Saturday, January 23, 2010

Chapter Fifty

Chapter 50

October 7th – Yesterday was a miserable day. I was so sore I willingly laid down in the middle of the day. Rand and I were both tense and stressed out. Late in the afternoon we had horses come down the road and we both went to grab our guns but he pushed me back down where I had been laying and grabbed the shotgun. He was at the door and ready when someone called out, “Yo! We’re looking for the Joiner place! Anybody out there? Sgt. Diaz wanted us to stop by and check that you hadn’t had many more trouble!”

It was a military patrol. Rand felt them out before inviting them around the blind that is filling in to hide most of the house from the road. I could tell one of the guys was fascinated and just kept looking and looking at the potato vine trellis I had built that was now covered with live saw briars and Jessamine vines and Passion flower vines.

Rand was asking how things were going while I was moving pretty gingerly to sit in one of the chairs that litter the spaces where the shade is deepest under the trees. They say they’re pretty sure they have rounded up all the folks that caused the bulk of the disturbances.

“A few of them were decently trained and caused us some trouble until we found where they’d stashed most of their women and children. The wind went out of their sails at that point.”

Rand asked, “What happens to them now?”

“Don’t know for sure. If it wasn’t for the kids all of the surviving adults would get dumped on St. George. We got some of our medical people looking for an alternative location. The orphans, and there are quite a few as they’ve apparently been operating this way without real opposition until they hit this area, might go to the adoption centers that have been set up around the country. Or the med teams might try and process them out to any remaining family. The singles may yet go to St. George. The intact families … well, that’s the problems. The social and med teams are trying to keep from traumatizing the kids any more than they already have been.”

I asked, “Would you all like some tea? Cookies?”

“Ma’am I wish we could but we’re under strict orders not to take anything from locals.”

Aside from being ma’amed like that for the first time in my life all I could do was think, “My cooking isn’t that bad.”

Rand must have read my thoughts. “Easy Honey. Ram told me the commander said it’s for everyone’s protection. Locals can be confident that he’s not going to run roughshod over the third and fourth Amendments and the troops don’t have to worry about being put in a position where locals might be looking to curry favors.”

The six men all nodded and one of them added, “And our med team says it will be easier to avert any cross contamination or infections if we keep our food supplies separate as well.”

“I guess, but surely y’all can have some water or refill your canteens … water your horses at least. It may be October but it is still a pretty warm day.”

Everybody relaxed at that and smiled but I could tell they were still “on duty.” Reminded me of how my father would get some times.

Rand asked, “Have you had any troubles with locals?”

“Some. Mostly folks are just scared and angry. They try to make us out to be the police, wanting us to get involved in neighbor squabbles or domestic issues and that’s not our job. We’ve been asked by the higher ups to keep that in mind where possible and to keep our noses out of people’s private business as long as it doesn’t infringe on our ability to do our assignments. Those violent survivalist types aren’t helping the situation any. Word keeps trickling down that a crackdown is coming. I know … I know Mack … Mack here has been educating everything that will listen that … “

Mack broke in, “That’s because there is a world of difference between the violent militant groups calling themselves survivalists and legitimate survivalists and preppers. The legitimate ones would be fine for the most part if people would just leave them alone. The others don’t practice what they preach when it comes right down to it. Live and let live and Constitutional rights only apply when it’s to their benefit. They’re stealing resources rather than sticking to abandoned property. If they think they need it or want it, that’s justification enough and then … “

“Whoa Mack, you’re up on that soap box again and it’s gonna get you in trouble one of these days.”

Another one of the men said, “Cut him some slack Bruce, you know what happened to his family back in Michigan. That group finally pushed his family off their land and left them with nothing. If that neighborhood of preppers hadn’t found them and taken them in who knows what would have happened to them, especially his little sister. His prejudices come from experience.”

A little more back and forth on the issue and a little more firsthand account of what is going on and then they left leaving a bunch of quiet in their wake as Rand and I tried to think through what we had found out. Rand helped me to get the last batch of jars out of the pressure canner and put it away in the drainer to dry until tomorrow. It’s going to be a at least a week before I can lift anything beyond a jar or two at a time. That means even a cast iron skillet of cornbread is a no-no.

