Posted by: johnhourihan | December 17, 2017

Merry Christmas


By John Hourihan

Christmas Eve 1955 was black — black, slippery and laceratingly cold as we four walked from town — and it was the day I learned the truth about Santa Claus.
An afternoon ice storm had coated the town and the temperature dropped out the bottom as ebony night fell. My mother, two sisters and myself were trekking to my grandmother’s house, a frozen mile from the light and bustle of Main Street shopping.
The sidewalks were like intersecting bobsled chutes with snow bolsters iced smooth on the sides. My mother finally gave up and said “OK, we’re walking in the road.”
The sanded street had traction, but it also had cars, big ‘51 Packards lumbering out of the night with glaring headlamps and chains that announced their arrival. Each time we heard the rythmic clinking, my mother sheep-dogged us to the side and stood as big as she could in front of us. Once away from Main Street ’s lights, we passed through the darkness and the smell of oak and smoke, arriving at the home of the towering Rose Brigette O’Flynn Hourihan herself for our annual dose of what Christmas really meant.
My grandmother was a most unique woman — an Irish realist.
The walkway to the stairs was short, but the hedges lining it towered over us and glistened, their ice coating twinkling all the colors of the neighbor’s holiday lights. The huge wooden door opened, and a rush of warmth engulfed us and cuddled us inside.
At the end of the hall stood herself, waiting.
My mother nudged us along past the statue of the Blessed Virgin with the constantly refilled holy water fountain, past the cross of Easter palms, the vase of lilies and the red glass candle holder, and directly toward the full-sized color oil painting of the Sacred Heart that looked at you no matter where you walked. Just before Jesus, we took a left into the kitchen.
We sat at the round wooden table with the doily in the center, folded our hands and waited to be spoken to.
“Are you excited?” she asked.
We nodded, seen but not heard.
“Why?”
Nancy was the courageous one: “Santa Claus is coming tonight,” she said. I wonder even today if she knew this was the exact wrong thing to say at that particular time. Rose Hourihan struck the fear of God into nuns, and made priests cower with her admonishments that they showed “a sure lack of piety.”
We knew we were about to hear how this was “not about presents” but about “the birth of Christ.”
She leaned, palms against the edge of the table, and was about to speak, when my mother said gently, “Rose, it is Christmas, and they are children.”
The grey-haired protector of the faith did something then that I had never seen her do. She went into the living room and returned with her prized candy dish. The one we were not to touch unless we were told to. She placed it in the center on the doily and said, “Go ahead, eat. I want to tell you something about a boy who was born around this time.”
Here it comes.
“1,700 years ago.”
We looked at each other in disbelief. Seventeen hundred years? That was wrong.
“He was born in Turkey of very rich parents. Christians they were, and raised him up to serve the Lord, but they were taken sick and died, leaving him alone, but rich, at a very tender age.”
She continued, “The little boy shared his wealth. He began to help the poor and the hungry children, and for his efforts he was made a bishop while he was still a child. He built an orphanage, a hospital and place for the elderly to be taken care of.”
She pushed the candy dish across, “Go ahead, eat some more,” she said.
“You know this boy,” she asserted.
We looked at each other confused.
“His name was Nicholas. You call him Santa Claus, and this time every year he is allowed to come back to life, by the grace of the Almighty, to teach us all how to give to each other, and charity prevails over all the negativity of the year. But you have to believe.
“There are presents for you at the back door, and I’ve called a cab to take you home. You’ll have to hurry and get to sleep so Saint Nicholas can come.”
We were silent on the way home. I had had my doubts, and my older sisters were fairly entrenched in the belief there may not even be a Santa Claus, but to hear Rose Brigette O’Flynn Hourihan herself tell his story convinced us all.
One thing we knew for sure.
Grandmother never lied.
The truth is, there is a Santa Claus.

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Posted by: johnhourihan | December 12, 2017

Merry Christmas Everyone


I have heard it every year since I was first able to hear.
“Let’s remember the true meaning of Christmas.”
Then people usually follow this up with “It is the birthday of Jesus.”
Well, we all, including Christian scholars, know that is not true. December 25 is probably not when Jesus was born. He was probably born more like in August or September.
So what does it mean to “remember the true meaning of Christmas?” And would Jesus even approve?
Well, I know the true meaning of Christmas. I have known it for a long time.

