Fiction - A Survivor's Tale Chapter 4greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
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A Survivor's Tale
As they came around a bend in the road, David and Kate could see building tops in the distance. The small town they approached was partially hidden by trees, and large piles of brush lay to either side of the road into town.
Long before they reached the brush piles, Ranger was growling deep in his throat, slowing his and their advance. Heeding Rangers warning, David and Kate stopped in the road.
A man stepped out from behind one of the brush piles into their path, and raised his arm in greeting.
Hello, David! he called out. Man, its good to see you again.
David told Ranger it was all right, then walked up to the man and embraced him warmly, while Kate looked on. After they let go of each other, the man stooped and let Ranger sniff his hand.
I knew Ranger wouldnt let you get too close, he said.
Tommy, you old son of a gun, youre looking good yourself. What have you been up to since Ive been here last?
I married Judy Reed, you remember her, dont you?
Yeah, I do seem to recall her. Didnt you steal her away from me at some point? David laughed.
Tommy looked at Kate.
I dont know who you are or how you know David, but only believe about half of anything he tells you, he laughed. Then he got serious.
David, you know the rules. Are you being forced to come in here?
Tommy, Im glad the rules are still being enforced. I come in of my own free will, he answered back, casually brushing his hair into place with his left hand.
Great, Tommy said, instantly relaxing. Okay! he called over his shoulder.
Another young man stepped out from behind the other brush pile, lowering his rifle as he did.
Hi Rog, David called out happily.
David, good to see you, Roger replied, with a thumbs up signal. How long you going to be in town?
Couple of days, anyway. David answered. Oh, sorry, Kate. Guys, meet Kate. Kate, meet Tommy and Roger.
Both men touched their foreheads as if tipping a cap, and Kate bobbed her head hello.
Nice to meet you both, she said.
Well see you both around town, then, Tommy said, as they returned to their sentry positions and David, Kate and Ranger renewed their walk into town.
What was that about being forced to come in? Kate asked David.
David smiled at her.
They wanted to make sure you didnt have me at gunpoint, or were holding some hostage against me. I know it sounds ridiculous to you, but some towns have had their defences shattered with just that kind of ruse.
Kate pondered that for a minute.
Wouldnt you lie to them if I had a gun on you? she asked.
You bet I would, he said. Thats what the non-verbals are for. I raised my left hand for them. If Id raised my right hand, youd be either tied up or dead by now, depending on whether or not youd put up a fight.
They walked on into town.
David traded waves and hellos with several people as they strode through the streets. David navigated his way easily around corners and through alleys until they came out in what had obviously used to be a parking lot adjacent to the center of town. The parking lot was full of small piles of cast-off items.
This must be the dump, Kate suddenly realized. She looked around herself in wonder.
David nodded, and looked for a place to settle the items he was going to leave.
Look around, he said. Everythings free here, if you can find something you like.
Kate walked up and down the rows, scanning the piles quickly, stooping once in a while for a closer look. After David left his items, he too walked the rows.
There were any number of children hanging around, and when they saw Ranger they clustered around him, laughing and talking and petting him. He enjoyed the attention, but even though surrounded by the kids, he and David never quite lost sight of each other.
It didnt take long to determine there was nothing they currently needed. Kate looked at David.
Whats next? she asked.
Lets find some room and board for the next couple of days, he responded. Lets go, Ranger!
Ranger hopped away from the kids and joined them again.
Kate noticed right away how polite everyone was, greeting friends warmly and even strangers cordially. Even accounting for the slower pace, everyone gave up the right-of-way freely, there was never even a cross word or a jostle for position as the pedestrian traffic became more thick.
Kate mentioned this to David, and he laughed quietly.
Yeah, Ive noticed it too. I think its a survival trait. When people could come and go as they pleased, they didnt care if they made anybody else mad. Now that theyre stuck with the same neighbors, unless they want to try to make it on their own, theyve just naturally settled into a more civilized attitude.
Of course, a lot more people carry weapons, now, whether you can see them or not. And, as Robert Heinlein said, An armed society is a polite society.
David and Kate smiled at each other.
Whatever the reason is, I like it a lot better, Kate said, and David nodded agreement.
At that point they stopped in front of a big house on the main street. Unbidden, Ranger jumped up on the porch and laid down contentedly. Kate laughed and David grinned back at her.
I must be in a rut, he said. Obviously this is the only place in town I stay. Its Mama Jacksons place.
An old woman suddenly burst out the door and shook her finger at David.
This better be the only place in town you stay, she warned, with an unistakable gleam in her eyes. If I ever hear of you going someplace else Ill kill you.
Mama, mama, you know I cherish the ground you walk on, David cried as they wrapped their arms around each other.
Like hell you do, you devil! If you loved me like you said you did, you wouldnt leave me for months at a time. Honey, let me look at you!
As she stepped back, David diverted her attention to Kate.
Mama, meet Kate. She followed me home. Can I keep her?
Kate, honey, come here and give mama a big hug. Were all family here, Mama said enthusiastically, wrapping her arms around Kate.
Kate hugged her back, surprised at the warmth she received from this stranger.
Mama, you got a room for a couple of nights? David asked. Ive finally got some trade goods, so I might be able to settle up my bill this trip.
Mama snorted her disgust.
If you so much as mention a bill in the next twenty four hours Ill tie you up and leave you at the dump. Kate, honey, just coming in with David entitles you to room and food for a day, but if this child doesnt straighten up he just might not be sharing it with you.
David laughed and held up his hands in surrender.
Okay, mama, okay. Hows the well holding up?
The wells just fine, praise the Lord.
Wonderful. What chores need doin?
