I wrote the following short fiction piece early in one of my Creative Writing classes at California State University, Long Beach.

Image by Ray Shrewsberry • from Pixabay

The call from Herman B. (not his real name) came at one-thirty in the morning on Thursday, less than twelve hours after the takeover of the Capitol building. Herman wanted to explain why the seizure happened to the senior reporter for Infamy’s leftist website. “We went in with a plan, but other people got carried away. It was the rush of the moment.” He told Jeff Burrows that he should understand. “You protested in the sixties. You guys did crazy things.” Burrows retorted defensively that he never took over the capitol building, although it didn’t mean they hadn’t considered it. Herman wouldn’t let it go. “You guys rioted and burned buildings. You all blew up shit. You all wanted to launch a revolution.” Herman was convinced. “Well, the only difference between you and us is that our revolution is to take back America.” Jeff was silent. 

Finally, Burrows pressed him, “Can we meet somewhere so you can give me the details?” There was shouting in the background at the other end of the call. Burrows strained to make it out. Herman had placed his hand over the phone to smother the voices. He finally came back on. “Look, we’re getting set to get out of town. My men don’t want me talking to you. We think they’re coming for us.” Burrows figured the “they” would be the FBI or Virginia State Police, D.C. Police, or all of them. “How do you know?” Herman laughed at the question. “Don’t you think we have friends in law enforcement? They’re standing with us.” The statement offended Burrows, whose brother was a former FBI agent, but he knew it was probably true. It didn’t surprise him. He’d met his fair share of right-wing sympathizers through his brother.

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“Look, I can come to you. I can get in your car, or you can get in my car and do a quick interview.” Burrows could still hear people arguing in the background. This time Herman B. didn’t cover the phone. Whoever they were, they cursed him for trusting a reporter, especially one from a left-leaning website. At one point, someone shouted, “Fake News!” “Stop it,” Herman screamed at the shouter, “He’s okay with me.” Herman turned back to Burrows on the phone. “The Virginia Inn on Dixie Boulevard near Fort Meyer. Call me when you get here.” Burrows was tired. He had only gotten an hour of sleep when Herman called, but this was too important to worry about sleep.

The Virginia Inn is where tourists go when they don’t want to pay the high rates of the District across the Potomac River. It doesn’t stand out along the string of low-cost motels along the boulevard. Herman B. told Burrows last week that they were on their way and would only stay for two nights. They didn’t care that the place was run-down. The five men, all Arkansas New America Militia members, weren’t there for the ambiance. It was just a place to gather, plan, and sleep.

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Burrows had been talking to Herman for a few months before Wednesday. The thirty-six-year-old mechanic from Witches Fork, Arkansas, was an ex-marine and an Iraq war veteran. Herman wanted everyone, including the leftist media, to know that a reckoning was coming. “This is bigger than one man or one movement,” Herman had told Burrows during their first phone call, “I’ve been reading your stuff. You have a following. I figured that you might be good enough to warn them.” Burrows quizzed him about who “them” was. Herman just snickered on the phone at the question. “I’ve read your stuff. You know who the real enemy is.” People like Herman fascinated Burrows. They both shared skepticism of big government but looked at government through a completely different set of eyes. For the right wing, the government was anyone who didn’t believe as they did.

Burrows wasn’t scared of Herman. He felt sorry for him. They had finally met in person on the Tuesday morning before the mall rally at the restaurant next to the Virginia Inn. After the first couple of calls with Herman, he told one of his partners, “This guy is not dumb. He sounds delusional.” Neither Herman nor any of his men wore masks. Burrows was laughed at for wearing his. The interview with Herman went fine. It was the one with his men that went downhill quickly. They couldn’t get off Burrows wearing a mask and refused to talk to him. “What are you hiding?” one kept repeating. Another got up in his face, “I don’t talk to men behind masks.”

