Adjustment day, p.21
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       Adjustment Day, p.21
 

           Chuck Palahniuk

  Duly impressed, she’d looked at the million-year-old Egyptian statue of some lady. Charlie had his team paint it Kelly green to match his new lawn furniture. Shasta saw it and said, “Neat-o.”

  He wanted to show her the boss stuff he’d scored from the Art Institute of Chicago. Really old stuff. Stuff he hoped she’d like, too. The courtship screening was just about complete. They still needed her genetic test to prove she was officially white, but that was just a formality. One look and he knew she was white. The clear sky might’ve been modeled after her periwinkle blue eyes. Birdsong could not compete with her laugh. Such an innocent she was, so sweet, so naïve. She still believed in global warming and the Holocaust.

  Charlie suspected he was ear-raping her, but he was nervous. He couldn’t stop talking.

  He made her stand and admire the big candleholders he’d picked up at some church or another on Fifth Avenue. Solid gold or something so it was okay to use outdoors, year-round. He made her squat down, put her hands around one, and try to lift it to see how heavy. She couldn’t.

  “Pretty cool,” she agreed.

  New junk was arriving daily. More old dust catchers from the Getty, stuff from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, even. A crew of guys did nothing but unpack the crates and try to find spots to stick everything.

  As they strolled, he tried to impress upon her the difficulties of his life. Living as an aristocrat took some getting used to. Like, all the lives that hung on his every utterance. Not to mention the rich food omnipotent moguls were expected to eat. This morning, for instance, he felt positively poop-raped by his morning bowel movement.

  Thus their formal courtship had begun, and with it Shasta’s education. And Charlie read to her passages from the book of Talbott. Slowly, he read that a woman decides early whether to love the soul within her womb, or to discard it. Once that belly child is birthed naturally, be it black or brown or Asian, she can’t help but feel love and pride for it. An impulse that explained so much of women’s artwork.

  On the contrary, a white man must find the newborn to be a healthy facsimile of himself before he loves it. For white men are so constantly under siege, beset by corrupt ideas and the degrading efforts of lesser races, that the white man must be certain his offspring will be his loyal ally.

  In the glorious new world, Charlie assured her, all children would have value. Not even a homosexual child was worthless. Once it reached the age of declaration it could be exchanged for an innocent boy or girl heterosexual raised by mistake in captivity by homosexuals.

  As minstrels serenaded them on lyres and pipes in daisy-dense fields, Charlie read aloud to her from the Talbott book:

  God alone can create anything new. We can only recognize patterns, identify the unseen, and combine things to create slight variations.

  He read:

  Adjustment Day was brought about by the resolution of resolution.

  As per Talbott, technology and morality have created a climate where nothing short of death resolves anything. Feuds live eternally on the Internet. No one can escape any moment of his past. Nothing is forgotten. Conversely, men have adapted to accept shame and humiliation as a passing obstacle. No public figure, no matter how exposed and revealed to be a degenerate, leaves the public eye for long. There was no closure in closure. Adjustment Day occurred to resolve the fact that nothing could be resolved.

  On the radio, Talbott read the news: “The unified council of the lineages report that the body of the President of the formerly united states has not been recovered. He has been missing since Adjustment Day, and officials are investigating the possibility that he fled the government, assisted by agents of a foreign power.

  “Lineage spokesmen report that a bomb has been detonated in a crowded public street in the white ethno state . . . In Blacktopia . . . in Gaysia . . . and two persons . . . six persons . . . eighteen persons are believed to be killed as a result.

  “Terrorists working in league with the former president have claimed responsibility for the gas attack . . . arson . . . acts of sabotage . . . Citizens with information about these crimes should contact a lineage representative immediately.”

  As the blue-black book predicted:

  During times of greatest moral and ethical crisis people will side with those noble leaders who possess the greatest number of guns.

