Sail on, sail on, oh mighty ship of state…Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction—Independence Day

20130701-232905.jpgNumber four on the fourth, Flash Fiction Month continues. This is another longer one. What do you think, readers, is this a complete “story,” with closure? A beginning, middle, and end? Or what does it take to be “complete”? Comment below, please.

Independence Day (July 4)

She didn’t go to the fireworks display that Fourth of July.

While eating breakfast, she noticed an article on her tablet about the Freeloaders protesting in Washington, D.C. The story reported that they were all arrested safely, no damage to property and no injuries to working citizens.

Sail on, sail on, oh mighty ship of state…

Democracy is coming
to the U S A

Her mind wandered after reading this. A few years ago, she had read in the paper, if you still called it that, about the demonstrations in a park. That was Turkey. In Egypt, they demonstrated in the square against Morsi. More than 30 million supposedly came out. Brazil, too, she recalled. Japan filled with demonstrators everywhere, it seemed, from the photos. They protested, what? Nuclear power plants.

She tried to tell her husband about this.

People put their lives on the line everyday, she said, with those protests. Like 1968, when students took to the Paris streets. The Civil Rights Movement and Anti-War movement in the US also filled our news, with the March on Washington and Chicago riots at the Democratic National Convention that year. Prague Spring was 1968. Uprisings everywhere. Also, 2013. Occupy Wall Street had excited her in 2011, but what had happened to that?

He shrugged. “The Freeloaders took to the streets instead of working to help the country and our economy.”

He never cared for news, she thought. He still preferred the sports section, but now his nose hovered over his tablet instead of inches from the newsprint and smudgy ink. He liked his sports online, up to the second, and approved for security and safety by the NSA virus protection and security software he’d installed.

His clothes still fell in a rumpled mess around his body, as though they had given up on covering for him, but he looked more translucent somehow. He still drank coffee with lots of sugar and a little milk. But he didn’t take a second cup.

She returned to her musing.

It’s been a long road, granted, but didn’t people remember J. Edgar Hoover’s wiretapping? Cointelpro? Nixon’s secret tapes? What about Operation Northwoods? No one other than a few easily dismissed academics seemed to know about, let alone care about, The Project for the New American Century, which called Saddam Hussein a convenient excuse to intervene in Iraq well before 9/11. The members of that think-tank filled W’s cabinet and were well-known players in the whole escalation on the Middle East Front.

Not that we called it that, then. It was just the Middle East, she reflected, before we started to slowly change the language to acknowledge that this is another World War. Now, we volunteer to let the authorities listen to and watch us, asking for their protection.

Her husband looked up from his sports while her mind raced through this thin clothing over her even deeper conspiracy theories.

“Do you know what I remember about 1968?”

That he had thought anything about what she said startled her.

“No, what?”

“Smoking pot, sex with you in my parents’ basement, and skipping high school math class,” he laughed.

She managed a smile. Yes, that, too.

“But in 1969, or was it 70?” She responsed, “We were in our first year at Northwestern. We joined demonstrations at the Civic Center in Chicago, when they tried the Chicago Eight, remember?”

Conspiracy 8, another term for the Chicago 8 / 7

Poster protesting trial of the Conspiracy 8,
another term for the Chicago 8 / 7

“I remember climbing up on the Picasso. I think it was the Chicago Seven, by then. They threw the Black guy out, what was his name?”

Bobby Seale.”

“Yeah. Him. The Black Panther leader.”

She looked out the window. How had it gotten to be 2015 already? It seemed like an Arthur C. Clarke book title to her, not a year in which she lived.

“I’ll tell you what,” he continued. “With the OPEC oil embargo, the economy tanking, and all the bullshit that followed, I’m just glad I found a job when we got out of college.”

She nodded absently. “Me, too. I just wanted to build my career.”

“And I’m glad we both have work, now, too. Not like the Freeloaders out there,” he added.

“It’s not like they choose to be out of work…”

They looked at each other. Where had it all gone?

Here it was, July 4, Independence Day. They woke up, checked into the NSA portal on the computer, and listened to the house alarm deactivate. They ate their breakfast. Soon they would go to work, him at a cyber-defense contractor, her for a global marketing firm, both helping to keep the world markets open for America’s businesses.

This was the goal, so that they, the workers, could survive. Enemies threatened America, destroying jobs and job opportunities, so Americans had to defend the economy to protect their lifestyles. The sacrifices had been tremendous, she thought.

“I’m not sure it was worth it,” she muttered.

“The demonstrations in the 60s?”

“No. Giving up so much.”

“Look around you. We have jobs that pay well. We have a nice house, a green yard. Our kids have their houses, our grandkids go to good schools. We have it all. What did we give up?”

She gazed at him. He looked more than ever like a ghost to her.

“Meet you at the fireworks tonight?” She asked as she got up from the table.

“Sure,” he nodded, turning back to the tablet computer in front of him as she left the house.

She didn’t make it to the fireworks. She just disappeared from his life. The NSA tablet tracer software and the GPS in her phone located both at her office.

“We think she left, joined the Freeloaders,” they told him.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, he wondered, did she?

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You can read this story
and other Flash Fiction by Michael Dickel
in The Palm Reading after the Toad’s Garden

6 replies »

    • I agree with your hope. I think part of my motivation for writing this was to point where we’ve been heading for some time –granted a dark and pessimistic view. Also, it’s probably an exaggerated view, although perhaps not by much. Influenced perhaps by A Handmaid’s Tale and similar near-future but too recognizable dystopias.


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