Back at the Ranch
Lance looked up from his nook beneath the willow where he was reading and saw a dust cloud approaching. As the brown powdery curtain got closer, Sam’s truck emerged. Lance got up and walked down to the studio below the embankment to greet him.
Sam rushed in the front door carrying a bag of groceries and a Fresno Bee that he slapped on the table. ‘That little Korean terrorist pissant,” he said. “In my day we’d have sent a small group in there to take him out.”
Lance helped him put the groceries away. “Gotta be pretty tough in a closed country where everyone looks like everyone else.”
“A little tougher,” Sam said. “But not impossible. There are warriors for freedom everywhere.”
Lance put a gallon of milk in the refrigerator. “Is that what you did after Viet Nam?”
“How far are you in the manuscript?” Sam asked.
Lance shook his head. “It’s not fair to answer a question with a question.”
“Touché,” Sam said.
Shotgun ran in the open door smelling like a skunk and Sam chased him back outside. “The problem today is that we’ve got so much diversity in this country we’ve forgotten what our core values are.”
“This country was founded by foreign immigrants,” Lance reminded him. “Have you got something against cultural diversity? I mean, it’s the American way.”
“That’s true,” Sam responded. “I don’t have anything against diversity, but the immigrants who founded this country all spoke the King’s English.”
“That sounds prejudiced,” Lance said. “I mean, according to your manuscript here…” He held up the typewritten pages. “Beth was half Mexican and bilingual.”
Sam put a six-pack of Miller’s in the fridge. “Whoa there, son, I never said I had anything against Mexicans. I just don’t like the fact that every time I call some business or government agency I have to press 1 if I want to hear the instructions in English. In English? Come on. We’re not officially a bilingual country like our neighbors to the north. I sort of resent that, and it’s emblematic of the loss of some of our essence as a country and maybe some freedoms we used to enjoy.”
Lance folded the grocery sack and put it on the kitchen counter. “I don’t see how that represents a loss of freedom. 911 played more of a role in any loss of freedom than the immigrants from the south that seem to pick the food here in the valley and manicure all the lawns in California.”
Sam shook his head. “I’m talking more of an erosion of core values rather than immigrants, illegal or otherwise. I’m talking about blurred lines between right and wrong.”
Lance sat at the table. “That’s a stretch – and may I ask you sir, who determines what’s right and what’s wrong? You? The government? The Church?”
Sam stared at him. “You see, right there is the rub, bub. The line between good and bad is the God-given ability to discern between the right thing and the wrong thing to do.”
“And you have that?”
“I believe I do,” Sam said. “And it’s my duty to carry that tradition forward.”
Lance rubbed his chin. “So, let me get this straight. It’s your duty to enforce your concept of good and evil on other people? Let’s say I am your son, would you force your ideas about freedom on me – like I was some atheist, or, God forbid, some Islamic entity – even to the point of violence to enforce your will?”
“Listen,” Sam said. “It’s like Shotgun and the smell of that skunk he rolled in. Since there’s no way for me to communicate to him that the smell is offensive to me, he doesn’t know any better. To him it smells okay. To me it stinks, but I’m not going to kill him because he doesn’t know any better. However, I am going to run him off.”
“Yeah, but he likes it. It doesn’t work for you, but it works for him,” he said. “The boundaries of freedom keep changing all the time. When you were a kid it was civil rights, now that battle for equality has morphed into the recognition of gay marriage.”
Sam stood. “Don’t get me started. I understand that, but it’s not about this or that group’s rights. It’s always about human rights and not infringing on other people’s space.”
“Isn’t that kind of hypocritical?” Lance asked. “We do that all the time.”
Sam walked over and slapped Lance on the back. “Maybe you are my kid. You’re argumentative enough.”
“Yeah, well we’ll know about the bloodline in a few days,” Lance said.
Sam opened the refrigerator and popped a beer. “You want one?”
Lance shook his head. “Can I ask you about something in the manuscript?”
“Maybe,” Sam said. “Depends on how far you are and what remains to be discovered. I want you to finish the manuscript. If that test turns out positive, you have to know this story.”
“Can you tell more about the Illuminati and this Monarch Slave business, and did you ever recover that disk?”
“You’re jumpin’ way ahead of yourself, kid,” Sam said. “It’s not even Christmas Eve yet and you want to open all the presents. Hold your horses awhile. You got some more reading to do.”
“Crap,” Lance said. “Well tell me this much – did you recover the disk in San Francisco?”
“Did Ellen find the copy in her desk?”
“And you’re not going to tell me any more are you?”
“Not yet, keep reading.” Sam took his beer outside and walked toward his truck. “I’ve got some fences to mend for the boss.”
Lance followed him. “I thought you were the boss. Did you ever resolve your own questions about possibly being a Monarch Slave yourself?”
Sam winked and roared off in a burst of dust.