The Coming Storm

Above beaten earth, wisps of air extend stretching arms. Minding time, they uncoil. And finding each other they tangle. They embrace and merge to form invisible pockets of drifting moisture. They drift, carefree. Too small and too close to earth to be clouds, these pockets of thickening air roam freely, periodically buffeted by  plumes of heat rising from still warm dirt. Sprinkled across the night sky, these unseen lakes flit about. Their increasing mass draws the attention of individual specs of moisture eager for communal support. Those specs – formed of evaporated rain, and waste water, and rivers, and tears – are drawn into the orbit of the drifting moisture. Wary at first, single specs reach out to the passing pockets of air.

‘Could it be?’ they wonder. ‘A place I might call home?’ They touch drifting wisps. The sensation is one of cool comfort. And feeling a sense of safety, those lost and lonely specs slip into the waiting arms of airborne specters. Bulging with newfound droplets, invisible lakes bloom. They hang pregnant in the sky. Slowing their advance, they sag under the weight of expectation. Summer’s breeze nudges them toward the border. And with silence as their handmaid, invisible bellies rip open, belching out their bounty.

Ears cock and brows bend in response to a silent scream.

Dropping through our jeep’s open moon roof, evening sprinkles strike exposed skin. Some of the sprinkles miss the jeep to strike hardened dirt. Some dot the hood of our vehicle, struggling to grasp unfamiliar steel. Crying for comfort in an unfamiliar world.

In addition to the hardened earth, cold steel, and exposed skin, sprinkles are met with summer’s baking heat. Weakened by the powers of evaporation they lose their grip. They slide from the jeep, falling into the waiting maws of dirt below.

Stillborn, they vanish.

The cycle begins anew.

I look to my companion – no, friend is a better word as we have been through much along the border – and rub my arm from watchband to elbow> in doing so I smear a spec of moisture into obviation. “Rain?” I wonder.

Wiping perspiration and a sprinkling of specs from his brow, Duncan looks up through the moon roof and studies the night sky. It took some time before Dunc and I were able to speak openly; to speak as friends. My lacking faith was too great a wall for him to climb. Forced to endure endless evenings huddled in a jeep along the border, trust bloomed. Then kindness. And trust.

Followed by friendship.

The cycle complete.

His voice is deep, gravely. “It better not be fucking raining. We still got another six on this shift.” He faces me, “And you know ‘well as me the goddamned roof’s gotta stay open. Rain or no rain.” He crosses himself, having taken his lord’s name in vain.

Turning from my friend to look through a bulletproof windshield, I nod, “Copy that.”

Outside, scrub brush is rustled by an evening breeze. Overhead, wisps of congealing air reach for the border.

All about, specters take flight, searching for a place to call home.

Newborn raindrops tumble into darkness.

Within our Army-issue jeep, arms and legs protrude from short pant legs and even shorter shirt sleeves. Lubricated with the afterbirth of invisible clouds, exposed skin clings to vinyl seat covers. Shifting bodies serve up the discomfort of sticking skin. The sensation is accompanied by the sound of pealing Velcro. For fear of tearing flesh, limbs move slowly.

Deliberately.

Save for heads on swivels, we do our best to remain still.

And though the jeep is equipped with AC, engine steel remains cold; as it has for hours.

Truth is, at seven years old, this circa 2030 Army-issue shit box is more a foxhole than vehicle. More of a bench housing the tools of our trade – laptop, goggles, and weapon – than a means of transport. Though the battery and solar array still function, it’s seen better days.

We sit stationary, bathed in the passing river of time.

Covered in the dust of a sleeping border.

And now awash with the corpses of stillborn raindrops.

Through open windows the cicadas’ lullaby bathes us, releasing dreams of a carefree childhood.

My mind wanders, reaching for the outstretched arms of drifting specters.

Closing eyes, I begin to float.

Slowly at first, then with a quickening pace.

Soon I join floating wisps of air, caught in time’s invisible current. All about wannabe clouds extend reaching arms. We touch. The sensation is one of cool comfort.

Buoyed, I approach the passing moon.

If just for a moment, I am free.

