On the battlefront, and living large
When the first bursts rang out, Poppa gathered us inside the villa and drew the curtains shut on all the picture windows, front and back. Creases of worry furrowed his forehead, and his mouth, so happy and warm in normal times, made a tight, pinched line across his gentle face.
This is serious, we all thought to ourselves. When he asked Carlita to turn off the flat screens and take the rest of the day off, we began to understand just how serious.
“It’s warfare,” Poppa announced, his tired eyes scanning the faces of his beloved family.
“And it’s the worst kind of warfare,” Poppa continued. “Class warfare.”
Momma gasped, and brought a fluttery handkerchief to her cheek. The rest of us were silent but no less troubled. We had heard of this “class warfare” before; it was something the tutors had mentioned on occasion, and always with a tone of voice that stopped just short of horror. If ever we considered pressing for more details, the expression on their faces made it clear that certain topics were not to be discussed in polite company.
We were left with our questions, then, and a vague foreboding. Now our fears were being realized, and words Poppa would have preferred to leave unsaid needed to be uttered.
“Get the Lexus into the garage,” Poppa whispered. “The Jaguar, too.” We did as we were told, then rejoined the others.
This was all the president’s doing, Poppa explained. The president had launched an attack—a completely unprovoked attack, Poppa insisted—on the most important and the most productive members of our community. Of any community.
“He is setting us one against another!” cried Poppa. “He is telling the rest that we”—and he pointed all around the room—“should pay higher taxes! He is fomenting”—and here he paused, carefully considering his words—“He is fomenting envy!”
Momma fell to the floor in a silken heap. Marguerite and Wainscott IV rushed to her side.
“There are flames, Poppa,” I reported. “In the direction of town, I saw flames.”
Poppa nodded slowly, taking in this new information. Then he spoke, gravely.
“It’s just as I feared,” he said. “They are setting Pink-Slip Bonfires.”
“They’re burning their layoff notices to heat their homes and fuel their anger. We must take care that they don’t come any closer, or litter our lawns with their paper plates and empty medicine bottles, or rattle their walkers against our gates.”
“Would they really do that?” asked Lizbeth. (Sweet, innocent Lizbeth!)
“In times like these,” said Poppa, “people are capable of anything.”
“But why, Poppa?” asked Lizbeth. “Why aren’t they more grateful?”
“They are being manipulated, sweet child,” Poppa replied, with the hint of a rueful smile. “The president has convinced the rest that we are not paying our fair share. That we should be punished for building a good life for ourselves. That millionaires should pay the same tax rates that miners do!”
“Absurd!” we all cried. “Sheer foolishness!”
“There is no reasoning with desperate people,” said Poppa. “They need to be pounded. They need to be turned back before their poisonous message of jealousy infects the entire nation.”
Poppa looked once more around the room. If this was class warfare, he was ready to issue his first wartime order.
“Drain the swimming pool.”
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.