Disclaimer: This scenario came to me late
one Wednesday night when a downstairs neighbour was playing his music
so loudly that it literally rocked the walls. Be warned, its nothing
like my usual stories. You wont find a tender love story, or an
uplifting tale of courage, or even an erotic twist or two (Editors
note: Oh great, now you just lost half your readers!), but perhaps
you will be entertained for this brief moment in time. And one further
note, while I despise telemarketers and spam, I do own and use a cell
phone, albeit sparingly, so Im not a complete Luddite.
For my sweet Day, who suffered through that
rude downstairs neighbour right along with me...
Jane Brown was as plain and unassuming
a woman as her name. She had reached her middle years with no noticeable
accomplishments to glory in. She lived quietly, worked quietly, and
if she played at all, it was so quietly that no one ever noticed. Gainfully
employed for thirty years at the same company, she paid her taxes faithfully,
obeyed all traffic signals, and generally moved through life without
annoying anyone, because no one ever paid attention to her. If Jane
had any distinguishing characteristics, she had hidden them well. A
very average woman in all regards...except one: Jane passionately disliked
rudeness. She was offended by the increasingly obnoxious nature of modern
life and longed for a return to the perceived civility of her youth,
when service still meant something and solecisms were not such an ordinary
part of everybodys day as to be unnoticed. In her quiet, unobtrusive,
well-mannered way, Jane seethed. She would have gone on simply bemoaning
the death of courtesy and good manners within her own mind, had she
not one day crossed over the threshold into The Twilight Zone...
A rash gust of wind whipped Jane Browns
light coat about her legs and ripped tendrils of hair from her mousy
brown bun. Annoyed, she firmly pulled her coat around herself, fruitlessly
patting her hair into place as she tightly clutched the manila envelope
she carried. Never one to leave anything to chance, even the availability
of a taxi, she had called ahead for a pick-up in front of her workplace.
Unwilling to trust a courier with the papers that her boss, Mr. Winthrop,
had ordered delivered by days end, she was going to make the cross
city trip herself. It was close enough to the end of the business day
that she was able to justify her short absence to herself, not that
her supervisor or fellow employees would have noticed she was gone.
Janes own sterling work record was
a personal source of pride, and she frowned as she idly considered all
of the unauthorized absences she had witnessed over the decades. In
thirty years, four months and seventeen days of employment at Gallagher
& Winthrop, she had never been late, and had only taken two sick
days when an impudent appendix burst on a Thursday rather than waiting
for a weekend.
Miss Brown had no patience for those who
abused the precepts of responsibility and timelinessnot that she
ever broached offenders with their misdemeanors. After all, that was
not her function. She was neither the boss nor the office manager. After
thirty years of rising through the secretarial ranks, she was now Mr.
Winthrops executive assistant, and consciously held herself above
the fray of office politics.
It wasnt that she didnt notice
when Mr. Donald Fry and Miss Penelope Hardwick returned from a two-hour
lunch with colour high and clothes awry. Nor was she oblivious to Mrs.
Sheila Graham being called away from her desk for the umpteenth time
to deal with her delinquent 14-year-old son. And far be it for her to
comment on her boss partner, Neil Gallagher, when he had his beautiful,
young secretary tell his wife that he was tied up in business meetings
all afternoon, moments before the two of them slipped away from the
office together. She was simply grateful that Mr. James Winthrop was
a happily married grandfather of seven, so that shed never had
to deal in lies or deceptions while in his employ.
As for her colleagues...well, it wouldve
been impolite to brace them with their personal and professional transgressions;
and if there was one thing that Miss Jane Brown could not bear, it was
rudeness. She had long ago decided that she could only be responsible
for her own actions, and she held herself to the highest standards.
You would not catch Miss Jane Brown braying in a crowd on a cell phoneshe
despised the things, or cutting into a line ahead of others, or failing
to cover her mouth if she were unable to stifle a cough. She was of
the firm belief that a life that consistently incorporated courtesies,
large and small, was a life that could justly be termed exemplary. And
Miss Jane Brown wished nothing more than to live an exemplary life.
