Culture

The Enforcement of Happiness

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Image via Liberty Island

Editor’s Note: Since March, PJ Lifestyle has been highlighting some of the most innovative fiction writers at the recently-launched new media publishing platform Liberty Island, featuring interviews and story excerptsClick here to see our collection of 24 so far. To learn more check out this interview Sarah Hoyt conducted with CEO Adam Bellow: “It also has a unique mission: to serve as the platform and gathering-place for the new right-of-center counterculture.” Also see COO David S. Bernstein’s recent essay here in which he defines Liberty Island as, “an imaginative playground where brilliant and creative people can test their ideas without being harassed or threatened by the new breed of ‘community activists’ who police thought and speech in the media.” Also see Bellow’s recent cover story at National Review: “Let Your Right Brain Run Free.” 

This is the third of several new stories that PJ Lifestyle will be excerpting. Check out this excerpt from Pierre Comtois’s on Friday, “The Future That Used To Be,” and this one from Michael Sheldon on Thursday, “‘Do You Make Your Dark’n’Stormies With the Proper Bermudian Ingredients?’” More author interviews will be coming soon too.

“Your one o’clock is already here, Mr. Jackson.”

Marcus nodded at the intercom while brushing crumbs from his lap. “Five minutes.”

He straightened his neat red tie using his silver Toastmasters pencil holder as a mirror. Lunch remains went into the trash, the trash into his private bathroom. While there, he indulged in a quick brush with a disposable toothbrush, though he admitted to himself halfway through that part of this was just putting off the inevitable. Nobody wanted a government inquisition. And anytime you had a “council” send representatives, it would be an inquisition. He grimaced at himself and turned off the light before closing the door.

Settling himself in his chair, he buzzed Teresa back. “Send them in.”

A moment later, his door swung open, a very young face peering through. “Mr. Jackson?”

“Come in!” Marcus said heartily, rising from his desk in a show of welcome. “You are Mr. Smith?” He walked over, giving his signature well-practiced handshake. His huge dark hand neatly enveloped Smith’s smaller, limp hand.

“We’re from the Racial Relations Council? Health and Human Services?” The slight young man stepped in hesitantly, followed by a tiny Hispanic woman in a sensible black suit and an older black man wearing a pristine white lab coat. Marcus held his smile, though his forehead wrinkled a bit in confusion. What, he wondered, was up with the entourage?

“I understand you needed to talk to me about racial compliance. As you have no doubt seen for yourself, our hiring patterns are–”

Smith waved him off. “We have your records, sir. Blue Screen International has done a stellar job of racio-sexual/gender/ethno balancing.”

“I see.” Marcus glanced at the entourage. “I’m afraid I don’t understand what this is about.”

Mr. Smith motioned at the chairs near Marcus’s desk. “May I?”

“Oh, please, won’t you all have a seat?”

“Thank you.” Smith sat and opened his briefcase to remove a file, sliding on a pair of fussy-looking reading glasses. His companions remained standing, one on each side behind his chair.

“Let’s just get to business, shall we? I’m sure we’re both busy. I have a few questions for you, sir.”

Marcus sat down behind his desk, frowning at the standing agents. “Okay.”

“You’re Mr. Marcus Jackson, of 1411 Heavenly Meadow Drive in Rockport, Massachusetts.”

“Yes.”

“And your wife is Mrs. Leticia Jackson, born in Biloxi, Mississippi. You yourself were born in Harlem?”

“My parents worked hard to get me out of Harlem,” Marcus said almost reflexively. The semi-autonomous Harlem, effectively a gang state, had a very bad name these days. Mom had worked three jobs, Dad another two, to help Marcus go to a private school, then get into a good college. He’d bought them a house only last year, trying to repay what could never be repaid. He remembered there had been some HUD issue over that, something about destabilizing the youth by moving out older anchor citizens.

“I see, sir,” said Smith. He flipped a page over in the file, running a finger down it. “Your current income places you in the upper middle class tax bracket, very nearly the upper class.”

“I’ve been blessed.”

He nodded. “You are a registered gun owner.”

Marcus frowned. “Yes.”

“You have three children, ages ten, thirteen, and seventeen.”

“I keep the guns locked up. My oldest has had extensive firearms training, too, just in case.”

“Yes, we have that in our records. Do you have a normal relationship with your wife, sir?”

“I’m sorry?

“Perhaps I’m not being clear. Do you have a normal sexual relationship? Do you engage in relations together regularly, no desire for alternative partners of either sex.”

“I don’t see why I have to answer that.” Marcus saw the small Hispanic woman behind Smith put her hand on something hidden away in her coat. “But yes.” Damned intrusive busybodies.

“You listen to classical music? Not hip-hop, soul, blues or rap?”

“What difference–yes. Yes, I do.” And some jazz, he thought, but Smith continued down what was clearly an official list.

“You read business magazines and books almost exclusively.”

“I’m a businessman.”

“Just answer the question.”

“It wasn’t really a question.” At Smith’s look, he sighed. “Yes.”

“Thank you.” He cleared his throat. “According to this, you prefer German food to soul food. You refused affirmative action when it was offered to you. You can’t sing at all and dance poorly. You have never been particularly athletic. You tip well at restaurants.”

Marcus interrupted. “Hard work deserves reward.”

Smith peered over his reading glasses. “Of course. These are just questions, sir.”

“They are not. They are statements, they are increasingly rude, and I would like to know just what this is all about.”

Finish reading here at Liberty Island