The protesters crowded the deck of the S.S. Navy Rescue.
“Get off the deck, protesters!” one of the navy said. “Geez!”
“No!” the protesters yelled. “We’re going to stop you doing your job!”
“Yeah!” said more of them. “It’s time this country was more like Russia! We love communism!”
“Let’s go, Steve,” Sarah said worriedly. “We don’t belong here. I thought it would be fun before, but I suddenly learned that it’s not fun. It’s very very wrong.”
“Chill out Sarah,” Steve said. He lit up a joint and took his shoes off. “You’re too uptight. You don’t always have to do what the man tells you.”
“Yeah, Sarah,” Hibiscus said, walking past. “We’re just having some fun and smashing the patriarchy. What are you, some kind of a nerd?”
“Maybe I am!” Sarah said, angrily. “Maybe I finally realised I don’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not, just to impress you! Even if I am in love with you! Steve, that is. And maybe I was wrong about that. Maybe you’re not who I thought you were. Steve, that is. Although that bit could also apply to Hibiscus. Maybe doing what’s right is more important than going along with other people just to be popular. Did you ever realise that? Because I just did.”
“That’s a very pretty speech, Sarah,” Hibiscus said. “But I’m not listening to it. I don’t care about what’s right or wrong. All I care about is causing a scene. And you know why? Because I’m a student. I don’t want to work, I’m too lazy. But if I can bring down capitalism, maybe other people will just give me money, and I’m entitled to it!”
“That’s a very pretty speech, Hibiscus,” Sarah said. “But you’re wrong. Both of you are wrong. You too, Steve. You’re both wrong.”
“That’s a very pretty speech, Sarah,” Steve said. “But I’m sick of you. To tell you the truth, I was just using you.”
“W…what?” Sarah exclaimed.
“That’s right,” Steve said. “I was still in love with Hibiscus, and now we’re going to be together. I’m sorry, I didn’t want you to find out this way.”
“Geez,” Steve said. “I hate feelings. Come on Hibiscus, let’s go push some of these naval officers into the water. That’ll be a laugh.”
“Land ho!” someone somewhere cried.
“Wait a minute!” someone else cried. “Hold on a minute! That’s not land! That’s a people smuggler’s vessel!”
“Oh my god!” the captain yelled. “This is terrible! The navy has found us!” He rubbed his hands together worriedly.
“What does that mean?” Emric said. “We’re not doing anything wrong, are we? Surely we don’t have to be worried?”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Emric,” the other passengers said. “We’re not refugees! We’re illegals! And if someone catches us, they might send us back home, to our lives that actually weren’t that bad, and which we didn’t have any true cause to leave!”
“What?” Emric said. “No, that might be true of you all. But it’s not true of me. I was fleeing persecution in my homeland. The political situation, whatever it was, was awful and persecutory. I was coming here to try to make a better life for myself and for my family. I’m not like the rest of you!”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Emric,” the fat captain said, laughing and rubbing his hands together like they had butter in them. “You’re EXACTLY like the others! Did you know you can’t just get on the boat and come here? You have to go through the official queue!”
“But… I didn’t know…” Emric said.
“And you didn’t bother to find out!” the captain said, chewing on his cigar. “You just jumped the queue like a queue jumper.”
Emric fell onto his knees. “No.” he said. “No. No. Nooooooooooo!”
The other passengers put their hand on his shoulder. “No, Emric,” they said. “Yes.”
“Oh my god,” Emric said, aghast. “You’re right. I thought I was different than all these other passengers, but I wasn’t! I was just like all of them! We’re exactly the same! I never bothered to find out how to join the orderly queue to come to Flatland. And that makes me a queue jumper, just like everybody else! Yes, I finally realise that now.”
“You’ve changed, Emric,” the fat man said. “You’ve learned a lot during this story, and I’m pretty confident you’re not the same man you once were. I’d go so far as to say you’re a different man altogether.”
“You’re right,” Emric said, “I’ve learned a lot about what being a refugee really means.” He sank to his knees and fell in a heap. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Oh Flatland, I’m so so sorry.”
Sarah was crying on her knees.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “Oh Flatland, my homeland. How could I have betrayed you like this? I don’t want to be popular, or ‘cool’. All I want to do is to do what’s right! But how, that’s the question. If only I knew the answer to that question.”
Suddenly one of the border protection naval officers yelled out. “Hey, there are refugees on that boat! Let’s try to help them and get them to our boat so we can process them and if they are genuine refugees we can give them assistance!”
“Shut up pigs!” yelled Hibiscus, throwing a piece of shale at them. “WE think you should just let everybody in, no matter how unrealistic or unreasonable that is!”
“Er,” the navy officers said. “Can we talk about this sensibly?”
