K. J. Pedersen
Anno Domini 2074
Sceofeld, North Lancascir, Liberia
SUSANNA KIRKAGÁRD WATCHED me shyly from across the lawn between the administration and sciences buildings. Such looks weren’t uncommon from her. Daily, it seemed, she would watch me, blush, and turn away. I hardly noticed her though, only that she was with her older brother, Mattæus.
She watched me; I watched him.
Thanks to complaints about the student body, and the academy’s “permissive atmosphere,” we had a new dress code. Jeans and T-shirts were a thing of the past. I hated it, wearing “business attire,” that is, the white, long-sleeved, loose-fitting linen shirt, breeches, stockings, vest, and coat. I had to admit though, Mattæus made the new dress code tolerable just by the way he looked.
Kalli Komensky tugged at my sleeve. “Toby, are you even paying attention to me?”
“Of course,” I said, and turned my eyes away from Mattæus and Susanna. I looked Kalli up and down. “But you’re wrong, girl, the dress looks just fine.”
And Kalli did look fine in a dress. It took some getting used to though. I was so used to seeing her in snug, slender, low-rise jeans, and tight shirts, that I could see why she felt uncomfortable dressed in a “bag.” (It was her expression, not mine.) The school’s new modesty standards for girls were rather puritanical, for even most businesses allowed dress-suits on women.
“I hate this new dress code, Toby. I mean, I really hate it.”
Kalli touched my hand. I knew the gesture well, and took her hand in mine. “You know what I heard?” she asked then.
I shook my head. “No. What?”
“Chancellor Reinhardtsón was threatened by the academy’s board of directors after Johannes Kirkagárd was arrested Friday night. A meeting of the board was called on Monday, and the chancellor was called in.”
“I’m not following.”
“On Saturday, Herra Kirkagárd called the chairman of the board, at home, and threatened to take Johannes out of school and move him to Acbeorg Christian Academy. He blamed Chancellor Reinhardtsón for the lax discipline here, and — ”
“How do you know this?”
“Word travels,” she said with a shrug.
“Brynhilda’s mother is secretary to the board. She was present when the chancellor was given an ultimatum,” she said.
Kalli and Brynhilda Hárdtvigsdotter were still friends despite the fact Brynhilda ran with the likes of Lindi Nordkvist and Ama Winricsdohtor. All four used to be friends, close friends. After Kalli and I hooked up though, she found herself on the outside. Some of the things Lindi and Ama said about Kalli, which Markus repeated in the locker room — in front of me — went too far. You don’t call a girl a whore, you just don’t, especially in Liberia, with its fundamentalist mores.
“Ultimatum?” I repeated.
“Put simply: Straighten the student body up or step down.”
“That is such bullshit,” I said. “And for what? I mean, fuck, Herra Kirkagárd is what ... a loan officer at a bank?”
“But he’s a vice president there too.”
“So what? It isn’t like the Kirkagárds are upper-class, you know. How much weight could his word possibly have?”
“Johannes happens to be a big man on this campus, Toby. Best footballer we’ve had since ‘62,” she said. “So obviously his father’s threat to pull him out was heard loud and clear.” She laughed then. “Oh, and Deacon Nordkvist complained too. He’s of the opinion that immorality is rampant on campus.”
“I know Lindi well enough, Toby, and the old saying is true: Sons and daughters of the clergy are the wildest kids in the parish. Deacon Nordkvist seems to think it’s the school fault that his precious daughter enjoys hashish and certain other pleasures.” She shook her head. “If anybody introduced her to such things, I’d say it was Matti Kirkagárd.”
Every time I saw Mattæus and Lindi together — kissing and pawing one another in the hallways between classes — I felt this weight upon my chest and about my heart. The pangs of jealousy.
I looked again to where Mattæus and Susanna were. She was still watching me, trying to look inconspicuous. So, she had a crush. There were plenty of boys her own age! God, if only she knew how I lusted after her brother, ever since I’d first come to Sceofeld. And yet for all the sex fantasies he’d been central to, we’d shared, what, maybe a dozen or so words, and a handshake?
