Transcript

242:

Enemy Camp
Transcript

Originally aired 07.18.2003

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Full audio: http://tal.fm/242

Prologue.

Ira Glass

Here's the story the way we usually like it. There's this guy, and he's back behind enemy lines. Maybe he's dropped there in the middle of the night. Maybe he sneaks in under the border. Whatever, he's there. He's been there for a while, months, years maybe. He's in disguise, operating on our behalf. No one suspects. No one can tell. He looks and acts just like them.

And then, they're in their midst for so long, speaking their language, eating their food, breathing their air, watching their TV shows and reading their newspapers, something happens to him. He starts to change. He starts to become more like them.

And then, when it's time for him to strike, to launch his mission against them, he hesitates. He's not sure who he sympathizes with anymore. It's a very romantic idea, this idea of what it means to live inside the enemy's camp. But sometimes this is the way it really happens.

Today on our radio program we have that story happening to several different people in several different places in several different ways. True stories from WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life distributed by Public Radio International. Each week on our program we choose some subject, bring you documentaries, interviews, short fiction, found tape, found writing, anything we can think of on that subject.

I'm Ira Glass, today on our program, Life Behind Enemy Lines, our show in four acts.

Act One, Confession. In that act, the true story of a fixer for the Catholic Church and how he came to sympathize with the people that he was sent to deceive.

Act Two, Blood Agent, how microscopic beings inside you and me can control our thoughts and minds, no kidding.

Act Three, Sleeping With Your Enemy, in which we ask the question, whose side is your girlfriend on? Whose?

And Act Four, Yet Another Ineffective Road Map For World Leadership. In that act, two political enemies try to hang out on each other's turf, get closer to each other, try to become friends. What happens? Stay with us.

Act One. Confession.

Ira Glass

Act One, Confession. This is the story of a young priest who is sent out on a series jobs by church administrators to squelch some problems. And spending time out among the people, he finds it harder and harder to keep doing his job. Carl Marziali tells the tale from Los Angeles.

Carl Marziali

Patrick Wall was just really wanted to be at 26. He was a monk studying theology at St. John's Monastery in rural Minnesota. He lived in a quiet room facing the lake. He looked forward to a life of study and prayer. It was late summer, 1991.

Patrick Wall

The first day that school started out, pretty uneventful, went to morning prayer at seven o'clock like normal. Went down for breakfast like normal. Went back up to my room. Was literally brushing my teeth when there was a knock on my door, which is extremely out of the ordinary. And it was Abbot Jerome Tyson.

Well the Abbot is a very quiet guy, and he usually never went up on that floor of the monastery. So he says, "May I come in." "Yes, Father Abbot, no problem." So he comes in, sits down, and I've got my books out. I've got class in ten minutes. What's up? And he said, "Well, Father Dan Ward has told me that you would be a good person for this particular job. And we have a situation over in St. Mary's hall that we need to be a faculty resident."

Carl Marziali

The faculty resident is the live-in counsellor at the college dorm. The campus at St. John's includes a university.

Patrick Wall

I said "Well I'd love to be a faculty resident someday. I think that's a great idea." And he said, "No, today." And when I asked Abbot Jerome specifically what it was for, what was going on, he said, "Well, I can't tell you that."

We had numerous sexual abuse cases that had been popping up. So ultimately there's only one conclusion that can be drawn, that there was an allegation that they must have thought somewhat credible or probable. And they needed to pull that particular monk and off I went.

Carl Marziali

That afternoon, Wall moved his stuff out of his room and into the freshman dorm. His instructions were simple, put the kids at ease and don't say anything about the monk you're replacing. He organized a pizza party for the students. He told them he was taking over as faculty resident but that he couldn't say why. There were no questions. Wall didn't know it then, but he was being tested. Unfortunately for him, he passed.

His dream was to be a monk as he understood monks to be, devout and learned men who live in monasteries. By showing a knack for damage control, he put himself on a less spiritual path. Before long, the Abbot appointed him to a sexual abuse response team and sent him to the church of St. Elizabeth's in the town of Hastings. He was replacing a pastor who had been withdrawn for what the monastery called "a credible allegation." Wall arrived at St. Elizabeth's on February 2, 1993.

Replacing a pastor is not easy. People in a parish tend to get attached to their priest. Replacing a disgraced pastor is harder. A lot of people believe their priest can do no wrong, and they are not shy about telling his replacement.

Patrick Wall

They were very forward and forthright and angry. And they said, "You know Father, I'm really sad that you're here. I'm really sorry that you had to come because we really liked the other monk. And we don't think he should have been removed." And that was it.

And then I said, "I'm really sorry that that particular monk had to be removed, and I'm here because my abbot asked me to be here." I tried to be as candid and simple as possible, but I felt taken back. And I felt sad from the very beginning. And I didn't enjoy that experience.

Carl Marziali

At first, Wall tried to raise morale. He told parishioners what he himself had been told, that the alleged abuse took place, a., some time ago, and b., somewhere else. But it wasn't long before victims at St. Elizabeth's began coming forward. They would show up unannounced at the rectory, or in the church after mass, and ask to speak to him in private. Then they would start with a tiny revelation.

