The muddied old Toyota four-wheeler rolled up to the curb on Oxmoor. Jimmy cut the engine, peeking out through fading decals for “NIN” and “101st Airborne” which obscured the bottom corners of his pickup’s rear window. Then he sat back and let the stereo blast a while longer. Just him and Mitch.
“Sweeeeeeeeet home, Al-Obaaaama!” poured out the windows. “Where the skiiiiies are so bluuuuuue…”
Jimmy packed a smartcan of Beech-Nut upside the dashboard, fixin’ to pinch himself a dip.
Mitch howled along on chorus, like he usually did whenever a version of this song played. Jimmy howled right back at Mitch, staring down his muzzle.
It was a sight to behold. All the same, Gus had been waiting for a half hour already, and didn’t dare budge from his chair in the shade. He’d found them a good table at the Muqhaa Fi Alkharij — more commonly known as the best damn outdoor café in all of New Bir-min-Ghan. Local infidels nicknamed the place “McCarthy’s Courage” to fit their drawl. Nestled comfortably in the afternoon shade of their main mosque. That big one built atop the old Dawson church they’d demolished — just alongside the south entrance to the B’Ghan medina.
Gus put down a book he’d been reading, Love in a Headscarf. Thought he’d almost liked to recognize what Jimmy was playing. A cover by Silahsız Kuvvet, the one with Skynard’s opening arpeggio in mixolydian transposed to B minor. Had all those Arabesk trappings, plus a local African-American church choir singing “Alllaaaaaaah Akbar” — ululant background refrains over the cover’s signature Mizwad solo. Right where ol’ Ed King used to let it rip on the Fender Stratocaster.
When it came to post-Divestiture covers of Southern Rock classics, local folk revered Jimmy as a connoisseur. Could be it was Mitch and Jimmy together who figured out what’s what about all those damn songs.
“Allah, I’m comin’ home to you!”
Gus didn’t care much for the genre overall. At least this one was a classic done well. He was plain sick of hearing that wailing version of Free Bird, the one they played loud and proud downtown for Friday morning call to prayers.
Ending guitar notes faded over the last “Ba-Ma” as the song trailed into its piano chops coda with the fifths, sixths, and sevenths all lowered half a step. Ajam Maqam, some kind of “quarter-flat” thingy, as Jimmy had called it. Still sounded strange to Gus’ ears, even coming up on five years after The Divestiture.
Jimmy rolled up his windows and scurried Mitch out of the cab. The two of them moseyed over toward McCarthy’s Courage, toting an old backpack and a shiny steel water bowl. Two ladies from the local EGWA chapter crossed in front, walking toward the medina. Both had long blonde hair, carefully tucked under houndstooth hijabs. They wore flowing black abayas, had elaborate golf course designs decorated on their hands with henna — about the only part of their skin exposed for color. Probably headed back to their safe house, Gus reckoned. So many these days went straight from a Mountain Brook debutante ball to a mass wedding with some Caliphate functionary.
Gus glanced over to find the barista, could be he’d order a round of sun tea before the slow-pokes arrived. Meanwhile his eye caught on the painting hung above a shelf of empty dallah. A highly stylized depiction — no faces, to avoid offending Allah, just movements and shapes captured in thick strokes of vivid pigments. Heavyset swordsman standing tall after that fateful group beheading, when Boko Haram had refused to accept blood money from the families of six executive officers of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Everyone knew the story of the first hundred days after The Divestiture. How the B-H had imposed their dreadful bloody rule over the region, including all of the former state of Mississippi and about half of Tennessee. Death squads of Wahhabi Jihadist fighters roving the land, beheading leaders of the SBC and other Christian groups they considered uppity, imprisoning soldiers in the Southern Defense Force or anyone even rumored to be a member of the John Birch Society. Taking away locals’ guns, detonating stills and breweries, burning down their liquor stores, churches, hog farms, and whatnot. Castrating the entire varsity squad of the Crimson Tide — conscripted as eunuchs to serve the Caliph’s concubines, or the Caliph’s own carnal pleasures. Swiftly imposing the B-H version of Socialism that had all but destroyed the economy of the New South.
