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Joy's Legacy, Chapters 1-19

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CHAPTER 1

 

Joy slammed on the brakes as the guy in front of her swerved. What was this all about? Her little four year old in the back started crying.

 

“Victoria, are you ok?” Joy called back, looking at her through the rearview mirror.

 

“Yes, a little bit ok” Victoria answered.

 

Her crying slowed to a whimper as Joy looked in the mirror again to make sure no one was behind her. There wasn’t. The guy in front of her had continued on his way as a family of ducks finished crossing the highway behind him.

 

Joy thought of laying on the horn, but with the way things were going lately, she thought she better not. She turned down the music on the radio and pulled over. Her heart was pumping so hard she was sure Victoria could hear it loud and clear.

 

“What are we doing Mommy?” Victoria asked with tears still in her eyes.

 

“Mommy just needs to relax a little bit before we keep going, ok?” Joy said, trying to sound as normal as she could.

 

This was the closest she had come to having an accident. And of course it would have been her fault, as she would have been the one hitting from behind. Or maybe not. She knew there were exceptions to the rule, but she wasn’t sure what those were.

 

Joy turned in her seat to face Victoria as best as she could, and reached out her hand to place it on Victoria's knee. She put her little hand on Joy's.

 

“Do you want to pray Victoria? And thank Jesus for helping us to not hit that car in front of us?” Joy asked, still a little shaken.

 

She nodded her head and closed her eyes tightly.

 

“Thank you Jesus for helping Mommy not to hit the car and the guy and the ducks. Amen.” She opened her eyes as Joy gave her hand a squeeze.

 

“Amen” Joy said. “You saw the ducks?” She asked her as she turned back around.

 

“Yeah! There was a mommy duck and four baby ducks!” Victoria said excitedly.

 

Joy smiled at her through the mirror, as her heart seemed to regain it’s normal pace again.

 

She carefully pulled back into the highway, looking for stray ducks along the way.

 

 

She pulled into the underground garage of our apartment complex a few minutes later. As she was parking, she saw a man in a green shirt and khaki pants coming towards them.

 

“Daddy!” Victoria squealed.

 

Joy's husband opened the side door to the minivan and yelled a big “Boo!”.

 

Victoria giggled “Hi Daddy! I like you Daddy!”

 

In a muffled voice, Dave tried to say something. Joy got out of the van and hugged his waist from behind.

 

“What are you trying to say?”

 

He pried himself from Victoria’s arms and said “Hi honey, welcome home” then leaned in towards her for a kiss. He pulled back and looked straight into her eyes.

 

“You’ll want to go home right away. I’ll bring the food up. Your Mom called and left a message.”

 

“Really? What did she say?” Joy asked wondering why he would want her to get the message right away since it wasn’t unusual for her Mom to call and leave them a silly message.

 

He looked at Victoria. “You better go hear it for yourself. I’ll bring Victoria and the food up.”

 

“Ok” Joy said as she leaned in for one more kiss before heading upstairs.

 

“Bye Mommy!”

 

“Bye, Sweetie! I’ll see you upstairs, ok?”

 

“Ok!” Both her Sweeties answered together.

 

As she walked to the entrance of the door she could hear Victoria giggling. He must have been tickling her again. She wondered what her Mom wanted? It wasn’t unusual at all for her to call. What was unusual was for Dave to be so worried about it.

 

Joy was the youngest of three sisters. Her parents had devoted their life to their work, Missions. She had been born and raised in Mexico, six years after her middle sister, Marie, had been born in Brazil where they worked a few years and eight years younger than her oldest sister, Ann. It was funny. Her oldest sister Ann had been born in the States, but married a Mexican guy and now lived in Mexico with her husband and two teenage kids, Leslie and Allen. Joy was born in Mexico and was married to an American and lived in the USA. All the way up north, no less. Minnesota. She sure did love it here, though, even if it did get bellow zero in the winter and they got mosquitoes that could carry people away as take-out food. Well, almost anyway.

 

She reached their floor and went into their apartment. They had lived there for three years now. The longest they had lived anywhere in their entire married life, almost eight years. Dave was a caretaker at the apartment complex, which was a blessing and curse at the same time. He liked the work, but was treated very unfairly. Often he would come home only until after he put in a good 10 to 12 hour day, and of course, his salary didn’t reflect that. He got along well with the residents, who always spoke highly of him, but was starting to have problems with his boss, the manager, again. It seamed as if he never did enough in her eyes. Joy sure wished he could just quit.

 

She hung her purse up and locked the door behind herself. With as many robberies as they had experienced in the last couple of weeks in the building, one could never be too careful. She looked around the apartment. Ah! There it was. Funny you can never find a cordless phone when you need one.

 

Joy pressed the remote message button.

 

“Beeeep. You have one new message. To hear incoming message press two.”

 

She pressed two.

 

“Beeeep. First message:”

 

The male voice turned into her Mom’s voice.

 

“Hi hon, it’s me. Can you call me as soon as you get home? REAL QUICK, ok? Pronto. Rápido. It’s urgent. Love you! Talk to you soon. Bye!”

 

The male voice came back.

 

“Thursday, June 2, 3:32 p.m. End of incoming message. To repeat incoming message press 1. To…”

 

Joy hung up. She quickly dialed her Mom and Dad’s phone number. Fortunately they had one of those phones that were hooked up through the Internet. This way, she could call within her area code, even though they were in the middle Mexico. She looked at her watch as their phone started ringing. 4:45 p.m. If she put the headset on she could start supper while she talked.

 

Their phone was still ringing. She quickly put one the headset, just before someone picked up the phone.

 

“¿Bueno? Hello?” It was her Dad.

 

“Hi Pa!” Joy said, “How are ya?”

 

“Good, Joy! How are you doing? Hang on a second let me get Mom."

 

Joy could see him in her mind's eye getting up and going into the hallway of their home.

 

“Liz? Joy’s on the phone! Just a second Joy”

 

Her Mom came on the phone. “Hi honey! How are ya doing?”

 

Joy pulled out stuff from the fridge for supper. “Umm, good. How are you? What’s so urgent?”

 

“Are you sitting down?” Liz asked.

 

“No, I’m cutting tomatoes. Should I be?”

 

“YES!” Both her parents said together. “And leave the knife behind” Ed chuckled.

 

“Ok…” Joy sat down at the dinning room table “What’s up?”

 

“Well,” Mom said, “Uncle James died today, honey.”

 

“What???” Joy said as the door to our apartment opened and Victoria came running in.

 

“Hi Mommy!” She said.

 

Dave took one look at Joy and motioned for her to go to their room to finish the call.

 

“We’ll put away the food,” he whispered.

 

Joy went and sat on their bed after closing the door.

 

“What?” She said again.

 

“Uncle James died last night,” Ed said “you know how sick he was…”

 

“Yeah, but I thought he had at least a year left!”

 

Uncle James was Liz’s only adopted brother. Her Mother had died when she was six weeks old, and the neighbors had taken her in when her Father couldn’t care for her plus three other children. They had adopted her four years later, but she still stayed in contact with her birth family even to this day.

 

“Yeah, I know honey,” Liz said. Joy could tell she was about to cry.

 

“How are you doing Mom?” she asked.

 

“Oh, as well as can be expected, I guess. It’s just a shock to us too, you know. I was hoping to see him this summer”.

 

“When is the funeral going to be?” Joy asked wondering if it was too soon for her to ask.

 

“Well, it’ll be next Friday. A week from tomorrow. That way it will give us a chance to get up there to be there for it.” Ed replied.

 

“You’re coming up? Really?”

 

“Well, sure honey! He was my only brother!” Liz said. “Plus, I get to see my pretty little red head!” Joy could tell she was trying to smile through her tears.

 

“Are you coming up too, Dad?” she asked.

 

“Yeah,” Joy could hear him getting up again, “Aunt Linda is going to pay our way up there. But she wants us to drive up. She said that she can pay for the gas and hotels, and then we can have a vehicle while we are there. Apperantly her kids are in on this, too.”

 

“Wow. That’s great! I wonder if Dave can get some time off of work? Maybe he could go up to the funeral too.” Joy wondered out loud.

 

“Well, you better see if he can” Ed said “‘cause Ann and Marie are going too”.

 

“What?!?” Joy said. She wasn’t terribly surprised about Ann. Her Uncle and Aunt had flown her up to visit before. But Marie? She was in Africa! She was going to pay for her to come for the funeral too?

 

“Yeah, apparently they want the whole family to be there. There’s not many of us, so they want to make sure everyone is there.” Liz said.

 

“And get this. They are going to fly Roger and the kids and Juan over too,” Ed said with wonder in his voice.

 

Joy couldn’t believe it. Juan and the ‘kids’ that her Dad was referring to were her sister Ann’s family. Roger was her sister Marie’s fiancé. That was a real shocker, as he was from Africa. Good thing he had his papers in order. They'd all get to meet him now! Marie had lived in Africa for almost 10 years. She was a missionary and had remained single despite many offers to be married. Most were not serious since the men were Muslim, and had at least one or two wives already. Roger had stolen her heart. He was a Christian missionary to his own people, and no wife! Joy had spoken to him on the phone several times, and from what she knew, he was a really nice guy.

 

“This is going to be one expensive trip!” Joy said.

 

“Yeah, no kidding, mister!” Liz said. “They are even going to pay for all of us, and their kids too, I suppose, to stay at the Buena Vista in Duluth. For the whole week!”

 

“In Duluth? Is that where he wanted to be buried? I would have thought in Grand Rapids.” Joy said.

 

“No,” Ed said, “He’ll be buried next to your grandparents. Apparently he had everything figured out. I had no idea he was that organized. It’ll be as close to a family reunion as you can get.”

 

“What do you mean, Ed? Just because there are so many people in your family it doesn’t make mine any less of one!” Liz said jokingly. The joke of the family. Only one sibling on Liz's side, seven on Ed's. Joy could hear her Dad laughing. Well, at least they aren’t so broken hearted that she'd have to worry about them, Joy thought.

 

“Have you talked to Marie?” Joy asked.

 

“Yep. They are going to be coming. So are Ann and her family. So I sure hope you can get Dave to take the week off,” Ed said.

 

They talked a bit more about the logistics of the trip. They would be arriving in the Twin Cities on Wednesday, and then everyone would go up to Duluth on Thursday to be there for the funeral on Friday. Ann and Juan would drive up with them, but in their own minivan. Roger and Marie would fly in at their earliest convenience. Joy made a mental note to write things down that she wanted them to bring from Mexico. With two minivans they’d have a ton of space!

 

 

They hung up the phone and she went into the dinning room. Dave was just hanging up on the cell phone.

 

“I just ordered pizza” he said, “It doesn’t look like the kind of time for you to cook”.

 

“Thanks hon,” Joy said as she sat next to him at the table.

 

“What’s up?” He asked.

 

She told him everything. He was doubtful he could get the time off but said that he’d try.

They talked for a while about Uncle James, until the pizza arrived. After supper they played with Victoria for a while and then put her to bed. After reading the Bible, singing and praying, she was finally ready to go to sleep.

 

Finally, Dave and Joy could talk openly. He expressed his growing fear of loosing his job. He had been working at the apartments for almost two years, and recently it seemed as though they were just “out to get him”. They decided to watch the news. They weren’t sure what was more depressing, the news, or his job situation, or Uncle James dying.

 

 

The news was getting worse every night. Oh, the newscasters were great. They had fun doing their job and you could tell. But tonight, for a split second as the main anchor-man told of the dollar dropping yet again, the price of crude oil going up, and the tensions with China rising, you could tell. Things were probably worse than they were letting on. Dave and Joy had always thought that if they would tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, people really would need all of God’s help. So after the news they held hands and asked for it. This country was needing as much help as it could get!

 

 

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CHAPTER 2

 

They got up early in the morning. Finally, Friday was here. The clock said 7:00a.m. Well, early for them anyway! Dave was a night owl, and Joy, well, she didn’t mind being able to sleep in once in a while.

 

After praying and getting ready for work, Victoria finally woke up. They had breakfast together and Dave got ready to leave.

 

“I’ll talk to my boss today about getting some time off” he promised, “but I wouldn’t hold my breath.” He shook his head. “I’m telling ya, I feel like they have it in for me!”

 

Joy put her arms around his neck and lifted her head up for a goodbye kiss. She knew that this whole job thing was getting to him.

 

“Remember that no matter what, I love you!” She said. “I’ll be calling my Aunt Linda today and see if she wants me to go up there sooner. Would that be ok? I also need to call Marie and see when she and Roger will be arriving so we can pick them up at the airport. Do you need anything from Mexico? I’ll be making up a list of things to ask Mom to bring. With the two minivans, that’s a lot of space!”

 

Dave laughed. “Sure,” he grinned, “tell them to get me some Rompope!” He opened to the door to the apartment. They kissed again and he took off for work.

 

Joy smiled to herself. Rompope. Go figure he’d ask for that. Rompope was an alcoholic drink not too much unlike spiked Eggnog. They used it with vanilla ice cream for a special treat. She wrote it down on the list of things she had going. Let’s see…she now had tuna, jabon zote (a Mexican soap for washing clothes by hand), and some other things.

 

The phone rang. It was Marie.

 

“Aloha!” She said, her customary greeting.

 

“Hey, Marie, how are ya?” Joy said as she plopped down on the chair.

 

“Hi, Aunt Marie!” Victoria called.

 

Joy laughed. Marie was one of Victoria’s favorite aunts. Well, she only had three of them, so that didn’t leave many! They talked for a while about Uncle James and Marie’s trip back to the States. She would be bringing more stuff since she would be making this her furlough. They talked about her wedding plans, but she still wanted to get married in Africa.

 

They would be arriving in Minnesota on Tuesday, the 7th. Then, everyone would go up to Duluth when the clan from Mexico arrived. They’d be tired and maybe a little grumpy, but everyone was very excited for this opportunity to finally all be together.

 

After hanging up the phone, Joy called her Aunt Linda. She wasn’t able to talk to her long, but could hear relief in her voice. They talked often on the phone, and had grown close over the last two years. Aunt Linda was a great inspiration to Joy. She was a great gardener, canner and excellent at preserving foods in one form or another. Joy had learned a lot from her, to the point that you could say she could do it blindfolded.

 

“No, honey, you don’t need to come up now,” she said. “All my kids are here with their families, so we are a little crowded anyway. It’ll be good to see you in Duluth. Is Dave able to get the week off of work?” She asked.

 

“I don’t know yet,” Joy answered. “I sure hope so, it would be really sad if he had to miss all of this.”

 

“Any more thoughts about moving up here?” Aunt Lin asked. They had talked about it several times. Dave and Joy would love to move away from the cities, but for now, that’s where there was work. Now with Uncle James dying, it would maybe not happen. Who knows if Aunt Linda was going to stay in the area or move to California to be closer to her siblings. It was them that first talked to Dave and Joy about preparing. At first Joy blew it off, but after talking to Dave about it some, he agreed and said that Uncle James was right. He really wanted him not to be, but he’d hate to get caught unprepared and unable to care for his family. So they prepared. To the best of their ability, anyway. Dave had taken some classes that would help them no matter what happened. The good thing is that he had been able to apply them at work and practice. He was now a very skilled carpenter, good plumber and a so-so electrician. Joy had also taken courses. She learned how to sew, knit and crochet, make rugs, pottery, and other essential things that could prove helpful if things kept going the way they were going.

 

Joy ended the conversation with her Aunt and started to clean the apartment, getting it ready for next week. Victoria was going to have to be on vacation from school. This would give Joy a chance to go through all the homeschooling materials that they had just gotten on the day before. Dave and Joy had decided to buy the entire curriculum for Victoria’s schooling. All together it had cost them over $2000, but considering that it went from preschool through high school they thought it was a pretty good deal. They realized some things were going to be outdated by the time she got to high school, but Joy figured they’d be able to update it then. Also, this curriculum was one that you could teach kids of different ages all at once. They only had Victoria, but were really hoping to have more kids. Soon. Victoria would be five this year, and that was more time between the kids than they had wanted.

 

After lunch, Joy asked Victoria to go play in her room. She sat down at the computer to check email and to read some of her favorite online books. There was an email from her Aunt Sue in Oregon. It read:

 

 

Hi Joy! Just a quick note as my granddaughter is begging to go out to play. Fred’s business is growing a lot, and he wondered if Dave was still interested in proofreading books. He could work on his own time, and we’d make sure that he would be fairly compensated. What we have been doing recently is just paying a yearly salary and then expecting our employees to read a certain number of books a year. We would not be able to provide an office, but would help pay for some of the expenses for one if he needed one. Obviously he could just do it from home. The pay isn’t much, $45,000 a year, and you’d be responsible for taxes. You had mentioned that Dave was interested, so I thought I’d ask. Also, because this is you and we trust you, we would pay you a year in advance. The number of books we expect him to proofread is 24. That’s about two per month. If he finishes more and he wants more work, we’ll send him more and we’ll pay him extra for it. It sure helps us a lot, and hopefully it’s a good deal for you, too.

Unfortunately, I do need a response pretty soon.

 

Let me know as soon as you can, ok? You can email me back, or call me at (555) 555-5555. Love you, honey.

 

Say hi to Dave and little redhead Victoria for me.

 

Love, Aunt Sue and Uncle Fred

 

 

Joy grabbed her cell phone and called Dave.

 

“Honey can you come home real quick? I really need to talk to you.” Joy knew that the excitement in her voice could be heard.

 

“Why what’s up?” Dave asked as Joy heard the front door open. She jumped up out of her chair and ran to the door.

 

“Dave, come see this email! Where you right here, or what?” She asked holding his hand and heading back towards the computer.

 

“Yeah, I was coming home to get something to eat. I’m starving!” He sat at the computer. “This one? From your Aunt Sue?”

 

Joy nodded. She went to the kitchen while Dave read the email and prepared him a sandwich and some fresh veggies. She poured him a glass of cold water and set it all at the table. Dave came to the table after printing out the email.

 

“Fresh bread?” He asked after bowing his head and saying thanks.

 

“Yup, made it yesterday before I went shopping. What do you think about the job?”

 

Dave nodded his head slowly. He was not one that made decisions irrationally, and Joy was afraid he’d say no, just because he didn’t have enough time to process the offer.

 

“If I take this offer can I quit my job today? I’m so sick and tired of working here.” Dave looked serious. Joy wasn’t sure what to say.

 

“By the way. I didn’t get the time off to go to the funeral. If I quit today and ask for my two weeks of vacation then maybe I can actually go. What do you think?”

 

Joy couldn’t believe he was serious. She knew that he was getting desperate, but not quite this much!

 

“Are you sure?” Joy asked, searching his eyes for any clue of him joking.

 

“Yup,” he responded, “I sure am. Why don’t we pray? If by this evening we don’t feel sure one way or another we’ll have to think longer about it and maybe it isn’t for us. Man, it pays more than I make now! And we’d be able to live wherever we want! You’d be able to have that garden you keep talking about…” his voice trailed off.

 

He leaned over and took Joy’s hands in his. They bowed their heads together and prayed that the Lord would make it clear to them if this is what He wanted them to do. When they were done, Dave took his plate to the kitchen and rinsed it off. He went to Victoria’s room and gave her a big hug and kiss.

 

“Daddy has to go back to work now, ok?” He said softly into her ear.

 

“Again?” She asked.

 

“Yeah…” Joy could tell by Dave’s voice that Dave was thinking how nice it’d be to not have to.

Dave left for work again, asking Joy to make a few phone calls. He wanted to make sure that he didn’t make such a big job change without others input. People that were important in their lives, like their parents, their Pastor, and their best friends with whom they prayed, and played, with regularly.

 

So Joy did. And the answers were unanimous. Go for it. So Joy called Dave back on the cell phone and told him what everyone thought. She told him she agreed. Dave sounded relieved. He said he would talk to his boss right away.

 

Joy hung up the phone and let out a little yelp. She sat down to the computer and responded to the email her Aunt sent. Then she called her and said that Dave would accept the job. Her Aunt was very pleased and said that tonight when Dave got home they could work out the details.

Joy got supper ready and in the oven and then sat down for a little bit on the couch to catch her breath. She turned on the news to see what was going on. Wow. Things were really going bad. Just from yesterday things with China had gone bad to worse. At the border the Minutemen Project that had been going on since April had caught two van’s full of illegals crossing into the States. But they weren’t Mexican. They were Chinese. Their vans were full of weapons, ones that Joy had never even heard of. She checked her watch. 4:59 p.m. Her Mom and Dad, sister and family should be across the border by now. She hopped, anyway. She called the family that her parents usually stayed with at the border.

 

“Hello Smith’s” Joy’s Mom answered the phone.

 

“Mom! You made it across the border!” Joy said, relief flooding her voice.

 

“Hi, hon. Yes, we all decided to leave last night since we were able to hurry and get everything ready. We were even able to get the stuff you asked for.”

 

“How did you know what to bring me? I didn’t get to tell you.” Joy wondered.

 

“Well, honey, you always ask for the same thing.” She laughed. “Tell Dave we have some Rompope for him, too”.

 

Joy smiled. He’d be very happy. They talked for a while about the new job and even though Liz was excited, Joy could tell there was something wrong.

 

“Are you ok, Mom?” Joy asked.

 

“Oh, yeah. It’s just that…” Liz paused.

 

“What?” Joy pressed.

 

“Well, the closer we got to the border the more army vehicles we saw. They were Mexican army vehicles. That’s normal, but usually they have just teenagers manning the drug stops. This time it was older men, with a bunch of Asian looking guys. They hardly even looked at our stuff. And believe me, we are bringing lots of stuff! It’s like they didn’t care, like they were putting up a front. And they weren’t speaking Spanish, either. Well, maybe some broken Spanish. Your Dad thought it sounded like they were speaking Chinese”.

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CHAPTER 3

 

 

Joy told her Mom about what she had just heard in the news. Her Mom related about other odd things, inconsistent with the way things where done in Mexico. There was a particular hate look towards them, but not Joy’s brother-in-law, who was a Mexican.

 

“Juan thought that they were speaking Korean. So who knows, Dad could be wrong. I’m just glad that we were able to get through ok. There was a lot of commotion at the border. Some Mexicans weren’t being allowed in, even though they had their papers in order. They let Juan in because of Ann. They said that if he had come alone they wouldn’t have let him in. And it wasn’t the Americans not letting him in. The problems were occurring on the Mexican side! They didn’t want to let him out!”

 

They talked for a while more and then hung up the phone. They were going to try and get up to Minnesota as fast as they possibly could, even having the kids drive. Leslie had her license, and Allen a permit. It was two more drivers, anyway! They would even try driving late into the night. They would try to be here by Sunday, or early Monday. That would give them a few days here with us, before going to Duluth.

 

Joy got busy. She called Victoria to come and help set the table just in time for Dave to come home for supper. They ate quietly and quickly not wanting to talk too many serious things in front of their little one. Dave’s spirits seemed high. He had a twinkle in his eyes. Joy’s, on the other hand were a little down. She was worried about what all the Chinese or Koreans, or from where ever they were, meant.

 

Dave played with Victoria as Joy cleaned up after supper. She loved hearing them play together. Finally, at 7:30 p.m. Joy gave Victoria a bath and after their family devotions and hugs and kisses all around, they put the little one to bed. Dave and Joy settled into their favorite spots in the living room. Joy was eager to hear about Dave’s talk with his boss, but also eager to watch more of the news.

 

Then the phone rang. It made them almost jump out of their skins. It was Marie again. She had to talk loud, as there was a lot of noise in the background.

 

“Joy? Hi, this is Marie. Listen, I don’t have much time; our plane is about to leave. We were told that there are only a few planes leaving for the States this week so if we were to get there in time for the funeral we had to leave soon. We might have to get married in the States after all. They almost didn’t let Roger leave. They said that the only reason that he could leave is if we were going to get married there. We told them we would and thought that we can figure out what we are going to do later.” Her voice continued to get louder as the sounds behind grew.

 

“Marie? Are you guys ok? You sound flustered.” Joy stated, concerned.

 

“Yeah, we are ok, for now. I just want to get on the plane and leave. I wasn’t able to get as much done as I wanted, I’m tired, and now it seems like there is a lot of people complaining. They aren’t letting some of the Senegalese people leave the country and people are starting get angry. And loud. Oh! I gotta go, Roger says that they are boarding. I’ll call you when I get to the States, ok?”

 

“Ok. When do you arrive?” Joy asked. She hated not having any information.

 

“Early Sunday morning. About 7 a.m. or so. But I’ll call you and let you know for sure. Love you! Bye!” She really sounded scared. The yelling sounded like it was intensifying behind her.

 

“Bye, Marie! Love you! We’ll be praying for you.” Joy said as quickly as she could.

 

“Thanks, we’ll need it. Bye!” Marie hung up.

 

Joy looked at Dave as she hung up and shook her head. “I’m not sure what to think!” She said with worry in her voice. “Mom said that at the border they weren’t letting Mexicans across and now Marie is saying that they aren’t letting Senegalese leave the country! Now I don’t know if she meant at all, or just to go to the States. She didn’t say.”

 

Dave let out a deep breath. “Well, we’ll just have to pray for them. It’s the best we can do. Do you want some good news for a change?” He said, his face lighting up.

 

“I’m sorry, of course I do. How did your day go?” Joy said, glad for the change of subject.

 

“I don’t work here anymore!” Dave said, holding his hand up for a high five. He recounted the events of the evening. Apparently his boss had been really mad and just read him the riot act. She had even sworn at him and told him where he could go. Joy wasn’t surprised. She seemed to be the kind of person that if things didn’t go her way, she’d blow a head gasket. What did surprise her is what Dave told her next.

 

“But guess what? All this happened in the back office. You know how it’s connected to the front office and you can hear everything?” He said, his voice rising with excitement.

 

“Yeah?” Joy responded cautiously, knowing that he sometimes liked to lead her into a story and then say well, that’s it, just to make her react.

 

“Well, it turns out the owner, Senior, was in the front office. He must have arrived after I did, because I didn’t know he was there. I would have warned her to keep it down. He heard almost everything. He was not happy. Let me tell ya, I may have quit my job, well, she lost hers.”

 

“What do you mean, she lost hers?” Joy asked, almost not being able to believe it.

 

“Yeah, he fired her on the spot. He wondered if I was interested in suing the company over it. I told him ‘Of course not!’ and he shook my hand. ‘Goodman,’ he said, ‘good man’. My boss left immediately, it looked as if she was humiliated, but Senior told everyone to let her go. He offered me to stay, under new management, and I told him ‘thanks, but no thanks’. He agreed to give me my two weeks vacation now instead of me giving a two-week notice. So I’ll still get paid for the next two weeks, but I don’t have to work. And, the best part….” He paused, wanting Joy to get the full impact of his words.

 

“Yes…” She asked a little impatiently.

 

“He said we could use 210, that three bedroom apartment on second floor and the corporate apartment to house your family while they are here. I think he was just glad that I wasn’t going to sue him that this was cheap compared to what he could have ended up paying.”

 

Joy was shocked. “Really? Wow!”

 

“Yeah,” Dave replied “but I told him it was only for a couple of weeks, right? I mean I can’t imagine that they’d be able to stay here any longer than that, with their work and stuff.”

 

Joy nodded. They talked a while more about what to do and then turned on the news. Surprisingly enough, both Juan and Joy’s dad were right. The Border Patrol had also caught a truck full of illeagals. These were from N. Korea. So the Minutemen had caught some Chinese, and apparently there were also people from N. Korea trying to get across. The government alphabet agencies were proud at what they had accomplished, and thought that they had things under control. They would be questioning the men and women that were trying to come across and get to the bottom of this, they were sure of it.

 

In other news, small disturbances were breaking out around the world, as it seemed that flights from many different countries were being cancelled. The screen filled in with something tapped earlier in the day.

 

“This was going to be my first time in America,” the young woman said in a thick accent. “Now they are telling us we cannot go! I worked hard for this! My family is waiting there for me. There is no future here for me! Why will they not let us on the airplane?”

 

Dave and Joy looked at each other. This woman was not from Senegal, or Mexico. She seemed Asian. There were other interviews of other places in the world, all of them with ‘minor’ disruptions to the flight schedule to the States. The news went on to say that the White House was looking into what could possibly be the reason for such a thing, but was naming it a coincidence.

 

“And now for our next story, do you know why men bald more than women do? Stay tuned to find out…” Dave tuned them out.

 

“This doesn’t sound good at all,” Dave said with the most interest Joy had seen in the story. She had been trying to keep up with it all day, and it seemed as though something was definitely up, and it was not ‘coincidence’.

 

“Do you think we should do something about it?” Joy asked, wondering what they could possibly do at this time of the night.

 

Dave nodded his head slowly. This usually meant yes, but let me think about it for a second and let me figure something out. They had enough water and food stored for two, three months tops. But that was for two adults, possibly three and a child. They had some camping equipment that they could use for cooking if the lights did go out, since they had an electric stove. But no protection of firearms, no knowledge of how to use them, and no permit to even get one.

 

“What time is it? Hand me the phone would ya?” Dave said as he looked up a phone number. “I’m going to call Senior and ask him if it’s ok if we put stuff in the apartments now. With your family coming we are going to need a ton of food anyway and…” He wasn’t able to finish as the phone rang again.

 

“Hello?” Dave answered almost dropping the phone.

 

Dave looked at Joy. “Hey, Fred, how is it going?”

 

Joy smiled. Dave has a new job, Dave has a new job…she thought to herself.

 

Dave and Joy’s uncle talked for quite a bit. Dave got their checking account and read it off to Fred over the phone.

 

“Are you sure about this?” Dave asked over the phone. “I’d be willing to be paid monthly as I do the work…” His voice trailed off as Joy could hear her uncle talking.

 

A few minutes later Dave hung up the phone. “Well, this is exiting!” He took Joy into his arms. “By tomorrow morning, at the latest by tomorrow afternoon we should be $45,000 richer!”

 

“What? They will pay it now, before you do the work?” Joy asked not being able to believe it.

 

Dave explained their motives behind it, and it was mainly to help Dave and Joy out. They saw how things were starting to go south. Fred had told Dave that he could use the money as he saw fit to prepare, and that if nothing happened, then he’d still be able to work. The salary was considered part-time since they also had to pay people in California the same amount, and the dollar didn’t stretch as far there. Good thing it would in Minnesota!

 

They decided that the two of them would go shopping tomorrow. Take both vehicles, an old Chevy and the minivan, and possibly split and conquer. Dave would take some time tonight to print some information off the internet, and Joy would make sure that their BOB’s were ready to go. They sure hoped they wouldn’t need them. Not with Joy’s family coming.

 

The phone rang again. Joy looked at her watch. 11:00p.m. Who could be calling this late at night?

 

“Hello?” Dave answered.

 

Dave looked at Joy and mouthed, “It’s your Mom”. “No, no, we were just now going to get to bed. Where are you?” There was a long pause as Liz answered. “Wow. You gotta be kidding. Things are getting that bad?” Dave looked at Joy, a confused look in his eyes. “Ok, sounds good. We’ll keep a look out for you then. Drive safely and stay awake! Love you, too,” he blushed “bye”.

 

Joy smiled. “You actually told my Mom you loved her? I mean I know you do, but you told her?” She grinded as she saw his face turn a deeper pink.

 

“Yeah, well, after what I just heard you would have, too. She said that they left the border tonight wanting to get up here as soon as possible. Things aren’t going the greatest there. She said that they heard shots and a lot of yelling. She said that they thought that riots were starting to break out from people no being able to get into the States.”

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CHAPTER 4

 

 

Dave and Joy went to bed and fell asleep in each other’s arms. Joy had a tough time sleeping. Things were changing way to fast. At about four thirty the phone started to ring.

 

Dave shot up straight out of bed and started pounding on the alarm clock.

 

Joy reached out to her lamp and turned it on. “It’s the phone Dave,” she said half awake. She reached around him and got the cordless.

 

“Hello?” She said, trying to sound as awake as she could.

 

“Joy? I’m sorry to wake you, I know it’s really early there, but I had to call you.” Marie said. It sounded like she was talking through a wind tunnel.

 

“Marie? Where are you? Were you able to leave Senegal? Are you ok?” Joy asked, sitting up in bed.

 

“We’re fine. A little shook up but fine. We’re in Portugal”.

 

“Oh, are you in a hotel?” Joy asked. She knew that Portugal was the country that her sister usually had a twelve-hour layover in. The airline usually provided some money towards a hotel where she could rest and take a shower before her last leg of the trip either to, or from the States. She wondered how they had managed that. Joy knew her sister was a virgin even at 34 years of age, and intended on being so until she got married. She trusted them to sleep in the same room together and for Roger to keep his hands to himself, but Joy’s dad had always taught them to remember the appearance of evil. She doubted very much that Marie and Roger had slept in the same room.

 

“No, we are at the airport. We are just getting ready to leave again.”

 

Well, that answered that, Joy thought. She sat up further in bed. “What do you mean? Don’t you usually have a layover there?” She asked still a little confused.

 

“Yeah, well, things are really different this time. I have no idea what is going on, but rules have changed since the last time I was through here and that was only a year ago! As soon as we got off the plane they started asking me where I was going. When I told them that I was heading back to the States, they sent me directly to the ticket counter. I tried to get a hotel room, but they insisted that we had to leave right away. We even told them that one room would be fine, that we would pay for the second one, but they wouldn’t budge. So now we will be leaving at about 5:00am, and arriving in Newark at noon or so. Then we should be getting into Minneapolis at about 6:55 pm. Can you pick us up?” Marie sounded exhausted. Joy knew she counted on having that twelve-hour layover there to recoup and get rested up. But now it seemed as though we were going to get a grumpy and tired Marie. Well, at least Roger would get to see her at her worst, and know what he was in for.

 

They finalized the details and hung up the phone. Joy wondered if people were being allowed to leave Portugal, and Marie said she wasn’t sure. There weren’t too many people there at this time in the morning, and those that were there seemed to be fine. The ones that were there seemed happy enough. One thing that was odd, though, was they offered Roger to go back to Africa. He insisted that no, he wanted to be with Marie, so they let him go.

 

Joy looked at Dave, who was still awake. “Man, I’m not sure what to think about this,” she whispered, trying to keep things down in order not to wake Victoria.

 

Joy recounted her conversation with Marie, and Dave was quiet for a while. Joy knew he was thinking, and then he sat up in bed.

 

“Well, I’m not sure there is any time to loose,” he said rubbing his eyes.

 

“What do you mean?” Joy asked, afraid she already knew the answer.

 

Dave got up and started getting dressed. Joy looked at the time. It’s was barely 5:00am. “What are you doing?” She asked, a little confused.