From the seat next to me, Duncan clears his throat. Falling through the moon roof, I land in a vinyl-covered seat. Opening eyes, I witness Dunc launch a large gob out the passenger side’s window. He wipes chapped lips with the back of his hand. His palm is calloused and crisscrossed with angry scars and cigarette burns smoothed by the passage of time.

Shaking away daydreams, I return to the task at hand. Next to me, a laptop hums. I address Duncan, “Six more hours, huh?”

Upon the windshield, his reflection offers a confirming nod.

I extend a hand toward Duncan, “Here. Give me those.”

Without protest, Dunc hands over our lone pair of night vision goggles.

The glasses are heavy. They smell of perspiration. As does Duncan. As do I, I suppose.

Before shifts, we don’t shower. No soap smell. No smell of shampoo. Just the musty smell of sweat; like a familiar gym bag tossed in the trunk following a workout.

My nose crinkles.

Ignoring the scent, I draw the device to my face and sweep the horizon. Through the windshield, I spy a world of green; a world of specters along a darkened border; a border straddling two worlds.

Through a filtered hue, I track shadows walking a tightrope between plumes of shimmering heat.

Above them, pockets of thickening air roam freely.

Stray dogs, bats, and armadillos go about their business.

“Border critters,” I mumble. “Four-legged and winged.”

Duncan responds, as if from a dream, “Roger that.”

My attention lingers along the horizon. With the help of the goggle’s auto-focus/auto-zoom feature, animal eyes appear within arms’ reach.

They appear as blackened wells.

Leaning over the edge, I peek into darkness.

Thunder unleashes a comfortable rumble.

The jeep vibrates.

The auto-focus adjusts. The lenses blurs as I climb from the depths of blackened wells.

Resting the goggles across my lap I lean toward the passenger seat, “Thunder reminds me of the tent city shellings back in ‘35.”

My companion nods, “Fuck’n-A.” He leans back, speaking more to drifting clouds than to me, “Country’s average IQ jumped 20 points in 24 ours.”

He chuckles at his own joke.

My smile wanes as I consider the loss of 30,000 lives, washed away in a storm of steel, I hush my voice, “The benefits of extermination.” 

I stare through bulletproof glass.

Tonight, all is quiet along our border.

Overhead clouds above shutter. They move on, perhaps in search of beauty.

In the wake of fleeing clouds, the moon emerges. First peeking past a silver lining, he stares at the repeating cycle of humanity below.

Same story.

Different villains.

The moon sighs, resigned to witness folly.

Among dogs and bats and armadillos, two legged border critters are nowhere to be seen. They’ve grown savvy and aware of our technical advantages. They apply primitive counter measures.  I imagine critters creeping and crawling on their side of the horizon; slinking toward our position, hoping to remain hidden. Fueled by anger born from a childhood of poverty and keen to get the fuck out of UP (Unprosperous America) critters seek nothing more than the pursuit of a dream.

A growing hum joins the cicadas’ call as incoming surveillance drones scoot past our position. Launched from a base 10 klicks to the east, they rush toward the border. Duncan nods toward the laptop, “Outbound eyes operating.”

The passing hum soothes me; lulls me. Closing eyes I drift up through the moon roof. Slowly at first, then with an accelerated urgency I hurtle toward the moon.

My escape, however, is interrupted as Duncan whispers in my ear.

“Yo, I was just think’n ‘bout how far all this has come since it started. Back in 2019 I mean, we’re just do’in our part in the whole ‘circle of life’ thing, right?” 

Though I don’t think the ‘circle of life’ storytellers had the concept of protecting a border by killing teenage delinquents in mind when they shared their vision, I give Duncan a nod. He hushes his words, “Shit, you remember way back when Trump riled up the country over migrants from Mexico and El Salvador and Guatemala and shit like that.”

A long slow exhale fills my ear, followed by a conspiratorial tone, “Imagine if those fuckers could see the border we’re guarding now?”

I start to respond but am cut off by Duncan’s rising voice, “I mean those fuckers would be shitting themselves if they could look 25 years ahead to see us protecting PA (Prosperous America) from border critters try’n to sneak outa UP (Unprosperous America).”

Duncan shakes his head, “We’re sitt’n here baking in this rust bucket because of those short-sighted assholes. I mean, all the information they needed was right in front of ‘em.” Startling me, Dunc pounds his fist into the dash, “They couldn’t understand cause and effect if it kicked ‘em right in the balls.”

