Rise…A short story….

I sit and wait, for a sign that never comes. To rise above my station that I’ve been assigned is no simple task. My future appears to be as bleak as my present or as non-descript as my past. Train cars lined up one after another, off load people to work the mine. Hope is vacant in the eyes of the miners. There is nothing in the mine but coal, and eventually, death. My pick leans against the wall, and I wait for the announcement that my shift is about to begin.

“Shift 3, report to the mine. Understand comrades, if you do not meet your quota, there will be no time off for you. It behooves you to put forth maximum effort in achieving your quota.” I stand and secure my pick. The walk to our section of the mine is just a minute jaunt from where I was sitting. Our passage is dimly lit, and I find a nice part of the wall to work on. Swinging the pick, I slam it into the wall. Over and over, I punish the wall with merciless blows. Chunks of coal fall to the ground, and I continue my assault. As my shift and I continue to work, carts are filled with coal and taken out of the mine. I glance down the line of workers and they appear to be carbon copies of me. I am thin, some would say gaunt. My skin appears to be sickly because of the unnatural paleness of it. The brutishness of light hurts my eyes, a symptom of living in the dark for too long.

“Break time. Shift 3, you have ten minutes to eat and use the latrine.” Our supervisor, Maxine Walcott, is relentless in her pursuit to appease the state. The state gives its workers 15 minutes for a break, but Maxine shortens it to increase our productivity. Between my shiftmates, we call her Mad Maxine. Her skin is darkened by the sunlight, she once explained her station in life is elitist. “You are all drones. When you die, we bring in more and they continue your work. The state could care less if you pass away, you’re replaceable. I’m not.”

 I don’t like Mad Maxine.   

“Break time’s over, drones. Get back to work. The state needs it’s coal, and you animals have nothing else to live for, so get to it.” She turns and walks away. We continue to bust coal. As we work, slamming picks and loading carts, one of the workers passes out from exhaustion. He is an older man, but the state doesn’t care about your age. “What does this layabout think he is doing? Cheating the state, eh?” Mad Maxine grabs the pick and slams it down into his skull. We all stop working and look at the corpse lying at the feet of Mad Maxine. “Oh no, it looks like Shift 3 has lost a member of its team. Keep going, drones!” Wordlessly, we continue to chip away at the coal. Due to the mortal wound our fellow slave attained, some of us now do double duty. To help the cart pushers out, I pick up the coal I have broken and carry it to the cart. A dirty woman nods her head at me and sighs. “You’re a good one, Jay. Thanks for helping.”  I grab my pick and continue chipping away at the wall. At the end of the line, Maxine watches me.

“Come here, drone.” The clank, clank, clank, of the picks covers my sigh. I walk down the line to where Maxine is waiting. “Why are you helping the other drones?” I shrug my thin shoulders. “Ma’am, I’m trying to keep the line productive. We are down a man; someone must pick up the slack.” With the flip of her wrist, Maxine whips out a baton and slams it into my jaw, and I crumble to the floor. Towering over me, Maxine shouts, “You are not an elitist, I am. You do not think, I do.”  She stomps on my ribs until I black out from the pain.

I awaken in the infirmary. My ribs have been taped up, and my jaw wired shut. “Your supervisor, Maxine Walcott, said you were in a horrible accident, comrade. She brought you in and possibly saved your life. You should thank her when you’re able to speak again.” I force a smile and after signing the appropriate documentation, I am released. Shuffling through the dimly lit mine, I secure my pick. “Well, well, if it isn’t the thinking drone. How’s your ribs, comrade?” Maxine walks out of the shadows. I look at her, and she glares back. “There will be no time off for you to heal. You will work until you die, and then I will nail your corpse to the wall as a reminder of why drones shouldn’t think about rising above their station.” Smirking, she turns to walk away. I lift the pick and swing it in a wide arc. It slams into her spine and she crumbles to the ground. I pull the pick out and swing it overhead, burying it into her chest. Shift 4 watches as I crumble to the ground. Leaning against the wall, I dip my finger in Maxine’s blood and write for all to see, “you’re not drones but, free men. Remember who you are.” Shouting, the shifts grab their picks and run out of the tunnels.

My eyes slowly shut as the revolution begins.

Saving Grace….A short story….

