Leaving Kayak Point driving north, everyone in my truck is in a somber mood. We pass a lake, ringed once with nice houses; all of them are ruined, many gutted by fire. Bloated bodies litter the water, most floating face down.
The ruin of what might have been a very nice neighborhood is shocking. We pass on the outskirts of the ruins. Several bodies are staked to trees, some of them reach out to the convoy as we pass.
“And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.”
“Very funny Shack, really not the time to be quoting the Bible.”
Shack smirks at me. “As an apostate Jew, at least you knew where the quote came from.”
On queue, Honey asks, “Where is that passage found.”
Honey swallows the last of an MRE breakfast muesli. Cramming her brown, American MRE spoon into her mouth, she licks it clean before putting it in her field jacket pocket. The two infected kids are almost continuously eating.
Shack gave Honey one of the numerous, pocket-sized King James Bibles that we find often enough in the rubble. Shack at least saved several Bibles from being used either as fire starter or the pages inside as rolling paper.
“The Book of Revelations 6:8.” Shack says, while helping Honey find the passage in her Bible. All I need right now is a pair of Bible thumping twits in my truck.
Monster, suddenly awake, yanks on Honey’s pant leg. Not taking her eyes from the open Bible in front of her, she reaches into her coat pocket, and hands Monster several MRE snacks. As Monster tears into his snack, I eye-ball Shack over Honey’s head.
Shack shrugs at me. “It helps her read, and gives her something to do.” Shack helps Honey pronounce the difficult words.
Monster finishes the first snack, tossing the wrapper in Honey’s lap while he tears into the next. Before Honey shoves the empty wrapper into the grocery store garbage bag tied to the dash, I read the label.
Monster ate a pear and blueberry fruit bar, taken from one of the older, vintage, dark brown American MREs. After finishing the next snack, a pair of unappetizing-looking bars labeled “chocolate ration” in English, Monster lies down again. Monster is soon asleep on the floor boards at Shack’s and Honey’s feet, tucked against the fire wall above the gear shift.
I would not think that it would be difficult to follow the convoy; after all we leave a lingering cloud of blue-gray smoke belched from all the M35’s and HEMTT’s engines. All of the diesels are burning a witch’s brew of used motor oil, used cooking oil and any other kind of flammable oil we can get our hands on.
I fought to keep all of the CLP, my favorite oil for cleaning and lubricating my weapons, from being dumped into the M35’s fuel tanks. Several little bottles of Rem Oil, got dumped into the M35 tanks. Several aerosol cans of WD-40 and Rem Oil were also used for starting the old M35s.
I always thought that using ether was the way to start reluctant cold diesels. The mechanics tell me that we should never use ether on the diesels as it is not good for the engines.
During the lunch time break, I use the bushes along with Honey. After we get back, the boys go to the bathroom.
“I envy the boys,” Honey says as we are leaning against the idling Dodge truck.
“What do you mean?” I ask wondering what has gotten into her mind now.
“The boys don’t have to drop their pants to pee, or squat.”
“Yes, but can you imagine having something swinging between your legs all the time? I always liked being a woman.”
“Ruth, is that because you are bisexual, so you like both girls and boys?” This is the first time Honey has directly mentioned my sexuality.
“No, not really. I like girl things, and cannot imagine not being a woman. I am bisexual, but it is the whole package that attracts me, not just a nice set of tits or how delicious Shack’s ass looks in those jeans.”
Honey blushes red to the tips of her ears. I open my mouth to speak but get interrupted by one of the Scouts roaring up on his motorcycle. Slamming on the brakes, the Scout slides to a stop beside my truck.
I wish the Scouts would wear helmets, but they tell me that they cannot hear with a helmet on and they restrict their view too much. I guess the lads have worse things to consider, like getting eaten by infected zombies, rather than crashing.
I have seen this boy around camp a few times, but his name escapes me at the moment. He has an old Hi Point 9mm carbine slung on his back. The Hi Point guns are some of the most common that we find. Problem is Hi Points have a proprietary magazine, and those are not as common. Finding a weapon with no magazine is useless.
The Scout’s Hi Point 9mm Luger carbine has been rattle can painted green and brown by someone with more enthusiasm than skill. A red dot optic of some form is clamped to the rail on top of the clunky, heavy carbine. The optic has been spray painted as well, but it looks like it might be one of the old Bushnell, or TruGlow red dots.
The Scout checks ammo, fuel, food and water status in each vehicle noting them down in a battered wire-bound journal. We are ok for now, but with Monster and Honey’s appetite, I am going to need more food in the truck soon.
Word is quietly passed that lunch is ready. No clanging triangles here because it attracts too much attention of the wrong sort. We all filter in through the old cement plant’s service doors. It is much cooler inside the old plant, one of the many things that I hated when I lived here during my convalescence. I am a child of the desert, I hate the cold.
Once inside, the children came running down to greet us. After numerous hugs, I get a good look at some of the children. I am amazed at how much some of the children have grown since we were here last.
Lunch is served (as all meals are in the old cement plant) cafeteria style. A line forms with the children and nursing mothers first, followed by the younger men, and then everyone else. Portions are generous, and I had forgotten how noisy it can be here during meals.
My tin tray is piled with some kind of meaty stew, a few pieces of fresh bread topped with butter, and fruit compote of some kind. Pulling one of my US Army OD green canteens off of my belt, I add a cherry flavored electrolyte drink mix from an old Soviet-era IRP (Individualnovo Ratsiona Pitanee).
I have to shake the hell out of my canteen to get all of the sugar to mix with the cold water. While vigorously shaking my canteen, I think about all of the shipping containers filled with MREs from all over the world that Iain has stashed all over his property.
I am not sure where the man got all of those MREs but he probably spent a fortune buying all of them. When it comes down to it though, MREs as survival food are not your best “bang for the buck” as it were when you look at calories per dollar cost.
However, for sheer convenience, and variety of food, plus their often high calorie content military MREs are hard to beat. Iain collected MREs from all over the world for several years. Burying the cargo containers on his land, he constructed carefully planned tunnels accessing each cargo container from the bunker.
Iain keeps an extremely detailed inventory of what is in each cargo container. By burying the containers underground, Iain protected them from the elements, and ensured that the steady temperature underground ensured most of the MREs survived well past their expected life span.
Iain and I have eaten MREs that were over 75 years old and were as fresh as the day they were packed. We have also attempted to eat MREs that were less than five years old and had already gone bad.
Hoping that my drink mix is sufficiently mixed, I dig into my stew while it is still warm. Not sure what meat is in the stew (I have learned not to ask) but it is tasty. Lots of potatoes and carrots, with some barley mixed in makes a hearty stew.
