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Monday, February 28, 2011

Guest Post: Firestorm Chapter 6 , by Christopher Young

Brenda Writes a Chapter

Greetings, such a pleasure to meet all of  you out there. My name is Brenda, and I'm married to Sam. I don't do much important in this story, I am mostly just a home maker. Sam's out there bringing home the bacon, and transporting loads of stuff across the country. I worry about him so much, he is away from home so long, and he goes in and out of cities. I wish he could just do country runs, like our small town where it is mostly safe here. We sure have some good neighbors, and we are lucky to have such good neighbors.

I'm worried about the baby, we've been out of milk for a couple days, and the breakfast cereal she loves is nearly all gone. Mabye Sam can get some on his way home, if he can find a store that's open. Other than that, we're doing fairly well. We do have food in the house, even if it's not totally what we are  used to. Those military rations and canned goods are a bit different than we are used to. But, still, we are thankful to God for all the blessings we enjoy. Anyhow, I get to tall you a little abut the people in my life, and some about my family.

The stranger walking up Bill's driveway turned out to be Darrin, the fellow who lived next door. Darrin had been coming over to visit at night for the last several years. He was about the same age as David, and they both enjoyed car chase movies. Darrin had in his hand the latest DVD, he bought before the power went out. Came over to see if David had a generator, so they could watch the movie together. Neither man had seen the movie. They went inside the house, and watched the movie.

Bill breathed a sigh of relief. He was about to squeeze the trigger. Well, this one worked out okay. Next one might not. Who knows?

