Dedicated to Ian Thatcher, Trotsky scholar and my office-mate who got this story started when he said, and here I paraphrase; Nationalism is terrible, internationalism is even worse. Parochialism – that’s the thing!
Also to Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, from whose Besy (The Devils or The Possessed) I have thieved liberally.
Believe everything you hear. Nothing is too impossibly bad.
On the Morning of the First Murder
The whine of the radio followed Evil Jim as he sauntered from his van up the access ramp toward the Trans-Canada highway. He reached the highway proper and made his way along the shoulder against the flow of such traffic as there was an hour before the first sign of dawn. He wore a faded denim jacket under an armless shirt in lumberjack plaid. His right hand gripped a small paint can and thin brush, a rickety step-ladder creaked and rattled in his left. Kicking an unrecognizable dead furry thing out of his path, he set the ladder down into shallow divots in the earth just off the highway shoulder, and clambered up to the face of a road sign. “Next Exit Moose Flats, All Services 4 Kilometers” it read. With a sure and steady hand, Evil Jim drew a slash above the 4, then a 1 above the slash. The patch over which he had painted was substantially thicker than the rest of the sign, layer upon layer of old paint, revision, correction, revision, correction. Just how far was it to Moose Flats? A mere point two five kilometers, for the moment.
Job done, Evil Jim strolled back the way he had come, chortling. That was another easy fifty the mayor owed him. He swung the open paint can to the beat of his strides, then wheeled it full-circle over his head. From somewhere in the misty past, the strange word ‘centrifugal’ came into his mind and he felt all the more pleased with himself for the recollection of it. As he approached the off-ramp Jim spied a near-mirror image of himself coming the other way – same shaggy appearance, same wiry frame and ambling cocky gait, the same implements in hand. The image saluted him with a paint brush and called, “How’s it hanging, Evil Jim?”
“Hangs straight down but it drips a little, Gator Bob.” Evil Jim’s voice remained flat with a slight ironic curl, a studied manner of speech rendered less effective by the fact that his nasal passages whistled at each sibilant, an effect of cartilage displaced by one of an uncounted number of blows to the face. Pulling the paint brush out of the can, Evil Jim flicked the excess reflective white into the off-road gloom, and then tapped the handle on the rim of the can. “It’s all good,” he concluded. “Good good good.”