For Love and Country

Brenna R. Singman

Jordan thought himself quite the purist. He was a veteran which showed in his muscular arms and scarred abdomen beneath his pressed white shirt. He believed in God and Country and held all of those standard traditional values. All of this Jordan pondered while passing another protest on his way to the parking deck as he was leaving work that afternoon.

Screaming people lined the streets for blocks with giant banners in flamboyant pinks and golds clashing with menacing ooze greens and violent reds. They all had childish depictions of dragons and giants, and they read variations of hateful rhetoric towards those who had once been in a similar position to spew it some decades back. Hate was hard to forget. Jordan noted the dropped plastic cups and wrappers filled with crumbs from the protesters who had been out all day. He picked up what garbage lead up to his car, tossed it into a nearby bin, and set out for home.

Jordan rubbed his knees while waiting for the bumper to bumper traffic. It piled up along 8th Avenue where police officers directed cars with unmoved faces. Jordan looked down either end of the upcoming cross street before quickly veering left on the one-way with less traffic. It took him by some smaller roads further west of the main protests and let him miss a big portion of the clog until he was forced into the bottleneck near the tunnel. A group of protesters stood in the road taking up as much space as they were legally allowed. The steady stop and go began anew.

"Monsters not welcome!" one group shouted. They sported bright white shirts with blotches of red like blood and hats that looked like partially eaten brains.

"Ugly inside and out!"

Jordan shook his head and turned up the music. It helped calm him and avoid old tendencies. It wasn't too long ago he might have joined such protests. Funny how meeting the right person could change everything.

The contrast of the soft classical radio against the dramatic flair of the protesters made him laugh a little. Then something struck Jordan's car, and he slammed on the breaks. He immediately took assessment of himself and then his vehicle. An enormous gob of mixed green and black paint spattered the passenger's side window, and just visible through it was a tiny chip in the glass.

"Choke on venom, spine licker!" a woman screamed as she beat against his window.

Again Jordan shook his head and slowly drove through the police barricade. He switched from his soothing concertos to the local news and spent the rest of the commute listening for any other protests that might interrupt his trip.

"Happy Alliance Day, everyone," he said to himself with a crooked grin as he patted his pocket with the slim box inside.

Jordan pulled into his driveway, cringing as the front bumper caught the small break in the curb. There went the element of surprise. But as he stepped out of his car, he realized he had already been anticipated. The manicured front lawn was patchy and reeked of sharp chemical. More green and black spatter stained the white panels of the house. Singed paper dangled from the gutters, and the shatter-resistant windows had fat, splintering cracks.

"Mara!" Jordan yelled, abandoning the car and plunging towards the house. "Babe, where are you? Are you alright?"

His mind reeled as the door was unlocked when he twisted the handle. Before he could panic and head for the gun safe, he stopped short to avoid crashing into his wife.

"Oh! Jordan, thank the stars!" Mara said, gloved hands covering her mouth in relief. Her light brown eyes were glassy.

Without another word, Jordan threw his arms around Mara. The scent of her courteous floral perfume mixed with the spicy flavors of over-charred meat wafting in from the warm kitchen. His strong arms pulled her close to touch as much of her cool, smooth skin as he could past the slinky dress and apron. The shimmering patches along her cheeks, blushed with just a touch of rouge over the skin tone makeup, rested against the five o'clock shadow on his own fleshy face. Mara pulled back, smiling in her practiced, close-lipped way that kept the sharp, curved teeth hidden. She tucked a strand of her thick blonde wig behind a synthetic, flesh-toned ear.

"I was to clean up the outside before you be home," she said. Her voice was stilted in her practiced English. "Dinner right now from the oven. I didn't want a delay to it."

"Then let's eat. We'll clean up over the weekend," Jordan said, and he guided her back to the kitchen. "It'll be like the Alliance Day three years ago. We were going to go the beach, but those hoodlums came by and wrecked the place and the car."

Mara slapped her forehead with a metallic twang of scales on scales. "Yes. I remember. We use the sprinkler for clean the house and the neighborhood kids come for sprinkler party. But I did not having the bathing suit to fit on my digestion ports." She laughed a great belly laugh that slipped into the crunching sound when she wasn't careful of her breathing.

"But Mara, did you call the police?" Jordan asked.

She sighed. "Yes, my love, but you know-"

"Yes, I know."

Jordan let his wife finish setting the table for dinner while he made sure the worst of the mess outside was dealt with. He locked up the car, took a quick peek down the block, and went back inside. He sat at the table across from Mara, and before she could take his plate to dole out a slice of brisket, he placed the gift in her hand instead, wiping a smudge away from her palm with his thumb to reveal the glimmering red scale beneath and basking in the sight. "Happy Alliance Day."