Seriously, this morning I am going to a yoga class thanks to my wonderful friend and colleague and her boyfriend with a rock star gym membership. I have to say that I went last Saturday and had a near-spiritual experience. I believe I dedicated my intention to doing a great job teaching Sunday school, which I teach on Saturday. Don’t ask. Well, after yoga, I had a great class and felt the amazing effects from the exercise, most of the week long, save for when the administration ruined my calm, but I have already resolved this issue thanks to my good Union brothers, including the president of our local.
This morning my yoga intention will be to work on my novel. The class is an hour and a half long, so it is quite an intense time to concentrate. The room is also very hot, though its not hot yoga, and the sweating is cleansing. It feels like a Hogan, almost, a Native American sweat lodge, except there is no smoke.
The quiet space will give me time to really think: I didn’t have the mental space to sit with the characters like I wanted to because I had so many meetings this week. And now, we have to start packing to move our apartment by December (Help me Jesus!).
But enough of the world and now back to The Harvest.
I think I am going to write the next chapter of the book and develop the street urchin a little more. This is a kid that the main character haggles with at the market. That is the one idea I have been playing with. In any system, not everyone is going to follow the rules, but when you live under fascism, you just don’t know whom to trust. Not everything is as it appears either. That is the sense I want to capture with this next chapter.
I also decided to finish the Ashley point of view and then write the Lupe Ramirez point of view. Lupe is going to encounter the revolutionaries while Ashley is stuck obeying the system. Somehow, the two will have to reconnect at the end of the novel.
Now, in terms of the research, I am going to start watching cage fights with women and YouTube fights. I think that is a valid form of research, since I can’t go to a dojo. I guess I could but right now I’m struggling to get through the yoga. Some fiction just needs to stay fiction. Anyway, the point is that I want to include some hand-to-hand combat between the elite women in my novel. I have never been in a fight my whole life, with another girl. I only fought my neighbor Julie who fought very dirty, I might add. He got his ass beat because he tried scratching my eye out.
Anyway, here is to finding your calm and concentration. Have a blessed weekend.
I have been thinking about the other point of view I want to interweave in The Harvest. I don't think I have seen a post-apocalyptic novel have a point of view from two central characters, well maybe The Enemy series. That should be kind of cool; plus, I work with young people quite a bit, and they are at that silly, goofy age, so I can research how they behave.
I also had an idea late last night that the boys should have female names to gain favor from their mothers and their father's last names to further mark their low status in society. So, I am changing Allan's name to Guadalupe Rodriguez and have Allan be the name Ashley calls him. I am still playing with that idea.
So, I will keep thinking about this whole plot and hope to iron out more of the chapters this weekend and just sit with the characters.
Below is another excerpt of the draft, which is quite rushed. It's page #3.
“Two liters, not worth the risk,” says the woman, “You should go out on Sundays and with your escort.”
I snort, “Mom sold it. Besides, she doesn’t have the money to have me engineered, again. Not that they’ll take me,” I pause and look over my should, “I still can’t eat government protein. I tried again this morning. Doc B says it’s the enzyme, but she hasn’t reported me. She can’t run the test to figure out what is wrong with me. It costs too much money, and mom is already so in-debt from the mods I have.” I stare at her, “Mrs. J, are you sure the meat doesn’t come from the harvested? Is it human meat?” I always ask her the same questions ,and she always answers the same.
“No way, that’s just a rumor to keep people more afraid. People are harvested for organs and whatever the government needs. Most people are intact and become servants.”
I give her a skeptical look, “Right, Mrs. J. Intact.”
“The Doc’s a good woman,” she says switching the subject, “She was one of my students once, before all this—” she says, “You’re so tall.”
“What?” I ask.
“You’re so tall and smart. I’m worried someone will want to patron you,” she looks out the small kitchen window, “Then, I won’t see you anymore.”
I give her a knowing look, “No one will take me. You know that. It’s too expensive to feed someone who can’t eat government meat.”
The sirens end and the announcer reports, “There will be no more gatherings for thirty six hours. Be productive. Be accountable. Be safe.”
