Monday, May 31, 2010 4 comments

White Pickups, Episode 37

Contents

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How did I get so lucky? Cody asked himself. She has to be the hottest girl in the world. He lay half-awake in a blurry tingly haze, Sondra wrapped in the pink robe and softly snoring, an arm and leg draped over him. How long had they screwed? — an hour? more? — it didn’t matter. Necking had led to groping, then as soon as he put a condom on she’d straddled him and rode him to exhaustion. She came at least twice, maybe three times, or maybe it was just one long orgasm… Cody didn’t know that much about sex, only the stupid stuff from Internet porn and bragging of seniors, but if Sondra was happy it was another thing that didn’t matter. He’d thought he was going to explode when it was his turn to come; he remembered crying out and Sondra’s sweaty grin, her robe flopping open around them both, his arms around her hips, lifting off the bed, her nipples still hard as she gasped again at the end…

He started to respond to the memory, but achieved only half-mast. In the morning then, he thought, if she doesn’t wake me up for more first. He grinned, realized he wouldn’t be sleeping for a little while, and eased out of bed.

“Mmmrrf?”

“Gotta pee,” he whispered, and realized it was true. Sondra made no more sound; she was a heavy sleeper most nights. He threw on a t-shirt, pants, and a fleece they’d picked up on the way out of Sears, and slipped outside to the porta-john they’d rolled from a construction site on the other end of Laurel. It was dark — no moon tonight. The stars, more than Cody was used to seeing, told him there were no clouds. He played his little flashlight over the path and made his way to the blue booth on the other side of the street.


A pair of low green lights greeted him as he mounted the steps on the way back — Shady again. “Hey, cat,” he said. “You couldn’t sleep either?” He sat on the top step, and Shady hopped purring into his lap. Shady stood, front paws on Cody’s chest, and gave a mighty yawn as he stretched under Cody’s massage. “Yeah, me too.” Cody yawned himself. “You passed it to me, now who do I pass it to?”

“Shady?” Kelly’s whisper rasped down the cave-like hallway, just ahead of the splash of flashlight. “Who’s that?”

“Just Cody. Yeah, he’s here with me again.” Cody stood, holding the kitten and turning to face Kelly.

“I guess he’s going to make a habit of this,” Kelly said, taking possession of Shady and yawning. “That’s three nights in a row. I went to use the bathroom, and when I came back, he got out.”

“Yeah. How’s he getting along with Ben’s cat?”

“Oh, they either sniff each other or chase each other all around the place,” Kelly laughed. “Then they sleep together in the laundry pile.”

“Hey guys,” Tim said, walking down from the other side. “Late-night meetup?”

Cody was glad the darkness hid his embarrassment; Kelly glanced down the walk over her shoulder. “No,” she said, “Shady got out again and Cody found him. Thanks, Cody.” She hustled away.

Tim’s cocked eyebrow in the flashlight beam asked Cody the same question. “Uh-uh,” he said, shaking his head. “I just had to pee, and the cat was up here waiting for me to come back.”

“So she didn’t throw you out?” Tim glanced at Cody’s door then gestured for Cody to follow him back to the bottom.

“Uh-uh. We’re getting along… okay, I guess.” They sat on the bottom steps.

“That’s good. You want a beer? I couldn’t sleep either, so I thought I’d sit out here and watch the stars. The trees block the view from the balcony.”

“What’s — what’s up with you?”

“Oh… I guess I’m just keyed up about the run to that solar panel place tomorrow,” Tim said, handing Cody a can. “Sara’s coming, but she’s never handled guns.” He opened his own can. “They’re not cold, but at least they’re not warm either.”

“Yeah. I kinda wish I was going with you guys, but Jason’s got me helping with that composting toilet thing. We’re making a run to Home Despot so we can build a couple johns, and stuff for the brick ovens and more rain barrels. Sondra and Max are coming along in case there’s trouble. I guess you and Cleve are the cops for your own run, huh?”

“Yeah, and Johnny’s bringing a carbine. He found it in his unit, that and a couple boxes of ammo, so Sara’s the only one of us that won’t be armed. Cleve ain’t happy about that, but Sara insisted on coming to help.”

“Yeah. Maybe neither of us will run into anything.”


Kelly slipped back to the top of the steps and listened to them talk until Shady started squirming, then hurried back to #202. She kept a firm grip on her kitten until the door latched, then let him jump to the floor and run to the laundry area. Ben, sleeping on the futon in the living room, stirred then was still. An ember crackled in the fireplace, and the honest smell of a wood fire had conquered the last of the stinky fridge. Except for her flashlight, which illuminated very little beyond a few feet, the unit was pitch-dark. She walked to the hallway then turned off the light and trailed her left hand along the wall, navigating by feel, until she reached her bedroom. Kicking off her shoes, she burrowed under the pile of blankets and quilts on her bed and waited for things to warm up again before shedding her clothes.

Okay, I guess, Cody had said. Tim had probably forgotten how to speak Teenager — Susie Lin, a classmate, once told her that Mandarin was another language where a word could have multiple meanings depending on inflection — so he wouldn’t know that Cody said I’m in heaven, dude. Things had gotten so complicated… she hadn’t thought she was interested in him until Sondra came along… and not only were the two of them free agents, Kelly had both her parents to watch over her! How was she supposed to compete with that?

