The globe-trotting misadventures of American Candide and his wingnut tutor, Dr. Pangloss, his totally hot BBW Cunegonde plus sundry suicide bombers, illuminati global warmers, insurance cults, sex-crazed illegal aliens and even the Senate Sub-Committee on Homeland Furnishings provides sufficient belly laughs to make exile, destitution, rape, murder and torture into something that happens to other, mostly foreign people, thank God. From the jungle slums of darkest Africa to the lily-white McMansions of American suburbia, the human condition wreaks havoc upon Candide and his friends as they search for an American Dream being held against its will in an undisclosed location. College-boy sissies will call it a Juvenalian satire upon America's penchant for mindless optimism and casual racism but Candide says it's really 'rage against the rage, Voltaire-dude!'
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About the Author
Mahendra Singh is an author, illustrator and editor who has worked on a variety of SF, humor, children’s and literary titles. His most recent solo project was a graphic novel version of Lewis Carroll’s Hunting of the Snark. He also edits the Knight Letter, the journal of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America. In his spare time he promotes atheism by distributing blank pamphlets on the subway. He lives in Montreal.
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By Mahendra Singh
Rosarium PublishingCopyright © 2016 Mahendra Singh
All rights reserved.
In Which Candide Is First Brung Up and Then Brung Down
In this, the best of all possible worlds, things can only get better, perhaps even better than best. Of course, such a challenge is child's play for a citizen of the United States of Freedonia since anything is possible in the better than best of all possible nations — Freedonia!
Candide was just such a Freedonian citizen, a citizen whose only impediment to even further perfection was his vaguely French name. It was the final bequest of his parents, Caucasian welfare royalty who'd fled the maternity ward upon receiving the hospital bill. But no matter, his adoptive parents, the wealthy (though not obscenely so) Barons were above that sort of thing. They set small stock in a child's moniker, preferring instead to make do with the infantine cut of his adorable jib.
Despite her considerable girth, we can say little of Mrs. Baron. She was a reclusive woman who collected war-damaged children's dolls and kept to the shadows cast by Mr. Baron, an energetic man bristling with that rugged, Freedonian individualism which was the natural consequence of a lifetime of easy living. The easy living was easily explained: Mr. Baron had spent his entire life sucking on that bloated Government tit which he so loved to abuse to all who cared to listen. Bombs and bullets were his bread and butter, and he suffered no fools in his quest to make the Freedonian military-industrial complex even better than best and damn the expense.
The fruit of the Baron loins was sparse but sufficient: the young heir apparent, Junior Baron, and his sister, the invitingly bovine Miss Cunegonde. The entire Baron family lived an Edenic, feed-lot existence of food and drink consumed in vast quantities at all hours of the day and night. Fortunately, young Candide was blessed with the metabolic bravado of the congenitally impoverished. His slender physique and vacant good looks made him physically attractive enough to qualify as a fictional protagonist in even our shamefully image-obsessed times.
The Barons' home was a cavernous mansion ringed with electrified fences, motion-detection sensors, and a bulletproof guardhouse outfitted with the latest electronic gadgetry. Inside the guardhouse lurked an armed, vaguely menacing man of indeterminate though subliminally cozy racial origins. All of this ensured that nothing genuinely unsavory came sniffing around, for in this, the better than best of all possible worlds, it was obvious to all right-minded Freedonians that any evil-doers must hail from the worser than worst of all possible worlds. Perhaps this also explains why Mr. and Mrs. Baron spent their evenings watching the most lurid true-crime programs legally permissible on cable television. Like many Freedonians, they were casual voyeurs who enjoyed crime and punishment in inverse proportion to their chances of being exposed to either.
Mr. Baron did not hold with talkative college women in pants nor the rampant moral debauchery of the public schools nor even the fluoridated water piped into such establishments. He was a perpetually self-made man (beholden to none but the good lord, the ultimate self-made man in the Baron cosmology) and so he thought it better to hire a private tutor to home-school his children. Doctor Pangloss was an overweight, pasty-faced man who seemed to sleep in his clothes excessively and was given to perspiring profusely and talking loudly whenever Mr. Baron was about. His pedagogical methods had been gleaned from various AM radio talk-show hosts, street-corner pamphleteers, and the idle chatter of bus station loafers.