  Sammy, my precious son. He had been doing fairly well, with his job at the factory. I know his Dad nags him about getting some food in the house, but he'll learn some day. With the riots, he'd called home and said he was going to head for home. His cell phone got cut off, he forgot to mail in the check. And the rioters burned his car, so he's going to walk. Figures it will take a couple days, he's young and strong. I worry so about him, he's only got a couple days food in the house. Will that be enough to make it home, or will be hungry?
    Sammy was walking along the road home, and  stopped by several abandoned cars and looked around. They looked as though they'd been empty for several days,  maybe a couple weeks. Dusty and parked off to the side of the road like they ran out of gas and were pushed there, they also appeared to have been looted. Clothing was strewn about and empty suitcases were lying all around. Then he saw the bullet holes in the door of one of the cars. He walked over to it and peered inside. On the front seat lay the body of a man. Dried blood was everywhere. The dark color of the blood indicated death had occurred several days ago. Checking the other cars, he found no more bodies, no food or water, and absolutely nothing he could use. Was it a group of refugees who had an argument? Had a band of looters taken everything including the people? He decided it was definitely not a survival group. The large amount and type of clothing, the two birdcages, and the small pet kennel made him feel it was probably a bunch of urbanites trying to escape from suburbia.
  He pulled out his map to check his position. He was pleasantly surprised to find he was about fifty miles from home. Was home still in one piece? Was Mom and Dad ok? Had his big sister come home? He put the map back and then changed shoes. Sammy only had two pair of shoes, and each one got sore after a while, so he kept switching off. He really wished he could have kept the bike he'd used for a few days but it was just too much trouble riding with two flat tires. Of course they went flat out in the middle of the countryside with no Walmart anywhere around. The empty farmhouse where he'd found it had no spare tubes that he could find. So he rode as far as he could. He'd left a note and a twenty dollar bill on the workbench in the garage where he found the bike explaining what he'd done. Now he had to get home even if he had walk. He said a prayer for his family and for traveling mercy for himself and started walking.
  He soon came into farmland with plowed fields everywhere. With his gut screaming for food, and his bad shoes, walking plowed field wasn't an option. Sticking to back roads as much as possible, he made decent time even allowing for hiding time. When he saw a vehicle coming toward him, he hid in ditches, plow furrows, along fences, anywhere he could find. Thankfully, traffic was light. The few cars and pickups he'd seen were occupied by rough looking people. Looking down he saw his shadow. Cursing his inattention, he turned around to see the pickup slowing down. He quickly slipped the Beretta from its holster, flipped the safety off and held it down on the side away from the approaching truck. It appeared to be a 1994 chevy 4x4, nearly identical to the one in his garage. As the truck stopped, he noticed the passenger was dressed in a county deputy uniform. Somehow it didn't match the overly long hair and beard stubble.
  "We don't get many transients through here these days. Where you headed?" "North."Sammy said."Up by Ft. Wayne." "I think we'll give you a ride to the north end of the county. Maybe stop at the courthouse and run a quick license check. You do have a license don't you?"
     The driver shut the truck off and started to reach for something and the passenger reached inside and started to pull out a shotgun. As he straightened up Sammy saw the hole in the breast pocket of the uniform... a bullet hole. The man saw what Sammy was looking at and jerked the shotgun around. Sammy pulled the Beretta up and sent a double tap to accompany the first hole. The driver pulled up a pistol from the seat and leveled it at Sammy. Sammy swiveled to his right and pulled the trigger twice. Both shots connected with the man's face. Sammy whirled back to see the passenger sliding down the side of the truck, a red stain marking his path. His eyes slowly closed. Sammy looked at the man on the ground. His name tag read Jenkins. He rolled the body over and removed his wallet. A drivers license picture matched the man but the name was Warner. So they had been passing themselves off as deputies. As he looked at the men, his hands started shaking violently. The urge to vomit nearly won but it passed after a few minutes. There were no houses within a mile but he knew the sound of the shots had carried a long way. Looking in the bed of the truck, he saw the pair had been busy. The contained several bank money bags, boxes of jewelry, two large boxes of prescription medicines still in the drugstore packages, and a large assortment of guns with what appeared to be cases of ammo.
  Acting on impulse, he rolled Warner into the ditch. Walking around to the driver's door, he opened it and stood back letting the body fall to the ground. He checked the man's license. It also failed the picture test. He drug the body to the ditch and let him join his partner in crime. Going back, he searched until he found some rags. He used them to wipe the blood up as much as he could. A further search revealed under the seat and behind it to be stuffed with guns and ammo. The registration belonged to someone from the other side of the state. The glove box also held a map that showed a route outlined with marker to a destination two more states away. The gas gauge read three quarters full. What the heck, he thought and started the truck. He wondered if stealing from a thief constituted extenuating circumstances. The smooth idle told him that even sticking to back roads he could be home in under two hours. He dropped it into gear and took off.
  One hour and forty minutes later the truck ran out of gas. But, fortunately, it was only about a mile from our home. Sammy coasted the truck off the road, locked it, and put the keys in his pocket.
   A half our or so later, Sammy walks in the back door. I looked up, expecting to see Chris or Gomer. I recognized my boy. I ran to hug him.

      The next morning, my household was a buzz with activity. Honey Bunch had laid out his ideas for the plans. Honey bunch had an old Model A Ford in the garage which needed an engine rebuild. He had all the parts, and the tools to rebuild, but never really had the time cause he was always on the road. Gomer, such a nice young man. He seemed interested in motors, and vehicles of all kinds. To work on a Model A would be a rare treat, they were hard to find, and the people who owned them usually took them to specialized antique car garages. Gomer kept talking about how it had no pollution control devices, and nothing more electronic than breaker points. Besides, as Gomer loudly reminded the others. It's a FORD. Chris smiled. I looked confused. Chris and Gomer took turns explaining the friendly rivalry that had helped forge  a friendship between Chris and Gomer. While they were merciless on the Chevrolet versus Ford debate, they each knew they could count on the other in a crisis.
    And then they started to talk guns. Gomer was telling how wonderful his gun was, and Chris was telling about his. Guns scare me, they are loud and they hurt my hand, and make awful noise. So, I went to the kitchen. I was trying to ignore the gun talk, but it sounds like Chris and Gomer had to shoot a couple people yesterday. That's so sad, I wonder why they couldn't just shoot them in the leg and then take them to the hospital instead of killing them both?

