The Day the Dollar Died (Part IX)
IX. There’s Two “T’s” in Ottumwa
Filed under: The Day The Dollar Died Series
by John Galt
December 23, 2009
Again, the following section is FICTION……
February 24, 2010 5:30 A.M. Central Time
The incessant knocking on the door was enough to wake the dead. The pistol in his pocket was cold, almost like a block of ice and knowing that he only had six shots to defend himself did not comfort him as the neighborhood was rough and the beliefs he held have been shaken by the events of the past three days. Pastor Lewis crept to the door of the old church and yelled in English then Spanish “Who’s there, what do you want?” The Second Baptist Unity Church in De Witt, Arkansas was a relatively new endeavor, open only for six months now to serve the poor and foreign in this land of migrant and poor black workers but the good Pastor found out first hand the evil that lurked just twenty-four hours before when thieves broke into the food bank stripping it clean of every can and bag of food while he was out at the hospital ministering to the downtrodden. He thought not only about his survival but of those he was attempting to help as the door banged again louder than before and again he yelled back the same question to the potential intruders.
“Father, Father, Pastor, Oh Dear God, please help us. We beg you, please let us in” the voices cried in both English and Spanish. Pastor Lewis took a deep sigh, deep breath and then slowly opened the door, his hand on the pistol ready to spring to action if God willed it. As he was about to speak, about three kids, aged around four to six years old came running in, shivering as if they had been exposed to the extreme cold of the evening. A mother walked in crying in Spanish with a very young infant, crying into her bosom, followed by a family of four from De Witt that the good Pastor recognized immediately. “Doc Wilson, what brings you in here this time of night?” the Pastor asked. “Sir, I beg you for asylum. This family came to my door begging for medical attention. Before I could say a word the ICE gang showed up threatening to throw my entire family into jail for doing my job. The infant has a mild case of exposure and the other children will be sick soon if they do not get some food and a warm place to sleep. It is as if the Federal authorities are targeting us. I’ve done nothing but now they have seized so much of our personal belongings,” the Doctor paused, exhausted after running and almost in tears, “uh, they came for us.” He continued, “I know that I was a vocal opponent to the government but this family showed up then all hell broke loose. We tried to help them being good Christians but it was as if we were set up. The started taking our food, our belongings, almost as if we were being robbed. We saw a chance and grabbed this poor family and started to run. Please help us Father.”
February 24, 2010 6:10 P.M. Eastern Time
The roads were going from bad to worse. Sandy started to talk softly, almost terrified, “Mama,” her favorite way to talk and write to her, “I’m getting scared. The roads are icing up fast and it is so dark. Do you think Tom is up waiting on us?” Lillian understood the fear as the sleet started to bounce off the road and hood of the car harder and harder as was so typical of those darkened February nights in North Georgia, “Sandy my dear, if you keep your focus on the road, I’ll worry for both of us. If you don’t mind I’m lighting up a Camel.” With that brief comment that Lillian knew would upset her daughter, she grabbed one of those short unfiltered smokes from her purse, cracked the window which allowed a brief burst of cold air into the car and her trusty old Ronson her late beloved had left her to fire up the coal. The sweet smell of tobacco permeated into the Sierra which caused Sandy to cough and speak loudly to her mother “Mom! Why now? I need to stay focused!” Lillian hacked and laughed while trying to speak “See” coughing away, “You paid attention to more than just the road. Now get our butts home while I enjoy some of the stash I’ve put away for years. This cig is about three years old and I’ll be damned if I put it out to please your poltically correct tail. Now listen to your mother, focus and get us to your home!”
Sandy could do nothing but crack her window and smile. “Mom, I love you” she uttered and turned up the CD playing a live version of Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away” while her mother nursed what might well be a moment of luxury many others might envy soon. The old street looked spooky as she turned into the neighborhood with the power out, something she was not shocked to see. “Mama, I’m sorry we took so long to come get you. I figured you needed our help and now it looks like we needed yours” Sandy said with a deep sigh, slowing down to less than ten miles per hour, praying in her mind that the truck wouldn’t slip off the road. “Sandy my dear, it is more like I’m here to teach you, now don’t punch the gas as we drive through this crap. I want to get there in one piece” her mother replied. Sandy smiled slightly until the mailbox she knew came into view but as she pulled into the driveway, her moment of happiness turned into trepidation. “Mama, something’s wrong” Sandy whispered. The picture window had a huge crack in it, like something was shot into the house and all of the lights were out as if her husband Tom had left for good. Lillian reached into her purse as Sandy said “Let me check the door, Mama” and before Lillian could tell her to wait, she was out of the car onto the icy sidewalk, creeping towards the front door.
