Monday, April 26, 2010 5 comments

White Pickups, Episode 32

Contents

Cleve reluctantly agreed to let the group split up. Tim took some riders to his shop to get the Kidd Haulers, while Jason and Ben rode to the nearby Borders to grab any gardening books and field guides in stock. Cody and Sondra went to Breakbeat Music, across from the food court — and Caitlin Cooper, the girl who had sat with Cody, insisted on coming with them. The chubby redhead — she could have been Tim’s daughter — clung to Cody’s hand along the way.

“Is she your girlfriend?” Caitlin asked him.

“Yeah,” Cody said. Caitlin looked at her feet as she walked for a moment, then looked at him again.

“Can a boy have two girlfriends?”

Cody goggled at Sondra, who stifled a laugh and turned away.

“Can I live with you guys?”

“Um… uh —” Cody stammered. “We only have one bedroom.”

“That’s okay. I can sleep in the living room.”

“We’re like a big family where we live,” Sondra said. “You might not live with us, but you’ll see us every day if you want to. Everyone spends the evenings in the clubhouse, we have supper together, then we’ve got games, a couple computers, and a DVD player. And there’s no trucks.”

“You have electricity? It went out here a long time ago.”

“We have two generators, and we siphon gas from the station around the corner. Cody was a lot of help getting it together.”

“Here we are,” Cody said. Breakbeat Music was dark, like everything else, but the last clerk hadn’t bothered to close the security gates before driving off. He turned on his flashlight. “Welcome to Breakbeat Music, how may I help you?”

Sondra and Caitlin both laughed. “Do you work here or something?” Caitlin asked.

“I did, before everyone drove off,” Cody said. “Wednesday was the last day I worked. They wanted me to come in on Thursday, but Mom’s car turned into you-know-what and I said I couldn’t get here. So what’s your favorite video game?”

“Super Mario Kart.”

“That’s a Wii game, we don’t… hey, no reason we can’t get a Wii too.” Cody pried his hand loose, ducked behind the counter, and came up with a key. “Lucky there’s so many TV sets around the complex, we don’t have to lug one of those all the way back home. Pick out some games you like, and some your friends will like, and we’ll bring a console and extra controllers along. Batteries, too.” He unlocked the glass and slid it aside.

“Cody?” Sondra said. “This is gonna add a bunch of weight to the load. Is this really worth it?”

“Sure — the kids can play the Wii, and the rest of us get the Playstation.”

“Maybe we ought to get another Playstation, then. I don’t think that thing got a minute of rest last night.”

“That can be arranged!” Cody unlocked another slider, thinking neither did we and grinning. “You ever play Barnstormer? It’s a racing game, but with old airplanes.”

“They have it? Get it for me! Pleeeease?” Sondra mock-whined, hands clasped, making Caitlin laugh. “I wanted to try that one, but I never got a chance.”

“They had a couple here on Wednesday. I doubt they sold out by Friday.” Cody opened a third door and played his flashlight along the shelves. “Yup, here it is!” Sondra cheered as he tossed the game on the counter; he reached down and picked up a Playstation. “And here’s our other console. Hey, I think we had a couple lefty controllers in stock, get one on me. And get a few of the other kind.” He shined his flashlight at a rack behind them. While Sondra looked at the accessories, Cody brought out several large bags.

“Can I get an iPod?” Caitlin asked. “I want a pink one, like that.” She pointed at the display.

“Sure,” Sondra said.

“Yeah,” Cody said, unlocking the display case. “You’d better go find some CDs you like, though. I think the Internet’s gone for good.”

Sondra helped Caitlin pick out some CDs while Cody got an iPod for each of the kids and loaded their haul into three bags. “Hm,” Cody said as they returned with a handful of jewel cases. “Probably around fifteen hundred bucks, including tax. They can take it out of my last paycheck. I’ll pay ’em back the other thirteen hundred later.” Caitlin took one of Cody’s hands before he could pick up the bags; he rolled his eyes and took one bag while Sondra took the other two.

“Hey,” Sondra said. “We need to get a jacket for Caitlin, don’t we?”

“Yeah. But we’ll be going through Sears, we’ll pick one up on the way out. Sweaters, too.” He paused a moment. “You know, I feel stupid for thinking about this just now: why didn’t we just pick jackets and sweaters out of the houses we’ve been cleaning out?”

“I guess it’s because everybody wants their own clothes. I know I didn’t really want to spend the rest of my life wearing clothes someone else left behind when they drove off. It’ll happen sooner or later, but there will be plenty of time for used stuff.”

“Yeah.”

“By the way: it was nice of you, offering Max your dad’s jacket like you did.”

Cody shrugged. “Well… it’s not like Dad’s going to be needing it.”

“Not just that. You know what I mean.”

“Yeah.” Cody looked down and let his hair cover his eyes. “But he’s accepted us. He apologized for being rude, and you set him straight about Philip. I don’t hold grudges… not anymore, anyway.” He flipped his hair back. “Let’s go.”


