I see Karl August standing beneath the towering oak outside his house on Pilgrim Street, looking thoughtfully at his new door. Turning up the cement approach to his porch, I must admit the new door looks like wood. Old, dry wood. We stand on the portico and Karl tries it a few times. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Until you hear it open and close, you’ve no idea it’s double half-inch steel. Closing it sounds sort of Bavarian, like the way a BMW door thumps. But heavier.
“Well fitted, Mr Do-It-Yourselfer!” I offer a warm six-pack as a prize.
The iron bars over Karl’s windows are not glaringly aperiodic on his small colonial. I can see he’s pre-rusted them, to go with the shabby-looking door, part of a scheme to make his house seem dilapidated and unoccupied should he decide to “Shelter-In.” If things get hairier.
“Really looks old. Creaky.”
“It took me days to find the inspiration for the right look. I finally found Dorothea Lange’s gloomy photos of the Dust Bowl migrants and voila! The rest was pen-and-ink and shellac.”
He’d actually hand-drawn the old-wood grain. Damn fine job. “So none of it repeats. That would be a giveaway.” Karl’s a designer.
A door to keep locked on the Big Day! The Admiral has promised us to “Reboot the Republic,” now that the Eight-Week War is over. What’s next? Only the Admiral and the Temporary Leadership Council can say.
On the inside, a double-deadbolt you snap shut with a safe-style wheel in the middle, hardening the stress points in the midsection of the door. There’s a reinforced Judas-hole built that’ll fit a twelve-gauge tube with play for a 90-degree side-to-side or up-down sweep. Elegant. In an elongated bucket inside the crook of the door, the upended butt of an M1 carbine can be seen amidst the tangle of umbrella handles. Karl tracks my gaze. He’s retrieved a couple of cigars from somewhere in his modest citadel. We fire the cigars and ponder them a moment.
“It’s a pretty low-energy round,” Karl allows, appraising the gun upended in the bucket. “A precision piece. Good at neighborhood distances. Won’t over-penetrate.”
Rolled blackout blinds brood over the windows flanking the door. The rest of the house’s windows wear similar grim expressions. Barberry bushes beard the ground floor, and stand before the basement windows on the eastern side of the house. Nature’s barbed wire.
He’s right, I agree. I palm the carbine and eject its 30-round clip. Nasty. Karl’s hollowed out the bullets. You’ve got to factor bullet drop and energy. Our houses are like 25 feet apart on Pilgrim Street. That’s why a lot of folks favor pump-actions with light pheasant loads. “Didjyou spring for the Kevlar curtains?”
Karl smiles. “Natch.” Despite the foreboding we feel, there’s still a pre-game excitement to all of this.
Something about the Kevlar shades catches my eye. I draw closer to the dark shades. I can see subtle floral patterns on the small length of fabric hanging beneath the roll. “These are sort of… decorative. Patterned.”
“On the inside. We don’t have to live like animals!” He says this with a Charlton Heston like intensity. It’s goofy. I laugh.
“This is really gonna be something!” I comment, needlessly.
The .30 carbine oughtta do. I keep a full-powered .308 at hand for my personal comfort level. Plenty of follow-through, there. And a little something in a side pocket. A nice little .38. Betty never carries but Karl’s husband, does. I like that a big strong guy like Neil (who’s also a chef!) can chaperone Betty to see what they can scrounge down at the market. Karl also carries a Kimber .45 with a double-stack mag, which, to my thinking, is exactly right. Betty carries a Swiss Army knife. Doesn’t much care for guns.
Karl and I pop open a couple of warm ones and relax on the two plush sofas in the quiet living room. Neil and Betty should be back soon. And Red, their indefatigably barking Irish Setter. The room seems a lot bigger now that Karl and Neil moved out the inert flatscreen TV and magnificent Bang & Olufsen sound system. That’s one thing you miss about regular electricity. Electronic distraction. Leaves you with a lot of time to think. About this mess we’re all in.
But thank God for Karl’s books. He’s fashioned a little fortress-temple of civilization here. I arise and look at some of the titles. Rich veins of Plutarch, Gibbon, Solzhenitsyn, Churchill… Wodehouse. That’s what I need. I pull out Code of the Woosters.
