Battleground State / by Ryan Haver

United States, the present. Battleground states have become literal battlegrounds, and Donald Trump has gained a valuable stronghold in New Hampshire.


“General Trump, sir. We’ve pushed Jeb’s forces back to Nashua and have them sighted for artillery.”

Trump sniffed and examined his finger nails, admiring his cuticles. The cuticles of a winner.


Moments later, he felt the rumble of Howitzers and leaned back in his chair. “God, I love war,” he thought. He then settled in for a couple of reruns of Honey Boo Boo.


Seven kilometers away, Jeb sat in his bunker beneath the Southern New Hampshire Podiatry Clinic. “Gosh darn it!” he cried. Reports had come back that his fiercest and most loyal soldiers, Boy Scout Troop #247, had been decimated. Their archery badges were of no use to him now. He just hoped his popcorn order form had survived the blast. As the soft staccato rhythm of automatic fire in the distance reached his ears, Jeb took a sheet of computer paper and his favorite Milky Pen and began to write his final orders.


Donald chuckled as the obese child was exploited for his amusement. He was reaching for a cigar as he heard footsteps outside of his penthouse command tent.

“Knock, knock,” the voice called. His visitor ducked through the tent flap and carefully stepped over TRUMP-branded sandbags. She wore a North Face parka and Uggs, sniper rifle slung across her back. Trump stood and opened his arms in pleasant surprise.

“Sarah! You’re early!” Sarah Palin laughed and said, “Well you know me, dontcha Donald? You say ‘senseless slaughter’ and I come runnin’!”

The two embraced and Trump held her at arm’s length. “Well you look marvelous, just marvelous. Come, sit with me. How was your flight?”

“Well, we ran into a little flak over Iowa, but other than that it was a straight shot.”

“Excellent, great to hear. And don’t you worry about Iowa. I’ve got my people on it. Blackwater did a tremendous, tremendous job in Iraq. A little pricey, but I’ll just put it on Mexico’s tab.”

“Well, I think that’s just great, Don. If they keep bringing their drugs and domestic violence into our country, my son will be out of a hobby!”

“It’s a hard time for all of us,” Trump said wistfully, as he poured two glasses of Dom Perignon. “A toast,” he continued, handing Sarah a glass, “A toast to making American great again. “ Sarah gave an enthusiastic rebel yell and downed her glass, slamming her champagne flute back on the table.

Donald winced at his guest’s backwoods manners, but he’d worked with worse. He’d made deals against China, after all. He swallowed his pride and mentally prepared himself to treat a woman as an equal. She might be bleeding out of her “whatever," but he was out for blood, too, and this was no time to squander an asset.

“So, Sarah, sweetheart. You must be wondering why I asked you to come here.”

Palin rolled her eyes sheepishly, “Uhhh, no, hadn’t really thought about it.”

Donald exhaled through his nose and took a moment to think about how to explain the following concept as simply as possible. He straightened his tie and began, “Ok, I’ll get right to the point. Listen, this war has been fun, I’m having a good time, but, frankly, I just don’t have the time for it anymore. It’s tying up my capital. Now, my friends at Halliburton and Lockheed Martin have been very nice to us, very nice, but we need a decisive win. It’s what the American people want. They want the fourth quarter touchdown, and I’m gonna give it to ‘em.”

“Like DMX?!” Sarah squealed and gulped down her second hundred dollar glass of champagne.

Trump’s brow furrowed. “Yeah…sure. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that there are a lot of candidates out there. Ted Cruz, for example. Nice guy. Good friend of mine. Piece of shit. He needs to go. Now.”

Donald paused in disgust as Sarah took another slug, straight from the bottle. He shook his head and continued, “Although I do support traditional values, beating them the old fashioned way will take too long. I’m too smart for that. I’m the smartest candidate in this civil war. What I’m suggesting is that you and I go out and hunt them down. Each and every one. Now, Sarah, I understand that you’re a pretty good shot from a helicopter, took down a couple defenseless wolves a few years back, up in uhhh, where is it your from again?”

