Back then ...
I switched the TV to a show with screaming idiots about who's the baby's daddy and DNA results knowing fully well they never put real news much less any facts on those shows. I'd spent many a ditch day over at Damon's watching brain-drain crap TV. I learned always wear a condom, never have a pole dancing girlfriend the same time I was dating a minister or cop's daughter -- both end in either gun fire or hell fire.
Going into grandma's kitchen was a step back in time and a safe haven from those years I was living with my mom. I knew where she kept everything and over the years she'd taught me how to cook. I pulled out the bacon and lined a cast iron skillet with the slices. Pulling out a few eggs, butter, and cheese, I found my grandma's favorite egg pan and started the most basic of breakfasts. Had I not been as freaked out I would have made one of my favorites -- French Toast -- but this would do for today. I poured two glasses of orange juice from the box in the back of the fridge, and pulled bread out of the freezer and popped it into the toaster while the bacon began to cook. Whipping up the eggs and cheese, I melted the butter, then poured the eggs into the skillet, watching the edges bubble. Taking a worn wooden spoon from the drawer closest to the stove I began making slow circles in the pan. Thanks to grandma's training I was quick to grab the tongs and flip each slice of bacon as it sizzled and browned. Soon the kitchen smelt like Saturday morning, and I was plating the comfort food meal. Ginny was summoned by the smell of bacon and sat at the table with an amazed look on her face.
"Sammy, you can cook?"
Laughing I said, "You know my grandma, Ginny, so of course I can."
With a flourish I put her plate before her. I'd taken a minute to slice an orange and make it look nice. She was stunned and I felt like a champion for just a minute. Then I heard the TV blare a special announcement. We looked at each other and picked up our plates to go back and see what was happening.
There was a ribbon of breaking news running across the bottom of the TV show station. The newsman looked horrified as sweat began to drip down his face. I don't think I ever saw anyone sweat on TV who wasn't playing sports. The man actually tugged at the collar of his shirt and loosened his tie like he was done working. As I read the bottom of the TV maybe he was.
Gasping, Ginny set her plate on the coffee table and read aloud, "The governor of West Virginia has asked that everyone please leave all the following towns, counties and areas immediately. Anyone failing to make their way out of these areas is not under any local, state or federal control and will be held accountable for violating the mandatory evacuation notice. Sammy, how are we going to leave? It's not like we have a car or even an adult to get us out of here."
I watched the newsman's hands and detected a tremble that was getting worse by the second. "Ginny, we can't just go from here. There's no way my bike will take us both too far. Let's get into town and find out if we can catch a ride." Ginny looked at me and nodded slowly.
"First we have to wash up okay?" Ginny knew my grandma was a clean freak and I knew that I would've just left without doing any real cleaning. She's right; I would've used it as an excuse and just tossed out the perishables, leaving the dishes unwashed in the sink with some soap poured over them. I nodded and let Ginny do the washing, and I emptied out of the fridge anything that would rot quickly, while packing the stuff that wasn't going to spoil quickly into an insulated bag with the two ice packs in the freezer. Thinking for a minute, I looked around and found big freezer Ziploc bags and emptied all the ice cubes into those and anything in the freezer that looked like it would thaw out okay. That meant the bread and some other things like pies and cookies. Those were for special occasions, and I was pretty damn sure mandatory evacuations counted.
Ginny saw what I was packing and sighed just like my grandma. But she didn't make me put anything back. Instead she rummaged around the kitchen and brought out a can opener, some sharp knives and forks. Looking through the pantry she grabbed out a cloth bag and tossed in some cans and packages of crackers. Giving a critical look at our supplies she added some towels, bowls and spoons. It was starting to look like we wouldn't be able to bike into town easily. Then I remembered my old wagon was in the basement. I went down and hauled it upstairs.
"We'll take turns pulling while the other person goes ahead and checks for ambushes on the bike," I offered, while wondering how we'd hide the gun I had taken from the basement. It was the shotgun grandma had when she let me in two nights before, and also I grabbed up all the shells stored above the box of Christmas decorations. I wondered where I'd be for Christmas this year as we finished packing up.
Finally, turning off the TV we headed out into the day. The sun wasn't anywhere we could feel, but hiding behind clouds and we tugged at our coats, and I wished we weren't so far from town. While I'd been getting ready, I'd grabbed a bunch of matchbooks from the kitchen and a box of the waterproof wooden matches. I'd sent Ginny in for rolls of toilet paper while I retrieved the Slim-Jim I'd hidden near the wood shed ... I didn't want to explain why I had one. Eventually I locked the door after making sure the trashcans were secure from wildlife.
