In this next chapter, Ken informs his concerned mother about Madeline’s pregnancy, the possibility of one or both of the babies having Down syndrome and her harrowing visit with Dr. Harper. In one touching scene, readers are reminded of the close bond Ken shares with his ever-supportive mother as well as a fond memory of his childhood and a flashback to Madeline’s announcement that she’ll never be able to have biological children. Here the plot also begins to delve further into the political focus of the book, laying the groundwork for Ken’s eventual run for office, prompted by the loss of his business deal and his livelihood caused by the gross incompetence of politicians in Washington D.C.
From RINOs vs. Tea Party to moral dilemmas to job losses, these characters and their relationships will be further put to the test. Can they hold tight to their faith in God and each other to emerge victorious?
∞ Chapter Four ∞
“Ken? It’s time to get up, honey,” Paula’s voice was soothing and calm as she peered into the guest bedroom of her house, where her youngest son had sought refuge for a few hours of much-needed sleep. Fully secure in the knowledge of Brian’s medical diagnosis, he’d returned to his parents’ home in Royal Oak Hills at his mother’s insistence. She dreaded the thought of him boarding yet another grueling, cross-country flight, especially after such an emotionally exhausting incident, and had successfully convinced him to leave Brian in the company of his mother and potential stepfather while he tended to his own well-being.
“You’re no good to anyone if you don’t take care of yourself,” she’d cautioned him sternly, adamant that his protests were not going to overrule motherly concern and intuition. In the end, Paula won the battle, much to the delight of her equally worried husband, who nevertheless, had an ulterior motive for wanting to get out of there. While he’d also shared his wife’s interest in their son’s obvious need for rest, he couldn’t wait to get away from the distasteful scene at the hospital with Erin and her beau.
A scrappy, self-made man, Carl had little time for his gold-digging, former daughter-in-law and her snobby, “Old Palm Beach Money” boyfriend, both of whom were an embarrassment to his family with their condescending attitude toward the entire medical staff on Brian’s case. At one point, he’d witnessed Bennett barking orders at a kindly nurse, much in the way he’d imagined him addressing the servants in his home. Apparently, demonstrating respect for others – regardless of their station in life – had not been something ingrained in the Whitehorn home during Bennett’s upbringing. It was just more proof that money simply cannot buy class, and that Erin had indeed found a kindred spirit in the Florida Republican Party’s golden boy.
And while Carl had heard some rumblings recently about the possibility of their current congressman resigning in a cloud of suspicion over illegal (though as yet unpublicized) activity, there were also new rumors swirling around town about the governor’s interest in recruiting Bennett Whitehorn to run in a special election, should one become necessary. Of course, all of this was mere speculation at this point, which was why Carl was reserving judgment until Talon Grant himself confirmed the news on-air.
Thanks to his new daughter-in-law, Carl had become one of Talon’s most loyal listeners in the past year, rarely missing a broadcast and even then, only if family obligations demanded it. Fortunately, his wife had successfully entreated him to turn off the radio and join her in the stands that fateful afternoon at Brian’s Little League game. Good thing he’d listened to his astute better half; otherwise, their grandson would’ve sustained a life-threatening injury without a single family member present. And while the child himself wouldn’t have known the difference, with Ken and Madeline so far away, his grandparents felt an even deeper responsibility to pitch in and make the best of the situation. God knew the previous six months had been a rough transition for everyone involved.
In the tranquility of early dusk, Ken slowly regained consciousness, prompted by the familiar sound of his mother’s voice. For a fleeting instant, it felt as if he was back in elementary school at St. James in his Ventnor hometown, getting his second parental wake-up call – save for the fact that in those days, the voice was of a much more urgent and stern nature, usually accompanied by a demand to wash, dress and get downstairs for breakfast immediately.
“Ugh, what time is it?” he groaned, rubbing his eyes as he rolled over to face the doorway. In spite of several hours of deep sleep, he still felt as if he’d been hit by a truck; the thought of facing a nearly ten-hour ride on an airplane with its complementary jet-lag only intensified the feeling. Thank goodness it wasn’t a commercial flight.
“It’s close to seven, I think. How’d you sleep?” she inquired anxiously. “Poor guy, I wish you didn’t have to go back to Vancouver tonight. Can’t you leave in the morning?”
“I’d love to Mom, but Ian would absolutely kill me. This deal is encountering enough resistance as it is; I have to get back there as soon as I can to try to smooth things over.
“Besides,” he added as he sat up against the pillows, “Maddy needs me.”
She took a seat at the end of the bed. “Well Ken, I am sure she misses you, but Madeline is a big girl. If she could see how worn out you are, she’d want you to get more rest before rushing back to the madness. Unlike Erin, she’s very capable of managing alone. I’ve never met a more determined and strong young woman. If you just call her I’m sure she’d —”
“Mom, there’s something I have to tell you,” Ken interrupted, remembering the other impactful news in his life yet to be shared, let alone savored. “Actually, Dad needs to hear this, too. Where is he?”
“He headed over to Danielle and Patrick’s to help your brother install new French doors on his patio. I told him to go since he’d promised them he’d do it weeks ago, and after all of the drama with Brian’s accident, he needed a break. Bennett and Erin really got to him today.”