We know the human spirit is different at Christmas time, but I know how it is different because of Lenny Loupier. (Everyone, of course, called him Froggy.)
The difference is not just happiness. It is, instead, an intensification of the entire spectrum of feelings.
It was mid-December, so the double-digit first snow from the night before was a wet, heavy fluff that built to a foot or so on the school lawn. But it melted on the still-warm asphalt creating a perfectly etched outline of the playing area.
The school driveway slipped off the road and immediately downhill between two granite-walled buildings, the high school and the grammar school, and then down further into a tarred expanse where we played, cradled by the other buildings, the St. Joseph’s Guild home where the mothers met at night.
It was a freezing, jacket-and-hat lunch time even in the sun, and we first-through-eighth-graders had huddled between the two big buildings for shelter from the wind and body heat.
Usually those of us in the seventh grade ran around, but today it was too wet and the janitors had sanded the night before, so the hard tarred yard was too slippery for worn smooth soled shoes to get traction on wet sand. So there we mulled – me and Eddy Cormier punching each other from time to time just to keep warm.
Froggy came running up Main Street, about 50 yards away. He crossed, sprinting through the parking lot of Zersky’s gas station and headed for the intersection with Winter Street.
The school faced Winter.
Instinctively everyone turned to see where Sister Miriam Patrice was. She was the toughest nun of the lot and said often of yard duty, “It is something to offer up for the souls in purgatory,” so we knew she didn’t think much of standing out here watching us.
It wouldn’t do for Loupier to get caught off school property where he shouldn’t be, especially not by her.
He darted across the road holding a foot-square brown paper bag. Half-way across the road, his Cub Scout hat blew off. He stopped, bent and retrieved it in one swoop.
If he hadn’t been such a dork we probably would have cheered as he made it to the sidewalk.
Patrice was on the other side of the building and couldn’t see him. He had reached safety when it happened. His feet started slipping, his arms flailed and then he rose and nose-dived, flat on his face in the driveway.
Lenny Loupier was a weird kid. He had a too-big head; too-big brown eyes encircled by too-big Coke-bottle glasses with a black patch over one lazy eye; a too big mouth and his teeth stuck straight out at you when he talked.
The only thing that wasn’t too big was his nose – and the rest of his body.
He looked like a frog with hair.
It was just like him to hang onto the hat and lose touch with the bag. It sailed up then crashed to the asphalt. The contents shattered and were regurgitated from the bag in a shotgun of pieces. And they skipped across the schoolyard like stones across water.
Some of the remnants slid right to my feet. It had been some kind of dinner plate, with a picture of the shattered Holy Family on it and something had been etched on the edge in gold paint. I read it. “To the bes. .” it said on the biggest piece.
The whole yard laughed at once to see Froggy, face down, his bagged prize at the feet of various clumps of recessers.
He looked up, glasses all crooked on his big head, tears rolling down his face and his nose running.
No human being could ever have been more vulnerable, not even naked in the middle of the gym in a dream.
He lay there flat, his head raised, eyes searching for a friendly face in a crowd of unfriendly faces.
At my feet, The Blessed Virgin Mary looked up at me, and I stopped laughing.
I looked at Froggy, and his eyes caught mine. He was only about 15 feet away, and he said, “I had it made special. It’s my mother’s Christmas present.” Then he returned to bawling.
I don’t know what made me pick him up. It wasn’t like me, and I sure don’t know who said “I’m sorry Lenny.”
As I walked away I saw him stumble the driveway gauntlet of laughing and heckling kids. I leaned back against the hard granite.
No one really saw what happened next, and wouldn’t have believed it of me if they had.
Cormier looked at me strangely and asked “What’s wrong with your eyes?”
“It’s cold out here,” I said, “How long we got left?”
I couldn’t have choked out another syllable, or they would have known what was going on.

The difference at this time of year is not that we are inordinately happy, in and of itself. It isn’t that we are supposed to think religious thoughts. It is more that we empathize with one another. We feel what the other guy is feeling. And we care about each other.
This is as close as we get to what human beings are supposed to be – as close as we get to what Jesus tried to teach. That is the true meaning of Christmas.
It seems to be the only time of year that we realize that everyone, even Froggy, has a mother.
.

