FUBAR is the acronym which best describes the country as it currently exists; SNAFU runs a close second. Rarely has there been such confusion. In the past weeks, cabinet level personnel have been quitting, being fired, or being forced into early retirement at an alarming rate. All it takes is one independent thought and they are being shown the door. Rumors have it that yet another member of the Supreme Court is being pressed to retire. The danger in all this is that they are being replaced by a cadre of “yes men”. Given the manner in which the former Attorney General was replaced, it is obvious that Roald Drumpf does not care about proper procedures, and will not hesitate to circumvent the rules if it suits his purpose.
The government is currently in a state of partial shutdown with no end in sight, thanks entirely to Roald Drumpf’s ego and his greed. The legislature sent him a bipartisan budget which included funds allocated for building his border wall, but not enough to suit him. Like a petulant child, he has declared that either he gets what he wants, or no one gets anything. Despite an attempt to blame the blue party, Drumpf has declared himself proud of the shutdown, and that it will last a long time. Perhaps his creditors will be as generous as he apparently expects those to whom the newly payless federal workers are indebted.
The stock market has been a real roller-coaster ride of late. Precipitous drops have been followed by perilous highs, only to drop again. The theory is that the major brokers are taking their profits and making a run for it. Is it possible that Drumpf’s bull market is about to crash into another great depression? A rise in the nation’s prime interest rate certainly has him upset; each time the rate goes up, his profits go down.
The probe into the Russian election interference is coming to an end. It has achieved multiple confessions and an even greater number of convictions. Perhaps Drumpf will offer them pardons; how many would accept them? A judicial rule written nearly half a century ago protects a standing president from being indicted, but that has not prevented people from going after Drumpf’s business ventures, or his charities. He was recently forced to shut down his charitable foundation when it was discovered that he had used money from there to help fund his election efforts.
Roald Drumpf’s children have become targets of the Russian probe; it is possible that they might be prosecuted for their actions in their father’s behalf. Of course, if convicted, they would expect to receive pardons. It has been suggested that Drumpf might resign rather than put them through the experience, but given his power to pardon, it is not a given; he enjoys his power too much.
“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
It would have been delightful to be able to report that Roald Drumpf was on his way out of office, but alas, that is not yet to be. When a bully gets his grip on a toy, it takes a lot to take it away from him. The government has become Drumpf’s favorite play toy, and he has apparently decided to “take it home”.
Her tea had grown cold in the cup by the time the police arrived. Grace had kept her eyes on the were-man as he lie bleeding on her floor. “That’s going to leave a stain,” she thought absently. For a moment she wondered whether she should try to stop the bleeding, but she didn’t feel any desire to save the life of the man who had just tried to kill her. Instead, she watched as his breathing became slower and more shallow. When she couldn’t see the movement of his chest any more, she reached out with her foot to give him a shove and was rewarded with a moan of pain; it was the last sound he would ever make. Her own shoulder hurt where he had scraped her with his weapon, but the bleeding seemed to have stopped.
Flashing lights and sirens signaled the arrival of the authorities. Paramedics quickly checked his vital signs and pronounced him dead. As they prepared to lift the body onto the gurney, Grace asked to be allowed to remove his mask. “I have to know who this is,” she said. The police officer nodded his approval; with shaking hands, she slowly removed the woolen ski cap, half fearing that she would find her husband hidden within. She didn’t really expect to know her attacker, but he had filled her life with terror these past months, and she just wanted to know who he was. Grace had squeezed her eyes tightly closed as the mask was lifted; when she slowly open them, she gasped.
“Do you know him?” the officer asked. Grace nodded, “He is… was married to my best friend. She’s been missing for a while, but her body was found in the park earlier this evening. I can’t believe he killed his own wife.” Lifting his head to meet her gaze, the officer replied, “I don’t know who, or where, your friend might be, but hers it not the body we found tonight. Her name was Lillian, and she had lived on the streets for a couple of years now; all the shelters and street preachers knew her. It’s a shame, really; she was a nice lady.”
The officer had examined the “crime scene” while the paramedics were doing their work. He took Grace’s statement, then told her she’d need to come by the police station in the morning to look it over and sign it. “We’ll need to take your gun for evidence,” he added. Grace chuckled, “Go ahead,” she said, “I don’t think I’ll be needing it any more.”
The paramedics had patched up the scrape on her back, which was painful, but not really deep. What she needed the most, she decided, was a good night’s sleep. After the officer had gone, she locked the door (“No point, really,” she said to herself. “No good locking the barn door after the horse is stolen.”) and headed off to make that happen. Taking her pistol with her, she settled in to try and get some rest. It made her feel safer to have her weapon close at hand.
She was just drifting off to sleep when she heard Reginald’s key turning in the lock. “Grace,” she heard him call out, “Are you here?” Grace met him at the door with her pistol in her hand. “I’m here, ” she answered. “Surprised?” “Disappointed?” The expression on his face said it all.
