Private Idaho

The following story was entered into the Idaho Magazine fiction contest but didn’t win for … reasons.

Judge 3 apparently didn’t know that ocean spray does in fact grow in Idaho. (It’s a native plant for crying out loud!)

Both judges 3 & 4 found the story offensive. They also believed it could have been written without profanity.

Judge 4 claimed Earl was a negative stereotype. To that I say, stereotypes often start with a basis in fact. Besides, I’ve met men just like Earl at work. Heck, I’ve even been shot at 3 times.

Overall, the story garnered a 92.25%, which is still a respectable score–just not good enough to win. It also tells me that judges 1 & 2 must have really liked the story to compensate for the other two. Regardless, I like the story, so I’m sharing it with you!

Private Idaho

Earl Monroe sat in the basement of his rural compound at a desk built of unpainted wafer board and bargain two-by-four studs. His blue eyes bounced between dating profiles and checking the transmission on the satellite feed. To his right, a dirty fork protruded from a half-eaten can of Beanee Weenees. Empty Keystone Light cans littered the desk and spilled from the trash can in an impressive aluminum cascade. Behind him, a wall of black buckets held a year’s supply of Life Select emergency rations that he’d ordered from the InfoWars website.

The satellite feed had been nothing but static for six months and most of the women on the dating sites were fat and ugly. All he wanted was a decent looking woman between 5’4” and 5’6”, about 115 pounds, and a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.8. Absolutely no college—he didn’t want to put up with any of that woke-ass bullshit.

A message pinged his inbox. He didn’t bother reading it, just clicked the username “Bunny1996.” Christ, she was 27! That’s way too old. He liked them between 19 and 21. His profile said he was 26 with an athletic build. In reality, he was 38 and chunky. The stupid dating site rules wouldn’t let him contact women who were more than 10 years younger than himself so he had created a fake profile. It was all a big government conspiracy to keep men like him single.

Looking closely at the picture, Earl stroked his bushy beard in contemplation. Deciding Bunny1996’s eyes were too far apart; he deleted the message. She was probably one of the lizard people. Who did these bozos think they were dealing with? No matter how desperate he got, he wasn’t about to hook-up with one of them. The government needed to do better if they were going to infiltrate his backwoods fortress.

Alarms flashed on the computer screen as his cellphone simultaneously screamed a duplicate warning. Something had triggered his motion detectors. Fearing a perimeter breach, he immediately brought up the camera feed. A blue SUV was crawling down the county road at a snail’s pace. The motion detectors were set to go off if anything got within 50 feet of his property line. You never knew when some bastard like this was going to try doing a little recon or sneak up on you.

Kicking over the chair as he stood, Earl grabbed the AR-10 he kept by his desk and thumbed the safety strap off the holster of his .38 special. Then he took the stairs two at a time on his way to the ground floor. At the front door, he paused to peek out the window and watched as the SUV rolled past. When it had safely cleared his property, he headed out the backdoor knowing he’d have better surveillance capabilities from the sniper tower.


Kate Barns slowly drove her blue Toyota Sequoia down the rural dirt road, gawking at the “Trump 2024” and “Fuck Biden” signs atop the earthen ramparts on either side of a lonely driveway. And, oh my gods, was that a spike strip? Yep, it was.

In real estate, they say the only thing that matters is location, location, location. But there was something to be said for crazy-ass neighbors. No wonder the development tract she was sent to evaluate was listed so cheap. At least it was a glorious Friday, sporting the mild weather so wonderfully characteristic of early September. Fridays were always a good day for a drive, even if it was unproductive.

Less than half a mile down the road she spotted the for-sale sign and pulled over. The parcel was supposed to be 200 acres, flat on top, with river views. She twisted her brunette hair up and caught a flash of her hazel eyes in the rearview mirror as she clipped her it in place. Then she grabbed her phone and clipboard from the passenger seat.

The bag of donations for the foodbank still sat in the footwell. Gods! She had forgotten to drop it off. Before stepping outside, she moved the bag to the seat. Hopefully, someone would still be manning the donation center when she headed back through town.