“Yeah, I know,” Ken observed wistfully. “But Dad’s not the only one. If I hadn’t been so preoccupied with what I’m about to tell you, I might’ve permanently removed the smirk from that arrogant jerk’s face, requiring still another visit to the plastic surgeon – only this time for him and not Erin.”
Noting the seriousness of his tone, she felt her heart skip a beat while she braced herself for the worst and urged him to continue. And as her son apprised her of the recent developments out of Vancouver, including the sordid details of Madeline’s visit with Dr. Harper, she struggled to come to terms with it all. On one hand, she was relieved to have discovered the cause of her daughter-in-law’s troubling fatigue, and overjoyed at the prospect of welcoming more grandchildren into the world. But on the other, she was frightened by what the future might hold for this new family. It was difficult enough coping with two traumatized children, a demanding ex and a heavy financial burden; now her son and his bride would be asked to potentially add twins to the mix – one or both of whom could have special needs.
Reading her mind, Ken observed, “Look, Mom, I know this is a huge surprise; I mean, the doctor swore up and down to Maddy before we got married that she’d never be able to have kids.”
He ran a hand through his hair as he continued with a sigh, “My God, I remember that day so clearly. She was completely devastated, even though she’d claimed beforehand she’d pretty much resigned herself to her fate. I guess it’s one thing to accept something in theory, but when you’re hit with the cold, hard reality, it’s something else altogether.”
Visions of holding her tightly in his arms while she cried began to materialize in his mind. They’d been sitting on the couch in the family room one night after dinner when she’d broken the news to her soon-to-be husband, who, in spite of his protests, had held onto a glimmer of hope for fathering a child with her. It was an interlude they’d never discussed with anyone else in the family, preferring to keep the matter private. With all they’d been through simply to get to the point of marrying each other sixteen years after their first meeting—not to mention two existing children to raise—no one had even entertained the idea of questioning their intentions to reproduce.
But now in the quiet of an early summer evening, Ken finally unburdened himself to his mother, his palpable anguish heightened against the backdrop of events beyond his control, such as Washington’s refusal to pass the FISA Act. If this telecomm deal were to implode, what was he going to do to support his growing family? How would they manage if these new babies had handicaps that demanded more resources than they could afford? And what about Bonnie and Brian’s ever-increasing needs, not the least of which would eventually entail a college education? How was he going to save for that inevitable expense? He’d be damned if he’d allow Bennett Whitehorn to shoulder the responsibility for his kids’ higher education, as Erin had hinted one day during a heated argument on the phone.
His mother’s tone was firm and reassuring as she interrupted his descent into downward-spiraling despair.
“Listen to me: do not give in to your fears. God has blessed you with incredible strength, talent and character. You have always handled every adversity that life has thrown at you, and you will handle this, too. Your father and I are so proud of you, and I want you to know that we’re here for you, Madeline and the kids, whatever may come.”
Placing a hand on his shoulder, she added, “Do you have any idea how proud I am to call you my son?”
Ken’s eyes filled up as he looked at his mother, suddenly feeling like a little boy in need of consolation after losing a pee-wee football game. For what seemed like an eternity, necessity had dictated putting up a nearly invincible front for the sake of his wife and his children; it was a welcome relief to be on the receiving end of such heartfelt sympathy and comfort, if only for a brief moment in time.
“Thank you,” he barely choked out as a lone tear trickled down his face. “Mom,” he continued in the next breath, “please keep this between you and Dad for now. I don’t want the kids to know until Maddy gets through the first trimester, and I sure as hell don’t want Erin and Bennett finding out about it anytime soon, either. Once she makes it through that and we know for sure what lies ahead, we’ll break the news to Bonnie and Brian. I don’t even want Danielle and Patrick to get wind of it, since Danielle can’t keep a secret to save her life.”
“Sure, honey, I understand,” she agreed softly. “And since Brian can’t travel for another month anyway, you’ve got some time.”
Ken sighed deeply as he settled back into the pillows and placed his hands behind his head. “It’s all a little overwhelming,” he admitted, “but I am determined to stay strong for Maddy. I just hope I can be half the man she believes me to be.”
“Kenneth Lockheart, you are all that and more!” his mother admonished him. “I’ve known it from the day you were born. You’ve never stopped making me proud, and I am amazed by the way you’ve dealt with so many tough challenges all at once. I am blessed to have you as my son, and I will do whatever it takes to help you get through this. I just want you to be happy; I can’t think of anyone who deserves that more.”
Overcome with emotion, he sat up and wordlessly embraced the woman who’d been his biggest cheerleader and constant champion from day one, exceedingly grateful for her continued presence in his life.
As North River Communications’ company jet flew high above the Rocky Mountains on a northwesterly course to Vancouver, its lone passenger angrily stared at the screen of his laptop, incredulous by what he’d just read in the online version of the Sun-Sentinel. In response to the question, “What sports tradition would you like to see eliminated?” some dumbass sportswriter had actually suggested the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, claiming it was a “meaningless act, signifying nothing.”
