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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Guest Post: Firestorm Chapter 15, by Christopher Young


"WATT?" Chris hollered. Gomer had just mumbled something.
With the ear buds in, Gomer had not responded to two
more quietly asked questions.

Gomer pulled the ear buds out, and responded with a
string of curses. Loosely translated, the message
was "this bug out isn't going very well". Chris
nodded, and didn't say anything. "You know, I
spent my entire life riding around in a Chevrolet.
Mom and Dad always made me ride in the back seat,
and shut up and be still. When I grew up, I
promised myself I'd never ride again. Now I burnt
up my truck, and for the last week, I'm riding
around in a Chevrolet. I've jumped out of planes
over enemy territory, driven a tank in combat,
and I've got three kids of my own. What the hell
am I doing riding around in a Chevrolet?"

Chris thought about it for a while. Finally a
good thought. "Hey, you know those two Mussies
we aced? They left you couple of Fords to drive."
Gomer processed the information for a moment, and
then started to brighten.

Gomer wasn't the only person depressed. Madison had
been fighting with Jade, and finally bust out crying.
Jade didn't know what to do, so he went and told
Martha. Martha came upstairs to the bedroom, and
found Madison sobbing uncontrollably. Like good
mothers through the generations, Martha sat down
on the bed next to Madison. Held her in a warm
embrace, and just waited. Jade made funny faces.
He was embarrassed to be around anyone crying.
Such a boy.

Heather was getting worried. She had been out of
contact with Gomer and Chris, for well over 24 hours.
She knew it was a dangerous world. Faith had run off,
and gotten killed. She also knew that the Mussies
were active. And that the UN had been rounding up
people to relocate to FEMA camps. That wasn't on
the news. She'd been listening to the military
radio, after the kids had gone to bed.

Chris was starting to get concerned. The gas tank
was down a ways. Not sure how long the fuel would
hold out. Sam had a bit more gasoline, and there
was some in his shed. If the trailer and shed were
still there. Could be walking, before too long.

Brenda got out of the Model A, and went in the back
door of the farm house. She came out, and helped
Sam to hop up the four steps. Sam was getting much
better at walking around. Sam sat down at the
dining room table, and looked around. The curtains
and drapes were closed, the room was rather dark.
Brenda started out by opening the curtains.

Sam wasn't about to gloat too much, but inside he
was thrilled to pieces with the turn of events. He'd
wanted a working farm, for years. Darn shame that
someone had to die, to get him one. But, still, it
was grabbing the brass ring, for sure.

Gomer and Chris came in, seconds later. Hit by a
wall of darkness, Chris reached for a Mini Mag with
a Teralux conversion kit. Turned on the light,
and looked into the corners. Gomer reached for the
other side of his belt, and pulled out a Starfire
X3 tactical light, with Xenon bulb. Ran on two
CR-123 batteries. Bright enough to blind passing
air planes when focused correctly. Chris went to
the kitchen, and down the cellar stairs. Look at
the engine room, to speak of. Gomer went to the
second floor, to consider the place as a tactical
retreat. Check out overlapping fields of fire, and
see what kind of range and visibility.

Flashlight wasn't on Dora's mind. Tires were. The
two flat baldies had been on her mind. The diner
was still standing. A dozen or so people were in
the parking lot. Some in cars, and some had walked.
Just sitting on the benches outside the diner. It
had been overnight, since the power went out.

A couple of the customers recognized her. And
called her by name. They were hungry. Regular
customers. Dora chatted with them for a few minutes,
and asked if anyone knew where the boss was. No one
knew. The owners lived about an hour drive from the
store. Dora asked the people gathered, if anyone
knew how to cook. The women all knew how to cook at
home, and two of the men had been cooks in restaurants
before. Dora asked how they would cook. Even if any
of the food in the coolers was still good. One of
the customers pointed to the propane tanks out
back. Propane stove should work, even if the power
is off.

