I went out into the garden, where a gentle rain was falling, and stood on the lawn. I breathed in deeply. Something was different about the air. It smelled like the air should smell in January. Jesus had been sworn in as President, and the four seasons of the Earth had gone back to normal.
I didn’t have anyone to share my joy with, though. I couldn’t exactly talk to my sister or Mom about this. Finally, with some trepidation, I called Leah.
She seemed happy to hear from me. “I’m still amazed. In just a few years, our lives could be completely different,” she said.
“Are you quitting your job like you said you would?”
“No, I’m going to keep working.”
“Yeah, but Squircal will be under new management. All the old executives are going to be arrested.”
“Are you going to get paid more?”
“Not right now. But I think we will have so much more dignity. Would you like to come work for us?”
“Uh…in customer service?”
“Don’t miss out on your chance, Blue. We’re building a new society….you don’t wanna be left out.”
“I’ll think about it….”
“You can think, but make it quick.”
This time, when I came back to the Squircal headquarters, it was filled with stacks of bread, boxes of cheese and canned fish and oranges, and bottles of cheap wine. A banner which read “Food Distribution Center” was hanging in the lobby.
The Squircal receptionist and a few others were busy carrying in more food crates. The receptionist didn’t say anything in greeting. As I watched them, Leah walked up to me, embraced me and kissed me on both cheeks. It was as if nothing bad had ever happened between us.
“I see you made your decision right on time,” she said to me.
“What’s all this?” I asked.
“One of the Squircal execs had taken ownership of a Grocery Outlet. We’ve liberated it from him, and we’re going to be in charge of distributing the food fairly. The cool thing is, as one of my friends, you are entitled to a ration of it.” She handed me a note. “Go to the sixth floor and talk to Nina. She’s Director of Edible Materials now.”
For the most part, life continued as it had before the inauguration, quiet and unimpressive. I was employed at Squircal. There were anti-Jesus riots in town, and a couple of the troublemakers got arrested. Their names were listed in the newspaper, and they included Paul, who was apparently found in illegal possession of a large knife.
“Did you hear about Paul?” I asked my sister. We were at the kitchen table, and I was slicing up Swiss cheese for everybody.
Every Friday, I brought home a box of rations from Squircal. The amount of food I received was extremely fair and just, but I had to share it with my family, as RedGirl and Mother were not employed, and Father’s job was not one of the desired occupations, so his ration was small.
“I really don’t care. Shhhh, my dancing show is on!” At first, RedGirl was devastated when “Dancing With The Stars” was taken off the air. But now, she was a big fan of the synchronized dancing displays which had replaced it on prime time.
“It’s the little girls’ fan dance! Ohhhh, so cute!” She dissolved into gushing.
“I have to admit I think the old reality shows were more interesting,” I said.
“Eewww. They were kinda trashy, compared to this.”
I shook my head. “Whatever happened to the ‘America will be destroyed’ stuff? You were weeping about that not too long ago.”
She shrugged. “I guess I was wrong. Some things are different, but I still have food and my house, and my TV. So America didn’t get destroyed.”
“That’s good to know,” I said. “Here, have some cheese.”
To my relief, I didn’t have to take a lot of phone calls at Squircal. We were always doing other, more important things, and we mostly ignored customer complaints unless they came to us in written form, and even then they would go to the Office of Complaints, where they would disappear for months.
The arrests continued, but in very small numbers. Still, they made me uncomfortable somehow.
“I don’t understand why the receptionist was arrested,” I said to Leah.
“She would tell people to have a nice day, when the workers were having a miserable day. This behaviour was deemed to be close to deceit,” Leah explained to me.
I should have been satisfied with this answer, but wasn’t. It was ludicrous. And so, once again, I found myself taking the elevator up to the top floor of the Squircal building, where the new union committee which now ran the company was located. This time, I did not wrap myself in a protective aura. After all, I was one of them.
A grim secretary welcomed visitors to the top floor. Probably overwhelmed by all her new responsibilities, I thought. Must be difficult.
“How are you?” I asked.
“Horrible. It’s been an awful day,” she snapped. “Why do you want to know?”
“Just making conversation,” I admitted. “Hey, I’ve got a few concerns I would like to bring before the committee.”
Undaunted by the harshness in her voice, I continued. “I have questions about the arrest of the downstairs receptionist. Also, I would like to hear more about the reasoning behind the way the rations are distributed.”
“What do you mean, the reasoning? The rations are what they are. They are based on the amount of food we have. What is there to reason about?” She turned her back to me. “Thank you.”
I was taken aback at getting shut down like this. “Well…I might still have problems with this…right? Can I talk to someone, please?”