Sitting at my desk, I stare down my driveway. As usual, I am writing, correction, attempting to write my first “good” short story, when the door behind me explodes open. “Dad, where are you?” I turn halfway around in my swivel chair and look toward the living room. “In my office, what’s going on?” My daughter, Anna comes tearing into my workplace and throws herself into a chair. Crossing her arms, she glares at me. “I can’t stand Aunt Wilma! Or cousin Jane!” I swig some Mountain Dew and wait for her to get to the meat of the matter.

“Unh-huh.”

Anna pats her foot and continues to scowl in my direction. “You can’t have a conversation with them about politics. I said something about immigration and suddenly, I am a bigot or hate junkie, a xenophobe or uncompassionate. It’s the most frustrating thing ever. I can’t believe I’m kin to these people!” I stop proofreading and turn to my daughter. “Have you ever considered they’re people? They have their own likes and dislikes. People vote for candidates which match their own personal beliefs. Arguing over what the president does or doesn’t do is futile. At the end of the day, the President, whether male or female, is only a human being. They make decisions which impact our world, but they aren’t given the answers to all things. Cut your family some slack. If it bothers you this much, don’t talk about politics.”

Instead of comforting Anna, my words enrage her. “I am not going to quit talking about politics. It’s that mentality which led us here in the first place. They need to change their way of thinking and stop being stupid.” She leaps to her feet and stares at me. “I can’t believe you’re on their side. I’m you’re daughter, for God’s sake.” Spinning around, Anna storms out of my office. I hear the front door slam and then the rumble of the Mustang as she speeds away. Pushing back from my desk, I walk into the kitchen and take out pork chops for dinner.

As the sun eases down in the western horizon, the door opens. I watch as Anna comes up to the island and sits down. “Dad, I’m sorry I yelled at you.” I flip the pork chops over and turn the heat down to low. “Don’t worry about it, Anna. You’re passionate. I would caution you about giving in to your passion and allowing it to block your common sense though. No party has all the answers. Emotion doesn’t trump logic. When you’re starving to death, no one cares how much virtue signaling you do on social media. If a crisis develops, no one cares that you are a Republican or Democrat, the people who elected you, want you to act on their behalf.”

“But dad…” I shake my head. “No buts, Anna. When hard times hit, you can only count on your family. If your neighbors are kind enough to pitch in, then that is even better. In troubled times, such as the ones we live in now, all of us need to lay aside our political affiliation and be there for each other. It’s the only way we will pull through. Otherwise, we run the risk of losing our freedom, our personal liberty and our God-given rights.”

Anna shakes her head in disbelief. “I don’t believe that, dad.” I stand and remove the pork chops from the pan and put one on each plate. I spoon mashed potatoes on each plate and cover them with gravy. “I know, Anna. Wilma and Jane are good people, they have always been there for you. Regardless, of your personal belief sweetie, they love you and would do anything for you. Is it so important to be right that you isolate everyone who disagrees with you?”

Through a mouthful of mashed potatoes, Anna nods her head. “I’m not apologizing, dad.” I shrug. “Okay. John Wayne once said, “Life is hard, it’s harder when you’re stupid.” You may want to consider those words of wisdom.” Anna looks at me, shocked at what she just heard. “You think I’m stupid?” I shake my head. “No, but I think if everyone has the same attitude as you, we might as well wipe out humanity and start over again.”

The gift…A short story….

“Pawpaw, I’m sorry you’re sick. Is it the “super-virus”?”  Thad looks at his granddaughter Thelma and shakes his head. “I don’t know, doll. The hospital is too far away for me to get there, I will tough it out here at home.” Thelma dons her mask and enters her grandfather’s room. “You shouldn’t have to tough it out, poppy. These idiot politicians should be fired for holding up the necessary medication, our seniors need to survive.” Thad smiles. “It has been said, you never let a good crisis go to waste. It is the perfect opportunity to hold people hostage until they give in to your demands.”

Angrily, Thelma slams a fist into the wall. “Poppy, that’s murder. They can’t do this too us! We live in a free country.”  Thad’s hands tremble. Reaching out, Thelma puts her gloved hands on his to comfort her grandfather. “Poppy, please don’t leave me.” Thad closes his eyes and Thelma watches his chest rise and fall with each breath. Tearfully, Thelma sits down in a chair and waits for the end. The hum of the ventilator is the only sound coming from the room, until the cordless phone in her lap begins to ring.

“Hello?”

“Ms. Cordell? This is Nurse Mayhew. How’s your grandfather today? Is he speaking?”  Thelma clears her voice and wipes her eyes. “He’s still breathing. We talked for a moment before he closed his eyes.”

