Thursday, October 3, 2013

article two of two

The six/seven year old story originally posted on the bison blog.  Here is a re-post.  Chapter three, all new, airs this Saturday.  And now, Loco Gringos And An Apocalypse:
*
Chapter one
*
The end of the world was actually rather fun, as long as you were part of the population that wasn’t killed. Suddenly you didn’t have to worry about paying your insurance premiums anymore. And there were no more fat chicks. If you could forget about freezing in the winter or having to walk everywhere you wanted to go it was actually a good trade off. Of course it was quite lucky that Randy had survived. He had of course been aware of civilizations vulnerability and had made reasonable precautions. He had several years worth of wheat stockpiled and a few guns along with a good supply of ammunition for them. He lived away from town. But life is nothing if not chaotic chance of the cosmic dice being thrown about in flagrant disregard to most peoples wishes and the day of the collapse almost saw Randy carved up and served for BBQ. Randy liked to think that he would have been served up with a lightly spiced sauce with freshly sautéed garlic but deep down had a sinking feeling that the bare assed savages would have just charred his flesh hurriedly and been eaten black on the outside and underdone close to the bone.
*
Well, granted, the first day of civilization collapsing would not have necessarily meant that the practice of cannibalism would have been instantly reintroduced. But it could have been. Most suburbanites had less than two meals to go before they were forced to take their bright and shiny new SUV’s down to the supermarket ( not of course the market at Wal-Mart- they were too good for such a plebian establishment ) deli for restocking purposes. A few might have been smart enough to realize there was going to be no more five gallon containers of pre-made potato salad rolling on down the Interstate to help feed their bloated balding carcasses. It might have been time to get on down with a long pork luau. In either case Randy was understandable overjoyed that he had not gotten eaten ( and not in a good way ).
*
Randy was sitting on the sun beaten slightly sagging porch attached to his equally weather assaulted travel trailer, minding his own damn business as usual. Randy had in the past usually gotten quite worked up about politics and had strong tendencies towards strong individual liberty. Of course as time went on and Randy got older and the majority of his countrymen willingly sold out their Constitutional rights for an illusion of financial wealth he got a bit cynical and really stopped caring so much. There is little one man can do against the tides. Unless he was behind a dike and could take his thumb out of his ass and stick it in the breech. And even then it was a losing battle since eventually the idiot behind the wall needs to go relieve himself and sure as hell nobody in their right mind is going to take a dump next to a sea dike out in plain sight of God and everybody because in the end nobody remembers him for saving the town from the ocean but for taking a crap out in the middle of a field. So eventually that dike was going to go no matter what.
*
So Randy was mainly just content to stay in his trailer far from town almost in the middle of nowhere and mind his own business. But he expected to have others do the same. Stay out of my face and I’ll stay out of yours, that was his motto. Well, it wasn’t his only motto. He also liked Why Work Hard? And the always fun Fat And Ugly Chicks Need Loving Too. That one always came in handy, especially after all the studs went home with the half way good looking babes and he could pick and choose from the sorry rejects. Not that it was entirely easy here in Nevada, what with there being no 2 a.m. cut off time to serve alcohol. But one did the best one could. Why even work hard getting a bit of tail, indeed. Randy was by no means a slacker. He could actually achieve record breaking amounts of work in an area of interest to him. The only problem was that the few things that interested him were not usually paying jobs. Reading about geopolitics for instance was usually not a paying proposition outside of the University. And Randy hated left leaning Commie college trash as much as the next blue collar redneck trailer dweller. So forget about college. And reading in and of itself was usually only profitable to a few critics. And they only liked to read about sixteen century gay loyalty or some such continental rubbish, what, say, pip pip and cheerio. Oh, wait, that was British. Anyway, they were gay and lived in New York so that was out too.
*
So, to get back to the story for at least a paragraph or two, Rudy is sitting around on his porch in general doing as little as possible and suddenly his dog, named Bush not for Randy’s love of baked beans but because Bush was dumber than a box of rocks and so named after the current president of these here United States, started barking at something down the road. Now, Randy was a good four or five miles from his southernmost neighbor and a mile from his northern one ( east and west ones were even further ) and even if Bush was a totally useless idiot in most respects he at least had enough sense to act like a dog on most occasions and knew not to bark at the northern neighbor who had been met with all proper ceremony and John ( the neighbor from up yonder ) had given Bush a piece of beef jerky and let him smell his crotch so the two were on speaking terms. And it didn’t hurt that John was in the business of making homemade jerky and selling it so Bush always got a sample when John came home from a selling trip. It wasn’t like John was all that great of a worker himself. He shot deer or bought up a cow, let someone else butcher it for a quarter of the meat and used an old vacuum washing machine ( popular before Y2K and probably John’s only investment in that non-event that actually paid off ) to force marinade into the meat, thus making it a heck of a lot tastier than usual jerky. His costs were minimal. He used solar drying ( easy to do in this part of the world ) and drove an old Datsun pickup truck that got great gas mileage. And Bush never barked at John’s truck while sitting on the porch. He was half way down the road before the first sound got out of his throat. Yeh, the jerky was that good.
*
So Randy bent a bit out of his chair and picked up his old beat up Enfield and jacked a round into the chamber and laid the rifle over his knee. It wasn’t like this was the Wild West or anything. How many gang banging big city white boys with sagging pants and lots of bad grammar go three hundred miles out of their way from the Hood to drive five miles over badly washed out washboard dirt road to see if a underemployed Generation X’er with antisocial leanings has such of anything to steal ( that he didn’t bury, anyway )? Not too friggin many in Randy’s astute calculations. So while it was a prudent thing to keep a rifle handy at most times and to own a watchdog, even one as stupid as Bush, there was also very little need to get too excited and actually get out of his seat. Life had its priorities and one was to keep your God forsaken seat if you were at all close to being comfortable. If you were going to work three months out of the year ( winter would have been preferable so as to remain in a heated building but the roads did tend to snow in so air conditioning in the summer was a close preferred second ) and do pretty close to nothing the rest of the time you had to learn how to take it easy and not overexert yourself once you got comfortable. Why else was he living in the boonies, smelling Bush’s foul gas and living in a buried van to stay warm in the winter if it wasn’t to take life as easy as possible. Jesus Christ on a pogo stick but people had too much stress with cell phones and cars and two thousand square foot houses they needed to pay a mortgage on.
*
The fool dog was still growling and getting his hair to stand on end like it was time to impress a bitch or something although between being stupider than a sack of marbles and having gotten fixed at a young and tender age Bush wouldn’t know what to do with a gal if she sat on his face in full rut. So Randy had to stir himself since while he was not concerned enough to actual get out of his chair this was slightly unusual behavior for his dog and chances were good that the nearest deputy was half the county away, and Elko was a big ass county, at least if you were on foot or driving over nearly washed out roads or especially if you were screwing some bimbo law enforcement groupie and had little interest in actually getting back to your patrol route anytime soonest. As a nondescript mass of Detroit’s As Close To Finest As Possible Given Union Apathy And Overseas Competition pulled on to the road leading to Randy’s property he actually did rise from his oh so friggin comfortable ( Randy didn’t say Fucking since it was God Damn rude to swear ) seat he had just made the same temperature as his butt and grumpily resolved himself from having to explain to some city slicker idiot that I-80 was in fact back the way he had just come and if he needed to find it, it was all paved over, pretty like instead of a sorry excuse for a road that had been bulldozed from between mesquite bushes thirty years ago when some stupid sum bitch from LA had bought up a few square miles of desert and made a few roads to try to sell the next big development three hundred miles from the nearest employment outside of a barely producing mine and a few whorehouses set between a casino and a cattle ranch like the one he was on now.
*
The vehicle bounced and swayed and in general tried to tear itself apart on his dirt road which really pissed Randy off because while he could care less that some idiot was ruining his thirty five thousand dollar car by driving it too fast over bad roads he was really not up to having to learn a new set of ruts to drive around the next time he went into town. He had already memorized the set that was there and if some jerk off like this one drove too fast down the road still wet from the last rain he would present Randy with a whole new learning challenge that Randy was not fond of. Remember, Randy liked to choose how he taxed his grey matter. He didn’t take kindly when others did it for him. It wasn’t like he didn’t apply himself when it was necessary. After all, hadn’t he pretty close to tore up his checkbook and eagerly embraced electronic banking whole hog? Went to the ATM to deposit his check instead of standing in line waiting for a teller like all the old farts. Saved the bank from having to employ another teller, paying her a living wage and throwing in a little bit of benefits such as overpriced insurance so the poor dumb broad would go to the doctor when needed instead of standing there coughing and hacking with TB and upsetting customers. No sir, Randy was a patriotic American and willingly embraced any automated service so as to keep the Mega-Corporations in fat city, profit wise. And that had been a sharper leaning curve than pumping his own gas. Well, okay, to be fair Randy was still a tyke in short pants when the Arab Oil Embargo saw most stations dispose of their pump jockeys so he grew up with self serve pretty natural. But he should still get points for it.
*
Randy all casual like rested his rifle on his shoulder and ambled slowly towards the road alongside his property line and grumbled to Bush to please not make an ass of himself and take off like a scared rabbit but instead act like a dog who knew which guy was the one that kept him in Old Roy dog food. He doubted the dog was going to listen. The odds were about even that Bush was going to do one of three things. Bark a lot and act tough until something went wrong. Attack the cars occupants without any provocation and thus likely invite a nice fat lawsuit that he had absolutely no financial assets to counter. Or sit down and watch whatever transpired in between licking his own balls. But Bush was better than nothing and sure as hell better than having a wife around for companionship, so all in all he couldn’t really complain no matter what. And, really, what idiot was going to argue with one of the Queens own infantry long arms? The Enfield was a real gun, from back when real forests were razed to supply the furniture for them.
*
The car skidded to a stop rather than politely coasted to a standstill and Randy gritted his teeth at the idiocy of all the worlds population. As the ground was still damp there was no dust but that didn’t make the act any less rude. God dammed sum bitchen city pukes and their fancy SUV’s that cost more the Randy’s property, trailer, moped, food supply and arsenal combined. It was a shame Yuppie scum were not outlawed and supplied as hunting trophies for any willing license purchaser. It sure would solve the county budget problem and provide feelings of goodwill all around. But what with movies like Deliverance giving poor country folks a bad name and city Yuppies made into hero’s even after they poked around in other peoples back yards slumming for the weekend, it wasn’t liable to happen. They would allow lawyers to be strung up first, and there would go half of Congress. No, he was being forced to remain polite to assholes like this.
*
“Help you folks?” Randy asked nice enough, thinking that bringing the rifle down from his shoulder to rest on the inside of his other elbow a decent enough act. It wasn’t acting antagonistic if you weren’t going to kill the fellow, was it? He thought not. The peckerwood was on his land, or close enough. Those Commie bastards could go corn hole themselves if they thought Randy was going to go unarmed on his own land, and he wasn’t even pointing it at the jerk off. Well, Randy near about soiled himself and called up to Baby Jesus himself to chuckle at the joke that was on him, since who else would step out but a urban type white boy thinking he was a gangster with a ballcap turned sideways and pants hanging off his crack just like he was thinking a few minutes ago. Why, no, Mr. smart ass Randy, no wigger crackhead would ever show up in his neck of the woods! Oh the sweet irony of it all indeed.
*
The slack jawed idiot just stood there and looked to be concentrating really hard on firing up the remaining brain cells as he slowly looked around at Randy’s very humble abode. There was little to see other than cleared brush and a mound of dirt with a porch set in front of a short stairway leading down to an obviously small hole-in-the-wall underground cabin. A sixteen foot trailer looking at least a century old sat right next to that, the porch connected the two. To the trained or even untrained eye the whole setup looked to have cost the equivalent of a steak dinner, one served at a greasy spoon and having been offered at a discount with the presentation of a coupon cut from a free newspaper full of classified ads for TV’s getting one channel or a collection of slightly used pornographic magazines with most of the pages stuck together.
*
“Need directions to the highway? You are all a bit off course.”