Right now, nothing needs doin around the house. After you get your stuff settled, check with Jed at the mill and see if he needs anything. Honey, what kind of domestic skills do you have?
Oh, cooking, cleaning, general stuff, Kate answered, nothing youd consider special.
Do any hand sewing? Mama asked.
Yeah, not too much.
Good, because Ive got about three baskets full of mendin, and if youre gonna be here a while thatll be your job.
Shes got hardware skills, David offered, and Mama shot him a glance.
Oh, really, she said, musing. Can you fix leaks?
What kind of leaks?
Somethings leaking water under the house, something from the drain pipes I guess, and none of the men folk, shooting David another look, and getting a laugh from them both, seem to consider it a high priority.
Sure, Ill take a look at it. She looked questioningly at David.
Mama, how long until lunch? David asked.
Another hour or so, she replied, glancing expertly up at the sun.
Weve had a long, hot walk, and well start work right after lunch, if that meets with your approval, David grinned at her.
I guess thatll have to do, she said grudgingly, then broke into another wide grin. David, honey, it is so good to see you safe and sound again. You know I cant turn down anything you want. She turned and led them into the house.
When David and Kate were finally able to drop their belongings in their room, Kate looked around in awe.
A bed, with a spread, and real pillows. She looked at David. I think I knew, objectively, these kinds of things still existed, but for the last six months theyve seemed more and more like a dream, and not reality. David could see tears form in the corners of her eyes, and he moved to hold her. She dropped her head to his shoulder so he couldnt see the effect the surroundings were having on her.
David held her and rubbed her shoulders until she was able to regain her composure. She stepped back and blinked her eyes to clear them.
David gestured to the bed.
Can I get you to just lie down and rest until lunch? Ive got a couple of errands to run, nothing really interesting, just people to see. I wont be gone long.
Kate was immediately torn. Laying down in that bed sounded wonderful, but the thought of David walking away from her scared her more than she was prepared for.
David saw that, and hugged her again. He leaned back, and looked directly into her eyes.
I promise you, I will be back for you in less than an hour, and then we will sit down together right downstairs and have lunch. Okay?
Kate nodded agreement slowly and reluctantly. David stood by while she slipped out of her shoes and laid back on the bed, and held her hand for the very short time it took for her breathing to become regular.
Once back downstairs, David looked up Mama again.
Is Doc Brown still practicing? he asked her.
She looked up in alarm.
Are you hurt? Honey, is something wrong? Is she hurt? I can haul Doc over here in no time at all, she exclaimed, putting down the vegetables she was rinsing.
No, no, mama, were both okay, he said, trying to reassure her, but, shes been beat up and I thought Doc could check her out.
Thats a good idea, she said, calming down, you ought to be able to find him over at his place, or at least leave him a note.
Thanks, mama, and thanks for everything.
He gave her a hug from behind so she wouldnt have to take her hands out of the vegetables, then let himself out the back door. Ranger was waiting for him.
Ranger, I wish youd tell me how you learned to read minds. Until thirty seconds ago, even I didnt know I was coming out the back door. Ranger just panted at him.
David quickly covered the quarter mile to Docs place, but found he was out at the time. He had just picked up the chalk to leave a message on Docs chalkboard, when the physician hailed him from down the street.
Hello, Doc! David said warmly, glad to see the old man still hearty.
Hello, David, Doc replied, greeting David with a strong handshake. Whatcha know?
A lot of nothin, like usual, David replied with a grin.
Come on in and sit a spell, Doc waved him into the house.
David went in and settled into a rocker, as Doc opened his bag and replaced some of the contents onto the shelves from which they came. Putting up his bag, he joined David in the living-room-turned-waiting-room.
You okay, David? Doc asked, concern for his young friend showing.
Yeah, Doc, thanks, Im doing great. You see, I met this girl . . .
David, David, David, Doc said sorrowfully, hasnt anybody ever taught you about the birds and the bees? They laughed together.
So, is it prophylactics or penicillin youre after today? Doc grinned wickedly at him.
Neither, you dirty old man. So far were just very, very good friends, if you get my drift, but, David hesitated, I cant believe how strongly I feel about her, he finished.
So whats the holdup?
When I found her, shed been beat up and raped by more than one gang.
Doc looked grave.
Sorry, I shouldnt have been flippant.
No, thats okay. I just think you ought to look her over when you get a chance, she if she needs anything only a pro can provide.
Done and done. Where is she right now?
Laying down at Mamas
Doc nodded approval.
How about I bring her over tonight after dinner, and after we get cleaned up for the day?
Thatd be great, David, bring her on over.
Whats the fee, Doc?
Well, right now Im trying to get Sam Stoddard to breed his beagle to my bitch. He doesnt want a pup, though, so why dont you check with Sam, you know Sam, dont you? David nodded, and see if youve got anything he wants as a stud fee. That work for you?
David nodded, and got to his feet.
Dont rush off, Doc said.
Thanks, but well be back this evening.
They shook hands again, and David made his way back to Mama Jacksons.
-- Cowardly Lion (email@example.com), August 26, 1999
to anyone who would care, sorry about the delay between installments. been busy.
-- Cowardly Lion (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 26, 1999.
Ah, what a nice tale. Makes me hope TEOTWAWKI comes sooner than later.
Its stories like this which make it all worth while for spending the last 12 months hoarding everything in site and spending every last dime on Y2k preps.
Story makes it seem all nice and cozy after Y2k, everybody has a purpose in life and we all carry guns and watch our backs. Sharing our new found skills in fixing worn out close and broken down tools. Which we never had to do before with that good economy and society being normal and all.
Boy, keep those stories coming, its 4 more months and I can wait for it all to fail.
-- survivor (email@example.com), August 26, 1999.