Recently in Dwindling Category



"Daddy, what is this thing crawling on me?!"

"Aerial spraying knocked the ticks back for a year, but local municipalities report that the costs are too high for more than occasional use. Apple farmers report their worst year ever, as beekeepers fled, wild bees perished, and few flowers were pollinated."

"Cities grew this year, as rural residents fled their homes to avoid the tick plague and the costs of our chemical warfare against them. Unfortunately, bedbugs continue to spread in the New York Metropolitan area, though they bear fewer diseases than the ticks."

"I'm sorry, sir, but that dog needs to move. Household pets are no longer permitted in the Tick Exclusion Area."

"Feral cat populations have exploded in the Tick Exclusion Zone as state workers bring in strays to try to knock down the mouse population supporting ticks with an especially virulent strain of the Lyme Disease Complex. Residents are advised to avoid contact with these cats, particularly feeding or petting them."

"A surprising number of former New Yorkers are moving to northern Ontario, looking for places where their nemesis, Ixodes scapularis, can't follow them."

"Governor Clinton (IV) announced today that an area from the northern limits of Armonk to Kinderhook to Schenectady to eastern Rochester to Hornell has been closed to human settlement. Only temporary workers are allowed in by permit, as well as motorists on the Thruway. All people departing this area who stopped outside of an approved sprayed rest area must undergo an insecticidal shower or bath."

The Drowning


[by Thomas Shelley]

In the deep still of the night Riley's heart was racing. He was gently rocking Sylvia back and forth in a tightly tangled embrace. Sylvia was still sobbing uncontrollably. It was the dream again. It was always the same:

Sylvia is clinging to her mother who is clinging to something. Sheets of lightening illuminate enormous waves and a terrifying sky formed of wind and rain. There is a huge gust, a crashing wave and Sylvia's mother is gone. Sylvia screams, "Mommie, Mommie, Mommie!" Her mother's distant refrain of Sylvia's name is her last word.

Sylvia awakened terrified and screaming at this point in the dream. Riley knows that this will go on for a long time.

Most of the young people that crowd the town are refugees from what is call "The Drowning". The sudden rise of sea level took everyone by surprise. The increase in global warming was supposed to cause a gradual rise of about three feet or one meter by 2100. A series of unforeseen events caused a much more rapid rise in sea level - nearly 50 feet (15 meters) in most places by mid-century. Since nearly 90 percent of the world's population lived at or near sea level in the early 21st Century, the sudden rise in sea level along with other deleterious events contributed to a catastrophic loss of life on a global scale. By 2100 only 680 million souls survived of the nearly 9 billion persons alive prior to "The Drowning". Ironically, or perhaps not, the 7-1/2 percent of the human population that survived turns out to be the true carrying capacity of the Earth.

Sylvia collapsed into a fitful sleep. Riley lie awake, still rattled by Sylvia's recurring dream, wondering what the new day would bring.

Incendiary Fence


I don't know if this piece of paper will hold up or if anyone will find it, but maybe it will help DEP understand what they're up against.

I joined up ten years ago. I'd survived three tours of duty overseas, figured God must be on my side, and was tired of looking at concrete and drywall. DEP meant adventure, something else to look at, and survivor benefits that might let my son's saxophone get noticed by the ones who matter. He has dreams - I never really cared, I guess.

This mission started out as the usual. Satellite told us there was a problem. Permanent buildings in the 50-100 mile range from the reservoir, apparently a vandal settlement too close in, pushing the edge of the bombing zone.

Those bastards in HQ had given in to media pressure for some kind of "fair warning" when settlements were on the edge, so we set off in the chopper to take a look and drop some pamphlets. We figured they could read, but the chopper let us get in with loudspeakers too.

It was a bad idea. There were lots of 'em down there, and they ran around making it pretty clear they'd seen and heard us. The wind was picking up a bit, but suddenly the tail of the chopper - I don't know, it seemed to fall off and we were spinning on our way down. Maybe it broke, maybe they shot it somehow. Chuck died at the bottom, but they pulled me out.

I warned them that messing with the DEP was a bad idea, and that the best they could do was leave me with the chopper and get the hell out of there. "Take me with you," I said, "and you'll get bombed wherever you go."

They just grinned, took my communicator, and boarded me up in this room. They sure built it tight for something thrown together in a summer under tree cover. I smell a bit of smoke - maybe they're still around, or maybe they just left the fires going to make it seem like that.

