Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Wrong
This is the first installment of a multi-part online short fiction series; to read more, check out anthonycarrasco.com.
Hank works for the Department of Economic Replacement. The Federal Bureau tasked with recycling the surplus human capital of America’s booming metropolitan areas was founded in 2068 after the great crisis of Pelican Bay’s two hundred-twenty.
The homelessness on Pelican Bay, a landmass constructed off the coast of San Francisco to host visiting dignitaries, became so vast that on April 2nd, 2063, two hundred and twenty homeless mothers put their children on a doomed water vessel directed towards the peninsula. Immigration from Pelican Bay was only permitted to residents of Pelican Bay, so this was the only means by which these mothers could conceive a better life for their babies. These children, the youngest only 2 weeks old, were not considered homeless in the eyes of any governmental municipality. Ironically, this was due to their inability to provide proof of residence. Sadly, every one of the two hundred and twenty children perished when Walter Fullman’s seacraft, The Titan, sliced the ship in two. Walter Fullman owned two ships called The Titan; one was the largest ship on Earth, the second, the fastest. It was the latter that terminated all of the passengers aboard the Moisés.
This was not the first time a ship of homeless children was obliterated off the coast of Pelican Bay, just the first to receive national attention. In 2062, a large retrofitted submarine was packed with over three hundred homeless children with a similar objective, but after only 20 minutes all the passengers perished from radioactive contamination from the ship’s fuel cell. Both the Moisés and The Titan were fueled by Fullman brand renewable energy. It was Fullman’s involvement in the massacre that solicited a global spotlight. Walter Fullman, the second richest man to ever wander the Earth’s surface, was running for President of the United States. The polls had him down .00034 percentage points in California, so the industry man hosted a sea race fundraiser to save the spotted owl toad. The people of California adored the spotted owl toad.
Originally called by the press the titan’s massacre, Fullman’s media relations team quickly turned what he characterized as a witch-hunt into an example of social policy failure. Fullman hired a homelessness expert who had survived over a decade of homelessness in Pelican Bay as a child. The expert was Rafel Sans. Sans escaped Pelican Bay via a small clipper ship piloted by a rogue Pelican Bay immigration agent who unbeknownst to Sans was his biological father. Alone in San Francisco at the age of 12, Sans enrolled in community college and would go on to earn three graduate degrees, the first from UC Berkeley, the second from Harvard, and the third from UC Santa Cruz. His first degree was in Trauma-informed Economics, the second in Social Policy, and the third in Biological Physics. None of the degrees were “paid off” so, with the financial support of Fullman, Sans was awarded his three degrees, after two decades of work in the field, 20 minutes before his first opportunity to testify before a congressional hearing. Sans was a gifted orator so after three days of highly publicized proceedings, the titan’s massacre became the great crisis of Pelican Bay’s two hundred-twenty.
Sans’s thesis was simple. The economy was one big biological organism. Every subcomponent was interconnected and interdependent. Every social and economic relationship is a two-channel relationship in which something is given and something is taken. In college, Hank read Sans’s first book, based on his three dissertations, titled Unhoused: How the Housed Depend on the Homeless. According to Sans, the homeless were placeholders for the economically stable. The homeless occupied space and consumed goods which were, at the time of consumption, deemed undesirable by those who have high levels of power. Sans loose definition of power would become fodder for two generations of critiques and one generation of revivalists.
Sans’ data, however, could not be denied. The most reliable explanation for why homelessness existed in greater or lesser quantities from one location to another was the desirability of the living space. As space became a more desirable place to live, the cost of living would increase accordingly until those occupying the space were unhoused. This process took very little time. The process by which these people would be relocated to a location of decreasing desirability traditionally took much longer.
After being publicly vindicated on Capitol Hill, Fullman became President and created the Department of Economic Replacement, and appointed Sans its first head. The department took as its mission the “replacement” of unhoused children, families, and individuals from regions of high desirability to zones of low desirability. After a rocky start, the DER became a national institution. Hank himself benefited from the program as a child. When the weather of Deet’s Bend transitioned from dry to tropical, the gradual increase in industry, employment, and economic development resulted in Hank’s mother’s inability to afford a home where she, her mother, and her mother’s mother raised three generations of children. Like dead batteries in a flashlight, Hank’s family was replaced.