Having already reached his tipping point, Ken had hoped a short visit to the sports section would offer a temporary reprieve from the daunting realities he was facing both personally and professionally, but alas, it seemed every damned thing was political these days. In a world gone crazy, the lefties had managed to suck the joy out of even the most beloved traditions with their constant self-flagellation and relentless America-bashing. And as a man who’d proudly served his country, he’d about had it with the blatant ignorance of most mainstream journalists, for whom trashing their country was not just fashionable, but a pre-requisite for career success. None of them had a clue as to what it meant to truly serve the cause of freedom, though as the beneficiaries of its blessings, they certainly knew how to show their ingratitude—safe from any potential backlash in the form of bodily harm.
Ken immediately thought of the incredibly brave Iranian protesters who’d recently taken to the streets in Tehran – at great personal peril – and in particular, Neda Soltani, the beautiful young woman whose life had been viciously snuffed out by a bullet to the chest from someone who despised the very concept of freedom. He felt fairly certain that Neda would’ve gratefully sung America’s national anthem every single day of her life, had she been lucky enough to emigrate here. Then again, the current occupant of the White House demonstrated his support for the freedom fighters by enjoying a carefree evening at a local D.C. ice cream parlor with his kids, even as the brutal mullahs unleashed a bloody reign of terror upon their own citizens. Why should some stupid sports reporter get the significance of the national anthem when clearly, the President of the United States and the alleged leader of the free world was – at best – indifferent to it?
Letting out a bitter laugh, Ken decided to fire off an angry email to the so-called journalist and his editors, all of whom, he believed strongly, must be held accountable. For a quick second, he’d thought about running it by his eloquent wife for a grammatical edit before actually sending, but figured she’d already had enough on her mind. The last thing he wanted was to further incite her passions when so much was at stake with her new pregnancy.
Back in the Vancouver Penthouse, Maddy cried out in disbelief – to no one in particular – as she listened to the archive of Talon’s latest show. She’d settled into the plush queen-sized bed, comfortably ensconced against a cushion of fluffy pillows while her Dell Inspiron was securely situated on her lap. Ever since Kenny had agreed to call Ed Anthony, a welcome feeling of peace and serenity had taken over, freeing her to once again enjoy her normal rituals, confident she’d at least have the best of care while she and Kenny dealt with whatever God had in store for them. But as she took in the latest political news out of South Florida, she nearly fell out of the bed.
Congressman Art Rothstein had resigned in disgrace after a long FBI investigation had at last revealed his involvement in illegal activities, including a money-laundering scheme and pay-offs to prostitutes using taxpayer money. Talon had interspersed audio clips of that afternoon’s West Palm Beach press conference with his own inimitable, biting commentary in which he absolutely savaged Rothstein for his dereliction of duty and abject lack of character. The same man who remained willfully impervious to the desires of his constituents – expressed so passionately and intelligently at countless town hall meetings and protests – could not resist abusing the power of his office to serve his own avaricious ambitions and desires. Even worse, while America was still fighting a war against Muslim fanatics, Rothstein continually capitulated to the delusional thirty percent of the population that stubbornly believed in appeasement, notwithstanding the hard lessons of history.
To that end, the Lockheart’s congressional representative had repeatedly vowed to vote against any legislation, i.e. FISA, which would allow for the interception of communication from foreign terror cells into the country. Fully aware of their vulnerability to frivolous lawsuits from far-left groups including the ACLU, telecomm companies like Ken’s had actively lobbied Washington to include language in the bill that would protect them from punishment for the crime of cooperating and participating in the protection of their homeland. With Coastal Communications headquartered in Palm Beach County, and employing a significant portion of his district, any rational person would expect Rothstein to fully support the measure. Regrettably, however, the congressman had proven himself to be yet another self-serving politician more concerned with maintaining his own power through the satisfaction of his well-funded special interest groups than with the safety of his fellow Americans.
But as awful as their representation in D.C. had been with Rothstein, Madeline nevertheless cringed with every new and harrowing criminal detail brought to light on Talon’s broadcast. Sure, she’d known all along he was a snake; however, to hear her suspicions confirmed with such in-depth reportage of an apparently endless tale of backroom deals, perilous treachery and sexual perversion nevertheless hit her hard. How depressing to realize there were so few statesmen left in public office! When she thought of the incredible courage and integrity of the Founding Fathers, who, on pain of death, never once faltered in their passionate pursuit of liberty, she literally wanted to cry.
And then, the final blow.
Talon completed the Rothstein segment by announcing the governor’s decision to hold a special election in October to temporarily fill the vacant seat until the following year’s mid-terms. No surprise there, although Maddy immediately began wracking her brain over potential grass-roots activists who might stand a credible shot at putting up a competitive fight against a Democrat, if not actually win the race. With so many elderly FDR-admirers in the district still so frustratingly enamored with big-government and held captive to the Bolshevik mentality, she’d long ago surmised that it could take a few more generations for things to change for the better. What threw her completely off-guard, however, was Talon’s next announcement as to the Republican governor’s choice for his party’s candidate: Bennett Whitehorn.
“What?!” she shot up in bed, nearly causing the laptop to crash to the floor. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” she shouted out into the empty space surrounding her.