Lillian kept her hand in her purse as her daughter opened the front door, praying at the same time she would not have to act on one hand and hoping that everything was normal at Sandy’s homestead. As Sandy opened the front door she hesitated and yelled out “Tom, Tom, are you home?” As Sandy almost screamed on cue, a flashlight beam hit her in the face and a distorted voice yelled out “Hawney, bawbwee, is that you?” Sandy’s relief and fear quickly turned into anger as she slammed the door and started to scream, forgetting her mother was in the SUV running in the driveway, “You stupid idiot! You are not drunk! No way! I warned you about this! I warned you to never drink again! I warned you to never fall! Why! Why! Why! We need you now more than ever and as the man of the house all you could think about,” she paused, crying, screaming, weeping into her jacket sleeve, “How dare you! The world is falling apart and we need you now and you’ve lost your mind. Tom, my God, we need you more than ever and you go out and trade toilet paper and leave me and Mama alone by getting drunk! Damn you!”
Tom stumbled, almost crying now, “Honey, I’m so sorry, I mean it” he bumbled and blurted out. “I thought you were dead because you never called. Please forgive me baby, I’m an idiot, I know, I know, I know….” as he spoke he stumbled and fell to her knees, as if almost to beg for forgiveness and Sandy was staring straight up at the dark ceiling as if to punish him. Sandy had to hold back her laughter as her mother entered into the house and put the Camel out on Tom’s sobbing head then tapped him on the forehead with a cold piece of metal. “Mom! Please don’t shoot me!” the drunkard screamed out loud. “Get on your feet boy!” Lillian said as she chuckled pointing to her key chain flashlight and throwing the butt of her smoke outside. “If that didn’t’ wake your pathetic tail up, I don’t’ know what will. You need to grow up mister and tonight will be that night, that much I can assure you of SIR!” Lillian said in that authoritative voice that only a grandmother can speak in. “Yes Ma’am” was all Tom could say as he scooped some sleet up off the front stoop to ice down his welt the smoke left on top of his head. Sandy felt relieved now. Someone would finally be in charge during this confusing period and they might just get through this.
Or so they thought.
February 25, 2010 4:00 A.M. Central Time
Mike was stooped over in the truck, trying to act discreet as he flipped the cylinder of the pistol back into the body after confirming, as if to set his mind at ease, that the gun was still quite loaded. “Beep, beep, beep, Truck 1024, back your unit up to door 18″ and with that Mike had a tough choice to make. Should he break for the gates and gamble they did not know how to shoot straight or risk his life for a load of frozen pigs? Mike thought deeply about this for a minute as an owner operator he was responsible for the load but on the flip side he figured “What will they do, sue me in a kangaroo court?” He looked a the picture on his dash with a young, dashing soldier and his girlfriend now wife of the time when the picture was taken in 1972. Glancing down at his arm and remembering the tattoo he received in Saigon in 1971 which said “Home Alive in 75″ he snickered thinking about the time on the beach during the Mayaguez, a now distant memory in American history.
“Backing in now” he replied. “No sense in dying for danged dead pigs when I didn’t die for danged sailors” he whispered under his breath. Mike slipped his pistol into the map pocket of his driver’s side door, acting cool as he slipped the gears into reverse, backing the truck into the door that he was assigned. Mike’s gloves seemed a wee bit sweatier as he slid them on and hopped out of the truck, taking the time to deliberately button the face cover on his parka to cover everything but his eyes in the minus fifteen or so temperatures. “Unit 1024!” the voice yelled, “what the hell are you doing?” Mike paused, put his hands in his door pocket to fumble for the pistol and he looked up and yelled back “I’m opening my damned doors, what do you think?” Mike stopped in his tracks as he noticed the two men on the dock with their AR-15’s and the supervisor yelled back “Get back in your cab, we’ll get them. Back it to the dock when we yell it’s clear.” Mike bent over as to nod and meandered back to his truck trudging slowly through the fresh layer of snow.
“BOOM!” as he hit the docks and now it was only a matter of time before he was empty he thought. Then he realized something important; he never gave anyone his bills. As the guard walked up to his door, Mike wondered what to do now. He slowly opened the door as the guard pulled the rifle down in the ready position as if Mike were an imminent threat. “Hey, guard!” Mike yelled, “I still have the bills here!” The guard nodded, took his finger off of the trigger guard and motioned Mike to come forward. “Sorry about that sir” he said to Mike, “It is so cold, I’m losing my mind. They’ll check it in later. FEMA has us rushing this stuff.” Mike decided that this guy was the one to chat with and decided to strike up a conversation as the guard initialed the bills, “How long have you been with Blackwater?” Mike asked.
