Editor’s Note: We now present the next excerpt from Philip Becnel’s new satirical novel, Freedom City. Just to remind you, in the book he envisions a fascistic post-Trump America. But, fortunately, a band of merry monkey wrenchers sets out to defend democracy.
This week, we are giving you chapter 4, which is (alas) the last one we’ve got. But, never fear! You can always get the full text of Freedom City from a variety of online retailers, some of which you can see at this site.
Origins: Clare Swan
“You have plans later?” Beach Sands hovered nearby with the hopefulness of a hopeless, charming dork. He had recently taken to matting his beard down with a greasy balm, and today he wore a cloak that looked like something from a Harry Potter movie.
“I had planned on getting gang-banged tonight by the Washington Redskins.” Sitting on the couch in her office—which doubled as Beach’s reception area—Clare Swan took a drag on her vape pen: the Dank Fung Executive. It was a bit ostentatious for her liking, what with its 24-karat gold plating, but it had been a birthday gift from Beach, so she used it in his office to make him happy.
“Please, they’re the Washington Football Team. We don’t use racial slurs, not in my office.”
“I forgot. I’m almost done with the Hamdi motion.”
“Well, as much as I approve of watching you get passed around like a football, we’ll have to reschedule such activities until tomorrow. Tonight we have a mission of the utmost importance. We’re going to take the fight straight to corporate America. We’re going to hit them right where it hurts most. For this we need clear heads. The cocks of football players would only get in the way.”
“Cocks always get in the way.”
“Cocks point the way, my dear.” He retreated into his office, waving his papers. “Gang-bangs, tomorrow. Tonight: revenge!”
Of the gifts bestowed upon Clare Swan—whiteness; rich, doting parents; a top-notch education; waifish beauty; a pleasant laugh; empathy; among countless other gifts—none was quite as advantageous as her uncanny ability to see right through the lies people tell themselves to their honest-to-God motivations.
Case in point: Beach was a cuckold. Why was he a cuckold? Because he was desperately scared of being abandoned. The fetish enabled him to control his fear. To Clare, it was the same as women with rape fantasies: they didn’t want to actually be raped, but by coopting their fear and making it something sexy, they could live with it. She intuitively understood that the more Beach encouraged her to fuck other men the more he was scared of losing her. She played along, not because she loved him—although she might—but because they were indeed sexually, subversively, and existentially compatible in a way she had not encountered in any previous relationship. They were a match made in anarchy.
She had been working on Langston Hamdi’s supplemental motion since they received the investigator’s report, and it was due to be e-filed in thirty minutes, but the last hit of weed made her mind wander a bit and she needed a break. She stashed the vape pen in its fur-lined box on the end table and glanced at the news app on her iPhone. Mike Pence’s lipless face smiled out at her. Now, there was an interesting study in psychological profiling, she thought. Somebody so fanatically anti-gay must be harboring some deep-rooted fears. There is no doubt: Pence guzzles cum in his dreams. The article was about federal funding for the National Donald J. Trump Memorial, which was being built at the Trump family’s private golf course in New Jersey. She shuddered and shut off the screen.
She tucked her legs beneath her butt and willed her eyes to scroll down Mr. Hamdi’s motion one last time. Two weeks ago they had filed a motion in limine that asked the judge to exclude from trial the drug evidence on the grounds that Officer Meyer’s search occurred on the curtilage of Mr. Hamdi’s property and without probable cause, thereby violating Mr. Hamdi’s Fourth Amendment rights. However, they didn’t know then that the arresting officer, who had testified at Mr. Hamdi’s preliminary hearing, was a proven perjurer. They were now asking for another opportunity to question him before trial. It was a simple motion, which is why Clare was writing it. Judge Wanda J. Swift was a reasonable woman. She should rule in their favor in letting them call the officer again, provided she didn’t probe too deeply into how their investigator, Joseph Kaline, got the new information.
When Clare and Beach had met with Mr. Hamdi in his cell before his arraignment, the towering black man with the pointy hair had sat still, ropey arms crossed, hardly saying a word. He didn’t smile. He didn’t ogle Clare. He barely looked at her. He just listened as Beach explained the process, how he would go before the judge, probably be released on personal recognizance, and how there would be a motions hearing, where Beach hoped they could get the case thrown out. When Beach was done with this standard spiel, Mr. Hamdi had simply nodded and said, “Alright.”