     As they were discussing he plans, I had been cooking eggs on the gas stove, fortunately the natural gas was still on. But no way to know for how long. A knock at the door, and Brenda went to see who it was. It was the next door neighbor, Mike, who had been checking on me, since he knew that Sam was on the road. Mike had been keeping eye on the family for many years, and was an old trusted friend of the family. Mike's wife Susan was also a trusted friend. They were both retired, and their children and grand kids lived in other states of the union. One of their kids had moved to Mexico, and had married a Mexican woman.

Mike stopped in to ask if they had enough to eat, they had a week or two groceries. Susan had gone shopping when they heard that the nation was endangered. Yes, Sam replied, they  were doing well for food, the bigger problem was what the broken leg. And winter was coming. They were considering packing ahd moving some where warmer.

The men got a chance to meet each other, and Mike got to meet Chris and Gomer. Mike offered whatever help he could be, to get the Model A running. Mike had also some interest in old cars, and so he and Sam were fast friends form many years ago.

Sam also had a couple 5 galon cans of gasoline at the house, and so had plenty of fuel to get the Model A where ever it needed to go. As a four cylinder car, it got good fuel mileage, the car was light enough. The gas tank of their family car should also have some gasoline.

Chris and Gomer went out to the garage, to look at he car. Sam  hobbled out,  using a set of crutches he had at the house from another situation years ago. The garage was dark, but opening the door of the garage let a lot of light in. The Model A sat in the center of the garage, the valve head was on the work bench, and the spark plugs were in a bin. The camshaft was out, and the timing chain was laying next to the camshaft. Rows of parts were lined up nearly, and the carb was wrapped in shop rags.

"Piece of cake!" Gomer commented. With no practical motor  rebuilding experience, Chris could only agree. Gomer picked up the valve head, and walked over to the engine compartment.

About four hours later, Brenda called them back into the house. Lunch was served, though not as fancy as the last couple meals. The fresh food had run out, and what was left was military rations, and canned good. There wasn't much to be done with canned soup, though that was plenty good. There was no ice, and not much way to make things cold, so she did her best with faucet water, and some kool aid which as left over from something earlier. The guys were hungry, though they paused to ask a blessing on the food, and thank God for their safe travel. And then gobbled down the food, and thanked Brenda for cooking.

Three hours past lunch, Gomer thought it was about time to put the car to a practical test. He squirted oil in the four spark plug holes and put in the spark plugs. Poured a table spoon of gasoline in the air intake, and set the dash switch to retard the spark. Gomer put the hand crank onto  the front of the engine and put the palm of his hand on the crank, so as not to have his thumb on one side of the crank. He pressed sharply down on the crank, and the motor sputtered, and almost kicked to life. One more crank, and the engine fired up and ran for a second, on the fuel in the carb.

Time to quit for the day, he figured. It was starting to get dark, and the car would wait for another day. Gomer's cell phone rang, and it was Heather. Wondered how things were going. Gomer gave her a quick update, and asked how things at the house. Everything fine, and the kids were happy to have playmates. Another call to Bill's, and find that David was also happy as a clam with his playmate, they were watching car chases. Replaying the same DVD again and again on the television in the blackout room.

Night time was much the same, for the three households. Bill was on LP at night, David staying up late to watch movies. Heather was in charge of their house, she spent hours and hours listening to Faith tell of what had happened in her life over the year ot two since she and Gomer had split up. And all the things which had gone wrong with the marriage. The kids were long since gone to bed. Faiths and Heathers kids had decided to all bunk in the same room, and ended up all being in the same bed. Faith and Heather didn't see any problem with this, it gave them security to have other kids so near by. Faith and Heather were developing a good friendship, based on many similar interest.