There's the plane - it won't be long now. DEP - take care of my wife and kid!

The Shower


[by Thomas Shelley]

Ithaca, New York, late July, 2039

The thermometer just inside the shed read 104 degrees. Streams of sweat were rolling off Riley's forehead. He found himself in disbelief that he was working in this heat. The Old Guy was even more unbelievable to Riley. The Old Guy was standing in the yard near the retort, his large homemade straw hat his only shelter against the blazing late July sun. As if the heat from the sun wasn't bad enough, the retort was now burning full-force and Riley was only able to get about five feet from it without feeling like he was going to burst into flames himself.

They had been lining up since early morning. The Old Guy and the folks in the old Cederstrom place had even let a handful of the Wanderers camp out overnight near the retort. They came from nearby neighborhoods, the big box stores and the parking garages. Some local farmers even rode their horses into town just for today's firing. Each came with an armload of sticks or a few pieces of firewood. Some brought a bike-drawn cart or backpack full of logs or firewood. Each in turn helped the Old Guy load the retort. The retort held five cords of wood so it took from 100 to 120 small contributors to mostly fill the retort.

The retort was a funny looking thing, but well known to the local populace. The thousand-gallon tank, held up by railroad ties braced together, was positioned above what looked like an overgrown brick outhouse--an outhouse on fire. The tank was once part of a fuel oil depot on 5th Street. Several years ago a work crew organized by the Old Guy had moved it to its new location. It was quite an effort all in all, especially cleaning out the inside of the tank, most of which was done before it was moved. The ties came from an abandoned nearby spur of the old railroad line. Bricks for the retort came from the chimneys and foundations of the many collapsed or burned out houses in the area. The Old Guy, who was the son of a brick mason, and who had learned the trade from his father, always said there would probably never be a shortage of used brick. This was a good thing for the participants since the Old Guy had to rebuild the retort after every few firings. The old red bricks were fairly soft and didn't last long under the heat of the retort. The Old Guy kept looking for firebrick, but they were really hard to find. Fortunately he had a good source of lime for the mortar he used to build the retort. Two or three times each year he would trade a firing of charcoal for a cart of lime from the Lime Man in Enfield. The arrangement worked really well for all concerned. The owners of the local iron forge and the several blacksmiths in the area were good customers as well and had participated in the original construction of the retort many years ago.

But most of the participants were local folks and the Wanderers who showed up with their armloads of sticks and logs. Many of them didn't care much about the charcoal but some of the local women were eager to have some of the charcoal for cooking. The artists in the line would eventually pick out the hardest, darkest sticks of charcoal for drawing on their handmade paper or for grinding with local walnut oil to make carbon black pigment for painting and decoration. But most of the line was there for a shower. Each participant received ten gallons of hot water, so one hundred or so folks, some in pairs got a really nice shower. There was no other source of hot water for most of the locals, yet alone the Wanderers. A few homes still had solar hot water installations from the teens and the twenty's that still worked. Some of the locals had devised all sorts of ad hoc solar and wood heated water heating systems since then, but most of the local population, especially those living in the parking garages and the former big box stores, not to mention the Wanderers, had little access to running water let alone hot water. All of their water was carried in from the creeks or collected in homemade cisterns of sorts. A hot shower was a real treat.

The children who operated the bellows received a shower as well. Usually it took two or three of them, especially on a really hot day like today. They took turns and it was more play than work, especially since the Old Guy would be joking with them along the way as he supervised the whole operation, making the long afternoon go by a little quicker. The bellows, made of leather and canvas salvaged from old houses, supplied air for the downdraft air supply of the kiln. The forced air system devised by the Old Guy allowed the retort to develop a high enough temperature to gasify the volatile components of the wood, leaving the charcoal behind. The "wood gas" produced was then burned in the upper stage of the retort to heat the water in the thousand gallon tank. It took several hours to heat the full tank, but no one much cared. The hot shower in the late afternoon was worth the wait. Most of the afternoon was like a carnival anyway--the air was filled with music and dancing; women told stories to small clusters of children covered by tarps pitched to shade them from the afternoon Sun. The Old Guy's wife sat in her special place, in the shade of the shed, teaching a small circle of children to read. Some of the women helped Sylvia work in the garden. Riley and a couple of the Wanderers carried on a brisk trade with the crowd in tools and other small useful items. The Old Guy supervised the cooking of a deer and local beans and rice in an oven constructed in one side of the kiln. This was then shared by all of those assembled at the end of the shower.

