Kreative Kue 309 asked for submissions based on this photograph:
“Ladies and gentlemen, if I could have your attention.”
Oh no. Another speech.
“I promise this won’t take long.”
Yeah, like an afternoon.
“On this special day, I just want to make a few comments.”
Special in his mind. It’s just a damn picnic with baloney sandwiches and no beer
“You all know how much I admire and respect each one of you.”
Uh-oh. Here it comes.
“I want to take this time to thank you for your hard work and dedication.”
When they thank us, they have screwed us.
“So it gives me great pleasure to announce that my son Boris will be joining the company.”
Oh, good, another family member to train.
“Boris will be taking over the position of President and Chief Operating Officer.”
At least he can’t do any harm there.
“I hope you’ll all give Boris your support and help.”
Sure will, boss. Hey Boris, I would love to help you out. Which way did you come in? Heh, heh.
“Let’s continue on with the picnic, and here’s to a better tomorrow.”
“Oh, do we get the day off tomorrow?”
“Who said that?”
Shit, was that my out-loud voice?
The words were loud and unexpected in the city square. The words surprised me, and everyone else sitting at tables in the cafes seemed surprised, too. We looked around to find the source of the words.
“I repeat, get up and form a line on the south side of the square.”
A few people spotted him first. As they said, “Over there,” other people turned to the speakers of those words, and then to where their attention was focused.
A man in a gray suit and tie and fedora stood by the fountain at the square’s center. He held a microphone that was plugged into a speaker on the stone ground.
“We will begin inquires shortly,” the man said. “They will proceed more quickly if you are organized about it.”
Ridiculous. Because the man wore a suit and tie and fedora, we were supposed to follow his instructions? Must’ve been a prank or street theater — something like that. Around me, people muttered, asked each other what was going on.
“I haven’t made myself clear,” the man said. “This is not voluntary. A new government program has begun. We are questioning citizens to ensure only true patriots live in the country. Anyone with anti-government views will be sent to a special school, where they can learn how to become true patriots.”
Even more ridiculous. This had to be fake. A film school student was completing an assignment. Any moment, he or she would appear next to guy holding a videocamera. All part of some strange art film.
Soldiers marched from the south entrance to the city square. I didn’t recognize their gray uniforms — they weren’t dressed like the soldiers I had seen on the news. Nor were they dressed like police officers I had seen. Their automatic rifles could’ve been movie props. I don’t know.
People buzzed around me, their repeated asking what was going on grew more worried, frantic. Panicked with some.
Men and women in gray suits entered the square from the north entrance. They carried desks and chairs, which they set down and arranged in a row.
The original man in the suit said, “Anyone who does not comply will be sent to the special school. They will be taught how to follow instructions and how to become a true patriot.”
A few people stood and walked to the south side of the square. That was all it took. More and more people got up from their chairs and joined them. Me among them. All of us formed a line, a quiet line, and watched the soldiers who watched us.
My effort was:
“Mister Mayor. The townspeople are expecting a speech.“
“A speech? What for? Look around you. It’s a lovely day. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the crickets are chirruping in the fields; everything is beautiful in the world. Why would I want to spoil all that to give a boring speech?”
“Because it’s your job, Mister Mayor. It’s what the people expect. It’s why they’re all gathered here in the square.”
“But it will be a political speech. How boring is that?”
“The elections will take place next weekend, Mister Mayor. If the townspeople don’t re-elect you, you won’t be mayor any more. You won’t have a job. The opposition will be in power.”
“Does all that matter? The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the crickets are—”
“Yes, Mister Mayor, we’ve been through all that. Just deliver the speech we prepared, fire the villagers up, get them into our corner, then the mayor’s seat and the council will be ours and won’t fall to the opposition.”
“But does that matter? Does it really matter? The sun is shining, the—”
“It matters. Do you want those people to undo everything we’ve devoted the last decade to building up? Have you seen their plans for education, for housing, for policing?”
“Then it’s a good job some of us have read their manifesto, and understand the devastating effect their plans would have on the town.”
“Can’t you win the election without me? I find the whole business so tiresome.”
“Would that we could, Mister Mayor. Would that we could. The simple fact is the people love you; they relate to you; you inspire them, although goodness only knows how. For Pete’s sake they listen to what you say the way they don’t listen to the rest of us; the ones who formulate the policies and do the work. So, if not for yourself then for us, just knuckle down, buckle down and do it, do it, do it!”
“Can’t I sing just one song first? You now the little people like to hear me singing.”
“God give me strength. Go on, then. One verse of one song.”
“♫ Each time I see a little girl
Of five, or six, or seven
I can’t resist the joyous urge
To smile and say —”
“You can’t sing Thank Heaven for Little Girls!”
“Why ever not?”
“It may have been acceptable in 1957, when it was written, but this is 2021! You can’t sing that kind of song now. You just can’t. It’s highly inappropriate. You’ll have all the parents up in arms.”
“How about Louise?”
“What about her?”
“Not the little girl, Louise, the song. It’s even older than Thank Heaven but can’t upset anyone, surely?”
“Start it, and I’ll let you know.”
“♫ Every little breeze seems to whisper Louise,
Birds in the trees seem to twitter Louise,
Each little rose tells me it knows I love you, love you. ♫”
“Lovely, Mister Mayor. Now the speech?”
“Now the speech.”
On to this week’s challenge: Using this photo as inspiration, write a short story, flash fiction, scene, poem; anything, really; even just a caption for the photograph. Either put it (or a link to it) in a comment or email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org before 6pm next Sunday (if you aren’t sure what the time is where I live, this link will tell you). If you post it on your own blog or site, a link to this page would be appreciated, but please do also mention it in a comment here.
Go on. You know you want to. Let your creativity and imagination soar. I shall display the entries next Monday.