by: Fredrick Foote ((Header art by Sarah Leea Petkus.))
A work of speculative fiction that imagines a nation where homelessness has grown to encompass a third of its residents, and where an experimental program, one that the extreme far right embraces, is set forth to address the problem…
In the year 2048, Cary G. Houghton’s attention is drawn from his new top of the line, $6,000, seventeen-inch laptop computer with satellite phone and shortwave radio to his $52,000, ninety-five-inch, twelve speaker, holographic TV Media Station. What captures his interest is the flashing news crawl in fiery red letters, “Breaking News – This footage is not suitable for children, the squeamish, or those with serious medical or emotional issues. This is actual footage recorded early this morning in San Francisco near Battery and Clay Streets. Again, these are graphic and bloody images of an attack that takes a human life.”
Cary puts aside his computer, concentrates on the TV, dims the lights, and strokes the growing bulge between his legs.
The footage is good quality CCTV video surveillance in black and white of a homeless, black male, over fifty, with a heavy beard and black watch cap, waking up to some threat off camera. The vagrant leaps to his feet. He pulls a thick-bladed hunting knife from the pocket of his heavy jacket. He’s screaming and stomping his foot. But at what? Cary wonders.
The answer comes quickly, as a large gray wolf leaps into the frame, teeth barred, and lunging at the man’s legs. The man jumps back against the wall. The beast misses, barely. The man’s screaming as the canine moves in again. The prey leans forward swiping at the attacker; the blade just missing the wolf’s nose. The aggressor bites down hard on the man’s extended arm, yanking the victim off his feet. There’s a blur of darker fur. Another wolf is going for the man’s throat. A third member of the pack grabs his other arm. There’s a lot of thrashing and movement and then there are four wolves feeding, bickering, and jostling with each other for the best position or best parts.
Cary has his penis out, his hand pumping furiously. His seed falls on his $20,000 designer Persian carpet.
“Kale, Kale get in here! Kale, Kale you have to see this.”
Kale, is Cary’s thirty-nine-year-old, Stanford Ph.D., former Miss San Francisco, wife. The scion of the Ford family fortune steps into the room irritated at having been disturbed during her transcendental meditation yoga session and is mildly disgusted at her husband’s masturbation.
“What is it that can’t—”
“Look, look they’re starting it again. Come here. Come here, look.”
“What the fuck, Cary? Are those wolves? There are no wolves in San Francisco. Wolves are in San Mato, San Jose, and Marin, but not here. What’s happening?”
“Watch. Watch the wolf has him on the ground—”
“Turn it off. Cary, turn it the fuck off. Now!”
“The good parts are coming—”
Reluctantly, Cary turns off the television.
“We just elected Patterson mayor. Patterson promised to keep fucking Canis lupus out of San Francisco like her predecessors have. That conniving political hack couldn’t keep her promise for even two months. Fuck!”
“Kale, we don’t know how the predators got here. We don’t want to jump to conclusions—”
“Don’t be an idiot. Patterson’s using the Seattle and Sacramento version of an “accidental” Predator Control of the Homeless Program. The lying bitch might get away with it too.
“Kale, why would she do that? That makes no sense.”
“It makes perfect sense. She received just enough of the Trump Conservative vote to win the election. She’s paying off those voters now. The Trump followers love Predator Control of the Homeless Programs. They get high on Predator Control Programs or PCP that target the homeless or illegal immigrants.”
“Well, I think that we have tried everything else. I was in Sacramento last week. I didn’t see a single homeless person. I mean, predation works.”
“It’s an illusion, Cary. The homeless move to cities that can’t stomach or afford predator control. Now, instead of having the homeless scattered impotent and powerless in every major city we have them taking over smaller cities and towns. They’re a bigger threat with real political significance. They elect people. They create a counterweight to corporate political power.”
“Do you really think Google or Amazon is threatened by the homeless?”
“Yes, I do. Any threat to the corporations is a threat to our way of life.”
“Really? The homeless taking over Modesto, Stockton, and Merced, that’s insignificant—”
“Cary, listen close. We create thousands of homeless every single day. They are thirty-three percent of the population and growing exponentially. They already outnumber us a thousand to one. We need to disperse them not concentrate them.”
“Well, I don’t agree with you on this one, hon. I’m going to watch it again in our theater. This is raw stuff. Wow! Wolves in San Francisco.”
Suddenly the television pops back on with a Public Safety Announcement. Mayor Beth Patterson looks stunning with perfect hair, makeup, and teeth.
“Dear, San Franciscans. I regret to inform you that one of our citizens has come to an untimely and grizzly demise due to wild animal predation. This morning at approximately 2:30 a.m. Wilford Rodney Ames, age fifty-two, was attacked and killed by four wolves near Battery and Clay Streets. We are expending every resource to determine how these carnivores penetrated our predator barriers that have kept wolves out of our city for the last twenty-five years. In the meantime, you are reminded that these are a protected species and that there are severe penalties for harming or harassing them.
We have applied for a federal Trap and Return Permit to capture and return the four invaders to their reservations. Let me be clear — This is not a Predator Control Program experiment or a sub rosa effort to introduce a de facto PCP in San Francisco. We have the wolves under surveillance, and we will protect you from these wolves and the wolves from harm until they are removed in the next few days. You are safe in our beloved city. We extend our condolences to Mr. Ames’ family and friends, and I wish you all a good and productive day.”
Kale shakes her head in frustration and admiration. “Damn, Patterson is a slick, cunning con-woman. What a snow job.”
Cary waves a finger at his wife. “No. No, it is just an accident that’ll be cleaned up in a few days. Kale, you just see too many conspiracies. Politics has made you super cynical.”
“Cary…just put your dick away.”
Kale puts her hands on her hips, surveys her ten-million-dollar condo and her screen star handsome dolt of a husband wondering how long it will all last.
She moves to her bedroom, dons her Vera Wang luxe fit and flare sweater dress and leopard skin Walter Steiger heels.
Kale is off to her GPP (Google, the Political Party) office to plot a response to the Patterson wolf challenge. She believes there are probably dozens of wolves in the city already and Patterson will “discover” the scope of the problem over the next few days. The federal permits will be delayed. The incursion of wolves will increase. The trapping program will be ineffective. And the wolves will drive the homeless out of San Francisco. Patterson will be the clever, cute darling of liberals and conservatives for saving their fair city while giving every appearance of making an enormous struggle to protect the homeless.
Eventually Google will allow Kale to put Patterson in her place, but not today. Today the mayor will have her time in the spotlight.
Kale thinks the smart move is to turn the homeless against the immigrants in the Central Valley. Let them go to war. Hell, Google can even sell them the weapons. And then the State and Feds can break the back of the “increasingly violent” homeless movement and—
Her phone pops on with a new PSA, “A second wolf attack has occurred on Townsend Street two blocks north of the Caltrain Station. Details to follow.”
Kale smiles to herself as she enters her self-driving limo. She pauses, hears a faint howl coming from the direction of Coit Tower. The wolf’s call suggests a wonderfully poetic, just, savage, and premature way to end the mayor’s term.