Posted by: johnhourihan | November 21, 2017

Is this evil OK?


Am I wrong? We have an internet filled with pictures of the meals you ate this weekend. What you ate and how much is somehow important to us. Dozens, if not hundreds, of women have accused our leaders of lust and sexual abuse, and the “me too” movement has shown there has been a decades long sexual attack on women. Investigations show our president and his family and close friends are first and foremost in public service to make as much money as they can before they are tossed out of office, and hundreds of thousands of people will vote with the ideology that “the economy is the bottom line,” even if it means we accept doing away with all morals, principles and human values to get our money. The arrogance that is shown when the president, his colleagues and his supporters have no problem with publicly showing they believe themselves to be the master race is accepted as long as we can still look down on black and brown people. When even gold star parents or the parents of Americans in jail in a foreign country are told they must be subservient to the president or face his wrath, and supporters applaud this attitude. When even the president of the country calls himself, “Your favorite president” and even against all evidence says, ”No one has done (anything) better than I have.” And then at Christmastime self-appointed Christians support their party taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich.
Our fellow citizens are proud that they are not paying attention to the people who are foisting all these sins on us. They say, “It makes me sad so I don’t pay attention.” They are actually proud that they don’t even know who their leaders are, and they don’t care. Don’t tell me we aren’t in a situation where evil has taken over our country. We have proven that our country if not the world is in the midst of committing every one of the seven Cardinal sins: Gluttony, lust, greed, pride, wrath, vanity, and sloth. And we don’t even seem to believe those sins ant he ones who commit them are wrong as long as we are making money.
Am I wrong?

Posted by: johnhourihan | November 16, 2017

Sexual harassment or bullying


This Trump/Moore thing is not about sex, it is about bullying. When I was a kid, boys were told how to handle a bully. Today, when we suggest it, we are laughed at or admonished. “If your parents or officials don’t stop him, punch him in the mouth. Stand up to him, and he will find someone else to bully.” We were told about chivalry and how to protect women. We were “snips and snails and puppy dogs’ tails.” Girls were were “sugar and spice and everything nice.” Boys and girls were different. Boys were taught to stand up for themselves and for weaker people, and girls were taught to never stand up to anyone, so when we began to tell boys they too couldn’t stand up to a bully, that they “never have a good reason for violence,” and replaced it with nothing, we set the stage for what has been going on for decades. The bullies began winning all the time because no one, not parents, not teachers, not police, and not ourselves, would stand up to them.
A friend of mine, a cop, once told me years ago, “We don’t need more cops, we need more brothers and fathers and uncles.” He said that because when we were boys if an under-aged girl was accosted, the accoster would get the . . . . beat out of him, or at least face the threat of it. But then our wave of pacifistic responses to bullies gave rise to some new laws to stop this action. The laws were to be the replacement for a punch in the mouth, but, being administered most often by men who had no idea how to stand up to a bully, they weren’t as effective. Sexual harassment in the workplace was handled by a wave of new corporate regulations, and women began trying to stand up for themselves. And getting beaten to a pulp, because some men found that, in those laws, there was no real retribution for bullying women, and good men now had no idea how to stand up to bullies in the workplace without losing their jobs.
Now, with an admitted sexual predator in the the White House, it has all opened up again. Men with power are still using their power to get what they want from women, and when we say, “don’t elect this person,” we find there are enough bullies and fools in the world to elect the likes of Trump. When we say don’t allow this one to be a senator, we now wait to find out if there are enough bullies in Alabama to elect a person to be a Senator, a person they believe to be a pedofile, a person who preys on underage girls. If you want to stop sexual harassment, teach your children, male and female, to stand up to bullies.

