The Party – Chapter 14: Stacy Zimmer – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 14: Stacy Zimmer

“What’s your name?” Stacy decided to ask.

“Dressel. Daryl. You?”

She told him. “When’d ya get out?”

“Twenty oh seven.” He eyed her, waiting.

“Thirteen years. Long time. Been on the street the whole time?”

Dressel shook his head. “Nah. I had a family. But the PTSD was too much. I left.”

Stacy understood. The comment about doing something though. That was hanging like a ball of fire in the middle of the alley between them. “I got a place. Not much. If you want a hot an a cot.” She watched him think it over, his tongue running around the inside of his mouth, visible in his sunken cheeks.

“If it ain’t too much.”

“Nah. We can talk.”

He nodded and rose, gathering together the cardboard he’d been sitting on and bundling it into his backpack.

She could see his slow rise. Probably arthritis from living on the cold streets, she thought. She was kind of stiff herself as she stood. The thought crossed her mind that she could have been seriously hurt while she was out of it. That gave her a bit of comfort and security at her rash, impromptu invitation to dinner and a bed. No matter. She still had her knife on the bed stand, and a nine mill under her pillow. She could put a chair under the doorknob. It would be all right.

At her apartment she fixed a pound of spaghetti and threw a jar of sauce over top of it and put it on the table with the usual green can of cheese on the side. She poured some cheap red wine in water glasses. It was too sweet for spaghetti, really, but she didn’t have anything else. They ate in silence after he thanked her for the food and wine.

She didn’t mind the silence. Just having someone else at the kitchen table was enough. It kept the memories in check. After dinner she did the dishes while he used the shower. She was surprised to see him come out of the bathroom in different clothes.

“I have a washer,” she told him. He nodded. “I’d appreciate that.” So she showed him how to use it and he put everything cloth he had in there and did his laundry. She poured the last of the wine between them and sat in what passed for a living room. Stacy sat in her favorite chair. He sat on the loveseat.

“You made a suggestion, in the alley,” she said.

He nodded. “I know some people.”

While she rubbed her forehead, she thought this sounded just like back in the sandbox, talking to the natives. They always knew someone. Someone bad, or someone they could trust, or just someone with information. There were always some people. “You know they round up dissidents.” She said it as a statement, not a question. It was a fact, after all.

“Yeah. But when was the last time someone took a look at either of us? We’re invisible.”

Stacy drummed her fingers on the greasy arm of her chair. She’d gotten it at a thrift store for seven bucks. Good enough for her. A sip of wine allowed her to think a little longer. “So why aren’t you already involved?”

“Who said I’m not?” He sipped his wine and watching her, waited.

That’s how they’d worked in Afghanistan. A local did the recruiting. Always. Then if the local thought the recruit was trust-worthy, set up a meet. Stacy didn’t think much of being on this side of the equation. But, if she didn’t like the idea, she only had to say so. This guy, if Dressel really was his name, would just disappear and she’d never see him again. Even if she went to the authorities, and why the hell would she? She didn’t have a damn thing to give them that they didn’t already know.

She drank some more. The kitchen wall clock ticking could be heard, counting off the seconds as she pondered the suggestion. Did she miss the action? Is that why she was even considering this dumb ass idea? More like she missed the purpose, as her therapist kept telling her. Did she miss it enough to be executed by firing squad after a long painful session with interrogators if she was caught? Stacy could feel her heart rate pick up. That was excitement, she realized. Not fear. And weren’t the bastards taking her pay? That definitely deserved a poke in the eye with a sharp stick as far as she was concerned. “It’s a dumb idea.”

Dressel nodded. “Most likely.”

Stacy shook her head and closed her eyes. “I’m gonna regret this. Yes.”

He grinned and held out his glass in a toast. “More than likely. Hoo Ra!”

She saw his toast after she’d said yes and held up her glass. “Hoo Ra!” They drank what was left of the wine.

“Welcome to the revolution.”

“Fuck you.”

They both laughed.

The next morning, when she finally rolled out of bed, he was gone. There were forty dollars on the table and a short note.

            Someone will contact you. Code word, Sybil Ludington.

Response, Great ride.

That was the end of the note. She burned it in her stove’s gas flame after memorizing the code and response. While she made coffee, she considered her tipsy decision from the previous night. There was some regret, and to be honest, a little fear this morning. But also, she felt better than she’d felt for a long time. Purpose, she thought. Is that all it takes? She shrugged as she poured some dollar store knock-off off, too-sugary cereal into a bowl. Must be. As she ate, she considered how to prepare. Lists of supplies, weapons, and other details came flooding through her mind. She was grinning, she realized as she washed cup, bowl, and spoon. Oh yeah. This was going to be fun.

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 13 – Andy McGuire – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 13: Andy McGuire

“Andy McGuire, for Admiral Page, please.” Andy paused as the secretary, a Seaman Secore, he noted in his contacts, asked him to wait a moment.

“Admiral,” Andy said as the general picked up. “I just wanted to give you a heads up. Orders will be coming down today for the next destroyer class ship to be built by Omega Corporation.”

Andy waited as the Admiral objected. “I know it seems that Norfolk should be the spot for the ship’s construction.” He listened a moment. “Yes. Seaway Industries has done a fine job for years. But there has been some extenuating information that makes Omega the better choice.”

Again, he listened. “I understand, Admiral. Portsmouth has traditionally been repair and refit docks. But there doesn’t really seem to be any issue with building a ship there, is there?”

It took a minute or two for the Admiral to wind down. “Yes, Admiral. Some personnel movement and housing accommodations will need to be made. We understand that.” Andy closed his eyes while the Admiral ranted some more. “I understand, Admiral. It is likely to affect the Norfolk area adversely. We have taken that into consideration.”

