I don’t know about you, but this month is just running away from me. First, I want to give you a heads up that I’m going to be interviewed on Mystery writer Brenda Whiteside’s website on March 3rd. I know that’s a couple of weeks away and yes, I’ll remind you all next week, but I just wanted to give Brenda a shoutout to all of you mystery story lovers out there. Her website is www.BrendaWhiteside.com and I’d love it if you went over there to check out her books.
Another thing, mystery related. I’m getting a shoutout over on the booklover’s page http://www.readfree.ly/newsletter/ starting the end of this week, Saturday the 27th. I’m advertising Mystery at the Fair but there are so many free or nearly free books on the site that I want you to have plenty of time to browse for your new favorites. They don’t carry just mysteries, by the way, any genre you can think of is on the site so check it out for some really great deals. Oh yes! If you’re twitter fans, they can be found at @indieauthorland.
In writing news, I’ve been struggling to update my Gulliver Station covers. I had to unpublish A New Start to work this issue and have had two, so far, email conversations with Amazon techs. Again, on Sunday I redid the cover trying to clear up the last little anomalies. Today I hope to see that the cover has updated correctly. Cross your fingers for me.
Also in writing news, despite the fact I want to finish up Mystery at the Reunion, an idea popped into my head for a non-fiction book. We’ve all watched with dismay the disaster that is Texas right now. People are struggling with conditions they’ve never experienced before and don’t know how to handle. That has prompted me to put together a little book I’m calling A Housewife’s Guide to Emergency Survival. I’ve written a short introduction, just to get the background firmly in my head and already have identified several chapters to include in the book. Do you have a favorite “survival” action that you and your family use for emergencies? Share them with me and I’ll give you an acknowledgement in the book.
Please be careful out there. Weather can turn nasty, accidents can happen, illness can overtake us. Till we can meet in person, stay at home when you can and wear a mask when you go out.
On May 13th at 2pm Arizona time, I’ll be on the podcast with Laurie Fagan on her show, AZ Creates. It’s a lovely podcast and as soon as I have the link for my interview, I’ll put it up. In the meantime, enjoy her show at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teajmtQ4-90&feature=youtu.be. Note, Karen Landau is a mystery author right here in my town! How great is that!
Newsletter Sign Up:
Click here to sign up for my newsletter. I’ve put sign-up gifts on the regular and the SciFi/Fantasy and the Cozy Mystery newsletter sign-ups. That’s right. If you sign up for my newsletter you get a free story from me. Be prepared for fun and contests! Click on the video link for a short video from me. Hear what I’m working on. Join my “A” Team to be the first to read my books and hear what new books are coming. Don’t forget to follow my blog, too. Different material goes in the blog as in the newsletter. You can share both, so spread the word!
Creature in the Night, a short Halloween, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Fantasy story has been published. It is up on Amazon, in Kindle Unlimited or for purchase at $.99. You can also see all my books on http://conniesrandomthoughts.com/my-books-and-other-published-work/. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a short, honest, review on the site where you bought it or on Goodreads or BookBub. Your review is critical to help me promote the books to other readers. Thanks in advance.
Thank you for reading my blog. Like all of the other work I do as an author, it takes time and money. If you enjoy this Monday blog and the Friday free story and the recipe, I put up on the 25th of every month, consider donating to https://www.paypal.me/ConniesRandomThought. I appreciate any donation to help support this blog.
Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.
Chapter 13: Andy McGuire
“Andy McGuire, for Admiral Page, please.” Andy paused
as the secretary, a Seaman Secore, he noted in his contacts, asked him to wait
“Admiral,” Andy said as the general picked up. “I just
wanted to give you a heads up. Orders will be coming down today for the next
destroyer class ship to be built by Omega Corporation.”
Andy waited as the Admiral objected. “I know it seems
that Norfolk should be the spot for the ship’s construction.” He listened a
moment. “Yes. Seaway Industries has done a fine job for years. But there has been
some extenuating information that makes Omega the better choice.”
Again, he listened. “I understand, Admiral. Portsmouth
has traditionally been repair and refit docks. But there doesn’t really seem to
be any issue with building a ship there, is there?”
It took a minute or two for the Admiral to wind down. “Yes,
Admiral. Some personnel movement and housing accommodations will need to be
made. We understand that.” Andy closed his eyes while the Admiral ranted some
more. “I understand, Admiral. It is likely to affect the Norfolk area
adversely. We have taken that into consideration.”
When the Admiral slammed the phone down, Andy sighed
and hung up. He didn’t understand why he was the one having to make these
calls. It wasn’t his fault that Omega Corp was a member of the elite class now
and that Seaway wasn’t. He knew for a fact that the owner and CEO of Omega
pitched a fit when the contract for the destroyer was slated for Norfolk. He
pitched a fit to his buddies now running the company and they’d directed the
ship go to Omega. And, he sighed, that’s how business was done now. If one of
the elite wanted something, they just told their buddies and got it. No matter
if they had any experience with it or not.
He typed a text to his boss, Duncan Angelson, with the
news that the Admiral had been notified, and then stood up. He needed coffee. In
the break room, Andy started for the mugs.
“I’ll get that for you, Mr. McGuire.”
Andy stepped back. “Of course, Mrs. Olsen. I saw you
setting up cookies and didn’t want to bother you.” Andy smiled at the older
woman. One of the very few left on the floor. Safe enough to have here because
her job was to keep coffee and hot water for tea ready at all times and to set
out little snacks like cookies and fruit throughout the day.
“No problem, Mr. McGuire. I enjoy helping out.” She
poured coffee into a mug for him from the 32-cup pot and handed it to him. “I
hope your day is going well?”
“Well enough,” Andy said as he walked to the creamer
and sugar area. “What cookies do you have today?”