“Liars. Liars. Liars,” I say in the same robotic voice, “This is the third harvest in two weeks. Do you think we are gong to war again?”
Mrs. Jenkins gives me a squeeze, “We’re always at war. Now, go take this to your mother and come back.” She hands me a small pouch, “Plant this in the rooftop like I taught you. Be sure no one sees.”
“Ah Mrs. J, everyone has a rooftop garden hidden under solar tarps—“
“Yeah, but not for girls. Now hurry along!”
I know she is right. The gardens are to grow food for boys, the lucky boys who have brave parents. My mother jokes that the extra food is to fatten them for the harvest, but she is bitter having lost two sons by the age of sixteen. I never got to meet them, so they don’t mean much to me, but she still mourns them, even though truly, she doesn’t know what became of them.
Solidarity is what these last few days have been about. Up above is a picture of a flyer the U.S.A. group posted near the escalators. The messages made me smile, especially this one because it pretty much sums it up. You are home, and we will keep you safe.
This week has also been about Union and faculty meetings. In terms of the Union, I have three, two for my chapter and one with all the House of Delegates. People seem to be very supportive in these dark times. I also enjoyed being with my colleagues in a very special way this week because it reminded me that teaching is an amazing profession. I am also proud of the principled stances people are taking, in general, to stand with undocumented students and other groups.
That is why, I haven’t written anything more than agendas and reports, which probably means I am going to veg out before I go to bed. The creative beast needs to feast on something fun. I also didn’t get to write my awesome analysis on the current political situation, and I was cut short when a faculty member wanted me to cover faculty issues. I hope people aren’t getting politicked out.
I am inspired to write an article. Why not? The ideas are weighing heavily on my mind, but I also have a great deal of hope for the future.
That’s all I got.
Hope for a better future and get your writing ideas through the muck of daily existence.
Yesterday, I was talking to a friend who writes all the time. He currently has screenplays, novels, short story collections, and poetry he’s working on. (What? No Broadway musical?) He also has two small children around the same age as mine, and as a busy mom and unionist, I asked, “Do you have a regular writing schedule? When do you have time to write?” I escape in the mornings as my Pamper Mistress Simona allows.
He said, “No. I pretty much sleep five hours a day.” It’s probably less, and I know for a fact that he quit drinking coffee, God bless him. Well, his narrative certainly gave me hope because if he can work on so many different projects, I can surely finish two projects.
Unfortunately, I have been so busy, I haven’t had time to sit with my characters, which was one of my writing goals this week. I have had non-stop reading and reading at work. The truth is that these days I am so tired, I get confused about what day of the week it is, and I wonder if it’s not post-Trump election stress. It may be a new physiological ailment. Instead, I have been talking about my plot line with my son, Antonio, apparently the other writer in the family, but he doesn’t have much of an attention span for real detail. (However, the other day, he barges into my office and says “Mom, if you every need any stories, come see me. I have a bunch.” What an amazing 6 year old.)
My husband doesn’t either, so really, I should talk to myself about my projects in spaces where people don’t think I’m losing my damn marbles. And if they do, I an always blame the current political situation. I’m talking to myself to deal with the idea of President Trump.
I also have an analysis I need to hammer out for myself and for my union sisters and brothers, which is an entirely different kind of writing. In it, I want to be honest about the very real threats to unions. I hope I am wrong, but my analysis is usually right.
And, this is all the time I have. I need to take a quick shower before running out the door to drop off my son at school.
This week, talking to yourself about your creative projects and anti-Trump ideas is O.K.
This is the first day that I have felt really down, and it's not because the KKK is planning a big celebration in North Carolina. That is actually not a surprise at all. Nor are Trump's cabinet appointments and projected appointments, which are terrifying. I am angry that instead of being their best selves, some administrators are squashing the democratic process at work or trying to.
It's like the election of Trump is giving people the right to be draconian in their fiefdoms. I mean, that has always been management's prerogative, to squash unions and faculty input, but in this political context, you would think they would want to actually build alliances, not take some gas and light a match and torch any semblance of democracy. I won't go into specifics because I am dealing with the issue.