Not being able to lift much finally got me to do something I’d been meaning to try. I used to make these at the diner pretty regularly but it had been months and without a press I had to devise another way to make them. I dislike rolling tortillas because I could never get them right for some reason. The tortilla press made everything so easy, but Momma didn’t have one … first time I’ve ever wanted something and couldn’t find it in the house someplace. So what I figured out was to use two flat bottomed plates.

Start with two cups of all purpose flour, one quarter cup of lard (or solid vegetable shortening), one half teaspoon of salt, and one half teaspoon of baking powder. Use a sturdy fork to cut the lard into the flour mixture until you get a crumbly meal. If you want to get fancy you can use a pastry knife for this but a fork works just as well and you don’t have to dig in the utensil drawer so much. Once you’ve reached the crumbly stage you are going to slowly add one cup of warm (not hot) water and mix it until you have a soft dough. Knead this for five minutes … no more, no less or you’ll have icky tortillas. Make 12 equal sized balls out of the dough for taco sized tortillas or six balls for burrito sized tortillas. Let your dough rest for about twenty minutes covered by a damp towel.

While the dough is resting you need to heat up a cast iron skillet or some kind of griddle. You want it to be dry; “seasoned” is ok but not greasy or sprayed with non-stick spray. I got my two plates ready and then mashed all twelve balls into round shapes an eighth of an inch thick. I left the raw, flat tortillas under the damp towel and then turned over one of the plates I had been mashing with and set it with another clean dry kitchen towel.

You take a raw tortilla out from under the damp towel. Put it on the hot skillet or griddle and dry cook it on each side about one minute. If it puffs up in places just push it back down. The browning will be uneven but that is ok, just don’t overcook it. Once both sides are finished put it on another plate under a dry towel to keep it warm while you finish the rest of the tortillas.

Of course I did all this after I had made the filling up. The expression on Rand’s face when I called him to come in and eat was priceless. I had made venison quesadeerlas … I know that is a silly name but it is what it was called on the diner’s menu. It was one of our seasonal items and sold out quick when we had venison in. I shredded some canned venison and using some of the freeze dried cheese (it’s not bad, but is better if you melt it or cook it with something else) and some of the jalapenos out of the garden for Rand. Spread the meat mixture, top with cheese and peppers and then squish it on the griddle until the cheese melts. Move it to a plate and then cut it in wedges with a pizza cutter and BAM! Good stuff. At least Rand thought so. He sure scarfed it all up. He needed the calories, that’s for sure. He’d been digging more post holes and setting the posts all by himself.

Today has been a little better. Paul came over before breakfast and asked if we could come over. Momma O wasn’t in the best of spirits and his mother was running short of patience with her and Paul and his dad wondered if Rand would hook his mules with theirs and pull the support beam out of an old barn so they could drop it before it fell down on its own.

Rand was a little hesitant at first but Momma O has been good to us and there are times when you just have to take risks and get uncomfortable to help the people you care about. You could see the relief on Paul's face when Rand said we’d be there in an hour. As soon as Paul left Rand looked at me and asked, “You sure you’re up for this?”

Getting up on the wagon seat was interesting. Rand stuck a pillow behind my back but by the time we got out to CR49 I was gritting my teeth and holding on to keep from rocking. The roadway was a much smoother ride and I had time to gather my composure before we pulled into Momma O’s yard.

We were only there a couple of hours but it was enough. Mrs. Delois got some respite and was able to recharge her batteries and rebalance her temper. Paul and his dad got needed help and didn’t have to overextend themselves or their animals, and the job was safer. Rand and I got to repay some good deeds and that made us feel good. I also gained some more tips that I wrote down right away. That tickled Momma O and by the time Rand and I headed home mid-morning, everyone was in a better mood. Momma O gave me a Bible verse to look up – Proverbs 27:17 – she said it is about having good friends. Sometimes I don’t know if what she says is a warning or a blessing, she’s just like that and then the citations make me think … maybe that’s what she’s after. Rand said she’s been doing that for as long as he’s known her.

After we reached the house I needed to lay down for a few minutes but I couldn’t stay put for long. For lunch I fixed our last box of store-bought macaroni and cheese and we had some bread and jam to finish filling in the empty corners then Rand left to dig some more holes while I tried to get at least our under things washed and hung out. That bending up and down was not fun.

