Waiting at the Free State of America


recliner sleepWaiting was always the hardest part. We had been driving for hours across the desert. Vegas was many miles behind us as we raced for the Free State of America. It had been years since the great upheaval, the time no one wants to remember but none of us can get out of our minds.

It’s only an election, they said. Both parties are the same, they said. It doesn’t matter who you vote for, they said.

They were wrong.

The initial shock lasted for weeks. I suspect some still haven’t grasped the outcome, even all these years later. But it had happened; there is no doubt about that.

The first signs we had made a mistake came from those who voted by their conscience. “But we wanted a greener world,” they said. Or “we wanted a world free from government regulation,” they said. He said, she said. Some still rationalize their decision to vote “on principle,” though their “principle” was based on fantasies created in their heads, unrelated to reality. “It felt good for a while,” they said. Until the world changed.

The irony of the Free State of America isn’t lost on us who saw the upheaval coming. The former U.S. state was the first to secede, with Phoenix now the nation’s capital. It came as a shock when the former Governor, aged Senator, and legislators were expelled. Those who had been immigrants built a wall around the state, forming a new country, one in which freedom and responsibility were integrated with rational regulation. Unlike in the former United States, corporations had to pay hefty premiums just for the right to be in the burgeoning marketplace. No corporation got tax breaks, and still they begged to get inside the wall. Wealthy individuals entreated the people’s government to tax them even higher.

It seems everyone wanted to get away from the former United States. They had “made America great again,” for sure. Though they just as assuredly hadn’t realized it would become great only because the honest folk left all the toxic elements behind – the bigots, the racists, the misogynists, the liars. As more and more of the former American states joined with the Free State of America in forming a new nation, all that was left in the former USA were the takers, the ones who avoided taxes, scammed their employees, and skimmed off gillions as they ran up debts before strategically bankrupting the country in the hope no one would notice.

After the bankruptcy the Trumpians ran amok, demanding the government feed them. But under the new Putin-puppet all social programs were immediately eliminated. All investment in infrastructure and jobs and education was cut out completely. Eventually the Trumpians started fighting each other. No longer able to blame immigrants and minorities and women and the poor and non-fake Christians for their delusions, they turned on themselves. Militias fought militias once they realized their stockpiles of guns were no match for an actual military. And then the military left them to themselves.

Eventually they will annihilate enough of each other that us rationals can walk back in to retake the remainder of what once was America. Already half the population has come over; all that is left are a few enclaves of hatred, with no one left to hate besides themselves.

The long drive over, we’ve been told our application has been approved and we’ll be granted entry into the Free State of America. The mandatory sun block has been applied and we have proved our ability to contribute to society.

The waiting won’t be long now. We smile.

[Written in response to one-word prompt, Waiting]

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Original Sin



six-sons-photoThe judge looked up from his reading and stared incredulously from his bench down at the pair seeking his blessings. Six of the couple’s children were seated behind them in various stages of inattention. An older woman, presumably a grandmother, was holding the youngest son.

Under the question “reason for divorce,” Uncle David had written in “attempted murder.”

“Umm, is this true? Keep in mind that I don’t take playing games in this court lightly.”

“Yes, your honor,” David said in quiet, unemotional voice.

“And how, exactly, was this murder attempt carried out?” The judge’s eyes looked closely at David’s wife as he asked. She seemed normal. Not the obviously homicidal type. Or so he would have guessed under other circumstances.

“Well, your honor, she stabbed me repeatedly with a kitchen knife.”

“I see. And did you deserve it?” This ought to shake his story.

“Yes, your honor.”

Okay, this was one for the record books, the judge thought, quickly snapping his gaping mouth shut. Domestic abuse is a serious business in his court. He had been known to throw the book at abusers even when the spouse refused to press charges.

“And what did you do that supposedly warranted this attack?”

“Original sin, your honor.”


“Please explain.” This had to be a joke, right?

“Yes, your honor. It seems my sin was being born. Apparently I can do nothing right.”

“I see. Are those are your six children? And by that I mean, those six children resulted from the consensual intercourse between you and your wife, not some other situation?”

“Yes, your honor. These are our darling sons.”

“So apparently the two of you got along well enough?”

“Well, yes, your honor. We, well, we, um, you know… I’m sorry, your honor, do we have to discuss this with all these strangers watching?”

This was getting interesting. The divorce proceedings and talk of attempted homicide didn’t seem to phase him, but this topic is clearly uncomfortable for him. So, of course, the judge pursued it.

“What I’m trying to get at is how you could go from a relationship in which the two of you have produced six seemingly normal sons to one in which your wife stabs you with a kitchen knife and you claim – admit – that you deserved it. Can you give me any further insight into this matter?”

“Yes, your honor. You see, my wife and I very much enjoy our, um, intimate time together. We have six wonderful sons. Our youngest was born a month before my wife decided to kill me.”