“Where did all the people go?” Caitlin asked, walking down the mall and clinging to Cody’s hand. “Did they die?”

“We don’t think so,” Sondra said. “We think they’re all driving around in those pickups.”

“Why don’t they stop?”

“Maybe they can’t,” Cody said. “But nobody knows for sure.”

Tina looked amused as the three emerged from Sears with their bundles. “You know… you guys could pass for a family.”

“It would be a… a very strange arrangement,” Cody said, looking embarrassed.

Sondra stepped over to Tina. “Caitlin wants to be his girlfriend too,” she whispered, making Tina laugh.

“Hey, he’s already got an older girlfriend,” Tina whispered back. “Why not a younger one too?”

Cody stepped forward, Caitlin in tow, as Tina and Sondra laughed together. “Hey… where’s the other kids?”

“They’re over there, with Kelly and Jennifer. Why?”

“I got an iPod pico for each of them. I guess we can pass them out after we get home and charge ’em and get some music on ’em. We also got a bunch of other stuff — a Wii for the kids, another Playstation for everyone else, some games and controllers, that kind of stuff.”

“Quite a load,” Tina said. “We probably could have found all that in Laurel.”

“Maybe. But at least we know we’ve got the stuff now. Like Sondra said, there’ll be plenty of time for used stuff.”

continued…

Saturday, April 24, 2010 4 comments

Boom-Squawk-Boo

Wow, the week’s already gone by?

I'm running on battery power, writing through a thunderstorm. Funny how I was thinking earlier this week that we hadn’t had much nasty weather this month, when April weather on Planet Georgia often has a violent temper. Ta-daaaah! We’ve got a tornado watch now and maybe more to come tomorrow. Looking at the local radar loop on weather.gov, it looks like once this goes by we’ll be in a quiet spot… maybe the rest of the night.

Mason has unlocked a new ability: he pulled himself up to a standing position in his playpen today! Next thing you know, I’ll be posting video of him walking around. He was squalling for all he was worth a few minutes ago, being tired and mad about being tired. I fixed him a bottle and Mrs. Fetched is feeding him… the way he was acting, he’ll be sound asleep before I finish this.

I used to do an irregular podcast, but it’s such a chore to block out enough time to produce one — pretty much half a day to edit up a 20- to 30-minute episode. A new site, AudioBoo, looks like it could do for podcasting what Twitter did for blogging. You can post up to five minutes of jibber-jabber, using a file upload or directly through an AudioBoo app for iPhone (or Android). My first boo, Banned from the Band, is about a minute long and explains what I did this afternoon and why. At least I won’t have to flag a TB25 for a while. But I think I’ll use this to knock off a few “Shiny Things” segments. I can probably do a five-minute segment in less than half an hour, which means I’ll be doing them more regularly.

Watch this space: I’ll have a Mason pic up tomorrow (weather permitting). Next episode of White Pickups will be up Monday morning as usual.

Monday, April 19, 2010 2 comments

White Pickups, Episode 31

Did I mention that this is going to be a long day, story-wise?




Contents

After a brief pause, everyone slipped behind clothes racks or shelves. “What was that?” Cody hissed.

“We’re gonna find out,” Cleve said. “Petro. Lucado. Let’s go.”

“What?” Cody yelped, grabbing Sondra’s arm as she stepped forward. “Sondra…”

“I’ll be fine, Cody,” Sondra said, kicking her shoes off. “I’ve been in a gunfight before. You trust me?”

He let go, reluctantly. “Yeah. But be careful, okay? I don’t want to lose you.”

“You won’t. Careful is how I survive.” She joined Tim and Cleve at the edge of the mall entrance, still walking a little funny. Cody picked up her shoes, tied the laces together, and draped them around his neck.

“Tim!” Sara whispered across a couple clothes racks. “Keep your head down, okay?” He grinned and nodded.

Cleve whispered to the others, and pointed down the mall at pillars and open store entrances where they could take cover. When Cleve was sure they understood, he turned to the others. “If you hear shots, everyone come a-runnin’,” he said. “Make lots of noise, yell, stomp, so it sounds like the Army’s rollin’ in, okay?” They all nodded. “Let’s go.”

The three of them darted down the mall, one by one. The other two covered as the third dashed to the next cover. The others watched them go; another clatter from farther down got the bravest squinting and peering for any sign.

“What’s down that way?” someone whispered.

“Just the rest of the mall,” Cody said. “Food court’s almost all the way on the other side. I’ll bet that’s where they’re going.”


Cleve, Sondra, and Tim disappeared into the gloom well before reaching the halfway mark. Skylights gave a little light here and there, but the mall looked dim and sinister. They continued down the mall, the last in line hustling (Sondra on tiptoe) past the others to the next available cover. Cleve pointed the way. Tim was about to dart out when the clattering noise came again; he froze and waited for Cleve to nod and point. It took them nearly ten minutes to reach the food court.

