“Wake Up America! Civilization Calls Every Man Woman and Child!” First World War US propaganda poster by James Montgomery Flag. Columbia (personification of the United States of America) is seen resting in chair with eyes closed while smoke and flames arise on horizon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There was a little town in the middle east of the United States of America where a lot of people died, above all, the outsiders or simply visitors that passed a few hours in the town. A lot of people probably could think that would be appropriated to tell which is the name of the town so they could avoid the danger. But, for several reasons, it is better to omit that details and just try to warn the audience using this non-aggressive method. And it is because, in this town -let is going to call it “E”-, people is very susceptible to the changes or to anybody that try to disturb the peace.
“E” was an idilic town, the one in which everybody would like to live and raise their families. It had a beautiful houses, pretty big all of them, and well decorated. Each one, with their own gardens and backyards where all kind of beautiful flowers, plants and trees grew refreshing the air of the town and preventing so much pollution. Each house was painted with different colors, some using the more classic ones and others using brilliant and fun colors. So, in this way, only contemplating a house you could have some idea of how was the people that lived inside, or almost, that it is what it seemed at first sight.
The town center was small but it had all the necessary: local grocery stores, barber shop, post office, book store, candy shop, restaurants, pubs… and, of course, all the obligated government facilities that any town needs as could be the city hall, the office of the police department, a library…
Each habitant of “E” was very happy with their lives, proud of their town and they tried to be as role model for the other towns that was near located. However, the number of death people was so high than it was difficult to be a model to follow for the other towns of the county. But the people of “E” did not feel discouraged for that and they persisted in try to sell themselves as the example to follow, or the “perfect town”. Although there was something a bit strange behind all this first coat of paint.
“E”, was the first town in the whole world that, in the 50’s, promote several actual laws like, for example: the law against the smoke, alcohol or drugs, also called the S.A.D. law; the G.R.E.E.N. law, one law that permitted and encourage people to grow plants, recycle, energy efficiency and nature care; or a law that reinserted the prisoners, delinquents or homeless, changing their years in prison for social work, that law was called the C.R.A.N.K. (Convicts Reinsertion And Needy Kooks). All that laws transformed “E” in the perfect town. And the city more sociological, political and cultural advanced of their times.
So it was not weird at all to see signs everywhere that invited the tourist and the people from outside the town to left the bad habit of smoke. In fact, it was very habitual see the famous phrase: “Don’t smoke, please” in big letters and down a warning note, in a smaller characters, that said: “all the people who violate that local law will be reported to the authorities and sanctioned with the appropriate charge…”. However, a lot of people did not see well the signs or maybe, they did not understand it well. The fact is that in the Penny’s Bar and Restaurant there was always having problems with the bloody cigarettes.
Penny, the owner of the local, was tired of repeat to all her customers which was the local rules but it seemed that, sometimes people did not want to accept them. And it happened a lot with that kind of strangers that arrived in a road trip just for rest a few hours of traveling. She was only interested in prepare her delicious fruit pies, milkshakes, coffee, breakfast… and serve them. Make of all her customers happy, respect the local rules, do not have troubles and have enough money at the end of the month to go to the hair styler or simply buy a new polish nail or a pair of new panty hose. She did not need nothing else. However, life in local towns sometimes cannot seem so simple as a first sight and most of the foreigners that arrived to “E” had acquired some of the “bad habits” with them that it was difficult to “rectify”.
And after years of troubles with different costumers the perfect town of “E” decided to help the poor Penny with her troubles and they assigned a police office to her Bar, who expended almost all the days sat in a chair, drinking coffee and keeping an eye. That measure worked and a lot of the no local customers “rectify” their bad habits and manners as soon as Waltz, the policeman, approached to the table in which Penny or her waiters was having trouble. But, unfortunately, it did not always worked like happened with Tony and the “rectification” had to become major.
