A Girl Called Jack Cover Photo

A Girl Called Jack Cover Photo

Friday, July 31, 2015

Chapter 6


 
Desi had a surprisingly large “stash.”  He even had a refrigerator dolly to move it with.  Jack stood there looking at it and literally scratched her head at the problem she was facing. 

Behind her Desi asked, “You wondering where all this stuff come from?” 

“Yeah, but I’m not gonna ask.  Right now it’s enough that you have it.” 

Desi had been forced to take a break and get in front of the fire to warm up.  He had a warm jacket but that was it.  His gloves were basically just unlined garden gloves and his shoes were his runners and they were wet clean down to his socks. 

He gratefully wrapped his numb hands around the mug of strong, sweet tea that Jack had made and said, “People panicked when Lassen started rumbling and that nut from the USGS committed suicide in the middle of that interview right after saying that Yellowstone was next.” 

“Did you see it?  I’ve heard about it but with all the atmospheric callywumpus going on in the atmosphere the cable kept going out even when the ‘lectricity was on.” 

“Heard it.  Was listening to the weather channel on the radio and they were piping the show on there so more people could hear it.  I think they thought the guy was going to calm everyone down.  Had the opposite effect.” 

“Yeah,” Jack agreed.  “What they get for expecting things.” 

“True dat.  Like within an hour I saw people start to pack up and haul out.  They’ve continued doing that the worse things get. 

“They don’t want a repeat of what happened in Washington State.  Told everything was alright and a couple of hours later get swallowed up by those lahars, mudslides, and pyroclastic whatchamacallits.  Though where they think they’re going I don’t know.” 

“South.” 

“South?!” Jack laughed cynically.  “There’s not exactly a lot of ‘south’ from here.” 

“Enough,” Desi said shrugging.  “At least enough to make people think they’ll get their little piece of it. It isn’t land so much as all the other stuff … water, food, places to park people in for a long time.  From what I’ve heard it is worse than a hurricane evac down there now.” 

Jack shook her head.  She could only deal with the problems before her, she couldn’t do anything about the problems of snowbirds that didn’t have the sense God gave the ants.  “How much more of this is there Dezz?” 

“Not much.  And don’t worry about whatever it is you are trying to figure out how to say.  I know some of it is going to get left behind.  I’d like to try and take everything that was in Concha’s suitcase but it doesn’t have to be in the suitcase if you know what I mean.  The luggage don’t mean nothing and is pretty cheap.  But her clothes and the few other things she got to keep from … from our old life.  I’ll give up some of my …” 

“Easy Desi.  There’s things I want to take too that we’ll probably be leaving a lot of behind, especially if we don’t take a trailer.  Before we start saying what goes or what stays we should move everything in here and try and group it into categories and then go through it to see what we need and then see if there’s any space left for wants.  Kind of like Dad and your Uncle Ray did for job sight supplies and tools.” 

“Sounds like you’ve been thinking about this for a while Chica.” 

“Yeah.  Uncle Merle put me on the path … not for the reasons we are doing it but because Dad’s life insurance policy had lapsed and Mom’s medical stuff had eaten up almost all of the savings they had.  I had no idea how bad things were until … until it was too late.  That’s why the trailer and tools got sold … to pay bills.”  Thinking about that too much came close to making Jack lose her “unfeeling” so she changed the drift.  “When you bring that stuff in, if there’s time before we have to go get the stuff from … from Josh’s house, maybe you could help me bring in the cases of jars that mom put in the guest bedroom closet.” 

“Jars?  For … for storing stuff in?” 

“No.  You remember that year your aunt taught those classes on artisan bread at the extension office?” 

“Yeah?” 

“When Mom took your aunt’s class she also started taking some other classes.  As a result she got into baking and cooking from scratch and also canning and preserving foods and stuff like that.  It started out being a way for her to help herself to get better from the first go around with the cancer but it turned into a major health kick for the whole family.  Then when I got laid off from the grocery store it was like the start of our downhill slide.  Dad wasn’t getting as many contracts for the store.  Fuel costs were going through the roof.  And then all of those stupid EPA and FDA rules hit us.  On top of it they started rationing electricity and whole blocks would get turned off at night.” 

“Yeah.  I was here for that.  Then the first volcano blew.” 

