... be fruitful and multiply upon the earth.
-- Genesis 8:17
Now, I’m no expert on the topic, but I believe the Bible says you can get in trouble if you do not heed God’s advice.
Alas, common sense tells us you can get in trouble when you listen to Him, too.
Take the current state of the world, for instance. There are, at last count, a whole mess of people on this planet. A. Whole. Mess. The planet currently holds a 30-ish, strikingly handsome man named me and a few billion of my closest friends. This leads me, and a large count of my aforementioned “friends”, to think there must be some maximum number of people this planet can support. This definitive maximum count of folks this little rock can sustain, dubbed the “Golden Number” by a scientist with a sense of humor, remains elusive. There are scientists, religious groups and politicians trying to divine the Golden Number by their various, nefarious means, all with limited success and great difference of opinion. The general point, I think, and the one which is never mentioned on late night television (or even the Internet) is this: it doesn’t matter all that much what the Golden Number is as long as we can all agree on what it is not, by which I mean it isn’t infinity. Infinity is, of course, the number we’ve been shooting for ever since God gave his little edict at Mount Arafat to Noah, his sons, and their willing wives.
I don’t believe the Bible comes right out and says they’re willing. I’m extrapolating at this point. But wouldn’t you be ready and willing if you’d just spent 40 days (and 40 nights) of torrential rain on a smelly ship filled with two of every kind of animal, suffering sea sickness of Biblical proportions, and then you’d spent 150 more nights (and days) on said ship waiting for the water to seep into the ground so you can get away from your in-laws and the damn giraffes and platypuses (or is it platypii?) and get it on with your husband in peace? I mean, he’s not the last man on earth, but he is one of the last four, and I’m willing to go out on a limb and say there were no headaches at Mt. Arafat that first night on dry land.
And I’ve got to say, fruitfulness and multiplication is all well and all good when there are only eight human beings on the face of the earth. I mean it, if I were one of Noah’s sons I’d have been right at the front of the line for fruit with a side of multiples. But you look at the same command a few thousand years later and it just doesn’t make as much sense. Why should everyone be fruitful and multiply when all the planet is begging for is a little less of that sort of fruit? No, times change and I for one change with the times.
And times are changing now.
I started my business 10 years ago. It’s an old story, and I’ll do no more than summarize it for you here today: I found a partner, we hammered together a business plan, pitched it to all the venture capital we could find till someone bit, and then we set up shop in my partner’s parent’s garage. Times were hard, we worked murderous hours for slave wages, etc., etc. People sometimes point to the starting out moments in life and say that, in retrospect, they’d never been happier. I don’t really see it that way. I felt much better when we started rolling in cash and made the cover of Time Magazine.
Maybe it’s just me.
Anyhow. My partner in this venture is named Rebecca. She’s now 34 years old with that Kansas look: long straw colored hair and maize eyes, thin as a scarecrow but as fertile as black earth in springtime. All that, and she’s not even from Kansas, she’s from Brooklyn, which is an accent I find quite alluring. There seems to always be one thing which pulls two people together, and for Rebecca and I that thing is obvious: she can reject men romantically without rejecting them altogether, and I take rejection exceptionally well.
We met while whiling away in MBA hell at a slightly prestigious East Coast university. She was a stellar student; I was not. Not that I’m an idiot; well, maybe I am, I’m not really sure. My personal opinion is I’m just not a book learning type of person. However I’m sure a strong case can be made that I’ve never applied myself to my studies to avoid coming face to face with my limitations, an encounter sure to inflict a certain modicum of collateral psychological damage. I may be the lesser man for it, but for right now anyhow I feel just fine. I gazed at Rebecca in some of our classes; she remembers me from that point only as the guy who always looked like he just woke up. Even at afternoon classes. Or night classes. She excelled and I got by and we were making our way towards graduating from these ivy-covered hallowed halls with no idea what to do with our shiny new degrees.
When suddenly, the best idea of my life hit me as I sat on my couch, in my underwear, watching Hogan’s Heroes. I called up Rebecca to tell her all about it.