Posted by: johnhourihan | November 5, 2017

Stop blaming old white men


I recently heard from a young woman that old white men are the cause of all the problems in this country. As an old white man I have to say that this is nonsense and counter-productive. Old white men started this country as a beacon of liberty. Old white men wrote our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, then old white men amended the rules twenty seven times to allow for all the freedoms we have been allowed as Americans. Old white men made it a law that women would be able to vote and that African-Americans would no longer be vulnerable to being owned by another man or woman. And yes, old white men started needless wars, and placed greed over our ideals too, but if our country is to remain right now the icon of freedom and goodness we have so long believed it to be, you will need the support of some of us old white men to do it. I would like to remind this young woman that some old white men have always been in the corner of equality for all gender, race, religion or national origins since the beginning of our nation. We have sometimes been outnumbered by other old white men, but when we weren’t we did things right. In your fight for true equality you will need these old white men. Don’t worry, we are here and waiting for a time when we are no longer outnumbered, but don’t continue to blame us all for every ill in existence. That is nonsense and counter productive. We aren’t to blame, and the tide is about to turn. Try to remember that one thing old white men did not do is elect Donald Trump.

Posted by: johnhourihan | October 27, 2017

Which side are you on: a primer


A revolution seems to be on its way. The following will help you decide which side you are on. Piick a side
A B
Christian only or freedom of religion
Racism or patriotism
White supremacy or civil rights
Outlaw “Fake news” or freedom of the press
Attack or negotiate
Female subservience or women’s equality
Violent riots or freedom to assemble
Nazi or American
KKK or Black Lives Matter
Police state or police restraint
Isolationism or humanitarian involvement
Fear or love
Voter suppression or the right to vote
Closed borders or fair immigration
Violence or faith, hope and love
If you choose more A, then you are siding with the alt right, the KKK, the neo nazis, and other white supremacists. If you choose more B, you are siding with the United States of America.

Posted by: johnhourihan | October 24, 2017

I love my pit bull


I saw a bumper sticker today that made me think. It said “I love my Irish Setter.”
It reminded me of all the millions of people in this country who love their pets for no apparent reason, just because they decided to love their dogs, cats , hamsters, rabbits, Vietnamese pigs, all of our beloved pets. There is no real reason for us to do this. Dogs and cats don’t bring in money, they don’t usually work at all. Mostly they sit around and wait to be fed or walked, but we love them anyway. It seems to be just a wonderful human trait to love our pets. We feed them, kill their fleas and ticks, protect them from adversaries, buy them expensive medicine, and, when needed ,we even take them to the vet for wallet-busting medical procedures.
I was thinking how wonderful human beings are to care for our animals with the love usually saved for members of our families. And when we find them homeless we take them in and search of a good home for them.
Seldom do we hear, “They are just lazy stupid animals. Why should I feed them and make sure they are healthy?”
Seldom do we hear, “It isn’t my fault they have no place to live and have to run around the streets at night eating out of garbage cans.”
Seldom do we hear “I’ll let him eat basic cheap food but not the good stuff. The good stuff should be saved for working animals.”
Seldom do we hear, “We ought to drug test them all before we feed them.”
No. We save that stuff for fellow human beings.
I wondered why it is that we can’t seem to treat our fellow humans with the same love and respect that we show to our animals. It occurred to me that if anyone who owns a pet compared the amount of money spend on food, health care and shelter for a pets in a year with how much of our taxes go to provide the same service for human beings, it would become obvious which we treat better. (Spoiler alert: The animals make out much, much, much better)
Why is it I never see a bumper sticker that says “I love my brothers and sisters?” and display it with as much pride as we display the ones about loving our Irish setters, German shepherds, cocker spaniels and pit bulls.
I have a question. If you have a pet for whom you provide food, shelter and health care, how inhumane is it that you complain about a tiny amount of your taxes going to do the same for a human being?

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Posted by: johnhourihan | August 15, 2017

The Mustard seed – 2095


“The Entitleds are genetically weak willed, stunted, dumb, and were easily controlled by sports, war, beer, sex, lottery tickets, the pleasure of being chauvinistic and ready to kill for their country, of course their pleasure is more in the killing than their country. And they are filled with anger toward anyone who lives a better life, and that is pretty much everyone else. They were those who created what they believed were subcultures just to make themselves feel better to have someone beneath them. Their anger is controlled by the dampened free will. They just plain don’t feel like doing anything that takes thought or energy and doesn’t give them pleasure. Because they feel unarmed in any real intellectual conversation or argument, they live in little enclaves of like-minded people. There are weaknesses in their genetics, and they produce offspring just like themselves, but they are useful to us. And we don’t even have to waste time on them. They are the ones who allowed us to take over the world governments. They will do what they are told, with or without genetic manipulations. They are pretty much the offspring of the Fallen Ones only smaller and not as smart. Strangely enough we told them to be Christian so they believe they are even as they break every law of Christianity.” The Mustard Seed – 2095, John Hourihan. the book can be bought at iuniverse.com

http://www.iuniverse.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001133495


