Editor's Note: I don't know how many readers are out there ravenin' for fiction in their local nooz rag, but I recently "unoithed" (you'll understand the joke if you read the story) this short piece I'd written years ago and had given up finding again. Anyway I thought I'd use it to revive The Planet's old Serialized Fiction feature.
I said this before, and nobody took me up on it so I'll say it louder: I would LOVE writers to submit fiction to The Planet for publication here. I can't pay you, but I can give you a venue and what writers write for is to be read. Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chief Manny Maggione, still striding vigorously despite his 90 years, crossed the room and took a seat behind his desk.
“All right, boys,” he said. “whadda we got?” He reached into a drawer for a fat cigar. Tony, at his right, snapped him a light, while Joey on his left consulted the docket. “Gimme the easy stuff foist,” added the Chief, puffing on his stogie.
“Right, boss,” said Joey. “Foist: Eden voisus Robert. Idolatry.” He jerked his head at a meek-looking young man sitting in the row of chairs before them. “Approach the Chief.” The man obeyed.
“Hawaya?” the Chief greeted him genially.
“C’mon, c’mon,” said Joey, snapping his fingers. “Hand it over.”
Robert reached under his shirt and pulled out a small, beautifully carved image of a moofus, one of the first Eden animals to be domesticated. Joey took it and handed it to the Chief, who inspected it.
“Nice woik,” commented the Chief. “You carve it yourself?”
Roberts, soothed by the compliment, smiled and bobbed his head. “See, Chief,” he said, “it struck me how much we on Eden owe the moofus. If it hadn’t been for moofus meat and moofus milk and cheese, the early generations might have starved. So I carved this little image and now I feel naked unless I wear it around my neck.”
“Let me guess,” said the Chief. “You also stopped eating moofus, right?”
The young man hung his head.
“Poik up, son, it ain’t a hanging offense,” said the Chief. “Just don’t do it no more.” Roberts perked up, and the Chief continued kindly: “See, on oith, where I come from, we had this animal called a cow, which is like a moofus but with only one udder, and people depended so much on the milk and the meat that they started thinking of the cow as sacred. Know what happened? They started worshiping it instead of eating it and their little children starved to death though there were still plenty of cows. We wanna make sure nuttin like that happens on Eden. See?”
The young man nodded. The Chief beamed at him through nicotine-stained teeth, and passed the amulet to Tony. “Boin it,” he instructed. He turned back to Roberts. “When you start feeling naked without you wear some little symbol,” he said, “you gotta ask yourself, is this a religious feeling I got? We don’t want none of that stuff here, sonny. The foist law of Eden, which I am here to poisonally enforce, is thou shalt have no religion. Unnerstand?”
“Yes, Chief,” said Roberts.
“Now, get yourself down to the cafeteria and order a plate of their famous moofusloaf. You eat every bite, pal, got it?”
“Yes, Chief,” said the young man. “Thank you, Chief.” Tony waved him away.
“Jeez,” said Maggione to his lieutenants. “I been saying the same thing since youse guys was all frozen embryos, and still they gotta do it! Next?”
Joey consulted the docket. “You ain’t gonna like it, boss. Eden voisus Diane. Voigin boith.”
“Say it ain’t so,” said Maggione. “Well, bring her up.”
A beautiful young woman came forward, a tiny baby in her arms. As the Chief leaned forward to inspect her, Joey and Tony exchanged a grin behind his back. The boss was susceptible to babies, and as for pretty girls – well, Diane was in no danger of overdiscipline.
Still, the Chief put on a tough face. “All right, honey, who’s the boyfriend?”
Diane’s pale, heart-shaped face drooped, shaded by wings of soft dark hair. “Got no boyfriend, Chief,” she whispered shyly.
Maggione turned to Tony. “So?”
Tony produced a handwritten report. “Nine months ago, suspect was living on remote moofus ranch in outer province with sister” – he gave the boss a significant look – “and sister’s husband.”
Diane blushed furiously.
“Do a DNA test on the guy and the kid,” said the Chief. “Publish the results, and this goil’s mug, on the news net. Next?”
“No!” said Diane. “Please, Chief. You don’t know my sister. She’s going to beat me blue.”
“You shoulda thought of that before you started making goo-goo eyes at her feller,” said the Chief sternly, but predictably melted when the girl started to cry. “Aw, jeez, don’t do that,” he begged. “Joey, bring the kid a chair.” Joey did so. “Sit down, honey,” said Maggione. “I’m gonna talk at you.”
Diane sat, holding her baby, and blew her nose daintily.
“Back in my precinct on oith,” said the Chief, “I hadda take 500 frozen embryos into protective custody during the Religious Riots. What happened is, you had your scientists wanting to experiment on ‘em, while your Bible thumpas said they was each a human soul and it was moider, and the fertility labs meanwhile pointed out they was extras and about to be flushed down the terlet anyhow. The thumpas thought the embryos shouldn’t a been made in the foist place, but now that they was, they would die to protect them. Or, the way it toined out, kill. So they was raiding labs, knocking off doctors and technicians and even a few of New York’s finest.”
