28 Jan 2014

The Flotation Movement

Politics, private law, Religious, Shameless Self-Promotion 19 Comments

[This story was inspired by my recent trip to the “Save Long Island” forum.–RPM]

The Flotation Movement
A Short Story by Bob Murphy

Joseph looked out on the vast ocean, the cool night breeze whipping his hair as he drank the last of his six-pack on the top deck of the ocean liner. Joseph became puzzled, then alarmed, as a distant object grew larger on the horizon. He was by no means a seafaring expert, but Joseph was pretty sure the ship was heading straight for an iceberg.

Joseph immediately ran into the main dining area, where the majority of the passengers were gorging themselves on steak and wine. “Hey, we’re in danger! Stop the music!” Joseph yelled. But it was in vain. Most of the diners completely ignored him, while a few mumbled that surely the crew would do something if Joseph’s fears were true.

After running up and down the hall, Joseph finally stopped to listen to a small group of passengers who looked very alarmed. Joseph was greatly relieved to hear that these people knew about the iceberg, too.

“This is why we need to call for a ship-wide tally and replace the existing crew!” exclaimed an older woman with a commanding tone. “We need regular folks like Mary and John here at the helm, not officers educated at some private academy.” The people agreed.

Joseph suddenly felt someone tugging at his sleeve. It was a teenaged girl, covered in tattoos. “Can you believe these idiots? Crewists, all of them. They want to use the ship’s loudspeakers to tell everyone about the potential new crew members. Yeah, I’m sure that will be a fair process. If you really want to have your mind blown, follow me.”

Since Joseph could see that the people trying to replace the crew were not going to avert the collision in time, he followed the girl. “There he is,” she said with a mixture of pride and awe, pointing out a young, bearded man with surprisingly large biceps. “He just got out of the brig. He inflated a life raft in a restricted area. Said we have the right to float our own boat, whatever the Captain might say to the contrary.”

The charismatic man was surrounded by a dozen enthusiastic passengers. “If you think you need a crew to steer this ship, then you should walk away now; you’re not going to like my message. But for those of you with the courage to face the truth, let me speak clearly: We all see that we’re heading straight for that iceberg. The crew has to know it. This isn’t an accident, this is their plan.”

Some people murmured that maybe the crew were just a bunch of idiots, not murderers.

“You don’t get to be in charge of an entire ocean liner if you’re that stupid,” the bearded man replied.

“It’s true,” piped up a blonde woman. “I used to be in the Navy. I know from firsthand experience that there are secret plans to direct ocean vessels into icebergs.”

Some of the doubters wondered why this would be done.

“Don’t you see it?” said an older man, to whom the crowd deferred. “A group of wealthy foreigners, back at port, have taken out large property insurance contracts on the contents of the ship, vastly overstating the true value. Only a select few of the crew are in on it; they presumably have a small speedboat on which they will make their escape.”

The crowd began to dissipate, as many of the passengers simply could not believe the claims the older man made.

Joseph was becoming more frantic, knowing that they were running preciously low on time. He ran from table to table, trying to warn the passengers that disaster was imminent. Most of the diners were annoyed and asked Joseph to leave. A few–followers of an admiral who wrote a column for the New York Times–told Joseph that the only danger would come from trying to steer away from the iceberg, as the ship’s side would then scrape it. Instead, heading straight into the iceberg at full speed would actually be the proper response to escape from their liquid trap.

With complete exhaustion, Joseph moved to the final table in the dining hall, where he encountered a bald man who looked remarkably like Jason Alexander.

“We’re heading straight for an iceberg!” Joseph exclaimed.

“I know,” said the bald man. “I wrote a pamphlet about this in grad school.”

“Well, help me warn everyone!” Joseph shouted.

“It’s too late now,” the bald man explained. “We’ve already told enough people so that the survivors will be able to tell their children exactly what happened.”

“How can you be so calm?!” Joseph yelled in fury.

“Because I have a personal relationship with Poseidon,” the bald man explained, a look of genuine affection on his face. “Everything is going to be okay.”

The bald man put his arm around the horrified Joseph, and turned him to face the door. “C’mon, they’ve got karaoke on Deck 6. Wait till you hear my ‘Chantilly Lace.'”

19 Responses to “The Flotation Movement”

  1. Blackadder says:

    I like it.

  2. Anonymous says:

    What an imagination!

  3. RJG says:

    Seems to me the smart ones would have immediately grabbed a sturdy lifeboat while no one was looking, stowed it, stocked it, and then began looking for ways to fortify and improve the ship. Having a good as time as possible will make you a temporarily content deadman whose family and friends would also likely perish.

  4. Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

    You forgot the part where about half the dining room, even a good portion of those who are concerned about the iceberg, stop everything they’re doing in order to tell you how evil Poseidon is and how you’re some sort of psychopath for having a relationship with him.

  5. Darien says:

    You also left out the part about how half the people worried about the iceberg insist that the solution is to have nine of the crew members order the others to start following the manufacturer’s recommendations for how to chart a course.