Suffice it to say, that our voices need to be heard, especially when decisions affect our working conditions.
I don't have a writing goal set for this week. Actually, that's not true. This week, I will think about the plot line whenever I can and map out the next two chapters. I haven't been living with my characters as much as I should. That doesn't seem unreasonable given the amount of time I won't have.
That's all I got.
Today, see the best in people and be your best writing self.
Yesterday, I went to see the movie Trolls with my son. At first, I was like, “Damn, I have all of this studying and union work to do. Plus, I have this stack of essays to grade.” Blah, blah, blah. Then I though, “Damn it, this better not be a musical!” because I saw singing in the previews, and I am not partial to musicals. I’m not going to spoil the movie for you, but I really think it’s an anti-Fascist and anti-Racist movie. Yeah there was the glitter and singing, but fundamentally it espouses the ideas of working together for the interests of the whole group. Without spoiling it, the oppressors also had to reflect on who they are and what they do, and nested in the film was an unexpected love story. My favorite part was when one of the oppressors does the principled thing, after having contact with the Trolls. What a great message for our youth in today’s political context. Plus, the movie had some of my favorite songs in it like “True Colors” by Cindy Lauper. This, of course, has nothing to do with my novel, well it does in a way.
This morning, I mapped out two chapters and really left wiggle room with open-ended questions to consider. For me, a hard writing plan will probably kill the flow of ideas, though a map is good. Let’s just say in a map you can take multiple routes. You have to allow for twists and turns and the unforeseeable and frankly, you have to honor the driver, which is me. I am also pulling from this rich political context to add tension to my novel. It is a post-apocalyptic novel, after all.
For example, all of the appointments of what appear to be White Supremacists will definitely have an impact on women, not just people of color. You really can't attack one sector without attacking others, although I was reminded of an episode of Black Mirror Season 3, where the new forms of discrimination were based on genetic superiority. That is not a new concept in literature and film, but the State in that futuristic setting had essentially waged war against anyone who was categorized as being genetically defective. The military model was "Pure and Strong," but that comes at completely dehumanizing practices where the inferior groups were hunted down, globally.
I also realized after doing this exercise, that I need a longer prelude or some kind of prelude. I don’t want to rely on flashbacks, although that is a great literary device. Sometimes, there is no explanation for post-apocalyptic conditions in a novel, like the masterpiece The Road, but I do want some framework.
Anyway, my son is about to take his very first science project to school, which incidentally is why we went to the movies yesterday. Below is an image of the first habitat he modeled based on a coral reef. I am so proud of him because he did most of that work by himself!
(And in that rush, I forgot to post my blog!)
This morning, I decided to take a few steps back and work on the characters in my novel, The Harvest. I was getting annoyed that the characters were lacking definition and had similar letters in their last names, in this case the letter L. Besides, for a longer piece, the characters have to be more fleshed out, so I am working backwards, which is not too late since I am only fifty pages into it.
The novel is a post-apocalyptic science fiction piece where a fascist matriarchal rule was been the response to years of patriarchal warfare and devastation of the planet and disease. The disease more than anything sparks this bizarre pseudo-Feminist regime because the flu took a toll on the female population, and there was not an adequate response to it.
In addition, the sun has gotten so dangerously hot that alternate means of protein need to be created. The main character, in fact believes, that people are being harvested and processed to be eaten, and that is her continued suspicions, but the truth is worse and perhaps not so practical.
This morning I was going to plan out the chapters, but I have too much grading to do, and really want a visual map with sticky notes that I can move around and look to as I write, for inspiration, not limitation.
Of course, what may very well happen is that I write like I always do and let the characters and plot run their own course, which is fine for a short story. The problem is that a longer work is more difficult to maintain, in-check, mentally. I suppose that is why a chapter breakdown makes sense. Plus, I don’t want to get caught in a loop where the piece never finishes.