Diana blinked at him, puzzled. What did this have to do with her and her baby?
“See, honey, reproduction was all mixed up in their tiny minds with religion. You wanna talk about crazy! Sex was bad, babies was good, motherhood was sacred, but getting pregnant was about the doitiest thing a goil could do. Jeez, do we want that kind of thing on Eden?”
“No, sir,” whispered Diana.
“Right,” said the Chief. “We don’t want no crap about sex around here. We got plenty of contraception so nobody has to get pregnant who don’t want to, plus we got a big, generous planet so anybody wants kids, they can have as many as they please. After Perfessor Riding and me escaped the riots and came to Eden, we hatched them 500 embryos and we hooked them up to the perfessor’s electric udders – we was like Mom and Pop to that first generation – and we told them, ‘Go forth and multiply.’ ” He shook his finger. “But, we said, don’t go getting no religious ideas about sex. You got parts, I got parts, put ‘em together you get a kid. Simple, ain’t it?”
“But my sister ...” quavered the girl.
“Can’t help you there, honey. One thing we don’t want on this planet is voigin boiths. Every time you hoid of one back home, next thing you knew there was a new religion, and religion was what tore oith apart. Now, get outa here, but let me see that baby foist.” He bent over his desk. “Aw, lookit, Tony. Ain’t that the sweetest?”
Tony ushered the mother and child away. While he was gone, the Chief said to Joey, “Takes me back, pal, takes me back. I’ll never forget that first batch of babies me and the late perfessor, rest his soul, raised between us. I wasn’t up for it, let me tell you. My own was already grown and gone when I ended up riding with the perfessor to Eden.” He gave a snort of laughter. “Not that I was up for that, either. It was what you might call impromptu. Things was so crazy, Joey.”
Joey said: “Tell me again, boss, about the Mayflower II.” He pronounced it “Mayflowah.” Regrettably, Professor Riding hadn’t lived long enough to see to the children’s education; thus most Edenites spoke in the Chief’s broad New Yorkese rather than the scientist’s cultured university tones.
“Never shoulda happened,” said Maggione. “Imagine, Joey, the tech guys had finally come up with a ship that could travel the galaxies, and the astronomers had discovered this beauty-ful planet. Everybody shoulda been rejoicin’, right?
“But the reproductive issues had set the crazies against the scientists to begin with, plus there was other little beefs they had, like how old the oith was and whether people developed from monkeys or was modeled from a lumpa clay. All a loada crap, you ask me. When some bright boy hadda go and name this planet Eden, that was the last straw. The thumpas went wild and a war started. It was all a poor cop like me could do to keep ‘em from tearing the perfessor to pieces.
'I was at the spaceport with Perfessor Riding and we watched the city boin before our eyes. That’s when he looks at me and says, ‘Let’s get outta here, Chief, I got the car keys. You still got them embryos?’ Or woids to that effect.”
He laughed. “We made a funny kind of Adam and Eve, Joey, the perfessor and the police chief. If I’d had my druthers, I woulda brought along maybe a goilfriend. But we done the best we could for youse guys.”
“You sure did, boss,” said Joey. “We got a good life here.”
Life was, in fact, good on Eden. The planet boasted no diseases or predators dangerous to man, the weather was mild and sunny, and luscious fruit grew wild for the picking. Earth vegetables had easily been adapted to the native soil, and as no weed seeds had been imported, gardens were virtually maintenance-free. After three generations, the human population was still but a drop in the planetary bucket, and Edenites luxuriated in abundance.
Tony returned. The Chief said, “Next?” His lieutenants exchanged an uneasy glance. “So what is it?” said Maggione. “Spit it out.”
“Eden voisus Anna et al.,” said Joey. “Sect, boss. Full-blown.”
“Aw, jeez,” said the Chief. “It hadda happen today of all days.”
Up walked seven people of both sexes and of a broad range of ages. They all wore floating tunics of pure white.
“What’s with the white duds?” said the Chief.
The others looked to a middle-aged woman who had an air of authority, and she answered in a gushing, breathy voice. “I am Anna, Chief,” she said. “We wear white because it is the color of the Sacred Moon, who guides us through life and takes us to live with Her when our bodies die.”
For a minute Joey thought the Chief would drop his cigar, but instead he clinched it harder in his teeth as his jaws ground. “Right,” he said. “Foist I hoid a youse guys.”
Anna nodded. “We knew we would be persecuted if we spoke of our faith, so in public we have dressed like you infidels, worshipping the Sacred Moon in secret. When we met someone we suspected might be enlightened, we drew a moon in the dirt with our toes, like this.” Her bare foot sketched a circle in the dust on the Chief’s floor. “If the other person completed the drawing, we knew he was one of us.”