  As Talbott had foreseen, a form of Stockholm syndrome took hold. People accepted the new leaders because people wanted leaders and the former were dead. The details of who would run the government were secondary to the everyday details of their own lives. Providing for their children, for example. Or completing their work or education. Or finding a mate. Those persons who stood to be most affected by the impending war felt a rush of relief. The citizenry was accustomed to adapting to the government’s demands. The exact nature of the government was of less consequence.

  Naturally, many were offended by the violent means taken, but no one so much that he wanted to throw away his own life in protest. The dead were dead.

  Each person had been gifted with a dollop of intelligence. Each dollop met and shared with others. As per Talbott, our souls cling unto our bodies the way non-swimmers grip the edge of a swimming pool.

  Planes crisscrossed the sky. Each planeload a population being relocated to their appropriate homeland. The young among them happy to take part in the largest social improvement in modern history. The older, defeated. Households were packed and shipped. Those surrendering their property had gone online and selected an available home of equal value from among those forfeited by other relocated populations. In airports, families kept their children close and studied the photos on their phones, the video tours of homes, farms, and apartments for which they qualified.

  To call this a social experiment was incorrect. It would never be allowed to fail. Those involved must make it a success.

  A hundred years past midnight, Delicious and her husband lingered in each other’s arms after a conjugal visit in a bus station toilet stall.

  “They call Jarvis an ‘Uncle Tom of Finland,’” said Gentry.

  Delicious asked, “What’s that mean?”

  Gentry shrugged and shook his head. “Something about too many muscles,” he said. “It’s not a compliment.” He gazed down a moment too long, studying the muck on the toilet stall floor. He asked, “Is that a Percocet?”

  Delicious wanted to ask if he and Jarvis fucked. Men would fuck mud. But she didn’t want the wrong answer so she kept silent.

  Perhaps whites had suspected. In recent years white popular culture had stumbled perilously close to discovering the immense wisdom and power blacks had long concealed. Whites had imbued the fictional character of the so-called magic negro with psychic talents and spiritual abilities that hinted at the immense gifts blacks actually held in check. But with the advent of Blacktopia at last the sisters who’d acted the parts of based crackheads and morbidly obese welfare cheats, going so far as to glue white women’s hair to their own heads in a mockery of white beauty standards that the self-centered white buffoons took to be a compliment, these regal black sisters could finally cast off their Falstaffian roles and take their rightful place as unstoppable healers and knowers of great cosmic truths.

  In keeping with their birthright, Blacktopians strode languidly the broad avenues of their Earth-friendly cities. Their long limbs glowing. Their women, willowy and glossy with confident wisdom. Immaculate spires jutted gracefully into the clear skies, defying the Stone Age physics of the backward white man.

  Blacks didn’t so much saunter as they glided in continuous movement. Theirs were not the jerking steps taken by citizens of Caucasia. The white man’s language had no words for movement this fluid, smoothed beyond smooth. More so with each such shortcoming, the white language was falling by the wayside and Blacktopia resurrected its own ancient tongue.

  Whereas white history was written in words, black history was written in melodies.

  Brothers shrugged off the mant
le of violent psychotic killers, characterizations so broad and coarse that only the crude whites were ever fooled. It had become an inside joke: How outlandishly could the brothers behave? How far could they push with their music before the white oppressors might begin to wonder if the whole performance was for their benefit?

  If they spoke loudly and laughed louder it was to hide the truth that most of their communication with one another took place through mental telepathy.

  Free to assume their legacy as learned shamans, the brothers gleefully shed their brimmed caps and knotted kerchiefs, red and blue trappings of their pretend gang affiliations. They laughed a final good-bye to the slippery Ebonics with which they’d hidden their genius from the white man. Masked by those coded words were the formulas for alchemizing precious diamonds from sand, and the newly freed brothers called forth mass quantities of diamonds, and manifested a like bulk of rubies and flawless emeralds, and fashioned the total of these jewels to create immense palaces that caught the sunlight and blazed within like heavenly rainbows the likes of which the white man’s puny stained-glass cathedral windows could never approach.

