The Power Station

by John Edward Gordon

The back hills of Allegheny County were just beginning to become spring.

I think I had become lost and as it was becoming dusk I decided to stop for the night and continue my journey in the morning.

As I was lost I felt it didn't really matter where I stayed, as long as the place had a comfortable bed and I could get a decent meal. I had been driving for several hours and was becoming dangerously tired.

I turned of the two lane highway following a faded sign for a motel that was said to be several miles down the road I had exited on.

After following a rather circuitous route, over hills and deep into assorted valleys, I broached a hill. I wasn't quite prepared for what I apprehended as I crested the hill and witnessed the scene before me.

The oddity of it caused me to pull over to the shoulder and stop for a better view.

Perched on a slight out cropping of some rock above the settlement that lay before it stood a building of such brightness and light that, contrasted with the darkness of the town was a sight truly to behold. There was enough ambient light from the structure to cast enough light on the darkened town for me to gain an impression of the shadowy development that lay at its feet.

I gazed at the scene for several minutes, questioning whether I should carry on, the oddity of the scene creating within me a certain trepidation.

I could detect what appeared to be a shadowy motel at the base of the hill that the road I was on led down. I looked at my watch. It was approaching nine pm and remembering it had taken a good 45 minutes to get this far from the main road, decided that in my current state of fatigue it would be best to stay here for the night.

Against my better judgment I proceeded down the hill to the parking lot of the motel. As I grew closer, I could make out the name as the Shady Acres motel as I pulled into the parking lot.

I found behind the desk, rocking in his chair an older man smoking his pipe. He barely looked up as I approached.

I couldn't help noticing that the light provided was all from coal and kerosene lamps. It created a very warm glow in the increasingly chilly spring evenings.

The man turned to face me, away from the book he had been reading with the help of the lamp beside him.

It was hard to make out the interior at first as my eyes adjusted to the dark. He slowly stood up. When he spoke, his voice was friendly.

"Need a room?" It didn't seem he had had a lot of visitors lately as he turned the guest book towards me.

"Yes thanks"

I looked down and could see some faint scrawls on the pages. I tried to make out the date of the last entry. To the best of my sight, it appeared there hadn't been a guest through here in the last five years.

I fumbled for my glasses. Anticipating my need he brought a lamp over and put it on the desk. It provided much needed light as I reached for the pen in the holder that was facing towards me.

I was right, the last date was from almost five years ago.

I guess the man behind the counter noticed my hesitation.

"It's ok friend, I keep the rooms clean, haven't got much more to do really since they took the main sign down on the highway. Not that anyone complains much…"

He left it there. I tried to focus my eyes on the dimly lit registry.

He pointed to a blank line. I started to fill in my name and address.

"Don't worry about it too much. Just your name will be enough, along with your license number, provided it ain't a rental. It ain't a rental is it?"

"No it's my car. Just visiting a friend down in Florida and am on my way home to Toronto."

"Oh so you're from Canada huh? Hope you got American Dollars. Not that their worth as much as they were. It's just that their easier to deal with. Don't have to drive 50 miles to the bank."

"No problem, how much?"

"40 bucks for the night. And that includes a box of matches for the lamps. Let me know if you want a bath, I'll fire up the hot water tank."

Feeling kind of dirty from the long drive I quickly agreed to the use of his bath.

"I'll fire it up after I show you your room. My name's John by the way."

I shook his extended hand and introduced myself. He was friendly enough and in no way seemed threatening. I was beginning to feel at home. That is, until I stepped outside.

It had grown dark by now and the strange glow of the plant up on the hill seemed all the more eerie in the darkness.

I couldn't resist and I just had to ask him.

"What the hell is that?"

At first it didn't seem he noticed what I was talking about. He turned to look at me and saw that I was staring at the strange plant.

"Oh that." He paused and stroked his unshaven chin. He reached for a match to re-ignite his pipe.

I waited as he struck several matches, finally shielding one of them enough from the breeze to light the remaining tobacco in his pipe.

