Friday, April 3, 2015

Clare - In the Trees



The body was laid in the ground, where it might stay until some unknown time. If a priest had been at the funeral, he might've spoken about eternity and judgement. But since Andrew's mother had convinced his father to adopt the revivalist religions, an old woman facilitated the service. One of his mother's friends. She led the prayer and sermon, and all that stuff that Andrew never really believed in too much. He thought if he wanted to communicate with his father, he would've had better luck to listen to the wind in the trees. And it did. Through the canopy of trees overhead and all around.


His sister Lynn was a better source of faith in the new religions. She stood by Andrew, and every now and then placed her hands on his back. He liked it when she did this. He was glad she was here now. When he thought about her departure in the morning, he felt the only sadness of the hour. Every other feeling was locked away, behind his impassive face, guarded by his gray eyes.


The other members of the service nodded and said things about his father. Friends from college, businesses through the years. Andrew had met all of them at some time in his life, and their constant condolences to him seemed to point out this fact. He did appreciate all of it, really. But there was a part of him that didn't.


The remains of his father were laid to rest. His sister with the long black hair put her arms around him and his mother. There was a soft series of sobs. Andrew could hear it in the trees.


***


There was so much to do in the next few days that Andrew missed his assignment to report to school. His mind was elsewhere. When he thought back to the service, he went over the events that led him to say goodbye to Lynn, his older sister by almost ten years. She had to return to Minneapolis. Damn Lynn, typical Lynn. Under any other conditions Andrew would have loved to hear about her work. The Post-Constitutional Crisis sounded like more of the anarchy he paid nominal allegiance to anyways. Or at the very least, it sounded like a topic from school. Since the death of his father, however, the subject, like school, was too far away to pay attention to. Nor had he seen his culter friends in days.


Lynn eventually left for Minneapolis, and after she did, he thought back to their night together. In the living room. His mother in the chair. The dog at her feet. Lynn was curled up at the feet of her mother too, her hand in the lap of mom. Andrew was unable to sit down. He had leaned against the wall and wished this moment would soon be over. He knew, though, more meetings like this would come. In fact, family life would be one long meeting. Just like this.


The thought struck him as bizarre.


-Sit down, Andy.-


It was his mother.


Andrew looked down, looked away, looked at his hand. He wore a lot of bandages.


-Mom, calm down, and stop changing the subject.-


That was Lynn. She looked severely at her mother. Two twins joined by black eyes, black hair, and former smiles. Now ashen.


-I…have told you…everything, and that’s all I know.-


Lynn didn't react to the terminality of her mother's conversation. She merely pleaded with her eyes. Her mother returned the gaze with her own wither of a glare. Andrew recognized it. He'd seen her look like this when she talked.


-I just know that your father…ran into some financial dealings that…some men...friends...he used to play golf with.-


She broke into sobs. Andrew looked at Lynn, who attended his mom with soft touches and murmurs, and he wished then -- as he still did -- that Lynn didn't have to leave.


Andrew remembered later that night when Lynn stood by the front door, her bags packed, ready to go. She asked him a dozen times if he wanted her to stay. Of course he did -- he remembered the thought. She was his older sister, almost ten years older, and sometimes, his second mom.


-No, its fine. I got this. I’ll call you if I need any help.-


-Sure? This falls under family emergencies. House monitoring might extend my permissions. Pretty sure, anyways.-


Andrew nodded, almost in frustration. It was too well hidden, she wouldn't have been able to see it. Right? His anger at her house arrest -- loosely defined by some bullshit in the Mandate Acts -- swelled. As she had done nothing wrong, except attend political workshops, he could do nothing to get her to stay. Right?


She picked up her bags and half-turned to leave.


-I can come back in a week, if you need.-


-You need to go. Before some patriotic first-responder comes knocking on your door. Go save the republic, Cicero.


Lynn nodded, broke her toothy smile.


-Okay, Cataline.-


Andrew had learned to mostly hide the things on his mind.


