Unravelled - April 2055

Geoffrey Miller - Cli-Fi

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‘No one really knows what happened to Alberta.’

‘Has it always been that bad?’

‘It doesn’t matter.’

He hung his head.

A few seconds later, he mumbled; ‘Fucking DC. I nearly lost it all for that.’’

Silence hung over the dining table. He’d never told me much about his younger life. I’d always had a hunch there was something he wanted to hide from us. It wasn’t that he’d never be willing to talk about his past, but he seemed to tiptoe; subtly shifting the conversation as soon as he felt we were satisfied with his answers. I’d always assumed he’d been in cyber security his entire career. He certainly made it seem as though it was his only profession.

‘Dad, what’s going on? What did you lose?’

He looked up. I almost jumped. I’d never seen him look at me like that, the struggle in his eyes. It was my turn to look down. He clearly struggled to look me in the eye; I couldn’t do that to him.

I didn’t check to see if he was still looking at me.

‘I was a lobbyist in Washington.’

Uncertain, I looked up to ask, ‘A lobbyist?’ I’d heard that before somewhere, ‘Do you mean like a policy scientist?’

‘No honey, there wasn’t really much of that type of thing when I was in Washington. That came later. That’s actually what kind of unravelled the whole operation.’

He looked down.

‘I just did it long enough to pay off my loans then left. No one gets into that line of work without an exit strategy.’

It didn’t take long to connect the dots. I wasn’t quite sure what it meant but I quickly understood that this is what he’s been trying to keep from us. Yet it still wasn’t really clear why he was trying to hide it. Policy scientists are some of the most well-respected government officials. Three of our last four presidents started as policy scientists in Washington. Just last week President Occasio-Cortez held a press conference just to thank our policy scientists for their early response to the four Category Six hurricanes predicted to hit the Midwest this season.  She announced that the $500 million dollar Renovation Preparation Project has already saved the US $2 billion in damages and aid after just one Category 6 Hurricane.

How could Dad be scared to tell his son he used to work in government policy? I have friends who dream of being able to proudly wear the label of government policy scientist. Why wouldn’t he want to tell me?

Suddenly, he gripped my wrist, tighter than I’d like.

The unease was gone. In its place, a scared seriousness in his eyes. ‘Kiddo, I really don’t think you need to know about this. That kind of news getting out could cause some unnecessary trouble these days. You remember what happened to Uncle Jim last year right?’

‘Dad, I just want ‘, I tried. He stood up.

Walking into the kitchen he called back ‘Let’s not do this tonight. You have a lecture in the morning, don’t you?’ Without ever looking back at me, he dropped his beer in the bottle bin, refilled his water, scooped up a handful of cashews and walked upstairs.

~~~

I never saw it coming. Yet the second the story broke, that night finally clicked for me.

I was playing pool. Five balls up on my roommate at our local. He’d been rushing his shots early and seemed to be forcing himself to take his time now. I sipped my beer and felt a buzz in my pocket. A text from my sister:

‘Come home now.

Don’t check internet.

Dad public.’

That wasn’t possible. On my way out, the headline on the TV in the front bar caught me; ‘BREAKING: Exxon lobbyist responsible for Keystone Pipeline disaster found.’

I realised that day why I’d never heard of a lobbyist in DC.

Written by Geoffrey Miller

Geoff graduated from The University of Technology Sydney last year with a Bachelor of Business with Honours in Economics. He's curious about the nature of economic and social systems, an unapologetic Utopian idealist and, as a self-proclaimed Minimalist, desperate to tackle overconsumption at its core.

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