LEIGH "KATE" KING — THE Progrrressive Avenger — fighting for truth, for justice, for The American Way

The only problem with
the running of the nation
was the girl who had lived.

The family lay in the road,
in the gravel and dust, in their own blood.

The three sprawled in not-human poses,
arms and elbows,
legs sprayed out as if forced into unnatural
forms by the men who made the nation.

The father and mother and brother,
with their faces covered in blood,
noses shoved into the black Iowa earth.
Eyes and mouths open, filled
with mucus and wonder and disbelief.

Just as it should be.

If she had died all would be well.

All would be awesome.

The nation’s gears growled, screamed, enormous, and oiled,
and cleverly meshed, showing signs of human genius.
They ran and never stopped.

But that could not go on forever,
because the girl had lived and she grew stronger.

Her bones and her blood would one day
become stronger even than gears and oil and grease.

They beat and they grew and they knew
— because that is what bones and blood can do.

The little girl ran, at first, but only for a while.

She would turn and face her pursuers.

Then they would become afraid
because they saw the green steel in her eye.

Those who ran the nation
looked for her every day, all the time.

The work continued.

Every dawn of a new day in the nation
dripped with immense possibility.


[Published by 7th Street Press]


“I have this feeling that whoever
is elected president,
when you win,

you go into this smokey room,
and this little screen comes down …
and it’s a shot of the Kennedy
assassination from an angle
you’ve never seen before
… and the lights go up …
and they go to the new president
… any questions?”

Bill Hicks


... from "The Progrrressive Avenger"

... Away from the prison, the little girl was now almost grown.

She stalked the nation, circled its campground in the night like an undiscovered wild animal.

Kate walked into the Quik Stop and rushed to the pens, by the gum.

At the counter she stood behind two women waving little flags in front of their faces whispering about eye shadow, thinking about all the good done by the prison system.

Without looking, Kate opened the plastic wrapper, slicing it with a red fingernail. She measured where the one woman’s spleen might be through her thick corduroy coat.

Kate’s long hair glistened
thick and black.

She had a cheerleader homecoming
queen face with revolutionary
Russian coffee shop eyes,
erotic, piercing, unbelieving.

The women giggled at each other and the clerk and moved off, out the door.

Kate stepped up, now eyeing the plastic jar by the register that asked people to donate for a holiday package for the troops.

Kate took her new red pen and drew a swastika on the white paper, unsure if the crossed Z’s were quite right. She shrugged.

The young man behind the counter watched her and said dollar forty-seven.

Kate picked up her guitar case and left.

On the walk she adjusted down her white Twins cap with blood-red lettering and straightened her black cape with another shrug.

Kate moved on with long, powerful, limping strides, back straight, eyes ahead.

When passing men and boys stopped to stare she acted as if she did not notice.

The crowd on the curbs grew like a swarming beehive.

Soon the early winter sun would turn its back and leave snipers to their business.

A shocking fire engine horn blared somewhere down the street. The motorcade would not be long now.

Out of the corner of her eyes she saw the spot and went for it, glad for the chance to rest her burning leg.

Kate found her perch, all planned out weeks ago after she read about the big visit.

She stopped, letting the hurried foot traffic find its path around her.

Kate sat on the curb and rubbed dirt off her favorite red tennis shoes. She leaned back against the barren round concrete planter and opened the guitar case flat on the sidewalk on one side of her, and on the other side she set her coffee, staking a steaming claim to the space.

She drew her materials from the case, setting the white page notebook and sleeve of pens on the walk.

She closed the case and set it down just so, so that on one side across the street the people with their flags could see the “9/11 Was An Inside Job” sign in red ink and black border on white paper, and the folks behind her saw “This Machine Kills Fascists.”

With pens — red, blue, black, green, purple — now in her hands, behind her ears, in her mouth, on the sidewalk, in the street, Kate took her left hand and touched the clean white pad pressed against one bent knee aimed down the street.

She sited over the pad and began to sketch the wide street, the crowds on both sides, each leaning to get a look around the next person, the walkway over the street connecting the corporate bookstore to the city bank building.

Kate drew big, dark clouds overhead and inside the clouds, big, thick black words around the edges of her canvas: DOOM, DESPAIR, DICKENSIAN, POVERTY, WAR, TOLSTOYAN, POVERTY, UNFAIRNESS, DOSTOYEVSKYIAN, MISERY, DECEIT.

On her side of the street she gave birth to a family standing together exchanging looks of anticipation with each other and the far end of the street and strobing police lights.

The mother, father, son, daughter appeared Neanderthal with low, deep brow ridges over the eyes like caves.

They sprouted tufts of hair in unlikely places on the backs of their wrists and on their faces. Each wore either a gold or silver cross around their necks on a chain.

They wore red, white and blue buttons on their white-shirted chests that said “MURDER.”

They darted nervous monkey looks all around and swayed their long arms, whispering, hissing, “murder, murder, murder.”

In their big, hairy hands they sloppily held American flags on tiny sticks.

Kate adjusted her bottom on the cool cement and curled her toes inside her shoes, staring yet harder at her paper world.

She would have said she liked her green eyes, like green lanterns: fiery gems, fiendish, inquiring — the one open and laughing, the other devilish.

She tugged at her cap and narrowed her eyes, aiming a laser down the street.
Children dashed back and forth, gaining advantage over rivals for candy tosses. There would be no candy today.

Kate had silently given herself the nickname “Avenger.”

She had considered getting a superhero tattoo on her behind, or maybe her neck.

