The Allegory of the Passage: A Short Story Inspired by the Allegory of the Cave

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
The Allegory of the Passage: A Short Story Inspired by the Allegory of the Cave—a timeless commentary on life and knowledge authored by a long dead European male. Civilization survived the truth of the Cave and America has survived and even thrived in spite of the fictions of the tea party movement. Please enjoy.

Submitted: November 12, 2015

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Submitted: November 12, 2015

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Sunday morning, September 12, 2009.  Old Town Alexandria.  Coffee on the waterfront.

“Good girl.  Good girl. Oh!  I am so proud of you.”  The dog is squatting in the street gutter, growling and shaking.  “You are such a good girl.  I am so proud of you.  Yes, I am.  Go ahead.  You can do it.  You can do it.  I know you can.  Good girl,” the old woman coos, carefully pronouncing each word, in a “little” voice the way some people talk to babies when they’re trying to be affectionate.

The dog’s eyes bulge.  It is in pain.  The woman, fashionably dressed in the latest walking fashions, digs a plastic bag and a plastic glove from her bag.  The tiny dog squeezes out a small hard looking object about two inches long, and hangs its head in shame.The woman picks up the object, puts it in the tiny plastic bag.  She peels the glove from her hand, back to front, drops it in the plastic bag with the byproduct of dog, ties the bag and places it in the pocket of her expensive walking jacket.“Good girl!  Oh yes!  You are so good!” followed by a series of smoochy kisses The woman is effusive, the dog vigorous with new joy.

The three old men at the table next to her look at each other and shake their heads.  A fourth old man comes out of the shop with his coffee and a newspaper, and stands next to the table with the three, looking at the woman and her dog.  “It isn’t everywhere in America that you can pay two and a half bucks for a cup of coffee, five bucks for a newspaper, and sit on a corner surrounded by half million dollar condos the size of postage stamps next to a dog defecating in the gutter.”

She sits erect with her knees and ankles together, toes pointing straight ahead.  The men at the table grin and laugh.  The woman looks at them hard.

“Oh hell, sit down and shut up.”  The other men move aside and pull an empty chair to the table.

“Yeah.  It adds to the Old Town ambiance.”

“Yeah.  Hell, dogface, you’re lucky they even allow you stand on the sidewalk in this town.”

The standing man looks at the third man.  “You don’t have any cute comments?”

“Can I have the sports section?”

“Yeah.”  He fumbles through the paper.  “Where did all these tour buses and tourists come from?  There’s no where to park within a mile of here.  These people are so old the place looks like graveyard full of unburied carcasses.”

“Yeah, but you notice they all have those special parking permits that the city doesn’t issue.”

“I wonder what the people who live over here are doing for parking?”

They all shake their heads.  “Must be somebody special.”

A neatly groomed couple comes of the shop.Their clothing fits like uniforms.  She wears a straw sun hat with teabags hanging from it and he sports a jaunty baseball cap with “U.S. Army Retired” blazoned across the crest.  They sit at a table next to the three men.

The man speaks louder than necessary.  “That looks like a table full of soldiers!”

“In a time long ago, in a place far away.  How about you?”

“Colonel John Calhoun, United States Army Finance Corps, retired.  This here is my wife.  Where are you all from?”

“Woodrow Galbraith.  Los Angeles. You?”

“Killeen, Texas.  Originally, Caribou, Maine.”

“You folks here with the tour buses?

“Yes, but we’re not touring.  All of us,” he gestures at the crowd, “came for the tea protest yesterday.”

“Taxes and health care.”  His wife is politely firm.  She looks at the men and touches her hat, “The liberal press calls us ‘tea baggers.’”

They smile.  “Very stylish.”

Mrs. Colonel John turns to the woman with the dog.She is clutches her purse close, leaning forward over the animal.  “That’s a pretty dog.What’s her name?” 

 “Thank you.”  Dog lady’s manner is enthusiastic.  She looks people in the eye when she talks to them, but when she talks about the dog she looks at the dog.“Her name is America; she was born on 9/11.”