A crunching sound echoed from the food court. Cleve waved the others to him, then peered around the corner. He saw movement, and jumped out, gun in front of him. “Freeze! Police!


Cleve’s yell and an answering shriek echoed down to Sears.

“Shit! Sondra!” Cody yelled, and jumped forward; Charles caught him just in time. “Let me go!” he snarled, trying to pull free.

“You’re not armed, idiot!” Max hissed, grabbing Cody’s free arm. “Besides, that wasn’t Sondra!”

Cody yanked once more, then stopped struggling and stared at Max. “You sure?”

Max nodded. “I’ve known her since March. I know what she sounds like.” He paused. “Someone’s coming. Probably Tim. Let’s see what happened.”

They stayed under cover until they could see Tim jogging their way. “Everything’s okay,” he said. “We need some help, though. Everybody come on. But Cleve said you don’t have to be noisy.” Tim wasn’t winded in the least; he turned around and jogged off before anyone could ask him what happened.

“Stay in groups of at least two or three,” Charles told the others. “Cody, why don’t you stay with Max and me?”

“Yeah, whatever. As long as you don’t slow me down.” Cody looked at the floor, hair covering his eyes.

“Fine. Let’s move.” They hustled down the mall, spreading out as the faster left the slower behind. Charles, Max, and Cody were one of the first to arrive at the food court, and stood confused for a moment. There were too many people…

“It’s safe,” Cleve said. “They say there’s nobody else in the mall.” The “they” were five children, all maybe age ten. Sondra sat with them, comforting them as best as she could while Cleve and Tim looked on. Cleve held Sondra’s pistol; the kids all looked scared, hungry, and a little sickly.

The others started murmuring: “Look at that.” “Why haven’t we seen any other kids?” “What did they eat?” “How did they not drive off with their parents?” “Have they been here all this time?” Cody edged toward Sondra and the kids; she whispered to the kids then nodded to him. He and Kelly walked over and sat down with them; a chubby red-haired girl wrapped herself around Cody and cried as he gave her an awkward hug. Sondra smirked and rolled her eyes.

“They need food and water,” Sondra told the others, putting her shoes on. “A little at a time, though. I guess they’ve been scavenging. Like us.”

“Quite a feat, if they lived for… what, close to two weeks?” Max said. “Then again, we did it. Why couldn’t they?”

Jennifer Lane collected an armload of water bottles and energy bars from the others and brought them over. She sank to her knees and handed water bottles to each child. “Drink it slow,” she told them, “or you might throw up. Just a little sip at a time, okay?” The kids nodded and opened their drinks as best as they could; Kelly and Cody had to help two of them. “Good. Now why don’t you tell us what happened.” Jennifer opened energy bars and passed them around.

The kids all talked over each other, and argued about some points, but they managed to tell the story between sips of water and nibbles at energy bars: School was closed Friday, so our moms took us to the theater to see Fish Story. It was the 1 o’clock show. They were supposed to come for us at 3 when the movie was over, but they never did. And the theater people were gone when we came out too. Some of the other kids went outside to see if they could find anybody, but the white trucks… they were everywhere. A couple of the moms who were at the movie took their kids and some of the others. They told us to come too, but we ran back inside when they got in the trucks. We ate popcorn and candy, and we slept in the theater. Nobody was there the next day, so we took the quarters out of the cash registers and played video games upstairs until the power went out. When there was no more candy, we came here. It was Ben’s idea. We don’t guess our parents are coming for us, are they?

“I guess we have to take them with us,” Kelly said. “We sure can’t leave ’em here. But how?”

“My bike store’s just up the street,” Tim said. “I have some seats and Kidd Haulers there — that’s like a cargo trailer, but set up to carry a child. These guys are probably a bit larger than the rated capacity, but they’ll hold up from here to home. They made tandems — to carry two kids — but I didn’t have any in stock.”

“Do you guys want to come home with us?” Sondra asked the kids.

continued…

Sunday, April 18, 2010 5 comments

The Week in Pictures

Just a few of the things, normal and not-so-normal, going on around the manor this week…

Dogwood and cypressThe dogwoods shook off their yellow early in the week, and are now their usual blazing white. The blooms aren’t as plentiful this year as they have been at least some years past.

This particular shot is the dogwood at the corner of the driveway, with a gigantic cypress in the background. I’ve joked about renting a bucket truck to string Christmas lights on that sucker.


Mason bathMason loves being outside, and loves getting a bath. He got too big for the bathroom sink, so now he gets his dunk time in the kitchen sink.

I didn’t have any pix from the various baby food showers he administered to his grandparents this week, unfortunately. On the other hand, I don’t have to worry about cleaning off the camera lens if one of those sneezes got directed that way either.