Tim and Cody weren’t going to be the only ones having a hard time sleeping tonight.

continued…

Friday, May 28, 2010 No comments

5 Years of Blogging

Once again, I let the blogiversary slip by! Then again, I seem to have forgotten it completely last year. Last time I did this, I commemorated it with a video, so I’ll do it again…



Someday, we’re gonna rise up on that wind, you know
Someday, we’re gonna dance with those lions
Someday, we’re gonna break free from these chains
And keep on … flyin’

Thursday, May 27, 2010 No comments

Creamy Chicken/Pasta Salad

A good “hot day” dish, everyone liked it and got extra. I threw this together yesterday for supper from what we had laying around, and it went over pretty well. It takes maybe half an hour to make, plus chill time. The dressing part is modified from a tex-mex recipe I found online; I wanted something creamy and this seemed to fit the bill. The original recipe called for vinegar (and I used it) but everyone suggested to lose the vinegar next time… which means I’ll be making this again.

¼ c. dried tomatoes
12oz package of rotini

Dressing:
1-½ tsp. dried cilantro (or 2 T fresh)
¼ c. lemon (or lime) juice
½ c. sour cream
1 clove garlic, pressed (or 1 tsp. minced garlic)
1 T honey
¼ tsp. white pepper
½ tsp. salt
½ c. olive oil

12oz leftover boneless chicken, cooked and diced (or 1 12oz can)
1/3 c grated parmesan cheese

Bring 4-6 qt water to a boil. Break dried tomatoes into dime-sized (1cm) pieces, boil for 5 min. to reconstitute. Skim the tomatoes into a colander to drain, add rotini to the boiling water and cook as instructed by package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water.

While rotini is boiling, put cilantro, lemon juice, sour cream, garlic, honey, pepper, and salt in a blender or food processor, blend on high until smooth. Continue to blend, slowly adding olive oil.

Fold together tomatoes, pasta, dressing, chicken, and parmesan cheese until evenly coated. Cover and chill. Serves 5-6.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010 4 comments

Weird and Wacky Wednesday

Well, not that weird, not much weirder than any other day at FAR Manor. The day started out kind of promising; Snippet woke up pissy from a bad dream and threatened to leave The Boy. His response: “Go right ahead.” (They’ve talked about getting married in July, but stuff like this has to make you wonder.) She seems to have gotten over herself though — her mom coming by may have had something to do with that. She (Snippet’s mom) had to have an MRI today, and she needs to be sedated due to seizures when exposed to certain electrical fields, so Snippet did the driving. They took Mason with them, which made for a pretty quiet day.

Daughter Dearest was a little concerned about it; she heard much of the argument The Boy and Snippet had this morning and thought maybe Snippet would bolt the manor with the baby. “That’s the absolute last thing I’m worried about,” I told her. “Snippet lays in bed all day until I take Mason upstairs and drop him in bed with her, and ten minutes later she’s asking me to take him so she can get a shower or eat breakfast, and then she’ll eff off to watch TV. She takes care of him as little as possible; she’s not going to take him on full-time.” Sure enough, they were back later in the afternoon. Mason has been free-standing for a while now, and trying to take his first steps, but he’s not even 9 months old yet. He’ll be walking soon enough, then we’ll really have to get serious about baby-proofing the manor.

My wallet is $1500 lighter, but I have my Civic back. Most of that was replacing the clutch and timing belt/water pump, but there were a few other minor things that got done. I still don’t have working A/C, but so far everything else seems to be okay.

While my net worth took a thumpin’ at the mechanic’s, today was somewhat of a net-worth watershed for Apple: today was the day Apple’s market cap overtook Microsoft’s for the first time. I don’t expect it to be a permanent situation — Microsoft will rally, or Apple will stumble, and this might only last a few days or weeks — but it’s going to be a fun datapoint to rub in the faces of all those people who thought Apple was walking-dead just 10 years ago. Too bad I didn’t grab some Apple stock back then…

Lately, I’ve been reading J. A. Konrath’s blog, off and on. Konrath is a mid-list author who writes a series of crime novels, and has lately had a huge sales boost by selling Kindle editions of his books, out of print and otherwise, and pricing them dirt-cheap (like $1.99). As book publishing (the major publishing houses, collectively referred to as “New York”) has found itself circling the same drain as newspaper publishing, this hasn’t exactly been welcome news in some circles. Publisher’s Weekly wrote a nice little hit-piece about Konrath signing with AmazonEncore, including lovely sentiments like “a book that nobody wanted” (where “nobody” = New York), misrepresenting his sales, and implying that AmazonEncore is a bare step above self-publishing. Naturally, Konrath set the record straight. I’ve been the victim of a similar hit-piece in the past, when I posted a series of articles (on a now-defunct Yahoo!360° blog) that was critical of XML — or rather, how consultants were deliberately over-complicating it for their own gain — and a consultant got a bunch of other consultants together and trashed me… of course, without bothering to contact me for a rebuttal. It did have the side effect of sending a tsunami of traffic to that blog though.

