By Peter Wood
It all started innocently enough. Fredward Chumplehammer, the mayor of Winskapoma Springs, made an offhand comment that sounded rather like a personal attack on the character of Halbert McNedsky, the mayor of nearby Glunkatoopa Falls. Some people from Glunkatoopa Falls started getting angry at Winskapoma Springs: drawing rude cartoons, putting up signs, and other assorted statements of irritation. Well, the people of Winskapoma Springs liked Mr. Chumplehammer, and they didn’t really care for what the people of Glunkatoopa Falls were doing to them. The police started getting involved, charging the Glunkatoopa Falls protesters with libel, trying to disperse protests with force, that sort of thing—and then everything went downhill from there.
The first sign that something was wrong, something worse than just everyday political name-calling, was when Chumplehammer enacted a draft. Now, Winskapoma Springs hadn’t had a draft since—well, since about three or four wars ago, the last time that the President actually thought that our country needed so many troops that it didn’t matter if the troops were from backwater towns that nobody has ever heard of, where half the population is cows and the most exciting thing to happen in an entire year was when the Spinkelsteins got a new toaster oven. So most of the young men all went to the town hall, probably just thinking it would be nice to get a free gun. (Chumplehammer just said he was handing out guns. He briefly mentioned using them against Glunkatoopa Falls, but mostly the boys just thought that if a politician offers you a free gun it would be stupid to not take it.) A few guys didn’t want to get drafted; maybe they were smart enough to see what was going on, maybe they didn’t like guns, maybe they just thought that anything the authority tells them to do is a thing that they should avoid doing. That last category is rare, though. Being rebellious in Winskapoma Springs usually just means not mowing your lawn in the parts over by your neighbor’s property, or giving your kids a glass of wine an entire month before they reach drinking age. That sort of stuff.
But anyway, Chumplehammer built up that army of his, and McNedsky saw what was going on and did likewise. The Glunkatoopa reaction to McNedsky’s draft was comparable to the Winskapoma reaction to Chumplehammer’s. Both towns got armies, each about half a thousand strong. Then, one Tuesday morning, Halbert McNedsky, fearful of Chumplehammer’s large-scale mobilization, sent a hundred boys with guns across the town line in what he called an act of “pre-emptive war”. (He later said that pre-emptive war was “a nifty little phrase I heard on the evening news that means invasion but sounds a darned lot nicer.”)
It turns out that McNedsky had gone to the Ironheart Corporation, a defense contractor that operates a plant just a few dozen miles away from Glunkatoopa Falls, and bought a bunch of machine guns and a tank. Although the article in the official Winskapoma Springs paper said that no, McNedsky didn’t buy the weapons per se: he bribed Ironheart Corp and through a “corrupt” deal managed to get his “filthy paws” on the weapons. The article then went on to say that the weapons Fredward Chumplehammer had obtained from Ironheart Corp were part of a completely legitimate business transaction.
So now Winskapoma Springs had a hundred young men, a few dozen machine guns, and a tank showing up at its border. A few of the soldiers tried to ride cows into battle, but this proved fairly ineffectual and for the most part they abandoned their noble steeds before they had even crossed over the home front. A sergeant of the Winskapoma Springs Municipal Defense Army who happened to be on patrol at the time saw them, and so he got out his gun and tried to shoot a couple of them. By sheer luck, one of the bullets hit one of the three cows that some particularly stubborn soldiers were still riding, and thus the first blood of the Winskapoma-Glunkatoopa War (known as McNedsky’s war to the inhabitants of Winskapoma Springs, and Chumplehammer’s War to the inhabitants of Glunkatoopa Falls) was shed—at least, the first blood that was shed with the exception of the time that Tedadiah Spimmings was trying to figure out how to load his gun and accidentally shot himself in the foot. (The Spimmings Medal, awarded for great sacrifice in defense of the town,was named after Tedadiah, although after great deliberation the Town Council of Glunkatoopa Falls decided not to actually award it to him.)
This first battle of the war was fairly uneventful. Besides the cow that got shot, there were no casualties; the Winskapoma sergeant called in some more troops, who brandished their guns and tried to look as intimidating as possible, and succeeded in frightening the Glunkatoopa army away. However, the Winskapoma army was barely any braver, and turned and ran as well, so that the only actual result of the battle was a certain sergeant getting a nice steak dinner.
The following morning, local newscasters in both towns reported extremely sensationalized reports of the battle, each focusing on the “brutality” of the other side, and ending with a call to arms encouraging viewers to make the enemy pay for the atrocities they committed. Or something like that. Enlistment in both armies increased that day, as scores of citizens vowed to have revenge for whatever it was that the other town had done. (Most people were a little unclear about the precise details, other than that Winskapoma Springs is populated entirely by ruthless gunmen who shoot down innocent livestock, and that Glunkatoopa Falls is populated entirely by barbaric warmongers. Also, Halbert McNedsky had slandered Fredward Chumplehammer at some point, or maybe the other way around, and that a war was being fought to avenge the honor of whoever it was that got slandered.)