 

“I think we need to get up. I’m going to go to the store, maybe Wal-Mart and Target and buy some stuff. I’m not entirely sure what, but I’m sure once I’m there I can figure out some stuff. You stay here with Victoria and let her sleep. Then later we can all go to Costco and buy some stuff there. While I’m gone, maybe you can make a list of important things to take if we had to just leave here. Maybe even get them together and put them in a pile. Also, since I don’t work here anymore, Senior said we could turn in our master keys when your family leaves, that way we can just use those for the apartments. He also said that we were still free to get things from the ‘Freebie’ room. When Victoria wakes up, go check it and see if there are any winter jackets left. I better get going. This is going to be a long day.”

 

Dave looked like he had grown older over night. His face had worry lines that Joy had not seen in a long time. She wasn’t sure what to think. She pulled out a notebook and started to write a list of what she thought they’d need if they had to leave while Dave got ready to go. Things they had, and things they’d need. Where to potentially be able to buy them. Worst-case scenario. What was the worst-case scenario? She went to the bathroom were Dave was brushing his teeth.

 

“What kind of things should we put on the list?” Joy wondered.

 

“Ar or krowr” he replied.

 

Joy smiled. She should have known better. She laughed softly. When Dave was done, they went back into their bedroom to talk and finalize some things.

 

“Well, I’m guessing lots of camping equipment and stuff like that. Of course, food. Write down the names of all the people that are going to be here, and see if you can find out how much of what we would need to survive for three to four months. Six if possible. Things should settle down by then, and we can figure out what to do. If your parents and sisters go back home, then I guess we will be set for a long time! Make sure you write down stuff like sleeping bags and camping stuff like that. Remember that stove we saw at Costco? We can see if they have any left and get one or two of those. If we never use them, we can always take them back. I plan on leaving things in packages and keeping receipts in case we never use them. Then we can at least take the stuff back and get our money back. But I don’t know. I have a bad feeling about this.” Dave shook his head and his eyes darkened. “I’m not sure what’s going on, but I don’t like it.”

 

Dave took off, with a partial list that Joy had been able to put together. Joy busied her self gathering things that they would want to take with them, and not knowing what space they would be able to have or what vehicle to move it to or where, she put things into groups of emergency, nice to have and luxury items. She made sure that the homeschooling stuff they had just received was in the emergency pile. No getting out of school for the little one! She got on the Internet and ordered some things from Lehman’s and had them shipped priority mail. She wasn’t sure if they’d arrive in time or not, but figured that she could at least try.

 

At about 7:30 am the phone rang. This time it was Liz.

 

“Hi honey! Did I wake you?” She sounded tired.

 

“Hi Mom! No, we’ve been up since 4:30 this morning. Marie called.” Joy related the conversation with Marie to Liz.

 

“Well, I guess we may be arriving at the same time! We traveled all night. We are in Kansas City now, and should be in Minneapolis some time late this afternoon. We are going to rest here a bit and then take off. Have you seen the news lately?” Liz asked.

 

“No, not since last night. Any changes?” Joy wondered if she should watch some news.

 

“Well, they are just saying that a lot of flights are being cancelled and that people are not being allowed into the States for some reason. Some form of boycott or something like that. That’s why Juan was having so many problems getting across, and Roger, too. Good thing they are coming. At least they can be together until things calm down enough. I sure hope Juan can still have his job when he gets back!”

 

They talked a bit more, and then agreed that if Joy and Dave were gone when they arrived, they would just wait at the door. If they arrived at the same time Marie and Roger did, than Dave and Joy would probably be at the airport.

 

Joy looked at her time just as Victoria started to call. She got breakfast for each of them and then called Dave.

 

“How’s it going?” She asked.

 

“Actually, not bad. I thought that there was going to be a ton of people out here, but there really isn’t. Makes me a little nervous, but things really seem to be fine. I had breakfast at McDonald’s, and then went to Wal-Mart. They were stocked up with a ton of camping gear, so I bought a bunch of stuff. The check out guy wondered if I was a Scouts leader or something, and I just told him that I was going to go camping with the family. He really didn’t seem to care, so I didn’t offer any more information. But get this. There were a couple of guys sitting at the table behind me at McDonald’s, and they were talking about all that was going on. The one didn’t seem to think that it was that big a deal, but the other one was talking about heading to warmer climate in case the stuff hits the fan.”

 

Joy shook her head. She related the stuff that she had talked to her mom about and then they set a time for him to pick them up. Joy got as many things put away to make the place at least look decent for when her family came, and continued on her list of things to take. When Dave came, the three of them piled into the minivan. They headed to Costco where they found a lot of people. Not unusual for a Saturday, though. They bought two big camping stoves, some tents, more iron cookware and a bunch of food, water and toilet paper. Anything they could think of, they got. They each had their own cart, and they were both piled high.

 

“Dave, how are we going to pay for all this?” Joy asked him quietly.

 

“With the credit card,” he responded. “After we get the money from your uncle, we’ll pay it off”.

 

Joy nodded her head. They picked up extra underwear, socks, tin foil, anything they could think of that they could possibly need. Dave looked at his watch.

 

“It’s noon already. Can you keep shopping here? I’m going to go to the U-haul place a couple blocks down and rent a truck, ok? That way we can get as much as we want and then go to other places.” He leaned over to kiss her and then gave Victoria a hug.

 

They took their carts to the front and asked if they could stay there until Dave came back with the truck. The clerks agreed. Joy took another cart and kept shopping while Dave went to get the U-haul. This time she concentrated a little more on women needs. Not just for herself, but for her sisters and niece as well. Liz was past that stage, and Victoria was too young. Joy certainly hoped that by the time Victoria was at that stage things would be back to normal.

 

Dave called Joy and they met over in the canned goods section. They finished filling up the cart and then went and paid for everything. The clerk raised his eyebrows and whistled under his breath. One by one, they went through the items in the three carts. Joy looked at her watch. It was getting late.

 

She leaned close to Dave to talk. “Hon, it’s almost 2:00 pm and there are still places I want to go to. Should I go and take Victoria with me and you can finish this up?”

 

Dave nodded his head slowly. She could tell he was thinking again. “Yeah. Go ahead. Call me and let me know where you are going to be. I’m thinking about getting some extra glasses, so maybe we can meet at the mall. I’ll give you a call when I’m done here.”

 

“Ok, come on Victoria, let’s go.” Victoria hugged her Daddy tight and then Dave kissed Joy. “Bye, hon. I’ll see you later.”

 

“Bye.” He answered.

 

Joy got to the minivan and turned on the radio as she headed to the mall.

 

“It’s 2:00 o’clock. In today’s news the White House is continuing to deny that there is an alleged boycott to the United States. They are looking into the possibilities of why thousands of Americans are being sent back to the States. Countries as near as Mexico and Canada and as far as Iraq and Philippines are sending back Americans by the thousands. International Airports are a mess in a lot of these countries, and the logistics of so many Americans having to come back to the States at once is daunting. Several countries are reporting riots in and near their airports, but say that the reasons for these riots have nothing to do with the fact that they are not letting their people come to the United States.”

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CHAPTER 5

 

Jack Daniels patted his cow, Betsy, as he milked her for the last time that day. At almost forty years old, Jack was a well-built, mostly white haired man. He was a handsome guy, but in a rugged kind of way. He had a constant five o’clock shadow, even though he shaved every day. He was tall and muscular, and able to do what any twenty-year-old man could do. His father, a preacher, had named him Jonathan, but the people in his small town had nicknamed him Jack. They seemed to think it was funny that a preacher had a son called Jack Daniels, so the nickname stuck. He was an only child. He had married in his late twenties and he and his wife were somewhat hermits. They kept mostly to themselves on their farm, but enjoyed what little relationships they had with their neighbors.

 

Jack loved living off of the land. He believed in God with all his heart, and took the Bible as literally as he could. He had lived in this area of the country all his life, and aside from going to Iraq during the first year of the war, he had never been outside of the country. He had been honorably discharged due to a war injury. He had several medals of valor for saving his comrades and although he appreciated the honor very much, he thought that what he had done for his friends, they would have also done for him.

 

Jack and his wife, Carol, had a six-year-old son, Luke. He was a bright young lad that adored his father. He fallowed Jack wherever he went, and was learning as much as his little mind could take in. Carol was now also pregnant with twins. They would be born soon, and now thanks to one of their neighbors who was a midwife, she’d be able to have the babies at home. Jack had arranged to exchange a cow for the work of the midwife, Rebecca. She was a mother of four herself, and Carol was confident that she would do a good job.

 

To the south of them and across the lake lived an elderly couple, the Larsons, on a 100-acre farm. To the West and North, surrounding Jack’s farm, was a Native American Reservation. To the East lived the midwife with her family. Jack and Carol generally traded for most of what they needed, mostly with their neighbors. Carol was somewhat of a Tomboy, and that suited him just fine. A lot of times he wondered how he would have managed if he had married a girly-girl. She was one tough woman. At thirty-eight she was pretty tall and portly. She was a great farmer, and a fast learner when it came to things she didn’t know, as long as it wasn’t in the house. She was most comfortable outside of the house, and didn’t have much patience for frilly things. She often said that maybe the good Lord had made a mistake and made her a woman instead of a man. Jack always reminded her that the good Lord didn’t make mistakes. She could shoot with the best of them, and often competed against their friends and neighbors, just to show off. Jack could shoot anything he looked at, no matter how far it was. Well, within reason, of course. He was handy with a number of guns, and always seemed to know which one was best to use in any given situation. This quality had proven to be a lifesaver in Iraq. Not only to him, but also to the ones he led as well. He could move as quietly as a cat, and had a way with animals, especially horses, that all of his neighbors had grown to appreciate.

 

Jack gave one last pat to Betsy’s hind leg. He carefully got up and made sure he didn’t spill any of the milk on the ground. He really didn’t want to get yelled at by Carol tonight. He looked over at Luke who had been standing by, quietly watching.

 

“Go get me that cup, son,” Jack said with a thick Minnesotan accent.

 

“Yes, Papa,” Luke replied and hurried to do as he was told. He brought the cup to his father and Jack dipped it into the pail of milk. He softly put it down near the door, where he knew the cats would find it.

 

“Gotta keep them happy so they keep us happy, ya know?” Jack said as he winked at Luke.

 

Luke grinned and held up his little hand. Jack took it into his large one and they walked back to the house hand in hand. Jack smiled. This was when he felt most like a man. While holding his son’s hand. A lot of people considered Jack to be a man’s man, simply because he could shoot well and had a way with animals. But Jack had always felt that life was more than that. That life was about what God had given you, and what you were going to do to give it back. And he felt like his life was blessed indeed. He had little Luke and he was a wonderful son. And now after several miscarriages, it seemed that they were finally going to be able to add to their family again. And twins, no less! His life was blessed indeed!

 

As Jack and Luke approached their small home, Carol came out to greet them. She wore an oversized pair of overalls, with one of Jacks long sleeved shirts underneath. She was as big as she had ever been, being eight months pregnant.

 

“Hurry up you two! Come on in and eat supper before it gets cold. Then after that, you’re going to have to go see the Larsons. He stopped by again today and said that he really needed to talk to you. I don’t think Mrs. Larson is doing to well. They are still talking about moving to Florida.” She rolled her eyes. Carol didn’t think much of Florida. She had never actually been there, but she never missed an opportunity to talk bad about it in front of their neighbors.

 

Jack knew better. He knew that it wasn’t that Carol disliked Florida so much, but that she didn’t want them to leave. They had formed a good friendship with them, one of deep understanding and convenience. Jack and Carol would supply them with milk, eggs, chicken meat and deer meat once in a while in exchange for Mrs. Larson’s fresh vegetables and canned goods. They’d even get bread from them on occasion. If they moved, they were afraid that somebody from the city would buy the farm. Or worse, someone from the Twin Cities. Then how would they trade with them? They probably would let the garden go and buy all their food from the grocery store.

 

Jack, Carol and Luke ate their supper in silence after Jack gave thanks. Carol was not one for chitchat, and didn’t tolerate much of it from Luke, either. Once done, Jack took the dishes to the counter and got the sink ready to wash the dishes. Carol added some handmade soap that they had bartered for with Rebecca and started washing the dishes.

 

Jack looked over at Luke. “Why don’t you go play outside for a little while, Luke? I’ll help your Mother clean up here”.

 

Luke’s eyes lit up. “Ok, Papa!” He said as he ran out the door.

 

Carol looked at Jack. “I sure wish we could buy that farm from the Larsons,” she said quietly.

 

Jack let out a deep breath. “I know. So do I. But they are asking way to much for what we can afford.”

 

“But what are we going to do? We have come to depend on them always being there. What are we going to do for vegetables and fruit? And when winter comes? What are we going to do for canned goods?” She said, worry edging her voice.

 

This was odd for Jack. Carol was such a strong woman, and worry wasn’t usually in her vocabulary. Jack put the pan he was drying down.

 

“Now Carol, you know that we don’t depend on the Larsons, or any of our friends and neighbors, for that matter. We depend on God. He is the ultimate provider, not only of our physical bodies, but of our spirits as well. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He has promised that the righteous will never go hungry and that their children will never starve.” He put his hand on her stomach, just as one of the twins started kicking.

 

Carol nodded. “I know you’re right. Thanks for the reminder.” She turned back to the task at hand. “Now you better get going. I want you two back before sunset. Ok?”

 

“Yes, Ma’am” Jack nodded and moved away just before his bottom got slapped with the towel.

 

Jack went outside and called Luke. As he waited for him, he got the canoe ready to go across the lake to his neighbor’s farm. Luke came and helped his father. They got the canoe ready and jumped in. Jack paddled quietly and let Luke talk. This was a time when the boy could do as much chitchatting as he wanted without getting reprimanded by his mother. Jack didn’t mind listening to him talk. In fact, he thought that for a six-year-old he had a pretty mature conversation. They talked about the fish, the cows, and the horses. Oh how Luke loved the horses. Jack smiled. A chip off of the old block he was.

 

They pulled up at the beach of their neighbor’s side of the lake. Mr. Larson came out of the barn and waved his thin hand.

 

“Well hello there, Jack. Luke. How are you young man?” He said, shaking Luke’s little hand in his.

 

“Good, thank you, Mr. Larson.” Luke responded. He liked Mr. Larson. He always made Luke feel important.

 

Jack shook Mr. Larson’s hand. “Nice day, eh, Mr. Larson?” he smiled.

 

“Yeh. Nice day. Come on over into the house and have some lemonade. The Wife would like to take a look at ya. She says that she ain’t ever seen a fellow as good lookin’ as you.” He laughed as he saw Jack’s deep blush. “Come on, man, I’ll make sure she stays off of ya!” He laughed again.

 

Jack liked Mrs. Larson, but he sure wished she would stop talking about his looks. He was what he was and there was nothing he could do about it. He didn’t ask for it, and didn’t necessarily care, either. He had come to accept himself as the way God had made him, and worked on the things that he could actually change for the better.

 

They got to the old farmhouse and went in. Mrs. Larson was sitting there, knitting.

 

“Well, hello Jack and Luke!” She said with a big smile. “Come on in and have some lemonade. Did Mr. Larson show you my trees, Jack? They really do bare avocadoes and the other ones give limes and olives. I bought them over the Internet a few years ago, and they have finally matured enough to give their fruit. Have you ever had an avocado, Luke?” Mrs. Larson asked as she walked into her big kitchen.

 

“No, Mrs. Larson.” Luke answered timidly.

 

She came back out of the kitchen with some of her homemade bread and some avocado slices. She put the avocado slices on the bread and gave a piece of bread each to the men and split one with Luke. They ate it in silence as they tried to decide if they liked it or not.

 

“Well, I can’t say I care for it much,” Mr. Larson said, giving half of the small sandwich back.

 

Mrs. Larson gave him a scowl look and turned to Jack and Luke. “How do you boys like it?”

 

Jack smiled. “This is actually pretty good,” he said in between bites. “But how are you able to grow the trees in Minnesota?”

 

Mrs. Larson smiled. “Well, they are miniature trees, Jack. They are able to grow in pots, so I’m able to have them outside in the summer time and inside during the winter, as long as they have enough light and warmth. Of course, that is taken care of by Mr. Larson here. He keeps the basement nice and warm in the wintertime, and I have that big window that I’m able to put them by. This is the first year we have been able to have them. Good aren’t they? Do you want just a slice by itself, Luke?”

 

Luke nodded his head eagerly “Yes, please, Ma’am”. Jack was surprised. He didn’t think that Luke would have liked it, but was glad he did. It was good for him to try new things.

 

“The problem is,” Mr. Larson said, “she didn’t believe them that they would give as much fruit as they said they would. And now I think we are getting more than we need, so I guess we are going to have something new to barter with. Man, this woman even has banana trees! They are much smaller than the ones they have down south, but they sure do give good bananas. I peel one up every morning and have it with my cereal. And we’ll see if her orange trees are going to give fruit. They say that they are about a quarter of size of the regular ones, but it will sure be nice if they taste as good as the bananas. Even if they are small.” Mr. Larson licked his lips.

 

They chatted a little while about the weather and the babies that were due to come any day now.

 

“Oh! By the way, Jack. Rebecca came by over earlier today and asked me to give you this,” Mrs. Larson said as she reached into her pocket. She pulled out a small cell phone.

 

“What’s this?” Jack asked, taking it from her.

 

“It’s a phone, Jack. She has prepaid the minutes on it, so all you have to do is call her number. She even put that into the phone somehow, too. All you have to do is push and hold this number two. See? Then it will ring at her house, and you can tell her that it’s time for Carol to have the babies. That way you can stay with Carol and help her until Rebecca arrives. Do you understand how to use it?” She asked handing the phone back to Jack after showing how to use it.

 

“Yeah, I think so. You just push this number two here,” he said as he pushed it “and it will call her. Oh, no! It’s ringing!” He looked surprised as if he thought it wasn’t going to actually work. He was actually very smart in this area as well, but just chose not to be a part of that kind of world.

 

“Hello?” A voice said on the other side.

 

Mrs. Larson grinned as she took the phone back from Jack. “Hello? Is this Seth? Hi Seth, this is Mrs. Larson. Yeah, I was just telling Jack about the phone and making sure it works,” she winked at Jack. “Ok, then, Seth. Uh-huh. You too, then now. Bye!”

 

She hung up and gave the phone back to Jack. “Well, now we know that it works!”

 

Jack put it into his shirt pocket and smiled. “Thank you, Mrs. Larson. Luke, why don’t you go outside and play with the dogs?”

 

“Ok, Papa! Excuse me Mr. and Mrs. Larson!” He said as he ran out the door.

 

Mr. Larson chuckled. “Fine young lad you got there, Jack. Fine young lad.” He poured himself another glassful of lemonade and offered Jack and Mrs. Larson some more.

 

They talked about the Larson’s plan for moving to Florida. Their only daughter lived there with their grandchildren, and was not coming up to see them as often. Besides, the cold was just too long in Minnesota for Mrs. Larson, they said. Her hands were really acting up, and it was difficult for her to even do the garden now. The Larsons had a large garden. They planted enough to feed themselves and Jack’s family, and for trade. Then whatever was left Mrs. Larson canned for the wintertime. She also canned more than they needed to be able to trade.

 

“So now we are ready to live in the city, at least for a while,” Mr. Larson said sadly. “We have worked hard all of our lives, and are ready to retire and go shopping to buy our food for a change. Oh, we know that the eggs and meat won’t be as fresh as what you give us, Jack, but on the other hand, we’ll also get to have a bunch of these real trees that Mrs. Larson is so fond of. Besides, now you won’t have to shovel for us anymore, Jack!” He finished the last sentence patting Jack hard on the back.

 

Jack smiled. “You know I’m always happy to help you, Mr. Larson. Besides, Mrs. Larson’s fresh cookies and hot chocolate at the end sure make it well worth it!”

 

Mrs. Larson smiled. “Well thank you, Jack! And we want you to know, that if we could, we would just give you the farm, Jack. You have been like a son to us, and Luke like a beloved grandchild. We sure are going to miss you when we leave. But we really need the money if we are going to be able to make it in the city.”

 

Jack nodded his head. “I know, Mrs. Larson, and sure do appreciate you taking over as my parents when mine passed away. I have sure come to love the two of you as well.” Jack shifted his legs. He was not the lovey-dovey type of guy, and this conversation was starting to get a little mushy for him. He couldn’t help it, though. He really cared about these people.

 

Mr. Larson cleared his throat. “Well, Jack, you guys had better be heading home if you are to get there before dark. Do you mind helping me move an old wood stove I just got? It’s in the truck. I’m going to fix this one up as well, and then put it in the garage.”

 

Mrs. Larson rolled her eyes as she cleaned up the glasses. “Boys and their toys,” she muttered under her breath. Mr. Larson liked wood stoves. He had bought and salvaged a half a dozen or more of them and made them work. She didn’t mind as much, the hobby kept him busy. She didn’t know what he was going to do with yet another wood stove, as they weren’t planning on taking any of them to Florida. They were actually hoping to just leave most of everything and starting brand new, once the got there. She was tired of making butter, bread and other things from scratch. She was looking forward to having the money to just go to the store and buy what they wanted or needed. She wasn’t even planning on taking any of the stores of food that they had. Hopefully the new owner would agree to pay a bit more for everything in the house and the other buildings, or else they would just give them to Jack.

 

Jack said goodbye to Mrs. Larson and went and helped Mr. Larson with the stove.

 

“Well, this one’s a beauty!” He exclaimed when he saw it.

 

“You like it?” Mr. Larson smiled. “It even has a place to bake. This is the best and biggest one I’ve gotten yet. And it’s in pretty good shape. It’s heavy to move, but once it’s installed, it should do really well.”

 

Jack and Mr. Larson lowered the stove into the barn while Luke held the doors open for them. The radio in the garage was on, playing Mr. Larson’s favorite kind of music, Country.

 

When the song was done, the news reporter for the station came on to give the news. Jack, Mr. Larson and Luke all stood quietly, wanting to hear what was going on today.

 

“This is KLBJ, 99.8FM. Thank you for tuning in. Today the White House has declared that it is doing all that it can to help American citizens come back to America. There are several thousands that are being made to come back, and their visas are not being renewed. One missionary family in the Philippines refused to leave until the father of the family was murdered in front of his kids. The rest of the family is now in US custody, and they are not being allowed to stay. Their names have not yet been released. The White House has also stated that this is the work of terrorists and will not be tolerated. ‘We will hunt down who ever did this, and make them pay to the full extent of the law,’ the White House spokesman said. In other parts of the world riots seem to be growing. Major cities from China to Mexico are having a difficult time containing the riots. But all of these countries refuse to let Americans stay, or their people come to the States. An unnamed source from the Pentagon is saying that there is a coup being planned in Mexico to take over president Fox’s position. President Fox is the first president of the PAN party, the conservative party in Mexico, to be elected in several decades. The PRI party had held power for about 7 decades until Fox easily won the election in the year 2000 in what has been called the ‘fairest’ election in Mexico’s history. The threat advisory in the US has been elevated to orange in the whole country, based on chatter from the internet of an attack planned against America on it’s 48 continuants states. This is KLBJ, 99.8FM.”

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CHAPTER 6

 

 

Jack and Luke made their way home barely in time before the sun went down. Jack and Carol put Luke to bed, and Jack stayed behind to pray for him. This was something that he had adopted from his father. He used to pray a blessing over Jack every night before he fell asleep.

 

The next day Jack went to work at the Reservation. He got along well with the leaders there, and was impressed at how well they had done to preserve their culture. Some of the younger folk were really trying to break ties, but the older and wiser ones were doing their best to keep everyone united. Most of them wore regular western clothes, but a few of them, specially the elders, tried to wear clothing that was common of the days gone by. Jack was always impressed with the skills they had. Most were excellent hunters and fishermen, and the women were very good at crafts as well. They made moccasins, baskets, dishware made out of pottery, jewelry and rugs. They had a very large community garden in which they grew enough food for the whole reservation, plus whatever they needed for the winter. If they couldn’t grow it, hunt it, or fish it, they didn’t eat it. Jack helped a few families by supplying them with milk, eggs and fresh chicken meat in exchange for beef and pork. They had their own butchers, and did things as close as they could to the way their ancestors did.

 

It hadn’t always been like this. There was a time that the reservation was near extinction. They had a lot of people working for the casino’s and they where moving to bigger and better homes off the reservation. The youth culture was starting to be embarrassed of who they were and their legacy, and their actions showed it. Jack remembered his shock the first time he saw a Native American dressed in Ghetto clothing. He looked so out of place, and yet, it was such a declaration of who he wanted to be, or didn’t want to be.

 

During this time the leader that was encouraging people to leave the community died in a car accident. The person voted in next had a total different way of leading the community. He was one that wanted to go back to their roots, to do things the way that their fathers had done many, many years before them. And so the task started. They would allow some things differently, but mostly they would try to live off the land and get back to their roots. As much as they could, they did trading amongst themselves or their neighbors. They had to buy things from other places, but would try to barter for those needs as well. They sold extra produce and meat to stores in the city in exchange for things like tires and glass jars for canning.

 

Not many “other” people were allowed on the reservation. Jack was a welcomed stranger, though. They had allowed him to open up an office on their land and serve their people. It was a win-win situation. Jack was an excellent veterinarian, and was able to take care of most animals, especially farm animals. In turn, he was paid fair wages and got to work close to home. Also, the bartering he was able to do with them saved him a lot of money. One thing that Jack was really appreciative for was that they had allowed him to keep his land. It was only 75 acres compared to the hundreds of acres of land that they had, but under the new laws he had to sell it to them if they wanted to buy it. After all, he did have a large side of the lake on his property. His neighbor, Rebecca and her husband Seth also owned land on the lake as did the Larsons. The leaders of the reservation had stated that as long as every neighbor kept to their own land and didn’t sell any fish they caught, they would not buy their land from under them. For some reason they weren’t interested in buying the Larson’s farm. The Reservation, the Larson’s, and Seth and Rebecca’s place all bordered on another lake. These two lakes were protected by the government and considered private property. No one but the owners of the properties, their guests and the people from the Reservation could fish on these lakes. The lake between Jack and the Larsons wasn’t as big as the other lake, but if nobody got greedy there was enough fish in there for a long, long time.

 

Jack enjoyed learning the way the Native Americans caught their fish. It was quick, efficient and didn’t require a lot of ‘stuff’. The leaders were happy to teach him, as long as he also taught them some basic information on how to care for their animals. Carol was a pretty good fisher. She would often help with the cleaning of them herself, and then cook it to the best of her ability. She was not the best cook Jack had ever known, but he had grown used to her cooking.

 

Jack’s day went quickly. There were a few cows having calves, and a skunk had sprayed one of the dogs. He was able to shower at his office in a small bathroom that he had been able to build a couple of years earlier, when he had redone the place. He had added an extra room for storage, that way he was able to keep whatever he needed in stock, instead of going to the store every other week.

 

As he got dressed again in clean clothes, his phone rang. “Dr. Jack” he answered.

 

“Hello, Dr. Jack! This is Bodaway. How are you, my friend?” Mr. Bodaway was the father of the chief. His father had also been a chief, and this was the reason why his son was now wanting to bring the tribe back to it’s original roots.

 

“Mr. Bodaway! Hello! Good to hear from you. I’m doing well. And you?” Jack was pleased that he had called. He had learned a great many things from this man, and truly enjoyed their friendship.

 

“Oh, as well as I can be, I suppose. Tell, me. When are you going home today?” he asked. Any time he called, it usually meant that he wanted to see Jack.

 

“Would you like to get together? I have some time now.” Jack was hoping to get home early, so this was a good chance to talk to him if he was able to.

 

“Yes, I would like that very much. Would you be able to come here to my home?” he asked.

 

Now this is odd, Jack thought. Usually they met at Jack’s office or went for walks. “Sure, Mr. Bodaway. I’ll come right over.”

 

“Ok, then, Jack, see you soon” They hung up the phone and Jack closed up shop.

 

He made his way across town in his old, but sturdy Ford truck. It almost looked like one in an old movie, and for the way that Jack dressed, he fit the part well. He looked around the streets and took the time to enjoy the scenery. He wasn’t much for towns, but he sure did like this one. A lot of people got around in horses, sometimes even in carts and buggies. It was like a mix between an Amish town and a Native American Reservation. In fact, the leaders of the Reservation had gone to great lengths to learn from the Amish. They still used electricity and teachers were hired from the outside world, but they were trying to slowly back away from being too dependant on anyone else, specially in the winter time.

 

Last year they had experimented not using any heat, just their fireplaces and wood stoves. They had turned off all their water lines, and got water only from their wells and streams that were not frozen. Although it was much easier to just turn up the heat, they had survived. Jack and Carol had taken the opportunity to try this as well, and had not been able to make it through the winter. In the coldest days in January when the thermometer went down to 30° below zero, they had given in and turned it up. They were concerned for Luke, as he had developed a nasty cough, and wanted to make sure that he was ok. Jack had taken the time this summer to re-insulate their home. They would try going without heat again this winter and see if they could make it. Jack had been traiding eggs with a woman on the reservation for some heavy quilts. They would all sleep in the living room-dining room area, where Jack could keep the fire place going. It was well ventilated, so there was no chance of them getting sick or dying from carbon monoxide. Since there would be no running water, they had arranged a few free classes of basic first aid for animals in exchange for a wind-powered generator for their well. Carol was going to have to learn to cook in the fireplace. They had bought some iron cookwear and she would use that.

 

Jack reached Mr. Bodaway’s home and pulled in next to the entrance. There were several other cars there, and he wondered if they were all at his home. This was answered as soon as he knocked on the door.

 

Mrs. Bodaway slowly opened the door. “Hello, Jack, nice to see you!” She said, her face breaking into a smile. She opened the door wider and let him in.

 

“Hello, Mrs. Bodaway. How are you doing?” Jack said as he took his hat off. He wiped his feet on their homemade rug, and looked into the living room surprised. Rebecca and Seth, and the Larson’s were there as well as other members of the tribe.

 

They all exchanged greetings and then settled down back into their seats.

 

Mr. Bodaway cleared his throat. “Well, now that we are all here I want to thank you all for coming. I’ll try not to take too much of your time. Have any of you heard of the news that is happening lately?”

 

Jack and Mr. Larson looked at each other. They had heard some things on the news last night that didn’t sound good at all. But why was this time any different? They had been on threat level orange before. And there always seemed to be someone saying ‘Death to America’.

 

Most of them nodded and Seth spoke up. “Yeah, Rebecca and I have been monitoring some things on the internet. Have you heard anymore than what they are telling us?”

 

Jack looked at Mr. Bodaway. How could he hear any more than the rest of them? Maybe his son, but him?

 

Mr. Bodaway paused for a second before he responded. “What I have to say needs to stay in this room, is that clear? You may share whatever information you may want with your family, and maybe some close friends, but don’t go broadcasting it, ok? I will loose my source of information if you do that, and then we’ll all be in deep trouble.”

 

He looked around the room as everyone nodded and took a deep breath. “As some of you know, I have close ties with someone close to the President. I will not name him. If you figure out who it is, please don’t name the person. I would like to keep my relationship with him as it is. Now, I cannot emphasize this enough. This is top-secrete stuff. Please, keep it to yourselves as much as you can. I talked to my, um, friend, yesterday. He called me from a secure phone line. Things in America will be changing very, very, fast. Too fast, in fact. You have probably heard that countries all over the world are kicking Americans out of their countries, and not allowing their people to come here.” He paused as everyone in the room nodded.

 

“What you probably haven’t heard on the news is that they will also be stopping all trading. Anything from oil to T-shirts. Pretty much every country in the world is in on this, including our neighbors to the north and the south,” he said, referring to Canada and Mexico. “You may have heard that there is some form of a coup trying to take place in Mexico. This is also true. Not all Mexicans hate Americans, and there is a group of high ranking officials wanting to stand with the US during this time, even if it means going against their government and being called traitors. The CIA is working with them to make this work. If it does work, Mexico may be our only friend for a while. Now all of this has a lot of ramifications. Have you thought what it will be like to not have oil? How much oil controls? As it stands now, we have only about one week, at the most two of oil. And that’s only the long run. In the short run there are the terrorists attacks that are planned against the country and the panic that will ensue.” He paused to let everything sink in.

 

Jack looked shocked. Mr. Bodaway looked straight at him “Hard to process, Jack?”

 

Jack nodded. “Lack of oil? What would that be? More expensive prices on gas?” If that was it, he thought, he could always ride his horse to work and save money that way.

 

Rebecca spoke up. “Well, yeah, there is that, but if that was the only thing that was affected, think of how many things gas can touch and affect. How do workers get to their jobs? How do major corporations send stuff from one place to another? How does the local grocery store or general stores get their supplies? Someone has to get them there. Usually in a truck. Now what about electricity? You need oil for that. And how many things are affected by electricity? Not to mention how many people are going to be out of jobs because of the lack of trading. Now personally, I think that they are shooting themselves in the foot. If they don’t trade with us, we won’t trade with them. They will be loosing as much as we are.” She shook her head.

 

“Well, that’s not entirely true,” one of the elders of the tribe interjected. “A lot of the countries are trading with each other, now. If they play their cards right, they wouldn’t need the US.”

 

Jack shook his head and spread out his hands. “But what does all this mean? What can we do about it? I mean, especially if we can’t tell anyone about it.”

 

“Well,” Mr. Bodaway replied, “we really can’t do much to help the country. The government is trying to keep a lid on things, hoping to not create a mass panic. This is one of the reasons why I’m asking you not to spread the word.” He looked towards the Larsons and Jack. “But we can do something about ourselves. As you know, here at the reservation we have been working at getting back to our roots. This has a great advantage over the rest of the country, because we have done what we can to be as self-sufficient as we can. Now the reason we asked you to come here today is because we have appreciated our relationship with you over the years. We do more than just barter with you, we have become friends. We have come to depend on you, and we know that you have come to depend on us. We would like to keep it that way. Now,” he said looking at the Larsons, “are you still wanting to move to Florida?”

 

Mr. and Mrs. Larson looked at each other and nodded. “Yes,” said Mrs. Larson. “If things are going to get as bad as you are saying, then yes, most definitely yes. Our daughter is going to need us more than ever. Unfortunately the farm hasn’t sold yet. We don’t have the money to just leave with out selling it. If we did, we would have already given it to Jack, here.”

 

Jack looked at them and smiled. “Thank you Mrs. Larson, Carol and I appreciate the thought more than you know. And I hope you know that if we could, we would have already bought it.”