I shake my iWatch – circa 2030 but still pretty good and armed with what woulda been called a super computer back in 2019 – in front of Duncan’s face, “Well, they didn’t have AI like we do. I mean, back then they didn’t care about data. Or causality.” Arching my neck, I look up through the jeep’s roof to a winking moon. “They cared about opinions and ‘followers’ on social media. They cared about opinion. Everyone had an opinion, regardless of facts.”

My friend throws his head back. It makes a dull sound as it strikes the jeep’s hard headrest. Silence joins us in the vehicle. Quickly, Duncan ushers her away, “You remember, right?” He doesn’t wait for an answer, “Fucking hucksters. They just stood by and let their entire UP territory collapse.”  

I don’t answer.

And retrieving the goggles I scan a blackened horizon for border critters.

Letting out a lazy breath, I fog the inside of our bulletproof windshield.

Leaning forward Dunc wipes the glass with his forearm. “Dude. What the fuck? We gotta have a clear view. I mean, those muther fuckers are out there.” He jabs an index finger toward the horizon. “And they’re try’n to get in here.” With a swift motion, he points downward, into the jeep, toward his lap.

Trying to defuse the situation, I drop the goggles into my lap and feign astonishment, “Wow. You mean all those border critters are coming to PA just to get in there (I point to my friend’s balls). For a piece of your Beef Jerky? Is that what you’re say’n, Dunc? That those critters want nothing more than to get a hold of your junk? Wow. I mean, that must be one helluva mule you got packed in there.”

The joke misses its mark and Duncan lets loose on me. “No you, stupid fuck.” He points toward the east. “They’re trying to get here, into PA, you blockhead. Into our America.”

His nostrils flare.

I face palms to Duncan, “Dude, come on. I was just bust’n your balls.” Squinting eyes bore into me as I continue with my apology, “Lighten up, man. I’m here. With you. And we’re together on fucking patrol, right? You and me. So, ah, I think I get what I’m protecting; same as you so…”

Duncan’s chest swells. His breathing quickens as he cuts me off, “The same, huh? Well it’s not the fucking same. Was your father locked up for nearly a year at the TexMex border back in 2020? Just ‘cause he looked Mexican and just so Trump could ‘shore up the base’ or whatever the fuck they called it?” Words catch in Dunc’s throat, “And your cousin? Was your cousin killed at the border back in 2020? Huh?” Duncan’s words bore into me, “I mean he fucking died in a US immigration camp during the Trump round up.”

Gasping breaths fill the jeep. He speaks deliberately. My face is bathed in bursts of hot breath, “And my cousin wasn’t no criminal. I mean, he was fucking smart. He went to college and …”

Duncan turns away. His shoulders rise and fall as he stares out the window. Duncan’s reflection wipes eyes dry.

Reaching over, I place a hand on my friend’s forearm. His skin is moist, sticky.

Eyes well, “I mean he was just a kid; a smart kid this country shoulda welcomed with open arms. I mean … he was just looking for a chance at a better life. For a place to feel safe.”

Pulling away from my grip, Duncan rubs his face with both hands, “He was just look’n for a place to dream. And they killed him.”

He pounds the dashboard, “They fuck’n killed him!”

Again, I reach over. This time placing a hand on my friend’s shoulder. His shoulder is hard. Heat radiates through his camo tee shirt, “Dunc, I’m sorry man. I mean, I went too far. So, I’m sorry.  Really.”

Pursing dry lips, my companion nods.

He wipes eyes. “Copy that.”

I sigh, “They shoulda known what was gonna happen; I mean look’n back 25 years it was obvious where we’d end up.”

I arc my hand toward the horizon, “Right here, protecting a border between two worlds; Prosperous America and Unprosperous America.

Closing eyes, my colleague recites information shared during every PA high school social studies class from 2030 to the present.

“In 2019, sensing Supreme Court vulnerability, Republican led legislators in nine states sought to truncate or eliminate the human rights of American females through the passage of laws effectively prohibiting a women’s right to choose abortion. States like Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio sought to pass fetal heartbeat bills, limiting the right to abortion to a six week window following a woman’s most recent period.”

