Archive for the ‘dystopia’ Tag

Brave New World?   Leave a comment

I’ve referenced 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 in the past as examples of dystopian novels that prophesied many of the problems with have today. The recent news is that 1984 is selling like hotcakes because, supposedly, the world thinks Donald Trump is Big Brother.

Well, now I want to turn my attention to Brave New World as a utopia I would not want to live in.

For the purpose of discussion, a utopia is defined as:

  1. an imaginary and indefinitely remote place
  2. a place of ideal perfect especially in laws, government, and social conditions
  3. an impractical scheme for social improvement

 Many Americans today would philosophically embrace Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World  as a utopia with its limitless drugs, guilt-free sex, perpetual entertainment and a genetically engineered society designed for maximum economic efficiency and social harmony.

Most people would also view George Orwell’s 1984 as a dystopian nightmare, with its terrifying existence under the iron fist of “Big Brother”.

And, yet the overwhelming message I get from Brave New World is that we don’t want to live there.

 

Aldous Huxley was born to academic parents, the grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley, a famous biologist and an enthusiastic proponent of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution who was known as “Darwin’s Bulldog”.  Huxley’s own father had a well-equipped botany lab where young Aldous began his education.  Given the Huxley family’s appreciation for science, it makes perfect sense that Brave New World began in the “Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre” where human beings are artificially grown and genetically predestined into five societal castes consisting of: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon.

Initially, the story centers on Bernard Marx, who is a slightly genetically flawed Alpha Plus psychologist with an inferiority complex due to his short stature.  By the end of the novel, however, the protagonist becomes a boy named “John the Savage” who is the bastard child of the “Director of the Central London Hatchery”, and a lady named Linda, who naturally birthed John on a remote American Indian Reservation.  Bernard discovers the two there and when he realizes their true identities, he arranges to fly them back to London in order to leverage his position with John’s biological father, the Hatchery Director.

Eventually, John’s “antisocial” tendencies gets him noticed by Mustapha Mond, one of ten “world controllers”.  A debate ensues between John and Mond who explains to the Savage that a stable society requires the controlled suppression of science, religion, and art. John argues that human life is not worth living without these things.

In Brave New World, the State achieves a harmonic equilibrium through the economic parity of production and consumption while utilizing eugenics to counterbalance the life and death of the citizens. Technology is employed as a means of control in lieu of any search for scientific, spiritual or ethical truth. In fact, these “truths” are considered a threat to the established order.  People are cloned in hatcheries to meet the needs of the State and trained into obedience through sleep-teaching. Dignity takes a backseat to happiness, morality is considered subversive, and emotions are regulated through the use of the drug, Soma, amid constant entertainment including superficial games and virtual reality venues called the “feelies”.  There’s no god or religion, but Henry Ford is lauded as a testament to corporate efficiency, assembly line production and rampant consumerism.

As in 1984, Brave New World addresses themes of government, orthodoxy, social hierarchy, economics, love, sex, and power and portrays propaganda as a necessary tool of government to shape the collective minds of the citizenry toward the specific goals of the state, which is stability, conformity and continuity.

In Brave New World, the “Bureaux of Propaganda” shares a building with the “College of Emotional Engineering” and all media outlets including radio, television, and newspaper. Much of the brainwashing of the citizens includes messaging to stay within their genetically predetermined castes and encourage the daily use of the drug, Soma, in order to anesthetize emotional agitation:

  • a gramme in time saves nine
  • A gramme is better than a damn
  • One cubic centimetre cures ten gloomy sentiments
  • When the individual feels, the community reels.

 

 

Living in Brave New World’s urban centers means an empty existence, so Huxley envisioned the Helmholtz Watson character as a creator of “hypnopaedic” phrases designed to fill the mental and emotional vacuum left by the lack of knowledge:

 

Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they’re so frightfully clever. I’m really awfuly glad I’m a Beta, because I don’t work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don’t want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They’re too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides, they wear black, which is such a beastly colour. I’m so glad I’m a Beta.

