I Was a Captive of the Goon Squad... Until I Learned My Lesson

Copyright 1985, 1986 by Gregory S. Swann. All Rights Reserved.
Direct inquiries to CIS I.D. 75115,1341.

I Was a Captive of the Goon Squad...
...Until I Learned My Lesson

I--Goon Premises

        "Pets are people, too!," Bellomania shouted, waving a fist for
the assembled cameras. In her other hand, she lovingly treasured a grenade.
        "Animal rights are more important than human rights," Jus' Den
said gently. He gave a gentle smile, underscoring the fact that his Uzi
submachinegun was pointed at none of the hostages.
        Eduardo just looked bored. He had his thumbs hooked into the sides of
his bandoliers.
        ARRGH! =Why= do I live in this rotten city...?
        You try to be a good neighbor. To be a helpful friend of friends in
need. To make it at least a little easier to live in the world's largest
'Skinner Box'... And what do you get? Abuse. Delays. Belligerent
indifference. And, if you're really having a bad week... you get kidnapped
by the Goon Sqaud.
        Ah, well... Self-pity is a car without an engine. Words heal: what
happened was this:
        I was looking after my neighbor's dog during his vacation. I'm
not a dog fancier, but it didn't turn out to be too bad. Actually, the dog
was more consistent intellectually than most of the people I meet. =Loads= more
consistent than the Goons. 'Eat' and 'cuddle' are not really big ideas, but
at least the dog didn't try to eat the cuddler...
        Anyway, during the work-day I was boarding the mutt with a
dog-walking agency near where I live. It was while dropping him off there one
morning that I got trapped in the Goon Squad seige.
        The Goons were holding the pets and dog-walkers hostage in the name of
'animal rights'. Also, judging from the assembled crowd of reporters,
cameramen, and other media luminaries, in the name of publicity.
        The Goon Squad calls itself a terrorist group. I'm not certain this
is so: while Goon Squad victims are always petrified, the response to the
Goonies' milquetoast militance seems to result more from habit than fear. ...I
don't know that there is anything uglier than habitual fear... What =could= be
more repulsive than the self-abasing supplication demanded by the Goons?
...the Goons, I guess. But I'll leave it to the college boys to sort out; I'm a
teller of tales, not a retailer of entrails.
        "We de=mand= compassion," said Eduardo in his grating whine. His voice
sounded like the geographic midpoint between Riverdzale and Kew Gawdens, the
voice of an insecure Bar Mitvah boy spoken with the authority of an
imaptient dowager. He slumped in his blue suit, which clashed badly with the
bandoleirs. And my guess is that the yarmulke was affixed to his bald head
with Dentu-Grip. "We must have the =de=cency to put animals first, even if
it kills us!"
        Believe it or not, some of the dog-walking hostages cheered. The dogs
looked confused, as not-eating, not-cuddling dogs always do.
        "If elected," bellowed Bellomania, "I will move quickly to
implement the Pet-Food Stamps program!" Bellomania looked like a pathological
librarian: thin and genderlessly dressed, a strident bird's-beak nose
propping up a pair of high-tech specs. "I will =ban= all medical research that
makes use of cute and cuddly animals! I will enforce the 'Bill of Animal
Rights' to the exclusion of all other rights!"
