Cooper; new stuff added 10/03/2018

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Cooper; new stuff added 10/03/2018

Post by doc66 » Sat Mar 21, 2015 8:48 am

I know everyone is waiting on Jack Roy, and I will get back to him, but these characters have been beating at my doorstep. Here's a non-Zombie EOTW story; it is complete. I hope you all enjoy.

Cooper hated the garden. He hated to work in the garden, he hated the weeds, he hated the watering, he hated carrying the shit from the chickens out to the garden plot, he hated breaking ground, fixing the chicken wire around the plots to keep out the rabbits and other furry rodents had become a pain in the ass because the wire to fix it was getting scarce. Taking pot shots at the deer; he did not mind that so much since they ate the damn forest vermin any way; but for the most part, he hated the garden. Taking off his straw cowboy hat, Cooper wiped his brow and replaced the hat, settling it firmly on his head to keep the harsh sun at bay.

Truth was, when the garden had just been something to get fresh vegetables from and if he forgot to water it one day it was no big deal, it was a place he could go out and have some fun and feel like he was doing something useful. Now that the garden was essential to survival and they needed the produce from the plot of land to exist, the garden had become his nemesis. It was a place where he often would stop and look around at the trees and the hills and the clouds and wish that he could make a run to the grocery store just one last time. If there were any other way to get a tomato, he would have jumped on that opportunity without a moment of hesitation.

Jessica saw that he was leaning on his hoe and called to him.

“The rows won’t get cleared like that.”

Sighing, Cooper bent back to chopping at the ground between the rows of Indian corn. The proper name for the corn was Glass Gem, but the ears of multi colored kernels reminded Cooper of the corn his grandfather used to call Indian corn. They also had Honey and Cream and standard Blue Corn varieties growing in even rows and were practicing the old Three Sister type of gardening with bean vines clinging to the stalks of the corn and squash covering the mound at the base of the plant; but the area between the plants had to be kept clear of the encroaching weeds which were a threat to the water and life of the plants. In addition to the plot of corn, they had another plot of the vegetable standards growing—which was were Jessica was currently working—and scavenged tires dotted the area which produced sweet potatoes. All this was contained inside a fenced in acre plus which also housed the chickens. The four goats roamed the expanse of yard, keeping the once mowed grass at bay.

Cooper stopped hoeing when the goats began to bleat and stare off at the long lane which lead from their house to the road beyond the trees. The goats were smart enough to begin to move away from what they thought might be danger. Cooper caught the attention of Jessica but she had already noticed the goats and was moving toward the shed and simply nodded to him to show that she was aware of the goats warning. The goats were fairly good at alerting them if something was out of place, but sometimes, Cooper wished that the mix breed mutt they had before everything took a shit was still around. People took dogs more seriously than they did goats.

Hoe in hand, Cooper moved to the shed as well. He was carrying his Taurus M82 revolver in the old western style belt and holster he had picked up at a garage sale a couple years before. The .38 had been an impulse buy at the time, but now it had become indispensable as a daily part of his attire. Jessica put aside the hoe she was carrying and picked up the old single shot 20 gauge which was leaning against the shed wall where she had left it. Cooper’s rifle was in the house. Probably not the best place for it if someone were coming to visit them unannounced or unwanted, but that’s where it was. Cooper leaned the hoe he was carrying beside Jessica’s.

“You stay here,” he told her.

She nodded. “You be careful.”

He assured her he would and stepped away from the shed, hearing her cock the hammer on the shotgun.

Away from the noise of the chickens and his own digging in the soil, Cooper could hear what sounded like a steady clop of horse’s hooves and the squeaking of wheels. He felt himself relax slightly, mentally hoping that the source of the sounds were from a familiar origin and not from some vagabond happening on the homestead. In preparation for the worst, Cooper stopped at a large tree and leaned against the trunk, hoping that it would provide some cover and security until he could identify the cause.

From around the bend in the drive and through the break in the trees Cooper saw a man walking in front of a donkey pulling a small two wheeled cart. Over the cart was stretched a blue tarp and Cooper knew that there were boxes and bins of trade goods hidden under the covering. Tied by a lead behind the cart was a llama, looking forlorn and tired, its long, narrow ears were flipping listlessly in the heat. The man was wearing a safari vest with no shirt underneath and cargo shorts. Calf high leather boots covered his legs. Shading his bearded face was a wide brimmed floppy hat. Slung from his shoulder was a short barreled AR15. Cooper recognized the man and stepped out from the tree. The man had already stopped and was preparing to shout a greeting at the house when he noticed Cooper moving.

“Hey, Cooper,” called the man. “It’s Tinker Bob and Little Jugs.”

“Tinker Bob,” returned Cooper. “Come on up. I’ll get Little Jugs and your new protégé a bucket of water.”

“Little Jugs would mightily appreciate that,” said Tinker Bob, pulling at the lead for the donkey and starting the animal toward the shed. Cooper went to the 150 gallon reservoir which capture the runoff water from the shed and pulled the water bucket from its hook. He placed it under the spigot and filled the bucket with the rain water. By the time it was full, Jessica had come around from behind the shed, and Tinker Bob was bringing the donkey to a halt in the shade of the trees around the shed. He then went to the rear of the cart and untied the llama, running out the lead rope so that the llama could feed on the long grasses around the small cabin. The goats stood to one side, near the side of the cabin, watching the strange animal as it dipped its head and began to feed on the grass. Cooper handed the man the bucket. Tinker Bob first took a long pull at the water himself before holding it for the donkey to noisily suck water from. The llama heard the donkey and moved close to where Tinker Bob held the bucket, not quite able to reach the water. Tinker Bob nodded to Jessica.

“Miss Jess,” he said to her. “You’re a pretty sight for sore eyes. Soothing after staring so long off at hard pack road and bright sunlight.”

“Tinker Bob, you are full of shit,” she told him, cradling the shotgun in the crook of her arm. Tinker Bob noticed that they were both carrying firearms and looked off at the trees around them.

“It’s been a few months since I was up this way,” he began. “I stopped at the Barstow place; looks all forlorn and like it was burnt up.”

The Barstow place was the first home on the road up the dead end that was their long lane. Next in line was a summer house which had not been occupied since before, and then the cabin of Cooper and Jessica. Cooper and Jessica glanced at each other and then to where Tinker Bob was still pretending to look around at everything but them.

“We had bandit trouble,” said Cooper simply.

Tinker Bob nodded. “Didn’t look like a normal house fire.”

“Dick Barstow was killed,” supplied Cooper. “Cassie and the kids moved up the road and in with the Garcia’s.”

“El Jefe took them in?”

“They had an Airstream trailer up there that was not being used.”

“Well,” said Tinker Bob, “It’s a good thing, that.”

“It is.”

Tinker Bob took the water pail away from the donkey and moved over to where the llama was expectantly chewing. The llama took its turn at the water. Cooper waited until Tinker Bob decided that the animal had enough and took the pail from the man. Replacing the pail on its hook at the water reservoir, Cooper motioned to the fenced in field where they had been working.

“We’ve only got a little more to do—,” he hinted. Tinker Bob nodded.

“Sure, you go ahead,” said the man. “Work comes first. I’m going to give Little Jugs here a rub down and such. You do what you need; if you don’t mind, me and Little Jugs will spend the night here; it’s been a long day already.”

Cooper shook his head. “We don’t mind; it’ll be good to hear what’s happening beyond the end of the road.”

As Cooper turned away, Tinker Bob called to him. “Your friend, he still live here?”

“David?” asked Cooper. “He does.”

“He’ll be here tonight?”

“He’s supposed to be,” informed David carefully. After the raid that had killed Dick Barstow, everyone on the road had gotten closed mouthed about the daily happenings of the little community which lived on the road.

Tinker Bob simply nodded and did not pry any further. “Well, you get that done; we’ll talk after.”

Cooper and Jessica returned to the garden. Once there, Jessica stood beside Cooper and hoed the row with him. She cast a glance to where Tinker Bob was taking the harness off the donkey and using the grass pulled from the yard, rubbing the animal down with fist full of the once trimmed lawn.

“What do you suppose he wants with David?” she asked.

“You’re guess is as good as mine,” decided Cooper as he chopped at the ground.

“It’s strange that he wants to stay here,” said Jessica. “He usually goes up to el Jefe’s.”

“Maybe he’s tired?”

“There’s more to it than that,” she told him.

“I don’t know Jessica, but he’ll tell us what’s up when he’s ready.”

Jessica gave Cooper a dark frown and moved down the row away from him. Cooper sighed and bent to his task, wondering himself why the trader was staying at their small cabin. At el Rancho de Montaña—the fanciful title the man had given his sprawling property—el Jefe had the advantage of having a large house with a bonus room over a detached garage, a small mother-in-law bungalow, and many relatives to help him with his garden, livestock, and winery. Tinker Joe traded the wine outside of the small community for things that el Jefe needed to keep his operation running.

At the moment, David was there helping out with tree cutting to clear out another patch of land for extending the garden plots next year. Cooper was hoping that part of the payment would be a couple bottles of wine in addition to the cut wood David had agreed to take in trade for labor. David lived in the small camper Cooper had acquired in trade for an old dirt bike, back before everything had collapsed. The camper was parked in a little clearing through the trees away from the house to give David and the couple some privacy and at the same time close enough to the house in case things went bump in the night. David had ridden a mountain bike to the cabin, carrying everything he could in his camping backpack and strapped to the rack and handles of the bike, escaping the collapse of the city he lived in.

When Jessica and Cooper completed the rows they gathered the weeds they had hoed out of the rows and piled the mangled vegetation into the wheel barrow. Jessica took the hoes to the shed while Cooper took the weeds to the burn pile and dumped them out onto the growing mound of debris. He tossed a few stray sticks onto the mound before pushing the wheel barrow back to the shed where he stored it in the lean-to attached to the shed. Jessica had already started to the cabin.

Cooper took a moment to gaze around the expanse of yard. There were always things needing done on the property, beyond the gardening, the milking the goats, feeding the chickens, collecting eggs, gathering firewood, cutting firewood, repairing whatever happened to be broken that day, and the countless little other things which never seemed to come to an end. It helped having David around to take some of the pressure off getting tasks done; Cooper now knew why preindustrial humanity had so many children. One day though, David would move on to his own property perhaps, and it would be back to Jessica and Cooper dividing the work, sun up to sun down. At the moment, they were in the middle of a lull; things had gotten caught up and nothing really needed to get finished before a particular—usually a weather induced—deadline. This had enabled David to take time to go up to el Jefe’s property and help out with the culling of trees; some of the timber would be brought down to Cooper and Jessica and David to be used as firewood for the coming winter. It was also an excuse for David to go see one of el Jefe’s granddaughters, or nieces—Cooper was unsure of the relationship—that he was interested in.

Tinker Bob was finishing up with taking care of the animals. Cooper walked over to the man.

“So are you hungry?” asked Cooper. He knew the answer to the question, but inviting the man in was all a part of how things were done these days.

“I can always eat something that I didn’t cook,” said the man.

“Well, we’re about to start fixing something,” said Cooper. He cast a glance at the sun and gauged how much time they had left before sunset. About an hour and a half of good daylight left, judged Cooper. David would probably stay up at el Jefe’s for dinner. He might even spend the night there, but Cooper doubted it. El Jefe was still an old school Catholic and more than likely he was aware of the tryst happening between David and the granddaughter—or niece—and would discourage too much alone time between the two under his roof. “We’ll have plenty. David will probably eat up at el Jefe’s.”

Tinker Bob nodded. “I have some canned peaches and salted ham I got in a trade. It’d be nice to have folks to talk to over a meal; Little Jugs doesn’t talk much.”

The man laughed at his own joke, and Cooper gave him a wan smile. It must have been tough to have no one to converse with for days on end. The circumstance had left its mark on Tinker Bob as he tended to laugh loudly at many of his own remarks and talked aloud to himself when working on harnessing the donkey or loading and unloading the cart the animal pulled.

“I imagine not,” said Cooper. “I need to get the goats penned up and make sure the chickens are settled in. If you want to go to the house, Jessica will be starting to get together something—.”

“I’ll head that way.” The man gave Cooper a sheepish look. “You got a wash bin handy? I ain’t had a good wash in a few days.” He motioned to a large shaving kit. “I got my toiletries handy.”

“Oh, sure,” Cooper told him. “We’ve got a basin right at the corner of the house. Just use the spigot on the rain catch to fill it up. It’s behind the fence screen I set up for privacy. I think there’s a towel there too.”

“I’ve got my own towel,” assured the man. “Little Jugs don’t care what I smell like, but you folks might.”

Tinker Bob gave one of his laughs and picked up the shaving kit and a towel that Cooper had not noticed spread on the top of the cart. The man walked away to the place Cooper had pointed out and disappeared behind the privacy screen. They had also rigged up a line from the catchment into the bathroom for a shower, but that was regulated to once a week during the summer months due to the inconsistency of rain. Most of the water needs went to the garden, drinking and cooking. It was amazing how dirty a person could live with being when it became a necessity. Although they had dug a well, they preferred to get most of their water needs from the various catchment systems they had scattered over the property. Occasionally, they would take a walk down the road to the pond and skinny dip on warm summer nights if they weren’t too tired. Submerging under the water with a bar of soap was one of the luxuries they liked to take after a sweaty day of working around the property.

Cooper herded the goats into the pen and made sure that they had feed and water to see them through the night. The chickens were already on their roost and all he had to do with them was close the coop house door after checking the water supply for the birds. He gathered up the eggs in the laying boxes—five of those—and then made his own was to the house.

The house was a place that they had planned out; a couple years of living in a previous home had given them an idea of what they had wanted, and what they had not wanted. The result was a modern looking cabin with a loft area overlooking the great room. With the hillside situation for their chosen building spot, they had a walk-in basement and had chosen to not connect the area with the upper part of the house, making it a prime area for storage and not add to the temptation to create yet another room that needed furnishing. Because of prior planning, they had installed a high efficiency wood burning stove that was capable of heating the entire house. They had planned to install a solar system that would have provided all their electrical needs, but money had kept the system to just two panels which were able to almost keep a refrigerator running, provide a few lights, and maybe charge a laptop, if they didn’t have too many lights on. All of those things were now luxury not afforded by their neighbors, and things they kept from being too obvious when others were around.

Before he got inside, Cooper could smell the potato leek soup warming on the stove. Cooper wonder just how much longer they had to use that appliance; the big propane tank had to be running low by now. They tried to not use the stove much, keeping the meal planning to just a few easy to cook items, and by using the outdoor oven he had made from scavenged bricks and a half inch piece of metal sheeting. He knew there would also be the last of the bread they had baked on the weekend and maybe some pickled beets, which Cooper was ready to be rid of so that they could use the brine for pickled eggs, which he preferred over the beets. If Tinker Bob was bringing in salted ham, that would go nicely with the soup and with eggs and biscuits in the morning. Jessica was slicing the bread when he entered.

