Hannibal Heyes took a deep breath of sweet-scented summer air. All in all, it had been a most satisfactory Fourth of July. The sun had shone. The opening speeches had not droned on too long. The horse HE had picked had won the buggy race. The farm-hand HE had bet on had triumphed in the greased pig contest (and THAT event had been altogether a delightfully messy affair). There had been everything one should have on the fourth: firecrackers, lemonade, taffy-pulls, folks wearing their Sunday best. The ladies of the small, peaceful town had laid on a truly excellent picnic of which he had partaken fully. And, now, a glorious day was mellowing into a wonderful evening. Everyone cheerful; smiles on all the friendly faces; bliss. Dimples appeared in the sun-kissed cheeks. Deep brown eyes sparkled with happiness. If only this moment could last forever…
Then – both literally and metaphorically – a shadow fell. Looking up, Hannibal Heyes saw an unmistakable figure of authority stride toward him, firm purpose writ on a determined face.
The scene was too familiar for him to have any doubt of what was about to happen. He was about to be deprived of his freedom, dragged away, incarcerated…
Swiftly, he glanced around, but, no; nowhere to hide. If he ran, he would be caught at once.
No! NO! He was not going! NO! This wonderful day was NOT going to end this way!
Was there another choice? Yes – but, did he dare risk it? His hand hovered…
“You’d better not be planning to use that, son,” cautioned his would-be captor. “Come along…”
The tapered fingers stopped hesitating and drew the weapon. “I won’t use it if I don’t hafta! But,” the dark eyes narrowed, “…I’m not comin’.” He decided to try persuasion. “Listen, I got a right to liberty an’ to – to pursue happiness… It’s in the constitu…”
“Sorry, son,” the interruption sounded almost amused; Hannibal Heyes bristled; was he being laughed at? “Sure, I appreciate the patriotic sentiments, but those inalienable rights don’t apply in this situati…”
The weapon was raised.
“I’m not comin’!”
“Don’t even think about it!” warned a purposeful voice. A hand was held out, palm upwards. “I’ll count to three, then you’d better hand that over. One. Two. Thr…”
A shot was fired.
Before he could so much as blink, Hannibal Heyes found himself pinioned by strong arms and tipped, boots kicking, to stare at the ground. A smart slap was administered to five-year-old buttocks. The catapult was confiscated and stowed in a paternal pocket. Still protesting, Hannibal was borne away to the hated imprisonment of ‘bedtime’.
His declaration of independence was over. For now…