Through the Darkest of Nights: Testament XXII

Every few days over the next several months I will be posting installments of a novel about life, death, war and politics in America since 9/11.  Through the Darkest of Nights is a story of hope, reflection, determination, and redemption.  It is a testament to the progressive values we all believe in, have always defended, and always will defend no matter how long this darkness lasts.  But most of all, it is a search for identity and meaning in an empty world.

Naked and alone we came into exile.  In her dark womb, we did not know our mother’s face; from the prison of her flesh have we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth. Which of us has known his brother?  Which of us has looked into his father’s heart?  Which of us has not remained prison-pent?  Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?      ~Thomas Wolfe

All installments are available for reading here on Docudharma’s Series page, and also here on Docudharma’s Fiction Page, where refuge from politicians, blogging overload, and one BushCo outrage after another can always be found.

Through the Darkest of Nights

A Stranger on the Doorstep

    Shannon knocked on the door again.  Louder this time.  

    In the stillness of the summer night, as she waited for that familiar door to open, memories of her childhood returned, memories of growing up here in Georgetown, of living in this neighborhood, on this street, in this house. Up until that cold November night in 1980 when everything began to go wrong in her life, this front door had been her front door, she had grown up in this house, it had been her home, it had been the only home she had ever known.  

    She was sixteen that night Rachael told her they’d have to move away.  A grinning fool had been elected president by a landslide, the killers of her father would be back in power again, and Georgetown would soon become a bastion of reactionary conservatives.  Seeing them moving in, seeing them driving through these streets, seeing their smug faces every day would have been unbearable.  So Rachael sold the house, they were gone by Christmas, and now, for the first time in 24 years, Shannon was back in Georgetown.  But it was a bitter homecoming.  She was a stranger on the doorstep of her childhood, a refugee from the Orwellian future Rachael had warned was coming.    

    She was about to knock a third time when a light finally came on upstairs.  In the corner window, in what had once been her parents’ bedroom, the curtains parted and Riley Wharton peered down at her.  He just stood there in the window, a motionless shadow backlit by the ceiling light behind him.  So she knocked again.

    He cranked the window open.  “I can’t believe this.  Who are you?  What do you want?”

    “Are you going to come down, or do I have to pound on your door all night?”

    He turned away from the window.  When he opened the front door she saw no recognition in his eyes, only anger.  A woman stood beside him with a cell phone in her hand.

    Riley stared at Shannon through the screen door.  “Who are you?”  

    “You know who I am.”

    “No, I don’t know who you are.”

    “Despite all the practice you’ve had, you’re still not a very good liar, Riley.  You know very well who I am.  You know what you’ve done to me and you know why I’m here.”

    “I know this much, knocking on my door at 3 am is going to get you in deeper shit than you already are.”

    The woman turned on the porch light and looked at Shannon with suspicion, the suspicion of a trophy wife who knew it was only a matter of time before Riley found himself a younger, prettier trophy wife.  “Are you going to tell me who this woman is, Riley?”

    He turned the porch light back off.  “Just go back to bed, Pamela, I’ll take care of this.”  

    “Is this one of your–”

    “Go back to bed, Pamela.”  

    “Yes, be an obedient little wifey and trot back up to bed, Mrs. Wharton.  This won’t take long, I just dropped by to tell your husband and master to stop spying on me.”

     Riley bristled.  “This isn’t the time or place to discuss this.”

     “We’re going to discuss this right here, right now, or I’m going to wake this whole neighborhood up.”

    “That won’t be necessary, Miss Walker. I’ll–”

    “You do know her!”

     “I don’t know her, Pamela, she’s a . . . this is a Homeland Security matter, we have some concerns . . . Miss Walker’s a member of several radical leftist groups, and as her presence here in the middle of the night demonstrates, she’s rather unstable.”

    “The Democratic Party isn’t a radical leftist group, Riley. and Daily Kos aren’t radical leftist groups either.”

    “They’re all . . . Daily Kos . . . what the hell is Daily Kos?”

    “It’s a progressive website.  I joined it a few weeks ago, you might want to update that file you have on me.”

    “We’ll do that.”  Riley watched his wife storm back up the stairs to bed, then turned and glared at Shannon.  “What can you possibly think coming here tonight is going to accomplish?”

    “What can you possibly think spying on me is going to accomplish?”

    “You’ve given me no choice, I took an oath to defend America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

    “You took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, but you’re–”

    Riley shoved the screen door open and came out onto the front steps.  “Don’t presume to explain my responsibilities to me!  You come here in the middle of the night, you–”

    “And I’ll do it again tomorrow night, and the night after that.  I don’t need your permission or approval to defend my civil liberties, Riley.  Thousands of Americans should be waking you up in the middle of the night.  They should be pounding on Chertoff’s door too, and Rove’s, and Rice’s, and Rumsfeld’s.  They should be climbing over the White House fence with arrest warrants and handcuffs.  You’re all fascists.”


    “No.  You look.   You can deny it, but I know very well what you are, and so do you.  Fascism is hard-wired into the psyches of conservatives like you, it’s always lurking just beneath the surface, just waiting for a pretext so you can wrap yourselves in the flag and start strutting around, so you can grab your crosses and shove them in everyone’s face, so you can crank up that war machine of yours and get the killing started.”

    “Terrorists got the killing started, Miss Walker.  They hate us for our freedoms, they–”

    “Freedoms?  What freedoms?  You buried them all with your Patriot Act shovels.”

    “The Patriot Act is–”

    “Fascism, that’s what it is.  We were attacked on 9/11 because the criminals running that crime syndicate you call a government don’t care how much misery they inflict on the rest of the world.  The suffering of others isn’t real to you people, power and profits are your only reality.”  

    Riley laughed.  “Being a damn fool is the reality you need to worry about.”

    “The only thing I’ve been a damn fool about is waiting this long to confront thugs like you.  Get used to it, Riley.  The confronting has only begun.”    

    “Are you threatening me?

    “Yes.  I’m threatening you.  How do you like it so far?”

    Riley glanced up at his wife standing in the bedroom window, listening to every word, ready to call the Georgetown P.D.  “I should have you arrested right now.”

    “You should arrest yourself right now.”

    “Do you think your relationship with my nephew is protecting you?  If that’s what you think, you’d better think again.”

    “I have no relationship with Travis.”

    “You just talked to him this morning, so don’t tell me–”

    “He called me, it’s a habit he can’t seem to break.”

    “He called you because he loves you, but you won’t even go see him.  Do you enjoy breaking his heart every chance you get?  Is that it?  Do you get some sick liberal satisfaction out of humiliating a lovesick soldier?”

    “I saved his life, Riley.  Who do you think told him to buy his own body armor?”

    “You told him . . . he bought his own body armor?”

    “He’d be a cold, formerly lovesick corpse in Arlington right now if he hadn’t.  That junk your war profiteer pals sell the Army would never have stopped that bullet.”

    “God was watching over him that day.”

    “Yes, either that or the body armor this sick liberal told him to buy took the impact of that bullet and limited the damage to a broken rib and a punctured lung.”  

    For a moment, for a fleeting moment, Shannon saw shame in Riley’s eyes.  He turned and looked up at his wife.  “Put the phone down, Pamela.  Go to bed.”

    “You should all go to bed, Riley.  Every conservative in this country should go to bed.  You all need a long nap.  We’ll wake you when we get this bloody fascist mess you’ve made cleaned up.”      

    “Will you go see Travis?”

    “I’ll go see him if you call off your DHS dogs.”  

    “They’re not dogs, Miss Walker, they’re patriots.”

    “Patriots with rabies.  I’ve seen dogs afflicted with rabies, and I’ve seen conservatives afflicted with ‘patriotism’.  There’s not much difference.”

    “I’ll ignore your insults and suspend surveillance for now.  Go see Travis, talk to him.”

    “OK, I’ll do that.  But you aren’t going to like what I’ll be talking to him about . . .”  



Skip to comment form

    • Robyn on June 14, 2008 at 00:25

    …when there is a national obituary occurring.

  1. how you learned to write a character like Shannon. She’s one feisty lady – and I love her.

    And I don’t know whether to admit that I was sorry we hadn’t seen the end of Travis. But I kinda figured he wasn’t gone from the story yet.  

    • RiaD on June 14, 2008 at 03:35

    getting better & better!

    btw- did i ever tell you, i don’t gen’ly read ‘now’ books…sci-fantasy, some westerns or hornblower, once in a ver great while an historical romance(vikings or 12thC. europe)…. but never ‘now’ books….. til you!

    • Alma on June 14, 2008 at 04:41

    I was going into Through the Darkest of Nights withdraws.  Worth the wait though, its got your excellent firely dialogue.

  2.  “No.  You look.   You can deny it, but I know very well what you are, and so do you.  Fascism is hard-wired into the psyches of conservatives like you, it’s always lurking just beneath the surface, just waiting for a pretext so you can wrap yourselves in the flag and start strutting around, so you can grab your crosses and shove them in everyone’s face, so you can crank up that war machine of yours and get the killing started.”

    Right in the kisser.

  3. episode.  I am, however, a little curious as to why she chose 3:00 a.m. in the morning as a time for confrontation.

    Nonetheless, she nailed that buzzard to the wall  —  she had the goods and was unrelenting!

    Terrific stuff, Rusty!  

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