Ch. 2: Fear of Russians (and the influence of strange people who think like them). June 11, 1987.

Ch. 2: Fear of Russians (and the influence of strange people who think like them). June 11, 1987.

A Chapter by Gee Roughin

Suzie-Q was bored. Alice was chewing on her hair. Suzie-Q thought Alice was ugly and naïve. Alice believed in stupid things like dispensationalism. Suzie-Q blushed. Suzie-Q was too nice to think ugly thoughts like that. Suzie-Q smoothed a lick of red hair behind her ear, shook her neck up and down and creased out her eyes into a water-tight smile.

Suzie-Q was too naïve to hear her ugly thoughts or know why she was blushing.
Alice was babbling on about some Christian horror flick her parents had ordered full of bad doctrine. Suzie-Q secretly hoped Alice would propose watching it with her. Alice was too ignorant to know Suzie-Q would think the movie stupid and full of bad doctrine. Suzie-Q had never seen a movie like that before, full of nuclear annihilation and futuristic Christians being tortured for being Christians. Suzie-Q thought it might be kind of exciting in a grotesque sort of way.

Alice proposed watching the movie together. The movie was stupid, full of bad doctrine and exciting in a grotesque sort of way. There was a nuclear holocaust and lots of people died. Almost everybody. All the Jews had been gathered into Jerusalem for safe keeping but in the end they got destroyed too. The Christians who were sucked up to heaven before the bad part in weird little tornados that came down over their heads and made them disappear before the very eyes of their heathen neighbors were the only ones spared. Now everybody who had survived the nuclear holocaust was living in caves. People who converted to Jesus after the rapture (and would escape Part II, the fires of hell forever) were being hunted down like animals and tortured. It was disgusting and thrilling too.

Suzie-Q felt a little sick when the movie was over, like she’d eaten a chilly-cheese hot-dog too fast on an empty stomach. Alice offered Suzie-Q a chilly-cheese hot-dog and cheeze curls. Suzie-Q ate them and felt more sick.

“Makes you think, huh?” Alice was saying, her eyelashes flashing fanatically upward and gripping Suzie-Q’s forearm. “We’ll go up in the clouds"thank God for that!"but what about all those people?” Alice flashed grotesque zeal from the corner of her mouth, in the form of the slightest tear of saliva. Her eyes continued to stretch up and out and dart cruel but sympathetic swords. “All these people, Suzie-Q! How shall we reach out to them?” Suzie-Q felt embarrassed and blushed, but could not argue with the principle of urgency. Suzie-Q thought Alice looked like a fanatic when she spoke and Suzie-Q hoped that she herself would never look like that when witnessing. But Suzie-Q never had to witness because Suzie-Q never met any non-Christians.

Suzie-Q looked at her watch. It was 7:09. Suzie-Q shot open her lips showing patronizing teeth. “I know. I know! I’m soooo sorry, Alice, we gotta go. My Dad will be outside in one minute!” Suzie-Q ran outside. She kept going even though she knew Alice had to find her house keys and lock the door. Her Dad wouldn't yell at Alice.

Suzie-Q’s Dad was waiting in the car.

“Where’s Alice?” was all he said in his stilted, low voice as Suzie-Q got in the car.

“She’s locking up. I told her to hurry.”

“Go tell her again,” said Suzie-Q’s Dad, with a controlled edge.

“Yes, Daddy,” said Suzie-Q. She ran in Alice’s house just for show and then stood politely waiting for Alice in the hallway. “Come on!” she whispered between her teeth as Alice appeared. Suzie-Q’s eyes were wide now and insinuating. “Daddy’s mad!”

“Oh, sorry Suzie-Q!” Alice said in a big voice under her breath. “I couldn’t find where I put the keys down. . .” Then louder, as they approached the car, “or where I put my Bible!” Suzie-Q looked at Alice’s Bible, in its blue quilted cover.

Suzie-Q’s father said nothing from his tight face when she and Alice climbed into the back seat. Neither of them dared to talk. Besides, the news was on. Suzie-Q became very serious as she tried to understand the news.

