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Reading the Second Amendment

March 7, 2018 2 comments

The Second Amendment’s Syntax Permits Only One Reasonable Interpretation

by Sheldon Richman

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

—Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Is this sentence so hard to understand? Apparently so. Even some of its defenders don’t like how it is worded because it allegedly breeds misunderstanding.

But the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights is indeed a well-crafted sentence. By that I mean that its syntax permits only one reasonable interpretation of the authors’ meaning, namely, that the people’s individual right to be armed ought to be respected and that the resulting armed populace will be secure against tyranny, invasion, and crime. Someone completely ignorant of the eighteenth-century American political debates but familiar with the English language should be able to make out the meaning easily.

My concern is not to demonstrate that what the amendment says is good policy, only that it says what it says. No other fair reading is possible.

The Competing Interpretation

Before proceeding, let’s understand the competing interpretation. As the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California put it, “The original intent of the Second Amendment was to protect the right of states to maintain militias.” Dennis Henigan of Handgun Control, Inc., says the amendment is “about the distribution of military power in a society between the federal government and the states. That’s all they [the Framers] were talking about.” As he put it elsewhere, “The Second Amendment guaranteed the right of the people to be armed as part of a ‘well regulated’ militia, ensuring that the arming of the state militia not depend on the whim of the central government” [emphasis added].

This interpretation is diametrically opposed to the view that says the amendment affirms the right of private individuals to have firearms. The ACLU, HCI, and others reject this, arguing that the amendment only affirms the right of the states to maintain militias or, today, the National Guard. These competing interpretations can’t both be right.

The first problem with the militia interpretation is that the amendment speaks of a right and, of course, the amendment appears in the Bill of Rights. (Powers with respect to the militia are enumerated in Articles I and II of the Constitution.) No other amendment of the original ten speaks of the States having rights. Nowhere, moreover, are rights recognized for government (which in the Framers’ view is the servant) but denied to the people (the masters). Henigan and company are in the untenable position of arguing that while the Framers used the term “the people” to mean individuals in the First (the right to assemble), Fourth (the right to be secure in persons, houses, papers, and effects), Ninth (unenumerated rights), and Tenth (reserved powers) Amendments, they suddenly used the same term to mean “the States” in the Second. That makes no sense.

More important, the diction and syntax of the amendment contradict Henigan’s argument. If the Framers meant to say that the States have a right to organize militias or that only people who are members of the militia have a right to guns, why would they say, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”? The Framers were intelligent men with a good grasp of the language. As we can see from the Tenth Amendment, they were capable of saying “States” when they meant States and “people” when they meant people. They could have said, “The right of the States to organize and arm militias shall not be infringed,” though that would have contradicted Article I, Section 8, which delegated that power to the Congress. (Roger Sherman proposed such language, but it was rejected.) Or, they could have written, “The right of members of the state militia to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” though that would have contradicted Article I, Section 9, which forbids the States to “keep Troops . . . in time of Peace.” They didn’t write it that way. They wrote “the people,” without qualification. (The Supreme Court said in the 1990 case U.S. v. Verdugo-Urquidez that “the people” has the same meaning—individuals—throughout the Bill of Rights.)

But, say the gun controllers, what of that opening phrase, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state”? Here’s where we have to do some syntactical analysis. James Madison’s original draft reversed the order of the amendment: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country.” Perhaps this version makes Madison’s thought more clear. His sentence implies that the way to achieve the well-armed and well-regulated militia that is necessary to the security of a free state is to recognize the right of people to own guns. In other words, without the individual freedom to own and carry arms, there can be no militia. As to the term “well regulated,” it does not refer to government regulation. This can be seen in Federalist 29, where Alexander Hamilton wrote that a militia acquired “the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the character of a well regulated militia” by going “through military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary.”

What the Syntax Tells Us

How do we know that the “well regulated militia” is defined in terms of an armed populace and not vice versa? The syntax of the sentence tells us. Madison and his colleagues in the House of Representatives chose to put the militia reference into a dependent phrase. They picked the weakest possible construction by using the participle “being” instead of writing, say, “Since a well regulated militia is necessary. . . .” Their syntax keeps the militia idea from stealing the thunder of what is to come later in the sentence. Moreover, the weak form indicates that the need for a militia was offered not as a reason (or condition) for prohibiting infringement of the stated right but rather as the reason for enumerating the right in the Bill of Rights. (It could have been left implicit in the Ninth Amendment, which affirms unenumerated rights.)

