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The Valley of Broken Bones

On the third day of their joint political campaign, Congressman Wilbur and Professor Dan met at Valley County Cemetery. The cemetery was believed to be the largest in the Republic of Funga with over ten thousand graves, most of which were for the people who died during the civil war decades ago. On the western side of the cemetery stood a big and tall chapel that could accommodate over ten thousand people, and on the eastern side of the cemetery was a valley known as the Valley of Broken Bones. The valley was believed to be five hundred meters deep, and during the civil war, it was used as a dumping ground for bodies of those who died in the war. Before the commencement of the joint political campaign, Captain Charles convened a meeting with Bombastic, Rebecca, Ben, Daniel, Ethan, Jacob and Adam to discuss ways through which they could undermine Dan's political activities.

"Lady and gentlemen, I would like to suggest that our team be called the 'gang of eight' from now onwards," Charles said.

"What do you mean, and why that name?" Rebecca asked.

"Because of our clandestine political activities."

"So, is that why you called us here?" Bombastic asked.

"Oh, I also wanted to inform you that I have switched my support from Professor Dan to Congressman Wilbur, and I want you to do the same."

"I just don't understand! Are you saying that we are fighting two enemies now, Dan and Wilbur? You can't have it both ways!" Adam said.

"All I need from you, comrades, is loyalty. I don't want to keep repeating myself. You know as much as I do that I'm the one who convinced Dan to quit his job so that he could come and run against Wilbur for Funga Municipality parliamentary seat. I also told you that my goal of asking him to run for that political office was not because I wanted him to win the election; I just wanted to utilize his sunny personality to win over the youths to my camp in preparation for my election in five years. But of recent, I have been getting more and more concerned about the speed at which his popularity has been growing; consequently, I have no choice but to try to undercut his popularity by all means necessary."

"I'm confused! Not long ago, you and Wilbur could not see eye to eye, and now, you are buddies. Can you explain that to me? Ben asked.

"There are no permanent brothers and no permanent adversaries in politics, I want you to understand that. Let me talk to Wilbur, give me a few minutes." Then Charles rang Wilbur. "Hello Mr. Congressman, Captain Charles here."

"Hello, what a pleasure to hear from my long-time enemy!"

"We are no longer enemies. We are buddies now. Hey, look, before I forget, I want to inform you that I have secured one million dollars from the army treasury for your campaign. If you agree to splitting this money fifty fifty with me, we can meet at the veterans' fundraiser at Valley County Cemetery tomorrow and talk about it in great detail."

"You have been accusing me of accepting kickbacks, it seems that we are different sides of the same coin."

"The difference is that yours is blue-collar corruption, mine is white-collar misunderstanding."

"What is the difference, though?

"Anything above one million will land you in jail, and anything below that is punishable by community service."

" Oh, okay. I got you. See you there, then."

"What did he say?" Bombastic asked.

"He is on board. Now we need a priest who shares our vision to conduct a fundraiser for us."

"Is the fundraiser really necessary?" Adam asked.

"The one million dollars came with a condition, that Wilbur engage in at least one community development activity that shows that he cares about our veterans. And the way to dramatize that community activity and get government's attention is to hold it at the largest cemetery in the country."

"So the fundraiser is a bluff, right?" Ben asked.

"Sort of, but not quite. You know I'm nearing my retirement; you also know that I have not made enough money in the military in the thirty years I have served this country. So, if I don't plan for my own retirement now, then who else will do it for me?" In addition, the fundraiser is intended to hoodwink Dan into buying expensive items so as to deplete his finances, hence undercutting his community programs that are making him popular," Charles said.

After the meeting, the gang of eight car-pooled to Valley County Cemetery for the fundraiser. When they got there, they were welcomed by Bob, who had disguised as a priest, wearing a cassock welcoming people at the entrance of the cemetery chapel. Meanwhile, the auction items including cows, goats, chickens and other food items had been placed at the alter and Congressman Wilbur had already taken his seat. When the chapel had filled to capacity, Bob stood up to say an opening prayer. And after the prayer, he opened the auction officially.

