When I taught high school civics, I introduced social contract theory to my students by leaning against my lectern and announcing, “You are stranded on an island without adults. The parameters of this island are this room’s windows, doors, and walls. Your goal is to survive. To do so, I suggest you agree on ten rules. Quickly.”
I retreated to my desk. I told kids who begged me to help them, “I am dead to you.”
It typically took about four minutes for somebody, always unassuming, often Asian, to attempt cannibalism.
Once, an enterprising Khmer girl strode to my desk.
In an affected accent, she asked, “Do island hab Nayo Shop?”
During another class period, a group of short-haired girls huddling by the oscillating fan formed a tight womb . I strained to listen to what they were whispering about.
From the womb wafted…
Many students told me that this ruthless exercise was the highlight of the class, but it was my joy to listen to my albinoid nephew, Deerthug, describe his ideal society, Deerthugville, to me as we hopped the Wisconsin-Iowa border.
He, TJ, and I rode in Grandpa’s truck’s backseat and argued over where the two states divide- does their border cut through the Mississippi River or is it on land? – as we licked ice cream cones.
A cool treat was my reward for participating so earnestly in the harvest.
Deerthug snapped that it was stupid to have a border that went through water, and though I agreed, I threw up my shoulders in a what-are-you-gonna-do hunch.
“Atlas shrugged,” I said.
He slapped me.
“Wanna hear something that’ll really blow your mind?” I asked him.
“If you go far enough out into the ocean, you’re in no country. That’s international waters.”
“You mean, I could make my own country?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said. “What would Deerthugalonia look like?”
“Deerthugville,” he mused, “would be made of cement and pieces of Wisconsin…
…I would be the king.”
“Who would live on your island?”
“Grandpa,” said Deerthug. “He would be the Island Hunter. He would catch the food.”
“That’s practical. What about Grandma?”
“She would cook it.”
“Would the monetary unit be called the Deerthug?”
“And could the motto printed on it be In No Der We trust?”
“What would TJ be?” I asked.
Deerthug glanced at his aunt. “She could be the Island Comedian.”
“What about me?” I asked.
TJ turned, smiled, and said, “Your Auntie M. loves to landscape.”
Deerthug smiled. He rested his well-knuckled hand on my shoulder, “Island Gardner.”
“Will your island have a cuisine? Will there be an official food?”
“Meatball sandwich,” snapped Deerthug, as if he’d been waiting his entire childhood to answer this question. “One meatball, two slices of bread.
And everybody must wear camoflouge, boys and girls! And eat my sandwiches and give me all their money. And hunt and fish for me.”
“What happens if they don’t? What if somebody doesn’t eat your meatball sandwich?”
“They’ll die. I’ll put snipers in the trees.”
From the passenger seat, Grandma croaked, “Deerthug! You sound like a czar!”