“Yep.  The crapstorm was just getting piled higher and deeper.  Mom decided we were going to empty the freezers here at the house and at Dad’s store rather than risk losing anything.  The grocery section was always a loss leader for the hardware store anyway but it attracted a lot of visitors from the lake … campers, fishermen, that sort of thing.” 

“I remember.” 

“Well maybe you didn’t know the health department said Dad couldn’t sell anything out of the coolers anymore – right around Christmas too – because they said the coolers weren’t up to code.  Dad was pretty upset because he’d just started carrying the frozen meats and stuff that people had been asking for and was stocked to the gills in the walk-in.  It was Mom who said ‘screw ‘em’ and she and I … and Lena helped some too … started canning and drying all that stuff.  Mom was a little crazy about it, talking strange, and I didn’t know what was going on but was humoring her because her yearly was coming up and I thought the wiggy-ness was about that.  Turns out she’d already had her yearly and the news was pretty bad.  She was stage 3 and heading fast and hard to stage 4.  Of course I didn’t find that out until after the wreck.” 

“Aw Jackalene … I … I didn’t mean to … bring up …” 

Jack shook her head.  “You didn’t.  Just explaining where stuff came from and how it is actually your aunt we have to thank for it in a way.  Strange.  Your aunt helped Mom back then and now you’re helping me now.”  Jack shook her head again like she was trying to shake off all the feelings that were trying to get some attention. 

“Yeah, well your Mom and Dad helped me out too.  Uncle Ray was a good guy in his own way.  Tried real hard most of the time.  But he wasn’t my dad and he had all his own kids and grandkids that needed a piece of him.  And Don caused a lot of problems.  It was your dad that got Uncle Ray to give me a chance working for him.  For a long time Uncle Ray kept thinking I was going to be just like Don.” 

“Don is the last person you are like.  I … I’m sorry … I don’t remember your dad much.  He just always seemed to be working.” 

“Yep.  Pretty much.”  Desi shook off his own feelings and stood up.  “I’m gonna go get the rest of my stash.  Thanks for the dry socks.  I mean …” 

“Dad wouldn’t like for his stuff to go to waste.  You know how he was.  You don’t use it, wear it, or eat it quick enough he’s going to try and give it to someone that could get some use out of it.” 

“I heard that.  I lost a hat that way by forgetting to come get it.” 

With a small smile Jack said, “Whoops.” 

Desi returned her small smile with a small one of his own.  Neither smile was totally real but it was a sign that they were trying and that meant they were doing better than a lot of people left in the area.

                                  

Friday, July 24, 2015

Chapter 5



After that both Jack and Desi nodded off to sleep and would have slept longer and harder than was safe if Jack hadn’t been woken by Lena. 

“Jack?  Pssst Jack.  It’s cold and me and Concha need to go to the bathroom real bad.” 

Jack lept out of the slouch she had fallen into and her foot his Desi’s who work up just as quickly and then clamped his teeth over a groan as he moved too fast.  Vowing to ask some questions after she dealt with the girls Jack said, “Sure.  Let’s get this over quickly though.  It feels colder than it was … last night?  God Desi, we slept all night.  The fire went out.” 

Desi said, “I’ll start the fire if you can help the babitas?” 

“Sure.  Just easy on the wood.” 

“I pulled a big limb to your backdoor and threw some smaller stuff behind the hedges back there.  Collateral?” 

“Huh?” 

“Collateral,” Desi repeated. 

“Jaaaack …” 

“Ok, ok … let’s go,” she told the dancing girls. 

The reason why Lena had been forced to wake Jack is because Jack had blocked off that end of the house to try to save on heating.  The problem was the other bathroom has become clogged and they could only use the half bath in their parents’ old bedroom. 

It was freezing.  Literally.  The water in all of the pipes had frozen two days before and Lena had been forced to line the toilet bowl with a garbage bag and put scoopable cat litter in it.  The cat litter was left over from when Jack’s old cat had died last year at the age of nineteen.  A nice long life for a cat and Jack was just glad she wasn’t still around to suffer … or be eaten like she had heard on the radio was happening in some places.” 

Unfortunately it was that same moment when the girls finished and Lena asked, “Is there breakfast Jack?  We’re hungry.” 

Jack nodded as she began to seriously catalogue what she was going to try and take when they left.  “Oatmeal good?  Or would you rather have grits?  I don’t have time for much since we overslept.” 

