Food Club – Part 1

This is a four-part story set in the Transition period between the Old and the New Earth – the time we’re just about to move into.

The period between the collapse of the old financial system and the birth of the new one was nine days. Nine days isn’t a long time, and in some parts of the world people carried on more or less as usual, falling back on barter and mutual aid when money wasn’t available.

But in the West there was confusion, panic and dismay. What had happened to their savings? Would the power be cut off if the automatic payment didn’t get through? How was the mortgage to be paid? If it wasn’t paid, how long till the bailiffs descended on their home and took all their possessions away?

And of most immediate concern, how could they buy food?

Nine days may not be a long time, but it seemed a heck of a lot longer than it was. Because everything had changed, and when everything changes time seems to slow right down. And anyway, no one knew it was only going to be nine days.

Different communities dealt with this situation in different ways, and with varying degrees of success. This is what happened in an inner city borough called Sneed.

***

Friday

Looking in the mirror that Friday evening, Erica felt the time had come to admit to herself that she was fat. She’d been ‘chubby’ as a baby, and ‘plump’ as a teen, but the weight had continued to accumulate, and now, let’s face it, the correct word was ‘fat’. And she knew what came next. That horrible word ‘obese’ was squatting just below the horizon of her future, with ‘clinically’ and ‘morbidly’ lurking in the undergrowth a little further on.

Her mother had told her she was beautiful, but all mothers were biased, weren’t they? Her mother had also told her that not all men were attracted to skinny women – that some preferred a more abundant and curvaceous form, like Erica’s. But she didn’t believe it. No man would look at her as she was now. In Reuben’s time she might have been a sensation, but fashions change and now, if you weren’t slim, you were invisible. Strange, how the bigger you got, the less visible you became.

And vice versa. Her housemate, Lily, was a case in point. She was so skinny that there was very little of her to see. Yet heads turned as she passed, and in response she would exaggerate the swaying of her lissom hips and toss her blonde ringlets to make them bounce and shine.

‘What are you doing, Erica?’ she said, opening the bedroom door and coming in.

Could you knock please, Lily? I keep asking you.’

Oh yes, sorry. Look, could you lend me some cash? Carey’s asked me over and I need to get across town.’

Lily always went out on Friday evenings, but always behaved as if it was unexpected, and in any case never bothered to take any cash out in advance, presumably because she preferred using Erica’s.

Erica didn’t want to lend Lily any cash, because a) it took her so long to pay it back and b) she had only taken out enough for her own immediate needs. But Lily’s expectation that the world would provide her with everything she wanted was so powerful – like a kind of magic – that Erica felt sucked into fulfilling it, and before she knew it she was shelling out tenners, while part of her mind screamed at her and asked what the hell she was doing.

But that’s Lily – thought Erica afterwards – sucking energy from the world around her and swelling up with it like a little tick. She ought to be the fat one, not me.

‘But you went along with it,’ her spirit guides pointed out. ‘You didn’t have to lend her that money. You could have said “no.”’

Sometimes her spirit guides really got on her wick. And it didn’t help that they were right. ‘Alright, I know, you don’t have to tell me. I did it again. I laid myself down and let her walk all over me. Lack of assertiveness. Lack of self-love. I know, I know. I’ll try to do better next time.’

Saturday

So that’s why Erica ended up going to the ATM the following morning. Only to find it wasn’t working. The next one wasn’t working either. Or the one after that. While she was standing perplexed, a passing young man said, ‘None of them are working, love.’

‘Really? Thanks. Sorry,’ said Erica, covering all the bases.

Okay, she’d have to get Cashback from the supermarket.

So off she went to Savemarket. But she found it in uproar, with long queues, loud arguments at the checkouts, and several women in tears.

The music was interrupted by the crackle of static, and a sing-song voice announced, ‘Savemarket apologises to its customers, but owing to circumstances beyond our control, we can only accept cash this morning. If you do not have cash, please leave your loaded trolleys in Aisle One. We apologise for any inconvenience.’

