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Wednesday, March 31, 2010 5 comments

Fighting Sleep

Mason, that is. In fact, he was rockin' and rollin' until about 5 minutes ago. He’s finally drifting off on Mrs. Fetched’s shoulder. I’ll shortly be laying him in his crib… Mrs. Fetched caught him about to climb out of the bassinet this morning, so that’s been taken down. Kobold gave us his daughter’s old baby bed, so we’ll set that up probably tomorrow.

It’s too bad The Boy and Snippet feel like they need to visit Cousin Splat more than they need to take care of their own offspring.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 5 comments

White Pickups, Episode 28b

Contents

continued from yesterday…

The man on the overpass watched them approach, concerned neither with the rain nor the guns pointed his way. As they drew nearer, they could see him better: tall, grey, almost gaunt, dressed in a suit with something tucked under his arm. As they reached the on-ramp, he spoke: “If you truly be men, bid me come down.”

“Come down then!” Frank called back, and the other turned to the on-ramp.

He was slow; the drizzle started again and all but Frank were fidgeting by the time he stood before them. What he was carrying appeared to be a gigantic old Bible. “Peace be unto you,” he said. His mouth was twisted, turned down on one side in a perpetual scowl, marring an otherwise noble-looking face. Every strand of his grey hair was in place, slicked back against his head. The rain beaded on it and ran down.

“You too,” Frank replied. “But let’s get outta this rain right now.” They moved quickly to get under the overpass; now that the old man was with them, he seemed to have no problem keeping up.

“You got a name?” one of the Bobs asked.

“Of course. I am Reverend Carlton Worleigh,” the old man said.

“Hey,” Ray-Ban took off his shades to peer at him. “Aren’t you that guy my dad used to listen to on the radio?”

“Verily,” Worleigh said, looking pleased that he’d been recognized. “I was faithful to preach the Word of God —” he pronounced it Gowd-a, lifting the improbably large Bible — “a generation ago, to those who had an ear to hear. As Satan cannot stand to hear the true Word of Gowd-a, he so lifted up those of his worshippers whose religion they are pleased to call multiculturalism. They in turn did the devil’s dirty work, speaking all manner of lies and gossip against The Lord’s servant until I was banished from the airwaves. Yet have I continued my ministry, out of sight of those who would do all the Lord’s servants harm, unto this very day.

“Of course, I speak freely among you, for I perceive you are friends of Gowd-a. You have been doing His work in this modern-day Gomorrah, have you not?”

“Yeah,” said Jared, scuffing a tennis shoe on the pavement. “Not that it turned out so well.”

“You failed in your purpose, as did the disobedient Jews after Gowd-a doomed them to wander in the wilderness, for you put your trust in your worldly weapons and not the sword of his Word-a.”

“In Remington we trust,” Ray-Ban grinned, patting the barrel of his shotgun.

“Verily, that is the attitude that defeated you. You use the righteous tools that Gowd-a has given unto you. But instead of putting your trust in the tool, put your trust in the Maker of all things! Do not raise up the made thing to be your Gowd-a! For thus you worship a false idol, and cut yourself off from the power of the Lord-a!

“But lo, I tell you a mystery: the sodomite and the nigra hath fled this place. They have received a warning from their dark master, for I saw them on bicycles, fleeing north as if the agents of Hell were fast on their heels! And yet, they shared the highway with those selfsame agents —” he pointed at a line of pickups gliding by — “in which the damned souls of this world even now are being tortured in their own rolling Hells-a! The Lord has verily brought His rapture to bear, but He instead chose to take up the billions of unrepentant sinners and allow them to witness the Tribulation from the so-called freedom of the highway!

“But some Gowd-a chose to leave behind, righteous and unrighteous alike, that they might personally witness His mighty hand at work. For verily the seven years of tribulation, spoken of in His holy word-a, have begun. The evildoers have fled Gomorrah, but do not think that in so doing they shall escape the judgement! For Gowd-a has tested you, and found you wanting — but without His power, are we not all to be found wanting? You were laid low by the work of your own hand — are you now ready to be lifted up to bear witness to the work of the hand of the Lord?”

All of them nodded or grunted, Steve even cheered. “Then return to your homes. Keep the commandments of Gowd-a, and keep the calendar. On the first day of the new year, I shall meet you at this very place, Lord willing. Then you shall be anointed to move in the power of Gowd-a, and be victorious in Him. The sins of the evildoers will surely find them out, and the righteous shall inherit the Earth to build His new Jerusalem! Go now, to your homes, and await the appointed time.”

continued…

Monday, March 29, 2010 1 comment

White Pickups, Episode 28a

This one ran a little long, so I split it in two. The second half goes up tomorrow at 7.




Contents

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Six men played poker in a conference room at the Marriott Suites; a seventh watched the rain outside the window with a rifle slung across his back. Other firearms lay within easy reach of the poker players. All wore jackets against the chill that had worked its way inside several days ago.

“Jared. Hand me a beer,” the man at the window said, not looking back.

“You sure?” Jared looked up from his hand. He had a pair of sixes; he planned to go up big if he drew another six.

“If I wasn’t sure, I would’na asked, numbnuts.” He continued to watch the rain. “You gonna ask more stupid questions or what?”

Jared opened the cooler next to him and fished a Miller Lite out of the tepid water. “Geez Frank, you don’t have to get so pissy about it. We’re runnin’ low here. You were the one talkin’ about cuttin’ back until we went and got some more.”

“Whatever.” Frank looked back at the poker table; Jared tossed him the beer, letting it flip end over end in the air. “You asshole. I’m gonna open this over your head.”

Jared ignored him and addressed the table: “Y’all want one while I got my stinky feet in there?”

A chorus of assent; Jared sent cans around the table. “One left. I guess Joseph gets it when he comes back.”

“If he comes back,” Ray-Ban said. He’d perched the mirrored sunglasses that gave him his nickname on top of his head (where they wouldn’t reflect his hand to the others). “Retard. Shouldn’t have gone off ‘to reconnoiter’on his own.”

