The War Before The War

Submitted into Contest #127 in response to: Write a story about a problem with no good solutions.... view prompt


Thriller Drama Suspense


Some parts of the Inland Valley are a cesspit for rats and snakes. They’re dusty curmudgeons who supply, deal, and consume smack like over-the-counter medicine. Needles puncture arms and fill their veins with heroine. People pop pills and take fentanyl to elevate their heroine addictions that no longer buzz their brains into mush. Guns are like arms. And bullets are their fingers. The pandemic exacerbated violence, and manifested self-proclaimed patriots and preachers. 

2022: Suburban Home: Kitchen Table: Late Night & Booze: Kidnapping?

           “Do you not see what’s going on here, man?” said Jeremy Caddell. “This isn’t the America we know anymore.”

           “I’m not disagreeing with you,” said Ryan Mittelberg.

           “But you’re not going to join, are you?”

           “We already have a group…”

           “They’re all brothers in the fight, yes, but not warriors. We’re at war, brother.”

           “You’re being dramatic.”

           “No. I’m not. It’s not time for talk anymore. Those traitors on the hill don’t know who me and you are, man. We get thrown into the pits, while they walk in halls with waiters, fancy ass tapestries, and all that other crap…”

           “I know, I know, but what you’re implying be done is insane… arming ourselves is one thing, but kidnapping the Secretary of State? That’s just stupid.”

           “You talk of arms,” said Jeremy gripping a fist in front of his cheek. “We’re armed. Now its time to use those arms to fight tyrants. ‘If you prepare for peace… prepare for war.’ I mean where do we draw the line? How many more elections are they going to steal before we kill them? The planning starts now, and we’re assembling a team of badasses… I owe you my life, and this is how I can repay you.”

           “How? By making me storm the goddam steps of the State building in Sacramento?”

           “No! Think big picture, man! I know you’re not as blockheaded as that.”

           “You’d be surprised,” said Ryan, reaching for the cigarette in the ashtray.

           “Man... Listen, its bigger than just one op. You think its just me and some hillbilly’s in a truck all boozed up with a buttload of weapons?”

           “Who then? Trump?”

           “No. You think he’d have his hands o’er this? Remember Sammy Martinez?”

           “Yeah? That Meth dealer?”

           “He’s clean. He’s just a businessman. You think the American government gave a fuck about ethics when they funneled drugs into the communities; basically, putting that shit into their arms themselves? Nah., They didn’t and still don’t!

“We have to deploy their tactics to survive. You know I don’t do that shit. Only that once. But that shit isn’t for me. Where do you think we got the money for arms?”

           “You’re acting like the Feds won’t crack down on you guys?”

           “If things go as planned… There won’t be a Fed to worry about.” 

           “This is like a scene from some crappy show man. It’s too cockamamie. The plan was never sold on me in the first place. Some high-level motherfuckers need to be involved to get this accomplished without looking like a lost herd of sheep like ya’ll did on the 6th.”

           “I wasn’t there. But that was just a test, anyways. It was to see what we could accomplish. And it looks like a whole fucking lot.”

           “Then who’s involved? Congressman? Senators?”

           “Bingo. And like I was saying, Martinez was contracted to sell, launder, and buy guns with drugs by Sheriff Bodega.”

           “Bodega? That’s hardly National.”

           “He’s going to be an important field captain, among other liberal hating Sheriffs, police Chiefs – and shit – even some fire captains. They’re all fed up and ready to fight tyranny. They know, and you know, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. There are people in power openly silencing us, jailing us, sanctioning us… firing us from our jobs for our beliefs! This is all happening right now! The Democratic Party are undisputable fascists! If we accomplish this, we will finally have an America where our kids can feel safe… Please, man, we need your help.”

           Ryan got up and put his index finger to his lips. “Keep your voice down.”

           “Look, is it a Yes or No, man?”

           “No. And don’t contact us again,” said Ryan smashing his cigarette into the ashtray. “I don’t want to be marked with any of this shit. You hear me? Not my wife. Not my Kids. Not even my fucking dog. It’s too extreme. The liberals are a bunch of ‘progressive’ extremists, but you sound just like them, if not worse…”

           “Because you’re my friend, I won’t say I even told you about squat. But you go to the FBI… rest assured, man, you’re fucked. This shit is real, and it’s a shame you’re choosing the Libs.”

           “No, I’m not.”

           “You might as well be. Goodbye Ryan,” said Jeremy finishing off his beer. He got up, grabbed his keys, and without saying a word, marched out the door.

           Ryan sipped his beer methodically as he heard the engine of his car start up and drive off. He went into the fridge and popped open another beer. Then he sat down and watched the Late-Night News. Like every American, he felt disgusted at the current events. He felt helpless. Unnerved by the aggression and acrimony. His circles spoke of “civil war!” or, “When is the right time to shoot!” But what about the other side? They are in power now. So, as of now, their only worry is how to run a country and remain in power. How violent would they get if they lost? Would they react in the same way?