When the Admiral slammed the phone down, Andy sighed and hung up. He didn’t understand why he was the one having to make these calls. It wasn’t his fault that Omega Corp was a member of the elite class now and that Seaway wasn’t. He knew for a fact that the owner and CEO of Omega pitched a fit when the contract for the destroyer was slated for Norfolk. He pitched a fit to his buddies now running the company and they’d directed the ship go to Omega. And, he sighed, that’s how business was done now. If one of the elite wanted something, they just told their buddies and got it. No matter if they had any experience with it or not.

He typed a text to his boss, Duncan Angelson, with the news that the Admiral had been notified, and then stood up. He needed coffee. In the break room, Andy started for the mugs.

“I’ll get that for you, Mr. McGuire.”

Andy stepped back. “Of course, Mrs. Olsen. I saw you setting up cookies and didn’t want to bother you.” Andy smiled at the older woman. One of the very few left on the floor. Safe enough to have here because her job was to keep coffee and hot water for tea ready at all times and to set out little snacks like cookies and fruit throughout the day.

“No problem, Mr. McGuire. I enjoy helping out.” She poured coffee into a mug for him from the 32-cup pot and handed it to him. “I hope your day is going well?”

“Well enough,” Andy said as he walked to the creamer and sugar area. “What cookies do you have today?”

“Oh!” She beamed at him. “I brought in those oatmeal chocolate chips you like. You know, from Busters, over on 9th street. They make the best ones in town. At least in my humble opinion.”

“Great. Could you get me two of them?”

“Of course.” She selected a small dessert plate from the stack on the table and after putting a paper doily on the plate, used tongs to gently set two cookies on the plate. “Anything else, sir?”

“No. I should have these. But thank you for asking.” He stirred his coffee. Two sugars and creamer. He took the plate she offered. “How are you, Mrs. Olsen. Your new apartment okay?”

She nodded. “Different from the big house my husband and I had for so many years. But yes. I’m getting to know the neighbors and the area. It will be fine.”

He gave her a smile. Her husband had died from a stroke a year ago. As a widow, it was easier to convince management that it was their civic duty to help her financially. Her husband had been playing fast and loose with his boutique stockbrokerage client money. He’d left the brokerage in shambles, and his wife penniless. Andy felt very bad for her. None of this was her fault at all. “Glad to hear it.” He picked up the mug and the plate. He raised the plate in a salute. “Thanks for the cookies, Mrs. Olsen.”

“Mr. McGuire. Glad to be helpful.”

Back in his office he ate the cookies with his face over the plate. He didn’t need chocolate smudges all over his white dress shirt. He had a meeting with Duncan in half an hour. More adjustments to government contracts, he supposed. The whole lineup of elites were grabbing everything they could at full speed. The entire constitution was down the drain and ethics were a thing of the past. He drank half of his coffee in a gulp and forced the anger down with it. He wondered if he shouldn’t be lining his pockets as well. At his level, he knew what was going on and where to get it.

He ate the last bite of cookie. No. No. He couldn’t do it. It wasn’t his money. You’re a fool, he told himself as he drank the last of the coffee. Everyone else is doing it. You’ll be a laughingstock and die penniless.

Andy put the mug on the plate and set it on top of the bookshelf by the office door. Mrs. Olsen would be around later with a cart to pick up dishes. So what, he thought. At least I’ll have my honor and my dignity. He went back to his pad to prepare for the meeting. He idly wondered when this new brand of mob bosses would start a war over the spoils. Probably not long, he thought. There were billions out there. Billions.

Thank you for reading.

The Party – Chapter 12: Mara Brown

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 12: Mara Brown

Mara kept her face neutral. Mr. Clarke had helped her set up four job interviews. All for menial positions, most of them pool secretaries. Men didn’t seem to want that kind of job, so they were still open to women. Her current prospective employer was the nicest of the lot. At least he wasn’t leering at her chest and drooling.

“Yes. I’m available immediately, Mr. Zeeman.”

He nodded. “I’ll have to admit, this job seems a little,” he paused, “beneath your talents.”

What was she supposed to say to that? He knew women were being kicked out of anything higher paying or with more responsibility. “Um.” She shrugged. “Circumstances have changed. I needed a break.”

Ron Zeeman pressed his lips together as he nodded. “Of course.” He looked over the folder he had open on his desk. “You seem personable and efficient. Can you start Monday?”

She smiled. “Yes.” What a relief. She hadn’t wanted the job search to drag on too long. “Eight in the morning at HR?”

“See!” He grinned back at her and stood up. “Very efficient.” He held out his hand.

Mara stood and shook the offered hand. “I hope so.”

After about an hour in the company’s HR, filling out forms and receiving the in-processing plan for Monday, Mara left the building. Getting the job was a huge relief. As she walked to her car, which she was able to save from being sold by selling most of her furniture, she thought about a tiny celebration. Lunch out, she decided. She’d been pinching pennies so hard they screamed, but with an income promised, a little splurge seemed appropriate.

She stopped at a mid-range nice restaurant she’d never been in before near her new job. Mara didn’t want to run into any old neighbors, ex-co-workers, or old friends. The mix of pity, disgust, and finger-pointing she’d received since being branded nigger-lover was more than she wanted to deal with. She just wanted to relax and have a nice meal. In the restaurant, soft music playing in the background, she ordered a salad, with salmon, as her splurge and a glass of Riesling as the celebration. When the waiter brought the wine and had left, she lifted her glass to herself. Well done, Mara, girl. Well done. A job. A place to live. Away from the old life and on to the new. She sipped and sighed as she set the glass down.

