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||GENERAL STRIKE! (An American abroad)
GENERAL STRIKE, or an American abroad
a short story by Wolf Larsen
(Based on a personal experience)
He woke up. Where was he? The sun was out already! It's so quiet...
He looked around him, he was in a cheap hotel room. What was he doing here? Oh yeah he remembered – he was on vacation traveling in another country. He looked at his watch. "Jesus!" he exclaimed. It was late, after 10 AM!
He showered and put on some clothes and started heading out of the hotel when the proprietor said, "Nothing's open! There's a General Strike! " The way the proprietor said it was as if "General Strike" was such a big thing it might as well be in capitals.
As the American walked out of the hotel and onto the sidewalk he thought, "Huh! General Strike?"
Then the American suddenly stopped walking and stood still. He looked around him. He was in the center of town and everything was closed. There was nobody in the streets. There were no cars. Everything was empty. It was so quiet...
Just yesterday this very street had been a chaos of noise and passerby and music from all the open shops and there had been endless cars moving back-and-forth honking their horns and taxicab drivers yelling out "Taxi! Taxi!" But now there was nobody. There was nothing.
"So this is a General Strike!" thought the American. Being an American the only general strikes he knew were the ones in history books. He had never seen a general strike with his own eyes before.
Fascinated, he walked on. Just yesterday the sidewalks had been so full of people and vendors that at times he felt annoyed at how crowded everything was. At times, it had been hard to walk it was so crowded! But now it was the exact opposite! It felt so strange!
He began crossing the street, looking both ways. But there were no cars. Just yesterday there had been a traffic jam here. And now nothing, nobody.
He walked block after block through what yesterday where endless crowds and noise. And now nothing. Incredible...
Since there were no cars he started walking in the middle of the street. It was like he was in the middle of some weird sci-fi movie where the human race had all disappeared and he was only human left on the entire planet walking through some empty city...
Oh wait, there's some people over there! What's going on over there?! How strange! People!!
As he walked closer to where the people were he suddenly realized he may have made a mistake. Over there were a whole bunch of policemen – or were they soldiers? – and they were all in riot gear! Jesus Christ! And as he got even closer he realized many of them were looking directly at him! All of them had big sticks in their hands and as his morbid curiosity drew him closer and closer his heart began beating faster and faster.
Then he realized what the cops were standing in front of: they were standing in front of McDonald's. It was the only business open. Once he was close enough to gaze in the windows the cops or were they soldiers realized that he was a foreigner, and that he was not a part of their conflict, so they eyed him only with a cautious disinterest. Inside the McDonald's he could see it was almost empty, there was virtually nobody else besides the employees, who stood around with nothing to do.
He decided to go back to the hotel. He took a different route back. But everything was the same. Empty. No cars. No nothing. No people. Just a vast empty city with block after block of shuttered stores.
As he walked he began to feel a tremendous source of triumph. As if the struggle of the working people in this country was his struggle too. After all, wasn't he a worker just like them? He smiled a great big smile!
When he got back to the hotel the owner's wife was also happy. She fixed him something to eat and more importantly some coffee. She was so nice.
He sat there watching the television set in the common area. (There were no television sets in the rooms.) On the television set it was all about the general strike: in city after city across the nation the camera showed empty streets and shuttered stores and closed factories. The only people on the streets where the cops or were they soldiers with their big thick sticks in their hands at the ready. But there were no people. There were no people to attack and beat up. Even the streets of the capital of the country were deserted.
The owner's wife came with some food and more importantly some coffee. She was so happy. "This strike is so good!" she said as she sat down in front of the TV. Her husband, the proprietor of the hotel, also came over to watch the television.
"This is a great victory!" said the wife. "The people are so fed up! All the politicians are crooks. The prices of everything keeps going up, but the wages stay the same! In the public hospitals if you don't have money for medicines they just let you die! Things are so tough! But the working people have spoken with one voice! Look!" she said as she pointed at the television set with the screen full of empty streets and closed shops and closed factories.
"Yes, very good for the country!" said the husband mockingly but playfully. Everyone is staying home today – so in nine months lots of babies will be born!" he said laughing.
His wife playfully chided him with a light slap on the arm as she said with a smile, "At least it's something, it's the beginning of something!"
The husband looked at the television set and said, "It's something all right, it's the beginning of something all right. It's the beginning of lots and lots of babies!" said the husband laughing.
As the American watched the scenes of empty streets on the television he wondered "What if something like this happened in my country? Wouldn't that be something?! "
And as the American watched the scenes of empty streets and closed factories and closed shops on the television he thought of empty streets and closed factories and closed shops in his own country from sea to shining sea – everybody just staying home for a day.
"If these people can do it why can't we?" the American thought.
And as the American thought about that he smiled.
Copyright 2011 by Wolf Larsen. Advance permission is given to anyone wishing to publish and/or distribute this work to do so as long as no alterations are made to the work, credit is given to the author, and the intent of such publication and/or distribution is not hostile.
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