Tony was one of that young boys that thought that he was James Dean or Marlon Brando and dressed with that leather black jackets and white t-shirts showing with cockiness his hair with so much hair gel, or cream, on. At, first sight, a lot of people had thought about him that he was one of that troublemakers very influenced for that kind of new movies like Rebel Without a Cause and them was right because the problem that Tony had it was that he did not like that nobody told him what he had to do in this life.
He arrived to “E” in a stormy afternoon in the summer of 1958. He was driving for the roads of the States alone without a particular destination and only with the company of his red Mustang and his harmonica. He entered in Penny’s Bar sat on a chair and lighted on a cigarette before a waiter could arrive to warn him.
“Excuse me, young man.” said Stuart, an old local customer that was retired and used to go with other partners of his age to Penny’s to drink coffee and enjoy some pies and tarts. “But here it is prohibited smoke”.
“And who said that?” asked Tony with arrogance.
The rest of table partners of Stuart looked to Tony with a blend of resignation and mercy in their eyes meanwhile Stuart pointed at the sign in which it was written:
“Don’t smoke, please.*
*All the people who violate that local law will be reported to the authorities and sanctioned with the appropriate charge if they do not rectify their behavior”.
The first smoke: All right (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Tony looked incredulous the sign, like if it was a joke for all the strangers. Then, Marsha, one of the waiters, arrived with the coffee and with the little notebook to ask Tony for his order. “Please, put out the cigarette, sir” said her.
“Or…” said Tony trying to show his cheekiness side.
“If I would be you I’ll extinguish that thing before Waltz arrive” said Martin, the most old man in the Stuart’s table for retired and widowed members.
“Yes, sir. Please, listen to the old ones they know more about “rectification” than us” said the young Marsha who was not older than Tony.
“Look babe, I know all that thing about rules and laws but they were created to break it. You and I should go together out of this strict place and enjoy a bit more the life. You know what I mean…” said Tony winking and eye to her. But, Marsha, offended ran away.
“Boy, I am not who to tell you what you should do but for your own sake it is better that you put out that cigarette” said a man in his forties sat in a near table.
“That’s right, buddy. You’re not who to tell me what I should do” said Tony offended too after he felt rejected by the girl.
“You should listen him, young boy. You should listen him. He knows about. He knows about” said Carol an old woman sat in the Stuart’s table and who was like in trance looking to nowhere meanwhile she repeated the same words again and again.
“Relax, Carol. Maybe this time we have luck and this lost soul could rectify his acts before it is too late” said Marvin, another of the Stuart’s partners.
“Yes, son. You should listen to all of them because if you don’t put out that shit you’ll be in serious troubles.” said Penny approaching to the Stuart’s table to try to calm Carol. “Mrs Lowman please, calm down. I’m sure that this time this is not going to be nothing. You’ll see, like the other times. Do you want a piece of the new brandy chocolate pie that I made with pecan nuts and pears? That will relax you.” Carol nod with her head and become silent looking without blink to Tony but with that strange blend of mercy and resignation.
“I’ll want one piece of that one too, miss.” said Tony.
“When you put out that shit, chum.” said Penny walking fast towards the kitchen.
“Do you know that smoke kills?” said Stuart.
“Look, boy. Maybe you think that the Brando style make you irresistible to the girls but it also makes you irresistible to troubles.” said the man sat near Tony. “I was like you not so far. I was lost and I thought that being rebel I’ll be more cool but I was wrong. I see it now, after my rectification. So, please, don’t cause more troubles you’re making feel ill to Mrs Lowman and I’m sure she’ll feel better if you put out the cigarette.”
Carol continued looking to Tony without blink, with her big blue eyes full of sadness that was similar to the sight of a puppy dog. She nod smoothly after listen the words of the man but without look to other direction that it was not Tony. And he, after look the poor woman, felt mercy and a bit of pity for himself.
“Ok. You’ve won.” said Tony extinguishing the cigarette. Suddenly, Penny appeared with two pieces of pie: one for Carol and other for Tony. “Wow! That was fast!” said he. Meanwhile Carol, now with a smile in her face that make her look like a little girl looked at Tony and she started to eat her pie.
