Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.
Pres. Godfrey Smith
Sen. Amanda McCloy
Gov. Percy Evans
Speaker Andrew Thompson
Rep. Ginger Fields
Rep. Douglas Johnson-Jones
Unnamed Children and Spouses
November 4, 2019
November 7, 2019
Two Years, Eleven Months, and Twenty-seven Days
After the Bombs Dropped
Two Years, Eleven Months, and Thirty Days
After the Bombs Dropped
They had left Salt Water Springs not long before dawn. Austin had enjoyed their rest on the farm, and he would miss resting in one spot for more than a night. Emma, on the other hand, was quite excited to get back on the road again. Grandpa-- or, rather, Senator McHale wasn’t due back until Eighth, but he always left earlier than needed so he could travel more slowly.
“I’ve got to meet my constituents,” he said. “After all, I was a retired Representative, they probably don’t remember me.”
“How many Cold War Republicans are left?” Luna asked. “I mean, even before the bombs… most were already ancient or gone.”
“I gotta make sure,” Grandpa McHale said firmly. “I’ve been doing it the whole time thus far. The folks in Humphreys and Lewis Counties already said I was going to run unopposed there come 2024. Not one of ‘em wants to run against me.”
“Daddy, you represented the Seventh District for years,” Luna repeated. “You’ve got Middle Tennessee in your back pocket.”
Her father sighed and shook his head. “Watch some young’un pop up and say I’m out of touch with reality, and you won’t be sayin’ that then.”
Austin grinned as he watched his mother and grandfather go back and forth. If they’d do this all the way to Jackson, it might not be as bad as it could be.
The family stopped several times on the way to Jackson. Many people knew Grandpa McHale on sight, be it from his travels or days in the Old Congress, as the previous government was known. As promised, he was popular in Humphreys and Lewis Counties, being graciously welcomed by the county commissioners. The people of Hohenwald seemed to be especially fond of him, letting the family stay and eat there free of charge.
Jackson was in Capital County, formerly Madison County. As the new federal capital, Jackson had already pulled a number of workers and travelling merchants seeking to prosper in the aftermath of the war. The city hall, a large hotel, and the US District Court had already become the new White House, Capitol Building, and Supreme Court Building, though different names were used-- the Presidential Quarters, the Fairview Capital, and the New Court.
As they trotted through the outskirts of the city, Emma noted, “This place is bustling.”
“Yeah, it is,” Grandpa McHale said. “And as soon as we pass the vet’s office, we’ll get that bulky dog of yours put down. He’s in a frightful state.”
“Daddy,” Luna groaned. “Stop it.”
“...fine,” he consented. “But when we stop and I get a cigarette, you ain’t stoppin’ me. The best tobacco in the country’s grown from here to Memphis.”
“Can I smoke?” Abby chirped up.
“No,” her mother said. “You aren’t smoking, just like you aren’t drinking.”
“Aw,” the younger girl sighed. “But Mom--”
“No buts,” Grandpa McHale interrupted. “Now, be quiet. Knowin’ McCloy, she’s already arguin’ with the little Congressmen. Lord, they’re jealous little sh-- buggers.”
Alistair rolled his eyes. "You're joking, right?"
"I can still shoot you, y'know."
"What did I tell you two just this morning?" Luna growled.
"A'right," her father said quietly. "But keep that bear on a short leash. Someone's gonna think he's a giant rug on a horse."
As they rode on, nearing the Fairview Capitol, a small band could be heard playing.
Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton,
old times there are not forgotten...
"Ignore them," Grandpa McHale growled quietly. "There's a bunch of idiots all through here that want to make Dixie the national anthem. Done told'em it'll never happen, but they keep on pushing."
"You could shoot them!" Abby said excitedly.
Austin and Emma glared at their little sister.
"What?" she asked. "Was it something I said?”
“You’re too much like your grandfather,” Luna sighed. “Shoot first, ask questions later is a bad policy.”
