“You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.”
—David “Davy” Crockett, disillusioned politician
It was just another 105-degree Tuesday morning in Austin, Texas for Suzie Jimenez. Around 10 o'clock in the morning the radio was already announcing the 27th straight day of 100+ degree weather for the capital city, hollering about margarita specials at an assortment of local bars and the importance of keeping your air-conditioning set at an absurd 80 degrees to prevent rolling blackouts.
Seated at her computer, sipping a cold-pressed coffee and listening to the purr of the ceiling fan (as well as the whir of the smaller electric fan trained directly at her face), Suzie was busy prepping for another back-to-school season at Rebel Yell High School.
As the fans cooled her face, she searched the internet, trying to find out whether the Texas School Board had recently changed History yet again by removing such “un-American” characters as César Chávez from the curriculum.
She was poring over the latest news in her RSS feeds, wondering how she could shoehorn a few new exercises in public dissent into her yearly agenda, when there was a loud Ping! from her inbox.
“This better not be another round of school lunch menus,” she muttered.
The previous school year's big PR fiasco had occurred when a group of vegetarian students went on strike, refusing to attend classes until the cafeteria's menu included anti-meat-lover's options like deep-fried Tofurky sticks and black-bean burritos slathered in queso. Never mind the fact that the school's queso was quite obviously thickened with gelatin, which was created by melting down horse's hooves and pig's feet.
Suzie shook her head, marveling both at her students' ignorance and their tenacity; even if they didn't have all the facts straight, she was glad they were questioning authority.
As some of her fellow teachers occasionally pointed out, “You might could change a few things 'round here, but you can't take no queso away from a central Texan.” She took that to mean that no matter how committed to a vegetarian lifestyle certain Austinites might be, queso was just a matter of course.
A former “damn Yank,” Suzie still wasn't sure what all the fuss was about when it came to queso; it seemed mostly to consist of melted Velveeta cheese, and was frequently mixed with the New York City affront to Tex-Mex, Pace Picante Sauce. She was sure she'd had far more authentically Mexican dishes served to her from taco dives in New York, but she knew enough to keep her mouth shut when she saw the gallons of queso the school bought every week. It was one of those peculiar “Texas pride” topics that people figured you shouldn't question too deeply if you wanted to get along in polite society.
Suzie eyeballed the jumping icon of her email program for a few seconds, trying to fathom what item of interest it could possibly contain, and finally clicked over to find out. Scanning over the short note, her jaw dropped.
“Dear Teachers of Rebel Yell High School,” it read. “As per Governor Nick Harry's latest round of budget cuts, our school will be closing its doors indefinitely. We deeply regret the loss of our excellent teaching staff, and will be in touch with further details as events progress. Sincerely, Principal Mylene Leroux.”
“Holy hot sauce, did I just get fired by email?!”
Suzie spun into action, grabbing her cell phone and calling the school's direct line. The phone rang and rang, but no one answered. She wouldn't take no for an answer. Somebody had to be there, sending these cryptic emails. She jumped into a pair of cowboy boots parked at the front door and marched the two blocks from her house over to Rebel Yell High, determined to get to the bottom of things.
As she approached the front doors of the high school, a security guard spoke into his walkie-talkie and motioned for Suzie to step back.
“What's going on here?” she demanded.
“Funding's been cut by Governor Harry. This school is officially closed,” the burly guard informed her, crossing his arms over his barrel chest.
“Where's the principal? I'm a teacher here. I need to speak to Mylene.”
“Ms. Leroux has informed all teaching staff via email about the situation. I am authorized to remove any troublemakers from the property,” he said. The walkie-talkie crackled, and someone on the other end barked “10-4!”
“Troublemakers? I just told you, I'm a teacher here. I need more information. Let me in!” She tried to dodge the security guard, who pushed her back with both arms.
“Ma'am, if you don't step back, I'm going to have to escort you off the premises,” he warned. “I have authorization to use all necessary force.”
Suzie noticed his hand on his hip, one fist curling around the end of a revolver. She stepped back a pace, her gaze moving from the guard's impassive mirrored glasses down to his leather holster. She narrowed her eyes at him and crossed her own arms over her chest. “You wouldn't dare shoot a schoolteacher—a fellow employee of the state of Texas.”
“Watch me,” he grinned. His yellow teeth glinted maliciously in the late-morning sun, and Suzie could smell the odors of cheap coffee and breakfast tacos wafting on his breath. This guy obviously got off on screwing with people's minds, and he began to pull the gun from its holster to further illustrate his threat.
“You know you'd go to jail for the rest of your life,” she growled.
“For killing some spic teacher? Not likely.”
“You bastard.” She spit on the ground, hitting the guard's polished black boot.
She heard the click of the gun's safety being taken off, and leapt to one side, hitting the dead, yellow grass of the school's lawn as the cop fired three times in quick succession. The bullets buried themselves in the trunk of an enormous oak tree in the front of the schoolyard, and the guard swung his weapon toward Suzie, towering over her with his gun pointed directly at her head.
Two more security guards rushed toward them from behind the school, yelling “Hold your fire!” and were able to subdue their co-worker as Suzie scrambled to her feet and took off running.
“I'll get you, you fucking spic!” she heard the guard screaming as she rounded the corner. She pressed herself up against a neighbor's tree, breathing hard as she tried to restrain her wildly beating heart.
“What the hell was that all about? I thought I heard shots.” Suzie's neighbor, Bill, poked his head out of the front door, which was cracked just wide enough for him to see her crouching in the yard.
“You did,” Suzie said. She peered around the tree trunk, and saw the two security guards cuffing the one who'd shot at her. One had his knees on the guy's back, while the other shouted “What the hell do you think you're doing shooting at civilians?” next to the psychotic guard's face. They all looked equally dangerous to Suzie, their faces red and their voices raised in angry confrontation. If each had a state-issued gun, that made everything twice as scary.
“Come inside,” Bill hissed.
“I'm okay,” Suzie whispered. “But those rent-a-cops are out of control.”
“All the teachers have been laid off. Governor Harry cut our funding.”
“What? How can he do that?”
“He's the Governor. He can do whatever the hell he wants, apparently.”
“Well, I didn't vote for him, and I certainly didn't vote for that,” Bill said. “What should we do?”
“Lay low. I'll be back,” Suzie said. She scuttled down the street, crab-like, aiming for the cover of parked cars, tree trunks and trash cans until she was safely back in her own house.