But then, Waltz, who was in the restroom all the time, came inside the bar. “What’s going on here?”
“Nothing. Don’t worry Waltz” said Penny.
“Really? I smell something… and it seems that here we have a troublemaker.” said a cocky Waltz looking defiant to Tony.
“He’s already “rectified”. He changed.” said the man in the table near Tony.
“Shut up, Victor! I haven’t asked you nothing!” said Waltz with bad temper.
“Look, officer. I didn’t know that here it was prohibited smoke I put it out and that’s all. I’ll smoke later when I’ll be outside.” said Tony.
The four elder in the Stuart’s table was terrorized and the eyes of Carol was so wide open looking at Tony that he started to worry for all this stupid smoking thing.
“You’ll see Victor! You’re so damn indulgent with the first chick that arrives to the town. If all of us will do like you. “E” will never be an example of good citizenship and civility.” said the agent Waltz.
“Look, I understand. I’m from a little town like this one. You don’t like strangers so, don’t worry. I finish this pie and you’ll never see me again, ok?” said Tony a bit worried by the weirdness of the situation.
“Oh, sure, sure. We’ll not see you again. All say the same and all are right.” said Waltz.
“C’mon Waltz! Can’t you see that he’s just a child!” said Victor. Meanwhile Carol had other of her attacks and started to repeat “a child” all the time.
“You’ve been rectified Victor but that doesn’t give you authority to question the laws of this city. Limit to do your job when it is required or accept the consequences” said Waltz.
“Ok. I’ve heard enough.” said a scared Tony. “Here are enough bucks to pay the coffee, the pie and a generous tip. Now I’m going.” He lefts the money on the table and went out of the bar as fast as he could. Once, outside he looked at both sides, he walked fast towards his red Mustang and before to open the door he lightened another cigarette to try to relax himself and forgot the past. He opened the door of his car and when he was going to come inside somebody hit him on the back.
Tony did not know how much time had passed or where he was now. He fainted after the hit and now a terrible pain in his head remembered him why he was unconscious so much time. He was in what it seemed a dark abandoned basement full of dirt an old tools. His hands was tight to his back and his feet too but, almost, somebody had the detail to sit him in a chair. He was prisoner in a scary dirty creepy place and what at the beginning he thought that was a joke about the smoke of his cigarette now it had become a very fret problem: a bad habit that he would finish soon.
Tony tried to escape of that tight ropes but it was useless. The people who had put him in this situation knew very well how to knot string and immobilize people.
Suddenly, something moved between the shadows. It was a human, of that it was not doubts. But Tony did not know if he had been there, observing him, all the time, or not.
“It’s absurd that you try to escape, son” said the voice from the dark. A calm voice that seemed from an elder man.
“Who are you? And why are you doing this to me?” said Tony freaked out.
“I’m Nobody. This is all what you need to know”
Then, the sound from a door that was opened and steps from several people that came inside the house. The basement door was opened and somebody turned on the unique light bulb in all the basement. Now, Tony could see better and the strange man, with who he was talking, walked towards him leaving back the shadows.
The basement was not very big, but it was full of all kind of tools: mallets, hammers, wrenches, nails, saws, drills and a strange type of knifes and other things well exposed in tables and in the walls everywhere. But Tony was not impressed for the diversity of all that tools, in fact, he was more concerned about them, that if the basement would be empty.
The people that he had heard appeared from a dark corner in which it seemed that there was the stairs. There was four: three men in his forties or fifties and a woman who dressed like one of this women that expend all the time in the church, praying and trying to save the souls of all the world imposing to them their beliefs and thoughts.
“Hello, Tony.” said her using a maternal tone. “How do you feel? I’m Somebody and this are my partners Anybody, Bodyblow and Bodybag. And, of course, here is Nobody our keeper, but I think that you had already met him. Don’t you?” said her looking to Nobody.
