K. J. Pedersen
LINDI NORDKVIST AND I were in her bedroom upstairs, sprawled out on her bed, kissing, still fully dressed. Her parents weren’t home, so we made the best of it. Lindi was an excellent kisser.
“Oww,” I said when she reached up to touch my chin. My jaw was still sore from where I had crashed into Ælfric.
“Sorry,” Lindi replied and backed away. She looked at me for a moment and smiled. “The bruise is fading now ... a little.”
“I have bruises all over,” I said. “More of them were caused by Matthias playing rough than by Ælfric stepping into my path.”
“Really?” she asked.
“Wanna see?” I said suggestively.
She seemed to blush.
I stood and tugged off my shirt. “See?” I rubbed my ribs. “Right here.”
“That’s not so bad.”
I kicked off my shoes. “I have one on my thigh too.”
She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I bet, Matti.”
“No, really,” I insisted.
I pushed my jeans down around my thighs and off. Then I strutted around a bit, flexed my muscles; I was just acting stupid for the fun of it. She didn’t seem to mind. I certainly didn’t.
“Liar. There’s no bruise on your thigh,” she said. “You look cute in boxer briefs though.”
“Thanks.” I tugged at my waistband and flashed her a little more skin. Then I gave her a sad, hurt look. “See? Look at my knees ... they’re all scraped up.”
“Oh, Matti, you poor boy.”
“Such sarcasm,” I teased, then motioned her to get off the bed. “Come over her, baby. This is no fun with you all the way over there.”
“‘All the way over there,’” she repeated. “What? Three feet?”
“I’ve done my little strip show for you,” I said. “Now it’s your turn, girl.”
“My father and mother will be home soon, you know,” she said.
“Don’t give me that, Lindi,” I said. “Now come on. Stand up. Show me skin, baby. And don’t pretend to be shy.”
Lindi was an athletic girl — tall, strong, agile — and I found that very appealing. She got up off the bed and padded toward me. She had long blonde hair, blue eyes, and a creamy complexion. Even so, the ruddy tan remained from long days in the sun practicing A-ball with her friends. (She was on the girls’ A-ball team at Sceofeld, just as I was on the boys’ team, but comparatively she was much better. She was athletic in the same way my brother was — she had natural talent.) She was so pretty I often wondered what she was doing with me instead of some stud on the C-ball team, someone like Markus. I suppose that sounds insecure of me, even self-depreciating, but I had good reason for feeling insecure when it came to girls.
She came over to me. “Happy now?”
I let my eyes wander up and down her figure. “I will be when you lose the shirt, pants, and bra.”
“And to think when we first met, I thought you were gay,” she said.
“I’m teasing, Matti.”
Then her clothes came off — shirt, pants, bra. One minute she was fully dressed, the next, and with such graceful ease, she was next to completely nude. She took everything off except for her panties, a tiny pair — a thong — that left precious little to my imagination. Honestly, she had just about the perfect body, including the nicest, firmest set of breasts I’d ever seen. (Okay, so I hadn’t seen too many bared breasts in my seventeen years, but I knew a good set when I saw them.)
“Yeah,” I said.
I loved the smoothness of her lower belly and the way the bikini string crossed her flesh. She had no tan line, even her breasts were tanned, and I wondered aloud if she sunbathed in the nude.
She rolled her eyes. “No, silly boy. Have you ever heard of a tan-through bikini?”
I shook my head.
Lindi said, “They make tan-through trunks for boys too.”
“Oh,” I replied, and took her in my arms. Her arms wrapped around me and we kissed slowly. Our lips opened and our tongues met. Then she broke off the kiss.
“Feels like the ‘little man’ is all aroused,” she said.
“Little?” I protested.
Then Lindi tugged down the front of my boxer briefs. “No, certainly not little.” She touched my penis, ran her finger along the underside from my balls to the tip. “Six and a half inches ... seven?”
“Six and three quarters,” I managed to say through clenched teeth. I was embarrassed ... she’d never seen it before, much less touched it. Her hand on my erection felt awesome and a moan of pleasure escaped my lips.
Her breath was hot on my throat. “Do boys really measure with a ruler?” she asked and stroked it gently.
I nodded. “Some ... most, I guess.”
