The carrots, scrawny and dirt cased, began to sprout in the makeshift garden between the two abandoned buildings just west of what had once been Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. It was 60 degrees. Bright warm sun and the middle of February. There were no real seasons anymore. It could be snowing one day and tropical breezes the next.
Truth Minister Bannon had assured all of us who remained after the waters started rising sometime around the middle of last year, 2019, that fluctuations in temperature were part of the natural cycles of nature. He had the research. He knew the data. There was no other data.
But we had nothing to fear. The Leader would provide. Everything was fine.
Our garden in Chicago was on a lot at the intersection of what used to be Clark and LaSalle Streets. At the other end of LaSalle was the boarded up tower once known as the Board of Trade. The once faceless statue of the Roman goddess Ceres gazing out over the deserted canyon of skyscrapers that had once been Chicago’s financial district. The occasional movement of a wolf, a rabbit or a homeless family scanned from the high tech cameras beaming out from the face now painted on Ceres. The eyes were those of Culture Minister Ivanka.
The cameras protected us. Because there was, of course, always danger. So we had the cameras and the guns for protection.
The new shore of Lake Michigan had risen about a quarter mile to Clark Street. I don’t know how long that took. Time gets blurry and confusing for me now. There were days and weeks of endless rain. Icebergs the size of small towns drifting down from the north, Lake Michigan becoming a rushing river, hollowing out homes and roads and sweeping away whole towns.
Infrastructure Minister Cheney said she had it all under control. Contracts were soon to be awarded. Garden land would be available till the construction got started. The new social safety net was the left over patches of soil.
And on the other side of the world, the Leader of Leaders nodded in approval at the American spirit for rebuilding, after we had culled the herd. His laughter echoing in the golden halls of the Kremlin.
It had all happened very fast. The old American State Department hollowed out. No one worked there anymore. The phones rang in empty offices and no one answered. The Leader smiled, put some ketchup on his well-done steak and thought, “I have made evil government go away.”
After the State Department went Poof! . . . and vanished, it wasn’t long before the food chain across the American continent started crumbling. Disease ran rampant as the last traces of those attempting to control the safety of what we ate and drank closed up the darkened government offices.
Oh there was still safe food. For some. And those who had the safe food, holed up in the gated communities across the American wasteland, munched along and told each other on Truth Minister Bannon’s approved web sites, “Hey, I worked for what I have! No one gave me anything. These people with nothing? They need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps!” Lots of talk about bootstraps.
And the Leader of Leaders laughed louder at the success of Truth Minister Bannon’s message that the way to make everyone fed, safe, warm and healthy was to make the rich richer. That laughter bouncing across the planet as Leader of Leaders said to his head nodding entourage, “And there are still those fools who believe that’s true! No wonder they crumbled!”
I don’t remember much, but I can still remember, that day when I believed there would be no time after Trump. When I believed this was the way it would be forever.
I had just finished my daily scribbles. That’s what I called it, that time every day when I’d just write. I knew no one would ever read it. But there was something that made me need to remember what it was like before the deluge. Before Trump.
I wrote. I hid the scrawling in a green wooden shed where the 10 of us, once strangers but now a family, lived out back of the garden. And I set out to make my rounds walking the empty streets of what once was Chicago shouting “Sharpen your knives! Sharpen your knives!” That’s how I brought in what little money I contributed to the survival of the 10 of us. I sharpened knives.
Because after Trump, everyone needed sharp knives.
I remember pushing my creaking two-wheeled cart back to the garden and hearing the news. Truth Minister Bannon had just tweeted out the message that there would be no more Medicaid. No more Medicare. No more rules and regulations to limit the profits of the health industry. The work was done. Health care was where it should be: available only to those who could pay.
The herd had been set to be culled. The laughter of the Leader of Leaders could be heard in the background as the video of the announcement by Truth Minister bounced off every corner of the world.
Health care? Gone. America as that shining city on the hill? Gone. In the strangled cry of the spirits of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and all those who had first dreamed up the American experiment, came the booming voice of the Leader shouting out “Make America Great Again” as the Leader of Leaders laughed in the Russian snows at the folly of us all.
On that day when we thought life before the Leaders was gone, I remember a moment.
I remember all 10 us just sat down on the floor of that green shed next to the rusted garden tools. No one spoke. Then one of us whispered, “No.” And it became a chant, “No,no,no,no.” Like some ancient rhythm of the waters. “No,no,no,no.”
Silence. Then one of us said, “That old oven? That still works, right? And we still have that gas line, right?” I answered, “Yes.”
“Then I’m going to make some chocolate chip cookies,” she said.
One of the women went outside and snaked a new electrical circuit into the shed. Checked that the gas main was secure. Fired up the oven and soon the smell of chocolate chip cookie scent swirled around the shed, fighting back the coming night.
Somehow, someone had found an old vinyl recording of the song, “Before the Deluge.” So we had music. Jackson Browne singing about men who forged the earth’s beauty into power.
The smell of those chocolate chip cookies. The warmth of the shed as snow started to fall on that night after the 60-degree day. Browne singing about how there were those who believed they were meant to live after the deluge.
And as the music grew louder, as the 10 of us sang together, the chocolate chip cookies came out of the oven and were passed around our circle.
Like sweet tasting chocolate messages of hope.
That had somehow come alive!
Chocolate messages of hope come alive.