The shower was the high point of the afternoon. By late afternoon the water was hot. The retort would be sealed for the cool down and the fun would begin. The line of 100 or so participants would take their shower one by one or in pairs at times. The Old Guy furnished his homemade soap which everyone enjoyed using. The crowd would clap and cheer for each participant as they finished their shower. This had become sort of a ritual of the shower. Some of the women used some of their hot water to make teas or infusions with herbs they brought from their gardens. The Old Guy was always the last one to shower. He would toss his straw hat to a row of boys and girls waiting nearby and the one who caught the hat would replace one of the bellows operators for the next shower. Everyone applauded and cheered the loudest when he was finished. The party would continue into the early evening with all assembled making short work of the venison and other food provided. The music and the crowd would slowly drift away, leaving the retort and its precious product to cool.

Two or three days later, once the retort had fully cooled, the Old Guy and his helpers from his household would dismantle the brick "doors" of the retort and remove and sort the charcoal into piles. Repairs were made to the retort as needed and it was readied for the next firing and shower. Over the next couple of days the providers of the wood interested in the charcoal would come by to pick up their portion. There was always lots left over for Riley, Sylvia and the Old Guy for cooking and trading. There was always someone coming by to trade surplus charcoal for vegetables, grain, or whatever items they had to trade. But the lasting memories of the locals and the Wanderers alike were of the hot shower they had on that July afternoon.

The Old Guy's Shed


[by Thomas Shelley]

Ithaca, New York, late June, 2053

Riley and Sylvia sat in the antique folding chairs on the little flagstone pad outside the Old Guy's Shed sipping lemon flavored tea. The stars were brilliant. This was unusual as it was towards the end of the rainy season and it was usually cloudy. Even though it was well after sunset, on this rare dry day the humidity was down and the usual fog and mist weren't obscuring their view of the heavens. The Big Dipper floated overhead. Fireflies danced over Sylvia's garden. Pungent, aromatic smoke from the smudge pot kept the mosquitoes at bay.

Riley and Sylvia were now living in the Old Guy's Shed all year round. Even though there was no heat in the shed Riley had winterized a portion of the shed so that even on those rare days when the winter temperatures dipped below freezing they were warm enough to function. They could always go to the old Cederstrom place where their friends lived to warm up for awhile if they wanted to, but they were enjoying living on their own. Besides, too much time with the eight assorted characters there was taxing, even if by necessity they all got along fairly well. And since Mike Cederstrom had passed away unexpectedly two years back, the place didn't seem the same. Mike was only 72 at the time when the giant mosquitoes zapped him with one of those tropical fevers. The Regional Central Council had been pretty good about distributing the anit-malaria drugs, but they weren't at all effective against some of the newer strains.

Nobody hassled Riley and Sylvia about living in the Old Guy's Shed. The shed was once a car barn for the house in front of the lot. The "red house", as it was known, burned to the ground about 10 years ago, just when Riley was getting to know the Old Guy. It had been boarded up for many years. Its former owners had died during one of the Food Riots in the late '30s when the Heights and much of the Northeast was sacked and burned. Besides, the Courthouse itself burned to the ground a few years back and all of the records were lost, so who owned what was now only colloquial information, as if anyone cared anyway, except maybe some of the Regional Central Council folks. After the Great Collapse the fire department converted its surviving engines to wood burners. But it took a while to get one going and get the engine hot enough to run well enough to leave the firehouse. Besides, since all of the water had to come from one of the creeks, chances for the survival of a burning structure were really slim.

Riley was one of the few people who knew the Old Guy's real name. He even referred to himself as the Old Guy as he was one of the few really elderly folks in the neighborhood. He was 102 when he died suddenly in the summer of '48. Sylvia found him lying in the garden, just outside the compost bins. His wife had lived to be 97, having died nearly 10 years earlier. They were the sages of the neighborhood in their time and were known for their hospitality towards the great influx of younger people like Riley and Sylvia who had made it to Upstate New York to escape the ravages of the drowned Coastal Plain. Most didn't survive the initial alternating monster hurricanes and droughts, but the lucky few that made it to the mountains and hills of the interior North East and managed to survive the Food Riots after the Great Collapse now had a relatively peaceful if marginal existence. The Old Guy and his wife had taught Sylvia how to read and write along with many other young people that had stayed at their house on the corner.

