Caring for All

Posted: July 23, 2015 in Book 1 TERROR IN TEXAS
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Jasper Kovak, Amanda, and Joan each presented a list of supplies they announced were essential for the health and well-being of the camp residences.

Matt looked over the pages and huffed. “You know, if I get a quarter of this shit, we’ll be lucky.”

Joan spoke up. “We have almost three dozen people in this camp now. Do you know how much it takes to feed that many people three times a day? Even twice a day?”

Matt raised both hands, palms out in defeat. “I know. I’m sorry, but every trip out looking for supplies gets more dangerous. The infected have started coming out of the city and the suburbs. It just keeps getting worse. We have to be careful not to lead them back to the camp.”

Jasper squared his shoulders. “We need to get larger quantities.” He took a deep breath then continued. “I’ve been thinking about it and there’s a place we can get really big quantities.”

Matt looked at him with renewed interest. “Alright, I’m listening but we can’t devote a lot of men, we need to make this camp as secure as possible and start becoming more self-sustaining or think about finding a place more suitable.”

“I agree, but until then, there’s a freight depot north of San Antonio. Loaded shipping containers come in by train and are off-loaded there, broke down into pallets, and sent out to the grocery warehouses. You could pick up shipping containers filled with goods. All you need is trucks and trailers to set the containers on.”

“All!” Matt snorted. “Are you out of your fucking mind?”

Larry, who had been standing nearby, interrupted. “No. Listen to him, Matt. He may have something there. We make one big haul then we’re stocked up and we can focus on security.”

“We’d need drivers, at least half a dozen. Can you drive a big rig?” Matt asked.

Larry shrugged and Matt continued. “We have a camp full of kids. Out of all the people, we have here we have less than a dozen adults; four women included-one pregnant, one barely out of high school and the other ready for retirement.”

“Young man?” Joan interrupted, lines creasing her face.

“Excuse me.” Matt responded then continued. “That doesn’t leave enough adult males to provide security and scavenge for supplies at the same time. A trip to that place would take days to complete and involve going into the city. Besides that, we’d need to find drivers, we’d be leaving the camp without protection.”

“But….” Jasper protested.

Matt held up his hand. “We don’t have enough people. Plain and simple. We have to keep the camp secure. That has to be a priority so we can’t take more than four people for supply runs.”

Jasper’s shoulders slumped and he shrugged. “I guess you’re right.”

“Wait.” Jake stepped up to the small group. “He’s on to something, just not the right location. There’s a train about fifteen miles east of here filled with storage containers.”

Matt shrugged as he rubbed at his temple. He wanted to head back to the house and the bottle he had stashed behind the couch. Finally, he answered. “That’s still a lot of moving parts to work. How far is the track from a highway?”

“That’s the good part. The road runs parallel to the track where the train is sitting. It’s probably three miles of cars with containers double stacked.”

Jasper grinned. “Was it a southbound train headed into San Antonio?”

Jake shrugged. “On state road-16. West of us. They would be headed that way, I guess.”

“How will we know what’s in those cars?” Larry asked.

Matt shrugged. “We can’t. “I’m sure it’s all electronic inventories these days, all computer controlled. I would think the engineer would know what he’s carrying. But that was him and won’t be us. We’ll have to open containers until we find one we want. Then we load it.”

Larry snapped his fingers and grinned. “If we can find a heavy duty crane truck, we can move whole containers. We won’t have to transfer supplies into a trailer, that way.

“We’d only need four people to get two or three containers at a time,” Jake commented. “In and out in less than an hour.”

“And what would we do with all those containers?” Jasper asked.

Matt answered. “We offload the containers and used them for storage and security. They could be used inside the fence as added protection. We can weld plates between the units on the outside.”

Amanda nodded. “That’s sounds like a long range plan to keep us safe.”

Joan nudged Jasper. “What do you think?”

“If I could get some help inventorying.” Jasper began.

Matt looked back at the gathering. “Okay, then it’s settled. We’ll need a couple days to locate a crane, rigs with container trailers and maybe even scout the train.”

That evening Matt sat at the table with a glass of amber liquid clutched in his hand. His eyes drifted from the glass to the yellow pages. Amy sat a few feet away on the floor playing with Claire. Amanda sat in the kitchen going over an inventory listing of supplies in a spiral binder, adding items to the list to the list to be given to the Matt in the morning.

“How long are we going to stay here?” Amy looked up and asked.

Matt looked up from the yellow pages of ads. “Honestly, I don’t know. There’re a lot of people here who need our help. If we leave, there won’t be enough folks to find food and supplies or protect everyone from the sick people.”

“I miss my mom.” Amy looked up at Matt with sad eyes. “How will my mom know where to find us?”

“I know you miss her, sweetie. I’ve been thinking about that. I’m going to start leaving messages for your mom.” Matt answered. He pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. It was the drawing Amy had done for her mother. A red heart with Amy and Claire’s names in the middle of the heart. I think she recognize this message.

“Yes.” Amy nodded excitedly.