Our snippet in time may end in a historical catastrophe.

           Footsteps smushed into the carpet. Ryan knew, but wished it wasn’t his son, Duncan. He didn’t want him there, because if he was here now, he was surely there when Jeremy recanted his sermon on the mound.

When is it time God prevented war, instead of being the vehicle for it? But is government any better in this venture? Who do we listen to? Who can we trust? What does it mean to be American?

           “Hey dad.”

           “Hey son… you have practice tomorrow, and the recruiter’s going to be at the game this week. You need your rest.”

           “I’m not sure if I want to go to college…”

           “Why not? You’ll get a full ride to a lot of good schools, and Law sch—”

           “Dad… I don’t want to be a lawyer anymore. I want to join the Marines, be a cop, or something. The enemies at our gates!”

           “Son… Listen, you have to go to college… There are other ways you can be a warrior. I’m not saying being a cop is a poor choice, but you can do better, and be better.”

           “But dad, you’re not getting it. There isn’t time to sit in a classroom. Those liberal fucktards storm the streets and take them over, it’s our time!”

           “Enough! You’re not doing any of that! You’re going to college! And that’s that!”

           Without saying a word, and with water swelling from his eyes, Duncan stormed upstairs in a huff and slammed his bedroom door. Ryan threw his beer against the side-glass door and broke the glass. This woke up Emily. She wrapped her robe around her and whipped open the door. The baby began crying and screaming. She went back into the room and grabbed her and comforted her. The dog cowered in the corner of their room and whimpered.

           But before she could go downstairs, Ryan was upstairs banging on Duncan’s bedroom door. “Come out here! We’re not done talking!”

           “Hey! What’s going on?” Said Emily.

           “He’s wrapped up in being a foolish foot soldier than being a damned leader! Its not worth it! Trust me, I know! They’re just libs in Red!”

           “Honey! What are you talking about?”

           “He said he doesn’t want to go to college! Open up!” Said Ryan banging on the door.

           “Stop! You’re scaring Sara! Calm down, please…” Said Emily.

           Ryan calmed down like a pipe releases steam. His face went from tomato to peachy. And then he went into Father mode. He spoke hushed and sweetly. Emily was still uneasy, but fading into peace. Ryan went over to Duncan’s bedroom door and knocked without anger. 

“D-man! I’m sorry…” He waited for a response. Nothing. “D-man?” Still no response. He put his ear to the door and could hear nothing. No rustling. No bed moving. Nothing. “Duncan? Are you there? I’m going to kick down the door if you don’t respond!” He waited a few seconds. And still he heard nothing. He kicked down the door. Duncan was nowhere in sight. Emily and Ryan froze.

           “Duncan? Duncan?” Said Ryan searching the room; flipping over blankets and sheets; flipping over the mattress; thrashing open the closet door. Then he saw, through his panic, the window was open and the curtains flowed gently in the wind. Like a flag on the eve of a brewing storm. Ryan stood in somber silence. And Emily continued to calm Sara. But no one was calm.

           Ryan’s phone dinged from downstairs. It dinged a few times more.

           “U know where I went… this ducking country is going to hell.and if you don’t want to do anything about it that’s fine. But I will! If you go to the FBI, you’ll never see me again. Maybe in time but not now or soon. Going to the FBI will put me in danger. Do the right thing dad… And keep your mouth shut. You’ll be an accomplice as much as anyone involved in this.”

           Was he right? Or was his son just fogged by anger and a will to make change? Ryan knew how his son felt. It was what made the choice to go into the military easy. But he had never dreamed of a nation fraught with rancor and rage. No one is coming to save the whole… only their own envisioned piece of “freedom.” There won’t be much freedom when the guns sing. Freedom in death, without the glory. 

           Emily came over Ryan’s shoulder and read the texts. He sat his phone down and sighed deeply.

           “What’s he talking about?” Said Emily. “FBI? Where the hell is, he going?”

           “He’s going to join Jeremy’s little group of shitstarters.”

           “I thought he was in your group?”

           “He’s making another one… One with ‘warriors.”

           “Oh god… You have to get our boy before he joins them. Call the police! The FBI! Anyone!”

           “If I do that, they’ll make Duncan a conspirator and accomplice… Me too,” said Ryan, lighting another cigarette.

           “Not if you hurry! Call them now!”

           “Jeremy told me everything! Their plans; everything! I can’t… He’ll just fuck me over along with him. He said so before he left.”

           “You can’t just do nothing! Duncan’s going to get killed or arrested!”

           “I know! I know!”

           “Then what are you going to do??” Said Emily?

           “I don’t know… I don’t know…” Said Ryan taking a long droll of his cigarette. “I don’t know.”

January 06, 2022 20:24

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