The Day the Dollar Died (Part XII)
XII. Keep My Change?
Filed under: The Day The Dollar Died Series
by John Galt
January 13, 2010
I love reading the comments, which I have to since I’m the one that has to approve them and I love the props and reasonable criticism equally. A major THANK YOU to everyone who has jumped on board for our every Wednesday reading session and to all of those that have taken the time and trouble to actually translate some of if not all of this series into twelve different languages! To say that has humbled me a wee bit is an understatement (ok, so I’m humbled a lot but heck, it makes me feel good to know the world enjoys this also). This edition might be a little bit longer as current events as I type this are now tying into this chapter and unfortunately becoming a reality before our very eyes. All I can say at this point in time is read what this piece of FICTION engulfs, enjoy the new characters and pray to God that this never comes true. I might be an optimist with the local view on this subject, I am just not sure at this point in time……
February 25, 2010 8:13 A.M. Eastern Time
“JAMES! HONEY! What the hell is this spray painted on my house?” I yelled again. My wife came out of the front door looking totally perplexed and yelling back “Don’t you yell at me mister. You left us alone all night. Do you have any idea how little sleep we’ve had? You go out on an adventure and we had to deal with all kinds of issues!” I stood at my porch staring at the front door wondering what the the hell the “X” and all the other stuff meant. She came outside, slammed the door and as I pointed towards it she started stammering “Uh, uh, I, uh, I didn’t know what they were doing.” My Irish heritage based temper said “What THEY are you talking about?” She walked up to the door and touched the paint to see if it was still wet and started to speak slowly, “Well honey, about nine fifteen last night two Sarasota City cops showed up with some guy wearing one of those government windbreakers. I wasn’t sure if it said FEMA or what on the back as James swears it said OES and they proceeded to walk around the house trying to get inside. James and I opened the front door and yelled at them asking what they wanted. They came over here, asked if the owners of the home were around and I informed them that I was one of the owners and that my husband was several blocks away helping an elderly friend. The one officer stood by his side and this guy, I guess from the Federal government started asking questions.”
“Honey, sweetheart” I hesitated and started to sweat a bit as I talked to her, “what in the world could he be asking to have my house and Jame’s house spray painted with red x’s and a bunch of gobbledygook?” The woman I love started to tremble, nervous as if questioned by a witness on Perry Mason’s old television show and in a low, soft, almost sorrowful voice she replied, “Oh John, they demanded to know if we had guns in the house, if we were hiding anyone that was not a family member, if anyone in the house was on probation or had a criminal record and then asked how much cash we had. I told them a lie and said we only had about eighty dollars and one shotgun and then they spray painted the door, put an envelope in our mailbox and started to question James.” I looked over at James and asked him how he dealt with it as he looked as if he had just finished a triathlon as soaked as his t-shirt was. “John, I lied through my damned teeth to those clowns. They asked about the shotgun I was holding and told them it was yours and was holding it while they questioned your wife. The local yocals asked that I set it back in the house and of course, I asked your sweetie for permission.” I snickered as she grinned and of course James, a lover of tall tales, continued the story, “Then they asked if I owned any guns, of course I said no, my wife was a Jesuit and then I told them that they needed to check the house out a block over where them illegals live as I thought they had guns and drugs and that perked the Fed jerk right on up. By the way, his jacket said ‘OES’ whatever the hell that is. They really were nosy about you and your wife though.”
I told my wife I would be right back and walked over to the mailbox with James as he walked to his and checked out the rather thick package marked ‘OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS ENCLOSED’ and wondered just what in the heck this was about. “Let’s go inside your home and make sure they didn’t break in” James suggested to which I eagerly nodded. “I wonder what those markings mean” I asked him. James replied “We’ll ask the deputy up the street later on if his shift ever ends this evening.” We walked around the house, shotgun in my hands, pistol in his, walking slowly room to room to make sure the house was secured. In the mean time the wife continued to crank the kitchen back up, as the power was on again at least for the moment, starting some coffee and fixing breakfast for both of us before the bacon and eggs spoiled in the refrigerator. “Honey, if you don’t mind, I’m going to cook up everything we have in the fridge and freezer. I fear that the power will be off and on for days to come” she yelled out. As James and I met back in the hallway he said “Good freaking idea! I’m going to run home and tell the wife to hop to it! Without Oprah she should do some work for once.” I looked at him and said firmly “Dude, seriously. She’s a little freaked out right about now. Be gentle and show her some love. We’re all on the razor’s edge over everything that has happened since Sunday.” James nodded, almost ashamed for what he had said, and headed out the door. I walked into the kitchen, hugged my wife and told her, “Let’s see what the mail brought today. I figure we may have won the lottery for once and maybe this envelope is stuffed full of cash.”
