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Creative Writing Assignment

I am re-reading 'Atlas Shrugged' by Ayn Rand and finding it pretty unintentionally funny. I gave myself the assignment of writing about one task I performed this weekend as if I were Ayn Rand.

She walked out the front door of her apartment building – a good, sturdy, brick building, honest in its lines and its purpose – and breathed in the muggy air. The battle her lungs fought to skim any oxygen off that thick, vaporous inhale was good, she thought: it reminded her that being alive was effort.

She loved the streets outside of her building. Each brick, laid by a human hand years ago, was like a testament to the aspiration of the human spirit: these hands had faith that there would one day be a need to move large machines down this road. These hands made way for progress. These hands cleared large spaces so she could see, upon reaching the street and turning her head to the right, the Capitol Building: the ultimate testament to the aspiration of the human spirit. She seemed unaware of her body as it responded to that sight: the dome, soaring above the city, crested with the statue of a man. The gaunt lines of her face softened, the long angles of her legs, her fingers, quiet for once, at her sides. It was a body built to suit any purpose she put before it. And right now, this afternoon of the Fourth of July, that purpose was to buy beer.

The bricked street outside her apartment was already crawling with people. As she turned from the Capitol Building, she unconsciously adopted a posture of defense, the long lines of her body angling themselves, blade-like, towards her destination. These were not the humans that the brick-layers and dome-builders had pictured - those hard men being baked in the sun so many years ago, their backs bent over their work; these couldn’t be the people those men had pictured to keep themselves going. The child with red popsicle smears on his face, screaming at his mother for more; the mother, meaty arms hanging from the armholes of her sweat-stained shirt, listlessly passing him whatever he wanted; the father, stoop-shouldered, dragging a blue plastic cooler on wheels behind him with his gut hanging over the front of his khaki shorts; she wanted to scream at them: GET OFF THIS ROAD! DON’T LOOK AT THAT BUILDING! Instead, her mouth settled into a determined line, and she walked east.

She liked the store on the corner. She liked the simplicity, liked the way the owner kept it clean. She had never spoken to the owner, save a passing hello or thank you. He was a quiet man who lived above the store and had moved to America when he was 19. He moved here to work, and she liked that. She appreciated the honest exchange of his goods for her money. The store, even today, was free of any adornment save for clean products on clean shelves. The bell over her head rang as she pushed open the door. The owner was behind the counter, counting out change to a young man in a pink polo shirt wearing flashy cologne she could smell from ten feet away. “Happy fourth, dude,” he said: the owner simply nodded and shut the register. She caught his eye and inclined her head in acknowledgment. He returned her nod and turned to his next customer.

Happy fourth of July?’ she thought, moving to the back of the store. That this young man with the gelled-up hair should have the audacity to claim the victory of a war fought and won by the blood of men for his freedom, to harness that great sacrifice and power for an ideal, attach the word happy to the front and use it as a casual greeting made her grit her teeth. How dare he, she thought. Victories should only be shared between those fully conscious of their weight and cost. Any other usage was a bromide.

In the back of the store, she pulled open the fridge. The cold air pouring out and over her skin made her smile: this is what men can do, she thought. Somewhere, a great generator was running, and this generator converted nature to power, transmitted it across miles and imprisoned it here, where its sole function was to keep her beer cold.

She set the six pack down on the counter. The owner punched some numbers into the machine; she laid her money down on the counter, as if in sacrifice on a holy altar.
“You going to watch the fireworks today, Miss?”
She was surprised: he had never addressed her outside the framework of their transactions. “I don’t believe in fireworks,” she responded. “They are a frivolous expenditure, an unnecessary distraction and an unfit tribute.”
“What would a fitting tribute be?”
“The sight of a man with purpose.”
She pocketed her change, slipped the plastic handles of the bag into her hand and walked out.


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