THE LION’S DEN
Limbaugh sat at the golden EIB microphone, holding an unlit cigar in his right hand. The air in the room smelled of vanilla potpourri. Clearly no cigar smoke had tarnished this air in a very long time.
He looked at me with neither fear nor surprise. His eyes were slightly wide, yes, but no more so than one who has been expecting a painful inoculation, and who now realizes that the needle has been uncapped much sooner than expected.
I was struck by how old and frail the man looked. Gone was the weight that had once been the primary target of the sarcastic jokes of his critics. He was pale, not thin but … emaciated somehow. Shriveled.
He wore a crisp, professional white button-down oxford for the benefit of the webcast. Beneath the desk, he was adorned in a faded pair of pajama bottoms, and –
“Who are you?” he asked simply, his voice carrying clearly over the tinny, low-volume background noise of radio ads.
“Jesus Christ,” I said. “Are those Birkenstocks?”
His reaction was to lunge for the phone beside him.
“DON’T FUCKING – !” I shouted, and before I even realized what I was doing, I’d crossed the four feet between us and struck him hard in the center of the chest with the butt of the gun. He jolted backwards heavily in his chair as I ripped the phone from the desk and threw it hard against the far wall. It exploded in a spray of plastic and circuitry.
Rush responded by using his backward momentum like a slingshot. When the chair reached the limit of its recline, his legs kicked underneath it impossibly fast, giving force to his extended and swinging fist as he lurched upright again. The fist sought my scrotum, but I bent into the punch at the last possible instant, and it landed instead between my crotch and belly button. Painful, but not at all debilitating.
Now I saw genuine fear for the first time, and it was my turn to strike. I gave it no thought at all; I simply shot both arms, fists clenched (the right still holding the gun) into both his shoulders, and this time the chair couldn’t absorb the energy, and it bent backwards until the wheels slipped out, delivering Limbaugh into a heap on the floor. He convulsed with the shock of it, eyes widening, blinking, his hands digging into the carpet in pain.
Enjoy abusing the elderly? spoke some sneering jackass inside my head. I did, indeed, feel shame.
A second later I noticed the picture: A Photoshopped version of the famous Naked Pyramid picture from Abu Ghraib, only instead of Lynndie England giving the cheerful thumbs-up in the foreground, Rush stood there grinning exuberantly.
“Enjoy torture, do you, you prick?” I asked, standing over him, breathing hard. “Maybe I’ll give you some firsthand experience with that before it’s all over, huh?” I placed my right foot on the thinnest part of one of his pale ankles, and stood up with all the force I could muster while simultaneously dropping down my full weight upon it.
“GAAAAAAAAHHHHH!” he screamed. “Please-fuck-please,” he panted, writhing in agony.
I responded with another vicious surge of pressure, feeling the bone bend at the edge of capacity, and then stepped heavily backwards. Limbaugh curled into a fetal position, cradling the ankle with both hands, kicking the plush beige carpet again and again with his other foot.
“And now, back to the Rush Limbaugh program …”
The jangly strains of My City Was Gone reverberated through the acid-charged air of the studio.
“GET UP!” I shouted. I jammed the Lugar into the waistband of my blue jeans, grabbed Rush by the collar of his stainless Oxford, and threw him bodily into his computer console. He screamed and wilted against the monitor, grimacing in pain. “Switch to a recorded feed, now!” The intro music was beginning to stretch into too-long land. El Rushbo would be conspicuously absent in a few more moments.
“Ug,” he breathed, groping for the mouse. With a few clicks, it was done.
“The BEST of RUSH!” shouted an over-produced brigade of electronic cheerleaders.
“My friends, we have trouble in the South,” said a happier Rush.
“What do you want?” said the real deal, on his knees, his head laying against his computer keyboard, panting, watery-eyed.
“No, I’m not referring to Selma or New Orleans, or even El Se-goon-do. I’m talking about Venereal-ezuala, where the head poop-ba, Manuel Vicone, has now decided that the Western hemisphere just isn’t big enough for America and Venereal-ezuala to co-exist peacefully. My friends, I’m somewhat ashamed to admit … I agree with him.” The voice lowered ominously on this last line.
“You want money? I’ll give you money. Please.”
“SHUT THE FUCK UP!” I shouted. “For once in your pathetic … slimy life, SHUT … THE FUCK …UP.”
“There isn’t a problem in the world, Senior Vicone, that cannot be duly solved with a hundred thousand tons of well-placed American ingenuity.”
I felt my face flush deeply, and I knew that things were about to get … well, out of my control.