Amanda gathered her papers and stacked them on the binder. She turned to Amy. “Let’s get you and Claire in bed.” Amy got to her feet and followed Amanda up the stairs.

Matt downed the two fingers of Jack Daniels and poured another.

An hour later, he stumbled into the living room to join Larry and Jake on cots recently retrieved from a sporting goods store.

The next morning Matt downed three Tylenol and found the supply list, phone book and the map still sitting on the table. He fanned the pages and pleased he’d dog-eared the page for a sign service company he’d seen listed in the yellow pages. He glanced over the route for the scouting trip to locate a crane and the trucks.

Matt walked out of the house and met Jake, Jenkins, and another soldier by the name of Dreschel at a picnic table to plan the coming supply run.

Larry came out of the Rec Center and Matt looked up.

“You’re off?” Larry asked.

Matt nodded. “In a little bit.”

“Roger that. Guard shifts are squared away. I’m taking some of the kids to the garden. We’re going to try to resurrect some of the plants and get them producing again.”

“Work the plan. Later.” Matt mumbled as he leaned his head back against the headrest.

Jenkins pulled the Humvee through the wrought iron gate. Two soldiers pulled the gate closed as they drove away.

Larry gathered the six oldest kids and headed for the garden. Each carried a thick wooden stick with a sharp point. He stopped at the corner of the office and picked up a coffee can of dirt. The can contained night crawlers he had gotten up early to collect from the dew dampened grass.

“Mr. Larry, what are we doing today?” A sixteen-year-old girl asked as they all walked toward the back of the property.

Larry stopped at the back gate. “We all have to contribute. You girls get a choice. Pick tomatoes and peas and weed the garden or clean out the barn.” He chuckled at the screwed up faces looking back at him. He studied the trio in matching soccer shorts and t-shirts, a blonde, red head, and brunette. “We all have to help out.” He added.

“I’ll pick vegetables.” Mandy, the blonde, answered quickly. The girls with her nodded their agreement reluctantly.

Larry grinned at the boys. “Well looks like you boys will have to muck out the barn.”

One of the boys screwed up his face in protest. “Hey, we believe in equal opportunity. I would rather work in the garden.”

Larry interrupted. “It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. I appreciate your volunteering, fellas.”

The girls laughed.

Larry took the time to hand the girls two buckets and point out the peas and tomatoes to be picked. “Joan said bring a couple onions too. Pay attention and don’t miss anything ready to harvest. We want the plants to keep producing. One of you take what you pick back to Joan and then come back and you can all spend an hour weeding. After that, you’re on your own unless Joan or Amanda needs some help with something or replanting to do.”

The girls walked into the fenced garden while Larry led the boys toward the barn. He stopped and called over his shoulder. “Don’t forget defense training this afternoon. Keep your weapons close by and don’t miss practice.” Larry walked away with the boys in tow.

During his first inspection of the property and the fence line, he had rounded up a half dozen horses, a dozen goats and the coop netted over two dozen chickens. The side of the property ended at a steep bluff with a thirty-foot drop while the back of the property was bordered by a lake of several acres. The fence started at the edge of the lake with a natural rock formation and ended at the edge of the cliff.

Larry pitched another fork of dirty straw into a small wagon as he pondered the limited protection offered by the deer fence around the property. If the fence fell, they would be in trouble. He hoped the scheme to bring in shipping containers worked out.

The smell of animal waste filled the air. For Larry, its aroma brought images of being a kid and working on his grandfather’s farm. He spent summers in the hills of West Virginia. He imagined all the family back there and wondered if they were safe. Trying to chase away the ghosts of family that could be lost to him, Larry asked.

“Carl, you boys know how to fish?”

“Sure, Mr. Larry,” Carl answered as he wiped his bare arm across his forehead smearing a dark smudge across his skin. “I used to go with my family to Lake Austin.” His voice trailed off.

Mark interrupted. “How do you know fish are in the pond?”

Larry answered. “There’s no reason to think there isn’t, since it doesn’t go dry. Add that to the fact I found a brochure in the office that advertised great fishing in a natural, spring-fed pond. I imagine the owners stocked it every year or so.”

“How long are we going to stay here?” Carl asked.

Larry shrugged. “Don’t know. It’s dangerous out there.” He tossed another fork full of muck then continued. “We don’t have enough men or weapons to move this many people.”

“What are we going to do then? Just sit and wait for a bunch of monster people to find us.” Ben asked.

“Hell no. We’re going to make a place that’s as safe as possible. In time, we’ll find some other survivors to join us.” He pressed the metal points of the fork into the ground and leaned against the handle as he studied the three young men. “Look, fellas. We’re all winging it, here. I don’t have answers and I don’t think anyone else does either.”

“But what happened?” Carl asked. “Why are dead people eating people?”

Larry hesitated then answered. “I guess you could call it that, but I think they’re infected with a virus that controls their actions. My unit investigated an outbreak about three months ago. A terrorist group infected a small village in the Middle East. It’s a bio agent that could be passes through blood and body fluids. The important part is, it affected the behavior of the infected causing cannibalistic behavior. Local authorities dealt with it. No one survived and the village was burned. After all, humans have been suffering from new illnesses from time to time since we began walking upright. No one knew for sure what the authorities knew. It was our first hint of an agent causing unpredictable behavior.”