Patrick Wall

It's unforgettable. It's absolutely unforgettable when they start to tell you. And they only tell you very small, cryptic little things. There are code words for everything. And they broach the subject to see what you're going to do with it and to see if you're going to actually believe them. And obviously I'm 27 years old. I'm not exactly sure what to do with it emotionally. I really had no idea what to do with it.

Carl Marziali

So how did you deal with it when the victim or victims came forward and told you about what had happened? Do you try to comfort them? Do you try to tell them that-- I mean what do you do? Do you try to restore their faith in the church? Or do you just listen and write up a complaint and send it on?

Patrick Wall

You don't even write up a complaint. Basically you get a few of the facts, and then you pass that on to the diocese. And honestly, unfortunately it's easy to deal with because these people never go to church again because they really view that person as representing God. So it's hard for them to publicly ever celebrate or to practice their faith again. So they just disappear honestly.

Carl Marziali

Did you ever wonder whether you should make a special effort when they came to you, beyond the effort that you might make to convince somebody else to come back to the Church? To do something more for these victims or to offer them counseling or something to try to make up for what had happened?

Patrick Wall

It's a difficult situation because you really need to remain neutral. And your natural inclination, especially as priests, is to be sympathetic and to heal. But there's no way that you're going to be allowed to be part of the healing process because ultimately you're part of the defendant. You are the institution that brought about the hurt. And so you really have to put your professional hat on and keep an arm's distance.

Carl Marziali

Wall survived the scandal at St. Elizabeth's, and he helped a superior survive it too. He never told parishioners about the allegations in their parish, and the stories he was hearing in private never became public.

After serving a year at St. Elizabeth's, Wall thought he would come back to the monastery. But near the end of his term, he received a letter from the Abbot instructed him to report to another parish, St. Bernard's. The monk there had been having an affair and paying for it with church money. This was not the assignment Wall had in mind, but part of him was flattered.

Patrick Wall

I felt pretty good about it because all of a sudden, I'm 28 years old and I'm an administrator of a parish. I'm being turned loose as the boss. That's a compliment as far as I'm concerned. And I really felt I was doing the right thing.

Carl Marziali

Not long after Wall arrived at St. Bernard's, an agent from the IRS knocked on his door. The agent presented a bill, payable immediately, for $600,000 in back taxes, interest and penalties for undeclared profits from a church-run lottery. The business manager was not available to answer questions because he had been the other person in the affair and had been removed along with the monk. Wall had to take a crash course in bookkeeping to pay the IRS.

The rest of his time at St. Bernard's, Wall did what every priest does. He celebrated mass, performed weddings and funerals, baptized babies. And he heard confessions, including those of other priests. Despite the headlines, the percentage of priests who have abused minors is relatively low. Celibacy is another story. In a recent Los Angeles Times poll, only one third of priests said they do not waver from the celibate life. After a while, Wall stopped thinking of broken vows as something foreign to his world.

Patrick Wall

Once you see enough people fall, and once you hear enough confessions of different priests, you look at yourself in the mirror and you say, am I really any different? And the chances of me maintaining a celibate way of life without failure along the way are so low that ultimately, either I have to change or the system needs to change.

Carl Marziali

What about-- there must be lot of priests who believe in being priests and have decided that the rule of celibacy is nonsense, and so are willing to lead a double life of sorts. Was that something that you considered?

Patrick Wall

No, that's really not my personality. I'm a terrible liar. I turn red. I'm just really bad. And I had seen priests who maintained heterosexual relationships with women. And I saw the effects of it because it's a life of contradiction. Because the relationship is there, it's exclusive, but you can't profess it and everyone around you knows what's going on. And that's not happiness. That's not a true coming together. I just couldn't see myself doing that. That's just not me.

Carl Marziali

After St. Bernard's, the assignments kept coming. The next one was an affair between a priest and a nun. After that, a new parish where a teacher had abused a student and the priest was living with his housekeeper. Four years, four parishes, four scandals. There are good, dedicated priests out there, but they're not the ones who get replaced. By the very nature of his job, Wall was acquiring a skewed and depressing view of the priesthood.

Carl Marziali

Did you ever ask not to be given those assignments?

Patrick Wall

Yeah, I did. And I specifically asked to be able to come back to the prep school and teach. But the needs of the monastery were so great at that point that again, it was only going to be another year. I was only going to have to go to St. Bernard's for another year. So it sounds like a bad construction deal, two more weeks. Give me two more weeks and we'll be done. And it just kept going on. It kept going on.

Carl Marziali

Meanwhile, the monks he replaced were getting exactly what Wall himself had asked for. They were going back to the monastery, permanently.

Patrick Wall

I'd run across them at community meetings and whenever we had chapter votes and all that. And it's hard not to be judgmental. The other thing I found hard was that my whole career path was driven by other people's mistakes. And that's the last thing I ever expected in monastic life. I really expected to work in a parish for a year, to go off to grad school, come back, teach, coach football at the university. And to live a pretty darn good life, a balance between prayer, and teaching, and working as a teacher. So they changed my career path. They changed my whole trajectory in life.

