Natog pulled up to Al’s apartment, and parked on the side of the street. Grabbing the package of toilet paper, he pulled two rolls out. Then he grabbed the baseball bat and soda bottles of ice along with the toilet paper and made his way up to the second floor apartment.
Banging on the door with the bat because his arms were loaded with stuff, he was eventually greeted with a meek “Who is it?”
“It’d FEMA, open up!”
The door tentatively opened a crack, and Natog just pushed it open. Sprawled on the ground was Mary, and Al looked positively fierce brandishing a wine bottle.
“Here use the bat, it will do a better job.” Natog stepped over the sprawled Mary and dropped his load of supplies off on the table as Mary squawked in indignation.
Al put the bottle on the table, “What’s this? And Who is Feemah?”
Natog replied as he helped Mary to her feet, “Federal Emergency Management Agency, you know the bad guys. This is some supplies I had extra I know you crazy kids could use.”
“Oh he brought toilet paper! Natog, I’m going to marry you!”
Al picked up the wine bottle, “I think it’s time for a domestic, now that the cops are busy!” and playfully grabbed at Mary. She scampered off with the rolls of TP toward the bathroom.
Natog grabbed the bottles of ice and put them in the fridge. “These will help it stay cool, and the water in them is safe to drink.”
Mary stepped back in the room, “Natog take off your coat and stay a bit. What’s going on?”
Natog pulled off his coat, and draped it over a chair. He was pulling another chair out to sit on when Mary asked “What’s that?” pointing at his pistol.
Natog looked ashamed, “You’re right, I should have asked before entering your home with a weapon. Well, besides the baseball bat.”
Al looked like he didn’t know what to say, “It’s ok… I guess.”
“Thanks. That reminds me, never, ever open the fucking door until you know who’s out there. Dumbasses.”
Al looked indignant, “I had a weapon!”
“Pfft. That’ not a weapon, that’s a fucking beverage. Keep that little league bat handy. Just hit them in the head until they stop twitching. Just pray they don’t have a fucking gun, and, more importantly, know how to use it.”
“In that instance is shitting yourself and prayer a good plan?” Al joked.
Smiling, Natog replied, “Better than no fucking plan at all!”
Mary gave a disapproving look, “You two swear like sailors!”
Al laughed, “Worse, we are IT guys!”
Natog looked shocked, “Fuck is not a swear, it’s a punctuation mark!”
The three friends went on for another 20 minutes or so. It was good to unwind after the hectic day before. Al looked refreshed, and didn’t look too worse for wear. Natog figured he still had beauty supplies for another month.
After a particularly raunchy joke from Mary, Natog started getting up. “I got to get going guys. I’d like to get to Mum’s before dark.”
Mary and Al got up when Natog did. Mary asked, “So why is that Federal-thingy the bad guys?”
Natog pulled on his coat, “Well technically, they aren’t but they like to stuff people in camps where they can be controlled, and food and water distribution is centralized.”
Al looked confused, “But isn’t that a good thing?”
Natog slowly shook his head. “Not in my book, if you are in a camp, you have little to no rights, and little to no freedom. First thing they do is disarm you, and then you are at the mercy of those that are bigger and stronger than you are.”
“Oh” was all they had to say.
“It gets worse. People like me who rather stay in our homes will be forcibly moved into the camp. They did that in Katrina to people who were high and dry and had plenty of food and water. To me a FEMA camp is death.”
Al and Mary exchanged glances. Al spoke up first, “Hey, I really appreciate what you have done for us.”
“No problem man, you two stay safe. If I can I’ll check in from time to time.”
Natog made his way to his Jeep dodging snowballs from the first floor’s tenant’s kids. After climbing into the truck, Natog paused for a moment and hoped FEMA wouldn’t come to town. Turning the ignition, Natog pulled out into the snowy street, and made his way towards Rt 79 South. Mum would be worried about him, more than he was worried about her and Bill, his brother.
Route 79 was more of a country road than a highway. It meandered though Lakeville and other small towns towards Fall River. At Route 118 Natog started towards New Bedford. Both New Bedford and Fall River were mill towns that never recovered from the loss of textile jobs to the south after the civil war.
