Idiosyncratica Post, 1st September
Posted by That Other Mike on 01/09/2008
Our challenge this month was to write 500 words on the joys of losing, as given by Archie.
My story follows below. It is exactly 500 words.
I was picked out of a line at the age of 8. My parents had been arrested; my father on charges of corruption and bribe-taking, probably true, my mother for counter-revolutionary activities, almost certainly untrue.
That happened a lot. Since the “reforms”, it’s not so common, but it still happens. Now, they do it in secret, or arrange for accidents.
Because so many parents were arrested in our province, it was decided that the children should be moved. 30 of us lined up at the local barracks. The babies had already been taken away to the state orphanage or given to families who would receive a monthly stipend for taking in a People’s orphan. My brother was one of those; he was 2, I think.
A militia captain stalked up and down with a clipboard, checking names against a list.
The two children on either side of me were reassigned to special schools for future engineers and music, respectively. Never mind that they might not be gifted in these fields; the People decreed it, and it was so. Individuals were blank slates; only the People as a class had defined and absolute characteristics. Individuals were segments of the People, and thus subject to its will as expressed by the People’s Revolutionary Apparatus.
Things are supposed to be different now; we are told that the individual is celebrated and that a multitude of individuals pulling together for the common good is the aim of the Apparatus.
The line thinned as boys and girls were pulled out of the line by militiamen and sent to schools, orphanages and even families. Eventually, I was the last one there. The captain peered at his list.
“You are honoured with a place at the People’s National Academy of Sport,” he said, and jerked his head towards one of the guards. “He will take you there.”
The journey was a week in the back of a truck. The guard wasn’t unkind, but he didn’t say more than a dozen words to me until the day he left me at the Academy.
There followed days, weeks and then years of training. I was tall for my age and selected for the sprint. I was trained to the point of collapse, and then trained some more.
It was part of a plan; every child in the Academy was aimed at a specific Olympics. Mine happened this year, ten years after my parents were arrested.
We were feted in the national press and even met a member of the Central Committee before boarding the plane. The Leader was unavailable for the meeting but wished us well, he assured us.
When it came time for me to run, I took my place in the stadium, cheering on all sides, and got ready for the gun. It cracked and everyone else ran; I stayed at the starting post.
The race was run without me. A country despised by the People won it.
My country lost and was humiliated, and I smiled.