“You can submit a written complaint.”
I sighed and started filling out the form.
Leah was very agitated the next day. “I had to talk them out of arresting you.”
“What? All I wanted was to ask some questions,” I said. “Are you kidding me?”
“What the hell is wrong with you? We are finally achieving our goals. Are you going to fuck things up just because you get hung up on the details?”
I felt a sudden, crushing tiredness. “Leah, what’s the point of us having achieved anything?”
She came closer to my desk. “The only thing I ask is that you at least wait for a while. It’s too soon after the riots. They’re a bit jumpy right now.”
I slumped in my chair and nodded. “I’ll wait.”
RedGirl found me lying curled up on my bed. “And what are you crying about?”
“You were right.” I rolled over onto my back. “America has been destroyed.”
“Even if it has, you’re on the winning side. Quit whining. I need you to give me a reference for a position at Squircal.”
“Squircal?” I sat up. I wanted to shake her. “Sis, I thought I could depend on you in a moment like this. You were supposed to be the loyal opposition. Don’t you have anything for me? Not even a tea party? Or a militia?”
“A militia? Oh, Lord. Really, that kind of drama isn’t necessary.” She adjusted her cape. Our heat was low, so she had it wrapped around her neck like a scarf.
I lay back down and covered my face with my hands. Everything around me was spinning. For the first time, my sister and I were on the same political side, and it was a nightmare.
“So, who’s going to stop these people if they go too far?” I asked, when the vertigo went away and I was able to speak again.
“I dunno,” she said. “But you can always find some idiot out there who wants to be a rebel.”
So my sister wasn’t going to be any help. It turned out that for her, being conservative wasn’t about any specific set of beliefs, it was about conserving. Whoever was in authority, whoever could offer stability to her world, that was who she was going to follow.
Two weeks later, I received an e-mail letting me know I was invited to a meeting at which my productivity was going to be honored.
“I don’t want to be honored,” I thought. “Just let me work in my cubicle and leave me in peace. Don’t single me out for anything.”
But you didn’t say no to e-mails at Squircal.
I entered the conference room where the meeting was to be held and froze. There, around the table, were the old Squircal executives. They weren’t wearing suits and ties. They couldn’t wear suits and ties, of course—they were now union leaders. They smiled at me. In front of them was the contract I remembered, and a little box with a medal in it.
“It’s nice to see you here on more friendly terms,” one of them said to me. “I trust that, under the changed circumstances, you will accept this token of appreciation from us.”
“I thought you guys had been arrested,” I said.
“You will be pleased to hear that the guilty parties have, in fact, been arrested,” he said. “And now, we are at last able to lead this workplace into a brighter and more progressive future.”
I hesitated, but sat down. The feeling of exhaustion was back. No matter what happened, no matter which government was in power, I would have to keep fighting these men over and over and over again. I didn’t think I was up to it.
“Do you have a pen?” I asked.
I pulled the contract over to where I was sitting, and then stared at it, unable to make the final choice.
“Well, what else are you going to do?” the exec joked. “Are you going to commit suicide again?”
“Maybe,” I mumbled.
“You are free to do that, if you wish.” He gestured towards the window. “Keep in mind that your family will die with you.”
And so this time I wasn’t going to crash through the glass, but I was still going to kill myself, or at least kill the person I once was.
When I emerged from the conference room, the contract was signed and a medal was pinned to my chest.
“We look forward to working with you,” the exec said to me. “You’re lucky to be one of us. A lot of perks come with doing this.”
I held on to a doorframe, nauseated. Something was bubbling up inside of me. Possibly my disgust with the world. I could already tell this would be one of those embarrassing moments when I couldn’t stop it—I had to throw up.
I heaved and a small explosion took place. Two of the executives were knocked down to the floor, and almost all of them were covered with shiny blue slime.
“Not this again,” I groaned. My idealism was like an illness I couldn’t get rid of. “Erm, sorry about that,” I said to the executives. “This kind of hiccup might still happen to me once in a while.”
“Do us all a favor and try not to use your….special gifts from now on,” one of them advised me. “It will make life a lot easier for everyone, including you.”
When I went back downstairs, Leah was waiting for me.
“Congratulations,” she told me. But her eyes narrowed when she saw the medal. “I see you got through it okay. I’ll be keeping an eye on you, though,” she warned me.
“I don’t have a problem with that,” I assured her. And I didn’t. When I stepped out of the building, I was determined not to be BlueGirl any longer—just an ordinary liberal blue girl.
I called my sister to let her know we would be getting extra rations.
[To Be Continued In “BlueGirl In Paradise”]