Story Nann

9idrr

Contributing Member
Thank you for another good chapter. Wonderful thing to find this mornin'. In fact, so wonderful I'll love you forever... or until I think I need another chapter.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
Chapter 32

We weren’t a day around the farm before leaving again, we were a week. We had come in from our day of salvaging, backed all our found stuff into the barn and shed and had just finished taking care of the animals – Mitch only let me help with the chickens – when we heard the dogs making a fuss and then Pretty yelp. We go running only to find the dogs up a tree pitching a fit at something.

“Down! Let me see what you’ve treed!” Mitch yells at the dogs.

They both mind though Butch herds Pretty over to me and she’s shaking a little but not limping thank goodness. About that time I hear Mitch yelp as well and start cussing a blue streak.

“Nann, grab me a rake … not the metal one, but a plastic leaf rake.”

Wondering but trying to practice keeping my mouth closed, I did what he asked. When I came back he used the rake to dislodge, get this, a drone from the tree. And rather than destroy it he brought it down and set it on the ground and backed away after making some weird hand signs.

“Go in the house and take the dogs with you.”

I opened my mouth but then closed it and moved to do as asked.

“You tryin’ too hard,” he told me with a strange smile. “Just stay in the house. I might be wrong but don’t think I am. Keep an ear open and … yep, here they come.”

Since I’m not fond of taking forever to tell a story basically what happened was this. I heard a motor vehicle, turned out to be a jeep. We’d modified Grammy’s sunglasses so that they didn’t mess with Mitch’s peripheral vision, but he didn’t need to use them much anymore except right after a bad headache. Still, for some reason he slid them on.

Then the jeep pulls down the road and stops and four guys just sit there like they were trying to orient themselves a map. Mitch gives them a whistle making them jump.

“Easy,” he called. “I got the drone out of the tree and set it on the ground back here. You got a short in it so bring some gloves if you don’t want it to bite you.”

They all get out with guns and I get real tense, but Mitch seems to think nothing of it. Or acts like he doesn’t.

Then one of the guys stops like he’s surprised then I can hear him say, “Decker? That you?”

“Need to come closer. Can’t see worth crap in this light. Or at least sing out. Voice is familiar but I been working all day and I’m too tired to play twenty questions.”

The guy starts moving forward but one of the others tries to stop him. He shakes that guy’s hand off and turns to one of the others and says, “I served with Decker for a rotation. He was one of us. Our unit got word that his squad got caught in a snafu; he was medically triaged.”

“Yeah I was,” Mitch says starting to sound tense. “So sing out already and let me know who I’m talking to.”

“It’s Raj.”

“Raj? I heard you’d been sent West.”

“Orders changed,” three of the four said coming forward. The fourth remained with the jeep.

They exchanged news, primarily confirming that the farm was essentially in the middle of a buffer zone. And that yes, a lot of “assets” to the south of our location had been bombed to halt the forward movement of the enemy. I also heard that the drone’s “eye” and “autopilot” had malfunctioned and they hadn’t been able to guide it back before it lodged in the tree.

“Right now it isn’t the enemy’s regular army that is causing the most problems, but the mercs and the damn pagol chagol salvagers. They’re all over the cities and towns like locusts trying to bring in supplies and anything else worth selling. And it isn’t always to people on this side.”

“The enemy doesn’t have their own supply lines?”

The man that I found out was Sarge grinned a nasty grin, “Let’s just say we are keeping them cut off as much as possible.”

“Good deal,” Mitch said.

That’s when “Sarge” offered Mitch some free advice and a deal that he couldn’t refuse since technically he was still in the military.

“We know you got a young woman around. Though it took a while to figure out she and the ‘boy’ we’ve seen are the same person. You keep her close for obvious reasons. There’s been some individuals using this area for staging.”

I grabbed the Glock even tighter but kept my finger off the trigger.

Mitch gave the man a cautious look as they came closer to the porch since Mitch told them he needed to get out of the glare.

“Your eyes bad?”

“At least I can see some, though I bet it would be a lot better after a visit to an optometrist. They told me I was likely going to be completely blind, but I can see more than just shapes these days. Bigger problem are the migraines. Wouldn’t have made it except for the family.”

“Speaking of …?”

“They … they ran out of their meds.” All three men nodded in understanding and nothing else was said. “You said there are personnel using this area for staging. Would you happen to know who, why, and where?”

While the third guy and Sarge started typing something into some kind of tablet that reminded me of the ones the men from the electric and phone companies used back in town, Raj answered, “Not personnel. Some of them might be AWOL but mostly look like amateur warlord wannabes. You know the type, like the ones we ran into outside of New Orleans. Mean but only able to get away with it until someone bigger and badder comes along and takes their stuff.”

