HomeNovelInvisible Hand – Chapter Six: Passage

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In which Clark goes to Washington, twice; things come to a head, and Lozelle leads the Granny Brigade.

——– Thursday, November 4, 2010 ——–

"Dear Mama, Frobisher did it. He won the election. Somehow, despite the polls saying we were 20 points ahead, I never really believed he would do it. But the people really like him now. They really think he can get the country out of the mess we’re in."

"You know, they are saying that it’s all because of me. That’s right Mama, Frobisher, Mr. Ormund, Doris, Ed; all of them are saying that it was my idea that did it. All I did really was tell them about this new money thing I found on the Internet. Of course I did have to do some research on it, so I guess I understood it better than the rest of the guys… but still, it really wasn’t my idea to begin with."

"Wasn’t Buddy mean to do all those ads for Constable? I mean they were just lies about Frobisher and our bill. There isn’t any truth to him saying that the bill is just a Communist front."

"We also won lots of seats in Congress for candidates who support the new money idea. There are at least 75 Congressmen who made the campaign pledge to support this bill exactly as it is. Hughy says we may need to convert enough other votes to be able to overcome a Presidential veto. He says the only way we can do that is to get a huge grass roots movement that forces their representatives in Congress to go along with us. So they gave me the job of teaching people on the website how to convince their neighbors and friends that this is the way to go."

"Anyway Mama, they are going to keep me on Frobisher’s staff. They are paying me real well, too. They want me to work on getting people to support our bill when Congress comes into session. They say I am really important. I don’t really think it’s true. I mean, Ed writes ever so much better than I do and Doris seems to know just what to do to get media coverage that says what we want it to say. Hughy seems to know everybody in Washington. Mostly I just put things on the Ten Points web page. Whenever there is anything in the news or on the Internet that spreads lies about the Ten Points, I put up a page which exposes it and shows the truth."

"You know Mama, I am beginning to think this new money stuff can really work. I mean it’s just like when I was little, and I would do something nice or help you in some way, you would give me a treat or give me a big hug and tell me that you were proud of me or let me go to the movies. That’s all this new money really is, it’s just rewarding people for being nice. Why can’t people see that, Mama?"

"Anyway, we are moving to Washington this week and I am going to have an office right there in the building with all the other Congressmen’s staff. I bet Buddy didn’t think I could do it."

"So I am feeling fine and eating better. I’ve even lost a couple of pounds. Ed says it’s because I am thinking harder than I ever did before. Doris thinks it’s because I walk to work and to lunch these days. Well, I do have a car but gas is so expensive that I would rather save the money for other things… so ever since Buddy cut off my allowance I've been doing a lot more walking. Doris says all the girls in Washington will want to date me but Doris says she will protect me so you don’t need to worry. (Joke)"

"Mama, I am so excited and happy. I know things are going to be tough and I am going to have to work hard and be careful to be smart in everything I do. Hughy warned us that if anybody with Frobisher gets even so much as a parking ticket they will use that to attack the bill. So we all have to be really careful to be above suspicion. You don’t need to worry about me at all. I’ll be very careful."

"Your best boy,

Clark

PS: Do you like the Frobisher campaign stationary? I dictated this letter into the new word processor and it did all the typing and stuff for me. We can’t use the stationary any more since the campaign is over so I’m not stealing anything from anybody. It’s just going to be thrown away if I don’t use it."

Lozelle held the letter close to her heart.

"Clark is doing so well!" she thought. "I have to help him. I’m going to find out about this new money myself."

Buddy had bought Lozelle her own computer for email with friends and use of the Internet. She had no trouble finding her son’s campaign website. It wasn’t long before she was reading the sections which encouraged readers to spread the word and build support. There were directions for holding new money parties and for finding others who had seen the light. There were instructions for how to introduce the idea to someone who had never heard of it and there were arguments given to use to refute the lies they could expect to be told about it.

By the end of the day Lozelle was planning parties and practicing the new greeting sign, which was a raised right hand with index finger extended while the thumb and other three fingers made an O, thus representing the number ten. The ten referred to the Ten Points of the bill that was to be passed unchanged.