Mattæus was wearing dark blue breeches, the longer style, to mid-calf, a vest and coat of the same color, both embroidered in silver, and a fine white shirt. His hair was up in a topknot, as usual, and under the direct sunlight it had the most amazing dark reddish glow. He stood tall and slim next to his sister, seemed almost protective of her.
In the last number of days, since the strike was broken, the three Kirkagárd siblings were often together. In the past Susanna could always be found with her friends, but I suppose the fact Johannes had been shot had caused her a great deal of worry (even if it was with a rubber bullet).
Mattæus though was still aloof and self-absorbed. What I wouldn’t have done to have broken through that cool exterior, to get close to him, to know him!
“Watching him again, are you?”
I turned to Kalli, had only half-heard her. “What was that?”
“Every time Mattæus Kirkagárd is around, you watch him, Toby,” she said.
I felt my cheeks get hot.
“You’re blushing!” she declared. “You have a thing for him!”
“Uh ... Kalli ... no ... no way,” I sputtered. “It’s just that — ”
“I’m teasing,” she said and jabbed at my ribs playfully with her free hand. “But you must admit, he is very handsome.”
“Yeah. I guess so,” I said, then changed the subject, afraid my true feelings for Mattæus might become apparent otherwise. “We’d better hurry, class is about to start.”
We walked together, hand in hand, into the Sciences Building.
* * *
It was petty of me to hold an old grudge against Lukas, especially now that he was so obviously hurting.
Lukas’ smile was the first thing to draw my attention when we met the previous school year. He was cheerful and gregarious, and so was I. (True, I felt down because we’d left Mamescaester and the home I’d known all my life, but I was also excited and hopeful too.) When Lukas introduced himself, and we became friends, it felt right. We were two of a kind. And it didn’t hurt any that he was really cute too. So to see him with a long expression day after day made me feel uneasy to say the least.
Lukas stood under a hot stream in the showers and washed his chest and arms. I put my towel on the stainless steel bar between the banks of lockers and the showers and went to shower beside him. Usually Markus and Lukas showered side by side, and sometimes they pushed one another around, or other such horseplay. (It was tacitly acknowledged the two were — or rather, had been — together sexually.) But Markus was on the other side of shower room today, as had become his habit. Unfortunately, I’d read the writing on the wall: Lukas would pay for his father’s beliefs and actions. And so he was. He was not quite a pariah, but his friendship with Markus was showing signs of serious wear and tear, and the other boys treated him differently as well, with a certain cool reservation.
I didn’t like Markus. Never had. Not even a little bit. I was not the fighting type, but since I’d come to Sceofeld, I’d been in two fist fights, both times with Markus. And if he wasn’t throwing his fists, he was insulting me or Kalli, tripping me up in the gymnasium, or whatever it took to make my life hell. And Godric, his best friend, wasn’t any better.
I turned the water on, adjusted the temperature, and took another quick peek at Lukas, all of him, especially his expression. I’d never seen him so glum before. I guess, maybe, he looked older. A week ago, he looked like a boy. Now he looked careworn.
His father had been released from police custody on bail, but there was nothing as to what his November court date might bring. Not knowing what was ahead, I could only imagine what the stress in their household was like.
“Hey,” I said to him and smiled.
“Hey, Toby,” he replied. Not much enthusiasm there.
Despite the fact Lukas and I had drifted apart, he remained friendly. We always greeted each other in the halls or in the gymnasium. Sometimes we even talked at length. We had just stopped hanging out together.
We may have been two of a kind when it came to being personable, but we didn’t share many common interests. I never could keep up with him when we’d play sports. And it must’ve bored him to beat me so easily. Sometimes when we wrestled, I gave him a good battle, but he was taller and stronger, and I won just once.
When we stopped seeing each other after school and doing things together, it hurt. A lot. Thus, the grudge. I think the main reason it hurt so much was because ... well, it was certainly more than that he was the first guy in my new environment to befriend me. I might just as well admit it: I’d developed a crush on him even though he was seeing Nikki Marii and I was dating Kalli.