“That is so patriotic.  People just aren’t patriotic like they used to be.”  Mrs. Colonel John leans toward and asks, “How did come by her?”

“There was a woman who owned a big white house near the community center. I volunteer at the Community Center. Well, she used to participate in all of the community events and she would show up with her dogs spray painted red white and blue and she always had little flags in her hair.  That is where I first saw America.”  She’s looking at the dog and the dog is looking at her. 

She looks over at Augustus and smiles.  Augustus’ face softens and he briefly raises his eyebrows.

“She used to enter little America in the pet shows at the community center.  She would paint her little toenails red, white and blue and put her in these little doggy parades.  Sometimes, she would make a little sun bonnet out of small American flags.  Or tie a red, white and blue bow tie to her tail. 

“Oh!”  Mrs. Colonel John clutches at her heart, “That is so sweet.  So,” she pauses as if searching for the right word, “American.”

“She seemed to have a lot of pets but no one said anything until people began noticing some very bad odors coming from her house.The odors became so strong—you could smell them blocks away—that the health department raided the place.  I guess it was terrible—bird droppings all over everything.  And the other pets had urinated on all of the furniture and in all of the corners.  Feces everywhere.  Some of it had been there so long it was moldy.  And dead animals!  And the animals that weren’t dead were eating the ones that were.”

“Goodness.  How did you come to own her. 

“She escaped from the animal control people during the raid, and I picked her up off the street.  She was really fat—obese—and she had heart worms and several different types of intestinal parasites.  She looked robust on the outside, but they were sucking the life out of her on the inside.  But now, she is mine.”  She looks down at little America, looking up at her with bulging eyes, and in a little voice says, “All mine.  Yes she is.  She is all mine.”

“She’s doing okay, now, but she’ll eat anything she thinks a human will eat.  This sometimes creates digestion problems and other problems further along the digestive track.

The four men at the table smirk.

Right now, she seems to be having trouble passing something, but aside from not passing it, whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be causing any other problems.”

“How does she get the stuff?”

“People drop things or throw them on the ground.  Like here for instance, people drop things and sometimes things fall off the tables.  If, they don’t pick it up, and I’m not careful, she’ll gobble up something before I know it.”

Colonel John turns to the men at the table, “Did you men come for the protest?”

“No, we live here.”

“We came here to participate in yesterday’s protest in front of Congress and down by the White House. We’re here, with these other folks, because we’re concerned about our freedom.  And, taxes.  And this creeping socialism that man is trying to force upon us.”  He shakes his head in exasperated sadness, “They’re trying to tax us out of existence.”

Mrs. Colonel John is emphatic.  “We’re protesting this taxation without representation that Congress keeps voting for.  It’s just terrible.”

“We are very concerned about our country.  Those people are taking over and they are against everything America stands for.  And they don’t want you to hear the truth.  They certainly didn’t want to hear what we had to say, but they did.  Did you see the cable news last night?  You should have.  It was disgusting.  That’s why the liberal media was causing such a hullabaloo about the protest yesterday.”

Woodrow speaks, “I generally don’t watch the TV news, but I’ll take your word for it.  Between the four of us here, we go round and round over taxes and immigration and health care all the time.  I respect the fact that you and these other folks are willing to go out of pocket to travel halfway across the country to present your complaints to Congress.”

“Oh, we didn’t pay for this.  We were sponsored.  They told us that they didn’t care what we believe in; they just wanted to give us the opportunity to speak out, to voice our concerns.  These are patriotic Americans who believe in free speech.”  He turns and looks at the oversized luxury buses lining the side streets, his face softens, “They paid for all of us, God bless’em.  Never asked what we believe in.”  Turning back to the table, somber faced, “Patriots all.”

Augustus opens the paper and shows them the photos, “That must have been some trip.  Looks like some of the protestors got a little hot with some of the counter protestors.  Did you folks all ride in the same buses?”

Mrs. Colonel John leans forward and looks at a photo of a young man with a sign that said, “Health Reform Now!” surrounded by a group  of angry looking people with signs of the President colored to look like the Joker or with a Hitler mustache.  “Oh, no.  Our sponsors didn’t bring any of those health reform nuts here.”  She closes her eyes and shakes her head emphatically.  “They didn’t ride on any of our buses.  They would have had to have paid their own way.  Those people hate everything America stands for.”