“Oh!” She beamed at him. “I brought in those oatmeal
chocolate chips you like. You know, from Busters, over on 9th
street. They make the best ones in town. At least in my humble opinion.”
“Great. Could you get me two of them?”
“Of course.” She selected a small dessert plate from
the stack on the table and after putting a paper doily on the plate, used tongs
to gently set two cookies on the plate. “Anything else, sir?”
“No. I should have these. But thank you for asking.” He
stirred his coffee. Two sugars and creamer. He took the plate she offered. “How
are you, Mrs. Olsen. Your new apartment okay?”
She nodded. “Different from the big house my husband
and I had for so many years. But yes. I’m getting to know the neighbors and the
area. It will be fine.”
He gave her a smile. Her husband had died from a
stroke a year ago. As a widow, it was easier to convince management that it was
their civic duty to help her financially. Her husband had been playing fast and
loose with his boutique stockbrokerage client money. He’d left the brokerage in
shambles, and his wife penniless. Andy felt very bad for her. None of this was
her fault at all. “Glad to hear it.” He picked up the mug and the plate. He
raised the plate in a salute. “Thanks for the cookies, Mrs. Olsen.”
“Mr. McGuire. Glad to be helpful.”
Back in his office he ate the cookies with his face
over the plate. He didn’t need chocolate smudges all over his white dress
shirt. He had a meeting with Duncan in half an hour. More adjustments to government
contracts, he supposed. The whole lineup of elites were grabbing everything
they could at full speed. The entire constitution was down the drain and ethics
were a thing of the past. He drank half of his coffee in a gulp and forced the
anger down with it. He wondered if he shouldn’t be lining his pockets as well.
At his level, he knew what was going on and where to get it.
He ate the last bite of cookie. No. No. He couldn’t do
it. It wasn’t his money. You’re a fool, he told himself as he drank the last of
the coffee. Everyone else is doing it. You’ll be a laughingstock and die
Andy put the mug on the plate and set it on top of the
bookshelf by the office door. Mrs. Olsen would be around later with a cart to
pick up dishes. So what, he thought. At least I’ll have my honor and my
dignity. He went back to his pad to prepare for the meeting. He idly wondered
when this new brand of mob bosses would start a war over the spoils. Probably
not long, he thought. There were billions out there. Billions.
Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual
and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse,
and other unpleasant things.
Chapter 7: Bill Brown #9645990
Bill Brown, now known as 9645990, got up on command, went
to the tray window and slid his empty breakfast tray and rice paper spoon inside
then lined up along the cafeteria wall with the others in his cohort. It was
time to go to work.
He’d been surprised when two weeks into this nightmare
he’d been transferred from the facility he’d first been taken to and sent here.
At a command, they all began to march, single file,
out of the cafeteria.
He thought he was going to be shipped to Africa or
something but no. He was here, in a huge factory, where he’d been assigned to
an engineering drafting shop. It made sense, he thought as they marched along.
Why waste perfectly good brain power? The work wasn’t easy, but it was boring,
though fairly matching what he’d been doing his whole adult life. Drafting had
never been his favorite thing to do.
At his office the cohort stopped on command. The guard
shouted out his number. He stepped out of line and saluted. A modified Nazi
salute he had been horrified to learn the second day he’d been at the receiving
facility. That first two weeks was an intensive course in learning that he was
no longer a free man. The bruises had only faded a week ago. The cohort moved
on and he went into his office. There were three other men in there, already at
their drafting tables. No one looked up.
He sat down and picked up his Computer Aided Design pen
without addressing the others. The cameras in the four corners of the ceiling
made sure that they understood that while there was no guard in the room, they
were being watched.
The first week was difficult. He’d never worked on 3-D
CAD software, but much was the same as with the software he had used before so
the learning curve wasn’t too big. After that, the work was dull. This week, according
to specification, draw a gear. Actually, a different gear every day. No one
told them what the purpose was of any of the drawings they completed. But he
did know that everyone in the room was working on mechanical parts. No telling
though, if they belonged to the same project.
That was just one of the things that nagged at him.
Taking pride in his work before always entailed knowing what the big picture
was. What the smaller parts fit into. Now, it was just this. A single drawing. He
was already bored.
A chime rang. Everyone stopped what they were doing and lined up at the door. A guard came and escorted them to an exercise yard. Bill had been surprised, the first day, when he realized they were being allowed outside. “Half an hour,” the guard had said. Some headed for a quarter-mile track where they began walking. Others for a weight area where they began lifting. There was some talk, but only about the weights or the weather. No other conversation.
One guy, number 9062579, introduced himself in a low
voice. “Come with me. We’ll walk.”
Bill nodded and they headed to the track. “I’m Bill.”
“George. But never call me that. That’s a punishable
Bill nodded. “We get to do this every day?”
“Rain or shine.” George began swinging his arms
around. “This helps with keeping limber after leaning over the desk all day.”
Bill did the same. “I was surprised how good breakfast
“Sure. We do work, they feed us well. Gotta keep the
farm animals in tip top shape.”
“What?” Bill stared at George.
George snorted. “That’s what we are now, you know.
Animals. We earn our keep, we get treated well. If we don’t, well, I’ve seen
many a man leave on a stretcher and not return.”
Bill didn’t know what to think about that. “Why?”
“Because good food, exercise, plenty of rest keeps us
in good shape. I’ve lost forty pounds since I’ve been here. No booze, very
little sugar—it’s the diet my doctor had been trying to get me to use for
years.” He snorted again. “He was right. I feel better than I did when I graduated
“How long have you been here?”
“About six months.”
That’s when a whistle blew. A guard, back near the
building pointed at them. George waved. “We gotta split up. They don’t like it
when we talk together.”