I weigh in, “And though in 2019 and 2020, the US Supreme Court refused to hear appeals against lower courts’ rejections of these legislative efforts, a set of states – Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi – banded together to block abortion rights through burdens placed on state budgets, patients, physicians, and medical facilities.”

Turning to face Duncan, I continue. “And not once did the leaders of those states think of the future impact of all those unwanted pregnancies on the future rate of crime.” I throw up my hands, “And there was a shit load of information showing ‘em just what was gonna happen in 15 years. It was right there. Right in front of them. Hidden behind social media on their precious internet.”

Duncan leans in as I go full blown nerd. Running a search on my iWatch I ask the watch to do the heavy lifting.

“iWatch, please read search results for cause and effect relationship between abortion rights and crime.”  

In a sing-song voice my watch comes to life. “Barro, 1999: When abortion is legal, crime falls, lagged for 15 years. After 15 years, unwanted children approach prime candidacy for crime. Quoting: ‘Overall, the abortion effect accounted for one-half of the drop in crime from 1991 to 1997. The rest is explained by increases in prisons, police, and other factors, or goes unexplained. About 20% of the abortion-related drop in crime arose because of the reduced population of 15-to-24-year-olds (the high-crime age group) in the 1990s.’[1] In fact, ‘States with high rates of abortion have experienced a roughly 30 percent drop in crime relative to low abortion regions since 1985…the estimates suggest that legalized abortion can account for about half the observed decide in crime in the US between 1991 and 1997.’[2]

My watch queries me, “Shall I continue?”

“Yes please.”

“Levitt, 2015: For the period from 1973-1988, the two sets of states (high abortion states and low abortion states) have nearly identical crime patterns. Note, that this is a period before the generations exposed to legalized abortion are old enough to do much crime. So this is exactly what the Donohue-Levitt theory predicts. But from the period 1985-1997, when the post Roe cohort is reaching peak crime ages, the high abortion states see a decline in crime of 30% relative to the low abortion states.”[3]

“Please. Keep going, iWatch.”

“Donahue the third (i.e. III – the iWatch is too smart to say “I”, “I”, “I”) and Levitt, 2000: ‘All of the decline in crime from 1985-1997 experienced by high abortion states relative to low abortion states is concentrated among the age groups born after Roe v. Wade. For people born before abortion legalization, there is no difference in the crime patterns for high abortion and low abortion states.’[4]

“Barro, 1999: ‘…the sharp rise in legal abortions – from fewer than 750,000 in 1973 to a plateau around 1.5 million a year since the early 1980s-fits with the timing of the drop in national crime rates since 1991.”[5]

“Again, Barro, 1999: ‘…states including New York and California and Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, legalized abortion by 1970, three years before the U. S. Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973. As the theory implies, the early legalizers experienced falling crime rates sooner than the rest of the country. Finally, abortion rates responded to the legalization differently across states, and those with the highest rates of abortion in the 1970s experienced the sharpest drops in crime in the 1990s.”[6]  For the time period of 1982 to 1997 these early legalizers saw increase reductions in crime as compared to the rest of the US:

  • Five early legalizer states 12.8% reduction in violent crime, rest of US 17.6% increase in violent crime
  • Five early legalizer states 44.1% reduction in property crime, rest of US 8.8% reduction in property crime
  • Five early legalizer states 40.8% reduction in murder, rest of US 24.6% reduction in murder

The iWatch continues.

“International results. François, Magni Berton, and Weill, 2014: “And it wasn’t just in the US that the impact of access to legal and safe abortion services reduced crime. In Europe, research by Abel François, Raul Magni Berton, and Laurent Weill ‘provide new evidence on the abortion-crime link by examining this issue using a sample of 16 Western European countries. The cross-country investigation allows the exploitation of the different dates of abortion legalization in Europe (and) perform(s) regressions of crime rates on the share of aborted adults, defined as the accumulation of aborted children in the past that would have become adults (to) find that abortion rate has a significant and negative impact on crime rates, specifically, homicide and theft.[7]

“Please pause, iWatch.”

I wave my hand over my lap, “And all this information was available back in pre-AI days. If they cared about cause and effect and the future help of their country they coulda run a Google search or whatever they called it. And there was a healthy academic debate about this shit. They just had to ask. And listen to facts as opposed to opinions.”

I shake my head. “Anything else you wanna share, iWatch?”

