Monday, April 21, 2008

An excerpt from "What So Proudly We Hailed"

A.J. didn’t show up until late September, but when we finally met up, he was the one impatient to see me, not the other way around. He had been at the host family’s house that we had agreed upon months earlier for over two weeks, waiting on me. I had just been wandering around like I said, checking in every so often to see if he had arrived, and then heading back off again after a couple days to be by myself. He must have shown up right after my last departure.

“Where have you been?” he asked. Something about his tone struck me as odd, and he had a look in his eye that made me feel guilty of something. The look you give someone when they’ve done something wrong.

“Where have I been? What are you talking about? I’ve been waiting for you.”

He shook his head.

“That’s not what I mean. I’ve been trying to contact you. Everybody’s been trying to contact you. How come you haven’t replied to any of your messages?”

“What messages?” I asked, truly confused.

“Haven’t you checked your PDA?”

My PDA was in a bundle with my gun and the rest of what little I had out in a loft in the barn. David had given it to me almost a year ago and I had long since stopped checking it because nobody ever sent me anything. And why would they? Who even knew I existed?

“No,” I said, getting a little defensive. I know it was stupid, but I felt like he was accusing me of something and I hadn’t done anything wrong. Well, not to him anyway.

“Why should I?” I added quickly. “Who’s going to send me a message, anyway? You and David are about the only ones who even know who I am. You knew where I was. And what took you so long to get here? It’s been three months, you know. ”

A.J. looked at me like I was nuts.

“Don’t you know what’s been going on?” he asked. “Haven’t you been watching the news?”

“No, I’ve been waiting for you. What do I want to watch the news for?”

He shook his head like he couldn’t believe it, and yet at the same time, like he finally understood something too. He even chuckled under his breath, like it was funny.

“What?” I said, truly exasperated.

“Come here,” he said. “I need to show you something.”

He sat me in front of the TV and switched it to one of the news networks.

“Watch,” he said.

“What am I watching for?” I asked.

“Just watch. You’ll know it when you see it.”

Still feeling bewildered, but now also more than a bit curious, I did as I was told.

It was just news. Everything was as different and the same as it ever was. The Department of Labor reported that unemployment was holding steady at 0.4%. There was a story about a woman who claimed that her RFID implant allowed her to communicate with aliens. Another about a group termination of five D-chipped felons who had been planning to kidnap a surgeon from Bethesda to relieve them of their implants (which apparently didn’t allow them to talk to aliens, ha ha ha, wasn’t that funny?).

The Dow had slipped 4,700 points – mostly in a frantic morning sell off that was brought on by fears of Russia withholding oil supplies in retaliation to new US sanctions against Brazil – to finish the day at just over 84,500. The Nasdaq 1000 also dropped accordingly. Of course it did.

And then the commercials: A new drug for Billy, a new car for Sue, would you like insurance with that?, and don’t forget to trust your broker with everything else that hasn’t already taken because retirement was coming and you were going to be seventy-five sooner than you thought.

I looked over at A.J. He just sat there and nodded his head at the screen.

“Be patient, he said.

So I sat and I watched and suddenly, there it was.

He was right, A.J. was; I knew it when I saw it. But I still couldn’t believe it when I did.

The update started with the bad news.

Attacks from domestic terrorists were still on the rise across the country and were showing no signs of abating. Also disturbing was that the number of people who were attempting to remove their implants and join these terrorists had tripled over the past month as many previously thought “law abiding patriotic Americans” were showing their true colors (for shock value they included a short clip of an angry woman whose husband had been one of these traitors and who now warned everyone that “you just can’t be too sure about who you’re sharing your bed with”).

And most disturbing of all was that some people were actually sympathizing with these terrorists; in fact, just the day before a group of 30 people had tried to demonstrate – with picket signs and everything – on the courthouse steps in Seattle in protest of what they called “violations of their civil liberties”. Protesting against America! Could you believe it? Luckily, the Department of Homeland Security got there quickly and put a stop to it before anyone got hurt, God Bless America.

The relieved anchorman was happy to let us know – while his pretty blonde co-anchor nodded her head in agreement – that the ringleaders were now in custody and scheduled for D-chipping, while the rest of the protestors had already been stripped of their possessions and entered into the new government WPA labor program for reorientation.