“Already ran into some of those. They were mixed up with a craphead whose family lived up here … about three miles that way,” Mitch told him pointing. “Guy’s name was PeeDee Winters.”

“Was?”

“Yeah … was. He and some people were hold up at their place but something unfriendly went down. Can’t give you a date as it was over and done with by the time we figured it out. Had to seal the house off so if you need to investigate, I’d suggest waiting on Hazmat. Must have been a disagreement … possibly over drugs given some of the evidence … and then two salvage groups fought it out over something over that way not long after. It was during a wave of bombers. Can’t tell you how many survived but it couldn’t have been more than two or three. Heard the noise they made and next day had to dump some more bodies. The rest were dead from the fight.” He turned away from the house and I could just make out him saying, “I took care of a couple but the girl don’t know. She thinks they all killed themselves.”

“Gotcha,” he said just as quiet.

That’s when the Sarge started on about how Mitch hadn’t been turned loose by the military yet but given his medical condition they couldn’t offer him anything … at the moment. However, there was a position available, a recently created one. Something called a Watchman.

The military is spread very thin even with the militias filling the gaps. We have a lot of border to cover here at home and we still have to maintain our presence overseas as well to keep the enemy from trying to gain a foothold that way. Other countries are starting to wake up but they aren’t up to the US’s weight in firepower and experience. The purpose of the Watchmen are to keep an eye on things and report anything of note, normally in weekly coded reports, but more often if things get hot or there is some unusual movement. In Mitch’s case it, his “territory” was considered a rural buffer zone.

“Your experience and knowledge of this area will be helpful so you don’t have to start from the ground up and won’t include a lot of useless information that intel will have to wade through for some meat.”

“Don’t have a radio,” Mitch told him. “Or nothing strong enough for what you’re wanting.”

“We’ll provide one and a month of code keys. Drop for the radio and anything else will be by drone delivery.”

“What are the restrictions?”

Sarge nodded in approval. “Radio is for transmitting reports only. We will not be transmitting to you. News will be sparse because you’re under modified intel allowance, but you’ll likely get more than your average citizen. You’re gonna need to install a antenna, can you do that?”

“Is it the camouflaged ones?”

“We can order it to be so, assuming you have the knowledge.”

Raj confirmed, “Decker was our shade tree mechanic.”

“Good enough,” the Sarge said with a nod. “But before you ask about pay, there ain’t none. At least not directly. Know of any other people in this area?”

“We been looking between taking care of all the farm chores, so far we haven’t found anyone. Looked like there might have been someone staying at the Old Grist Mill but can’t tell how recent. Place is a mess. There’s a disabled van that looks like bears got to it, but no one in the vicinity.”

“Dammit,” the third guy said like he was irritated by something.

Raj smiled at him. “Told you they looked like they were about to do a runner. You owe me a meal next R&R.”

Mitch was ignoring their play and focused on the Sarge who seemed to be re-evaluating Mitch and liked what he saw. “As indirect pay you can salvage for supplies in this area with impunity and no future legal issues so long as you don’t put any civilians in danger.”

“You want to know if we find anyone else? There weren’t but two full time families up this way anymore … us and the Winters … and the Winters homestead is unusable until hazmat deals with it and probably not even then. The rest of the places up here are vacation rentals, hunting parcels, and old homesteads that folks rented to the corporate farms but even that got slim when fuel started getting expensive and rationed.”

“You have fuel?”

“Not much. I finally got to where I could see enough that I mapped out some routes to check the most places with the least fuel usage but so far nothing. Not even any sign beyond the Old Grist Mill, and you knew of that one before I did.”

“There were some people staying in tents southeast of here, but they packed up a couple weeks after the nearest towns were evacuated.”

“Or they packed up their tents. There’s still some properties they could have moved into. The problem is going to be supplies and clean water. The only running water over that way starts off as runoff from an old hog farm. I wouldn’t drink it on a bet, not even after it’s been treated. Hogs started dying and they had to go in and cull all of ‘em and they buried ‘em on site.”

Raj made a face, the third guy types something into the tablet which confirmed they were “gathering intel.”

“Anything else you think we should know?” Sarge asks.

“Are you going to be out this way often?”

“Don’t know yet. Depends on what the enemy does. Why?”

“Because I don’t want to accidentally shoot anyone that don’t come in as honest as you.”

“The monthly packet will include planned rendezvous but with things as fluid on the front as they are …”

“I’ll see someone when I see someone … mebbe.”

Sarge chuckled. “We’ll need you to keep your eye on things. You’ll get a fuel ration but I can’t say how regular or how much. That’s gonna be up to Supply and Requisition. You got feed for the animal?”

I only found out later that the man had meant did Mitch have ammo.

“I took what was left from those salvagers, wasn’t much but it’ll do as long as I don’t get into a firefight. Dad was able to hold back a box of shotgun shells in case he had to put down an animal but there was a requisition team that came through here before I got triaged. The way Dad described it, the team didn’t sound regular army … doesn’t matter at this point. They haven’t been back.”