When Lozelle went shopping next morning, she mustered up her courage and flashed the 10 at a few people. Most seemed to not notice, but a few gave her a big smile and flashed it back at her. Thus encouraged, Lozelle bought party favors and other supplies and invited half a dozen of her friends to tea on Thursday. Then she plunged into the website to find out how she was to convince the others of what they had to do.

“Know your audience.” it said. “Different people are suffering from different problems. If you understand their problems then you are halfway home.”

What problems did her friends have? April had a teenage son who was a drug addict and was somewhere on the streets only heaven knew where. Melissa had parents who were in failing health and their medical bills were crushing. Marge hated her husband but was afraid to leave him, since she had never worked and had no idea how to take care of herself. So she was miserable most of the time and suffered from depression and had even tried suicide a couple of times.

Okay, but what does that have to do with the new money? She pressed on. It seems that the drug addict depended on buying drugs from others. With the new money there would be no way for the boy to pay for the drugs. No pay meant no drugs.

For Melissa’s parents there would be no medical bills since the new money was only used for buying luxuries. Money that could only buy luxuries? Fancy that! Maybe I’d better read that bill Clark wrote. Well, that can wait until later.

Marge could afford to leave her husband and even take the kids if all their needs would be met without her having to pay for them. Maybe there was something to this.

—————— Thursday, November 11, 2010 ———————-

That was a disaster. They all made fun of me. Nobody believed that I knew what I was talking about. April even called me a Communist. I just can’t do this. How can anyone do this? Oh, Clark, I’ve failed you.

The phone rang, playing “Rock of Ages” (because Buddy said it was the only "rock" music he liked) and with a lump in her throat Lozelle managed to get out a passable

“Hello?” before she lost the power to speak at all.

“Oh Lozelle, I just had to call.” It was Melissa’s voice.” I felt so bad for you with the way the others jumped on you. It really isn’t a bad idea and I just had to call and tell you that I thought so. I was scared to say anything with the others all being against it. I’m not a brave person, Lozelle, and I just couldn’t face having them treat me the way they were treating you.”

By the time Melissa’s voice had tapered off into an embarrassed silence, Lozelle found the lump in her throat was gone. In fact things weren’t so bad after all.

“Melissa, thank you so much for calling. That was the act of a true friend. I’ll always think fondly of you for being so kind to me. Calling me took courage, too, Melissa. I think you are a lot braver than most people.”

“Oh, no, I really am a scaredy cat. I don’t know how I mustered up the courage to pick up the phone. If I didn’t have you on speed dial I don’t think I could have.”

“You know, Melissa, I think where I went wrong was in having so many people come who didn’t really understand what I was trying to say and they were too embarrassed to admit it so they just attacked the thing that seemed strange to them. I think that next time I’ll just invite you and one other person. Maybe lunch instead of dinner and make it more informal. Then when I say something about the new money you can jump in quickly and say how you agree and so on. That way they’ll be the one alone and will have more trouble disagreeing. We’ll have to be careful to not seem to browbeat them or get angry at them if they disagree. Remember we’re trying to get them to understand and join us.”

“Yes, I know just what you mean. I can say something like, ‘You know, I thought that, too, at first; but then I found out… or I realized that… whatever.’ That way we can seem sympathetic and make it easy for them to change their minds. I mean, most people don’t really understand what they believe anyway.”

“Yes, well, I was thinking that we might invite Patricia. She’s been angling for an invitation anyway and we can try out our technique on her.”

It wasn’t really that easy but after a couple of weeks Lozelle had made contact with quite a few others who were also trying to spread the word. When they could, they brought in speakers with more formal credentials and invited friends to meetings of 20-30 people, some of whom were already convinced and others whom they thought might become convinced.

Buddy, of course, knew nothing about Lozelle’s activities. So long as she was present when he wanted her there and was a gracious hostess when he needed one, he really didn’t pay much attention to her. Besides, Buddy had his own problems. He was one of the leaders of what was still a rather disorganized opposition to the new money concept and his own business was suffering. The price of oil was substantially depressing soybean activities all across Buddy’s empire. His other investments were suffering as well. He had not yet reached the point of blaming everything on this new money idea but he was afraid that a recovery would be delayed by it.

As a result Buddy’s temper was short and he was apt to authorize steps which, in more normal times, he would never have considered. The campaign, so far as Buddy was concerned, was about to get dirty.

