Story 8 - Shadow in the Night.
"You were divorced, then?"
"At first I buckled under," said Heather. "Life became agonizing and dull. It's terrible to see one's sensitivities go out the window. I became irritable. Finally I couldn't deal with the least bit of stress anymore. But it wasn't all his fault, he had a lot of stress to deal with."
Heather started to tell Sylvia all about Winston, how he went from the University to the steel industry as a process engineer. A year later he got laid off when the steel price eroded. We were barely able to hold on to our house. He was re-hired only once after that, for a brief period, to oversee the demolition of six unused blast-furnaces which the company could no longer afford to pay taxes on. This must have felt like cutting his own throat.
Heather said that she and Winston left the city right afterwards, and moved to Kansas where he worked on his father's farm. But the farm was in trouble, too. It was technically bankrupt, like thousands of other farms in the area. More and more the conversation was about cost cutting, trying to hold off the foreclosure they all knew deep inside would eventually happen. Their only consolation was that they were not alone in this plight. His father always said that 417,000 other farms were bankrupt also. This seemed to give him hope. Then came the drought.
"The drought was heartbreaking," said
Heather. She told her that Winston and his father would walk out into a field and break open some kernels of barley and just stare. She saw tears in his father's face. The kernels were hollow and much too light. The crop wasn't even worth the expense of harvesting it. They put cattle out to graze it. One of them died, because of a too high concentration of nitrogen from the fertilizer that wasn't fully converted for the lack of water.
She said those pressures made Winston unbearable. He became mean, swore at her, and even hit her. But this wasn't the reason she left. She said the final straw was his father becoming involved with the New Unity Church that was catering to financially troubled farmers. The church pushed a hate campaign against the 'Jewish devil,' the grain cartel operators, who were about to devour their farms. The church told the farmers they were God's chosen people and urged them to defend themselves. So Winston and his father, like many others, went and bought themselves automatic weapons and boxes of ammunition.
"That's when you got divorced?" Sylvia asked.
"No, that would have been too painful. I simply walked out. It was a thousand times better to be alone, lonely, and destitute, than being locked into such an explosive prison. Maybe this was also the reason why I allowed myself to fall in love with Pete on the very day we met. He was so free, so uncomplicated, he made no demands, he appreciated a person's need to be oneself. There was no passion, nor anything like that phony romance Winston and I had before we got married. Everything was easy and natural between Pete and me, and much more beautiful than any fiery romance could be. I don't think I really knew what love is, until then. I only knew what hate is."
She said she couldn't comprehend who Winston and his father aimed to shoot at with their guns. If it was really the cartels who were squeezing them, which they hated, they would never be able to shoot at them. They would never be found outside of their villas in Switzerland. The local bank would get the sheriff to evict the farmers once the foreclosure notice was served, and instruct the local real estate agent to sell the farm for them at auction, where another real estate agent would put up a few pennies to buy the property in order to fill the land purchase orders that came from the cartels. She said they would have to shoot their own people with their fancy machine guns.