Flash Fiction – “The Price of Liberty”

Posted by on Oct 21, 2016 in Friday Feature, Latest News, State of the nation | 0 comments

Flash Fiction – “The Price of Liberty”

My first attempt at Flash Fiction. Enjoy!

An hour. Then her kids will be off the bus. One hour, uninterrupted, to do with what she wishes.

Upper fifties and the sky clear and azure. She should do laundry.

Her phone rings. It’s her sister.

“What’s up?”

“Ah, this election.”

“Don’t get me started.”

“I’ve never seen such a frenzy.”

“I know it.” She grimaces. Sweet-smelling autumn day with warmish breezes and sunshine glinting off windows. Why spoil it with politics?

“What are you up to?”

“Was just about to go for a bike ride.” She knows now it’s true. “Call you back?”

“Be careful out there among the English,” her sister says humorously in her best Dutchy accent.

And she’s off on her candy-apple-red bicycle, thumb jerking at the gears. The corn is gone and the sallow stalks are all that remain of another forgotten summer. The sticky-sweet ash of burning leaves saturates the air. Off in the distance, a combine bumps its way through a field of soybeans, dust swirling around its whirring header.

Her quads burn as she pumps up the steep road. The wind stings at her eyelids and rushes in her ears so that she can’t hear whether there’s a car behind her. She glances back over her shoulder. No one.

Ah, this election. Furious pundits and talking heads and raging rhetoric. She wants it to be over, and yet she dreads that day. It’s like a court trial. Two possible futures laid out, two vastly different directions. And what her children will face, and their children, if the world goes on that long, are all that hangs in the balance.

She bears right.

These hills are killers. Who could guess biking up a hill was harder than running it? She stands up on the bike like she did when she was a kid, feeling it shift in hard lefts and rights beneath her in a pendulum of rhythm with her panting.

At the crest of the hill she settles back with a ragged exhale to survey the panorama before her: a patchwork of gold and green dotted with silos, and a thread of road glimpsed here and there between. A dog barks off to her left, and above drones a jet.

“That we may live peaceful lives in all godliness and dignity.”

Farmers cultivating the earth, keeping their eyes on the skies, glorying in their harvests. Their livelihoods are a high-stakes gamble with the elements. Plain people selling raw milk and brown eggs by the dozen, their children scampering about in pinafores. Clear air and big old barns and sleepy township roads. Here’s a bit of Americana every bit as real as chilly skyscrapers and sweaty nightclubs and nuclear armament and jihad.

But long can it last? And what inheritance will she leave her children? Life and liberty? Fear and persecution? She remembers hearing an immigrant from a Communist country marveling at how “people in free nations even walk differently.”

She’s on the down slope now. Velocity overtakes her. A rooster crows. Asphalt zips beneath her tires. She wonders how bad the injuries would be if she wiped out right now. Her brakes squeal as she tightens them against the handlebars.

“Nice helmet!” the guy at the beach this summer had sneered as she’d passed him. She gave him a friendly wave, refusing the bait. Nanny state, she’d thought to herself. Don’t tread on me.

She takes the final turn that leads back to home. This last, grinding hill. The kids will be off the bus. An energetic cyclone of backpacks, calling to her and clamoring for a snack. Merry and red-cheeked and probably scuffling with one another over nothing. Utterly unaware that their nation is staring down its own mortality.

“That we may live peaceful lives in all godliness and dignity.”

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” and her generation had not been vigilant.

 

© 2016 Emily Tomko

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