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Phil Newman was almost out of Boulder and into the foothills when the boys suddenly realized they had forgotten to bring sodas.
“Please, Mr. Newman, can we go back. It’s not too late,” they shouted from the back of the truck. Newman pulled over to the side of the road and hopped out. “What’s the matter?” he asked.
“We forgot sodas. We won’t have anything to drink all weekend,” said Darien, a lanky 13-year-old who was the informal leader of the group.
“We’ve got loads of hot chocolate,” said Newman. “You guys don’t need to drink soda all the time.”
“No, please, please, please!” The chorus of 16 voices was overwhelming.
“Where are we going to buy it?” Newman said, changing tactics.
“At the Food Stamp Coop,” said several voices at once. “Where else?”
“No, I hate that place,” said Newman. “It would take us half an hour to get out of there anyway.”
“My father has a store,” said Jose, a diminutive Mexican boy who was one of the quietest of the group. “He has lots of soda.”
“Alright,” Newman gave in. “You come sit up in the front with me. The rest of you guys get back in your seats and quiet down.”
“Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” they all chorused as they once again fought for position in the back of the pickup.
Newman climbed back in the cab and started driving back into Boulder. Along the way were more half-empty shopping centers. If anything characterized Boulder these days, he thought, it was the half-abandoned mini-mall. A few nail salons remained, Laundromats and the check cashing stores, but the most common sign was “Space Available” in a boarded up window. Then ahead of them on the left loomed the giant Food Stamp Coop with its barbed-wire fences, watchtowers, and TSA guards searching everyone as they entered the parking lot. Since the government had taken over the distribution of food, the only competition left was a few small grocery stores in ethnic neighborhoods.
“Boo! Boo! Boo!” came the catcalls from the back as the truck passed the huge slate-gray emporium. “Food Is A Human Right,” read the huge stenciled letters on the side of the building, above a lavish horn of plenty.
“Alright, quiet down back there,” shouted Newman over the roar of the wind. “We don’t want to get in any trouble.” Jose sat silently beside him.
“Your father’s store is on the other side of town, right?” asked Newman.
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