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Tuesday, August 31, 2010 2 comments

White Pickups, Episode 50b


In the end, they got plenty more help than they needed: just about everyone came out. Those who didn’t come to pull came to watch, and none of them would be chased off. Ms. Sally and Ms. Katie (and Stefan in his wheelchair) watched over the kids, Rita let Sondra go but stayed with Big Ben herself, and they were the only ones left behind.

Cody and Johnny tied four ropes to the framework, then tied knots in the rope for hand-holds. Nearly everyone brought gloves, for the chill as well as protection. They assigned four people to each rope, and Johnny, Palmer, Max, Charles, and Tim took up positions at the bottom. “Pull!” Johnny yelled, and the ramp began scraping across the pavement. “Wait! Wait!” Johnny waved everyone to a stop, then ducked underneath and jacked it up. “I guess we’re all anxious to try this out, huh?” Laughter from the others.

“It might work just as well that way,” Cody muttered to Sondra, Tina, and Kelly, sharing one of the inside ropes. “It won’t be as easy to get up the slope, but if something happens it wouldn’t slide back much either.”

Johnny’s cry, “Pull!” cut off any response, and everyone hauled away. The ramp rumbled up the hill; this time the extra help kept it going. The onlookers cheered as it climbed the incline up to the street. As the people at the end of each rope neared the street, they stopped and hauled on the ropes, creating some bunching-up — but the ramp was already up the steepest part of the driveway. Johnny dropped the jacks again; Cody untied the ropes and took his place with the men.

“We’ll need to turn it a bit before we get it in the road,” Cody said, pointing at the bottom of the ramp. “It’s not straight.”

Johnny nodded and raised the jacks again; they straightened the ramp, waited for a break in the traffic, then pushed it into the street; Johnny quickly dropped the jacks and everyone backed up to watch.

They only had to wait a minute: a truck rounded the corner from Satellite Blvd., climbed the ramp, and went over the top. The front of the truck dropped, smacking the pavement with a flat THUD, then it slowly went tail-over and landed on the cab and bed with a crunch sound. Many cheered; others gasped.

“One less of the fuckers,” Palmer said. “That one’s for you, Stef.”

Another truck rolled up the ramp and nose-dived into the pavement; the first truck caught and held it, tail pointing almost straight up. More cheers. A third truck climbed the ramp, braked, and ended up caught on the ramp hanging partway over; a fourth stopped at the bottom of the ramp. After a moment, it backed up, waited for oncoming traffic to clear, and went around.

“Looks like they’re routing around a road hazard,” Cleve said. “I guess the show’s over. At least we nailed two of ’em and trapped a third.” The onlookers, and many of those pulling the ropes, decided there was nothing else to see; they turned away and walked or biked back to Laurel.

“A lot of effort to take out three trucks out of… however many,” Tim said, “but worth it.”

“We’ve learned a thing or two, I think,” Charles said. “We know the trucks can be tricked. Maybe we can come up with a way to take out more of them.”

“Yeah, like run a road over the edge of the Grand Canyon,” Cody said. “I’m not sure if the world would run out of trucks or the canyon would fill up first.”

“Good point,” Charles said. “Maybe we should duck inside and talk about this for a few. This wind is starting to cut right through my sweater.”

They turned toward the QuickFill, and seconds later heard another THUD-crunch — they turned back to see one truck on its cab and a second truck climbing the ramp, dropping off the end and then falling onto its side.

“What the…” Tina said for all of them. “What happened?”

“It’s like the other trucks disappeared as soon as our backs were turned,” Tim said. A third truck climbed the ramp and landed atop the other two. “It’s not the same, the first pile only had two trucks and neither one landed on their side.”

“I’ve got an idea,” Charles said. “Everyone turn away. Don’t look at the trucks.” Shortly after they turned: THUD-crunch. “Don’t look!” A few seconds later, they heard another truck climb the ramp and THUD-crunch to the pavement. Charles nodded; they turned. They had heard two trucks go over, but only one lay shiny-side-down in the street.

“Huh,” Charles said. “It’s like a reverse quantum effect — instead of requiring an observer, this requires no observer. Come to think of it, did anyone ever see a car change into a pickup?”

Everyone shook their heads. “So they are disappearing?” Kelly asked.

“I think so, hon. They’ll jump the ramp, crash, and — as long as nobody’s watching — disappear.”

“And they’ll keep doing it,” Cody grinned. “Well… I’d say this was well worth the effort, then.”


Monday, August 30, 2010 1 comment

White Pickups, Episode 50a


Friday, November 11, 2011

They built the ramp in the QuickFill parking lot — twenty feet long, eight feet wide, four feet high — using lumber and plywood purloined from a nearby home improvement center. They built it sturdy; Johnny realized that it would be too heavy to carry long before they completed it, so they mounted hydraulic jacks in the framework and built around them. Most of the adults helped with at least part of the project, but Johnny and Cleve were there nearly constantly, even sleeping in the QuickFill one night when darkness snuck up on them.

When the last nail was driven on a sunny, windy, chilly early afternoon, Johnny, Cleve, Cody, Tina, Kelly, and Tim were there. Johnny ducked under the ramp, raised the three jacks, and they rolled it sideways across the parking lot. The ramp wobbled, but rolled without scraping the pavement. Johnny dropped the jacks and said, “I guess we need to test it. The trucks gotta weigh what, three or four thousand pounds? How are we gonna get that much weight on it?”

“The six of us together might weigh a thousand pounds,” Cody said. “Let’s all climb on and see what happens.” He scrambled up the ramp, slid a little, and crouched. “Careful, it’s a bit slick,” he said. “You think the trucks will lose traction on this thing?”