“How are you hunting … and what?”

“Nutria with a bow.”

“I thought you said you couldn’t see.”

“I’m not completely useless but I also never said I was the one shooting the bow.”

They left soon after that and Mitch came inside and then had me go with him down to the cellar. We had some planning to do.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
It has taken me a bit to get through the next couple of chapters because I wasn't real satisfied with the characters' actions/interactions. Think I've cleared things up but it may take a couple of chapters for you to see it.

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Chapter 33

What I wouldn’t give to have an internet connection. Heck, what I wouldn’t give to have access to a library. Most of all what I wouldn’t give to have Grammy and Uncle Hy here as they were walking and talking libraries of knowledge not even the internet could rival.

The last week has left me wondering if I am going to be able to keep up and make do. I’m back to not knowing if I’m going to be able to do much more than play “Hired Girl” around here. I’m feeling the difference between Mitch and I more and more and not because he means to. I’m wondering if he feels it too. I’m also wondering if I’m just imagining things. I could name some reasons … him going back in “soldier mode” and me getting sorta kinda shot being the two biggest … but I don’t know if that is it or not. So far he at least seems to feel the same way emotionally and geez don’t I sound like a girl when I think that. I don’t dare say it aloud even if maybe I should ask him. I know I still feel the same way and maybe even a little more. At the same time I’m not sure either one of us has the time to figure out anymore than we’ve already tried to figure out because of all the other noise that life is throwing at us. There has to be priorities, I get that. But …

But, but, but … I sound like a kid and I can’t afford to be. The war is real. The danger is real. Our mission to prepare the farm to house the family is real. Mitch’s new job is real. And my feelings are real. I just wish it wasn’t all happening at the same time. And I really wish my “feelings” didn’t have to come dead last in that list. More important still is to keep my “feelz” under control so they don’t make all of the rest of it harder than it already is.

First thing out of Mitch’s mouth when we got down to the cellar was that I was not to interact with anyone else, even if he wasn’t around. And yeah, he used that exact word, “interact.”

“I’m not an idiot Mitch.”

He sighed. “Don’t fight me on this Nann.”

“Do you hear me saying anything that sounds like a fight? Did I do anything that makes you think I’ll fight? Did I even come out on the porch? No to all of the above.”

“You’re saying I should have spared your feelings and said it some other way? This is important. You need to understand that.”

Trying to make a point without whining I told him, “I’m saying you didn’t need to say it at all. I’m not an idiot. If I’m wondering about something, I’ll ask … when no one is around. If you have a problem with how I’m acting, then tell me now so I can fix it. But you don’t need to warn me off being an idiot and getting involved in things above my paygrade because I have no problem with you being Boss Dog and I don’t know why you would even think I’d do something so lame brained. I’ve got more sense than that and thought I’d proven it already. Especially for it to be the first thing out of your mouth.” I shook my head. “Just forget it. I should have kept my mouth shut. So back on topic and what do you need me to do … or was that the main topic?”

He sighed. “You’re going to fight me.”

“I am not fighting I told you. I already figured it out for myself. I need to keep my mouth shut and you’re Boss Dog. Stop worrying I’m going to fight you. It’s a waste of your time.”

He looked at me, then didn’t relax exactly but he did seem to decide to take a different path. “How’s your arm?”

“Sore but I’ll live.”

“It shouldn’t have happened.”

“And it won’t again. Next time … assuming I’m allowed to go out with you and do stuff anymore … I’ll keep my mouth shut and give you time to do that … whatever you call it, soldier-thing, that makes you more situationally aware than I am under current circumstances.”

He gave me a look like I was a sentence he had just read and not understood a single syllable of. “Are you mad at me or just pissed in general?”

“Neither. I don’t think anyway. Just with those other soldiers showing up and basically telling you that you owe them time and a half despite the fact they abandoned you while still in a medically precarious state …”

“Whoa. Where did that come from?”

“From the fact that I’ve taken eleventy-dozen survival classes and courses and been a member of my own type of squad for a long time. You don’t dump someone with your injury into the unknown and then get to come back around and say that person still owes you something. They didn’t even check to see if maybe your were overstating your recovery so they could be sure you’d be up for the job they wanted to assign you. I figured out you were making it seem you were worse off so they couldn’t haul you off – and thank you for not leaving me – but that just makes what they did seem even more stupid. I’ll follow your lead, that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to have my suspicions that they’re just being jerks about the whole thing. And they could have said something instead of being nasty drone-verts.”

“Drone-verts?” he asked like I was speaking Chinese.

Trying to calm down and keep things on an even keel wasn’t easy. I explained, “It’s slang that means they were being peeping toms. Drone + pervert = dronevert.”

