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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Guest Post: Firestorm Chapter 5, by Christopher Young

Sam gets Extracted

Hi, this is Sam. I'm a truck driver. I ain't much the pen man, but I kin git a rig down the road wit the best of them. I lives in Oh-hah, that's how we say Ohio for you folks. Got me some kin in the state, and we do purty good. Anyhow, I'm dragging butt, on the ground. I been down to the water, and broke my leg, damn it all. This ain't my favorite time of life to be telling you about, but that guy writing the story figured it's best that I get to tell this part cause I was there, and I seen it all happen. Well, he's the one with the story, and now he wants me to write. Go figure.

Anyhow, I've finally got a chance to meet Gomer. But that was a couple days ago, and so I'll fill you in a bit on some of the news. Some of the stuff I found out later, but I'll try and write it as it happens, and so you'll have to forgive me if there is some stuff you think I'd never know. I mean, I'm laying on the road with a broken leg, and how do I know all this. The people involved  told me later, and I'm just goin back and writing it in. You know?

Well, now, this Gomer fellow was telling you about Bill's. I ain't met the man, Bill, but we did get to know each other a bit on the email. Bill's nephew David is going a bit buggy, he hasn't seen a DVD in several weeks. And he's done plumb run out of them magic pills that make him so happy. David never thought the world would fall apart, and it did come as a surprise. But, figuring he could always move in with Bill. Uncle Bill's one of them crazy survivalist types who has everything. Everything except a generator, of course. Bill keeps saying how the power is dependable, and how he's going to get a big tank of propane put in, and a generator that will run for a long time. Talk, talk, and no generator. So the Mussies burned out the sub stations, and the power went out. Bill's been trying to cook all the food in the freezer, all the meat is melting. Finally has to throw a lot of the meat to the dogs before it goes totally bad. Maybe $500 in meat that got lost. Well, nevermind, David's got a plan. He's going to do a little horse trading.

Gomer had the map folded out on his lap, and was watching the mile posts. Figured that it would be another five or six miles, until the turn off, to go into Pennsylvania. the road had been perfect, any burned cars had been pushed off to the side. The couple of cars off to the side looked like they had also been stripped of anything of value. If I woulda been there, I woulda  told him. I've been up and down this trail a million times.

Chris was also watching the road signs, he knew the turn. Had been there a couple times on the way to my house. The exit came up, and Chris slowed for turn. Gomer nodded, approvingly. They were both on the same page. Sometimes, when two men work well together, not a word is needed. This was one of those moments. Chris wondered if they had been separated at birth, they  had so much in common. Like that move The Right Stuff, where the guys flew planes, and never spoke to each other?

The turn onto south bound route 16 was a well traveled route, usually. It went from I-17 down through Pennsylvania, and into some of the other states. But for this moment, they wanted to go into north west corner of Penn. The time on the dash clock read 7:12 PM, and they had gone out of range of the Syracuse AM radio station. Chris scanned, and found another station out of Jamestown which was broadcasting advice. Sounded just about like the Syracuse station, some how they were all reading from the same old memo from FEMA that had been issued two days before. It reminds me of something they said in school so many years ago. In Russia, they have two news papers. One called Truth, the other is News. They say that in truth there is no news, and in news there is no truth. 

After about half an hour, Chris slowed for the turn onto route 271. This east west street went through northern PA, and was a popular favorite with us truckers. It was lightly patrolled, and was 65 MPH the entire way. Hammer down, and pedal to the metal. Not many bears biting. The road was four lanes, and no divider in the middle. It was not one for the faint of heart late at night. Sleepy drivers were known to wander over into the oncoming lane often, and there had been many wrecks. But he long haul drivers knew this, and were careful to drive after a good sleep. So the safety of the road had improved.

West 271 went for about fifteen miles, and Chris slowed down, expecting to see the bridge over the Shawnahee River. The Shawnahee river was named for an old Indian tribe, a group which had left the Shawnee Indians a couple generations ago before the USA had been developed. The Shawnahee tribe had settled on the fertile banks of the river, and had farmed corn there, and had kept themselves fed with fish and deer. And corn.

