Excerpt: Book 3 – Circle of Life, Chapter 8

Chapter 8

Canada — 2071

A warm breeze was blowing down the empty street in what seemed a familiar town. In all of the store windows on the street, the glass was shattered, while ripped, bent and water stained For Sale and For Lease signs flapped in the breeze. Inside each building, the floors were littered with cracked ceiling slabs and other debris.

          Fearful of what she would find, she walked down the center of the street searching for danger in every corner and shadow, for though oddly familiar, she had never seen a place so grim and desolate as this. As she walked, she noticed exposed windows on the floor above the shops, and there were thick, heavy bars on those windows with drapes so thin, cheap, and insubstantial that the light barely noticed them as they flapped against the security bars in the breeze.

          At the far end of the street she saw a chain link fence, maybe twenty feet high, with foreboding-looking sharpened shiny wire on top that glinted in the sunlight. She approached, her neck craning to see the wire.

          Who would climb so high, she wondered, with that wire on top to thwart them?

          Then she shuddered when she realized that the fence was designed to keep people in, not out. She was inside the fence, now, standing in an immense parking lot whose cracks had become a perverse growing field for persistent flora. In the ripples of heat that emanated from the surface, the bent, grotesque looking scrub pines stood, slight and insubstantial in so many types of weeds and brush that the parking lot appeared to be a great battle front of a colossal war between nature seeking to surmount man and man steamrolling nature away.

          There was silence. Even the wind made no sound here as it blew into wisps the light coating of sand that seemed to portend that nature was giving up and committing suicide. She heard a soft hiss and walked toward a gigantic building where the noise seemed to emanate from. As she approached, the hiss went from barely discernable, yet steady, to a high tension growl. She touched the building wall and felt it vibrating. She came to a metal door that was smooth and dull from the sandblasting wind but when she opened it, the inside was severely dented. She stepped inside and a hot blast of air followed her to be answered by the roar of mechanical sounds that forced her to cringe and cover her ears.

         She had entered on the second floor of the building. Below, there were winding row after winding row of automobiles, all greater or lesser works in progress, depending where they were on the assembly line. The oppressive brightness of the overhead lighting system illuminated an assembly line that continued on as far as she could see and everywhere, there was machinery and filth and an orchestrated cacophony of loud harsh industrial noise that made the ground shudder, her teeth vibrate, and her ears hurt.

          Because of the blinding lights, it was warmer inside than out, so she removed her coat without wondering how she came to be wearing it. She smelled the sweetly foul odor of vintage sweat as men, women, and children labored on the lines, their heads wrapped in cloth as they concentrated on the screws and bolts, the upholstery, the trim and electronics, all the details that turn parts into finished goods and effort into profit. The workers wore ripped and filthy clothes, their gaunt, weary bodies lacquered in dirty sweat and dried blood as they toiled in repetitive moves, up and down, back and forth, twist and turn, side to side, over and over, moves designed to build a convenience but break down people.

          In the recesses of the factory where the extraordinary lighting didn’t reach, fully depreciated elderly watched naked young children who wore miner’s hats with lamps to illuminate the nooks and crannies in the vehicles where only they could fit to do the job. Some of the workers were mothers, Stacey guessed, their newborns strapped to their backs as they bent to help children perform the simple, repetitive tasks that were in their purview to accomplish.  Those too old and feeble to be productive sat crammed into dark areas watching, some, almost feral, others offering advice by shouting over the din.

          The adults on the main line worked with a dour concentration, their eyes riveted on their work, their mouths tightly shut knowing that opening them would only make their life worse. Confused and concerned, Stacey continued on until a large, husky, tough-looking man carrying a three-foot section of thick, metal pipe stopped her.

          “Ma’am, you shouldn’t be here. The Circle of Life expressly prohibits anyone other than union workers in here. Please be respectful and move before it’s too late.”

          She walked away but turned to ask the man what he meant by too late, and union.

         “This is Detroit, the auto capital of the world,” the man shouted, as if that answered her question.

          Along one massive wall, there were long rows of lockers that disappeared into the darkness of a tunnel. In front of the lockers were narrow metal benches and on them, at various points, men, women and children huddled, waiting for their shifts to begin or their lives to end.

         Troughs ran between the rows of lockers and some were using them to wash and others to eat from or drink. Each trough was covered in a greenish-brown nauseating muck. The troughs were fed from above by large black plastic tubes that extended through the roof. Down the center there were other troughs, built nearer to the ground for septic purposes, but they were too revolting to look at so she turned away but not before noticing the flies. These weren’t the tiny, annoying small flies of Angel Falls. These were big, fat, and courageous flies that were everywhere.

          She felt queasy at the thought of families sharing these ghastly facilities and the even more sickening food and the brownish, oily drinking water and she staggered against a cinder block wall to vomit only to see a small boy of no more than five years old, who smiled sadly at her. Queasy and enduring a clammy sweat, she smiled back and he ran to her and hugged her tight. And then he began to cry.

          Before she could comfort the boy, the man with the pipe came by. He swung hard, hitting the child in the head, the pipe creating a sound like that of an organ. It vibrated to silence as the boy’s arms spasmed and he sank to the ground, limp like a doll. Ever so briefly, the boy shook with a terrible seizure and then it ceased as did he. Stacey stared and screamed.

          Paying no attention to the now dead child at his feet, the man with the pipe became insistent that she leave. “Ma’am, I won’t ask you again. I don’t know how you got in here, but if you want to be someone who can walk out, please, do so now.”