No one knew the street names any longer, not that it mattered anyway. All of the street signs had been stolen for their scrap value a long time ago. They just knew the large badly faded clapboard house on the corner as the Old Guy's house. Except for hand-made artists' pigments, industrial paint was only a memory of some of the older folks in town. Milk paint and white wash could be traded for if you knew the local producers and had something to trade, but there was hardly a house in town that had had any work of any kind done on it since the Great Collapse. The ten or so younger people living there, mostly in their late 20s or early 30s, took care of the Old Guy's house as well as they could after he died. It was about the only house around with glass in all of the windows!

Riley and Sylvia were trying to save up materials to trade for white wash made by a guy in Enfield. If they could carry it off they were going to white wash both the Old Guy's Shed and the old couple's former house on the corner.

Riley and Sylvia had escaped from "the drowning", as they referred to it, when they were in their early teens. They had somehow made it to Ithaca after a few years of desperate drifting in the mountains to the East. Riley met the Old Guy while he and Sylvia were camped in the former park across the street, taking handouts of food from the Regional Central Council. They were waiting for a space in the old parking garage nearby, now a camp for hundreds of refugees from "the drowning". The Old Guy had invited them to be part of his household along with several other young people. This was just a year before the Old Guy's wife died in her sleep one night. Sylvia was just learning how to read and write at the time. The Old Guy took his wife's loss really hard and the household of young folks and the people down the block who had been befriended by the Old Guy and his wife mourned for weeks.

The Old Guy's Shed was at the heart of Riley's existence. It was chocked full of every type of hardware and widget and bits and pieces of junk that one could imagine. The Old Guy had been a compulsive pack rat and filled up the shed with so much stuff that you could barely walk through it. Early on the Old Guy had taken Riley on a tour of the shed and introduced him to its marvelous contents, much of it from the late nineteen hundreds. The Old Guy said that he could build or repair almost anything from the parts and pieces stacked on shelves, in parts bins and in sets of drawers. Riley certainly believed he could. Riley and Sylvia became closer friends with the Old Guy after his wife died. The Old Guy continued with Sylvia's home schooling, taught Riley how to use tools. make repairs on all kinds of equipment, and he taught Sylvia how to garden, compost and collect seeds. They acquired all sorts of life skills that enabled them to be less dependent on the Regional Central Council's largess and to become leaders in the neighborhood. In his Will the Old Guy gave the shed and its contents to Riley.

Riley had become the local repairman and trader. Since there had been no stores anywhere since the Great Collapse, local farmers would walk or ride their horses miles to trade a basket of fresh produce or a loaf of bread for a couple of bolts to repair their thrasher or their hand-powered grain grinder. Riley had a brisk trade in all sorts of hand tools as a going concern. He was constantly busy repairing all sorts of gadgets. He had also learned how to convert furnaces to wood or biomass burning from the Old Guy. Much of the local housing stock had deteriorated to the point of being boarded up and ransacked for fire wood because it had been unheated for so long after the Great Collapse that the structures had warped, cracked and collapsed to the point where they were no longer habitable. The Old Guy's house was in comparatively good condition because he had installed a wood-burning furnace early in this century, so he could keep the house heated all winter. Knowing how to convert old fossil fuel furnaces to wood burning units in trade for food and goods made Riley even more valuable to the local community, even though the warmer climactic regime over the past many years made heating less of a necessity than it had been in the "old days". And Sylvia was teaching gardening, food preserving techniques and other survival skills to dozens of young people living in the parking structures and camping out in the former big box stores. She was receiving sewing and other services in return.

Life was good in 2053 in the remnants of Downtown Ithaca.



"Dad, we have a big problem."


"They're on the edge of the field this time - mostly camped out in the forest."

"That's an improvement over last time."

"It's fifty, though."


"I think so. I tried to get close without them noticing, but I'm not sure."

"Fifty? Did you call the Sheriff?"

"Mom tried - the department's up in the northeast corner right now on something similar."

"All right. I guess we can't let these folks get too settled. Where are the shotguns?"

"They're still on the back of the tractor cab. What do we do?"

"We ride over and tell them to go away, just like the last three times. Get up here, and get the guns ready."

