A Line in the Sand
Sometime in a not so distant future...
Travis stepped onto the concrete sidewalk bundled in his thick blue coat and a scarf wound about his neck. He tightened his grip on his Mother's hand as they awaited the public speed bus to pick them up. Today he to visit his Grandpa in the Old Veterans' Home and the ride was about a half an hour long. He had had to rise early so that his Mother might get to the factory on time after she dropped him off.
His eyes were still heavy from sleep and he had nearly fallen asleep in his ration of cornmeal that morning, had his Mother not given him his cup of milk. He remembered the thick liquid substance gushing down his throat and jolting him from his half-slumber. The warmth of the house had helped with his weariness, making the entire world seem like a burden on his small body.
Now however, the cold of the winter morning made him stray from his sleepiness. In the crisp air, he wanted nothing more then to return to his bed and cuddle with his bear, Davy. But Grandpa had always been his favorite relative and he could hold off any amount of shivering if it meant he could visit with him.
The frosty snow crunched beneath his new synthetic brown boots as he shifted impatiently beside his Mother, holding tightly to his bear. More people from the homes about his had joined them, huddled in their coats and chatting quietly with each other. He knew that most worked in the factories on the outskirts of the city like his Mother. After all, that's were the money came from these days.
Now Mother was talking to another woman Travis didn't recognize and he let out a frustrated sigh. When would the bus arrive?
The seven year old lifted his bright blue eyes to the sky. Dawnwas just breaking in blooming colors of rose, violet and yellow that reminded him of a rainbow. The sun was just peeking over the buildings and the sight was pleasing to his young soul. He wondered if he could paint one later...
"Travis!" His Mother's scolding voice pulled him from his dreamy state and he blinked at her blearily. "What did I tell you about daydreaming? You know it's not good for you!"
The young blonde boy grumbled unhappily, kicking at the snow.
"Sorry Mom." He mumbled.
However his Mother didn't hear him and continued talking with her friends. After a few more long minutes that seemed like days to the youngster, the big blue public speed bus finally pulled up to the stop. Eagerly, he scrambled up next his mother as the passenger boarded, each having their identity cards scanned on the laser gun the driver provided.
After having both his and his Mother's cards scanned, he bounced onto one of the cushioned black seats beside his parent. Soon they were on their way, the bumps and rocks in the road causing the bus to rock and the springs in his seat to bunch.
He watched the houses pass by in his window in a blur, with his nose pressed to the glass and Davy clutched tightly to his chest. His warm breath fogged the windows and eventually clouded his vision, causing his interest to fade.
The boy sat back, shifting his toy onto his lap. His Mother was talking again, something about a famous singer dying her hair an unnatural color or something. Whatever it was, Travis had no clue as to why it was so important. He returned his gaze towards Davy, ruffling the bear's furry ears with his small hand.
"I wonder what story Grandpa will tell today, Davy." He pursed his lips in thought. "He promised to continue the story from last week, do you think he forgot?"
Travis frowned, hugging his bear close at the thought.
"If he did I'll just ask him to finish it this time." He said, his voice full of childish passion. "I do want to hear the rest, Davy. No one else talks like Grandpa, not even Daddy."
The boy curled up on his seat, his face buried in teddy's fur. The rumble of the bus and the constant chattering of his Mother and other women rang in Travis' ears. The heaviness of sleep returned and a yawn escaped his lips unwillingly. His eyes became like lead and slowly slipped closed.
The next thing Travis knew, his Mother was gently shaking him awake.
"Come Travis, we've arrived." The firm, but smooth voice said.
Tiredly, the boy sat up, looking about to see that some of the other passengers were disembarking. Slipping his hand into his Mother's the two gradually got off the speed bus by pressing through the stuffed car towards the door.
A blast of cold air hit his face as they stepped onto the sidewalk, causing him to shiver and grip Davy fiercely. The Old Veteran's Home was about a block down the street from the stop and the walk was dreary to the young boy. However, he knew that with each step, Grandpa was closer and so was his strong, story-telling voice. His determination burst at the thought and he was soon pulling his Mother behind him in eagerness.
The Old Veteran's Home was a tall, red-brick building with white shutters and beautifully carved doors. The pictures bore a snake, coiled to strike on one side and a wolf holding the snake dead between his teeth on the other and standing proud. Travis had once asked his Father why such images were one the doors and his Father had smiled, bursting with pride.
"It's a symbol that we've moved on, son." Mr. Barrett had said, holding the boy's shoulder firmly. "It means that we have conquered the past and have made ourselves a better nation. Remember that son, we're greater now then we ever have been."