“Wasilla, Alaska!  My daddy was a –“

Trump cut her off. “Ok, ok. Alaska. I got it. So tell me honestly, you think you could hit Cruz from about a thousand meters.”

Sarah exploded in delight. “Sure can! You can bet Rubio’s high heeled boots on it! I mean, I don’t much care for the metric system, and I’m better on endangered animals, but I can do it. They call me Annie Oakley back home. Don’t really know why, though. I never wear Oakley’s…”

Donald interrupted her existential crisis, “Excellent. That’s just what I wanted to hear. Feel free to finish that bottle while I get my things. I’ll meet you at the big whirly bird machine.”

Sarah hopped to her feet with a quick salute. “Oh boy, Donny. We’re gonna have a real rootin’-tootin’ point n’ shootin’ good time!”

Mrs. Palin grabbed the bottle and pulled her feet up onto the supple leather couch. She hugged the bottle close to her chest and closed her eyes with a grateful sigh. How nice it felt to be useful. How nice it felt to be loved…


Jeb Bush sat back and proofread his letter. He made sure that he had crossed every T and smiley faced every I. Satisfied with his work, he rolled up the letter and tied it to the leg of his pigeon. It wasn’t a carrier pigeon. It had had no training, whatsoever, but Jeb remembered something his brother had said, “America, where wings take dream.” Something like that. Regardless, this was his only hope.


“You all set?” Trump had to yell over the helicopter blades spinning up.

“Yeah, it’s all good in the hood,” Sarah yelled back. As she struggled against the wind, Donald winced again. He rubbed his brow and engaged in another mental checklist to resist the urge to kick her out of the chopper after takeoff.  “It’s all good in the hood? Where did she get that from? 2008? Jesus…”

Sarah met Donald at the sliding door to the aircraft. Donald didn’t want any distractions once they were airborne, so he stopped her before entering. “You sure you have everything? Gun? Ammunition? Yeah? Do you have to go to the bathroom? No? You sure? Ok, let’s go.” He extended his arm to assist Mrs. Palin into the helicopter. “Ladies first.”

Sarah blushed. “Why, thank you, Donald! You’re such a gentleman. Anyone who says you’re a chauvinistic pig…well…they can just go to hell, am I right?” Sarah laughed and entered the chopper. Trump turned back to his base one last time and spoke tersely under his breath, “That’s the idea…”

They climbed aboard and Donald tapped the pilot on the shoulder. As they started to lift off, Donald felt a buzz in his jacket pocket. He looked at his phone and read the text.

Ivanka Trump 2:59 PM

netflix n chill?

It was an enticing offer, but he’d have to take her up on it later. This was business, and business always comes first. Donald turned his phone off and put it back in his pocket. They travelled in silence for a few minutes until the pilot came over the intercom in their headsets. “Sir, you may want to hold on, we’ll be flying through enemy territory soon.”

Donald looked the ground and balled his fists.



George H.W. Bush was enjoying his retirement from politics. An avid skydiver, he went on a birthday dive every year, even into his eighties. He tried to keep it to a minimum, (he wasn’t as young as he used to be), but living with Barbara Bush would make anyone want to jump out of a plane, so he would occasional sneak off for a little fun.

George opened the door to the DC-10 and prepared to jump. As he was unclipping from the overhead railing, a grey streak zoomed through his vision. He clipped back in and looked around. A pigeon wearily staggered to its feet, dazed from hitting the inside of the plane. Shocked, George knelt down and picked up the bird. “Hey, little fella. You ok? What are you doing way up here?” The bird offered its right leg, which had a roll of paper attached. George unfurled the scroll and read the letter.



