Monday, September 1, 2036
The Boy Saves the Day
The power went down right on schedule. It wasn’t long before people began streaming into the assembly area, lighting the way with wind-up flashlights, grumbling among themselves. As most of the people streamed in, Slim slipped up onto the stage. He flipped on a bullhorn and started haranguing the crowd:
“Fellow citizens! I stand before you tonight to speak of injustice!
“Through no fault of your own, you were forced out of your homes. Sure, the government told you that they would resettle you — but is this what you were promised? Life cramped in a tiny trailer, pathways that turn to mud in the rain — and the unearned hatred of those who still have their homes?
“This is no regular power outage, my friends: it was cut off! And who do you think cut it off? The so-called ‘good citizens’ of Suffolk! They have resented your presence outside their comfortable little town, reminding them that there are American people out here, even if they have no intent to welcome you onto their streets, let alone their homes!” He paused to let the crowd murmur and growl a little.
“You’ve heard the stories. Some of you have lived them. If you walk into town — the glares, the stares, the rudeness from people who are supposed to be serving you?” More growling.
“So why do you think they cut off the power? It’s likely that their little citizens’ militia is on the way right now to sow terror and blood, when all any of us ever wanted was a home!
“Are you going to stand for this?”
The crowd bellowed No! — and that’s when The Boy stood up on the stage overhang, flipped the switch on his amp, cranked the volume to 11, and hit a power chord — “just to get their attention,” he laughed. “You shoulda seen Slim jump; I thought he was gonna land up on the roof with us!”
He followed the attention-getter with an old familiar riff and a primal scream — the opening bars to the Beatles’ “Revolution.” Cal, one of the chautauqua drummers and The Boy’s best friend in the troupe, came in right on cue, and they started singing the old classic. Slim tried to recover, shouting into his bullhorn, but the old amp was more than adequate to drown him out. Then The Boy hit the break chord, pointed straight at Slim, and sang: But when you talk about destruction / Don’t you know that you can count me out! The crowd laughed and cheered — at this point, it was obvious to them that Slim was just the warm-up act for the real performance. “On the last verse,” he said, “I changed ‘Chairman Mao’ to ‘General K’ just so they could relate.” General Kimbrell, of course, was the front guy for the junta. Probably a good choice on The Boy’s part.
As for Slim, he threw the bullhorn at The Boy — it never reached the roof — and bolted off the back of the stage. Cops from town and the camp security people were waiting for him on the ground and grabbed him. One of them said they almost caught him out of the air.
The lights came back on just as he finished the opening number, and the cheers redoubled. But The Boy was just getting started — there was no way he was going to pass up this chance. He played for two hours straight, stopping only to drain a water bottle from time to time, working his way forward from the 1960s up to Minima Metal from the 2020s. Fans of each genre took to the stage and danced until he moved on to the next decade. At last, he finished up with a few tracks from “Optout Beach,” which is somewhat popular in the camp (and I suspect will be more popular now).
The interesting part this morning was the dueling headlines on the news sites, things like: “Riot in Suffolk Camp Spotlights Refugee Program Flaws” followed by “Chautauqua Performers Defuse Tense Situation with Music” and “Bomb Squad Saves Power Station.” Dozens — maybe hundreds — of op-ed pieces about a riot that never happened flooded the news sites, written ahead of time, targeted toward townie and refugee alike. Most of them have been pulled, but the Fibbies are already investigating the posters. It seems that Slim was part of a coordinated plan (the word “plot” or even “conspiracy” isn’t too strong here either) to provoke a riot then exploit it to further divide townie from refugee. It might not even be paranoid to consider the possibility that the rumors from both sides were part of this. But the West Coast is starting to have problems now, and there are a few million people just in the US who will be displaced before it’s over — the chaos abroad is at least as bad, and don’t even talk about the Charlie Foxtrot that Bangladesh is becoming even before the flooding starts. Like I’ve said before, it’s really a shame that more people aren’t opening their homes. John’s Creek was a welcome exception, but they took all they could and it was just a drop in the bucket.
Too bad The Boy never got into Crosby Stills and Nash. They did a great song back when, “It Won’t Go Away,” that spoke exactly to this situation: Somebody wants us divided / Someone of evil intent. But he got the job done. At least I was able to talk to him today; he took a little time in between newshound interviews to let me know what was going on.