“Hey, Sis?  You realize that the guy who’s selling you the laptop lives out in Frackville, right?”

I leaned over my sister’s shoulder and whispered a few non-English swearwords.  “Why the hell would he be out there?”

“I dunno.”

“So this means I have to go outside the city limits, then.”

“It’s only an hour’s drive beyond the wall.”  My sister shrugged.  “People do it all the time and they’re fine.  Katie went outside just two weeks ago to visit family.”

Mother emerged from the living room, her face drawn.  “Right into the middle of the Disturbance.  This laptop worth this to you?”

“I need a laptop to do my work.  No worries, Mom.”

***

I continued to tell myself I wasn’t worried even as I got ready for my trip in front of the bathroom mirror.  I pulled my hair back and stared at my face, belatedly regretting all the time I spent lounging in the sun over the summer.  Was my skin a bit too tan?

Maybe it wouldn’t matter.  Even though I had chosen my rattiest jacket and ripped jeans, it was painfully obvious I was a cityfolk.

I grabbed my knife and purse.  It really was going to be okay.

***

At the checkpoint, a pot-bellied bearded man with a gun slung across his back sauntered up to my car.  I rolled down my window.

He nodded.  “Hello there.  Purpose of trip?”

“Just travelling to Frackville to purchase a laptop.”

“Mmmmm, going shopping, huh?”  He eyed my purse eagerly.

“How much is the toll going to cost me?”

“I don’t know yet.”  He chuckled.  “You got your ID on you?”

I handed my metropolitan ID card to him.

He scowled darkly.  “Maria?”

“I’m Ukrainian,”  I snapped.

“Oh.  Yeah, I guess your last name does look Russian.  That’s okay, then.”

“Can I go?”

“Not sure.”  He leaned into my window.  “What are you doing trying to go into Nowhere unaccompanied, anyway?  It can be dangerous for females around here.”

“My father died defending the city during the killing days,”  I said coldly.  “It’s your militia’s fault that I don’t have a male guardian with me.”

To his credit, he looked abashed at this.  He cleared his throat and stepped back from the car.  “I see.  We need to run one more quick check on you, ma’am.  Rob?”  He gave my ID to the other guard, who was holding a tablet.  “Check her voting record?”

Rob typed my name in.  “She didn’t vote at all last election.”

“Lucky for you,”  the first guard said.  “You won’t get hit with our wrong candidate surcharge.”

“Great.”  I felt relieved and, for once, grateful for the political cynicism which led me to be a non-voter back in 2016.

“We’ll be nice.  Let’s make your toll payment an even hundred bucks.”

I forced a polite smile, made the payment and accepted my ID.  As I slowly drove away, a truck came to a stop at the checkpoint, and the guards gestured at the truck driver to get out so they could inspect his goods.  I heard the driver yelling obscenities at them, and I sped up until the checkpoint was out of sight.

***

The laptop seller lived in a little white house in Frackville’s mostly empty downtown area.  Across the street, there were a couple of abandoned buildings, with a Trump poster peeling away from one of the brick walls.

I knocked on the door.  A skinny old man cracked it open and peered out at me.

“Hi!  I’m here to pick up the laptop?”

“Nice to meet you, Maria.  Come on in.”

His name was Gus.  He grinned at the knife on my belt (“They still don’t let you have guns in the city?”) and then vanished into the back of the house.  I sat on the sofa and waited.  There was a cross hanging in the entry hallway, but I noticed a distinct lack of Trump portraits.  This was an encouraging sign.

I smiled at him when he returned, bearing the laptop.  “I see you’re not a big fan of President Trump, eh?”

He fidgeted nervously.  “May his soul rest in peace.”

“Amen.”

President Trump had been assassinated soon after the beginning of what we all called the Disturbance–because nobody wanted to call it a civil war–but the Disturbance rolled right along without him.  It was common for the residents of the Nowhere lands to give a place of honor in their home to portraits of the Martyr President, sometimes building miniature shrines in his memory.

After his initial moment of anxiety, Gus relaxed.  “Yeah, I never did like him much.  He seemed like a big talker to me.  Seemed like a fake.”

“Doesn’t that get you in trouble around here?”

“Me?  No.  I leave the militia guys alone, and they leave me alone.  I’ve lived here forever, anyway.”

I examined the laptop.  It was small and the keyboard was wearing out, but it would have to do.

