The next three days were a frantic blur of activity. The first order of business was to get a heating system running in the house. Without a larger inverter and battery bank, the oil furnace in Natog’s home was a giant paperweight.
Natog had bought a small potbellied wood stove, but he didn’t have any pipe to hook it up in the basement. So that Friday morning Natog was out and about walking around town right after a quick breakfast. He spoke briefly to everyone, just bullshitting about stuff to get a feel of what was going on in town. Stopping by the hardware store, no one was inside.
Leaving a note just in case they were around, Natog made his way around the back of various stores looking for scrap metal he could make pipe out of. It was when he was crossing from behind one building to another when he was stopped an interrogated by a local cop. Thankfully, the cop never got out of the car and frisked Natog. As Natog was carrying his Sig P220, he probably would have had to go to the station at the least. At least the cop let him head back home, but warned him not to be caught sniffing around any of the stores, then he would be brought in for attempted burglary.
It was on the way back home Natog saw some sheet metal beside a run-down home surrounded by junk. Making his way to the front door, he could hear a dog barking inside.
Natog was reaching up to knock on the door when a man’s voice called out “What do you want?”
“Oh hi. I’m a neighbor down the street, and I’d be interested in trading for some of your sheets of scrap metal.”
Natog looked around to see if he could see anyone in the windows, figuring they were just behind the door, he answered “Oh just a fix. My shed is leaking and I wanted to patch it until I could go to Home Depot and buy some tarpaper and shingles.”
“Huh, well I’ll be out in a minute. Meet me by the side of the house.”
Natog walked around the house around various piles of junk and then in between a rusting car on blocks and a Ford Explorer. A 40ish year old man came around the corner just as Natog got to the pile of metal. He was in a stained sweatshirt, jeans and untied workboots. He had a greasy patriots ball cap on, and his face showed the strain of many years of hard work and many regrets. “Let’s get this over with, I’ll freeze my balls off.”
Natog quickly went through the pile, and pulled out two large sheets of thin galvanized steel. “What do you want for these four?”
“Damn, man how big is your shed? Gimmie twenty bucks.”
Natog happily handed over a $20 bill. The man snatched it out of his hand so fast Natog was thankful he was wearing gloves so his fingertips didn’t get friction burns. The man scurried off into the house without saying anything else.
“Thanks!” Natog called out to thin air. Shrugging, Natog picked up his metal and made his way back home.
It took an entire day’s worth of work, but by the end, Natog had connected up the wood stove to his furnace in the basement. The hardest part was making pipe from the sheets of galvanized metal. Using a sandbag and a ball peen hammer with half-a tennis ball to cushion it he beat the piss out of the metal until he had a rough “C” shape. Then using a short piece of pvc as a form he bent it into a tube.
In the basement he pulled out the existing chimney pipe from the oil furnace and re-arraigned it to point to a new direction away from the oil furnace. Luckily, the original installers had additional bends in the run to the furnace to make up for their laziness in moving water pipes. With these extra bends he didn’t need to make any bends himself, although the stove was right next to the chimney, and only 10feet from the oil tank.
Using a piece of paper on the inside of the pipe to figure out the circumference since he didn’t have the internet to look up the formula, Natog cut one of the metal cylinders with an extra three inches to make a seam. Trimming it for length was next, and finally bending the last two inches into a V with the wide part facing the inside of the tube. He bent the last inch of the other side of the seam up 90 degrees. Inserting this tab into the open V started the seam. Once the V was hammered flat on the edge of his workbench, he then folded it over creating an interlocking seam that was air tight once it was sufficiently hammered flat. Taking his homemade pipe into the basement he fitted it into place.
It fit perfectly, after 15 minutes of beating it to death with scrap lumber, the ball peen hammer and a plethora of curses. He then wrapped aluminum foil tape around the joints to make sure they wouldn’t leak exhaust into the room. The tape was rated at 300 degrees, so as long as the stove was kept to a low heat he should be ok, as the first seam was 5 feet off of the stove.
A crude damper was fashioned from a wire coat hanger and a scrap of the metal trimmed to roughly fit. The wire coat hanger was fed through holes punched in the disk and then bent around notches in the metal so the damper wouldn’t fall off inside the pipe.