“See if Tinker has flour,” she said to him without preamble. “We’re about out.”

“He’ll be coming in to eat,” replied Cooper as he set the eggs on the counter. “And he’s bringing ham and peaches with him.”

“Fresh peaches?”

“Canned.”

“We can make a cobbler,” she decided. “There’s some oats left and the sugar we traded those dried lima beans for. If you’ll get the brick oven hot; I’ll get the Dutch oven ready.”

Cooper nodded. He sensed that something was wrong with Jessica and was not sure how to approach asking her. Sometimes he knew it was best to be direct.

“What’s the matter?” he asked, cautiously.

He could see that she was debating about saying anything. She finally leaned against the counter and motioned outside where Tinker Bob was still doing his thing, whatever that might be.

“Why do you think he’s staying here?” she asked him, reopening the conversation that had been started out in the garden. He had thought it was finished.

“Don’t know.”

“I’ll bet he wants something from us.”

“Like what?”

“Help with something he can’t handle alone.”

Cooper shrugged. “Okay.”

“Just like that?”

“He’ll pay,” said Cooper. “And whatever he pays, we’ll probably need.”

“What about the work around here?”

“It’ll hold for a day….”

She sighed angrily.

“I’m not sure what you want me to say,” Cooper told her. He put the eggs he had been holding into the basket in the counter.

“I don’t know either,” she told him. “I just want you to tell me that you’ll think hard about what he wants; that we’ll talk about it and agree before you just go off and say yes to whatever scheme he might put out there.”

“Of course,” he said to her.

“And don’t just say that.”

“I’m not,” he promised.

She stared at him until he was uncomfortable and thankfully the door opened and Tinker Bob called out.

“Safe to come in?” he asked. Hidden as they were from him by the mudroom walls, he was unaware of the struggle in the main room.

Jessica held Cooper’s gaze for a second longer and then nodded. “Sure, come on in. Cooper said you have canned peaches for me? Well, I have plans to make a cobbler with them, he was just going out to start the brick oven for me.”

Tinker Bob came in and leaned his rifle in the corner near the doorway which lead into the small mudroom. “I do, I do.”

He came to the counter and place two cans of peaches on the surface, along with a burlap wrapped hunk of ham. The smell of the salted meat made Cooper’s mouth water. Jessica watched as Tinker Bob unwrapped the ham.

“There’s not much to it,” admitted Tinker Bob. “It’s just a hank of bone with some meat on it, but I figure there’s enough there for biscuits and the bone would be good for a bean soup or greens…”

“That would be wonderful, Tinker Bob,” said Jessica, pulling the ham over and rewrapping it. “We’ll just set it aside for now. Would you like some raspberry mint tea?”

Cooper took that as his cue to head out and coax a fire in the brick oven.
Last edited by doc66 on Wed Oct 03, 2018 5:05 am, edited 11 times in total.
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Re: Cooper

Post by doc66 » Sat Mar 21, 2015 8:49 am

It was nearly dark when David came in after dinner, carrying with him a linen bag of tortillas and a jar of red chili salsa. He had ridden up the driveway on the bicycle, in the dusk, his wheel powered headlight glowing in the shadows of the trees. When the donkey and the goats and the llama had warned them of David’s arrival, Cooper had picked up his rifle and gone to the small balcony off the loft area to see what had caused the animals to begin their ruckus. On seeing it was David, Cooper replaced the rifle and went back downstairs. With all the racket that the llama made, Cooper could see the advantage of having one around the place, now that most of the dogs had gone feral. David looked beat. Although he had probably cleaned up at the ranch, his clothing was still flecked with saw dust and sweat stained. He took his boots off in the mudroom and hung his pistol belt on one of the coat hooks, making sure that the grip of the old automatic was within easy reach. After depositing the food stuffs on the counter, David gratefully accepted the glass of wine offered to him by Jessica. The wine was from the batch made by Owen, one of the people who lived a mountain over. David took a drink and sank into the remaining unoccupied chair in the great room which was lit by the soft glow of the accent LED lights that were powered by the batteries charged by the solar array; it was nice to not have to worry about lamps, candles and the possibility of fires. Cooper set aside the guitar he had been picking and picked up his own glass.

“Long day?”

“Very,” said David. “After I drink this glass, I’m going to collapse in my little bunk until tomorrow and try not to move too much tomorrow.”

“What if I have big plans tomorrow?” asked Jessica.

“I’m going to hide in the woods,” David told her. “Take my hammock and hope you don’t find me.”

“What all did you get done today?” asked Cooper.

“We chopped down about twenty trees, limbed them, cut them into sections and hauled them off to be cut into firewood later,” said David. “I forget how much I miss chainsaws until I have to section out trees by hand. The good thing is that we’ve got a bunch of wood for the winter; the bad news is that we need to go get it.”

“El Jefe going to let us use one of the horses to drag it here?”

“He will, but you know him; he’ll want something done for the use of the horse.”

“Well, since you’re going to be related and all--,”teased Cooper.

David gave him a dark look over the rim of the wine glass. “Slow your jets, partner, apparently I’m not Catholic enough for that.”

“Oh no?” asked Jessica, getting up and heading into the kitchen. Cooper heard he scooping out some of the peach cobbler. David turned to where she was at the counter, putting a spoon into the bowl. She brought the bowl out to David and handed it to him. He thanked her and tasted the cobbler, closing his eyes and making appreciative noises.

“No,” said David. “El Jefe pulled me aside and informed me of this after dinner tonight.”

“You still going to help out up there?” asked Cooper, suppressing a laugh.

David nodded around the spoon. “I will, but I’m going to charge him more for my labor.”

They all laughed at that. Cooper picked up the guitar again and lightly strummed the strings. He did not know what he was going to do when they finally broke. He had gone through all his sets of spare strings to the point that he had robbed other instruments to keep one guitar playing. He would have to remember to get Tinker Bob to put the word out on his travels that guitar strings were needed.

David looked at Tinker Bob. “Thought you usually spent to night up at el Jefe’s.”

“I do, usually.”

“We’ve been waiting for you to come back for him to tell us why he is staying here,” said Jessica, looking at Tinker Bob.

“So we have,” agreed Tinker Bob, his smile faint behind the beard he wore. David settled back after scraping the bowl clean of cobbler and Cooper placed the guitar aside again. Jessica picked up her wine glass and settled in near Cooper on the futon they used as a couch. Tinker Bob leaned forward in the chair he occupied and began to spin his tale.

“About a week ago, I found something that hadn’t been found by anyone else,” he told them, spinning the wine in the glass around the bowl as he spoke. “Why no one else had run across it, I’m not sure; maybe the location of it made people think that it was already picked clean. Regardless, I found it and after I did, I closed it right back up and made sure it looked exactly like I left it.” He paused to make sure he had their attention. When he could see that they were all wondering just what the man was speaking about, Tinker set his wine glass down. “I found a tractor trailer full of goods. It was a common carrier, probably hired out right there at the end, chock full of dry goods and canned food and who knows what else.”

“Where in the hell did you find this?” asked David.

Tinker Bob held up a hand to stay interruption. “It’s on the freeway, caught up amongst a couple dozen other vehicles, all piled up around it, which is probably the reason no one else has come across it; they look at that mess and think that nothing worth having in that. I just happened to be snooping around and there it was.”

“On the freeway, where, exactly?” asked Cooper, trying to gauge just how far a week of travel by donkey and cart might be. It could be forty miles away, it could be a hundred; he really had no clue.

“Near Hartsville, exit 155,” said Tinker Bob.

“Hartsville,” repeated Jessica. “Hartsville is a fiefdom now; they’ve got all those crazy bikers who took over. Even up here we hear stories about Hartsville.”

“They’re all true,” said Tinker Bob.

“Then what the hell do you want from us?” asked Cooper. “We’re not taking on bikers.”

“I have a plan.”

“I hope it doesn’t involve us,” reiterated Cooper.

Tinker Bob looked pained. “It has to.”

“How is that?” asked David.

Tinker Bob looked at Cooper. “I need one of your batteries.”

“What the hell for?”

With a deep breath, Tinker Bob outlined his plan. “I looked over the tractor; I used to be a fair mechanic, back before, and from what I can see, I can get the tractor running, if I can get it started. To get it started, I need a battery. A charged battery. You all have a system and batteries. The battery in the thing was dry and dead, I wouldn’t trust it to hold a charge, otherwise I would have brought it here and asked you to try and charge it. But you all have batteries that are already charged. With one of yours, I can get it started. I can drive the rig up here and give you back your battery plus.”

He let the information sink in for a second and then launched into his next request.

“I need some help, I need people to provide some security while I get the rig running. It has fuel, I checked, diesel doesn’t degrade like gasoline, and being secure in the tanks kept it good, but I’m afraid that the lines might be bad; the fuel could have gelled in the lines. If so, I have to replace them. I can’t watch my back and replace the lines as well. That also means cleaning up the fuel pump.”

“I thought you said it was in good shape,” said Jessica.

“It is, physically, and visually,” Tinker Bob told her. “I was able to check the glow plugs and filters and such, but I didn’t have time to do much else more; I have some leniency around Hartsville because they need me for trade, but I can’t just camp around there for too long without raising suspicion. The Warlord keeps them patrolling, even without motorcycles, and I was concerned of discovery.”

“I can’t be gone a week or more,” said Cooper, looking at Jessica. “I can’t leave Jessica here by herself; there’s just too much to do. Plus, if something happens, I can’t risk losing a battery, the house is a system, remove part of that system and we lose a lot of what makes some of our life easy for us to do other, more important things.”

Tinker Bob was nodding at all of Cooper’s points. “I totally understand. What if I told you we’d be gone for three, maybe four days, depending on how much work the tractor needed?”

David spoke up. “You said a week away. How will you get there, fly?”

“We’ll drive,” said Tinker.

“I don’t think your donkey can go that fast, not with three people in the cart,” joked David harshly.

“The cart and Little Jugs will stay here,” informed Tinker Bob with a satisfied smile. “This is another place where the battery will come in; I know of a truck not far from here. Just like the old days; we can drive there in a day.”

Cooper, Jessica and David had been inching forward as they spoke to Tinker Bob, each making their points about his proposal and leaning toward the man as they made them. They now all sat back and looked at one another on realizing that the possibility this little quest might be conceivable washed over them. Cooper took a drink of his wine, finishing off the glass. He set it carefully on the small coffee table. He looked at Jessica to see just what her reaction might be. She was staring down into her wineglass, as if the purple liquid held the answer to some secret question she had asked. David was shaking his head, whether in agreement or disbelief, Cooper was not sure. His friend drained his own glass and set it on the floor.

“Well,” said David. “You’ve got this all figured out.”

Picking up his own wineglass, Tinker Bob sat back and took a drink of the beverage. “I didn’t live this long out there on the road just because I trade in things people want; I lived because I thought things out before I did them, and I only took risks where the odds were in my favor.” Tinker Bob shifted in his seat and motioned out at the dark sky beyond the floor to ceiling windows. “I wouldn’t have come to you all if I did not think that I had a chance to do this. If I thought for a second that the truck would not run, that the tractor wouldn’t start, I would have simply made as many trips to the trailer as I could have. But this is something I think we can do.”

“What if the trailer is discovered now?” asked Jessica. “What if someone has found it?”

“Then we drive back here to your place and I give you the truck and pay you for your time.”

“Pay us what?”

Tinker Bob smiled. “You think that I left without taking something from that trailer?”

“Give me an example,” said Jessica.

“I already did,” he told her. “You made peach cobbler with it.”

“How much are we talking about?” she asked, unfazed by his bravado.

Laughing Tinker Bob looked over at Cooper. “Don’t play poker with this one.” He returned his gaze to Jessica. “Out in my cart I have a case of peaches, fifty pounds of flour, the same in sugar, beans and rice. I have salt, pepper and other spices you probably haven’t thought you’d ever see again. I have soap, I have razors, I have toilet paper—“at this they all sucked in their breath; they hadn’t had toilet paper in so long,”—I have bleach, I have vinegar, I have baking powered and soda. I have Bisquick, I have cake mixes, I have powdered sugar. I have ten gallons of vegetable oil and five gallons of olive oil; when was the last time you had olive oil? All that is yours if we don’t bring the trailer back.”

“What if you do?”

Tinker Bob sighed. “I will make you my partners. Not equal partners, mind you, but partners. One quarter of the trailer is yours. You can trade it, you can keep it. But it is yours. The tractor and the rest is mine.”

The three of them looked at each other, their gazes traveling from one friend to the next, trying to decide just what the other might be thinking.

“Can we have a minute?” asked Cooper to the man.

“Of course,” he told them. He stood up and pulled a pristine looking pack of cigarettes from a pocket of his vest. “I’ll just step outside and have a smoke.”

“Cigarettes,” breathed David. He looked back at Cooper and Jessica. “That was a brand new pack; not one found in the bottom shelf of a looted out gas station. Not a pack that’s been shit on and chewed by mice, not one dry and stale and water stained; a fresh, never been on the rack, pack of smokes. I’d do this for a pack of smokes.”

“Come on, David,” said Cooper.

“I’m serious,” said David.

“Okay,” cut in Jessica. “Let’s talk about this.”

“What’s there to talk about?” asked David. “It’s like winning the lottery.”

“If the lottery is guarded by pit bulls who haven’t eaten in a week,” she countered. “Hartsville is a cesspool. They deal in slavery, David. They kill people for stupid shit. They hang people for stealing; what do you think they would do to you if they caught you taking that trailer?”

“So we don’t get caught,” he said.

“That simple?”

“Yes,” David told her. “It is. We can either take this risk and have enough supplies to get us through—I don’t know, the next five years or more—or we can pass and hope that the garden does well this year, hope that we can enough to see us through the winter. I don’t know about you, Jessica, but I like the thought of having a stock pile to fall back on.”

“It’s not your batteries he’s risking,” she told him.

“It is my life.”

Jessica looked at Cooper. “What do you think?”

Cooper sighed and bit his lip. He looked form Jessica to David and back.

“I think we should take the risk.”

Jessica’s face closed down. “Really.”

“Yes,” he said simply. “Listen; We run this risk, this time. We have enough storage batteries for this, you know we do. We did set up the system for more panels than we have. This is what I propose; we take two of the batteries, we drive that truck to the rig, and if he gets the rig running, we drive them both back. Part of the deal is that he fills up the tank of the truck from the tanks on the rig—“

“—We don’t know that it is diesel—“ cut in Jessica.

“—it pretty much has to be,” countered Cooper. “A gas engine is pretty much worthless any more, the octane has been depleted. Anyway, we keep a quarter of the haul, the truck and a full tank of diesel.”

“What if you die?” asked Jessica angrily.

“I don’t have an answer for that,” admitted Cooper. “But I think this is worth that risk.”

“I’m going with you,” she told him.

