Four Summers: A Short Story

“America will survive, but only if we take action now! What do I promise you? I promise you stability in a changing world. I promise you we will rise again to take our rightful position as the world’s greatest superpower. I promise you I will do whatever it takes to save this country, and I will not be held back by a Congress that refuses to work with the executive branch of this government.”

Clare shivered in the holding cell. That was how it had started, just over four years ago. The campaign of 2012. The Middle East was in chaos, with revolutions and uprisings cropping up in every country she had never heard of since sixth grade geography. Anti-American sentiment had reached a new high throughout the region, and the threat of nuclear attack from third-world powers suddenly seemed a very real possibility. The Suez Canal was closed to American shipping, and oil prices had skyrocketed beyond belief. The U.S. stock market was closed, first for a day, then for a week, then until further notice. America itself was close to anarchy, and neither the Republicans nor the Democrats had a candidate that could satisfy the people’s demands for continued welfare and security.

Clare had started college two months before the election. She was less surprised than most of her friends when Carlton Pierce, a virtual unknown in the political world, was elected by a landslide, on a platform consisting mostly of empty promises. Clare’s major was journalism, with a focus on politics, and she followed the polls and debates and candidates’ public appearances almost religiously. Pierce spoke well. He sounded like he believed what he was saying. He knew the people were crying out for help, and he knew they would take it in whatever form seemed most immediate and profitable to them.

A small commotion on the other side of the holding cell caught Clare’s attention. “It’s okay, it’s okay,” she heard Will soothing one of the freshmen. Nicole, Clare thought her name was. Poor girl. This was probably the hundredth political event Clare and Will had attended or organized over the past three and a half years, but it was Nicole’s first, and it was the only one that had ever ended this way.

The girl grew quiet. Will stood and joined Clare, exhaustion evident on his face. Clare reached up and smoothed away the worry lines from his forehead.

“How did we get here, Clare?”

“We took a big chance,” she said softly.

“We had to.”

“I know.”

She tried to hide the catch in her voice, but it was no use. Will knew her too well. Gently, he brushed the tears away from her baby blue eyes. She looked up into his brown ones and for a moment she forgot the prison, and the arrest, and the sentencing that was sure to come in the morning. She was back on campus, looking into those eyes for the very first time.

It was May of 2013, just after finals week at the end of her freshman year. The campus buzzed with wild parties, none wilder than the one her roommate was throwing, and Clare needed some peace and quiet. Somehow, in wandering around campus, she stumbled onto a very interesting political action meeting going on outside the library. She stared, fascinated, at the handsome young man giving the presentation, and she knew that finding this meeting had not been a coincidence.

“It’s a temporary program, our president says. Just until Americans get back on their feet. Just until we’re ready for free enterprise again. But who determines when we’re ready? And how do we even begin to transition back from a complete government takeover of food, gasoline, transportation, and everything else they’ve managed to get their hands on during the past four months?”

Read the rest at Four Summers