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Monday, March 21, 2011

Guest Post: Firestorm Chapter 10 , by Christopher Young

Prodigal Faith



Call. Oh, that trips a memory. Gomer pulled out his cell phone, and called Heather. From the engine noise in the phone, he could tell that Heather was on the road. Asked for details. The Buick started up fine, after the battery charger. "Where did you hide the keys, really?" Heather asked. She was taking Zack, just in case. "Yes, dear, I did bring the pistol you left. Yes, dear, I do know how to shoot it." As she was talking on the cell phone, Heather was driving west on route 5, going about 35 MPH. Fast enough to get there, but slow enough she could stop if she had to.

Rounding a corner, Heather saw Faith's mini van. "Got to go, dear" she said and disconnected. She and Zach looked, not knowing what to expect. A column of smoke was coming up from the van. Things did not look good.

Smoke, that's what Connie most needed. She was going buggy, with worry. She had to appear calm and collected for the kids sake. Hmm. What would calm the kids. A movie, of course. Connie went outside, to start the generator. It wasn't there. No matter, they could listen to the radio. She went in, and turned on the battery radio that sat over the sink, on the windowsill. The radio crackled with static, and so she tuned the dial. One station. Just one.

Connie finally turned to the kids, and told them to go out and play. Madison and Jade slowly got up from the table, and went out the door. Normally, they would love to go out and play. Today, it was a somber, almost funeral mood. Connie went to the liquor cabinet. If she couldn't smoke, she could drink. She opened the liquor cabinet, and the cabinet was empty. That's strange. Usually a half dozen bottles of booze there. She turned and looked into the living room. There was a booze bottle from when David had offered Chuckie a drink. The bottle was laying on its side, on the floor. the living room smelled of liquor. There was some liquor left in the bottle. Connie sat down on the floor. Picked up the bottle, and put it to her lips. The golden brown liquid burned as it went down, but the warmth in her stomach was a relief. She drank another swallow of liquor, and then another.

The radio over the sink continued to play music. And then the announcer came on "This is KBZW radio from Nashville Tennesee. Bringing you repeats of the songs you remember from the Grand Ol Opry. We now go to local and national news. We have heard an important announcement from the President of the United States. And this is what it says: Dear Civilians, in this time of trouble and hardship, we are reminded again of what makes this country great. Ours is a nation which has survived hard times before, and we will endure this trouble which we have at hand. I am calling on all people to remain calm. Trust your national and local law enforcement. It may be necessary to go for a short period of time to a FEMA center, as this problem is adressed. Do not be afraid. Your rights and liberties under the Constitution will be respected during this period. Please follow all instructions given to you by local or national law enforcement, as we do our best to restore order in this great nation."

In Ohio, the same announcement was being played through the speaker of Sam's multi-band radio. Eyes met across the table. Chris broke the silence by saying it looked like chaos, and total lost control in the nation. Every man for himself. Martial law is in place. There was silent agreement.

And the opposite of lost control. Heather had been driving slowly, and in good control of her Buick. Not sure why there was smoke coming from the mini van. She pulled up behind the mini van, about 100 feet back. Heather left the motor running, and got out. Zack got out the other side. They met, at front of the Buick, and slowly walked towards the mini van. Heather quietly drew the pistol out of the holster. And motioned for Zack to get back in the car.

Heather slowly approached the mini van. She got to the back of the van, and peered in through the window. Nothing appeared to be on fire, in the van. Faith remained slumped over the steering wheel. The horn was silent. But, still, there was the smoke. Heather creeped around the side of the van, and looked out to the front of the van. She didn't believe her eyes. Wasn't sure if she should laugh, cry, or go blind. It was such a surprise.

The two girls had kindled a camp fire, and were beside the camp fire, throwing sticks in. As Heather watched, Bobbi went back into the woods, and got some more sticks. She shared them with Savannah, and they put more sticks on the fire.

"Whatcha doing?" Heather called. Both girls jumped in surprise. Looked toward the van, and then came running for a big hug. The two girls started talking at the same time. There was a confusion of munchkin voices, as they both talked. Heather was used to the confusion, and figured out that the girls woke up. They had remembered the camping training that Gomer had given them. They had set out to start camp breakfast. There was no mess kit, but they did find a lighter in Mom's purse, and some papers in the back of the mini van. After a couple tries, they had a nice camp fire. Which is good, cause it was cold in the morning when they got up.

"How's your Mommy?" Heather asked. Suddenly there was silence. Well, guess we'll just have to go look. Heather hollered back to Zack to bring the trauma kit. Zack knew exactly which bag that was. He hauled it out from the back seat, and it fell to the ground with a thud. He turned, to sling the trauma kit over his shoulder like he'd seen Gomer do so many times. But, Zack wasn't quite tall enough, and he had to drag the bag a little on the ground.

A quick vitals check finds that Faith is still alive. Her pulse is a bit slow, but then she's been unconscious over night. The girls did a great job, to cover her with clothes. Heather checked for pupil reaction. One dilated. Hmm. Probably brain trauma. Hit her head on the steering wheel, maybe. From the crash. Heather called Gomer, on the cell. Time for a medical consult. Gomer asked the vitals, and medical signs. Figured the best thing doing is to move Faith back to Gomer's retreat, and let her sleep it off for a day, see if she recovers. Not much else that they can do, medically.

