Note: The following is the sixth 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. Contains explicit language.
May 2 – 195 days after Black Swan Day
My Dearest Children -
April showers might bring May flowers. But it also brings dark skies.
Things aren’t developing well. Unemployment is 12.4% officially with the U6 near 30% although the official word from the White House is the U6 doesn’t really count. Never has. Oh really? Sounds like spin to me. Everyone knows at least a dozen people laid off or about to be. Our jobs remain secure as far as we know, though it’s likely my employer will close our building and re-locate us to the other building nearby. They’ve been trying to sell this building for a long time and no-go. But at least closed they don’t have to pay utilities. At least I still keep my job.
Gold is now almost at $7000/ounce and silver is pushing $80/ounce. Pundits on MSNBC ask how high can it go and the general consensus is that as long as American unemployment keeps rising the sky is the limit. The Federal Reserve keeps pumping money into the markets and it makes no difference. No one is buying the Treasury bonds at the auctions. More than 85% of the Treasury bonds are being bought at auction by the Fed or by Primary Dealers using Fed loaned money at zero-percent.
Almost every day there are demonstrations in Washington or by city and state capitals demanding more unemployment benefits (already at nearly 2 years!), jobs training, food stamps, and so on. Normally I’d say if they put as much effort into looking for work as they do protesting they’d find jobs. But there just aren’t any to find. Even McDonald’s isn’t hiring much these days. For the most part these demonstrations are peaceful. Just a lot of shouting. But there is a lot of police presence. I can see it getting ugly quickly.
I’m concerned about electricity this summer. Last year we barely were able to afford the electricity for the central A/C. And that was keeping it at just 75 degrees! We had that ceiling fan put in the den over the winter so it will help. But still will be hard. May need to go on the payment plan. We pay more in the winter but less in the summer to even things out. I wish solar was cheaper but I can’t afford $50,000 for a solar system even if we get all the credits and I don’t think we qualify for all anyway.
The food rationing at the supermarkets isn’t showing any signs of letting up. It’s feeling more and more surreal-banana republic like where people spend more and more of their time finding their next meal. Is this what 21st century America has come down to? And not everyone has the time or the cash to find that food. There have been a few more reports of “shop lifting” in the news. But no word of mobs or bandit attacks. I can’t believe last month as an isolated incident. Either by lack of money or it’s just easier, people don’t starve quietly.
The pot luck dinners were working out well even with the occasional added people. As long as everyone keeps up their commitment it should keep going for a while. I say “were” for a specific reason. Life only seems to go from bad to worse without warning these days. And worse it was.
I’m putting this to paper now while it’s still fresh in my mind as both a historical account as well as a lesson.
It was decided the latest pot luck dinner was going be held at our house. It was just going to be us and your Aunt Donna and Uncle Frank and the kids. At the last moment Donna asked if she can bring her brother Jimmy and his family (wife and 2 kids). I really never liked Jimmy. Always found him a blow-hard and not trustworthy at all as far as I could throw his fat beached whale ass. He’s stabbed your Aunt Donna and Uncle Frank in the back more than once. But I guess blood is thicker than water so they get over it. Maybe not this time though.
We had them over to the house for dinner and it went pretty well. They ate hardily. Your mother always sees any occasion when people come over as a time to go overboard even though I told her to keep it low key this time.
Jimmy lost his job as a teaching assistant this winter as the county cut back on teachers and his wife isn’t sure if her teaching job will be lasting much longer either. So they get the sympathy vote and I kept my tongue in close guard all night. As long as he isn’t trying to best you he’s tolerable company.
So dinner was done and we were sitting the den making chat. The topic of the economy and world events came up as it inevitable does these days. The group was chatting about how hard it is to make ends even come close to meeting these days and Jimmy said it’s even harder quote “…when people are hoarding food from those who really need it.” I couldn’t let that one pass.
Trying not to tip my hand at our preps I replied that I suppose some people don’t know when they will next find food they want or even at a decent quality so they stock up as much as they can when they do. Jimmy said their greed hurts everyone to which I said that it isn’t greedy to watch out for one’s family. And I pointed out the supermarkets are already rationing food with the customer cards.
Jimmy launched into a tirade about it wasn’t enough since some people started hoarding food years ago and that caused all the problems we have now. I usually enjoy it when someone makes such an ass of themselves but this was hitting too close to home. But I kept my composure and made a mental note to never again have them over for any dinner or event.
But Jimmy wouldn’t let it go. He began to question where we got the food for our part of the pot luck dinner. I just said it was odds and ends your mother has around. Everyone knows how creative your mother can be with minimal ingredients. A real “Chopped Champion”.
Then Jimmy said “Well let’s see what other odds and ends you have!” He got up and headed into our kitchen right for the pantry cabinet! Fortunately it’s just the kitchen pantry, not my main prepping stock. He wouldn’t find it easily even if he looked all night. But it was still our food in our kitchen! The stacks of canned vegetables and fruits, canned soups, tuna fish and salmon, pasta and jars of sauce, and so on.
“Look at this! It’s a G‑d damn party in here!”
“Stay out of my cabinets!” I called out and started to get up.
“My family is starving and you have a fucking supermarket in here! Barbara,” that’s his wife, “bring the bags!”
Then it hit me: We were set up! Jimmy set us up for a raid! It all made sense. That’s why he, his wife, and the two kids all brought heavy cloth bags – those ‘Go Green’ style store bags – with them even though the food dishes they brought were certainly small enough to carry by hand. The dishes were just a cover for carrying the bags, to be used to loot our kitchen once they got in and saw the quality of the meal we had prepared!
I don’t blame your Aunt Donna and Uncle Frank. I’m sure they had no idea what that fat bastard was planning. And it was a family plan too. At Jimmy’s call his wife and two kids brought the bags and they all began loading my family’s food into them.
I was heading to the doorway when your mother said “Don’t do…” I cut her off.
“They are taking food from our children! Say something now or I will stop it myself.”
I heard your mother and Aunt Donna try to say something in appeal to Jimmy and family but I was already heading down the hall. No words were going to stop them. This was their plan from the moment they invited themselves to dinner.
I opened the bedroom closet and keyed in the safe’s open code. Opening the door, reached in and took out the pistol on the top shelf. A moment later the trigger lock was off and I was inserting the loaded magazine I keep at the back of the shelf: Five rounds of Hydras-Shok hollow points followed by five rounds of PMC ball.
I charged the bolt and engaged the safety.
I stood there for a moment. Gun in hand. Contemplating.
I knew that once I stepped out of that room a line would be crossed from which there was no going back. But what could I do? Let them take the food? Sure we had more but every little bit is needed. His desperation to plan and execute all this is proof of that. And what about the next time? They won’t try the sneaky way again so now they come over demanding food? — Then what? If they are desperate enough to do this now then Heaven only knows what they might be willing do next time!
No. I didn’t want to do this. I had to do this.
I headed back down the hallway with the gun in my hand at my side, towards where food was quite literally being taken from my children’s mouths.
The fat bastard and his bitch were like kids in my candy store taking cans and boxes and stuffing them into their bags like some kind of looting Santa Claus couple. Real good example for the children too.
I stopped a few paces away, braced myself against the wall, and took a tactical stance aiming at his upper chest.
“Jimmy! Step away from the cabinets NOW!”
He turned towards the sound of my voice now giving me a clear view of his front. I could tell he was stunned for a moment by the appearance of me with a gun almost literally in his face.
Calmly but with as much determination as I could muster I said “Step away from the cabinets NOW or I’ll put you down right here in front of your wife and kids!”
Without giving him a moment to respond my thumb flipped off the safety. The ‘click’ seemed to echo through the now silent house.
All were stunned as I had hoped the reaction would be. Your mother knows I keep guns. She’s not an anti-gunner, just isn’t thrilled with it for safety reasons around children. But your Aunt and Uncle didn’t know until that moment and certain Jimmy and family wouldn’t have any reason to known.
“You won’t shoot me” Jimmy said.
He had called my bluff. And that’s the problem with employing a firearm for defense. If you take out a gun to defend yourself you have to be prepared to shoot. It may not be necessary but you have to be ready for that if deterrence doesn’t work (otherwise don’t take it out). And it looks like it didn’t.
I pulled back my arm until the gun was pointed straight up at the ceiling — and fired.
The sound was deafening as it echoed off the close walls of a private house. The ‘clang’ of the ejected bullet case bouncing along the hardwood floor stood out from the ringing in my ears as the bitter smell of gun powder quickly enveloped the house.
I heard Donna gasp “Oh my G‑d!”
I took aim again at Jimmy.
“Now get your family out of my house and don’t ever let me see you anywhere near my family again!”
He turned to his wife, said something low I didn’t get, and they and their kids headed towards the door. My aim followed him all the way.
“Hey. Take this one” as I nodded in the direction of the closest looted food bag. They took the bag and slammed the door behind them without saying a word. Just as well.
I stood there still aiming at the door for what seemed like an eternity until I heard their car start and saw the headlights as they pulled away from the house.
The house was silent now.
I relaxed my arms and grip a bit, and found myself crumbling to me knees. Tears began to fall and in a moment I was sobbing like a school boy. Not sadness, not anger, not even fear. No emotion at all. Just tears. I don’t know why I was crying but I was. I let go of the gun to lay it on the floor next to me.
Your mother, Donna and Frank by now had come to the door as well. I couldn’t face them now. This wasn’t going to be good.
Donna spoke first. She turned to your mother and said she’ll call her later. Frank didn’t say anything, just put his hand on my shoulder and gave a firm squeeze. I appreciated the gesture of support.
After they left your mother knelt down and hugged me. I was still sobbing.
“I’m sorry” I managed to get out. She didn’t respond.
She finally released me, looked down at the gun and said calmly “Put that away.” I nodded in agreement and took it back to the safe where it was unloaded, re-trigger locked and put back into the safe. It would need to be cleaned too but not now.
I went to the bathroom to wash off any gunpowder residue and put some water on my face. I could barely look myself in the mirror.
When I went back to the kitchen your mother had already put back the cans and items Jimmy’s gang had loaded into the bags. I stood there a moment. She didn’t look angry but with your mother looks can be deceiving so it’s hard to say. I stood there saying nothing.
“You put a hole in my roof Mister” she said with a smirk. “Better hope it doesn’t rain tonight.”
“I’ll call Albert” – our contractor – “in the morning.” He knows we pay in cash. He won’t ask questions.
“Let’s put the girls to bed and sleep ourselves.”
“Say something nice about me at the trial?” I said with a smile.
“Do I have to?” she said with a smile back at me.
“You’re my wife.”
I felt a little better. But I still didn’t get any sleep that night. Every car that passed by I thought was the police either called by Jimmy or a neighbor that heard the shot. But no one came that night. Or the next day. Or the next. I’m not complaining.
That was the last time we saw Jimmy and his family. Even your Aunt and Uncle stopped speaking to them after that. Don’t know how they explained it to their kids (which I was glad there weren’t there that night).
So that’s that I suppose.
It’s a brave new world now. But you girls are the center of my world. I would do the same again to protect you. I love you so much.