With that he sped up, leaving Bill to trail behind. Since
he was getting out of breath, he let George go and slowed down a bit. He thought
about what he’d heard. He didn’t like the idea that they were considered farm
animals. But everything to this point had surprised him.
Now, two week later, he pondered everything he knew so
far. He knew he was in a Wagnall Aerospace Industries factory. Their logo was
on everything. That he and the other men were slave labor was obvious. Cheaper,
he realized, to keep the men healthy with good food and exercise, than to feed
them poorly and have them get sick. Sick men didn’t produce well. He swung his
arms around first in sync then as a windmill, then back the other way. George
had been right. It helped with the back strain. And he could tell he was losing
weight, even after two weeks.
But, was this going to be his life forever? Slave
labor? Even if he did get good food and exercise, this isn’t all he wanted. He was
only thirty-six years old. He missed Mara, and the kids. Maybe he could write
them? This was really the first time he’d had time to think about more than
surviving these new circumstances. Who could he ask? He’d try his cohort guard.
That’s who they were supposed to go to with issues.
He took a breath and at the chime, started back to the
building. Yes. He’d ask Officer Fernald. He already felt better.
After Saturday’s double mass killings in El Paso and Dayton, I saw a facebook post from author George Sirois: “Please create something today. Create something positive. Create on behalf of all the people killed in the last 24 hours, robbed of their chance to ever create again. Create because you might help someone get through all this destruction with your creation. Just Create. Please.” I don’t usually get political or dwell on recent news on this blog but when I read his post I started to tear up. So go. Use whatever you have at hand. Create joy. Create love. Create peace. Share your heart.
After the Phoenix Fan Fusion, I began showing some of the t-shirts from the show. Here is one for this week.
Gardening. The peaches are small, and not ripe yet though they have a nice blush on them. A week, perhaps, before I can start picking them. I also have two pear trees which have lost nearly all of their leaves. Between the two trees, only one tiny pear. Very disappointing. I did pick another tomato on Saturday. That makes two. I found one ripe tomato in the corner of the backyard, half eaten. So, the squirrels or the chipmunks or the rabbit tried one out. Hubby says it wasn’t him. Not sure if they liked it. I hope not.
The Summer Giveaway is open! There are 33 participating authors with 33 book prizes and 33 summer gift prizes. The Grand Prize is $100 in Paypal cash. This is certainly a giveaway to get involved with.
Where will I Be?:
Now that the Payson Book Festival is done, I don’t have anything on my calendar until the December Mesa Book Festival. The date, just announced, is December 14th from 10am – 5pm and the location has changed to 225 E Main St, Mesa. This is the Benedictine University, for those familiar with Mesa. I am sharing a booth space with the wonderful Marsha Ward. The site only promotes the author registering the table, so you’ll only see Marsha’s name, not mine. But I promise, I’ll be there. You can find all the details and a map at www.MesaBookFestival.com.
the other hand, if something juicy comes up, because it’s a long time between
July and December, I’ll let you know. Do you know of an event where you’d like
to see me? I’d love to know about it. Contact me here and say the word.
Newsletter Sign Up:
here to sign up for my newsletter. I’ve put sign-up gifts on the regular and
the SciFi/Fantasy and the Cozy Mystery newsletter sign-ups. That’s right. If
you sign up for my newsletter you get a free story from me. Be prepared for fun
and contests! Click on the video link for a short video from me. Hear what I’m
working on. Join my “A” Team to be the first to read my books and hear what new
books are coming.
forget to follow my blog, too. Different material goes in the blog as in the
newsletter. You can share both, so spread the word!
Newest Book Release:
Gold Dreams released May 13th, 2019. It is only up on Amazon, at the moment. I’ll let everyone know when the print version is up and is up on the other platforms. You can also see all my books on https://conniesrandomthoughts.com/my-books-and-other-published-work/. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a short, honest, review on the site where you bought it or on Goodreads or BookBub. Your review is critical to help me promote the books to other readers. Thanks in advance.
you for reading my blog. Like all of the other work I do as an author, it takes
time and money. If you enjoy this Monday blog and the Friday free story and the
recipe I put up on the 25th of every month, consider donating to https://www.paypal.me/ConniesRandomThought. I appreciate any donation to help support
Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.
Chapter 6: Mara Brown
Mara Brown stood in her back yard, arms wrapped around
herself, doing her best to keep from sobbing. Her beautiful family. Her
beautiful house. Gone. All gone. It had been three weeks since the Immaculata
had barged into their yard and taken her husband and children away. Was it
really just three weeks? She sniffed back imminent tears and gave her head the
tiniest of shakes. It seemed a lifetime ago.
She looked around the back yard. People were arriving
for the auction. They stared at her but looked away when she caught their eye.
Vultures, she thought. Here to pick over the body. That’s how she felt about
it. The body of her old life.
It was amazing, actually, how fast it all was. The day
it all exploded, she had been left standing, almost where she was right now, as
the Macs left with her family and the poor Apples. Tears threatened so she
turned to face the back of the yard and dashed the tears away. She pulled a
tissue from her pocket and blew her nose. She wasn’t about to show these
vultures any weakness. She pulled her spine erect and raised her head, squaring
her shoulders as she turned back to face her house.
Bruce Leightner’s wife, Corrine, was watching her.
Mara gave her a slight nod and was surprised when Corrine gave her a smile. A
sad, but sympathetic smile. Mara gave a small smile back and they traded nods.
Not all alone, even though Bruce was an asshat. Still it was something. She
took a deep breath.
The day after the raid, three men from the government
showed up at the front door. They introduced themselves and walked right in.
The head guy, Mr. Clarke, told her what was going on as the other two headed
upstairs, electronic pads in their hands.
