Release Valve: Chapter One

Updated: Mar 23

This would be the last time. I said that last week. Maybe I'll say it again next week. Who knows? I took a deep breath and prepared myself for the smell. His house had a radius to it. Walking up the three steps to the front door, I saw the sign that said, "John Carmichael." It was my name. It was my father's name.

I opened the door and glanced at the stairs to my left. I did my best to ignore the smell that I hoped wouldn't stick to my clothes. At the top step was my father, his gut hanging over his belt as he pointed the barrel of his rifle at me.

"Are you fucking serious right now?" I asked.

He chuckled with contempt, and said, "I didn't know it was you, you should have called ahead."

He took his finger off the trigger and pointed the barrel away from me.

"I come here every week at the same time! You know this!" I yelled at him, as the smell of dog urine started to overpower my stomach. Walked to the kitchen and into the back room. It was coated in dog shit. He was letting the dogs use his back room, instead of taking them outside. I wanted him to be better than this. Anything but this.

I walked out the back door and gasped into the fresh air. His chickens were squawking at the sight of a human. The door opened behind me, and I saw his dogs run out into the chicken pen. The smallest dog liked to pick fights with the rooster. He was white with mud in his coat but seemed happy. The rooster less so. After a quick tussle, the white dog ran back into the house with a whimper. The rooster stood triumphant, although it left the humans alone. The rooster had been hit with my father's cane enough times to get the message.

"I wanted to run something by you." My father said, as he filled a bucket full of chicken feed and walked into the coop, spreading it out to his flock. I sighed. This wasn't the first time.

"I'm looking at a house to buy, but I'm having a little trouble with the down payment. I wanted to know if I could borrow about five thousand, and I'll pay you back at eight percent interest. That's better than any Imperial Bank on this planet."

I nodded; stone faced. I had just gotten a good job, but I didn't start yet till tomorrow. He was hitting me up for Incentive already. Never mind the two times he went bankrupt. So many people were garnishing his paychecks there's no way he'd pay me back.

"I'll think about it, dad." Is all I said. I didn't tell him how I really felt. How could I? I was so desperate to pretend he was someone he wasn't.

"Well, let me know fast. Houses don't stay on the market very long these days." He told me, as if he was going to do something else with his life. I wanted him to get it together. I kept coming around, hoping he would. "You ready to go?" He asked, as the feed bucket was emptied. I nodded and walked around the side of his house to where my ground car was parked. I couldn't do another trip through the back room.

He got into the passenger side, and I buckled my seat belt. I looked over to him and noticed he hadn't. "Dad, you gotta buckle your seatbelt."

He rolled his eyes and complied. "Your uncle would be rolling in his grave."

"My uncle the terrorist?" I asked, pulling out of his driveway and setting the auto pilot to the food pantry.

"Your uncle was a freedom fighter!" Dad said, boasting as the smell of his clothes percolated throughout my ground car.

"First of all, you not wearing a seatbelt does not make you a freedom fighter, it makes you more likely to die in an accident. Secondly, you and I both served in the Human Soldiers of Earth, so I don't know why you find terrorists cool all of a sudden."

My father's eyes lit up. Someone was engaging with him. That didn't happen much after mom left. "He was my brother, and he died fighting for the cause!"

" The humans lost the war a hundred and twenty years ago, dad."

We spent the rest of the ride in silence after that. My dad was from the Lower Caste, and they were often emotionally invested in weird revolutionary fantasies. Never mind the Rough Riders have been gone for twenty years. The peasants in their hovels still said, "the humans shall rise again!"

I turned on the radio. Crap. Jim Greene was on.

"Hello there, fellow travelers. This is Jim Greene, the voice of human thought! The results of the human elections had just come in. Seven Senators elected from the regions of Earth to vote on how Earth was run. I gotta wonder though, who are they to tell us what to do? I mean, they're just puppets for the Empire anyway. Besides, this John Hook idiot stole the election. How else does someone overwhelmingly win Senator of North America. Through fraud, that's how. Now, I'm not saying he's totally behind it. No, I gotta believe they picked some well-meaning do gooder idiot to dance for them while nothing gets done for us little folk. He's letting one hundred thousand blue skinned refugees into North America, to take away jobs from you! To live off the dole! Why, they won't work at all! All they'll do is take what little food you have off your table, and Hook will hold a gun to your head till the blue skins are full. Never mind the H.S.E. veterans that live on the street. Veterans that fought the Blue Skins for twenty years! Never mind the working man who lives paycheck to paycheck. No, now the Blue Skins will be supported by your paycheck! But don't worry, fellow travelers. Rough Rider Six is in direct communication with me and has assured me that the next uprising is just around the corner!"

I took a deep breath and rolled my eyes. Jim Greene played to the crowd of people that waved Rough Rider flags and screamed at Imperial Librarians for not carrying copies of the United States Constitution. John Hook was a professor of mine at Indianapolis University. He taught that the Rough Riders gave broken men a space to destroy and justified it with failed causes.

"Can you believe that idiot wants to allow more of those blue skinned refugees into human territory?" My father asked me, as the world passed him by outside the passenger window. "We spent twenty years fighting them and he wants to bring them here."

I sighed and spoke. "We spent twenty years occupying a pre-industrial planet so the Empire could mine it for FTL crystals. The only reason they pulled the H.S.E. out was because there are no more FTL crystals on ground. The least we could do is let their people start over here on Earth."

"Not if all they want is a fucking hand out!" My father said, as we pulled into the free food pantry. I didn't bother to point out the irony to him. Part of me still protected him. When I was seven years old, he would hand the Multi-Function Device to me when it rang, just in case it was the loan collections officer. "Daddy's not here right now," was a phrase I repeated often growing up.

The line stretched outside the door. As we got closer, the smell off my father's clothes melted into the stench of the free food line. Lines like these were common in my life. It was only in the last few years that I didn't need to beg for food. I hated begging. I hated him more for putting us in that position. But I wanted to love him. I wanted him to be the man he pretended to be when I was a kid. So, I protected his ego from pointing out the obvious. As the line continued, and we collected the free boxes of food, I realized I protected him because it allowed me to pretend. I hated myself for being such a coward. So, this would be the last time. I said that last week. Maybe I'll say it again next week. Who knows?

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