As a cautionary tale, I wrote this short story as part of a writing challenge with Faithwriters.com and released it on May 12, 2014. Given where we are in the world today seven years later (October 1, 2021), I thought it might be instructive to publish this here on my blog. At the conclusion of the story (about a 3-minute read), you’ll see a comment that one of the reader made at the time. What do you think? Farfetched?
by Gary W. Ritter
“Do you think this counts as gossip?”
“If it does, then we’ll both be sinners. I’m calling Rose as soon as we get home.”
Leslie and Juliet rounded the corner heading for Leslie’s home. As soon as they’d set out on their walk Juliet told her friend the disturbing news she had just learned.
As homeschooling parents both kept a close watch on the political scene. They knew the contempt, even hatred, many on the left had for those who took it upon themselves to educate their children. Numerous attempts had been made in recent years to shut down the homeschooling movement. To date those efforts had been repulsed.
Because many families in the movement boldly professed their Christian faith and actively sought to influence the culture, that was another bull’s-eye for fiery darts aimed at them. Christianity in the public square was not deemed a tolerant practice, resulting in ever-increasing hostility toward it.
The gossip mill had been busy with the latest news, as much as the practice was frowned on because of Scripture’s strong words against the practice. But as Leslie said, “This doesn’t betray a confidence, it reveals a grave threat.”
First IRS audits. Then harassing laws. Next excessive non-compliance fines. Followed by dawn raids. Those who opposed homeschoolers had been working overtime. But now, if this were true!
The women quickened their steps as they spotted a black SUV in Leslie’s driveway. They began running when they saw her two children crying and resisting, being herded out of the house by three people they didn’t know.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Leslie could barely gasp out the words.
Both men wore sunglasses and suits; the woman, dressed in an Adidas track outfit, grasped the children’s hands and pulled them toward the vehicle.
“Who are you?” one of the men said.
“I’m their mother,” Leslie panted. Right up to the woman in the tracksuit and in her face; she said, “Let them go.”
One of the men stuck a paper under her nose. “We have authority.”
Juliet grabbed it and scanned the official-looking document. “This is America. You have no right to do any such thing.”
“It’s the law of the land now, honey,” the other man said. “The president signed an executive order. You homeschoolers thought you could skirt the rules. Think again. This is the penalty you pay for your defiance.”
Leslie reached for her children. One man slapped her hand away while the woman shoved her charges, who were now screaming, into the back seat of the car. Like a snarling wildcat she recovered and tore at the jacket of the woman who was trying to close the door without mangling hands and feet.
Juliet took two steps and stopped at the sight of the pistol aimed at her. “You stay where you are,” the man said.
He snatched at Leslie and threw her to the ground. She scrambled to her feet and was about to charge when the discharge from the gun brought her up short. Her eyes, wild with fear and anger, bounced among her three adversaries.
“We’re leaving now.” The children pounded on the window but were locked inside, their faces frantic.
The three adults slowly crammed into the front of the vehicle, the man still training the gun on Leslie.
Juliet knew her friend and her love for her children. She feared what was next.
Leslie lunged for the man with the gun. He didn’t hesitate.
This bullet wasn’t a warning shot. Leslie’s hands flew to her stomach. Her lips tried to mouth some words. She slumped to the concrete driveway, blood flowing.
The window slid down after the man closed the car door. He said to Juliet. “We’re on our way to your house.”
As Juliet began to move the car pulled away. It drove over the paper giving the agents the right to take away homeschooled children into the custody of the government, which would now raise them in the proper manner.
I enjoyed reading your story for its strong story-telling elements – good pacing, nice scene setup, and introduction of characters. Having homeschooled both of our children from preschool through high school, I have to say the entire scenario seemed a bit farfetched. I’m aware of the “resistance” to homeschooling (believe me, we experienced our share of it for many years), but the event that took place in your story, along with the characters’ dialogue, seemed unbelievable to me. There may come a day when it gets to this point, but for now, I feel this is a bit melodramatic. Would a government official “really” just hold up a document and say, “We have authority,” without any other explanation? And then shoot the mother?! I hope you won’t take offense with this critique, because I’m totally supportive of homeschooling, and understand the difficulties. This story shows that you definitely know how to write well, I simply struggled with believing the message.
Note: This story is published in my volume of short stories called The Panic Omnibus: