The Council of Jeffs
(First appeared in Yareah Magazine 12/16/2013)
Any time you write fiction, the hardest part is introducing the premise. The harder it is to swallow, the more background you have to provide to make it plausible. If what you plan to write about isn’t in any way plausible, you have to pull off the literary equivalent of ventriloquism; have the reader be watching your lips so intently that they don’t really care about what words are coming out of your mouth.
While you mull that over let me explain that there are hierarchies of reality and just because yours might end on a deathbed surrounded by family members obeying the laws of physics doesn’t mean that’s true for everyone.
Not Jeff anyway.
While he liked the scenery he wasn’t enjoying the play, so it was decided that he would change the script at intermission and pick only one hundred people with whom to move the story forward.
Except that such was his dislike for his fellow man, he decided to live in a world populated with only one hundred of himself.
Jeff and ninety-nine other Jeffs.
Why one hundred?
I could explain it but, as with most things physics, you wouldn’t understand. This reality couldn’t exist with only ninety nine Jeffs and one hundred and one Jeffs would face a similar hurdle.
With what I’ve told you about Jeff I’m guessing you can already see the problem with this scenario. It took only a few days for him to realize that the only people he disliked more than everyone else on the planet was the collection of Jeffs he’d surrounded himself with. Sitting in a confined space with a group of himselves was torture.
Luckily the Jeffs had a great big world to spread out across and they all agreed to do just that. With what I haven’t told you about Jeff though it would be hard for you to see the problem with this scenario so I will come right out and explain it. The skill sets possessed by Jeff, multiplied a hundred times, or even a thousand times, were limited when it came to practical applications faced in a world devoid of all other people. He was unfamiliar with plumbing, electricity, farming, weaving, automobile repair, construction, and pretty much everything else that his fellow man had provided prior to his decision to abandon them to an alternate realm. His mechanical aptitude, on a scale between 1 and 10, sat uncomfortably at a zero.
Thus was born The Council of Jeffs.
Perhaps ventriloquism wasn’t the best way to have framed what was discussed in the opening paragraph. I’m sure by now you’ve long forgotten it and perhaps even forgiven me for having phrased it as such but I think I’d rather come back and address it rather than have it sit in the back of your head only to lurch out months later unprovoked and cause a burst of anti-Manion sentiment.
I might have better explained myself if I had compared it to sleight-of-hand. Doing something interesting with one hand while the other is up to no good. Or perhaps distracting you with something shiny while elsewhere something dark and unexpected takes place.
As you can see, however I explain it, you now return to the story with a complete understanding, and, dare I say, an appreciation for, the reality that Jeff finds himself.
The Council met every month to discuss the challenges that the Jeffs faced out in their new existence. None of them knew- given that if any of them knew it they all would have known it- that gasoline doesn’t power cars after enough time has gone by, so they discussed alternate forms of transportation. The lack of fresh meat presented a problem so they discussed if any of them would like to go into raising cattle, forgetting of course that either everyone would want to do it or nobody would want to do it. The only thing they all agreed on is the fact that they should have one leader and each felt very strongly that it should be them. They voted and every time it ended with one hundred candidates getting one vote each.
There was no way Jeff could convince another Jeff to throw his allegiance behind him for the betterment of Jeffs everywhere.
I could at this time ask you that you not substitute yourself for Jeff in this little scenario and play out what would happen if you woke up on a world populated with only ninety nine of yourselves to keep you company, but I know it would be useless. In fact, unless you’re gay and preoccupied with wondering if you would find yourself attractive, you’ve probably already jumped ahead to the same ending that Jeff has in store.
In a way it’s like those street hustlers that ask you to keep track of the little rubber ball they place under one of three plastic cups that they then move around in a series of seemingly easy-to-follow circles. You’ll follow it and hand them over a dollar, certain that you’ve beaten the game, only to find that the cup you’ve selected is empty.
It’s really just a matter of time until one Jeff decides that this world isn’t big enough for so many Jeffs and, if you’ve started to notice the pattern, that means all of the Jeffs will come to this conclusion.
Actually it’s more like when a magician flashes a pack of cards in front of you and asks you to select any card you want and he then guesses your card. You’re unaware that after years of practice he flashes the deck in such a way that one card stands out amongst all the others and sits in your head even though you’re completely unaware of it. You think at the time that you are making a choice of your own free will but in the end the power of suggestion is stronger than you think.
So a Jeff, which one isn’t important, calls for a Council of Jeffs. Everyone agrees that all one hundred Jeffs need to be in attendance for this particular conclave and everyone comes into the meeting with an ingenious idea to slay all the other Jeffs.
If you give it some thought I think you’ll find that this was your card.