As I ripped it open and poured the contents on the table, the smell of fresh coffee brewing, eggs and bacon sizzling away and seeing the exhausted woman I love in the kitchen slaving away over the stove distracted me from the contents. It was almost like a regular Sunday morning except we both realized that the stores would have to open soon and food would be the first necessity to be fulfilled. “Oh my God” I uttered as she brought me a cup of coffee while I picked up the contents from the envelope. “Honey, you have to see this. You will never believe what we have to do now” I yelled out stunned at the stupidity in front of me.
February 25, 2010 11:17 A.M. Eastern Time
Tom and Sandy were sitting at the sofa pouring over the stack of mail they had just cleaned out from the mailman. It was a truly amazing sight. A letter from Citibank N.A. advising them that no payments were necessary for the next ninety days as the national emergency had suspended their card and payments. A note from the mortgage company advising them that all payments were suspended for ninety days. Their bank, Suntrust, advising them that the emergency had frozen their account and that all funds would be available no later than June 1, 2010 but that their ATM card could be used by February 28th. “Mama Lil, can you believe this?” Tom asked her. She looked at him for the first time in their lives together with a stunned look and said “Son, I’ve never seen this before in my life. I didn’t even know they could hold your money like this without giving it back to you when you wanted it. This is like the 1930’s but worse. Did those clowns suspend interest being charged on your bills during this suspension?” Tom started to read the letters again and sure enough “Yup, they basically froze us in time Mom. IF we still have jobs, this could be great if they could figure out a way to pay us.”
Just as Tom was reading the document entitled SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR USE OF YOUR DOLLAR CARD AND TRANSITION ACCOUNT, the doorbell rang causing us all to jump out off of our tails. Lillian put her hand on her shoulder holster and moved slowly to the hallway motioning Tom to answer the door while Sandy went into the dining room. Suddenly she screamed out “There’s someone in our back yard!” and that caused Lillian to head towards the kitchen. Then from the front door a male voice yelled out “Georgia State Patrol! This is Lieutenant McCord, do not do anything rash. We have an officer in the back yard checking your property!” Lillian sighed, sounding somewhat relieved and muttered “Idiots. I could have shot the moron.” Tom patted her on the shoulder then moved into the living room yelling “I’m opening the front door and I am unarmed. Please don’t shoot me.” Sandy put her head into her hands, half relieved, half embarrassed, and totally unsure why he said that.
As Tom slowly opened the front door a young black woman in her twenties wearing a winter jacket with “OES” emblazoned with an eagle symbol holding wheat in one claw and what looked like a copy of the Constitution in the other then she started what sounded like the phoniest spiel that Tom had heard since the Shamwow infomercials broke. “HI! Sandy and Tom Lewis? I’m Karen 17905, your neighborhood representative from the Office of Emergency Services a new branch of the Federal Emergency Management Agency here to insure you have food, water, power and everything you will need until the nation returns to normal. I hope that the mailman has delivered your instruction package with your new dollar cards and all of the instructions on how to use them. President Obama and the unified Congress have empowered me to help you in any way that I can.” Before she could utter another word, Tom put his hand up slowly as to motion her to stop and said “Do you ever breath 17905 or what?” Sandy and Lillian were peering out of the door by that time behind Tom wondering what the commotion was about.
“Oh Mr. Lewis, you’re such a nice man and your wife looks ready to work with us also. If you don’t mind we would love to come inside and spend a few minutes with you. The officer in the back is just making sure that any of the felons from the Great South Atlanta Fire aren’t hiding here and wants to make sure you are safe and secure.” By this time Lillian had heard enough. “What south Atlanta fire young lady? I listened to the radio all night long to WSB and other stations and nothing was uttered about it?” Lillian asked skeptically. Sandy, not watching her mother cut her off and started to talk “Would you please come in. I know you just have to be freezing out there. Would you like some coffee or hot cocoa?” Lillian gave her daughter the dirtiest look imaginable as she huffed off to the kitchen while the door was opened for their guests this morning. “Ma’am, I’d love a cup of coffee, black please the State Patrol officer said, looking as if he had been working for several days straight. “Mom, do you want to get that or should I?” Sandy yelled out. “I got it honey and officer I am carrying but I’ve got a permit, so please don’t taser me” Lillian yelled back.