Farewell to a Giant


I was pleasantly surprised to be invited to give Schuyler Livingston's eulogy - and even more surprised to learn that it was at his request. We last spoke ten years ago, a painful parting at the end of a struggle in which he was forced out of MorganChaseCiti. Since then, New York City and State have suffered terribly from the problems he thought he had defeated when he was Governor.

Given Schuyler's reputation for hounding his bosses and most of a Legislature out of their jobs, it may be a surprise that Schuyler didn't have a mean streak. He just said what he meant compulsively, which regularly lost him friends among people who preferred to keep the truth at a safe distance.

I've known Schuyler since our first day at Groton, though he only stayed there for a year - his father filed, quite dramatically, for bankruptcy, and Schuyler finished his schooling at Bronx Science. We both went to Columbia, where he originally planned to be a doctor, but somehow we both wound up at Cornell Law School. Fortunately, his brilliance made all of these schools want him as a student.

His early years on Wall Street were remarkable, a rise fueled by his warnings that various kinds of transactions carried consequences the firm wouldn't want to face later. He was repeatedly sidelined and then brought back and promoted, as warning after warning came true. He reached the boardroom after his predecessor was hauled away in handcuffs for a complex scheme that boiled down to bribing an accounting firm's partners to okay a series of transactions. His father's bankruptcy had left him incapable of tolerating corruption, especially financial corruption.


That lack of tolerance for corruption also left him deeply concerned about New York State. Perhaps hoping to distract him, his peers on Wall Street helped him to a seat on the 2024 State Financial Investigative Commission. After a few meetings, he rapidly changed course, and by 2029 had decided to run for Governor. He won the 2030 election by a tiny margin against an incumbent who had disgraced himself repeatedly.

His first few years were rocky, to say the least. The Legislature considered him sanctimonious, to put it mildly, and refused to cooperate with his strivings toward a balanced budget. They called him the Pope, mocking him for both his religious beliefs and his politics. His first term was pretty much a fiery trainwreck - I believe I'm allowed to say that, since I was his chief of staff.

I suspect you're all hoping that I'll have something to say about Saratoga, perhaps even something new. Schuyler had warned me not to share anything more about it until he was gone, but now I can safely tell you that it was the most carefully planned scandal in history, combining his fondness for practical jokes with his need to create a public sense of scandal about a system that had been broken for centuries without anyone much caring.

If he were to be a Pope, we decided, he should be a Renaissance Pope.

Since the Legislature had been behaving more and more scandalously for decades without consequence, Schuyler decided it was time to create a scandal on the Governor's side, one that would demand public attention but quickly reflect badly on the Legislature. Schuyler's squeaky-clean reputation would insure that there were plenty of shockwaves, and the timing had to fit perfectly with the 2034 election.

Saratoga was our opportunity - specifically the Speaker's Ball, at the close of the August 2034 racing season. Speaker Dalton sent out his usual invitations for 1200, including fifty invitations sent somewhat grudgingly to the Governor's office for distribution to the Executive Branch. Rather than giving them to department heads, of course, we contacted Marina Tariva, the proprietress of Albany Elite Escorts, and hired 47 of her finest escorts for the Ball. (She was apparently interested in retiring in any case.) They were only there to escort - it was a perfectly legal transaction.

About an hour into the Ball, I escorted his wife into the event, which brought over a few photographers wondering what was going on. Schuyler, as you doubtless know, came in a few minutes later. He was acting rather strangely, bringing 47 beautiful women to a dance attended by many of their regular clients. I'm sure that you've all seen the videotape of the resulting mayhem when the Governor presented them to the Speaker, calling "their graceful presence an appropriate gift to the Legislature for the quality and nature of the Legislature's work, a true reflection of how things get done in New York."

Bad taste, indeed. The media had no idea what to make of it, except to suggest that the Governor had gone mad. The Legislature went berserk, as we'd hoped, setting up impeachment proceedings that we encouraged with generously planted leaks. We had chosen the Governor's guests carefully - I'm still not sure what had enraged Ms. Tariva so severely and made her so interested in cooperating with us - and the scandal grew and grew. Their early rush to impeach the Governor for his insult proved a terrible idea, as the subsequent trial made the Legislature look terrible, in ways that made for attention-grabbing headlines.

