December 14, 2012 Fiction







Fiction for the end of 2012 is all about Christmas  toffee, First Communion, Buddha and Economic problems from the imaginations of James Claffey, Karen Taylor, Paul Chappell and Dave Clark.



Feudalism is Buddha’s Way



Paul Chappell


We knew something was wrong but we didn’t quite know what it was. It had to do with rich people, of that much we were sure. The only way they could have become rich was by taking what was ours. If the rich were less rich, we would have more. If the rich were made poor, we would become rich ourselves. We didn’t know by what mechanism this would come about but the logic seemed watertight. Irrefutable.


“There’s only so much money in the world,” Jacko explained, “so if the rich have less of it, everyone else will have more. Stands ter reason.”


“How would we get it?” I asked cautiously, not wanting to show my ignorance. None of us did a stroke of work, apart from Mick, who occasionally sold a bit of hash behind the Lion and Waistcoat. “Would they, like, increase our benefits?”


“Communism,” said Jacko confidently.


“What, like communist Russia? Where there wasn’t no food in the shops?”


That was from Sunshine. I was glad I wasn’t alone in my confusion. I felt sorry for Jacko, he was used to more sophisticated company. We should have been supplying phrases about ownership of the means of production for him to riff off, not embarrassing the poor guy by asking what he actually meant.


“Not that sort of communism. There will be a new world order, see? We’ll have a new type of communism called – um – feudalism.”


Our blank expressions told him he’d scored with that one: none of us had the faintest idea what feudalism was. But if it gave us a few quid extra on our giros I was all for it. I was about to ask whether you could vote for it when Mick went and spoiled the mood.


“Why don’t they just print more money? I mean, if there isn’t enough to go round, why not print more? And give it to the poor?”


“They’d never do that,” said Jacko pityingly. “They know very well that the poor would rise up and … and … and take over.”


I had a mental vision of the poor popping out of their chimneys and rising up into the sky like hot air balloons, spilling their pearly wisdom from on high, which I enjoyed for a few seconds before:


“But they wouldn’t be poor any more,” protested Mick. “It would just be the rich taking over from the other rich.”


“Exactly,” said Jacko which, although it didn’t explain anything, at least shut Mick up. You can’t argue with someone who’s just agreed with you. Now maybe we could get back to some grown-up talk about long words like frugalism.


“This frugalism…”


“Feudalism,” he corrected.


“This feudalism…er, how will we get it?”


“The masses will rise up and demand it.”


There seemed to be a lot of rising up involved in radical politics. I didn’t know anybody who rose up before mid-day, and only then to be first to scavenge any chips and curry sauce left over from last night. I looked around the pub to see if I could locate the masses. There was Jim the farm labourer: he might rise up quite early but, I suspected, not to demand frugalism, just to get to work on time. The couple by the window seemed too interested in each other to have much time for politics. Maybe the masses drank at the Ferret.


“I can’t wait,” said Sunshine.


Jacko seemed surprised at such enthusiastic support from that quarter. He smiled at her.


“For next weekend,” she added. “Psychic Arts Fair,” she explained.


Sunshine was laying out cards from her tarot pack. I’ve admired her spiritual growth ever since she assured me it wasn’t something she should see a doctor about. She took her own tarot reading several times a day and must have had every possible combination by now. Imagine that: all possible things will happen to Sunshine! As yet they haven’t started unless her readings tell her to keep doing the same things every day.


Mick was at the bar getting some more drinks in. He’d taken his glass and mine. I was still wondering where the masses were to be found. Jacko, realising he was getting neither an audience nor a drink, rose up from his seat. I watched to see how it was done.


“Peace, comrades,” he said.


“Peace on you too,” I replied. Sunshine giggled. Jacko left.


Jim dropped by our table on his way out. “You should watch that guy,” he said. “He pissed on my garden shed. Said it was a political act. Something for the people. If pissing is a political act, I’ve – ” he groped for an appropriate metaphor ” – just had a good one,” he finished. “G’night.”


As Mick put my drink in front of me I wondered how many Rolls Royces it would take to make up for a night down the pub with your friends, a deep political discussion, and chips and curry sauce to follow.


“Poor sods,” I said. Mick looked at me quizzically. “The rich. Still, I suppose they deserve it. No frugalism between the lot of them.”

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  1. Quirina December 16, at 09:24

    Beautiful prose, James, and as always the reader sinks sensationally into the setting. And the last line, so compact with the richness of freedom.

  2. Stephen Ramey December 16, at 03:50

    "a terrifying magnificence"... one of many sharply observed moments here. There is such intensity in this, almost a sense of the fantastic, and yet it's ultimately real and true. Wonderful work. Thanks for publishing it.


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