At Chris's neighborhood, Ernie and the neighbors were doing a good job, to keep the park secure. they had set up rotating shifts, and the guards were doing a good job of keeping trouble out of the trailer park.

Ernie wondered what had happened to Chris. he would have been surprised to find that Chris as in Ohio, with an injured friend. But then , Chris would have been surprised at some of the things which were going on, in his old neighborhood back home.

And, so, passed another night.

Morning arrived, the sun came up in the East, as it has done for centuries. There was a calming effect that had. Chris and Gomer both remarked on this, how calming it was tht some things never change. There was so much which had changed, it was nice to see some things much the same. And the same God which had made the universe was still in control. The prayer and blessing over the food that morning was a bit longer than the one the night before, there was so much to be thankful for. Sam was enjoying some pain relief from the well stocked medical supply at home, and also the medical bag that Gomer had packed. Sam had enjoyed another good night sleep, in large part thanks to the pain and sleep medications which Gomer had brought along for the extraction.

Chris finally posed the question. What was God's point of view, about this whole situation. The adults discussed it over the breakfast table. They had an assortment of ideas, but no good answers. Finally the general thought was that the world is an eternal battle between good and evil, and that evil had grown a bit more powerful in the last few days, that good would some how triumph after a while. But it would take some work to get good back in control. What to do about it, well, be kind to everyone possible, and encourage them to pass the kindness along.

Chris had been active in his church, as also Sam and Brenda. Gomer had grown up with a faith in a higher power, but had not been involved with any particular church or denomination. They agreed that God would likely not be very approving all the destruction which had taken place in the last couple days.

The cell phone was still working, and so they called down to Bill's compound, see what new was happening. Find out that David had invited in a friend from down the way, and was busy watching car chase movies. That was good. Chris was sure that they had not revealed the extent of their preparations, Bill played that very close to the vest, and even Chris didn't know the extent of his preparations. Surely, that would make a good bug out destination. Living farther to the south, it would be more temperate in the winter, and would not have the heating problems of homes in the north, in the winter. Though, it could be argued that Gomer's place was far ahead of the rest of the city for being self sufficient. A couple of cords of fire wood were stocked out back, drying and seasoning. and there were a couple of wood burning stove in the house, to provide heat for cooking and to keep the indoors warm.

For them moment, it was decided that Sam and Brenda would stay in place. They were warm enough, that they could stay in the house. Actually, it was perhaps a bit too warm. Sam had put by some months of food, most of it was packaged food that needed no heating. They had a good supply of pain meds, and Sam was feeling much better, though his left was still not practical to walk on. The healing had begun already. Partly the power of faith and prayer, and partly the good immobilizing which the splint had been providing.

Chris and Gomer decided to spend a few more hours, and try to get the Model A to the point that it was drivable. They went out to the garage, and found that Sam had purchased the optional retro fit package, the battery and starter sat in the boxes, unopened. And the generator package, which normally ran the machine would serve well to keep the starting battery charged. With some hand tools, Gomer fitted the starter to the side of the Model A engine, it had already had been drilled and tapped for the mounting bolts. And put the battery on a tray which was designed for just this model of compartment under the hood. Some wiring was needed, to wire to the starter relay, and the push pedal on the floor for the starter.

Gomer poured a five gallon gas can into the tank of the model A, and gave it a tablespoon of gas in the air intake. He climbed in, retarded the spark, and put the shift in neutral. He pushed the starter with his toe, and the engine franked for a couple seconds. And then came to life. Moved the spark retarder back to run, and the engine idled gently with full power.

"Well, Sam's mobile, I guess. When his clutch leg heals." They went in and told Sam, who was thrilled to have his Model A running. Brenda volunteered that it had been a while, but she could drive standard shift, and had learned on one. She'd also driven a Model A at her parents farm. They had one as a run about vehicle. So, they were mobile. If not totally as Sam would like it. as a professional driver, he'd prefer to do all the driving. But, these times were not going to permit him to do that.

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