Just a short story I was inclined to write…
“You mean back in the day? Oh, that’s a while ago. I mean, I remember. Bits of it all. But I never took that much notice. Well, I did, but most of the early things weren’t near Philly, so it didn’t really concern me. I’m not stupid. I watched the TV news. The one after I came home from work, but you know how it is. I’d come in, kick off my boots, strip off the hi-vis shirt, my jeans. Step into the shower. Out of the shower, towel, dry, clean, throw on sweatpants and a jumper, grab a beer. Sit down and watch the box. Let it wash over me. The main point of interest was the cute newscaster. She always cheered me up a little. Oh, and the weather forecast. Always paid attention to that to make sure I kitted-up properly for the next day. That and the quirky little piece they always ran at the end. The one that made you laugh.
The wife would come in and make dinner, by which time the news was over. Depressingly familiar stories tuned out and turned off for another day. But, I guess some of it must have stuck in my head. I do remember some of it. The round-ups of illegal immigrants being met by force, I suppose was first. Well, what did you expect? They were always gonna be trouble, weren’t they? Hell, you could have predicted that. The cops were outgunned. Always. According to Fox News it was getting worse in and around the Southern States. Texas Rangers were interviewed, I remember that. A whole bunch of guys, sobbing at a funeral of one of their colleagues who had been killed in a shoot-out. Fourteen Mexicans had been taken out. That’s what Fox News had said. Taken out by the Rangers. I remember that ‘cos I laughed and said, “What, for dinner?”
So what else was the President gonna do but call in the military? Thinking about it, it was real fortunate that revitalising the Army and the Marines had been a priority for him. Real good that rebuilding all the bases around the country had been in his first 100-day plan.
Geez, that seems so long ago now.
So the illegals began to be less of a problem. But the inner-city race riots started soon after that. It was always the Police’s fault. Always them over-reacting. That’s all you heard on the news. I remember that. Every spokesperson for the minority communities said it was the fault of the cops. Never the fault of the people living in those streets. Never the fault of the thief, or the murderer, or the drug dealer. Oh no, I thought. Sure. But it turned out they were right.
The President listened to them and he agreed. He told them he shared their concerns and that he would solve it. Boy did he. He fired the Police Chiefs and the rest that had been in charge of what he called ‘Institutional Racism’. Boy oh boy! He went through the Police like a dose. Cleaned them out from top to bottom. Picked and promoted his own men. Good men. All trustworthy. All great. It was beautiful to watch. Of course, for the first few months he also needed to take the front-line Police off the streets. They were too stretched and until the President could get all their commanders up to speed, he had no other choice. The newly formed Federal Guard replaced them in the big inner cities that had been having all the trouble. Curfews. Stop and search. Shoot on sight. That sure did solve the problem and nobody could accuse the military of being racist. Heck, most of the boys in uniform weren’t white.
Some of the old timers, Washington-through-and-through senators and congressmen started complaining and raising hell that the President was issuing too many decrees, but what else did you expect? Here he was, the new broom of the new President promising to make their sorry-insider-politician-asses have limited terms. Good thing too. He was gonna stop them swanning around Washington their whole lives, sucking from the taxes of the people. He promised to stop them being able to lobby too. Promised to clear out all the old corruption. Of course they were gonna complain about him. Accuse him. Shit, one of them even tried to go for him. Tried to swing a punch. That was a big mistake. The Secret Service took him down in a heartbeat. Beautiful to watch. The President thanked his detail. Said they were the men you did not want to mess with. There was a big inquiry, obviously. Run by the Senate. There were some weird-shit allegations that came out of it. They accused the President of giving the Secret Service gifts. Allegedly he gave the head of his detail a house. But, who you gonna believe? A bunch of crooked politicians or a bunch of heroes? Fox News interviewed the Secret Service guys. All their faces were in silhouette. I remember that. They didn’t want to be identified. They all said he was the best President they had ever worked for, but then they said the Senate were planning on rotating all the detail way too often. Said it would stop cronyism, is that the right word? That or some other nonsense.
We all knew they were setting the President up for assassination. Everyone knew it. Fox News reported it. A secret memo. But not on our watch. I remember that. Oh yes. I went down to Washington for the ‘Protect the President’ March. A million of us. ‘What do we want – No JFK’ oh yes, I remember that. We showed the congress and the senate and those career politicians. Trying to leave the President exposed. No sir. That was not gonna happen.
The Secret Service guys apologised. Imagine that, they apologised for needing to speak out and for doing their duty. What heroes. I mean, we all agreed with them. We can’t have our President running around like some tin-pot country’s leader. He needed proper protection, so he established a separate department. Under military control, not the Senate. I remember the first time I saw a Presidential visit on TV and he had the new uniformed branch of the President’s Detail looking out for him. My oh my! It was impressive. A scarier bunch of good old boys you wouldn’t have wished for.