Her new life. She remembered weeping the first night in her new apartment. At about five hundred square feet, there was really no living room. Her single bed sat opposite the apartment door. The walls hadn’t seen a fresh coat of paint in decades and the curtains were so dirty and dusty she’d choked as she’d tried to pull them closed at dusk.

Now, she thought as she sipped more wine. Now with a steady income, she could get new curtains, paint the walls, and perhaps get some sort of bed that tucked away so the room could be used as an actual living room. Anything to keep it from shouting “Loser”, and “Despair”, at her every time she walked into it.

The waiter brought out two fresh, hot rolls and while she didn’t normally eat bread, she indulged. Mara had just torn one in half and was slathering butter on it when she happened to see her new boss standing at the entrance. He gave her a nod.

Her heart dropped. Oh no, she thought as she watched him talk to the hostess. He nodded in her direction. The wine in her stomach turned to acid. Oh no. He’s coming over here. She put the bread down. The hostess stopped at her table.

“Ms. Brown.” Zeeman nodded to her. “I’m surprised to see you.”

“Yes.” Mara swallowed and smiled. “A little celebration. For my new job.”

“Excellent. I find people don’t celebrate their victories as often as they should. Would you mind if I join you?”

She pasted on a happy face. “No. I wouldn’t mind at all.” She nodded to the hostess. “That will be fine.”

“I’ll send the waiter right over,” the hostess said.

“Thank you,” Zeeman smiled as he took a seat opposite Mara.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’ve already started.”

“No problem.” He looked at her bread plate. “I love the rolls here. Enjoy.”

Feeling more than awkward, Mara tore a tiny bit of bread from the roll and put it in her mouth. What seemed so delightful a minute ago now tasted like sawdust.

The waiter hustled up and Zeeman ordered a scotch on the rocks, and his meal, the same salad that Mara had ordered. When the waiter left, Ron Zeeman explained. “My doctor is after me about cholesterol. A salad is what my wife insists I eat for lunch.”

“It’s funny,” she said. “That’s the same salad I ordered.”

Zeeman laughed. “Perfect! We’re in sync.”

While he talked about the business, and what she could expect, Mara nibbled at the bread. Then, the dreaded questions.

“My son is graduating Harvard in the spring. My wife, Lois and I are so proud of him. Any children?”

A pain filled Mara’s upper chest and throat as she fought off bursting into tears. “Two,” she decided to tell him. “A boy and a girl.”

“Oh. Lovely. How old?”

“Eight and six.’

He looked up from his rolls, realizing she was in distress. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to pry.”

She sipped from her water glass. “That’s all right.” She took a deep breath and told him about her husband and children. “I’ll understand if you don’t want me to work for you.” Mara folded her hands in her lap and studied the crumbs that had fallen on the tablecloth.

“Nonsense. Don’t worry about a thing.”

She looked up—tears in her eyes. Mara found a sympathetic face gazing back at her.

“Nothing to worry about at all.”

The relief hit her like an avalanche, and she cried.

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 11 – Devon Brown, Flash Fiction Friday Post

Chapter 11: Devon Brown, #9280970

Devon Brown, now number 9280970, stood in line in his cohort. That’s what he’d learned to call his group. It was physical education time. PE the instructors called it. There was weightlifting, calisthenics and running. All out in the hot sun. He’d overheard two instructors talking in the first week and so knew he was in the mountains of North Carolina. So that was something, anyway. Not much other information came through. Not that he had time for it.

Instructor Orville called out for jumping jacks. “Begin!” he shouted.

Devon began to jump. Perfectly in sync with the rest of the cohort. The boys in his cohort had all arrived the same day, twenty of them. They’d learned fast that stragglers were punished. If the stragglers proved unfit, the entire cohort would be punished. Devon had experienced his share. He eyed the slim rod at the instructor’s waist. A cattle prod. His first time had been the first day.

He’d fallen asleep at the desk, hands folded in front of him. Instructor George had zapped him as he sat at the desk, and he woke, thrashing on the floor, blood pouring from a cut on his forehead from hitting the desk leg beside him. After much shouting about falling asleep in class, Instructor George had jerked him up from the floor by the front of his shirt and slammed him back into the chair.

Devon remembered lifting his hand to feel the cut when the instructor slapped the cattle prod on the desk making him jump. “Did I tell you to move!” he’d yelled.

“No.”

“No, sir!”

“No, sir.” After that Devon let the blood run. When they were lined up to go to chow, Devon had been taken to a small clinic. A doctor had looked at the cut. Then cleaned and put a bandaid over it. No cleaning his face, no kind words. Just the basic medical care then sent back to his group, now eating dinner from trays in a cafeteria where there were a lot of other boys, not just his group.

No one looked around. He was seated at a table with his group. A tray of food already there.

“Eat,” Instructor George had told him.

Devon picked up a funny looking spoon with little points on the end and scooped up macaroni and cheese. It was cold and gross and he really wanted to spit it out. The boy across from him shook his head and scooped his food into his mouth, chewing then swallowing. Devon followed suit. He was very hungry. He’d not eaten since the picnic which already seemed years ago.

That was his introduction to what the boys were calling The Camp.

Instructor Orville shouted stop. And the boys came to attention. “Burpees!”

Devon hated burpees but he dutifully, and in sync, did them. He was going to be glad when the hour was over.