All of this indicates the highly dependent and secondary status of the phrase. Dependent on what? The main, independent clause, which emphatically and unequivocally declares that the people’s right to have guns “shall not be infringed.” (Note: the amendment presupposes the right; it doesn’t grant it.)

Let’s go at this from another direction. Imagine that a Borkian inkblot covers the words “well regulated militia.” All we have is: “A [inkblot] being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” To make an intelligent guess about the obscured words, we would have to reason from the independent clause back to the dependent phrase. We would know intuitively that the missing words must be consistent with the people having the right to keep and bear arms. In fact, anything else would be patently ridiculous. Try this: “A well-regulated professional standing army (or National Guard) being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” That sentence would bewilder any honest reader. He’d ask why such unlike elements were combined in one sentence. It makes no sense. It’s a non sequitur.

Imagine the deliberations of the Committee of Eleven, the group of House members to which Madison’s proposed bill of rights was referred. Assume that one member says, “We should have an amendment addressing the fact that the way to achieve the well-regulated militia that is necessary to the security of a free state is for the national government to respect the right of the States to organize and arm militias.” “No,” replies another member. “The amendment should reflect the fact that the way to achieve the well-regulated militia that is necessary to the security of a free state is for the government to respect the people’s right to bear arms.” If both members were told to turn their declarative sentences into the imperative form appropriate to a bill of rights, which one would have come up with the language that became the Second Amendment? The question answers itself.

The Committee of Eleven reversed the elements of Madison’s amendment. But that, of course, did not change the meaning, only the emphasis. In fact, the reversal made it a better sentence for the Bill of Rights. As adopted, the amendment begins by quickly putting on the record the most important reason for its inclusion in the Bill of Rights but without dwelling on the matter; that’s what the weak participle, “being,” accomplishes. The sentence then moves on to the main event: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” The Framers correctly intuited that in a Bill of Rights, the last thing the reader should have ringing in his mind’s ear is the absolute prohibition on infringement of the natural right to own guns.

I am not suggesting that the Framers said explicitly that the militia reference should go into a dependent participial phrase so that future readers would know that it takes its meaning from the independent clause. They didn’t need to do that. To be fluent in English means that one intuits the correct syntax for the occasion and purpose at hand. Much knowledge of a language is tacit. We have to assume that the Framers knew what they were saying.

What Language Experts Say

This analysis is seconded by two professional grammarians and usage experts. In 1991, author J. Neil Schulman submitted the text of the Second Amendment to A. C. Brocki, editorial coordinator of the Office of Instruction of the Los Angeles Unified School District and a former senior editor for Houghton Mifflin, and Roy Copperud, now deceased, the author of several well-regarded usage books and a member of the American Heritage Dictionary usage panel. Brocki and Copperud told Schulman that the right recognized in the amendment is unconditional and unrestricted as to who possesses it.

Asked if the amendment could be interpreted to mean that only the militia had the right, Brocki replied, “No, I can’t see that.” According to Copperud, “The sentence does not restrict the right to keep and bear arms, nor does it state or imply possession of the right elsewhere or by others than the people.” As to the relation of the militia to the people, Schulman paraphrased Brocki as saying, “The sentence means that the people are the militia, and that the people have the right which is mentioned.” On this point, Copperud, who was sympathetic to gun control, nevertheless said, “The right to keep and bear arms is asserted as essential for maintaining the militia.”

It is also important to realize that, as a matter of logic, the opening phrase does not limit the main clause. As the legal scholar and philosopher Stephen Halbrook has argued, although part one of the amendment implies part two, it does not follow that if part one doesn’t obtain, part two is null and void. The sentence “The earth being flat, the right of the people to avoid ocean travel shall not be infringed” does not imply that if the earth is round, people may be compelled to sail. The Framers would not have implied that a right can properly be infringed; to call something a right is to say that no infringement is proper. As another philosopher and legal scholar, Roger Pilon, has written, the amendment implies that the need for a militia is a sufficient but not a necessary condition for forbidding infringement of the right to have firearms. The sentence also tells us that an armed populace is a necessary condition for a well-regulated militia.