“Sir, I’ve been with Xe about three months now, since my return from theater in Iraq. We haven’t been called by that name in ages. Where did you get the idea we were still affiliated with that old name?” the twenty something with the itchy fingers asked nervously. “I was wondering, one guard flashed an old Blackwater ID at me on the way here, I was wondering what was up. I haven’t met any ex-service types in the past five years since I started driving for this company” Mike replied trying to act smoothly in the teeth chattering cold. “I totally understand. Where did you serve sir, if I may ask?” the young guard asked respectfully. “Nam, Nam, Nam, Cambodia, Korea and Iran” Mike replied with an authoritative voice. “I was in the air over the turds when Carter recalled us. Be thankful you’ve never had to go through something like that” and with that response Mike looked down at the snow, almost ashamed. “Sir, we respect those who serve, not always those who lead” the young security guard said. After that statement he motioned Mike back into the cab and yelled as he walked towards the dock “You’re empty sir, and thanks for helping us out!” Mike nodded, pulled out and heard the doors slam on his trailer when the CB crackled “Proceed to Gate Four at the Southeast corner to exit.” Mike confirmed on the radio and followed another truck to the guard shack. There a guard held up a stop sign and wanted to speak to him so Mike rolled his window down.
“Here ya go!” the guard yelled and passed a manila envelope through to Mike. Mike opened it quickly to see the five twenty dollar bills and thanked the guard then pulled out to head up the road to the truck stop nearby off I-94. He had plenty of fuel to get home but to be prudent for the future, this was the time to use the FDOT money he just received and top the tanks off. Mike noticed what appeared to be Blackwater style guards at the entrance to the truck stop and as he pulled up them one just waived him on through as he was expected. He hopped out of the cab, walked up to the cashier’s window and pressed the button “One-hundred bucks on pump seventeen please” as he pulled the money out of the envelope and showed the money to the clerk so as to confirm he was not lying before putting it into the drawer. “Confirmed, one hundred on seventeen sir” she replied.
Mike trudged back to the truck and yelled as the flatbed truck in front of him, “Strange days, eh what man?” The other driver waved his hands in an almost salute type of motion and yelled back with a Long Island obscenity and the words “More than that! The government is topping my tank off! Can you believe these Blackwater guys!” Mike nodded and as the diesel smell filled the air, Mike watched as digit after digit flipped, the gallons slowly adding to his tank when it hit him like a baseball bat upside the head:
“Oh my God, there’s two T’s in Ottumwa! I just gave my load away!”
February 25, 00:10 UTC
It was too late to go home now. Here was the clock flipping over at ten minutes after midnight “GMT” as old man Lewis had it labeled and here I was glued to the radio like a child watching cartoons. The martial music we had heard an hour earlier was indeed that, but from Venezuela as they reactivated their shortwave network I had discovered courtesy of Fidel and the boys. Though my fears were somewhat calmed down about hearing that from the United States he warned me that if he could find an active AFRTS station, we might well indeed hear military music and more.
Suddenly he said “John, stop whatever you are saying and listen to this!”
“This is Radio Deutsche Welle with a world wide business news update at twelve after midnight UTC. The German Chancellor has announced that following the lead of the Australian Prime Minister, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai Markets and Thailand that the German equity, commodity and bond markets will indeed open for two hours of trading at eleven o’clock in the morning CET. This unprecedented action is to provide an opportunity for equity, bond and commodity traders an attempt to assign price valuations to their holdings in response to the apparent long term freeze in markets in the United Kingdom and United States. The maximum variation in trading prices will be twenty percent to the upside or downside and all holdings from overseas companies not open to trading in their domestic markets will remain frozen until further notice. Commodities and currency trading will be limited to cooperating markets that are not denominated in British Pound Sterling or the United States Dollar.”
I immediately piped up and said “Mr. Lewis, is there any other nations with business news in English we can follow?” He harrumphed and said “just a second” as he fumbled through some old radio magazines and clicked on his laptop for a program guide that apparently the crazy old man saved on his hard drive. Just as I was saying “Why do you have the computer on when the internet is down…” he cut me off and said, “Here we go and don’t question me again or I’ll send you home to the wolves. I download every schedule I can just for events like this because face it, our government wouldn’t want us to know what is going on.” I nodded contritely in agreement and watched as the he punched a new frequency into the radio.
