Chapter 7

Well, it wadn't long before the shit hit the fan.

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It seems that the bidness we had been doin with the Ayatolja was not exactly viewed in a good light by the folks on Capitol Hill, who thought that tradin arms for hostages was not such a hot idea, especially when the money we got was turned over to help the gorillas in Nicaragua. An what them congressmen had in mind was that the President, hissef, was behind the scheme, an they was out to prove it.

Colonel North done so good testifyin before the Congress the first time that they invited him back again, an this time they had a bunch of slick Philadelphia lawyers tryin to trip him up. But the colonel, now, he is pretty slick hissef, an when he is usin his tact an diplomacy, he is pretty hard to trip up.

"Colonel," asts one of the lawyers, "what would you do if the President of the United States told you to commit a crime?"

"Well, sir," says the colonel, "I am a marine. And marines obey the orders of their commanders-in-chief. So even if the President told me to commit a crime, what I would do is, I would salute smartly an charge up the hill."

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"Hill? What hill? Capitol Hill?"

"No, you jackass - any hill! It's a figure of speech. We are the marines! We charge up hills for a living."

"Oh, yeah, then how come they call you 'jarheads'?"

"I kill you, you sombitch - I rip your head off, an spit down your neck!"

"Please, Colonel, don't let us be vulgar. Violence will get you nowhere. Now, Colonel, what you are tellin me is that this was not the President's idea?"

"That's what I am tellin you, you asshole."

"So whose idea was it then? Was it yours?"

"Of course not, you jerk." (The colonel's tact an diplomacy is now gettin into full swing.)

"Then whose was it?"

"Well, it was a lot of people's. It just sort of evolved."

"Evolved? But there must of been a 'Prime Mover,' Colonel. Things of this magnitude just do not simply 'evolve.' "

"Well, sir, in fact there probably was a person who thought it through the most thoroughly."

"So this person, he would be the 'Prime Mover' of all these illegal schemes, is that correct?"

"I suppose you could say that."

"And this person, was it Admiral Poindexter, the security adviser to the President of the United States?"

"That pipe-smokin butthole? Of course not. He ain't got the sense to pour piss out of a boot, let alone be a Prime Mover."

"Then, can you tell us, sir, who was it?"

"Why, yessir, I can. It was Private Forrest Gump."

"Who?"

"Gump, sir, PFC Forrest Gump, who has been a special assistant to the President for covert activities. It was all his idea."

At this, all the lawyers an senators got into a huddle an begun to whisper an wave they hands an nod they heads.

So that's how I got dragged into the mess.

Next thing I knowed, two goons in trenchcoats come up to my crate in Lafayette Park in the middle of the night an start bangin on the top. When I crawled out to see what was goin on, one of em shoved a paper in my hand, say I got to appear in the mornin before the Special Senate Committee to Investigate the Iran-Contra Scandal.

"An, I suggest you get that uniform pressed before you get there," one of the goons says, "because your big ass is in a heap of trouble."

Well, I didn't know what to do next. It was too late to wake up Colonel North, who I figgered would have it all thought out with his tact an diplomacy, so I wandered aroun the city for a while an finally wound up at the Lincoln Memorial. The lights was shinin down on the big ole feller, all done up in his marble statue an lookin kinda sad, an a mist was blowin in off the Potomac River, an it had begun to drizzle a little rain. I was feelin pretty sorry for mysef, when lo an behole, out of the mist I seen Jenny sort of walkin toward me!

Right off the bat, she says, "Well, looks like you have done it again, Forrest."

"I reckon," I says.

"Didn't you get in enough trouble the last time you went into the army?"

"Yup."

"So what is it? You think you had to do this for little Forrest?"

"Yup."

She brushed her hair back an tossed her head, just like she used to do, an I just stood there, twistin my hands.

"Feelin kinda sorry for yourself, huh?"

"Uh huh."

"Don't want to go up there to the Congress and tell the truth, do you?"