The reincarnation of Einstein looked back at Randy, smiled a grin devoid of most required dental work needed to chew on something other than non-lumpy oatmeal or most meal offerings from McDonalds, and just started to shake his head. “No, old man, I think we are going to need to stay at your place for awhile.” And he pulled out a nickel plated Saturday Night Special and pointed it at Randy. Held sideways, in perfect, gangster approved style. The first thing that went through Randy’s mind was, Holy Shit. A God Dammed No Shit pot metal .32 caliber $68 retail from the pawn shop Saturday Night Special. I haven’t seen one of those since the early 90’s in Oklahoma selling at a flea bitten hole in the wall, Mom and Pop gun store selling pieces of shit like that alongside with $99 used SKS carbines and single shot made in Russia shotguns. Of course Randy had no idea if in fact it was a .32 caliber or something just as anemic such as a .25 but it sure as shit looked like something in the neighborhood. The second thing that went through Randy’s head was, am I going to be shot at? This was not something Randy was particularly fond of, although he had never experienced it before. If he had chances were that he would now be on top of a mountain top somewhere in a fortified steel and concrete bunker instead of five miles from Interstate 80 living in a beat to crap travel trailer made with two inch walls with an aluminum skin.
*
So of course what happens but the bitch does take a shot at him. Randy felt the bullet wiz by, not sure how close but knowing as sure as God made little green apples that it was pretty fuckin close since he felt the damn thing, or at least the air disturbance caused by its passing. And then saw the guys gun jam. One shot and the piece of crap jammed. Of course the idiot was holding it sideways, ejection port up, so in all likelihood it of course is going to jam on its own weakly spent case. Randy was too shocked to do much of anything. He was totally astounded at the events transpiring around him. And then music started to blare from the car. Randy could swear it was Ice T or Ice Pick or Ice Cube or some damn ice guy rap star hollering about killing a cop or killing Whitey or some damn thing and Randy could see the cars occupants laughing about their rapier whit as they played the appropriate sound track to their little drama they had been envisioning for some time now, most likely while smoking crack pipes.
*
For some reason that was enough to snap Randy out of his stupor and he brought his rifle around and pointed it at his assailant and pulled the trigger. And missed. Good Lord. He was, what, maybe like ten yards away from this yahoo and missed him with a full size, full powered battle rifle from the second War To End All Wars ( which Randy thought appropriate seeing as how the full industrial might of half the worlds nations would never be mobilized again due to the lack of oil and metal they once had ) which was just pretty damn sad since HE wasn’t firing some little crappy pea shooter that would miss a barn side from two feet away. Randy felt his bowels turn to water and while frantically trying to work his bolt to chamber another round prayed to whatever sick and twisted fuck of a deity that was orchestrating this whole affair that he did not shit himself at least until this was all over since getting shot at was bad enough but shitting yourself before you were killed and your body did that on its own accord was really just too much. The bolt was not working at all in accordance to Randy’s perception of a timely manner but while the product of the public schools was still standing flat footed trying to bring his jammed pistol back into play Randy did somehow manage to work another case into the chamber of the rifle, take a little bit better aim at center mass and shoot the guy. In the hip. Randy could have sworn this was the same rifle he always used and with which he could usually hit what he was aiming at, at least when he was firing at a target ten yards away.
*
Surprisingly, his target, while down and out at least, still was managing to scream at the same pitch and volume as a little girl. It was really very annoying and distracted Randy from the fact that at any second he could blow a full gallon of fecal soup into his size 36 whitey tighties, but also unfortunately also distracted him from the fact that his victims buddy was done starting to pick and play the appropriate MP3 selection of rap crap to more professionally score their unfolding drama and thus was in the process of unfolding himself from the pimped out Chevy Suburban with shiny chrome rims, the kind that still revolved after you stopped which, Randy would have admitted in less stressful times, was sort of cool, especially if you had those glowing strings of neon on the underside of the vehicle. Randy did start to pay attention to him once he started to fire a submachine gun on full auto in his general direction. Luckily, Randy was past the I Can’t Believe This Crap Is Happening To Me stage and except for momentary twinges from his suffering sphincter was also over the I Am Going To Soil Myself stage and so was able to respond a little faster to his latest threat. It of course helped that the idiot was firing one handed ( although, Randy thought with professional interest and admiration, at least not while holding the gun Gangster Sideways ) and just the first bullet came anywhere close to him and the rest sailed off in a gentle arch away from his position. Randy was able to once again work his bolt, but this time with less embarrassing incompetence. He aimed over the vehicle hood, a perfect center mass target, and this time more or less came close to squeezing the trigger instead of jerking it and was rewarded with a perfect hit. He actually could see the pink mist exploding out the other side of the thugs chest. Now that was cool.
*
Randy again worked the bolt to reload, this time not waiting to be surprised but hoping to take the initiative and killing any more threats instead of getting shot at which by this time was really getting annoying since Randy was all for good fun and games but this was seriously scarring the hell out of him and he was aware that his mouth was bone dry and he was on the verge of hyperventilating and he could feel a major case of the shakes coming on. And his now famous act of bravo gunmanship was going to left unrecorded for the ages, or at least rate a one paragraph mention in Guns And Ammo magazine as the third remaining punk decided that he had enough of this nonsense and was going to hightail it out of the immediate vicinity in all due hast. He slammed the car into gear and went peeling out in a large u-turn that sent him airborne a few times as he was far from any graded land and had to tear out a few large and tough bushes to do even that. Randy watched in obvious relief as the hood bounced and jolted his vehicle away from him at high speeds, load rap music still befouling the once quiet serenity of the desert wastelands and cool tricked out mag wheels spinning for all they were worth. Randy kept one hand on his rifle and one eye on his assailant as he somehow managed to unbuckle his belt and slide his pants down and squatted in his front yard and shit and vomited at the same time. He had never been so friggin scared out of his mind in all his life, not even when he had been in an auto accident once and him and a buddy had skidded down a steep hill from the road through poison oak ( although his buddy was later covered with an outbreak from it, even on his pecker after taking a piss after the accident and Randy didn’t, which was pretty damn funny if he did say so himself ).
*
Bush came running up and began to sniff at both puddles which were making Randy gag and almost weep. “So where were you this whole time, you worthless bastard? I should have named you skid mark, since you are ugly, smell and are an embarrassment. Damn mangy fuck.” Bush just looked at him and kind of smiled, dropping his head to sniff his new finds once again and kind of looked up with sad eyes at Randy, almost as if to say, “Are you going to eat this or can I, cause it sure would be a shame to waste it.” Randy would have kicked at him but he really needed a drink of water and as a bonus it would be nice to check his clothing for any splatter. He looked at the departing car and tried to sort out if it was a better idea to go get a drink or just void his bowels one more time to avoid having to rush to the toilet in perhaps five minutes when a very bizarre thing happened. The car was in the process of turning off his road on to the main dirt drag when it stopped.
*
Randy was not pleased. He quickly did up his trousers and started to jog towards the car. He was dammed if he was going to let the asshole come back around and flank him as he was covering up his disgusting waste products that had already started to draw flies and maybe shoot Randy and then he would fall down in said waste products and even if he didn’t die it would be a really revolting experience and if someone should happen by from all the shooting and rush Randy to a hospital he would be all covered with undesirable body fluids and since Elko had one hospital word would get around quick and Randy would never get another date in his life unless he moved to another state. As he drew closer Randy could see the cars driver was not exiting the vehicle to restart the all too soon discontinued shootout but was still in the driver seat looking all panicked and shouting obscenities at the inanimate object, pounding the steering wheel and looking none too happy to be so far away from his crackhead ho’s in the hood where Mad Dog flowed as freely as the 40 ounce bottles of beer and the welfare checks ( presumable along with fried chicken drumsticks which kind of got Randy‘s stomach rumbling but he wasn‘t sure if that was from his stomach being emptied or his bodies way of informing him that any more stress at this point was likely to led to more unpleasantness ).
*
Randy came up to the vehicle and tapped the end of his rifles barrel on the doorframe and then drew it back a discreet distance so as to discourage the thug from grabbing it. The guy was so intent on yelling at the vehicle and frantically trying to turn his ignition key back and forth he didn’t even notice which peeved off Randy to no end as he thought it a rather grand entrance, especially considering his last performance. And speaking of which that damn Bush was still nowhere around which could only mean the bastard was back having his mid day snack of digested Randy food. Yuck! Randy cleared his throat and watched as his Drive By Buddy whipped his head around, eyes as big as saucers. Not that Randy ever used a saucer, being those oh so prissy tea time tools to be avoided at all costs, as well as tea which to Randy’s way of thinking was worse than sipping on the left over laundry water. But a saying was a saying and it did kind of capture the moment. Eyes wide as Styrofoam plates just didn’t have the same ring to it after all. “Are we having mechanical difficulties?”
*
White Hood just stared at Randy and then started crying, greasy hair flopping and acne face turning deep red. “Don’t shoot me man. It wasn’t my idea! Really! I am an unfortunate, reluctant witness. I’m innocent! God, man, don’t kill me!” Randy was confused as to what to do so he just turned his rifle around and hit the bastard hard with the butt of it. Thug was out instantly. God, how he loved this big ugly brute of a rifle. Ten pounds unloaded and perfect for head butting criminals, the evidence clearly showed. He was sure a little limp wrist plastic Mattel Toy wouldn’t do nearly as well in that department. Randy felt for a pulse to make sure he didn’t hit the guy too hard and was rewarded with a weak one. Good enough. He jogged back to his trailer and started rooting around drawers until he found his pre-paid cell phone. As much as he hated the damn things they were necessary out here in the boonies and being pre-paid meant he could control how much he spent. His phone was not just a fashion accessory.
*