Superfluous Commas

A word about punctuation: most reproductions of the Second Amendment contain a plethora of commas: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” But according to the American Law Division of the Library of Congress, this is not how the amendment was punctuated in the version adopted by Congress in 1789 and ratified by the States. That version contained only one comma, after the word state which, by the way, was not uppercased in the original, indicating a generic political entity as opposed to the particular States of the Union. If the superfluous commas have confused people about the amendment’s meaning, that cause of confusion is now removed.

One need not resort to historical materials to interpret the Second Amendment, because it is all there in the text. Nevertheless, it is appropriate to point out that history supports, and in no way contradicts, that reading. Gun ownership was ubiquitous in eighteenth-century America, and the Founding Fathers repeatedly acknowledged the importance of an armed citizenry. They also stated over and over that the militia is, as George Mason, the acknowledged father of the Bill of Rights, put it, “the whole people.” Madison himself, in Federalist 46, sought to assuage the fears of the American people during the ratification debate by noting that an abusive standing army “would be opposed [by] a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands.” That would have comprised the entire free adult male population at the time. There’s no question that at the center of the American people’s tacit ideology was the principle that, ultimately, they could not delegate the right of self-defense to anyone else and thus they were responsible for their own safety.

Perhaps the deterioration of American education is illustrated by the high correlation between the number of years a person has attended school and his inability to understand the words “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” It is more likely, though, that those who interpret the Second Amendment to preclude an individual right to own guns are driven by their political agenda. Whichever the case, they do themselves no credit when they tell us that a simple, elegant sentence means the opposite of what it clearly says.

Sheldon Richman

Sheldon Richman is the former editor of The Freeman and a contributor to The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. He is the author of Separating School and State: How to Liberate America’s Families and thousands of articles.

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The Guard Rabbit Caper

October 13, 2017 Leave a comment

A simple apartment above a dry-cleaning & laundry shop was home to several young people that appeared to be involved in the marijuana trade. The shop downstairs stood on a corner where a rich residential street met a wide, busy, commercial street.

The entrance to the flat was a long wooden staircase that went up from a small parking area at the back of the dry-cleaner. I was only there a few times, but I was an old friend of one of the tenants in the flat so I was one of a few trusted visitors.

On the afternoon of the guard rabbit caper, I parked my car at the back of the building and mounted the long staircase. At the top step, I was admitted by a beautiful young woman wearing a sheet. She was taller than I am, and slender. I stepped into the room, which was a kitchen, but was never used as such. On this occasion, it was cramped for space because there were several large, black garbage bags there, each filled to capacity with loose marijuana.

I followed the tall girl in the sheet into the living room. Another girl and two guys were slouched on a couch or squatting on large pillows on the floor. All were staring silently at flames that were dancing in a fireplace at the end of the room. Windows that faced the busy commercial street were covered by a large Canadian flag, and a psychedelic poster from concerts at the Fillmore in San Francisco.

My friend came in from another room, carrying a cage with a black and white rabbit in it. I asked him what that was about. It seems there had been a party a few days before, and some stoned people left the rabbit behind when they departed. They claimed it would keep watch, and be a reliable guard rabbit. My friend had no interest in that protection, and was pondering what to do with the fluffy rodent.

I suggested we take it down to Riverdale Zoo. It’s not there anymore, but it was THE zoo for the city at that time. Late in the dark of night, we took the caged animal down to my car, and we drove to the zoo. I parked on a residential street near the zoo entrance. We took the cage and walked quietly toward the entrance gates, feeling nervous under the ancient street lights.

Closer to the zoo grounds, there was less light. We crept up to the gate and peered in, just as a guard on patrol walked by between us and the rabbit warren. We hadn’t figured on guards in a closed zoo in an urban location. We took the rabbit and went back to the car.

I drove to a suburban area, where there is a natural, treed ravine. We released the guard rabbit into the forest, and hoped he’d learn the ropes in time to survive.

Terrorists Have Changed My Mind

March 22, 2017 Leave a comment

I’ve enjoyed my life as an adventure. I never took anything too seriously, except my obligations and commitments. Those I took very seriously and fulfilled them promptly, to the best of my ability. To make certain I did the right things for my obligations and commitments, I refrained from wasting time and energy on things that were not my responsibility.

Recently I have been bothered by urges to care about things that are not my responsibility. The behaviour and the words of the Murderous Muslim Fanatics make me care about things that go on far from me and my loved ones. I don’t like to feel that I want to do something to stop them.