“Make it up did you?”

“No. Some news anchor woman did when she was reporting on a guy that was taking pictures at the university through windows and got some nudies at a sorority.”

“Er …”

“Seriously Mitch, just get to telling me what you need me to do. Everything else is just noise and doesn’t mean anything.”

“Okay, let’s sit down.”

“I gotta fix …”

“Aint’ nothing you gotta fix at the moment. Come … sit … down,” he said like I was some kind of headcase. After I did he asked, “Could you hear what was being said?”

“Yes. But it wasn’t because I was being nosey. I was trying to cover your back.”

“From which window?”

“Started out from the upstairs hall window but I had to move downstairs when you moved closer to the house. The porch roof was in the way for my line of sight.”

He nodded. “In case there’s a next time let’s work out what areas you can see from upstairs, and I’ll try and keep them in those areas.”

I was a little surprised how he said it but kept my mouth closed in case I was reading more into it than there was. I already had a feeling I was going to be cut out of a lot of what was coming – Mitch’s way of protecting me or maybe me just being inadequate. I didn’t want to be disappointed by maybe having hope that wasn’t the case.

“So you could hear what was said?”

“Yes. You knew that guy … Raj. Guy #4 stayed with the jeep like he was guarding it but from what I could see he was busier playing some game on his phone than guarding.”

“How could you see that from where you were?!”

“Because he had his phone out and was sliding his fingers on the screen like he was playing solitaire, the game you play when there is no internet and you are bored out of your skull.”

“Alrighty then. What else did you see?”

“Guy #3 was there mostly to play secretary. I couldn’t get much of a feel out of him except that he isn’t the sharpest crayon in the box. Your friend Raj said something about a lost bet. Then there was the man they kept calling ‘Sarge’ that seemed to be the boss.”

He nodded. “And you understood what was being said?”

“Everything except for why they were asking about feed for the animals. Wouldn’t they have known that if they’d been watching for however long they’ve been playing Peeping Tom?”

He tried not to laugh at me which I suppose is a good thing, but that’s when he explained about “feed for the animal” meaning ammo for the gun that Mitch had been carrying.

Mitch scratched his chin. “It was sloppy not to ask if you had a gun, or if there were any other guns in the house. Used to be a standard question we were supposed to ask. Guess they assumed that since you haven’t been wearing one that means you don’t have one. It is making me reconsider having you wear the Glock.”

I shrugged. I was beginning to think maybe soldiers aren’t super smart like we were told to think in school. “I’ll put it in a pocket. Might as well make wearing these clothes worth something especially if I’m going to have to keep dressing this way when it warms up.” I had hoped to be able to switch to shorts or at least my cargo pants but that wasn’t going to happen if I had to keep dressing like a guy.

Mitch got thoughtful and then reached into his own pocket and pulled a scratch pad out. He reminded me of Dad and Uncle Hy so much it gave me a sad feeling for some reason.

Mitch must have noticed. “You okay?”

“Yeah.” When he looked at me longer I said, “I’m fine. Just a lot going on and I’m trying to keep it straight in my head so I don’t screw up.”

“Nann …”

“Don’t. I get it whether you are trying to be nice or not.” I took a deep breath and then delivered what I’d been thinking on. “I’m smart enough to understand that what happened at the Grist Mill House might not have happened if it hadn’t been for me. And don’t shake your head. Maybe something would have happened, Land Pirates are like that, but it might not have gone down the way it did. I’m working on being realistic and dealing with what needs to be changed so it doesn’t happen again. Let’s just keep going on what you need me to do.”

His lips thinned for a minute, but he must not have thought it was worth going down the rabbit hole because he finally got down to brass tacks. Bottom line is yes, things are going to change; they have to. We’ve got people watching us and just because Mitch is back to working for the army doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to be checking up on him. Also, we were wrong to assume that since we hadn’t seen any sign of other salvagers that it didn’t mean there aren’t any out there. And even if they might not be unfriendly, it is possible after all, that doesn’t mean they can’t be spooked or come to the farm not realizing we are here until too late and a situation occurs.

I nodded my acceptance and added, “And even if they aren’t technically unfriendlies, they could wind up being the neighbors from hell thinking that since we have something they might not have, we must share. There was a lot of that going on in town. Everyone was getting real careful about showing what they had.”

Mitch gave me a considering look. It made me feel cranky. Dale and the crew would do that enough that I recognized it when I saw it. It gets old when people look at you and realize you have more than hair under your hat. It gets real old when they do it too often. Dale treated me with more respect than your average little sister gets, but even he would do it more than I was happy with. I mean seriously. If all the people around me are supposed to be so uber good at whatever, then how stupid would I have to be not to pay attention and learn from their smarts?