The Admiral is our Churchill. Our Washington.
The hero generous Fortune gave our Republic, just in time.
Karl’s doing a little inventory along with finding pictures of old doors and despairing woman from the Great Depression. His house fairly groans with art books, many of which lie open in front of his densely packed bookshelves. Culture!
The rest of the floor is a maze of what you call stockpile. Crates, cartons, backpacks, tents, tarps. Ropes. Nautical lines, paracord, twine, yarn, miles of sewing thread, floss and even suturing kits. Karl’s got everything. CELOX instant-clotting chest bandages. Fruit-flavored hydrating salts. Gluten-free, freeze-dried survival meals in pouches and several big plastic buckets containing dried fruits, veggies, soy and whey proteins.
Multiples of two of everything. Guns, redundant guns, extra magazines, stacks of maybe 5,000 rounds of ammo, lubricants, bore cleaners, cleaning rods, the works.
And, among a lot of other things, a battery-operated marine-band radio.
You see, most all the regular radio stations went dark and we’ve been getting our regular information on this weird VHF frequency over Karl’s radio. There’s shortwave, of course, but we can’t decide whether the foreign stations are for us or against, us, usually. A wind-up radio plays some Art Tatum on one of two available versions of Voice of America, one Beijing-leaning, the other, we think, favorable to Brussels. Which is really the voice of… well, the Muezzin.
But it is Art Tatum. If you only have time or means for a little music, you could do worse. If the Muezzin can accommodate Tatum in his world, I will accommodate the Muezzin. The jazz we will not trade. From this sound we can recreate a world. Or create a new one.
Music’s solidly American, anyhow. But, this false Voice of America makes us feel like we’re disloyally listening to Tokyo Rose, or Lord Haw-Haw, or Jane Fonda, or something.
The Admiral’s next orders are due to be transmitted at 6pm Eastern. No one else in the neighborhood had one of these funky radios, but Karl had one. And he doesn’t even have a boat. Well, he does, if you count the inflatable rafts and two kayaks. And linens! More stacks of carefully folded high thread-count Egyptian cotton. Nice stuff.
“His and His of everything, I see.”
“Two is one and one is none,” he affirmed, citing the old Prepper’s Creed that had even found its way into what he’d vowed to Neil during their marriage ceremony.
I sit back down and then lean from the comfortable sofa to look at what’s stenciled on some of the nearby cartons. In the late-afternoon orange sunlight, I read “Spanish Olives”. There’s a stack of six boxes.
“With pimentos, my boy. Who knows what someone might trade for these delicious babies? They’re gold!”
Next to that stack, another of blue SKYY Vodka boxes. Karl is a professor at the Caliyuga School of Design.
“Let me guess. You like the color of the bottle.”
“The whole design, actually. No carbs, either. These are as good as gold. Trade for anything.”
“Uh, huh. Or mix a few end-of-world dirty martinis.”
“Dirty bomb time is dirty martini time! I’ve got a shitload of capers, too.”
“Shrewd. Those’ll come in handy,” I allow.
I looked down at the weapons, freshly oiled, gleaming in the slanting sunlight. Fortunately, we were not entirely unprepared in this regard. All scores, settled.
All debts. Forgiven. Public and private. That’s a biggie.
That did it for the dollar. Take a look at one of the old dollars, if you managed to save any. “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.” It was the key to whole scam! You were just paying your debt to somebody with what somebody else owed somebody. Let us just say, the acclaim for the Admiral’s provisions was near-universal, at least here in America. It fucked everybody else.
The other good news was that would be no more purges and mass-arrests, either. “With malice towards none,” Admiral Clayton put it, channeling President Lincoln. Well, some malice, in the extreme, for a necessary few of the richly deserving financial-government elite. Pour les encouragements des autres, as Napoleon said.
The Re-election of Congress and the President will occur in 14 months, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice tribunals currently adjudicating our land will be replaced by justices appointed by the new elected President and Congress. America will be restored to her owners, Us. The People. Once we firehose the Chicomms and the Russkis out of here.
