Charm, charisma, a talent for speaking. Just what it takes to lead a revolution.
"Follow the Leader"
The basement was damp and dark. Jenna wanted out of there. She wanted to run. Yet, she didn’t. This was all for a good purpose, well worth the risk they were all taking.
That, and Emilio was quite mesmerizing. He had that winning combination of subversive charm and dark, brooding looks that made her want to take up arms for him. Of course, it hadn’t come to that. Not yet, anyhow. Her friend Jackie got her into the basement on the premise of a world- changing revolution. What this revolution was about was yet to be revealed. Jackie was always trying to sell something new, and Jenna was just a little too curious not to check it out.
After reading an article on ham radio enthusiasts, Jenna took up the hobby part-time, listening to number stations, looking for patterns. This experience, never mind that it was slightly embellished, qualified her to join Emilio’s team.
“What is it about? A quest for world domination?” She inquired.
“Oh, no. But he does want to be known worldwide. How else can one change the world?” Jackie replied knowingly.
“Just don’t end up in some overseas prison,” her brother Richard had weighed in. He was a little paranoid. He also loved “stopping by” when Jackie might be visiting.
“Don’t worry about me, Rich. I’m just going to find out what it’s about.” And, Jackie hadn’t really given herself over to this endeavor yet, either. Both girls were just getting their toes wet at the moment, whether Jackie admitted it or not. Maybe Jackie just didn’t want to go alone.
So, there they were in that gloomy basement. Tables were set up with radio equipment all over the place.
The discussion started. “Hello, I am Emilio. Well, everyone here knows the world must change. And everyone here knows the power of revolution, and action. There is no result without action!”
Just then, a gunshot rang out somewhere outside the building. One of the girls in the basement audience let out a piercing scream. People diverged to hiding places, others scattered through the door.
“This will not be an endeavor without danger,” Emilio called out, before his audience was completely dispersed. He did not move from his “pulpit,” a makeshift lectern that was no more than a music stand with an open notebook set up on one of the tables. Jenna wondered why he didn’t move. He seemed fearless within the chaos. She was crushed on the floor, but never took her eyes from him.
“The meeting’s over. You girls want me to walk you out?” A huge, muscular guy was beside them. He had introduced himself earlier as Don.
“Yes, please,” said the visibly shaken Jackie.
“Well, how many of your questions did you get answered?” Jenna asked cynically.
“Oh, it’s okay Jenna,” Jackie lit a cigarette with shaking hands. “I’ll bet the cops just wanted to break up the meeting.” They spoke to each other in hushed tones. Shaken, incredulous, but still, curious.
“This is at the heart of any revolution: confrontation.” A young man with a heavy beard spoke up behind them. The girls hurried to the car. “Maybe the next gathering will be as controversial.” He winked and left. Jenna didn’t ask his name. At this point, nothing outside of the building looked suspicious at all. No cops were in sight.
Cars were parked up and down the road along the downtown streets. They could have been there for any of the establishments, except most of them were closed. Engines started and the cars drove off. Jackie put her key in the ignition and followed.
Two days later, a letter came to Jenna with no return address. It simply read:
The struggle is not over. Next gathering, 2024 Mill Street.
Of course, she made up her mind that she’d go.
It was rainy, and Jackie would not go. Jenna turned down the wrong road and had to backtrack. She showed up 15 minutes late, and sat in the back of the crowd.
“We will have Stan here making flyers by the hundreds. Spreading the word. Please meet here this Saturday if you can help.”
“You know, I heard he also goes by the nickname Enzo. Some foreign word for ruler,” a long-haired blonde whispered loudly beside Jenna.
“What’s his last name?” Jenna asked.
“We’re not supposed to know!” A brunette vixen complete with studded leather hissed loudly.
“Ramirez, or something like that,” the blonde whispered into her ear.
The next day’s search of the Internet produced nothing interesting. There was an Emilio Ramirez with a dentist’s license (most likely not her Emilio), and Emilio with membership in an artists’co-op, and another with a record for DUI’s. None of it screamed revolution, and why would an artist be asking others for help with flyers? Nevertheless, she printed out the information and filed it in her desk.
“Quest for world domination, ha!” She laughed.
Saturday arrived and she put on a cap and sunglasses. Jackie’s curiosity surfaced again and she decided to join in. On the way, they were listening to an Old Wave music station. Suddenly, the song cracked and white noise pervaded the car.
“What?” Jackie exclaimed. Silence.
Suddenly, a robotic voice intoned, “Enzo R.”
Jackie looked befuddled, but a light came on in Jenna’s mind. It was familiar, but was this just coincidence? They arrived at the house.
“Let’s wait a minute. We’re early,” Jenna urged. She saw a scruffy young man get out of his car.
She called, “Excuse me? Can you come over here? I am Jenna, by the way.”
“Jacob, er, Jake,” he said, looking around.
“Did you happen to hear anything interesting on the radio on your way over?”
His face lit up. “Mysterious interruption?” Jenna nodded affirmatively.
