CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - Herald Columnist Risks Life to Interview Leader of Terrorist Organization

By Jack Cawthon 2004

The fog came creeping on little skunk feet up from the valley below, carrying with it the pungent odor of coal mine drainage, rotting garbage, multi-holer outhouses, and decaying flesh, that I could only hope was animal.

All of these ingredients were environmentally approved by the EPA and necessary for the survival of the Orange Roughage Catfish. Anyone interfering with this balance of Big Puf unnatural nature would be fined heavily and receive a lengthy jail sentence.

My traveling companion and I stumbled our way over the pock-marked terrain of Big Puf Mountain where Lester Archabald's Degenerated Mining Company had left its distinct impressions.

Burvil, my fellow traveler, stumbled more than usual as his three-course breakfast, consisting of three beers rinsing down a little white pill of some kind, added little to his normal imbalance. I had eaten a well-rounded breakfast of a doughnut and a black cup of coffee. Sensing now that we had eaten perhaps our last meal, I longed for something more of a gourmet treat, like a Big Mac.

Fear was traveling with us. Cold, clammy fear. Only my extreme dedication to the cause of journalism could place me in this life-threatening situation.

I was here to get the story of a lifetime, a lifetime, I'm sorry to say, that hadn't always been as devoted, unless one counted the many contributions I had made to barnyard publications.

Should I obtain this story, and live to tell it, I might well earn a Pulitzer Prize, or the utmost recognition of all: an interview by Tara Tuckwiller for the Charleston Gazette.

If it all panned out, I would soon meet a notorious terrorist, one whose reputation could easily surpass Osama himself, were the CIA savvy enough to grasp it. I had arranged for a meeting with the dreaded Granny Pratlow, commander of the Medicare Mercenary Militia, known by their victims as the 3Ms of terror.

I hadn't long to ponder the consequences should conditions become hostile, as I heard suddenly the falling rocks caused by fleeting feet.

When I looked back, Burvil was fast disappearing over the lip of one of Archabald's depleted coal pits, his sense of balance, as well as his good sense, the best I had ever seen him attain. When I turned forward again, my heart froze. There she stood, decked in camouflaged fatigues, with her blue-gray hair streaming from underneath a green beret, her one hand holding a Colt 45 and the other cradling what appeared to be an assault rifle, the feared and unpredictable, Granny Pratlow herself!

She was chugalugging from the 40-ounce bottle of Colt 45 malt liquor, and twirling the rifle, and if it was as I surmised, both Granny and the gun were loaded.

She waved her hand holding the bottle and then let it fly with a resounding crash of broken glass. Granny was not only a terrorist, but a litterbug as well! "Hya, Sonny," she chirped. She had recognized me, as she was using her term of affection once bestowed upon me when we had met long ago under far more favorable circumstances.

"Heard ye been a wanting to meet up with me," she grinned. "What ye got in mind, Sonny, the same as the last time?" And here she leered. I had hoped that Granny might not remember that night of long ago in the Over Easy when we both became a little carried away, but like so many women before and after her, my curse has been to leave them with a long-lasting memory.

I assured her that I was here strictly on a mission of fact-finding, and that my journalism ethics would never allow a memory of the past to interfere with my true and noble calling.

"What ye want to know, Sonny?" she cooed sensually, and I knew I had won her over again. I asked her to tell me about her organization and what plans she had to spread terror and destruction, and to what purpose would it all accomplish.

She began to unfold a story that should you hear from anyone other than this reporter, you might never believe. She described how she had formed a network to instill terror especially in the hearts of all lawmakers; how she sent her coded messages by way of Bingo cards in all Senior Centers.

"See this, Sonny," and she smote the air with a quick twist of her wrist with what I had assumed was a rifle. It turned out to be a finely crafted cane. "One whack brings 'em line!" And she cackled, which sent shivers down my spine. For the first time in my life, I felt sorry for the West Virginia Legislature, a sorry bunch in itself.

"That was the method in the olden days, whack 'em with a cane. Couple that with the voting booth and we got 'em run up a tree for sure!" Oh, the humanities! Granny was the very soul of evil. But she hadn't finished: "More of us old folks with canes and ballots than them panty-waisted baby boomers who don't fight back, you can bet!"

My interview had gone great, but then I was to make the mistake that could have proved fatal. I asked her if she thought it was fair to take from the young, many with few resources, to reward old folks, many of whom had substantial wealth, just for the sake of merely growing old. "Fair?" she screamed. "Nothing's fair in love and war, Sonny. You of all people should know that." Horrors of horrors, Granny still remembered that night in the Over Easy and those promises I never once intended to keep.

Her good memories may have overcome the bad enough to save me. I knew the interview was over, and I felt lucky to retreat with honor, as Richard Nixon had said about Viet Nam.

As I turned to leave, she offered me a bit of advice. "Come see me again, Sonny, and I'll give you a tale to remember!" With that she slapped me on my behind, and laughed wildly. What did it mean? Was this sexual harassment of the most blatant kind? Did she think that I would betray my honorable profession for some dilly-dallying of fleshly allure?

Not, by golly, unless I could get the rest of the story.