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In the heart of Tallahassee, a liberal's apocalypse is unleashed

By HOWARD TROXLER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 10, 2003

Tallahassee Now

(based on Joseph Conrad's Legislature of Darkness)

The scene: A hotel room in Jacksonville. JIM KING is sprawled on a hotel bed.

KING (voice-over): Jacksonville. Shoot. I'm still only in Jacksonville. Every time, I think I'm going to wake up back in Tallahassee. When I'm here, I want to be there. When I'm there, all I can think of is getting back in the Capitol. I've been here a week now. Waiting for a mission. Getting softer.

(As eerie Doors music plays, KING goes berserk and smears FSU war paint over himself. Uniformed men arrive, throw him in the shower and bring him to a briefing. KING sits down at a table surrounded by uniformed Republican Party officers and one unidentified civilian.)

OFFICER: Are you familiar with Johnnie Byrd? This transmission was monitored out of Tallahassee. This has been verified as Johnnie Byrd's voice.

VOICE ON TAPE: Must stop . . . taxes. Liberals. I watched a liberal crawling, slithering along the edge of a razor blade, and surviving. We must kill all taxes, cent after cent. We must telemarket every household in the state. They call me an extremist. What do you call it when the extremists accuse the extremist? Those senators. How I hate them.

OFFICER: Johnnie Byrd was one of the most outstanding Republicans this state has ever produced. He joined the state House and rose to become speaker. After that his ideas, his methods have become . . . unsound.

SECOND OFFICER: Now he's crossed over to Georgia with his army of House members, who worship the man like a god and follow every order, however ridiculous.

OFFICER: Your mission is to proceed up U.S. 27 in a Florida Highway Patrol van. Pick up Byrd's path near the state line, learn what you can along the way. When you find him, infiltrate his team and terminate his public relations machine.

CIVILIAN: Terminate . . . with extreme prejudice.

The scene: KING moving up U.S. 27 in FHP van, surrounded by cadre of young troopers while Satisfaction plays. Suddenly the entourage encounters a military-style action in which a senior officer is shutting down programs for teenage girls and evicting schoolchildren.

DIRECTOR (urgently): Don't look at the cameras! Don't look at the cameras! Go on through, go by just like you're governing . . .

KING (to S.O.): King reporting, sir. You are to escort us to the state line.

BUSH: That's news to me, mister. (Draws deep breath.) Ah, I love the smell of vouchers in the morning. Smells like . . . victory. Besides, where you're going, there aren't any schools or lawyers for death row inmates to take out.

JUNIOR OFFICER: State line? I hear there are some medically needy up that way.

Scene: Helicopters swooping down toward state line. Wagner blaring. They drop the FHP van down on a side road and fly away. The forest erupts in napalm attacks. A SPOKESMAN appears on the side of the road.

SPOKESMAN: It's all right. You're being approved. You're being watched. Hey, I'm a Republican! Republican, Republican staffer.

KING: We're here to talk to Johnnie Byrd.

SPOKESMAN: Hey, man, you don't talk to Johnnie Byrd. You listen to him. The man has enlarged my mind. He's a poet-warrior in the classic sense. I mean sometimes he'll, uh, well, you'll say hello to him, right? And he'll just walk right by you, and suddenly he'll grab you, and he'll say do you know that if you want to tax anybody for the fire department then you are a Communist . . .

KING (voice-over): Everything I saw told me that Byrd had gone insane. The place was full of press agents, remodeled offices, phone banks, all at taxpayer expense, and people busy refusing federal money.

(Chanting followers lead KING to BYRD. The cave is silent except for dripping water as BYRD washes his shaved head.)

BYRD: Are you a liberal tax-raiser?

KING: I'm a senator.

BYRD: You're neither. You are an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks to collect a bill.

(Weird music again as KING wrestles BYRD. Scene is interspersed with violent slashing of social service agencies, child protection programs and universities. A TV camera falls.)

BYRD: The liberals. The liberals.

* * *

COMING SOON: Tallahassee Now Redux.

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