The fruit compote is slightly tart, but not overly sweet. I cannot place the berries I find in the compote, but recognize strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Separating some of the small round berries I study them closely.
“They’re silver buffaloberry and Canada buffaloberries, honey,” Iain says. “They’ve planted a bunch of them around that little spring up on the hill behind the plant. We have some on our property too, but the damn birds get most of ours before I can get to them. I much prefer goose berries, as I find buffaloberries just a little too tart for my tastes.”
Iain does have a hell of a sweet tooth, so I am not surprised that he prefers the sweeter goose berries to these tarter berries. My favorite has always been strawberries, which Iain loves as well which are why we keep a large patch of strawberries in our hydroponic system.
After spreading the butter on my bread, I sprinkle a little salt on it from my twin salt and pepper shaker that I keep in my coat pocket. Iain does the same with his bread and butter. Both of us use the bread to sop up every last drop of the stew and the fruit compote from our tin trays
Iain breaks out a sleeve of Pilot brand commercial survival crackers from his LBV sharing them with me. We both pull out a desert. Iain chooses an apricot and apple fruit gelee from a French RCIR (Ration de Combat Individuelle Rechauffable). I eat a cinnamon and apple Zapplesauce from an American army MORE (Modular Operational Ration Enhancement).
I think this particular Zapplesauce came from a US Army Hot Weather Pack #3, but I am not sure. Iain and I both like the snacks found in MREs from all the major countries. Finding the MRE snacks convenient and full of calories, Iain and I try to keep our pockets filled with at least a couple of snacks. After the crackers, Iain and I share one of the chocolate bars from another Russian IRP.
For some reason the Russian chocolate is particularly good, although I have never really gone crazy for chocolate. Amy loved chocolate, while I much prefer caramel. Unfortunately, caramel is fairly rare in MREs.
Iain and I are assigned a room on the third level of the plant. During the night, the lowest level which is mostly open to the elements is abandoned. The first floor is indefensible so it is abandoned. The ladders are pulled up into the second level, where most of the personnel live.
Iain and I carry our bedrolls and other supplies into our room. You have to admit the rooms are nice in the old cement plant compared to what most people live in. Robert and his crew have managed to partition off sections offering a little privacy.
Most of the walls are constructed of pallets and other handy building material such as car doors and body panels. After securing our room, Iain and I spend the afternoon handing out the trade items to the kitchen.
Robert’s bunch has had a good crop of Austrian winter peas grown on the hills behind the plant. The pea fields attract lots of wildlife mostly grouse, rabbits and the occasional deer which are carefully shot and butchered.
Dinner tonight will be another meaty porridge with some vegetables accompanied by some fresh-baked bread. As the evening progresses, the ground floor is secured and all personnel are accounted for on the second floor before the ladders are pulled up and secured for the night.
Supper is eaten in the large common room. I am glad to see Robert still has some working electrical lights. Iain found several thermoelectric generators which were bolted to every stove in the old plant.
Discovered in 1821, thermoelectric generators create electricity from direct heat. There are enough generators here to illuminate most of the second and third levels with faint light. The use of LEDs helps prolong the battery life.
Iain and I go to bed early. We are tired from travelling and fear we will fall asleep at the table. We excuse ourselves and retreat to our room. We strip and lay out tomorrow’s clothing. While Iain takes a quick sponge bath, I wipe my weapons with CLP. I notice that my Glock fighting knife’s edge needs a touch up – I will do that tomorrow after breakfast.
After my cold sponge bath, I crawl shivering into bed with Iain. Sleeping with Iain is like having a large furry furnace in bed with me. Curled up against Iain’s side I drift off to sleep wondering what tomorrow will bring.
“And to what do I owe the pleasure of your company Iain,” Robert asks. Before Iain can respond, Robert continues. “And how long do you intend to stay? Always nice to see you Ruth,” he says leaning around Iain’s bulky frame. Cheeky bastard.
Iain starts to respond, when Robert cuts him off yet again. “Who’s the new chick? She looks like an ecdysiast.”
Robert has the annoying tendency to flaunt his excellent vocabulary, attempting to make others feel stupid. Usually he does it when Robert feels threatened or unsure of a situation. Other than myself, and a few of the other older adults, I doubt anyone else here knows what an ecdysiast is, so Robert is just showing off.
The two men have always had a very cool relationship, regarding each other very warily. I would love to know what is the cause of the tension between the two men, but neither will speak about it except in general terms.
BUF runs into my arms, crushing me in a bear hug. He is actually crying he is so happy to see me. After a sound kissing on his furry cheeks, I give BUF some of the MRE hard candy I had stashed in my jacket. He grins like a silly little boy shoving the candy in the pocket of his camouflage overalls.
“BUF, you need to go back to your post. It is not time for you to come down yet. You can talk to Ruth later, at supper when your guard duty is done.”
Robert is not mean to BUF, and treats him more like a little brother. But sometimes you do have to remind BUF or he will get sidetracked and forget what he is supposed to be doing. I kiss BUF’s cheek again, and help him tuck his Fitter Family medals underneath his old faded field coat.
BUF heads back up the side of the hill, already sucking at one piece of hard candy. As BUF leaves, Father Naaman rolls up in his wheelchair. Father Naaman is a veteran of the Second Afghan War in which he lost both of his legs to a Soviet-era Dushka fired by Mujahedeen.
Still dressed in his customary black, Father Naaman was one badass Jesuit in his time. Former Green Beret, and a member of the secretive 5th Special Forces Group, the Father saw some serious combat.
Fluent in both Pashtu and Dari, Father Naaman served all over the Middle East. Despite losing his legs, the Father has remained in excellent shape, his priestly robes taught with the whip cord muscles underneath.
Father Naaman’s wheelchair has larger tires, designed more for off-road use rather than for hospital use. It has an extra rugged frame, and the wheelchair is fitted with extra straps securing Father Naaman in the chair. Father Naaman’s wheelchair has a wider and longer wheelbase, reducing the likelihood of tipping over.
A sawed-off, 12 gauge shotgun, a pistol gripped Ithaca 37 rides in a black leather holster on the right side of Father Naaman’s wheelchair. The shotgun’s pistol grip lies just underneath his right wrist.
A desert tan, CZ 75B pistol rides in a brown leather tanker holster across his torso. Lying in his lap is Father Naaman’s favorite, suppressed, CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1 pistol with the shoulder stock folded.
One the left side of his wheelchair, Father Naaman’s Leica Geovid HHD-4C solar-powered laser range finding binoculars rest in their special holster. I have heard the father assign himself penance because of his doggedly determination to keep those binoculars.
