Short Story: For the Greater Good

I put this up here with three requests of decreasing importance:

1. Spread this far and wide across the web. The more I am read the better. Being read matters more to me than anything else.

2. Give me honest feedback. This is the first piece of fiction I have ever published. Be cruel, be kind but above all be honest.

3. Pay me what you think it is worth, if you think it is worth anything.
If you cannot afford to do that then pay me what you can.

————————————————————————

The knock was forceful, insistent. The occupant of the house scurried down the hall, slipping his coat on in an effort to afford himself the carefully cultivated dignity he prided himself on. He swung the stained glass door open to find the serious, somber face of his friend, the recently promoted Minister of Health Care.

“Good morning,” the occupant said, “this is rather early.”

“Good morning. I am here on official business.” The minister replied heavily.

“Of course. Now that the Euthanasia bill has passed and the new ministry has been established I imagine you must have a lot of paperwork to sort out.”

“Definitely.” The minister agreed, “You see how it is. You campaigned so hard for Euthanasia. You convinced enough of the public that it was in the greater good to reserve expensive and essential health care for those who contributed the most to society. The greatest good for the greatest number and all those fancy philosophical arguments you used.”

The occupant laughed, “Utilitarianism is the word you’re looking for.”

The Minister smiled, “Yes, utilitarianism. What I admire about you is that you hold controversial and, some would say, outright psychopathic views because you truly believe in them, not because it makes you seem edgy.”

“Thank you.” The man replied, “I take it you’ve come for my help?”

“In a way.” The Minister replied, “Let me just say again how grateful we are for your strenuous efforts in convincing enough people that this is right thing to do.”

“How can it not be? There is not enough health care and services, not to mention money, to support these people wasting a disproportionate amount, especially since they are never going to add back into society the amount currently being used to keep them alive.”

“I’m glad I can count on your continued support.” The minister said.

“So what do you need my help with? Do you want me on the review committee?”

“Not necessary. We have the actuaries all over it. They have been comparing health costs to projected tax revenues all week. Already they have identified six thousand units that need removal.”

“Of course.” The man agreed, “I am not big with numbers. So what is it you do need me for?”

The Minister reached into the pocket of his coat and removed a simple, white envelope. “My friend, what we need from you is help with public relations?”

“Always ready to be of assistance to the government.” The man replied,

“That’s what we like to hear.” The Minister replied, “Otherwise it would have made this very hard.”

“Would have made what hard?” The man replied, his face innocently reflected in the glass coffee table.

“I regret to inform you that the Department of HealthCare, Euthanasia and Aging Review Panel for the Continuous healthcare expenditure has found that your need for a transplant is not sustained, and further that the costs of continuing your health care far outweigh the benefits to the public utility of keeping you alive.”

The man slumped back forward in his seat, color seeped from his face into the coffee table. He grabbed desperately at the Minister’s coat.

“But I was the one who convinced people that Euthanasia was right.” He cried, sliding from his chair onto his knees

“I know. That was your past contribution and we’re very grateful. Your name will go down in history. However, there is nothing more you can contribute to society. You are not a tradesman, or a laborer, or a scientist, or a cook. We have advertising and marketing experts who can help us spice the message up for the public. You are not qualified for any position within government.” The Minister’s face softened, “I am truly sorry, I am. But you must understand it’s for the greater good.”

“But I make people think. I challenge their preconceptions.”

The Minister sighed, “And the types of people who urge others to question authority are just the sort of people that are not valued by any government. You convinced others that society ought to come before the individual and in your case I am afraid society is asking you to do what’s best for the rest of us. It’s nothing personal you understand? And like I said, there is still the final matter of publicity I need you to help us out with?”

The man’s eyes glimmered with hope. “Anything,” he begged.

“We want you to be first person to voluntarily undertake euthanasia out of utilitarian necessity. And look happy about it. We need you to show others how good it is. How you’re doing your duty for the common good. How it isn’t really murder, but it’s about doing what’s best for society. Isn’t that right?”

(c) 2013: The author retains copyright and permits reproduction so long as due
acknowledgment of T.G.R White’s authorship is granted and a link back to
the original material is included within the reproduction. No permission for commercial
use is granted without prior written consent.

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3 thoughts on “Short Story: For the Greater Good

  1. Vic

    As promised, I’ll offer my thoughts on the story. First things first, it’s a good story, especially if this is your first attempt at writing. Here are some suggestions:

    1) Add some descriptions. I know it’s a short, fast-paced story, but every character must be described so the reader can visualize them. The descriptions don’t have to be long but they should be present. One or two sentences should suffice.