But fear not good citizens, there is also good news to report, because the DHS crackdown was yielding impressive results. Over 1400 of these known – or suspected – domestic terrorists had been arrested or killed just in the month of September alone, along with more than 300 others who had been covertly providing assistance and safe haven for them. Progress was being made, and the DHS assured everyone that removing this threat to the American people was of top priority and all efforts would continue to be made until it was stamped out completely.

The segment closed with an interview of DHS director Roger Benedict urging all Americans to assist them in this fight by maintaining “uncompromising vigilance” in reporting suspicious activity, and warning each and every one of us to prepare ourselves for the possibility that performing our patriotic duty may even require the unenviable task of turning in a loved one.

I was numb watching it all. Shocked. But not so much because of what was being reported; what was truly incredible to me was the name that they had given to these “domestic terrorists”.

They were calling them “Gideons.”

I looked over at A.J., not knowing what to say.

“The resistance finally has a name, brother,” he said. “And you’re it.”

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Just a little status . . .

Hi all, I just wanted to take a moment to apologize for not posting more often lately. I kind of messed up and got a real job again (by necessity) so that's been taking up some time. They actually expect me to be there every day for 8 whole hours. In a row. Well, almost anyway. Can you believe it? So that's been taking up some time. Plus we've had some nice days now that spring is here so I've had to fight the pull to be outside rather than at a desk writing. And now there's softball coaching to do a couple nights of every week . . .

The bottom line is that I won't be able to post quite as often as I have in past months. I do still have plenty of things to write about (the questions never stop, in fact), but I'd rather take the time to try to write something that is worth reading rather than just slapping down some incoherent thoughts in order to meet some kind of "blog quota". So if you can bear with me on that, I'd be much obliged.

If you happen to be in Central Kentucky on the weekend of April 26 & 27, drop on by Penn's Store (located a couple miles outside of Gravel Switch, KY if that helps . . . probably not) for their annual "Writer's Day" celebration. I'll be there (with my lovely if not slightly high maintenance wife Catherine) to read and talk and meet people and just chill out at this little general store out in the middle of nowhere. Here's the link if you're interested: Writer's Day.

Thanks again for your patience.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

He Said - The Call of the Domestic

There I am, braving the elements of the Yukon winter, ice crystals frozen to my face as my trusty sled dogs bravely charge across the frozen wasteland. As I fight against the blinding light of the cold sun, the frigid wind lashing my face, and the uncertainty of my own survival, I have never felt more like a man.

Jack London’s world has become my own, but just as I begin to think that nothing could ever tear me away from this land, a jagged crack rips through the sky, and The Call of the Wild is suddenly – viciously – overwhelmed by the call of the domestic.

“Blaine, honey,” she calls. “Can you come here for a second?”

I snap back to the present, and with some chagrin I find that I am of course relaxing in a warm, comfortable chair. (Despite appearances, I am not completely stupid; while I certainly don’t mind reading about 60 degrees below zero, I could certainly make it to my grave with no great amount of disappointment if I never actually experience it).

I quickly analyze the “Blaine, honey”. While I proclaim general ignorance to the overall ways of women, like most men who have shared years of their lives with a woman, I have come to some understanding of the subtle nuances of how my name is called. From the common you’re in big trouble “Blaine” to the less frequent that was so sweet of you “Blaine”, I can often prepare myself for what lies ahead (and sometimes actually put the shovel away) prior to answering.

To my dismay, I realize that this is the I want to completely rearrange the furniture in the living room for no particular reason “Blaine”, with the “can you come here for a second?” meaning that she intends to have this done right now. Tentacles of basic instinct reach out to me from the rapidly fading arctic, urging me to make a decision on which my life may depend:

Fight or flight?

I don’t think most men really understand the “rearranging of the room” disorder that seems to constantly plague the fairer sex. In fact, I doubt that the thought would ever even occur to us. Left to my own devices, I can fairly admit that wherever the moving guys put the stuff when they unloaded the truck would no doubt be perfectly okay with me. They are trained professionals, you know.

But whether it’s some aberrant genetic trait or simply a less appealing aspect of “nesting syndrome”, it is a predicament that husbands often seem to find themselves in for no good reason at all. And no matter how reassuring my agreement is to her that “it most certainly does in fact need to be done”, I’m still puzzled that it should be so bewildering to Catherine that I don’t share the urgency of the situation. It’s not like it can’t be done tomorrow.

“Blaine,” she calls, with the I know you can hear me and if you don’t come down here in the next few seconds you’re going to be in big trouble “Blaine.”

Well, I’ve got to go. Like I said, I’m not completely stupid.