Gus shuffled his feet.  “Sorry, I would offer you some coffee, but I only have a tiny bit left, and I don’t know when the roads will be clear for me to go get groceries.”

“That’s okay.”

“So what kind of work do you do?”

“I knit handmade hats and scarves.  I sell them online.”

I glanced up at Gus.  “Would you like my website address?  Maybe I could make you something?”

“No need for that.  Doubt I could afford it.”

There was no time for me to hang around any further.  I stood up and looked out once again upon the desolate street.

“Are you ever angry at the militia, Gus?”

“Angry?”

“About what they did to your town?”

Behind me, I could hear his soft laughter.  “The town has always been like this, before the militia ever came.  There haven’t been any jobs in Frackville for years and years.  Why do you think the people here voted for Trump?”

***

I opened the car door.  I couldn’t wait to leave this dead zone and go home.

Somewhere in the distance, the small figure of an armed man crossed the road.  The sight should have made me scared, but instead it made me sad.  How had we created a world like this?  How had we allowed this to happen?

The curtains in the front window of the little white house moved.  I didn’t want to make Gus uncomfortable by staying there too long.  I got in the car and started on the drive back to the checkpoint and my exit out of Nowhere.

 

 

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been seeing a lot of supportive I’m With Her posts on my newsfeed.  Mostly, I think, in reaction to the utterly disgusting and frightening comments Trump has made, both at the debates and in his personal life.  It’s been nice to see those posts popping up.

This has been a rough year for some of us who have, indeed, been with her.  For a while there, during the primaries, being a Hillary supporter was practically a mortal sin.  Here in Portland, it would probably require going to confession 😉  I know I mostly remained quiet about it on social media, as I didn’t want to get my head bitten off by Bernie supporters.  I also didn’t want to lose good friendships–not worth it over a crazy election year.  And I know for a fact of other Facebook friends who supported Hillary–they told me so in person–but didn’t post very much about it either.

Now, I can completely understand people disagreeing with Hillary’s policies.  I can even understand people not voting for her in November and will not lecture anyone about that choice.  I do believe in people voting their conscience.  If that means voting for a third party this election, so be it. But during primary season, things went a little farther than that.  Hillary was more than just an opposing candidate.  She was evil.  She was a fascist.  She was Satan.  She would mean a nuclear war and the end of the world.  As opposed to Bernie, whose little bird was a divine sign of approval from God or Mother Earth. No wonder that voting for Hillary made me feel like I should put on my devil horns and mount the seven-headed beast of the Apocalypse before filling out my ballot.

Why am I saying all of this now?  Sure, there’s some small amount of satisfaction in seeing more open support of Hillary lately.  Even more so since I think she will make a much better President than people give her credit for.  But mostly, this is an apology to myself.  There’s no pride in being a coward and keeping silent about what you believe.  Especially when I consider myself a “political blogger” unafraid to “express my opinions” and all this other bullshit.  You’re supposed to do that precisely when it’s difficult and unpopular, not when it’s easy.  Maybe when the next election comes around, I’ll be a little bit braver.  For now, go Hillary!

October, October, October!  This Year Only!  All Month Long!  Don’t miss our blowout sale of Ideas You Should Buy!  Buy These Ideas Now!

Our selection is crazy!  And by crazy, we mean…there are only two choices.  Two choices nobody likes.  But hey, it wouldn’t be a low low prices blowout sale if we actually had something attractive to sell…heh heh heh.

Which flavor of Patriotism do you prefer?  Is it the classic taste of Standing Up For The Little Guy?  It’s mostly whipped cream and air with no nutritional content, but it sure looks pretty.  Or would you like to try the brand new America For Americans Only flavor?  Well…it’s not really new.  We bring it back every few decades or so.  It always causes food poisoning and pain, but humans just can’t stay away from it.

Speaking of things that never go away, follow me to our fashion section.  Did you know that bigotry is back in style this year?  Fine, fine…it never went out of style, but it’s the definite It thing for this fall!  You look upset.  Are those racist pants too, shall we say, risque for you?  Do they not fit very well?  No worries!  Take a few of our Color-Blind Brotherly Love pills.  They will make you feel as if such a thing actually exists!

What are you looking at over there?  Well, yes, we do have some alternative products available.  We’ve got the Libertarian, the Green…  But keep in mind that these are not the standard American models.  It’s very difficult to get replacement parts for them.  And let me remind you that all our election year purchases are nonrefundable.  If it breaks, you can’t bring it back!

