by Raji Singh
Enjoy an excerpt from the galleys for an upcoming book Fiction House is publishing in 2013. This scene fits well with the whimsical nature of this site.
The film studio announcer clears his throat, “hhrum, hhrum.” Then he leans into the microphone, “Meet the nuclear family of the future. You can be sure they’ll come to symbolize the not too distant 21st century: Introducing – Adam Atom and Eevah Sue, his glowing southern belle wife. There’s their third grader, little Annie Atom, and teen son Ancil Atom. It’s a picture perfect family…”
Sally Pursells, J.B. Smith, and the production film crew watch the Atom actors leave their spanking new ‘64 station wagon prop and mosey to the studio set just a few feet away, a lakeside beach. It’s picnic time.
The Atoms wear rubber-like clothes, futuristic, translucent yellows, pinks, and greens. Lighting engineers paint blue skies, and even bluer water. They’re meant to reflect the color of joy and optimism of ‘clean’ atomic power- an optimism Sally has spent 14 years contriving.
Boss J.B. puts his arm around her shoulders, squeezes, and whispers. “Fine job, Sally. Madison Avenue could not have done better.”
Little Annie opens a beach umbrella and says. “Papa. My teacher says atomic power will cost just pennies a day to cleanly light and heat our homes.”
“How right she is, Little Annie.”
The announcer comes on. “Electricity meters will be obsolete in the world of the future, Little Annie.”
“But Mama, Papa, what about the companies that make the meters? They’ll be out of business.”
“That they will,” Adam and Eevah agree.
Annie looks sad, concerned for those businesses.
Announcer, deep-voiced, ever the serious: “Fear not, Little One. They’re not AMERICAN companies.” Quietly, he intones, “They’re Japanese, German. We spent years fighting them. This is their ‘just desserts’.”
Annie smiles again, but Adam Atom frowns at what he sees dragging along the studio beach set. It’s the once royal King Coal and his wife Queen Kerosena polluting the beach with their presence. They and their multitudinous family are drab, oily-clothed, and now slovenly passe.
J.B. Smith tenses at what he sees enacted on the set. ‘Hold on, here. Sally’s parodying me now. What is she thinking? She might as well call him King Smith.‘
“Quick, Eevah, Little Annie, Ancil. Let’s dip into the water. Maybe they won’t see us.”
“Oh, I do despise that leaky Kerosena,” spits Eevah. “She smells like rotten eggs, and she…”
Announcer: “Eevah Atom’s meltdown is abruptly interrupted by old King Coal and his scary little coal-foals as they slide closer.
“Don’t split, Atoms,” says King Coal. “Stay with us. We may be fossils, but we’re always here. Though maybe we’re not such clean ‘foo-els’, we’re reliable. And we need each other.”
Announcer: “Uh, oh. Look. Not a pretty portrait. King Coal’s polluting the Atom family with doubt.”
Son Ancil interrupts Father Adam. “But what about the waste from our nuclear generation? I hear people saying nothing can be done about it. We have to do somethun.”
“Tut, tut, Son,” Adam Atom scoffs. “Naysayers always want to get in the way of progress. Future nuclear generations will solve the problems.”
Announcer: “Indeed. ‘Tut, tut, Ancil. You must trust your nuclear family.”
King Coal sneers and loudly belches a black plume of smoke.
J.B. squeezes Sally’s shoulder, hard.
“Ouch! Dammit, J.B. That hurts.”
“Not as much as the way you’re portraying our vital industry.” A real-life King Coal, J.B. explodes,“God damn it people. Coal is our business! Our lifeblood!” He kicks over metal chairs, prop trees and the single-side plywood station wagon. “For the life of me I won’t have it depicted as…”
“Shh, J.B.,” Sally leads him to a corner. Crew and actors divert their eyes – paychecks haven’t cleared yet. Sally attempts to reassure J.B. “We’re flooding the state with ‘educational information’. We’re gaining the public’s support. Radio, tv, billboards, our message is everywhere and its succeeding. That’s all that matters. Once it’s complete we’ll do anything we damn well please with both coal and atomic. Who’s to stop us?” She brushes against him coyly,”Has anyone ever stopped you before, J.B.?” Sally appeals to his rightful vanity.
“You’ll see, J.B. These latest promotions will get the regulators’ approval – with minimal pain-in-the-tush public opposition.”
She sighs. ‘After fourteen years…this success will put me behind only you as the most powerful person in this industry.’
(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures. You can read their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE, but that’s a different story. It’s available at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.)
©Raji Singh 2013