Nothing will get me back to blogging quite like sheer frustration. And this week in local Oregon politics has been, well, infuriating.

So last week, the Oregon House of Representatives passed HB2020–a carbon cap and trade bill. It’s not a perfect bill. If you ask me, we’re too late as it is and nothing we do now will reverse the coming climate catastrophe. But I will be happy if we can slow it down or decrease it, and this bill is a step in the right direction. The ultimate goal is to slash emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

I will add that this is personal for me. I have gone to the Capitol to lobby for this bill, I have called and e-mailed my legislators about it, I have donated to the organizations fighting the good fight. When the bill passed the House, my friends and I celebrated. “Now all it needs to do is pass the Senate!” I enthused to my husband.

“Oh, is that ALL,” he chuckled. Smart man.

Piece of cake, right? Oregon has a Democratic supermajority in both the House and the Senate at the moment.

And then…the Republicans did what you do when you’re about to lose a vote and you don’t like it.

They ran away.

Yep. Conservatives love to fling the word “snowflake” around, but these Republicans acted like complete snowflakes. They couldn’t handle being in the minority, so they threw a temper tantrum, took their toys and went home. Or in this case, just vanished. Word is, they escaped across state lines to Idaho. Governor Kate Brown has sent out the Oregon State Police to look for them and bring them back to vote, so they apparently felt they would be safer out of state.

By going missing, the GOP have denied the Senate the quorum needed to actually vote on the bill. The Oregon Constitution stipulates that at least 67% of the Senate needs to be present for a vote to take place.

Mind you, this isn’t the first time this has happened. Earlier this session, the GOP Senators did the exact same thing when there was an education funding bill they objected to. They returned after four days and the education bill passed, but in return they negotiated with the Dems to kill a couple of other bills they didn’t like–a vaccine exemption bill and a gun control bill (grrrrr). Part of the deal was a promise from the Republicans that they wouldn’t walk out again. That explains why the Governor isn’t messing around this time, and has indicated she is willing to have the escapees arrested.

So where do we go from here? It’s hard to tell. The Senate was going to continue in special session over the weekend, but that was called off because local right-wing groups were planning a Saturday rally which was to include armed militia members, and legislators were scared for their safety. If you think they’re being paranoid, consider that one of the Republican Senators hinted that if the state police were to come after him, they better be “bachelors” and “heavily armed.” The mood both in our state and our country is growing more and more unpleasant….

Over the past few years, my family and I have been watching the climate in Oregon change. Temperatures in the summer are much hotter than they were when we first moved here. Rain has decreased. Winters are colder and drier. We’ve had a couple of years in a row now during which thick smoke from wildfires has plagued us and made it difficult to breathe.

So if this bill, this last-ditch effort to help, goes down in flames, I’m left with some very uncharitable thoughts. The people in rural districts who oppose this bill so vehemently…if their farms and businesses are affected by drought or other climate disasters in the future, I hope they don’t come crying to me about it. I certainly hope they don’t ask for financial help from us Portlanders. After all, we’re just stupid city folk who bought into the climate change conspiracy, right?

Sigh. I realize that is unkind and I should be looking for my better angels, but I am having a hard time finding them right now. As much as I have been MIA from this blog, I will try to update either in posts or comments about how this whole mess ultimately works out.

My last post came from a place of pessimism, but that isn’t the full story. If I want to be truthful, I need to write about the flipside, the things which are keeping me active and keeping me going. Most of all, it’s the people I’ve met–wonderfully stubborn, gutsy people who don’t give up and continue fighting. They have reminded me of the way I used to care and the way I still care.

More than that, the groups I’ve become involved with aren’t just idealistic, they’re also pragmatic and they bring results. Change happens. Some examples of what has become reality: The Bus Project is responsible for Oregon’s shiny new motor voter law, which makes sure that anyone with a driver’s license is automatically registered to vote–this at a time when voter rights are suppressed in other parts of the country. They have also pioneered the Fresh Start Initiative, which expunges minor marijuana-related infractions from criminal records. Because if marijuana is now legal in Oregon anyway, what’s the point of these incidents haunting individuals for years to come? This initiative not only passed the Oregon legislature–Representative Earl Blumenauer is now planning to turn it into a U.S. Congress bill.

