I’m always getting these ideas for the openings of stories. Then I either don’t know where to go with them or (more likely) don’t have enough ambition to figure it out.
So here’s one I’m tossing at you.
Tansy yawned and dropped the big book to the floor beside her chair. It landed with a window-rattling thump.
Finally, she thought. I made it. She imagined this is what Medieval penitents had felt like after the last stop on a “go ’round the countryside whipping themselves from village to village” tour. Not pleasant, but done.
She had finally managed to fulfill Aunt Cheetah’s dying request: that she read Atlas Shrugged from cover-to-cover, not even skipping a word of The Speech. When Cheetah (whose real name was Charlene, but who was a capital-C Character) had gasped out those words — The Speech — from her cancer-ridden lungs and desert-dry throat, Tansy had had no idea what The Speech was or just how hard it would be to get through not only its 70 pages of opaque philosophizing, but the other 1000+ pages around it. It had taken months — years! But she had kept her promise to her favorite aunt at last.
Tansy flung herself back in the recliner and mildly wondered if The Tome would get all moldy if it spent the rest of its days as a doorstop.
Still, she had to admit that, awful though it was (as somebody said, Ayn Rand should have gotten a writer to write it for her), it had some wonderfulness, too. What girl wouldn’t want to be Dagny Taggart, all good-looking and buff and smart and running around in capes off-the-shoulder gowns all the time? And having the world’s hottest and richest guys after her (though, she reflected, early-reject Francisco was the only real keeper of the lot).
And the strike … now that was An Idea. Yes, it was. A brilliant idea. If plumbers and teachers and electricians and airline pilots could go on strike when they didn’t think they were being treated fairly, why not geniuses? (Genii?)
And if geniuses could go on strike …
Wait a minute …
Tansy, who had closed her eyes while fantasizing standing atop a railroad car in a floor-length velvet cape, opened them and peered at the ceiling as if the secrets of the universe might be hidden amid its bland orange-peel texture.
If geniuses can go on strike, why not ordinary, everyday people? Why not me and my friends?
Yeah. Why not?
Of course, there were problems. Like exactly who would they strike against? And — to be blunt — who would notice? I mean, Tansy mused as she gazed ceilingward, it’s one thing when big executives walk off the job. And you sure as heck notice that plumbers are gone when your toilet starts spewing murky water onto your ceiling and nobody shows up to fix it. But who — really now, who? — would notice if a bunch of nobody-in-particulars declared a strike?
She tried to picture her friends and wondered a) if they’d think the idea was crazy and b) who’d care if they suddenly … well, did whatever it was they’d do if they went on strike (a thing she was not yet clear on but would probably have to figure out eventually).
Yeah. It was a crazy idea. But still … An Idea. Here they were, the hapless Millennials, loaded with debt and grasping for opportunity that always stayed out of reach. Expected to pay for wars and welfare states and bankers’ bonuses when they couldn’t even keep up with their own student loans.
Something was wrong in the world. Something the Occupy people didn’t really get and the Anonymous people maybe got but didn’t know what to do with. But maybe that old butch Russian had some idea how to fix.
Foolish as it seemed, Tansy just couldn’t get the idea out of her head. She had to talk to somebody about this. Somebody who might get it.
Who would she ask? There was Bernadine, an arty type who probably really did think the would couldn’t live without her multi-media conceptual performances set to the music of John Cage. Hm. Probably not Bernadine. But what about Reynard? He was just strange enough to go for the idea yet sensible enough to know how to get things done. He had already hinted darkly about “making plans” against “them.” He might be worth plying with a few beers and running the idea by.
It wasn’t yet clear to Tansy what she and her friends should strike against, let alone what they should strike for. But in her mind, she keep hearing an insistent rhythm, a chant, a drumbeat: Strike! Strike! Strike! Strike! Strike!