Wednesday May 18th, 2016

The exercise:

Write about: perseverance.

Work at the bakery was surprisingly fine this morning, other than when I had to crouch down to grab something. That was when my five hours of, essentially, doing squats yesterday chose to rear its ugly head.

Haircuts went smoothly after lunch. Strawberries were, as expected, much appreciated. I think Max only mooched one of them too.

Back at the bakery tomorrow morning. Going to try to get some extra rest tonight.


"Good evening, men. And it is a good evening, isn't it? For we are still here, together. Still breathing. Still fighting!"


"Certainly, we have endured more than our fair share of casualties thus far. There can be no denying that. But we may be beaten down, we are not defeated! We refuse to raise that despicable white flag. We force the enemy to earn every single step that they take forward."

"Excuse me, sir?"

"And let us not forget that their losses are many as well! We have wounded them at every opportunity, reducing their numbers as they reduce ours. Our ferocious will gives them pause, our unflagging fury forces them to reconsider every foray into battle."

"Sir! Sir!"

"None of us shall return home unmarked. I myself have been rendered blind and deaf in one ear."

"Oh, right. I forgot."

"But we are heroes, men! Heroes! We honour our country with our every sacrifice! We must persevere, for the sake of our children, and our children's children! And may-"


"... what is it now, Percival? Can't you see I'm motivating my soldiers?"

"No, sir, you're not."

"That's insubordination, Percival. I won't have you disparaging my oratory skills. Especially not in front of these fine warriors!"

"Sir, there are no soldiers here. It's just you and me."

"What? What are you going on about?"

"All your men - those few who are still alive at any rate - have deserted and gone into hiding."

"... My God, man. So it's just the two of us left, to make a noble, final stand. I know you won't leave my side, Percival."

"... No, sir. Of course not. Though I should warn you, I seem to be coming down with something. It feels, and I hate to say this, but it feels like it might be my laryngitis flaring up again..."


Greg said...

The Unified Authority had recruitment offices at the end of our street. There had been a corner shop there a few years ago, run by a middle-aged couple with two children; the boy nearly grown up and still keen on playing football, and a girl who was clearly destined to be pretty and would be married before she was 21 if the women of the neighbourhood were any judges. The Unified Authority put in a very reasonable offer to purchase and the couple sold up with little resistance. The father, a solemn man who only smiled when stock-taking, came into the bar the evening before he signed the contract and got drunk for only the second time in his life. It let him tell the barflies about the Unified Authority's offer, and why it was so reasonable.
I'd been through the training, as they called it, by that point and I thought he'd gotten off quite lightly, but I kept my mouth shut. When he talked about the pictures they'd shown him he broke down, and as everyone else turned away, unable to cope with sharing his grief, I took his arm and sat him down at a table. The barman brought us fresh phlogistonic wine and I let it breathe its fumes into the air while I told him a little of my experience. He looked at me, wide-eyed and wild.
"My son was in that picture," he said, though he'd mentioned that there were nearly thirty.
"An actor," I said, hoping it was true. Sometimes, I'd heard, they managed to recruit from families, though I couldn't begin to fathom the depths of that betrayal myself. "An actor, with photographic techniques more advanced than the ones taught in the industrial schools. Then they go to the graphic artists."
He began to cry and I picked up a glass and sipped it. The barman clearly had opened a decent vintage for us, so perhaps there was a little more sympathy in the room than I'd perceived. It wouldn't have surprised me; as a scientist the Unified Authority didn't want my opinions, moods and assessments tainted by emotion or illogical thoughts. It stunted us though in other ways, and set us on a monastic path.
"The money's not bad," he said, knuckling away tears with an ink-stained hand. "We'd have given it serious thought anyway. But what they showed us...,"
"It's not necessarily the future," I said. "It's a future."
"One they can create."
I fell silent again at that point, letting the heat of the phlogistonic wine rise from my stomach and cloud my vision. I had no doubts that they could make certain parts of the pictures they'd used come true, but my training prevented me from believing that the entire future could be set on a different track by the UA. At least for now. Maybe in fifteen years' time.
"We're moving tomorrow," he said. "All of us, a family. We're going to Exeter."
A chill ran through me at that point and the wine was suddenly a bitter taste in the back of my throat making me want to vomit. My friends had disappeared over the years, all going to Winchester, or Ambridge, or Wensleydale, and it was only during the UA sessions that I learned what that had meant: a quiet death in a slaughterhouse because they'd transgressed.
"My wife's mother lives there."
"Per severance," I whispered, and I was grateful he was crying still, for he didn't hear.

Greg said...

Two comments because I'm apparantly writing too long posts for the blog :)

Five hours of squats! That's dedication to working out, well done :) And well done on trading the strawberries for haircuts, though part of me wonders what will happen to your haircuts if it turns out there's anything wrong with the strawberries. After all, it's expected to be a fair trade, right...?
How on earth did Percival's boss survive as long as he clearly has with his tendancy to windbaggery and puffery? I'm with Percival on this one, laryngitis all the way! I did appreciate the little monologues though, you do them rather well and they're thoroughly entertaining.

Marc said...

Greg - another fascinating entry. An intriguing look into the dark depths of your tale. Nicely done!

That's what it felt like the day after, at any rate. Hopefully tomorrow won't feel as bad, between my muscles getting more used to the picking motions and having extra pickers this time around.

And I'm a very careful picker. I've never had any complaints. Nor would I want any! I'd hate to go in for my next haircut and have a surprise buzz cut or mohawk awaiting me :P