The sunset and the smoke from the fire mix with the already perfect September warmth and makes the boy of fourteen forget the group’s intention. He finds himself having actual fun. The bottle of moonshine gets passed to him, and this time he takes a nip, noticing none of the men care.
He coughs, and his throat and mouth get ready for vomit, but he begs it back, and green-faced finds his mind turn to why they are really camped out in the Northern Virginian woods and waiting for 4 am to arrive.
The fact turns so hard in his mind that at first, he rejects it, thinking, something has to happen to stop them.
Maybe sensing an ebbing resolve, The General speaks. “Some say there is a revolution in the USA every four years. That the United States elections, act as peaceful coups, where even though our president is elected out, or serves their two terms, they are then escorted off the White House lawn by armed guards and for the rest of their lives are watched by those same armed guards, politically enfeebled and basically a hostage to their legacy, and political affiliation for the rest of their lives. We are just speeding up that process a bit.”
A bit is two years earlier than legally expected.
“Would a mob storm the White House and replace a sitting president with an actual general? We got the goods, boys. We got God on our side!” The redneck-trash hoots after and spits moonshine into the fire through the gap of teeth in his upper jaw.
The fire explodes in response.
In the flaring light, the boy looks over to the general.
An old marine that looks rough enough to cut diamond. He struggles to his feet, grabs the bottle and takes a swig of his own. Coughing after, he tries to say, “I don’t think so. Actual violence here would be a stretch.”
“We did it once,” The Professor responds, condescending the great man, even though everyone knows the general has a Ph.D. in American history and a law degree to match.
“Doubt enough people want to kill their brothers and cousins to do it again. We are a peaceful people who just like being prepared.”
“Is that what this is?” The boy asks, tapping a dirty finger against the titanium haul he sits on top of. Inside, a device that splits a boron atom into two and evaporates matter like it were paper. “Peace and preparedness?”
The old man laughs, his face scrunching and bouncing to show off its lack of elasticity. “Of course, there are always outliers. Moments that our enemies will do their worst. But most people won’t get involved, unless under duress.”
And the boy’s eyes slide off the professor, an uneasy tightness filling his belly.