Chris slowed for the bridge, and looked closely to the left and right of the road. Gomer saw me first, and said "over there!!". Chris followed Gomer's finger, and found what Gomer had seen. The solar panel for my cell phone was reflecting a glint of light back to the truck. They pulled off the road, onto the forest floor. I saw them coming, from a long way off. Figured which route they would take. I had been wondering how I could signal. Hoping I got the right angle with the reflective screen from my cell phone. Figured I could blink him like a signal mirror. So, they drove up to where I was sitting. I'd been  behind the tree. Well, so I grinned and started to stand up.

You'd think I'd learned. I made the damn fool mistake of putting some weight on my left leg, and suddenly realized what a mistake that was. I hollered in pain, and fell down on my right side, keeping my injured leg on top. "Yow, ooh, ooh! Argh! Blast, blast!" and a few other choice words could be heard echoing off the forest walls. Gomer got out, opened the back door of the truck for the medic bag. Well, I'm trying to get my mind off the pain. And so I'm busy describing my escape from FEMA, and the 70 mile walk up to the point where I had fallen down the bank of the river.

Me and my broken leg, and of course Bill and his bad back. I still had a couple pills in my pack, the good Vicodin that I had left over from when I had the dental work. But, not everyone had pills. 

Bill had just run out of pills for his back, and he was really starting to get miserable. He was down to a couple more of the pituitary pills that kept his brain in balance. For generations, the family just thought they did a lot of screaming at each other. Come to find out, it was a chemical imbalance that was doing it. Problem was, the medical plan only allowed for a 30 day supply, and they were both just about out. David was nearly suicidal with his depression, and the car chase movies he couldn't watch. Connie noticed that both of them weren't eating. Instead of the polite chit chat over the table, they scowled and snapped at each other. Madison and Jade ate in silence, and then asked to be excused, and dashed away to hide. 

"So, what do you want first? Chris asked. I'm thinking water, and a couple more pain pills. Gomer opened his medic bag, and asked if Demerol was OK? He pulled out a vial, and a new syringe in the plastic case. Did a quick calculation for body weight, and drew back some of the medicine into the syringe. Got out an alcohol swab, and cleaned a spot on my upper arm. The shot hurt, that needle musta come from the vet supply in the elephant department. But relief is on the way. I find out later it wasn't the elephant department, but that was pretty close. The syringe was from the vet supply. Gomer has a couple friends who are military doctors, and kept him supplied with some prescription meds. Good man to have on your team. Chris had brought a water bottle from the truck, figured I would be thirsty. So, I'm drinking water, talking a mile a minute, waiting for the shot to start working.

"Where do you want to go, now?" Chris asked. Well, I dunno. Figure it would be nice to get back to the house. I'd been on the phone with Brenda, and she was doing well. Finishing dinner, and about to put the baby down. The house was warm, but with night time coming it would cool off, and we had those big windows Brenda wanted. I figured I wanted to see the wife, before much anything else. Chris and Gomer looked at each other, and their eyes met and silently discussed the matter. They agreed, and decided to go to my place, and see what they could find.

After ten minutes or so, the shot started to work. Chris had gotten a walking splint out of the truck, and sized it up with Velcro straps. I reached out my hand, and Gomer helped me to my feet. I used Gomer for a crutch, and started back to the truck. It was only a few steps, but slow and painful steps. Chris went back to the tree, and gathered up all the equipment, and carried it to the truck. And then took a branch, and swept the leaves so it would not look like someone had sat there.

Gomer was kind enough to put me in the front seat. More space, to stretch out my broken leg.
In a rare exception to his policy, Chris switched on the AC in the truck. Figured I'd been out in the heat for a few hours, and would appreciate that. Gomer pushed aside some of the emergency gear, and got into the back seat. Chris got out a bottle of pain pills from the glove compartment and handed them to me. I popped in two, and rinsed them down with water. With them and the shot I sure was feeling a lot better. I'm probably doing a major medication drug interaction at this point with all the pain meds, but I just really don't give a damn.