“Okay, I will be out in the morning. The hospital is backed up, so we have nowhere to put him. Hopefully, tomorrow will be better.” Thelma finishes the conversation and hangs up. Thad is looking at her from his bed. “Hey, can you put my pillows behind my back, so I can sit upright and talk to you?” Nodding, she props her pawpaw up.

“Was that the nurse?”

“Yes, she is coming in the morning.” Thad nods his head. “Well, I need to say some things to you, Thelma. Don’t interrupt me, just try to understand. I love you very much. When your mom ran off, and your dad abandoned you here with me, I never thought I would be able to care for you the way young ladies need to be taken care of. Somehow, we managed to get through those tough moments together. I’ve never been prouder of anything, the way I’m proud of you.” Thad puts his hand over Thelma’s and looks into her eyes. “I won’t be here in the morning when the nurse comes by. A man knows when he is dying but I’m glad you’re in my corner.  Under my bed is a trunk. The house, vehicles, and land are paid off. It’s all been put in your name. In the trunk is a key. It’s to a safety deposit box at Heartland Federal.”

Rasping breaths fall silent as Thad departs this world for his eternal reward. Thelma buries her face in her hands and cries bitter tears. Struggling to compose herself, she calls 911. The blare of an ambulance siren cuts through the quiet, night air. She watches as her grandfather is put on a bed and rolled to the ambulance; a sheet covers his small frame.

The rest of the night passes slowly. She walks into her grandfather’s room and reaches under the bed. Sliding the trunk out, she twists the knob and the latch loosens. Inside, is a solitary key. At nine A.M. she walks into Heartland Federal. A young woman stands behind the counter and beckons for her to approach. “How can I help you, today?” Thelma clears her throat and pulls out the key. “I’m here to take possession of my grandfather’s safety deposit box.” The teller forces a smile. “Do you have paperwork showing he gave you control of it?” Frustrated, Thelma pats her foot on the ground. “I would tell you to call him, but he died last night. Thanks in large part to the inaction of people like yourself.” The teller shocked by the viciousness of Thelma’s remark, gestures for her to follow. “I’m sorry for your loss, his box is in the vault.”

The teller opens the vault and pulls out the box. Box in hand, they walk to an unoccupied office. “If you need anything, please let one of us know. We will do what we can to make this painless.” Thelma nods and waits for the teller to leave. Inserting the key, Thelma opens the box. Each deed for the house, vehicles and property is stacked on top of each other and secured with a red rubber band. A copy of her grandfather’s updated will rest inside the box. As she starts to open the will, her cellphone rings.

“Ms. Cordell? Hi, my name is Timothy Whaler. I was your grandfather’s attorney. I need you to get here ASAP. Your father has shown up to take possession of the entirety of his estate. I need you here to read the will and make your grandfather’s wishes known.”

“I’m on my way, give me five minutes.” Thelma hangs up and shoves the deeds back into the safety box. On her way out she hands it to the teller. “I’ll be back, I must go take care of something.” Driving hurriedly Thelma rushes to the office. She slams on the brakes of her Honda, in front of the office and jumps out of the car. She runs into the building and her father stands up to greet her. “Hey, darling. Its….” Thelma puts her hand up and shoves past him. “Mr. Whaler, I’m here.” The attorney comes out of his office and prepares to read the will. “This is all rather unorthodox, but it was Thad’s wish for all of his fortune to be given to one person.” Smiling, Thelma’s father edges toward the lawyer.

“Thelma, you are the sole beneficiary of your grandfather’s estate. His net worth of 4 million dollars is yours, this includes all assets pertaining to the estate.” Thelma’s father slams his hands into the wall. “How could he do this to me? I’m his son!” Whaler shrugs. “Thad said Thelma would be there when he died, and she was. Your dad said blood wasn’t nearly as important as loyalty. According to your father, he and Thelma were more than blood, they were family.” Thelma nods and accepts the will. Walking out of the office, Thelma sobs. “I would give it all away, for one more moment with you.”

Onions….A short story….

Tiffani Jensen stands cutting onions at the kitchen bar. Slicing through the yellow onions, she tries to find words to comfort her son, Eric. “I don’t understand it, mom. Belle and I are a good match. She even admitted it, and now it’s like she wants nothing to do with me.”  Tiffani nods and keeps slicing. “Son, it’s better you find out now, than for ya’ll to get married and find out years later.” Scrapping the onions into a pan, Tiffani shakes the onions evenly across the bottom. Placing it on the stove top, she turns and goes to the sink.