There were no battles until Friday, when a detachment of troopers in the Winskapoma Springs Municipal Defense Army marched into Glunkatoopa Falls with a few heavy artillery pieces and, after failing to find a better target, went to Mayor McNedsky’s house and began shelling his wife’s petunias. Mrs. McNedsky was understandably shaken by this act, and telephoned her brother-in-law, Johnald McNedsky, the general of the Glunkatoopa Falls Municipal Defense Army, who called in a rather large infantry division and told them to open fire on the Winskapoma Springs soldiers. Due to lack of sufficient training on the part of both armies, there were no fatalities, but a few men on each side were hospitalized.
Of course, this outraged townspeople on both sides. Several more minor skirmishes followed in the month afterwards, until eventually a Winskapoma Springs soldier who had been hospitalized died from his injuries. He was given a hero’s funeral and memorialized in a granite mausoleum. A few townspeople, however, were mortified: surely this was a foolish war, and lives should not be wasted so callously! They staged a protest to end the war, but this was largely ignored as the remainder of the population swore even greater revenge and the fighting got increasingly heated.
Over the next few months, the fighting continued. Both towns invaded each other numerous times, sometimes simultaneously, and the casualties began to add up. The anti-war demonstrations in Winskapoma Springs heated up as well; at one point, over two hundred angry people holding picket signs marched around the town hall, the army headquarters, and any other government buildings they could find (regardless of whether said buildings had anything to do with the military). Most of them even carried signs that related to the war, although some protested other things such as the local public television station cancelling the broadcast of Speed Needles, a game show in which many of the town’s grandmothers raced to see who could knit a scarf the fastest, and some people just brought blank signs because protesting is kind of fun. Or something like that.
The authorities felt understandably threatened by these demonstrations. They sent a small detachment of troops to try to put down the protests, and when the Winskapoma Springs Municipal Defense Army arrived on the scene, most of the protesters dispersed peacefully. However, Glenjamin Cobblesmith, one of the organizers of the protest, swore that he would continue to stage protests until the war was over.
Precisely one week later, Glenjamin Cobblesmith and fifty of his supporters went to the town hall, bearing signs emblazoned with peace signs and doves holding olive branches, and called at the top of their lungs for an end to the war. They marched around the Winskapoma Springs Town Hall chanting anti-war slogans for an hour until eventually Fredward Chumplehammer got tired of listening to them and called in the army. Several soldiers grabbed Cobblesmith himself and attempted to remove him from the premises, but Cobblesmith made a loud, impassioned, inspiring speech about freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, and about how he would never bend to the demands of warmongers. The soldiers leveled their guns at the protesters, who looked to Cobblesmith for guidance. His reply was to yell that peace was an important enough cause that it would not go down without a fight, and then drew his own gun and shot several of the startled soldiers.
The next morning was an interesting one. Large quantities of Winskapoma Springs townspeople attended a gathering of some sort at the house of Glenjamin Cobblesmith; it was advertised as a “book club meeting,” but was attended primarily by people who had been at the peace rally the previous day and nearly everyone brought a gun or weapon of some sort.
About a week later, Glenjamin Cobblesmith bribed a local TV station so that he could make a public announcement addressed to Fredward Chumplehammer and anyone else who would listen:
“My fellow citizens, this war between our town and the town of Glunkatoopa Falls is a senseless waste of life. People have been injured and even died, and because of what? We are killing our fellow man just because he lives on the other side of a line we have drawn in the soil, and I will not stand for this any longer. The Winskapoma Springs Municipal Defense Army has committed great injustice against the people of our towns and I and those in my organization are prepared to deal with them with utmost severity. The tyranny of war shall end now!”
When Cobblesmith had finished his announcement, a row of men in militaristic white uniforms marched into view of the screen, the one at their head waving a flag emblazoned with a dove holding an olive branch. Underneath was written the words “Winskapoma Peace Militia.” Most of these militia members were holding guns, most of which were painted in pastel colors with peace signs. All of them had been fervent supporters of the anti-war movement.
Glenjamin Cobblesmith then declared war on the Winskapoma Springs Municipal Defense Army.
The next month proceeded much as the previous had, except that now instead of fighting the Glunkatoopa Falls Municipal Defense Army, Winskapoma Springs was now at war with the Winskapoma Peace Militia. The two armies fought many battles, and both sides suffered many casualties. The only noticeable difference was the color of the enemy’s uniform, and the occasional speech about “we must overthrow the tyrants who would deny us peace” or “we must crush the rebels who would deny us vengeance.”
And the army of Glunkatoopa Falls just looked on, bemused.