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29 September, 2008

Abby Hoffman's Ghost

I wanted to share this column by my friend Stephen Halpert of Grafton, Massachusetts.
It is published in the local Grafton paper.
Check out his site:

American Scene

Stephen Halpert

A Ghost of a Chance, Part 4

Tasha and I put the last of the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher. "Arf," I said, "please reconsider."

"Oh, all right," he sighed, " but I don't really see the necessity to go back there." Twenty minutes later Tasha, Arf, Bonnie Jean and I pulled up in front of Abby's House.

As Arf turned off the motor the bulkier of the two Homeland Security agents strode over to his rental. "You're under arrest," he growled.

Arf looked confused. "What's going on?"

"You said Wrankin File was Abby Hoffman," the agent began. "And even though he's dead we checked. Same postmarks indicated this neighborhood. You know more than you let on," he bellowed.

"That's too farfetched." Arf said.

In front of the mailbox, his partner was embroiled in a heated argument with the elderly lady we had seen yesterday. Clutching her umbrella in both her hands, she aimed it at his knees. "Put that down," the agent yelled.

She shook her umbrella at him. "Give me back my letter!"

Eyes wide he clutched at the white envelope and looked toward his superior. Suddenly both agents agent began to wheeze and then to sneeze.

Faintly, I could see Bonnie Jean sprinkling what looked like yellow dust over each of them. Gasping, they pulled at their collars. Both rushed to the Hummer, pulling off their jackets and tossing them onto the front seat.

The tall one stomped back to our car. The other went toward the elderly lady. I heard a faint trill of giggles and then both of them again convulsed with body shaking sneezes.

"Obviously you know what's going on Brickwall," the taller one choked out between gasps.

Arf glared. "You don't know what you're talking about!"

Fending off whacks from the elderly lady's umbrella with one hand, the shorter agent snatched the envelope from her bony fingers. "Give that back to me," the she shouted.

The tall agent leaned in toward Arf. "You know she's Wrankin File. You're here. That adds up to conspiracy."

"Innocent until proven otherwise," Arf reminded him.

"Not anymore," he wheezed. "That stuff's washed out to sea. The New Patriot Act closed up liberal loopholes like that."

"What loopholes?" I asked.

He looked at me hard. "Don't you know we're at war!" He wagged his thumb at Arf like an umpire throwing a ball player out of a game. "You want to be his cellmate at Guantanamo?"

"Stephen," Tasha said. "Don't get into a conversation, please."

"Why not, is he a Martian or something?"

"It's just not a good idea," she said calmly.

"What's going on out here?" A stocky woman in a baggy tweed suit and thick brown shoes strode out of the house and looked around. "Maggie, what is this man doing to you?"

"Just because I'm mailing a letter he says I'm in violation of the Patriot Act. But I've been a patriot all my life so how come now all of a sudden I'm doing something wrong?"

"Homeland Security! This old woman's under arrest!" the agent blurted.

"For what? The Director trumpeted. She looked tenderly at Maggie. Despite her long white hair Maggie's face appeared incredibly youthful and angelic. "What happened dear?"

"He made me cry!"

The director drew herself up. "How dare you accost and insult one of my residents!"

"She wrote incriminating letters to the President. We caught her red handed."

"Is that true dear?"

Maggie looked down. "I get the feelings in my fingers that I have to write something down."

I heard a trill of laughter and saw Bonnie Jean trail her hands across his cheeks and tweak his nose.

"A confession," he cried out, pawing the air.

"Of what?" The Director grated. Her cheeks were red.

"Mailing a letter," The agent screamed. Pulled by invisible fingers, his ears stood straight out from his head. I smothered a giggle. Tasha's eyes were wide and her hand was over her mouth.

The director held out her hand. "Give me that letter." Slowly, one at a time, the agent's fingers detached themselves from it. The envelope fell into the director's hands.

"Incriminating! " he cried out. Tears ran from his eyes." Threat to our National Security." He began to shake all over.

I looked at Arf. "Is that guy serious?"

"He thinks he is" Arf shook his head. "Thinks he's riding shotgun with Paul Revere."

The Director looked at Maggie. "You wrote them? You mailed them to the President?"

"It wasn't me who wrote them," Maggie said. "It was that sweet boy's hand that took hold of mine and let what he wanted to say slip through my fingers. " She blushed. "He helps me up and takes my arm and walks with me all the way to the mailbox. And just as I'm slipping it into the box that mean man runs at me and tries to push me around. I whacked his knee with my umbrella and didn't care if I hurt him or not. He pulls my arm and tries to drag me over to that scary black truck." She pointed at the Hummer. "

The Director glared at the agent. "What she says is incriminating. With her testimony I can have you arrested for harassment and kidnapping. Leave these premises immediately."

Just then a police car pulled to the curb. Two officers got out and walked toward us. (To Be Continued)

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