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More trans fat fun December 5, 2006

Posted by dr. gonzo in Writing.

Okay, first read this link (in this post), if you haven’t yet. Do it now. I’ll give you time.

Now read this short story I wrote this morning. (Just FYI: Little bit of adult language and violence, PG-13 to R)

The Ban

“Man, hook it up. I heard you got the stuff.” He looked around nervously, almost waiting for a Health Agent to come swinging down on a vine of nylon and swoop him away.

The other person, a middle aged woman, looked just as, if not more nervous. “What you want?”

Still nervous, the man knew just what he wanted. Crisco, or, preferably, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Just one sweet taste of the sick indulgence. The HAs will never know. “HVO?” HVO was slang for hydrogenated vegetable oil.

“You know I gots that shit, man. Hang on.” She lifted a dumpster lid nearby. Wrapping the interior of the extraordinarily clean dumpster was a custom built storage shelf lined with bottle after bottle of cooking oils. Next to the rainbow of green and gold oils sat an assortment of baked goods, potato chips, pies and various margarines. She grabbed a small bottle of the oil and handed it to the man, he slid a fifty into her palm as she did.

“I was just thinking,” the man said, “do you have any, you know, margarine?”

“Used to be butter, now they say ya can’t eat margarine, yeah I got some right here.” She turned to her dumpster and reached into it for a stick of Shedd’s Spread Country Crock margarine, pre-ban package, of course.

When she turned around the man saw his opportunity. He quietly removed his weapon from beneath his coat, then turned and swung the tire iron down, hard, across the back of her head. Blood sprayed from the wound as the skull caved in beneath the metal rod. A few bits of shattered bone shot forth, one of them dinging off the man’s cheek. She was dead before she hit the ground. Her body slumped sideways and fell to the wet concrete with a thud, blood began to pool around her lifeless head. Ravenous, the man hurried to the dumpster, which still stood open. He peered in. The oils lined the sides of the container like liquid gold. He took the pack from his back and began filling it with the small bottles and baked goods. A huge smile crossed his face.

At his feet the woman’s body jerked once. Probably just nerves, the man told himself continuing his gluttonous raid.

Suddenly, an unexpected noise echoed from the end of the dark alley. He looked up. A silhouette stood, guarding the alley entrance, blocking his impending exit. “Hey! You!” The silhouette yelled.

The man in front of the dumpster froze, looked down at the body and then at the man at the end of the alley. “Shit.” He knew it was an HA before he even heard his voice, an HA or another oinkie. Probably both.

“Hold it right there, oinkie” The man began to approach, as he did he drew his sidearm.

Pack in hand, the man looked for an out, an escape route. To his right only the solid brick wall of a pre-21st century building. His left, blocked by an agent of the New New York Police Department, Health Affairs Division. He glanced up, a fire escape dangled precariously from the side of another brick building. The ladder was at least four feet over his head.

The dumpster, he thought. In one motion he slammed the lid of the dumpster shut and leapt up, onto the container.

“Hey! I said freeze!” The shadow screamed and broke into a run toward the man and the dumpster.

The man paid him no attention, he reached up toward the ladder, just out of his grasp. He glanced down the alley. The agent was fast approaching. Not much time. He lunged forward. In mid-air for a second and then his hand gripped the rusty metal rung of the age-old ladder, its uneven surface scraped into his hand, almost drawing blood. He swung dangerously over the pavement for just a moment and then grabbed the ladder with his other hand. A gunshot rang out. The agent behind him stopped and was now shooting at him.

“I’ll kill you, you oinkie fuck!” Another gunshot.

This guy’s a terrible shot, the man thought as he began to pull himself up toward the ladder. Finally he had his dangling legs on the bottom rung and began to scurry upward. The building wasn’t terribly tall but it was tall enough to make his escape anything but a certainty. The agent fired his weapon, again missing.

The man made his way to the first platform of the rusty, old fire escape and turned toward the first flight of stairs. He bounded them two at a time and in no time was at the building’s roof. The agent below fired wildly into the night sky, a few bullets ricocheted nearby but not a single shot hit truly close. The man pulled himself over the lip of the building’s roof and to relative safety. He slumped down onto the tarred roof and leaned against the ledge, breathing heavily.