Sorry to bother you, but I’m in a real pickle this time. I’m pinned down in Nashua by Trump. We lost the Boy Scouts. I’m all alone. Trump’s men are searching the city for me and I’m surprised they haven’t found me yet. I told you the podiatry clinic was a good idea.

Anyway, if you could help me out of this, I’d really appreciate it. I know I’m no Dubya, and I never will be, but if you could get him out of all those DUI’s and businesses he ran into the ground, I’m hoping you can help me out of this one. If not, I understand that, too.



P.S. – Tell Mom I said hello and I’ll call her tomorrow if I survive.


George held the letter shakily and tears welled in his eyes. Jeb was right, he wasn’t Dubya. He just wasn’t meant to be president. But he was a good boy, always was. George took out the lucky Milky Pen he always brought with him on jumps. He wanted to write back to his son, but knew this bird had to go to someone who could help. He wrote down coordinates and orders for the Secret Service to rescue Jeb. George thanked his lucky stars that Secret Service protection is afforded to former presidents.

George finished the commands and tied the letter back to the pigeon’s leg. He held the little bird and said, “I need you to get this to Camp David. Do you know where that is?” The pigeon gave an affirmative coo and almost seemed to salute with its wing. “Good. Your country and all birdkind are proud of you. Now, go!”

The pigeon nodded and took flight. It was immediately sucked into the propellers.

George was back to the drawing board. He called to the pilot, “Get in touch the Camp David! Jeb’s in trouble!” The pilot unmuted his headset and called back, “No can do, Mr. President. Communications are down. Looks like Trump is shooting down satellites.”

“Idiot,” George seethed. “Alright, change of plans. Set a course for New Hampshire.”

The pilot balked. “But, sir. It’s a war zone! And we don’t have enough fuel to get you back!”

George looked through the open door and watched the eastern horizon. “Just get us there, Captain. This is a one way flight for me.”


“Wowww, pretty!”

Sarah Palin pressed her nose to the glass of the helicopter’s cabin. All these bursts of light and loud booms. It was like the time Todd took her to see the fireworks when they first started dating. What a great day that was.  

“Don, aren’t these fireworks great? I remember when John and I were running together and – “

“Those aren’t fireworks, you moron,” Trump bellowed back, “They’re rockets! Rockets trying to kill us!”

Donald Trump couldn’t believe it. Although he had won 35% of the New Hampshire vote, some boring loser from Ohio had squeaked out 15% and secured second place. Kasich’s forces held Manchester International Airport and were covering his retreat to South Carolina. Trump did not see Kasich as a real threat and would come back for him later. In the meantime, they just needed to get through this barrage to close in on Cruz, whose supporters were being held back at the city limits.

He held the microphone in his helmet close to his lips and yelled to the pilot over the whirring blades above. “We need to get lower! I’ve got some intel from my people. I hire the best people. Did you know that? They confirmed that Cruz is commanding a tank from the front line. They say it has a massive burning cross on top. They suggested the same for me, but I’m actually a Scientologist. Don’t tell anybody. Actually, who cares, you’re a loser and no one would believe you anyway."

The pilot was a bit miffed by the insult, but was more concerned about the command. Things were looking pretty rough on the ground and he wasn’t sure he’d made the right choice in becoming a mercenary for Trump. He’d always wanted to be a veterinarian, but you know how life gets in the way sometimes.

The young man snapped from his regretful pondering as Sarah excitedly piped up from the back seat.

“I see him, I see him!” Sarah pointed down at the flaming crucifix. Over the past 150 years of American history, this symbol had become the Tapout t-shirt of hate. Ubiquitous, nefarious, and nauseating. Sarah loved it.

Trump raised a set of binoculars to his eyes for a closer look and smiled, giving Sarah a thumbs up and “hang loose” sign. “Yeah, that him,” Trump called back, “I can see him doing lame Simpsons impressions.” Donald was exactly right. Nobody really liked Ted Cruz, not even his own family, so he was taking full advantage of a captive audience to work on his Chief Wiggum voice.  Trump screamed to Sarah over the chopper blades and the din of battle below, “We’ll get in position. Wait for my mark to take the shot.”