Meanwhile, I’ve been spending even more time with the awesome folks at Oregon Climate, who are working to implement an innovative carbon fee & dividend plan. They had a bill in both the House and Senate in our last state legislative session, and have succeeded in passing multiple carbon pricing city council resolutions. Pretty impressive when you realize that they started out as a couple of friends talking about climate change in their living room.

And since I’m giving a shoutout to worthwhile organizations anyway, let me mention the Oregon Working Families Party and Fair Shot Oregon, both advocating for a $15 minimum wage. Thanks to them, the minimum wage issue is expected to be on the ballot in 2016.

I can tune out all the nonsense that is being spouted in national politics when I focus on the activists getting stuff accomplished locally. Local political engagement is hard work, and it doesn’t get the glamour or the media attention that the nationwide spectacle does, but it’s where things really get done. It’s more than worth the time and effort.

Finally, this post is a bit of an apology along with an explanation. My involvement with these local organizations is the reason for my posts becoming more infrequent lately. Between my full time day job and my spare time political activities, my schedule has become a little squeezed. I’m definitely not giving up on the blog, because I love writing, but may not be here as frequently as I have before. Sorry and a very grateful thank you to the people who have continued to visit 😉

The two ladies are older of age, very elegantly dressed and extremely, extremely nice.

“Oh no, not them again.”

“Hi!” I peer through my half-opened door.

“Can we invite you to a party celebrating Christ? We…”

“Sorry, not interested.” I quickly close the door. What the hell is wrong with these people? It’s a beautiful Saturday and I had been relaxing with my feet up and wearing my most loose-waisted pair of pajamas. Why do they need to go around trying to push their beliefs on everyone else? If I want to join their religion, I’ll join their religion. I shake my head with disdain as I shuffle back to my bedroom.

But now, I have to learn to be more like them.

I’ve gotten involved with volunteering for some local causes. I haven’t gone door to door yet–although I’m sure that’s coming. Right now, I’m just the annoying person who calls your family around dinnertime.

This means that I have to learn to be persuasive. To be confident about what I believe.

In other words, I have to learn to evangelize.

***

“Oh, no…not them again.”

“Hi, do you have a moment to talk about climate change?”

“No, I don’t. Climate change doesn’t exist. It’s a myth.”

“But all the scientists say…”

“Yeah, sure. Did you need to interrupt my weekend to tell me about your fairy tales?”

“We’re only trying to save the world.”

*sound of slamming door*

***

So, do I have the guts to face this kind of rejection? Especially when it comes to issues I care deeply about?

Perhaps it would be easier to proselytize about something a little more frivolous.

“Do you have a moment to talk about how delicious dark chocolate is?”

Or, even better:

“Do you have a moment to talk about cute kitten videos?”

I bet nobody would close their door to that. And that makes me kind of sad.

Scary as it may be, I hope I will go out there and discuss the things that really matter.

Well, the thing I’ve been hearing Rush Limbaugh bitch about the most this week has been the polar vortex.  The polar vortex doesn’t exist, the polar vortex has been made up by the Left to support their global warming propaganda.  The polar vortex isn’t just chilly, it’s downright anti-American.

Rush has been getting older and grumpier.  But why the particular focus on winter weather?  Then I realized it–the polar vortex is competition for Rush.  The vortex is a huge and spinning mass of nothingness, cold and icy, void of any warmth or compassion.  It will freeze any hapless victim which stumbles its way, especially if that unfortunate person is poor or homeless.  And it’s getting lots of negative coverage in the “lamestream” media.  The vortex could become a host of its own radio show, and it would probably attract more conservative and libertarian fans than Rush, because it has even less humanity than he does.  At least Rush likes his cat.

So now I know why Rush fears and distrusts the polar vortex so much.  It’s okay, Rush.  I’m sure the vortex has some good tips for you about how to really frost everybody’s nuts.

We had two big storms come through this weekend with lots of wind and rain.  The storms were actually remnants of typhoon Pabuk which had skirted Japan last week, and together they made for the rainiest September ever measured in Portland.  I’m happy to say that the damage was limited to a few toppled trees and some areas in the city which lost power.  In the Northwest, even record-breaking weather is relatively mild, unless you’re afraid of getting soggy.

Yep, weather events in this country continue to break all kinds of records.  I’m glad to hear that all this climate change stuff is complete nonsense and that I’m just imagining it all.  There has been a United Nations report issued which tells us that scientists are “extremely confident” man-made activity is causing the climate to warm up.  But after all, the United Nations is just a global conspiracy, and all those scientists have been bribed to be a part of it.