While I gently grape-stomped the clothes I thought about one of the things that is bothering Momma O. She won’t admit to it but she is lonesome. She’s very social, like Rand. She can be a little … hmmm, where’s that thesaurus … irascible; but she cares very deeply about people. She’s used to being involved in a very rich and very busy church life. Having to change when she counted so much of that as part of her personal identity is very difficult for her. Some of the programs she worked in were Women on Missions, Senior Socials, the church nursery, Awanas, community care groups, the local women’s league, working at flea markets selling her produce and plants … you name it she seemed to have a finger in it. Now she sits on her porch, few visitors come by. Having the pastor move onto their place has helped Momma O at least as much has it has helped Ken. I may not have the same personality and needs, but I can understand and sympathize with her.

I worry about Rand sometimes. He likes being in touch. He’s so happy when people stop by … well, the right kind of people anyway. Raiders don’t do him a bit of good. And it does do him good to get out with Brendon even if it has delayed stuff here at home. I don’t have a problem with him needing to be around other people besides me. One of the things I love about Rand is he isn’t me and that he does the people thing so much better than I do. I have an idea but I need to talk to Pastor Ken about it to see if it is realistic first.

I remember when I was little and all the family would meet at different people’s farms or homes. You’d bring a covered dish and show up in your work clothes. Sometimes us kids would have odd jobs we could do and sometimes there would just be a ton of kids to play with. With all hands working the job would get accomplished in a day that would have taken the host family weeks or months (if at all) to accomplish. Usually it had to do with planting or harvesting but I remember one barn raising, a time when we helped my great grandmother’s sister pack up and move to town after she broke her hip, and another time we went to Mr. Jimmy’s place (my grandparents’ neighbor) and helped clear an orchard that had been damaged in an unexpectedly late freeze. Since we all brought food, the host family wasn’t burdened and often there was a cook out or bonfire or sing-a-long with instruments after a good day’s work.

I sure would like to see Rand have some help with that fence. I bet Ron Harbinger could use some help cleaning up his place after the fire. I bet some of the older folks in the community … or the inexperienced people trying to make a real go of it … could use some help too. It would give us all a chance to exchange information and learn how much we can count on certain people too.

October 8th – Not too many at the church service today and there was no socializing but I did have a chance to bring up my idea. I thought I’d made a big flop until an older gentleman I’d never been introduced to laughed out loud and said, “Joiner, you best be glad I’m a good fifty years and some older ‘n you or I’d be trying to sweet talk you little filly away to my own kitchen.”

Rand, the stinker, came back with, “Well, you might want to rethink that. She kicks.”

All the men got a good laugh out of it but I coulda just sunk into the ground. Chauvinism has its place but too much of a good thing is still too much of something.

He teased me all the way home and I finally told him if he didn’t want to find out just how hard this filly could kick and how good my aim was he better knock it off. He got another laugh out of that but he did settle down about the filly stuff.

Both of us needed a day to step back and review how things are going. He didn’t dig any holes and we ate out of the bean pot I put to cook last night so that I didn’t have to do any major cooking except Rand wanted to learn how I made tortillas. He’s the type that is fascinated by anything new and likes to at least try it. He may not do it ever again in his life but he can have the satisfaction of saying, “I tried that once.”

Next Sunday everyone is going to the Harbingers to help pull down the old barn before a winter storm knocks it over making a worse mess. They’ll be a short devotion before the work starts and then we plan on a big stone soup meal and I suggested that if we put extra liquid we could make plenty of dumplings in place of baked bread or cornbread. Momma O smiled at me like I was one of her prized chicks. I told her it was her idea in the first place and that made her blush when all the men started asking if she “was a seein’ anyone on the front stoop and if she weren’t would she be a interested in it.” She flapped her apron at them and told them all to behave before she scared them to death by taking them up on their tomfoolery.

I know that doesn’t sound much like a “Day of Rest” but people can rest on Saturday or Monday in remembrance of the Sabbath and we’ll still get a devotion and fellowship on Sunday whether we are in church or not.