***


Andrew and his mother descended into his father's papers for the entire next day. What began in the morning would barely end after midnight. Andrew knew at the time the process could last until the morning, and he was already prepared to do just that. He made a pot of coffee when the clock read 1 a.m, and the more he read, the more he came to understand. And still it made no sense.


The window of his father's office faced east. Dawn broke over abandoned tracts of suburbs. The light hit the roofs and his eyes. He looked away, just as the morning traffic picked up. Driverless cars left for work. Not as many as there used to be.


He left the office and ignored the spot on the carpet and the space on the wall where his father's body and brains once lay -- he'd preferred the place's present sanitized emptiness. It felt calm. When he entered the living room he saw his mother's form on the couch. She lay curled up asleep. He had placed a blanket over her earlier. It was on the floor now, and he picked up the blanket. To place it on her again.


Life was too busy.


The sight of life's resumption through the larger windows chased Andrew back into the office. He found a dreary solace in his father's credit trail and the assets that'd vanished. In the event of the death of his father, a group of individuals would take possession of the last of his father's capital. Some were men he'd seen at the service. Friends of his father. He'd shaken their hands.


He took a sip of coffee, in the hope that he will think clearer, but he knew he couldn't. Up for nearly 24 hours, he was exhausted, but he finally understood last few years of canceled amenities and luxuries at the Clare household. It now finally made sense.


He left the office, entered the living room, and approached the form of his mother. He knelt down at her feet. He wished he could say something. He wished he could fall asleep.


***


When the school notices continued to show up in the family e-mailbox, they warned of punitive automatic debits from his father's bank account. That made Andrew laugh. For the first time in a long time, he looked forward to the Academy. Here was a chance to get away from the house. Besides, the truancy officers would show up at his house and he didn't want to spend his off-session days on the side of a tollway. He chose to drive to school. Los Robles was a quiet bubble. A blip on the long duration of late American history: a long row of smart lanes for smartcars and smarter(!) commuters. Besides the wholesale retailers, most worked from homes or sharespaces, both plugged into the offshores. He soon saw the electrified perimeters of the Academy. First Period was long passed. That was okay, it was just Advisory, and all they ever did was watch the news and talk about the restoration of elections. He'd like that.
As he pulled into the Academy's driveway, he turned around and grabbed his jean jacket in the backseat. He planned to stuff it into his backpack.


He heard a shout, spun around, and saw two girls directly in front of his car.


Dafuck.


Studded belts and diamond earrings -- two girls from his school. Before he could return their middle fingers (dafuck white boy watch your driving!), he knew he knew them...from his band's show. Along with another girl, (oh shit it's that culter...), they'd both fought the skin-sects in the crowd. Where's your friend? he could've said, but didn't want to...because he knew where she was.


After the moment of near-vehicular homicide, he entered the school's parking lot. What a mess of youth. Many were late for their advisories too. Figured. In Gaul, as Mr. Machellis might say, anything could go. At his school, it usually did.


In his white button up and khakis, he walked towards the doors of the academy. A long line of students in-wait for the checkpoints greeted him. He looked for anyone he knew. No one. Among the diversity of cliques, not one culter. Private security persons, ones drenched in body wash, approached him, and soon he was frisked, metal detected and full-body scanned. As if this was a school down south. As if the Front was up here.


He walked through the halls, almost inspired to kick a pile of trash or pick open a busted-open locker. He wasn't alone. While it wasn't even passing period, still they stood around. The kids of las Colonia Academia infested the halls. Most stood at their lockers and skirted the line of the dress code as best they could. Bracelets, earrings, necklaces, studded belts, heavy boots and chains. A few languages came to Andrew's ears. Darkwaters, or something like that. A book he'd read in Humanities. Emboldened by these open rebellions, he took his jean jacket out of his bag, smoothed out the 'Fly' patch on the left sleeve, and threw it on. He didn't even bother to go to his locker. That's what class was for.