Pushing back her coat sleeve, Jane noted
with disapproval that the cab she had requested was now five minutes
late. Giving a small sigh, she allotted five minutes more before she
would return to the lobby and call the taxi dispatch again. There was
one minute to go on her self-imposed deadline when a Checker Cab swung
out of traffic and screeched to a halt at the curb five feet in front
With not so much as pursed lips to indicate
her disapproval, Jane covered the distance briskly and slid into the
"The Linden Building, West 52nd,
The driver, who looked as if he had just
rolled out of bed after a three-day drunk, threw the cab into gear and
pulled out into traffic, causing the driver behind him to slam on his
brakes. Jane winced at the audible squeal, and tried to ignore the blaring
horn that signaled the other drivers fury. She was appalled when
her driver thrust his middle finger up and jabbed it at the ceiling.
Another horn blast indicated that the driver to the rear had received
the message loud and clear.
Jane slunk down further in the seat and uttered
a brief, silent prayer that her trip wouldnt be cut short by testosterone-fueled,
road rage-induced fisticuffs. When the other car turned at the next
traffic signal, she breathed more easily; but by the time the cab roared
up in front of the Linden Building, she was grateful simply to have
survived the trip. The cabbie appeared to have little concept of the
conventional rules of the road; and apparently to him, traffic signs
and signals were no more than suggestions.
Somewhat shakily, Jane counted out the exact
fare, and though she hesitated, given the abysmal quality of the ride,
added a dollar as a tip. She couldnt help but notice the scowl
as she passed the money to the cabbie, nor did she fail to hear the
sarcasm dripping from his voice when he sneered, "Thanks a lot,
lady. This should put my kid through college."
Wordlessly, she slid out of the taxi; and
if her soul bristled with outrage, Janes demeanour remained calm.
Watching the cab pull away as the driver tried to intimidate his way
back into the nearest lane, she allowed herself a single retaliatory
I wish all four of your tires would go
flat at once, you nasty man.
Turning to make her way to the entrance doors,
she was startled to hear a loud bang from the street. Spinning, her
mouth dropped open as she saw the vehicle she had just exited, stranded
between the lanes, shreds of rubber spun off from the flattened and
Flustered, Jane backed away blindly, apologizing
profusely when she ran into a gentleman exiting the building. Admonishing
herself to watch where she was going, she turned and entered the lobby.
It was just a coincidence, thats all.
She gave a nervous laugh, then quieted when
the others waiting for the elevator looked at her. Oh, honestly,
what else could it be, you silly goose.
With that reassuring if tart thought, Jane
returned her attention to the business at hand. Once she had delivered
Mr. Winthrops papers and secured a receipt for them, she left
the building and walked to the nearest subway station. This was her
preferred mode of travel, as there was a station within two blocks of
her apartment. She only allowed herself the luxury of a taxi when on
As it was after five, the station was crowded
with people heading home for the weekend. Taking her place in line at
the turnstiles, Jane was dismayed to see a young man two lines over
hop the stiles without paying and rush off laughing.
Really! You should break an ankle, and
then you wouldnt be hopping over anything for a long while!
Instantly the young man fell to the ground
with a piercing shriek, clutching his right ankle and rolling in pain.
Shocked, Jane paused halfway through the
turnstile, only moving on when the woman behind her complained. A small
crowd of people had gathered around the screaming youth, and a subway
security guard had made his appearance, so
Jane edged by the commotion, deeply shaken
by the two absurd coincidences in a row. Frantically she tried to convince
herself that the young man must have just tripped over something on
the pavement, and that the timing was completely unrelated to her stray
thought. Over and over again she reminded herself that the notion she
could have caused the incidents was impossible: things like that just
did not happennot to her, not to anyone.
When she finally reached her stop, Jane was
able to disembark with her equilibrium restored. She chastised herself
for such flights of fancy, and turned her thoughts instead to the evening
ahead. An avid moviegoer, most Friday nights would find her in her local
theatre, and this evening would be no exception. A new Susan Sarandon
film was playing, and she had been eagerly anticipating it for several
A couple of hours later, after a spare, but
satisfying supper, Jane made her way to the theatre, joining the usual
Friday night throng. She waited patiently in line and was grateful that
the movie wasnt sold out by the time she reached the wicket. Handing
her money to the bored, gum-snapping teenager in the booth, she accepted
the ticket and passed through the doors of the theatre.
