Volume 29, Number 3

Resistance is in the Blood

Fred Schepartz

Editor’s Note: The publishing of this story breaks a longstanding practice of not publishing my own work. I am violating my own policy, in this case, because this story needs to be unleashed into the world now.
The reason for such urgency will be quite obvious upon reading this story. We live in an age of tyrants and dictators, but we have the power to stem that tide this fall—get out and vote!

As I resolve to put pen to paper, I do so with the full knowledge that I am neither handling a pen nor touching paper.

Ah, it is a brave new world, so it would seem, though for one such as myself who has seen so much over the duration of my long existence, perhaps this world is not so new, nor so brave.

But I get ahead of myself. Oh, dear reader, I am certain you have so many questions, for it has been a long time since we have last spoken. Yes, I am still suffering the purgatory of employment. Still I drive at Co-op Cab, but I certainly have an escape plan, which I must unleash soon, for I cannot maintain this monkeyshine much longer before even my most mild-mannered fellow workers start getting suspicious that I seemed to age very little, if at all. A few years back, I was poised to unleash my plan, but alas, forces beyond my control foiled my plan. That, however, is a tale for another occasion.

Of course, had my grand scheme been executed to fruition, I would have missed the events of 2011 when tens of thousands of educators and other civil servants, along with unionists and assorted allies, descended upon this capital city to protest the machinations of a band of tin-plated tyrants. Perhaps at another time, I would have applauded the actions of Scott Walker and his ilk, but now I am a working person and thus appreciate their plight. Those were heady times, with resistance in the air, and as I personally observed, resistance in the blood. Sadly, the tyrants won that battle, but I now see resistance rising again. And I know what happens to tyrants in the end.

Oh, but here I go again, rambling when there is a tale to tell that compelled me to put pen to paper, as it were.

Much has changed in the last 30 years. Downtown Madison has metamorphosed into a deep canyon defined by arrogantly designed high-rise apartments. These post-modern monstrosities serve as monuments to their architect’s vanity as well as satisfying the avaricious taste of wealthy out-of-state University students and housing the thousands employed by Epic Systems, a medical software giant that has grown by leaps and bounds since its humble beginnings.

And yes, software, hardware, the digital age—this has been the incredible change. Ah, but dear reader, I am, as Kern is fond of saying, going to throw you a curve ball. You perhaps expect cheap, fish-out-of-water jokes about the 1000-year-old vampire who cannot use a computer or program a DVD player.

But as I said, this brave new world is not necessarily so new. The computer in my home and the tablet that we use to dispatch calls to drivers are not so unfamiliar to one such as me. In fact, I have seen this before, this window to a larger world. Once upon a time, one with proper knowledge and skill could see the entire world through a scrying glass. Sadly, the Age of Reason eliminated this arcane science, and it took a few hundred years to reclaim it, though as Ed Simon wrote about John Dee’s Aztec Mirror, “Instead of scrivening mirrors we have computers and they operate not on unseen angels, but on unseen electrons.”

So yes, not so new. And not so brave.

The problem with windows that open out to the entire world is that those windows can go both ways, and sometimes something dark and unwanted may arrive at your doorstep. Today’s Aztec Mirrors have allowed entrance to many dark forces, not the least of which are those infernal Uber and Lyft so-called rideshare services that steal the goodwill and livelihoods of those such as myself who work in the taxi industry. Those scofflaws receive no training or supervision and are allowed to drive for hire despite sham criminal background checks. They are a menace whose crimes in Madison alone include robbery, assault and battery, rape and negligence extreme enough to cause the death of a passenger.

They arrived quietly a few years ago and operated without following Madison taxi regulations. When the City moved to regulate them, they greased sufficient palms in the capitol to compel the legislature to intervene and prohibit local control over rideshare companies. Thus, they get to operate without regulations within a regulated industry.

Only a fool would be surprised that villainy would ensue.

But thus, I will say that while they can steal the goodwill of the industry, they cannot steal the excellent reputation of Co-op Cab. We survive and perhaps are on the way to thriving once again.