Seeing that I’ll have to write a sequel to White Pickups, which is now “Book I of the Truckalypse,” maybe I should look into this whole publish-on-Kindle thing myself.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 3 comments

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Fetched!

And a milestone, no less!

Flowers, cards, dinner out, and now she’s zorched out in bed and it’s not even 11. These milestone birthdays are the ones that get you…

Monday, May 24, 2010 4 comments

White Pickups, Episode 36

Contents

Little Ben led Tim, Kelly, Jennifer, and the other kids to his house: a grey Cape Cod with brick trim. He tried the front door, and found it unlocked. “Come on in, guys,” he said. “Or Miss Kelly, maybe you should come in first, just in case my folks are home.”

Kelly shrugged and followed him in. Ben’s call went unanswered, leaving him a bit more disappointed than even he expected. “I should have known they wouldn’t be here,” he told Kelly. “They would have come for me at the theater.” She gestured to the others; they filed in.

The house smelled musty. “I hope Cheddar was outside,” Ben said.

“Who’s Cheddar?” Kelly asked.

“Our cat. He was yellow, like cheddar cheese. That’s how he got his name.”

“I’ll look for him,” Kelly said. “You take the others to get your stuff.” She checked the kitchen, found an unshredded bag of cat food and a mostly-unused litter box, then checked the bathroom and found it empty.

“Bring some big garbage bags!” Jennifer called. “They’re in the kitchen!”

“Good timing, I just left there!” Kelly called back and went to get the bags.

Most of Ben’s clothes were already piled on his bed by the time Kelly arrived. “I think Cheddar was outside,” she told Ben. “I didn’t seem him anywhere, and the cat food bag wasn’t torn up.”

“Good.” Ben turned back to his clothes. “I guess I better get my winter stuff too,” he said. “It’s in the closet by the laundry room, I think. Mom made me help her put away all that stuff in April.”

“Will it fit you?” Ashley asked him. “A lot of my stuff from last year didn’t fit me in the spring. I got to shop for new summer clothes.”

“Maybe.”

“Ben, does your family have any camping gear?” Tim asked. “Sleeping bags, lanterns, anything like that?”

“It would all be in the camper, and that’s at the self-store place.”

“Hm… do you know how to get there?”

“Not really.” Ben studied a bookshelf and pulled down several books. “It’s off Peachtree Industrial.”

“Ben, do you know where your parents put their mail?” Jennifer asked.

“Mom’s office, probably,” he said. “Why?”

“Maybe there will be a bill and it’ll tell us where the self-storage place is. We’ll need warm gear for the winter.”

“Oh. I thought that’s what you were getting at the mall.”

“We got what they had,” Tim said, “but it wasn’t enough for everyone. We expect we’ll find even more people, so we need to gather everything we can find, even if we don’t end up using it right away.”

“Yeah.” He looked at a knapsack on the floor next to his desk, hesitated. “We don’t have to get my school books, do we?”

Kelly and Jennifer laughed. “Just because the world ended doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have an education!” The kids groaned.

“Well, who’s gonna teach us?” Sheldon said, as Ben hefted the pack.

“All of us,” Tim said. “I don’t think it will be school like before, sitting in class all day.”

“So why bring the books?”

“We might be able to use them,” Jennifer said. “That goes for all of you. Well, let’s get your stuff loaded up. You sure you have everything you want? It might be a while before we come back for anything else.”

“Sure,” Ben said, and everyone hoisted bags or boxes.

As they stepped outside, a scrawny yellow cat slipped out of the bushes and meowed, looking wary of all the strange people. “It’s Cheddar!” Ben said. “Oh man, he’s skinny! C’mon, kitty, let’s get you a snack.” He dropped his bags and ducked back in the house, the cat at his heels.

“Let’s put this stuff on the trailer,” Tim said after a moment. “I sure hope they have a pet carrier in the house somewhere.”

“I’ll go ask Ben,” Kelly said, dropping her bag of Ben’s clothes on the trailer.

Ben was sitting on the floor in the kitchen, stroking the cat as he ate. “I hope we can take him with us,” Ben said as the cat purred around a mouthful of cat food. “I never really liked him that much before, but he’s…” He waved his hand around.

“All that’s left,” Kelly said, leaving of your family unsaid. “Do you know if he had a carrier here?”

“Sure, it’s in the closet by the back door. Good idea.”

Kelly walked to the back of the house and looked out the back door window before opening the closet door. “Ben!” she called, pulling out the carrier and a box of Ben’s winter clothes on top of it. “Did your neighbors have a garden?”

“Yeah. I used to sneak over and pick up rotten tomatoes to throw at the tree. Did you find the carrier?”

“Uh-huh. Are there any grocery bags in the kitchen?”

“Sure, Mom always put ’em in the bottom drawer by the sink. Why?”

“Nobody’s had fresh vegetables in over a week! We’re gonna go pick!” Kelly returned with the carrier and the box, and found the drawer with the bags. “Will he give you any problem about going in the carrier?”

“Nah, I’ll put his dish in there. He’ll follow it right in.”