It’s up to us, the citizen militia, to help, because our forces are pinned down in foreign theaters. The troops won’t be coming home, after all.
That was Round One.
Now we’re waiting to hear from the Admiral about Round Two. Rumors are flying, even without the Internet. The craziest I’ve heard is that Admiral will announce a general amnesty to go with the debt forgiveness. If the Eight-Weeks War didn’t get your attention, that sure will! Millions of criminals, released on the streets? I doubt he’d go that far, although…
… it would help balance the scales.
Well, he’ll let us know. We’re going to listen to the Admiral’s orders together. As neighbors. It’s all part of good neighborhood-building, you know? Looking out for each other. Far different from the nation of isolated strangers we had been until just eight weeks ago. We were, at best, “Hi, Neighbor” friends, with Neil and Karl, followed by cordially disappearing into our respective dwellings.
Hard to believe all that’s changed in just two months!
Just 61 days ago the President rode at the peak of power, and made ready to bring them home. Fifteen years of unrelenting war and now he was ready to bring the troops home, to impress them into new service here within the widening mandate of Homeland Security.
If you see something, say something.
Well, Something Happened. We conjured the same yeast that belched Hitler out of a Munich beer hall. America’s new Caesar, the President, chose to ford his Rubicon at the head of his resentful horde of state and private interests, enforcers and the great mass of those whose wretched lives were supported by government subsidy to a tolerable level of misery. Bringing the military home would lock the door to seal the end of the Republic.
Admiral Clayton hit them mid-stream.
Tapped to be the Chairman of the new “United Chiefs of Staff”, Admiral Reginald Knowles Clayton of the United States Coast Guard knew well the territorial waters of the United States, as well as the treacherous shoals of political Washington. A seeming functionary, he was to be the place-man for the President.
The thinking was, that, nothing would so thoroughly domesticate our well-trained and practiced soldiers than to place them under control of the forgotten branch of our defense establishment, the Coast Guard. Or so the thinking went.
How else to explain the choice of Clayton?
The Coast Guard, you see, long the ugly stepsister of the four other branches of the military, was to be the new Queen under which the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security could be united under a single command.
A little-noticed codicil of our Constitution permits armed Federal troops on our soil and seaways to protect us against enemies foreign and domestic. Everyone ought to read that thing!
Stunning: The Defense Department to be subordinated to the Coast Guard, officially part of the Department of Homeland Security. All branches subordinate to the Coast Guard and its mission. Allowing for armed coast guards on American soil, realigning the military to come under the control of the Coast Guard, became the perfect way for the President to constitutionally change the military’s mission from foreign to his private domestic guard. After all, you couldn’t expect the archipelago of FEMA “Resettlement Camps” to build themselves. Well, maybe you could, if you arrested enough people.
The drones would be coming home, too. That’s why he had to be dealt with. Along with his internal police, special assassination teams, the Attorney General, Internal Revenue, FEMA, DHS, TSA, all his commissar-czars… and most of Congress and the judicial branch. A big brooming sweep. Had to go. They turned against Americans. America. Us.
As seems to occur most fortunately at the times when Liberty is in greatest peril, the times supplied the man–and the gallant men who followed him–to meet this crisis. Clayton had developed a comprehensive and far-reaching plan for Homeland Security.
Just not the one he sold the President.
The Joint Chiefs would surely protest, and perhaps resign. Upon nomination, Clayton immediately arranged for an audience with the Joint Chiefs and availed them of his actual plan. The result was a nomination that flew through the Senate, surprisingly uncontested by the military. And that would have aroused a self-reflective president’s suspicions. Fortunately, our then-president had no self-reflective surfaces.
Thus the Admiral’s announcement that all national defense and security functions were to be reorganized and redesignated as Constitutional Guards, caught the Administration by complete surprise. As did their immediate arrest for high treason.
So the entire Administration and Homeland Security directorate was arrested!
United States Constitutional Guard! Not only does the Admiral steal a march on the President and his enforcement apparatus, he didn’t even have to change the Coast Guard Seal, or his USCG acronym. Efficient!
He and the Joint Chiefs arrested the Administration!