“Yes. There is additional information I wish to share. Again (I like when the watch says ‘again’), Donahue the third and Levitt, 2000: ‘Moreover, the costs of an abortion – financial and otherwise– dropped considerably after legalization. Kaplan [1988, p. 164] notes that ‘an illegal abortion before Roe v. Wade cost $400 to $500, while today, thirteen years after the decision, the now legal procedure can be procured for as little as $80.’ [8]

I add opinion to the watch’s river of information, “So what’s this boil down to? I’ll tell ya. The rich have the means to afford travel to legal abortion while the poor are left with limited options.”

Duncan seeks to jump in but I’m on a roll.

I interrupt my watch, “iWatch, stop please. I’ll read from now on.”

The screen on my wrist brightens.

Leaning over, I read from my little screen, “Check this out. ‘A number of studies have shown that the availability of abortion improves infant outcomes by reducing the number of low birthweight babies and neonatal mortality [Grossman and Jacobowitz 1981; Corman and Grossman 1985; Joyce 1987; Grossman and Joyce 1990]. Moreover, Gruber et al. [1999, p. 265] conclude that ‘the average living circumstances of cohorts born immediately after abortion became legalized improved substantially relative to preceding cohorts.’ They go on to note that ‘the marginal children who were not born as a result of abortion legalization would have systematically been born into less favorable circumstances if the pregnancies had not been terminated: they would have been 60 percent more likely to live in a single-parent household, 50 percent more likely to live in poverty, 45 percent more likely to be in a household collecting welfare, and 40 percent more likely to die during the first year of life.” Previous research (Loeber and Stouthamer-Loeber [1986] and Sampson and Laub [1993]) has found that an adverse family environment is strongly linked to future criminality.’[9] There you have it. All the ingredients needed for UP.”

                                                                                                                
Duncan exhales, “Man, they shoulda known. I mean they were the handmaidens of Unprosperous America. Right there; in 2019.”

Reading from his own (newer and cooler 2035) iWatch, Duncan weighs in with facts of his own, “And in 2019, the founding states of Unprosperous America – Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi – were already demonstrating decline. Alabama had the nation’s 5th highest incarceration rate[10], 5th worst childhood poverty rate (as of 2017)[11] [12], was ranked 46th in educational attainment[13], was ranked 46th in 2017 medium income[14], came in 45th in happiness and was ranked 46th in emotional and physical well-being among adults[15]. ”

Duncan continues, “Arkansas was ranked 47th in educational attainment[16], 49th in 2017 medium income[17], 49th in happiness, and 50th in emotional and physical well-being[18]. They also had the highest teen birth rate in the Union with a tally of 32.8 out of 1,000 girls. [19]

“Louisiana had the 2nd highest rate of incarceration in the nation[20], 2nd highest poverty rate[21] [22], the nation’s worst childhood poverty rate with the most children – 14.3% – living in extreme poverty[23] [24], was ranked 48th in educational attainment[25], was ranked 46th in 2017 medium income[26],was second to last with a ranking of 48th in happiness, was ranked 44th in emotional and physical well-being[27], and 47th in teen pregnancy. [28]

“Rounding out the founding states of UP, Mississippi had the 2nd highest rate of childhood poverty rate (as of 2017) with the second most children – 13.1% – living in extreme poverty[29] [30], was ranked 50th in educational attainment[31], 50th in 2017 medium income[32], 43rd in happiness, 42nd in emotional and physical well-being[33] and 45th in teen pregnancy. [34]

Duncan grows quiet; perhaps tired of reciting facts bearing painful fruit today. He sighs, as if resigned to the task at hand. As is his preference, he finds succor in scripture. He closes eyes before quoting Corinthians, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”[35]

I round out the history lesson with what unfolded in the following years, “Then as predicted, 15 years after the restrictions placed on abortion the crime rates soared across UP states. The shit hit the fan when Louisiana was hit with two category five hurricanes in 2030 and 2031. In each instance, a large number of the New Orleans PD left their posts. And in the wake of those storms and under the banner of lawlessness, anarchy followed. A crime rate already growing at three times the national rate soared. Fleeing for safety, immigrants swarmed prosperous neighboring states. For half a year they formed a series of human trains, appearing to hovering security drones as lines of ants marching to fertile territory.  Applying the lessons learned from the efforts of the US Federal government at the TexMex border back in 2019 to 2020, Prosperous States banded together to protect their territories.”