The Boy takes Mason outside in the stroller; sometimes he sits and plays guitar for him. Mason is fascinated by the guitar and the sound it makes… but most of all he enjoys his “dad time” (what little he gets). He also met Buster T. Butthead, who is officially the first dog he’s petted (stroke, stroke, grab handful of hair). When he’s running around in a few months, I expect Buster will be his best buddy. We’ll probably need to give the dog a bath, now that I think about it…


Tree cuttingI spent much of yesterday cutting up a poplar tree with Mr. Sunshine. This was not my plan for the day — I was going to do the Bakin’ Fool thing and hot up the kitchen all day. But they’d dropped it in the area in front of the chicken house, where feed trucks will soon need to go, so it needed to be taken care of. It took us most of the day, cutting off the smaller branches to clear the work area then feeding them to my chipper-shredder… once the work area was clear, the rest of it went fairly quickly. Everything is stacked or piled up here at the manor except for the trunk pieces. We moved them out of the way and Mrs. Fetched said she’ll get the splitter down there and finish that up this week.

Now that’s not even beginning to address what’s waiting for me behind the manor — the above picture tells that particular tale (left side morning, right side evening). Mrs. Fetched has complained for a while about several oak trees close to the house out back; one does make a bad habit of dropping limbs on the roof above our bedroom. Since the renters requested removal of a similarly-positioned tree at the old place, she decided to deal with both jobs at once. So now I have quite a bit of raw firewood to process, and I won’t have to go far to get to it. I’ll have to see if The Boy is interested in getting started on it. I think we’ll miss that extra shade in the evenings, but what do I know?

Cinnamon rollsBut even though my day got spent cutting trees instead of kneading, what I wanted to get done yesterday actually happened. Instead of making bread, we bought a loaf. DoubleRed made cookies. And after supper and a brief rest, I made some cinnamon rolls. I took a few to Daughter Dearest, since her Spring Concert was today. Still plenty left, come by the manor and grab one!

Friday, April 16, 2010 No comments

Squash shower!

Mason is a proto-vegetarian, as Daughter Dearest was a proto-feminist. He doesn’t like the taste of the beef (or turkey) baby food (the facial contortions are amazing), and DD did what the boys did because that’s who she had to play with.

Earlier this week, Mrs. Fetched asked me to make up some cereal for Mason’s breakfast. This is a pretty easy deal: get the mixed grains baby food out, make a little thin mush, stir in some applesauce, shovel it into the baby. No problemo. So about the fourth spoon, Mason took it and AH-CHOO! — I got a shower. Not the first instance of baby goop on me, not by decades, and probably not the last. I had a wet rag intended to wipe his face and hands afterward, so I cleaned up and kept feeding.

Mrs. Fetched, when she heard about it, was amused. “That also happened to Snippet,” she said. “It hasn’t happened to me, because I watch and I know the difference between him opening his mouth for a bite and getting ready to sneeze.”

Pride goeth before a fall, so they say. Last night, Mrs. Fetched was shoveling butternut squash into Mason. That’s his second favorite food, #1 being sweet potatoes. So he got a big bite and… AH-CHOO! — it was Mrs. Fetched’s turn to get the baby food shower! Everyone else at the table was quite amused.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 8 comments

White Pickups, Conversations: Cleve Isaacs

This is strange. I’m usually the one asking the questions.

Think of it as expanding your horizons a little, then.

Haha, I can deal with that! OK. I’m Cleve Issacs. Um… now what?

You’ve been around a lot. Army, police…

Yeah, and chief peon and CEO of C.I. Security.

That’s a little too brief. Let’s expand a bit.

Sure. I graduated from high school in 1999, as in “party like it’s.” I didn’t have any job prospects, and wasn’t really thinking much about college, so I joined the Army. I figured I could do a hitch or two, get some training, then get some college on Uncle Sam’s dime afterwards if I wanted.

Then 9/11 came along. I got sent to Afghanistan, re-up’ed, and got out in 2005. I was pretty well fed up with Army life by then, but I might have stayed on if they’d agreed to put me through MP training. By the middle of my second hitch, I know I wanted to be a cop when I got out. I figured having some MP experience would have given me a leg up. But it didn’t work out, so I walked. I got into police academy, graduated pretty close to the top, then came back home and joined the Atlanta force.

What about your family?

Not much to tell. I was part of a stereotypical urban black family: Dad was long gone, Mom on and off welfare and trying to raise three kids. One thing that broke the stereotype, though: she wasn’t having no excuses about us dropping out of school and “getting work.” My sister was a few years younger than me, and Mom made sure me and my brother watched out for her. Yeah, she had boyfriends, and she probably slept with at least some of them, but we chased off the creeps and users. So we all graduated from high school. My brother Carver was good with languages, and aced his Spanish classes all through school, and he ended up with a construction company because they needed someone who could tell the Mex— the work crews what to do. My sister ran off with some guy, and we all lost touch with her. She was about Sara’s age. I’m pretty sure they all drove off.

Why didn’t you?

Drive off? It just never occurred to me. My clients were dropping off the face of the earth, so I was really busy trying to keep an eye on everything — I guess I just didn’t have the time.

Then the looters came along.