I guess it might have been around then that they started all the new road and building work around here. Goddamn that was a welcome sight. Jobs by the score. Good pay too. For all the men near-abouts. Proper work. Hard work. Man’s work. And quick too. None of the normal bullshit about applying for a job. The two men put in charge of gathering the crews were well-known round here. They did it simple like. If they knew you and you were a good worker then you were in. All of us that had been at High School together and had growed-up together, sure we were all working together after a couple of weeks. It was great too. None of that political-correctness bull. We were able to have calendars up and smoke inside the trucks, just like in the good old days. It wasn’t like anyone was being offended anyway. There weren’t no women on the teams. There could have been, I’m sure, but it wasn’t really woman’s work and anyway, there weren’t enough of them to go round. I mean the new hospital started putting out the word that they needed a whole bunch of cleaners, and care assistants and receptionists and even part-time nurses. And all the shops and stuff needed them too. Really needed them because all the men who had been in shops and pansy-shit like that were encouraged to take up work on the building crews. The money was better although some of those boys couldn’t cut it.
I remember a few who just didn’t turn up for work again, but because their old jobs had already been filled they were out on welfare, but there weren’t no welfare. They ended up leaving. Moving away. Never saw them again. Bloody fools, handed to them on a plate and they threw it away ‘cos they were afraid of hard work. So yeah, it was all great and the women were working too. In the hospitals, shops, oh and the schools and libraries. The new schools, three of them in the district, needed teachers and classroom assistants. So it was okay. There was plenty of work for the women. It sure wasn’t like the foreign press started writing about; that they all had to be good little wives and stay at home. Though some did. There were real good tax incentives if they stayed at home and looked after the family. I mean we had no kids, but I know some of the old boys I worked with made their wives stay home. One of them said it took a little bit of ‘encouragement’ but she got the message. He said the tax breaks were huge. Really worth it.
That was about the time the President launched the all-out offensive on the terrorists. Russian and Americans fighting side by side to defeat real evil, just like our forefathers did in the Second World War. It was a joy to watch. I mean the internment camps for all those middle-eastern folk were sad, but necessary. Obviously. But each time they battered the terrorists down, they’d spring up again and again and again. The military said it was imperative to keep on the same mission but the election was coming up. It was a no-brainer. That and the fact there were no more inner-city riots, drug dealers had been cleared from all the big cities, murderers and rapists were being processed through Death Rows much faster thanks to the Supreme Court rulings on appeal and mandatory penalties, unemployment was almost zero and those that didn’t want to work were being encouraged to move on until they found work they liked. All in all, it was a simple decision. We had to re-elect the President to let him finish his work.
Of course, he had managed to introduce the term limits on congress and the senate by then, so there was whole sweeping out over the next few years. All those old corrupt politicians feeding at the trough, were gone. It did mean, and he explained it really well, that with so many new people in Government, having a stable Whitehouse would be important. I mean, it was obvious to everyone. Made sense. So they repealed the amendment that stopped Presidents running for more than two terms.
Gosh, I tell you, we never had it so good.
Although, I suppose the Government possessing vacant properties did at first give me a little concern. But then, they housed a nice internal Police couple next door so that was okay. That was a good outcome for them and their two kids. It’s a nice house although I never really understood why the young couple who had first bought it never came back. I suppose people do odd things, but it seemed weird at the time. Tommy, the husband had come to work with us. One night, we were all getting a drink after work and he said his wife was pregnant but they didn’t want the baby. Too soon, he said, they were only young. Said they were going to head down to Chicago and get it terminated. Billy, the road crew chief gave him hell about it. Really picked a massive argument about the whole thing. Told Tommy he was a disgrace. It got a bit heated. I remember that. Guess Tommy thought it was as good a time as any to go, because they set out real early the next day. I heard car doors slamming before dawn and he didn’t turn up for work. But they never came back. That was weird. The new couple were real nice though. Lovely young people.
Then there was the next big crisis. The vote rigging and the Chinese / Asian / Mexican Conspiracy. Turns out a lot of votes and elections had been infiltrated. Turned out the whole system was rigged. Until they got to the bottom of it, only certain groups of people were allowed to register. Made sense and normal people weren’t bothered by it. We were all still voting so the country was safe enough. I mean, I’d have happily de-registered, like all the younger ones had to, because the President was keeping us all informed and it had to be true. He wouldn’t have lied to us. I love my country so I’m always willing to sacrifice a little freedom for her protection. Was then and still am. But I’m tired now. Is that enough?”
Ian Andrew is the author of the alternative history novel A Time To Every Purpose, the detective thrillers Face Value and Flight Path and the Little Book of Silly Rhymes & Odd Verses. All are available in e-book and paperback. Follow him on social media:
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