The early morning light drifted in though the soot-stained windows of the old farm home. It pierced down in weak, shifting rays illuminating tiny dust particles that appeared to float in the air.
Henry awoke. He sat up slowly in bed, and rubbed his eyes. He looked at the grey-smudged window panes through which he could see patches of slate grey sky and the dulled sunlight. 'That reminds me,' he thought as he sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He was reminded that he needed to break out the heavier hats for both he and his wife Irene. It was unsafe these days to go outside without some sort of covering. Though the sunlight was noticeably dimmer due to denser atmospheric pollution primarily due to automobiles and the burning of coal for electricity, UV levels were rising and causing elevated cancers throughout the country. The media kept reporting stories that corporations were concerned about the loss of the global ozone layers, but to fix it would cost too much money. From their ocean-going yachts, the CEO rulers of those same corporations made announcements that they felt confident they could find a solution within 10-20 years.
In the past, the U.S. government would have stepped in to regulate, tax or do something to stop the industrial pollution that caused the ozone loss, however, the public voted to allow corporations to take over and regulate themselves since it was obvious that corporations cared more about public health and safety than some stuffy government bureaucrat publicly voted into office. Such a person could have been held accountable. Instead the public loudly said, 'We should let the powerful, unelected corporations decide what's in our best interest'. The following year, the EPA was abolished and the public celebrated by burning things in their backyards in defiance of the lies they were told about excess carbon and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
On the nearby roll top desk, Henry noticed, with a sinking heart, a letter they had recently received from the super-duper-mega-corporation, Disney Developers. The friendly logo of the mouse ears beamed back at him, saying, 'hi--we're Disney and we're your friends.' The letter was anything but friendly. It contained a notice stating that the Disney corporation was declaring imminent domain of a large portion of the county they lived in including Henry and Irene's old farmhouse and surrounding property. Disney Developers had decided that their area was ideal for the building of a new corporate supermega-warehouse.
Henry and Irene could have attended the public hearing of the imminent domain ruling, but they received the letter too late. Getting the mail late was normal ever since the Postal Service was shut down and replaced by a private carrier. The service was poor, but at least they still delivered to Henry and Irene's house. This was better than some areas. For some outlying regions, the carrier refused to deliver at all because they deemed those areas too expensive to service.
Next to the Disney letter was a bill from the privatized mail service. Even from where Henry sat on the bed, he could easily read what the cost was for a single month's worth of mail delivery. It totaled $103.76. A small sentence at the bottom said, 'Due to higher fuel costs, we will be increasing your monthly delivery fees by 25% beginning next month.' Since the letter came late, Henry and Irene lost their only opportunity to contest Disney.
'It would have been pointless,' thought Henry. 'The ABC Corporation courts would have ruled in Disney's favor anyway.'
A year earlier, the ABC Corporation won the contract to manage America's court and judicial systems when the Supreme Court unanimously declared all local and state judicial systems obsolete and inefficient. This opened the door for a private contractor to take over. No one really saw a problem with this since Disney and other corporations were re-writing the nation's laws anyway. It only made sense. The next day, the Supreme Court justices all vacated their posts and took new positions at the ABC Corporation.
Henry got dressed and made his way downstairs. He missed the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee every morning, but both he and Irene decided it was best to quit drinking coffee once the price reached $20 a pound. That, and coffee had permanently lost its appeal for them when several people died earlier that year from drinking coffee loaded with e-coli bacteria. After the shutdown of the FDA, food suppliers were free to police themselves. The public was told that self-regulation would be better for everyone. No one was prosecuted for the tainted coffee, but the supplier did promise to provide discount coupons on future coffee purchases to the victims' families.
In the kitchen, Irene was hovering over the table and scooping hot oatmeal into two small plastic bowls. Henry thought the long dress she was wearing made her look older than she really was. 'Well, we are in our 70s' after all, he thought, 'I guess that's old.'
"That's the last of it," she said, putting the pot back on the stove.
"I know," said Henry. "I miss the days when we grew our own food. Before Monsanto put all us farmers out of business."
"Now we have to buy all our food at the ABC Corporation FoodMart. We can't afford it."
She slumped down into a chair at the table at looked at Henry.
"We'll make do somehow. We always have." he said in a patronizing voice and sat down at the table.
"How Henry?", she asked. She looked and sounded fatigued. "How will we make do? This Depression's been going on since 2008."
"Oh, I didn't tell you dear?" he asked. "Wal-Mart just gave me a 10-cent raise yesterday. I'm almost making minimum wage again."
"Now, Henry. Do I need to remind you that there is no minimum wage any more? They got rid of that."
She reached over the table and adjusted something on the blue vest he was wearing.
"Your name-tag is crooked again. You have to watch that. They docked you a day's pay the last time that happened."
He shrugged his shoulders. "I know."
"Well, you'd better hurry or you'll be late for work. I left your bike out front for you."
He stood, bent over the table and kissed Irene's cheek.
"Thanks dear. Oh, I almost forgot. I'll be late getting home tonight. We have to watch another 2-hour anti-union, anti-government video this afternoon."
"Another one? That makes the third one this month."
He shrugged again. "I know. But what can I do? Oh, I left the extra house keys on the mantle. You'll need to give those to the Sheriff this afternoon when they come to evict us."
Irene had no more tears. She was all cried-out over the thought of losing their farm and home. For a moment, they both stood, looking out the back window over the brown/grey meadows. Though it was early Spring, the grasses were already dried out by the day's heat which was anticipated to be 120 by the afternoon. The thick coating of grey soot on the landscape, and their home, was from the local coal-powered electrical plants.
They walked together to the front foyer and she held the old screen door open for him. As he walked past, she brushed his grey hair back with her hand. "I'll see you tonight dear." she said.
"At Tent Town," he added.
"Yes. I have our tent rolled up and ready to go on the back porch."
"That's good. I'm sorry I didn't have time to do that," he said tiredly. He kissed her one more time and then walked down the old warped steps to his bike.
She watched him slowly pedal off down the dirt road, wafts of dust and soot rising into the warming air behind him.