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Monday, June 14, 2010

White Pickups, Episode 39


The laden trailers slowed them down, which suited Cleve just fine. They stuck to the side of the road, using bike lanes or sidewalks where available. The drivers of the pickups seemed happy to share the road, but nobody wanted to listen to the constant invitations. The late-morning sun was warm, and the four of them worked up a sweat in a hurry. Everyone kept an eye out for other riders, but Tim guessed that between the head start and their load, whoever had passed by Sunlover’s was long gone.

Sara waved them to a stop shortly before Pleasant Hill. “Listen! Is that a dog barking?”

“Sounds like two, maybe more,” Johnny said, hefting his carbine. “Safeties off?”

“Not yet,” Cleve said, peering down the highway, “but let’s move slow enough where we can stop quick. Don’t worry about kickstands, just let the bikes fall over if we have to. Sara, you sure you don’t want a gun?”

“I’d just shoot myself or one of you.” She unhooked the air pump from its mount. “If I have to, I’ll whack ’em on the nose. That might slow ’em down enough for one of you to rescue me.”

They moved slowly, crossing Pleasant Hill behind a few trucks (who treated all major intersections as a four-way stop). The barking grew louder, then they saw movement up ahead. “Safeties off now,” Cleve said, stopping long enough for all of them to comply, and they hurried forward.

Up ahead, a woman faced two large dogs in a church parking lot, backed up against a truck. She had positioned her bike so the two dogs facing her could only come at her from one direction, and she had her air pump in hand. A third dog lay in the road; the occasional thump-thump of a pickup rolling over it suggested the dogs had crossed the highway to attack.

Back off!” Cleve shouted at the dogs, who turned to face the newcomers; the woman looked up as well. They barked and darted forward, but did not close. Tim waved at the woman to get out of the way; she picked up her bike and slipped around the white pickup, as quiet as possible. One of the dogs turned back to her, but too late — Johnny fired four times as soon as he had a clear shot. Both dogs dropped to the pavement, twitching for a few moments, then lay still. The woman slumped to the pavement behind the truck, and Sara ran to her.

“Are you all right?”

The woman looked up at Sara. She was dark, nearly as dark as Sara herself; she had her long straight black hair pulled back into a tail and tucked into the collar of her shirt. A cap lay on the pavement nearby. “I think so. They didn’t bite me.” Tears ran down the rider’s eyes. “What will you do with me?” There was a lilt to her voice, an accent Sara couldn’t quite place.

“You can come with us, if you like,” Sara said. “We live a ways north of here.”

“This is why we don’t travel alone, and we don’t travel unarmed,” Cleve said, a little winded from running to catch Sara. “I guess you’ve been lucky so far.” Tim and Johnny joined them.

“Lucky? I suppose.”

Sara shook her head at Cleve. “I’m Sara Karsten. This is Johnny Latimer, Tim Petro, and Cleve Isaacs. We live… a little north of here.”

“I’m Rita Diaz. And thank you all for coming when you did.”

Tim asked, “Were you who I saw about an hour ago, riding up the highway?”

Rita nodded. “I was alone. I thought if I couldn’t find other people, I might find a farmhouse somewhere in the country where I could grow my own food. My parents used to tell me about the way they lived in Mexico; I thought if they could do it, perhaps I could too. I stopped at a gas station a ways back to rest and get a few water bottles. If you hadn’t come along… when I saw the dogs, I thought I could get into this church and claim sanctuary, but they came too fast. So perhaps God sent some angels instead?”

Johnny laughed. “We’re no angels, but we’re not bad folks either. We live in a fenced-in subdivision, and some of us are already turning it into a big ol’ lawns-to-gardens project. The trucks are all outside the fence, so I guess that makes it a little slice of Heaven. Shoot… maybe we are angels, then.” He laughed, and Rita joined him.

“May I ask… what are you carrying?”

“Solar panels, control boxes, spools of wire, batteries, all that junk,” Cleve said. “Some of us gotta have our creature comforts, you know.”

“Very resourceful. I should have thought of that myself,” Rita said. “Maybe I didn’t think things through as much as I should have. Being out in the country would make it hard to scavenge while waiting for the harvest.”

“You think we’re resourceful?” Tim laughed. “You haven’t met Cody yet!”

“I’d be glad to learn from him, and the rest of you. If you’ll have me.”

“Sure,” Cleve said. “There ain’t enough of us to worry about crowding, any time soon.”

“Thank you so much,” Rita said. “For saving me, and for taking me in. How far do we have to go?”

“Ten miles, maybe?”

“I’ll try not to slow you down. I’m not used to bicycling everywhere yet. Could we stop by a medical clinic on the way?”

“Why?” Cleve asked. “Are you hurt?” Tim caught Cleve’s suspicious look that said: or are you a druggie?

“No… I want to pick up some supplies. I’m a nurse-practitioner, so I thought it might be useful to have some things around in case they’re needed.”

Nobody said anything for several moments. “Well, you’re an answered prayer, then,” Tim said. “You sure you’re not the angel?”

to be continued…


  1. The group just lucked out. A nurse practioner? What a fantastic addition to the group.

    My doctor is worried about the coming age of austerity. However, she is very very good (she still works the ER regularly to stay in touch with solving weird problems) so I keep telling her she'll be wealthy, though the payment might be in gasoline, or services, or food, or preference for housing, or something else like that. But I think she'll do very well.

    Man's best friend will look at you kind of differently once he's hungry and you're the next meal.

    Spooky thoughts .. I'm wondering who (or what) is inside the pickups that have already sucked up people?

    Great 'sode! :)

  2. Definitely, Nudge! Your doc sounds like a keeper, BTW. Anyone with any sense will do what they can to protect her & her clinic; I think her biggest worry would be goofballs raiding her for painkillers.

    Yeah, dogs will be a problem… so many people train them to be aggressive (probably a big overlap with TPC ownership there) and so they won't have much respect for anyone else. Fortunately, they have a fence around the subdivision & are well-armed… but there will be some interesting things along those lines in Book 2, I think.

    A partial answer to your question will be coming up in a few weeks, by the by… stay tuned!

  3. Well I got caught up, you guys! A nurse practitioner is a welcome addition to the group. She can help any injured and pass on her medical knowledge. Of course, she'll have to learn botaical medicine because the Western Pharmaceuticals won't be around forever... and most of them will pass their expiry date.

    Episode 28, wow! The preacher who rescued Joseph from a white p'up turns out to be a "Christ-psychotic*" and ends up meeting with Joseph's friends who are also haters - racist, homophobic and antiurban!

    *For the origen of this term go to http:/www.youtube.com/user/calpurnpiso

  4. Thanks Ed, but I have to point out they're two different people… the rescuer was J. Fortune Patterson; the psycho is Carlron Worleigh. But you nailed the friends.

  5. A useful addition to the group, Far. I assume that she'll still be able to find some medical supples, even after the expected looting.

    Man's best friend? Not so much.

    Looking forward to the next one.

  6. J. Fortune Patterson! Dang, I should have checked. Come to think of it, I do remember the rescuer telling Joseph to get back where he came from: Roswell IIRC.

  7. Hey all!

    Boran, I expect that should be the case. Most of the addicts, I suspect, have driven off or did themselves in pretty quickly once the Truckalypse got under way.

    Ed, yeah… it was Episode 24. Patterson told Joseph not to go back to his friends, and Joseph said he could go to his uncle's place in Alpharetta. Pretty close. I probably should have linked it in my original response, I was too lazy. Sorry 'bout that!


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