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Herman and his people from Arkansas weren’t the only ones staying at the Virginia Inn. The group was packing up their pickup trucks when Burrows finally arrived. The parking lot looked like a big truck rally. The license plates in the parking lot told the stories of journeys to the capital from as far west as Oregon and Arizona to Michigan, Mississippi, Alabama, New York State, and Maine. They were all here to “take back America,” as Herman had told Burrows months ago when they had begun their correspondence. Now, they were in a hurry to leave after the debacle at the Capitol. News of deaths and injuries had started to filter out through the news.

Burrows caught up with Herman B. as he was settling into the driver’s seat of his pick-up truck. “I thought we were going to talk?” The other men in the car with their leader started shouting at Burrows. “Shut up!” Herman called back as he exited the truck without turning off the ignition. He grabbed Burrows’ arm and pulled him away from the group. “What now?” asked Burrows. Herman leaned so close into Burrows that the reporter had to pull back to find a healthy distance without offending the man. “Don’t worry. We’ll be back. Real soon. The people that betrayed us?” he paused, “They’re going to get theirs.”

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The reporter wanted to know if the taking over of the Capitol building had been planned as he implied or spontaneous. “All I’m going to say is that we knew what we were doing.” Burrows pressed him, “Was this coordinated? Did the President know? Was he pulling the strings?” Herman turned to him, laughing, “Why does everybody think we’re being controlled? Did it ever drop on you people that it’s maybe us who are doing the controlling?” Herman pulled a letter-size envelope out of his pocket and handed it to Burrows. “Here, take this. This will be a start to understanding what is about to happen.”

He looked back at his men shouting to get in the truck. From the corner of Burrows’ eye, he saw one man pushing a gun through the rear driver’s side window. Herman suddenly put himself between Burrows and the man, staring the man down. The gun retreated into the cab. “Look, I’ll send you more stuff through that encrypted email folder you sent me. I want all of them to know that this shit hasn’t finished. Not by a long shot.” Herman turned back to his truck and jumped in. Burrows could hear him cursing the other men in the dual cab. The car pulled away from the motel, joined by other trucks in a caravan heading back out onto Dixie Boulevard.

American History
Image by SEDAT TAŞ from Pixabay

Burrows was walking back to his car at the far end of the parking lot when he saw flashing lights on Dixie racing toward the motel. It took a moment to realize that they belonged to police cars, many police cars. There were no sirens. He turned to see if Herman’s truck and the others had left the parking lot. There were police cars, at least twenty more, boxing in the caravan. A man wearing a green-colored flak jacket had jumped out of the back seat of Herman’s pick-up truck carrying what looked like an AR-15. He started firing at the police cars advancing on the group from my side of the parking lot. Burrows fell behind his car and closed his eyes, but he couldn’t shut off his ears from the thunderous volley of gunfire raining down on the Virginia Inn parking lot.

He could almost hear the bullets jumping around the motel and street. Burrows couldn’t see the action, but he knew this would be bad. Five minutes of shooting ended with shouts of “We surrender!” and screams of agony. Burrows waited. Sirens, more lights reflected in the motel windows, and more screaming, but no gunfire. He slowly raised himself to see what had happened over the trunk of his car. There were uniformed FBI SWAT officers, Virginia State Police, Arlington Police, and D.C. Police advancing on the caravan of pick-up trucks. Their AR-15 rifles and big handguns pointed wildly as they shouted orders, turning over bodies to see if they were still alive.

Herman’s head was lifelessly hanging halfway out his driver’s side window, blood streaming down the left side and onto the truck’s exterior. All the windows were shattered. There was blood everywhere. The first man who had jumped out of the rear cab with the AR-15 lay halfway between the parking lot and the sidewalk, his legs crushed between the back wheels of Herman’s pick-up. Burrows figured Herman had probably tried to back up from the police cars before him and accidentally ran over the man with the AR-15.