Of course I can’t do anything about it. That’s frustrating and irritating. I’m old ‘way beyond my ‘best before’ date, and I’m a peaceful, non-violent person. I can draw and write, but I don’t have access to media distribution. What a feeble thing it would be to write blogs about how I feel about the present state of the world.

The USA is totally nuts. The Eastern areas of the world are totally nuts. The cops are trigger happy. Billionaire sociopaths are ruining morality among lawmakers and courts.

Wealth is an addictive commodity. People who are addicted to it become sociopaths under the illusion that they’re correct about everything and are more important than other people. They are wrong about that, obviously, and must be taught a lesson.

I believe that the pen is mightier than the sword, and the only thing I can do for the resistance against the oligarchs is write. Unfortunately, I haven’t the patience to figure out how one ‘promotes’ their blogs. More importantly, I just don’t want to waste time promoting when I could be writing… which I enjoy very much.

Here I sit, safe from some kinds of attacks. We live in a tiny village of small homes. A wide, former highway runs through the middle of the village. Now it’s just an enormous road that is a quiet ‘main street’. There are no stores, markets, gas stations or restaurants from end to end. There is, however, an enormous, cathedral-like church, and a delightfully picturesque, ancient cemetery behind it. The village is virtually like a little cluster of homes in the midst of broad, fertile farmers’ fields.

We live a lower risk way of life, so we feel fairly safe compared with our former ‘big city’ homes. I can now only fight the oligarchy with my pen. I would never take up a sword.

Inside Hunter’s Lair

March 18, 2017 Leave a comment

I knew Hunter long before he lived in this lair, so gaining access was not too difficult for me. I know that only a select few could get past the front door. Those few were expected to vet any acquaintance they might want to sponsor into the lair. It was a simple, humble, red brick house on a busy urban street. Although quite far from the center of downtown, it stood on a major artery that ran through the heart of the city. Large, modern street cars rumbled past, back and forth, and the old house trembled slightly.

sackville-street

Behind the house a yard was littered with parts of machines and building materials. There was no grass, just exposed hard earth with tufts of weed and wildflowers poking through at random places. Beside the yard, at the end of the narrow driveway, a rickety looking garage stood surrounded by weeds, steel barrels and some boards. A small pedestrian door was visible in the blocked car-size door. One had to be in very good standing with Hunter to get beyond the house and into the garage. People who didn’t know about the garage didn’t pay it any attention. It appeared to be so broken down even people who were accepted into the house barely noticed it.

Of slightly more interest were two old cars in the driveway in front of the garage. They were obviously not mobile because tall weeds and grass had grown up through them and around them. They were fairly rare, and Hunter was determined to someday finish rebuilding them. One was an original 1962 Austin Mini and the other a 1956 Volvo 544. I had no reason to believe that he wouldn’t complete them when he got to it.

Volvo

Out front, the small lawn was reasonably well-groomed. It was hidden from the busy street by thick foliage on the bushes that bordered the sidewalk outside. The only opening was for the steps up to the walkway that led to the wide wooden steps up to the porch. The porch was virtually filled with boxes, trunks, and parts of machines. There was, however, a clear path to the front door. The door was mostly glass and provided a clear view through the second glass door beyond the small vestibule. Through the vestibule door could be seen the stairs up the left wall to the second and third floors.

Opposite the staircase, on the right, was the only door in that hallway. It led to the lair. The two upper floors were unoccupied for many years. When my own daughter got to be about twenty, he rented the two upper floors to her. He charged her about half what the space was really worth. I assumed it was partly because of some favour I’d done for him decades before and partly because my daughter earned special status with Hunter in her own right. He’d known her since she was four years old, which is when I met him and we became friends. My daughter had earned entry into Hunter’s inner circle, including access to the old garage, totally on her own.

The lair was just a shambles. There was nothing but stuff and boxes stored in the dining room and the living room which was right at the front looking out onto the porch was simply covered with what appeared to be rags. Coats, pants, shirts, quilts, blankets and more hid any furniture that might have been there. A single bed, similarly hidden in blankets and clothes is where Hunter slept.

The walls of both rooms were quite a different story. They were decorated beautifully with a variety of original paintings. Hunter admired art, and several artists were part of his inner circle. He contributed to their growth by purchasing a few paintings that he liked. Some of the paintings were hyper-real and others were impressionist but all were nicely mounted in tasteful frames that complimented the artwork within them. I remember a time when Hunter learned one of the artists he tried to support was not really serious but was just playing the part of the traditional starving artist.

