Archive for exchange

Money Under Mattresses

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 16, 2012 by javedbabar

There were boys’ rooms and girls’ rooms and communal areas. Maybe they were too old to be called boys and girls, thought Bobby. It would be better to call them desperate, middle-aged men and women.

How had he ended up at this halfway house? Was it halfway to employment and stability, or halfway to unemployment and the trash can? Most people lived in hope, but there was no telling which direction they were moving in; recycling or landfill.

The employment situation in Lucerne was dire. The number of sick and struggling people was rising, and doctors’, lawyers’, and accountants’ services were much in demand. These professional people were doing well, but everybody else, lumped together loosely as unprofessional, was suffering. Some turned to crime, robbing the professional people, who they said were taking much more than their share.

This led to discussions about the meaning of money. Clever people said it had no intrinsic value as a physical commodity; it was just fiat money, from the Latin word meaning “it shall be”; a medium of exchange, a unit of account, and a standard of deferred payment only because The Authority said it was money.

The middle-aged men and women in the boys’ and girls’ rooms accepted all of this. They had no issue with money’s definition; the issue was that they had none. They had however not sunk to criminal actions, instead created an informal community, helping each other to survive.

Shama approached Bobby, looking angry, and asked. “Did you borrow some money?”

Bobby said, “I did last month. It was a twenty dollar bill. When I got some work at the Botanical Gardens I returned it.”

“Well, there’s still twenty dollars missing. Are you sure you returned it?”

“Yes, I did. I remember putting it under your mattress. There was about two hundred dollars there altogether. You had blue sheets.”

Shama became angrier. “I always have blue sheets. I don’t have another set. Are you being honest with me?  If you still have the money, that’s okay, but just say so.”

Other boys and girls in the lounge went quiet. Someone may have turned down the TV. It suddenly seemed quieter, and their voices, louder.

How could Shama say that in public, thought Bobby, accuse him like that? It wasn’t on. He said, “I’m not lying. I told you I took it, and I told you I put it back. Why would I lie?”

Shama shook his head and walked away. They grunted to each other after that, but didn’t engage in real conversations. Tension built in the house. What they called their economy of trust became strained.

Most people had lost the use of their bank accounts when they had entered into voluntary liquidation agreements, paying off their overdrafts as loans. Banking facilities for fiat money were thereafter withheld from them.

What money they had, they threw under their mattresses. Shama had always thought this was appropriate, as mattress comes from matrah, the Arabic word meaning “to throw down.”

The first mattresses had been leaves, straw or grass, covered by animal skins, which had evolved into cotton, foam rubber, and metal spring frameworks, even water and air beds. The money beneath people’s mattresses was as insubstantial as this latter filling. The boys and girls knew this, and helped each other; there was give and take.

“Money come, money go, money nothing,” Shama’s grandfather used to say.

Shama remembered a night at the Lucerne Valley Hotel bar where he had spent $20 on drinks, and then come home, dropped onto his mattress, and dreamt of better times. Maybe Bobby hadn’t taken it after all. Maybe Shama had spent it on forgetting.

Under Investigation

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2012 by javedbabar

On Shama’s third day as Lucerne’s Building Control Officer, he found a file marked “UNDER INVESTIGATION” in the stack of papers on his desk. Let’s see what’s going on here, he said to himself. He pushed aside the executive toys left by his predecessor, and opened the file fully across his desk.

It contained a hand drawn map and the record of an anonymous telephone call, reporting someone building without permission. There were a few sheets of illegible notes; people had terrible handwriting these days, and the day was dawning when they’d forget how to hold a pen altogether. The application forms on his desk bore testament that this day was fast approaching; he couldn’t read any of them without guessing half the words.

He located the place on a large scale map of the Lucerne Valley. It was in the Upper Valley, 25 kilometres out of town, where cell phone reception was non existant. When he reached the location he found the “hidden driveway” shown on the map, two tire tracks in the bush. There was an old brown truck at the end of the driveway, but no sign of any construction activity.

Shama saw two lengths of rebar stuck in the ground, with ropes tied around them bearing tension. What were they tied to? he wondered, and looked for a large item they may be securing. The ropes went through some forest, over a small bank, and into the River Lilly. What was going on?

Maybe it was a hunter keeping game cool or chilling beers for after. He’d also heard of people “icing” champagne in the Lilly’s glacial waters. Was it someone living off-grid, storing dairy products?

Shama heard strange sounds coming from the river: regular thumping and gurgling. Was it a trapped log being battered by the flow, creating air burps?

It sounded mechanical though, somewhat like a diesel generator.

He saw a cable rise and float on the water, followed by a slimy brown mass – was it a bear, fishing? He prepared to run, but then saw that it wasn’t was a beast. It was a very hairy human head. The hair seemed to wrap right around it, like a small inflated skin.

“Hello!” shouted the head. “I’m just coming. Wait there!” He swam over and hauled himself out. “You’re the BCO? What happened to the other guy? He was snooping around here. He wouldn’t believe me when I said I wasn’t building anything on land.”

“Well, are you?” asked Shama, bemused.

“No way! You think I want to get in trouble with the Building Control Officer?”

“Well, what are you doing then?”

A smile burst in the hairball. “Want to see? Good! The last guy didn’t, and that’s why we didn’t get anywhere. Here, put on this diving suit.” Shama did so. “Now, hold onto these ropes and come down. Don’t let go, the currents strong.”

After twenty metres, they reached three joined containers on the riverbed. They went through an airlock and emerged in a warm dry room. “What is this?” said Shama.

“The answer to global warming for millions of people around the world. This is a prototype. It runs on water power, uses aqueous gas exchange, and has arctic insulation.”

Shama thought that he’d better change the file name from “UNDER INVESTIGATION” to “UNDER WATER”.