Billie Piper Has a Problem

Billie Piper has a Problem


Billie Piper has a problem and she has no one to share it with. Her family is incurious as families are, and yet her neighbors are more meddlesome than constructive, repeatedly offering her unsolicited counsel in passing. “Dump the lot of ‘em,” they might say, or, “Now that the rules have changed, you can shoot them and not even pay a fine.”

But Billie is old fashioned and burdened with Catholic guilt made ever more fervent by the rapidly diminishing number of faithful in her church, a decline seen by her more business oriented parish priests as culling the herd or refocusing the brand. And so, even though recent case law is clearly on her side, Billie resists what her neighbors correctly consider the most cost effective solution.

Her mother, Pidge, had been a drain in every possible way and for a very long time. But even though families throughout America were now electing to disassociate with wasteful family members, some even receiving stipends from insurance companies for doing it, well it didn’t feel right to Billie. But for all the anxiety that Pidge has inflicted on Billie while she was growing up, she never totally abandoned Billie during a lifetime of shared and perpetual disappointment and unfairly allocated blame. If Pidge could persevere in that hell hole, damn it, Billie could in this one.

A warped life was the result of knowing Pidge too long and the first time in high school with that sincere, handsome young priest. It should have turned her into a cynic, but it didn’t. She hadn’t exactly stopped living so much as stopped participating once she discovered that her hurt wouldn’t numb. It was because them that she never dared to allow love into her life if it ever dared to approach. Billie learned that her defenses just weren’t up to it and the ache of constant loneliness was the far better alternative to loving and being loved and it was far less immobilizing, too.

Unlike her neighbors, Billie resisted cynicism. She did it not because it provided no relief; but because she didn’t want to hurt someone else in this world like she had been hurt. That and she lacked that caustic backbone so necessary in wielding cynicism effectively. She lived a sadly comfortable, falsely optimistic fatalism and whenever a way out presented itself, she declined politely and allowed a budding new beginning to float wistfully out of her reach. Like all of the other abjectly poor in rich man’s America, Billie was simply incapable of reading the map of her heart in the impossibly dim lighting that the rich man gave her.

Once, out of nowhere, her life seemed to glimmer with possibility. A solution arrived by mail. She opened the letter and skipped past all of the unfathomable details to the bottom, to where the hospital statement estimated the cost for Pidge’s surgery and her promised recovery. Lacking insurance of any kind, the chasm between life and death was a financial bridge too far and mother Pidge was as good as gone. The good Lord does provide and since Pidge was poor and this was America, her death was nobody’s fault.

On considering it, Billie felt a little empty, yet glad; perhaps like it felt to have a large tumor removed. But that moment passed as did Pidge.

To Billie, good fortune was a whimsical stranger and so she sought trends in order to project the end of a run of particularly bad luck. It had been years since Billie kicked her eldest daughter Sally out. Supporting two generations was just too hard. It was harder still because daughter Sally had learned how to treat Billie by watching Grandmother Pidge abuse her. And it had been going on since Sally was a child. It was the only activity her daughter ever seemed interested in mastering. Sally should have been desperate and willing to do whatever she could to make their relationship work, given her dependence on Billie, but that was more thought than Sally could muster. She had little education, no resume, no discipline, and no discernible skills and her most bankable feature was her horrid, aggressive personality. For all that, Sally wasn’t tone deaf so she could hear the fat lady singing. She left to feed herself elsewhere.

It was the happiest period in Billie’s life. She was finally alone. But even now, the memory of that doorbell ringing causes her to startle. Pidge was gone, Sally was gone, and what seemed like the very next day, the doorbell rang. She shouldn’t have answered; no good could come of it. She did though and it wasn’t Sally; it was Sally’s two mistakes, each an accident and each named after the fathers of those accidents.

