No Free Lunch
By Phillip Ghee (USA)
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No Free Lunch
The Trash Tax had come full circle. It had been such an oppressive and selectively enforced tax that it had greatly contributed to the trashing of America. When the idea of the tax was first introduced, in the early 21st. Century it was thought that it would encourage recycling and reduce the generation of needless waste. However, the Government (both Federal and Local Municipalities) being the primary offender of both above mentioned incursions exempted themselves from taxes and penalties. Next social institutions like hospitals and schools were given a free pass along with what was left of large Industry and Manufacturing. The Green- Eco and Environmental parties that endorsed the bill all became disillusioned and withdrew their support. Thus the bulk of the taxes and penalties were levied against the everyday American. This lead to widespread and illegal dumping. Any patch of vacant land, city or national park and even waterways were fair game for night time deposits.
Now that America was trying desperately to reclaim its dignity and world status the overflowing coffers of the various tax boards were opened and utilized for a good cause. In attempts to clean up the parks, historical sites and communities vouchers were issued for anyone bring in reclaim trash. America ’s days of wanton consumerism were long gone and thus households themselves no longer generated much trash but there was plenty of trash from the previous decades still blanketing the countryside. The vouchers, albeit small in monetary values, were issued by any Federal or Municipality or sanctioned Reclamation Center.
Yes the tax had come full circle. A photo commemorating the Congressional event was hung behind the register. The photo showed B.Tomikawa, Environmentalist, a primary supporter, and forefather of Fred. He is shown smiling; shaking the hand of the Congressman whom one would gather had just signed the original bill that created the trash tax. After decades of being stashed in the attic, residing in the box of shame, Fred
had come to resurrect the photo. It now hung proudly on the wall of Fred’s shop for all to see. Unlike his father and grandfather before him, Fred could once again walk talk. In fact he now walking so tall he even felt a wee bit taller.
Large items and bulky items were usually taken to the Industrial Reclamation site. Folks barring smaller lots usually would forgo the long lines at the Industrial or Municipal Centers and taken to authorized shops like Fred’s. They were usually issued much smaller vouchers at such shops but it was worth the short wait for most. Fred would usually collect these bundles and whatever he could not re-sell he would accumulate until he had a sizable amount then he would hire a hauler to take it to the Industrial site. Since many American derived their entire income from such actions and transaction, business was never at a lost.
Both men had agreed that such a secret was too valuable to trust with others so they decided to keep it between the two of them. Once Fred had begun to issue way more vouchers than usual he knew that it would only be a matter of time before the Inspectors would arrive to asses the situation. He would have to content with Federal Inspectors and Local Inspectors and Business Inspectors and possibly other newly hatched positions.
During the early days of the venture life ran pretty much the same as usual. Fred would collect the refuse, sort it out and, those items slated for destruction would be dismantled, if necessary, and later feed into the picnic basket. Often times Jack would assist and keep Fred’s company. Fred speculated that in due time that his little operation would never hold under the scrutiny of the various Inspectors; regardless of bribes. Fred dug into his profits, paid off the requisite bribes to the zoning commission and building inspectors and raised himself quite an add-on to his shop.
The newly built structure was about the size of a small garage. It walls were shiny stainless steel. Not too many things were new and shiny these days and Fred really relished at the acquisition. The front of the structure housed a control panel full of gauges, knobs and levers that served absolutely no purpose other than effect. A door lead one into the interior of the structure but most of the operations were initiated from the outside. A reinforced chute, approximately 2’by2’ opened unto a conveyer belt. The belt ran at 30 degree slope and emptied out into maze of shears and rotary grinders. And although these mechanisms could service as primary reducers; the real work was done by Gypsy Jack. Not only was Jack a silent partner, in many cases he was also an invisible one.
An inquisitive Inspector could visually follow the items as it made its way into the maze of shears but what that inspector would not see would be the last turn of the belt as it emptied itself into the compactor chamber. The compactor chamber would make a thunderous clap, depending on the volume setting that Jack chose from his crouching position within the chamber’s interior. If need be he would shove a formulated tile brick out the other end of the chamber thus simulating the reduced waste. To clarify, inside the chamber was a crouching one, crouching Gypsy Jack, one picnic basket and several formulated tile bricks and that was the intricate working of the entire, shiny, stainless steel, facade.
