This is a continuation of the posts originally titled, An Untitled Novel About The Long Road of Hope.
[ Chapter 1.1 is here. ]
Noah was dressed in a black tuxedo. He and two other well dressed men stood when the ladies entered the restaurant.
“Thank you so much for joining us, ladies. You are sparkling jewels that light up the night. Tonight, I want to celebrate the return of our hope. Of our children…” said Noah.
“I give thanks to God with a joyful heart. And I want to welcome you home, ladies. We have long awaited your arrival with much anticipation.”
Noah introduced the ladies to Ambassador Henri St. Therese and Prince Mihail Sturza.
“Ambassador St. Therese and I are both grandfathers of Jacob. Prince Sturza is the father of Florin,” said Noah.
“Please call me Henri,” said the Ambassador as he kissed their hands.
“And you can call me, Snoopy,” said the Prince as he bowed to them. Everyone laughed.
They sat down at a table set with fine linens and bone china.
Noah opened a bottle of Francis Coppola’s Sophia, a champagne from California, and filled their flutes.
May God bless us, everyone!” toasted Noah.
“God bless us, everyone!” repeated Violeta. Everyone laughed.
Two men brought out platters and put servings of vegetables on each giant plate: cheesey broccoli, steamed brussel sprouts, pickled beets, and creamed spinach. Violeta refused the broccoli and beets.
They left and then returned with a roasted suckling pig and pilaf.
Max said a prayer of thanksgiving for the meal and the meal began.
“Henri and Snoopy lead camps like ours here at Cismigiu. There’s also government camps at the People’s Palace, the airport, and Gara de Nord. The Chinese have a camp at Europa.
There may be others out there too. But those motorcycles have done a good job at keeping us from looking around Bucharest or beyond,” Noah explained.
One of the waiters came out to play with Violeta.
“Let’s play cowboy,” said Violeta. “You’re the horse and I’m the Lone Ranger!”
“I think we all know of whom I speak, when I speak of the cofounder of this fine establishment. John’s father is also my friend. Obviously, this establishment was designed for this predicament. It is an ark to sail on uncharted seas. And terrible times.
I understand that he built three others in addition to Cismigiu. I haven’t seen the others, but I suppose the ladies are familiar with the second ark. All four arks were very successful commercial endeavors under the Sanctuary brand of Spa and Wellness Centers.
The last time I spoke with him was a month ago. He told me that three beautiful ladies were coming to Bucharest. He said that if the tide could be turned in Bucharest, it would be turned by the hands of these three warriors. The Handmaidens of Faith, he called them.
But he also explained that the rocky ground of people’s hearts had to be prepared before seeds of faith could be planted.
It is a Romanian proverb; the old dog doesn’t bark without a reason. Even an old American dog.”
“Hi ho Silver!” shoulted Violeta as she galloped out of the room on the shoulders of the waiter.
Noah opened up a bottle of wine and poured it into the glasses.
“We need to give thanks to John’s Father also because of his excellent wine cellar. And his more excellent eye for our distinguished guests.”
“Henri, tell the ladies about yourself,” Noah insisted.
“I am French…” he began and rolled his eyes.
Laughter rang out.
“I fell in love with this God-forsaken country ten years ago. I am an investor in this God-forsaken establishment. And my God-forsaken nick name is ‘Little Flower’. Imagine that!”
“I was the French Ambassador until almost four months ago. Or maybe I still am! Who knows?” he said with a wink.
“We’ve lost all communications with our Government on the third day of the power outage. Up to that point, they were reporting the same power failures and social unrest as we saw happening here in Bucharest. This we know. It was happening in all capitals across the world.
To our surprise, we received three large air cargos of supplies on the fourth day. Thank God for that.”
Henri paused to sip his wine.
“Receiving the air cargo was strange and terrifying. They did not send us planes to bring us home as is standard procedure. Nor did the cargo planes have fuel to return to France.
Nor would the Romanian authorities sell us fuel for the planes as they were not accepting paper guarantees for Government Issued Global Credits – the premium currency of the United Nations.
Some suggest that solar flares caused the power disruption. One week into the disruption of power during extremely hot summer nights led to massive deaths. Whatever happened to the power, lack of potable water, air conditioning and sanitation services accelerated madness, disease and death.
