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Chapter 3 5/9 May 9, 2017, a/k/a 5/9.

The day our plane crashed.

I got up at 5:30 AM, as always.

I showered, shaved, threw

on some slacks, denim shirt and a blue tie, poured a cup of coffee and heated up a Toaster Strudel, burning the corners as always. I pulled up the blinds and saw partly cloudy skies with a projected high of 72 degrees -first truly hot day of the year. I brushed my teeth in the kitchen while Jon half sleepwalked into my shoulder and yanked open the refrigerator door.

He

grunted good morning and I grunted back, as always. Dulcie and Ehren were still asleep.

Rene was in the shower

humming a Fugazi tune, at least she was when I walked down the stairs. I switched on the TV and flipped to the morning news out of habit.

It was a summer habit and I was ready for summer to

start.

Channel 7 showed a burning offshore oilrig in the Gulf

of Mexico.

The entire platform was one big liquid blob of

orange flame and black smoke billowing upward fast like the oilrig was puking it up.

It was listing to one side and right

as I thought, “Holy shit, that‟s thing‟s gonna collapse,” two of the rig‟s support columns gave and the whole complex shambled at a 45-degree angle right into the water.


I changed the channel.

I always flip to the other networks

when I think thereâ€&#x;s a crisis and I want to know if I should consider it such.

Thatâ€&#x;s standard crisis response, all the way

up to the White House. Channel 2 had traffic. liquor store in Bensenville.

Channel 5 had a shooting at a CNN had the rig.

MSNBC and Fox

had other news but mentioned the rig in their scroll bars. In the front of my mind I was thinking terrorism.

Ever

since 9/11 the first thing you assume when you see something big and made out of metal on fire is that some religious (or sometimes secular) whacko made it that way.

But the CNN anchor

said that early reports were indicating that it was an accident and that was enough for me.

I left for work with the intrinsic

gratitude of not being someone on that rig. As I got to Antioch I noticed my gas tank was low.

I

thought about stopping to fill up but I was running late and decided to postpone it until the drive home.

That would turn

out to be a bad idea. When I got to school I could tell something was up.

Tons

of students were chatting on their cell phones, most of them reassuring their parents that nothing was going on where they were, yet. I walked into the teacherâ€&#x;s lounge and everyone was gathered around the TV watching an oil refinery on fire with a


caption that read, “THREE OIL INSTALLATIONS ON FIRE - TERRORISM SUSPECTED.”

All of a sudden I felt betrayed by sixteen years of

the media telling me not to worry because it‟s only an accident and angry at myself for being sheep-minded enough to believe it this time around.

We were under attack again.

I was 90% sure

of that and 10% wishing I could be a sheep again. The oilrig in the Gulf of Mexico was one of the installations mentioned on the news.

The other two were

refineries in California, one in El Segundo, the other in Torrance and both of them were huge.

I saw streaming video of

the one in Torrance from someone who was very far away.

It was

like a glowing orange plate covered with thick smoke drifting east over the interstate, which was clotted with cars, even on the shoulders. We shut down the school halfway through first period.

By

that time, the news confirmed that four more refineries had been hit, including the Wood River Refinery in Roxana, Illinois. Details were sketchy at first, always are, but most people on the news were saying that the oil rig was hit with an explosives-laden boat and the refineries were hit with truck bombs. I drove home after we cleared the campus.

I passed that

same gas station I passed on 9/11 and there was a traffic jam, just like last time, only this time there were three cop cars


parked in front of the entrance and an ambulance parked on the road.

I was too scared to rubberneck.

I just kept driving.

I got up to a stoplight and caught a red. turn on the radio I glanced at the fuel gauge. touching the edge of the E.

As I went to The needle was

Then the sick reality hit me: on my

way to school I saw that I was low on gas and figured, “Fuck it, I have enough to get me to work. on the way home.”

I‟ll throw a couple gallons in

Was I going to be able to do that now?

The light turned green and I approached a BP Station on the left.

It was jammed with cars right out into the street.

One

of the attendants was standing in front of the price sign arguing with about ten people who were gathered in front of him like two blades on a pair of scissors ready to snip.

Two people

by the pumps were engaged in a shoving match while another was filling up a row of gas cans in front of his car. I quickly deduced that every gas station on my way home was going be like that, crowded with panicked citizens who were ready to throw down at the honk of a horn -Mad Max meets the day after Thanksgiving.

If I tried to get gas I‟d either get hurt

or I‟d wait in line burning what little I had left by idling or starting and stopping and there might not even be any gas left at the station when my turn came up!

Now that I can look back

on that moment with rational eyes, I see it as a fascinating wormhole of historical change.

What was a minor inconvenience


at 7AM was a major crisis by 10.

Three hours separated two

totally different situations that were now light years apart.

I

guess that‟s normal when something you take for granted (or something that allows a lifestyle you take for granted) is wrenched away. Of course that‟s the calm hindsight. moment I was anything but rational. couldn‟t fill up.

At that particular

I was running on sips and

I was at least twenty miles from my house (at

7AM it was twenty, by 10AM it might as well have been two thousand).

Every major road had a traffic jam.

Law and order

looked a little shaky at the gas stations and who knew how far or how bad that was going to spread.

And we were in the middle

of a terrorist attack that may or may not have been over! didn‟t know if we were in the first wave or the only wave.

