Vinegar Joe Platform

VINEGAR JOE PLATFORM

by Stephen Francis Montagna

PROLOGUE
December 21st, 1996

The war in the Middle East and northern Africa, had been finished for a month and the hordes of scientists set to work in the destroyed nations of Israel, Egypt and Jordan. These more friendly nations were partially destroyed by the war that raged there. The countries the United Nations fixed the blame for the war on were all but abandoned for the present time. These nations were the last ones to be offered any help from the rest of the world. It had been estimated it would take over fifty years before most of the Middle East and northern Africa would return to near normal. A third of the world’s oil reserves were lost for decades, plunging many struggling small nations into chaos. Many of the lesser nations lost most of their industrial development due to the loss of these needed oil reserves. This caused the United States to change her opinion on nations classified as a thorn in its side. One nation was Cuba. After years of anger between the two nations, Cuba was recognized by the seated American President.

President Albert Cole was the first president to visit Cuba in over thirty years. The change came about when Cuba’s aging Leader, Fidel Castro, denounced the actions of Iraq and Libya in their aggression in the Middle East. Another reason for this change was Cuba’s economy was in such terrible shape. Inflation was near a hundred percent, and many of Castro’s people were starving to death. Crime ran rampant on the Island, as gangs of criminals stole from the poor people, and Castro’s police forces were almost powerless to stop the attacks on his civilians. On the president’s visit to Cuba, President Cole promised Castro two billion dollars in financial aid with another two billion in six months. This time frame would assure the United States government Castro was going to live up to his bargain and hold free elections. Castro gave in to this demand because of the poor shape his country was in. Despite everything heard about Castro, there was one fact no one could deny. He loved his people, and he was willing to do anything to help them.

Castro’s military machine was about non existent and what soldiers he had, were reduced to riding bicycles for transportation. Castro still had some Soviet tanks under his power, but they were useless because he didn’t have the fuel to run the aging and rusting war machines, and was no longer willing to continue a military stranglehold on his people. Thousands of Cuban refugees, who once fled to the United States, poured their monies into Cuba to help their people. Castro used a large chunk of it to rebuild his depleted police forces, bringing some stability to his country. Some of the U.S. companies slowly returned to help rebuild the crumbling infrastructure of the country. Construction companies from all over the world moved in, bringing their workers, especially from the United States, helping with the stimulation of the American economy also.

Other changes took place throughout the world. The North American Free Trade Agreement was a complete disaster. Mexico wouldn’t allow any American ownership in the Bolgin exchange, or American companies to own Mexico land. The Mexicans hated and discriminated against the American companies. Yet, the American companies continued to drift across the border to take advantage of the much cheaper wages, and the lack of medical coverage needed for the workers.

Another reason for the agreement’s failure was the automobile companies was infiltrated by drug traffickers. Every nook and cranny in the majority of cars built in Mexico, were packed with drugs. It got so bad the United States Customs built factories on the U.S. side of the border. One was built to take apart and then examine the cars coming to the United States. After removing the drugs, the car parts went to a second factory which rebuilt it and sent it on its way. The joke was the trade agreement created jobs for the U.S. workers, by having them take the cars apart and rebuild them. This added over three thousand dollars to the price of the imported vehicles and caused the car manufacturers to abandon their plants built in Mexico and head back to the United States so they could bring down their prices once again.

Drugs were flooding into the United States from Mexico in imported goods as well. Typewriter carriages were hollowed and packed with drugs. Drugs were found in fake bottoms of paint cans. Anything was used to flood drugs to America. Eventually, all but a few companies who jumped across the border were forced by increasing prices to come over the border to the U.S. The trade agreement wasn’t a total flop though. The agreement with Canada was working so well it lead to dismantling of most of the border regulations. The Canadian and United States border guards were still in place, but this just a formality. This part of the agreement was working out so well Canada and the United States worked on plans to align the tax structure to be equal on both sides of the border. Both nations pooled the taxes of the workers to help the countries. Canada even toyed with the idea of using American money as their nation’s currency.

