From the diary of Ben Cho, winter–spring 2012
Things seemed to get a little better (except for Cody) after the bashers — maybe the universe decided it had shit on us enough for a while. We had an early warm spell, unusually long and dry for mid-winter, and people stopped complaining about being cold for a little while and started wondering if global warming had hit a runaway phase as some feared. The community grew a little — there were other people nearby, and curiosity (and running low on canned food) finally drove them to see who we were. Even better, two other women joined Sara in pregnancy, and Rita was happy to be the pre-natal nurse. We had occasional sickness and minor injuries for her to deal with, but (except for Sondra) nothing she couldn’t handle. One of the former homeless women moved in with Cleve, and everyone had to rib them about it because he’d arrested her back Before. The rest of Patterson’s crew started to truly become part of us as well. We had Cody on suicide watch for a while, but he made it. He ended up building a cairn of sorts over Sondra’s grave, with help from Patterson and several others.
The long dry spell got us a bit nervous about our water situation again. We’d had enough rain to live out of our rain barrels up to that point, but we were getting pretty worried before we got more rain at the end of January. It got us thinking about droughts and how we’d deal with them…
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Lanterns and oil lamps, hung over the card tables, augmented the dim light from the window over the pool. Outside, rain continued to pour down, with an occasional rumble of thunder.
“I guess I can live with this,” said Cody, sorting Tina’s pass into his hand. He laid his cards face-down on the table.
“It has to be better than what you gave me!” Sara grimaced.
“Yeah, this is an improvement.” Cody smiled and flipped the two of clubs into the center of the table. Sara sighed and played the ace that Cody had given her. Tim and Tina followed with the jack and king respectively.
“Aw!” Cleve groaned from the next table, “that pass was sloppier than this weather!” Kelly gave him a wicked grin. “At least the rain is doing us some good.”
“Let’s see who’s got the queen,” said Sara, leading the jack of spades. Tim sighed and played the queen; Tina and Cody played lower spades.
“Hey guys,” Lily called from the top of the steps, “they wanted me to ask how long the batteries are good for.”
“Hard to say,” said Johnny, taking the first trick at his table, with Cleve, Kelly, and Elly. “Even with the clouds and rain, the panels are still giving us a little power. It’s not enough to keep the batteries charged and all our stuff going, but you’re going to stop at four anyway. What are you guys playing?”
“Me and Ashley and Caitlin are playing Dance Fever. The boys are playing Barnstormer on the Playstation. Why do we have to stop at four? We can’t do anything outside.”
“We can’t let the batteries run too low. We have to have enough light for this evening, and we don’t know if it’ll clear up tomorrow or not.”
“God,” said Tina, playing the ace of hearts on Tim’s middle diamond lead, “I’d about kill for even a half-assed weather forecast!”
“Hey, Stef’s leg told us the rain was coming,” Rita grinned, standing behind Johnny as he dropped the queen of spades on a grumbling Cleve. “Now if it could tell us when it will stop…”
“I miss the Internet,” said Johnny. “It was made for a day like this. Just stay inside and surf. Besides, you could pull up radar and see if the rain was going away anytime soon.”
“Funny,” said Cody, “I don’t miss the net as much as I thought I would. You know what I miss? Going to my job at Breakbeat. I never thought I’d miss working!”
“I miss hot showers,” said Kelly; the women, and several men, voiced agreement. “It might smell better around here if Cody could get one!” Cody hunched his shoulders but otherwise pretended not to hear; Tina gave her daughter the glare.
“Running water, period,” said Cleve. If we hadn’t got this rain, we’d have been in trouble in a day or so.”
“Cheese!” Caitlin called from the top of the stairs; Lily must have replaced her on the dance pads. “It made me fat, but I love it!”
“You’re not so fat now though!” Sara called back, making Caitlin grin. “But yeah, cheese. And dairy products in general. We’re about out of that nasty powdered milk, even.”
“Not to mention beef and chicken,” Johnny laughed. “We need to round us up some livestock! Yeah, the venison is okay, especially what we smoked, but there ain’t enough fat in it to make a good burger with.”
“I don’t suppose you know how to train a herd dog?” asked Tim.
“Well… I tried once. Let’s just say the results were mixed.” Johnny laughed at the memory. “He wasn’t much of a cow dog, but he’d keep the neighbor’s free-range chickens rounded up!”
“Speaking of chickens,” said Elly, “I’d love me a big ol’ plate of eggs! Over-easy or soft scrambled, with a hunk of sausage and a side of hash browns!”
“Careful, babe,” grinned Cleve, “I could put on a couple of pounds just thinkin’ about that kind of food!” Everyone laughed.
“Sondra said she was good, as long as the coffee and chocolate held out,” said Cody, with a rare smile. “I always knew when it was time to hide, she’d be digging into her private chocolate stash.” He sighed and studied his cards, finally playing a middle diamond.
Kelly broke the silence. “Cheese… sausage… God, I’d love a pizza about now. Even one of those crappy cheap frozen ones!”
“Plenty of ex-frozen ones around,” said Cody, “but they’re probably all rotten by now.” He wrinkled his nose. “Remember how much it stank when we cleaned out the Saver-Mart and the other places? And set those dumpsters on fire?”
“Yeah,” said Tina. “That’s one of those things we used to call ‘hidden dividends’ at Maxcom. In other words, stuff that had to be done but we didn’t see the benefits. We’d have seen all sorts of problems if we let them go, though.” She led the two of hearts. “If we’d just left all that crap in there to rot, we’d probably be overrun with rats by now.”
“Aw, man,” Cody said, playing the jack of hearts. “Yeah, good point. But what about all the places we haven’t been to? As far as we know, we’re the only group of any size out there.”
Sara looked at him across the tables. “If we made it, other people must have.”