Trump is correct. There is something inherent in a presidential executive order that will eventually make Obamacare implode.
This is it:
There is an executive order signed by Trump that directs federal agencies to ease the “regulatory burdens” of ObamaCare. It orders agencies to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement” of ObamaCare that imposes a “fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.”
This order makes it unavoidable that Governors, most of whom are Republicans, hold in their hands the power to destroy the ACA.
When he says it will be destroyed he means I will destroy it.

Posted by: johnhourihan | July 20, 2017

The Mustard Seed – 2095


This is the first chapter of my book that shows you don’t have to choose between science and religion. They say the same things. Read it if you like. If you enjoy it and would like to see another chapter, mail me a few bucks, whatever you can afford. If I get at least twenty dollars in total, I will print the next chapter. My current address is John Hourihan, 1778 Ala Moana Bnjoy.

The Mustard Seed:
2095

By John Hourihan

He said, ‘How will we liken the Kingdom of God? Or with what parable will we illustrate it? It’s like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, though it is less than all the seeds that are on the earth, yet when it is sown, grows up, and becomes greater than all the herbs, and puts out great branches, so that the birds of the sky can lodge under its shadow.’”
— Mark 4:30–32, The Holy Bible, Catholic Edition

“In all of us, even in good men, there is a lawless wild-beast nature, which peers out in sleep.”
― Socrates


INTRODUCTION
Four billion years ago he had looked out with the eagerness of a child over what had been created for him by his elder. The maelstrom of dust and gas, blackness and gravity was all reinvented for him inside his mind, everything that was created from nothing. Violent collisions of matter, light and fire began to coalesce into formations. Then the formations began to enlarge attracting more and more gas and dust into objects. Soon they found their patterns and began to orbit each other on a journey through the universes.
“Where were we in this?” he asked his elder.
“Not yet,” was the only answer. “Watch.”
The smaller objects began journeys around the larger and intensely heated gas giants. The fire giants spread into the universes and dragged their children with them. Aeons later the children began to cool holding the heat from the fire giant deep inside them. Volcanoes on the surfaces of the children, planets, added gasses from the still hot interior to the atmosphere. Methane covered the planet. Hydrogen and oxygen added water and the outer surface cooled more.
“Where were we?” asked the young one.
“We were being created here, just now, in the age of volcanoes from the light given off by the fire giant sun.We were on Earth when the crust began and liquid water formed on the outer surface. We watched the early protozoic life form, and never believed it would come to replace us on Earth, but it is also a curse to live so long.” The young one watched as plants brought photosynthesis and the earth greened and the oceans turned blue.
“We spirits reigned here alone for billions of years, then we were told to farm the mats of microbes, then the plants, then the beings of matter, and we were told to tend to them all.”
The elder turned his attention elsewhere and the vision stopped. “You know the end.” The vision faded to black and the young one returned to his genetics.

Chapter One
“Let there be among you a person who understands. When the crop ripened, he came quickly carrying a sickle and harvested it. Anyone here with two good ears had better listen!” – The Gospel of Thomas, Nag Hammadi, Codex II

“There are three classes of people: those who see. Those who see when they are shown. Those who do not see.” – Leonardo da Vinci