 

“Well, that is another reason that we have brought you all together today.” Mr. Bodaway said. “As you all may be aware, Rebecca’s father passed away yesterday, is that right?” he asked looking at Rebecca, a softness in his eyes that Jack had learn to appreciate.

 

As Rebecca nodded sadly, Mr. Bodaway continued. “Well, she is interested in buying the farm from the Larsons.” A gasp was heard from the Larsons. Jack smiled. This was a good turn of events, the Larsons would get what they needed to make the move they wanted, and he wouldn’t have to worry about new neighbors!

 

“But, there is something else,” Mr. Bodaway said. “And we all get a say on this. Rebecca doesn’t want the land for herself. She wants it for her extended family. They are all coming to Duluth for the funeral in a few days, and she is afraid they won’t make it back to their homes. You see her family is made up of missionaries. She has one cousin living in the Twin Cities, then her aunt and uncle and another cousin live in Mexico and one last cousin somewhere in Africa. The land and everything on it would be for them.”

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CHAPTER 7

 

 

Mr. Bodaway looked at Jack. “Jack, this would affect you the most. As far as Rebecca knows there are about 10 people coming. Maybe more, I’m not sure. The reason that we have agreed to this is because of the skills these people have. To start with, I know you are a religious man. As far as I know, they share the same beliefs as you and Carol do. Also, the cousin that lives in Africa is engaged. Her fiancé is coming with her. She is a nurse, well, a doctor’s assistant, and he is a doctor. Am I getting all this right?” Mr. Bodaway asked Rebecca. “Why don’t you tell them?”

 

Rebecca nodded. “My cousin, Marie is a missionary in Africa. She is engaged to a doctor, Roger, who is from there and they work together in a clinic. Now I know that the illnesses that they have in Africa are different than what we have here, but you should know that Roger’s father used to be what they called a ‘witch doctor’ before he became a Christian. He is gone now, but Roger learned a lot of ways to help people to get better with just plants and such. Again, I know that things are different here from there, but we think that his knowledge would be very valuable.”

 

She paused for a second before she continued. “My other cousin, Ann, the oldest of the three, is a professional seamstress. She can sew about anything you need, and if we could just find a treadle sewing machine for her, she would be able to fix, and/or make anything we needed. She also knits and crochets, and now that Mrs. Larson is leaving, well, that’s going to be a good trade to know. Also, her husband is a great worker and can fix any car you put in front of him. They have two teenagers that I’m sure could be trained in a number of things. My youngest cousin, Joy, and her husband Dave, are the ones that live in the Twin Cities. They have wanted to live in the country for a long time. They have the cutest little four year old that…. Well, never mind. But anyway, Dave is a great carpenter. He has taken several classes, and though I know that you are a great carpenter too, Jack, I’m sure it’d be nice to have some help. He’s a pretty smart guy and can fix any computer problem you send his way. Unfortunately, that’s not a skill that will probably be very valuable in the future. Joy has learned a lot of skills, even though they live in an apartment. She can preserve food in a number of ways, including drying and canning, makes her own soap, and can make a wonderful meal out of just basic ingredients. She knows a lot about essential oils and how to use them, and has a large number of them stocked. I know, because I sold them to her through my business. She also sews, knits and crochets, just not as fast as Ann.”

 

Rebecca took a deep breath. Jack could tell that she was really trying to sell her family to him. All he needed to know is that they were family, and that was good enough for him. He knew that if he had any extended family to help, Seth and Rebecca would do what they could to help him.

 

“Then my uncle and aunt,” she continued, “well, they are just great people. My aunt can also sew, and my uncle is a great Bible teacher. I know that you believe in the Bible, Jack, and I think you would like my uncle. He believes that the Bible means what it says. Oh! And I almost forgot. One other thing that you may be interested in. Joy also home-schools. I know that you wanted your kids home-schooled, Jack, and that Carol didn’t think she could handle it. She may be willing to home-school Luke for you, seeing as he and Victoria, Joy’s daughter, are so close in age.”

 

Jack sat up straight when he heard about the home-schooling. Yes, he was very interested in that! He had strongly encouraged Carol to home-school Luke, and now the twins when they were old enough, but she had refused, saying that she just really wasn’t a ‘kid’ person, but would be glad to teach him how to shoot, or clean a chicken.

 

“That sounds great! I’d love for her to home-school Luke. Especially if there will be no schools after the stuff hits the fan, as you call it. Besides, they are your family, Rebecca. What am I going to say: ‘no?’” He asked smiling at her.

 

There was a look of great relief in Rebecca’s face. “Thank you, Jack. You won’t be sorry.”

 

Jack was about to answer when Mr. Bodaway said “It’s settled then. Seth and Rebecca will buy the Larson’s farm with everything on it with cash, is that right?”

 

Seth nodded. “We even brought the check-book along!” he smiled.

 

A few people chuckled, including Jack. “But, can you afford it, Rebecca?” Mrs. Larson asked with concern in her eyes.

 

Rebecca nodded her head sadly. “Yes, Mrs. Larson. When my dad died yesterday, his lawyer took some time talking to my mom. Apparently my Grandpa, my dad’s dad, had left quite a bit of money to my dad and aunt, but my dad never told my aunt for some reason. Now that he is gone, my mom wants to make sure that she and her family get their fair share. They don’t know I’m buying the farm. We will tell them that the farm is their inheritance, plus some extra money. What I’m hoping will happen is that they at least let Joy and her family come and live here, and then the rest of them can split the rest of the money if they don’t end up staying here.”

 

Jack wondered if Rebecca was giving away too much information, but realized that they were really all among friends.

 

“Ok, then.” Said Mr. Bodaway. “Rebecca, the same rules that have been in our agreement still apply to them, is that clear? They are welcome to hunt on their property, and fish on the lakes, but they cannot bring people from the outside to hunt or fish with them, and they cannot hunt on the Reservation. It will be up to you and Jack if you want to let them hunt on your land. Now, if I were you, I would strongly encourage them to use the rest of the money that they have to buy the supplies that they are going to need, including means to protect themselves.”

 

Seth and Rebecca nodded. “Yes, Mr. Bodaway.”

 

“Now, as good neighbors, the Reservation is prepared to make a very generous offer to your family, in exchange for your uncle’s services. Now, as far as I understand he is a minister, is that correct?” Mr. Bodaway asked.

 

After Rebecca nodded he continued. “Well, we have no church, or ministers here on the Reservation. We have been hesitant to invite someone to come from the outside, but this is a perfect arrangement. If he would be willing to be a pastor of sorts, being able to marry people, do the funerals and have a service at least once or twice a month, then we would be able to compensate him with a one time offer. We would not be able to pay him, but he could keep any money that the people that go to church would like to give. It may be a lot, it may not be anything at all. Or he may get beef, or rugs. In turn, we will build three small basic cabins and outfit them for their use with a fireplace and a wood stove for cooking. No running water or bathrooms, but we will insulate them as best as we can. We will help them furnish them, but we can’t promise to do it completely. Also, they will have no electricity, so they will have to figure that out as well. We will, however, make two to three insulated outhouses. Unfortunately, you are going to have to answer for your uncle now. We will want to build those cabins starting tomorrow, and need to” he wasn’t able to even finis his sentence as he could see that both Seth and Rebecca were already nodding their heads vigorously.

 

“Yes, Mr. Bodaway, yes! That would be incredible! We have been wondering how we were going to house them all! We won’t have room at our place as we will be having my brother’s in law and my mother in law coming to live with us, too. This is perfect don’t you think, Rebecca?” Seth looked at Rebecca with a big smile on his face. Jack could tell that this was a great relief for him. They must have talked quite a bit about all of this for him to be so excited about it.

 

Rebecca nodded her head and smiled brightly. Then her smile faded. “But, what if nothing actually happens and they are able to go home. Or they choose not to stay here because of the cold winters and try to make it back to Mexico?” She wondered, her face showing a little fear that the deal might be off.

 

“Then I guess your cousin will have lots of storage space. If she and her husband choose to stay, that is. If they don’t, then we will buy the property back from you, for the same price that you paid the Larson’s. Does that seem fair?” He asked the couple.

 

“Yup, that sure does! Thank you!” Rebecca and Seth were both quiet people, and this was the most that Jack had either of them say. He liked them a lot, and quite frankly, was looking forward to meeting their family.

 

Chatter started to arise among everyone as they discussed the possible future events.

 

Mr. Bodaway held up his hand. “One more thing, people, if I could have your attention for a little while more.”

 

Everyone got quiet as he continued. “We need to discuss out safety.”

 

A murmur went up in the group and finally one of the elders spoke up. “What do you mean, Mr. Bodaway? You don’t think we are safe here?”

 

“Oh, I think we are quite safe, actually. In my opinion, riots will break out in the large cities first. Rebecca, you’ll want to have your family here as soon as possible. When do they arrive in the Cities?” Mr. Bodaway asked, looking at Rebecca.

 

“Tomorrow, or Sunday. My mom talked to my aunt and they left the border sooner than they expected and are driving straight through. They said that there were riots breaking out at the border and they didn’t want to stick around for that. But they’re not due here until Tuesday or Wednesday.” Rebecca answered.

 

“Well, you might want to see if they can come sooner than that. Have your cousin in the cities just pack up and move up here. She might as well leave all of her electronics; she won’t be needing them here except for doorstops. Now,” Mr. Bodaway continued, “about our safety. As I was saying, I think that the riots will break out first in large cities, say like LA, New York, and places like that. Then, places like Duluth. Then Grand Rapids.” The older man paused for effect and looked around the room. There were confused looks, incredible looks, and fearful ones as well.

 

Jack let out a deep breath. “What do you think that will mean for us, Mr. Bodaway? We are quite a few miles away from Grand Rapids, and Duluth is even farther yet. Do you think the riots would spread this far?”

 

Mr. Bodaway shook his head. “The riots? No, not the riots. But after a while, people are going to start leaving the cities and they are going to need somewhere to go. Some will just be trying to get somewhere, and others will be really looking to cause some harm. Now I know that we here at the Reservation are pretty well armed as are the rest of you. But I’m afraid that will not be enough. I would encourage all of you to spend whatever money you plan on spending wisely. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, if you know what I mean. Make sure you have enough food to make it at least through the winter until you can plant again. Get clothing and extra first aid things. But don’t neglect getting ammo and the guns that you know you can use. Seth, you’ll want to make sure that your family has guns. Being missionaries I’m sure they aren’t too familiar with them, so we will do what we can to help you out. Jack, would you and Carol be willing to teach them how to shoot?” He asked looking at Jack.

 

“Yeah, sure, Mr. Bodaway. But do you really think this will all be necessary?” Jack asked. He wasn’t one to be pessimistic, and Carol often told him that he trusted people too much.

 

“Yes,” Mr. Bodaway answered carefully, “unfortunately I do. And more than that, I think that we need to protect ourselves before they can even come close to us.”

 

“Would something like a fence work?” One of the elders asked.

 

“No, I don’t think so,” Andrew Atsidi, the chief of police from the Reservation answered. He and Jack had served together in Iraq. He was a very smart and well-trained man, and although they had never fought together side by side, Jack had heard great stories about his valor and leadership.

 

“Maybe if we set some form of traps, and train our men we can keep most people away. The traps would only hurt those who would be coming at us with malicious intent. We could post signs up that said ‘Stay away or else’ kind of thing. Besides,” he continued, “ I think most people will be wanting to head down south for the winter. Most people know all to well how cold it gets in this part of the state. It’s beautiful, but cold. So we can set traps up, and then later work on training.”

 

Mr. Bodaway nodded his head. “Yes, that might work. But we also all need to train now. Specially the ones that can fight and defend us. The rest of us that are too old, or say like Carol, that is pregnant, well, we will just support you the best way we can. Now Jack, your property is pretty much surrounded by ours. We can do the best that we can to prevent anyone from getting to your property, as well as you, Seth and Rebecca. Atsidi, could you pull out the map?”

 

Andrew pulled out a large piece of paper that he had with him and unrolled it. He stood next to Mr. Bodaway as he continued. “Here is our Reservation,” he said as he pointed at a large ‘C’ formed piece of land. These are the lakes,” he said, pointing at the lakes that were inside of the ‘C’. “Now. Jack, your property is surrounded by ours from the north and west. To the south of you is Lake Emily and to the south of that is the Larson’s farm that as of today will be sold to Rebecca’s family. To the east of Jack’s and Lake Emily and the Larson’s is Seth and Rebecca’s place. What we are proposing to you is that we are willing to help you protect your lands, with the condition that you will help train our people. We have many good hunters, but few are sharp shooters like you all are.”

 

Jack and Seth looked at each other. They had hunted and shot together many times before. They knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses pretty well, so they made a good team.

 

Jack nodded as Seth answered “That sounds like a good deal to us! We will train your people and this way we can all help protect each other!”

 

“That’s the idea!” Andrew said.

 

They talked a while more about the details. Jack looked at his watch. It was getting late and he still wanted to get home. He stood up and excused himself, saying that he didn’t want to be late for supper. Everyone nodded, and they decided to get back together later to plan how things would happen.

 

Jack said his goodbyes and headed for his truck. Mr. Larson caught up to him.

 

“Hey Jack! Wait up!” He said as he walked faster to reach him. Jack stopped and waited for the older man to catch up. “You know that wood stove you helped me with?” He asked, a twinkle in his eye.

 

He waited until Jack nodded before he went on. “Well, I want you and the Missus to have it.” When Jack started to shake his head, knowing that this was a great gift especially given the circumstances, Mr. Larson lifted up his hand. “Now, Jack, don’t argue with me. I’m too old for that. Besides, I can’t take it with me. Mr. Bodaway is buying the rest of them to put into the cabins, but I wanted you to have the best one. He agreed. You have been like a son to us, Jack,” Mr. Larson looked away as his eyes got teary, “now git! You don’t want the Missus getting mad at ya on my account!”

 

“Mr. Larson, I don’t know what to say,” Jack said, his voice full of emotion. He knew the gift was more than just a stove. It was a gift from his heart.

 

“Well, don’t say anything or you gonna make me look like a cry baby. Now git going!” Mr. Larson said as he turned to go back in the house.

 

“Thank you, Mr. Larson. Thank you,” Jack said, and got into his truck.

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CHAPTER 8

 

Jack got home just in time to milk the cows and eat supper. He and Carol had a good arrangement. She would milk the cows in the morning, feed the chickens and the horses and then work at her stay-at-home-job for a few hours while she let Luke play. Jack would come home after work each day, milk the cows, care for the horses and tend to their small garden. Carol hated gardening, but enjoyed the produce of it. Jack enjoyed doing it, but was finding that he was really asking Luke to help a lot, since there was so much work elsewhere to be done.

 

Jack felt bad for Luke. He knew that Carol loved him with her whole heart, but also knew the difficulties that she had with children. She had been the youngest of four siblings, all of whom had moved away to better and higher paying jobs in different areas of the country. She had pretty much been left to herself to be raised, and didn’t have many friends. Jack knew that this is why she liked living in the country so much, she had few friends, but the ones that she had were like family to her. Real family. Jack had encouraged Carol several times to home-school Luke, but she was afraid that she’d mess him up too bad. She figured that maybe he could go to school at the Reservation when he turned seven. That’s when the Reservation took in new students. They wanted to make sure that the kids had plenty of time to play and learn while playing, so they didn’t start school until they were seven years old.

 

Jack figured that things might change for Carol, now that they were going to have these new babies. She really was a loving mother, and enjoyed babies very much. Jack remembered fondly the time that with out knowing it, he came into the room while she was holding baby Luke. She was singing softly to him, a sweet song about how much she loved him and how happy she was to be his mother. Jack had fallen in love with her all over again. This was a very soft side of Carol that he didn’t often see, and he was so glad that he had been able to quietly get their camera and take a picture. Later on he had developed the picture in black and white, and had made a beautiful frame to put it in. He wrapped it in pretty paper as best as he could on her first Mother’s Day, and given it to her, signing it “Love to you always, Jack”. She had received the gift surprised, as Jack wasn’t much of a mushy kind of guy either. She didn’t say much when she opened it, but he could see the tears in her eyes as she quietly thanked him. Later, the picture had appeared next to her side of the bed. He always looked at it with pride, knowing that not only that he had taken a great picture, but he had also touched his wife’s heart.

 

He finished his chores and went inside to clean up for supper. To his surprise, Carol was sitting on the rocking chair with Luke, reading him a book. He washed his hands at the sink and looked back at them.

 

“So how was your day?” He asked, drying his hands.

 

“It was great, Papa! Mother and I went for a picnic on the lake!” Luke answered excitedly.

 

“Oh? Was that fun?” He looked quizzically at Carol.

 

She smiled back at him. “It was a lot of fun. Just Luke and I. We played games, caught our own lunch and even took a nap on the grass, didn’t we, Luke?”

 

Luke nodded his head excitedly. “Yup! And Papa, a rabbit came real close to us today. Mother says that he must of thought that we were part of the grass!” he giggled.

 

Jack smiled. He wasn’t sure what had come over his wife, but he sure did like it. Luke was more excited than he had been in a long time, and Carol’s faced seemed to flush of happiness. Jack walked over to them and gave each of them a kiss.

 

“So,” he asked, “Do you need help with supper?”

 

Luke giggled. “Mother said that we are going to have sandwiches!”

 

Jack looked at Carol surprised. Not that he minded, but they were used to having a bigger meal than just that.

 

Carol nodded. “Yup, sorry hon. I’m just really tired out today, I think the twins are settling down to be born soon.” She put her hand on her bulging stomach. “I can’t wait to meet them,” she said softly.

 

Jack looked at her with a softness in his eyes that he always got when it came to talking about their children “Neither can I,” he answered.

 

They worked together to get supper ready. It didn’t take long since it was only sandwiches, and they were soon cleaning up the dishes. Jack told Luke that he could go out and play, more than anything to get a chance to talk to Carol.

 

“Are you feeling ok?” Jack asked Carol, trying to be careful in how he sounded. He didn’t want to offend her.

 

“Yes, I’m fine,” Carol responded. “Just a little tired. It gets tiresome carrying two babies all the time, Jack!” She smiled at him. “But I’m glad I took the day easy today, and was able to spend so much of it with Luke. He really is a neat kid. I feel like I have isolated him, expecting him to behave older than what he is. And now that the twins are almost here, I want to make up for that. Luke will no longer be my little boy, as I’m going to need him to grow up and be a big helper. So today I just wanted to take the time to enjoy him at six years old, and do whatever he wanted to do. That’s why there was no real supper today. I hope you don’t mind.”

 

“Mind? Carol, I’m very happy that you were able to spend this time with him,” Jack said as he moved back a lock of hair that hair that had fallen in front of her eyes. “I will gladly eat sandwiches for weeks, or make supper myself if it means that the two of you enjoy each other so much!” He leaned towards her and kissed her on the lips. “I love you,” he whispered.

 

“I love you, too, Jack. You are a wonderful father and husband, even if you do shoot better than I do!” She ended playfully. Carol was very competitive, even when it came to Jack.

 

Jack smiled. He dearly loved this woman, even if she sometimes seemed to do everything as good or better than he did.

 

Jack’s face got serious as he thought about the meeting he had had with the elders and his neighbors that afternoon.

 

“Something wrong?” Carol asked.

 

Jack recounted with as many details as he could remember the events of that afternoon. They discussed the issues for a little while, and what it could all mean for them and their future.

 

Carol put her hand on her stomach. “Well, if they are right, and Mr. Bodaway usually is, then we better listen to them and do as they say. What’s the worst that can happen if they are wrong? We can take some stuff back, or what we can’t, we’ll just have to trade for something else. How much money do we have put away?”

 

Jack shook his head. “Not as much as I’d like us to have. But I would say that about $5000 if we pull everything together.”

 

Carol nodded her head thoughtfully. “Wait here,” she said as she went back to their bedroom. A few minutes later she came back to the kitchen with a wad of cash in her hand. “Here, I want you to take this, and add it to the $5000.”

 

Jack looked at the money. “Your mad money? Are you sure? I thought you were saving it for something special. Carol, you’ve been saving for years! I can’t take that now!” Jack protested.

 

“No, Jack, you have to. What good is a wad of cash gonna do me if I can’t feed my family or clothe my babies? Take it, and don’t argue. There should be about $3000 or so in there. Make sure that you buy enough ammo and guns, but I sure would appreciate you buying me some diapers as well. If things really get as bad as they are predicting, I’m not going to want to spend all my time washing diapers by hand. When you buy them, buy different sizes and some clothing too. Now we don’t need boy clothing since we’ve got Luke’s old clothes, but if there are girls in here we are going to need something for them. I’ll go garage-saleing tomorrow, and you can take Luke with you to Duluth and buy what ever you need there. I want to stop by the Larson’s and talk to them, too. I’m sad that they are leaving, though I must say that I’m glad it’s Rebecca’s family that is coming to live next to us. It could be a lot worse, you know, specially given the circumstances.”

 

Jack nodded. It could be a lot worse. They could not know anything, or worse yet, be the “give-me, give-me” kind. Jack hopped that Rebecca was right and they were the hard working kind. It would be nice to have other Christians around them, and he was hoping that Carol could become friends with some of the women. She had no close friends, and Jack wished there was something he could do about that. Maybe she could teach the women some shooting and fishing, and they could teach her some of the finer points of home-making.

 

Jack and Carol finished cleaning up and called Luke back in to the house. They wanted to spend a fun evening together as a family before things got too out of hand. They played games and ate ice cream, which was a special treat for them. Luke had a special glow in his eyes. Jack knew that they didn’t do this as often as they should, and was glad for the opportunity to show Luke how much he meant to them.

 

They all went to bed early that night, and though Jack would have liked to ‘know’ his wife in the way that Adam ‘knew’ Eve, he held her close instead. He knew that she was very uncomfortable as it was, being over eight months pregnant, and didn’t want to be inconsiderate. He enjoyed holding her close until they fell asleep.

 

The next day, after their morning chores and breakfast was done, they got ready to leave. The plan was for Jack to take the truck and the trailer, and go to Duluth to buy supplies that they would need. He would be taking Luke with him and this would allow Carol to go to Grand Rapids to and hit the garage sales and other stores to get some supplies from there.

 

Jack and Luke would be stopping by the Larson’s to say good-bye. The Larsons where anxious to get to Florida and get settled there before every thing went south. Jack pulled the truck around to the front of the house and found Carol holding Luke tightly.

 

“Now you be a good boy for your Papa, ya hear me son?” She asked looking into his eyes.

 

Luke nodded his head, “Yes, Ma’am.” He replied.

 

“And remember what I told you, ok? No matter what.” She said as she held him tight again and kissed his little head. She turned to Jack and gave him as close a hug as she could, with her stomach getting in between them. “Now you be careful, ok, Jack? I want you home before sundown. You bring back my boy safe. Don’t go around playing ‘Rambo’ out there. We don’t know how bad things are going to get or how quick, and I’d rather not face this with out you. Besides. These babies are going to need lots of lovin’, and I know that you can do that for them.” She reached out and caressed his face. She put her arms around his neck and kissed him.

 

“We’ll be fine,” Jack assured her. “Be careful yourself, and be sure to take care of those babies of ours, ok?” He said and then leaned in for one more kiss. “I love you!”

 

“I love you, too, Jack. Luke? I love you, son. Have a good day, ok? Oh! I almost forgot. Here,” she said as she put some cash in the boy’s hands. Treat your Papa to an ice cream cone somewhere, ok? There’s enough in there for one for you, too.” She winked at him.

 

“Thank you, Mother! Thank you very much!” Luke said wrapping his little arms as tight as he could around her legs. Wow. Ice cream two days in a row, this was quite a treat for Luke.

 

“If there is money leftover, you may buy some hard candy and bring it home for special treats, ok?” Carol said.

 

Jack glanced at the money in the boy’s hand and smiled. Oh, there would be money left over for sure. He smiled at Carol. She must have known that candy would be something that they could give Luke in tough times to make them easier. They normally didn’t allow him to eat much, but he was allowed some on special occasions.

 

Jack and Luke each gave Carol one more hug and a kiss, and then took off to say good-bye to the Larsons. This was also a tearful goodbye, as they had really grown fond of each other over the years.

 

“I’m leaving you my butter making supplies, Jack,” Mrs. Larson said, “Make sure you give them to Carol with this book. It has taught me everything I know about making butter. If I can do it, then so can she. I’m also leaving you our supply of winter food. There is no way that we can take it with us, and this will also help you have extra canning supplies for next summer. We agreed to sell everything on the farm to Rebecca, but I told her that I was going to give you those things. She agreed, since you are the one that provides us with the milk to make the butter anyway!”

 

Mr. Larson had his own parting gifts. “I pulled what I had two of in my garage and put it into some boxes for you to take home, there are over there by the stove. You can come and pick them up later,” he said. “Mostly tools and such. But there are also seeds, the kind that you can plant and then get seeds from what ya get. Ya know what I mean?” He asked Jack, hoping Jack would understand.

 

Jack nodded. “We sure do appreciate all of this, Mr. and Mrs. Larson. I’m not even sure what to say. Thank you, thank you so much!” He said, his voice filled with emotion.

 

“Well, that’s all ya gotta say, son,” Mrs. Larson said. “Now come on over here and give me a hug.” Jack gave her a big bear hug and then turned to Mr. Larson. No words would come to him, and it was a good thing, as he didn’t trust his voice.

 

Mr. Larson struck is hand and shook Jack’s. “Ah, come over here, ya big goon,” Mr. Larson said as he embraced Jack. The two hugged and then pulled back, a little embarrassed. “Now if you go telling anyone that I cried when I left, I’ll come up all the way from Florida and give you a likin’, ya hear?”

 

Jack chuckled, his eyes filled with tears. “Well, I won’t if you don’t!”

 

Luke gave each of the Larsons a big hug. They were like grandparents to him, and he had enjoyed their friendship very much.

 

Jack and Luke took off, and made the two-hour trek to Duluth. While there, they shopped at all the specialty shops that they didn’t have in Grand Rapids. They were able to buy extra canning equipment, jars, lids, and all that went with it. They found a Church garage sale that they just couldn’t pass up. While there, they found a great deal on linens, and Jack decided to buy them all, even though they weren’t all the size for what they needed. They were cheap, and he was sure that the material could be used for other stuff if needed. There was also a bunch of big garbage bags, filled with yarn of all kinds. The lady said that they even had wool in there. He took five bags. He saw a ton of used notebooks and school supplies. The notebooks only had a few pages that were used, so he bought a bunch of those as well.

 

“Papa, look! Is this one of those old sewing machines that your Mama used to use?” Luke said as Jack approached him.

 

Jack couldn’t believe it. “Sure enough, son, that’s one just like it.” He bought that too, grateful to know that someone was coming that would know what to do with it. He was glad to see that extra replacement parts came with it, as he knew that those would be hard to find. He was able to buy a few bags of material and just hoped that he was getting the right thing.

 

They came to the shoes part, and found that a family of all boys had donated their shoes. Jack bought all the boots in all the sizes that he could, thinking of Luke. They’d have to figure out something for the twins later. He also bought Luke some ‘good’ shoes, since now they were actually be going to church, since there would be a church close to them.

 

Jack was very grateful for the garage sale. He spent several hundred dollars there, and the church people were grateful to him.

 

They took off from there, and went to Dairy Queen. They had their special treat there, and then went to Costco to buy some other things. Jack was able to buy a couple of buckets with a mop squeezer on them. He figured that these would help with the washing of clothes, since they wouldn’t be able to use the washing machine. He wondered how Carol was going to like washing clothes by hand.

 

At the stores, especially Costco, Jack found that people were a little anxious. He found that a lot of them were buying water, batteries, and canned food. He overheard a man talking on his cell phone about what else to buy. He had all canned food, some medications and bottled water. Jack wondered how long the food would last. He thought of encouraging the man to buy more staples, like beans, rice and pasta, but thought better of it when he heard the man swearing at whoever was on the other side. Jack knew he didn’t have to worry about grains, as that was something he bartered with the Reservation for.

 

“Grain mill,” he said out loud. “I need to get a grain mill.” He made a mental note to stop by a special store that he knew of that sold stuff like that later.

 

They hit a few more spots, including the store that Jack had wanted to go to, and then headed back. It was soon going to get dark, and they wanted to be home before that.

 

Luke fell asleep on the way home, allowing Jack time to think. He thought about all the things Mr. Bodaway had said before. Would things really get that bad? Well, Jack knew that Mr. Bodaway had very interesting connections with people in authority, so he thought that he probably knew what he was talking about. Jack wondered who the mysterious ‘friend’ from the White House was. Maybe he’d ask Mr. Bodaway some time.

 

As they turned off the highway onto the road that led to their home, Jack saw smoke in the distance. Confused, he stepped on the gas to get to the source of the fire faster.

 

His heart started beating harder and faster as he heard sirens coming from where ever the fire was. He shook his head. No, he thought. It couldn’t be.

 

His eyes betrayed the truth as he turned onto the road that went to their home. There were several police cars, fire trucks and an ambulance blocking the rest of the way to his house. Jack sped up until he reached them and jumped out of his truck. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. His home was on fire!

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*WARNING- this chapter contains some violence!*

 

CHAPTER 9

 

 

Joy and Victoria hit a few more stores before meeting up with Dave again. They were able to get some more stuff that they wanted, like a couple sets of FRS/GMRS radios that were supposed to be compatible with other radios like them and had at least a 14-mile range. They also found an ‘Old Fashioned’ hardware store, where they were able to buy supplies that they hadn’t even thought of. Dave was able to buy some glasses at a 2-for-1 sale, and then they headed home. They agreed that Dave would stay home and pack as much stuff into the U-haul as possible, and Joy would take Victoria to the airport to pick up Roger and Marie. This way Dave could be home in case her parents and the rest of the family arrived. Dave and Joy transferred what was in the minivan to the U-haul to make space for the luggage that Roger and Marie were going to bring.

 

They said their good byes and Joy and Victoria took off. Half way to the airport, Joy’s cell phone rang.

 

“Your phone is ringing, Mommy!” Victoria said. She had been very quiet all day. Joy wondered if she could sense how tense they were.

 

“I know, Sweetie, thank you!” Joy turned off the radio and answered her phone.

 

It was Dave. “Hi hon. I know you’re driving, so I’ll keep this short. Roger and Marie have arrived, and will wait for you at the pick up and drop off location. Just look for them in the American Airlines section. Ok?”

 

“Ok, hon. Thanks for letting me know!” Joy answered.

 

“I love you! Bye.”

 

“Love you too, bye.” Joy knew that Dave never hung up the phone until the other person did.

 

Joy finally told Victoria about whom they were going to see. Victoria got really excited often, and sometimes would ask Joy over and over again the same question. Joy wanted to make sure she could pay attention to her driving, as she knew that people were starting to get a little tense. She wasn’t sure if it was the time of day or if it was because of what was going on everywhere.

 

They pulled up to the meeting place and saw Marie right away. Joy was so excited to see her sister again, that she was having a tough time containing her excitement.

 

She parked and got out of the car, taking her keys with her.

 

“Marie!” Joy said as she gave her a hug, “It’s so good to see you!”

 

“Oh, man, it’s so good to see you!” Marie said. “You have no idea how happy we are to be here!” She reached out her hand to a tall, thin black man, wearing a thin pair of glasses. Joy recognized him right away from the pictures Marie had sent.

 

“Joy, this is Roger. Roger, my sister, Joy”. Marie said, with obvious pride.

 

Roger struck out his hand to shake Joy’s, but Joy gave him a hug instead. “C’mon! We’re family now,” she said. “I am so happy to finally meet you.”

 

Roger smiled. “And it is very good to meet you,” he said in a thick African accent. Joy knew not to be fooled by his accent. This man was a genius! Aside from being a doctor and he spoke more than a half a dozen languages.

 

“Where is my little-red-head?” Marie asked as she went to the other side of the van.

 

As Marie hugged Victoria in her car seat, Roger and Joy put the luggage in the back. Well, mostly Roger as it was all very heavy. Joy saw two big bags made out of African material that she had seen before.

 

“Are these what I think they are?” Joy asked Roger.

 

He smiled at her. “Yes,” he whispered, “but you are not supposed to know. They are a surprise.”

 

Joy nodded her head and laughed softly. Her sister had brought a real African drum for their nephew, Allen last year. Joy had loved playing it, and hopefully one of these was for her.

 

When Marie finally decided where she wanted to sit, they took off for home. Roger in front with Joy, and Marie in back, enjoying her niece. Roger and Joy talked small talk, knowing that the real heavy stuff would have to wait until little ears were out of hearing distance.

 

Joy’s cell phone rang, and she handed it to Roger. She knew by the ring tone that it was Dave, and wanted to surprise him.

 

“Hello?” Roger said, and then paused. “Ah, yes! Hello, David. How are you? Good, good…yes, our trip was, well, let us just say that we are glad to be here. Uh-huh. Okay, I will tell her that. That is good news. We are happy that they are here. Okay. We will see you soon, David. Good bye.”

 

He hung up the phone and returned it to Joy. He turned to look at Marie, and then Joy. “Your parents are here! David said that they had just arrived.”

 

“Who’s here, Mommy?” Victoria asked from the back seat.

 

“Gramps and Nana honey! Isn’t that exciting? They came all the way from Mexico!” Joy said, trying to focus on the road.

 

“Gramps and Nana? YEAH!” Squealed Victoria.

 

“And you know who else?” her Auntie asked.

 

Victoria shook her head no. “Who?” she asked excitedly.

 

“Auntie Ann, Tío Juan, Leslie and Allen!” Marie told her.

 

None of them could wait to get home. They talked excitedly about the reunion that was unprecedented, but there was a caution in the adults’ voices. They all knew that things weren’t going well, and that life might not be too exciting in the days, months, or maybe even years to come.

 

They finally got to Joy’s home and pulled into the front parking lot where Joy had seen the big U-haul truck. She parked and everyone got out excitedly.

 

Liz and Ed, Ann and her family were all there. Tired, but there. They all hugged each other tightly, glad to see everyone. Then Joy saw a man that seemed to be part of the group, but that Joy didn’t know.

 

Leslie saw that she had noticed him and motioned for him to go over to her. They walked towards Joy hand in hand.

 

“Joy, this is my boyfriend, Marco.” Leslie said shyly. Marco stretched out his hand to Joy. Ah, so this is Marco, Joy thought. This relationship had been controversial in the family, as Marco at 30 years old was older than Joy, and Leslie was barely 18.

 

“Nice to finally meet you, Joy! I’ve heard a lot about you!” He said with a smile.

 

Joy shook his hand and was surprised when he came towards her and kissed her cheek. She’d been gone from Mexico too long! She remembered that most of the time people kissed each other when they greeted. Well, girls with girls and guys with girls, that is. In some social circles it was common to see guys kissing each other, too. Not the circles that Joy hung out with though.