Tim stepped onto the ramp, and pushed with his boots. “I’ve got pretty good traction,” he said. “But I’m wearing hiking boots instead of tennis shoes… you know, when this thing gets rained on, it will be slick.”

“Could we tack something on it?” Kelly asked. “I don’t know, maybe cut up some old tires and lay the treads on it?”

“Hey,” Cleve said. “You know how they’d put those grates down where they did construction? I bet if we got some sturdy wire mesh, we could just nail it in the tracks and there wouldn’t be a problem.”

“How about those rain gutter covers?” Tina said. “Were there any left after you guys put them on the townhouse gutters?”

“Three or four boxes,” Johnny said. They’re in one of the storage rooms in the clubhouse.”

“I’ll get ’em,” Tim said. “I’ll have ’em back here faster than anyone else can.” That was true; everyone was getting used to biking everywhere but only Palmer and Janet could keep up with Tim when pulling a load (Stefan as well, before his accident). Nobody objected, and Tim rode away.

Charles picked up the new radio, pilfered from a ham radio store down Buford Highway. “Tim’s on the way,” he said. “He’s coming to get the gutter guards.”

“Okay,” Sara’s voice came through over a low hiss. “They’re in the clubhouse basement, right?”

“Yeah. QuickFill out.”

“I’ll double-check. Laurel out.”

“What do you think is gonna happen when a truck goes up the ramp, Johnny?” Cleve asked.

Johnny laughed. “You’ve been workin’ with me on this all this time, and now you finally get around to asking me that? Everyone else who helped asked, and I’ll tell you what I told them: I don’t know. I’m hoping it’ll flip over. I guess we’ll find out.”

“Hey,” Tina said, “is Big Ben coming or what?”

“He’s still sick,” Johnny said. “Rita and Sondra have him in the infirmary.” Rita had set up her infirmary in what was once the clubhouse offices; several rooms were well-lit by day and she saw her patients there. An early-season flu bug was working its way through Laurel; Ben was one of eight or ten people who had caught it, but so far was the only one requiring more from Rita than advice. One of the houses in the development yielded up a hospital bed; Ben was likely lying on it now. Johnny was taking a “leave of absence” from helping Rita for the ramp project, leaving Sondra and the kids to help out and learn what they could.

“Doesn’t mean someone else can’t do the camera work,” Cody said.

“I don’t think it matters,” Johnny shrugged. “Let’s just see what happens. Ben writes down everything anyway, we can just tell him what happens.”

Tim returned with the gutter guards, hammers, and tacks; they flattened the mesh pieces and tacked them onto the ramp. Cody walked up again. “That worked. Let’s climb this thing.”

Everyone climbed the ramp, trying to even out the weight between the tracks. “Feels pretty solid,” Cleve said, “but we still don’t add up to a truck.”

“Let’s all jump,” Johnny said. “One… two… three!” They all jumped, coming down nearly at once. Tina stumbled, and Kelly steadied her mother.

“Solid as pavement,” Cody said. “Well, we can either roll it out there and see what happens, or we can get twenty more peeps out here to stand on this thing with us.”

“I’m game to try it myself,” Johnny said. “Anyone object?” Nobody spoke up. “A’right — let’s roll it out there.”

They soon hit a snag: the seven of them were not enough to push the ramp up the incline. Cody cursed and spun around, putting his back to the supports and pushing with his legs, reminding Tina of how he’d pushed the truck out of her garage. She turned and pushed backwards with him.

“It’s not working!” Tim yelled. “We have to let it roll back!”

“Easy!” Johnny panted. “I don’t want anyone getting run over!” They let gravity push them back to level pavement; Johnny ducked underneath and dropped the jacks. “Everyone okay? Good. We’ll need to get some more people to help get this thing up the hill.”

“How?” asked Kelly. “There’s barely enough room for us to push!”

“Get some ropes,” Cody said. “We can have people up the hill pull while we push. That might do it.”


Saturday, August 28, 2010 2 comments

Pack Rats Rule, and a Farewell to iPhone

Serendipity: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way

With The Boy working (he has A JOB!!!), and Daughter Dearest back to college, I’ve had to jump back on the motorcycle and ride to work. I got a chain, put it on, got it adjusted, and all that a couple weekends ago, so that was no problem. The problem is, I’ve been carrying the iPad to work with me and there’s the occasional “slight” chance of rain for that ride home in the afternoon. I thought, what I need is a waterproof pouch that I can stick the case in, and decided I’d make a run to the motorcycle shop to see if they had anything.

As it turned out… I was looking for Mason’s sling one day this week and found something else — a zip-sealed plastic pouch that the case came in! Not only is it waterproof, it’s a perfect fit and it was free with the case. WIN! I remember when I got the case, thinking I might be able to use that pouch for something… at last, the pack rat in me gets the best of the situation! Of course, now that I have the pouch, I haven’t needed to worry about rain.

Now that August is winding down, and our cellphone contract along with it, Mrs. Fetched wanted to go into the AT&T office and see what we could save by dumping our iPhones. Mine has been flaky for several months now, and what with the iPad and numerous open wifi spots between the office and home, I’ve been ready to walk away from having a cellphone at all. Of course, Mrs. Fetched didn’t want that — while she pitched her objection as me being able to call her if I have a problem, the actual situation is that she wants to be able to reach out and nag me whenever and wherever. :-) But I digress. We went in to have a look, and it turned out that after saving $120 a month (by dropping the iPhones and reducing our minutes to something closer to our average usage), dropping my phone line would save only another $10.

