tagNovels and NovellasNo Future Ch. 05

No Future Ch. 05


Green Grass of Home Betty

Betty wasn't a naturist. That was a crappy thing to be. That was just like being a member of the National Trust or a Civil War re-enactment society. But she did make a point of wearing clothes as rarely as possible. She was proud and unashamed to assert herself as both Vegetarian and Green. And these were words that were definitely written with capital letters.

In this respect she was very much as one with everyone else who lived in the Broad Oak Grove commune.

Of course, when the builders of Ashton Lovelock named the street there was no grove and certainly no oaks, however broad. Like all names in this town, it was chosen to invoke a rustic memory that bore no relation to a reality either living or dead. The squat in which Betty lived was one of many houses that had failed to find a buyer in the uncertain housing market. It was now unsold and, were it not for the tender loving care of Betty and her friends, it would have already decayed to the state of nature from which it had emerged just over twenty years earlier.

Betty was obliged to wear clothes whenever she left home to shop at Cost Cutters, but she was under no moral imperative to be nude. It was more an eco-awareness thing. The clothes industry was just as bad as every other exploitative multinational industry. It despoiled the environment and oppressed the poor simply to supply consumers in wealthy countries with clothes that were both cheap and cheerful.

In truth, it wasn't that clothes were especially cheap these days. Neither, for that matter, was food, fuel or very much else. Betty was no more able to afford much in the way of luxury than anyone else in the commune. The benefits system was like a points system nowadays. Only those who could clearly demonstrate that they couldn't find work would get any state subsidy for the luxury of not working, while at the same time there was a rapidly shrinking pool of employment opportunities. The only way that anyone in the Broad Oak Grove commune could make money was by selling stuff at rock and dance festivals. Otherwise, their survival was dependent on second-hand clothes, food parcels and soup kitchens.

The supermarket shelves were heaving under the weight of prohibitively expensive goods. The last oil crisis had made fuel more expensive and energy conservation more necessary, but the media was portraying it more as an economic rather than as an environmental issue. Nevertheless, those cut-price supermarkets that made cheapness their principal virtue—and Cost Cutters was about as cheap as you got—were now championing their Green credentials. But Betty wasn't taken in. Why should ordinary people have to suffer when the rich could still fly across the oceans just to get from one major city to another? What did that do for the world's sharply declining reserves of oil? What was so green about genetically modified potatoes that never rotted? Or gene-spliced pigs that could barely waddle with all that surplus blubber? Or those Frankenstein varieties of fruit and vegetables being generated in the laboratory? What about the obscene commercials that urged everyone to spend spend spend while the sea-levels rose, the hurricanes got worse and drought gripped so much of Africa?

Betty's conscience was clear. Well, almost. She did have a weakness for chocolate bars—especially those new brands coming from China. They tasted so good, despite the lethal array of chemicals they contained and the likelihood that the confectionery's ultimate origin was a gene-spliced mutation in a vast agricultural warehouse on the banks of what little flowing water was left in the Yangzi River.

The walk back from the supermarket to Betty's commune was over a stream whose name was obscured by graffiti and whose flow, like all rivers and streams these days, was held back behind a wall that was designed to act as a flood defence. These days, when England wasn't suffering from drought it was under a deluge of heavy rain.

It was the flood defences that were the most worrying signs of irreversible climate change. The water level generally subsided a few days after a heavy downpour, but it would leave homes in low-lying areas like Broad Oak Grove in a very sorry state. It was for this practical reason that the houses on Broad Oak Grove were uninsured and uninsurable and now only fit for squatting.

Betty's grandparents lived by the sea in Sussex, so Betty actually knew a lot about coastal defences. Not that you could see the sea these days. The view was obscured behind a three metre high sea-wall that had been erected to protect the South Coast from the rising sea level and the occasional storm surge. Nowadays almost all Britain's seaside resorts and other vulnerable points on the coast were protected like that. Even London might soon be similarly protected, especially since the failure of the Greenwich Flood Barrier a couple of years ago that had admitted flood water into the heart of the City of London.