  6. John Becker says:

    Passive acceptance isn’t going to make drowning in ice water any more fun.

  7. Gamble says:

    Bob I could see you writing libertarian themed short stories for K-12. Maybe Ron Paul could use them in his curriculum.

  8. AdamG says:

    Reminds me of Ship of fools by Ted Kaczynki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Fools_(story)

  9. Ken B says:

    Joseph and his family were promenading on the deck of the great ship. Joseph looked out. He saw the moonlight over the waters and thought “what a fine night.” He nodded to the man at the rail next to him, a short, bald man who looked a lot like Jason Alexander. Then the silence was broken by the cry of a child.

    Joseph saw his youngest daughter Faith being gripped by a man in a dark suit. The man hoisted Faith above his head and began to move towards the edge. Joseph began to run to him. Before he got there he heard the cry Halt! from the short bald man. “You don’t want to do that” said the bald man “don’t initiate violence! NAP!” Joseph momentarily confused halted and the man in the dark suit holding Faith left over the rails and into the sea.

    Joseph began to blubber, but the bald man put a consoling hand on his arm. “It’s all for the best. This had to happen so that some unknown soul a thousand years hence might live.” Joseph composed himself and went to look for his wife.

    Just then Joseph heard another shriek. He turned around and saw his daughter Hope rush to the rails and leap into sea after her sister. Joseph fetched a life preserver was about to toss it over when he heard “Halt!” It was the short bald man.”That is a government mandated life preserver. If you use it you are buying into the statist oppression. NAP.” Confused Joseph paused for a moment and his daughters sank out of sight forever. “All for the best” he heard.

    Joseph stumbled off seeking his last daughter, Charity, just 17. She was stumbling, blinded by tears, towards the edge now, past the where bald man stood. “Grab her!” implored Joseph. But the bald man shrugged. NAP, duh!” as Charity tripped and fell to her death.

    “Hey, it’s karaoke night. You should hear my ‘Three Coins in a Fountain.'”

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Backstory of this spin-off:

      Kenny G was dropped as a baby. His cognitive impairment lead him to mistakenly hear the short bald man saying that it’s not an initiation of violence for the man in the dark suit to throw Faith over the edge, because the man in the dark suit had popular support from 50% plus 1 of the drunken passengers, and so throwing children over the edge is “legal”, and that it’s an initiation of violence for Joseph to lay his hands on that legal man.

      A few of the other passengers correctly heard the short bald man say that the man in the dark suit is initiating violence. But Kenny G would have none of it. It is immoral to use force against the man in the dark suit, even if it means to stop him from throwing Faith overboard.

      Kenny G believes that anyone who thinks it’s justified to protect Faith from people like the man in the dark suit, are “threats” to a stable, ordered ship. “There can be only one!” shrieks Kenny G. “Anyone who wants to stop the action of men wearing that particular dark suit must be secretly plotting to introduce a competitive market of throwing people into the water. Obey the man in the dark suit and others wearing that same suit, because those people are really you, me, and everyone else. They are the evil in us all. Don’t let that loose.”

      As the ship is sailing into the port, Kenny G congratulates himself on preventing anarchy on the ship. The cost is a measly little girl. Better the girl only, than Joseph throwing 5 like I foresee he will, that secretly plotting evil man!

    • Bob Murphy says:

      I’d prefer your insults of my faith to consist of one-liners, Ken B.

      • Ken B says:

        It’s more a comment on your logic Bob. But, to answer the implicit point, I do not think religion should be above criticism. Or snark.
        Oh, and it’s almost a verbatim quote.

        • skylien says:

          “almost a verbatim” doesn’t make it better, it is usually the worst.

          • Ken B says:

            For better or for worse, Bob’s words, Bob’s intent, Bob’s logic.
            If you mean more inculpating, I agree.

  10. Major_Freedom says:

    Another Rabbi. Another city. He goes to her and stops the mob as in the other story and says, ‘Which of you is without sin? Let him cast the first stone.’

    The people are abashed, and they forget their unity of purpose in the memory of their own individual sins. ‘Someday,’ they think, ‘I may be like this woman. And I’ll hope for forgiveness and another chance. I should treat her as I wish to be treated.’

    As they opened their hands and let their stones fall to the ground, the Rabbi picks up one of the fallen stones, lifts it high over the woman’s head and throws it straight down with all his might it crushes her skull and dashes her brain among the cobblestones. ‘Nor am I without sins,’ he says to the people, ‘but if we allow only perfect people to enforce the law, the law will soon be dead – and our city with it.

    – Orson Scott Card

    • Bob Murphy says:

      If there’s one thing this world needs, it’s more people’s skulls bashed in.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Don’t worry, the skull bashers can always ask for forgiveness later on. They’ll have eternal happiness while the atheist non-skull bashers will suffer for an eternity listening to Ken B on politics.

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