The “happy” Billie died. Years later, her grand children had demonstrated every one of the compelling Piper family flaws. And unlike interest payments, those flaws compounded ever day without creating any value. Sally’s children are screamers, god-awful lazy screamers, too, but Billie is older now and tired, too, and so she concedes the space and the bandwidth and like regret, she allows Sally’s ungrateful brood to rant on relentlessly. Billie remembers how, too late, she had hustled past the children as they ran inside her house. She stared out into the distance where Sally, in some man’s convertible, was disappearing down the road toward some delusional future, a future Billie hoped never to share.

So much for hope. Too defeated to want to shout after her daughter, Billie had tramped back to her door, bent down, and in a pathetically tardy gesture; had picked up her welcome mat and tossed it off into the distance. Her daughter had finally recognized that there was nothing here so she was fleeing toward some mystical land that crowned its queens more easily. Billie could only pray that this time a fleeting wisp of undeserved luck might find its way to Sally and keep her away from here. Fat chance of that.

And so Billie settled into this new low in life. To make time pass more quickly she expanded her viewing habits, watching Omni-channel fair and balanced financial news that flooded the airwaves with stock tips and spewed outrage on a progressive President Parrington who was strangling the American economy as surely as you would strangle an old man. Day in and day out, she listened to these evangelicals on a mission and earning commissions but Billie found the intensity to be just what she needed. She listened to God’s Financial Word with the same zeal that she listened to God’s Holy Word. Maybe it’s only the economic poor who can truly believe that God works in mysterious ways. Maybe it’s all they have to believe in.

Regardless what the economic prognosticators or the evangelicals say and no matter what is promised to the meek and the weak, Billie knows that they are not prognosticating, they are not prophesying, they are not proselytizing, they are merely promoting their brand in order to pay for their fine lives, their cars, their homes, maybe even their least ungrateful kids, but she listens because at least someone is speaking to her and not screaming at her like Sally’s legacy.

Billie is invisible to the world, nothing ever goes right and the only sustenance she finds is sucking at the roots of disappointment. Exuberance is hard to fake. Billie doggedly anticipates the good times ahead, the good news waiting, the high tides that float all boats—and she is cheered if only that it helps to pass the time.

For as far back as Billie can remember, among her subsistence level wage worker neighbors, she was considered an innocent. They thought of her as oblivious while prancing at the edge of a precipice within one indifferent economic oops from a rapid descent into oblivion and yet she seemed unaffected.

To Billie, she was surrounded by a consortium of the truly innocent, the foolish, the incompetent, and the slothful, each with more than a smidgeon of bad luck story. These were poor, sad people born without the capitalist gene. These were the easily sacrificed, those doomed to be among the first cursed by the sins of boom and bust capitalism. But she knew that neither she nor her neighbors were fated to do any more than glimpse at, certainly never snare, capitalism’s great golden ring. What her neighbors weren’t was all together oblivious to the unfairness of it all in this land of the free and home of the brave, owned by the wealthy.

Like so many of the economic bottom feeders in her neighborhood, Billie persevered by living vicariously through the characters in the books she read and the TV shows she watched. And like far too many, there was little satisfaction she could afford in a home that was too crowded with the wrong people and too compressed to allow any privacy. Her only release came from self-generated orgasms that were more frequently in the form of tasty cheap comestibles and less and less from touching herself. Her bliss was a plastic wrapped caloric time bombs containing lethal doses of modified food starch and high fructose corn syrup, chemically altered to provide the perfect rush for those who could afford nothing more and could survive on nothing less. And the great free markets had priced them such that Billie could afford another dose as frequently as her life demanded it.

So here she was, forced to accept the flawed vision of herself as a once beautiful skinny kid, now an unregulated pre-diabetic adult with early grave syndrome. If the sugar hadn’t burnt out her resolve, she might have improved her diet by ingesting raw sewage but it would have been barely less expensive and it wouldn’t have prevented her “sugar shock” tremors.

Billie was resigned to her bad habits and her meaningless life of repetitive, dehumanizing, menial tasks and unrelenting defeat with little recompense. She had no choice but to seek easy rewards wherever she could find them because inadequate satisfaction was far superior to no satisfaction at all.