“Is that what you want, Rush?” I asked him. “Is that what you believe? Nothing can’t be solved without a little mass-murder, huh? Is that what you want? How about a little fucking murder right now, you prick?” I hadn’t intended it to go this way – just a clean kill – but before I could stop myself, my right fist came in a crushing arc against his left cheek.
“Is THAT what you want? I’m sure it can be arranged, you stinking prick!!!” Now the blows fell like a monsoon of violence, against his face, his neck, his spine. Momentarily he crumbled again to a fetal position on the floor, and there was no stopping it; I began to kick him savagely again and again and again.
“YOU KILLED MY SON! YOU KILLED MY WIFE! YOU KILLED MY COUNTRY, YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT!” I was vaguely aware that my foot was throbbing with the solid connection of bone on bone. Rush writhed, twisted, tried to fend off the blows, but my fury was too much.
“HEY! THE POLICE ARE ON THEIR WAY!” shouted a panicked male voice from some unknown corner of the room.
What – ? I thought, stumbling backwards, breathing hard, finding the gun in my hand again.
“LEAVE HIM ALONE! GET THE FUCK OUT, LEAVE HIM ALONE! THE POLICE ARE ON THEIR WAY!”
I spun rapidly around, looking for the source of the voice. We were alone.
Except for the little red light on the webcam, you idiot. And the fact that, regardless of the cover of the pre-recorded feed, you just live-broadcast your attack all over the world via internet.
I turned the gun on Limbaugh again and stumbled forward. There was nothing left to do but the task I came here for, and then to try to get away before the police arrived at the far-flung compound. Limbaugh lay there, gasping, trembling, small and frail and defenseless, and I …
I took aim, but my hand was shaking violently, and I suddenly realized that this … murdering … was going to be harder than I had suspected.
Just as suddenly, he spoke.
“I did … what I thought … was right,” gasped Limbaugh.
The room shifted, just a little; my focus, my rage, twisting into a stark perplexity.
“You … what?” I said.
He continued to look away from me, at the floor, and his voice trembled, but betrayed no fear.
“Everything I did,” he breathed, “I did … for this country … because I love … this country. Something …,” he swallowed, “… a little prick like you … couldn’t understand.”
He looked up at me then, and even in his agony, in the near-certain moment of his death, there was such conviction and defiance in his eyes, that I was certain that he was telling the truth.
All of my rage melted away, and the room melted away, and I stumbled backwards, the side of the gun pressed to my forehead, and my chest felt like a lead weight.
Could it be? Could it be? Could it be that he really believed it? That I was about to kill a man simply for speaking what he believed to be right, to be just, to be the truth?
“Go ahead and kill me,” he said, regaining some of his breath. “What I’ve done, what I’ve accomplished … you’ll never come close. Kill me, you fucking coward. I’ve earned my soul.”
JesusGod, I thought. He really believes it. Oh no … oh no …
“You believe it?” I said. “You really believe it? All of it?” I wiped the sweat from the end of my nose with the hand holding the gun. “Invading Iraq? Bombing Iran? Trickle-down economics? The Patriot Act? You believe in all of that? That it was all in the best interest of ordinary Americans? You’re not seriously telling me that?”
“Get out of my house,” he responded, staggering to his feet. He swayed unsteadily back and forth, but I could feel that his energy was quickly returning – and with it, a rage that would rival my own.
“No,” I said, pointing the gun at his chest more insistently. “No … Where’s your safe room?”
“Your studio. I know you have an underground studio, so you can keep broadcasting during emergencies. Where is it?”
“GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY HOUSE!” he screamed, and lunged at me. The bad ankle was having none of it, though, and I easily sidestepped him. He went down with a heavy thud and lay there, fists clenched in his own hair in frustration.
“What do you want?” he asked again finally, seemingly exhausted. “If you don’t want money, if you aren’t going to kill me, if you aren’t going to leave … you heard New York. The police will be here any minute.”
“THEY’RE TWO MINUTES OUT, RUSH!” responded what I presumed to be New York. “YOU’D BETTER GET OUT OF THERE, YOU ASSHOLE!”
I imagined how frustrating it would be to be sitting in some studio in New York, a true believer, an idolater of the Supreme Limbaughnese Army, watching all this unfold, and powerless to do anything about it.
“Take me to the other studio,” I demanded, “And I’ll let you live through this … take me there. Now.” I grabbed a fistful of cotton between his shoulders, and hauled him up by the now-sorrowfully-abused Oxford.
In a matter of seconds, we were below ground, a thick steel door swinging shut behind us, securely locking out the police, or World War III, whichever came first.