So does this story stir up any thoughts?  It should.  Wondering what people think.  Would enjoy hearing some comments.  Cheers!

CHAPTER  TEN

 “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”

 Ronald Reagan

There are times when a person is weighed down with an inescapable sense of dread—something that reaches beyond facts and reason, even when all lying before you appears serene.  There is another sense, more than a feeling or intuition, directly connected with your inner being.  It’s undeniable, but yet, it’s nothing that can be shared because there is no proof, no tangible evidence with which to make your case.

Cliffson struggled with these thoughts as he went about his chores.  The scent of hyacinth was in the air and before long the fruit trees would be in full bloom.  The hawks, ravens and sparrows were busy building nests and breeding.   It all had the rhythm and feel of an archetypal spring.  Sure, the nation had been attacked, but it had been attacked before and recovered.  So why did it feel like there was an eight hundred pound gorilla about to land on his back?

Lost in his thoughts, Cliffson wandered into the garden.  Meekly standing in the frail morning sunshine, sipping his coffee and pondering the recent events, he saw Monk headed his way.  He wasn’t sure why, but Monk’s presence always had a calming effect on him.

Welfare rose to greet him but Cliffson made him stay.  “Good morning, Monk.”

“Howdy, neighbor.  Thinking about planting your garden?”

“We’ve already got some spinach and lettuce in,”  Cliffson said.  “But I’m thinking it’s about time to get started on the next few things.”

“I see Jean’s garlic is already off to the races.  Suppose I could get a lesson from her? Mine’s not doing so well.”

“You know she’d be glad to help.”

“So what’s the latest, Monk?  You have that look on your face,” Cliffson grinned slyly from one turned up corner of his mouth.

“Well, like I said last night, there was some strange talk going on among the “hams” but after listening in this morning, it all seems pretty clear.”

“And that is?”

Monk squatted down to examine the garlic.  “It’s sounding like our navy has been put out of order.”

“What?  How’s that possible, there’s been nothing on the tube?”

“Well for one thing, they don’t want people getting alarmed so it’s not something they’re likely to acknowledge, but ham operators on the east coast and in Hawaii are reporting our ships are dead in the water.  Others are reporting our ships overseas have been put out of action.  One way or the other, nearly all U.S. naval activity has come to a stop.”

“The ships are just sitting there, with no shots were fired?”  Cliffson raised an eyebrow.

“No shots, none.  They believe it was done with EMP’s, electromagnetic impulse devices,”  Monk explained.

“I knew that technology was getting close, but I didn’t think anyone had it operational yet.  Why do they think that’s what was used?”  Cliffson asked.

Because it’s not just the ships.  Electronics are fried throughout the general area where the ships are dead.  Most of the local ham operators cannot be contacted,”  Monk said.

Cliffson eyed Monk. “Chinese?”

“Looks like it to me.  Possibly came in with submarines, surfaced at night, fired the weapons and left.  We’ve known for years their subs shadow our fleets everywhere they go.”  Monk was scratching Welfare’s ears and the dog was groaning with pleasure.

“Can’t say I’m surprised.  Our nation has pretty much flipped them off and they don’t take lightly to losing face.  We could be looking at war, Monk.”

Monk’s face grew serious and he looked down at the ground.  “You know Cliffson, I’ve spent a lot of time in that part of the world and you’re exactly right.  You don’t publicly embarrass the Chinese without paying a price.  Our president’s a child playing on the world’s stage and has little understanding of this.  There’s going to be hell to pay one way or the other.”

The two men continued visiting, allowing the peacefulness of the garden to envelope them.  When Monk left, Cliffson headed back to the house and found Jean was just hanging up the phone.

“The Wests called and said the president is going to speak at two PM.  They’ve invited us over to watch it with them.”

“Whew, that sounds good, I could use a little moral support.”

“Hun, why the big sigh?  Whatever it is we’ll work it out,” soothed Jean.

She was his rock and her words always steadied him.  He squared his shoulders and turned to go.

“It’s all good.  I need to feel like I’m doing something useful, so I’m going into town to fill our propane tanks.”

“All right, but don’t make us late for the Wests.”

Cliffson gave her a peck on the cheek and swatted her butt before heading out the door.  Jean smiled to herself.  She knew whatever came their way he would be there for her.  He always had been and this would be no different, no matter how tough things got.  It was a comforting thought and it gave her strength.

