"You quit stallin' in there!" called Bobby as he hammered on the door of the old hostelry. "Come on - you got yourself some right thirsty customers here!"
The door opened slowly and a Remington 870 poked cautiously through it.
"Oh," said its owner when she realised who was standing there. "I guess y'all better come in. Lickety split, now - there's Redcoats and Yankees acrawlin' ever'where!"
Bobby politely removed his hat and ushered Jeb and Sam in before closing the door carefully behind him, checking for any British or US troops who might be lurking outside before he did so.
"Why you lookin' so miserable, girly girl?" asked Bobby. "Way you look right now anyone'd think it's all over."
Sandy-Lee didn't even bother to smile.
"Ain't you been watchin' the news? The British took control of Johnson City this afternoon and Asheville surrendered to the Yanks this morning."
"Last time I checked, we was livin' in Zionville," said Bobby defiantly, "and we still part of the good old CSA. Get us all a George Dickel, Sandy-Lee, so we can drink to our President."
Sandy-Lee poured the strong Tennessee drink out for her old friends and then poured one out for himself.
"To the President of the Confederate States of America - long may he evade capture," proposed Sam in his rich silky tones.
"Got anythin' to eat, sis?" asked Jeb, whose large frame betrayed his interest in eating.
"I got Okra an' hoecake."
"Okra an' hoecake? Ain'tcha got nothin' else?" asked Jeb in horror.
"It's okra an' hoecake - don't be bein' choicey, now: we got us a war on here, in case you ain't noticed."
"All right, sis. How much is it?"
"Two dollars. That'll pay for the drinks for y'all as well," said Sandy-Lee.
Jeb sat and ate the okra and hoecakes that Sandy-Lee had generously piled up on his plate. For a minute he could forget about the impossible-to-win war that his nation was fighting simultaneously with Russia, Britain, France and, most hatefully of all, the United States. Food always made him feel good. He could imagine he was a child in the 1990s again playing in the fields under the watchful eye of Scipio, the family slave. Scipio had disappeared now, of course: gone off to fight for the British, so they'd said. Or was it for Uncle Sam? Didn't matter, did it? He'd turned against the family he'd sworn to obey and his country like so many of his kind. Maybe he was sitting in a British tank right now as it rolled slowly into Johnson City? Maybe he was even flying over Florida in the Commies' air force? Slavery was dead; the Confederacy, which had lasted since way back in the 1860s, was dead. A way of life was dead. Still, the American War would be over soon, whatever Bobby said. And then there'd be no more killing. For now Jeb just ate and drank and dreamed of the past.
"You darn near drunk the whole bottle!" complained Bobby when he saw Jeb order two more for himself and knock them back straght away.
Sandy-Lee switched on the TV in time for the evening news.
On screen three figures were shown one by one. First up was Louis XX, King of France. He got a boo from the occupants of Sandy-Lee's hostelry.
Then there was Gennady Zyuganov, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union - the Russian leader to Sandy-Lee's guests. He got a bigger boo because... well, they didn't like Communists.
Then the cameraman panned round to the thrid Allied leader. It was Nick Clegg, Britain's Prime Minister. He got the loudest boo yet for Britain had always been a good friend to the CSA until the Tories had been ousted from power two years ago. That's when everything had changed: the new Whig government had rethought Britain's "special relationship" with the CSA. They had dumped that in favour of a new relationship with their old enemies, the United States, citing slavery as a great "evil". With Britain on board the USA had become brave enough to invite the Russians and the French to join in as well. The four of them would do what the Yankees on their own had failed to do in 1865: remove the independent Southern Republic from the face of the globe. The four allies had already agreed how the former CSA would be carved up: the French would get Texas and Louisiana; the USA would get North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia; the Russians would get Alabama, Florida and Georgia and Britain would get Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. Unfortunately for Bobby and his friends Zionville lay right on the Tennessee / North Carolinian state line so there were both British and US troops in their area.
There was a pause and then applauding in the studio and then the Stars and Stripes started up. Bobby and his friends hollered at the television. They knew wht was happening. The worst of the Four Allies was about to enter the stage. Yes, right on cue it was President Rice, a female African-American (such a person would have been disqualified from voting in the CSA, both on gender and on racial grounds and yet there she was actually the Yankees' Commander in Chief!).
Condoleezza Rice raised her hand for quiet. She had a fanatical look on her normally-calm featues.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we got him!" she said.
There was cheering, jeering and stamping of feet in the studio as the President of the CSA was brought in with a chain around his neck. He had grown a beard but it was unmistakably him.
Zyuganov, Clegg and King Louis all stood up and applauded the US President, their smooth ally.
"Let's see them hands, now," said Sandy-Lee, her shotgun in her hand and pointing at her guests. "I wanna see the hairs on each hand. You got it, gentlemen."
All her guests looked at their old "friend", scarcely able to believe this act of treachery.
"Why would you do this, Sandy-Lee?" asked Sam.
"I got bills," shrugged Sandy-Lee. "I reckon there's two armies down here might wanna fight each other to pay 'em for me if they know I got the local insurgents holed up here."
His hands in the air, Jeb let his face turn slightly sideways and look at the television.
What a crazy world 2010 was! He and his friends were going to be sold to the highest bidder, as though they were no better than slaves. And on TV he could see further proof that the American War had truly ended. Yes, his old President, George W. Bush, was in enemy hands.