Another One By Request
[I have had another request from a fan of A Distant Thunder to re-print their favorite excerpt from the novel. Yeah, I know these things are long, but hopefully they'll inspire some of you to order the book yourselves. - HAC]
We had no idea how or when the balloon would actually go up. It’s odd that for almost three quarters of a century we used that term, “When the balloon goes up.” I think we all envisioned some gigantic apocalyptic event that suddenly changed everything from top to bottom and made all things possible where nothing had been possible before. None of us had any idea how it would happen. A sudden explosion of race war? A total economic collapse with rioting in the streets? Invasion by the Chinese? Some ecological disaster that created zombies who shambled through the streets moaning for brains? Flying saucers landing on the White House lawn? No one knew.
And then, by God, it happened.
On the morning of October 22nd I was just coming off the night shift at Mighty Mart, and I was weary from twelve hours of humping big cardboard cartons of plastic crap made in Hong Kong off trucks and onto conveyer belts. I pulled out of the parking lot at the Olympia distribution center a little after six, heading south to beat the morning rush hour traffic as the sun rose, and looking forward to my coming four days off.
At about the same time Gus Singer looked out the window of his house in Coeur d’Alene and saw the body-armored federal goons of It Takes A Village coming for his children, I was driving down Interstate 5 in the battered old Toyota Corolla I had bought from Adam Wingfield for a hundred dollars and which we had then rebuilt together. That car looked like crap on the outside but it ran like a top under the hood.
It was a beautiful, crystal clear autumn morning, one of the many that give the lie to the popular legend that western Washington is always gray and rainy. I remember feeling oddly contented and happy, because the night before, while I humped the Jews’ trucks and hauled their freight around that big huge freezing cave, I had decided that despite rating only three kisses in three years, I was going to grab hold of Rooney Wingfield sometime that day, wrestle her to the ground if need be, and ask her to marry me.
We were both out of school for good and we knew it. White kids like us weren’t going any further, so why not get on with life’s big ticket items? By now I considered myself a naturalized redneck, and in her culture and her family marriage between two eighteen-year-olds was by no means out of the question. In fact, I had heard both Carter and Ma say that people ought to get married young because it kept them out of trouble. I didn’t know if that was a hint aimed in my direction, but my thinking matched.
Hell, until the revolution came I had nothing else on my plate except humping in Mighty Mart’s warehouse, and having Rooney to come home to in a trailer of our own on mornings like this sure would lighten that load. I figured she wouldn’t say yes right away, but I was fairly sure where I stood with her. I knew there wasn’t anybody else on the horizon, anyway. If there had been she would have let me know.
That was another rare thing about Rooney. You could trust her, and for a white woman of that time and society, that was unheard of. She never played the kind of stupid head games most white girls played. I figured if I faced her head on and asked her point blank what it would take to make her my wife, she’d tell me straight up, and I was willing to do whatever she told me it took. I didn’t fully buy into the Wingfields’ religion, nor have I since, but I went to their Sunday morning prayer meetings whenever I could because I knew they liked it and because I liked being with them. It wouldn’t be a problem on my end, and if they wanted me to get dunked in the river and have my sins washed away or whatever, that was jake with me.
I turned the car radio on as I drove back to Dundee on that fine cool morning, but either the morning shock jocks hadn’t picked up on the news of the horrible racist doings out of Idaho yet, or else maybe the government was still keeping a lid on. I found a country music station playing oldies and I even remember the song that was playing when I pulled up in the Wingfields’ yard. It was John Conley, The Old School. It’s about a poor boy who goes steady in high school with some rich Barbie Doll cheerleader type like Jill Malloy, but she dumps him after graduation to go to college and marry rich, and he ends up pushing eighteen wheels. “I got married to a sweet young girl…and kept driving for the line.”
The cheerleaders had always ignored me and Rooney couldn’t exactly be called sweet, but I felt it was on target. As I got out of the car, suddenly I was struck with an idea. Truck drivers still made reasonably good money, and there were a lot of husband and wife driving teams. Maybe that was a future for Rooney and me if we both got our CDL licenses. I was sure Carter could find some way to get us a rig and something to load on it. We could take a long haul to Florida for our honeymoon.
I had my own key to the house. It was seldom locked, yet this morning I had to use it to get in the back door. I yelled as I got into the kitchen but got no answer. It was unusual for no one to be there at this time of the morning, but not unknown. China might have headed out for school early and Rooney might have gone into town on Party or personal business, and Ma still helped out at Wingfield High Performance with the books and taxes and whatnot.
