Author's note – be forewarned – not only is this non erotic, it is also very, very politcal. Hopefully it may make you think about the consequences of what some are wishing for.
"Did you hear?" it was whispered to me as I entered the office building on that dreary Tuesday morning. Even as I was removing my smog mask someone else came buy and asked, "Did you hear the news?"
I nodded politely and said nothing more as I folded up my acid rain poncho and stuffed it into its sack, then, elevators not working as usual, made my way up ten flights of stairs to the accounting department where I attempted at supervising.
"Hello Tom," frowned one of my minions. "You're not scheduled to be here today."
Before I had a chance to reply and tell her that it was too bad I was there and that she would actually have to do at least a little bit of work that day, another came by and asked, "Did you hear about Jeff?"
"Yes, yes I did. That's why I had to come in today. Human resources wants to see me in person for some reason."
"Can I have his desk?" asked someone.
"Why? What's wrong with yours?"
"He sat next to the window."
"And you want to see all that smog and acid rain? It's bad enough I have walk in it. I'd rather not have to look at it all day long," I replied. "It will be up to human resources."
"You walked?" asked another.
"Had no choice. My wife Susan took the moped this morning and I didn't see any jitney's so I walked. That's why I'm late." Not that anyone cared, least of all those who worked for me. On days when they didn't work from home, hardly anyone was ever on time. Management certainly didn't seem to care and I had no idea why I did.
"I thought you and your wife each had one?"
"We did but one was stolen months ago and what with gas now being over $50 a gallon and both of us working mostly from home, we thought we could get away with just one. Unfortunately she had to go into her office today and it's too far for her to walk, almost nine miles, so she took the moped and I walked six miles."
With that little explanation, I sat down in my cubicle and attempted to sort things out. My meeting in human resources wasn't for another hour and there was little work that couldn't wait. I wanted to clear out Jeff's cubicle but realized that would not be a good idea. What if I did and the police came and something was missing? I checked my emails and found one from the legal department warning me not to do just that. Leave it up to the police. It was not our job. I wasn't sure if the rest of my staff was aware so I forwarded it to everyone who was there that morning.
"Did you hear about Jeff?" whispered another as she came by. "He caught the bus on Saturday."
I could not hold back my slight laugh.
"It's not funny!" she chided me. "Now I'll have to train another."
"First of all, I'm laughing at the euphemism. I mean there haven't been buses in ten, fifteen years, at least not public transit buses like when I was growing up." No, there hadn't been any public transit in a long, long time. The Tea Party, no make that The Party, had seen to that. Everything and anything that government did had been cut back or cut out. "Secondly, no you won't be training anyone. You barely know how to log into the computer system. I think we're probably over staffed as it is."
"But there's so much work to do. We really need more help."
"Well, if the help we have wouldn't spend so much of the company's time social networking, we might actually get some of that work done," I said to the young idiot woman who probably spent over half her day tweeting and networking, and that was on those rare days she was even in the office. At least my comment got her away from me. The really sad thing was that she was actually one of the more competent ones I had working for me. She actually knew a debit from a credit and had some idea of how to fix some of the routine mistakes that other people made.
I made my way over to Jeff's cubicle and looked at it. The police had already been there as there was tape all around it with big warnings on it not to tamper with anything.
"They were here bright and early yesterday morning," explained Eric who sat in the next cubicle over. He was one of my regulars who actually came to work most mornings. He told everyone that he actually preferred to go to work rather than telecommute. There were two toddlers at home and they made it almost impossible for him to get anything done.
I looked at Jeff's desk but dared not touch anything. It was uncommonly neat. Everything was tidy. The small "in" basket was empty as were the "out" and the "pending." He had cleaned up everything on Friday and left nothing for anyone to do. "He knew," I said a loud.
"What?" asked Eric.
"Jeff knew Friday what he was going to do. He finished everything."
"I didn't notice," he replied. "I actually wasn't here for a change."
"Nor was I and to be honest, even if I had been, would I have thought it odd or out of the ordinary?"
I looked out his window and winced at the sight of all that smog and pollution. "Look at that. No wonder he did it."
"I got some pictures covering mine," explained Eric. "The only way I can stand it. I wonder what the view would have been like back when there were still environmental regulations? I heard there was hardly any smog here."
He, unlike I, was too young to remember those days. "Blue skies and on a good day, you could see for miles. On the other side of the building, you could even see Lake Michigan. In the summer, people would even swim there."
"Not now," he laughed. "Go for a swim now and you'll never come out alive."
"Well, I'd better go see human resources," I shrugged and began the trek up four flights of stairs and into the inner sanctum of the corporation I worked for. I was a few minutes early but the manager himself, Fred Tompkins was waiting for me.
"Someone from legal is on the way down," he explained as he offered me a chair and some bottled water. I was honored. It was rather expensive stuff from Europe and I wondered how I rated it.
"Why is legal involved?" I asked politely but I was pretty sure I knew the answers.
"He committed suicide so the police are investigating."
"You mean the real police or the morality police?"
"MP's of course."
I merely nodded. "There aren't any where near enough real police to track down my stolen moped but there are plenty enough of them to investigate suicides."
"They think he may have had help."
"Whatever for? I assumed he would have used a gun." It was society's dirty little secret. Almost anyone could get a gun. They were so common that it was just assumed that everyone was carrying one. The argument had been that if everyone was armed, criminals would be reluctant to accost people and rob them. Instead, it just increased the number of accidental shootings and made it easier for anyone to kill themselves or anyone else for that matter.