 

Dave got everyone’s attention. “Why don’t we all go inside, and we’ll show you where you will be staying.”

 

They all followed Dave as the chatter continued. Joy found Liz and pulled her aside.

 

“Mom! How come you didn’t tell me about Marco coming? It would have been nice to know!” Joy said.

 

“You didn’t know? Oh, I’m so sorry, honey, I thought I had told you. He’s been with us all along!” She laughed. “And he really is no problem. He is such a getleman, and has helped us tremendously.”

 

“So how did they let him across the border?” Joy asked.

 

“Marco? Oh, he’s an American citizen, didn’t you know?” Liz looked surprised.

 

They talked a bit more as they made their way to the apartments. Dave had put all the airbeds in there that they had bought, but hadn’t blown them up. Everyone put their stuff down and took turns using the bathrooms.

 

Dave approached Joy and told her he was going to go downstairs to get the pizzas that he had ordered for everyone. Joy nodded and gave him a quick hug.

 

After supper, they all filed in to Joy’s apartment. Joy served icecream for everyone, and then after some good laughter and catching up, Dave and Joy put Victoria to sleep. It was way past her bed time, but it was a special occasion. Victoria went around and gave kisses to evryone, and then made one more round to give hugs.

 

Once Dave and Joy had prayed for her, she fell asleep. Dave and Joy went back to their living-room and sat to talk with everyone else. The mood had sombered quite a bit, and you could feel the tension in the air. Joy knew at once that they had been talking about what might come.

 

Ed spoke up when they walked in. “Can we watch some news?” He wondered.

 

Dave nodded. “Sure,” He turned the TV on, as it was already close to the news time. But not close enough, as there was a sitcome playing. Dave muted it so they could talk while they waited for the news.

 

Joy turned to Marie and Roger. “So how was your trip?”

 

Roger and Marie looked at eachother. “Well,” Marie said, “not the best trip I’ve ever had! The flight itself was fine, but man, the airports were horrible! Have they said anything in the news about them not letting people from other countries come to the States?” She continued as everyone nodded. “Well, they almost didn’t let Roger come. We had problems in Senegal and in Portugal. One lady in Portugal insisted that he didn’t have the right papers and that he needed to go back home. Well we knew that his papers were in order, and that he should be able to come fine. We finally talked to the lady’s boss and he let him come. He said something like ‘Hey, if that’s what you want, then fine!’ Remember I called you from Portugal and told you that the airport seemed ok?” she asked, looking at Joy. Joy nodded.

 

“Well, everything was ok where we were. After talking to a few people, we found out that a lot of the them were American, and were being kicked out of the country. Either of Portugal or whatever country they were coming from. Then as we headed towards our gate to leave and we could hear a lot of people yelling and screeming. It was down right out scary. I didn’t understand everything, but then they started to chant ‘Let us go, let us go!’ in Portuguese.” Marie shook her head. “It really was scary!”

 

“Did you have any problems getting into the States, Roger?” Juan asked.

 

Roger shook his head. “No, man. I had no problems at all. Just trying to get here was the problem.”

 

Juan nodded his head. “It was the same for me. I also have all my papers in order, but the Mexican officials almost didn’t let me leave the country. The only reason they did was because my wife and kids are American,” he said as he nodded towards Ann and their kids. “And of course Marco here has dual citizenship!” He said as he pocked him jockingly.

 

They disscoused the riots that they had heard at the border and how they had gotten worse over the next few days.

 

“Well, the riots were probably happening because so many people living at the border have jobs in the States,” Juan continued. “I know that a lot of them cross the border everyday, and then go back home to Mexico. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying that that’s the way it is. And those soldiers from N. Korea and China were sure kind of scary, weren’t they?”

 

All the ones that had come from Mexico nodded. Nobody knew what was going to happen next, but they sure wanted to be ready for it. They weren’t even sure if they would be able to go back to the countries that they had come from.

 

“Well, it’s 10:00 pm. Should we watch the news?” Joy asked.

 

Everyone nodded. Dave pushed the mute button to get the sound back on.

 

“and I’m Don Shelby. Thanks for inviting us into your home tonight.” The main anchor said. The screen changed and showed the face of the other anchor, Sandra Kilman.

 

“The White House was scrambling today to find out why thousands and thousands of Americans are being forced to leave other countries and being sent back to the States. At the same time, these countries are asking for extensive military help. They are having massive rioting in the large cities mostly near the international airports. The spokesman of the White House is now admitting that those riots are probably being caused by the fact that these said countries are not allowing their people to come to the States. Later on tonight we will take you live to a news conference at the White House.”

 

The face of the White House spokesman appeared on TV. It looked like it had been recorded earlier. He said just what the anchor had just reported, then it looked like it was cut short.

 

“We will be taking you back to this story in a few minutes, but first, we have a breaking story coming in. Jason Peterson takes us live to downtown St. Paul, where a protest is starting to take place. Jason?” Don said.

 

The screen showed Jason, one of the reporters, holding his hand to his hear, and shouting into the microphone. “Don, about a half hour ago a group of angry immigrants started meeting here in front of the capitol building holding up signs and banners. Most of the banners say “LET THEM IN!” as you can see behind me. It started very peacefully as people from many different countries started assembling. We were not aware that this was going to happen, and apperantly neither were the police. As you can see over there,” Joshua paused for the camara to show what he was talking about, “they are just now arriving.”

 

The crowd behind Jason was starting to get louder, and it seemed like, angrier. “LET THEM IN! LET THEM IN!” they chanted.

 

The screen split in two, showing Don and Jason at the same time.

 

“What are they trying to do, Jason? Are they not aware that it is their countries that are not allowing their friends and family members in?” Don asked.

 

There was a long pause as Jason liestened to the question. “No, Don, apperantly not. I talked with a woman from Vietnam earlier and she said that the US wasn’t allowing her mother to come for the delivery of her first baby. She was pretty upset, as was her husband. I asked them what her mother had told them was the reason for not being able to come. She said that even though they had gotten all of her papers in order, the US was refusing to let her to come.”

 

The screen showed Don Shelby again, as he shook his head. “Alright, Jason. We’ll come back to you later, and see how things are going. But now,” he said as he talked to the camara again, “we will be taking you live to the White House where a late night conference is taking place.”

 

“Good evening,” said the White House representative, standing in front of an American flag, “and thank you for being here tonight. As many of you know; a lot, if not most, of the countries in the world are for some reason not letting their people into the US. At this time there are protests in the larger cities around the States rising up, claiming that it is the US that is not allowing the immigrants or visitors in. Let me clarify this. Our foreign policies have not changed. Anyone that has the proper papers is welcome to come to the US. On the contrary, it is these same countries that are asking Americans to leave and come back to American soil.”

 

He paused for a second as he looked at the reporters before him and then continued. “Also, the President has personally asked me to request that all Americans prepare for the worst. We don’t know what the intentions are of these countries by boycotting the Unied States, but be assured that your government and local officials are doing their best to keep us all safe. After 9/11 we have not been able to locate some missles and warheads that were intended for American soil. Make sure that you have at least a week’s supply of food, water and medicine, and that your family has a plan to meet up again in case you get separated. This is all for tonight. Thank you.” The room errupted into chaos as reporters shouted out questions that would go unanswered.

 

Don Shelby came back on to the screen. “Well, that was certainly enlightning! We will now take you back to down town St. Paul, where Jason has new developments on this new story. Jason?”

 

Jason had moved form the last place he had been at. It seemed to Joy that it was safer where he was at now. Things had escalated quickly. Some fires had been started and a car had been turned over, as the police looked like they were having a tough time keeping everything in order. Jason still had a hand over his ear, and had to shout into the microphone while he spoke. Joy lost track of what Jason was saying. She was to busy watching what was going on behind him. She wondered if anyone else was catching this, as she couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

 

There, behind Jason on his right side, was a mob that was not chanting, not even marching, but fighting. Joy strained to see what was happening. She looked at her family around her and hoped that she was wrong. Then, as she looked back at the screen she realized that she wasn’t making this up. A Middle-Eastern looking man approached Jason from behind and slit his throat. Jason collapsed, and the camara soon followed.

 

Not even a second later, Don Shelby’s face was filling the screen again. He looked horrified and confused, but tried to to put on his best profesional look. “Uh, we’ll be right back.” And then, commercials.

 

Dave muted the TV, and there was silence in the room. Nobody could believe what had just happened. Finally, Joy spoke up. “Can you rewind it, Dave?” she asked. One of the perks of working for the apartment complex was free Cable. The Cable company provided the workers of the apartment complex with free cable in exchange for names and addreses of the people moving in. It was a win-win situation. Dave and Joy had lucked out by getting a full package, including a DVR.

 

Dave nodded his head and rewound it until Jason came back on the screen. Everyone watched intensly as fighting occoured behind Jason’t back. You could bearly hear what Jason was saying, as the noise behind him grew. Then, the man came behind him and slit his throat. Don came on again, and then commercials. Dave muted it again.

 

“Well, I don’t need to see that again,” Liz said.

 

“I’m sorry Mom,” Joy said. “I just couldn’t believe that it was happening!”

 

“I know honey. What I meant is that I don’t want to see that happening ever again in my life.” Liz responded.

 

Everyone remained quiet for a little while as they processed what had just happened. Joy wondered what they would say next on the news. She didn’t have to wonder for long as Sandra, the other anchor, appeared on the screen.

 

“Thank you for staying with us. Paul Benson has now joined us to give us a weather update. Humid night out there isn’t it, Paul?”

 

Everyone in the living room groaned. “Aren’t they going to say anything about what just happened?” Allen asked, looking around at everyone.

 

Paul Benson showed up on the screen. “Yes, it is, Sandra, and it will continue this way all through tomorrow morning. After an early shower it should-”. He never got to finish the sentence as Dave muted him.

 

“I don’t know about you guys, but I think we need to do some serious talking here.” Dave said.

 

Ed nodded. “Yes, I agree. Things are starting to look as bad here as they were at the border. We didn’t see anyone get their throat slit at the border. Not that it didn’t happen, it’s just that we didn’t see it. I’m not normally a pessimist, but I sure hope you all brought enough clothes to stay for a while. If they aren’t letting Americans go back to the countries that they were living in, then we are going to have to do some serious talking and praying.”

 

“You mean we might not be able to go back?” Leslie asked incredulous.

 

“Oh, I’m sure maybe some day, but who knows how soon, honey.” Liz answered. “We need to think about what we want to do as a family. Should it be each individual family on their own? Or should we stick together as a group? I’d prefer that, but I’m not sure what we can do. We can’t stay here forever. For one thing, Dave doesn’t even work here anymore. For another, I’m not sure I want to be this close to the ‘action’.” She said with concern in her voice.

 

“I think we can take a vote,” Roger said, “but I agree with you, Liz. We should all stick together.” Several of the family members nodded their heads.

 

“Well, I don’t know about you all, but I can go back,” Juan said smuggly.

 

“What, are you planning on leaving us here?” Ann asked him, a little shocked.

 

“Well, no, not necessarily. I just thought I’d point that out.” He answered, trying to back paddle on what he had just said.

 

“Well, so can I,” Roger said. “But like you did with Ann, I promised Marie that I’d be with her in good times and in bad times and I don’t intend to go back on that promise.” Joy saw the angered look cross between Juan and Roger. It was no secret that Juan and Ann hadn’t always gotten along that well. They had been close to divorce several times, mostly due to Juan treating Ann as his personal boxing bag. They separated maybe two or three times each year, and Joy had wondered about her oldest sister’s mental capabilities. Why did she stay with him? Joy had asked her once, and Ann had looked at her sadly. “Because unfortunatly, I love him. I made a choice to marry him, and now, I want to do all I can to make our relationship work. And I will stay with him because I am being as faithful as I can be. Now please know that I will not ever tolorate him ever hitting me again. And he knows that.” Joy hoped Ann would always remember that.

 

Joy cleared her throat to ease the tension. “Well, how many of us say we should stick together?” She said as she raised her hand. Everyone followed. Juan was the last one, reluctantly raising his hand.

 

“Ok, now how ‘bout-” Joy never got to finish her question as the phone rang.

 

Dave rolled his eyes and went to answer it. He looked at the caller ID and then at Joy. “It’s my sister.” He said flatly. He hesitated before answering, as talking to her usually meant that she wanted something from him.

 

“I’ll take it in the room,” he said, and dissapeared down the hallway.

 

“Can you turn the volume back on?” Marie asked. “The news is back.”

 

Joy reached to get the remote and turned the volume back up.

 

Don Shelby’s face was on the screen, white as death. “Thank you for tuning back in. For all of the callers and viewers that are concerned for Jason, our camara man has reported that he’s ok,” he lied. “Thank you for your concern. Now to end tonight’s news, we want to take you live to Washigton DC, where our affiliate there is catching another impromptu gathering.”

 

The screen filled up with thousands of people gathering in one of the major streets of DC. Most of the people sounded angry, and it looked like this time there was a mix of Americans and other nationalities. The camara spun, showing the police dressed in black with helmets on and carring huge shield’s, trying to hold the crowd back. Suddenly, someone from the crowd threw something in the air and it landed among the policemen. A couple seconds later there was a loud explosion and several policemen were thrown into the air. You could here a loud gasp coming from Sandra Kilman.

 

The screen changed once more to show both Sandra and Don as their faces betrayed the confidence they were trying to show. “Thank you for joining us tonight,” Don said, his hands shaking. “The Late Show is next”.

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Guest Guest

CHAPTER 10

 

Jack stood there dumbfounded. He didn’t realize that he was yelling Carol’s name. One of the firemen came to him and tried to get his attention.

 

“Jack. Jack!” Ben Tiller yelled, pulling on Jack’s arm. Ben and Jack had been friends since childhood. They didn’t see each other much, but they thought highly of one another.

 

Jack realized what was happening. He looked at Ben desperately. “Ben, where is Carol? Where is Carol?”

 

“She’s been taken to the hospital, Jack. Now Jack listen to me. Where is Luke? We haven’t been able to find Luke!” Ben responded.

 

“Luke? He’s, he’s in the truck. He was with me. We were in Duluth.” Jack’s voice trailed off. “Is she ok? Where is she at? I need to get there now!”. Jack said, heading back to his truck.

 

“Now just wait a minute, Jack. You are in no condition to drive,”Ben countered. “Look at you! You are about to loose your mind!”

 

“Well, wouldn’t you?” Jack retorted angrily. “Where is she? I need to get to her!” he shouted.

 

“I’m sorry, Jack. Come with me. I’ll take you there myself.” Ben started to head to his truck and Jack began to follow.

 

“Papa? What’s happening, Papa?” Luke called out to Jack.

 

“Luke!” Jack spun quickly to look at his son, feeling guilty for almost forgetting him and leaving him there. “Come here son,” Jack picked him up in his strong arms and carried him to Ben’s truck. There was no need to carry Luke, but Jack needed as much comfort as he could get.

 

They rode in silence to the only hospital in Grand Rapids. Ben turned on his siren to make sure that they would be able to get there as soon as possible. Once there, Ben went into the hospital with them and led the way to where Carol was at. It seemed to Jack that these hallways were longer than ever, and that everyone seemed to be staring at them. His mind was racing, not knowing what to think. Was Carol ok? Would the twins make it?

 

Just before reaching the ER, Ben grabbed Jack by the elbow. “Hey Jack,” he said as casually as he could, “can I show Luke a really cool fire-engine truck that they are selling in the gift shop?”

 

Jack looked confused, then relieved. “Wow, that would be fun!” he said with as much excitement as he could muster up. “Would you like that, Luke?”

 

Luke searched his father’s eyes and then finally nodded. “Yes, Papa.” He answered so quietly that the older men almost missed it.

 

Ben took Luke by the hand and led him away. Jack watched them dissapear around the corner, hearing Ben tell Luke how this truck was as close as they could get to the real thing.

 

Jack took a deep breath and approached a nurse. “Excuse me, Ma’am, I’m looking for Carol Daniels?”

 

“Carol Daniels?” The nurse repeated as she looked in her clipboard. “Ah, here she is.” She said, and then her face dropped. “She’s, um, she’s in the second door to your left,” she continued, pointing towards the right direction.

 

Jack managed to mumble a thank you and then approached the room cautiously. There were several doctor’s and nurses in the room, not allowing Jack to even get a glimps of Carol. He stood at the entrance of the door until a nurse noticed him standing there.

 

“I’m sorry, sir. I’m going to have to close this door.” She said, closing the door behind her. Jack sank into a chair next to the door and ran his fingers through his hair. What was happening in there? Why was this happening? Was Carol ok? He couldn’t stand it any longer, and just as he stood up to open the door again, the nurse opened the door and turned to face him.

 

“Sir, are you related to Carol Daniels?” She asked quickly.

 

Jack could only nod his head.

 

“Dr. Bellmont, we have a relative of the patient here” she called back into the room.

 

Dr. Bellmont came out of the room as Jack tried in vain to see his wife. The doctor led him away from the room a few paces and asked Jack to sit down again.

 

“So you are a relative of Ms. Daniels?” he asked after he took a seat next to Jack.

 

Jack nodded. “I’m her husband,” he was able to manage after he found his voice.

 

“Good, that’s good.” The doctor said with a somber face. “Mr. Daniels, I’m afraid I have some very bad news. I’m not sure yet what happened, but your wife is dying quickly of Carbon Monoxide poisining.”

 

“Carbon Monoxide?” Jack repeated, even though he knew what the doctor meant.

 

The doctor nodded. “Too much smoke inhalation. She must of passed out because of lack of oxygen. When we took the ultrasound it showed that her lungs were already taxed with the twins she is carrying, and the smoke must have knocked her out. Now I want you to listen to me very carefully. We probably won’t be able to save her, Mr. Daniels,” he paused as Jack groaned in pain, his heart breaking to a million pieces inside of him.

 

The doctor raised his voice to make himself heard. “But Mr. Daniels, we might be able to save the twins. Do you want us to save the twins?” he asked as clearly as he could, forcing Jack to look at him. “I’m afraid we have very little time, sir, and I need an answer now.”

 

It took all the strength that Jack had just to nod his head. “Yes,” he whispered as loudly as he could.

 

“Ok, that’s all I needed to know.” The doctor stood up quickly and left Jack to return to the room where Carol was. Jack could hear him shouting orders as he went in. “Ok, people, let’s move. We’ve got some babies to save!”

 

Jack put his face into his hands and sobbed. His body felt more pain than he had ever felt in his entire life as he felt it shaking out of control. The room seemed to be spinning a hundred miles around him as he tried to grasp what was happening. He tried to get up, but his legs refused to obey his mind’s command. He had to see Carol!

 

“Jack? Jack!” Jack looked up to see Seth and Rebecca rushing towards him.

 

Jack managed to get up, but just as he did, his legs gave out from under him. Seth caught him on one side, and Rebecca soon got to the other side of him.

 

“Easy does it, now partner,” Seth said, as they slowly eased him down back into the chair.

 

Jack complied and sat back down in the chair. He put his elbows on his legs and looked down as Rebecca and Seth took a seat, one on each side of him. Tears started to roll down his face again, dissapearing into his short beard.

 

“Are you ok, Jack? Mr. Bodaway called us and told us what happened. I’m so sorry Jack!” Rebecca put her hand on Jack’s arm.

 

Jack shook his head. “They don’t think they can save her. They don’t think they can save Carol!” Sobbs started to take his body again as he buried his face in his hands.

 

Seth and Rebecca looked puzzeled at eachother. “Carol?” Seth asked. “Carol was in the house?”

 

Jack slowly nodded his head. Later on he would find out that Rebecca had seen Carol last at the Larson’s farm saying goodbye. The Larson’s had left later that day, and Rebecca had assumed that Carol had gone to do the garage saleing that she had said she was going to do. Apperantly Carol hadn’t felt up for it and gone home instead. She had put water on to boil to make tea for herself, and sat down on the recliner. Soon she had fallen asleep and the unattended stove had caught on fire. The firemen were able to get to Carol before the flames did, as Mr. Bodaway saw the smoke from across the lake where they were starting to build the cabins. But it was too late. Carol had already inhaled too much smoke, and she was too far gone before she even got to the hospital. They were able to keep her alive long enough for Jack to arrive and make the decision to save the twins.

 

Jack couldn’t seem to stop from crying. Finally the tears ended as deep grief came over him. He couldn’t think. He sat there for a long time, his head pounding, his heart feeling like it couldn’t go on. Seth and Rebecca just sat there with him quietly.

 

Jack looked up suddenly as he heard the door to Carol’s room open. Two nurses went in with two small beds on wheels. After they went in, another nurse came out, looking up and down the hallway.

 

“Jack Daniels?” She called out.

 

Seth stood up and answered “He’s over here,” and then sat back down.

 

The nurse came and bent her knees to look at Jack. His eyes were blood shot, and he could bearly make out the features on her face, but the words she spoke next he knew he would never forget.

 

“I’m sorry, Mr. Daniels. We were not able to save your wife’s life. It was too late by the time they got her here, and there was not much that we could do for her.” She paused to let what she had said sink in.

 

“Fortunatelly, we were able to save the twins,” she said as Jack’s head shot straight up. “It was a boy and a girl, and they are fine,” she said with a smile. “You will be able to see them in a few minutes. They are both healthy, and surprisingly they didn’t suffer any harm. We will want to keep them here at least over night, just to make sure though. And Mr. Daniels,” she said, her voice filled with emotion, “your wife didn’t suffer either. She passed out long before from the smoke and just never woke up.” The nurse squeezed Jack’s hands. “I’m so sorry for your loss. If there is anything that we can do for you, please let us know.”

 

She got up slowly and turned to leave.

 

“Nurse?” Jack said hoarsly. The nurse turned to look at him. “Thank you.”

 

The nurse smiled and then walked away. Jack leaned back in his chair as he tried to sort things out in his head. Nothing made any sense. How could Carol be gone? They were supposed to grow old together. What was he going to do now?

 

Jack shook his head and put his head into his hands as the tears started to come again. “Oh, God!” He moaned, no other words coming to his prayer. How could anyone survive so much pain?

 

Dr. Bellmont came out of the room and aproached Jack. “I’m so sorry Mr. Daniels,” he said in a quiet voice. “We did everything we could.”

 

Jack looked up and nodded his head. “Thank you, Dr. Bellmont.”

 

“Would you like to see her? I mean, would you like to see Carol?” the doctor asked gently.

 

“Could I?” Jack asked.

 

The doctor nodded his head. “Just make sure you keep the sheet over her body, ok?”

 

Jack nodded and stood up. Surprisingly, the room had stopped circling around him.

 

“Do you…do you want us to go with you?” Rebecca asked.

 

“No,” Jack answered softly but firmly, “but thank you.”

 

He started walking to the room and then paused. He wasn’t very sure he was ready to say good bye to Carol yet.

 

The doctor came and stood next to him “This way,” he said as he pointed to the door.

 

Jack followed the doctor into the room. The curtain that had once surrounded the bed Carol was in, was now parted back and he could see her face. The nurses had removed everything that they had put into her, and she looked as peaceful as she had ever been.

 

Jack walked over and sat in a chair that the doctor provided.

 

“Excuse me,” the doctor said. “I’ll be right outside if you need me.”

 

Jack nodded his head and said “Thank you.”

 

The doctor left and Jack looked back at Carol. He held her hand in his and put it up to his lips.

 

“Oh, Carol, Carol,” he moaned again as he burried his face in her shoulder. He cried for a while, letting the tears flow freely. He knew that when he walked out of this room, he would have to be strong for his children. He talked to God in his heart, and questioned His ability to take life. He was angry at Him for allowing this to happen. As he wrestled with God, he finally lost the battle and gave it up. Immediate peace followed, as his tears subsided.

 

Jack took a kleenex from a box nearby him and blew his nose. He dried his tears and took Carol’s hand in his again.

 

“I love you, Carol.” He said quietly as he stroked her forhead with his free hand. “And I will always have you in my heart.”

 

He stood and leaned over to kiss her softly on the lips for the last time. He took the sheet that was covering her body and pulled it to cover her face.

 

Jack made his way to the hallway where his friends were waiting, not knowing how much time had gone by. Seth was gone, but Rebecca and Ben were there, with Luke sleeping on Rebecca’s lap.

 

Ben stood up and hugged his friend. “I’m sorry, Jack,” he said quietly.

 

Jack nodded. “Thank you both for being here. Ben,” he said as he sat down, all of the sudden very tired, “what’s the word on my house?”

 

Ben looked down and shook his head. “I’m sorry Jack. You may be able to retrieve some stuff, but it’s not livable. As the Fire-Marshall I’ll give you permission to go in it, but only if you promise to make it quick, and then tear the place down.”

 

Jack nodded. “There is only a few things I want from there.”

 

Rebecca cleared her throat. “Jack, you are welcome to come and stay with us until you get your feet back on the ground.”

 

“Thank you Rebecca, but I know that you already have a full house with your family coming to live with you.” Jack shook his head. “Luke and I will be fine. We’ll just make it a camping trip,” he continued as he reached over to stroke his son’s head.

 

Rebecca nodded. “I’m sure you and Luke will do just fine, Jack, but you can’t take newborns camping!” She exclaimed.

 

Jack looked at her in shock. “The twins!” Jack stood up and started heading to the nurses station. “I’ll be right back,” he called back as he walked away as fast as he could.

 

“Excuse me, sir?” Jack said to the man in uniform behind the counter.

 

“Can I help you?” The nurse replied.

 

“Yes, please. I’d like to see my babies?” Jack said, excitement at the edge of his voice.

 

“Ok, what are their names?” the nurse asked changing the screen on the computer in front of him.

 

Jack’s mind went blank. “Their names? I…I haven’t named them yet. I haven’t even seen them!”

 

“Oh. Ok, would they be under your name or their mother’s name?” he said, changing the screen once again.

 

“I don’t know. Try Daniels. Jonathan or,” Jack hesitated, “or Carol.”

 

“Okay…” the nurse said as he typed the names in. “Here they are. Boy Daniels and Girl Daniels. They are on second floor, in the nursery.”

 

“Thank you,” Jack said and headed back to his friends. “I’m going to see the twins. Would you mind staying with Luke?” He said as he looked fondly at his now oldest son.

 

Ben and Rebecca nodded. “Sure, no problem,” Rebecca said.

 

Jack made his way to the elevator and up to second floor. He saw the sign for ‘Nursery’ and made his way to the door. How could he get to his kids? He wondered. Where was everyone, anyway? He looked up and down the hallway, trying to find someone to ask about his newborn twins.

 

Jack made his way to a lobby area where it seemed to him, all the nurses had congregated. They were all watching TV. He cleared his throat to get someone’s attention, but only got shushed.

 

All of the sudden Jack was irritated. Very irritated. His wife had just died, he lost his house, and now he couldn’t see his babies? HAH! I don’t think so, Jack thought.

 

He walked over to the TV and turned it off. The nurses started to shout for him to turn it back on, but he yelled louder.

 

“Now, people, all I want is to see my babies. If one of you can show me where my babies are, I’ll gladly leave you alone, and you can get back to your soap opera.” Jack said angrily.

 

The head nurse of that floor rolled her eyes and walked over to the door. “Follow me, sir,” she said in a curt voice.

 

Jack tuned the TV back on and followed the nurse to the nursery. She opened the door slowly and quietly as Jack followed. There were several beds in the nursery, but they weren’t all filled.

 

After the nurse got his name, her attitude towards him changed. Jack figured that she must have known that his wife had just died. “Here they are,” she said in a quiet voice.

 

Jack approached the tiny beds cautiously and peered into them. His heart skipped a beat as he saw them for the first time. The love he felt for them instantly swelled in his heart. He had had this feeling with Luke, but this time it was mixed with grief. He should be sharing this moment with Carol! A single tear rolled down his cheek, and he quickly brushed it away. He knelt down and reached to touch each of their little hands. The only reason that he knew which one was which, is because the nurses had kindly put a blue blanket on the boy, and a pink one on the girl.

 

A girl, Jack thought, I have a baby girl! Jack turned to look at the nurse. “Can I hold them?”

 

The nurse smiled. “Of course! They are your babies! I would suggest one at a time, though. Enjoy each of them alone, as you will have to enjoy each of them together for the rest of your life!”

 

Jack smiled as he bent over to pick up his daughter. He gently sat down in a rocker and held her close. He couldn’t believe the miracle of her little life. How much she had been through, and she was not more than a couple hours old. He stroked her face softly.

 

“Do you know what you are going to name them yet?” The nurse asked quietly.

 

Jack nodded his head. “She will be Grace, as God’s grace is the only thing that I have that will help me through this time,” he smiled sadly. “And my son,” he continued looking towards his bed, “well, I will name him Victor, as the fact that either of them are alive and well is a victory.”

 

Jack put Grace back down, and gently picked up Victor. He sat back down on the rocking chair and gazed at him. After a few minutes, Jack looked up at the nurse.

 

“I’m sorry about my outburst in the lobby area.” He said apologetically.

 

The nurse waived her hand and shook her head. “No, I’m the one that should be sorry. And we weren’t watching a soap opera,” she pocked fun at him. Then her eyes clouded and her face grew somber. “Look,” she said as she approached him and sat in the chair next to him, “you look like a nice guy. I know you just lost your wife, and the last thing you need is more bad news, but I feel like I should tell you this.” She paused as she tried to figure out what to say.

 

“We weren’t watching a soap opera or even a movie. We were watching the news. I don’t know what all is happening, but I do know this. Something is wrong, very wrong. There are riots being reported in major cities across the US, including St. Paul, and possibly Minneapolis. And they are bad. The rioters aren’t respecting anyone, not even the media. The worse ones are in places like Dallas and New York, but I’m sure the ones in the Twin Cities are getting just as bad. No one knows what they want, and the destruction of property is so great, that no one even has a handle on how to cope with it.”

 

Just then the door to the nursery opened, as a young nurse peered into the room. “Mrs. Williamson? May I go home?” She whispered.

 

The head nurse stood up, and quietly walked to the door. “What’s wrong Samantha? Are you ill?” she asked with concern in her voice.

 

Jack followed them with his gaze, and was only able to catch part of the conversation. Not enough to make anything of it, though.

 

After a few minutes, the head nurse walked back in. “Mr. Daniels?” she said as she sat next to him again. “I have a strong sudgestion to you, but you are free to do as you please.”

 

She looked at Jack as he nodded, and noticed that he was holding both of his babies at once. “A lot of the nurses have taken off. There have been reports of several hospitals being blown up, but they haven’t been confirmed. I would sudgest you taking off. Take your babies, they’ll be fine. I’m not sure how they made it, quite frankly, under the circumstances. But they are here, and now I think they may be safer at your house than they are here.” The older nurse shook her head as she mumbled something about at least Samantha asking permission to leave. Jack figured that most nurses probably just left.

 

“Is there cause to believe that it may happen here in Grand Rapids?” Jack asked.

 

The nurse shook her head. “Who knows? The police are starting to arrive and are trying to put some order to things. If you want to leave, I will give you the proper papers to name your children, and I will personally sign the release of patients.” She paused, and then looked at him with compassion. “Have you been able to say goodbye to your wife?”

 

Jack nodded. “Then I would leave, Mr. Daniels. If you can come back later, we will hold the body here until you can bury her.”

 

Jack nodded his head again, understanding the urgency in her voice. “Thank you, Mrs. Williamson.” He stood carefully, hoping the twins wouldn’t wake up. He followed the head nurse to her station, and signed the papers that she handed to him, one at a time. He filled in the name for the kids, Grace Carol Daniels and Victor Benjamin Daniels. Benjamin was his father’s name, and also his good friend, the fireman. He knew they would both be honored.

 

“Wait here,” the nurse said as she left him filling out the paper work. Several minutes later she came back with a large box of diapers, and a couple of bags that looked like they were filled with baby clothes and blankets. Behind her Samantha came in with another box, this one filled with formula and bottles.

 

Jack looked at them in disbelief. “What’s all this?” He asked.

 

Samantha smiled coyly. “It’s for you,” she said, flirting a little.

 

The older nurse rolled her eyes. “That will be all, now, Samantha. Thank you. You can go home now.” Samantha sighed a sigh of relief, and took off.

 

“These,” Mrs. Williamson said, pointing at the supplies, “are for the babies. They should keep you going for at least a few months. After they are four months old, you can supplement their milk with solid foods. I’m not sure you will have enough milk, but it’s all we have. Try not to give them real milk until they are one year old. There is a booklet in there that will give you more information.”

 

Jack couldn’t believe it. He looked at the nurse. “Thank you,” he said, tears threatning to spill again. Fortunatly there was a knock on the door that saved him.

 

The nurse turned to see who it was. It was Rebecca and Ben, holding Luke, still sleeping. Rebecca smiled at him. “I see you got a boy and a girl! Congratulations!” she said, her own tears spilling over.

 

Ben nodded and smiled. “Congratulations, Buddy!” he said quietly. His smile soon turned into a frown. “I’m afraid we should get out of here.”

 

Jack nodded and turned to look at the nurse. “Is this all I have to fill out?” he asked as Rebecca helped him with the babies.

 

The nurse nodded. “I’ll help you get all of this to your car.”

 

They got to the fire truck after adding a blanket to each of the twins. Rebecca had moved her car to be close to the truck, and it was a good thing, as the front and main parking lot was pretty chaotic. They put the supplies into Rebecca’s car and decided that Jack and his kids would stay at the Larson’s farm until he could decide what he was going to do. Jack thanked the nurse and gave her a quick hug.

 

“Will you be heading home too?” he asked her.

 

Mrs. Williamson shook her head. “No, Mr. Daniels. This is my job. My responsibility. If things keep going the way they are going, I may be more needed than ever.”

 

Jack nodded. “I understand. And you can call me Jack. It’s been an pleasure to meet you. Thank you again so much.”

 

The nurse smiled. “You’re more than welcome. You take good care of these babies, ok?”

 

Jack nodded and the nurse took off. Since they didn’t have any carseats for the twins, they decided to go in Rebecca’s car. Ben said that he would catch up with Jack later, and took off, after giving Jack another hug.

 

Jack and Rebbeca left as well, with Rebecca driving, Jack holding the two babies in his arms and Luke sleeping in the back seat..

 

As they were leaving town, they both heard a loud explosion. Apperantly so did Luke and the twins, as they all woke up and started crying. Jack did his best to quiet them, but wasn’t very successful. Rebbeca tuned the radio to their local station, and pulled over to listen.

 

All they could hear above the crying was the newscaster saying “…I repeat. The Grand Rapids hospital building has been attacked!"