“Not like we did so well as a group,” one of the Bobs said over the pops and hisses of beer cans opening around the room. “J.D. shot the faggot that came out to talk, then that fat nigger shot J.D. and almost got me, that skinny queer with the ponytail took out Thurman, Jesse, and Sid: pop, pop, pop, one right after the other. Then W.L. and Charlie jump in the trucks. Six of us, gone in thirty seconds. What the fuck are we doing here, anyway? We oughtta either be goin’ home or goin’ up big.” He pushed most of his worthless cash, looted from nearby establishments, into the middle of the table. “Just like that. Go big or go home. I don’t care which, anymore.”

“What, and tell everyone the faggots chased us off?” Frank spat.

“Who says anyone’s gotta know? We took some losses, but we wiped out a big ol’ nest of gang-bangers,” Jared said. “We get our story straight right here in this room, and nobody will know different.” He looked at the ante. “Screw this. I fold. I’m ready to go home.” He stared at the others around the table.

“Me too,” said Ray-Ban, pushing his cards into the middle of the table. The other Bob did likewise.

“Chickenshit,” Frank opined, pointing his beer can at Jared and pulling the tab. It snapped, but made no other noise. “Ah, shit. It’s flat.”

“Nope,” Jared said. “I popped it before I tossed it!”

The others laughed. “You’re smarter than you look,” Frank said, tipping his can back. “Sometimes, anyway.”

“Yeah. So maybe this is the smart thing to do. Pack it up. This is just a frickin’ waste of time. And friends. I bet we don’t see Joseph again either. That makes seven. Half of us, just… gone.”

Ray-Ban pulled his glasses down. “That’s somethin’ to think about. If we couldn’t get the job done with fourteen, what makes you think we can do it with seven? Huh, Frank?”

“Fuck you,” Frank said, staring back out the window. After a long pause, “If the rest of y’all wanna go home, fine. I guess I’ll make sure you don’t get lost on the way. We can pack it up tomorrow.”


Sunday, September 25

The seven of them trudged west through intermittent rain to US41 then north, sticking to sidewalks where they could, ducking under awnings or storefronts when the rain got heavy, watching the pickups pass them by. All of them at one point or another thought how nice it would be to hitch a ride — which always seemed to happen where one of the trucks had stopped — but nobody wanted to take W.L. and Charlie’s way out.

The rain let up as they sighted the I-75 overpass. As they drew closer, Frank snarled, “Cover!” and ducked behind a parked pickup; the others scrambled to follow. Everyone tried to ignore the whispering: No more fear. No more fighting. No more hiding. Climb in. Why walk?

“What is it?” Ray-Ban hissed.

“Someone on the overpass,” Frank said. He detached the scope from his deer rifle and peered through it. “Doesn’t look armed,” he said. “Tough shot from this distance, and if he hasn’t seen us, he would before I could get closer.”

“Hey,” one of the Bobs said. “If there’s only one of him, and he ain’t armed, what are we all worried about? He might could help us, and if not, we can always shoot him.”

“If he ain’t armed, how could he help us?” Jared snapped. “But what the hell. He might have something up his sleeve, or he might just jump off the damn bridge. Either way, we can take him if he gives us any guff. As long as we don’t assume anything.”

“Works for me,” Frank said, surprising Jared. “Worst thing that happens, we all get killed. Still ain’t as bad as some things I can think of.” He glared at the pickup; its whispering grew quiet for a moment.

continued…

Sunday, March 28, 2010 5 comments

Knock Me Over…

The Boy got a rather large tax refund, due to having a real job much of the year. Against my better judgement, he (with Mrs. Fetched’s not-so-tacit approval) talked me into getting him a “Valve King half-stack” (a rather large speaker with a vacuum tube amp for that “just so” sound) and he would pay me back the $1000 that it cost when he got his refund. He was into Mrs. Fetched for a similar amount.

Well, knock me over with a feather: he got his refund, for whatever reason, on a Visa cash card — but the ATM would let him withdraw $400 at a time as many times as he wanted. Yesterday, that’s what we did, and Mrs. Fetched and I both got our $1000 in cash.

Off to the bank tomorrow… and I had a rather large tax refund myself this year. Just in time to drop $200 on a 2TB outboard hard drive, and that’s what I’ll put my photos on.

I’ve gotten out of the habit of posting these short but frequent updates. I should get back to doing them.

Thursday, March 25, 2010 2 comments

Looking Up!

Mason looking upFriday’s only a few hours away, after all! Not to mention spring sproinging up here on Planet Georgia… and health insurance reform passing… and Nathan “Raw” Deal resigning (when you live among pod people, no reprehensible is A Good Thing). Even Monday at work was pretty tolerable. Sure, there was a meeting that took all afternoon (and I mean all afternoon), but it was about some user interface issues — for the longest time, it seemed that I was the only one in the company who cared enough about that to make any noise about it — so there’s finally some progress on that front.

Mason has pretty much mastered the walker that we picked up for him in Florida. He managed reverse gear almost immediately, but now he’s got forward down pretty well. He’ll trundle right up to whatever he wants to get his little mitts on. In fact, that got him his first hand-slap yesterday: he was trying to grab the lamp cord and Mrs. Fetched gave him his first taste of a word he’ll soon love to hate — “NO!” He let out quite the wail over that one.

I worked at home the last two days, which meant I got a fair amount of Mason time when I should have been working. But it wasn’t too bad; I was reading specifications (which I can do one-handed) and held him until the text knocked him out cold (it almost got me today too). He’s had a bit of an upset stomach the last couple of days, and I have trouble remembering to not jounce him around — he loves it, but it can lead to a mess…

For reasons I can’t figure out, this has been a week for making cookies. I got bored Sunday night, got out the Betty Crocker cookbook and the bag of chocolate chips, and had at it. Mrs. Fetched decided to throw two cents in and got the white chocolate chips into the mix, so we had piano-keyboard chocolate chip cookies. They lasted… until Tuesday night. So last night, I went to get a cookie, and there already weren’t any (except a few I took to the office with me, hee hee), so I grabbed the cookbook again and started peanut butter cookies. Mrs. Fetched once again threw in two good cents and replaced the jar of Jif with some “natural” peanut butter. Much more tasty that way… of course, I didn’t read far enough down the recipe when I started and I got to the part “chill at least 3 hours.” Seeing as it was already 9 p.m., I tossed them in the fridge overnight and finished them this morning. Again, I filched a few for the office, but the rest of the crew has already made a serious dent. Mrs. Fetched suggested I double the recipe next time, and that might be a good idea. For the record, I’m not sure what kind I’ll make next.