Kelly ran out the front door, waving the grocery bags. “I can’t believe we almost missed it!” she yelled. “There’s a garden next door!”

Ben followed the chatter out the back door, carrier in hand. The older three were happily tramping down the wet rows: “How can you tell if green beans are ready?” “Is this corn any good?” “Yeah, get the green tomatoes too if they’re big enough. They’ll ripen.” “Hey Jennifer, no fair eating the cherry tomatoes!” The other kids followed behind, picking or tying full bags and carrying them to the edge of the garden.

Ashley handed Ben a handful of bags. “I’m allergic to cats,” she said, “but he can stay in the shade. Let’s go help.” Ben sighed and followed her into the garden.

continued…

Monday, May 17, 2010 2 comments

White Pickups, Episode 35

Contents

“Kelly and I will take them,” Tina said. “One of them, anyway. I doubt Kelly would let me not make the offer.” That drew several chuckles, and several others offered at once to take in one or more of the kids as well.

“We could let the kids decide who they want to stay with,” Sondra said. Cody gave her a horrified look, which made her snicker.

“At this point, the kids would probably choose Jennifer, Kelly, and Tim,” Tina said, trying to hide a smile herself, “simply because they’re the ones taking them around to get bikes. They know those three better by now than the rest of us.”

“Well, four of them would,” Cody muttered. Only Sondra heard, and stifled a laugh.

“A few of us have either had kids, or helped with kids before,” Tina continued. “I suggest that anyone who has had a — what’s the word, tween? — a ten year old child around and was comfortable with that should be at least considered.”

“That would include me, I suppose,” Charles said.

“I’ve helped raise a few kids,” Sally McMinn said. “I could probably teach ’em something useful, too.”

“I bet you could!” Johnny Latimer retorted from a safe distance. She ignored him.

“Jennifer will probably insist on adopting at least one of them,” Charles said. “So you, me, Jennifer, Ms. Sally… and if someone takes two, we’re set.”

“I always wanted children,” Sara said, sitting next to Tim. “Maybe I’ll have my own some day, but I wouldn’t mind a head start.”

I wouldn ’t mind giving you a head start, Cleve thought to himself. Tim glanced at her.

“Well, we have our five surrogate parents,” Charles said. “All that’s left is to figure out which kid gets which adult.”

“Speaking of the devil… or five of them, anyway,” Max said, looking out the window at the parade of kids on bikes.

“You sure you don’t want to take in Caitlin?” Sondra whispered to Cody.

“Where’d she sleep? We only got one bedroom.”

“Yeah, good point. We’ll just have to — get by with letting her visit.”

Cody snickered, hugging Sondra tighter.


Tim came in with the kids in tow, followed by Kelly and Jennifer. “Hey all,” Tim said. “We’ve been talking. Turns out Ben, Ashley, and Sheldon all lived fairly close to here. They’re all feeling a lot better, so we’re going to take a little ride to Ben’s place first and then Ashley’s or Sheldon’s if they’re up to it. Caitlin and Lily live a bit farther away, but they agreed to let us get to their places later. They’re all coming with us so they can pick up some of their belongings and bring them back. And get some exercise. They were cooped up in that mall for a long time.

“All the kids say they’ll be fine with whoever they live with — we’ll see each other every day anyway, so it doesn’t matter who they live with, we’ll all be helping raise them. We can figure out who they’ll stay with when we get back. See ya.”

“Bye!” The kids all waved at the others, then filed out.

Nobody spoke for a few moments. “Well,” Tina said at last, “I guess that lets us put off the decision for a little longer.”

“In that case, let’s talk creature comforts,” Johnny said. “I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I ain’t exactly lookin’ forward to the day when we run out of gas — or it all goes bad — and we can’t light this place up anymore. We need to use some of it to cut up wood for the winter, and we need to get us some chainsaws too.”

“We’re going to get some solar panels this week,” Tina reminded him. “That won’t run a chainsaw, though. We’ll do alright this winter, but we need to start looking to next winter as well, don’t we?”

“Natural gas, too,” Sara said. “I think the pressure’s starting to go down. We’ll all be grilling outside in a week or two, I’m afraid.”

“Maybe we need to build a brick oven of sorts,” Sally McMinn said. “And an outhouse or two.”

“Speaking of gas,” Jason said, and everyone laughed. “No, seriously. We can capture the methane from our… sewage. It’s pretty low-tech. There was all sorts of stuff about it online, but maybe there will be something at a bookstore or local library. Where is the library around here, anyway?”

Charles drew a vertical line down the middle of the whiteboard. On the right side, he wrote:

Brick oven/outdoor cooking
Outhouses
Methane capture
Chain saws/firewood
Library?

“We need to hit a few auto parts stores, or hardware stores,” Cody said, “maybe both. If we can scrounge up enough gasoline preservative, we might be able to use the gas at the QuickFill until it’s gone.”

Gasoline preservative

“What do we do with it?” asked Ben.

“Just dump it in the storage tank,” Johnny said. “Maybe stir it a bit with the dipstick.”

“If we do that, maybe we could just leave it for later, and use up some other station’s gas until it goes bad,” Ben said. “Would that work?”