Colonel John continues, “We staged in that big open grassy area down by Congress, next to that pond, in front of those statues of those horses pulling those caissons.  Our line of march took us up that boulevard to Freedom Plaza.  It was quite a crowd.  I’ve never seen anything like that.  The speakers were powerful and the crowd got caught up in the emotion of the moment and chanted slogans.  If I live to be a hundred, I’ll never forget this.”  He wipes a small tear from his eye and turns away momentarily to regain his composure, “The cable news said there were ‘tens of thousands.’”

Augustus speaks up.  “Both the Times and the Post have two stories about it on the front page.  It says right here that there were ‘tens of thousands of demonstrators.’  Has pictures, too.”  Augustus looks at the others at his table.  “One article here reads kinda like a press release, and the other like a hatchet job.  The hatchet job has more detailed descriptions of the signs and chants; ‘You can’t fix Stupid but you can vote it out,’ and ‘Stupid is as stupid does,’ ‘Here is a tip Obama—Keep the Change.’  Same ol’ bi-polar horseshit, but, you know the Washington Post or the New York Times wouldn’t tell a lie that wasn’t the truth.” 

Woodrow nods his head, “Eloquently stated.”

 Ruby stiffens.  “Augustus!”

“I’m exercising my right to free speech.”

“It’s not what you said; it’s how you said it.  There are much more effective ways of communicating that using profanities.”

“Says who?”

“Says I.”

Augustus looks at Colonel John.  “Ruby is a retired English teacher.”

Colonel John is grim, “This is serious.  Mark my words.  That man is taking us down the road to perdition.  Socialism!  These people are determined to tax the rest of us to death to pay for all of it.”

“He’s just like Hitler.”  Mrs. Colonel John’s shoulders are squared and her back is stiff.  Her head is tilted back and she is staring coldly down her nose.

Woodrow continues, “I do tend to think we need something for people who can’t afford health insurance.  It seems to me that on the whole it would benefit us as a country.  On the other hand, I don’t know how we’re going to pay for it or even how it could or would be run.  I don’t trust federal bureaucracies for getting things done right.”

“It’s socialism, pure and simple.”

Mrs. Colonel John nods her head, “He’s just like Hitler.”  She nods her head vigorously once.

“Something like Medicare might work for the uninsured.  But, we still have to pay for it.” 

“They need to fix Medicare first.  If they can’t fix Medicare, they won’t be able to get this right either.”

Mrs. Colonel John is becoming more emphatic.  “He’s just like Hitler.  He doesn’t want us to exercise our freedom of speech.”  Another head nod.

Ruby takes her foot out of her shoe and tickles the dog under its chin.  “When my husband died, I continued the Medicare Supplemental Health Insurance that we were getting through his Navy retirement.  I don’t mind paying a little more for my premiums or my co-pays, but I don’t want my insurance to be changed.”  She pauses for a moment and looks at Mrs. Colonel John, “Unless they want to increase the coverage, of course.”

Ulysses looks up from the sports page, “I’m worried about it simply working.  I know we have a problem.  I think we need to do something, but I’m really not sure what it is they’re trying to do and I’ll be damned if I can figure it out by reading the newspapers.”

Old Tran sets his tea cup on the table and purses his lips.  The others stop talking and look at him, “I’m worried about the impact on my business.  I employ a several students part time in my donut shops.  I can’t afford to buy health insurance for all of them.  A lot of them are covered by their parent’s insurance or they get it through the university, but collecting all that paperwork to be excused from providing coverage will be a nightmare.”

Augustus sits up.  “Hey.  I saw you guys yesterday.  I was coming from the National Portrait Gallery.  Lots of signs with pictures of the President with a Hitler mustache or painted up like the Joker.  There was a woman on the corner with a sign that had that photo of Obama the kid wearing a stingy brim hat sucking on a cigarette like it was a joint, it said ‘The Audacity of the Dope.’”