The last things we saw on our plasma screens, before the power went off, was smoke rising from the Capitol Building and the ongoing firefight with the holed-up Secret Service at the White House and then… the screens went blank and we were back in the 1930s, listening to radios.
The Chairman of the Fed got the rope. Radio’s how we heard. We also noted, with considerable satisfaction, that one of the first inmates at newly constructed FEMA Resettlement Camp Magenta was the former head of FEMA himself! In fact, prior to the “Reboot,” the Feds had built a vast new archipelago of remote “refugee” facilities across the country in case of population upheaval caused by natural or man-engineered catastrophe.
As it turns out, the concentration camp system they’d built for us helped to shelter the sudden flux of newly “downsized” security personnel. As for the Administration itself, well… most of that gang had to be dealt with the hard way. I hear the situation with the former First Lady got a little… weird…
She never seemed very happy to begin with, so…
As good as that all was, though, there was nothing pretty about what you saw when the CG police teams made their arrest sweeps. It made you pretty glad you were self-employed or hadn’t smooched your way up to earning an “Executive” embossed on your personal business cards.
You felt sorry for a few of them, dragged from hidden cellars on their vast Reston, Virginia, or Greenwich, Connecticut, or Somers, New York estates. But these were the same people whose “Ends justify the means” thinking had brought us to this pass. The sort of folk who could fatuously suggest at a cocktail gathering that “Eggs need breaking if omelets need making,” or some similar thoughtless quip.
I see Betty and the Good Knight Neil dismounting their bikes. Neil shoulders both bicycles and carries them towards the door.
I walk to the reinforced door, Karl nods his assent, and I play with the ship-style hatch opener. The lock slides open with intricated smoothness and my wife, Red the dog and Neil with the bicycles enter. My eyes detect success in the form of the stocked panniers on either side of the rear wheels of our spouse’s bikes.
“Did Red go all the way with you?” asked Karl.
“He sure did,” responded Betty. She loves Red. “He’s a good boy.” The slightly gray-bearded setter smiled at her, as all dogs are wont to do in her presence. Most people, too. My wife’s a love.
“Well, you’re right on time.”
Betty’s little nose crinkles. “You boys smoking?”
“Guilty. Karl was waving it in my face.”
“A cigar, I hope?”
“Sad, really,” Neil jokes, looking at me. “Still uncomfortable with the inner bisexual trying to escape his man’s body.” I am nonplussed by this remark and decide to watch Karl and Betty unload the baskets. Celery, tomatoes, a cabbage, a loaf of bread, some cheese, a salami! Yogurt! Mustard! An unbelievable score.
“The Hunter-Gatherers!” Karl crows in triumph, mixing his first martini of the evening while I fiddle with the marine-band radio. Got it. Channel 16.
A clear nasal voice is talking. “… ning, Americans. This is Chief Warrant Officer Kenneth Jackson of the United States Constitutional Guard on Armed Forces Radio with your two-minute warning. Admiral Clayton will be addressing the nation at 6:02 Eastern time. Please standby, this frequency.” He repeats the message, and then the voice is replaced by an up-beat rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. God, it’s good to hear the strength of that song.
Neil tears up a bit, at the anthem of the Union. His eyes glisten in the fading light. “That’s always been a personal favorite of mine.” Betty’s practically crying, too. I myself have an unappeasable itch in my throat. I clear it. I signal Karl for a martini. It alights just as the hymn ends and the Admiral begins.
“Good Evening, Americans. This is Admiral Reginald Clayton, speaking on behalf of the Temporary Military Leadership Council. I won’t waste our time, here. The destruction of the ability of the former power-elite to wage unrestricted, terroristic economic war on Americans and America is concluding. Scattered resistance continues, but for the most part, Phase One of our emergency surgery on the Republic is over, and a success. But conditions of injustice remain that, if not treated resolutely and immediately, will prove as deadly fatal to us as the parasites that, We, the People, just expunged.”
We all looked at each other in the dim light. What does it mean? Neil lit one candle. Damn, they teach these officers well at the service academies and war colleges, and such!