What did they mean, any inconvenience? thought Erica. As if it was an outside chance that their customers would be put out by not being able to eat that week.

Everyone else seemed to feel the same, because the general muttering rose to a roar. One man stormed the checkout with his full trolley, heading for the exit, and several others followed. They were intercepted by security staff, and a fight broke out. More people tried to slip past with their laden trolleys while the security staff were busy, while others stood astonished at how quickly the norms of behaviour could be overturned.

Erica returned her basket to the stack. Better get out of there before the police arrived and held everyone for questioning. Or the army, with tear gas and water cannon.

My God, it’s happened! she thought as she slipped past the melee, sustaining only a minor bruise from a flailing elbow. The collapse of the global financial system! And Lily’s got my money! And Tom’s got the stash!

For a couple of years Erica had religiously kept a stash of cash for just this eventuality. But she’d lent it to her brother Tom who had pranged his car, and he still hadn’t repaid her. And of course Lily had made off with the rest. So what with one thing and another, she felt quite pissed off with the Universe for mistiming the financial crash so badly. And with her guides, who hadn’t warned her. And with herself for being such a mug and lending all her money to people who didn’t appreciate it and might not pay her back anyway.

No money, and the fridge was nearly empty. What to do?

Would Hassan give her credit? Are you kidding? Hassan had many excellent qualities, but generosity wasn’t one of them. Still, it was worth a try.

So off she went to the local independent store, where she was a regular customer. But in the event she didn’t bother asking, because there was a queue of other regular customers all wanting the same thing, and Hassan was standing firm.

‘I would respectfully point out to you the notice on this wall,’ he was saying, ‘which tells you, upfront, with no discrimination, that we do not give credit. I do not know how to make it any clearer.’

Okay, so no credit from Hassan. What to do? I know! The Community Garden. I can at least get a few carrots and some kale.

So off she went to the Community Garden, where she did the occasional stint. But she was just in time to see the last of the vegetables being uprooted and loaded into a yellow van by three young men, who then drove off at speed.

Things were not looking good.

***

Back home, she turned on the telly, and found back-to-back programs about the financial crash and its effects. Of course, it only showed the worst aspects of the crisis, which is what the Cabal-controlled media always did, in order to stimulate more of the same. In this case, riots, arson, looting and murder. They would have organised some of it themselves, to give people the idea. So she turned it off again.

What to do? She didn’t want to run around like a headless chicken. That wouldn’t help anyone.

She ought to meditate and ask for guidance. That’s what she ought to do. That was the most urgent thing. So she did. And the message she got from her guides was, basically, ‘Stand by, ready for action.’

They didn’t say what sort of action, though.

***

The front door bell rang. Erica opened it without thinking, and then thought how stupid – I should have put it on the chain; it could have been a gang of rampaging hooligans. But it was only the elderly widowed lady from next door, in tears.

‘Hello Mrs Bindle. Oh dear, what’s the matter?’ But this only provoked more tears. ‘Why don’t you come in?’ met with a more positive response, and ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ dried the tears up like magic.

Once sitting down with a cup of tea (made with the penultimate teabag and the last of the milk) Mrs Bindle unburdened herself. She explained – and took some time about it – that she couldn’t get any money out of the ATM, the supermarkets were closed, Hassan wouldn’t give credit, she’d run out of milk, and she didn’t know what to do. Erica suppressed her irritation that Mrs Bindle seemed to think she was the only person in the world with these problems, and listened as sympathetically as she could manage.

Before the recitation was over there was another ring on the doorbell, and this time it was Miss Pluck on the doorstep in tears. Erica brought her in, sat her down with a cup of black tea opposite Mrs Bindle, and let the two of them swap stories.

‘I popped round to see you, but there was no reply, so I assumed…’ said Mrs Bindle.

‘… that I was out,’ continued Miss Pluck. ‘Yes, but I was only down the bottom of the garden. I popped round to see you, too, but…’

‘… I was probably at the ATM, trying to get some money out. But none of them…’

‘… are working, are they? And the supermarket will only take cash. And there was an absolute riot going on. Isn’t it dreadful?’

