Peter tried to shut out the sobs coming from the next room, but the noise jarred his concentration. Why didn’t she just take the pill? What was the big deal?
He focused on the screen again. He had to use precise wording throughout every bit of this paper or he would never get a pass into the upper sciences. If only he could have been born African or undocumented… but there was no way to alter history.
Concentrate. Type. The Tea Party, named in reference to the Revolutionary War era Boston Tea Party, was a radical group that expected the government to allow citizens to starve or die from lack of healthcare all in the name of balancing a spending budget.
He paused. Why would any group name themselves after a group of rebels? The original Boston Tea Partiers caused undue separation from England when they should have been seeking world unity. Did neither group understand the need for supreme leadership and commonality of goods? All core history–from the workers’ unions saving overworked and underpaid citizens and heralding in the saving grace of fair work laws, to the expansion of government to bring equal control to all aspects of life–every step showed progressive thinking in tying all men together for the common good. Why did Tea Partiers not understand that? Why did they insist on shrinking government and budgets? How could they be so heartless?
A crash in the next room pulled his eyes from the screen to the bathroom–the toilet lid being flung open–followed by gagging. Mother vomiting. Great. All the more reason to take the pill. Who would want to throw up for weeks on end?
He turned back to the puzzle at hand. Men could see others suffering. Why would some not consider it necessary for all men to sacrifice for the better good? If men were left to their own devices, greed would rule. The government could regulate all; one man couldn’t save the world. Well, except The One. Of course he had made a difference. He leads. He brought change.
The gagging finally stopped. The toilet flushed. But probably not well enough. Some vomit would likely cling to the sides. He’d have to scour it out. Why couldn’t the government invent a toilet that flushed everything? If the valve allowed more water in with higher pressure, that would be more effective. Maybe it could be adjusted with some fiddling. Plumbing wasn’t rocket science. Actually, that was a dumb phrase given that the government had dropped rocket science as being a fruitless endeavor. Plumbing wasn’t healthcare; that made more sense. Healthcare was too complex for anyone to understand; everyone knew that.
Back to the history essay. The Tea Party. The One brought The Tea Party to an end and freed the nation from chaos-inducing rebels through new regulations. Regulation created order, and by order, men again lived together in peace under the auspices of The One.
The bathroom door squeaked on its hinges as Mother pushed it closed on her way back to the bed. Another thing to fix. The squeak made him crazy. There should be a number a person could call to get these pesky things fixed. Instead, it all landed on him. Imagine being The One and having to solve everyone’s problems. No wonder the government had to be so big. How else could everything be handled?
The screen flickered.
Power usage. Great. Just as the essay was coming together.
He strode across the room, past the heater since it had already hit the two-hour stop break, and pulled the plug on the lamp and the refrigerator, and then grabbed a glass of water on his way back to the sofa. The nerdy kid at school had said the stop-go system could be overridden. The wiring had to be rerouted. He’d have to work on it.
Without the lamplight, the room fell to a dusky grey, but the screen glowed bright enough to finish the essay. He had to get it turned in on time. His future depended on it. No one else was going to do it for him. The weight of it made his head hurt. The essay, the toilet, the squeaky door, and undoubtedly supper too. Mother’s sobs had started again. She had no thoughts of cooking anything.
How much could one person be expected to do?
Concentrate. The essay. The Tea Party rebels misunderstood individual needs as being proprietary. They felt their opinions should be compiled to impact the general direction of the nation, as if any one of them mattered more than the collective.
He stopped typing. Their individual needs and thoughts had meshed into one thought great enough to bring them to rebel. What had made each one of them rise to such strong beliefs that they were willing to risk everything? And how did they come together? One person telling another, whispering outdoors away from Trackers? They actually risked not only social rejection, but punishment. However, in expressing their rebellious ideas, hadn’t they also become their own collective?
Impossible. No one person could have that much effect on another.
Except of course The One.
What made him different?
Mother gagged again. He rushed into the bedroom. "Wait! Not in bed. I don’t want to wash the sheets too. Come on." He helped her to the bathroom. "Why don’t you just take the pill and get it over with?"
"Because I’ve dreamed of her as a child, sweet and pure, and as a woman, strong and wise."
He sighed. "It’s just a dream."
Mother spit in to the toilet and wiped her mouth clean, then turned to look him in the eye. "You were a dream too. You will come into that dream someday. I know it."
"You dreamt of me?"
"A leader among men. And you will be. You keep reading. Keep thinking."
"If you don’t take the pill, it will be worse later with the procedure."
"If they catch me at it. I am old. They won’t suspect. They will think I am getting fatter."
He imagined it happening. "You would rebel?"
"I am not them. I am me. I rebel one way or the other–either against them or against my own conscience."
He went back to the screen. Mother as a rebel? Rebel: Someone who refuses to conform to the usual codes and conventions of society.
She wouldn’t do it. A second child added to the burden of mankind on nature. Everyone knew that. He hollered out to her, "They will see her after birth."
Mother came into the room and eased into a chair at the table. "She could be yours."
"Why would I claim that?"
"Because she could be the one."
"The One?"
"The one to bring sanity back."
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By Christopher Bunn
"I knew my degree in Multi-Cultural Sensitivity would finally come through."
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