In the truck, the three men had a couple of hours to chat. When I was on my run to New York, I was delivering a tanker of soybean oil, to a factory there that made stuff. I'd been listening, both to the AM and the CB radios. It became clear that FEMA was confiscating all long haul vehicles, and interning all the drivers. So, I  figured the only way to stay out of a government camp was the escape and evasion I'd been doing. They all wondered at the state of the nation, what freedoms had been lost. Plenty, for sure. It appeared that the Constitution had been suspended, or at least was being ignored. Wish the numb nuts would use all that internment space to lock up those towelhead terrorists. But instead they lock up law abiding truck drivers. What a bunch of idiots in government.

As my stress level started to come down, I was able to relax, and enjoy the ride. Well, maybe part of that was the elephant shot of Demerol that Gomer had applied. So, I  rambled on about riding my bicycle to the candy store, when I was a kid. And from an early age being fascinated by long haul trucks. It was all I'd ever wanted to do. And now FEMA  had all the trucks, and maybe the world would never be the same. Was this the last ride?

Continuing west bound on 271, here is the big sign that said "Welcome to Ohio". And then some miles later, we crossed under route 11, the main road that went north and South. Again, there were National Guard troops at that intersection, with a truck.  A couple hours after that, we arrived home.

But, before we look at my home, lets look at a couple other homes of people who are in this here story. Chris's place is still standing, which is good. Next door, Ernie is doing fine. He is a member of a buying co-op, he's into natural foods. He'd just bought a couple 100 pound barrels of nut grain cereal, and so he's got plenty to eat. However, his toilet paper usage has gone up a bit. The water is still on, and the natural gas. So, he'll be OK for a while. Faith and Heather are fine. Those two gals are serious friends, now. Their kids all play nice, except for the once in a while one of the boys starts to get bored and pull pigtails. David and Bills place is a big bundle of stress. But, it's starting to work itself out. David has a plan for how to lower the stress, and he's got it figured out. 

Chris pulled into the familiar driveway, and beeped the horn twice. It was about 10 PM, and Brenda was still awake. The baby had long since been put down, and was sleeping quietly in her baby bed. The pink one with the princess theme. 

Gomer and me went into the house. It took a while, because I could hardly walk. Gomer went with me up the stairs, and settled me in for a night sleep. The splint wasn't all that comfortable, but then the broken leg wasn't all that great either. Chris went out to the truck, and got a battery power fan, which he set up inside the screened bedroom window. At least that would provide some fresh air. 

Brenda had the oil lamp lit, on the dining room table. I keep figuring to get me a generator. Well, looks like I missed my chance. But in Tennessee, David is out, taking care of his plan. David is  finding a couple generator for sale, used. The prices are a bit high, but after all, what is money compared to seeing his car chases? Money isn't really what the sellers want.  And they still have five gallons of gas in the shed, so he just needs a generator. David makes a deal. and the heads for home, to get some stuff to trade. David's gas gage is on 1/4 tank.

A quick conference was held, at my dining room table. Many ideas were considered, and discussed. Stay here? Go to Bill's? Take the supplies and head for Gomer's? Finally the conversation was going nearly no where. And everyone was tired. Chris's new inverted sleep schedule was a mess, account of the busy day. Gomer the night owl volunteered for the first shift of sentry duty. Brenda invited the two visitors to make themselves comfortable in the living room. Brenda's like that. Good old southern hospitality. She's a fine woman.

Back at Gomer's, that's about what they'd done already. The kids had their showers and put on clean pajamas, and all piled into the bed in the one room. Faith and Heather spent the evening chatting, and girl talk.