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Guest Guest

CHAPTER 11

 

Dave turned off the TV, knowing that probably no one was going to want to watch The Late Show. Nobody could believe what they had just seen. And live, too! What was happening to this world? They knew things were bad, but really had no idea what to do.

 

They talked for a while, going back and forth on their options. Should they bug out? Where to? Was it safe to travel? If they were able to do any more shopping, what should they buy? And how much money should they spend? Would they even be able to go to Duluth for the funeral? So many questions, and it seemed like no one had any answers. Finally, they decided to plan as if though they were going to leave Dave and Joy’s place, and be able to take at least one U-haul, if not two. Then, tomorrow Liz would see if they could camp out at her sister-in-law’s place, and then go from there.

 

“Well,” Ed said, “I suggest we make lists of things that we would need, what we have, and what would be nice to have.”

 

Dave and Joy smiled at each other. “Dad,” Joy said, “We’ve already done that. Now the lists that we have made are probably not complete, but not knowing for how many or for how long or for where, leaves a big question mark.”

 

“Well, let’s see them!” Liz said.

 

Joy went into her room and got the lists. Liz read over them approvingly. “Just one thing. You are assuming that we won’t have power. Have you heard anything else?”

 

Dave shook his head. “No, we just assumed that we wouldn’t, and thought it would be bonus if we did.”

 

Juan asked to look at the list and then shook his head. “This is too long term,” he said in a definite voice. “I can see all the camping stuff and food as we will probably be having to stay somewhere outside of a house for a while. But you are assuming a lot of things, here. You are assuming that there is no electricity, and that it’s going to be way past winter. In fact, it looks like you think America is going to end!” he said laughing.

 

Marco took the list from Juan. After he looked at it, he agreed with Juan. Joy was surprised, as she thought Marco was a smart man. I mean really, she thought, the guy is getting his doctorate in engineering!

 

Liz shook her head. “Well, I think it’s a good assumption to make. Nothing good can come of so many countries boycotting the US. Even if we do have electricity, that may still leave us in a bad place. What if they boycott the oil that the US imports? Then gas would be super expensive, and food would also become very expensive then. If we can feed ourselves, then at least we can curve that.”

 

“Well, maybe by then we may be able to go back home,” Juan argued.

 

“Why don’t we take a vote?” Dave offered.

 

Juan shrugged his shoulders. “Look, you can take a vote if you want, but I’m not spending my money on something that may not happen. I know that my family is going to need supplies now. So I don’t know about you, but I will be spending our money on that. I can see the news as well as you do, and the States always comes out ahead.”

 

Dave shook his head and looked down. He argued about the wisdom of putting up for a longer time. They argued back and forth for a while, until finally Ed put his hand up.

 

“Look, why don’t we all keep our own money, and prepare for each of our families the best that we know how?” He said.

 

“But dad, we could get more things if we pulled our money together!” Joy argued.

 

“Well, do you want to spend for now? Or do you want to invest in things for later?” Ed countered.

 

“Well, both!” Joy answered indignantly.

 

“Ok, then. Do you have any other ideas?” Ed asked.

 

Everyone shook their head. So it was agreed that each family would buy for themselves, that Roger and Marie would be considered a family even though they weren’t married and Marco would be considered part of Juan and Ann’s family. They would all stick together, but each would do their own preparations.

 

They talked for a while more about what to do, and then decided that Marie and Roger would stay with Victoria and sleep. Allen, who was half asleep already, was going to stay with them for “looks”. Every one else was going to go to a 24 hr. Wal-Mart, and buy stuff that they thought would be useful. Anything from more camping equipment to needles, clothes, and blankets. Joy knew that none of them would be buying too much as her parents didn’t believe on putting anything on the credit card that they knew they couldn’t pay for, and Dave and Joy were going to max out the credit cards soon. Then some of them would split off and go to the grocery store to buy more food.

 

Also, they decided that Roger and Marie would stay up as late as they could and pack what they thought they would all need from Joy’s place, starting with the kitchen.

 

Just before leaving, Joy pulled Marie aside. “Marie? I have a really odd request to make. Really odd, and you are probably going to think I’m dumb. But do you see that wooden chest over there? It’s empty. Can you put my china and goblets and gold silverware in there? If we can, I’d like to take it with us. I know it’s stupid,”

 

Marie shook her head. “No, it’s not. I know what you are feeling. I go through this every time I have to go back to Africa or come back to the States. Do you take all the stuff that you need, and later miss the stuff that you wanted? Or do you take some of your wants and later on find out that you really should have taken what you needed?” She smiled and shook her head again. “I’ll pack them up for you, Baby sister. Once everything is in the vehicles, we’ll see what we have room for.”

 

Joy gave Marie a quick hug, “Thank you for understanding! Also, make sure you take the molcahete and the tortilla press. And don’t forget the knives, and of course, plates and silverware.” Joy knew that the molcahete and the tortilla press would be very good to have. If they were going to be without electricity, then they would be able to use the molcahete to make sauces, and of course, they’d be able to make tortillas with the tortilla press.

 

Marie pushed Joy out the door. “Don’t worry Joy. If you see something that we haven’t packed when you get back, then you can pack it then, ok?”

 

“Ok, thanks! Oh, and thanks for staying with Victoria!” Joy waved goodbye, and they all took off.

 

Dave agreed that she should drive to the store, as on the way home, she would probably be too tired. Dave, Joy, Leslie and Marco all rode in one minivan, while Ed, Liz, Juan and Ann rode in another.

 

Once there they spilt up to go looking for what each wanted with the money they had. Joy wanted seeds, so Dave, Marco and Leslie went to get some ironware, and Joy found Ann and asked her if she would go with her to look for some seeds. When they found them, Joy started looking at what to buy.

 

“Have you ever even gardened, Joy?” Ann asked skeptically.

 

Joy shook her head. “No, not like this. I’ve planted flowers at my in-laws before, but never vegetables, or fruits. Have you?”

 

Ann shook her head, exasperated. “Then why are we buying seeds? We could be buying food with the money instead! I don’t know the first thing about gardening, and I don’t think any of the rest does either. We’re going to feel awfully stupid when our food runs out but we have a bunch of seeds!”

 

“Well, maybe,” Joy answered, “but what about when the food does run out? Then what are we going to do? Plead the ground to give something up that we haven’t put in it?”

 

Ann shook her head and frowned. “I just think it’s a waste of money. We won’t be able to use them until next spring anyway, maybe not even until summer and by then, things will have probably gotten back to normal. I’ll be back in Mexico, you in your apartment, and we might have some days of hunger because we spent money on seeds instead of real food.”

 

Joy rolled her eyes. “Ann, what if this lasts until next spring? Or next summer? Or the winter after that? Then what?”

 

“What is there to last? So there have been a few riots. Big deal! There are riots all over the world every day and the world hasn’t come to an end yet! If they’ve been able to make it, then so can we. But we can’t become paranoid!”

 

“Ann, maybe we have survived those riots on the other side of the world, but the people there sure didn’t! Look, what’s the deal here?” Joy asked Ann, frustrated. Even though Ann was eight years older than Joy, sometimes Joy thought that Ann was pretty immature. She was sure Ann thought the same about her.

 

“I just think that we should spend the money on more immediate needs. Look, you buy whatever seeds you want with your money, and I’ll buy the food that I want with mine, ok?” Ann said, her voice rising. “If we are still in this mess in the winter when it’s cold, you can send Victoria over to my tent and I will feed her. Then I’ll come over to your tent and ask how your seeds taste, ok?”

 

Joy took a deep breath. She was really trying to not get into an argument with her sister. They hadn’t even been together for a whole day! Joy nodded in resignation.

 

“Fine, Ann. I’ll buy the seeds, you buy the food.”

 

“Ok, then. I’m going to see if there is anything else to buy here. Otherwise I’m getting tired, and we still have one more place to go to, right?” Ann said, her voice strained.

 

Ann took off with her cart, and Joy stayed and got as many seeds as she could. She bought the non-hybrid kind, knowing that they would want to be able to get seeds from what they did grow. She bought even for vegetables that she didn’t care for, too, knowing that they could either trade them, or she would just eat what she didn’t like and give thanks. Next to the seeds there were several books on gardening. Not knowing which ones were good and which ones weren’t, she picked up one of each.

 

Next, Joy headed to the isle that had all the gardening supplies. She put several of what she thought she would need into her cart, and looked at the tillers that they had for sale. She had no idea how to use one, but had read a SHTF on-line novel once, where the characters seemed to think it was very important to have them. So, she figured she’d learn if it really got that bad. Secretly she was hoping that Ann was right. That she would be kicking her self for buying seeds, when she could have been buying food instead. That they’d all be kicking themselves for buying anything at all! She really hoped that nothing was going to happen, but knew that the way things were headed; it really didn’t show much promise. As it was, things were already happening!

 

Dave found her and she related what had happen to him. He just shook his head. “I almost wish he hadn’t come,” Dave said, referring to Juan. “But I know that it would be worse if he hadn’t, then Ann would want to go back to Mexico, and who knows what would have happened then.”

 

Joy nodded. “Have you ever used a tiller before?” she asked, changing the subject.

 

“No, but my grandma did.” Dave answered, referring to his grandma that had been raised on a farm and then married a farmer.

 

“Well, I thought we should buy one just in case, and then we’ll learn how to use them later.” She said, picking up a book to see if there was anything in it about tillers.

 

Dave frowned as he looked at the tillers. “I don’t know, Joy. It is pretty pricey, not to mention the size of it, and there is other stuff that we do know how to use that we can buy. I agree about buying the seeds. I just don’t know that we need a tiller.”

 

“But, Dave, what if we really do need it? Then what? Are we going to do everything by hand?” Joy said, whining a little.

 

Dave shook his head. “No, you have shovels and rakes and stuff like that here. That should help a lot.”

 

Joy frowned and shook her head. “Well, I think we should buy it.”

 

“Ok. I respect your opinion, and I hope you know I really do value it, but we aren’t buying one,” he said firmly. “We are already close on maxing out our credit cards, and we have used up most of the money in the bank. Until the money from your Uncle comes through, if it makes it in time, stuff like tillers are just going to have to stay on the shelf.” Dave said, shaking his head. “Look, we shouldn’t be arguing about all this, ok? We need to focus on the important stuff.” He said, looking back at her.

 

“I know. I just,” Joy wasn’t able to finish as Ann, Marco and Leslie showed up. Apparently Marco had had a change in heart as it looked to Joy that he had picked up some things that were long term, but not many.

 

“Are you all ready?” Dave asked.

 

Everyone nodded. “Yeah. Juan, and Mom and Dad are going to be heading back. I’ll go with you guys to the grocery store.” Ann said.

 

“Ok, then, let’s go.” Joy said, leading the way to the cash registers.

 

Once at the registers, they paid for what they had gotten, each family for their own, as they had agreed.

 

Dave and Joy were the last ones. Joy noticed that Dave had bought some tools and more iron cookware. She looked at him quizzically, wondering why he had bought so much more, but he just shook his head. He also had metal plates and cups, enough for all of them.

 

“Hi, how are you tonight?” The cashier asked. She was one of the only cashiers working, that night, and Joy thought it was strange as she was an older woman.

 

“Good, thank you, and you?” Joy answered.

 

“Well, I’d rather be home, to tell you the truth. With all that’s going on, I’d rather not be here. I see you folks are being smart and buying stuff now. I can guarantee you that tomorrow it isn’t going to be fun. People are going to panic with what they heard on the news, and it’s going to be H-E-double toothpicks if you know what I mean.”

 

Dave and Joy nodded. They were careful not to ask anymore questions, wanting to get out of there as fast as they could themselves.

 

Once they had loaded up the minivan, they took off for the grocery store, the one near Joy’s home. This would also be a place where Joy and Ann would argue. Ann argued that they should buy food that would be good for camping, like stews and other canned goods, and bread. Joy thought that they should buy stuff like rice and beans, oils, and stuff that they wouldn’t be able to grow themselves. Ann finally agreed that it would be cheaper to buy it and make the food from scratch, and Joy agreed that it would be good to buy some canned goods to make sure that they lasted through the winter.

 

Ann smiled at Joy. “Well, I guess we are both right, then, huh?”

 

Joy smiled in return. “Yeah, I guess. Come on, let’s go.”

 

They went home and found that Ed, Liz and Juan were already there. Juan and Ed had gone to bed in the apartments that had been loaned to them, as had Marie and Roger, but Liz was still up. She had taken over the packing, and it looked like she was making a good headway.

 

“Where did you get all the boxes?” Joy asked.

 

Liz smiled. “At Wal-Mart. They had a bunch of them that they were getting rid of, so I asked if I could have them, and they said yes! I have all your kitchen stuff in these two big ones. I bought some stuff at Wal-Mart for us, and Juan actually bought some for them too. I guess he figured that they would have to eat off of something! I bought a bunch of material and thread, and patterns too.”

 

“Patterns?” Joy asked “What kind?”

 

“Oh, all kinds. For a bunch of different ages. All the winter patterns were on clearance, so I bought at least one of each of those. I figured that I could always take them back to Mexico and use them there as I teach the ladies in the villages how to sew. I never told you this, did I?” Liz asked.

 

“Told me what?” Joy asked back.

 

“About the stuff we brought you!” Liz seemed pretty happy with herself.

 

Joy shook her head. “Well,” Liz continued, “I brought you my old sewing machine. Someone donated one to me, so I thought I’d give you mine. Ann has two already and didn’t have space for mine. The good part is, is that it was transformed to electric, but it wasn’t originally an electric one. And it’s easy to put it back. Also, I brought you some of that tuna in oil that you like so much. And the washboards, molcahetes and tortilla presses too. Why did you want all that stuff for anyway?”

 

Joy smiled. “To sell, remember? There were some people at church that were asking for them, so I told them I’d see if you could bring me some. How many did you bring?”

 

“Well, we put them into packages, one of each. I think we brought two, maybe three. Each package has a molcahete, a tortilla press, one of those Mexican grills and a washboard, with some of that Zote soap you like so much. I found some of that soap at the store, too, so I bought some of that.” Liz said.

 

“Wow, that’s great, Mom! At this point, since I didn’t promise anything, I think we should be able to keep them. And Mom, thanks for the sewing machine. I know it was Grandma’s, and you know how much I like antiques!” Joy gave her Mom a hug.

 

They talked for just a while more, and then Liz went to the corporate apartment where she and Ed were staying. Dave and everyone else had already gone to bed, so Joy made a quick round to see what had been packed, and what they still needed to take. How were they going to get all this to where they were going? The minivans were already packed full, and she was sure the U-haul was going to be soon, too. Maybe they could rent another U-haul, and then it wouldn’t matter.

 

Joy went to bed that night, and the last hour she saw on the clock was 3:07 a.m. She fell into a deep sleep and didn’t wake up until Dave’s watch alarm went off at 8:00a.m. Dave picked it up and turned it off. Joy sat up in bed and rubbed her eyes as she yawned.

 

“Man, I’m tired,” Dave said as he turned over to go back to sleep.

 

“Are we going to go to church?” Joy asked sleepily.

 

“Huh?” Dave turned to look at her, “Oh, yeah, I suppose we should. Your parents haven’t been there yet, have they?” He said as he got up.

 

Joy shook her head and got up herself. They were going to have to hurry if they were going to make it there in time. She put a robe on, not knowing when her family would come back in. She went in to the bathroom and turned the light on, but the light didn’t come on. She tried again, but to no avail.

 

“Dave?” Joy called out softly, hoping that Victoria wouldn’t wake up.

 

Dave came to the bathroom and looked at Joy with concern in her eyes. “No lights?”

 

Joy shook her head. “How did you know?” she asked.

 

Dave led the way back to the bedroom, where he pointed at their alarm clock. It was blank. “The alarm never went off. I had set it for 7:30am, and obviously, it’s off. Let me get the radio.” He went to the living room and got their radio. They had bought some more the day before, but this was one that they were familiar with. He turned it on and a newscaster came on.

 

“-from east of St. Paul to the west of Chaska, and from north of Maple Grove and South of Bloomington, all the power is off. We are not sure what has caused this yet, and officials are looking into what may have caused it. The police departments in St. Paul and Minneapolis, as well as neighboring suburbs is asking people to be very careful in their driving. All stoplights are out, and there have been several accidents reported already. Highway 100 is closed due to construction, so this is adding even more pressure to Highway 169 and Highway 35W. This message will now repeat itself again. There are several areas across the 48 contiguous states that have been affected by a major power outage. In Minnesota, only the Twin Cities and the metro area have been affected. Local, State and National authorities are doing the best they can to determine why the power is out. They are not ruling out terrorism as an option at this time. The areas in the Twin Cities that have been affected are from east of St. Paul to the west of Chaska, and from north of Maple Grove and South of Bloomington, all the power is off.”

 

Dave turned the radio off. “Ok, this is not good. Not good at all. Let’s get dressed and then go get your parents. We can finish off the milk in the fridge by all of us having cereal. But let’s try to keep the fridge closed just in case.”

 

Joy decided to take a quick shower in the dark. She wanted to be sure that she was going to be clean, regardless of what was going to happen. After her shower, she quickly dried off and pulled on a pair of jean shorts and a t-shirt. She went into the bathroom and tried to do her best to get ready in the dark.

 

“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” Dave said when she joined him in the living room. “My sister will be coming over today. She is pretty shook up, and since Mom and Dad are gone on vacation until next Sunday, she wants to come and spend the day here with us. She pretty much invited herself over, and now with the lights out, I know she’ll be here for sure.” Dave’s sister, Bethany, and Dave had hardly ever gotten along. She was five years older than he was and seemed to always think she was not only right, but was entitled to be treated as if she was.

 

Joy nodded as she looked around their messy apartment. “Does she know what we are doing?”

 

“Yeah. And she’s probably done some shopping of her own.” He rolled his eyes. “I’m just not sure I want her here, you know? With everything that’s going on, the last thing I need is someone telling me what to do.”

 

“I know, Babe,” Joy said as there was a knock on the front door, the phone rang and Victoria woke up, all at the same time.

 

“I’ll get the phone, you get the door, and then one of us can get Victoria,” Dave shook his head smiling.

 

Joy walked over to the door and opened it to reveal a pitch-dark hallway. “Hi Mom, I’m home!” Bethany said, holding up a tiny flashlight. Joy smiled and backed away from the door to let her in.

 

“How did you get in?” Joy asked. Their building was a secure building, and residents weren’t supposed to let other people in.

 

“Oh, the door is wide open!” Bethany responded, “There was a lady standing there, letting a bunch of people in. It’s no big deal, really. It was nice, because I wasn’t sure how else I was going to let you know I was here.”

 

“Do you have your cell phone on you?” Joy asked as she went into Victoria’s room and Bethany followed.

 

“Duh! I could have used that! Wait. I’m not sure it even works. Let me check.” Bethany responded.

 

Joy went and gave Victoria a hug.

 

“Good morning, honey! How did you sleep?” Joy asked Victoria.

 

Joy helped Victoria get dressed for the day, and had her go to the bathroom in the dark. She noticed that Dave had closed the door to their room, but wasn’t talking on the phone.

 

Someone at the door was knocking again, so Joy went to see who it was. This time it was her family. They all exchanged greetings and decided to eat breakfast right away.

 

“I need to go open the garage doors,” Dave said as he came into the living room. “Ah! Paper cups for cereal, smart!” He said as he saw what everyone was eating from. Joy had opened her stash of paper cups and plastic wear, not wanting to have to worry about dishes.

 

“Hey, Bethany,” Dave greeted her. “How’d you get in?”

 

“Hey! There was a lady there letting people in.” She said, and then continued to eat.

 

“A lady?” Dave frowned.

 

“You don’t have a problem with that, do you?” Bethany asked between mouthfuls.

 

Dave nodded. “Well, sure I do! Especially now, with all that is going on.” He turned to look at Joy. “Well, I’ll check on it while I’m down there opening the garage doors. Man! It’s like I can’t stop working here!” Dave went to the closet by the entry and grabbed his big flashlight. The rest of the closet had been picked clean, most of his tools were gone, as well as the toilet paper and paper towels. Joy guessed that they were in the boxes, somewhere. “I’ll have my cell phone on, in case the power comes back on.” Dave told Joy as he started to leave. “Good thing we charged them before going to bed!”

 

Just then, the lights came back on. Joy could here the chorus of cheers from inside her apartment, and was very glad herself about having power again. She looked at Dave, wondering if he was still going to go out.

 

He answered her question before she was able to ask. “I think I’ll still go check around,” he said “and I’ll take this with me just in case.” He said holding the flashlight up.

 

“Ok,” Joy said, and gave him a quick kiss.

 

“Bye Daddy!” Victoria yelled from the living room.

 

Dave looked back into the apartment and waved. “Bye honey, love you!”

 

Dave took off and Joy closed the door behind him. “Did you park outside, Bethany?”

 

“Yeah, I brought the U-haul, too. Well, I drove the U-haul and towed the car.”

 

Joy looked at her confused. “What U-haul? Where are you going?”

 

“Where am I going? I don’t know! Wherever you are, I guess! By the way, there is still plenty of room in the U-haul for a lot of this stuff. I went to Mom and Dad’s last night and got some stuff out that I thought we’d want in case we can’t go back.” Bethany replied.

 

Joy was confused. Why did Bethany have a U-haul? She would later find out that Bethany had talked to Dave earlier the day before and had liked his idea, so had done it herself. Then that same night, they had agreed that Bethany would join them. Bethany had talked to her parents in Pennsylvania, and they had decided to stay there until things settled down, instead of trying to get back, and getting caught in between.

 

“Hey, Joy?” Liz called. They had turned the TV on and were watching CNN.

 

“Yeah?” Joy answered as she joined them in the living room again.

 

“I talked to Aunt Linda early this morning. And it ain’t pretty.” She said, trying to not talk too loud. “Can we go to your room?” She asked, not waiting for an answer and leading the way.

 

Once in the room, Joy closed the door behind her. “You talked to her? How?”

 

“Well, the furnished apartment that we stayed in has a good old fashioned phone.” She replied.

 

“Oh. What did she say?” Joy asked.

 

“She says that we need to get over to Grand Rapids as soon as we can. To forget Duluth for now, and just get over to where they are. Apparently they have a place that we can all stay at. I didn’t know that Bethany was going to come too, but it shouldn’t be a problem.” Liz said as she helped Joy make her bed.

 

“Did they loose power too?” Joy asked.

 

Liz shook her head. “No, but the hospital that your cousin Keith works at was blown up.”

 

Joy stopped what she was doing and looked at her mom. “He wasn’t there, was he?” she asked, shocked.

 

Liz shook her head. “Fortunately not. But Rebecca had been there with a neighbor, and had left just minutes before.” She said, relief in her voice.

 

“Wow. So they made it out ok?” Joy asked.

 

“Yes, but barely. The neighbor had just lost his wife, and is now left with a little boy and two babies to take care of,” Liz continued. “Linda asked if we would be willing to help him with the kids once we got there.”

 

Joy looked at Liz. “And what did you say?”

 

“Well, what was I going to say? Of course we’ll help him!” Liz exclaimed.

 

Joy nodded. “So when are you and Dad thinking we should leave?” she asked her.

 

“Well, we were thinking right away. There is a medical supply store that Marie and Roger want to stop by, but if the power is out, then of course we can’t do that. But it should be open, even on Sunday, if it stays on.” Liz said.

 

“Ok. Well, Bethany said that we could put stuff in her U-haul, so maybe now that the power is back on, we can get the guys to take the boxes down. I’ll take a quick look around and see if there is anything left that we should take with.” Joy said as they headed back into the living room.

 

“So what’s happening?” Joy asked once in there, only to be shushed.

 

“There are several reports of power coming back on,” the lady on the TV screen said, “but hundreds of thousands of homes across the States are still without it. The White House has issued a statement saying that the threat level has now been raised to red for the whole country. They said that there is a real possibility that terrorists are attacking some of the power grids. There have been reports of the power returning at some places, only to be taken away again.”

 

Just after the newscaster said that, Joy reached for the remote and paused it. She raised her voice above the groans “Now, wait. Look, if the power is going to be going off again, then we’d better get these boxes down the elevator and into Bethany’s truck. Or if you want, we can drag them down the pitch-dark hallways and all the way down stairs. It’s up to you!”

 

Everyone got up still complaining. “I’ll leave it paused so we can watch it later if you want.” Joy said.

 

Ed nodded his head. “Yeah, I think that would be good. Besides, won’t there be some travel restrictions now that the level has been raised to red? We better get going before it’s too late!”

 

They all worked together, clearing out as much as they could out of the apartment, including Victoria’s bed. There was no space for Dave and Joy’s, but they figured that at least a single bed would come in handy somewhere. Soon they had the last heavy load on the elevator, ready to be taken downstairs. Joy rode the elevator down with Ed, Bethany and Allen.

 

Joy heard two beeps, signaling that they had gone down to the main floor, and then the power went out again.

 

Joy sighed and leaned back against the wall as she heard Bethany swear.

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CHAPTER 12

 

Jack woke up early Sunday morning, his body stiff and his head spinning. Where was he? He looked around and saw Luke sleeping next to him, and a bunch of bags filled with baby stuff sitting in the corner. It all hit him like a ton of bricks as he laid his head back down on the pillow.

 

After Rebecca and Jack had left the hospital with the kids, they had heard a loud explosion. As the twins and Luke cried, they found out that the only hospital in Grand Rapids had been attacked and had exploded in several parts, including the ER. Jack wondered if his wife’s body had been moved, or if it had been buried in the blast. He shook his head and rubbed his eyes as he struggled to keep the tears from coming again.

 

“Papa?” It was Luke.

 

Jack turned to pick up Luke and laid him on his chest. Jack put his big arms around him, and held the boy close.

 

“Papa? Where’s Mother? Is she ok?”

 

Jack closed his eyes and bit his lower lip. He sat up in bed and looked at Luke straight in the eyes. “Luke, listen to me,” he said, holding his son’s chin in his hand.

 

“Do you remember the fire at our house last night when we got home?” Jack asked him.

 

Luke nodded, his eyes beginning to tear. “Well, Mother fell asleep in it, Luke,” Jack continued. “And, Luke, she didn’t wake up.” A single tear fell down Jack’s cheek.

 

Luke just stared at him, trying to understand. “Well, can’t you wake her up?” he asked innocently.

 

Jack shook his head. “No, son. I can’t. I wish I could though. See, your mother is dead now. She’s gone. She’ll never be able to be with us again, or us with her, until we get to Heaven that is.”

 

Luke shook his little head and frowned. “But I want her here. I don’t want her to die!” Tears started flowing and his voice was getting louder in protest. Jack held his son and let him cry. He did some more crying of his own, too. Luke clung to Jack like he had never done before. Finally, there were no more tears. Luke laid in Jack’s arms, his little body shaking from the emotional turmoil that he had just gone through. Jack put his head against the wall and stroked Luke’s hair. What’s going to become of us? He wondered. How are we going to survive in this new world, especially with two new babies?

 

“Luke?” He whispered softly.

 

Luke sat up and looked at his father. “Luke, you do have a new brother and a new sister. Would you like to see them?”

 

A look of anger crossed Luke’s face as he shook his head. He lunged towards Jack and hugged him tight.

 

“Whoa! It’s ok, buddy! I’m not going anywhere!” Jack said as he held his son again. “Are you sure you don’t want to see them? They are really small!”

 

Luke only held on to Jack tighter and buried his head into Jack’s chest.

 

“Ok, Luke, it’s ok. We can just hang out here for a little while, ok?” Jack asked softly.

 

Luke nodded his head. They sat there for what seemed like hours, just comforting each other. Neither of them spoke another word. Jack prayed for Luke, that this would not destroy his spirit. Luke just sat there, holding on to Jack for dear life.

 

The only reason they parted was because of a soft knock on the door. “Come in,” Jack said softly. They were at Rebecca’s place, in one of the kid’s room, or so Jack guessed.

 

The door opened slowly with a creek, and Seth pocked his head through the opening. “Good mornin’,” he said as cheerful as he could. “Are you boys hungry? Rebecca has some eggs and pancakes cooking in kitchen if you’d like to join us.”

 

Jack looked at Luke, and was surprised when he nodded his little head. Jack shrugged. “I guess so! Thanks. We’ll be down in a minute.”

 

“Okey-dokey.” Seth said as he closed the door behind him.

 

Jack and Luke got up and put their pants back on. The night before was a blur to Jack, but he did remember falling fast asleep as soon as he hit the pillow, as had Luke. Must have been God’s grace, Jack thought.

 

They made their way downstairs to the kitchen, and found that it was almost noon. Jack found out that Seth had gone out to be with the rest of the family, as they were out helping with the cabins for Rebecca’s family, and Rebecca had stayed behind with the twins. As Luke ate, Jack took the opportunity to go see his new babies.

 

“You two are so lovely,” he whispered as he held Victor close. Little Grace was asleep, and Jack was glad that he didn’t have to decide which baby to hold. Victor stared at Jack with large blue eyes as Jack touched his little cheek.

 

“Jack,” Rebecca said softly as she came in the room, “please know that you are more than welcome to stay here as long as you want, or need. My Mom is coming over, and she will be a great help with the twins.”

 

Jack started shaking his head, but Rebecca stopped him. “Stop it, Jack. You need the help and you know it. Now stop being so proud and take it. There will be a time when we need you, and we know that we can count on you, too.” She said in her best motherly voice.

 

Jack nodded and smiled. “Ok, Rebecca. I will. But don’t think I’ll ever forget it!”

 

Rebecca laughed softly. “Oh, I know you won’t. Now listen, Jack. Luke is still not interested in seeing the babies. I don’t think he is ready yet. Why don’t you take him with you and go buy some supplies?”

 

“Supplies? For what?” Jack asked putting Victor down and picking up Grace, who had just woken up.

 

“Supplies for you, Jack. Things aren’t going well at all. I think they may hold together for a little while longer, but I’m not sure how much.” Rebecca replied.

 

Jack looked at Grace as he spoke. “Well, Luke and I went shopping to Duluth yesterday. We did get quite a few things, if I know what you mean.”

 

“I know. I saw your truck and trailer. But Jack, you’ve got to realize that you just lost your home, and most everything in it. You are going to have to start to rebuild, and you are going to need supplies for that.”

 

Jack shook his head. “But I used up all of the money that we had yesterday. I have a lot of different stuff that I don’t need that maybe I can trade for. We won’t need much for a while. Assuming that everything else outside of the house is ok, we should fair just fine.” He kissed Grace gently on her head.

 

“The cows,” Jack said, his voice filled with panic. “I didn’t milk the cows!”

 

“Shh,” Rebecca said, not wanting to stir the babies. “The cows are fine. Seth milked them last night, and the kids milked them this morning. Look, Jack, we have something for you. It isn’t much, but,”

 

“Oh, no you don’t,” Jack interrupted her. “No way, no how. You are doing more than enough, just by helping me with the twins. Do you think I don’t know how busy you are? And now with your family coming, you are going to be even more. No. Please. Just, just please keep what ever it is, ok?”

 

“You don’t even know what it is!” Rebecca protested.

 

“Yeah, well, you taking care of the twins and the animals was a gift enough. Just, just let me be proud this time, ok?” Jack asked, his eyes pleading for mercy.

 

Rebecca nodded. “Ok. But I still think you need to do something with Luke. Go to the Reservation, something. He needs to have a little distraction. My Mom talked to my aunt today, and they should be arriving sometime today. Maybe then he can play with my cousin’s little girl. She is pretty much a city girl, so Luke will have to teach her the ropes around here.”

 

Jack nodded. A little friend for Luke would be good. “Are the cabins done?” he asked Rebecca.

 

Rebecca shook her head. “No. They will have to camp out for a while, until they can move in. I’m pleasantly surprised at my cousin from the cities. She and her husband went out yesterday and rented a U-haul.” Rebecca paused to pick up Victor and give him his bottle after handing one over to Jack for Grace.

 

“A U-haul? What for?” Jack asked.

 

“Well, they figured out that something was going to be happening soon, just by what was shown on the news. I’m not sure what all they bought, but I know that they went on a shopping spree. Maybe you can exchange some things with them. The U-haul is for all the stuff that they are going to bring. They have faith, I tell ya. They don’t even know that there is a place for them here yet. But they knew that they would be safer closer to here than in the Cities.” Rebecca told Jack.

 

Jack nodded. “That is good. I’m sure that you are glad to have them coming.”

 

“Yeah, sort of. I mean I wish nothing of this were happening. But it is. So I’m glad they are coming. They are going to have to learn a lot, but I’m sure there will be a lot to learn from them. And Jack, my Mom said that they would also be willing to help you with Luke and the twins,” she said, watching Jack closely. “Only while you rebuild, of course.” She ended quickly.

 

Jack nodded thoughtfully. “I would really appreciate it if they did,” he said quietly. “It would make it easier on you, and I could always repay them by teaching them something, or maybe even giving them milk.”

 

“Well, then it’s settled.” Rebecca said as she burped Victor.

 

Jack watched Rebecca closely and then did the same with Grace. Boy, it’s sure been a while! He thought.

 

He saw something moving out of the corner of his eye, and turned to see Luke standing there quietly. “Luke! Do you want to see the babies?” Jack asked him.

 

Luke stood there, not saying anything or moving at all.

 

“Come here, buddy,” Jack said.

 

Luke walked to where Jack was seated slowly. He stood in front of Jack, staring at Grace. Jack turned Grace over so Luke could see her.

 

“Luke, this is your little sister, Grace. That over there with Mrs. Rebecca is Victor, your little brother.” Jack said.

 

Luke stood there, taking turns staring at each of the twins. “Would you like to hold one?” Rebecca asked him softly.

 

Luke shook his head, but he didn’t move either. Jack knew that under normal circumstances it would take Luke a while to warm up to the babies. But now? Who knows how long it would take. Hours? Days?

 

Just then there was a knock on the door as an older lady poked her head in the house.

 

“Rebecca? Hello? Anyone home?” Jack figured it was Rebecca’s mom. He was right.

 

“Mom!” Rebecca said carefully getting up, still holding Victor. They embraced, careful not to squish the little one.

 

“Hi, Becca. How are you? Oh, these must be the twins. And Luke! And you must be Jack. Hi, I’m Linda. Nice to meet you!” Linda said as she went to shake Jack’s hand.

 

“Nice to meet you too, Ma’am,” Jack said.

 

“Hi, Luke,” Linda said softly. “You know what? My dog had puppies a few weeks ago, and I had to bring them over to Rebecca’s farm. Would you help me get them out of the car?” She asked, looking at Jack for approval. Jack smiled and nodded his head.