We My

immediate paranoid delusion was that the terrorists were crippling our fueling infrastructure so they could hit our cities with nukes or chemical weapons and we‟d have no gas to evacuate. Rene called me on my cell.

Thank God for that.

I probably

would‟ve had a panic attack right then and there if she hadn‟t called and yanked me back to my rational self. immediately asked, “Are you okay?” She said, “I‟m fine. “On my way home.

Where are you?”

Are you?”

I answered and


“Same here.” I decided not to apprise her of my plight.

She was just as

freaked out as I was and if I threw my situation on top of what was going on in the world, she‟d meltdown, I‟d meltdown and we‟d get in a fight, which would push me back into panic attack territory and probably take her with me. I figured a quick strategy: I wouldn‟t tell her shit and get as close to home as I could get.

The next gas station might

not be quite so insane and if I run out, then I‟ll think about how to tell her.

And of course, change the subject quick

before she could ask me how I‟m doing for gas. “Where are the kids?” I asked her. “They‟re all at home.” I was relieved but not too worried to begin with. schools were close to our house.

No problem there.

Their

But Rene

was about as far from home as I was and she was in a denser area where the traffic would be worse.

I‟d definitely beat her home

no matter how my gas situation played out, and it didn‟t look like it was going to play out well.

I passed two more gas

stations and they looked no better than the others.

I actually

saw a crowd of people trying to break up a fight at one of them. This was getting really ugly, really fast.

And to top it all

off, after having taken a half an hour to go one mile, my Low Fuel Light went on with that friendly little chime and that


friendly orange vanilla hue that made me want to fucking strangle whoever designed it. I made it into Mundelein, which bordered Vernon Hills. Unfortunately, it bordered Vernon Hills on the other side of town!

I was on Peterson Road, about to pass the wetlands

peppered with blown litter that marked the southern boundary of the Countryside Landfill when I saw a road block up ahead.

Four

cop cars were parked perpendicular to the road and four cops holding assault rifles were standing in front of them. I had to go east so I headed south to the next east/west street.

I crossed my fingers that it wasn‟t blocked off too and

it wasn‟t.

It did intersect with a north/south street called

Midlothian that linked up with Peterson and two cops in SWAT gear were blocking that off.

Thankfully I could still go east

to the intersection with Route 45. When I got to the stoplight (twenty minutes later) I could see what the cops were protecting.

It was a natural gas

transmission station, roughly twenty acres of pipelines and aboveground holding tanks filled with several thousand cubic feet of natural gas under extreme pressure.

That‟s the

freakiest thing about terrorism, the way it turns everyday things into weapons.

I grew up at the tail end of the Cold War

and remember watching newsreels of the Soviets showing off their ICBMs at Red Square and thinking, “Those are the things that are


going to vaporize me if it ever goes down.”

I felt the same way

about that transmission station, which I passed every other day without even thinking about it.

On 5/9 it looked like a cluster

of dynamite sticks with the plunger praying in a Hampton Inn before driving over in a minivan packed to the window seals with weaponized farm fertilizer.

I had to fight the urge to pull

over and run away. The news was all over the place with its coverage.

They

were saying (with various degrees of confirmation) that terrorists hit eighteen refineries, nine oil rigs, three oil terminals, five sections of the Alaska pipeline and parts of the Strategic Reserve.

The facilities were either completely

destroyed or would be in need of lengthy and costly repair once the fires were put out –in either case, out of commission. There was an almost nationwide run on gas stations and isolated incidents of looting and rioting in most major cities.

The

reporter constantly reminded us that the President dusted off that color-coding system we‟d all forgotten we‟d had and elevated it to Red. It took me almost 45 minutes to make it to Butterfield Road where I needed to turn right.

When I saw the state of that

road, I pretty much gave up the slightest nail clipping of hope that I‟d make it home in my car.

Butterfield had four lanes and

the traffic in both was thick and nearly motionless.

I turned


right, took another half an hour to make it maybe half a mile down the road and then my car up and died. I twisted the key in the ignition I don‟t know how many times until the car in front of me moved forward and the driver behind me started honking.

I was reminded of what one of my

history professors called the march of ordeal etiquette. Throughout human history, large groups of people often went on long, harrowing marches through harsh terrain to reach a more favorable destination.

Those who couldn‟t make it were required

to at least have the decency to get out of everyone else‟s way before they dropped to the ground and died.

The survivors were

too weak to move them and they might trip. I put the car in neutral, turned the wheel as far right as it would go and got out just as the horn honking assumed a staccato domino effect and I became the mortal of enemy of at least twenty motorists and counting.

I pushed it onto the

shoulder, which to my surprise, didn‟t require a whole lot of effort. was then.

I was never more grateful for owning a compact than I The ground sloped down from the road and my car

started to roll as soon I got it off the asphalt.

I managed to

get in and yank up the parking brake before it went into the ditch. I was oddly relieved about the situation.

Worrying about

when I was going to run out of gas was giving me one of the


worst tension headaches I‟d ever had. gone.

Now the headache was

I actually felt good in spite of my predicament.

Then

Rene called again. “THERE ARE TANKS ON I-94!” “Where are you?” “I‟m on Lake-Cook Road.

I‟m stuck on the bridge over I-94

and there are tanks coming down the interstate!” “What kind of tanks?” “I don‟t know!

Army tanks!”

“Where are they going?” “They‟re going south, probably heading for the city.

