Fireworks at Midnight

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Mark was always a deep sleeper, slept through many tornado sirens as a kid in Kansas, but as soon as he became a parent he would awaken at the slightest sound, a useful skill when you’re living in an imploding civilization. The question now was what could his kids sleep through. 

The man in front of him didn’t think he’d actually pull the trigger. Mark wasn’t sure himself. It took commitment to pull that trigger; you didn’t squeeze off a round like with his .22. You really had to pull. The trigger was so heavy because the gun, a .45-caliber SIG Sauer P250, had no safety. It was a good gun, compact, powerful, fit his hand. He’d have liked a bigger magazine, something that held more than eight rounds, although if you need more than eight bullets you’re probably in the type of shit that’s too deep for a gun to get you out of.

The neighbors probably wouldn’t report a shot but you could never really know. The cops had installed acoustic surveillance, which was only supposed to pick up gunshots but in reality was capable of picking up any sounds and most certainly was collecting more than the cops ever let on. You never knew if it was working or not. People kept tampering with the devices and the police kept coming out to repair them. Even when the system worked it was only effective less than a quarter of the time. Not the worst odds, and this motherfucker was really tempting him.

Until this one he’d never wanted to pull the trigger. He still had this infantile notion that he could convert his enemies, so he wanted to hear their stories, find out what motivated them, connect with them, find common ground. He had resentments, too, deep pockets of anger and hatred, but he didn’t waste them on scapegoats like immigrants and trans folk. There was something about this one, maybe the exaggeratedly toothy Obama mask he’d been wearing, that made him not give a shit about his background or motivation.

He half-believed we’d have been better off if Trump had won the election. It would have been a circus, the kind of circus where the tightrope snaps and an acrobat breaks his neck and later the lions escape and kill fourteen children before disappearing into the woods, but maybe there wouldn’t have been vigilante right-wing death squads roaming the streets in Trump’s America. Shit, they would have just gotten jobs with ICE. People were prepared for some increases in whacko militias, but everyone thought the death squads thing was gallows humor, including many of the internet trolls who’d used the hashtag, but the death squads, encouraged by their leader’s refusal to concede and his continued claims that the election had been rigged, manifested after the election like a bloodthirsty ghost that’s been trapped in an alternate universe for six centuries and accidentally summoned by a group of kids at a slumber party. The new president tried her best to ignore them. She had no qualms about putting immigrant children in cages or dropping bombs on wedding parties in predominantly Muslim countries, but cracking down on violent fascists in her own country was a political risk she wasn’t willing to take. Might look like she was targeting her political enemies. Anything she did would be used against her in the next election, and it was easier to do nothing. After the first wave of killings, independent antifascist militias sprang up in targeted neighborhoods like this one. 

“I got a family.”

“So did that boy you all murdered. I know his family. They’re good people. He had a family too.”

“Still would if they hadn’t snuck into our country to—”

“Shut the fuck up.”

He waggled the gun at his hostage, breathed deeply to fight the shaking. He wasn’t sure if this white-winger had tracked him down or was here by coincidence. Maybe more were coming. Maybe he should call the police. Maybe this dude was the police. Maybe he could put a bullet through his brain, bury the corpse in the garden, and go back to bed. The only thing that was certain was this fucker would’ve killed his family, even if he was there by mistake. It wasn’t like he would’ve broken in, wielding two .38s, and been like “Y’all are white? Wrong house, so sorry,” and tiptoed politely out.

“You know who I am?”

“Got a pretty good idea.”

“You know my name?”

The son of a bitch just smiled at him.

“You look like the dog that caught the car. You don’t want to shoot me. I’m not the bad guy. I’m fighting for my family, my country, my heritage. You should be fighting with us.”

“I’m fighting with you fuckers.”

“You’re fighting against us. What’re you even doing here? This ain’t your hood. Last thing I expected when I saw this shitty house in this shitty hood was a white dude living in it. White guilt? Been there. Over it. There’s more to life.”

“You picked the wrong house to break into.”

“Yeah. I can see that.”

Maybe it was fate. He’d never been much for religion but maybe it was God. The toddler had coughed and when Mark went in the room his youngest son was about to fall out of the bed so he brought him into their bed, then looked out the window and saw the guy creeping through the front gate. He grabbed the pistol from the safe, went out the bathroom window, and sneaked around the side of the house to surprise the intruder, a pudgy but muscular white guy hiding behind a mask. He slid back the chamber in a way meant to get attention and coaxed the fucker to the back yard, had him sit in a ratty old lawn chair while he mulled it all over.

“Mind if I smoke?”

He let his silence answer. The commando lit a cigarette and offered one. They called themselves commandos, even had a ranking system that was too convoluted for outsiders to follow. The cigarette could’ve been a stalling tactic, could’ve just been a man enjoying his last smoke. Seemed like if more of them were gonna come they’d already be there.

“You read much Martin Luther King? Dr. King says there’s three ways to deal with oppression: acquiescence, violence, and—Dr. King’s preference—nonviolent resistance. Acquiescence is what you’re doing. ‘The oppressed,’ says Dr. King, ‘resign themselves to their doom. They tacitly adjust themselves to oppression, and thereby become conditioned to it.’ You look pretty adjusted to life in brown town, brother, but it’s a front. Acquiescence doesn’t suit you. I can see your fire. That leaves just two methods of resistance: violence and nonviolence. Ask yourself, how far did nonviolence get the blacks? Not far, right? Still living in slums, shooting each other in the streets, accumulating virtually no wealth. I respect Dr. King but he was a dreamer. Pun intended, I guess. Acquiescence, as Dr. King so rightly put it, ‘is the way of the coward.’ What he didn’t see, right up until he took a bullet, was that nonviolence is the way of the pussy. Nonviolence gets you nowhere. You think we’d be free from England if the founders had believed all this nonviolence bullshit? Sometimes you have to kill to be free. Violence is justifiable if it’s used to destroy tyranny and evil. There’s only one legitimate method of resistance and that is violence. We are the Resistance, brother, and the things we do, it’s not always pretty, but it’s necessary. Don’t give me that look. We are not racists. We are not bigots. We are not murderers. Those are lies told by the media. We don’t hate black people or immigrants or whatever other minority group du jour you want to mention but we will not be complicit in our own obliteration. White genocide is real and you might not think of yourself as a perpetrator but you’re an enabler. You can shoot me if you want but—”

His five-year-old son was on the floor when he went in to check on him.

“I thought I heard a gun,” the boy said. “Why do I have to get on the floor if I hear gunshots?”

“Back in bed, buddy.”

He tucked him in, lay down next to him, held his hand.

“Was it gunshots? Why did you tell me I have to get on the floor if I hear gunshots?”

“Don’t worry, buddy. It was just fireworks.”

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