"Well, you see, that's the power station. "

He didn't say anymore and left me standing for several moments as a million questions raced through my mind. He answered the first one immediately as it was the most obvious.

"It hasn't been providing power for over five years now, at least to the town."

"But, by the look of things, it seems to have plenty of power, at least for it's own purposes."

"Yep" and that's all he offered.

By the time I had figured out the next question to ask he was opening the door to room I had rented for the night.

He was right, it was spotless, at least from what I could see through faint glow of the lamp he held.

He handed it to me.

"Here hold this, I'll just fire up the lights."

He turned and fumbled for his matches and I watched him as he methodically went around the room lighting the three lamps around the room. As he tapered the wick on each one, I could see that room was indeed clean and neat.

He came back and took the lamp from my hands. He pointed to a small dresser against the wall at the end of the double bed.

"The matches are in there" and to double check he went over and opened the right hand drawer to produce the matches. They were old fashioned strike anywhere matches in their heavy cardboard box with a strip of sand paper on one side to ignite the matches.

"Just be careful don't want any fires. These lamps are pretty safe. You can leave them on all night. Just turn them back. You know how to do that, don't you?"

"Sure"

I had used oil lamps on my camping trips in my old van. It saved having to get sites with power at camp grounds which often meant getting a spot when all the hydro spots were filled.

Before I could ask any further questions, he was gone, like a dried leaf in a wind.

I heard him say through the open window, "You'll have to wait a good 45 minutes for the water to heat up. I'll go and fire it up now"

"Thanks" I shouted back, as I lay back on the bed, taking my shoes off. I turned my head against the pillow and stared out at the darkening night, fascinated by the strange glow of the power station up on the hill.

There were so many questions that were racing through my head that I forgot the time and when I next looked at my watch it, an hour had passed. I got up and went to the bathroom and turned on the hot water. It was indeed very hot.

I ran the bath and sat in it for quite some time. Sitting there in the warm glow of the oil lamp was quite relaxing. There was plenty of hot water. I climbed out, dried myself and climbed in between the nice crisp clean sheets.

Chapter 2


When I woke up I noticed that I had forgotten to blow out the lights. One was still burning the others had harmlessly extinguished themselves.

I looked out of the window. It was a beautiful spring day, I could hear the sound of a bird or two through the opened window.

The Shady Acres was old and in a need of paint job with an empty pool filling the courtyard. But I must admit I had had the soundest sleep I had had in a long while.

If I had noticed the plant on the hill, I probably would have forgotten the strangeness that had befallen me the previous night, that this town ran without any electricity or so it appeared.

If hadn't thought of that then noticing the power lines wouldn't have seemed so bizarre. Everywhere I looked were the familiar t-shaped posts that carried the power lines through out the town.

From my vantage point in the window they appeared to go into every house and building that I could see. There were a few cars on the street, and I could see the kids carry there books on the way to school. If it hadn't been for the faint hum of that plant on the hill, I probably would have not thought much about it.

But I did think about it and being a naturally curious person, although not very adventurous person would have dropped it there. I had to mention it to Tim the older gentleman who had shown me the room the previous night.

"Well you really that interested why don't you go up for a tour. They're really very open up there, don't mind visitors. Just tell em at the gate that Tim Conway said it was ok".

I handed him the key after paying for my room and thought about it.

I was in no rush to get home, and figured that there certainly seemed no danger involved.

"No, really," Tim repeated, "go up there and have a look around. And if you feel like it, come back here and tell me what you think."

"About what?"

"About the plant. But no use standing here asking me questions, just go up there and have a look around and then come back if you want and we can have a talk."

It almost seemed like he wanted my opinion, but for whatever reason I could only guess.

"I guess, sure, I got a day or two before I need to get home. How do I get there?"

"Just out the driveway, turn right and follow the road till the end. Can't miss it. And remember, tell em Tim said it was alright."

At this point, I could not not have gone, my curiosity being so great. I thanked Tim and promised him I would return with my impressions.

I went out through the screen door and got in my car. I could see him lighting his pipe as I backed away from the office.