The

cops have the southbound exits blocked off.” “Jesus.

Do you know what‟s going on in the city?”

“I heard there‟s riots.

They‟re also saying that

terrorists are gonna blow up some chemical bombs downtown but that it might be bullshit.

Haven‟t you been listening to the

news?” Now was my chance to tell her about the car but I couldn‟t. I was amazingly calm and didn‟t want to push my luck.

I told

her I was too scared to listen to the radio. “Too scared?” “Yeah, right now I just want to get home and I don‟t know when that‟s going to happen. not moving.

I‟m stuck on Butterfield.

We‟re

I can‟t control what‟s happening to me and I don‟t


want to listen to more things I can‟t control.

How are things

where you are?” “We‟re moving slowly.

But I‟m a lot farther away than you

are.” “Okay, call me when you get close.” “I will.

Love you.”

“Love you too.” The lady behind me who had leaned on her horn must‟ve come back to Jesus or something because when she pulled up alongside me, she rolled her passenger window down and offered me a ride. I considered it but took a good look at the traffic jam.

On

foot, I‟d probably beat those drivers home, make a three-course dinner and put my feet on the massage plate before they were even halfway to their destinations.

And besides, in spite of

all the horrific events that were going on, it was a beautiful goddamn day. I said, “No thanks.

I‟ll walk.”

The lady‟s head and mouth both cocked down an inch in disbelief.

“Are you sure?

“I‟m sure.

I don‟t mind.”

I‟ll probably make better time on foot anyway.”

The lady shrugged and rolled her window back up. I grabbed my briefcase and iPod from the car and started to walk.

As I got up to the Butterfield/176 intersection I saw a

hold-up in progress.

There were two gas stations, a Shell on


the southwest corner of 176 & Butterfield and a Mobil on the southeast.

Four guys with bullet proof vests and bandannas over

their faces were ripping off the Shell.

One guy had the two

attendants lined up in front of a beat up old conversion van at gunpoint while another man filled up plastic gas cans and loaded them into the back of the van.

Two other robbers stood in front

of the pumps pointing shotguns at the semicircle of people who were standing around the station watching this happen.

I don‟t

know if they were too scared to run or maybe just waiting for these guys to finish up so they could get some gas.

The

craziest thing was that across the street at the Mobil, people were filling up their cars like nothing out of the ordinary was going on.

I guess at that point hold-ups weren‟t out of the

ordinary. I headed for the Mobil, thinking that was the best way to get around this, when I heard pistol shots and saw the two guys controlling the crowd both go down. and I didn‟t care.

I didn‟t see who shot them

I immediately took off running along with

everyone else and nearly got trampled in the process.

I heard

police sirens, more pistol shots and one shotgun blast, then it was nothing but screaming. I ran south on Butterfield until I couldn‟t run anymore then took stock of the situation around me while I caught my breath.

That particular strip of Butterfield was pure


residential: middle-class commuter shacks to the left, Better Homes and Gardens Than Yours on the right.

Aside from the

traffic jam on the street, things looked normal.

In fact, they

looked so frighteningly normal compared to what I‟d just seen that it made me more nervous because I knew that that normality couldn‟t last.

I felt like I was on the Titanic and I had just

come from the flooded decks below to the top deck where the people didn‟t know how bad things were but would find out soon enough. I came up on another gas station further down Butterfield. It was a Citgo across the street from one of those tight-packed McMansion developments with a golf course for a collective back yard.

Its entrance was blocked off by a cop car and two cops.

That was one of the things that made the traffic so bad.

The

cops were blocking off roads all over the place, forcing the people who were trying to get from work to home, or from home to someplace where they felt safe, onto the main roads.

And those

roads could barely handle a typical rush hour, let alone something like this! Five cop cars had formed a perimeter around the Citgo station and a huge tanker truck was parked by the pumps.

Tons

of cars were parked in front of the station trying to get in but the cops weren‟t letting them.

The crowd seemed pretty calm but

there was a definitely a tension in the air.

If there was one


cop car instead of five I might have been just in time for another shoot out. My sense of civic duty compelled me to tell the cops what I saw on 176 so I walked up to one of them.

He was a slightly-

under-six-foot human tank in full riot gear with a shotgun held close to his chest.

I didn‟t get but ten steps away from him

when he said, “Keep moving!” I pointed in the direction of the Shell and before I could speak he said, “We know, keep moving.” I guess my civic duty was done. I kept moving.

***

I got to the entrance to my subdivision and Kirpal‟s gas station was in the same situation as the Citgo.

Three cops cars

blocked off the entrance, a tanker truck was parked by the pumps and a large, tense crowd was trying to get in. Four cops in riot gear were stationed in front of the cars. Two had assault rifles, and two were holding some kind of riot control rifle I‟d never seen before.

It had the stock and

handle of a regular shotgun but it had a single barrel that was about as thick as a fire extinguisher.


Kirpal was right outside the entrance to the store talking to a heavyset, middle-aged Latino in a regular police uniform. I recognized him from news conferences and 4th of July parades. He was Paul Marinas, Chief of the Vernon Hills PD. I walked up to the station and one of the assault-rifletoting cops said,

“The gas station is closed!

Turn around and

go home!” Kirpal saw me and shouted. mine!”

“It‟s okay!