Randy walked back to the car, being a bit winded from his last run towards it and then back. He climbed up on the hood of the vehicle, knowing from experience that the phone got no reception unless elevated. Usually forcing him to walk up to the top of the nearest rise which was always a royal pain in the ass. First you have to pay for the damn phone, then for any call, even incoming, and then you have to work at getting the damn thing working. He flipped open the phone, almost dropping it. They were all made too small these days and Randy was still suffering the aftereffects of adrenaline. And got no power. He was sure he had kept the thing charged. After an asteroid hits your trailer fifteen miles from town and severs your leg at the hip and you are bleeding out is not a good time to discover that your cell phone is without power. Of course, it is also not the best time to have to drag your legless body up to the nearest rise for good reception. But Randy couldn’t solve all of the worlds problems so he just contented himself with having the cell phone topped off with juice. Well, fuck a Franciscan Friar. He leapt down off of the hood and started rummaging through the vehicle. White trash from the ghetto always had cell phones to conduct their crack sales.
*
Randy opened up the cell phone he found. Only to discover the thing also had no power. Of all the friggin luck, at a time like this. Well, screw the Sheriff. Randy would get to him when he could. It wasn’t like he could put this idiot on the back of his moped and drive four miles to the nearest phone. And that was if the neighbor opened the door for him. Rumor control had it that Randy was only just more popular than Stalin or Hitler. By a very thin thread. By the thinnest hair of them all, a RCH. Randy didn’t know why red cunt hair was thinner than any other pubic hair, not ever having known a genuine red head in the biblical sense and so unable to research the matter up close and personal like, but was willing to take it as a matter of faith that this was true. So if the neighbor wouldn’t let him Randy would have to drive an extra mile south and call from the pay phone at the service station. And while he had plenty of quarters for doing laundry in town he sure as hell didn’t want to use them for things like calling the Sheriff.
*
Most likely the deputy would take his sweet ass time getting out there to the pay phone while Randy was trying to keep this jerk off from trying to escape, possibly having to hit him with a sock full of quarters ( minus the two used to call with ) even while he was in a pair of handcuffs ( you never know if a pair will ever come in handy, after all ). The guy could try some Ninja Super Voodoo Jujitsu crap on him even with his hands tried behind his back and Randy would have to hit him with his homemade sap ( who said craftsmanship is dead? ) repeatedly over and over again until the guy was crying like a little bitch that just got his first lesson in not dropping the soap ( speaking of which, he wondered how his first victim he had hip shot was doing up there- been awful quiet ). And then the deputy would get all puppy dog droopy eye sad and look at Randy like HE was the bad guy for having deprived his attackers of their civil rights, even though if Randy went into town he would be photographed ten ways to Sunday by traffic surveillance units which he was pretty sure was an invasion of his privacy and what about those civil rights violations, Mr. Deputy Man?
*
Randy decided to do what he could for now and took the limp and unconscious thug and started to drag the guy towards the house but stopped after maybe five yards because it was starting to really get to be serious work. The guy looked thin, but then Randy was on the wrong side of forty and even if he didn’t smoke much now it had been quite a few years under the watchful eyes of Joe the Camel so he had pretty much burned and cleared his lungs along with his stamina some time ago. And his only exercise was riding his bike down to the store, buy something so they would let him fill up his water jugs and check his mailbox, one of those community types where everyone in a hundred mile radius had to drive to for checking their mail since every time the price of postage went up the Post Office did less and less work like actually delivering your friggin mail to your house. The moped was for driving into town. Taking it everyday one third the way to town every day would not hurt as far as gasoline went, the thing got a hundred miles to the gallon. But the wear and tear on the moped was unacceptable. The mechanics would rape him dry to fix the damn thing.
*
Randy decided to go back up to the house and look around for those handcuffs he had bought years back and stashed some damn place or failing that at least some duct tape and secure the guy to his car. He wasn’t sure where the hell he had stashed them back then. Probably in a place where at the time he was sure he would remember them but had since forgotten. Like almost everything else. A trailer had plenty of cubbyholes but he was forever moving crap around to make room for more food or books. Most likely not in the van as there was little room there even if it had started out big enough, being an old delivery van rather than one of the regular passenger vans. But like the trailer it too was full of crap now, stashed over the years with possessions he was loath to throw away since you never knew when you were going to need it and it suddenly got real important since you just couldn’t pop into town on a whim. Being your own warehouse did have certain disadvantages. Come to think of it he wasn’t even sure where the duct tape was, although he was sure he had several partial rolls here and there. He passed his first shoot out victim and gave him a good kick or two. Felt for a pulse. No luck there. So now he had two dead bodies and one down and out for the count.
*
Randy started looking around through his drawers. Searched under a seat. Then the other. Hey, there was that Penthouse he had stashed. 2005. That was awhile ago. No really good pictures. The magazine just wasn’t as smutty as it used to be. Sure, you still got the Forum letters, but the pictures were now almost as tame as Playboy. Better not start pawing through it, it wouldn’t do to get wood while handcuffing his felon. That would just send the wrong message to all concerned. And there was a paperback he hadn’t reread. Alternate history. Cool. Something good to read while waiting for Johnny Law to show up sometime next week. Kicking the guy in his injured head and letting Bush gnaw on his elbow or foot would only entertain him for so long. Where was some damn tape? Packing tape. That was no good. Electrical tape. Not strong enough. Okay, here it was. A half a roll of duct tape. Good enough. Randy scooped up his find and started back towards the car.
*
He got to the still form and grabbed the guys feet and taped his lower legs together, several times around. Then his arms went behind his back and he used the rest of the roll. That should be strong enough. He was still feeling a bit winded from all the activity, but at least the adrenalin seemed to be worked out of his system and there would be no embarrassing jitters or slurred speech. He had to be Mr. Tough Guy here and get some answers from the guy. Damned if he was going to wait for the trial and then the guy would plea bargain and Randy would forever be clueless as to why three criminals had decided to jack his place. He thought he was well hidden and wanted no repeats if possible. It was Back To School time here. “Bush, where are you, boy? Get over here and look ferocious while I ask this guy some questions.” Where was the flea bitten cure? He got no respect around here. Who cleaned up the damn dog crap so the yard didn’t start smelling like the mongrels breath? Couldn’t the damn dog at least pretend like Randy was the master? Did everything have to be so damn difficult? Randy was about to get up and go drag the dog over when the boy started to thrash and moan. That’s right, wake up, bitch.
*
“Well, good morning, Sunshine! Welcome back to Ain’t It A Bitch. How is your head feeling? Here, let me help.” Randy slapped the punk up side his head, about where he had butt stroked him. He was rewarded by squealing and cursing. “Questions, my good Sir. A moment of your time. What in the name of all that is good and holy were you and your hoodlum buddies doing trying to fill me with lead? And why this place? It’s a shit shack in the middle of Hells back forty. Why attack me, of all people? Does it look like I own a mansion and drive a BMW?” The guy just sort of looked stupid at Randy, not saying a thing. Randy sighed, being dramatic enough to send legions of Hollywood talent agents flocking to his door armed with blank checks. Now that the terror of the thing had worn off he was starting to have a good time. Hell, he didn’t even feel bad for having killed two people. Was he a callous, unfeeling brute? Or was it just that he knew he was 100% moral and just and thus felt no remorse? Or did he just enjoy killing people? It was a new experience, but even old dogs could learn new tricks. Oops, he was wool gathering again. Pondering improbable questions. Not focusing on the problem at hand. Got to take care of business here.
*
Randy raised his hand, fully intending to smack some sense into this erring lad. Perhaps he needed to rid the gene pool of another mentally crippled swimmer. He brought his full force down on the guys head and rewarded with a bit of blood ( how did that happen? I hope he doesn’t have AIDS picked up while smoking crack, mainlining Horse and butt humping his ho ) and a lot of noise from the fellow, but no coherent words of wisdom. Damn, but this was going from fun and games to real work. “Bush, come here, dog. Munch on this guys pecker for a bit until he starts talking!” Well, something started to go according to plan. Bush came running up, wagging his tail for all it was worth and drooling a proverbial Niagara Falls in pure dumb dog happiness. And he even had a chin smeared with blood. God Bless the dog and his unnatural attraction to human body fluids. The guy took one look at Bush and started talking. The dog was redeeming himself now.
*
“Look man, fuck man. You didn’t have to hit me, man! I was just the driver, okay? I didn’t do a damn thing to you. I didn’t shoot at you. Tony and C-Dog, they were the ones that tried to get all Medieval on your ass. I was just chillin behind the wheel, you know? Fuck, man!” Which went a long way towards explaining how innocent this fucker was and how he had obviously been mistreated by society and deserved only their sincerest love and understanding but did absolutely nothing to explain why the sorry excuse for a biped had picked Randy’s day to ruin.
*
“Why did you morons pick me to start a firefight with? And why this place? Answers, boy. No pleas of innocence but answers to my questions or Bush here, named not after my love of flavored baked beans but for being as stupid as the President, although I could now name him Skinny White Dude Who Thinks He’s A Black Rapper, will get my permission to bite your sorry pencil dick off and eat it for a snack. Why me? And why here?”
*
“Like I said it wasn’t my idea.” He flinched as Randy started raising a hand again but continued. “C-Dog heard on the radio that some city got blasted by a terrorist and he figures out real quick that things are going to go to shit fast so he tells me and Tony that we need to start rolling and get into the action, steal some shit, you know. I think he had read in the local news one time about how all the loonie white boys who are into survivalism, running around in cammo with AK’s, they be living out here off the grid since the land is so cheap out here. He tells me to go off the exit and I went. I wanted to stop way back near the hi-way where all the fancy houses are, figure there is more stuff to steal, stereos and plasma screens and shit. C tells us we are going out past the power lines back farther in, where you paranoid fucks live off generators and solar panels. Says you’ll have food buried and what not, worth more now than electronics, if you can believe that shit. I mean, so a raghead nukes New York City, so fucking what, what. That don’t effect us here, you know? No body going to nuke Salt Lake City. I even says to him, man C, what about the Mormons, bro? He says, shit, they be organized. We gassed up and headed this way for easy pickins, you know. We had to wave our 9’s in the attendants face, he was going to close the pumps on us. Said he had to start rationing, was only going to take canned food or silver. We got him to agree to sell to us. But we paid. With cash money. We didn’t steal the gas, but we coulda, you know?”
*
