FFF - Week 10 - The Retiree
November 02, 2015
This week's prompt from FFF was to incorporate some words into your story. I'm also busy doing NaNoWriMo, charging through the first draft of yet another novel, so I decided to just incorporate them into a scene. The result was something that is not as rough as a draft scene should, but not as polished as most of my stories. A compromise.
Here's the prompt:
As Karl neared the rally, he started to see placards from both sides. Most were by the rebels, about government corruption, and the dangers of the new iDent chips, and how all those not joining them in protest were just sheep. A bit of tunnel vision, he thought, as there were benefits to the new technology. The chips were voluntary, currently being used by some people to help identify themselves in the health care system. It ensured that any doctor would have an immediate link to health history, and would also save valuable time if the patient arrived unconscious. Karl didn’t want one for himself, a holdover from having parents that were in the anti-government protests of the 60’s he supposed, but it still should be an option for others. Some of his co-workers at the bank worried about the dangers of something new being exploited by the unscrupulous, but he assured them that this was an initiative from the Ministry of Health. He’d managed to track the funding on-line, and it looked like the Ministry of Security was only in the loop to maintain the privacy of the database. He had been one of the rebels too, years ago, up at the barricades, waving signs, eyes red from tear gas, throat raw from yelling at the cops. Now it was different. He was older, and wiser, with his only links to the past a few friends and an eyebrow scarred by a flying bottle. He should be retired, but bad investments had wiped out his savings. So now he worked on the side of the corporations, trying to save some cash, and supporting a government that would at least ensure he had health care and a pension. The few pro-government signs looked to be more professionally done, mostly extolling various the talking points from the official government platform. Obviously designed more for the media than the opposition.
He could see the demonstration now. There were several hundred protesters behind the barricades, chanting, waving signs, shaking their fists in the air. In front of them was a solid line of police - soft hat, no riot shields. Good move, as that could antagonize a crowd, challenge them into more defiance. Across the street, behind more barricades, was a small crowd for the pro government side. There was a small platform set up, with a lectern and a cluster of microphones. Some minor government official stood there, glancing back and forth over the crowd of rebels, nervously adjusting his cuffs. Karl felt sorry for him, as likely nobody would listen. The press was there too, but mostly on the protesters side of the road, the reporters busily looking for some sound bites for the evening news. Karl missed that part, the challenge of engineering a moment to capture a reporter’s attention, and then quickly distilling the message into something that would make the evening news. Some of his moments had even gone viral, or what passed for viral back in the early days of the Internet. A few of the newer rebels had that knack too. He’d heard their current leader was someone named Carla, a recent immigrant from Chile. She would have her work cut out for her, as many of the kids now wanted to show up, protest, and then head back to the comfort of the suburbs. He missed the camaraderie of the movement too, joining with friends in a cause, arguing philosophy into the wee hours of the morning. He didn’t miss sleeping in abandoned houses, begging for food, or running from the cops.
As he headed for his side of the gathering, the government side, he saw a few of his old friends behind the rebel barricades. He gave a little wave, which some returned, and some ignored. Not everyone had forgiven him for changing sides. He was glad to see some of his co-workers around the party platform though, showing their support. He still believed strongly in getting out to vote, in getting involved someway in the world, and was always prodding his office mates to do the same. Some he did get to, but most just tolerated him. He had to be careful not to be too outspoken, at office parties or when his group would meet after work for a drink. None of them knew his real background, which was just as well. Somehow he didn’t think having been a member of the Young Communists of Canada would go over well with the bank.
He dressed conservatively now, to fit in with the crowd, even at an event like this. He did have a Ban the Bomb t-shirt on, one that his father had worn at marches, but over it was the standard dress code of slacks, sweaters, and windbreakers, with a furled umbrella at the ready. Over across the barrier, the code was torn jeans, sweatshirts, ponchos, and bandanna‘s, with gas masks at the ready. A sensible measure he supposed, although this event seemed very low key, compared to some he’d been to twenty years ago. He glanced around the plaza, noting from habit the police concentrations and escape routes. There were a few mounted police at each end of the street now, and behind them, some large police trucks, roofs bristling with cameras and antennas.
His eyes suddenly smarted. Tear gas.
Nice reflection on a life lived authentically.
Posted by: Rose Green | November 07, 2015 at 09:19 AM
This is great because we can all see a bit of Karl in ourselves as we get older. When you're young, the world and mankind are full of error, and our generation is their only hope. As we age and find our slot in the scheme of things, our perspectives change. Is it that we realize our previous opinions were foolish dreams of the young, or is it that when we enter the next generation, we sell out and cave in? I like the fact that Karl still wore his father's Ban the Bomb t-shirt. There was still a bit of a rebel in him, although he made sure to keep it hidden.
Looking forward to reading the story this is a part of.
Posted by: Joyce Juzwik | November 11, 2015 at 10:11 AM