"Nope."

"Well, you better, cause this is a serious bidness, sellin arms for hostages - At least those bozos think so."

"So I'm tole."

"So what you gonna do?"

"I dunno."

"My advice is, I'd come clean with the whole thing. And don't be coverin up for anybody. Okay?"

"Yeah, I guess," I said, an then another big ole cloud of white mist come waftin in from the river, an Jenny, she just sort of vanished into it, an for a moment I wanted so bad to go runnin after her, maybe to catch her somehow, an bring her back - but even I am not so stupid as that. So I just turned aroun an started back for my crate. Anyhow, I am left on my own again. An as it turned out, it was the last time I did not take Jenny's advice about tellin the truth.

"Now, tell us, Private Gump, just when was it you first got the idea to swap arms for hostages?"

I be settin at a big ole table facin all the senators an lawyers an other muckity-mucks in the congressional hearin room, an the TV cameras be rollin an lights shinin in my face. A little young-lookin, blond-haired lawyer guy be astin the questions.

"Who says I did?" I ast.

"I am asking the questions here, Private Gump. You just answer em."

"Well, I don't know how I can answer that," I says. "I mean, you don't even ast me whether I did - You just ast me when... ?"

"That's right, Private Gump, when was it, then?"

I looked over at Colonel North, uniform all full of medals, an he be glarin at me an slowly noddin his head, like I am sposed to answer somethin.

"Well, it was when I first met the President, I reckon."

"Yes, and did you not tell the President that you had conceived a scheme to swap arms for hostages?"

"No, sir."

"What did you tell the President then?"

"I tole him the last time I met a president, he wanted to watch To Tell the Truth, on the TV."

"Issat so! An what did the President say?"

"He says he would rather watch Let's Make a Deal."

"Private Gump! I remind you that you are under oath here!"

"Well, actually, he was watchin Concentration, but he said it confuses him."

"Private Gump! You are evading my question - and you are under oath. Are you tryin to make the United States Senate look ridiculous? We can hold you in contempt!"

"I reckon you already do," I says.

"Sombitch! You are covering up for all of them - the President, Colonel North, here, Poindexter, and I don't know who-all else! We are gonna get to the bottom of this if it takes all year!"

"Yessir."

"So, now, Gump, Colonel North has told us you conceived the whole nefarious plan to swap arms for hostages to the Ayatolja and then divert the money to the Contras in Central America. Isn't that so?"

"I don't know nothin about any Contras - I thought the money was goin to some gorillas."

"Ah - an admission! So you did know about this horrible scheme!"

"I understood the gorillas need the money, yessir. That's what I was tole."

"Ha! I think you are lying, Private Gump. I suggest that it was you who devised the entire operation - and with the President's complicity! Are you trying to play dumb?"

"It ain't exactly playin, sir."

"Mr. Chairman!" the lawyer says. "It is obvious that Private Gump, here, the 'special assistant for covert operations to the President of the United States,' is a fraud and a faker, and that he is deliberately tryin to make the United States Congress look like fools! He ought to be held in contempt!"

The chairman, he sort of drawed hissef up an look down at me like I was a bug.

"Yes, it does appear that way. Uh, Private Gump, do you understand the penalty for makin the United States Congress look like fools?"

"No, sir."

"Well, we can thow your ass in jail - not to put too fine a point on it."

"Oh, yeah," I says, tryin to imitate Colonel North's tact an diplomacy strategy, "start thowin then."

So here I am again, thowed in jail. Headline in The Washington Post next day says:

Moron Detained in Contempt of Congress Case

An Alabama man, who sources close to the Post identified as a "certified idiot," has been charged with contempt of Congress in the Iran-Contra scandal, which this paper has covered from top to bottom.

Forrest Gump, of no fixed address, was sentenced to an indefinite prison term yesterday after he began ridiculing members of the Select Senate Committee appointed to investigate charges that key members of the Reagan administration conspired to swindle the Ayatolja Koumani of Iran out of cash in an arms-for-hostages scam.