– BNW, Chapter 2, pg. 27

 

The citizens of Brave New World consisted of a rigidly held caste system based on genetic predetermination, which largely constrained information within a certain caste, but the government also filtered information and propaganda in accordance to the class ranking of their citizens. In Brave New World, the separate castes, except for the Epsilons who couldn’t read, received their own newspapers delivering specific propaganda for each class of society.

 

In Huxley’s vision of the future, the higher power of consumerism guided the people; complete with memorized short phrases designed to encourage the replacement of material items in lieu of repairing them; and, those wearing older clothes were shamed into purchasing new apparel:

  • Ending is better than mending. 
  • The more stitches, the less riches.

BNW, Chapter 3, pg. 49

In Huxley’s futuristic society, romantic love is discouraged, but sex is not. Brave New World treated sex as a “pressure relief valve” remaining constantly open in order to release any negative emotions like suspicion, distrust, jealousy, rage or envy.  “Everyone belonged to everyone else”, so there was no need for secrets. Even children were encouraged to sexually experiment guilt free.  Of course, sex was meant to be enjoyed only as a means of pleasure in Brave New World. Procreation was considered anathema by the people and beneath the dignity of mankind. This shows the power of the government to invade the most personal expressions between individuals.

 

The concept of “everyone belongs to everyone else” in Brave New World allowed intimate acts to be considered trivial recreation.

Although very different from 1984Brave New World shows the same end result of extreme philosophical collectivism.

 

I started out by saying that a lot of Americans would consider Brave New World to be a utopia worth inhabiting, but that I would not. I value individual autonomy, knowledge and the pursuit of truth. I don’t fear the pursuit of self-actualization. I don’t need anyone to hand it to me. When the government creates immoral laws, I’ve already determined my response to the ethical dilemmas that arise. I stand with the apostles Peter and John in an Acts 4 rebellion against government in honor of God. Yeah, I know what happened to them. I’ve also “skipped to the end” and know it will work out okay for those whom God has loved.

Huxley’s vision of the future removes the lid of a Pandora’s box of questions.  If you’re happy in your prison of pleasure, are you truly free or merely deluded? It is still a prison of man’s own making, formed by a government following its own directions toward something they consider “good. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and renewed with bad policies.

I’m reminded of a passage in 1984, when the administrator of torture tells the protagonist Winston Smith:

We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.

 – Obrien, ”1984”: part 3, chapter 3,

The power structures in both Brave New World and 1984 chose to diminish individual rights in order to achieve societal stability.  To the governments of both super-states, their citizens were considered as means to an end –that of the leaders’ continuation of power.

 

But, could this type of power consolidation occur in the nonfictional world?

Absolutely!

Study history, then go turn on all screened devices in your home. Tyrannical regimes have been centralizing and fortifying ramparts of power before Noah stepped off the Ark. Edward Snowden is just the latest to pull back the curtain on what’s going on behind the governmental scenes. If we don’t think it can happen here, we assure it will happen here.

Brave New World existed in a prosperous technological paradise, where the societal elite had unrestricted access to intercontinental transportation and private helicopters. Even the lower classes enjoyed pampered lives of perennial comfort, ceaseless entertainment, and eternal recreation. What could be so bad about that?

Today, the westernized cultures of the world, including some Asian nations like Japan and South Korea, increasingly resemble Brave New World, while they increasingly sacrifice individual freedom upon the altar of collectivism. Political correctness stifles free speech. Families suffocate beneath mountains of debt. United Nations Agenda 21 policies release a deluge of regulations causing extra-governmental autonomous innovation to collapse before the inexorable, gravitational pull of the hive-mind. Corporations like Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung and Apple have become the eyes and ears of Big Brother who is always watching, and ever listening. Yes, I am deliberately referencing 1984 there because I believe the promised utopia of Brave New World is the bait for dragging us into something more like 1984. People resist a dark future, but walk happily into comfort and ease. There’s a reason trappers disguise their traps and it’s not because it won’t hurt you when it closes.