“You’ll have to move, of course,” Clarke told her as
he scanned what was on his pad. “All the furniture will have to be sold or
moved, your choice. We’ll help you with that if you’d like.” He looked around
the foyer and adjacent living room. “Nice place. It should sell quickly at the
Auction, she thought. “What auction?”
Clarke raised an eyebrow. “For the fine. I see,” he
scrolled pages on his pad, “you only have $12,347.56, in you accounts. Total,
that is. The fine is $200,000.’
She felt as though she’d fallen into a house of
He sighed. “Yes. For being married to racially impure.
It’s $100,000 for your ex-husband and $50,000 each for the children. Good thing
you only had two. It can get cost prohibitive with more children.” He went back
to scanning his pad. “If we get enough for the house, you can keep what’s in
your bank accounts and anything you get from the sale of the furniture.”
All she could do was nod.
“Just have a seat, it won’t take long for us to
complete the assessment.”
She went into the kitchen and made a cup of tea. Mara
sat in the morning room where she sipped it slowly as she watched the three men
meet in the backyard and make their assessments back there. The tea was gone
when Mr. Clarke came in through the back door.
“That’s about it, Mrs. Brown. We’ll send you a letter
with the auction date. Have all furniture you’re keeping out by then. And all
the rest of the furniture sold. The house should be empty for the sale.”
She nodded her understanding.
He gave her a smile and a nod. “Good working with you,
She watched him go out through the living room and
heard the front door open, then close.
Now here she was. The auction. Several of her
neighbors were in the crowd, none of them looking at her, at least eye to eye.
The auction began. Mara was surprised at how fast it went. Bruce Leightner had
the highest bid. While everyone was gathering around to congratulate him,
Corrine walked over to her.
“I’m so sorry, Mara. Really. I am.”
Mara nodded. “Thank you.”
“What are you going to do now?”
Mara was surprised she’d asked. No one had spoken to
her except in one-word statements or questions since the day. “Um. I have a
little apartment.” She shrugged. “Something cheap. I don’t have a lot of
Corrine reached up to pat Mara but Mara flinched away.
Corrine dropped her hand, folding her arms in front of herself. “Sorry.” She
sighed. “Look. You have the same email?”
Mara blinked in surprise. “Yeah.”
“I’ll email you. We’ll get together.”
Corrine flinched a little. “Yes, dear?”
Corrine wagged her eyebrows at Mara. “I’ll email.” Then
turned and walked to her husband.
Bruce grabbed her by the arm and jerked her toward the
back gate. “That makes ten houses in this neighborhood.” His voice was loud
enough to be heard two houses away. “Don’t be talking to no impures. Hear me?”
“But, she’s not impure.” Corrine defended Mara.
Bruce jerked her arm. “She married one. So stay away.”
He glared back in Mara’s direction. “She’s not clean, sleeping with a nigger.”
“But…” Corrine began.
“Shut it.” He jerked her arm again as they crossed the
Mara drew in a big breath. This was how it was going
to be. For a long time, she expected. Unclean. Dirty. Just how they’d described
the Jews before World War II. She walked over to the auctioneer and Mr. Clarke.
Time to see if the house sale covered the fine. She hoped so. She wondered if
they’d help her find a job. Things were already getting lean.
Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.
Chapter 3: Devon Brown
Devon trembled in the backseat of a monstrous black
SUV beside his sister, Caitlin. The truck was so big, the officers had had to
lift them both up to the back seat. Both
of them had their hands handcuffed behind their backs. Caitlin was crying, calling
out, “Mommy, Mommy,” snot running down her face. That bothered him. His mother
wouldn’t like it but what could he do?
He didn’t understand. Did Daddy do something wrong?
Why’d they take him away? Why did the soldiers take him and Caitlin away? He
slid a little closer to his sister so that they were side by side. What was
going to happen? Where were they going? He was too short to see out of the windows.
When he tried to crane up, all he could see were rooftops. He stopped when the
soldier riding up front told him to sit back.
They drove for a long time. He was glad when Caitlin
fell asleep, her little blond head against his shoulder. He was too upset to go
to sleep. His hands were full of prickles, but he didn’t want to shift around,
it would wake his sister. Every few minutes the soldier checked his mirror,
watching Devon. It scared him, so he sat very still.
It seemed like a long time but finally the car pulled
up to a gate. The driver’s window went down and a soldier stuck his head in to
look in the backseat. “Go on,” he said, and the car went in. They came to a big
building and the car stopped at the front door. The two soldiers got out and
Caitlin woke up as the doors slammed shut.
“We’re here,” he told her as the passenger doors
opened at the same time. The driver pulled him out of the car as the other soldier
pulled Caitlin out. Devon’s legs had fallen asleep along with his hands and he
collapsed to the sidewalk, skinning his knees.
“Stand up, kid.” He pulled Devon up by the back of his
“My legs are asleep.”
“Great.” The soldier kept hold of Devon’s shirt and
joined Caitlin and her guard at the door. They went in and nodded to the
soldier at the desk near the door. He nodded back and they went across a lobby
and down a hall. There were a lot of halls, Devon thought, and soon, he had no
idea where they were of what was going on. They were taken to a place where
people in white uniforms, like doctors, took them after the handcuffs were
The soldiers left and the aides made them undress.
Devon had trouble. His hands didn’t want to work. One aide had to undress him.
Devon didn’t like that but there was nothing he could do. They were sent into a
shower together. Devon helped Caitlin wash her face and when they came out,
they were given gray cotton pants and shirts with numbers on them to wear—and picked
up and put in barber chairs. Devon didn’t think he needed a haircut, he’d just
been a few days ago with his dad. The barber took clippers and ran them over
his head. Horrified, he watched as they did the same to Caitlin. She began to
cry and fight them. One of the aides grabbed her hands and told her to shut up.
