General Fiction posted May 1, 2020

This work has reached the exceptional level
Adventure in alternate reality

If Only

by Elizabeth Emerald

The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.



Who would have thought that such an unassuming name would become a household word. From humble huts to majestic mansions.  Not just in the United States, but the world over. From Afghanistan to Zambia.


It no longer suffers big MAC attacks. Such sandwiches with faux fillings are not to be found in its confines. Vanquished forever are the unwitting offenders who trapped that ubiquitous, unwelcome “A.” And no more spellings of VAYs, or, compounding the insult, the unphonetic VEE. Even third graders get it right. Indeed, the familiar ditty “I before E except after C and when sounded long A , has acquired the addendum…”as in names like McVeigh.”


Encroaching on the front pages like a cancer, edging out the principals in other malignant events. Every evening at six and eleven it is promptly—and properly—pronounced. For months on end, newscasters and papers always had something to say about McVeigh. Especially when the countdown began.

And to think that the star attraction in the circus was my son. If it hadn’t been for Tim the overblown, ballooning tents of many a mediocre barking head would have unceremoniously collapsed. They have Tim to thank for keeping them full of hot air.

And the carnival’s more competent upstarts have started up quite nicely by treading tightrope with Tim. By the time Tim was thrown off, their positions were well established.

Hyperbole reigned. Even seasoned reporters added far more spice to the story than was suitable. Meant to induce tears, the peppering of the truth with dubious details served only to leave a sickly aftertaste.

The “Gulf War Hero,” they called him. He was no more inherently heroic than anyone else, his military service notwithstanding. Certainly, when he joined the army nobody had any idea that war was imminent.

Would Tim have elected to serve his country had he known what lay ahead? Would Tim have sacrificed his life to save a fellow soldier?

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

It would be fair to say that Tim’s mettle was untested. In any event, Tim was the victim of circumstances, no more. In Vietnam he’d have been one statistic in a field riddled with thousands. But when one swam in a small Gulf, even a superficial wound merited a medal.

Given what happened, it was more dramatic to make Tim out to have been a Big Hero. Some even construed him as a Martyr for The Cause. Considering the furor surrounding the shock of his capture and eventual execution, I suppose all of the hoopla was to be expected.

The bombing was horrific. Hundreds of people blasted apart. Babies. Yet, toward the end of the play, the spotlight shone on a single actor, our erstwhile War Hero, to the exclusion of the amorphous mass of those massacred.

I admit that my peripheral vision had narrowed by then, leaving pupils pinpointed on Tim. I can perhaps be forgiven for apparent callousness. I was Tim’s father, after all. Make that before, during, and after all.

The anticipation was excruciating. The brief, false reprieve when the declared E-Day was postponed was a cruel torment. The agony of waiting, just waiting, knowing that nothing would prevent the inevitable. I hate to admit this, but, twisted as it sounds, I wanted them to just do it. Get it over with. I knew for a fact they were going to execute him; surely Tim did too. It was just a matter of torturous time.

There was never a doubt in my mind that Tim was doomed. After all, the Iraquis demolished Kuwait, killing thousands of innocents, and the world was silent. How could one possibly expect mercy for one Evil American.

From day one of The Tragedy I’ve refused all requests—demands—for interviews. Nevertheless, the media won’t leave me in peace—as if peace were possible. The tabloids would make me a millionaire, if only I would cooperate. Do they truly think that money could compensate for a father’s misery?

All the clamor for vengeance, beginning when Tim was first captured through the final countdown. Demonstrations of outrage. Vigils. Solemn marches. Then the posthumous parades with flags flying. Pennants and T-shirts featuring apt slogans and photos of Tim. The declaration of an annual Day of Remembrance. As as a topper, the impassioned speech by President Bush that the world will not abide this atrocity.

If only I were a magical movie maker who could rewind the recording to Before. Cut that fateful day when my world imploded. To un-brand the name forever seared on my soul and on the face of the earth. How I yearn for the anonymous days of MacVee.

Tim had such potential. Until his future so brutally broke its promise.

God knows what he would have been capable of.

If only those Iraquis had not blown his brains out.


For the real version of Tim’s story—and his father’s likely sentiments given those circumstances—delete the word “not” from the final sentence.

Now go read the footnote.





Thanks to Sierra Treasures for artwork: Fire Storm

On April 19,1995 Timothy McVeigh masterminded the bombing of a Federal Building in Oklahoma City, in which 168 people were killed and 680 injured, for which crime he was executed on June 11, 2001. In 1988, McVeigh enlisted in the United States Army, and was deployed to Kuwait in 1991 during the Iraqi invasion. He was awarded several medals, including the Bronze Star and was honorably discharged in 1991 with the rank of sergeant.

Given the enormity of McVeigh's crime and the fact that much was made about his military service, I conjured this thought experiment. In retrospect, it would have been better for all had he died a martyr at the hands of the Iraqis.

This fictional piece is narrated by his father, Bill McVeigh.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by Sierra Treasures at

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