* * *
Hank was nervous. He had a lunch scheduled with former DER Secretary Sans, former President Fullman, sitting DER chief Haley Watts, and current chief of staff to the President. Hank did not know what the meeting was about.
Sitting patiently in the DER’s premier waiting room, Hank found himself shrinking. His shoulders became tight, his stomach tucked, his arms collapsed around himself, and his chin nailed to his chest. Like a clam, Hank realized that he needed to crack open his shell before his superiors caught him. A study he read in grad school said that people from high socioeconomic backgrounds took up more physical space than their less affluent counterparts. Furthermore, the space they took up was more often than not, asymmetrical. Hank popped his head up, crossed his legs, and put one arm behind his chair. Just then DER chief Watts entered the room laughing alongside Fullman. The two seemed to adore each other. Fullman, between laughs, shook his head as if he could not believe what he was hearing.
Hank stood up and bowed to the two before Watts asked him to take a seat. After exchanging pleasantries, Fullman began serving an ideological soup he had been slow cooking for the last 48 hours. The bowl offered to Hank had a couple of rhetorical questions sprinkled on top.
“Do you know what the biggest difference is between me and my father?” Fullman asked Hank. Hank waited before suggesting that Fullman choose to invest his wealth into public service. Before Hank had finished his response, Fullman interjected, “He made more money. That’s it. The guy made more money than me. Does that make him a better man?” Before even waiting for an answer, Fullman went on. “I consciously worked to make less money than him; did you know that? Now, that was the hard part. I’d say it was the second hardest part of being his son.” Almost in a half-thought Fullman added, “I think the hardest part of being his kid was having to tell people I was the son of history’s richest man.”
Hank was very confused but kept listening ever more intently hoping Fullman would say something intelligible or at least offer another rhetorical opportunity to chime in.
“I looked in the mirror one day and I said, I will never be like my father. I honestly think he made all that money by mistake. I think it was the worst thing to ever happen to him. I knew at a very young age that being the richest man in history was a curse and I had to break it.”
Fullman stood and began walking in circles. “If only my old man knew. Today, I’m older than he ever was, but you know what, that doesn’t matter. The point is that people love me. People love me, Hank. People have love in their hearts for President Fullman. I love that.”
Watts took advantage of Fullman’s emotional swell to interject. “We want you to introduce President Fullman and Secretary Sans at the unveiling of the Moisés monument.”
After a pause of 30 seconds, Hank asked, “Where is Secretary Sans, it’d be an honor to…”
“He’s not in good health at the moment,” Watts quickly replied. We need you to introduce these two men at the ceremony. We’ll give you 15 minutes. Tell everyone where you come from and what the DER means to you. Fullman and I agree; you’re our guy. Are you our guy?”
Hank began to clam up but then jerked his left arm forward, placing his wrist on the table, leaning in as if to write something, and with a circular nod the words before, “this is true” escaped his lips.
Fullman, who Hank did not realize was behind him, shot his two boney, pale, and hungry hands over Hank’s shoulders, clasped his shoulders, and shook his shoulders in excitement. “They are going to love you Hank and they are going to love me.”
* * *
Anthony R. Carrasco is a former homeless youth who now researches causes and solutions to homelessness as a joint Ph.D. / JD student at Berkeley Law on full scholarship.
Despite both parents working full-time, a day laborer, and a baker, the Carrasco family struggled to overcome the hardships of homelessness for over ten years in an urban high-cost Southern California housing market. Moving every couple of months to a new motel, Anthony’s grandmother took care of the three Carrasco boys after school, taught them about tea, art, and cheeses, and always believed they deserved better opportunities than life had afforded them. Tragically, the biggest impact she left on the boys was her untimely death. She developed stomach cancer and passed away within six months. Leaving the family $15,000, they relocated to an affordable rural housing market in Northern California where Anthony was able to attend the same school for more than a year and get a chance at a quality public education.