The day was filled. Up at six in the morning to an alarm bell. Rush to go to the bathroom, dress, make his bunk, and fall into formation in just fifteen minutes. March to breakfast, usually oatmeal and fruit but once in a while, eggs and toast, or once, pancakes with syrup and fruit. Then math, then English, then PE. Another class, Russian, then lunch. That was generally soup and sandwich and a piece of fruit. Apple, mostly, but there was a banana once and once a pear. Another class, science, then another PE session. After that was reading. Silently. The instructor assigned the book. A final class of the day, government. That was a strange one, as far as Devon was concerned. All about the glorious President for Life, and how the government was put together and worked. Then it was homework, still sitting in the classroom. That went on until they were marched to supper. This was the one meal with something different every night so far. Even with three meals a day, he was usually hungry. No seconds were ever offered.

Then they went back to the classroom and finished their homework. If they finished before the others, they could continue reading their book. At seven at night they were marched back to their dorms where they could shower, dress in their sleepwear, and take care of their shoes or other gear. Talking was permitted but quietly. No loud talking, laughing, and certainly no shouting or horseplay.

Bedtime was eight-thirty, sounded by the same alarm that woke them in the morning. Devon was ready for bed by then. The stress of the day, doing everything perfectly so that he wasn’t zapped, took a lot of energy. He didn’t have much time to think about her during the day but just before falling asleep, he thought about his sister, Caitlin. He hoped she was doing okay, that she wasn’t being punished too much. With the lights off, as long as he was quiet, tears could flow. He worried about his little sister. Was she doing the same thing he was? And what about his father? Where was he? And he missed his mother. What happened to her after they’d all been taken away? Did she know where he was? Would she try and call him? He didn’t know. None of the boys in his cohort had received any word from their families.

He sniffed and wiped his eyes with his sleeve. Devon fell asleep but generally woke several times a night from nightmares. Monsters, chasing him through the dark with electric claws.

Thank you for reading.

The Party – Chapter 8: Captain Flynn – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 8: Capt Flynn

Captain Tyler Flynn’s notebook chimed with an incoming message. It was from Commander Green. Flynn sighed. Report to the Colonel immediately. That was never good he thought as he rose from his desk and headed for the door.

At the Colonel’s office, the secretary, a Sergeant, sent him right in. Tyler missed the Colonel’s old secretary, Arlene. She’d been the Commander’s secretary for at least ten commanders and knew everything there was to know about the base and how to get things done but since the female purge two weeks ago, of course, a male had to be put in her place. Sergeant Boyle was good, but he had to look up everything and just wasn’t as efficient.

Flynn stopped in front of the Commander’s desk and saluted. “Captain Flynn reporting as ordered, Sir.”

The Commander looked up from his pad and returned the salute. “Good, Flynn. Have a seat.”

The Captain sat in one of the wooden chairs in front of the desk.

The Colonel tapped his notebook as he began. “Flynn. I have some good news.”

Flynn braced himself. In this political climate, he didn’t trust anyone to have good news.

“We’re restarting the promotion system and you’ve been selected to be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.”

Tyler thought for a minute his heart stopped. He consciously took a breath. “Thank you, Sir. I’m surprised.” He reached across the desk to shake the Commander’s hand.

“Glad to do it. With the promotion system down for so long, it made things like retention very difficult. If it had gone traditionally, you’d be an LC already, so Personnel just caught you up.” Congratulations, Captain.”

Tyler stood and saluted. “Thank you, Sir. I really appreciate this.”

The commander stood and returned the salute. “It’s effective the first of next month so you have time to update your uniforms.”

“This is great news, Colonel Green. My wife is going to be thrilled.”

“Good.” He sat back down. “That’s all, Captain.”

Flynn pivoted smartly and strode out the door, his mind bouncing from one thought to the next as we walked back to his office. Once there, he called his wife, Laura. She suggested they celebrate by going out to dinner and he agreed.

Word spread as the Colonel brought one officer in after another to tell them about their promotions. Not a lot of work was getting done as men traveled from one office to another to congratulate the promotees.

Outside at quitting time, Captain Dean Joyce met Flynn in the parking lot. “I hear congratulations are in order for you,” he said as he held out his hand.

Flynn shook it. “You too. Major, right?”

“Yeah. And you went straight to LC. That’s great. You must have passed the loyalty test.”

“Loyalty test?” Flynn felt as though he’d been punched in the stomach. “I didn’t take any test.”

“Remember your sister-in-law? That was the test. You handled her like any other undesirable. Even with her sobbing and begging, you kept your cool. The higher ups liked that.”

“Oh. Just being professional.”

Joyce clapped him on the shoulder. “Well done, Flynn. You’re going to be going places now.” He moved on to his car.

Flynn walked slowly to his car, watching Joyce get in and drive off. A loyalty test, that was what was going on? Zuri’s time in front of him was excruciating. He couldn’t sleep that night or for several nights he was so upset about having to pass his own brother’s wife into the system. He’d argued with his own wife, Laura, about it in strained whispers, because they both were sure their house was bugged.

He reached his car and got in, but just sat there, not even rolling down the windows to let the sun baked heat out. How many other things had he done that were loyalty tests? Tyler tried to think back but nothing in particular sprang to mind. Wait, he thought, right after the President announced he was President for Life, a lot of soldiers disappeared. Had the brass already begun purging the ranks even then? Other things sprang to mind. Orders tasking him to do crappy missions rounding up undesireables, coloreds, Jews, and activists. He nodded to himself. All of those were tests to see if he’d kick up a fuss.

Sweat began to trickle from his armpits. He turned the car key and rolled down the windows. The fresh air felt good. Tyler pulled on his seatbelt and put the car in drive then pulled out of his parking spot. And now, a promotion. Was the testing done? Was he deemed loyal? He’d have to talk to Laura about this. Let her know. She could be set up for tests, now that she was a housewife. Who knew which woman was working undercover, looking for malcontents? She’d have to be careful who she talked to.