Buddy wasn’t the only person who found the new money concept unpalatable. There were certain, shall we say, ungodly persons whose income depended upon the contributions of the faithful and devout. The spectre of those contributions coming to an end was not one which left them unmoved. There were thundering orations from several pulpits which portrayed the new money as the work of Satan. Congregations were informed in no uncertain terms that to support such evil was to doom one to everlasting torment.

Also on the other side of the moral divide were those who made a living from cash transactions: untraceable, under-the-table, cash on the barrelhead transactions. At first the organized crime bosses paid no attention to what was a laughable idea at best. But as the movement began to flourish and elections were being decided by support for the idea, a few looked into it enough to realize that, at least until the silly idea was dropped as unworkable, their illegal activities would be brought to a halt. If one can’t give money to someone else, how would extortion and prostitution and illegal drug sales be conducted? You can’t run a big business on the barter system. All the big money-making activities of organized crime would become virtually impossible. Sure a group of guys could get together on Friday night to play poker. But the losers would have to buy things for the winners rather than giving them currency. That’s no way to run a casino.

Bankers, stock brokers, and insurance executives were likewise aghast at the prospect of a bill that would appear to put them out of business at a stroke. Lawyers were getting nervous. How would a suit for damages be possible if the respondent couldn’t pay damages to the plaintiff? Worse, how could the lawyer get his cut?

No, Buddy was not alone in his opposition to the new money bill. But despite the wealth and power of his allies in the struggle to suppress the new money idea, it was difficult to find logical arguments against such emotional issues as no taxes and full employment and an end to the welfare system. How did you convince a divorced mother with three small children that being paid for taking care of her own kids was a bad thing? How did you tell a retired minister and his wife that their retirement money would have to be used for medical care instead of those pleasure trips which they had never had time for before retirement? How would a poor graduate student in the humanities receive the word that she should spend 40 hours a week working in the food service industry so she could stay alive while trying to carry a full course load instead of getting all those necessities without paying for them?

It was hard not to come across as a greedy S.O.B. to oppose child care for all needy children. So the opposition was forced to say that, though it sounded nice, it was too good to be true. They had to make the case that somehow, though how was not obvious, somebody would be losing money to pay for all these things. The ancient truth, “There is no such thing as a free lunch” got frequent mention. Somebody has to pay for it. This Ten Points Bill is just a confidence game, a trick, a scam. It’s based on lies, lies, and more lies. Don’t be taken in. Only a fool believes that such things are possible. This was the theme. Somehow, though, they couldn’t specify any particular person who would pay.

Now if you are going to make the case that the idea is just a trick then you need to show that those who are behind it are bad people, that they are just doing this to steal from others, somehow. So, of course, those who were out front in the campaign to get the Ten Points Bill passed came under close scrutiny. Congressman Frobisher was portrayed as a mere pawn in the control of moneyed interests. His past supported this charge since, among others; Buddy had received no few favors from the Congressman and had, by coincidence, made substantial contributions to the Congressman’s re-election. And Frobisher’s reputation in Congress as little more than a fool didn’t support Frobisher as the brains behind the movement. The search for the guiding force continued.

Congressional supporters of the bill began to ask, rhetorically, how they were to benefit from the bill since the bill allocated no money. It was hard to see how Frobisher or any of the others who had been elected on the Ten Points Pledge could benefit financially from the passage of the bill. And if the bill passed and proved the disaster that it was predicted to be, surely they would be thrown out of office at the next election.

Rumors started, no one knows how, that it was all a scheme of the Jewish bankers to somehow, gain control of the financial resources of Wall Street. At the same time another rumor maintained that it was an Islamic plot to destroy the Western World’s economy. Both rumors suffered from the facts of economic life for the vast majority of Americans. There didn’t seem to be any point in trying to take over a failing economy and it didn’t seem that there was any need for an Islamic conspiracy when things were going to Hell anyway.

The price of gas continued to increase and the supply of heating oil was once again becoming a major concern all across the Northern States. Inflation was over 10% a year and interest rates were over 20% for all but the most highly favored of borrowers. Unemployment was officially over 15% and growing each month. Bankruptcies and business failures were becoming so common as to be considered routine. A walk through almost any mall would show many empty store fronts.