Despite not being of his faith, indeed as a member of the faith (sort of) and ethnicity not really friendly to the Catholic Church, Father Naaman and I have always gotten along very well. The rugged, smooth-cheeked priest was one of the first to visit me when I woke from my coma.
While I floated in and out of consciousness, Father Naaman would read the bible to me. He also read other books, regardless if I wanted him to or not. Despite my screaming at him a few times, and several rather unkind things said by yours truly, Father Naaman always came back, calmly reading to me.
A pair of books that he read several times to me is The Spirit of Catholicism by Karl Adams, and Christianity for Modern Pagans by Peter Kreeft. While the good father probably does not have as many books as Obaba, the little Japanese troll, he does have an impressive collection.
As the rest of the members of this extended family come out to greet Iain and me, I notice someone seems to be missing. Wading through the children, the adults arrive. As I hug and kiss Emily, admiring her six-week old son, I ask her a question that has bugged me since we arrived.
“Hey, Em where’s JT?”
Everyone looks suddenly sad and a pall of silence slams over the crowd. Damn, did I just fuck up royally? Finally Father Naaman speaks.
“James-Thomas died day before yesterday. He was checking our larger cistern for leaks. With our SCUBA gear he jumped in and fell to bottom of the cistern because he forgot to inflate his BC (buoyancy compensator) and turn on his air. He fell all 142’ feet to the bottom and drowned. We used a grapple and fished him from the cistern yesterday and buried him this morning. Emily’s six week old baby is James-Thomas’s son. Stupid mistake killed a fine young man.”
“What is the boy’s name?”
“We haven’t named him yet, Ruth, because we are not sure if he is going to live. Right now we call him Sausage, because he is a chunky little bundle of joy. Father Naaman wants to christen my son, but I want to wait until I name him.”
I know that no one else in the old cement plant is Catholic, as the old priest and I talked about it many times. But that did not seem to bother Father Naaman; he said it just means that he has his work cut out for him.
Emily looks at me with her tear streaked face, her despair plain on her face. “If I didn’t have Sausage, I might have jumped in after JT and joined him.”
Sausage starts to fuss, so Emily takes him into the shade underneath one of the old cement mix silos, and lets him nurse. The men take the wagon and animals to the stables, while the women retreat into the shelter underneath the old cement plant.
I observe Sausage nurse for a while watching as his little fingers flex against his mother’s breast. Amy used to talk about having children together some day; I always avoided the child topic or tried to dodge it as best as I could.
While it was not necessary to have a walking sperm donor in your life, most of the men I slept with (at least for fun) I preferred big, stupid and silent. I was not there for a witty tête-à-tête, I wanted to get fucked which I always enjoyed. When the fucking was over, I bailed.
When I wanted intelligent discussion, or looking for someone who was intriguing and could stimulate my mind – I generally sought women. For me, as a bi-sexual, it was a whole package deal, the sex of my lover was almost unimportant. I do not get wet just because of a great set of tits or because of how scrumptious Iain’s ass looks in those tight Wrangler jeans he wears.
Even as much as I loved Shack and as much as I love Iain, I could not imagine having children with either of them. Shack never broached the subject of children. Iain and I have discussed children once or twice. I just never wanted children of my own.
The last time that Iain and I discussed children, he mentioned adopting or adding someone to the bunker who has children. We could use more help in the bunker and we have plenty of room. But children? In the bunker?
Emily moves Sausage over to the other breast and his little fingers and toes flail as she moves him. He settles down as he gets suction on the new full breast, but his little toes and fingers still flex against mom.
I have never been a motherly type – I think the mothering gene or instinct skipped me. I always wondered what the kid did with those fingers inside of the mother. I cannot imagine something with fingers lying just underneath my heart for nine months.
Iain shows me some of the data that he has collected. He did not really have to as I believe him and his reasoning for wanting to move Flower’s clan. As far as I can tell, Iain has never lied to me. He knows that I believe that if you lie to others or lie to God you are only human; but lie to yourself and you never will remove the stain from your soul.
He is particularly interested in the twins. I ask Iain why the twins are so important. Are they some kind of canary?
“If a kid is a little shorter than others or missing some IQ points, it’s tough to see. But with identical twins you can compare them to each other,” Iain explained. “The growth of one of the twin sons seems stunted, while the other was about average height. One has also suffered an unusual number of rashes and staph infections, as have most of the people living here.”
“Iain, how are you going to convince these people to move?”
“I’m not sure, Ruth but I hope to have that answer by the time we are back here from Robert’s place.”
The next few days are spent packing gear and traveling to Robert’s place, an old abandoned cement plant on a hill overlooking the Powder River. During the four-day trip to the cement plant, Redhead was surprisingly quiet.
Riding up the dirt trail leading towards the front gate of Robert’s compound, we are greeted by BUF (Big Ugly Fucker). Nearly as tall as Iain, but much wider, BUF was burnt badly as a child. BUF suffers pupula duplex in his left eye, and constantly wears sun glasses. BUF suffers badly from migraine headaches.
Iain says that BUF reminds him of Sloth from the old Goonies movie, but I do not see the resemblance. For one thing, I am not sure if Sloth smells as bad as BUF does, but they are both lacking in the teeth department.
BUF is a large, loveable giant of a man who has the intellect of a 12-year-old boy despite being some 20 years old or so. As we pass underneath the rock pile that serves as BUF’s vantage and lookout point, I see that BUF still wears the Fitter Family medals from an ancient eugenics judging contest.
I do not know where Iain got those old medals and one medal even has some holes as if someone once used it for target practice. BUF loves the medals, and will not part with them, but I do not know if he realizes what they represent.
BUF stands guard over the old cement plant. He carries a M79 grenade launcher, which looks small in his giant hands. I know that his favorite close quarters load is a 40mm Hornet’s Nest load that fires ten, 22 Winchester Magnum rim fire rounds at once through ten, individually rifled cylinders.
The bottom of the Hornet’s Nest shell unscrews revealing a firing plate set off by large pistol or rifle primer. BUF likes the other, usual 40mm shells but for some reason loves that bright red Hornet’s Nest shell.
We pass through the main gate into the old dusty court-yard passing the Villar Perosa twin submachine gun on its pintal mount. I am not sure where Robert got the rather rare and unique Spanish machine gun.
I climb off of Mary Margaret with a groan watching her foal scamper around the place smelling. Once the gate is closed behind us, the children explode from hiding startling the little foal, which darts back to the safety of her mother’s leg where she stands shaking.
Surrounded by the children I am struck by how much several of them have grown. After the children, came their pets are we are surrounded by dogs while the compound’s cats, who would not deign to greet visitors look down upon us from their lofty perches.