But I also knew trying to change someone’s mind doesn’t happen unless they were willing and ready. Mitch had just finished having grown up time with other soldiers, so he obviously wasn’t going to be in the mood to see me as more than someone he had to take care of. I let it go. Some things in life just can’t be changed, they can only be dealt with.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
Chapter 34

Mitch was thinking aloud when he said, “Until I’m sure that there is no one else in this area, someone has to stay here 24/7.”

“Okay. What do I do if someone shows up when you aren’t here?”

He stopped in mid-breath. “I haven’t completely got the plan worked out just yet.”

I nodded and let it go. I hadn’t gotten this from Mitch before, but I knew the drill based on Dale and the crew. No one wanted to get stuck with “the girl” or get left behind. At the same time, they were eventually forced to discovered that “the girl” wasn’t just Dale’s little sister, that I had my own talents and sometimes they had to concede the point, acknowledge it, and use me. I had stopped expecting that Mitch was going to do the same thing to me. We’d been partners nearly from the beginning … or at least after Mitch’s eyesight came back. This felt like going backwards but at the same time I am realistic enough to know things had changed due to the military showing up and the Land Pirates turning for a possibility into a reality.

Since Mitch hadn’t had time to think through the security issues just yet we went on to something else.

I asked, “If they’ve been watching us – the military I mean – do you think they saw what all we took from the Grist Mill House?”

Mitch was positive. “No. If they had they would have asked for a cut or requisitioned all or most of it. I think we caught a break with the drone malfunctioning. However, that means that we need to think real hard on how we are going to bring things in and store it all. Let’s look at the coal chute area and see if that ramp idea is going to work.”

Using the measurements I took it would … just barely and only then with some modification, but it would work. It was going to be tight and a little steeper of a ramp because the Grist Mill House’s cellar area was bigger. Maybe not the entire square footage because of all the “rooms” built off the cellar in the farmhouse, but certainly the main room floor space. It was going to mean more work than just installing the ramp. We were going to have to move things around to make space for a ramp to come down. We were also going to need to reinforce the doors that let you over the coal chute space. One of the other modifications we had to make was to add braces or slats on the ramp so that, because it was going to be steeper, we had stops every few feet that would help with potential runaway items coming down. Mitch could have fabricated a ramp from what was stored here at the farm, but he said it would be faster to use the ramp from the Grist Mill even with having to dismantle it there, plus that ramp was metal and would hold up better to the weight we planned on putting on it.

That was big project one. Big project two was going to be rearranging everything in the cellar to accommodate the ramp idea. Installing the ramp wouldn’t do any good if there wasn’t room to use the thing. As Grammy would say, “Oh my stars and garters.” I’d already started to wonder how to organize everything that we’d found but at that point was when I realized just how big a mess we had on our hands. I didn’t want to leave it in the barn, shed, or any place else like that but I wasn’t sure where else it was going to fit.

What I came up with was more work in the beginning but hopefully less problem long term. “You know those gorilla shelves that were at the Delray place?” I asked Mitch.

“The ones in the barn? Yeah. Dad has some similar ones here.”

“But they’re already in use. Here’s what I’m thinking,” and I drew out a sketch for him. “The problem is I don’t know how to get the second level of trash cans up on the shelves except to empty them and then refill them.”

“Hell with that. We’ll use the hydraulic tractor jack.” He reached over and tucked a strand of my hair behind my ear. “I’m still glad it was you Nann. I know you’re thinking that I wish it would have been Dale or even a couple of his knuckleheaded friends but … I don’t. Except it would be better to have a third person I could trust to help with security.”

I shrugged. “But you don’t and I’m what you’re stuck with so at least I can use my brain for something useful. You think my idea is doable?”

“Sure is. Might have to modify the shelving a bit but otherwise it is real doable. We are going to be rearranging and … as much as I don’t want to get back at things so fast, let’s try and rest for a couple of hours and then go back tonight and get the ramp and as much of the gorilla shelving as we can. Tomorrow we’ll reorganize everything and that will give me room to work at installing the ramp. You any good at putting those gorilla shelves together?”

“It’s not rocket science, but I need a rubber mallet otherwise we’ll both be deaf by the time I get the shelves banged back together and you won’t be the only one with a headache.”

“Nann?”

“Yeah?”

“I … I’d give you some rest for that arm if I could. You … you know that, right?”

“It’s fine.”

“No, it’s not. I’d planned on you going on light duty. I’ll still do as much as I can but for now … this is the way it has to be.”

“I’m not complaining.”

“I know you’re not. Still don’t make me feel happy having to ask it of you.”

And that’s the way it was. We rested for a few hours then got back up and got moving. And I think it would have been okay except it wasn’t. We got the ramp just fine. It was when we were driving to the Delray place that I hit a pothole that was hidden in the dark and banged my arm hard and had to pull over and jump out and puke or risk messing up the inside of the truck.