Depression was the emotional mood of the day for most people. It seemed that the other dominant emotions were inspirational hope by the Ten Points advocates and the anger of deep fear on the part of its opponents. Inspirational hope proved to be by far the stronger lure. “We can do this” became almost a national saying.

It was with this explosive mixture of emotions in the air that Christmas arrived. It was a strange Christmas in many ways. There was not much to celebrate in most homes. The usual stresses of the holidays were often magnified by the loss of jobs and worry about where the next meal was coming from. Churches in Northern cities were having meetings to find warm places for families of their congregations whose own homes could not be heated. Even in large cities the smell of wood smoke was common. The visiting of the elderly became a serious affair since many had already succumbed to hypothermia.

The President was on the television promising better times just ahead. “It’s a Wonderful Life” was being shown far more than usual. And Clark decided to risk a visit home.

—— Thursday, December 23, 2010 back home in Macon ——

“Oh, Clark, it’s so good to see you again.” Lozelle threw her arms around Clark and almost cried from relief.

Clark hugged her and grinned down at her happy face.

“It’s good to see you too, Mama.” He put his motorcycle helmet down on the small table in the hallway and took off the leather jacket he was wearing. “It’s good to get out of the cold. I had no idea that riding a cycle in the winter was so cold.”

“A motorcycle, dear? What are you doing riding a motorcycle? Did something happen to your car?”

“No, Mama. But I work for Congressman Frobisher and I can’t be seen as wasting gasoline by driving a car these days. That’s why I took the train to Atlanta and rented the bike. I parked it out by the back door. I hope it’s not in the way there.”

“That’ll be fine dearest. My, don’t you look handsome and grown up. Somehow I don’t remember you looking this way before you left last summer. What have you been doing with yourself?”

“I’ve been working at a computer a lot and walking everywhere the rest of the time. I have a three-mile jog to my office each morning and I walk around doing errands and such so it’s about five miles of walking going home. If I jog in, it’s warmer that way.”

“I suppose that explains why you look so fit. Are you getting enough to eat, dearest?”

“Mama, I’m fine. Tell me how you are. I’ve hardly heard from you the last five or six weeks. What are you doing these days?”

“Mostly I’m campaigning for the Ten Points whenever I can,” Lozelle said flashing Clark the hand gesture of the ten with a grin.

“Mama! You haven’t! What does Dad say about your doing that?” he said gripping her upper arms.

“I don’t think he knows. I’ve been trying to keep him from finding out and he hasn’t said anything about it so I’m sure he doesn’t know yet. I guess it’s only a matter of time before he discovers it, though,” Lozelle’s head drooped and her face lost its smile.

“Where is he? Is it okay to talk about it here? Do the servants know?”

“We had to let most of the servants go. Buddy says it’s just until the economy gets better. We closed off most of the house to keep from heating it and so we really don’t need that many. Anyway, LaShanda knows but she would never betray me.”

“Is Dad home now or at work?”

“I guess he’s at work, I haven’t seen him for three days. He works such long hours these days. Lots of days he doesn’t get home until after I’ve gone to bed and he’s up again before I am. The only time we get to talk sometimes is over breakfast. I guess he’s away somewhere on business. I tried calling him at the office but they just say he is out. I think he is hiding from me and I don’t even know why. But tell me how things are going in Washington. Are you doing well?”

“We’re doing a lot better than I’d expected. We were going to try to coordinate a national movement but it’s sort of gotten away from us. I don’t think we have hardly any control anymore. It seems like each of the other Congressmen and the few Senators who were elected on this platform each have their own campaign back home in support of the idea. We tried to give them some direction but they each seemed to think they should be in charge. It’s mostly just one big babble.”

“We, here, are rather well organized, I think,” Lozelle said proudly. “We bring in speakers and we have discussion groups. We’re using a lot of the selling techniques for this idea that worked to sell cosmetics and dishware. We have little parties and church groups that meet and discuss the Ten Points. Some of the churches, though, call us bad names. We had one group parading last Sunday in front of our church with signs saying we were Satan’s church for supporting new money. We went out front with signs saying, well, quoting the Bible, you know, ‘Suffer the little children’ and ‘Even as you have done it unto the least of these’ and ‘Loaves and fishes.’ They got mad but they went away.”