Throughout the whole process Natog was certain to keep an eye on how the pipes fit together. There couldn’t be any leaks of exhaust gasses into his living area. Carbon Monoxide was a colorless, odorless gas that was a natural byproduct of combustion. It bound itself to the body’s hemoglobin better than oxygen, and as the amount of oxygen was absorbed it slowly suffocated the victim. It was one thing to have a wood stove in a kitchen, but a homemade one in an enclosed basement was a recipe for disaster. Luckily Mum had given Natog a portable CO detector years ago when he lived in a small basement apartment. It was battery powered, so it should sound any alarm before he was incapacitated from the gas.
The next step was to go on a scavenger hunt in the woodshop and the yard for wood. None of the pieces was very large, but since the basement was well-insulated, not much of a fire had to be kept going. The wood from outside needed to dry off, so it was leaned against the wall near the stove.
By the time he had enough wood to last the night it was dark outside and a couple chicken breasts were cooking on the grill. With cold fingers Natog tore a few sheets out of an old phonebook and lit his stove. Adding bits of kindling, he built up a small fire. While the stove started to warm up the basement, Natog cleaned off his fly tying desk and brought down some candles for additional light.
Natog ate at the fly tying desk next to his washing machine, watching an episode of the BBC series “Doctor Who” he had recorded onto his network storage. The Notebook cast a strange light, it was the first LCD he looked at in over two days. Natog had no idea what he would do without his music and movies. If he figured out who spared his electronics from the wrath of whatever event caused the outage, he was fully resolved to give them a big kiss.
By the time he was done with the show, and put the laptop away, it was getting noticeably warmer in the basement. After reloading the wood stove, and stripping off the outer sweatshirt, he began to figure out how to keep as much heat in the main basement room as possible. After rigging up some blankets and hanging the door he took off from the top of the basement stairs when he moved in, things were getting rather snug.
The rest of the night was spent resizing .308 brass. He had 200 or so lake city match brass, and 1000 once fired military brass. Using a trim die and file was a slow process, but there really wasn’t much to do. Plus, the bench was in his warm basement, which was a definite plus. He trimmed the interior flash holes, chamfered the outside of the neck, used a bore brush to clean the inside of the neck, and cleaned the flash hole with a little tool he bought for it. He then got down to removing the military crimp on the brass, which was a very tedious and slow manual process with the tools Natog had. The plan was to load these with 168 grain hunting bullets for his bolt-action rifle.
Natog managed to get his mattress down the basement stairs without breaking anything, or throwing out his back. A second trip brought the sleeping bags and pillows down. The last trip brought down the shotgun and a box of buckshot after making sure all the doors were locked and the dogs had fresh water and food.
Natog added just a little more wood to the fire, knowing it would go out anyways during the night. Before curling up in his sleeping bag, Natog laid out the makings of a fire for the morning.
That night Natog dreamed of many things, but the one thing that he remembered upon waking was surreal. Walking naked across a burnt landscape, Natog had a flaming sword in his right hand, and a tuna fish sandwich in the other. Behind him walked a blurry shadowy host. The clinking of weapons and web gear accompanied the booted feet of the formless soldiers.
After waking and lighting the fire, Natog climbed back into bed and dozed off for another half hour until the dogs started barking upstairs to go out. Running upstairs he let the dogs out.
Digging into his stores, he got out a box of baby wipes. After giving himself a “whore bath” with two of the baby wipes, Natog let out a curse as he forgot his clean socks and underwear upstairs.
The first chore was to get power back up and running. From his garage he brought his generator into the back yard. With a masonry bit in his battery powered drill, he switched it to “hammer drill” mode and drilled a ½ hole a couple inches deep by the back basement window. Using a anchor bolt, he used some heavy chain he had originally used to secure his canoe to the garage foundation to securely lock the generator to the foundation.
Once that was done he got a couple of extension cords from the garage. One he ran to the fridge, the other downstairs in the basement. Filling the generator with gas he had stored, and replacing the oil he drained from the genny when he put it up, he got it started on the second pull. Making sure the fridge was working, he then went to the basement and made sure the two UPS for his computers was charging as well as the battery for his drill. He also plugged in the laptop to charge that battery too.
He made breakfast while keeping his shotgun on the counter. Although the odds were small, he knew from reading about Katrina that nothing brought the sound of thieves faster than a running motor when the power was out.
Making breakfast took his mind off of potential thieves, but eating the last of his eggs made Natog wonder how bad it was going to get. Right on cue as he started washing his dishes there was a loud banging on his front door.
