The Rest of Us: Bottoms Up

This short story takes place in the world of my planned dystopian science fiction novel The Rest of Us.

The glassware clattered as another rocket launched. My father, sitting at the head of the large oak table, steadied his wine glass and then lifted it up as if that had been his plan all along.

“To a new future,” he said, yelling over the roar of the nearby launch. “Bottoms up.”

We drank. My mom, father, and brother-in-law drank wine from a dark, dusty bottle. I, along with my six-months-pregnant older sister, drank iced tea. The noise of the rocket faded. My father smacked his lips and sat his glass back down next to the bone-white China, the finest plate he had ever seen.

He picked up his fork and knife, sawed a chunk of his filet mignon and chewed on it heartily. He motioned at me with his fork. “I’m telling you, Jacob, that I would give anything to be a young man, right now.”

My mom patted him on the hand. “Now, Darryl, don’t go pressuring the boy.”

“What pressure?” My dad motioned to the dining room all around us. “There is no pressure. Not anymore. A man can be anything.”

In the distance, another rocket launched, far enough away that we barely felt it. My dad mocked waving at the sky. “Good riddance to them. Nothing but a bunch of snobby pricks, always looking down on the little guy.”

Mark, my brother-in-law chirped in. “The bastards can look down on us all they want from Mars. As long as they are out of my hair.”

My dad pointed at Mark, smiling. “See, Mark gets it. The world has been reset. This is the best thing that could have happened to us. Look where we are living!”

I looked around the formal dining room. It was almost as big as our entire apartment. Place settings for my entire family didn’t even make a dent in the well-stocked China cabinet. I had no doubt that its contents cost more than my dad made in a year.

“Have you heard anything about the factory?” my mom asked.

“Nancy, why do you gotta bring up work at dinnertime?” My dad turned back to his plate. He speared a piece of asparagus. “No. I haven’t heard anything yet. We’re taking a little break, letting the rats flee the boat, and then—then, we are gonna open it up our way.”

My dad worked at the General Motors plant, building vehicles. At least he did before the Exodus. That’s what the politicians had called it. The environment was too far gone to be repaired. Scientists had success building colonies on Mars. A plan was made. The human race would set up a satellite location on Mars. Perhaps the Earth could sustain life with the decreased population. If not, the species would survive.

The selection process had been about as fair as you would expect. In the end, the rich got their rides. The rest of us got left behind to deal with the mess. Over the course of a couple of years, plans were made, launch pads were erected in parks near rich neighborhoods and protected by mercenaries. In the last week, five percent of the population had been relocated. You were welcome to go, as long as you were the right five percent.

“I tell ya what, though,” dad pointed at me again. “That factory is small potatoes compared to what you are going to have. Want to be a lawyer? Doctor? Engineer? They’ve got more openings than the schools can fill.”

I slouched in my chair. Despite the expensive food in front of me, I had lost my appetite. “Maybe I don’t want to be anything of those things.”

“Don’t want to be any of those things?” My dad wiped his mouth on a silk napkin and then slammed it down on the table. “Are you kidding me? What do you want to be?”

My mom intervened again. “Now, Darryl—“

“No. No ‘now Darryl’s.’ I want to know what sort of future my son is going to have, now that he has the pick of the litter.”

“I don’t know,” I mumbled.

“You don’t know? You got a chance right now to be anything, and you don’t know?”

Mark shook his head in disbelief, agreeing with my dad, as always. My sister Alice kept quiet, patting the top of her swollen belly. I looked to my mom for support, but there was none there. Everyone looked at me, waiting for me to decide my future profession. I was to decide my role in the new world over dinner.

I was saved by a loud knock on the front door and a loud, booming voice. “Hello? Anyone home?”

My dad’s eyes went wide. He grabbed his shotgun from where he had left it leaning on the China cabinet. He motioned for Mark to get his as well. They were both seated again, loaded weapons in their laps by the time the police officer entered the room.

The man was young. His blonde hair was cut close to his skull. He wore a crisp blue uniform accented by a tarnished badge. His right hand rested upon the grip of the handgun that peeked out of his shiny leather holster. His belt and uniform looked brand new.

“Sorry to bother you all,” he said with a deep, resonating voice. “I see I’m interrupting dinner.”

My father smiled. “Can we help you, officer?”

“Well, I hope so.” The officer picked up my silver soup spoon and admired it. “I’m one of your local law enforcement officers, and I’m here today to talk to you about protection.”

“Protection?” my dad asked.

“Have you been out there the last couple of days?” The officer hooked his thumb towards the door. “The gangs are already banding together. You ought to see some of the weapons. They’re going house-to-house with pick-up trucks. They’re stealing money, jewelry—“ He motioned to my mom and sister. “—women.”

The officer picked up my filet with his bare hands. He took a bite. “You don’t mind, do you?”

I shook my head.

“This is good shit,” he said. “Now, my department and I can offer you protection for a small fee.”

Mark scoffed. “You’re the police. Aren’t we already paying you?”

The officer shrugged. “The city pays us, but it appears that the politicians and city lawyers cleaned out the accounts when they hopped aboard their rockets. Who knows when I might get an actual paycheck, again?”

“I’m sorry to hear your troubles officer,” my dad said. “But they are hardly ours.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” the officer said. “But you are welcome to try the same line on the gangs. Without our help, they’ll be here any day, now.”

My sister winced as the baby moved in her stomach. Mark grabbed her hand.

“Looks like you are going to need help pretty soon,” the officer said. “Aren’t many doctors left, and they won’t be going anywhere without an escort.”

Mark bit his lip. He seemed to shake. “How much do you need?”

“Not everything. Just enough” The officer peeked in the China cabinet, he opened it up and removed a crystal wine glass. He ran a finger around the rim of the glass, producing a hollow tone.

My father sat his shotgun down on the floor and stood up. He took his wallet out of his back pocket and looked through it. “I’ve got around a hundred and fifty on me, right now.”

The officer smirked. “I think our ideas of ‘enough’ are a bit different.”

“It’s all I’ve got.”

The officer pointed to the candelabra in the center of the table. “That real silver?”

“I—I think so,” my mom stammered.

“You want that?” my dad asked.

“It would be a good start.” The officer smiled. “It’s not like it’s yours anyway. Right?”

Dad winced at the accusation. My mom struggled, but blew out the candles. She held it out to the officer in her small, shaking hands.

“I think this will do nicely.” The officer looked over the silver, a smile stretching across his face. “Tell you what, pour me a glass of that wine, and we’ll consider our business finished for today.”

My dad picked up the wine bottle. Another rocket launched nearby. The crystal glass shook and wine spilled upon the perfect white table cloth.

The officer picked up the glass and winked. “Bottom’s up.”

Jack Campbell, Jr. is a dark fiction writer in Lawrence, KS. His writing has appeared in various venues including Twenty 3 Magazine, Danse Macabre, and Insomnia Press. He writes about reading, writing, and life on his blog at

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