wendell manfred barrett iii was the richest man in the world, and the meanest and nastiest. he hated the whole human race because he felt that it did not properly respect him.
one day wendell made what many people would take to be an improper advance to a young woman named hester hathaway, and hester rebuffed him and laughed in his face and called him a creep.
for wendell, this was the last straw. he decided to avenge himself on the ungrateful human race, which did not appreciate him and which he had heretofore treated with such restraint.
he bought up all the food in the world, and had it dumped into the deepest parts of the indian and pacific oceans.
chaos and famine ensued, all over the world. wendell had a good laugh.
but he had gone too far. his malicious prank accomplished, overnight, what centuries of theorizing snd propagandizing by socialist idealists had failed to do - turned the people of the world against capitalism.
spontaneous uprisings against the world’s capitalist overlords were sparked in the largest cites all over the world and quickly spread to what was left of small towns and the “countryside”.
capitalism was over. the human race reclaimed its natural birthright of peace and cooperation, and the long nightmares of war and oppression and exploitation were over.
many years later, a graduate student named wanda wellington decided to write a paper on wendell manfred barrett iii. she went to the library and did some research.
what she found she surprised her. it turned out that wendell manfred barrett iii had never really existed, and that his exploit of buying all the world’s food and dumping it in the ocean had never happened.
the story had been made up and spread on the media of the time by the people who controlled and administered that media.
credit for the “original story” was generally assigned to “ g r westbrook”, about whom or what no information survived.
but the story had achieved its purpose, and the human race had been living happily ever after ever since.
there was nothing to complain about, even if there had been somebody or something to complain about it to.
wanda, sitting in the sunlight streaming through the window of the library, could not argue otherwise.
today, said ms goodperson, i am going to select one boy and one girl to write a poem. then the class can vote on which of the poems they like best.
ms goodperson had a hat and she pulled two names out of it.
isaac jones, known as “ike”. ike was the class clown. his buddies immediately starting getting on him about having to write a poem. none of them said out loud how gay it was, which they would have if no teacher had been there.
and mamie smith. mamie was a silent girl with no friends. none of the children reacted to her selection.
ike and mamie were given an hour to write their poems.
this was ike’s poem:
roses are red
violets are blue
the devil is evil
and the government is too
they found me in the woods
and they put me in school
but i already knew
i was a natural fool
i don’t know much
but i know this
when i wake up at night
i know what i miss
i am only a bear
through the woods i creep
i find a good cave
and i get a good sleep
all the children, but especially ike’s crew, laughed and applauded when ike finished his poem.
next mamie read her poem.
life is a hill
people try to climb the hill
the hill of goodness
but they keep falling back
into the mud of badness
the mud of greed
the mud of meanness
the mud of hatred
the sun looks down from the sky
the clouds float across the sky
birds fly across the sky
people keep climbing the hill
and falling back in the mud
the sun says nothing
the clouds say nothing
the birds say nothing
but the worms tell the people to keep climbing
and ants tell the people to keep climbing
and lizards tell the people to keep climbing
look, they say, we can climb trees
so you can climb the hill if you keep trying
so i, the poet, like the worms and the ants and the beetles, say to people
and some day you will say to the sun
and to the clouds and the birds
and they will thank you
and say thank you
some of the girls clapped politely when mamie finished. that was very nice, mamie, ms goodperson said. now we will vote on which poem was best.
all ten boys in the class, and four of the eleven girls, voted for ike’s poem.
the other seven girls voted for mamie’s poem.
when mamie’s mother came home that night, she said, you look sad tonight.
mamie explained what had happened and how she had lost the poetry contest to ike.
that’s too bad, honey, mamie’s mother said. i will make you your favorite dinner, rice a roni with pea pods, maybe that will cheer you up.
thanks mom, mamie said.
when mamie went to bed that night, she thought she might dream about her poem and the hill in it, but she did not.
she dreamed about something completely different, but could not remember what.
jane’s parents gave her a little dog for her eighth birthday.
jane wanted to name the dog daisy, but jane’s father took his pipe out of his mouth and said,
that is the most common name for a female dog. surely, jane, you want to name her something a bit more original.
