Pt. 1 of 5: “‘Three’ if by fire” a short-story


Here is the first part of five for my latest story (4900-words, total). It’s how I’ve been dealing with all the gun INSANITY.

Part 1 – “Don’t change horses…”

Yoshi Pratt bolted out of the nightmare and straight up in bed. The 26-year-old D.C. native’s hand flew to his heart. He pressed mightily, as if the wildly beating thing would break free at the next beat…or the next.

It didn’t. He threw off the now cold clammy sheet and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He couldn’t stay up. Still too many hours before the alarm would screech.

From the bathroom, by shear contrast in the dark, the mussed up bed’s expanse of pale colored cotton-innards glowed. He grabbed the top sheet; it was far from dry. He flipped on the overhead fan. His dream, like the fan on low, was still going around and around his mind lazily. Though Yoshi didn’t think much about politics normally, the pulse-pounding final scenes had been nothing but.

When it came to Washington machinations and his so-called civic-duties, he’d describe himself as frozen in time. 26-going-on-18.

After college he’d tried living at the ground zero of American politics. Had dreams of working at its newspaper, The Post. That dream died, however, with multiple rejections; quickly followed by a bailing roommate, then a near-zero bank balance. He preferred renting a stranger’s basement than bunk for “free” with parent-babysitters in his boyhood room. Now he lived just over the river and through a wooded part of Virginia.

Though he’d finally been hired by a suburban newspaper, the 18-year-old in him was still angry at The Post’s rebuff. To “punish” their stupidity he purposefully donned a political cone-of-silence. Lifted it for one thing only: the Presidential Elections. He went back under the cone after the inaugural parade. This time the election “cycle” seemed to last years.

“To torture us longer,” Yoshi’d joked.

Finally the inauguration was imminent, set for tomorrow, April 12th instead of January something, to somehow honor the President’s latest role model. Yoshi’d cover the Swearing-in ceremony and then traipse along the parade route to join other “credentialed journalists” for the latest Constitutional Amendment ceremony. In the Senate gallery if he was lucky – more probably, standing outside, watching on the big screens, along with the estimated one-million plus mob. He hated crowds as much as he hated politics.

The top sheet was dry now, thanks to the breeze from the fan, combined with wafting it two handed, like a ribbon-dancer’s supine workout. The slender young man tucked himself under the covers and stared at the ceiling; nightmare imagery crowded back in…

He was back at Inauguration Central, feeling so far out of his league he might have as well been in outer space, maybe beyond the entire Milky Way. Where the stars of his now-showing nightmare looked to be from.

And all he could do was watch in horror.

And of course the aliens looked like big lizards…sometimes…when their human-projections wavered. Which was a lot. Apparently politicians made their lizard-blood boil; affected their telepathic powers.

For some reason all the talking-head reporters (who always made Yoshi’s blood boil) remained motionless and mum. That’d been the first clue none of it was real. The second was the lanyard around his neck. Sure the photo was him, but in bold it’d said “W.P.” As if…

Back at college in ’08 Yoshi, in lockstep and in the typical student’s haze, lost his political-virginity to candidate Obama. A case of politically naïve optimism. Of trusting in the promises of the freshest-looking, or smoothest-speaking, or barrier-est breaking politico. Trusting reporters’ glowing deconstructions and crazy leg tingles. It had helped him decide on a journalism career. But he’d do it right. Honestly. Objectively. Without the tingles.

At twenty-six he knew better. Now he slogged through his days like a philosophical schizophrenic: half blindly-believing, half cynically-skeptical.

Hope and Despair.

But tomorrow the so-called National News’ team “needed him” thanks to some contagious upper respiratory thing. And Yoshi’d have to slog into the City alone since only the at-home anorexic sick chick could fit in the hybrid’s back seat…with all the gear. Have to use the Metro, get jostled, and then, the kicker for being competent at his “real” work: confinement on the Mall, elbow-to-elbow, in a sea of mostly unemployed true believers. All day.

I finally get used to playing gardener and

He wondered if his pretend-human dream-lizards got punished for actually doing their job?

Now, drifting, he wondered too, if they gardened. He blinked lazily, eyes heavy.

The scene in the Senate chamber rewound. It was just prior to all hell breaking loose. Dream-Yoshi looked around. Saw straight through the lizards’ disguises this time. They sure look like different species of lizards. Some must eat vegetables. But even if none do, he reasoned, maybe they’d be a gardener’s best friend, like ladybugs…only bigger.