I turned right as I was instructed and headed down the road. The trip was longer that I expected but going up the sides of hills usually was with all the switch backs. And the area was well wooded I really had no idea where I was until I turned a corner and there before me was the Plant.

It was bigger close up that it was from the valley. There were plenty of warning signs and no trespassing signs around the 20 foot high chain link fence that was topped with barbed wire.

There were plenty of video cameras and I could see the guard dogs on the other side of the fence as I drove up to the main entrance and guard shack.

The Guard was polite and he leaned through his window and looked down at me as I leaned out of the driver side.

"You lost?"

"No as a matter of fact, just was hoping for a tour…'

He cut me off abruptly.

"Sorry sir, we don't give tours."

I was about to turn away when I remembered Tim telling me to be sure that I told the guard that he had sent me. Thinking it wouldn't do much good I mentioned that:

"Umm Tim Conway said it would be ok."

The look on the guard's face surprised me. It looked like he had just be giving an order by the President.

"Just one minute sir." His manner had changed from one of a strict but polite denial to one of him complete compliance.

He returned to his booth. He picked up a red phone which he was on for just a minute and then switched to what appeared as a regular black phone which I could see him dialing. The conversation was brief and the gate swung open almost immediately. And I was waiting for it to open enough for me to pass through, he leaned through the window once again.

"Just follow this road around to the main office and park by the main doors. Someone will meet you there."

"Sure, thanks". His tone has suddenly turned deferential.

I waved as I passed through the gates and could see him writing down my license plate as I drove off.

I drove for perhaps a quarter of mile along the white graveled road, passed the finally manicured lawn and the neat flower beds. Too neat, I though to myself as the main building appeared and I parked in the visitors parking area right beside the main doors.

There was someone waiting there to greet me, a very pretty young woman dressed very smartly in a business suit. It was a kind of pink tweed hounds tooth, but, as I sense of style is not quite up to scratch that is as far as I will go in describing her cloths.

She was very blonde with steely green eyes and a remarkably beautiful face, and at first glance very Caucasian features.

However on closer examination, there appeared to be a hint of the orient in her features and if she hadn't appeared so officious I may have broached this with her, but her tone of voice and presence seemed to demand a completely objective approach.

She was coldly friendly as she extended her hand for me to shake. Her handshake was limp but officious and she introduced herself.

"Hi Mr. Uuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I'm Shane McAuliffe."

"Mr. Pilkington, Terry Pilkington. But it's ok to call me Terry."

"Sure, ummm Terry". She handed me a badge

Before I pinned it on, I noticed it had VIP printed on it. I wasn't sure, since they seemed to have so few visitors, that these were the only badges they had or whether or not I was really considered a VIP.

"Have you eaten sir?"

"Please call me Terry."

"Sure ummm Terry. Would you like something to eat?"

Remembering how I hadn't eaten so the stop last evening and that I was somewhat hungry, I quickly agreed.

"That's sounds nice."

She turned almost in a military fashion and I followed her through the main door. There was a security station in the front hall which four security guards sat behind in a slight semi circle. Having had some military background, I noticed that they appeared to be ex-military and from the look in their eyes, I knew that they were trained and indeed even more importantly could handle any type of situation that they may have to encounter.

It wasn't the live side arms that they carried that gave me that impression, it was the double locked gun cabinet directly behind that confirmed they were prepared for any kind of attack that may come.

In this increasingly terrorized world, although I felt overly – exaggerated of threats, it would appear that they could handle most anything.

However, seeing as I was with Shane and everything was on the up and up, they extended us both very pleasant smiles.

I followed her through the immense lobby, up the gentle winding spiral staircase. From below and behind I couldn't help but admire Shane's beautifully strong legs as we climbed the staircase.

I noticed her pace slowing as she turned and looked down on me, as mother would on a child whom she was tasking a little too hard.

"Oh, I'm sorry, we could have taken the elevator."

And she did seem genuinely sorry.

However, being reasonably fit for my age I almost resented her concern.