so jane named the little dog doozy.
two years later, jane’s mother divorced jane’s father. jane’s father did not contest jane’s mother’s custody of jane.
jane and her mother now lived in a smaller house on a narrower, busier street. doozy no longer had a
big yard to run around in. there was a small yard behind the small house but doozy could sometimes jump or climb over its low fence and run and play with other dogs on the sidewalk in front of the house.
one day when jane was in school, doozy was run over and killed by a speeding ambulance, which was rushing to attend to a woman who had had a heart attack, the result of eating too many cheeseburgers and too many hot dogs with spicy mustard.
jane cried when she came home from school and heard the news.
jane’s mother tried to console her. doozy is in dog heaven now, she told jane.
jane dried her eyes. no, mother, she said, doozy is not in dog heaven or any other kind of heaven, any more than you or i are. but i swear to you that from this day forward i will dedicate myself to creating a better world in which dogs and cats and women and children are no longer treated as second class creatures, and in which giant corporations can no longer exploit people by foisting unhealthy eating habits on them.
jane was true to her word. when she left school she took a job at a non-profit organization that worked to improve the lives of both domestic and wild animals worldwide. she never married or had children and worked for the organization for forty years, in offices all over the world.
when jane retired, some of her colleagues gave her a nice lunch, and gave her a little brass statuette of doozy, whose fate jane had on occasion mentioned to them.
the statue did not look at all like doozy, but jane did not point that out.
there were only two students in the class that day - romeo and juliet.
here is your assignment for today, miss anthony told them.
write a story between 300 and 600 words long, about a child whose dog is struck and killed by a speeding ambulance.
romeo wrote this story:
as the sound of the ambulance’s siren receded down the street, billy joe looked down at the mangled body of his best friend champ.
i swear to you, champ, he said, i will get the son of a bitch who did this, if i have to search the whole world over.
a plan was already forming in billy joe’s mind.
the next morning he skipped school and went down to the police station.
a uniformed lady policeperson was seated at the front desk and asked billy joe how she could help him.
billy joe had his story ready. he explained that he was working on a project for school and that on the previous day he had seen an ambulance speeding by and was impressed by the skill with which the driver had handled the vehicle while traveling at such a speed to aid a person in need, and that he wanted to interview the driver and write a story about him or her.
you could interview any ambulance driver for such a story, the police lady said.
but i want to interview this one, billy said.
are you sure it was a police ambulance?
um - i think it was.
and it was at what time? and where?
around four o’clock. i was walking home from school. it was at washington and chestnut streets.
all right, let me check.
billy waited while she scrolled down a monitor in her desk.
there is nothing here for an ambulance that time. at all.
you sure you don’t want any ambulance driver?
no, i want the one i saw.
it was probably from the ambulance service. delta ambulance.
where are they?
first and main.
thank you . i will try there.
billy left the station. he thought he felt the officer’s mildly curious gaze on his back, but he did not turn around.
at the front desk of delta ambulance, a blonde lady in a driver’s uniform of white shirt and black string tie listened to billy joe’s story with a look of mild annoyance.
i don’t think that sounds like a very good idea. i don’t think i have the authority to authorize that. how old are you, anyway? shouldn’t you be in school?
wouldn’t it be good publicity? billy joe answered her questions with a question.
the woman sighed. i could call the manager.
billy joe panicked inside. he imagined the manager as weighing three hundred pounds with a big black mustache and asking all sorts of questions he could not answer.
no, don’t bother. billy joe told the woman.
he went back outside. the sun was shining. his eyes filled with tears.
i’m sorry, champ, he mumbled. i’m sorry, old buddy. i guess i just didn’t have it in me.
with his head down, billy joe stepped off the sidewalk into the street and into the path of an onrushing bus.
the bus struck him and hurled him twenty-five feet.
he died almost instantly. the last thing he saw was the face of champ in the sky.
i’ll get them for this, billy, champ said. i will track them down through a thousand hells and galaxies… down a thousand dark streets...if it takes forever…