“Sir, we’re approaching Manchester.”

George’s headset crackled with the pilot’s voice and he took a deep breath to steel himself and plan his next move. He threw open the sliding door of the plane’s cabin and surveyed the landscape. What lay before him was strife and destruction he hadn’t seen in person since his 1992 struggle with Ross Perot, ending in a loss to Bill Clinton. George shook his head in shame and tapped back into his microphone. “You can let me go over the airport.” Again, the pilot recoiled in shock. “The airport, sir,” he asked, “Isn’t that a little risky?”

“Risk,” Bush yelled back, indignantly, “Risk? I threw up on the Prime Minister of Japan! How’s that for risk? Just get me there and you can go home. This one’s on me.” The pilot silently nodded and reluctantly steered down towards the airfield.


Trump sat hunched in his chair, chin just above Palin’s shoulder, whispering in her ear. “Alright, Sarah, we’ve got him, now take the shot.”

“Okilly Dokilly, Trumperino!”

Sarah removed her glasses and set her face to the rifle’s eyepiece. Just as she settled in, she was distracted by something falling from just above the helicopter. A moment later came a thundering crash as the Plexiglas of the front windshield caved in. George H.W. Bush’s feet came sailing through the cockpit, striking the wannabe veterinarian in the face, knocking him out cold. George quickly slipped the pilot’s weapon free of its holster and spun the pistol upon the two passengers.

“Woah,” Donald yelped and jumped back in his seat.

Sarah was both startled and star struck. “M-Mr. President, it’s-it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“I wish I could say the same,” George growled, as he took the helicopter controls with his free hand. “Now, listen, I don’t want to hear a fucking word out of either of you until I’m done. You’ve both said more than enough. Understood?” They both nodded in agreement. “Good,” he continued, “Now, I’ve devoted my life to this country…and making money…but that’s not the issue here. My point is that I fought for my flag and I worked hard for my family, just like all of those people on the ground you’ve got pitted against each other.”

George took a moment to direct their attention to the battle raging below. He cleared his throat and went on, “We all know America isn’t perfect, probably never will be, but we’ve come a long way and I’ll be damned before I let either one of you nitwits burn it all down. You’re tearing us apart, and for what? Because you’re scared of someone who doesn’t speak, or look, or love the same way you do? That’s bullshit, and you know it.”

Trump reflected on his rhetoric and shrugged in reluctant acceptance. He felt safe to speak now, “Ok, George, you’ve made your point, now what do you want?”

“I want something from both of you,” he replied.

Sarah perked up at these words. A former president and a future president asking for favors on the same day? This really was shaping up to be a fun trip!

“Mrs. Palin, I’ve heard some absolutely vile shit from you over the years, and I was hoping to never hear your hateful screech ever again, but clearly you just won’t go away. What I want you to do is open a refuge for LGBT endangered species. Gay rhinos, lesbian polar bears, trans tree frogs, I don’t give a fuck. You round them all up like Noah and give them a nice place to live. Maybe you can try to be Christ-like, for once, not just Christian.”

“And you,” George snarled at Trump, “You fucking prick. I’ve been seeing your smug face for far too long, but I never thought it would come to this. This insane little show of yours is going to end today. You’re going to suspend your campaign and let Jeb go, right now. Furthermore, I hear you’re pretty fond of building walls. I’ve got a job for you. I know this nice little family, the Garcias, they could use some help with the retaining wall in their yard. That should get you started. On your way there you can pick up about a million gifts for Ramadan this year. I think that should do it.”

George paused to let the words sink in and gave his ultimatum. “Those are my demands, and if they are not met, I will jump from this helicopter and let you three crash. I’m not a murderer, at least not directly, and I think a fiery end to your hell-raising would be poetic justice.”

