Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Part 128


"You gonna miss your friends?" Lucy asked me.

I shrugged trying to show her that I wasn't interested in her personal questions but she had that expectant look like she could wait me out until I answered.  Finally I gave her another shrug and said, "It was nice to find out they are alive and stuff.  I was just glad to find out that they didn't just leave me in the city on purpose."

"But?"

I looked at her.  Sometimes Lucy's issues really show up and sometimes she is like better than most normal people because she sees into things and people, not just looks at them.  I sighed because I could see she wasn't going to drop it even though I had a lot of packing to do so we could get out first thing in the morning.  I just gave in to the inevitable and answered, "But ... I'm not the same kid I was when I was with them.  I needed them when I was in the city ... I was only fourteen and basically stupid-helpless.  Then I didn't have them and had to learn to make it completely on my own.  I learned a lot in the time I was with them, I had to, but too much time has passed.  I can't go back and be that needy kid again.  Sherry ... er ... Sher I mean ... we talked it out.  She understands and to be honest she is relieved.  She and Moe make a good living for them but another mouth is another mouth and she's already preggers again.  They're happy and junk about it but I think that even though they'd take me in they're relieved they don't have to."

"And you're relieved you don't have to go back to being bossed around."

I looked at her and realized she was going somewhere with our conversation.  I shook my head.  "You know, it's just better if you go ahead and spit it out.  It's not like I'm going to totally freak or something.  Just say what you need to say."

She continued going through her gear but did as I asked, "OK.  Here's the deal.  You can get away with your mouth and stuff here at base but when we are out in the field Shelly is in command.  You can't mouth off to her and you gotta just do what she says even if you don't understand or don't agree.  You may not be active duty personnel but we are and we have to operate a certain way."

"OK."

She stopped and looked at me.  "That was too easy."

I snorted and kept doing what I was doing.  "What?  You expected me to throw a hissy fit like a baby?"  She just kept looking at me so, with a sign, I explained.  "Look, I thought about all of this stuff before I signed up.  MSgt. Shadwell made sure I understood how patrols work.  I'll be alone a lot of the time but when you guys are around I am answerable to you all, especially Sgt. Shelly whose job it is to make sure everything runs the right way so that we can all survive and not get hurt any more than necessary.  If you all were a bunch of jerks and really stupid maybe I would squeak more but you're not.  You go out of your way with your babysitting act - which I have got to tell you is totally annoying - but you aren't doing it to be mean but because you don't know how well I can take care of myself.  This first trip out will be my chance to prove you don't need to hold my hand all the time but don't worry, I'm not totally stupid so I'm not going to put us in danger by acting all tough and carp like that.  My job is to cook and protect our supplies.  I can do that ... whatever else you do is your job and I'm keeping my nose out of it as much as I can."

Sgt. Shelly casually stepped into my line of sight ... I'd known she was there which is why I said things the way I did.  She gave me a long, considering look ... the kind Dad used to use when he was interrogating Toddie when he wasn't sure if he would tow the line or not.  "You sure you're ready for this Pip?  Fieldwork is just that ... work.  And it can be boring one second and dangerous the next.  We have to be able to depend on one another and that includes that you.  A soldier travels on their stomach.  If we don't eat, or we don't eat well enough, we aren't going to be able to give one hundred percent and in a dangerous situation that could cause injury or even death ... not just to us but anyone that we are responsible for protecting.  You may be a noncombatant but your position is still essential to the patrol.  If you cannot shoulder the responsibility I need to know now."

I stood up and looked her square in the eye.  "I'm a cook and a good one.  I'm resourceful.  I've been listening to Moe and some of the other sutlers and I think I have a handle on what kind of things I'm going to run into ... shortages, that sort of thing.  I won't know for sure how things are going to work out until I've had some of what MSgt. Shadwell called field experience in a group setting.  I know I can take care of myself, now I just have to learn how to take care of you guys."