Ignoring the grossly overpriced snacks, Jane
made her way inside, taking an aisle seat close to the back. Settling
in comfortably, she allowed herself a tiny smile of anticipation. For
as long as she could remember, movies had been a refuge for her. Far
more than simple entertainment, in a profound way they connected her
to the larger world that ignored her existence. The actors required
nothing from her except her attention; and in turn, she was free to
critique, analyze, laud, and even fantasize, if that was her desire.
It was a perfect symbiosis, and Miss Jane Brown looked forward keenly
to her weekly excursions into the celluloid world.
The theatre filled up rapidly as it was premiere
night for the highly touted film. When the music swelled and the previews
began to flash across the screen, Jane was filled with contentment.
For the next two hours she would be transported into a world filled
with emotion, drama, and derring-doeverything her life lacked.
An hour into the film, Jane was enthralled.
The movie was all that the critics had proclaimed it to be. A thrilling
plot, deep, moving characterizations, superb actingall came together
in what she was sure would be an Oscar contender. Blissfully lost in
the cinematic drama, she was startled by the harsh discordance of a
cell phone close by. A woman two rows in front of her fumbled in her
purse. Aggravated by the intrusion, Jane assumed the woman had simply
forgotten to turn off the irksome device and would do so promptly. Much
to her shock, the woman began a muted conversation with the caller,
ignoring the disgruntled murmurs around her.
As the conversation went on, complaints became
vocal, but even the public disapprobation wasnt enough to dissuade
the woman from her call.
Finally Jane had had enough. Shed already
missed Miss Sarandons pivotal oration, and was having difficulty
refocusing on the plot.
I wish the blessed thing would melt right
in your hand!
When the woman squealed and bolted from her
seat, waving her hand around frantically, Jane felt none of the earlier
shock. Instead she felt a surge of satisfaction that the rude patron
had gotten exactly what she deserved for disrupting the viewing pleasure
of so many others.
When the woman ran howling from the theatre,
Jane ignored her passage and concentrated instead on picking up the
thread of the story. It wasnt until she had left the theatre,
happily reliving the movie, that she gave any thought to what had happened.
This time, she was unable to explain away the coincidence as blithely
as she had the previous two times, so she gave serious thought to the
possibility that she had indeed caused all three phenomena.
Miss Jane Brown was a practical woman. She
had not been blessedor cursedwith an excess of imagination.
She took people and events at face value, and did not waste time on
introspection. But this was something beyond the normal scope of her
life, and she was unsure how to categorize it. That disturbed her more
than the events themselves. She had little pity for the rude cabbie,
youth, or woman. They had brought their fates upon themselves by their
inconsiderate actions. No, what bothered her was there was simply no
explanation for it all. What had changed between an ordinary yesterday
and the inexplicable events of this day?
As far as Miss Jane Brown could see, the
answer was: nothing. She had done nothing out of the ordinary from the
moment she had gone to sleep the previous night, to the moment she had
exited her office to take Mr. Winthrops papers to the Linden Building.
Deep in thought, Jane automatically turned
the corners and crossed the streets she needed to get to her apartment.
Suddenly a cheerful voice tore her from her reverie.
"Hey, Miss B. Howzit going this fine
A young woman bounced up beside her and fell
into stride. Jane smiled at her neighbour, pleased as always to see
"Fine, Amber, and how are you doing?"
"Couldnt be better, Miss B. I
really couldnt be better if I tried." Startlingly white teeth
flashed in a grin and coal black eyes sparkled, as the young woman tossed
her bead-encrusted dreadlocks.
"Are you just getting off work?"
Jane inquired politely as they halted and waited for a crossing signal.
Amber nodded. "Yes, maam. I was
supposed to be off four hours ago, but one of the girls didnt
show up for her shift, so I covered. Sure will be glad to get off my
feet for a while, I can tell you. Twelve hours on my tootsies and theyre
Jane glanced at the womans telltale
t-shirt under her short, open, leather jacket. A bright rainbow over
interlocked female symbols, with "The Wishing Well Tavern"
in predominant lavender letters, signaled her place of employment. Amber
made no secret of her orientation, and although the older woman had
never been able to relate to passion either straight or gay, she had
no objection to either. All that mattered to her was that from the moment
the young woman had moved in next door, she had been a wonderful neighbour.