Like in Brave New World, science now rules supreme over ethics as medical professionals sell fetus organs to advance the cause of genetic research.  The United States currently leads the world in illegal drug use and consumes near all of the global opioid supply.

Statistics show at least 35% of all internet downloads and at least 30% of all data transferred across the internet are porn-related.  Sex runs rampant throughout the modernized nations and sexually transmitted diseases have reached a record high in the United States.

 

 

The writings of Huxley, Bradbury, and Orwell resonate with the echoes of history and land on the shore of where we now stand. Propaganda spews from five corporations which control 90% of all mainstream media channels.  These companies toe the war-party line, wielding their great powers of disinformation to contort facts or censor the failures of the politicians they favor while, simultaneously, attacking their political enemies with lies and innuendo; even to the point of creating a phony election hacking narrative to satisfy their radioactive lust for war with nuclear-powered enemies.

 

Yet the irony fails to impress America’s young social justice warriors of the Millennial generation who have been raised in the public schools on a steady diet of socialism, political correctness, and participation trophies. They are so afraid of losing their “free” medical insurance that they can’t see how immaterial that is compared to the freedom they’ve never known.

They would prefer to live in the utopia of Brave New World rather than the dystopia of 1984, never recognizing that the one is the gateway into the other.

No government ever gives up power willingly. If it can hold power through bread and circuses, so be it, but when the time comes when people wake up in their velvet-lined prison and realize that they aren’t free and yearn to be so, that government will quickly take on a darker and less utopian visage, because no government ever gives up power willingly.

 

 

Genesis of Dystopia   1 comment

Front Cover Final 1.27.15Have you ever thought about where a dystopian society comes from?

Of course, I’m a writer, so these thoughts occur to me.

How do you get to 1984 from 1950s England when the book was written?

Writing the post-apocalyptic Transformation Project allows me to think about how society devolves. Life As We Knew It (Book 1) explores some of the seeds of destruction. I don’t dwell on them. I sprinkle them lightly throughout the book. Readers might not even notice and that’s sort of the point.

We don’t tend to dwell on the everyday things in our society that are leading us badly wrong. What happens to all those people living in big cities when there is a disruption in services? What happens when your local grocery store doesn’t get its stock order for the week? Can they restock from the local warehouse? Do you have any food to tide you over for a week or two? What about your neighbors?

What happens when jet liners can’t find their runways electronically or visually? Have you ever looked from a jet window down to an interstate and wondered what it would be like to land on one?

If all the major transportation hubs were suddenly closed? Do you have any idea how to get across the Mississippi River if the major cities are impassable?

If you’re driving down an interstate and the National Guard starts halting traffic, what do you plan on doing? Are you going to follow instructions or make your own road?

If all the major communication channels go down, how do you communicate with the outside world or the officials and what if they tell you to do things you don’t want to do?

Are there enough places for everyone in your town to hide in the event of nuclear fallout?

The people of Emmaus get some answers to these questions in Life As We Knew It.

Hang on for the second book because I’ll be exploring just how poorly prepared we are and how quickly things might fall apart (or not) in a nation-wide emergency.

The genesis of dystopia exists within our society right now. It only takes an event to turn us toward it. Come check out the transformation. http://www.amazon.com/Life-Knew-Transformation-Project-Book-ebook/dp/B00UY6MKHG/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Author Interview with Bill Leviathan   Leave a comment

Today, I’m visiting with Bill Leviathan, the author of Set Me Alight, a conspiracy thriller.  Tell us a little about yourself, Bill.

I’m a twenty something kid who thinks a little too highly of himself, trying to see if there’s any room for me in the crowded world of fiction writing. I write what makes me happy, and pray it won’t cause too much pain to anyone willing to read it.

Set Me Alight occurs in a dystopian world where the U.S. economy has collapsed. Work is scarce and the protagonist Pete travels west to fight forest fires, only to find himself embroiled in the politics of a mining town. Where did you get your inspiration for each angle of the story?”

