This article is taken from Stand 239, 21(3) October - December 2023.

Franz Jørgen Neumann The Hoax of a New World
Dahlia and Pepper, newly married – her third go, his second – clatter north to San Luis Obispo by train. Their carriage moves inexorably forward while beside them on the highway a glut of future fun is mired in gridlock: motorhomes dragging compact cars, SUVs with camping gear haphazardly bungeed to their roofs, trucks fuming with off-road bikes slumped in their beds. Pepper can even see several boats moored high on their trailers, desperate for water. It seems possible to him that the open space between here and where all those drivers want to be is already filled.

The train peels away from the snapshot of an exodus, leaving Pepper thankful for having had the idea to take the train. Dahlia, seated across from him in the two-person roomette, has tucked into The Hoax of a New World, a novel about Europeans in the 1500s who didn’t believe in the discovery of an entirely new hemisphere, despite the returning colonizer’s proof: novel vegetables and fruits, gold statuary, the newly enslaved. The quotes on the dust jacket state that it’s ‘a satire of modern doubt in the post-truth era.’ Not Pepper’s idea of a fun read.

‘Any good?’ he asks.

‘Mmm.’

Three years ago, when his first wife was still alive, Pepper would never have imagined that he’d one day find himself massaging the feet of a second wife while she devoured a satire of modern doubt in the post-truth era. Or that he’d retroactively think of his late wife ...
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