May weather in central Oregon was often unpredictable, but today the air was sweet and supple, the exact opposite of how the people on the street looked.  Driving the mile or so to the nearest gas station, Cliffson noted the dramatic change.  Eyes sunk deep in faces creased with fear, people cowered under stooped shoulders and hurried walks.  Furtive glances betrayed the trepidation and mistrust harbored inside.  The transformation was surreal and it left Cliffson picturing a dark cobblestone alley in old England.

He pulled into the gas station where he routinely purchased propane and was relieved to find just one car there, a black Toyota Camry.

WHAM!

The passenger side of the windshield exploded, stunning Cliffson and embedding glass in the side of his face and neck.  Throwing open the door to get on the ground, he mostly fell out of the car.  The sound of footsteps rushing to the lone car and a voice yelling, “Hurry, hurry, hurry,” followed.  Shock and dark confusion flooded his mind.

Tires squealed, the car tore away, and all was silent.

Cliffson sat up and leaned against the car to collect himself.   Blood was running everywhere.  Glad I had my glasses on.

Sir, sir, are you all right?”

Cliffson looked in the direction of the voice but couldn’t see through the blood in his eyes.  “I think, I’m ok,” he said in a slow, shaky voice.  “You know how face cuts bleed.”

“We need to get you to a doctor,” the voice said.

Using his shirt to wipe his face and stem the flow of blood, Cliffson looked up to see who the voice belonged to.  “Looks like you’re the one who needs to see the doc, that’s a nasty gash on your forehead,” he said to the young man standing over him.

“Those clowns surprised me.  When I turned around one of them struck me with the butt of his shotgun, then grabbed the money from the till and took off.  You were just driving up when they bolted out the door.  They were yelling all sorts of crazy stuff about no government and being able to do anything they wanted.  Here, let me help you up. My name’s Steve.”

Two police cars and an ambulance screeched into the station.  Medics examined both men and Steve was sent to the hospital for stitches.  An examination of Cliffson revealed numerous small cuts, but nothing serious.  Still, the medics wanted to take him in, but he refused.

Cliffson glared at the officer. “No, I didn’t get a license plate number.  They nearly took my head off,” he gestured, but then, realizing he was yelling, Cliffson backed off.  After taking a statement and obtaining contact information, Cliffson convinced the officers he was able to make the short drive home.

Jean would be upset and he didn’t want the attention, so he entered the house quietly, hoping to avoid her.  The kitchen smelled of Jean’s cooking, but the house was quiet and Cliffson managed to tiptoe into the guest bath without being detected.  He was soaking a cloth in warm water when he heard a gasp behind him.

“Honey are you all right, what happened?”

“Ummm, I’ll tell you, but first, get some tweezers please; I think I have some glass in my face.”

Jean was every bit as meticulous as he knew she would be and worked through each wound, cleansing and treating them with hydrogen peroxide.  Cliffson teased her about enjoying the pain she was causing and immediately felt the sting of tweezers digging deeper.

“Ok, ok, I get your point.”  He grimaced.

By the time she was done Jean had removed nearly a dozen small shards of glass and one pellet from his face and neck.  The cuts were small but numerous, and his face was red and swollen on one side.  When she was done Jean held him at arm’s length and winced at how bad it looked.

“Too bad it’s not Halloween.  You’d be ready for anything.”  She hugged him and he thanked her for cleaning him up before taking a damp cloth and lying down on the couch.  Jean went to call the Wests and to let them know they wouldn’t be coming over.

Cliffson listened to the phone conversation taking place in the other room and though her voice was calm he could hear the strain in Jean’s words.  When she came back into the room Cliffson got up and gave her a hug.  A golden stream of sunlight pooled on the living room floor where Cliffson stood looking down into the deep sea of Jeans emerald green eyes.

“I’m ok Hun, everything’s all right,” he said softly.

“Cliffson, I’m scared.  All our leaders are gone and look what’s already happening.”

The rock of his life was shaken.  He had rarely seen Jean this way and did his best to comfort her.  He kissed her on the forehead and wiped the tears away before leading her to the couch.  “Hermead?”  It was the name of the tasty Oatmeal Stout Cliffson home brewed and he knew she loved it.

“Yes, I could really use one, but I should be serving you,” she offered.

“I told you, I’ll be fine.”

“You might also get some for the Wests,” she called out.  “I invited them over.  They’ll be here any minute.”