Grumble… time to pick a phone and hope it works well with Macs. I tentatively decided on a Sony-Ericsson W518a, a “Walkman” phone. They have Mac drivers on their website to sync with iCal and Address Book, and another one for iTunes/iPhoto. It’s not a perfectly smooth solution, but I doubt that anything short of an iPhone would be. But since we won’t pull the trigger on this stuff until Tuesday, I’m open to suggestions (has to be on AT&T, though).

Episode 50 of White Pickups is pretty big, so I split it up into Monday and Tuesday posts. Stay tuned to see what Johnny had in mind…

Thursday, August 26, 2010 2 comments

Head in the Cloud(s)

I haven’t lost my mind, it’s backed up on tape somewhere. — Unix fortune cookie

Tech-utopians believe that we’re approaching the point where the human mind could actually be uploaded into — and run on — computer hardware. I’m firmly in the skeptic camp on this one: perhaps some memories and sensory impressions could eventually be copied; after all, it’s already possible to stimulate certain memories or impressions by probing certain parts of the brain. If quantum computing offers insights into how our minds work, those copies could happen. BUT, can personality be both captured and then run on some kind of hardware? I doubt it.

On the other hand, some of my memory — and most likely some of yours as well — is already stored outside our heads. From the paper address book/calendar, to the lowliest PDA, to our calendar programs, to the fanciest cloud-based PIMs, we’ve offloaded a lot of the basic information we need to do our work (or not get whined at by a friend or family member whose birthday just went by), replacing it with a habit to “check the calendar” on occasion. A lot of this information is useful and even crucial — your mom’s birthday, your anniversary, that scheduled meeting with a potential customer. Some of it, like Amazon’s wish list, can be hazardous to your budget… instead of forgetting about that gadget you saw and thought was cool, add it to your wish list and come back for it later.

The tricks are, of course, to:

1) Make it so easy to add that information to your repository, wherever you are, whenever you need to, that you just do it without thinking much about it.

2) Extract that information — or better yet, have it automatically presented to you — at the right time.

As much as I like to slag on cellphones, they really do help with part 1 — even if you don’t have a signal at the crucial moment, you can often configure the phone to bring up an audio recorder without too much effort. I set up my old Samsung Sync to bring up the recorder by pressing one of the arrow keys, if I remember right. Of course, the smarter the phone, the easier it can be to find useful information entry apps. On the other hand, if you want to pay for Jott, you can use any phone capable of dialing a number (Jott converts a brief voice message to text and can return it to you in a large number of ways).

But the other side of the coin is getting that information back at the right time. Again, there are plenty of ways to make that happen. While Remember the Milk is popular, I kind of like Chandler for its open-source, cross-platform goodness. Unfortunately, the client is currently broke for Leopard and Snow Leopard; there’s supposed to be a workaround, but it didn’t work for me. Once they get the client working again, I’d love to see a full-function iPad client; right now, there’s a write-only “Chandler QE” (Quick Entry) iPhone app that’s okay for brief notes and events. Directly accessing notes at the Chandler Hub is a workaround on the laptop for now… I can’t enter text from the iPad for whatever reason though (grumble mumble) except by using the iPhone app (snarl hiss).

One thing I’ve started using Chandler for is to capture whatever random thoughts about White Pickups wander through my mind at any given moment. I thought I was going to start working on the last part of Book I today at lunch, and realized I needed to give the plot a little more thought… into the iPhone I went and added the information, now it’s on the hub whenever I’m ready for it.

So as always, you get your choice between free (or Free) and community-supported, or paid for and (maybe) reliability. The big problem I see with the latter is that going with a commercial cloud-based service is like giving your data to some corporation and then renting it back. Everything’s fine until you can’t make the next payment.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010 2 comments

Only in Sector 706…

You’d think that soldiers tossing grenade simulators at people in a parking lot would be crazy enough for Planet Georgia.

Now The Boy tells me that the local Chevron got raided and shut down for running a gambling operation in a back room and selling designer drugs? (couldn’t find a link) Too bad they weren’t selling moonshine, at least we could have made jokes about liquor in the front and poker in the rear.

Things break down in August. My car and Daughter Dearest’s are two recent casualties. I guess the heat is starting to fry what’s left of the pod people’s brains too.

Monday, August 23, 2010 2 comments

White Pickups, Episode 49


“So Stef’s gonna be okay,” Johnny told the others, eating a late lunch at a large round table in the Laurel Room. “He and Palmer are moving into #107 so he can get out and around. Palmer and Tim are hunting up a chair for Stef right now; Rita gave them some med supply places to check out. When they get back, we’ll roll Stef into #107 and he can start healing.”

“I guess if there was one piece of technology that still worked, I’d want it to be cellphones,” Rita said, sitting close by Johnny. “I know it’s necessary to make these trips, for sanity’s sake if nothing else, but if both of them had been seriously injured —” She shook her head.

“What about radios?” Cody asked around a mouthful of sandwich (peanut butter and jelly in one of Sally’s rolls). “My dad had a CB rig in his car, mostly to listen to the truckers tell everyone where the cops were.” He grinned at Cleve, who snorted. “He bought an antenna to have one in the house, but the H-O-Assholes wouldn’t let him put it up.”

“Prrrroperty values über alles, mein Herr! Ja wohl!” Johnny gave a Nazi salute, sandwich still in hand. Cody snickered; the others rolled their eyes. “Y’know, now that you bring up the CB, I had an uncle who was into ham radio. He could talk just about anywhere with that setup. Maybe we should look into getting some of those. I remember him saying you had to have a couple different kinds, depending on whether you wanted to talk across town or across the ocean. Maybe we could get in touch with anyone still out there while we’re talking to ourselves.”