Dora unlocked the door, and went in. Went over to
the sink, and turned the faucet. Water came out.
Tried the hot, and hot water came out. Well, good
for now. One at a time, the customers came in and
sat. Plenty of light came in the windows. The two
men went to the kitchen, and had a look around.
The owners had a big lantern flash light, that took
square batteries. They looked in the pitch black
coolers. They were still cool. And there was food.
One lit the propane stove, and started to break
eggs onto the grill surface. A few minutes later,
the delicious scent of food was making its way out
of the kitchen.

Food was just exactly what Gomer was thinking. It
was nice to have MRE for breakfast at Sam's, but
he was thinking about real food. Gomer came down
from the second floor, prepared to make a report.
Chris came up from the cellar, also lost in thought.
Brenda had been looking through the kitchen, and
came back to the dining room with big smiles. Brenda
spoke first. She said the pantry had been stocked
to the rafters. Both canned food, and home made food.
They musta been preparing for an army to spend the
winter. Gomer came down from upstairs. He said the
view was fine, the place is defensible. Didn't find
any guns, though. Sam silently pointed to the gun
cabinet in the dark corner of the dining room. There
were about a dozen long guns in the cabinet. Gomer
went over, and opened the cabinet. Sure enough, one
of anything you'd want. Chris came up from the
cellar. Said it was well stocked with all the
essentials of life. Said the power panel had a
transfer switch, which meant.....

Chris went out back, and seconds later, there was
the sound of an engine purring. Chris came back in
with a big smile. "Propane generator. Two 250
gal tanks, and a big ass crank tank of gasoline to
go with it. We've hit the brass ring, folks."

Brass ring. It wasn't a carnival ride brass ring,
but Madison was crying about a brass ring. She had a
boyfriend at school, they were both six years
old. The boy had won a brass ring, at a gumball
machine at the super market. he and Madison had kissed,
behind the school, one afternoon after school. Now that
they were married, Jimmy had given Madison the brass
ring that he had got from the gumball machine. Madison
had not seen Jimmy in weeks, and figured he must be dead.
She was so worried. And the brass ring on her finger
had been reminding her. Finally, she could not hold the
tears any longer. Martha listened, as Madison explained
that they had plans to get married, and they would be
together forever.

Martha knew that the answer to so many children's problems
was food. She invited Madison to help fix lunch. Said she
could be the cook, today. Madison brightened, as she
thought of how proud her family would be, if they could
only see her cooking lunch. Wise woman, that Martha.

Dora, the wise woman, making the best of her situation.
She had opened the diner, not knowing what to expect.
Turns out that her two cooks were actually better than
the surly and foul mouthed creatures her boss had hired.
They were both outstanding. Dora took her pad, and took
orders. The guys in the kitchen made do with what they
had. If they were out of something, they used something
else. The customers hadn't been fed in 24 hours or so,
and they were eating everything on their plates.

Dora didn't have permission to use the cash register. So,
when lunch was finished, the customers offered her credit
cards. The phones were down, the power was off, and she
couldn't take credit if she tried. So, she told them to
pay what they could, in cash, and don't worry about the
rest. The customers were rather generous with the money,
and with the tips. Being fed sure does improve your

Dora explained her situation to each of the customers. One
woman had some space in the house, a spare room. Invited
Dora to come over and live with her. One of the men
asked which car she had, and she told him. The man looked
thoughtful, and then put his thumbs under the straps of
his coveralls. Asked what was with the other car behind
the restaurant. Dora explained the other car belonged
to the guy who quit about two weeks ago. he kept promising
to come back. The man nodded, and walked out without
saying anything.