So don’t delay!  After Nov 8th, it will be too late!  We have lots of shiny Ideas on our shelves.  Would you like Better Wages?  Reproductive Rights?  Religious Freedom?  Intimidating Foreign Policy?  Building The Wall?  Get them no….oh.

I see.  You’ve been watching the news a lot lately.  So, now you’ve got a bad case of fear, am I right?  The only thing you’re interested in is that giant bag of Law And Order?  Great choice!  Will it work?  Will it make you safe?  Of course it will!

Thank you for shopping with us, and have a wonderful four years!

Natasha wrinkled her nose at the computer.  It was another e-mail from that annoying Eurobrat chick, inviting her to yet another lame party.

There would be many selfie-worthy parties around town this weekend, but this wouldn’t be one of them.  It would be an event for a good cause and it would be full of the depressing people who cared about good causes.  Beers For Prairie Dogs!  the e-mail proudly proclaimed.  Natasha had seen enough.

She was about to delete the e-mail, when something caught her eye.  Could it be?  Was one of the Kardashian sisters really going to be calling into the event live?  And who knew she cared so much about prairie dogs?

***

Her plan was to hang out in the corner of the room, close enough to hear that sultry Kardashian voice, but far enough not to have to interact with any of the political dorks.  It might have worked–except that, unfortunately, Eurobrat was there.  She spotted Natasha’s hiding place and came running over.

“Oh, I’m so glad you could make it!”  Eurobrat gushed.  “This is such an important night for us.  Have you signed our petition?”

“Yes,” Natasha lied.

“Great!  Wow, it feels like I haven’t seen you in forever!”

“No, you haven’t,”  Natasha mumbled.

“Well, you should join me tomorrow.  I’m going to go door-to-door canvassing for Representative Funkhousen.  It’s going to be so much fun!”

Natasha had no idea how to respond to such a pathetic statement, so she remained silent.  During the awkward moments that followed, she had plenty of time to examine the sweater which Eurobrat was wearing.  It had a giant embroidered owl on it.  Her eyes then wandered to a table with a bowl of chips, which the young activists were ravenously attacking.  At the far side of the room, people were waving their arms and excitedly yelling out answers to trivia questions.  Zoning Laws Quiz, the sign above them read.

A few of Eurobrat’s friends had gathered around them.  They were all equally bright-eyed and enthusiastic.  One of them, a pony-tailed guy who had been entertaining everyone with tales of his tree-climbing protests, gave Natasha a careful once-over.

“Hey, how’s it going?  Have you seen the latest poll results?”  he asked her.

“Oh, I don’t keep up with that stuff.”  She shrugged.  “I hate all politicians, anyway.”

He shook his head.  “This isn’t about you liking them.  It’s bigger than you or me.  One wrong choice in the election, and the country could end up moving backwards.  We could go to a very dark place.”

She stared at him with interest.  She didn’t believe anything scary would actually happen to the country.  And what difference did it make who was President?  She never noticed any.  This guy sounded like he was into conspiracy theories.  But if he cut off that long hair, he could be pretty attractive.

She smiled at him.  “Wanna go out for drinks after this?”

He smiled back.  “No, but I’ll be at a rally for the new corporate tax Sunday.  I would love to see you there.  You could help raise money for our income equality organization?”

Her face fell.  She hated doing sales and asking strangers for money.  What was it with these people?

“Is this the only thing you ever do for a hobby?”  Her voice was edged with irritation.

“Well, yeah.”  He still sounded unnaturally cheery.  “Why are you here?  Don’t you want to work for the revolution?”

The revolution?  What did that even mean?  She now felt embarrassed that she briefly considered going out with this guy.

“I’m a little concerned that you can’t give me a clear answer.  Are you sure you’re truly committed?”  His cheerfulness was melting away.

“Yeah.”  Her eyes darted back and forth.  When was the Kardashian call going to happen?

“She’s totally committed!”  Eurobrat defensively put an arm around her friend.  “I’ve known her for years and she’s a fabulous person.”

Their conversation was disrupted by a loud voice.

A particularly skinny activist had climbed up on one of the tables.  “Welcome to all my fellow warriors!  Thank you all for being here for this world-changing event.”