“Sounds good — so who’s gonna Google the Yellow Pages?” Kelly grinned. The others laughed; that was a running joke since the first day everyone came together. “Maybe there’s a store or two that sold radio stuff around here.”

“Wonderful,” Sondra said, but with a smile. “More stuff to charge in the evenings. Speaking of which, how are the solar panels doing?”

“Plenty of capacity,” Cody said. “Even with everyone’s stuff charging, it’s still charging the battery until 5:30 or so on sunny days. Then we’re turning on lights anyway. If we get some more panels, we could probably get by without the generators unless we get a bunch of overcast days in a row. Y’know, if we could get one panel for each of the occupied units, we could run some lights at night.”

“Figures,” Cleve laughed. “Tim and Palmer are out on an expedition now, and we’ll have two or three more for them before they get back!” The others laughed with him. “I guess we gotta get those radios though, we might not be so lucky next time.”

Nobody spoke for a long moment. “What I don’t understand,” Rita said, “is what happened to the bicycles. Ben showed me the video where Cody threw a crowbar through the truck out by the gate. If Stef was already off the bike, and he’d have been likely killed otherwise, shouldn’t the truck have simply passed through it without damaging it?”

Sondra nudged Cody. “Um,” he said, “I might have an idea about that. We can check it out after we finish eating.” He popped the last bit of sandwich in his mouth and chewed slowly.

“Well, what are we sitting around here for?” Kelly glared at Cody. “You had this idea, and you weren’t going to share it?”

“Sure I was!” Cody growled around a mouthful of sandwich, crossing his arms and returning Kelly’s glare. “I don’t see why I’m always the one who has to think of these things — I was waiting to see if someone else would think about it.”

“Well, what is it?” Johnny laughed. “You gonna share now?”

“Sure,” Cody said. “I think I stashed the crowbar downstairs. If someone wants to get Ben to video this, we can be done in half an hour.”

Word got around, and once again everyone gathered at the gate. Cody grinned at Charles and took a stance much like his “lecture” stance, with the crowbar behind his back. “Awright, let’s review what we know,” he said, then pointed at the truck with the crowbar. “Shush, you, I’m lecturing here.

“So we know if you touch a truck —” he stepped over and gave it a gentle kick — “or touch it with something —” he rapped the hood with the crowbar — “it’s solid. It’s there. But —” he tossed the crowbar onto the hood and watched it drop through — “if you throw something at it, it goes right through.” He reached underneath the truck and retrieved the crowbar.

“Hey,” Johnny said. “I just thought of something. If we got some ropes with hooks on ’em, do you think we could pull this sonufabitch off the property and roll it into the street?”

“Good question,” Cody said, “but not ger— uh, not relevant to our experiment today. Ben? Zoom in on the front of the truck, just get everything between the wheels in the frame.” Ben fiddled with a rocker switch and nodded; Cody gave him a thumbs-up and turned the pointed end of the crowbar to the pavement, leaning on it like a cane in front of the truck. “Okay, Stef was off his bike, and the truck smashed it anyway. So we’ve thrown things at the truck, but we never leaned anything against it.” He propped the crowbar against the grill of the truck and let it go —

And it stayed in place, leaning against the truck. The others murmured as if Cody had pulled off a spectacular magic trick. Cody himself watched it suspiciously for a moment, then took up the crowbar.

“The truck is solid to other objects if they’re touching a living being — or if they’re touching the ground,” he said. “Y’know, if they ever decide to make trouble for us…”

“Yeah, well maybe we should make some trouble for them,” Johnny said. “And you ain’t the only one around here with ideas.”

Cody grinned. “About time! What’s the plan?”


Friday, August 20, 2010 4 comments

A Little Quiet

I took the day off work today to help Daughter Dearest head back to Reinhardt for her junior year. Mrs. Fetched also enlisted Panda to help with various items. Last night was a bit of a crisis; she had some hard drive corruption and her MacBook suddenly decided to refuse to boot. Then Disk Utility said it couldn’t fix the problem. DD said I spent five hours on it altogether, but that was because I didn’t want to invoke the nuclear option (but had to in the end): copy her home directory to an external drive, reformat the internal, then copy her files back after installing Snow Leopard.

I got her refrigerator out of the studio first thing this morning, just to make it easier to move. Then I found an inch of ice in the freezer compartment, so I let it sit outside with the door open. A couple hours later, it hadn’t thawed much, so I took a hammer and chisel to the ice. A spray and PSHHHHHHHH let me know I managed to knock a hole in a freon area… dammit. I took the beer out of my fridge and let her take it instead.

There was a 40% chance of rain today, and light sprinkles were already starting just as we finished loading the truck. Panda tied a tarp over the back, and off we went — and the rain quit a few miles away, naturally. We both managed to find parking slots in front of the dorm and started hauling. For some reason, Mrs. Fetched insisted on bringing Mason with us, so the first few trips up I had Mason in the sling and what little loads I could carry with my free hand. Finally, I wised up and gave him to Mrs. Fetched and I was pulling full capacity for the last two trips.

Two females in a tight space means not a whole lot of room… but after about 20 minutes of putting stuff away, there was enough floor open to move around a little. Once it was slightly more under control, the rest of us bailed for home… and that’s when the rain really started coming down. Mrs. Fetched’s car has some tires on the back that are really prone to hydroplaning on certain roads, and she thought we had a flat tire. She wanted me to stop NOW, but we were going down a hill and I didn’t want to change a tire on a slope. “I don’t care, you could damage the rim!” she yelled. Oh yeah, really nice, the rim is more important than my foot getting crushed when the car falls off the jack. My mind tends to shut off input when it gets that irrational… and of course, none of the tires were flat when I got out in the rain to have a look. We continued on, slowly, until the roads cleared up.