I have a friend who until recently was bumming around the country, moving from place to place working crap jobs. A few of my other friends and myself began joking around with him about his new vagabond lifestyle. At one point I created a short (about two paragraph long) plot outline starring my friend as a Snake Plissken wannabe character fighting forest fires out in the Rockies. It was filled with cheesy action-movie clichés and ended with my friend fighting the President on the top of the Freedom Tower in NYC.

A few months later I was visiting family over the holidays and was getting a little bored. I found that movie plot outline, retooled it to be a bit less outlandish, and quickly wrote the prologue.

A lot of the inspiration for the story just came from watching some older action movies about down-on-their luck guys overcoming odds to try and save the day, whether willingly or no. I re-watched a lot of John Carpenter movies while writing Set Me Alight.

I was also reading through some Jim Thompson books at the time. He was great at writing these depraved and twisted characters all from the first person. For Set Me Alight, I wanted to try and write Pete as a character who may have saw himself as being a Jim Thompson character, but really was just a lonely bitter kid.

You do a really excellent job of drawing the character of Pete. My step-father was a rubber-tramp during the Depression and some of the descriptions you give are very on-point with his memories of shanty towns, hoovervilles and mining towns where you might scrape up a bit of work here and there. Did you do a lot of research?

I didn’t do a whole lot of research specifically for this book. The Depression era is something I’ve always been interested in and knew some background information going into writing this story.

Back in high school, for US history I had a project/field trip where our class had to create our own hooverville in a field behind the school. We were allowed to bring in whatever building material we wanted, which was mostly cardboard boxes and tarps. We spent all day outside “living” in our hooverville homes. It was towards the end of February and it had just recently snowed. For lunch we were each given a single boiled hotdog. Looking back on it I’m surprised the school let our teacher do that project. It was definitely one of the most enjoyable  things I ever had to do in terms of school work.

You self-published Set Me Alight. Did you start out to self-publish. Why self-publish?

When I first started writing I had not put any thought into publishing the story. It was simply a personal project I was using to prove something to myself. Once I finished, I then started researching a bit into the world of publishing. Traditional publishing seemed like a dark and scary place. I just simply wanted what I wrote out there to see if anyone would appreciate it. I then researched self publishing, and really liked the idea of owning everything regarding the story. If I fail, I have only myself to blame.

Do you have any advice for others who are seeking to self-publish their own writing?

Spend more time than you think you need to editing, and find some beta readers if possible. I wrote my story in complete isolation. I didn’t tell anyone I know about it until I had already hit “publish” on Amazon and Smashwords. The initial product I put out suffered from it, and was quite rough. It’s slowly improved since I first put it out there, but I feel I would have been much better off if I’d given it time to settle after completing writing before I published. The excitement got the better of me, I guess.

What are your plans for the future with regards to writing?

I’m currently writing a story about a lonely, bitter, pseudointellectual, and extremely paranoid type character who’s hearing a voice in his head saying someone is following him and that he needs to do crazy things like jump out of windows and blow up cars. I doubt I get many points for originality with the story, but I’ve enjoyed writing it so far.

Links:
Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00K53Y0IA?ie=UTF8&at=aw-android-pc-us-20&force-full-site=1&ref_=aw_bottom_links

Smashwords:http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/435259

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Home Pasture – Chapter 7 A Well in Emmaus   Leave a comment

                Rob Delaney glanced at the clock. He sort of wanted to mull his reply to Jason Welton’s email before sending it, but it was only 2:30 and he didn’t have an excuse to leave for the day.

                “I recommend a test of the safety valves in the town well house.”

                Jason was the “county” engineer. Most of the towns in the county used him for their utilities, to review building permits, etc. His construction company was his main priority and Rob sometimes suspected that he suggested certain things to try and generate business for that company. Who else would do this test?