Sgt. Shelly gave me the squinty eye trying to figure out whether I was making a joke or not.  She decided I was and I decided it wouldn't be what you call prudent to inform her it wasn't.  I'm not too worried about it ... at least the cooking part.  I just don't know if I can put up with them.  It has been a long time since I've had to share space with anyone, especially four other females that seemed to refuse to see me as anything other than just another person they need to take care of.

The four women finally gave me some space by going off to some kind of meeting after which they'd get their own personal supplies refilled.  I needed the space because I was getting uber frustrated.  I do not like the way they package the food supplies.

The freeze dried fruits and veggies are in number ten cans.  It doesn't matter how much they give you of each, they are all in the same size cans.  For instance, in the food I get for this time out I've got a supply of both blueberries and corn.  I opened the blueberries because they were so lightweight and the can wasn't even half full.  Out of curiosity I opened the corn and found out that can wasn't full either.

What I have to store things in is also a trip and not what I would call your average military vehicle.  In fact it isn't a vehicle at all but a hot dog cart.  I'm not kidding.  The stainless steel area looks just like the hot dog and ice cream carts that would show up at the park in good weather.  It is on two wheels but then things get even funnier looking.  There is like part of a bike attached so that as you use the pedals you are pushing the stainless steel part.  Then attached to the back of the bike is another trailer that hauls the none-food items.

I've made a few practice runs and to say that it is awkward doesn't even begin to cover it.  Going uphill is gonna kill me.  Trying to keep the whole thing from running away as I go downhill might kill me twice over.  Going off road ... well, you get the picture, but it is what all of the cooks use.  No wonder there are no fat cooks.  I'm going to need to eat a lot just to be able to ride this stupid looking thing and keep it going.

So between the poor food storage set up and the poor transportation contraption DeeDee is a cranky girl.  I'll live - it is better than being chomped by a puss brain - but I have got to come up with a better way to do things.  This is just nuts.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Part 127


"I don't do business with scabs," Moe rumbled in warning.

OK, that told me what or who they were but I had a feeling it wasn't shoes they were after.  How did I know?  They were looking at me like they were a feral pack and I was an unclaimed bone.

Completely ignoring Moe several of them pulled knives and rushed me.  What the heck?!  Only one made it through after my patrol and Moe started busting heads but one was enough.  I got the sudden feeling that the others had actually been a distraction and that the guy coming at me had planned it so that it was just me and him.  Too bad for him that he'd waited too long.  I'd spent too much time in the city surviving and too much time alone surviving.  Even amongst friends you have to be prepared for things to change lightning fast.  Strutting in and stopping to make a physical statement had given me time to set and prep myself for whatever was coming.

He pulled a knife and I parried with my bat.  His arm was longer than mine and he was taller but that's not always the advantage that people think it is.  His primary advantage was he was a long, thin rail that seemed to have some flexibility so that he could dodge.  But he was also overconfident and attacking with very little thinking behind his jabs and swings.  He also fought with only one hand.  I'd learned to be ambidextrous despite being a natural lefty.

If he'd been a real knife artist I would have been in trouble but this guy fought like every opponent was a nail and he was a hammer.  It might work on your average person but it didn't work with me.  Sherry would have kicked my behind if it had.  She was the one that taught me how to defend myself against the box cutters that the other girls and women carried ... especially against those that wanted to mess up your looks but not kill you.  This guy was out for murder but he thought he was going to have some fun first and I decided that he most definitely was not.

"You killed my baby sister," he growled.

I asked, "Was your sister a puss brain?"

He screamed in rage and really came at me hard but I dodged.  I was aware that mine wasn't the only fight going on so knew not to count on any help.  "Geez, are you damaged or what?!"

"You disrespect her memory on top of killing her?!  I'll make you pay!!"

"So if I'm gonna pay mind telling me ..."