“Nann … breathe. C’mon, slow and steady.”

“S… ss … orry.”

“You crazy. You been shot and I’m asking all sorts of unreasonable …”

“No. I will not be useless and … and get left … behind. I might get left behind for other reasons but not because I’m useless.”

“You’re shaking like a leaf. C’mon and get back in the truck. I’ll drive.”

“No.”

“Nann …”

“No. I’ll drive. I don’t know how I’ll help with the shelves but … I’ll try.”

“I don’t think you know how not to try and help, but this time you’re going to just lay down in the cab and catch your breath and let me do while you rest.”

“But …”

“Nann, that arm is going to get infected if you keep on.”

I didn’t have much choice but to do things his way. And by the time we did make it back to the farm all I wanted one was one of those pills he promised me that would make the pain stop.
 

Griz3752

Retired, practising Curmudgeon
It has taken me a bit to get through the next couple of chapters because I wasn't real satisfied with the characters' actions/interactions. Think I've cleared things up but it may take a couple of chapters for you to see it.
Which approach is just one of the reasons you're so faithfully followed Kathy. Write what you can, as you can; life, currently, is more than a little challenging for almost everyone and we know you have a generous dose of the challenging part. If there's questions, we'll ask but in my experience, your stories always become clear as they progress so, just write, when you can.

For me. I've been married most of my adult life so, I personally am used to the odd delay. My Dad always told me everything will work out if it was supposed to.

Thank you Ma'am.
 
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Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
Chapter 35

It isn’t the 2nd day after an injury that is bad, it’s that 3rd day that makes you feel like death warmed over. I still worked through it, with the help of an occasional pain reliever, I just wasn’t moving as fast as I needed which slowed things down. We’ve still managed to get done what we planned. First, we cleaned out one of the side rooms … the room where I had moved everything that was in the way like Grammy’s canning equipment, processing utensils like the apple peelers and juicers, and all the extra junk and stuff that had just accumulated down in the cellar that I was supposed to help Grammy clean up this summer. All that stuff I had to stick in one of the bedrooms upstairs until I could find a new place for it. Then I banged together enough gorilla shelves to go all around the room and two back-to-back aisles down the middle. We used the tractor jack, which hadn’t exactly been a joy to get down to the cellar, to re-arrange all of the bins of staple goods that Grammy had ordered in with room to spare.

Doing that cleaned up the floor space enough that we could install the ramp which meant I could then put together more shelving and run it around the main room so that we’d have room to double stack the barrels with the silo grain. After we did that there was a bunch of open floor space but it couldn’t be used if we were going to use the ramp. Six of one, half dozen of another.

We didn’t start making real space until we reorganized the honey room and a couple of the other alcoves. The honey room we could finally walk into without breaking our necks and had room to finish storing the honey that came from the Delray place as well as a little room left over for the first batch of honey from the *gasp* eighty-freaking hives we are planning to work.

I’ve been trying to make my own notes in my own scratch pad as we tackled each area. I noticed that a lot of staple goods that Grammy had ordered in were going to start running out as soon as I have to start preserving things from the garden, especially the white sugar. But for now we’ve got an excess of honey. What I think I am going to have to do is figure out how to substitute honey for the processed white sugar. This is where I started wishing for the internet and a library. Uncle Hy has a library and Grammy’s notes might as well be a library but there’s no index that I can go to that tells me where the info is, or if it exists in what have to research with. I’m going to have to spend what little free time I have going over everything and creating my own index which is going to mean finding some way to organize it. I can do it on my tablet but if it goes kapootz I need to have it handwritten. Which means paper and writing utensils and sore fingers. Argh!

In one of the alcoves off the cellar we put and organized all the grains … trashcans on bottom and top and filling the remaining space with the tubs and such that we were using to hold the previously found stuff. Some of the trashcans were full of grains I know little to nothing about. That’s more research and experimenting because the white flour is going fast even if I don’t use it very much. And I also need to learn to grind flour, which I kinda know how to do because Grammy was teaching me some of the old-fashioned ways that things were done when her grandparents were kids because Uncle Hy wanted someone in the family besides him and Grammy to know.

Another alcove is where we organized all the dried beans and the tons of different rices we had. I never knew how many different kinds of white rice alone that there were. At home there was just white rice and brown rice. Not that simple anymore, oh no, of course not. Whoever was buying stuff for the Grist Mill House people made things a lot more complicated than necessary. There was regular white rice which even the sticker on the can made it seem like a third-class item. There were pretty stickers for all of the other rices like basmati, long-grain, jasmine, nishiki, extra long enriched, Calrose, Japanese short-grain, arborio, Valencia, medium grain, brown rice, wild rice, black rice, sushi rice, rosematta red rice, Thai red rice, parboiled rice, and then rice flavors like yellow rice, red beans and rice, black beans and rice, pilaf, and enough rice-a-roni mixes to feed a small platoon of scouts for several camporees. Okay, maybe that last was a little bit of an exaggeration but rice is one of the things I’m not worried about running out of any time soon. Good thing Mitch and I like rice because we are going to be eating a lot of it for the foreseeable future.

