“Kelly and I will take them,” Tina said. “One of them, anyway. I doubt Kelly would let me not make the offer.” That drew several chuckles, and several others offered at once to take in one or more of the kids as well.
“We could let the kids decide who they want to stay with,” Sondra said. Cody gave her a horrified look, which made her snicker.
“At this point, the kids would probably choose Jennifer, Kelly, and Tim,” Tina said, trying to hide a smile herself, “simply because they’re the ones taking them around to get bikes. They know those three better by now than the rest of us.”
“Well, four of them would,” Cody muttered. Only Sondra heard, and stifled a laugh.
“A few of us have either had kids, or helped with kids before,” Tina continued. “I suggest that anyone who has had a — what’s the word, tween? — a ten year old child around and was comfortable with that should be at least considered.”
“That would include me, I suppose,” Charles said.
“I’ve helped raise a few kids,” Sally McMinn said. “I could probably teach ’em something useful, too.”
“I bet you could!” Johnny Latimer retorted from a safe distance. She ignored him.
“Jennifer will probably insist on adopting at least one of them,” Charles said. “So you, me, Jennifer, Ms. Sally… and if someone takes two, we’re set.”
“I always wanted children,” Sara said, sitting next to Tim. “Maybe I’ll have my own some day, but I wouldn’t mind a head start.”
I wouldn ’t mind giving you a head start, Cleve thought to himself. Tim glanced at her.
“Well, we have our five surrogate parents,” Charles said. “All that’s left is to figure out which kid gets which adult.”
“Speaking of the devil… or five of them, anyway,” Max said, looking out the window at the parade of kids on bikes.
“You sure you don’t want to take in Caitlin?” Sondra whispered to Cody.
“Where’d she sleep? We only got one bedroom.”
“Yeah, good point. We’ll just have to — get by with letting her visit.”
Cody snickered, hugging Sondra tighter.
Tim came in with the kids in tow, followed by Kelly and Jennifer. “Hey all,” Tim said. “We’ve been talking. Turns out Ben, Ashley, and Sheldon all lived fairly close to here. They’re all feeling a lot better, so we’re going to take a little ride to Ben’s place first and then Ashley’s or Sheldon’s if they’re up to it. Caitlin and Lily live a bit farther away, but they agreed to let us get to their places later. They’re all coming with us so they can pick up some of their belongings and bring them back. And get some exercise. They were cooped up in that mall for a long time.
“All the kids say they’ll be fine with whoever they live with — we’ll see each other every day anyway, so it doesn’t matter who they live with, we’ll all be helping raise them. We can figure out who they’ll stay with when we get back. See ya.”
“Bye!” The kids all waved at the others, then filed out.
Nobody spoke for a few moments. “Well,” Tina said at last, “I guess that lets us put off the decision for a little longer.”
“In that case, let’s talk creature comforts,” Johnny said. “I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I ain’t exactly lookin’ forward to the day when we run out of gas — or it all goes bad — and we can’t light this place up anymore. We need to use some of it to cut up wood for the winter, and we need to get us some chainsaws too.”
“We’re going to get some solar panels this week,” Tina reminded him. “That won’t run a chainsaw, though. We’ll do alright this winter, but we need to start looking to next winter as well, don’t we?”
“Natural gas, too,” Sara said. “I think the pressure’s starting to go down. We’ll all be grilling outside in a week or two, I’m afraid.”
“Maybe we need to build a brick oven of sorts,” Sally McMinn said. “And an outhouse or two.”
“Speaking of gas,” Jason said, and everyone laughed. “No, seriously. We can capture the methane from our… sewage. It’s pretty low-tech. There was all sorts of stuff about it online, but maybe there will be something at a bookstore or local library. Where is the library around here, anyway?”
Charles drew a vertical line down the middle of the whiteboard. On the right side, he wrote:
Brick oven/outdoor cooking
“We need to hit a few auto parts stores, or hardware stores,” Cody said, “maybe both. If we can scrounge up enough gasoline preservative, we might be able to use the gas at the QuickFill until it’s gone.”
“What do we do with it?” asked Ben.
“Just dump it in the storage tank,” Johnny said. “Maybe stir it a bit with the dipstick.”
“If we do that, maybe we could just leave it for later, and use up some other station’s gas until it goes bad,” Ben said. “Would that work?”
“The next closest gas station is another two miles past the QuickFill,” Tina said. “Is it going to be worth the effort to go that far, when we’re going to have to go without gasoline sooner or later?”
“Sure. I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to give up my creature comforts either. Not having hot water or working toilets is bad enough. Besides, we’re using ten, maybe fifteen, gallons a day. It’ll be gone in what… three or four months?”
“Maybe a little longer,” Kelly said. “There was about 1800 gallons in the tank when I checked it last week. We’re pumping ten or fifteen gallons a day to run the generators. If we were trying to light up this whole place, it would be gone pretty quick, but if it doesn’t go bad it should last four to six months. Maybe a little less — we won’t be able to siphon out every drop, after all.”
“What about the chainsaws?” Johnny Latimer said. “I don’t wanna try sawing firewood by hand, we’ll be doin’ it every day of the year!”
“We could try making ethanol,” Jason suggested. “I've already heard some talk about setting up a still. Maybe we’ll be able to keep a few chainsaws going on what doesn’t get drank.” Laughter.
“If we get enough juice here,” Cleve said, “maybe we could run a few electric chain saws.”
“They’d be good for cutting little stuff,” Johnny said. “Nothing more than a few inches across.”
“Better than nothing.”
“That’s a lot of electricity,” Cody said. “And you’d have to drag the trees to where the juice is to cut ’em up anyway. I guess we’ll see what we come up with when we go for the solar panels tomorrow or Thursday.”