“Good work, Mama. We can’t tell very well how we’re doing but we have picked up several Congressmen due to pressure from their home districts so we figure we must be doing some good. Have you looked at our website? I’m responsible for most of that.”

“I’ve been reading it almost every day. We based a lot of what we’re doing on what you put in there. We especially like the question and answer part where you answer questions that people are likely to have. I’ve been able to stop several hecklers in their tracks with answers you put there.”

“That was Doris’ idea. The hard part was getting the questions. Some of them seem rather odd but they’re all questions that real people have asked Frobisher or…”

There was a crash in the entry way. Clark led Lozelle from the sitting room back to the hall and found Buddy half in and half out of the house lying over the door sill. He was a mess. His clothes were rumpled, his hair was disheveled, and his face bruised. As they bent over him, they heard a car engine rev and a dark shape accelerated down the curving driveway to the street.

“Buddy, Buddy, what’s happened? Are you all right? Oh, Buddy dearest,” by the end of her exclamation Lozelle was almost crooning as she went to her knees and held Buddy’s head and shoulders on her lap.

“I’m home, dear,” Buddy got out with a crooked grin before he closed his eyes with a grimace.

“Dad, what happened? Who did this to you?” Clark said having returned from running down the driveway trying to get a better look at the car.

“Let’s get him inside. We can ask all these questions later, Clark.”

“Right, Mama, I’ll get his head and shoulders and you get his feet after I pick him up some.” Clark took Lozelle’s end of Buddy and with his arms around Buddy’s chest got him into a sitting position and then, with a grunt, was able to get him almost to his feet when Buddy roused enough to help some. Between Lozelle and Clark they managed to lift and steer and half carry him into the sitting room and lay him in one of his lazy boy chairs. Lozelle called for the maid.

“LaShanda, Mr. Minton is home and we’ll need some food. Make something light but nutritious because he’s not feeling well. Oh, and make some hot coffee, too.”

“Dad, can you hear me? Are you injured? Do you hurt anywhere?”

As if by magic, Buddy roused. “What kind of a damn fool question is that? I hurt all over. If I was injured, your moving me like a sack of potatoes would have done me in, you dang fool. And if I couldn’t hear you, what are you asking questions for? What do you have for brains, boy, grits?”

Lozelle looked relieved, “Buddy, he was just worried about you. He’s trying to help you. Do you need a doctor?”

“No I don’t need a doctor. I just need a week in bed. I haven’t slept in three days and I’ve been beaten up several times so I feel like I been playing football on a bad team.”

“Who did this to you, Dad?”

“You should know. It’s your fault I was kidnapped. You and that damned money idea of yours. They thought I was the brains behind the whole thing. If I hadn’t been able to prove I’ve been fighting this thing right from the beginning, they’d probably have killed me.”

“But do you know who they were. The police…”

“They were hired thugs. They never let me see their faces. The police won’t be able to do anything. Besides, they said they’d get Lozelle next time if I went to the police. We’ll leave the police out of this.”

“Well, who hired them then? Do you have any clues as to who’s behind it?”

“They could have been hired by almost anybody. Son, do you have any idea how many toes you’re stepping on with this crazy idea of yours? You got some very powerful people really mad at you.”

“I have some ideas. Organized crime, banking, insurance, even lots of preachers see the end of the gravy train. I guess everybody who thinks that the job they do is worthless or harmful doesn’t like the idea.”

“You think what I do is worthless, boy? You think your Daddy is some kind of monster?”

“Oh no, Dad! I didn’t mean that. I just meant that people who feel like the way they make money is worthless would be opposed to it since they won’t get money for it any more. Soybeans aren’t worthless. They’re good food.”

“Well there’s lots of good people who think this trash you are spreading is dangerous and I’m one of them.”

“I’m sorry to hear that Dad but I can’t help but point out that the men who kidnapped you were hired. They were paid money for what they did. With the Ten Points money that couldn’t have happened. There would have been no way to pay them except to give them goods. Those goods could have been traced right back to the people who gave them.”

“Boy, will you shut up about that crap. I don’t want to hear about it from you.”