In an effort to slow migration borders were blocked with security checks and pay tolls.

And unable to pass over the border, storm clouds formed.

Along the border, tent cities sprouted like weeds. Squalor unseen in America since the Great Depression became the norm.

“In and around the festering tent cities ringing UP states, crime was the norm. Then, with the 2032 mass shootings in Atlanta and the Houston riots of 2033, the borders where sealed. The four states of Unprosperous America – Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas – were quarantined from the rest of the country.”

I exhale, saddened by my country’s lack of foresight, “And here we are today, hunting border critters because a bunch of politicians and judges in 2019 didn’t understand the concept of cause and effect.”

Soundlessly, Duncan places a hand on my chest. “Shhhh… Look.”  He points at the laptop, and then juts his chin toward the windshield.  “Two legged border critters; two o’clock sharp. Three of ‘em. Just crossed behind the tree line.” He taps the laptop, “They must be wear’n some sort of heat shield. But, still, you can see ‘em.” He works the focal mouse in an effort to see the critters’ faces. “There,” he whispers. We watch as they creep along the dirt, under cloak of some sort of thermal blankets. Duncan smirks, “Hello my little critters. You shouldn’t a come a creep’n today.”

He nods his head, “Three teens. I’m guessing a bunch of 19ers (those born at or after 2019).”

Staring at the monitor I wonder about our prey. Three boys crawling on their bellies toward a border separating the mayhem of UP from a better world; separating us from them. Perhaps they seek to export violence. Perhaps they crawl forward in search of nothing more than a better life.

The laptop focuses on the critters. Two hold handguns and one drags some sort of satchel; food or water I imagine.

It doesn’t matter.

Slowly, I pick up the rifle. Moving with care, I climb to a standing position within the jeep, rising through the moon roof. The warm breeze rubs my cheeks. Cicadas sing their song.

My lips are dry. I lick them slowly.

Outside, a lizard grows still; ready to pounce upon unsuspecting prey.

Bending forward, I rest the rifle on a well-worn tripod welded to the front portion of the jeep’s roof. Arming the site’s night vision, I’m greeted with a familiar murmur as the scope auto-targets three 19ers. I whisper so only silence might here, “I love that sound.”

And hearing my words, the moon blinks back tears.

Heat shimmers upward from baked earth.

The moon holds his breath.

Filling the void I speak slowly, “Targets acquired. Confirmed two o’clock.” With three taps onto the rifles handset I select a quantity of three programmable bullets.

If I prayed, I’d pray for forgiveness.

But I don’t.

Below me, Duncan readies me with scripture. It’s always the same.

“And the Lord sent you on a mission and said, Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.”[36] My companion’s voice drops as he adds his own final words, “Consumed by decades of unwanted pregnancies, and poverty, and childhood suffering, and violence, and incarceration. And of decisions made on behalf of the women in the name of the Lord above. The ill-conceived actions of today’s Amalekites have vanquished their rights, depositing those rights into hands serving our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you, Lord, for the trust you have bestowed upon us, for we are the unworthy.”

And though I can’t see Duncan, for I am preoccupied with the rifle’s scope, I know he crosses himself.

As I always do following Duncan’s prayer – if that’s what you call it – I speak to the surrounding silence, “Fire in the hole.”

Though ready to pull the trigger I pause as one of the critters stops dead in his tracks. Resting on his belly, he remains motionless, staring straight at our position.

As if sensing the outstretched arms of an approaching specter.

With the help of an auto-focus/auto-zoom, I see every feature of his face. His eyes appear as blackened wells.

I tumble into darkness.

And falling with an ever-increasing velocity, I pull the trigger.

For the briefest of moments time stops.

Above, a spec of moisture is embraced by a drifting wisp of air.

“Home,” whispers the spec.

The rifle recoils with a familiar bump. Three quick chirps fill the space between me and Duncan, between me and border critters walking a tightrope. Heat seeking bullets leap from the barrel in search of signatures over a mile away. Hugging the warm earth, they hurtle over an arching horizon.

I look down toward my brother in arms.

