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DOCUMENTS


The Tentacle


June 8, 2006

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Tony Soltero

I got up this morning, got ready for work, and drove off into the light-gray dawn daylight. Blackbirds warbled, flowers bloomed, and fluffy white cumulus clouds floated above to signal the arrival of morning in America.

I pulled into the Citgo station on Route 80, where gas was down to 90 cents a gallon. Six new lanes had miraculously appeared on I-270, eliminating the long-running congestion, and I zoomed down the road in my brand-new Hummer, now yielding 100 miles a gallon.

I turned on the radio. Johann Strauss' Voices of Spring faded into the six o'clock newscast, where it was announced that the permanent pullout from Iraq had finally been completed and that Muslims worldwide had permanently renounced fundamentalism and had committed to building stable, secular democratic states, free of religiously-motivated divisiveness.

The Central Asian republics had all dismantled their nuclear arsenals and offered to ship their oil, no longer in high demand, at discounted prices worldwide, tossing some premium Caspian Sea caviar on top like a chocolate mint on a hotel pillow. The sparser traffic on I-270 reflected the accelerating emigration of Mexicans and Guatemalans back to their homelands, as the economies south of the border were now burgeoning with lucrative jobs and beckoning their prodigal sons and daughters to come home and fill them - which they were doing, eagerly.

I drove by Germantown. The highway glistened, with the smell of brand-new asphalt percolating through my dashboard vents. The cars on the road were all late-models, with the occasional well-kept vintage classic rolling by for variety. The 18-wheelers all hewed to the speed limit, and also appeared new and well-maintained. And they hardly blew any smoke.

The radio news broadcast continued, but with a slight touch of bad news. "There's been a little bump in the road to paying off the national debt. All the immigrants going back home have slowed down tax receipts a bit, so it might be another year before we're completely in the clear."

I didn't mind - Social Security was once again a muscular program, guaranteeing steady retirement income for all Americans even if we all lived to become centenarians. And given the breakthroughs in un-politicized medical research, that could very well be the case.

Medicare had been extended to the entire population, with the Part D messiness straightened out in the public's favor, so entrepreneurship had reached record levels as Americans had been freed from having to worry about doing without health insurance. And I didn't mind if the federal government splurged a bit extra on the highways - I hadn't needed to straighten out my alignment in years.

Gaithersburg melted into Rockville. I pulled out from the freeway and got on Route 355 to grab a mocha at Starbucks. The tip jars were gone; Starbucks staffers now earned enough money to pay the rent and even raise families, thanks to the immigrant exodus for equally green pastures.

The storefronts were all clean, completely bereft of vandalism. Kids everywhere lined up, waiting for school buses, all looking healthy and fit. I'd heard that the typical University of Maryland graduate enjoyed six job offers upon commencement, thanks to the myriad small businesses sprouting up all over the place.

Crime had declined so much that the Maryland government was able to take money originally allocated to law enforcement and apply it to education, which enormously reduced the student-loan burden, much to the relief of children and parents statewide. And a happy synergy developed as the extra money invested in education drove the crime rate even further down.

Route 355 transitioned into Wisconsin Avenue in DC. The old apartment buildings were amazingly clean. The newscaster continued: "Employment opportunities have become so abundant in the District that the drug trade is no longer appealing to anyone but the most incorrigible misfits."

The government had discontinued Star Wars - no longer practical - and created enormous incentives for investment in alternative energy, where boatloads of young college graduates were reeling in spiffy starting salaries. My 100-mpg Hummer was but the tip of the iceberg when it came to the results of this new prioritization. And our increasing self-sufficiency in energy meant we hadn't been involved in an overseas war in a decade, freeing up even more resources.

New trees were growing all over the place. The air was cleaner, thanks to the investment in anti-pollution technologies, which made some enterprising young hotshots extremely wealthy. These hotshots had bought up some land in the District and set it aside for parks. And the parks were fun and safe - stay-at-home mothers, freed to raise their kids full-time thanks to the increased purchasing power of their husbands' salaries, would congregate there and shoot the breeze as the children pivoted and twirled around the jungle gym.

I pulled into the parking lot. A ghastly hurricane had smacked the Chesapeake watershed two weeks before, but the defenses were so well-developed that there were no fatalities and hardly any buildings suffered anything more than a scratch. Homeland Security and FEMA had really earned their stripes. It's so nice to have clean, incorruptible politicians in government for a change.

Once at the office, one of my coworkers got a call from her husband, off on a fishing trip. He could barely contain himself - the Eastern Shore streams had revitalized themselves to the point that he'd reeled in record numbers of fish, and wondered if he and his wife should invest in a larger, roomier freezer.

I knew I was in for a long day at work, given the deadlines I was looking at, but I didn't particularly mind - traffic just wasn't an issue anymore, given the reach of the new mass-transit system. The next stop to be opened was at Thurmont, where the park-and-ride had already been in service for a year. A robin perched on the windowsill and cavorted with his mate. There were lots of robins these days.

It's great that we've solved all of our problems. There's really nothing left for us to worry about - everything is just wonderful. Isn't it?

I mean, it has to be. That's the only reason Congress has made gay marriage and flag-burning the centerpieces of its agenda. All of our real issues have been addressed, so they just need something to talk about and keep themselves busy. Right?

Or is this simply another data point in the 109th Congress's quest to become the most worthless and the most ineffectual Congress in our nation's history?

Sad to say, I think it's the latter. But it was fun pretending for a few minutes, wasn't it?



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