Carl Marziali

Without fully realizing it, Wall had been initiated into a brotherhood of priests known informally as fixers or cleaners. They replace problem priests, they hide things in the archives, they reassure the faithful. In short, they make it all go away. Visually, he was perfect for the job. He was barrel-chested, a former offensive lineman on the St. John's football team. He was young, friendly. He was the anti-stereotype of a troubled monk. The Abbott couldn't have found a better prospect if he had picked a model out of a catalog. But Wall did more than just PR. He became familiar with the law of the church called canon law, specifically with the different archives canon law sets up for storing and hiding information.

Patrick Wall

First is a historical archives, which is just a names, dates, people, those kinds of things. Then you have the secret archives.

Carl Marziali

The secret archives, is that literally what they're called, the secret archives? I mean why were they set up?

Patrick Wall

They're set up for the protection of individuals. So that the bishop has the responsibility to take things that would be consider scandalous, things that might hurt individuals' reputations, and to be able to place them there so they wouldn't easily be exposed.

Carl Marziali

OK, when you call it the secret archives though, it makes it sound sinister. It makes it sound like it's there for the protection, to really protect the Church. I'm not saying that's what it is, but that's how it sounds. I mean what really is the purpose of these so called secrets? Why can't everything be in the personnel records and then some items just be labeled "Confidential" or whatever.

Patrick Wall

Well you have to do give Rome credit. I mean they have wonderful procedure. These are things that have worked out for centuries. And that has always been the secret to one of the defenses of the Church. If you don't know what you're asking for, they don't have to produce it.

Carl Marziali

Did you ever-- when you were working for the Church, cleaning up these situations of abuse and having to tell parishioners some of the facts but not all of the facts about what was going on-- did you ever feel complicit in the cover up of all of this?

Patrick Wall

I have some regrets, but I think I did it in good faith because, as I was taught and as I believe, that was my role, to help the Church in the long run and to be obedient to what I was asked to do. And it's only later on that, as I had greater experience, I couldn't support it any longer. And I felt that if I was going to stay, I was going to not only support it, but I was going to get deeper into it. I was going to be asked to do other assignments to follow pedophiles. I was going to be asked to be on the finance council to try to figure out ways to mitigate the huge financial cost of childhood sexual abuse by priests and the religious.

And I remember having an epiphany and sitting on the porch at St. Mary's in Stillwater. And that's when I came to the conclusion that this is pretty much going to be my career path. I'd be there for another year or two as the administrator. And then I would go on to another assignment. And I just couldn't do it any longer.

Carl Marziali

After four years of deceiving the faithful about the extent of priestly misconduct, of protecting the institution over the health and welfare of the victims, of covering for the perpetrators and letting the problem fester, Patrick Wall decided he was on the wrong side. On July 31, 1998, Wall quit the priesthood. He was 33 years old.

Leaving was difficult. If you want to leave honorably, you need permission, which doesn't come easily or quickly. It took more than a year in Wall's case. Then, once you're out, there are practical challenges, like trying to get a job with a Master of Theology on your resume. In the end, it was his experience as a fixer that translated best to the real world. Wall read an Op-Ed in the LA Times by John Manly, an attorney who sues the Church on behalf of sexual abuse victims.

Patrick Wall

He essentially separated himself amongst all the different attorneys in saying that we need to protect the sheep and not the shepherd. It's not the problem of the victims. It's not the problem of the particular perpetrators per se or some particular issue like homosexuality or whatever. The problem is within the institution itself.

Carl Marziali

By this point, Wall was convinced that lawsuits were the only way to reform the Church. He called Manly and offered to help. Soon they were on the phone constantly. Wall took him step by step through Church bureaucracy. Manly was amazed.

Patrick Wall

John didn't know all the different documents that are out there. And then John would be working on things, and he'd call me up and say, "Dude, what do I do with this? What does this mean? What am I supposed to do with it? What are other things? Where else can I look?" And I remember I think he was quite surprised when I showed him the penal code of canon law and exactly what we need to ask for. He just couldn't believe that it was there, that they would have that level of sophistication.

Carl Marziali

Wall started working for Manly's law firm full time in October of 2002. Using his knowledge of Latin and Italian, he translates and interprets Church records. He helps the firm identify and request key documents like psychological assessments of priests from the secret archives. The fact that he switched sides, that he's fighting the Church, doesn't seem to trouble him. He believes he's doing what God wants him to do, which is what he's always believed.

There's another part to Wall's job at the firm, which doesn't have anything to do with case law. Last week, he stayed on the phone with a man for an hour and a half, listening to him talk about the priest who abused him and who might still be hurting other people. Wall finds himself talking to victims about all kinds of things, everything he was not allowed to talk about before back when he was a priest.

Patrick Wall

I feel I really do pastoral work when I'm working with victims every day on every single issue.

Carl Marziali

Before you were part of a holy order, and now you're working with a bunch of lawyers. And it's hard to know these days where priests belong on the ethical ladder, but most people know exactly where to put lawyers. And so it's just odd to hear you talk about this work being more fulfilling in some ways than what you were doing before.

