Vasquez parks in the lot of the Peoples’ Hospital (formerly Holy Family Hospital). The cross has been taken off but the faux Spanish Mission architecture is still there. There’s not much they can do about that. When I get out of the jeep I hear music somewhere.
That’s the Russian National Anthem, I say to Vasquez.
His face colors. He says, Chad, you and I know that but i’d appreciate it if you didn’t share it. As far as everyone here’s concerned it’s the national anthem of the People’s Republic.
You’re kidding, I say, my mood lightening a little. If I come out of the hospital alive you’ll have to let me see one of your reeducation camps.
His face colors this time in anger. He says, Chad, what do you think we are? Maoist Revisionists? No reeducation camps. We like to think we practice the purest form of Marxism in history.
Who’s we? I say.
The Inner Communist Party. The Politburo. The High Praesidium. The Central Committee. Of which you are a member, BTW. Of all of them.
Since you became a Hero of the Revolution and were awarded the Order of Lenin in absentia.
This is too much, I say, shaking my head and spitting on the ground.
Chad, he says with irritation. We’re wasting time. Do you want to go in the hospital today or not?
Let’s go, I say, shrugging.
When I walk in the door I see something that almost makes me laugh.
Vasquez, I say, Why don’t we sit here in the lobby for a minute?
You feeling weak?
Yes, thank you.
I start to snicker but turn it into a cough. Vasquez, who’s running things now? I say.
Remember Greta? She is the Premier of the People’s Republic.
That’s nice, I say, nodding. I respect Greta. She’s a good soldier. So she’s dictator?
No, Chad. She’s the nominal head of state. But i’m Secretary of the Communist Party. Everybody answers to me, including the military.
Congratulations, I say absently. You’re still an Autarch, but the only one.
I point to the wall and say, Nice portrait.
On the wall of the hospital lobby is a portrait of Vasquez in a uniform of what looks like the Soviet Army.
I’m glad you like it, Chad. He says cautiously.
What i’d like to know, I say, No longer trying to control my laughter, Is how I can get one of those faggy looking uniforms.
Chad, he says, when I stop laughing, Did I do something in particular to offend you? You’re more hostile now than I’ve ever seen you, and all I did was offer you a chance to save your life.
I say nothing.
Is it the Marxist thing? You’ve always been apathetic to politics.
Still am, I say.
Did it ever occur to you that i’m scared?
But you were a dead man a couple of hours ago. Now you’ve got a chance to live a full life. I don’t…
No you don’t. You’re a skillful politician but you just don’t get people.
RU thinking about Holly? Is that it?
Of course i’m thinking about Holly. Because if she hadn’t been shot by those fuckhead ganaderos that worked for you as Autarch she’d be alive now and could’ve been cured, too.
He bites his lip, says, I’m sorry about…
I’m going to get you a wheelchair, he says. Stay here.