EVERY BOOK IS A VACATION

LUNCHTIME
SHORT STORIES
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BEFORE  TWILIGHT

             I pulled the cell phone from my raincoat, and someone over my shoulder whispered: “You still carry that thing around with you?” I turned and laughed along with the man," I guess it is just a habit now. I was looking for the time. You got the time?" "Yeah, yeah, almost time for the bus. Funny, I stopped memorizing things like a bus schedule when I could just save it to my phone,  now we are back to reading a schedule again." Said the man with a slight smile on his face. We watched the bus come around the corner and seeing the bus had its headlights on, I knew I would get home just before twilight.
               As I predicted, when I got home, it was nearly dark. I had to do things quickly now, there would only be a few hours of electricity. I hated to rush to the kitchen and make something to eat but the process was long now. I picked up the can of Sterno, the LP gas alternative, so when it got dark, I could still eat. I walked past the window and watched everyone cooking, using their rationed electricity. I did not have to rush, I could watch some TV first and take off my work clothes. Work was harder these days but more gratifying. The digital age was behind us, and for us, it was back to the jobs of the turn of the century.
            I knew I would have to take a shower, but I decided to waste the electricity just to hear the news on the TV and not really look at it.  It was a quick shower, time was going fast. The tick-tock of the wind-up clock reminded me of that. The news was the same, nothing had changed since they had put the new laws into motion. Our electric grid had not been updated or refurbished to beat any threat to the security to our country. No one thought any country would be able to attack The US Grid and the World Wide Grid. No one thought the EMP (Electronic Magnetic Pulse) was a reality. Now electricity was rationed to only 15 hours a month--if we were lucky.
             We had reverted back to the time of old. In some ways, it was better. There now were more jobs. Typists were typing again. Click, clacking away on manual typewriters. Accountants were real number crunches again and they did not rely on computers to do their dirty work for them. Bus drivers were driving again and did not have to rely on computers to assist them. They had to carry change again. Train engineers actually drove a train again. Fewer accidents now, no cell phones, or texting to preoccupy them with mundane messages to and from people they would never bother to talk to in person.
            I had to quit daydreaming and get things ready for the morning. Morning would come quickly, I needed to get ready for another day of sewing seams at the factory. We thought manufacturing was over for us, we went to the best schools to learn all the new trades that would keep America and the world competitive. Computer Programmers, Computer games, everything made for the damn electrical grids that managed to crisscross the United States and they were all obsolete now.
         Who would have ever thought, rich kids had to walk to school and their mommies and daddies had to take the bus to work every day, every fuckin’ day. They also had to work in a go-nowhere job and make $2.50 a day. No play time for them. Their computerized boats and fancy cars were useless. The boats were beached, and the cars sat in the driveway. Even if they could afford the gas, their cars would not run without the benefit of the computer that ran every inch of the motorized monsters or should I say computerized monsters. From the ignition to the steering wheel and to the brakes everything was computerized. If they did not know how to row a boat or could get a car with no computers on it and could afford the gas, well they walked or took a bus. I was kind of lucky, I did not have much, to begin with, my kids were grown and I just had me to worry about. My kids were self-reliant for the most part, they knew how to survive in this new world of wind-up clocks and analog devices.
             My car was old, no computers ran it, and I was too poor to have or waste gas.  So for me, I was comfortable and content. For me, there was no letdown, no throwing away of toys that did not work anymore. I already lived that life. That  1% of the world that was all about money and wealth was forced to live like me now.  Their money and their servants were gone now, the servants were busy trying to survive as well.
            The money was almost useless, and most of us were reduced to bartering. Poverty was the new standard.  The electricity was gone now except for a few hours a week and the hint of light coming from wax candles. I ignited my can of Sterno and cooked my can of soup. I thought to myself perhaps they should have taken North Korea more seriously when it said it would rule the world. Nobody believed that fat, little man would launch all 20 of his carefully made H bombs and plunged us all back into the 18th century again.


          
THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE REVISITED

 
            I was coming from Tishomingo using Hwy 7 that day, it was around the same time I always hit the road, but today I decided to stop and get me a beer.  Why? Just because I could.  The day was in the fall, just the right temperature.  You know that type of day, no air conditioner or heater, just a beautiful fall day.  I decided to drive slow, sipping my, ice cold beer, since beer only taste good when it is cold. The colors of the trees went from green to gold to yellow alerting the world that winter would soon be here.  The road contained gentle but constant hills and would remain in that pattern for at least the next seven miles before coming to a long straightaway and then a curve.  My speed was slow but so what, the road was empty, and I was enjoying the show that the fall foliage was putting on for me while sipping my beer.
            I looked in my rear view mirror and saw a car coming up behind me, it seemed annoyed at my speed, so I decided to speed up just to the speed limit but not wanting to speed, cruising 55 on both the hills and the valleys of the road. I took my foot off the accelerator to keep the steady pace.   The red car decided it wanted to pass me, so I obliged him by letting him go around my car.  Slowing down, I waved him on to let him know it was safe to pass.  He met my driver side door and mimed “did I want to race?” I waved him on, and he passed me.  I thought he would be gone in a split second, but instead, he held on right in front of me, waving me on.  I looked at the red car and looked at the beer and thought, “Hell, I never get a chance to finish a nice cold beer.”  I decided to pass him and put my speed up about five miles over the limit to give him room.  Before I knew it, he was behind me again begging to pass me at a little faster speed than my own.  We jockeyed for position going faster and faster at each hill until it was my turn to pass him, by this time, we were both doing a bit better than eighty.  I checked the road, I thought to myself, “I have time,” and I looked at the clock in the car and said to myself “I have time.”  I passed him one more time going about eighty-five.  He had to be doing close to ninety when he overtook me.
 I slowed down, watching my speed go from eighty-five to below the speed limit.  He had already topped the final hill and was heading for the straightaway.  I had time, so I slowed down to forty-five and finished my beer.  When I hit the straightaway, he had disappeared from my vision. 
            I had now finished my cold beer and went back to enjoying the ever-changing foliage on the Oklahoma road, and further down the straightaway, I then saw my little racing opponent pulled off on the side of the road and behind him was a black and white car with red and blue lights.  I looked at the clock in my car and said, “Yep, right on time.”  I looked over at him, and could not resist waving, he looked at me and smiled and waved back.
 
  
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