In early November, 2017, federal agents were granted a warrant to search the home of Sybil co-founder, Jakob Buckholz. Surprisingly, the writer greeted us warmly at the door of his central Texas home, which he affectionately refers to as The Bungalow. A small, black German Shepard hybrid was not so pleasant in his greetings, but Buckholz shooed him into the backyard, assuring us that his bark was, indeed, worse than his bite.
"It's the cat you have to look out for," he joked.
I photographed the house as the agents searched the rooms and the suspect sat patiently on the couch. In the end, they turned up only one milk crate worth of evidence. It was found on a top shelf in the writer's bedroom closet, overflowing with documents and manuscripts.
Amongst those documents, letters were found in which Mr. Buckholz orchestrated the founding of the now infamous journal, Sybil, with Mr. Rudy Martinez and Mr. Stephen Spencer. In the coded letters, they refer to each other as Zooey, Buddy, and Seymour Glass. Included in the correspondence were letters from a Franny and Bessie Glass though Buckholz claimed to have no knowledge of these persons, saying that they contacted him first and never gave their true names. There were also a number of vague references to the twins throughout the series of letters although there was no direct communication with this mysterious duo.
Clippings from Mr. Martinez's writings were found in a folder marked simply RM. The material inside that folder helped the agents conclude long held suspicions that Rudy Martinez had published in radical journals all over South America and eastern Europe under the aliases Theodor Reich, Max Kandinsky, Walter Abass, and Rodolfo Marin.
There were also issues of Mr. Spencer's earlier publication, The Eyes of Texas, which he published under the pseudonym Agonistes and with Soviet funding. The journal, which championed Texan secession in favor of developing a sovereign socialistic democracy in place of statehood, went under around the turn of the millenia.
Perhaps most damning of all was a story titled Mr. Swirly's Aventers which proved that Buckholz had infiltrated the American school system as early as 1999. It sounds innocent enough, but some agents believe Mr. Swirly to be a key piece in a Soviet master plot that is only now coming into the light. The hypnotic blue swirl on the creature's stomach, at first glance, appears to be a whimsical design, but in actuality is a calculated pattern meant to lull children into a mentally malleable state.
One investigator who wished to remain anonymous had this to say:
"It's not a new idea. It goes all the way back to ancient times. What we have here is basically an ideological Trojan horse. What they meant to do, we believe, was use this lovable character as a mouthpiece for their own Communistic beliefs. It's a real despicable move, to target children like that. Really shows us what we're up against."
Linguists and military codebreakers are now poring over the short story in order to interpret the true intention of this devious ploy.
Buckholz was surprisingly open to discussing the work. He even offered to cook breakfast, so as the agents continued digging through the milk crate, I joined the writer in his kitchen. He prepared coffee, eggs, and toast. The coffee was cheap and overly strong as he let it soak in the french press for the entire fifteen minutes it took to get everything else together.
Even knowing what I knew the man to be accused of, I couldn't help but marvel at his calmness in the face of such an investigation.
"Don't you know they are calling you a traitor to your country?" I had to ask him as he sat down with two plates of eggs.
"To me," he smiled, "there is no higher honor an American writer could strive for." He cut into the yolk and sopped up the mess with a piece of toast before continuing:
"Was I targeting children? Hell, I was basically still a child myself. You have to remember, this was 1999. Sure, the Soviet Union had fallen recently and it still weighed heavily on my mind, but I was only eight years old. The art I was creating then, it could be interpreted in many different ways. At its core, was it meant to subvert capitalism and instill in children a belief in communism? Sure. You could read it that way. Was Mr. Swirly's desperate consumption of snow a critique on American gluttony or was it an attempt to symbolically take back the ice pick which killed Trotsky as well as all the pain wrought by Siberian prison camps? Maybe it was an attempt to show that I, as a white male artist, had begun to come to terms with the fact that the white race has a despicable history, and by eating the snow, this white snow, I was trying to do my part in destroying the systematic structures supporting a nation built on ideas of white supremacy.
So do I feel bad for planting these ideas in the minds of Mrs. Miller's second grade class? Hell no. It's no more nefarious than having children pledge their allegiance to a concept they can't possibly understand day in and day out until it's completely ingrained. In fact, it wasn't nefarious at all.
Was the rope a noose around the system which gives three individuals the same wealth as the lower half of the nation, one hundred fifty million people? Or was it a rope lowered by Mr. Swirly to help raise up a less privileged comrade? You know, I am not going to sit here and tell you what I had in mind when I wrote that all those years ago. What I will say is that a rope was pulled and a box opened, and historically, once opened, boxes can be a real bitch to close back up."
Ultimately, nothing found in the milk crate led to charges against Mr. Buckholz, although some material was confiscated for further investigation.
The last I saw of Buckholz as we backed out of the driveway was him standing on the porch with his black dog at his side, sipping from a mug of his horrid coffee, waving amicably.