He‟s a friend of

The cop turned away without saying a word, fixing his

glance on whatever enemy was out there waiting to rush his post. I figured by the way he was clutching the rifle that it was only a matter of time before somebody did. I asked Kirpal if he heard about what happened at the Shell and he said, “Yeah I heard.

Believe me I heard.”

Then I asked, “So what‟s going on with the tanker truck? Are they filling you up?” He laughed out loud and said, “No, they‟re taking my gas!” “What?!” Marinas was annoyed at being left hanging. Padmanaban, but we really have to wrap this up!”

“Excuse me Mr. Kirpal gave

the chief his undivided attention and he continued.

“As I

indicated, the Village will reimburse you for all the gas we‟ve taken once things calm down.

Regrettably, we can‟t provide you

with a written guarantee but I can give you my word as Chief of


Police.

If that‟s not enough, I can get the Mayor on the phone

and he‟ll say the same.” “I‟m okay with that,” Kirpal said.

“I‟m more concerned

about how you‟re going to get that truck out of here.” “We have plenty of room on the shoulder.

You let us worry

about that.” “Yeah but that thing‟s a bomb on wheels.” “We‟ve thought about that,” Marinas said calmly.

“You let

us worry about it.” “And what about when you leave?” Marinas drew his lips back over his teeth in that universal pantomime of breaking bad news. thing.

“Well,” he said, “That‟s the

We have a lot of disturbances going all over the city

and we have to address every single one.

Once we get the truck

loaded up, two cars will escort it out and one car with two officers will remain here.

But, if they get another call with

higher priority, they‟re going have to leave and answer that call.

So I can‟t guarantee that they‟re going to stay.”

Kirpal sighed and said, “Oh that‟s great.

That‟s just

great.” “Hold on,” Marinas said.

“You can‟t adopt that defeatist

attitude, that‟s why so many people are going crazy right now and we have enough crazy people to deal with. options.

Here are your

You said you have a gun in the store, right?”


Kirpal nodded.

“Yeah, a shotgun.”

“Okay,” Marinas said. business if you want.” help you, he can.

“You have the option to defend your

He pointed to me.

However, I would strongly advise against it.”

He pointed to the traffic jam. outgunned.

“If this guy wants to

“You‟re outnumbered and probably

A business is important but it‟s not worth dying

for, which brings me to your other option: take as much of the personal property in your business as you can, load it into your car and take it to a safe place.

Your friend can help you if he

can get his car over here.” I stifled a laugh on that one. “And what do I after that?”

Kirpal asked.

“You leave your business behind and whatever happens happens.

There‟s a chance it‟ll get looted, maybe even burned.

Then again, maybe not.

At this point, anything‟s possible.

things will calm down.

My advice to you is to think about

what‟s important, your life and your family‟s lives.

But

Close your

store, go home, wait this out and live to rebuild.” And that was that.

Marinas shook both our hands and went

over to confer with his officers.

I asked Kirpal, “So what‟s

going on with gas, why are they taking it?” “Eminent domain.

The Chief said the terrorist attacks have

pretty much cut off the flow of gasoline, so they‟re going from


gas station to gas station sucking the tanks dry for the police, the fire department and the hospitals.” That made perfect sense to me.

An ambulance or a fire

truck answering a 911 call isn‟t doing anyone any good if it runs out gas on the way there.

But the libertarian streak in me

was a little uncomfortable with the whole thing, in spite of everything that was going on.

How did we know the cops were

going to use it for the public good? already left the solar system. sell it.

The price of gas had

Maybe the cops were going to

Marinas seemed like a decent enough guy who wouldn‟t

do something like that, but these weren‟t decent enough times. I asked Kirpal, “Is what they‟re doing legal?” He shrugged. it?

“Beats me.

If it isn‟t, what can I do about

They say they need the gas and they‟re taking it.” “But they‟re gonna pay you for it right?” “So they say.

Whether or not they will, we‟ll see.”

Then I asked, “If the cops are taking the gas, why are all those people still waiting out there?” Kirpal let out this barking laugh that I‟d never heard out of him before.

“The cops haven‟t told them!.

I went numb.

There were over a hundred cars in both

directions filled with people who were standing on the line between law-abiding citizens and angry mob. the gas was gone would settle it for them.

Finding out that Yes, there were five


cops on the scene, four of them armed, armored and ready to throw down, but that four would soon become two.

After that,

all it would take is one man in one of those cars with a gun and good aim, or twenty crazed people who could put up with the tear gas long enough to close the distance between them and the cops. The cops would either go down fighting or take off running and civilization on this little quarter-acre patch of concrete would go poof. “How do they not know what‟s going on?” I asked Kirpal. “Well the cops haven‟t told me this, but I think the people think that gas is being delivered, not taken away, and I think the cops are happy to let them think that just to keep them calm.” “Oh great!

So not only are they gonna freak out when they

find out there‟s no gas, they‟re gonna feel like they were tricked.” Kirpal barked out that laugh again.

“I know!

„Aint that

some shit!” “We should get the hell outta here man.” Kirpal just nodded and said, “Yeah,” but I could tell the reality hadn‟t really set in that he was abandoning his business.

Or maybe he could see the reality and figured

inaction was the only way it could be avoided, like if you put your own world on pause, the universe follows.


I grabbed his shoulders and said, “Look at me man, we should go.” “I can‟t.

Not yet.”