That response had confused Travis terribly and he had racked his mind to understand. In the end he had gone to Grandpa for the answer. But he had no sooner finished asking the question then the old man had snorted angrily.
"They're idiots, that's why they've done it, boy." The wise brown eyes flashing. "They think that killing all that was they'll make themselves grand. But they've done nothing but turn themselves into slaves. They hope that by putting men like me here that we'll change too, the fools."
Travis remembered the amount of disgust that the old man's voice had held and he didn't know what to think. He had always believed Grandpa in the past, the quantity of bitterness that he had held had scared the young boy. Who was he to believe? His Father had been proud, his Grandpa revolted, how was he to act? In the end Travis decided to dislike the pictures just because he didn't understand.
His Mother pulled him through the doors and up to the front desk where a plump woman sat. At the sight of her, Travis recoiled behind his mother. The woman looked like a monster with her fat, painted lips, white powered face and frizzy blonde hair. About her light green eyes was darkened in makeup and her lashes were unnaturally long and curled upwards. The desk, as opposed to the lady's face, was spotless and clean. A black computer sat before her and her long, red nails tapped on the keyboard as she typed.
Catching the visitor in the corner of her eye, the lady swirled towards Travis' Mother.
"Hello love, how can I help you?" A whiny voice came from the red lips. "Have you come to scheduled a 'Passing'? We have a special offer this month for an upped payment for the removal of a carbon footprint."
"No, thank you." His Mother shook her dirty-blonde head. "I've come to see my father-in-law. His name is 'John Barrett'. My name is Melissa."
The woman frowned and gave a shrug, tapping on her keys.
"Well sugar, I'll sign you in, but keep the offer in mind." She pressed one last button and turned towards a large card-printer where two silver bars were spit out of one of the slits in the side.
Swirling back towards Travis' mother, she handed over the cards. His Mother took them and thanked the woman, taking the boy's hand in her own. However, before she could turn to enter the elevator next to the desk the lady caught sight of Travis and smiled.
"Well, hi there little man." She winked at him and Travis shivered, clutching Davy to his chest. "You're cute aren't you?"
The boy kept his mouth shut, hiding behind his Mother's skirt. The lady frowned again and sat back in her seat, huffing.
"I'm sorry." Mrs. Barrett said, pulling Travis from behind her. "He's a little shy towards strangers. Come on son, lets go see Grandpa."
Travis was happy when the elevator doors closed after their cards were scanned, shutting out the sight of the plump woman's displeased look.
His Grandpa was on the fifth floor in room 1776 as he had been for the last five years. The boy listened with impatience at each ding the speakers made, marking the floor. At the fifth ding, Travis was out before the doors had completely opened, leaving his scolding mother behind.
He raced down the white hall, knowing exactly where he was going. he only skidded to a stop on the tiled ground at the last door. The bright red door with the golden numbers, 1776. He heard his mother coming down the hall, her heels tapping meaningfully on the floor. Quickly, he gave Davy a determined look and reached for the golden handle. Giving it a twist, he rushed into the room, wanting to see his Grandpa as soon as possible.
"Grandpa, Grandpa!" He cried, rushing into the small sitting room with bursting energy. "Grandpa, it's Travis! Mother and me-"
He stopped in the doorway, blue eyes wide and confused.
Two men in black suits sat on his grandfather's white couch, one holding a clipboard, the other a folder, held close to his chest. Both men had white faces, sweat running down their necks and their eyes were wide open in a stare.
And Grandpa, good old Grandpa Barrett was the cause of their fright. He stood, feet akimbo, strong arms crossed and brown eyes piercing into the mens' heads. His clean shaven head of brown, furrowed brow and lips drawn in a thin line were certainly a sight to behold to Travis and he gulped at the scene before him.
John Barrett had not even lifted his eyes off the men as his grandchild had entered, but kept them glued to the two representatives before him in distrust and distaste. The young boy had never seen his Grandpa look so much like stone before and it frightened him a little. Still he stood silent as his grandsire spoke.
"I told you once and I'll tell you again." Came the gruff, stern voice from the old man's lips. "I'm not mental, I won't sign any blasted paper that'll lock me up even more and I won't give you another chance to come in here and try to convince me. So I suggest you tell your 'head hotshots' that they won't make a puppet of me. My mind is free and free it shall stay if I have to go to hell and back, understood?"
The double nodded frantically, swallowing thickly at the angered man before them. They even flinched as he straightened and gave them a hard stare.
"Now that we have a mutual understanding, I want you gone." He snarled, face bright red. "So get your tails up and out of my 'safe cell' before I throttle you here to kingdom come!"
