Sep 14, 2009

What Wade would write in his letters

The machine gun was mounted by the swimming pool. The sandbags were stacked there, cross-tied like bricks, and the gun was mounted up on a swivel and pointed down the hill, taking in the orchard and the road.

Wade had burned all his government documents in the grill out there, squirting lighter fluid on his drivers license and social security card, birth certificate and a whole file of documentation for the taxes he'd paid. It'd been a little ritual, a declaration that he was now a free man. A Common Law Christian. Pro Se. For Himself. With all the rights and responsibilities pursuant to his own life, which was given by the Creator and not within the jurisdiction of the government or any secular, civil authority. He'd had meetings out there, too, with the group, by the pool and the grill and the gun, drinking beer and sharing news and predictions about when the new world order would come. He'd had his grandkids out there to swim in the pool, and he'd watched them run around with their swimmies on, flinging themselves screaming into the pool. He'd drink his beer and laugh at the grandkids, mad at the son-in-law who wouldn't ever come out to the family things and ignoring the one who came but lurked in the living room and always seemed scared of Wade with his beard and his mounted gun. But most of the time, when he was out there, he was by himself. He liked to watch the way the sun set over Bakersfield. The dirty city and the desert sky together made the sunset more violent, and he liked to watch the streaks of orange and the way the purple would rise up from the earth to fill the sky, the evening reddening as the bats began to fly and the machine gun was turned into a mounted silhouette.

But then things changed. Times changed. He changed. The 90s ended and the new world order never came. The towers fell and everything was different. Now his grandson was serving in a tank division and Wade was insanely proud of that. He hadn't felt like that since when he was a kid and his dad told him about fighting in France in WWII. Like he was an American. In was weird how different things were now. He didn't feel like he was the last man standing anymore and it all seemed like an interlude, an odd but passing period, a little like having a car with a problem that you couldn't figure out, consuming and never-ending and also easily forgotten. His daughter was packing weekly care packages to send to Iraq, and Wade was writing letters, writing a little every afternoon. While he wrote he looked out at the pool, cluttered with leaves, and thought about how to say what he'd learned. He didn't want to sound like an old man. He was careful, pausing over his pad, looking up, out the window, and looking at the machine gun on the swivel.

He didn't want to say he was embarrassed by it, but it lacked any context now. He didn't know, though, how to say what the context really was. He tried to write extremism in defense of liberty but it seemed wrong and he crossed it out. This was more like looking at a historic party hat with a propeller and trying to explain that. Except, of course, it was a machine gun he'd mounted by the pool where his grandchildren played during the longest period of prosperity in history. It was rusting there now, a relic, titled up at the sky.