“So what’s the rest of the drawing?” said the Chief.
Anna drew in two dots and a curving line.
“Jeez, it’s a smiley,” said the Chief. “Your secret symbol is a smiley! For this I left oith and all its treasures, which included beer and my pension.” He squashed his cigar out. “Listen here, Anna, you know religion carries a death sentence on Eden.”
“We do not die,” Anna explained with dignity. “Rather, we live forever in the Sacred Moon, whose chosen people we are. The Moon will keep us safe, yea, even though all hands are raised against us, and She will hold us to Her bosom and smite our enemies and …”
“Yeah, yeah,” said the Chief. “I’ve hoid it.” He got a fresh cigar out of his drawer. Tony lit it, and the Chief puffed contemplatively for a minute before speaking. “Lady,” he said at length, “my foist instinct is to have Tony here take you out and shoot you. But I’m a civilized man and I can tell you are sincere. So listen up and I will talk at you.”
He leaned forward, punctuating his words with his cigar like a conductor with a baton. “The foist Mayflower, not the one we came to Eden on but the one before that, brought a bunch of people to America from England where they was poisecuted because of their religion. Know what they did, foist thing they was free to practice their religion? They started poisecuting everybody who practiced any other religion. The ironic thing is, they didn’t see no irony in that.
“That’s how religions work. You get to be the chosen people because God, or in your case Smiley, is on your side, and whatever you do in God’s name is right, no matter how many people gotta die. Back on oith we had religious crazies being instructed by God to blow up airplanes and boin people at the stake and wage holy war against unbelievers. Lady, it was a mess.
“As America evolved, it tried to have a government where all religions were tolerated, but the thing about religions is they are not tolerant of governments. Choiches was always plotting to get their cronies elected, or to pass referendums poisecuting whoever group they was down on at the time, and finally, as I was explaining oilier, religion succeeded in ending the woild as we knew it.
“That’s why, here on Eden, we decided not to be tolerant of all religions but to have zero tolerance for the whole kit and caboodle. You Moonies, you probably don’t do no harm right now, waltzing around in your bed sheets and drawing your smileys in the sand, but if history is any guide, give you ten years and you’ll rediscover human sacrifice or start proselytizing by the sword. So lady, you are officially disbanded. Got it?”
“You may not disband us, for you are but a man, and we the children of the Sacred Moon.” Anna raised her hands to her followers. “Remember, Moonies! Men may not harm us, for we are the chosen of the Silver One.”
The Moonies began a song which sounded like moofuses bellowing in iambic pentameter. Anna’s voiced soared above all the others until Tony, at the Chief’s signal, shot her.
“Jeez, boys,” said the Chief as the song abruptly died out, “this is the woist possible kind of religion, the kind with hymns. Take these guys out, loin the names of any other members, then shoot ‘em all.”
Thus was the Fellowship of the Sacred Moon nipped in its proverbial bud, with some 45 adherents sought out and executed by the end of the day.
It was one of the Chief’s last efforts at protecting the planet he loved from the ravages of religion. He died a few months afterwards.
The Chief had seen no need to establish a formal government, and it was natural for the people to look to his two lieutenants, Tony and Joey, for leadership.
They sorely missed their old boss. Tony, in fact, sought out Robert, who had carved the moofus, and had him fashion a likeness of the Chief. Tony kept the statuette on his desk where it gave him great comfort and, he felt, helped him think through difficult decisions.
As for Joey: Joey had for years been secretly jotting down sayings of the Chief in a little notebook, and these he now compiled. “I thought I’d publish them,” he told Tony, “under the title of The Chief: In His Own Woids. Whaddaya think?”
“Couldn’t do no harm,” said Tony.
But it did. The Chief: In His Own Words was well-received. Soon many Edenites owned a copy and could produce a quote from the wise old policeman’s lips to suit almost any occasion. But Joey, without really coming out and saying so, managed to imply in the text that the Chief had been maybe just a little friendlier with Joey than with Tony, and this naturally irritated Tony.
Tony got Robert to make a bunch more statuettes of the boss, and he would go around talking to people about what the Chief had said to him and what he thought it meant, then he would leave them a statuette to keep for themselves.
So arose the Jonites and the Tonites. Jonites called themselves the People of The Book and considered Tonites idolatrous.
The Tonites weren’t, really, at least at first, but because they lacked a written text they got in the habit, after a couple more generations, of believing things the Jonites considered way off base. Everybody who read The Book, for example, knew that the Chief named the moofus moofus because, he said, it looked like a moofus; but the Tonites got it into their heads that the Chief had created the moofus. The Jonites knew that the Chief was not the creator; rather, he was a mortal man like themselves, sent to bring Eden the Word of all-powerful Jeez.
At first Jonites and Tonites contented themselves with thinking the other side was stupid, but it wasn’t long before both factions made laws forbidding marriage with the other and so on.
Religious war raged in Eden throughout the centuries.