The men shot up, scrambling for the door over each other in their haste. Travis found it a funny sight, seeing them rush like hunted victims. Well, maybe they were telling from that look on his Grandpa's face. They ran into his Mother as she came through the threshold, fumbled an apology and scurried off like frightened mice.
The woman watched the men leave before casting a disapproving look over to her father-in-law, who still looked quite cross.
"Dad, you really should be more kind to those people." She said, shutting the door and casting scolding brown eyes on the man. "They are trying to help you with your situation as best they can. You must stop pushing them away! Whatever will people think of us?"
Grandpa rolled his eyes away and unfolded his arms, pointing an accusing finger towards the door.
"Kind? I was being kind Melissa! They left with their skulls intact didn't they?" He snorted in disgust. "No one's ever called me mental and went home without a whipping before! As to what people think, they can think that I've still got my head on straight and my mind is still my own!"
Melissa scoffed in horror as the man continued.
"My only 'situation' is that my liberties are trying to be stripped from me one by one and I won't stand for it!"
Travis watched in fascination as his Mother tightened her lips and narrowed her eyes.
"Sometimes, Father, you have to give up liberty for freedom." She said in a serious tone that often meant that Travis was in deep trouble. "I'm leaving for the factory now. I'll pick Travis up at the usual time tonight. And please refrain from talking such nonsense into my son's head."
With that she turned to Travis and gave him a thin smile. Crouching down, she enveloped him in a hug and kissed his forehead. The scent of her fresh lavender perfume riding the wind about him as she ruffled Davy's fur and stood up.
"You be good Travis." She touched his cheek lovingly. "I'll pick you up later. Don't let Grandpa carry on too much alright? You know how he can be, pushy."
The boy nodded, though not at the fact of his Grandpa being pushy, but rather in confirmation of his behavior. How could he be around such a person with such wonderful stories and be bad? No, he was always good for Grandpa, always.
After his mother left, Travis stood alone with his grandfather wondering if he should speak. He looked shyly at the man who now wore an impassive face with awe. He'd never seen his Grandpa so upset and he wasn't sure how to react. He also was curious to ask Davy if he had been afraid
Luckily, Grandpa broke the silence with a smile towards the boy. Trotting over, he extended a hand, which Travis hesitantly shook.
"Real men greet each other so, boy." Grandpa said with a grin. "You can tell what kind of a man you're dealing with by his hand's firmness. So always give it your best."
Travis consciously made his grip as hard as he could so as to impress the old man. At the look of approval he was given, his young heart soured with pride. Looking down at his hand he gave the elder a smile.
"Someday I'll shake like you Grandpa! My hands will crush mountains!"
John Barrett roared in laughed, patting the child's back fondly in amusement.
"That you will, son, that you will." He pulled the boy over towards the couch and sat down with Travis at his side. "Now, shall we get right to the story-telling or should we have a few chocolates that your cousin sent first?"
Travis beamed suddenly at the mention of a story and bounced on the cushions in excitement.
"Oh please the story, Grandpa!" The boy babbled, lifting his bear. "Davy and me have been waiting for the rest! Please, Grandpa, please!"
"Alright, alright!" The old man laughed heartily at his grandchild's eagerness.
He stood up and grabbed an old, leather bound book that was torn and use-worn off one of his many shelves of books. He chuckled, taking the bear from Travis's still outstretched hands and sitting the toy by the boy. Full of care, he opened the book.
"So where were we...?" He trailed off to see if the child could guess.
"They just found out that no more soldiers were coming!" Travis blurted out. "What'll they do Grandpa!? That have so little men! Ans Santee Antman has like a billion!"
"His name is 'Santa Anta', Travis and it was only a few thousand." Grandpa corrected gently with a smile. "Now shall I continue with the story or...?"
"Yes, yes!" The boy cried, his energy bursting. "Tell me!"
The old man nodded, motioning for Travis to calm down before he began the tale where he had left off, holding the old page in his withered hand.
"They had just found out that no more men were coming and the situation was grave. Travis knew he could not lie to his men, so he went out and stood before them. He told them of the new and the dire thing that had come upon them in a solemn tone. Then, taking his saber in his hand he drew a line in the sandy ground and turned to his men. He cried to them in a loud voice then saying:
'Whosoever crosses the line chooses to stay and fight! He who stays in his place shall be free to go, for none may live past the week if your chose to hold out. Chose now men and chose wisely!'
And out of all of the men, every man then crossed the line and thus pledged themselves to death for a greater cause. And that cause was freedom. And Travis thanked them, knowing the weight of their sacrifice."