“Erin’s boyfriend? The out-of-touch Palm Beach RINO? That’s who this stupid party is backing in the special election? Oh my God…I can’t believe it!”
Energized by anger and outrage, she threw back the covers, got out of the bed and strode into to the kitchen, where she pulled a bottle of water from the fridge and began pacing back and forth. She’d just taken another refreshing swig when she heard the key turn in the lock. In the next instant, the door opened to reveal the presence of her long-awaited husband, in whose direction she instantly ran, overjoyed he’d once again returned safely to her arms.
“Hey sweetheart! Did ya miss me?” Ken greeted her happily, burying his head in her neck and taking in the sweet smell of her hair as he lifted her off the ground. Then, suddenly remembering her condition, he quickly set her back on her feet.
“Sorry Mads, I’m so used to doing that, I forgot about the babies.”
“Kenny, I’m pregnant, not made of fine china,” she teased him, reaching up to kiss him as she stood on her toes. He laughed before savoring the sweetness of her lips – a welcome end to a very long journey.
Finally breaking away, she asked, “How are you? How’s Brian?”
Wrapping one arm around her waist while the other pulled his suitcase behind him, Ken filled her in on all that had transpired at Boca Community Hospital, including his dad’s disgust with Erin and Bennett. By the time they’d entered the bedroom, an excitable Maddy had already interrupted with the latest news out of South Florida, inadvertently prompted by her husband at the mere mention of Bennett’s name.
“Are you absolutely sure about all of this?” he questioned as the two of them sat down on Maddy’s side of the unmade bed.
“Ken, I just now listened to it on Talon’s archives; of course I am sure!” she scolded mildly.
Taking her hand in his and squeezing it tightly, he noted, “Ok, relax, sweetheart, I believe you. It’s just that – well, I am really surprised my ex wasn’t gloating over it, especially since she’d been given the perfect opportunity to do so in person at the hospital, once Brian was out of the woods. There we all were, trapped in the same space together, and neither she nor her jackass of a boyfriend said a word about it.”
“RINO,” Maddy corrected him. “Bennett is nothing but an establishment RINO, although he may also be a jackass of another sort.” Ken laughed and lifted her hand to his lips for a quick kiss before she continued.
“And who knows? Maybe they’d been sworn to secrecy until the news about Rothstein hit the fan. It sounds to me like the governor knew about this all along, and had been grooming Erin’s Sugar Daddy for the race from the get-go. God, I hate politics,” she added with a sigh.
“For someone so passionate about this country, I find that hard to believe,” he smiled as he drew her into a tight embrace.
“Hey, I love freedom, but I hate politics,” she clarified wistfully. “Unfortunately, you can’t have one without getting involved in the other.” Her voice became muffled as she snuggled closely into his chest, savoring the warmth of his strong body, and the lingering scent of his intoxicating cologne.
“Anyway,” she noted, taking a deep breath. “There’s plenty of time for that fight tomorrow. Right now I am feeling a different kind of passion.”
Ken struggled to maintain his composure as she began placing soft kisses up and down his neck while slowly unbuttoning his shirt. Grabbing her hands in the next instant, he looked deeply into her eyes and cautioned, “Maddy, c’mon now, don’t tease me like that.”
“Who’s teasing?” she asked, puzzled by his reaction.
“I don’t think we should do this now that you’re—”
“Now that I’m what? Pregnant?” she laughed incredulously. “Kenny, with an attitude like that, it’s going to be a really long seven months. Besides, the only good thing Dr. Death had told me was that it was safe for us to be together.”
“Are you sure?” he whispered huskily, realizing he was about to lose the internal battle between desire and intellect. She was just too damned irresistible for any other outcome. And knowing her as he did, he also knew beyond a shadow of a doubt his beautiful wife would never do anything to endanger her unborn children.
So when she’d succeeded in fully releasing him from the confines of his shirt and began to tenderly massage his chest with her delicate hands, all he could do was surrender to temptation while the moonlight bathed their bedroom in its romantic glow.
The beautiful, two-story Buchan home in the posh Lakemont neighborhood of Bellevue, Washington stood proudly on the private cul-de-sac at the end of 47th Way, flanked by majestic evergreens and elegant rose gardens. Inside, one of its proud owners, Sabrina Anthony, a well-known local artist and award-winning photographer, had taken a break from her creative endeavors to tend to the mundane tasks of dusting and vacuuming. In spite of her doctor-husband’s protests, the practical, God-fearing woman had refused to hire a housekeeper, preferring instead to take responsibility for maintaining her own house. With the exception of outdoor landscaping, for which they’d hired a reputable local company, Sabrina and her husband, Ed, willingly spent a portion of their free time caring for their hard-earned slice of heaven.
A tiny, petite woman with dark, curly hair and fashionable glasses, she’d just opened up a step-ladder to allow for easier access to some high-up knick-knacks when she was interrupted by a ringing telephone.
“Hm, I wonder if that’s Ed calling to tell me his patient went into labor,” she mused out loud as she scrambled to reach the kitchen counter. Lifting the receiver to her ear, she was surprised when her greeting was answered by a voice from the distant past.
“Sabrina, hey, it’s Ken Lockheart, Best Man from your wedding. Remember me?”