“Don’t be silly,” said Cooper. “Someone has to stay here and take care of the animals and water the garden.”

“El Jefe can do that,” said Jessica. “He has fifty grandkids up there, and one or two of those teenagers would be more than happy to get away for a few days. If something happened to you, I wouldn’t want to live here.”

Cooper started to object and then caught David nodding. He relented. “Okay, tomorrow, you and David go up there and see.” He waved a hand at David. “Get Tinker in here.”

When David stood and went outside, Cooper pulled Jessica in close. “You have to watch your back out there.”

“I have to watch your back,” she said, leaning against him. “You think I want to go for the adventure? I have to go to make sure you aren’t stupid.”

Giving her a strained laugh, Cooper hugged her. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.” She looked up at him. “Let’s promise to be careful.”

“I promise.”

“I promise.”

They kissed and David and Tinker Bob came in, the odor of burned tobacco wafting in ahead of them. It had been a long time since he had smelled a cigarette, and for a moment, Cooper felt the old craving come over him. He pushed it down as Tinker Bob returned to his seat.

“We’ll come along,” Cooper told him. “But we have some conditions.”

“Yes?”

“We keep the truck, you fill us up with a full tank before you leave with the tractor trailer; if things look like they are going south, we cut and run; we’re not going to hold out just in case things might get better; we leave. As soon as we get there, we fill the tank and load up the bed of the truck so if we have to cut and run, it’s not a total loss for any of us. If we don’t get the trailer, we still get the truck,” outlined Cooper. He looked at Jessica and David to see if there was anything else they wanted to add. When they said nothing, he looked back at Tinker Bob. “Deal?”

“I can do that,” said Tinker Bob. “But, I’m in charge; you work for me. When I say jump, you just jump. There won’t be a committee on everything.”

“The only committee will be at the threat of danger,” countered Jessica. “If we feel it’s going into the too dangerous territory, we get a say.”

“I told you I don’t take a risk unless the odds are in my favor, but yes, I’ll agree to that.”

“Okay,” said Cooper. “I think we have a deal then.”

They all stood and shook hands around. Tinker freed a flask from another pocket of his vest and opened the cap. He saluted them. “To a beautiful friendship.”

He drank and handed it to Cooper. Cooper took his turn and tasted the apple in the white lightening. He choked back a cough and gave it to Jessica, she took a small sip and handed it off to David, who up ended the flask in a manly fashion. He gave a loud exhale after his swig and returned the flask to Tinker Bob.

“I’m done in,” said David. “If we’re getting all this ready tomorrow, I need sleep.”

Tinker Bob nodded. “I am going to hit the hay myself.”

“The futon is here and the study has a fold out—,” started Jessica.

With a smile Tinker Bob declined. “I’ll leave you two alone in here tonight.”

He gave Cooper a wink and followed David outside.

“Well,” said Cooper.

“Well you better take advantage of his generosity,” Jessica told him.

Cooper needed no further encouragement. He made sure the doors were shut and turned out the lights as Jessica went up to the sleeping loft.

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Re: Cooper

Post by doc66 » Sat Mar 21, 2015 8:50 am

Travel in the new world they lived in, even if they were going to have a truck with witch to do it, meant more than simply throwing a couple things in a duffle bag and driving off. First Cooper and Jessica walked up with Tinker Bob to el Jefe’s ranch. They followed the little donkey and the cart there so that Tinker could do a little trading with the old Mexican. They had first taken out the payment that Tinker Bob had promised the night before and secured it in the storage basement under the cabin. Even what Tinker Bob had given them as a prepayment was enough to make their life so much easier over the coming months. David had been correct; it was like winning the lottery. The bags of flour, the jugs of oil, the rice and beans—everything was packaged in pre-collapse cardboard and wrapped in pristine plastic looking as if it had come off the shelves yesterday.

The walk up was a nice stroll along the crumbling asphalt lane under early summer trees. It was still early enough in the morning that it was not yet hot, and the wind in the trees felt almost cool. Cooper and Jessica held hands occasionally, and Cooper carried the single shot 20 gauge for her so that she did not have to worry about toting the shotgun. He had it along mainly so that if the opportunity arose he could take a shot at a rabbit if one happened to appear.

Once they reached el Rancho de Montaña, they were greeted by one of the nephews or grandchildren—one could never be sure—at the gates. The teenager had a rifle in hand, but on seeing Tinker Bob and Cooper and Jessica, he lazily waved at them and opened the barrier so that they could pass.

“Hola,” he called.

“Hola,” returned Tinker Bob. “el Jefe de un lado?”

“Si, se levanta en el granero.”

“Gracias,” Tinker Bob urged the Little Jugs through the fence and the cart squeaked and rattled onto the paved driveway.

“Hey, Cooper. Jessica,” said the teen when they walked through.

“Hola, Rodrigo,” said Jessica with a big smile, making the teen color slightly. Cooper nodded to him. He could never remember the names of the kids running around the ranch, but Jessica did, and most of the teenagers had a crush on her. Jessica tried out her Spanish on the young man. “Cómo estás hoy?”

“Bein, gracias, y usted?”

“Bein,” she returned.

“Beuno,” he replied as he closed the gate behind them. He waved goodbye as they trudged up the lane.

Cooper leaned toward her and half-jokingly said to her, “one day I’ll have to beat one of those kids up if you keep flirting with them.”

“I’m not flirting, I’m practicing mi espaniol, and so should you.”

“Right.”

“Seriously, you should.”


She’s right,” said Tinker Bob over his shoulder. “It helps out a lot.”

Cooper simply sighed and they continued to the main part of the ranch.

El Rancho de Montaña was a sprawling compound of buildings consisting of the main house—a two story building with large windows and balcony’s seemingly beneath each window—a guest house, a bunk house, a couple trailers, many small campers, the big barn, another birthing barn, sheds and lean-tos scattered around the small valley where el Jefe raised cattle, planted his massive garden, had chickens and goats and all manner of other creatures he milked and ate. In with all of these things were the grand children, the nephews, the nieces, and cousins, all of which migrated to the ranch over the year following the collapse of civilization as they had known it. They brought with them the trailers, the campers, and everything they could stuff into cars and trucks, most of which now sat in a long row collecting dust until such time that they could be used again. Everyone worked on the farm because in order to eat, they all had to pitch in to raise the food. Tinker Bob’s arrival brought people out of the woodwork to see just what the travelling salesman had in his cart.

The Spanish flew around Cooper’s head in a confusing and dizzying jumble of undecipherable words and phrases. Jessica kept up as long as she could and finally, laughingly, admitted defeat. She was pulled aside by several woman her age and Cassie Barstow. When this happened, Cooper knew they were going to be there all day.

They had lunch with the clan; pozole, which was a stew with lots of corn and shredded meat and chilies, served with fresh tortillas. There was also tesgüino, a corn beer that tasted watery and sweet, and slightly nutty while at the same time a lot like corn. El Jefe drank and laughed a lot and spoke at volume about how the traditional people of Colima drank tesguino all the time. He spoke of the Sierra Madre and Colima volcano, and how the local hills reminded him of home, where the cattle grazed and the crops grew tall. Jessica was finally able to speak with el Jefe and he promised to send one of the nieces to their cabin with them when they finished lunch so that they could explain to her what needed to be done in their absence. Of course, Cooper understood none of this, and had to rely on one of the children to translate for him while he sipped at the corn beer and set his taste buds on fire with the pozole. The child also took great pleasure in telling Cooper that traditionally, pozole was a sacred meal, usually prepared with human flesh, the bodies being of those who had been sacrificed by priests. It was more than Cooper wanted to know about the food he was eating. He did have sense enough not to ask what meat they were using for this meal.

When they finally finished at the ranch, Cooper was feeling buzzy from the corn beer and had enough of the clan; he was eager to get back to the cabin so that they could prepare for their own journey. Now that the goal had been decided upon, he wanted to get to the tractor trailer before it was chanced upon by someone else. Tinker Bob seemed ready to depart as well, whatever business he had with el Jefe completed. The man seemed slightly disgruntled, but Cooper did not know him well enough to ask what the problem might be. Jessica said her goodbyes to the other women and promised Cassie that she would return as soon as she could. From the cluster of women stepped a younger woman just out of her teens, wearing baggy jeans, a man’s tank top under a flannel shirt and a leather vest. She looked more like a Cholo than a farm girl. Across her back was a book bag which Cooper assumed contained her spare clothing and slung over a shoulder she had a Hi Point 9mm carbine.

“I’m Leticia,” she introduced herself.

They shook hands all the way around.

“Thanks for giving me this opportunity,” she said to them as they started walking down the drive to the road. “I was going crazy up there with all the family and shit. It will be nice to get away from all of them for a couple days.”

“It could be three or four,” warned Cooper.

“Yeah, that’d be okay too,” said Leticia. She adjusted the sling on the carbine, not much more that a strap of webbing. “They say you have solar power?”

“We do,” said Jessica.

“Cool. Can I charge my iPod?” asked Leticia. “I’m dying to listen to something other than my grandfather sing the old songs; he’s always singing Los Lobos or some shit. I like it okay, but you can only do so much.”

“I enjoy hearing your grandfather sing,” said Tinker Bob. Leticia caught Jessica’s attention and rolled her eyes. Jessica smiled at the younger girl. Cooper wasn’t sure exactly what the secret was between the two, but he said nothing since he was out of the loop.

“You can charge your iPod,” Jessica told her, casting a smile at Cooper. They often sat and listened to music of days gone by themselves. It was understandably hard for Leticia to understand that the music she wanted to hear was probably going to be the last of the recorded music for a long while. “That will be one of the things we have to show you, how to keep the system up and running. It’s pretty simple, but you’ve got to check it every day.”

“Oh, yeah,” assured Leticia. “I’m used to chores. Water the garden, feed the chickens and the goats, all that, I can do no problem.”

“Where are you from?” asked Cooper. “I mean, before all this.”

Ahead of them, Tinker Bob spoke softly to Little Jugs and the cart bounced and rattled over a pot hole. The sun shone through the trees and cast shafts of light across the greenery, making it seem almost like a pre-end normal walk along a country road. Leticia moved the carbine from one shoulder to another and slightly spoiled the illusion.

“San Francisco, 415, represent, yo,” she said automatically and laughed. “I was a kid and my older sisters were all Cholas, so I got all into the look, you know? I never really got street cred. It all blew up and my parents got the hell out of the city and Boom, here we are living on a farm and shit.”

“Your whole family make it?”

“Most of us,” said Leticia. “My oldest brother, he stayed in the city, said he wasn’t going to drag his family way out here. I think his old lady put up a fight about it. He might still be alive. He knew people with the Mara Salvatrucha, so you never know.”

“Mara Salvatrucha?” asked Jessica.

“Street gang, MS 13,” smiled Leticia shyly. She made some signs with her hands. “Always alert. You know.”

“Leticia,” said Cooper, feeling somewhat lost with all the references Leticia was throwing around. “We’re white, in case you haven’t noticed.”

Leticia laughed. “Yeah, different world, you know?”

They got back to the cabin and the llama began to make its warning cry as they came up the lane, the squeaking chatter that Cooper was beginning to learn. David appeared from around the shed with his own rifle in hand and relaxed when he saw them. He waved at them and bent to pick up the basket that probably contained eggs from the hen house. Cooper watched as David took the basket to the small porch at the mud room door and set it and his rifle by the door. He met them in the drive in front of the house.

“Hola, Leticia,” he said.

“Hola, cabeza,” she returned with one of her smiles.

“Shut up before I smack you,” returned David, half joking. Leticia grinned and stuck out her tongue as if she were seven and not seventeen.

Cooper gave his friend a curious look.

“It’s nothing,” said David.

“It means butthead,” said Leticia with a laugh. “Kinda.”

“Cabeza?” asked Jessica, trying to coax the rest of the story out of him.

“Never mind,” growled David. “Where have you been?”

“We had business to attend to,” said Tinker Bob, working on releasing Little Jugs from the harness.

“All day?”

“You know abuleo,” said Leticia. She made talking motions with her hand. “You gotta let him do his thing.”

David sighed and shrugged. “I guess. So we leave in the morning then?”

Tinker Bob gauged the distance of the sun against the remaining horizon and sighed. “I suppose we should. We could probably get part way, but I’d hate to run into trouble and have no daylight left to fix any problems.” He turned to Leticia. “You know how to take care of this donkey? He’s staying here while we travel.”

“Tinker Bob, you see where I live? We got horses and cows and all kinds of goats and shit. I think I can take care of this old donkey for you,” she said, patting the animal on the shoulder. Leticia looked back at Jessica. “You can show me the chickens and where the feed is for everything. Then we can talk the power system. I can say that abuleo is super jealous of your solar system, he’s always talking about how he should have done the same thing.”

“There’s not much to it, really,” said Jessica leading the girl toward the house while she spoke. “It’s mainly making sure that the panels stay clear of leaves and stuff and that the system charges without burning itself up—.”

Cooper watched them walk into the house. “I guess I’m not needed.”

David slapped his friend on the shoulder. “Those two are smarter than the three of us, buddy.” He changed the subject. “What happened up at el Jefe’s? Other than you getting drunk.”

Cooper almost protested, but realized that he was indeed intoxicated. He took a turn at shrugging and looked over where Tinker Bob was rubbing down the donkey. “I have no clue. I spent most of the time trying to figure out what everyone was saying. It’s like being in Mexico up there; I don’t speak the language and I pretty much spend my time smiling and nodding. I don’t think that whatever Tinker Bob went up there for worked out in his favor, he seems pretty pissed. He didn’t talk much on the way back.”

“You think it’s about what we’re about to do?”

“I can’t think of anything else,” said Cooper. “But then, Tinker Bob probably has about fifteen deals in the works at any one time because of his business. Who knows what’s going on with those two.”

Cooper and David walked to the shed. “I am a little worried about this whole trip.”

“Now you worry,” said David.

Cooper opened the door to the shed and they stepped in out of the sun, the heat and light were making his head pound. Inside the shed was all of the tools for working around the homestead, a long workbench with a power saw they often used for projects around the property and a rack of rechargeable batteries for various tools. The solar panels had been a marvelous idea, and Cooper was thankful for the decision every time he had to cut a piece of wood for a project that needed done; using a handsaw was a laborious task that Cooper was glad to avoid whenever possible.

“I’m worried about having to go around Hartsville,” he said. “If the bikers are patrolling with any kind of regular rotation, we’re either going to have to work fast, or be fucked.”

“So we work fast.”

“Let’s hope.”

