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    • CommentTimeApr 22nd 2010 edited

    Once upon a time, somewhere else entirely, there was a big wind-whipped, yellow-brick city way down on the west coast of a country. The big city was no spring chicken. For thirteen hundred years stuff— spices, books, opium, acres of camisoles and sundresses, luxury cars, jet turbines, scented candles, natural gas— had been sucked in and out of the port that lined the vast southern harbour. The city was named Chisak and it sat sulking in its gerrymandered, bloated metropolitan area like a frustrated eighteen-month-old fermenting in a playpen while its drunk National Rifle Association parents watch Rey Mysterio 619 Batista for the Heavyweight Title on WWE Smackdown.

    Chisak, as that unfortunately large simile made abundantly clear, was long past its prime. People were leaving faster than local high school students could give birth and replace them. Community initiatives failed over and over, and as happens in situations like this the economy declines for a while and then suddenly, simply—


    One day your favourite restaurant burns down. You think nothing of it. Within a month stores start to close and by this point you have a lovely little thing known as an escalating level of crime. The mildly quaint cobblestones downtown become crowded with wads of cinnamon gum, cigarette butts and squint-eyed ladies of the evening, not saying anything to you and your spouse as you walk ever so quickly into one of the last halfway decent restaurants still around.

    It’s not like everything sucks. You can get handbags that could be convincing fakes or just merely stolen in the road for twenty, thirty bucks; sunglasses for half that. Offices and ports still function. Life goes on for you and everyone else until one day there’s a break-in down the street and you sit down and ask each other: do we really want to raise a family here? So you move away- the distant suburbs or elsewhere entirely, and things are good for you. But some people still stick it out.

    A city always needs cops, plumbers, tax-men, furniture salespeople, et cetera.

    Anyway there was a cop in Chisak, named Rory Powell or something, and this Powell guy came out of absolutely nowhere— some blue-collar dairy farming town way between the exhausted east (alliteration unintentional) and the decaying west; somewhere where people still talk about ‘values’ without a trace of irony— in body armour with an express promotion to Captain.

    The story goes, he was visiting some relative way down in the ex-colonies and got shot pretty bad in a bad part of the souk. Powell somehow gets a hold of some big fancy carbon-fibre or ceramic or what-have-you bulletproof vest and modifies it, films himself getting shot from twenty metres away, dead-on, and he just keeps going. Something about the angles, the curves. But it’s not like the guy was a hero or even pretended to be; he was a publicity stunt and scared to hell of getting shot so the armour had a dual purpose.

    In just a little more then a month the guy’s plainly proven to be at the very least more competent than city council. He went all out, man; Old Testament. Turned the Phil Mossito into a pillar of salt— got the old bugger on tax evasion. During the Winchester Street race riots he slammed 2 Kings 2:23-24 down on the inciters and brought in the National Guard. His individual kill-count in thirty-four working days was either eleven or thirteen if you count what happened with the forklift as an accident or not.

    For some reason there was never that much paperwork for Captain Rory Powell.

    Things continued very well for the longest time— he went out into the wilderness of the old urban core with a dozen trusted cops and lo he smashed down the mafias of Chisak and broke the drug cartels of Chisak and threw the moneylenders from the horse races of Chisak and roughed up occasionally the many pimps of Chisak and it was good, for Chisak was quieted.

    All good things must, it is written, come to an end and after a couple months Powell is on the outs with council— he ordered a heritage building to be demolished and it rapidly was— the last cat-house in Chisak, reportedly the lord mayor’s favourite, crushed under a bulldozer like it was a West Bank settlement. He was politely, at the grizzled old age of twenty-seven, put out to pasture with binding advice: Stay the hell outta Chisak. You did your job. Thank you. Go.

    The mayor said this over spinach quiche in a chain breakfast restaurant near City Hall.

    The spinach quiche caused more distress to Powell than his obvious dismissal. What is a quiche, anyway? Not what it is, but what the word conjures up. An image of a steaming rubbery yellow pie— traditional crust and vanilla ice cream included— spotted with stinking leaves rose unbidden to the forefront of his mind like a methane bubble in a swamp. Quiche. The word alone was bad enough. It sounded like something you’d scrape out the door after stepping on while hiking. A damp, soft, clammy word with an e tacked on the end to make it quaint. He would order some bacon and toast, Powell decided. No eggs at all. So bacon and toast he ate as he was fired. The mayor and police chief had the quiche.

    He was at a loss for what to do.

    Powell went back to his town and listlessly re-enlisted in the local force. He used up his sick days out in the rolling, pastoral acres having rednecks test his armour out, shooting each other in the chest amongst startled Holsteins and putting the resultant hilarious footage online. He went out on stress leave and quit with little fanfare two days later.

    Things were nice, being retired.

    Chisak did what cities do. Goods were sucked off the sounding sea through the windpipe of the port and were hacked out the lungs of the railway to consumers near and far. People forgot about the month of abnormality and things returned to their usual pace.

    So once upon a time there was this guy, and he failed to make an ounce of lasting difference. Just another Ozymandias. Look upon my faded newspaper clippings and despair.


    People were leaving faster than local high school students could give birth and replace them.

    I like this. :D

    if you count what happened with the forklift as an accident or not.

    I’m not sure if you need the “or not.” It makes it sound a bit clunky to me.

    Powell is on the outs with council

    You switched to present tense. You may have done this on purpose, but if you didn’t you might want to change the “is” to “was.”

    ike something you’d scrape out the door after stepping on while hiking.

    This sounds off. Maybe reword it.

    an e tacked

    This is nitpicky, but I think that the “e” should be in quotes or italicized or something.

    test his armour out

    Not sure you need the “out” there. It sounds better after reading that part a couple of times now, so I don’t know…

    Just another Ozymandias.

    I had to read that poem for English! It makes me happy that I get a reference because of it!

    I liked it overall. I like the description of the city’s slow decline. I also like that Powell didn’t really make a difference. People think that they can change something, but when they leave it alone, things return to the way they were. Good job, Adam!

    I just realized that this was in “Writing” and not “Critique Wanted,” so sorry if this is not what you were looking for.