I'm not even sure I want to tell you what's doing at Bill's. David's back at the house to pick up some stuff to trade. He's having a major argument with Bill about David sleeping on duty. David denies it of course, and counters that if Bill wasn't so fat, he wouldn't have so much back problems. Bill starts his tirade, again, about how it's essential to conserve resources. Can't be using two candles in the same room, and flash lights and Coleman lanterns are just for emergencies, and no smoking in the house. David is calling him a fat Nazi, complete with German accent and the old Hitler salute.  Connie tried to smooth things over as best she could, but it wasn't doing much good this time. Without their meds, the two men were having the battle of the century. The kids cried into their pillows, they didn't like the yelling. Finally David loads some stuff into his car, and drives off.

Chris stretched out on the couch and was asleep in a few minutes. I dunno, he must have a clear conscience or something.

A few minutes later, Faith woke up from her afternoon sleep. It was 10 PM, and the five kids had long since gone to bed. Their bed times were 9 PM. She looked around the room, and found herself to be in Gomer's retreat. Most of the lights were off, exept for the battery backup night light that kept the room light enough to walk around. She walked down the hall, used the toilet, and then washed her face and hands. Back to the couch, she tried to decide what to do. Figured this might be the last night sleep she got in a long time. Faith never got enough sleep with her job, and with the two kids. So, this  was a rare moment not to be wasted.

About this time, Savannah was waking up from her sleep, she wasn't sure where she was. But, Bobbi was sleeping next to her, and so things must be all right. On the other side of Bobbi, were three other kids, all sleeping peacefully. This was nothing new, Faith often had other other kids over for sleep overs, and that was rotuine for the girls.

What wasn't routine, was in TN. After he got enough of the argument, David had stormed out of the house. It was either walk out, or he'd have to kill that fat fucking Nazi. Bill went down the road to the sentry post. Bill the night owl was on sentry duty. Bill's normal waking hours ran from afternoon to late, so it was normal for him to be awake at this hour. Bill's sensitive hearing heard something move just west of the sentry post. Bill reached to his chest, and switched off the single red LED that was lighting the book he had been reading. Bill reached for the pair of wide lens binoculars which sat on the shelf of the listening post. Focused them in the general direction of the noise. A couple seconds later, his eyes were able to make out the figure of someone walking along the road that led up to the house.

Inside Bill's house at that moment, Connie was in the cellar, with the blackout curtains drawn. A candle was lit on the table, and four or five more candles lit on the shelf over the TV. A Coleman lamp brightly lit the room. Connie had just come in from checking on the kids. They were both sleeping fine. Their pillows were wet from tears. She noticed the dark television screen, knew that David was wishing he was watching a car chase. Dave had left half hour or so ago. David was almost to the meetup. He lit another cigarette, and noticed the pack was now empty. And that was the last pack. Have to trade for some cigarettes. Connie knew they weren't allowed to smoke in the house, but figured the smoke would clear before Bill got back. They were only supposed to use the Coleman lamp for emergencies, but they wasn't paying much attention to Bill's rules, not after that argument and all the stuff Bill had said. This Muslim thing will all be over in a couple days, what's the use of saving all this stuff? Bill is such a cheapskate. 

The kids had gone to bed an hour before, and Connie was sitting in the living room, smoking. The FRS radio next to the sofa  crackled, and Bill's voice came though, if somewhat quietly. "LP to home base. We got someone walking up the road, here. Backup, backup, no drill." Connie looked at the radio as if it was a poisonous snake. Or as if she'd been suddenly caught getting into trouble. She suddenly realized David was gone. And she had no idea what a backup backup was.

Fortunately, things were much quieter, at my place. The baby woke up in the middle of the night, and  Brenda went to comfort her. I'd slept through this, in large part account of the pain medications. And the sleeping pill was helping, also. Chris woke enough to notice that the baby was fussing, but went right back to bed.

And on the battery power radios across the nation, the news anchors were calling for calm. But, calm  was not what the nation was experiencing. Nor, at Bill's observation post.

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