Elijah doesn’t remember his father.
He cannot recall a time before he and Mama moved to Grandpa Tim’s farm, though sometimes he has nightmares where he’s in the backseat of a car while the world burns and screams around him.
Mama said his father died during the Struggle. Elijah daydreamed about him making a heroic stand against the Federals in Babylon, the way Sister Tina said they did in history class.
Later, while secretly rummaging through Mama’s old suitcase, Elijah found and old brown paper bag. Inside were leaflets and stickers marked with the forbidden names, along with a photograph of a young man with glasses shaking hands with a smiling black man. Then Grandpa Tim walked into the room.
As the pain from the hiding he got subsided into a dull throb, Elijah laid awake in his bed, listening to Grandpa Tim shout at Mama.
Bad enough he got himself killed, he said, you’re going to risk yourself and the boy over his foolishness? Mama sobbed quietly.
Grandpa Tim burned the contents of the bag in an old oil drum the next day. Elijah tried to ask him why, but Grandpa Tim kept stirring the embers with a stick without saying a word.
Elijah does remember television.
Mama said it still existed but no one outside the ‘claves can spare the electricity. Sister Tina said that was because the Federals wrecked something called “the grid as they retreated north.” Grandpa Tim said it was because the ‘claves were keeping the best to themselves, before warning of a whupping if Elijah ever repeated that.
There were a few families in town who had generators, but they didn’t get used much these days since gasoline was so hard to come by.
At the town meeting after the Day of Deliverance, the Mayor asked if anyone was able to fix the grid. A man in shorts and a Batman t-shirt leaned his assault rifle against a folding chair and stepped forward. He started talking about how things ought to be according to some man named Paul.
The Mayor said the only Paul he takes orders from is in the Bible. The audience laughed and the Mayor asked why someone who didn’t sacrifice for the Struggle would think he can tell what’s what to the folks who did.
Folks said the man in the Batman shirt left for one of the ‘claves that night, but Grandpa Tim said he was more likely napping on the riverbed.
Eventually they stopped allowing women and kids to attend town meetings. Grandpa Tim kept going, always came back in a foul mood.
He told Mama that the Mayor was favoring his fellow Rollers because the thought the Methodists were “a shade too pink.”
Elijah asked if Grandpa Tim was a Methodist. He said he was a “pragmatist.”
Elijah asked if that was like a Methodist. Grandpa Tim said “not at the moment.”
A man from the Republic arrived in town today in an Army truck. Elijiah could see the traces of the old Federal star underneath the Cross and Eagle on the door. The Mayor ordered the whole town to turn out to greet the man.
No one in town had seen or heard from the Republic since the Day of Deliverance. They only found out it had happened when the sounds of gunfire grew more distant and some of the militia boys had started coming home.
The Republic man wore a dress shirt and camouflage pants. With him were a half dozen men in militia garb, including one manning a machine gun on the top of the truck. He was followed by a man in a fancy suit who arrived in a black SUV and carried what Mama called a “tablet” with him.
The man from the Republic said that order was being restored and that glorious times were on their way, God willing. The man from the Republic ended every sentence with “God willing” or “praise Jesus.”
There was a scattering of whoops and applause from the audience.
Then the man said that there is still much work to be done. He said the Federals still were still holding out in the north and spreading the Islamo-socialist poison of the Bungler.
He said that the Republic was close to discovering the launch codes, praise Jesus, but that it still needed support from the congregation of the Elect. He then recited a list of things the Republic required from the townspeople.
The man in the suit, he said, was from the Mart and one of the truly devout. As the Mart’s mission was the Republic’s mission was God’s mission, the town was expected to send a number of its people to work in the Mart’s distribution center.
Brother Jacob, one of the elder members of the militia, said that he didn’t lose three toes during the Struggle just so he could be bossed around by some fancy pants from the ‘claves.
Brother Jacob loved to point out how he’d lost three toes during the struggle. Grandpa Tim loved to point out Brother Jacob had shot them off himself when he was drunk.
The man from the Republic waited for Brother Jacob to finish, then pulled out a pistol and put a bullet through Brother Jacob’s forehead. Some of the other townsfolk began to ready their own weapons, but stopped when the man on the truck swung his machine gun toward the crowd.
The man from the Mart looked uncomfortable for a moment, then went back to fiddling with his tablet.