It was almost like magic as the voice appeared but this time, it was not a voice I wanted to hear. The overseas service of Radio Japa was on, or the old NHK as my late dad used to call it, and it was a very unhappy sounding soul speaking on to the radio this evening.
“The Japanese Government views the actions of the United States and participating members of the Commonwealth of the United Kingdom as in fact a de facto default on obligations and as such is demanding payment in full with the valuation of the dollar being placed at the closing price ten days previous to Thursday Morning, February 25th, 2010. The Japanese government warns that if some arrangements are not made to insure payment in full upon these terms within seventy-two hours, all United States properties and possessions on Japanese Imperial territory will be seized without exception.”
Mr. Lewis fell back into his chair and before I could speak shushed me again. He turned up the radio to listen to a Japanese financial expert describe that a failure by the U.S. to make good on these obligations would lead to a crash of their nation and for them, forcing them into a new alliance with the Chinese government to force or create a settlement program for the money we owed them. After he stated that the Japanese Yen would trade on par with the U.S. Dollar if it were allowed to float, I sunk into the chair Mr. Lewis provided, sipping on that ice cold beer he had provided at the top of the hour. “My God, ” he started, “Do you realize what this means? We’re bankrupt. We’re toast. We can never be free as we knew it again! We are now the slaves of Asia!” and then Mr. Lewis started to mumble about Southeast Asia, betrayal and other such things while I stared blankly at a radio speaker with beer slowly leaking on my Reeboks.
I looked over at Mr. Lewis almost panic stricken and said “I’ve got to get home. I can’t leave my wife alone through all this.” Mr. Lewis, being the calm, cool collected sort as he was grabbed my wrist and said “That’s a good way to get shot son. Besides if something happens we are less than half a mile away and I’m armed better than the police, sheriffs and National Guard around here. Stay put tonight and we’ll get you home when curfew is up.” The lack of sleep was getting to me. I nodded in acceptance of his thoughts, knowing full well that my wife had to be freaking out by now and that he was right and once again the wisdom of the ages would show me the way.
After seeing the panic in my eyes he looked over at me, almost sympathetically and said “Let’s spend the night listening to the world. Africa should be coming in soon then the Pacific and Asia. Conditions are good and if these local stations are still on the air, we should be able to listen to what the heck is going on. The news is fast, hot and heavy and knowing is ninety percent of surviving son.” It almost sounded as my father was speaking to me again, but the words did not soothe me, they intrigued me. I wanted to know but I did not want to know.
February 25, 2010 2:15 A.M. Eastern Time
Trooper Mike Margate had just left the scene of a major robbery and assault in the small town of Bonifay when the Florida State dispatch rang out again on his radio “Unit 907, this is dispatch, 10-33, oh hell, shooting in progress at Exit 233, County Road 257 off Sparks. Proceed with caution. Mike, I’ll send back up if it becomes available. Unknown number of assailants, it’s only a 911 call that’s all I have.” Mike nodded and exhausted as if he was about to pass out after fifteen hours on duty grabbed the mike “10-4, unit 907 responding and Cindy, tell my wife I’ll be home even later than before.”
The Trooper put the lights on and got on the interstate hammering down to the exit where the crime was reported. The trooper learned from his cohorts about an ambush earlier in the evening so instead of heading in with the lights and sirens on as soon as he approached the exit he killed his flashers, headlights and took his seat belt off while putting the pistol on the seat right beside him. “Damned if I’m going to leave my kids without a father” he thought to himself. He pulled off the exit and turned south in the dark driving slowly looking for any signs of trouble. As he came over the rise there was an old Dodge minivan on fire in the middle of the road and what looked like a body on fire on the highway.
As Mike reached for his pistol a loud shattering crack hit his windshield in the reflection of the fire, and as he slumped over the steering wheel, driving the car into the ditch to the left side of the road, he died. The gang quickly went to work, pulling the body out of the car and stripping him of his money, gold jewelry, firearms and credit cards. His body was left in the ditch for the boars or other critters as his vehicle was shut down and pushed back on to the street for the gangsters to use in other ambushes. The firearms in the trunk, ammunition and now, most importantly, the radio communications becoming a tool they could use to their advantage to lure other victims into their backwater snare.
The decline and fall was accelerating. How much longer before the hammer would come down was the only question