According to the office of the Romanian President, it was estimated that 20,000 had died in Bucharest in the first week. Most of those deaths were among the elderly and children. Hospitals were full and turning people away.
The Bulgarian nuclear plants, Kozloduy and Belene melted down.
Kozloduy and Belene are on the Bulgarian Romanian Border. They released radioactive materials into the atmosphere and Danube river. We surmised this from our radioactive measurements. The population of Bucharest was exposed to 1,000+ millisieverts on at least four occasions due to wind patterns. Our own soldiers experienced nausea and vomiting. We distributed Potassium Iodide here and at Snoopy’s camp.”
Noah and Snoopy nodded their heads in agreement. Henri drained his glass of wine and Noah refilled it.
We can only assume the radioactive cores melted into the earth because we have not recorded more than a 100 millisieverts on any occasion afterwards. The meltdown, however, our science officers believe triggered an 6.2 earthquake which resulted in block fires that left 10s of thousands homeless and exposed to the heat. The fires, of course, were caused by people cooking with charcoal and wood fires in their apartments since the electric and gas was off.”
Smoke hung thick a meter over the streets of Bucharest for a week.
By the second week, the death rate was beyond imagination. Our liaison with the Romanian government reported an estimated death rate of 60,000 people per day. It was a ballet of black swans. Every risk conceivable and never before considered… fed other risks like a chain reaction.
We defended our neighborhood, Amzei, against desperation and contagion. We killed neighbors and friends who wanted us to handover our supplies to everyone. Or give shelter to all. Some of those people were the same friends we sat beside at church on Sunday. They were people to whom we had given a sign of peace in church.
God forgive us. We were bad neighbors.
The motorcycle gangs were another burden. They killed wantonly. Worse, I had suspected that they were allied with rogue elements working in the Romanian government and United Nations office here. Because they did not seem to clash with Romanian and UN military forces. Nor did Romanian and UN military forces engage them when they were making havoc.
In time, our intelligence identified their leader, James Arthur Ray, an American businessman who came to Romania about six years ago. He is known to you as the barefoot man.”
Lumi repeated the name to herself in her thoughts. James Arthur Ray.
“My embassy staff was reduced by two thirds. Our cooperating neighbors, by half. Maybe more. In the first month.” Henri finished his thought and drained another glass of wine.
Henri was quiet and lost in terrible memories.
“Snoopy’s camp is at the old University of Law on Mihail Kogalniceanu Blvd. It’s west of here. You passed the north side of it on your way to Cotroceni Palace,” explained Noah.
“We did not have soldiers, supplies, or architectural wonders,” Snoopy began.
Laughter again filled the room.
“But we had friends that we could trust…
I have two apartments across from the University of Law. One is my home. The other was for my online business. I ran a successful online store. I sold fine, rare and expensive things. Antiques, art, and anything that was interesting to me. And, yes, the name of the store was Snoopy. Snoopy, the cartoon dog by Charles M. Schulz, had a great imagination. Snoopy wanted to live a bigger life than the life of a dog.
Don’t we all?
You might know the cartoon where Snoopy imagines himself a World War I Flying Ace engaging the Red Baron. He puts on his pilot goggles, a helmet and a scarf and his doghouse is transformed into a Sopwith Camel (fighter plane).
In his imagination.
In an interview, Schulz once explained that Snoopy embraces his imaginary life because as a dog, his dog life is dull and miserable.
I provided the goggles, helmet and scarf. In a manner of speaking. My customers could become princes and princesses, captains of industry, heroes, and astronauts.
Even a prince of cats.
In their imagination.”
“Unfortunately, I sold the hyper-intelligent military helmets to Mr. Ray. 100 of them at 100,000 Euro a pop. You’ve seen them when you encountered Ray. The helmets resemble skulls.
Technically, they are first generation K-9s which were developed for the military. They are armored helmets covered with a solar and signal boosting membrane. They have a super wi-fi, radio range of 1 km without amplification. The skull design was based on the Harley Davidson helmets.
The deal was set up through a general and authorized by the Romanian President as that technology was illegal for civilian use.
Obviously, Ray knows people in high places.”
Lumi wondered why Captain Brighton hadn’t known about all those helmets. He had thought their were only 18 out there.
