The Elusive Ideal of Full Employment
by Sandy Newman
Thus, the Nazis found uses for the Jews.
The Gypsies were a whole different story.
Stretched on frames until the vertebrae popped and the ribs were sprung, hung to smoke above the open hearth of the warriors' hall, while mead was liberally poured and lays sung; then cut to size and sinews made fine by spinning wheel or jenny; fat scraped painstakingly away by a tribe of craftsmen bearing the surname Katzenfeig, and their crest, one spectacle on a field (sometimes of charming daffodils, sometimes just a "field" field, in which case the spectacle was unedifying) and these Katzenfeigen bore the slop of bone, muscle, skin neatly wrapped in brown paper like you keep your pornographic whatnot in to the foundry: the result is what we call a violin.
Though some scholars render it as "twenty-five sources of radiation," which we must dismiss on the basis of its obvious anachronism in the years preceding the Surgically Accurate Making of Craters Where Once Was a Primary School.
The Slavs - oh, the Slavs! What you couldn't do with a big Slav, packed in his own ice! From fat alone the candle wax, cunningly moulded to the likeness of a chubby Negro babe, the wick curling from his brow - or refined, that fat could be kneaded into an aching back. The muscles were used in industry. The brains, in soup. The hands were first handy to teach young Helga/Fritz to count ten, then as digging implement to loosen soil, last joined to a special board sold separately in dry goods stores, which came bored to the wrist-width required (female, male, child) and made fast with glue rendered from that same Slavic bone
- for coat racks -
The Irish were employed on building sites and as a cheap source of electricity. Generally the British were regarded as fuel; without them many a factory would have stood dark and cold. Some still recall: "... tossing another limb on a crackling fire, fed to brightness with a few scoops of nail and those russet braids which so captivated us children. It was almost sad to see them vanish, turning quickly into so many threads of brighter orange, before collapsing - oh transformation wonderful to see! - into ashen worms. How many hours we spent before just such a fire, listening to Papi's tall tales of his youth, when he worked his way up by sheer hard graft to be the master of his own works, in which so many were employed who would be otherwise idle, left to their own mean resources. On this chiefly my father prided himself."
But it seems in poor taste in this more egalitarian, politically correct, time, to dwell on such scenes with a nostalgia which perhaps can be forgiven if not actually forgiven, if we're entirely honest about our feelings, not even in the slightest, but wholly treated with contempt and vindictiveness - unforgiven, then, in an elderly woman like Frau Hayek, who, readers will be relieved to hear, has now died alone and rotted for two weeks undiscovered in the single barren room she let above a Vietnamese restaurant.
Let someone forgive us! Forgive us, and then start working on the small fry!
But moving on strictly chronologically now to the post-war decades, when the German fantasy of racial supremacy had been defeated on the beaches, et cetera et cetera, though not so much in global markets, same for the Japanese, but international pretense - ("thought") no longer found it acceptable to discriminate on grounds of race. Needless to say, this was a stimulus to industry. At least some could be found to say so, again and again, at '00 DM a word, until they too were rounded up in unmarked vans and driven into a featureless night...
So, German sausage was now made possible. Thousands of Italians were shipped abroad for the new more durable plastics. Japanese components became the standard for high tech manufacturing. As trade barriers were lowered, lowered, and
- 2 -
Now I dress with care, choosing a shirt whose pale linen makes a pleasing contrast with my charcoal woollen trousers. I follow, in the mirror, the lively manipulations of my fingers, tying the rough silk tie about my neck. I comb my hair. There is a minute inspection of my nails, and fresh socks - it's vital, psychologically, that the socks be freshly laundered. And whatever impatience I may feel to be away, to run out to my fellows across the dark, sweet-smelling, lawn, waving in jovial greeting - I will not mutter to myself. I will not.
I never talk to myself. A final item of pride.
There is no one underneath the trees.
There is no one.
That is, you see, it.