 

“Puppies! Luke, would you like to help Mrs. Linda with the puppies?” Jack asked.

 

“Oh, you can call me Aunt Linda if you’d like. Or Grandma L. But Mrs. Linda sounds like you don’t want to be friends with me. What do you say? Will you help me?” Linda said holding her hand out towards Luke.

 

Luke looked at his father, who nodded, and then back at Linda. He shyly held his hand up to hold Linda’s.

 

“Good,” Linda smiled, “because they are sure a handful. There are three of them!” Her voice trailed off as they headed outside.

 

Jack laid Grace down gently as she was falling asleep. To his surprise, she didn’t cry. He looked at Rebecca still holding on to Victor.

 

“Do you mind if I leave Luke here for a little while and go check on the house?” He asked Rebecca.

 

Rebecca shook her head. “No, go right ahead. It looks like the twins will be sleeping for a little while, anyway, and Luke will be busy with the puppies. Let me get Seth to go with you, that way you can bring your truck back when your ready, and he can come back right away.”

 

Jack nodded. “Thanks, Rebecca. You and Seth have been a Godsend.”

 

Rebecca smiled and put little Victor down for a nap next to his sister. He was fast asleep. She went outside to get Seth, as Jack watched Luke play with the dogs out the window. Luke wasn’t exactly laughing, but he sure seemed to be enjoying himself.

 

Seth and Rebecca reappeared, and soon Seth and Jack were on their way. Jack had stopped to talk to Luke, and Luke had been a little reluctant to let Jack go. Jack felt bad for having to leave Luke, but he wanted to see what the extent of the damage was to their house before allowing Luke to see it.

 

They rode in silence for a while, Jack lost in deep thoughts, and Seth allowing him to have some space.

 

As they approached the road that led to Jack’s house, Seth cleared his throat. “Uh, Jack? Just wanted to prepare ya, buddy. There ain’t much left. How they got to Carol before it got this bad I’ll never know. I just thank the Good Lord they did.”

 

They turned the corner and Jack gasped as he saw what Seth meant. The structure of the house was still there, but everything else seemed to be gone, including the roof. Seth parked and they both got out of the truck. Jack went and stood in front of his home, his hands on his hips, wondering what he was going to do now. Where were he and his children going to live? Could he rebuild before the winter came? With what?

 

Jack shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair. He glanced at Seth and shook his head again.

 

“It really is a mess, isn’t it?” Jack asked to keep the tears from forming yet again.

 

Seth nodded. “Yep. It sure is. Do you want to go in there? I talked to Ben earlier today and he said that we could go in, but we had to make it quick. He’s concerned about the house not being structurally safe. I can go in there with you if want.”

 

Jack looked down and paused before answering. He finally decided that it would be better to have company than not, so he nodded his head.

 

“I’d appreciate that, Seth. Thank you.” Jack replied.

 

Seth nodded as he put his hand up to block the sun from his eyes. “No problem, Bud.”

 

They approached the house cautiously as if it was going to bite them. They walked through the front entrance door that had been destroyed by the firemen, and looked around. The roof was mostly gone, allowing the sun to shine through and give them light.

 

Jack looked around and let out a heavy sigh. All the walls were black, and the furniture was badly burned. He carefully walked around what used to be the living room-dinning room area. The kitchen cabinets were completely gone, as was everything in it. Even the pantry and the food in it was scorched. Jack shook his head. Maybe he would have to go shopping after all, even if he had to borrow some money. They had to eat!

 

Jack made his way towards Luke’s room. To his surprise, the door was still closed. He opened it, and found that although it had been sprayed to prevent the fire from growing, a lot of Luke’s clothing could be saved, as were his toys. He opened the drawers in the chest of drawers and was relieved to see that those were also intact, just dirty.

 

Seth came into the room and whistled softly. “Wow! This is good! Say, I have some garbage bags in my truck. Do you want me to get them? Maybe we can salvage some of Luke’s stuff.”

 

Jack nodded his head. “That would be great, Seth.”

 

Seth went back out to see about the bags, and Jack made his way into his bedroom. He was hesitant at first to go in there, but knew he had to. The door to this room was opened and Jack could tell the difference right away. Everything seemed to be charred to a crisp, including his bed. Nothing seemed to have escaped the fire. Jack stood there gazing at the place where the bed used to be. Tears threatened to come again, but this time he was spared once again, as he heard voices coming from the living room.

 

Jack made his way over there, and found Seth and Mr. Bodaway looking for him.

 

“Jack, my friend!” Mr. Bodaway said as he walked towards Jack. He gave Jack a hug and patted him on the back. “Jack, I’m so sorry for your loss. Words cannot express the deep sorrow I feel for you, dear friend.”

 

“Thank you, Mr. Bodaway,” Jack said quietly, returning his embrace.

 

“I, uh, I’m going to see about getting some of Luke’s clothes,” Seth said uncomfortably, as he disappeared into the hall.

 

“Jack, may I have a word with you? Perhaps outside?” Mr. Bodaway asked.

 

Jack nodded his head. “Sure Mr. Bodaway,” he answered, leading the way.

 

Once outside, Mr. Bodaway turned to look at Jack. “Do you have any plans, Jack?” he asked.

 

Jack looked down at his boots and shook his head. “No, not yet, Mr. Bodaway.”

 

Mr. Bodaway nodded his head, lifting his cap up to run his hand through his hair before putting it back on. “Well, you are more than welcome to come and live at the Reservation. We have a place that you can stay at, near your office, and I’m sure you and your family would be quite comfortable.”

 

Jack looked at Mr. Bodaway, and then down again. “Thank you, Mr. Bodaway. You are very generous,” he said, a small smile on his face. “But I couldn’t, well, I won’t leave this place. But I do appreciate the offer.”

 

Mr. Bodaway nodded. “Yeah, I thought you’d say that. Well, then I have a business proposal for you, Jack. As you know, I am one of your biggest clients,” he paused as Jack nodded. “Well, what I’m proposing is this. Over the next few weeks, months or even years, I will not have money to pay for your services. Even if I did, money will not be worth much, if anything. Now, you need a house, I need a vet. I say I give you a cabin in exchange for future services, up to the amount of the cost of the cabin, of course.”

 

Jack looked at Mr. Bodaway, trying to read his mind. Jack was a proud man, not one to take handouts, but he knew that Mr. Bodaway was one too, and would not be easily deterred.

 

“You want to sell me one of your cabins? How would I put it up?” Jack asked.

 

“Well, that would be included in the cost. I have a kit at the office now, one that the buyer fell through on. There is nothing wrong with the cabin, of course. It is taking up too much space, and I think it would look mighty fine right there.” Mr. Bodaway said, pointing to the house.

 

“You’d put it where the house is?” Jack asked.

 

Mr. Bodaway nodded. “Yes, Jack. We would tear down the existing house, and put it on the basement. We would have to work on the basement some, but I don’t think it got hurt as bad. Have you been down there?”

 

Jack shook his head. “No, I haven’t. Our room was pretty bad, but Luke’s seemed to be ok. Of course all of the living room, dinning room and kitchen are pretty much gone.”

 

“Yeah, well, I was down there earlier today. I hope you don’t mind,” Mr. Bodaway continued.

 

“You went down there? I should see what it’s like,” Jack said, anxious to get going and get back to his kids.

 

“Yes, Jack, but there is something else.” Mr. Bodaway said, pulling an envelope out of his shirt pocket and handing it to Jack.

 

“What’s this?” Jack asked, taking the envelope.

 

“Well, John McKeen was here this morning, too. He and I went around your house, looking at what caused the fire.” Mr. Bodaway said.

 

“John McKeen? Why was he here? I didn’t have insurance on the house.” Jack asked, confused. John McKeen was an insurance representative that Jack had worked with before, as he came with great recommendations from Mr. Bodaway. They didn’t know each other very well, but Mr. Bodaway spoke highly of him.

 

“Well, actually, you did. It’s all wrapped up in your mortgage payments, so you probably didn’t even know you had it. I thought that maybe you could use that money towards the log cabin, and then you wouldn’t have to work for me as long, or I’ll include some extra’s, like sinks and toilets and such,” Mr. Bodaway paused and looked at Jack carefully. “Did Carol have any kind of insurance?” he asked.

 

Jack shook his head. “Not of any that I know of. I don’t know where she would have gotten the money to afford any. We were barely making our budget every month, and that was only because of the work she was doing from home.”

 

Mr. Bodaway rubbed his chin thoughtfully as he looked at Jack. “Well, Jack,” he said, a small smile on his face, “looks like she pulled one over on you, my friend. Look at what’s in the envelope.”

 

Jack frowned and opened the envelope. In it was a check, made out to Jack for $5,000. “What’s this for?” Jack asked surprised.

 

“Well,” Mr. Bodaway said, “John said that when he found out about the fire, he had to come and look at the house as soon as it was safe. He was happy to know that you hadn’t been in there, as that meant you hadn’t tampered with the evidence. Ben Tiller, John and I looked around the house, and determined that the cause of the fire was an accident. Now,” he paused as he studied Jack’s face, “apparently, Carol had some form of life insurance. I’m not sure where she got the idea to get it, but she did. The check you have there should be for $5000 to help you with some immediate expenses. The rest of the $25,000 will come later. The idea was that you would have some money to help with burial costs. But now with the hospital gone, and everyone in it with it…”

 

Jack shook his head. “And she never told me about it? Are you sure about this?” he asked angrily, not being able to believe what he had just heard. Why would Carol hold something like this back from him? Did she not think he was trustworthy?

 

Mr. Bodaway nodded. “Yup, I sure am. John wanted to make sure that you had the money right away, as he also sees the things that are coming. Now, Jack, I suggest you go and replace whatever you need to replace for your new home. You will need some furniture, like cribs for your babies. Also, you may want to replace clothing and shoes for your yourself.”

 

Jack nodded. All of his clothing, and Carol’s, had been lost in the fire, as had everything else in their room.

 

“Thank you, Mr. Bodaway. I don’t know what else to say,” Jack said, looking at the check again. He still couldn’t believe that Carol would have done that behind his back.

 

“Well, there is something else, Jack. If you sign that check over to me, I’ll cash it at the bank, and give you cash right now.” Mr. Bodaway said.

 

“You have $5000 in cash?” Jack asked, looking at Mr. Bodaway surprised.

 

Mr. Bodaway laughed as he reached into his other pocket and pulled out a separate envelope. “Oh, Jack. If you only knew!” he said, laughing again.

 

Jack knew that Mr. Bodaway was a very rich man, even though he didn’t live like one. He also knew that $5000 was not much to him, as a lot more money went through his hands every day.

 

Jack took the cash and signed the check over to Mr. Bodaway. “Thank you, Mr. Bodaway, this means a lot to me.” Jack smiled at him.

 

“Hey, what are neighbors for?” Mr. Bodaway responded and shook Jack’s hand. “Now,” he continued, “what about that cabin. Can we get started on that?”

 

Jack held his hand up to cover the sun from his eyes as he looked to the house. Well, he thought, it’s better than whatever I could have come up with! He nodded his head.

 

“Yes, that would be good. When will this, um, agreement start?” Jack asked as he nodded his head.

 

“Well, I would say as soon as we are able to finish those other cabins. They are nearly completed as I pulled as many men from the Reservation as I could to work on the project.” Mr. Bodaway replied. “Seth and Rebecca have said that you are welcome to stay with them until you get something up and going of your own. Why don’t you go back in and see what else can be salvaged? I need to get back and make sure those Yahoos are doing their work.” He said, stretching his hand out to Jack and patting him on the back again.

 

“Thank you, Mr. Bodaway, I sure do appreciate all your help,” Jack said, returning his embrace.

 

They parted ways, Mr. Bodaway going back across the lake to the Larson’s old farm, and Jack back into his burned up house. Jack walked as carefully as he could, not wanting to disturb anything. He could hear Seth working in Luke’s room.

 

“Hey Seth?” Jack called out.

 

“Yeah.” Came back the reply.

 

“I’m going to head downstairs, alright?” Jack told his friend.

 

“Ok!” Seth yelled out once again.

 

Jack made his way down the stairs, glad that he had grabbed a flashlight before going down there. It was better than the upstairs, but not by much. He knew there wasn’t going to be much to salvage. He went into what used to be an old bomb shelter, as his house had been built back when those were the newest thing. There he found his big, fireproof box with all their important paperwork, and some of his ammo and guns. His uniform from the army was also there, as was Carol’s simple wedding dress. He still couldn’t figure out why she had wanted to keep that.

 

Jack was glad that he had been able to spare Luke from seeing the house like this. He looked at his watch and decided that he had better get going, as it was getting late, and he really did want to buy cribs and things for the babies, as well as a bed for himself, and maybe even an extra one to barter with.

 

Jack found Seth outside, putting bags of Luke’s stuff into the back of his pick-up. Jack helped him put the last two in the truck. They discussed what to do next and decided to go back to Seth’s place so that Jack and Luke could go out to do the shopping. They unloaded Jack’s truck and put everything into the storage barn, so that Jack would have an empty truck and trailer ready to take to town. Seth assured Jack that if he wasn’t home in time, he would find someone to take care of the animals.

 

They each drove their own truck, and once back at Seth’s they unloaded the bags of Luke’s clothes and toys, and Rebecca got busy washing them. After checking in on the twins, and wishing that he could just stay and hold them, Jack went to find Luke.

 

They made their way to town in silence, with Jack trying to make conversation now and then, but only getting a few nods from Luke. Eventually Luke fell asleep, and Jack turned the radio on to listen to some music. There was no music to be found. Jack changed radio stations to no avail, as all he got was news, and it wasn’t good.

 

“The White House is not responding to anyone right now, and they have continued to maintain that they have no comment at this time. There are rumors going around, saying that this will be the start of World War III, but those rumors have not yet been confirmed. Kenneth Lindwik, reporting.”

 

“In national news,” a female voice continued, “there has been a large number of casualties from all the terrorist attacks in different parts of the country. The exact numbers are not yet known. In Miami, Florida, two hospitals have been demolished to ruins with everyone and everything in it. Cuban gangs have taken responsibility for those catastrophes. Across the country in Washington State, a suicide bomber blew up a small local store killing over 50 people. The bomber was allegedly from Spain. In Dallas, Texas, there have been reports of riots so large that the local police is closing off areas and not allowing people in or out of the neighborhoods that are most affected. They have called on the state for help, but what will be done to remedy the situation is still yet undecided. All over the country there are reports of hospitals, churches, synagogues, high–rise apartments and stores being attacked in some way or another. There is no way to pinpoint from where or whom the attacks are coming from at this time. Lucia Flounder, reporting.”

 

Next, Jack heard the local announcer reporting the local news, “Thank you for listening to 70.5FM, WSJO, the best place in the news to keep you informed. Local officials of the Great Lakes area of Minnesota are asking residents to please stay calm and not panic. Since the Grand Rapids hospital was blown up yesterday there have been some reports of some of the gangs trying to get into some of the richer lakeside homes. A father of a teenage girl that was being threatened by the gang shot one gang member to death. The father was not taken into custody, and his name is not being released. The local officials are also asking people to be very cautious as they go about their business, and to not take advantage of the situation that the country is in. This is 70.5FM, WSJO, the best place in the news to keep you informed.”

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CHAPTER 13

 

It was the darkest that Joy had ever seen.

 

“Well, great Joy. Now we’re stuck. If we had waited, then maybe we wouldn’t be here right now!” Bethany said, her tone of voice demeaning.

 

“Waited for what, exactly? Had we waited, we might have had to take all the stuff down the stairs instead of this way.” Allen said.

 

“Yeah, well, if we had waited, well, never mind. No use in arguing about it now. Man it’s hot in here!” Bethany said, trying to change the subject. Joy smiled, knowing Bethany couldn’t see her. Bethany hated to be wrong, but she hated more to be called on it.

 

Ed started pounding on the door. “Hey! Hello? Anyone out there?”

 

“Dad, Dave should be here soon. I sure hope he knows how to get us out though.” Joy said as she shifted her weight. There was no place for them to sit, as the elevator was filled with boxes. She took a deep breath and tried to relax. She shook her head. Normally her eyes would have been adjusted to the dark by now, but it was too dark. She wasn’t a fan of dark or tight places, and she was in both of them now. She was very glad that she wasn’t alone; otherwise she wasn’t sure what she would have done.

 

“Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, ninety-nine bottles of beer…” Allen started to sing, and they all laughed. Joy was glad his sense of humor had survived. They all joined in the song, hoping that someone would hear them and get them out. By the time they got to eighty-two, they heard Dave outside of the elevator.

 

“Joy? Are you in there?” He asked.

 

“Yup, it’s us, Dave. Can you get us out?” Joy asked, hoping for a positive answer.

 

“Well, I’m not sure where my tools ended up, and the ones that were in the closet aren’t there. Your Mom called 911, but they said that they would come as soon as possible. They are really swamped right now, and who knows how long it’s going to take. You don’t have any water in there, or anything, do you?” Dave answered.

 

“No, we don’t.” Ed replied. “Dave, listen. Does the company have a generator? Maybe you can give the building enough power to get the door open.”

 

“Well, yeah, I think so! It’s in the other building though. I’ll get on that, and if the firemen arrive before I do, then all the better, ok? I’ll also look for some tools over there, just in case. Don’t worry, we’ll get you out of there!” He said, knocking on the elevator door to reassure them.

 

“Hurry!” Bethany said, knocking back frantically.

 

“Ok, see you soon,” Dave said, his voice trailing off.

 

“Eighty-one bottles of beer on the wall, eighty one bottles of beer…” Allen led them in song again.

 

Joy leaned on the boxes, trying to stretch her back muscles. She pressed the indiglo light on her watch to see what time it was, so that they wouldn’t loose track of how long they were in there for. It was just after ten. She sighed and leaned against the wall. She continued singing with the others, but couldn’t help wonder what was happening to her beloved country. Could that many people really want to hurt them? That many nations? Didn’t they stand to suffer just as much or more than the States did if it went down?

 

Allen picked other songs for them to sing, trying to keep them encouraged. They tapped on walls and boxes, trying to keep their mood lively. It must be over 90° in here, Joy thought. Although it was proving to be a colder summer than usual, this day had been forecasted to be hot. Several times they had to stop singing, as people would stop and encourage them. There was little anyone could do, so they would greet those inside and then take off.

 

“Joy, is that you in there?” Joy heard a woman say in a thick Spanish accent.

 

“Monica! Hi, yes! It’s us!” Joy said. Monica was Dave’s coworker at the apartment complex. She was from Ecuador, and Joy had enjoyed being able to talk in Spanish to her on more than one occasion.

 

“Oh, you got stuck! I was hoping that no one was in here. I saw George and Dave coming over here with the generator. Poor guys, they had to carry that heavy thing all the way over here. The electric cart isn’t working, so they were not able to use that. Is it hot in there?” Monica asked.

 

“Yes!” They all yelled at once and then laughed.

 

Monica laughed too. “Well, I’m going to see if anyone in the other building is stuck, ok?”

 

“Ok, good to talk to you, Monica!” Joy yelled.

 

Just then the lights came back on, and the door opened. The foursome felt immediate relief from the heat, as Allen hurriedly stood in front of the door so that it wouldn’t close again. They all filed out to enjoy the light and not being cooped up. It was a lot cooler in the hallways, even though the central air hadn’t been working because of the lack of power.

 

Juan, Leslie, Ann and Roger showed up and took out all the boxes that were in the elevator. Joy went and stood under the vent, enjoying the crisp, cold air now that it was on again. Dave came in from the front door and smiled at her.

 

“You are all wet!” he said, brushing a lock of hair out her face.

 

Joy smiled back as she fanned herself with her hand. “I know! It was so hot in there! How long were we in there?” she said as she looked at her watch.

 

“Well, I set my timer when the lights went out, knowing that you were in there. And now it’s 10:20am. That’s at least 20 minutes! I’m glad you are ok,” he said leaning in for a kiss.

 

Joy kissed his lips, glad that she was ok, too. “Where is Victoria?” She asked.

 

“She’s still upstairs with your mom. Most everything is down here, as everyone kept working, even in the dark. George and I brought the generator over, but I’m glad we didn’t have to use it. But now it’s here, in case it happens again.” Dave said wiping off sweat from his own forehead.

 

“Ok. Well, I better go up there too. Most of my clothes are packed, aren’t they?” Joy asked. She really wanted a shower now, but wondered if it would be unfair to the rest of the ones that had been caught in the elevator too.

 

Dave nodded his head. “Yeah. And I wouldn’t trust the elevator. If the lights go out again, we might be in trouble.”

 

Joy nodded and lifted her head to kiss him again. “I’ll take the stairs, then. Do you have an extra flashlight I can use?”

 

Dave shook his head. “No, but I’ll go up with you. I want to see what all we are leaving behind. I’m hoping that we can return and get the rest some other time. If not, well,” he shook his head again, not wanting to think about not returning.

 

They made their way up the two flights of stairs and to their apartment. There were still some family members coming and going with things. When they got to the apartment they were surprised to see all the boxes gone. Joy went to the kitchen and found that most everything was gone, except for her small appliances. Even their tea and other beverages were gone. She looked up above her cabinets to find all of her Mexican decorations gone, and the fake ivies. They packed those too? She wondered. Joy and Dave made their way into the living room to find most, but not all of the books gone. Dave had a large section of computer books that were staying. But all the other office stuff, such as pens and paper were all gone. Pictures, clocks, even CDs. They seemed to have all been packed away. As Joy went into Victoria’s room, She found Liz and Victoria putting her toys in bags. It looked to Joy like some toys were gone, and all of her clothing.

 

“Hi honey!” Joy said as Victoria came and gave her a hug. “What are you doing?”

 

“We are packing, Mama! And Grandma said that we are going to go on a trip. I like trips!” Victoria responded, her voice full of excitement.

 

Joy smiled at Victoria, then at her Mom. “Yup, we sure are, honey, we sure are. You keep packing ok?”

 

“Ok, Mommy!”

 

Joy went into her bedroom and found Marie packing the rest of the towels and sheets.

 

“Hi. Man. It’s hard to know what to pack, isn’t it?” Joy shook her head, looking around her room.

 

“Mmm…no, not really. I just think, could I use this in Africa? No. Ok, then it stays. This? Yes. Ok, then it goes. Although we did pack all your CDs. We figured with as many batteries as you guys have, we might as well have music. We are taking two of your boom boxes, and leaving the big one. We didn’t bother with the movies. Figured we were pushing it with the CDs.” Marie said as Joy helped her finish putting stuff away.

 

Joy nodded her head. “I’m glad you are here,” she said, tears threatening to spill over.

 

“I am too. Oh, come on now. Don’t start that. You are going to get me started!” Marie said, looking away. Joy knew she was feeling the stress of it all, too. She looked around her room and realized that they may never be able to come back. But then, maybe they would. That’s what she hoped, anyway. That this would all be for nothing, and that they would be complaining about all the work they had put into the moving.

 

Joy went to the bathroom and looked through all the drawers. Most everything was gone, even her make-up. She didn’t use much, but she knew Ann would be happy to have some. Everything electric was left behind, including Dave’s razor. Joy smiled, wondering how he was going to manage without it. Once she was satisfied that everything in the apartment that she wanted was packed, she went back into Victoria’s room.

 

“You know Mom, we still have stuff in storage. A lot of it is stuff like Christmas decorations, but there are some baby clothes and a few maternity clothes. You think there will be space in the trucks?” Joy asked, helping put some toys in boxes.

 

“It’s all taken care of, honey. Juan got the keys from Dave earlier, and they took down everything they thought was important to take. It’s nice to see how much we can all get done if we work together.” Liz said with pride in her voice. Joy knew that although this was a hard time for all of them, it was also a special time. It had been many years since the whole family had been together. Especially with all the brothers-in-law.

 

Joy nodded. “Yeah, we’d get more done if we would stop getting stuck in the elevator!” she said and they both laughed.

 

“You got stuck in the elevator Mommy? That’s not nice.” Victoria said matter-of-factly, as only a four-year-old can.

 

Joy smiled and leaned over to give her a kiss. “No, honey. It wasn’t.”

 

“I’ll be right back,” Joy said, getting up.

 

She went into the bathroom and splashed water on her face and ran her wet fingers through her long, wavy hair. She pulled it up into a bun, thankful to have it off her neck.

 

“Joy?” Dave called from the living room.

 

“Yeah?” Joy answered, walking towards him.

 

“I’m thinking about taking the car. Maybe your Dad or someone can ride with me, and we can fit more stuff in there. What do you think?” he asked, pulling his glasses off and cleaning them with his shirt.

 

“Oh, that’s a good idea! Is there enough gas in it?” Joy wondered.

 

Dave nodded and put his glasses back on. “Yup. I filled it up last time I went out, and haven’t used it since.”

 

“Ok. I’ll talk to my Dad.” Joy said, leaning into Dave for a hug. “I did not like being stuck in the elevator. It was kind of scary, especially not knowing how or when we were going to get out.”

 

Dave wrapped his arms around Joy and kissed her on the head. “I’m sorry you had to go through that. We are getting smarter, though! Now we are sending the loads down by themselves and then someone is getting them once they get downstairs. That way if the lights go out, it’s just stuff that gets stuck.”

 

Joy looked up and gave Dave a kiss on the lips. “That’s good. I better get going to find Dad. He was concerned that we might not be able to travel soon.”

 

“Ok, I’m going to look around and make sure we have everything we can take. I think there is still room for Victoria’s toys, and Marie even packed a bunch of your decorations. Since there was a bunch of room still in the truck, we let it go.” Dave said, walking Joy to the door. “Make sure you have a flashlight with you, ok?”

 

“Ok,” Joy said, grabbing one by the door. “See you soon hon,” she waived as she made her way down the hallway.

 

She went down the steps, glad that they had figured out a way that no one was going to get caught in the elevator anymore. When she got to the elevator area on the main floor, she realized that they were almost done. She went outside to look at the trucks, and saw that there was a couple other people doing the same thing that they were doing, but they weren’t using the elevator. The two U-hauls that they were using were getting pretty full, but Bethany’s still had some space.

 

“Hey, Dad?” Joy called out when she saw Ed.

 

“Yeah?” Ed said, turning to see her.

 

“Dave was wondering if you would ride with him in the car. He thought that it might be good to have an extra vehicle, and we can fit some more things in there, too, if we need.” She said, putting her arm around his waist.

 

Ed nodded. “Yeah, I can go with him if he wants. I’m not sure that we are going to need the space though. I think your Mom just has a few toys left and then she’s done, right?”

 

Joy thought for a second and then nodded. “Dad, do you think we should take any electronics at all?”

 

“I don’t know, honey. Maybe. Maybe we can take a few in the car, like I don’t know, say some of your kitchen stuff.” Ed said, rubbing his chin. He hadn’t shaved since they had left Mexico, and Joy was sure that it was probably getting itchy.

 

“Ok, I’ll get on that. Should I bring the car around?” Joy asked.

 

Ed nodded again. “Sure, but make sure you don’t take the elevator!”

 

Joy laughed as she started to make her way to the underground garage. “Oh, don’t worry! I won’t!”

 

Joy walked around the building to where the underground garage entrance was. She went through the open garage door, and made her way to their old car, glad to have the flashlight in case the power went out again. She got the car and drove it to the front of the building, and parked it as close as possible.

 

She saw that the last of Victoria’s toys were being loaded into the truck, and that Dave had come down as well. He was carrying three large black bags.

 

“What are those?” Joy asked, once she had reached them.

 

“They are from Dorothy, from 107. She said that she has been meaning to give them to you, and that if we had space, she wanted you to take them.” Dave responded, throwing the bags into the U-haul.

 

“What are they?” Joy asked, pulling one back to see what was inside.

 

“I think just yarn and stuff like that. I’m not sure. We can look at it when we get there.” He said as he took it away from Joy and put it back. He stuck out his tongue to Joy in response to her sticking out hers at him.

 

“Hey Dave?” Ed called Dave from the entrance.

 

“Yeah,” Dave said as both he and Joy made their way to the entrance.

 

“I think we need to get going. I’m not sure what they do when the threat level goes up to red, but I would really rather not find out. If you guys want to go upstairs and take one more look around, the rest of us can start getting settled into our vehicles. As far as I know, we all have our stuff packed in the vans and ready to go.” Ed said, pointing at the vans. Joy could see that Juan and Marco were loading up the last of their suitcases.

 

“Ok, we can send Liz down, and then we can take off. You’ll ride with me?” Dave asked, looking at Ed. “Ok, then, let’s get going,” he continued after Ed nodded.

 

Dave and Joy made their way upstairs and to their apartment. They told Liz that they were all ready to go, and that she could go downstairs. After she left, Dave, Joy and Victoria went room by room in their apartment, making sure nothing was left that they wanted with them. Most of the walls had been stripped bare, Victoria’s bed was gone, all their pillows and curtains, together with the curtain rods, were also gone. Liz had been able to put away all of Victoria’s toys and blankets. It was strange for Joy to see her home like this. It was theirs, but somehow it didn’t seem like it anymore.

 

A tear rolled down Joy’s cheek, and just as she was about to say something, the phone rang, making Joy almost jump out of her skin.

 

Dave shook his head, and went to answer the phone. “Hello?”

 

By what Dave said, she figured that he had been called on to work, again. He hung up the phone and picked up Victoria.

 

“That was George. He wondered if I could help take the generator back to the other building.” Dave said, then kissed Victoria and had her stand up on their bed.

 

“So you are going to help him?” Joy asked, already knowing the answer.

 

Dave nodded, and brought Joy in for a family hug. This was a special tradition that they had with Victoria every night. She would stand on the bed so that she was almost as tall as they were, and they would all hug each other. Joy held on to her family tight as Dave prayed for them. He prayed for their safety in this situation, and that above all, for God to be glorified and for His will to be done in their lives, whatever that may be.

 

Once done, Dave leaned down and kissed each of his girls. They left their apartment and started to head down the hall, knowing that it could be for the last time. Halfway down the hall, the lights went out again. Joy rolled her eyes, annoyed that it had happened again, but glad that this time she wasn’t in the elevator, especially with Victoria.

 

Dave handed the flashlight that he had to Joy, and picked Victoria up to carry her through the darkest part. Once they were at the stairwell and had light from the windows he put her down. They went down to the front of the building, where they found everyone waiting.

 

Dave told Ed about having to take the generator over, and Ed offered to help. The rest would wait where they were, and then the caravan would start, with Ed and Dave leading the way.

 

Dave turned to Joy and kissed her softly on the lips. “I’ll be right back,” he said, and then bent over to kiss Victoria.

 

“Ok, hon. Love you,” Joy said.

 

“I love you, Daddy!” Victoria said as she took the opportunity to hug Dave. Joy smiled. Victoria was a very loving child, one that would take a hug at any opportunity.

 

“I love you, too.” Dave said, hugging Victoria tight and looking at Joy.

 

“I love you, too!” Liz said, jokingly.

 

Dave blushed and smiled at Liz. “Um, thank you?”

 

Liz laughed as Dave and Ed took off to take the generator over, and everyone else settled into their vehicles. Joy was glad she had worn shorts and a tank top. It sure was warm. She put Victoria into her car seat, and was glad to see that Roger was going to drive Juan and Ann’s van, and Juan was going to help Bethany with the U-haul. Joy left the van’s sliding door open for Victoria and turned to talk to Liz. Before she was able to say anything, a loud explosion erupted, causing some of the windows in the vans to crack.

 

Joy turned and laid on Victoria trying to protect her from whatever was happening. Victoria was crying loudly, holding her ears. Once Joy knew there was no immediate danger to her daughter, she pulled back, hoping she had allowed enough space for her to breath.

 

“Victoria, are you ok? Victoria?” Joy said holding Victoria’s face in her two hands.

 

Victoria shook her head and continued to cry. Joy leaned in to hug her, and gave her a kiss on her cheek. Joy knew she probably was ok, just scared and shook up, just like she was.

 

Liz came to where Joy was and after making sure that they were ok, went to see if the rest of the family was ok. Joy got Victoria out of her car seat, and joined Liz.

 

“What happened?” Joy asked as she approached the rest of the family.

 

Everyone shook their head or shrugged their shoulders. Victoria clung to Joy, afraid that another blast might come. And it did. It started slowly at first, and then the rumbling got louder. It didn’t take long, but the noise was almost unbearable. Joy held Victoria close, trying to protect her head and ears.

 

All of the sudden, Joy felt someone grabbing and shaking her arm. It was Allen. He was yelling something and pointing to the other apartment building over the hill, where Dave and Ed had taken the generator. She couldn’t hear him, but as he continued pointing and speaking in Spanish, her heart froze and her stomach felt like it fell to her feet. The sound was closer that she had thought. It was coming from where her dad and husband were.

 

She took Victoria to Liz, and had her carry her, still trying to protect her ears. Then Joy ran as fast as she ever had in her life towards the building. Allen ran with her, but soon was way ahead of her. Most of the apartment building was gone. It was a long building in a “U” shape, so the ends were still standing, but the center and everything around had collapsed. Joy stood there in disbelief, not knowing what to do.

 

“Dave!” She yelled as she ran to the building. Allen came to her and stopped her, putting his young, but strong arms around her. “Let me go! Dave! Dave!” Joy struggled with all her might, unable to break Allen’s grasp.

 

As she stood there, trying to fight Allen, she heard a voice calling out to her. It was Ed.

 

“Joy! Joy!” he said, running towards her and replacing Allen in holding her.

 

“Dad! Oh, Dad!” Joy exclaimed, almost falling to the ground. Ed and Allen caught her and held her up. “Dad, where is Dave? Please tell me he is with you. Please, Dad. Please.”

 

Ed’s face was also covered in tears as he shook his head. “I’m so sorry,” he chocked out, his lips trembling.

 

“No. No!” Joy yelled as she struggled to go towards the mountain of rubble in front of her. “No! Please. Dave! Dave!” Joy collapsed to the ground overcome by her grief.

 

Then, as if from nowhere, police cars showed up, as well as a couple of fire trucks. Several people that had survived the collapse where coming out of the edges of the building. For the next few minutes everything was a blur to Joy. Her heart seemed to have been lost somewhere in the rubble. What had happened? Was Dave really in there? Maybe he wasn’t.

 

“Dad,” Joy said looking at Ed, her face covered in tears. “Are you sure Dave was in there? Maybe he wasn’t. Do you know for sure he was in there?”

 

Ed held her close. “I’m sure, honey. I saw him go in.”

 

Joy sobbed on her father’s chest for a while, until a policeman approached them. Joy missed most of the conversation between him and Ed, and was unaware that the rest of the family had joined them.