It took some work to get Faith out of the mini van. The drivers door didn't want to open. So, they had to go through the passenger side door. Heather didn't have much in the way of splints, but they were gentle. Zack was worth more than two ambulance medics. Strong, but small enough that he could work in tight spaces. They loaded Faith into the passenger side of the Buick, and the kids climbed in the back doors.

Heather sent the girls back, to put out the camp fire. And to get any clothes, or anything useful out of the mini van. Figured they might not be able to get back, and the kids would need the clothes to wear.

Heather called Gomer, on the cell. Update on vitals, and the transport was underway. She said something about the girls had started a camp fire, and were staying warm that way. Gomer smiled from ear to ear "That's the girls I know!". The other folks around Sam's table wanted all the details, which Gomer told them after he ended the call.

Fire? Sam looked up when Gomer mentioned the camp fire. "Aren't you supposed to be taking out the trash, and burn it in the barrel?" Since the boys had arrived, Sam decided since they would be here for a couple days, Chris and Gomer should have chores like everyone else. Sam reminded Chris that his chore was to keep the wood pile stocked, next to the wood burning stove. "Yes, that's all done" Chris replied. Brenda went and looked in the other room. She came back and nodded. It was easy enough for Chris to keep the wood pile stocked. Every time he went to the garage to check on the Model A rebuild, he brought back two pieces of wood. Brenda opened the cabinet under the sink. The trash can was filled to over flowing. The food scraps from yesterday stank, and a couple of the baby's diapers were turning strange colors.

"Get your ass in gear, and get to your chores!" Sam hollered at Gomer. Gomer started to say how busy they had been the last few days. But no one believed him. Cause Gomer had spent the last couple days sitting in the recliner chair. Reading Sam's magazines, listening to the radio, and sipping iced tea. Occasionally playing a battery power video game. Sam cranked up a tirade about keeping the chores caught up. Hollered enough that the baby woke, from her nap in the living room.

Gomer finally carried the trash can out, and dumped into the burn barrel. Came back and put the trash can back. Sam started in about doing the job completely. There was plenty of trash piled next to the trash can. And, the burn barrel had not been lit. This went on for most of an hour. Sam hollered, Gomer looked surly and resistant. Finally, the trash got carried out. By this time, Brenda had taken the baby, and gone for a walk around the block.

And, Sammy had come back from his walk. Dad asked him what he did on his walk. "Oh, nothing" was about as much answer as anyone could get from Sammy. Everyone knew there was much more going on. But, they decided not to press for details, at the moment.

About twenty minutes later, Heather arrived back at the Gomer compound. She turned her key in the electric gate lock, and the gate slid open slowly. Drove in, and parked the car right by the side door of the house. Melissa walked in from the swing set, looking very pretty in her play clothes, and pink jacket. She had ear muffs on, which were pretty, but a bit much for the crisp fall season. Heather asked where Shawn was. "Oh, such a boy!" was all Melissa would say. Then, she rolled her eyes up into her head, total exasperation.

Heather hollered for Shawn, yelling out towards the woods. In a few seconds, Shawn arrived, covered in dirt and mud. Looking a bit cold. Faith's two girls looked at Shawn, and started giggling. They looked at each other and then looked at Shawn. Shawn moved both hands to cover his bits, and then started to walk sideways up the stairs, trying not to show his bare butt.

"Back to the job at hand, kids!" Heather commanded. She opened the passenger door, and unbuckled the seat belt which had been holding Faith. Zack helped to carry Faith into the house. They set her gently on the living room sofa. Zack went into the other room to get a blanket. Heather did another vital signs check. Low, but stable.

Low, but stable is how to describe Connie. She had her limit of stress, and was now sleeping on the living room floor. A couple ounces of liquor had calmed her nerves enough that she was able to sleep. Madison and Jade came back in from playing, about an hour later. They were both thirsty and hungry. But what to do? They silently walked over to Connie, and checked to see that she wasn't dead. Enough people were dead around the house, you had to be sure. Madison went into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. the warm fridge smell wasn't all that good, but there was still some orange juice. She poured a glass, and handed it to Jade. Another glass for herself. Madison looked in the cabinet. There was a MRE chicken, which she and Jade both liked. She picked up a sauce pan from the kitchen sink, and rinsed it under cold water. Pair of scissors to open the Mylar foil pouch. "How you gonna heat it? We're not allowed use the stove" Jade asked. "Well, this is an emergency" Madison answered. As the chicken portion was fully in the pan, she opened the valve on the camp stove, and lit a match.

There was a honking noise, and both kids jumped. Madison turned to the stove, figured she'd broken something. But then, they realized it was a car horn. Both kids grew pale, they figured Chuckie had returned. Or some other disaster. They took each other by the hand, and slowly walked towards the front window, to look out.

Looking. That's what five kids were doing, at Gomer's compound. Faith had been placed on the sofa in the living room. "Will she be all right?" Sean asked. "Sure, she'll be fine in a couple days. Now, get cleaned up and put some clothes on, already!" Heather replied. "We don't have any naked wild Indians in this house!" Sean howled the Indian War Dance noise, and ran off towards the bedroom for clothes.