The roof would offer only momentary reprieve, however. Even as he sat, catching his breath after his escape, the New NYPD was bringing to bear its technological assets to capture him. Helicopters, GPS tracking technology, jet bikes, infrared scanning, all manner of devices, instruments, vehicles and weapons would be employed against him. A criminal. A violator. A transgressor of the city’s trans fat ban.

When trans fat addicts and activists, better known these days as oinkies, were first pushed underground, the city could do little to stop the illicit trade of delicious food stuffs. In fact, they mostly ignored it. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg lauded the ban as an end to obesity and heart disease. But even such a bright day in the mayor’s political career was marked, black, by an underground movement that gained momentum almost daily. Soon, graffiti started to appear on city streets, sidewalks and buildings. “TFC,” “We’re hungry for delicious,” and “We want shelf life” tags were seen all over the city and eventually the mayor’s office had to take notice. The graffiti was quickly associated with the Trans Fat Coalition, a renegade group of New York citizens determined to circumvent the city’s ban on trans fats “by all means necessary.” When the police department was reorganized, following the errant shooting of a groom-to-be outside of a city strip club, into the New New York Police Department, the mayor’s office thought it wise to include a Health Affairs Division. Their assignment: enforce the city’s hitherto largely unenforceable bans on smoking in bars, cars and around children (the latter two were passed much later) and the ban on trans fats.

The trans fat ban started in city restaurants but soon the city banned importation of pre packaged goods containing trans fats. A number of key American manufacturers either couldn’t make or couldn’t afford the switch and as a result lost one of their largest markets and went out of business. Countless thousands lost their jobs, homes and retirement plans. But at least the city of New York, the only city that really matters in the United States anyway, would have fewer heart attack victims, even if the would-be victims didn’t have any real will power. Who, after all, can resist delicious pound cake?

Soon, the Health Affairs Division began to earn a reputation for brutality and corruption. Agents of the division were responsible for, by far, the most police-related shootings and deaths. But New Yorkers were healthy. Scattered reports of “anti-obese hate crimes” aside, damn it, New Yorkers were healthy. And most of them seemed to like it that way.

But it wasn’t Mayor Bloomberg who really started the hard core crack down on the oinkies and their underground counterparts. When Matthew Stryker was elected mayor out of nowhere on his no holds barred campaign platform of public health initiatives the crack down really began in earnest. Mayor Stryker, a political outsider and former special ops soldier (232 confirmed enemy kills on the ground in Iraq), granted the Health Affairs Agents, or simply Health Agents (HAs on the streets), broad based police powers to root out “oinkies and others of the criminal element” seeking to “undercut current city health initiatives.” Stryker first coined the term City War on Trans Fat (CWOT) shortly after his election. That was what really cemented it. When the ban was given a perfectly concocted public relations acronym and name. That was the moment when the real, true oppression began.

Food Police were everywhere. Harsh sentences were mandated for even minor violations of city health statutes. People began to live in fear. The agents were ruthless. They would demolish twenty restaurants in a night. Shut down immigrant grocers in all sections of the city. Arrest and brutalize addicts, dealers and underground activists. The city’s jails began to fill with restaurateurs, bar owners, smokers, and trans fat activists of all stripes; the overcrowded jails could barely handle the load. Enter the state. Prisons opened throughout New York. The governor hailed the jobs and the economic boost provided to each community that accepted a new prison, and there was plenty to go around for everyone. Life was good. New Yorkers were healthy and the state was creating jobs. Life was so good.

The man stood on the edge of the building and looked over. The agent still stood there, weapon drawn, but he wasn’t looking up. He spoke into a digital radio, calling for backup. Calling for the cavalry. The man thought he could hear the bugle call on the horizon. In fact, it was the rotor of a helicopter, he couldn’t see it, but he could definitely hear it, approaching. He knew what kind of weapons those things were armed with, what the NNYPD would do to win their War on Trans Fat. The man eyed the roof. Not much there. A few ratty old chimneys and assorted heating and cooling elements. He ran across the roof and peered over the ledge on the other side of the building, the whoosh of the chopper was getting ever closer. Nothing, just a solid brick surface, not even a window or a pipe to shimmy down. The helicopter was close now; he thought he could see its spotlight darting off of building facades all around him. Fear began to overshadow rational thought.

