Note: The fol­low­ing is the fifth install­ment of a series that rep­re­sents a first-hand chron­i­cle of a fic­tion­al eco­nom­ic col­lapse in the Unit­ed States. This series is to be viewed as only one pos­si­ble sce­nario.


April 2 – 165 days after Black Swan Day

My Dear­est Chil­dren -

Spring has sprung. Unfor­tu­nate­ly the warmer weath­er and brighter skies can’t warm the sink­ing feel­ings I keep hav­ing as I look around. Just seems like more and more stores along the main roads are clos­ing and not being tak­en over for new busi­ness­es. Those busi­ness­es stay­ing are either rais­ing prices almost every day, cut­ting back selec­tion or ser­vice, or putting all sorts of odd rules and poli­cies in place. Or some com­bi­na­tion of these.

Take the local bank branch­es for exam­ple. Months ago the banks imple­ment­ed new low­er dai­ly ATM with­draw­al lim­its. Now they lim­it­ed teller with­drawals too and you no longer have a choice as to what kind of denom­i­na­tions your with­draw­al is giv­en. You take what they want to give you. So if I take out $100 I may get one $100 bill or two $50’s or five $20’s etc or some com­bi­na­tion there­of.  And now there are two secu­ri­ty guards at the entrance that only allow a lim­it­ed num­ber of bank cus­tomers in the build­ing at a time! Even if it’s rain­ing you have to wait in line out­side the bank until some­one comes out before anoth­er cus­tomer can go in. know these aren’t the fault of the local branch employ­ees. It’s man­dat­ed by the home office. But still.

And I was in a local hard­ware store recent­ly. One of the employ­ees shad­owed me all time I was in there! I know the sto­ries I’ve heard about shoplift­ing and “flash mobs” so I can’t blame them too much for sus­pect­ing every­one these days of hav­ing less than hon­or­able inten­tions.

Add to that the MSNBC and CNN have been run­ning “inves­tiga­tive reports” about what they are call­ing “food hoard­ers”. They show peo­ple com­ing out of BJ’s or Cost­co with a cart full of cas­es of canned veg­eta­bles, cas­es of water, 30 pound bags of rice and sug­ar and so on – all the bulk items you go to a place like BJs and Cost­co for. But instead law abid­ing cus­tomers are being ambushed, asked “Why do you need all this food?” Inevitably many peo­ple are say­ing they want some extra at home. And thus “food hoard­ing” is being blamed for rationing and high­er prices else­where. This isn’t the Amer­i­ca I grew up in where every­one is a sus­pect just for hav­ing a lit­tle food at home. They stop just short of blam­ing peo­ple who can afford to buy larg­er quan­ti­ties of food for oth­ers who can’t afford it or don’t have access to such bulk. But the impli­ca­tion is clear­ly there. Worse still, some in Con­gress, the usu­al peo­ple, are call­ing for inves­ti­ga­tions into price fix­ing and “unfair sell­ing prac­tices” that include bulk pur­chas­es to some cus­tomers being unfair! I have anoth­er bad feel­ing about all this. “Food Police” can’t be too far off. Nev­er in my life would I have thought this before.

We’re still doing the pot luck din­ners and more peo­ple want to join. Prob­lem is once they get so big it becomes expen­sive again even for one dish. Have to man­age that care­ful­ly. As it is the dish­es are look­ing more Spar­tan with each pass­ing week. Our resources can’t last for­ev­er but at least we have some for now.

But the worst part was made all too real to your moth­er and me this past week­end. Any oth­er time it might have been someone’s idea of a late and bad April Fools joke for some real­i­ty TV show. But this was no joke.

We had gone to the local Wal­baums for our week­ly food shop­ping as usu­al. Thank G‑d you girls were spend­ing the day with your Aunt Don­na and her kids!

We had just come out of the store and were in the park­ing lot load­ing our bags – a King’s ran­som worth of food at today’s prices! – into my SUV. I’m also glad we took mine that day for the size and mass even though your moth­er doesn’t like to ride in it. But I knew we’d be load­ing up as much as we can and mine has bet­ter car­go space.

As we were just about fin­ished load­ing I heard the screech­ing of car tires from some­where behind us. I didn’t both­er look­ing as I fig­ured it was some idiot burn­ing rub­ber to show off. But then I heard a scream that wasn’t the fun-child­ish scream kids and young peo­ple (usu­al­ly girls) make when they’re hors­ing around with friends. This scream was pan­ic and ter­ror. Then anoth­er scream and anoth­er.

I turned to see peo­ple run­ning as fast as they could. Some push­ing shop­ping carts full of bags, oth­ers just run­ning. There was a large black pick­up truck and sev­er­al  small­er cars parked at the curb in front of the supermarket’s two main entrances. Jump­ing out of the truck and cars were about 15 or so young men I’d say in their ear­ly 20’s in jeans and black t‑shirts, some with black base­ball style caps on, oth­ers with Do Rags, but all with some kind of ban­dana cov­er­ing most of their faces. They were all hold­ing base­ball bats or tire irons or some­thing long and club-like in one hand while run­ning up to peo­ple with carts and grab­bing bags out of their carts!

Ban­dits! A food ambush! Right in my own town! Almost lit­er­al­ly in my own back­yard!!