 

“Joy? Honey. Joy?” Ed said, trying to get her attention. The officer wants to talk to you. Joy?”

 

Joy looked up from her father’s embrace, tears still streaming from her eyes. She couldn’t see the policeman very well, but she tried to focus on what he was saying.

 

“We found someone, Ma’am. One of the residents says that he is an employee here, and also said that you might know who he is.” The police officer said as softly as he could, but yet loud enough for her to hear.

 

“Is he alive? Is Dave alive?” Joy said, her heart skipping a beat with the hope that her husband might still be alive.

 

“Well, yes. He is still alive, but he is in pretty bad shape. He may never be able to walk again.” The officer responded.

 

Joy shook her head. She didn’t care if he never walked again. He was alive! “Where is he? Can I see him?” She asked, scanning the crowd of rescue workers.

 

“Yes, Ma’am. Follow me,” The officer said as he led the way to an ambulance.

 

Joy, Ed and Liz followed. Liz had given Victoria over to Marie and Ann so that she could be available to help Joy. They made their way through the crowd of people gathered around them. It was a total chaos. Residents from Joy’s building and from the town homes around them had come out, and the media had been informed somehow as well. There were many rescue workers going back and forth, trying to save as many people as they possibly could. It took a few minutes for them to get to where the ambulance was.

 

“Joy? Joy!” a woman in the crowd yelled. It was Monica. “Joy, are you ok?” Monica squeezed her way past the people between them.

 

Joy shook her head. She didn’t trust her voice, and she really just wanted to get to Dave. Monica came over and gave her a hug.

 

“Excuse me, but Joy really needs to get to the ambulance.” Joy heard Ed say. She turned to look at him gratefully, and let go of Monica.

 

“I need to see Dave,” Joy said quietly.

 

A look of realization crossed Monica’s face as she took a step back and allowed Joy to get to the ambulance.

 

Joy walked to the back of the ambulance with her parents right behind her, Ed’s hand on her shoulder, supporting her. The officer that had come to talk to her climbed into the ambulance, and then helped her up. At first all Joy could see was a man on a stretcher, with an enormous amount of blood coming from where his right leg should be. It looked as if it had been severed from the knee down.

 

Her heart ached for her husband as she got closer to the head of the stretcher. Joy looked at the man lying in front of her, her heart churning inside of her.

 

“This isn’t Dave. This isn’t my husband!” She cried.

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CHAPTER 14

 

Jack turned off the radio, shaking his head. He was half way to Grand Rapids, but decided to pull over. He saw all the traffic going away from the city, and decided that it may not be the best idea to actually go there. He had just lost his wife. He did not want something to happen to him or Luke, and leave the twins without any parents or family at all.

 

He got back onto the highway and headed towards the nearest exit to be able to turn around. He knew it would be coming up soon, but was shocked when he saw what was ahead of him. The overpass was gone! In its place were just rumbles, with squad cars everywhere, plus a couple of fire engines. Jack recognized Ben’s truck. He approached the area slowly, and pulled over to the side.

 

Jack got out of his truck, careful not to wake up Luke. “Hey, Ben, what happened? He asked, shaking Ben’s hand.

 

Ben shook his head. “Can you believe this? Who would want to do this? There are at least two cars trapped underneath, probably people wanting to get to the city. And there were kids in there too…man! I just want to beat the crap out of someone!” He said angrily.

 

Jack shook his head and looked down. He looked back up, watching the fire department volunteers try to clean up the mess. “Do you need some help? I’ve got Luke with me, but,”

 

“No, no!” Ben interrupted. “You get out of here. What are you doing out this way, anyway? Were you headed for Grand Rapids?”

 

Jack nodded as Ben continued, “Well, I’d really suggest not going. I mean, especially with Luke. I’m sure it’s not as bad there as it is in the bigger cities, but I just wouldn’t chance it. People’s tempers are running high, and even in this smaller city they are having problems. The few gangs that they have are trying to take advantage of what is happening. The police have their hands full, and they are starting to ask people to just defend themselves. You have a good place where you are, but I hope you have some way of defending yourself there, too. I think things are going to get pretty bad.” Ben shook his head. “You know, the terrorists may be doing quite a bit of damage, but I think we are actually destroying ourselves. Gangs are intimidating people into staying in their homes, or giving them up all together. This area is generally not a bad place to live, but you should see how hard it is to get people to cooperate.”

 

“Has everything really gotten this bad so fast?” Jack asked, disbelief in his voice.

 

Ben nodded. “Oh, yeah. And it’s not just at the city level, either. At the national level, things are getting pretty heated up, too. The President has had to declare martial law in some of the big cities, like New York and Dallas, TX. People here are worried that it will happen soon all across the country. I wouldn’t want to be in that situation, for sure. I have no idea how bad the Twin Cities is, but I hope Rebecca’s family is ok. I know she was pretty worried about them last night, and now there have been more and more reports about even apartment buildings being attacked. It’s just crazy.”

 

Jack shook his head again. What was happening to his country? It seemed like it was falling apart at the seams. Ben told him that even in the Senate and the House of Representatives that the politicians were loosing their tempers. The Republicans and Democrats were blaming each other, and not getting anything done in the meantime. Washington was beginning to be a place of chaos, as well as other big cities like it. Grocery stores were being looted, and several people had died in stampedes. It didn’t help that the electricity kept going off, even though crews were working around the clock to keep it on. On top of all that, the tension at the border with Mexico was about to explode. The riots were escalating to the point that they did not only have to call the National Guard in, but also the Army. Mexico’s president was claming that the US was trying to invade Mexico, and that is why he had the North Korean Army there as well as the Chinese Army. The US denied these claims, saying that there was no reason for the hostility, and that it was just defending itself.

 

The gap between the Democrats and Republicans was more than just the surface, though. The Democrats were introducing bills to pass laws that would restrict the use of guns, claiming that half of what was happening was because of private ownership of guns. A lot was being done by the terrorists, like destroying hospitals and overpasses; but most of the real, lasting damage was being done by the people themselves. Republicans argued that if you took away the right to defend oneself, it would create a bigger mess still. Jack shook his head again, and rubbed his whiskers. He could see how taking the guns away might seem like a good idea, but how would the average person defend himself if they didn’t have any? Should they all depend on the government to protect them? Jack didn’t think so.

 

“Any idea who is doing all this, Ben?” Jack asked, all of the sudden very tired.

 

Ben shook his head and frowned. “That’s the thing. They can’t pinpoint the enemy. No foreign government is taking responsibility, but all the attacks have been done by it seems each country in the world. I mean come on! Even Canada and Mexico have attacked us. And Britain! So much for being our allies! The President doesn’t know whom to blame! We can’t go around bombing all the frikin’ countries in the world, but it seems to me that all the countries in the world have united against us!”

 

Jack could tell his friend was very upset. And, well, he should be! Jack knew that he himself would be more upset, but right now, he felt that he really just had to keep his mind on providing for his family. With Carol no longer here, he had his hands full, and loosing his home didn’t help matters at all. He wondered if he should still go to Grand Rapids.

 

“So you don’t think I should go into the city, huh?” Jack asked his friend.

 

Ben shook his head. “No, not unless you really have to. What were you going to get anyway? Could you get it at one of the smaller towns?”

 

“Hmmm, maybe,” Jack responded. “Do you think Cohasset’s furniture store would be open? What about the Co-op there? You think it’d be open on a Sunday?”

 

Ben nodded his head. “Yup, everything is open. Everyone is trying to sell as much as they can, but they are only taking cash. You have any?”

 

Jack shrugged as he looked around to who was there. He really didn’t want to worry about people knowing that he had money. “Some.”

 

Ben nodded. “Well, I better get back to work, or they’ll think I’m slacking,” he said as he shook Jack’s hand and patted him on his back.

 

Jack patted Ben back, grateful for his friendship. He knew he had leaned heavy on him the night before, and he was grateful for all the support that Ben had given him.

 

“You know that you are always welcome to come and camp out at my place, right? Especially with the way things are going.” Jack said, looking at Ben’s eyes.

 

Ben nodded thoughtfully, his blond, curly hair blowing in the wind. “I may just take you up on that, buddy. I’ve got a bunch of camping gear, and we may just be able to work things out. It really is crazy in town. The Mayor is loosing her patience, and they said that she may declare Martial law here herself!”

 

“Ok, then. I’m staying at Seth and Rebecca’s place for now, until I can get a place of my own. I’ll tell you more about that later. You better be getting back to work, slacker!” Jack laughed, surprised at the fact that he could.

 

Ben smiled at is friend. “Ok, ok, if you insist. Don’t be surprised if I show up then, ok?”

 

“Alright.” Jack said as he waved and turned to leave.

 

He climbed back into his truck and made an illegal turn, knowing that under these circumstances no one was going to care. Now he realized why it seemed as if everyone was heading away from town. He headed back down the road, looking at Luke lying next to him. He was still fast asleep. He took the exit to the small town of Cohasset, glad that he had taken Ben’s advice. Even here things seemed a little on the eerie side. There seemed to have been no damage to any of the buildings, but the people were walking around town with their guns and other weapons, not even bothering to conceal them. They didn’t want anyone to mess with them, and Jack certainly had no intentions of starting anything himself.

 

He made his way to the only small furniture store in town, glad to see that Ben had been right and it was open. The store belonged to Mr. Johnston, an old friend of Jack’s dad. Jack woke Luke up, and they walked into the store, hand in hand. To Jack’s surprise, there was no one in there but the owner.

 

“Hi, Mr. Johnston. How are you today?” Jack said shaking the old man’s hand. Mr. Johnston and Jack’s father had been friends growing up.

 

“Well, not the best, Jonathan. No business. Seems like no one is really interested in buying furniture when the end of the world is approaching.” Mr. Johnston sighed, shaking his head. “It’s really getting bad, isn’t it, Jonathan?”

 

Jack smiled at the use of his name. Only his parent’s closest friends called him that. “Yeah, it really is. But on a good note, I’m here to give you business!”

 

“Well, that’s just great, Jonathan! What can I do for you?” Mr. Johnston said happily, raising his arm and gesturing at the small store. He normally only sold what he had, but he also would have catalogs and put orders in for people.

 

Jack looked around, as Mr. Johnston talked to Luke. Luke was still not talking, Jack noticed. He left the pair, and went around, sitting on some of the couches. They only had two or three of them, and Jack couldn’t afford any of them. He shook his head. Well, that was quick! Now, about beds, he thought to himself.

 

He went and looked at the beds. Not much for options here, either, but Mr. Johnston did happen to have a crib and a bunk bed with mattresses. This was a good find! He also found a Queen size bed that he decided to get. He would have to figure out what to do about another crib later. Jack also found some small living room tables, and decided to buy those instead of a dinning room table that would have taken more money than he had on him. He figured they could all eat on the floor, and that the kids would love it.

 

He approached Mr. Johnston and Luke, and made his purchases.

 

“I’m so sorry about your loss, Jonathan.” Mr. Johnston said quietly, glancing at Luke.

 

Jack nodded. “Thank you, Mr. Johnston.” He didn’t want to talk about it anymore, especially with Luke there.

 

“I saw you trying out the couches. Where you looking for one of those too?” Mr. Johnston asked.

 

Jack nodded. “Yes, but it’s going to have to wait. I’m more interested in having a place to sleep on.”

 

“Well, son, why don’t you take that blue one there? The one that looks like it was made with jean material?” Mr. Johnston pointed at the one Jack had liked the best. He must have seen me linger on it, Jack thought.

 

“Nah, that’s ok, Mr. Johnston. The beds and tables will be just fine.” Jack declined the offer.

 

“Look, Jonathan. Let me do this for you. I need to ask you a big favor, but I need you to say yes to the couch first.” Mr. Johnston insisted.

 

“Uh, ok. What do you need, Mr. Johnston? Is there anything I can help you with?” Jack asked, concerned.

 

“Well, Jonathan, as you know, I’m old. Ever since I lost my wife and Eric, I have had to care for Bob and Andrea by myself. I have a feeling that I’m not going to last too long through all this, and I wonder if it came down to it, would you be willing to take care of them? I know I’m asking a lot, especially after what you have just been through, but I don’t know who else to turn to!”

 

Jack held his hand up and shook his head. “No need to say more, Mr. Johnston. How many times did you save my Dad’s butt at war? You were like a brother to him, so then you are like an uncle to me. You are going to be just fine; you’re not that old! But if something were to happen to you, you can rest assured that I will take care of your family the best I can,” Jack said, putting his hand on Luke’s shoulder.

 

Mr. and Mrs. Johnston had been blessed with two boys. The older one, Eric, had died in a tragic accident with his wife, leaving Mr. and Mrs. Johnston to care for their only daughter, Andrea. Bob was Mr. and Mrs. Johnston’s youngest son. He was about Jack’s age, maybe a little younger. But his mind was much, much younger, about ten years old or so they said. He was a nice guy and Jack enjoyed his company. Andrea was also nice, especially if you compared her to the regular teenagers of this day. At 14, she was cute, but not too concerned about how she looked. She was a regular tomboy, and loved to play with Luke. These people were like family to Jack. And with all the help he was receiving, he wasn’t about to turn someone down.

 

“Thank you, Jonathan, you have no idea what this means to me,” Mr. Johnston said, his eyes filling with tears.

 

“Well, let’s just hope that this doesn’t get any worse,” Jack said, shifting his weight. “I hope that whoever is in charge of what is happening just stops or can be stopped. It’s all kind of like a nightmare, isn’t it?”

 

Mr. Johnston nodded, putting his old hands on the counter. “Yup, and I have a feeling, if my gut still steers me right, that we are headed towards a lot more trouble than we’re in now.”

 

They made the final transaction, which came out to just over $2000, including taxes. Jack knew he was getting a pretty good deal, but decided not to argue about it anymore. He paid for it in cash and Mr. Johnston got Bob to come out to the store to help Jack load everything up. Bob was a strong man, but Jack had to show him what he wanted him to do every step of the way.

 

They got everything strapped on the trailer, and just when they were about to leave, Mr. Johnston came out with a couple of simple dinning room chairs.

 

“Here, Jonathan. I want you to have these, too. They are for your babies. Now don’t go making fun of my gift, you know I’m not good at this stuff. And don’t even think about turning them down. They don’t cost that much, and you will offend me if you do.” He said, in a voice as mean as he could muster up.

 

Jack suppressed a laugh. “Ok, Mr. Johnston. But no more gifts, ok? You have done more than enough for us.”

 

The older man came and patted Jack on the back. “Ok. Now you take care of these little young ones, you hear?”

 

Jack nodded. “Good to see you again, Mr. Johnston. Maybe you could bring Bob and Andrea out to see the twins some time soon.”

 

Mr. Johnston nodded. “I’d like that, Jonathan.”

 

Jack and Luke took off, after Mr. Johnston gave Luke a warm hug. Jack thought he had seen a slight smile on Luke’s face, but he wasn’t sure.

 

They made there way to the Co-op next. So this is where everyone is, Jack thought to himself. Jack slowed down in front of the store long enough to know that this was not the place to go into, at least not with Luke anyway. As they passed the front door, Jack heard what he thought were two gunshots coming from inside the store, and he stepped on the gas peddle. Unfortunately, there were cars in front of him so he couldn’t go any faster then they were going, and the car in back of him wasn’t going anywhere either.

 

“Luke, son, can you look under the seat for a coin I dropped?” Jack said, trying to sound as casual as he could.

 

Luke looked at his father confused. He was never allowed to take his seat belt off!

 

“It’s ok, Luke. Just this time.” Jack nodded.

 

Luke carefully took his seat belt off and got down on his hands and knees as he looked for a coin that was probably not there.

 

Jack looked at the cars around him, frustrated. How had he gotten into this mess? He should have probably never have come out at all, he thought.

 

Just then the driver of the car in front of Jack got out of his vehicle. Jack looked at him confused. What was he doing? He was going to create a bigger traffic jam by stopping! The young man, dressed in black, approached Jack, making Jack’s hairs on the back of his neck stand up.

 

“Hey, man,” the young man said, taping on Jack’s window.

 

Jack slowly rolled down his window, feeling about as stupid as he ever had. He couldn’t believe he had put himself and his son in danger. There was no hiding Luke now. Jack saw the young man’s eyes look at Luke and caught the smirk on his face.

 

“What’s up?” Jack asked, hoping he sounded tougher than he felt. This kid was no match for Jack. If there was to be a fight and it was fair, that was. But Jack knew that this type of situations were never fair. Why hadn’t he at least brought his Colt Combat Commander? He should have been carrying it on his lap, ready for anything to go wrong. Jack mentally kicked himself as he glanced in the passenger side mirror and to his horror, saw the driver of the vehicle behind him get out of his car and approach Jack’s truck from the other side.

 

“Well, we heard that you had to get rid of some cash,” The first guy said, his grin revealing a gold front tooth. Jack noticed out of the corner of his eye that the other guy was standing outside of Luke’s door.

 

“Cash? What cash? I don’t know what you are talking about.” Jack said innocently. He didn’t want to push these guys, especially not in front of Luke. But he didn’t want to give up his money that easily either.

 

The young man with the gold tooth laughed a loud, fake laugh, and looked across at his buddy. “Can you believe this guy?” he asked, his face suddenly turning serious as he opened his jacket to reveal a chrome plated snub nosed revolver.

 

Jack looked at Luke, who was sitting on the floor of the truck, silently taking it all in. He wished his son didn’t have to see this. Jack went through his options in his mind as quickly as he could. He could try and fight the guys, and possibly hurt himself or even Luke. He couldn’t afford to do either. He could try to escape, but they had cornered him in pretty good, even though they were in a very public area. No one seemed to be paying attention to what was happening to them. Or, he could just give up the money he had left over. He really didn’t want to do that, but seemed that next to putting himself and Luke in more danger, it was the safest option.

 

“What is it that you think I have?” Jack answered trying to buy time, his face flushed with anger.

 

“Mula, Man! And quite a bit, from what I heard. You’ve been working hard and earning lots of money at the logging place. Now hand it over!” The second guy responded.

 

For a second Jack was confused. Then, just as quickly, he figured it out. These guys weren’t after him! They must of thought he looked like somebody else, and were taking the opportunity to rob him. Jack put his hands on the wheel, wanting to keep them visible, not wanting to provoke the robbers.

 

Then, Jack saw his opportunity. The oncoming traffic had stopped, and if he was quick, he could get out of this situation without him or Luke getting hurt. He took his foot off of the brake and stepped on the accelerator, making Luke bump his head on the seat. As he turned the wheel a sharp left, heading in the wrong direction, he could hear the guy with the gold tooth yelling.

 

“Ow! You son of a b***ch!” he swore, holding his right foot up, hoping hopelessly on the left one before falling over. The second man backed away from the trailer just before he suffered the same fate, and then ran over to see his buddy.

 

Just as quick as he had made the left turn, Jack had to make the right turn. He saw Luke being thrown around a little, but was hoping it wasn’t too bad. He made it back into his lane, the trailer barely missing an oncoming car, his horn blazing.

 

Jack looked into the side mirrors, hoping that the guys weren’t following him. They weren’t. The first guy was still on the ground, holding his foot, and the other guy was trying to help him. Jack looked at Luke, who looked scared, but ok.

 

“You okay, Luke?” Jack asked.

 

Luke nodded quietly, his eyes as big as saucers.

 

“Ok, how ‘bout you sit back up here and put your seatbelt back on?” Jack said, patting the seat next to him.

 

Luke quickly got up and strapped himself into the seat. “I’m sorry Luke. It was probably a mistake to come. Should we go back to Mrs. Rebecca’s place now?” Jack asked Luke, rubbing his small head.

 

Luke nodded, and put his little hand on Jack’s. Poor kid, Jack thought, what was I thinking? He’s probably still scared just from last night, and now I had to go and put him in this situation. They made their way back in silence, each deep in their own thoughts.

 

Jack thought about what was to come, and if he really was prepared for it. There really was no way of knowing, as he didn’t know if this was the worse or if there was yet more to come. He sighed, and looked at his meters. I should get some gas, he thought, thinking that the small Mom ‘n’ Pop gas station closest to where he lived should be ok to stop at.

 

It was. He hadn’t gone past much traffic, and it all seemed to be heading towards the city, not away from it. It seemed like everyone wanted to get stocked up for what was to come. He’d have to thank Mr. Bodaway for giving him a heads up, and being able to go to Duluth before everything started to get this bad. Jack shook his head. It couldn’t get possibly worse than two dumbos trying to rob him in plain daylight!

 

He got his gas, and even some extra in the containers he carried with him, the whole time Luke standing with him. The boy seemed scared still, and Jack wanted to make sure he could keep an eye on him in case something did happen again.

 

They went in to pay for the gas, and Jack almost wished he hadn’t gotten any. The small gas station didn’t always advertise how much gas was going for, hoping that people would be desperate enough to pay whatever they were charging, within reason, of course. But at $3.50 a gallon, Jack felt they were gouging him. He had known the previous owner quite well, but then they had sold the place a year ago to a man named Sam, and his wife. She was known to flirt a little with Jack, and he avoided coming here as much as he could.

 

“What? Come on! Look, just last week you sold me gas for $2.20 per gallon. You’re charging me more than a dollar more than what it says at the pump now! Why the hike in price?” Jack asked the owner of the store, upset.

 

“Well, Jack, you know as well as I do that things seem to be going to hell in a hand basket. Have you watched the news lately? What they are saying may not mean anything to you, but it does to me. Have you heard that other countries are refusing to trade with the US? That includes oil. And oil makes gas, and a heck of a lot of other things. So I’m charging a little more. If I were you, I’d buy more containers and get more gas. This is only going to get worse and who knows how long it’s going to take to get better. Besides, if you treat the gas, you can keep it for quite a while, and then use it up if nothing does happen, and things get back to normal.” Sam replied.

 

“And I suppose you would be happy to sell that to me, too.” Jack said, resignation in his voice.

 

“Well, I just happen to have some! Now look, I’ll make you a deal. If you buy 10 containers for gas, the gas and the stuff to treat it with, I’ll give you a 6.5% discount.” The man said smugly, leading the way to get the supplies.

 

“6.5%?” Jack asked. “That’s just enough to pay for the taxes on…oh.” Jack saw what the man was trying to do. Somehow he had figured out a way to still get full price and not have to pay the taxes on the income. Jack wondered how he was able to do that, and how long he had been doing it for. “No, thank you, Sam. I will buy the supplies, but I will not be part of anything illegal.”

 

“Suit yourself, Jack.” Sam said, handing the containers to Jack. “But pretty soon it’s not going to matter anyway. The States will cease to exist as we know it, and it will be every man for himself. You better own a gun and know how to shoot, or you’ll be toast. I’m going to head over to Grand Rapids soon and buy more for myself, once Stephanie gets here. And maybe we’ll even close up shop and go to Duluth to do some shopping. We are going to need more guns and ammo than what we have, that’s for sure. Things are going to get real ugly, man, and quick. Murders, raping, robbing-”

 

Jack looked down at Luke. “Luke, why don’t you go pick some candy over by the register?” he interrupted Sam. “Maybe even some ice cream? Get one for me too, ok?” He asked as Luke nodded and then headed to the front of the store.

 

“Sam, I’d appreciate you not talking about such things in front of my son.” Jack said angrily. “He’s been through a lot in the last few hours, and he doesn’t need to hear about all this.”

 

“Well, maybe he needs a reality check, Jack,” Sam retorted. “His mama isn’t going to always be there to protect him, and he’s going to have to learn to protect himself.”

 

Jack felt as if he had been kicked in the stomach at the statement that Carol wasn’t going to be able to protect Luke. He felt like punching Sam in the nose for the pain he had just caused, but knew that there really was no way of him knowing that he had just lost his wife. He took a deep breath and tried to calm down. The last thing he needed was to get into a fistfight with the owner of a gas station.

 

“I’ll take it from here, Sam, thank you.” Jack said coldly.

 

Jack got the rest of the containers and brought them to the front. He paid for everything, including the treatment of the gas, the gas itself and the ice cream that Luke had picked out for them. Jack didn’t say much to Sam as they left, and he didn’t make Luke say anything to him either.

 

It took a couple of trips to get all the stuff back to the truck, and after eating the ice cream, Jack filled up the rest of the containers with the pre paid gas. He was loading up the last ones, when he heard someone coming up behind him. He turned around quickly, not wanting to be taken by surprise.

 

It was Stephanie, Sam’s wife.

 

“Well, hi there, Vet! How are you doing today?” She asked, tossing her hair back and batting her eyelashes. Jack was amused that she didn’t even try to hide the flirting, even though they were both committed to other people. Well, Jack had been, anyway.

 

“Hi Stephanie,” Jack said, barely glancing at her. She was wearing tight shorts and a tank top that allowed her pierced belly button to show. Her dark skin contrasted under her blond hair, showing her love for the sun. Too much love, Jack thought.

 

“So, what have you boys been up too?” She asked, grabbing hold of Luke’s cheek between her thumb and her fingers.

 

Luke pulled away and went to stand behind his father. “Oh, are you shy?” Stephanie asked, her voice dripping with syrup.

 

“Well, we were just leaving, weren’t we Luke?” Jack asked, lifting him up into the truck. Luke scooted over to the passenger’s side of the truck, quickly buckling himself in.

 

“Oh, that’s too bad. Care to come in for a glass of cold tea?” Stephanie asked Jack, her eyes asking much more than that.

 

“No, no. Thank you. We better take off,” Jack said, getting into the truck himself and quickly closing the door before Stephanie got a chance to come and stand by him, blocking the door. It had happened to him once before, and he wasn’t about to let it happen again.

 

“Ok, if you are sure,” Stephanie said, disappointment in her voice.

 

“Yup, gotta keep going. See ya later!” Jack said, rudely starting the car and taking off without giving her a chance to respond.

 

When they were almost at Seth’s place, Luke broke his silence. “Papa?”

 

Jack almost jumped in his seat, surprised that Luke wanted to talk. “Yes, Luke?” he asked quietly.

 

“Will I get a different Mother?” Luke asked innocently.

 

“Uh, I don’t know Luke. Why do you ask?” Jack asked shocked that his son would ask such a question.

 

“Well, Miss Stephanie told me once that she wanted to be my mother.” He said, a little panic in his voice.

 

“Miss Stephanie said that to you?” Jack asked looking at Luke. As Luke nodded, Jack continued. “Well, son, if you ever do get a different mother, and I’m not saying you will, it won’t be her. I’ll guarantee that. Ok?”

 

Luke nodded and looked relieved. “I miss Mother.” He stated simply.

 

“I know, Luke, I know.” Jack responded, and they made the rest of the trip in silence.

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CHAPTER 15

 

Dave was gone forever. Dead. The man that had been in the ambulance was his coworker, George. It was a simple case of mistaken identity that had left deep wounds of sorrow and regret in Joy’s heart.

 

Joy had heard from the policeman what they thought had happen, according to witnesses that had seen Dave go into the building, including Joy’s dad, Ed.

 

Dave and George had gotten the equipment that they needed to get the power to the other building just before the lights had gone out. Dave was about to leave with Ed, but George had called him back asking for help again, as someone was stuck in the elevator. The person, Joy found out later, was Dave’s old boss. The one that treated him so badly while he worked there.

 

Dave had hesitated, but decided that this was no time to hold grudges, especially when it was a life or death situation. Dave and George had been working on getting the elevator open when the bomb in the building went off. They had not yet been able to determine if it was a suicide bomber or if the bomb had been planted and set off with a timer. Either way, it really didn’t matter to Joy. Her husband was gone, and now she was left alone, faced to confront the reality of what was happening by herself.

 

Joy had collapsed again, and fainted in the arms of her father. The pain and sorrow of loosing Dave, especially in such a horrific manner, was almost too much for her to bear. The policemen and firemen that had found his body had come and talked to her. They would not allow her to see him, but she was welcome to come and be at least near his body. Joy had agreed.

 

They took her to where Dave’s body was, covered in a plastic bag, and Joy gently put her hand on where his heart should have been. She cried some more tears, wondering why God would have allowed such a horrible thing to happen to her dear husband. Why him? She asked God. Why now? We were supposed to grow old together. Joy shook her head. What was the point of talking to God, anyway? Had He listened to Dave when he had prayed that the Lord would keep them safe? Apparently not. Why should she think that He would listen now? No. Joy clenched her teeth, and shut her heart to God. She knew that deep in her heart she could never escape Him, but she told herself that she would never trust Him like that again. What kind of fool did He think she was?

 

Joy bent over and gently kissed the bag somewhere around where Dave’s face was. She felt her body trembling with pain, and her head pounding out of control.

 

“I love you, Dave. I love you,” she whispered towards the bag and then turned to leave. That’s when she had fainted. She had no idea how long she was out, but woke up wishing that she could still be out, and not have to face the reality of facing life without her best friend, her lover, her companion.

The policeman that had taken her to the ambulance was there, talking to Ed, Liz and Bethany when Joy came to. Joy thought that Bethany had handled everything pretty well, considering the circumstances. A paramedic helped Joy up from a stretcher that she had been laid on. He tried to keep a blanket around her, trying to keep her from going into shock.

 

Joy approached her family timidly, as though she wasn’t supposed to be there.

 

“Joy,” Liz said, putting her arms around Joy. Joy allowed a few tears to escape, but was trying to do her best to keep calm.

 

“Where’s Victoria?” Joy asked, looking around for her.

 

“She’s with your sisters. Joy, listen,” Bethany said, “the officer was telling us that we are welcome to take Dave’s body to bury it, but that what he really recommends is for all of us to just leave. Especially if we have a place to go. And I agree. I’m scared sh**less, and as much as I loved my brother, we have to go if we are hoping to not have the same fate as him. It’s really up to you, though.”

 

Joy looked at the officer, her eyes red and her head pounding from all the emotions she had just gone through.

 

“What would happen to Dave?” she asked quietly.

 

“Um, we would take the body to the morgue, and we could keep it there until you come back. If you never come back, then we would cremate his remains and keep them until someone comes to lay claim to them. We don’t have space to keep his body, but we do have a place to put his ashes. Would that be ok?” The officer responded nervously. Joy recognized him. She knew he was one that Dave had worked with before with the thefts in the building.

 

Joy nodded, another tear falling down her cheek. “Yes, officer. That will be fine. I have said my good bye’s, so if you guys want to, go ahead.”

 

“Oh, I’ll go first,” Bethany said, walking over to Dave’s body. She stood silently by the body, placing her hand on the bag. “Bye little brother. I’ll miss you!” She whispered quietly.

 

Next, Joy’s parents went over and each said a few words. The rest of Joy’s family wasn’t around, and she really didn’t want to prolong the agony. She wasn’t sure what to do about Victoria. Should she come and say goodbye to her Daddy? Would she understand?

 

The paramedics were about to load Dave’s body into the ambulance when Joy decided that yes, Victoria should get a chance to say goodbye to her father.

 

“Wait! Please, wait,” Joy said, her voice breaking again.

 

The paramedics turned to look at her, puzzled looks on their faces. “Is there something else?” One of them asked.

 

Joy nodded. “Mom, can you go get Victoria? I think she should be able to say goodbye.”

 

“Sure, honey. But are you sure?” Liz asked, concern in her voice. “Do you think she’ll be able to handle it?”

 

“I don’t know, Mom. But I do know that I don’t want her to hate me for the rest of her life for not being able to say goodbye to him.” Joy responded, wondering herself if she was doing the right thing.

 

“Ok, I’ll get her,” Ed said, heading up the hill to where the rest of the family was.

 

In a few minutes they were back, the whole family. Victoria ran to Joy, putting her arms around her legs.

 

“Mommy? Are you sad?” Victoria asked innocently.

 

Joy nodded, picking Victoria up and holding her close. “Yes, honey. I’m very sad. Victoria, sweetie, look at me.”

 

Victoria pulled back from the embrace, still in Joy’s arms, and looked at her straight in her eyes. Joy swallowed wondering if this was going to be the hardest thing she would ever do in her life. She hoped so!

 

“Victoria, Daddy can’t be with us anymore, honey,” Joy said, her chin quivering and her eyes filling with tears once again.

 

“Why? Where is he going? He can’t come on the trip?” Victoria asked, a confused look crossing her face.

 

“No, sweetie. He can’t. And honey, we won’t be able to see him anymore, or play with him anymore.” Joy answered, holding Victoria close again.

 

Victoria pushed Joy back away to look at her face again. “But Mommy, I want him to come with us! Why can’t he come with us?” She whined, beginning to cry.

 

“Honey, Daddy went to live with God. He won’t be living with us anymore.” Ed intervened, knowing that Joy needed the help.

 

“He went to live at God’s house? In heaven?” Victoria asked, looking at her Grandpa.

 

“Yes, honey, he did.” Ed replied sadly.

 

“Well, I want to live there too. Can I live there with Mommy and Daddy?” She asked, not fully grasping the concept of death. Joy always wondered what would happen if someone close to her died, but she never imagined it would be like this.

 

She held Victoria close again, and shook her head. “No, honey. We can’t. I want to go live there now, too, but we can’t. Not now. Maybe later, but not soon. At least I hope not soon.”

 

The process of explaining to Victoria what was happening was not only painful, but also slow. Finally, she nodded her head in resignation, and held on to Joy.

 

“Are you going to live in Heaven too, Mommy?” She asked, her eyes filled with fear.

 

“No, honey. Not yet. I will do what ever I can to stay with you as long as I can, ok? Mommy will do her best to take care of you, no matter what happens.” Joy responded, tears running down her face again.

 

They had decided to not show Victoria where the body was, hoping that this way she would remember Dave alive and vibrant, not in a body bag. Joy had said one last, painful goodbye, and they had taken the officer’s suggestion.

 

Something else they decided is that Joy wouldn’t drive. They left their old car, and Ed drove her van. Liz went in the passenger’s seat and Joy sat in back with Victoria, while Roger drove Ed’s van, Juan drove Bethany’s U-haul, Marco drove Joy’s U-haul, and Ann drove their van. Joy wasn’t sure who went with whom, all that mattered is that she was able to sit next to Victoria.

 

Victoria fell asleep almost immediately, the toll of the night before and the emotions of the day catching up with her. Joy was grateful that her little girl could sleep. She leaned her seat back, and let everyone else take care of what was happening. Ed and Liz had done this trip before so they took the lead, with Roger and Marie being the last ones, since Marie had made the trip many times before as well. They had FRS/GMRS radios with them, and were able to communicate what turns to make and Joy was pleased to see how well they were working, and how much they helped.

