Through Rose Rimmed Glasses

Submitted into Contest #80 in response to: Write about a child witnessing a major historical event.... view prompt


Suspense American Crime

Staring at the screen the mother’s eyes began to well with tears. She could identify her son if he were the size of a needle sitting in a haystack a mile away. So, it was not all too difficult to spot her son among the hordes of disillusioned Americans storming the Capitol that day. It did help that a DC newsman decided to highlight a group of brave men trying to climb the edifice of the building which had grooves between the stones every few feet which were helpful for scaling. Halfway up the wall, he happened to look back just as the cameraman zoomed in and cut away. Eileen rewound the television coverage thirty seconds (something she had recently learned from her granddaughter). Through the tears, she watched as her grown son turned his head back for just a moment, which Eileen took as one last sign of regret. One last look back on where he came and maybe just a moment of reflection on how he got there. Then, the camera cut away leaving her with fearful curiosity.

Steve went on to scale the wall and eventually rush the gates. He was one of the smarter ones who had used a face covering, presumably for identity protection and not pandemic precaution. However, he made the maybe not so obvious mistake of taking a selfie and posting it to his “private” snapchat story. The reasonable level of caution Steve took going into this fool’s errand saved him from the first round up.

Eileen knew she had to do something to keep her mind off what she had seen. This occasion called for some Earl’s Grey tea. Eileen had always questioned the marketing savvy of Earl who had marketed his delicious tea with the color grey. Then, her mind quickly returned to the image that she knew deep down to be her son climbing a wall of the Capitol. The same Capitol she had visited for the March for Life, the same Capitol her brother worked at as an intern for Senator Brady, and the same Capitol she first saw in her elementary history books. The historic building or descendent of where all the great men from our Country came and went. This bastion of Democracy defiled by someone she created- “Grandma!”. Eileen’s spiral stopped in an instant with the call of her granddaughter, Ann Elizabeth.

Annie was Steve’s daughter, but everyone said she looked like her grandma. ‘Gran’ as Annie called her had pretty much raised Annie since she was four. Four years ago, Steve lost his truck driving license right around the time his divorce was finalized. Losing his CDL was the final blow in what had been a serious unraveling of Steve’s finances, confidence, and life. The next few years were spent on three activities: working construction, drinking beer and watching the evening news. Watching Fox News has become an interactive experience. Someone such as Steve would have his beer in his left hand and his “Free Iphone 11” (when you sign up for monthly recurring payments that coincidentally equal the cost of the phone) in his right hand. The smartphone is what made the boring old news a must-see TV event for someone like Steve. He was able to watch his favorite anchors and get the former President’s comments on the same show live. Then, Steve could respond to said president in what he thought was a genuine exchange of thought.

Radicalization is such an all consuming process that it is hard and maybe unfair to ask the outside world to separate ideology from the human spewing it. If anything can be said for Stephen, then it would be that he loves Annie. Any sort of “extracurricular insurrection” was always participated in after a long day of labor to pay for all of Annie’s necessities. Of course, the big expense that was covered for free by Gran was child care. Another thing Steve got right was facing his ex-wife in court to make sure he got full custody. She was a nasty woman who took out her own shortcomings on Steve and then Annie. Beyond those two things, not much can be said to redeem Stephen. His notable accomplishments were mostly the reckonings from wrong decisions that he handled well. 

Eileen took Annie to the park down the street to get her mind off the television and the likely reality that her son had committed treason. Annie was much too young to understand or even hear about the things that were happening that day. The park was only a block or so away, but Eileen could not help but to watch every step that little Annie took. She skipped the whole way, making sure not to land on any cracks between the concrete sidewalk panels. Eileen’s favorite part of the whole park experience with Annie was the times when Annie would sense that her skipping had outpaced Gran and she would stop on one leg and spin back to wait for laggin’ Gran. The excited, uncontainable grin on her granddaughter’s face put a little pep in Eileen’s step and reminded her why she switched to oat milk and dropped red meat from the diet. 

Annie had the same routine every time they went to the park. She started with the swings. It was an immediate release of energy and what kid doesn’t like tilting their head back on a swing and picture themselves flying. Eileen never minded pushing Annie, but luckily she figured out self-propulsion right before her weight started to go up. Annie had been on a few youth soccer teams starting a few years back. Unfortunately, the coach, Steve, failed to line his schedule up this season costing the Hobbe’s Creek Hooligans their season. Eileen also partly blamed herself for the copious amounts of homemade lasagna and stew she pumped out. Eileen never worried for Annie though. She was an active kid with a good head on her shoulders as they would say.