Hunter was so furious at having been duped and for this German guy to be laughing up his sleeve while he slouched around town taking advantage of people. Hunter didn’t hesitate. He gathered up all of Gunnar’s paintings, and literally threw them out into the garbage after he cut them out of their frames. He grumbled about Gunnar for at least a year after.

Over the years I took several people to the lair. Usually it was a woman whom I was dating and knew she would be safe to take there. I knew that Hunter had an interesting background. He had lived in some foreign lands because they moved around as demanded by his father’s international profession. He had gone to prestigious private schools and formed contacts at the very highest level of international business and politics. However, Hunter didn’t follow the family line and struck out on his own early in life.

He had a volatile relationship with his father and was close with his mother. His rebellious activities were at a level that would befit a Hollywood blockbuster. While boarded at some high level private school, he and a schoolmate conspired to commandeer the school radio station and broadcast some very unseemly programs. Hunter was expelled as was his companion, Alexander. Hunter returned home, which was in Quebec at that time. He and his father had a flat-out fist fight. Hunter’s father was a rugged man and no slouch even in his forties. All the same, Hunter whipped his father and left home. He was nineteen.

St.John's Newfie

My third wife was a marginal aristocrat. Her father, although Canadian, joined the British military during the Second World War. He had been living in the Channel Islands to avoid taxes and child support from a previous marriage. He was quite a rogue, as aristocrat wannabes often are. I took my third wife, Penelope to the lair. The moment I introduced them they began to gab together like long-time pals. I was surprised that the rather stiff, aristocratic lady simply fell into mutually animated conversation with this motorcycle tough in this shambles of a kitchen.

I began to pay attention to their conversation. It seems that the aristocratic woman knew some of the rascals with whom Hunter used to run. They had mutual acquaintances and friends. Hunter had a fairly lofty way of life when he was a bit younger. Obviously he didn’t take to it. Instead he got himself a powerful Harley Davidson motorcycle and rode around the mountainous area of Quebec.

There were other unexpected things about Hunter. Aside from the art on the walls there was a large Ford Thunderbird in the front of the driveway for the few occasions when he drove somewhere.  When he drove, it was best not to drive with him. He was recklessly fast and always slammed on the brakes at the dangerously last second. I remember a time when he was driving an old pickup truck for some reason. I was in the passenger seat. He parked in front of my apartment and backed into the spot too fast and too far and the high tailgate smashed the headlights and buckled the hood of a Toyota parked behind us. He lurched forward a few feet and shut off the engine, stepped out of the truck and went into the building without even glancing at the damage to the Toyota or the truck. He didn’t even put the truck in a different spot to avoid detection.

Visiting the lair meant sitting around in the kitchen. A kitchen table was against one wall and Hunter sat in an old office type chair. A large refrigerator at one end of the room was filled with bottles of Heineken beer. The wall at the other end of the kitchen had an old, two-burner gas stove, an old porcelain sink and some shelves. Hunter never cooked so the stove was used only to boil water to make coffee and tea, usually tea.

A large black cat was usually perched on top of the fridge, dozing. One wall was covered with stacks of magazines and newspapers. The wall over the table was covered with several layers of notes, photos, articles and such things. Some were more than five years old and might be several layers beneath more current notes and articles.

There was a plain, black, traditional phone on the table among ashtrays and more current magazines. If there were more than two visitors allowed into the lair at one time, the two simple folding garden chairs were obviously not enough. There were a few white plastic tubs in the room that were originally used for some kind of industrial products. They were the height of the average chair and were pressed into service as seats for visitors when there were more than two.

It was commonplace during a visit with Hunter that some person, usually a young man or woman, would come to the back door of the house. The back door opened onto the kitchen after a small, dark vestibule area that was crammed with boxes of junk. Hunter always seemed to know why the young people were there, and wordlessly set about sending them on their way. If someone was seated on one of the white tubs they would be asked to rise. Hunter would pop the top off the tub and fish out of it a number of ounce and quarter ounce bags of top quality marijuana. He would pass them to the street vendor and send him or her on their way back to work. He’d calmly put the lid back on the tub and invite the guest to take the seat again.

