The clock in Mrs. Cassock’s living room struck the half hour. It was just after breakfast and nearly everyone had arrived, happy and well fed. They were delighted to hear the news about what Mrs. Cassock, better known in the Women’s Social Group as Betty, had done during her trip to Atlanta and more importantly who it was with. The only person who had not yet shown up was Ruby Geish. Everyone knew when and where Mrs. Reverie’s husband—who was the local priest of Colquitt, Georgia—went with someone. Mrs. Cassock paced back and forth nervously. “ Calm down Betty.” Ms. Dewey, a mousy little woman, assured her. “I am sure that Ruby will show soon. She would not dare miss your tale.” “Yes,” agreed Mts. Smurthwait, a rather squat woman with aristocratic features, “I am sure none of us—would miss this for the world.” Her quip was mean spirited as usual but she had said it in a casual manner. “Now Judith,” Betty stopped and looked out her front window while speaking, “I am sure I do not know what you refer to there. Ruby ought to get here soon though.” She said indignantly. “I am sure you do.” Was all Mrs. Smurthwait said, ignoring the other women as she sipped from a cup of tea. Finally Ruby came walking down the road. She was dressed I her usual red, a trademark of hers, and when she entered the house she greeted everyone with a friendly, but winded hello. “I am sorry I am late,” Ruby puffed, “I had to find someone to watch Lillian.” “Oh yes.” bellowed Ms. Dewey followed by another jibe from Mrs. Smurthwait. “Mm the patented baby-sitter routine. That is not the only thing tried and true.” “No,” Ruby protested, “I REALLY am sorry that I am late.” “Well then please be quiet and sit down. I would like to begin,” Mrs. Cassock exclaimed. Ruby sat down and smoothed her skirt. Then Mrs. Cassock began her narration as she handed Ruby a cup of tea. “As you know I went to Atlanta last week to take in some of the local culture.” “That isn’t the only thing she took in.” Mrs. Smurthwait said in a biting undertone. The other women gave her a quick and uneasy stare, then they looked back at Mrs. Cassock. She seemed unperturbed and had already dug her hand into her purse to produce a pair of knitting needles and some yarn. “While we were there, something astonishing happened. Our priest, Father Reverie, had brought us there to show that he was interested in our government’s politics. There were two men running for congress. One was a socialist, waving the banner of our brethren. The other was a complete nut.” “What qualifies him as a—“ Ruby attempted to interrupt but was promptly cut off by the other women as they hissed a shushing sound. Mrs. Cassock had not stopped her narration while the women quieted Ruby so Ms. Dewey stopped Mrs. Cassock. “Sorry betty, but we did not hear the second part. Could you say it again?” “Yes. What? Oh, alright. What was said was that the second man running for congress, we shall name him John, wanted to free the market. The other man, whose name is also Dewey--like that of our dear Joan—is the man whom we thought the better. He is for the current system of economics. They were having a debate on this. Mr. Dewey was saying—let me try and recreate his tone here—allowing the market to run wild and willy-nilly would invariably result in the spreading of market corruption. Here he said ‘In the former way of government, if a farmer was in debt all he could do was whine to those who have money, asking them to borrow against the property he owns. The men who had money would see this as a way to take the land from under him and collect more money. They would continually allow him to borrow more and more money all the while increasing their interest rates and service fees until the farmer went bankrupt. Then they would take his land from under him and rent it back to him as a subsidizy.’ But in the current system the government shares all property already and everyone is equally provided for. This way there is rarely need for money to be loaned.” Here Ms. Dewey chimed “Leverage taxation.” This confused almost everyone but Mrs. Cassock. All she could do was nod in admission. Before the conversational topic continued Ms. Dewey said something rather unlike her. “What was the Father’s interest in the debate?” “Apparently, if the government allowed free market, then John was going to run a bill through congress that taxed the land owners of property that had previously been tax exempt.” “That’s illegal!” Ruby roared as she leapt out of her chair. “What proof do you have of this?” Mrs. Cassock was calm and had anticipated Ruby’s passionate response. It was well know that Ruby was passionate about some issues. Mrs. Cassock was reaching into her purse and produced a pamphlet explaining the bill. “Calm down Ruby, here is all the proof.” Ruby snatched the pamphlet from Mrs. Cassock. Then Mrs. Cassock went on knitting her unfinished scarf. “Remarkable! I can’t believe it. Why would we allow this smut?” She crumpled the paper in her fist and then paced up a storm. Ms. Dewey quietly stood up and went to hold Ruby. “There, there dear. We are all concerned for the commonwealth.” Ms Dewey raised her hand in a gesture intending to hug Ruby but she was easily brushed off. The hurt in her eyes was palpable but the real shock to the whole group came a moment later. “It is not the information that is unbelievable, but that someone would believe socialism works.” “Look girls, she is being funny,” Mrs. Smurthwait said glibly. She had not put her tea down for one moment. “No Judith. What I just said was not funny.” All the women gasped as Ruby put the emphasis on the word I. “I have been living in this nation a long time and I have seen it go from a capitalist panther to a slow moving behemoth. I know that Jack London said that capitalism was doomed to destroy itself but socialism is nowhere near the better.” “You mean,” said Mrs. Smurthwait, “that you don’t believe in our societal creed? I am sure there is something in it you will not object to. Not entirely.” She said drolly. Then