“The next closest gas station is another two miles past the QuickFill,” Tina said. “Is it going to be worth the effort to go that far, when we’re going to have to go without gasoline sooner or later?”

“Sure. I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to give up my creature comforts either. Not having hot water or working toilets is bad enough. Besides, we’re using ten, maybe fifteen, gallons a day. It’ll be gone in what… three or four months?”

“Maybe a little longer,” Kelly said. “There was about 1800 gallons in the tank when I checked it last week. We’re pumping ten or fifteen gallons a day to run the generators. If we were trying to light up this whole place, it would be gone pretty quick, but if it doesn’t go bad it should last four to six months. Maybe a little less — we won’t be able to siphon out every drop, after all.”

“What about the chainsaws?” Johnny Latimer said. “I don’t wanna try sawing firewood by hand, we’ll be doin’ it every day of the year!”

“We could try making ethanol,” Jason suggested. “I've already heard some talk about setting up a still. Maybe we’ll be able to keep a few chainsaws going on what doesn’t get drank.” Laughter.

Ethanol

“If we get enough juice here,” Cleve said, “maybe we could run a few electric chain saws.”

“They’d be good for cutting little stuff,” Johnny said. “Nothing more than a few inches across.”

“Better than nothing.”

“That’s a lot of electricity,” Cody said. “And you’d have to drag the trees to where the juice is to cut ’em up anyway. I guess we’ll see what we come up with when we go for the solar panels tomorrow or Thursday.”

continued…

Sunday, May 16, 2010 No comments

Shiny Things! Mini-podcast #2: Maya Ring Sling

Now that I’m getting a feel for how GarageBand does things, it (as expected) doesn’t take too long to do these. I just didn’t get a chance to do it yesterday, so it’s a day late. This week, I talk about the Maya sling:

Listen!

And the associated AudioBoo page, where you can see a picture, leave a comment, whatever.

Friday, May 14, 2010 4 comments

Friday Picture-Rama

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, this would be a looooong blog post.

Blackberry flowersWe keep getting cool snaps, and I keep thinking “this one must be Blackberry Winter,” but they just keep coming. It warms up, then we get a line of thunderstorms, and it cools off, lather rinse repeat. Well, rinse anyway.

The blooms look pretty good this year, and I’ve noticed several stands in a nearby pasture. We still have plenty of jelly and jam though, so I’m sure sure I’ll do much picking come Fourth of July or not.


RoseUpsize the vines, the thorns, and especially the flowers… and this is what you get. The vining roses are really kicking this year — much better than last. We have a dogwood that blooms twice, since there’s one of these vines crawling all through it.

But seriously, I need to get the shears a hold of the rose vines — they’re doing a fair imitation of kudzu, but with teeth!


Big V riding the feed cartI was going to say something like “moving from flowers to weeds,” but Big V isn’t here to defend herself. Oh well, I’m still gonna talk about her, that’s the price she pays for dragging me out of bed last weekend and driving her to Tractor Supply. She has her “permanent” prosthetic, the one that’s custom-fit for her, and she can get around on it reasonably well now. That day, she was still working on her balance, and was doing fine pushing the cart around. That is, until she had them drop about 350 pounds of horse and dog feed on it.

She gave the laden cart a push, and said, “I can’t get that going. You’ll have to push.” Then she climbed on top of it. I was a little worried about the cart’s rated maximum load, but it didn’t come apart on us. Of course, that meant I had to push her and the feed up to the cash registers and then out to the car. She hopped down and got in the seat before I had a chance to tell the guy to throw her in the trunk with the rest of it. ;-)


Mason chewing on the tableOf course, what would one of these photo-posts be without the World’s Cutest Grandkid? This pretty much sums things up for Mason these days. He’s crawling all over the place, pulling himself up on anything that will stand still long enough to support him, trying to free-stand, and chewing on things.

We started giving him teething biscuits this week — they’re a really hard cookie-like thing that is supposed to be hard to bite through. Mason’s beaver-chompers make pretty quick work of them, though; they don’t last more than a few minutes before he’s bit the end off and working on the loose piece. He likes some regular (i.e. not-baby) food, but definitely not fish or guacamole. He made the most hilarious face after Mrs. Fetched gave him a little home-made guacamole last night… then ejected it quick. I think he was expecting peas, which he does like. Next time, I’ll have the camera at hand and on speed-shoot mode.

Stupid gout is running at a low level at the moment. I’ve temporarily stopped drinking… when the foot is good for an entire week, I’ll resume the occasional nip at the rum bottle.

Monday, May 10, 2010 4 comments

White Pickups, Episode 34

Contents

The kids soon got nervous with everyone hovering over them, watching them eat lunch in the clubhouse, until Jennifer and Kelly shooed the adults away. They returned to their own lunches, talking about what they had seen at the mall and out at the gate. The kids finished their sandwiches, and some multi-vitamins they scrounged from various houses, and they all looked noticeably better after a single decent meal. Kelly, Jennifer, and Tim offered to take them around the complex and find each one a suitable bicycle. After they left, Tina moved to stand between a whiteboard on an easel, taken from the clubhouse office, and a TV set.