  In Blacktopia the people continued to sing their praise to the Earth, and in gratitude diamonds sprouted through the ground, the size of skyscrapers, and lanced the clouds like minarets. And molten gold bubbled up and hardened instantly to form domed palaces to house the faithful.

  Sheltered in this paradise of color, the blacks retook the destiny that had been withheld from them under white rule. For the first time in recorded history, black efforts would benefit only blacks and not line the coffers of an enemy. And the cities known as Atlanta and Birmingham and Miami, white cities all, they were laid waste to, and the majestic blacks, their muscular backs gleaming with clean sweat, they sang into existence glorious temples to honor their predecessors, and these edifices excited the skyline with shapes too astounding for whites to envision, and within these mammoth villas the brothers and the sisters lived in perfect accord with all animals, in impeccable harmony with nature and the spirit world.

  The few whites allowed to set eyes upon the wonders of Blacktopia, they retreated in weeping awe. And to preserve their stubborn, caveman fantasy of superiority, these white men loudly and vehemently claimed the jeweled palaces and interplanetary flying pyramids were lies and outright illusions. And when the sisters had eradicated all forms of cancer from Blacktopia, jealous whites demanded proof, but what proof can be provided of what does not exist? For in their wisdom the sisters had sourced the ageless spirits and enlisted those haunts to banish cancer and AIDS and herpes until not a single black was afflicted.

  And while the whites strived to increase their numbers, white science and technology stalled. And certain whites were not above infiltrating Blacktopia to plunder its brilliance. For white science and mathematics had been harnessed only to build atomic bombs while black intellect yielded, daily, new wonders that enriched life, especially the lives of women, for Blacktopia held its sisters as its greatest treasure.

  And following the pattern of white men such as journalist John Griffin, who darkened his face with methoxsalen and ultraviolet light and slithered forth to appropriate black achievement and black experience and present it as his own in the book Black Like Me, and in doing so make his fortune . . . in the same way, white men of Caucasia masked themselves and wormed their way across the border.

  Such folly! For the whites knew only to mimic the ridiculous elaborate handshakes and saggy-pants gibberish speak the blacks had affected, and the brothers recognized at once these shuffling imposters. Would-be thieves, these squabbling, gun-waving, hip-shaking, crotch-grabbing crackers in blackface, they were humored and led to believe they’d successfully infiltrated Blacktopia. There, the brothers schooled them to partake of their own urine as a supposed cure for cancer, and the would-be cultural thieves ran home, and pretty much all whites adopted the practice.

  The instruction sheet specified machine-washable only and durability. Gavyn pulled the dry cleaner’s plastic off his favorite Sand shirt and undid the buttons. He looped it off the hanger. So tailored. The oranges and reds so saturated. He’d worn it twice, afraid he might stain it or that the colors would fade. Holding the collar tucked under his chin, he folded the shirt against his chest, matching the sleeves. He folded the folded shirt a second time and a third to make a smooth neat packet he placed into the empty suitcase on his bed.

  A voice. Not his mother’s. His sister, Charm, said, “That’s so not-the-right shirt.” She stood leaning sideways in his doorway, her arms crossed. Charm held up a stop-sign hand to hush any backtalk. She went to the open closet and her shoulders slumped in resignation. The array of retro cowboy shirts with pearlized snaps. The Dolce knock-off pullovers with metalicized detailing. Vintage Versace. Before her was the trousseau Gavyn had built for his adult life. His homosexual hope chest, as it were.

  His sister plucked at the front of her own army surplus uniform shirt. “This will wear like iron.” Olive drab. Untucked, the tails hung halfway to the knees of her blue jeans. The closest thing she could find in his closet was a thrift store shirt of canvas-like khaki-green material enlivened with embroidered patches. A secondhand Boy Scout uniform complete with Eagle Scout badge.

  Gavyn protested, “It’s permanent press.”