Rand will go over to his Uncle George’s place this week to help move some bales out of the hay barn and fix a few fences that need it and then Brendon will come over to our place to help plant the posts here. Alicia will likely come with him and maybe one or both the boys and we’ll get some canning done up together.

As for what we have going on at our place, Rand is dealing with the four horses that the raiders left. No one recognizes the brands on the horse so they’re ours but that means that the feed we have is going to go a lot faster than we had expected it to. We really don’t need all four horses but three of them are mares (the fourth is a gelding) and Rand thinks that if we can keep them healthy there might be a market for good horses when things pick back up. You could see the businessman coming out of hiding for a little while when he brought that up.

Rand also fixed most of what the raiders broke. It wasn’t much in the scheme of things and that makes us more blessed than most, including Uncle George. When I mentioned that to Rand I got a hug and a kiss. When I asked him what the hug and kiss was for he said it was for not falling apart because things are so rough. That’s when I heard that Julia is having a hard time adjusting to her new life. She is adjusting but just about anything makes her sit down and cry. He found that out from Ron’s aunt that is living with the Winston’s. I feel bad for her but at the same time we have to sleep in the bed we make for ourselves.

I’m glad that Rand was able to fix the crack in the dehydrator with some sort of glue stuff that was in Daddy’s junk room. I’ve just gotten to the point where I can’t do anything but dry all the apples that are coming in. Why on earth Momma planted so many doggone apple trees is beyond me unless she meant to sell them. I’ve been giving buckets of the things away when I can and I still have the dehydrator full 24/7. Tomorrow I’m going to cook apple butter for the last time and from there on out, what I don’t dry I’ll make into juice or cider. Now that is a pain in the tush without a press but you do what you can with what you have. I’ve just been cooking the apples down and then putting them through a strainer. It leaves the juice cloudy but I don’t know what else to do.

Rand found a pecan tree when he was out getting posts the first time and he’s been checking on it. The squirrels are taking some but he figures that a week, week and a half, we should be able to gather all the pecans that we can handle … assuming all the squirrels in the tri-county area don’t find the tree first.

I think the tomatoes will start coming in the end of this week. I find a horn worm or two ever couple of days but I just pick them off and throw them to the chickens. Rand said that we should let the chickens in there and see what they do. I’m going to watch them and the first time they peck any of my veggies is the last time I’m letting them anywhere near the garden.

We need to enlarge their chicken run somehow. We’ve seen barn owls flying around lately and I don’t know if they’ll take the chicks or not but no sense in taking chances. And Rand says that first really cold night we get he wants to go after another deer even if he has to field dress it by himself.

Gosh there sure is a lot of work to being a farmer and we aren’t really a very big operation. Rand said some farms run just about around the clock if they do animals and crops in any number. Gosh.

October 9th – Manure Tea is absolutely disgusting! A couple of days ago Rand filled a five gallon bucket about a third of the way full with manure. Then he poured the bucket nearly full of water. Gag!

This morning Rand said it was ready. We put one of those burlap bags over another five gallon bucket and then strained out the solids from the now nearly black water. Ew! Ew! Ew! The smell of this stuff was enough to gag a maggot. I had to take a cup of the manure water and pour it into a gallon of rain water to dilute it. This is what I used to water my plants today.

The solids Rand threw on the compost pile with some saw dust to keep flies out of it. I’m sorry, this is just gross. I’m not weak stomached … really I’m not ... but I’d rather fork manure straight into the garden like compost that play with it like I’m making mud pies.

October 10th – Rand went to Uncle George’s today. He was very stressed out when he came home but was trying not to show it. It was after dinner before he would talk about it. Mrs. Winston escaped from where they’ve been keeping her – she’s been acting very erratic lately on top of everything else – and verbally attacked him in public about being the father of Julia’s baby even though everyone knows that he isn’t. Ron Harbinger was there too and it was painful for both men. Ron kept trying to explain to “Mother Winston” that Julia’s baby was his but she wouldn’t even acknowledge that Ron was standing there and talking.