        More cheering. I guess it would be bad enough if they were cheering at
a meeting or rally, where they could pretend not to understand just what
that sort of statement means. But to cheer one's own kidnappers...? I think
this is known as the 'Stockholm Syndrome'.
        "We gotta have =feel=ing," Jus' Den said gently. "We have to reach for
the understanding of our cute and cuddly little friends." Jus' Den was a demure,
dapper black man. His gentle smile was infectious, if slightly confused, and
his diffident manner suggested the calm efficiency of a first-rate =major
domo=. "So, remember, vote Jus' Den for Mayor. Jus' remember the D. That's D
for Democrat and D for Jus' Den."
        "Gawd," said Eduardo. "Would you stop it with the 'Step 'n' fetchit'
        "Would you rather have a 'watusi warrior'?," Jus' Den asked gently.
        Bellomania laughed vindictively.
        I tapped my toe impatiently. Being held hostage at gunpoint is
almost as bad as trying to withdraw money from the bank. Maybe even worse.
I said to Eduardo: "Nice shoes."
        "French Shriner?"
        "Lloyd and Haig," he beamed. "Only seventy-eight fifty!"
        "!", I said. "Top-grain cowhide, right?"
        Eduardo nodded.
        "Do you mourn the cow?"
        Eduardo looked petulantly confused.
        Just then a mosquito alighted on Bellomania. She slapped it
non-chalantly, as if she'd had a lot of practice. Scratch one claimant to
natural rights...
        I asked her: "Did you kill it because it doesn't need food stamps?"
        "Save the animals, except for pesky insects, right...?"
        "Why you...!"
        "And broccoli," I continued. "And yogurt cultures... Question: do we
also save the rats...?"
        "I don't know =what= you're talking about!," bellowed Bellomania.
        "I thought as much..."
        Jus' Den was fingering a souvenir rabbit's foot. I said: "Is the
rabbit now on crutches...?"
        Jus' Den just smiled gently.
        "Grab him!," Eduardo said to Jus' Den. "Shut him up! He's ruining my
        "=Your= effect?," sneered Bellomania. "Who suggested this raid,
        "Yeah?," said Eduardo. "Well, who got all these cameras to show up?
You may be the pin-up girl of the Stoics for Habitual Apathy, but these guys
aren't here to capture your good looks!" Eduardo patted his bandoliers, smiling
at Bellomania's scowl. The flash-guns erupted spasmodically.
        "Jus' remeber D," said Jus' Den. "D for Democrat, and D for Jus'--"
        "Hey!," said Bellomania. "We're going to be late to that apartment
        "Oy!," said Eduardo. He began to scurry about the room, collecting
guns, grenades and other unfriendly artifacts. "Remember," he shouted at
the reporters, "the Goon Squad stands for animal rights! The Goonies will
kill anyone who doesn't respect the rights of animals!"
        =More= cheering! Some people de=serve= to be held hostage...
        "Eddie," said Bellomania saccharinely, "didn't we agree to take
        "That's right!," said Eduardo. "We need a hostage! Who volunteers to
be a hostage?"
        The dog-walkers knew whose rights to respect: they all
pointed at me.
        "Cuff him, Denny." Jus' Den gently chained my wrists together.
Bellomania looked at the bond oddly, with a nefarious glint in her eyes.
"Now, remember," Eduardo lectured, "try to follow us, and this guy gets it!"
        As they hustled me out, Jus' Den called out, over his shoulder,
"Be kind to animals!"
        Inside, the dog-walkers cheered.

