Kings of the Earth
Connecting Wolfowitz and Joey the Clown---thru Johnny Cash
The kings of this earth shall lord it over their subjects
But it shall not be so among you
For I am among you as one who serves
I hear that train a comin
It’s rollin round the bend
Paul “The Warmonger” Wolfowitz sat down behind his polished mahogany desk on his first day at work at the World Bank just as Joey “The Clown Lombardo” sat his old creaking bones down on the front stoop of the house in Chicago on the west side near Grand and May.
Wolfowitz settles in to the deep shinny leather chair, yanks his top right hand drawer clean out of the desk, and on to the floor. Taped to the back of the drawer is a yellowed dusty envelope sealed shut. A song drifts up from the Washington DC street below and into his open 3rd floor window.
Wolfowitz is annoyed. It’s supposed to be quiet here.
Joey The Clown---right there in plain sight-- feels the scratchy concrete of the front stoop, picks up the cup of good strong coffee he brought out here to enjoy the nice spring morning in Chicago, hears the same song coming from inside a small house across the street from the windowless “social club” where he sits and watches. Joey shrugs. He’s not looking for quiet here. Wolfowitz and Joey hear Johnny Cash. Rich voice deep as the dirt, hard and knowing as the scratchy concrete:
“I hear that train a comin’
It’s rollin round the bend
And I ain’t seen the sunshine
Since, I don’t know when.
Wolfowitz looks down at the mess of paper clips and pens on his floor. Wonders who it is that cleans that up. Picks up a comb he had thrown in there earlier when they were doing a photo shoot and stuffs it in his suit coat. Joey the Clown looks down as a piece of yesterday’s newspaper gets taken by the wind, dancing in the dust on down towards Grand Avenue in the spring time light, Wolfowitz looks at the floor again and the old yellow envelope registers. He reaches down and tears it off. Opens it up and it’s a one word letter on World Bank Stationary signed by Robert McNamara—Viet Nam’s Wolfowitz. Scrawled out in the middle of the page, in crab like handwriting: McNamara had just written the word “SORRY” and signed it ROBERT MCNAMARA. Another piece of newspaper caught by the wind blows over Joey the Clown’s toes and he catches the headline HAVE YOU SEEN THIS CLOWN???
Johnny Cash continues:
I’m stuck in Folsom Prison
And time keeps draggin on
But that train keeps on a rollin
On down to San Antone.
Wolfowitz pokes a button on the digital console on his desk, not really sure what it does, but thinking maybe it will get him to whoever it is that twill clean up the mess on his floor. He thinks about McNamara. Man did NOT have my intellectual firepower. And he just did not understand evil like I do. Couldn’t see the big picture. Couldn’t really see evil at work the way I can. No WONDER he made such a mess of Viet Nam. And what in hell’s fiery blazes could the powers that be have been THINKING when they put him in charge of the World Bank!
Joey the Clown looks out at the quiet street and thinks about how espresso gets him so jittery now. Man hits 75 . . . .newspapers say he’s younger. . .but Joey the Clown laughs to himself. . . .what do they know about this that or the other---all he knows is that he can’t drink the espresso like he used to. And so he wonders about what will Salvatore be bringing him now? Salvatore always took care of bringing cases of the stuff to Joey. A regular thing. Like clock work. Every Monday afternoon, the truck would pull up, Salvatore always with a joke and a case or two to make sure Joey and the boys had the espresso. Because you HAD to make sure that loyalty wasn’t something you just TALKED about. Loyalty was that truck pulling up in front of the Grand Avenue Social Club every Monday with a case or two of the stuff falling off. And if the boys could help Salvatore?
Salvatore had a family too. He understood. He understood loyalty just like he understood that the Grand Avenue Social Club didn’t necessarily have to be located on Grand Avenue.
Wolfowitz hits the button again. Harder this time. More annoyed at that damn country song. Some kind of hillbilly thing keeps wafting up through his window. Wolfowitz and Joey the Clown hear:
When I was just a baby.
My Mama told me son
Always be a good boy
Don’t ever play with guns
But I shot a man in Reno
Just to watch him die,
When I hear that whistle blowing’
I hang my head and cry.
Wolfowitz decides to clean the mess up himself. Reaches down to scoop up a handful of desk drawer junk and cuts himself on the business end of a staple remover at the exact same moment that Joey the Clown draws blood on the concrete reaching for his coffee. Both men bring the middle fingers of their right hand up to their faces. Two middle fingers raised proudly at the world. Tiny pricks of blood at the tip of each. From behind those two fingers, one in the carpeted office of the World Bank in Chicago, one on a stoop on the west side of Chicago; Johnny Cash sings:
I bet there’s rich folks eatin
In a fancy dining car
They’re probably drinkin coffee
And smoking big cigars,
But I know I had it comin,
I know I can’t be free,
But those people keep a moving
And that’s what tortures me.
Wolfowitz and Joey the Clown both think. “Ah, no big deal.” Joey wipes the blood on his pants. Wolfowitz takes out an embroidered handkerchief, then throws it in the leather trash basket when he’s done.
Wolfowitz has a busy day. Calendar is jammed. Somebody wants to get in to see him? They got to wait at least a month. Unless it’s Mr. Rove or Don or one of the boys. Joey? He might play some cards later on. Not so busy. Busy hiding in plain sight maybe. Wolfowitz knows he can’t be holding meetings in this place with some damn country rock and roll song coming in through the window. Wolfowitz gets up to shut his window at the exact same time Joey finishes thumbing thru his Sun Times looking for stories about himself. Joey now up on his feet too. He goes inside just as Wolfowitz shuts tight his window.
And what do you know? Both men now shut up inside. And they can STILL hear Johnny Cash sing:
Well if they freed me from this prison
If this railroad car was mine
I’d guess I’d move out over
Farther down the line
Far from Folsom Prison
That’s where I want to stay,
And I’d let that lonesome whistle
Blow my blues away.
Blow my blues away.
About the Author
Roger Wright's Blog is "Church Food Connections"
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