Monday, September 19, 2011
The electricity went out early Monday morning. There was still water in the pipes, but the pressure noticeably lessened as the morning went on. Tina and Kelly filled all the containers they could find and started a list of things they needed. About the time they finished their list, Cody rode up their driveway on his bicycle.
“Hey guys,” he said when Kelly opened the door. “Your power out too?”
“Yes, it is,” Tina said. “We’re going to go look for a generator and some gas cans and bottled water. I figure we can siphon gas out of the QuickFill tanks somehow. Kelly worked there, she knows where the keys are.”
“Well, I can save you part of your trip,” Cody said. “Dad had a couple generators, I got one hooked up to the fridge and some lights this morning. And my Playstation. You can have the other one, just bring that trailer bike down to my place and we’ll load it up. He had a handpump too, we can siphon gas with that. So if you’re okay about me coming along, could we get some extra gas cans for me?”
Two white pickups stood waiting at the gate. Kelly stopped short, Tina behind. Cody, bringing up the rear, slipped around them and past the pickups to the gate. He pushed it open, and the trucks rolled through and quickly blended into those on the side streets. “Come on,” he said, waving to Tina and Kelly; after they rode through, he closed the gate behind him. “I think that was all of them,” he grinned. “Maybe they won’t come back in if we keep the gates closed.”
“God, I hope so,” Kelly said, glaring at the departing trucks. “I hate even looking at them.”
The ride to Pleasant Hill was uneventful. As always, the trucks were quiet, unobtrusive, and polite. They moved on to their target, a Target.
“Good God, what a mess,” Cody said, playing his flashlight across the floor. “Looters do this?”
“Probably,” Tina said. “I guess it’s not enough for them to steal things, they have to trash the place too.”
“So there are other people around. We were right.”
“Maybe. Maybe they did this on Friday, then drove off. I saw a guy come out of the Saver-Market on Friday with two shopping carts full of beer. He left it there and climbed into a white pickup.”
Cody shivered. A moment later, Kelly’s phone rang, making them all jump. She fished it out of her pocket, giving her mom a shrug.
“Hello? Daddy? You’re okay? Yeah, we both are… just us and another kid from the community, I think we’re the only ones who didn’t drive off. The power’s out, so we’re getting gas cans and candles and stuff. Yeah, that’s what we’re calling it. Is everyone else okay down there? … Oh, Daddy, I’m sorry. How many? Oh. Um, sure, I’ll check.” She lowered the phone. “He wants to talk to you, Mom.”
Tina hesitated, then took the phone and walked toward the front of the store. “Hello, Charles.”
“Hi Tina. I was worried about you and Kelly, but we were having some trouble down here too.”
“Trouble? What kind of trouble?”
“Looters. Bashers. Typical weekend in post-apocalypse Atlanta.”
“Right. But it’s over?”
“Yeah. We were a little better armed than they thought we’d be. The looters weren’t interested in anyone who was going to fight back, but the bashers needed a little more persuasion.”
“Is everyone okay then?”
“Well, we lost Trey Muldoon, and a couple guys got wounded, nothing serious. James… he didn’t exactly drive off. But some of those pickups were stopped at a red light last night, before the power went out. He opened the passenger door on one and jumped in just as the light turned green.”
“Look, I don’t know how long the cellphone towers will stay live now that the power’s out — maybe one or two days if we’re lucky. I ’d like to come up and see you and Kelly tomorrow. There will be two or three of us — we found out the hard way that traveling alone is a bad idea. I don’t know how you feel about moving down here, or us all moving up there, but we all agree that it would be best if the holdouts stuck together. Think about it, OK?”
“Holdouts, good name. Sure, come on up, it’s not like we can’t find room for you, ha ha.”
“Yeah, same here. If the phones are still working in the morning, I’ll call you before we leave. It shouldn’t take two hours to get there.”
“Okay, Charles. We’ll see you then. I’ll talk to the others about what you said. Bye.”
Kelly stood alone as Tina returned. “Where’s Cody?”
“He went to check —”
“Jeez, guys,” Cody said, rounding the aisle at the far end. “You ought to see the beer and wine aisle. Picked. Clean. They even took the neon signs. Looks like whoever did it couldn’t wait to get outside, there’s empties all over the place. It’s a wonder they found the door.”
“That doesn’t surprise me in the least,” Tina said. “Well, let’s get what we came for.” They fanned out, carts in hand, to get gas cans, canned goods, candles, lanterns, propane canisters, camp toilets, and a pair of cookstoves.
Tina’s phone sounded its default ringtone as they left the building. The Caller ID showed an unfamiliar number. “Does Charles have this number?” she asked, thumbing the answer button. “Hello?”
“Hello, Miz Tina… I don’t know if you remember me. Sara, from the Saver-Market? You bought that cartload of groceries on Friday?”
“Yes! Sara! Are you all right?”
“Well, the power is out at my house now. I was wondering if perhaps I could join you. There don’t seem to be many of us left, and my car… or what it’s become… keeps annoying me and won’t let me sleep well.”
“We’re just down the street —”
“Looting a big-box!” Cody called. Tina gave him the look, and he turned away.
“Do you think you could meet us in front of the grocery store? We’ll pick up some more canned goods.”
“Certainly,” Sara said. “The emergency power should still be running at the store, I was told it would last for a day if need be. I’ll see you there. And thank you so much.”