You would think that with this many damn cats that they would wipe out the fucking pigeons that infest this old cement plant. However, the pigeons are a major food source so Robert does not want too many cats around. I was never quite clear how exactly the cat population is controlled – perhaps I do not want to know.
Seeing pets at all after KCAP is rare. Most pets were either killed, ate or lost. The FEMA camps with military-like discipline, immediately confiscated pets which were then taken away to be euthanized as soon as possible. Those entering the FEMA camps were summarily disarmed, so they could not offer any resistance when their pets were killed.
Once, both Safeco Field and the Seahawks Stadium FEMA camps each held more than 20,000 plus people. The last time that Iain and I checked both were still heavily infested with zombies.
We discussed at length attempting to get into either of the largest FEMA camps ever in the area. We are fairly certain that a significant amount of weapons, food, medicine, and other supplies are probably still in the two infested stadium which are directly across from each other.
During one Seattle scouting mission, we ate lunch sitting on the street corner between the burnt out remains of the Pyramid beer garden and Safeco Field. While eating, we watched zombies crushed against the industrial grade fencing by the press of bodies behind them.
Sometimes the press of bodies against the fence got so great that a zombie or two was actually squeezed through the fencing like meat through a cheese grater. Once a zombie is killed, it becomes instant meat for the surviving zombies around it.
I nearly lost my lunch as I watched a zombie munch with relish on a large, yellow lipoma on the shoulder of a dead, Asian woman zombie crushed against the fence.
A grossly fat, female zombie with long heavy dreads, dressed in skin-tight black capris, and a pink tube top about three sizes too small grabbed the large chunk of meat with the lipoma trying to take it from the other zombie.
A brief struggle between the two zombies resulted in ghettopotamus zombie getting some small pieces of the lipoma while the original zombie got to keep most of its prize. I shudder at the memories.
As Robert and his ladies descend to greet us, Iain and I pull out the turmeric root we brought along for trade. We also brought lots of dried yucca root for soap making. I have not been here in several months. Coming here brings back some painful memories.
I smile and try to make the best of the situation as Iain and Robert coolly stare at each other.
Iain and I walk across the courtyard, serenaded by Obaba reading some Indian drama, with lots of marriages, scandals, gratuitous high fashion and excuses for ridiculous costumes. I never really cared for Indian drama, but found some of the comedies funny.
Iain is determined to move Flower’s group. Arguing with the man when he is in this mood is like arguing with a forest fire.
“Have you considered calling Robert on the Ham radio?”
In the field Iain carries a Yaesu 857D portable Ham radio with LDG Z-100 antenna tuner. I watched him carefully hook the small solar charging panel to the batteries just after we arrived in the old school.
I have learned that Iain in the old world was an “Elmer” Ham operator, someone who mentors others in amateur radio. He has tried establishing a small Ham radio network here in the area with limited success.
“I don’t want to broadcast over an unsecure network that I plan on moving some 30-odd people plus some of their belongings. Too many assholes out there still that might hear and plan an ambush. No, it is safer to make this request in person even if it takes much more time.”
“But Iain, you did not plan on being gone from the bunker this long.”
“No I didn’t, but I think a couple more weeks shouldn’t hurt. Although, I am worried about the hops going bad. We need to pick the hops and get them packaged soon.”
Iain loves beer, and grows several varieties of hops in the bunker. We are running out of frozen hops, but the lack of malted grain is critical. The bunker was not built with malting floor. Robert and Iain cooked up this wild idea of creating a malting floor at Robert’s place trading malted grain for hops.
We sit at one of the benches in the courtyard. “So, why are you suddenly so gung-ho to move this group?”
“You know that I have been testing the water and soil here in the old school. Some of the soil samples I took measured 1,250 parts per billion of lead. Some samples tripped the 5,000 ppb warning which is the technical definition of hazardous waste. Even the Romans noticed, as early as 312 BC, that lead exposure seemed to cause strange behaviors in people.”
“So Iain you are saying these people are lead poisoned?”
“Ruth, in a way that I did not think possible. But not just lead. Chlorinated hydrocarbons as well; in massive numbers. Flower’s clan has had high red blood cell counts and indications of leukemia in several members. The problems are bad enough that I was considering if infecting them with KCAP would be a kindness or just shooting them would be kinder.”
“They are that bad off?”
“Ruth, she probably won’t tell you this because for some reason she seems to hate you with a passion I have rarely seen in one so young. In December Flower suffered a bout of epilepsy, she suffers from asthma and a nearly constant urinary tract infection, and has a low white blood cell count.”
Iain pulls out his little notebook, looking at his notes his lips form a tight line. I know that look; it usually means more bad news. Some people had the notion that all information is good, that information is like water in desert, and that you can never have enough.
Some of the “all information is good” people are also the ones whose mind-numbing embrace of passivity, helplessness, infantilizing and condescending outlook on the rest of mankind doomed them in the KCAP apocalypse.
Most of these intellectuals lacked any real skills useful in an apocalypse and became either one of the infected or lunch for the infected. Part of what chaps my ass about Flower is that she constantly has the smug look on her face that only the truly self-righteous can carry off. That look on her face makes me want to smash her face in until it is a bloody pulp.
It would be nice to get out of the city though. The stink in most cities from untreated sewage, rotting garbage, and unburied rotting corpses has faded over the years, but is still prevalent when the wind shifts. That smell invades the nostrils, lodges in the back of your throat and triggers my gag reflex. Iain seems immune to the smell – asshole.
We face the problem of paralysis through analysis. Obviously we need to do something, but neither option looks very appealing.
“We leave redhead here, or take her with us,” I ask Iain.
“We take suchka with us. I don’t trust Flower and her crew to keep their hands off of her.”
“Now what has she done?”
“You mean other than the constant complaining, and bitching about the crummy food, and lack of entertainment?”
“What the fuck does she expect – dancing monkeys? Do you think that she will fare any better at Robert’s place and if she is such a pain in the ass, how long until Robert tosses her pretty ass out?”
“I don’t know Ruth, but she is getting on my nerves.”
For redhead to get on Iain’s nerves is really saying something because he is the most patient man that I have ever met.
Obaba continues to read the Indian drama in the background. Iain, seeing that I am listening to Obaba for a bit, looks pointedly at me.
“ ‘Books give delight to the very marrow of one’s bones. They speak to us, consult with us and join with us in a living and intense intimacy.’ ”
“Who the fuck said that?”
“Petrarch, dear,” Iain says with a smug look on his face.