“I see. Stop right there. Let me talk to your wife now. Ma’am, why did you stab your husband with a kitchen knife?”

“Well, sir. He promised me this sixth child would be a daughter.”

Divorce granted.

[Written in response to one-word prompt, Original]

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.



Prescience, Or the Daring Boy, the Bike, and the Pond



Stingray bike“Brake, brake, brake,” the father beckons. And the son brakes.

Our usual walk takes us around the local pond, a place where we eagerly watch for our many geese friends. Early in the walk is a spot near an apartment complex where the paved walkway takes a slightly steep grade downward, turns to the right, then after about twenty feet of gentler grade, turns again to the left for an even steeper grade downward. Each section is twenty to thirty feet or so. The beginning of this “S” turn is where the forest starts, so that most of the three sections have a nice woodland feel and canopy.

Today’s walk brought some added excitement. The “brake, brake, brake” happened as we approached the first downward grade. The son, probably about 6 years old or so, boldly rode his small bike ahead of the father on his larger bike, with the perhaps 10-year-old daughter tagging along behind on a bike and pace that were just right.

The boy was beside me when he braked. Smooth, secure, comfortable. As so I thought.

As we made the first turn I mentioned to my companion that, had the boy not braked, he would go off the path. She agreed and showed concern for his well-being. I responded that I was less worried about the first down grade because he would simply crash into the woods. Perhaps dangerous to the point of scrapes and scratches, but more likely an innocuous lesson learned. My greater concern, I went on, was if he didn’t brake on the last down grade, because then he would end up in the pond. We chuckled a bit, comfortable that the father had his kids under his watchful eye.

About ten feet into the this last down grade my companion noted how high the water level in the pond was, not surprising given the heavy rains we’ve experienced lately. She remarked at how right I was, that if the kid didn’t brake going down this grade he would end up in the pond. In the midst of this conversation I suddenly hear again:

“Brake, brake, brake!”

That boy is daring, I thought, as the kid and the bike whizzed past me. A split second passed before I realized his feet were not braking – in fact, were not even on the pedals – and then I knew he wouldn’t be able to stop. Sprinting off after him it took me only three or four steps to reach the edge of the pond, by which time he, and his bike, had slightly less than gracefully plunged into the muddy waters. Arriving a step later and seeing that he emerged immediately and could walk back onto solid ground – thus not necessitating me to dive in after him – I helped him back up just as his father screeched his own bike to a halt and raced down to help, repeating to the son that he was okay as he dripped his way out of the water.

The greatest damage done was one shoe floating just out of reach. His father helped the boy as he cried, mostly from being startled by the events of those dreaded 5 seconds rather than any physical injury. The father thanked us for helping and tended to his son as the daughter looked on with the kind of look you knew meant her brother would never live down the incident.

And so we continued our trek around the pond, fascinated that we foretold the event that would happen, and the shock that it had actually occurred. We had to believe that the daring boy might be a bit less daring in the future, which despite helping to keep him dry, would be a shame.

[Written in response to one-word prompt, Daring]

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Hello Silence, My Old Friend



dsc04380I don’t recall how long I stood there watching her slowly disappear into the distance. For a moment I was back in college and the bittersweet memories of love lost. I almost started to run after her before catching myself.

“She’s married, remember?” I must have said it out loud because an elderly woman looked at me sadly, slowly nodding as she seemed to be scanning back in time to her own lost passions.

Silently, I groped my way toward the uptown “2” train. Maybe I would lose myself in the crowded loneliness of the midnight ball watchers in Times Square. After all, it was New Year’s Eve.


The buzzing in my head woke me up. Wow, I thought, how much did I drink? I don’t think I’ve ever had a hangover that made my head…wait, what day is this?


“Damn, it’s the phone.”

It was Mare.

“What? You’re still here?” She was crying.

“He what? Hold on, catch your breath. He’s in jail? What the hell happened?”

“Okay, okay. Where are you? The Conrad? Wow, nice digs. Um, I mean, I’ll be there in an hour.”


I couldn’t help but think how gorgeous she looked even though her face was red and puffy. Despite the obvious signs of trouble, she had taken the time to put on makeup and dressed to the nines. She nearly leaped into my arms when she saw me, then quickly jumped back at the doorman’s discretely disapproving glance.

“Let’s walk,” I said.

It didn’t take long before we settled in Teardrop Park, which seemed appropriate as our silence was interrupted only by her occasional whimper. Finally she opened up, both in words and tears. Something about some sort of SEC investigation and money laundering or…Honestly, most of it went over my head, but clearly her husband was in big trouble and had been detained. She had called his corporate office and they were arranging for their New York attorney to take care of it. Seems she had no idea what his job entailed; he usually just told her to enjoy the advantages of high finance, which usually meant a new pearl necklace or diamond studs and a knowing smile whenever she started asking questions. It seemed sketchy to me but I listened without saying much. I sensed that was what she needed most, someone to listen.