“Let’s take a look at the video again,” Tina said, “then we’re going to start asking questions — not only about the trucks, but about everything — and we’re not going to worry about answers just now. Charles, let’s start the generator, so we can put this on the big screen for everyone to see.” He stepped outside, and Ben — Big Ben, now that there was a Little Ben — connected his camcorder to the flat screen and waited.

“What a relief,” Cody whispered to Sondra.

“What?”

“Caitlin’s doing something else. She — I don’t know.”

Sondra stifled a laugh. “I’m sorry, Cody. It’s just so cute. You never had to fend off all the girls, have you?”

He shrugged, and gave her a lopsided grin. “I always figured the world would end first. I was right!” This time, Cody laughed with her, and it felt good. “I don’t want to hurt her, but I don’t know how to deal with her either. She’s like my sister’s age, and she was never like that.”

Charles stepped back inside before Sondra could answer. “Okay, Ben. Let’s see what there is to see.”

Ben pressed Play, then fast-forwarded through the mall footage to Cody lighting the torch. “The trucks show up on the video,” he said. “That’s not surprising, when you think about it — anything that creates or reflects light is going to be picked up by the sensor.”

“But they could still be an illusion, though,” Johnny Latimer said. “Like a mirage. That’s a reflection too, right?”

“Heck of a reflection,” Cody said. “It reflected my foot and a crowbar.”

“Yeah,” Ben said, pausing where Cody put the torch to the truck. “But it didn’t reflect — or deflect — the flame.” The intense white of Cody’s blowtorch nearly filled the screen, until the camcorder adjusted, then they could see it disappearing into the body of the truck. He fast-forwarded to where Cody threw the crowbar, then stepped the video frame by frame. “And… well, you can see it.” They all watched the crowbar disappear through the windshield, and Cody retrieving it and banging it on the side of the truck before dropping it through the bed.

“Seen enough?” Tina asked. Nobody objected. “All right, we’ll start asking questions.” Ben turned off the gadgetry while Charles went to cut off the generator.

“She’ll get over it,” Sondra whispered to Cody. “I had a crush on a high-school kid when I was eleven. By the time I was thirteen, I wondered what the big deal was.”

“Lucky him,” Cody whispered back. “And lucky me he didn’t sweep you away.” He grinned. “We need to come up with something to keep the kids occupied through the day, though. Maybe a school of sorts.”

“What would we teach them now?” Sondra said. “Reading, math… sure.”

“Science and technology. They’ll need to know how to rebuild. Even history, and I hated it. But they need to understand how things were.”

“Are we ready?” Tina said. “Who has a question?”

Cody sat up straight. “This doesn’t have anything to do with the pickups — or maybe it has everything to do with them. There’s five little kids to take care of now — how do we raise them? Are we gonna try to give them some kind of education?”

The others murmered encouragement. “That’s… probably the most important question anyone could have asked,” Charles said, back inside. “Of course, I was in education before the Truckalypse, so naturally I’d think that.” A few chuckles. “You know, it seems to be we also have three kids of high school age here. What are we going to do about completing their education?”

More laughter; Cody grinned. “I did okay with math and science. English, yeah, I just wasn’t that interested. But I don’t guess there’s gonna be much demand for video game designers in my lifetime!” The others laughed again. “I guess I — all of us, really — should be learning what we can about how to grow food and make useful stuff out of all the junk the drive-offs left behind.”

Charles wrote Continuing Education on the whiteboard. “And I guess that goes for all of us,” he said. “Okay, now that the really important question has been asked, what else do we want to know?”

“Where did the trucks come from?”

Why did they come?”

“Why haven’t they tried to attack us or anything?”

“Can we get rid of them somehow?”

“How many people are left in the world? And how many do we need to keep the gene pool full?”

Charles wrote:

Trucks: origin, purpose, how to fight

Number of survivors

Gene pool concerns

“I know we’re not supposed to be answering questions,” Max said, “but I’ve heard that you need about 150 people to keep a gene pool viable. And that there were about 10,000 humans alive at the end of the last ice age, but I guess they were scattered around. So we need to find at least four or five more groups our size.”

Charles jotted >10,000? next to Number of survivors and need >150 next to Gene pool concerns. “Any more questions?”

“Yeah,” Johnny Latimer said. “How can we go about contacting other groups of survivors, and… intermingling, I guess?”

How to contact other groups

“Sooner or later, there will be new kids,” Sondra said. She rolled her eyes at the few snickers (word was already getting around). “As far as I know, nobody here has medical training beyond first aid. How do we learn what to do in the next year or so? For that matter, what do we do if someone gets injured?”

Medics?

“Who’s going to raise these kids?” Sally McMinn said, standing up in the back. “Yeah, I know we’re all gonna have a hand in taking care of 'em. But who are they gonna live with?”

“That’s maybe the second most important question,” Tina said. “And unlike the others, we can’t leave it unanswered today. Let’s give this some thought.”

continued…

Sunday, May 09, 2010 2 comments

Shiny Things! Mini-podcast #1: Kindle

Audioboo and its five-minute limit is a godsend for me… I can find the time it takes to record and edit a five-minute podcast without too much trouble. One reason I haven’t done the Podcast from FAR Manor for three years(!) is that I just can’t get an entire uninterrupted afternoon needed — “Shiny Things!”, of course, was one of the segments of the original podcast, so I already had the beds for it.