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Re: Cooper

Post by doc66 » Sat Mar 21, 2015 8:51 am

The truck Tinker Bob intended for them to drive was an old Dodge. The squared off diesel rested under a car port attached to a shed. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t cosmetically in good shape, but apparently it did have fuel in the tank and it would, according to Tinker Bob, start. The paint was faded and peeling off the body, it had more dents in it than a running vehicle should have been allowed on the road with, the tires looked mismatched, and the bench seat in the thing had rips and holes in the fabric and foam. How Tinker Bob had found the thing was a mystery to Cooper, but he had, and after some adjustments to various parts of the mechanics, pulling the battery out, and priming the fuel, they stepped back while Tinker Bob pulled wires from under the dash. He took a moment to find the ones he wanted and connected them together. True to Tinker Bobs word, when they wrestled the battery around so that it would at least fit into the space under the hood, the old engine choked, gasped, shuddered, and finally caught and blew a cloud of black smoke out of the tail pipe and began to clatter with an ungodly racket which began to settle down after several long minutes of running. Tinker Bob triumphantly twisted the starter wires together and then walked around the front, closed the hood and motioned to the filthy bed.

“We need to decide who’s riding where, I guess.”

Cooper and David looked at one another and without a word, crawled into the bed of the truck. They began to toss out the pieces of junk, litter, and assorted other debris which had gathered in the bed from neglect by the former owner and who knew how many years of disuse. They reached an almost folded piece of canvas tarp which other than being stained with oil and who knew what else, seemed to be in good shape. They kept that.

“Too bad we don’t have camp chairs or something,” said David. “This is going to suck, riding back here on the damn bed with the roads the way they are.”

Casting around the shed for a moment while the thrum of the diesel vibrated the walls, they managed to find a pool float that held air.

“It’s better than nothing,” decided Cooper.

With the float on top of the tarp, they loaded their back packs, the spare battery, and themselves into the truck and Tinker Bob backed the vehicle out of the overhang. In a moment, they were on the road.

It had been a long time since any of them had felt anything faster than a rapid pace set by a bicycle or a donkey, and for Cooper, Jessica, and David, since they had ridden in something powered by anything other than their own legs. The feeling of riding in the truck, with the roar of the engine and whir of the tires making noise around them was both exhilarating and frightening. The fear was more from the realization that they were in the only fuel powered vehicle that any of them had seen in a long time, and someone along their path of travel might try to relieve them of their ride.

Suddenly, the sporting rifles that Cooper and David held seemed to be less than ideal for the job they were undertaking. For the second time in his life—the first being when the Barstow place had been attacked—Cooper wished he had something more along the lines of the rifle carried by Tinker Bob. Cooper was especially worried about the single shot 20 gauge Jessica was using; they only had eight rounds of #4 buck for the weapon and five slugs, and after those ran out, she was reduced to the 20 field loads she had brought. Cooper himself was armed with his .38, four speed loaders and the rounds in the loops of the belt, the .308 bolt action rifle and 40 rounds—all he had—for the rifle. The two of them had never been what the old world would have considered survivalists and their lack of weaponry with ammo stocks to go with them proved that. David had a lever action .30-30 carbine and a .25 acp pistol with two magazines. He faired no better than Cooper and Jessica for ammunition. They all carried knives of some sort, but until this point, Cooper had never even considered that the hunting knife he had on his gunbelt might have to serve as a weapon.

If they ran into trouble, things looked bleak.

Tinker Bob eased around a massive pile up, making Cooper and David cling to the sides of the bed so that they would not get tossed around. Back on the road, the worn shocks of the truck managed to absorb the bumps without too much discomfort to all the riders. They passed through the little mountain town where at one point in time, Cooper and Jessica had often come down from the house for those essentials they had forgotten to get; milk, a loaf of bread, or simply to come and have a cup of coffee at the local café, and visit the used bookstore. They had checked out books from the branch library—if somewhat limited in choices, one could always order from the main branch and have it delivered—there had even been a decent diner for breakfast and a Mexican place for dinner. As they eased through the village, a couple people appeared from side streets to gaze at them in curiosity, waving and gaping at the running truck. Cooper recognized several of the people, and was shocked to see how worn and haggard they looked. He wondered if he looked the same to them. Before any other reaction could register, they were out of town and back on the empty road. Tinker Bob took the exit to the once busy highway, easing past a tractor trailer that had all the doors wide open to advertise just how empty the trailer was. The miles passed with little to be seen. From the highway, buildings looked derelict, most of them had broken windows, a few were torched, and littering the sides of the road, the center, the ditches, were all manner of vehicles. Some of them had crashed, some had crashed into each other; some had simply been left where they stopped.

At one point they passed what Cooper could only describe as a caravan; a long line of horses pulling wagons. Some of the wagons were old farm hay wagons, some had been built from the beds of pick-up trucks, the engines and transmissions gutted from the vehicles and the doors and fenders pulled off; anything to lighten the load on the horses was gone. The outriders of the caravan—men on riding horses, dressed in what looked to Cooper to be a uniform of sorts; tan shirts, green cargo pants, black boots and festooned with weapons of all kinds—galloped up to the truck and eased back when Cooper and David raised up their rifles so that they could be seen by the riders. Tinker Bob gave the truck more pedal and in a moment, the riders were lost in a cloud of diesel smoke and distance.

The day wore on.

Tinker Bob stopped the truck, for which Cooper and David were grateful because they had been bouncing around in the bed for what they felt was far too long. They had been trying to judge the distance by reading signs as they passed, but more often than not, they had missed the signs telling them how far to the next town. Both men stood in the bed and stretched, easing cramped muscles and feeling vertebrae snap back into place. Jessica jumped out of the cab and with a quick wave to Cooper, ran in to the bushes. The noise of the engine ceased and in the silence left behind, there was a loud buzz as their inner ears attempted to adjust to the absence of the vibration.

“Watch out for snakes,” called Cooper. Jessica’s response was lost to him. He jumped out of the bed of the truck and joined David and Tinker Bob.

“Nearly there,” said Tinker Bob. “Depending on how the roads are and the derelict cars are scattered, we could be there in a half an hour.”

“It’s amazing what an engine and wheels will do for you,” mentioned Cooper.

“Truly is,” agreed Tinker Bob. “Those trader wagons we passed; they’ll be another day, maybe two, covering the distance we just did.”

“Pretty hairy moment when they all rushed up on the truck,” said David. “I thought I might have to start shooting.”

“They were testing us,” said Tinker Bob. “If I’m not mistaken, that was Herb Fallows bunch. They’re more likely to try and intimidate folks than actually start shooting. Besides, what would they do with a truck? It would outrun their wagons, it takes fuel they don’t have and would have to look for, and in the end, even if they tried to take it, the loss of life isn’t worth the trouble of owning a running truck which would break down one day, or leave them stranded without fuel.”

Cooper barked out a laugh. “All those points you make, I wonder just why I want it.”

Tinker Bob gave him a laughing smile. “Because you’ll use it to haul as much cut timber as you can before any of that happens and it will pay for itself. It’s the application that makes the difference in the worth.”

There was truth in his statement.

Jessica came out of the bushes and joined them. “What’s the plan?”

“Half an hour,” said Tinker Bob. “The bypass around Hartsville is the way we’ll take to get there. It will keep us outside the normal patrols of the bikers. We won’t have to go into town at all and draw attention to ourselves. We’ll park this on the hill right before the pile up and walk in. That will give us an opportunity to look it over to be sure that no one else has messed with it.”

“We carrying the battery down with us?” asked David. “That way we don’t have to keep making trips up to the truck and maybe draw attention to that.”

“Good idea,” said Tinker. He motioned for them to come to the driver’s side of the truck. Tinker pointed to the wires he had pulled down. “Look here. These two wires twisted together, those are the power wires. This one, the brown one, this is the starter wire. Put the brown wire on the red ones and it starts.”

Tinker demonstrated this and the engine fired to life after a moment of cranking. “That’s it. Let’s get going. We might get this done all today.”

Agreeing that would be a marvelous thing, they climbed back into the vehicle and were off again.

It was not as Tinker Bob had hoped. There were several groups of people using the bypass. On foot, the people simply stared as the truck went by. One group was leading a couple pack animals who snorted and jerked at their leads when the truck roared by. Most of the people were going the other way, but another group was going in the same direction as the truck. They tried to wave them down, but Tinker Bob kept driving while Cooper and David tried to make themselves small in the bad of the truck in hopes they would not be noticed. Both men gripped their rifles tightly in case the people started to take other action to get them to stop.

Finally clearing the people on the bypass, Tinker Bob put the accelerator down to get to their destination as soon as possible so that they had time to work on the tractor before they encountered yet another cluster of travelers who might take an interest in what they were doing. Instead of stopping on the hill like he had said he would, Tinker Bob drive directly up to the pile up and stopped the truck on the outskirts of the massive wreck.

The pile up was on the overpass and nearly blocked both ramps on and off the highway. One tractor trailer had overturned, another was jack knifed and both of those had been torn apart in the crash. Cars were jammed up under the beds of the trailers, others had smashed into one another, and still more in an effort to avoid the crash were sideways in the road, off the median, and in the berm locked where they were by the wreck which had first caused the pile up. Cooper did not know how they were going to move anything away from the mess.

Tinker Bob exited the truck. “I came in from the wrong side.”

“How can you tell?”

He pointed to a plain white trailer on the far side of the wreck. It looked as if it were trapped by the cars around it, with one car actually under the trailer near the wheels. “That’s it. Grab the battery.”

“Does it look like you left it?” asked Cooper.

“Near enough. I won’t really be able to tell until I get up to it.”

“What about this truck?” asked Cooper.

“We can come back for it,” snapped Tinker Bob. “The real prize is in that truck.”

Cooper bit back the response he wanted to make and grabbed his rifle and David’s so that the other man could carry the battery. Jessica swung her backpack over her shoulder and picked up the shotgun. They followed Tinker Bob through the wreckage to the semi-truck. Tinker Bob went to work as soon as he got to the rig. He pointed to the trailer and at the lock on the doors.

“That’s my lock.”

He waved them to the front of the truck and instructed David and Cooper on how to unlock the hood and lift it up so that he could get to all the areas he needed to. He opened a compartment and on a sliding shelf was the old battery. Tinker Bob began to disconnect the battery. Jessica moved up to him.

“What do you want me to do?”

Tinker Bob unslung his AR and handed it to her. “Do you know how to use this?”

She shook her head in negative.

Quickly, Tinker Bob pointed out the sights and gave her a rough instructional on their use. He flipped off the safety and told her to keep her finger off the trigger unless she needed to shoot. “Go up there where you can see both ends of the road. If you see someone, give us a warning.”

Cooper came over to where Tinker Bob was removing the battery. “I’m bringing that truck over here.”

“This truck is the important one.”

“To you, for sure, to me, almost as much. But that truck is really what I wanted.”

Tinker Bob waved Cooper away. “Fine.”

“Open the back too,” said Cooper.

“What?”

“That was part of the deal, Tinker Bob,” reminded Cooper. “I get to fill up that tank and the bed of the truck. I can do it while you work on getting this started.”

“I need help here,” growled Tinker Bob.

“You’ve got David helping you and Jessica watching out. I’m going to do my thing. When I’m done, then you’ve got me, too.”

The two men stared at each other. Finally Tinker Bob dug a set of keys out of his pocket. “The key is on there.”

Cooper nodded and went to Jessica. He explained what he was doing and ended it with, “Keep a good eye out, I think Tinker Bob is afraid those people we saw back there will try to follow us, and if they do, we’re going to have a fight.”

“Were they part of the bikers?”

“I have no clue.”

“Be careful.”

“I will,” he promised, and made his way back across the wreckage to the truck.

Starting the truck was not as hard, but he did manage to shock himself in the process. With the wreckage the way it was across the lanes of traffic, Cooper decided that the best way to get to where the tractor trailer was sitting was to back up, ease down the ramp passed all the vehicles clogging the exit and then up the ramp on the other side. Thankfully, driving was something that even though he had not been behind the wheel of a vehicle in some time, it was an easy task to remember the basics of. Cooper found it simpler to drive off into the high weeds off the road than to try and remain on pavement. The truck jolted and bounced, jarring him in the driver’s seat as the suspension tried to absorb the hidden obstacles covered by the long grass. He finally was able to coax the truck out onto the road to start his climb up when he saw the horses in the distance.

They were about a quarter of a mile or more away on the road way he was on working through the maze of vehicles and debris in the road. Cooper could see that the riders were trying to let the horses move at their own pace, and had not yet noticed—or apparently heard—the diesel truck which was crawling across the road. Cursing to himself, Cooper gave the truck more pedal and worked to climb the ramp back on the highway. When he muscled the truck next to the tractor trailer, he killed the engine and jumped out, with his rifle in hand.

“We’re going to have company,” he called out.

Jessica was noticing the riders at the same moment, the horses having cleared the visual obstacle in her way. “Six horsemen coming this way.”

Tinker Bob set aside what he was doing and from the backpack he had nearby, he pulled a set of binoculars. Cooper wished he had thought of bringing his own bird watching glasses. Tinker Bob scanned in the direction that Jessica had pointed. He pulled the glasses from his face.

“It’s the bikers,” announced Tinker Bob. “A patrol. They haven’t seen us yet. If we’re lucky, maybe they’ll just pass us by.” He began to give direction. “Cooper, just leave that truck where it is, you and David drop the hood on the rig. Jessica, give me my rifle and get in the rig and stay there, don’t move around.” Cooper and David, once you get the hood down, find a place to hide. We’ll see which way the go; they might just pass under us and be gone, if not, I’ll try and talk to them; if they only see me, they might not think anything about it; they kind of know who I am. If I can’t talk them into just going on, we might have a fight.”

They scurried around to try and make the place appear as if nothing had changed since the last time the patrol had been there; Cooper could only hope that the trucks presence did not alert them that things were different. At a glance the truck initially and it did not look out of place, but if someone remembered that the old Dodge had never been there before—Cooper did not want to think about that happening. He managed to give Jessica a kiss before she climbed into the cab of the rig. Her eyes were wide and frightened. Cooper knew that he must have looked the same, but tried to offer reassurances none the less. She could only give him a strained smile and nod to him. He handed the 20 gauge to her and softly closed the door as she crawled into the sleeper area of the cab.

He ducked down among the shattered remains of a Ford sedan and held his breath.

Soon the sound of horses could be heard. As the clop clop came louder, he could also hear the conversation of the men on horseback, and none of the conversation had to do with them on the bridge or the vehicles on the overpass. The men talked about women, food, alcohol, and where they were going to get any and all of the mentioned topics. The sound of the horses and the voices of the men faded away until they could not be heard. Cooper stuck his head above the wreckage and saw that David was standing nearby, looking in the direction that the horses had gone with the patrol of bikers. Cooper supposed that he should stop thinking of them as bikers, since they rode actual horses now, and not the iron ponies they were more closely associated with.

Tinker Bob appeared and urged them out of their places. “Let’s get this going.”

They were all more than happy with that request.

After a calling out to Jessica that all was clear, Tinker Bob went back to work to get the tractor trailer running. Cooper checked the tanks on the big rig and saw that they had locking caps. More swearing erupted on his part.