Donald began a slow clap and huffed in disbelief, “Bravo, George, bravo. That was a nice little sales pitch you made there, but I think you’re full of shit. I’m calling your bluff. We’re both rich men, we’ve got plenty to live for.”

“Oh, yeah,” George asked. “I’ve got arthritis, my wife’s a bitch, and the second season of Serial is a disappointment. What do I have to live for?”

Trump nodded and pursed his lips, “True. Good point.” He took a breath and weighed his options. Donald Trump was not a stupid man. An asshole, for sure, but not stupid. He rationalized this as just another bankruptcy and made his decision. “Ok, Mr. President. I accept your terms.” He reached for his phone and made the call.


Jeb Bush paced his bunker, saying the Rosary over a set of Mardi Gras beads he found in the basement. A million questions swirled through his mind. “Will I ever get out of here? Did the pigeon find Dad? What about my popcorn order? Do the Boy Scouts do refunds?” As he finished his hundredth lap around the room, a booming voice startled him, almost causing him to fall. It was the Voice of God, and He was calling to Jeb.

God cleared his throat.


Jeb fell to his knees and called back, “I have heard you, Lord, and if you wish to call me home at this moment, then…then I’m ready!” He bowed his head and got back to his Mardi Gras beads.


Fortunately for Jeb, this was not the Voice of God. It was the Voice of Trump.

Donald had Chromecasted a FaceTime message to the obnoxious video billboard he had erected over I93 in Derry. Fortunately for everyone else, they had heard it, too. The orders echoed through the snow covered valleys and rang from the White Mountains to the shore. Across the state, fighting quieted for the first time in weeks. As if mentally linked by kinship and struggle, all combatants through down their guns and rushed from their trenches, sprinting across frozen fields towards each other.

Fathers and sons, brothers and sisters, neighbors and strangers, all collided in tears and embrace, expressing their love and understanding for each other, swearing to never let this happen again. Once they had dried their eyes they came together to start a pickup baseball game in no man’s land, since every real American knew that soccer was gay.


Jeb knelt in his bunker, praying, when he heard the wail of rusty metal turning and knew he was caught. His last line of defense, the unlocked storm cellar door with a “No Parking” sign had finally been breached. He stood to face Death and heard a gruff male voice shout through the darkness, “Anybody in here?”

“I am,” Jeb declared, “I’m here, and I’m ready!” Jeb stepped forward, arms spread, eyes closed, awaiting the end. He felt a soft thud against his chest. Jeb was surprised. He though bullets would hurt more than this. What were all those refugees crying about?

“Better pick up your glove, bud. If you’re gonna play left field, you’ll need better hands than that.”

Jeb opened his eyes slowly and saw a worn looking young man, balanced on their cellar stairs. In addition to the pleasant surprise that he was still alive, he was even more shocked at the fact that someone wanted him to play. He took a moment to fix his glasses and shirt, before addressing the man. “Y-you want me,” he asked, guardedly, “You picked me for the team?”

The man answered as he started back up the stairs, “Well, yeah, I guess. You better get a move on, though. Once Ben Carson wakes up, he’ll be looking to take your position.”

Jeb was elated and bounded up the stairs to join the man. As they walked silently through the burning rubble of Nashua, Jeb worked up the nerve to ask the question he’d been mulling over for the past few minutes, “Say, uhh, I know this might sound stupid, but what happened to the whole, you know, civil war thing?”

“Oh, you mean all that,” the man replied, “Nah, that’s all over with now. Trump called it off, didn’t you hear? Apparently Papa Bush jumped out of plane into Trump’s helicopter and made him concede. Fucking crazy, right?”

Jeb faltered for a moment and felt the warmth of pride and love for his father grow in his chest.

“Besides,” the man added, “We’re just getting warmed up for South Carolina…”


Ryan Haver is a freelance self-deprecator. His work has been featured on his parents' refrigerator.