“Look, miss. I don’t have idea of why I’m here but I’ll leave this town as soon as you free me. I promise” said Tony scared.
“Tk,tk,tk. Nobody hasn’t give you permission to talk, isn’t it?” said Anybody.
“I didn’t” said Nobody.
“We’re going to have troubles with this. Waltz told me that he’s one of this boys thinking that he is a rebel” said Bodybag.
“Hmmm. That stupid movies are influencing so much the kids” said Somebody expressing her concern about that global problem. “Well, but we shouldn’t lose hope so soon. Let’s see, son, do you regret of all your bad acts, behaviors and vices?”
“Vices? Bad acts? What are you talking about?” said Tony very concerned.
“Tk, tk, tk. I think this sheep is going to be difficult to rectify” said Nobody.
“Please, son. For your own sake don’t talk. Just nod with your head when we ask you, ok?” said Somebody.
“But…” said Tony confused and terrorized.
“He needs a better explanation, Somebody.” said Anybody.
“Right. Bodyblow, explain to Tony what’s happen if he talks when Nobody hasn’t given him permission” said Somebody.
Bodyblow took a huge wrench from the table meanwhile, Bodybag went towards Tony and he untied Tony’s hands and, by the force, he put the Tony’s right hand in a closer table. Bodyblow hit Tony’s hand with the wrench and the blood splashed everywhere. It sounded like several of the Tony’s hand bones was pulverized and the pain that he felt was insupportable. He screamed of pain but Nobody approached to his face and when both faces was very close one to each other Nobody put his finger in his own lips. “Shhhhh” he said.
“I think that now you can understand how this works, son” said Somebody. “So, now, please. Can you answer the question and tell us if do you regret of all your bad acts, behaviors and vices?”
“But I don’t know about what are you talking?” said Tony with faltering voice and with tears in his eyes.
“Nobody! Have you gave him permission to talk?” said Somebody now upset.
“Me? No, I don’t.” said Nobody.
“What I thought! We have an unworthy soul. We should teach him first how to respect the basic orders!” said Somebody.
“I told you” said Anybody.
“Bodyblow, Bodybag. Your turn” said her.
Then, Bodybag hold Tony’s head meanwhile Bodyblow was looking for some tools in a near table. Bodybag obliged Tony to open his mouth and Bodyblow put a type of surgical tongs to keep the mouth open. After, Bodyblow took some pliers and played to pull out Tony’s teeth. He passed some time pulling out three teeth and, while, Tony tried to resist, support the pain and no scream. He moved in the chair and tried to fight against his torturers but it was useless because Bodybag was stronger than him.
The other three looked at the torture like if it was the most natural thing in the world. They do not even seem affected and Tony did not know if everybody in “E” was mad or it was just that he had been in the bad place in a wrong time.
Finally, after feel so much blood in his mouth and an indescribable pain in his hand and head the torturers stopped. And Somebody said: “As you can see, son. If you break the norms you will pay the charges before you’ll be rectified. So, please, answer my question silently or our local doctor, Bodyblow, should do to you a major surgery. Now, do you regret of all your bad acts, behaviors and vices?”
Tony nod with his head silently and everybody looked at him like if he was a dog who had difficulty to learn the things and now, finally they have could teach to him something.
“Good!” said Anybody.
“And do you confess that you are guilty of disturb the peace and break the harmony of this town with your acts and behavior?” said Somebody.
“But if I only smoked a cigarette!” protested Tony.
“This time I haven’t given to him permission neither” said Nobody.
“What I thought” said Somebody.
“You’re a bunch of mad! You’re all fucking crazy! I don’t know about what are you talking about! You’re fucking insane…!” shouted Tony but it was not for so much time.
This time, Bodybag took the huge wrench and hit Tony in the upper part of the knee making that Tony screamed of pain and covering his leg with blood. But something had changed inside of Tony, he felt an insupportable pain, that was true, but he knew that he was going to die too and it would not have importance what he did or said because that people that was with him in that basement was mad and the madness had not solution.