Serenity Properties had its doubts about the view—the parcel was miles from the river. Wind buffeted her navy windbreaker and whipped across her jeans as she set off across the field. Beneath her feet, the ground was soft, freshly tilled, the stubbly remnants of the harvest poking through the earth. At least it hadn’t rained recently, so she wouldn’t end up too muddy.


Kate flinched. A gun shot echoed up the canyon. It had come from the direction of crazy. Was the bastard shooting at her? Or was he just shooting? Target practicing or something like that?

From the field, she had a better view of the offending house than she had from the road. It was octagonal, three stories tall, and built like a pagoda. A phallic effigy likely constructed by an impotent man. Atop the structure, a huge satellite dish pointed straight up. There was no siding, just bare plywood. Torn tarpaper flapped in the breeze. And she didn’t even want to guess at the contents of the squat concrete outbuildings.



Shaking her head, Kate decided whoever was shooting wasn’t shooting at her, and continued trudging toward the tree line. If the property checked out, Serenity Properties would split it into twenty ten-acre parcels and put in a better road so families could have their own private Idaho. But there was no way they’d be able to unload the lots with Trigger-Happy for a neighbor.

Asthma was a bitch. Between the exertion from the walk and the adrenaline from the gun shots, she was already huffing. Standing at the edge of a mixed ponderosa and lodge-pole forest, she stopped to catch her breath. And take in the view. It was magnificent. The hillside fell away sharply, providing the promised view of the river in the canyon below. Sunlight filtered through the trees and lay dappled on the forest floor. She whipped out her phone and began snapping pictures. This spot was perfect for wildlife viewing and daylight basements and—


“Absent Gods!” Kate turned toward the pagoda. No wonder no one had built here yet.

Closing her eyes, Kate leaned heavily against a large ponderosa pine and tried to calm her breathing. A hawk screeched overhead. Wind rushed through the pines echoing the river below. Opening her eyes, she trained her mind on her surroundings: the copper pine needles on the forest floor, the prickly Oregon grape, the soft fullness of ocean spray.

When she was good, she pushed away from the tree, then turned to face it. She leaned her forehead against its knobby bark and patted the trunk. “Thanks. I needed that.”

Kate began walking back to the Sequoia but paused mid-field to ogle the pagoda. With the gigantic satellite atop the structure, it looked like they were trying to beam in the mothership. No doubt, this was where conspiracy theories about lizard people were born. She used her phone to zoom in and take one last photo. It was the only one that mattered.


Earl stood in the comfort of the sniper tower, AR-10 slung across his back, and watched the SUV through binoculars. When it stopped in front of the for-sale sign on the neighboring property he knew it was another goddamned developer. Well, he’d run this SOB off just like the last one.

With each new success, the parcel price dropped. Eventually, it’d be cheap enough that he could afford it. The more land he had, the safer he’d be. Those BLM protesters wouldn’t stay in the cities forever and he was going to be ready when they came for him.

The car door opened. Jesus fucking Christ, it was a woman! Pretty face, but too flabby for his taste. She looked to be a size 10, no… make that a size 12, about 5’4”, and easily 150 pounds. What were those bastards doing sending a woman out here? And on these roads? He’d tore it up plenty and was constantly fighting with the county over a culvert.

When she was about halfway through the field, he unholstered his .38 and fired a shot in the air. Through the binoculars, he saw her flinch. He chuckled. Servers her right. A woman like that ought to be home popping out babies, not out here making his life miserable. He squeezed off two more rounds, just to see if she’d turn tail and run.

When she started walking again, still headed across the field, he nodded in admiration. Gotta hand it to her, the girl had pluck. Once she was down in the trees, he squeezed off another and smiled as she whorled toward him. This one got her scared. She had her phone out, probably wanting to call the cops. Well, surprise, surprise, sweetheart—no cell service out here.

Yep, he’d scared her alright. The woman leaned against a tree, hand on her chest. Looked like she was breathing hard. It took a while for her to pull herself together and head back to her car. This was likely the last he’d see of her. Just to be safe, he stayed in the sniper tower, watching to make sure the SUV left.

Chickie-babe stopped in the middle of the field and looked his way again. Then she held up her phone.

Oh, no. No, she fucking didn’t! That cunt was filming his property. She was damn well going to pay for that—nobody took pictures of his property.


