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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 49: Slade 107
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Dinner in the whites' camp was something like a thick meatless stew. Slade wondered whether the pasty base had once been beans. If they were getting special treatment, he pitied the troops.
He did not again see the young officer with whom they'd had their discussion. He wondered whether he had pushed too hard, or the wrong direction; a wrong word or heretical thought could probably get you killed in a world like this, and he wasn't yet ready to leave--although dinner was not a major enticement to stay.
"So," he said to Shella, "what do you see in all this?"
She lay on the blankets, propping her head up with one hand.
"I see a lot of very confused people, m'lord," she said. "They don't want to believe things that are obvious. If they can't accept what they can't deny, how can they possibly understand the deeper truths?"
He wasn't entirely certain what she meant by that, but it sure sounded good.
"So somehow," he ventured, "we have to get these people to understand that they are all people, and that the things that are keeping them apart don't mean so much as the things that should be drawing them together." He turned away from her. "Like that old movie where the Russian submarine guy saves the kid who is falling from the tower up in Gloucester, and everyone realizes that they're not really each others’ enemies."
"Pardon me, m'lord?"
Slade had attempted to explain movies to Shella before, but she'd still never seen one and didn't really get it.
"It's not that important. It was just a thought. I doubt, though, that we could arrange for Joe to save some little white girl--and of course that would be such a small piece of the problem."
"Sometimes big problems are best solved in small pieces."
That probably was true. Of course, if you tried to do that here, you'd have to fix a lot of pieces.
"I'm stumped," he said. "When we were with the blacks, it seemed like the thing to do was make them question their belief that the whites were inferior. Here, I could probably prove that Joe is a better fighter than anyone in this camp--"
"Except you, m'lord."
"Well, O.K., anyone except me. That's not much help, though--these people know the blacks believe themselves superior, and work to be superior. Proving that blacks are at least equal to whites isn't the point here. The whites probably accept that the blacks are superior, to some degree. That's one of the reasons they want to destroy them."
"But if you prove the opposite," Shella said, "if you prove that whites are better than blacks--"
"Then it just adds fuel to the fire, and the whites go into some kind of frenzy to realize their dream of ridding the world of their oppressors. Well, maybe. That might be a bit over the top, do you think?"
"No, m'lord. That might be very like what would happen."
Slade thought a moment. "Y'know, I'm a warrior, and I think war is often necessary, and often inevitable. But that would be a bloodbath. A lot of people would die, white and black, and it would prove nothing but that it's easier to get along in the world when you don't have as many people in it."
"Is it, m'lord?"
"No," he said hesitantly, "probably not. The blacks would still oppress the whites, and the whites would hate the blacks, and the battles would continue. They would only seem better because they wouldn't be so big. The slavery and the killing wouldn't end just because there weren't as many people."
He lay back on the blanket beside her, and stared silently at the canvas roof above him for a moment.
"What then?" she asked.
He sighed. "If I knew that, maybe that Nobel guy would have a prize for me. Anyway, let's sleep on it and see whether it's easier tomorrow."
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #235: Versers Infiltrate. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: