Published on The Doomstead Diner March 23, 2017
Discuss this story at the Collapse Naratives Table inside the Diner
Losing her beloved husband of 20 years was rough for Kellie. Watching as the man she loved so much descend into depression and alcoholism after losing his job as a middle manager for a tool and die factory where he worked his way up in the ranks over the years of their marriage was incredibaly depressing. The factory was moved to Mexico, and all the local workers were laid off. To make ends meet, Kellie had to go to work as a low paid cashier at Walmart, and their son Kenny himself not yet out of High School contributed as well, doing work cutting lawns. Her dearly departed husband Max had secured a job as a night manager at the same Walmart, but his unhappiness in the position and his fate was evident every day, as he drank himself into a stupor and chain smoked Camel Straights. They did make ends meet though, until he died from a massive coronary while in an argument with the day shift Supervising Manager.
When Max died, Kellie could no longer meet the payments on the mortgage to their McHovel, but fortunately there was still some decent equity in it and she was able to unload it and take around $60,000 out of it after the Banksters took their cut of the pie and the tax man took his. She gave half to Kenny, and dropped the other half in her own Credit Union account as a buffer against ending up Homeless and Freezing to Death on the Streets of Missoula, MT.
Kellie was also fortunate her older brother Kyle had become a successful Dentist in Spokane, and not only offered her free rent in his Guest House on his McMansion property, but also a job as Receptionist and Records Clerk in his Dental Office, located in a strip mall in a lower middle class suburb of Spokane. Kyle's 3 grown children were sprinkled all over the FSoA pursuing a variety of careers, and besides his main work as a Dentist Kyle pursued a variety of hobbies, Beekeeping, Gardening and running a grid tied Solar PV 36V system for his McMansion and to charge up his Tesla Model X EV that he used to commute to work at the Dental Office from the Gated community where his McMansion was located. Kyle's wife Alicia worked as the Office Manager and Bookkeeper, so all 3 travelled together to work in the Tesla, making for an efficient commute for 3 people, relatively speaking next to all the solo drivers in ICE vehicles they had to combat in traffic every day anyhow.
Kyle also loved dogs, and had as companions a huge Labrador Retriever named Scooby Doo as well as a Siberian Husky named Balto, and his wife Alicia's dog Blood, who was a West Highland White Terrier.. All the dogs were purebred Males, and periodically Kyle would rent them out for breeding purposes with other owners of females of the same pedigree, pocketing the stud fee. It was one of the many small biznesses he ran besides his Dental office although it wasn't too profitable, mainly a labor of love and a way to keep the dogs from going nuts unless he had them castrated, which he could not bring himself to do.
Kyle's wife Alicia and sister Kellie had become even closer friends once she moved to Spokane than they had been over the years, and often they would all have dinner together at the McMansion, or Kyle would spring for a dinner out at one of the fine restaraunts or music bars in downtown Spokane, where he would generally vent on the load of taxation which was driving him out of bizness.
"It's fucking INSANE! The goddamn Corporations and Billionaires pay NO TAXES, and meanwhile the fucking Goobermint is soaking me for every dime of profit we make drilling teeth! Dental insurance is a fucking joke, and the patients can't afford the Root Canals and Caps, and now they're all flying to Mexico to get it done cheaper there! They get a Mexican Beach Vacation in the process, and it's STILL cheaper there! I can't even sell the fucking bizness to a young Dentist, because they are too broke from the student loans they took out to get a Dental license from the ADA! I gotta buy a new fucking Xray machine every 5 years because new and zippier models come out and I gotta compete with the Dr. Joneses in the next strip mall over! Before I even have the last Xray machine paid off! "
"Calm down,sweety." Alicia advised, patting his hand gently. "You're going to get a heart attack if you keep this up. Why don't you order a nice bottle of Pinot Noir and mellow out a little here?"
"Yea Kyle, mom and dad always were telling you to put a lid on it when you started ranting, I remember that when you were in High School and I was in kindergarten.", Kellie added.
Kyle sighed. "Yea, OK. I gotta get my mind off this shit."
Kyle flagged down the wine steward and ordered a bottle of 2007 Willakenzie Estate Pinot Noir Terres Basses from the Willamette Valley in Oregon for $120, which was a good deal more than the $50/bottle he paid for it by the case to store in his Wine Cellar. However, for a fine dining extablishment like the Wild Sage Bistro, the markup on the wine wasn't too bad. "Anybody got anything else to talk about?"