Lindi grinned knowingly, as if to say, Boys ... such idiots. Then snap, she released the waistband, and it hit the sensitive tip. “Ouch! Shit!” It stung!
She rubbed her palm up and down my shaft, massaging me through the thin layer of cotton. “Does that feel better now?”
“More than.... Ah!” I moaned. “More than you know.”
I wrapped my arms around her again, pressed my body to hers, and let my hands explore her curves. We kissed each other lazily and enjoyed the intimacy of our embrace. Her hands found my buttocks and she squeezed with impish glee. She always did. Even in the halls at school, when we’d kiss in front of her locker or mine, she’d grab my ass. It always embarrassed me when we were in public, though I never complained because it felt so good.
“Oh, Matti,” she whispered in my ear and pushed me down onto the bed. “Matti, I love you.” She laid on top of me then and her nipples were crushed to my chest.
We kissed like that for a long time, but then, suddenly, I felt very self-conscious.
Why did Lindi even bother with me? I didn’t understand. It didn’t make sense. After all, she was very popular. I wasn’t. My brother was popular ... I just hung around at the periphery. I was a so-so A-ball player with lousy grades and a shy, unsociable streak a mile wide. So why me? I was handsome, true, but how that alone was enough to make me desirable to the most desirable girl at Sceofeld Academy I couldn’t figure out. Further, it was Lindi who had pursued me, not the other way around, and that was even more perplexing.
Honestly, why me instead of Johannes? It wasn’t like he was openly gay. A lot of girls had their eyes on him. I’d overheard whispers and girlish giggles about what a handsome stud they thought he was plenty of times. He knew he was popular with the opposite sex too, and didn’t seem to mind their constant flirting.
Lindi and I had been together for about a year and a half now, since May of ‘73. But before I met Lindi, the only girl I had ever kissed, the only girl who I was interested in was a seventeen-year-old beauty named Rebecca. She lived up the street half a block. I was fourteen at the time and flattered by the attention she paid me. The whole thing turned out to be a disaster though, and following my ‘relationship’ with Rebecca, I had little trust left in me. So when Lindi and I hooked up, it took time for me to warm up to the idea of having a girlfriend.
Rebecca inghean Oisin was an Hibernian beauty, with a pale, healthy-looking complexion, reddish-blonde hair, green eyes, and such curves.... We never dated, but she was always around. We spent a lot of time together. One night, a month into our ‘relationship,’ we rolled around in her bed. I touched her breasts, she kissed my belly button. It was the only time it happened, but I remember very well the fullness of her breasts against my chest, the hardness of her nipples, the thrill of it all, the feeling of her flesh gliding against my own as we kissed and explored one another with our hands. I recall too the way her panties rode up tight between her smooth, round buttocks. I came in my underwear and felt ashamed of myself afterwards. But I felt a lot worse when I discovered why she was paying me so much attention: She wanted to get close to Johannes by getting close to me.
I should have seen it a mile away, but I was fourteen, horny, and completely inexperienced in matters of love ... or lust ... or whatever. All these new, complicated feelings and desires were so ... strange.
It was hard to get over Rebecca, or more precisely, it was hard to forget how she used me. I felt avenged, if in only in a small way, when Johannes refused her advances. Looking back, it should have been obvious he was gay because of the casual way he dismissed her, but more specifically because of the intensity of his friendship with Mikael Lundmark that same year.
I knew Lindi loved me, but I kept asking: Why me?
“Lindi....” She was nibbling at my right nipple.
It’s embarrassing to admit, but my mind wandered, and I’d lost my erection. It happened every time Lindi and I made out. What was wrong with me? My mind was everywhere but with Lindi. Yes, Lindi was sexy, but somehow I couldn’t remain interested for more than a few minutes. Lindi didn’t seem to notice and continued to kiss me. I wasn’t in the mood any longer.
“Maybe I should go,” I said suddenly and pushed her away gently.
She was disappointed. “Why?”
“Aren’t you parents coming home soon?”
“Not for awhile. I was teasing about that, what I said earlier. You know they aren’t going to be home until after nine.”
I fumbled about for my shirt. “Sorry. I’ve got to go.”
“It’s nothing, Lindi,” I insisted. “I’ve got to go.”
“Home, I guess.”
She stood up, reached for her bra and shirt. We watched each other dress. I could tell she was confused and pissed off. “What, do you have plans with your friend?” she said after a moment. Her tone was hurt, sarcastic, angry.