“I know, mom. We were good together, you know. I like spending time and money on her and she acted like she felt the same. Then it went from that, to I can only see you on weekends, to I can only stand to see you for a few hours on Sunday.” Pressing her lips together, Tiffani shakes her head. “You have been friend-zoned.” Eric stares at his mother. “How can you say that to me, mom? I’m hurting.” Wrapping her arms around her son, Tiffani hugs him. “I know, Eric.” Tears form in Eric’s eyes, and he tries to blink them back. “Then, how can you….”

Tiffani sits across from Eric and puts her hands over the top of his. “Son, some people think they like you. Then, they would rather do other things, but they don’t want to “hurt” you. They’re trying to protect you, but in the end, they do nothing but cause you pain. Some folks don’t want to lose you, but don’t want to be with you either. There are a multiplicity of reasons, why people do this to others.”

“So, what do I do?” Tiffani shrugs. “You can keep hoping things will get better, that one day you will be enough. It’s not what I recommend, but it is an option. You can break it off and burn the bridge. Again, I don’t recommend that course of action either. You can limit your interaction with her, and just be her friend. I know it’s not what you want, but son, you will never be nothing more than her friend. She has made that abundantly clear to you.”

“Things might turn around, mom. She might love me again.” Tiffani forces a smile. “Yeah, she might Eric.” She stands and smiles at her son, “so, are you okay now? Do you know what you’re going to do?” Eric nods, “yes ma’am, I’m going to wait for her to love me again.” Tiffani smiles. “Okay, if you need me, I’m here for you son. I have to get back to work, this chicken will not cook itself!” Eric nods and hugs his mother. “Thanks for listening, mom. You’re the best.”

As Eric walks out of the house, Tiffani watches from the window as he gets into his car. “Why couldn’t I tell him it’s better to be alone, than to live your life as an option?”

The defiant one…A short story…

Jim Wilson Jr, avid hunter, outdoorsman, tracker, and conservationist climbs from his Toyota 4X4 and grabs his pack out of the bed. Shouldering the pack, Jim grabs his 30-06 and starts his trek into the woods. The smell of early morning dew and earth tingles his senses. Deliberately, he pushes on toward his stand at the top of the hill. Jim has chosen a prime area to hunt this winter. His stand has a tremendous view of the wetlands below him and the sun comes up just left of his line of sight.

“There is nothing greater than being in the woods.”

The early morning is quiet, the only sound is the chattering of squirrels and the occasional call of a sparrow looking for its mate. Jim climbs into the stand, just as dawn breaks. Reaching into the pack, Jim takes out a hot thermos of coffee and pours some of the hot liquid into his canteen cup. The coffee serves a dual purpose, it helps Jim wake up, but it also keeps his hands warm. Binoculars are placed to the right of Jim on a small ledge. Slowly, critters creep out and visit the watering hole below his stand. Alert, Jim keeps an eye out for something to feed his family, but the game is not within the governmental regulations. As the evening approaches, Jim loads his gear into his pack and slowly walks out from his stand. Glancing at his watch pensively, Jim realizes he mistimed his departure.

Night is upon him.

Walking down the hill in the dark proves to be tricky for Jim. The moon is full, but the landscape appears differently at night than it does in the daylight. Jim’s boots keep slipping on the wet grass, and several times he must stop to get his bearings. In the darkness, Jim hears sniffing coming from behind him. “Oh Lord, what is tracking me?” Jim turns and, in the moonlight, he can make out the silhouette of a bear. “Oh, dear Lord…” The bear stands on its hind legs and Jim starts to curl into a fetal position. Without warning, the bear mauls Jim in the ribs. Flesh rips as the razor-sharp claws cut into the skin, the snap of bone resounds through the night air. Gasping, Jim tries to find cover between him and the angry behemoth. Scrambling away, Jim attempts to put distance between him and the bear. The bear isn’t having it, instead of relenting, it charges after Jim.

The bear doesn’t let up in its assault. As Jim scrambles for safety, the bear continues to maul him. Adrenaline surges through Jim’s body as he attempts to get away. Cuts are bleeding from Jim’s torso, legs and hands. In the dark, Jim can make out a cliff. Without another thought, Jim rolls off the side and prays that he isn’t leaping from the pan into the fire.