At Gomer's compound, Heather started things off. Lunch
was finished, and the boys asked to be excused from the
table. She told them to sit for a few more minutes.
Heather explained that this was a big time in the history
of the nation. Things were very scarey, and it was going
to take some getting used to. She revealed to the kids
how worried she was. For the kids, and what would they
find when they grew up. And for the nation, what would
happen. She was worried for Chris and Gomer, who were
so far away from home. Now he cell phones were not working,
there was no way to know. She asked if the other kids
were worried. They nodded politely. She asked Savannah,
how she was feeling. Savannah answered worried also, and
talked for several minutes. Which wasn't hard for her to
do. Heather finally interrupted, and gave Melissa a turn.
She was also worried, she missed Daddy. The boys weren't
as talky. They missed camp fires, and ball games.

Gomer was starting to brighten up. The thought of the two
Fords in the bushes. Well, nwo, that gives him something
to work with. Only a short while longer, and he'd be
driving a Ford again. No more of this riding around stuff.

Sam said for Chris to go tank up, and the two gas cans.
That brightened Chris's day. Having some fuel to use.
The Blazer took a couple gallons, and there were two gas
cans in the back. Sam asked for an inventory of Chris's
supplies. Figured Chris would be taking off, to head
home. Chris did a mental check. Could use some more
food, they had eaten all the oatmeal cookies on the
way down. And some of the other food. Fuel and oil was
good, due to the crank tank in the back. Ammo was pretty
good, and they had taken a couple guns off the
Mussies at the ambush. Gomer checked his pistol, down
to a couple rounds of 9 MM. Wondered if there might
be any in the house. Sam hobbled over to the gun
cabinet, and pulled out the drawers. Sure enough, a
couple boxes of 124 grain JHP, which Gomer the
military man would appreciate. Sam gave Gomer one of
the boxes, and Gomer started to top off his magazine.

Chris said that it looked like there wasn't much
reason to stay around. Sam had a car to drive, plus
the Mitsubishi the Mussies left behind. And farm stocked
with plenty of food and fuel. Farm equipment, and seeds.
Silos full of grain. The good byes were brief, but
heart felt. Sam near to cried when he thanked the
guys for getting him home. Sam was having visions
of spending the rest of his life on a creek bank,
that would only have been a couple days till he died.
Brenda was glad to get her husband back safely. They
knew that there was a good chance they would never
see each other again. And they might not hear from each
other, either.

Brenda made sure they had plenty to eat. Sent a bunch
of home canned foods with Chris, in mason jars. And
some home made cookies she found in the pantry.

Chris and Gomer looked at each other. "One more thing..."
Chris said. Gomer nodded. Chris walked into the first
floor bathroom, and sat down. Gomer headed for the
second floor. Minutes later, Chris glanced into
the bath room mirror, as he washed his hands. Hadn't
shaved today. Got to take care of that. Gomer was
looking a bit ragged, too.

Two weary travelers emerged from the bathroom, and
paused to hug Brenda. Shake hands with Sam, who didn't
get up. His leg was still a bit sore. Chris put a
bottle of 500 acetaminophen on the table in front of
Sam. Found it in the medicine chest on the second floor.

As they stepped out the door, Gomer said "Good people."
Chris nodded. Two men climbed into the Chevrolet truck,
and Chris turned the key.

After lunch, Dora said good bye to each of the
customers. A couple gave her hugs, and heart felt
thanks. There was not much food to be found in town,
and the meal was excellent. The farmer with
the overalls pointed to her car. And then turned
and walked off. Dora walked over to her car, and
looked. There was a smell of gasoline. Her eyes
failed her. Were all four tires inflated? She finally
realized that the old farmer had taken all four
tires off the junk car, and put them on her car. She
unlocked the trunk, and lovingly and gently set in
the bug out bag into the trunk. Unlocked the door,
and turned the key. The car sprang to life. She
glanced at the gas gage, which she knew was nearly
empty. But the gas gage said full. Did the old
farmer siphon the junk car, and put the gasoline
in her car? This was a gift more precious than
money. For the gas stations were closed. Money
was just so much green paper. But a car that runs,
and a tank of gas. That's priceless.

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