“Whoever can conquer the street will one day conquer the state, for every form of power politics and any dictatorship-run state has its roots in the street.”
Saturday, November 12, 2016
Our stone farmhouse atop a forested knoll commanded a sweeping view of the hills along the Ohio River to the southwest. The south end of the house projected just beyond a line of towering maples, the French doors of our old glassed-in porch opening onto a flagstone veranda. Beyond the boxwood hedge that enclosed the veranda on three sides, the hill sloped gradually at first, then more steeply, past our neighbor’s horse paddock to the two-lane state road that connected downtown Sewickley with Interstate 79.
I finished my mug of tea and joined my wife on the veranda. Juliet had begun covering the boxwood with burlap slipcovers and called me over to shovel mulch around the roots. I pulled a long-handled shovel from the wheelbarrow to join. Meanwhile, our two daughters, Louisa and Claire, aged three and nearly five, busied themselves collecting fallen twigs for the woodpile. The sun was already high in a cloudless sky and the morning frost had melted nearly everywhere.
It was the second Saturday in November, only four days since the national elections in which the President was re-elected under the banner of his newly formed Unionist Party. The Unionists also took both houses of Congress, which had come as a complete surprise to me. I had been spending sixty-hour weeks at the office and had not paid much attention to the persistent reports of large-scale voter registration fraud, voting machine hacking, pre-stuffed ballot boxes, and voter intimidation at polling places in major cities across the country. Even with a government blackout on live television and radio coverage at polling places, rumors of a stolen election had quickly spread to nearly every household with a phone or a computer. But like too many others, I did not understand what was happening until the damage had already been done.
“Where do we put the sticks, Daddy? “ my older daughter Claire asked, bringing my thoughts back to the present.
“By the woodpile, sweetie,” I replied. “Break them up in pieces about so big and make a stack with them.”
“This one’s too big to break.” She was dragging an eight-foot branch across the grass. “Will you help me?”
“Of course.” I lay down my shovel to give her a hand, but when I reached her, Claire had dropped the branch and was pointing toward the road at the bottom of the hill.
“Who are those people, Daddy, and where are they going?” she asked. “Are they going camping?”
I looked up and saw the road clogged with a slow-moving procession of cars, pickup trucks, trailers, Amish-style horse carts, bicyclists, backpackers, even big-wheeled garden carts pulled rickshaw-style. Those on foot were trailed by a pack of underfed dogs. It reminded me of World War II newsreels of the Dutch fleeing the bombing of Rotterdam, or German refugees retreating from the advancing Red Army. Most of the cars and trucks were far from new and many of the foot travelers shabbily dressed, though most gave the impression of being strong, hardy people who had once belonged to America’s middle class.
A trio of deer peered out from behind a copse of trees near the road and hesitated, unable to find a break in the uninterrupted stream of traffic. A few of the dogs looked up, as if catching a scent, but none gave chase.
“Where are they going, Daddy?” Claire repeated.
“I think some are headed north to Canada, darling, like the Moores.” The Moores were our neighbors who, having lost their savings to inflation and having failed to sell their horse farm before the mortgage company gave notice of foreclosure, abandoned the farm and their unpaid tax obligations and moved in with their son in Ottawa.
“The ones in the fancy cars are probably driving to the Toronto airport to catch a flight overseas. The rest are probably headed south, where there are more jobs and it’s cheaper to live.”
“Are we going away, too?” Claire asked, turning to me with a look of disapproval.
I heard footsteps behind me and felt my wife grip my arm. She held on with both hands as if what she saw on the road had given her a chill.
I looked into her eyes and saw the fear of losing our business, our savings, our house and everything in it—and not being able to start over. Not in America, anyway. Not with the Unionists in power. I glanced over to Claire, hoping that she had not sensed Juliet’s fear.
“Not today, sweetie,” I replied. “We’re staying right here at home. Mommy and Daddy have work to do. And so do you and Louisa. Here, let me pull that branch over to the woodpile for you. Now, break up the small twigs, like this.” I used more force than necessary to break one of the tender twigs in half. “But leave the big sticks for me, okay?”
My wife squeezed my arm once more and let go to take my hand.
“Jeff’s car just pulled in,” she said softly. “I’ll brew a fresh pot of tea. Why don’t you carry some chairs onto the veranda?”
City, which prisoners are dismantling as part of a massive recycling project.
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college in the Midwest. After earning an MBA, he managed a non-profit
organization in New York before joining the U.S. Foreign Service and serving in
U.S. Embassies around the Middle East for nearly a decade. Later he studied at
an Ivy League law school and since then pursued a career in law and business.
He has written five novels.