The good thing about getting those alcove areas organized was that the room where all the preserves and jars go can now be organized. That’s one of the chores that is on my to-do list. Also, as we organized we worked on the inventory and updated the categories and Mitch has asked me to start trying to judge how much food I use for the two of us each week so we can start working out a bare-minimum rationing plan as well as estimating how many people we can feed for how long when/if the family shows up. That’s going to require some thought because how much of our groceries I use depends on if we bring anything fresh in. I’ve made a note to myself that I need to start foraging more, plan for preserving what comes out of the gardens, plan how much to plant in the next garden rotations, how much we are getting out of the orchards, etc., etc., oh my gawd etc.

The organizing and “building” went on during the day. We took turns trying to cat nap after the first day of feeling like zombies. I felt like Mitch was putting me down for a nap like a little kid but it turns out he was right, I needed it because if wasn’t the pain making me feel pukey, it was the pain relievers that were doing a job on my guts.

The bringing in of the stuff from the livestock trailer and van took place at night after the ramp was built so we avoided any of the drones taking notice. Mitch said one of the things he learned that I hadn’t heard was that all the night-sight capable drones were being used closer to the battle lines and in the cities. However, just to be on the safe side we will move any big finds we make at night, using tree cover, as much as possible. That’s always assuming anymore finds. Both Mitch and I kinda have our doubts after finding out there were salvagers and refugees in the area.

Mitch was explaining what his job used to be when he got around to the people he served with. “I worked with Raj a full rotation. He’s not a bad guy, knows what he is doing. The main problem was that he was such a straight arrow and would report any abnormalities or anything he considered suspicious before we could even investigate them ourselves. I don’t know if that’s changed but we’ll be careful just to be sure. That third guy is named Ibrahim. I know him even if he doesn’t remember me. His nickname was Brahma.”

“’Cause he’s built like a bull?”

“That and because he is Hindu. And no, don’t ask me what that means, it is just how he explained it. Him we might find useful. He plays at being dumb around people he don’t know, but he’s got connections.”

“Connections? You mean black-market?”

“Not necessarily. He didn’t really like doing business those groups. But he knows people on the retail side.” Before I had to ask he explained, “The military has to buy their food just like everyone else, it is just higher up the food chain from what most civilians have access to. If, and this is a big if, we can really work the hives like I hope, him or someone like him might help us get it to market, or at least in the supply line. We won’t make market rate on it, but something is better than nothing and we might even be able to make it a direct payment for taxes and such. I’ll keep my ears open.”

“But they said they wouldn’t be transmitting to you.”

“Nann, you know how they say if people stop talking the sky will fall? Well make that doubly true in the military.”

Not sure I was following I quoted another saying to him. “What about loose lips sink ships?”

“Different kind of gossip. But if you get enough gossip from enough different places you can get a good idea what is going on.”

I decided to take his word on it.

And speaking of drones, Mitch finally got delivery of the radio and antenna. But it wasn’t by drone delivery. Sgt. Cahill, “Sarge” from the first meeting, and four other soldiers brought it. One of those four was a female medic. Oh how fun that was not.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
Chapter 36

“Sorry Decker, them’s the regs,” Sgt. Cahill told Mitch.

“And if the female in question doesn’t want to be examined or whatever? She don’t get a say?”

Sgt. Cahill was about to open his mouth when the female medic got snarky. “Are you preventing that poor young woman …”

*Pop* went my temper. I know Mitch had told me not to interact, but I smelled a set up and they weren’t going to get a chance to take that road. I slammed out the door and said, “Woman I don’t know you and you aren’t the boss of me. If it is about vaccinations? I got all of ‘em legally required of me and have proof. If it is about getting a look at me without my clothes on you can shove it. I …”

“Excuse me?!” the woman squawked.

“Nann! Calm down girl. It’s gonna be o…”

“Don’t you tell me it is going to be okay. They’re nothing but a buncha droneverts. Taking pictures of who knows what. I heard it myself. They were watching me Mitch Quitman Decker. Getting close enough that they said they could tell I was a girl even in this get up. And now here they are for some reason.”

“Nann …”

“And what’s her rank anyway that she can get away with butting into a conversation Sgt. Cahill is having with you? It doesn’t look like she has more stripes on her arm than him. And females can be perverts too you know. They taught us that in the Red Cross class I took ‘cause Dad and Mom both thought …”

“Nann!” Mitch was scratching his head and wiping his mouth. That was a sure sign that he was trying not to laugh. He knew what I was capable of and just how much I could dish out if pushed the wrong way.