April "0"', "Ulysses' Rest," Oregon- 3 -
April "0"', White Sands, Nevada
On a concrete pitch, triangular in shape, and inclined so that its bluntest angle lies some 50 foot below the rear hypotenuse, stand, shoulder to shoulder, exactly one million people. The triangle is isosceles, with edges in the ratio 2:3:4, a figure meaning "UPWARD" in the recently deciphered telepathic alphabet of whales. Each participant stands carefully aligned to painted footprints, like those once used in dancing classes. Here, however, all the prints are nearly parallel, oriented to that sunken point. The rows just perceptibly curve. The formation is compact; each must stand painstakingly erect to prevent his or her nose from poking the back of the head in front.
All are clean-shaven, depilated head to toe. All are nude.
The point man, a chubby Caucasian whose pale freckles and slack hindquarters hint at a sedentary profession, silently raises one arm. At this signal, all begin to chant.
They are repeating coordinates, escape velocity, energy required to overcome inertia - a haunting strain of numbers, intoned to the 6AM Nevada sky in the A below middle C.
The sky blanches. There is a series of exchanges in the air, like drumbeats too deep in pitch for the human ear. The sands draw, draw, the ruddy sands, stirring as if anxious, have drawn back from the edges of the concrete.
At the agreed moment, they will all fall silent, inhale, and contemplate a temperature. The willed spontaneous combustion of these million should just suffice -
- and did, they all popped, zoomed, Whee-hee! and that evening we land-lubbers gaped to witness the rising of a new moon. Of course the awe-inspiring - or at least outlandish - impact of the sight was somewhat undercut by the enormous luminous logo of a certain software company which sponsored the construction of the launch pad. But not in so flagrantly tasteless a degree as the later moons of Pepsi, Campbell's soup, Marlboro, Nike
- 4 -
oh, those strange grapes from which came champagne that flowered from the glass! Chrysanthemums! Alive and kicking flowers drunk deeper than any heretofore draught, oh sword-swallowed the unquiet spirits of drugged mites, cotton-wool children plucked from mama's bosom
The bubbles stinging
struggling against the inevitable
tug of the brute gut
which does digest us -
I don't care who you are!
And, so drinking, we imbibed the secrets of their unfed nights, the sepia longing shantytowns, the faint cries and plaints -
how we woke in the night, panting and afraid, from a horrible recollection not ours -
in the day, we smiled, drawn on a nostalgic tangent by Amita from uncle's tribe, and how she glowed, coming back down the mountain with her bundled firewood! It's true, we understood with our bloodstreams then the subtly variegated sorrows of the poor -
and their triviality! Their contemptible pettiness. "Oh, I'm hungry, hungry, blah blah" and envy and the few hopes that rang ding dong or like a drumbeat bearing the otherwise formless tune onward onward into the wine press as it just so happened -
We drank the middle classes too. At the end of the day. My mates and I. It's fair to say we pissed away the whole population of Earth.
"Oh - they'll be back."
Five new moons,
explored, revealed themselves
to be but
rock, basalt and granite, inanimate
into which the masses had so avidly dived
as if there could be two deaths
a nice death and a bad death
or my death and their death
"This is my, nice death I"m diving in, it's not like your death, this death exalts me, it makes me whole, and in my death I will be hidden from your great gut, the gut can't get me, I'm all safe in my own death -" But we mined those moons so no one, actually, was singled out for special treatment.
And, too, there was always going to be just one survivor.
Philosophically I think this follows.
And that one we call, in English, "me."
Yes, in the end the difference may be solely one of nomenclature. Anyway, I killed the last few with my own hands. I knew all their names by then, so I could call out "Rupert!" "Peter!" "Jenny!" as I went, as if these were the numbers of the countdown, or as if I were creating them instead
- 5 -
His mentation, thereby, was miraculously unimpaired, though close relatives reported changes in temperament. Having been all his life cheery and soft-spoken, he now became morose, touchy even with those who selflessly, sincerely loved him - and, overnight, he lost his appetite for food.
"Eat, eat," his wife was always begging him. "You mustn't starve yourself."
To which the unfortunate James, bug-eyed with exasperation: "Can't you get it through your fucking head -"
And both would fall silent, oppressed by the massive, derisive presence of the enigmatic pole.
