View Full Version : The Longest Day

October 5th, 2010, 04:31 PM
Dear Tenant

As you know your account has now entered Eviction Status. We understand you have been allocated a state retirement residence, and in accordance with the terms of your agreement you were required to vacate the premises on 1st June 2104. You have failed to present a valid reason for continued occupancy within the consultancy timeframe. Under tenancy guidelines (xxxiv), we now regard your failure to comply with our demands as a criminal act. Legal eviction may result in all of the following;
1. Eviction Court. This can be humiliating experience.
2. Dispossession. You will be forcibly removed from the premises.
3. Judgement (s) severely damaged crediting, seizure of goods, garnishment of allowances, travel restrictions, Notification of National Housing Association causing inability to qualify for private rental and/or state housing.
We sincerely hope you will vacate the premises so further action against you is avoided.

Stratus Homes - Your world, our vision

As the cigarette lighter pinged Lenny’s thoughts turned from the notice momentarily. He pulled it out from the walnut finish dashboard and lit his cigar. Hard to believe they used to make vehicles with lighters and ash trays he thought, marvelling at the heavy smoke and the millions of private smoking booths there must have been running up and down the motorways. Winding down the window he tossed the letter out. The rusty old behemoth left the residential compound and joined the labyrinth tarmac roads weaving through the city limits like ant trails on a forest floor. He thought about the word ‘car’, saying it softly to himself for a few moments car..car..car. His dog Bobby stood on his hind legs on the passenger seat looking out of the window and licking it at the same time. He kept up a continuous excited whimper which made Lenny’s heart ache with sadness. He tried to distract himself by thinking about the route ahead but when he saw the dimly lit and empty road it reminded him of a life that seemed to have followed a similar trajectory. He thought about the home he left behind which was no longer a home. He thought about the neighbours he no longer knew, and he thought about the time it would take them to realise they’d never known him either. He shuddered when he thought what might have lain in store for them if he and Bobby hadn’t made other plans. The old man was so lost in his thoughts that he only noticed the patrol craft gliding behind him when it signalled for him to pull over.

“Old. Over a hundred years at least. You don’t see many of those these days. Looks like he hasn’t got clearance. Better check it out. Either stolen or some guy on some nostalgia trip. Probably the latter. This won’t be chipped, you’ll need to enter that vehicle number in manually to get the records. You do that while I talk to the driver.”

His young accomplice in the passenger seat stared at the back end of the curious vehicle as it excreted monoxide into their path.. It was a beautiful, yet toy-like contraption, skittering along on rubber wheels with its plastic bumper and odd illuminated plate on its rear end proudly displaying a registration number.

“This could take a while. Hope you weren’t in a hurry to get back. ”

“No” he lied, resentfully noting how nearly every utterance of his partner was a statement, factual, unemotional. Only a week into a two month placement Reese wondered what he had let himself in for. Of all the trainers he’d landed Saunders, ‘Shiny Saunders’ the others called him on account of his impeccable service record and his machine-like devotion to the job . You had to be careful what you told a man like that. He watched as his superior motioned an old man and his dog out of the vehicle and then began looking inside.

“Away from the vehicle please, and hold onto that animal. Where are you going?”

“To the lakes. Birchfield”

“Any particular reason?”

“Do I need one?”

“That depends sir” Saunders said flatly, easing himself into the driver’s seat.

“On what?”

“On whether you want me to impound the car and take you down the station”

“I wanted to get, get some fresh air, get the dog some exercise. It’s the solstice tomorrow, you know what that is?”

“I know what it means. Kids drinking in the parks all night. You’ve not much fuel for getting back have you sir? Your travel records show you didn’t book a clearance pass for a return journey.”

Lenny’s heart dropped. He knew something.

“I must have forgotten. Is there something wrong officer?”

“Yes. You’ve no clearance to be in this sector – for starters ...” and pausing to study his visor “No license renewal for driving a vintage vehicle on a highway; no permit to transport an animal - let alone having it unsecured and in an unsuitable vehicle. Four minor transgressions relating to signalling and two major ones for smoking in a confined space and speeding ... These cars may not be chipped” he said pausing to check his name ‘Mr. Duntiz, but the cameras still picked you up. Nothing but haulage dumpsters and us on these old tracks, you’re not hard to track....” his monotone trailed off as he began to search the car “question is, Mr. Dunitz, why you are heading so far away from home? Would it have anything to do with your imminent eviction from the Stratus block?”