He let out a nervous laugh, recalling vividly the shenanigans that had taken place at Ed’s bachelor party all of those years ago, back in the days when both of them were still somewhat immature, in spite of all they’d seen and done in the Navy.
“Ken!” she exclaimed, her eyes widening in surprise. “Wow, this is certainly unexpected. How are you?”
He breathed a sigh of relief at the obvious delight in her tone, though he needn’t have worried. Sabrina had never been one to hold a grudge, and besides, nearly twenty years had passed since that crazy night. Moreover, as they quickly approached this significant wedding anniversary, she and Ed remained blissfully happy—in spite of the dire warnings of well-meaning family members who’d cautioned at the time that they were too young to make such a commitment.
Ironically, although her husband had gone on to achieve great success in his gynecologic practice Sabrina had been unable to conceive a child of their own. And though they could afford the costs of the latest, cutting-edge fertility treatments, she’d adamantly refused, unwilling to put them through the inevitable roller-coaster ride of hopeful anticipation and crushing disappointment. Further, as someone who deeply valued life, Sabrina did not want to put herself in the position of having to choose a “selective reduction” – a nice euphemism for abortion as far as she was concerned – when the accepted processes of medical science inevitably resulted in one too many fertilized eggs.
Instead, she and her husband frequently hosted foster children in their home, and served on the board of several charities that assisted babies and children with birth defects and life-threatening illnesses. Between her non-profit work, her church activities and her artistic endeavors, Sabrina felt more than fulfilled – she felt truly blessed beyond measure.
“I’m fine,” he replied, “How are things in Bellevue? I heard you guys recently bought a house.”
“Yeah, we’ve been here a little over a year now, and we really love it. Eventually Ed wants to open up another practice in the suburbs, but for now he’s happy commuting into Seattle. Funny, I thought you might be him calling to say he wouldn’t be home for dinner since his patient finally went into labor.”
“No, but I am calling about something work-related,” Ken explained, “Something that also involves my wife, Madeline.”
“Oh Ken, congratulations on your wedding! Ed and I were sorry we couldn’t fly out to South Florida to be there. What an amazing story, that is—kind of like something out of a fairytale,” she gushed.
“Yes, it definitely felt that way to us,” he agreed. “And actually, I am hoping you and Maddy will get the opportunity to meet each other, now that we’re in Vancouver for a while. But I am really calling because I—well both Maddy and I—truly need your help.”
He went on to recount the circumstances surrounding his unanticipated arrival back into their lives, while a sympathetic Sabrina listened in horror. Having known of many good people who’d crossed the Canadian border in order to procure the services of American doctors when unable to get the care they needed in their own country, she was sadly familiar with the harrowing tales of endless and oftentimes, life-threatening bureaucracy. And as someone with intimate knowledge of the heartache surrounding conception for women with reproductive problems, she was especially sensitive to Maddy’s plight.
“Absolutely Ed will take care of her!” she announced when Ken finished his summation. “And I think it’s best if she stays here with us for as long as you have to be in Vancouver. Why put her through the aggravation of traveling back and forth when we have a perfectly nice guest room waiting for her? Of course, you are welcome to come down and visit on the weekends,” she added reassuringly. “Didn’t mean to suggest we don’t want you here, too. It just sounds to me as if you’re spending more time at the office than at the Penthouse anyway. That must get lonely for Madeline.”
As he gazed out at the North River and the impressive mountains in the distance from his plush corner office, Ken couldn’t help but agree. Under normal conditions, perhaps he wouldn’t feel so guilty for having to fight his corporate boardroom battles for sixteen long hours a day, while his wife fended for herself in a strange land. But the unexpected news of pregnancy, twins and possible genetic handicaps had certainly added an element of dependency to Maddy’s typically independent nature. It wasn’t fair to expect her to cope with these latest developments on her own, no matter how brave a façade she presented to him. Of course, he anticipated a new battle, as she would most likely resist the idea of staying with the Anthony’s for an indefinite period of time.
Well, she was just gonna have to accept his decision. As the man of the house, and their main provider, he would insist on it. Like it or not, right now his main focus had to center around their financial security and her physical and emotional well-being. Surely Maddy would understand that.
Madeline smiled as she clicked on the link, delighted to discover that Ken’s letter to the editor had been posted on a prominent right-leaning pop culture site, having apparently been discovered on her little blog. Thanks to the wonderful interactions of keywords and search engines, “A US Navy Vet’s Response to a Seriously Misguided Journalist” was about to receive widespread recognition on the internet. Unbeknownst to Ken, she’d also sent it to Talon Grant, hoping he’d make note of it on his next broadcast. Who knew what that might lead to? With all of the difficulties Ken was facing at work as a result of political correctness, perhaps Talon might invite him on as a guest one day to enlighten people about what happens when common sense and national security considerations are sacrificed on behalf of a decidedly anti-American agenda.
Though not entirely sure it was the right thing to do, Madeline’s palpable disgust with Washington D.C. and genuine angst over her hardworking husband’s career-related frustration compelled her to take action. Certainly Kenny would understand even if he didn’t fully agree with her decision. And whatever his reaction, she’d cross that bridge if and when she got to it.