“Oh yeah, white noise-and then: Enzo R. He did it, you know?”
“How do you know?” Jenna asked.
“Just a hunch. I’ve heard talk,” he answered.
Yes, so had Jenna. “Well, what station?”
“60s rock--- all the time!” He exclaimed.
They went inside the house and hurt others talking about it. There were not as many in attendance at this meeting, but it was still a good crowd. They were in the basement again, and the Flyers were stacked on the table. The flyer consisted of a picture of Emilio in a beret, looking very revolutionary. It contained the words: “Who wants to change the world? Enzo R.”
So it was true. His last name was Ramirez (or something like it), and that nickname. Of course, the flyer gave nothing away. Jenna began to feel suspicious.
Emilio was discussing strategy for the flyers. One man in attendance hollered out, “So, are you just trying to run for public office?”
Jenna snorted at the words. It wouldn’t be surprising.
“No. I am trying to change the world by starting a revolution!” Emilio exclaimed.
A couple of kids that looked about 15 started chanting “Revolution! Revolution!” Many started joining in. There didn’t seem to be time for any other questions. Emilio motioned for all to stand, and held out flyers as a signal of what they should do next. Jenna filed past him, looking the other way, then ran to her car.
A young girl in denim skirt and red shirt followed her outside. “You’re turning down the adventure of a lifetime. Don’t quit now, man!”
“We don’t even know what he’s really stands for!” Jenna hissed. “And all this fanfare? You know who it reminds me of? Hitler! He uses the right words to make us emotional and want to follow, but where are the facts? I don’t know what the so-called revolution is for.”
“You could be part of something really big!” The girl persisted.
“Thanks. It’s all too suspicious. And what about that radio stunt?”
The girl’s eyes lit up in admiration. “Did you know, that radio interruption took place across the world? My cousin who is studying in France says it happened there, and an online news source from Britain reported that happened there too. So cool!”
“Okay. Yeah, it’s cool. I have to go.” Jenna hurried away, and Jackie followed quietly.
That night at home, another radio broadcast interruption occurred . White noise. Then, “Enzo R.” It was eerie. How often (or how long) would this keep going on?
A solitary search of the city streets on Sunday presented several Enzo R. flyers. Jenna removed each one she saw, determined to throw a monkey wrench in his plan. “That charlatan,” she mumbled.
Jenna had told Jackie of her doubts, but didn’t bring her along on this mission. She just couldn’t explain the nagging doubts in her mind. Down the street, she turned her head several times to be sure no one was around to see what she did. She painstakingly used her hammer to undo the nails and removed each flyer. Should she leave them on the ground? Someone might hang them back up. She stored each and every flyer in her car trunk. The hour grew very late and she knew she had to quit; she also knew there were more that she hadn’t reached.
The piles of flyers remained in her trunk that night. Jenna was too tired to burn them as planned.
The next morning, there was a knock on Jenna’s door. It was Emilio, with another scruffy looking young man he introduced us Frederick. (Why not Fred? So much fanfare). Both were wearing Army jackets and smelled of cigarette smoke.
“Ah, Jenna,” Emilio smiled charmingly. More mind control.
“Come on in. Sit down,” she said warily.
“Jenna, I know it was you who took all those flyers down. I think you misunderstand me.” Jenna pressed record on her cell phone. This was the confrontation.
“Emilio, you’re brainwashing people. You are using people to help promote your plan, and they don’t even know your true plan. It reminds me of Hitler.”
Emilio smirked. “Well, Hitler was quite good at self-promotion, world domination, and did you know, art?”
Jenna balked. Was he defending Hitler?
He went on. “Don’t you think he would’ve been great at advertising? Now please understand, I’m no Hitler. The only reason I want to self- promote is for my art. And did you know, art can change the world? I have a plan behind this. The next flyer has a teaser of my art. My name still on the radio worldwide, the next week, my initial artwork on YouTube. In a month, my first showing. You would love my subway installment.”
“Excuse me,” Jenna interrupted. She went out to the car and gathered all the flyers.
“So, you will return them?” He asked. “I don’t ask that you rejoin me, but please, stop trying to hinder me. This idea is brilliant. Without art, I might just turn into a frustrated politician.”
She had to agree, the idea was brilliant. However, she took out a lighter and held it to several of the flyers, which began to burn.
“Silly girl.” Emilio spat between his teeth. “It would take you all day.”
“Silly Enzo,” she spat back. “I am not a pawn in your advertising scheme. Please, go.” She pointed to the door. As they left, she tossed the burning paper in the fireplace and began tearing the rest of the flyers. Her living room a mound of paper in the background, Jenna took out her sketchpad. It was half used. She began drawing a king, looking very glum, in front of a burning mound of crumpled paper.
“I just wasn’t made to blindly worship another human,” she mused, and the radio behind her went to white noise, and the name, “Enzo R.”
“Not with my help, you won’t,” chuckled Jenna. She threw the radio at the wall and continue drawing, catching a plan of her own.