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?”
“Collateral,” Desi repeated.
“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?”
“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.”