Give it a listen:

Listen!

And the associated AudioBoo page, where you can see a picture of the Kindle (a familiar pic if you’ve been reading TFM), leave comments, follow me, and so forth.

Now to get the next White Pickups episode tuned up and ready to roll…

Thursday, May 06, 2010 2 comments

The Boy and Snippet at the Cinder Block Hilton

So we add one to the collection:

The Boy - Get Out of Jail Free card

Snippet gets out of jail too


The Boy got to serve his mini-vacation over the weekend, going in on Friday. Snippet was scheduled to go in on Tuesday, which meant we got to listen to her whine about how much she missed The Boy for several days. Finally, she got her own trip to the pokey. “I wonder if I’ll get to see him in there.”

“Probably not,” I said. “I’m pretty sure they keep the men & women separated.” As it was, I went on to work and Mrs. Fetched took her in Tuesday morning. That left us to take care of Mason, which isn’t much different from the usual situation. DoubleRed is visiting her family all week, and Daughter Dearest is home from college, so we were planning for a fairly quiet couple of days. There was a wrinkle, though: Granny fell that morning and broke her nose (I tell her to stop picking fights in biker bars, but nobody listens to me) and The Boy wasn’t released. So when the phone rang at 1a.m., Mrs. Fetched was ready to hear her mom inform us that Granny had died.

“They let me out,” The Boy said. “Someone needs to come pick me up.” Since I’d gotten up with Mason shortly after midnight, a highly-relieved Mrs. Fetched volunteered to go get him. As it turned out, he spent most of his four days in the medical block: the doc wants him checking his glucose at each meal and the jail’s SOP is to do it once a week. He said that went well enough, he had his own shower and bed. But our quiet couple of days ended up being about 16 hours.


Snippet was supposed to spend two days in the clink, but they let her out Wednesday night at 10 p.m. and I went to get her. She was already highly giddy at the prospect of seeing The Boy, but once again there was a wrinkle: not expecting her to be home, he went down to Kobold’s to play Guitar Hero or something. Mrs. Fetched didn’t want them down there all night, so we agreed to pick him up and bring him home. Snippet, if anything, got even more giddy as we rolled down to Kobold’s: “I’m going to jump on him and kiss him all over!” or something like that. yeeeeesh And that’s pretty much what she did. Mrs. Fetched agreed to let them stay at Kobold’s until 11:30, at which time Kobold would bring them home, and that was good because it gave Snippet a chance to get it out of her system.

You know what? I don’t think I ever wrote about what earned them their mini-vacations. Back when they were at the apartment, a drunk underage chick from next door came over crying and saying she’d been “inappropriately touched” (and both The Boy and Snippet said she’d been their “mattress” for quite a while). She called 911, thought better of it, hung up, and hid in The Boy’s closet. What she didn’t realize is that when you call 911, the emergency services operator can keep the line open even if you hang up on your end… and since she had a cell phone, they could trace both number and location, which brought the heat to The Boy’s door. Now it should be pointed out that this drunk chick wasn’t the only underage person in the apartment who had been drinking… and even though The Boy had not been there, he got hung with contributing. Oh, and Drunk Chick tossed a baggie of pot over the balcony rail, and the cops decided to try pinning that on The Boy as well. The problem was, Drunk Chick was telling one story (as the so-called victim) while everyone else was telling an entirely different one, so The Boy got off with a fairly light charge and Snippet got an underage drinking rap.

So they’re back. DoubleRed’s still gone, but she doesn’t make much noise through the evenings anyway.

Monday, May 03, 2010 2 comments

White Pickups, Episode 33

Contents

The trip back to Laurel took longer, with the kids and merchandise weighing things down. Cody volunteered to pull a Kidd Hauler, and Caitlin insisted on being his passenger (to Sondra’s continued amusement, and Cody’s continued embarrassment). The kids acted almost relieved to have adults — any adults — around again, and peppered their drivers with conversation.

“I don’t live far from here,” Ben Crawford told Palmer as they turned into the entrance to Laurel. “Keep going and take the third right. Or fourth.”

“What’s your address?” Palmer said.

“4573 Mary Street. Do you think we can go and see if my parents are there?”

“In a little while. But if they’re at home…” Palmer thought better of finishing the question and let it trail off.

“Yeah,” Ben said. “I guess they’re not. But we should check anyway. When we can.”


The white pickup was still sitting near the gate. Cody glared at the thing as he held the gate for everyone else, then stomped over to the truck and flung the driver-side door open. “Look, you —” He stopped a moment, braced against the pull, then slammed the door (it made a hollow chuff sound) and stomped back. Everyone else had stopped to watch.

“What was it?” someone asked.

“Nothing,” Cody said. “The damn thing’s empty.”

“It’s waiting for a driver,” Charles said.

“Well, it can wait until I get back,” Cody growled. “I’m getting a cutting torch, I can see what makes it go and it can wait here in pieces until hell freezes over for all I care.” He rode off, leading the pack to the clubhouse.