“Asshole. OK, but Petrarch did not have to put up with Indian high drama read by a little Japanese troll in a reedy voice. Speaking of which, how are we going to move said little Japanese troll and all of her shit? Have you ever looked in her room, it is packed to the damned rafters with all kinds of books, papers, magazines and God knows what else. Hell, she could have a copy of the Lemegeton of Solomon in there for all we know.”
“You’re showing you Jewish roots dear, although if she did, I’d love to read it.”
I rarely grace these pages, but occasionally Ruth values my input. (Actually, I always value his input; he just so rarely expresses his desire to appear in my journal – Ruth.)
I watch her facial expressions as she processes what I have just told her concerning the water and food. I have been far too busy exploring a hunch, and have not kept Ruth up to date – a failing, I am sure she will harshly take me to task for later.
There is so much shit from the old world left lying around that it should not be surprising that occasionally we run into trouble with some of it. When societies suddenly collapse, there are a great many things left behind that survivors have to deal with eventually.
Cultures and societies become more conservative and more sexist when they feel threatened or when conditions are worsening – not exactly a recipe for cohesive working conditions. St. Augustine, not that I am particularly religious, said that we should never use the truth to injure – but Goddamn it is hard sometimes!
The bees are almost all dead or gone, with very few survivors. The fucking stupid clan ate some of the brood and almost the entire honey comb. When I tried to explain that it does not help the bees, and injures them to eat all of their honey, the response I got was “but it was so good.”
“Ruth, we know that their water has fecal contamination. I suspect several of the clan members suffer pin worm infestations as well. But that is not the worst of their troubles.”
I walk over to the water bucket on our wagon, noticing that it is nearly half gone. Rinsing out the remains of the MRE orange bug juice from lunch, I refill my canteens replacing them on my belt.
Leaning against the wagon, I cross my legs. Ruth has her fixed expression, lips tightly together, her brow furrowed, arms folded across her chest underneath her breasts.
“There are also some areas contaminated with Legionnaires’ disease. Despite the generally cooler temps, somehow the water in this old school gets warm enough for the Legionella bacteria. Or the Legionella bacterium has mutated and now survives in cooler water.”
“Your elegance of expression never ceases to amaze me, dear.”
Ruth gives me the oh so American one finger salute.
“So, what else? I saw you got that big fucking instruction manual to the water tester. You only dig that damn thing out when the shit is really bad; you treat it as if it is the fucking Guttenberg bible.”
“You know that this clan has had a high rate of unexplained illnesses, miscarriages, and intellectual disability.”
“Intellectual disability? Is that your kind way of saying they are a bunch of fucking morons?”
“Ruth, honey, you were not with me yet, but Flower’s clan used to be much larger and did not always live here in this old school. The first Flower, the current Flower’s grandmother, was a very strong woman and really had her shit together. They had more men, and the general age of the clan was a bit older. Lived on an old hippie commune out in the foot hills, even had chained zombie guards on the fence line.”
“Not sure, honey. Something drove them off the old hippie compound. Another, stronger survivor group, zombie horde, not sure we’ll ever know. All the people from then, besides Obaba are dead, and Obaba cares for nothing except her reading.”
“Obaba was with them back then?”
“Yes, she was a petite, beautiful Japanese-American woman, taught Japanese studies at Washington State University for several years. Shame how she has become so hunched and wizened. But I believe Obaba, which was not always her name by the way, is a particularly good example of the poisoning of these people.”
“Do you think this poisoning was intentional or accidental?”
“I don’t know, but you know that illness kills more than injury in every conflict. What if they were poisoned to get them off the land?”
“So what does it mean for us?
“I want to move the clan, but I may have to remove Flower from her throne in order to do so.”
“You want to pull a fucking coup? Have you lost your fucking mind?”
Ruth throws her hands up in that so Jewish gesture of frustration. “Fucking meshuggah! Where the fuck are you going to move a bunch of inbred, retarded, stunted kids …” she stops mid-sentence.
A look of shock comes across her face as she realizes just what I have in mind. It is hard to slip something past Ruth; she has one of the best tactical minds I have ever met.
“Robert’s …you fucking want to move them to Robert’s place.”
“They have the room, but it’s not as easy as that. In the old days, moving this many people some 100 miles would be a snap. Today, it is going to be a real feat.”
“Not to mention you are going to have to convince both Robert and Flower, unless you kill her in your nice, little coup, to agree to this insane idea of yours.”
Thinking, Ruth digs the toe of her boot into the cement floor of the stable. She looks at me with that stillness that tells me the wheels are a’whirlin’ behind her dark brown eyes.
“How far of a ride it is to Robert’s from here … three; four days?”
“About, if you ride hard and do not stop much.”
“Someone is going to have to be the liaison between the two groups. Shall we divide our team?”
“I don’t think so, riding alone in this day and age is not exactly smart. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you, Ruth.”
She smiles at me for my endearment but the smile does not reach her eyes. She is still mad, and thinking too much for my silly placating words.
“You are talking about some serious time in the saddle. Riding to Robert’s, pitching this fucking insane idea of yours, and then riding back is going to take the better part of two maybe three weeks.”
“I know, I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit.”
Ruth looks at me, arms still crossed across her chest, toe digging in the floor. After a few minutes of thought, she speaks again.
“And just who is going to pitch this great idea of yours?” Her face goes still. Her eyes widen.
“Me … you fucking want me to pitch this idea to Robert!”
“Babe, you were there the longest; you spent nearly five months healing among those people. Robert’s people know you well and you know them. I think it’d be better received from you, with me adding support.”
“What is it with you and Robert? You will have to tell me some time, so that I know why there is this coolness between you two. I know that he was once, pre-KCAP, the Baker City chief of police. What did Robert do, ticket you for excessive height? Was he dirty?”
“Well, not exactly dirty, but we had some unpleasant encounters. I was surprised to see him actually caring for someone other than himself. Not what I expected of him at all.”
“People can surprise you.”
Ruth has an emotional perceptiveness that I lack; perhaps her bisexuality gives her multileveled perceptions, maybe because I am straight.
“Why do you care so much, you are not exactly the white knight type?” Ruth asks, breaking my contemplations.
Oh boy, how to explain to Ruth that I feel partially responsible for Flower’s group. I was once privileged to be one of Flower’s grandmother’s lovers.
Zombies are everywhere, from movies and games to comics and graphic novels. We love nothing more than watching our world crumble and how people just like us deal with that. If you know me, you will know I am obsessed with the zombie genre. I was watching an episode of ‘The Walking Dead’ the other […]
I worry that the clan members assigned to reload the shotgun primers using old phosphorus matches might get phossy jaw. Iain told me that would be nearly impossible, because the exposure limits are still fairly low.