Yeah. I was trying to tell everyone that we needed to watch for stuff like that — authority was pretty well gone by Friday afternoon, and the looters figured that out by Friday night. I was kinda surprised how many of my neighbors were armed, though — and that goes double for Sondra. It was touch and go for a while — I was pretty sure one of us were gonna get hurt, maybe even shoot each other — but then the looters got tired of getting shot at. I suggested we all move together onto one block, and that turned out to be a pretty good idea. We got lucky; I was organizing our defenses for another round of looters on Saturday afternoon when the bashers rolled up on their Harleys, so we were already outside, armed, and ready. It could have been a lot worse. As it was, that idiot Muldoon just walked out to them, hands out, peace and love dudes, and got hisself shot dead for his trouble. We all opened fire, and they ran for it. I shot the guy who killed Trey, and Lucado took down three more, one shot each — she shocked the hell out of me, lemme tell you.

What do you think happened?

No clue. This doesn’t really fit the standard investigative model — it had to be either God or the Devil who made all those trucks, and how do you go about arresting them?

Good point. What are you going to do now?

Keep harping about security, I guess. Everyone else — and I mean everyone — has let their guard down since we got up to Laurel. Even Tim. He’s a good guy, but half those bashers are still out there. Over half, if our friend Joseph rejoined ’em, but I don’t think he did. Even if they gave up and went back to their cave, there’s probably others just like ’em out there. Sure, there’s more of us, but we’re not as well-armed and we’re not out looking for trouble. We need to start looking for trouble, so it doesn’t just drop in and visit, you know?

Back to Episode 30…

Monday, April 12, 2010 2 comments

White Pickups, Episode 30

Contents

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cody and Sondra were busy cuddling, giggling, stroking — starting another round of lovemaking to begin the day — when someone rapped at their door. They sat up, both looking annoyed; Cody slipped out of bed and grabbed the robe Sondra had been wearing the night before (one of his mom’s robes, and she’d had very little on underneath). “I got it.” He shrugged the robe on.

“Yeah,” she said. “I’ll get some clothes on, once you tear your eyes off my boobs.”

Cody blushed and ducked out the bedroom door, looking over his shoulder at Sondra then closing it behind him. Tim was waiting at the front door.

“Hey, you look good in pink,” Tim grinned. “You just getting up? We’re getting ready to loot the mall!”

“Aw crap, we… uh, overslept. You wanna come in?”

Tim stepped in and sniffed, which made Cody notice the musk of last night’s… housewarming party. He blushed again and ducked back into the bedroom, where Sondra was finishing dressing. “It’s Tim,” he said, grabbing some clothes. “I think we’re holding up the trip to the mall.”

“Dammit,” Sondra jumped up as Cody started dressing. “No time for coffee, then.”

“You want some coffee?” Tim asked as they emerged. He held a thermos. “I brought a little.”

“Oh God, Tim, you’re a lifesaver!” Sondra ducked into the kitchen, walking stiffly. “Let me grab a cup, and we can go.”

“You gonna be up to riding today?” Tim asked.

“What do you mean?” Sondra barked, stomping out of the kitchen, the coffee cup forgotten, glaring at Cody. Cody concentrated on his tennis shoes.

“Cody didn’t say anything,” Tim said, tapping his nose. “The nose knows.”

Sondra sniffed and blushed. “Jesus, it stinks. Why didn’t I notice it before?”

Now it was Tim’s turn to blush. “Don’t tell me I walked in on your first time!”

Sondra sighed. “First morning after, more like,” she said at last, dropping onto the love seat next to Cody and pulling on her socks and shoes, looking only at her feet. “Cody, can you go get my coffee cup? Now I really need it.”


Sally and the other older folks volunteered to “stay behind and hold down the fort.” They made up their shopping lists, and everyone else agreed to bring back what they needed. Sondra insisted on coming, but she kept as much weight as possible off her bike seat without making it obvious. To Cody’s surprise, he was a little sore himself. They opened the gate — and for the first time, a pickup waited in the dwindling shade of the oak trees lining the drive, whispering its invitation. Sondra shook her pale arm and cursed, everyone else ignored it as best as they could.

Nobody said anything, but they all rode past their turn and stopped on the I-85 overpass to watch the traffic. The parade of white pickups was now steady, almost regimented, on both sides of the freeway. “It doesn’t get any less weird, no matter how long you’ve seen it,” Johnny Latimer said.

“September 27th,” Ben Cho said for the benefit of his video camera, as he pointed it down the freeway. “Day 14, I guess, counting from Wednesday the 14th. We haven’t seen a motorized vehicle that wasn’t a white pickup since Day 4, the Saturday when we got attacked by the bashers, and those were motorcycles. You can see today that the trucks are getting more evenly spaced. Some get on and off the freeway, going who knows where, and that does throw off the pattern.” He panned to the off-ramp, following one of the pickups. It turned left and went by them on the overpass. “Thirty-two of us have gathered together in suburbia, in a gated community that the trucks have left behind. All of us, including three of the original residents and two other suburbanites, have moved into the townhouses. With shelter taken care of, our primary concerns are water, food, and fuel. But today, we’re going to Gwinnett Place to secure winter clothing and whatever else we can find that will help us get through the coming winter.” He pointed the camera down the line of bicycles, then turned it off. Tim signaled to get moving, and they turned around.

