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 10: Duncan Angelson: 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 10: Duncan Angelson

“What’s the President doing?” Duncan Angelson shuffled reports as he asked.

“In his room, in front of the screen bank. Same old, same old.” Andy McGuire at in the chair in front of the Chief’s desk and waited for the Chief of Staff to continue.

“How’s that new manager working out for the Twitter operators?”

“Good. She knows the President’s history, his usual hot button topics, and has today’s list of propaganda. No problems since we fired the last manager. It was a good idea, setting up that office. The President’s tweets go to them, they clean them up and then post them. Have you seen some of his raw tweets? They make no sense at all.”

Duncan nodded. “Yeah, they had to be monitored. It was getting out of hand.” He paused, the asked, “Any problem from the old manager?”

“No, sir. He’s sticking to the agreement.”

That drew a snort from Duncan. “Ought to. He’s being paid off enough.” He drew a deep breath. “Here’s what I need. The Party has agreed that select people we’ve picked up can be released.” He tapped his pad. “I’ve sent you the criteria for the releases. Associated family, if any, will also be released.”

Andy’s pad dinged and he opened the document. He scanned it quickly. “What about these people’s homes, jobs, whatever we took?”

Duncan shook his head. “Reparations will not be offered. They’re lucky they will be released.”

Andy thought that was unfair but he kept his mouth shut. “Very well. I’ll set up a committee to look at the internees and start the process. First ones out should be in about three weeks.” He rubbed an eye. “What are we doing about Popov?”

Duncan rubbed the back of his neck. “The guy is insatiable. Wants everything for Mother Russia.” He leaned back in his chair, resting his head back and staring at the ceiling. “He’s trying to take our nukes. We told him we want ours back. He pretends they’ve been lost.”

“Lost!” Andy blurt out. “Are they really?”

“No.” Duncan sat back up. “He’s stalling. Probably has his engineers in a lab, disassembling one or more to find out our guidance systems or something. The Director of National Intelligence is having a stroke, wants those nukes back ASAP.”

“I can hardly blame him,” Andy was shaking his head. “What’s the next step?”

“Sanctions, not that they bother Popov, but we’ll freeze his and his oligarchs’ bank accounts. That will get their attention.”

Andy took a note on his pad. “I’ll get the sanctions process moving.” He looked up. “What about the dissidents? They’re not on the release program, are they?”

“No. They’re in a whole other category.” Duncan leafed through his reports then put them back down. “I am concerned about the creation of dissidents, though.” He drummed his fingers on his desk. “There seem to be more than ever now. We clean up one cell and three more pop up.”

“How does that happen?” Andy looked puzzled. “We don’t televise them or allow demonstrations. So how are the cells being formed?”

“That’s what I’d like to know. Do some research, will you? On the fine art of dissidents or whatever you have to do. Some egghead professor somewhere knows how these things happen. Or maybe even the FBI or CIA will know. They’re communicating somehow. Let’s try to nip this in the bud before it becomes a real problem.”

Andy nodded and made another note. “The doc wants to talk about the President.”

That brought another sigh from Duncan. “What about?”

“He said he’s not liking the President’s health. Wants to review options. Do we need the First Lady?”

Duncan shook his head. “No. She’d divorce him if she could. Make him an appointment to see me. Might as well get the news sooner rather than later.” He picked up his pen, then put it down again. “That brings up the replacement. If the President dies, we need to have someone lined up and ready to plug into place. Start a list of possible candidates. It will all have to be cleared through the party, of course, but we might as well get the ball rolling.”

Andy made another note. “Is that it?”

“Sure. Let me know if there are any hiccups with any of those items. Keep them all on the down low. Usual disclaimers and non-disclosures. You know the drill.”

Andy stood up. “Got it.” He tucked his pad into his suit coat pocket and started for the door. He paused, hand on the knob and turned back to the Chief of Staff. “Just off the top of my head, Chief. Those people we release, we’re not making reparations. Isn’t that going to make them dissidents? I mean, we’re turning them lose with nothing. Their lives were ruined.”

Duncan scratched an eyebrow. “No. They’ll be counselled before release concerning any errors in judgement. They won’t want to go back to the camps, especially not as dissidents.”

“Okay.” Andy nodded. “If you say so.”

Thank you for reading.

The Party: Chapter 9 – 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 9: Stacy Zimmer

Stacy Zimmer opened the newspaper that had been left behind by someone as she sat in her local coffee shop. She’d chosen a table in the back. She couldn’t bring herself to sit anywhere else in the store. A view of the entire place was in front of her with no windows or doors behind. She felt better that way. Less chance for error. She hated errors. That’s what got people killed. She knew that from experience. Lots of experience. But that was past, she reminded herself. Past. It was over. She was home. No need to be defensive.