Mrs. Cassock interrupted her knitting to add a thought into the stew pragmatically. “Every social problem common in developed societies—reduced life expectancy, child mortality, drugs, crime, homicide rates, mental illness—has a single root cause: Inequality. It used to be that social problems operated with a revolving door. We were rife with the disease of inequality. A woman used to make a wage less than that of a man for the same job. In states where income differentials were greatest, so were the social problems and lack of cohesion. Psycho-social areas of hierarchy and status had to be the answer. The greater the differential between the haves and have nots, the greater importance everyone places on the material aspects of consumption.” “That is quite true. Why, I read in some history books that material wealth was genetic.” Ms. Dewey shrilled in an almost singing voice. Ruby looked at her with minute interest. “You think that those books were being honest? How cute.” “But is it not true,” spiked Mrs. Smurthwait, “that family inheritances, especially financial resources, were the primary means of passing class and race advantages and disadvantages from one generation to another?” “Yes.” stated Ruby. She closed her eyes a moment to think. “Then,” continued Mrs. Smurthwait, “Surely you think that reflected negatively on the old social class system. More than nine tenths of white parents held assets compared to less than two thirds of the Negro persuasion. In fact—“she drawled to remember a point meant to end the debate. “On an individual level, cultural capital was often the kind of informal knowledge that signaled one class from another. And the kinds of codes and nuances that one might have expected to learn was usually pooled in where wealth was highest.” “And why shouldn’t it? We used to take pride in our accomplishments.” “We marked them in monetary terms!” slammed Mrs. Smurthwait. “And those who had the money set the rules in their favor.” dinged Ms. Dewey. It seemed as if socialism was winning the argument. “Ok. I admit there were problems in the capitalist way. But there are problems here too.” Ruby said nearly exhausted. “Please, enlighten us.” said Mrs. Smurthwait sarcastically. “There is a reason why I do not believe in socialism. That is because it is a lie. Our society is built around the social problems of the past. We are socialist as a nation, governed by the People’s Brotherhood to protect the interest of the whole. Our government is socialist, seeking the care of it. It cradles us and nurses us. We are supposed to feel safe in its embrace. But the great leviathan which has coiled around us like a noose is only waiting. It waits and waits until we have become listless and tired, drained of our very wits and strength. It feeds us to fatten us and works us hard that our muscles may be molded into the perfect morsel. But we have never suffered or burdened ourselves with experience, so when the time comes to struggle out of its clutches we will be helpless out of confusion. And then we shall be swallowed whole. In other words we are only as safe as a canary before a house cat.” “Why should we need to toil and slave to make a living? We have lived well for years, with always enough to eat,” said Ms. Dewey alarmed. “You are right Joan. I am comfortable where I am,” replied Mrs. Smurthwait. “And you are lazy for it. Not physically but you are mentally lazy. Not more than twenty years ago the average American had to work very hard to achieve. They took nothing for granted but wanted what they could get and then some. They did not simply produce for the sake of production. They produced to earn, to make something they were proud of. They had to for survival.” “But at that primitive time there were no government structures to provide adequate jobs, wages or health care,” Said Ms. Dewey. “Indeed you have stumbled on the very point I was to make. Life then was as different from now as day is to night. And adequate, it was a matter of perspective. With no guarantee, getting a wage was stiff from competition. One man would work himself harder to produce better, faster, nicer products than the competition. We of the socialist party, everything is handed to us on a silver plate. I cannot say that I have ever tried anything. Sure I work. I make a living to bring home for my family. I am not happy though. In truth socialism is nothing.” “It’s something.” Mrs. Cassock pointed out feebly. “It can’t be nothing.” “Its nothing but a band aid on the gaping hole in society.” Ruby looked down glumly as if she had come to her point. “That cant be,” whined Mrs. Cassock, “we are free to live here and own things. Aren’t we?” “No. There is a saying that used to go…give us a happy ending and we will write a new one. This new ending, being written by the government, is called fear. It has always been fear that the government writes. Would you not say the government’s ads run on television were not effective? If so then you perjure yourself here, today. For every one of you is a pundit singing the praises of social reform—breaking the danger of illness, safety and even something basic like housing. Not one of us really, and I mean whole market value, owns a house deed. Much less any appliance. It’s all government property. But I am getting away from my point here. Let us look, girls, at the true arguments. First and foremost we should identify what a socialist government is and then say what it does and doesn’t do. Socialism is the principle that the interests of the community should prevail over the interests of the individuals; with any various plans for the greater public control of property, business and industry. In a country run by a government that is socialist the government runs all aspects of the society for the best interest of the whole.” “Yes, we know all this. Get to—“ Mrs. Cassock was annoyed. “Hold on Betty, I am getting there. Anyone who supports socialism is a socialist. As we all know the government shells out money to each and every person to fulfill basic