Higher crime, high unemployment, and poor education plagued both cities throughout the 70’s to 90’s. That had turned around by 2000, but the crime had moved underground with the rise of the Latin Kings, MS 13, Bloods, and Crips. New Bedford was always worse off with a large fishing fleet shackled by new government policies. The fishing fleet provided an easy route for narcotics to enter the country.
Right in the middle of this were the communities of Dartmouth, Westport and Tiverton. Mum lived in the south of Dartmouth, in the village of Padanaram. Natog’s parents bought the house in the 60’s long before the influx of rich tourists bought up all the land, turning it into subdivisions. To get to the south of Dartmouth, Natog would have to cut through New Bedford.
From 79 he hopped onto 140 South, a true divided highway. There were some tire tracks in both directions. It must have been less than a score of cars on the roads. Route 140 ended smack dab in-between Dartmouth and New Bedford. The north of Dartmouth was heavily commercialized, and bared no resemblance to the rural, agricultural south of the town. Mum was politically active and wanted to separate Padenaram from the northern half of the town politically. She wasn’t a very popular person in town, although the selectmen gave her respect while trying to shoo her out of the meetings.
140 ended at route 6, in a very busy intersection on the corner of Buttonwood park. As Natog drove past the dark traffic lights he could see kids everywhere in the park. Adults wandered among the children having snowball fights, pulling sleds behind themselves, and generally having a good time. As he made his way through the back streets to Slocum Road, he had to pull over for a cop with his lights on leading three power company trucks.
Taking his time, Natog made a detour to follow the trucks. The fresh tracks in the snow from the dual tires made it easy. After a mile, he knew where they were headed. There was a power distribution site a few miles down the road.
Sure enough, the trucks were pulled up with the gates open to the site. The power company guys were walking around piles of charred slag that were once transformers. Slowing down to check out the situation, the cop noticed and started yelling something at Natog.
With a wave, Natog resumed his trip to Mums. Twisting down the unplowed roads he occasionally had to drive around some branches in the road. Here and there people were seen trying to get a car started, or shoveling their driveway.
As he pulled up to Mum’s he could see his brother’s truck in the driveway, along with his Mum’s Mini Cooper. The Mini had its hood open and it looked like Bill was screwing around with it.
Bill looked up from the Mini when Natog pulled in. As Natog tried to get out of the Jeep Bill tackled him into the snow.
“Damnit, you asshole!” cried Natog as he wrestled his brother in the snow.
“Fuck you man, we were worried sick. We thought you were stuck in Boston.”
Right on cue, Mum burst out of the kitchen door, “Natog! Thank Christ! I was worried sick!”
Natog managed to get to his feet in time to get bear hugged by all 5’3” of Mum. “Natog, do you have any idea how worried I was…” Mum rambled on while the three of them walked to the kitchen door.
Entering the kitchen, with its perpetual smell of home cooking and wood smoke, the family naturally gathered around the wood stove to warm up. Mum still heated half the house with wood, it was cheaper than the gas furnace used in the rest of the house. Mum had a pot of water on the wood stove for tea, evidently the gas lines didn’t have pressure.
Mum made tea while Natog told of his long walk from Boston with Al. Mum was wondering how some of the cars were working, because none of the cars in the area were. Turns out, Bill was out on the cape with his on-again, off-again wife. Somehow his truck was ok, and he got back late last night.
Natog brought the tote of food in and unloaded its contents onto the kitchen table while Bill filled the wood bin next to the kitchen wood stove. Turns out Mum had made a batch of her famous spaghetti sauce on the weekend, so there was plenty of sauce.
It wasn’t until well after dark that Natog got back on the road again. Even though Mum had made sauce, he left the sauce so she could drop it off to some elderly friends in the area. The two brothers brought as much wood inside as it could fit, and refilled the wood rack outside with whatever wood they could find and cut with Mum’s beat up chain saw. The blade was as dull as a fart, so the boys had to be very careful not to maim themselves with it.
Mum and Bill had homework assignments to pack up bug-out-bags for themselves. Natog had given them the assignment at least a half-dozen times in the last six months, but they never got around it. It took a heated discussion about what would happen with a chimney fire with no firemen on the way to save the house to get them finally on board.