One thing I should have noticed at once, and which I would have noticed even a few weeks later after a taste of life on the bounce, was that the dogs were gone as well. Caprice hadn’t come up and stuck her cold wet nose into my hand and Porterfoy wasn’t lying like a furry lump in front of the fireplace in the living room. I rummaged around in the refrigerator and heaped up a huge plate of bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs and grits which Ma had left for me like she always did every morning. I slapped the food in the microwave, warmed it up, poured myself a cup of coffee from the pot which was still warm albeit turned off, something else I should have noticed. I sat down at the kitchen table and started eating.
About the third bite, I looked up at the fridge and I saw the note pinned on the door with a Tricolor magnet. It was written on a page that looked torn from one of China’s notebooks and written in large red letters with a felt-tip pen.
Shane, it read, Turn on the TV. It’s already on CNN. Looks like the balloon just went up. Catch up on Coeur d’Alene QUICK and then get your ass OUT OF HERE. We don’t know how fast ZOG will strike back, so don’t spend all morning staring at the tube like a dummy. Call the Cookie Monster as soon as you get to a safe phone, not from the house. Take care. – Rooney
Cookie Monster was one of Carter’s multiple cell phones we hoped to hell they didn’t know about. I later learned that the Wingfield women and Adam had E & E’d about three minutes before I pulled up in front of the house. Like most Party people at the time, they had an evacuation kit ready. I had a small one that I kept at the house, but they’d taken that one as well.
I went into the living room and turned on CNN. I saw a street full of burning houses and a burning police car. There were fleeting glimpses of people running and ducking down behind things and firing; I couldn’t even tell who they were.
The camera shifted and I saw a dead man in body armor lying on his stomach, half on and half off the sidewalk, with bright red and orange and gold autumn leaves whirling around him in the wind and black smoke. The back of his jacket said FBI in bright yellow letters. You could see a bloody hole in the back of his Bakelite helmet; the bastard had been running away when what goes around finally came around.
The tag line on the TV screen said Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Live in the lower left-hand corner. A Barbie doll talking head in the top right hand of the screen was babbling. I turned up the sound. “Again, Roger, what we have so far is that according to an FBI statement, a team of agents and United States Marshalls acting on behalf of the U.S. Attorney General’s Child Protective Services Division have apparently been lured into some kind of terrorist ambush, and the FBI in Washington D.C. has told us that several federal agents have been killed and wounded. The federal law enforcement team was attempting to serve a child protection order issue by a U.S. Circuit Court judge on the family of one Augustus Singer in Coeur d’Alene when they came under heavy gunfire from the surrounding homes in what appears to be a highly disciplined and prepared terrorist attack.”
As history tells us, it was nothing of the kind. It was Gus Singer’s neighbors, good Americans all who finally decided they no longer wanted to be Americans, good or otherwise. Ordinary people who said to hell with America. Slaves who in the light of a Northwest dawn pulled their cherished guns out of hiding, and who at long last, for the first time since 1865, fired those guns at the hirelings of the United States. Ordinary and decent men and women who heard the call to heroism and answered it, who fought and died in an attempt to save the Singer children from being kidnapped and sold as chattels and toys to rich yuppies and perverts.
That attempt failed, and the Singers died that their race and nation might live. But at the time I had no idea what the hell was going on. Neither did anyone else. For all we knew, the Party had decided to start the revolution without us. I disobeyed Rooney and stared at the tube for several minutes, trying to wrap my mind around it all, until the phone rang on the side table. I picked it up in a daze. “Yeah?” I said.
“Hello, darlin’. No names on this phone,” drawled Carter’s voice. “Little pitchers have big ears.”
“Is it us? Is it us?” I yelled.
“Don’t know. The government says it’s us, and that’s all that counts. They’ll be coming after all of us now. You need to get out of that house and over to the gym.”
“Got it,” I said. Needless to say, the gym was anything but a gymnasium. One of our people ran a franchise for a major shoe store chain in a local shopping mall, which included a capacious warehouse and storage area in the back. One of the best places to hide when you’re on the bounce is in plain sight, in the middle of as many people as you can find. We had all been provided with employee parking stickers in case of need. Mine was in the glove compartment of the Corolla.
“Wait, don’t hang up,” said Carter quickly. “You know the rapture kits I made for this kind of sitch? My big boy got ‘em out of the barn and got ‘em mostly ready for you. He didn’t do ‘em up completely because he knew you’d be coming into the house. They’re under the sink. You need to take care of that for me, son.”
“Are you sure?” I asked. “It might turn out to be a false alarm. You all might want to come back.”
