“I have an announcement,” Texas said.
“So does his desk,” muttered Connecticut. “It’s saying, Get this guy off of me, before I collapse!”
I had to admit that Connecticut had a point. Texas’ desk, on which he was standing, was emitting some rather loud creaks, and its legs were looking a little more bowed than ordinary.
“Hush, y’all,” Louisiana said. “I wanna hear this.”
“After much deliberation,” Texas said, “I have decided to- ow!”
“You’ve decided to ‘ow’?” Georgia asked confusedly.
“Maybe it’s a code word,” South Carolina offered. “Like, maybe, what he really means is – ‘I have decided to take tap-dancing classes’?”
“That,” Georgia said slowly, “is the stupidest idea I have ever heard. Why would a state need to tap-dance?”
South Carolina shrugged. “Why not?”
“Actually,” I said, “I think he said ‘ow’ because his desk just collapsed on top of him.”
“Oh, yeah,” South Carolina said thoughtfully. “It could be that, too.”
Texas raised an arm from under the pile of splintered wood in the center of the room, and waved. “I’m okay!” he said, hauling himself up. “Dang desk… anyway, as I was saying – after much deliberation… I have decided to secede from the Union.”
Silence fell over the room. Vermont and North Carolina stopped pinching each other. Oklahoma and New Mexico stared at Texas, identical expressions of amazement on their faces. Massachusetts’ mouth was hanging open, his eyes bulging and his face slack with shock. I would have laughed if I hadn’t felt the exact same way.
The still was only broken when Mississippi squeaked loudly and fell off his chair. Alabama, who had been holding his hand tightly, emitted a similar squeak and followed him to the floor.
Massachusetts finally found his voice. “You’re doing what?”
“Seceding,” Texas said.
South Carolina shrugged. “Big deal. I’ve done it too, you know.”
“Yeah,” North Carolina said bitterly. “And then the Civil War happened.”
South Carolina’s smile instantly dropped off her face. “Oh. I, um, forgot about that.”
“Let’s not get off topic,” Louisiana said. “I just found out my neighbor’s seceding from the country. Can we discuss this, please?”
“Yes, let’s,” Massachusetts said, frowning. “Secession is unconstitutional. It’s illegal. We’ve been telling you that since 1845.”
“Well, I dispute that!” Texas yelled.
“And I dispute your dispution!” Massachusetts yelled back.
I was pretty sure ‘dispution’ wasn’t a word, but Massachusetts’ face looked dangerously close to exploding, and I didn’t really want to push him over the edge.
Now Vermont joined in, his expression identical to Massachusetts’. “You can’t secede!”
“Oh yes I can!” Texas said, his hands curling into fists. “I don’t have to listen to you!”
“Oh yes you do!”
I couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t stand their bickering one moment longer. “Wait!” I yelled. Texas, Massachusetts and Vermont all froze.
“Why?” I asked.
“Why what?” Vermont snapped.
“Why does Texas want to secede?”
“Who cares why I want to?” Texas asked.
“Because,” I said, “if we know the problem, maybe we can fix it so you won’t have to secede.”
There was a general murmur of assent, and everyone’s eyes fixed on a very flustered Texas.
“It doesn’t matter!” he said, reddening. “The point is, I’m seceding, and you can’t do anything about it.”
“You need a reason to secede,” Georgia pointed out, not unreasonably.
“No I don’t!” Texas shot back. “I just want to, that’s all! And I can!”
I sighed. Today’s meeting was going to be a very long one. I had planned on sorting through some papers when I got back, but noooo…
“Oh no you can’t,” Vermont said.
“Oh yes I can,” Texas replied – and with that, we were officially back to Square Zero.
Then Vermont punched Texas, and we slid back to Square Negative-One.
“Oh Lord,” Georgia whispered. “This is bad. This is very, very bad.”
“You can say that again,” North Carolina said, joining us. “If it gets any worse, we’re gonna have to refight the Civil War – and no one wants that.”
I nodded – and suddenly a flash of inspiration hit me. “That’s it,” I said slowly. “That’s it! No one wants the Civil War!”
Georgia raised an eyebrow. “What…?” Before she could say anything more, I did something that, looking back on it, could only be considered suicidal.
I leapt right in between Vermont and Texas.
“Dammit, Virginia! Get out of the way!”
“Unless you’re here to help me, you better skedaddle-”
“Shut up,” I said, cutting them off. “Look. Remember what happened last time someone tried to secede?”
Both fell silent as memories were dredged up – memories of blood-soaked clothes, whistling bullets and screams of agony. Smoke, fire, death… I couldn’t help but wince myself. Most of the fighting had taken place in Virginia, and – though a hundred and fifty years had passed since the weapons were laid down – the memories were still raw.
“I remember,” Vermont said quietly, and Texas nodded. Around us, I heard other states who’d been present – Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio – mumble their agreement.
“Do we really want that to happen again?” I asked. A flurry of ‘No’s’ greeted my question.
“But with the way things are going right now, it might,” Georgia said. “Y’all need to make up with each other. Texas, honey, if you can’t think of a good reason to secede, then don’t secede.”
“Be a sport, Texas!” Missouri called.
“Chill!” California added.
Texas bit his lip and stared around the room. “I- well- fine. Fine. Maybe I won’t secede right now.”
“Or ever,” Vermont added.
“Vermont,” North Carolina hissed. “Don’t push it.”
“I won’t push it if he won’t push it,” Vermont replied, sounding like a five-year-old negotiating for Lego box rights. Texas replied with a rather colorful statement that I’d rather not repeat here.
But despite all of that, I couldn’t help feeling happy. It was a beautiful, warm evening, and the meeting had been concluded without the Union breaking up.
Maybe I might even have time to sort out those papers.