As he didn’t seem overly concerned about his freedom, she found herself wondering what motivated Mr. Hamdi. The fact that she had no idea was slightly unnerving.
Clare had not planned to work in criminal law, and she had certainly not gone to law school to become a legal assistant. After she graduated from the Washington College of Law at American University, ready to embark on a career in environmental policy, she got arrested for punching a Nazi during a counter protest at a Trump rally. Regrettably, it had not been a solid punch; she hurt her wrist more than the man’s face. Scared to ask her parents for help, she accepted the attorney who the court appointed her, one Beach Sands, Esq. He got her case dismissed, and when the arrest held up her application to the D.C. Bar, he also gave her a job.
She sent the motion, making sure to copy Cynthia Truitt, the Assistant U.S. Attorney who represented the government against Langston Hamdi. Quite coincidentally, Cynthia had been the prosecutor on Clare’s assault case too. That Cynthia had only graduated law school two years before Clare was likely a factor in her willingness to dismiss the case. Cynthia magnanimously concluded that Clare’s actions had been “out of character” for a young, white, female, law school graduate. She had not actually used the word “white,” but it was fairly clear that Cynthia saw something of herself in Clare and had decided to cut her some slack. Clare hoped she would cut Langston Hamdi some slack too.
“Come on, Clare. Justice is calling.” Beach shut off the lights and strolled out of the office. He had removed the cloak and now had a messenger bag slung over his shoulder.
“Justice? I thought you said our mission tonight was revenge?”
She followed Beach into the hallway and watched him lock the door. His cheeks were flush. She laughed.
He put his hands on her shoulders and kissed her lips. “Do we have to ride tonight? There are so many places. We could take a Lyft.”
She met his gaze. “If you want to hang with me—no unnecessary carbon emissions. Biking is good for you.”
“Fine, but can we get a drink first?”
“No.” She brushed his hands away and walked down the stairs.
“Can I at least see your tits? I need inspiration.”
She unlocked her bike first and shot up 7th Street toward Chinatown. Beach’s office was near D.C. Superior Courthouse, or “Super Court” as he called it. He only rode his bike to work on the mornings after she slept over at his house, which was in Logan Circle, fewer than two miles from his office. He was such a baby: an endearing, eccentric, man-child. He was sullen when she left him behind at a light in Chinatown, but when she was approaching L Street and looked back to check on him, he was sweating profusely and his face bore the same juvenile grin he flashed on the occasions when she did show him her tits. The grin made his lower lip jut out, and it made his eyes crinkly in a creepy-older-man kind of way. But it was hard not to fall for the flattery that she was the object of such unabashed affection.
“Sexy Safeway!” he called after her. “Did you know that back in the day, before all you fucking millennials came to the city, the Safeways in D.C. all had their own nicknames?”
She slowed down to let him catch up. She had heard this all before. Like all men, he repeated himself ad nauseam. Her father did it too. Although he was a tenured professor of mathematics at the University of Vermont, his real passion was history. The man could wax for hours about the Civil War and he loved Greek legends, relaying the various stories of the Odyssey from memory. Clare had been captivated by her father’s stories when she was little, but by the time she got to high school she had her own interests: social justice, ecology, law, revolution. Although she appreciated history, it was a piano that could play any tune, depending on the whims of the pianist. Religion was like that too. Given a choice between trusting a history lesson or trusting her instincts, Clare would choose her instincts every time.
Breathing heavily, Beach was droning on behind her. “There was the ‘Soviet Safeway’ on Corcoran Street, ‘Spanish Safeway’ on Columbia Road, ‘Stinky Safeway’ on Georgia—although that one’s been totally renovated now and is therefore no longer stinky. Oh, and of course the ‘UnSafeway’ in Southeast. I had a robbery case there once…”
The Sexy Safeway was the closest to downtown. Once there, they locked up their bikes and traipsed right to the beer isle, which was empty except for a twenty-something white couple staring at the row of wine bottles, apparently waiting for divine inspiration.
Beach stood beside the woman. “Buy the Yellowtail. You won’t know the difference anyway.”
