Great Lakes The other recent disasters did not matter compared to his father’s heart attack.

His father, Old Ed who now was also Big Ed on a diet that could have been a poster model for Dairy Marketing. Eggs with bacon every morning, plenty of milk, cheese omelets or Mexican style salads for lunch with plenty of cheese and sour cream. Steak with baked potato dripping butter for supper and always ice cream for desert. It was a big heart attack, his third, with plenty of new blockage. If he survived the first hours the clogs needed to be finally removed, that surgery would have to be done elsewhere and after months of recovery to regain some strength. Old Ed never bothered with doctors, animal husbandry had taught him everything he felt he needed to know. When Jean came down with pneumonia she let Ed treat her with the same penicillin used on the livestock. Jody had seen his father give himself stitches. His first aid kit was a box of home veterinary supplies originally purchased many years ago when Jean and Ed had horses and raised animals for the freezer. My father never saw sixty, Jody heard his father Ed observe countless times. Mother always reminded him, That was an accident Jean reminded him. Then he would groan, the groan his father never made and one for himself, a weak breath, rising from the pain of memory. Old Ed’s curse would be to go on living. Part of what Jody learned at college was a man does not have to be old at sixty, not anymore. He never thought about his father being in the condition he was but he did look like a frog when he squeezed himself into the bucket seat of his tractor. He used to say seat belts kill more people than they save when he could no longer close the seat belt in his car. His father did eat apples and bananas When he vacationed in Florida. Returning he told stories of all the exotic fruits he had piled up at the sundae bar. The title of Old was bestowed on Ed shortly after he had grown his celebrated mustache. It made him look like an old fashioned Mormon. He was always making changes just because he could. All his later life was spent in an effort to get out from under the legacy of suicide and failure his father left for him. He found himself first growing into the legacy as a young man, being fatherless he became a man quickly and early. He learned to love his father once more and that process was Ed‘s true gift. Jody, now almost 40 was learning to love his father as a man who understood another man’s sacrifices. First, if he wanted to go on living, he had to let go of the need to hate his father. Suicide, Jody hoped thinking of his son John, is not hereditary. Old Ed and Jean, as they came to call her, they had lived a good life, her family were western ranchers. She never wore women’s clothes, she always wore jeans and that set her apart. Her jeans became special and not his father’s suicide. Once Ed became a married man he was untroubled for years. Attention was shifted to his wife and their son, if anyone questioned their domestic habits Ed shifted off the blame saying that’s how things are done out west where Jean’s family lives. It was part of the disguise of the happy and joking fellow he put on for the world. If one could draw nearer he revealed himself to be sincerely stubborn about maintaining the old ways and cynical toward life and the industry of agriculture. He remembered life before the plague and rebelled against the circles of safety which enforced the timidity toward life which he hated. Be my friend or my enemy but don‘t leave me guessing. Run hot or cold but have some feeling. One has to be grateful to be alive but a man has to live! He became a scare crow, a servant of the soil for fifteen, almost 20 years. Alcoholism at the time blurred much of his memory even now. His son was a stranger to him. He was a smart boy doing something stupid. He went from college back to the farm. That was unheard of and may have contributed to Ed’s sobriety. Like seeing a ghost, it prompted him to throw away the bottle. His son was like his father returned from the grave. At first Ed dug in his heels and resisted the way his son was taught to