“Yes, Clark, let him rest now,” Lozelle said soothingly, hoping to calm Buddy.

“Okay, Mama. I’ll see if I can’t give LaShanda a hand in the kitchen.”

Clark left and Buddy settled down in the chair again with a pained look. Lozelle kneeled beside him with her arm across his chest and her head on his shoulder. She began to cry softly and told Buddy how afraid she had been while he had been gone and how glad she was that he was home to take care of her again.

—————– Christmas Eve, 2010 ——————

The next day Clark visited his father in his office where Buddy was trying to find out what had happened to his business while he had been “indisposed.” Buddy’s taste was for dark, massive wood furniture that looked like it had been handed down from the ancestors for several generations and the most modern in desk accessories. Clark was a little hesitant, since he had always been forbidden the privilege of coming in while Buddy was busy, ever since his father had learned of his intended college major.

“Dad? May I talk to you for a few minutes?”

“Sure, son, what is it?”

“I spent most of the night thinking about our situation. It seems to me that you’re just as vulnerable today as you were yesterday when you were in their hands. There’s also Mama. They could hurt her or kidnap her next time. Do you have any plans for what to do to protect Mama and yourself?”

“Yes, I do. We’re going into hiding.”

“Where?”

“I haven’t decided yet. I been thinking about someplace in the mountains but obviously we can’t very well use our cabin ‘cause they’ll know about it. I don’t have enough money to just head up there and look for somethin’ when we get there.”

“Dad, why don’t you come back to DC with me? It’s easier to hide in the city than in the country anyway. I can get you an apartment and we can pay cash. It’ll be like you just dropped off the face of the Earth. In a month or two the bill will have passed or failed and none of the POM people… uh, that’s Physical Object Money people. You know, people against the Ten Points Bill? Anyway, none of them will care about us any more then.”

It took several hours of argument in which Lozelle and LaShanda took a hand, but it was finally decided that they would go to the DC area rather than hide out in the woods. Buddy was still reluctant but the fact that he gave in at all showed that he was really shaken by his experience.

The problem of how to leave without being traced was solved by Lozelle. Much to the surprise of both Buddy and Clark, Lozelle said that the move to DC would be no problem since the “We Can Do This” organization often had to move people without their being traced. Clark, who supposedly was in the inner circle of the movement to pass the Ten Points Law, had no idea that such things were going on. Lozelle let him know that there had been efforts in several cities to stop the support for the law that extended to beatings, arrests on trumped up charges, and, it was rumored, there had even been a couple of killings. The local organizations had come up with various means of moving people about the country without use of common carriers. Buddy and Lozelle left the house lying on the floor in the back of LaShanda’s car while Clark went back to Atlanta by motorcycle (following a different route than when he had come) and by train back to DC from there.

Buddy and Lozelle went by 18-wheeler riding in the sleeper cabs of three different rigs. They finally found themselves taking a cab to Clark’s neighborhood, getting out at a seedy hotel just a few blocks from his apartment about 10:00 on a cold but sunny Tuesday morning. They waited in the coffee shop which gave a good view of the street until they saw Clark walk past the window. Then they paid their bill and left by a side door at which Clark, now driving his car, picked them up.

“How are you doing, Mom? You look tired.” Clark asked.

“I want a bath and a nap but I think I’ll be fine after that. It’s all very exciting, you know.”

“Have you got us a place to live yet son?” Buddy asked.

“Well, I have a place for you to spend the night, at least. That’ll give us some time.”

The place turned out to be the apartment of Rose Miller, one of the top organizers of local support for the Ten Points Bill. Rose’s husband was adamantly opposed to the new money in part because his job within the government (the Federal Trade Commission) would become meaningless with the new money. In an effort to keep peace in the family, Rose chose to hide her activities in support of the Ten Points Bill. Thus she had leased an apartment in the District from which to conduct her campaign.

Rose and Lozelle hit it off right from the beginning. It wasn’t long before Buddy felt like the odd man out as Lozelle and Rose got deep into a discussion of strategies. But at least it meant that there would be no question whether Buddy and Lozelle would have a place to live while hiding in DC.

