Magazine | March 25, 2013, Issue

Warner Bros.

FADE IN:

EXT. URBAN DYSTOPIA — NIGHT

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 –

CUT TO:

URBAN ENCAMPMENT — CONTINUOUS

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:

FADE OUT.

In This Issue

Articles

Politics & Policy

The Obamacare Long Game

To conservatives nationwide, New Jersey governor Chris Christie went from rock star to pariah in just four months. His slide began when he physically embraced President Obama days before the ...
Politics & Policy

Free the Cops

Opponents of New York City’s proactive style of policing struggle mightily to downplay its most obvious benefit: the largest crime drop on record, concentrated overwhelmingly in minority neighborhoods. Now they ...

Features

Politics & Policy

The Next Climate Debate

In his second inaugural address, President Obama promised to “respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” ...
Politics & Policy

Sam’s Smear

‘Every contributor to this collection . . . blandly ignores the possibility that there could be any real issue of a rational kind in American politics today which would justify ...

Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

Did the Founders Fail?

Chilton Williamson Jr. has written a historically rich, erudite, and serious critique of what he calls contemporary “democracy” (and what others might label “advanced liberalism”). After Tocqueville is an intellectual-history ...

Sections

Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ We trust that Hugo Chávez is now at an endless Politburo meeting. ‐ In a press conference on sequestration, President Obama said this about alleged Republican intransigence: “I am not ...
Athwart

Retail Politics

American dry-goods retailing is a miserable business. Imagine this: You’re the new head of a vast retailing empire — say, J. B. Dimey’s. Sales are soft; competitors nip at every ...
The Long View

Warner Bros.

FADE IN: EXT. URBAN DYSTOPIA — NIGHT 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 ...
Politics & Policy

Poetry

POSTSCRIPT TO THE AENEID These are no arms or men the poet sings, But just some very ordinary things: The plastic station-wagon seat, the grass Of May reverberating through the glass; My brother hooting to ...
Happy Warrior

Death to Freedom

For half a decade, ever since the Canadian Islamic Congress attempted to criminalize my writing, I’ve found myself waging a grim campaign for freedom of speech in my native land. ...
Politics & Policy

Letters

The South Side in ’62 Kevin D. Williamson’s recent cover story about Chicago’s South Side (“Gangsterville,” February 25) made me sad and brought back memories. I spent the summer of 1962 working ...

Most Popular

U.S.

Americans Are Royally Confused about Monarchy

Conventional wisdom regarding America’s relationship with royalty goes something like this: Americans have no time for monarchy as a political concept but can’t get enough of the British royal family. The American media’s round-the-clock coverage of the recent royal wedding certainly seems ample evidence of ... Read More
Elections

The Trump Rationale

Why exactly did nearly half the country vote for Donald Trump? Why also did the arguments of Never Trump Republicans and conservatives have marginal effect on voters? Despite vehement denunciations of the Trump candidacy from many pundits on the right and in the media, Trump nonetheless got about the same ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Media See Only One Collusion Story

President Trump is opening a whole new chapter in the war between him and the investigators pursuing him. Today, he tweeted: “I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political ... Read More