  Charm tossed aside the Sand shirt and replaced it with the khaki. “It’s not a fashion show,” she said. “It’s a concentration camp.”

  The Talbott book called the place an Inventory Retention Center. Until recently, until Adjustment Day, the particular one where Gavyn had been assigned had been a low-security prison.

  The year of Initial Relocation neared its end. Those born into the wrong homeland—homosexuals born to heterosexuals, or those with an inappropriate preponderance of sub-Saharan or Caucasoid DNA—they’d be surrendered by their source families, to government custody until a like mis-birth in the appropriate homeland could be identified for exchange. Somewhere in Gaysia, God willing, an eighteen-year-old heterosexual was packing a suitcase, headed for a similar holding camp. After almost two decades of being fed, dressed, and educated, Gavyn and his ilk represented too big of an investment to be left unattended. If they attempted to emigrate illegally or escape to Canada or to commit suicide, the nation stood to lose a sizable export commodity.

  He wondered, idly, if there was an underground railroad to allow mis-births a more speedy path to their rightful homeland. To sidestep the normal wait for a suitable candidate for the exchange. A system of safe houses. Human traffickers. Maybe there existed coyotes he could pay to guide him through the borderlands.

  Charm pulled out the top drawer of the bureau and dug among Gavyn’s socks. Of these she selected two pairs dark blue, three black, a pair plain green, and six pairs of white sweat socks. Tucking them into the suitcase, she said, “At least you’re not baby-making machinery for some chieftain.”

  Fat chance she’d end up a chieftain’s wife, not with her sunburned face and cropped hair. Another reason he was surrendering for retention and export. If an equivalent trade wasn’t available, the accepting homeland would have to pay upwards of a half million Talbotts in compensation. Gavyn’s parents could use the money. Even Charm had to know that. They could buy a business, a small farm, seed corn, livestock, all the staples they’d need to be self-sufficient in the new economy. Otherwise, they’d become like all their fellow former-white-collar, former-information-technology, former-paper-pushing professionals: To survive they’d need to submit themselves as serfs to a local chieftain.

  Others might hightail it for the border. Or suck death from the tailpipe in a closed garage. But with some patience, Gavyn figured this could end as a win-win. He’d assimilate in Gaysia, and his source family would own their livelihood and their freedom.

  His sister knelt beside the bed and reached underneath, pulling out tennis shoes and loafers. A pair of each she bagged in plastic grocery sacks and nestled into the suitcase beside a folded pair of cargo shorts sh
e’d selected. Shorts Gavyn hated. These sat on top of camo pants she’d recommended because they’d never show stains. Sandwiched between these, she placed a plastic Tupperware box containing his toothbrush, his razor, toothpaste, and comb. His Sand shirt, beautiful and impractical in all its orange plaid glory, lay on the bed where she’d relegated it.

  What his sister said next, he didn’t catch.

  “I asked,” Charm repeated, “did you hear about that guy, Walter?”

  Gavyn looked around his room for a long, last time. “Walter who?”

  She prompted, “Who used to go with Shasta from school?”

  He shook his head. “Why?”

  His sister looked at the space remaining in the suitcase. She pulled a heavy wool sweater and a lighter cotton one from the top shelf of the closet. These she balled up and packed. Back at the bureau she ignored the Andrew Christian microfiber, stylized, butt-baring athletic supporters in favor of his old-school Y-front tighty whities. She rolled up a baggy pair of drawstring shorts she said could do double duty as swimwear.

  She asked something.

  Gavyn asked, “Again?”

  Lightly, as if he were only going off to summer camp for the rest of his life, his sister asked, “Miss me?”

  He told himself there would be better clothes, better everything in his future, better than everything he’d be forced to leave behind. Clothes and love enough he’d never give a second thought to the pathetic wardrobe he’d bought with his lawn-mowing and dog-walking wages. Out there, somewhere, was a love that would make him forget his sister and his source parents.

 
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