Patrick Wall

Well we're dealing with people at the lowest ebb of where they're at. They're dealing with the greatest pain they've ever experienced. And one of the greatest things that we find is that they can no longer participate in the sacramental life of the Church because of the seven sacraments, the one thing that's really clear is that it takes a priest to administer the sacrament. And every sacrament is either through touching or it's through breath, through words. It's in close proximity to the priest. And that is the symbol of their abuse. So we're dealing with some of the most damaged people within the church, and it is a very fulfilling ministry, I find, in being pastoral to be with them. Because honestly, we're one of the few symbols of hope that they have. Patrick

Carl Marziali

Wall is married now. He and his wife have a two year old daughter, who they plan to send to Catholic school. They all go to mass every Sunday.

Ira Glass

Carl Marziali attends mass with his family in Los Angeles. Coming up, Enemies On Our Turf, controlling the minds of ants, or rats, and of you and me. This is not some whacked out conspiracy theory my friend, this is science. Proof in a minute, from Chicago Public Radio and Public Radio International, when our program continues.

[MUSIC - "HUNU" BY DEERHOOF]

Act Two. Blood Agent.

Ira Glass

It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Each week on our program, of course, we choose some theme, bring your a variety of different kinds of stories on that theme. Today's program, Enemy Camp, stories of what it means to work behind enemy lines. We've arrived at Act Two of our program. Act Two, Blood Agent.

Nature, it turns out, is full of enemy agents, living behind enemy lines, doing their work. Parasites, they're literally parasites. Carl Zimmer has written a book about the different strategies that these parasites use to survive. And it makes for weirdly compelling reading. For one thing, who knew how prevalent they were?

Carl Zimmer

Most creatures on Earth are living inside an enemy. And they are trying to fight that enemy, trying to survive, trying to outwit.

Ira Glass

Just to give people a sense of the range of things that different parasites do, could you tell the story of the parasite that gets into ants, the lancet fluke?

Carl Zimmer

Sure, well the lancet fluke is a kind of flat worm. It starts out as an egg on the ground. And a snail comes along and eats the egg. And it irritates the snail system so eventually it coughs it up. And so there you have this clump of snail goo with a parasite in it. And while it's disgusting to us, to an ant there's nothing more delicious than snail goo. So the ant comes along, and it eats the snail goo and the parasite along with it.

So now you have these flukes inside the ant. And once they recognize that they're inside the ant, they start doing some strange things. Sort of as the sun is starting to go down while the other ants are probably heading back to the nest, it gets this uncontrollable urge to climb upward. It wants to climb up. And what it generally does is it climbs up a blade of grass.

Ira Glass

And what's the advantage to the parasite for the ant to be up there?

Carl Zimmer

Well it's not too obvious at first. I mean it's not like the parasite wants to take in a better view. The thing is that there are these grazing mammals, sheep, cows. And that's one of their favorite grazing times, towards the end of the day. So the ant goes up there. Sheep comes along, chews on the grass. The ant gets eaten, chewed up, dies. But the flukes inside the ant, they can survive the digestive acids in the sheep's stomach. And actually sheep are where they like to live. They are their final host.

Ira Glass

What's so amazing about that is not just the control that the parasite is having over the ant. That life cycle that you're describing is so complicated. It's having to go through three different animals over the course of its normal life cycle.

Carl Zimmer

Yeah, there are actually some parasites that go through six or seven different animals to get through their life cycle. It's mind boggling.

Ira Glass

It's really hard to talk about without ascribing an intentionally to them, which they don't have consciousness. They don't have brains in any way. It's hard for us to even understand what they're doing without putting that on them.

Carl Zimmer

Yeah I think because in a sense they are using us, or using other animals or other hosts in such an intentional way. And they seem to know so much. How does, say, a tapeworm inside a fish know that if it makes it flick and flail in a certain way that it'll be easier for a bird to see it so they can get inside that bird where it wants to be? It's amazing. And not only do they not have brains, a lot of them don't even have nerves. So it's just this sinister chemical wisdom they have.

Ira Glass

And it seems like all the parasites break down into two different groups. There are the kinds that actually get inside a host and then kill it off in their drive to survive in there. And then there are others, which actually just live inside and are happily living inside forever. They want the host to survive. Could you just tell the example of the creature that eats the fish's tongue?

Carl Zimmer

Yeah, this is a particularly creepy one. The parasite in question is called an isopod, which is a kind of crustacean. It looks like a little pill bug or something but it lives in the water. And what it does is it swims into the mouth of a snapper, a fish. And when it's in there, it eats that fish's tongue. It just devours the tongue completely. But just the tongue. It stops there.

But now this isopod, this parasite, does something very weird. It turns around so it's facing front. And hunkers down exactly where the tongue used to be. So if you look in one of these fish's mouths, you see this tongue that has these little eyes on the end of it. It's amazing. And what scientists think then happens is that the fish can then use the parasite as its tongue. It'll go out, catch some food, catch a fish. And will crush up the food on the back of this parasite. The fish I guess doesn't mind too much if it can still get its meal. And the fish can then get back to its life.

Ira Glass

Some of these stories just are such gross out stories on a visceral level.