————— Wednesday, March 9, 2011 —————

The Ten Points Bill was being brought before the House for a vote. Interest in the bill meant that the events were being followed closely by all the networks that carried news. Cameras were everywhere, both inside the Capital building and outside, where the crowds were huge. Both sides had tried to rally the troops, so to speak, but the numbers favoring the bill were far larger than those opposed. Police lines surrounded the Houses of Congress but there were no police between the POMists and the New Money supporters.

There were insults traded and things were threatening to get out of hand when what would later be known as the Granny Brigade formed up, facing the POMists most aggressive section, mostly young toughs hired to start trouble hoping to show that the New Money faction were really violent revolutionaries.

The police had been alerted that the New Money people would probably try to storm the Capital and that they should be repulsed even if it meant shooting into the crowd. The grandmothers, dressed in skirts and with silver (and sometimes blue) hair blowing in the breeze, advanced upon the toughs at a slow walk. At first the toughs gave a little ground. Then one lost his head and pushed one of the ladies. She fell and the others began screaming and waving their arms. A few canes lashed out and more than one can of mace was discharged. Almost before one could think, the toughs were attacking the grandmothers.

Naturally, this was being shown on TV and the police guarding the Capital were front line spectators. But not for long. They broke ranks and charged the mob. The police being armed with shields and clubs, the toughs had little chance. But some toughs were more heavily armed than others and some had guns. Shots were fired and several people went down from bullets.

Meanwhile, the crowd of New Money supporters seized their opportunity and surged to the very doors of the Capital building and through. The quiet halls of Congress, where only lobbyists and power brokers disturbed the stillness, were invaded by a horde of middle aged women and their mothers. They began chanting “Ten Points” and “We can do this!”

The bill never reached a vote that day but it was the turning point of the campaign. The video of young toughs attacking grandmothers on the street and then shooting at the police was played again and again on the nation’s TV screens. When the news broke that the toughs had been hired by organized crime elements to oppose the bill’s passage, it only added fuel to the groundswell of support.

——– Thursday, March 10, 2011 ———-

Clark visited his mother in the hospital where she was recovering from a broken arm and a concussion. Her recently acquired friend, Rose, was already there.

“Come on in, Clark. Your mother’s awake now.”

Clark approached the bed on which his mother lay resting, her head bandaged and left arm in a cast over the elbow.

“Mama, why did you do it?”

“Son, I couldn’t ask other women to do what I was unwilling to do myself. Someone had to be willing to get out front. At least I’m better off than some of the others. Three of us died. Others will never fully recover from their injuries. I came out of this OK except for a headache and this funny arm. I’ll be fine. You just do your part.”

“Clark,” Rose put in, “this putting the grandmothers in the front lines was your mother’s idea. She did the networking and organizing that got them assembled and to the crucial part of the crowd. She kept their courage up and led by example. You should be terribly proud of her.”

“Rose I am proud of her but it still hurts me to see her like this. I would never have let her do it if I had known.”

“Why do you think I didn’t tell you before, Clark?”

“You didn’t tell Dad either, did you, Mama? Dad was in the POMists part of the crowd. He’s OK but he’s pretty shaken. Would you like to see him? He’s just outside.”

“Of course I would. Why didn’t he come in with you?”

“He’s got some crazy idea that you’ll be angry with him.”

“You’d better let me see him alone. Come back, if you can, in about half an hour.”

“OK, Mama,” Clark said as he kissed her cheek.

He and Rose left the room and in a couple of minutes Buddy’s head appeared around the corner of the door. “Honey, is it OK for me to come in?”

“It’s always all right for you to come and see me, dearest” Lozelle said holding out her good arm to welcome him. “Come give me a kiss and sit with me for a while.” She had no idea how the arm lifted in welcome emphasized the other arm’s injury. She also had no idea how her smile, meant to lift his spirits, looked coming from under the bandages that covered most of her forehead and one side of her face.

Buddy was sorely aware of her condition. He had not been in the POMist part of the crowd that attacked the Granny Brigade but he had been able to see it from about a hundred yards away. He had known that Lozelle was with that part of the Ten Points activists over his strong objections. He had seen the conflict start but had not been able to tell which grey-haired woman was Lozelle.