farm. These things aren’t in books, Ed told him but Jody had the books with that information and more. If Ed chose to see the spiritual he might say he was seeing his father’s life being completed by his son. The farm prospered once more and Jody’s wife had the baby. They named him John for Ed’s father. “Did I ever tell you about my father?” “Yes, dad, everyday of my life through high school until I moved out and went to college.” “My mother, do you remember her, she told me he had a heart attack and fell in the machine.” “I know, dad.” Jody was patient with his father who never remembered that it was the same conversation even years after he stopped drinking. He was so depressed and scared at 40 he had not the will to drink. He had his first heart attack before Jody came home from college. From the hospital he never resumed his old vices. Although a schooner of beer was replaced by a sundae, sobriety became the lens through which he held the world in his skewed view. His empty glare, hate with no reason or desire to fight. To ease the work for his heart Ed was on dopamine enhancers for many years. What was once an all consuming anger became anorexic with these new pills. As for the medicine’s effect on his metaphysical heart and its alleged capacity to determine emotions, the pills made him not feel bad about not being able to feel. In his heart Old Ed saw life as undeserved and uninvited obligations and responsibilities. As the man grown from the child who had witnessed his father’s suicide the simple questions of why did he do it and why didn’t I save him? were the tiny seeds that grew like heavy vines tearing down any satisfaction or happiness. Ed when married and accepted his father’s legacy for himself which he expressed in his own way by being for many years one of the most exemplary farmers. Like a story with the last page torn out, on the anniversary day one year he just stopped caring. The farm became the junk yard by the side of the road. His father had done a lot of things, he was not in fact a sod buster being too late by about 100 years but his story joined theirs, he had lived that kind of life. Ed’s father had adventures and traveled he was past 30 when Ed was born. Ed learned about his father from his uncles but they too were old men. Maybe his father never liked farming or being settled and having a wife and child. For whatever reason when all the bank trouble came he was too old to even think about starting over from scratch. Mental depression was surfacing again. Until the reminder he had forgotten the promise he made himself long ago, not to let himself get older than his father. Like his father Ed could be a quitter but not to the same degree. When living became an insult to the dead Ed let his farm go to hell. Jean did not know how to respond. Unlike most wives she did not pursue Ed to clean up the outside of the place. There was an unspoken exchange made between the two of them. Ed used his barbs and humorous observations about his wife’s home state as a shield to keep anyone from getting too close to him. His jokes were all based on superficial observation but the effect it had benefited her in the same way that neither Ed or anyone else ever questioned her more deeply. That her only family was out west where they never visited and she dressed like a man and they slept in separate beds before it was fashionable, later separate rooms all of which Ed attributed to Jean, the Boss and taking as gospel because, ’that’s the way they do it in Wyoming’. John and Ed were alike that way, both did whatever to try and make Jean happy. As both of them were in such misery, hiding from the world and each other, immobile and isolated being on the farm put Jean further in the bottle. When Ed’s private misery was becoming obvious Jean was unable to recognize it. Walking out of the hospital room Martha squeezed Jody’s hand as if trying to capture and merge his life force with her own but she lacked the strength “At

least you will have the time to take care of dad’s crop.” “Are things like this destined?” Jody asked in earnest, “Our fields are on opposite sides of a road yet I got washed out twice and him not once.” This was the first time he was seeing out of he shadow of financial loss and personal failure since he broadcast the grass seed to grow a hay field in late July. He tried to be strong about it joking, I’m not a hay farmer, ‘I’m a - Hey, farmer! Get off the road. Out of my way farmer’ punching at nothing in the air. ‘ I blame God for this. Why wasn’t I born rich? Why couldn’t my father have owned a big building in the city instead of a patch of dirt and some cows?’ To blame Fate, Nature, no less a force than God was to remove some of the blame he had been shouldering and by becoming a Hey, farmer! Was to become more faceless in defeat and only a statistic with no responsibility. The moment brought something else to his attention. “We are the only other married couple I know. Right now my mother is staying away from the hospital.” He could not help a look of disdain crossing his face. She always needed a space that excluded him. It took this sort of event to make the meaning of his parent’s relationship clear. His dad was always looking for ways to escape his mother with farm projects or things to do in the garage. Not that fought, they hardly talked, they never shared a laugh. Old Ed became a leading farmer by going to so many meetings and taking on projects and experiments that he heard about from the Agricultural Extension. Were his motives more sinister and selfish, not to bond with his son as Jody imagines but in reality to get away from the wife. “I wish you had known my mother before.” Jody said as an apology for his mother’s absence. “When we had horses.” That was the good time, when all of their disguises matched and they together looked like a family. Jody would never know that whenever his mother touched him she felt as though she was touching a stranger. He learned to ride a little but it was Jody’s choice that he was more drawn to his father’s world of working with machines and the land. Despite all that stood between his parents as a pair of adults who could not give or receive love they were always decent people who would not intentionally hurt their child. Outwardly they conformed and made no selfish expression that might ever weigh on him. Not until this day when his mother met her ultimate emotional obstacle. “My mother’s in a lot of pain.” Jody added. Jody’s dad was often saying things to enforce a separation, like, men don’t belong in the kitchen, and, certain work isn’t man’s work, or, let’s leave the gals to talk. Jody was at first surprised that he enjoyed time spent with his wife. Curiously his father had never answered the phone or the front door. Ed became a block of ice in his mid fifty’s and Jean turned to arts and crafts painting dappled horses on wooden model and collecting equestrian items. After Mom could not care for her horses his parents took long drives to go shopping. She still had many friends and after she went out visiting for days at a time she usually returned with a some new plan for the house, replace moldings, repaint. When she could still reach and bend projects got done but as she became more crippled she asked for help. Dad however was very selective about doing what she thought needed to be done. The only communication they had was limited to a few things. Even when they took time to enjoy life it first had to satisfy a material requirement. When they befriended Martha’s parents who were rich and in that respect masters of the worldly possessions. Martha’s father lead Jody’s folks to an investments where they could spend their winters. In the beginning there was a lot of nervousness how the families would get along. Martha viewed her parents as callous exploiters and through her eyes as a rebel she idolized Jody’s parents. In fact, despite worlds of differences the two families were both essentially Republicans. Both Martha and Jody’s parents believed in the recent wars and supported the use of nuclear weapons. For different reasons the believed in the draft and using the army to back up private security. Security to Jody’s father meant destruction

