T was the day before Christmas at the headquarters of the National Defilement Association in Washington, and everyone was in a real Yuletide spirit. The annual Christmas party was about to start, and the secretaries were gathered around, wrapping the presents that would be sent to all Senators and Congressmen. Appropriately, the NDA had decided to give everyone assorted liquors in throwaway bottles and cans. "What a terrific idea!" said Harvey Kinzel, the ebullient director of the NDA. "We not only get all our elected representatives in our debt, but we also actually are helping spread some of our litter in each and every one of the 50 states."
Bobby Wibblesman, head of the Division of Galloping Asphalt for the NDA, stuck his head in the door. "And don't forget to send a little something over to the boys in the Department of Transportation," he said. "Word just came through that they have given the go-ahead for that highway we suggested—the $782 million Interstate that will link Dover, Delaware directly with Owensboro, Kentucky, eliminating six bird sanctuaries, four historical sites—including the Gettysburg Battlefield—three public parks, 17 golf courses...."
"And a partridge in a pear tree," Harvey Kinzel interrupted.
"Oh, you kidder," Wibblesman replied, holding his sides and roaring along with everyone else.
"The terrific thing about that highway," said Margie Seltzer, director of promotion, "is that we have succeeded in getting it built despite the most organized opposition from the conservation lobby."
"Some people are just reflexively against progress," Harvey Kinzel said.
"It's the same as with the save-the redwoods cartel," Wibblesman said. "If God had meant for us to leave trees standing, He would have given us long tails to swing from the limbs with."
"Right you are," said Kinzel, stamping out his low-tar cigarette with one of his genuine alligator-hide shoes. "But we have succeeded in getting the road bill approved, and that is certainly a tremendous note on which to end the first glorious year of the National Defilement Association."
"I'll drink to that," said A. P. Brown Jr., the guiding genius of the NDA's Air Pollution department, throwing his glass out the window and onto Connecticut Avenue. There were loud cheers. More and more employees had begun to arrive for the festivities.
"All right, all right!" Kinzel called out jovially. "God forbid that I should be a party-pooper, but this has been an A-1 first-class inaugural year for the NDA, and I have an announcement that I know will make everybody's Christmas merrier. Are we all here?"
There were cries around the office to alert the stragglers, and everyone was at last accounted for when Wanda Mossway, receptionist in Evil Odors, and Hip Gypley, assistant promotion director for Oil Slicks, entered the room looking sheepish. Gypley had a lipstick smudge on his collar. That was Hip with every new girl in the office: some preliminary sweet talk and then those romantic moonlit strolls by the Potomac, throwing in refuse, spray-painting their initials on the Lincoln Memorial.
"I'll make this short and sweet," Director Kinzel began, "but I do just want to tell you what a magnificent first year we have all had. A lot of people sneered when we were organized 12 months ago. You remember. The wise guys said, who needs a National Defilement Association? So many of us, they said, acting as individual Americans, were already doing plenty to deface the land.
"But you and I know different, don't we? Even the great spirit of American enterprise and know-how can only carry us so far. Sure, it's easy for Mr. & Mrs. Average American to roll up their sleeves, spit on their hands and do a representative job of spoiling the little things—your national monument, your public park, your roadside rest area, your Lake Erie. But, let's face it, making this nation ugly is no job for amateurs. It needs organization."
"Hear, hear!" the NDA gang cried.
"There is no doubt," Kinzel went on, "that without the NDA we would not have been able to tackle the larger projects that demand concentrated community effort. When you talk about killing Lake Superior, filling in San Francisco Bay, putting neon lights on Mount Rainier, asphalting the Everglades, greasing up the Pacific Ocean—and not, please note, just the Santa Barbara Channel—you're talking about assignments that need the NDA. So, as you go out and find your way home through the smog tonight, don't ever think for a moment that you are just a disposable bottle in the garbage heap of NDA. Each and every employee is playing an important leadership role for the stupendous decade ahead."