"No, I'm fine, just not as fast as I used to be. "

And she must have noticed that I wasn't at all out of breath. She turned and continued the climb up the stairs.

I reached the top of the stairs and followed her to the left. We crossed the marble floors and the sound of her stiletto heals clicked officiously, echoing off the cavernous walls of the upper lobby.

I looked back over the edge of the upper mezzanine and could see the massive glass front that we had just entered. This was a very impressive building indeed.

She waited for me as I reached the massive double doors with the large scalloped handles and opened one for me. I entered with her following.

We entered what I assumed to be the employee dining room which could have easily passed for a four star hotel dining room. The carpeted floor now muted her heels and the place was full and buzzing with breakfast traffic.

As soon as the room became aware of our presence or perhaps more accurately my presence, there was a hush. It reminded me of the old bar scene where the stranger enters the bar and everything goes silent. The piano player stops, all eyes turns on the stranger as he walks up to the bar to order his drink.

I was feeling a little strange when all of sudden the din increased to the level it had been when I entered. I don't know, to this day, whether Shane had made some kind of discreet signal to all there to ensure that I was ok and not to be feared.

Whatever happened things quickly returned to normal as I followed her up to the line and she handed me a tray.

There was no shortage of food of all different types and diets. I had some scrambled eggs and bacon and followed her to a table over in the corner.

We sat down and I waited as she carefully put her napkin on her lap. I followed her lead and watched her as she sprinkled salt on her omelet.

"Well, Terry, what would you like to see while you're here?"

The question caught me off guard because up to now, I really had no idea why I had come and what I was getting into. What had started out as mere curiosity was not turning into something much more intense.

She took my hesitation as a challenge, to what I wasn't sure, and spoke before I got an opportunity to answer her question.

"If you want we could begin with the plant first.."

This response triggered my first question, one that was so obvious that I had not thought to ask until now.

"What is it exactly you do here?"

She looked up from her food and with a large smile. Being a lady of good manners, she waited to swallow before answering. My question seemed to have evaporated any threat, real or imagined that she may have thought that I posed to this point.

"Didn't Mr. Conway tell you?"

"No, he just saw that I was interested in the plant and suggested I come up for a visit. And seeing how I'm interested in industrial facilities and I had some time to kill I took him up on it."

"So, you're not from some where?"

I wasn't sure how to address this response. I wasn't clear as to exactly where I should be from.

"No, sorry, what I meant, is you are here as tourist?"

"I guess you could say that."

I could see her relax as if some great burden had been lifted from her shoulders. I wasn't sure if her expression was one of trying to stifle a laugh or she had just inadvertently choked on her breakfast.

She put the napkin to her lips and wiped them slowly, delicately.

"Please don't misinterpret me Terry, it's just that we get so few visitors up here, especially tourists that it is a bit surprising. .."

She was silent for a little while. "Well to answer your question, we are a power plant. We make electricity."

I waited for her to continue but she didn't. Such a huge power plant existing this close to a town which had absolutely none didn't seem to enter into her mind. It was my turn to act surprised.

"Ummm Shane, then why is the town in the valley dark?"

"Is it? Don't really know the answer to that Terry, but we can talk to some people that can fill you in on all those details. Whenever you're ready we could start in the actual power plant and go from there."

"Sure sounds like a plan." I was just finishing the last of my scramble eggs and about to finish the remainder of my coffee.

I put down my cup.

"Whenever you're ready." As I said this she was already standing up and pushing her chair back.

I followed out a side door, not the one we had entered through, down a long thin corridor, admiring her legs and sound her heels made on the marble floor.

We went through a set of double doors and I noticed that there was no requirement for any kind of security. Obviously they felt very little threat from the outside.

We entered an anteroom to the actual plant where we donned hard hats. I could see and hear the hum of the generators on the floor below. She handed me off to the shift foreman a person introduced as Bob.

She waited in the office as I followed Bob out on to the shop floor. It wasn't overly noisy, just a persistent hum of turbines and generators. We followed the yellow lines painted on the floor as Bob walked in front stopping occasionally to explain what each part did and how much power was being produced.

