“Boo-whee-oop! Boo-whee-oop! Boo-whee-oop!”
A mockingbird high in a privet tree was doing its best impersonation of a police siren, before it decided to do a chickadee, the morning I remember they took Dad Jefferson away. The mockingbird was soon drowned out by the noise of a police helicopter.
I remember us all standing on the top of the parking structure of our neighborhood— our secure apartment building, symbol of all the good things we had worked hard for all our lives, our bulwark against grinding poverty and disillusionment, our safety against our neighbors.
But the sound of the arriving helicopter drove us all down into the basement. The basement was even more of a protection against all those things. But we did not all make it. I remember the shots from the police helicopter, and how one of them winged old Dad Jefferson, who then had to be helped down the stairs, and his arm checked for the bullet, and the wound cleaned out.
When I got downstairs with him, he was pretty lucky that our neighbor Pat the EMT was among us. He looked Dad over though, and to his great satisfaction told him the bullet had passed clear through both sides of his jacket, and had only left a passing entry and exit through the muscle of his bicep. Dad flexed his muscle proudly and said:
“Take a lot more ‘n that t’ kill me!”
Dad’s leather jacket bore a patch on the left chest. This patch was the insignia of the same outfit the President had fought in in the last war, the war with Mexico, the war that it was said (officially) never happened. The military unit was known as the Patriot Boys, and its logo was a common garden variety “peace sign” only with the stock of a rifle or two making the downward cross-arms. It was a famous insignia because now that the President was President, he himself often wore a jacket exactly like Dad’s, on many public occasions. so no wonder, Dad felt some sense of pride, when he wore his jacket himself.
The basement was also our fallout shelter, our tsunami refuge, our earthquake bunker, and our neighborhood (apartment house) meeting hall. Everyone there today was not surprised that someone had been shot at, nobody expected that we might all be so lucky as to emerge from a chopper encounter alive. Yet we all did.
We immediately launched into a contingency meeting to discuss the current crisis. It was a crisis, alright. Anytime the police wanted to break things up these days, they didn’t use bullhorns, they used bullets. Ever since the Secret War it had been up to the police to monitor as many individuals as possible in as many different ways as possible, so that the country could be safe. Old guys like Dad, though, were tough learners.
We were discussing yet again the protocol for such emergencies and assigning new floor leaders when the knock came at the door. Immediately speech ceased, and faces turned grim. The knocks got louder and more insistent. We all knew who it was.
The youngest of us, David, an office drone of about twenty-five, reached for the handle to open it, but before he could the door was smashed down by the boot of a law-trooper, fully armed, and armored, whose plexiglass visor obscured his face, as a piece of electrical tape obscured the number on his badge.
“Everybody freeze and down on the floor!” he yelled, pointing his automatic weapon at us. behind him came two more troopers, also armed, and holding a photograph. I looked closer (as best I could form my position on the floor)— and it was a picture of Dad Jefferson!
“He’s right here, boss!” said the first cop.
They nudged Dad to his feet.
“We have a warrant for your arrest!” the second cop shouted in his face. “You are notified of your rights. Come along. With us. Now!”
The next thing I knew, they had grabbed Dad and were shoving him out the door.
One of them recognized his Patriot Boys patch. The third cop turned to us inside the room and asked, “How many of you are with us and wear the patch?”
Dad stepped out.
But then David did as well. And Pat the EMT. And little Sally, the old woman everyone thought would die in a month or two.
Immediately the cops blinked, then took hold of Dad, who smiled briefly back at us, and they disappeared up the stairway. At the top of it, we heard a shot, and the sound of Dad’s falling body hitting the stair.
I yelled something in protest, but was grabbed by two of the cops myself and dragged from the room.
“Looks like we have a fag here” one sneered.
“NOT a fag,” I protested yet again.
“You know what the President says we need to do about fags, don’t you kid?” He gave me a scalp burn with the point of his weapon. Then the other two began punching me.
What could I do but punch back?
“Enemies of the people, naysayers, troublemakers, questioners!” yelled the cop with Dad’s picture.
“We must eliminate them all...”