Commonwealth: A Novel of Utopia, part 1, chapter 3
Author’s Note: This is an excerpt from my novel Commonwealth. The rest of today’s installment is free, but only on my Patreon site. If you want to read the next part today, it’s already up on Patreon as well. You can sign up for as little as $1/month.
“Well, a lot of people feel that way,” Michael said.
“It’s optimism about the future,” Rae said, deliberately addressing the two of them and not Owen. “That’s what babies are. Having kids is a sign of hope that the world will still be here when they grow up, that they’ll be able to create good lives for themselves. That’s what people have lost. That’s why I’m happy for you two. Speaking of which, how are you going to make it work with your jobs? Have you told them?”
“Not yet,” Zoe said. “I’m waiting until I’m a little farther along. But I’m sure they’ll be flexible. After all, how would they stay in business if people weren’t having babies?”
“Same here,” said Michael. “A lot of drivers work odd hours. I’m hoping I can get a shift that will put me at home when Zoe is at work.”
“It sounds like you’ve got this planned out,” Rae said. “I’m glad. We need more people like you two having kids. People who care. There are so many people who don’t… or can’t. This world makes it hard to hold on to hope. There’s so much suffering that sometimes it overwhelms you. I was watching a documentary the other night about the Pacific Northwest. It made me think of the kids out there, or in what’s left of Europe. What’s their life like, growing up in a war zone? How many are orphans? Child soldiers?”
“We’ll save them, some day,” Owen said, trying awkwardly to reassure her. “After the socialist revolution comes to the U.S., they’ll be next.”“Maybe it won’t be our generation that does it,” Rae said. “Do you think we had our chance and missed it? That our moment is gone and it’ll be up to our kids and grandkids to save the world? Maybe our golden age is already over. Maybe all that’s left is to pay the bill for our mistakes.”
“I don’t believe the world works like that,” Michael said. “Nothing keeps getting worse forever. Everything goes in cycles. Light and dark, heat and cold, wet and dry, life and death. Everything in nature contains the seed of its opposite. The circle always comes around. In fact, it may be a good sign that things seem so bad right now,” he said, cracking a quick grin. “It could mean that we’ve reached the bottom of the cycle, and soon it’ll be time for things to turn and go the other way.”
“There’s always joy and goodness in the world,” Zoe agreed. “It never goes away. Sometimes it’s well-hidden, but it’s there. You just have to look hard enough to find it.”
Rae felt her heart lighten. She looked around at the semi-darkened apartment, at the half-empty bottle of wine and the soft glow of the candles, at her friends gathered around the table and the remnants of the dinner they’d enjoyed.
“I don’t think I have to look too hard,” she said with a smile.
“Anyway,” she added, feeling a mischievous mood seize her, “where else would I look for hope if not my friends? It’s not as if I’m going to get it from the TV news or the government. Least of all those daily proclamations from Remington.”
She did her best to imitate the morale secretary’s habitual glower. In a stern voice, she put a hand over her heart and said, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United Free States of America, and to the corporations, for which it stands…”
“One nation, under money,” Michael contributed.
“Divided against itself,” Owen chimed in.
“With liberty and justice for sale,” Zoe concluded, and they all burst out in laughter.