Cliffson was in the garage filling glasses from the cooler’s tap when the door bell rang.  Back in the kitchen he handed a glass of beer to Gary.

“Wow,” Gary exclaimed, looking over Cliffson’s red and swollen face. “You were lucky.  Must be sore as hell!”

“Its sore enough, but I’ll take that to the alternative.  I’m sure Jean told you the story.  Crazy, huh?”

“Only gonna get worse I’m afraid.  We’ve talked about these things Cliffson, nothing we haven’t been expecting.”

“I know, but I can’t believe it’s actually happening.  Turn the TV on and see if the president has some good news for a change.”

Gary just rolled his eyes.

The afternoon sun cast its glare on the screen and dust motes danced in the air while the four of them waited for the president to speak.

“My countrymen, my friends and my American family, I am speaking to you tonight from the temporary White House in Bismarck North Dakota.  My heart is heavy with the news I must share with you this afternoon.  I’m sure by now you’ve seen the pictures of what was once Washington D.C.  Our capital is gone and with the exception of me and a couple of congressmen who were away ill, our nation’s elected officials were all killed in the blast.  Excuse me please.”  He choked on the words and turned away to wipe his eyes before continuing.  “We are doing everything we can to assist those people suffering the effects of the bombing and will continue to do so.”

His voice was shaky and not at all comforting like Cliffson had hoped for.

“Now, I must share with you some additional news that is both difficult and troubling.   Please listen closely.  You must understand the seriousness of what I am about to say.  Our nation is unable to pay the debt we owe to the Chinese government—a debt of more than four trillion dollars.  To reduce our nation’s expenses and make it possible to repay what we owe, the following measures will take effect immediately.”

A list appeared on the screen and the president continued.

“Social security, Medicare, welfare payments, food stamps, unemployment, housing subsidies, federal pensions and other programs will be cut 75 percent, instead of the previously announced 50 percent.  The Medicaid program will be terminated as will all federal support for public schools.”

Gary whistled through his teeth.

“Our military is spread around the globe across 155 nations.   Orders have gone out to bring all troops home.”

“Has to kill him to say that,” Gary smirked.

“The Fed will cease all money printing activities and all subsidies, regardless of industry, will be terminated.”

“In a moment the Chinese President himself will speak to you.  I have pledged our complete and full cooperation to him and ask for your support in doing the same. After he has spoken, I’m sure you will understand the significance of doing so.  I now introduce to you President Dong Ju-long.”

A look of disbelief spread over the faces of everyone in the room while waiting for the chubby Ju-long to take the podium.  Soon his pock marked face filled the screen, but it was his unabashed disdain for anything American that would be remembered most.

“I will not mince words with you American dogs,” Ju-long spat.  “America owe China moe than four trillion dolla and you are going to pay.”  Anger chewed into his contorted face and deepened the lines in his forehead.

“You arrogant, foolish Americans!”  He stomped.  “You did not see fit to control your own borders even while your military was spread all over the world fighting other people’s wars.  This is grave mistake.  In one night, we smuggle many nuclear bombs into your country and one is now concealed near each and every American.”

His face was now completely red and he began to shake while pounding on the podium.

“Tomorrow, you will immediately begin turning in your gold and silva to collection stations being set up in your communities.  You awe given one week to do this!  Ju-long paused to take a breath and his face filled the screen when the camera zoomed in.

Smashing his fist on the podium for emphasis after each spoken word Ju-long continued. I…leave…you…with…warning.  Is very costly to occupy your nation with large military force and we will not do so!”

Worked up to a full snarling rage, he completed his statement.

“If not receive full cooperation, we annihilate all of you.”  Ju-long spit the words from his mouth and turned sharply on his heels, shaking his fist at the president before storming from the stage.

Cliffson looked to each person in the room. Jean was slumped in her chair, a look of disbelief turning to one of dismay.  Barb sat on the edge of the sofa, eyes wide in shock and hands covering her mouth.  Cliffson saw Gary’s expression change from a look of “what the hell”, to one of stubborn determination.

“Well he aint takn’ my gold and silver, the bastard.  I think he’s bluffin’.  No way he has that many nukes here,” Gary declared.

“I agree,” said Cliffson, “and while we don’t have much I’m sure not turning any of our gold and silver over to him either.”

