>SOMEONE MAY EVEN HAVE CLAPPED

>“ … and that’s the real sadness of it,” continued John Kendrick. “Everyone’s got a real worry that there’s a speck of dust out there somewhere just waiting to land straight in their eye.” The great man paused behind the podium, to let the weight of his words sink in to the crowd hidden in the half-shadow. “It’s not the fear,” he said, “but the possibility of fear, that is the terrorist’s greatest weapon.”

Above the stage, between the muted block colours and contemporary geometry, hung giant pictures of John Kendrick’s life – images designed to inspire wonder and respect in the wider population: a young man in tight clothes squatting on a particularly masculine piece of Arizona; older, maybe his twenties, in fatigues, waving on his platoon at My Lai, left boot defiantly flinging off the South Vietnam mud; older still, in the Gulf, the White House, shaking important hands and smiling with flashbulb faces. The pictures let everyone know that here was a man who had Red White and Blue on his cornflakes every morning.

Former General (now retired) John Kendrick took off his half-moon glasses and used them to punctuate his confident Southern speech.

“What we have to understand (gold gleaming effectively off the expensive frames in his hand) is that there is always going to be terror as long as there is fear.”

A collective murmur of agreement fluttered through the crowd. Someone may even have clapped. It would certainly not have been unusual.

John Kendrick shifted his frame slightly (a practised move) so he appeared almost a foot taller than he actually was.

“It is for this reason,” he said in his best voice, “that I call upon all Americans this evening to eliminate fear from their lives!”

This time the whole crowd exploded into applause. They stamped and they hooted and they cheered. Cries of That’s what I’m talking about! and Right on former General (now retired) John Kendrick! were heard clearly soaring towards the ceiling in proud patriotic parabolas.
“And the only way to eliminate fear,” shouted John Kendrick above the noise, “is to eliminate the prime agents of fear!”

The frenzy increased. Hearts beat in chests and hands beat on hearts.

“And by the prime agents of fear,” he shouted, “I mean of course boogeymen, like the one that lives under my bed!”

The crowd quickly fell into silence, and John Kendrick’s words hung heavily in the air. The great man stood stock still and thrust out his giant chin with no uncertainty. Suddenly, a voice yelled Yeah, screw those bogeymen bastards! and They can’t scare the mighty U S of A! Other voices soon followed, and someone may even have clapped.

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