“Actually,” Grandpa McHale began, “it saved my life twice since the bombs. First time was on my way to Memphis. Figured that was where the guv’ment would go if there was any left. Was attacked by a couple of badly scarred folks. Had a couple of others they’d taken as slaves, but I put’em right, Second time, I heard a noise in the woods. Shot at some bushes, and scarred away the largest, ugliest bear I’ve ever seen. It was hairless, and pale as a birch tree--”
“William!” a woman called, interrupting his story. “Stop talking, and get your ass over here!”
The old man slowly turned his head to a nearby building, looking up to one of the balconies above. There was a short, rather stout woman, dark blonde hair pulled into a tight bun.
“You’ve returned just in time-- the governor is on his way!”
Grandpa McHale shook his head. “Dammit, McCloy, let me get inside and settled first! And for God’s sake, let my family and this stranger get into a room!”
Austin recognized that name. Who was--
“Amanda McCloy?” Alistair asked, interrupting his son’s thoughts.
“One and the same!” she called. “I’ll be down in just a minute, William! I’ll get you settled, and then I’m dragging you to the Quarters!”
Austin smirked as his grandfather cursed beneath his breath. After McCloy disappeared from view, the old man muttered, “I’ll either shoot her or that bear you brought from Boston. I’ll decide after takin’ a well-deserved nap.”
Emma chuckled and shook her head. “What do you think the meeting will be about?”
“Probably some godforsaken scheme to put education in front of military sending. McCloy’s a Democrat, just like Smith. If it was up to me, Percy Evans would be runnin’ the country, succession be damned.”
“Language, Daddy,” Luna warned.
“Sorry, but I’m a little too tired to care at the moment. Try again later when I’ve killed somethin’,” he replied with a hint of sarcasm.
“I really like Grandpa!” Abby whispered to her siblings.
“That’s because you like to shoot stuff just as much as he does,” the teen replied dryly.
“Except he hasn’t shot anything yet,” Austin pointed out, loud enough for their grandpa to hear. “So far, it’s just talk.”
“I’ll show you talk,” the old man grunted. “Whatever it’s about, I’m gonna win, and you two older ones are comin’ with me.”
The twins exchanged a glance. What had Austin just done?
The Fairview Capitol was formerly a large hotel for wealthy people seeking a countryside escape. Resembling the Evergreen Plantation in Louisiana, the Fairview Capitol was surrounded by a large apple orchard and rose garden, giving the place a sense of life defying the otherwise quiet feel the pace radiated.
Grandpa McHale led the twins inside, catching only a glimpse of the aristocratic but deserted interior before he pushed them towards a staircase to the left. “Third room on the right, that’s the upper dining hall.”
Emma reluctantly opened the dark mahogany door, pushing against the wood. She and Austin saw seven tables set up, different groups at each of them. Grandpa McHale ushered them to an empty one, seating them away from the others. “Mr. President, sir. Mr. Speaker. Percy.”
Three men, two young, one old, nodded their welcomes. The old one was fat, sitting with a petite woman about his age, each eating a salad. “Nice to see you, William,” his deep voice said through a mouthful of lettuce and onions. “Who’re these young’uns?”
“My grandchildren, Perce,” Grandpa McHale replied. “Emma, Austin, that’s the Governor and his wife Maybelline. Over there--” he motioned to a middle-aged man sitting with three children-- “is Speaker Andrew Thompson from Gatlinburg. And the young guy in the gray suit is--”
“I can introduce myself, Mr. Senator,” the man started to interrupt.
“--the ignorant and arrogant President of the United States, Godfrey Smith.”
“Now, William--” the governor began.
“No,” Grandpa McHale said quickly. “Don’t reprimand me for speakin’ my mind. I’ll play nice all you want me to, but I’m gonna say what I wanna say.”
Amanda McCloy sat at a table nearby. “I think we should get on with this…”
“Quite right,” an older woman at another table said. “Whatever this is.”
“Yes…” Smith moved a stray black hair out of his face, handsome green eyes flashing in the dimmed lights of the dining hall. “Bill #69690 has been a pet project of mine and Amanda’s for about a week now. In the folder at each of your tables, you’ll find a few copies of it to share with your families--”
“Get on with it,” the older woman snapped.
