SoCal, Thirty years ago
John Blake slowly got out of his bed. Mechanically, he shaved, showered, and put on his work clothes. He ate his tasteless but genetically enhanced designer cereal without relish. He kissed his sleeping 7-month pregnant wife, Alice, and walked out of the house. His shoulders slumped a little further as his eyes focused on his shining black Hummer parked in the driveway . You could see a “For Sale by Owner” sign in the rear window. He had recently reduced the asking price drastically but still no one had called.
The price of gas had almost doubled from the time he had bought the Hummer. He remembered how happy he was, how envious his macho friends were, and how Alice loved his new car. But that was before they got married.
He uttered a silent lament, “fuck,” as he drove to the gas station. He had a 40-mile drive ahead of him to West LA where he worked for a bioengineering company.
The drive was not too bad, just expensive. People were trying to work from home or using carpools when they could.
“I must look for carpools on the net today,” he told himself. Soon he will be a father and Alice will have to stay home to take care of the baby.
“Hi Joe, How is the cloak and dagger stuff,” asked John with a broad smile.
“You pulling my leg again,” said Joe Barto.
John uttered an exaggerated no as he pours his coffee.
“I think that bitch is a Monsanto spy,” whispered Joe after a little self absorbed pause.
“The new secretary, Becky”
“I think she is trying to get in bed with me,”
“And you think it has nothing to do with your charming personality?” John said, laughing.
“I am married.”
“It must be the money, then.”
“You kidding me. I am just the lowly security guy.”
“May be the guns turn her on!”
“That is ridiculous,” said Joe as he splits his “off-the-rack” ill-fitted Jacket to proudly show his Magnum in his shoulder holster.
“Is that new.”
“Yes. John you should get yourself a gun.”
“The way things are going, they will be rioting for food, gas, you name it. I have a room full of them. I will sell you one when you are ready,”
“How can you think about that. Aren’t you a Baptist or something?”
“John you should read the Bible someday. God loves genocide. There are 666 holy stories of butchery and mass murder, or thereabouts.”
“And the other cheek?”
“That’s just marketing,”
“Be careful, John,” said Joe to John’s receding back.
“I will,” John shouted back.
Becky swings open the office door and says excitedly, “The hospital called, Alice is having her baby.”
“I knew it, I knew it, I didn’t want to come to work today.”
“Good luck, John,” yelled Joe.
“Call us when you can,” said Becky
John hurriedly departs from work. He is in the hospital waiting room in 30 minutes. He waits.
He sees the doctor walking toward him. He rushes up to meet him.
“Doctor, Doctor, how is Alice,”
“You have a healthy boy.”
“But how is Alice.”
“She is not doing too well. We are moving here to critical care.”
“What happened, Doctor.”
“She was bleeding too much…and the brownout is not helping.”
“What about the generators.”
“They have not worked in 6 months…there is just enough diesel for the critical unit. And, your insurance does not cover power outages”
“Do not despair, there is hope.”
“Can I see her.”
“Give us a few minutes, she is being moved.”
“What am I going to do,” said John to no one in particular.
“Can I see the boy. We are going to call him Eric.”
“Yes, the nursery is this way.”
SoCal, Twenty-seven years ago
Yura was always hungry like his friend Mark, living on the streets of the beach town. No, he was not a tinfoil-hat veteran or a drug addict. His father had committed suicide a couple of years ago when the bank foreclosed his mortgage a few months after he lost his job.
He was a UCLA dropout and a hoodlum, working the streets, looking for food to support himself and his ailing Korean mother. And thinking overtime to find a way out of the LA quagmire.
As they stood scanning the surroundings lazily, looking for an opportunity to pick a mark, they saw a security guard from Don’s Food Store kick and tase a panhandler at the front entrance. When Yura tried to intervene, two other guards in full riot gear showed up in a hurry. He backed off, but continued to shout insults at the guards. Within seconds, there were over a hundred people surrounding the security guards, who by now had pulled out their guns.
And the police was on their way.
The pan handler was lying motionless, unconscious.
Yura purposefully pushed his way to the back of the crowd that had started throwing garbage, cans, and bottles at the guards. While Mark stood watch, Yura slipped under a parked truck, pulled out a couple of tools from his backpack, and punctured the gas tank. He filled three bottles of coke with gas. It took him but a few seconds. As he slid out and away from the truck, Mark threw a burning match in the flowing gasoline stream. They seemed to know the drill. Efficient. No talk.
Suddenly the truck was on fire, engulfing other cars nearby. The police started shooting in the air and sometimes straight at the trouble makers.
“Chief, we need reinforcements, the crowd is ugly.”
“I have no spare capacity. LA is fighting their own riots. Ask Don’s security people to lend you a hand. They started the riot, didn’t they.”
Just when the rioters were beginning to wilt under police pressure, Yura threw a Molotov cocktail, and then another.
Someone drove a black Hummer straight at the police. It ran over the panhandler and went through the front doors of the food store. Don’s security killed the driver. Eric, the three-year-old orphan in the back seat was unhurt, but crying.
The mob was in a frenzy. It charged the store with reckless abandon.
The police and Don’s security were overcome. The mob took their guns and tasers and light-sticks, and duck-taped them.
Yura frantically typed the text message to a friend, Benita: “Food party at Don’s. Won’t last.”
Seven rioters and two policemen lay dead. The food store was emptied within minutes. The security cameras showed store workers helping themselves.
By the time reinforcements came, there was no body around the store, except for a couple of tinfoil-hats rummaging through the carnage and, of course, the dead.
Yura and his mama and Mark and his dog, Bouncer, and Eric ate well this day.
“Mama,” said Eric.
“Ah-gee, my baby” said mama.
Yura and Mark looked at each other, laughing without restraint. Bouncer looked up and howled.