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The Revolution Had Begun

The revolution had begun. It had only been a month before Isabel’s whole family decided it’d be much safer to sleep in their basement. Her father had taken all the recommended precautions, boarding up the windows, blocking all the entrances, stocking up on food and water, there were no radicals entering the house. Most days were now spent with Isabel wrapped tightly in her mother’s arms listening to the radio’s reports, sometimes eating a bowl of lukewarm soup, most times not. There were times when Isabel had been sure this was the only life she ever knew. A life without a television set, little heat or electricity, and the radicals waging war against each other, slowly scratching at the nation’s fiber till it tore completely. A year ago when the conservatives and liberals began to wage a much more literal war on each other and take on the name The Radicals, looting seemed to become a new social movement. Their TV was stolen, many gas lines and power lines were severed, many buildings were bombed or raided or burned down. Now Isabel’s family had no choice but to completely lock themselves away from the chaos of the increasingly violent world outside. No one could be trusted. Nothing was safe. They had harbored a liberal who claimed he hadn’t wanted to fight any longer for one week, until they realized he was stealing food. Isabel’s father had a fit, took on his unapologetic patriotic tone and lectured the man.

“You, as an American citizen, come here and reach out for help to your fellow Americans. Then you not only bite the hand that feeds, you insult our intelligence by assuming you would not be caught. Liberal or Conservative, you my friend have smothered my hope for the States, in a time when I had many doubts to begin with. You are a coward! A Coward!” Isabel’s father ended his monologue by pushing the man towards the open door, making sure he accented his words with forceful thrusts.

It took many more weeks till her father finally explained to her why he called the man a coward. Sitting her on the couch in the living room, he combed her hair back, “A coward is a selfish creature, my love. That Radical was afraid of his own perish and was willing to risk our life for his own. How can a person who is afraid care for others? They see no needs but their own, and that’s why he was a coward, dear, now go help your mom with that delicious soup.” Isabel had walked into the kitchen dumbfounded. It didn’t make sense. The man was scared to die, just like Isabel knew her family was, and yet he was a coward? He was undeserving of fear, while Isabel and her parents were privileged to it because they had a house and food to protect? The man had nothing. When the revolution began, Isabel found herself becoming more and more confused by much of what her parents said. It was often when her parents were listening to the radio at night that she had the most questions.

Hidden in distant static came a calm voice proclaiming the revolution’s progress night after night. Isabel sat on the couch between her mother and father. Her mother hiding her face in her palms while her father sat attentively, elbows on his knees. “Tonight, the President of our United States released a statement regarding The Radical’s Revolution that reads: My fellow Americans, fear not. Though no one could have foreseen the tensions between our political parties building up into a full scale civil war, we must remain strong, deterrent, and confident in our sacred nation. Let me assure you, we, the United States Government, are doing all we can in our power to detain riots, fights, theft, and armed battles across our great country. It should also be known that your government is neutral in this affair and are acting as strict peace keepers despite any former political party associations, we are all truly Americans; Americans together against the threats against our resilient and undying freedom. God Bless.” The  calm voice continued on but the rest of its message was lost. Before the end of the statement Isabel’s mother was weeping into her hands. Isabel’s father was pacing around the small living room but stopped near the drawers that held the radio. “I can’t believe he would lie to us then send us off with God like that! As if he has the authority to bless anyone with hope for anything! Everyone knows he’s still a Republican! We know he’s the one sending soldiers against the liberals here on our own soil! His whole cabinet and most of Congress is on his side too! Civil War? We all know it’s a damn revolution! The damned bastard!”  Isabel’s father punched a hole straight through their living room wall, adding to the four other holes he had made on similar nights. This time was different though. This time Isabel’s mother ran moaning towards him, grasped on to him and slowly pulled him to the floor with her, and to Isabel’s surprise, her father was crying too. Her brave, lion-hearted father, the same who had pushed the coward out of his house, and boarded their house for his family, was broken on the living room floor. Isabel rushed towards her family, hot tears welling up in her little eyes and embraced them both. “Little Isabel!” exclaimed her mother. There was not another word said between the three as they sat and cried into each other over the slight static of the radio. She had had so many questions that night but none of them felt right to ask. Who was the President? What does Congress mean? Why do the liberals hate conservatives? Is it bad to be a conservative? The questions stayed hidden at the tip of her tongue for the length of her family hug but she didn’t dare let them tumble off onto the carpet where they could be seen. Felt. Thought about. The Revolution was a time when Isabel learned that words were sometimes the most powerful things to produced, not bombs, fires, or death, but meager words. Any question she could ask would only bring more pain.

