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Monday, January 03, 2011

White Pickups, Episode 68


Monday, January 30, 2012

“Have you looked outside yet?”

Cody stood in the door, giving Tim a bleary look. He shook his head and pulled the thick green blanket tighter around his sweatsuit. “You wanna come in? It got cold again last night.”

Tim stepped in, holding a thermos. Cody’s place smelled of wood smoke and inadequate bathing — like every other occupied townhouse — and he had a warm-looking nest in front of the fireplace. “I brought us some coffee,” he said, “if you want some.”

“Sure. I’ll get us a couple of cups. You can have the recliner if you — holy…” Cody trailed off and went to the window overlooking the pool, dodging the bedding. The blanket slid off his thin shoulders and piled itself behind his ankles.

“Pretty, isn’t it?” Tim grinned, watching Cody watch the morning sun sparkle on the ice. Last night’s rain had turned to freezing rain, and ice covered anything it could cling to, nearly a half-inch thick. Water and ice shards dripped where the sun shone.

“Yeah. I bet the power would be out if it was on to begin with.”

Tim laughed. “Yeah. Fortunately, there’s no big trees around the townhouses. We’ll have to take a ride — or maybe a walk — through the subdivision after lunch, just to see if any trees are down.”

“And need cutting up for firewood. People will like that, anyway.”

“Yeah. And if any houses are damaged, we might as well tear them down too.”

“Yow. I didn’t think about that.”

“At least if power lines are down, we won’t have to worry about them being live.”

“Hm… what about the roads?” Cody picked up his blanket and wrapped it around himself again, then ducked into the kitchen and returned with two coffee cups. “If anything’s down out there, we need to clean up some of it just so we can get around. But anything that messes with the trucks… I don’t want to take that away.”

“I don’t think people will care about the trucks if they get easy firewood, Cody.” Tim filled the cups. “Hey, you got any creamer?”

“Just that crappy powdered stuff.”

“Better than nothing. Sugar too, if you have any.”

“Yeah.” Cody retrieved the requested items and two spoons from the kitchen, handed Tim the creamer and poured a little sugar in his own cup. “When it comes right down to it, I guess I’d rather have a warm apartment too.” He nodded at the bedding. “I sleep in front of the fireplace most nights. Me and Sondra talked about doing that when… you know.” He looked at his feet for a moment, then looked up and smiled. “But we managed to keep warm in the bedroom.”

“I’ll bet.” They traded the cream and sugar. “So — how are you doing now?”

Cody sloshed his coffee, sending a little over the side. “Dammit.” He watched the spillover drip to the carpet, and wiped a hand on his grimy sweat pants. “Okay, most of the time. During the day, anyway. At least when I’ve got something to do, then I don’t have to think about it. Nights aren’t so good.” He trailed off and looked down again, then sipped at his coffee.

“Did you give any more thought to moving in with some other people? You’d be welcome at my place, even if there’s not a lot of room.”

“Thanks, but… well, you know about Caitlin. I keep hoping she’ll get over me, sooner or later. That whole thing is awkward.”

“Heh, yeah. People have been joking all along that she could be my daughter.” Tim flicked his red hair. “Especially since we’re in the same townhouse now.”

“Hey, she’s not all bad. She’s one of my best students in skate class. She’s probably trying to impress me, but she pays attention and works on her moves outside of class. That’s impressive by itself.”

Tim laughed. “Yeah, she was showing me she could ‘ollie’ — is that what you call it? — over a shoe last week.”

“Yeah, that’s what I mean. She can ollie higher than the other kids, because she works at it. I was thinking, when it gets warmer, I’d like to take them over to the skate park. We’d probably have to spend half a day cleaning up all the leaves and junk, but maybe we could take some camping gear and spend a couple of days. I could show you a couple of stunt-bike moves if you wanted to come too.”

“Might be fun.” They sipped their coffee and watched the ice.