                Rob’s hands twitched over the keyboard. A tall, broad-shouldered sandy-haired man with blue eyes and a reddish beard, Rob was more likely to pass as a construction worker than a small-town mayor. He closed his hands into fists. A small town mayor could get into a fair bit of trouble by rattling off the first thing that came to mind. He pushed back from the computer and looked at the pile of paperwork sitting on the desk blotter.

                The Wolf Creek Bridge would probably be completed at the end of the day. Rob was proud of that accomplishment. The bridge had been completed under bid and on time without incurring debt. He’d also managed to transfer the landscaping of the town square to the Rotary, resulting in a much prettier park at reduced cost to the town. That had been in his first term. It had been one of the reasons the town had elected him for a second term. He hoped the bridge would be the first of several accomplishments during his second term. Twelve years would be enough, he thought, if they were productive years. He’d frankly been surprised they’d given him a second term after that mess with Shane five years ago. It wasn’t that people had forgotten. He knew they hadn’t. Still, they’d reelected him, choosing him over Anders McAuliff, who’d been the one reminding them of Shane’s indiscretion.

                You need to stop that, his Savior reminded him. Shane’s coming home and if you’re thinking it, you’re likely to say it sometime when he pushes your buttons.

                Would Shane actually show up? Rob wanted to believe that he would. He thought he was ready to talk to his younger son, to lay some anger to the side, but …. Well, Shane had not come home four years ago, so why should they get all excited this time?

                Rob’s stack of paperwork quickly dwindled. It wasn’t even 3:00 yet. He turned back to the computer.

                “What is this test for, Jason? I need details to justify it to the council.”

                The cursor hovered over the SEND icon. Should he or shouldn’t he? Read it again.

                A quick tapping on his office door caused him to look over his shoulder. His elder son Cai stuck his sandy head into the opening of the door.

                “You headed out to Wichita?” Rob asked.

                “Yeah. I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon.”

                “Good. You should probably be here when … if … your brother gets here.”

                “Well ….” Cai’s sea blue eyes twittered.

                “What?” Rob asked.

                “I think it might be best not to overwhelm him.”

                “If the situation were different, that might be true, but you have something to tell him and it shouldn’t wait for him to find out at the grocery store or over a beer at Callahan’s.”

                “Yeah,” Cai agreed, tone dripping with apprehension. “I’m starting to think we made a mistake by not telling him in an email.”

                “Too late now,” Rob said with a grin.

                Cai nodded. At 30, he was clean-shaven and all-American, athletic, tall and lean. He’d graduated from law school two years ago and was splitting his time between a practice with a friend in Wichita and being the city attorney for Emmaus and the next town over, Mara Wells. Rob was proud of him for planning his life well. He and his wife were living with Rob and Jill while they paid off their student debts. Cai would be done next year. Marnie would need longer.

                Cai reached for his cell and frowned as he read the text.

                “Something up?” Rob asked.

                “Misty just texted me,” he announced.

                “Misty?”

                “Marnie’s cousin. She’s a waitress at the Barn.” Rob nodded that he remembered now. “Shane’s a day early, eating lunch at the Barn.”

                Rob stared at Cai.

                “She’s sure?”

                “He spoke to her.”

                Rob stood. Cai closed the door and leaned on it.

                “Maybe you shouldn’t,” he said.

                “Shouldn’t what?”

                “Chase him down and catch him unawares. There’s a reason he’s not answered but one text between us in five years and it’s not because he’s comfortable with our company.”

                Rob sighed and admitted Cai had a point. He rubbed the back of his neck.

                “You probably shouldn’t go to Wichita.”

                “Yeah, the judge would really like that and so would my client,” Cai reminded him. “Besides, it’s a cool case — the farmer selling raw milk to the willing neighbors and the FDA having him arrested for public endangerment. No, I’m going. I think I’m right. Don’t overwhelm him. Just think about what I said. You don’t want to scare him away.”

                Cai then shouldered his computer bag and left the office. Rob turned to the window which faced Main Street. He braced his arms on the frames and watched as Wade Lewis’ truck made a slow drive down the street. A familiar long-legged stride drew his attention to the bank. Misty was a good informant. Rob watched his younger son enter the brick building. What to do?

