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America 2.0: Chapter Twelve

One Saturday, mom let dad take me with him to run his route. He had to drop off a bunch of trackers with some of his car lots in Garland.

Dad made me wear some baggy old jeans, a big hooded sweatshirt, a jacket and a cap.

"I look like a boy"

"That's the idea."

"Why do I have to look like a dorky boy?"

"Get in the truck and let's go."

Dad and another guy who lived at Norman's had thrown in together on a diesel pickup. Diesel fuel was easier to get (and dad knew some truck companies who were willing to pay with fuel when they could) and the truck could be used for deliveries.

Dad did not need the extra space. There were three cardboard boxes carrying the tracker units and they easily fit behind the bench seat.

Dad pulled his pistol out, a Glock, and stuffed it in the seat. He also brought along a short barreled shotgun which he put behind the bench seat.

"What's all that for?"

"Better safe than sorry, puddin"

We left Normans and worked our way east through town. Many of the smaller strip shopping centers were making a comeback, most with mom and pop shops selling this or that. Gone were the tanning salons, nail salons, and real estate offices.

Instead, the retail extreme went from technology - portable satellite television systems, wireless internet ports, pay as you go cell phones, power generators to old school - homemade and refurbished clothing, shoe repair, produce, hardware, repair shops and so on.

Every location was run by someone or a family or a partnership. There were no large chain stores. There were no familiar names. There was no limit on signs and advertising. Teen agers stood on sidewalks holding up signs advertising "Fresh fruit!" and "Cellular Phones 2 Go!" to passing cars. At another intersection, a group of people dressed in clown suits ran into the street and stuck coupons for a car wash under windshield wipers.

At major intersections, a hodge podge of army soldiers and police officers stood guard next to military vehicles. They looked at nothing and everything and looked extremely bored.

"Hey, hon. Grab that map I printed out and let me see it for a 'sec".

"Why aren't you using the GPS thingee, Dad?"

"It doesn't work anymore. The military turned off access to it. Wanted to confuse the bad guys I guess."

"What bad guys?"

No answer. Mom and Dad had a habit these days of ignoring certain questions from William and I.

Ten minutes later, we pulled into a small parking lot of used cars. Balloons were tied to the antennas and multi colored streamers were strung overhead.

"Como 'stas, Mo! How's business?"

"Good, good my friend. Who is this?"

"My daughter. She's helping me out today with deliveries".

"Hello little girl. My name is Mo. Do you want a cold pop?"

"What's a pop?"

"He means coke or soda."

"Oh, um no thanks. Mom says they are bad for my teeth and we can't see the dentist..."

"She'd love one Mo. Say, I have those new trackers. No GPS, they use the cell towers now. Won't lose a car now!"

Dad and Mo went inside the tiny office. I thought about hanging outside, but dad grabbed my arm and pushed me inside. The office was small, smelled of cigarettes and had a calendar written in some foreign language. There was a picture of a woman in a black bed sheet over her head holding a cup of tea out. Weird.

Fifteen minutes later, Dad and I left the "Mo's" and got back in the truck. Dad pulled a blue zippered bank bag from under the back of his seat and stuffed a wad of blue and yellow NuBux into it.

"Mo is from Pakistan."

"Why did you say como estas in Spanish to him?"

"He speaks Spanish most of the day. Doesn't want people to know he is from the Middle East. It's a thing he does.."

We visited four more lots like Mo's that afternoon and dad dropped off more than 50 of his little car trackers.

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