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 to 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 went into our home office, opened the top draw of my desk and pulled out from the back a can of pepper mace and a telescoping baton. Wish I had a stun gun or a taser but these would have to do.
I headed back down the hallway 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.
I came towards Jimmy from the side, the mace can in my left hand and the folded baton in my right.
“You ought to see this.”
He turned away from his cabinet looting to look in my direction and as he did I unleashed the full can of mace in his face. (I shot a stream in his wife’s direction too just to clear her from the scene.)
“You asshole! You fucking asshole!” he yelled as he recoiled from the gas, writhing and moaning like a beached walrus on the kitchen floor.
I dropped the now empty mace can and opened the baton with a flick on my wrist. I knew what was coming.
He finally got up. Through his hazy view he saw me and lunged.
I was prepared. He didn’t see the baton in my hand.
He shifted my weight and went right passed me. Fat ass can’t corner for beans.
As he passed I brought the baton down squarely on his knee. He crumpled to the ground and I gave another whack to his shoulder and fore arm. He was in deep pain.
I stood over him, baton raised if tried anything again.
“You bastard! You come into my house as an invited guest, eat my food, and all the while your plan is to take food from my family? Don’t deny it! You have big balls!”
By now his wife and kids had come to his side. I kept a safe distance just in case.
“Now get your fat ass off my floor and out of my house!”
His wife helped him up. He was limping badly as he hobbled to the door.
“Hey. Take this one.” As I pointed to the closest looted food bag. “And don’t ever let me see your face anywhere near my children or home ever again!” They took the bag and slammed the door behind them without saying a word. Just as well.
What seemed like an eternity later I heard their car start and saw the headlights as they pulled away from the house.
Your mother, Aunt Donna and Uncle Frank by now had come to the door as well.
I turned to face them. This wouldn’t be good.
Your Aunt Donna spoke first, “I can’t believe my brother is such an asshole! I’m so sorry for all this.” She turned to your mother and said she’ll call her later. Frank just stood there looking sullen in his worried/contemplative way. I’m sure, I think, he wasn’t mad at me.
After they left your mother went right to work cleaning up. By now you and your sister were fast asleep in the den. Just as well. We let you sleep there all night.
I went to the bathroom to wash off any mace residue that might have gotten on me hands then changed into a fresh T‑shirt and sweat pants. Then went back to the kitchen. Your mother was putting 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. I had to say something.
“I couldn’t just sit there and let them raid our pantry. I’m sorry.”
She went about her task putting away and just said “You did what you felt you had to do.” I took that as her unhappy acceptance of what happened. So be it. With all we have been through the last several months I had hoped for more but this was all I was going to get.
“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. It helped me sleep a bit better that night.
All the next day I expected police at the door. But no one came. In the days that followed I expected a process server everywhere I went carrying papers for the law suit Jimmy was going to slap on me. That didn’t happen either much to my surprise. Even just for the medical bills for his injures. Nothing. 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.