Buddy had been intending, at times, to give Lozelle an angry lecture. At other times all he could think about was how he could have lost her. He didn’t know whether he wanted to cry or yell or curl up into a ball and pull his jacket over his head. He was embarrassed and proud and scared and several other things all at once. For a time after he kissed the visible part of Lozelle’s forehead Buddy just sat and looked at her. His heart ached and he wanted to enfold her in his arms but he was afraid he would hurt her. Finally, he leaned forward and cupped her right cheek with his left hand and then felt a tear running down his own cheek. Lozelle’s face blurred and he felt rather than saw her hand go to the back of his head and pull him close.

Finally Buddy lifted his head and gave Lozelle a small, watery smile and said,” Well, old girl, we really made a mess of things that time, didn’t we?”

“Dearest, the mess was already there, we just fell into it, that’s all,” she smiled back at him.

“You do know, don’t you, that I had nothing to do with that goon squad that attacked you?”

“Yes, Buddy, I can’t believe that you would have anything to do with people like that. But some of the POMists are running scared and they’ll stoop to anything. We just gave them the opportunity to show that there are no limits to what they’ll do to protect their interests. Organized criminals in particular, know there’s no way to continue their illegal activities without currency. They have to have a physical object money if they’re to run their nasty businesses.”

“I know, I know. You don’t have to be on your soapbox with me,” Buddy said a little defensively.

“Soapbox or not, you know it’s true. Lots of the opposition to the Ten Points comes from people who are afraid they can’t keep cheating if we win.”

“OK. But let’s not talk about it any more.”

“If you want, darling. But I warn you that everyone else is going to be talking about it so you’d better think of what you want to say when they bring it up. I can’t leave the movement now. Not after we’re so close to success. Not after three women who trusted me are now dead because of what I asked them to do. I can’t let their sacrifice be in vain.”

“Is this movement of yours worth the three lives it’s taken? Is it worth the suffering you and I have been put through?” Buddy’s bitter questions revealed a revival of spirit with Lozelle’s obvious forgiveness.

“Oh my darling, it’s worth my life and yours and even Clark’s life. Don’t think me an unnatural wife and mother because I feel this way. I know wives and mothers are supposed to be willing to have any number of other people suffer and die for the comfort of their loved ones. But we’re talking millions of deaths and billions suffering. Even a wife and mother has second thoughts when faced with those numbers of people.”

Lozelle’s vehemence, even as she cupped his cheek with her free hand, warned Buddy that perhaps he didn’t really want to argue the point just now.

His own confidence shattered, he realized in that moment that Lozelle really meant what she said. The emotion in her voice, though quiet, seemed unshakable to Buddy. For someone who had been through what she had suffered to be ready to do it again without hesitation was almost frightening to Buddy, especially in someone whom he had always considered weak and useless except in bed and as an ornament.

As Buddy thought back to the time leading up to the clash outside Congress, he recalled that Lozelle had seemed to be often in meetings which Buddy had considered purely social but which in retrospect must have been organizational. True, the women had often brought food and the men had dressed informally, but perhaps that was just cover. Buddy had avoided the meetings or parties as he had called them. But in what little he had seen of them Lozelle had at first been on the periphery but by the end it seemed that almost everyone’s comments had been directed toward her or at least she had been glanced at for approval. Buddy also remembered that Lozelle’s voice, which had always before seemed to end every statement with an upward inflection as if she were asking if talking were all right… and if the listener agreed with what she had to say, had lost that affectation and now seemed confident and even, at times, authoritative.

This was not the woman he had married some 25 years ago but it was certainly someone he had to respect. He wondered if she would continue to defer to him. Certainly she had not deferred on the Ten Points Bill and this whole new money thing. He had made his own position abundantly clear. She must have known it. Yet she went on quietly working to bring about that which he opposed. In fact, if he could believe the news broadcasts, the bill was as good as passed and the only question remaining was if it would gain the President’s signature. According to those broadcasts one of the key factors, when the issue hung in the balance, was Lozelle’s Granny Brigade.

Buddy had decided to go back to his business and ignore politics. If he could, he would bring Lozelle with him. If not, he would have to go alone. In these times there would be nothing left of his business if he wasn’t there to hold it together and he couldn’t see someone as strong as Lozelle staying with him if he were not also successful.


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