Angel rolled over and patted his girlfriend on the shoulder,
"I don't think we should go, I am feeling kind of bad."
"Nonsense, you just ate too much again. It will be good for you, sweat off that second piece of pie." Maria was scooting out of bed, crossing the room to the closet. A neatly stacked pile of clothes awaited. Black leggings and long sleeve T, a zip up hoodie, black socks and lace up boots. Not really combat boots, she was a lady and stuff, but she knew they were headed into the war zone and she needed to be ready.
"Seriously, I have a fever and all."
"Get up, Angel, you're not backing out of this."
Maria met Angel at a rally last year against SB1070. They were both friends with Jesus, a local artist who ran a sort of collective. His pieces had been prominent in the news, depicting the oppression of the locals, the workers, the people.
Angel wearily crawled out of bed, and put on his clothes. Black fatigues, turtleneck, vest. His black boots were tipped in steel, they had seen some rough days out there. Marching, protesting, speaking up for the common man, speaking out against The Man. Thanksgiving dinner was a little too much last night. It was a potluck over at Jesus' gallery space, down on Roosevelt Row. While it didn't seem right to celebrate a holiday memorializing the colonization of the New World, and introduction of capitalism through slavery backed markets, it was a day everyone had off. Jesus had been painting up a storm with the recent Occupy Phoenix, and OWS rallies. A new show had been installed yesterday, and then everyone ate together. Jesus had a new squeeze, Annetta, she must have been 18.
"I'm gonna go get our backpacks ready, water bottles and stuff, and some snacks. It could be a long time before we see food again," Maria called from the other room. Angel patted his stomach and thought, maybe not such a bad idea to not see food again for a while. He was pretty sure the thrifty gene was running through his family and he worked hard to keep his weight down. A film of sweat broke in his hairline and trickled down his forehead, collecting on his nose. He wiped it off with his hand, and felt he was surging in temperature. Something from last night wasn't agreeing with him so much. His armpits felt really sore, and smelled something fierce. He went to put on his deodorant and noticed some big lumps, reddish, almost purple. WTF? Maria came back in the room, her arms sliding around him from behind, and kissing his back. He sank into her embrace,
"Are you sure we can't just sleep this one in?"
"Christ, are you kidding me? We have waited for this for months, planned every detail. We have written maps and plans, attack strategies, exit scenarios, people are counting on us to get this done." Maria was the more passionate of the two of them, he was mostly going along because he wanted to be with her. She was amazingly hot, and totally fierce.
"Ok, amorcita, ok." He sat down to pull on his socks and boots, and picked up his jacket. Another couple from the dinner was going to meet them, they were going to be late if he didn't get moving. It was only 2:30 am, is this how they were really going to take down the bastions of capitalism and exploitation? He patted the pepper spray in his upper pocket, it may come in handy for crowd control, people get panicked really easy.
The target was the Costco down on 44th St. Angel hadn't been listening to the second part last night, mostly focusing on pumpkin pie. They were going to get in the line, blend in, and once inside they had a list of things to do. Each would head off to a different corner, there was a plan of action. Then there would be a signal, and they'd pull out their OWS signs in the aisle and start protesting. They all had headbands with the white dove of peace on the blue background, and armbands as well. They couldn't put those on until they were inside though, so they'd get by security.
"Viva la resistencia!" They had all chanted together after dinner. Julio and Teresa had just come down from spending some time on the rez up by Chinle. Julio had mentioned something about a prairie dog biting incident, his hand was all stitched up and wrapped in white bandages. Angel silently wondered how that wasn't going to draw a lot of attention, or if Julio could even hold his sign up properly. He just knew he wasn't going to be the default guy to do all the heavy lifting. Just because he was 6'2" and athletic. Julio had said he'd had a fever too, but that ibuprofen had really helped. Angel pocketed some of it on the way out, and joined Maria in the complex parking lot downstairs. Soon they were off to their assignation, and Angel really really wished he'd just stayed in bed.
The line wasn't as bad as they'd predicted, Maria hauled out some fold up chairs so they could sit and take turns napping until they got through the door. Julio was also feeling really bad, sipping some theraflu out of a thermos and talking feverishly about his upcoming conquests.
"Dude, are you here to buy a tv or here to make it onto tv?" Maria asked. She didn't really take a shine to the couple, but Angel thought it was because she had had a run in with Teresa by the food table. Something about roasted pepitas and calabacitas, and whose squash was more traditional, more authentic. Angel just rolled his eyes, Maria had to win at everything, tonight was no different. He looked at his checklist and thought, all we have to do is the same plan, but just put some things in a cart, and we could be out of here with a new Xbox and forget the goddamn capitalists, for once. His cousin worked for Costco down in Yuma, and it was a steady job.
"I just don't know how we're supposed to end the greed that is corporate American colonialism by showing up at Mecca. It's like these people are on Hajj. Who's going to stop and read the signs at Armaggedon?" he protested. Angel was the only one in the small group who had gone to university. His classes in world religion, economics and poly sci had allowed him to pepper his conversations with examples that often went over the heads of others in the group.