So DD is gone all week and many weekends to come. Fortunately, Snippet has been stepping up a bit in the last week, getting up in the mornings and taking care of business — and DD has been visibly more pleasant to Snippet in response.

Plenty of stuff to do tomorrow, some work-related. I’ve also done some writing on the White Pickups sequel… and did I mention I had a couple ideas for spinoffs?

Monday, August 16, 2010 5 comments

White Pickups, Episode 48


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Rita was showing Sondra and Johnny how to compress a large wound when Palmer burst through the door, scratched, scraped, and hysterical. “Stefan! He’s —” he waved his arms and pointed at the door, panting.

“Calm down, Palmer!” Rita snapped. “What happened?”

Palmer collected his wits and started over: “We were riding up the shoulder of ’85 against the traffic. We started racing and we bumped. Stef went over the guardrail — the bikes —”

“Never mind the bikes right now!” Rita said. “Where is he? Was he conscious?”

“Yeah. I think he broke his leg. I had to run all the way back here.”

“Could be internal bleeding. We need to get to him, stat. Palmer! You can get hysterical later, but you must take us to him now!”

“I’ll get Tim,” Sondra blurted, and ran out the door.

“Good idea,” Johnny said, “Tim can get you there faster.”

Rita finished packing her go-bag as Tim ran in. “Sondra told me what happened,” he said. “I’ll put Rita on the back of the tandem. Palmer, you ride my single. Trailers are already hooked up. Get us there.”

Two mangled bicycles, lying partway in the right lane, marked the spot. Trucks in the right lane eased over to avoid the wreckage. Stefan lay on the other side of the guard rail, feet resting on a pile of gear.

“Did you put him like that, Palmer?” Rita asked; Palmer nodded. “Good, that should help with any shock.” She stepped over the guard rail, legs a little wobbly from the fast pace Tim and Palmer set, and knelt next to Stefan. “How you feeling, Stef?”

“My leg hurts like hell,” Stefan said. “Other than that, okay. The damned trucks keep asking me if I want a ride. As if.”

“That’s good… if you weren’t hurting, I’d be worried.” She pulled the blood pressure cuff and stethoscope out of her bag. “Gonna check your vitals.”

“Still gotta pulse, doc.” Stefan laughed.

“Hm,” Rita said. “BP looks normal, which might be a little high for you athletic types. Pulse is a little high, but strong. I’m guessing you don’t have any serious internal bleeding going on, but we’ll have to get you back to Laurel to be sure. So… do you remember what happened?”

“Yeah. We were riding along, minding our own beeswax, and we got to racing each other. I was a little ahead, riding next to the guardrail, and Palmer and I must have bumped. I don’t remember exactly what happened after that, until Palmer was trying to get me comfy. He was freaking out, and I told him to go get you. I really need to pee.”

“Hm. Better check your leg, then.” She pulled out a pair of scissors. “Hope you don’t have any sentimental attachment to these pants.”

“Nope. Just what’s in ’em.”

“I’ll give you a coupon for a free pair from Town and Trail,” Tim grinned.

“Pair of pants, I guess — you can’t replace the pair I care about!”

“Boys will be boys.” Rita rolled her eyes and cut the lycra pant leg. Stefan grimaced.

“Hey,” Tim asked Palmer, “what happened to the bikes?” He looked over the mangled remains on the fog line. “Looks like a truck ran ’em over.”

“Well, Stef’s bike bounced into the freeway when he went over the guardrail. I guess a truck hit it —”

“If Stef wasn’t touching it, why did it get smashed? Remember Cody’s crowbar trick? If you weren’t touching the bike, it should’ve gone right through without…” Tim flapped his hand.

“If your ankle isn’t broken, we might be able to put you back together,” Rita reassured Stefan. “Your leg’s broken for sure, though. Looks like you’ll be riding a wheelchair for the winter. We’ll find you one.”

“I don’t know,” Palmer told Tim, “and right now, I don’t care. I just want Stef better and riding again.”

“Guys,” Rita called, “I need your help. We need to get Stef’s leg splinted, then get him onto the trailer so we can get him home. I don’t dare give him any painkillers until I’m sure there’s no internal bleeding, so this isn’t going to be fun for any of us. Especially Stefan.”

“Too bad we didn’t think about bringing Cleve,” Tim said. “Wasn’t he medevac in the Army?”

“We’ll make do.” Rita rolled up a cloth. “Stef, I’m not gonna try to bullshit you: this is gonna hurt. A lot. Bite down on this, so you don't lose a piece of your tongue.

“Palmer, you take his arms. Hold his hands, whatever. Tim, we’re gonna lift his leg and put this wrap underneath, then you’re going to pull to get the bones more or less realigned while I wrap it up. I’m gonna sit on his other leg so he doesn’t kick someone.” She straddled Stefan’s good leg and laid the wrap on the other side. “Okay, Tim, don’t pull yet, just lift a couple inches when I say to… ready? Easy up.” Stefan gasped as Tim lifted; Rita slipped her hands underneath, lifting with one and pulling the wrap into place with the other. “Okay, down easy. You okay, Stefan?”

“I guess that was the easy part,” Stefan said around the gag.