    Also, the setting should be described a bit more. For example, if the propaganda guy was so successful I presume he would have enough money to live in a luxurious house or something similar. If you show that his house is luxurious, you will subtly show that he’s rich and successful.

    2) Scene transition – the two men meet at the door and later they’re shown to be sitting around the coffee table. You never mentioned how and when they got there. Although it’s natural to expect that they would go and sit down in the living room, it doesn’t have to be so. When I was reading it, I got the impression that they remained standing at the doorstep until that paragraph when you mention the coffee table. Also, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t get the line: color seeped from his face into the coffee table. And the whole sentence is jumbled because of the: “slumped back forward”. I would rewrite it like this: “The man slumped back in his seat, color seeping from his face/his face ashen.”

    3) Action description in dialogue. Most of the conversation ends in dialogue tags like “he said”. That’s okay, but you might consider describing what the character does as he speaks for added effect. For example:

    “Blah blah blah,” he said. “Blah blah.”
    “Blah blah blah,” he said, clenching his fists until the knuckles turned white. “Blah blah.”

    The other sentence is superior to the first one if your goal is to show anger and so on.

    Also, basic rule: the comma always comes after the sentence, followed with the quotation mark. So it’s not:
    “Of course.” The man agreed, “I am not big with numbers. So what is it you do need me for?”
    The correct way is (notice the comma and the full stop):
    “Of course,” the man agreed. “I am not big with numbers. So what is it you do need me for?”

    This may seem like nit-picking, but it’s actually the proper way to structure conversation. One last point – contraction. When writing dialogue between contemporary people, it’s best to use the shorten forms of the words like “it’s”, “I’m” and so on. You used it sometimes but not all the time. Make a choice and stick with it (like I’ve said, I prefer contractions when the speakers are modern people).

    4) The ending: I’ve really enjoyed the story but the ending stick out too much. I don’t know how to describe it but it’s too much “in your face bitch” style, in my opinion. Especially the last line (Isn’t that right?). It’s your story and I hate rewriting but I would try something like this:
    The man’s eyes glimmered with hope. “Anything,” he begged.

    “We want you to be first person to voluntarily undertake euthanasia out of utilitarian necessity,” the minister spoke in a flat tone.

    The man’s eyes widened. He simply stared at the minister, dumbstruck.

    “And look happy about it,” the minister continued. “We need you to show others how good it is. How you’re doing your duty for the common good. How it isn’t really murder, but it’s about doing what’s best for society. Surely, you agree?”

    Or something similar, that’s just at the top of my head. Either way, I would rewrite the ending a bit. The way you wrote it looks like the minister takes pleasure from making the man succumb to euthanasia, as a form of justice which would indicate some kind of revenge. If that was your intention, okay, but I would rather see the minister sends the man to his death with complete disregard to the fact that the man doesn’t want to be euthanized.

    5) Focal character’s name. It’s not necessary, but the hero should have a name, unless there’s a special reason against it.

    That’s it. There are some minor details I could go into, but these are my general remarks. Overall, I liked the story. It’s short, interesting and gets its message through. Seriously, you’re a good writer and you should stick to it (but I guess you already know that). I’ll recommend your story to anyone interested (I can’t donate anything now, since I’m broke). Do you have any new stories in mind?

    Reply
    1. Tom White Post author

      Thanks for the feedback. I wrote this story intending to be a piece of flash fiction hence the brevity. I agree more description would have been better and wouldn’t have added much to the length.
      I agree it needs tightening up and there are obvious errors now that someone has pointed them out. I shall have to find a proof reader.
      I did have a reason against giving the ma name or description; I wanted him to be a stand in for a type of a person, not any specific person in particular.
      I have a longer piece in the works, much more relevant to the manosphere which maybe posted in a month. If I think of anymore short stories I believe would be appreciated by the manosphere readers I’ll post them here.
      Thanks again

      Reply
      1. Vic

        No problem.

        Getting a proofreader may be a good idea, but with short stories and flash fiction you probably don’t need one. My advice is to complete the story and then let it sit on your PC for 2-3 days. Completely forget about it. Then after the 2-3 days re-read it and make necessary corrections with fresh eyes. When I did this for the first time, I was surprised at how I structured some sentences and what obvious error I’ve made.

        If you’re serious about writing, I suggest self-publishing stories like this. When you turn your story into a professional one by publishing it on Amazon, people will stumble on it and buy it. At least I think the chances are better than finding it here and donating; of course, doing both things simultaneously is even better. That’s how I see it, at least.

        Cheers

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