Mattæus was inaccessible, but Lukas was right there, my neighbor, a friend, and I knew he wasn’t shy about sex with other guys. He never made a move, and neither did I, but there was a frustrated (and frustrating) erotic exchange between us nevertheless.
“Have you ever thought about trying out for A-ball?” he said suddenly. “Spring is months away, but you might as well entertain the idea.” He scrubbed under one armpit. “Your friend Shane was awesome on the field. Well, before ... you know ... before his father died.” Then he looked me up and down. “You have a nice, lean body, man; I’m sure you’d do okay too.”
“I don’t think I’m good enough. I’m not very quick on my feet.”
“You’ll never know unless you give it a serious try,” he said.
I tried not to watch him, but couldn’t help it. He was so tall and lithe and smooth. His body was tanned, every inch of him except for where he wore bikini swimming shorts. He was so hot.
He lathered up his hair. “So how are things with you and Kalli?”
Lukas knew I was gay, why did he ask?
I said, “Okay, I guess. We’re not going steady any longer.”
“That’s what I heard.”
Lukas rinsed the shampoo from his hair, let the stream hit him in the face, and then turned toward me. He wasn’t shy about looking me over yet again.
“You usually don’t shower after class,” he said. “Why today?”
“Felt like it.”
He smirked. “Yes, so I see.”
I was beginning to feel very self-aware under his gaze. So I repaid him the favor, and looked at him just as shamelessly. There were other guys standing around us, on either side, but I ignored them.
Lukas’ dark pubic hair formed a triangle, and a slight trail led to his belly button, but he was otherwise perfectly smooth on his abdomen and chest. Then my attention fell towards his cock. It was narrow at the base, but thicker at the head, which was hidden entirely by his foreskin. Flaccid, his penis was fairly long, perhaps longer than average, longer than my own maybe, and it hung alongside his balls.
I wondered what it looked like erect.
And with the mere thought, I became embarrassed. Checking each other out the way we were seemed so juvenile. He grinned back at me, acknowledged the blush, and shy look.
“Do you ever hear from your old friends in Mamescaester?”
Of course, he meant Iesu, and that was a very sore spot indeed. “No.”
He nodded slowly, aware of the fact he’d crossed into tabu territory.
“So did you dump Nikki last year, or did she dump you?” I replied in kind.
“Whoa, man, you go for the jugular, don’t you?”
“We dumped each other,” he said. “And don’t play stupid, you can guess as to why.”
“Johannes, right?” I said just loudly enough to be heard over the water by Lukas, and Lukas alone.
I lathered my hair. “I thought so.”
Lukas finished showering, turned off the water, and walked past me. The back of his hand brushed lightly across my flaccid penis. Had we been alone that would have been enough to make it jut forward instantly. But despite the instinctive twitch there, I had enough self-control to keep it down.
He turned just enough for me to see his face. One corner of his mouth tugged up slightly in a grin.
The asshole did it on purpose.
* * *
“This week has been hell; I can’t wait to take this bag off,” Kalli told me as we drove away from the academy. “I haven’t worn a dress since the last time I went to church. And that’s been a year ago.”
Kalli, like Iesu, belonged to the Western Orthodox branch of the church. Her father was Czech, and his father was a staunch supporter of the Bishop of Roma, particularly so because the Czechs, at home, were tired of Russian governance and the pronouncements of the Bishop of Moskva. As for Kalli — or Karolina, the name given her upon being christened — she could not have cared less. In fact, I think she tended toward atheism, which I didn’t understand. I’d never been a churchgoer myself, but believed in Jesucristus.
“It’s a nice-looking dress, girl,” I said.
“Maybe so,” she said, “but it just isn’t me.”
I tugged at the front of my vest. “And is this me?”
“It’s different for boys,” she said. “Besides, it looks good on you.”
I rolled my eyes.
We pulled up in front of her apartment complex, and she let herself out of the car. Then she came around to my side of the car and tapped on the window. I rolled it down.
“Would you like to come inside?” she asked.