In the meantime, she took pleasure in once again absorbing her husband’s heartfelt words:
I am not sure how you could write such a disheartening column/debate today especially while our country is at war. How can you say singing the National Anthem is a waste of time? You obviously have never served in the military, have no pride or appreciation for our veterans, or are simply looking for attention.
Honestly, everyone I attend games and events with are proud of the moment when we are offered the opportunity to demonstrate how proud we are to be Americans. Singing the National Anthem is an opportunity to bring a diverse nation together. Have you ever been to a game when there may be four or five different conversations going on sometimes in Spanish, French, Japanese, English or the many other languages locals and visitors alike share in our community? Yet when the anthem is played all rise and speak one language, or at least respectfully remain quiet. Maybe you are too busy or too weak to stand in the press box?
You wrote, “having to stand for this song…… at every event has become ridiculous.” Then you go on to say, “all it promotes is…. nothing.”
This song promotes nothing??? This song is our National Anthem! I am disgusted by your words…I think about the meaning of The National Anthem everyday, as do millions of thankful Americans.
Finally, there are 14 houses on my block. At least half have the American flag waving but only three of my neighbors have your newspaper delivered. It is my promise that by tomorrow, there will be 14 American flags flying, but ZERO tribune subscriptions delivered, thanks to your column.
I can understand your ignorance to a certain degree I guess, but your editors must and will be held accountable. I believe an apology to your readers and all the men and women sacrificing their lives for your freedom is in order.
Should you not, I promise to contact every news source possible regarding this matter. To think of the lives lost for YOUR freedom of speech and this is how you choose to show your gratitude. I am quite disgusted to say the least. I am not in the journalism business and my grammar may not be spot on but I have read youth blogs more profound than your garbage today.
P.S. I have served our country and have also witnessed my brothers die for your freedom, some of whom perished in the USS Cole attack. So yes, I am biased, not to mention incredibly angry!
“You tell ‘em, Kenny,” she thought as she suppressed a yawn and snapped her laptop shut. Fatigue had once again overcome her, and she sank back into the enticing bed linens, hoping to get at least an hour of rest before he arrived home again. For a brief moment, she recalled some incredibly painful, emotionally charged conversations she’d had with her husband in the recent past, pertaining to his fallen USS Cole comrades. It was a subject he’d rarely broached with her, until this new this new administration – with its determination to read terrorists their Miranda Rights instead of treating them as enemy combatants – came into power. Now it seemed events were constantly conspiring to reopen this raw wound. Having a cousin who perished in The World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Madeline certainly understood and shared his sorrow and outrage.
And now that she was about to become a mother, concerns about the country’s safety had become increasingly paramount in her mind. As these rambling musings suddenly reminded of the two tiny miracles growing inside of her, she shifted her attention to her unborn babies. Closing her eyes and settling her hands on her stomach, she took deep breaths and tried to imagine what it would be like to give birth to twins. True, it hadn’t been officially confirmed by modern medicine, but she instinctively knew there were two beating hearts inside of her, and she longed for the day when they would finally come into the world.
Of course, the very thought of labor and delivery sent chills up and down her spine, but if she was anything like her mother, there was an excellent chance that Maddy would sail through it without any major difficulties. Monica Rose had never given birth to twins, but it was no small accomplishment to have delivered five babies in the course of nine years; it was even more admirable that Madeline’s mother had gone on to bring three more children into the world after quite unexpectedly having a child with Down syndrome while still in her 20s. Truly, it was a testament to her faith and courage. Good thing she’d been made of such tough stuff, too; otherwise, Lori, Damian and Madeline might never have been born.
As the sun began its slow descent over the horizon, Maddy rolled onto her side and gazed out the window. When her husband had left for work that morning, he’d promised her he’d call Dr. Anthony in Seattle and secure an appointment for her as quickly as possible. Although she’d not yet heard back from him, she attributed his lack of follow-up to another grueling day spent placating executives and lobbying Washington. Talon’s earlier broadcast had revealed—among other enraging things—that the FISA legislation was still inexcusably stalled in Congress, held captive by the demands of powerful special interest groups with short memory spans. What was wrong with these people? How quickly they’d forgotten about September 11, 2001, and all of the ensuing terrorist attacks and attempted attacks that followed in its wake!
Maddy could list them all by heart, from the Madrid bombings to the London subway bombings to the foiled plot to blow up the Library Tower in Los Angeles. Yet, a good portion of the population remained willfully indifferent to the realities of Global Jihad, preferring instead to either blame America for the existence of this rabid, hateful ideology, or simply pretend it didn’t exist. Either way, the result was fatal. And perhaps now even more so because she was about to become a biological mother for the very first time, her passions about national security and the United States military had grown even more intense. Conversely, her patience for deliberate ignorance of the palpable dangers posed to her country and the rest of the free world by radical Islam had all but worn out. Whether due to pop culture, educational indoctrination, laziness or a combination of all three, much of the electorate had chosen self-interest and instant gratification over God, country and sacrifice.
