by Willard Manus
into the farmhouse just as the man on the bullhorn bellowed, "Come
out, Billings! Come on out!"
Billings looked at Toby, who stood gasping for breath, and snarled, "You
damn fool, what in hell are you doing here?"
"Did they put you up to this?"
"I volunteered, pa."
"You're dumber than I thought."
"Bullshit. You're the dumb one, thinking he can take on a whole damn
"It was time to make a stand."
Toby ran his tongue over his parched lips.
"You got any water?"
"Water? What makes you think I have started drinking water?"
"Okay, then. Beer. Whiskey. Whatever."
Billings raised himself up off the stool by the window, put his AK-47
down, and limped across the room, toward the small refrigerator which
sat in a corner. He looked like an old man, Toby thought, though he couldn't
have been more than sixty. His hair was grey but it was long and thick
and slicked back.
Billings opened the fridge and pulled out a frosted-over pitcher. "Best
drink there is. Fresh-squeezed lemonade and vodka."
Toby drank hard. "It could use more sugar."
"Fuck you. You've always been an ungrateful kid and that
will never change."
"You haven't changed much either. It's always you against the world."
"With good reason. They've stolen my world from me. It's time I took
"Stop talking like a damn fool. You can't win this fight."
"That not how I see it."
"There's about a hundred cops and troopers out there. They've got
a shitload of weapons, plus an armored car and helicopters."
They could hear the 'copters, hovering and buzzing overhead like a swarm
"If they attack, you don't have a chance in hell of surviving."
"That's what you think. I'm well protected here."
He gestured round the room, at the sandbags, riot shields, gas masks,
the iron shutters on the windows. He also pointed to his arsenal: AK-47s,
bazookas, ammunition rounds, an assortment of rifles and pistols. Lastly,
he rapped his knuckles on his Kevlar vest and ballistic helmet.
"This oughta keep me pretty safe."
"Nonsense. You won't last more'n five minutes against that horde."
"At least I'll go down fighting for what I believe in."
"Which is what?"
"The establishment of a sovereign nation based on its own rules and
"Such a nation will never come into existence."
Billings pointed to his heart. "It already exists right here."
Toby stared at his father. "What in hell happened to you? You used
to be a normal person."
"I wised up right after Afghanistan. I fought that war for them,
paid my dues, lost a leg there. That's when I decided I would no longer
take orders from them, live by their rules."
The bullhorn was heard again, loudly and intrusively.
"This is a last warning. Tell your son to leave...then come out with
your hands raised above your head. No harm will come to you!"
"No harm," Billings scoffed. "We won't shoot you, just
beat the crap out of you!"
Toby gulped down the last of his drink. The vodka shot straight to his
head; he felt dizzy and unmoored.
"They won't rough you up," he argued. "All kinds of civilians
are watchin': tv reporters, women and children--"
"Do you really think that'll stop the troopers from busting my ass?"
Toby wiped the sweat from his face.
"You can't blame them. You shot and killed one of theirs."
"The officer had it coming to him. I warned him when he pulled me
over. I told him I did not recognize his authority. That I had renounced
my American citizenship and now paid allegiance to another nation, a sovereign
"That made you a crazy person in his eyes. A dangerous person who
should be arrested--"
"Nobody is going to arrest me!" Billings shouted, then pointed
to a tattered flag tacked to the wall, which read: "Don't tread on
"Well, like it or not, he tried to cuff you--"
"Big mistake. His badge meant nothing to me."
"Still, you shouldn't have fired at him. You went too damn far."
Billings shouted again. "It's just like you to take their side!"
He gestured with his AK-47 and said, "Leave. Clear out before I blow
Toby looked into his father's eyes and saw nothing but fury there. Madness.
He turned, crossed to the door and opened it slowly. He edged out, hands
thrust straight up over his head.
"Hold your fire," came the order.
Toby walked toward the assorted onlookers. "He ain't giving up,"
he said. "I couldn't get through to him."
Then he dropped his hands, climbed in his car and drove off.
He was several miles down the road when he heard gunfire breaking out,
followed by explosions. The sky in his rear-view mirror turned fiery red.
Tears stung Toby's eyes but he kept his foot to the pedal, driving deeper
and deeper into the black night.