The barista called her name and she jumped. Stacy sucked in a breath. No problem, she told herself. No problem, just coffee. She quickly surveyed the shop, a couple of grandmas, a lone guy on his laptop, two twenty-something women, nothing a threat, she assessed as she slid easily from her chair to walk calmly to the pick-up counter. Nothing to see here. Nothing. Nothing but, she still eyeballed the guy. Suit, laptop and briefcase. Big enough to hold an IED. No, she told herself. This is the States. Nothing here. Nothing here.

Her hand shook the cup of mocha latte as she went back to her table. Nothing. Nothing. It wasn’t working. She felt trapped, here at the back of the store with no way out. She grabbed her backpack and her drink and headed out the door. She was three hundred feet from the shop before she could breathe. Moron, she thought. What the hell? It was just a coffee shop. But that’s not the newsreel that was rolling through her head. That was different. That was the sandbox. That was her and her crew, laughing, taking pics with the local boy selling tea. Tea for Christ’s sake. The boy had called them over. “Tea,” he said, smiling. They’d all laughed. He couldn’t have been more than ten. “Tea, Tea.”

Tears ran down her face unnoticed. God damned tea. She’d never drank it again even though that was her favorite. Her morning ritual. Now it was coffee. She stopped in the park, sat on a bench. Her breathing came back to normal as she popped the sipping port on the coffee. She drank and stretched her back taking a deep breath. It was okay. Not a problem. Just a little scare. Nothing to be worried about.

In the open she felt better, more secure. Daylight, clear lines of sight. Not boxed in. Much better. She took a deep breath. Better. Better. She took a sip of the drink and set it on the bench beside her then took the day’s paper out of her pack. It was good. Read the paper. Drink the coffee. The birds sang in the trees nearby and moms were starting to arrive in the park, their little darlings let out of their carriages and set free to toddle in the grass. Yes. This was fine.

Then Stacy read the third page. The government was taking veteran’s retirement and disability funds to create a wall along every continental U.S. border. All about self-defense, she read. But vet’s payments would be cut by half to solve the discrepancy. Half? HALF? Stacy lept up. She couldn’t live on half. Half wouldn’t pay the rent. Half wouldn’t pay for groceries. Half wouldn’t cover her co-pays for her meds. Even in her mental state, she understood she needed her meds or she’d be worse off than she was now. No. NO!

A mother walked by, stroller in front of her, staring. Stacy realized she was hyperventilating, fists clenched, and teeth bared. She shook herself and tried to smile. The look on the woman’s face made it clear she wasn’t reassuring anyone. She grabbed her pack and stuffed the paper into it as she rushed off.

How can this be, she raged as she raced away from the park? I did my time. I was promised. How can they? How can they?

It was late afternoon when through sheer exhaustion she finally came to herself. She had no idea where she was but realized she was hunkered down behind a building, back of a big trash receptacle. A man sat cross-legged a few feet away.

“Hey.” He gave her a nod from behind another of the big trash bins.

She nodded. “Hey.”

“You okay?”

Stacy drew in a deep breath. Despite having missed her meds schedule, she did feel almost normal. “Yeah. Think so.”

“Afghanistan?”

She nodded.

“Get that myself from time to time.”

She took another deep breath. A fellow soldier. “Yeah.”

“Flashback?”

She looked him over. Old field jacket, unit patch still on the arm. Greasy jeans, tattered sneakers about to fall apart. “Kind of.”

He shrugged. There’s a shelter, if you need it. Not too far from here.

She thought it over. It was almost promising. “You stay there?”

He chuckled and shook his head. “Hell no. They’ll slit your throat for your shoes in there.”

She smiled. “Thanks then. I think I’ll pass.”

He nodded. “What set you off, if I may ask?”

“G’ment. Assholes. Taking our pay, our meds.” She still shook. This was too much.

He spit off to the side she wasn’t on. “Assholes.”

She nodded. “They promised.”

“Yeah. They always promise.”

She looked closer. He was grizzled, wrinkled. He was a lot older. “The same?”

He nodded. “Yeah. Same old, same old.” He sighed. “What’cha gonna do about it?”

Stacy blinked. “Do?”

“Yeah. Do. Don’t cha think they’ve about worn out their welcome?”

She ran her fingers through her short brown hair. “Like what?”

“You been readin’ the news the last three years? You think it’s a quirk that it’s just us white soldiers left? Just takin’ our pay? Just throwin’ us away? You’re young. You can do something.”

Stacy stared at him. Do something? Fight back? She didn’t think she had anything left.

He looked at her. “You’ve got the skills.”

She stared back. “So do you.”

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 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.