Sweet 'N Low

The economy needs stimulation. "I will do it," Anne says, and she disappears in the bedroom. We watch on the webcam. Her technique is good, admirable even, but the economy is not satisfied. Anne leaves looking worse for the wear, and the stock market plummets.

Richard says, "That would have worked for me... did you see those hands?" We don't know what to do. The economy is listless as ever. "Maybe someone younger?" George ask. Ah, that is a good idea. Richard sends for his daughter, Lynn, but she won't cooperate. So he sits her down.

"Lynn, baby, darling, it is just like saying the Pledge of Allegiance. You like that feeling, don't you? When your heart gets so proud? It is just like that. Your civic duty. Go on and make the economy feel better."

But she still refuses. I try to remember what I was like at that age, but it is like pushing on a door that says PULL TO OPEN. So he sends for some men, and they take her, kicking and screaming to the bedroom.

"I don't want to watch," says Richard, who does not leave. The webcam has night vision so everything looks incandescent and green, as if it were happening on some alien place like Mars, and not in the bedroom. It is a little heart-breaking. At first the economy is disinterested, and keeps his eyes unwavering from the TV screen. Then Lynn must make a noise and startles him -- we can't hear anything -- because abruptly he looks at her and there is a flicker of something on his face we haven't seen for a long while. The economy gets up and moves toward her.

"It's working!"

Not surprisingly, there are complaints. A phone call from the Church -- yes, they are watching the broadcast and they've seen enough. George says, "I'll handle this," and tries Richard's Pledge of Allegiance speech. "Idiot," hisses Richard, "can't he try a novel solution for once?" George comes back waving the phone at us, looking a little frantic. "They say we're going to burn for this unless we stop it now!" Meanwhile the economy, which had been going strong, is starting to look like he needs a little boost.

I decide to give it a try, and take the phone from George. I ask, what's the problem.

"The problem, sir, is that there larger, ethical issues at stake here. You and your group are clearly not thinking about the majority of citizens who have come to association a certain style of conduct with our organization, and this broadcast will likely confuse them into thinking we are responsible for it."

I see, so it is a trademark issue.

"Indeed, sir, a trademark issue. This is about protecting the citizens of this country from any action unintentional or otherwise which will impair their ability to navigate the marketplace."

Forgive the analogy, but when a citizen reaches for a small pink packet of artificial sweetener, he expects Sweet 'N Low.

"Exactly, sir, exactly."

I realize I know what must be done, and am pleasantly surprised to realize that without guile or planning, I am in a position to please the Church and advance our cause. Perhaps I will be an important man after all.

Everyone is watching the screen and the mood is grim. Make way! I shout. "What are you doing, are you crazy?" George asks. I look at him, turn, and open the bedroom door.

At first it is strange to see the room in its natural color. Without the green tint, I realize that it could be any bedroom at all, really; in fact, it looks familiar, maybe from a long time ago, maybe even one I've slept in. I can't remember. The economy has his back turned to us, Lynn is crumpled by the door-frame, making small noises. The economy is weeping angrily. "I will be never been good enough." Very quickly, in one continuous motion, I pull the plastic off the tip off the syringe and jab it into the economy's left upper thigh.

He screams.

I have heard it said by scientists that there are two kinds of infinity -- the one the universe expands towards, and the one that comes after the collapse. I look into his eyes and am knocked back into myself as the door I was pushing on swings open. I was much younger. I felt my cheeks hot with tears and an awful burning in my chest as my father, God rest his soul, gently lifted me off the floor and said, "Don't cry, my boy, my son. It is just pride you're feeling in your heart. You did your duty, and now you can go through the rest of your life knowing you made this country better for all of us."

And as the economy rebounds with great vigor, I suddenly feel a hunger in my gut and wonder ow it could ever be satisfied.

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