“What’s wrong?” asked David. Cooper explained about the tanks. David got up into the cab and pulled the bundle of keys from the ignition. “Try one of these.”

Catching the cluster of keys, Cooper went about trying to find one which fit the lock on the cap. He finally got the right key and was able to open the tank. The smell of diesel fuel wafted out through the opening and the smell of it made Cooper step back for a moment. It was amazing how the chemical smell of the fuel turned his stomach now that it was not a daily part of the air around him. Setting the cap and keys aside, he grabbed up the length of hose he was going to use to transfer the fuel and dipped it into the tank. Cooper was just about to start filling up the tanks on the Dodge when Jessica called out to everyone.

“More company!”

They all ran to where she was perched on the top of a car. She pointed down the road in the direction they had come from. Figures on foot were rapidly moving toward them. Tinker Bob took his turn at swearing.

“I’m almost done,” he said. “Keep an eye on them.”

He ran back to the rig. Cooper pulled Jessica down from the top of the car. He pushed her toward the truck. “You go and get in the truck. Do you remember how to start it?”

She nodded.

“Then be ready to drive out of here.”

“Right after you get in the truck,” she told him.

Cooper settled for nodding in agreement. He kissed her and sent her away. David looked worried.

“How hard can it be to start a semi-truck?”

“As long as the battery has the cold cranking amps, it should be good,” said Cooper.

“Does it?”

“Let’s hope.”

Yanking the hose free of the tank, Cooper resealed the cap, rolled up the hose and tossed it into the back of the truck. He stepped up into the cab and put the keys on the seat. As he was getting out of the cab, the door beside him made a popping noise. In the same second, he heard the report of the firearm that had sent the bullet his way. Cooper nearly fell off the tractor rig in his hurry to get down and out of the line of fire. He had no clue how close it had come to hitting him, but he did know that it was way too close for his comfort.

David fired his .30-30 in response.

Doubled over, Cooper scooted over to where David had taken up a position behind the remains of a vehicle and was levering his next round into the chamber. Shoving his own rifle over the hood near where David was crouched, Cooper scanned the road across the bridge for adversaries.

He saw a figure leaning against a box truck with a long arm pointed in their direction. Cooper brought the 2-7x scope to bear on the shape. The details of the man jumped into the field of view; faded, worn clothing appeared in the glass, Cooper could see a button standing out against the once red fabric. The crosshairs bounced as Cooper settled them on the button. He took a deep breath, winced as something hissed and buzzed overhead and hit metal behind him, then began to press the trigger.

The .308 barked, pushed hard at his shoulder and tried to lift. Cooper leaned into the recoil, pushing to keep the rifle down and his focus on the button. The trigger stayed pressed back as the rifle settled. He could see the side of the box truck now had a scarlet spray along the weathered paint. Cooper automatically worked the bolt, knifing the dogleg up and flicking the bolt back. The spent round jumped out of the chamber, ejected up and fell to the hood of the car with a metallic chime. Cooper had the second round in the chamber and ready as David shot his next round.

He could not see any other targets.

David levered the rifle again and shoved two rounds in to the magazine tube to keep the old rifle topped off.

“Do you see anyone?” asked Cooper.

“No.”

They continued to scan the far side of the bridge.

“I think that you shooting that one made them rethink charging us,” said David.

The image of the blood spray came to the fore of Coopers mind. He blinked away the apparition, his stomach suddenly tying itself in knots. Swallowing down the lump forming in his throat, Cooper closed his eyes for a moment to gather his resolve; after all, they had shot at him first and nearly succeeded in drawing first blood. “Let’s hope so.”

The both turned on hearing something scramble up behind them. Tinker Bob held up his hands when the business ends of their rifles swing in his direction.

“We’re ready,” he said.

“We’ll stay here until you get it started,” said Cooper.

Tinker Bob nodded. Still doubled over, he ran back to the tractor and climbed up into the cab. There was a flurry of bullets launched in his direction and one of the round managed to break the side mirror. Cooper and David searched for the source of the shooting. It was given away by a puff of pale smoke that nearly disappeared as soon as they spotted it.

Both men fired a round each at the spot and then ducked down when the car they were hiding behind seemed to explode around them. Glass shattered and metal popped and pinged as the bullets punched into and through the car. Cooper and David scurried away from the vehicle as if it might explode on them. They ended up behind different vehicles, with the one they were originally hiding behind between them.

“Somebodies got a fucking machinegun,” said David nervously laughing.

“I think it’s an AR like Tinker Bobs,” said Cooper.

“Either way, that was scary.”

The tractor began to whine and shudder. There was another barrage of bullets, this time at the tractor trailer.

“We’ve got to figure out where that guy is,” said Cooper as he and David winced away from the sounds.

Cooper knelt and peered through the dusty glass of the SUV he was behind. He could see people starting to move up on the bridge. Three of them, one of the people carried the AR in question. The man stopped and took aim again. Cooper brought his own rifle up and sighted through the dusty glass. When the cross hairs fell on the man, Cooper pressed the trigger, just like he had done a dozen times on the past while hunting deer. The rifle barked and glass exploded around him, shards flying away from the blast of the rifle barrel. The round blew out the side windows as it travelled through them. Cooper was already working the bolt and bringing the scope back to bear on the AR shooter. The first round had sailed off course, deflected by the double layers of glass perhaps, or maybe Cooper had rushed his shot. In any case the AR began to flash back in his direction. Cooper did not hear the rounds hit the SUV, but he did see the windshield star as bullets hit and blew glass back at him. Square pieces of the safety glass cut his hands and face, but Cooper was already aiming the .308 and pressing the trigger. Beside him, he could hear David levering rounds of his own down range. The scope was full of green jacket and then there was a ripple in the fabric. The .308 punched Cooper’s shoulder and the glass lifted away from the target. When Cooper forced it down, there was no more man standing with an AR.

David fired once more and then was frantically shoving rounds into the magazine.

The semi-truck fired and caught. The roar of the big diesel filled the air.

Cooper yelled for David to go.

He worked the bolt on the rifle and scanned for more targets. A man was standing up and shooting. Cooper shot back, David shot once as well and ducked and ran for the semi-truck. Cooper saw the man dive behind a pickup truck for cover. He turned and ran as well, heading for the truck that Jessica was bringing to life. When he reached the truck, he simply rolled over the bed rails and into the back. Jessica gunned the diesel and it jumped and roared away from the bridge. Cooper chanced a look over the bed and saw that the semi-truck was lurching away as well, the big rig was pushing the other vehicles out of its path as David slammed the passenger’s door shut behind him. Cooper leaned back and opened the bolt on the rifle.

Nothing popped out.

He had forgotten to reload the rifle.

Cooper rectified that. He found that he was having trouble with his fingers, and made hard fists until the feeling came back into them. Finally the magazine was loaded and Cooper eased the bolt forward, chambering a round. The shakes hit him and he nearly dropped the rifle as the tremors wracked his body. It was like being caught in a winter storm without a coat. Cooper fought to control his frayed nerves and to not focus on the images of perforated bodies and blood which suddenly sprang up in his mind’s eye. The roar of the tractor trailer gaining on them helped pull his spasmodic thoughts back to where they needed to be. He looked passed the long hood of the tractor an could see that David was waving his hand at him, Cooper returned the wave and settled back against the cab, the air mattress felt like it had deflated, but Cooper was suddenly too exhausted to worry about it. He focused on a new worry and hoped they had enough diesel to get the truck back to the cabin.

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Re: Cooper

Post by doc66 » Sat Mar 21, 2015 8:52 am

The diesel made a low sound like a growl and even with the weight of the wood in the bed, crawled out of the small wallow where they had been cutting trees. This batch was for the cabin they were going to build for David. The place was not going to be as elaborate as a pre-collapse structure, but it would have a loft area and big windows scavenged from the remains of the Barstow place, purchased with trade from their portion of the semi-truck. 8x8 block and cement for the foundation, mortar for between the logs, most of the flat wood for flooring and the roof trusses had been looted from local lumber yards where the owners no longer existed to protest. They had even found a barrel of diesel behind one of the lumber sheds at a yard and managed to take the barrel and stand, extending the usefulness of the truck.

Cooper made sure the truck was clear of any obstacles before he began to gather up the chainsaws and all the gear and equipment that using the chainsaws required. Trufuel was a godsend and three of the cases they had discovered in the back of the trailer when they had gotten the tractor trailer back to the cabin had immediately gone into the keep pile. They had spent days going through the trailer, and negotiating with Tinker Bob over what would be considered their fourth of the goods. At one point, Cooper thought David was simply going to put a bullet in the other man’s head and claim all of the trailers contents, but Leticia—who had gazed in wide eyed amazement at the truck and rig when they pulled up and then gasped in astonishment again when the trailer was opened—managed to work out a compromise that satisfied all of the negotiators. The storm cellar of the cabin was crammed so full of items that nonperishable goods had been relegated to the shed where the shelves and small storage loft there was packed full.

It would not always be that way, but for now, they had it easy.

Once everything had been settled, Tinker Bob had taken the tractor trailer up to el Rancho de Montaña to park the beast for storage. He had made the deal with el Jefe, giving the rancher the remaining fuel in the tanks and a portion of the goods to protect the load while Tinker Bob and Little Jug pulled the cart along their trade route, supplementing the goods they traded for with the contents of the trailer. Tinker Bob rarely stopped by any longer, and Cooper and Jessica missed the news from the outside, but they made more trips up to the ranch for gatherings and there was another source of news in recent weeks. Rumor of the trailer had, however spread across the mountain and through the valley below, and after having to shoot a couple of malcontents from the valley who thought they could take the goods from el Jefe’s clan and Cooper and Jessica and David by force, the word spread that their goods were not for the taking. El Jefe had Cooper haul one of the trailers down to the Barstow home location and rotated his numerous relatives through the outpost to keep an eye on the road and the access paths around them. The increased traffic on the mountain road meant that at the cabin they saw their neighbors more often, which gave them a sense of security not previously enjoyed.

Jessica walked down the slope to help Cooper. She was barely showing, but the bump was there, under her sundress.

“You know that working on this doesn’t preclude you’re working in the garden,” she told him as she handed him a small bottle of Gatorade. That had been an item they did not need, but had wanted; a couple flats of the sports drink.

“You’ve got Leticia to help you,” protested Cooper. He still hated working in the garden.

“Three times a week does not get everything done,” informed Jessica. “There’s all kinds of stuff coming in and we need to harvest. I want to get what we’re not going to be able to put up down to the market Saturday.”

The trip through the little mountain town and the running diesel truck had opened up communications with the town again. Jessica had trained the llama to pull a cart similar to the one Tinker Bob had for Little Jugs to pull. That had been a negotiation; trading for the llama. Cooper kept that one separate from the negotiation for the trailer goods. It had cost him an old camping tent and the air mattress along with some more time traded for work, but once they had the animal trained—with the help of one of el Jefe’s nephews—the llama had come in handy for pulling light loads and dragging branches and small logs. They had even made a pack saddle and panniers for the animal.

“Am I going with you, or is Leticia or David?”

“You don’t want to spend time with me?” teased Jessica. “You think I’m fat?”

He laughed with her and put a sawdust covered and sweaty arm around her. “You’re beautiful. If you want me to come along, I will.”

“There’s a play in the afternoon, is all,” she told him. “The local theater group put together a production of “Noises Off” and I heard that there’s a musical troupe in town as well. It’d be like a date.”

Cooper had no clue what “Noises Off” was or if it was a comedy or drama, but he knew that he’d like to hear the music; he still hadn’t found strings for his guitar. In all honesty, he’d forgotten about asking Tinker Bob to look. The music troupe might have a source, or even spares. He wondered what he could trade for a set.

“I’ll clear my calendar,” Cooper told her.

“Well, thanks.” Jessica elbowed him. “Get going, cowboy, I’ll see you back at the house when you and David are done for the day.

“We’re going to strip these new logs and maybe notch the others. I know he wants to get a wall up by next week.”

“Well, maybe since el Jefe is letting David see Theresa again, he can get some of her brothers and her cousins down here to help one day and we can slaughter a goat and roast it,” mentioned Jessica; they had a half dozen kids running the property now and it was time to thin out the herd a little. “With a half dozen people I’ll bet you can get that cabin up in no time.”

“We’ll break out a case of that beer, too,” suggested David. They had found a back room full of beer on one of their explorations with the truck.

“With that and the corn beer, you all should be good.”

“Yum, corn beer.”

“It helped you here,” she told him, patting her growing mound.

Cooper laughed. “I suppose.”

She pulled away. “See you later.”

Cooper bid her goodbye and watched as she walked up the rise and back to the house. He continued to gather the gear after downing the sports drink. Life sometimes worked out, he mused.
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Re: Cooper

Post by Nancy1340 » Sat Mar 21, 2015 4:20 pm

Very enjoyable story. Thanks

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Re: Cooper

Post by bodyparts » Sat Mar 21, 2015 10:02 pm

right on Doc thanks . good story, even with out zombies !

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Re: Cooper

Post by 91Eunozs » Sat Mar 21, 2015 10:17 pm

:clap:

Great story... Thanks!
Molon Latte...come & take our coffee order
Doctorr Fabulous wrote:... It's fun to play pretend, but this is the internet, and it's time to be serious.
zengunfighter wrote:... you don't want to blow a tranny in the middle of a pursuit...
woodsghost wrote:... A defensive gun without training is basically a talisman. It might ward off evil, but I wouldn't count on it.

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Re: Cooper

Post by 223shootersc » Sun Mar 22, 2015 2:52 pm

Thanks Doc good stuff, need MOAR as usual :clap:

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Re: Cooper

Post by doc66 » Sun Mar 22, 2015 8:18 pm

I don't know that there will be more on Cooper. It was a story that kept interrupting all the other things I'm trying to get written, so I went ahead and put it down on "paper."

Jack Roy and a mystery novel(?) are what I'm working on right now. Or what I'm supposed to be working on. We'll see what else pops up. I know where Jack Roy is going, I just need the space to write it.

I like Cooper and Jessica--they are loosely based on a friends of mine who are homesteaders.
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Re: Cooper

Post by black_cat » Tue Mar 24, 2015 4:44 am

Hey doc,
first: I registered specially to tell you how much I enjoy your stories. thanks for all the writing you have done and the hours of entertainment you provide me with.
second: I took someliberties with your avatar picture, lol
third: I have been waiting a loooong time for The mountain to be continued, so well, below is my 'artistic' reaction on seeing a new storie of you appear but no sign of The mountain ever to be finished ...

“Waiting for Jack Roy?” the man said loud and angry.

”Waiting for Jack Roy?”, the man said again, louder know.

The loud voice attracted some curious looks from passerby’s.

