“You have been conscripted into the UN Navy, Keene Knirs.” scrolled across the bottom of his eye screen in big scarlet lettering. He froze in the middle of the school hallway. It was his mother’s worse fear.
Ten days ago on the first day of school after Christmas break, he’d turned eighteen but he still had four months before graduation at Cass City High School. Would they let him finish High School? If he wanted to register and attend college, would they let him?
His dream had been to attend college for vehicle repair. Keene and his dad always seemed to have one project car after another in the barn to work on.
The war in the Middle East still battled on for the last twenty or so years. Peace keeping units patrolled day and night, while the tension increased in the generational conflict between China and Japan. Half a decade ago, Japan changed their non-aggression constitution for one that protected their national right to defense, after the US failed to defend them against China’s aggression in disputed waters off Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. The new constitution resulted in Japan’s formal dismissal from the UN.
China had threatened to cut off strategic US military supplies. Little things like there are no shoes produced on US soil, since 2014 when all tariff’s on foreign made shoes were lifted, the last shoes made in America were now over five years old. When we bluffed, China started calling in all the financial instruments they held.
The required news on his internet services scrolled in green. Today’s headline read, “Japan’s secret navy shelled Shanghai. Estimated hundreds of thousands injured and tens of thousands dead.”
Charlina Lock ran into him literally, “Why did you stop, Keene? Everybody knew this was coming?”
“I’ve been conscripted.” Keene said, wishing his voice didn’t squeak. She was the prettiest girl in their class. Of course, their class was the smallest in at least the better part of a century. With the advent of better farming tech, the requirement for manpower decreased. Cass City had been dying since the turn of the millennium.
“Oh, man! I’m sorry.” Tears welled up in her big green eyes. Flipping her long red locks over her left shoulder, she continued, “Salmer Blackurn’s cousin over in Caro got the notification on Christmas.” She paused, chewing on lock of her hair, “He was gone before school restarted.”
Tears formed behind Keene’s eyes, he fought them back. “Do you know if he asked to go on to college?”
“IDK but I doubt it. He worked on his uncle’s farm, Salmar’s dad’s place.” She said.
“Warning you have two minutes to get to class.” scrolled across their eye pieces in maroon, one of the school colors. The school had access to everyone’s feed, which sucked because they blocked postings that weren’t theirs or required by law during class hours. Keene would have loved to post updates of the car project of his and Bruce’s in Mr. Torres’ auto shop class. It was one cool restro, his word for restoration.
Charlina patted his back, “See you in Physics.”
Half way to Spanish class, Keene got another text, “Report to Principle Sari’s office immediately.” His feet slowed his progress towards room 121, Mrs. Sanchez’s class. Mom complained about the small school not offering foreign languages of the new global powers.
As he rounded the corner, he saw Jimmy Hunt opening the door to the office. They had been in school together their whole lives. Jimmy’s birthday was the day after his. Jimmy caught sight of Keene and waited for him to catch up.
“Army.” Jimmy said with red rimmed eyes.
“Navy.” Keene said, “Have you heard if we can choose college instead?”
“IDK but my grades aren’t good enough, bro. I planned on working for dad on our dairy farm.”
Keene said, “Mechanic – vehicle, hopefully.”
“Gentleman, come in. Stop standing in the hallway.”
Both turned and walked slowly toward the principle. “Yes, ma’am.” They said in unison.
“Congratulations, boys! You’ve graduated.”
Keene’s mouth dropped, looking at Jimmy’s raised eyebrows. He didn’t know if he should cheer or scream.
Jimmy’s face drained of color, he asked, “What happens now? Do we get to walk with our class?”
Principle Sari placed her obese hand on to Jimmy’s shoulder, “No, son. Tomorrow either you’ll report to the bus leaving for one of the Armed Forces Colleges or for basic training in Kentucky.”
Keene’s face flushed red while Jimmies face already drained of color turned more of gray than white.
“Do you need an answer now?” Keene asked.
She turned her brown beady eyes toward him. “No, you will get instructional scrolls after you get home. Do you need rides home or did you drive today?”
“Drove.” Both said again in unison.
“Drive safely.” Principle Sari said ushering them towards the door.
“Don’t we get to say goodbye to our friends?” Keene whined.
“Nope! Your parents have been notified and they will probably want to spend the time with you. But you can always say goodbye after school hours.” She said leaning on the metal doors closest to the student parking.
“What about the contents of our lockers?” Jimmy asked.
“Janitor Henry has emptied them for you and will be here soon.” she said.
Jimmy’s face flamed red. Wow, what did he keep stashed in his locker? At the same time, under her breath, Keene was sure he heard Principle Sari say, “It’s the only reason you’re still here.”
Six months later, standing at the attendance office of Naval Trades College, Keene waited for his passes for a home visit to print. The tall, awkward big glasses clerk whispered loudly at him, “Don’t miss your bus to basic or they won’t let you come back to school. They’ll ship you out immediately.”
“I don’t plan on missing anything.” Keene winked at her. She liked him, but he didn’t return the feeling. It was good to have someone in admin on your side. It really was a case of who you know and not what you know. “I will follow my schedule exactly.” He saluted and she giggled.
As he boarded the bus, his thoughts drifted. It would be good to see mom and dad, and his family tonite. But Jimmy’s funeral tomorrow wasn’t going to be easy. Charlina and what was left of their class would have a hard time celebrating their graduation the next day.
© 2013 Kim Izzy
This short story was inspired by this news story:
This story is also available at my Wattpad page: (It's the second in the Flash Stories titled: '13 Flash)
Thanks for reading,