"Dear children," Doctor Pangloss would say, "always remember that although you're the freest people on Earth, there are those who hate you for that very freedom. And why is that? Because you are free while they will never be free — except to hate you. That's the difference that real freedom makes!
"Of course, we are all a bit different and rightly so, since god made us just as we are. But too much of anything different, such as being a showoff or gay pride parading, is harmful. It's better to be just a little bit different by being even more the same than certain other uppity folks we might mention. Now that's another real freedom!
"Let's say that you just met someone with a so-called higher education. Think about it ... who gave this person the right to put himself above you in a land where all men are created equal? And if this person says that we're descended from monkeys and god endowed us with a congenital taste for hurling feces at one another instead of discussing the facts, why then, that's just silly. Look these people in the eye and tell them: 'OK, everyone's entitled to their facts, heck, I have facts of my own, strong ones too, but I don't have to always agree with them. Or yours.' So, children, here's a real fact — Mr. Baron is the better than best of all possible Freedonians."
"It's also a fact," the Doctor would conclude, "that everything that happens, just happens. Every cause has its cause except the First Cause, which must be First or we wouldn't call it so. Which is why on the back of every Freedonian banknote it says so in plain Freedonian: In God We Trust. And who can improve upon that? That's right — only Freedonia, the best of all possible worlds, where things can only get even better!"
Indeed, who can argue with that? Certainly not Candide nor the two younger Barons, all of whom were convinced that Doctor Pangloss was the wisest of men. As for our own misgivings, will such half-truths wrapped around demi-lies wrapped around semi-falsifications ever make the factual grade? Or should we just re-label it all as a second-hand, slightly used truth? No matter, such subtle concerns never once entered these young people's innocent minds and so you can imagine how surprised Miss Cunegonde was when she observed Doctor Pangloss showing the handsome young pool boy, Paco, certain facts about the better than best of all possible worlds behind the swimming pool fence.
Blessed with a native flair for self-promotion, the young lady rushed off to find Candide. When they met, she blushed. Then he blushed. Then she pulled down her sweat-pants, enough to reveal a smudged ballpoint pen drawing of a Freedonian eagle embellishing her plump though shapely backside. Overwhelmed by the most urgent patriotic sentiments imaginable, Candide bent over to examine it more closely when Mr. Baron appeared.
The angry father wasted no time in idle speculation. Being a self-made man of perpetual action, his time was money. Without further reflection, Mr. Baron applied a hearty kick to Candide's backside and expelled the boy from the only home he had ever known.CHAPTER 2
In Which Candide Learns to Be All That He Can Be
The luckless Candide wandered Freedonia for a long time, homeless, hungry, and cold in the better than best of all possible worlds, a world in which the possibilities of being well-fed and warm seemed to have been unfairly monopolized by college-boy sissies. The education that Doctor Pangloss had furnished him was deficient in those obstinate facts which allow a young man to make an honest living, and naturally, that was the only sort of living that our hero would contemplate.
One morning, as the snow fell upon his shivering frame without hindrance, he took up his position beside a busy highway. Dressed in tattered clothes, unshaven, and unwashed, he brandished a small piece of cardboard upon which he had written this terse summary of his dilemma: Will work for food — God bless you and thank you and have a nice day.
The young man darted between the cars idling in the morning's rush-hour traffic, soliciting spare change from their occupants with little success. Eventually a white van slowed down beside him, and its driver rolled down his window to examine Candide and his sign more carefully.
"God bless you and have a nice day," he exclaimed to his companion sitting beside him. "Now that's what I call a can-do attitude! This young man's starving to death in the heart of the richest nation on Earth, and he still has the good manners to say thank you."