"He was listed you know," meaning he was on a list, a rather secret list, of those who could not own guns.
"I didn't know. I assumed he had a gun like everyone else." Including myself I might add. I had even taken a course in school on gun handling and had a certificate, though that meant little those days. "Why was he listed?"
"He was," and here he paused and almost tried not to say the word as if he was waiting for me to say it and acknowledge that I knew. "A homosexual," he spat out the word in disgust. "You didn't know?"
"Why would I?"
"He worked for you for eight years! You gave him raises! Good lord, you can't tell me you didn't know?"
"Again, why would I? He came to work. He did an excellent job, better than I do honestly and kept to himself. He never said anything to me any more than anyone else there does. Ask the others. They'll tell you."
"Well, legal wants to know why you didn't report him. For your sake, I really hope that you didn't know."
I wondered if that was a threat or just another bluff as we were joined by one of the corporate lawyers who was not introduced. I wasn't sure if I should be afraid or honored and decided I didn't care one way or the other. I knew that no one knew that I knew Jeff had been gay. He would never have told anyone that I knew and I hadn't told anyone, not even my wife. Of all the people, Jeff knew how dangerous the admission was.
"If he was listed, then why weren't we informed?" I asked. The lawyer actually smiled at that one. "If he was listed and banned from owning a gun because of his sexual orientation then the MP's obviously knew about it some time ago yet they never told us, now did they? I would say it's their fault, not ours."
"Excellent point, excellent. Why didn't I think of that yesterday when they were questioning me?" Yes, why didn't you think of it, Fred?
"That leaves the matter of his assisted suicide," said the lawyer. "Who told him how to make hydrogen sulfide gas?"
"Hydrogen sulfide?" I asked. "Is that what he used?"
"That's what I was told. You know about it?"
I laughed. "It's on warning labels on our products," I explained.
"We profit from it, actually and we even tell people how to make it."
"You can't be serious. It's against the law."
"Yes, it's against the law to tell anyone how to kill themselves."
"It's against the law for people to give out that information but it's not against the law for corporations to print warning labels on their products, products like two of ours, that warn if two products are mixed, it will creat hydrogen sulfide gas."
"Two products? Two of our products?" gasped the lawyer. "Which two?"
"I can't tell you," I laughed. "That might be construed as assisting in your suicide. You do seem a bit depressed but I'm not an expert."
"But why would he have killed himself?" asked Fred.
I looked at him as if he had asked the dumbest question I had ever heard and wondered if he really wanted an answer and when it seemed that he did I replied, "Well I can only guess, but honestly why wouldn't he? I mean look out the window and what do you see? Pea soup smog in Chicago in the summer. An environment that's completely gone to hell. No public services, not even decent water or public transit. I have to wear a smog mask and carry an acid proof poncho to work. Life sucks in general and I wonder why more people don't. To top it all off, if he was gay, he would be banned and listed which limited his travel and housing and now with the new legislation, if he was caught doing anything quote immoral unquote he could be institutionalized for the rest of his life without a trial."
"You're not one of them?" asked the lawyer.
"No I'm not and I resent the accusation. I have a wife and two grown children and another who died because of our third world health care system."
"Then why do you care?"
I smiled. "Some one has to. I am reminded of a quote from about a hundred years ago. I'm honestly not sure who said it or even why and I'm going to paraphrase it and I hope to do it justice.
"First, they came for the illegal immigrants and I didn't speak out because I was not an illegal immigrant.
"Then they came for the poor and I didn't speak out because I didn't consider myself to be poor.
"Then they came for the homosexuals and I didn't speak out because I am not a homosexual.
"Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out.
"Who are they coming for next?" I asked. "Ask them, ask the party, who are they coming for next? I don't care. I'm speaking out now. I've seen them pervert our constitution in the name of all that religious crap and it sickens me."
The two men sat in total disbelief. I had always been like a good little robot, keeping my mouth shut until then, all those years of being silent and going along with the party.
"I gave Jeff raises because he did a good job. What does his sexual orientation have to do with being an accountant? The party says that big government is bad so it eliminated most business regulations but instead of government in the board rooms, we now have government in the bedroom. Two giant corporations control all the news media, two, that's all and they both are in bed with the Tea Party because the party allowed them to get that big provided they played ball with the party."
"I could have you arrested," said the lawyer.
"What happened to the first amendment to the constitution? Oh, that's right. They passed a law that was ruled unconstitutional but because we allowed them to amend the constitution and gave congress the right to over rule the Supreme Court, they can do pretty much whatever they want so now your right of free speech doesn't apply if you speak out against the party."
"You can't have him arrested," said Fred.
"He didn't say anything, anything at all," then Fred, good old boy Fred looked the lawyer right in the eye and added, "and if you should cause trouble, be aware that I do have friends in the party. A word here or a word there and you might be in trouble. Who knows? You could even be fired tomorrow and be black listed. I wouldn't cause trouble if I were you."
I wondered why Fred was doing this. The lawyer glared and then left.
"The man who said that quote you paraphrased was, I believe a Lutheran priest and he was talking about the Holocaust."
I merely nodded.
"I had forgotten it and I should not have, I of all people around here. You see, I a Jew. Thank you for reminding me of that."
And so I went back to my desk and did my job and the next day I went to a memorial that the company held for Jeff and an amazing number of my co workers showed up. I heard about a rally the following week and not only did I attend up but so did my wonderful wife and children along with half the office and I thought that at least he did not die in vain.