Tale from Morals Class
by Peter Sterling
“And what do you think our ancestors were trying to tell us with this story we’re reading?”, yelled Marshal Cocker.
He was a military man, and a very good one, but was employed by the Consul as a professor of morals. Giving orders to grown men had become a habit for the Marshal, and
had made him a great commander on the battlefield. Seeing that he had a way with fighting men, the Consul decided that he should fare just as well with the children in moral class. The Marshal
would get to try his hand at teaching and learn the children of the community. Besides it was only temporary, something to help bolster the Marshals standing within the community. His uniform was
always stiff and neat, with his metals always even and shining on his chest. He smiled often, but it was never the sort of smile that warmed a body or comforted any ideas one might have. It was a
smile that seemed to hide something a little deeper, and darker. He spoke quickly and through the motions of his hands; always commanding, always dictating.
“I think that they were trying to tell us that our society is damaged, and that we have to fix it
through the standards they’ve given to us”, piped Laura Summer, who was always very enthusiastic during discussion. “They obviously knew that we would be able to fix ourselves now, seeing as how
we’re much smarter than the people in their time”, she said, “we can understand what their trying to say.”
“Yes, I think everyone in this room is smart enough to realize how intelligent they are, but how
intelligent is the story they told?”, said the Marshal, replying with as much enthusiasm. Most of the students looked confused after this last statement, but not Laura. She was confident in her
knowledge of the work and her ability to teach it to others. She lowered her brow as if she were scolding some small child for having too much fun and then said, “I think they had to have been
pretty smart, but the people they were trying to get through to weren’t.”
The Marshal turned away from her and started looking over the rest of the class. “Good Laura”, he
said, “does anyone else have anything to add?” He pointed to some half-asleep boy and said, “You, what do you think?”
The boy looked as if someone told him he had something ridiculous on his face and said, “I
As Marshal Cocker interrogated the young and helpless boy, a small group of children on the other
side of the class were busy with a discussion of their own. They had read the story the ancients had written and had decided on what it was all about. They only had one question to ask the Marshal
but he was carrying on with his ridiculing of the sleepy young man. When he was finished beating him with his brow he turned his attention to the other side of the room.
“Peter! Morgan!”, he yelled, “Pay attention. We have work to do and it doesn’t have anything to do
with what your talking about. Now why don’t you two just listen quietly?”
“Well”, said Peter, “We were actually just talking about the story and what it meant… to us, I mean.”
Morgan wanted to ask the Marshal his question, but didn’t think he would get the answer he wanted.
“And what does the story mean to you, Peter?”, asked Marshal Cocker, who now bored holes into Peter
with his beady eyes.
“Morgan and I were just talking about how the story was probably meant to provide justification for
the government we have now, instead of a way to fix societies problems. I mean, it really doesn’t say anything in the work about how society should be fixed, only that it should be changed.” With
this the Marshal looked at him and said,
“Very interesting Peter. Laura What do you think?” Then Morgan threw in, “Marshal Cocker, I have a
The Marshal replied, “Shush Morgan.”
“But I need to ask you something, it’s important.” Morgan really did need to ask the Marshall
something, and it was causing him great grief. Marshal Cocker ignored Morgan’s last plea and continued to listen to Laura’s thoughts on Peter’s ideas.
“I really think it comes down to how stupid the people were back then”, Laura said, “how could they
understand the genius of the ancestors.”
“Well they obviously understood it enough to organize and allow the government to change”, challenged
Morgan was still busy trying to get an answer from the Marshal. “Please, Marshal Cocker, there is
something that I need to ask you.”
Laura was trying to think of something to say and came up with, “But what if they just didn’t
understand and were taken advantage of by the government?”
Peter tried again. “Yes, possibly, but the point is that they allowed them to change because they
understood what was being told to them. Even if they were mislead they must have believed what they were told. I think the ancients point is that a lie is the truth if it is told enough times to
the right people.”
“Marshal, it’s really important that you here this. I really have to ask you something, and I don’t
think it can wait”, pleaded Morgan.
“The people were still stupid enough to get tricked by the government anyway”, said Laura.
“Don’t you see”, said Peter, “their point is that the people weren’t stupid enough to be tricked into
change, so the authority had to provide them with reasons they liked. It’s all about societies inability to control itself when it wants something.” Peter was beginning to feel as though his
argument could not be properly presented to Laura, and she was beginning to think that Peter was stupid.
“Marshal Cocker, please!”, yelled Morgan.
Most of the class was asleep by this time, but were stirring at the sound of Morgan’s need for an answer. He needed to know, and he had just one question to ask. It was
so important to him that he couldn’t even contain himself during class. He had to know right then and there. He needed and answer.
“What, you ridiculous boy, what do you have to ask me!”, yelled the Marshal, “I will tell you all you need to know about the story, just stop bothering me you
Morgan looked up at the Marshal, finally able to ask his question of great importance and said, “Can I go to the bathroom?”
© Copyright 2016 Peter Sterling. All rights reserved.