It was warm for June and getting warmer as Campaign Formulator Sixth Level Raphael Aronson, half way up the outside wrought-iron stairway to his apartment building, paused to let his breath catch up with him. “Jesus,” he said. “I don’t believe this heat.”
He wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his right hand and looked out over the hazy cityscape below from the safety of the ninth floor of the Radisson Building. He lived on the eighteenth floor. His whole body was drenched from the walk home and the climb up the side of the building. With the systematic eradication of the central federal government, beginning in the first few decades of the millennium nearly 75 years ago, most people had moved back to the cities. They didn’t all fit. It was crowded, but the outlying towns were just too “uncontrolled.” This state was one of the ones that had given up and let their police forces go and their infrastructure dissolve. From then on local boards, dominated by those who could make money, now made the laws. For instance, the small Massachusetts town Raphael had come from as a boy was now being run by the company that owned the water. The company was owned by Tod Berga, who was suspected to be the richest man in the country if not the world. Raphael Aronson looked down the side of the granite building. He was happy to be here in New Clovis. Life was good.
“It’s like a mountain,” he thought, “and I live in a cave in its side. But with a TV.”
Below him, Enterprise Boulevard came to a “T” with Republic Avenue just at the entrance to his building. He never entered the building at the downstairs doorway because the climb inside was stifling compared to being outside in the free air. Well, it was sort of free, Raphael thought. His electric bill had recently added a small charge at the bottom called, “Your fair share for clean air.” He thought it ironic that the power companies had done away with all regulations and polluted the air and were now charging their customers to cut down on the filth they had put in there themselves. “Wouldn’t it be nice if they were just better people,” he thought.
Enterprise, a street that long ago was the heart of the financial district, was now a mile-long downhill gauntlet of cracked roadway bordered by crumbling sidewalks. Raphael thought that he could remember when automobiles used to fill the street with blaring horns and screeching tires taking the turn too fast, and drivers shouting out the opened windows at each other. That was before the decimation of the Middle East by the French and Americans in the third decade of the century turned the only oil fields left into a glowing desert, the sand having turned to glass from the bombs. The government explained to everyone after the end of the Middle East war that there was no more oil left for consumers. The Republic had compensated everyone for the gas-powered automobiles they turned in and banned the manufacture of new ones. Within a few decades the population was ready to absorb an all-out ban on driving. The auto manufacturers were soothed with new orders for war vehicles and material. There were new war plants established throughout the country, and it became one’s patriotic duty to live near one and work there, so there were plenty of jobs, and people no longer needed to drive long distances to work. It was like beating the plow shares, 18-wheelers and family cars back into weapons. Now, with all the cars gone, Enterprise was a frighteningly raucous walkway of city people heading to and from work, walking down the center of the road equidistant from the side-dwellers of homeless families in makeshift tents, and black market vendors selling cigarettes, music vids, beer and TV minutes, and the pick pockets and thugs on roller skates or motorized skateboards who, because of the ceaseless boredom, were looking for a chance to change what they did yesterday into something new for today. There were some one-story century-old houses tucked in between three- and four-story buildings, but most of the zone was full of tents tucked between the buildings. Whenever his walk home from work arrived at Enterprise, Raphael would pull back his un-tucked shirt to expose his .38 revolver. It made the walk home feel safer even though pretty much everyone else had a weapon too and the un-policed world lived under the threat of mutually assured individual destruction. The second law of the New Republic guaranteed that everyone could have a gun. It had been a remnant of an earlier time, like so many of the rules. Of course, also like so many of the rules, the second rule was counter-weighted by the sixth rule. “Thou shalt not kill, except in war.”
That is where he was coming from now, work at campaign headquarters. The late afternoon sunlight glinted off the higher windows on the right side of the street. He watched the haze of fog roll up the street from Fisherman’s Wharf. No one knew why it was still named after fishermen when there hadn’t been any fish in the bay for nearly 70 years. Raphael, now in his mid-thirties, seemed to remember his grandfather fishing at a lake somewhere off in the interior, but that was of course before the purge; before the Republic became the Republic and the environmental laws were discarded as needless and counter-productive, and the earth, especially near the city, became a cesspool surrounded by buildings. It wasn’t good for the health of anything except the bees, which flourished now even in the cities.
At the eighteenth floor he pushed open the door and stepped inside. He always enjoyed the first 10 or 12 floors because of the view, but then his fear of heights took over and he clutched with white knuckles the iron rail bolted to the outside stairway for the last six or eight floors. With the height of his anxiety growing with each step, he was always happy and relieved to reach the top and push inside the door to the safety of the hallway to his room and the rooms of six other campaign workers. He never went to the roof as the others did in the evenings. He liked the breeze and the sight of the birds, but the heights were too oppressive. He did his mandatory exercise in his room.