Next week’s White Pickups is going to be a double-feature: it ran a bit long, so I split it in half and will run it Monday and Tuesday mornings. I think I’ve figured out the rest of the story, I just need to hook up the pieces I have and write some other pieces. A sequel is already suggesting itself, but maybe it’ll let me bang on some short stories and a few FAR Future spinoffs I want to mess with.

I think I’m going to slip into bed a little early this evening, maybe I’ll be able to get up early and take my time getting going…

Monday, March 22, 2010 11 comments

White Pickups, Episode 27

Contents

Tina stood before the entire group, gathering inside the clubhouse after lunch. In a distant past, little more than a week ago, the “Laurel Room” was available for events too large to host in a house. It was more than enough to accommodate everyone, overlooked the pool, and had its own pool access. There were plenty of chairs, but most of the newcomers stood to rest their sore saddle muscles.

“I’d like to welcome all of you to Laurel Hills,” Tina said. “Some of you may know, I’m Tina Ball — Charles’s ex-wife. We’re going to try to be civil to each other for the duration.” A few nervous laughs. “Actually, it’ll be me with the trying part — Charles has always been civil.” More laughs.

“There are nearly two hundred detached homes in this subdivision, and thirty-two townhouses. Although you’re welcome to pick out a house if you like, we think the townhouses might be your best choice, for several reasons — not the least of which is that all of them have fireplaces, they’re next to the clubhouse, and they’ll require much less fuel to keep warm this winter. Those of us who were already here will be moving into the townhouses ourselves in the next day or two.

“I understand that you left a lot of your belongings behind. We’ll be going out to, as Cody says, loot the mall. But I’d like everyone to see what’s in the townhouses first — you might find that the drive-offs left most of what you’ll need. Anything you can’t use, or don’t want, bring it here for anyone here who does need it… no sense taking a two-hour trip if you can just walk across the parking lot, right? Oh, and if you want a dog or cat, we’ve rescued most of them and you can adopt as many as you like.”

“’Scuse me,” Johnny Latimer said. “Where are y’all getting your gas? Any chance we can get our hands on some generators too?”

“We’re siphoning from the holding tanks at the QuickFill. My daughter Kelly worked there, so she knew where to find the keys. As for getting your own generator… you might find one, but bringing it home is the hard part. Besides, once the fuel’s gone, we won’t be getting any more.”

“You guys know gas goes bad, right?” someone called from one of the standing areas. “After a few months, it won’t be any good unless we dump preservative in it.” The group murmured for a few moments. “Besides, Tina’s right. It’s a temporary thing. We need to start thinking about what we’ll be doing when we don’t have gas anymore.”

“What about solar panels?” Cleve said. “Windmills, for that matter. We could hook something up, that should give us enough power to make ice or charge up batteries. Just Google for ‘Atlanta solar panels’ — oh.”

“Yeah,” Kelly said dryly. “Kind of hard to Google anything when the Internet’s gone.”

“Oh, for goodness sakes!” an older white woman snapped from the back. “Haven’t any of you heard of the Yellow Pages? There has to be a printed phonebook in this godforsaken suburb!”

“Should be one in the office, ma’am,” Tina said. “The door in back goes into the lobby, the office will be on your right.” She huffed and walked to the door. Tina continued, “I think electricity falls into the ‘nice to have but not essential’ bucket. What’s going to be more important, going forward, is securing a clean and reliable water source. Bottled water, like everything else we’ve scavenged from various convenience stores and supermarkets, won’t last forever. We can collect rainwater, but you’re all aware we can go six weeks or more without significant rain here, usually during the summer when we need it most. Surface water is suspect, but we can probably filter it with some effort. We can boil it, if we have a reliable fuel source, but that’s also going to be a critical issue going forward —”

“Sunlovers Solar!” the older woman said, bursting back in and waving a thick phone book. “60-something Buford Highway, Norcross! I can’t read that tiny print like I used to.” She handed the phone book to Tina, open to the right page.

“Thank you, Ms. —”

“Sally McMinn. If you want to be formal about it, Ms. Sally will do.”

“Okay, Sally. We’ll look into it. But as I was saying, our fuel and clean water supplies are what we should be focused on at the moment. Later, but not much later, we also need to start planning our crops for next year. Does anyone here have experience in gardening or farming?”

All the newcomers turned to Jason Graham, a tall thin black man. “Yeah,” he said, standing up, “I help with the Urban Gardens project. Or did. We gardened in vacant lots and people’s yards, taught low-income folk how to grow some of their own food. But we got — what, thirty, thirty-five people here? We’re gonna need a lot of land, especially if we’re gonna grow enough to live on. Guess we don’t got a choice, though.”

“Would you object to being in charge of the effort, then? It’s critical that we do this right.”

“Sure. But Ms. Sally there ain’t no slouch at the gardening, either. You’d be amazed at what she pulled out of her little postage stamp of a back yard this summer.” Sally smiled and folded her arms, nodding at Jason.

“We should also consider hunting and foraging,” another man said. “Not so much here in the subdivision, it’s too well-manicured — but I saw a stand of blackberry vines on the way, close to here, and there’s plenty of edible weeds around. But foraging, along with hunting and fishing, could see us through if we have crop trouble or just underestimate how much we need to plant.”

“Excellent,” Tina said. “Can you show us what to look for and so forth?”

“Sure. My name’s Ben Cho, by the way. I brought my field guide with me, and I’m sure we can find a few more when we go to the mall. We’ll swing by a bookstore or something.”

