Magazine | March 25, 2013, Issue

Warner Bros.



The camera PANS across broken heaps of metal, smoking ruins of a once-proud civilization. Buildings in ruins, children in rags with dirty faces, the distant sounds of warlords exchanging gunfire. The camera moves along the twisted and smoking remains of cars, broken asphalt, until it catches up to A YOUNG BOY running . . .

Faster and faster he runs, through the rubble and the decayed city. Clutched against his chest is a small and adorable puppy.

The boy runs –



Gathered around a blazing fire, licking the edges of the trash barrel, is the boy’s family. His father tends the flame. His mother cooks some indistinguishable gruel on an improvised frying pan/trash lid. As the boy races up, he puffs and huffs.

BOY: Pa! Pa! Lookit! Lookit what I found!

(He shows the puppy off. The family oohs and ahhs over it.)

DAD: Well now. What an adorable little thing. Why I haven’t seen such a pup since, since –

MOTHER: Hush now, Ned. Don’t go filling the boy’s head with nonsense and ancient fairy tales.

BOY: Since when, Pa?

DAD: Since before . . . before the Dark Times, boy. Back when this was all . . . well, this town was something to see. We had restaurants that would serve everything on little plates, and people wore shoes with red soles, and everywhere there was wi-fi, and taxicabs would take you wherever you wanted to go. And out there, out on the water, you see that?

(The boy peers out over the murky water. In the moonlight, he sees a large object . . . )

BOY: You mean the old lady?

DAD: She used to be a young lady, boy. She used to be –

MOTHER: Ned! Ned! Hold your tongue! Don’t upset yourself. Or the boy. We have delicious rat porridge tonight, boy. You like that, don’t you? You see? Everything is going to be all right.

DAD: The boy has a right to know, Eleanor. Boy, once, long ago, this city was a paradise. And that lady out there in the harbor? Why, she gleamed like solid gold.

BOY: I’ve heard of such things, Pa.

MOTHER: Who’s telling you this? Boy! Tell me! 

#page#BOY: On my walks, Ma. My walks and my rat-catching trips. This was all before the Quester, right Pa?

DAD: Yes, boy. The Quester — well, back then they called it the Sequester.

BOY: What? They sure talked funny back then, Pa.

DAD: Well, boy, back then we could afford more syllables. Times weren’t so hard. People weren’t so poorly. But then two very bad men –

BOY: You’re talking about the McCondler and the Bainderman, aren’t you, Pa?

DAD: Yes I am, son. Two very bad men brought on the Quester, and then all was darkness. Things just started to go wrong.

BOY: But why, Pa?

DAD: The money well just dried up. The Bad Men made the Good Times go away by taking away the money tree.

BOY: It was a tree? I thought it was a well.

MOTHER: It was a tree and a well. Ned, you’re confusing the boy. Let’s eat.

DAD: The Quester came like a drought. Without any money, the people couldn’t have anything. Work didn’t get done. Planes fell from the sky. Certain cultural institutions were required to delay budgetary increases. It was madness.

BOY: How much money did the Bad Men take, Pa?

DAD: It was –

MOTHER: Don’t talk about it! Ned! Stop it! Stop it!

DAD: The boy needs to know, Eleanor. Boy, they took almost 3 percent.

BOY: Three percent?

DAD: Technically two point six. But rounding up, you get to three.

BOY: That doesn’t seem like very much.

DAD: What do you know about it? You don’t know math! They closed the schools on the third day! And then it got worser. The post office closed. Then the Department of Agriculture –

BOY: The Department of Agriculture? What did they do?

MOTHER: Hush, child.

DAD: Then the Consumer Affairs Bureau. And right after that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau –

BOY: Those seem like the same thing.

DAD: You want a smacking, boy? ’Cause I’ll raise my hand to you.

MOTHER: Ned, please.

BOY: I’m just saying.

DAD: Oh yeah? Well I’m just saying that I’m taking off my belt.

BOY: Okay, okay. I get it. It was bad. It was terrible. They cut 3 percent and now we have to eat rats. (Grumbling to the puppy) Do you understand this? I don’t. But then, I’ve never learned any math. But even so, I know that 3 percent is pretty small.

MOTHER: Come over here, boy, and let’s have some dinner. And bring that adorable puppy, too. We need to fatten him up for Thanksgiving.

As the family gathers around the fire, we:


Rob Long — Rob Long, Hollywood writer and producer, started his career as a screenwriter for the TV show Cheers. He is a regular writer for National Review, Newsweek International, and the Los ...

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