“Right.” She touched his ankle and worked her way up. “Good news, I don’t think your ankle’s broken. There’s a lot of swelling all up and down the leg, but it’s broke here.” She touched the center of the swollen area. “I’m betting it’s a clean break, which is really good. It’ll heal without surgery. Now comes the hard part: Tim’s going to pull and I’m going to try to set the break so the bones are together, then I’ll wrap it. With any luck, it’ll stay put until we can get home and I can put a cast on it. You’ll need to not pull back — relax those muscles as much as you can. Deep breaths, all of you… okay Tim, easy.”

Tim pulled; Stefan clamped down on the gag and screeched as Rita worked. At last, “Got it! Okay Tim, ease off and I’ll wrap him up.” She wrapped the leg and secured the splint with a pair of Velcro straps. “How you doing, Stef?”

Stefan was pale. “I’ve had better days. Are we done yet?”

“Well, we have to get you onto the trailer, then off it back at the clubhouse… Palmer? You alright?”

Palmer shook his head in a big figure-eight. “A little woozy. I’ll get over it.”

“Quick, I hope. I need you and Tim to roll Stef onto the backboard, then hoist him over the rail and onto the trailer. You think you can do that? Dropping your boyfriend would be a Very Bad Thing right now.”

“Yeah. I’ll get the board.” Palmer stood, a little wobbly, then stepped over the rail and retrieved the backboard from Tim’s trailer.

Rita looked at Tim. “What about you?”

“I think I’m okay… I’ve seen injuries like this on rides before. Had a lady tangle with another rider once, she went down and broke her wrist. Fortunately, the ambulance could come right up to her back then. We’re kind of on our own now.”

“Yeah.” She turned to Stefan. “You think you could take a little water and not throw it up?”

“Yeah, that would be good.” She handed him a bottle. “I know — sip it. I still have to pee, though.”

“Uh-huh. Maybe you can hold it until we get you home.”

“Where do you want this?” said Palmer, holding the backboard.

“Over here,” Rita stood. “Tim and I are going to roll him on his side, you tuck the backboard underneath, then we’ll put him on the trailer and strap him down.”

With the leg splinted and wrapped, rolling Stefan onto the backboard was easier than expected. Tim and Palmer loaded Stefan on the trailer and strapped him down as best as they could. The backboard, and Stefan’s legs, hung over the end of the trailer. Palmer drained his water bottle, and they started back to Laurel.


Saturday, August 14, 2010 No comments

Sunset, Sunrise…

Buster T. Butthead punched his ticket — the one-way trip to the Great Porch in the Sky, where the slow truck made of meat rolls by every hour — just a couple days before his legacy saw daylight:


I just hope this litter turns out better than the last batch. I really hated it for them… three of them died of possible birth defects, one was completely blind, two were partially blind and/or deaf, one was “normal.” There’s eight of these… we thought there were nine, but I only see eight in the photo I took above. One of them has already gone walkabout, demonstrating the Houdini-like “quality” of its mom and managing somehow to get out of the pen entirely. Fortunately, I found it lying outside and returned it.

Flame red crepe myrtle branchSince I didn't get a chance to post these earlier, have a couple of crepe myrtle pics too. This one is a big sturdy booger behind the house; it had no problem being used as one end of a woodpile. I don’t ever remember it blooming out like this before; it started at the top and worked its way down.

Newer white crepe myrtleThis is one that Mrs. Fetched and I put in a planter near the detached garage. It and the lemon balm are busily trying to choke out everything else. Mrs. Fetched hopes it will get taller and the branches will get out of the way; right now, you have to brush past it if you park the car next to it.

The Evil Twins and family are coming up for lunch… time to get started.

Monday, August 09, 2010 2 comments

White Pickups, Episode 47

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

When Cody and Sondra announced that they were building a shooting range at Cody’s old house, Cleve, Johnny, and Max volunteered to help. They stacked landscaping timbers, scrounged from overgrown flower beds whose owners had long driven off, to build a backstop. Since the patio had an overhang and no screens, they designated the edge of the concrete the firing line. The previous owner of Johnny’s unit must have made a hobby of target shooting, as there were plenty of targets to go with the carbine, and those all came along.

“Don’t flinch like that,” Sondra told Cody. He stood at the firing line, Sondra’s revolver in hand, while the others looked on. He had his head pulled back and his body twisted into an odd angle. “Relax. You’ve got earplugs. It’s gonna make some noise, but so does your music.” She poked his ribs.

Cody lowered the pistol, shoulders shaking. “How can I shoot if you’re gonna make me laugh?”

“You’ll shoot better if you’re not tense. It’s just like that shooter game you were showing me…”

“With a really heavy controller!” They both laughed.

“Okay, now let’s try it again,” Sondra said. “Stand up straight, don’t shy back. Just point, pull the hammer back, and shoot.”

Bang! Cody’s arm snapped up; the target acquired a dark spot — below and to the right of the bullseye, but in the rings. Cleve, Johnny, and Max applauded.

“Not bad!” Sondra kissed his cheek. “Try again. This time, keep both eyes open.”

Bang! This time, the spot appeared below and left, but closer to the bullseye.

“Not bad, first time shooting!” Cleve said.

“Yeah, I’ve played video games,” Cody said. “Same idea, but it feels a lot different.”

“Yeah. Now try shooting twice. Take your time, look straight at your target, shoot. Pull the hammer back while your hand drops back to the target, and shoot again. Sondra, show him what I mean.”

“Sure.” Cody handed her the pistol. Bang — bang, about a second apart, and two holes opened in the target, no more than an inch from the bullseye.

Johnny whistled. “Amazes me each time I see it. Hey…” he stood up, holding the carbine. “I wanna try something. You game?” He wiggled the carbine at Sondra.

“Sure! Soon as Cody does the two-shot.” She passed the pistol back. “Don’t concentrate. Just do.”