With this cooperation between the two nations led Congress to act on the concept of mutual borders not only with Canada, but England. The idea was a popular one with many of the citizens of the United States, England and Canada. American citizens were for the idea, because many felt Canada and England always backed the United States, and vice versa. This feeling extended all the way from the First World War, to the recent war with Libya.

One Congressman observed England and Canada deserved some special treatment, because they stood by the United States in her times of most need, and they pointed out these were the few countries we could depend on. He wanted to include France. These statements were well received by the people of the United States, England and Canada, and the plan of mutual borders with Canada and England, and possibly France was sure to pass the vote in Congress that month.

An agreement between the three nations involved, would cause the standard currency to be based upon the much strong American dollar. The demise of the European trade agreement, along with the breakup of the once powerful Seven, caused by countless disagreements among the countries, made the United States the major target for many separate and private agreements.

America’s economy was hurting until President Cole gave a jump start to construction by pumping ten billion dollars into new construction, rather than dump another ten billion dollars into the unemployment system. With this program, jobs were created by the monies spent. The attempt at taxing the rich and taxing the economy into prosperity, was a complete disaster. Taxing the rich caused the job market to shrink rapidly. The rich didn’t create new jobs, and they refrained from expansion plans. Thus, fewer jobs were created with this trend. The programs of giving to the poor without them helping themselves, finally caused the working people to revolt and they drove the past president and certain members of Congress out of office. There were calls for the former President Bush to come out of retirement and take over the country, but Mr. Bush wouldn’t budge. But when he put his confidence behind President Cole, he took over the office by a land slide, with seventy percent of the popular vote.

President Albert Cole incorporated the help of the former President Bush and he had him work on creating new jobs, and getting a handle on inflation eating a hole in the country. When the rich realized they were going to hold onto more of their hard earned money as one tax increase after the other was lifted, they invested heavily in their country again. Business picked up as more people found jobs in the construction field, helping to put more people to work. With so many companies coming back to the United States, more people had steady and well paying jobs.

While this was going on, Edward (Popeye) Campanelli, returned home from the war in the Middle East, and he lived in New York for two months. Most of his minor wounds he received when his helicopter was shot down healed. The wound he received to his heart when Captain Renee Mendoza died in the helicopter crash was far from forgotten. His existence around the house was exactly that, an existence. He didn’t love his wife, and if Mendoza had survived the helicopter crash, he knew he wouldn’t be married to his present wife any longer. They drifted apart over the years of marriage, particularly because he was working for the government protecting some politician’s life, or making an attack on terrorists who had taken American hostages. Popeye was deeply involved in the Panama situation and the Granada mess. But the straw that broke the camels back as far as his marriage was concerned, occurred when Popeye went off to war during the Libyan attack on Chad, and then the Sudan.

Popeye’s son barely took notice of him so he was going to the VFW more and more, or getting involved with something with the military. Popeye was sort of retired, the brass knew of his affair with Renee Mendoza, and the trouble his marriage was in. Yet, the government wasn’t through with Popeye, for they had information of trouble heading America’s way, and it was decided to keep Popeye hanging on until the present danger came to a head. Popeye was kept in the service by requiring him to report to Camp Smith the forth weekend of every month, to keep up with current events. Campanelli didn’t mind the inconveniences because he kept his medical coverage intact, and it gave him something to do with his life. Everything in his life came to a head one day when he was hanging around the house driving his wife nuts, mainly because he had nothing to do with his life. An argument started over nothing, and it kept running for most of the afternoon. It went on until his wife had enough and she broke down and cried. To see her cry broke his heart, and he pulled her close to him and whispered at her. “Hey honey, this is no good, we’re killing each other, and we have to do something. We can’t go on driving ourselves crazy like this. It’s no good for us or the little one.”

His wife stopped crying, and she stared into his eyes for a long moment. She knew she still loved him as she cried. “What do you think we should do about us then, Edward?”

Edward didn’t realize his wife still loved him, for he felt he was letting her out of an impossible situation when he smiled, and suggested they try a trial separation for a few months or so.