Randy should have believed what he was hearing. The guy actually thought he was innocent. But he got the idea rationalizing with him was going to do no good. Little peckerwood was the product of the public schools, after all. And he had enough information now. He couldn’t believe he was caught cold like this. Damn it to hell, but this was bad news. He could believe he was caught snoozing at the wheel. He didn’t listen to the news all that much. But, crap on a crust, things going to hell so quick, that was the scary part. “Stay right here, shitheel. Bush is going to be watching you, so don’t get the idea of trying to get free. I got some shit to do and don’t want you sneaking up on me. Bush, yo. Fleabite. Guard the asshole. Guard, boy. Sit. Watch.” He hoped the damn dog would listen and not try to go back to the trailer with him. He didn’t think duct tape was going to hold this guy too long. He started to go back to his trailer, looked back. The dog was licking the guys bleeding head. Worthless cure. Well, at least the guy would maintain himself.
*
Randy once again went inside the trailer and started rooting around. He got his shortwave radio and wound it up for some power. Turned it on. Nothing. Fucking thing was made in China, worthless. But it was just working the other day. He put a battery in it to make sure the spring hadn’t broken. Still not a sound. Okay. He turned on the battery powered small black and white TV. Nothing there. He unhooked his marine battery from the solar power and brought it inside. Hooked up his laptop computer. No power there. He was starting to get a really bad feeling about this. No fuckin way someone lit up an atmospheric nuclear bomb and EMPed their ass. Wouldn’t that be suicide, if the missile trajectory could be traced back to the country of origin? Unless it was launched from a ship in a busy shipping lane and no one could point the finger. Or more likely a sub based launch. You could go from both coasts and blanket the whole country. No wonder the hoods car stopped suddenly and none of his shit worked. We’re back in the damn Stone Age.
*
The bright spot was that no more cars full of teenage gangster hoods were going to be showing up at his place. The bad news was that they were now in the official Fucked phase of national life. Well, intellectually he had always known something was going to screw them over badly. Reality was a bit less neat, of course. He had no doubts he would survive for awhile. But he had really never made any plans past surviving a severe Depression. A few years of wheat and some silver coins and enough ammo to see him through. He had been more worried about surviving without Social Security than he had been about going without the electric grid keeping him in a job and transportation. Fuck a duck, but this was going to really suck hind tit big time. He was better prepared than most folks, but that in itself wasn’t saying much. He was good to go for two years, max. Would things get back to normal before that?
*
Randy didn’t think so. Things had been going downhill for a long time. Hell, he grew up in the seventies. He knew about bad economic times. It wasn’t the Depression, granted. But anyone old enough to have lived through that was sucking off Social Security and Medicare and watering a lawn and washing their Caddy in Phoenix. They were on Uncle Sugars tit and no longer lived on a farm with a mule to pull a plow. But this was going to be much worse than thirty years ago. Then, at least the economy kept going. No one was attacking them. No fallout was lifting off from the glassed over remains of NYC. So, no, he didn’t think things were going to get back to normal. But he didn’t have a clue as to what to do after his supplies ran out. He would need to talk to John about that shit. John, the jerky man. His closest neighbor. The only other “survivalist” in these parts. Randy didn’t know how some jerk off reporter had even heard of people in this neck of Elko, let alone thought they were Super Survival types. Up here it was just him and John, as far as he knew. And John knew most people out here. John had lived here a long time. Long enough to have bought land out here when it was under a grand an acre, unlike the $4k Randy had paid. And thought it was a bargain. John had been here long enough to know how the town went boom and bust with the gold mine and was unconcerned with the recent growth spurt in town. “They got themselves an expensive McMansion now. Wait until the mining company over expands and then lays off a bunch of folks. Doesn’t matter what the price of gold is. They mismanage and start giving out pink slips. Folks sell at a loss and leave. The town goes back down in population and job opportunities. Your land is then worth two grand. But don’t sweat it. You bought with cash and are here to stay. The only difference is if they recently appraised your lands value higher. Then you got to go fight city hall to get it ratcheted down again. If you care. With a trailer it is still raw land. You go from $20 a year to $40. BFD. It beats paying rent in town at a trailer lot.”
*
John was a lot smarter about big picture shit than Randy was. He would know what to do. If John made it back. He was away selling his putrid flesh strips, after all. Where had he said he was going? SLC, he was sure. He usually sold at fairs and gun shows. Had a few books from Paladin he bought wholesale on this kind of crap. Sold to militia types that wanted jerky and information. One or the other would make him a profit. But Salt Lake usually meant a few natural food stores. Folks liked meat without preservatives. Hell of a profit from those places. John always put the jerky sold in pre-measured packages in those vacuum sealed bags and even had a label from his laser printer stuck on there. It looked professional enough not to raise health inspector eyebrows, he imagined. That had been a few days back. So John could be close by. Or still two hundred some odd miles away. But Randy was sure he would be back. He had bragged about his Bug Out Bag. And his carried firearms. If he sat tight without to much worrying John should be back any day. He hoped.
*
Now, what to do about his adapted idiot child? Not the dog, but his hoodlum buddy. Somehow it didn’t feel right killing him. He was after all the only one who hadn’t shot at him. If he turned him loose, would he pose a threat? Day one of the Apocalypse and his brave new world society didn’t know what to do with prisoners. This was just a fine How Do You Do. He couldn’t keep him duct taped up. That wouldn’t last long. And if the guy so much as pissed Bush would be distracted by drinking the stuff and not guarding him. That dog just wasn’t right ( where was that from? King Of The Hill, that was it. Well, it was canceled now along with all else that had been television ). Okay, he had been kind of having some fun fucking with this guy. Back when he didn’t know the world had ended. That was enough to ruin your whole day. He needed to get back into Happy Zone or he would get all depressed and shit. Mope around, kick the dog. Ah! He had it. He went to get his military style made in China from scrap metal folding entrenching tool. He’d get the guy to dig his friends a grave. The ground out here was alternating sand and hard as rock cement style dirt. Jagbag could sweat a little, that would cheer Randy up.
*
Randy got the bayonet for his rifle and attached it. Then got the shovel. He stood a few feet from the prisoner and hacked the duct tape off. Threw the shovel at the guy. “Dig a hole for your buddies. I don’t want them stinking up the place. I’ll sit a bit back and watch, along with Bush. Try anything stupid and I’ll gut shoot you. Not that a puny limp shovel like that can do much harm. But I sort of doubt I could get to a hospital right now. A minor wound festers, I get real sick. But you’ll take almost as much time to die with a hole through your stomach. So do us both a favor and don’t get cute. I ain’t shot you yet. And I won’t if you behave. On the other hand, I already killed two, so three is no big deal. I’m two for three rounds, so I don’t mind using another one, even on your worthless ass. Dig.” The boy didn’t put much gusto into the task, but at least he got busy.
*
An hour later Randy was starting to get really bored with the whole thing. And staying alert and watching was a far cry from sitting on the porch and letting his mind wandering. And the fucking hole was less than a foot down and like three feet long. The guy must have picked a spot without any sand. “Alright, stop digging. You are tiring me out. Do you have a hose? Did you siphon any gas getting here?” Brainiac wiped sweat from his forehead and shook his head. Shit. “You got a screwdriver in there. In your car?” Dude just looked confused. God, if this was a desert island and this was a chick, the human race was doomed to idiocy. What a fucking moron. “Sit down, don’t move.” Randy went and looked through the car and came back with a gallon jug of water and a screwdriver. “I’m moving back to a safe distance. Grab a rock, empty the jug. Beat the screwdriver through the bottom of the gas tank and fill the jug with gas. We are just going to torch the bodies. Get cute, throw gas at me. Light up those bushes to try to start a fire and run away. Anything stupid, I shoot you. I am tired of watching you, so lets get this over with.”
*
And amazingly the whole process went smoothly. Well, other than the putrid smell of burning flesh. It was just like when you went camping. No matter where you sat the damn smoke from the fire was sure to follow you. So no matter how many times he moved away from the smoke it chased after him. It was a good thing he had already emptied the contents of his stomach. And then Randy had a thought. Ah, would the smoke attract anyone? Granted, his neighbors knew he was here and there was sure to be plenty of fires all over the place, what with crashing cars and firefights and what not. But would the smell of human flesh burning attract anyone? Here it is the end of the world but most people don’t know shit from shinola as far as an EMP goes so Joe Blow and his idiot wife Ursula the Ugly are just thinking the electricity has gone out and as they are recent transplants from the Late, Great State of the Peoples Republic Of Kalifornia ( PRicK ) they think that it is okay to get into everybody’s business and be all snoopy and such, noising around, calling the sheriff and writing their Congress-Critter and just in general making an ungodly nuisance of themselves. Chances are that the guy didn’t even have a gun, trusting Uncle Sugar and Governor Arnold to protect them against all the evils of the world including gangbangers and unpleasant weather and falling house prices. But he would come sniffing around all righteous and get in Randy’s grill and piss off the dog and so forth. Or, a gang of Mutant Zombie Motorcycle Riders would smell what seemed to be lunch and come on down to investigate. Crap, perhaps this was far from one of his usual brilliant ideas after all.
*
Randy began to think that perhaps it would be a good idea to leave the smoldering bodies where they were and retreat a short distance away. He could go to John’s place. John would give him a spare key when he went away, just in case anything weird ever happened. Plus he would always tell Randy to go in at least once and get some jerky for the dog so Bush would have a natural incentive to noise around the place, see if any strangers were messing with anything. To John’s way of thinking if the dog saw every human that went to the house as a source of even more beef jerky then he would waste no time going over to greet his new benefactor. But since Bush pretty much hated everyone other than those two and he was naturally protective of “his” meat treats then anyone trespassing would be in for a nasty surprise. John could have gotten himself his own dog but since he was away most of the time it didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Plus, he was more of a cat person. He actually owned a pair of mean spirited surely Siamese that from day one had instructed Bush on the correct way to treat such loyalty of their caliber. A few scratches across the nose and after almost taking out one of his eyes and Bush was never going to mess around with the cats again. He would not give up his jerky, but he also gave a wide area of separation between him and the cats. So of course the cats, who could drive Satan himself to drink, would try to corner the dog and ratchet up his anxiety level a few notches. Just often enough to remind Bush who ruled this corner of the globe.