Their eyes were greeted by a strange sight. Left there was a little man. Doc. Doc had always been little, even for a dwarf. He nervously fidgeted with the edges of his old, worn, leather jacket. To the right was the man doing the shouting. Now man might not be the correct word for what was standing right in front of doc. As small as doc was, so big was the other man. Really big. And really wide. The man looked more like a grizzly bear standing on his rear legs. Head high, front paws out, ready to pounce the small guy in front of him. The image of an enraged grizzly was further enhanced by the long, heavy fur coat the man was wearing.

“Waiting for Jack Roy?”, the grizzly man shouted again.

Veins where now bulging in his neck. His mouth remain open, showing teeth. A scar ran over his face, a testament to a fight long ago. It further strengthened the image of an old, strong grizzly. One shudders to think who would have been so foolish as to get into a fight with this man.

“Look”, doc said, “I know it has been a long time but it is not as I have any choice in what I write.”

A hand shoots forward, effortless lifting Doc in the air.

“No choice?!”, “No choice!!!” the grizzly man now shouts. And it sounded like a hurricane gathering strength. The two passerby’s in the alley quickly hurry on, not wanting any part in what is about to happen here.

“You are the writer!!”

“You write!!”

“You start new story after new story!!!”

The hurricane is now at full strength, veins more than a centimeter thick bulge on the face and neck of the grizzly man.

“But”

“you”

“never”

“finish”

“The mountain”

The man pulls Doc close to his face, doc’s feet dangle almost 1.5 meters above the ground.

“I … want … the mountain. …… finished!” the grizzly man snarls. Each word punctuated with an angry stare and a shake of Doc.

“Look, I know, I know”, Doc answers. He sounds calm, nearly not frightened enough for somebody in his position.

“It has been a long time that I worked on The mountain”

“But you like Jack Roy, right?”

The grizzly man snorts.

“And you liked Cooper, right”

Humpf

“And I am writing again now, enjoying writing. I have more time to write again.”

The grizzly man looks calmer now. No longer ready to tear of Doc’s head.

“Me writing is a hell of a lot better than me not writing, right?”

Another snort of the grizzly man. An optimistic man would hear a yes in that snort.

Doc is being lowered to the ground.

“And the more I write, the better change that The mountain will be finished”

Doc is again standing on the ground. With his footing he regains even more confidence.

“It is just that I have all this stories I HAVE to write now”

The grizzly man looks angrier again.

“I have to write them to get them out of my head” Doc hurries to say. “To make room for The mountain”

A doubtful look from the grizzly man.

“You see, a writer not always has a choice in which story he has to tell. Stories have their own life”

“But the mountain story is not dead?” the grizzly man now asks, in an almost soft voice.

“No, no” doc says. “the mountain is not dead, in fact I now exactly how it will enfold and end.”

“But it needs its own time to be told, not be hurried. Not distracted by the other stories in my head. But a space all to itself so I can tell it just the way it deserves to be told.”

“But. You. Will. Finish. The mountain.” the huge man asks, a lot of doubt in his voice.

“I will, I most certainly will. Have I ever lied to you?”, Doc plays his final card

“No”, the other man grumbles. “you haven’t. You just, sometimes, take a very long time to keep a promise”

Doc gives the other man his best innocent look.

“And while we are on the subject of promises, mom said you promised to call and you haven’t”

“How about I do one better and I accompany you, when you go visit mom this afternoon?”

Doc asks, with a happy and confident tone in his voice.

“Mom would like that”

“Then I will! Because you are right brother, I should work a bit more on keeping my promises”

And while they were cheerfully chattering, the most unlikely pair of brothers to ever walk this earth continued on their way as if the scuffle from just before never even happened.

And for both of them it was nothing to remember or give a second thought about. It was just how they had behaved to each other all their live.

Everybody in town who knows the brothers also knows the big grizzly man would never hurt his younger brother. Quit the opposite actually. The story of what happened when a motorcycle gang of 20 strong rolled into town and after some heavy drinking decided to make fun of Docs small size is still only talked about in whispers and hushed tones. It is too long of a story to go into here and now. But yes, it is the night that the older brother got the scar on his face (and a lot more on his body). And it also explains why those three buildings on Main Street have been so heavily remodeled.

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Re: Cooper

Post by doc66 » Tue Mar 24, 2015 8:37 am

:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

AH, yes, the Mountain.

And Jesse.

They all have their endings, and they just need to be written!

That was awesome. Doc and his brother might turn up somewhere.... I like the way you described them.
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Re: Cooper

Post by black_cat » Tue Mar 24, 2015 11:32 am

doc66 wrote::clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

AH, yes, the Mountain.

And Jesse.

They all have their endings, and they just need to be written!

That was awesome. Doc and his brother might turn up somewhere.... I like the way you described them.
Blush.

Unfortunately that is the upper limit of my writing abilities (english is not my native language).

Feel free to use them. But please do not make grizzly man "slow". He might not talk a lot and use more grunts than words most of the time. But I do not like the giant body = slow mind cliché. I wrote him not saying much but just as an opposite to the brother who in my mind talks a lot. But both are in my mind equally smart.

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Re: Cooper

Post by KentuckyRifleman » Tue Mar 24, 2015 7:46 pm

Doc - really enjoyed the short story

Black_Cat - you have a talent for writing also . . .
Insert clever quote here

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Re: Cooper

Post by FmrJarhead13 » Wed Mar 25, 2015 9:28 pm

Thanks for the sweet short story Doc. I have been following Jack Roy and this was a nice filler. You never did mention the root cause of the PAW in this story, but I kinda like that you left it open ended.

Thanks again.

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Re: Cooper

Post by jackorchuck » Thu Mar 26, 2015 5:55 am

Thanks for the story Doc, you are one hell of a writer.

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Re: Cooper

Post by complex57 » Thu Mar 26, 2015 11:00 pm

Nicely done.

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Re: Cooper

Post by doc66 » Mon Jun 29, 2015 11:53 am

Yeah, I know. Jack Roy and the Mountain. But this one came pretty fast over the last three days.

COMMUNE


David and Leticia had been on the road for two hard days. Unlike Before, when you could travel twenty-five miles in the same amount of time in minutes, traveling twenty-five miles in today’s world meant planning for three days to travel for two; deciding that you were going to travel, weighing the benefits of the trip against the considerations for not going, making sure that you had everything you needed for an extended trip, deciding how long to stay on the other end to recuperate from the trip—pack animals had to rest as well—and then having the supplied for the trip back. Did one take enough for the entire journey with them, or did one hope that once you arrived at the destination that there would be enough supplies on the other end to restock for the trip home? All these things in reality had taken almost three weeks to plan, since the nature of the road trip was to obtain parts to tie David’s newly finished A-frame cabin into the solar supply generated by Cooper’s panels.

Cooper and David had put the word out through the network of traveling salesmen—tinkers, as they were known—that they would trade basic medical supplies and a few luxury goods for the parts needed to provide David’s small loft cabin with light—in the form of LED bulbs—and a few plugins for other things; namely a small Bose stereo which David had traded for. Tinker Bob had returned with word that a slightly weird and religious commune had agreed to provide the wire and even had a small Power Organization Module that they were willing to part with for the goods Cooper, Jessica, David and Leticia were willing to trade. They had a basic list of the luxury items they wanted and the small homestead compound agreed that most of what the commune wanted was not really a hardship to let go. Since Tinker Bob was heading the other direction from the commune, he had used an old road map to show where the commune lay, and warned them to “be careful of the weirdo’s,” before going on his way.

The next several days were making sure there were enough people around to get the chores done since Jessica was nearing her full pregnancy term. They had gone up the mountain road they lived on to el Rancho de Montaña and spoken with el Jefe about having someone come down to help Cooper with the duties around the homestead. While there they had also discussed Jessica’s pregnancy and the need for a midwife. One of the el Jefe’s nieces was a nurse and she was going to act in that capacity as well as she could when the time came. Of course the visit took all day—as things always did when going to el Rancho—and much food was consumed and corn beer sampled. David and Leticia had spent a day making food for the road; cornpone with chilies, empanadas stuffed with salted meats and spices, and hard boiled eggs—pickled as well as simply left in the shell. They had gotten used to eating some strange foods since everything had fallen apart; clabber, soured milk that was similar to cottage cheese, but not, pozole, Moros de guandules con coco, menudo—much of it the Central American fare taught to them by el Jefe and his clan. The cornpone, empanadas, and eggs, with dried apples and other berries and fruits were packed in plastic storage bags and divided up between the two of them to carry in their backpacks. The heavier things such as their tent and sleeping bags—and the trade goods—were packed on the llama and hefting their rifles, the two of them set out in the early morning hours to put some distance between them and the mountain before the sun got too high.

Now, down in the valley on the afternoon of the second day, David and Leticia found themselves at the heavy gate which led up to the commune. The gate was one of the type which could be found blocking the entrance onto any field, pasture, or farm land in the United States. Made of thick steel pipe, bent and wielded and covered with fading and chipped paint, it was secured with chain and a padlock preventing them from just walking onto the property. On either side of the gate was wire fence grown thick around with weeds and vines. Trees lined the long drive as far back as they could see, shading the gravel lane. Attached to one of the gate posts was hung a large cow bell with a clapper on a string. David and Leticia studied the area for a moment, him with his old Marlin 36 at ready and she with her Hi-Point carbine. They looked like the apocalyptic road travelers they were. Leticia wore tan Dickie carpenters pants over heavy black work boots, what had been a white tank top under a leather vest. To keep her thick hair from being too wild on the road, she had shoved a black stocking hat with the lettering Patrona over her dark locks and had a pair of Ray Bans covering her eyes. Her flannel shirt was shoved into the top of her backpack. David was less Chicano looking in his baggy jeans and hiking boots, Phish concert shirt, and minor league baseball cap. His own lightweight fleece jacket was tied to the outside of his pack. Both were disheveled and dusty. Both had streaks of dirt on their skin where they had sweated and it had dried and run again through the course of the last two days.

“Asi, cabeza, what now?” asked Leticia, pushing her sunglasses up on her head.

“Stop calling me that,” said David.

Leticia gave a short laugh. “Ay, pobrecito, come on, it’s all in good fun.”

“You are a pain en el culo,” returned David, taking off his hat and running his fingers through his hair.

She gave him a funny look and then grinned. “Your Spanish is getting better, polla.”

David grunted at her something that could have been a thank you or a shut up—depending on how she wanted to take it—put his hat back on and tied the llama off on one of the posts. “I think the idea is to ring the bell and they’ll come out to get us.”

“As long as they don’t come out shooting.”

Giving her a nod of agreement, David reached out and gave the clapper several firm yanks. The cow bell gave its distinctive clatter which sounded like a cross between a bell and pile of metal poles falling down stairs. He stood back from the post looking around as if he expected people to appear suddenly on either side. When nothing happened after several long moments, he shrugged and motioned to the shade off to one side of where the llama was crunching at the leaves and grass.

“Might as well take a load off.”

Leticia shed her backpack and tossed it down on the ground, following it with a heavy sigh, as she put her carbine next to her on the ground. “I’ll be glad to get back to mi sofa de mi campista.”

“That used to be my campista,” said David joining her and leaning his rifle against the fence.

“And thank you so much for letting me have it once your fucking cabina was finished,” returned Leticia with a roll of her eyes. “I couldn’t take another day up at el Ranchero with all my cousins and shit around.”

She pressed on when David did not answer. “You going to move Theresa in that cabina?”

“No,” said David. “I’m not.”

“You two on the outs again?”

“Jesus, Leticia, give it a rest.”

“Hey, chico, I’m just making some fucking conversation here.”

There was a moment of quiet.

“You know what the goddamn problem is?” asked David.

“You don’t have brown skin and you’re not Catholic?”

“Pretty much,” said David with a sigh.

“Hey, it’s not my fault elle no se apago,” laughed Leticia. “She’s a Buena nina; apple of el Jefe’s eye. You know?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“All my fucking cousins and you gotta pick the one that is vying for sainthood.”

“Shut up,” said David again. Leticia held up a hand in mock surrender.

“Sure pocho.”

David gave her a sour look. “Really?”

“What?”

“Pocho?”

“Hey, you know, in the 415, you’re just un chico blanco.”

David shook his head in defeat. There was no getting out of the conversation with Leticia with his dignity intact. She dug out her water bottle and upended it, handing it to David who took a long drink himself before handing it back to her. Leticia capped the bottle and placed it back in the side pocket of the backpack.

“How long you think they gonna be?”

The llama picked its head up and gave its weird bray, moving away from the gate to the end of its lead.

David quickly stood off the ground and grabbed his rifle. “About that long.”

Leticia also stood and pulled her sunglasses down over her eyes as she slipped the carry strap of the 9mm carbine over her shoulder. She quickly stepped over to the llama and grabbed the lead, untying the strap from the post so that if needed, she could send the animal off at a run. David thumbed the hammer back on the .30-30 round in the chamber of the Marlin before getting into a place where he could peer down the lane. He wished he had more firepower at hand, the only other source of protection was the little .25 auto he had shoved in his pocket.

“Four of them, all men, armed with a rifle and a couple shotguns,” he told Leticia, who was standing off to one side of the entrance to the lane.

“You remember the code word Tinker Bob gave us?” she asked.

“Yeah.”

“What is it?”

“Uncle Bob sent us.”

“There you go.”

The men saw the two of them and the one with the rifle stopped about a half a football field away. David noticed that there was a small gun emplacement made of mounded dirt that the man stepped behind. It was not noticeable at a casual glance being covered with grass, and simply looked like a mound of soil which had been pushed aside from the road. He did not disappear, as he remained standing, but David was interested to note the position nonetheless. The other three men kept coming and David made sure to keep the rifle down, but ready. As they drew closer, David could see that one of the men was actually little more than a teenager—about Leticia’s age. He looked determined—to do what, David was unsure, but he hoped it was not to start a fight—and carried the long barreled shotgun as an extension of his arms. Another was an older man, looking enough like the kid that he could have been his father; defiantly related. Even dressed as he was in baggy coveralls—he probably filled them out at one time before food became something you had to grow yourself—David could tell that he was a man who was used to commanding respect and receiving it. His stride was purposeful, his head held high. The three stopped short of the gate.

“What can we do ya for?” asked the older man, the one who looked like the kid. He said it to David, but his eyes roamed the area behind David until he rested on Leticia. David saw the man’s eyes narrow slightly at the sight of the Chola.

“Uncle Bob sent us,” said David.

The kid snorted. He stared full on at Leticia, his gaze roaming from her dark hair to her full breasts and hips and the scattered tattoos on her arms, then back to her breasts before looking at David. “He didn’t say you’d be Mexican.”

“I’m as fuckin American as you, culo.”

“What’d you call me?” asked the kid.

David gave Leticia a signal to back off. She pursed her lips and bit back her retort.

“Sorry about that,” covered the older man. “We don’t see many people of color around here. They stay out of the valley, mostly.”

David was not sure what to say to the man’s statement, or how it should be taken. He settled for simply nodding as if he understood. “Sure, you know why we’re here, right?”