Lena looked at Concha who whispered in her ear.  Lena turned to Jack and said, “Oatmeal.  Can it have cinnamon and raisins in it?” 

Luckily for the girls that is what Jack had open.  “Sure.  Now let’s get back before Desi wonders where we are.” 

A voice from the dark said, “Desi just figures all girls take forever in the bathroom.” 

Lena took Concha’s hand and the girls skipped over to the fire and sat down in front of it.  “You’re gonna freeze,” Jack said.  “Hop back into the tent and I’ll call you when it is ready.  In a little while you can pull your box of toys and books in there and have at it.  In fact, why don’t you do that while I get breakfast?  That’ll give Desi some privacy to wash up and change and then we’ll eat as soon as I can get the water to boil.” 

The girls giggled when Desi asked, “You saying I stink?” 

Jack shook her head.  “I can’t tell.  My nose is too cold.  I just figured if you’d been sacking out in a shed for a while you’d like to change or shave or something.”  Behind the girls’ backs Jack pointed to the dark stains just visible on the navy colored t-shirt that Desi was wearing. 

He finally caught on and nodded.  “Yeah.  Yeah that might be good.  But I won’t shave.  If I do I might stand out too much.  You don’t want to stand out too much these days.  Plus my face will get cold.” 

The girls giggled even more at Desi’s attempt at silliness.  Thoughtfully Jack turned to making the oatmeal though in all honesty there wasn’t anything to actually making it except boiling the water.  It was some instant oatmeal that she found in her mother’s hurricane supplies.  Jack tried not to hurt with the thought and instead added dragging the rest of those supplies out to see what would be useful where they were going and what would just be dead weight. 

Sighing, knowing she was going to have to leave a lot behind that she didn’t want to, Jack said to no one in particular, “I wish we still had Dad’s big trailer but Uncle Eddie had to hock it and everything in it to pay for Mom and Dad’s burial.” 

Desi, coming over to the fire to warm back up as much as you could in a house that was hovering around forty degrees said, “No.  No trailer unless we absolutely have to.  It might draw some attention and make it harder to get where we’re going.  I got a map and a path that’ll get us around the cities but we still don’t want to wave no sign that says we got stuff someone else might be interested in.” 

Jack nodded, accepting that there were some things that Desi, by dent of life experience and background, would know that she wouldn’t.  She handed him a bowl and then called the girls.  Desi wouldn’t eat until he’d asked, “Where’s yours?” 

It was Lena who answered.  “Jack likes Cliff Bars … like Daddy.  They’re gross.  Momma says they’re just ground up cardboard and only goats should eat them … and only when there wasn’t anything else around.” 

Jack rolled her eyes but pulled out one of the offending bars and began to eat it anyway, even in the face of Desi’s opinion which matched Lena’s and then some.  “Those things are nasty.” 

“I admit they are an acquired taste.” 

“Well I don’t want to acquire it,” Desi said and then looked stricken causing Jack to ask what was wrong.  He answered, “That sounded … ungrateful.  And if it means the girls can have more …”  He turned to split what was left in his bowl with the two little girls. 

“Eat Desi.  They’ve got plenty.”  In a voice the girls were too busy to hear Jack added, “I bet as soon as they eat and play for an hour or so – assuming they last that long – they’ll go back to sleep.  This cold really zaps Lena … probably Concha too.” 

Desi nodded.  “Yeah.  It’s been worrying me.” 

“Me too but it is what it is.  I try and get Lena to march around and stuff in the afternoon after the worst of the ice or frost has melted.  It is all I can let her do though.  I can’t risk anyone seeing her outside or they might report it to whoever is in charge out there.  I don’t go out in the daytime much either.” 

“Good.  It ain’t safe.  There’s been a few watchers moving their way in.  I figure what we can do is at least move my stash in here … I can come through that stretch of trees that ain’t been mowed in a while. The snow has some of the grass laid down but the bushes are still standing.  If I bring it through your backyard and up to the door you think you can drag stuff in from there?” 

“I can help …” 

“No.  I’ll move it, just keep an eye on the girls.  Tonight you’ll have to help move the stuff out of Josh’s house because there is nothing to hide behind between here and there.  Plus I don’t want to drag it if I don’t have to and make more of a path to your door than we are already gonna be doing.  If you help we’ll get it done quicker.” 