I asked him what the energy input was to provide the heat for the boilers and to my surprise he said it was nuclear but also mixed with traditional hydro that was harnessed from a river that ran out behind the plant.

"What do you do with the power?" I thought it was a simple enough question. He either didn't hear it or was ignoring it so I repeated it a little louder this time.

"The power? We sell it."

I was thinking of the town below and specifically the Shady Acres Motel, that didn't appear to have access to one electron of this massive amount of electricity that this plant seemed capable of producing.

"To whom?"

"The grid" was all he would say with a wave of the hand. It looked like the question irritated him. I continued on without asking any further questions seeing how they may be starting to get on his nerves.

He maintained his extreme politeness for the remainder of the tour and I followed him back to the office to hook up again with Shane. I had seen enough to be sufficiently impressed with the capabilities of the plant to raise a torrent of questions for Shane.

She must have sensed this because before I could ask any she took me to one side.

"We could go the trading room now if you like. It may some of the questions that you have."

I couldn't argue with that. I handed in my hard hat and followed her back into the hall.

We turned left away from the office and headed back the way we had come.

I followed her for some time around various corridors until we arrived at a bank of elevators. We didn't have to wait long before we were whisked to the top floor of the administration building.

As we stepped out of the elevator I knew right away we were in the inner sanctum of the company. It was all very lush and corporate with bad but expensive art hung on the walls, art that was meant to soothe and not to challenge any conventions.

It was silent as we walked upon the carpeted floor and I followed her to a set of double doors, which she gently pushed open. I don't think I was quite prepared for the scene that confronted me.

It was a trading floor that could have been from any major brokerage house.

"What goes on here?"

That question triggered in her an almost Pavlovian response as if she had been prepared for it and her response to it. It was like I had said the code words that would open the belly of this beast.

I followed here across the floor, glancing at the various computer screens as they glowed with figures, charts and graphs.

She lead me through another set of doors to a small ante room that was, in fact, the lobby to the executive offices. I waited patiently as she spoke to the receptionist at the desk. I vaguely heard her something to the effect of saying something like "…authorized by Tim Conway" but I couldn't be sure so I ignored the implications.

The fact that the owner of the Shady Acres Motel would have anything to do with the plant struck me as rather odd.

The massive doors to the President's office swung open and she escorted me in only to turn to her right and leave immediately. I watched her close the doors behind her and turned to meet the President of the Power Station.

I extended my hand and the short fat little man behind the desk walked around it to shake it.

His dress was immaculate and the suit, no doubt, very expensive that made me reflect on my somewhat shambolic look.

"Please let's sit over here" he said with an expansive gesture waving me over to a corner of his office near the floor to ceiling windows. It was an area that reminded me of a area that you might see in a Starbucks, reserved for reading and relaxing.

I sat on the couch and he took the chair slightly to the right and at a 45 degree angle to where I was sitting.

Just as he sat down, he offered me a drink and I agreed to have a coke. He must have had a wireless communication device on him and spoke into his sleeve and asked whoever was on the other end to bring me a coke and him a scotch and water.

He turned towards me.

"Well ahh…"

"Terry" I was quick to remind him.

"Yes uhmm Terry, what is it you would like to know?"

This question really put me on the spot because, as this tour unfolded it was becoming increasingly more involving that I had initially desired, but since I was here I decided to ask away.

"Well uhh…"

"John, John Smith, but please call me John."

"Yes ahh John, well I assume you make or should I say generate power here."

"Well yes, that's what we're all about Terry, producing as much as we can."

He was silent as I waited him to finish that sentence and start the next. He didn't so I pressed on.

"And who do you sell it too?" I was thinking about the darkness of Lunarville the night before and was wondering why with this power station up on the hill, it was dark.

He seemed genuinely taken aback by my question.

"Sell it to?"

"Well, yes, John, I mean you obviously run a very efficient and productive power station…"

He couldn't help himself, he just had to interrupt me at that point.

"The most efficient and powerful power station in these parts."

"Yes indeed, uhmm but I couldn't help noticing that when I arrived in Lunarville last night the entire town was in darkness."