The royal guard’s shields are as improvised as the rest of their weapons. Since ammo and working firearms are so scarce melee weapons have returned to prominence; perhaps Iain had the right idea so many years ago carrying a ginormous sword.
Each guard’s small, round wooden shield, is maybe two-feet in diameter. The front of the shields are reinforced with pieces of rubber tires, and studded with sharp pieces of glass and rusty nails. One industrious guard even studded his shield with several short sections of razor concertina wire.
Each shield has a sharp, central iron spike 10” long well slathered in shit. Iain calls the guard’s shields “spiked targes,” and has worked training the boys in close-quarters melee. Iain also calls Flower’s guards “beef eaters” I suppose in reference to the old British guards.
From what I understand Flower’s guards get the best food and the best of everything. I know that Iain suspects that Flower sleeps with her guards, and that they have fathered all of her children. I do not really give a shit who Flower sleeps with, as long as it does not bother Iain, red-head or myself.
Flower and her guards always remind me of one of my father’s favorite quotes from the Christian bible. “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20
Of course thinking of the bible, reminds me of Shack. It is really unfair to Iain that even after all these years together, I still mourn for Shack. I really loved that boy, in a way that I did not realize until he was gone.
Iain and Flower talk a few minutes longer eventually moving away from me. I tuned out what Iain and Flower were talking about anyway. Finding myself alone in the quart yard, I ponder what to do with my time.
Looking around the court-yard it seems that everyone else has a task except me. Obaba is now reading from an old Star gossip magazine covering the early days of the brief Trump presidency.
After securing my weapons, I do a little stretching since that bitch got me all worked up again. By the time I am done and feeling properly limber, Obaba is reading the late Christian Bale’s famously explosive temper tantrum rant in another Star gossip magazine.
I decide I might as well eat my lunch. Leaving the area, I can hear the droning cadence of Obaba’s voice but not what she is saying. At the wagon, I pull the drab green MRE pouch out of my left hip pocket of my field coat. Sitting beside the wagon on the ground, I lean against a wheel.
I quickly read the label. Oh boy, I am in for a treat today. I get to eat a 1982 MRE containing the famously horrid frankfurters meal … AKA the “four fingers of death.”
After gagging down the four chunks of something slightly resembling meat; praying that they will not make a sudden and explosive reappearance from either end of my body, I actually get to enjoy the beans with tomato sauce entrée.
There was enough heat left in the flameless MRE heater after heating the four fingers of death, that the beans are pleasantly warm. The beans, for their age, are not too bad and once enough Tabasco has been added, quite flavorful.
For desert, I attempt gnawing on a John Wayne chocolate fudge bar. I eventually resort to using my knife, chopping the John Wayne bar into manageable chunks so that I can chew them without risk of shattering a tooth.
I brush my teeth using charcoal for toothpaste; what I would give for a tube of any decent toothpaste.
I refill my canteen with grape flavored bug juice using water from the wagon. Iain has left me a note on the wagon water barrel to only drink water from the barrel on the wagon and not to drink any water from the clan’s sources.
I hear Iain’s distinct walking pattern. I still have fairly good hearing despite shooting guns all the time without hearing protection most of the time. Iain rounds the corner of the court-yard entering the stables; his body language tells me that he is troubled by something.
Iain still has one of our solar-powered water quality testers underneath his arm but now it is accompanied by its huge instruction book full of tables, graphs and charts.
Seeing that I have used the water barrel, Iain looks at me and says, “Good, you got my note. Don’t drink any water from any other source, and I fear we may not want to eat their food anymore either.”
Seeing my actions, causes Flower to pause a moment and then continue her angry walk, but at a less-threatening pace. She spreads her hands, showing that Flower is not carrying any weapons in her hands. I lower the muzzle of my Galil towards the ground, taking my finger off of the trigger, but leaving the safety in the off position.
The look on her face would cause thunderclouds to form over her head in the old cartoons. In our previous visits, Flower and I have been cordially civil, but I always got the impression that if it were not for Iain, Flower would have me killed.
Flower stomps right up to me and gets in my face. “You turned one of my guards in to a sprinkler, you bitch! Now when he pisses, it comes out the side. I don’t appreciate you hurting my guard.”
Stepping closer, I bend forward slightly so that our noses nearly touch. “Keep the nasty little fucker from peeping into my people’s rooms, and I will not have cause to harm them.”
“He was just looking; you can’t blame him for that.”
At least with my back to the wall, no one can circle around behind me. Glancing across the courtyard I see Iain watching closely.
“Flower, I don’t give a shit that he looked, what I took an exception to was his comments and what he would like to do to her. I disabused him of the idea.”
She crosses her arms and looks perplexed. “You what?”
Fuck! Inbred, illiterate and stupid little cunt. “I made him realize that his plans for my friend were not a good idea.”
Flower is missing most of her front teeth, and has thin, badly scarred lips. Her left marled eye is completely blind. Like most clan members, Flower shaves her head, not for fashion but for lice control.
She is not the first Flower, but only the most recent in a matriarchal society. I know that she hopes that her oldest daughter takes her place someday, but depends on if she is tough enough to take leadership of the clan. The current Flower killed her mother, the previous Flower, taking the throne.
Looking at her guards, Flower shrugs her shoulders. Realizing that I will not yield, she takes a step backwards. In a mollified tone she asks, “Please don’t hurt any more of my guards. If you have a problem, come to me.”
She looks around the courtyard, the clan queen surveying her realm. Seeing red-head playing with the children she turns back towards me. “Are you leaving, the red-headed woman with us? If she is for sale or trade, we would be most interested in purchasing her.”
I wonder if Flower means the royal we, and if she has carnal plans for red-head. I also wonder what the fuck this little sewer rat has of worth to trade for a healthy, beautiful woman.
I have watched Flower slitting the throats of captured enemy clan members, dancing in the arterial spray of blood, her body adorned with the fresh, bloody scalps of her victims.
I used to think of Flower and her clan as feral children until I watched her butcher her helpless, captured enemies.
I do not trust this little savage. I believe if it were not for the fact that Iain and I posses quite a few guns, and grenades, Flower would have attacked us. First time we encountered Flower’s clan is because they were attracted to our animals.
The survivors of the old world hunt and eat wild horses and mules, as well as any other formerly domesticated animal that has the misfortune to cross their path.
I inhale preparing to give Flower a good ass chewing. Clan queen or not, I am not a fucking flesh peddler.
“Flower, we have told you before that we don’t sell people. We intend taking red-head with us when we leave, but if she wants to stay, that is up to her.”
I did not realize that Iain crossed the courtyard. With his long legs, he crossed the courtyard quickly. I see that Iain has one of our water spectral analyzers tucked underneath one arm. What the fuck is he doing now?