                Rob found Shane’s Jeep on the side street. It wasn’t parked so as to indicate hiding. He could see a duffle bag in the back, a water bottle on the passenger seat and a takeout cup for coffee in the consol with a logo from a stand Rob had stopped at before on his way out of Denver. There were a couple of boxes in the cargo area. Nothing else. Rob leaned against the passenger door and watched the town go by.

                Shane hesitated at seeing him, but it was only a momentary hitch in his stride.

                “I don’t see any traffic cams,” he noted, indicating the roof tops. “Misty?”

                “I saw you from my office when you went into the bank,” Rob reported.

                Shane nodded. He leaned against the door next to Rob. He wore sunglasses, so Rob couldn’t see his eyes. He seemed taller, leaner, his hair clipped short, but still curly. His tan looked permanent. It was still the dog days and he wore faded jeans and a green t-shirt with a loose plaid shirt over it. Rob let silence hang between them for a while.

                “Are you early or were you planning to keep us waiting until tomorrow?” he finally asked.

                “I don’t know.” His voice seemed deeper, still with that lush quality. “I didn’t plan to get here a day early and maybe I wasn’t prepared to just show up at the house.”

                Rob nodded. A million questions ran through his head. Where have you been? What have you been doing? Where are you going?

                “It’s good to see you,” he finally said.

                “Is it?”

                “Yes,” Rob assured. He scratched the front of his head, where his hair was starting to turn grey along the hair line. “It’s hot.”

                Shane didn’t look hot. Rob suspected he’d been spending time in some mighty warm climes the last few years. He was acclimated. Rob had lost that decades ago. The dog days were hot.

                “You want to get an iced tea or something?” Rob asked. “We could talk.”

                Shane let the silence hang for a bit. Rob waited. Don’t let him push your buttons! If he says “beer”, let it go and get a rootbeer. It’s not like Callahan’s can make you drink alcohol.

                “Sure.”

                He let Rob lead him to the Soda Fountain. Although the sunglasses hid his eyes, Rob could see that Shane was surprised to see it. The Soda Fountain had once been the lunch counter of the Woolworths, which had closed before Shane could remember. The block sized building had stood empty for nearly 30 years, but now the lunch counter had been reopened as the Soda Fountain and a book store sat beside it. The rest of the block was begging for development.

                “Wow,” Shane said. “I noticed the new houses up on the Heights. Things have grown since I left.”

                He looked around the Fountain with its red and cream tile and sleek counter with all the images of an old-fashioned soda fountain. He removed his sunglasses as they took stools.

                “This was here when the store was open, right?” he asked.

                “Yes. We used to bring our dates here. Jacob and Vi probably had their first kiss here.”

                A shadow passed across Shane’s green eyes for a moment, reminding Rob that he’d not been here for Vi’s death and funeral. They both decided to ignore the obvious, while Rob wondered about the dark shadows under Shane’s eyes. Rob ordered lemonade. He’d had lunch at home earlier and Shane had eaten at the Barn, so after a moment’s consultation with the menu, Shane ordered a cranberry smoothie.

                “So how many new people are there in town?” Shane asked, hooking his sunglasses in the front of his t-shirt.

                “In five years … about 50. A 1% gain in a Kansas small town is a miracle.”

                “Next thing you know, Emmaus is going to have traffic jams.”

                “We used to.”

                Shane gave him a skeptical look. Since they were keeping it light, Rob opted to keep it light.

                “When 24 was Main Street and a major highway there were a couple.”

                “I can’t even imagine that. Coming east, once you leave Denver — it’s like no man’s land.”

                “It’s quiet,” Rob agreed. “I guess that’s why they call it flyover country.”

                The following quiet between them grew painful.

                “So you were out west. California?”

                “That was my base, I guess,” Shane said. When Rob didn’t rush to fill the silence he added “San Diego.”

                “But it was only your base?”