I, however, hatched my own plan of action.

It was a warm mid-spring evening. Kern wished to enjoy the yearly, local ritual known as Madison Craft Beer week. I wished to enjoy my friend’s company, so I agreed to serve as his chauffeur. We settled on the sidewalk patio at a so-Wisconsin-aptly-named establishment called The Tipsy Cow, which sat at an intersection of diagonal and 90-degree streets that spoke off the Capitol Square to form a small plaza. Such intersections form small plazas at each of the Square’s four corners. Even though it was merely a Tuesday evening, the patio was full, the small plaza a beehive of activity with young, neatly dressed denizens traversing hither and thither.

And a constant stream of Ubers and Lyfts loading and unloading mere feet from us.

Kern took a long swig of a limited-release rum-barrel-aged Russian imperial stout. “Goddamit! Look at that shit.” He took another long sip, downing nearly half the glass. “I just don’t get it. How can people be so stupid.”

“It is these Epic children,” I replied calmly. “They are like young people everywhere. They think what is newest is best.”

“Idiots,” Kern spat and jerked his thumb toward King Street where a young couple exited a Lyft, crossed the street and made a beeline to the Maduro, a cigar bar next to the Tipsy Cow. “They never park on the right side of the street. They’re gonna get somebody killed. These drivers don’t know where they’re going. Fuck, they’d be lost without their GPS.”

I smiled broadly. I suddenly found that I had an idea.


My next shift was two evenings later. I sat at the Concourse Hotel taxi stand, biding my time until such time that later-evening flights were due to land. A black Prius with an Uber sticker pulled into the loading zone in front of me, a good 20 yards away from the hotel’s entrance. A pair of casually dressed younger men got out of the Uber and walked toward the hotel.

The Prius pulled away from the curb. I followed the Uber at a discreet distance until it parked a block past the Madison Public Library. I pulled around the corner, parked and did a cursory check for foot traffic. The street was quiet. Unless the security cameras had been moved, I was parked in a blind spot.

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and willed my cells to spread apart and disperse into a thin cloud of mist, then rematerialized in the front passenger seat of the Uber. The driver looked like he was maybe 20 years old. Before he even detected my presence, I grabbed his shoulders, pulled him toward my and sank my fangs into his neck. His blood tasted rather bland, though I detected a bitter opium-like taste that was all too familiar.

I released him and stared deeply into his blank eyes, probing his sub-consciousness. I met little to no resistance.

“When you pick up your next passenger, you will look at your GPS, but it will make no sense. You will go south when you are supposed to go north. You will turn left when you are supposed to turn right.”

The boy smiled vacuously. “Yes, I will turn left when I am supposed to turn right.”


Posted on the Co-op Cab Facebook page, an article in the UW–Madison campus newspaper The Daily Cardinal: “Students Complain About Uber Drivers Getting Lost.” Among tales of misfortune: “’I missed my flight because the Uber driver dropped me off at West Towne Mall,’ said UW sophomore Misty Meyers. ‘Lucky for me a real cab had just dropped off at the Mall and was able to get me to the bus station to catch a Van Galder to O’Hare.’ Meyers managed to make the last non-stop flight to Atlanta where she had a job interview early the next morning.”

Clearly my scheme was working though I would have felt remorse if that young woman had missed her job interview. However, one should make better choices when attempting to secure reliable transportation.

But I had another idea, a way to take my campaign to the next level.


I was sitting momentarily in the taxi stand outside the Radisson Hotel not far from West Towne Mall where Ms. Meyers found herself stranded. I knew it would be prudent of me to not linger, but to head toward downtown, except I could not tear myself away from my latest read, The Storm Before the Storm, a riveting tome about the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic. A mob of angry patricians was about to murder Tiberius Gracchus when I heard a loud crash. I looked up from my book and saw a Cadillac Escalade joined with a light pole across the street, its lengthy hood folded like an accordion. A top light was mounted to the vehicle’s roof. I smiled broadly. Uber.

