Rock Bound Excerpt
Noon, July 4, 2051
The protesters pushed against each other, trying to hold their signs up high above the crowd. The smell of sweat hung in the muggy July air, as Paul, Annie, and Crystal struggled to find a place to spread their blankets near the Lincoln Memorial. The passion of the crowd’s chant rang across the Mall.
“Restore the Constitution! Restore free elections!”
The Mall was so crowded they could barely breathe. Paul went in search of drinks and was gone over an hour. The first speaker mounted the podium.
“Can you believe they’re charging five credits a bottle for water and seven for pop?” he asked, as he handed the women their drinks.
“Now don’t you wish we’d brought the cooler from the car?” Annie asked.
“I know, and you’ll never let me live it down,” Paul lamented. His warm, brown eyes smiled at her.
“Well, if water’s five credits, how much’ll a sandwich be?” Crystal asked.
“I already checked. Burgers’re fifteen credits and fries’re another five,” Paul replied, as he settled on the blanket between the two women.
“It’s a seller’s market. They’ll charge all the traffic will bear,” said a man sitting on the grass next to them. “I’m Jake Johnsrud.” The man’s bright blue eyes twinkled momentarily when his gaze met Annie’s.
Annie smiled at him. “This is my husband, Paul, our friend Crystal Petrie, and I’m Annie Peterson. Why don’t you join us on our blanket?”
“Thanks,” he said.
“Nice to meet you, Jake,” Annie replied. “Scrunch over there, Honey.” She patted the blanket next to her as she moved closer to Paul in the middle to make room for the tall, raw-boned man.
“Well, the price of pop isn’t our only worry,” Paul said. “There are troops surrounding the Mall. I think we can pretty much count on being arrested.”
“Then we’ll all be arrested together, just like my great-grandparents in Chicago.” Annie linked her arm through Paul’s and sang slightly off key, “If you’ve been to jail for justice, let me shake your hand.”
Folk songs by the group Peter, Paul, and Mary had been staples in the Swanson household when she was growing up. Her great-grandmother had sung her to sleep with “Puff the Magic Dragon” and had sung along in the car as she listened to the group’s re-mastered files. And now, a century later after it was written, the music had been rediscovered. By the end of the day, it would be banned.
They stood up to listen to the speakers.
Annie followed Crystal’s gaze to the soldiers. She didn’t believe what she saw, and tried to process the sight of them raising their weapons. Crystal dropped her sign and yelled, “The bastards’re firing on us!”
Paul’s head lolled forward, the charred hole still smoking, and Annie fell to the ground trying to cradle him. She sobbed, crying “No! No! No!” Crystal’s arms were around her, as she sat on the ground, clutching her dead husband. People were trying to run but there was nowhere to go. Annie felt Jake fall atop her and Crystal. Oh, my God! He’s dead, too!
“Stay still,” he said. “We’re liable to get trampled.”
Annie felt the weight lift all too soon, as Jake was roughly pulled to his feet by a soldier, who separated him from the women. They handcuffed Annie with a plastic tie-up, and dragged her away from Paul’s body toward an Army truck.
“Nooooooooooo!” she screamed. “Paul!”
They threw her in back of the truck, and Crystal landed next to her. She scooted closer to Annie.
“Cry it out, Sweetie,” Crystal said. Annie leaned her head on the other woman’s shoulder and sobbed.