The Power Station
by John Edward Gordon
The back hills of Allegheny County were just beginning to become
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
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
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
"Need a room?" It didn't seem he had had a lot of visitors
lately as he turned the guest book towards me.
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
He pointed to a blank line. I started to fill in my name and
"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
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
"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?"
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
"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.
When I woke up I noticed that I had forgotten to blow out the
lights. One was still burning the others had harmlessly
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
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
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 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
At this point, I could not not have gone, my curiosity being
so great. I thanked Tim and promised him I would return with
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.
"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
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
"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
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
In this increasingly terrorized world, although I felt overly –
exaggerated of threats, it would appear that they could handle
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
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.
"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
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
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
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
"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
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.
"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.
"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
"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
"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
"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
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."
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
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.
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
"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
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.
It was this final bit of information that really astounded me.
"You mean, they can make all this money and not sell one ounce
"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.
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.