Poor Rand … poor Ron and Mr. Winston and JR and all of them. We had a few foster boys that came through the house that were suffering from some kind of mental illness on top of their other problems. It was very challenging to deal with them when they weren’t reality grounded. Rand said that Mr. Winston is pretty broken up about. Between Julia and now his wife shattering his ideals of them … Rand said he tried to talk to Mr. Winston but nothing would come out and all he could do was put his arm around the man. He said he thought Mr. Winston was going to shrug him off at first and then the man just broke down sobbing. Ron’s aunt seemed to know what to do and took Mr. Winston by the arm and got him back in the house.

“Kiri, it was all I could do to stand there when that woman was screeching at me. I thought it was Mr. Winston that was the problem all those times but what if it was his wife manipulating things. I just … “

Rand hung his head and I hugged him and asked him if he wanted to go talk to Julia and ask her. “What for? It’s done and over with. If I ever do, I don’t want you to think that I have regrets. The only regret I have is that I can’t give you all the stuff … dances, restaurants, movies … all the stuff that I did with Julia. I would be proud to take you to places like that Kiri. No matter how this all started I’m not sorry that we are together and I don’t … I really don’t … want you to ever think that at any point I would have rather ended up with Julia. I just wish I knew why things had to happen the way they did.”

I can understand wanting to know why. I’ve wondered more than a few times why my family had to die, why I had to be scarred up like this, why things have had to happen the way they have, why I was the one that wound up killing those people. The list of questions to wonder why about seems like it is so long I’ll never find the end of it. One time Mr. Barnes … may he have found the peace he was hoping for … told me that it is ok to wonder why about something but we can’t let the questions we have take up more time than actually living does.

October 11th – So much for Brendon and Alicia coming over. We woke up to rain … and a cold one at that. Rand had to go out in it and take care of the animals and even with rain gear on he was soaked and shivering by the time he got back to the house. The weather hasn’t turned cold yet but the rain sure was.

Rand was like a caged lion all morning and through lunch. He was all primed to have Brendon help him get some more fence posts up. “We could have finished that one section off and then I would have had the whole pond area finished and ready for the wire! This day is going to waste!! I’ll never get anything finished at this rate!”

After lunch I decided that we might as well put the “wasted day” to good use. I wish I had a camera. Rand’s face was pretty funny when I came out on the lanai where he was sulking wearing that scrap that Missy had given me. “I sure hope your mullygrubs don’t mean I’ve got to stand out here in the cold in this thing for long.” I don’t think I’ve seen him move quite that fast very often.

We were going to light a fire in the fireplace but it really wasn’t cold enough to be worth it, it was just damp. But I did use Momma’s old warming pan on our sheets before Rand went to sleep for the night. Most days he’ll go to bed and then I stay up another hour writing in my journal and unwinding. I find that the extra bit of quiet helps me keep my head on straight.

October 12th – Weather fooled us, only the rain was cold yesterday. Today’s weather was near normal for this time of year. It was in the upper 80s during the day.

Brendon and Alicia showed up today full of “whim, wigger, and witality” … or at least that is what my Daddy would have called it. They also brought some canned beef.

“One of the Brahma mixes stepped in a hole and broke its leg. How would you like to wake up to that mess? We were butchering and processing late into the night. LauraBeth and Missy couldn’t be in the kitchen more than a few minutes before they would have to run outside and puke in the azaleas. Not Alicia. Nope my bride has a stomach of steel. Our kid is going to be something else, I just know it!”

Alicia looked at me and grinned her small grin and then just rolled her eyes. Apparently Brendon is going a little over the top with the “our kid” thing. It’s kind of cute. “Ignore him. I do.” And we all laughed, even Brendon.

After Brendon and Rand set off towards the pond I asked Alicia, “Are Missy and Laurabeth really that bad?”

“Yeah, they are.” But she smiled. “It just hits different women differently. I had a hard time for a while but now I feel wonderful. Like I could conquer the world, and the moon too. Missy is having a really bad time. I don’t think she has ever been sick much in her life and this is making her miserable. She lets it get to her too much and now she’s starting to get a little scared.”

“Of what? I mean … well … I don’t have much room to talk … “ I said after my brain caught up with my mouth.