"I told you, Julio's going to get into the announcer's booth and take over the mike. Attention HELLIDAY SHOPPERS! ahahahah" Maria said, snarking. "You block the exit so they don't get out right away, and I've got a few cans of silly string to spray on the food samplers. Keep it simple, Angel, and just do as you are told."
"I thought doing what we were told is what got us into this mess in the first place," he protested. Man, this fever was kicking up something fierce. Julio handed him a napkin, apparently everyone could see him sweating.
"Je - Jesus is here," Julio spoke up. He had been quiet the whole time, his voice really raspy like he had golfballs in his mouth. His neck was wrapped in a turtleneck, a flipped up jacket, and a scarf. He opted to skip the ski mask because it would draw too much attention. It was only 56 degrees right now. The group turned to see Jesus walking slowly towards them through the parking lot, his long curly hair backlit, and his new lady friend at his side.
"Bros, wussup?" He tried to hi five Angel and Julio, but both just sort of shrugged and dug in deeper with their shivers. Angel's armpits were killing him, and now he felt like he was in a sauna. Maybe he'd have to just ditch the jacket and hope he didn't need the pepperspray. Jesus was a bit slick, but that is what celebrity will do to a folk artist. He wore all black, as well, yet his tshirt had the bright red pulsing Corazon with barbed wire piercing it. Always had to look ready for a photo op, he thought. Angel noted as well that Jesus was over an hour late, but what did that matter when his minions could hold his place in line? Angel made another note to spend less time with Jesus when this was all over. Hanging with him gave him a bad vibe lately, like he was a lesser person or something. Totally not right, not if they were going to be expecting so much from Angel to face down the mob.
The chit chat flicked back and forth, mostly between Maria and Jesus, and sometimes Teresa. Annetta didn't say anything, and Julio was snoring in his chair, gasping for breath on every second or third inhale. Angel wished he could sleep, but he also knew he had to focus. He had an important job to do, and even if it was the last thing he did for this group, he wasn't going to fail them. The doors would open at 6, and let in the first wave of shoppers. By 6:20, he would be blocking off the exit and holding the signs up for the pitiable shoppers to read. "The end is near, your freedom is your salvation!" He thought this might be too ambiguous, but Jesus had insisted they use religious sounding themes, to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Not the time to explain economics. That would be at the press conference.
Jesus' art show was planned to coincide with this weekend to demonstrate the death knell of society with deep discounts and spending bonanzas being the only lure of the lemmings to participate in a dying economy. His work, rich in colors and in the style of traditional Mexican Day of the Dead artwork, depicted the corpses of American business, the walking dead of the enslaved consumer, the blood and tears of the children sacrificed to the cannibals of crony capitalism. He was proudest of this work as he had ever been. They had videotaped artwork up in the gallery, with a voiceover that explained the pieces, and compared the current situation to the invasion of the New World by the Spaniards and northern Europeans. The only frontera left unconquered was the spirit of the honest man. They had arranged for the video to be delivered to the news stations around Phoenix to coincide with their Occupy Market Street approach. Five other Costco's and Sam's Clubs were being targeted that day.
The doors opened with a swoosh, and the crowd poured in like the back pull of low tide on a full moon. Before Angel could change his mind, he was pulled in with them. Quickly, the group dispersed, and he watched Maria's ponytail disappear in between the wine racks and the inflatable Santa display. Everyone else was gone, and Angel thought perhaps he should just find his way out and forget about the whole thing. The front doors were being closed again, another crowd would soon form a line outside, and another round of holiday shopping frenzy would begin, again.
He made his way toward the exit area, over by the eyeglasses and film counters, and saw that one of the attendants was a girl who was friends with his sister in high school. She looked to be about 6 months pregnant, leaning her hands against her back, the smock covering her belly and Christmas decorations on each shoulder. He didn't want her to get hurt, and had to think of a way to get her away from the door. Soon enough, the crowd would be trying to escape. Angel's headache started to spike, and he peeled off the jacket. Under his arms, he felt lumps the size of lemons poking out, and his throat felt like it was closing. He walked up to one of the mirrors by the eyeglasses case, and noticed his green grey color, and the huge purply red lumps forming under his chin. The girl waved at him, and he nodded back. No time for talking, but he saw her wander over to the nuts selection and felt like she'd be just fine. It would all be over soon.
Angel took his place by the exit door, the other attendant scurried away when he looked at him fiercely. A little old man, probably 75, wearing the smock and holding his marker for the receipts. In that moment, Jesus' voice came over the loud speaker. Everyone froze, while he started his diatribe against crass consumerism and the path to hell. Angel felt like something was pulsing on his neck, and his hand went up to touch his throat. Blood and pus filled his hand, and he started to panic. He could sense the fluids oozing down his sides, sticking to his shirt. What the hell is this? he thought. He started coughing, and droplets of blood and pus sprayed his breath onto the door. He turned around to face the crowd headed towards him. Coughing, and oozing, his eyes were bulging as he gasped for breath before collapsing in a heap at the door.
Shoppers climbed over his body and out the exit as quickly they could. The air around them was suspended with particles that carried the bubonic plague, their shoes sticking to an ever growing pool of contagion as they trampled Angel in the doorway. Even empty handed, they all managed to bring home a little something for their efforts.