Hunter believed, quite rightly, that the war against marijuana was not legitimate. He was fiercely opposed to the harder drugs, and often did things to interfere with the activities of dealers in cocaine, crack and heroin. He had many good reasons to mistrust the police and knew from first-hand experience that they often rig arrests in their own favour even without legitimate proof. Hunter’s anti-law activities were driven as much by his disgust with the authorities’ mendacity as his desire to earn a good living under the radar.

There were many more eccentricities about Hunter. His diet was most peculiar. He would decide upon a small, home cooking kind of restaurant or diner and would go to that place every day. He would have a set order that was to be brought to his table. One time it was four sunny-side-up eggs and buttered whole wheat toast. He ate that every day for about fourteen months.

One day something in that restaurant bothered him. Perhaps a server annoyed him or the eggs were too loose or too well done. Anything or nothing could put him off. He chose another small restaurant that became his everyday meal. He didn’t stay with the eggs. He had an open-faced Salisbury Steak (hamburger) sandwich every day for another year or so. This transition of place and meal repeated every eighteen to twenty-four months over several decades.

Very often, Hunter would talk to his visitors about various subjects. He would tell a story that proved the police were criminals. He would talk about sailing, which he loved and sometimes did. He would talk about European types of auto racing, which he also did in sedan racing. He would talk about motorcycles which he loved. If one was a close enough insider, one could be invited out to the garage.

Ragnar

The garage was left with its rotting exterior to disguise the interior. The interior was protected by state of the art skill and materials all around. The roof was covered by a single, large rubber membrane that assured protection against leaks. The floor of the garage was heated and there was a small upper level like a mezzanine. The heat rose from the floor and kept the garage comfortable. On the floor was Hunter’s collection of motorcycles. There were six BMWs, each of historic value from as far back as the nineteen-twenties up through the fifties, sixties and eighties. On the walls were framed black and white photos of Hunter in one of his racing cars and some similar photos of me in my car. I don’t remember those photos or how Hunter came to have them.

The final reminiscence before I leave this trip through my relationship with one of my favourite and most trusted people. Yes, he was a criminal. He had served time in prison. But he was more trustworthy and dependable than a lot of respected lawyers and bank managers. I like criminals because they’re exciting and interesting and if they accept you and trust you, even though they know you’re straight within the law, they are an ally. They also show a lot of respect to you if you make your way in the world and earn a living honestly because they find that too difficult for them to do.

We return to the old kitchen from the backyard garage. We pass through to an old white door in a corner of the kitchen. It leads to the basement. At the bottom of the old wooden steps we see that there is a room that fills the entire space except for a long narrow hallway between the wall of the inner room and the exterior basement wall. At the far end of this dark corridor is the electric meter and fuse boxes. The only reason for the hallway was to permit access for the meter-reader.

Hunter opens the hidden door to the inner room. There are six long rows of heavy plastic troughs with liquid in them. Plastic tubes fed some nutrients into the liquid, over the troughs were huge, high intensity light fixtures and in the troughs, reaching for the lights were thousands of dollars worth of hydroponic marijuana plants.

It’s not easy to gain access to Hunter’s lair, but there are a lot of interesting things to experience there if you do get in. I remember other interesting things about Hunter, or Hunter and I together. We were from very different roots and backgrounds but were united by mutual respect and trust. I might write some more about us some time.

Treasure Lake – Moonless

March 17, 2017 Leave a comment

The silence in the afternoon heat on the small river was ominous. The cacophony of bird and insect songs had died away as if on siesta in the midday sun. It was fortuitous however, because Caroline Rich was able to hear a hacking cough and spitting in the dense foliage to their right.

is 1

“Stay quiet,” Caroline whispered. “They’re over there somewhere. I heard a guy coughing.”

“You’re right,” Solly Cohen said. “I smell cigar smoke.”

“I can see it!” Phyllis Snitzer said.

“It’s a good thing we stopped to discuss how to proceed,” Rob Snitzer said.

“How will we proceed, come to think of it?” Solly said.

“I’m sure they don’t want to spend the night,” Caroline said. “They’ll probably take off long before it gets dark.”

They sat in their canoes in the shade of overhanging willows. Quietly, they made ham and cheese sandwiches and drank some of their bottled water. They all took an afternoon nap. They hadn’t realized how much energy they had exhausted, as well as the toll taken by stress. Caroline and Phyllis in their bow positions lay back onto the packs that filled the centre of each canoe. With their hats over their faces, they dozed.