I heard a crash and a baby cry.  How could I forgotten there was a baby?!  I was so over it all; I didn't care why this guy was after me but I was done.  I went from defense to offense and came in with a low, hard swing on top of his right knee cap ... the leg he seemed to lead with every time.  There was a loud pop and he went down screaming.  I turned and jumped over a table and Moe and I got to the guy that was coming at Sher and Dawnie at almost the same time.  Moe took him high, I took him low, and if he hadn't been connected at the waist he would have gone flying in two pieces in two different directions.

Moe took up a stance in front of them ready to take on anyone else and I turned just in time to fend off another attack from Wonder Bread boy.  That's what was on his t-shirt ... an old Wonder Bread logo ... though it was filthy and faded.  It was also torn and I saw that he wasn't just skinny but really nasty skinny - emaciated even - with the edge of his rib cage showing.  I think I could have been compassionate and just let it go - I think I could have - if he hadn't kept coming and coming and coming at me.

"Will you stop being stupid?!" I shouted at him.  "One, I don't know jack about your sister and two, you're gonna get hurt!"

Breathing heavily he shouted, "Don't lie!!!"

And that was the last thing he said because Sgt. Shelly pistol whipped him so hard he dropped like a rock.  Then the MPs arrived and if I thought things were messy before they were suddenly a lot worse as they waded in kicking and using riot clubs on anyone that didn't stop fighting and back way the moment they came through the flap.

"Quiet!!!" The bellow of the lead MP was so loud and commanding that with that one word it sounded like the whole base went silent.  "That's better.  Now, who is senior rank here?"

"That'd be me Rickerson," Sgt. Shelly answered.

"Oh.  You again," he sighed like he suddenly felt a migraine coming on.

Sgt. Shelly chuckled darkly but said, "Hate to disappoint but not our fault."  She pointed to the floor and said, "Scabs."

The MP looked at the now subdued crowd of about ten and said, "You bunch were making noise after discipline hour this morning."

One of the girls spit in my direction and she said, "That little ***** killed Matt's sister."

"I didn't kill anyone," I snapped.  "I don't know what they are talking about.  They just came in here and started breaking up the place."

Lucy came over and said, "That chick that tried to knife you was a three-striker.  She got put in the tank with the bad girls and then got in a fight she couldn't win.  Skull got cracked open before the guards could separate everyone and break up the tussle."

It wasn't a nice story but I'm not going to feel sorry for someone who makes a habit of acting crazy and stupid.  "So what has that got to do with me?"

She shrugged.  "Brother has to blame someone and you are the closest he could get to."

Angry at the injustice I snapped, "How about he blame himself for dragging his sister into a crappy life?  Or setting a bad example?  Or whatever?  Her choices are not my fault, all I was doing was defending myself.  Was I supposed to stand there and let her gut me with that pig sticker she had?  Not this side of the Pearlies I can guarantee that."

I saw Moe get a wicked gleam in his eye and come stand on my other side.  He asked the MPs, "You bunch suddenly taking the word of Scabs over your own now?"

The MP looked at him but didn't say anything. He turned to the men with him and jerked his head indicating they were to take the scabs away, to drag them off in the case of the unconscious ones.  Without another word he followed them.

I started to pick up the stuff that had been knocked over.  "Why didn't they ask for a report?"

Gayle answered, "The scabs are all two-strikers.  Doesn't matter what they did, if they don't get themselves killed in the tank they'll be heading for a work camp as soon as the prison rail car has room for them."

Josie added, "More n' like they already know about last night and have put two and two together to come up with whatever it takes to haul that bunch off."

Sher sat rocking Dawnie and feeding her to calm her down.  She said, "That bunch is well known.  There used to be more of them but the winter halved their number."

"Yeah, they looked bad off."

Moe asked me, "You feelin' sorry for 'em?"

"Heck no," I griped.  "Just stating a fact.  I've been bad off too but I've never turned into a scab or whatever you want to call them.  Not even in the city did we steal from other groups like they were doing."

"No we didn't," Moe said with some pride.  "And I better not hear of you feeling sorry for them either.  That girl what fought with you got what was coming to her and so will that bunch of ***wipes."