That November proved that the electorate could understand a joke, throwing out the worst of the Old Guard, and we finally had a Legislature we could work with. We were happy to hear that there were unexpected rockslides on Bear Mountain on election night, a sign that the world was really changing.

We had to work quickly - New York was sinking fast. The crash in the dollar had weakened Wall Street's importance, and firms had been moving their operations away for decades. New York City's prestige as the center of media empires was withering rapidly, as the share of English in the worldwide market dwindled, and fashion just kept falling further and further behind. Poverty was up - the wealth needed to pay for social services was down. Schuyler's predecessors had already sold off - of course, I mean "outsourced" - many of the state's assets, from the former State University system to the Department of Motor Vehicles. There wasn't much left to work with, though no one had managed to sell off the Barge Canal successfully.

Schuyler poured money into education in ways the state had never seen. He couldn't recover the old SUNY system, but he built new tuition-free schools of finance in Lower Manhattan and Buffalo, schools of communications in Midtown Manhattan and Syracuse, a much larger fashion school in the old Garment District, and, to maintain some balance, schools of agriculture in Lockport and Poughkeepsie. Attendees could come from anywhere, if they met the admissions criteria - but they had to agree to work in New York State for the next five years, or tuition wouldn't be free.

The expensive gamble paid off - talent first poured into these schools as highly paid professors, and then students followed from all over the state, the country, and the world. The five-year rule ensured that companies would have a large pool of well-trained employees, and over time, more and more of these students chose to stay in a revitalized New York, all over the state.

He also got the Barge Canal operating again at a time when energy prices were climbing, though few people seem to realize how much that did to keep New York City going at a time when it was on the edge.

By the end of his second term, it was clear that his vision had made a difference, and by the end of his third term it looked like his eulogy might not even have to mention Saratoga. It was time for a new challenge, and Schuyler decided to head back to Wall Street, where he could focus more directly on a key industry for New York.

His return to Wall Street was rocky. Hailed as a conquering hero, he was quickly hired by the newly formed MorganChaseCiti as Chairman. The Board hoped that he could help create a cleaner image for a firm created out of necessity, as each member company had suffered major losses and scandals. For a while, it worked, and Schuyler was even able to expand their workforce in both New York City and Buffalo, taking advantage of the systems he'd set up.

Unfortunately, we all know what happened next. The National Bankruptcy led quickly to the Second Dollar Crash, and it was hard to take the United States seriously when 125 dollars suddenly bought a single Euro coin. New York State itself barely avoided bankruptcy, and the magic of the schools Schuyler had built dwindled as other places built competitors on similar lines, easily outspending us. New York City's collapse came more quickly than any of us anticipated, and the consequences Upstate were nearly as bleak. Businesses closed or left, leaving the remaining residents with shockingly little to do.

I'm not sure if Schuyler knew it was his last stand when he refused to move the company's headquarters to Shanghai, but it was clearly the end in any case. I stayed with the firm for a year wrapping up its departure before I left myself. Schuyler never forgave me for siding in the end with reality, however unfortunate, rather than with his visions.

He and Laura retreated here, to Tuxedo, and began work on this monastery. I fear that it may be Schuyler's final surviving monument, but it is a fitting conclusion to an extraordinary life, a heroic quest in the face of an imperfect world.

Ten times the taxes


"Why are you still living up there, Mom?"

"Because it's my home. I'm not leaving."

"It was my home too, and I left. Marie left, and John, and Joe. Dad kept saying the taxes were killing him, and I'm afraid he was right."

"Don't talk about your father that way. He's still here. I visited his grave this morning."

"Mom, if you came down here we could take care of you. Everything's cheaper here, everything's easier. You could have your own place, your own car - it's easy to get around. You don't need to call that stupid bus and hope they show up."

"They do show up, most of the time."

"Most of the time, maybe. And if they do show up, it's a bunch of junkies on board, the people you keep paying taxes to support."

"They're not all..."

"Mom, you know who's left up there. Old people who won't move and people who like the benefits. You know that's why your taxes are destroying your retirement account."

"There are lots of us left here. Nice people."

"Sure, Mom. Lots of nice people whose children are trying to get them to leave a place with no industry, no future, collapsing bridges, and the same lousy winter it's always had. The nice people who pay everything so that other not-so-nice people can sit around and do nothing."

"When are you going to come visit me?"

"Soon, Mom, soon."

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