A short allegorical story satirizing the concept of traditions. Inspired by Catch-22.
| "I didn't mean to answer the call." A tired repairman named William Williamson slowly rises from bed. He was expecting a normal call from his fiance but instead got something that would change his life forever. "It's too late now though. I have to go." It was 4 AM when they called him, way too early for his brain to turn on. Nobody is quite sure why he talks to himself, but it has gone on for far too long to stop now. He has principles, damn it!|
William gets dressed, puts on his hat, and walks somewhat hurriedly to town square, which is abandoned by all except for a shady looking character in a dark green camisole, open white sweater, and a seasonally inappropriate straw hat. He recognizes her as Clean Eileen, the cashier at the grocery store William goes to when his usual go-to is closed. She likes to wash everything she owns every Sunday, because that's how her mother did it and her mother's mother before her, and nobody wants to be known as an eccentric. Eileen has a deadly serious look on her face. She asks him if he was followed. He does a double take and insists that he was not. "Good, Billy...", she intones, "It's time to begin your initiation." "Oh, please, call me William!" She glares at him, and he knows not to object further.
William Williamson makes his way towards the laundromat. A savage dog attacks him, pushing him to the ground, giving him a nasty wound in his side and ruining his new jacket. He just barely manages to free himself by punching the violent animal in the eye, which then whimpers and runs away. When William stumbles to his feet, he notices Eileen standing several meters away holding an empty leash. "Excuse me, Eileen, but did you unleash that angry dog at me?" "I sure did. I'm so proud of you!" She beams at him, delighted at her own generosity. "Over ten of your ancestors got bit on this very spot!"
William is taken aback. He begins to stutter. He had no plans to be bit by a dog today, and there Eileen had to ruin it. "Why should I have to suffer just like my ancestors did?" He huffs and fixes his stern gaze on her. Eileen laughs. "Of course you have to. That's how we do things around here. If you don't like it, nobody is forcing you to live here!" She is right, of course, William realizes. If he really wanted to leave, he could easily run away and be homeless in another town. The other dozens of repairmen competing for the same three jobs there would keep him company.
"I guess you're right. Say, I think I remember your mother tripping over into the mud a while back." Eileen waves goodbye and beats a hasty retreat, remembering that she forgot to leave her oven on this morning, a sacred tradition in her household. Eileen is a very wise woman. She always pays for the best fire insurance available. William hopes he can afford to do the same some day, but he gets mugged at the same busy intersection every month. It would be a shame to disrupt such a storied tradition, and he knows the mugger has children to feed. So he puts up with it, because as his father always told him, one should always stay positive no matter what.
William Williamson finally gets home again. He gets another call and hesitantly picks up the phone. It is his fiance this time. "I was in town earlier, but I saw you out late with another woman with your clothes torn. She ran before I could say something. We're over, Will." He wants to explain, but he is at a loss for words, because his fiance would surely think him crazy if he told her the truth. So he hangs up. "I don't need companionship anyway. I should stay positive." This is what everyone tells him to do, and they couldn't all be wrong, surely. "Everything will be okay as long as I do as I'm told and stay positive." William sits down on his bed and does his best to stay positive, but he feels empty and unfulfilled somehow, and his side still hurts. Life is good.