He drove home carefully. Traffic violations were now severely punished. He wondered for a moment about Captain Joyce. How did he know about the loyalty testing? He worked in Supply. Maybe Joyce was undercover. Tyler shrugged to himself. Maybe not. With things the way they were now, anyone could turn in anyone else for suspicious behavior or comments. He’d have to be careful too. Watch what he said and to whom. He sighed. He missed the old days. How did they get to this point? It didn’t matter, he thought. We’re here now and we just have to survive it.

Thank you for reading.

The Party – Chapter 7: Bill Brown Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 7: Bill Brown #9645990

Bill Brown, now known as 9645990, got up on command, went to the tray window and slid his empty breakfast tray and rice paper spoon inside then lined up along the cafeteria wall with the others in his cohort. It was time to go to work.

He’d been surprised when two weeks into this nightmare he’d been transferred from the facility he’d first been taken to and sent here.

At a command, they all began to march, single file, out of the cafeteria.

He thought he was going to be shipped to Africa or something but no. He was here, in a huge factory, where he’d been assigned to an engineering drafting shop. It made sense, he thought as they marched along. Why waste perfectly good brain power? The work wasn’t easy, but it was boring, though fairly matching what he’d been doing his whole adult life. Drafting had never been his favorite thing to do.

At his office the cohort stopped on command. The guard shouted out his number. He stepped out of line and saluted. A modified Nazi salute he had been horrified to learn the second day he’d been at the receiving facility. That first two weeks was an intensive course in learning that he was no longer a free man. The bruises had only faded a week ago. The cohort moved on and he went into his office. There were three other men in there, already at their drafting tables. No one looked up.

He sat down and picked up his Computer Aided Design pen without addressing the others. The cameras in the four corners of the ceiling made sure that they understood that while there was no guard in the room, they were being watched.

The first week was difficult. He’d never worked on 3-D CAD software, but much was the same as with the software he had used before so the learning curve wasn’t too big. After that, the work was dull. This week, according to specification, draw a gear. Actually, a different gear every day. No one told them what the purpose was of any of the drawings they completed. But he did know that everyone in the room was working on mechanical parts. No telling though, if they belonged to the same project.

That was just one of the things that nagged at him. Taking pride in his work before always entailed knowing what the big picture was. What the smaller parts fit into. Now, it was just this. A single drawing. He was already bored.

A chime rang. Everyone stopped what they were doing and lined up at the door. A guard came and escorted them to an exercise yard. Bill had been surprised, the first day, when he realized they were being allowed outside. “Half an hour,” the guard had said. Some headed for a quarter-mile track where they began walking. Others for a weight area where they began lifting. There was some talk, but only about the weights or the weather. No other conversation.

One guy, number 9062579, introduced himself in a low voice. “Come with me. We’ll walk.”

Bill nodded and they headed to the track. “I’m Bill.”

“George. But never call me that. That’s a punishable offence.”

Bill nodded. “We get to do this every day?”

“Rain or shine.” George began swinging his arms around. “This helps with keeping limber after leaning over the desk all day.”

Bill did the same. “I was surprised how good breakfast was.”

“Sure. We do work, they feed us well. Gotta keep the farm animals in tip top shape.”

“What?” Bill stared at George.

George snorted. “That’s what we are now, you know. Animals. We earn our keep, we get treated well. If we don’t, well, I’ve seen many a man leave on a stretcher and not return.”

Bill didn’t know what to think about that. “Why?”

“Because good food, exercise, plenty of rest keeps us in good shape. I’ve lost forty pounds since I’ve been here. No booze, very little sugar—it’s the diet my doctor had been trying to get me to use for years.” He snorted again. “He was right. I feel better than I did when I graduated from college.”

“How long have you been here?”

“About six months.”

That’s when a whistle blew. A guard, back near the building pointed at them. George waved. “We gotta split up. They don’t like it when we talk together.”

With that he sped up, leaving Bill to trail behind. Since he was getting out of breath, he let George go and slowed down a bit. He thought about what he’d heard. He didn’t like the idea that they were considered farm animals. But everything to this point had surprised him.

Now, two week later, he pondered everything he knew so far. He knew he was in a Wagnall Aerospace Industries factory. Their logo was on everything. That he and the other men were slave labor was obvious. Cheaper, he realized, to keep the men healthy with good food and exercise, than to feed them poorly and have them get sick. Sick men didn’t produce well. He swung his arms around first in sync then as a windmill, then back the other way. George had been right. It helped with the back strain. And he could tell he was losing weight, even after two weeks.

But, was this going to be his life forever? Slave labor? Even if he did get good food and exercise, this isn’t all he wanted. He was only thirty-six years old. He missed Mara, and the kids. Maybe he could write them? This was really the first time he’d had time to think about more than surviving these new circumstances. Who could he ask? He’d try his cohort guard. That’s who they were supposed to go to with issues.

He took a breath and at the chime, started back to the building. Yes. He’d ask Officer Fernald. He already felt better.

Thank you for reading.

The Party- Chapter 6: Mara Brown – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 6: Mara Brown

Mara Brown stood in her back yard, arms wrapped around herself, doing her best to keep from sobbing. Her beautiful family. Her beautiful house. Gone. All gone. It had been three weeks since the Immaculata had barged into their yard and taken her husband and children away. Was it really just three weeks? She sniffed back imminent tears and gave her head the tiniest of shakes. It seemed a lifetime ago.

She looked around the back yard. People were arriving for the auction. They stared at her but looked away when she caught their eye. Vultures, she thought. Here to pick over the body. That’s how she felt about it. The body of her old life.