Now it was my turn to be confused. “What are you talking about?”
“You’ve been spending a lot of time with that friend of yours,” she said.
“You know who ... Shane.”
“What does Shane have to do with this?”
“I’d like to know,” she said.
“Why are you all chummy with him again for? I thought you two went your different ways last year,” she said. “Look, you and Shane ... well, let’s be honest, you don’t move in the same circles. You know?”
I laughed at that without humor. “Oh, I know. I know exactly what you mean by that, Lindi.”
“Don’t take offense, but it is the truth,” she said. “You and Shane have nothing in common.”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” I said.
She looked at me, sighed, and reached out for me. “It’s just that Shane is seriously fucked up.”
That angered me. “What do you mean by that?”
“Emotionally.... He’s fucked up emotionally. You’ve even said so yourself. And it’s true,” she said. “Besides, he’s always in trouble. He’s violent. He’s ... he’s not like us.”
“What is he then ... poor, white, working-class trash?”
“Don’t put words in my mouth,” she said. “I know they were thrust into their present situation by the death of his father.”
“But even before that, you insisted he was different. You never hid your contempt for him, Lindi. Never. Why? What do you mean by ‘you don’t move in the same circles,’ huh? You mean he doesn’t belong with us because his family is lower-class.”
“Let’s not waste our breath on this,” she said.
I raised my voice, “You brought it up!”
“One minute you’re all hot and heavy and the next you’re telling me you need to go home,” she said. “At the very least, I deserve an explanation.”
And that was just it, I didn’t have one.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “My mind is all a jumble.”
“I love you, Matti; you know I do.”
She came over to me, ran her hands back through the full length of my hair, looked into my eyes, and kissed me gently on the tip of the nose.
I backed away. “Lindi ... I’ve got to go.”
“What’s wrong?” Then her eyes were afire. “Are you seeing another girl, Matti? Are you sleeping with another girl?”
“No. No! Of course not, Lindi!”
“Are you sleeping with Kalli?”
“Kalli? Kalli Komensky? Are you kidding? I don’t even know Kalli!”
“You were eating lunch with her this afternoon,” Lindi said.
“Her boyfriend was sitting right there next to her,” I said.
She thought about that for a moment. “You’re not seeing anybody else then?”
“Are you mad at me?”
“Why would I be?”
“Because we’re not having sex,” she said. “I’m not ready for sex, okay? You know how I feel.”
“I know, Lindi. I know. It isn’t that at all,” I said.
“Then what is it?”
I paused for a long moment, worried and upset and afraid of hurting her feelings, but knew it was best to be honest. “Lindi ... you’re moving too fast.”
She was incredulous. “I’m moving too fast?”
The look on Lindi’s face made my heart ache. I felt like shit. But it was true: She was moving way too fast.
“Lindi ... baby.” I tried to put my arms about her.
She crossed her arms over her chest. The hurt look on her face was too much. Then she backed away. “Maybe you should go,” she said. “Go home, Matti.”
“Just go home,” she said. “We’ll talk about this later.”
* * *
I found myself walking home and cursing myself. But I was right. Lindi was too intense about our relationship. For example, the welcome screen on her computer notepad was covered with scrawled digit notes like ‘Matti + Lindi’ and ‘I love Matti,’ and that was fine. What girl didn’t write such things about her boyfriend? But ‘Lindi Kirkagárd’! That freaked me out.
Lindi wanted us to go to the University together, and figured we’d get married our first year there. She had it all planned out. She wanted to marry in the Spring, in April. She wanted four kids, two boys, two girls. She even had their names picked out! The first boy would be named Johannes, after my brother, the first girl would be Maria, after her mother, the second boy would be Rágnar, after her brother, and the next girl would be Anna, after my mother. She planned; I listened politely. But I certainly didn’t want to sire a little Viking horde while still attending the University!
What was wrong with being teenagers? What was wrong with simply enjoying being boyfriend and girlfriend without rushing headlong into the future?
It wasn’t something I could discuss with Johannes. He wouldn’t understand. And I couldn’t discuss it with Jakobus either. Mainly because he thought the erotic nature of my relationship with Lindi was immoral. Fuck, he’d probably tell me to get married. Maybe Matthias would understand ... or not.