“Well, the bad news is that we gotta clean up this mess,” Johnny told the cutting crew he’d gathered after lunch; they stood looking at a big oak that the ice brought down into the street. The air was full of odd sounds: a near-constant whisper of dripping water, the patter and tinkle of falling ice, an occasional crack-hiss as another limb — or entire tree — succumbed to the weight of the ice. “The good news… this’ll make plenty of firewood, even if it is kinda green!” He picked up a chainsaw from one of the bike trailers. “Let’s start with the branches.”

“Looks like it’s gonna roll once we get workin’ on it,” said Cody, pointing at the boughs on the street, bent under the weight of the trunk.

“Good eye. Which way, do you think?”

“I dunno. Probably it’ll roll toward whoever’s cutting those branches underneath. Murphy’s Law.”

“Yeah, but Murphy has logic on his side for a change. Too bad we don’t have a tractor with an end-loader, we could lift it right up when the time comes and there wouldn’t be a problem. But we’ll make do with the jacks. Let’s get started — Tim said there’s at least two more like this inside the fence, and more out on the roads. We’ll be cuttin’ for a few days. Or weeks.”

The Laurel Room was well lit for supper; a day of bright sun had charged all the batteries nearly to capacity. “There’s stuff down pretty much everywhere,” said Tim, hands wrapped around a soup mug. “The trucks are getting around it, but it’s really slowing ’em down. We need to get at least some of it cut and out of the way, just so we can get around ourselves.”

“Well, at least we’re set for the rest of the winter,” said Johnny. “What we’re cutting inside the fence should get us all through March. What’s outside will give us a head start on next winter.”

“What are we gonna do about all those power lines?” asked Janet. “They’re down all over the place!”

“Not like they’re live or anything,” Palmer grinned. “We can just pull ’em off the road and outta the way. Maybe we’ll think of something to use ’em for later.”

“Yeah, whatever wood we cut up out there we can leave to dry too,” said Cody. “Maybe it’ll be a little lighter when we bring it in later.”

“If other people come around and see wood stacked up, they’ll know someone’s here. Or they could just take it themselves,” Cleve warned.

“So? Not everyone out there wants us dead. Rob knew we were here all along and he just moved in last week.”

“We can’t assume. Yeah, I know, we can’t assume the other way either.”

“Hey Palmer,” said Stefan. “What do you think we’d use those downed power lines for?”

“Hey, people used to steal phone lines just to sell for the copper. We could probably use it for wire — especially if we get more people in here and have to start running power into houses.”

“We could use the wires we got now,” said Cody. “But we already got all the solar panels from that place. If we get more people in here, we’ll have to come up with another way to make more electricity. If we decide we want it.”

“Windmills,” said Johnny. “And of course we want it. If we got enough juice that we could afford to waste some — hell, maybe we could air-condition the Laurel Room come summer!”

“Sooner or later,” Jason said, shaking his head, “we’ll have to build new homes that don’t need so much heating and cooling. I always wanted to try building a straw-bale house, but building codes around here didn’t allow it. But who’s gonna enforce those codes now?”

“The lack of straw bales?”

“Grass will be growing all over the place, especially where we don’t want it. We just have to bale it up, somehow.”



  1. Nice, quiet, easy-going episode. No tears. That's good. :-)

  2. Heh… they needed a little break, didn't they? But remember, not all tears are of grief…

  3. Lots of housekeeping for the future episodes, Far. Looking forward to the next one.

  4. Hey, I read some of your earlier stuff, longer ago than I thought, as I had totally missed the White Pickups starting! I just read all of it up to this point over the past 3 days, and am really looking forward to the rest. Saw your name on a post elsewhere, remembered your other writing and came over to see if you had been up to anything else. Glad I did! My daughter and I have this strange fear of white pickups, so this is very very creepy.

  5. Hey all!

    Boran, that's a good way of putting it — housekeeping. Setting up to take us into spring and the end of Book 1.

    Hi Eve, welcome back! I've also started posting #FridayFlash (something driven out of Twitter). Most of it is sci-fi, don't hold that against me. ;-) Good timing, this is the last part of the story. There's several loose ends that won't be tied up at the end of this, so there's already a sequel in the works. I haven't gotten far enough to determine whether there will be a Book 3, but there might be some spin-off stories either way. I wonder if it's the sheer generic-ness of a white pickup that makes it creepy.


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