She was brighter than her neighbors; all of whom lived with their potential crushed. Billie remembered herself as an inquisitive child but Pidge had squelched that. What little interest she had in learning resurfaced far too late, after high school, long after she could have benefited from it. High school had been a time of unrelenting impulsivity while breasts and boys prodded her to be someone she had never considered being. Barely graduating and barely pregnant ruled out most career choices and that road was completely blocked when mother Pidge sought advice from that young, sweet prince of a priest and then refused to consent to a much needed abortion.

A hastily organized, ridiculous, and unhappy marriage to a naïve yet mean-spirited teen followed, but it wasn’t short enough and it left her with two babies in the same year and a no fault, no benefit divorce. The first child, she named simply, Priest, but he died early. Sadly, Sally’s screeching kids confirm that the wrong one had died and Billie was certain that a relentless God left no good deed unpunished.

Not many years later, Medicare and Medicaid went unfunded and Social Security payments paused never to reload. A fearful gravity took hold of her and pressed her down forcing her to believe harder. Billie had no interest in the rich sport of politics but getting inundated by the media convinced her to agree with the experts on the Omni channel. What else?

Why had former Democratic President Parrington been so clueless? Why could he only ride shotgun on America’s hopeless economy as it cratered? The media declared it so and her neighbors’ hatred of Democrats everywhere confirmed it. Parrington stood accused of being the detestable face of feared socialism and change was in the air. To hear it explained on TV, Parrington’s corrupt efforts had corroded even the most sanguine citizen, driving every voter toward Republican sensibility and more personal responsibility. The Democrats were rats who stole what they couldn’t abscond with and then fled the stinking sinking ship of state while Republicans were big on personal responsibility and bootstrapping, whatever that was.

Everyday, life felt more hopeless for Billie so between TV watching and work, she played the currently popular and unwinnable video game, Train Wreck, which Sally’s kids were so addicted to. Though often grisly, it soothed her soul so she played it whenever the kids were bored or she watched the movie of the game or the television series spawned from the movie of the game. And though playing it allowed more time to pass, the slow-motion carnage of train on train violence pained her, yet she watched, over and over, betting what she can’t afford on who survived, who got maimed, and how severely, with the perverse feeling of comfort that comes from knowing someone else is hurting.

It was only temporary relief. As soon as she quit TV or stopped playing Train Wreck, the depression returned just like before. She was trapped and powerless, floating far below the ocean surface, drowning in surreal calm while above a cruel storm raged, roiled, and ravaged and sharks lurked.

The four years since Parrington lost were no different for Billie or her neighbors. But to hear her favorite TV personalities explain it, her only salvation is the re-election of the gorgeous President Crelli. After all, they say, he has served brilliantly and he is a true and heroic patriot, a staunch conservative, a libertarian, and the first truly post modern man American politics has bubbled to the top. Andy Crelli is the right man to lead America because he is driven to it, not out of need, but out of loyalty. The President possesses a unique selfless desire to restore America to its rightful place of glory while raising everyone’s standard of living—and no one’s more urgently than the poor.

Billie’s few liberal neighbors swear that Omni TV is lying about Crelli in order to help him steal yet another election but like true progressives, they have no good response when she asks why anyone would want to steal the Presidency in these dark times. It’s Crelli, it has to be. She desperately needs to believe in something and though a gifted conservative political messiah to lead poor Americans to the Promised Land might not pass the sniff test, Billie is long past sniffing. She just wants a better place to be, a place like it has never been and so when President Crelli paints the future with simple words and great eloquence, it’s far too uplifting for a beaten down woman like Billie to ignore.

Crelli asserts that America will return to glory but it will require a difficult ascent up a precarious slope while avoiding the great abyss of opposition politics. To Billie, it sounds too honest not to be true. Andy implores her to trust in business, only in business, because Democrats be Democrats and no sacred trust is possible with them. She is comforted to hear that entrepreneurs are principled people obviously favored by God. Everyone can see that, so the President pleads with Billie to be steadfast, to ignore the satanic chants of socialist interests and she feels proud that he needs her in that way.