Eileen still had enough child in her to participate in the seesaw, but she called it there. The monkey bars were certainly out of the question, but a good game of tag or ‘wood chips’ (with Gran as seeker of course) was always in the picture. Annie’s favorite activity was climbing this tree next to the playground. It was a young tree, but to Annie it was Everest. It grew with one of those v shaped divergences in the lower trunk. That made an excellent foot hold for Annie. Then, the mystery of nature took over from there. The branches were thin and seemed entirely incapable of supporting an eight year old’s weight. The only reason that did not cause panic in Eileen is that the tree was all of six feet tall and Annie never went for the top branch. The other factor was that it seemed, at least to Eileen, that each year as Annie grew so did the tree. The branches were strong enough to hold Annie up year after year as she scaled the towering tree. 

Watching Annie climb reminded Eileen of when she took Steve to this park decades ago now. They have since replaced the jungle gym with a soft, rounded edge tower with slides. Steve used to climb up as high as he possibly could. He would scale the swing set by the chains or shimmying up the poles. He would get on the roof of the slide and do jumping jacks. All of that was done just to get a rise out of Eileen. She could see now how those were literal cries for attention at times, but it used to drive her nuts. It was her baby boy living on the razor’s edge. “Annie, let’s go home for lunch!”, hollered Eileen. “Five minutes,” asked Annie. “Not today”.

The thing that started Steve down the rabbit hole was the Kennedy assassination of all things. That event, which American dads everywhere love to read or hear about, now borders on ancient history. That day in 1963 is closer to World War 1 than we are to it today. Anyway, this grand-daddy of all conspiracies is innocent enough to suck anyone in. Somewhere between that and the chemicals in the water that turns frogs gay, Steve stumbled into the Q world. I hate to even mention that weird nonsense for fear of it being used in the next ‘drop’, but it is what it is. Steve found the ultimate source of truth to be from not the President nor Fox News, but rather a letter! Not Z, Y, or W! Forget them! George Orwell could not have done better himself. 

The pickup truck rumbled down the Virginia back roads at twice the posted speed limit, but there was not a single cop awake in this county. Steve had hitched a ride with some guys from Arkansas. Apparently, Steve’s car had been parked ‘illegally’ on Federal grounds when the national guard trucks came rolling in. They drove right through the excess traffic in route to securing the capitol. ‘F***ing pigs’ thought Steve as he held on tight to the side of the truck as he had been unaccounted for in the stranger’s planning of the journey, so he was sat in the bed. In fact there were a total of seven rebels driving home this particular January 6th evening. The day, being either successful or horrific, was either way now over. The federal buildings had been secured and the Congress continued their session to certify Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States. The thinning of the crowd was really like a casual chaos for lack of better descriptions. Serious offenses and consequences had occurred, but by and large the crowds were able to disperse freely. Tens of thousands of Americans rushed that building, but probably less than two hundred were arrested that night on phony curfew charges. So, the fugitives hardly felt the sting of the law on them as they clamored on down south. 

Steve had his phone and wallet. He knew his plan. He would get off and thank the rebels near the border and then taxi his way home to Eileen’s house. He was just settling on that and ready to text his mother when the guy next to him said, “WE f***ing did it”!

“What’s that?” replied Steve. “We, the patriots...the proud! We did it man”, said the man. Then, the lady on the driver side of the truck bed chimed in; “what did it accomplish?”. The man’s eyes swelled up with darkness as his pupils dilated, giving an observer the impression of the man having “shark eyes”. Imagine the shark in Finding Nemo when he smells blood. The man went on spewing every tag line from the former president’s twitter account from the last sixty days. The same rhetoric so trite at this point that it is hardly worth documenting. When the man had settled down, the woman simply replied, “well, we never found Mike Pence”. “Eh, they’ll all rot in hell,” said the man. Steve wanted to chime in, but he had no idea what to say. The day’s events had been uncharted waters for him and really for everyone. It was like he felt alive; that his focus was so solely on the present moment that time was a consistent beat and he rode the edge of history. It is a hard high to describe and an even harder high to fall from.