Lenny laughed bitterly. “It’s true yes. I got my eviction notice today. Thirty-six years I’ve lived there. You know how many non workers live there besides me? None. Not one. Either dead or they’ve been moved to Elysian Fields go die quicker or go mad. The residents committee are trying to move me out too, whoever the hell they are. Complaints about the dog, complaints about my waste, warnings about energy efficiency levels .. Thing is, you don’t hardly see anyone from one week to the next. Stratus only want workers on that block and I’m damned if I’ll ever get a job again with my health record. Last week they found a dead guy two blocks down from me. About my age he was. He’s been there dead in his flat for three months. You know who found him? Bailiffs, sent from the council. I hope he made those bastards heave their guts up.”

“You don’t appear to have packed, how long were you going for?”

“Christ how the hell do I know? For as long as I felt like. Why has every minute, every breath, every credit gotta be signed sealed and fucking accounted for these days? How old are you?”

“I hardly think tha-“

“How old?!”

“Sixty-six. Mr. Duntiz can you bring your pet and sit in the passenger seat one moment”

“You’re too young to know any different. I feel sorry for you. Maybe I was on my way uptown to drop by Xanadu’s for a soapy massage, or maybe I was going to hire a clown outfit from Tamleys and go on an armed robbery spree with Bobby here.“

“MR. DUNITZ! Sit. Please come and sit next to me.”

The policeman didn’t even turn to look at him. His calmness made Lenny uneasy, a feeling the dog seemed to share as he struggled in his arms. He made his way behind the car towards the passenger door which Saunders pushed open for him from the other side.

“Get in and close the door.”

A bribe thought Lenny to himself. The bastard wants a bribe to let the charges, or at least some of them go.

“Perhaps you weren’t planning on coming back Leonard. You haven’t packed much of anything apart from the alcohol and the medication. More than a weekend’s worth too I would say..”

Lenny was stumped by Saunders’s bluntness, but also an unexpected softness in his tone. The policeman remained mute for a moment slowly grasping the driving wheel of the old vehicle and running his hands over it.

“You know I used to know an old fellow, five years ago now. He once had a car like this...when I was a boy. Anyway, five years ago, this chap did something he hadn’t done for years; he boarded a train with just a shoulder bag and one way ticket. He took a train out of town to the place where he got married. And he didn’t come back. He hadn’t spoken a word of it to anyone. Not that that there were many people to tell. His wife had died years ago, and his two sons were always busy working. He hadn’t worked for nearly forty years himself mainly on account of his health. After the New Age Employment act came in things got worse, As you know companies couldn’t discriminate on account of age, they said the economy needed us all to work longer, said it would benefit everyone in the long run. Fine in theory, but in practise you stop the age discrimination and swap it for health discrimination instead. Any hint of a serious condition that was liable to lumber a business with a duty of care a worker over a hundred and they wouldn’t touch them. Some of the vitals scans are so sophisticated now they supposedly get pretty accurate odds on a worker’s lifespan or chances of getting a particular disease. They’re not supposed to, but you know it goes on. My father was told he Fifty percent chance of developing dementia within twenty years. He lived another fifty after that test and it wasn’t dementia that drove him mad. ‘Unfit to work – too fit to die’ he always used to say. Well, like I say, he took a one-way train one day and that was the last anyone saw of him alive. He left a note; all it said was ‘Tired of living – fit for the grave.’ Never was one waste his words, the cynical old bugger."

“I’m sorry” said Lenny.

“No need to be Mr. Dunitz. You have yourself quite a predicament here. You’ve racked up quite a few penalties already, I have no choice but to log those. But here’s what I’m going to do. As an officer of the law I’m going to give you some advice. You should take the next exit off here and go home. On no account should you carry on this route for another twelve miles until you reach Exit 27. On no account should you take Exit 27 and head for Birchfield. On no account should you disregard the two checkpoints along the way just because they are both unmanned. I’m afraid that really is all I can do for you. Goodluck to you. Drive safely now.”

Before Lenny even had a chance to thank him Saunders had gone, pacing back towards the patrol craft, fighting to regain composure as his throat tightened. Reaching the door he turned to wave the offender on. And also to swallow, hard.
“Everything alright Sarge"?

“Fine. Just some old fool on a trip down memory lane. Send those charges through” he said gruffly, hoping that the kid didn’t suspect anything. No he couldn’t have seen anything he told himself. You can’t trust these new kids though; they’ll do anything to get ahead.

Reese entered the penalties secretly loathing Saunders for hitting the poor old man with every possible charge, plus a few extra he would never have thought of.

The first outward sign that all was not well in the 124 household was when it received a fixed penalty for leaving the recycling pod in the communal landing. Hazard tape was put around it to shame him, and his name appeared on the residents’ network’s network of shame. Undeterred by repeated warnings tenant 124 received a fixed penalty and a notice that this had been deducted from his state allowance. Multiple fines for driving violations and then fines for fines and added interest ate into what was left until the allowance was cut off altogether when 124 stopped bothering to signing for it at the welfare kiosk. Finally, exasperated by his disobedience a thick set bailiff broke down the door of his apartment. He removed whatever goods he could find, which wasn’t much, and left the appropriate paperwork on the breakfast table for when Lenny returned.