“I am also an investor in the Sanctuary Spa and Wellness Center, I serve on the Board of Directors, and I had a Snoopy boutique shop at each location. Like all of us, I count myself a friend of the co-founder. John’s father actually got me going on my online store.
I had spent most of my inheritance and was looking at a dull and miserable future. I even considered working at Starbucks.
Inheritances aren’t what they used to be!
Everyone laughed outloud.
But I have to say that John’s father did more than this for me. He helped me to understand that my heritage was very much linked to my destiny as a leader. As a servant leader.
‘Money is good when it is the means to do amazing things for others,’ he often reminded me.
Noah opened another bottle of wine and filled the glasses.
“Contrary to the great Shakespeare, the world would not be a better place without lawyers,” Snoopy began again.
Without lawyers, there would be no judges, no laws, and no civil society. Therefore, I decided that I should dedicate some effort to ensuring that the University of Law could serve Romania in the most difficult of times.
Many of the Signers of the American Declaration of Independence were themselves, lawyers. Of the 56 signers, 24 of them were lawyers. It is a little publicized fact but I am a fan of the American revolution. Unlike our revolution, the American revolution was a revolution that produced a culture, society and civilization that came to be much envied by the world.”
John’s father and I often spoke about the American Revolution. In fact, he is a Son of the Revolution – a descendent of a dozen men who fought in the American War for Independence. You might not have known that about him.”
Lumi and Max were piqued by the new information. But a tear escaped from Lumi’s eye at the repeated mention of John’s father. Grace noticed but said nothing of it. Lumi pretended that she had something in her eye and wiped away the tear with he napkin.
“Several years ago, I successfully campaigned for investments in the University’s facilities and research capabilities. We built underground parking structures, water filtration and water storage capacity, solar power generation, residences for scholars, security systems, and a communications center.
We introduced political science, philosophy and psychology to the University’s curriculum and expanded the requirements for a diploma to a seven year program of study. Students were unhappy about this, but our University was becoming recognized as one of the best in the world. Can you imagine that?! A Romanian University up there with Harvard, Oxford and the La Sorbonne!”
“An outstanding accomplishment, Snoopy!” toasted Noah. Snoopy took a gulp of wine.
“Then all hell broke loose.
In the first days of power outage, few saw any necessity for cooperation and collaboration. They were waiting for the lights to come back on. I met with Henri because I was concerned about the food supply. Henri had some ideas but they would have to wait until the situation got worse. However, he put seven Embassy vans at my disposal.
Thank you, Henri.”
“What are friends for, Snoopy!” Henri replied with a smile.
“Henri informed me on the second day that the Bulgarian Nuclear Power plants were likely to melt down. People were already exhausted from being unable to sleep through the hot nights, they were dehydrated from lack of potable water, and they were dumping human waste out their windows because their toilets didn’t work. Dysentery hit fast and hard for those taking water from the Dambovita rivers and the small lakes across the city.
Despite the inconvenience, 90 students showed up for my scheduled lecture on Law and the Internet. I told them how bad things were, how much worse it would be, and offered them a better chance to survive than sitting at home. They were to bring friends, family and various things from a list I gave out. We would set up camp in the underground parking structure. Only 30 returned with friends and family.
I also had a meet up with my hunting club that night: 24 members. We had an unexpected high turn out. I explained my plan, the resources at the University, and invited them to join us in the underground shelter. All agreed.
Three of our members had hunting supply stores. They would additional guns and ammunition on the condition that those guns would be paid within one year from the time the troubles were over. I signed a written agreement on the spot.
After the meeting, the other 21 went with me to get the pick ups and some helping hands. Wearing ski masks, we drove through the mall entrance at Carrefour Orhideea and parked the trucks in front of the cash registers. We filled the pick up beds with canned foods, cheese, sugar, coffee, tea, milk, juice, cigarettes, booze, etc. We cleaned the shelves of those things in less than 15 minutes.
Yes, it was a tragic irony. I wanted to preserve the possibility of Law and Order by securing our survival with criminal means. However, no one was injured in the robbery. We didn’t even bring guns. It was a quixotic adventure.
We unloaded the supplies in the underground parking structure where the refugees were gathering. Then we went out again and hit six more stores that night.
On day three, I notified the professors living in residence to hold out in their apartments. If they needed anything, we’d check on them and get them whatever they needed.
We hit 21 pharmacies that day. Three pharmacies per truck. Not one person was injured.