Castrating the entire varsity squad of the Crimson Tide — conscripted as eunuchs to serve the Caliph’s concubines
Most public spaces frequented by local infidels displayed the painting of The Six Beheaded prominently, de facto law under Sharia now. Also a poignant reminder to their conquered subjects, the infidels. Still made Gus like to wanna spit, but he didn’t know quite what else to do about it. Just yet.
Jimmy pulled up a chair. The noise of chair legs scratching across concrete startled Gus back to Planet Earth. Mitch jumped up on his lap, and licked him in the face.
“Hey Gus, how ya been doin’?”
“Finer than frog hair split four ways,” Gus said. Still fuming a tad. “How’s about you?”
“Livin’ high off the hog. Iffin’ things get any better, I may have to hire someone to help me enjoy it.” Then he hollered out to the barista, “Kindly, let’s us have a couple tall glasses of sun tea.” Followed by something quick in Arabic. Jimmy smiled back toward Gus and translated, “A bowl of water please, Tajudeen, for my hound.”
“Lookin’ like you done gained a few pounds since the trial,” Gus snickered.
Violation of Sharia carried stiff penalties in New Bir-min-Ghan. For any Caucasian women convicted, punitive violation by court-appointed panel. Caucasian men, however, were forced to make their choice on live courtroom television between death, with honor, or castration.
Like so many others, Jimmy had chosen the latter after he’d been arrested. He’d been a hog farmer after retiring from the military, but B-H squads had burned down his farm. Forced him to find a different line of work.
“It’s my new workout schedule, I reckon,” Jimmy grinned. “I got shed of my ol’ routine, and that put my appetite all cattywampus.”
He’d turned to moonshining shortly thereafter, a dangerous game post-Divestiture. B-H had arrested him within just a few months, one of the many “caught and cut” — as local infidels tended to say.
Tajudeen arrived with their tea. Under Sharia, they had no beers in bars no more, but still could drink their sun tea. Best damn sun tea in the world.
Jimmy ordered them a plate of BBQ goat nubs too, with extra ranch and a side of fried okra. “Got hankerin’s,” he said with a grin.
“Dang, if you’re that hungry how about we mosey over to the Wahhabee’s?” Gus winced through the glare of midday sun. “Or a Milo’s, for that matter. Just about dinner time anyway, and both are only a hop, skip, and a jump away.”
“You know we’d have to leash up Mitch outside,” Jimmy shook his head, between long sips. “Just ain’t gonna, not in this weather. About to sweat like a whore in a mosque, myself.”
Gus smiled and tipped his glass respectfully at Jimmy. Eager to let it go and just rest at the Courage for a spell. “Good Lord willin’ and the crick don’t rise!” He toasted to Mitch as well.
Tajudeen dashed off, forgetting the water for Mitch. Gus found a hosepipe nearby and filled the bowl himself.
A television screen mounted over the bar began blaring out. Apparently what had distracted Tajudeen. Another breaking report on Fox News, with Anderson Cooper live at Congressional proceedings up in DC. The special prosecutor’s hearings against Steve Bannon — about alleged secret terms of The Divestiture.
“Sen. Roberts (D-Kentucky) was moments ago lambasting Bannon over his culpability in the matter,” Anderson Cooper explained, “Of which President Pence has foresworn any prior knowledge.” Fast cut to the Senator, “Must I remind this hallowed assemblage about the likes of Mr. Bannon? A Southern man don’t need him around anyhow!”
Jimmy shook his head low. “Well that just dills my pickle! Been waitin’ to see this.” He dipped a nub in more than enough ranch to prove the point, glancing around to make sure Tajudeen was well out of earshot. “Alexa News over breakfast said even the FBI’s on the trail of those secret terms.”
“Ain’t no way they’ll make excuses for Nigerian settlement anymore now,” Gus muttered under his breath. “New Pilgrims, my ass.”
