A short story by Phil Strawn
A short time back, in a country much like ours was at one time, a young boy lived a good life. His parents, third-generation immigrants from Europe, we’re proud that their only child will be the first in their family to attend a university.
When Babalou was six years old, he asked his mother about two pictures hanging on the wall in their dining room. There was a painting of a sad-eyed man with long hair and a beard, hands clasped, staring upward. The other picture was not a painting, but a fancy written document on yellowish paper. His mother said the man with the sad eyes is our Lord and Savior, and the other picture is what we live by every day as a free nation. Babalou never understood her explanation, but he knew his mother was wise, and he trusted her.
When Babalou turned ten, he worked after school with his father in the family shoe repair shop. His father, a proud citizen, wanted his son to know the value of hard work and learn life’s lessons to build the boys’ self-esteem. Babalou was diligent and learned well. He flourished and became a good student and a fine young man.
The day Babalou arrived at the university, as he and his parents stood by their old car parked in front of his dormitory, they hugged him harder than he could remember. His mother said to him, ” Babalou, take this gift of education that you have been blessed with, and use it to better yourself and your future family. Don’t forget that this country allows you to be anything you wish to be. Go with the grace of God.” He nodded that he would do just that.
Two years into his university education, Babalou was a changed man. The years of professors preaching inequality and pushing socialistic doctrine had soured his once optimistic look on life. He believed God to be a fraud. The professors said the revolution is upon us, and ” The Plan” is being implemented as we speak. How could he argue? They knew everything.
His visits home became less frequent, and when there, he argued with his parents about the smallest of things, calling them fools and ignorant and useless old people because they couldn’t see his way is the only way. His family didn’t know their son, and it broke their hearts. In the last year of school, he didn’t visit for the holidays or summer and didn’t call home once. Letters from home were tossed into the wastebasket; the uncoupling was complete. The “Plan” had secured another convert.
The world of technology awaited Babalou. He invented an application for smartphones that was so new to the industry that the country’s largest companies begged to purchase it. He declined to sell what he had worked so hard to build. His pride was still intact but waning. His university education had paid off well. His parents saved their entire working life to pay for his newfound success, but not one word of gratitude came from Babalou.
Babalou formed a company that soon became the largest and most powerful in the tech world. He resisted selling and fought numerous hostile takeovers, but he lost the battle one day, weakend from the constant barrage, he signed their documents. His company was taken from him for the better of the people and for the “Plan.” Babalou was pushed out and swept away.
A rich man beyond anyone’s dreams, he lived a quiet life in a beautiful beachfront home in the land of the sun. Contact with his parents had ceased years ago. He sometimes wondered what they were doing, but he cared not enough to contact them.
The television news said the “Plan” was now in full effect. Social Pensions were canceled, the money to be used for illegal immigrants and others without. Medical insurance was banned. Others came first; citizens came last. Seniors and the disabled and infirmed were sent to retirement camps to live out their last days. Their property was re-distributed to the needy. They were of no use to this “one society” and contributed nothing. Babalou was not concerned; he had more money than God in off-shore and foreign banks. So what if he had to give some to the less fortunate. The “Plan” is right.
Babalou awoke from a sweaty, hellish nightmare. He is now, after many years, concerned about his parents and their well being. Why has he been such a self-centered, greedy fool? He had no answer, but he felt he must see them.
The private jet landed at the small mid-western airport, and Babalou chartered a limo to drive him to his childhood home. The neighborhood was different now, rundown and dirty. Old cars on jacks littered the front yards of the manicured lawns he knew as a child. This was not home; this was block after block of Hell. He knocked on the door of his parent’s home. A young boy answered. In broken English, he explained that the former owners had been moved to a “Retirement Camp,” and his family lived here now. The rose bushes so beloved by his mother lay dead in their flowerbed.
Babalou used his own application to track his parents to a Retirement Camp located an hour away. Arriving, the agency representative, a young lady with a surly attitude, took him to their apartment. She unlocked the door and led him into a small room with a double bed and a kitchenette. Babalou asked where his parents were. The young lady said they had died a few weeks before but had left a large envelope for him. She reminded Babalou that all of their belonging were now the property of ” The Plan,” and he could remove nothing from this room. He was gobsmacked. The Plan was implemented to help everyone live a better life, not put old people in camps and confiscate their personal belongings. What in the Hell has happened to his country? Where had he been?
Babalou sat on his parent’s bed. The quilt his grandmother made, the satin pillow with the cross his mother loved so dearly, and his father’s worn pipe lay on the nightstand. Childhood memories flooded his senses, and tears of sorrow and regret came to his eyes. He opened the envelope. The first document he removed was the man with sad eyes, our “Lord and Savior.” His mother’s words came to him. The second document was the written words that hung in the lovely frame in their dining room. He studied it for a moment and then began to read aloud The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America for the first time in his life.