Carl Zimmer

Well, it's funny because it disturbs us when we talk about that when it comes to parasites, but I mean why doesn't it disturb when we talk about a lion? We name football teams after lions. But we don't name football teams after tapeworms. You don't have the Chicago Tapeworms or something like that. We don't want to think about it. But we admire these predators. But what are these predators doing? These predators are taking advantage of these other life forms. They're just eating them from the outside I guess you could say. But I mean to my mind, it's just a lot more cool when they're on the inside trying to figure out how to how to make this work.

Ira Glass

You write, "parasitologists tend to fall in love with the parasites they study." Talk about one of the ones that you fell in love with.

Carl Zimmer

I was sort of amazed by blood flukes. They cause this disease called bilharzia or schistosomiasis. And you have to be careful if you were to swim in the pond, say in Tanzania, chances are there are these blood flukes swimming around. And they look like a little missile. They're whipping around through the water looking for human skin. And they plunge in. They have these little chemicals on their surface that let them burrow their way into your skin like it was butter or something. And then they will travel through the arteries. And they might go through your body like three times before they end up in the place they want to be, which is your liver.

And blood flukes come in males and females. And females are long and thin. And the males have a funny shape. They're like a canoe with little spikes in the trough. And once they find a mate, the female will lock in to the trough of the male. And they'll just lock in together. And once they've done that, they're ready to go. They decide, this is who I want to be with for the rest of my life in this human host. And so they are riding through your body, locked together on this journey, this romantic tunnel of love I guess.

Ira Glass

You write that it's the most monogamous couple on Earth.

Carl Zimmer

Yeah I mean they are incredibly monogamous. These parasites aren't just faithful to each other. They are physically connected to each other for their whole life. And a scientist will sometimes try to pull them apart, see what happens. They crawl right back together again.

Ira Glass

Thinking about this as much as you have, do you start to see everything as being parasites?

Carl Zimmer

I see a lot of things as being like parasites. Parasites are the most successful life form on Earth. And there could be as many as three parasites for every one free living species. It's hard to say. And if you're not a species that is living inside another thing, then you're a species with something living inside of you.

Ira Glass

Is one side winning?

Carl Zimmer

I'd say the parasites have the upper hand because they're just doing so very well.

Ira Glass

The parasites have the upper hand?

Carl Zimmer

Sure, yeah, I mean they have the most species. They're getting around all these defenses. I mean there are things they do that either we don't know how they do it, or if we know how they do it, we can't reproduce it. We just stand in awe of it.

Ira Glass

I know but we know about them. They don't know about us. We're the ones with the brains and the thinking and the consciousness.

Carl Zimmer

Well then maybe you're over-selling your brain. I mean the brain is a wonderful thing but these parasites are able to pull the strings in those brains in a lot of cases. Say for example, a rat. Rats are very smart animals. I mean they know how to learn. They know how to figure out their surroundings. But there is a parasite called toxoplasma, a single cell parasite. And they pick it up on the ground. And when it gets into them, they suddenly lose their fear of the smell of cats. Otherwise they're totally the same. Then the cat eats them. And then toxoplasma gets into its final host, which is a cat. So even though you have a brain, you're still being pushed toward your doom by this single cell parasite.

Ira Glass

Mr. Zimmer, whose side are you on?

Carl Zimmer

I think I'm on the parasite's side when it comes to getting a bad rap. I'm their PR man.

Ira Glass

Because Mr. Zimmer, at some point we're all going to have to choose sides in this war. Speaking for the other humans, I want to say you're either with us or against us.

Carl Zimmer

Well, it's funny, I have not gotten seriously sick in my life, knock on wood. And I have actually gone to places where there are a lot of parasites around in order to report on how people are dealing with them. And I didn't get sick. I was really scared, but I didn't get sick. I didn't get malaria. I didn't get river blindness. I didn't get sleeping sickness.

Ira Glass

Wait a second. Are you saying this because they could sense that you are in league with them?

Carl Zimmer

Who knows? Maybe they think I'm here to serve their purpose.

Ira Glass

Carl Zimmer, his book, the perfect reading material if you ever want to have a long talk with an eight year old boy, is Parasite Rex.

[MUSIC - "I LIVE OFF YOU" BY X-RAY SPEX]

Act Three. And I Love Her.

Ira Glass

Act Three, Sleeping With Your Enemy. We have this story about what is hidden inside us, the secret agents within from writer Etgar Keret. Among other things, he says it is a story about his real life girlfriend. Actor Matt Malloy reads it for us. A warning to listeners before we begin. This story mentions the existence of sex.

Matt Malloy

Surprised? Of course I was surprised. You go out with a girl, first date, second date, a restaurant here, a movie there, always just matinees. You start sleeping together. Sex is dynamite, and pretty soon there's feeling too.

And then one day she arrives all weepy. And you hug her and tell her to take it easy, everything's OK. She says she can't stand it anymore, she has this secret, not just a secret, something really awful, a curse, something she's been wanting to tell you the whole time but she didn't have the guts. This thing, it's been weighing down on her like a ton of bricks, and now she's got to tell you. She's simply got to.