"Yes indeed it is. That is unfortunate but all our power is sold to other people."

"Umm if you don't mind who would that be?"

"Well, Terry we are a publicly controlled company and all that information is publicly available. I'm not sure off the top of my head, but I could call Bill Bradley in to let you know."

Before I could say no, or that that wouldn't be necessary, he was whispering in his cuff link again and in a few seconds a very young Bill Bradley crisply entered the room. It was if they had been briefed upon my arrival and were going out of their way to be overly helpful.

He walked quickly over and extended his hand which I rose to shake and then sat down again.

He sat at the other end of the couch as he ruffled through some pages he had extracted from a small shoulder bag he carried.

"These are our latest reports" he said as he handed them to me.

"Thanks for that Bill, but that won't be necessary as I have a terrible head for all those kinds of things, I mean facts and figures etc."

He looked positively downtrodden when I said that and laid them gently out on the table.

"I just was wondering who buys your power?"

"Oh all kinds of people, I don't have an exact list but I could get you it."

"That won't be necessary Bill."

"Perhaps you may want to check our web site out later." He handed me his card which I took and put in my wallet.

"Why don't I walk you through the trading floor?"

Before I could say no, he was up and heading for the door. I felt compelled to follow.

The next ten minutes remained a bit of blur to this day. I remember hearing words like hedge funds, dynamic electrical energy return instruments, collateralized debt obligations, investment return ratios as percentage of production and other such financial gobbledygook as to strain the brain.

I was far more confused when I returned to John Smith's office than I had been when I left.

I just had to ask him the question one more time.

"But who do you sell the power to?"

"I know it all sounds confusing Terry, but I guess Bill should have explained it to you. Anyway, I really do have a series of very important meetings to attend to, so perhaps you can find what you want on our web site."

Just then, Shane re-entered the room as if on cue.

"Or feel free to talk to Shane any time and she will track down the information you need. Shane, make sure that Terry here has all the information that he needs to contact you."

I looked out his window and could see a chopper landing and I watched as three very important people exit and walk towards the building. At least he didn't seem to be lying about the meetings.

I followed Shane over to the door and turned to shake John's hand. He shook it and quickly turned and walked back toward his desk. I could see that he was visibly relieved that I was leaving.

I started to relax. I don't know why. Later, upon reflection, I came to understand that I hadn't pressed their explanations too hard and I guess they were relieved for that. I discovered the Wizard but had not gone behind the yellow curtain. At least that's what they had thought.

I was beginning to enjoy Shane's company. Divorced from all the machinations going on around her, she was really quite a pleasant young woman. She had relaxed considerably as we strolled back to where I had left the car.

"What's down here?" I asked inadvertently as we strolled back to the parking lot.

"Oh sure, we can go that way if you want."

"Where do you live?"

"About twenty miles outside of Lunarville."

I just had to ask the question.

"Do you have power?"

"Why of course we do. All the employees have power."

"Where does it come from?"

"Why, here of course.'

"And do you pay for it?"

Her answers were getting more hesitant and I felt the tension building up again. Since I did like her, I didn't want her getting all upset before I left.

"No it's one of the perks."

Just at this moment, I glanced out of the window of the narrow corridor which we were walking. I could feel the humming more than here it. Also the heat was intense.

"What's that?" I couldn't help asking.

"I believe they call that the resistor field." Her pace noticeably quickened.

Before I could ask any more questions, we were through the hall at the end of this corridor and back into the lobby. The parking lot was on the other side of the building, so that the resistor field was now hidden from view.

Shane nodded to the security guard who quickly came over by her side. Obviously she wasn't going to talk about anything more and the tour had now been officially terminated.

She extended her hand which I politely shook, looked me directly in the eyes.

"If you need any more information don't hesitate to call." She handed me her card, turned on her heel and I watched her as she walked up the staircase.

I wasn't sure but that last look she gave me appeared to be full of fear and dread. The security guard was stood in front of me so that my only option was to leave the building.