Kellie decided it was a good time to bring up a concern and desire she had for some time since leaving Missoula. "Well, I was wondering if you guys might want to take a long weekend trip with me over to Missoula to visit Kenny? I haven't seen him in over a year, and even though we talk on the phone every so often and exchange emails, I would like to see how he is doing. He's still living his TEOTWAWKI Collapse Prepper obsession and living out of his Stealth Van. He says he bought some land by Lolo National Forest and is building on it, but I still worry about that lifestyle and what he is doing. It's just so odd. Nothing I could ever say would get him to go to college, even though he could have had a full scholarship anywhere. He got a perfect score on his SAT's you know and had a 4.0 GPA in High School.", Kellie said proudly.
"Kenny was always a really bright kid." Kyle recalled. "He sure did grow some amazing Ganga with his hydroponics setup! That was some of the best shit I ever took a Bong Hit off of!", Kyle laughed. "He does need some Bizness lessons though, I would have paid him double what he charged me for that shit!"
"So how about we take a trip there next month for maybe 4-5 days or so? We can add some hours during the week so we don't sacrifice too much income from being away from the Dental Office.", Kellie suggested.
"That's a good idea Kellie.", Alicia replied. "We could go to 7PM instead of 5PM and make up the hours and not reduce the income. I would like to see Kenny too and how he is living. That business of living out of his van really seems extreme. I thought you said he was making good money in his landscaping bizness?"
"Well, he was doing pretty good with it when I left, so I think he probably still is, but it's not really a money problem for Kenny. He probably could afford to rent an apartment or even buy a small house on a mortgage, but he's a "kollapsnik" as he calls himself. He's been that way ever since Junior High. He's convinced Industrial Civilization will collapse in the near future and is obsessed with preparing for that. So he spends his money on what he calls 'preps' instead of on living a normal life."
"Oh that's just nonsense!" Alicia exclaimed. "We just have some economic problems right now, it's a business cycle problem. Elon Musk is developing new batteries and soon he will have a colony on Mars as well! All this talk about civilization collapse is just ridiculous.", Alicia said in a huff, rolling her eyes.
"Well, I'm not so sure Kenny is wrong, sweetie.", Kyle replied to his wife. "It's not just the economic situation, as bad as it is. There are a lot of Climate and Environmental problems ongoing as well. I haven't had any problem with my Honeybees so far, but some of my friends in the Beekeeper community have lost their hives. Without the pollinators working full blast, we'll have a lot of problems keeping enough food growing for the 7.3B People currently walking the earth. The weather around here is getting really erratic also, first we had drought and now we are getting inundated by atmospheric rivers in the atmosphere full of moisture dropping buckets of rain down all the time. Makes growing my raised beds in the back yard very difficult! Your own sister is still cleaning up from the last flood in Seattle too!"
"Floods happen all the time!", Alicia retorted. "That's why you buy Flood Insurance! President Trump and many others say that we do not have a climate change problem!"
The difference of opinion over climate change problems and environmental issues was a sore spot that Kyle and Alicia had argued about on quite a few occassions, along with having some differing political views and voting for different candidates, but mostly they were able to get over these differences because their love for each other was so strong. Still, it did get difficult periodically.
Kellie interjected to stop this arguement between her Brother and Sister-in-Law from getting out of control.
"Well, whether climate is the problem or the economy is the problem,I still think it would be nice to go visit with Kenny and see how he is doing! Last time I talked to him he said he made a new friend near where he bought his land, and he has a new girlfriend too! I would like to meet her for sure!"
Alicia relaxed and let go of the Climate Change debate, which always bugged her. Even though subconsciously she was aware it was ongoing, it was something she just couldn't allow herself to believe. She enjoyed her life too much as a former chauffer for her 3 kids, playing bridge twice a week with the other upper class moms she had known for 20 years and shopping regularly at Nordstrom.
"Yea, it would be a good change of pace from the usual vacation to Hawaii in any case." Alicia responded. "We could do it over Memorial Day Weekend and add a couple of days to that on either side."
"Yea, that sounds like a good time.", Kyle agreed, sipping some more Pinot Noir while he munched out on the Rack of Lamb with Cabernet Sauce, Asparagus Hollandaise and Garlic Mashed Potatoes he had ordered for dinner.
"Great! It's a plan, as long as it will work for Kenny anyhow." Kellie replied happily, munching out herself on the Lobster and Clam stuffed Fillet of Sole, Spinach Souffle and Loaded Baked Potato she had ordered for dinner. I'll send Kenny an email tonight and see if we can get it finalized.
After finishing dinner with some Ecuadorian Espresso and Chocolate Mousse, the 3 headed back out into the parking lot and jumped in the Tesla for the drive back to the McMansion. By the time dinner was finished, the traffic had abated and they made it home in half the time it took during the morning rush hour commute. Kyle plugged the Tesla into his fast charger for an overnight top off of juice, then went inside with Alicia to throw a DVD on the 70" Samsung OLED Big Screen TV before bed time. It was Alicia's turn to pick the movie, and she picked one of her favorite Chick Flicks, "When Harry Met Sally".
Kellie headed for the guest house and settled down in front of her laptop to fire off an email to Kenny.
"Hey Kenny! How's it going? Haven't heard from you in over a week!
Listen, I was talking with Kyle and Alicia, and we were thinking of coming for a visit over the Memorial Day Weekend. Would this be a good time for you?
What kind of gear do we need to bring? Do we need Tents and Sleeping Bags?"
Kenny's Samsung Galaxy Mega smartphone buzzed in the bottom pocket of his cargo shorts just as he was pulling in to one of his favorite Stealth Parking spots in Missoula, a lot for Joe's Auto Body Shop whose owner Joe he cut grass for and who gave him permission to park there at night, as long as he was out before the shop opened at 7AM. Joe had even given him keys to the shop so he could use the bathroom at night if he needed to. As good as this arrangement was, he still didn't use it every night, because the Gestapo would catch on too easily. Staying under the Gestapo radar and moving around between spots was an important aspect of Stealth Van living.
Reading the email on the smart phone, Kenny elected to get parked and settled in for the night, then fire up his All-in-One Dell Desktop unit to write a response to his mom. Keyboarding on the Dell which he had accessorized with a state of the art Razer Gaming Keyboard was much quicker than working the virtual thumboard on the Galaxy Mega screen, which was better than the tiny ones on IPhones but still not very good. It was even better than the voice to text recognition program on the Samsung, which often got words wrong and he had to go back and fix them manually, slowing things down considerably in SMS Text communication.
Once he got the van parked in an open spot between a Hummer with a crunched front quarter panel and a Mercedes that had been rear ended, Kenny sat down at his desk behind the driver cockpit in the comfortable Italian Leather Executive Office Chair his father had picked up at the final auction when his Tool & Die factory was moved to Mexico. His father had sat in that chair before him for nearly a decade once he moved from the factory floor into management. By the time he got it, the upholstery and leather were pretty shot, but Kenny bought all new foam and new leather and reupholstered it himself, so it was pretty much as good as new. He made some adaptations to the base so it would stay locked in place while he was driving around, but could be quickly released once parked to be able to slide on the casters and swivel around.
Kenny's desk and the rest of the interior of the Stealth Van were constructed mostly from Bamboo, which he got in Barter trade from an old Japanese Bamboo Master working outside of Missoula, in return for interning with him and assisting in the harvesting of the Bamboo. Kenny was also learning to play the Shakuhachi Flute, which was a relaxing way to spend many evenings by himself in the van.
"Hey Mom! Sorry for not getting in touch this week. Things have been really bizzy here with a lot of changes going on for me. I am working together with my new friend Karl and his daughter Karen and my friend from High School Kirsten to get our properties ready for SHTF Day and setting up a SUN Community here.
You and Kyle and Alicia are more than welcome to come for a visit! You don't need to bring tents, we have plenty of them and I will set up my F-Dome for all of us also, and we can also spend a lot of time at Karl's place, which is a PALACE for Kollapsniks like us. You might want to bring your own sleeping bags and pads though, and backpacks if you want to go hiking with us into the National Park.
I'll let Karl know we are having a Convocation over the Memorial Day weekend and that you guys will be coming in. Email me when you have a firm date for arrival. I know you haven't figured out how to use GPG4USB encryption yet, so I will meet you in Missoula and we can drive to the Doomstead together.
Can't wait to see you! I miss you a lot.