“Rebecca, hi, it’s me.”
Long pause. “Who?”
“It’s me, Isaac.”
“The guy in most of your classes? The one who looks like he just woke up?”
“Oh, yeah. Hi.”
“What time is it?
I looked at the clock. “About 3 a.m.”
To her credit, she didn’t immediately ask me what the hell I thought I was doing calling her at this ungodly hour of the morning. She just let her silence speak volumes.
“I suppose I should tell you why I called.”
“Yeah, I guess you should,” she said with a yawn.
“Well, yesterday I overheard you saying to one of our classmates that you hadn’t lined up a post-graduation job yet.”
“Yeah, that’s true.”
“Well, I just had a great idea for a start up, and I want you to join me in developing it.”
I could hear her sit up in bed on the other end of the phone. It may have just been my imagination, but I thought it sounded like her pajamas were silk. “Why me?”
“Don’t you want to know what the idea is?”
“I want to know that, too, but first I’d like to know why me.”
“Mostly because I think we’d work well together. I’m creative and unorganized, and you’re incredibly organized and I have no idea if you’re creative or not.” I paused for dramatic effect. “It just seems like a match made in heaven.”
She cleared her throat, more for emphasis than any ear, nose or throat effect. “So there’s nothing... hormonal about this proposal?”
I smiled. “Absolutely not.” I often smile when I lie.
“OK, so what’s the idea?”
“Meet me at Denny’s on Main in half an hour,” I said and hung up, awash in self-confidence.
I spent about two hours sitting in Denny’s, drinking coffee and enjoying a grand slam breakfast or two, jotting down the outline of our business plan. She never showed up.
I did see her in class that day, though. She smiled at me. “You look like you just woke up.”
I smiled back. “You, too.”
Everyone around us got entirely the wrong idea about this conversation, which felt kind of nice. But what felt best was, that was that. She heard my plan after class and we’ve been together (professionally) ever since.
Our company is a glorified swap meet, but we swap only one thing: Family Credits. Family Credits, of course, are still a reasonably new invention; they were bright and shiny new when we started the company. That’s why my idea was a good idea and not a case of, “Geez, I could have thought of the idea that schmuck over there is making millions on.” When you hear yourself saying that, remember the constant and irrefutable reply: “So why didn’t ya?” As Rebecca and I graduated, Family Credits were completely and fanatically new; the law putting them in place wasn’t even signed yet, and the law didn’t go into effect until a year after we graduated, giving us just the window we needed to have a company up and running without having yet gone broke.
That date, of course, was 1 May 2017. The Family Planning Act of 2016 went into effect that day, and the U. S. birth rate began to plummet. From that moment on you could only legally have a child in the United States if you had a Family Credit (or FC) to do so. Each man and each woman who had not yet fathered or borne a child was given half a FC; you and your good lady wife put ‘em together, and you have enough to make a kid. Anyone who had fathered or borne a child, no matter how many, was given zero credits: they’d done all they could do, procreatively speaking. The idea was, of course, to hold down our population to reasonable levels, and to be an example to the rest of the world of how over-population can be beaten back at its very core.
The driving force behind this measure were Ted Turner and his wife, Jane Fonda. They had started acting on this cause as the founders of Zero Population Growth back in the 1980’s or so. Unfortunately, their organization sort of drifted and floundered as an over-population, environmental, social tea for many years before finding its legs behind this measure. Despite wails and doom-saying galore, despite China’s attempt at something similar starting in the 1970’s and finding they were mostly having the effect of killing off little girls since everyone in China wanted to have a boy as their only child, despite lobbying like you and I and the St. Bernard have never seen before, the law passed in the House, the Senate, and was signed in the Rose Garden.
So I decided to make some money off it.
My idea was, if such a thing as FCs are required for legal child birth, there will be people who don’t want their half-credit and other folks willing to pay for it. All they need is someone to put them together, introduce them, and collect at least 10% on each transaction. That is precisely where Rebecca and I come in.
But wait, there’s more.