The lieutenant snickered “No problem Ma’am, I’m too tired to taser anyone this early.” With that Karen felt obligated to start talking with her script stating that “You know that old phrase that I am from the government and I’m here to help you? Well I am and I can because right now, nobody else can. The OES is here to insure that when you go shopping, go to the store or return to work next Monday everything is in place to insure America gets back on its feet right away.”
Lillian looked at Karen as she handed the coffee to the officer and just sighed in her south Georgia drawl, “Excuse me please, I”m going to go take a dump. I’ve heard enough.”
February 25, 2010 07:07 A.M. Central Time, Fergus Falls, MN
“Sir, I’m not trying to be rude, but just staring at each other isn’t getting my job done nor helping you in this matter. I have orders to inventory all firearms and register them on behalf of the Governor’s office as the President ordered for those districts deemed actively engaged at this time” the young Sergeant stated firmly and hinting that more would happen should compliance be an issue. The two privates behind him were freezing as they held their M-16’s obviously not wanting to spend a lot of time outside of their Humvee running at the end of the driveway. “Honey, get my shotgun out of the shoe closet. The military needs to register it” Mike yelled out to his wife. As Mike ushered them into the foyer, she nodded and walked down the hallway to grab the weapon.
Sally, knowing how to handle the gun better than the two privates, promptly walked down the hallway with the twin barrels popped open pointing to the floor with the two twelve gauge shells in one hand, the weapon carefully balanced in her grip in the other. “Here you go sir, do you need anything else?” Sally asked politely. “I think we have it under control now” the Sergeant snapped back. “Mr. Elmendorff, your question is not without merit. But we are the last line right now between anarchy and the Constitution. We will do whatever it takes to enforce the laws of the land. So please, don’t questiong my patriotism and I won’t question yours” the Sergeant snapped off. He handed the shotgun to one of the privates who keyed the serial number into a large device with a printer and a bar code was spit out and stuck on the rifle butt. “Sir, if this weapon is fired for any reason other than hunting or target practice, we will need for you to report it to us. The crime rate is very high just sixty miles west of you in North Dakota and they are under statewide martial law. You are responsible for this weapon and no sales, transfers or improper usage is permitted under any circumstances. The martial law declaration will probably be extended to the Western counties of Minnesota tomorrow due to the lack of stability west of I-94. I hope that I have made myself clear sir” Sergeant Blaine said. He then handed them their mail and spoke softly “You may want to read this. The mail service is running again and soon your landlines will be back up. I know this has been hard but its even tougher on the military sir. You have no idea.”
Mike knew that the Sergeant was not happy with his initial comments. “Son, I know you’re just following orders, hell I did that in the muck of ‘Nam. I hate to ask this of you but I need a favor. That lady on the couch is Mrs. Monckton and she received a phone call about her husband being in a military hospital in Fargo after an ambush west of here at a checkpoint. Can you tell me what is going on please to set her mind at ease?” As Mike said that Sally handed all three of them some small Styrofoam cups filled with black coffee, trying to relax them from what was a tense meeting at first. “Mr. Elmendorff, thank you for your service and understanding,” the Sergeant started speaking slowly, “there has been no ambush. Heck we haven’t even set up the checkpoint yet. The men and equipment are moving out to the crossroads at 1700 local tonight at dusk. We have to clear out a mobile home park nearby where the criminals have been setting up shop first.”
Mrs. Monckton broke out in tears of joy as Sally grabbed her and hugged her. “Sarge, thank you. You’ve made one person happy today even though I am not thrilled with this registration thing” Mike said smiling as he watched his wife hold her tightly. “Sir, I am not too thrilled either, but orders are orders” the Sergeant said. As they said their goodbyes, Mike escorted the men out to their vehicle and decided that now might just be a good time to secure his property. “You guys stay warm, I’m hoping to keep things tight here” he yelled out through his jacket. The Guardsmen hopped into their Humvee and headed over towards the farm a few miles south of him. Mike waved, then shut the gate finally, locking it tightly and then threw another chain and lock around it.
As he walked back into the house he noticed the two women chattering away almost relieved that this day would be better and wondering what the large OES envelope was. Mike did not care. He walked back into his other closet in the spare bedroom and started grabbing magazines and pistols. “Honey, you’ll get to keep the forty-five, I’m carrying the thirty-eight, the nine and my Mini-30. The other shotgun can stay in the bedroom with the other forty-five. I’ll be damned if they’ll ever track all of these down. I bought them from individuals and there’s no record of my purchasing all these” and with that rant over with, he looked at Mrs. Monckton and handed her an old twenty-five caliber pistol he purchased in the 1980’s. “You might need this, I don’t trust anyone now and I don’t’ want you to feel insecure” he told her softly, “Please plan on staying here until we hear from your husband or he comes back.”
