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The Road Less Traveled - A Short Story on America's Future

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Alex woke up to the sounds of running water and the Morning Friends news program.  Today they were discussing Britney Depp and Johnny Spears, who’d had a heck of a time in their lives lately.  Alex hurried and showered and shaved in order to hear the latest.  Like millions of others, he’d been thinking about Britney’s situation last night.

 The coffee maker had automatically brewed a fresh pot of coffee, as it was programmed to do, and the auto toaster popped out two halves of a steaming bagel.  As Alex chewed the bagel and sipped the coffee, he caught the highlights of last nights presidential debates, which were on the minds of many at work these days.  So much rode on who was going to be elected this year.

 The Republican candidate, who Alex despised insisted that there must be at least 500 new prisons built this year as it was the only way to keep order in society.  However, the Democratic candidate made an impassioned plea that nearly brought tears to Alex’s eyes, stating that what we needed were more preschool educational programs.  She boldly went on to assert that what the nation needed was 495 new prisons, 5 prisons LESS than the GOP wanted, and to use the saved funding for a pilot preschool program to be evaluated for the next five years.

 Then the debate really got intense, as it hit on the issue of terrorism and defense.  However, just as the Republican tried to terrify the audience with threats of new terror strikes if he wasn’t elected, someone stood up in the audience and shouted, “Terrorism is a state sponsored myth, manufactured to frighten us into spending our treasures and children for wars of conquest and profit!  When will the lies stop!”  Of course security quickly subdued the maniac with tasers and injected him with PaxEden on the way out.  Poor soul, Alex thought, how misguided people can get.  Even though he disagreed with the Republican on policy issues, the very idea that the war on terror was a myth was a pathetic split from reality.  As the Republican resumed his tirade, Alex snorted, as the ranting candidate insisted that the nation must increase its military spending to 70% of federal spending if we were to remain safe.

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 Of course that was preposterous hyper-boil, and the Democratic candidate said so, insisting that it was fear mongering intended to hyperventilate the public into voting for the Republicans.  She insisted, and rightly so, that anything over 65% of federal spending was over the line.  In fact, she said that once elected, she would employ international diplomacy and within ten years she would strive to lower military spending to as low as 64% of the federal budget, with only 18% on border patrol security.  She envisioned a new dawn when as much as 18% of American tax payer funds would be used for education, health care, and programs of social uplift. 

 Alex was moved greatly.  A tear formed in his eye as his chest swelled with pride, knowing he was so lucky to live in a democracy, unlike those barbaric nations outside our borders where no one was allowed to have differing opinions from one another.  Thank God the wars on terror over the last 25 years, had protected the American way of life.

 Alex reached up and shook a PaxEden capsule from the prescription bottle on the counter, slipping it in his mouth, followed by a sip of coffee to wash it down, just as the gentle alarm went off.  It was time to go to work.

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 Alex slipped into his new PriaCoronado, a state of the art 2025 model, that was getting almost 51 miles per gallon.  It was a leader in fuel efficiency, and Alex was so proud to be a part of the green revolution.  The North American Motor Corporation was a visionary company, who’s symbol was “B.O.” for “Beyond Oil.”  BO had promised in its beautiful commercials that they would raise their fuel efficiency standard to 53 miles per gallon by 2030.   The free market was a model of what the world could be like, if only they’d wake up and embrace American style democracy, Alex realized.  Those darn Iraqi’s, after America had given them almost 25 years of security, still couldn’t seem to imitate the way we do things.  Alex had wanted the war to stop, but of course knew that we needed to maintain troop levels for securing the US embassy, and also for battling Al Qaeda, same thing in Iran and Syria since we invaded.  We had to Al Qaeda was there.  In fact, now we know they are everywhere.

 Alex drove on to work, turning up the radio, just in time to catch a song he really loved.  It was a radical new song that had sent some shock waves through the media.  It was a melancholy song, about a young war veteran who lamented that he could understand invading Iran and Syria, but Lebanon should not have been done.  Alex again teared up.  

 He wasn’t sure if it was the song, or the smoky air today.  The hills had again caught on fire, and the smoke was almost permanent these days.  The news said they were pretty sure Al Qaeda did it.  Alex was just glad that he was driving his PriaCoronado, and that corporate America was moving as rapidly as it could toward lowering CO2 emissions, to stop global warming.  He knew that everything that could be done would be done, once the Democrat was elected to the Presidency.  He even had a bumper sticker for her on his car.  Alex’s heart had beat hard all night long, after the evening he put it on.  You never knew if on the way to work, someone might not approve, and might even make a remark to you.  Alex had been so upset, he’d had to take an extra PaxEden that night, with a glass of wine.  But now, he was proud he’d taken a stand and actually put that bumpersticker on for his candidate.  That was what America was all about.

 When Alex got to work he stood tall and proud, as he walked through the halls of CorporatiaDementia, the company he’d worked for for several years now.  The subtle white lighting and the slightly off white walls and cubicles were so orderly and soothing.  He stopped at the drink nook, and had a cup of hot chocolate to get the day going. 

 While there, he overheard two co-workers who were talking about a radio program they liked by that nasty Republican radio announcer, Dust DimBulb.  The man thought that everyone the police catch should be water boarded before they are read their rights, so that the truth can be obtained before the pansy constitution gets in the way.  However, Alex, with his heart pounding and chocolate filled coffee mug trembling stood his ground.  He asserted, “Well, yes, perhaps that might work.  However, I would suggest that it would be better if we only water-boarded those arrested for suspected terrorism.”

 The two co-workers had sneered at Alex’s naïve idea, but Alex was glad that he had stood his ground.  Darn it.  He was a Democrat and proud of it.  He felt good all day at work that day, before heading home.

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 When Alex got home, he parked in the high security parking garage, and just as he pushed the elevator button, he saw something move off to his left.  Alex became afraid instantly.  But, then the image came at Alex, and he gasped, turning to face it, finding that it was a bounding puppy with large wavy ears with long silky hair hanging from them that flapped like butterfly wings in the air.  The young dog’s eyes danced with excitement at seeing Alex.

 Alex wondered how this animal had managed to get in this building.  The city had strict leash laws, and they were never disobeyed.  Alex looked around to see if anyone was around.  No one was.  His first thought was to call animal control, but then remembered reading that they killed the animals if they weren’t claimed in two days.  This puppy danced up on two hind legs, happily performing for Alex.  There was something fresh about this creature that Alex was magnetized to.  There was something in it that was bold and free, like Alex fancied himself.

 Alex took one quick look around to make sure no one was around, and then took the puppy into the elevator with him, hoping against hope that no one would get on on the way up to his flat.  No one did.  Alex and the puppy scampered into Alex’s apartment.  Eventually Alex got a leash, and the neighbors grew to assume that Alex had acquired his puppy, now known as Chris-Pappy, in the normal way following normal procedures.

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By William E. Douglas, Jr., who is author of "The Amateur Parent -- A Book on Life, Death, War & Peace, and Everything Else in the Universe." Bill has been a guest columnist for the Kansas City Star, The Business Journal, and other media worldwide. (more...)

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