II--Goon Practice

        "GREECH!," screamed the Bag Thing three seats down. Eduardo tossed
it another quarter. "GREECH!"
        The subway car was dark. Dark like a jungle at night, with strange
smells and sounds embellishing the syncopated tattoo of grim foreboding.
        The Goon Squad had scurried me off to the subway, en route to their
next act of tepid terrorism. They'd slammed me into one of the graffitoed
bench seats, then bald Eduardo and dapper Jus' Den squeezed in on either
side of me. In the name of sexual equality, Bellomania stood. She had
Jus' Den's Uzi submachinegun trained on my groin. Under the circumstances, I
thought it wise to sit still.
        Eduardo chuckled gleefully. He tossed another quarter at the Bag
Thing. It caught the coin in mid-air.
        Almost as soon as the grimy train had pulled out of the station, it
stopped again. The lights went out. The fans ground to a halt--which is only
three RPM's slower than normal.
        Being stuck in the dark is bad enough. Being stuck in the dark in New
York's filthy subway is really terrible. But being stuck in the dark in the
subway with the Goon Squad, their shock troops and co-conspirators... well,
that's just about as bad as things can get.
        "GRAUCH!!," screamed the Bag Thing, questing for the bottom of
Eduardo's pockets. It snatched another quarter out of the imponderable spaces.
        At the other end of the car some schoolpunks were smashing beer bottles
on the floor of the car. One of them, dancing to the beat of a blaring radio,
spun out and grabbed at the steel 'straps'. He swung up like a Human
Chimp, swinging back and forth, with his feet toward the windows of the car.
When he'd gained enough velocity, he shot his feet out, so that they hit the
glass at the bottom of his swing. Crash! Out burst the top pane. He swing back,
then slammed forward again. Crash! Out burst the bottom pane.
        Eduardo clapped joyously. Bellomania looked quietly pleased.
Jus' Den stared disgustedly at his shoes.
        The Human Chimp swung sideways to the next set of 'straps' and took
out another pair of windows. Some of the passengers were brushing glass shards
from their hair and clothing, but they didn't complain. They didn't dare...
        Across from me, a junkie was picking at her pus-encrusted scabs...
        Next to her, a shirtless man was brazenly scratching his armpit. By
olfactory evidence, it needed scratching.
        Next to him, a gum-popping young girl was polishing her nails. The
ordinarily nauseating smell of nail polish was welcome in the presence of
the shirtless man...
        And so on, down the line... The scruffy-wailing children whining for
the attention of their glassy-eyed parents. The tin-cup evangelists
preaching the power of god and money. The wino wailing over his
spilled Tokay...
        "The subway is the city's lifeblood!," said Eduardo.
        "...the city has blood disease," I mumbled.
        "Right!," bellowed Bellomania. "And, if elected, I promise to
make it worse!"
        "...'make it worse'...?"
        "The subway is the battleground of egalitarianism!," Bellomania
seethed. "Now matter how much wealth or comfort we have outside,
=here= we are all equal!"
        "GREECH!!," the Bag Thing agreed.
        "A sound transportation policy," she continued, "will result in even
=greater= equality!"
        I looked around the unmoving subway car. "...I guess we =are= all
equal... None of us is getting anywhere..."
        "=I= take credit for that!," Eduardo puffed.
        "...?" I scratched my head. "'Making things worse', huh...? =Why?="
        "In the name of equality for =all=!," Bellomania bellowed.
        "To equalize the injustice," Jus' Den said gently.
        "C'mon!," said Eduardo. "We're all adults here! We're doing it to get
votes, of course!"
        Deep breath. "People =vote= for you in order to have things made worse?"
        Eduardo hooked his thumbs in his bandoliers. "Goonies do..."
        "Just who are these Goons, anyway? The only names I see in the
papers are yours... Are there other members of the Goon Squad?"
        "=Mill=ions!," Bellomania said lovingly.
        Eduardo said, "There are thousands of votes in the
subways alone..."
        "Subway riders vote to have things made worse...?"
        "Not =riders=," said Eduardo. "Subway em=ploy=ees! Thrity-five
thousand a year isn't bad for doing =some=thing. But thirty-five thousand
for doing =noth=ing? Well, the Mayor who can deliver that is a proven vote
getter!" His lapel pattings made it clear he was speaking of himself.
        "What do you =mean=, doing 'nothing'!?!," Bellomania demanded. "Do
you think it's easy to lean on a mop all day? With only three hours for breaks?
Subway workers are the hardest-working government employees!"
        I said: "That's true..."
        "And what about the lightbulb-changing crews?," she continued.
"Would =you= want that job?!?"
        "By the way," I asked, "how many subway workers =does= is take to
change a lightbulb...?"
        "None of you [umph!]ing business!," Eduardo shouted.
        The Bag Thing had good reason to scream. There was a wrenching sound of
metal tearing, then one of the doors of the car was ripped away. In the gaping
hole stood a tall, imposing black man. He had mean, glaring eyes, and his hair
was cut in a mohawk. His chest was armored in gold chains; enough chains
for every drunk at =The New York Times= with some left over.
        "Come on!," he boomed to the Goon Squad. "We're late! And I pity the
foo' that make me late!"
        The big man crouched over and let Jus' Den climb up on his broad
back. Then he dumped the demure little black man and let Eduardo take his
place. Bellomania grabbed me by the handcuffs and dragged me backwards into
the gloomy depths of the subway tunnel.
        The Human Chimp smashed out another pair of windows. The Bag Thing
called after us: "GRAACH!"