Gump, who apparently has been involved in numerous shady activities involving the U.S. Government, including its space program, was described by sources as "a member of the lunatic fringe of American intelligence operations. He's one of those guys who comes an goes in the night," the source said.

A senator on the committee, who asked not to be identified, told the Post that Gump "will rot in that jail until he repents for trying to make fools of the U.S. Congress. Only the U.S. Congress itselves, and not some shitheaver from Alabama, is permitted to do that," said the senator, to quote his own words.

Anyhow, they give me some clothes with black an white prison stripes on em, an stick me in a cell I got to share with a forger, a child molester, a dynamite bomber, an some nut called Hinckley who is always talkin about the actress Jodie Foster. The forger is the nicest one of the bunch.

Anyhow, after reviewin my employment qualifications, they set me to work makin license plates, an life settled down to a dull routine. It was about Christmastime - Christmas Eve, to be exact, an it was snowin - when a guard come up to the cell an say I got a visitor.

I ast him who it was, but he just says, "Listen, Gump, you is lucky to have any kind of visitor, considerin the crime you have committed. People that go around makin a fool of the U.S. Congress are lucky they don't get thowed in 'the hole' - so get your big ass out here."

I gone on down to the visitors room with him. Outside, a group of carolers from the Salvation Army is singin "Away in a Manger," an I can hear a Santa Claus ringin his bell for donations. When I set down in front of the wire booth, I am absolutely floored to see settin across from me little Forrest.

"Well, merry Christmas, I guess" is all he says.

I don't know what else to say, so I says, "Thanks."

We just set lookin at each other for a minute. Actually, little Forrest is mostly starin down at the counter, ashamed, I guess, to see his daddy in the pokey.

"Well, how'd you come to get here?" I ast.

"Grandma sent me. You was in all the papers and on TV, too. She said she thought it might cheer you up if I came."

"Yeah, well it does. I really appreciate it."

"It wadn't my idea," he said, a comment which I thought was unnecessary.

"Look, I know I've screwed up, an right now I ain't exactly somebody you can be proud of. But I been tryin."

"Tryin to do what?"

"Tryin not to screw up."

He just kep starin at the counter, an after a minute or so, he says, "I went out to the zoo to see Wanda today."

"She okay?"

"Took me two hours to find her. Seemed like she was cold. I tried to put my jacket in there for her, but some big ole zoo guard come up an start hollerin at me."

"He didn't mess with you, did he?"

"Nah, I tole him it was my pig, an he says somethin like, 'Yeah, that's what some other crackpot tole me, too,' an then he just walked off."

"So how's school?"

"It's okay, I guess. The other kids been givin me a hard time on account of you bein thowed in the slammer."

"Well, don't let that bother you, now. It ain't your fault."

"I don't know about that... If I'd just kept remindin you to check those valves and gauges at the pig farm, maybe none of this would have happened."

"You can't look back," I says. "Whatever is, is what is meant to be, I reckon." That was about the only face I had left to put on it.

"What you doin for Christmas?"

"Oh, they probably got a big ole party for us here," I lied, "probably have a Santa Claus an presents an a big turkey an everthin. You know how prisons are, they like to see the inmates enjoyin themsefs. What you gonna do?"

"Catch the bus back home, I guess. I reckon I seen all the sights. After I got back from the zoo, I walked by the White House an up to Capitol Hill an then down to the Lincoln Memorial."

"Yeah, how was that?"

"It was kinda funny, you know. It had started snowin, an was all misty, an... an..."

He begun shakin his head, an I could tell by his voice he was startin to choke up.

"An what..."

"I just miss my mama, that's all..."

"Your mama, was she... You didn't see her, did you?"

"Not exactly."

"But sort of?"

"Yeah, sort of. Just for a minute. But it was only a dream. I know that! I ain't stupid enough to really believe it."

