Tom tuck and rolled, allowing the momentum from the truck to carry him into the gully and over the berm by the side of the road.
This was embarrassing. Not for him, Tom had done everything he could. He was embarrassed for the youth of this nation. He was sad for them and thought "Bless their hearts" as he used the velocity of his roll to get quickly into position. Tom kneeled down and smoothly pulled the rifle off of his back steadying the barrel as he sighted the truck and the whooping and hollering youngster who had shoved him from the back. He lined up the boy's head in his cross hairs and thought... "I'm gonna pray for you." as he pulled the trigger, and what was the young man's head evaporated in a strawberry mist.
Tom stood up and dusted himself off, he had been through worse than this, and he'd survived. Shoot, he was there at the insurrection on January 6th, and the "Big One" four years Later. The "Big One" was what really changed things in this Country ...Tom and the rest of the "Tough Fellas" thought it would change things in his favor...and in a way it did...he still had a lot to be grateful for, and as his Grandmammy always said, "The Lord does work in mysterious ways."
Grandmammy was always doing the Lord's work. She liked to quote the Good Book and the Sunday Preachers as she went about her chores, and she got especially verbose when the Lord called for her to take a switch and get to inspiring fear in the backsides of the little hellions she was raising...especially Tom. And Grandmammy was full of wonderful pithy sayings, one of Tom's personal favorites was..."Whenever a door's closed, there's a window that's opened."
So sure, Tom may have gotten tossed off the back of that F-150 heading down I-85 towards Atlanta and the "Tough Fellas" convention. No biggie. Wasn't the end of the world. Here he was under the stars in what he called Real Red Cap Country. And he caught the scent of an open fire nearby. Open flames and cooking meat unless his nose had begun to fail him, which Tom doubted. He knew one day all of his senses would falter and wane, "For we are but dust and to dust we shall return" Tom thought, but not just yet.
Make America Great...that's all they'd wanted and President Daniel Cap had delivered on that promise. Tom was glad to have been a part of that change and it helped to stay optimistic. After all that’s what had gotten them through those four years when the Dems took back over. They had to keep their chins up and their noses clean, that’s what good ol' President Danny Cap had said and that’s exactly what all the "Tough Fellas" had done. And Tom was proud of himself and his boys.
And so Tom was in high spirits when he stumbled into the clearing where a few young men were enjoying an impromptu feast by the flames.
"What's on the menu tonight boys?" Tom asked as he clapped his hands together, licked his lips and took a seat on a nearby log.
The young man directly in front of Tom looked at him suspiciously while the other two closed ranks on the other side of the fire. Not at all a warm welcome Tom thought. Certainly not the type of "stranger treatment" Our Lord had professed.
"Whatcha doing in these woods old timer?" The fella in front of Tom asked.
Perhaps he had been a little too familiar a little too soon. Tom always assumed the best of folks. It was one of his "weak points" as the “Tough Fellas" middle management leadership team had explained to him months before the "Big One" when he had been trying-out for a squad leader position for the BIG Raid on the Capital. "Tough Fellas" middle management leadership had turned him down saying he was needed "amongst the men." They said he was more valuable with his "boots on the ground." And anyway he had scored less than average on the "intellect" tests and way low on the "inspires trust in others" category.
Tom couldn't figure out that part. His Mom had always said he was a great leader, and he'd been one of the first to break into the Capital on January 6th when President Danny Cap got everyone all excited to take the country back. Everyone knew that election was rigged, Tom and his boys were just man enough, were just American enough to take action...
"Why I was just making my way down south for the "Tough Fellas" convention. You boys got a spot of that...what is that...roasted squirrel... for one of the Founding Soldiers of this here Better America."
Two of the young men burst out laughing. The third, James Bradley just stared at Tom. This old man, was a sad sight.
"What do you mean 'Founding Soldiers'? What branch did you serve in Old Man?"
"Well, I wasn't in the Military Proper, not as such. But I was one of the Raging Insurrectionists...one of the original 'Tough Fellas' who stormed the Capital way back in 2021 and then again in 2025."
"You were there for the 'Big One'?" One of the other young men asked.
"Ha, not only was I there, I got a holographic selfie inside the office of the Senator from Georgia...well the office of the assistant to the Senator of Georgia...but still I was there, feet up on the desk and everything. And if I hadn't lost My-Phone when that hooligan tossed me out of the pick-up while back, I'd be proud to give you a peek of that pic. Now show some respect for your elders and cut me off a piece of squirrel son. Don't make me ask you again. The nerve of you young’un’s making your elder, a leader of the state and exemplar for the posterior of this Country beg for his supper.... why you boys wouldn't even be here right now if it wasn't for me."
James Bradley spit into the fire while the other two laughed again. "You're right Old Timer we wouldn't be here...sitting outside in the freezing cold cooking up squirrel on a frigid Spring night with nowhere to lay our heads and nowhere to go in the morning. You and your generation really messed things up for all of us...and for what? Do you even know what you were fighting for?"
"To make America Great..."
"Does America look great to you? We were great! We were a country that had ideals! Things we could all aspire to. Maybe not everyone and maybe not all the time, but enough of us, for enough of the time tried to do our best to stand for Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness that America became a beacon of hope shining throughout all the rest of the world. And now...now we can't even take care of our own...."
James Bradley took a deep breath and unclenched his fists. "Old Timer, I suggest you keep moving. There isn’t enough squirrel here to go around, and there sure ain't enough here for the likes of you."
"Oh, I see...well...alright then. Like my Old Grandmammy used to say 'A wise man knows when he's not wanted.'"
"Thank God for small wonders." James Bradley said as Tom turned and found his way out of the brush. The smell of the fire and the cooking meat still fresh in his nostrils and making his mouth water.
"Kids these days." Tom thought...as he walked a little farther into the brush, knelt down and got into position... "I'm gonna pray for them."