"Three rockets went off in a lightning storm at Wallops Island, Virginia today, unbeknownst to the engineers in charge of surveillance, who were huddled out of harm’s way in another area of the testing facility."

Suzie-Q wondered where Wallops Island, Virginia was. She remembered the last storm she had read about in the New York Times, where two people were struck dead from lightening. She remembered that at the same time and in the same place three more had been killed from a fire hydrant dispute, and she wondered how a fire hydrant dispute could kill three people. She decided finally that there must have been guns.

Suzie-Q thought about how every time she heard lightening strike, she tried to imagine if it could be gun shots. She wondered if she would ever be able to tell the difference between the sound of lightening and the sound of guns, and wished that she could. She thought about how confusing it must have been for the huddled engineers in Wallops Island, Virginia to tell the difference between the lightening and the rockets. She wondered where Wallops Island, Virginia was, and where the rockets had landed.

“Where’s Wallops Island, Virginia?” Suzie-Q asked her frowning father.

“In the Chincoteague Bay.”

“How close is Wallops Island, Virginia to here?”

“Not too far.”

“Could the rockets reach us here?”

Suzie-Q’s father laughed. He laughed in that worldly-man way her father sometimes had of laughing that always surprised Suzie-Q and made her feel naïve. “Yes, Suzie-Q, rockets and lightning both could reach us here.” Suzie-Q’s father stopped laughing abruptly. “But not those rockets.”

Suzie-Q felt a little less naïve, knowing she could have been in danger. She still wondered exactly how dangerous the combination of lightening and nearby rockets might be, so she asked, “But how far can the rockets go?”

Suzie-Q’s father was no longer listening. He was concentrating on the radio, so when he said, “It depends,” Suzie-Q knew he really meant, “Don’t bother me with any more naïve questions,” and it made her blush. She tried to concentrate on the radio too, but now Alice had taken up the subject of rockets and lightening with big gulps of air and an unmistakeable flush on the cheeks, like she was on a roller-coaster. Suzie-Q looked at Alice with the fixed smile she learned from church, nodded her head up and down sometimes and tried to concentrate on the radio.

"Congress today approved an aid package of fifteen million dollars in military hardware for Angolan rebels fighting the Luanda pro-Soviet government. The package, which includes Stinger anti-aircraft missiles for the pro-Western movement Unita, is hoped to counter a newly-arrived shipment of Soviet tanks. Sources confirm that the Soviet package amounts to one billion dollars in arms supplies."

Suzie-Q took advantage of Alice gasping for breath to lean forward between the seats and urgently ask, frowning like her father, “Where’s Angdola?”

“Angola. In Africa.”

Even more excited, but frowning deeper, Suzie-Q asked her father, “What are Stinger whatever missiles?”

“Over the shoulder, heat-seeking, anti-aircraft missiles,” said her father tight-lipped, listening to the radio at the same time, like Suzie-Q had been doing with Alice. Suzie-Q went back to concentrating on the radio, but didn’t change her position between the two front seats.

"The Unita forces are fighting 35,000 Cuban troops defending the communist North. Angola has been engaged in civil war for 13 years. China, France and South Africa are also involved in the conflict. The oil wells concentrated along the coast are exploited by Chevron. The UN has categorized Angola as one of 10 chronically undernourished countries. 900,000 Angolans are on the point of starvation. Nearly 4 million African children die annually of malnutrition."

"In other news, the WFC concluded its three-day meeting in Beijing today. The Secretary General of the United Nations produced a statement to be read at the opening of the conference. The statement acknowledged farm lobbies in industrialized nations which were fighting to retain producer subsidies. The Secretary-General also attributed increasing world hunger to ‘market distortions that existed in both the industrialized North and in the South’."

“What’s the WFC?” asked Suzie-Q from between the seats.

“Put your seatbelt on,” said her father.