On a day that was like any other, Isabel sat quietly eating her soup next to her mother on the couch in the living room. The family’s dining room table had been used to block their back door. Her father sat cross legged reading the lone family bible with his back against the drawer holding the radio. Warm static and the calm voice filled the room till a few words caught Isabel’s attention. Her father and mother had heard it too. There was no mistaking it. Isabel’s father stood and slowly turned the volume up. “Once again,” began the calm voice, “the list of cities suspected to be hit next by The Radicals include Burnington, Springville, Grey Chapels, Singleton, San Lucas, Fre…” Isabel had heard her town’s name on the radio! What was the calm voice saying? What was coming to their town? She began to ask her mother in excitement, something along the lines of: “Is the carnival coming?” but her father scooped her up in his big arms and began moving towards the basement, her mother following behind. “We’re going to play hide and seek for a bit, baby,” whispered Isabel’s father, lightly stroking her hair as he shuffled down the steps. The whole family moved down to a little corner in the basement between the bedpost and a few boxes, completely hidden from the basement door. Without exchanging any words Isabel’s mother understood to take Isabel in her arms and grasp her tight while her father ran up the stairs. “Mom,” began Isabel. “Shh shhh, my love, now we must be quiet.” Isabel’s mother was running her fingers through Isabel’s hair, softly singing an old song Isabel knew from when she was younger. She heard her father turn of the radio and move the couch and the heavy drawer towards the front door and later heard him shuffling more things around, cursing the damn Radicals and the stupid radio as he did so. Soon he was back down in the basement with Isabel and her mother locking the basement door behind this time. Isabel saw her father’s smile in the dark- one sagging under the pressure of trying to appear genuine. “Alright everyone, let’s play this game of hide and seek! No one say a word.” He leaned down and kissed Isabel on the forehead.

Isabel couldn’t remember what woke her up or how long the family had been crouched there in the basement, all she could feel was her mother’s tight grip and her father’s warm breath in the darkness. Her mother felt Isabel stir and began stroking her head again, “Shh little Isabel, we can’t lose this game.” Little Isabel could imagine her father putting a finger to his goofy grin and saying something like “We can do it, my love.” She curled up tighter into a ball and tried her hardest not to make a noise, Isabel wanted to win, she didn’t want to let her parents down. There were low thuds from upstairs and something sounding like creaking wood, a few muffled voices. More thuds came and the creaking became louder and louder till the voices became clear shouts and yells and hurrahs and whistles. Isabel could tell this wasn’t a carnival. Voices at a carnival sound surprised and astonished. These voices were much different, they didn’t sound surprised at all but expectant and violent. Isabel’s father became stiff. “They’re coming in,” he whispered to Isabel’s mother, “they’re gonna raid us for food and supplies. If they aren’t satisfied with what we left up there we need to stay still. They’ll come down here next.” Shouts came from the living room. “Long live the Liberals! Long live the revolution!” The stomping of feet became unbearable and it was soon clear the people upstairs were throwing things around, ripping apart furniture, and breaking the wooden boards on the windows of the house. Isabel curled up even tighter in her mother’s arms trying to drown herself in her mother’s bosom till she couldn’t the words anymore. “Long live the revolution!” The voices moved towards the basement. Soon the door was being pushed and knocked against till it’s hinges broke and scattered across the stairs. A burst of light from people carrying torches and living room came flooding down into the basement. The chaos of destruction went on upstairs while more shouts came from the top of the stairs. “Long live the revolution!” Isabel hugged her mom tightly and her father wrapped his strong arms around both of them. “Long live the Liberals! Long live the revolution! Long live the revolution! Revolution! Revolution! Revolution!” Finally, Isabel had no more questions, she understood everything she had ever wanted to know in that one moment as she held her mother close and her father breathed quickly over them. She knew the coward. Understood the calm voice.  Began to love the cold soup they had every day. And even the many holes her father had punched into the wall. The revolution had begun.

 

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