"She say anythin to you?"

"Yeah, she says I gotta look out for you. That you all I got, besides Grandma, an that you need my help now."

"She said that?"

"Look, it was just a dream, like I said. Dreams ain't real."

"You never know," I says. "When's your bus?"

"About an hour. I guess I better be goin."

"Well, you have a good trip home, okay. I'm sorry you had to see me like this, but maybe it won't be too long afore I get out."

"Yeah, they gonna turn you loose?"

"Could be. There is a feller comes here for charity work with the inmates. A preacher. He says he is tryin to 'rehabilitate' us. He says he thinks he can get me out in a few months on a 'federal work-release program' or somethin. Says he's got a big ole religious theme park down in Carolina an needs fellers like me to help him run it."

"Yeah, what's his name?"

"The Reverend Jim Bakker."

So that's how I come to go to work for the Reverend Jim Bakker.

He had a place in Carolina he had named Holy Land, an it was the biggest theme park I had ever heard of. The reverend had a wife called Tammy Faye, looked like a Kewpie doll with eyelashes long as a dragonfly's wings an a lot of rouge on her cheeks. They was also a younger woman hangin aroun, name of Jessica Hahn, that Reverend Bakker described as his "secretary."

"Look, Gump," Reverend Bakker says, "if that ignoramus Walt Disney can do it, so can I. This is the grandest scheme of the grand. We will attract Bible thumpers from all over the goddamn world! Fifty thousand a day - maybe more! Every scene in the Bible - every parable - will have its place here! And at twenty dollars a head, we'll make billions!"

In this, the Reverend Bakker was correct.

He had more than fifty rides an attractions, an was plannin for more. People got to walk through some woods where they was a guy dressed up like Moses, an when they got close he stepped on a button that set off a gas valve that shot a fire twenty feet in the air - "Moses and the Burnin Bush"! An as soon as the gas fire bust out, the visitors all jump back an begun hollerin an ooohin an ahhhin, like to scared them to death!

There was a stream, too, where a little baby Moses was floatin aroun in a plastic boat wrapped in a towel - "Moses in the Bulrushes"!

Then there was "The Red Sea Parting," where Reverend Bakker has figgered out a way for a whole lake to be sucked up on both sides on command, an the people get to walk across on the bottom, just like the Israelites - an furthermore, when they got to the other side, the reverend has a bunch of goons from the prison-release program dressed up like Pharaoh's Army start chasin after em, but when the goons tried to get across the sea, the pumps thowed all the water back in the lake an Pharaoh's Army got drownded.

He had it all.

They was "Jacob in His Coat of Many Colors" an the entire "Story of Job," which was about as much sufferin as I have ever seen a man go through on a daily basis. After the first bunch had walked through "The Red Sea Parting," a second group got to come to the lake to watch Jesus turn loafs of bread into fishes. The reverend, he had figgered out a way to save money by lettin the fishes eat the bread till they got fat enough, an then he served them up to the visitors at the fish-fry pavilion for fifteen dollars a plate!

They have got "Daniel in the Lion's Den" an "Jonah in the Belly of the Whale," too. On Mondays, when Holy Land is closed, the reverend rents out the lion an his tamer to a local bar for fifty bucks a night, where they bet people that nobody can beat the lion in a rasslin match. The whale is a big ole mechanical whale, an it was all workin pretty good till the reverend discovered that Jonah was hidin a bunch of whisky behin the whale's tonsils. Ever time the whale gobbled him up he'd run back an slug down a drink. End of the day come, Jonah is pretty drunk, an the finale arrived when Jonah commenced to give the crowd the finger just before the whale's jaws clamped shut. Reverend had to put a stop to that, account of some of the mamas complained that their kids was givin the finger back.