The economy will strain and there will be disruption, Crelli says as he marks his domain. Billie hears his words but it’s his powerful looking chin lifted high and proud, his steel blue eyes, and his premature gray hair, rakishly unkempt, that keeps her attention. Entrepreneurs will deliver, the President declares, promising that an unregulated economy can not fail. As she listens, a long dormant sexual urge shivers through her body and when he implores her to believe in the majesty of the American economy, she is consumed by his passion and is sated.

For someone who has been lied to all of her life, just hearing this gorgeous man’s truth spoken with confidence and in such a heartfelt way was enrapturing. Billie felt that her wearying slog through life was over, somehow. God bless this President. Maybe now employers will hire and provide just the hint of new opportunity. It caused her to tremble.

What her beautiful man is offering is heaven and earth to Billie and it feels so right that she is thrilled anew to have voted for him the last time even though it cost her half a days wages to wait in line.

But even exhilarating words grow tiring and Billie is bored now. Crelli’s warning about selfish behavior by overreaching labor unions has lost its effect. That welfare must be eliminated sounds reasonable but the desire to boot up Train Wreck is sapping her concentration. Even the President’s announced quest to kill the two-headed dragon, Waste and Charity, and his announcement that he would end all entitlements and kill taxes is too hard to concentrate on. The joy of him is fading and so she sighs and flicks the switch and the image of her hot President has been replaced by two trains surging on their hopeless journey toward death and distraction and she must concentrate now if she is to win her wagers.

Later that evening, Billie leaves her home to Sally’s kids. It’s time for her job feeding assembly lines that have been running of late at far less than peak capacity.

Billie enters a warehouse filled with row after row of finished products stacked to the roof. Somehow a signal should have been sent but wasn’t. The enterprise-wide logistics system had failed to notify management to halt production until customers return with needs and so inventory should have been liquidated and not another bag or rail car filled in support of that mission. But as to why management wasn’t alerted and why inventory was this far out of sorts, you’d have to ask the algorithm that determines production rates because why is far beyond Billie’s pay grade to ask.


The Angs, Inc. executive cafeteria was resplendent in black and red in anticipation of the return of their now famous former employee. Former assistant vice-president of Customer Service, Jake Jackell was returning today for the first trial run of an impressive new program brought to life by the President’s hallmark Circle of Life legislation and Harvey Smiley, Vice President of Corporate Engineering and Roscoe Flannigan, head of Personnel were there to greet him. And though they both had worked with Jake throughout his career at Angs and both knew him to be a vacuous sack of shit, this trial was far too valuable to the Angs executives and the President of the United States to treat Jake with anything but respect.

In the limo, Jake Jackell was excited. Like always, he was on a mission. Jake wasn’t dumb, particularly, thoughts just weren’t his strong suit; he was an instincts kind of a person. But manipulation came easy for him, it was his gift. He left Angs knowing that every professional he worked with had hated him because when promotions were announced, Jake somehow always found his way into the running and though sometimes bypassed, his career was a relentless ascent up the corporate ladder.

He understood his own strengths and weaknesses and he knew how to maximize or minimize them. He was infectiously personable though a bit self-absorbed, smooth talking and though not a persistent thinker, he was facile, often coming up with the winning solution immediately after it was determined. His progression at U.S. American Natural Grain Stuff or Angs, had taken him from a former gym teacher to summer warehouseman to night shift supervisor to manager to director to assistant vice-president rapidly passing other, more qualified people along the way. And if Tom Gorman hadn’t transferred him to President Crelli’s Circle of Life Bureau, he would have easily been President of Sales by now. But it didn’t matter. Soon enough, Jake would be President, President of these entire United States. He was that good at getting what he wanted.