“No way!” Hibiscus yelled. She was shouting now. “We’re gonna stop you from doing your job! Everyone, let’s cause a scene and protest in an unsafe manner and cause them problems!”
“Yay!” yelled all the protesters.
Sarah looked overboard. The boat was getting closer She could see the naval officers were trying to get to the edge of the deck to help the boat. But the protesters were getting in the way.
“I want to do something to help,” Sarah said to herself. “But what? I don’t know. I really wish I knew how to wrap things up.”
Suddenly thunder crashed.
“It’s the navy, still!” someone shouted. “They’ll catch us and send us home.”
The captain looked thoughtful. Then he laughed and rubbed his hands together, like they were covered in grease. “I’ve got it!” he shouted at everyone. “I’ve got it! Quick, throw some babies into the water!”
Emric looked up from his wailing. “What the…?” he said.
“Let me explain,” the captain said, smoking a cigar. “The navy will try to make me turn the boat around because I’m a people smuggler. But if we throw some babies into the water, they’ll have to rescue us! They won’t ever let babies sink!”
“Great idea, captain!” the other passengers expulsed. “Let’s do that!” They went and grabbed their babies.
“Great Scott!” Emric said. “No, no, you can’t! Noooooooooooo!”
“Oh yes!” the passengers disagreed. They started throwing their babies into the sea.
“Stoooop!” Sarah cried. Everyone froze as one.
“What is it?” they said.
“Don’t you all see?” Sarah said. “I was wrong. I thought it would be fun to get in the way of the naval officers. Maybe I thought it would give me a ‘thrill’, I don’t know. Maybe I just wanted to fit in. Do you know what I mean?”
“Yeah,” the protesters admitted. “I try to fit in sometimes too.”
“And that’s great,” Sarah said. “Fitting in is wonderful. But sometimes, we try to fit in with things that aren’t right. And that’s wrong. Maybe you think stopping the border protection police from policing our nation’s borders is ‘cool’. But it’s not. Would it really be so ‘cool’ to have a country with no borders? Where anyone who wants to can come in and take our jobs? Or worse, just sit on the dole collecting our money, because they think it’s an easy ride? You tell me, is that really so cool?”
The protesters were silent now. Sarah guessed they were thinking.
“You’re right, Sarah,” Hibiscus said. “I guess you’re right after all. I never really thought about the implications of my actions. I guess I never thought about it at all.”
“We’re real sorry,” the protesters said. They got out of the navy’s way. “Here, you guys. You can do your job.”
“Thanks,” the navy said. “We’re grateful for you for thinking about it and coming to your senses.”
“Sarah, wait,” Steve said. “I’m sorry. I should never have dumped you like that. I guess I was wrong.”
Sarah felt a little tug at her heartstrings. She supposed a part of her was still in love with Steve. But it was too late. “It’s too late now, Steve,” she said. “You had your chance, but you blew it. I’m going to fall in love with someone who does the right thing, next time.”
Steve looked down sadly at the ground.
Just then there was a splash and a shout. Sarah looked into the sea.
“Oh my God!” she yelled. “They’re throwing babies in the sea!”
“Stoooop!” Emric cried.
“What is it, Emric?” the passengers said.
“Don’t you see how wrong you all are?” Emric said. “Don’t you get it? I thought I would take the easy road. I thought I could just get on a boat and sail my problems away. I took the easy way out. I could have done my research and found out there was a queue, wherever it is, and gotten into it. But I didn’t. I thought I was doing the right thing, but when it comes down to it, it wasn’t right. It wasn’t right at all.”
“Emric, what are you saying?” everyone said.
“Don’t you get it?” Emric said. “It was wrong of us to try to come here illegally. It might have been easier for us. Sure, we all want an easy life, living in a country with the dole so we can lie around and not have to do what’s right. But we do have to do what’s right. Not because it’s easy. But because it’s right.”
“You’re right Emric,” the passengers said.
“Oh my God,” said the Captain. “What have I done? I’ve wasted my life!” He wrung his hands together like they were full of eels. “Why didn’t I realise before now? Being a people smuggler is wrong!”
Emric put a hand on the captain’s hair. “It’s all right,” Emric said. “We’ve all learned a lot in this climax. Every one of us.”
“That’s true,” the passengers agreed. “Let’s go get our babies out of the sea.”
Sarah watched as the illegals climbed on the boat and surrendered to the navy. They seemed like changed people. She didn’t know how she knew that but she knew.
“I should help,” she said. She went over to one man who looked noble and sad.
“I’m Emric,” the man said. “I thought I could jump the queue but now I realise I never can.”
“I’m Sarah,” she said, smiling kindly. “Let me take you to the back of the queue, Emric.”
“I’d like that,” the man said, smiling kindly. “I’d like that a lot.”
In the ocean, a porpoise jumped up and smiled.