We started a web site where people could post their desire to sell, or their desire to buy, and wrote up the documents to make it all perfectly legal.
And that’s not all.
Finally, we went to the Department of the Interior, who were given the challenge of keeping the database and running the whole thing, and got the right to be the exclusive broker of FCs. We pitched them the idea that if we (or some other organization) were not given exclusive rights to traffic in these affairs, the whole ordeal would be almost impossible to manage, from a legal, bureaucratic, and database point of view, and they agreed.
Now, that’s probably not strictly true. I’m sure they would have found some way to deal with it, if it were an open market. However, as strange as this may seem, they really didn’t predict how much of a market there was going to be for these things, and when we told them our projections you could see the fear in their eyes, feel the trepidation in their countenance, smell the nervous sweat off their bodies. I saw one under-secretary’s hands literally shaking. We stood before them in immaculate business dress, informed them of a huge headache a recently passed law was setting them up for, and then immediately offered them a solution that not only solved the problem but practically made it disappear. And all we asked for was $50 million a year from them to do all the work; handle the buying, the selling, and the paperwork.
The government was, at this point, being shocked by the first result of this legislation. As I’m sure you recall, one of the first effects of the Family Planning Act of 2016 was to increase the U. S. population, because of an onslaught of pregnancies begun approximately nine months before it went into effect. The country hadn’t seen such craziness since the Millennium Baby insanity, starting in April 1999. Everywhere you went in early 2017 (and late 1999, I’m told) there was another pregnant woman; it got to be a late night talk show joke du jour, and then a cliché, and then just awfully ridiculous.
I saw that coming; did you? The fact it was happening (with a great deal of press hysteria) at the moment we were meeting with the Interior Department gave great credence to our predictions for the future, and scared the wholly living heck out of them. We were, certainly, too good to be true, from their perspective. Fifty million dollars a year is nothing to them, and it was enough (when added to the cash we had on hand) to show we could have enough people and computing power to handle the exchange of credits and monitoring their use when the time came.
By that time, we’d even decided on a company name.
But before we get to that, let me say there is one more thing which makes this whole thing work: There is nothing in the law saying people can sell their FCs. And there’s nothing in the law that says they can’t. My idea was they would want to; and they would pay me to do so. Perhaps it was the devious nature of the heroes in Hogan’s Heroes which inspired me that night; I don’t know. But I believe it was a moment of singular genius which I may never experience again.
Moving on: the name of the company. It’s the name I thought of while sitting at Denny’s that first night. History will record I thought of it while gnawing on a piece of bacon, since that’s what I keep telling people, though I really don’t remember. I could have just as easily been in the john at the time. The reason that wasn’t our company name from the beginning was that Rebecca hated it.
She still does, by the way. Hates it, in a pure and intense way.
“That’s a stupid name,” she told me as we ate pizza in her apartment the evening after our first telephonic conversation.
“Why? What’s wrong with it?” At this point, I was too darned enamored with her to mind her calling my idea stupid. Or at least I didn’t mind too much.
She picked a piece of pepperoni off the slice on her plate. “I mean, what does it mean?”
“It means what it means.”
She threw a paper plate at me, but with a smile.
“OK, OK. I guess I’d say it’s sort of a... biblical name.”
“No doubt. But why not, ‘The Loaves and the Fishes, Inc.’ or ‘A Pillar of Salt, Inc.’? Where did, ‘The Wrath of God, Inc.’ come from?”
I finished a slice, tossing the crust back into the box. “It’s from an old Internet message someone sent me once. They talk about how Adam and Eve didn’t obey God in the Garden of Eden, by eating the apple at the behest of the serpent. So God punished them by giving them Cain and Abel in an agony of childbirth, who disobeyed their parents, too. And the Wrath of God has been on every parent, by means of their disobedient children, ever since. So our company will provide the Wrath of God to anyone with enough money to buy it from us.”
She chewed for awhile, thinking about this. “Cute.” She looks cute when she chews.
