Tempo Vol. 5, No. 4, p. 7
March, 1954 U. of Miami
Out of Step
Gary Miller

ONCE UPON a time in the Land of Promise (promise them lighter sentences for their crimes against the state, Petrov), there lived a young tyrant named Boris. Now, Boris was not a very good tyrant yet; he had a lot to learn. But he was a good worker, and adept at the knavery required for his career, and so he soon advanced to the top in his pet organization, the Soviet Betterment Guild, known to the peasants as SBG.

Everyone could see that young Boris was a brilliant child, and possessed of all the qualifications for a good tyrant. Even when he was just an apprentice in the SBG Training School, Special Tyrant Division, he showed his heels to all the others in such essential skills as widow-evicting, dog-kicking and backstabbing, and thus he quickly found favor with the aging Premier.

When Boris' mother heard of all his success in Tyrant School, she was overjoyed. When he came to visit her one day she said to her stalwart son, "Boris, my stalwart son, you were born to be a tyrant. You will be a great one, but you must let nothing stand in your way."

"Yes, mother," said Boris, and with that (and his fist) he hit her, and as she fell she marveled that he had grown so strong on bread and vodka.

Boris did not have an easy life after he made the break with his family. For two years he had to work as a common laborer—performing simple evictions, executions, and other menial tasks which any young tyrant must learn in order to administer his job correctly. Boris learned them well; so well, in fact, that he soon displaced the old leader of the youth organization to which he belonged.

But Boris decided that the old organization was not strong enough, so he made plans to form another one. Filled with all the fire and vigor of a conscientious young rebel, Boris named his new party the Lovers of Freedom.

Thus was the groundwork laid for the biggest coup in history. Boris and his cohorts (he always called them that—it made them feel good, even though they didn't know what it meant) were sure to be elected. They had more guns on their side than anyone else—not more people, just more guns. Boris didn't like people anyway—so undependable.

When election day arrived, the Lovers of Freedom tried to appear worried over the outcome of the voting, but they knew that the result had long since been decided. So they were not surprised when it was announced that they had won by a landslide!

Even after the election Boris found that he had to work. Oh, not as hard, of course; he now had his own laborers to perform the menial tasks which had once been his. And they were many, because Boris was a very cautious tyrant. Every time an underling appeared to be gaining too much appeal with the citizenry Boris had him exterminated promptly.

Boris was always prompt. That was one of the virtues which his mother had instilled in his little mind during the years of his tyrant training. "Always exterminate your underlings promptly, Boris," she would say, and when he struck her (as he did each time, for Boris was a dutiful student and a faithful son), she marveled that he had grown so strong on bread and vodka.

So great was the success of Boris in the SBG, that he soon amassed a great fortune. With this new-found wealth he turned his beloved land into a veritable paradise. Of course, the lower class people didn't properly appreciate it, but then they were not expected to have the mental capacity to absorb such advanced culture. Besides, their backs were sore.

Whenever Boris found a small hitch in the smooth operation of the SBG he would purge the offending member and put in his place a more dependable worker. Thus, through a long and involved process of elimination, he contrived to gather about himself the noblest yes-men in the land. And one of these men came from a faraway place and spoke a musical but, alas, unintelligible tongue.

"Si, senor."

He was happy. So were all the rest, from the lowest apprentice tyrant to the ministers in charge of graft. That is, all but Boris. In the midst of all this success, there was still something missing. Perhaps one more goal which was yet to be conquered. Though he could think of nothing in the land which he did not own or control, Boris felt with an uneasy sense of insight that his own life was somehow incomplete. The answer eluded him in the rush of preparation for the coming elections. There were signs to be made, speeches to be written, machine guns to be issued.…

The day before the balloting was to take place, Boris received an urgent message from one of his most capable stool-pigeons to the effect that the Minister of Social Welfare was planning a coup of his own. It seems that age was making Boris subtle; instead of merely having the dolt shot, he decided to order the Minister of Finance to challenge him to a duel. Boris' Second Assistant tried to dissuade him:

"Your Excellency, I realize we must do away with this fool who was caught, but the Minister of Finance…"

"Bosh!" said Boris. "He's expendable."

And so he was.

After the election was over and Boris and his cohorts (he didn't know what it meant, either) had received their usual 99 and 44/100% vote, he began to feel again the pangs of dissatisfaction. He still couldn't figure out what was the trouble, so he reasoned that it had been too long since he had last beat his mother.

She felt a little thrill as she watched him mount the stairs to the little, one-room hovel which he provided for her comfort. She was impressed by the tall guards who accompanied him no matter where he went. She felt a surge of simple gratitude as he gave her his usual amiable greeting and a slightly, ever so slightly, weaker left hook.

He left, unsatisfied.

As she crawled to the broken window and watched him get into his bullet-proof limousine, she marveled at how sad he looked, even after all that bread and vodka.

Michael Dunn