“In their hurry to cover-up alleged malfeasance, the Caliphate renamed the region ‘Al-Obama’, in a presumed attempt to cast suspicions of conspiracy toward POTUS 44,” the silver-haired Cooper continued. “When, as facts reported here on Fox News — non-alternative facts, directly from the special investigator’s office — now show, it appears to have been Bannon all along who had arranged the private deal for Nigerian oil stock options. Over $400 billion, in exchange for secretly ceding foreign ownership over former Southeast states.”
“When, as facts reported here on Fox News — non-alternative facts, directly from the special investigator’s office — now show, it appears to have been Bannon all along who had arranged the private deal for Nigerian oil stock options.”
Mitch whined a bit, curling his tail under and looking back and forth at Jimmy and Gus who were grumbling. Anxious under the table while the men fumed at television news.
“Rumors circulating within the Beltway now speculate that Federal charges against Bannon and other former senior Whitehouse aids to POTUS 45 may escalate into multiple counts of treason,” Cooper concluded.
“Well that’s gooder’n grits!” Jimmy stretched back in his chair. A dark look swept across his face. “You know them Beech-Nuts must have been the ones to get ol’ Alex Jones beheaded,” he speculated, rubbing his chin. “Right before his scheduled testimony in Congress. Hell, I don’t know how we could’ve voted for Cheeto Jesus in the first place — who could go stick it where the sun don’t shine, iffin’ he weren’t already dead.”
Beech-Nuts, for B-H — local infidel slang for Boko Haram. Or in government speak, the “New Pilgrims” — as their settlement had originally be sold to the American public. The more cynical surmised that the Nigerian government proper had been more than eager to export their separatist Wahhabi minority off to America. Not unlike how the British had exported their own religious separatists to Plymouth Colony nearly four centuries prior. For a mere few hundred billion in oil stock options on the world market, timed right before an enormous oil crisis got manufactured by Bannon and his cronies. Options that had been handed discretely under the table to the proverbial person of interest.
“Pence, he gonna hang ’em all out to dry,” Gus chugged the rest of his sun tea. “While we’re the ones left payin’ the price.” Five years of hindsight didn’t matter much now.
“Say, how’s your brother doin’, still in Florida?” Gus asked, trying to change the subject. “What’s that place called now by them oligarchs, I disremembered — Bokaratonskaya?”
“He’s in a bad way, though my sister-in-law’s fixin’ to get the case appealed,” Jimmy looked even more dour. “Says the Venezuelan oligarchs don’t much seem to care one way or tuther. Probably just let him ferment in there.”
“I’m very sorry to hear, and I think it’s a sin.”
Jimmy pulled out a laptop with an old Confederate flag sticker on the back, the words “Alabamy Forever” printed underneath. “You may be wonderin’ why I dragged us to the medina in the heat of the day?”
Two official-looking men walked by wearing full robes, black goatees shrouded under houndstooth-checkered headdress. Accompanied by B-H elite military, black tops under kevlar jackets, jungle green khaki fatigues, the black standard of ISIL within a green circle as insignia. Full combat gear. Caliphate Colonial Guard. In other words, bad news.
Jimmy quickly covered his laptop before they could catch sight of any of it.
“Dang, Jimmy, y’all’d’ve best not take chances like that,” Gus pressed.
“We used to could,” he scowled. Then grabbed another goat nub quickly. “Anyways, ain’t much else left for them Beech-Nuts to cut off,” Jimmy shrugged, still chewing.
“Nothing ’cept your damn fool neck!”
“Nah. My lawyer says people in my situation get a hall pass. Says they don’t much consider us men anymore, wore slap out. Just laugh off further trespasses.”
“Oh my goodness gracious, your attorney was a half hour late to your sentencin’ plea! Couldn’t manage his way out of a paper bag. He handled my visa application — the one that took three extra months to process, and cost me another 63,000 naira. About as useless as a screen door on a submarine.”
