REFUGEES

               “Don.  How many avocados are left?”

               “There are eight,” answered Don.  “But two of them are beginning to feel pretty soft.”

               There were six adults and three children seated about a small fire built on the dirt floor in the middle of an open barn, the smoke collecting in the rafters above.  A tired-looking Audi Q5 was pulled half way through the barn’s open door, its wheel wells caked with snow and mud.  It was the beginning of the mud season in Vermont.

               “All right,” said Jeremy, “we need to find more food.  Lets pool our cash.  Someone will have to make a run to a grocery store tonight for some supplies.  Its better if we move at night.  I’ll make sure the New York tags are covered with mud.”

               The rag-tag group had pulled into the seemingly abandoned barn an hour before.  They had been driving all day, keeping to secondary roads to avoid detection.  Border check-points on the smaller roads between The Republic of Vermont and Greater America were still scarce, unlike the main highways where the heavy migratory traffic could create delays as long as four hours.  There was the risk of not having sufficient documentation to satisfy Vermont Immigration agents.  The vetting process could take months, and most people did not have the luxury of months.  Twice in the last year the border had been completely sealed, with no one getting in or out.  The traffic, of course, was all one-way.  No one wanted out of Vermont.

               “Lets see what we have.”

               A small pile of bills collected on the ground.  There were three American Express credit cards and one Mastercard.

               “Who put these cards in?” asked Jeremy.  “You know we can’t use them now!  We need cash.  We use a credit card and they will immediately know who we are and where we are.  Come on, people, think!  Mastercard shut down cross-border funds transfers before we left Stamford.  Cash, people.  We need cash to survive.”

               Meredith began counting the currency.  It took her a few minutes.  She clearly was not used to handling cash.  Finally she put the bills down in a neat stack.

               “Two thousand, seven hundred and I think twenty five dollars,” she reported.

               “You THINK twenty five dollars?”  This from her husband, who was holding the hand of their five year old daughter.

               “I THINK two thousand seven hundred and twenty five dollars.”

               “Bill,” asked Jeremy, “would you count it again just to make sure.  In any event, that will not last us long.  Back in Connecticut that would only get us a few Big Mac’s.  Rumor has it that food prices in the ROV are lower, but we can’t count on that.  We need a plan, folks, if we are going to survive.  Does anyone have any jewelry we could sell?  Anything?

               “HOW the hell do we sell jewelry without people NOTICING us, I’d like to know?”  Jessica shouted.  “Just HOW, Jeremy?  We thought you had this all worked out, Jeremy.  Do you have any idea WHAT THE HELL WE ARE DOING?”

               “Jessica, keep calm, we all just…”

               “Screw you, Jeremy!”  Jessica yelled.  “Just SCREW you!  You had to lead us into the wilderness, and now we are all going to die!”  She was in tears, sobbing with rage and fear.

               “AAAAGH!”  The cry came from the back of the Q5.  Elizabeth stood in the barn doorway with what appeared to be an upside down wine glass.

               “THE CABERNET!  ITS GONE.”  She sobbed.  “There’s no more Sinskey!”

Michael is an emerging writer and retired corporate finance executive. He grew up in a family of German immigrant Mennonite farmers in a small Kansas town, which serves as the basis for the experiences that infuse much of his work. An avid sailor, he currently lives in Newport, Rhode Island.

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