It was com­plete­ly sur­re­al. But all too real.

Events moved very quick­ly as does hap­pen dur­ing such moments.

I saw one shop­per, a fair­ly large mid­dle aged man, take a swing at one of this ban­dits as he tried to take a bag from his cart. The shop­per missed and the ban­dit wacked him hard over the back of his neck and shoul­der with a base­ball bat. The man when down like a wet sack of cloth­ing.

Anoth­er band it I saw didn’t even both­er grab­bing a sin­gle bag. Instead this fine young man ran up to a woman who looked in her late 30’s, shoved her hard to the ground and grabbed her entire cart run­ning it back to one of the wait­ing cars. At least he didn’t hit her with the met­al rod he was car­ry­ing.

I yelled for your moth­er to get into the car fast! She didn’t argue.

I start­ed the car and pulled straight out of the park­ing spot. Unfor­tu­nate­ly this park­ing lot is a one-way-in/same-way-out lot. So I put down the gas and head­ed straight to the exit pray­ing the ban­dits hadn’t blocked it off. But the dri­ve path to the exit is right along the curb to the super­mar­ket – right smack down the mid­dle of the war zone! I thought I might be able to hop over the curb into the street but most of the curb in the lot was blocked with parked cars and the few open­ings didn’t give me a good enough run to get the speed I need­ed to go up and over. I had no choice but to run for the main exit.

By now it was a total free-for-all in the park­ing lot with young masked men grab­bing bags of food and beat­ing any­one even put up an arm in futile defense. The store rent-a-cops didn’t even both­er com­ing out. I don’t blame them real­ly. What could they do?

As we approached the black pick­up truck on the way to the exit I saw one of the ban­dits, a rather large and mus­cu­lar guy, turn around and look right at us. He was hold­ing a big wood bat in his right hand and his arm was com­ing up.

Police offi­cers report that in a life and death sit­u­a­tion they often see clear­ly the eyes of their attack­er even from great dis­tances away. I expe­ri­enced the same thing. Even through the wind­shield I saw the bandit’s blue eyes like lasers look­ing right into mine. His eyes didn’t show fear. They showed con­fi­dence, even an albeit per­verse right­eous­ness with what he was doing. And they telegraphed his inten­tions: He was going to hit that wood bat into my truck as we went by.

I yelled out to your moth­er “Hold on!”

As we approached the ban­dit I cut the wheels hard to the side – towards him!

The front driver’s side bumper made con­tact at knee lev­el with his left leg. It wasn’t a crack or slam noise. More a soft “thud”. He spun in mid air and came down on the hood, then rolled off the driver’s side front fend­er and along the door. In the rear mir­ror I caught a glance of his body mak­ing a cou­ple of rolls along the pave­ment to a stop. I’m sure the impact shat­tered his leg, prob­a­bly his pelvis too, at a min­i­mum.

I kept going and accel­er­at­ing out of there.

Either by the grace of Heav­en or dumb luck the traf­fic light at the exit was green in our favor and I accel­er­at­ed across the inter­sec­tion to the next block. There I zoomed through the red light and the next and the next, not even think­ing of any oth­er cars com­ing the cross way. I just had to get us out of the area.

Final­ly your moth­er just said “Slow it down a bit”. That brought back some more ana­lyt­i­cal think­ing. I made a few more turns and pulled into our garage. We grabbed the bags with the per­ish­able items, closed the garage and went in the back door. (The non-per­ish­able items could wait until lat­er.)

I guess shock final­ly wore off and we just hugged tight­ly there in the kitchen for what seemed like an hour. Your moth­er didn’t say any­thing. Final­ly I said “Are you ok?” I’m sure she was phys­i­cal­ly alright but I didn’t know what her reac­tion to my actions would be. I’m sure she sup­port­ed what I did – what I felt I had to do for our safe­ty – but need­ed to know. She just said “I’m fine”.

We wait­ed a while to see what might hap­pen in the area. Even­tu­al­ly, more than an hour lat­er, we heard sirens that sound­ed like police. Lat­er when we went out to pick you girls up from your Aunt’s (we took your mother’s car) the road leads past the super­mar­ket and we saw two police cars and two ambu­lances in the lot.

We didn’t stop.

As we pulled into your Aunt’s dri­ve­way I just said “Let’s not dis­cuss this with them.” She said “Of course not.”

That night I unloaded the rest of the items from my truck and as relieved to see only a small crack in the front bumper. Eas­i­ly patched from behind and a bit of touch up paint would make it almost unno­tice­able.

There was noth­ing on the local news that night. Just as well. I didn’t sleep, expect­ing a knock on the door at any­time. Noth­ing in the news paper the next day either. Not even a Police Blot­ter entry in the week­ly local gazette.

That start­ed me won­der­ing: This can’t be the first attack like this. So how many oth­er attacks like this are hap­pen­ing around the area, around the state – around the coun­try! – that are not being report­ed? And why not? Who is mak­ing the deci­sion not to report them?

Oh Lord! Are things real­ly so bad that news like this is being sup­pressed? Pret­ty hard to keep wide spread open rob­bery and assault like this a secret for long. But if it isn’t in print than it isn’t news.

Heav­en help us all.

Bless my chil­dren.

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