“But I still think it’s a stupid name. I mean, people will think we’re a couple of hit men.” She then imitated a potential phone call: “Hello? This is Claude, I’m rather annoyed with my wife, could y’all bump her off for me? She plays bridge with some other annoying women every Thursday, maybe you offer a group discount?”
“Yeah, I thought so.”
She then finished off her beer.
Eventually my opinion prevailed in the usual way: I was stubborn enough and nagged enough until Rebecca just didn’t care enough to keep fighting about it anymore. I’m not proud of my behavior, but sometimes you do what you have to do.
I always figured this company would have to make a lot of money in a short amount of time. This was my opinion because I figured the law would be repealed soon enough; this is a free country, after all. Of course, the ultimate outcome of this page in our history didn’t matter to me one bit; here and now was an opportunity, and the future is always uncertain -- it’s in the mean time we make the money.
The main thing I needed to happen did indeed occur, in spades. When it became illegal to have more than one child, immediately children became the status symbol in America. The law was written in a truly American fashion, by Americans, for Americans. We don’t tell anybody what to do, but if you do something we don’t like we take away as much of your money as possible. The law imposes severe tax penalties on anyone with more than one child born after 1 May 2017, so only the rich could afford to have extra children. If you had or adopted more than one child without having the proper credits (purchased from us, of course) these tax penalties tripled. And, if (Heaven forbid) you were on welfare when you had a black market kid, then your welfare benefits were revoked. Period. Gone. End of story. The child could be aborted, or the child could be put up for adoption (adoption is only allowed to someone who has a credit, of course) or else you were suddenly, punitively and quite unceremoniously off welfare forever.
This happened a few times, shortly after the law went into effect. It was terrible, this sort of thing occurring in the land of plenty, especially on the evening news. Invariably, the mothers were given jobs by some considerate, compassionate person. And of course, this immediately increased the number of women on welfare who tried to get pregnant without the proper authorization, a sort of an immediate jobs program. But soon the list of concerned citizens who were willing to give out jobs sort of ran dry and almost immediately there were no more new welfare children over the one-child limit. After all, we are a nation with an incredibly short attention span.
So only the rich were procreating carelessly, or freely, or excessively. The record, by the way, is six children to the Jones’ on Nantucket; they now pay just over 60% of their income to the government for the right to have Bobby, Suzie, Danny, Bonnie, Annie and little Esmerelda. If they hadn’t gone through us for their five additional credits, they would now be paying 98% of their income to the IRS. I guess it was a good deal for everyone: they became famous, the government got more revenue to take care of all the services this large group will require, some ten different people got $126,917 dollars of the Jones’ money, and Rebecca, I and our employees took in almost $13,000 from them.
Everyone won in this case except the planet, of course, but you can’t have everything. The Wrath of God, Inc. exchanges Christmas cards with the Jones’ every year.
When we set up shop on the web and took out a few well-planned ads on TV and print media (Forbes, New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, that sort of thing). We officially opened for business at noon on 1 May 2017, though I had officially (without ceremony) placed my half credit in the system the night before. “I want to be first,” I told Rebecca as I logged on.
“That’s great,” she said, but I could tell she didn’t really mean it. In fact, her tone of voice and distant air left little doubt she didn’t give a damn one way or the other.
“Do you want to be second?” I asked, trying to be polite.
“No, I don’t think so.” She was gathering up her things, getting ready to go home for a few hours sleep before the media event tomorrow.
“Do you want to be first?” I asked chivalrously, smiling. After all, I didn’t really mean it.
“No, I think I’ll hold onto my half credit for now,” she said, slamming the door behind her. This gave me great pause: could Rebecca actually want to reproduce? What a distressing thought, to me anyhow, someone who wouldn’t want children unless he was the direct progeny of Noah. I figured she was just tired, and didn’t want to deal with me at the time. But just in case I never asked her about it again, since I didn’t want to be sure.
