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How Things Have Actually Changed Since We Did Secede from the United States

Story by Ron Carlson (Read author interview) June 25, 2013

art by Douglas Heriot

The Rubynars keep dropping in. Just like always, they come to this side of town for the laundrymat or one of Travers’ soccer games and they drop in, two bleeps on the horn and where’s the coffee? It’s been our custom until now, but customs are changing if you haven’t noticed. Now we have a Customs Office. Or will have.

This time I hear their horn and I hurry out to the curb where they’ve parked, and I explain to Norman Rubynar that they would need a visa if they were going to cross onto the property; we’ve seceded, and I can’t tell you how important our borders are to us. I give the entire carful of Rubynars my “borders speech,” Norman and Travers and Beesley and Shirley who has been my best friend since twenty-two years ago and the first day at Babnab Junior High. The speech traces in oratory how I once lived in a big fat land that grew complacent and had no respect for its own borders and in that sad principality we were overrun by who knows what when, and so our family seceded, and now that our family has seceded the Rubynars and everybody else, especially Carl and Janice Poline are going to need visas to cross onto our country, our property, and here I wave our deed at them and tell them our visa office won’t be open for weeks. At least. We’ve spent too much time developing our postal system and I’ve taken a good boatload of guff for our stamps, which Janice Poline was snotty enough to point out look like Pokemon stickers, but they are not. They are modified Pokemon stickers and let’s just say you’re going to need one to get any mail in or out of Gundersonia, land of the really free. They are not that expensive and they come with a list of our zip codes, one for each of the girls. Doug and I decided to share one.

Norman and Shirley Rubynar sit in the truck and drink their coffee and Norman lets Biggee into the truck with them and strokes his ears and asks me doesn’t the dog need a visa? Of course he doesn’t need a visa, I tell these bohemians: he’s the National Dog. Shirley sits in the front seat trying not to spill her coffee. It sort of feels like a foreign land, she says. Oh it is, I tell her. We got no gay marriage and we got the English only. Travers is squirming in the back seat and I can see they better be going. Can’t he use the bathroom? Shirley says. We won’t make it home. I can’t allow it, I tell them. It is a slippery slope. We got our sovereignty to think of. One undocumented visit to the toilet and next the borders are awash in who knows what. Travers has got no driver’s license or green card and he’ll need a bank account and employment to even apply. What about a letter from the Pope? Norman says. It’s the kind of comment which strains international relations to the limit.

About the Author

Ron Carlson’s new novel (Summer ’13) is Return to Oakpine. His book of poems is Room Service. He teaches writing at the University of California, Irvine.

About the Artist

Douglas Heriot is a freelance graphic/web/multimedia designer from Australia. You can see his web site at DouglasHeriot.com and his blog at DouglasHeriot.com/blog/. This image was used via Creative Commons license at Flickr.

This story appeared in Issue Forty of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Forty

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Steve Edwards is author of the memoir BREAKING INTO THE BACKCOUNTRY, the story of his seven months as caretaker of a 95-acre backcountry homestead along federally protected Wild and Scenic Rogue River in Oregon. His work has appeared in Orion MagazineThe Sun MagazineLiterary HubElectric LiteratureThe Rumpus, and elsewhere. He lives outside Boston with his wife and son.