There was more cheering and back-slapping all around. Wanda Mossway kissed Hip Gypley full on the lips, and in the excitement her cigar touched Hip's hairpiece and set it ablaze. The sparks ignited the NDA library of pornography, but an alert steno prevented the fire's spread by covering it with tinsel.
"Now here's the good news," Kinzel went on after this brief interruption. "I am pleased to announce that our NDA Citizens Council membership drive has exceeded our fondest expectations. Effective immediately, we can boast of 10 million card-tossing members."
The cheers were so lusty and prolonged that many in the NDA crowd did not hear the rest of Kinzel's announcement, to the effect that the National Defilement Association had also exceeded its original projection and had signed up 7.5 million junior enrollees for its Little Litter League program.
"All right, let's get on with the Christmas party!" Kinzel called above the happy tumult. He looked around and smiled broadly, then an expression of puzzlement slowly came over his face. He called over Margie Seltzer of promotions. "Margie," he said, "this is no time for business talk, but I must say I am disappointed in you and the whole promotions team. How could you have forgotten a Christmas tree?"
"But, Harvey," she said, "didn't you hear? There aren't any more Christmas trees. Americans cut them all down."
Bobby Wibblesman from Galloping Asphalt dropped over, frowning. "What's the matter, Bobby?" Harvey Kinzel asked.
"Just a small thing, Harv," Wibblesman said, cracking his knuckles. "It seems we won't be able to hang up the Christmas stockings at home tonight. That highway, the one going direct from Dover, Delaware to Owensboro, Kentucky—well, what do you know? It just happens that it's being routed through Bethesda and, as a matter of fact, through our family room with the fireplace. My wife just called; the bulldozers came 45 minutes ago. Gee, we had all the presents in the family room, too."
"Well, that's progress, Bobby," Kinzel said, "so don't be down-in-the-mouth. Besides, it's time for our big treat, when all us executives distribute frozen turkeys to all the employees for their Christmas dinners."
"Didn't you see the memo about that?" Margie asked.
"Well, we've made such progress with the NDA that there are no turkeys left. They all were fed grain that was poisoned by insecticides."
"There are no turkeys left?"
"Just 14, sir. The historical people took them down to that preserve in Texas where they're keeping the whooping cranes. If they all mate and everything goes well, they hope to have at least 17 by 1975."
"Turkeys, schmurkeys," said Harvey Kinzel. "The simple things are good enough for me at Christmas. I'm content just to sit around roasting chestnuts by an open fire, tra-la-la."
"We get much better results with an oil flame," Wibblesman said. "Lots of hydrocarbons, that sort of thing."
"Oh, sure," said Harv. "I was just being poetic."
"Speaking of poetic, Margie," Wibblesman said, "I thought we had some carolers lined up to serenade us outside our windows."
"Actually, Bobby, we do," Margie replied. "But you can't hear them too well through their gas masks."
"Can't blame them," Kinzel said. "The Potomac docs smell gamy tonight. Oh, well, if we can't hear the carol singing, I think I'll be going. With a head start, I ought to be able to get through before the litter from Christmas wrappings builds up too high along Massachusetts Avenue. Our kids are flying home from college, and I certainly want to be there when they get to the house."
As he turned to leave, Kinzel's phone rang, and he picked it up himself. It was Mrs. Kinzel. "Hello, dear," he said. "I was just leaving to come home and meet the children.... I see.... Yes.... Is that so...? Well, nothing is ever quite the same, not even Christmases. You know progress." He hung up. "What is it, sir?" asked Wibblesman.
"Oh, nothing really," Kinzel said. "Seems like the kids won't be able to get home for Christmas. A funny weather situation has developed. The smog belt is covering virtually the whole country, and nothing can land anyplace but Great Falls, Montana. All planes presently in the air are being rerouted there. After that nobody'll be able to fly tonight. Except that Bob Hope is being flown back from Vietnam to entertain all the citizens who end up in Great Falls. It's going to be great for the kids to see Jerry Colonna and Miss World and Les Brown and his Band of Renown."
"Nothing—uh, nobody—can fly on Christmas Eve?" asked Wibblesman.
"No," said Kinzel. "Nobody."