They took what Tina used to call “the back way” to the mall, south on Satellite Boulevard, approaching the mall from behind. It was a little longer than the direct route, but nobody wanted to ride the breakdown lane alongside the freeway. They crossed the parking lot, empty but for debris and a single pickup, to the Sears. The morning sun was on the other side of the mall, but it still lit up the first twenty feet or so past the entrance; except for the lack of lights, the store looked —

“Frozen in time,” Ben said, camcorder once again in hand. He turned on a light attached to the camera; it did a good job of lighting what he pointed the camera at. “There’s some merchandise on the floor, maybe from Friday evening ‘bargain hunters’ who probably drove off afterward, but nothing like what the surviving suburbanites said about some of the local grocery stores — perhaps because Sears doesn’t carry booze. We’re here for sweaters and jackets, and we hope to find some camp stoves and heaters.”

“Water filters, too,” Tim said.

“Rain barrels,” Cody said. “I’ll bet the one at my old place is full after all that rain. We could filter that water.”

“Or just use it for washing as-is,” Sondra said. “I’d like to heat it though… I could go for a hot shower.”

“Yeah,” Johnny said. “Couldn’t we all? But let’s go get us some warm stuff now. This place kind of creeps me out.”

They fanned out, skipping the end-of-summer sales racks for the fall fashions. There were a few heavier jackets on the racks, and everyone took turns trying out various sizes. There were more people than jackets in the end; they drew straws and both Sondra and Max lost.

Cody looked at his new jacket. “You know what?” he said. “I have a good winter jacket at the old house. Can I give this one to Sondra?”

“Sure,” said Max. “I doubt it would fit me, anyway.”

“Yeah — but I think Dad’s old coat will fit you. You want to try it when we get back?”

Max paused for a moment. “Sure. Thanks.”

“Suck-up,” Kelly said, but she was grinning. “I’ve got a winter coat, too. Who’s got the list for the stay-homes? Will this one fit Ms. Sally? It’s a medium.”

Charles consulted his list. “Women’s medium… yup, let’s take it along.”

“Sweaters are over this way,” Tim said. “Let’s go.”

The sweaters were on the other side of the mall entrance. As they crossed, they heard a clatter from down the mall and froze.

continued… (Episode 31)

Conversations: Cleve Isaacs

Saturday, April 10, 2010 7 comments

Bloomin’

Mason christeningLast Sunday was Easter, and that’s the day when the kids get christened. Mason was right up there to get his head wet and he didn’t mind the attention either. Left to right: our paster (he sounds like Ricardo Montalban), Mason, and Ashley (a girl who fills in where needed, most of the time).

The reason I didn’t have this up earlier: the drawback to DSLRs is that the RAW photos gobble up disk space pretty quick. I got a 1TB outboard drive Thursday evening and moved all the photos to it — MUCH better. A back of the envelope calculation suggests that the new drive should be good for like 50,000 photos. One of its nice features is a button on the front that can be assigned to launch any application, so I have it launch EOS Utility to pull the pictures off the camera.

Meanwhile, Mason is now crawling pretty well — he crawled right off the edge of the bed last night. Fortunately I was anticipating that and caught him, and it didn’t faze him a bit. He’s also beginning to babble-talk. He’s started this ah dyah dah dah dahhhh noise which means “pick me up!”


Wild violets in the yardSpring has definitely arrived on Planet Georgia: the pollen count is somewhere between Ridiculous and F%#@!ing Insane, and the wild violets are running riot in the yard. I mowed over the violets last weekend, and they just ducked under the blades. I’m going to try digging some up and potting them — seems that the only way to kill a weed is to make it a not-weed.


Cherry blossomsThe flowering cherry outside my window is doing much better than the dogwoods so far. The dogwoods are running a little late this year, they just now opened up and they’re still a little yellow. I’ll get some shots of them when they get a little more up and at ’em. Meanwhile, enjoy the pinkitude; you don’t see too much of it on this blog.

Sometime in the last week, I hosed up my foot. I think I stepped on a rock at the chicken houses and it retaliated. The only good thing about it is that I get to stay out of the chicken houses this week… I’d rather have a less painful reason for that though.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010 10 comments

Slings and Arrows

FARf and MasonWith the tax refund making an audible THUD as it landed in our checking account, I decided to splurge on a baby sling. I’ve been wanting one since I’d heard about them, shortly after Mason arrived, and decided now was the time.