Cody raised the pistol. Bang … bang, about two seconds apart. The second hole was in the bullseye.

“That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” Johnny laughed.

“Lucky shot,” said Cody, with a big grin, as Sondra hugged him.

“The only difference between lucky and good,” Cleve said, “is how often you get lucky.”

“Good one!” Sondra laughed. “So what do you wanna try, Johnny?”

Johnny picked up an empty soda can from the table and handed the carbine to Sondra. “Hey Cody, you mind if I use that busted table over there?”

“Sure.” Cody shrugged and took Johnny’s seat, pistol pointed at the floor between his feet.

“Hey,” said Cleve as Johnny hoisted the wobbly table from the corner of the patio and carried it into the yard. “Like this.” He took the pistol, opened the cylinder and laid it on the table, pointing away from everyone. “Now you know it won’t go off.”

“But there weren’t any bullets left.”

“I’ve seen plenty of guns go off that didn’t have any bullets in ’em.” Cleve gave Cody a grim look. “When I was a cop, I had to clean up a couple messes after someone thought a gun wasn’t loaded. You don’t wanna trust, you wanna know.”

A V of geese flew overhead as Johnny set up the table in front of the backstop. He paused to watch them for a moment, perhaps thinking about shooting one, as their honking calls drifted to the ground along with a few leaves. “Okay,” he said at last, jogging back to the porch. “Shoot at its mouth.” The can lay on the table, its top facing the firing line. The mouth made a dark O at the bottom of the larger silver O.

“Hm.” Sondra hefted the carbine. “Hey… this thing is lighter than it looks.”

“Yeah, they make a great huntin’ gun,” said Johnny. “Doesn’t wear you out luggin’ it around and it’s short enough that it won’t catch every stray branch. It’s what I use to bring the meat home. No scope, but that’s better when it gets dark anyway.”

“Nice.” Sondra lifted the gun, looked through the sights, and thumbed off the safety. “Live on the line.”

“It’s a bit loud,” Johnny warned her.

“Whatever.” She took aim. Boom! The can flipped off the table, bounced off the backstop, and tumbled to the ground. “Whoo! Safe on!” She stepped away from the line and Johnny jogged out to retrieve the can.

“Sweeeeet!” he yelled, looking at the can. “Check this out, guys!” He jogged back, can in hand. The others gathered around. He held the can with the mouth end facing them.

“Huh. What’d she do, knock it off the table without hitting it?” Max cocked his head.

“Guess again.” Johnny turned the can around; there was a small hole on the other side near the corner. “Right through the mouth, out the other side — from fifty feet. You can’t get much better than that!”

Sondra grinned and patted the carbine. “I like this thing, Johnny,” she said. “You might have a hard time getting it back.”

“No problem — as long as you do the huntin’!”

“Haha, I don’t like it that much!” Sondra handed it back. “But I’d like to borrow it from time to time, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure thing. I was thinkin’ about seeing if anyone left a deer rifle in one of these houses anyway.”

“Two doors down,” Cody said. “Mr. Henderson was a gun freak. He was always showing off some piece or another to my dad. You’ll find something there, I almost guarantee it.”

As it turned out, Henderson apparently drove off with most of his arsenal. He left a deer rifle and two pistols behind, though.


Saturday, August 07, 2010 No comments

11th Month-Day

Mason and MoptopMason was 11 months old as of yesterday… has it really been that long? In another month, we’ll be off to the resort… but we’ll have to come home to celebrate his first birthday party.

Things have settled down a little, what with M.A.E. and Moptop in their own apartment, and while Mason was happy to have someone to play with, now he doesn’t have to worry about Moptop knocking him down (his balance is still marginal) or waking him up with one of her shrieks when he’s napping. He’s still too busy to accumulate much baby fat. He’s started to crawl under things, and that led to one rather funny incident from last weekend: he crawled under this “music table” toy and got stuck. He squawked about it and I lifted it off of him. He crawls under the daybed (which we need to take down now that M.A.E. is gone) and verrrry carefully raises his head because he’s already learned he’ll bonk the bottom otherwise.

It’s just him and me this morning, and he just woke up from his morning nap. I’m seriously thinking about taking him to the library, just to get us out of the house for a while. I took him for a brief walk down the road and back this morning, carrying him in the sling because both of the strollers have mildew after sitting in the garage. His nap happened shortly after.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010 4 comments

She’s Leaving Home, Bye-Bye

MoptopToday was a day long hoped-for, and even more hoped for since the end of June: M.A.E. and Moptop have moved into their own place! They have an apartment in town, with an easy stroll to a supermarket and the convenience store (gotta suck those butts, yup yup). There are a couple of questions I haven’t worked up the nerve to ask — I don’t want to be a wet blanket — which are:

1) How is M.A.E. getting to work?

2) Where is Moptop going to stay while M.A.E. is at work?

But hey, let’s not focus on the negative here. Abba House, a more-or-less local women’s support charity, gave her a bunch of furniture for the apartment. I think we had a piece or two we sent along, and we certainly made sure they have some basic necessities (toilet paper, wash cloths, etc.). 9th District Opportunity is helping with the first month’s rent, a church org is doing some other stuff. I really have to hand it to M.A.E. — she got on the phone and made most of this stuff happen, then she got herself a job (yeah, Burger King, but like I said this isn’t a post for negatives). It’s a big step — a lot of people have said, even to her face, that she would never be able to live on her own… and now she’s not only doing it, she’s supporting a kid.

As long as she lived with us, this is almost like watching one of my own kids spread her wings. Now if we can push Snippet and DoubleRed out of the next, we’ll be set!