It was over in just a moment, her blonde hair scattered all over the floor.
They were escorted to another place and a doctor
looked at them. Then another place where there were other kids, standing in
lines. Girls in one and boys in another. Caitlin didn’t like that and started
crying again, calling for Devon. An aide came down the line and slapped her and
told her to shut up.
“No!” Devon yelled and began to go to her. An aide
grabbed him by the arm, slapped him, and shoved him back into line so hard he
fell. “Get up, kid.” And the aide walked away. Devon, shaking, stood up. He’d
never been hit by an adult. Never. He didn’t know what to think. Caitlin cried
quietly, watching him, as the line kept moving. She reached the desk first.
“Six years old,” the man said. He waved his hand and
an aide led her away. She didn’t want to go and fought the aide, but it did no
good. He dragged her, screaming, “Devon,” until they left the room. Then it was
“Eight years old,” the man said as he checked a
tablet. He waved and an aide took Devon away in a different direction than
Caitlin had went.
“What about my sister?” he asked.
“Shut up,” was the only answer.
They entered a room where there were other boys sitting
at desks. Devon saw that the boys sat, hands folded on their desks, eyes
straight ahead. Not one boy turned to see him come in.
The man in the room checked his tablet, then nodded at
the aide, who left.
“Boy. Pay attention. I’m Mr. George. You are now called
9280970. Remember that. It’s the number on your shirt. Say it.” He stood,
staring at Devon.
“9280970,” Devon said in a voice that cracked.
“Good. There is no talking unless you are asked a
direct question. Is that understood?”
“Do what you are told and it will go easy on you. If
you disobey, or don’t follow directions, you’ll be punished. Do you understand?”
Devon nodded again. He tried to swallow but his mouth
was dry. This place was scary.
“Sit over there, Row four, chair six. That is your
Devon nodded and walked over to the seat.
“Hands folded on the desk. Eyes to the front.”
Devon did as he was told. This is not good, he
remembered his father always saying. He was right.
I’m exploring possibilities based on things I am seeing on the news and comments made by some people in the government. Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.
If you think this is all too much, you’re not paying attention.
“Best thing to happen.” I had waved my beer to emphasize
my point. I knew some of these people didn’t agree, but what the hell. “I know
you all think it was wrong for President Master’s to rig the system then
declare martial law. But he’s in his fifth year now and the crime rate in the
whole country has dropped to nearly zero.”
“But Bill, really, it’s not a democracy anymore.” Dave
Apple said. “What have we lost?”
“Not a damn thing,” Bruce Leightner said. He sipped
from his beer can. “Everybody has a job. Like Bill said, crime is down, and the
criminal class has been rounded up and taken care of.”
The circle of men mostly nodded. Dave was one who
shrugged. “Still. Didn’t seem right to me that within a month, all the black
people were rounded up and put into the camps. I mean, my doctor was rounded
up. I haven’t found as good an orthopedic surgeon since he was taken.”
Bruce laughed. “All the chinks, too. I was so sick of
one of the gals at work.” He spat on the ground. “Could do nothing wrong. The
boss loved her.” He snorted. “Now the rest of us have a chance to get ahead.
What a cunt. I’m glad she’s gone.”
Dave shook his head and wandered off. Bruce laughed
again and pointed his chin at the guy and in a low voice said, “Glad he’s gone.”
The rest laughed with him.
Bill Brown looked around his yard. He’d invited
everyone over for a watch party. President Masters was going to be on in half
an hour and talk about what was next for the country. Bill thought the man had
everything lined up just right. He wasn’t a big fan of Bruce, but he had a
point. With all the blacks and Asians and Hispanics rounded up, there was a lot
He left the group to make sure his big screen didn’t
have any glare on it and that the wifi was working. The tv was already tuned to
the right channel, though that didn’t make a difference anymore. Whenever the
President spoke, it was televised, live, on every channel.
They were in front of the tv at the end of the speech.
They’d all cheered at the president’s promise of a new moon base within the
next four years. Jobs for everybody, they all said. Bill looked at his wife,
Mara. Aerospace and rocketry had been her career, before the president’s take
over. Now, she was a stay at home wife. Unless declared a national security asset,
women lost their jobs to men. It wasn’t really fair, he thought. She was
excellent at her job. But you had to go with the flow, right?
That’s when the garden gate banged open and SWAT team
members came rushing in. Women and children screamed with fright as more men
came pouring from the house doors as well. Men, women and children were
separated into groups. The commander, the word Immaculata, stenciled on his
dark green uniform, stepped forward with a pad.
“The following people are hereby collected for
deportation: Dave Apple, Jenna Apple, Anna Apple, Griffin Apple.
Bill was stunned. What was happening? The Apple’s were
good people! The list of names went on. Then, his heart nearly stopped. Bill
Brown, Devon Brown, Caitlin Brown. Mara began screaming and tried to reach her
children. The Macs held her in place while the ones guarding the children
pulled Devon and Caitlin forward. He tried to hurry to his children, but the Macs
pulled him over to where Dave Apple was standing, pale and shaking.
The commander stopped reading names. “You are all designated
racially impure. You will be sent to the camps and put to work for the good of
Bill looked at his friends. Bruce was smirking. That
asshole, Bill thought. Standing there with my beer in his hands. But he didn’t
have time to think about that anymore. He was shoved along the grass to the
gate and into a big, windowless van.
The ride was long and when the door slammed open, he was
hurried forward to a warehouse-looking place. It was humiliating. Stripped,
showered, dressed in gray canvas with a number stenciled on the back, they were
tattooed on the arm with the same number. “Memorize it,” the tattooist said.
Then he was moved at a trot to stand in a large open room and wait.