“Don’t you Nann me. If she won’t even pay attention to those rank rules you explained, how do I know she’ll listen to me at all!”

Turns out Sgt. Cahill has a daughter just a little younger than me and realized pretty fast that I was blowing more than a little smoke and sass at the female medic.

“Miss.” Boy did I know that tone. I turned to Sgt. Cahill and gave him my full and undivided attention. Seeing it he was fighting a smile of his own. “I’m sorry but when they found out a young female was out here on her own, Brass ordered the interview.”

I looked at Mitch and his sotto-whispered, “A group of officers that manage things.”

“Is all she going to do is ‘interview’ me? If that was the case, why couldn’t you or them others do it? Why send a medic?”

The woman butted in again and I saw the annoyance quickly hid by Sgt. Cahill but it did tell me that she wasn’t his favorite person at the moment.

“You are a lone female. I am here to make sure you are not being held under duress.”

“Why?”

She blinked. “Excuse me?”

“Why is it any of your business one way or the other what my feelings are on any subject. I am not in the military. Mitch is medically triaged though I understand he is supposed to be doing something for someone when someone says start doing it. If you were so all fired concerned you could have brought a civilian medic, you could have probably even found a nosey female civilian medic to do it if you would have popped for a meal or something.”

The medic looked at Sgt. Cahill and he looked back at her as if to say, “You opened this can of worms. You deal with it.”

She turned back to me and said, “You’re female.”

“So I choose to be, at least right now,” I answered. “But you didn’t have no way of knowing that for sure. I could be using alternative pronouns.”

“Are you?” she asked.

“Is that any of your business?”

“Look young lady …”

“And do you know that for sure?”

“Well give me something to work with,” she said starting to sound just a tad irritated and Mitch was back to wiping his mouth.

“By law I don’t have to. I teach us that in school. They also teach us that the military is not exempt from the gender identity laws.”

“Very well,” she said like she was hunting up some patience as she pulled out a tablet. “Your name?”

“You can call me Nann.”

“Is that your legal name?”

“What part of gender identity laws were you not listening to?”

“Surname?”

“That’s just …”

“Please,” she yelped. “Just answer the questions.”

“I’ll answer the ones that you are allowed by law to ask. You can call me Nann Decker. I do not qualify for the draft. I have all my vaccinations and have proof of that. Mitch Decker is my legal guardian because I was separated from my immediate family when the town was ordered up for evacuation because of the incursion.”

“And why do you not qualify for the draft?”

And that’s when I looked at Mitch and said, “Guess we know what they are really here for. Why else would those droneverts make such a stink about finding out what my gender is?”

Mitch got real serious. “Go in the house Nann.”

I did but it was with a snarl at the female medic. I was half way in the door when Sgt. Cahill asked me to wait a moment. I wanted to ignore him but I wasn’t going to screw things up for Mitch and I didn’t know just how much power and authority the man had to swing around.

“Decker, I’d cut her some slack if for no other reason than that is some comedy routine she has, and got the reason for Dundee being along faster than people that know what she’s is up to have.”

“If the job is on the line Sarge …”

“It’s not.” When the medic started to say something Sgt. Cahill looked at her and said, “That will be all. If you can’t follow orders, return to the jeep and relieve Jackson.” And he did it in a voice I hope to never hear from someone of his rank.

“Nann Decker, do you have proof of your age?”

I looked at Mitch and he nodded. “Be right back,” I said.

I scooted to get my driver’s license … and my vaccine card issued by DHS. I was fast but something had still gone down. Mitch was more relaxed and so was the Sergeant. The medic was over with “Jackson” at the jeep. The two other soldiers were unloading a crate onto the porch. I waited until Mitch nodded at me to come over and I handed Sgt. Cahill my IDs.

He handed them back to me and I put them in my pocket. “You’ll be eighteen fairly soon.”

“I still won’t be able to pass the physical.”

He hiked his eyebrow like I was still playing pranks. I looked at Mitch then handed the Sergeant the other card that I was forced to carry by law. “I had a bad reaction to the CovidProVax when I was little. It’s why I can only take virtual classes unless my parents send me to the ‘special’ school with the rest of us the school district qualifies as freaks of nature for being unvaccinated.”

“Been a while since I’ve seen one of these,” Sgt. Cahill said.

“Yes Sir. Only the military and the teachers’ unions still keep me out of stuff. No one else really cares anymore. You learn to live with it and work around it.” The I heard the dogs. “Pretty and Butch hear something they don’t like.”

Mitch got all business. “Get in the house and keep the dogs with you.”
 

ydderf

to fear "I'm from the government I'm here to help"
Oh no a cliff. As more people arrive there are some hard decisions to make, thanks Kathy.
 
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