Hard working, exuberant, and self-effacing in his lowly early positions, Jake was impossible for his superiors to humiliate. But with each promotion, some of them justified, he became more arrogant and officious to his underlings and unctuous yet surprisingly productive to his superiors. An uncomplicated, simple, self-directed man, Jake’s career strategy was simple. He understood, like few others, how imperative it was to become necessary to superiors and he achieved that status by devoting all of his efforts to corporate astrology—interpreting the corporate heavens and the corporate political currents—that made a corporate life so incredibly intense and competitive.

Many were like Jake, but few had his unrelenting almost religious fervor and besides, he just had a knack. Whenever anyone anywhere higher up in the organization needed help, no matter how distasteful, it was Jake who volunteered first, eventually assigning some grunt on his staff to accomplish whatever was needed. His efforts were discounted by his peers as a strategy that didn’t appear to be worth worrying about, but that they worked is a lesson to everyone interested in career management. And on occasion, after receiving some thank you bonus from a boss for a job well done, Jake would deign to reward some underling with a trifle for their effort on his behalf but that was the most anyone could expect because Jake’s indelible memory worked in only one direction, up. Appreciating who was beneath him was truly beneath him.

All of that no longer mattered. Today, Jake was returning to Angs, a newly appointed high-level bureaucrat in President Crelli’s administration and the leader of its most critical program, the Circle of Life. It was Jake’s responsibility to make the program work and saveAmerica’s moribund economy. There was never a more important program just like there was never a program that Jake couldn’t find someone else to work it for him. This one was Jake’s ticket to the Presidency and the implementation at Angs was his first step to well deserved riches and glory.

When Jake walked into the Angs lobby, former co-workers, barely suppressing old slights, congratulated him on his success and he reveled in their hypocrisy, gleefully accepting praise from people who unbeknownst to themselves were acting like sycophants which was the highest praise Jake could receive.

A secretary led Jake to the Executive cafeteria, a place he had only been invited to once before, when he was appointed head of the Angs Quality Improvement Process almost twenty years before.

He waved at Smiley and Flannigan and after accepting their obeisance, he sat and ordered dinner. “I feel a little wild tonight, Harvey.” He said to the head of Engineering. “Is there a Rhone on the wine list?”

Soon he, Harvey and Roscoe were talking about old times and new, but this time, Jake got to call the shots.

“I just received the latest Ping as a gift from the manufacturer. It’s the six thousand dollar model and its added twenty yards to my already bodacious drive. Now if I could only find a putter. Roscoe, you always were a killer on the greens, any ideas?”

Roscoe tried to turn a grimace into a smile. “I just had a special putter designed at the I. U. school of Athletics. I can send it to your hotel after the trial run tonight.”

“I consider it done, Roscoe. Harvey, is everything ready for later?” Harvey was Jake’s man at Angs. He was the one responsible for setting up Jake’s trial run today and had already received a car and some vacation trips in anticipation of its success.

“We begin at shift change. Everything is in order, the security people have been briefed and the vehicles are modified, lined up and ready. The Department of Homeland Security and the Angs Quality Control Department assure me that everything is in order. All you will have to do is make a speech here to management and then give the go ahead. You can do that, right?”

Jake smiled and tapped his suit jacket. “I got the speech right here but once the trial run is over, I have to run so send your putter to the White House—I mean my office in D.C. I’ve got other trials throughout the country. Because of me, America is going to get competitive again and we’re going to be heroes. And you better not forget who made you a hero.”

Jake finished the Rhone and ordered an Oregon Pinot with the prime rib. They ate in silence, Jake considered it in reverence but in fact, he had nothing to say to them so he was content that they had nothing more to say to him.

After dinner, they escorted Jake into a large meeting room in one of Angs’ many large warehouses, this one had windows, floor to ceiling, only on the inside facing the bay doors. Parked outside were three heavily armored buses.