Last time I wrote this novel, the main character literally hit a wall in the plot, the underground border of the city. I didn’t know where else to take it, so I stopped. It stopped. That was over 15 years ago. (Holy shit, I am old.)
The characters, both of them, also need an antagonist. Or do they? I suppose the system itself can be the antagonist. Oh well, we will see as this work emerges.
Now, I’m off to help my son, who is as great a procrastinator as I was in school. My son has a science project I want to help him with, and I have to grade, and prepare a report for a community meeting, and I want to do a great job.
In a strange way, it feels like I didn’t get anything done yesterday, but I went to yoga for an hour and a half (which was a personal goal of mine), then taught Sunday school, then had a late lunch with family, and then went to Reconciliation and Church. All of these experiences were enriching and life giving. Plus, the homily was amazing.
The priest asked what we would want on our headstones and then to live accordingly. He urged us to live each day as though it were our last. So, head stone: “She loved and served humanity with utter joy.” What would you put on yours?
And I would want to write every day besides be the best human being possible, and that is what I plan to do. (Writing is not meant to be easy or fun all the time, either. It was hard today.) I also have to say that yesterday I started talking to a total stranger because the line of penitents was so long, and there is something wonderful about reconnecting with people or connecting with good strangers during these hard times and difficult days ahead.
We need to be the best human beings possible with each other.
Yesterday, I got a weird string of text messages that kept me thinking about stereotypes all day and through this morning. (And if you are reading this, dear friend who does not really understand me or my politics, know that I love and respect you.) I got a message from a friend who didn’t want me to discuss politics with said friend (although I never do and wasn’t planning on). Apparently, this friend does not read my blog or Facebook posts, which is fine.
What bothered me about the exchange was (1) My friend assumed I was going to discuss politics with her and proselytize, which I don’t do to anyone. In fact, I have been listening to people’s justifiable fears and spreading hope where the audience is open to it, and (2) My friend assumed that I was a true Blue Democrat and that blinded my world view. And this individual made a vast generalization based on ONE Facebook post.
To quote one of my political heroes, let me be very clear, I have been a consistent advocate for third parties and fight to create them, and not just during election season. I believe we need a party that fights for working classes and the poor and the dispossessed.
I voted for Hillary because I never lie to my husband. Had I written in Bernie Sanders or voted for Jill Stein, both of which I debated up until I got to the polls, I would never hear the end of it. Ever. I also voted for her because my relatives in California begged me to or else they would move back to Mexico, even though they are citizens. I have no doubt they are in route now. Finally, and most importantly, I voted for Hillary because I did not want the fascist Cheetos in office, period.
In the wee hours when I realized he had won, after refreshing the browser numerous times, I was angry. I was angry at the people who didn’t vote or refused to vote. I was angry at third party voters in swing states. I was angry at so-called Leftists who voted for Trump to stick it Hillary. I was even angrier at the Electoral College for supporting a fascist, despite the cumulative popular vote.
That was at 2a.m.. Throughout that morning, and within hours, I calmed down, and retargeted my anger at Donald Trump, the real enemy, and decided that I wanted to fight for my America. The real enemy is this fascist movement that will prove disastrous for most Americans, regardless of how they voted.
I can’t say this enough: I feel empathy for those people who think he is going to shepherd them out of poverty. We will have to reach out to his supporters who are hoping for a better world and won’t get it, no matter what color they are. When they wake up, we should be there ready to stand together, and reclaim our country.
For the others that are ideologically entrenched, there is no reaching out to them. They will have to come to their own conclusions based on their suffering.
All of this misunderstanding came about from one Facebook post, and my political views and myself were stereotyped and categorized incorrectly and unfairly.
In literature, of course, stereotypes can be exaggerated and educational. A master of the Dominican stereotype is Junot Diaz, but his work is always balanced by history and political analysis. I shudder to think how much research he does, but he does do it well. His characters aren't always likeable; in fact, few are which just adds to the reality of who he depicts.