But she knows that as soon as she does, you'll leave her. And you'd be absolutely right too. And right after that, she starts crying all over again. "I won't leave you," you tell her. "I won't. I love you." You may look a little upset, but you're not. And even if you are, it's about her crying, not about her secret. You know by now that these secrets that always make a woman fall to pieces are usually nothing. And you hug them and say it's all right. It's OK. Or shhh, if they don't stop.

"It's something really terrible," she insists, as if she's picked up on how nonchalant you are about it even though you tried to hide it. "In the pit of your stomach it may sound terrible," you tell her, "but that's mostly because of the acoustics. As soon as you let it out, it won't seem nearly as bad. You'll see." And she almost believes it. She hesitates a minute and then asks, "What if I told you that at night I turn into a heavy, harry man with no neck, with a gold ring on his pinky? Would you still love me?"

And you tell are of course you would. What else can you say, that you wouldn't? She's simply trying to test you, to see whether you love her unconditionally. And you've always been a winner at tests. Truth is, as soon as you say it, she melts. And you screw right there in the living room. And afterwards, you lie there holding each other tight, and she cries because she's so relieved. And you cry too. Go figure.

And unlike all the other times, she doesn't get up and leave. She stays there and falls asleep. You lie awake, looking at her beautiful body, at the sunset outside, at the moon appearing as if out of nowhere, at the silvery light flickering over her body, stroking the hair on her back. And within less than five minutes, you find yourself lying next to this guy. This short, fat guy.

And the guy gets up and smiles at you and gets dressed awkwardly. He leaves the room and you follow him spellbound. He's in the den now. His thick fingers fiddling with the remote, zapping to the sports channels, championship football. When they miss a pass, he curses the TV. When they score, he gets up and does this little victory dance. After the game, he tells you that his throat is dry and his stomach is growling. He could really use a beer and a nice hunk of meat. Well done if possible with lots of onion rings. But he'd settle for some pork chops too.

So you get in the car and take him to this restaurant that he knows about and you don't. This new twist has you worried. It really does, but you have no idea what to do about it. Your command and control centers are down. You shift gears at the exit in a daze. He's right there beside you in the passenger seat tapping that gold ring pinky of his. At the next intersection, he rolls down his window, winks at you and yells at this chick who's thumbing a ride. "Hey baby, wanna play nanny goat and ride in the back?"

Later the two of you pack in the steak and the chops and the onion rings till you're about to explode. And he enjoys every bite and laughs like a baby. And all that time you keep telling yourself, it's got to be a dream, a bizarre dream, yes, but definitely one that you'll snap out of any minute. On the way back, you ask him where to let him off, and he pretends not to hear you. But he looks despondent. So you wind up taking him back home with you. It's almost 3:00 AM. "I'm gonna hit the sack," you tell him. And he waves to you, stays in the beanbag chair staring at the fashion channel.

You wake up the next morning exhausted with a slight stomach ache. And there she is in the living room still dozing. By the time you've had your shower, she's up. She hugs you guiltily, and you're too embarrassed to say anything. Time goes by and you're still together. The sex just gets better and better. And she's not so young anymore, neither are you, and suddenly you find yourself talking about a baby.

And at night, you and the fatso guy hit the town like you've never done in your life. He takes you to restaurants and bars you didn't even know existed. And you dance on tables together, break plates like there's no tomorrow. He's really nice, the fatso guy, a little crass, especially with women. Sometimes coming out with things that make you just want to die. But other than that, he's great fun to be with.

When you first met him, you didn't give a damn about football, but now you know every team. And whenever one of your favorites wins, you feel like you've made a wish and it's come true, which is a pretty exceptional feeling for someone like who hardly knows what he wants most of the time. And so it goes. Every night you fall asleep with him struggling to stay awake for the early scores on ESPN. And in the morning, there she is, the beautiful, forgiving woman that you love too. Till it hurts.

Ira Glass

Matt Mallow, reading Etgar Keret's story, "Fatso." Keret is the author of a book of evocative, fable-like stories of every day life called The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God. His story was translated into English by Miriam Shlesinger.

[MUSIC - "SHE'S GOT EVERYTHING" BY THE KINKS]

Act Four. Yet Another Ineffective Road Map For World Leadership.

Ira Glass

Act Four, this is the story of people trying to take the high road. They are enemies, political enemies living in each other's midst trying to get along. It takes place in a mostly conservative town of just 5,000 people in upstate New York. Blue Chevigny has the story.

Blue Chevigny

Kathy and Joy can't quite recall the first time they talked to each other. But the one thing they're both very clear on is that their friendship started some time after they'd already seen each other dozens of times, protesting on opposite sides of Main Street, on opposite sides of an issue.

Joy

It was probably some comment one of us made about the other one's sign or something along that line.

Kathy

But you don't usually hold signs. You usually held the flag and waved, so I don't know. It could have been about that the fact that people would often drive by and beep. Remember this? They'd drive by and beep. And they'd either wave at Joy and flip me the bird. Or they'd beep and they'd wave at me and flip Joy the bird simultaneously.

Blue Chevigny

Kathy, an ordained minister in her late 40s with short salt and pepper hair, was protesting the war in Iraq every night at 7:00, standing with signs in the central square of her hometown with a dozen other people since the fall of 2002 before the war began. And across the street, from her window at work, Joy watched this night after night and got angrier and angrier. Joy's a blond woman in her early 30s who works at a stock photo company just down the street from the square.