I felt trapped.
Lindi lived only a mile or so northwest of my house, but it was chilly walk, and I didn’t have a jacket. It wasn’t so dark as the night before. The cloud cover was slight. It was a few minutes after eight, and the temperature was dropping quick.
My watch chirped and I tapped its face. “Hello?”
“Mattæus, where are you?” It was Johannes.
“Walking home from Lindi’s,” I said.
There was silence on his end for a moment. “She’s making you walk?”
“Kind of,” I replied quietly.
Then I heard Lukas say, “You dog, what did you do to her?”
“Shut up, Luki.” I was not in the mood for his barbs.
He laughed while my brother spoke over him. “Where are you? We’ll come and get you.”
“I have less than a mile to go now,” I said.
“Where are you?”
“You know the coffee shop on the corner of — ?”
“Uh-huh. Yeah, I know which one you mean. Go there, we’ll pick you up.”
“Where are you?”
“Lukas’,” Johannes said. “The state militia hasn’t acted yet to break the strike. That’s where we’re going, Niew Lifrapol. Lukas says he has to be there — ”
“I do,” Lukas protested. “Matti, you have to come with us.”
Lukas was my friend, but I didn’t want to wind up in the middle of confrontation between the union and state militia. “Have you spoken to your father?”
“No. That’s why I have to go. I have to be there.”
“Lukas — ”
He cut me off. “Go to the coffee shop. We’ll be there in less than ten minutes.”
* * *
There was little traffic on the way into Niew Lifrapol, and once we entered the city there were, every few blocks, police and private security patrol cars parked on the main thoroughfare which led to the docks and harbor. We drove through the commercial district, with its beautiful, tall offices, many faced with marble. It was like driving in the Liberian Mountains, through the canyons, with magnificent walls of stone on either side of us. Usually this area was busy, even following working hours in the banks, stock exchanges, and various other offices. The Bay City Mall was open, as usual. There were few shoppers on the sidewalks however, and even fewer cars on the street.
Johannes drove in silence. Lukas joked around some, but it was forced and weak. I congratulated them for their victory over Hohtun. Both said they’d played a shitty game though. I didn’t have much to say after that. We never spoke about what we were doing either. It appeared the subject at hand — the strike — was off limits.
When we reached to the northern end of the Niew Lifrapol peninsula, and were within a stone’s throw of the harbor, our progress was stopped by road blocks. The road block was not manned by police officers or security guards, but by men in olive drab. Some were armed with carbines, others with assault rifles. There was a troop carrier parked crosswise in the middle of the street behind the wooden blockades.
“This is as far as we go, I guess,” Johannes said.
“Let’s park the car at the Wurthingas Building,” Lukas said. “Then we can walk back. There’s an alley a half mile to the west. It leads to Dock 15.”
“Lukas, maybe this isn’t a good idea,” I said.
“Maybe not, but I’m going.”
“Look at them!” I said. “Assault rifles! Turret mounted machine guns! Look down there, down the street ... that’s a tank!” I touched my brother’s shoulder. “This isn’t the police, Jóni, it’s the Li-fucking-berian Republican Guard!”
“Luki, my brother has a point,” Johannes said.
Then Lukas turned around in the front passenger seat to face me. “You talk about the need to stand up for the rights of Labor, but here we are — this is it — and you want to turn back!”
“I don’t want to turn back,” I said. “I just don’t want to get shot!”
“They are not going to shoot us. They want to intimidate us. All of us. Everywhere,” he said. “Don’t back down. My father hasn’t backed down. His comrades haven’t backed down. I’m scared too. But let’s stand together, with my father, Mattæus; as friends; as brothers; you, Johannes, and I.”
He was right. “Okay,” I said. “Let’s go then.”
Johannes nodded his consent, and turned the car around.
We parked in front of the Wurthingas Building, got out together, and went the rest of the way on foot.
* * *
The homeless and beggars which were such a common sight in the commercial district were nowhere to be seen. The promise of spare change — a Penny here, a Copper there — was overwhelmed by the fear of police and soldiers, and violence, their companion. There was so little activity in town, it felt as though the city had been abandoned.
The alley Lukas took us along let out in front Dock 15. We had reached the waterfront. The commercial district was sepulchral in it silence; the waterfront district was a hive of activity and noise, its din more terrifying than the former’s deathly silence.