Without waiting for his response, Grace picked up her coat and handbag and moved toward the door. She glanced down at the packed bags she had placed there; she didn’t want their contents any longer, but knew there would be limited funds to replace those things she would truly need. She picked up those few small bags and walked out toward the car. The sun was just rising as she drove away from her home for the last time.
Her first stop on that early morning was at the bank, where she pulled as much cash as the ATM would allow from their joint account. Reginald would be sure to freeze their joint account as soon as he was able, so she would need to be there when the bank opened if she hoped to get anything more. The next few hours were spent in nervous anticipation. When the bank at last opened their doors, Grace was the first one through them. She emptied her own account, but thought twice about taking all of Reginald’s money. She decided to leave him just enough to cover his expenses until his next check was due, but not enough to come after her. Grace would need all the money she could get to establish a new life for herself.
She had used her card to put fuel in her gas tank, and to buy a few provisions for the trip. How far she could go in the car was very much in question, for she felt sure Reginald had already reported it stolen. Each time she passed a patrol car, she felt certain she was about to be pulled over and arrested.
Grace remembered that her friend had a sister who lived just outside Washington DC. She had spoken with her in the days just after her friend had disappeared, and she had denied any knowledge of her whereabouts. “Of course she did,” Grace thought, “I wouldn’t have told a stranger either.” She still had the phone number, and hoped to be able to speak with her in person. Maybe she could tell her how to find her friend, or maybe be of help with her own escape. She would take a train into the city, then find her way from there. She turned her car in the direction of the nearest town, a twenty minute drive away. She was on her way, taking the back roads and driving carefully so as to draw no undue attention to herself. She looked closely at every car she passed, but only saw one that she knew. That was enough; she turned her direction in the direction of a town situated one hour to the west. This time she made the trip unseen.
The train station was located on the outside of town. Grace parked her car between two other vehicles and quickly made her way inside. The pistol felt heavy in her pocket, and she could only hope that her carry permit was enough to allow her to keep it with her. Certainly, she felt safer with it than without, and she decided to take her chances.
To Grace’s surprise, there was a line at the ticket counter. She got into that line, hoping to disappear into the crowd. As she had hoped, the vendor barely looked up as she printed her ticket. With time to spare before her train, Grace found a seat and opened one of her sandwiches. She was hungrier than she thought, and it tasted good. She watched the crowd as she ate; families, business men, and young people buried deep in their phones, each with their own reasons for travel. Quite suddenly, she saw a familiar face in the crowd. It was a police officer from her home town, and he was obviously looking for someone. Had her car been spotted? Grace lowered her head and slowly moved closer to a large, active family. With her eyes always on the officer, she moved past them to the restroom. She stayed there until time for her train, taking the opportunity to change her clothing and her hair style, cutting bangs where none had been before, and shortening the rest.
Grace thought she had packed light, but even her two small bags were proving to be problematic. Individually they were not heavy, but together with her handbag they were unwieldy. While in the restroom, she eliminated much of her clothing and a few other non-essentials, making her load lighter and easier to manage. The remainder went back into the second bag, which she left behind in the farthest stall. When her train was announced, Grace took a quick look around, then strode confidently toward the platform and boarded her train.
Grace found a seat and settled in for the ride. She’d had little rest the night before, and she soon fell asleep. She was jostled awake hours later when the train pulled into its first station. Neither she nor her possessions had been disturbed during her slumber, and she was certainly more rested and refreshed than before, but she knew that she didn’t dare allow that to happen again. She was just beginning to realize how much her life was about to change.
Many hours later, the train pulled into Union Station in Washington DC. It was a bustling transportation center unlike anything Grace had ever seen before. Throngs of people lined the platforms which bordered the subway tracks which seemed to go in all directions. The architecture was stunning, with vaulted ceilings which functioned to keep the noise to a reasonable level. There were lots of shops and an expansive food court. It was like a city unto itself, and Grace took a moment to wonder if any homeless lived here. No, she decided, it was convenient, but far too expensive.
Gathering her things about her, Grace joined the myriad of commuters and tourists as they headed out into the city; just one more face in the crowd. One of her early errands had been to purchase a “burner” phone, and to discard her own. Now that she was in the city, she would make her one phone call, and hope for the best.
The view outside the front door was impressive, especially for a first time visitor. Beyond the taxis and tour busses, the Capitol building surveyed the city from atop its hill. Grace wished she had time to see the city, but this was a luxury she could not afford. This was Drumpf’s city now, and the less time she spent here, the better off she would be.
Crossing the busy road into a green space, Grace made her call. The phone rang several times, and she was about to hang up when it was finally answered. “Hello.” she heard, “Who is this, please?” Breathing a sigh of relief, she answered, “My name is Grace. You might not remember, but we spoke before.” There was a moment of silence, then came the words, “Of course. Grace. My sister has mentioned your name. Is there something I can to for you?” Her heart suddenly beating loudly in her ears, Grace realized that she didn’t know what to ask. “Can you,” she began timidly, “Can you tell me where she is? Is she alive?”
