The Forgiveness War

What happens when the government forgives student loan debt? This flash fiction story explores that question!

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So what prompted this latest, original, flash fiction tale involving student loan debt forgiveness? Oh, I’m sure nothing that people are currently talking about.

And with that said, here now in 1,000 or fewer words is “The Forgiveness War.”

*****

Mount Holly loomed over the ancient wooden restaurant to the west. Keller Hill towered over it across the road and across Mountain Creek to the east. Mount Holly’s shadow swallowed everything in the grand divide. It was exactly like last year, Barrett thought, when he was here leading the charge to get the government to discharge all outstanding student loan debt.

He had returned a victor. A victor intent on doing more.

He was building an entirely new political movement. It would not be beholden to either political party. Politics weren’t about right versus left any longer. They were so much more than that now.

“What do you think?” his chief of staff asked him. The last of the crowd disappearing out the door. “I think it went well. Can’t believe we packed this place again. We’re rock stars, man.”

“Funny what actual accomplishments will do,” Barrett replied. “Over one trillion dollars in debt gone. That’s a tangible result.”

“We’ll get more results too . . . as long as we don’t get sidetracked,” his chief of staff said.

“Yeah, we need to focus on prison reform, ending foreign wars, securing the border, and stuff like that,” Barrett agreed. “No more tax cuts. Or worrying about the Chamber of Commerce. Or anything else the cucks are always obsessed with. And none of the social issues the religious fanatics always cry about.”

“Hey, you guys are late,” a staff member near the door said. “It’s all over.”

Barrett and his chief of staff looked over their shoulders. “Great,” Barrett muttered. “Not him.”

“Yeah, I’m only here because it’s over,” the newly arrived man told the staffer. Four others came in with him. “You remember me?” the man called out to Barrett.

Barrett sighed and faced him. “It’s Trevor . . . sorry, can’t remember your last name.”

The man smirked. “Good enough.”

“What do you want?’ Barrett asked.

“You got your wish. The government forgave all those student loans,” Trevor said.

One of his men stayed near the door. The three others took up positions inside the restaurant, never taking their eyes off Barrett and his staff.

“Course, the loans didn’t just magically disappear. Taxpayers will take on that burden. Better yet, all those college degrees everyone got with their student loans didn’t magically disappear either. No, everyone still gets to keep those and all the benefits that come with them,” Trevor said. “You remember what I told you when you were here last year?”

Barrett crossed his arms. “I don’t know. Something about how you dropped out of college because it was a waste of your time. How you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps and built your own business. That’s impossible to do today, by the way.”

“Reasonably close. Of course, you left out a big piece of what I said: that I skipped college because I didn’t want to be in debt for the rest of my life.”

“So you should be celebrating loan forgiveness.”

“No!” Trevor said. “I was ridiculed for dropping out of college and refusing to take on that debt. But I ignored the scorn and then worked hard for 20 years. Built my business from the ground up. I sacrificed everything, all the while government regs and taxes put me on the brink of ruin every year, and all the while society gave preference to everyone with those worthless pieces of paper. But it had been worth it for me . . . until this loan forgiveness fiasco.”

“That was a choice you made,” Barrett shot back.

“And college debt was a choice everyone else made!” Trevor yelled. “You know,” he stopped and laughed. “You know what? You’re not hearing a word I say. Which is typical.”

He moved forward. Barrett and his chief of staff backed up.

Barrett swallowed the lump in his throat. “What do you want?”

“My business finally couldn’t take the regulations and taxes. It’s gone. My girlfriend said so long after that.”

The gap between him and Barrett grew smaller.

“Take it easy,” Barrett said.

“Risk and uncertainty used to be the only certainties for me. But now . . . now my future is much clearer,” Trevor told him.

“I think it’s time for you to leave,” one of Barrett’s staff said, moving closer to them. Everyone else did too.

“What happens when a man loses everything?” Trevor asked Barrett.

Barrett licked his lips. “I-I don’t know. He despairs, I guess.”

Trevor nodded. “Some men do. But others realize that once you lose everything, you have nothing left to lose. And that can be very freeing.”

“We have more guys than you do,” the chief of staff said.

Barrett straightened up and stuck out his chest. “That’s right. You’d better leave.”

“I’m not done yet,” Trevor growled.

“Yes, you are,” Barrett said, eliminating the remaining distance between them. He grabbed Trevor’s shoulder.

Trevor punched him in the nose, dropping him. Trevor shook his fist and winced, groaning ever so slightly.

Barrett’s staff moved on Trevor. His men stepped in and they stopped.

“We need help in here!” the chief of staff cried.

“I own this place,” one of Trevor’s men told him.

“My nose is bleeding!” Barrett said, holding it and leaning his head back.

“Tell everyone I’ve declared war,” Trevor said, his voice wavering and breathing uneven. His hands shook too. “I’m all in on revolting. And when everyone goes nuts over it, remind them it’s been a long time coming. The student loan forgiveness was the final straw.”

“You’re an idiot,” Barrett spat out, nasally toned. “You can’t possibly think you’ll win.”

Trevor sucked in a few, difficult breaths. “No. But I never thought I’d find four men willing to join me either. So who really knows how this’ll all end? Regardless, I’ve had enough.”

Artwork: © Paul Hair, 2019.

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