A serpentine gathering stretched from one end of the street to the other. Several men stood in the midst of this throng carrying purple banners bearing the Hellenic letters chi and rho — Χ and Ρ— the first two letters of the word Christos, and ΙΗΣ, the first three letters of the name Iesous. Others banners bore related symbols, such as the Cross and the Lamb.
Lukas motioned towards the throng. “The Christian Brotherhood of Labor.”
“These are the scabs?” Johannes asked.
“Jóni, was it like this last night?” I asked.
He shook his head. “No.”
“No, the CBL wasn’t here,” Lukas said. “Oxnaford was though. And the state militia. They came later though, as Jóni and I were leaving.”
In front of the CBL were the security forces hired by Æthelbaldson-Herewic, Oxnaford Services. On the other side of the street, across from us, stood the working men and women, assembled together with the WCLW and a few as members of the FSW. (Johannes informed me the Christian Workers’ Community and Anglian National Congress of Labor had abandoned the strike.) Unlike the CBL, the striking workers carried no banners. There were no red flags, no black flags, no diagonal red and black flags. Many carried signs with their demands, some signs identified which union and local they were with, but the colors of Social Democracy and Anarchism were nowhere to be seen. I asked about it, and Lukas told me the members of the unions had voted not to carry their colors in order to avoid any further provocation.
The three of us crossed the street quickly, found ourselves in the middle of an FSW formation, and were told by a young woman where Lukas’ father was. He was a quarter mile further to the east, she’d said, at the truck loading docks between rows of warehouses at the juncture of Dock 16 and 17.
I watched cautiously the men and boys who had assembled across the street. To be honest, I was as wary of them as I was of the agents of the State, the few policemen and many soldiers. There seemed to be an unspoken alliance between the CBL and Oxnaford. I saw it in the way the stood together in supporting rows. >From this Christian Brotherhood of Labor were cries of anger and derision directed at the libertarians:
Responses were largely absent, except from those few brash young men, who shouted back:
Lukas turned to me and said, “The CBL opposes collective bargaining outright.”
I nodded; I knew. The CBL believed there was a sacred bond between the Church, the State, and Capital. God had granted wealth to the wealthy; power to the powerful; authority to statesmen; it was their earthly inheritance. It stunk of the Predestination Theology preached by certain elements within the Northern Orthodox branch of the church. Their position was precisely the opposite of that held by libertarians.
‘The Stewardship of Our Father’s Creation is a Sacred Trust — for as the Church, the Body Our Lord, is One, so must be also the bond between His Faithful Servants and the Stewards of His Earthly Kingdom.’
That was a quote I had read in the CBL’s literature. Being of the Northern Orthodox tradition myself, it was also a quote I had heard from the pulpit. It was uttered first by Albus Mikelsson, Bishop of Stockholm, in the 17th Century. Lukas, Johannes and I were all christened membera of Scandian State Church.
I heard the cry once more: “Atheists!”
“I am,” I called back, despite my christening. “I am!”
That brought a look of scorn from my brother.
There was a great cry: “Christus Rex! Christus Rex!”
Lukas laughed. “They mean: ‘Adolphus rex Anglorum.’” It was a pointed remark about our proconsul, Æthelwulf Grimwoldson.
“And here I thought the Divine Right of Kings was dead,” I said.
Johannes nodded slowly. “It’s too bad so many people take that ‘Stewardship’ garbage seriously.”
“I was just thinking the exact same thing,” I said.
“It would be almost funny if it wasn’t for their paranoia and extreme nationalistic views.”
The propaganda of the CBL and Christian Nationalist Party was full of examples of xenophobia and extreme nationalism. ‘The free movement of foreign laborers across our borders is the root of our troubles, not the free movement of capital,’ and ‘Send them back to where they came from, so we may enjoy the fruits of our own labor,’ were two of the most commonly repeated. Their hatred seemed to focus primarily upon the aboriginal peoples who shared this continent but not our Germanic blood, upon Indians — Hindu or Muslim — and Semites — Arabian or Judæan — and particularly upon anyone of Turkic ancestry.
I quoted Scripture: “‘Sicut scriptum est Iacob dilexi Esau autem odio habui.’”
“‘As it is written: Iacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.’” Lukas repeated after me.