Solly and Rob, in the stern seats, lay back onto the small. They also fell fitfully asleep. Rob was the first to get up, wakened by the active insects that swarm after sundown. Darkness was only an hour away, and the aircraft hadn’t moved. Its engine was so loud, it could not possibly have started up without waking them.

Again, even over the din from the night creatures, coughing could be heard from the plane’s hiding place, and the cigar smoke continued to foul the pristine forest fragrance.

“This might be a break for us,” Rob said. “In the dark, we can cut straight across the lake.”

“What if they hear us?” Phyllis said.

“Solly and I can paddle silently, like the natives did,” Rob said. “We learned how at summer camp, years ago.”

“So if you don’t know how, just don’t paddle,” Solly said.

“It’s no big deal,” Caroline said. “You just have to break the water gently to avoid making an audible splash.”

“And don’t hit the gunnel with the paddle,” Phyllis said.

“Okay,” Rob said, “You know how to do it. So let’s eat light and wait ‘til after eleven to cross.”

morning-moon-oct-20-13

“Why after eleven,” Solly said.

“The moon will be down by then.  It’s going to be bright tonight, and it’s going to set at about ten-thirty.” Rob said.

The time dragged and they were getting stiff from sitting in the canoes for so many hours. Finally, the sky grew darker as the moon sank below the horizon. With the removal of the brightness that obliterated most of the distant stars, the pure sky shed a dim, serene light. There were billions of tiny specks of light beyond the more familiar, closer stars.

is

The surface of the lake was absolutely motionless, like a black mirror.  As the four friends set out to stealthily cross the lake, the stars appeared to envelope them. The stars above were reflected flawlessly in the mirror surface, giving the canoeists the sensation of paddling through eternity, with stars all around, above and below them.

Lured Into A Secretive Squad (continued 26)

May 7, 2015 Leave a comment

In the afternoon my cellphone buzzed. It was Aileen Schachter, sounding cold and indifferent. I was relieved at that. She said that I was to attend a meeting of N3 at a synagogue banquet room. I wanted to ask her if Naomi Cheslow was to come along, but I refrained for fear it might touch off a jealous tirade. I needn’t have done it, because Naomi’s phone buzzed before I’d rung off. She was also called to the meeting which was called for eight that evening, so Naomi and I had supper together before we proceeded to it.

The restaurant was called ‘Little Sicily’. We chose a table in a little alcove not visible from the entrance. I ordered fettuccini Alfredo and Naomi ordered Veal Marsala.

“I’m sorry I caused stress between you and Aileen,” Naomi said.

“It’s not your fault. Aileen feels she has a right to me, whether I agree or not,” I said.

We ate in silence. The food was wonderful. I love Italian food, and ‘Little Sicily’ knows how to make it properly.

We left the restaurant feeling satisfied. We arrived at the N3 meeting just before Aileen called it to order. There was a large, rough-hewn hardwood crate at the front of the room. On a sign from Aileen, two of the guys opened the top of the crate and began to unload firearms of various kinds.

“The time has come, friends, to establish our position in this society,” said Aileen. “We have been asked by the Jewish Defense League to ‘ride shotgun’, so to speak, for a peaceful protest. A group of orthodox and Hassidic Jewish people will assemble at nine o’clock Sunday morning.”

“Where?” said Naomi. Aileen glared at her.

“At the north end of Riva Goldstone Park near Eisenhower Avenue. The Aryans have sworn to crack every skull in the group, so all of us will be armed and ready to shoot on command if a desperate situation arrives. Please make your way to David and Sheldon to get your armaments.”

“I don’t like this,” I said to Naomi. “I don’t want to shoot anybody.”

“Nobody wants to shoot anybody, Sweetheart,” said Naomi. “I’m sure the show of force will dissuade the bikers from attacking.”

“I have a bad feeling about this,” I said.

There was nearly five hundred people gathered in the park when I got there with Naomi. More than half of them were Hassidic people, the men in long, black coats, white shirts and black vests with the tassels (tzitzis) hanging out. Their women wore heavy dresses and skirts to their ankles, with kerchiefs over their wigs. The other people were just ordinary people that you’d not notice were Jews. Except for orthodox people, where the men all wore yarmulkes on their heads, and some wore fedoras.

