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  • Writer's pictureRodica Bretin

The American Dream

“You can do anything, and be anyone!”

Russell Morgan spoke about the American Dream and five hundred Canadians were listening, vibrating, and stomping the ground at every word. Canadians? In the hall were nothing but immigrants, most of them young people, who didn’t know which road to follow.

Russell Morgan was willing to choose for them.

He had appeared in Dartmouth a few years ago, spreading his charisma like cheap cologne. A traveling salesman who wasn’t looking to sell vacuum cleaners, but illusions, his speeches only convinced, fascinated, and enthralled the disowned by fate and the naïve − categories of people who were incomparably less numerous in Nova Scotia than in the neighbors to the south. Save Morgan didn’t consider himself just a politician, but a crusader, sent by Uncle Sam to free the Canadians from the slavery of normality and of decency.

To have a secure pension, a solid education, and free healthcare? Aberrations! To save one decade for a house? Frustrating and tedious. Not to change your television or car every year? Why wouldn’t you, when you can have it all with one credit? The Banks had the winning lottery ticket for everyone – and everyone could get everything they dreamed of. How?

“Hold out your hand and take it!”

In the hall, a thousand claw-hands reached out to grab, to catch something, anyway they could. Once in the credit game, the people became indebted for life, submissive, and fearful, blindly following their boss, mayor, and president; an amorphous mass to maneuver for politicians, for those who held the true power, some like Russell Morgan.

A shiver went through me, even though inside the hall was a stifling heat. But no, I was in Canada, not Hitler’s Germany. I heard a sermon of slogans and platitudes, some downright hilarious: “You are what you choose to be!” – oh, really? “Follow your instinct!” – why not your talent, or vocation? “In life, there is no second place. Only winners and losers,” – here, I could not contradict him.

Morgan was throwing around lies and empty phrases like balls of gold, and all rushed to catch them banging their heads against each other to do so. “Any lie becomes truth if repeated often enough,” Goebbels would have said.

The people stood up and cheered, offering Morgan a standing ovation. Everywhere I looked I saw transfigured faces, a legion of converted fanatics, to whom a miracle had crumbled their convictions, radically changing their view of the world and life. Russell Morgan had hypnotized them and now he was sending them to apply all that they have learned. And, maybe tomorrow or in a few years, they would give him their humble offering: the Vote.

Was I the last sane person left in that room? Or was I the crazy one? Even Tania looked just about ready to march to the Promised Land. Was Russia to blame, where she had grown in fear and slavery? Or was it the man with a million-dollar smile, who was coming towards us?

Quin. Denton Quin.

Tania introduced us and I held out my hand – a short gesture that didn’t invite any effusions. In turn, Morgan’s gladiator held my fingers only for as long as necessary, with an unequivocal message – he didn’t like me either.

After that, I met his gaze, cold and calculating. And behind his grey eyes of the color of steel, there was nothing, no sensations, emotions, or memories. In their place was an empty chasm, a blank space, the ultimate abyssal void, completely unfathomable. What animated this Quin, other than the muscles Tania admired? Should I hazard to look further, and deeper?

Even then, an impatient tremor overtook the hall: the moment of communion with the crowd had come, and Quin returned to his bodyguard role before his master was surrounded, overwhelmed, and assaulted. Without his Dobermans in suits and black sunglasses, the audience would have bickered over so much as a handshake, an autograph, a motivational word, or just a touch. Each of those present wanted to express his enthusiastic admiration and devotion towards the Great Man.

The minority of misfits from Dartmouth vowed to offer their support to Russell Morgan – they chanted in front of the photographers and cameramen, who stood ready to immortalize that moment for eternity.

Save one of the reporters appeared to have doubts.

“Will you run against Madame McCluskey?”

Gloria McCluskey was mayor before Dartmouth, Halifax and Bedford became a single metropolis, swallowed in turn by the Regional Municipality. Madame McCluskey was adept at the Canadian way of life, while Morgan not so much.

A fold deepened between his eyebrows, contrasting with his wide electoral grin. Tania pulled me closer to the curious reporter, and following her I noticed: someone was swimming against the current. Interesting! The watchdogs were waiting for a word to be set loose, and I could almost hear the furious growl coming from Quin.

  The uncomfortable journalist was counting the benefits of the system Made in the USA:

“Unemployment, bankruptcy, families evacuated from their homes confiscated by the banks, criminality record high, drugs, lack of culture, health insurance only for those with money, and private pensions vanishing into nothingness at the stock exchange. What happened to the American Dream? Didn’t it become a reality?”

            A long silence followed. The reporters turned off their microphones, the crowd appeared to be on the verge of having a stroke. That man had spoken truths that no one wanted, but everyone had heard them. And now what will happen? Would they disperse ashamed, finally wake up to the truth? Would they turn their backs on the charlatan who sold them only lies?

“Communist!”

Everyone shouted, even though few knew the meaning of the word. But it was still the ultimate insult, a definitive sentence in America, and they interpreted a certain hidden signification, abject and abominable. Only, instead of bending under the pressure of the accusation, the journalist smiled. But those in the conference room weren’t amused, nor did they have the patience to find out more. What followed was an uproar like a thunderstorm, and a rush of bodies – and, for a moment, I was certain they were about to lynch him.

But Morgan was watching. He made a discreet gesture and his men formed a wall around the blasphemer, stoically withstanding the threats, furious voices, and even some fists. Just as the unaware man opened his mouth again, the men in black picked him up by the arms and shoulders, escorting him out with an efficiency that proved their lengthy training.

The crowding had separated me from Tania, and I had found myself pulled, shoved, and pushed by the tidal vortex that agitated the crowd, thankfully, towards one of the doors.

Outside there was silence, and empty sidewalks. Out of too much zeal, the rescuers threw the awkward reporter in the middle of the street. The stunned man picked himself up, shaking off the dust and the memory of the tragic-comic scene in which he had played the role of undesirable hero.

Neither he, nor I, saw the automobile speeding towards us before it was too late. A Cadillac sped meteorically straight to the journalist, who froze like a stag caught in the headlights. The driver had no intention of braking and I was still asking myself why, when suddenly, a steel gate closed in front of the rational part of my mind. 

Everything happened within seconds – dilated unnaturally, like in a slow-motion sequence from some movie: the steering wheel turning all by itself towards the right, the jerky rumble of the motor, the whistling of the tire tread across the asphalt. The driver’s astonishment turned to horror and he opened his mouth − to shout, to curse his fate?

The Cadillac slammed into a wall, ricocheted, and tumbled over. The car became a huge whirligig, turning once, twice − before coming to a sudden halt. Its wheels were still spinning empty, but there was nothing left but a pile of contorted metal, bubbling with blood and gasoline.

From the hall, curious people rushed into the street, eager to gaze at the event. This gave me my first rational thought. Had anyone seen what I had done? But save for the still shocked newsman and the driver who will never speak to anyone again, the street had been deserted.

Or had it been? On the other side of the sidewalk, Denton Quin – since when has he been standing there? − wasn’t looking at the deformed wreck, or the crowd pushing forward to feed their hunger for the sensational.

He was watching me.



 

 

 

 

 

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