“Dead FBI lying in the street ain’t no false alarm, no matter who done it or why,” Carter replied grimly. “We ain’t coming back. This thing in Coeur d’Alene may be us, it may be some kind of staged incident like 9/11 to give ZOG an excuse to do us all in, who the hell knows with these people? But either way, our old lives are gone, son. We all knew we’d have to move on someday soon, and we’ve been trying to prepare everybody for that. I’ve got some good memories of that home of ours, your home too as we tried to make it, but an old time has ended today and a new one has begun. Do it. I’ve showed you how.”
“You got it,” I said, and I hung up.
A major rule of urban guerrilla warfare: when un-assing an area, always booby-trap everything you possibly can. The reason for this is not so much to inflict casualties per se as it is psychological warfare. You want to wrack the nerves of the man who’s pursuing you and keep him on edge, never letting him forget that while he’s hunting you, you’re hunting him as well. A cautious enemy is dangerous. You don’t want him calm and cautious and deliberating. You want to take him beyond cautious and way into paranoid. He needs to see you around every corner, behind every bush, never knowing when you will strike or how. Every moment of his day, ZOG’s hired lackey needs to be sweating, wondering where Jerry Reb is, what he is doing. His neck needs to have a permanent itch from those invisible cross-hairs on it.
Booby-trapping everything in sight also has the effect of slowing them down to a crawl while they check out every nook and cranny for any unpleasantries you may have left behind. Time spent calling in the sniffer dogs and sweeping for explosives and manipulating clumsy handling equipment to open a door is time ZOG is not chasing you, time you are using to put distance between yourself and your last tickle and prepare for your next, or even grab some much needed shut-eye.
Nor need you restrict yourself to pyrotechnics. Booby-trapping is fun and it allows you to get creative as you destroy. With a little practice we learned to open bottled beer, spike it with cyanide or sulfuric acid, and then reseal it so carefully that thirsty cops and Fatties breaking into one of our safe houses would pop the top and go for the gusto, for the last time. (They knew we didn’t allow alcohol in the Volunteers. I am amazed the idiots never wondered why there was beer in our fridge and never figured that one out, but it worked more than once.)
Then there was the old exploding crapper trick. The famous Dr. James Cord cooked up a little powder we’d sprinkle onto the surface of the water in toilets or urinals which exploded when it came into contact with uric acid. We blew the family jewels off a Marine colonel that way once.
My personal favorite was to booby-trap a picture of Adolf Hitler on the wall with a white phosphorus grenade set into a recess behind it. When some red, white, and blue-blooded all-Amurrican boy ripped it down in righteous rage for Mom, God, and apple pie, then he got a truly Herzlïche NS-Grüsse.
Cars were especially dangerous for Uncle Slime. It got to the point where they wouldn’t even examine a vehicle they knew the NVA had abandoned. They’d just back off and shell it with their grenade launchers. Not too good for collecting evidence. But I digress.
I looked under the sink and pulled out the rapture kits, two OD green ammunition boxes, each one of which had a 9-volt battery attached to the side by an aluminum bracket and both of which contained a large shaped block of Semtex high explosive. On both batteries, one red wire from one terminal led directly to a detonator cap inserted into one end of a stick of dynamite, which had in turn been inserted into a hole in the box and which would act as a larger detonator for the main charge.
So did the blue wire lead to another detonator cap at the other end of the dynamite. But the blue lead was really two wires, one attached to the battery terminal and the other to the blasting cap, connected in the middle of the strand by an alligator clip. The jaws of the clip were clamped down on a small patch of lead sheeting about an inch square and the thickness of a dime, and in the head of each lead tab was bored a small hole, through which was run a heavy thread, about eighteen inches long. At the end of the thread was a looped thumbtack.
I carefully placed the first ammo box to the left of the front door, out of sight under a raincoat of China’s I found, and firmly pushed the thumbtack into the door as low as I could so hopefully any fed or cop trying to ease the door open wouldn’t see it. Then I did the same at the kitchen door in the back. Anyone kicking open either door would then yank the little lead tab out of the alligator clip, complete the circuit, and fly up into the sky to meet Jesus. Hallelujah, brother!
After I rigged up the rapture boxes I took a last check around the house to see if anything obvious had been missed. The only thing I could see was Chompus, whom I knew to be China’s favorite stuffed animal from her childhood that she’d hung onto. Chompus was a threadbare, battered and faded green alligator in a sitting position, wearing a stupid grin and a purple tie that said South Carolina on it.
He struck me as an odd thing to be carrying into an armed insurrection against the United States government, but in spite of her father’s acute observation about an old time ending and a new one beginning, I figured Chine might want to keep at least that one thing from her past, so I grabbed Chompus off her bed. Then I climbed out a ground floor window, got into my car and left the American part of my life behind forever. I knew whatever happened, I wouldn’t be unloading any more trucks of plastic junk for the Mighty Mart.