Judging for the first round of the challenge that I completed in July came back late last week and I placed fifth in my group of 35, giving me 11 points. I had entered assuming that I would not score in the top 15 and get any points. I figured this was just good practice with a lot of opportunity to learn how to critique and how to be critiqued without melting into a ball of self doubt.
Actually scoring, and doing so high enough that it puts me in a good place to possibly move on to the third round, freaked me out. So I was sure then that I would end up with the dreaded political satire genre for the second round. There was no way I could be so lucky to get another genre (like horror from round 1) that I've read extensively. I read the genre description for political satire about 5 times each day so I could be prepared.
Friday night came and, as I was finally wrangling the kids into bed, we stopped and stood around my laptop to read my next writing prompt, sent to me by email.
Location: A bank
Item: An oxygen tank
Genre: Political satire
Riiiiiiiight. At least the kids had fun watching my horror stricken face.
So, here you go. Mind you, this is political satire and uses current events as a backdrop. You may or may not agree with it, but let's still be friends. Cool?
The Gold Standard
The contents of a little girl's piggy bank are thrown into chaos when the new gold backed coin enters the mix.
Lydia lays, staring at the ceiling above her, bored out of her mind. She is tired and wishes she could fall asleep but the ceiling fan clicks and hums obnoxiously with every rotation. Despite the fan’s best efforts, the air tastes stale to her and the layer of dust on the furniture in her neighbor's spare bedroom remains unprovoked by the tepid breeze.
“Everything in this house is so old and decrepit,” she mutters to herself, sitting up. “Why couldn't Dad bring me along to Mexico? Missing school is not that big of a deal. It's only second grade.”
She grins at her own clever use of ‘decrepit,’ which she had learned while reading her Dad's last investigative report on the infrastructure breakdown in the United States.
“Even Miss Greenly is decrepit,” she smirks.
Lydia had arrived that morning at their neighbor's, Miss Greenly's, house before the sun was up. Her Dad had promised it would only mean one night staying with her but to Lydia that was forever. She was sure Miss Greenly was 300 years old.
She had met them at the door and led them back to the living room, shuffling the whole way with a cane and rolling a big, green oxygen tank with her. The skin on her face and arms was spotted and paper thin. She was creeeepy.
Miss Greenly had eyed the piggy bank Lydia was clutching and smiled knowingly.
“If you're trying to keep your money safe from all the hooligans running around this neighborhood, I know how you feel,” Miss Greenly's voice scratched. “All these empty houses attract them like moths to the flame. But don't you worry child, our new President is going to take care of it.”
Lydia's Dad had explained that her bank held money from all the countries he had visited and how Lydia liked to keep it with her while he was gone. Miss Greenly had pulled out a brand new gold quarter and held it out to Lydia.
“I bet you don't have one of these yet!” she wheezed. “I already traded all my old money in for the new gold standard. The President sure knows what he's doing.”
Not wanting to offend Miss Greenly, Lydia had whispered a “thank you” and deposited the quarter into her piggy bank.
Sunlight now peeks in through the slats on the bedroom window. Lydia yawns and stretches. The bed creaks in relief as she slides off it onto the floor. Laying on her stomach, she picks up the pink, ceramic pig bank, removes the plug from its belly and watches the coins cascade down onto the area rug.
She loves all of the different sizes and colors of the coins. When her Dad comes back from a new country he always brings her some money and they cuddle together while he tells her stories about the people he meets.
Lydia removes the new gold quarter from the pile and sets it down next to the rest of the coins. She recognizes the man on the shiny face of the quarter and involuntarily shivers. President Grump scares her. He yells a lot on the news shows about how horrible people are that come here from other countries and how they need to leave. Her Dad is on his way right now to report on the wall that President Grump is building on the Mexico border.
She blames President Grump for having to stay with Miss Greenly. She used to stay with her friend Maria but Maria's parents were sent back to Mexico and now their house is empty. Remembering how much she misses her friend, she starts to cry quietly.
“And we will build a wall! It will be huge!”
Lydia picks her head up, finding that she is now surrounded by curving, pink walls and a pink ceiling. She wipes her eyes and sits up, looking around for the person speaking.
She must be seeing things. Across the pink room is her new gold quarter, standing on a stack of uncomfortable looking pennies in front of a crowd of more coins. He is gesturing wildly with the tiniest golden hands she has ever seen.
“We'll build a wall. A wall of Pesos!”
Lydia can hear a tinkling noise and she realizes that some of the coins standing closest to the Golden Grump are clapping. Others are standing farther away and they look nervous. She recognizes her Syrian Pounds looking particularly scared.
“It will stretch from one side. Yes, you heard me! One side to the other side. It will be a wall!”
The motions of his tiny golden hands are mesmerizing as he waves them around. The Pesos are crying as they are stacked on top of each other.
“We need to separate out the real Americans from all these guys. Yeah. The ones stealing our jobs. The rest of those Pesos and those Syrian Pounds need to file back to the other side of the wall.”
“But President Grump,” shouts Lydia, “isn't Mexico part of America?”
“Of course, I know that little girl. I mean this hemisphere, right? We need to keep the jobs here! All those dirty immigrants taking our jobs!”
The Golden Grump gestures wildly again and topples forward from his stack of pennies into the crowd. Lydia walks closer to the front while he gets back on to his pennies, grumbling at them as he climbs. His once shiny surface is now deeply scratched, revealing an old coin beneath the gold.
“President Grump, your family were immigrants from Germany. I can see the Deutsche Mark under your gold!” yells Lydia.
“Just ignore that, young lady. I'm a great American! Nothing like those dirty immigrants. You need to wake up.”
“Wake up, child!” Miss Greenly is shaking her shoulder lightly.
Lydia looks around the bedroom to find her Dad standing in the doorway looking scared.
“Lydia dear, we need to leave,” her Dad says quietly. “My flights were cancelled. They've closed the borders.”