“He can’t, Ginger,” Grandpa McHale sighed. “He’s too big-headed.”
Emma watched as Smith clenched his jaw before taking a deep breath. “This bill will require that traders submit to having their caravans searched--”
“Unconstitutional!” Ginger snapped. “No! Get rid of it, now!”
“I agree with Ginger,” Grandpa McHale said. “Toss it on top of the ashes of Chattanooga with the rest of those god-awful things you’ve tried to make us do!”
“Mr. Senator, Madam Congresswoman, if you’d just calm down--”
Grandpa McHale slammed a fist down on the table, making some of the small children jump. “Get the young’uns out,” he ordered coldly.
The spouses and younger children left, a few glancing back at the crazed Senator.
“Listen hear, you little shit,” the old man wheezed after the door shut. “This is a damn democracy under an illegitimate president. I didn’t vote for ya. But your godforsaken VP broke the damn Senate tie passing that damn amendment! And then, even though Percy vetoed it, the legislature overruled him.”
Austin looked at the old governor, who glanced between Smith and McHale before their eyes met. Evans nodded to Austin, but the teen looked back to his grandfather.
“I served in Vietnam, fightin’ against the communists. What yer doin’ is stirrin’ up some trouble, tryin’ to turn the people ‘gainst whatever the hell is left of their government. I said okay to free healthcare. I’m not okaying this. I will die with a shotgun in my hands before you do this.”
Emma looked around the room. The Ginger woman, Evans, Speaker Thompson, and another man were all nodding in agreement.
“The House is against it… Vice President Wilkes isn’t here to break the Senate tie. It’s over, Godfrey,” Evans said. “Now, sit down, shut up, and let me talk about what I came here to talk about. I’ve been waiting long enough as it is.”
Beyond the occasional nod, “yes,” or “no,” the President had not spoken again. He did, however, sign the bill that Evans had proposed, which mandated that as many people that could be spared would work towards a potential war effort in the best way that they could. Grandpa McHale nominated Ginger as the potential ambassador to Texas-- that way, the Southerners might be able to unite and build a resistance to the western fascists.
The other man in the room introduced himself as Douglas Johnson-Jones, formerly mayor of Memphis. The city council there elected him as their Representative due to his overall centrist views. Thus far, though, he had largely sided with the right-wingers in the tiny Congress. Johnson-Jones introduced a bill ultimately returning to the barter system until money could be printed and backed with gold once again. It was unanimously supported, forcing Smith to sign it.
Grandpa McHale and the twins returned to the other hotel where the rest of their family was. McCloy took her family to dine with Smith, who was a widower.
The Nightshades and Grandpa McHale shared two rooms, the three adults in one, the three minors in the other. Tiredly, Emma and Austin entered their room. Abby, it seemed, was with their parents.
Emma flopped down on the bed closest to the window. “Abby can take the cot if you want the bed.”
“I don’t care where I sleep, so long as I lay down,” her brother replied. He opened the mini fridge, finding bottled water and a plastic gallon jug labelled tea. “Thirsty?”
Emma nodded. “Sure.”
After pouring them both a cup of cold tea, Austin sat beside Emma, passing her a little porcelain cup. After taking a sip, he said, “Best stuff we’ve had since before...”
Emma silently nodded, thinking back to those carefree days… “I miss Boston. Old Boston. I miss seeing everything there was to see there-- Trinity Church, Bunker Hill, the Common… I know we didn’t live there long, but it was--”
“--home,” Austin finished quietly. “I know. Maybe we can go back some day.”
“It won’t be the same,” she said quietly, placing her cup on a nightstand. ”None of it will.”
Emma closed her eyes and turned away from her brother.
“We’re homeless now, Austin. We can never go back.”
Alright. Hopefully, things are starting to pick up a little bit. Austin and Emma, I think, have become a little more real. With luck, a certain grandfather's become a very likable character, whether you agree with his politics or not. If I'm having a really good streak, Grammarly and I haven't missed an error amid all of the Southern slang.
So, I fibbed in Chapter One-- have another character dump! I'm trying to be careful with character/info dumps, sincerely.