                The waitress brought their drinks. She was high school aged, but gave Shane an appreciative once-over. He didn’t seem to notice. At 26, he shouldn’t. He sighed.

                “You aren’t asking.”

                “Would you tell me if I did?”

                “I don’t know. I planned to tell people — even you — that I was in the military. That’s close enough to the truth.”

                “Is it?”

                Shane bought some time by taking a sip of the smoothie. Rob waited.

                “You know I didn’t go to jail,” he said in a low voice.

                “Jacob took your Jeep somewhere, so I guessed. You working for Jason Breen made so much more sense then.”

                “Jason was clean.”

                “McAuliff was the target all along?”

                Shane nodded.

                “How did you get mixed up in all that?” Rob asked.

                “My roommate at Embry. His dad. They paid off my student loans.”

                Rob had always assumed that Shane had done something that had gotten him in trouble with the law, so this was welcome news, but for the dark circles and a curious wariness about his son that he thought he recognized.

                “Was it worth it?” he asked.

                “No,” Shane answered promptly. “McAuliff wasn’t hurting anyone. Jacob was pissed.”

                “Your grandfather is an anarchist, son. Is that what you’ve been doing?”

                “Yeah, sort of. I’m not really supposed to talk about it.”

                Rob watched Shane’s hands slowly turning the shake glass between them and knew avoidance was not the best answer.

                “When you’re ready, I’m ready to listen,” he assured his son.

                “And if I’m never ready?”

                Rob sipped his lemonade. It tasted fresh-squeezed, but he figured it wasn’t.

                “There may come a time when you’re the one who will need to listen,” he replied. Shane‘s eyes darkened. “You’re not ready now.”

                “It’s not Grandpa fighting in the Pacific or you going to the Nam. What I did –. There’s nothing honorable, noble or brave about taking money to f –.”

                The bell on the door tinkled. Shane cut off his fierce whisper to look and Rob saw where his hand went when he pivoted on the stool. Jason Breen’s blue eyes were cold and piercing. His dark hair was thinning back from a craggy face. Rob wanted to step between him and his son, but Shane’s hand was behind his back and Rob thought he might not live if he were shot twice.

                “Peace, kid,” Breen said, bringing both hands up to shoulder level. He held keys in his left. The right was empty. “No need to get blood on the floor,” he added.

                Shane watched him as he walked to the counter. Breen had apparently ordered a sandwich to go. The transaction took less than a minute. Shane’s gaze never wavered and his hand remained behind his back and under his shirt.

                “If you’re looking for work,” Breen told Shane. He set a card down on the counter near the register. Then he nodded at Rob and walked out. After maybe the count of 10, Shane’s hand came away from the small of his back and he turned back to his smoothie. He left the card where it lay.

                “You always on, son?” Rob asked, turning back to his lemonade.

                Shane didn’t answer. Rob waited, but not even the pain of silence forced a response.

                “Okay, fair enough. Your mom has probably heard you’re in town by now. You coming home with me or did you book a room at the Super 8?”

                “Don’t need to.” Rob looked at him, curious. “I own Jericho Springs.”

                Rob laughed, but Shane looked dead serious.

                “Four years ago?”

                “Yeah. Uh, you know of any activity going on there in the last few weeks?” he asked.

                “I haven’t been paying attention,” Rob admitted after a moment. “It’s a ghost town, after all. Why?”

                Shane shook his head and shrugged.

                “Probably just me being ‘on’,” he said. “Let’s play it by ear. I’ll go to the house with you and then decide my next move.”

                “Seems fair,” Rob told him. Shane slid off the stool. Rob followed. “I guess I’ll meet you at the house in a few minutes then.” Shane nodded. They stepped out on to the sidewalk. Shane paused as if to say something, but then turned to walk away. “Shane — I’m glad you’re home,” Rob called after him.

                Shane broke his stride and glanced over his shoulder.

                “You probably shouldn’t be,” he replied, then continued toward where he’d left the Jeep, leaving Rob to wonder what that meant.

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