“Recall”

Published by Rivet: The Journal of Writing that Risks.

***

When constituents expressed, via text message and Facebook, the desire to speak directly to one another even less, the government helpfully stepped in.

“It’s sort of like the Electoral College,” the President explained, via Tweet. “Or the Fifth Amendment.”

They sold mandated Mood Skin™ at pharmacies and supermarkets, offering deep discounts to those who brought documentation of college debt, steep alimony, or hard times.

The Mood Skin™ fit over a person’s real skin, snug but comfy like a ballet leotard, with enough give to allow its wearer to rake leaves or salsa dance or eat a lot at Thanksgiving.

“It will streamline communication!” top sociologists and talk show hosts assured their audiences. “No more pointless ‘How are yous,’ no more explaining how your day went!”

And for a while, things seemed to get better.

Wives avoided bringing up money at the dinner table when their husbands’ Mood Skin™ flushed russet.

Fewer women got hit.

Lovers knew that a cool blue meant “Not tonight, baby,” and no one felt the sting of bedroom rejection.

Stray dogs even learned to seek out people the color of yellow legal pads, which indicated a penchant to pet and the likely sharing of leftover gyros. Yellow meant nice.

But the Mood Skin™ had a shelf life, or the people’s feelings had a shelf life.

Soon the jungle greens and sassy oranges faded, the colors ebbing away until everyone’s Mood Skin™ became tapioca-dull.

No one fought in tavern parking lots or yelled from car windows on expressways. No one kicked the stray dogs and no one took them home. No one held hands with anyone else. Nicholas Sparks stopped writing books.

Exports slowed to a leaky-faucet drip—just Marilyn Monroe calendars and the occasional shipment of Elmo dolls, left un-tickled. Consumerism died alongside economic competition. No one needed retail therapy, and rom-coms were good for nothing.

So like with immigration and the Temperance Movement, the government tried to backtrack. They ordered the glitchy Mood Skin™ returned, peeled off—“As you were,” they said.

Law-abiding citizens turned in their Mood Skin™ for a tax credit. They dropped it into biohazard receptacles set up at police-patrolled polling stations.

Some rebelled and kept it, reserving it like sexy lingerie for when they were in the mood to be in no mood.

The few people who refused to ever wear it came out from their hiding places in barns and bunkers and holes in the ground. They taught workshops on how to say “I’m sad” and “I love you” and “I resent the fact that you used the last of the coffee creamer.” These group sessions included face-stretching exercises in front of hand-held mirrors. The first person to laugh shocked the others back into silence.

Yesterday, I saw a mangy terrier approach an old man in the park. The man pet the dog, and they both smiled.

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