“How did it get here?” Mark tossed a fork of straw toward the window.

Larry went back to work as well and continued. “It was a deliberate attack. Someone released the agent on military bases. They flew a drone over the base with an aerosol release device.”

Mark nodded. “Do you think it’s all over the country or just here?” He used the fork to pull the last of the dirty straw into the open to pick up.

Larry and the boys set the forks aside and pulled four bales of straw from the stack at the back of the barn. Larry cut the strings and began tossing armfuls into the stall. Finally, he answered. “Yeah, strategic bases were hit. They chose bases they knew would have big civilian population surrounding them to spread the contagion quickly and cause the most destruction.”

Carl shook at a clump of straw. “Can the sick people get better? My mom and dad were on the base when I went to school.”

Larry stopped and turned to the boys. “Listen, I hate to tell you this, but we may never know for sure what happened to your folks. Just know they would want you to survive.” He tossed a final cake of straw toward the back of the stall. “Let’s go fishing.”

He led the boys into the tack room and sorted out rods and reels, bobbers, lead weights and hooks. When he was satisfied he had two poles and two working rods with reels and a bucket for the catch, he led the boys to the lake carrying the can of worms.

Larry found a stump and settled down for a cigarette as he watched the freckle-faced red head, Mark, pinch a worm in half and expertly feed the squirming body on the hook. He made a tentative cast and dropped the line midway across the pond.

Carl brushed his hair aside and adjusted his glasses before he settled down on the grassy bank to bait his hook. Still seated and with a jerk of his wrist his line dropped a dozen feet from the shore with the bobber resting on the top of the water.

It wasn’t long before Carl yelped in delight. His pole bent over and he jerked the pole. The fish landed on the dirt at his feet.

“I got one!”

One of the other boys walked over to Carl and congratulated him and helped him take the fish off the hook and fill a bucket with water. With a plop, the three-pound catfish was dropped in the bucket.

Carl waved at Larry with his face glowing with his accomplishment. “I fish good, Mr. Larry.” He grinned, then turned back to the stare at the bobber dancing on the crystal clear water.

Larry watched the boys as they each pulled in catfish and re-baited hooks then tossed the lines back into the pristine water. When he was satisfied the older boys were helping Carl and the two younger two boys that Wandered over, he put out his cigarette and walked back to the barn.

He harnessed one of the horses and walked it to the wagon. He backed the mare he’d taken to calling Bessie, between the shaves and buckled the harness to the wagon.

He led the animal forward until he’d cleared the edge of the barn and made his way to the garden. The girls had both completed the harvesting and headed back to the food truck with the bounty. He guided the wagon to the edge of the garden where a compost pile had been started by the previous owner. He pulled his shirt off and pulled the contents of the wagon to the pile. If they stayed, the compost would be mixed into the garden before the fall planting.

When Larry finished with the wagon, he cleaned it out and returned it to the barn and let the pregnant mare out into the pasture. He walked back to the pond with a second bucket. He found the boys still fishing. He looked into buckets and found three in one bucket and four in the other. All in all, Larry figured the boys had caught at least twenty-five pounds of fish.

“Not bad, fellas,” Larry commented. “It’s about time to head back for lunch.”

Carl puffed up his chest. “I’ll catch more.” He cast the bait and it landed in the water with a splat.

Mark nodded. “We’re on a roll, aren’t we, Carl? Can’t we stay for a while?”

“I guess another thirty minutes won’t hurt anything. Just don’t miss lunch or you’ll be waiting until the evening meal. Defense lesson is at one.” Larry sighed. “I’ll clean what you have and take them back to Joan.”

“Sure.” Mark laughed. “Maybe you can teach us to shoot a gun and we can kill some deer tomorrow.”

Larry laughed as he dumped the water from one of the buckets and spilled the fish into the second. “Don’t think that’s gonna happen. Won’t be any shooting around camp. We don’t want to draw any unwanted attention.” He picked up the bucket. “You boys clean what you catch before you take it to Joan. Bury the trash in the back corner of the garden and make sure you clean up when you’re done.”

Larry stopped by the food truck just as lunch was in full swing. He called out to Joan. “Can you fix a meal with fish?”

Joan stopped dishing macaroni and cheese long enough to give him a quick wave. “Sure. I have all the makings for a gumbo. We can use the fish and deer sausage the fella’s found yesterday.”

Larry opened the door at the end of the truck to pick up a metal pan, fillet knife, and a butcher knife.

Joan grinned. “Bring back my knives in the same condition you found ‘em.” She ordered.

“Yes, mam.”

Larry carried the fish to a trailer pad at the back of the yard. He pulled a short hose and tested the water pressure then put on a nozzle to control the water. He dropped a short cutting board on the concrete and went to work. He spent the next hour cleaning the catfish. Life at the camp was becoming one of quiet routine. He looked up and smiled at the sound of children laughing.

Comments
  1. Emma says:

    Very good

    Like

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