by Cary O'Dell
It is later that night now. Mr. Anderson, still in jacket and tie, is back in the foyer and the grandfather clock reads exactly 8 o'clock.
He blows a referee's whistle to gather the troops. Kitten slides into the meeting via the bannister. Bud lugs in saying, "What's up doc?" Betty's giggling and making jokes. But Dad is all business and takes a position halfway up the hall stairs. The rungs of the bannister in front of him suggest the railing of a balcony; he is now a leader addressing his lowly subjects far beneath him.
He says, "From now on, I'm not your father. I'm your leader and don't forget that." He then introduces his "deputy" - Mrs. Anderson, who comes in still dressed in house dress and heels. She gives a heavy nod to her husband while Bud gives her an over-the-top salute. (Though Margaret is assigned the subordinate rank of "deputy" by the Chief Tyrant, her actions and dialogue illustrate that she is fully aware of the lesson being undertaken in this mock dictatorship and is far from the Stepford clone her character is often remembered as.)
Deputy Margaret then has the task of distributing three envelopes filled with $18.75 to each of the three citizens of Tyrantland. "Yes, dear," Deputy Margaret says to her husband as she hands out the money. Meanwhile, the Dictator states, "The Tyrant government takes good care of its citizens...you see, we provide for you, we even think for you."
Bud, drunk with his new riches, says "We should do this every week!"
Next, the children are given new names, actually numbers. Each number is written on a piece of cardboard and is hung with twine around their necks. The Tyrant says, From now on these are your numbers. The faster your rid yourself of any thoughts of yourself as individuals and realize that you are simply cogs in the machine...." Indeed, the visible numbers carried on their persons suggest prison inmates or the dog tags of soldiers, even cloth yellow Stars of David.
Based on their ages, the three kids now assume new identities: Kathy is 112, Bud is 117, Betty is 120.
Turning the reigns of Tyrantland over to his deputy, Margaret, with a knowing look in her eye, proceeds to order "the workers" into the kitchen for their "duties." Bud doesn't get it. (Big surprise.) He protests that they've already done the dishes and besides he already had other plans.
Dad, Leader of Tyrantland, tells him to stop complaining...unless he wants to quit now and lose the bet?
A jab in the ribs from Betty (i.e. 120) makes Bud follow his orders.
Margaret orders them. "Forward march!"
As the kids soldier into the kitchen Margaret and Jim, behind their backs, give each other a playful, exagerated salute.
In the Anderson's well-appointed, state of the art, Westinghouse kitchen, the children (still sporting the cardboard number tags) are seen working: Bud pushes a mop, Betty scrubs the inside of the oven and Kitten wipes down the cabinets.
Kitten says she's "bushed" and Bud says he's missing a good movie tonight. But Betty tells them to stop complaining and keep working: "Remember if one of us loses, we all lose. Just keep thinking about the $18.75 we're going to win!"
Without warning, Mom and Dad (Leader and Deputy, to you) enter the kitchen and demand "Attention!"
Margaret goes to inspect the worker's work. Sporting a pair of clean white gloves (no, really), Margaret begins to rub her fingers over the stove, the counters, even under the cabinets. It appears the kids have done a good job -- not a speck of dirt appears on the white cotton.
But the Deputy's verdict is: "Fair. I think it should be done over."
The kids are of course outraged. Dad/Leader says that for the workers to do a better job, and be happy doing it, they need better equipment. A new mop is in order. Guess who has to pay for it? Dad deducts $2 each from each of the worker's $18.75 to purchase the new mop.
Betty tries some reasoning, "But you can't do that. That's our personal property!"
The Leader responds, "What did you call it? 'Personal property'?" Turning to Margaret, he asks, "Deputy, are you familiar with such a phrase?...There's no such thing in Tyrantland."
Mad but unbowed, the kids pony up $2 each.
The money is turned over to the Deputy. The Leader says she can buy a new mop...or a new hat, if she wishes.
Despite this setback, the kids still think they can win. (Betty: "We are NOT giving up!") They talk briefly about about life after Tyrantland. Bud goes to the fridge and, like Eve in the Garden of Eden, picks an apple to munch on. But then Dad's/Tyrant's voice blasts in from the other room: "You had ample food at dinner. In Tyrantland, you are hungry only when we say you are. Put it back!"
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