Joy

I had heard the group, Not In Our Name. I'd heard of them. And I thought well, not in my name are they going to stand out there and protest against my country and my president and whatnot. And so that's what inspired me.

Blue Chevigny

So one day, she invited her father, who also supported the war, to come out and protest the protesters. She stood across the street from them, waved a big flag and smiled at passersby. She tried to go there every night, sometimes with one or two others, but often alone. Over time, it got more and more intense. Kathy, the anti-war one, started coming to the town square by herself at all hours of the day to collect for UNICEF Iraq as an act of solidarity with the Iraqi people and the United Nations, which had refused to support the war.

In response, Joy started coming to her spot, in the mornings before work as well as after, to counteract Kathy's near constant presence. And it was during one of those times, when they were both standing by themselves, that they struck up a friendship. This is Joy.

Joy

She's come over and stood with me. She's even borrowed my flag one day. I have a big three by five flag on a pole.

Blue Chevigny

What did you borrow the flag for?

Joy

To burn.

Kathy

Why did I borrow the flag? Because I really believed that it's important for the protesters to hold on to the flag.

Blue Chevigny

How did you feel about that?

Joy

It was fine with me. It's the flag, why not share it? It's a symbol of everything that we hold dear. And don't we want to share that with everybody?

Blue Chevigny

They got to know each other better as the weeks went by. They found that they had a surprising number of things in common, not just the flag. They both had family members in the military who were in active duty in Iraq. And they would fill each other in on any news about them when they saw each other each day. Joy came to know Kathy's favorite lunch and coffee spots on Main Street. They had a similar sense of humor.

But the thing that they both felt the most strongly was their pride. That in spite of their political differences, they were able to bridge the gap between them and make peace unlike the rest of the world.

Joy

I think that we have found a lot of common ground.

Kathy

I think that we're doing in this small town between us what I'd like to see our political leaders do more of.

Blue Chevigny

Not that they didn't have their problems with each other. At one point our conversation, Joy, the pro-war one, listed off her current complaints about Kathy and the other anti-war protesters. They had taken over the village square, trampling and killing the grass and leaving their peace signs behind when they went for dinner or left overnight. Kathy sat quietly through this, though you could see her seething. Joy just seemed spurred on by that.

Joy

And I feel like it's disrespectful, really, to leave all that stuff there all the time people.

Kathy

You seem a little mad the way you're talking.

Joy

I'm not mad. Are you mad? You're mad?

Kathy

Sure.

Joy

You're mad at me?

Kathy

I'm just mad in general.

Blue Chevigny

Kathy went on to say she was mad because she felt like President Bush had manipulated the public into believing they had something to fear from Iraq, that he had scared the American people.

Kathy

So I think yes, President Bush, congratulations, you've done it. Thank [BLEEP] you.

Joy

Nice language for a minister.

Kathy

Presbyterian Church by the way.

Joy

Are Presbyterian ministers allowed to swear?

Kathy

Are Christians allowed to kill?

Joy

Yes.

Kathy

Ten commandments. Don't go to [UNINTELLIGIBLE].

Joy

Wait a second no. Because the ten commandments, if you look back at the original that it was written in, it's not that "Thou shalt not kill," it's "Thou shalt not murder."

Kathy

Oh that's better.

Blue Chevigny

Kathy widened her eyes and shook her head. Joy continued.

Joy

I'll tell you what. I'll tell you what Kathy, I really believe there's nothing I could say that would ever convince you. There's nothing I could say that would ever convince you because I think you've made your mind that you're against the war but no matter what. No matter what anybody says. What if we find nuclear weapons there? What if we find--

Kathy

Guess what, you're right. You're right about me.

Joy

That wouldn't even matter to you would that they find nuclear weapons. That they find-- so really.

Kathy

Right.

Blue Chevigny

And then they simply stopped talking about it. Kathy calmly stated she needed to go to get back to the square and her collecting for UNICEF. They said no hard feelings, and laughed and hugged before she took off. That was in April. US troops were still fighting their way to Baghdad.

As I was leaving town that night, I thought it seemed so idyllic, these people in this little town who are able to be friends in spite of their staunchly opposed political views. Protesters from opposite camps don't usually sit down for coffee together at the end of the day. This seemed like a braver story, a story about putting yourself out on a limb more. In a small community, you can't ignore your opponent's in conflict, so you might as well walk across the street and shake their hand, introduce yourself, become friends.

A couple of weeks after I talked to them, I called Kathy to check in and her husband answered the phone. Apparently there had been some developments since my last visit. Kathy and Joy's ideal-seeming friendship wasn't working so ideally anymore. I drove back up there, but this time Kathy and Joy asked to be interviewed separately.

Remember how Joy was upset that the anti-war protesters had been trampling the grass in the town square? Well she and a few others went to the town board and requested formally that it be reseeded. The newly seeded area was cordoned off with yellow police tape that said "Crime Scene" on it. The peace protesters now had to stand outside of that area.