Clutching his shotgun, Natog shouted through the door, “Who is it!”
“Who the FUCK is George?”
Peeling back the towel he stapled up to black out the window, Natog carefully peered out of the window. Standing there in a parka and the dorkiest winter hat Natog has ever seen was his neighbor from across the side street. George was a man in his early 40’s with three kids, a punk teenage son, a tween daughter and another pre-teen daughter. George was of average weight for his 5’10” frame, but looked pudgier because of his poor posture.
George was fanatical about mowing his lawn. He mowed it crosshatched, like the baseball fields in the major league ballparks. Natog watched the neighbor one day with a ruler measuring the grass. Through the neighborhood grapevine Natog learned George despised Natog because of his lack of regular mowing. Compounding the problem was that George never returned a wave, and always went into his house whenever Natog walked over to say hi.
Natog didn’t like George.
“Oh yeah, the lawn Nazi. Hold on a second.” Natog flicked the safety back on the shotgun and put it in the hall closet. After adjusting his holster with the Sig in it, he unbolted the door and let George in.
Stamping his feet on Natog’s carpet, he pulled a glove off, and gave Natog a limp handshake. “Nice to meet you.”
“Ahhhh… What can I do for you?” Natog was staring at the puddle of mud and slush on his carpet.
“Well, I heard your generator, and your right across the street, so I was hoping we could plug in so we could microwave some food and give the kids some TV.”
“Well nice to finally meet you, George. Now good day.”
“What?” George looked perplexed and a little hurt.
“I don’t enough fuel to run a microwave and TV for the kids, sorry.”
George raised his voice, “But we need power, to run the fridge! And the kids are driving me crazy.”
“I’m sorry, but that isn’t my problem.”
“But, why not? It’s the neighborly thing to do.” George realized the mistake as soon as the words left his mouth with the fierce, almost feral look in Natog’s eyes.
“Neighborly, you talk about neighborly! Fuck you! I tried to talk with you a dozen times and you always walk away, you badmouth me to the rest of the ‘hood, about my lawn. Is that neighborly?” George tried to stammer out a reply, but Natog cut him off. “You have shown a complete lack of respect for me, and you expect me to give you a big handout? Huh?”
“Well, no I can pay for the gas. I wasn’t looking for a handout. I…”
“Bullshit. You came over to mooch power. What do you have to trade?”
“George looked a little lost, well I have some cash. I’ll give you $20 for the gas.”
Natog sighed. “Look, money is no good here. Go home to your family. Collect ice from the pond to keep your fridge cold.”
“But my kids are driving me crazy! Why should I collect ice when you have a generator?”
“To be honest, because I was smart enough to buy a generator...”
“Well I...” George stammered before getting cut off again.
“Now, I never complained about your kids making a racket after I worked 3rd shift. I never pissed and moaned to anyone about your punk kid leaving burnouts in the street on his rice rocket. So you can get the fuck out of my house. I catch you or anyone in your family on my property and we are going to have a big fucking problem. You get me?”
“That’s not a very Christian attitude!”
“Actually it is. Now good day, sir.”
“I just need …”
Natog shouted “I said good day, sir!” and took a few steps toward George. He stumbled out the door, and retreated across the lawn.
He watched George cross the street and head to his side door. George paused before opening the door to his house and gave Natog a half hearted middle finger.
“Took you that long to work up the nut to do that huh?” Natog shouted as George went inside. Natog noticed movement in the drapes as George’s kid was watching Natog with a sullen look. Closing the door, he went back to finishing his dishes.
Natog played some videogames on his pc for a little while, then collected up the extension cords and shut down the generator. After the muffler and engine block had cooled down, he carefully wrapped it in a tarp to protect it from the elements.
Taking some fishing line, he tied it to the leg of the generator, then pushed it against the house to conceal the chain. Opening the window in front of the sink, he snaked the fishing line inside the house, then closed the window. After checking the fishing line easily pulled through the weather seal of the window, Natog took a empty soda can from the recycling bin and dropped some pennies into it. Placing the soda can on the edge of a counter, Natog tied the fishing line to it. A slight tug on the line resulted in a loud crash from the falling soda can. Resetting the alarm, he felt it was loud enough to wake him up if someone messed with the genny.