The next day was, if I may say so myself, a huge success. Before the sun went down (and luckily our servers didn’t), we had arranged a credit for over 5,000 different breeding pairs across America. Can you imagine? They started the day trading at $10,000 per half credit, and ending the day above $12,000. Now, we could have made that much, much higher if we were willing to let other dealers buy from us as speculators, hoping the price would go up, but we refused to do so. Control of our commodity was more important, so our database includes the name and procreative status of every American, kept up to date weekly. By doing that, if you claim to have a credit to sell, we’ll know if that’s true or not. And if you buy a credit, you have to use it before you can buy another, and you have only a year to use it before it reverts to us. Then we’ll renew it to you for half the purchase price or sell it again to someone else.
You might think the Department of the Interior imposed these restrictions on us, but they didn’t care what the hell we did with this little scheme of ours. The only people regulating our business or the implementation of this law is us, because Rebecca and I want it that way.
“If we’re going to do this, let’s do it right,” she said early on.
“Of course,” I replied.
“Do you have any idea what I mean by that?” she wanted to know.
“What I mean is, if we’re going to make money off the implementation of this law, then let’s go all out and privatize government in this respect. We’ll take in credits and sell them off, take our money from the government and our 10% from each transaction, and we’ll make sure it’s extremely difficult for anyone to circumvent the system. We’ll get data from every hospital, birthing center and midwife, and provide detailed information to the FBI whenever we find an illegal birth; it’s good for the planet, and if we can convince people they must go through us, it’ll be good for us, too.”
“I completely agree, except...” Rebecca eyed me expectantly. “Maybe we should make it 15%.”
She smiled. At least she thinks I have a sense of humor.
For months our site (www.wrathofgod.com) was one of the most popular on the web. Buyers, sellers and gawkers were pouncing on us, looking at our cool graphics, seeing quotes of our latest price, and reading testimonials from satisfied customers. Our webmaster was and is a nice young woman named Abigail, and she’s gone through more as an employee of The Wrath of God, Inc. than anyone else. Sure, half of the e-mail she receives is positive or at least constructively critical, discussing the graphics of the web site or which font would look better on the order form. But the other half is some of the most vicious hate mail I’ve ever seen, heard of, or imagined, and I’m known for my imagination.
Alas, there are people who aren’t pleased with this law or our company’s part in it. Politics make strange bedfellows, and in this case both the far right and the far left were not at all happy with the limitations placed on procreation. The far right’s point of view is pretty obvious, I think: God said to procreate and they feel this law is therefore violating their right to freely practice their religion. We’ve never received many fruit baskets from the Moral Majority or anyone of that political spectrum; when we do receive one, security has standing orders to call the bomb disposal squad. We aren’t any more favorably embraced by the folks who hang to the left, who seem to feel the law in general (and our exploitation of it in particular) is biased to favor the rich at the expense of the poor. They view this law as another rich priviledge, another division in our dramatically bi-polar society.
So, no one loved us, or at least no one talking to us through e-mail or talking about us in the press. Only our soaring profits helped comfort us in this time of political isolation and loneliness. Initially, we weren’t visited by any of these unfriendly people for one simple reason: no one knew where our offices were. Alas, the secret got out; actually, I let the cat out of the bag when I gave an interview to CNN and told them how much I love living in Hartford, Connecticut. It was not my proudest moment; in the thrill of live national exposure I forgot we were trying to lay low. After that, it was just a matter of time until the right and the left found the correct nondescript building and started shouting and waving placards around.
“They would have found us eventually anyhow,” I said to Rebecca at the time.
“Shut up,” she replied compassionately.
First it was the right wing. Then some radical moderates arrived and started shouting at the right wing, then the left wing arrived and started yelling at the moderates. It was a mess; you couldn’t tell the players without a program and the police began sending half their force over to us at the beginning of each shift. We were captives at work and afraid in our homes. I was glad Rebecca had always kept such a low profile in this business. As long as I walked in and out the front door every day to give the crowd a sense of focus they allowed her and all the other employees to slip quietly out other entrances. The shouts from all sides, of anger or support, shook me up pretty badly. I don’t want anyone to join a mob and shout at me, even if they are trying to support me, preferring them to de-mob and return home to shout at their TVs like everyone else does. When I walked to my car it felt like I was talking under water, pressurized and in danger of drowning with each step, but it wasn’t waves of water but waves of noise through which I walked.