          Frightened, she backed away, and then dashed toward an exit. Along the way, she noticed long rows of wheeled dumpsters piled high with waste. At first she thought it was old clothing, but as she got closer, she realized the dumpsters were filled with the bodies of workers who hadn’t outlived their productivity, some wearing clothing not needed elsewhere.  She screamed again and fled through the first door she could find, hitting it so hard on the way out that she hurt her wrists as she blasted through. Outside, heaving in the still air of the parking lot, she fell to the ground and vomited again.

 

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What is the Joad Cycle

The Joad Cycle is a series of dystopian speculative fiction novels set in our America from 2032-2084 after a Constitutional Coup has brought to power an extreme Right Wing, Christian, Libertarian Entrepreneur who is the leader of the new Entrepreneur Party. In this America, business interests rule, government has been marginalized. and the poor and the middle class no longer exist, the result of a massive economic genocide. To survive, every citizen lives to create wealth and should living cost more than they can generate in value to the economy, they are executed. Mostly, this is an Anti-capitalist Love Story.

$$$ How to Read this Site $$$

This site is mostly fictional and it supports the novels, providing backstory and additional related short stories that take place within the world of the Joad Cycle.

The site offers a Blog and Journal from the perspective of one main character, the hero of the first book, The Golden Rule . This character, Bernie Rosenthal who is very liberal politically, works as Chief Financial Officer for U.S. Angs, a multinational multibillion dollar private corporation owned by Tom Gorman and Tom Morgan, the Toms, who represent ultra Conservative Koch brother types. Bernie is humbled by the tyrannical Toms during the day and finds a release journaling his job frustration. Meanwhile, Bernie's future self, Berne Thau, adds to the blog entries with his perspective, more than 30 years in the future, after money, greed, and the Right Wing revolution end the American Republic .

We are living in trying times. According to Berne Thau, they will get much more difficult.

Why this curmudgeon wrote this story

Every generation, parents tell their children that life was better back when they were young… and the children always scoff.

But now that I have qualified to pass judgment on that age-old warning, now that I’ve been both young and old, I have come to realize that the old have it right and children scoff at their peril though in the ways that American society has been taught to measures success, every generation since maybe the turn of the twentieth century anyway, has had it better.

But with age, and career experience, I have learned that those ways are deceptive and worse, they are wrong. Success is measured based on wealth, conveniences, and life expectancy issues when it should be evaluated on what we hope to be as individuals and what we become as people—the expectancy of life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been successful enough. For most of my baby boomer life I was comfortable middle class interspersed with a few years of unfortunate decline towards impoverishment, never quite getting there before bootstrapping back to comfort.

For a time, I was a certified member of the 1%—in income though not in wealth. The 1% is a class of people who rule their part of the world and have a lot of confidence that somebody they know rules the rest of it. I wasn’t a one-percenter for many years, but it was a good life until my associations made me believe that I just didn’t want it anymore. I apologize to my family for what I had become and these novels are my penance.

People congratulated me for the success I’d earned as if those less and least successful earned that lack as well. And with the memory of a manufacturing facility in a small, rural, one-employer town in out-of-the-way Northern Maine near the Canadian border closed to improve a bottom line somewhere else, with an American town murdered for earnings per share, I signed off and began to write the The Joad Cycle.

In my research, I came to fear for my family that grew from the narrowest and shallowest possible family tree to three generations deep and two wide. My family is important and so I wrote these novels for them, for their future, for what I dread we have taken from them and will continue to take, long after we are dead.

I live in the Midwest and my friends are good people and I value them. They are conservative and most are Christians and somehow, we argue over unions as if union members aren’t patriotic Americans, too, and besides, what is to be gained by condemning workers in a country of workers. And we disagree on the poor? Social Safety Nets may not be working as well as they could (But how would we know if these Safety Nets are working? It is not as if some brave politician will stand up and precisely define what a win looks like in the freest, richest country in the history of history—and seriously, doesn’t free-form Capitalism deserve the bulk of the blame with its all-encompassing goal of creating winning humans and losing humans).

And discussions on life and death with my conservative friends, life at the very beginning and the very end, and guns and gods…forget about it. But unlike politicians and the media, we are friends so we work around the discomfort and the dislike for the greater good.

My friends are the current version of the salt of the earth and all of us abide by family values above all, even if we can’t agree on them. Good people like us accept a society where too many of our children are handled by strangers during the critical formative years. And in the twilight years too many parents and grandparents are handled by strangers until their money runs out, like sand in an hourglass, their lives extended only so far as Government security or private insurance will grant.

And when Americans finally expire after insufferable pain and embarrassment and to the sighs of sad but relieved loved ones, it reveals the immaturity of the vast majority of the American people who won’t resolve; once and for all, when God’s reason ends life and so they leave that to for-profit resolution. Can’t it just be in the fading twinkle of an ancient woman’s eyes?

But all of this pales to the legacy of GREED! Greed, that race for wealth that is ingrained in us all from television at a too early age that drives us to become economically viable so that with something extra in our paychecks at the end of the week, we can indulge ourselves with gifts, with palliatives, to relieve the pain and discomfort that we feel for doing what we must do to earn what wealth we cab. Greed is the satisfying of artificial and constant cravings.

And those who are considered the best of us, majority stockholders, officers of corporations, politicians, and celebrities all at the top of their respective food chains, they earn their way into the 1% and possessing this true wealth, they gift themselves truly extraordinary palliatives in order to compensate for something deeply unsatisfying within that was once more human, what they lost in the dog-eat-dog world that we all live in.

This is the world that we pass on to our children and our grandchildren. This world is what will own them someday like it owns us today. They are truly greed’s legacy. That too is the basis for my cautionary tale of America’s future, The Joad Cycle.

But I still idealize my youth. I remember what it felt like when I was a boy and so I wrote a grand love story, too.

 

Gary Levey

05/01/2012