No foul and suspicious odours seeped under her door. No loud music or
discordant sounds shook the dividing wall between them. Amber always
hastened to assist the older woman with grocery bags or a laundry basket.
Jane appreciated her neighbours cheerful exuberance almost as
much as her excellent manners, and she was pleased to cover the last
few blocks in her genial company.
"You mustnt let them take advantage
of you, dear," Jane remonstrated gently. "Youre always
the one they turn to when someone else fails to live up to their responsibilities."
"Aw, I dont mind," Amber
assured her as the signal changed and they crossed the street. "I
can always use the extra cash. And besides, Micki had to work evening
shift so I wasnt planning to go out anyway."
Nodding, Jane acknowledged the reference
to Ambers girlfriend, an emergency room nurse at Anderson General.
"All right, but just you remember..."
The rest of her admonition was cut short
by Ambers cautionary hiss. They were entering their neighbourhood,
a shabby, run-down, ill-lit conglomerate of aging buildings, whose only
virtue was cheap rent. Up ahead a half dozen men could be seen lounging
on a stoop, a few buildings before their own. Jane briefly considered
crossing the street, but before she could voice the suggestion, Amber
firmly tucked the older womans arm inside her own. She glanced
up nervously, but taking heart from her companions determined
look, Jane summoned her courage and threw back her head, resolved not
to appear as a potential victim.
"Dont ever let them see you sweat,"
Amber whispered, before straightening her spine and marching the two
of them determinedly toward the men. Catcalls and hoots began well before
the two women drew even, and Jane shuddered as one man detached himself
from the gang and stepped out in the middle of the sidewalk.
When Amber tried to steer Jane around the
man, he grabbed her arm.
"Yo, sweetheart, you aint paid
the toll." His fellows laughed and snickered as they watched the
Jane knew she could probably break away and
make it to her building while Amber distracted them, but she wasnt
about to leave her neighbour, her friend, to face them alone.
"Let us go right now, young man, or
Ill report you to the police for harassment!"
The bully eyed Jane in disbelief at her defiant
words. "Shut the fuck up, you old hag. This is between this fine
fox and me." His gaze turned to Ambers chest as he leered
at her. Then his expression turned nasty as he read the t-shirt. "Oh
shit, don tell me youre one of them." Turning to his
cronies, he spat, "We got a slit-licker here, boys."
Frightened now, Jane tried to pull Amber
away, but the man had a tight grip on her arm. Suddenly the young woman
lashed out with her foot, catching her captor high on the thigh, but
missing her target. Swearing, he punched her, knocking her to the ground
and dragging Jane down with her.
"Bitch! You are so going to pay for
that!" His gang had left the steps and formed an ominous circle
around the women. Jane was cradling Ambers head, worried about
the blood that was oozing from the young womans split lip and
scared that things were escalating out of control.
The instigator smiled nastily as he cupped
his groin. "Mmmm, baby, I think youre gonna be changing your
mind after tonight. Aint no pussy gonna satisfy you after you
see what I got for you."
Amber tried to stand up, only to have one
of the others kick her legs out from under her. Truly terrified now,
Jane was frozen, unable to wrench her eyes from where the instigator
was unzipping his fly. Two of the men grabbed Amber and wrestled the
frantically struggling woman back into the shadow of the stoop.
As the would-be rapist advanced on his victim,
Jane tried to scream, only to have one of the other men cut her off
with his meaty hand as he seized and immobilized her, dragging her back
toward the wall.
Suddenly the memory of her new and unexplained
ability flashed through her mind. Without taking time to consider the
ramifications, Jane made her wish.
I wish your thing would just disappear!
The rapist stared in disbelief at his hand,
now empty of the weapon with which hed been taunting a helpless
Amber. Dumb with shock, he fumbled in his pants, looking for what was
no longer there. His cronies gaped at him, unable to believe the evidence
of their own eyes. Then the ungodly scream began and Ambers captors
released her, backing away with widened eyes that flashed between their
leader, who had dropped to the ground wailing in agony, and the young
woman who was equally staggered.