“We are therefore embarking on a new mission as a nation. Victory here will be decisive. We must, all of us, to the last citizen, renew our vow to obey the laws upon which the Republic was founded.”
Getting a little apprehensive, now. Somehow my martini got empty.
The Admiral continued. “It is not the written law or laws. It is not something that requires years of law school to tease true meaning from. It is the law of the heart, that cries out at injustice. It is the law of the heart that finds in itself the power to forgive. Our great Republic was founded by men who believed in their hearts that all men were created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. We are all to respect those rights. And that’s where the law lesson ends. We have taken care of those who thought they could with impunity wreak economic disaster on us. We have hunted them across the seas and we have liquidated their stolen fortunes.”
“But this is not enough for us, for Americans. We didn’t shed blood of brothers and sisters for revenge, vengeance, eye-for-eye, tooth-for-tooth! We did it with a great goal in our minds: to save the Republic, and we have, for now. But now we must bind its wounds, and to allow it to emerge from its bandaged state to a state of more perfect union.” Good line.
“We should change our national symbol,” quipped Karl. “Replace the eagle with a particolored butterfly.” We laugh, but stifle it quickly, like misbehaving kids at church.
The Admiral carried on. “For us to be healed and to grow requires the balm of forgiveness. Only forgiveness can heal our scars. Americans always aim for what’s better. Forgiveness is better. The willingness is there, after all our own best intentions are what got us all into this mess. Now it’s time to re-establish the Rule of Law, the Law of the Heart, in our brave, embattled land. We must peel away the restraints of these laws upon our hearts and live by what is just, not what is just legal. Half-measures will avail us nothing. We must advance, with humble, repentant hearts, transported by the greater glory of forgiveness.”
This is all starting to sound very unfashionable. I think that’s why I like it. The Admiral continued.
“Over six million people now inhabit America’s jails. In three days’ time, starting at 6am Eastern on the 24th, all jails, prisons, and other places of involuntary incarceration, at all federal, military, state, county, town and village levels, will begin the process of releasing all of their prisoners.”
Our jaws drop.
“The 24th will be National Amnesty Day.”
Looking around the room, I notice everyone’s hands have suddenly found a weapon. Even me. One of the shotguns. It’s a slide-action and holds seven, with one in the pipe, if you wish. I’ve begun loading it.
“The Temporary Leadership Council and I are asking you to lead the way, by forgiving your own enemies, representing of your own past misdeeds, and pressing ‘Restart’ in your hearts. This is everyone’s chance for a clean break.”
“What the…” Everyone shushes me.
“Everyone gets a fresh start. Even those immoral fleecing sons-of-bitches at the banks and their lawyers.”
We all laugh. That’s the Admiral, for you! Holy cow. This is what it means. They’re letting them all go. Mob Accountants to Zombies.
We’re all Soldiers, now. Always have been. Militia, I guess you might say.
“It’s only fair. Time and again, it’s been proven that supposed ‘evidence’ from DNA, to fingerprinting, to eyewitness testimony to the most intricate financial crimes can be tampered with or wholly fabricated. And new technologies promise whole new areas of evidentiary contamination. The malfeasance built in to this self-sustaining system of legal plunder has made it essential that the slates be sponged clean. Better nine guilty men go free, than one innocent man be unjustly punished.”
And so on. Wow. Thinking about getting home and working on our own preparations.
“Everyone is put on fair warning, whether you are being released from your imprisonment or have never committed a misdemeanor in your life. There is no longer the police apparatus and legal system you were counting on to protect you. It is up to all of us, now, starting with our homes and families, and our neighbors, to get along and to see to the security of what’s belongs to is. You are all therefore strongly cautioned to take all measures to protect yourselves and your properties during this time of redress and potential upheaval.”
“America will rebuild. We will love and help our neighbors as we, together, take on this difficult mission, together. And we’ll approach the world anew, humbled, and humbler. Forgiveness. The greatest love we can show each other.”
Unreal. We’re soldiers. Always have been.
Already, we begin to hear the cracks of celebratory gunfire to the east and down the hill. Not close. But close enough.
Out go the candles.
Karl draws first watch. He clamps a Generation 3 night scope atop the carbine.