“Good idea,” Jason said. “We can grab some extra gardening books while we’re there. I brought a couple of mine with me, but we should make sure we have as many copies as we can lay hands on.”

“We could set up this room as a sort of common area,” Charles said. “Until we get some longer-term power sources, we’d only have to light up one place in the evenings instead of twenty or thirty, right?”

“I had the same thought,” Tina said. “It will give everyone a chance to get to know each other, and I really didn’t want this building to go to waste. In fact, I considered the possibility of having us all living in here, until Cody pointed out that the high ceiling and this glass wall facing the pool would make it difficult to heat in the winter. There’s a workout room and utility areas downstairs, which we can put to use during the winter, but this will be convenient until it gets cold.

“Well, I suppose we need to start getting people matched up with their new places. If nobody objects, we’ll let the biggest groups get first pick. Does that sound fair?” Nobody objected. “Great. If you haven’t done it already, you might want to talk among yourselves to form a larger group. There are three-bedroom townhouses at each end of the rows — four of them. Of course, being on the end and being as large as they are, they’ll be hardest to heat. Most of the others are two-bedroom, except for eight one-bedroom units in the middle of the building. Floor plans are here on this table.”

“We’re going to get one of these, right?” Sondra squeezed Cody’s hand.

“I guess so,” Cody said. “I keep thinking I — we — don’t need to move ’cause I already got my own place, but I guess a one-bedroom place would be easier to keep warm in the winter.”

“Good. Let’s sign the list. One-bedroom preference.” They walked to the table.

continued…

Thursday, March 18, 2010 5 comments

So Happy It’s Thursday

Daughter Dearest and MasonMason had his 6-months checkup last week. Yup, ½ a candle now. His weight and size are right at the 50th percentile, meaning he’s dead-on average size for a kid his age. Our doc did say his head’s a little bigger than normal, to which a wide-eyed Snippet went, “What does that mean?” (It means he has some extra storage for the spare brains he inherited from his granddad, silly!) He’s cut three teeth now, and is continuing same, but at least he’s back to sleeping through the night. He adjusted to DST by the simple expedient of ignoring it, and he’s up — up? rockin' and rollin', more like — until 11:30 or even midnight now. At least he sleeps past 8.

He loves his Auntie Dearest, and gets excited just hearing her voice on the phone. We’re all (well, all of us but Snippet) looking forward to her coming home this weekend.

22s at 7 at the MasqueradeThe Boy’s band had their first gig, and it went pretty well as such things go — they had maybe 30 people there, most of whom know one or more of the band members personally. Jake, the front guy, broke a string on the first number and they had to stand around for a few minutes while he made a quick field repair. I suggested to The Boy that they put together something they can play three-handed to buy some time for the next occurrence, something about a broken string (maybe a bikini string).

If you’ve never been to the Masquerade (a pretty good guess), it’s in an old factory/warehouse building and they have three stages which they’ve dubbed Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell. The latter is where the no-names go to perform, but they did put their name on the marquee (except that it was rendered “22 to 7” instead of “22s at 7”). The same night, Infected Mushroom (a psy-trance act, my kind of music) was playing in Heaven. Since 22s at 7 opened the evening festoovities, if I’d known a bit earlier I’d have planned to slip upstairs afterwards and enjoy the music. But 22s at 7 isn’t bad — they sound a bit like Molly Hatchet. The guy who booked them for the Masquerade was happy enough with the performance that he said he would book them for a venue in Buford next month.

Some money shook out at the last minute, so I was able to buy my own ticket. After being assured repeatedly that bringing a camera would be no problem… it wasn’t a problem. I guessed right on my lens choice — 50mm f1.8 — and after a few exposure checks, cranked the ISO up past 1000 and let ’er rip. I put the SpeedLite in my cargo pocket, but it wasn’t necessary. The built-in flash lit up the venue way beyond what I expected, exposing (no pun intended) an ugly concrete-block wall behind the stage. I’m surprised they haven’t put a black drop-cloth over that wall, or even painted it. The SpeedLite would have been overkill, so it stayed in my pocket for the duration. There’s more pictures if you want to see them. Canon’s “Digital Photo Professional” software did a pretty good job of correcting the white balance and cleaning them up in general, in addition to being a really nice way to sort through the pile of shots and quickly delete the blurred or malfocused pictures. Much faster than Photoshop Elements for batch-fixing stuff like this.

Snippet reaaalllllly stepped in it afterwards — a couple of guys from Ether (the punk band that The Boy used to play in) showed up, but got there late and missed the set. Completely forgetting the connection, she gushed, “These guys sound a lot better than Ether did! Ether kind of sucked.” They laughed it off… Raymond (their bass player) said “it was punk, it’s supposed to suck.” Their front guy moved away, so Ether is all but dead. Long live Ether, I guess… they’ll live on archive.org, anyway.

Monday, March 15, 2010 7 comments

White Pickups, Episode 26

Contents

Friday, September 23, 2011

“Rush hour” was one of many things the white pickups carried away. What they brought in its place was a near-constant stream of light traffic, day and night. The first group, led by Charles and Max, left immediately after breakfast and a hurried conversation with Tim and Cleve.

“Keep them in single file, mostly,” Tim said. “Most of them know what they’re doing. I think your biggest problem, though, is going to be reminding Stefan and Palmer to not get ahead of you. I’m more worried about dogs than people, but either way…” he waved his hands. “You guys be safe, okay? I’ll see you at the clubhouse.”

“You too,” Charles said. “Don’t feel bad about pushing the laggards if they’re going too slow. See you there.” He took the lead and they rode away.

“… we can come back for stuff later if you decide you want it,” Cleve was telling the newbies as Tim joined them. “You got water, sport drinks, energy bars, and y’all took your potassium tablets, right?” Everyone nodded. “Good. Red, you got anything you wanna tell ’em?”