In Hebrew, Iain says to me, “Easy Ruth, honey. Don’t go meshugga on me. We could probably shoot our way out, but the cost would be too dear.” It amazes me how quickly Iain picked up Hebrew as well as Yiddish.
Flower puts on her most beautiful smile. Turning towards Iain, she gives him what I am sure she thinks is a seductive pose.
“Iain, dear, I could use a healthy adult woman in my clan. I have plenty of studs, but few mares able to give healthy children.”
Standing between us, I take a moment studying Flower. She is short, standing perhaps just a hair less than five feet tall.
Flower wears a long-sleeved, faded Levi jacket with fleece lining, and tattered, Levi jeans. Ripped, black Converse sneakers cover her feet, patched with duct tape. O.D. green parachute cord laces hold the old sneakers on her feet, a gift from Iain our last trip.
Flower carries a pair of mother of pearl handled polished nickel 1911s chambered in 38 Super. Flower’s pistols ride in a custom, black leather, double shoulder holster rig with polished sterling silver conchos. The black leather has faded to gray in several places, and is cracked. The silver conchos are green with corrosion. I know that Iain offered rendered bear lard, which we use on our leather, but Flower apparently cannot be bothered to maintain her gear.
A matching black leather belt also in poor condition circles her narrow hips. Securing the belt is a dented and corroded, Texas-dinner platter sterling silver belt buckle. Her belt buckle holds a pair of North American Arms, micro revolvers chambered in 22 WMR. She only possesses five rounds of 22 WMR for her mini revolvers. I am not sure how she has divvied those rounds between the two pistols.
Flower’s belt has pistol ammo loops, but only three loops on her left hip are occupied. Several of the loops are split from dry rot and will not hold shells anymore.
I know that Flower has very few rounds for her guns, with the last full 1911 magazine presently in each gun. I know that Flower wants rounds for her guns above all else, which is how I know exactly what she is armed with.
Flower also wants guns and enough ammo to wage war on the neighboring tribes (or clans, they cannot seem to decide whether they are tribes or clans). Iain and I, although we have enough ammo that we could spare some, we are reluctant to arm Flower’s fighters.
Dumping a lot of arms on one bunch would seriously unbalance the area. Very few weapons carried today actually have ammo in them. It is rare, such as when we took the wagon, that the man actually possessed ammo for his guns. Most guns today, empty of ammo, are carried for scare tactics, rather than as a weapon.
A few times in the past, ambushers and highway robbers received a very nasty surprise when they assumed that the guns Iain and I carry were empty. It is quite unlike the early days when there seemed to be an unlimited amount of ammo and weapons.
Flower’s four male guards are the largest men in the tribe. Rumored to be her lovers as well as her guards, the four guards are well fed and receive the best of everything. I wonder if Flower occasionally replaces a guard or if there is a guard retirement plan.
Each of Flower’s hand-picked guards carry a leather embossed, wooden circular shield and a shotgun fed reloaded black powder shells. There is no standard uniform, with the exception of the shield; the weapons choice is up to the guard.
The guard with the over-under shotgun carries a large, rusty knife strapped to his leg. The knife is in bad shape, but I can still make out Wüsthof on the blade.
One of Flower’s guards carries a disreputable, Chinese-made Remington 870 clone. Two of her guards carry double barrel, side-by-side shotguns. The fourth guard carries a rusty, over under with a silvery receiver. All shotgun barrels are cut as short as possible, the stocks crudely chopped into some vague shape that slightly resembles a pistol grip.
Cheap nylon and homemade bandoliers carry the black powder reloads which have proven to be anything less than completely reliable. I know Iain taught them a few of the ways to reload shotgun primers using the white phosphorus part of the heads from old strike anywhere matches.
Iain provided a few strike anywhere white tip matches from his stash in the bunker for shotgun primer making, but it takes 3-4 matches per primer. It would not take long to exhaust Iain’s carefully vacuum sealed stash of old white phosphorus strike anywhere matches.
Strike anywhere matches and even matches of any kind are nearly as dear as TP, 22 long rifle ammo, and Twinkies.
Reaching the kitchen safely, I pause a moment, guaranteeing that the pin is fully seated in the fuse of the ancient Russian RGD-5 (Ruchnaya Granata Distantsionnaya) frag grenade. Satisfied, the old, olive-drab grenade safely joins its comrades hanging on my Vietnam-era LBV.
This grenade is one of the last of our Russian army surplus grenades collected from the wreckage of the old Dodge truck. Iain and I replaced all of the old electronic proximity fuses with good old-fashioned Russian-made, Soviet era mechanical timers.
The mechanical fuses are significantly older, in some cases more than 50 years old. Mechanical fuses are better than trusting 30+-year-old Russian electronics powered by a non-replaceable lithium-ion battery.
Setting a grenade electronic proximity fuse for the minimum of three inches, sounds good in theory; in reality the usual three-to-five foot error radius renders electronic proximity fuses worthless indoors.
Some of the old Russian electronic grenade fuses have gone peculiar as well. It is better not to trust the old wonky Russian electronics as I have watched some of them detonate unexpectantly.
I grab some breakfast, in this case some hot Labrador tea, and some kind of hot biscuit like thing. I avoid eating any kind of meat while I am with Flower’s clan. The reason I avoid meat here, becomes obvious as some hunters return from the field carrying several large dead rats, as well as a couple of sorry-looking rabbits.
Meat is far too precious here, one of the reasons that Iain has threatened dire consequences should anything befall our animals. They did not even have a stable here until Iain insisted that they build one if they wanted to trade with us. Not eating an animal was something foreign to Flower and her people.
I take my food and join several people sitting in the communal eating area, which might have once been the cafeteria for this old school. Obaba, the clan lector is reading to those who care to listen. I do not know the full story of how the tiny, ancient Japanese woman came to join Flower’s clan, but she is the only clan member that can read.
Sitting in her usual place at the end of the hall, Obaba is reading an old National Geographic magazine. I understand from previous visits that Obaba’s room is stuffed to near bursting with every kind of magazine, book and newspaper.
She supposedly has almost the whole collection of National Geographic magazine. I wonder if Obaba was in the old world a hoarder, someone who collects so much shit that their house is stuffed to nearly bursting with it.
How the hell Obaba kept nearly everyone from using her precious books, magazines, and other printed paper goods for a fire is beyond me. Why Flower and her clan tolerate the bespectacled, stooped little Japanese troll is also beyond me.
While sipping tea and nibbling on my cold, tough bannock biscuit. Iain marches in, dressed in his snug-fitting Levi jeans, and long-sleeved plaid shirt. His shirt is tucked into his pants which are held up by a very thick black leather weapons belt. Black leather Vietnam-era jump boots clomp on the cement floor as he ducks into the kitchen.