‘Dreadful,’ agreed Mrs Bindle.

The door bell rang once more. This time Erica remembered the chain, but it was only Mr Phipps from down the road, wondering if she was alright. He was a cantankerous old codger with a soft spot for Erica. She asked him in, offered him a cup of hot water – which he refused – and got him to join the support group.

Okay, what now? People were getting hungry.

She went to look in the fridge. It was almost empty, but she knew that already. She went to the pantry. Most kitchens in the Western world have, lurking at the back of their larders, pantries and cupboards, tins and packets and bottles of stuff that never looks appetizing enough to use, and just moulders away until someone does a clearout of everything that’s past its sell-by date, if that ever happens. So, scrupulously putting Lily’s stuff to one side – such as it was – she surveyed what was left.

This is what she found:

A bottle of mushroom sauce and another of anchovy sauce – both with their seals intact; eight small tins of baked beans; two tins of chick peas; two tins of tomatoes; single tins of tuna, lychees and coconut milk; coffee jars filled with ancient lentils and split peas; one bag each of brown rice, wholemeal flour and porridge oats; a bottle of sunflower oil; a head of garlic; three inches of withering root ginger, and lots of aging spices.

In theory there was plenty of nourishing food here, but Erica wasn’t much of a cook, and needed a recipe, all the ingredients and a bit of a run-up to make a decent meal.

You’ve got a few meals there, then,’ said a voice behind her, and she jumped. It was Mr Phipps.

‘Yes, that’s what I was thinking. If I only knew how to put it all together.’

I’d be happy to give it a go. We just need some onions, really. And some green stuff, if possible.’

Mr Phipps had trained as a chef in his younger days, but hadn’t liked the speed and stress of a restaurant kitchen, and had set up a window-cleaning business instead. But he still enjoyed cooking, and especially the challenge of inventing meals from scratch with whatever was available.

How would it be, he suggested, if they pooled their resources?

They put it to the ladies in the lounge, who were already feeling better after consuming the last of the tea and getting things off their chests, and the idea perked them up no end.

Well, I do keep chickens,’ confided Mrs Bindle, ‘For the eggs, you know. Of course, I couldn’t live on them, because…’

‘…they’d be too binding,’ explained Miss Pluck. ‘But in conjunction with a good source of roughage, like…’

‘…the vegetables in your garden…’

‘…the vegetables in my garden…’

‘…they’d be very nutritious,’ finished Mrs Bindle.

What about your store cupboards? And your fridges and freezers?’ asked Mr Phipps, more boldly than Erica would have dared, and with a greedy look in his eye.

Well, if you’d care to have a rummage…’ said Miss Pluck.

‘… and see what you can find…’ continued Mrs Bindle.

‘… you’d be more than welcome,’ finished Miss Pluck.

And the two of them smiled winsomely, in unison, with their heads tilted symmetrically, like bookends.

The upshot of it was, that the four neighbours sat down three hours later to a tuna, squash and corn frittata served with fried potatoes and spiced cabbage and followed by tinned lychees and vanilla ice cream. It felt like a banquet.

Afterwards, in the glow of gastric satisfaction, Erica gave them her perspective on the Crash, her expectation that a new and fairer financial system would soon arise from the ashes, and her opinion that it was worth going through the crisis in order to get rid of the Cabal. Then she had to explain who the Cabal were, and her audience listened with polite incomprehension as they began to drop off to sleep.

After they’d left, Erica turned on the news. All the banks, petrol stations and supermarkets were closed and shuttered. And following a rash of assaults on bus drivers and railway staff, public transport was suspended. The rest of the news was all about riots, arson, looting and murder, so she turned it off again.

How was she supposed to get to work on Monday, then? she wondered. It was ten miles away, and her route on foot would take her through several riot zones. But when she checked her emails, there was one from work saying ‘Don’t come in.’

It looked as if the whole city was grinding to a halt. Maybe the whole country. Maybe the whole world.

Part 2 soon.

© Sue J Davis 2015

Please see Copyright Notice on the ‘About’ page.


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