Eurobrat and her friends cheered and applauded.

“As some of you may know, a certain Kardashian sister is a supporter of our movement…”

There were scattered boos around the room.

“We had hoped to convince her to call in tonight, but her schedule is a bit crazy.  But I’ve got exciting news.  She did agree to post a picture of a prairie dog on her Instagram.  Please share the picture on your social media, tell your friends to do it too…”

A wave of cold rage washed over Natasha.  So these losers had lied about a celebrity phone call, just to lure people here.  She had wasted her time with a bunch of nutjobs.  Random drunken clubbing would’ve been better.

“Personally, I’m glad that this event will not be tainted by an association with a reality TV star,” Eurobrat sniffed.  “Wanna go take a look at the prairie dog shirts, Natasha?  They’re so cute!”

“A prairie dog T-shirt?”  Natasha asked through gritted teeth.  “What makes you think I would be caught dead wearing such a thing?”

“Um…you seem upset,”  Eurobrat said.  “Can I hold some space for you so that you can work through your feelings?”

“Yes, I would love to tell you exactly how I feel!”  Natasha screamed.  “I can’t believe I even came to this dumb party!  All I wanted was a chance to talk to the Kardashians…”

Eurobrat stepped back.  “But…what about helping us?”

“You’re such fucking idiots!  You really think your party’s going to change what the government does?  Nobody cares.  And I don’t give a fuck, either.”

She turned on her heel, leaving everyone with their jaws dropped, and stalked out.

“I told you you should be more careful about those invitations you send out, Eurobrat,” she heard someone behind her say.

Once she was out on the street, she could breathe more easily.  She was, indeed, working through her feelings.  It still wasn’t too late to go somewhere else.  The next party she would go to would have people drinking cocktails, wearing the latest fashions–you know, doing the things that really mattered.

America is a scary place these days.

As I leave my house in the morning, I have to dodge bullets from angry black people trying to shoot me up.  I can barely make it down my driveway.  I’m pretty sure the Black Lives Matter movement is responsible for this.

Even if I survive that, I still have to make it past the ISIS terrorists lurking behind every corner.  So many suicide bombings in my neighborhood.  We should have never let those suspicious refugees in.

And then there’s the commute, with crazy cars veering all over the road.  I’m a well-informed citizen, so I know what that’s about–illegal immigrants driving drunk.  And you think any of them will get deported?  Nooooo…  (Although to be fair, it could also be the hippies smoking that legalized pot.)

No, they will continue living in our country, taking our welfare and stealing our jobs (maybe at the same time!)  Right along with the Asians and other foreigners stealing our factories and our manufacturing.

What’s a frightened white person to do?

Thank God we have a strong leader like Donald Trump running in this election.  He will make all those scary people go away…somehow.  He will make America safe again!

At least…safe for me…right?

Dedicated to all the disappointed elves

She worked her magicks in the darkest recesses of a D.C. conference room, her navy blue pantsuit blending perfectly with the shadows.  Lady Hillary bent her head over a makeshift altar and chanted the incantations that would turn her into the Ruler of the Free World.

Just as she was halfway through her TPP spell, the door of the room flew open and a slim silhouette appeared.

She turned from the altar and sighed heavily.  Naturally, it was one of Bernie’s elves.  Many of them had by now acknowledged defeat and scurried back to their woodland communes to tend their tiny herb gardens, but a couple of die-hards here and there were still trying to mount attacks on her.

The Bernista had flowing locks and big, bright eyes.  She was followed into the room by her unicorn sidekick.  Lady Hillary glared at them with impatience.

“You’re never going to give up, are you?”

“It’s not too late!”  the elf proclaimed with a trembling voice.  She threw her hands up and wiggled her fingers in the air.  “I cast my positive vibrations upon you, oh dark one!  Acknowledge that you are not the rightful nominee!”

Lady Hillary cackled.  “Spare me this amateur stuff.  You do realize, of course, that I have persuaded the majority of those in the Democratic Party to vote for me.”

“It’s all lies and fraud!  It cannot be true.  Bernie is the chosen one for this time.  Did you not see the Goddess send down the little bird at his rally?  Do not question the bird!”

“Enough about that stupid bird already…well, never mind.”  Lady Hillary softened her tone. “Look, you and I both know that the only way to defeat the Donald is to make an alliance with me.  Be reasonable, my little one.  You want to believe in good witches, but that’s not how the world works.  Although I do so admire that pure heart of yours…I feel as if…I must have it…”  She reached out her hand toward the glowing center in the elf’s chest.