Jack always had to be on the ready to assume the position at a moments notice. This caused him much grief and many a night the men had heated debates over such arrangement. Jack would always complain about the crouching and the limited space whereas Fred would sarcastically quip that in the early days, before Jack started living high on the hog, he was much more agile and hinted that perhaps he should drop some of his newly acquired girth. Being sensitive on the issue, Jack would usually concede. He had been getting rather broad in the beam, here lately.
“Damn ants.” Sitting on the side of his bed Jack examined the perceived bite marks on his scratched and inflamed legs and ankles. On several occasions he had tried to move Fred into calling in an exterminator. Jack had complained that the ants were infesting the shiny steel structure. Fred was a bred and born Environmentalist and did not take kindly to pesticides and, Jack was never able to offer up substantial proof that there was indeed an infestation. This was due to the fact that Jack had never really seen the ants, he just felt their presence.
As if this wasn’t enough, Jack was fighting to raise his pants over his generous behind. That was it. The decision came quick, without announcement. Jack knew what he had to do. He had had enough of the sedentary lifestyle.
“Not one more day.” He muttered as he stormed out of his apartment, not bothering to lock the door behind him. Jack made his way to downtown Sunset City. He could not help but notice that the appearance of downtown was the best that it had been in years. He knew that he was responsible for that yet this did not pacify him. As he waited in line at the Sunset City Savings and Loan his resolve became even stronger.
Although she gave it a good effort the Bank Manager could not persuade Jack. He emptied the entire content of all his saving and holdings. On his way back to the apartment he handed out bills here and voucher there. He was very careful not to give any one person too much. “Why ruin their lives too.” He reasoned. At one point he bought a shopping cart off of one of the transient trash collectors. He had retired his years ago. Back at his small but comfortable apartment Jack crammed all what he considered non-essential items into the cart. He then made his way to the shop.
“Who’s counting? Jack brushed past Fred with hardly a hello or good morning. Fred eyed the items in the cart. A gleam came into his eyes.
“Not for sale or trade” barked Jack as he made his way straight forth to the shiny stainless steel structure. Once inside the cramped, now definitely due to Jack’s size, chamber Jack did what would have brought a tear to most men’s eyes. He deposited what was left of his monetary saving into the basket. He waited. He collected himself, reviewed in his mind what he had just done. He waited some more and, once he received the still small voice of approval he made his way back to the crammed cart. He placed the items from the cart into the chamber. At times he would whisk away the invisible ants as they swarmed the newly arrived items and infiltrated the picnic basket, as ants do. Jack had not gone mad, at least not pertaining to the ants, yes it was something there. Jack called them ants what they were, were Higgs boson particles.
The Higgs boson particle aka the God Particle is a hypothetical particle that
is to the Big Bang as the Missing Link is to Evolution. One of CERN’s primary missions was to extrapolate and design experiments that could search for such. Without the validation of such a particle, one could never move the Big Bang form Theory to Fact or should we say Faith?
The last thing that Jack probably heard was the button pop from his too tight jeans as he bent well into the shopping cart to recover the last few remaining items.
Fred was not a religious or superstitious man so when the prized framed photo of his forefather suddenly went whizzing out the back window, Fred was not spooked and looked for a rational explanation. Magnetic Storm, was his first thought. They were rare but had documented. He reached for the communicator to verify such but it too was missing. Fred froze in place. He slowly took a panoramic survey of his shop. Many items were missing. ”Jack.” He reached for the Louisville Slugger. In his adrenalin rushed state he failed to appreciate that he had grasped the bat from way across the room.
Fred did not get to view his shiny stainless steel façade for it was no longer there. One of the last things that Austin was to see was the unpleasant sight of Gypsy Jacks’ bulbous butt undulating as was being summoned into the basket. Fred now making good use of his elongated leg and foot provided the liberating push to Jack’s rear.
“Big Dummy” He quipped. Sensing his time short, Austin snaked an elongated arm through what was now a whirlwind of incoming objects. He located a bottle of Ripple.
“I’m Coming Elizabeth”
“Ha ! Ha” Jeered the red beard. “ And for the Ants?”
“Yes for the ants too. Every thing is God. When I bend over the ant, inside his black shiny eye, I see the face of God.
The Last Temptation of Christ By Nikos Kazantzakis
The End, Really.