"Fellow mourners...," then Charles tapped him on the back and whispered into his ear, "this is not a funeral service, it is a fundraising function."

"Pardon me. You know sometimes I get emotional when I think about the pain and suffering our army veterans have gone through all these years. Let me start all over. Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today to raise money for our community activities, which are intended to help our veterans get back on their feet. So what I'm asking of you is to donate generously to this great cause. But before I proceed, I want to be very clear: seventy percent of the money we will collect today will go toward my church programs, ten percent will go toward Congressman Wilbur's political campaign, Captain Charles will walk out of here with ten percent, and the remaining ten percent will go directly to our army veterans," Bob said.

"Seventy percent will go to you! But why? Why can't all the proceeds go directly to our army veterans?" One members asked.

"What you need to understand is that the hard work we priests do is never appreciated. As you very well know, the majority of our veterans lost their arms, legs, eyes and ears, and many still suffer from post traumatic stress disorders as a result of the civil war of many years ago. Can you imagine that since that civil war, nobody has come to the aid of our veterans except me, Captain Charles and Congressman Wilbur?" In order for me to continue doing outreach to the homes and communities of our veterans, I need a very strong, dependable and durable vehicle. That is what the seventy percent is all about. I don't want people to misunderstand me and start thinking that I embezzled the veterans' money. That is why I'm giving you an accountability in advance. Furthermore, we need to support our congressman so that he can go back to parliament to lobby for more money for our army veterans. I hope you will understand."

"I understand. Then let's get started with our auction because it's getting late," Ethan said.

"I don't think that is a good idea. We need to wait for Professor Dan so that he can squander his funds on our most expensive fundraiser items."

"I have another idea. Why don't we get started with cheaper auction items and keep the most expensive items until Dan gets here?" Rebecca suggested.

"That is an excellent idea! Let's get started. The first item is a tray of eggs. I need somebody to give me a price please," Bob said.

"I will buy it for two dollars," Rebecca said.

"Two dollars going once, two dollars going twice, two dollars going three times. Sold to that lady in a blue dress right there. Next we have a watermelon; somebody give me a price."

"One dollar," Charles said.

"One dollar going once, one dollar going twice and one dollar going three times. Sold to that man in an army uniform right there. What's next?"

"Wait a minute! Wait a minute! There's something fishy going on in this fundraiser. What is the rush for?" another man asked.

"This fundraiser was planned two weeks in advance and so we have to follow the script religiously," Bob said.

While the fundraiser was still going on in the cemetery chapel, Dan was outside organizing army veterans to attack the chapel, capture Wilbur and his team and disrupt the fake fundraising exercise. There were two groups of veterans with about five hundred members in each group, commanded by two amputees. Each veteran had a weapon including sticks, stones, bartons, slingshots, and bows and arrows. Every veteran had a disability. Some of them had amputated legs and arms, others humped on crutches and others had deformed heads and faces. About an hour into the auction, the veterans stormed the chapel from its four entrances. They immediately jumped on Charles and his friends and whipped then with sticks repeatedly. Other veterans angrily overturned the tables of the auction items and released all the animals including chickens, goats and cows that were tied on alter tables.

"We are tired of politicians taking advantage of our disabilities. We fought gallantly and lost our limbs for this country we love, but the sacrifices we made for this country are not appreciated. We have now decided to take matters into our own hands and arrest those fraudsters."

Meanwhile, Charles and his team had run in disarray and dispersed in different directions. When the scuffle was still going on in the chapel, Congressman Wilbur run into the dressing room of the chapel to find something to put on to disguise himself in order to escape unharmed. When he checked in the chapel closet, the only items he could see were a chasuble, a mitre, a pectoral cross and a crozier, all for bishops. Then Wilbur put them on and disguised as a bishop. He walked out of the chapel dressed like a bishop holding a crozier and blessing the veterans. Then the veterans started bowing and making the sign of the cross to receive the blessing from the bishop. When Wilbur got to his car where his driver was waiting, the veterans recognized him that he was not a bishop after all and then chased after his car.