*
He didn’t think it was a good idea to leave his supplies unattended however. He was damned if he was going to carry over three hundred pounds of wheat to John’s place. Then again, he did have his new slave labor. Haul the wheat, or bury the van entrance? He could use his bike and bike trailer, haul a hundred pounds at a time. However, perhaps it was not the greatest idea to have all the supplies in one spot. The bracing for the van entrance was wood. He had used chicken wire and cement on the sides and roof to reinforce those but had used wood pallets and fence posts to create an entrance. If he took those away he could collapse the sides to cover the side door. The porch was no big deal, it was not as if you could tell it naturally connected to the underground area. But, if he took down some of the porch and placed the lumber over the newly covered area and placed the crispy critters over that and burned it again it would discourage any casual digging. It was shame he didn’t get paid by the thought. Brilliant! Well, a good save from the last bad idea anyway.
*
Would John be all school girl giggles and besides himself with Randy inviting himself into his home? Hell, why not? Strength in numbers. Like either one of them was going to sleep very good at night, with an unreliable watch dog and two cats between the two of them to add a level of protection. And it wasn’t like Randy couldn’t move back into his place on a whim. He was only altering his front porch and hiding his storage/winter residence area. A few new pieces of lumber would fix that all up. Even if the lumber yard was looted he could always head up into the hills to get a few saplings. Or get a few bags of cement and make enough mud bricks to build a more permanent wall around the van door. In fact, that might be a good idea to shore up the bullet resistance around his trailer, should he move back into it. But he thought it better used as a cache for extra supplies, just in case. He did have quite a bit of storage food in the trailer itself. Bags of rice and flour, cans of beans and fruit. Whenever there had been a sale on food items he could store he had stocked up. What where his bills, other than food and propane? He could double his food budget almost once a month and still live just fine only working three months a year.
*
Lately inflation had been making food sales scarce, but when you already had so much you had to rearrange the entire place to add another three cases of cans, it was time to cut down on your purchases anyway. The last few years had been interesting, what with declining global oil reserves, inflation that they claimed was 3% but in reality was three times that number, increased terrorist attacks against American interests. A few more years and they could have seen if Social Security would have held up to the waves of retiring Baby Boomers. Who would have thought an EMP attack against us was possible. A minor law of Murphy’s. The ball that knocked you out always came from left field.
*
So, how to proceed? He would feed the idiot child so as to get him some energy, the kid looked skinny enough to have been mainlining crack half of his life. He would plead weakness due to his previous disastrous digging experience. Then he would have to supervise the kid pedaling the bike trailer over to John’s. And back and forth a few times. And then worry about how to keep him on a leash after that. God, what a headache. Maybe he should just shoot the idiot after all. Time was growing short if he wanted to haul supplies and avoid visiting neighbors. The kid was close to worthless and even if he did provide some kind of physical labor he was proving to be worthless to carry a thought very far. Screw it. “Hey, kid.” The rifle kick was a bit hard. He must need a meal himself. And hydration. Well, back to work in peace and quiet.
*
Chapter two
*
John was not too far from home. He was in luck and had been driving to his next stop when the radio reported that there were unconfirmed reports of a nuclear dirty bomb being detonated in New York City. He was ten minutes away from Hippy Harry’s House Of Health and scheduled to make a delivery out there anyway, so he laboriously worked his little rice burner through the gears and did five miles over the speed limit to get there in a hurry. No point in getting pulled over for excessive speeding and really screw up his escape from the Salt Lake City metro area. He quickly loaded up his dolly with all of his boxes of wild game jerky and went into the store. “Hey, Harry, been listening to the radio?” He sort of rudely interrupted the conversation with Harry and another fossil from the Summer Of Love, a grey haired chick with tits down to her belly button since the last time she wore a bra was in training during Junior High. Undoubtedly she also had an armpit full of hair, not the nicest thought. Fuck her ( not literally, dear god no ), this was important shit. Harry looked confused and shook his head. “Rumor control has it a dirty bomb was just detonated in NYC. I’m getting the hell out of dodge. Nothing might happen, maybe nothing did happen, maybe another few cities get hit. Either way there is going to be mass panic. Take this crap, tell me what you can give me in return instead of the usual 90 day payment plan. You can sell it or take it as your personal food storage. I got plenty at home, so I’m doing you a solid here by stopping.”
*
“Man, Johnny, this is heavy, bro. Let’s see, I can give you a box of herbal remedy books and a certain portion of my stash, you know. If it is panic city out there it might be a good future barter item. I’m going to close up, can’t imagine too many folks doing any stockpiling from me. No one thinks of tofu for emergency food. And if it is all true, what good will the mans paper money be to me? If nothing happens, return my stash and I’ll get you the difference between the jerky sales and the books, but I’ll just charge you my cost. Good info on self medicating, you know?” “Done, Harry. Get me the stuff, I’m going to try to beat some of the traffic.” Harry shuffled off as fast as his ancient legs could move him and John eyeballed the broad. “You Harry’s friend?” “We just do business, most times. We ball a bit, time to time. When we both get in the mood. But I sell him his herbs. I bought a place north of here decades ago when it was affordable, the herb growing is enough to meet my needs, pay Uncle Sam his due.” John nodded, casual enough while inside trying praying not to vomit on Hippie Hag. Man, too much friggin information. Now he would never get that nasty picture out of his mind.
*
Harry came on back with a backpack that weighed enough to be a half dozen books and a few ounces of his grade A pot. John didn’t deal or even use much himself but he had shared a joint with Harry from time to time to know it was good shit. He wouldn’t even have taken it normally but he had a real bad feeling that this was for real and he needed to take a chance here. Not that he thought it was that great of a barter item. If society collapsed in one growing season the market would be flooded as people would be willing to barter for anything to blunt ( get it? Blunt? ) their troubles. But he might need some himself, or more likely he could trade it to a stoner for a valuable item or two, before the current supply was replenished. John knew a few old bastards with an appetite for the weed and a back yard full of equipment they might trade. An old tiller or heck, even a solar panel or something. John was an old horse trader from way back, he could have an item change hands three or five times and end up with much more than he originally had. And he doubted that as long as he stashed the pot with a minimal amount of cunning with the panic soon to be taking place he would not be hassled.
*
John took the pack and shook Harry’s hand. If this was real, they might not see each other again and Harry was a really cool guy, even for a waste case sixties stoner with socialist tendencies. Not that he was going to cry or any gay shit like that, Harry was in the end just a good customer and nice to hang with on occasion. “Harry, you old bastard, take care of yourself. Stay low. Here is my home address, wrote it on the back of my business card. If this is real and you can evacuate, come by my place. Somewhat remote, I got supplies. I know you can pull your own weight. You and a few others only, if they can be useful. Herb Lady here, is cool. You get what I’m saying? I can’t feed useless mouths, dig? They need to help out, shit I can’t do that will have a market, post-collapse. We shot the shit enough, you know how I think it’s all going down, so use your best judgment.” “Don’t sweat it, bro. I read the Lucifer’s Hammer book you gave me. I’m hip, daddyoh.” “Well, it’s more like the movie The Postman, you can be that crazy vet that played with radios. I’m joking. Take care of yourself, and color me gone.”
*
John went to his truck, opened a box of jerky and opened the plastic bags, poured the meat in the cardboard box. At the bottom he placed the pot. In theory a pot sniffing dog might be thought to just be hungry. Hey, it was the best he could do. He tossed the bag of books in the bed of the truck, started it up and checked the gas. Half full, good enough. If he started stopping for gas and anything he thought would be useful post-collapse, he would be caught in the city. Sure, he shouldn’t have stopped at Harry’s, but he had been close anyway and you had to do one good deed on occasion instead of only thinking of yourself or karma would turn around a bitch slap you a good one across the head for being such an asshole. Okay, trying not to get bitch slapped by karma was being selfish, trying to avoid bad things happening to your person. But he figured it was results that counted, not motivation. As if he knew. For all he could tell for sure, Allah was the one true God and come accounting time he might be among the unbelievers that would be struck down. John just tried to live good and treat others as he wished to be treated, so he figured that would cut some ice with whatever deity was in charge. Would it count against him by being revolted by ol’ Saggy Tits back there? On the cosmic scorecard, were you docked points by thinking bad thoughts of fat or ugly chicks? Okay, he shouldn’t judge, being less than a stunning Apollo type figure. But it was fun to make fun of other people. Funny, making fun was fun. The lazy red fox jumped over the brown dog. Or something like that. Time to move out and stop mentally drooling.
*
John hit the freeway. It might have been smarter to take some back roads but he had never explored them sufficiently to get to know them. It would be pointless to go exploring now. He knew the roads nearer home but he had never explored alternate routes to SLC. Always in a hurry, no time to plan for the kind of shitstorm he was in now. Granted, the hiway was only slightly more crowded now than normal. This kind of event, just like Oklahoma City or 9-11, the first instinct people have is to stay glued to a TV and get more information. Only a few were going to be like him and go into panic mode and get out of the city. Hell, he had canceled any business several days prior to and several days after Y2K and didn’t regret it, despite lost revenue. But it didn’t seem many others had. Most of his people seemed to understand although one gun shop owner that sidelined in preparedness supplies down in Reno got pretty pissed off since the jerky had been selling so well. Didn’t re-order from him almost a year after that. What idiots. You’re going to pay $15-$20 a pound for jerky when you could be buying rice and beans for two or three pounds for a buck? Well, back then. Prices now were a lot dearer. He wasn’t sure if it was Peak Oil driving prices up due to increased energy costs, or inflation caused by a dysfunctional economy where all the factories were going overseas and the money to buy their products came from the same place and welfare spending was going bonkers. Oh, you could blame it on a freeze in California. Which was a load of crap. Times past imports from other areas picked up after a slight price increase. Not the normal 10-30% increases which were now common.
*