Like Shane’s apartment, Kalli’s was a small two-bedroom unit, though slightly larger. She had one bedroom and her father had the master. Kalli’s mother had left a few years before, had run away with an Italian kid — a college boy, just twenty-two-years-old — and was living in Sicilia. I didn’t know the details, but Kalli’s mother had been cheating on Kalli’s father for years. Kalli never spoke kindly of her mother, and that, I suppose, was the reason.
Kalli’s father was never home; he worked endlessly, or so it seemed. He managed a small retail shop across the bay and spent sixty or more hours a week there. Even so, his income was never more than enough to pay the rent, monthly payments on a small compact car, keep food on the table, clothes on their backs, and guarantee Kalli an education. His income was never enough to secure the franchise, but he was determined that one day Kalli would not only vote, but win a seat with the Landsthing too. He’d been saving for years, and if Kalli could manage a partial scholarship, she’d be able to attend the University after graduation.
Nevertheless, I knew Karl, Kalli’s father, didn’t particularly like or trust me. Perhaps he was afraid I’d impregnate his daughter and ruin her chances to claw her way up and out the plebeian abyss.
Kalli went to her bedroom to change, but I couldn’t resist, and waited in the living room just long enough to make sure she was undressed. Then, casually, I went down the hall, and silently pushed open her bedroom door.
Her back was to me, and she was bent forward slightly, going through her drawers. She had the cutest, roundest little ass. Her vanilla-cream colored panties rode up slightly on one side, exposing her left buttock.
“Nice bottom, girl.”
She spun around. “Toby! How dare you! Get out!”
I laughed. “Oh, come on, Kalli, you don’t really mind, do you?”
“Get out, now!” She crossed her hands over her breasts. “Now!”
I shook my head. “Nuh-uh,” I said and crossed my arms over my chest defiantly, like a little boy.
“You are so infuriating!”
My mind had been spinning all afternoon after Lukas had accidently-on-purpose touched my cock. (Talk about infuriating.) I wanted to hold someone. I needed a hand job, but didn’t know any guys in Sceofeld willing. And I certainly couldn’t just go over to Lukas’ house and say, “Hey, man, want to fuck around?”
I grabbed Kalli about the waist and pulled her down onto the unmade bed. She giggled, didn’t protest in the slightest, and pressed her lips to mine.
In the minutes that followed, my coat and vest came off, my shirt, shoes and stockings, my breeches. Kalli and I had gotten plenty of practice since the winter before with undressing each other. When she had me down to my underwear, she reached under the front of briefs, and tugged gently at my erection.
I closed my eyes, let her kiss me, and thought of Lukas in the showers. My hand found its way past the waistband of her panties, and I touched her. She moaned against my lips.
She pushed my underpants down halfway around my thighs and ran her index finger over the head of my penis, pushed at the foreskin with the other hand, and lubricated me good with my own fluids. Before me, she’d never had a boyfriend, and so I was the only boy she’d ever touched. As for me, I had experience with other girls as well as guys. My girlfriend in Mamescaester used to jerk me off too, and some of the other girls I’d dated from time to time.
As for the guys I’d slept with, mutual masturbation was fun, sure, but we’d learned other ways to pleasure each other as well.
Nevertheless, Kalli’s hands were amazing; she knew very well how to pleasure me and soon my back was arched and I was moaning loudly. I came, but was careful to make sure it didn’t get on her bedding, and only on my abdomen and in my pubic hair. Then she wiped my seed off her hand and onto my underwear.
“That was great, Kalli,” I said and tugged my underwear up again with one hand.
“So are you,” she said. I was still working her with my fingers. She made all these soft whimpering noises. “Toby, that’s it. Right there.”
She reached under her panties, put her hand on mine, and guided my fingers with a touch. Then she moaned once more and came.
Afterwards, she cuddled against me and slept. I laid on my back staring at the ceiling, wishing it was Iesu, or Wulfric, or Lukas, or Mattæus, or Johannes, or Shane in my arms, and not Kalli. I felt like the lowest scum for even wishing it. But I couldn’t help the way I felt. I couldn’t help what I desired, what I needed.
I felt empty.
I felt alone.
* * *
Sometime later I was awakened by a stinging sensation. I opened my eyes and found Kalli tugging at the slight golden hairs that dusted the area above and below my belly button.