“Just stay together,” Tim said. “Ride single file, give the person in front of you enough room so both of you are comfortable. If you have any kind of problem, pull off to the side and call out. If anyone behind you says they’re stopping, pass the word up so everyone knows to stop. It’s better if you don’t cramp or wear yourself out in the first place, so pace yourself. No shame if you have to walk your bike up a steep hill. We’re not racing the other guys, or each other, we’re trying to get somewhere. Remember to breathe slow and deep while you’re going uphill, so you don’t get dizzy. Janet will ride the line and give you some tips if she thinks you need them, or if you ask. We’ll start off by going a mile or two, see how everyone’s doing, and make adjustments as needed.

“Everyone ready?” They all nodded or voiced agreement. “Then lead us out, Cleve.”

To Tim’s surprise, the oldest — even the trike riders — kept up well, and they made reasonable time. Everyone was willing to push on after the first two miles, so Tim let them continue on to the first five-mile stop, then tightened a couple of loose axles and cables. Everyone was glad for the rest, but ready to move out after Tim finished his adjustments. Occasional clouds and a light breeze kept the morning pleasant. Nobody developed cramps or wore out, and everyone was in good spirits by the time they reached the exit to Laurel Hills shortly after 11:30.

“Hey, we really are gonna make it in time for lunch!” Cleve grinned. “Red, you lead us in, you know the way.” Tim took the lead for the last two miles and brought them to the gate where Sara waited.

“Is this everyone?” Sara asked Tim, opening the gate. “The others have been here a couple hours.”

“They must have took their time, then,” Tim said. “Any trouble?”

“Max said he shot at a dog that got too close, but that was it.”

“Great. It’s good to see you.”

“Yeah, you too. Get ’em all in here, and we’ll get on up to the clubhouse. Cody and that Sondra girl are grillin’ up a storm.” A stray breeze carried the smell of food. “I think some of your friends worked up an appetite.”

“I dunno about Red there,” Cleve grinned, “but I sure did. He might-a wore himself out keeping his speed down, but that’s all.” They mounted up and Tim led them to the clubhouse, Cleve glancing back at Sara before the gate disappeared around the first curve.

The first group cheered as they walked in. Several of them splashed in the chilly pool; others sat or stood with drinks and snacks. A generator chugged in a far corner, powering the pool filter and a refrigerator inside the clubhouse. Charles napped in a lounger; Max chatted with Tina and Kelly. Cody and Sondra waved to Tim from two grills standing side-by-side.

“I made him save you one!” Sondra said, handing Tim a beer from the cooler at their feet.

“Hey, it’s even cold!” Tim said, opening it up.

“Yeah, that stuff is pretty nasty otherwise,” Cody said. “I guess when we can’t make ice anymore, we’ll have to save it for winter.”

“Sooner or later, we’ll be making wine or moonshine,” Tim said. “A college buddy of mine used to make his own beer, but Lord knows if we could do it now.”

“Why not?” Cody said. “There’s probably a store that sold supplies over by the mall.” He turned back to the grill and checked the meat. “The fish is done, burgers are about done. The chicken and steak will take a little longer.”

“I guess you have that worked out, then,” Tim said, sipping his beer. “I think I’ll go change, maybe take a dip, and you should have it all ready by then.” Several others who rode up with Tim jumped in the pool without bothering to change. “Too bad this isn’t indoors,” he said. “If we could figure out how to keep it warm through the winter, we could have a public bath like they did in the Roman days.” He looked around. “Everyone we know, the people who didn’t drive off, are here… and we’re not even enough to crowd a suburban community pool.” Tim shook his head and walked off.

“Now there’s an encouraging thought,” Cody said, flipping the burgers. “If there’s other people around, I sure hope we start finding them soon.”

“We will,” Sondra said, scratching Cody’s back and making him smile. “At least, we’d better. We cleaned up a lot more than thirty places while Tim was gone.”

“Yeah, I don’t want that effort to go to waste. Speaking of which, the burgers are done.” Cody lifted them to the warming rack. “Do I dare ask you to hand me a couple of plates?”

“Any time.” She kissed him and went to the table where they piled the supplies.

continued…

Saturday, March 13, 2010 3 comments

The Politics of “Enough”

My last day off was Wednesday, and a friend of ours (the Evil Twins’ dad) gave a call just to see what was up, and as he admitted, because he was bored. This guy is a religious-right type, but not into teabagger territory; he supported Huckabee in the primary and voted the way his preacher told him to in the general.

Anyway, he likes to ramble from topic to topic, and the incoming rain led to discussion of water issues in general — primarily the drought that we left behind for now. Water politics is pretty complex on Planet Georgia, when it’s not a complete hairball. Lake Lanier is one of several Corps of Engineers reservoirs, but seems to draw the most attention since it’s Atlanta’s primary water supply. The lakefront counties want some of the water themselves, the (mostly) wealthy lakeshore property owners want their docks to stay afloat, Atlanta and smaller cities downstream want a drink, and there has to be a certain amount of water in the Apalachicola to maintain barge traffic. None of this was an issue 20 years ago, when we had an even worse drought (the pasture here looked like a Marscape), before people started flooding into Atlanta and points mostly north. At some point, the population and its water demands exceeded the minimum supply. I pointed out that limiting further development would go a long way toward preventing even worse problems in the future. And he said…

“But when you talk about limiting growth, you’re also hurting income!”

“Well, what would you rather have?” I asked. “Income, or a drink of water?” He changed the subject.

A lot of the problems we’re facing today — climate change, peak oil, water and soil depletion, the economy, etc. — stem from an inability (or more likely, willful refusal) to determine how much is enough. People cruise along with their lives and careers, perhaps with a vague notion that their locale or the world are reaching carrying capacity in some aspects, but make no attempt to do anything about it. Perhaps they expect someone else to solve “the problem” (which, as the Archdruid is fond of saying, is actually a predicament); perhaps they are afraid to make waves at home or work. The result, in either case, is the same.