of all of our enemies at home and abroad by any means and to Martha’s father security was keeping the oil flowing to keep the country growing and building those castles in the sky while being able to feed the lower other classes, the unskilled and homeless. Once hostile natives were cleared out and resources salvaged nuked land was quickly converted to affordable housing. While both fathers paid lip service to the military neither would want to see their own child in the service. Life had too much to offer. The money and conditions were better in private security Shortly after their first visit Martha’s father saw the beauty of a place where he did not have to meet any outside expectations. He purchased a solitary log home on an overpriced lake development with a sand beach and dock for fishing with restricted access and security guards. The place was habitable once lead shielding and the air filtration system was installed. A residence the size a head butler might live in under the dome. Jody sometimes felt that Martha’s father looked down on him but only as a father looking out for a child who had rejected his values. Martha’s father was not offensive to Jody’s family. It was Martha’s mother who could not help but appear like an aggressive horse fly, leaving a boil on each and everyone’s neck. Her first words upon meeting Jody, “Take our bags.” And what scorched Jody the most, she did not even say please. Her conversations usually compared Jody with her other young people who she deemed the successful ones, the ones making money. Privately to Martha her deprecations were not polite and not conversational. She always tried to make amends at the end of a visit in the scripted way adults talk to small children, not asking Jody how old or tall he is but seeking to hear once more the answer to, How may acres do you own? And after he answered she always replied, If you owned that much land near my home, and her eyes would role up, You would be so rich, then I wouldn‘t mind you marrying my daughter. Tell them Andy, I am right. Old Ed got well enough to leave for Florida early, the doctor and Jean made arrangements made for the ultimate surgery to clear his chest. Because he was a farmer he was put on an urgent list for treatment. One of the beneifits of the job. With few replacements coming along the present farmers had to serve as long as free science could allow. The torrential rains came on a weekly schedule. The heat was unlike any that had ever been seen in North America outside of Arizona or Death Valley. The old timers sitting in front of the Farmers’ Co-Op waited for the temperature to reach 120F before uttering, Hot enough for you? Most of the old timers got taken away and they filled the hospital when the humidity went up which was inevitable. It had happen in previous summers before, after and during a rain. Death’s slowed to an emphatic trickle after enough people left for the states along the ocean coast. Now the most at risk, babies, elderly, those already weak from illness, those without air conditioning and smokers had all died of heat but were counted as plague victims. Now a strong healthy man would sit down to mop his brow in the shade and never get up again. This heat could take anyone. But the heat was good for the corn, great in fact as the plants developed side shoots with multiple ears. A giraffe could hide in Jody’s father’s corn field and even the stacks of hay bales which Jody now appreciated as a crop reached unprecedented heights. In 1989 the city of Charleston was destroyed by Hugo, a hurricane described as a once in 500 year event. California soon after was struck by the first hurricane in recorded history ever seen in the Pacific. Then New Orleans was destroyed. From the government agencies down to weather readers on television the use of comparisons to measure relative strength was dropped. Comparison is meaningless when so called 500 year events began occurring annually and levels of destruction reaching never before imagined scale. Fifty tornados in one afternoon struck Dallas tearing the glass skin from skyscrapers killing twelve thousand by hurling their bodies miles and raining tons of broken glass on others. Storms