One at a time they were brought to a room with three
Immaculata at a table. He was shoved into a chair.
“Do you know why you’re here?” the middle one said,
Captain bars were on his shoulders.
“No, I don’t.” Bill was cuffed.
“You’ll address him as Captain, scum.”
“Captain,” Bill said in a hurry. “I don’t know.”
“Records indicate you’re part black.” The Captain was
reading from an electronic pad. “Part of your DNA test.”
Bill was confused. “What DNA test?”
“At your last checkup. A sample was sent for purity
“You can’t do that! It’s against…” He was smacked in
the head again.
The Captain sighed. “It’s not against any law. Every
person is being checked for purity. Been going on for over a year at any check-up.”
Bill didn’t know what to say. “How can I be…”
“Doesn’t matter,” the Captain said.
“Black, of course, since you are.”
“We’ll be together, right? Caitlin is only six. She’ll
be scared. Devon too.”
“There’s no place where you’re going for children.
They’ll be sent to their own camps, educated, cared for.”
“She isn’t black. She will be fined for marrying
outside her race. I suspect your house and property will cover the fine.”
Bill didn’t know what to say. His brain wasn’t
working. How could this be happening? “But, I’m a supporter of President
Masters. I donated.”
“That’s noted. Your work assignment will reflect that.”
He nodded to the guard. “Take him away.”
It’s Friday. The monsoons don’t start for another month and a half and my eyes and nose are so dry it feels like I’m going to have a bloody nose any minute. Staring at this computer screen isn’t helping any either. Eyes feel like they’re rolling in a sandbox.
My boss, Cassandra, sticks her head around the door. “My
Oh joy. I glance at the clock. Really, two thirty on a
Friday afternoon? “Sure.” I sigh. If I was in trouble about something, she
would have let me have it right there. No, I think as I push away from my desk.
It’s something else. Some news she can’t wait to ruin my weekend with. I grab
my notebook and wander down the hall.
As I get there, I see the other four department
managers arriving. I nod to my friend, Callie, head of database design. Her
eyebrow goes up a fraction of an inch. We both grin. It’s definitely going to
be a weekend ruiner.
We huddle in her office around a small conference
table. I open my spiral notebook to a clean page, noting date, time, and people
in the room. These little notes have saved my bacon in the past. Cassandra
“I was glad to see everyone still here. This is news
that can’t wait.” She looks at each of us, then nods. “Management has decided
that there will be no pay raises this year.”
That wakes up Seth. He’s always bragging about how he
gets the biggest raise every year. That’s despite the rule about not talking
about salary. I think he’s lying. I’ve been doing half of his work for the last
three years. And, the company only gives pay raises to a small percentage. I
expect Callie is the one getting the money. I know I get some. What Ellie and
Bob get is a mystery.
Cassandra let the murmuring subside. “Budgets have
been cut. People are going to be laid off. Least productive departments first.
Some of you will be affected. Some of your department’s work will be handled by
other parts of the company, either here in the U.S. or overseas. Some work the
company is just dropping. They’re not going to brand on that any longer. The
uproar in the room grew louder as she walked around her desk and sat in her chair.
I had all I could do not to yawn. I could see this was
coming. I’d told Callie so a year ago. Anyone who could read the business journals
and had an eye on the company’s investments and closings would have known. I’d
already begun sending out resumes and refining my own branding. I did feel bad
for Callie, though. She worked hard and had two kids in high school. She’d been
hoping to hold on until they were out of college.
Cassandra rapped on her desk. “Let’s keep calm,
people.” She turned a sheet of paper over, typed side up. “This is the initial
She read down the list. I had to cover my grin with my
hand as she announced Seth’s department’s work was going to be picked up by the
Minneapolis office. “What am I supposed to do,” as an afterthought, “and my
“Offers will be made to allow you to move,” the boss
I knew that wasn’t going to happen with Seth. He had a
big family here. His wife was executive VP across town at the biggest bank in
Then both Ellie and Bob were told their department’s
work was going overseas. Ellie began to cry. Bob went pale.
Cassandra turned to me. The announcements were getting
worse and worse. I braced to hear that the company was dropping the work my
department did altogether.
“Your department,” I could hear everyone stop
breathing, “is going to be expanded. Project management is the coming thing and
the company is jumping on that bandwagon.”
The others stared. Cassandra carried on. “You’re being
promoted to Division Manager and you’ll be organizing the growth and hiring of
additional staff. Congratulations.”
I have to admit, it took me a second to wrap my head
around that. Everyone else was essentially getting the axe and I was getting a
promotion. Wow! “Um, Thank you, Cassandra. I’m so sorry, everyone else. So
“We’ll be making announcements over the intercom at
three-thirty. Please keep this news to yourselves until then.” Cassandra turned
that paper over again and turned to her computer. A sign we were done. Everyone
stood. In the hall I gave Callie a hug. “Your department wasn’t touched.”
She shrugged. “Not yet anyway. I should have believed
you last year.”
“Well, you’re good for now. It’s not too late.”
She nodded and wandered away. Cassandra called to me
from inside her office.
“I’ve been told we’re going to build up a real
presence here in Phoenix. Lots of big companies moving into the state. The
whole southwest, really. You up to the task?”
“Absolutely.” I grinned. “I assume my department doesn’t
do the sales. Just the project management work?”
She nodded. “I take over the Sales. VP.” She looked
smug. I’d heard that she and the operations manager were close. Maybe that paid
off. I don’t know. “Congratulations. We’ll still be working together.” With
that she made a quick, little face that let me know she hadn’t thought about
that, but she pulled it together quickly. “Yes. Of course.” She turned back to
her computer. “The president will see you at 10 on Monday. He wants to talk
plans with you.”