Burrows started shaking. He had never been in a gunfight. A riot, yes, but never anything quite like this. His journalism instincts kicked in, and he pulled out his phone and started shooting videos. He kept shooting video until his battery had run low. Everyone was too busy with the carnage to notice him. Burroughs decided against interviews thinking it would only raise questions about why he was there this early morning. Instead, he returned to his car and found an alternative exit into a quiet residential street behind the Virginia Inn.

The early morning sun was already breaking through the blinds in his office in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood of Washington as Burrows finally opened the letter-size envelope that Herman had given him. While he scanned the pages, he was also listening to network anchors on the television on his desk with breaking news: Big shoot-out in Virginia. White Nationalist militia. Law Enforcement. Multiple dead and injured. Handwritten at the top of the motel’s stationery, Herman had written a Declaration of Independence. What followed was atwo-page rambling and threatening manifesto about what would come on January 20 and the months ahead. “When democracy fails us, revolution is the only answer,” Herman had written.

Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay

The manifesto was spread out on the desk, and Burrows thought about what would have been if the police had not shown up. He was sorry to have seen Herman dead. While he couldn’t have disagreed with him more about his politics, he understood his frustration. At some point, Herman began to feel that he was forgotten. He used the word “betrayed” a lot in their conversations. When Burrows would ask him who had betrayed him, he would reply with comments like the swamp, Government, and Corporations. Herman had told Burrows that he and his people just wanted to be remembered for their contributions to America. In recent phone conversations, he had told Burrows that White people had been pushed to the background and that the New America militia was just one of many groups across the country who were getting ready to “take back this country.” Herman even used the phrase “by any means necessary.” Burrows found that ironic.

Re-reading the manifesto and thinking back to all his emails, texts, and phone conversations with Herman, Burrows remembered that the name of the President of the United States was never mentioned. He did remember the last phone conversation before he came to D.C. for the rally. “This will not be the last time, and we will not be the last ones.” Now that Herman was gone, Burrows thought about those words. The inauguration was less than ten days away. He put the letter down and returned to the story on the computer screen. He wrote the first words, “The threatening of America continues….”

The Virus That Is Us

Image by Brian Merrill from Pixabay

Writer Elisa Gabbert in her article “The Great Mortality,” wrote about the plagues that are coming for us even when we pretend we don’t want them. Ironically, the article was published less than two years before COVID. Gabbert wrote that one aspect of how we deal with pandemics was what she called “performative death wish,” a social media phenomenon. This is where humans now respond to threatening news as welcomed news.

Whenever a story on the threat of an “extinction-level event,” like an asteroid or comet headed for Earth, is making the rounds, people quote-tweet it to add, “Finally, some good news!”

The Great Mortality

That doomsday emotional response seems to have crept into a few other human interactions these days. I’m talking about the coming “civil war” in the United States. Yes, the second civil war will be brother and sister against brother and sister or, to be more exact old(er) Americans against young(er) Americans. Mostly rural Americans against those liberal leftist progressive communist so-called Americans who have sold out to communist China (an actual accusation in a political ad). There is some serious shit passing around as prognostication about the future of this country. Forget COVID, we may not be around for the next pandemic. Well, that’s one way to fight a virus.

Image by 0fjd125gk87 from Pixabay

I’m more worried about the virus that is us, Americans who carry some weird shit inside of them like racism, nationalism, ethnocentrism, and antisemitism, hell, it’s a long list, and the “performative death wish” we have like we deserve this and, worse, welcome it with open arms. The right-wing (there he goes, another liberal leftist progressive communist so-called American who sold out to communist China) in this country is working hard to make it all happen. They’re good at infecting the young and old(er) Americans with lunatic idiocy, fear factors that crawl into our souls and make us say and do cringy shit. And it doesn’t matter what race or ethnicity or religion you are. All you have to do is listen to Ye (Kanye West, in case you’re not keeping up) spouting his shit these days.

If we hadn’t elected that damn black guy (thanks, Obama), we’d have had another white guy in the White House reassuring Americans that everything was all right; we know who the real Americans are. If we just had voted for…Donald Trump.