needs: food, shelter, clothing and activity. But this comes at a price most of us deemed reasonable. When we had a capitalist society we had taxes that were varied and they fluctuated year by year. Now because we all must make the same wage in socialism our taxes have permanently increased ten fold. In addition to this every aspect of our jobs is monitored by the government. But at the same time there is no choice to what career we take, there is a lower standard of production and as a result there is no incentive to really strive for quality.” “Why don’t you address one at a time.” Asked Ms. Dewey in a sweet note, but she was then rivaled by Mrs. Cassock. “I don’t want to hear about this. Its absolute gutter trash.” “No please, I think I can explain to you what I mean. Besides you haven’t really made an argument for socialism.” “Fine,” Ruby could see that Mrs. Cassock was on the edge of her seat ready to make a phone call. “January third of last year, you all remember a man in the papers named Elzra Jones. He had been put out of society because he did not want to work as a physicist anymore…or rather he was not any good at it. Because he had worked so long at working for the state as a physicist, he could not be put anywhere else. That would imply the state had made a mistake. So they simply sent him away.” “Oh, sweet release,” cooed Ms. Dewey. “Not sweet. It was rather bitter. I had taken the time to do some research into what happened to him. He was not released peacefully. He was executed. Your husband, Betty, told me himself.” “I am sure he had reason not to print that,” she said bitterly. “We have no real freedom. It is an illusion to keep us still and complacent. I remember as a high school student there was another phrase that said something like ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’ but what the motto of our government is? The people’s needs are our needs. This year a few months ago, there was a young man I had known growing up. He was going in for his first career assessment and titling. When they gave him street sweeper he nearly began to cry because he had wanted to be a historian. When he protested—“ Ruby trailed off not wanting to recount what everyone had already thought of. The incident had still been fresh in the head lines for several months. LOCAL BOY HAS ACCIDENT IN TITLE CEREMONY. He had turned to leave the stage and address the commission board when a stage light fell on him, killing him instantly. “All he wanted was to be a historian but no. He had to be a sweeper or else.” “Well…” Ms. Dewey who had seen the incident close at hand was nearly crying as she tried to justify the accident. “Well, well--” “Well what?” Asked Ruby. “Ruby has made the baby cry,” Mrs. Smurthwait said emphatically. Ms. Dewey was now fully sobbing and could not look at Ruby. Mrs. Smurthwait had stopped listening and was looking unenthusiastically at the bottom of her tea cup. Mrs. Cassock though had listened to the full argument and had just picked up the phone. She dialed a few numbers and then placed the phone back down on the receiver. “Listen Ruby,” she said sweetly, “I can tell that you have been too excited and are not well. I have called someone to help you. They will come and take you to a friend of my husband’s.” “I’m not insane.” She said aloud. “Of course not. But you are not seeing things clearly either. Trust me this is for the best.” At that moment a knock came on the door and someone let a man in a white business suite come in. “Over here sir. Please take care of Ruby. She means so much to us. Doesn’t she girls?” Nobody answered the question. So the man took Ruby by the shoulders. She jerked back and tried to run around him but he grabbed her by the waist. “Let go of me. I am not crazy!” “Of course not dear,” echoed Mrs. Cassock. They repeated this a few times until Ruby was well outside. The door to Mrs. Cassock’s house closed and she was seated in the rear of a van. Then the long drive came. She began to doze, there in her red dress. Her hat had fallen off in all the commotion. When they came to a stop she was released from the van and she burst out thinking, groggily, that she had to escape. But there was no strait jacket. No one forced her to see anyone, and yet as she looked around she saw that she could not really escape the walls of the institution. They were ten feet high and covered in barbed wire. She turned from the walls and entered the building. The building was wall to wall modern art, which surprised her. When she entered a doctor’s office she sat in a chair waiting for some kind of lengthy examination. She expected some bald headed man with glasses to enter, itching to take advantage of his patients. A long time passed and she walked around the room marveling at the decor. On the desk was a picture of a young woman and a small child. She picked it up and looked at it. Who would take care of her daughter now? Certainly not her husband she thought ruefully. All he could do was drink him to death. The door opened abruptly behind her and she jumped up, dropping the picture frame. It shattered a bit but remained in tact. It was built before the modern government. She looked up to see the man she had been expecting but instead it was a woman. She was tall, lithe and had golden shoulder length hair. She held a notebook in her hand. Her name tag read Dr. Cassidy Rivers. “I see. The new patient.” She said in a pleasant and patient tone. “Let’s begin.” Dr. Rivers walked by and picked up the broken frame then took a seat in her chair behind the desk. Behind her was a large glass window. Ruby took a seat. “Why were you sent here?” She took a deep breath and then began to tell the story, all the mean while Dr. Rivers took no notes. She only smiled as she rested her elbows on her desk and her head on her folded fingers. When Ruby finished her story Dr. Rivers laughed. “My friend,” she said wistfully, “you are no more insane than I.” Then Dr. Rivers signed and handed Ruby a few papers and relocated her to the underground movement.