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The Other Foot

Max E. Keele


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he Cong come swooping out of the sky in their demonic machines, come flashing through the trees around the river, come thumping and banging into the center of town, come tearing the hell out of the Christmas-light stringers that droop across the square. They settle to the earth like vultures to carrion and the Cong commandos hit the ground blasting; automatic weapons and grenades and napalm splatter the crowds of shoppers. Screams of pain and terror shatter into shards of frosted glass. Desperate cries for help chase each other through the snow. The mall is blazing and the wounded huddle beneath their shopping bags. The Cong reboard their choppers and laughing, fly away.

With the choppers gone, a fatigued cadre of hippies emerges from the suburbs to infiltrate the smoldering town. They lay down their antique rifles, the Iranian built weapons that are smuggled to them from the north, along the Abraham Lincoln Trail. They give what aide they can to the casualties, and when they have done what they are able, they take the shoppers' food, and rape their women, and crawl into dark parking terraces to rest.

"Can you believe it," asks a hippie sergeant with tie-dyed bandoleers. "The fucking Cong slaughtered a bus load of girl scouts in Omaha. Girl scouts."

"Yeah," says another, the one who paints peace signs on his grenades. "But they're losing the will to fight. After the Thanksgiving offensive, their own kids burned the streets of Hanoi." He scratches at an old scar beneath his black pajamas. "I hear they're all smoking crack now. They'll abandon their Rebel friends soon enough."

"How would they like it if we sent troops to fight their civil war? You bet they'd think different if the shoe was on the other foot."

The shoppers who still are able begin clustering around bus stops, anxious to be home. They do not care about freedom or democracy or free enterprise; they want only to lick their wounds in the dignity of their split-levels. They want only for the noise to cease, for the quiet of their parent's lives. For a Christmas filled with sweet nuts and singing.

"Damn the murderous bastards," says the hippie sergeant, as he hones the tip of his spear against concrete. "Damn them straight to hell."

A siren squeals in the distance. A metal cyclone births a torrent from on high. Snows melt. Things die.

From outside, a platoon of National Guard regulars watches the city crumble. Some of them mutter curses on the pilots of the Cong stratobombers; some swear revenge for their defiled homeland; most just squat in silence, and wait for the enemy thunderstorm to pass. "What do the goddamned Cong think they're doing here, anyway," asks a weary lieutenant, who has forgotten the names of his children. "This ain't their fight."

"No, sir," agrees a private with pewter eyes, "but the Confederacy asked 'em in, so it's up to us to show 'em the way out." He stands, cradles his rifle. "Johnny Reb wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell without the goddamned Cong."

A line of Confederate tanks, supported by Cong gunships, moves in to take possession of the ruined shopping mall. Heavy treads crush an abandoned bagful of gaily wrapped gifts; helicopter winds send ribbon and paper flying, a confetti blizzard. Grenades erupt from parking terrace caves. One tank blossoms in a poinsettia of flame.

"That'll be our hippie comrades," says the lieutenant. He hands his field glasses to the private. "Move out."

And far to the south, along the border, fifty thousand Cubanista soldiers stand ready, waiting for the order to move. For years they have financed rebellions among the fragmenting armies of the north, and as the enemy cracks and splinters in the cold, the southern empire warms herself in the fires of manifest destiny. These soldiers are well-armed and passionate, and when the Cong have finally fled, they will rush to fill the vacuum with the glorious songs of war.



© Max E. Keele. All Rights Reserved.

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