You can now add a long list of anti-government militias to America’s boiling pot these days. It’s hot out here, yet every time I seek verification for this feeling of the state of the virus and its infection rate, I’m told that there’s nothing to worry about because, well, I should blame the mainstream media and social media for the hysteria. Calm down, I’m told. How many crazies do I know who are willing to rise and overthrow the government? Okay, you got me, not any, personally.

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

It may be a shooting war…at least in the beginning. No, that’s too hard and dangerous. Hell, no one wants to get shot. No, it’s a different kind of civil war that is happening. The GOP and the right-wing in this country have been planning this takeover since the 2010 census. It was a project called REDMAP for Redistricting Majority Project (Read more HERE).

The right wing seems to believe that all they need to do is control the levers of power on the local, state, and, yes, the halls of Congress and the Supreme Court, and they will have all they need to control those other people. If you look at their potential control of a majority of state houses and the Supreme Court and the predictions of what’s to come in the November election, then maybe we should be scared?

The bottom line: take over state houses and gerrymander to death the state so you not only control the legislatures and Governor’s offices but also stack the deck so you can control the Senate and House seats. That strategy, voter suppression tactics, and their willingness to burn the house down in their quest for power, along with the namby-pamby approach of the Democratic party (what a bunch of wussies), and you suddenly realize how easily they will be able to walk right in and take over. Why do you think they wanted and still want Donald Trump as President? Look up how many federal judges he nominated and confirmed. You can start HERE.

Okay, I may be overreacting. The November elections haven’t happened yet, and maybe all those election deniers running for elected offices, including those controlling how elections are supervised in 2024, will lose. Or not. All I can tell you is that there has been a rise in the virus I mentioned earlier (not since the mid-sixties have I seen this much BS), and there are enough people, even if they are a small minority, who believe they are so aggrieved that all it will take is a spark, an incident like January 6, to set these people off.

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

The worst-case scenario is that they all win in 2022 and blow Democrats out of the water until 2024, and we sane people will be doing much bootlicking on January 20, 2025. The best case is that we, the rational people, refuse to accept that scenario. We not only out-vote them but use all the peaceful tools at our disposal to keep them on the defensive until the coming generations outlive them and they are relegated to the dustbins of history. Hey, I can dream.

Of course, I’m sure none of this will be necessary because scientists will develop a vaccine for the virus that is us, and we’ll all do our civic and social duty and line up to get that vaccine as we all did for COVID. Because when it comes to being patriotic, Americans are willing to sacrifice for our fellow Americans; no duty is too steep or heavy. No problemo.


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I want to feel safe
                                                         From Them. 
             The criminals 
                   Who rob us 
                   Who steal from us
                   Who steal cars from us      
                   Who take our children from us
                   Who rape us 
                   Who shoot us
                   Who murder us.
Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay
I want to feel safe
                                                         From Them. 
            The criminals
                    That take bribes
                    That cheat on us
                    That steal our tax dollars 
                    That corrupt our government 
                    That keep us poor
                    That steal money 
                               from shareholders and employees. 
                    That don’t pay taxes
                    That break pensions 
                    That bribe politicians
                    That pollute the air  the water  the land
                    That break laws
                               or change laws they don’t like. 
Image by Bruce Emmerling from Pixabay
I want to feel safe
                                                          From Them.
            The criminals
                     That storm the Constitution
                     That mock justice
                     That are the front line of blind justice 
                               blind rage in their eyes
                     That see with both eyes open
                               see who they want to see
                     That stop and frisk everyone
                               well, not everyone
	             That beat you like a drum
                     Shoot first and ask questions later 
Image by 3D Animation Production Company from Pixabay
I want to feel safe
                                                         From Them. 
             The criminals 
                      You know who I mean 
               Arrest them
                       No bail
                       No trial
                       No prison neccessary.
Then, I will feel safe
                                                        From Them. 
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