Right Thinking From The Left Coast
If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough. - Mario Andretti


The trackback URL for this entry is:


Tread


This was it. The last day. After this, nothing else would matter. The new law will take effect at midnight. As far as Cain Michaels was concerned, it was the end of the world.

“But you can choose one of the new training courses!” his wife pleaded. “It’s not actually, you know, the end of the world.”

Cain stared at his wife, trying to figure out exactly when they stopped understanding each other. “That’s not choice, Melissa. That’s the government telling each person what they are allowed to dream to become. Born short? IQ ten points too low? Welcome to ditch digger school, and that is all you’re ever allowed to become. No. I won’t do it.”

He paused for a moment, the decision he’d made earlier firmly visible in the set of his jaw. “I worked for seventeen years to build this business. You watched me do it. I worked what, fifteen, twenty hour days in the beginning? I knew people would eventually want custom, that the off-the-shelf robot-built from WalTech would eventually lose the charm of being so cheap. Remember the Chigurts? Molly said we’d be back at at the PubAssist office within a year, but it turned out Charlie was the one who couldn’t get anything going. Remember how proud we were when the hovercar took them away to the work camp? Maybe we shouldn’t have been, but we were glad it was them and not us. Remember how proud you were of me for making this work? What happened to that, Mel?  How do you not see this as the end?”

Melissa sobbed and shouted. “Because it’s not the end! We don’t get taken to the camps anymore! They told us we can take the test and learn a skill and then they would give us food and a house and everything!”

“Give us? Give us? How do you think they even have the right to give us anything? It’s already ours in the first place! We worked for it, not them!”

“But you could be killed!”

“Yes. I could. But if I don’t do this, I’m already dead.”

She looked at him, tears spilling out of her eyes as she sobbed and choked out her words. “Stop saying that! Dead is dead, and you won’t be dead, you will be with me. Why isn’t that enough?”

“If you have to ask, Mel, then I can’t explain it to you. I though you would be by my side on this. I really thought you would want to do this.” Cain reached around his shoulders and fingered the blue cloth draped there. “When you brought this old flag home I really thought that was a sign that you felt the same way.”

“It’s just a stupid old flag from a stupid old state from what used to be this stupid old country! It doesn’t mean anything! It’s not even the real one they used, it was a proposed design!” Melissa slumped against the wall and let herself slide to the floor. “It’s not even the real one. I just thought you would like it.”

Cain stared at the floor in front of him, hoping the right words would somehow appear there and he could just say them and everything would be like he imagined it.

“I do like it, Mel. I love it. It’s the single greatest thing anyone has ever given me, and not because it says “Live Free Or Die.” But because it gave me courage. You gave me this courage. When the Community Organization Officer came to the house and threatened to shut me down, I went to the workroom and stared at this flag. I wondered what it must have been like 300 years ago, those men searching for a symbol, a phrase, ideals that would inspire and unite a people. I thought about their sacrifices, and the sacrifices of every man and woman who fought to preserve those ideals throughout the centuries. And I thought about the men who destroyed them, who willfully and intentionally turned us into what we are now.”

“I can’t do it, Mel. And until today I really believed that you couldn’t either. I’m sorry, but I have to join them. This?” Cain gestured broadly as if to signify everything in the world around them. “This isn’t worth anything. It’s not worth the tears you are shedding for it.”

“But you are. To me, you are worth these tears. Why don’t you get that?”

“Oh baby I get it. But what I don’t get is why you can’t understand this. I can’t be what they told me I have to be. I can’t sit in a room forever and tell people they can’t be something they love with all their heart. I will not report to the Public Trust building in the morning and spend the rest of my life handing out ditch digging jobs to artists and craftsmen and mothers. I will not tell a woman she isn’t allowed to have children because 22% of her demographic needs to be sanitation workers and the quota for moms is already full for the next three generations. I won’t tell Thom he can’t write those amazing books anymore because his classification is now ‘food technician.’ I can’t be a ‘Decision Impartment Officer,’ whatever the hell that is supposed to mean.”

Cain picked up the bag at his feet. He stood a little taller, straightened his shoulders and took a deep breath. “Melissa, stand up. Please. I’m going to go now, and I would like the last thing that happens here to not be me leaving you on the floor, begging me to submit to them.”

Melissa stood. She wiped her eyes. “Okay. I do understand, Cain. I just thought maybe you’d....”

“I know, baby. I know. But you know I can’t, right? And that we will win this? We have to. We’re right, and that goes a long way.”

A sound caught Melissa’s attention. A low buzz of fast-moving air, coupled with a high-pitched whooping sound. “Oh God it’s them!” she shouted. “Okay we have to get you out of here.”

“Melissa. Wait.”

“Cain we have to go now!”

“That’s what I mean. You said ‘We.’ That’s what I want. Come with me.”

“But I can’t shoot. And I don’t know anything about guerrilla tactics.”

“Revolutionaries never do, baby. You’ll learn just like the rest of us. And you know first aid, CPR, all that. You can be my own personal medic. And you can teach others. You are needed, Mel. By the cause, and by me. I need you to come with me.”

“Can we discuss this while we run?” She pulled him toward the closet.

“So you’re coming?” A smile touched his face. It felt like the first time he’d smile in months. Turns out maybe he still knew this woman after all.

“Yes. Yes, I get it. Live Free Or Die. Don’t Tread On Me. These Colors Don’t Run. I know I said they were just words, but they’re not, are they?”

“No. They’re not.” He opened the access panel in the floor of the hall closet and dropped the bag inside. It hit the ground with the clank of metal and the rattle of brass shell casings. “They never were.”

He reached out his hand to her. “Shall we?”

She took his hand. “We shall. You know I’m going to kick your ass for this, right?”

Now that’s my baby, he thought. “I know, baby. I know.”

The sirens grew closer as they closed the access panel behind them.

ed. - I edited the last line for those that read it earlier. It was too hokey!

Posted by JimK on 08/05/09 at 10:54 AM in Decline of Western Civilization Deep Thoughts Etcetera Politics • Permalink

Trackbacks:

<< Back to main