When he finally walked into class, a few things greeted him: the teacher (Well, hello Andrew Clare…thanks for showing up. There are 15 minutes left in class. Plenty of time….)


He sat in his seat.


The bleak glare of the Eboard: directions for homework. Something about the elections. Interviews of people in Los Robles. He already didn't want to be here.


He barely attempted the perfunctory ritual of notebooks and mechanical pencil.


The assignment: His teacher -- the third one this semester -- was in the last phase of explanations about the 'interviews.'


-Each presidential candidate has spoken at length about the issue of private forces. Get out there and find out: what do people think about the candidates' explanations?-
Andrew played his own response to the assignment's question (President Harrison? I'll tell you about Harrison...) against the teacher's familiar bored repetition of an answer for a previously covered question. In no time, he'd already begun to think of something else, and for a brief time -- not even seconds -- he enjoyed the thrill of self-awareness, as if he could watch himself in the past, present, and future.


He'd borrowed a pencil from the kid next to him. Now he banged out a rhythm on his desk. Suddenly he stopped and dropped the pencil on the ground. It was not his best performance. But he did it anyways, and bent down to pick it up. He looked behind him. Slowly.


He'd known for the last few days where he'd seen that third girl at the show. Her name was Maia. The thrill had remained with him upon that retrieval of knowledge.


She stared at him now from the back of the class. She smiled, then mouthed some words. Thank you. He'd never noticed her eyes before. Big brown eyes. This was gonna be weird.


***


The selection of a place to go in Los Robles really came down to where most people would show up. In the one-horse outer-burb where Andrew lived, the place was the local market, and what was America anyways but awash in the markets? Where else could he find the ideological opinions of the people? He expected nothing less, and for this assignment, he wanted nothing more.


He didn't want to do this for more than an hour. Or a half hour. But when he finished that first half hour, he decided to continue. He realized his surprise at a certain agreeable condition for the chance to put people on the spot. Long ago he might've said he didn't like politics. It made him think of his dad, who'd always listened to those free-statists on the warring intranets.


Times had changed.


Perhaps politics did come from the pit. He laughed because he was a drummer, and had always assumed, since his first day on the kit, that he should be in back.


I say, why aren't we invading Mexico and putting an end to all this shit?


Andrew didn't know his name, or he'd known it once, but quickly forgotten. The dude in the oversize triple-XL t-shirt that said 'Native American' was one of his father's friends. Unfortunately, he was one of those barnyard pseudo-scientific Caucasian from Los Robles. Maybe not a Neo-Nativist. But too close for comfort.


Andrew nearly snatched a wing out of the dude's bucket of deli-heat-lamped-until-it-was-dried-out fried chicken. He didn't cause he was vegetarian. Punk.


-And what bullshit will end when we... invade Mexico?-


His dad's golfing buddy wiped his greasy hands on his shirt.


-Just bustin your balls, kid. Sorry I haven't had a chance to come down to the farm and pay my respects. How's your mom?-


Andrew didn't even know this guy's name...and fried chicken didn't sleep in Los Robles.


-...whatcha doing out here, anyways?...-


Fine. Small talk. But Andrew felt things needs to be more.


-Class project.-


-Sounds like quite a project. It's from that sedishio teacher...what's the name? Mitcheli?-


-Machellis. And he hasn't been charged with anything. He's still my teacher, just not for this class...-


Big hands spread grease across the words 'American.'


-The damn public dime...-


Yes, Andrew mused. If this dude was anything like his dad's other friends than the responsibilities of the public dime were evaded easily. That's what the offshores were for. And meaning of the public dime? Well that was just political capital.


-So I got you on record, saying we should invade Mexico?-


Chicken got mad.


-Let me tell you, kid...-


Tell me.


-...there's a lot of people that want to give up our freedoms, and the ones who say that, would just as soon give up and let the government have it's way.-


Andrew read the magazine "Overdriven Tubeamp." Punk geopolitics. He got it.