More than anything else, it’s a relief to know that Rush Limbaugh can “dispel” all the global warming evidence with his religious beliefs, as he said on his show.  Or…it would be a relief, if I knew exactly what Rush’s religious beliefs were.  I’m pretty sure the man worships the Golden Calf, so that’s not reassuring at all.  I suspect that Rush’s beliefs probably heat up the Earth even more.

Well, September isn’t quite over yet for a few hours, and here it sounds like it’s raining again.  Or am I imagining the rain?  What does reality have to do with it, anyway? 

 

I was feeling morose about the fiscal cliff talks, but there’s nothing like a morning read of the other news to put things into perspective.  The United States is still dealing with the effects of the worst drought since 1956, which is a good reminder of the real cliff looming out there–the planetary cliff, or the world cliff, perhaps.  If the effects of *that* cliff are anything like what we suspect, with our climate going off the rails over the next century, the arguments over small tax rate differences and deficit amounts are going to seem laughable to us one day.

Even if you don’t believe that man-made climate change is real, the coming shortage of resources is, as a growing human population outstrips the available energy, water and food supplies.  Countries like India are already facing water shortages, and major American cities are urgently trying to figure out long-term water supply plans.  If you’re not happy about the coming fiscal cliff tax increase–and I’m not–just think about how expensive food and water are about to get in the future.

There might be a silver lining for some in this scenario.  The world could become a libertarian’s wet dream, as instead of unifying into a global community, we splinter again into divided countries and tribes, fighting each other for the resources we need to survive.  Take that, United Nations–right?  Then again, things could go in the opposite direction.  A desperate crisis could force us to think in much more collective ways, at least within our own country.  Either way, our current ideological differences–which are so hot and intense at the moment–will be irrelevant in the face of a real threat.  As much as I dislike how polarized we’ve become, I don’t know that I’m happy about the thing which might end this polarization–the possible end of the world.  And we’re talking the real end here, not the Mayan bullshit.  So with that said, I’m going to go boil some water for a pot of tea, and feel very grateful that I still have the water to do this with.

I don’t know if it’s global warming or cooling, don’t know if it’s long-term climate change, man-made or just a freak natural occurrence, but my corner of the world has gotten colder and rainier over the past few years.  And yes, I know, it’s the Pacific Northwest—it’s cold and rainy.  But I moved here back in the mid-90s and I remember the weather being very different:  milder temps in the winter and summer, more sun in the spring.

Now, the winters are getting frostier.  We are running the heat more.  January-style rain and wind continue through the spring and all the way into the start of summer, with cold snaps which threaten our backyard veggie garden.  The weather is very unstable, with more thunderstorms and hail, more sudden storms.  When the sun finally does kick in, things turn hot quickly.  I have memories (maybe delusional ones?) of weeks and weeks of temps in the 70s…now they go from highs in the mid-50s straight into the upper 80s, and in turn we end up running the AC more than we used to.

Again, I don’t necessarily see any kind of abnormal trend here.  For all I know, this is a natural process of climate flux.  (I’m still hoping it’s temporary).   All I know is that our climate is gradually becoming more of a northern one.  I have sometimes fantasized of living in Scandinavia, but come on.  Still, even if there is an Ice Age apocalypse approaching, the Northwest remains a lot milder than most places out there.  I just miss the perfectly temperate Paradise I remember…or, perhaps, have only imagined in a fit of nostalgia.

After catching up on my science news tonight, I can understand why some of my conservative religious friends don’t like science very much.  One of the articles told me that we exist inside a huge black hole.  Another one proposed the theory that we are just imaginary holograms.  And that wasn’t half as scary as reading about the reality of what is happening to our climate, and of what might happen to our crops and food supply.

So I’m almost ready to do as the Christian conservatives do and ditch scientific thinking altogether.  Now, instead of looking forward to the weather spinning out of control, I can dream about the Rapture, in which I will be magically airlifted out of any future problems.  Instead of fearing a world war, I can welcome it–it’s a necessary precursor to Armageddon, after all.  And who doesn’t want Armageddon?  If the Bible seems a little antiquated, I can always substitute the kindly guidance of aliens, which will culminate in a moment of global enlightenment in December 2012.  Either way, I will know what to expect, as opposed to feeling like I’m getting tossed here and there in a dark universe.  Take those scientists and burn them at the stake, like we used to!  They make me nervous.