“God loves who He will, and God hates who He will,” I said. “And, with that, a divine sanction for hatred of The Other according to their blood.”
There was movement; Oxnaford advanced closer to us. The CBL was right behind them. The state militia held fast — a barrier of plastic shields, body armor and assault rifles between us. Fear swept over me. Was this what it felt like to be on the front lines before a battle? I looked to my brother and saw dread in his eyes as well. Lukas reacted in kind and moved closer still.
The angry shouts began again. This time the libertarians shouted back, and not just the young men who felt a need to prove themselves.
Anger, awe, terror ... I was overwhelmed by the powerful emotions all around me.
I looked across the street and saw anger in the eyes of a few, but even more so, there was the same apprehension and fear in the ranks of the scabs as there was among my fellows, especially among the boys.
Truly, I understood the willingness of these men and boys who came to take the places of the workers who had taken strike action. Being without work, having no steady income, having to fear the proverbial wolf at the door ... yes, I understood why they were here, these scabs. But what did they expect, that the conditions which the present workers had come to rebel against would not affect them? Would a ration of bread sate their hunger for freedom?
* * *
A younger boy, fifteen perhaps, ran up to Lukas, grabbed him by the wrists and smiled. They talked for moment. The younger boy talked so fast, with such fervor, Lukas had to stop him over and again. I couldn’t hear what they had to say, but it was urgent.
Lukas finally turned to us. “Fighting has broken out at Sæham æt Eoforwic again. Federal troops have been called in.”
“Are they coming here too?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” the boy said.
I immediately took a liking to him, he was enthusiastic, bright-eyed, and willful. Lukas introduced him as Jaroslav Alekseivich Paovlov. He and his father both worked here. Jaroslav worked in one of the warehouses. Then Jaroslav led us to the truck loading docks where Lukas’ father, Grundtvig Vilhjalmarsson, addressed his fellow workers.
Lukas hung back. “We can’t let my father see us.”
“Why not?” I asked.
Johannes told me Grundtvig did not want Lukas involved in this, and that he would be very upset if he knew Lukas had dragged us into it as well.
Grundtvig stood in the midst of his friends and comrades. Like his son, he stood six feet three inches tall, and because of the space given to him — six feet in all directions — he was clearly visible to all, and needed nothing to stand upon. He was in the middle of a speech. Hundreds of eyes were upon him. There were nods of approval as he spoke. The atmosphere was somber though.
“Three hundred years ago a new age was in birth,” Grundtvig said. “It was not simply the rebirth of Hellenic philosophy, nor even the reestablishment of political republicanism, but the realization of an entirely new era. For with the birth of Republic of Nova Anglia, Liberalism was reified as a coherent political order. Humanity, so long fettered by papal, monarchial, and feudal authority, was freed.
“Or so, at first, it seemed.
“Liberalism contained the seeds of a new form of Oligarchy. Liberty and property were equated in rhetoric, but, in truth, property was paramount, and liberty was reduced to privilege.
“Liberal economics were coupled with republican government. But democratic-republicanism was the exception, not the rule. Immediately the consequences were seen in Terra Nova and Europa and everywhere the Great Republican Revolution took root. Aristocracy in the form of a titular nobility may have been swept from the face of the earth, but aristocracy in the form of republican oligarchy became firmly entrenched.
“There was a struggle in the 19th Century to rectify these wrongs. There was a struggle for universal male suffrage, for the expansion of political rights, for the enlargement of liberty, for favorable labor laws, for the abolition of slavery, and later for the franchise to be extended to women as well.
“There was, in short, a struggle for democracy.
“Our forefathers won these rights, for a time. But they have since been lost.”
Grundtvig paused. Ten seconds passed, twenty.
“Liberalism, which, as its name suggests, is concerned with matters of human liberty, is stopped short by its propertarian fetish,” he said.
“One quote in particular typifies liberal economics. Made by one of the great economists of the Enlightenment Era, it establishes, in its first clause, man as a free agent with economic rights, and then with its second reduces him again to serfdom!” Grundtvig said. “It was said: ‘Man, as a natural right, is entitled to the product of his labor, and that of his servants’.’” He stopped a moment, and repeated, “‘And that of his servants’.’”