But the most spectacular ride of all was "Jesus Ascending into Heaven," which was run on somethin the reverend called a skyhook. In fact, it was like one a them bungee-jumpin things in reverse, where the guy in the Jesus suit gets hooked up an then snatched about fifty feet in the air into a cloud of machine-made mist - an to tell the truth, it did look kinda realistic. The visitors could pay ten dollars apiece to get to do this themsefs.

"Gump," the reverend says, "I have got a brand-new attraction that I want you to be a part of. It is called 'The Battle of David and Goliath'!"

It didn't take a whole lot of smarts for me to figger out what part I was sposed to play.

I thought the deal playin in "David and Goliath" was gonna be easy, but of course it wadn't.

First off, they dressed me up in a big ole leopardskin tunic, an give me a shield an a spear an pasted a big black beard on me. What I am sposed to do is growl an roar an generally act like a asshole. An just when I am lookin my fiercest, the David character, he comes out wearin a set of diapers an starts thowin rocks at me with a slingshot.

David is played by that nut Hinckley, who has got hissef into the program by claimin he is really crazy an don't belong in jail anymore. When he is not throwin rocks at me with the slingshot, he spends all his times writin letters to Jodie Foster, who he describes as a "pen pal."

Problem is, they is real rocks he is thowin an ever so often one of em hits me - an let me say this: It hurts! We be doin our act five or six times a day, an by closin time, I probly been hit two dozen times by rocks. Hinckley, he seems to enjoy it, but after about a week or two, I done complained to Reverend Bakker that this don't seem fair, me havin all these bruises an lumps an gettin two of my teeth chipped out by this little bastid, when I don't never get to do anythin back to him.

But the reverend says it is okay, account of in the Bible story, that was the way it was, an you can't change the Bible. Damn if I wouldn't, if I could, but of course I didn't say so, account of the reverend, he say if I don't like it, I can go on back to jail. I am sure missin little Forrest, an Jenny, too, an somehow, I feel that I am seriously forsaken.

Anyhow, the time come when I had had enough. It was a big day at Holy Land, an the theme park was filled with visitors. When the crowd gets to my attraction, I begun roarin an lookin fierce an threatenin David with my spear. He begun thowin his rocks with the slingshot, an damn if one of them don't hit me on the hand an I dropped my shield. I bent over to pick it up, an the little bastid done thowed another rock that hit me in the ass. This is totally uncalled for! A man can put up with just so much.

Well, I lurched over to David, who is just standin there with a stupid smirk on his face, an I grapped him by the seat of his diapers an spun him around a few times, an then let go. He sailed all the way over the trees an landed right in the middle of the lake where Jesus was doin his loafs an fishes thing.

David's arrival must of set somethin off wrong with the main switchboard, cause all of a sudden the pumps begun operatin an the Red Sea begun to part. Without no warnin, the gas jet at the Burnin Bush went off, an Moses, who was standin too close to it, was set on fire. About this time, the mechanical whale took off right out of the lake an came up on shore, chompin an bitin like mad. Now the crowd begun to riot; women was hollerin an children was cryin an men was runnin for they lives. All this got the lion over at Daniel's Den upset, an he busted loose an started to run amok. At that point, I appeared on the scene, which sort of added to the confusion. The guy what was playin Jesus ascendin into heaven was standin there drinkin a soda pop, waitin for his act to start, when all of a sudden the bungee cord snatched him up an flung him into the sky. He wadn't strapped in or nothin, so it just let him go, an he landed in the middle of the fish-fry pavilion, right in a big pot of warm grease.

Somebody had called the police, who showed up an immediately begun beatin people on the heads with nightsticks. Meantime, the lion had got loose in the bulrushes, where he surprised the Reverend Bakker an Jessica Hahn, who was havin some kind of relationship minus their clothes. They come tearin out right in the middle of things, with the lion in hot pursuit. When the police got an eyeful of this, first thing they do is arrest the reverend for "indecent exposure," an cart him off to jail. Last thing he says before they tossed him in the paddy wagon is "Gump, you idiot, I'll have your head for this!"

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