I hope to be that intentional in my work. In fact, this morning I was planning on mapping out my novel with clearer purpose. However, the WiFi crapped out, and I had to retype this blog. Below is an excerpt on the novel I am rewriting, page 2. Oh, and on a funny side, here is some political humor (no, I don't smoke):
Here is to not stereotyping or being stereotyped, in real life. Enjoy the second page of my embryonic novel.
I look quickly to my right and see a red squad beating a young boy down. He is unusually fat for the neighborhood and is overburdened with water jugs. Water jugs! I only carry one, and although I can lift 40 pounds easily, the empty container seems to weigh more than anything. To my left a grey volunteer emerges out of nowhere and grabs for my arm, but I offer a swift punch to her throat and easily scamper away into Mrs. Jenkens’ apartment. Maybe she will get it, even though she volunteers. I despise volunteers. They are normal women who can’t afford genetic modifications, unfortunate women who couldn’t find a sponsor. Still, that doesn’t give them the right to harvest us. Especially not me.
I am a girl.
I look for any squad member that might be lurking about. Hiding from the squads inside your home is illegal. Being hidden in others’ homes is frowned upon, but Mrs. Jenkens doesn’t care what the neighbors think. She doesn’t care if she gets sent to the processing plant because she too is too old to be productive anymore.
“Thought I was going to have to get out there with my shot gun,” chuckles the old woman. She sits by the window, unafraid of gunfire. I know she has been waiting for me because she is holding the old history book in her hand, the one with all the pages in it. There is the familiar smell of green tea and black market biscuits. I spy them on the table and besides the adrenaline rush, I feel a strong surge of hunger. I wonder how much they cost her; in the market, non-meat products run astronomically high. Last week, I traded a whole leg of dog for mom’s sanitary products. Mom never said where she got the leg; dogs are rare. I give Mrs. Jenkens a sincere grin, and know better than to pester her for details.
“Oh please,” I answer catching my breath, “You wouldn’t last a millisecond. Out there,” I point, “With your broken hip,” I aim at her hip.
I try not to stare at the bright orange shawl she wears, “Or that ‘kill me’ flag you have on.” Only Mrs. Jenkens favors them over the military style uniform retirees wear. Today, the woman sports a knee-high pink dress.
“Hmmm,” I admonish with mock-disapproval, “Trying to get arrested with those clothes?”
Taking my gallon, she walks with the step of a young girl into the kitchen, despite her slight hobble “Bah, no one cares about a woman over fifty. I don’t taste good anyway.”
“Don’t you mean sixty?” I say. A loud bang makes me head for the kitchen but not too quickly. After all, we are trained to be unafraid of death.
When I enter Mrs. Jenkens has the gallon filled to the brim. I never ask how, but she always has water. Always has enough, but then, she lives alone.
Yesterday, I got a text message from Adam, the amazing editor, of my short story collection Down South where the Water Is Warm. I guess he must have needed an escape from our incoming political nightmare, but I won't say too much about that today. I want to talk about how people perceive our writing and stereotypes, the ones that make us mad.
I was sure surprised by his text. He read the first two stories, "Down South where the Water Is Warm" and "The Invitation", and he said first that he loved them (hurrah!), second that he was moved to tears.
Moved to tears?
You know how sometimes you write something, and people react to it differently than you imagined? That's happened to me before where people read my prose or poetry and thought the writing was sad. And cried. I guess, I didn't see my stories that way. To me, these are small windows of what life was, is, and could be like in the barrio.
In the second story, I thought was very important to include my neighbors, the Cocopahs. I purposely wrote it that way because for many years they were practically invisible. When I was growing up, their reservation was abandoned, and the people in my barrio never had contact with them. The misconceptions about them were absurd: alcoholic, pagans, lazy. At school, no one would talk to them, but in high school, I made it a point to befriend them.
They were nothing, absolutely nothing, like the stereotypes my father taught me.
Now, of course, life is very different for them. A few years back, they opened up a casino, and although I haven't been through the reservation in a long while, the shanty town of before has been replaced by proper houses. There is electricity at night.
The casino, supposedly gives money to scholarships, and more than that, it provides jobs. Now, Mexicans and whites alike have a lot of contact with the Cocopah, even if it is to lose their pay checks.