We had close to 200 people in our shelter now. We kept our heads down; we got organized. Some went out in the nights to steal beds and blankets from nearby medical centers and hospitals. We also brought down chairs and tables from the University.”
One of the waiters brought out dessert: Crème Brulee with raspberries with a side of chocolates filled with cherries and liqueur.
Grace was amazed. It was just like heaven.
“By the second week, the professors in residence joined us in the shelter. Things got crazy out there on the streets. People were breaking down their neighbor’s doors, taking food, and whatever else seemed to be of value. As Henri mentioned, the elderly and disabled were the first targets, every time. Pets were put out to the street.
The UN trucks dropped off supplies at the Opera Park and left. We took it all. Those that contested our claim were injured or killed. That I regret. There might have been a better way. But I wasn’t there. At that time, I was coordinating with the father of one of my law students, Paris Fagares. He owned a construction company and we were bringing in some heavy machinery: Dump Trucks, Lift Trucks, Wheel Dozers, Hydraulic Excavators, and machinery that I don’t know the names for.
“Paris had come up with a plan to fortify our position by blocking roads with cars. His plan was to stack cars three cars high and three rows deep at various intersections. With Cismigiu’s help and Henri’s uniformed soldiers, we blocked Vasile Parvan Street, Schitu Magureanu, Elie Radu and other small streets off of Independence which runs along the Dambovita river. That was on the south. On the North, we blocked off Berthelot, Transylvania and Crisana street from Berzei. Also Horatiu, Theodore Aman, and Budisteanu from Mircea Vulcanescu Street.
The road blocks proved a decisive advantage when dealing with the motorcycle gangs. In the first confrontations, we were able to pin them down in dead end streets and very few escaped. I suppose they were working with GPS because they were awfully surprised to find some streets blocked off.
Weeks later when things were much quieter, we would block off Grivitei, Banului, Enescu, Episcopiei, Campineanu, Matei Millo, Constantin Millo from Calea Victoriei in the East. Unfortunately for Henri, several of our heavy machinery operators were killed when we were halfway done blocking off General Christian Tell Street from Dacia Boulevard.
Armored government vehicles were coming around from time to time with loudspeakers blaring. They came with the pretension of announcing the New Deal. The New Deal promises that survivors will have squatter’s rights to the properties they occupy. Squatters need 10 witnesses to make their claim. Henri, Noah and I suspected that they were actually surveying our position.
The New Deal was a tremendous boost to morale. Defections dropped immediately. Henri, Noah and I were glad enough for that sea change. We need every able-bodied man and woman that we have to defend our position. Of course, the motorcycles gangs had been successfully recruiting people on the walls up to that point. The New Deal propaganda was, in fact, a blessing.
“We never openly fired upon the government vehicles. But we did build gates at Regina Elisabeta, Mihail Kogalniceanu and Independence, Calea Plevnei and Stirbei Voda, Stribei Voda and Berzei, Popa Tatu and Vulcanescu, Berthelot and Calea Victoriei, Stirbei Voda and Calea Victoriei. They still come around every few weeks; they drop off a few hundred kgs. of corn and rice and remind people about the New Deal. The corn and rise goes for feed in the rat farms. Just in case it’s poisoned.”
“If you noticed, those walls around the gates are five meters tall of steel belted tires filled with concrete and rebar, three rows deep…”
“Mommy, it’s time to go to bed,” Violeta announced.
“Yes, it’s getting late. Let’s meet again in a few days,” said Henri.
Henri bid everyone goodnight and he excused himself from the table.
Noah and Snoopy stood and wished the women a good night. Grace, Lumi and Max returned the warm wishes and left the room with Violeta.
“Mommy, I don’t remember us living here,” said Violeta.
“This is a new dream, chicken. This is a better dream. In this dream, we’re together,” replied Max.
“I know what you need,” Lumi suggested to Violeta.
“What’s that?” asked Violeta.
“You need… lots and lots of T-I-C-K-L-E-S!” Lumi said as she swooped Violeta up into her arms and Grace tickled the squirming Violeta.
Violeta screamed and giggled.
Pink Floyd, Another Brick In The Wall
The next chapter section (1.12) is [here]. Enjoy!
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1 May 2011
Copyright 2011 by Stan Faryna. All Rights Reserved.