He opened the door of his vehicle and motioned Candide to get in. A few minutes later, they were sitting inside a warm, cheerful restaurant, the two men enjoying their coffee while Candide devoured the immense breakfast of steak and eggs that his benefactors had ordered for him. Only when he was finished did he speak.
"Thanks for ordering my breakfast," he said, "but I'm afraid that I don't have the money to pay for it."
"That's OK," replied one of the men. "We could see that you were down on your luck and what caught our eye was your old-fashioned, down-home sense of courtesy about it. Most folks just curse and carry on when things go against them, but you took it like a man."
"Heck, he took it like a he-man," added his companion.
"That's my thinking exactly, he's a he-man, a real he-man," continued the first man. "Say, son, you don't have a criminal record, do you? Any problems with the law?" "Of course not," replied Candide proudly. "I'm a law-abiding citizen. All I did was try to kiss Miss Cunegonde's backside without marrying her or even dating her first."
The two men exchanged glances over their coffee. "A real hot one, is she, Miss Cunegonde?" said one.
"Yeah, I guess so," replied Candide.
"Then I'll bet she really likes her men to be real he-men, probably he-men like you," continued the man.
"Heck, I'll tell you what she'd like even more than that," said his companion. "A man in uniform. All the really hot girls dig that. And since you're a he-man already, the uniform will just make it better."
"You're right," exclaimed Candide, quite impressed by these men's insights into Miss Cunegonde's psyche. "With a uniform, I would be — better than best!"
One of the men pushed a piece of paper and a pen toward him.
"Just sign here, son," said the man, "and you can become a real, live, better than best Freedonian hero. Heck, I cannot imagine any woman in the world who could hold out for too long against a man in the uniform of the Freedonian Army."
"Frankly, since you're a real he-man already, she'd be double-plus more unlikely to say no to you," remarked the other man. "It's like you're wearing a twenty-four-seven, rock-and-roll sex uniform all the time, and, hey, it gets even better because —"
"Wait, let me tell him this part," interrupted the other man, "because it's so darn cool, it's the best part, son — you're also going to be fighting for freedom! You see, outside of Freedonia the world is a very dangerous place to be in. It's full of angry, crazy people who can't handle the freedom we gave them already, and frankly, it's only he-men like you who can keep older, weaker guys like us and super hot girls like Miss Cunegonde feeling really safe, especially at night if you catch my drift ... stud."
"Wow," replied Candide, "where do I sign?"
The two men showed him, and the youth did so. In an instant, they bundled him back into their van and drove him to a nearby military base where he was inducted into the Freedonian Armed Forces within seconds.
After a few weeks of training and marching and shooting, Candide and several thousand other Freedonian youth were deemed ready to defend their nation. They were quick-marched to the runway of a nearby Air Force base where they stood in formation while their congressman made a few inspirational remarks. He praised their can-do spirit and even confessed to secretly envying them, for he'd been too self-absorbed at their age to join the armed forces in Vietnam when encouraged to do so by the Freedonian government.
The speech finished, all the soldiers were marched into the holds of the enormous aircraft parked behind them. To Candide's surprise, each airplane was discreetly emblazoned with the logo of Baron Incorporated. This sudden reminder that Miss Cunegonde was linked in some way to the great adventure he was embarking upon made Candide's heart swell with love.
And then he felt a certain pride in knowing that a man so patently unjust as Mr. Baron also possessed a balancing measure of innate Freedonian fairness, at least enough to make sure that Candide would be leaving Freedonia on the better than best of all possible aircraft. Bemused by the natural justice implicit in the Freedonian notion of keeping things just as they are, Candide soon fell asleep, and, when he awoke several hours later, he was being hurried off the airplane. They had arrived in the landlocked, desert nation of Funkistan.
The next day, Candide was posted to the most remote part of this truly remote country, defending the freedom of a village so mentally and physically impoverished that even the Funkistani government did not bother to extort money or forced labor from the inhabitants.