Unfortunately, I’m a little too creative and too easily distracted, which means I will never be able to stick to one theology for very long.  My attempt at staying inside the safety of that box is doomed from the start.  That’s okay–there’s more than enough beauty in this chaotic universe to keep me going.

“I’m tired of doing the superhero thing already,”  RedGirl sighed, wiping her brow.  “Back in the good old days, there would have been men to do this kind of work for us.”

“Oh, stop it,”  I said.  “We don’t need men anymore.  I can achieve great deeds without anybody’s help, thank you very much.”

We were sitting in a stall at the Farmer’s Market, surrounded by cages of fruits and vegetables, some of them still half-alive and wriggling in their enclosures, as they hadn’t been hacked to death with quite the precision that they should have been.

RedGirl nudged me in the ribs.  A potential customer was poking our meanest carrot with a stick through the bars of its cage.  It grabbed the tip of the stick and snapped it in half with its jaws.

“I would love to cook this one,”  he said.

“He’s kind of a freak,”  RedGirl whispered to me, as he continued trying to spear the carrot.

I groaned.  “Do you want me to talk to him for you?”  My sister had a hard time admitting to herself that she liked the freaks.

“You rarely see ones as big and juicy as this,”  he said, standing up and handing me a couple of rolled up dollars in payment.  I opened the cage and stepped back a little.

He pulled the carrot out of its cage, still hissing and spitting, took a knife from his belt and stabbed it through with one long slice, the carrot juice splashing some unfortunate hippies, who shrieked and ran away.

I turned my head to see that, quite predictably, RedGirl’s jaw had dropped.  “Wow….that was so beautiful,”  she managed.  She squeezed my arm.  “Come on.  You always talk to strange people like this.”

“How do you usually cook these?”  I asked, irritated.

“With meat,”  he replied.

“So do we!”  RedGirl said.

He shook the limp body of the carrot and started cutting out its teeth.

“Aren’t you scared of eating them?”  I wasn’t very good at promoting our mutant veggie stand.

“No, I wish they would legalize them already,”  he said.  “They’re not any worse than regular vegetables, they just make you feel more powerful.”

“We’re gonna have that potluck dinner,”  RedGirl suggested to me.

“We would love to have you come to our potluck dinner,”  I snapped.  “Do I need to give him my phone number, too?”  I asked her.

“Well, I’m certainly not giving him mine,”  she bristled.  “Just give him our address.”

He took the slip of paper from me and went on cleaning his knife.

***

I threw a bag of potato chips down on the table.  “There, I’m ready for the potluck.”

RedGirl pretended to be outraged, even though I contributed a bag of chips to any event I was involved in, including baby showers and Christmases.  “You will never impress a guy like Paul this way.”  The carrot-killer’s name turned out to be Paul.

“That’s good, because I don’t want to impress him.  No worries, I’m sure he’ll love whatever greasy thing you grill up.”  I grimaced.

“My bacon is delicious.  You can make fun all you want.”  She hesitated.  “He did say he was in favor of legalizing the genetically modified vegetables.  Maybe he’s my conservative guy and I don’t even realize it!  Maybe he’s RedMan, but he’s in disguise.”

“Or he’s a crazy bum with a knife who’s coming over to dinner.”

“I’m sorry I was having a romantic moment,”  she said.  “I forgot you’re a bitter feminist who doesn’t approve of this kind of stuff.”

“That’s not what I….”

We couldn’t continue our argument, because the doorbell rang, and it was time to start welcoming the potluck guests, most of them either Mother’s friends, fashionably dressed and bringing homemade pastries and unnecessary husbands with them, or my sister’s friends, dressed like sluts and bringing junk food.  Paul arrived too, with a bowl of his supercharged stew, ogling the skimpy-skirted girls.

My intuition instantly told me that he was a dastardly character.  What was he going to do to my sister?  He went out to smoke on our patio, huddling in the first cool air of the early fall, and I followed him out.  The crumpled remains of giant corn still lay scattered all about.

“So is it true that you’re kind of a family of political bigshots?”  he asked.

“You could say we have special connections, yeah,”  I said.

“What a waste of your time,”  he observed.

“You think so?”  I watched him blow out smoke.

