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I Can't Hear America Singing


Stuart Engle

Short synopsis of the novel:

Coming soon- Civil War II: Walt Whitman wrote in the 19th century "I Hear America Singing." Americans enjoyed working in a great democracy. In I Can't Hear America Singing, the year is 2026. The national debt has destroyed the economy. Double-digit inflation, high interest rates, and a low dollar have convinced the average American that life will not improve. Throughout American history, leaders have emerged in desperate situations. Raised in a trailer park, Jim Brabar rises to power as Indiana governor and working class champion. Pushed by his wife Elizabeth, he leads a 3rd party revolution that takes over the statehouse. However, as long as the federal government rules the states, Americans will not be singing. Their ultimate conclusion: secession.

A Novel By Stuart Engle -- Now Available

Chapter 1

Are you with us?"

Indiana Governor Jim Brabar leaned back in his leather chair, arms folded across his chest. Illinois Governor Evan Stairs did not answer as an awkward silence enveloped Brabar's office. Stairs looked at his hands and then at Brabar's stone-cold visage that had stretched thinner and paled even more in his apparent anger. A creak of leather caused Stairs to look over his shoulder at Scott Carnes, Brabar's closest confidant and his No. 1 man. To Barbar's enemies, Carnes was simply known as the No. 1 Henchman.

Brabar paid no attention to Carnes, his vivid blue eyes fixed on Stairs. Spoken just above a whisper, the mocking tone of Brabar's voice echoed throughout the room.

"You seem to have plenty to say to anyone who wants to listen. What do you have to say to me? Last month you told me you were in. Now three days before the Summit, you say you are out. I take care of liars."

Stairs leaned forward and grabbed the edge of Brabar's desk. His eyes, wild, his voice, exasperated; his slick backed silver hair glistened with sweat; without the glare of television lights and makeup, the deep gouges penetrating his cheeks were even more prominent. He had made promises that he had not intended to keep; he had no choice but to go against Brabar, an unthinkable proposition.

"I see no honor in this. You will lead us to another Civil War. Is that what you want? You will go down in history as a lunatic. Do you think the President, the Supreme Court, Congress, everyone, will say, 'Go ahead. We don't care. Take your people and go.' You will not be another Moses leading your people to the Promised Land. You will be viewed as a traitor."

"Will I? The average working person is without hope of a better life. There is no such thing as a family vacation. Families don't have a savings account. Instead, they live from paycheck to paycheck. No future," Brabar wrung his hands, his voice grim, determined. "We have trimmed the fat from our state; the federal government just asks us to trim more. It has to stop."

Six months ago Stairs had said he would join an economic union of Midwestern states. He had straddled the fence for months. He had decided he could not follow the path that Brabar was proposing. There were just too many obstacles. He heard Brabar's cutting words, and he felt a tremor cascading through his body.

"The government has turned its back on the people. Don't you feel the hatred in the streets? Do you have any idea or are you so out of touch that you can't see what has happened? The federal government has taxed us into slave states. We will not be victims any longer. The time has come for those with courage and conviction to step forward. The Cowards will reveal themselves. You, a Coward, Stairs?"

"The people from my state will not follow me on this. Hell, Lincoln was from Illinois and he will turn over in his grave when this happens. A divided Democracy cannot stand."

Brabar's voice was soft but cut deep. "The others have tried but failed to convince you. We have Chicago and Detroit and Indianapolis. The working class people of those entire regions will revolt if we don't act now. We don't need you. Lincoln would not have let his people suffer. He was a man of vision; you are not even a man who stands up behind his own words."

"The United States is the greatest democracy the world has ever seen."

"There is no denying that. We hope to be a strength within, not an enemy within."

"The others who are following you are fools, stupid fools."

Brabar leaned back in his leather, swivel chair, his hands clasped behind his short cropped black hair.

"Fools. That is not what you told me last month. Remember when we got this ball rolling six months ago. I knew then that you had no backbone, no conviction, but I had hoped you would see this as the only real alternative for our people and their future. You live and die by the public opinion polls; I make public opinion. We must have Illinois; if you are not with us, you are against us and I will not allow that to happen."

