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?!” 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?”
“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.”
“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.