His wife cried as she pulled away from him and ran from the room. She laid on their bed crying when Popeye came in and sat down next to her, and softly stroked her hair as he said to her. “C’mon baby, what’s all this about? You know everything’s gone between us baby, and we’re only going through the motions. It’s been months since we last shared a bed together honey.”

His wife stopped crying, and she rolled over and sat on the edge of the bed, and then she stared at him as she said. “Maybe it’s over for you, but I happen to still love you, you know Edward.”

Edward was stunned. “I didn’t know you still loved me. How could you after all I put through? Bringing up our son almost single handed while I was playing soldier, how could you love me?”

“Well, I do still love you, and I can’t explain why you know.” His wife replied to him.

“Gees honey, this messes up things a might on me. The only reason I wanted a separation, was because I thought I was wasting your time baby. Look honey, I think I would like to try it again, if you don’t mind that is. But I don’t think we should try it from here though baby.”

She looked at him, and then she asked. “What do you mean by not here Edward?”

“I think if we’re going to try it over, we should move outta here and start over in a new place.”

“Where do you want to move to Eddy?” Her words allowed an edge of excitement in her tone.

“Well, for a long time now, I have been thinking about moving down to Florida, honey.”

“Florida! But you hate the warm weather. How are you ever going to get along in Florida?”

“Honey, you have to remember something. The last three projects I was involved in were carried out in warn climates. I guess I have become acclimated to the warmer weather now baby.”

This surprised his wife, for she always wanted to move south. That’s before she came to love where she lived for the past seventeen years. She loved Carmel, but she had to admit the idea of moving to Florida intrigued her. “Ed, I think I like the idea. When do you want to go?”

“We’re going to have to put this place up for sale, and take care of the details, baby.”

His wife smiled and added. “I can help there. A girl at work has been telling me she wanted to move up here. I can tell her our place is up for sale, and see what she thinks of the place.”

“Great, you know something; I think this is going to work out just fine for us, baby.”

“Ed, where do you want to move to in Florida?” She repeated with some concern in her tone.

“I have been doing some reading about Venice. It’s just outside Sarasota, or Clearwater I believe, honey.” Edward replied as he gave his concerned wife his full attention now.

“Gees, I guess you really have been doing some thinking about this, Edward.” She smiled again at him as she added. “Do you really think we can start it over again and make it work Eddy?”

“Sure, why the hell not honey. We have been through tougher things than this together baby.”

Suddenly, she became very serious as she stared into her husband’s eyes for several moments, before getting the strength to ask him. “Ed, have you ever cheated, when you were away I mean.”

General Edward ‘Popeye’ Campanelli gave a nervous laugh as he tapped her lightly on the hip and he replied in a soft tone to her. “C’mon honey, don’t try and start any of that crap over again please. Lets not go there for now baby. Let the past die will you please honey.”

“I have to know this, for my own peace of mind I mean Edward.” His wife was pressing the issue on him now as she continued to stare him right in the eyes and she waited for his reply.

General Campanelli knew his wife wasn’t going to get off of this subject, so he retorted. “Let me ask you a question if you don’t mind first please baby. Honey, have you ever cheated on me while I was away so much from you in our lives, honey?”

His wife suddenly lowered her eyes until she was actually staring down at the floor, but she refused to answer his last question her husband just asked of her.

Edward got real serious now and he pressed the issue this time on her as he told her. “Look at me, look at me I said.” Popeye started into his wife’s lovely eyes for the moment.

The general’s wife slowly raised her head so she could look at her husband’s eyes again, but she still didn’t answer his last question for him.

“Sonofabitch.” Popeye cried as he jumped up and he began to pace around the room until he mumbled at his wife. “You had an affair!” He suddenly yelled as he rubbed his face as if he was just slapped. His wife didn’t deny it as she just stared back at him.

General Edward Campanelli let out his breath in a deep sigh as he quickly got control of his sudden anger, and then he offered to his lovely wife kindly. “Hell baby, I guess I can’t blame you in the least if you had an affair, honey. I have been a real bag of shit.

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