The man who was still holding Jane captive
was paralyzed, though she could hear his astonished gasp. Quickly redirecting
her thoughts towards him, she repeated her mental wish. Instantly his
hands fell away and he howled as he groped his crotch.
"Its gone! Motherfuckin
sonuvabitch!! Its gone! Its gone!"
His chilling lament was the final straw and
the gang tore off in all directions, leaving their two stricken companions
behind. Jane grabbed Ambers arm, and the two women ran for their
apartment building. Once inside, they disdained the slow elevator and
ran up the three floors to their apartments.
Amber was trembling too hard to insert her
key, so Jane, panting for breath, took it from her and opened the door.
Pushing the younger woman ahead of her, she slammed the door and bolted
it. She could still hear screams through the open window, and she ran
to close that, too. With that done, she turned her attention to her
"Are you all right? Can I get you anything?"
Jane hovered over the other woman who had curled up on the couch, clutching
a throw pillow. Uncertain what to do, she offered, "Would you like
me to call Micki?"
That got a nod from the numb woman, and she
quickly moved to the phone, which had a list of Ambers commonly
called numbers tucked underneath. Mickis work number was second
to the top, and Jane punched the numbers, willing the nurse to be available,
as she felt totally inadequate to deal with her neighbours trauma.
Explaining it was a family emergency, Micki
was quickly summoned to the phone. Tersely Jane told her that Amber
had been attacked, that shed gotten away mostly unscathed except
for a bloody lip, but she appeared to be in shock. She was pleased with
the nurses instant response that she would be there as quickly
as humanly possible.
She remained with her neighbour until Micki
arrived twenty minutes later, then gladly turned the care of the traumatized
woman over to the nurse. As Micki gathered Amber up in her arms, cooing
and cuddling the shaken woman, Jane quietly backed away. She had just
reached the door, when she heard a tremulous voice.
"How, Miss Brown? How did it happen?
How did they lose..."
Jane met the scared, confused, dark eyes
that were staring at her from the haven of Mickis arms. Shaking
her head, she answered softly, "I dont know, dear. I dont
understand it myself, but Im very glad that that were safe
and sound, and they got what was coming to them." Giving both the
young women a nod, she slipped out and walked quickly to her own door.
Once inside her own sanctuary, Jane headed
for the kitchen and put a kettle on to boil. A cup of tea was just what
she needed, and none of those wimpy herbal ones, either. A strong, unadulterated
cup of Earl Grays and a tin of shortbread biscuits would be just
the ticket. Deeply disturbed by both the abortive attack and the implications
of how it had been nipped in the budso to speakshe knew
she needed to assess her abilities and decide what to do with them.
Hours later, no further ahead in understanding
what exactly had happened, and exhausted, she decided to call it a night.
Perhaps a solid eight hours sleep would bring some perspective; or perhaps
this unspeakably strange gift would be gone with the sunrise. Taking
comfort from that thought, Miss Jane Brown tidied up the kitchen and
went to bed.
When Saturday came, she arose at her usual
hour. The events of the previous night having disturbed her sleep all
night, she had formulated a plan. The first thing she had to determine
was whether it had been a one day aberration, or if she still had this...whatever
Over breakfast, she contemplated her options.
She supposed that she could simply go out on the streets and punish
the first transgressor she ran into. Given the appallingly rude times
that she lived in, it certainly wouldnt take much time to find
an appropriate candidate. But Jane wished to see if her ability would
work on a grander scale. As her mind turned over possibilities, her
gaze drifted about her tiny kitchen, coming to rest on her plain, black
phoneand she smiled.
I wish cellular phones had never been
Eager to see if her pet peeve had been eliminated,
Jane quickly dressed and headed out the door. Walking to the subway,
she passed the site of the previous nights altercation. There
was no evidence apparent, nothing to indicate that anything unusual
had transpired on this spot. She walked by, barely giving it a second
thought. Instead her attention was on the few pedestrians that passed
her. None were walking and talking on their electronic leashes, but
that didnt necessarily mean anything. Turning onto a busier street,
she scanned all the vehicles passing, and again none of the drivers
were endangering their fellow motorists with cell phone usage.
