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For All Nails #149: Uncle Torsten's Coon Dog

Governor-General's Palace
Burgoyne, Penn., NC, CNA
2 January 1975

Foreign Minister Michael Murphy was a tired man,
but one with significant untapped reserves of strength
remaining to him.  His leader, on the other hand, had 
apparently enjoyed a fairly uninterrupted night of sleep, 
to judge from his relatively fresh appearance as he 
perused the morning military and intelligence briefing.  
Skinner had met with Murphy every morning since he'd 
taken office, or at least every morning they were both 
in Burgoyne.

"Turnin' the rockets _south_, you say?" [1]

"Yes sir.  There are several New Granadan targets within
their range."

"And we got a ship right there, set to send the whole
place sky high?"

"That's right, sir.  We could eliminate the entire base
on short enough notice to cut off any launch of theirs.
At the cost of thousands of German casualties and God knows
how many thousands of civilians, of course."

"Well, now, we dam' sure don' want anything like that
to have to happen, Michael, do we now?  Michael, did Ah
ever tell you the story of mah uncle Torsten and his coon

Murphy had learned over the years that Skinner's rural
anecdotes were far from mere rhetorical devices.  Before
polishing them for use in his speeches, he used them to 
crystallize his own thinking, sometimes _during_ a private
conversation with a trusted aide.  As far as Murphy knew,
the only truth in these anecdotes was a vague correlation 
between the characters' names and those of Skinner's actual
relatives in central Georgia.

"Well, mah uncle Torsten had himself a nice stretch of 
varmint-huntin' woodland over by Ephesus -- he weren't no
_squire_ or nothin' but it was good land, and he partic'ly
liked to hunt it with his coon dog Tarquinius Superbus.  Now
came this time poor Tark took sick in the head, 'n started
breakin' out and stealin' Torsten's neighbors chickens.  And
the neighbors, they din't come _talk_ to Torsten, no, they 
figured Torsten, who's a pretty old man by then, gon' be all
sentimental and ever'thing 'bout his dog, and instead they
decided to take care of it themselves.  They formed themselves
a _posse comitatus_ [2] and came onto Torsten's huntin' ground
to find old Tark and put him down.  You followin' me, Michael?"  

"Yes sir."  Skinner had begun the story with his usual affable,
sunny face, but it abruptly turned much darker.

"Now what those boys seemed to have _forgotten_ is that ol'
Uncle Torsten, old man though he was, spendin' his time mostly
on his front porch sleepin' or tellin' stories, Uncle Torsten
had himself the _biggest Goddam' shotgun in the county_.  And
he took hi'self out to where this _posse_ was walkin' around 
and first thing he done, kinda to get their attention, is he
let hi'self off a good blast o' that shotgun over their heads.
Well, they all dropped their guns, and Torsten motioned them 
all into his duck blind which weren't too far off there, and he
sat 'em down and put down his own gun and put his thumbs under
his braces like this and said 'Boys, let's drink whiskey'.  You
still gettin' my _meanin'_, Michael?"

"Yes sir.  The test in Manitoba is all set for noon Western, one
our time."

"And we got our powder dry, so to speak."

"It'll go off."  Stephen Urquell had been the key man in the CNA's
superbomb project, but far from the only genius on the payroll.
The scientists claimed the tritium bomb had been ready to test for 
several months.  "Do you want a public announcement?"

"My boy Will tells me ever'one with a size-mo-meter in the whole 
dam' world gon' know this thing went off, and whereabouts.  I think
it's more _civilized_ to let it speak for itself and not make any big
thing 'bout it, don't you?"

"I quite agree, Governor-General.  So I'll start making the arrangements
right away for the duck blind and whiskey, shall I?"

Sunshine broke out again on Skinner's face.  "Michael, what Ah like
'bout talkin' to you is Ah'm not always havin' to _explain_ mahself.
The duck blind and the whiskey, Michael, that's right, we _all_ got us 
some talkin' to do 'bout them chickens."



[1] The reason for this retargeting of the German rockets on Boricua
    can be deduced from FAN #148, "Happy New Year!".

[2] Skinner knows a lot more Latin and Greek then you might think,
    having earned very good grades in Classics at Georgia before
    a brief pre-political career as a country lawyer.  The phrase
    _posse comitatus_ is _not_ a reference to last season's _West 
    Wing_ finale, really it's not.  In the FANTL it's a straightforward 
    common-law term, never reaching the popularity of OTL's word 
    "posse" in the sense of a frontier _ad hoc_ militia or a Jamaican 
    crime gang.  In this timeline the Old West is Mexican, and Jamaica 
    is much more staid and stable.

Dave MB