The couple smiled at him politely, plucked a bottle from the shelf, and scurried away. Clare set to work on the cases of Yuengling, pulling them off their refrigerated shelves individually and setting them on the floor. Beach pulled a stack of three-by-five labels from his bag, and together they began sticking them to the side of each case. The labels read:
Thank you for supporting Yuengling! A portion of the proceeds from your purchase will be donated to President Mike Pence’s 2020 re-election campaign. At Yuengling we are committed to supporting American fascism and all it entails, from decimating our natural environment to euthanizing blacks, homosexuals, and other undesirables. Together we can Make America Great Again!
Last week, when Beach had discussed his idea for the labels and had read his draft aloud to her, Clare thought the part about euthanizing was a tad bombastic, but Beach insisted, “It’s mostly true!” Their owner, Richard Yuengling Jr., famously supported and raised money for Donald Trump in 2016, so the company deserved it. The problem was that people who were otherwise progressive still drank the beer out of habit, so Beach’s idea was to educate the consumer through retail-level sabotage. They had similar labels for Coors and Blue Moon, since their Chairman, Pete Coors, endorsed and hosted fundraisers for Trump. Next week they would target Under Armor clothing, whose CEO had endorsed Trump and sat on his manufacturing advisory board.
When Beach had finished with the Yuenglings, he helped Clare stack the cases of labeled Coors back on their shelves. Although they received a few curious glances, nobody said anything to them. When they were done at the Sexy Safeway, they got back on their bikes and rode several blocks to the Giant Food behind O Street Market on 7th Street. Beach beckoned her to follow him around the market and into the parking lot, rather than going straight to the bike racks in front of the store. He stopped at the far end of the lot and she pulled beside him. They gazed across at the supermarket.
Beach reached into his bag and produced two bottles of Yuengling. “To my knowledge, the Giants in D.C. never acquired nicknames.” He handed her one of the bottles.
“You don’t have a problem with drinking fascist beer?”
“Beer is beer. I didn’t pay for it.”
She shrugged, popped the cap off with her lighter, and took a swig. “It’s not bad.”
He downed half his bottle. “It’s American swill.”
“You’re an American.”
“I’m a post-American.” He finished his beer in one gulp. “America doesn’t know it’s dead yet.”
“We should get back to it.” She gave him the rest of her beer. She was still high, and she preferred weed to alcohol. “You have to be in court tomorrow.”
He guzzled her beer and then launched both bottles across the parking lot. They shattered on the asphalt fifty feet away. “I hereby dub this supermarket the ‘Defiant Giant!’”
Clare’s anger came so suddenly she found her fists were clenched. She stared at Beach in horror. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“It’s just glass.”
“You’re an ass.”
Before he could respond, she shot across the parking lot toward the store, careful to avoid the broken glass. She locked her bike before he caught up with her. Once inside the newly dubbed Defiant Giant, they worked in silence. She fumed in anger the entire time. She thought of every time she had punctured a tire because some asshole had broken a bottle on the street. Why did men have to be so childish? When they left the store he tried to hold her hand, but she pulled away. She unlocked her bike.
“Next up, Stinky Safeway.”
She pushed her bike onto his legs. “You know, Beach, I’m going to take a Lyft after all.”
“But what about the carbon emissions?”
“Fuck you.” She stormed across the parking lot toward 7th Street. While Beach trailed behind her, awkwardly pushing her bike, she typed in her address and hailed a Lyft.
“What am I going to do with your bike if I’m riding my bike?”
“Push them both.”
“Where are you going?”
At the sidewalk she wheeled around on him. “I’m with you on resisting fascism—but you can’t break things unnecessarily and trash a place when you’re with me. Unlike you, I actually care about the world. I don’t want to see everything destroyed. I’m not going to stand for that shit.”
He swallowed. “I’m sorry.”
“Too late. You can do the Stinky Safeway by yourself. I’m going home, and I’ll meet you at court tomorrow.”
“Don’t forget my bike.”
The Lyft pulled up and she climbed in. Beach stood on the sidewalk, still holding her bike. His eyes were glossy. His mouth was open. He looked pathetic, and for a moment, despite her anger, she considered getting out of the car. Instead she lifted her shirt and pressed her tits to the window.
“Is that your husband?”
She turned her head and saw that the driver was smiling at her with all the ambiguousness of a dick pic. She laughed and lowered her shirt. “It’s complicated.” She couldn’t see his face in the shadow, but he had broad shoulders and straight teeth. She flashed Beach a mischievous smile and turned back to the driver.
“Hi, my name’s Clare.”