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In honor of the July 4th holiday, I'm going to do something unusual. For the past five years, I've been slaving away at my first novel. It's a dystopian look into an alternate reality, set in a future where Kennedy was the first one to blink in the Cuban Missle Crisis. There didn't seem to be a better way to honor the holiday than to give a little preview of the book, which examines the freedoms we take for granted.

Without further ado, page 75 from Old Glory, New Glory, my first novel.

It wasn't my grampapa's grave I put the flowers on. No one knew where that grave was. I had to settle for the first unmarked grave I could find. It could have been my grampapa's grave. Hell, it was a one in a million chance. I liked those odds.

My grampapa was killed for talking. He got liquored up in some bar, and said something wrong to someone he didn't know was a party official. Maybe it was something pro-capitalist, or maybe something against the party. He was either shipped off to some frozen gulag to die, or shot on the spot. The specifics are buried with a man in a grave that is lost.

When I was eight, I asked why my grampapa stopped sending me birthday cards. It was the first and only time I would ever see my father cry.

Speeches were never my thing. I put the flowers down on the unmarked grave, touched the bare headstone, and started back to the car. If I didn't know the day he died, the least I could do was celebrate the day he was born. But did it always have to feel as if my insides were kicked in with a steel-toed boot? I supposed that was the point.

Walking to the car, I noticed the "2005 San Francisco Giants World Championship" bumper sticker was starting to peel from my car. Holy crap, that was a great series. Comrade Bonds was on fire throughout the entire playoffs, helping the Giants toward a common goal. The celebration after the final out seemed to last for three weeks.

My thoughts returned to my grampapa. A tear fell. He was killed for speaking his mind. Speaking his mind, and nothing else! He was probably dumped in a mass grave with other fools who dared to say something straying from the government-approved discourse. Wasn't the right to think and debate one of man's most basic rights? What kind of world had the party created?

I tried to rub the corner of the bumper sticker back on. No dice. I had some super glue back home. I'd have to try that. My thoughts turned to the game where the Red Sox intentionally walked Bonds to load the bases, but then Feliz won the game with a double. That was awesome. I got in my car, and put in a CD of highlights from that season. That was awesome, too.

My thoughts returned to my grampapa. A tear fell. Then I thought about the state of the world. If Kennedy hadn't backed down, what would have happened? If Khrushchev wasn't allowed to stockpile nuclear arms right off the coast of America, and if the Soviet Union hadn't slowly achieved world domination through strategic military advantage? Would my grampapa have been able to speak his mind then? Perhaps.

But would the Giants have won the World Series? Maybe. Maybe not. Everything would have changed. The results of a World Series would certainly change. Maybe the Giants wouldn't have won anything at all if America wasn't taken over, and our freedom revoked.

Besides, my grampapa could really be a pain in the ass at times. He had a good run. He probably shouldn't have lipped off in the first place. I turned up the highlights CD and fell asleep in the car. A finch landed on the hood and started to sing. Then the sun came out.