25 September 20XX
My Dear Lucilius:
Your message made its way through. I am, as always, grateful that you are still well, although I must confess your description of life second hand in our childhood state sounds grim indeed. I am surprised they are still allowing news like that to be distributed, even infrequently. The food riots sound awful.
By way of introduction for this letter, I no longer own a truck.
The circumstances are a bit confusing as they are alarming. Two days ago, young Xerxes comes knocking on my door almost out of breath. “Convoy” he slammed out between deep breaths. “Military”. And then he was off.
I had expected this day to arrive at some point, I suppose. I just did not expect it so soon.
The day was slightly warmer – we have had a brief lull in the cold – so I decided it would be a good day to be out picking over the last of the garden. And so I went out with hoe in hand, quietly working around the rapidly dying summer garden when the soldiers arrived.
There were two of them in their camouflage dress (totally standing out in our climate, by the by), weapons in hand. They walked through the front of my gate, one of them eyeing the Cabin while the other walked up to me. I studiously ignored them both, hoeing away.
The young soldier (they are always young, I suppose) greeted me with a chipper “Good morning” to which I responded with a nod. He waited – I suppose for some other acknowledgment – while I continued to hoe away.
Finally he broke in again. “Apologies sir. I have order here that you are to surrender your vehicle.”
I stopped hoeing.
He held out a paper to me – I scanned it. State of emergency, government orders, would make full restitution upon the ending of the emergency, full faith and credit of the US Government, etc.
I handed to paper back. “It is my only car, sir. I live alone and will be completely without transportation”.
The soldier promptly replied “Sir, we are ensuring that there are a number of vehicles left in the vicinity. I am sure you will be covered by your neighbors in the event of an emergency”.
I nodded – not really anything else to do at that point – then asked him to come over to the truck with me. The second soldier – the one by the cabin – started as I walked over. She tried to cover the fact that she had raised her weapon directly at me.
Shook my head. This was the sort of thing one expected in a dictatorship. Perhaps we had reached this point already.
I reached the truck, reached into the glove compartment, and pulled out the ownership paperwork. “I am going to need someone to sign for this” I said, holding out the paper and a pen to the first soldier.
“Sir, I am not authorized...” he started.
“Please” I said. “Here is what will happen. If I do not have the paperwork signed for, I will get billed for this next year. Not really fair if I do not own the vehicle, correct?”
The second soldier snickered. The first soldier shot her a look, then with great ceremony affixed his name to the document.
Telling them both to wait (but leaving the door open so they could both see me), I went back to the cabin and got the keys, which I slipped off the key chain. I shut the door, and brought it back out to them. “Give me a second” I said and then reached into the glove compartment to pull out those little things I kept in there: a Gideon’s New Testament that I had received in high school, writing pens, a tire gauge, and the post drawing one of my daughters made years ago that I kept as a talisman of better days. I flipped over the key to get the mileage, which I added to the ownership certificate. Finally, I reached behind the seat to take out the emergency kit and tool set I kept there.
Holding everything in both hands, I gave the key to the first soldier. “All yours” I said, then without looking back took my things to the house and shut the door.
I heard the sound of the truck firing up but did not bother to look out to see them drive off. I came out after that to get the hoe I had left against the house. What I saw was the convoy headed off – not just military vehicles but a collection of other automobiles and trucks, rolling on to the next town.
(Checking later, I found that the town was denuded of all but two vehicles: a 1999 Oldsmobile that a retired couple kept and had managed to convince the military that they needed for health reasons and a two ton old army truck which the owner had cleverly disabled by pulling off the distributor cap).
The loss of the truck does not concern me greatly: without the ability to get fuel it was a liability that I am now rid of. Yes, I am without transportation, but more and more I become convinced that a lack of transportation will be the least of my issues. At best I will bill the government when this is all over; at worst, I am rid of something I could never use again.
No, the bothersome thing was the moment that the second soldier aimed their rifle at me. As if I was an enemy to be confronted, not a fellow citizen.
It is not a grand thing, Lucilius, when your government sees you as something to be controlled, contained, or executed.
Your Obedient Servant, Seneca