The darkened hall was hot enough so the Kelly green walls seemed to be leaning inward. Toward the end, he approached his room; Number 418. He adjusted the picture he had thumb-tacked to the center of the door panel just above the number. It was a picture his great-grandfather had kept from the old days when his family owned a farm. It was the picture of a strange horse that Raphael assumed was one of the animals that had been on the farm. The heat and humidity during the summer months caused the cardboard to slip nearly every day and each evening he would have to right it. It was his attempt at individuality. He had no idea why he would tempt things that way, but it just felt refreshing to have his door look a little different from the other ones on the floor.
“Similarity breeds contentment.” The thought slipped into his mind uninvited.
Inside his room he headed directly to the “energy saving” window air controller and twisted the knob to cooler. The whir of the quartz-driven motor added itself to the hum from the one attached to the overhead light. He walked to the kitchen table next to the second and only other window and sat where he could see Republic Avenue stretch downhill all the way to the airport. He liked to eat his dinner here and watch the camouflaged airplanes arrive and depart to and from the war in the Southwest. It seemed the country had always been at war with Mexico since the wall had been built during the beginning of the twenty-first century
Before cooking, he decided to watch the TV. He slid his credit card into the slot at the bottom of his 65-inch Samsung and turned to ESPN6. Six was where his favorite team was broadcast. It was one of the “Entitled” channels. Usually, being a Member, he would watch the On Demand pay channels, but he enjoyed the games nearly as much as the “Entitleds,” and tonight the Patriots were playing.
He hurried to the sink to draw water. The electricity would stay on for the entirety of the game since the electric company was owned by the Republic, but the water usually went off around 7:30 or 8 and he was going to need enough for dinner, his weekly bath, and enough for coffee and to shave in the morning. The heavy chlorine smell rose from the three buckets he was filling through a short length of hose attached to the kitchen faucet.
It was 6:40. There was still enough time to open a beer and check the numbers for today’s lottery before the football game would start. Although Raphael felt a comfort in the rules of the Republic he also enjoyed many of the things the “Entitleds” enjoyed, but only in the privacy of his apartment. There was no need to tell anyone else. Just as he returned from his water chores his microwave dinged and he pulled his USR-sanctioned dinner out, burned his fingers and dropped the cardboard tray unspilled onto the counter.
“It is your responsibility,” he sing-songed mimicking the voice in the daily meditations, “to keep yourself healthy by exercise, meditation and eating the prescribed USR meals five times a week.” He usually left his dinner feeling hungry, but hunger was just part of life for all but the Republic and some of the Associates.
He pulled the microwavable cardboard tray of vegetable lasagna from the counter and sat it on the table in front of him. He adjusted his chair with the knob on the bottom so he could see the TV, but since the game hadn’t started yet he absent-mindedly began to read the food box as he ate.
INGREDIENTS: veg. lasagna patty (pasta, duram wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid) silicon dioxin, water, eggs, egg whites, whey, milk, cream vinegar, xanathan gum, locust bean gum, guar gum, pinto beans, spinach, cultured milk solids, salt , enzymes, ..” He would have read the next half of the ingredients but the game had begun.
As usual, his team, the Patriots jumped out to an early lead. He seemed to remember hating this team at some time in the past, but it was now somehow satisfying and calming that they nearly always won, and on the very rare occasion when they did lose, the announcers blamed it on the referees and everyone took solace in hating the officials. He didn’t know anyone who wasn’t a Patriots fan, so there were very few sports arguments, only the weekly dose of satisfaction with the win. Again tonight they bested the London Merchantiles, and as he switched off the TV Raphael heard himself reiterating the team motto, “If you want it, earn it. Do your job.” It was also the first rule of the Republic.
He walked his practiced route around the room shutting off each four-inch disc-shaped quartz generator attached to each appliance in the apartment. Just before he unplugged his wallet from the cable in the wall he heard the sound of an old cash register as his winnings from the football game were added automatically to his card.
“Save energy or go without,” he chimed (Rule 15) when all his devices, except for the TV which he turned to “mute,” had been shut down for the night. He laughed. Raphael didn’t mind the rules. They just seemed like common sense to him, and they seemed to pop into his head at the most appropriate times as reminders. He wondered if others went through the same thing. He was more than content with his profession as a campaign supervisor level six. He loved his job, and as he slid into bed and pulled the covering sheet up over his shoulders he smiled anticipating the morning, his workout and his walk to work. Life was good for Raphael Aronson. The rules kept people in check even without police, and there was nothing that he couldn’t live his way through with a modicum of happiness

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