“But he understands the South. Knows his way through the weeds with these Beech-Nut qadi.”
“Oh hell yeah, he’s a regular Southerner — born in Southern Yemen. Your browser may not support display of this image, but he dudden know diddly-squat.”
“Anyway, I hear tell the Chinese Embassy is acceptin’ refugee applications for castrated infidels.”
“Jimmy, I swear by the Moon Over Homewood, you’re tellin’ me you’d relocate way yonder in Boston?”
“Hold the horns, tain’t so bad. I’d grow accustomed, on account of freedom and democracy.”
“Probably wouldn’t even fit in their damn haz-mat suits, what with all that radioactivity lingerin’ yunder. You gonna stuff poor ol’ Mitch in a haz-mat, too?”
Gus reached down to scratch the aging brown lab under his graying muzzle. “Bless your heart.”
“Chinese been experimentin’ lately,” Jimmy countered. “Heard they got some new kind of slap-yo’-mama-good remediation technology up there now.”
“In all my born days, I haden seen such a thing. Blowed up an entire US metro area with their micro-nukes.” Gus just shook his head.
“Boston ain’t been part of our country for years anyway,” Jimmy said, waving Tajudeen over for another round of tea. “It don’t differ to me, none of our beeswax what Beijing does with its colonies. Besides, I’m just messin’ with you.”
“Can we get a couple Moon Pies too?” Gus asked Tajudeen, politely.
“I was gonna show you a letter, but it’s probably better we talk instead.” Jimmy leaned in close. “My cousin out in Cascadia, we been talkin’…”
“That what you wanted to meet about?”
Tajudeen slid two plates of Moon Pies onto their table, saying “Lagniappe, sabi?” flatly in Nigerian pidgin. Then scurried off.
“Inshallah,” Jimmy nodded. “Them folk are mad as all get out. They’ve asked for my help, and I’m here to ask for your help.”
Gus knew only a tad about Jimmy’s military background. They’d run into each other first at a Trump rally in Mobile — back when that seemed like any kind of good idea. Gus had been totin’ a crimson-red sign that read “Ah Ain’t Politically Correct!” while Jimmy was along with some of his kinfolk from the 101st. They’d fought in Iraq together. Jimmy seemed to be fluent in Arabic too. Probably where he developed that odd taste in music. He’d been a US Army major during the battle of the Karbala Gap. Details were scarce, though it sounded like he’d led some kind of Military Intelligence unit. Then retired to the hog farm near Lake Purdy, after the war.
“Jimmy, you know you’re preachin’ to the choir,” Gus started. “I just don’t want any trouble.”
“Cain’t never did nothin’ for nobody!” Jimmy was giving him The Look. “But no trouble, Gus. We just need eyes and ears on the ground here.”
“I might could do a tad.” Gus glanced about. The whole Courage was empty except for the two of them. “Go on.”
“Most of these Beech-Nut troops hain’t fought a military force in five years. They’d hardened in Nigeria as insurgents, then moseyed over to spend their days roughin’ up civilians as a kind of reward. Don’t get me wrong, some are sharp — like those elites in Caliphate.” He picked at the last goat nub, pouring the rest of the ranch over top. “Most so dumb they couldn’t find water if they fell out a boat. And their officers are crooked’er than a $3 bill.”
“I done heard you Jimmy, but tell me what’s that got to do with the price of tea in China?”
“Them Cascadians will help us, and they’ll need some help back.” Jimmy gobbled downed that last nub, finishing his tea in one long swig. “They got themselves a hurricane brewin’ with Nonserto, big corporates madder than a wet hen. Some of my Army buddies out of Fort Campbell, we’re in cooperation with Cascadia forces.”
“Down yonder, in Kentucky?” Gus wanted more tea, but Tajudeen had vanished without a trace. Television had been turned off, too.
