Todd woke suddenly, bathed again in sweat. Since returning home, he’d had a recurring nightmare in which water from the shower suddenly went cold. There he stood, shampoo running down face and flanks, arms clamped against shivering ribs.
At the breakfast table, Todd’s mother brooded aloud about her son’s post-service apathy. He stabbed at hardened eggs while glancing over an e-pamphlet he’d received from TotalVictimsofAmerica (TVA). “Is Our Precedent Guilty of a War Crime?” the author asked. At the bottom was a listing of chapter meetings—the closest forty miles away.
“May I borrow the car?”
“Yes,” his mother cried. “The world is yours for the taking!”
He stopped at Greg’s, who was sitting in briefs around a white mash of lightbulbs.
“Talk to me,” Todd said.
Greg shook his head. It was bad—worse than last time. LISTENAMERICA, Todd thought grimly, had certainly done its job well. Pete, in contrast, was all energy but couldn’t go because the video he was watching claimed the deep state was deeper than ever before.
Alone at the meeting, a gorgeous serendipity: Nicole, with teased hair and bold red lips.
“You survived reentry!” she said, stepping back after a hug.
“Not all wounds are visible.”
They shared a moment of silence, each reflecting on the traumas they endured.
ListenJohn, the evening’s speaker, took the podium. He was tall, skinny, with haphazard hair a flag bandana failed to control. “Elections have consequences,” he began, arms wiggling.
Nicole whispered, “That’s the sallow-faced dude from basic!”
“Don’t feel confused,” ListenJohn continued. “Feel used. LISTENAMERICA has robbed you of your voice. Our individual freedom hangs in the balance!”
Attendees cheered. Nicole squeezed Todd’s hand. ListenJohn, although murderous about the eyes, made so much sense. For the first time since returning, Todd felt a spark of real purpose.
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.