All in all, it could have been a lot worse. The shouting never escalated into violence or a contract bridge tournament, so that’s good. Another cause heated up a few weeks into our siege (School Prayer? Flag Burning? I don’t remember) and the armies wandered off, only to return on the First of May each year to celebrate the anniversary of the law taking effect. Those recurrences are more like a reunions than the original riots. The folks show up, they wave their signs about, and then sit down and eat picnic lunches. They can show up every year as far as I’m concerned; they certainly don’t scare me out of my skin anymore.
After the demonstrations tailed off, we all settled into a routine. There were occasional personnel headaches, software glitches and constant upgrades, and all the other fun little details which they don’t tell you much about in business school. And, through it all, credits came in and credits went out. We offered confidentiality, but no one seemed to want to take it. Society pages still talked about the dresses worn by debutantes, but also more and more talked about the dazzling Mrs. Someone and her husband spending every evening in attempting for child number two or three or whatever, and quotes from them about what a scandal the price of these credits are and what their tax bill will be once the little tike is born. Each such mention caused an increase in business for us: these news blurbs were a challenge to others to chill the bubbly, light the candles, and give us money.
But those aren’t the only customers we’ve had. Throughout the life of our business, we’ve sold a great deal of our FCs to gay couples who want to adopt. At first adoption agencies wouldn’t place kids with them, but as they had more and more trouble placing kids (since no one had any FCs to spare) they started accepting gay couples’ applications. Gay couples who don’t want to adopt willingly sell off their credits through us; in general, I’d have to say we love gay people.
The other people who sell to us are a decidedly mixed bag. There are a few idealists who what to reduce population; there are people like me who just don’t want kids; priests and nuns, of course; and older folks who didn’t get around to having kids and don’t see it happening in their golden years. There have also been a few politicians over the years. They usually called press conferences and announced they (and sometimes their wives) were selling their credits. One presidential candidate did that before the primaries began, and it provided a political return in New Hampshire and Iowa. However, he was fighting for the nomination against a family-values guy with a wife and kid, and that still carries some political clout and perhaps always will. The guy who’d sold his credits, when he was falling behind and really needed to win California, bought back a credit from us and announced he and his wife will try for a child while they’re in the White House. California accurately spotted a man without convictions and sent him back to where he came from.
You’ve got to be careful about how you manage your political capital, you know.
After six years of The Wrath of God, Inc., schools noticed the suddenly decrease in kindergarten students. This led more or less immediately to an overage of kindergarten teachers. Soon this disease spread to First Grade Teachers, Second Grade Teachers, and it’s predicted to continue to spread up through the grades and into universities as time marches undeniably on. The money which used to pay them is being used instead to build or repair schools and provide a much better education to the children of this country; it has to be used that way, because it’s federally mandated, a law originally written by our legal department and introduced by a senator with which we’re friendly. The displaced teachers are in training to do a number of things, including social work, child care, and family planning administrators.
That’s also a provision of our law.
In general, I’d have to say we’ve done more good than harm. We’ve never bumped anybody off, despite many errant requests for us to do so. We’ve provided a system to enforce a law which was written and passed with little thought to enforcement. We’ve provided forethought and follow on programs in response to the effects of the original legislation. Finally, we took a good deal of money from people rich enough to want to father or bare children mainly as a sign of their affluence, passing most of it on to people who could use it for something a little less conspicuous and opulent.
On second thought, we’ve done all good here. But, as I believe I’ve mentioned, times they are a changin’.
“How’s business today?” I ask Morty, head accountant for The Wrath of God, Inc.
“I’d say lousy, but I said lousy yesterday, and it’s worse than yesterday.” He looks up from his computer. “What’s worse than lousy?”
I then said something a bit crude, which I’ll fail to repeat here. I walked casually to Rebecca’s office. “How’s business?” She asked as I entered.