Even so, the stubborn optimist in her refused to believe that all was lost. There were just too many dedicated Americans making their displeasure known in a variety of ways: from town hall meetings and tea party protests to internet blogs and talk shows, the sleeping giant had demonstrated that he’d awakened, and that he was quite put-out by what was happening to his country. Surely the momentum had at last shifted, as events out of Washington D.C. pushed everyday Americans to the breaking point. She only hoped there was still time to counter the madness and get the country back on track again.
As if energized by the thought, she suddenly threw back the covers and hopped out of bed. Making her way to the bathroom, she splashed cold water on her face, and applied some moisturizer before re-touching her make-up and styling her disheveled hair. By the time she heard the key turn in the lock, she’d changed into one of her favorite floral print, feminine dresses, accompanied by a matching forest-green shrug and strappy silver sandals. Even if Ken were to announce the cancellation of their plans to board a dinner cruise that evening as promised, she still wanted to look her very best.
“Hey baby,” she greeted him with a smile as she met him in the kitchen, before reaching up for a quick kiss. “How’d it go today?”
“Ugh, don’t ask,” he sighed, setting his briefcase down and pulling her into a tight embrace. Maddy rested her head against his chest as he smoother her hair with his hands. Planting a quick kiss on the top of her head, he suddenly pulled away to look at her.
“So, are you ready to have a little fun tonight?”
Ken smiled as he posed the question, more than ready for a welcome – if temporary – reprieve from all things work-and-government related. She noted he’d changed into fresh clothes that were a bit more casual than the typical corporate attire she’d last seen him in when she sleepily wished him a productive, stress-free day several hours earlier.
“You mean we’re still on for the cruise?” she asked, her tone laced with breathless excitement.
Sure, it was just a typical, touristy dinner cruise offered by a coastal city—something she’d experienced frequently as a resident of a seaside state. But after the emotionally draining events of the past few weeks, such a simple pleasure had taken on a whole new meaning. She couldn’t remember the last time she and Kenny had spent some quality time together out on the town, for the sole purpose of having fun and enjoying each other’s company. Besides, it was uncertain how long they’d actually remain in the Canadian city at this point; knowing the odds of returning for a vacation someday were fairly low, Maddy wanted to at least partake of one Vancouver attraction.
“Of course we’re still on silly,” he reprimanded her playfully. “I’ve been looking forward to it all day.” Then as if suddenly remembering her condition, he added somewhat soberly, “That is, if you’re feeling up to it.”
Ken rested his hands on her shoulders as he spoke, his eyes searching for any traces of fatigue or distress in his wife’s demeanor.
“Absolutely!” she confirmed brightly. “I didn’t mean to doubt you or anything, either; it’s just that lately, every time we plan something – boom! We’re hit with yet another unexpected calamity. It’s almost too good to be true, the thought that you and I might really get to spend even a few hours doing nothing but laughing, eating, enjoying the view and who knows? Maybe even dancing. How long has it been since we’ve done that?”
“Too long,” he sighed, pulling her into a tight embrace. She closed her eyes as she took in the exquisite warmth of the moment. And as he held her close, Ken hoped she’d be open and receptive to the plans he’d already set in motion.
The North Shore Mountains stood resplendent and proud in the distance beneath the orange glow of the Vancouver sun as Ken and Maddy stepped out of the limo and onto the Marina. As a chill breeze enveloped them, he slipped an arm tightly around his wife, who was at once relieved she’d had the presence of mind to put on a lined raincoat before they left the Penthouse. May in Vancouver bore no resemblance to May in South Florida, which typically heralded the return of intense heat and humidity. But in spite of the slight discomfort of an unseasonably cool – even by Vancouver standards – evening, the couple looked forward to a few hours’ respite from all things corporate and political.
Alas, as they approached the impressive line of fellow fun-seekers, they quickly discovered that a few carefree hours aboard a touristy dinner cruise would not be devoid of at least some conflict.
“What’s all that commotion?” Maddy asked, noticing a rowdy group of at least 50 protesters standing off to the side, waving signs and yelling.
“Not sure,” Ken replied, protectively tightening his arm around her as they neared the scene. Upon realizing that the assembly of mostly unkempt, gothic-looking twenty-somethings – interspersed with a few elders who appeared to be veterans of Woodstock – were self-described anarchists, 9/11 “truthers” and anti-war activists, they let out a collective groan.
“Ugh, I thought these idiots were mostly concentrated in Austin, Hollywood and Seattle,” Maddy sighed angrily.
“Where’s their hero, Congressman Nathaniel Ulysses Trent? Probably speaking to college kids somewhere in the States, calling for the CIA to be taken out. Or maybe he’s here visiting Vancouver on the taxpayer dime to further incite anti-American sentiment.”
Glancing at Kenny, she noted the palpable rage building within, evidenced by his crimson cheeks and stiff upper body. No doubt, gruesome images of the Cole bombing at the hands of barbaric terrorists – complete with the subsequent gaping hole in the ship’s hull and his friends’ violent, bloody deaths – were reverberating through his mind.