"He is not a bishop! That is the congressman we've been looking for," another man shouted. Then Wilbur told his driver to drive faster in order to escape the wrath of the veterans, but little did he know that about five hundred veterans had mounted a roadblock with logs and rocks in the corner a few meters from the chapel. Wilbur's driver drove at high speed and run over the logs causing the vehicle to flip off the cliff and roll over about ten times into the Valley of Broken Bones.

When the vehicle was about to land into the valley, Wilbur jumped through the window to avoid serious injuries but landed on a hip of skeletons believed to have been for the people who were massacred during the civil war many years ago. When he tried to raise his head, he could not move because he had broken his ribs. And when he realized that he had fallen on a hip of skeletons and that the skeletons were staring straight in his face, he got so frightened that he passed out. Then all the veterans converged on the clifftop to see what was happening in the valley. Immediately, police and paramedics arrived with an ambulance and descended into the valley to rescue Wilbur who was lying motionless on a hip of skeletons. Then the paramedics climbed back up onto the clifftop carrying Wilbur, who was tightly secured on the stretcher, still dressed like a bishop.

"What did you gentlemen do to your bishop?" a police officer asked.

"That is not a bishop. He is a politician disguised as a man of God. Look at him, he looks pathetic," another veteran said.

"How about forgiveness?"one paramedic said.

"If they cannot forgive us for our disabilities, how can we forgive them for their corruption? Look at all of us. Each of us has a disability because we put our lives on the line to fight and liberate this country from dictatorship. What isn't this country recognizing the sacrifices we made?" another veteran asked.

"I still don't understand what you are complaining about," another paramedic said.

"Here is my complaint: Ever since we retired from the army with various disabilities, we have never received our gratuity and other retirement packages. We cannot afford to take our kids to school because we don't have the money. We cannot find a job because of our limited education. These politicians know the plight of army veterans but just want to take advantage of us? Enough is enough," another veteran said.

Then Wilbur was taken to the hospital. On arrival at the hospital, the gang of eight and Mary were waiting to receive him. As soon as the ambulance arrived, they all escorted him to his hospital room looking sad. After the doctors had taken his vital signs and attended to him, Wilbur regained his consciousnes.

"We should have done a good job of fending off those crazy veterans to save your bishop, pardon me, your husband from this unfortunate ordeal. We apologize," Charles said.

"He is now a bishop, huh? When was he consecrated?" Mary asked sarcastically.

"That was a slip of tongue, madam. We are so sorry for what happened," Adam said.

"God helps those who help themselves, why are you feeling sorry for the man who can't feel sorry for himself? When you refuse to quit politics, that's exactly what happens to you; you become a false bishop."

"He is good at it," Rebecca said.

"Exactly! That's my point! He is the master of disguise. That is what political greed does to people: it alienates them from their brothers; it reunites them with their enemies through the marriage of convenience; it blurs their vision so that they are unable to see the danger ahead; and then it brings them back to God by accident while looking absolutely ridiculous," said Mary.

"Mary, you are a prophet. All of us can see ourselves in what you are prophesying," Jacob said.

"She is a prophet of doom," Wilbur said.

"Oh really? Look at you! You used to be a handsome man before you joined politics. Now you look like a ghost. Every part of your body is broken. You have ditches and dimples all over you body. As a matter of fact, you body is like a valley of broken bones."

"Lady and gentlemen, I need some time alone with my wife. I know my wife. When her wires are cut off, I know that things are getting serious. Please leave begore you get hurt," Wilbur said.

"Okay. We are leaving, but whatever decision you make, let it not be about you quitting politics. We have a mega women's liberation conference tomorrow and we need you to attend. I hope you will be there," Charles said.

"Believe me, I will be there." Then Mary got very angry and forcefully pushed everybody out of the room and locked the door. "Those are not your friends; they are your enemies. Which friend would ask you to leave your hospital bed in your medical condition to go to a political rally?"

"I'm an optimist. I have come this far, and I'm prepared to go all the way. Turn the lights off and let me take a nap. I have to attend the women's liberation conference tomorrow."

"But you just said you wanted to have a private conversation with me."

"No, I just wanted those guys to leave because they talk too much. Please turn the lights off because I want to rest" Then Mary turned the lights off.


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