Just as the tension in the room started to settle, the phone rang, much to their surprise and as Sally picked it up the following was heard:
“HELLO. THIS IS BOB 13212 AND I AM YOUR OFFICE OF EMERGENCY SERVICES NEIGHBORHOOD ADMINISTRATOR. THIS IS A PRE-RECORDED MESSAGE TO ADVISE YOU THAT WE WILL BE IN YOUR AREA WITHIN THE NEXT SEVENTY-TWO HOURS TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR NEEDS. IF YOU NEED IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE, PRESS ZERO NOW AND HELP WILL BE SENT TO YOUR ADDRESS WE HAVE ON FILE MATCHING THIS PHONE NUMBER. 911 SERVICES HAVE BEEN RE-ACTIVATED FOR YOUR AREA AND NORMAL TELEPHONE SERVICES SHOULD BE RESTORED BY SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 27TH AT 8 A.M. CENTRAL TIME.”
February 25, 2010 11:05 A.M. Central Time, Just outside of DeWitt, AR
The temperature outside was twenty-seven degrees this morning and the barefoot men inside the tent were all whimpering, chattering their teeth and some in tears after over two hours of sitting exposed and handcuffed to the center pole and each other. “For God’s sake man, we’re all freezing to death” one of the prisoners yelled out. The guard opened the tent, yelled out “Who said that?” and then as the man who said it tried to hide behind another prisoner he grabbed the taser and stunned him, causing several other prisoners to fall to the ground into the frozen mud as he collapsed. Two other men walked inside, grabbed the comatose man and unlocked his handcuffs then dragged him outside into a waiting truck. “Lewis, you can go walking or I can drag you. It’s your call” the soldier barked out. “I’ll walk” the Pastor said, “and what the heck is going on, half these men half frostbite by now.” The soldier, an officer of some sort but not wearing insignia he would know grabbed his wrists and unshackled him from the rest of the group without saying a word. “Mr. Lewis, you’re going to Pine Bluff with big mouth out in the truck. We’re going to find out what happened in Little Rock either the nice way or the hard way but everyone in here had best know, we will find those responsible. You can have your lives back or lose them, we really don’t care if you had any part of this” the soldier said.
“Here’s your uniform. Wear it, don’t bitch and don’t speak unless spoken to” a young private said, throwing the Pastor a bright orange jumpsuit with the letter “P” on the back and a pair of flip-flops. “Follow me” he said next and then shoved him into the canvas covered back of an old military truck with five other prisoners, all shackled to the floor. The guard grabbed his hand, handcuffed them then chained him to the floor of the truck uttering these instructions “If you talk to each other we have clearance to stop at the side of the road and shoot the guilty parties. Someone is going to pay for Little Rock.”
The men were terrified when they looked back at the young guard who then shut the flaps and the vehicle pulled out heading out to the Pine Bluff regional command. The good Pastor had no clue as to what was going on and was praying in silence for the people he thought were still locked up inside his church. Before the next prayer could be recited, he was able to peek through the cracks of the canvas and see the remains of Highway 165 behind him. There were burned out cars and trucks just about six miles west of town he figured. There were two bodies being picked clean by what looked like wolves or coyotes. “What the heck happened this fast” he wondered to himself. As the truck veered sharply right he figured that they were turning in Lodges Corner before cutting over towards Pine Bluff. The sharp turn did not distract him as much as the mobile home park on fire he saw in the distance and what he could have sworn were gunshots or firecrackers in the distance. With the next sharp turn he noticed that the Humvee what was in front was now behind them and he had best stop trying to see what was going on or had happened. Pine Bluff was less than an hour away and finally he might just get some answers as to why the military, whatever kind of military it was, treated everyone so harshly like they had left America.