“Um, I know this is kind of personal but … are you and Rand … I mean … do you … you know … Look, I know it isn’t any of my business but when I was younger, before we moved to Live Oak, Momma was a licensed midwife and I still have all her books and stuff. The last couple of years she’d given it up … Daddy had kind of beat her down … but she used to teach me what she knew. I just thought if you had any questions or were having problems or anything … “

Well, I figured if there was anyone that I could ask it would be Alicia. “Um yeah, Rand and I … well, everything is normal. We’ve been trying to be careful. Sometimes it seems like everyone else that was married about the same time as us … I mean I’m not sorry that it hasn’t happened but at the same time I’m wondering if there isn’t something wrong with me.”

“Why would you think that there is something wrong with you?”

“The accident. I’ve got … well, you’ve seen the scars. They never said I couldn’t , you know, make babies but they never said I could either.”

“Kiri, I think you are worrying before you need to. If you and Rand are trying to wait then that’s not a bad thing. Have you talked to Rand about this?”

“No! All we’ve talked about is waiting. If it happens I guess that is OK but … but trying … on purpose? I don’t know that I’m ready for that. We just got married! I just turned seventeen! And things … they’re so crazy. What kind of mom would I be anyway?”

“I wouldn’t worry about what kind of mom you’re going to be right now. Trust me, if I’d had my mind someplace other than where it was at … Brendon and I wouldn’t be in the position we’re in. But we did, and we are … and … I might regret some of it, but I don’t regret that. Thank God for grace and mercy.”

“Uh … just to warn you I had cousins that were named Grace and Mercy … their mom used to say God sent her Grace and Mercy to teach her patience.”

Alicia laughed and we kind of got off on different subjects. At least I know I have someone to talk to. I never really had close girlfriends that I could talk about this kind of stuff with. My female friends fell into two categories ... boy crazy or man haters ... neither one of which made any sense to me at the time. Maybe I should talk to Rand, but not right now. Every time I go passed that baby bed I start itching.

Mostly what we talked about today was tomatoes. The Floridade tomatoes are coming in almost all of a sudden. We had enough to can sauce and juice today. The sauce we canned by half pints and pints and the juice we canned in quarts. Alicia said their tomatoes started coming in over the weekend but they got theirs in the ground a few days earlier than we did. Tomorrow I’m going to make up a big pot of spaghetti sauce and can it in quarts also. I planted two whole rows of tomatoes so I hope to have enough to make a bunch of stuff with … tomato soup, green tomato pickles, tomato paste, tomato conserve, tomato butter, tomato relish, tomato jam, BBQ sauce, taco sauce, salsa, etc. My Momma used to go out to Ruskin and go to the U-pick farms down there and get tomatoes by the five gallon buckets. A fresh tomato is nothing like those cardboard things you got in the grocery store. At the diner you could always tell when we had to get our tomatoes off-season rather than straight from the field.

The other things started coming in today … cayennes, banana peppers, more bush beans, more cucumbers, and the arugula. I didn’t realize how hungry I was for a fresh green salad until I cut that arugula. I felt like a nanny goat just mowing down anything that was green. Rand and Brendon laughed at Alicia and I but you could tell they enjoyed the arugula, tomato, and cucumber salad that we tossed together to go with the bean patties we fixed for lunch.

After they left I made the mistake of saying that I wished they lived closer. Rand got thoughtful and asked, “Does it bother you? That all you have is me out here?”

“Don’t be silly. Of course not. But it is fun to have them over and to share work with them. I don’t know but have you and Brendon always gotten along like this?”

“Lord no. He and I used to irritate each other and just about drive Uncle George up a wall. Whatever you think to the contrary I’m no angel.”

He was so serious when he said it that I couldn’t help it, I started laughing so hard I fell out of my chair. That started a tickle war and we almost forgot to take care of the chores that needed doing. I know there are bad things out there but being able to share this life with Rand … it makes things a lot better than they would have been otherwise.

Ram stopped by in person this afternoon. He had Sherri with him and she looked even worse than she had last time. Ram didn’t look very good either. I made them both sit and told them they were off duty and he was too close to being a big brother for them to squeak about “locals this and locals that.” I fixed them a fresh salad and then cut up some apples and made some cinnamon honey they could dip them in.