John was glad he had done most of his survival investing before the turn of the century. And on an average income, too. Under twenty grand a year and he had set back a lot of supplies. Almost two tons of grain. Stored in a used Conex container, those sea shipping cargo containers, he had buried the box up to the roof and put a metal roof over it both to keep it from heating up and to put in a rain catchment system. Not that it really rained much here, about ten inches a year. But with the roof going in anyway, a little was better than none. The grain back then was $5 retail for fifty pounds. Under four hundred bucks. And the used plastic buckets had been fifty cents each bought in bulk from a BBQ joint. One bucket for thirty four pounds of wheat, three per hundred. So about fifty bucks there. The container had been $800 but John traded him down to $650 by throwing in a used .22 he had gotten for some jerky. So even with the roof he was barely in for over a grand there. He had a half dozen war surplus bolt action rifles, bought at between $75 and a $100 retail each. Thousands of rounds of ammo, bought back when surplus was ten cents a round. Corrosive was no big deal, he just swabbed the bolt head, chamber and bore with diluted ammonia right after firing and before cleaning. The corrosive salts were immediately neutralized.
*
The river was five miles away for water, even though he hauled water from town to avoid having to dig a well. For river water he had several water filter cartridges, each good for about ten thousand gallons of water. Just buy a Berky water filter unit ( the replacement filter, not the whole unit ) for $50 and take two plastic buckets. The top bucket has a hole drilled at the bottom. Place the filter in that, it clamps down with a built in nut and bolt. The bottom bucket has a lid on the top with a hole in the middle. Rest the top bucket on the bottom, fill with debris free water and all bugs and microbes are filtered through to the bottom bucket. Should the filters ever run out he had a solar oven he could turn into a water distillation unit. An old refrigerator metal shell had been painted flat black, insulated on the outside and covered with a piece of glass. Polished sheets of metal provided a reflector to increase the efficiency of the unit. If he couldn’t make another unit just for water he could take the oven, tilt it up, place a sawed in half PVC pipe at the bottom held in place with brackets, silicone caulk a hose in place leading outside. Place water in the bottom, the water heated and condensed on the glass then slid down to the pipe and out for pure water. Provided he put the water in another container in the oven there would be no chemical residue.
*
He had a few cords of wood and a woodstove to heat in the winter. Elko was by no means the East coast with cold Canadian winds and a wet cold with temperatures at twenty below but it got cold enough in the winter. He had stacked straw bales around his trailer and cement stuccoed them, topped off with a roof of several layers of Styrofoam type insulation. He still burned a lot of wood so he had spent several hundred bucks and got an industrial size of the expanding foam insulation and filled the space between the straw bale walls and the trailer, underneath the trailer floor and between the trailer roof and the over-roof. He built a long enclosed porch away from the structure out in the sun for his and the cats escape away from the super insulated but dark cave. If the sun was out in the winter you could go outside and avoid cabin fever. Cloudy days and after dark you could hole up in the trailer and with a sweater or at most a sweater and long johns be quite comfortable. He didn’t even need the stove except for taking a bath on cloudy days or if he really wanted to get warmed up. On sunny days he had a shower built in at the porch end. A black painted poly bucket with a sheet of glass and wrapped in fiberglass insulation sheet on the porch roof gave a small quick shower. Of course you had to climb up the ladder to fill the bucket. The inside shower was a hand pumped pressure sprayer filled with a gallon of water heated on the stove.
*
John passed the border between Utah and Nevada, going through Wendover without stopping. He had about a hundred miles to go. Traffic kept up, about a quarter above normal traffic. Which meant instead of pretty much being alone on the road and passed every five minutes by a trucker he could actually keep sight of a few cars at a time. Nothing dangerous, no chance of gridlock. John wasn’t speeding, he doubted his old beat up truck was capable of excessive speed. If fact he usually just drove at forty five. That allowed him to drive comfortably and safe, increased his gas mileage and made his trip to Salt Lake about an even five hours. He could play a book on tape he had rented from the library and spend the whole trip listening to the one set of tapes. If the book was really good a further round trip to Elko would eat up the rest of the tapes. He could have shaved off an hour each way by going the speed limit, but if he made one trip a week the eight extra hours a month was not worth buying a new vehicle. Cheaper to pay with his time than extra gas in a newer vehicle. Not too far from the border and he was driving up a short hill when the truck stopped running.
*
It was then that John began to think that perhaps he was on the side of the angels. If your vehicle is going to run out of power the best thing you can have is a relatively slow movement coupled with a climb, whereas the vehicles own weight will slow it down quickly. You might even slow down so quick that you have to hope you can coast all the way off the road into the side of the emergency lane. If you are passing a semi, say, and you are speeding down hill you have to react quickly as your steering abilities aren’t all they were normally. You will be lucky not to wrap yourself around a telephone pole. He easily pulled over to the side and after a momentary sense of panic making sure he didn’t do any damage to himself, he started to curse. Not at his truck, the old girl had given him a lot of miles with very little trouble. But the timing couldn’t have been worse. He still had no idea about the severity, or even the reliability of the reports of the bombing of New York City. Really, how stupid did you have to be to live there? In the nineties the World Trade Center was bombed by towel heads. Okay, no big deal. Could have happened anywhere to anyone. No reason to panic.
*
But then on September 11th, 2001 they finished the job. Well, someone finished the job. It could easily have been a black op by the government, or a faction in the government. If the assassination of JFK was a coup by the bankers against a president that threatened their monopoly on printing money ( happily assisted by the mob since brother Bobby was nosing around in the wrong places ), then there was no reason to believe someone on our side couldn’t have staged the attack for their own personal gain. Perhaps not financial, it could have been political. What was the Nazi propaganda attack called, Kristalnacht? Plenty of right wing leaders in our government were National Socialists. They clearly loved all things from the Nazis. From the health food fads to the military helmets to the machineguns to the missile designs. And to the methods of taking control of a democratic country. It wasn’t hard to follow the trail of dead bodies back to the Clintons, or connect the dots of his military secrets. And it certainly wasn’t hard to believe that his administration had a hand in the Oklahoma City bombing. So why was it so hard to believe that the Bush boys couldn’t have been behind the 9-11 attack. It certainly cleared the way for them to take a giant leap forward in their path towards a dictatorship. And gave the economy the government stimuli needed to survive the Tech Wreck crash.
*
But be that as it may, no matter who had a hand in the bombings, you had to be a complete moron to continue to live in New York City after the second attack. It was only a matter of time before some idiot used a NBC bomb in the city. The economic nerve center of the country was there. What better way to cripple the country? You didn’t need a military attack if you destroyed the enemies means of paying for his war machine. And the bigger it was the more it required a source of finance. The Empire of Spain was dealt a bigger blow by privateers raiding the shipments of gold back to the mother country than had the effort been at direct military attack. Bombing New York City and it’s banking and financial center was much smarter than attacking one of Americas naval ships in a foreign port. Oh, sure, psychologically it was a victory. The worlds premier power humbled by a terrorist. But for sheer effectiveness your bomb was better used on Wall Street. After pissing off half the worlds other money and military powers that be, how many would then lend a hand to you as your economy got flushed down the crapper, unless it benefited them? The Chinese and Russians were more than happy to see us crippled. They could have been partially responsible.
*
So when a terrorist does get around to using a dirty bomb on NYC, and you want to get back home pronto, just in case things do get out of hand, that is not the time for your truck to stop working. He would wager dollars to donuts that calling Triple A was not going to see a very fast response time. Well, shit on a shingle and crap on a crust, what else are you going to do? He rooted around in the glove box and fished out his cell phone. Flipped it open and turned it on. Hmmm, no power. Well, wasn’t he just the luckiest bastard around. Here he was giving the angels credit for saving his ass on the freeway when the truck quite working and now they were sharing a chuckle together as they watched and snickered and made lewd comments about John since he now couldn’t get any help with the vehicle. Was that why he had been spared an untimely traffic death, so that supreme beings could amuse themselves at his expense? He was beginning to wonder. John cursed them aloud and got out of the truck and slammed the vehicle door as hard as he could. Shitten bastards. No good cum guzzling pukes. What the hell was he going to do now, walk a hundred fucking miles back home? At a fast clip that was going to be at least three days. Call it four to be safe. All right, hold on. No reason to get stupid here. Someone would pick him up. At worse case, he walked to the next gas station and make a call. He shouldn’t be stranded out here while terrorists were busy nuking Seattle or Boise or any other location that would send fallout down his way. The odds were good that he would be spared that. Sure, the bombing of NYC had been long odds too, despite the strategic inevitability of it. The odds of an earthquake or fire destroying your house are low, it just makes sense to avoid the worse areas such as Southern California. Avoiding the big cities made sense. The smart money avoids the risk, even if the odds were small. But no need to panic yet. He wasn’t actually stranded at this point, that was just worse case.
*
But after grabbing his jacket and a jug of water after locking as much of the gear from the bed as possible in the cab and starting to walk westward down the road, he saw several other cars pulled over to the side of the road, stalled in the middle of it or even in positions of impact with other objects. What the hell? But he had a hunch. He looked at his watch. Blank. Who in the name of all Hades would center an atmospheric electro-magnetic pulse weapon over empty high desert halfway between here and Bum-Fuck? If the highest altitude pulse weapon was good for a ground effect of about two or three hundred miles, they either got the edges of the Salt Lake City, or there had been a whole heck of a lot of explosions blanketing the entire country, or the power lines along the road had delivered a powerful enough pulse to extend the range of just a few strategically placed explosions. His memory of all the effects was marginal. EMP attack had always been a low probability and while he had taken a few precautions he wasn’t so concerned that he had studied it extensively. Of course even the experts had limited knowledge as atmospheric testing had been banned decades ago. So who would orchestrate an attack with sketchy understanding if it would be effective?
*