February 25, 2010 2:55 P.M. Mountain Time, Colorado Springs, CO
Wendy Listels was the most excited twenty-two year old in the entire line of people who stood outside of the Safeway Store on North Circle Drive this afternoon. Here it was just three whole days after the banks shut down and her President was able to get money into her hands and open the stores up. “Have you been listening to the Afternoon Drive with Katie Couric and Senator Daschle on America Radio? Now that he’s been reappointed and promised to help our nation, I’m so pumped! My dollar card got a three hundred dollar advance, how much did you get?” she babbled on and on and on to the poor stranger in front of her. “IF YOU HAVE NUMBERS 1-6-5 THROUGH 1-8-5 IT IS YOUR TURN TO ENTER THE STORE, PLEASE BE PREPARED TO PRESENT YOUR DOLLAR CARD AND DRIVERS LICENSE TO THE GUARD AT THE ENTRANCE” the voice bellowed out through the speakers on the side of the store. Wendy was pumped. Normalcy was coming. Life was going to get better she figured now that her empty fridge would see some fresh fish and salad fixings to keep her on her diet.
“Ms. Listels, is this address current?” the OES officer asked. “Yes sir, it is still the correct address, but I do have a new phone number or do you have all that” the talkative, almost teenager like young woman said. “That’s okay miss, you can proceed in. Your card is set to a one hundred dollar limit but you are free to spend whatever cash you have left in United States Federal Reserve Notes also up to one hundred additional dollars” the officer said. “What is a Federal Reserve Note?” she asked innocently. The officer sighed, leaned back in his chair and pulled a dollar bill out of his pocket and said “anything that says this on the top” pointing to the words “Federal Reserve Note” emblazoned on the top. “Oh, I’m sorry, I always called them dollars” she said sheepishly.
As she grabbed the cart and started to walk down the first aisle, she noticed the stocking was somewhat different even though this was a better Safeway than others. The fresh vegetable section had signs everywhere “LIMIT TWO PER PERSON” for everything in the area and there was not much there. After grabbing some lettuce, onions, tomatoes which looked old, some cabbage, Arugula and two bundles of carrots, Wendy steered over to the meat department looking for any fish. Pressing the buzzer to get someone’s attention in the butcher shop created quite a stir though as five other shoppers stopped dead in their tracks, stared at her like she was an idiot waiting to see what would happen next. To Wendy’s relief as she blushed a butcher opened the door and stepped out saying “Can I help you miss?” Wendy took a deep gulp then asked softly “What happened to all the seafood? Do you have any fish?” The butcher looked down and said to her “Miss, all we have is in the frozen area and you’re limited to twelve ounces per person per week right now.”
Wendy was shocked but said thanks and moved on. She almost ran to the frozen section when she noticed all of the fish in that area were the same in plain white boxes marked “USDA SPECIAL ALLOCATION RATIONS, 12 OZ. HADDOCK” to which she grabbed one hoping that nobody would beat her to it. After loading that in her cart she went to the diet foods aisle only to see nothing she recognized, just cereals in plain white boxes marked “KELLOGG S 14 OZ. CORN FLAKES OES SPECIAL RATIONS” and others marked “POST CEREAL RICE CRUNCHIES OES SPECIAL RATIONS” which really perplexed her. As she went along the other aisles their appeared to be some normal items and lucky for her the shampoo she loved was still in stock.
After loading the cart up with what she figured was a two week supply of food and beauty products, she got in line to check out which to her surprise moved rather quickly. As the clerk checked her out, weird letters appeared in the display and that caused her to ask the cashier what was up with that. “Miss, we have some items that are ‘A’ level which are not taxed like your fresh and canned foods. Those food items deemed unnecessary for consumption are ‘B’ items and taxed at ten percent. All beauty and cleaning supplies you have are taxed as ‘C’ level items at fifteen percent and any other items like the flowers you have or the candy bars are considered non-necessity and declared ‘D’ taxation items. Today the ‘D’ tax is set at twenty-seven point four percent. The total for your order today is one hundred eighty-seven dollars and forty-four cents. Please swipe your D-Card now.” Wendy felt so smart as she pulled her fresh card out of her wallet and swiped it leaving the balance to be paid in cash. She smiled and handed over four twenties and a ten dollar bill which the cashier placed in the drawer and after shutting it handed her the receipt with a survey about the D-Card on the bottom. “Uh, where’s my change?” she asked the cashier. “Miss, apparently you did not read the instructions or hear the news. Unless you pay exactly, all change is considered a tax donation to the nation to help resolve the national deficit. Our instructions and per the letter of the law are to keep your change and thank you for your help. This money is being re-applied next month as a benefit to your D-Card and towards your daily income taxes. Please refer to page forty-seven of your instruction manual you received with the card. Next customer please.”
“Keep my change?!?” Wendy yelled out and as she did so one of the apparently private guards started to approach her. “Everything okay Miss?” he asked.
“Yeah, I guess so. At least I can go shopping again.”