It was amazing, actually, how fast it all was. The day it all exploded, she had been left standing, almost where she was right now, as the Macs left with her family and the poor Apples. Tears threatened so she turned to face the back of the yard and dashed the tears away. She pulled a tissue from her pocket and blew her nose. She wasn’t about to show these vultures any weakness. She pulled her spine erect and raised her head, squaring her shoulders as she turned back to face her house.

Bruce Leightner’s wife, Corrine, was watching her. Mara gave her a slight nod and was surprised when Corrine gave her a smile. A sad, but sympathetic smile. Mara gave a small smile back and they traded nods. Not all alone, even though Bruce was an asshat. Still it was something. She took a deep breath.

The day after the raid, three men from the government showed up at the front door. They introduced themselves and walked right in. The head guy, Mr. Clarke, told her what was going on as the other two headed upstairs, electronic pads in their hands.

“You’ll have to move, of course,” Clarke told her as he scanned what was on his pad. “All the furniture will have to be sold or moved, your choice. We’ll help you with that if you’d like.” He looked around the foyer and adjacent living room. “Nice place. It should sell quickly at the auction.”

Auction, she thought. “What auction?”

Clarke raised an eyebrow. “For the fine. I see,” he scrolled pages on his pad, “you only have $12,347.56, in you accounts. Total, that is. The fine is $200,000.’

She felt as though she’d fallen into a house of mirrors. “Fine?”

He sighed. “Yes. For being married to racially impure. It’s $100,000 for your ex-husband and $50,000 each for the children. Good thing you only had two. It can get cost prohibitive with more children.” He went back to scanning his pad. “If we get enough for the house, you can keep what’s in your bank accounts and anything you get from the sale of the furniture.”

All she could do was nod.

“Just have a seat, it won’t take long for us to complete the assessment.”

She went into the kitchen and made a cup of tea. Mara sat in the morning room where she sipped it slowly as she watched the three men meet in the backyard and make their assessments back there. The tea was gone when Mr. Clarke came in through the back door.

“That’s about it, Mrs. Brown. We’ll send you a letter with the auction date. Have all furniture you’re keeping out by then. And all the rest of the furniture sold. The house should be empty for the sale.”

She nodded her understanding.

He gave her a smile and a nod. “Good working with you, Mrs. Brown.”

She watched him go out through the living room and heard the front door open, then close.

Now here she was. The auction. Several of her neighbors were in the crowd, none of them looking at her, at least eye to eye. The auction began. Mara was surprised at how fast it went. Bruce Leightner had the highest bid. While everyone was gathering around to congratulate him, Corrine walked over to her.

“I’m so sorry, Mara. Really. I am.”

Mara nodded. “Thank you.”

“What are you going to do now?”

Mara was surprised she’d asked. No one had spoken to her except in one-word statements or questions since the day. “Um. I have a little apartment.” She shrugged. “Something cheap. I don’t have a lot of money.”

Corrine reached up to pat Mara but Mara flinched away. Corrine dropped her hand, folding her arms in front of herself. “Sorry.” She sighed. “Look. You have the same email?”

Mara blinked in surprise. “Yeah.”

“I’ll email you. We’ll get together.”

“Corrine!”

Corrine flinched a little. “Yes, dear?”

“Let’s go!”

Corrine wagged her eyebrows at Mara. “I’ll email.” Then turned and walked to her husband.

Bruce grabbed her by the arm and jerked her toward the back gate. “That makes ten houses in this neighborhood.” His voice was loud enough to be heard two houses away. “Don’t be talking to no impures. Hear me?”

“But, she’s not impure.” Corrine defended Mara.

Bruce jerked her arm. “She married one. So stay away.” He glared back in Mara’s direction. “She’s not clean, sleeping with a nigger.”

“But…” Corrine began.

“Shut it.” He jerked her arm again as they crossed the street.

Mara drew in a big breath. This was how it was going to be. For a long time, she expected. Unclean. Dirty. Just how they’d described the Jews before World War II. She walked over to the auctioneer and Mr. Clarke. Time to see if the house sale covered the fine. She hoped so. She wondered if they’d help her find a job. Things were already getting lean.

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 5 Duncan Angelson – Friday Flash Fiction Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 5: Duncan Angelson

After Andy McGuire left, Duncan got to work. He knew exactly why Mr. Joe Evans, The People’s Party leader, wanted to talk. There was much to do. Too soon, his secretary, Wendy Ackerman, buzzed. “Mr. Evans to see you, Sir.”

He punched the intercom button. “Send him in.”

As the door opened, Duncan stood and walked around the desk. “Joe. Good to see you.” He held out his hand.

Joe Evans strode in and shook hands with the Chief of Staff. “Good to see you, too, Duncan. It’s been too long. Emily says you and Monica need to come out to the farm for dinner.”

“Let us know the day and time, Joe. We’d love to come out.” He motioned to a loveseat in the middle of the room. “Have a seat. What can I do for you?”

Joe Evans sat down, his bulk nearly filling the loveseat.

“Drink?”

“Scotch. No ice.”

Duncan nodded and poured his best into a heavy, squat, cut-crystal glass. He poured one for himself then handed over the glass before sitting in the armchair across from a small, glass-topped coffee table.

Evans sipped, smacking his lips. “You know how to take care of a visitor, Duncan.”

Duncan smiled and put his lips to his drink, then placed it on the table. “I know you didn’t come all the way into Washington for a Scotch.”

“No.” Joe Evans sighed, drank again, and held the near empty glass in his lap. “You reading the Immaculata reports?”

“The summaries, of course. A full report when there’s something of interest, why?”