After using it for one evening, my only regret is that I didn’t have one when The Boy and Daughter Dearest were babies, let alone having one sooner for Mason — these things are Teh Awesum [sic]. I can drop Mason in it and walk around without straining my arms, or sit and have both hands free to type, and he loves to sit in it and chew on the fabric. In fact, he fell asleep in it last night without my even trying. So yup… his @$$ is in a sling! It’s a Maya, if you wanted to know. It has a nice little zipper pocket on the end, which could stash a number of useful items… especially bibs, the way he slobbers these days. 7 months old today, how time flies.

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana, and Daughter Dearest flew out of here with my laptop yesterday. She came down with a rash, which may have originated from a scratch by Mom’s cat, and I ended up taking her to the ER around midnight Saturday morning; we got home at 3:30 a.m. As things hadn’t improved quickly enough by Monday, she emailed her profs and went to our doc. This threw off her schedule, which involved her making a DVD of her conducting something or another for one of her classes, and for whatever reason I have a DVD burner in my laptop and she doesn’t. Being the nice guy I am, I let her take it. sob Then when we were supposed to meet this evening to hand it back off, she forgot to bring it. sob Fortunately, I have a backup: this Mac mini running Xubuntu. I brought it out of DoubleRed’s room and stole the Ethernet cable off The Boy’s Xbox (which he hasn’t noticed yet) to get a network hookup. If I could get her to email me the next episode of White Pickups, I’d be OK for another night or two. But I’ll be glad to get it back.

Monday, April 05, 2010 2 comments

White Pickups, Episode 29

Contents

Monday, September 26, 2011

Shady sat at the top of the stairs as Cody mounted the steps. He mewed a greeting; his glowing eyes reflected Cody’s flashlight.

“Hey, cat,” Cody said, leaning forward to scratch the kitten’s head. Shady responded by grabbing Cody’s hand and wrapping his back legs around Cody’s wrist. Cody grinned and picked him up as Shady gently chewed on his fingers and purred. Cody thought for a moment: Tina and Kelly were in… “oh yeah, two in #202.” He walked past his own unit, #207, and tapped on Tina’s door.

“Cody, what —” Tina began — “oh, there he is!” She looked over her shoulder. “Kelly! Cody has your kitten!”

Kelly ran to the front door, looking relieved. “Whew! He bolted out the door when we came in this evening — where did you find him?”

“He was at the top of the steps,” Cody said, stretching his arm toward Kelly. She unwrapped a reluctant Shady, who mewed in protest and swatted at her as she took possession.

“Huh,” Tina smiled. “He likes you.”

“We understand each other,” Cody grinned. “Hey, I gotta get back. I ran a bit late this evening. Bye.”

Sondra was cocooned in a robe and blanket against the damp chill, reading on the love seat by candlelight and flashlight. One of the candles was scented, something that smelled like cinnamon, and it helped with the last of the refrigerator smell. They got their first choice of townhouse — an upstairs, one-bedroom unit directly across from the clubhouse, and Sondra loved the furnishings — but Saturday and Sunday brought steady rain, the first since the Truckalypse, and they had to wait for drier weather to move their belongings. Cody offered to set up his Playstation in the clubhouse, for everyone to use, and the offer was well-received.

“What did you do, play through an entire game?” she asked.

“Well, I had to test it!” he laughed. “No, we had it in the big Laurel Room, but there were card games going on, and people talking, and the game was making too much noise. I guess we should have thought of that earlier. We had to carry it all downstairs, clean out one of the rooms, run extension cords to the gennie, all that. It didn’t take as long as it could’ve — there were people lining up to play and everyone was like ‘what can we do to get this done?’. We can go by Breakbeat tomorrow to clean out the game rack when we’re at the mall. I guess we’ll rip up some carpet out of one of the houses for the floor, it’s cold in there. Then Kelly’s cat was on the steps coming up, so I took him home.”

“That was nice. So did we forget anything at the house?”

“Nah… nothing we need right away. We got the food, the Playstation, music, Dad’s laptop, and the books. If we decide we need anything else, we can always go back for it.”

“Good.”

“Can I ask you something?” Cody said.

“Sure.”

“Why were you so pissed about not being able to move on Saturday? This is nice, but we had everything we needed at my place.”

Sondra put her book down and stood, wrapping herself and the blanket around Cody. “That’s just it. It was your place. It was at the back of the subdivision, away from everyone else, but that didn’t bother me so much. But I wanted it to be our place, and I just couldn’t make it happen. Now we’re in our place.”

“I can see that,” Cody said, stroking her back. “I just wish I saw it before. I guess I was just so happy, having you with me, that I didn’t notice you weren’t… I’m not sure what the word is. But now — our place.” He tested the words, said them again.

“It was a place I was staying,” Sondra said, “because you were there. Here, I’ll be living. We’ll be living.” She kissed him.

“What’s important is that you’re with me. I — I love you.” He shook his head. “Why is that so hard to say?”

“I know you do, but it helps to hear you say it. I love you too, Cody. You’ve been hurt before, haven’t you?”

“Yeah, a few years ago. She wanted to change me, make me wear different clothes, cut my hair, and I let her. And then she laughed at me. I swore I’d rather be alone forever than let that happen again. But I think I was in love the minute I saw you.”

