MacDonald, John D – Travis McGee 18 – The Green Ripper

MacDonald, John D – Travis McGee 18 – The Green Ripper

MacDonald, John D – Travis McGee 18 – The Green Ripper

To Maxwell P. Wilkinson l Representative and FriendI

Fanaticism is described as redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.

George Santayana

Meyer came aboard The Busted Flush on a dark, wet, windy Friday afternoon in early December. I had not seen him in nearly two months. He looked worn and tired, and he had faded to an indoor pallor. He shucked his rain jacket and sat heavily in the biggest chair and said he wouldn’t mind at all if I offered him maybe a little bourbon, one rock, a dollop of water.

“Where’s Gretel?” he asked as I handed him his dnnk.

“Moved out,” I said. He looked so dismayed I quickly added that she had found herself a job, finally, way the hell and gone over in the suburb of Tamarac, west of North Lauderdale and west of the Tumpike, out in the area of the shiny new developments and shopping plazas, near University Community Hospital and Timber Run Golf Club. “Couldn’t get any farther away and still be in the same metropolitan area. It tales at least form minutes to drive over there.”

“Doing what?”

‘1he outfit is called, excuse the expression, Bonnie Brae. It is a combination fat farm, tennis club, and real estate development. She works in the office, lives in one of the model houses, gives tennis lessons to the littlies, exercise classes for the baffles, and is becoming indispensable. She can tell you all about it. She’ll be here about six or six thirty.”

“I was afraid you two had split.”

“No chance. I’m not going to let that one get away.”

“Splendid judgment.”

“It’s a phase, Meyer. She did hard time in a bad marriage and says it stunted her. She has to make it on her own, she says, to become a complete person, and when she is, then we can think about what kind of arrangement we’re going to have.”

“Makes a certain amount of sense.”

“Not to me.”

“But you’re not… being derisive or patronizing?”

“Hell, no. I am being full of understanding, and all that.”

I didn’t want to try to tell him what a vacuum she left when she packed and moved out. The houseboat was dismally empty. When I woke up, if I wanted to hear clinking sounds from the galley, I had to go make them myself. The winter boats were beginning to come down, filling up the empty berths, spewing out their slender and elegant ladies to walk the area, shopping and smiling, providing what in times past had been like one of those commercial hatcheries where you pay a fee and catch your own trout and take it home to cook. But Grets had made all the pretty ladies look brittle, bloodless, and tasteless, and made the time without her seem leaden and endless.

In another season there were the girls of summer, robust and playful in their sandy ways, and now here were the winter ones, with cool surmise in the tended eye, fragrant and speculative, strolling and shopping, sailing and tanning, then making their night music and night scent, searching for something they could not quite name, but would know once they found it.

“How did the conference go?” I asked.

He shook a weary head. “These are bad days for an economist, my friend. We have gone past the frontiers of theory. There is nothing left but one huge ugly fact.”

“Which is?”

“There is a debt of perhaps two trillion dollars out there, owed by governments to governments, by governments to banks, and there is not one chance

The Green Ripper in hell it can ever be paid back. There is not enough productive capacity in He world, plus enough raw materials, to provide maintenance of plant plus enough overage even to keep up with the mounting interest.”

“What happens? It gets written off?”

He looked at me with a pitying expression. “All the major world currencies will collapse. Trade will cease. Without trade, without the mechanical-scientific apparatus running, the planet won’t support its four billion people, or perhaps even half that. Agribusiness feeds the world. Hydrocarbon utilization heats and houses and clothes the people. There will be fear, hate, anger, death. The new barbarism. Thae will be plague and poison. And then the new Dark Ages.”

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