“Enough” is a good place to be. A small, slightly ratty-looking car is fine for getting me to work and back and is less likely to be molested by thieves or vandals. Enough house costs less than too much house, in terms of both mortgage and utilities. Enough income… well, with FAR Manor, there’s never enough income, but if the expenses would go away you can bet I wouldn’t be working so much. Enough commerce would support a stable population without creating environmental issues. I could go on, but you get the point.

The problem is, finding a politician brave enough to say “enough.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010 5 comments

Spring #3 Comes In Like a… TS02?

Daughter Dearest and I returned from vacation to find Spring #3 ramping up. It quickly got to be nearly as warm as it was in Florida last week — but both of us had our priorities in order: 1) Mom and Solar-bro; 2) 550 miles from the chicken houses; 3) The weather. Monday was productive; I gathered up a bunch of firewood that had been at least partially cut and The Boy did most of the splitting while I stacked. Mrs. Fetched deemed the resulting stack “impressive.” I’m going to do a lot of cutting this spring, then we’ll have (mostly) dry firewood come next fall.

But Spring #3 can be the wild one of the bunch, even if it’s going to be the “real” spring this year (we might get a Winter #4, but it would have to be mild and short). DoubleRed and I came home this evening to a TS02 in progress, with Mrs. Fetched sort of refereeing and Mason watching with frank interest. Snippet finally huffed off and went upstairs, leaving The Boy (who had been simmering in the lounge chair) to fill me in on the details. Apparently, this has been something that’s been going on for a while — maybe since the big TS02 over Valentine’s Day (VD) weekend. Mason was a bit more concerned than he let on; he let out a loud squawk of relief right in my ear a few minutes later.

I should have expected something like this: Snippet dropped SN05, SN08, and SN09 errors on me just this morning; The Boy has been throwing TB22 and TB25 errors a lot as well. Turned out that the day after DD and I vacated, Mrs. Fetched lowered the boom on them both — and they both straightened up and took care of business (and Mason) much better than before. It carried forward, as The Boy did pretty good with the firewood.

Speaking of Mason, I noticed a couple changes when we returned — his hair is a little thicker and his face a bit chubbier. He also caught a cold, poor guy. I had him yesterday afternoon and he started getting fussy… making “I’m hungry” complaints. I made some formula, used about half of it in a bowl of cereal for him, and started feeding. He took four or five bites and started crying like he’d been slapped — I checked to make sure he hadn’t gotten pinched in the high chair — then got him out. As usual, by the time I got to the bedroom he’d stopped crying… but he started moaning a little, which is his “I’m tired” noise. Shortly after, the “hungry” noises began and DoubleRed offered him another spoon of cereal. He clamped his mouth shut, so I asked her to make another four oz. of formula and add it to what I’d made. This made a full 8 oz. bottle; I offered that to Mason and he started chowing… and chowing… and chowing. He finally dozed off when there was a couple thimbles of formula left — whew! — then slept for two hours. Smart kid, he knew he needed his fluids.

Yesterday, I did something I probably don’t do enough of — exercised grandparent’s prerogative. I had Mason in the lounge chair, standing in my lap, when he bent over and started grunting. The radiation alarms went off a few minutes later, and I gave him (and his atomic diaper) to Snippet to decontaminate.

The Boy’s band — 22s at 7 — will be playing at the Masquerade (in Atlanta) this weekend. He really wants me to come, but with money as tight as it is I told him he might have to buy my ticket. :-P They spelled the band’s name wrong on the ticket, which I suppose is a rite of passage for new acts, but he doesn’t seem to care.

Well, it’s back to the office tomorrow. I checked my email yesterday evening and the place hadn’t caved in yet, so tomorrow and Friday will be spent on some administrivia and maybe even getting some work done. Will Snippet leave The Boy? Will The Boy finally land that music career he’s wanted for over half his life? Will Mrs. Fetched ever get some rest? Stay tuned…

Monday, March 08, 2010 5 comments

White Pickups, Episode 25

Contents

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The vote went as Charles predicted: a few voiced doubts, but in the end everyone voted to leave for Laurel Hills. They deployed extra sentries for the night, in case Joseph returned with friends, but only the pickups disturbed them. Tim joined the sentries after a few sleepless hours, and stayed with the shifts through dawn.

After breakfast, Cleve (who had slept little better than Tim) accompanied Tim to the bicycle shop. Each of them carried their damaged bicycle, weapons, and a pack. A twenty-minute walk brought them to their destination, Midtown Velo. The previous owner — or last employee — had left the door unlocked, and Cleve pushed it open as Tim watched the street.

“Clear,” Cleve said. “Nothing’s changed since Friday.”

The cash register had been rifled and left askew on the counter, but otherwise the place seemed unmolested. Tim lit a lantern, cleared a space under the counter to stash the cash register, then assembled a camp stove from his pack.

“What’s that for?” Cleve asked.

“Coffee,” said Tim, lifting a small kettle and a jar of instant coffee out of his pack. “Not exactly Jamaica Blue Mountain — but after last night, I’m gonna need it to get through the day.” He filled the kettle from two water bottles, set it on the stove, then lit it. “I brought us a couple mugs, just in case there’s no styrofoam cups here.”

“Good idea. I’m gonna need some of that too. What are we gonna do while we’re waiting?”

“Take inventory. Find us some new wheels. I think our tires and tubes are okay, I’ll just swap ’em over.”

Tim found the shop both well-stocked and well-equipped; he quickly found suitable replacement wheels for his own bike and Cleve’s. After swapping the tires and straightening brake levers and shifters, he rode them up and down the street and pronounced them fit for service.

They found some folding chairs in the work area, and took two out to the sidewalk with their coffee. They sat, watching the sun try to burn through the clouds as the occasional pickup whispered by, doing their best to enjoy the coffee. “I never did get used to drinking this stuff black,” Cleve said, taking a cautious sip.

“Aha,” Tim said, digging some packets out of a pants pocket. “I knew I was forgetting something. Cream and sugar?”

“Red, you are a lifesaver!” Cleve grinned, tearing open several packets after giving them a bare glance. He sloshed the contents around and took a second sip. “Ahhh. Much better!”