While they ate that, with Brendon and Alicia listening in, Ram explained what they’ve been going through. “There just aren’t enough of us to do the job they want us to do. We’re supposed to be patrolling the corridor between Tallahassee and Jacksonville with two other units but there is just no way. It’s like asking one state trooper to cover four counties 24/7 with no back up and no time off. This mess that happened here the other day isn’t the only battle that has been going on. Our supply line sucks. I haven’t been paid in hard currency in months - we've got "dollars" going into a bank account but we can't touch it - and even if I had what the heck is there to spend it on? I’m lucky the commander is fine with couples because I don’t have any place for Sherri to go and I’m not leaving her. Her family turned their back on … well, never mind, that’s water under the bridge now. It’s just bad. At least we have orders that we’re to dig in and expect to be here at least through the winter. We’re setting up in Lee between US90 and I10. If you two want any seedling trees you better come tomorrow because we’ve taken over the land that some tree nursery was on. We’ve looked for the owners but we can’t find ‘em and none of the workers want to be responsible for the place since they haven’t been paid in a while either.”

Rand and Brendon plan to meet up and take Uncle George too and go see what trees he’s talking about. Brendon wanted to know what all he’d heard about the explosions in all the big cities.

“It’s a mess. Not much information is getting in or out of some of those areas. The cities that were still in pretty good shape because they had the dams to produce electricity are now hurting bad and for many winter has already started up in earnest. There’s be some light snow flurries out in Denver. Worldwide? Right now the hotspots are where they used to be … lots of ethnically divided countries fighting it out to see who’s going to win. A lot like when the Soviet Bloc started disintegrating only worse and more widespread. If we can get through the winter there might be so many casualties that folks will lay off and stop fighting for a while, give us time to regroup and assess all the damage. On top of that we’ve had some major natural disasters occur.”

“What and where?”

“Tokyo got hit by an earthquake somewhere on the order of an 8.4 and word is that the city is still burning. The loss of life is being measured in the tens of thousands. There was a corresponding earthquake just off the coast of Japan that caused a tsunami and hundreds are dead from that. Russia is suffering from a famine. The nuclear contamination in Russia and China may be manmade but it has set off a lot of natural consequences … there are reports of some kind of plague in China along the Russo-China border although tinfoil hatters think it’s a deliberate release by Russia as payback for the nukes. Who knows? Oil fields are on fire in the Middle East and the smoke is so bad they say that it is going to affect the world’s weather patterns. I’ve seen some of the satellite pics … whole countries over there are blotted out and hidden by the smoke. And scientists say the fires could last for years which could cause crop failure in that part of the world which itself would lead to famine. We’ve had our own problems with wildfires in the west and along the coast of California. There is some kind of rust or blight or something like that affecting rice crops in southeast Asia. We’ve got some kind of mold or fungus … ergot I think you call it … is widespread in the wheat crop this year here in the States. You want me to go on? It’s a depressing list.”

I didn’t want him to go on but Rand and Brendon kept him talking. I saw Alicia put hand protectively over her stomach and then watched Sherri do the same thing. Sometimes I wonder if I am the only person in the world that isn’t pregnant.

The conversation turned back around when Alicia asked about the children of the raiders. “The orphans were taken into custody by federal social services. I wish them the best of luck. Some of the orphanages are OK but I’ve heard some are no better than workhouses. No better alternative to St. George was found so singles and families alike were transported there. The Colonel wasn’t happy about it but the General gave him no choice. We just don’t have the resources to make exceptions to the rules. Round hole, round peg, square hole, square peg … you start messing with that and it makes the guys in the accounting office really cranky.”

They left a few minutes after Brendon and Alicia did. “Show me around? Ram has some business with Rand that he hasn’t even talked to me about.”

So I showed her the garden and we talked. She’s nice but she never seems all there until she’s with Ram. I guess it might be stress or some kind of security thing but it’s a little hard to get used to. She fades off in the middle of sentences and then startles and looks for Ram real quick and then she is OK again. Whatever happened to her must have been rough.

They left shortly after that and I suppose Rand will tell me what they talked about if it is important. I hate being kept in the dark though. But curiosity killed the cat and I hope I’m smarter than Fraidy is.

1 comment:

  1. Well woman I'm caught up now what ? MOAR !