Eileen sat up in bed with a knot in her stomach. She had fallen asleep with still no word from her son. He was actually waiting on an off ramp near the highway for his taxi at this moment, but she had no way of knowing that. Eileen’s mind was racing ten thoughts a second. She had awoken from this terrible dream which she could tell was about the trial of her son. The image from the dream that she could make out clearly was an out of body experience where she saw herself being interviewed by reporters holding Annie. In the dream Annie was crying and Eileen could not stop to console her because she was compelled to answer all of the reporters’ questions. She felt her body and voice torn between her son and Annie. The dream was clearly longer than that, but often we only cling to one image or scene. It was 2 AM and Eileen decided to go down to the kitchen and make some coffee. She knew she would not get back to sleep tonight.

Annie got up promptly at 7:30 as she normally did. This morning, she woke up and ran downstairs to find ‘Gran’ had already made scrambled eggs and she was working on pancakes. There was toast, butter, and ketchup (for the eggs) on the table. Eileen had been up since 2 so she figured might as well make her beloved Annie a good breakfast. “I thought maybe after breakfast, we can feed the cats and then head over to the park”, said Eileen. Annie was just sitting down when the front door slammed open. Steve came rushing in the house with his mind everywhere else. “Welcome home” quipped Eileen. Steve started to respond to Eileen, “Oh hey mo-Annie! Hey sweetie, how are ya?”. Steve went over to Annie and scooped her up in his arms as if he just realized what he put on the line yesterday. Eileen was starting to feel sick again as her stomach began to knot up. “So, how was the [former] president’s speech?”, asked Eileen genuinely trying to start a dialogue. Steve had hardly heard his mother’s question; “Good. Hey, I’m going to shower while you guys finish breakfast”.

The shower was running so Eileen assumed Steve could not hear anything. “Hey Annie, aren’t you happy that daddy is back?”, Eileen asked the girl. Annie in between bites of her pancakes, smothered in syrup, managed to say “mhm”. Eileen had not smoked a cigarette in years, but she would have jumped the mailman to smoke a red right now. She walked over to the phone and stared at it. If she wanted to report him, then she would have to look up the FBI’s number she realized. ‘I can’t imagine 911 can transfer me to agent smith’ she thought. The shower turned off.

The family was watching television. Eileen had made one of Steve’s favorites for dinner; BBQ chicken breasts with garlic mashed potatoes and buttered bread instead of corn. Perhaps she was being a bit dramatic since no one had come to their door or called the phone. The Masked Singer was on. Annie would dance and sing along which was more like humming, but it did not annoy Eileen nor Steve one bit. The celebrities were trying to guess which struggling celebrity had agreed to have an actor dance in a costume and take a rooster head off when they ‘lose’. It is a bit of a mystery what middle America likes about this concept, but they ******* love it. I digress.

There was a knock at the door. “Who’s that?”, asked Steve. Eileen went to get it and her heart sank when she saw the flashing lights coming through the curtains. Eileen opened the door to two officers and several truck loads of men and equipment behind them. “Evening mam, we’re sorry to bother”, said one mustache. “Is [Steve] here?” asked the other. Eileen was frozen; her worst nightmare playing out in front of her. 

Steve came up behind his mother, “what’s going on here?”. One mustache muttered something into his radio and the other said, “[Steve] you are under arrest for trespassing on federal property. You have the right…”. It is safe to say that Steve blacked out with rage. He began hurling every epithet and talking point he had absorbed for the last four years. His argument can be surmised in this way: I am the most patriotic, red blooded American I know, my rights are being infringed upon by the election of my political rival, so I attacked the capitol in a show of fervent patriotism. 

Annie came around the corner. Steve was pleading his case with the cops. “Daddy?”, begged Annie as she started to cry. “MOM. Mom! Tell ‘em. Tell them I was here yesterday. We went to the park”, said Steve. Eileen looked at her son. He was handcuffed, restrained by three men, and pleading with tears in his eyes for her to lie. She was silent for a moment and when the men hushed to listen for her response, she could hear Annie crying faintly in the house. “He was not home yesterday sir. He went to listen to Trump’s speech. I might have seen him on TV at the capitol”.

In fact she had seen Steve on television. He was one of the first faces singled out when he looked back before his climb. Eileen considered filing for custody over Annie as she knew it would take some serious deconditioning for her son to come back to her. ‘I won’t take away his father’s rights, yet’ thought Eileen.

February 12, 2021 20:37

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.