Kate’s long hair glistened thick and black. She had a cheerleader homecoming queen face with revolutionary Russian coffee shop eyes, erotic, piercing, unbelieving.

Her black cape buttoned around her neck. She wore black half-gloves, home-fashioned, cut off at the knuckles. She wore her cap proudly. It was her dad’s, white with red “Twins” letters, adjustable.

The cover of her worn artist’s pad pictured a stick person drawing in ink, a large Bigfoot. On the first inside page was another sketch, more like a child’s doodling, of a group of three people stretched on a road with a helicopter above them and dot bullets raining from it.

A cornfield runs along the road and a stick figure little girl stands in the corn with dots of tears falling down her face. A stick figure woman runs from the far end of the corn, through the corn, toward the crying child.

Kate drew the new red pen from her mouth.

On the top of her fresh drawing she wrote VENGEANCE. Large letters, across the page, a banner headline.

She underlined it, and then again, and again.

She filled in the letters and traced them again, wider, deeper, darker.

Three black and white police cars appeared under the walkway, side by side across the street, lights flashing.

Behind them came a like phalanx of fire engines with horns blaring, honking, like inherently angry geese.

They sat for a moment beneath the walkway, where an enterprising rifle person should be sitting, aiming, squeezing off round after round, thought Kate.

But the thick glass was vacant: shatterproof likely, triple-ply, truth-resistant.

Kate filled in the scene on her pad as quickly as she could manage, switching colors in a flurry, not noticing a group that had formed behind her, blowing breath puffs, like a cattle yard in January, pawing, digging at the cement with cold feet, stuffing hands deeper into pockets, leaning hunched shoulders forward to see what the street artist was doing.

“She’s not very good,” a girl told her father, who shrugged and looked up at the new sound.

A cheer, a crescendo, a wave of voices rolling, crashing, breaking along both sides of the street.

The police cars and fire engines and horns and lights inched forward, gradually revealing a third layer, a four-wide cabal, shoulder-to-shoulder, black limousines with tiny American flags fluttering from the front quarter panels.

Kate tried to stare a laser beam into the closed, darkened windshields of the vehicles, but still they kept coming.

Kate drew, carefully, as best as she could, hurrying, sweating, needing to stop the progress of the parade.

She concocted a woman standing in the middle of the street, fists dug hard into her sides, feet wide, staring straight into the flashing lights of the oncoming motorcade parade.

A black cape fluttered from her shoulders. Her long black hair stretched out behind her likewise in the steady northwest breeze.

She showed off a Bigfoot tattoo around her belly button.

She wore a red mask over her eyes and black lipstick and rings on seven of her fingers.

She wore cherry red tennis shoes and jeans torn at the knees.

Her white, tight T-shirt pictured an American flag and in bold, thick red letters: Progrrressive Avenger.

Kate drew more slowly.

She smiled at her work.

She put another Bigfoot on the superhero’s bicep and did not notice a black and white police car pulled to the curb with lights flashing, just behind her.

Kate shot laser beams from the Avenger’s pubic area, striking down stick figure cops with badges and hats, in the street, bleeding dots and dashes.

She did not hear the police man and woman with drawn weapons moving through the crowd around her.

Kate pulled a green pen from her ear and made a laser beam shoot from The Progrrressive Avenger’s green eyes into the longest, blackest limousine, still walking forward.

The green beam penetrated the windshield and the vehicle exploded, caught afire, sending burning bodies in suits flying through the air.

“Okay, that’s enough.”

Kate did not hear the police man behind her.

The Progrrressive Avenger sent green rays into the other vehicles and they exploded.

“Hey! You come with us!”

The police man grabbed Kate under her arms and dragged her to her feet. The people gathered around cheered and clapped and pounded their feet on the sidewalk.

The police woman fell to her hands and knees to gather Kate’s scattered pad and pens and toss them into the guitar case. She closed it and brought it with her. She stood holding it next to Kate and her partner, next to the clothing store on the walk.

“You need to go to the free speech zone, ma’am,” said the policeman.

“Over by the tracks.”

He pointed toward an area a block away where Kate could see people holding signs.

“The whole country is a free speech zone, Zeke,” said Kate.

“Can I have that?” she reached for her guitar case.

“Thank you.”

She shook the case to hear the rattling of the pens inside.

“You can’t stop me from being here,” said Kate.

“Yes, we can.”

The female officer moved in and took Kate by one arm.

A television crew set up on the sidewalk as the two officers began to wrestle with Kate.

She fought them, trying to free her arms, leaning back against the brick building, letting the guitar case go.

Some walkers stopped to watch.

“Let me go!” Kate screamed.

With her right arm she slammed the woman in the throat, smashing her head against the brick building.

Directing her attention to the male officer on her left, she was able to swing with both hands.

She struck him in the face with a flurry of elbows and fists: the nose, eyes, mouth, chin.

The television reporter signaled her camera man to begin filming the fight behind them.

The woman officer pulled herself from the sidewalk and climbed onto Kate’s back.

Kate stood up and turned, slamming her rider again into the unforgiving bricks. The TV camera lights shined bright in the dusk.

The light caught Kate full in the face.

She could see on the edges the forms, shapes of a crowd, and behind it the motorcade with horns blaring, more lights flashing, flags waving.

The crowd roared its approval.

The woman cop wilted from Kate’s back.

Arms and hands from the crowd reached in toward her like ghouls.

Kate snatched up her case and charged through the mass.

The “Live At Five” broadcast showed Kate darting, dodging, stumbling, running, getting away, with her cape streaming.

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