“Well, it’s a good thing, bad thing sort of issue. The Immaculata were very efficient. We had them started rounding up dissidents and activists before the President’s second term was only half over. And you know, by the time it ended, we’d put all of our people in place and had the electorate whipped into a frenzy about illegal aliens. Then we rolled back all the civil rights legislation since 1959. The next three years, we had anyone not a citizen and anyone with any Negro or Chink blood rounded up, or nearly so. This last year, anyone turned in by people they knew who had even the smallest amount of black, chink, or Hispanic blood was fair game.”

He laughed. “Damn but that marketing campaign was effective. Suspicion, greed, jealousy—all of it ramped up until we were working 24/7 on rounding people up.” He drank the last of his scotch and motioned, asking for another.

Duncan nodded and got up, taking the glass to his little dry bar. “So, what’s the problem?”

“It worked too well. The Immaculata are rounding up people now with so little taint in their blood that we’re damn close to making it up.” He took the glass from Duncan and drank some more. “We’re not sure what to do now.”

Duncan sat back in the armchair. “Are the people being turned in actually bad people? They complain about the president or the party?”

“No.” Joe Evans waved away the thought. “Matter of fact, a lot of them are party members and donated to the President’s reelection. Voted him President for Life, too.”

Duncan rubbed his cheek. He could feel the stubble already forming. “How about letting some of them go, then. You know, they were examined and found clean, politically correct. It might be time to show how fair the party is.”

For a moment, Evans rubbed his chin, nodding, as he thought that idea over. “Perhaps. I’ll take it to the committee.” He sipped, then changed the subject. “How’s the President?”

Duncan shook his head. “It’s like minding a child. But we knew that six years ago. How’s his wife?”

Evans sighed. “She’s happy to be in New York. Their girl is in that special school she needs. But Mrs. Margaret Masters wants to divorce. We can’t allow that.”

“Any particular reason? I mean other than she knows he’s a horndog?”

“She wants to be free to see other men. Understandable. She’s only thirty-two. But we can’t allow that.”

“What about if she sees men discretely? Would she go for that?” Duncan was thinking furiously. Maggie Masters knew the whole story. If she decided to spill the beans, that could cause a huge problem. Mainly for her. Duncan didn’t want that. He personally liked Maggie and her daughter, Bectie. It wouldn’t do for her to have an accident.

A slow head shake from Evans was the answer. Then he shrugged and drank another sip. “Maybe. I’ll take that to the committee too.” He sighed again. “We can play off anything that happens in the press, of course. Most of the media outlets know where their bread is buttered now. But there’s always a few reporters still willing to kick up a fuss.”

Duncan shrugged. “What about the President. I don’t think there’s enough hookers in the country to satisfy the lecher-in-chief.”

“Start bringing back the ones he started with. His dementia is far enough gone by now, and the girls all look the same anyway, he’ll never know.” Evans drained his glass and rose ponderously from the loveseat. He smoothed what little white hair he had into place. “The doc’s giving him a clean bill of health?”

“Yeah. As much as possible. Dementia has it’s health side effects, you know.”

Evans nodded. “Do what you have to. By the time he’s too sick for any appearances, we’ll have the entire country nailed down.” He turned to the door and took a step. “Oh.” He turned back. “The Eastern Federation wants a sit down on nuclear issues.”

“President Popov?”

“Right. When they rolled over Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Germany, they acquired a lot of material.”

“I’ll set something up.” Duncan walked Evans to the door, opened it and shook his hand. “Give me a few days.”

“Keep in touch.”

Duncan nodded and went back into his office as Evans waddled out of the secretary’s office. Nukes, he thought. Great.

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 4 – Andy McGuire Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 4: Andy McGuire

Special Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of the Chief of Staff Andy McGuire entered the President Jeff Master’s private office. The Chief of Staff, Duncan Angelson was standing in the middle of the room. The president was on the sofa with a young, blond, woman in his lap. The young woman was wearing a sleeveless, low cut, tight fitting blouse in hot pink and the president had his hand up her tiny skirt, grinning like a small boy with his favorite toy. Andy thought the woman was barely legal but who knew. He moved his eyes to his boss, Duncan.

Duncan read from a folder. “Mr. President. After four years, the internment of undesirables is down. They’ve mostly been sent to internment camps and put to work for the good of the motherland. Dissidents, on the other hand—those numbers are up. But they’re getting harder to catch.”

Out of the corner of his eye Andy could see the president nuzzling the woman’s neck. He focused. “Chief, a message from the Secretary of Homeland Security.” He handed McGuire the sheet of paper and waited while the man read it.

“This is some news, Mr. President. The Immaculata have seized a small group of dissidents right here in Washington. They’re being interrogated as we speak. They expect they’ll get a number of leads on other groups.”

“Good,” the President said into the woman’s neck. “Good.” He moved his hand down her bare leg to her knee and moved it further aside. His hand went back up her skirt. “Keep me apprised. Dismissed.”

The Chief of Staff nodded. “Very good, sir. A reminder that the women’s volleyball team will be here in an hour and a half for a photo op.”

The President raised his head and grinned. “Excellent. Lovely young ladies, those.” He went back to his nuzzling, pushing the woman further back.

The Chief caught Andy’s eye and we left the room. Andy swallowed his bile and wished to go wash his hands, but he followed the Chief to his office. He closed the doors behind them.

“Make sure the President is cleaned up and in the Oval and the woman paid off and escorted out as soon as he’s done. Get the news crew into the office and set up before he gets in there.”

