Another piece of Fiction Like a piece of Meat

January 27, 2009

posted & written by Caroline Picard

On September 23, 2003, with 99 days remaining until the end of the year, Patrick’s mother and father and youngest brother died in a car accident. They had been driving to the supermarket, on the way home from a meeting with Freddy’s principle—Principle Davies called them in around five p.m. to discuss Freddy’s apparent disinterest in school. The young boy, 12 years old, had refused to respond on several occasions, insisting that he could no longer speak English, but only spoke French. While the boy continued to impress the French teacher, (an attractive young woman in her twenties and new to the school) no one else, not the faculty nor the students, were able to communicate with him.

In the principle’s office, Mr. O’Rourke did his best to hide a smile, while the Mrs. glared at such times when she could catch his eye without the notice of anyone else. Freddy, meanwhile, kicked his legs back and forth in a chair so large he could not place his feet squarely on the floor. He looked smug.

“Freddy, would you give us a moment, please?” Principle Davies asked. “Why don’t you step outside and see if my secretary Mrs. Amelade can get you something to drink?”

Freddy looked blank, and focused on his parents as though waiting for a translation.

“I’ve had enough of this,” Mrs. O’Rourke said. “Go outside this instant.”

Because her voice carried with it the unusual threat of anger, and because Freddy was young enough to fear that her ire above all else, he complied, hopping up with a sprightly air and trotting outside to see the secretary.

Before he closed the door after him, they heard him ask, “Pardonnez-moi, Madame. Est-ce que je peu avoir des gateaux? Ou peu t’etre un peu du vin?”

The day, in and of itself, is of no special repute. Except of course that, like other days, historical things have taken place on September 23rd in other years, in other centuries. The Concordat of Worms, for instance, in 1122, or in 1459 the first major battle of the English Wars of the Roses on Blore Heathe, or the Seige of Vienna in 1529, the first commencement exercise at Harvard College, or various incidents in the American Revolution in 1779 and 1780, or the Second Anglo-Maratha War in 1803, the formal installation of border markers for Neutral Moresnet in 1818, the massacre of 30,000 Turks in Tripolista, Greece, the first instance of a baseball team (The Knickerbockers Baseball Club) playing under the modern rules in 1845, the discovery of Neptune in 1846, the Lares Revolt in 1868, the patenting of Herman Hollerith’s mechanica tabulating machine in 1884, the founding of what would become Nintendo Company Ltd. In 1905, Norway and Sweded signed the Kalstad treaty, while in 1908, The University of Alberta was founded in Canada. In 1922, the Polish Parliament passed the Seaport Construction Act and in 1932 The Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd was renamed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the Czechoslovak army mobilized in response to the Munich Crisis, and in 1941 the first gas murder experiments were conducted at Auschwitz. September 23rd, 1942 marked the first day of the September Matanikau action on Guadalcanal as United States Marine Corps forces attack Imperial Japanese Army units along the Matanikau River and in 1952 Richard Nixon made his “Checkers” speech. In 1959 the M.S. Princes of Tasmania Austrailia’s first passenger RO/RO diesel ferry made her maiden journey across the Bass Strait, and in 1962 September 23rd marked the opening of New York City’s Lincoln Center and home for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. The Chicago Eight trial opened in Chicago in 1969 and in 1972 Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos announced the implementation of martial law which, among other things, banned travel to other countries and abolished the Philippine Congress. In 1973, Juan Perón retuned to power in Argentina and in 1983 Saint Kitts and Nevis joined the U.N. In 1983 Gerrie Coetzee of South Africa became the first boxing world heavyweight champion, José Canseco of the Oakland Athletics becomes the first member of the 40-40 Club in 1988, an IRA bomb destroys the forensic laboratories in Belfast in 1992, and in 1999 NASA announced that it lost contact with the Mars Climate Orbiter. Also in 1999, Quantas Flight 1 overruns the runway in Bangkok during a storm becoming the worst crash in Quantus history. In 2002 the first public version of web browser Mozilla Firefox is released, whereas in 2004 at least 1,1070 people in Haiti are reported killed by floods due to Hurricane Jeanne.

