NYCWP Voices: “The New Economy,” fiction by Charlie Keyheart

Once monthly, the New York City Writing Project celebrates the teacher-as-writer by publishing works of poetry and prose written by its teachers. If you are interested in submitting your work to NYCWP Voices, please read the submissions guidelines and submit your work by email to voices@nycwritingproject.org.


 

The New Economy

-Charlie Keyheart

AND HERE IS Main Street. Just minutes from the hotel, best shopping on The Island. Hermès, Burberry, Apple—oh, Miss, don’t stand there. Fingers come up sometimes through the grating. See? Here, just step aside and let me handle…it. There! See if that one comes back.

Yes, we’ve ordered fine mesh sewer covers. But with the new economy, factories run only two months a year. Oh, they work the two months. Assemblers glad to be back on the line—imagine! All part of the deal.

We tried the long workweek in fashion now, over sixty hours at one point. So many issues a permanent workforce creates. Honestly, who needs it? We’re entirely self-sufficient. Come Christmas, The Island will be churning with industry. Just have to wait a little longer.

An oversight? Perhaps. I see it as a lesson. A pioneer community like ours learns along the way. But many are the days, most in fact, passed in utter and complete tranquility. You may see actual skipping.

It helps if you keep road-center.

Moving on, then. Yes, the streets on The Island are remarkably clean. Sparkling? Why thank you. Believe it or not, we have no sanitation staff. I attribute the tidiness to three causes: no homeless, no roving gangs of troublesome youth—you can add yet-to-be incarcerated criminals to the category—and especially, no vermin. There were. Native species of rat, cockroaches—size of small lobsters, I’m told. And stray dogs. All gone now.

Occasionally guests report hearing a yip, a snarl, a piercing verminy shriek from underground. But listen again, I always say. You’ll never hear it twice. Just your imagination.

Moving on, here’s a three-star restaurant, one of several. There’s the new Apple store. Smallest island in the archipelago to have one. Forbidden fruit? I think not!

What’s that? Ah, the fencing. You will have noticed, no doubt, the high fence with razor wire ringing The Island. We get many questions about it. Yes, it is electric, but don’t worry, you won’t get shocked. The approach is barred on both sides by recessed anti-personnel reactors. This is a loose-soil island, you see, easily permits of tunneling, burrowing. Not to worry! Our engineers have paved the surface with the most unyielding of materials. But at the shores, and even, sometimes, from the seafloor new tunnels find egress. Can never predict where. A problem. We’re working on it. The fence is merely precautionary.

I’m sorry? Paint it blue? To blend with the horizon? Hmm. Instead of the black? I’ll bring it up at the next council. Thank you.

So the end of our tour brings us to our beach ferry, known affectionately as “Imelda.” Yes, The Island has some of the most attractive white sand beaches in the world, strewn with marvelous marine specimens—not a foot of which is accessible. You see, now, why this is so. But feast your eyes on our solution. Glimmering in the distance, that blinding hump in the sea? We call it “The Mushroom.” Largest artificial beach on the planet, and only twenty minutes by ferry. A deep-water trench there, good thousand feet of strong ocean current separates sea floor from swimmers.

Even if a tunnel were extended to that outrageous length, no one would survive the ascent (we tested it). And if someone did somehow survive, the current would have long washed him past. Next stop, Cuba!

Yes, there are security towers on The Mushroom.

As today is Sunday, you may wish to begin your perambulations across the square, opposite our exquisite baroque fountain (real coup landing that) at the Cathedral of St. Lawrence. More of a chapel, really. Great story about St. Lawrence. He was a young deacon, charged one day by a ruthless Roman prefect with handing over all the riches of his church. Failing this, he would be killed—roasted alive on a gridiron. Can you imagine! Anyway, he spends the next three days distributing all the church’s treasures to the poor, then he sets off for Rome—heard this one?—and tagging along behind are—

I’m sorry? There are a dozen security towers on The Mushroom. Each fifty feet high. Oh, they use a sniper rifle—not sure which. Something Navy Sealish. If you like, you can ask the mayor. He’ll be dropping by to discuss our students’ dazzling test scores. The hot topic around here, lately. Everyone wants to know why our students perform so well, what’s our secret? My own son, for example—never a mathematician—has been acing pre-calc. His scores are so high, in fact, that I actually suspected him of—

What? Good heavens, no! In my six months here, they have never fired once.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is no, I repeat, no threat to you from our economic system. On the contrary, we are currently being vetted by a Chinese-led international team, hope one day to be a model for the global community. The World Bank is “cautiously optimistic.” If you take stock for just a moment, I’m sure you’ll appreciate how safe, how fortunate, how…oxygenically elect we are.

There is little—no doubt, in my humble opinion, that this island is paradise.

On that note, I ask that you help preserve our little heaven on earth. There is an auto-recycling program on The Island. Just dispose of your litter at the fern-colored sidewalk chutes. The fern is a nice touch, isn’t it? Can’t tell you how long we wrangled over that one.

Rest assured, the litter will take care of itself. But I must remind you not to linger at the chutes.

And for God’s sake, keep road-center!


NoPhotoCHARLIE KEYHEART teaches at the Adult Learning Center at Lehman College.

 

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