Sondra hugged him tighter. “You don’t have to worry about that now. I love you the way you are. You’ve been so helpful, so giving. Lots of people get so cynical when they get hurt, and don’t want to help anyone.”

“I was like that,” Cody admitted. “But then the trucks came and Kelly and Tina were the only people left here besides me. They didn’t know how to be self-sufficient, but Tina was trying. They weren’t rude, they needed help, and what was I going to do with stuff they needed and I didn’t? Just hang onto it? Besides, it’s too easy to be alone now. All you have to do is walk down the street.”

“Yeah.” She grinned. “Wow, I didn’t mean for us to have such a serious discussion tonight! I want to celebrate. C'mon, we’re gonna have a housewarming party.” She led him to the dining nook off the kitchen, where a bottle of wine and two glasses waited on the table.

“Housewarming? I should have brought some firewood, then.” They laughed; Sondra filled their glasses and they clinked them.

“I can’t think of a toast,” Cody said. “I haven’t had a lot of practice.”

“That’s okay,” Sondra said. “To our place. To our love. To the new world we’ll help make.”

“Together,” Cody said. “I’ll drink to that… ahh. That’s where the warming comes from.”

After they finished their first glass, Sondra wrapped the blanket and her arms around Cody again. “Some of the warming, anyway. Now you can open your present.”

“But I didn’t get you anything.”

Sondra fished a foil packet out of her pocket and pressed it into his hand. “It’s more like what we’re giving each other,” she whispered.

Cody’s eyes grew wide. “Uhh —”

“It’s time. I think so, anyway. What about you?”

“I — I’ve been ready all along. But yeah, this is the right time.” He hugged her tight. “Now?”

“In a minute. Let’s drink another toast first. Then we’ll go to the bedroom and you can unwrap your present. And I’ll unwrap mine.”

“I hope… I hope it works for us both.” Cody shivered, not from the chill.

“It’s our first time. Let’s take it easy and not expect a lot right away. We’ll practice.” She laughed.

As it turned out, third time was the charm. And fourth time. They were both worn out by the fifth time, and drifted off to sleep in the middle of things, wrapped around each other. Their house was quite warm by then.

continued…

Friday, April 02, 2010 9 comments

Snippity Snippet

Home. No supper cooking, which is no surprise. More surprising is that The Boy was the only one here, but no surprise at all that he was on my laptop. Oh well, he finished his Facebook’ing and left, giving me a clear shot at the blog.

I work at home Wednesdays and Thursdays, but it’s not the orgy of productivity it used to be. I could blame Mason, and indeed he’s the proximate cause since he ends up on my lap quite a bit, but the real problem is that Snippet seems to want to have the bare minimum (if that) of involvement with her baby (and Daughter Dearest tells me she had him all day today). In the afternoon, she’ll sit and watch TV (the Judge Whoever shows, Springer if she can get away with it), and let him squall in her lap — which makes it hard for me to focus on what I’m supposed to be doing. Her primary goal seems to get him to go to sleep so she can do what she pleases… and Mason picks up on that (which, in Snippet’s mind, means “he’s spoiled”). He’s happy when The Boy has him, because his dad will at least put PBS on the idiot box and interact with him, but I think he’s growing distant from his mom.

I did get a fair amount done yesterday in the late morning, since I had pretty much the entire house to myself, but after lunch Snippet came in and told me about how awful Mrs. Fetched was to her — Cousin Splat is getting married in June, she’s been tagged to be a bridesmaid, and Mrs. Fetched wouldn’t let her go with the bride-to-be (the less said about her the better) to look for dresses. She concluded that Mrs. Fetched is a control freak, and she can be controlling at times, but I figured there was more to it than I’d been told. Snippet, like most people, will omit or gloss over certain details to polish up her side of the story.

Sure enough, Mrs. Fetched furnished the missing piece. Earlier on in the morning, she had asked Snippet to watch Kobold’s daughter (and there’s a story I haven’t told yet) through the afternoon, and Snippet agreed to do it. But when she heard about this dress shopping expedition, the commitment she’d made was suddenly forgotten (SN07 without too much of a stretch) until Mrs. Fetched attempted to hold her to her commitment. This turned into a big argument, and it’s fortunate for all involved that the fatal SN01 didn’t come into play. In Snippet ’s mind, the commitment she made didn’t matter (SN05) when she was given another choice.

OK, I can understand that part. She’s immature, and that kind of crap is to be expected. What I can’t understand is her profound lack of commitment to Mason. When The Boy and Daughter Dearest were babies, our lives revolved around them. Mrs. Fetched’s parents were nearby, and they got their share of grandkid time to be sure, but we didn’t just dump our kids on the grandparents and try to take off every weekend. If we went out, we usually took the kids with us — exceptions being a yearly office party or something similar, and that was two or maybe three times a year.

I doubt talking to her (or both of them) will make any difference, but I’m duty-bound to try.

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