-Invading Mexico would give Harrison more power.-


-He's got plenty...these 'marque and reprisals'...-


Chicken could read.


-...he can keep this war going, until the elections.-


-How do you know?-


He chewed on a wing-breasted-head.


-The guys at the club. Talk a lot about this. The smarter ones - who don't have any gumption about bloody money - know what's following in the wake of Harrison's 'mandate.'-


Andrew didn't like this.


-My dad's friends.-


-Some. They passed the hat around. Collections for some guys in construction. Near the Front. Give it a few more years. You'll see what the loss of U.S. freedoms will look like.-


?


-...development, kid. Rather, it's just bust and boom in our dry little commonwealth.-


Andrew smelled something dead. It wasn't just chicken.


-What's freedom look like to you?-


-Like it says in the...-


And as he recited what he thought was the Preamble, Andrew imagined that every American recited a personal Gettysburg Address, but didn't even know what the Constitution looked like. For no one had seen it in a very long time. Not even chickens.


***
The papers marked the limit of the family, the exhaustion of any last thoughts about what to do now. If any last evidence existed of the family fortune, it did not exist. With that realization, which arrived after every past hour, the conclusion was marked by the rise of the tide. Frustration.


Andrew paced the floor of his living room. He thought that very soon this wouldn't be his home anymore. Foreclosure began long ago. The kingdom lived on borrowed time.


His mother sat in a chair, the family dog at her feet. Every now and then Andrew gave her a piece of paper to look at. He asked if she had seen it before, if she knew about it, if there was anything she might add to its awful message. She merely shook her head, and Andrew ripped it out of her hand.


He had begun a pile of such evidence. The end of his inheritance. He never thought he wanted it. Until it was gone.


And still there was more to go through. More papers, more records. They all pointed to the same thing. The family was ruined. His father left before the tragedy could fully begin.


His mother walked over to him. He still had his back turned, but she put her arms around him. He tensed for a second. Then he relaxed. He patted her hand a few times. She sobbed quietly behind him. He turned around slowly and put his hands on her shoulders. With his face close to her's, he bent down and smiled at his mother -- looked into her eyes. Hazel. He recognized for the millionth time that he had his father's gray-blue eyes.


***
This was it. This is what he needed. Andrew didn't think that, of course. He was too busy. He was the drummer, making sure his drum kit didn't make its eventual slide forwards with each drum strike.
The band was a swirl again, and he could tell through the blurs that the club was packed. Every now and then someone ran on stage, then dove into the crowd.
Crazytown.
Ty was in rare form tonight. He crawled and crouched and leered. Darbyesque. They played one of Ty's favorites. A song from the classics. Andrew remembered the song from some dumpload-comp. White Trash, Second Generation.
The song ended. Feedback whined. The crowd screamed (Too fuckin slow!) Andrew scooted back his drums, then looked into the crowd.
Maia. There she was. With her girls, handing out flyers. Andrew possessed half a mind to wonder about those flyers...and why’d they caused problems before. But duties called. 1-2-3-4, he counted off. And they were off again -- another classic from the same band. Along the Way. Andrew had never really been into lyrics, but the ones from this song stuck...he understood them now and half-mouthed them out loud.
What you see, not for me, isn't what you planned to be,
But you'll have what you wanted in the end along the way.
And we'll try as we cry and our brothers pass us by,
To be strong through the ages of our tears along the way, yeah.
He dared to look into the crowd. He saw Maia. She smiled at him. He played harder and the song ended. He looked again. There was Maia. She still looked at him, and he prepared to raise his drumstick at her. His shy hello.


But she looked at something else. And he saw. Skin-Secters. A whole gang. They flooded the club, pushed aside punks and other rockers -- and their ugly faces...Andrew couldn’t see. It’s because they wore their skull masks. Time to die.


As the lines pushed forward, and a few people made hurried attempts to halt the escalation, a charge -- a change -- went through the half-lit air.
The lights went out. But Andrew knew. He’d first heard it in the trees.

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