killed thousand more by flash flooding entire cities and regions after homes were smashed to bits by megaforce hurricanes and the multitudes of tornado offspring. The world supply of flowers were exhausted to make the wreaths laid by survivors after the rage subsided and calm returned to the lapping waters of the Mississippi Sea. It benefited insurance companies working with government to pretend the people for whom records destroyed never existed, saying victims were invented by people being greedy. It was the biggest insurance claim ever paid and the windfall for the companies was even more since entire cities and surrounding regions left no one living to make a claim. Blame was shifted to the Goddess of Weather, and men cursed Nature. Multiple hurricanes were pummeling the east coast at once. Martha’s parents had arrived in a full size amphibious vehicle, a military model that had not been available to the consumer for several years. Andy had used the snorkel attachment several times. Survival is a birthright of the rich, Jody thought, he learned not to use the word rich around Martha who would become defensive, especially about her father. Pilled up in the back seat Martha’s mother was as useless as ever. Jody used the tractor to get to town but the town itself was increasingly isolated. At least the cell phone saved unnecessary attempts to go to town when airdropped supplies were immediately grabbed by town residence. Andy who was desperate to get away from the women sat with Jody. Jody satellite dish was getting an intermittent signal, they had to shout to talk and be heard over the sound of the squall which even drowned the noise of the emergency generator operating at full throttle. The wind, the rain outside which was stripping the windrow trees of their leaves and indoors rivulets of dirty water ran down the wall paper on one wall. Tears welled up on the ceiling and dripped into catch basins through out the house. Luckily only a small part of the roofing was blown away. Jeans trophies were now in boxes in the center of the living room. The scummy water leaking into the house made Jody angry. Farmers all of this season looked at rain as an enemy. “She’s smiling, isn’t she?” Jody was also angry at the weather reader with the untraceable British accent. Her voice seemed to reflect interest, “For the second time in thirty years North American maps will have to be redrawn for now a seventh Great Lake.” She disappeared in favor of a map of inundated Ohio and Illinois. “Yes,” Andy agreed gravely. “See if she smiles into her fish head soup.” “Britain is another feed lot nation. Their herds eat Iowa corn.” Jody looked over at his father-in-law. “That’s what they eat in Europe.” Andy spoke to clarify his fish head comment, “When times get tight. Eels, snails. Why are you watching this Limy broad anyway?” “Our satellite is out. There is some idea that the news is being censored. The government is concerned about an invasion.” “Not invasion,” Ed rose up in his seat with interest in his voice. “Insurrection, individual states and groups of states being taken over from within. Natural disasters opening the door. Rival governments being set up with a new allegiance from the people to those who the think can save them. The new governments might seem responsive to their needs at first but these are not potential democracies. For years corporate states within the states have been positioning themselves. People fighting for bread will forsake the vote if they are getting fed.” Jody was unnerved by this, the rumors had taken root because of the economic conditions of the last few years. What Andy was saying made so many puzzle pieces fit. When Andy spoke everyone, including Ed listened, not a cracker barrel speculator, Andy spoke regularly to Capital City and he worked in the greater economy linking the domes. “The water will go down.” Jody said but was not really sure as he too had

been a long time observer. He had never seen it like this. “A lot of marginal farms and farmers will be gone. But the market for corn for the feed lots will remain. Your trying to recover but there will be others who are in a better position to hold prices down and buy up abandoned properties. Something good will come of this. This is like Noah‘s Ark.” Jody said and he pointed out to John were a dead cow was floating quickly down the shallow stream which was once a driveway. Listening Jody felt like he was being strangled. “They want to form a world wide corporate vassal state.” “Why, why all my life have I seen these men pursue their unfair advantages. I know your right about what your saying because all of my life I’ve seen it. The American farmer and I think most of the American people, half for sure, have been getting poorer and poorer.” Andy shook his head “Half if we were lucky.” Here he was seeing what made the situation so intolerable. In the juxtaposing of one set of numbers on top of another his own daughter, grandson and this passionate farmer were being led to a financial extinction with all the humanity of a firing squad. “These people consider themselves to be good Americans and even patriots. Since the end of the last war they have been trying to do what our colonial ancestors did. Remember? ‘To form a more perfect union’? They honestly feel the richer they can become the richer the American people can become.” “Some of the things they do are crimes. Which war do you consider the last one? The one with Russia and Canada, right?” He was embarrassed by his ignorance. “Alaskan independence?” Jody guessed. Andy nodded and continued, “Jody, those things were crimes but after the war they started changing the laws. That got such a head start that even without a disaster like this playing into their hands they were remaking the world the way they wanted it. Once the water goes down and this crisis has passed a smart and capable farmer like you can have a part to play.” Both Jody and Martha’s parents were in for a regular visit it when it struck, the flat lands of Florida where Ed and Jean were resting up for grandpa’s operation, disappeared, and only the highest tops of the Virginia hills many miles west remained as isolated islands. It was pointless to assume they survived but the ones who loved them knew how things were and not even their hearts could raise the hope of a miracle. The name given to it by meteorologist who are used to transitory events, rapid change and being on the spot with titles acceptable to the public who survive, as well as oceanographers and geologist was The Great Tidal Surge of 2054. The swell of ocean and rainwater reached to the artic circle, it covered a third of Canada to the Hudson Bay. Twenty five percent of all life in North America was dead in a day, most of their bodies along with vegetation and all other fauna were washed out to sea and carried under to be lost in the vastness and depth of a cold sea. Having scoured the land, the water, its awesome power revealed, waited and gentle laughing waves mocked as some of the frail and hypersensitive surface dwellers returned with caution to burn and bury all kinds of dead flesh that was draped everywhere.

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