As Jim rolls off the side of the cliff, he hits a tree on his way down. A branch breaks off and stabs into his side. Grunting in extreme pain, he continues his descent to the bottom. Crashing into the bottom of a ravine, Jim lies there aching from the pain pulsating through his body. Gingerly, he pushes himself upright. “Oh, my Lord. I have lost my pack, my first aid, and my rifle. I have to find some shelter and clean these wounds.” Stumbling in the dark, Jim crumbles next to a tree. Leaning against it, he takes stock of where he is and the approximate location of his vehicle. “The truck should be uphill, and about five miles from here.” In the dark, Jim can hear running water.

Crawling to the small stream, Jim washes his cuts. Removing his jacket, he uses his Case knife to cut his jacket into bandages. Wrapping his wounds, he seeks a place to wait for daybreak. He slowly makes his way to a tree and leans against it. As the night slowly passes, Jim prepares for his journey to his truck. “Surely, someone has reported me missing. Maybe, one of the search parties will locate me before I am eaten by this bear.” As he thinks about the attack, he sharpens an oak limb to defend himself with, should he encounter the bear again.

On the horizon, dawn breaks.

Jim stands to his feet and pushes himself toward his goal. As daylight filters into the woods, Jim slowly makes his way up the side of the hill. Throbbing pain racks his body, but still he pushes on. “Lord, I don’t want to be stuck out here for another night with this psycho bear.” Urged on by fear, Jim keeps moving gradually forward. After what seems like hours, Jim finally crests the hill.

Leaning against a tree to let his strength build up, Jim hears sniffing. Jim turns the oak limb over and grasps the bark. “Whatever happens, don’t let go of your weapon. If today is the day you die, take this bear with you to Valhalla.” Jim turns and the bear stands on its hind legs. With a shout, Jim rushes the bear and drives the sharpened oak limb into the bear’s side. Wounded and bleeding profusely, the bear roars. Angrily, the bear mauls Jim repeatedly, until exhausted from a lack of blood, the bear falls on Jim’s broken body.

Ragged breaths whistle through Jim’s broken nostrils. Cuts bleed freely from his face and torso. Turning his head, Jim starts to chuckle. In the distance, he catches a glint of a windshield. As the sun reaches its apex, Jim’s life slowly drains from his body. He closes his eyes as a last act of defiance.

“Just my luck, I get into a life and death fight a hundred yards from my truck.”

Game on….A short story…

Joe Steele, coffee in hand, leans back in his recliner and watches the news. Per usual, the news is filled with horror, mysteries, and multiple examples of humanity at its worst. “Welp, there is no hope for us. If there was, the politicians would sell their souls out to buy it for themselves.” A Senator, Sydney Quillbatter, takes the podium to deliver remarks on the current crisis facing the country. As she walks to the podium, she stumbles and giggles. Burping loudly, she bangs on the microphone and burps again. She waves at a few of her friends in the media.

“Hey, how’s your momma? Please, excuse me. We are all here on serious business. Our land is facing a horrible crisis, and our colleagues refuse to cooperate with us on our new rewrite of this piece of legislature.” Two gorilla-sized men come in bearing the 2,000-page document. “The sooner they participate in assisting us with the labor on this document, the sooner we can act on behalf of our citizens.”

“Holy God. This idiot wants a new document written. What is the purpose of this insanity?” Joe fumes as he pours another cup of coffee. As he walks back to his recliner, another Senator takes the podium. “I would like to add to Sydney’s remarks. Yes, we took a week off for recess, but we spent our time coming up with our own plan. This entire rescue operation would go smoothly if our fellow Senators would just pass our bill.”

More and more excuses are made for the destruction of the old bill. Joe, who has grown tired of the circular logic and double speak, changes the channel. “Tonight, and tonight only, there is a town hall meeting at the City Hall. Senators Quillbatter and Chester Frankel will be present to answer your questions. The event starts tonight at 6.” A wicked grin stretches across Joe’s face. “Looks like I have plans for this evening after all.”

Joe arrives to City Hall at 530. Walking through the door, he is escorted through a metal detector/X-ray machine. The agent beckons for him to exit. Extending his arms, Joe follows suit. Another agent runs a wand over his body and then he is given clearance to enter the room. When he arrives, an intern hands him a card. “Sir, if you have any questions to ask, please wait until you are called upon. Also, you have been selected to read the question on the back of this card.” Joe nods his head. “Okay, is there any chance I will be able to ask Senator Quillbatter a question that’s not on the card?”