Actual-Yoshi wrote about Urban Agriculture for the suburban weekly. Shorter pieces went up daily online. Growing-your-own was bigger than ever now. The President had made an especially big deal of it during the campaign. Urged everyone to start a “Fiscal-Victory Garden.” Penned $billions in grants. Which created several dozen new companies (and new jobs) so the craze kicked off in high-gear.

Back then it also meant more “jobs” for conspiracy nuts. With new Constitutional Amendments and the man’s subsequent run for a third term, the wackos perpetually burned the midnight recycled-vegetable-oil.

Ever since dirty fingernails from veggie gardening had been de rigueur, especially for new writers who wanted to keep their first ever non-manual-labor job. After all, if he hadn’t pitched the “write locally” angle and his newspaper hadn’t displayed some backbone (simply followed the lead of the parent company and re-printing their syndicated gardener) he’d still be down in the “minimum-wage ‘maleroom’.”

Instead he got a company laptop and ample clear-space in an employee courtyard to start practicing, post haste, what he’d soon be preaching in print.

The 26-year-old Master’s in Journalism lucked in. Moved on up: to an above ground sorta-near-a-window office cubicle in The Crystal City.

A voice in his dream proclaimed, “Don’t change horses in mid-stream…” and, Poof! He was outside. Great claps of thunder accompanied a collapsing grey stone-pier bridge. Tunnel vision assured he’d see its slow motion fall with the terror of the pedestrians, and be unable to escape the magnified random clip-clopping then skidding of horse-drawn carriages over the brink.

He’d seen the catastrophe earlier – except with modern cars that time. And he’d been in one of them, falling to his personal watery doom.

Eyes again flew open to a pre-dawn reality, and, again, he feared falling asleep. He should reach for his laptop. Should find out if something had happened to any of the canal-bridges into the City. Had they been sabotaged by terrorists? His eyes, closing, had other plans.

That “horses” slogan goes though everybody’s bad dreams, he thought. Burned into the voters’ minds all last summer and fall. Difference was Yoshi’d believed the saying. Even before the ads. He was no mind-controlled robot – as some extremists continued to claim the President’s fans were.

Yoshi’d wanted to use his Master’s. Oh, how he wanted to make a difference in something other than peoples’ diets! But like the ads and the voice in Yoshi’s head cautioned, changing horses was dangerous. “Change” of the employment kind could be the kiss of a slow death. On the streets or under a bridge.

The campaign had created some indelible imagery. A badly-timed change that needed no voice over. A visceral video that of course went viral, with its river-crossing Uncle Sam figure on horseback, trying to switch to a younger more rested mount. Only to be washed not just down-some-stream but swirling in a riptide around D.C.’s circumference, in its new steep walled terrorism-preventing canal that political opponents called the King’s Moat.

Well, Sam bobbed viciously as storm clouds gathered overhead and iconic City-monuments sped by in the background. Finally the poor man, an icon himself, plunged head first, over the Nation’s Niagara Falls-sized fiscal-cliff that magically appeared. His red, white & blue patterned top hat flew off one way and he the other, white beard whipping in the wind, before getting lost from view in the mist-covered murky waters of Change. Then came the heroic music and with the fade-to-black the campaign’s other tagline, “Make history…Again.”

Yoshi’s own snoring woke him up this time, majestic strains of some movie soundtrack still echoing in his mind. His dream-Sam had been riding a normal horse at first, but this time he survived the Change. The white haired geezer hopped spryly onto the back of a dinosaur-like lizard at least 20 hands high, and the creature  – like some fleshed out transformer – unfurled leathery wings (in the nick of time, of course) to flap-flap-flap old Sammy back up and out of certain death at the bottom of the new D.C. canal.

Is this a warning? Yoshi wondered.

He tossed and turned. He punched his pillow. Used the remote to change the speed of the overhead fan. Faster, slower, then off.

If it was a warning, he wanted to sleep. Was desperate to drift off. Would pay attention to all the details this time.

“Sleep,” he told himself silently, “Sleep. Now…” He lay unmoving. Slowed his breathing like he’d seen yoga teachers doing. Finally he was drifting off…



2 thoughts on “Pt. 1 of 5: “‘Three’ if by fire” a short-story

  1. Good stuff man. We deal with imagery in a lot of the same ways. I definitely can’t wait to read the next couple of parts!


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