“Dude, we‟re gonna get killed if we stay there. your family.

Think of

You want a widow and two kids without a father?”

“I‟m aware of all that!” he snapped. “Okay fine, a minute.

“Just give a minute.”

Then I‟m dragging you into that

store, we‟re taking whatever we can take and we‟re getting the fuck outta here!” Kirpal shut his eyes and readied himself.

Then he opened

eyes, tried his best to seem like a new person and accompanied me inside. The interior of the store was both a sanctuary and a target.

The shelves were fully stocked with chips, chocolates,

chewing gum.

The newspaper racks were full of the foreboding

shit that seemed like a sustained hum of good news compared to what tomorrow‟s headlines would look like, assuming the papers would even be delivered.

The only sound was the hum of the

coolers and the idling of the tanker truck‟s engine outside.

I

could barely hear the sounds of the restless crowd, I was trying to shut them out. “Okay,” Kirpal said. register.”

“I guess we should start with the


“You do that,” I said. shelves.

“I‟ll take stuff off of the

What do I take?”

“Start with cigarettes, the beer and the lottery tickets. They‟re the most expensive things.”

He was thinking quick on

his feet, just like the Kirpal I‟ve always known.

That little

moment of indecision in the parking lot was one of the rare occasions when he was otherwise. One thing to our advantage was the layout of the store.

It

had a back door that lead to the dumpsters and the spot where Kirpal always parked his car.

We could load up the car with as

much shit as we could possibly load without anyone seeing us and getting suspicious. I found some empty cardboard boxes in the back and filled them up with cigarettes, cigars, and stacks of lottery scratch tickets.

It took me four trips and seven boxes but I got them

all loaded in the back seat in about ten minutes time.

The

alcohol was a bigger headache. Kirpal and I lugged the cases and six packs of beer out first, then we started filling up empty milk crates with beer cans and bottles.

We cleared out half of the alcohol and were

loading up some more milk crates behind the cooler when Marinas walked in, opened up the cooler door and said, “Okay gentlemen, we‟re taking off.

I‟m glad to see you took my advice because I

can‟t leave any men here.”


“What?!” Kirpal said. “There‟s looting at the Dominick‟s on Town Line Road.” “Holy shit.” “That‟s a good way to put it.

Town Line Road is about two

miles of solid retail and if we don‟t get men on the street it‟s all up for grabs. the beginning.

I was afraid the gas stations would just be

I‟m not happy about being right.”

“Are you gonna tell the people out there that we don‟t have any gas?”

Kirpal asked him.

The Chief paused for a moment.

I got the impression that

he was trapped in that same inertia of unreality that Kirpal just wiggled his way out of. leave.

“We‟re not.

We‟re just going to

You should be outta here before that happens.”

Then I said, “I‟m not trying to tell you how to do your job but shouldn‟t you have told them that when you got here?” Kirpal shot me an exasperated look. The Chief held up his right hand. right to ask.

“Come on man!” “No it‟s okay.

It was a simple case of „Now or later.‟

He has a This

place was already mobbed when we got here and if we came in telling people that we‟re taking all the gas, this place would probably be on fire by the time you showed up.

We‟re in a

situation where there‟s no good decisions, there‟s only less bad decisions.

See what I mean?”


After explaining his position, the Chief shook both our hands, told us to get home safe and walked outside.

Kirpal

locked the door behind him, more out of habit than anything else, then went behind the counter and grabbed his shotgun and the box of shells.

It was weird.

I‟d never seen it before.

I knew he had a shotgun but

In fact, I‟d never seen a gun in a

position where I could just pick it up. TV or behind a glass case before 5/9.

They‟ve always been on And there it was.

As we were about to walk out, we heard the police sirens start up and the tanker truck drive out of the station. looked out the window.

We both

One cop car was in front of the truck,

one guarded the rear and the third guarded the side facing the street.

There was a strip mall next to the gas station and a

patch of grass separating the properties.

The cop car drove

over that grass onto the neighboring lot and headed for a residential street that hooked up with one of the main roads. The tanker truck and the other two cop cars followed. As soon as the cops and the tanker truck were out of sight, the cars just flooded into the station. in the melee.

Two cars got rear-ended

Those who were able to make it to the pumps

pulled gas cans out of their back seats, grabbed the nozzles, lifted the pump handles and looked expectantly at the gas station.


I put my hand on Kirpal‟s shoulder and said, “Kirpal, let‟s get out of here, now.” Kirpal turned and walked to the back of the store and I followed him.

What happened next probably took about a minute

to transpire but I‟ve never been sure because it‟s one of those events that defies all sense of duration.

As soon as Kirpal

walked out the back door I heard the pop and tinkling of a bottle being whipped onto the pavement, only it wasn‟t the pavement, it was the back of his head.

He fell to his knees,

dropped the shotgun and the box of shells and used his free hands to stop his face from hitting the concrete. where the bottle came from.

I didn‟t see

All I saw was the shotgun.

I

grabbed it off the ground, turned around and pointed it at three thirtyish-looking guys standing right to the side of the back door.

They‟d been waiting for us.

The scariest thing about

their appearances was how average they were.

One of them was

wearing a tan button down with a tie, company man. The guy in the middle had a handgun pointed at the ground and a set of eyes pointed at the shotgun in my hands.

The other

two guys were looking back and forth at him and me, one of them had the broken neck of a Sobe bottle in his right hand –those are big-ass bottles. point of quivering.