“Yes, and it doesn’t matter to me which party you’re working for.  They all fuck you over the same way.”

“I don’t believe that’s true.”

“Excuse me….I have to go.”  He stubbed his cigarette out and went back inside.  I looked in the window and saw that RedGirl was flashing some good old-fashioned cleavage at him.

At this rate, I wouldn’t be able to stop this disaster.  The heartless man would probably have sex with her, too.  My sympathy went out to her.

So sad did I feel for her that I waited for him to go into the kitchen when he was on a break from his flirting, knocked him unconscious with a bolt of energy and locked him in our storage closet.  It was unusual for me to feel so protective of my sister.

In the living room, the party was swinging.  The guests laughed loudly and devoured sweet cakes and RedGirl’s bacon.  Father came out of his room for once and, trying to be necessary, handed out champagne.

“Where’s Paul?”  RedGirl asked.  “He was talking to me.”

“Who knows?  I’m sure he’s gutting and skinning one of our houseplants.”

“Whatever.  You don’t have to put him down just because you can’t cook.  His stew is ah-mazing.”  Her eyes scanned the room for him once more, and then she walked off to search for him.

Her comments left me frustrated, as usual.  I couldn’t understand the desires of everybody else around me.  I didn’t understand why you would want to spend hours cooking, when you could buy food ready to eat and have more time for other things.  I didn’t understand why you would want to be stuck in a relationship, when you could be free.  I wasn’t missing out on anything.

Of course, the fact that I felt this way possibly meant that there was something very big missing inside of me, but I preferred not to think about that.

“What did you do to him?”  My emo moment was disrupted by RedGirl, who had come back from her inspection of the house.  She was jabbing her finger in my face.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“What did you do to Paul?  I could tell you were into him ever since we met him, and now he’s disappeared.  I know you had something to do with it.”  Her eyes drilled into me.  “Give it up.”

“Like I care about your little rightie.  Maybe your conversation was boring and he left.”

RedGirl stalked away again, but she kept watching me.  She and her screeching friends circled the party like a flock of multi-colored hawks.

I escaped to my bedroom.  I couldn’t wait for this evening to be over with.  I needed to get rid of Paul somehow.  My sister already thought I was involved in some pathetic girlie competition with her, and if he came rolling out of our closet, she would be convinced of it.

Well, it was almost nine p.m.  The guests would be leaving shortly.

I cracked the window open.  Outside, the air was muggy and thick with rain.  It had gotten a lot warmer.

In the back, people gathered out on the patio, listening to the downpour in the steamy heat.

“Fall can be such an interesting time of year—the weather changes every minute,”  one of the ladies commented.

The rain seemed too intense even for an interesting fall night.  Puddles and pools were forming in the grass, rising until there was water on the concrete slabs in front of our doorstep.

“Are we getting flooded?”  Mother wondered.  “Everybody, please collect your possessions and we will continue the party up in the attic.”  As she said this, snow started swirling out of the sky.

“It’s obvious this is global warming,”  I said, as everything around us froze into sheets of ice.

We closed all the windows and doors, and had hot toddies.  A half hour later, the cold wind was still blowing, and our yard still gleamed in the moonlight, frozen solid.  It became clear nobody was going anywhere for a while.  We were iced in.  I put my head in my hands.

“We’re running out of tea biscuits,”  Mother said to Dad.  The guests had stopped joking about the weather and were clustered around the fireplace.  “Be useful, dear, and go check the storage closet.”

I didn’t even have time to be horrified, because right then, Paul strolled into the living room, a half-eaten bag of pasta in his hand.

“Where have you been?”  RedGirl asked, suspicious.

“Oh, just taking a little break over there.”  He grinned at me, which I didn’t appreciate.  “May I have something to drink, please?”

“Go for it, get the man a drink,”  RedGirl said to me.  “Since I can tell that you really want to.”

“No….”  I began.  But that would be very bad manners.  With all eyes on me, I picked up a whiskey bottle and showed it to Paul.  He nodded, and I poured him a glass, simmering with hatred.

“Thank you,”  he said.  “It’s okay…I won’t reveal your secret,”  he added in a half-whisper.

This was going to be a very long potluck.

***

We woke up to a perfect Christmas morning view.  We had snowdrifts and everything.

“Well, sometimes winter comes a little early.  It’s not like there’s anything abnormal about that,”  RedGirl said.