“Kenny! I know you’re mad; I am too,” she counseled in a firm, yet gentle tone. You know more than anyone how much I cannot stand these traitors. I’ve been deleting and blocking them like crazy lately on Facebook, but please don’t pick a fight with them. Just ignore them. Things are bad enough at work already; the last thing you need is to end up in the Vancouver papers as the American executive who beat up a bunch of punks at the Harbour Cruises Marina,” she warned. “We both know who the media will sympathize with, and it sure as hell won’t be the ‘rich’ Americans from Boca Raton.”
He looked at her wordlessly for a moment before suddenly remembering the fragility of her emotional and physical state, and the news he’d yet to break to her. Surely he could summon the inner strength necessary to practice restraint, notwithstanding the fact that – in that very moment – he wanted nothing more than to teach the aging hippies and their lazy, brainwashed protégées a lesson they’d never forget.
“Don’t worry sweetheart, I’ve got it under control,” he assured her assertively as they took their place in line behind an attractive, smiling couple that reminded Maddy very much of her cousins Lyle and Daphne. Suddenly she felt a little homesick wondering what everyone was up to back in Pennsylvania. She leaned closer into Kenny’s chest as a cold shiver ran up and down her spine.
“Good,” she noted in a muffled voice. “Because I just want to spend some quality time with my husband and forget about all of the insanity for a little while.”
Madeline closed her eyes and tried to drown out the cacophony of angry epithets and hateful chants of “9/11 was an inside job!” even as the Vancouver police valiantly attempted to maintain order by enforcing a legally mandated distance between protesters and cruise ship patrons.
But in the very next instant, she nearly toppled to the ground in the domino effect caused by a violent, powerful wave of resistance on the part of the unruly mob. Ken had felt the repercussions first, instinctively holding her up while he fought to keep his balance. Enraged, he first inquired about Maddy’s state before sternly instructing her to move further away for the sake of her own safety. Then he returned his attention to surreal mob scene.
“Fucking punks! Damned cowards! How dare you show up here promoting your 9/11 conspiracy bullshit!” he bellowed, as an officer tried to restrain him.
“Sir, please – get back in line now!” the policeman barked at Ken.
“These Woodstock rejects who don’t know a damned thing about duty, honor or country nearly caused my pregnant wife to have an accident! Get them the hell out of here!” he ordered, undeterred by the uniform.
“Corporate shill! Neo-con! Stooge of the New World Order!” an obnoxious teenager taunted at Ken. “Your former president ought to be tried for war crimes!”
“You little son of a bitch; you have no idea what a useful moron you are do you? Do you know how quickly a jihadist would chop off your ignorant little head?!” Ken shot back with fire in his eyes. By now, two police officers were restraining him, as the others fought to break up the demonstration.
“Sir, please, I am going to have to arrest you if you don’t get back in line! We’re handling this!”
Ken let out a bitter laugh. “Not very well, I’m afraid, officer. What the hell are these people doing here anyway?”
Before the cop could reply, the young anarchist cried out, “Even one of your own Congressmen knows 9/11 was an inside job. Nathaniel Trent is the only member of your government with guts to call it for what it is – just a bloody ploy to instigate two wars for oil and profit!”
“You stupid punk, you don’t know a damned thing, do you? If you did, you’d know that Nathaniel Ulysses Trent is a laughingstock among anyone with half a brain!”
“Nathaniel Trent knows Al-Qaeda is just CIA fantasy, created to take away individual liberty. But what would a fascist, communist pig like you know about freedom anyway!”
“Lucky for you, you little dirtbag, it’s because of people like me that you have the right to spew your conspiracy garbage. I was serving my country long before your worthless ass took up space on this earth. You—”
“Sir, for the last time, either get back in line or I will have to arrest you!” the officer interrupted.
By now, Ken’s face was beet-red, his heart pounding furiously as visions of his Navy days flashed through his mind. Although he’d completed his duty several months before the Gulf War began in 1991, he’d still witnessed plenty of tragedy in the loss of several of his brothers during the course of service; had he remained, he could’ve easily been one of the lives lost in the USS Cole. Encountering spoiled, ungrateful and painfully ignorant fools like this nutjob conspiracy crew – the polar opposite of the dedicated, honorable and patriotic young men he’d known as a sailor – awakened a simmering anger within him. Memories of horrific events like the Cole bombing and the September 11 attacks were never far from his consciousness.
A few feet away, Maddy called out to her husband, sympathetic to his turmoil but fearful of its potential consequences. He vaguely heard her cries above all of the commotion, prompting him to abruptly release his arm from the policeman’s grasp and slowly make his way back to his worried wife. By then, the officers had succeeded in subduing the protesters, while the cruise ship finally began the boarding process.
Ken encircled Maddy in his arms and held her close to him for a moment, relishing her soothing words and reassurances that – although initially rattled – she was indeed ok.
“It’s gonna take a lot more than some Kool-Aid-drinking 9/11 truthers to get the better of me, Teddy Bear,” she joked. “And they’ve sure given me something to write about on my blog tomorrow – along with RINO Whitehorn and the hapless Florida Republican Party.”
Ken let out a chuckle, then reminded her of their deal to put all of their problems on hold for the night. Placing an arm about her waist, he lovingly escorted her to the waiting ship, as the fiery sun sunk lower upon the glistening water and decorated the Vancouver sky with streaks of dramatic, colorful splendor.