Betty arrived at the dilapidated front door of Number 2 Broad Oak Grove where posters rather than curtains obscured the view through the windows to inside the house. She turned a set of several keys in the various locks and slipped out of her clothes almost as soon as she was inside. Fortunately, autumn was relatively mild this year. Even if it wasn't, the windmill in the garden and the solar panels on the roof would generate enough energy to keep the place warm.

Self-sufficiency wasn't really an option for the squatters. This house, like all the others on the street, was disconnected from mains electricity and their frugal energy supply just had to suffice. Nevertheless, the commune was able to survive if not exactly flourish. This was due to an enlightened policy of eco-awareness and the fact that the only energy-sapping technology used by anyone in the house was the ubiquitous laptop. In winter, however, the commune was forced to resort to using log-fires. This practice understandably split the housemates between those who thought that burning wood was good because it was natural and those who deplored the rape of the world's forests.

Betty strolled into the living room where Edie, Tom and Alicia were sitting around also naked on ancient thread-worn bean-bags while listening to the music being broadcast from Edie's laptop. It was some kind of electronic Arab-Chinese fusion sound overlaid with what sounded like Russian vocals.

"Been shopping?" asked Tom. He'd noticed that Betty was carrying a bulging cloth bag with the slogan Don't Touch My Genes! emblazoned on it.

"Yeah," said Betty as she wandered into the kitchen to put the various paper bags of lentils, rice, tofu and beans onto the shelves.

Tom followed her into the kitchen. He put his arms around her waist and gently pressed his lips on her shoulder.

"What did you buy?" he asked.

"The usual," she answered.

Betty knew that Tom wasn't really interested at all in her shopping expedition. If he was then he'd probably have been more enthusiastic about doing his own fair share. However, she appreciated the intimacy and returned Tom's kisses with a couple of her own. She then wriggled out of his grip so that she could put some frozen food into the fridge.

The couple returned to the living room where Alicia was rolling a spliff on the back of a newspaper and Edie was surfing the net on the same laptop from which was still booming the sounds of modern Russia. Betty settled down with Tom on the battered sofa they'd found abandoned on the street and waited for Alicia to finish preparing the joint.

Tom was very affectionate and his penis was in a half-way state of excitement that Betty knew she could stimulate into full erection with little effort. However, it was Alicia who was Betty's current lover and Tom was supposed to be hooked up with Tanya: a black girl from another squat just across the road. Betty didn't mind the attention, of course, and she was delighted to see that Alicia was visibly jealous.

The joint was prepared and passed around. It was almost entirely weed. The cost of tobacco was so high and its availability so restricted that it was now cheaper to smoke undiluted weed even though it made every hit that much stronger and seriously shortened the lifetime of a single joint.

Betty was feeling naughty. And, anyway, Alicia had been less than normally amorous the night before. She'd fallen asleep rather too soon for Betty's appetite. She squeezed her fingers around Tom's penis and jerked her hand up and down while she chatted with Edie about the news she was reading on the net.

"The elections in the Waziristani Republic were totally rigged," said Edie with a sniff. "I mean, do they really want all that Islamic terrorism to come back? Fucking President Beck just doesn't know what the fuck he's letting the world in for!"

Betty wasn't paying her much attention. Tom's penis was as erect as it was ever likely to be and it seemed a shame to waste it. She got down on her knees and was about to give the man a blow-job when she noticed a sudden movement from Alicia. Was her lover going to cause a scene? After all, it was just a bit of fun.

"Fuck, Bet," said Alicia who took position between Tom's legs. "There's enough here for two to share."

With that Alicia placed her lips on the tip of Tom's glans while Betty kept a grip on the shaft and proceeded to take as much of it into her mouth as she could.

And all the while Edie continued surfing the internet with the smouldering roach in her hand. There were too many women at play and she preferred her sexual activity to be more private. Also, with so much going on in the world, there wasn't enough time in the day to keep up with it all.

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