Protest Sandwiches
    Marcy Dermansky
It is never good to get arrested on an empty stomach.

That's why I carry along ham and egg sandwiches in my backpack to every protest. Most times, I don't get arrested. Protesting is legal in this country, and the police only want to arrest the protesters who are able to generate TV coverage.

Not I. I protest the purchase of minivans. I stand in front of the Des Moines Dodge showroom, holding my sign. Global Warming Will Wash Away the Biggest Car. Folks still buy their gas guzzling monsters. The security guard doesn't respect me much, but he has gotten used to me. "Got any sandwiches today, Bobbie darling?" he chuckles, while I set up in front of the enormous plate glass window.

I never used to share with the security guard. Guards, they are your enemy; even the old Dodge guy carries a gun and a walkie-talkie. But you can spread love through food.

I also keep vigil outside the abortion clinics. There are the twenty pro-lifers; there is me. I have a variety of signs. Hands off My Uterus gets folks the most angry. They don't like Your Parents Had No Choice much either.

I also feel deeply for the plight of the working class in America. I stand outside the welfare office with my sign. Feed the Masses. "Bobbie, Bobbie, sweet honey child," the black women call out to me. I am sure to bring extra sandwiches to the welfare office. I give them to the little children who wait on line with their mothers. I give them to the harried looking case workers. And to the women who will have to fill out form after form, stand on line for hours and hours to receive their insufficient checks.

I love a good ham and egg sandwich. I learned about them in Paris. There is no place better in the world for a ham and egg sandwich on a crisp, delicious baguette. My parents sent me to Paris once, when I was a young activist who couldn't keep herself out of jail. All I had to do was attend a meeting. The anarchist chapter of Des Moines got busted once a month. Midwestern Communists Fight for Dental Plans did not do much better. I'd spit on a cop and was beat up. A cracked rib. A broken tooth.

My place in this world is not so clear. I was a child, an innocent, during the sixties. I don't live in New York or San Francisco or DC where every time there is a war or some unjust legislation, there is a place to go. To protest. Out in Iowa, it's me and my causes and my hunger.

The food in jail: I've sampled the bologna sandwiches, the lukewarm Spagettios. No, it is not good to get arrested on an empty stomach. Usually they never keep me more than a day. But a day without food and my imaginary world grows large. Once, I thought I was reincarnated as an illiterate immigrant who picked grapefruits for a living. My parents came to get on to me on a hot, humid day in a makeshift prison on an Iowa cornfield. They arrived in their white limousine. We didn't talk on the drive to the airport. I was shoveling down my mother's bag of organic cheese doodles. My parents sent me directly to France.

I love ham and egg sandwiches. I boil the eggs for eight minutes, buy thick slices of ham at the A & P deli counter. I smear on mayonnaise, add crisp, fresh romaine lettuce. I bake my own bread. I am out on a protest every day. Iowa is a better state because of me.

"Not just Iowa," the Dodge security guard tells me, washing down his ham and egg sandwich with some ice tea he brings in a thermos. "The world," he says.

Marcy Dermansky's fiction has been published in numerous literary journals including McSweeney's, The Alaska Quarterly Review, The Barcelona Review and the Mississippi Review. She was a finalist in Story's 1999 Carson McCuller Short Fiction Award. She received an MA in fiction at the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi and was a Fellow at the MacDowell Artist's colony. "


In Posse: Potentially, might be ...