Off the top of his head he could think of dozens of reasons for an enemy to knock out the United States. The old fallacy that our enemies needed us as their customers for their manufactured goods was no longer true. China could sell to the rest of the world. She had to give us the credit just to buy her goods. Why not do the same to other regions such as resource rich Africa? Not that any other area would buy as much as we did, but perhaps between the oil running out and pollution approaching extreme levels she had decided that a cut back in production wasn’t such a bad thing. But you can’t just close down factories outright. The unemployment riots and the retaliation from the US would be too much. So you have a plan where the US economy is stopped in its tracks. Total electric shut down. Not just electricity production, as important as that was, but all microchip activity which was vital to the survivability of the economy. Even the military would be somewhat crippled. He didn’t think they could afford to harden every piece of electronics. But even if they could, how would the military keep its logistic tail operational? It didn’t drill its own oil or manufacture its own ammunition. Within weeks, even with full electronic capacity, there would be units without fuel or ammo. What was left in the continental US. Between Iraq and all other foreign occupied areas, the military including the National Guard was very weak in numbers.
*
Had the Russians or Chinese built their strategic submarine fleet that quickly? Or had the fact of an aging decrepit Soviet fleet just been a myth? Or could it have been the Brits, French or Israelis? That seemed preposterous. But no one else had strategic subs. You couldn’t launch a land based attack, the trajectories would be backtracked and a retaliatory strike would be launched. It had to be the Chinese or Russians. Or both. They could split up the remaining global oil reserves, exploit or defeat anyone they wished. They could even wait a winter or two as the US population died off and then move into the US if they wanted. They could never defeat the US with its armed population, but after starving most people out it would be a cakewalk. It had to be the Chinese or Russians, they thought along those lines. Indirect attack, not a head on confrontation. Even if the US military was mostly a government sponsored stimulus for the economy, they spent so much that only the most expensive programs were given top priority. They were still stuck in second generational warfare thinking, despite the propaganda to the contrary.
*
Unless…He wondered. Could the US have staged this attack itself. If you could bomb OKC to stifle dissent over gun control and bomb your own financial district to justify occupying the middle east so you could control the remaining oil supplies ( after all, the Carter Doctrine advocated military force to protect the oil there ), what was to say you wouldn’t cripple your own economy to serve some other end. Oh, John knew this was total over the top evil conspiracy from the Illuminati bullshit, but was it really totally unbelievable? Of course, you also had to assume the whole country had been attacked. Just minutes ago he had been of the opinion that a terrorist had nuked NYC. Perhaps they had also nuked Salt Lake City and this was an after effect. But he thought EMP was not generated with a ground burst, or at least not sent very far. No, he was sure it had to be atmospheric. So, if it had been one of only five nations that possessed a strategic submarine fleet, he would think the US was a better candidate than Israel or Britain or France. Would sub commanders know where they were firing? Could they be led to believe they were protecting us? No, their payload didn’t have the range to go from our coasts to overseas. Unless they were told the, who knows, Mexicans hit us with nukes they bought from Russia.
*
Shit, what was he doing standing in the middle of the road looking like an idiot? He quickly got back to his truck and got out his BOB. His Bug Out Bag had been stored back behind his seat for years. He refreshed his food annually and dug out his revolver to oil it, replaced the plastic bottle of water. But he had never used it before. Hadn’t even gotten stuck in a snowstorm. It wasn’t much. Jerky to eat, naturally. A gallon of water. Pocketknife with sharpener ( even though he always carried one, backups were good ). A few Bic lighters ( the cheap ones were never anywhere as reliable as Bic’s ). A straw type water filter and some iodine tablets. Two cans of Sterno for emergency heat. An LED flashlight. A reflector blanket and a wool sweater. A pair of socks. He ditched the Sterno since he wouldn’t be staying in the truck. The water doubled the weight but it would dwindle with time, as he was getting tired from walking. Of course he would fill it back up upon reaching the river. He took the rimfire revolver and stuck it in his pocket, a small box of ammo stayed in the bag. He never thought of a holster for it. Dumbass. Oh well. He couldn’t think of everything or he would have had a bicycle in the truck and been home in twelve hours instead of three days.
*
John walked away from the freeway for twenty minutes, guessing it was about a mile. He would roughly parallel the road, staying far enough away to avoid the rest of the crowd stranded. He wondered if any of them had even heard of EMP? Most would probably think space aliens had disabled their vehicles and would be landing any minute to begin rectal probes. While aliens visiting were no more far fetched than believing your own government would attack you, like most people John believed his own pet theories were better than everyone else’s. At any rate, a road full of people pissed about their beloved SUV being out of commission and fearing alien proctologist exams would be foul tempered, and if armed, dangerous. Best to avoid them. Going by road would have been quicker, less up and down and around. But better to survive the trek. He had been lucky so far, so why push his luck. He had been paranoid enough so far in his life and that had enabled him to prepare for a day such as today. If he remained vigilant he could buy a new much younger wife with food, sire a whole litter and live to see some grandkids. Or even great grandkids. Well, assuming this really was the collapse of civilization. Dammit, he would really be pissed if this wasn’t.
*
He had of course done most of his preparations prior to Y2K. Which was how he had done it so cheap, back when oil was dirt cheap and thus so was the cost of living and prepping. It was a better motivation to go all out than any other threat had been. One doesn’t need two thousand pounds of grain for a power outage or a earthquake. But when that event didn’t happen he had been a wee bit disappointed. No one really wants to live in a cave and go hunt buffalo all the time, but he had nonetheless been mentally prepared for the collapse and so was understandably bummed when nothing happened. He was really going to be sore if he walked for three or four days. And he would be sore at the fates for confusing him again. I mean, most people will need to make major lifestyle changes if they want to prepare for disaster. If disaster never seems to happen they can become disillusioned. When you go into full alert battle stations mode and all your neighbors gather around and laugh at you afterwards, it becomes a bit difficult to borrow their power tools later on. He had been living here out of Elko for some time and purposely had chosen not to have any immediate neighbors just for security. But he had been judged harshly by society. A survivalist must by nature curtail his social life to some degree.
*
So was it really so bad to wish for validation? Society taking a big crap was not the most pleasant way to be proven right. But he didn’t cause it, he just prepared for it. He had been part of the lunatic fringe for so long he wondered if even should he be proven correct, could he even enjoy it? He would find out soon enough. Once home he could dig out a shortwave radio and try to get some information. If this was an attack solely on the US he should be able to get plenty of overseas broadcasts. If it was strictly local he would also be able to find out. Of course until he did find out he was just going to assume the worse. So he was going to hump it far from the road and assume all others were hostile. He was in no mood for this, walking far and wide. He didn’t usually walk all that much. He hoped he would be okay as far as blisters went, because of course he had no first aid kit. No bicycle, no first aid kit. He wondered what else he had not thought of that would prove useful. Or even vital. Well, again, he would soon find out. Best just to keep moving and keep his mind off any complications such as blisters, cramps or lurking snakes. He was sure he was making enough noise to warm any unfriendly reptiles. He wondered how snake tasted. If he could even butcher it successfully. He was sure it wasn’t going to be like a fish, the only thing he had ever taken apart after killing it. He could have saved money learning how to butcher his own game for jerky but had never really too interested in that. Between having to hunt and then butcher, it was easier to just pay others to do all but season and dry the meat, either with cash or product.
*
Well, one blessing was that it was late spring. This would have been much worse in the winter. His area rarely received much snow but it was usually windy. Cold to a degree. Nothing compared to east Montana or the Great Lakes or New England area of course. But five degrees or twenty below with a wind was almost the same thing if you were out in it for any period of time. And you never knew what kind of winter you were going to get. Sure, the norm was low twenties, high thirties ( sometimes even forties )with sun. But it was nothing to get two weeks of below twenties for a high with zero to ten for a low all the time being overcast. He might not have many runs in the winter, but on occasion he would still make a trip to Salt Lake if the roads were clear with no snow forecast. He could have been stuck during one of those times. He would have been bundled up, of course. But it still would have been an extremely miserable trip. He would have preferred to stay at home the whole winter, and he even cut his trips from weekly to monthly. He usually stocked up his stops at the end of fall and gave then ninety days credit instead of the usual thirty, but there is always some yahoo that won’t stock enough due to storage space or an unexpected run on product. He couldn’t just ignore those requests or he would lose customers. And the cost of shipping was too high. His gas costs were far cheaper than shipping individually. And the wear and tear on the truck was negligible. A new, slightly used motor was around a grand, good for hundreds of thousands of miles. Mechanic work was cheap since he knew a few shade tree mechanics which he kept in his good graces.
*
Well, that might all be a thing of the past. If it had all fallen apart, what was he going to do with himself? He’d figure something out. It really wasn’t something you could give a lot of thought to, as it was impossible to know in advance what was going to happen. Nuclear war, an economic depression, an asteroid strike, a dictatorship, all had different outcomes. It was hard enough to prepare for disaster, let along know with any certainty how life would be afterwards. He had more than enough food stored up so he could lay low until he found out what was going to happen and then get through a couple of planting seasons. Not that you could plant a whole lot out here without artificial fertilizers and tractors, but something could be figured out. Heck, you could salvage enough green refuse from the city and enough horse shit from all of the stabled animals around town to grow a big area of potatoes ( if they weren’t all looted and eaten from the markets ). Or, he could donate some wheat grain. And they could drastically expand the sheep population by allowing them to roam on previously unused government land. Cattle too. It all depended if the town could pull together or if it was going to be every man for himself. John had a small garden, a few dozen old cut down tires full of good soil and fed by drip irrigation but he wasn’t sure if that could be kept up with manually hauling water from the river, as opposed to the old practice of trucking in his water in a big container. He didn’t even know how much he could grow in them as he had only played around with the garden rather than actually put some serious time into it.
*
END

