itself, was a serious omission on an Island which sported more churches per square mile than Jerusalem. Spline joined Simon Snark, a clandestine operative working for an agency so secret no body knew the name of it. His security clearance badge had the name redacted by someone with a black magic marker.

At first, surveillance was easy, because the people inside had drawn up the blinds to the big picture window for the main room and Snark sat there patiently with his field glasses and camera while Spline played with the radio.

They talked together in special code.

"Cotillion?" asked Mr. Spline.

"Walrus," answered Mr. Snark.

"No foxtrot?"

"Nope. No elephant."

Conversation with Mr. Snark could be problematic, as even his small talk had been scripted by his handlers. He talked only about the prospects of the Chicago Cubs winning the world series and nothing else.

"I don't think you ever even lived in Chicago," said Mr. Spline.

"What makes you say that?"

"Well, you never talk about anything else."

"Are you sure about that? How do you know what I talk about when nobody is there?"

This had Mr. Spline beat for a moment. "There are other things in Chicago besides the Cubs."

"Like what else? What could be more important than the World Series?" Mr. Snark said.

At this point they were joined by the red-blooded All-American Mr. Terse. Terse was an ex-marine, but had volunteered to continued the fight against Communism. In his mind, the Islamacists were all Communists by another name as they were known to provide free medical care and build schools in places like Palestine.

"The Cubs record is an American Tradition." Said Mr. Terse, coming into the conversation late.

"Well, like the Loop," said Mr. Spline.

"Shows what you know. The Loop don't go by Wrigley Field."

"Are you sure about that? It seems to me . . .".

"Fornicating bats!" exclaimed Mr. Snark.

"Uh, I don't remember that code, . . . ".

"They closed the blinds!" Snark said, lowering his field glasses.

"O! What are we going to do now?"

"See if we can get a better view. Maybe plant a mic or two."

"Isn't that going to happen by the carpet cleaner tomorrow? Maybe we should just stay put."

Mr. Terse was disgusted. "You CIA career bureaucrats got no ambition."

So this is how the three clandestine operatives got to creeping around to the backyard. Essentially, the two approached the open gate along the side, and figuring this was a too obvious approach, went around the block, crept along the drive of the apartment house behind and came to the fence

The still fit Mr. Terse, who began each day with 50 pushups, easily scrambled over the chainlink, followed by Mr. Spline, but Mr. Snark got his pants hung up and he fell ingloriously into the jacaranda, knocking over a bucket.

The back door opened and the house owner peered out with a flashlight, exclaiming over his shoulder, "Damn raccoons are into the vegetable garden again, honey!"

The three operatives, caught, sprang into action. They rushed the door, knocking down the man standing there and took position with their guns drawn pointing down at the terrified man laying on the kitchen floor.

A woman wearing an apron at the sink stood there with a dishrag and a look on her face that would have startled Edvard Munch.

A nappy-headed kid about six peered from around the corner with round, brown eyes.

"Please don't kill my daddy," said the kid. "He's not read my bedtime story yet."

"Don't worry," said Mr. Snark. "We are police."

"O saints preserve us," said the woman. "We all gonna die for sure!"

"Why you come bustin' into my house?" said the man on the floor. "We done nothing wrong. We not driving while Black even!"

"Your name Jeddah," said Mr. Terse. "That's Middle East."

"I'm from Jamaica," said the man. "And Sarah was born in Oaktown. And the name is Jeremiah, not Jeddah."

"How come you gonna shoot my daddy?" asked the kid.

"He's a suspected terrorist." Said Mr. Spline, grimly.

"No he's not," Sarah said. "He's a landscaper."

"Moderation in pursuit of terrorism is no virtue," said Mr. Terse.

"That sounds familiar," Mr. Spline said.

"You bust into my house wearing black suits and black ties as if you be Mafia, knock down my husband with guns, and you destroyed the jacaranda. Now who is terrorizing who here!"

"Pleeeeze don't shoot my daddy!" wailed the little kid.

"Now now," said Mr. Terse reaching over to a bowl on the linoleum table. "We are here to serve and protect. Wanna cookie?" He offered a chocolate chip to the kid.

"Sorry ma'am," said Mr. Spline. "Just a little mistake . . .".

"Get outta my house!" shouted Sarah.

"Well okay," said Mr. Terse. "Keep alert and watch your neighbors carefully. We are going, but do not hesitate to call Homeland Security if you see anything suspicious."

"O for Pete's sake," Jeremiah said from the floor.

Outside the three headed for Mr. Spline's covert black SUV as lights flicked on all up and down the block. Someone called out of a window, "Sarah?! You and the kids all right?"

A group of teenagers came out and started filming everything with their cell phones.

"Dang, those cameras everywhere now," said Mr. Spline.

"It's getting difficult for us to do our jobs anymore," said Mr. Terse.

"O shut up," said Mr. Snark. "I need to change my pants."

Mr. Spline looked down. "Say even your underwear is red, white and blue!"

"Of course it is!" Snapped Mr. Snark.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water where the gantries of the Port of Oaktown stood glowing with their multi-kilowatt sentry lights; it quavered across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the moonlit grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline railway; it moaned through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey through the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave to parts unknown.