Andy nodded. The whole situation was disgusting but that was the world they were living in now. “The People’s Party leader, Mr. Evans, wants a meeting today.” Evans was the brains behind the president, who Andy was starting to believe was more than a little senile. But as long as he was kept in blonde young women and had time to watch eight hours of news and political commentary a day with his phone in hand to send out tweets, he was controllable. Evans, however, was merciless. Paid off by the top one percent of the one percent, the ultra-rich were now in charge of the country. Mega-corporations pretty much owned everything. The air, water and land was becoming more polluted already as environmental laws were repealed.

“What’s he want?”

“I suspect the little revolt in Congress the other day concerns him. He’s going to want those Senators taken care of.”

McGuire nodded, sighing. “Yeah. I figured as much. Can any of them be bought off?”

“Anyone who would take a payoff has pretty much been in our pocket for two years now. These are the radical hold-outs.” Andy wasn’t sure how the People’s Party had missed taking over those districts but that wouldn’t last much longer. The mid-term elections would see those Senators replaced. If they lived that long.

“See if they’ll be bought off. If not, arrange something.” He turned on his computer. He had work to do.

Andy nodded and left, stomach rolling. He was hoping they’d take a bribe. If not, the party had some people I could call. It would all look like accidents of course. They always did. And, for the sake of the visuals, they wouldn’t happen all at once. But it would happen. Oh yes. It would happen.

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 3 Devon Brown, Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.

Chapter 3: Devon Brown

Devon trembled in the backseat of a monstrous black SUV beside his sister, Caitlin. The truck was so big, the officers had had to lift them both up to the back seat.  Both of them had their hands handcuffed behind their backs. Caitlin was crying, calling out, “Mommy, Mommy,” snot running down her face. That bothered him. His mother wouldn’t like it but what could he do?

He didn’t understand. Did Daddy do something wrong? Why’d they take him away? Why did the soldiers take him and Caitlin away? He slid a little closer to his sister so that they were side by side. What was going to happen? Where were they going? He was too short to see out of the windows. When he tried to crane up, all he could see were rooftops. He stopped when the soldier riding up front told him to sit back.

They drove for a long time. He was glad when Caitlin fell asleep, her little blond head against his shoulder. He was too upset to go to sleep. His hands were full of prickles, but he didn’t want to shift around, it would wake his sister. Every few minutes the soldier checked his mirror, watching Devon. It scared him, so he sat very still.

It seemed like a long time but finally the car pulled up to a gate. The driver’s window went down and a soldier stuck his head in to look in the backseat. “Go on,” he said, and the car went in. They came to a big building and the car stopped at the front door. The two soldiers got out and Caitlin woke up as the doors slammed shut.

“Devon?”

“We’re here,” he told her as the passenger doors opened at the same time. The driver pulled him out of the car as the other soldier pulled Caitlin out. Devon’s legs had fallen asleep along with his hands and he collapsed to the sidewalk, skinning his knees.

“Stand up, kid.” He pulled Devon up by the back of his t-shirt.

“My legs are asleep.”

“Great.” The soldier kept hold of Devon’s shirt and joined Caitlin and her guard at the door. They went in and nodded to the soldier at the desk near the door. He nodded back and they went across a lobby and down a hall. There were a lot of halls, Devon thought, and soon, he had no idea where they were of what was going on. They were taken to a place where people in white uniforms, like doctors, took them after the handcuffs were taken off.

The soldiers left and the aides made them undress. Devon had trouble. His hands didn’t want to work. One aide had to undress him. Devon didn’t like that but there was nothing he could do. They were sent into a shower together. Devon helped Caitlin wash her face and when they came out, they were given gray cotton pants and shirts with numbers on them to wear—and picked up and put in barber chairs. Devon didn’t think he needed a haircut, he’d just been a few days ago with his dad. The barber took clippers and ran them over his head. Horrified, he watched as they did the same to Caitlin. She began to cry and fight them. One of the aides grabbed her hands and told her to shut up. It was over in just a moment, her blonde hair scattered all over the floor.

They were escorted to another place and a doctor looked at them. Then another place where there were other kids, standing in lines. Girls in one and boys in another. Caitlin didn’t like that and started crying again, calling for Devon. An aide came down the line and slapped her and told her to shut up.

“No!” Devon yelled and began to go to her. An aide grabbed him by the arm, slapped him, and shoved him back into line so hard he fell. “Get up, kid.” And the aide walked away. Devon, shaking, stood up. He’d never been hit by an adult. Never. He didn’t know what to think. Caitlin cried quietly, watching him, as the line kept moving. She reached the desk first.

“Six years old,” the man said. He waved his hand and an aide led her away. She didn’t want to go and fought the aide, but it did no good. He dragged her, screaming, “Devon,” until they left the room. Then it was his turn.

“Eight years old,” the man said as he checked a tablet. He waved and an aide took Devon away in a different direction than Caitlin had went.

“What about my sister?” he asked.

“Shut up,” was the only answer.

They entered a room where there were other boys sitting at desks. Devon saw that the boys sat, hands folded on their desks, eyes straight ahead. Not one boy turned to see him come in.

The man in the room checked his tablet, then nodded at the aide, who left.

“Boy. Pay attention. I’m Mr. George. You are now called 9280970. Remember that. It’s the number on your shirt. Say it.” He stood, staring at Devon.

“9280970,” Devon said in a voice that cracked.

“Good. There is no talking unless you are asked a direct question. Is that understood?”

Devon nodded.

“Do what you are told and it will go easy on you. If you disobey, or don’t follow directions, you’ll be punished. Do you understand?”

Devon nodded again. He tried to swallow but his mouth was dry. This place was scary.

“Sit over there, Row four, chair six. That is your place.”

Devon nodded and walked over to the seat.

“Hands folded on the desk. Eyes to the front.”

Devon did as he was told. This is not good, he remembered his father always saying. He was right.

Thank you for reading.