Gary moved to the kitchen and stood at the counter drumming his fingers. “This is just between those of us in this room.  I know I just said I wouldn’t turn anything in, but maybe it would be wiser to act like we are cooperating and not draw attention to ourselves.  I suggest we go to one of their stations tomorrow and make sure we’re seen turning over some metal.  It’s up to each of us to decide how much that will be, but look at it as buying insurance.”

“I like that idea,” Cliffson said.  “Do you want to meet here first?”  Maybe we could drop our car off on the way so I can get the windshield fixed.”

“That would be fine and you probably didn’t get your propane tanks filled today did you Cliffson?”

“No, I sure didn’t.”

“Then let’s take care of that too,” Gary offered.  “I’ve got an empty one I want to fill also.”

The doorbell rang and Jean went to answer it.

“Come on in Monk,” they all chimed, happy to see a friendly face.

Monk stepped inside and immediately spotted Cliffson’s swollen face.  “What in tarnation happened to you?”

Cliffson gave a brief rundown of the events at the gas station.

Monk shook his head.  “You were lucky my friend.  I’m glad it wasn’t worse.”

Cliffson was anxious to change subjects.  “What’d you make of all that tonight?”

“I reckon daylight’s a burnin’ and we need to finish with getting prepared for what’s a comin’.  The good book talks about these things, so I think the best way to begin is with some prayer,” Monk said as he pulled a small bible from his shirt pocket.

“What’d you do Monk, just come down from the mountain?” Cliffson chuckled, trying to lighten things up a bit.

“No no, never said anything about having any kind of special wisdom, that’s all in here,” he said, tapping on his bible.

After beginning with prayer, they discussed plans for gathering the last of the supplies they needed. The group reaffirmed their commitment to come to one another’s aid, share resources, shelter, and ideas.  Cliffson suggested they might find another couple or two that would join with them, but no one could think of anyone who could be trusted.

Monk liked Gary’s idea about making sure they were seen turning in some metal of some sort and decided to join them.  Then Gary asked Monk what he thought about the threat of a nuclear bomb being in every city.

“Well, I’ll tells ya, I’m not sure how much of it I believes myself.  A few months ago there was lot of talk among the “hams” about a midnight run on the border.  Some of the ham operators down in Arizona picked up on a massive run across the border the same night all those border stations were attacked.  Later on, the “hams” in Texas confirmed the story when a couple of the “mules” were caught and spilled the beans.  Here’s the long and the short of it.”

“Thousands of illegals were paid one thousand dollars apiece to attempt to cross the border in a coordinated effort to overwhelm our own law enforcement.  But the illegals were nothing more than decoys to create confusion.  China supplied arms to Mexico’s two largest drug cartels and paid them a significant amount of gold to attack the border patrol stations in an enormous diversion.”

“As the story goes, it wasn’t difficult to draw our limited forces into the trap.  The Chinese simply sat back and waited for the border patrol to react.  Once they were busy with the attacks on our border stations and the thousands of “mules” crossing simultaneously from Texas to California, they knew exactly where the border was unguarded by monitoring the border patrols’ own radio communications.  With our poorly armed and staffed border patrol completely overwhelmed, the Chinese flew their nukes in undetected.”

“Fascinating story Monk, but do you really think it could work?” Gary asked.

“I do Gary.  I’ve had experience down there.  That border is nearly two thousand miles long and there ain’t no way we have enough people there to guard it.  Course that’s on purpose you know. The part I struggle with believing is the nukes.  Obviously they got one in, how many more, I just don’t know.  The Chinese are crafty and I wouldn’t put it past them, but I still would like to believe it couldn’t be done without our national security knowing something about it.  I think I need a little more proof.”


The Jeffersons were in a state of shock.  The fact that D.C. really had been nuked hit them like a ton of bricks.  Stunned and unsure what to do, Thomas had even cancelled his Saturday golf game.  Like most citizens, they were used to getting their directions from Washington.  With no word from the president, they didn’t know what to do and spent their day wringing hands and worrying.

Davis had had enough.  “Dad, I’ve got to get out for awhile.  You and Mom gonna be all right?”

“We’ll be fine son. Where are you going?”

“I’ve made arrangements for a workout with the coach at O.S.U., so I’m headed down there for a while.”

“All right son, see you in a while.”

After Davis left, Thomas moved to his study to be alone.  He regretted the argument he’d had with his son the previous evening.  Davis was a good kid who was working hard to make a life of his own.  Thomas reminded himself they wouldn’t always see things the same way and he needed to give his son room to form his own opinions.

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