Artichoke Heart


SubHD: US says, "Ain't I heard that before…"

FEB 28, Rio de Janeiro—Off the coast of Argentina the oil tanker Et Tu Bruté was hijacked by the militant Junta Banditos, agency of international gangster and suspected affiliate of numerous terrorist organizations Nova Capone. After a shootout that left three members of the tanker's armed guard corps dead, it is believe that Capone himself went overboard and drowned. This could be the end result of years of the U.S. government's chasing the pop star-cum-notorious…

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Some deserve to die. I've killed; the man was a no-bit crook, a politician who never even saw it coming, had the nerve to mess with my man the Brazilian… actually, I haven't the slightest idea if he's even a true Brazilian or just… it's that the last time I heard word or no from Nova Capone he was atop a stage amid beats and I was blasting air through my trumpet behind these beats to a crowd 2000 strong, men and women and children packed tight into a ramshackle Sao Paolo ghetto. Otherwise, Nova speaks through a middle-man, a bearded white boy named Caliente I know from the 'whip junket,' my words for a kind of network of bearded white boys in Chicago apartments, boys with curiously Latin affectations they display with no head at all, but all the snap a body could muster, hence the 'whip.' Or maybe it's my own mental combination of 'white' and 'wop,' which makes as little sense in this case as do they themselves. So very natural is their machismo posturing that it has become something beyond the real. The boys are very comfortable in their short-boots, Texas-style and metal shine-toed. I fucking love them for it.

This Caliente—whose name was once Charlie or Edgar, I'm sure—was my old messenger from Nova. I'd helped Nova out over the years, put him up in my little spot in Chicago whenever he came through with his act: breakbeats, acid jazz, house, the man did it all. I had him open for me at more than a few of my own shows. And soon enough I would be front-game for himself; he flew me and my brothers down to Brazil, as I was saying—the world spread out in front of me, a mass undulation of human sex, wide-open mouths and sweet hands flinging ragged flowers to the stage pulled from between cracks in the pavement. Some sort of rose I remember lodged into the bell of my trumpet. It was beautiful.

Nova had become outrageously popular, independently. After the show we talked into the night, drinking sangria in his little apartment. Nova told me all about his plan. While he toured the world, he was setting up contacts and eventually a tight ring that operated globally, a kind of 'terror network,' to use the words of the U.S. government, but in Nova's case inexorably and unqualifiably for the forces of good. Abstract and pure good, none of this rhetorical, pseudo-religious hucksterism you get from the media's mad sons of late. Nova Capone has reclaimed the old, noble, and rhetoric-free quality of action for himself. Financing the endeavor on his record sales (Nova is worldwide, I'm saying, from Timbuktu to Kalamazoo to…), he digs mostly in patent fraud and highjackings or, rather, the simple and unverifiable redirecting of freighter ships, U.S.- or Europe-bound, ships carrying pharmaceutical cargo or food; he has these delivered to places that actually need the shit: worldwide, like I said; South American ghettos and rural wastelands, from lower Africa to lower Alabama. On his crew there are ship captains, muggers, wives, lobbyists, marijuana farmers, chemists, materials scientists and otherwise technologists, complicit musicians like myself.

Picture a world map on a wall in an auditorium and little blinking lights flaring supernova and dying out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean; Nova Capone's death has been reported countless times, though I've no doubt he's still alive, still working it, still fighting.

Quite some time ago, after my Brazil show, a big delivery came to Chicago care of some of Nova's other contacts in the South-Side projects; a hefty bit of AIDS pharma cargo that slipped up on the Mississippi railway line. This politician (an alderman grabbing at a piece of the cake, no less, got word of the hijacked shipment and intervened with a cooked-up series of narcotics-distribution charges for Nova's Chicago boys, seizing the already-once-seized cargo and arranging to sell it back to its rightful owner, a pharma-group located in his ward. Amazingly, the man made it work; he was a Chicago gangster of the first rate. I watched from behind the scenes the shackling of one after another of our hard-working boys, all former drug runners now plugged into Nova's grand scheme, and I felt it hard, felt that my time to act would come.

I waited. Two weeks after the last of the trials, I was in my apartment blowing on the trumpet, getting ready for a show out in Burnham Park scheduled for the following day, when Caliente showed up in black jumpsuit pants and a T-shirt, those low-rise cowboy boots, the black mustache on his white face cut down to a thin line just above his lip. "The time has come, my friend," he said. I took his directive and snooped down to the Alderman's home that night; he was purportedly out with a woman who was not his wife, Caliente said, and would be returning home quite alone, as was his normal rota on these nights. I waited, propped up against a big oak on the little tree-lined street. Promptly at 9PM his Mercedes pulled up and I strode in front of the car from behind the tree. The man shoved the brake and his big sedan came to an immediate halt. "Sorry," I heard him mutter through the open driver-side window. The man rode, as expected, alone. He flicked his cigarette out the window. "Hey, brother, you ought to watch where you're going," I said. He nodded. "Hey," I said, moving slowly around to his side of the car, "you don't by chance know how to get to—" and it was as quick as that. I had my hand on the knife in the pocket of a workman's jacket Caliente gave me to wear. The Alderman played cool, waited it all out just a little annoyed at this odd black man standing in front of him, nodding to my questions like he had accepted my deception for what it was, deception, but didn't have any will to escape what he might have seen somewhere in that white head of his as his own cruel, ultimately justifiable fate. He didn't even blink at the flash of the knife, and I hit his jugular and throat before he could really bother with moving his foot from the brake to the gas. He began to gag, choking on the blood that spurted in long arcs up into the windshield. His foot slid off the brake, and the auto-trans eased the car forward in an idle and into a tree by the curb, the very tree I'd been hiding behind not thirty seconds ago. Just before expiring, finally, the man gurgled a little and turned his panicked eyes toward my own, where they suddenly took on a certain resigned quality, near peaceful, corners droopy and wet and a little, even, happy, alive. He then said what sounded like, 'Et tu, hipster?' like he'd been cooped up for days with Shakespeare and this was all he could think of. I looked down at my clothes, the navy blue gas-station attendant's jacket, my boots, corduroys, and I laughed high and loud. He collapsed. I reached into the car, turned the ignition back, still laughing, shut the lights and moved back north, toward home.

And it was done; it was quite a time ago. Nova Capone has given up on the United States. He's wanted by the government, of course, all governments, deemed a pariah by the international will to the terrorist label. Those here in the States who would benefit from his particular style of philanthropy are too stupid anyway to filter through the larger media's complicity in the 'War on Terrorism.' The rest of the place is too busy with making money and voting hawks back into office to even hear the words 'Nova' and 'Capone' in succession without conjuring up the strangely benevolent yet terrific image of that nutcase bin Ladin to ever bother listening to the very real actions of Nova's network itself. Only his beats live on, maybe, among the hipsters and ghetto artists nationwide, though his music is, officially, banned. I often wonder if we'll meet again in the brilliant city whine, the lights, the trash.

About the author:

Todd Dills, founder and editor of THE2NDHAND, is the author of the collection For Weeks Above the Umbrella and has recently completed a novel, Sons of the Rapture. He is in love in Chicago.