He taps the screen as the drone monitor registers three kills.

And making the sign of the cross Duncan looks up through the moon roof to see a quaking moon.

In that moment, the cicadas’ song is silenced.

And childhood memories fade.

On the other side of the border, specters tear asunder. Three 19ers fall limp upon the shores of Unprosperous America. The afterbirth pools upon hardened earth.

Returning to my seat, I stare at the green-filtered carnage displayed across the screen. Within the center of my chest I feel what I always feel after a successful extermination.

Nothing.

Hollow.

They are but critters. Their rights less valuable than ours.

And we are their shepherds.

Duncan places a hand on my shoulder. Gently, he rubs the back of my neck. “You good?”

Turning to face my friend, I nod numbly.

Duncan whispers, “Thank you for this strength, Jesus.” He justifies our actions as the work of god.

Cicadas resume their song.

The moon ducks behind a looming specter.

And just over the horizon, growing clouds come together to form the coming storm.



[1] “Does Abortion Lower the Crime Rate?” By Robert Barro, Business Week, page 30, 9/27/99

[2] NBER Working Paper Series, working paper 8004, “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime” by John Donohue III and Steven Levitt, 2000

[3] http://freakonomics.com/2005/05/15/abortion-and-crime-who-should-you-believe/

[4] http://freakonomics.com/2005/05/15/abortion-and-crime-who-should-you-believe/

[5] “Does Abortion Lower the Crime Rate?” By Robert Barro, Business Week, page 30, 9/27/99

[6] “Does Abortion Lower the Crime Rate?” By Robert Barro, Business Week, page 30, 9/27/99

[7] “Abortion and Crime: Cross-Country Evidence from Europe”, by Abel François & Raul Magni Berton & Laurent Weill, 2014. 

[8] NBER Working Paper Series, working paper 8004, “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime” by John Donohue III and Steven Levitt, 2000

[9] NBER Working Paper Series, working paper 8004, “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime” by John Donohue III and Steven Levitt, 2000

[10] The Most Dangerous States in America, USA Today, 11/19/18

[11] (two sources 1 of 2): Population Reference Bureau, analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 Supplementary Survey, 2001 Supplementary Survey, 2002 through 2017 American Community Survey.

[12] Child Poverty in America, Children’s Defense Organization, 9/13/18

[13] Most and Least Educated States in America, WalletHub, by Adam McCann, 1/21/19

[14] US Census Bureau, Factfinder.census.gov, as of May 2019

[15] Happiest States in America, WalletHub, by Adam McCann, 9/10/18

[16] Most and Least Educated States in America, WalletHub, by Adam McCann, 1/21/19

[17] US Census Bureau, Factfinder.census.gov, as of May 2019

[18] Happiest States in America, WalletHub, by Adam McCann, 9/10/18

[19] Teen Birth Rate Comparison, 2017 by Power to Decide

[20] The Most Dangerous States in America, USA Today, 11/19/18

[21] The Most Dangerous States in America, USA Today, 11/19/18

[22] The Most Dangerous States in America, USA Today, 11/19/18

[23] (two sources 1 of 2): Population Reference Bureau, analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 Supplementary Survey, 2001 Supplementary Survey, 2002 through 2017 American Community Survey.

[24] Child Poverty in America, Children’s Defense Organization, 9/13/18

[25] Most and Least Educated States in America, WalletHub, by Adam McCann, 1/21/19

[26] US Census Bureau, Factfinder.census.gov, as of May 2019

[27] Happiest States in America, WalletHub, by Adam McCann, 9/10/18

[28] Teen Birth Rate Comparison, 2017 by Power to Decide

[29] (two sources 1 of 2): Population Reference Bureau, analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 Supplementary Survey, 2001 Supplementary Survey, 2002 through 2017 American Community Survey.

[30] Child Poverty in America, Children’s Defense Organization, 9/13/18

[31] Most and Least Educated States in America, WalletHub, by Adam McCann, 1/21/19

[32] US Census Bureau, Factfinder.census.gov, as of May 2019

[33] Happiest States in America, WalletHub, by Adam McCann, 9/10/18

[34] Teen Birth Rate Comparison, 2017 by Power to Decide

[35] 2 Corinthians 9:6

[36] Bible, Samuel 15:18

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