Saturday, September 6, 2014

Part 75

The Misters left taking Jamie and Shane with them for better medical attention than the little bit of first aid I had been able to provide.  They also gave Sarge, Cochran, and the woman - who turned out to be named Guinevere Lancelot of all things - what Dad would have called the hairy eyeball.  I'm not sure I get what that means exactly but I recognize it when I see it.  Sarge didn't say a word about their attitude and the other two took their cue from him.

I skinned the rabbit double time and then did what needed doing with the fur while Sarge and the others looked around the yard, taking note of what I'd done that morning.  After the Misters were out of earshot I said, "They are decent people, you just shot two of their kids up is all.  And they're Northerners ... they like to take their time getting to know people."

Sarcasm dripping from every word Sarge asked, "Is that all?"

I shrugged.  What could I say?  It was the truth.

Cochran wasn't shy though and said, "We didn't shoot those guys up, those bonehead recruits from the refugee camp did.  I still can't believe they tried to use a Stinger.  What they heck were they thinking?"

Gwen answered, "They weren't, that's the problem.  They let other people do their thinking for them.  I warned command about the problems using know-nothings would cause but they had their ears shut.  Those types make good cannon fodder, but they're not so good for tactical and political situations.  The docs prefer dumb troops and probably told them to take it and they just accepted the order without question never even taking into consideration the docs don't know what they are talking about three-quarters of the time."

I looked at the three of them.  "OK. Why are things so messed up and how did they get this bad?"

Sarge said, "Stinger.  Wrong tool, wrong tactic, wrong circumstances.  Docs.  Wrong authority, wrong logic, wrong everything.  Recruits.  Wrong tools for the job, and shouldn't be here in general."

"Uh ... that makes things less than clear," I told him.  Sarge rolled his shoulders like he was too irritated to explain.  Dad used to do that sometimes during a particularly bad case or after a bad day.  I did what Mom did when faced with a grumpy man and started food and some warm cider.  The cider is something I make from the pruned up leftover fruit I sometimes run across on wild apple trees.  Sometimes I throw in the dried up cranberries I find in the boggy land to give it a little extra pucker.  I don't find that stuff often so I'm stingy with what I have but I figured that I'd make an exception since I had guests and one of them a "long lost friend."

The stove was soon going and Sarge tossed me a big can of something called Muligatawny stew.  Cochran and Gwen looked at each other and and from their packs they added a can of beans and a can of carrots.  As I looked at what I had to work with, I wondered at something.

"Why are you all carrying heavy cans instead of that military junk that is lightweight?"

Gwen answered, "There isn't any of that military junk left ... at least not in our sector.  It requires special processing to make it shelf stable and production capacity is all but nil right now."  She must have seen something on my face because she said, "Marketing and Manufacturing was what I was going to school for before I was drafted a couple of weeks after Z-Day.  You know what that is?"

I decided not to be insulted and simply answered, "Yeah."

"Good.  Then hopefully you'll understand what it means.  With very little being manufactured in this country - or anywhere else while this pandemic continues - that means that the military, rather than get their supplies from a central shipping point from the government, has to feed itself out in the field.  Totally unconstitutional what was going on for a while - forcing towns to take on and support military units in exchange for security - but little by little bases have been retaken from the chaos and that has allowed the armed forces to start being more self sufficient.  Means a lot of grunts but then again, that's the kind of work it is for the most part.  Hungry troops are sloppy and uncooperative.  Put food in their bellies and things run a lot smoother.  We've also built penal institutions that grow and manufacture useful items for the public good as part of their restitution to society."

I glanced at Sarge and he snorted.  "She's clean.  I know she sounds a little like the damn eggheads but she's proven to be on our side."

I shrugged.  "None of my business."

Gwen sighed.  "Maybe not in a technical sense but I'm not fond of making enemies that I don't need to.  It isn't the least constructive.  Major Watson has spoken of you fondly and I don't want my presence to be an issue here at your unexpected reunion."

I'd think about the rest of it later but something else had caught my attention.  "Major Watson?"

Sarge only snorted.  I looked at Cochran and got a half grin and then it faultered.  He looked at Sarge who refused to explain then at me.  Keeping a look out to make sure he wasn't going to get his head bit off Cochran said, "Battle field promotion."

"I only ever watched old John Wayne movies with Dad but even I know that's a lot of jumps in rank in a short period of time."

Sarge finally sighed and decided to see if one of the few chairs I had would hold his weight.  "Long story short ... Cochran is right as far as it goes.  But listen here Kid, that rank that is hung around my neck doesn't change things much.  I'm still getting dirty doing whatever it takes.  The only reason it happened at all is because there are so few available to be out in the field."

Gwen added, "While that's true Major, you know it is also a matter of being willing, able, and capable as well."

Sarge did that shoulder role again.  I asked, "So do I go around calling you Major now instead of Sarge?"

"No," he answered forcefully and a little angrily.  "You call me anything else and we'll have words.  Like I said Kid, the promotion is mostly just for show.  Chain of command.  All it means is that I get my butt chewed on a little sooner and a little more before it rolls downhill."

"Ok, ok ... I didn't mean anything bad by it.  I just wanted to know."

Sarge sighed.  "Sorry Kid.  I know you didn't.  Seeing you here in the middle of this mess ..."  He stopped for a moment and then looked at the other two and then back at me.  "What I'm going to tell you right now is that you don't say a damn word about what you did here this morning.  Not a single damn word to anyone.  You hear me?"

He couldn't have been more obviously serious if he'd tatooed it on my forehead.  "Why?"

He growled a little bit and I thought it was because I'd asked why but then he growled a little more and said, "What in the hell were they thinking?  Just what in the hell and then to do this?"

I was more confused than ever.  It was like being able to hear only one side of a phone conversation.  "I'm obviously missing some important facts here because nothing you said made a whole lot of sense."  I looked over at Cochran and Gwen but got no help in that quarter.  If anything they looked more serious than Sarge did.

Finally Sarge said, "Kid ... DeeDee ... I know you need an explanation and I'm gonna do my best to give you one so you'll understand how bad and how serious this is but there are somethings you are just going to have to trust me on.  And try and save your why's until I've got most of it out.  It'll save time."

I nodded and he started.

"Some of it goes back to your little appearing and disappearing act.  I'm not saying any of this is your fault or responsibility because you aren't but if I have to have a starting place for my part that would be it.  You got people thinking.  Not a lot of people at first but enough that the condition became infectious to more than half of the community."


  1. Thanks for the great updates Kathy. And yes CLIFFHANGER! But worth it.

  2. As good the 2nd time as it was the 1st time that I read it, thanks Kathy. I have been reading every thing you are posting, new to me or reading it again.
    Quite a construction job excavating for, and poring the slab. Thanks again for the time Kathy