“The one and only. They brought all kinds of drone tech from California. Unbelievable stuff, small as hornets, what guides a sniper rifle straight and true, could be from 3000 meters.” Jimmy fumbled through a pocket in his backpack. The Beetch-Nut smartcan tumbled out, but didn’t spill — righted itself and edged back toward the backpack. Jimmy fished out a handful of DawgSugah and tossed a couple to Mitch. “What’s more, they got Willie Jess Robertson’s leadin’ the cause.”
“Dang, run with the big dogs! Y’all got @williebosshog pitchin’ a fit for us infidels what got the short end of the stick?” Gus whistled. “Duck Dynasty and their Deplorables Army? That alone’s happy as a tick on a fat dog.”
Jimmy nodded and passed him a small slip of paper with some numbers written down, which Gus tucked into his book without looking.
“One thing troubles me, Jimmy … shouldn’t this all be a tad more under wraps?” Gus scratched his head. “We dudden wanna hand our friends over to the Caliph — wussizname, Sheikh Yebouté? I mean, if I were head of the John Birch Society, I certainly wouldn’t call it by that name. I’d call it the Illuminati or some such, then advertise as an organization diametrically opposed to decolonization.”
Jimmy started to explain — but just then Mitch let out a low growl. The hair stood stiff on the back of his neck.
Gus looked up and noticed that Tajudeen had reappeared, along with several nasty-looking Caliphate Colonial who now stood directly behind Jimmy.
One of them pushed his way to the front. All scarred and pock-marked, looking like he’d just fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. “Major James Craft?” the soldier demanded in thick Nigerian pidgin.
“Nothin’ to see here gentlemen,” Jimmy shrugged. “Just two good ol’ boys sippin’ tea.”
The ugly one pointed at Jimmy. Another of the Guards pulled a long knife, pressing it upside Jimmy’s throat.
“Alssamt, kafir!” mister ugly barked. “Silence, infidel!” He spun toward Jimmy directly, staring him face to face. “You are charged with suspicion of conspiracy against the Caliphate. By the power vested according to the principles of the Constitution of Medina, enacted here in the Colony of Al-Obama, you are under arrest.”
Mitch had about had enough. He lunged and took a bite out of mister ugly’s boot.
The B-H soldier kicked Mitch back under the table, with a yelp. Then he pointed at Gus. “Shall I slaughter this cur, or do you claim it, infidel?”
“Don’t hurt the dog — ” Gus choked back his frustration and anger. “He’s a damn good dog, I’m takin’ him!”
B-H soldiers just laughed, turning their backs.
“And Jimmy, I’m gettin’ your lawyer.” Gus hollered. “You hold tight there, we’ll get you out!”
He held Mitch back by the collar as Caliphate Colonial dragged Jimmy away in cuffs. Couldn’t see hide nor hair of Tajudeen.
“Dad gummit all!” Gus mashed the button on his phone, ending the call. Sat back down after he’d explained to the Yemeni attorney about Jimmy’s arrest. Lawyers worked slow as molasses. Could be weeks or months.
Gus felt like he’d been rode hard and hung up to dry. He gave Mitch a hug, “Don’t you fret none, we’ll be gettin’ him out soon.” Trying to convince himself. What he really wanted to do was point his pickup north on I59 and drive straight up to DC, where those hearings had Bannon’s butt in a hot seat.
“Mitch, I’ve got mind to buy a couple Remington’s along the way. Could be a 100-pack of Winchester 12-Gauge, too.” Gus about choked on the words, he was so damn angry. “Ought to stop off at that first Wally World catty-corner past the border crossing in Knoxville.” That traitor Bannon, lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut. If he hadn’t sold them out, if they all hadn’t been duped by Cheeto Jesus, none of this Divestiture nightmare — the secret terms, New Pilgrims, colonial takeover with them damn Beech-Nuts taking our guns away— none of this would’ve ever happened. Not to Jimmy, not to his own self, not to all of Bama. They’d still be Americans, proud as Southerners.
He sunk his head down. Then he spotted the book on the table–saw its slip of paper sticking out, fluttering in the breeze. Gus noticed the numbers and drew in a quick breath.