Sunday, February 12, 2012
“Frankly, I’m a little worried about Cody,” said Tina, standing in Rita’s clinic with Charles, Tim, Sara, Rita, Johnny, and Rev. Patterson. Tim brought his thermos, filled with coffee leftover from breakfast, and several of them held warm mugs.
“There’s something wrong?” Rita asked. “Are you saying we need to restart the suicide watch?”
“No, I don’t think that’s the problem anymore. But I am worried about his mental state. You’ve heard him say the trucks eat the souls of those who get in, right? The Delphinia woman put that idea in his head. She happened to be out at the gate when he went sleepwalking the other night. Good thing, or he might have driven off.”
“Assuming the presence of a soul in the first place,” said Charles, “its absence — or loss — would explain quite a few things about the trucks. For example, the behavior of the drivers. They constantly and consistently obey the rules of the road. If the soul drives the will, removing the soul would remove the will to disobey as well.”
“Not to mention ever stopping or getting out,” Johnny added. “Maybe they’re taking orders from the trucks. We can hear ’em talking to us — why wouldn’t they talk to the drivers? or passengers? Maybe the drive-offs aren’t really doing the driving.”
“Let’s stay focused,” said Tina. “This is about Cody. And Delphinia. That’s why I asked you to join us, Reverend. Can you tell us what you know about Delphinia?”
Patterson rubbed his bald head a moment. “Not that much, really,” he said. “She showed up — I think it was the first day that people started noticing the trucks. She walked into the shelter, mumbling to herself as some homeless folk do. I asked her if she needed a place to stay, and she gave me that smile of hers and said she did.”
“Where was your shelter?” Rita asked.
“The Little Five Points area. I had a storefront church there twenty, thirty years ago. We struggled, as churches that serve the poor often do, but God provided. Then one of our members died and left a large sum of money ‘to continue the ministry.’ The church itself died out, but I used that endowment to keep the shelter open.”
“So she came in, you offered her a place to stay,” said Tina. “Then what?”
“Things happened quickly after that. It may have been Delphinia who first used the term ‘Eater of Souls,’ but the others picked — took it up right away. It was also things Delphinia said in November that got us on the move, and brought us here.”
“All right. Thank you, Reverend. I’m guessing Delphinia is a blind alley here, we can talk about her later if we need to. So let’s go back to Cody,” said Tina. “Charles, you said the soul drives the will — and it’s that word, will, that worries me. Cody seems to have lost the will to be a leader. He helps with anything he’s asked to do, but where’s the idea generator? Where’s the spark?”
“Yeah,” Johnny said. “That pretty much nails it. He hasn’t been the same. I don’t know — I never really thought much about getting married until I met Rita here — but if I lost Rita, I guess I’d be devastated too.” Rita gave Johnny a smile and stroked his back for a moment. “Tina, he lost his wife. It’s only been a month, as of yesterday. Give him time to finish grieving, for gosh-sake.”
“As much as I’d like to, we can’t afford to give him much more downtime.” Tina looked grim. “He’s just too important to the survival of us all. You know we have some serious issues —”
“But if we don’t let him heal, he’ll be broken for good — and what good is that going to do him or any of us?” Johnny gave Tina an exasperated look, waving his hands. “Besides — I wouldn’t have believed it myself if I hadn’t checked — but we’re doing fine with everything but water, now.”
“Really?” Tina looked surprised.
“Yeah. So he has time to heal. Let’s give it to him.”
“Hey,” said Tim, “Remember when the girls had that blow-up? Afterwards, Cody said he needed some kind of project to get his mind off things. Maybe he’s right. Give him something useful to do — on the job healing or something. Let him handle the water situation.”
“Makes sense,” Sara laughed. “Now we just have to set him up.”
“Our basic needs: food, water, fuel, and shelter,” Johnny said, standing with Charles and Tina at the whiteboard in the Laurel Room. The rest of the community looked on. The marker squeaked as he wrote the same four words on the whiteboard. “Working in order from least to most urgent, we have more shelter than we know what to do with —” he put a check mark over the word Shelter while everyone laughed — “and if we don’t mind hauling it a few miles, the ice storm has pretty much solved our fuel situation for the rest of the winter. Until next winter, the solar panels and methane digesters will do, right?” He checked off Fuel.
“As for food… I’ll admit, we’re doing better there than I thought we would. We should thank Jason and Ben for that.”
“And the deer hunter!” Max yelled over the scattered applause, bringing more laughs.
“Okay, yeah, this has been my personal best hunting season by far. Good thing Cleve there ain’t a game warden, I’d never get out of jail!” Johnny checked off Food while waiting for the laughter to fade. “But there wasn’t exactly a lot of competition out there, and this used to be a hunter no-go zone. We might not be so lucky next year.
“So we got two major issues we need to tackle. One, get out to the country and see if we can’t round us up some livestock. Buncha chickens, some cows, a horse or two if any’ll let us catch it, maybe even some goats just to keep the kudzu under control.
“Two, we gotta figure out how to get a source of clean water, enough for a growing community.”
“The rain barrels have been good enough,” Ashley said. “Do we need more?”
“It gets pretty dry in the summer. Remember that dry spell last month, just before the ice storm? We almost used up all the water we had then.”
“Wow.” Ashley looked surprised, as did some of the adults.
“Yeah. So we’ll do fine for a while longer. Spring is usually rainy. But we need to have something more reliable.”
“So those are the issues,” said Charles. “I’d like to put Johnny in charge of acquiring farm animals — he has some experience there. Anyone object?”
Nobody spoke up, and Charles continued. “As for the water project, Cody has nearly always had good — even excellent — ideas about our basic survival needs. I’d like to put him in charge of figuring out how to deal with the water issue.”
Cody rolled his eyes at the scattered applause. “I guess. But I’ll need help.”
“This is too important. You should have anything you need to get the job done,” said Tina. “I’d like to start by asking Kelly to help you.”
Cody glared at Kelly; both of them looked at Tina. “I hope that’s alright,” she continued.
Cody looked like he wanted to object, but only shrugged. “Whatever.”
“Good. I guess that’s all for the community-wide portion of this meeting,” said Tina. “Expect to be shanghaied for one project or the other.” People chuckled as they headed for the exits.
to be continued…