“Oww,” I protested.
“You’re awake,” she said with mischief and pinched my side. “Finally.”
I looked into her eyes, saw the affection she had for me, and felt guilty all over again for playing with her heart.
“Look at you, the way you lounge in the sun, like a lean, golden cat. So lazy, and too content to care.” She ran one hand over my chest and abdominal muscles. Her fingernails made me tingle everywhere as they scratched lightly across my flesh. “You have such a beautiful body, Toby.”
I braced myself up on my elbow and watched her. She had the sheet wrapped around her torso, and across her breasts. “Modest, girl?” I teased.
“A little,” she said. “Unlike you, laying there with hardly a stitch on.”
I ran one hand down over the smooth cotton of my own briefs. “More than a stitch, I’d say.”
She touched my hair, played with it, traced the curls which formed from time to time. “How like Adonis you are,” she said. “Or Apollo. Or Balder, Nordic god of light, beauty, peace, and goodness.”
“No-no,” she protested. “I’ve always thought so.”
“You’re embarrassing me, Kalli.”
She smiled and looked into my eyes. “Your eyes, Toby, they’re so blue ... so expressive.” She traced my cheek and chin. “When I look into your eyes, it’s like I see into your heart. With a look, your emotions are exposed, naked to the world.”
I closed my eyes; I did not want to her to see then.
“What troubles you?”
“Nothing.” I opened my eyes again, but looked away from her.
“Come on, Toby,” she said. “Is it us? That we’re not going steady any longer, and yet here we are, in bed?”
“In a way.”
“It was your idea that we should take it easy, boy,” she said. “Have you had a change of heart?”
“Kalli ... I have to tell you something.”
She touched my chin and moved it so my eyes once again met hers. “What then?”
“Remember when you said I had a thing for Mattæus?”
“I was kidding, boy!” She laughed.
A serious expression erased the levity. “Are you telling me you do? You’re telling me you’re bisexual?”
“Yes and no.”
“What do you mean?”
“Yes, I think Matti’s hot,” I said. “And no, I’m not bisexual.”
Kalli nodded slowly. “Yeah, okay. I understand,” she said. “A lot of heterosexual guys think other guys are hot without being bisexual.” Then she laughed again. “I mean, I guess it’s that way for girls too. I mean, I’m not bisexual, but there have been girls that I’ve found ... appealing.”
“You don’t understand, Kalli. I’m not bisexual. And I’m not heterosexual either.”
Her eyes widened. “You’re homosexual.”
A lump formed in my throat. “Yeah. I’m homosexual.”
She looked away from me. “So this ... this, here, in bed ... our relationship, all of it ... it’s a lie?”
“It isn’t a lie,” I said. “I do have feelings for you — ”
“Then you’re not gay,” she insisted.
“No, Kalli, I am,” I said. “I love you, but — ”
Kalli got out of bed then quickly. “I don’t understand!” She was angry. “You’re confused.”
“No,” I said.
“I should have seen it,” she said, more to herself than to me. “That’s why you never pushed for sex?”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
“But you had no problem spilling your seed on my hand or between my tits!”
“Don’t make it sound vulgar.”
“I feel ... used!”
I got out of bed and went over to her. “Why?”
“Why do you think? Last year, I thought we were in love! And yet you never did love me in return. You’ve led me on!”
“I do love you though!”
“You’re a liar.”
I ran both of my hands back through my hair, frustrated. “You don’t understand, Kalli. I’m not a liar. I’m not confused. I’m gay. I always have been. It isn’t just something that happened to me. My deepest emotional attachments have always been for other boys. Always. And it isn’t some phase either.”
“But you don’t act gay,” she said. “There is nothing effeminate about you, Toby!”
“Obviously,” I said. “I am male.”
Kalli shook her head. “This is too much!” She pulled on a shirt. “I have to think about this.”
“Listen to me,” I said. “I’ve dated girls before. I had a girlfriend in Suth Lancascir.”