An unexpected harshness came into the voice that answered, “Uncle Drumpf has ears everywhere in this city, and he would like nothing better than the answer to those questions. So, no, I can’t give you the information you seek.” Her voice softened as she continued, “The truth is, I don’t have the answers to give you. Enjoy the city, Grace; there’s plenty of tour busses to take you to all the sights; I’m sure you’ll find it worth your money.” The phone suddenly went silent.
A confused Grace made her way back to Union Station. She had seen a table outside the doors where a woman was selling tours. One was as good as another, she supposed, and she purchased a one day ticket. “Climb on and off as often as you like,” the woman said, “Your ticket’s good for twenty-four hours from the beginning of your first ride.” Grace wondered if there was a point to it all, but she had no other plans, and didn’t know what else to do. Besides, she really did want to see the city, and this would give her time to think. She climbed the narrow steps to the open deck of the bus, found a seat near the back, and plugged in the earbuds they had provided. The guide was interesting and informative as the bus made its way through the city streets, but after a while her mind began to wander. Although things would never be the same, the country had begun to recover from the devastation caused by the bombings. It hardly seemed possible that this had happened only a few months ago; “Just another distraction from the real horror,” Grace thought. People were strong there, resilient; could she become one of them. She had hoped to find some… she wasn’t sure what here. Help? Information? Encouragement? That apparently wasn’t to be; rarely had she felt so alone.
Grace felt exposed seated atop that double decker bus. Each time someone new came on board, she ducked her head until she was sure they weren’t looking for her. “Even paranoids have real enemies,” she reminded herself, “Better safe than sorry.” Still, it made her feel like a fool, and it diminished what joy she got from seeing the city.
When the bus came to a stop at Ford’s Theater, she got off long enough to buy a “MAGA” cap from a stand across the street. She bemoaned the money wasted, and she abhorred the thought of wearing it, but the cap would hide her face and hair, making her feel a little less visible and afraid. She climbed back on board and took her seat, donning her cap and tucking her hair behind her ears. She hoped that it made her blend in with the other tourists.
There were plenty of other empty seats when he climbed those stairs, but he chose the one next to Grace. She moved her bag closer under her feet to make room for him, but didn’t make eye contact. He leaned across her to plug in his earbuds, and she saw he was smiling. “I never tire of seeing the city this way,” he said.
They road in relative silence for a while, with only the patter of the tour guide in their ears. During a lull in the chatter, he lowered his head to whisper to her, “Don’t be frightened, Grace; I’m here to help you.” She froze, blinking hard. “It is Grace, isn’t it?”
“How?” she asked, the question carried on a quickly exhaled breath. He chuckled, a deep sound which spoke of both amusement and relief. “You aren’t the first one I’ve spoken to,” he said. “I was sent to find you, but since we didn’t know what you looked like, I’ve spent my morning riding tour busses and speaking to women with bags at their feet. I’m sure the others thought I was quite mad.”
The tour guide had started talking again, and for a while they listened to his words. “This really is a fascinating place,” Grace thought. When it was announced that the Lincoln Memorial was to be the next stop, her companion said, “This is where we get off. You really need to see this one.” They walked off the bus with the rest of the tourists, her bag hanging from his shoulder. “There’s time,” he said, “and you really should experience what’s here.” He put his arm around her shoulder as they strolled from one site to another; the Korean War Memorial, and the Vietnam Wall. Those were her wars, Grace thought. How many more monuments would have to be built here; how many more wars would there be before people came to their senses.
Anyone who saw them would think they were a couple on vacation. Grace was surprised at how much she was enjoying herself. They had saved the Lincoln Memorial for last. It was an image with which she had been familiar most of her life, but nothing prepared her for the reality. The grand scale of it took her breath away. Her companion smiled to see her reaction. “Come with me,” he said, taking her hand and leading her behind the statue. Even there, the details were amazing. In the relative privacy afforded there, he turned her toward him. “We’ll be walking from here,” he said. “Arlington is just a twenty minute walk up the sidewalk. I can take you as far as the gate to the cemetery, but that’s where I leave you.” Grace had a moment of panic, “Where do I go from there?” she asked.
He shook his head, “I don’t know,” he said, “None of us knows the whole path, but there’s someone there who knows the next step.” She nodded her head in understanding. They made the walk in comfortable silence. At the gate, he hugged her good-bye. “Good luck,” he said as he handed over her bag, “and lose the cap; you won’t need it where you’re going.” She gave him a weak smile, then turned to enter the gate. Turning back, she said, “Thanks for your…”, but he had already gone.
Grace turned back toward the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. In this place where so many brave souls had come to rest, her new life would begin. She took one step forward and began the journey that would lead to her future.