(The results of another writing exercise…and this time, it’s a complete story! Woohoo!)
Club members. Sid couldn’t believe it, but it was true. The sign on the door read “club members”.
“They can’t possibly get away with that,” he complained to his sister, who sat quietly, fumbling absent-mindedly with the window latch.
“Jessica, you’re not listening to me,” he said impatiently. She sighed, adjusted herself and rolled her head languidly to face him.
“I’m not not listening to you, Sid,” she replied, as much an exhalation as exhortation. “I’m not paying attention to you. It’s totally different.”
She then went back to fumbling with the door, smacking on yet another piece of stale Double Bubble as he stared silently back at her.
The moment’s silence, however, was broken suddenly with a “fuck you” that apparently came out of Sid’s mouth based on the change in Jessica’s demeanor.
“Look,” she said angrily, “I didn’t ask you to come on this stupid little outing. You asked me, if you remember. The only reason I’m sitting in this car is because this sounded more interesting than ‘O.C.’ reruns. And so far, I was wrong.”
“You said you’d help me with my civics assignment,” he protested.
“I will, but moral outrage in a beat up Toyota Corolla does not a civics assignment make,” she replied sarcastically. “If you don’t get something on paper, Mrs. Berkowitz will have your ass.”
And before he could finish the movement, she added, “And pointing at the front gate of the country club and spouting on about the downtrodden masses, excluded from the perks of society, shunned by the elite, and…and…” She was at a loss, but never for long. “And kicked to the curb by uber right-wing industrial fat-cats cum 21st century royalty is going to get you nowhere.”
“But wealth is the new fascism,” he cried.
They sat quietly again, letting the echoes of their exchange die quietly in the luxurious folds of the polyester fibers that comprised Sid’s faux Guernsey seat covers. His right hand flailed as though waiting for his mouth to make a stunning riposte and struck the steering wheel whenever it realized that his tongue was determined to remain silent. Jessica peripherally watched him conduct the silent symphony before trying to engage him one more time.
“What I’m trying to say is that almost everyone in your class is going to write the same bloody paper you’re thinking about,” she said, slowly and calmly. “And the rest of your class is just too damned retarded to know what to write at all. Do you want a good mark in this class?”
“And more importantly, do you want to knock Berkowitz on her smug Yiddish ass?”
That got a smile out of him.
“Then pull a Swift on her,” she said, conspiratorially.
“Not what; who. Jonathan Swift.,” she responded. But when the penny still hadn’t dropped, she added, “Eat the fucking poor.”
Okay, Sid thought, now she might as well have had antlers.
Jessica rubbed her forehead in frustration. “If you want to stand out in a crowd, go the other way. If everyone else is going to bitch about the evils of the elite, you should celebrate them.”
Oh my god, they weren’t antlers, they were horns—devil’s horns. And the smile on her face just kept getting bigger. It made him uncomfortable.
“In fact, you might go as far as to argue that the poor should be happy to serve the elite for the good of everyone.”
There was no air. Sid couldn’t breathe. Somebody had hooked the car up to a vacuum pump and he was asphyxiating.
Finally, he mustered enough breath to blurt: “Are you fucking high?”
“What?” she replied, her smile belying the innocence of her tone.
“I can’t do that. What about the downtrodden?”
“Who do you think trods on them, you silly bugger?” she asked. “Well, okay, not you and me—not directly, anyhow—but Dad does. He’s a corporate lawyer, for Christ’s sake.”
It was getting warm, too. Warm and airless. That’s it! He was in Hell. Was that sulfur? He thought he could smell sulfur.
Sid just started shaking his head, and the more Jessica spoke, the more violent the shaking became.
“We’re rich, Sid,” she mocked. “Not lower middle class. Not middle class. Not even upper middle class. We are rich. We are richer than a 20-pound box of Nanaimo bars.”
He couldn’t take it anymore. He had to make her stop.
“No, I’m not rich,” he yelled. “Maybe you’re rich, but not me. I shun all worldly goods.”
Jessica snorted derisively and smiled. It was her turn to shake her head.
“Shun worldly goods?” she chided. “Oh sure, you dress like a street person and drive the worst beater in the school parking lot, but I would hardly call you a Buddhist monk. You—we—live in a very nice house, eating very nice food, and get a very nice allowance. Try another one, Gollum.”
Pitch clogged his lungs. Brimstone burned his flesh. And fire blinded his eyes. Hell consumed him until he thought he’d started talking in tongues. It was gibberish to his ears, but it was definitely coming out of his mouth.
“Alright, you win,” he spewed and then slumped in his seat. He had succumbed. “I hate the poor. They smell, and they’re lazy.”
“Whoa, tiger, slow down a little. I’m not pushing genocide here. I’m just saying we’re not poor.” Jessica waited a moment for Sid to calm down. “So take advantage of that. Use our connections to write the most controversial paper Berkowitz will ever grade. Be the anti-Marx.”
Something flickered in Sid’s mind as he returned his gaze to the sign on the door. Club members.
“Wealthy people own the companies where poor people find employment,” he whispered to himself. “And without jobs, they’d starve.”
The flicker took hold.
“And rich people pay a lot of taxes, which help support the social safety net.”
“And most of them don’t even use the services,” Jessica added, fanning the flame. “They go to the U.S. for their healthcare and don’t receive a penny in government subsidies, leaving their share for the poor.”
It all began to crystallize for Sid. It made so much sense. He had a purpose in life.
Later that day, he went down to City Hall to register as the founding member of the Republican Party of Canada. A scant eight years before the invasion…but that’s another story.