“You’re not the first girl who I’ve been physical with either. But I haven’t had sex with girls because it’s an emotional act as much as it is physical. It is an emotional attachment I do not want,” I said. “Mutual masturbation is fun, and exciting, and pleasurable, but it’s not the same.”
Kalli found a pair of jeans. “The way you touched me, the way you held me ... it was very much an emotional act for me, Thomas Beorcleah!”
“You said you love me,” she said. “Explain to me what you mean by that. Because I have trouble believing you.”
“Every time I see you, Kalli, my spirits lift, my heart jumps. I want to touch you, I want to hug you, I want to reassure you of our friendship. I want to talk, I want to play, I want to laugh with you. That is neither infatuation nor lust. That is love, is it not?”
Tears formed in Kalli’s eyes. “Leave me alone.”
* * *
Freedom is as painful as it is joyous. The freedom to fall in love, to drift apart, to advance blindly, blissfully into an unworkable relationship ... the nature of freedom is uncertainty.
I sat in the park as far from others as I could, in an area blocked from view by trees as old as the Sceofeld settlement. I could not hold back the tears any longer. My heart ached because I had played with Kalli’s emotions, knowing full well I could only end up hurting her.
And yet I was hurting too. I had no idea how Wulfric felt about me. Iesu, the jerk, hadn’t — wouldn’t — return my calls, electronic messages, or mail. Lukas and Johannes, both of whom I watched with interest, were involved. Mattæus was unattainable, and almost certainly heterosexual. Shane ... I had no idea what was on his mind ... he was sexually attractive — very much so — and yet he gave me an almost asexual impression.
I had never felt so alone.
Why did everything fall together the way it had? The winter and spring before, my friendship with Lukas was complicated by the fact that we had too little in common, and he was already in love. So our relationship, which could be often quite flirtatious, faded out. Kalli and I had everything in common — we liked the same music, movies, books, art — and yet I did not feel for her what I felt for Lukas.
Kalli had every reason to be angry ... to hate me even.
I brushed away the tears, angry with myself for letting them come, and walked home.
* * *
My mother, father, and little sister were in the kitchen, sitting at the table. Dinner was before them. The television was on. It was the evening news.
“Nice of you to finally join us for dinner, Thomas,” my mother said. “You’re about twenty minutes late though.”
My father rolled his eyes. “Red, bloodshot eyes, huh?”
“It’s dusty out.”
He chuckled without humor. “I bet.”
I knew exactly what he meant. He knew I smoked herb and hashish, though I denied it constantly.
Anastasia, my six-year-old sister, though was happy to see me. “Toby, hey! I got a golden star on my drawing assignment! And another on my spelling test!”
I sat down next to her. “That’s great, Staci.”
She looked at me for a long moment. “Are you sad?”
“No. Certainly not, little one.”
“Toby, have you been crying?” my mother asked gently.
“No,” I said and shoveled food into my mouth quickly to avoid any more questions.
There was a story on the television about the protests which had erupted from time to time in Niew Lifrapol following the strike and its breakup. Sunday, Tuesday, and again today hundreds of workers, the unemployed, and university students had taken to the streets to protest the manner in which the strikes were ended. They had assembled before the City and Shire Hall, the headquarters of the Æthelbaldson-Herewic Capital Group, and across the highway from Cætham Fort, which housed the state militia in North Lancascir.
“Protests and strikes! What good does any of this do?” my father said. “You can’t fight the state.”
“What else can they do then?” I said. “Remember when mum volunteered to help with Sigurd Vilhjalmarsson’s campaign a few years back? You said that was futile too. You said running for office was a ‘fool’s game.’”
My mother could best be described a Christian socialist, but had not joined their party, the Communitarians, because she did not approve of their rigid social morality and cultural conservatism. And so she had supported the Social Democratic Workers’ Party since she was eighteen, as had father.
“I didn’t say that at all,” father protested.
“You did say that, Stanwulf,” my mother assured him. “And it was not a ‘fool’s game.’ We held community meetings. Well attended meetings, I might add. And we met with the FSW. I signed up over fifty new members for the SDWP.”
“And what percentage of the vote did the SDWP get, Karen? Less than one percent. Do you really think that the enfranchised classes are going to vote for a party that will compromise their privilege?”