Below are some images of real indians.
I remember one time, while gambling, a senior citizen had a heart attack. I believe she had lost the last penny on her social security check. At least that's what all the Mexican laborers said. I have never forgotten that tale and think it should serve as a caution for those elderly people who are addicted to this place.
The Cocopah Casino, just happens to be in my barrio on the corner of Avenue B and County 15th. My Papa y Mama frequent the it often, especially on Wednesdays when they get a $5 credit. My mom just cashes hers, most of the time, and my dad spends a lot of time playing on the penny slots. In fact, yesterday, she went for her birthday meal, free birthday meal (Happy Birthday Mama!) and then went home. Papi of course dropped her off and went right back to his penny slots.
Last summer, I took my son to a new kiddie casino, but it sucked. The games were too much money, and the prizes were worse than the ones from Chuck E Cheese. However, in the summer, when it's brutally hot, the air conditioning and relatively reasonable food prices are worth the patronage.
What I think is funny is that people probably think Simona is a little Cocopah. She has the right features and skin tone, and hair. But, as soon as they see Aaron, they realize she is a mixed child. I wonder in life, if people will keep asking that fucked up question, "Are you Chinese? Indian? What are you?" We will have a proper response for all of that bullshit.
Writing helps to deal with this racism and unnecessary need to put everyone into a box.
Now, in regards to my current writing, this morning I got up to work on my novel, but instead, took another look at the short stories, the first two that Adam was praising. I caught some despicable typos and added a few bits here and there, but not much. I just enjoyed rediscovering the additions I made in the past. In fact, I had forgotten how "The Invitation" ended altogether, and upon re-reading it this morning, thought it ended well. Not everything in life has closure, and fiction shouldn't either, but this story ended with hope.
My novel, the next project, is what I'm going to work on until my daughter wakes up, so in a way, her waking me up at 2a.m. these last few days has been a blessing. (I actually thought I had woken up at 5a.m., but thought, "Shit, 4a.m. is much better.")
I decided this writing project will include two points of view. That is ambitious, even for me, but I have the complimentary pieces already written, and I think it will be great to have points of view from two genders. We will see. (I hope Adam keeps wanting to work with me! If he likes the short stories, he will love this one, I think.)
Here is to ambition and creativity and destroying all Indio stereotypes. And to the Cocopah Nation, may it continue to thrive in the years to come.
Yesterday, I worked on my post-Apocalyptic novel for quite a while; I will post a first-page excerpt far below. It just so happened that I was starting that project as Trump was elected. Like many of you I was in denial, severely shocked, utterly terrified, and mourning the death of my country. That lasted a few hours before I arose to face my family and really consider what kind of person I wanted to be in this fascist regime.
I thought hard about what message I wanted to put forward. People are already agitated, so I decided to talk about a vision for a new America. One that is possible with jobs, healthcare, housing, in short the desire that drove people to vote for Trump. Is this utopia possible? Yes. Is it possible under Trump? Hell No!
I didn't get heavy on the political economy and destruction of our unsustainable economic system, but I ask you, if people can't work, how will they buy any goods? How can an economy function that way? These questions are real that we, too, face in my family with one income in an expensive urban setting.
I believe Adam, yes that Adam, my awesome editor, summarized the current political and economic situation best out of all the Facebook posts I have been reading:
"Apocalypse" comes from the word for "Revelation," which literally means "to reveal" or "to remove the veil." The structures that hide the fundamental history and contradictions of our country are breaking down. The capitalist system has reached its limits. We will see clearer soon. It will get uglier. But a new world is on the other side. What kind is up to us."
Throughout yesterday morning, I also had to think about my students. Our discussing these difficult topics was not even a question. It's what we do almost on a daily basis.
But before I went into work, I found myself reassuring parents at my son's school. I smiled at them and heard their angst.
At church, I was hugging people and just listening to their fears. Faith they already have, but I urged them to stay strong, and organize. I told them my vision, and they agreed. They are Christians after all.