Spirits rising, Jane descended into the subway
and stood at the back of the sparse, early Saturday morning crowd. No
one...not one person is using a cell phone! She was positively gleeful,
but unwilling to declare victory without further proof.
Jane spent the rest of the day traveling
to places that people congregated. She went to malls, restaurants, bus
stops, subway stations, and even stopped to closely examine the crowd
going into a ballgame. By suppertime she was ready to concede that cell
phones were no longer a part of modern life, and she returned home exhilarated
with the discovery.
That evening, with her feet resting on a
worn, old ottoman, Jane made a decision. For whatever reason and by
whatever means, she had been given the ability to return the world to
a civilized state. She hadnt asked for this, but Miss Jane Brown
was not one to shirk her responsibilities. Uncertain how long her current
state would last, she took a pad of paper and set to work listing all
the ways she could improve modern life. When she finally completed it,
it was well past her normal bedtime.
Jane had given the lengthy list considerable
thought. While she wished to promote civility, she did not necessarily
wish to return the world to a pre-technological state. So while she
had eliminated cell phones, basic telephones escaped her wrath. She
did, however, do away with dispensable features like call waiting. It
was a great irritant to Jane to be conducting a conversation only to
be put on hold with the comment, "Just a moment, theres someone
on the other line." As far as she was concerned, it was the height
of rudeness to interrupt one call in case the other caller proved more
interesting or more important.
Call waiting was the first item on her list,
closely followed by voice mail, infomercials, telemarketers, and spam.
Miss Jane Brown did not own a PC, but even her work computer had been
deluged with the disgusting ads for everything from offers to spy on
your family and friends, to guaranteed penis enlargements. The world
would be a far better place without spam, of that she had no doubt!
She had debated the issue of chewing gum,
weighing the pros and cons of allowing its continued presence in her
new, improved world. Jane thought there was nothing so revolting as
someone smacking their gum in her face, but she acknowledged that gum
had a place in aiding those who were quitting smoking or dieting. Of
course, since she had already added "smoking" to her list,
that would no longer be a concern. Still, she decided that she could
be generous in this instance, and allowed gum to remain an option. If
she encountered any rude gum smackers personally, she would simply wish
the gum away.
Once Jane had listed all the minor annoyances
that she could think of, like those that manufacturers so rudely inflicted
on the public, such as: supposedly childproof caps that were also adult
proof caps, incomprehensible assembly and usage directions, and overly
packaged merchandise, she continued onto more important issues.
Drugs and alcohol. Well, certainly they had
to go, and no time to waste, either. Miss Jane Brown had encountered
the most appallingly rude behaviour from people under the influence.
She had been slobbered on at Christmas parties, pawed by drunken louts
while walking down streets minding her own business, and continually
accosted for money by dirty, unkempt street people whom she just knew
would take any contributions directly to the liquor store. Those men
who had attacked her and Amber the previous night had undoubtedly been
under the influence of some form of mood altering substance. Jane had
no patience for people who were unable to deal with the world on its
own terms, and she firmly added those two items to the list.
Moving on, she spent some time working out
how to improve schools. Jane was of the firm opinion that rude children
grew up to be rude adults, and this problem too could be eradicated
if youngsters were taught respect and obedience from the moment they
entered kindergarten. She pondered ways and means, until finally, with
a satisfied smile, she wrote, All schools will from this day forth
be military schools.
Jane worked over her list, adding and deleting
many items as she conscientiously tried to consider the full impact
of each element. Finally she concluded her list by eliminating grossly
oversized SUVs, rude cabbies, officious bureaucrats, and long waits
at doctors offices, then sat back, well satisfied. She would go
to bed and wake to much more civilized worlda world where politeness
and courtesy were the common denominator of everyday life.
It was late, but Jane was so keyed up by
her stimulating endeavours that she decided to wind down with the eleven
oclock news before attempting to go to sleep. The usual pairing
of a middle-aged male news announcer and an attractive young female
announcer came on and began their daily updates.
Jane took a moment to consider the fact that
she never saw older women as anchors, and decided that was rather rude
to her generation. Noting that addendum to her list, she returned her
attention to the news, which had moved from local to international events.
