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Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Time Event
11:53a
Free Fiction: ON THE PEOPLE'S BUSINESS
A short piece, not really science fiction, that I doubt I can sell. Here it is for your reading entertainment:

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ON THE PEOPLE'S BUSINESS by John C. Wright

I was passing through one of the poorer sections of the country, going toward the capital.

Travel was difficult. There was occasional rail service, and overloaded trains (their roofs overhung dangerously with half-naked children, calm-faced mothers bent beneath drooping bundles) clattered their smoky way through narrow cuts and under stunted bridges—but no buses were running. To go from one tattered train station to another, one walked or hitch-hiked. Despite the recent violence here, people with cars (Europeans, shop owners, or Party Members) nearly always stopped, and nearly always made a detour if you were in need.

A man who owned a laundry drove me all the way to the train station, rushing with mad haste across rutted and potholed roads, chatting and laughing the whole time. In return I paid the overweight guards at the checkpoints their bribes. I gave him my bottle of aspirin for his sick wife: he seemed to think all Europeans were doctors. Despite the desperate poverty of the land, the people seemed cheerful, full of life. To my human eyes, there was nothing to condemn. I spent the first three day in his company. Like someone in a bad sitcom, I was always making oblique comments to the people around me to make sure they could see my traveling companion before I introduced him.

I first noticed the angel across the platform when I went in to buy my ticket. Admittedly, the sight made me nervous. I nonchalantly tried to keep him in view, and I even bought a newspaper so I could hide my face while staring, just like a spy in a bad sitcom. I relaxed a bit when I realized other people could see him, too, but I wondered at their fearlessness.

The angel was traveling incognito, which is to say, he seemed to have flesh and blood and to occupy space and time. He had no wings, or else he kept them folded, and wore no crown of light. I saw him buy a Pepsi form a vendor and drink it. He also went into the men’s room at the station house, I assume for the ordinary reasons.

I pushed myself in front of uncomplaining natives into the waiting line, so that I could look over his shoulder when he bought his ticket. It cost more than I could spare, but we ended up in the same coach.

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