“I’m tired of it,” she told me after going silent again for a long while. “He goes off on long trips and I never know what’s going on. Maybe he has a string of girlfriends in all those cities. Not that it matters; sometimes I feel like I’m just another of his possessions. I really want him to love me, show me passion, show he can’t live without me. You know, all that schmaltzy stuff. Do I sound silly?”

“No, of course not, Mare.”

She went on for an hour before suddenly stopping.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Dave. I’m so embarrassed. Laying out my troubles to you.”

“Now you’re sounding silly, Mare. I could listen to you forever.”

Forever. Somehow that word triggered all those memories of times gone by.

“Um, we, um, we better go. Are you sure there’s nothing more you can do to help your husband?”

She tells me it’s being handled, so we drifted off, leaving reality behind in its silence.

Only later did we realize this was just the beginning…

[Written in response to one-word prompt, Silence]

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

The Radical and the Republican



lincoln-douglassOne of the many books on my shelves is The Radical and the Republican, by James Oakes. It discusses the roles played by abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, and the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln. The book got me thinking about the most effective ways to initiate change.

As a former slave, Douglass felt an urgency to end slavery, and now. He actively and emphatically pressed his case to anyone who would listen, and many who wouldn’t. As Lincoln was emerging as a viable voice against slavery, Douglass thought the man too timid, unwilling to take a stand for black rights. Ever the moderate, Lincoln focused solely on blocking the extension of slavery into the territories, feeling the U.S. Constitution protected slavery where it already existed, mainly the South. Lincoln did advocate for gradual, compensated, voluntary emancipation, but also that ex-slaves would be better off if they colonized their own countries in Africa and the Caribbean.

Two men with inherently different perspectives and beliefs, yet eventually, the two would work separately and together to accomplish the same goal – emancipation. They became mutually respecting friends.

Today we have many issues that seem too difficult to resolve. And yet, for example, marriage equality, which seemed an impossible goal just a few years ago, is now the law of the land. Climate change is not only an American issue but a global one, and while it seems an insurmountable challenge, we’ve seen tremendous steps being taken on unilateral, bilateral, multilateral, and global levels.

How did these sweeping changes occur? In many ways, there are radicals and there are the politicians (which, in this age, are now mostly Democrats). LGBT rights activists, as had Frederick Douglass, maintained high visibility for the issue. They used media, grass roots demonstrations, and aggressive lobbying to raise awareness of discrimination. Like slavery, this went on for many decades with little apparent change effected. More moderate forces working within our legislative structures slowly sought incremental steps. Over time, public sentiment evolved enough for key political leaders like President Obama to have enough breathing room to publicly offer support. And then change happened, seemingly overnight.

Critically, there is the often agonizingly slow drift of public sentiment. Lincoln once noted:

In this and like communities, public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently he who molds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.

So it seems there are important roles for both radicals and political players in reading, and molding, public opinion. One keeps the high-pitch of awareness in the public eye; the other works the levers of legislative debate to find incremental compromise. Over time, the interplay between the two impacts public perception. When the public begins to accept the concept of change, in the sense that they no longer feel a threat to their own self interest, then change is allowed to happen. Often this happens quickly, as if a threshold is reached. The Sisyphean labor moves the boulder up the hill until, despite repeated setbacks, the crest is reached and it rolls into the future rather than the past.

Change is hard. Inertia keeps a body at rest in that inactive state until sufficient energy is applied to cause movement. But inertia also describes the state where motion remains in motion until something causes it to stop. There are always those who cause friction, that resist change; there remain today people who believe slavery was a merely “states rights” issue and not morally wrong. This means that once change occurs there will be continual struggle to maintain the benefit of that change. Just ask the LGBT and climate change action communities who must fight against reversals by bigoted and political forces.

To once again quote Abraham Lincoln: “I am a slow walker, but I never walk backward.”


[Written in response to one-word prompt, Radical]

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

The Day



recliner sleepThere was an audible “Plop!” as he dropped into the leather recliner. Reaching for the remote without looking, he leaned backwards just enough to instruct the chair to do the same. By its own version of muscle memory the chair finds exactly the perfect angle of recline for watching the telly or dozing into gentle sleep.

The television comes to life, such as it is; slowly opening its Cycloptic eye not to see, but to be seen. Controlled by a remote that seemingly controls itself, the eye blinks through dozens of the usual channels, desperately seeking “The One.” Blink. Or maybe this is “The One.” Blink. The search continues.

By the time the eye finds a viable program – an old game show, a current baseball game, a Disneyesque nature documentary – he is half asleep. Mostly the television these days is for the brief glimpses of light and sound between naps. Nothing new to excite, nothing old that informs. Time for a snooze.

“Wake up and go to sleep,” she says, and he transports himself to the bedroom to rest from the day’s exertions.

Plop! The sound is audible as he drops into the leather recliner, his hand grabbing the remote as if on command. The eye opens. The day begins.


[Written in response to one-word prompt, Plop]

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.