Anxiously twirling her fingers through her dense dark curls, Isabella watched the nightly news in the darkened living room. She had just finished weekly Sunday family dinner at her fiancé, Korey’s house. She fought a mixture of rage, shock and horror at the images on the tv screen. Even the usually unflappable ethnically diverse collection of anchors and reporters looked wary and anxious themselves. Really, it looked like they were struggling to hold themselves, and their team, together. She was regretting having eaten so much, as she felt her stomach roil in its own protest to her anxiety.
What was their nation doing? Had the world gone mad?
Whole sections of the city were now under mandatory curfews. Not that a measly curfew stopped the mobs who wanted payback, or the gangs that drove around following them, looting stores and homes in their wake.
Life was supposed to be like a fairy tale right now for Isabella. She was graduating college soon and was now engaged to the boy she had known and had a crush on her whole life. Korey Reynolds had grown up to be the most gorgeous, kindhearted, wise man she had ever met.
But life was now layered in chaos and confusion. Just that morning, all classes at her college had been suspended indefinitely, the area around it literally on fire. Massive riots, looting and clashes spun like a tornado around their lives, making school and even the formerly peaceful neighborhoods of their city perilous. At first the riots were more like peaceful protests aimed at the government and police. Now, though, it had spread to involve almost every area and every ethnic group in the city. The University Village, formerly quaint rows of shops, houses and apartment buildings on tree-lined streets immediately surrounding the university, was now almost leveled from fighting and the fires that followed.
As if All that wasn’t enough, throughout the city many stores were closing, even those selling essential goods.The grocery store just down the street, where Korey was the newly promoted shift manager, was on lock down with hired security personnel and mandatory pat downs for weapons for anyone coming there with legitimate business.
How had the situation gotten so out of control in such a short time?
Korey’s mother, “Mrs. Reynolds” as Isabella called her, threw the embroidered couch pillow at the TV and shut off the remote in frustration. She raised her plump frame off the couch and began pacing, her house slippers slapping in time on the hardwood floor. They had only come in to watch the news after dinner to see the new street closings and areas under curfew. But now Mrs. Reynolds was as agitated as a caged bear by the parade of deadly images.
“How long can we bear all this? Riots, mobs, protests, attacks, and counter-attacks. Blood for blood, eye for an eye. Where does it end?” Mrs. Reynolds raged, hands flying around animatedly.
“I just don’t understand people,” she went on. “I mean, look at you Isabella. A fine-looking young Hispanic woman, smart, in college, first generation born here, going to be married to my Korey, a fine strappin’ black man, going places in leadership at work.”
Mrs. Reynolds paused, puffing her chest out in pride for her son. She pointed to each of them in turn. “You two fell in love despite different skin colors. Why does everyone have to fight and get so ugly, all over the color of our skin? Their mamas didn’t raise ’em right and they should all be ‘shamed of how they’re acting. I would’ve hit them upside the head with my iron, teach them a thing or two about humility and working together. After all, it is said, and it’s truth, a ‘kingdom divided against itself cannot stand’.”
She was now pounding her fists into each other, grinding them like a boxer warming up. She turned to her oldest son, a tall, strong, broad-shouldered man who had just finished his last stint in the Army Rangers and been honorably discharged with many medals and awards. Moses was now part of a National Guard unit quartered twenty minutes away in a suburb on the north side of the city. As she watched Mrs. Reynolds pacing, Isabella could almost see the bold colors of Moses’ emotions spanning across the room, black for rage and red for shame.
“Moses, is your unit going to be activated again?” Mrs. Reynolds didn’t pause to allow Moses to answer. He didn’t even try. When she was like this, it was best to let her give her speech to its completion. “The way I see it, with the Hispanics havin’ taken back to the streets in central after one of their children was murdered by our people, the white mobs startin’ those fires over in Woodcreek where I grew up, and the Asians up and leavin’ the city for fear of being caught in the middle, I don’t see how they can’t bring in the guard. And then there’s the immigrants…” she trailed off.
Oh, Dios. Yes, it’s looking bad when you say it all in one sentence like that.
Still pacing the floor in front of the TV, Mrs. Reynolds began pulling off layers of clothing, clearly working up a sweat despite the chill. When she was down to her bright red T-shirt that read “BBQ City Championship”, she began fanning herself with a kerchief that had formerly been tucked in her bra strap.
Moses looked away and rubbed his chin as if wanting to tell her something other than the truth. Isabella knew that her future brother-in-law could never do that though. “Truth” was literally his middle name, Moses Truth Reynolds. Brutal honesty had defined him as long as Isabella had known him.
Korey reached his hand over to hold hers, lacing their fingers together with a light squeeze while they watched Mrs. Reynolds pace back and forth again. Isabella pressed her lips together to keep her silence.
“Ma, my unit’s in chaos. A bunch of guys got into a brawl last weekend, even though our commander threatened dishonorable discharge to anyone fighting our brothers. There are rumors of army generals marshaling their own troops to capture areas for their own races and by now San Francisco has surely fallen to the Asians, who clearly had help from outside our nation. LA will be next because the Asians kicked the Hispanics out of Northern California last week. What does that say to you, Ma? The country is falling apart, fast, in my humble opinion. I’m not sure I’m going to have a unit or a guard left to be activated. Even if it were activated, would anyone bother to show up?” Moses replied.
Isabella had known the situation was getting bad, but she had no idea it was this bad. If what Moses said were true, it seemed a second US civil war had broken out and other nations, their enemies, could smell blood. The news hadn’t reported about San Francisco. Moses must’ve heard that on his scanner. It seemed only yesterday when everything went careening to crazy, when the police officer had been hauled out of his car just down the road from where they were right now and brutally beaten by gang members, but it was almost a year ago.
Of course that had been in retaliation for what the community called an unjust murder, which had happened on the heels of an attack on a white man walking his dog in another area of the city, which had followed the shooting of a black man by a Hispanic police officer in a city down south. Sometimes, she wondered if anyone remembered the first grievance anymore. And if that had been forgotten could their nation ever truly find healing?
A crash in the living room snapped Isabella’s attention back to the present.
A heavy black bowling ball rolled across the floor toward the kitchen, crunching glass on its way. Mrs. Reynolds beat everyone to it. Isabella stood on her tiptoes to see over her future mother-in-law’s thick shoulder as they all crowded around Mrs. Reynolds.
It’s payday, nigger had been written in bright yellow neon paint on it.
To be continued…