Friday, January 9, 2015

Part 112

Pulling the wagon was awful; it was like pulling my arm out of its socket a little bit at a time and as slowly as it could happen.  I knew eventually all the food would be gone and the load would be lighter, but it was still awful.  And the mud and soft ground didn't help at all; at least in the beginning I didn't have to deal with actual muddy and flooded roads.  I did later which made things even more fun.  Not.

I was also a lot jumpier than I was even in the city.  At least in the city I was with others and we could take turns on guard or on point but during that time there was only me.  It meant I didn't have anyone dependent on me, eating my supplies, but it also meant that there was no one I could depend on but me.  Kind of a catch-22.

I walked, I slept, I hid from the puss brains, I gave a few some mercy when they just wouldn't leave me alone.  That was the sum total of life except when I was avoiding uninfected people.  There were some decent people I suppose but most of them looked rougher than I did and they were all salvaging ... whether the places they were salvaging wanted them to or not.  I looked through a few places to keep my skills sharp but I never found anything better than what I already had and there were a few things I could have used.

It was monotonous and mind numbing.  My boots began to wear out - one of those things I never found replacements for - then I started to run out of duct tape to keep them from flapping and completely falling apart.

It was in April - fourth month of the year to equal the four large holes in both of my boots - when I reached the stateline and entered the St. Croix river area.  I used Hwy 77 which magically turned into Hwy 48 as soon as I entered Minnesota.  The area along the river was beautiful and I decided to stop and regroup and make some decisions.  It was tempting to just keep walking and being mind numb but I knew I couldn't.

I walked into this subdivision looking for some place I could put up for the night.  The houses looked long abandoned but I took no chances.  I skipped the storage sheds behind the houses for the same reason.  Then in one overgrown yard I found the perfect place that was the perfect size and pretty much fitted my mood.  It was a large doghouse ... almost a dog mansion.  I was sure that there was no way I wanted to meet the dog that once called it home, it must have been enormous.  There was an eyebolt on the outside which told me the dog had been chained at one point but the lack of dog odor let me know it was long gone one way or another.  The door was wide enough I could even pull the wagon in without unloading anything except a few things on top.  Even with the wagon inside the doghouse with me there was enough space for me to sleep comfortably.

I poked around before finalizing it as my choice of hotel to make sure there weren't any critters in there and after only finding a turtle shell - long empty of its wearer - I pulled out my bedroll and got comfortable.

Jace's words kept coming back to me.  I needed a plan.  I could not keep wandering aimlessly like those nomads I had read about in social studies.  Maybe if I had a tribe to wander with, but even then I didn't think that would be the life for me.  I also admitted that I was depressed.  I know that sounds really stupid.  I had just survived possibly the worst thing yet after losing my family, and I had enough food to go for quite a while before I got desperate, but I was greedy ... I wanted more.  Not more food or more stuff ... but more something.  At the same time I also knew that "the more" would cost me somehow.  I'm still not sure how much this is going to cost me but I suppose just like eventually everyone leaves, eventually everthing has a cost.

I was laying their quietly thinking when suddenly there was a bunch of racket and I heard someone say, "McClintick you are an idiot.  How in God's name could you have left the gate open on the pen?!"

"I didn't.  I swear I didn't!  I don't know how those damn birds got out.  Sgt. Shadwell is going to kill us!"

Someone else told him, "Ain't killin' us.  You're taking the fall for this one dip-for-brains.  If anyone is going to die it is going to be you fat boy."

"But I latched the cage!  I did!"

"Latch ... you only latched the cage?  You know the hook is bad!  Didn't you chain it shut?!"

"Uh ..."

I heard several men groan and one of them say, "If Shadwell doesn't kill you I just might.  This is the third time you've done this and if we lose any more hens it's gonna come out of our pay.  Why they stuck us with such a loser ..."

"I didn't ask to go with you.  They promised I was going to work in an office if I signed up.  I'm a college graduate for God's sake, with a BA in accounting.  Why should I be out here scrounging around with you?"

I heard a bunch of shuffling around then a solid thud.  One of the men said, "Take that sack of zombie waste to the honey truck and toss him in.  Maybe that will sweeten him up."

"More'n likely he'll just stink that thing up worse."

There were a few tired snickers but no real laughter or humor.  These men were tired and weren't having a real good day.  I was peeping out of a knot hole when I happened to glance up and nearly started laughing.  The whole time they were out there several plump chickens had been roosting in the trees above them and staring down.

Then into the clearing came several rough looking women, one of whom looked like she could have played the role of a valkyrie from some ol' Norse legend ... except she was wearing enough clothes to cover all the vital areas which valkyries apparently do not if you believe the paintings and statues of them.  In fact she looked like she'd eat anyone that tried to politely take her coat.

I could actually hear the guy closest to the doghouse swallow when she showed up.  "Well?"

"Uh ... Sgt. Shadwell ... ma'am ... uh ..."

"I'll take that to mean that you haven't found them yet."

One brave guy volunteered, "It was McClintick ma'am.  He only put the latch on, didn't use the chain."

There was a pregnant silence and I could see the muscles in her working then she sighed.  "The honey truck?"

"Yes ma'am."

"Very good.  I believe I'll go have a discussion with Pvt. McClintick and suggest he give up his pay so the rest of us aren't penalized for his stupidity ... or else."

I don't know what possessed me.  "Pssst.  Stop making so much noise and look up."

Everyone in the clearing froze except for one young woman who automatically did just that.  Then in the next breath I had a bunch of guns pointing at the dog house.


  1. Have to admit it's a great image... the chickens up in the tree just watching the stupid humans....

  2. Thanks Kathy, great chapter and a great story.