The guy with the gun was tense to the He wanted to point his gun at me but that

shotgun had him checkmated.

That‟s why they say shotguns are


the best guns for self-defense, they‟re intimidating.

If I‟d

had a handgun that guy would‟ve probably thought he could outdraw me and I might not be alive today.

Instead, he was

looking at something that could take him and both of his buddies down with only one shot, and I wouldn‟t even need to aim to do it. Kirpal crawled over to me and slowly got to his feet.

I

shot a quick a glance and saw a few small trails of blood running down the back of his neck.

Other than that, he wasn‟t

seriously hurt. The three guys weren‟t saying anything so I decided to break the silence. all.”

I said, “There‟s no gas.

The cops took it

They didn‟t respond so I added, “But you‟re welcome to go

inside and help yourself to whatever you want.

We just want to

leave.” The guy who whacked Kirpal with the bottle said his buddies, “Let‟s go.”

All three of them walked into the store

right as somebody broke one of the front window and the guy with the gun fired a shot.

I grabbed the box of shells off the

ground, walked backwards to Kirpal‟s car with my eyes on the door, then we got in the car and got the hell outta there. Kirpal took me home and I asked him to take a moderately long and circuitous route just in case those clowns tried to follow us.

While we were driving he said, “I was all alone in


there.

I had to lay off the guy who works on Tuesdays.

all alone! happened?

I was

If you hadn‟t shown up, who knows what would‟ve You saved my life man.”

There‟s just no good way to respond to that.

You can be

arrogant and say, “Damn right and don‟t you forget it, especially if I need money down the line.”

Or you can be humble

and say the standard response, “You would‟ve done the same for me.”

That‟s what I said to Kirpal. He replied, “No I wouldn‟t.” I said, “What do you mean you wouldn‟t?” He pointed to the shotgun that I was still holding and

said, “That thing isn‟t loaded! don‟t even know to use it!

It‟s never been loaded!

I

I would‟ve dropped it, put my hands

up and begged for my life!” “THIS GUN WASN‟T LOADED?!” “No!

You didn‟t know that?!”

And then it was my turn to laugh like a lunatic.

***

Kirpal dropped me off at my house and went home.

The kids

were all in the living room fused to the couch in front of the television when I walked in.

The first one to speak was Jon.


Not a, “Hello,” or “Are you okay?” but, “Fuckers hit the Strategic Reserve.” I‟d heard all my kids swear before, that didn‟t bother me, but the way Jon said, “Fuckers,” was chilling.

He sounded so

hateful, so angry and so all-inclusive that I got this paranoid delusion that he was lumping every Muslim under that epithet. I knew he wasn‟t racist (Kirpal‟s son was one of his best friends), but in times like that where you‟re angry and scared, the emotions just slam in to your better nature like a storm surge and some people get washed away with it.

Jon was eighteen

years old, with a certain unfathomable anger kids his age have and he was more or less fully-grown and capable of hurting someone; hell, it didn‟t matter how big he was, all he needed was a gun or a Molotov cocktail, assuming he could squeeze together enough gasoline to make one.

Would he let his better

nature get washed away to a place like that? The hate crimes were already starting to happen according to the news.

They took a moment out of their coverage of the

attack that appeared to be over to comment on what appeared to be a growing backlash against Muslims. A mosque in Palatine was attacked by a group of about thirty people.

They charged in, smashed the place, set a few

fires inside and took off.

The news showed smoke pouring out of

the mosque‟s windows and doors with nary a fire truck in sight.


According to the news, the Palatine Fire Department was too busy putting out fires at two gas stations on dense commercial strips that had the potential to spread and burn down half the city. Both of the fires were reportedly started by gun fights. And shots were fired at a mosque in Northbrook, one of the richest, safest communities in the state, if not the country.

A

reporter interviewed an old lady who lived near the mosque and saw what happened.

She said green Buick SUV sped past and

someone in the passenger seat fired what sounded to her like machine gun.

The shots shattered a few windows and punched

holes in the brick facade.

No one was in the mosque so no one

was hurt, but the reporter made a point of saying that the cops were busy protecting all the gas stations in town and couldnâ€&#x;t spare any officers to protect the mosque.

It was only a matter

of time before it happened again. Rene finally got home an hour later.

She walked in and

started a mad fit of hugging to which I happily, if not unconsciously, participated.

It was just relieving and even

euphoric to not only know that youâ€&#x;re whole immediate family is safe, but that youâ€&#x;re all in the same room and can endure this crisis together. Then Rene asked me where the car was.

I summoned enough

courage to look her right in the eye and calmly explain how I ran out of gas and our car was (hopefully) still parked on the


side of Butterfield Road.

She had her serious, taking-it-all-in

expression as I spoke and when I finished she said nodded and very calmly asked,

“Okay.

Why didn‟t you tell me about this?”

“I didn‟t want you to get upset.” She was like, “Upset? think I am?” is bad.

Jesus, what kind of bitch do you

So men, let this be a lesson.

Lying to your wife

But lying because you‟re afraid the truth will turn her

into a basket case makes it worse. We spent the rest of the night watching the news.

It

looked like the terrorist attack was officially over by that point.

The last place to get hit was a refinery in Houston six

hours ago.

No one had stepped forward to take responsibility

yet, but some of the terrorists were actually subdued and taken into custody.

