Dirty. My only impression of Santa Fe, Taos, the dusky hills of Reno. Dirty and dusty, in need of a good rain, an air-cleansing fern. I never cared for denuded hills dotted with sage. I clung to the rain-splotched sitkas and the great, thick red cedars. I moved up here for the cabin in the drippy, wet woods, for the creek full of steelhead and the white peaks in the distance. An insurrection doesn’t start in a dirty, hot desert. Not a good one. Not one worth fighting.

The Canadians. It starts there, those Europeons in disguise, smug and liberal. Gays marrying gays. Injection sites where the junkie whores shoot up right alongside their pimp ass boyfriends. Nobody talks about sin anymore in Canada. Which is why they want to come down here, spread their liberal white wings over the land, their big flannel ass pressing on our faces. Their flag is a dead leaf. If it’s red, it’s dead. I hid out there, the story was that I cached shit all over Whatcom, mortars and cash and grenades dug into holes and covered. I had maps. I could get you to the biggest stash of assault rifles north of Ft. Bragg. That’s what they said. They said it because I told them, but no one had ever believed a word I had said before, so why the hell would they have bought that load of horshit?

But that’s not how I got into it. I was out at ranges, shooting off rounds, hanging out with the like-minded, suspicious and hungry for friends. We started talking up politics back in the Clinton years, about the body count and Vince Foster and the goddam cum stain on that bitch’s dress, and we figured it out. Pieced it together over years of talking, mostly just pissing and moaning, but some of it real talking. We were at Bob’s Burgers and Brew, chewing charred meat when it occurred to me. There had been all this talk of rail lines, light rail, monorails from here to Vancouver, and we got a little nervous. But why? What bugged us? Then came the words Free Trade Zone, sounds like something just perfectly designed to kick the honest fisherman’s ass, the kind of thing to drive a mechanic right out of his own shop. But how? We were tossing that around, trying to figure it out.

“Communists. Want us all eatin’ from the same trough.” Victor was still blaming Commies, the poor fuck.

“Nah. The Clintons get kickbacks from those free trade deals. Down in Mexico?” He said it Mexeeeco. “Down there, they get a cut. VW factory, IBM call center. Hillary gets a new fuckin’ pink suit.” Sam. Sam the man. Sammy was closer, homing in. He listened to AM radio.

Then Mory said it. “The U.N.”

And there it was, the answer. Canada, The Clintons and the U.N. were conspiring, were rolling over this hippy fucking county, liberal all down the I-5 corridor, just zip down to Seattle and start from there. Take over. Like that damn grunge music. All the way to San Jose. And the only people with balls enough to stop them were the four of us sitting around the table at Bob’s Burgers and Brew. God tapped my shoulder and winked at them. It was time.

“We need to stockpile.”

The guys looked at me, Mory with ketchup on his cheek, Victor with that stupid mustache, Sam with his hairlip. We ain’t pretty, but God clearly didn’t care.

“Stockpile what?” Sam had the look of a little boy with that hairlip.

“Everything.” Cash, food, shit left over from Y2K, Mory’s damn covered wagon in case the world ran out of oil, and weapons. It wasn’t really a plan yet, just a method. An idea.

Mory tapped his beer mug with his Masonic ring. “We need to move slowly, stay off the grid, stop paying taxes, talk on land lines.” He had no shortage of paranoia. These were, in fact, all things Mory was already doing. I felt a little shift in the group, felt Sam and Victor taking it in. I wanted power. I wanted to be the leader. It sounds stupid now, looking out over those damn dusty hills, the landscape of my childhood, but then it was like needing water, like hunger.

“I got some shit out there already.” After all, I could go out and bury some cans of food and a little cash, and who would know there weren’t any grenades?

“Where?” Victor blinked slowly, as if he had three eyelids. A lizard.

“The woods. Can’t say. Around Mount Baker. Down near the Nooksack. I’ve been setting out caches for years. I saw this coming during Carter.”

It was like catching chum and calling it King Salmon. You just want to be in the boat, you don’t really have to row. They were all looking, interested.

“We could have drills.” I could set up targets, beer cans, straw dummies. We would do it right. Mory stuck out that hand with the ring and we piled on top of it. “The Core,” I announced. “We’ll be called The Core.”

Sam slid his hand out of the pile. “What’s that mean?”

 

A year later, we were making connections, getting calls from Michigan, North Carolina, we had an office in my garage and photos of Ruby Ridge, Eric Robert Rudolph, Bill Clinton under the bright red rings of a target. And then Ricky happened into town. He just showed up at a meeting, saw a flier in California and came all the way up to Washington to check us out. He shot with us and pulled semi automatics out of his trunk. He knew military tactics and Farsi. He was blond and young and swept us out of bed at dawn to hunt. He trained with Spec Ops. He was way off the grid—according to the Feds, he didn’t even fucking exist. He cracked good jokes. We were all manly, but still a little in love.

He told us about the ultimate. The bombmaking. He had been teasing us, that we didn’t know jack about assembling pipe bombs. The war was going to be won (did we not watch the Columbine massacre on TV?) with bombs. Little, home made devices. Maybe napalm, too. We gathered at the back table of Bob’s to hear him describe the uranium in smoke detectors, how to get it out and enrich it. He was going to teach us.

We met on a stormy, spring night in a storage shed. There were twenty of us by now, but only The Core was really in the know. The four of us sat up front. Only I knew where the supposed caches were. I made up a safety deposit box with the map in it. I made up a key that I keep strapped to my arm under my holster. I bullshitted so much, I don’t even remember what all I told them. Mory tapped that Mason ring on the table, eager to begin. Victor shaved his mustache and his head and wore cammo all the time now. I wore a suit. It was respect. I was humbled by learning about nukes and malatov cocktails.

Ricky strode to the front, his chest out, his blond hair in a loose ponytail. He wrung his hands a little, and Vic and I exchanged glances. He looked nervous. “Tonight we’re going to learn some top-secret shit, so don’t anyone walk out of here talking.” He handed around boxes of handcuffs. We all took them.

“The first lesson is how to get out of handcuffs. You’re going to have to know this, because our people get arrested a lot. Tax evasion, illegal weapons, whatever. So handcuff yourself to your partner.”

I was cuffed to Victor and Mory. We didn’t like the hard metal on our wrists. We struggled a little, tightening the cuffs. The clicks of metal echoed in the room. Then silence.

“Okay, guys. You’re all under arrest. Boy, you just made my job easy.”

And it was over. Ricky, The Outsider, the Californian, the fucking Fed. I got ten. Vic and Mory got five. The Masons kicked Mory out and took his ring. It killed me seeing that hand with that white empty space.

And now I’m back in fucking Nevada. Lizards and cacti and lazy motherfuckers. Old people. Older than me. Prison was hard, but this, this is hell. I reckon we weren’t wrong about the invasion, it’s happening. And the country will be sorry I won’t be there to stop it.

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Frances Badgett

“Patriot Act”