“I wanna come with you,” Caitlin said as he disconnected the Kidd Hauler in front of the clubhouse.

“I need to use a regular trailer,” Cody said. “I’m getting a cutting torch, and it has a couple tanks for the fuel, so there won’t be room for a passenger. I’ll be back in twenty minutes or so.”

“Well… can I watch you cut it up?”

“Sure, if you stay inside the fence. I guess everyone else is gonna come watch.”


Indeed, everyone was at the gate before Cody returned, carrying the torch, tanks, and a crowbar on the trailer, a welding mask dangling off the handlebars. Ben had his camera rolling once again, standing off to one side. Sondra and Charles volunteered to help, and convinced everyone else to stay inside the gate. Cody left the crowbar sitting on the trailer as the three of them carried the torch and tanks over to the truck. He opened the valves on the tanks and scraped a sparker in front of the torch until it caught. He put on the welding mask, adjusted the flame to a thin, intense blue pencil and walked over to the truck.

“Awright, you SOB,” he said, his voice muffled by the mask, “let’s make you a hood and then we’ll see what’s under it.” He brought the flame down to the truck. “Whoa. That’s whack.”

“What?” Charles asked.

“The flame. Look at it.” Charles and Sondra walked over; Sondra rubbed her arm without seeming to notice.

“Why isn’t it cutting?” she asked.

“Damn if I know. But the flame isn’t even splashing… it looks like it’s going right through the sheet metal. Watch.” He lifted the nozzle up, then down. “But it ain’t cutting.” He pulled the flame away, touched the metal, then laid his hand on it. “Not even warm.”

“Wow. Is there anything you can do about that?”

“Quit?” Cody cut off the torch and pulled the mask off his head. “It’s not life or death. ” He coiled up the hose and they rolled the tanks back onto the trailer. “Waste of time anyway —” Suddenly, Cody snatched up the crowbar and threw it at the truck. “Bite me!” he yelled, as the crowbar went through the window —

Without breaking. And clattered to the pavement behind the truck.

Everyone stood gaping, then started talking at once. “What the hell?” Johnny Latimer said, for all of them.

“It’s like… like it wasn’t even there,” Charles said.

Cody reached under the back of the pickup and retrieved the crowbar. “It’s there,” he said, “I guess.” He kicked the rear fender. “Ow. It feels like it’s there.” He reached out with the crowbar; it thumped against the rim of the bed. “It’s there if we hit it with something.” He tossed the crowbar into the bed, and it clanged to the pavement again. “But if you’re not touching that something… it goes right through.”

Everyone stood quiet for a moment. “Are they real, then?” Ashley Harbin (one of the kids) asked.

“It’s one h— heck of a hallucination if it’s not,” Tim said.

“I guess that’s how they stay so clean,” Tina suggested. “The dirt doesn’t stick to them. It’s not there for the dirt.”

Cody ducked as a yellow jacket flew by his head and landed on the truck. “I think it’s only there for living things. Or whatever they’re holding.”

“We need to discuss this,” Charles said.

“We need to experiment,” Cody replied, tapping the bed with his crowbar. He shifted to a two-handed grip and took a hard sideways swing at the side of the truck. The crowbar bounced back and Cody let it go; it tumbled up the pavement, away from the others.

Cody shook his hands. “That stung. Good thing I was expecting it.” He squatted down. “Not even a mark, let alone a dent.” He stood. “Hey Ben, bring that camera over here. I’m gonna do it again, but I want you to tape it.” He retrieved the crowbar while Ben slipped around the truck. “Yeah, stand over here, next to me. I’m gonna whack the taillight this time.” Ben zoomed in and Cody took his stance. “Ready, Fire, Aim!” He swung again, and once again let the crowbar bounce away. “Okay, come see what I did. Or didn’t do… that’s where I hit it, but you can’t tell. If that was really plastic, it would be all over the place right now, huh?”

Charles joined them, and tapped the sheet metal next to the taillight with a knuckle, then tapped the taillight itself. “Doesn’t feel any different,” he said. “They sound the same, too, don’t they?”

Cody rapped the door — thunk — then the side window, then the roof. “Yeah. Same sound each time. Same feel, too. What are these things made of, anyway?”

“Voodoo,” Tim said, not smiling. Several people nodded.

continued…

Sunday, May 02, 2010 4 comments

Unplanned Dim-itude

I’d planned to have at least two posts up this week, but life (as usual) got in the way. Here’s one of the things that kept me busy this week:

Firewood out back

Oh well… while I’m getting tomorrow’s White Pickups episode queued up — and this is one you won’t want to miss — you can watch Mason getting on his feet (click for full-size and then some):

Mason pulls up

His balance is improving rapidly. Last weekend, when he first started pulling up solo, he had to have both hands firmly on some kind of support. This morning, after working at it all week, he succeeded in reaching down and grabbing something off the floor of his playpen while holding on with the other hand. Panda said one morning he turned loose and free-stood for all of two seconds before lunging for the rail.

Maybe I’ll get some more blog-related stuff done next week.

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