“Oh yeah, Tinker Bob said you would be needing some wire and that inverter we got. We’ve been expecting you to come. Thought you’d be here a couple days ago; almost give up on you coming.”

“We had things to take care of on our end,” said David vaguely.

“Sure,” the man approached the gate. “I’m Pastor Mike, this is Bret.” He waved a hand at the manager. “That’s Shawn.”

Shawn looked like he might have once been a minor manager in a box store; he appeared weary and as if he had not gotten enough sleep in his life. He was more than likely the one who kept the day to day business of the commune going. Shawn nodded to them. Pastor Mike stuck out his hand in greeting over the gate.

“David, and this is Leticia.”

“Pretty name,” acknowledged Pastor Mike as they shook. Shawn stepped forward, unlocked the gate and swung it open while Pastor Mike continued to speak. “That a llama? I didn’t know you could make them pack animals.”

“They can’t carry much, but they do okay,” supplied David as he stepped onto the lane.

He did not want to mention the animal could pull more than it could carry; draft animals of any kind were coming back into vogue with the gasoline and diesel supplies quickly becoming scarce. David and Cooper had spoken about maintaining what they called security, and not giving out to much information was part of it. He stood so that he was between Leticia and Brad as she led the animal into the gated area. No need to bait the bull, he decided. Shawn closed and locked the gate behind them, looping the lanyard it was attached to around his neck where it simply dangled. He waved to the man with the rifle—a Ruger Mini 14 from the look—and the man stepped away from the improvised bunker. Shawn took the lead as Bret fell in behind with David, Leticia, and the llama in the middle. While it made David itchy—that was the only way he could describe the feeling—he could not blame them for their caution. Pastor Mike strode ahead of them, occasionally making small talk about their journey and asking about if they were expected back soon. David felt his hackles rise at the questions and kept his answers to vague and pleasant responses. When they fell in beside the rifleman, he nodded to Shawn and Pastor Mike, but waited until Bart was even with him to start walking with them. As they passed, David gave him a once over, noting the old-style BDU pants the man wore and the build of the gun emplacement. It was simply a mound of dirt high enough to crouch behind, but not much more. The man stared at Leticia as she walked by; if Leticia took notice, David could not tell since her eyes were covered by the Ray Bans and her face remained expressionless.

Weird religious commune, thought David. Tinker Bob should have said weird racist religious compound, from the look of the glances Leticia was getting.

They walked down the lane not much further than a quarter mile or so before it turned sharply to the left and opened into a large field which at one time might have been a well-manicured lawn. Goats—those were making a big comeback now—roamed the yard on tethers, chickens free ranged nearby, and here and there trailers were parked in the tall grass. The house was a large place, perhaps five bedrooms from the look of it, with two stories and a wraparound porch. There were a few children roaming the place, dressed in little more than shorts and dirty t shirts. A woman was washing clothing in a big trough made of half a 55 gallon barrel while another rung the clothing out and hung it on a line. The results dangled from three long clothes lines. The woman doing the wash looked to be Indian—India Indian—which surprised David form the reception he and Leticia had gotten. She was young, maybe in her early 20s, and had the look of someone who was beaten down. She glanced up at the arrival of David and Leticia but went back to work at the sharply spoken words of the other woman.

Shawn led them to a shed around the back of the house. The small structure housed a couple of stalls and in the fenced field the shed abutted, David saw several cows grazing with a donkey. Shawn opened the wide stock door.

“You can put the llama out to graze and then up for the night here. It’s not much, but we haven’t gotten around to building a bigger barn,” apologized Shawn. “With the lack of lumber these days it means tearing something else down and without animals to haul it, we’re stuck with what we have.”

David pretended that he hadn’t seen the long hard glance Pastor Mike gave as he studied the llama. They could probably do a lot of work around the place with a donkey and a llama to help haul things. He shook the thought away, knowing his paranoia was probably misplaced.

“I totally understand,” mentioned David. “It’s hard work to cut in a garden by hand and haul water in buckets.”

Not that they did those things at the homestead, mused David. Cooper had already had his place set up with water catchment and el Jefe had draft horses to break ground. Weeding, however, was still done with a hoe. David began to strip the panniers from the pack saddle while Leticia helped steady the load. As he worked, David cast innocent looks around the place. There were no solar panels set up that he could see, and hoped that they had not gotten sucked into a trap.

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established,” quoted Pastor Mike with a laugh. “That’s what the bible says. We work hard here and are thankful for what we have.”

David tied off the lead for the llama and began to untie the lashings holding the panniers in place.

“You need help with that?” asked Shawn, watching as David pulled the rope free and Leticia gathered the lines and straightened them.

“Thanks,” said David. “It’s easier if I get them alone.”

“Sure, you can set them off to the side, here,” indicated Pastor Mike, eyeing the packs. “You two want to freshen up a bit? We’ve got a wash house; it’s not much but it has three walls and a bucket of water. I can get our girl, Sanjana to get you some hot water.”

He looked around and saw that Bret and the rifleman were still standing close by and watching. “Bret, go get Sanjana and tell her to bring water for our guests. Tom, don’t you have work to do still?”

Bret gave David and Leticia one last sour glance and walked away while Tom shrugged before turning himself to head to parts unknown.

“Sorry about that, we don’t get new people around here much, and the folks in the valley tend to keep to themselves,” smoothed Pastor Mike, making David wonder if the problem was the folks in the valley, or the commune.

“Porque usted es raro,” muttered Leticia. David choked down a laugh, turning it into a cough while Shawn seemed confused.

“Pardon me?”

“Sorry, things are tough all over,” smiled Leticia. Under the dark sunglasses, the smile seemed mechanical, but Shawn nodded.

“They certainly are,” he agreed. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Once you get cleaned up, I’ve got some things to take care of and we can get to business if you want. We’ll have dinner soon, I imagine you’ll be joining us and staying the night?”

“If we get our business done today, it depends,” David decided as Leticia pulled the pack saddle off the llama and released it into the field where it trotted off toward the cows.

Shawn took them to the wash house. As Pastor Mike had stated, it was a simple three walled affair built out of scraps of lumber with a pallet floor so that the water would simply splash down on the ground and away from the person rinsing off. There was a bench nearby where David and Leticia leaned their rifles and packs. Shawn told them that the water should be there soon as they had it ready for wash day, then went to find the preacher.

When he left, Leticia gave a low whistle. “Este lugar es jodidamente loca.”

“Si, it’s pretty extrano,” answered David in Spanish as well.

“We are leaving first thing manana, espero,” she returned as she shed her vest and started removing her boots.

“As long as all this va bien hoy, si.”

“Good.” Leticia nodded at something David could not see. “Here come’s el agua. Esa chica don’t look happy.”

David turned to look and see where Leticia indicated. The Indian woman was coming toward them carrying a large jug of water. She was wearing a pair of what looked like pajama pants and a men’s dress shirt, rolled up at the sleeves and tied off at the bottom so that it did not get in the way. David thought the woman look beautiful in spite of the conditions she was working in. As she approached, David went forward and took the water jug from her.

“Thank you,” she said.

“Sure.” David began to carry the water jug up to the wash house. Sanjana followed. David looked over at her. “I’ve got it.”

“I’m supposed to wait until you are finished,” she told him, glancing toward the house where Bret was leaning against the porch rail watching them. “I need to take the jug back.”

“Sure,” answered David. “You live here?”

Sanjana looked back toward the house where Bret was suddenly in motion, walking toward them. “You don’t stay here longer than you have to.”

“What?” asked David, not really surprised at the warning but still caught off guard.

“These people are bad—.”

“Sanjay,” called Bret. “I’ll get that, you go back to your work.”

Sanjana gave David one last hard look or warning and turned away. As she walked by Bret, he leaned in and said something to her causing her to step away from him and shake her head violently. Bret saw David looking and smiled malevolently at him before walking away himself to return to his post leaning on the porch.

“What the fuck was that?” asked Leticia. “Ella dice algo a usted?”

“We need to get this done and go,” David told her, in Spanish as well. He was afraid there were too many eyes watching and ears listening.

“We staying the night?”

“Not if we can help it,” answered David.
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Re: Cooper

Post by doc66 » Mon Jun 29, 2015 11:55 am

After a communal dinner where they were able to see the total of the congregation—about twenty people including children—Shawn conducted them into the study of the pastor. David was carrying one of the panniers and Leticia had the other. They had left their rifles in the bedroom which had been given to them since the meeting kept being pushed forward ever so slightly by sudden emergencies unidentifiable to David and Leticia until they were pretty much forced into staying the night. David had dutifully bowed his head during the overly long prayer, but had kept his eyes open and scanned the group which consisted mainly of plain looking white people and their children. Bret and Tom were there, with Bret eyeing Leticia through the meal, wincing when the girl crossed herself after the prayer and each time she said something in her street Spanglish or in full Spanish to David. The dinner was edible; David secretly believed that was because Sanjana had cooked the majority of the meal. He could detect the beginnings of good Indian food in the vegetables and sauces which covered the basic potatoes and beef. There was an abundance of flat bread as well, which Leticia used as tortillas and scooped the meat and veggies out of the bowl she had been given. Sanjana did not join them at the table, but instead waited on the group, clearing off the dishes as they were finished and each time she went passed David, she was careful to look at him or Leticia for only a few seconds. David wondered just how the woman had gotten left among the Christians.

The study of the pastor—“call me Pastor Mike”—was a room filled with concordances and biblical reference tomes. The man had the complete collection of the Left Behind series and when he saw David gazing at them, he smiled benevolently.

“Have you read them?”

“I did when they were popular,” admitted David. “So I could carry on conversations with co-workers.”

Pastor Mike nodded. “I think we are on the cusp of the end of times,” he told David motioning to a chair across from his desk. He pulled another over for Leticia to sit in and sat behind his own desk. The desk faced the doorway and behind him was an open window through which came a small breeze, just enough to keep the room at a bearable temperature. Beyond the window the darkness spread over the land as the sun disappeared. “I think that the next part will be the rapture when God takes all his children and believers. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish.”

David raised an eyebrow. “How do you know that hasn’t already happened?”

“Because I’m still here,” he told David with conviction.

“But isn’t God supposed to take you before the tribulation?”

“We don’t know that this is the tribulation, for the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servant” countered Pastor Mike. “This could be the moments leading up to it.”

“Si esto no es la tribulación , no sé lo que es,” cut in Leticia. “This is it, padre, this is los ultimos dias.”

He gave her a hard smile. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand Spanish. We speak English in America.”

“Bueno, lo siento,” said Leticia holding up her hand. “I speak English too. I’m bilingue. A child of the future, you know?”

“Maybe our future should just be in one tongue,” prompted Pastor Mike. “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language.”

“For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit,” answered Leticia. “Primeros Corinthians Catorce. I went to Sunday school.”

Pastor Mike nodded. “Perhaps, but even a Catholic might agree that the tongues the bible speaks of is a spiritual language, and not the language of men. Acts two-six tells us, and at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. So the language was certainly not of this earth.”

Leticia shrugged. “You’re the padre, no? I guess you believe what your bible tells you.”

“It’s your bible as well,” said Pastor Mike. “And you seem to know it for a Catholic.”

Waving a hand at the air, Leticia simply said, “Tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers. I know that I can speak in different languages, can you? Maybe I’m the one who is here to save you? Maybe the rapture has come and you’re really the one who needs Jesus, si?”

David watched Pastor Mike color and quickly cut into the religious debate of which he knew little about. His religion came from going to Methodist Church with his grandmother when she came to visit or he was forced to stay with his grandparents for the duty-bound week in the summer. The firing back and forth of scripture was beyond him. He was, frankly, amazed that Leticia could hold her own with the preacher. He felt he need to change the subject before it either became heated, or carried on further into the already long night.

“Yeah, so,” said David. “About this inverter and the wire. What kind is it and how many feet do you have?”

Pastor Mike stared at Leticia for a long moment before he turned to David. “I have it here, over there in the corner.” He waved a hand at the far corner, where the feeble light of the kerosene lamp barely reached. “We managed to find it in a van that had been wrecked out on the road, probably an electrician who wrecked as everything was collapsing and then walked away.”

“Maybe he ascended, got raptured,” goaded Leticia. Both Pastor Mike and David looked sharply at her.

“Callate, Leticia,” snapped David. “Estamos en lo suficientemente fina capa de hielo.”

Leticia held up her hands in surrender. “Sorry, padre, I can be una perra sometimes.”

“Youth is sometimes brash,” lectured Pastor Mike to her, quoting, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. You will too, as you gain in years and knowledge. Let no one despise you for your youth.”

He forced a smile at her and David had to fight the urge to strangle Leticia. All he wanted to do was get the wire, get the inverter and get the hell out of there. The entire day someone had been passively preaching at him—witnessing, he thought they called it—and it was getting annoying. With that happening, and Bret following them around all day, the pressure to simply scream at everyone to leave him alone was mounting. Leticia had obviously reached her own breaking point and snapped the restraints, charging out and ready to butt heads with whoever was willing to challenge her. Leticia met David’s angry gaze and sank back in her chair, knowing she had gone just that one step too far.

“Sorry,” she muttered.

“The wire.”

Pastor Mike nodded and stood. David stood with him and the pastor picked up the lamp, carrying it over to the corner. David followed while Leticia stayed seated, lost in her own thoughts. Pastor Mike put the lamp on a stand and motioned to a pile on a chair. “Here it is.”

David bent over and saw the coil of 10/3 wire. It wasn’t as much as he had hoped—he wanted at least 200 feet, and this was a 150 roll—but it was still in the package. The 12 volt inverter was on top of the wire and still in the box. David excitedly picked the box up and opened it. The packaging was still around the inverter and it was rated at 300 watts with 500 watt surge. The controller was more than what he needed for the few things he was going to run. They already had a charge controller for the system so with these two things, they were now ready to install the solar connection to his cabin. David could feel the relief wash through his body.

“It looks good,” said David, putting the package back together. “We’ve got the things you wanted in the panniers.”

“Very good,” said Pastor Mike, stepping back toward the desk.

David set the inverter back on top of the wire just as Leticia shouted.

“Bajar, get down,” she barked at David, pushing her own chair away from the desk and letting it carry her to the ground. David hesitated for a moment and then simply dropped to one knee. When he did so, the air was filled with a thunder and the wall in front of him erupted with dust and plaster as it was chewed apart by the blast from the second too slow firing of a shotgun. David continued to fall over and saw Pastor Mike digging something out of the back of his waistline. Not waiting to see what it was, David shoved his hand into his pocket and freed the little .25. Leticia kicked her chair, sending it skidding across the floor and into the knees of Pastor Mike. The man bellowed and nearly fell as the chair connected with his shins. He reached out to steady himself, to stop from falling, a bright stainless pistol in his hand.

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. What fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? What portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? None,” proselytized the man as he struggled to regain his feet. Leticia grabbed a handful of desktop clutter and tossed it at the man. He instinctively ducked, throwing up and arm.

