Civil War: Chapter Two

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Roger pulled into the parking garage near St. Mary’s Hospital. Midday, the garage was packed. Roger parked on the roof and sprinted to the stairs. He crossed the short bridge to the third-floor reception area and approached the desk.

“I’m Roger Thompson. My son David was brought here,” he said.

The woman at the desk smiled at him, then typed on her keyboard. “Can I see your driver’s license please?” she asked Roger.

Roger dug his wallet out of his back pocket and handed the woman his license. She looked at it, glanced at her computer monitor, and looked up to Roger. “He’s in the emergency room, 14. It’s on one. The elevators over there will take you there. Follow the signs when you get to one.”

Roger hurried to the elevator. He was still seething at the school and that bitch Flanders. When the elevator doors opened, he saw half a dozen sullen faces looking out at him. He joined them.

On floor one, Roger exited the elevator and looked for the signs.


He followed the signs to the right through green tiled walls. That cottony smell of hospital struck him. Ridiculously wide double doors led to the emergency room. Roger plunged through.

“David Thompson?” he said to the nurse at the desk.

“Are you a relative?” she asked.

“I’m his dad,” Roger said.

“He’s in 14. You may go in.”

Roger didn’t say “thank you.” He just turned and looked for room 14. Roger walked into the curtained room.

David lay on the gurney covered in a white blanket.

“How are you feeling?” Roger said.

“Hi, dad,” David said. He looked toward his father but made no attempt to smile. “My head hurts. Can they turn the lights down?”

“I’ll ask. Anything besides your head hurt?”

David took a deep breath and looked at the ceiling. “I don’t know. My mouth.”

David’s upper lip was swollen and bruised. Dried blood covered his arms. His hands were cut up. His hair was greasy and unkempt.

Roger felt pity and rage.

“What happened?” Roger said.

David looked at his father. “I shouldn’t have said anything, I guess.”

“What did you say?” Roger asked.

“I just said I didn’t think Trump was so bad. And Miss Mateo told me I was out of line. She said I could be expelled for supporting Trump. She said it’s a hate crime. Intimidates people. It’s a threat.”

“She said it’s a threat to say you don’t think Trump’s so bad?”

David looked down at his bloodied hands. “Yeah.”

“You didn’t do anything else?”

“No. When she told me to go to Miss Flanders’ office, I just got up and walked down there.”

Roger tried to imagine his son’s perp walk to the principal’s office. “What happened there?”

“I don’t know. I was just sitting outside her office and Kyle and a bunch of dudes walked up and started kicking me.”

“They kicked you? Did they say anything?”

“They kicked me first. They were saying ‘white supremacist’ and ‘homophobe.’”

“What did you do?”

“When they wouldn’t stop, I stood up to get away from them. Somebody stabbed me with a pen. In my arm.” David pointed to the puncture wound on his right forearm. “Then they just jumped on me punching and kicking. I tried to fight back, but I fell and hit my head on the chair arm.”

“Did they stop then? When you hit your head?”

David closed his eyes. “No. They kept kicking and punching and calling me a racist.”

“Didn’t Ms. Flanders come out and stop?”

“She came out. She just stood there watching, though. She didn’t say anything until I stopped trying fight back.”

Roger let that sink in. “I’m sorry, son. You know that Ms. Flanders was wrong, don’t you?”

David looked at Roger. “I guess.”

Roger looked around. “I’m going to make her pay. Those boys, too.”

“No, Dad. No. They’ll do it again.”

“No, they won’t. They’ll be in jail. Or juvie or whatever.”

“No, Dad. Leave it alone. Miss Flanders told me that it will get worse if I tell anybody.”

“David? Oh, my God,” said Natalie Thompson.

Natalie rushed to the gurney and hugged her son. Then she looked at her husband and said, “Roger, what the hell?”


to be continued

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

United States: noun (plural)

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Last week’s election demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that the United States are still plural. Let me explain.

Language changes. Sometimes those changes alter what things mean. And because of the odd way the brain deals with language, some changes create constant confusion in our heads.

Once upon a time, “the United States of America” was a plural noun. (I’ll prove it to you in a moment.) Careful writers and speakers would say “the United States are . . . .” But, as I said, over time people changed that. Probably because the object of the prepositional phrase, ” of America” is singular. (Subject-verb agreement baffles many people, especially people with MBAs.)

Some believe reconstruction led intellectuals to switch “United States” from plural to singular. This idea holds water when you look at an n-gram comparing relative frequency of the two usages:

n-gram by redditor pqn clipped from

The problem with treating “United States” as singular is that it’s a lie. The United States of America might be a single country, but the United States are independent in many ways. Though the states form a single nation, the states don’t stop being individual things.

Nowhere is the power of the states more obvious than in the sharp political distinctions of three of those United States: California, New York, and Massachusetts. Wall Street Journal writers Reid J. Epstein and Janet Hook explain:

Republican America is now so vast that a traveler could drive 3,600 miles across the continent, from Key West, Fla., to the Canadian border crossing at Porthill, Idaho, without ever leaving a state under total GOP control.

After last week’s election, Democrats hold the governor’s office and both legislative chambers in just six states—all of them on the Atlantic or Pacific oceans—compared with 25 for Republicans.

. . .

The geographic shift is clear in the political map of the House: When the new Congress takes office in January, about one third of all House seats held by Democrats will come from just three states—California, New York and Massachusetts.

Moreover, states, not people, elect the President.

One way you can help people avoid confusion about the way our country works is to start referring to the United States as plural. Modern grammarians will cringe, but our brains will like it better. America is singular, but the United States are plural. From many, one. E pluribus unum.

It’s easy and natural when you think about it.