Tony was a rebel. He had always been against the norms, and strict rules. So, why had he to obey the stupid laws of a bunch of fools? He would fight for his life although he would die trying it. And that was what he did.
He received a hit in his knee but Bodybag received a hit of all the Tony’s body with the chair. Both fall on the floor surprising the others and Tony used that moment of advantage. His hands was not tied since Bodyblow decided to break one of it in pieces so he untied the rope of his feet and took the huge wrench that had fall, from Bodybag’s hand, on the floor.
That wrench was extremely heavy but definitely it was a good weapon. Tony, hit Bodyblow and Bodybag with it letting them without sense. Meanwhile Somebody, Anybody and Nobody looked at him puzzled and confused but without move a hand or say something. It was like he had the control now and observing that the three was not going to do nothing he escaped. Of course, it was not an easy task. He cannot walk well and even less fast, he felt so much pain in all his body and he still having the fear that they would retain him and make him suffer more. But surprisingly, he did not found any obstacle in his path.
He went upstairs as he could and he went outside of the house to check that if it was one of the “normal” and beautiful houses that the perfect town of “E” hide. He knew then that all it was not what it seemed at first sight.
He walked for the “perfect” neighborhood with the fancy houses of different colors and beautiful gardens and nobody stooped him. He limped all covered in blood. His immaculate white t-shirt now had a dirt red color almost all over it. There was blood in his face, in his pants and his right hand continued bleeding without stop. Definitely, he had a terrible look.
A girl that was playing in a backyard looked at him a bit confused and suddenly, she ran away inside of the home screaming so exited: “Mom, mom! I’ve seen one that haven’t passed the rectification!”
But, Tony did not stop to check which was the answer of the mother. He tried to walk fast to escape of that bloody town with his red Mustang before it was too late.
Finally, he arrived in front of the Penny’s Bar Restaurant, near of where his car was parked. It was late, but the Bar continued opened and it seemed that all that elders continued in the same table too playing cards or something.
He was very close to his car and suddenly the cocky Tony appeared again and, like he felt more safe, he decided to light on a cigarette before to cross the road to get his car and leave that town forever. He left the wrench on the floor and as he could he caught with one hand the tobacco box. He opened it. There was only one left, so he took the last cigarette, put it in his mouth and he throw the box to the floor. He researched the lighter with his hand and he tried to light the cigarette on but the flame did not appear until the four time. He lighted it on and he enjoyed the flavor of the dark strength tobacco, he really needed it after all that long day.
After, he decided to cross the road to go to his car. It would be easy for anybody with the two legs right, but he had a bit more of difficulty. One step, other, other. One leg first, next the other. Everything was okay now. There was nobody outside watching him. The only place open was Penny’s and that old people was not so faster to hurt him. He was now safe.
He continued walking. He had almost crossed the road when, suddenly, a huge truck appeared and it knocked down Tony. Victor was the driver and when he came back to recover Tony’s dead body he could check that he was died fighting but, despite that his corpse was covered with blood, his lips continued holding the burning cigarette.
The four elders of the Stuart’s table went outside to see what happened. Carol was so nervous and the other old man was exhausted meanwhile Victor recovered the body and cleaned the scene.
“Other more” said Marvin.
“This is the one that makes fifty-three this year” said Martin.
“I told him: ‘Smoke kills'” said Stuart.
Penny got out to see what happened too. “Ohh! Poor boy. Was it necessary? Well, Carol why don’t you come inside with me?” said her trying to calm the poor Carol. “Anybody wants to taste the lemon pudding?” asked her moving Carol inside.
“Sure! Sure!” said the old men at the same time going inside.
And with that, all the things in “E” turned back to the normal and exemplar perfect way of act. Of course, until someone else decided to disturb the harmony and the peace that characterized that beautiful site.