“One day all the jobs will be gone, and replaced by robots. Then what will we do?” Marjorie announces. Cynthia is using an awl with beeswax thread trimming the leather’s edge that will cover her set of director’s chairs. “I still think you can find some nice pieces of vegan material Cynthia rather than using leather.”
“I like leather, strong and sturdy. I can go vegan, but prefer leather. If I make chairs for you, I’ll make it out of vegan, okay.”
Marjorie again mentions “what will we do when almost every job we know of now will be automated? It’s coming faster than I thought.” Cynthia looks at her with her big brown eyes and says, “Well, it looks like we’ll have to train people to run the automation.”
“And then what happens when automation runs automation? We have seven billion people on the planet woman! What will we do with all those people?”
Cynthia looks at Marjorie, “I don’t know. What do you think we’ll do?”
Marjorie says, “Cull the herd.”
“Cull the herd?”
“Yes, cull the herd.”
“Actually, we’re kind of doing it now. Allow rampant illness to grow, especially the types of illnesses that vaccines can help minimize or that can even eradicate diseases. Begin an anti-vaccine movement. Allow gangs to kill each other so they self-minimize their own population.
“Marjorie, gangs have always killed each other. It’s called competition and territorial control.”
Marjorie continues, “When you think about it, more gangs grow but more to fight with, right? In early society, it was tribalism – competition and definitely territorial, plus pillaging. Anyway….”
Cynthia is too surprise to respond to Marjorie’s sense of logic and especially the way she explains it. Placing the finished leather piece that goes on the back of the chair, Cynthia is almost finished. It will be her sixth director’s style chair which she prefers using instead of folding chairs for extra guests. Cynthia finally looks at Marjorie with a facial expression yelling ‘really’?!
Marjorie continues, “Then legalize all the drugs because, hey, a lot of people can overdose on their own. Allow the crazies on the street.”
“Oh stop it!”
“Sorry, mentally impaired.
Cynthia sighs, “no, stop it, you sound like those conspiracy nuts out there.”
“So the mentally impaired can also participate in culling the herd through their individual violence. Tent cities all over the world, an alternative way to live that at one time was considered something to be ashamed of, now is how we better accommodate it.”
“Marjorie, you don’t honestly believe all that do you?”
“Actually, yes and no, a bit of both.”
“Because look at what’s happening all around us. Plus, we really do have seven billion people on the planet. What are we going to do with all of them? What kinds of jobs are they going to be doing? I mean if you’re a billionaire, it’s all about sustainability. Enough clean food – yet we make genetically modified food and what does that say about hunger around the world that we have to make fake food. As if we’re starting ‘robot food’ you know what I mean? Clean water – yet we don’t have enough water to reach everyone on the planet. Clean air – yet corporations continue to pollute the earth and the water resulting in illness and death, hey”… with her palms up and nodding her head… “Mission accomplished. Cull the herd.” Marjorie continues, “Automation will surely get rid of the middle class jobs, truck drivers, secretaries – most gone already, and so on. So, what will we do with seven billion people who are getting older, not contributing to the planet’s or society’s well-being because they are just existing and taking to be able to exist? So what do we do???”
“Oh my God, Marjorie. Your view of the future is so bleak. It’s scary.
“Hey! We have politicians claiming we will reach the peak of no return in 12 years and the air will be nonredeemable.”
“Why even think about the future in that way?” Cynthia begins staining the series of chairs and wondering if she should create bright color chairs in different colors, or keep them one color.
“Because human nature dictates we go into survival mode. And I feel like I’m entering survival mode.”
“You’re retired Marjorie. You live on social security.
“It’s not enough, and I’m struggling Cynthia!
“I know. You should have worked for the government like I told you. I’m all about security and really, since the 1990s, government work is the most secure.”
“I pay for your pension, you know.”
“I know. You voted for it.”
“Didn’t realize what I was voting for at the time. Give away more of mine so you have more when you retired.”
“Like I told you, Marjorie. California does it best. Take, take, and then take some more in the name of sharing.”
“I know. But still…somehow I don’t seem to benefit.”
“Well, at the least the billionaires will be all right” laughs Cynthia. Placing a large piece of tarp outside where she will start staining the first of six chairs now that the leather sets are completed.
Marjorie is holding one end of the tarp placing rocks on the corners so it won’t blow away on this sunny breezy day. Marjorie continues, “Yes, they will. I think once you reach that level of income, your reality is no longer based on what society offers, but rather what your personal imagination wants. I mean now they have the money to have anything they want. Imagine if you can have anything you want? How boring that must eventually become. And how worthy are you for having so much? Ah, isn’t there a show on cable about billionaires living out their fantasies?”
Cynthia places the chair in the middle of the tarp, and starts placing the sander, a can of stain, gloves and other tools to continue her project. She says, “I don’t really think they feel guilty. At that point, they become philanthropists. That kind of alleviates guilt and lack of worthiness. And they do have ample access to mental therapists. Hard to feel sorry for them really.”
“I didn’t realize my retirement would be such a struggle Cynthia. With a PhD and I’m doing gig and part-time jobs. I will have to work until I die. As I get older, the little jobs I was getting are also drying up.”
“Marjorie, you’ll have to find something to do that can create income. Start a cleaning service using robots, hey! That’s not a bad idea!”
“Go ahead and laugh, Cynthia, but it’s a real struggle. You know, when you see so many homeless people out there, I make the sign of the cross and say “there for the grace of God go I.”
“You can always move in with me, Marjorie. Find your skill and use it for income. It’s the only way, find what you possess within that you can express without and sell it!” As Cynthia then changes subject, “help me with staining my chairs. Pick a color, Marjorie. “
“Ah, I like yellow.”
End2019 Jo-Ann Rodriquez© All rights reserved. No part of the short stories may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the author, “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” and email to firstname.lastname@example.org