An Epic Five-Part Mini-Series

Part III: But What About US?

By the final week, the daily field trips had become just another indignity to endure. Todd sat with Nicole and they chatted under their breaths, which struck him as quite sexy. She called herself “feverishly religious.” She raised money for the needy. Read to children in urban areas. What could he do to impress her and—if he must—also make the world a better place?

Captain Mike shot up, hand on a seat to steady himself. “Listen closely,” he said. “The driver tells me we’re approaching a checkpoint.”

At that moment, the bus jolted to a stop. Captain Mike held on—he’d clearly done this kind of thing before. He said, “Papers, smiles, and silence.”

The door hissed, and an armed man in fatigues thumped on board. He spoke quickly—Todd thought: video game gunfire. When the man got to him, he surrendered his documents.

“The USA,” the soldier said, handing them back. “Such violence. Forty thousand gun deaths a year. Yet you tell us how to live?”

Todd nodded. The solider mussed his hair and moved on.

 At the debriefing, Captain Bill said, “That was, well, a bit of unscheduled taste.”

Greg asked, “Why’s everybody always think we’re the bad guys?”

Captain Bill blinked. Eyes burning, Captain Mike said, “Listen: Back in the 1950s…”

For Todd, the phrase “Back in [insert decade]” had always been a major turn-off. The issue, generally speaking, was history itself. There was such an awful shitload of it. Who could even begin to know what was what?

Later, lounging in the barracks, Greg said, “My favorite teacher once said, ‘Answer me this: Did Manifest Destiny ever once glance over its shoulder?’”

“Facts,” said Pete.

Nicole nodded. “You think we’re number one for nothing?”

Todd checked off his calendar. Only two days until release!




Michael Cocchiarale

Michael Cocchiarale is the author of the novel None of the Above (Unsolicited, 2019) and two short story collections--Here Is Ware (Fomite, 2018) and Still Time (Fomite, 2012). His creative work appears online as well, in journals such as Fictive Dream, South Florida Poetry Review, The Disappointed Housewife, and Fiction Kitchen Berlin. Michael recommends Philabundance.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Sunday, August 21, 2022 - 22:24