“Not really,” she admitted. “But you must admit the Democratic-Republican Party is running a very strong campaign this year.”
“It won’t go too much further though once the Liberals and Conservatives start screaming about the evils of democracy, you know.”
“When I was little, fa’r, after the war in India, you used to talk all the time about getting the Social Democrats and Democratic-Republicans into office.”
“Make no mistake, Toby, my heart, like your mother’s, is with the Social Democrats. But when you’ve seen as much as I have, you just have to let go — ”
“And every man for himself?”
“Not quite,” he said.
“Sounds that way to me,” I said. “You sound like a defeatist. You didn’t talk like this when you were younger, when I was little. Maybe you aren’t scared anymore because they aren’t conscripting — ”
“That’s enough, Toby.”
“You didn’t want to be drafted, did you?”
“Who the fuck would want to be forced at the point of a bayonet into the service of the State? Into its army? It amounts to involuntary servitude, Toby. It’s thoroughly immoral.”
“Watch your language in front of Staci, Stanwulf,” my mother scolded.
“He says that word all the time, mum,” my little sister said with an emphatic nod.
I pressed on, and said, “Not many want to be drafted, fa’r. Certainly not me. I’m scared too, you know.” I shifted in my seat. “What if this shit in Iakutia breaks into open conflict between the Sinæ and Rus?”
“Mum, Toby said ‘shit,’” Staci said.
“Yes, I did, you little shit,” I said and grinned at her.
“Mum! Tell Toby I’m not a little shit,” she protested.
My mother raised an eyebrow at me.
“Okay, Staci, okay, you’re not a little shit,” I said. “A weasel maybe, but definitely not a little shit.”
And so I relented and patted Staci on the head and gave her a quick hug. “I’m just kidding, little one.”
“The Senate censured both the Rus and Sinæ on Monday,” my father said. “Both states were fined millions. The Republic has this matter under control.”
“They have,” he assured me.
“But what if they haven’t?” I said. “What if this breaks into full scale war, fa’r?”
My father shook his head.
“Do you think I’m not scared? I’m almost eighteen, fa’r. There may be no draft law on the books right now, but if we’re dragged into a war, if the Republic is unable to resolve matters, and the AFR is drawn in, you can be sure the Landsthing and Senate will reenact conscription.”
“And that is why it is so important that the public participate in the political process. That is why we need to keep working for an expansion of the franchise,” my mother said. “The Liberals and Conservatives alike have their hawks. We need new blood in office.”
“Well, electoral politics are certainly much safer than the tactics of the anarchists and their syndicates,” my father said. “Which reminds me: I saw Grundtvig this afternoon at the market.”
“How is he?” mother asked.
“He still has a knot on his forehead,” father said. “And his wrists look raw.”
“Did he say anything?” I said.
“No, nothing more than ‘good-day,’” father said. “Listen, I was arrested in ‘58, Toby, after you were born, for participating in an anti-war demonstration at Mamescaester University. The police, the tactics they use, the violence ... I know from personal experience what it is like. I certainly do not want you involved with politics the way I was in the late-50s.” He looked at me for a long moment and a very serious expression came over his face. “I would prefer that you not become too involved with Lukas and his politics. He takes after his father, Toby.”
“As far as the two Vilhjalmarsson brothers are concerned, Sigurd has taken a safer path than Grundtvig,” my mother said. “Running for office is much safer.”
“Don’t worry about that. I may have libertarian sentiments, but I’m not an out-and-out anarchist,” I said. “Lukas and I are friends, I suppose. But we hardly ever talk at all. It’s not like we’re plotting social revolution together, you know.”
“I understand your fears about what is happening in Asia, Toby,” my mother said. “This is a time of uncertainty. I hope the perils the media reports endlessly are merely overstated.” She looked worried. “No mother wants to lose a son to the draft, to a war.”
“And no father wants to lose a son during a time of political upheaval either,” my father said.
To be continued with Part II, Ch. 2....
* * *
I would like, again, to thank all those who have sent me e-mails. I appreciate your comments and suggestions.
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