What’ll We Do with Ragland Park?
In his demesne near the logging town of John Day, Oregon, Sebastian Hada thoughtfully ate a grape as he watched the TV screen. The grapes, flown to Oregon by illegal jet transport, came from one of his farms in the Sonoma Valley of California. He spat the seeds into the fireplace across from him, half-listening to his CULTURE announcer delivering a lecture on the portrait busts of twentieth-century sculptors.
If only I could get Jim Briskin on my network, Hada thought gloomily. The ranking TV news clown, so popular, with his flaming scarlet wig and genial, informal patter… CULTURE needs that, Hada realized. But –
But their society, at the moment, was being run by the idiotic – but peculiarly able – President Maximilian Fischer, who had locked horns with Jim-Jam Briskin; who had, in fact, clapped the famous news clown in jail. So, as a result, Jim-Jam was available neither for the commercial network which linked the three habitable planets nor for CULTURE. And meanwhile, Max Fischer ruled on.
If I could get Jim-Jam out of prison, Hada thought, perhaps due to gratitude he’d move over to my network, leave his sponsors Reinlander Beer and Calbest Electronics; after all, they have not been able to free him despite their intricate court maneuvers. They don’t have the power or the know-how… and I have.
One of Hada’s wives, Thelma, had entered the living room of the demesne and now stood watching the TV screen from behind him. “Don’t place yourself there, please,” Hada said. “It gives me a panic reaction; I like to see people’s faces.” He twisted around in his deep chair.
“The fox is back,” Thelma said. “I saw him; he glared at me.” She laughed with delight. “He looked so feral and independent – a bit like you, Seb. I wish I could have gotten a film clip of him.”
must spring Jim-Jam Briskin,” Hada said aloud; he had decided.
Picking up the phone, he dialed culture’s production chief, Nat Kaminsky, at the transmitting Earth satellite Culone.
“In exactly one hour,” Hada told his employee, “I want all our outlets to begin crying for Jim-Jam Briskin’s release from jail. He’s not a traitor, as President Fischer declares. In fact, his political rights, his freedom of speech, have been taken away from him – illegally. Got it? Show clips of Briskin, build him up… you understand.” Hada hung up then, and dialed his attorney, Art Heaviside.
Thelma said, “I’m going back outdoors and feed the animals.”
“Do that,” Hada said, lighting an Abdulla, a British-made Turkish cigarette which he was most fond of. “Art?” he said into the phone. “Get started on Jim-Jam Briskin’s case; find a way to free him.”
His lawyer’s voice came protestingly, “But, Seb, if we mix into that, we’ll have President Fischer after us with the FBI; it’s too risky.”
Hada said, “I need Briskin. CULTURE has become pompous – look at the screen right this minute. Education and art – we need a personality, a good news clown; we need Jim-Jam.” Telscan’s surveys, of late, had shown an ominous dropping-off of viewers, but he did not tell Art Heaviside that; it was confidential.
Sighing, the attorney said, “Will do, Seb. But the charge against Briskin is sedition in time of war.”
“Time of war? With whom?”
“Those alien ships – you know. That entered the Sol System last February. Darn it, Seb; you know we’re at war – you can’t be so lofty as to deny that; it’s a legal fact.”