I should have left the story alone. What could be the harm of following a little story about a man commemorating April 19, 1775? The first shot of the American Revolution? But now the poem had been long since banned by the EPA and anyone reciting it could risk death. But I was a reporter, a cub reporter for a shitty little newspaper in a small town in Vermont.
“For God’s sake man don’t do it!” I yelled to Smythe.
“They’ll kill us all!”
Then he started:
“By the rude bridge that arched the flood,”
After he uttered the first fateful stanza, I could hear the ATF outside. Some Gummint lawyer with long hair and an earring shouting something though crackling loudspeakers about a warrant.
I tried to reason with Smythe: “Listen, man in the name of god, it is too PATRIOTIC!”
“Here once the embattled farmers stood,”
POP! POP! POP! The shots rattled through the old house. I could hear the clank of a tear gas canister and the door being kicked in. Then an ATF firebomb was thrown in and the house’s ancient Vermont timbers caught fire.
“And fired the shot heard round the world.“
I could barely see Smythe anymore through the flame and smoke. He was propped up against the door jamb with his Springfield 1918A3 in his hands. I could hear his hoary voice above the din”
“The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.”
I crawled out onto the porch and I could still hear him:
“On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.”
I could hear the roof collapse as the hail of ATF gunfire continued. I could see the Spetsnaz striped T-shirts underneath the ATF body-armor. But yet, I heard a single protestant voice cry out:
“Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee!”
I woke up in a Gummint interrogation chamber, there were long-haired hippie lawyers, Spetsnaz, Middle Eastern terrorists, New York Bankers, beatniks, fruitcakes, weirdos, panthers, illegal aliens and Scientologists.
Thye KGB/ATF agent was interrogating me: “We are to know you have been a party to this reciting of revisionist, Kapitalist Konkord Hymn, Komrade. May I offer you a Zigaretu?”
“I..won’t roak…your kommie ceegar! And…it’s Concord.”
“So Komrade,” He said roaking his Zigaretu European-style “You think you can to have been getting away with this so-kalled Konkord Hymn?”
“By the rude bridge…”
I started. He tried to cover his ears.
“No please to have been stopping! I want supply demand economics! I renounce cardboard suit, department store lines, Olympic Basketball cheating!”
“That arched the flood!”
“No Komraide… I am to having become Kapitalist! Mass Consumption! Mass Produktion!”
“Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled!”
“I must…renounce Kommunist ideology! Must…say…Amerikanski Pledge of Allegiance!”
“Here once the embattled farmer stood!”
“I demand …asylum!”
“And fired the shot, heard ’round the world'”
“And fired the shot heard round the world” Repeated Slava Yussakoff, his hand proudly saluting old glory.
The others ran from the room in confusion, some leapt to their deaths from the windows. For now, America was saved.