The room was filled with attentive middle and upper level managers. He surveyed the crowd as if he was interested, smiling at strangers and nodding at those who seemed to recognize him. In the back were a group of Angs executives. Jake nodded to them as well and began his presentation. He opened by pulling a banana from his coat pocket.

“Anyone know what this is?” No one raised their hand so he pointed to someone. The gentleman offered an embarrassed, “I don’t know. It’s a prop for your presentation or maybe just dinner.” Everyone including Jake laughed.

“Well played, your name is…”

The gentleman smiled and provided his name. Jake nodded to one of his staff who wrote it down. The man’s smile turned curious but he said nothing.

Jake held up the banana for everyone to see. “Obviously, this is a banana. He smiled and tossed it to the man who had spoken. “Peel it for me,” Jake commanded. Amused, he watched as the man peeled it, put the peel on the table, the banana on top of the peel, and dug out a handkerchief to wipe his hands.

Jake nodded. “Good job. You peeled it from the stem the way everyone peels bananas.” The man nodded. “Did you consider another way?” When the man stared blankly, Jake repeated the question.

“I guess, I could have sliced it or maybe peeled it from the other end,” was the response

“Exactly, here’s a guy who thinks outside the box. Now watch.” With that, Jake took another banana from a different suit pocket, held it up high and flipped it so the stem was pointing toward the ground. Using grand, theatrical gestures, he squeezed the other end of the banana between his thumb and forefinger. The banana skin split open and Jake quickly peeled it. With the banana pointing up and the peel like a floret flopping over his hand, Jake smiled at his audience. “There is clearly more than one way to peel a banana. Now pay attention, it’s time to learn another new technique, one that will improve both Angs’ bottom line and America’s. Today, we begin to fix our country’s economy for all time.” With that, he took a large bite of the banana and slowly chewed it with his mouth open.

With his voice muffled by the banana, Jake began. “First, I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank the majority stock holders here at Angs, and my very, very good friends, Tom Gorman and Tom Morgan, without whom I would not be in this exalted position and enjoying the sweet fruit of success and this great lifestyle which I so humbly deserve. Because of the Toms support, U.S. Angs was selected to be the first corporation to implement this game changing new American business methodology.”

Jake nodded to the back of the meeting room where the Toms, Morgan and Gorman, were standing, looking bored. “Thank you.” Jake mouthed sincerely, blowing them a kiss and smiling. The Toms looked away. “When President Andrew Monroe Crelli picked me from a list of incredibly talented people to run his Circle of Life program, at first I was disappointed to leave Angs because it’s such a great company. But then I considered the patriotic contribution I would be making to my country and it was a no-brainer. It has been an honor to repurpose my career and at the same time to help save the greatest country in the history of the world.

“As we watch the trial run, please keep in mind that my actuarial staff has projected that due to the Circle of Life legislation, by the end of my boss, the President’s, second term, at long last America’s economy will be on the upswing and anyone still around should expect to have flourishing careers.” Jake took another bite of his banana and nodded to his staff. They proceeded to lock the doors.

When the room was secure, Jake continued. “As loyal members of Angs’ senior management team and real American patriots, you have been blessed with the opportunity to witness the face of real progress after decades of the progressive, liberal politics of waste. You are here because you love your corporation and your nation above all things. We are capitalists, we are used to winning, we know how to win, and we will not fail.”

Through the windows and on queue, a group of Angs employees filed into the warehouse and sat in the seats provided. Roscoe Flannigan appeared in front of them and began to speak. Inside the meeting room, Jake and the other attendees listened to his voice on the speakers.

“As many of you know, the U.S. economy is in the dumper. It has been for years. Management and the principle stockholders at U.S. Natural Grain Stuffs have been doing everything they can to avoid this moment but alas, profits are still down and our stockholders are concerned. That is why, with a heavy heart, we are letting you all go.”

There were sighs and a few screams but most of the people just shrugged and accepted it.

Flannigan continued. “Angs has always been a people first company so you will be pleased. Everyone here will receive separation benefits that should last a lifetime if you’re frugal. You stayed with us through the bad times and you deserve it.”