“With that humanity was again divided into classes: Property-owning freemen and their servants. Monarchial feudalism was abolished only to be replaced by republican feudalism.
“Feudalism is dead; long live Feudalism!
“It is noteworthy that the words serf and servant are derived from a common Latin root — servus, slave.
“We do, in fact, agree with Liberals that freedom is inseparable from property. Liberty requires a stable, productive material base. Libertarians — social democrats generally — differ from Liberals because we believe all men and women have a right both to liberty and property, be it personal or joint.
“Liberals today, like Liberals of the 18th and 19th Centuries, declare their love of liberty and their hatred of equality. But as libertarians, we reply that without equality, liberty is a mere abstraction, a hollow promise. Likewise, equality without liberty is a mockery.
“Personal autonomy, the freedom to act, requires genuine consent in a social context. Genuine consent can occur only between equals.
“It is not enough to be told that we are free agents because we may accept employment, or that we may move from one employer to another. Citizens of the Turkic Peoples’ Republic too could choose between employers, and theirs, as Liberals and Conservatives alike will remind you, was a highly centralized and authoritarian political-economy.
“Are we free upon surrendering our right to participate in the decision making process? No! Capitalists and state socialists alike mistake deference for consent. We do not. We will not surrender our autonomy merely because we accept employment, whether it be by private capital or by state capital.
“Beggars cannot afford to be choosers. And this is why the issue of property comes again and again and again to the forefront of political discussion. I have said it before, and will say it again: Property which is jointly utilized must also be jointly owned and democratically governed.”
There was agreement and clapping.
“We assert it is better to work with your fellows than to work for an employer.”
With that, there were cheers and thunderous applause.
“We stand here together in defense of the principle of free association. We have chosen to associate one with another as equals, as brothers and sisters, in fellowship.
“Where Liberalism faltered, we will press on,” Grundtvig said.
At that moment Grundtvig turned to face his comrades where we stood. He stopped, his eyes focused on us, on Lukas. His face blanched noticeably. A long moment passed, and he seemed to have forgotten where he was, what he was doing.
“Oh, shit,” Lukas muttered. At first he shrank back into the crowd, but then stood up straight. He met his father’s eyes.
Johannes and I stepped closer to Lukas to show Grundtvig he had our support; we were in this together. Caught up in the moment, Jaroslav stood with us, so close he bumped into my brother. I saw no signs anger upon Grundtvig’s face, no anger that his son had defied him, only worry because the headstrong boy had placed himself in harm’s way.
I knew at that moment, truly, we were in harm’s way.
Grundtvig looked away from us, fully composed once more, and addressed his fellow workers. “Discussing theory and political philosophy is useful, to an extent, but the action we have taken — strike action — is a practical expression. Discussions of freedoms lost and freedoms to be won do not pay the rent or put food on the table. Our concern tonight is practical, not philosophical.”
All around me Grundtvig’s fellows nodded.
“How many of you have applied for credit this last year?” he asked.
A few hands went up.
“Interest rates of eighteen, twenty and twenty-four percent are commonplace today, are they not?”
There was a rumble of agreement.
“And what do the bankers tell us when we declare such rates are tantamount to usury? It isn’t usury at all, they say. We’ll charge whatever the market will bear!”
Another chorus of agreement rose.
“Rents have increased steadily since ‘71, we protest, and are told by the landlords: We will charge whatever the market will bear.
“The price of food now rises at a rate of five percent a year, we protest, and are told by store owners: We will charge whatever the market will bear.
“The price of manufactured goods increases at three percent a year, we protest, and are told by the manufacturers: We will charge whatever the market will bear.
“In the parlance of Capital, let our employers know this: We are on strike because the market will bear no more.
“Our pay is cut in the face of rising prices. Our hours are too long despite ever increasing productivity. Too many of our fellow citizens are out of work. Sales taxes are too high. This strike, and those of our comrades around the world, are our answer.
“They protest, and we reply with one voice: We will charge for our labor whatever the market will bear!”
We clapped and cheered.
Grundtvig moved toward us, his eyes on Lukas. But before he got more than fifteen or twenty feet there was a sudden flood of noise, a cacophony which emanated from loudspeakers mounted on the troop carriers. It was so loud, I brought my hands to my ears.
It was nine o’clock.