“It was lousy yesterday.”
“OK, it’s a little worse than lousy.”
Rebecca then used the same expletive I’d suggested to Morty moments earlier.
“Bingo.” Rebecca always looks so incredibly comfortable in her skin. She feels complete, the first time you meet her. She sits behind her desk with a casual skirt swirling around her ankles, a cotton T-shirt in a warm red, and a cardigan against the computer-necessitated chill. I’m wearing sweats, a T-shirt and some Nikes. It’s good to be the bosses.
“We can’t keep going like this; we’re going to lose all the money we’ve made if we don’t do something soon.”
I throw myself into the extremely comfortable chair opposite her desk. “We always said we’d have to make money fast in this business; it won’t last forever.”
She shakes her head. “No, you always said that. And you said it was because the law would be repealed.”
“The law isn’t repealed, is it?”
“No. And it isn’t that we don’t have credits to sell: we’re stocked, and we’re dropping the price hourly. People just don’t want to have extra children anymore. Somehow, Mercedes, yachts, and excessively big summer homes have again become the status symbols of choice.”
We sit there for a moment, contemplating. I’m not sure what she’s contemplating, but I’m thinking about how lousy it would be to end this business, because then I wouldn’t have the chance to see Rebecca everyday, I’d be unemployed, and I might have to buy a new suit to go on interviews with companies which will expect me to wear a tie every single business day of my life.
I tend to avoid the philosophical when I contemplate, as you can tell.
She looks up from her thoughts. “But, that’s a good thing, right?”
“What, oversized summer homes?”
“No, people not wanting to have extra children.”
“It means people won’t be having extra children. Or maybe it’ll be a generational thing, maybe some of today’s kids when they have cash will want extra children, but...”
She smiles. “But at least there will be less of them to start with.”
“Yeah.” I take a deep breath. “Less fruit, fewer multiples.”
She thinks about that for a long moment. “You’re doing a rift on ‘Be fruitful and multiply,’ aren’t you?” I nod. “So, we’re going out of business for a good reason.”
“And we’re making good money off our franchises, right?”
That’s true. When other countries enacted similar laws, we sold our system and some consulting time to companies in each country so they can monitor compliance and broker FCs between those who want to sell and those who want to procreate. So she’s absolutely correct, there isn’t a shortage of money right now.
“There’s just one thing which concerns me,” I say.
“What the heck are we going to do with ourselves during the business day?”
Her smile indicates she correctly interprets my words. What I’m really saying is, “What can we do so we can still see each other everyday?”
“Well, I guess I figured we’d turn over the daily operations to a skeleton crew and leave them alone.” My heart sinks. “And then I’ll just have to wait around for you to have another brilliant idea; do you expect one to come along anytime soon?”
“You can never tell,” I say, smiling. “I’ll start thinking right away.”
“Did Morty say if we were still getting any trades at all?”
“Yeah, about a dozen a day, mostly for adoptions.”
“Good. You sit here and start figuring out how we can rapidly downsize this place, ourselves included.”
“OK, but what are you going to do?”
“Go cut in line; trade away my birthright.”
I stand up from the chair involuntarily. “You really want to trade away your half credit?”
“Yeah; we’re not going to have any children, are we?”
And with that, she’s gone, off down the hall and into operations, leaving me to wonder just exactly what she meant by that. Though I couldn’t rationally imagine she meant what I thought she meant, I was pleased enough just thinking this means something good, no matter the interpretation.
So, the end of the profitable part of our business came about not because the proud populace rose as one and insisted on retaining their personal freedom, as I had envisioned. Instead, it came about because people just accepted the fact that fewer kids is better for them, for you, for me, for civilization as we know it. And with that, the approximately 10 years worth of conspicuous conception came to a satisfying end. “Be fruitful and multiply,” like the Second Amendment and Moby Dick, are rather out of date for our society today, and it’s always important to change with the times. The Wrath of God became something no one was willing to pay for anymore, and that’s just fine.