writing chapter 9.5
They talked about how different things were now, how many safeguards we have. Detractors cried about the weak points that would surely explode under an as yet unknown amount of solar radiation – due in less than four days. Maybe three. NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center issued a series of alerts, warnings and predictions. Power grid operators dusted off their disaster plans. Geomagnetically induced currents were expected to go off the scale. System collapse was a serious threat, an inevitability. Populations in excess of 200 million on the east coast grid alone, 100,000 miles of heavy duty transmission lines. Many millions of transformers at the local level. The smaller ones would explode, the windings of the really large amp transformers would melt. There were few spares on hand, and lead time on new ones was over a year. The stock marked crashed on the news.
Meanwhile, Dad and his family didn’t know what to do with the news that they might be living back in the stone age next week, so they ignored it, and turned their attention back to the bizarre events at Dragoncon, which Dad always said was a crime scene waiting to happen.
Dad was a different man today, having spent his resentment and disappointment (and resultant bad mood) last night and had a great rest afterwards. Today he was a family man and was determined to act like it. So he rousted the kids up to make breakfast for Mom, because she was sleeping in, and while they were bustling about the kitchen he sat at the table and worked out a full agenda for his family. Memorial day, after all.
He should be at work – big sale day – but he’d taken the day off (called in sick) so he could be with his family. Now that he’d finally acted to restore some discipline, things would go a lot more smoothly and he could concentrate on trying to save his neck at work. Labor day, after all – his – in danger of getting downsized.
But he was still in control, and everything was going to be okay. He’d start pulling ahead any day now. He would call anybody a liar that suggested that he was owed more than he was worth. Some would call him a slave. But I won’t quibble.
Dad was Homer Simpson on roids, with bouts of alcohol induced rage. He was an authoritarian cretin, a misogynistic asshole, a fundamentalist bully. But he had his good side. He loved his family (as long as they did right, and he cared enough to correct them until they did do right. He was faithful. Loyal. Reliable, trustworthy, stable, consistent. (Insert manly attribute here). He was a model father and husband, as long as nobody pushed him. He was at his best when he exercised unlimited power and everybody behaved themselves so they could be a loving, happy family again.
That it was a family closely modeled on military discipline didn’t disturb him. He liked hierarchy, he was happy with everybody in his place. He could – should – be making more money at his stage of life, but he blamed the slackers for sucking the pot dry, and thought the people who ran things should be paid more, given more responsibility, more power. Somebody’s got to do it, and if it were me I’d want to be paid beaucoup. But he was thinking of the old model of wealth, where a guy went out and started a business, and employed workers, and made millions for everybody, each according to their payscale. These days, they hire CEOs to run companies that are part of some corporation, and these companies don’t make things, they buy other companies, sell off the assets, fire the employees and kick the profits back into the corporation.
But of course, corporations are people. It’s okay to make all the money; corporations need big incomes. Paychecks. The corporate mortgage – okay, I can see that. How does a corporation invest its profits? Not the shareholder’s pittance, there’s way more than that. They buy politicians, they influence news reports, they supervise new laws. They conduct – but don’t pay for – wars, and they despoil the earth in the name of profits. [??? meme author browbeating politics] I’ve read all sorts of esoteric analysis of the financial world, and I frankly couldn’t care less – my checkbook never balanced, no matter what.
Dad didn’t have to balance his checkbook. That was Mom’s job. And Mom was an anxious, nervous wreck around the house, flinching when he made a joke, hovering over Nuthin. She fed him right tho, especially for a holiday – Memorial Day.
And she was properly humble. Dad felt his heard expand as his family tiptoed around him – This is how I want my family to be – forever. He called Nuthin over to be buddies with for awhile. But Nuthin wasn’t interested in nothing. He even asked to be excused when Dad graciously stopped channel surfing at a spic soccer game. But not wanting family time with your own father was disrespectful, and Dad gave him a warning, out of a sense of fatherly indulgence.
Then they landed on the news long enough to hear the latest on Kurt – the toxicology report was out. Dad had some really mean things to say about people who took drugs, and then seeing Nuthin’s face decided to do some digging.
“I don’t have any friends, Dad. I study a lot, Dad.” These were true, Nathan found them easy to say. But he was still supposed to be at soccer practice (and science club) after school every day, and answers to those questions were more awkward.
“What’s your coach like? How many games have you won? Are there cheerleaders? What the fuck to you do in Science Club? Blow shit up?” Nuthin was silent. Dad thought a moment. “You made that Dragoncon badge in your science club, didn’t you?” Nuthin looked guilty. “I knew you had to have help for that.”
He wanted to think for a minute. “Get me a beer,” he snapped, and Nuthin jumped up and limped into the kitchen. “By the way,” Dad yelled after him as he turned the corner into the kitchen, “You’re grounded for the rest of the year for lying.” Let that be the starting point for a little adult negotiation, Dad thought (considering the same tactic at his job, kind of like in American Beauty).
Nuthin objected – “I can’t quit soccer,” he whined. “They need me. And science fair, I have an entry. They give out scholarships.”
And Dad said, “Fuck no, you lied to me.”
“I never lied,” Nuthin protested hotly.
Dad cloaked himself in all his authority. “You violated my trust. You sinned against your family.”
Nuthin quaked in his socks. “Yes sir,” he said without looking up.
Dad felt revulsion. But he was family, you have to love your own flesh and blood. So he relented. “You’re still grounded, let me be clear about that. But you can maybe earn your way out.”
Nuthin’s eyes gleamed hopefully.
“If you can make me some Brave’s tickets like you made Dragoncon tickets, then I’ll see what I can do.”
But Dad couldn’t believe his eyes. Nuthin tried to weasel out of it. “They’re crap, Dad, nobody would fall for it.”
“Then, if you’re saying my ticket wouldn’t be honored, if you give me a bum ticket, well, then you won’t like how it works for you very much, will you?” Dad was already thinking of Nathan’s forging talents as his to use. A complex ticket scalping operation sprang up in his mind – the perfect solution to a life as a slave in his shitty job. “You’re still grounded, don’t forget.”