I suddenly understood why the proconsul had waited past seven. The Polynesian time zone, the last in Liberia, was two hours behind our own. It was now seven in Onoruru-Uætiti, capital of Liberian Polynesia.
* * *
The Liberian Republican Guard advanced in a line, plastic shields before them, nightsticks raised. Oxnaford stayed back at first. And as the state militia advanced, the men from the WCLW and FSW pushed the boys and the young men back, and stood together, in resistance, in a solid line, shoulder to shoulder.
I was shoved out of the way and found myself momentarily separated from Johannes and Lukas. Then someone shoved Jaroslav in my direction. “Watch him!” the man who shoved the boy toward me shouted.
The young men who were being pushed aside started to push back; they wanted to be at the front. That was why the older men had forced them out of the way in the first place, to keep them from acting rashly, to prevent them from reacting to violence with violence.
I saw Grundtvig, he was caught in the crowd.
Lukas was beside me again. Jaroslav was pale. Then Lukas grabbed my arm and propelled me forward. He pushed until we were in the front again. Lukas stood beside me on the right, Jaroslav on the left.
“I don’t know,” Lukas said. “We were separated.”
“Shit!” I pushed back into the crowd. I couldn’t see my brother anywhere. But Lukas was right there again, and he grabbed my shoulders.
“As long as he’s in the back, he’s safe,” Lukas told me. His eyes were wide open with fear, but his action was deliberate. “Stay with me, Matti.”
The state militia stopped its advance. They must’ve been no more than twenty feet away. The cacophony ceased. A man wearing an officer’s uniform appeared on top of one of the troop carriers. He carried a microphone.
“By order of the Pronconsul of the Republic of Liberia, you must disperse immediately.”
The members of the WCLW and FSW stood firm.
“Disperse or you will be arrested for trespassing and inciting public disorder.”
Again, nobody responded.
Grundtvig pushed his way forward and grabbed Lukas by the shoulders. “Go home, Lukas. Now!”
“Where’s Johannes?” he demanded.
Lukas trembled. “I don’t know.”
“Find him! Then take him and Mattæus home. Do you understand me, Lukas?” He was angry. “Now, goddamn it! Now!”
Lukas obeyed and we shrunk back into the crowd, Jaroslav in tow. I saw Johannes’ blond head then over the rest. We ran toward him.
“This is private property,” the officer called over the loudspeakers again. “By order of the Pronconsul, disperse!”
“Mattæus! Lukas!” My brother came over to us. “Fuck, don’t ever do that again. Don’t ever lose me like that again.”
Rows and columns had formed and the young men who were so eager to push to front found themselves locked behind the older men who would not give an inch in either direction, either to their comrades, their friends, sons, and younger brothers, or to the agents of the State.
Lukas wouldn’t budge, and we were being pushed into the second row back. We were shoulder to shoulder, all four of us, and the rest. It was a chilly night — I’d had goose bumps earlier — but felt now uncomfortably warm. At first I thought it was the mass of humanity about me, and our collective body heat, but it just kept getting hotter.
Soon my exposed skin felt as though it was being scalded, and all about me, people reacted the same, some even fell to the ground. Lukas cried out in pain. I did too. Then the ranks broke and people started to run to get out of the excruciating heat.
I saw a soldier on the front line kneeling behind a fat gun-like object mounted on a mobile turret. The weapon was snub-nosed. There was a battery pack under the nose. I’d never seen one up close, only in a magazine, the weapon was a microwave emitter. That was why we were burning up. The weapon was heating the moisture on our skin to ever more intolerable levels.
There was a sudden crack!
Immediately the waves of heat ceased.
The microwave weapon lay on the ground shattered. The soldier who was operating it jumped back. Somebody from the roof top had fired a single shot, a sniper.
No more shots were fired from above.
There was a rush of activity.
A line of soldiers with carbines aimed their weapons at the pavement and fired.
Everybody scattered as the rubber bullets ricocheted from the pavement and up again into the ranks of the WCLW and FSW.
Jaroslav screamed. His hands went to face. He covered his right eye.
There was blood.
Jaroslav was screaming.
Immediately another volley was fired.
“Johannes!” Lukas cried.
My brother fell to the ground, clutching his leg just above the knee, blood seeping through his fingers.
I had no time.
The Oxnaford men ran forward with the state militia into our midst.
Their clubs fell.
To be continued....