Tim poured a creamer packet into his own cup. “Yeah. Stuff’s almost palatable now, huh?” He yawned, blew on the coffee, and took a big gulp.

They sat for a while, quiet except for slurping and the occasional yawn. “You ready for the tune-up group?” Cleve asked at last, lifting the walkie-talkie.

“Sure, bring ’em on. I can get another cup while they’re coming,” Tim said.

Fifteen of the city folks already had bicycles, with various amounts of riding experience; they arrived in groups of three. Tim went over each bike, adjusting brakes, shifting, and spokes, and replacing the rare worn part. A few of the occasional riders requested and received upgraded components. After breaking for lunch, which Charles brought with the last trio, it was time to tackle the eleven newbies. Many of them had not ridden a bike since their teen years; the oldest two were unsteady enough or lacked enough confidence that Tim gave them adult trikes. This took the rest of the afternoon and Tim finished with his last three customers around 6 p.m. Tim picked out a new cargo trailer from the shop’s stock and loaded it with enough spare parts to refit several bicycles before he and Cleve escorted the final group home, riding slowly and giving them pointers.


After supper, Tim gulped down another mug of coffee and addressed the entire group: “You have a twenty-mile ride ahead of you tomorrow. That sounds like a lot to some of you, but an easy pace would get you there in two hours without stops. We’re going to make it a really easy pace — I’m expecting the last of us to arrive about four hours after we begin, including rest breaks every five miles or so. That means if we leave right after breakfast, we’ll be there in time for lunch.” That drew a few laughs, and broke a latent tension among the newbies.

“For some of you, this ride will be no big deal. You could get there in an hour, maybe a little longer, if you know where you were going.” More laughs. “But I’ll need at least one of you experts to accompany Cleve and me with the newbies. We’ll be pulling trailers with extra water, spare parts, and tools. Before, this wouldn’t have been so important — but now, we’re all we’ve got. No sweeper van to carry extra stuff or pick up breakdowns, no family to call on if there’s trouble.

“So when you pack your things, think of what is absolutely irreplaceable. Suburbia is well-stocked with the junk of everyday life, so you can leave nearly everything here. If you haven’t been using it the last few days, you probably won’t need it. The lighter you travel, the easier it’s gonna be on all of us. Don’t forget to take your potassium tablets in the morning; we don’t want any leg cramps.

“The people who are used to riding will go with Max and Charles. Cleve and I will lead the second group. The two leaders in each group will always be first and last, so we don’t lose anyone. We will stay together, which means everyone in the group will ride no faster than the slowest member. If you’re in the first group and feel you’re slowing the others down, you can drop back and hook up with us. But let Max and Charles know so they won’t come looking for you!

“We’ll take breaks every five miles or so, unless the entire group wants to push on. Don’t pressure someone who wants a break, and if you need a break, don’t be shy about saying so. You will all need to stretch, drink some water, and get off your butts for a few minutes anyway. Some of you will be sore afterwards, it’s not the end of the world.”

“Yeah, that already happened!” someone shouted. The others laughed.

“Right,” Tim continued. “Sore butts will heal. The ride will finish at the clubhouse, where Sondra and our hosts will have a ‘welcome home’ cookout for us, after which you’ll pick your new homes.

“We leave right after breakfast tomorrow. Each rider will have a bag with water, energy bars, and directions to Laurel Hills in case of trouble. Any questions?”

“What if it’s raining tomorrow?” one of the newbies asked.

“We ride anyway,” Tim said. “You won’t sweat as much, or overheat, so it might be better if it does rain. You can always wear a poncho.”

Nobody asked a second question. “Let’s get some sleep,” Tim said. “We’ll need all the rest we can get.”

continued…

Friday, March 05, 2010 3 comments

As the Sun Slowly Sets on Vacation…

SunsetAnd so it winds down… a week just isn’t enough time to do everything you’d like to do, but in the end it’s enough. It’s enough. I was talking to Mrs. Fetched last night and realized that I was ready to go home.

At the same time, I really needed this break, and so did Daughter Dearest. It wasn’t warm enough to lie on the beach, but she isn’t the lie on the beach type anyway. It was warm enough to get out though, not always the case on Planet Georgia last week. It’s going to be warmer both here and there next week, so I expect I’ll be outside a lot at least until I have to go back to work on Thursday.

We did get a trophy — a walker for Mason — and I got plenty of pictures. DD got some clothes for various things, and a lot of rest. I’m a little bummed about not getting a chance to meet up with Beth; I was looking forward to talking about writing and boring DD to death. ;-) But there will be other chances.

Mrs. Fetched sounded pretty tired… I’m sure Snippet hasn’t been holding up her end of things with Mason, and The Boy never has, so it’s all down to her. I figure on Sunday, it will be Mrs. Fetched Rests Day and I’ll let Mason cruise the manor in his new walker.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010 2 comments

Splashing along

Duck and fountainDaughter Dearest and I have reached the halfway point. So far so good — as always, plans one makes on Sunday get a little squishy by Wednesday, but we’re still hoping for a meetup with Beth while we’re here… maybe Friday.

It’s interesting how quickly a routine has developed: I tend to get woken up by sunlight leaking through the blinds around 7:30 each morning, so I just go with it and try to get in bed by 11:30. I got out on a walk with the camera on a sunny Sunday, and managed to catch a sailboat going through the drawbridge, a gorgeous sunset, and various birds. This duck was beating the water with its wings, I think in response to a second duck walking along the shore — MY pond!!! Eventually, it climbed out, dried its wings off, then took off low (making it hard to get an in-flight shot, but I think I managed).

The wind has really gotten up, and it has been fairly cool here (low 60s). People here seem to think that’s cold, while for DD and I it’s shirtsleeve weather as long as you’re moving around — a good 20 degrees (F) warmer than at home. Even more important, it’s over 500 miles from the chicken houses, so who cares about the weather?