“Don’t touch me!” the elf squealed, backing away.

“Or what?  Your Bernie will save you?”

“Bernie will save everyone in Americaland.”

“Ha!  You think his wizardry is truly powerful enough to make all his promises come true?  He will have to raise taxes.”

A slight smile played upon the elf’s lips.  “Ah, but you do not know about our secret weapon. Our unicorns aren’t just adorable…they also fart money.”

“Is that so?”  Lady Hillary stared at the unicorn with great interest.

“I feel a little put on the spot,” the unicorn said.

The elf tilted her head.  “Now will you concede the battle?”

“Concede?”  Lady Hillary laughed.  “Clearly, you do not understand the kind of power you are dealing with here.”  As she said this, she expanded and grew in stature, until she towered over the Bernista.  “I am not merely the Democratic candidate for President.  I am also a crazy leftist and a sell-out Republican at the same time.  Simultaneously responsible for too much war and too much appeasement.  Too calculating and too loud.  Too easily influenced by corporations and by socialists.  I contain it all, the left and the right, the masculine and feminine, every policy and none of them.  I am the everything and nothing of politics.  Try to stand against me and you will be consumed by the void.”

The elf covered her face, but she was past saving.  Her bright eyes turned black–she had gazed into the heart of the political machine.  One more moment, and she vanished into a puff of glitter.  The unicorn pooped out a little pile of cash and fled.

Lady Hillary shook her head.  “Always the same with these creatures.  So much fire, so little strategy.  It’s a shame–this one was cute.”  She turned back to the altar.  “Ah, yes.  What should I do next?  Where is that spell to get Bernie’s endorsement?”

He grew irritated with their questioning.  They were members of the lamestream media, forever doubting the things he needed to do.

“It’s understandable that some people had to be arrested, but did they have to be shot?”

“They were troublemakers.  They were rioting.  Okay?  This is what happens.  Linda?”

“Do you have anything to say about the 30% unemployment rate?”

“That’s temporary.  That’s only temporary.  Sometimes there needs to be a little pain.  I’m about to bring amazing jobs to this country, believe me.  You have no idea.”

“But how will you do that, when…”

“Okay.  You’re done.  I already told you, honey.  Amazing jobs.  Hey Rick, how are you?”

“I’m doing very well, thank you.  Mr. President, you have increased domestic oil production…”

“We’re drilling everywhere.  Drilling everywhere.”

“…You’ve also removed excessive regulation, making it easier for our corporations to grow.  We’re getting richer by the day.  My question is, how much more glorious and powerful is America going to become in the near future?”

“You don’t even know, buddy.  So much glory.  So great.  Number one.  Number one.”

“Thank you for your inspiring answer.”

“No problem.  Let’s see…Dan?”

“Mr. President, you’ve shown that you are not afraid to punish our enemies, even if it means using nuclear weapons.  The American people are grateful for your help and protection…”

“You’re laying it on pretty thick, pal.”

“Hahahahaha….”

“But I do know that they’re grateful.  I know they are.”

“What do you tell the naysayers who say that you’ve made the world a more dangerous place?  That the civilian casualties in our strike on London were too high?”

“Those people were losers.  They had to be bombed.”

Another reporter chimed in.  “But those Americans who are protesting your policies…”

“They’re losers too.  That’s why I had to lock so many of em up.  Losers belong in jail.”

“Don’t you think that…”

“All right, I’m finished with this question.  We’re done.”

“Mr. President, please…”

“Hey Gary, will you remove this guy?  Will you take him outside?  Thank you.”

“What?  Hey, hold on!  You can’t do this!”

“Mr. President, you can’t just remove journalists because they ask you questions you don’t like.”

“You again, Linda?  I thought I told you before, sweet cheeks.  Security, take them both outside.  And make sure to help get them sobered up when they’re out there.  And don’t go easy on her–they wanna get equal treatment, right?”

Once the noise of the journalists getting dragged out of the room died down, the President nodded and lifted up his hand.

“Okay, we can keep going.  Kelsey?”

“You are obviously a man who cherishes and protects American women.  Where do you think that quality comes from?”

“That is a great question, Kelsey.  Believe me when I say that…”