The jet black helicopter swooped around the corner of an old office building and went immediately into hover, its spotlight honed in on the roof of the building below it. The man panicked, looked around and stood frozen in the white sulfur light.

“This is the New New York Police. Don’t move. You are under arrest.” The voice echoed across the empty streets of this section of abandoned office parks and industrial storage warehouses. He thought, for a moment, about making a run for it, leaping over the side of the building like a superhero. Surely, I would land on my feet. Wouldn’t I? But, even peering into the bright white light, he thought he could see the helicopter’s fifty caliber cannon, trained right on his head, waiting to pop his oinkie brains all over the forty-year-old tar paper roof. He thought better of his “flee and leap” plan. Instead, he raised his hands over his head.

“Slowly remove your back pack and place it on the surface,” commanded the voice from the helicopter.

The man did as he told with one hand, the other remaining poised over his head in a capitulatory gesture. Out of the corner of his eye he saw movement at the building ledge. The agent had ascended the fire escape and was about to join the festivities transpiring on the far side of the roof. Weapon drawn the HA strutted across the roof toward the man he had emptied his magazine at earlier. When the agent reached him he swept his legs and threw the man to the ground.

“Thought you could get away from Health Affairs, did ya? You oinkie punk. You’re under arrest.” The agent handcuffed the man and picked up his back pack. “Let’s see what you have in here,” he said unzipping the pack.

“Up yours,” the man spat.

The agent brought his foot down hard across the handcuffed man’s cheek bone. “Up mine indeed, oinkie,” he said with a laugh as the man spit a tooth onto the roof. Reaching his hand into the pack the agent pulled out several small bottles of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. “Well, what do we have here? There’s enough HVO to put you away for fifty years, you filth.”

“You can’t stop us,” the man managed, blood pouring from a gash on his cheek.

“Au contraire,” the agent said. “You’re,” he kicked the man hard in the stomach, “the,” another kick, “one,” another, “handcuffed,” another kick, this one harder still, “face-down,” another kick, “on the roof, oinkie!” He screamed and then kicked the man in the face as he struggled for breath. The handcuffed prisoner fell unconscious. He lay, unmoving.

The agent got on his radio. “I’m gonna need an assist to remove this prisoner, he, uh, fell down.”

“Roger that,” a voice returned over the digital radio.

The agent holstered his weapon, hiked his pants and took a deep breath. Satisfaction washed over him. All in a day’s work, he thought, another oinkie punk off the streets. New Yorkers were healthy and life, life was so good.



1. Chris D - December 6, 2006

*applause! great writing man! good work!

2. Steve J - December 8, 2006

Brilliant. Well done.
It plays out exactly the way a hypochondriac would consider his fate. A man with a boil on his face thinks, “oh my god, it could be tumour!” before his family realise it, he’s at the hospital demanding a scan. When the doctors refuse to treat such a ludicrous and unsighlty blemish, the guy breaks down, goes underground! before long he’s treading the dark alley ways and bridle paths of the old canals where nobody ever goes apart from the whinnos and scutters, looking for someone who’ll believe him, and agree to treat the tumour and save his life. When he catches sight of himself in a shop window 2 days later, the boil has turned to a spot, and he squeezes it, plastering the window with puss, he squeezes a little more and blood trickles down his forehead. He decides to finaly return home after realising how stupid he was. How could he ever have thought the boil could be tumour! he walks in through the door only to find his wife has left him, and the dog has shit on the carpet!

Yep, it’s just like that! Well done. Steve.

3. J Taylor - December 2, 2007

So supposedly, who’s the bad guy, or hypochondriac, if even there is one in the first place? It was very entertaining. Never really lost interest. I’m a “Writer In Training”(and journalist). And I love true gonzo(Hunter S. Thompson Pieces for the most part). The oinkie or the health pig? Seems to me to be both. Its like saying two wriongs don’t make a right, but where’s level ground.? Vegetarians maybe?hm

4. dr. gonzo - January 14, 2008

Thompson is great. The bad guy is the extremist, the one who takes things to a bad level. In this story, both main characters are bad, but I have also tried to characterize the organizations they represent, I guess its up to you to decide who is good and bad in that struggle. It’s a pretty over the top take on the issue, but it was fun to write, thanks for reading.

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