By this time David, still slow on the uptake as to what was happening, freed the .25 and pointed it at the pastor, now seemingly enraged or merely crazed.

“Shoot him,” shouted Leticia grabbing for something else to throw at the man. Another blast from the shotgun ate into the desk, searching out Leticia as she crawled on all fours to get away from the preacher who was waving the pistol drunkenly and shouting scripture.

David pulled the trigger on the .25 over and over and over.

For a moment after the report of the little pocket pistol, everything was still. The pastor stared at David and then looked down at the small holes in his shirt. The holes were centered on the middle of his chest and for a moment, it was questionable if the bullets had even entered the man’s body. Then the shirt became red with blood and the preacher fell to his knees.

“What have you done?” asked the man. He then toppled over on his face, the pistol dropping from his hand.

“No me jodas,” said Leticia.

Then the shotgun noise filled the room again. This time it dug trenches along the floor as the shooter adjusted his aim to where the two outsiders were crouched. David scrambled over to the preacher and grabbed the fallen pistol, shoving it across the floor to Leticia. She grabbed up the heavy automatic and without much thought put to aiming the thing, fired a quick barrage at the window. The door popped open and David saw Tom loom in the opening. Bringing the .25 up again, he fired the last four rounds at the man as he charged through the doorway and at David, the Mini 14 getting fired from the hip as he did so. This stupid action of the man was what saved David’s life; he could feel the air move and hear the hiss of the bullets just past his left ear. Tom stumbled and fell to the floor, landing on David.

“Fuck fuck fuck,” yelled David as he fought with Tom, punching at the man with the empty .25. Tom feebly struggled against David’s blows, pushing against David and landing several weak hits at David. The Mini was trapped between them and entangled the men’s efforts to overcome the other. A shadow eclipsed the men, causing David to look up and try to focus on who might be joining the fray next. He saw Leticia standing over them.

“Move your head,” she told David.

David yanked his head to one side just as Leticia pressed the pistol against Tom’s head, pulling the trigger.

The blood and brain from the exploded head showered the room.

David pushed the body off him and managed to not be sick at the sight of the nearly headless corpse. The Mini 14 was across his chest and he grabbed it, rolling away from the body.

“Fuck,” he said again.

“No shit, right?” agreed Leticia, as he patted down the body of the preacher. She found what she was looking for and dropped the empty magazine from the pistol, inserting the fresh one and dropping the slide. She picked up the empty and shoved it into her pocket with the other full one she found on the body. “We gotta go, cabeza.”

“What the fuck are they thinking?” wondered David as he struggled to his knees. He looked at the body of Tom. Swallowing his distaste, David patted down the man and found a pistol and a magazine for it. He shoved the pistol—a third generation 9mm Smith and Wesson—into his back pocket. There were four more magazines for the Mini in a blood soaked bandolier rig. David yanked at the straps until they came off the body and looped the thing over his shoulder.

Leticia grabbed up one of the panniers and shoved it over to David, grabbing the second one for herself. “No fucking idea, hombre, but we need to vamanos before the cavalry arrives.”

Pausing long enough to get the wire and the inverter, David made room in the pannier for them. He looped the straps over his shoulders like a backpack—Leticia did the same—and headed for the door. Leticia stopped, pulled several rows of books to the floor and grabbed the lamp.

“We don’t need that—,” David started to say when Leticia drew back her arm and threw the lamp against the book filled wall. The lamp broke with the sound of shattering glass and a whoop as the kerosene ignited on contact with the flame, spreading across the books as the kerosene dripped its flames down the wall and to the scattered pages on the floor.

“That’ll keep los hijos de puta busy,” she said. “They won’t be able to chase us if they are trying to put out a fire.”

“Our shits upstairs,” pointed out David.

“Then we need to get up there before this place goes boom.”

They stepped through the door and could hear the excited shouting of the rest of the commune. David deduced that Tom and whoever was in the window were the only ones in on the attack since no one else had come running at them with a firearm. As they ran up the stairs to the room they had been given, he absently wondered if Shawn had no clue what was about to happen to the strangers in their house when he had ushered David and Leticia into the study.

Smoke was rapidly filling the house.

People were running down the stairs, wearing hastily put on clothing, and yelling at David and Leticia, oblivious to the detail that the two were covered in blood and carrying weapons. They passed a door and could hear someone pounding on the barrier. David stopped and listened to the shouts coming from the other side.

It was Sanjana.

He tried the door and found that while it was not locked, it was bolted from the outside. David threw the bolt and pushed open the door. Sanjana and two other women stumbled out. Grabbing Sanjana, David propelled her away from the door as the hall filled with smoke. The other two women raced passed them and to the stairs.

“What is happening?” asked Sanjana.

“We have to get out.”

“Why are you covered in blood? I heard shooting, are you shot?”

“No we have to get out.”

“Cabeza,” yelled Leticia. “Get your ass over here, No voy a llevar a tu mierda.”

David half heard Leticia. He grabbed Sanjana’s shoulders and peered at her through the smoke. “Come with us.”

Sanjana had time to give him a puzzled gaze before making up her mind. She nodded. David propelled her to the room where he and Leticia had stored their things. Leticia already had her pack over one shoulder and David’s pack in her hand.

“Qué demonios,” she said when she saw Sanjana. David grabbed his pack and handed it to Sanjana. The woman shouldered the pack settling the straps and coughing at the smoke. Leticia handed him his .30-30, which he then gave to Sanjana as well. Sanjana gave the rifle a quick look to figure it out, which made David feel a little better about her possible skills at using the weapon. Leticia had the pistol she took off the preacher shoved in her waistband and her Hi-Point ready.

“Do you have anything you need?” Sanjana shook her head. “Let’s move.”

David led the way back down the stairs with the Mini leading the way.

At the bottom of the stairs there was a bucket brigade tossing water on the now raging fire. The paper in the books had caught and now roared through the room, consuming the desk and chairs. If they managed to stop the fire, it would be a miracle. In the confusion, David saw Shawn desperately trying to throw the water against the base of the flames. The man seemed confused and scared. He saw David and looked back and forth from the flames to where David was leading Leticia and Sanjana away from the bucket line. The man looked as if he might leave the line to stop them, but the need to douse the fire overcame his personal urge to halt them. They could live without the preacher, but they could not survive without the contents of the house.

Rushing outside, into the clear air, David set his pace in the direction of the animal shed where the llama was housed.

“Hey,” came the shout that made him pause.

Just a few yards away, Bret stood at the side of the house, weaving back and forth but still on his feet. In the light of the fire coming from the open window where he had lain in ambush, David could see a stream of blood covering the side of his face. He held the shotgun more or less in their direction, attempting to stop them from leaving.

“Hey,” he said again, pointing the shotgun more or less at Leticia. “You shot me.”

Leticia did not hesitate or respond. She brought the Hi-Point up to her shoulder and shot Bret in the face. He simply fell down.

“Now I did it twice, bitch.”

Leticia ran over and pulled the shotgun from the dead teen’s hands and rapidly searched for and found his extra ammunition. David and Sanjana stared at her when she ran back to them, the shotgun and the cloth bag of shells in hand.

“What?” she demanded. “Let’s fucking go, tonto.”

David did as she bid. He went.

They hurried down the lane away from the bright glow which was filling the sky behind them. There was no way the people were going to save the house. When they had hurried the nervous llama past the house, the people had been running in and out of the structure carrying whatever supplies they could get to out of the building. At the gate, they tried to bypass the lock with a big rock but it would not be broken. Swearing with each blow, David wondered if the Mini could break the lock off by shooting it.

“You’ll need a key,” came Shawn’s voice from the darkness.

David dropped the rock and Leticia and Sanjana turned to search the shadows for the man, Sanjana pointing the lever action at the night and Leticia covering the same with the shotgun.

“Why’d you set the place on fire?” asked Shawn.

“Because your fucking whacko preacher tried to kill us,” retorted Leticia.

“He couldn’t have—,” denied Shawn.

“He kept me as a slave,” spat Sanjana. “Locked me in that room with those other women; did you think we were here of our own accord? He took me and raped me and kept me as a slave. He did with all of those women.”

“He saved you, you were sick and lost on the road.”

“I was sick, yes,” agreed Sanjana. “I was trying to get to the city, to my people. But he kept me and made me stay against my will.”

“He was a good man,” muttered Shawn as if he were trying to convince himself.

“He tried to ambush us in his study,” said David, sounding calmer than he felt. “He had Bret lay in wait outside the window and shoot at us. He probably was going to tell you that we tried to steal the things we came for and kill him. He probably was going to have Bret say that he happened by and looked in the window and saved the preacher, just in time.”

Shawn stepped forward a step, his voice sounding confused. “He was a good man, a preacher, a Christian, he gathered his flock together when things fell apart; he saved us.”

Leticia snorted and spoke, her voice carrying an authority that David had never heard in her before. “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. That’s what your preacher did to you, made you think he was a man of God, but he was a deceiver. Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out. That was your preacher, walking around and doing bad things in the guise of a good man. You know this.”

Shawn sighed across the distance. “It was the lust in his heart. He fought with it all the time. When he wasn’t fighting the angels, he was a good man.”

“It’s your turn to be the good man. Let us out of here,” said Leticia, her voice gentle and soothing the words musical as she spoke with her Latino accent purring out the words. “Let us go free.”

Shawn tossed the key on the ground at their feet. “Go.”

They watched him turn and walk away.

David let out a pent up breath. “Damn, that was scary.”

“They’re all fucking loco,” growled Leticia, bending over and picking up the key. She handed it to David.

They left the key in the lock and the gate open.
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Re: Cooper

Post by doc66 » Mon Jun 29, 2015 11:57 am

They walked far into the night, pulling the llama behind them. When they felt they could walk no further and could no longer see the glow of the house fire behind them, they stopped in the road and slept for a brief time, waking with the rising sun. By the time they got back to the homestead, layers of dust covering the now blackened, dried blood on their clothing and faces, the three of them were exhausted and unable to explain what happened in a coherent way. They settled for introducing Sanjana as “The woman they rescued” and left it at that. Cooper stripped the llama of its pack and turned it out into the small pasture. When he saw that the trade goods were still in the panniers, he looked at David concerned, the questions written on his face.

“It’s a long story, I’m beat, and I’ll tell you tomorrow,” was all David could say.

Once they had all cleaned up in the outdoor shower, Jessica fed them and found clothing for Sanjana, putting her into the small guest room after they listlessly managed to clean off the food she prepared. Sanjana had pulled the .30-30 into the bed with her, and Jessica said nothing to the woman, but questioned David and Leticia until they both begged her to stop until they too had slept. David and Leticia disappeared to their respective beds leaving Cooper and Jessica to speculate about the trials of the journey.

Days later, after their story had been told and retold to Cooper and Jessica, and then again to el Jefe and his crew things settled back to what passed for normal around the homestead. Sanjana—at the invitation of Cooper and Jessica—had taken up residence in the main house and integrated herself into the routine of chores and leisure time around the small farm.

David and Leticia were working on wiring the solar panel to his cabin. They had run the wire to the plugs he installed, daisy linked the three batteries, hooked everything to the inverter and the charge controller and were now setting the old panel they had salvaged on the rack outside of the cabin. They worked quietly together until both stepped back and admired their handiwork.

“Looks good,” said David.

“It does,” agreed Leticia. “It took a fucking lot to get it that way, you know?”

“I was there,” agreed David.

“Hey,” he said carefully, “about all that…”

“I fucking save your ass,” said Leticia.

David thought about it for a second, remembering his fighting the weakening Tom, the blood and Leticia ending the battle. “I suppose you assisted.”

“Fuck you, cabeza,” said Leticia. “You were all yelling like a ninita, ‘oh, save me, get this fucker off me.’”

“I didn’t say that,” protested David.

Leticia laughed. “You might as well have.”

David remembered his yelling. “It wasn’t that bad.”

“Maybe not,” she agreed. “You fucking plugged that tiron preacher okay.”

“Where did you learn all that bible stuff?”

“Shit, vato, I grew up with that shit,” said Leticia. “You think I was always a mujer macarra? I once had the pretty white Sunday dress and the quinceañera. My abuela, she was all Jesus this and Jesus that. She was pretty fundamental. I even had a tia who was a nun. She did the whole habit thing and everything. Married to Jesus. My abuela was all ‘you should be more like tu tia Araceli,’ and shit.” Leticia shook her head at the memories. “We learned bible verses for money, you know? Learn a fucking verse and she’d give you a quarter.” Leticia laughed. “I got good at it when I realized it took a lot of quarters to make a couple dollars.”

“What happened?”

Leticia looked at him like he was crazy. “You went to that commune with me, right? That was my fucking life, all preachy and pretend do good. You blanco aren’t the only crazy Jesus people. Old school, you know; No Vatican two in abuela’s house; the bible meant what the bible said. Anyway, I got high the first time and it was chola from there. I’ll leave the Jesus to Theresa. She’s the one wanted to be a nun.”

David looked surprised. “A nun?”

“Fuck yeah, cabeza,” grinned Leticia. “Why do you think you couldn’t get into her pants? Jesus, hombre. He’s got that cono locked up.”

“Well…”

“No shit, yeah?”

“No shit.”

They stared at the solar panel for a moment.

“Thanks,” said David.

“Hey, no problem, it’s all good. We’re pandilla now, relacionados con la sangre.” David looked over at Leticia for a translation. “It’s like blood brothers, you know?”

“Cool,” said David.

“Cool,” agreed Leticia.
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Re: Cooper; new stuff added.

Post by 91Eunozs » Tue Jun 30, 2015 7:23 pm

Great stuff!

Thanks!
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woodsghost wrote:... A defensive gun without training is basically a talisman. It might ward off evil, but I wouldn't count on it.

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Re: Cooper; new stuff added.

Post by TheWarriorMax » Wed Jul 01, 2015 12:03 am

Awesome storytelling and descriptions of human nature.

Having been born into and growing up in a conservative Christian almost-cult, everything in this part of the story resonated with me.
"And how can a man die better,
than facing fearful odds,
for the ashes of his fathers,
and the temples of his gods".

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https://tinyurl.com/y9jhv6y4

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Re: Cooper; new stuff added.

Post by doc66 » Wed Jul 01, 2015 11:08 am

TheWarriorMax wrote:Awesome storytelling and descriptions of human nature.

Having been born into and growing up in a conservative Christian almost-cult, everything in this part of the story resonated with me.
Thank you. I too grew up in that type of environment. I didn't want to come off as being too anti--I am actually a big fan of the new Pope--but I did want to convey the opinion that human nature is what it is, we make our own decisions, and base them on things we know and have experienced.
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Re: Cooper; new stuff added.

Post by Johan » Thu Jul 02, 2015 4:36 pm

Thank you for the mooaar!!!
Great stuff as always!! :clap:

You really should try to get published, I for one would by every one of your storys if I could...
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