The men of this village held their women accountable for this decline in their fortunes (several centuries ago, they had been the extorting government) and had perfected a religious system of wife beatings, dowry murder, and gang rape to redress things. When Candide complained of this to his commander, he was sent to an even more remote outpost in the desert where the tribesmen made war by rolling their Freedonian-supplied, multi-million dollar fighter planes downhill at each other. When Candide complained of this waste of the Freedonian taxpayer's money, he was sent to another outpost so desolate that it was not even populated by human beings, only by vast herds of sheep and the sheep-like, bipedal creatures who followed them about the barren landscape. At least they have religion, explained his commander when Candide remarked upon the utter futility of the Freedonian presence here.
It was here that Candide participated in Operation Unleash Freedom, the Army's mid-priced fall offensive against the terrorists who were skulking in the mountains, making life miserable for Freedonians, Funkistanis, and themselves. While defending a potato field from the enemy — a field which the enemy knew to be the private opium farm of the Freedonian-educated president of Funkistan — Candide was knocked unconscious by an explosion.CHAPTER 3
In Which Candide Cheats Death in the Marketplace of Ideas
When candide regained his senses he found himself lying upon the ground, spattered with the remains of the explosives-laden suicide bomber who had annihilated his patrol. Shaken and confused, he staggered away from the bloody scene and just in time — the entire Freedonian Army had arrived, thirsting for vengeance. Its thirst was slaked with a biblical deluge of explosions delivered upon the Funkistani landscape with a heroic disregard for the cost of it all. Hundreds of thousands of projectiles erupted, sizzled, howled, and slashed at the countryside, each one precision-guided to avoid collateral damage to innocent oil wells and pipelines. Although Candide was too terrified to notice such details, much of this uproar was inflicted upon the Funkistani nation by Baron Incorporated as part of its Freedom-Is-Free®, end-of-year, inventory clear-out.
The enemy responded by moving across the international frontier to a nearby country for a brief holiday, a cunning tactic of such novel proportions that the entire Freedonian military apparatus was dumbfounded into a sullen, hair-trigger stupor. Impressed by the enemy's tactical aplomb, Candide also fled the battle zone, disguised in the clothes of a Freedonian journalist who had succumbed to a bottle of Funkistani scotch during a lull in the fighting.
With the aid of the journalist's credit card, Candide made his way from the dark ages of the Funkistani countryside to the medieval trash heap of the Funkistani capital city. Fearful of detection by the military police, Candide adopted the Funkistani fashion of dressing in rags and even made himself a false artificial leg so that he could more perfectly play the part of a colorful refugee, a petty deception which earned him a few pennies each day from charitable Funkistanis and Freedonian photojournalists on deadline.
Unfortunately for the young man, this was most definitely not the better than best of all possible worlds, perhaps not even a possible world at all in the usual sense of things. When his credit card and begging bowl had been detained for further questioning by a Funkistani Army checkpoint (financed by a restaurateur brother of the president) our hero learned to warm himself during the cold desert nights with nothing more than his amorous memories of Miss Cunegonde.
He was sitting in a dusty, trash-littered park one morning when a crowd of Funkistanis began to gather around a large, bearded man who was shouting and waving his arms while standing beneath a disheveled palm tree swarming with dust-colored rats.
"Our beloved Funkistan cries out for freedom," shouted the man. "Long live freedom!"
Ah, a patriot whose hunger for freedom cannot be stifled any longer by a repressive and corrupt government, thought Candide.
"Death to all foreigners, infidels, blasphemers, apostates, homosexuals, journalists, divorced women, actresses, musicians, novelists, dancers, artists, single mothers, hairdressers, newspaper cartoonists, drug addicts, drunkards, prostitutes, barbers, hotel desk clerks, and female television news announcers," shouted the man. "May god give us the precious freedom to kill them all in a very short time!" This puzzled Candide. "Doctor Pangloss once said that freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose unless you're too lazy or stupid to not even have nothing."
Excerpted from American Candide by Mahendra Singh. Copyright © 2016 Mahendra Singh. Excerpted by permission of Rosarium Publishing.
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