What did get to me was how the children were responding; some of the grades had to attend Mass that day, which was so necessary. In describing their feelings, after the priest asked them how they were doing, they used adjectives like: scared, confused, disappointed, happy for him, sad.
Then, I went to work. I talked to my colleagues, and we comforted each other. But, again, I listened and listened some more. I shared my vision and urged them to take heart. We will overcome together because we must.
Then, a student came to my office, in tears, anguished, fearful. I listened and we talked, real talk. We also listened to speeches on my phone. More tears. But a glimmer of hope was there after sharing our visions of what is possible.
Then onto teach class. Both bodies of students really wanted to address the cataclysm that was that election. We discussed the political process and the flaws in it, and their fears. People were again crying, angry, angry, so angry, afraid. Afraid for their undocumented relatives. Afraid for themselves. But in all the discussion, more hope.
The students are organizing and more than just protests. They are going to Standing Rock. They went downtown (though I urged them to be safe).
They are awake, and there is hope in that critical consciousness, that class consciousness that could pull us out of this devastating moment in history.
That was my day yesterday, and it was a great day to be a professor. It was a great day to be a human being. It was a wonderful day to be a mother and wife. It was a great day to be on the right side of justice and history.
Below is an excerpt on my novel. It is coming along OK, but I am going to do what a good writer should, since it is still a draft. I am going to plan out the chapters and characters more. The conflict, struggles, and resolutions also need to be fine tuned. I am also toying with the idea of offering both points of view, alternatively. After all, I already have the other point of view, which is Alan's world view. I am writing this novel for the third time. This time, it's flowing better.
Enjoy. And here's to a vision of a truly democratic America where everyone has a house, healthcare, education, in short, life free from fascism and repression and economic devastation. #FightForward
My mother hands me an old gallon container; this one is grey without a filter. I look out the window and see no Red Guards on the street. No Guards means no Harvest, most of the time.
“Now,” says my mother, as if I haven’t been doing this run since I was six years old, “Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t stay out in the sun too long. If you hear the sirens, run to the old bunker. Just last week, Mrs. Lopez’s boy was harvested right before he got to his safe spot. You can’t hide here during harvest.”
“Mom,” I sigh looking at her weary face. She is leaner than I remember with faded green eyes and perpetual orange stains on her hands and face from the processing plant. Her hair is a knot over her head with nothing holding it tight but a wispy strand of her own graying hair. I want to give her a biting remark, but instead I smile and say, “Don’t worry Mom. I’m the fastest runner in my class and besides, there was just a harvest yesterday.”
Mom hesitates like she wants to tell me something, but even plant workers are not supposed to talk about their trade.
“Just be careful,” she gives me an unusually long hug, “Remember-“
I clamp my hand over her mouth like I used to as a toddler and say in a robotic tone, “ ‘Be productive. Be accountable. Be safe.’” I take my hand off her worried face, “I got the red ribbon again this month. I will be safe.” It’s true. I have gotten the red ribbon award for being productive, accountable, and never getting wounds in combat.
I step out into the harsh glaring sun wearing a large Panama hat. Panama was once a country, and that is all they tell us in school. I walk confidently because running is not allowed, but I manage to walk 3.5 miles an hour like I have purpose, when my only purpose is to get clean water.
Half way down the street, my heart freezes. The sirens begin softly, like an old song you can’t forget, and then the sound rises to a near immobilizing pitch. I run, making sure not to drop the gallon. I wonder where everyone is or if someone got an underground notice I didn’t. I crash hard into an old man. It’s the homeless man who has been avoiding harvest since I was a little girl: Old Hope. He’s too old to be processed, but I always wondered what they did with spare meat. I hope I never find out.
For a moment, we both have the same impulse. Though I am only twelve, I am strong and lethal. I have learned fifteen ways of killing someone, two with my bare hands. I could maim him or at least stun him, so he will be left behind. But instead, we both get up and run in opposite directions. I guess we are not productive citizens after all. I head down Victory Road toward the retiree compound. She will be waiting for me, my old friend.