In fact, on this very same day in the very same year, the FBI shot Ojeda Ríos in a hold out in Puerto Rico at 3 p.m. According to his wife, the FBI started shooting first, but because that claim is contrary to the report issued by U.S. government officials, it has never been confirmed.

Puerto Rico is a commonwealth, in which Puerto Rican’s cannot vote and don’t pay taxes. Ojeda Ríos, was part of a band that fought for Puerto Rican independence. As a revolutionary symbol in Puerto Rico he was most famous for The Wells Fargo Heist of 1983, where his band of unruly revolutionaries gleaned 7.2 million dollars. Only $80,000 has been recovered from that sum.

Despite this, he had lived a relatively quite life ever since he jumped bail in 1990, after cutting the electronic device off of his wrist and fleeing back to Puerto Rico. Under the alias “Don Luis,” he kept a home with his wife in Hormigueros, or “El Pueblo del Milagro” (The Town of Miracles), eighty-five miles west of San Juan. For the next fifteen years, he gardened in a bulletproof vest. He died at seventy-two.

While Ríos lived in relative obscurity, his voice nevertheless carried on throughout the country and once a year, old recordings of his speeches were broadcast on the national radio and television stations, advocating Puerto Rican freedom. He died one hour of his last political speech broadcast across the island, on the 137th anniversary of El Grito de Lares, a national holiday celebrating the failed 1868 rebellion against Spanish colonial rule.

After a 22-hour standoff, a bullet entered his neck and exited his back. FBI agents claim that he started shooting first.

In honor of his death, riots erupted throughout the country and students rallied to such and extent that the University of Puerto Rico were forcibly shut down in order to attend Ojeda Rio’s funeral. There, they flung hamburgers against McDonald’s and Burger King in protest of America. Senator Henry Rodham Clinton postponed her visit to the island.

Filiberto Ojeda Ríos was buried in his hometown of Naguabo, in a wooden casket adorned with a machete, and all the independence groups, the known and unknown acronyms, were there together, mourning. Additionally there are plans to turn Ríos’ house into a national museum, for while the common wealth seems divided between desiring statehood, remaining as it is and obtaining its independence, Ríos incited a new and historical passion.

Five hours later, and, by comparison of little note, Mr. and Mrs. O’Rourke, with their son of 12 drove home, taking a detour from their usual route in order to stop and pick up some ice cream. The parents thought this might appeal to their youngest son, whom they felt was suffering at the loss of his older brothers, and most recently Patrick who left to go to college that same fall. While they were impressed with the boy’s aptitude for French, and while Mr. O’Rourke openly praised the boy’s ingenious strategy of rebellion, Freddy stared out the window ignoring both of them.

He was probably the first to see the car in the other lane swerve uncharacteristically as Susan Meyers, having recently miscarried, miscalculated a turn. The roads were slick with the slightest bit of rain—just enough so that Mrs. Meyer’s skidded out of control and hit the O’Rourke’s station wagon sideways, on the full perpendicular. Mrs. Meyers was instantly knocked unconscious. She was  the only one to survive.

Paramedics arrived at the scene quite quickly. Mrs. O’Rourke in the driver’s seat died on impact. The other two survived the trip to the hospital, Mr. O’Rourke in a coma and the boy in shock with a broken spine. It was with great reticence that the night nurse called the eldest son, Michael, in New York to inform him of the news. Mr. O’Rourke died eight hours later from complications of an already weak heart. The boy, Freddy, fell into a coma and eventually, Michael, finally decided to pull the plug two months later.

While Mr. and Mrs. O’Rourke had the same funeral service on October 1st, the life Frederick Auster O’Rourke wasn’t celebrated until December 5th, 2003. Each of the three had separate obituaries, drafted by the second eldest, Fletcher, who works as a burgeoning writer in Philadelphia.


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