“I’ve seen that picture.  He was a cute kid.”  Ruby looks at Augustus for his reaction.

Augustus pretends not to hear anything.

Mrs. Colonel John looks surprised.

“Yeah.  And, there was one really big sign of the dead bodies stacked in one of those WWII Nazi ovens with the words ‘Nationalist Socialist Healthcare System.’That one stands out in my mind.  That and a bunch of people with pictures of that guy who called the president a liar chanting “You lie.”  Actually, but for those few signs on 14th, there wasn’t much to see.  The 6 Mile Pink Ribbon Run/Walk had a larger crowd.”

Mrs. Colonel John stiffens.  “Was that a Gay Pride thing?”

“No it was a fund raiser for breast cancer research.”  He looks at Ruby, “Protecting God’s two most precious creations.”

Ruby, smiles demurely, lowers her eyelids and returns his gaze.

Mrs. Colonel John looks uncomfortable.

Old Tran speaks, “These are angry people.”

Colonel John looks concerned.  “And, with good reason.  This administration is against everything America stands for.  Last night, the liberal talking heads on the cable networks were all over us for exercising our freedom of speech.” 

“Do you guys remember that big Peace March back in November ‘69?  Just before Thanksgiving?”  Augustus puts down his newspaper.

They shake their heads.

Tran looks at Augustus, “I think I was on patrol in the Ba Long Valley with American Marines.”

Colonel John looks at Tran, “And I salute you too, sir.  We owe you and your countrymen a debt of gratitude and an apology for selling you out.”

Tran looks at Woodrow and Augustus; he’s searching for words, “America didn’t sell me out.”

Augustus continues, “Now that was a protest.  That might have been a good half million people.  Old, young, rich, poor and everything in between.  Republicans, Democrats, Independents, black, white, brown, pink, purple, whatever.  The Mall was wall to wall people: all the way from the Lincoln Memorial to Grant’s Memorial.  Literally.”  He looks at Colonel John, “The horse and caisson statue is part of Grants Memorial.  It took them all day and half the night to march up Pennsylvania Avenue past the White House.  Even then, I don’t think they all made it.”  He again looks at Colonel John, “Pennsylvania Avenue is that boulevard that runs from Grants Memorial and the Capital to the White House.”

Woodrow looks at the line in front of the coffee shop and sets his empty cup down, “That didn’t get a lot of play out around Chu Lai, either. Were you marching against the war, Flower Child?”

“No.  I had just come back and I was trying to get into this little Georgetown co-ed, those people kind’a interrupted my plans for that particular day.”

The other men laugh.  Ruby doesn’t.

Colonel John is gracious.  “You men are heroes, patriots.  That was an unpopular war and you each answered the call.  We disgraced ourselves, and our country by the way we treated you when you came back from that war.  And, those marchers were and still are a disgrace to our country.”

Ulysses is watches a couple of jogging young women pass.  “It’s the same First Amendment.”

“Huh?”  Colonel John and Tea Hat lady are confused.

“First Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech.  That’s the liberty they were exercising in that march.”

Mrs. Colonel John joins in.  “Yes.  And we have to protect those rights. He is trying to take our freedom away like they do in Russia.  He’s a communist.  He’s just like Hitler.”

Ulysses is now watching a group of young women in shorts stretching and getting ready for their morning run.  He turns to Mrs. Colonel John.  “Actually, I think Russia gave up on Communism and Socialism and centrally planned economies about twenty years ago when the wall came down. And, Hitler tended to execute Communists.”

Colonel John steps in, “Real Americans don’t want anything to do with this administration.  That’s why they’re trying to grant amnesty and instant citizenship to all of the illegal aliens in this country.  Real Americans won’t vote for them so they’re buying all those votes.”

Ulysses turns back to the young women.  “Illegal aliens can’t vote and there is no such thing as instant citizenship.”

 Colonel John resumes, “Granted, some of the speech was rough, crude, impolite at best,” he nods his head to Ruby, “But we have a right to freedom of speech and those signs.” 