Monday, August 02, 2010 2 comments

White Pickups, Episode 46

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sondra spun around. “That was a gunshot!” she said. “Not far away, either.” She patted her hip. “Damn. It’s in the unit. Cody! Can you watch the oatmeal for a minute?” She, Cody, and Sara were in the parking lot, cooking breakfast for the community on the permanent grill they’d built from bricks and other construction materials. Patches of last night’s frost still lingered in shady spots, and all three stayed close to the warmth of the coals.

“Yeah, I guess.” Cody checked the pancakes, flipping several, but Sondra was already bounding up the steps. “Someone needs to get Cleve too.”

“I’ll get him,” said Sara. “Tim too. Can you cover my station too, Cody?”

“Aw, hell… I guess. If you move your griddle over here where I can keep an eye on it!”

Cody checked Sara’s griddle, flipped two pancakes, then slipped three of his onto a platter. “Damn,” he said to himself, “I guess I need to learn how to shoot, just so I don’t get stuck watchin’ the freakin’ grill whenever something happens.” He grinned. “At least I don’t have any bacon or eggs to watch out for!” He stepped over and stirred the big oatmeal pot, then scooted the pot away from the coals a little. “Slow you down a little, I won’t have to check on you so often.”

Sondra slapped down the stairs, holster slung over her shoulder, one hand on the pistol to keep it from bouncing around. “Cleve out yet?”

“Up here,” said Cleve, stepping into the open stairwell and buckling his own gunbelt. “What’s goin’ on?”

“I heard a gunshot, off that way,” said Sondra, pointing into the empty subdivision. Cody gave the pancakes a glance, flipped a few and removed two more, then turned to watch. Sara returned, took her griddle back, and checked Cody’s.

“This is how we roll,” said Cleve. “You stay back, thirty feet or better, and walk alongside the houses where you got cover. I’ll go up the street. If we got a hostile, he’ll be watching me. You get in a position to take him if you have to.”

“What’s going on?” Tim jogged out to meet them, carrying his holster.

“Sondra heard a gunshot, thinks it’s inside the fence. I guess we can use the extra backup. I’m putting Sondra on the right side of the street. You take the left.”

“Got it.” Tim buckled the holster. “Let’s go.”

“Be careful, Tim!” Sara called after him, then a little quieter, “Love you.”

Cleve waved them to a halt for a moment, kicking off his shoes. “Too much noise on the pavement.” He started off again, nearly silent in his stocking feet. Quiet, but cold, he said to himself, picking up the pace a little. They moved up the street; dormant gardens and untended houses watched them jog by. Sondra pointed the way at each intersection, hesitating a little more the deeper they went in.

Toward the back of the subdivision, Tim waved them down and motioned the others to join him at the corner of a house. “Hear that?” he whispered. The morning air carried something that sounded like humming or low singing to them.

“Yeah. Okay, show time. Lucado, you go down to the next house and come in from the far side. Petro, you go around the other side of this one. Both of you stay under cover unless there’s more shooting, or until I call you out, got it?” They nodded, and Cleve slipped his shoes back on. “Okay, do it. You got thirty seconds to get in position: now!”

Cleve slipped up the side of the house, counting seconds. He caught a glimpse of motion, and peered out. Someone was there all right, humming to himself in an overgrown backyard, kneeling on the ground. A old military-looking rifle was slung over his shoulder.

Laurel police!” Cleve yelled, gun out. “On your feet, slow! Keep your hands where I can see ’em and turn around!”

The man jumped. “Cleve!” he yelled, standing and turning. “It’s me!” Johnny waggled his hands on either side of his head.

“Shit, Johnny!” Cleve said, holstering his pistol. “What the hell you doin’ out here, shootin’ and gettin’ everyone riled up?” He called out. “Stand down, y’all! It’s Johnny!”

“Getting us some meat!” Johnny grinned as Tim and Sondra stepped out from behind the houses, pointing at a buck lying in the grass. “A six-pointer. I was about to hang it up and start field-dressing it when you scared the living crap outta me. Laurel police? We got a force now?”

“Sure,” Cleve said. “All of us. Sounds more official, anyway. I figure if we do run into someone, it’ll stop ’em for a second. Sometimes, an extra second is all you need.”

“Yeah. Well, since you’re here, you guys wanna help me get this buck skinned and gutted? There’s enough meat here for two meals for everyone!”

“Aha,” said Sondra. “Tell you what. I’ll leave you guys to that, and let everyone know everything’s okay. Besides, Cody’s probably gonna burn the oatmeal if I don’t get back there.” She turned and jogged away.

Johnny grinned at Sondra’s hasty retreat. “You guys ever skin a buck before?” Tim and Cleve shook their heads.

“How’d that thing get in here, anyway?” Tim asked.

“I came out just before sunup. I was sittin’ up on the roof there —” Johnny pointed at a ladder at the back of the house — “and I watched this ol’ boy take a good long look at the grass over here. He stepped up on that high spot across from here, then he cleared the fence in one hop. I shot him as soon as he landed. Okay, you guys ready to do this?”

Sondra gave Cody a gentle slap on the butt as she jogged back to the grill, puffing a little from the jog. “It was Johnny,” she said. “He shot a deer in the back of the subdivision. Cleve and Tim are gonna help him gut it, I guess.”

“Great!” Cody grinned. “Fresh meat! I hope there’s enough to go around.”

“Enough to go around twice, from what Johnny said. It was pretty big.”

“It’ll be nice to have some meat that doesn’t come out of a can. Hey, maybe you oughtta teach me how to shoot, and we can all do some hunting.”

“Sure. But where?”

“How about the back yard at my old place?”



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