In the crowd, there were some cheers and some of the employees were hugging and shaking each others hands, happy at this outcome that could have been far, far worse.

“There are one hundred employees here so in order to process you all, we ask that you board the buses you see outside. As you leave the warehouse, find the badge with your name on it and then enter one of the buses. They will take you to your ultimate destination where all questions will be answered and your future will be clarified. As always, the Toms thank you for your effort and good fortune to you all. Due to corporate policy, I can answer no questions at this time but soon you will have answers to all. Thank you and good bye.”

With that, Roscoe left and he was readmitted to the meeting room. As soon as he entered, the door was locked behind him by Jake’s staff.

Jake and the Tom’s management and executive team watched as the now terminated employees walked in groups toward the buses. On the walls inside the meeting room, monitors showed them getting on the buses and then the buses pulling away.

As he followed their progress on the monitor, Jake stood and spoke again. “The people you see out there were chosen carefully. Each has provided Angs with less economic value than others in similar positions and each is so dependent on the income they receive from Angs that without it, they will have no way of surviving since handouts have been expressly forbidden by the Circle of Life legislation recently passed by Congress and signed into law by the President. One of the great truths is that no country can survive if a critical mass of its people has nothing in their lives to lose.

“And so what we begin here at U.S. Angs today is nothing so much as necessary for our national defense. My boss, the President of the United States has asked me to read a statement.” Jake removed a hand-held communicator from his suit pocket and proceeded to read from it.

“My fellow managers of the American economy, as you know, capital is fungible; it is the same worldwide, but standards of living and the cost of labor are not. Labor is far, far cheaper abroad and that is both a problem and an opportunity. To insure that our entrepreneurs receive a fair return on their invested capital and their risk, many American businesses have evaluated the situation, packed up, and now do business where labor costs are cheap and profits and growth are greater. We believe in free markets so there is nothing inherently wrong with this. Seeking more is a rational business act but it has had a deleterious effect on America’s economy.

“During my first campaign, I promised the country that the days would end, that I would do everything to retain corporations and entice back those who’ve fled. America needs its corporate brethren back here to invest and grow our economy so there will be jobs and positive financial futures for everyone. I promised and with my Circle of Life legislation now in effect, I can deliver that promise.

“The solution will be difficult for many and great sacrifice will be in order but I believe that this is the way to return the American economy to greatness, permanently. We have been carrying a great debt for far too long and because of that, we can no longer afford everyone.

“Those who you witnessed today being let go, they are loyal and hard working and certainly don’t deserve what will happen to them. If I could change it, I would. If I could go back thirty years and beg the politicians at the turn of the 21st century to grow up and take responsibility, I would do that too. But unfortunately, I can’t and those terminated today, they are the first of a great many who will find their termination immutable.”

With that, Jake returned his communicator to his pocket and stared up at the monitors on the walls which now showed the interiors of the buses. The people who were talking when they boarded, now all sagged in their seats as if asleep. When the buses reached a distant terminal near a series of rail cars at the edge of Angs’ property, the bus doors opened and specially clothed Homeland Security guards boarded.

This was a critical point and Jake watched attentively as the guards checked the long benches of now lifeless former employees. How would Angs management react when they realized that their former employees were dead?

There was concern on many faces but no one spoke. Most stared silently at the floor, seeking some perfect repose so they wouldn’t be invited to these buses next time. Jake took note that this was within the tolerances of what Circle of Life forensic psychologists expected. As he was getting ready for his concluding remarks, a voice came over the loud speaker.

“Sir, there’s one, well, not dead, sir. The nerve gas didn’t do it.”

“Check the procedures.” Jake commanded. And then, “What’s the name of the one still alive.”

The guard checked. “Sir, I’m to use the electric bolt pistol in my truck and the problem’s name, sir, its Piper, sir, Billie Piper.”

“Well get the damn pistol and eliminate Billie Piper’s problem.”

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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