Steve Braunias: The secret diary of … The Collins Gang
Whitey Collins woke from a nightmare that she was living in a foreign land with lots of brown people in it, who were speaking in a strange language and ignoring her as she ran down the street, shrieking at them to speak English, to learn some manners, to pay her some goddamned respect!
She gasped for breath. Her heart was racing. She lit her bedside lantern, and walked to the window of her room above the saloon. It was raining hard and the streets of Dodge were deserted. In a crack of lightning that lit up the night, she saw Sheriff Ardern through the window of her room above the jailhouse; she had her arm upraised, and was beatingShambles Faafoi with a stick.
Whitey paid it no mind.
“I reckon that dream was sendin’ me a message,” she thought to herself. “I best share it
with the townsfolk. They’re bound to want to know.”
Whitey told the townsfolk her troubling nightmare. Some of the older citizens said they’d had very similar dreams, too.
“We appear to be in the grip of a collective hysteria that has taken over our feeble minds,” Whitey thought to herself. “There’s likely a few votes in that. But how can I exploit it?”
Just then one of the gang rushed in and said the nurses were threatening to strike, and it was making the Sheriff’s government look bad.
Whitey paid it no mind.
Whitey sat in her room above the saloon with a porcelain dolly on her lap, and sang to it. She spent much of her time engaged in this pleasing hobby. She was interrupted by a knock on the door.
“Enter,” she croaked.
A stranger appeared. “Excuse me, Whitey,” he said. “But I wondered about running a campaign against folks who want to change the name of Dodge into something else, a name that ain’t even in English.”
A lightbulb went on over Whitey’s head, or would have, if electricity had been invented, but anyway a similar kind of bright revelation occurred to her, and she said, “I back your campaign 100 per cent. What’s your name, anyhow? Who are you?”
“Kaikoura Stu,” he said. “I’ve actually been running with the gang since 2014.”
She stared at him. “Can’t say I ever seen you before,” she said.
One of the gang told Whitey that Dodge appeared to be in the grip of a labour shortage, which would make Sheriff’s government look bad, but she paid it no mind.
Other gang members told her things about immigration, house prices, the vaccine roll-out, inflation, and Shambles Faafoi, all of which would make the Sheriff’s government look bad, but Whitey just brushed the short fair hair of her porcelain dolly. She had no mind paying them.
Whitey had the same nightmare. She went down to the saloon to share it with the townsfolk, but only a few scattered old-timers were there to listen to it. They huddled around a lantern, scared of the dark, which was a similar hue to the people who frightened them.
“Where is everybody?”, Whitey asked.
She heard laughter from the gambling den. It was standing room only in there, and she saw Twerky Seymour holding forth in front of an excited audience. He was sharing a dream of prosperity.
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