Skotison (sko’-ti-son): Purposeful obscurity.

Ever since I went to work for the Agency, I’ve been at risk of being compromised. I shouldn’t even be writing this. But I think you have a need to know. After all, your tax dollars are funding my activities—you should know, to some extent, where those dollars are going. Sure, we have poison candy bars, knock out gas, minuscule video cameras, sonic shock wave brain mooshers and a whole pharmacy’s worth of pills and injectables. You want your target to think they’re a raccoon? We’ve got it. You want your target to tell you everything they know? We’ve got it. You want your target to beg to die. We’ve got it. In sum, you name it, we’ve got it, or we’ll make it. Then there are the weapons. My all-time favorite is the poison-tipped umbrella. The exploding condom is fierce too. It can be programmed with its special timer to explode pre- or post-sexual activity. The exploding soup spoon works in a similar way, but it is detonated by the operator squeezing their thighs together. The list of lethal devices is nearly endless. One of the newest devices we have is the mosquito bomb. It isn’t a spray, ha, ha. It is a perfect replica of a mosquito, down to its blood-sucking bite. When a target is bitten by it and slaps it, it explodes, causing severe pain and rendering the target vulnerable to capture or termination. It works great in warm climates where mosquitos are rampant. But it’s been used successfully in New Jersey too.

So, how do we communicate with each other when we are on clandestine missions, or we want to cheat on our spouses? Ha ha! The cheating thing is a joke. How can I feel “safe” talking about a target that’s in view, when my position could be comprised, and I could be identified and killed or captured? It’s easy. We use a code that changes daily. The hard part is receiving the daily code. In most parts of the world, we have resorted to trained birds to deliver the codes. For example, in Venice, Italy we use pigeons. The operator goes to Piazza San Marco early in the morning, pretending to be a tourist—wearing shorts. He throws a handful of bread out on the ground. The pigeons flock, but one lands on his hand clutching the daily code in a little plastic capsule. The operative grabs and pockets the capsule, and is ready for the day. So, it’s pretty much the same everywhere: Magpies in London, England; Pelicans in Florida and California, Flamingos in Africa, Penguins in Australia and Argentina. Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list—our bird operators are everywhere.

The code is used for voice radio transmissions. But what about the code itself? It is called the WHACK Code. It got its name because it produces nonsense to people who don’t have the code. Two people must possess the code for it to be coherent. The code consists of randomly generated words paired with other randomly generated words. So, you may have “armpit” paired with “bicycle.” So, you might say “My—I WHACK—armpit—I UNWHACK—has a flat tire.” Of course, in a real message, the WHACKING would be more lengthy. In the example “flat tire” would be WHACKED too. One of the most interesting encryption devices, though, is the M-6 A1 Cootie Catcher/Paper.

The M-6 A1 was first used by the Union precursor of CIA. Like a traditional cootie catcher, it had a series of answers printed on it that were vague enough to accommodate questions regarding the future and the past, but not specific facts. In the M-6 A1, this was a ruse—a cover for what the Union operator was doing. As we know, the cootie catcher’s points are manipulated by the “Teller’s” fingers which are inserted in the cootie catcher’s folds, and squeezed in and out a few times before revealing the answer. The Union spies learned what was called the “squeeze code,” a sort of sign language operative in the Teller’s squeezes and communicating intelligence to the “Reader.”

Since I’ve been in the hospital, I am starting to see that everything isn’t an encrypted message, it’s just natural phenomena like the wind blowing, or something said that means what it says, like “Hi.” For example, I heard the wind “cry Mary,” but my name is Edwin, so I wasn’t troubled one bit. Or, my therapist said “bowling ball” yesterday. It was clear that he has talking about his head. Normally, “cueball” would be used, but as my condition improves I can pick up a few nuances of meaning that don’t have to be attributed to spies following me around speaking in code.

Soon, I’ll get out of this place. I will complete my MFA and continue my waltz with words and dip my duct tape soul shoe in lightly battered posey.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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