They were described as Middle Eastern Muslims of

yet-to-be-determined nationalities (we later found out that most of them were Iraqi with Saudis coming in a close second). The final tally from that day: fifteen offshore oil platforms, nineteen refineries (two in Illinois), five tank farms, one oil terminal, and two sections of the Alaska oil pipeline.

Jon was only half right about the Strategic Reserve.

Twelve guys in three explosive-packed vans tried to drive in but were shot to hell before they could get close.

Another cell

tried to hit the LNG terminal in Boston but only succeeded in


sinking a Coast Guard Cutter.

If that LNG Terminal went up,

most of Boston and its suburbs wouldâ€&#x;ve gone with it. The death toll from the actual attacks was estimated to be in the thousands in the hours after they happened.

It

ultimately wound up being 2,238 not counting the 279 terrorists who were killed carrying it out. sophistication.

Their methods ranged in

The cells that hit the offshore rigs used

shipping containers makeshifted into submarines.

Shipping

containers float very low to the waterline when they fall off ships, all the terrorists needed was a motor, rudders, two propellers and a periscope. The least sophisticated and most common was loading up a van with explosives and six or so terrorists, one at the wheel, five or so in the back with machine guns and satchel charges. The driver would crash the truck through the fence of the refinery complex, slow down enough for his cohorts to hop out the back.

Then we would drive the truck into the nearest

cracking tower or holding tank and set off the explosives.

His

cohorts would start shooting and throwing their charges at everything in sight. The results ranged too.

Sometimes the terrorists were able

to blast the whole facility into the sky.

Sometimes they were

able to do only a little damage before the security guards shot them dead.

One van headed for a refinery outside Philadelphia


turned a corner, hit the curb and accidentally set off its explosive cargo, killing no one but the men inside. But the attacks themselves were already an afterthought compared to what was unfolding.

There were riots in almost

every single city in the United States.

They started with

assaults on the gas stations coupled with the random acts of looting and vandalism you usually see with shit like this. people started thinking, “Hmmm. grocery stores?

By truck.

Then

How does food get to the

What do trucks run on?”

That‟s when the riots took on a heretofore unvisited dimension.

Not being able to get gas was frightening.

Not

being able to get food for who knew how long was apocalyptic. The reports from Chicago were all about people looting grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, anything that could have something edible inside.

I remember reading somewhere that

if there was a ever serious disruption of interstate commerce that prevented food from going into Chicago, there would be about 15 hours of food for all three million plus people living there.

Someone must have read that article to the collective

conscious. A lot of the store owners in the city were taking the Kirpal Route (clearing out what they could and taking off), but some were taking the Alamo Route: standing their ground with


guns, shooting until they ran out of bullets, then finding something sharp and/or heavy. They showed a grocery store on the North Side with a shattered storefront window and two hard-assed looking Koreans (who were probably very polite and helpful 24 hours ago) standing in front of it with submachine guns.

Another Korean

was dragging a bloody corpse over to three other bloody corpses lined up neatly in a row in front of a parking meter.

One of

the guys manning the storefront said, “This is America.

We

worked hard for this store and if the cops can‟t defend, we can.”

He raised his gun and shouted, “Sa-i-gu!”

raised his gun and shouted same word.

His friend

I later found out that

Sa-i-gu is what the Koreans call the 1992 LA Riots. They cut to another grocery store where people were walking out with shopping bags full of food and stepping over the body of a man lying face down in an uneven oval of blood.

The anchor

said the man was the owner and was reportedly stabbed multiple times after shooting two people who tried to force their way into his store. A lot of people were fleeing Chicago, or trying to. highways going out were bumper-to-bumper.

The

Rene was right, there

were rumors that terrorists were planning to detonante sarin bombs inside the city.

The Mayor was telling people that the

rumors weren‟t true and that people should stay in their homes,


but the National Guard were on the highways helping people evacuate and keeping people from going into the city.

They were

doing that to contain the looting and rioting but everyone thought that they knew something the Mayor didnâ€&#x;t, hence, they should err on the side of caution and get the hell out of town. Rene and I talked about doing the same because the urge was definitely there.

But where would we go?

What would we take?

Those kinds of questions just made it all seem kind of ridiculous.

And besides, we were far enough from Chicago to

feel relatively safe.

Sure some bad shit was going down but the

cops seemed to be out in force and we heard enough sirens outside to feel like they hand things under control. Then the next morning those cops asked my family and every other reisdent in Vernon Hills to volunteer their services. *** Around 8AM the Mayor came on the Emergency Boradcast Network.

His hair was tousled, he was wearing a T-shirt and he

had a look on his face like he had just crawled up the ass-end of hell on no sleep.

I will never forget what he said.

“My Fellow Citizens, as you well know, a state of general unrest exists throughout most parts of the nation.

This unrest

has already hit portions of our community and the neighboring communities.

Our police force and other emergency responders


have been stretched to the limit and, regrettably, it appears that the situation will get worse before it gets better. With this sobering reality in mind, the Chief of Police, the Village Board and myself have decided to create a volunteer citizens‟ patrol to help the police department protect our community.

All able-bodied men and women over the age of 18 are

encouraged to volunteer at the Vernon Hills police station today. you.

If you have a licensed firearm, please bring it with If you do not have a licensed firearm, one will be

provided to you by the police department.

