Hospitable people that we are down here, some of the Democrats among us planned Mr. Bush a lively welcome. It did not deter us when it appeared we might be three or four pitiful-looking people out there on the roadside flapping our homemade Go Home signs.
And then, as it turned out, people in the Sierra Club and the National Organization for Women and local progressives and labor and civil rights groups were thinking the same way. So we all joined together to do the thing up right.
The night before the grand arrival of Air Force One, we were up late making signs. Come morning, I pulled my hat down low and put on my shades and started out to the car. A man who was in our house putting down carpet looked up at my sign as I went out. This man wears his long gray hair in a pigtail and he is no stranger to protests.
"Don't get knocked in the head and thrown in jail," he said.
"I feel like billy-club fodder," I said.
The carpet-layer considered, and then he said, "Remember. That's your name, when they ask you. Billy Club Fodder. Stick with it."
So when I get to the gathering place we have a pretty big crowd. Maybe a hundred. We are jubilant in each other's company and not a bit undone that the place we had first been told to stand has been changed from one entry road to another. We wave our signs at the thousand-dollar-a-plate lunchers parading into the hall, all looking rich and terribly pleased and trying not to cast an eye at the rabble.
Between them and us, the road is full of police cars. Really weird, police cars flying American flags as their drivers watch us through their dark reflector shades.
And then a suit comes over. You know him at once -- he wears midnight blue, creases sharp, coat looks like he has been melted and poured into it. His fine black shoes mirror the sun. Perfect. He has his hair trimmed several times a day. Here it comes, I think. My ticket to Guantanamo.
"What's with the pretzel?" the suit asks, peering at my sign. He does not remark about what is printed real big under the pretzel, which is, "Bite Me!"
"Remember that several weeks ago Mr. Bush was injured by biting on a pretzel," I say.
The suit's face contorts. He is dying to laugh at a 70-year-old woman leaning on her walking cane, carrying a sign like that. But he is what he is: a suit. Fast, he turns away and strides down the street to protect his master from other unpatriotic thugs.
Dark helicopters circle and hover in a perfect blue sky. A couple of TV cameramen come by and take pictures of the pretzel sign.
"What is your name?" they ask.
"Billy Club Fodder," I say, enunciating clearly.
"Spell that, please," they say. And I do. They record. No one cracks a smile. Now a young woman taking pictures for a newspaper asks me again, and I tell her.
"Is that hyphenated?" she says.
"Yeah!" I say. "That would be nice."
"Billie Club-Fodder," I watch her write.
All the while the protesters are waving signs that say, "Keep Our Forests Green," and "Give Us Clean Air" and "Keep Abortion Legal," and "We Want Jobs Not Hand-Outs." and as many other issues as there are dangerous teachers and librarians and laid-off millworkers and people like that to hold them aloft.
It occurs to me right now that even with our numbers, we defeat ourselves. Our side is a thousand splinters, each for its own issue, its own gender, its own minority, its interest group. We may stand together here, but we have got to do that better as a party. Because across the road is total unity, with one cause: "I love my money and I am going to keep it."
We have stood for nearly three hours now. We thirst. We need a bathroom. Whatever kind of lunch those people over there substitute for livermush and Twinkies has surely been consumed. And still no Junior Bush.
At last it occurs to someone that we were moved to this spot for a purpose: The royal motorcade has come and gone another way.
This is Bush Country. God forbid that his tender eyes perceive there is dissent. *
Dot Jackson is a writer who lives in Six Mile, SC. She is a former columnist for the Charlotte Observer.