Then one night, just before President Bush declared an end to active combat in Iraq, Kathy and Joy had a run-in. Kathy was with four or five other peace viligers. Joy was with her father, Walter. And it was his sign about UNICEF that sent Kathy over the edge. By then she'd spent all winter, hundreds of hours, on the square collecting for UNICEF. She'd averaged $9 an hour, a total of just under $2,000.

Kathy

They held up a sign that said, "UNICEF is a bad investment." I said "Oh Walter, come on. That's not very nice." And I turned to the adults with me and said, "I'm really angry. You're going to have to help me with this. I'm really, really angry because this feels like a personal jab at what I'm doing and I don't know what I'm going to do in response." The only advice I got was from Azim who said "follow your conscience, Kathy."

Azim

I could see her jaw muscles set and her facial composure become rigid.

Blue Chevigny

This is Azim, Kathy's friend and fellow vigiler.

Azim

And then she half turned to me and said, "Talk me out of what I'm about to do." And I thought, oh my god, she's going to go over and assault them or start screaming or something. Don't do that Kathy. But my response, "Kathy, you're a big girl and you can do whatever you feel you need to do."

Kathy

The only thing that I double checked on was, "Kathy do you think that the grass seed has germinated yet?" The answer was-- my conscious said no. And I crossed the yellow ribbon and stood there, just glaring at Walter and Joy.

Blue Chevigny

She was standing in the middle of the newly seeded grass. Her fellow vigilers looked away. Joy watched from across the street.

Joy

I was just so shocked that she did it. It was like, if she was mad at me or my dad, that was kind of-- why stand on the grass? I mean that like an attack on the whole village if you will. That was a statement to the whole village. It wasn't like it was to us.

Blue Chevigny

Did she associate you with the grass being reseeded?

Joy

Well I did ask to have the grass reseed. But a lot of people in the village had been asking the board to have the grass reseeded. Within a half hour, a police car pulled up. It was a young officer, someone who used to mow Kathy's lawn. He told her she would have to step off the grass or she'd be arrested. Soon backup arrived. Facing two officers, Kathy made a decision to be arrested. She was driven to the town police station, charged with disorderly conduct, given a court date and sent on her way. Here's Joy again.

Joy

She took it very, very personally instead of that it was directed-- the sign was regarding UNICEF. She felt like it was personal. At least that's what I've read in the paper.

Blue Chevigny

Since that night, Joy and Kathy haven't spoken. At her court date, Kathy's charge was reduced to six months probation. And since the incident, both women have avoided the town square. Joy's never gone back to wave her flag, and Kathy's doing most of her protesting and collecting elsewhere. Joy has seen her a few times from her car.

Joy

I've to catch her eye a couple times, and she sees me coming and looks the other way.

Blue Chevigny

What if you two ran into each other in the supermarket? What do you think would happen?

Joy

I don't know. I mean I would be like, "Hi Kathy. How are you doing?" And just talk to her. I don't know what her reaction is. I wouldn't even know what her reaction might be.

Blue Chevigny

I asked Kathy what she thinks will happen when they meet.

Kathy

I picture that she would be the bigger of the two of us and would initiate reconciliation. I do.

Blue Chevigny

So you're not mad at her.

Kathy

I won't say that.

Blue Chevigny

But you would accept a gesture of reconciliation? You would reconcile?

Kathy

I don't know. I don't know. I'm still angry. I don't think it's rational. It's hard to live up to. It's hard to live up to what I wish. It's struggling to live up with the failure in myself and in the world. Oh yeah, there's a big contradiction here. I was holding a sign that said "Imagine Dialogue." And I realized there are some people I don't want to dialogue with.

Blue Chevigny

I reminded Kathy what she said to me a month before about our political leaders and how she'd like to see them act more like her and Joy. Now that she and Joy weren't talking, she said she was appreciating the many advantages of not being world leaders.

Kathy

I think sometimes you need to pull away. Joy and I have the luxury of time to do that. The entire fate of the universe isn't resting on our shoulders so we have time to pull away so that we can come back and try again.

Blue Chevigny

On way out of town, I interviewed some women in a local cafe. They were opposed to the war, and thought the vigils were a good thing. They told me, though, that I had stumbled into the cafe where I would find all the liberals. That if I wanted to find people who were in favor of the war, I should go right next door to the diner where the clientele was all right wing. They said the restaurants clearly divided up along political lines.

I went next door and the tables were populated with older couples. The manager asked if she could help me with something. I asked her if would be OK to talk with some customers for a radio story. She asked what the topic was, and I told her it was about the protests up the street and I was looking for people's opinions. Her eyes literally narrowed. She said, "I have no comment, and I'd rather you not bother my customers during their lunch." Then she watched me until I was out the door.

And of course, this is the way it goes. Most people don't want a fight. Most people don't want to argue politics. And so the liberals stick with the liberals, and the conservatives stick with the conservatives. And who's got the energy for a constant meeting of the minds? What's more surprising than the fact that Kathy and Joy's friendship seems to have ended is that it ever happened in the first place.

Ira Glass

Blue Chevigny in New York City.

[ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS]

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[FUNDING CREDITS]

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Matt Malloy

Hey baby, wanna play nanny goat and ride in the back?

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass. Back next week with more stories of This American Life.

Announcer

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