Thunderbird Falls - By C. E. Murphy
Thursday, June 16, 6:19 a.m.
Two words I never thought would go together: Joanne Walker and 6:00 a.m.
Never mind that that’s actually four words, five if you spell out ante meridiem. If you’re going to get technical, you’re going to lose all your friends. The point is, it was Oh God Early and I was not only up, but at work. Not even at work. I was volunteering. Volunteering my own precious sleeping time, five hours before I was supposed to be at work. I was so noble I could kill myself.
While I was busy admiring my nobility, a bunch of protesters linked arms and waded toward the police line I was a part of. There were considerably more of them than there were of us—hence me being there at all—and the power of authority as granted to us by the city of Seattle wasn’t pulling a lot of weight with them. They weren’t violent, just determined. I spread my arms wide and leaned into the oncoming mass, blowing a whistle that was more noisome than effective. The protesters stopped close enough that I could count the individual silver hairs on the head of the man in front of me, who stood there, Right In My Personal Space.
People have gotten shot for less.
Not, however, by me, and besides, as one of the city’s finest, I wasn’t in a position to be shooting people just for getting in my personal space. Instead, I took a step forward, trusting my own presence to be enough to cow them. It was; the silver-haired guy in front of me shifted back, making a bow in his line. I pressed my advantage, arms still spread wide, and they all fell back a step.
I let go a sigh of relief that I couldn’t let them see, herding them back several more steps before I let up, and backed up again myself. They watched me, silent, sullen, and short.
I was working on a theory that said all environmentalists were short. I knew it was wrong—Al Gore is a tall man—but it gave me something to do while I played push-me-pull-you with the protesters. Of course, most people are short compared to me: I stood a smidge under six feet in socks, and the sturdy black walking shoes I wore put me an inch over.
Behind me lay the summertime glory of the Seattle Center, where a symposium on global warming was being held. Representatives from every oil company, every car manufacturer, every corporation that had ever been fined for too many dirty emissions being pumped out into the air were gathered there to argue their case against the bleeding-heart liberals who thought a little clean air wasn’t asking too much.
Sarcasm aside, the greenies were losing major ground and had been since the symposium had opened two days earlier. The federal administration favored big money and big companies, and those companies were taking as much advantage as they could.
My own sympathies lay a whole lot more with the protesters and their concerns about details like global warming. It was already in the high seventies and it wasn’t yet seven in the morning, which was just wrong for mid-June.
But it wasn’t my job to have an opinion about who was right and who was wrong. It was my job to keep the several thousand men and women who were gathered at the Center from breaking through and rending the Armani suits from the bodies of the corpulent pigs managing the slaughter.
“Officer?” A woman’s voice, high-pitched with worry, broke me out of my cheerfully spiraling cynicism. I turned toward her, one hand still lifted in warning against the crowd. I suspected a trick: distract the cop for a minute while everybody surges forward, therefore losing the law a few precious feet of land. There were more physical barriers than just the police officers keeping people off the Center grounds—bright orange, cordoned sawhorses surrounded the entire place—but it was its own sort of psychological warfare.
The woman held a pale-cheeked sleeping girl in her arms. “She fainted,” the woman said. Her voice was thready with concern and fear. “Please, I think she needs a doctor.”
Right behind the bottom of my breastbone, centered in the diaphragm, a coil of energy flared up, making a cool fluttering space inside me. It demanded attention, making my hands cramp and my stomach churn. I rubbed my sternum, swallowing back the wave of nausea. I’d gotten good at ignoring that sensation in the past several months, pretending I couldn’t