In the distance, shafts of lightning struck the ice.  A tall snow funnel slowly travelled along the horizon.

“Are we going to wait until we have no food left?”  Paul asked.

“Won’t there be an evacuation of some kind?”  I replied.

Paul burst out in mocking laughter.  “Are you seriously hoping that the government is going to help you?  Good luck with that.  We need to mount an expedition for supplies.”

“Would that mean going out into…the snow?”  I shrank from the window.

Paul’s eyes had a glint of unhealthy excitement in them.  “Are you scared of the cold?  You can always just stay here and suck your thumb like a little girl.  Maybe someone will give you a handout.”

“No, I’ll go with you.”  Somehow, I had volunteered myself for a polar explorer mission into a blizzard.  “As you know, I have energies that could help you.”

“I have energies too,”  RedGirl reminded us.

“Oh, good.  Then you can go instead of me,”  I said.

“I’ll be more than happy to take both of you,”  Paul said with a smile.  “Double the special powers, right?”

***

The air was crisp and the sky was clear when we waddled out into the street, wrapped in our warmest layers.

“It’s a beautiful day for an adventure,”  Paul said, pulling RedGirl and me into a big bearhug.

An impromptu neighbourhood committee had held a meeting and agreed that sending the three of us off in the direction of town was a fabulous idea.  They were also nice enough to provide us with a mode of transportation.

A line of dogs sat on the ice, all of them tied to a rope, which was attached to a ramshackle sled nailed together out of pieces of nonessential furniture.  One of the dogs distantly resembled a husky, but the line also included a couple of overweight retrievers and a pug.  Of course, all the dogs wore little coats and sweaters, and booties on their feet.

“Let’s see how well these guys can handle our weight,”  Paul said.

We climbed onto the sleigh, my sister and I on either side of Paul.  The dogs wagged their tails and waited for treats.

“Hold on, I’ll get some milkbones,”  the pug’s owner called out.  “He likes those—he’ll run for them.”

“If we wait for them to go, we’ll be here until the snow melts, and then there won’t be a point to it anymore,”  Paul grumbled.  “Would you be able to use those energies you’ve been talking about, girls?”

“Not if you keep referring to us as girls,”  I said.  “That’s BlueWoman to you.”

“Don’t be so insecure,”  Paul said.  “Can you help get us going?”

I frowned, but I sent a jolt of blue light at the dogs.  It shoved them forward a small distance, but they were insulted at this treatment, and refused to move any further.

“Here, take my hand,”  RedGirl stretched her arm out to me.  As we held hands across Paul’s lap, a stream of purple energy shot out from us and the sled hurtled over the white streets, the surprised dogs flying before it.

We ended up on the side of a hill, the rope tangled and dog legs and tails sticking up out of the snow.

“We’ll have to find a better way of doing this,”  Paul said from somewhere underneath me.

***

“Do we have to keep going on to town?”  I yelled out.

“Yes, otherwise we’ll starve,”  Paul called back to me.

“Can’t I just lie down and rest here on the snowbank for a while?  It feels so warm,”  I said.

“You wimps.  Aren’t you the ones with the superpowers?  Keep pulling!”

Paul and the dogs were sitting on the sled.  RedGirl and I were in front of it, holding on to the rope.

“If you and I team up, we can still overturn him into a ditch somewhere,”  I suggested to my sister.

“Yeah, what a great way to make me look bad to him.  No, thanks.”  RedGirl walked back to the sled.  “Paul, I have something private that I want to share with you.  I can fly.  I think I can pull us to town through the air.  BlueGirl can’t fly, by the way.”

“She’ll have to sit up here with me, then.”  Paul moved the husky to a back seat.  The expression on his face made my stomach turn.

Soon, we were flying along.  I clung to a rail out of habit, but the ride was pretty smooth, considering that it was RedGirl who was driving us.

Then, we were circling over a sparkling downtown, attempting to make our approach, and we were hit by turbulence, the sled shaking and creaking on the way down like an old Soviet airplane.

“I have something special to share with you, too,”  I said to Paul.  “I attract accidents and falls.  Hold on!”

We landed right in the center of the shopping district.  The sled bumped along the frosty ground a couple of times, scattering chair legs and sofa cushions as it went, but it held together, and nobody was hurt.