Locking the shotgun back up in the safe, Natog pulled on his outerwear, and went out into the bright morning. Kids were still running through the neighborhood playing in the snow. The sky was clear and cold, but the air was foul with the smell of burning plastic.
Natog set out on a tour of the neighbors, to make sure they were ok, and to see if anyone had any news.
All his friendly neighbors were ok, and, Frank, a retired NY cop, was doing better than he was. They were making roast beef for dinner, with all the fixings. They had a generator in the garage hooked up with a transfer switch and a propane tank for fuel. They invited Natog over for dinner, but he had to bring some butter, as they were out. Natog readily accepted.
The rest of the day was spent loading rounds in the basement, keeping the stove going, and listening to his iPod thought some computer speakers. Natog had some butter in the fridge, and some frozen dinner rolls he was going to cook for the next gaming night.
Turns out most of the neighborhood had been invited, with the noticeable exception of George and his family. Natog mused that he wasn’t the only person George had pissed off. Frank, his host openly carried a Glock .40, and made it clear that it was quite acceptable for Natog to carry in his home. Denise, his wife was confined to a wheelchair, but would beat anyone with an extra long wooden spoon at any offer of help.
Before dinner, four families were crammed into the small living room trying to get any signal from his TV or radio. All were filled with static. His satellite box was fried, and wouldn’t power on. Wild rumors and speculation filled the conversation between the neighbors before dinner.
Dinner was eaten wherever anyone could find a spot to eat. No one worked as far away as Boston, so Natog filled everyone in what he saw in his exodus from the city. Marty, from behind Natog’s house, saw similar effects in New Bedford, and his wife, who worked in Providence, figured only 1 in 10 cars were working. She was lucky enough to catch a ride from a co-worker to Fall River, then catch a ride from a State Trooper the rest of the way home.
Marty’s wife Susan had baked chocolate chip cookies for dessert, and they didn’t last long. Jill, a single mother with two kids lived on the other side of Franks had brought a box of hot chocolate and coffee. After dessert, the conversation turned to worrying about the future. Natog and Frank insisted crime would go up sharply. The other families were more worried about how they were going to get food and water.
More speculation, but no real answers to that question filled the rest of the night. Everyone agreed that in two nights they would get together for dinner again. Natog had a package of chicken breasts in the freezer he was willing to pony up, Marty had a bag of potatoes, and frank had some canned veggies.
With the date set, the families returned home. Before leaving, Natog made sure they didn’t need help with any dishes or anything. Then he gave a sharp yelp as he was smacked in the bottom with a wooden spoon.
Natog was awoken at 7am by a banging on the door, and the dogs going spastic upstairs. Tossing on some clothes he managed to get to the door before they kicked it in.
“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Whatcha want?” Natog shouted through the door.
“Police, could you open the door?”
Natog had a single vision in his head of the old lady getting the shit kicked out of her for a little pistol during the Katrina Disaster. Natog had a huge automatic on his hip.
“Can’t do it, dogs are all worked up. What can I do for you?”
Natog could hear the disappointment in the cop’s voice. “Just letting you know there is a 6pm curfew in effect from now on, and the grocery store will, be opening tomorrow at noon. Bring cash, only fifty bucks per family worth of food a week.”
“Oh, OK officer! Thanks for the information.”
“Remember, 6pm curfew.”
After he heard the officers walk off, he peeked out the window, and saw officers canvassing the neighborhood, all in obvious tactical gear under their duty parkas. Two officers had Sig assault rifles slung over their shoulders. Flyers were being stapled up onto telephone poles and flyers placed on the doors of houses no one was at.
“Guess they brought out the heavy artillery.” Natog mused to his dogs. “Ok out you go!”
Natog spent the day alternating between chores and goofing off. He ran the generator another 4 hours, and even got Marty hooked in too. He scavenged more wood from around the yard and set that to dry out in the basement. He managed to get half a game of Civilization IV played before his 4 hours was up. He then collected his chainsaw and gear and loaded it into the truck for tomorrow. He finished loading 100 rounds for the .308 bolt-action, and sealed the primers and bullets with some stuff he bought just for that purpose. He also prepped about 200 of the brass for his M1A, but didn’t get to load much.
And with that done, he went to bed. He noticed without a lot of artificial light, he was going to bed earlier and earlier, but waking up at the same time, just after sunrise. Natog wasn’t looking forward to the hard day’s work cutting wood tomorrow, that was certain, but Mum needed the wood.