DD at HootersOtherwise, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and a little writing. I took the original Daughter Dearest to the original Hooters on Gulf-to-Bay (this has been a running joke for us for some years), and bought her a new t-shirt to replace her old one which is wearing out. Her old one was black, with a printed vine running along one side and the logo sneaked in — very subtle, and she wore it to school many times without anyone (in authority) noticing. The new one is a more Gothic design, not as subtle but still not the full-on “delightfully tacky yet unrefined” like the waitresses wear. We saw a baby-sized shirt that said “Hooters Girls Dig Me,” which we’ll get for Mason when he’s big enough to wear a 2T.

Her take after observing the waitresses was interesting: “I’d never work there. They’re all really jealous of each other and they don’t seem to think much.” Being hungry, I wasn’t paying that much attention to the waitresses. I remember the name of our server, mainly because she was named after a camera (Yashica). :-P I couldn’t talk DD into posing outside, but whatever. We had a good lunch and a good bit of fun along with it.

Solar was over here once, and should swing by tomorrow night. Too bad he won’t be here tonight, I’m making pizza starting in an hour or so, after I get back from a photowalk…

Monday, March 01, 2010 5 comments

White Pickups, Episode 24

Marching into March!




Contents

Joseph tried to fling himself through the crowd, but snagged the cords tying his ankles together and he fell into Max. Max wrapped him up and yelled, “Grab him!” The mob surged forward and took hold of him. He struggled, but cords and hands held him tight.

Tim came running back to see what was happening. “Hey, what’s going on?” Nobody listened.

“Jesus! Not that!” Joseph yelled, looking at Cleve. “Help me!”

“Hey,” Cleve said, moving to stand between them and the street corner. “You sure you want to do that?” A white pickup rolled by. “Remember what happened to Sondra? She just stuck her arm in one.”

“Why not?” one of the others spat. “He’d-a killed you and Red over here, if he coulda. Back off, Cleve!”

The crowd tried to carry Joseph to the curb. Cleve moved to block them, but others pushed him out of the way.

“Tim!” Cleve yelled. “This ain’t right — tell ’em!”

Tim sprinted around the crowd to stand next to Cleve. “Wait a minute!” he shouted, waving his arms. We don’t know what those things do to people. We could just shoot him, if it comes down to it.”

“Eight! There’s eight of us!” Joseph yelled. “We’re holed up in the Marriot Suites in Midtown! We got deer rifles and shotguns!”

“Eight, including yourself?” Tim asked.

“Yeah! Oh God, please don’t let ’em do that!”

A white pickup rolled up to the stop sign at the corner. “Throw him in the bed!” someone yelled, and the people holding Joseph hustled toward it. Tim and Cleve moved to stop them, Charles moved but not quickly enough; all three were pushed aside. Joseph screamed in terror.

A voice thundered from behind them, “See that ye do it not!” They hesitated; the truck turned and rolled away. Everyone turned to see a short man in a frayed suit marching toward them. His bald white head reflected the overcast sky.

“This doesn’t concern you!” one of the men holding Joseph shouted.

“Your hate and fear should concern you,” the newcomer responded. “For as you give yourselves to it, you become like the man that you would sacrifice to the Eater of Souls. Is that truly your wish?”

A certain tension began to evaporate, and a man holding one of Joseph’s legs let go and stood aside. “Let him stand on his own,” the newcomer said, and it was done. They parted to allow the newcomer to approach Joseph.

“Who— whoever you are,” Joseph stammered, hands still wired behind his back, “thanks.”

“Thank the Lord, upon whom you called in your extremity,” the newcomer said. “For you have sinned, no more and no less than any of those here, and the redemption you and they are offered is one and the same.” He swept a hand across the crowd, but spoke to Joseph. “Your hate has led you here, nearly to your destruction. You must now put aside that hate, and enter the synagogue of Satan, from whence your hate flows, no more.”

“I don’t understand…”

“I mean, if you would save your soul, you must find another place to go. Woe, I say, woe unto you if you return to the so-called friends from whence you came! Truly, it would be better if they were to give your soul to the Eater!”

“So we’re supposed to let him go?” Max said. “What’ll stop him from coming back?”

Charles moved to stand near Joseph and waved his hands for attention; he paused for a moment and everyone waited. “We’re leaving anyway,” he said at last. “You all know as well as I do that nobody’s gonna vote to keep us all here, or stay behind when everyone else leaves. Even if he or his friends come back, there won’t be anyone here for them to bother.”

“You got another place to go, Joseph?” Cleve asked.

Joseph thought a minute. “Yeah,” he said. “My uncle has a place outside Alpharetta. I guess I can go there, it’s as good as anywhere else. If he’s not there, he’d want someone in the family to keep it up.”

“You know how to get there from here? Go that way,” Cleve pointed down the street, “keep going until you get to Monroe. It’s the first main drag. Go right on Monroe, and follow it to Piedmont. Take another right, follow Piedmont to Roswell Road, and that’ll take you to Alpharetta. You might want to grab a bicycle on the way.”

“Yeah, I’ll manage,” Joseph said. “If someone unties me.”

Cleve stepped behind Joseph and unwrapped the lamp cord, Joseph’s gun still on his shoulder. “Now you ain’t gonna pull anything on me, right? I gave you my word and I kept it. Time for you to give me yours.”

Joseph looked at the short man, then back at Cleve. He looked at the gun, then shook his head. “Yeah,” he said. “I’m done. I’m outta here.” He turned the way Cleve had pointed him, rubbed his wounded arm, then bent to untie his ankles before walking away. He did not look back.

“Who are you, anyway?” Tim said to the newcomer.

“I am one called to ministry. The gay man, beaten and left for dead, the drunkard shaken in the grip of his addiction, the man shot, the woman raped, the tourist mugged — I hold their hands, pray over their hurts, bind their wounds, and give them comfort until the ambulance arrives. Jeremiah Fortune Patterson was the name given me at my birth, some in my youth called me Jerry, but men and women such as you will ever call me Preacher.” Several in the crowd laughed.

“Tonight, you must make an important decision,” Patterson said. “I will leave you to make that decision. Go in peace. God willing, I will see you again.” He turned and left, walking the way he came.

continued…

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