Jack wasn’t going to fight him.  There was plenty in the house that needed doing too.   Instead she asked, “Do you have a gun?” 

Carefully Desi answered, “Yeah.” 

“Plenty of ammo.” 

Slowly he said, “No.” 

“What does it take?” 

“22’s” 

“Uh uh.  Trade that pea shooter out for one of Dad’s LCPs.  They aren’t big but they pack a wallop.” 

Desi didn’t say anything about the arsenal Jack had except to carefully say, “That’ll be helpful.” 

Jack nodded, “That’s what I thought.”


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Chapter 4



Desi shrugged.  “’Cause.” 

Not feeling the love for the flippant answer Jack pushed for more. “’Cause why?  And no joking around.  I’m serious.” 

Desi sighed and looked towards the tent where the two little girls slept.  “’Cause I know you and you ain’t the type to go back on a deal.  ’Cause you got Lena just like I got Concha.  I ain’t got no family I can go to, you ain’t got any family … I mean you don’t do you?” 

“None that can take us in.  They’ve got problems of their own right now.  Aunt Kelly made noise about us coming to her down in Belle Glades but she’s already got a houseful and I don’t get along too well with some of her grandkids.  Aunt Nann is still recovering from her own cancer treatments and her daughters have families and they are all throwing in together at her place that is next to Aunt Kelly’s.  That’s Mom’s side.  Dad’s side made just as much noise but then they started fighting with each other over who we were going to live with and then started fighting over other stuff and where we were going to live kinda got lost in all the noise.  I figure I can leave them messages that I found a good place for Lena and I but that it involves traveling, and when things settle down I’ll let them know where we wind up.  Some of them will worry but life will keep them too busy to come looking more than likely.” 

“Sure, sure.  Same for Concha and me.  We ain’t completely cut off but … Uncle Ray was right when he said I had to make my own way and take care of Concha too.” 

Throwing caution if not commonsense to the wind Jack asked, “What about Don?  I’m not … well I’m not into it if he’s going to be around.  I’m not going to get around Don and that pack he hangs out with.” 

“Uncle Ray gave him two options; straighten up or get left behind.  He chose option number three and ran off with some buddies from the Dominican a week before we were scheduled to get repatriated or whatever you want to call it.  Haven’t seen or heard from him since and don’t plan to.  He made his choice.” 

“Was Don on the construction crew with you that summer?” 

Desi laughed.  “You think he was gonna give up his summer to help the family out when it would interfere with his social calendar so bad?” 

“Uh …” 

“Naw, forget it.  Don ain’t in the picture and don’t have a clue.” 

Jack tried not to let the relief show but it must have.  “Look, I’m sorry Desi but I had to know.” 

“Like I said Chica, Don ain’t gonna be around … and that includes if I have to make him not be around for some reason.  You call his friends a pack … I call ‘em freaks.  They ain’t safe to be around Concha or Lena.” 

I looked at his face to see if I was hearing what I thought I heard.  “Desi?  They didn’t …” 

“Would have.  Eventually.  They were already talking her up, grooming her, making out like she was … was ready for a boyfriend and that kind o’ crap.” 

“Did … did Mr. Raymundo …?” 

“Yeah.  And that’s when he gave Don the ultimatum.” 

“God.” 

“Stop worrying about him.  He’s probably dead anyway.” 

Trying not to let his detached response bother her Jack asked, “And exactly how do you figure that?” 

Desi sighed like an old man.  “Don’s friends hung around him mostly because they saw Uncle Ray as connected and rich or close to it.  Last couple of years Uncle Ray’s been able to stay flush ‘cause he did develop lots of connections of a certain type and wasn’t too particular about the jobs he’d work.  Just pay him and he knew how to keep his mouth shut and look the other way.  Don used to steal money from the business, not much but some, but Uncle Ray never beat on him for it like he should have.  He didn’t trust Don not to talk.  And Don, he would have talked.  Don was a lot of things but he didn’t bluff.  And neither did those he hung out with.  If he stopped delivering the money to keep the good times rolling I have a feeling they would have gotten rid of the dead weight.  So forget about him.  I am.  One way or the other, he made his choice.  Only thing that matters is Concha for me and Lena for you.  Right?” 

Slowly Jack nodded, “Right.”