The mob had just begun to spread from the park onto Barnard Avenue and began the slow walk to city hall to bring recognition to the suffering of the Jewish citizens at the hands of the Aryans. The earth began to tremble as the Aryans on their Harley-Davidson motorcycles rumbled up the Avenue. They stopped half a block away and parked their bikes together, right across the road so no one could get by.

Little Aileen was carrying an Uzi as she strode out ahead of the marchers and saw Clark McCracken standing proudly in the line of ruffians.

“McCracken!” said Aileen, “are you crazy? Do you know what I’m going to do to you now?”

“You ain’t gonna do nuthin’ you piece of Jew shit!” said McCracken. He ran at Aileen brandishing a machete. Naomi raised her nine millimetre Luger and dropped Clark in his tracks. Suddenly, Aileen turned and shot Naomi. I was shocked and automatically raised my AK47. Before I could squeeze off a shot, Aileen nailed me with a burst from her Uzi. One went through my left eye and knocked a chunk of brain matter out through the large hole it made behind my ear. Another went through my heart and left lung and one in the groin an inch above the willy. I was dead before I hit the floor, and I have no idea how the protest went, what happened to Aileen, if anything. You know what? I don’t care. I realize that nothing really matters much, and my frustrations, my burdens and my concerns are all gone. This is heaven.

Lured Into A Secretive Squad (continued 25)

May 4, 2015 Leave a comment

I woke up alone, late in the morning. I assumed Naomi had returned to her room after I fell back to sleep. It had been almost an hour of really intense, sincere and gentle lovemaking. I dragged myself to my shower and let the needle-sharp spray awaken my weary cells. I put a towel around my middle and went looking to see if all was well with Naomi Cheslow.

Her bedroom door was open so I knew she wasn’t there. I went downstairs to the kitchen where I found Naomi making eggs Benedict. She was amazingly skillful in the way she spun the raw eggs in the boiling water. The rich butter sauce was world class as was the coffee. I hid my excitement at having breakfast made for me by an accomplished and gorgeous woman like the one I watched working in my kitchen. She put a plate before me and one for herself across the table. I’m not the most experienced guy in the world, but I rank well up there with non-stars. In my experience, when the lover makes an extraordinary breakfast it means you done good.

“I hope you like it,” she said. She sat across from me and ate silently, smiling at me from time to time.

“It’s wonderful,” said I.

“Was I very bad last night?” she said. “I’m sorry but…”

“How could you be sorry for anything? You’re the most wonderful woman I’ve ever personally known and you permitted me to be your lover,” I said. “I wish it could be always like that.” Naomi looked at me long and hard.

“Can’t it be? Is it impossible?” she said. I thought hard about what she might be thinking. Occasional lovers? Exclusive lovers? Live together? Marry?

“Nothing is impossible,” I said. It was a very stale answer and I wished I could take it back.

“But there was nothing for you last night,” she said. “You did everything for me. You gave and gave and gave, but took nothing.”

“That’s not correct, Naomi,” I said. “To begin with, the fact that you trusted me enough to come to me for sanctuary makes me feel proud. As for making love with you… well, it was wonderful. Your body is wonderful, your vagina is sweet and fragrant and your responses to my oral caresses were deeply pleasing.”

“Can you trust me enough to let me give while you receive?” she said.

“I guess so,” I said, not wanting to sound eager. I feared Naomi wanted to ‘repay’ me for the wonderful night we’d had together. I am very, very uncomfortable with that. I am unable to have an orgasm from oral caresses when my lover is doing it for me. Only if it’s her preference, only if her desire to orally caress my penis is as my desire is for her vagina is there any chance I’ll ejaculate. I can tell you that my hang-up in that matter has cost me more than one girlfriend.

To my surprise, Naomi ducked under the table and peeled away my bath towel. She gently lifted my flaccid penis and put her warm lips around its head. Penises being what they are, it rose up as if to meet her mouth. She engulfed me. She uttered soft moans. She was as gentle and experienced in oral lovemaking as I am. She was doing it because she wanted to. She wanted to feel the smooth skin sliding over her lips. She was doing it for herself. It was wonderful. I was confident that she wanted the semen. That confidence helped to overcome my inability to ejaculate into a lover’s mouth. Naomi was a truly great lover. I wondered how long we… we mi… might st-stay together… to… get… her. Uh-h-h-h..

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