Kate sat in her blue Sequoia, adding property notes and uploading the pictures to her laptop. It was a nice parcel, just a shame about the neighbor. Maybe Serenity Properties could buy him out?

After slipping her laptop and clipboard back in their case, she attached her phone to the consol on the dashboard. Then she put the car in drive and turned around. Movement caught her eye. A chunky man in dirty jeans and a “He is Risen” tee-shit leapt the spike strip that lay between the earthen ramparts flanking the pagoda’s driveway. Planted in the middle of the county road, Pagoda Boy pointed a large rifle her direction.

Having been born and raised in Idaho, Kate knew his type. Her family had homesteaded in Idaho back in the 1880s. The imbecile sporting the unkempt beard before her was likely an Incel transplant from Texas or Arizona, looking to stake his claim in the “Great American Redoubt.”

Kate rolled her eyes and waited. This was a dead-end road. She needed to get past him somehow.

“You’re trespassing,” Pagoda Boy shouted. “Under the stand-your-ground law I have every right to shoot you.”

Well, thank the gods for the GPS tracker she was required to carry when in the field. If he did shoot, it’d prove she never got close to his property and was presently stopped in the middle of the county road. Kate tapped the camera button on her phone and set it to record from its cradle on the dash.

In order to be heard through the glass, Kate shouted, “I have not trespassed and you are blocking a county road. You need to step aside.”

Pagoda Boy motioned toward her, then to the field with his gun. “Toss your phone out the window. You do that and I’ll let you go, free and clear.”

Kate shook her head. She absolutely was not going to toss her phone out the window. Heck, she didn’t even want to open the window.

A quick survey of her surroundings left her without options. The one-lane dirt road was heavily rutted and the ditches in rough shape. Her heart began to race. There was no way to get around him. If she bumped him with the car, he’d probably claim assault. The only way out was to get him to step aside, but how?

Kate laid a sweaty palm on her phone. What if he just thought she was going to hand it over?

“That’s it, Chickie-babe,” Pagoda Boy said. “You just do what you’re told and no one’s gonna hurt you.”

An idea came to her. Kate pulled the phone from the clip, laid it in her lap and deftly removed the slim, glitter-pink case. Then she dropped the phone on the floor, where it was safely out of sight. But there was still the question of what to do next?

There were places in this county where deputies wouldn’t go without body armor—and for good reason. The only armor she had when in the field was her damned underwire. If she handed him an empty case, Pagoda Boy would likely reach through the window and throttle her. If she drove off without giving him something, he’d likely shoot at her. She needed to play this smart.

“You want it, come and get it,” Kate said.

Pagoda Boy lowered his gun and began walking toward her, heading directly for the driver’s side of the Sequoia. When he reached the front quarter panel, she powered down the passenger window and flung the case, frisbee-style, through the opening. The moment the case left her hand, she hit the gas and sped away.


She clipped Pagoda Boy with her side mirror. It collapsed inward. Damn it. She’d likely have to answer for that later. Fortunately, she was on good terms with the Sheriff.

“Fuckin’ cunt!”

With the window was open, Pagoda Boy’s words were a clear as the morning air.

In the rearview mirror she saw him scramble for the case. Kate blew out a long breath. He’ll be pissed when he discovers it’s empty.

A shot barked from the rifle.

Kate flinched.

Thankfully, he missed. She took comfort in knowing that S.L.A. Marshall’s studies proved that most solders, either consciously or unconsciously, deliberately missed when shooting at a human target. This idiot was likely shooting at the only woman he’s seen all week. No wonder Incels can’t get laid.

As she braked to round the corner, she chanced another look in the rearview mirror.

Pagoda Boy waved the rifle over his head, running after her. “You goddamned dumb broad! There’s a special place in Hell for you. You’ll be sorry. You’ll end up all alone with just a cat!”

Despite a white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel, Kate shook her head. Why did these men think that was an insult? No woman wants to become a battered wife, living in a trash heap. And certainly not hitched to a delusional man who thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to shoot at people for just doing their jobs and driving on the county road. Given a choice between that or enjoying her own private Idaho with nothing but a cat, she’d choose the cat every single time.