“I’ll make a note.” I left the office and went back to
my desk. In half an hour, my team was going to be hitting my office door. I
poured more chocolates into the bowl on my conference table and got on my
computer. Time to pull up notes on how to run a bigger department.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m not cutting this into 1000 word or less parts. You have the entire story, right here. All 1754 words of it. Enjoy, and Happy Mother’s Day this weekend.
Ruby Ray tapped the button again and adjusted herself in the chair. The electronic spinning wasn’t nearly as satisfying as the old-fashioned slots but what could she do? The spinning stopped as she tapped the button again. Win! She smiled in satisfaction. Not a big win, but substantial.
She tapped again to start the spin and returned to her
previous thoughts. Maybe less chance of the casino cheating? But, then again,
they could get the tech to set the computer payouts as tight or as loose as
they wanted. She shrugged. If they were going to rip off the customers, they
were going to do it, Gambling Commission or not.
The spin stopped. A win, but not much. She sighed and
bet again. A look around showed the usual regulars with a scattering of
occasional people she’d seen before. Plus, there was a bus in today. She shook
her head. She didn’t like the bus visitors. They clogged everything up and
screed up the machine’s patterns. Ruby shifted again. She’d been in the chair
for three hours. The spin was a bust.
“Dang it,” she muttered under her breath. She hit the
call button and the little light on top of her machine blinked red. A last
swallow of her now warm iced tea and the woman cruising the aisles stopped by.
“Hey, Gina.” Ruby and Gina knew each other’s names.
Ruby was here every day, so she knew all of the attendant’s names. “I need a
bathroom break. Can you hold my machine for me?”
“Sure, Ruby. Shall I lock it?”
Ruby knew they could do that. “No. I’m just going to
the bathroom. A sign should do it till I get back. I just don’t want the bus
people to take my machine.”
Gina nodded. “Okay. I’ll just hang around here till
you get back.”
“Appreciate that.” Ruby slid out of the chair, waiting
a moment while her legs adjusted to actually doing their job. It was getting
harder and harder, she thought, over the last few months. She waddled off as
her legs protested. Getting’ old ain’t for sissies.
In the stall, she checked her cash. She didn’t like
flashing her money on the casino floor. Her kids, knowing she liked to casino,
has sent her money for Mother’s Day. All told, six hundred dollars. There was
four hundred left. She tucked it back into her wallet and left to wash her
The walk back to the machine was better than the walk
away. The blood was flowing and the muscles had loosened up.
Gina saw her and just as Ruby reached the slot machine,
took the “Reserved” sign down. “Here ya go, hon.”
“Good luck.” Gina continued her rounds as Ruby settled
She checked the totals on the screen. Good. Just as
she’d left it. She hit the Bet button. The spin began. A big win. She grinned.
Her months-long research into the best paying machines was paying off. Ruby
upped the bet to maximum and spun again. Again, it payed off. She was up to six
hundred and fifty dollars from her starting two hundred-dollar start. Not a bad
haul but she figured that this machine was due to pay big. She was staying here,
hell or high water, till it did.
The afternoon wore on. The cocktail waitress brought
her a burger and fries. Ruby was still doing well so she gave her a fiver as a
tip. She tipped Gina as well, when she took another trip to the bathroom. Her
legs didn’t really recover on that trip, but Ruby just cursed her old age,
eighty-one this year, and climbed back into her chair.
Later, Gina stopped by to tell Ruby she was going off
shift. “Andy will be around to help if you need it.”
Ruby nodded. “Have a good night.”
Her mind wasn’t really on the good-bye, though. Half an
hour ago she’d started losing. Half of the money she’d gained was gone. She
changed the patter she’d been using to stop the spin. It didn’t help. Ruby put
another two hundred dollars into the machine. “You’re supposed to pay off
The machine responded by ending on a combo that didn’t
pay off at all.
Ruby ordered a glass of beer. Relax, she told herself.
It will come around again.
Fifteen minutes later, she dropped two hundred and
fifty into the machine. The last of her Mother’s Day money and fifty of her
own. She spun but it only paid the bare minimum. Come on, sucker, she thought
as she punched that Bet button again. The pictures rotated, around and around.
Ruby hit the stop. Nothing.
She clenched her jaws together, her false teeth
grinding. Ruby rubbed her left arm. Thank God they got rid of the old pull handles.
The buttons are so much easier. She spun and spun. The payouts crept up a
little, then down to nothing. She put her grocery money into the machine. Well,
she thought, the pint total for today is looking good. She spun. It went
poorly. Ruby called Andy over.
“I’m on a roll, Andy. Can I get a little loan here?”
Andy looked around. “It’s your money, Ruby, but why
don’t you just head home? You’ve been here nine hours.”
Ruby gave it a quick thought. One more night in that
tiny, cold, room at the retirement center was going to make her scream. She
shook her head. Despite the pain in her leg, she was staying. The jackpot on
this machine was going to pay. She just knew it. “No. Ask, please.”
She gambled as she waited. She was down to her last
fifty dollars when the manager came over. “Hi, Mrs. Ray. I’m John Sweetwater. I
hear you’re interested in a loan.”
“Yes. I’ve been a good customer. I’d like to keep
He stroked his face, his long braid swinging along his
back as he thought it over.
Ruby could see that he was reluctant. “I’m sure you’ve
seen my file. I’m good for it. I’m in here all the time.”
“Of course. We just…” he paused. “Well, you are a
good customer. We just hate to put people in this position.”
“I’m good for it. Really.”
Other patrons were now turning to stare.
“You’re right. You are. So.” He stared at the
non-descript drop ceiling for a moment. “Are you sure I can’t talk you out of
this? We can give you a ride home in our courtesy car.”