Slowly we made our way down the road. I let Ginny ride my bike first and we were about a hundred yards from my grandma's door when I thought to ask, "How did you get here yesterday?"
Looking at me she said, "I walked."
"How far do you live from here?" I kept my head down while she pedaled next to me.
"A mile or so through the trails."
I pondered that then said, "Okay."
In silence we continued for the next few miles. At one point Ginny said, "It's my turn to pull."
Looking at her, I couldn't do it. It was like kicking a kitten.
"Not just yet, okay? I'm thinking, and walking helps." To my relief she didn't challenge me, and thus we arrived at the edge of town in the middle of the day. Everyone seemed to have fled. We were next to the gas station that my third cousin used to own. It had been closed forever and we stood in the shadows of the building while looking around in disbelief. I'd never seen it so dead. I mean the hotel had a vacancy light lit, but there were only a few cars in the parking lot and they all looked dusty. Nobody was flying down the road and braking only when they hit the town limits.
Those posted speed limit signs were the major revenue maker for the town, I'd heard my mom bitch on more than one trip into town. The cops sat behind the diner a few doors down and tagged the fools that rolled into town over the posted speed limit. It was like twenty-five miles per hour, and it was fifty-five miles an hour only a block out the road. From my mom's swearing and complaining, I was pretty sure she'd been popped more than once, since she drove with a lead foot and a foul mouth. Neither was much liked by cops.
"Sammy, I can't see anyone in town. Like, nobody, not even Emmett." Ginny sounded stunned.
Emmett was the local town drunk. He used to work over at the motel/hotel whatever you call it as the desk clerk. He started drinking in the middle of the day and practically giving the rooms away. The owners of the chain sent in a secret shopper and he lost his job. He didn't care, because they fired him without taking the right steps. I'd heard my grandma telling my mom about it one day. Mom had groaned and asked if he'd sued or been paid off. Grandma looked around, but didn't see me, then said, "That lucky man never has to work another day in his life. Something called an annual annuity, but I didn't hear all the details just that Molly at the bank had seen the checks show up like clockwork." They both changed the subject without another word. Emmett wasn't a mean drunk, but a cheerful dude who fell asleep where he dropped. The locals occasionally drove him home, but mostly left him where he landed, unless it was in the middle of traffic.
"Yeah, that's way weird." I wasn't mocking, but it came out wrong. That's the problem with being a guy -- we tended to sound like asses when we were trying to impress girls.
Luckily she just rolled her eyes and asked, "So what do we do now?"
I grinned and said, "We go inside and get comfy." I flipped what I hoped was a casual thumb to the abandoned gas station.
She looked at the building with its dust, peeling paint and obvious infestation of various critters and said, "Sure, Sammy. So you going to bust down a door or crack a window?" It was her turn for sarcasm but I think she intended it.
I rolled my eyes back at her, and went towards the back of the building, dragging the loaded wagon with a bit of a swagger. My family wasn't big on secrets when it came to some stuff, so I knew exactly where the spare key had been a half dozen years ago. Sure enough, it was still there and I unlocked the spider web covered rear exit. I swatted down the big webs and said, "Ta-da!"
The door opened with a few groans and moans, but it opened. I didn't care because I was happy that it was abandoned and we didn't have to worry about other squatters. Over the years, there had been a few parties in the place, but my third cousin still had pride and hadn't sold the place; so he came by now and then and shoveled out the bottles, cans and crap that had accumulated. Thankfully he'd been over in the past few weeks so there wasn't much but dust bunnies and spider webs. Even Ginny said, "Not as bad as I'd expected."
Honestly I had to say, "Me either." We grinned and went further into the darkness. We didn't bother to light a match or anything because there were holes in the roof and some cracks in the windows, so light filtered in even with the semi-gray skies outside. We reached my cousin's old office and found that it had been emptied of all the office furniture and instead had a few torn up mattresses. Without even a word we both dragged them out of the room and left the bike and wagon in the room instead.
"I'll be back in like a half hour okay?" I wanted to check something out and not worry about Ginny. Looking at me, she seemed to figure out that I wasn't running out on her and said, "Where should I hide?"
Good question, since I didn't want her to root through all the stuff and find the Slim-Jim or other things I'd snuck in when she hadn't been paying attention. Then it hit me.
Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2016-04-25
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.