Woodrow has been watching the man, saying nothing.  “Almost any speech short of yelling fire in a crowded theater is a legitimate exercise of free speech.  I suppose the real question is, ‘Did it accomplish what you wanted it to?’”

“Yes, I know.  And, it seems that the people here in Washington are always ready with all the right words.” 

 “Like disrupting the President’s address to Congress by calling him a liar?”

“That Congressman is a hero.  That man stood in front of the Congress and lied about providing illegal aliens free medical care and only one of them had the courage to stand up to him.  I say again, that Congressman is a hero.”

“That Congressman is the poster child for a constituency that advocates flying the Confederate Flag over their state capital.  He called the President of the United States a liar on national television.  He’s guaranteed re-election for the rest of his life.  Where is the courage in that?”

“That man was lying.” 

Woodrow looks tired.  He is slumped back in his chair, looking at Colonel John, he lifts his hands and spreads them slightly, “Why don’t you call that man ‘The President?’”

Colonel John doesn’t respond and Woodrow continues, “Does either house have a bill yet?”

Augustus answers, “No.  There are two or three proposals in committees in the house and a couple in the Senate, but neither house has anything on the floor.”

“How would he know?”  The good Colonel slips into sarcasm.

“He reads a lot.  Like you said, your sponsors don’t care what you believe as long as you let people know what you believe.  You call the President a liar, you shout ‘stupid is as stupid does,’ and ‘you can’t fix stupid.’  You’ve made the front page of the national newspapers.  You’ve made it clear that you don’t like the man.  Have you done anything to help your cause?”

The Colonel's face hardened.

“Do you think most Americans might find those photos of dead Jews stacked in a burn pile disgusting?  How does that help your cause?”

“But it is their Constitutional Right to say that and it is the truth.”  Colonel John is insistent.

“What truth are you folks protesting?  We all known that the Nazi’s burned Jews and other people they didn’t like.”

“They’re going to set up death panels to determine who lives and who dies.  It’s all over the internet and on the unbiased news shows.  If you need expensive treatment and you don’t meet their criteria, you are going to die.”

Woodrow leans forward, clasps his hands and rests his elbows on the table.  “Sir, that’s not true.” 

The dog growls and then howls.  It’s wailing cry of pain and hurt rises in the morning air, reverberates off the surrounding buildings and floats along the streets and out over the river. Suddenly she begins scooting in a circle dragging her bottom on the sidewalk—growling, whimpering and gasping for air.  She pulls herself toward the gutter.

Colonel John stands abruptly and motions to Mrs. Colonel John.  “Let’s go.  It’s obvious that their minds are made up and there’s nothing we can do to change them.”

Mrs. Colonel John to Ruby again, "He's just like Hitler."

“Sir, you don’t have to leave…”

Ruby extends her hand to Mrs. Colonel John, “I’m enjoyed meeting you.  Best of luck in your endeavor.”
“Yes, well, thank you.”

Colonel John and Mrs. Colonel John walk away.

Ruby hurries to the dog.

The four men are smiling.  Augustus looks at Woodrow, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”

“How did I say what?”

Now, the other three are laughing.  Ulysses adds, “You kind of came across a little like an old Platoon Sergeant administering discipline to a misbehaving Second Lieutenant.”

Woodrow looks at the back of the departing man and wife and stands to pursue them.

The dog howls louder and, in between wails, sounds as though she is dying.  Ruby stands helpless by her side, watching her convulse in pain.  “Oh, oh!  Sweetie, sweetie, hang in there, hang in there.”

The men at the table cheer her on.  “Come on America.  You got it America.  You can do it.  You can do it.  Good girl.” 

Ruby urges her on, “Push!  Push!”

The three men chant, “America!  America!  America!”

She trembles and shakes and growls and strains and her eyes bulge horribly.  The object passes with a “plop.”She falls exhausted to the street. 

Ruby picks up America's limp body and holds her to her bosom.

Ulysses uses a plastic fork to roll the object into a paper napkin.  He places the napkin on the table and the other men lean closely to examine it.

“What is it?”

He forks it and holds it up for them to see.

 “A tea bag.”

 

 


© Copyright 2019 Eddie C Morton. All rights reserved.

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