One Hundred and forty miles away a leathery face was staring through a window out over a lake. A sinewy wrist trembled as a text from the Readers Digest arrived telling its owner he might have won the $1 million prize draw. A great shame, a million Euros would have come in handy. Lenny would have seen the funny side of that. Except he wasn’t in his armchair with a cuppa, he was sat in a car with a skeletal smile on his face as the police battled with the stench inside. Grinning at them he was, like this dying business was all a great laugh. Old Bobby was doing his bit too, brewing up a terrific stink as he lay curled up in the remains of his owner.
Four weeks after the summer solstice the local news reported that the body of a fugitive was found in his vintage car in the grounds of a nature reserve. Neighbours said Leonard Dunitz was an anti-social recluse. The police spoke of a dangerous sociopath who’d been on a crime spree before taking his own life. Nobody reported how Lenny was found with a cigar butt in one claw, a bottle of Beaujolais ‘84 in the other, hollowed eyes trained on the chattering birds, in a silent toast to the longest day.

The Backward OX
October 5th, 2010, 10:09 PM
This is brilliant. It’s what real writing is.

I’m not one for being given to emotion about stuff I read, but must admit the line ‘The policeman remained mute for a moment slowly grasping the driving wheel of the old vehicle and running his hands over it’ really got to me. When I got over it, I thought I might have put ‘slowly’ just ahead of ‘running’, but no matter, it still got to me.

What worries me is that a scenario such as you’ve described is entirely plausible. In fact I’d go one step further and say ‘totally believable.’ I’m only glad I won’t be around to experience it.

For some reason, a first read gave me 2014 instead of 2104. But even when I read of a ‘patrol craft’ I didn’t bat much of an eyelid. I said to myself, with the way things are going, I could just about believe it could all be set only 4 years hence.

So, I finally got the year straight. That then leads on to one major nit. Even in 2014 I imagine there aren’t going to be too many cars still around with a wooden dashboard. My dad had one such but that was over fifty years ago. 2104 and I say even the antiques will have all long since rusted away to nothing.

Another thing. The monologue by Saunders about the guy he knew is really too long. It’s like exposition almost, or an info dump. I realise it all has to be said, but I’d have preferred it if Mr Dunitz had interrupted once or twice.

Keep up the good work.

Olly Buckle
October 5th, 2010, 10:20 PM
“No” he lied, resentfully noting how nearly every utterance of his partner was a statement, factual, unemotional. Only a week into a two month placement Reese wondered was he had let himself in for

The first outward sign that all was not well in the 124 household was when it was received a fixed penalty for leaving the recycling pod in

He removed whatever goods he could find, which wasn’t much, and left the appropriate paperwork on breakfast table for when the ? returned.

The Backward OX
October 5th, 2010, 11:59 PM
Olly used to bee a beekeeper. That may explain all the wases buzzing in his head. Poor old chap. He’s getting as bad as me. :P

October 6th, 2010, 10:30 AM
Backward Ox; I think you're right about Saunders' speech, it is a little heavy handed. I know I didn't feel completely happy about it when I wrote it.

It's always a tough one projecting dates in science fiction. One of my pet hates it watching or reading something where the year isn't far enough in the future. You're right about the car though. I was imagining a car from maybe the 1960's or 70's and then went and changed the date from 2080 to 2104 without thinking. Just goes to show how easy it is to make mistakes like that.

Anyway, thanks for your input, much appreciated.

Olly; Cheers for pointing those out, not sure how they escaped me.

October 6th, 2010, 08:54 PM
Excellent Dreamwarrior, thoroughly enjoyed the read thanks, just a few nit picks though.

These cars may not be chipped” he said pausing to check his name ‘Mr. Duntiz, but the cameras still picked you up.
Our friend Saunders had mentioned his name earlier. Perhaps ... he said pausing to stare deep in to his eyes, "but the cameras...

The residents committe are trying to move me out too,

“You don’t appear to have packed much Mister, how long were you going for?”

Finally, exasperated by his disobedience a thick set bailiff (broke or battered ?) down the door of his apartment.

“No” he lied, resentfully noting how nearly every utterance of his partner was a statement, factual, unemotional. Only a week into a two month placement Reese wondered was what he had let himself in for

He removed whatever goods he could find, which wasn’t much, and left the appropriate paperwork on the breakfast table for when the ? returned.

October 7th, 2010, 07:01 AM
Thanks Sonofjoe, well spotted.