He was very polite as he escorted me out, but this little tour had raised so many questions that I had only one option open to me. I had to back to the Shady Acres motel and talk again to Tim Conway.

I drove slowly back into town in a state of bemused wonderment at how this immense power plant to exist side by side with a town that had no power.

I drove into the parking lot of the Shady Acres and saw Tim sitting in his rocking chair on the porch smoking his pipe.

It looked as if he was expecting me.

"Well Terry did you enjoy your tour?"

"I must admit Tim, I really am very confused about the whole thing."

"You and me both. Have a seat."

I sat down on the couch beside Tim which seemed to be a harmonic moment to the time I had spent in John's office at the power plant. However this moment was much more relaxed and I felt totally at ease.

We sat in silence for some time, watching the birds as they built their nests in the budding trees of spring on this very pleasant May afternoon. Finally Tim spoke.

"So what did you think?"

I was instantly curious as to why Tim would care about what I thought but I let that go for now.

"Well, to be honest Tim, I'm really confused."

Again there was a considerable pause.

"So am I, Terry to be honest."

"What about?"

I figured his response to be more articulate as he did live here and would know more about this power plant that I could have possibly learned in a couple of hours.

"What they do up there."

I didn't say a word. I let him continue at his own pace.

"You see, I used work for that plant. Over the years, we would get stock options as payment, and I kept mine."

He paused to shake the tobacco out of his pipe and I watched as he reloaded the bowl with fresh tobacco. Even though I hadn't smoked in years, I really enjoyed the smell of fresh tobacco.

"Well one day these guys arrive in suits. Turned out I was the majority share holder, cause over the years I had bought up my fellow co-workers shares because I knew people would always need power and it was really a no-brainer investment decision."

He lit the bowl. I watched as he sucked the flame from his lighter into the pipe as he puffed away.

"Well I was getting older and they were offering inordinate sums of money so I thought what the hell…"

"Talked to my lawyer and he suggested working out some kind of dividend scheme and that perhaps I should keep the shares and that sounded smart to me, so we worked out a deal."

At this moment a blue jay started squawking at a cat that had walked on to the parking lot.

Tim grabbed my arm in excitement.

"Watch this."

I watched the cat. Suddenly the blue jay fell off the branch and dove directly for the cat. In a second the cat was cowering beneath the couch on which I was sitting.

We both started laughing.

"I warned you Lilac the cat. Better not mess with those blue jays."

"So turns out I'm a major share holder, but as it turned out have limited powers to do anything, but the money does roll in."

He paused a little while.

"Then I bought this place. It was just after I bought it that the lights went out."

"Towns people all came over and were up in arms. They didn't know anything about my deal with the Power Station and I didn't tell them but I went up there on their behalf to see what was going on."

"Well, the way my lawyer structured the deal was that I got lots of money but no power really in deciding things so I kind of just left it alone. You should have heard their rationale for not providing the power. I even showed it to the lawyer and to this day he still can't figure it out.

"I mean, you just came back from there. Can you?"

I thought back to my meeting with Bill Bradley and him describing the various debt instruments, hedge funds, collateralized debt obligations and admitted I didn't have a clue either.

"So I figured you know what, I'll leave it alone and just keep cashing the checks and offer the good citizens of Lunarville various alternatives."

"So we started a project using alternative methods of power generation and storage and we're reaching the point that people in this town have enough power to pretty much do as they want. We don't have street lights yet and most people, given the choice choose not to run a lot of power so that's why the town appears dark at nights.

"But we have areas that have power all the time for computers and the Internet and all that stuff so that the kids don't get disadvantaged in their education etc. I guess if I could I would restore it, but as it stands now the money that I make from them I put into a village trust fund that provides all the needs to the village."

"And that includes free health care, free college tuition to any kid who wants it. You're the only person I've ever told about this and don't really know why I'm telling you but you look like and honest and fair-minded person, so I guess I'm just finally running by someone whom I trust for an opinion. And I guess I just chose you."

That would explain the treatment that I received when I visited the plant. I was treated as a VIP for sure and I guess it was all on Tim's say so.

