Dakota leans against the stop sign, hand outstretched flipping off driver after driver. Kids in backseats meet his eye, and he smiles, beckons them to join him. The ones that turn in their seats, heads popping up in the glass as the car retreats. These are his favorites. His fellow revolutionaries. They'll grow up remembering him—a scarecrow of capitalism. He is twelve years old and accepts his allowance in Bitcoin, taking Christmas gifts in other cryptocurrencies. Financial freedom is how you fuck with the status quo. Twenty-five cars pass before the sheriff rolls up. He doesn’t even roll down his window anymore. A flash of the lights, a blip of the siren, and Dakota walks off, already scrolling on his phone.
Dakota has bigger plans for the community pool. He loves walking through the neighborhood at night, street lights placed haphazardly. Their arms hanging over him like a scolding adult. He runs from pools of light to the shadows and back again, hopscotching on the cracked and gritty streets while the blue glow of TVs pulse in the corner of his eyes. He screams, chest tightening, waiting for the pulled-back curtains before slinking off. But here is the pool, surrounded by a chintzy eight-foot chain link fence. He vaults over it with the ease of youth, spray paint cans ratting in his jacket pockets. He loves how the little ball rattles around the inside of the canister. The spray comes out fast and irregularly, but the words are clear enough for a quick pic. Southfield sucks deez nuts. Stupid, unoriginal, but the challenge is complete. A few hashtags and he’ll go viral. Leave this wasteland behind.
Cameras everywhere. Infiltrating. Surrounding. Dakota walks through the high school hallways with an unfurled umbrella. He found this particular tactic on TikTok. As he approaches each corner, he flops the umbrella upward, blocking the camera and masking his movements. He hasn't heard of a revolution starting in school, but he is bent on becoming a #trendsetter. His classmates laugh and jostle the umbrella, cursing and calling him #lame. He flips them off and sneers into their phone cameras. Welcome to the fucking Revolution. Don’t say you didn’t know.
This lasts two days until the gym teacher stops him, the man's red face looming over the top of the umbrella fabric. Dakota jerks the umbrella back, but the man wrenches the material toward him. "Dude. Don't be an asshole," Dakota says, wishing he was in one of those karate movies, or an Avenger, whipping the metal of his umbrella across the man’s face. But, instead, he loses his grip and falls to the floor, the grit gathering on his palms. He lays there quivering, the teacher standing over him, saying in a low voice, “Get up now. Don’t make this a scene.” On the way to the office, the teacher's hand gripping his shoulder, Dakota dances and squirms for the cameras. Fist raised high. Flicking his hair out of his face, shouting, We want Freedom, We Want Freedom.
Senior year. Dressed in cap and gown. A concession for his mother. The night before, she promised him a two-drink maximum. And still, he witnesses her stumbling, falling into the lap of another father. Dakota has planned for this. Her failures have become his license to do something unbearably embarrassing. He’s thought of violence. An assault rifle hidden under his robes; a barrage of bombs left under the stage. But these thoughts leave him breathless, a bit giddy, frightened by how easily they come to mind. His anarchy arrives in softer forms. He wants them scared by his potential. But he hungers for change, too. He isn’t that fucked up. Not yet. So he waits until his name is called, waits until he has shaken the principal's hand, has gotten the required photo, his smile a little smirk he’s too proud of before flipping open the app he developed to coordinate with the school’s sprinkler system, the water splashing from the sky, the fire alarm ringing. He unfurls the umbrella secreted underneath his ropes and walks out the back gym door and into the gloaming.
Tommy Dean is the author of two flash fiction chapbooks and a full flash collection, Hollows (Alternating Current Press, 2022). He lives in Indiana, where he currently is the Editor at Fractured Lit and Uncharted Magazine. A recipient of the 2019 Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction, his writing can be found in Best Microfiction 2019, 2020, 2023, Best Small Fictions 2019 and 2022, Monkeybicycle, and elsewhere. Find him at tommydeanwriter.com and on Twitter @TommyDeanWriter.