III--Goon Destiny

        Flash, Flash. Pop, pop. The photographers were gulping down shots
of Eduardo, nebbish and Goon Squad commando, with his arm around the
imposing black man.
        "And we owe it all to Mr. T, here," he whined. "He's the one who
showed us how to get along with people!"
        Flash, flash. Pop, pop.
        "In our fight for equality!," seethed stern Bellomania.
        "Remember," said demure little Jus' Den, "that's D for Democrat and D
for Jus' Den."
        We were assembled in the hallway of a tenement. Earlier, 'Mr. T' (I
assume that's an alias) had kicked in the door to the landlord's apartment.
With a lot of physical abuse from Mr. T, and a lot of verbal abuse from Eduardo
and Bellomania, and a short spelling lesson from Jus' Den, the landlord had
agreed to cease his unfair and anti-egalitarian discrimination against
cats with cataracts.
        Moreover, he'd agreed to burn down his building and move to Florida,
which policy Eduardo heartily endorsed. The Head Goon made a speech about
housing clutter and the beauty of unspoiled, egalitarian, pet-protecting
nature. You could tell he really had his heart in it.
        By then, he was busily elbowing Bellomania out of the photos. She got
revenge by elbowing out Jus' Den. Mr. T stood by like a gilded totem pole.
        As the press was departing, I said to Eduardo: "'Making things
worse', right?"
        "You bet!", he said, removing his bandoliers. "Just think of how
=bad= it'll be for the people who live here, when the building burns down!"
        "You =want= them to suffer like that...?"
        "Well, sure! I mean, how can we =help= them if they don't suffer?"
        Eduardo was exasperated. "If they don't suffer, then we can't help
them. And if we can't help them, then they have no good reason to vote
Goon... So we help them suffer, then they vote Goon every time!" He cackled.
        "...'help them suffer'...?"
        Eduardo nodded sagely.
        "By 'making things worse'...?"
        Another nod.
        Ick. "What kind of a monster =are= you?"
        "=I=," Eduardo said defensively, "am the best Mayor New York ever had!"
        "But I intend to be better!," shouted Bellomania.
        "Me too!," said Jus' Den.
        Deep breath. "What do you hope to gain by this...?"
        Jus' Den: "Justice!"
        Bellomania: "Equality!"
        Eduardo: "Power!" There was an evil glint in his eyes.
        "...zero...," I said, sighing. I guess I've known that for a long time.
"That man. That landlord... He's a tax-payer, right?"
        "Anti-Goon," Eduardo said.
        "He votes anti-Goon. You don't think I'd terrorize him without
checking his registration, do you?"
        "Still," I said, "he's a tax=pay=er. And he took the risk of
owning a building, in spite of all the worse-making you've already done to
dissuade him..."
        "Yeah," Eduardo sneered. "What an idiot!"
        I counted ten to calm myself. "...well, he finally got wise... What
are you going to do when the last of the 'anti-Goons' decide they can live
without being called the 'equals' of their demonstrated inferiors...?"
        Eduardo smiled smugly. "I don't think that will happen between now
and the election."
        "Is that as far ahead as you can see?!" I try to keep my emotions out
of these things, but I was provoked.
        "What's the point of looking any further?" Eduardo looked confused.
Bellomania was knowingly confident. Jus' Den wore his usual placid smile.
        "...for a Goon...? I guess there isn't any..."
        "Hey!," yelled Bellomania. "Don't make fun of the Goon Squad! It's
=never= safe to make fun of the Goonies."
        "...and why is that...?"
        "Because the Goons," Eduardo cackled, "are =ev=erywhere!"
He laughed diabolically.
        "Hmmm," I said. "You never did tell me who the Goons are..."
        "The Goons are making things worse!," Bellomania exulted.
        "You said that."
        "No!," she said, flustering. "I mean the Goonies are the people who are
making things worse. When you see someone making something worse,
that's a Goon!"
        Jus' Den said, "If you see a man taking a leak in the subway, that's a
        "And people who spit on the sidewalks," said Eduardo. "They're all
        "And the wonderfully creative graffitti artists," enthused
Bellomania. "They're Goons, too!"
        Jus' Den: "Screamers..."
        Bellomania: "Bottle smashers..."
        Eduardo: "People who don't bathe!"
        "Yes," mused Bellomania, "they make great Goons..."
        "People who get thrills from seeing accidents!," Eduardo continued.
"People who deliberately =cause= accidents! People who destroy buses and
park benches and housing projects... They're all Goons."
        "And great Goons they are!," said Jus' Den with a gentle smile.
        I said: "...and people who put decent citizens in chains...?"
        "Hey!," said Eduardo. "They sound like true Goonies. Where do we
find them?"
        Deep breath. "Right here, you moron! I'm talking about you!" I spun
around to show him my still hand-cuffed wrists.
        "Watch what you call me! =Do you know who I am?!?="
        I was trying to decide =what= he was. "...just tell me what I have to
do to get out of these chains."
        There was a silent consultation among the three of them. Bellomania's
eyes glared vindictively. Jus' Den's looked soft and dreamy; he looked upon
me like he might look at a bug trapped in a 'Roach Motel'. Eduardo looked
pensive, half doubtful.
        "I'll do anything I can!," I said. "I'll do =ev=erything I can to
make things worse! After this, I think I'll enjoy it..."
        "What will you do?!," grilled Eduardo.
        "I'll leave the city!," I replied. "I'll never again contaminate
New York with my productive labor or my tax dollars!"
        "Hmm. What else?"
        "I won't even come back to visit! I'll spend my tourism dollars in
Boston or Albuquerque!"
        "What else?"
        Bellomania said, "I think we should make him write on the walls. 'I
will not make things better', five hundred times."
        "Aw, c'mon," said Jus' Den. "Let the man go!"
        "You're too soft!," Bellomania bellowed. "Ed, I =told= you he was too
soft to be a Goon! I think we should kick him out!"
        "Kid me, Carol," said Eduardo. "You just want his votes and you know
it. Besides, Denny's doing his part to make things worse. He's getting me
re-elected, isn't he...?" He smiled sweetly.
        Bellomania ground her jaws together. Hard.
        Eduardo came up behind me and loosed the cuffs. "Don't forget,
Buster. Out of town by sundown, or we really make it bad for you."
        Mr. T broke his totem pole pose. He said: "I pity the foo' that don't
do what the Mayor say! I break his head in!"
        I guess that's what a New Yorker is, at bottom: a pitied fool who
deserves to have his head broken in. That's why I don't intend to remain
one. And I'll be doing my part to make things worse, too, just like the Mayor
and his Goon Squad want...

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