Iain reappears moments later with a mug of steaming tea, a bowl of some kind of gruel, and a bannock biscuit. As he sits across from me, Iain’s sword bumps into the bench with a loud, resonating whack.
A tuft of chest hair juts out at Iain’s throat over the hem of his US Army issue ECWS thermal underwear. A brown leather shoulder holster straining to stretch around his torso, holds the old Ruger Super Redhawk .44 magnum underneath his left arm. Iain is minus his usual P90 and US Army Vietnam-era OD green LBV.
As if reading my mind, Iain answers my question. “I left them with red-head whom I had to wake up. Stupid kid that was supposed to be watching the hallway disappeared. His relief was trying to find him when I came out of our room.” I shrug at Iain and continue eating.
Iain digs into the bowl of meat-laced porridge with gusto. “After eating that shit, you are not kissing me until you brush your teeth,” I tell him pointedly. He just grins lopsidedly at me, and continues shoveling food in his mouth.
For a man that eschews silverware, Iain is remarkably tidy eating with just his fingers. I asked Iain once why he hates silverware. He replied that only barbarians used tools to shovel food in to their mouth.
We eat in silence for few a minutes, with Obaba droning on in the back ground. She is reading a multi-page story about a Finnish exploration team on a Greenland glacier finding a whole, frozen Megladon.
I think we have that particular National Geographic at home. Iain loves sharks in particular the Megladon. Despite being somewhat damaged and only 42-feet long, the 24-ton male Megladon was both quite a find and a source of great pride for the Greenland scientists.
The ancient shark resided in a specially built freezer in Greenland. Once one of the most popular tourist destinations, I wonder what happend to that old shark after the world ended. I bet that the emergency generators eventually failed, and the priceless ancient shark eventually rotted away until only its teeth were left.
I finish my tea and biscuit. Pulling out a piece of dried ginger, I stick it in my mouth like a tooth pick. The dried ginger is good for my stomach which has been troubling me. “What is the plan for today Iain,” I ask as we leave the table together.
“Well, I want to check on the bee hives that I gave them last time, and see how the knotweed, buckwheat and red clover planting went. Then I want to look at their black powder production, and see if they followed my directions. After that, we start unloading the wagon and horses and then start trading. Why?”
“Oh, just wondering what is going on today and how long we are staying.”
Iain takes me gently by the shoulder, leading me outside into the courtyard where he gently sits me against the wall in the sunshine. The sun feels good, and although it is still cold, the sun warms my face.
Iain kneels beside me. “Ruth, I know you do not like it here, but we could use some kind of trade. As time goes by, we are starting to run out of items. My bunker was well stocked, but some things we need. We are going to have to either figure a way to make it ourselves or trade for it.”
I sigh, damn the man for being so reasonable! “I know, but I always feel like I am being sized up for my trade worth when we come here; like what is my value to them, rather than as your partner.”
Iain gently cups my face in his ginormous, callused hands. “Ruth, I would never trade you for anything, not even my life.”
He kisses me lightly on the tip of my nose, I make a face at him. “Bastard, go brush your teeth.” Iain walks over to where some clan members are digging in the courtyard. I wander around the area.
The enclosed area might have one time held playgrounds, but sometime in the past the entire area was paved over with asphalt. Cement walkways and sidewalks line the courtyard. Since our last visit Iain has had the clan start breaking up the asphalt, tearing it out revealing the dirt underneath.
Once revealed from years of hiding underneath asphalt, the soil is worked, readying it for seeds. The top three feet of dirt is removed, sifted and then put back in the garden. Looking at the various things sifted from the soil, I wonder what the items would tell us if they could talk.
Other than small rocks, most of which are kept either for cooking or for sling ammo, several slightly interesting pieces of garbage lie in the bucket. Carefully, so that I do not cut myself, I stir the garbage pail with a rusty screwdriver.
My stirring reveals numerous alkaline batteries of almost every once common type. A few mangled toy jacks lie scattered among the refuse. I wonder if the jacks are old enough to be lead, but doubt it. I know Iain is a master at spotting lead, so I will tell him. We are always on the lookout for a source of lead.
Seemingly out-of-place in this drab world, half of a bright red and green translucent super bouncy ball still glitters despite its dirt encased granular face. Lying against the side of the bucket, the half of a ball makes an odd hollow sound when struck by the screwdriver handle. How the marble-sized ball was torn in two, and how it came to be buried in the courtyard we will never know.
Some of the work around Flower’s compound reminds me of the kibbutz my elder uncles ran. I watch as a few of the younger clan members empty chamber pots in the gardens, and I wonder if my upset stomach might be from more than nervousness.
Two clan women help move Obaba outside. Sitting outside in the sun in the courtyard Obaba now is reading from an old Dean Koontz paperback book that is nearly falling apart. Over her arthritic knuckles, I can read the author’s name, but I have no idea which book she is reading since the late Koontz was rather prolific.
I have a read a few Koontz books and they were OK. I am surprised that the few paperbacks the clan possesses survived, as this clan and nearly every other survivor has burnt anything they can get their hands on.
Iain is talking to some of the clan men, mere boys really, about getting charcoal for the black powder production. There is just not that much left here in the ruins of Baker City that will burn.
Iain and I discussed at length bringing coal from Centralia, Washington. Unfortunately, Centralia is too far, and shipping something as simple as a wagon load of coal presents more logistics that this small clan can handle.
As the morning progresses and warms a little more, I decide to strip down to my street clothes. Leaving my weapons and harness near at hand, I stretch and manage to get most of my yoga poses correct. I cannot really shut my eyes, because some little clan asshole will steal my weapons in a heartbeat if I give them the chance.
Red-head finally emerges near noon and joins us in the courtyard playing with some of the children. I see Iain holding a lengthy conversation with several, very pregnant women. I wonder what the discussion is about?
Most of the women, are girls really who are probably no more than 14 years old. I next see Iain taking a look at several children and for some unfathomable reason is particularly interested in twins. What the fuck is the man up to?
I decline a midday meal, deciding to nibble on disgusting reconstituted peanut butter and MRE cheese spread on stale, chewy MRE crackers, all washed down with some horrible grape flavored MRE bug juice. As I am rinsing my military issue canteen with water purified with two Portable Aqua Tablets, Flower emerges with her entourage in all her queenly grace.
With a furious look, Flower heads straight for me surprising the shit out of me. I quickly check my weapons. Pulling my Galil around to the front, I very obviously flip the safety off my rifle with a very audible clack. I suddenly notice that it is completely silent in the courtyard.