THE ADVENTURES OF PRIVATES MACEY N. GIMBELS AND HIS PARD
THE FINAL CHAPTER - The Pards March in a Confederate "Lost Cause" Parade - Survive the March down Monument Boulevard - Suffer a Cruel Fate!
by Mal Stylo
The pards reclined on the lawn in front of Richmond's shrine to the "Lost Cause," Battle Abbey. This time, however, our two Maryland Union Patriots uncharacteristically wore borrowed rebel gray uniforms. Much against his better judgment, Pvt. Stark had allowed his pard, Pvt. Macy N. Gimbels, to persuade him to accept an invitation from the Gallant Old Thirty-Third Maryland's Reb comrades, the 1st Maryland Unreconstructable Yankee Annihilators Marching Band and Rapid Fire Rifle Company, CSA, to march in the annual Lost Cause parade and sob-fest.
Even now the pards debated the wisdom of their attendance. "We're all Americans, I say!" argued Pvt. Gimbels. "That's not what you said when that Reb put a bullet through your stainless steel canteen!" retorted Pvt. Stark. "Yeah, but those were real Rebs, not guys like these who love America as much as you or I," retorted Pvt. Gimbels, as the Unreconstructable Yankee Annihilators, etc. sang the songs of the Lost Cause with refrains like "... for their fair land of freedom, I do not give a damn!" and "...Jeff Davis is a gentleman, Abe Lincoln is a fool!"
"Nevertheless," said Pvt. Stark, "no good will come of this I tell you!" At that moment, an unpredicted solar eclipse occurred, a mysterious old hag whom the pards swore wasn't there a second ago intoned "Use your last hours to repent of your sins!" and a statue of a subdued "goddess of Liberty" in front of the Abbey wept bloody tears. From nowhere - and yet from everywhere - a whiny, disembodied voice burst into "The Vacant Chair." "Perhaps you're right," conceded Gimbels.
The parade formed up and began its trek down Monument Boulevard. All went well at first; the band played Dixie and the Bonnie Blue Flag (which as it developed were the only two songs it knew), and the crowds of fellow Americans waved Confederate flags, cheered, and shouted patriotic slogans like "Next time we'll wup'em boys!" and such. It was, the organizers had assured everyone, but a mile or two to Hollywood Cemetery, that resting place of the Confederacy's honored dead, where yet another "Official Reenacting Committee" had arranged to erect and dedicate a massive bakelite obelisk to "Those who fought for what they believed in." The edifice towered 500 feet and was topped by a statue of "Mighty Stonewall" (whose drawn sword did double duty as a cable television microwave relay antenna).
After the fourth mile, however, Pvt. Gimbels noticed a change in both the scenery and the spectators. The parked cars weren't BMWs and Saabs anymore, but dilapidated vintage Chevys and Cadillacs. The cheering crowds were gone and replaced by the sullen descendants of field hands and house servants (who weren't cheering as the "Stars and Bars" was borne past them). In fact, they looked downright angry.
"This is the pits," muttered Stark, "I'm falling out." "No, Good Lord! Not here - not now," a fearful Pvt. Gimbels begged his pard, as the peril of their situation struck him like the report of a teenager's 200-grain cartridge fired from the rear rank. "And just why the hell not?" inquired a testy Pvt. Stark.
Many others had the same idea as Pvt. Stark, especially the members of a particularly-portly Rebel dismounted cavalry regiment known fondly as the "700 Club" (based on the average weight of any two of its "soldiers"). Indeed, a quarter of a mile behind the column was a straggler from the Club, who was trying to explain to the locals slowly surrounding him why he commemorated the Confederate soldier. His scream of terror (another slogan - "Heritage, not hate!" - had obviously failed as an argument) grabbed the stomach of every man in the column like the icy, gut-wrenching grip of Death itself. "That's why not!" shrieked Gimbels with a look that Edgar Allan Poe would have found inspirational.
Without a word of command, the pace of the column quickened to as much of a double-time as could be managed in the 98-degree heat. To fall out now was to be invited to enter the same debate as the hapless 700 Clubber had, and as the ever- increasing screams attested, with the same lack of success. Safety lay in bunching together like wildebeests and moving like cheetahs.
Perhaps three quarters of those who had begun the march reached the haven of Hollywood Cemetery. The trailing crowd fell back before its gates as though to enter would reduce them to ash.
The tired and fearful mass gathered around the soon to be dedicated obelisk. At a podium stood the guest speaker, the Grand Hoo-Ha of the Kissing Kousins of the Konfederacy (KKK). At the base of the monument, in the rear rank, stood the Pards. Chaplain Hal Aluya gave a prayer of thanks for the deliverance of the surviving pseudo-soldiers in gray, and prayed that the remains of those who had fallen out might one day be found and laid to rest near the commemorative bakelite obelisk. The KKK members who had arrived in air-conditioned, smoked-glass windowed limos couldn't quite relate to all this and just nodded to each other and whispered "What do you expect? They're only reenactors you know."
A pair of bored pards turned from the long-winded and fatuous speech that followed and began to gaze at the inscription on the new obelisk which read:
"TO THOSE THAT FOUGHT FOR THOSE BELIEFS THEY BELIEVED IN, AND MADE THOSE ULITMATE SACRIFICES. FROM THOSE ULITMATE SACRIFICES CAME THOSE RIGHTS THAT THOSE OF US TODAY HAVE."
Hysterical laughter convulsed the pair. As one, they fell against the obelisk holding their sides in belly-busting guffaws. Alas, their falling against the structure just as the bugler blowing Taps hit a major sour note combined to create a thirteenth-order harmonic disturbance that cracked the base of the obelisk and sent it toppling over on our still laughing heroes and several horrified spectators and KKK dignitaries. Some tried to run. Others met death as heroes and heroines with cries of "I'm a-comin ta join ya, Stonewall!" on their lips.
In an instant it was over; the obelisk laid like a shroud over many a squashed and lifeless form including two members of the Gallant old Thirty-third - two Union Patriots who made the ulitmate sacrifice for THE HOBBY. (Another terrible result of the accident was that there was a cable TV blackout over a 3-square mile area of Richmond).
Yet weep not for them, but continue in their work of (as a well-known reenacting journal so eloquently stated) keeping alive a "Knowledge of History by Sharing Preserves!" But had the Thirty-Third really lost Pvts Gimbels and Stark? As the regiment marched off to its next "battle," two mongrel dogs - one of which appeared to be berating the other (whose whine of reply sounded strangely like "But we're all Americans!") - fell in with the column with the swagger of veteran privates. The saga had begun again.
NOTE: If you've ever seen the monument at the Sayler's Creek battlefield in Virginia, you'll get the joke behind the inscription on the bakelite obelisk. It's the first and only time I've seen a misspelling and painful grammar etched in stone for future generations to enjoy. - Jonah