Downtown was completely abandoned.  Which made sense—the snow and ice had struck in the evening, when there wouldn’t have been anybody here.  The skyscrapers were empty and silent.

Paul knelt down, picked up a little snow with his fingers and tasted it.  He pointed in an eastern direction.  “We have to go that way.  The Grocery Outlet is over there.”

“The Grocery Outlet?  Ewwww!”  RedGirl recoiled at the thought.

“You have to trust me.  Their food lasts forever.”  We moved down the street, armed with the bedposts from my old canopy bed, the one I was now kind of embarrassed about.

I held Paul back just as the Grocery Outlet sign came into sight.  “There’s someone in front of that store….somebody with a gun.”

“Probably the store manager.  Ugh.  I wonder if he’ll trade with us.”  Paul pulled out a fur-lined pouch.

“It’s….not a manager.  It’s one of the Squircal executives,”  I said in disbelief.

“Don’t come any closer.”  The executive aimed the gun at me.  “I remember you.”

I should have expected this.  The Squircal guys had most likely created this entire winter event, as part of their plan for some sort of resource grab.  And now this man would ration the food in town to us at a high price, if he even felt like giving any of it to us at all.

Then I looked at his face and saw something which chilled me even more:  panic.

I walked up to him, in spite of myself.  “You’re not in charge of this weather thing, are you?  Not anymore, right?”

“The climate changes are within our control,”  he snarled.  “You’ve caused us problems in the past.  Be careful.”

“Yeah….?”  It was obvious to me from his tone that he wasn’t in control of a single snowflake.

“I’m willing to let you go now only because you’re connected to a higher power.”  He was referring to the Bat, of course.

He shivered in his small jacket.  Like the rest of us, used to our mild climate, he was not prepared for these kinds of temperatures.  I was wearing multiple sweaters, one on top of another.

“So….can we get some food?”  I shivered, too.  “I mean, what happens now?  How do we survive?  Or do we all die because you guys messed up the planet?”

He didn’t lower his gun.  “What if there isn’t enough food left for me?”

“We have money.”

A fire came back into the man’s eye.  A familiar instinct stirred him.  “Money?”

I turned back to my friends.  “Er….we do have money, right?”

I was broke, Paul had mostly beads, but between the three of us we managed to scrape up almost ten bucks.

“Now, naturally some serious inflation will apply,”  the executive said.  “But I would say that I can sell you a box of Cup’O’Noodles soups in exchange for your payment of eight dollars and ninety-nine cents.”

“What?!  That’s outrageous!”  RedGirl said.

I held out my hand to quiet her.  “I think this may be our only option.  We’ll accept the deal.”

We left the man shaking with cold as he guarded his giant food stash, holding on to our money with near-frozen fingers.

Paul carried the box of soup cups.  “What are we gonna do with this?”

“Are you kidding me?”  I flashed him a smile.  “Paul, you’re in luck.  I don’t like to cook, so I have a thousand and one methods for making a Cup’O’Noodles meal.”

He seemed slightly nauseated.  “That’s….great.  Thanks.”

***

Later on, Paul and I were standing and waiting by the sled.  RedGirl wanted to check if the mall was closed.

“I like it when I find a woman I can have an intelligent conversation with,”  he said to me.

I remained guarded.  “Is that so?”

“Yeah.  You’re pretty cool, you know.”

“But aren’t you interested in RedGirl?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Wouldn’t you prefer a girl like her?”

“Why do I have to choose?”  He chuckled quietly.  “I can just have the two of you.”

“Huh?  Can you get away with that?  I thought you were a Republican.”

“There’s your first mistake.”  He stretched.  “I’m not a conservative.  I’m a libertarian.  I can do whatever the fuck I want.”

My eyes shifted to his left.  There, right behind him, was RedGirl, glowing with the crimson light of vengeance, her chest heaving.  She had heard every word.  I gave her a tiny nod and a moment later, Paul lay face down in the snow, unconscious.

“I feel so much better.  But isn’t it cruel to leave him here like this?”  RedGirl asked.

“Nah, he’ll be okay.  This is wilderness man we’re talking about,”  I said.  “We’ll be lucky if he doesn’t come after us with his crocodile hunting kit.”

“I guess you’re right,”  RedGirl agreed.  She exhaled.  “Man, courting the libertarian vote is *so* not worth it.”

We made the dogs pull us all the way back home.