The Hoosier governor nodded to Carnes who left the room only to return followed by Governor Bainbridge Titus, Ohio; Governor Frank Gates, Michigan; Zeek Lastor, Mayor of Chicago, and Barry Conor, lieutenant governor of Illinois.

Stairs wheeled around in his chair, his mouth open.

"Here are the fools now."

Everyone laughed except Stairs.

"So, you are in on this too, hey Barry." Stairs looked at his lieutenant governor and just shook his head. "I should have known."

"You are a dinosaur and a hypocrite," Conor said flatly. "You should have been the leader of this movement. Instead you have tried to stop it…and failed."

"The people will stop you."

The hair on the back of Stairs' neck stood up and he gripped the chair tightly. He sneered, "Your plan will never make it. You will be destroyed before it gets started. As bad as things are, nobody wants Americans to fight America."

Brabar stared evenly at Stairs; he closed his eyes and shook his head slowly.

"We don't see it that way. The government is bankrupt and it has no economic means for fighting our union."

His blue eyes opened and he pointed a steady finger at Stairs. "Interest groups, lobbyists, crooked politicians, the filthy rich, they care nothing for the average working man. Their decisions for the past 75 years have killed the American dream. We are going to restore that dream."

Stairs countered softly. "I think the whole plan is too hurried. There are just too many factors that tell me it can't happen. I have decided not to surrender to your madness. The people will know what side I am on."

"The problem is we believe in America. We will have a democratic debate in our state legislatures and they will determine that our four states could economically, socially, and politically go it alone. It will be a bloodless revolution; we will make it clear that we have no desire to sever all ties with America."

"You're all just idealistic fools. Your actions will lead to Civil War."

A smile crossed Brabar's lips. His political ease shined at moments like this; his lifelong friends, his disciples, were all standing just inside the door, arms crossed, feet planted firmly. He had chosen well. This Judas sitting in front of him had been just what he needed to convince the others that the American political system needed a complete overhaul, a restructuring, and with politicians like Stairs, the great democratic society would be destroyed by the people, for the people. Stairs was the only one sweating.

"I know that you are the one who has been leaking press releases. At first I thought you were just testing the waters. How would secession sound to the people? From the beginning, Elizabeth said you would betray us, but I wanted to believe you. And, I can't stand to be around those people who have a conviction but don't have the courage to back it up. For most of my life, I have not been able to do anything about people like you. I am, though, going to do something about you."

"You can't hurt me."

The words barely left Stairs' lips as his head snapped violently to the right, his neck breaking instantly. Scott, still holding the dead governor's head nestled in his powerful half-nelson, easily hoisted Stairs over his shoulder. The four disciples simply moved to the side letting Scott step through quietly. On this Sunday, the Indiana capitol was nearly empty, especially the governor's personal offices and living quarters that were located on the south end of the third floor. Brabar followed Scott into the hallway. His No. 1 man stood Stairs' limp body on the top step before shoving him down the stairs- the move was as effortless as throwing away a bag of garbage.

Scott scrambled down the steps and stooped over Stairs, tapping the switchboard intercom on his chest.

"There's been a terrible accident at the Governor's offices! Governor Stairs is dead!"

When he returned to his office, Brabar studied the four men in front of him. All were extraordinary friends who were standing on the precipice of a new beginning. A fleeting moment of doubt was dismissed as soon as it started.

"These men will do what is needed to be done."

Scott entered the room quietly. Brabar let his eyes fall on each in a silent ceremony; he saw respect and honor returned without reservation. He smoothed back his coal black hair. He had come a long way from that trailer park; nothing was going to stop him. Nothing.

"Stairs' death will give us an extra week to consolidate our power that we have been putting together for the past five years. The summit will have to be postponed for just a week. Barry, it will be tough for you to get everything going but Zeke and I will help. All of us have to make sure we know who is with us and who is against us. On Labor Day we will announce the development of the Economic Union. Each of you knows what must be done. Do it. It must happen."

"He was a dumb son-of-a-bitch anyway," Conor said. "We are better off without him."

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