If you need firearm

training, that will be provided as well. I realize that this is an unusual request but it‟s one we have to make, because this government cannot guarantee the safety of this village, we cannot guarantee your personal safety, without your help.

If you elect not to volunteer, we

urge you to stay in your home, lock all your doors and stayed tuned to the emergency channel or long on to the Village website for further instructions and updates.

Thank you.”

I barely had time to absorb all of that when Jon walked right up to the front door and said, “I‟m volunteering.”

*** We tried to stop him but he wouldn‟t listen.

Throughout

his high school years he had this routine where if he really


wanted to do something we didn‟t want him to do, he would tell us he was doing it anyway and then encase himself in silence, wouldn‟t respond to anything we said.

Usually we‟d end up

grounding him, he‟d go up to his room in a huff and then give us the silent treatment for a day or two. This time it was different.

He was eighteen and very fond

of telling us that he was an adult and we couldn‟t tell him what to do anymore, which is exactly what he said when we told him we weren‟t going to let him volunteer at the police station.

The

only arguments we could fall back on were that he was still living under our roof and that we took out loans in our name to pay for his college education (he was going to DePaul in September).

But we didn‟t want to do that because that would

encourage him to skip college, move out of the house, blow his savings on an apartment and try to make it on his own. he‟d do it, maybe not, but why take a chance? pleaded.

Rene started crying.

said he had to do it.

Maybe

So we begged and

Jon just simply apologized and

When he walked out the door, Rene turned

around and told me to go with him. The next thing you know, Jon and I are standing in line at the Vernon Hills PD behind a guy holding an AK-47 in his hand with the stock resting on his hip like he was posing next to a rhino he just shot. “Like it?”

He caught me eyeballing the gun and said,


“Yeah it‟s….very nice.” “I got it off a dead al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

I came up

right behind him while he had our guys pinned down at the bottom of a hill.

I got up to within five feet of his ass and put one

right in the back of his head.”

He jabbed his index finger into

the back of his head and said, “Boom!”

He looked at his rifle

like a newborn boy that he just knew was gonna become a ringbearing quarterback and said, “This gun is my trophy.” All I could say was, “Wow.” Then the guy burst out laughing and said, “I‟m just fucking with you.

I got it at a gun convention in Beloit.”

Mr. AK-47 was one of three groups of people I classified in the line.

The first group were the Idealists as I called them.

My son belonged in that camp.

They heard the Mayor‟s request

for assistance the same way young patriotic Baby Boomers heard Kennedy‟s inaugural speech: “Ask not what your suburb can do for you, but what you can do for your suburb.” The second group were the Survivalists.

They were there

because they felt it was safer to go out and confront danger rather than wait for it to come for them or their families.

I

considered myself to be in that camp. The third camp, of which Mr. AK-47 was a member (and probably eligible for President) were the Sons of Rambo.

They

were there because this was their chance to live out all their


war-movie fantasies under the aegis of law and order.

That

group made me nervous, especially since the people we‟d presumably be fighting were looters and rioters; in other words, people living out their Grand Theft Auto fantasies.

And YES,

I‟ve played Grand Theft Auto so don‟t bother pointing out the hypocrisy there. Long story short, Jon and I went into the station, signed a liability waiver, were both given police-issue .45 pistols and got assigned to what they were calling Civilian Platoons.

These

were groups of twenty civilians with a uniformed cop acting as the Lieutenant.

Anyone who had military experience or knew how

to shoot a gun properly was deputized with the rank of Sergeant. They stationed us on the commercial strip by the mall.

Our

main purpose was to be visible and reassure law abiding citizens and potential law breakers that government was still working. Surprisingly enough, the strategy was effective.

The federal

government flooded the airwaves with announcements that state and local governments were nationalizing all the gasoline stocks and that they reached an agreement with the trucking companies and the Teamsters to make sure the food trucks would still be on the roads.

That was enough to stave off the panic and keep the

otherwise law-abiding people who‟d be freaking out off the streets.

That just made the criminals easier to spot.

I

started out my tour of duty for lack of a better term with


worries that I‟d get shot, or have to shoot someone.

By the end

I was thankfully bored. Two days later, none other than Osama bin Laden issued an audio statement, which raised eyebrows right away. statement?

Are you still alive?

Audio

Did your kidney problems

coupled with cave life finally catch up to you?

Has your body

died but your brand lives on in some twenty-something oil prince with something to prove?

Who knows?

But this is what he said.

“On September 11, 2001 we destroyed two proud symbols of America‟s economic power.

What did that bring us? One day of

satisfaction, sixteen years of their vengeance. we were misguided.

That is because

Why shed the blood of our martyrs to destroy

something that is perfectly capable of destroying itself? economy is weak. they‟re angry.

Most of the people are poor or struggling and

All we have to do is give their house of cards

one little push and it will fall. today.

Their

That is what we have done

There is no need for further attacks.

to go the streets.

There is no need

Just stay in your homes, turn on your

televisions, and watch them fall.” So instead of following up with a suitcase nuke or a sarin truck bomb or Typhoid Achmeds infected with avian flu coughing on people in the subways, he adopted the same strategy Hitler adopted with the Soviets in World War II: that country is a


rotting house and we just need to kick in the door to make it fall. Didnâ€&#x;t work for Hitler. Didnâ€&#x;t work for you.


Gasoline Chapter 3