Ruby wondered what kind of casino this was that they
didn’t want to keep a gamble in her seat. “I’m sure.” She knew. She KNEW! This
machine was going to pay off tonight.
The manager sighed. “All right.” He waved Andy over. “Reserve
Mrs. Ray’s machine.” He turned to her. “I’ll need you to come to the office to
sign some paperwork.”
Relief flooded through her. “Of course.” She slid from
the chair. Again, her legs protested. “You don’t mind if I stop at the ladies?”
“Of course not. Con on back to the office when you’re
ready.” He signaled another floor attendant. “Bring her when she’s ready. The
young woman nodded, and he left.
“Come on, Ruby. We’ll take care of everything.”
“You’re so sweet, Ann.” Ruby threaded her thin arm through
Ann’s. “How’s that chubby little cherub of yours?”
In the office, Ann led Ruby to the chair in front of
John’s desk. “Good luck, Ruby.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?” John studied her
with concern on his face.
“Yes!” She was so sure of it. It had to be tonight.
He put a paper in front of her. “The contract.”
Ruby scanned it as she absently rubbed her arm. She
was disappointed to see it was just five hundred dollars. She sighed. “This
looks fine.” Ruby picked up the pen john had slid over with the contract. She
signed and pushed it back. “Is that it?”
He examined the contract. “That’s it.” John handed her
five hundred in hundred-dollar bills.
Ruby fanned them out. It wasn’t often she got such a
windfall. “Thank you.”
Her lower back hurt on the walk back but she was so
happy about the loan, she didn’t care.
Andy removed the sign for her. “Good luck, Ruby.”
“Thank you, Andy.” She sat down, made herself comfortable
and hit the Bet button. It was a little disappointing to see the spin come up
empty. No worries, she told herself. It will come.
After fifteen minutes, she added the five hundred
dollars she’d received from the manager. Her stomach was upset. It was going to
take a lot of time to repay the money, but she didn’t care. This machine was
going to pay off.
Around and around. Ruby stopped the spin in every
combo she could. The total kept dropping. What is wrong with this? she thought.
It should pay! She stabbed the buttons, frustration and annoyance making her
angry. The dollar total kept dropping as spin after spin at maximum bet kept
dragging it down. It was hard to breathe, but she stabbed the button again. The
last time, her hand on her bosum.
The pretty pictures spun and Ruby let them spin without
interference. Her head hurt. Her legs hurt. Her chest hurt. “Com on,” she
The spinning drew to a stop. Nothing.
Ruby leaned back in the chair. It felt as though all of
the air in the room was gone. It seemed like the light had dimmed. It was all
gone. She looked around. The night people were there, staring at their
machines. Intense. Not like the day gamblers at all, she thought.
Her arms dropped to her sides. The cheery sounds of
the different machines sounded far away. The flashing of lights softened. It
felt kind of nice. Here with her friends. A few minutes later she began to
lean, more, then more to her left until she tumbled from the chair to the
The staff moved quickly. The ambulance was called and
she was picked up. Her now still face covered with a sheet.
“That’s a shame,” Andy told another attendant after
they watched the ambulance crew take her out. “So much time on that single
“Yeah,” the other guy said. “It had just paid off last
night. Some old guy. He’d been nursing that machine for days.”
“Is that so?” Andy shook his head. “What a shame.”
There were riots outside of Congress. People were upset that the Senators and Congressmen and women, all still had insurance. “Why?” People asked. “Why do they get insurance and we don’t? They’re not special. If it’s good enough for them to cut off people with pre-existing conditions from their insurance, why not them?”
The police had to cordon off several blocks out from the congressional buildings and the White House after several men through molotov cocktails at the buildings. Central Washington DC looked like a combat zone there were so many soldiers patrolling.
In the meantime, I had been asking around about making our own insurance company. Several people I knew were willing to invest starter money and pay a monthly premium. I talked to retired insurance agents. They agreed it was a good idea and gave me tips on how to do payouts. A percentage of what each person paid in, was the gist of it. I felt like I was on a runaway horse. Panic filled my waking moments and nightmares filled my nights. The stress was getting to me.
My own premiums for my company were going to run me twice what my old medicine cost. But it would be a buffer for doctor office visit bills and a cushion for any hospitalization. I had to talk to investment bankers. I couldn’t just shove everyone’s premiums into a savings account. That was a whole other level of stress.
In the country as a whole, congresspeople and senators were trying to back up the pre-existing condition legislation. It was impossible. The insurance companies were failing after people stopped paying their bills. Some people had already been to court and the judgements had been for the consumers. The judges called it a breech of contract, even though the insurance company high-priced lawyers argued that there were clauses that said they could terminate policies at any time.
The number of lawsuits reached record highs. The court system was jammed. The President of the United States appeared on television calling for calm and reason. That’s when a protest group cut the power to the station doing the broadcast.
A year later, things had quieted down. My insurance company, Around the Block Insurance, was doing well. People were very careful about making a claim, knowing that they could run out of insurance resources. The FundMe company was making a fortune as people got on, making pages asking for donations. It seemed to be a thing—donating to people who needed medical care. After all, we were all in the same boat.
Congress was working on bills to implement single-payer medical in the United States, similar to what was working in Canada and Europe. All of the nay-sayers were gone—died themselves or finally understanding what the single-payer movement really meant.
I got ready for work. It was casual Friday at the office so I was in a sundress and sandals. My husband kissed me on the cheek on my way to the garage. “Have a good day, tycoon.”
I laughed. My salary was the same as every other person working in my company. That was another thing happening in the country but a whole different story.
“Thanks, hon.” I kissed him back. “Get the pork chops out for dinner, would you? It seems like it will be a nice night to grill.”
“Will do.” He shut the door behind me.
It wasn’t the only problem in the world, but I’d solved, in a small part, at least one.