The Pursuit of Happiness

The bewildered crowd wandered a street lined with abandoned shops and burned out cars. Their rapturous cheer had wilted by degrees into dead silence. All shouting had ceased; no one was fighting anymore; not a single firebomb lit the night. The wail of police sirens had long vanished.

Two men sat on the kerb. The older stared at the ground, while the younger looked around. A picket sign, vulgar and nonsensical, rested on his shoulder. He pulled down his bandana mask, and smiled, only because he thought he ought to.

“That’s it then—we did it.”

The old man sighed and raised his eyebrows in agreement.

“We won,” continued the young man. “We beat them. The people we wanted in power are in, and the people we wanted out are gone. Everyone we wanted dead is dead. Finally it’s equality for all—things can be the way they should. No more anger. It’s over.”

“It’s over,” muttered the old man.

The young man examined the crowd. “It’s so quiet,” he said. It didn’t look the way he had imagined it. He lifted the sign from his shoulder and read its slogan. After a moment he abruptly cast it onto the road. “I feel something,” he said. He rubbed his chest. “I don’t like it. It feels like… like—”

Screaming echoed through the street. It approached in the form of a shirtless man running through the crowd with a baseball bat and a megaphone; he appeared on the verge of madness. As he passed, the two men saw his eyes were filled with rage. He shouted something to them and kept running.

“Thank God,” said the old man as he stood up.

“What is it? What did he say?”

“Damned if I know.”

A smile returned to the old man’s face. He too began yelling, and followed the screaming, shirtless man. Soon the whole crowd ran behind him, raising their voices again in outrage. The young man watched as the mob disappeared around the corner at the end of the street. It was quiet again. An uneasy feeling welled up in him. Before it could manifest any further he picked up his sign from the ground and chased the noise of the angry crowd.



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