It was stressed to Bill to conserve fuel at all costs. Luckily, Bill had ¾ of a tank, and the dead Mini had about half a tank. Natog promised to bring his chainsaw the next time he came down so they could cut more wood. Mum went through about 5 cords of wood a year, but that was with the gas furnace to help out. Without that the wood would go much faster. She only had about a quarter of a cord, she had placed an order a week ago, and it wasn’t delivered yet.
There was plenty of woods behind her lot, and across the street that was owned by out-of-towners. Bill and Natog had ventured in there to cut felled trees here and there over the years when economic times were tough. No sense in letting good wood rot when it could heat their house.
The plan was to stick it out for another three days, and then Natog would come down again to cut wood. By then, they hoped, news should be circulating around about what was going on. How widespread the outage was, what the government was going to do about it, and by that point people would begin running low on food, and they can see the police response to any increased violence and crime.
Bill had his Class A, and had already purchased a small arsenal. The frankenFAL, a beat-up looking but quite functional FN-FAL in .308 with three magazines, a S&W M&P .45ACP handgun. Mum had applied for her Class A license and Natog and Bill bought her a Thompson .22LR rifle for her birthday. Bill got a great deal on a 9mm handgun, and bought that so he could transfer it to Mum once her license came in. The problem was they both liked to shoot – a lot. Bill had only 60 rounds of .308 ball ammo, a box and a half of .45ACP ammo, only 20 rounds of 9mm personal protection rounds, and 20 or so .22LR rounds.
Bill carried his .45 everywhere, but since Mum had no license she was unable to carry it legally. They came up with the idea that the 9mm would be unlocked and out, but if the cops showed up for whatever reason it would be tossed into the gun safe. Mum wouldn’t leave the house with it.
It was late after a spaghetti dinner with garlic bread roasted over the wood stove that Natog tossed the empty tote into the back of the jeep and climbed in for the ride home. As Natog made his way back to Middleboro, he ran through his mind what Bill had reminded them of during dinner.
A month ago, Alex Berger, an old friend of Bill’s had come forth and admitted that the farm he owned in Maine was a survival retreat for his family. The family was loaded, and the farm, which was a hobby of the son’s was a fully functional and nearly self-sustaining farm in the middle of Maine. The nearest city, Skowhegan was quite a ways from anywhere. Bill had spilled the beans about his “survivalist brother” to the Berger family when up in Maine doing handywork for Alex around the farm. Alex’s mother Karin had been shooting with Natog and Bill a few times. She was Mum’s age and Mum found it surprising that Karin was such an avid shooter. It was Karin who convinced Mum to get her class A, so “all the kids wouldn’t hog all the fun.”
The biggest problem for the Bergers was after Alex rolled up his entire inheritance into the farm was they didn’t have enough resources to protect it if they had to. Bill explained to Natog that December morning that it was his proficiency with his .308 bolt-action rifle, and his ability to hand-load ammunition that convinced Karin that Bill and Natog would be a good fit for them. Bill was approached a week later and told that the three of them were given an open invitation to go to the farm if the shit hit the fan. Mum was never told about this until this very night at dinner.
Bill was emphatic that they should pack everything up and head out to Maine the very next morning. That Karin and whatever children she had were going to head to Maine ASAP. Mum and Natog were not convinced. No one knows how bad the situation is yet, and to just abandon their homes was crazy. Natog knew there was no way he could fit all his stuff onto his Jeep and trailer that he would want to take with him. Just in hand tools alone there must have been a half a ton of supplies.
In the End, Mum put her foot down. “I didn’t work and starve and scrape every dime I had to pay the fucking mortgage on this house just to leave when the power goes out! We made it trough he Blizzard of ’78 and untold hurricanes. I am NOT leaving this house for some fantasy-land in Maine!”
Bill was going to swing by the Bergers the next day to see if they had left already. And if they hadn’t, find out when.
It must have been well past midnight when Natog pulled the Jeep into his garage and locked the door. Making his way into the dark house, he let Thor and Loki out for a while after feeding them, then crawled back into the rack after letting them back in the house.