10 comments:

  1. Good fun. I'm enjoying the heck out of this. It'll need a bit of updating in rewrite, but that's no biggie.

    Keep it coming.

    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As you'll see tomorrow, I chose not to update. If I did, I'd have to change too much, and the story should still be solid. I can usually churn out regular books with less effort. Writing fiction I must almost pull teeth. This way, keeping it as originally written, a third of the work is already done. Perhaps if I keep trying fiction it will get easier. Perhaps I need to start at the beginning and keep going as its fresh. I'm going to keep options open. For now, minimum, I'll slog through this just to say I could do it. At least once.

      Delete
    2. For me, the key to writing fiction is to get it all down. Editing and rewriting is something to do once the bones of the story are there. Creativity and editing are two separate operations that require different skill sets. Don't try and do them at the same time.

      Delete
    3. As you can tell, I don't edit. Problem solved

      Delete
  2. I read that bodies on top of the ground in the
    desert are soon eaten by critters, and the bones
    scattered. If buried they mummify.
    I have not (yet) left any bodies in the desert
    but it's good to know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know if that is just low desert or not. I've heard of bodies on the Silk Road doing such, but I don't know if that was middle east or mountain top areas.

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  3. very good read i love it

    denny

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Its either a love or a hate. I wonder who is right. Seems about half and half

      Delete
  4. James,

    Good story and good ideas. It also reminded me to go back and do some things I deferred, and one that completely escaped me. I have a fireplace (big wasteful thing in the basement) but no wood stove. I will have to do some research on how best to use the thing for cooking. That one thought alone made the story a real winner for me. What could be better than being prompted to re-think something?

    Thank you, sir.

    ReplyDelete