"Don't know what to say Tim. It's a lot to think about."

"Wasn't expecting any quick words of wisdom or anything of that sort. Just wanted to run this by some third party that I could trust to see if I were doing the right thing or not."

The cat has slowly wandered back out on the dirt parking lot. She was keeping a sharp lookout for dive bombing blue jays.

"Definitely given me something to think about Tim. I would say off the top looks like you've done the right thing. I mean you've certainly put the money to a good use."

"Yea and that's one of the reasons I don't want anyone in town to know. They think it all comes from the Power Station and in a way that's true but that way it takes pressure off me and them. It works for all of us."

"Oh and one more thing. Do you notice the huge field of resistors?"

I thought back to my tour.

"They're just behind the building."

I recalled walking out to the parking lot with my guide Shane.

"Yes of course."

"Well that's what they do with the power. They pump it into the huge resistors and it all get's dissipated by heat The absurdity of the whole situation is that all the power that they are producing goes nowhere. It all get's wasted. And yet, through all their financial voodoo they can make enormous profits and not sell one kilowatt of power. Go figure."

It was this final bit of information that really astounded me.

"You mean, they can make all this money and not sell one ounce of power?"

"Yup"

"Wholly crap," was the only expression that I could muster. "That sure is weird."

"That's why I took their money and decided to stay out of everything else. Cause you and I both know that one day this whole shaky house of cards is gonna come tumbling down."

I couldn't help but smile. We both sat their for some time in silence and I contemplated Tim's situation and admiring him for the resolution he had chosen.

After a fair while I started to stir.

"It's sure gonna take some time to get my head around that one."

"Sure would like to know your thoughts. I'll give you a card. I got an email which I access over at the library. It's our information center, open 24 hours a day with a constant supply of electricity."

I started to rise out of the most comfortable couch.

"You're welcome to spend another night. It's on the house."

"That's mighty kind of you Tim, but I really gotta get going. But I'm sure I'll be back this way sooner or later."

"Before you go, I want to show you something."

I followed him to the motel lobby and admired the late 1950's décor. I really loved the black and white linoleum floor. He signaled for me to come back behind the counter.

He handed me his card and then pointed to what looked like a simple light switch installed beneath the counter, horizontally as opposed to vertically.

"Had them install that as part of the deal. That simple switch will provide power to Lunarville's grid should anything ever go wrong up there from a financial point of view. We would be able to reinstate the power with a flick of that switch and take over ownership immediately. My lawyer thought it up and either they didn't read the fine print carefully enough or thought that they would a clause like that would ever be invoked. Been tempted a few time but have never thrown it yet."

I let out a small laugh.

"Seems to me you pretty much thought of everything. I will email you my thoughts if any. If I don't email you anything it probably means that I can't think of anything to say."

He offered his hand and I shook it warmly.

"Well look forward to hearing from you, or not."

"But do come down in the fall, it's real pretty in the valley with all the leaves turning. And I'll give a rain check on the free night."

"I'll make a point of that."

I gathered my things and headed out to my car. Don't know where the day had gone, but it had gone. As I drove out on the dusty road and turned right back to the highway, it was just dark enough to notice the incongruous glow of the power station perched half way up the small mountain. I drove on in silence as I headed for home.

Epilogue


No one knows what triggered it, but when the meltdown came it came with such thunderous aplomb that there was no place to seek cover. Being older and more or less self sufficient, I managed to survive humbly at my place in the country and laid low from the devastation being wreaked around me.

It was therefore, with some interest that I picked up the paper one morning and read it from front to back. There, just inside the back page was a little story about a town that had suddenly got its power back.

The dateline caught my eye. It was posted from Lunarville with a picture of Tim sitting on the front porch of the Shady Acres motel with a neon open sign lit in the office window.

It was one of those good news stories immersed in a sea of bad news that the press feels obligated to run from time to time. And God knows we needed it. I guess the small switch under the counter still worked. He must have switched it after all the financial stuff crashed.

But the power still worked and I guess that was the main thing.