Suzie-Q sighed out loud, but only loud enough for Alice to hear as Suzie-Q settled back. “Can you turn the back speakers on?” she whined.

“Would you please turn on the back speakers?” retorted her father.

“Would you please?” Suzie-Q whined.

“Stop whining, Suzie-Q. ‘Would you please turn on the back speakers?” Suzie-Q’s father had that flat tone he got when he was correcting her only in order to think about something else and make sure Suzie-Q couldn’t. Suzie-Q responded, thinking about something else.

“. . . turn on the back speakers?” she whined.

“Would you please turn on the back speakers?” continued her father flatly but annoyed that Suzie-Q was responding while thinking about something else.

Suzie-Q sighed, only this time her father heard her. She repeated the entire phrase, whining, “Would you please turn on the back speakers,” but her father was angry now that she was so disrespectful as to sigh before saying it, so he turned the radio off. They drove along in silence.

Finally, Suzie-Q asked in a normal adult voice, “Would you please explain to me what’s going on in Angdola?”

“Angola, Suzie-Q.”

“In Angola?”

“It’s a civil war.”

“Who’s side are we on?”

“The anti-government side.”


“The government is communist.”

“Are we winning?”


“Are we gonna win?”

Suzie-Q’s father didn’t answer. Suzie-Q blushed.

“Why are we only sending fifteen million guns when the Russians are sending a billion guns?”

“That’s fifteen million dollars in ‘guns’ if you will, Suzie-Q, not fifteen million guns. The point isn’t to match the Russians gun for gun. The point is to send enough guns to keep them from winning.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You don’t have to.”

Suzie-Q shut her mouth. Her father turned the radio back on. He turned on the back speakers.

"Violent protests broke out in South Korea yesterday at the announcement of President Chun Doo Hwan’s unelected successor, Roh Tae Woo. The South Korean government has used some excessive measures to repress the riots, including 3800 arrests. The Reagan administration stated its disapproval of both parties."

Suzie-Q tried to study her father’s face in the rear-view mirror to understand what to think. Sometimes, her father frowned when he listened to the news. Sometimes his face frowned but his head nodded, and then Suzie-Q knew he approved. Suzie-Q thought her father’s face was a very serious face. John Calvin Q had so many folds of skin around his eyes and chin that he seemed to be constantly frowning, except when he laughed. Calvin Q’s face wasn’t roly or fat. It was even a little bit tough. Only when he laughed, the rolls of skin shaking around his eyes and chin made people think about jello. Consequently, J.C. wore heavy tortoise-shell rimmed spectacles to mitigate the jello-like dangers of his rare smile.

Now Suzie-Q found that her father was neither frowning outright, nor frowning while nodding, but seemed to be passively non-frowning in a way that only Suzie-Q knew to recognize. Suzie-Q felt curious.

“Why are they protesting in South Korea, Daddy?” Suzie-Q knew that adding “Daddy” to the end of her question even though she was fifteen would make him soft and pay attention.

“Because the government isn’t being very democratic, Suzie-Q.”

“Then why doesn’t Reagan approve of the protesters?”

Suzie-Q’s father paused. He frowned actively but nodded up and down, too, which confused Suzie-Q. He looked in his rear-view mirror at Suzie-Q and Alice. Alice was asleep.

“The protesters are communist.”

“Is that a secret?”

“It’s not a secret, Suzie-Q, or I wouldn’t be telling you.”

“Are the protesters North Korean infiltrators?”

“No, Suzie-Q. They’re South Korean students.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You don’t have to.”

They pulled into the church parking lot. Suzie-Q woke up Alice.

© 2011 Gee Roughin

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Added on August 10, 2011
Last Updated on October 19, 2011
Tags: paranoia, fear, america, 80s, paranoid wasp, communism, cold war


Gee Roughin
Gee Roughin

Cairo, Egypt

Before spending seven years writing Paranoid Wasp, I studied literature at Wheaton College (IL), Yale University and the University of Chicago. I moved to Paris in 1999. In addition to ten years in Fr.. more..