A pole like that must have travelled here from another galaxy. Earth is poor in artefacts of infinite length. Why it stopped - for, though it would have meant little to the miserable James, as he would have had to wait an infinite length of time for the far end of the pole to sail through and out of his head, allowing him, with the aid of a pair of steel plugs and a few stitches, to reassume an ordinary aspect and, in time, go back to his job as a marriage counsellor - well, no one knows why it stopped, much less where it was going. Furthermore, the fact that it pierced James' head, and had, there fore, an end, implies that it was infinite in only one direction, meaning that the universe is exactly twice the length of this pole, that is, twice infinity.
Now, isn't that interesting?
Furthermore, at the moment the pole first passed through the dead centre of James' head, he was in a sense the centre of the universe, albeit in only one dimension.
As James puts it: "Is that meant to comfort me?"
And isn't that interesting?
Why? What interests you?
I'M IN PAIN I AM IN PAIN I FUCKING DARE YOU TO LOOK AT ME AND TAKE AN INTEREST IN MY PAIN CONSUMER!
Due, it is presumed, to the gravitational pull of other bodies, the pole weighs only a few pounds. James refers to it, disparagingly, as "my stick."
This is the type of life-altering event I'm talking about. Something you really, really, really, wouldn't understand, with your breakfast cereals and charming puppydogs you let the kids name "Nike." With your wall to wall audio/video recreation centres and your "4 hour golfing channels for the disabled. With your rehabilitation programmes for pregnant battered donkeys abandoned by owners when too old for racing, pictured with a pregnant battered starlet under the shout line "SENTIMENTAL PRATING ISN'T JUST FOR CHRISTMAS."
Save the pregnant battered starlets, too old for racing!
Won't anybody give Luscious Opening a home?
Adopt a drug-addled pony, too old for sex shows!
Those days are gone. You wouldn't understand. Those days are gone.
I am glad no one will ever find out I'm talking to this blank wall.
I am 48. In my prime! Just two years older than James when he was stricken by the pole, putting an abrupt end to his strict fitness programme. Who's laughing now, James?
That pole, now, naturally, intersects the Earth, passing through it at a depth of six feet in a small churchyard in Pittsfield, New Jersey. I am 48. I am the only one who ever puts flowers on James' grave, which I have done on two occasions only (you understand my time is not my own).
The stone, which must rest on James' feet, judging from the pole, reads, "There are more things in heaven and earth," which quote I personally find in poor taste.
But it's always easy to be a back seat driver in hindsight. That's all I really wanted to say now you can't hear. And no point beating a dead dog when you have already lost your mind, your head, to the grinder and the pitiless weight. Lock the stable door, quick! The horses are gone forever!
Though in many regions, tomorrow will be another day. Personally. And you should never have started if you didn't need packing for shipment in heavy duty cardboard cartons, faintly smelling of dust.
Please apply for elucidation to the department in charge of your case, quoting the reference number stamped on the upper left corner of the carton in which your constituents have been packed for shipping. And I guess you might have liked, if your life must compulsorily be wasted, to have the wasting of it yourself? The answer to which you will find in your handbook. You will find it in your syllabus. It is in your contract, which, of your own free will, under no form of duress, you have signed, o my highly valued employees.
- 6 -
NOW you are all gone.
LATER I will be the only one.
NOW I am talking to you.
LATER you will understand why "all this," and wish you had listened. NOW you are under the terrible threat.
LATER shadows will eat you, cackling, it will be "much too late."
NOW late is only a harmless "fact" of time, timing slightly out of kilter, "oh so sorry I made you wait for your last sweet potatoes, darling."
LATER will be later than the late you now know, will be "much later," later than you can possibly survive. NOW that is all I am going to say.
What rights you have not forfeited are now to be taken away from you. Like delicate appliances taken from the hands of children, who will push all the buttons at once, though they were warned.
And fuck your flesh right off of your bones. God damn your puny souls. You let them shrink, shrink, as if they would not ever become insects, grubs to be trampled, as if we would forever cringe and not embrace "fascism" because "you said it was very bad -"
Laugh in your face. NOW Laugh in your face.