IndependencePosted: January 9, 2013
I wrote this flash fiction story back in 2010. Thought I’d share it with you all now, what with all the political turmoil on my news feed today.
The acrid smell of the gasoline that dripped from the rusted fuel tank of Curtis’ Ford didn’t have its usual soothing effect on him. On a good day, the smell brought back memories of his father; of crawling into his old Ford. Today, small pleasures did nothing. Today, the gas leak was just that: another problem in a long list of them. The foremost being, Curtis had been stuck at the same red light in the middle of the night, with no vehicles around, for what seemed like ten minutes.
The long barrel of the rifle under Curtis’ seat slid forward against the back of his leg. The rancher shifted his foot against it, pushed it back. The red light wasn’t his biggest problem. Why did they have to take his son? He shook his head at the pile of folders on the seat across from him – the seat where Kolton should have been – and rubbed his cheeks. He was tired. He hated visitation, he hated judges, he hated lawyers. Nothing was simple. The entire system was fucked, all the way down to this goddamn red light.
It was some sick trap where every effort he made bogged him further in the muck. The motions filed to free his son only resulted in more counter-motions, responses, pleas. Everything cost money, and as though to punish him for arguing in the first place, the responses to what he set into motion cost even more money. The harder he struggled, the further he sank.
The only answer was to think outside the box – fuck it, break the box, and demand freedom.
Curtis had never seriously thought about hurting anyone before. Then again, he’d never had a child kidnapped – kidnapped – by the State. They’d driven him to this.
To have his own son taken, held prisoner, and for what? Fines and fees that were a part of a system he’d never wanted a place in. They could take their machine and run it fine without him. All his family had ever wanted was to be left to their own devices. That’s how it used to be. He just wanted the right to do the same. The world hadn’t changed that much.
He could take his son, hide him on the property they shared; the cops could come looking all they wanted, they’d never find him. Put him in one of the old deer blinds that had been reclaimed by the roots and vines around it. Hide him there, bring him food. That’s what he’d do.
They’d taken his only child. A young man now, but still.
He had guns. They had guns. That was really what it came down to. If they wanted his family, they could come take them. Better dead than a slave. White knuckles clutched the worn material of the steering wheel, bone on bone.
“Fuck!” He growled at the red light. It was two in the morning; there wasn’t another car in sight. Was it broken? Why couldn’t he move forward? He stared at it, angry red eye, the system staring back at him.
And Curtis’ will to fight drained from him, like someone poked holes in his feet and the anger poured out. Five minutes of sitting obediently at a red light, in the dead of night, not another car in sight.