Wednesday, August 29, 2007
A Fable of the Future
Once upon a time, far, far away, in the time of Post-Global Warming and Post-Political Correctness, an ancient woman could be seen staggering along the broiling pavement in insulated boots. Her head was protected from the harsh heat by a teflon scarf. Her body; by a robe of micro-fibre. Still the heat was unbearable and so she sought refuge in a nearby park. Here she slumped in the shade to rest, and as she sat there, a group of children approached.
They too were seeking shade. And so they seated themselves on the fringes of the small thicket of man-made turf and sculpted palms. The island of shade and refuge was so small it was impossible for the children to find space apart from the old woman. They just hoped the frightful old hag wouldn’t speak to them and would soon depart. But the old woman, though aware of their discomfort, wasn’t going anywhere and so she endeavored to put them at ease through a simple, yet intriguing introduction.
“Hello children,” the ancient woman said. “I am the wise old sage of Natural and Social History. Tell me, if you like, what you want to know and I will tell you how it was.”
A very tall youngster eventually said with an obvious sneer, “Tell me about Global Warming and why the grass and trees could not be saved.” Another said, “You must know how it was before God died.” And then, from some invisible spot a wee voice from the back of the little group said in almost a whisper, “If you please, could you tell me about the ‘L & S’ thing?”
The ancient woman looked about at the group and said, “The story about Global Warming is a long and depressing story. I could tell you about God but he is still alive and can tell you himself if you listen for his voice in your inner soul. So that leaves the L & S thing and I will tell you about that.
I can’t, of course, say the words. The words are disallowed. They are too coarse, too vulgar, for your genteel generation but still since time began, youngsters know and privately use vulgar words and probably most of you know what those words mean.” A few heads solemnly nodded.
Then, as she prepared to continue, a fidgety little fellow broke the silent anticipation of the group. “I said it once. Man, was I in trouble? My mom gave me time out for a week, my sister phoned the police, and Dad took away all my electronic toys and put up a satellite barricade so that I couldn’t talk, or text message, or watch television.”
“Do you want to tell us about it?” said the ancient woman.
The little fellow was more than happy to do so. “I got a new nose-pod to go with my eye-pod and ear-pod for my birthday but it wouldn’t work. I wanted so much to smell all the things of the Pre-Cosmic Burn Age – roses blooming, hay fields freshly cut, gentle rain, lavender fields, and most of all – fresh air!
But when I turned my nose-pod on, all I could smell was rotten eggs, sulfur gases, and shit frying in the sun. I was so angry and so disappointed that I flung the thing on the floor and stomped on it with my insulated boots and yelled, “Lick it! Spank it! Bloody Lickin’ …” here he quickly covered his mouth and mumbled, “I’m sorry. Please don’t tell anyone. I didn’t mean to say that,” and quickly sat down.
This brave admission increased the intimacy of the group and they huddled together closer as the Old Woman began her own story about the ‘L & S’ thing.
“I only can tell you this because I was there. I am a hundred and forty years old, thanks to the magic of stem-cell research,” she said. So I know, and know well, about the ‘L & S’ thing.
When I was a child,” she said, “every child was well acquainted with the ‘L & S’ thing. But at the same time, there was method to the madness. This is how it worked. It was similar to the ancient fairy tale about three wishes.
A mom would say to a child when he spit at his sister, 'I wish you wouldn’t spit at your sister anymore.' One wish gone. And, if he did so again, again his mother would say, 'I really wish you wouldn’t spit at your sister anymore.' Second wish gone.
And if he did, yet again, his mother would save, 'I wish I didn’t have to do this, but I do.' And she would give him a serious smacking on the bottom that he would not soon forget, and, as a result, all wishes done. But now, magically, wishes one and two, and of course wish number three, as well, came true. And that brought an end to it. He did not spit at his sister anymore.
I’m sorry if you’re disappointed. That doesn’t seem like much of a story, but that is it. That is all there is to tell.”
(Here Hub interrupted to say, “Now I suppose I will hear the horror story of the monsters the Old Woman created. Kids pummeling each other, hair pulling, blood flying.”)
But ‘No’. Here Tiny Tim, the somber-faced little fellow that had asked about the “L & S” thing smiled with pleasure. “That is such a good story,” he said.
“I wish things could be different. Other kids are so nasty to me. They push me, shove me, call me names. I hate school. I can’t wear my new backpack because they will steal it or hide it. I can’t take my pods to school because they will shell them or hide them. Sometimes I think they take my stuff because they are in the midst of ‘time out’ at home. So they take my stuff home and obediently go to their rooms where they stay all evening locked away but still carrying on with the same amusements they normally have – but now it’s with my stuff!
If things were how they used to be (big sigh), these kids’ parents would share with their kids their three wishes. They would tell them how they wish they wouldn’t treat me like that once, and then they would tell them how they wish they didn’t treat me like that twice. And then they would tell them how they wish they didn’t have to, but they must give them a damn good ‘L & S’!”
And once again, before he even realized it, he was again yelling loudly, “Oh Lick! Oh Spank! Wouldn’t that be Lickin’ Great!! Cause then I would love to go to school. I could expect to be treated fairly; the same as everyone else.
Truth is,” he continued, “if I had three wishes that could come true, I would wish for the smell of fresh air and gentle rain without a nose-pod, and a damn good ‘L & S’ for meanies!”
After one hundred and forty years, the old woman knew full well there will always be those indignant about her observations and those in hearty agreement. This morning she smiled with relief at the indignant ones – those too entrenched in social convention to find credence in anything an old woman might have to say. But the indignation of their gasps and sighs stirred slight ripples of air that mimicked a breeze in that arid land.
The others simply smiled with gentle pleasure at how things had been before the sun burned down like a black hole in the sky erasing every oasis with such ferocity and leaving inhabitants too parched to spit.