"Breaking news from the Middle-East
this evening: tentative peace talks have again ended in failure as terrorists
struck today at a Jerusalem marketplace. A suicide bomber carried out
his mission as early morning shoppers gathered, and first reports list
seventeen dead and scores wounded. Israeli response was instantaneous,
as tanks moved into the West Bank towns of Ramallah and Jenin, killing
and wounding an unknown number of Palestinian protestors..."
Letting her attention drift from the repetitive
details, Jane looked at her list speculatively. Thus far she had only
focused on improving her own society, but she wondered now if her ability
could be used to civilize the whole world. Could she single-handedly
bring peace to the eternally strife-ridden Middle East? Were all the
worlds problems subject to her wishes?
Jane felt her heart pounding rapidly at the
mere thought. She had never paid much attention to foreign affairs,
finding the endless litany of wars, terrorism, famine, and disease simply
too depressing to contemplate, especially in the face of any one individuals
helplessness to bring about change. Well, she wasnt helpless anymore.
Could she really stop those brutes and tyrants who put power above the
well-being of their own people? Could she put a halt to the endless
cycle of violence in every corner of the globe? Could she bring about
a modern Eden, all by the force of her will?
It was too much. Jane raised her thin hand
and laid it over her chest, willing her heart to decelerate.
"One step at a time, Jane. One step
at a time."
Her cautionary seemed to work, and her breathing
slowed, returning to normal. Determinedly she pushed the troublesome
thoughts aside, knowing she would have to deal with the possibilities
eventually, but needing time to think everything over.
Turning off the television, Jane rose from
her chair and, suddenly exhausted by the days activities, stumbled
to her bedroom. She was sure that she would be asleep the moment she
laid her head on the pillow, but alas, it was not to be. As the hours
slowly passed, she tossed and turned, thoughts of what she might accomplish
tantalizing and intriguing her.
Jane was not a particularly altruistic woman,
but the magnitude of the gift she might be able to bestow on the earth
awed her. Peace. She doubted that there had ever been a planet-wide
peace, certainly never a permanent one. Yet she, Miss Jane Brown, could
do something that all the politicians, generals, prophets, and peacemakers
had never been able to do.
She could stop every global conflict instantly.
At five a.m., Jane reminded herself that,
as far as she knew, her ability only worked to eliminate the sources
and purveyors of rudeness. At five fifteen a.m., she decided there really
was nothing ruder than war. After all, didnt the dictionary define
rudeness as ill-mannered actions offensive to the standards of decency?
Surely there was nothing more offensive than killing and maiming your
fellow human beings. By six a.m., she had come to a decision.
She would do it. She would bring peace to
Now the only question was how best to phrase
her wish, and she spent the next hour turning the possibilities over
in her mind. Jane was quite certain that the key to bringing peace was
in fighting rudeness. After all, it had been her bete noire for as long
as she could remember, so why else would she have been selected for
this gift? It only made sense. If everyone in the world were polite
and considerate, war would be impossible. Therefore, she must state
her wish in terms of eliminating rudeness.
Having made her decision, Jane rose from
her bed. Feeling the magnitude of the moment, she carefully bathed and
dressed, but abstained from breakfast. She gave a moments consideration
to whether she should implement her carefully composed list before instigating
world peace, but decided on the scale of things that peace should come
first. Then she would tend to eliminating lifes smaller aggravations.
Drawing several deep breaths to calm herself,
Miss Jane Brown closed her eyes and concentrated. Having decided beforehand
to keep it as simple as possible, she uttered her wish.
"I wish that no man and no woman may
ever again raise their hand to harm a fellow human being. All people
who perpetuate such rudeness shall from this moment forth disappear
from the face of the earth, never to be seen again."
Nietzsche wrote: "Whenever I found
a living creature, there I found the will to power." Miss Jane
Brown, a plain, polite, unassuming inhabitant of this planet Earth,
had no apparent desire for power. She simply wanted to restore a measure
of civility to an uncivilized world. Yet in her quest, she arrogated
the power of the gods, and in doing so, met her own destiny. For eliminating
two billion people from the Earth in the blink of an eye is really rather
rude...even in the Twilight Zone.
My thanks to Day, Carol and Betty for their
wonderful and incisive beta reading. Its always a pleasure for
me to get their feedback, and without exception, they make my stories
to the Academy