[More online chapters here]
by Mike Vanderboegh
(Disclaimer: This story is both fictional and true. Any resemblance to individuals living or dead is purely coincidental, or positively intentional, take your pick. Some might see a parallel here to recent events such as the Olofson case or Randy Weaver or the Davidians. If so, they may be right. Or wrong. There are all kinds of people in the world -- all kinds of Phil Gordons, all kinds of gangs and all kinds of thugs. You may choose which thugs you think I'm writing about here. The story begins at three o'clock in the morning the day after tomorrow, one year from now. Or not. The decision is up to the thugs.)
Phil Gordon felt old, sick, tired and cranky. Cancer did that to you, but he didn't have to like it. Still, Phil had one more thing to do before crossing the bar and he prayed to the God of Abraham that he would have the time and the strength to do it. He shifted in his recliner, taking in the photographs on the side wall, a life in brief, partially illuminated by the soft glow of the porch light angling in through the windowpane above the front door.
Sitting in the dark, with the pictures shadowed in whole or in part, Phil couldn't see the details. He didn't need to. He knew them by heart.
It was all there -- his grandparents, his mamma and daddy in their youth. There he was with his parents at the ceremony when he graduated from Basic, and again, standing in the A Shau Valley with his squad, all of them so young and full of bravado. There was his wedding photo with Claire, and the honeymoon picture at Natural Bridge, still another of that sun-dappled afternoon with her at the lake. Then there were those of the kids, still young, ranked by age. There was the time when his oldest son Bobby had competed with him at Camp Perry, and Bobby's graduation from West Point. A pink frame held Sissy in her scrubs during medical school, and from a steel-gray one Johnny smi