I chuckled. I had encountered that same driver earlier in the evening when I kindly offered a suggestion about his driving. No doubt, there was a nearby Uber rider looking on with horror and who may just call a taxi the next time they need to hire a ride.

As if on cue, I heard a loud rapping at my passenger-side window. I rolled down the window and saw a young man in a loose-fitting navy blue suit glaring at me with beady eyes. His skin was perfect, but his face was pinched in a rather displeasing manner.

“You’ll take us to the Edgewater Hotel,” he said. “Right now!”

“Yes, sir,” I replied as a rather bland looking fellow in his mid-to-late-’40s climbed into the back seat. He wore a cheap brown suit. I flared my nostrils and caught a whiff of Aqua Velva.

I glanced into the rearview mirror to get a better look at the other man. His chin was weak, jaw slack, mouth slightly open. His eyes bore no expression, like those eyes of a dead fish. And his ears were absurdly oversized such that editorial cartoonists who specialize in exaggeration need to do very little to capture this man’s countenance.

The governor of Wisconsin and would-be Uber passenger was riding in my cab.

Very slowly I began to smile. My fangs dropped slowly from their housings. I would enjoy this ride. The pertinent question was just how much….

I eschewed my preferred route, which was faster and more direct, for I had something extra special in mind. My passengers seemed none the wiser.

“Well, you really gave ’em a hearty helping of red meat tonight,” I heard the younger man say.

“Thank you, Skip. I can never stress enough that we have a labor shortage, so we need to make sure all Wisconsinites are ready to work. That’s why it’s so key to drug-test people getting Food Stamps, so we know they’re ready to work.”

“True that, sir.”

I saw a pothole and aimed right for it. Both passengers bounced, hard.

“Of course, if we get people to think everyone on Food Stamps is on drugs, well, that’s fine too.”

“Divide and conquer! Yes, sir!”

“Poor people are a burden on this state and this country. Be better if they just… disappeared.”

I hit another pothole, this one even larger. I heard a head bounce off a window.

“Hey! Skip yelled. “You gotta hit every pothole?”

“I am sorry for your discomfort, but these roads are in terrible shape, as the people say, full of Scott-Holes.”

“You just stow that,” Skip replied angrily. “You shut your piehole, or I’ll bust you so low you won’t be able to deliver the mail in this town.”

I turned onto Monroe Street, which was in the process of a complete reconstruction and hit the accelerator. There was only one traffic lane, the tarmac an ungraded moonscape of ruts, bumps and crevices. The remainder of the street was littered with orange barrels, orange snow fencing, assorted piles of various grades of gravel and massive chunks of asphalt, detritus of unknown origin and mechanized horrors designed to pierce, crush and pulverize.

The cab shook hard.

“There’s not much lower than driving a cab, thanks to Governor Pothole. He signed the Uber bill, which allowed an unregulated entity to operate in a regulated industry, thus driving down wages and creating a menace to public safety.”

“Oh, everybody wants a handout,” the Governor said blandly. “The free market works the best when we just let it be a free market.”

We hit another bump hard. I heard heads bounce off the taxi’s ceiling.

“Hey! Slow down,” Skip barked.

Ignoring them, I pushed the accelerator to the floor, threaded the needle between a pair of massive open-ended hollow steel cubes of unearthed arcane infrastructure and turned sharply onto Edgewood Drive with vociferous alacrity, not caring as my passengers got thrown from side to side. Skip and the Governor were screaming. I pushed the cab hard as I drove down to the bottom of the hill, the vehicle taking air as I passed the back end of Edgewood College and entered Vilas Park between the Vilas Park Zoo and Lake Wingra. I slammed the brakes and came to a stop near the water’s edge in another area I knew was a security camera blind-spot.

Not wasting a moment, I threw open a door and grabbed Skip by the lapels, lifting him into the air, then letting him fall into my arms. I drank quickly of him, then probed into his eyes.

“You will not remember this ride. You will not remember me. All you will remember is calling for an Uber.”

I turned and saw the Governor sprinting toward the water’s edge toward a large stand of cattails. Did he think he could escape by swimming across Lake Wingra to the east end of the Arboretum? Alas, he stumbled and fell comically to the soft, marshy earth. I approached with deliberate slowness. He turned over to his backside to skitter crab-like away from me, his eyes reflecting unabashed terror. I smiled broadly. A lion from the zoo roared loudly. I fought the urge to answer with a roar of my own.

Easily capturing his weak frame, I lifted the Governor in the air and stared down into his face, fangs in full view, dripping with saliva, my eyes burning white-hot like a pair of supernovas.

“What in the name of Hell are you? What do you want?”

I continued to snarl at him, wordless for the moment. Then I smelled something like ammonia. I glanced downward at the stain on his trousers and chuckled.

“Still unintimidated?”

“Please! I can get you money. I can—I have powerful friends. I can get you anything you want.”

I said nothing, but booming laughter came from deep inside me. As if to answer, an elephant trumpeted loudly.

“I find that I am having a hard time coming up with a reason not to drain you of blood and leave you a husk not even appealing to mosquitoes.”

The Governor whimpered in reply.

“Creatures such as I know not to leave a city littered with blood-drained corpses. That is more than I can say about those who have sucked the life blood out of this state and most of those who live here.”

“We saved this state!”

I wrapped a hand around his throat and squeezed until he let out a small gasp. I peered into his eyes and pushed hard into his consciousness, feeling this sudden urge to pry some truth out of him.

“A beautiful baby girl. You turned your back on her. And her mother, the woman you said you loved.”

His eyes glowed with fury. “That’s a lie! A lie spread by the liberal media and all those hateful leftists here in Madison.”

I was not going to argue that the truth was hidden by a confidentiality agreement when they bought off his college girlfriend. Instead, I imagined my consciousness as a dagger and plunged hard. I felt him shudder.

“Your daughter! You turned your back on your daughter!”

His gaze softened. “They promised.” He sounded like a scared little boy. “They promised. They said every boy can grow up to be president. They promised! They promised.”

“You pathetic little worm.” I loosened my grip. “I will not kill you. That is too good for the likes of you. I sentence you to humiliation. I have seen tyrants like yourself, and I have seen how they fall. And mark my words, you will fall, and you will fall soon.”

I was about to draw him to me when I remembered a bumper sticker from a fellow worker’s car that read, “Scott Walker Worships Satan.

“You pledge fealty to dark forces you think can give you power. Look at me! Look at me and see the face of true darkness. Look at me and know those gods you worship are false gods.”

His face contorted into a grimace reflecting utter horror, and then I smelled something else… something pungent. I grinned even more widely, then in a leisurely manner drew him to me, slowly opening my mouth before plunging fangs into his throat. After taking more than the usual amount (making sure to leave just enough for the mosquitoes), I continued to stare deeply into his consciousness before finally saying, “Forget.” I wanted him to forget, but I also wanted him to remember.

I took enough cash from their wallets to cover the fare (along with a generous tip) and drove off, leaving them to whatever the fates had in store. I wondered if the Madison police would find them. Maybe the public information officer would even write a pithy incident report.

After driving a healthy distance away, I pulled over and meditated to calm myself in an effort to retreat from my primal state and reflect upon this bizarre stanza.

There is generally resistance in the blood. Maybe it is distilled from a touch of defiance in response to being fed upon by a higher-order predator. In the case of the Governor, I tasted no such thing. His blood was extremely bland and if it tasted like anything, it tasted of acquiescence.

But these days, there is resistance in the blood, true resistance that permeates every cell. I have tasted such resistance on occasion in various times and places. I tasted it in the years of 2011 and 2012. And again, starting in the fall of 2016, this is what I am tasting now, more and more with each passing day.

Tyrants and dictators eventually fall, but their fall is that much sweeter when it comes through the force of resistance of a people who have simply had enough, whose blood runs the deepest red, whose resistance is truly and profoundly in the blood.