“Sure, it’s a possibility.” Without another word, the intern turns and walks away. Joe takes a seat on the front row and waits for the meeting to begin. Senators Quillbatter and Frankel enter the room and take a seat. Scatterings of applause are given when they are introduced. “It’s important for our citizens to have access to their government officials, hence the reason for our appearance tonight. We are here to put your fears to rest.”

Joe listens as the Senators take questions and responds in kind. As the last person reads from the cue card, Joe stands to his feet. “Yes sir, do you have a question?” Clearing his throat, Joe nods. “Yeah, I have a question. Our countrymen are dying. You and your cronies are playing games and wasting time for political gain. My question is this: Who did you sell your soul to, and why do we have to pay the price?”

“How dare you speak to me in such a manner? I’m a United States Senator!”

“By what standard? You and your fellow Senators have sold us out and now the country is burning. You and your colleagues don’t care about this country as long as you rule the ashes.”

Quillbatter and Frankel both exhibit symptoms of rage. Frankel leans on the podium and shouts, “what do you think the odds are of this little stunt making television?”

Joe smiles. “I would say about the same odds of you not having a busted lip.” Frankel’s eyes are the size of half-dollars as Joe’s right hand smashes into Quillbatter’s mouth.

“Game on.”

The face of the enemy…A short story….

“Please, stay indoors. You’re being quarantined for your own protection. We will let you know when its safe to leave your home. Thank you for complying.”

Joe Thunderfall listens to the emergency broadcast and shakes his head. “I didn’t fight over there to be imprisoned here.”  He walks into his living room and sits down at his computer. As he pulls up his blog, he is bombarded with news articles and headlines. This new “super-virus” is spreading fear with every new day. A group of Senators have brought forth a bill to help stymie the bleeding of the economy and Joe chuckles.

“Let the game begin!”  As Joe places his fingers on the keyboard, there is a knock at his door. “Yeah?” Bursting into his house, his 16-year-old niece throws her arms around his neck. “Hiya, unc. What’s good? You hear about the virus? The Senate is going to end this thing with a vote tomorrow!”

Joe snorts. “Oh yeah? That’ll be a first.” Anna looks at her uncle and scrunches up her nose at him. “You have no faith in the government, do you?” A mirthless grin stretches across Joe’s face. “I believe this, Anna. There is nothing they can’t make worse. Anything they fix is completely broken. Tell you what, they’re voting on it tomorrow. You come over and we will watch it. If it goes through, you can throw it in my face.”

“Deal!” Anna and Joe shake hands and the deal is done. “Until tomorrow, Anna. I need to get this post done.” Anna smiles and nods her head. “Just so you know unc, I am looking forward to telling you, I told you so.” Joe laughs and begins typing.

As Joe finishes his post, the news interrupts Five Finger Death Punch and the lyrics to “Wash it all away” is cut off. “We interrupt this broadcast for breaking news.” Joe listens as the reporter explains why the bill which would keep the economy from completely tanking, has been killed on the floor of the Senate. Laughing, Joe gets ready for bed. “Poor Anna, she has so much to learn about life and the government.”

The smell of fried bacon, potatoes, and hot coffee stirs Joe from sleep. Stretching, he can see Anna standing in the kitchen. “Hey kid, what are you doing here so early?” Anna looks down the hall and then puts sugar in his coffee. “There is no school today. Everything is closed. You were right. The bill never stood a chance, did it?”

Joe walks down the hallway, his GI Joe pajamas are almost too small for his enlarging belly. “Well Anna, you must understand this fact about the government. It is comprised of two types of folk, givers and takers. One group of people worked on the bill and understood we should come together in this time of crisis. They are the givers. Then the other side decided a crisis is a prime opportunity to stuff the bill with things they want for themselves. Their motto is, “screw the little guy.” Guess who they are?”

Anna looks at the countertop. She sighs and mutters, “the takers.” Joe puts his arm around his niece. “Yeah. In times of crisis, our elected officials should work together. Instead, they would sacrifice us all on the altar of greed and political gain. When you reach 18 understand this Anna. Hold the government accountable for what they do. Do not, under any circumstance, surrender your personal liberty for any reason. Because once you give it away, you will not get it back.”

Anna nods. “Why are you so bitter, uncle?”

Joe sighs and sips his coffee. “Because Anna, I have seen the face of our enemy and it is us.”