 

Not long before reaching the edge of the twin cities, they slowed down and had to stop for the police block. It was a large amount of police, Joy noticed, and she was hoping that they would just wave them through. No such luck, though. Why should this be any different? Joy wondered. God had already taken the one she loved the most, why should He concern Himself with the trip going smoothly? No, Joy thought, it’d be too much to ask. Man! And I honestly thought He cared about me!

 

She covered her face with a sweater that she had nearby, hoping that by pretending that she was asleep they would leave her alone. It worked in Mexico, so why not give it a try here?

 

She over heard her Dad’s conversation with the policeman about why they had to all show their papers and say where they were going. Joy had pre-arranged all of hers and her family’s, but hoped that she wouldn’t have to pull them out.

 

She heard her parents getting out of the van, and closed her eyes tighter. Victoria was still fast asleep, and she was hoping that they would believe the same about her. Then, the door next to her opened, making her jump. So much for pretending to be asleep, she thought.

 

She went through the motions of showing her papers and Victoria’s. Except that instead of showing Victoria’s, she accidentally showed Dave’s.

 

“Who is David, Ma’am?” The older officer asked.

 

Joy looked at him surprised, then blushed when she realized the mistake she had made.

 

“He’s my husband,” she replied sadly.

 

“Is he in one of the other vehicles?” The officer pressed, nodding at the rest of her family that was also being questioned.

 

“No,” Joy shook her head. “He died in a terrorist attack at our apartment complex today.”

 

The police officer looked shocked. “I’m, I’m sorry to hear that, Ma’am.”

 

He walked away and yelled at the other officers to get the ball rolling, that there were bigger fish to fry.

 

The officer walked back to where Joy was with Ed and Liz, and shook their hands. “Again, I’m very sorry for your loss. We will let you go now, and here, take this pass with you. If you are stopped again, just show them this pass and it should get you through. I can only give you one, but the rest of your family should be fine as long as they are with you. And Ma’am,” he paused, “be careful. If things don’t start getting better real quick, I’m afraid that this country will cease to be as we know it, if it isn’t already too late.”

 

“Thank you, Officer” Joy said to the older man. “I appreciate all your help”. A little late for my husband, though, she thought.

 

Everyone filed back into their vehicles, and started the trek to Grand Rapids again. Joy settled back into her seat, glad that Victoria had slept through the commotion. She wrapped the sweater around her shoulders and closed her eyes before the tears could form again. She didn’t open them again until a couple of hours later, relieved that she had been able to fall asleep.

 

Ed had pulled over so that they could fill up on gas and they could all use the restrooms as needed. It was also past everyone’s lunch hour, and they wanted to get something to eat before they kept going. Joy noticed that Victoria was gone, and her heart dropped to her stomach. Soon she saw her coming out of the gas station with Marie.

 

Marie came to Joy and handed her a cold pop, a sandwich, a bag of chips and a cookie.

 

“Here, Joy. This is lunch,” Marie said, and helped Joy sit up.

 

“I’m really not too hungry,” Joy replied, taking everything from Marie, glad to see that it looked like they had taken good care of Victoria.

 

“Eat. You need to eat.” Marie pressed.

 

Joy shook her head slightly, and gave it her best shot. She got half way through the sandwich, ate some chips and the cookie. She felt guilty for eating the cookie instead of the sandwich, but was glad to have made that choice. She had also been very glad when Marie offered her a bottle of cold water instead of the pop. Joy took the water, savoring the soothing effect it always seemed to have on her.

 

Joy put the remainder of her lunch into a small garbage bag, and tossed it into the garbage can. She stretched, glad to know that her body wasn’t hurting, at least not just yet. She knew that the events of the day would finally catch up with her body at some point.

 

Joy leaned back into the van and grabbed her purse. “Marie, will you stay here with Victoria? I’m going to go to the bathroom and freshen up a bit.”

 

Marie nodded, her face somber. Joy knelt down in front of Victoria and gave her a hug.

 

“Mommy will be right back, ok?” Joy whispered in Victoria’s ear. Victoria nodded, looking at Joy sadly with her bright blue eyes.

 

Joy kissed Victoria on the cheek, and went inside of the gas station. Several of her family members where there, buying some more things, and just walking around, resting their legs. Liz saw Joy and made a beeline for her.

 

“How are you doing, honey?” Liz asked, putting her arm around Joy’s shoulders.

 

Joy shrugged. “I don’t know. Ok, I guess. How long does it take for a woman to get over her husbands death?”

 

“I’m sorry, Mom,” Joy said when she saw Liz’s lower lip started trembling. “I’m doing better. It helped to get that nap in, and as much as I hate to admit it, it helped to eat, too. Now I just want to go to the bathroom and wash my face a little.”

 

Liz nodded and leaned into Joy to give her a kiss on her cheek. “Victoria seems to be doing ok, for now.” She said, walking to the bathroom with Joy.

 

“Good, good.” Joy replied, glad that she was, at least for now.

 

Joy went into the bathroom by herself and looked at her reflection in the mirror. Her eyes were puffy and her face was streaked. She must have gotten dirty through the whole ordeal and not noticed. She washed her face, and reached into her purse and freshened up the little makeup that she was wearing.

 

I will not embarrass Dave by being the pitiful widow, Joy thought. She took her blouse off and scrubbed more dirt off of her body before putting it back on. She tried to clean her legs as best as she could, and wondered why she had decided to wear shorts. Oh, yeah, because it’s hot, she reminded herself. She pulled her hair down and ran her wet fingers through her hair before pulling it back up into a bun.

 

She looked at herself in the mirror one more time, satisfied with how she looked. I have to be able to get through this, she said quietly to her reflection in the mirror. I need to be strong. Victoria needs me and my family needs me. From now on, I will try to keep my grieving to myself.

 

Joy opened the door and stepped out of the bathroom, surprising Liz.

 

“Well, you look much better!” Liz said, smiling.

 

“Thanks,” Joy replied. “Where is everyone else?” She asked, looking around the store.

 

“They’ve all gone out, everyone is anxious to get going. This was an expensive stop!” Liz said as they made their way back out to the vehicles. “You know what we paid for each lunch? $20! But the guy convinced your father that it was going to be much more at a fast food place. Gas was $3.50 a gallon! That’s the most we’ve paid the whole trip. You know how much that is to fill all of these vehicles?”

 

Joy shook her head in amazement as they reached her van. It was going to take her a while to assume full possession for their stuff. It had always been their stuff, hers and Dave’s. And now with him gone, Joy would be making the decisions on what to do with everything by herself. She wondered if it would even matter anymore, if they would all just die. Joy shook her head again as she got into the back seat and put her seatbelt on. She wasn’t going to make it too far if she kept having this negative attitude, she told herself.

 

She reached over and held Victoria’s hand. Victoria held hers a little tighter than usual, and Joy was glad that she was able to sit next to her daughter and not worry about driving.

 

They made there way the last two hours to Grand Rapids, and just before entering the city they were stopped again by a police checkpoint. They waved them through when Ed showed them the pass and told the officer how many vehicles were with them. Joy was relived that they didn’t have to go through that again.

 

Liz borrowed Joy’s cell phone and called Linda. When she didn’t get an answer at her home, she decided to call her cell phone.

 

“Hi, Linda? This is Liz,” Joy heard her say and then paused for a response. “Oh, that’s why you aren’t home. So do you want us to meet you there? Ok, hang on a second, let me get something to write on.” Liz spent the next several minutes writing down directions. “Ok, Linda, we’ll see you in about an hour, then, ok?” Liz hung up the phone and related what she had just talked about with Linda.

 

“She says that Grand Rapids was getting too scary to be there, even in the smaller towns around it. She is staying at Rebecca’s place, and said that we should go there, and we would figure out what to do once we got there. I’m not sure that Rebecca will have enough space in her house, but at least we will be safe. With all that land around her, we should be, anyway!” Liz said looking back at Joy and Victoria.

 

Joy could tell that Liz was wondering if she had said the wrong thing. Joy didn’t want her family to worry about walking on eggshells around her, so she smiled a slight smile. Liz smiled back and turned around and started giving Ed directions as to where to go.

 

Joy sighed. Another hour? She looked at her watch. At this point they wouldn’t be at Rebecca’s until 8:00pm or later. She looked over at Victoria who had fallen asleep again, and touched her hand softly.

 

They made their way in silence after Liz notified the other drivers through the radios what the change in plans was. Joy looked out the window, enjoying the scenery as much as she could before the sun went down completely.

 

Northern Minnesota was a beautiful part of the country. With all the lakes and forests, it was a natural place for people to want to vacation in. Joy wondered if this would also be a place where people would want to come to, as things were getting bad. She had read about people being survivalists, but she and Dave had never made it much past the bug out bags stage, until now. This was the most that they had pushed to do, other than having food and water stored in their apartment, enough to last them a couple of months or so. Now they had food to last for months, but Dave wasn’t there to enjoy it. Joy shook her head and made herself look at the beautiful scenery again before she started crying.

 

This last leg seemed to last forever for Joy. Finally she started recognizing some of the landmarks that led to her cousin’s home. When they got to the edge of Seth and Rebecca’s property, they found one of the kids waiting there for them. Ed slowed down to a stop and rolled his window down.

 

“Hi there, John! How are you doing?” Ed said, getting out of the van and shaking John’s hand. John was about Allen’s age, and Joy wondered how well they would get along. They both liked the outdoors a lot, but they had never met, and Joy knew that some kids just didn’t get along.

 

“Good, Uncle Ed, thanks. And you?” He responded shyly. Joy smiled. John really liked Ed, and Joy knew he considered it a special treat for him to visit.

 

“Good, thanks. Do you want to ride with us?” Ed asked, nodding towards the van.

 

John nodded. “Mom said I should take you over to the Larson’s old place. Is there room in here for me?” He said, looking at the van and how full it was.

 

Ed looked back and shook his head. “No, I don’t think so, John. But there is in one of the U-hauls for sure. Why don’t you go hop into one of those and then lead us over there?”

 

John nodded. “Ok, Uncle Ed! I’ll see you over there!” John took off running to one of the U-hauls, and soon the caravan was on its way again, led by the U-haul.

 

They pulled up at the farmhouse, surprised at what they saw. There were a lot of people, tens, maybe even hundreds working on some cabins, and the farmhouse seemed to have some people in it, too. Everyone got out, glad that they were able to stretch again. Joy walked around the van and got Victoria to let her run around, looking at all the pretty flowers.

 

Joy looked around. She had heard about this place from her cousin when she had encouraged Joy to move to the country and live a more self-sufficient life. Joy smiled slightly. This was great! This Larson couple that Joy had never met but knew about, were the old fashioned kind of farmers, and they grew most of what they ate, plus canned more to sell and have for the winter.

 

Joy’s thoughts were interrupted as Linda and Rebecca came out of the farmhouse.

 

“Welcome! Welcome!” Linda said, walking towards Liz to give her a hug. “Man, you look tired! Was it a longer trip than usual?”

 

Liz nodded as she returned Linda’s hug. “I’m so sorry about James, Linda,”

 

Linda smiled at Liz “Me too, but I’m glad he isn’t here now to see this turn of events. He would not like it at all, and we would sure hear about it, too! Now where is that little red head?” she said, looking around for Victoria.

 

“Victoria, let’s go see Aunt Linda,” Joy said, holding Victoria’s hand and walking towards the entrance to the farmhouse.

 

“Hi Aunt Linda,” Joy said, giving her a hug and then allowing her to give Victoria a hug too.

 

“Oh, you are so big! How did you get to be so big? I bet I can’t even carry you anymore! Oh, and look, there are your aunts!” Linda said, trying to lift Victoria and then giving up and just giving her a hug.

 

Everyone else exchanged hugs and introductions. Linda had never met Ann’s family, and of course, no one had ever met Roger or Bethany, either.

 

As they all walked into the farmhouse to talk, Linda approached Joy. “So where’s Dave? Will he be coming later?” She asked, not knowing what had happened.

 

Joy bit her lower lip and tried to control the tears that were threatening to come again. She looked at her aunt and shook her head.

 

Linda look surprised. “No? What do you mean? Is everything ok?”

 

Just then Ed appeared in the doorway, and attempted to rescue Joy. “Why don’t we tell you about it inside?” He asked.

 

“Ok,” Linda said, putting her arm around Joy’s shoulders. Joy wasn’t sure she was ready to tell what had happened just yet, especially in front of strangers.

 

They made their way inside to the living room and Joy sat at one of the rocking chairs. Victoria came and sat on her lap.

 

Everyone became quiet when she walked into the room, and Joy hoped that they would stop doing that soon. She was going to need their help if she was ever to hope to get back to normal, whatever normal was.

 

“Well, I think we have a lot to talk about,” Rebecca started. “Do you want to tell us how your trip went first?”

 

Ed nodded. He related the events of the day as best as he could without going into so much detail that it would wound Joy even further. He even related the stops they had to make along the way, including the last stop for gas, where they had paid $3.50 per gallon.

 

Linda and Rebecca sat there stunned. They had heard of the attacks in the Cities, but never once thought that it would affect them this closely. They cried silently, joined by everyone else in the family, including Joy.

 

“But, here we are. The Lord is still good, and He has brought us this far.” Ed ended.

 

Joy looked at her father with anger in her fiery blue-green eyes. How could he say that? How could he say that God had protected them when Dave was dead? She shook her head. She knew better than to get into a theological argument with Ed. He was very knowledgeable, and could easily prove her wrong. She didn’t want to be proven wrong. God had allowed this to happen to her dear husband, and she wouldn’t forget it any time soon.

 

“Well,” Linda said, clearing her throat and dabbing away her tears, “uh, do you want to know why we are here?” she asked.

 

Everyone nodded, including Joy, glad to have a change in topic.

 

“Well, we brought you all here for James’ funeral.” Linda continued. “I’m not sure what we will be doing about that, but for now I think it would be the best to stay here. From what you are telling me, and what our neighbor has seen even in the small towns around here, it’s not safe to be out there.

 

Anyway, we brought you all here, more than just to be here for the funeral. Apparently, James had some money that I didn’t know about. But half of it was yours, Liz. He left in his will that it be given to you after his death. Why he did this, I’m not sure. But under the circumstances, I’m glad that you are all here for it now.” She paused to allow them to take it all in.

 

When no one said anything, Linda continued. “We have taken some liberties with the money that was left to you. For one, we bought this farm with it. The Larson’s have had it up for sale for a while, and under the circumstances, we thought that you would want to have a place to live. We don’t know what will happen, and we are assuming that you won’t be able to go back home for a while, if ever.”

 

“You bought the farm for us?” Liz asked, in disbelief.

 

Linda nodded. “Rebecca and I figured that if you didn’t want it, we could always sell it to the Reservation just West of here, and give you the money.”

 

“So, are you building those cabins too?” Ed asked.

 

Rebecca shook her head, and explained the agreement that they had made with the Reservation.

 

“I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to ask you first, Uncle Ed, I really didn’t have much time to decide myself. You are still ok to sell the whole property if you want, but with things the way they are going, I would suggest you taking their offer.” She ended, handing some papers to Ed.

 

Ed looked over the papers and saw what she meant. They would own the cabins and everything that was put in them free and clear, as long as Ed agreed to be a Minister to the Reservation.

 

“Don’t worry about signing anything tonight, Ed. There is going to be a meeting with the Reservation elders and our other neighbor, Jack, and you guys if you are up to it tomorrow. You can think about it until then.” Linda said.

 

Ed nodded. “A meeting would be good. Then we can work out the details. Thanks for thinking of us, Linda, and Rebecca. We weren’t sure what we would do, or where we would go, but we have a bunch of stuff with us. Wow! The Lord has interesting ways of providing for us!”

 

Just as he was finishing that last sentence, John ran in the door.

 

“Mom! Dad just called me and said to tell you that he was listening to the radio and that there has been a major development. The President has declared Martial Law in the whole country!” he cried.

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CHAPTER 16

 

 

What a rough night it had been. They had all talked, well into the night, discussing the situation and what to do about it. Seth had joined them with the rest of their kids, and the children had all fallen asleep on the floor. Allen and John had been allowed to stay up with the adults, with the understanding that if they were going to be treated as adults then they needed to act as such.

 

Joy wasn’t sure, but she didn’t think that there had ever been a Martial Law declared in the whole country before. She wasn’t sure what it all meant either, but was glad that they were at least safe for now. Safe, Joy thought shaking her head. Well, at least relatively safe.

 

They had listened to a prerecorded message from the President, urging people to stay in their homes as much as possible until they could get things in order. He claimed that things would settle down, and that they would get through this together. After all, this was America, and America always found a way to bounce back. He warned that if other countries continued to attack the States as they had, the United Stated would retaliate in kind. Joy wondered what that meant. He also warned that China should keep their ships further away off the coastline. He had lingered a little on that, asking people to make sure that they had enough supplies in their home to last them at least for three weeks or more, until the Red Cross could get to them if disaster hit.

 

Joy and her family speculated about what it all meant. Rebecca and Seth shared about their experience with Mr. Bodaway, and what he had told them. Finally, Seth, Rebecca and Linda headed back to their home, leaving their kids camped out on the floor.

 

Joy had been able to sleep in one of the rooms with Victoria. She felt bad that other than her parents, she was the only other adult sleeping in a bed. Joy knew it was planned that way, considering what she had been through. She snuggled in close to Victoria, not wanting to feel so alone.

 

Joy finally fell asleep. She made up her mind that she would do what she could to be strong and help her family. This was not a normal world anymore, no matter what the President said. She woke up with the rooster, and spent some time just staring at Victoria. How glad and relieved she was to have her. Joy wasn’t sure she would have had the will to keep on living if she had lost both of them. By still having Victoria, Joy felt the need not only to survive, but also to thrive in her new environment. She knew it would be a while before the pain of losing her husband would go away, if it ever did. But in Dave’s honor, and for Victoria’s sake, she would continue her life.

 

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Jack woke up with a start. What was that? Where was he? As soon as he looked around he realized where he was. He had heard Seth and Rebecca come in late the night before, glad that their family had arrived safely. He had heard them talking a little, but couldn’t understand what they were saying and soon he had fallen back asleep.

 

Jack stood up quietly, not wanting to disturb Luke. He stretched and changed into his clothes. He pulled on his boots and buttoned his shirt in the dark. He made his way to the bathroom quietly and did his morning routine. He looked at himself in the mirror, wishing that he could shave. He rubbed his chin, feeling the stubbles against his hand.

 

He left the bathroom and went back into the room he was sharing with his kids. It was hard getting any more than two hours of sleep at a time with the twins, but he was glad that Luke seemed to sleep through it. Luke was still not talking much, but was at least more interested in the babies.

 

He sat down on the floor in the corner of the room and reached for his Bible. He read a few chapters in the Old Testament, and then flipped to the New Testament and read from there. He was always amazed that it seemed as what he was reading really applied to his life. He liked his routine. He would spend time in the Bible, studying and meditating in what he was reading, and then he would spend some time praying. He tried to be as open with God as he talked to Him, and fully expected God to be open with him. It was this relationship that had allowed him to make it this far, not just with the death of his wife, but in other areas as well.

 

After his devotions, Jack got up and checked on the babies again. Grace was stirring, so he picked her up and held her, hoping that she wouldn’t wake up her brothers. He still couldn’t believe that the situation he was in. With Carol gone, and his house no longer livable, he needed to change his whole outlook on life. Especially with the way things were going. How was he going to raise three kids by himself? How was he going to provide for them to survive? He shook his head and leaned over to kiss little Grace’s head. He reached over for the bottle that he had prepared and fed her. She seemed content enough.

 

Just after burping Grace and changing her diaper, Victor woke up. He wasn’t as happy as Grace had been, and his crying woke up Luke. Jack put Grace down and picked up Victor, changed his diaper and began feeding him.

 

“Good morning, Luke. Did you sleep well?” Jack asked his oldest son.

 

Luke nodded and rubbed his little eyes. He stood up and went to stand by his father.

 

Jack looked at Luke and wondered if he was really warming up to his siblings. “Why don’t you go play with Grace? Just make sure you are really gentle with her. She should be pretty content right now.”

 

Luke walked over to where Grace was laying. He gently reached and touched her hand, and leaned in so that he could see her better.

After Jack finished feeding Victor, he changed his diaper and made sure that he was content. Luke made his trip to the bathroom, and pretty soon there was a knock on their door.

 

“Come in,” Jack said as he tried his best to make the bed.

 

“Hey, Buddy,” Seth said as he walked in the room. “Oh, now look at these little ones. They are both happy, at the same time! How did you sleep?” He asked Jack while he picked up Grace.

 

“Well, not too bad considering that I only got two hours at a time!” Jack responded, amazed at the truth of his statement.

 

“Well, that’s good, isn’t it Grace?” Seth said in a voice that Jack had never heard before.

 

Jack smiled to himself. If you ever want to hear anyone act stupid, just hand ‘em a baby, he thought.

 

“Well, Rebecca’s family arrived last night,” Seth said, caressing Grace’s cheek.

 

“Yeah, I figured that much when you guys came home so late.” Jack responded.

 

“Minus one,” Seth said quietly.

 

“What?” Jack asked, stopped in his tracks.

 

Seth looked down at his boots, trying to figure out how to say what he had to say next. He looked back up at Jack who had stopped what he was doing and was waiting for Seth to continue.

 

“Well, apparently there was a bombing in the building that her cousin lived in. Well, in one of them, anyway. All I know is that Rebecca’s family was all ready to go when it went off. For some reason Dave, the husband of the cousin that lived in the city, was in there, and died immediately. Her cousin, Joy, is pretty distraught, but I think she’ll pull through. You could tell last night that she was really trying to be strong.” Seth informed him.

 

Jack took a deep breath and shook his head. “Well, I know what it feels like.”

 

Seth nodded. “Yeah. It makes one wonder how many of us are going to know before all this is over.”

 

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It had been an interesting morning, trying to figure out breakfast, what to eat, what to eat with, and where to eat. They all had cereal again, enjoying the fresh milk that one of Rebecca’s kids had brought over. One of the neighbors had cows, they learned, and they always had fresh milk. Joy wondered if she could put her cheese making skills to work with the milk. Well, not today, she thought.

 

It was going to be a full day. The family had taken a vote, and had unanimously decided to stay until things settled down enough for all of them to be able to go home. Joy wasn’t sure what that meant for her, as her home was now gone.

 

Joy allowed Victoria to play with her new found second cousins, making sure that they wouldn’t take her too far and that they would take good care of her. Joy desperately wanted to keep Victoria with her at all times, but knew that she needed to make things as normal as possible for her, so she let her play.

 

Joy busied herself with going from room to room, taking inventory of what the farmhouse had. How many rooms? Three. A master bedroom and two small rooms. There was a queen size bed in the master bedroom, a double in the guestroom, and two single beds in the other room. Joy walked around the house, making notes and counting things. It was keeping her from thinking too much about Dave, anyway.

 

All the men in the family, including Allen and John, who had come over to help, were working on the cabins. They were trying to get them done as soon as possible, so that they could all settle in. The rest of the ladies were working on sorting the stuff that they had brought into piles per family. Joy wished that they could all just share everything, but knew that she would be voted down on that.

 

Joy couldn’t believe how much the previous owners had left. Not only their furniture, but also all their dishes and food, and all their appliances and anything that one would need in a home. She looked around for things that they had more than one of, so that it could be used somewhere else.

 

She made her way to the basement to find a large assortment of books. Anything from cookbooks, canning books, anything to do with farm living, and even a few children’s books. Joy smiled as she realized that most of the children’s books had been very well used, and were probably ones that the couple had read to their kids.

 

She found the cellar room, and was shocked at all the canning supplies that were there. Later on she would realize that with a garden the size that they had kept, the lady had to have this much stuff. Joy wished that they were still there. Books were good, but experience was better. Much better.

 

Joy was amazed at how organized the previous owner had been. The big cellar room was organized like a store, and there was expiration dates clearly labeled on everything. Joy noted on her notebook that there was a lot of canning supplies, and moved on.

As she left the room, her eye caught what she thought were just a bunch of large plants, next to a large window that stretched up and over the ceiling.

 

She walked over and was amazed at all the trees there. She didn’t recognize all of them, but was shocked to see one with avocadoes on it! Now how could that be? She wondered. She touched to avocadoes on there and realized that a couple of them would have to be eaten soon if they didn’t want to waste them. She shook her head in amazement, and decided that she would have to come and spend more time there later.

 

Joy finished making her rounds in the house, noting everything that needed to be noted. There was plenty of dishes, towels, sheets and other home items for all of them, the woman must have collected them! Joy wondered if she should have even bothered to bring her own, but there was no way for any of them to have known.

 

Joy made her way back upstairs to find her mom and the other ladies in the kitchen.

 

“How’s the inventory coming, Joy?” Bethany asked as she helped make sandwiches for the men outside.

 

Joy smiled and held the notebook up. “Well, there is a ton of stuff here, and I think that together with what we brought, we should be ok. What are you making?”

 

“What does it look like?” Bethany answered, a little short.

 

“Sandwiches, hon. Do you want one?” Liz asked, ignoring Bethany’s sudden change of attitude.

 

Joy nodded. “Hang on. I found something you may be interested in.”

 

Joy went back down to the basement and pulled two of the avocadoes that were ready. She ran back up the stairs, excited to show her find.

 

She shared the avocadoes with everyone but Bethany, who claimed she didn’t like them. They added them to the sandwiches, and Joy ate with Liz, as the rest took the food and drinks and ate with the men outside.

 

“These avocadoes aren’t too bad, are they?” Liz asked.

 

Joy shook her head and swallowed another bite full. “Not for a miniature tree! You said they have a garden?” she asked, taking another bite from her sandwich.

 

“Huge! I’m not sure how they did it all, but hopefully we’ll all learn real quick. And Rebecca said that they also did a lot of trading with the people in the Reservation and with their other neighbor. He’s the one that supplied them with milk.” Liz answered, finishing her sandwich and started to clean everything up.

“Well,” Joy said, finishing her sandwich, “I’ll help you clean up and then I just have upstairs to finish. Then I can go and start looking at their barns and the garden.”

 

“Ok, hon, thanks. Oh, and later on, about three o’clock, we are supposed to all go to a meeting over at the Reservation. They want us all to go, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.” Liz said, beginning to wash the dishes.

 

Joy nodded. “Sure, I’ll go. It’ll be interesting to see what the whole thing is about,” she said, putting away the food.

 

They chatted about what was going on with the cabins and the stuff they had brought while they cleaned up, then Joy made her way up the stairs, while Liz continued to separate the items that they had brought

 

Once up-stairs, Joy was thrilled by what she saw. This must have been like a personal sanctuary, she thought as she looked around. The room was painted in a soft yellow, with a wall of bookshelves dedicated to craft books on one side. There was a large table in which Joy guessed the lady made her crafts, and a long closet on the other side of the room. Under the only window in the room stood a treadle sewing machine, and on the opposite side was the door she had just come in.

 

Joy opened the door to the closet, amazed at all the supplies that were there. This would also be fun to go through another day. She closed the door and looked around the room again, taking it all in. This must have been the lady’s favorite room in the house, Joy thought to herself.

 

She walked across the room and sat on the rocking chair in front of the bookcases. The chair creaked a little as she rocked back and forth, but not so loud that it was annoying. Joy ran her hands over the arms of the chair, enjoying the feel of the wood. The chair looked to have been hand made, and Joy wondered if the lady’s husband had made it for her. She could just imagine the older lady sitting in this chair, knitting or crocheting, humming to herself.

 

It was a perfect place for the chair to be, too, as it gave full view through the window. Joy rested her head back on the chair and relaxed, soon falling asleep.

 

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Jack stretched his back and heard his bones crack. Would it be too much to ask for a chiropractor to show up? He wondered.

 

Jack and Seth had spent the morning at his place, putting away the furniture into his storage, and salvaging anything else they could out of the house. Seth had helped for quite a while, and then headed back to the old farm to help his family with the cabins.

 

Jack could see that a lot of activity was happening, and wondered if he should be over there helping them too, but if he was going to make it to that meeting, then he had to hurry.

 

Luke was more help to Jack than he had expected. He was quite the little guy, trying to impress his Papa. He didn’t say much, but worked along side Jack in a quick, efficient manner. Jack was sure not to overload the boy, and allowed him time to just look at things, and even time to play.

 

After Seth had left, Mr.Bodaway had come and spent some time with Jack. Jack took this opportunity to eat the sandwiches that Rebecca had sent along, and he was reminded again of how grateful he was for his neighbors. Linda had offered to take care of the babies, and as much as Jack didn’t want to leave them, he realized that if he was going to get anything done, he would have to take people’s help.

 

Jack offered a sandwich to Mr. Bodaway, which he gracefully declined.

 

“So, how are you doing, Jack?” Mr. Bodaway asked, looking intently into Jack’s eyes.

 

“Well, I suppose not too bad, considering the circumstances,” Jack replied, putting his hand up to cover his mouth as he ate.

 

Mr. Bodaway nodded and rubbed his chin. “Well, we should be done with those cabins today, then we can start on yours tomorrow, if that’s ok with you.”

 

“Yes, of course,” Jack replied, his voice filled with gratefulness.

 

“And how about you, Mr. Luke? How are you doing?”

 

Luke looked up at the old man and nodded, his eyes full of wonder. Jack smiled as he witnessed the exchange between the two. Luke had a great admiration for Mr. Bodaway, and it seemed to Jack that the feeling was mutual.

 

Mr. Bodaway and Jack chatted for a while about the new cabin that was going to be built up, and then Mr. Bodaway’s voice grew somber.

 

“You know that Rebecca’s family has arrived, right?” Mr. Bodaway asked Jack, glancing at Luke.

 

Luke had finished his lunch, and was finishing up his cookie.

 

“Luke, why don’t you go put those small bags in the storage?” Jack asked Luke, knowing where Mr. Bodaway was headed.

 

Luke nodded his head and took off running. Mr. Bodaway moved so that his back was to Luke, but he was still facing Jack.

 

“Did you know about the death?” He asked solemnly.

 

Jack nodded. “Yeah, Seth told me this morning.” Suddenly Jack’s appetite was gone. He stuffed the last bite of sandwich in his mouth and put all the garbage in the garbage bag.

 

“Well, I was talking with Ed, the father of the clan, and he has agreed to allow you to stay at one of the cabins until we have yours done.” Mr. Bodaway said, looking at Jack to pick up any clues as to how he would respond.

 

Jack looked at Mr. Bodaway surprised. “Really?”

 

Mr. Bodaway nodded. “What do you think?”

 

“Well, what does he want in return? Money may not be worth much in a little while.” Jack said, raising his eyebrow. He was tired of having to depend on the generosity of his neighbors, but there was really not much else he could do. If he could somehow pay them for his time at a cabin, then it would really be nice to be able to have a place of his own, and not depend on Seth and Rebecca so much.

 

“I knew you’d ask that, so I told them that you could probably provide them with enough milk for everyone, plus eggs and help with teaching them things. Listen Jack, we are all going to have to help each other. You think this is bad? Just wait. It’ll get worse. And we can’t go around making sure that everything is fair. There will be a time that they may come to lean heavily on you, and I know you will be with them one hundred percent.”

 

Jack nodded his head, embarrassed. “I know, Mr. Bodaway, I’m just not used to taking so much help.”

 

“I know that Jack. But remember. Most of these people, if not all of them, don’t know too much about farm life. Ed said that they had a farm when they first got to Mexico, and even made cheese to sell, but he was more on the administrative end than the working hands end. So they will also need a lot of help.” Mr. Bodaway replied.

 

“Well, I’ll be happy to help any way I can. So, what’s this meeting about?” Jack asked, wanting to change the subject.

 

“Ah, I guess you will just have to find out, eh my friend?” Mr. Bodaway laughed. “Well, it’s mainly for all of us to get together and get to know each other a little. We will be having supper there, and then you can all possibly move in to the cabins tomorrow. You know that Preacher man, he’s actually excited about being here. Maybe not the circumstances, but as they say, once a missionary, always a missionary.”

Jack looked at Mr. Bodaway surprised that he knew even that much lingo. Mr. Bodaway smiled, knowing what Jack was thinking.

 

“Actually, he said that,” Mr. Bodaway said laughing.

 

Jack laughed with him, realizing how good it felt to laugh.

 

“Well, I better get going,” Mr. Bodaway said. “I’ll see you over at our place then?”

 

Jack nodded. “You bet!”

 

Mr. Bodaway left after waving goodbye to Luke and Jack continued working, trying to get as much accomplished in the little time he had left.

 

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Joy smiled as Dave tickled her arm, giving her goosebumps up and down her legs. “Stop!” she said coyly. She laughed and tried to run away from him, but her legs wouldn’t budge. She tried moving them, but she couldn’t seem to even put one in front of the other. She turned around to face Dave, only to find that he was gone, replaced by a black body bag in front of her, with a piece of paper on it bearing his name.

 

“No!” she cried as she opened her eyes with a start.

 

Joy looked around the room that she was in, trying to remember where she was. Panic settled in her stomach until she recognized where she was, and the events of the last couple of days caught up with her. She leaned her head back in the rocking chair, wondering when her heart would stop beating so hard, tears streaming down her face.

 

“Joy?” She heard her Mom calling from downstairs.

 

Joy got up and tried to sooth her hair and face. She made her way down quickly, more than anything to get away from the dream.

 

“Are you ok honey?” Liz asked concerned.

 

Joy nodded. “Yeah. I fell asleep up there, and had a bad dream. I hope I don’t get those too often.”

 

“I’m sorry Joy,” Liz said, giving her a hug. “Listen, we have to get going to that meeting. Are you coming? We are going to be there for supper too, as far as I understand.”

 

Joy nodded. “Yeah, I’ll go. What about Victoria?”

 

“She’s already in the van, waiting. We were just waiting for you.” Liz replied, looking out the front door.

 

“Ok, let me just go to the bathroom real quick and I’ll be right out.” Joy said.

 

Liz left and Joy made her way to the bathroom. Once there she looked at herself in the mirror, and decided that she was fine.

 

She hurried to get to the van, and was happy to see that the place next to her daughter was still hers. It appeared that John and Allen were getting along just fine, and she was glad to see that everyone decided to go to the meeting.

 

She settled in for the ride, enjoying the time with Victoria. Victoria talked non-stop all the way to the Reservation, relating the events of the day to her. Joy wondered if the fact that she didn’t have a daddy anymore had really sunk in yet.

 

Joy listened intently to everything she had to say, trying to catch if anything was wrong. As they pulled into the town, Joy was amazed at the cleanliness of it, and how old fashioned it looked. It was a nice town, with a few stores, a main grocery store and a large do-it-yourself store. Joy noticed the school, and wondered how many children attended there. There were kids in the playground next to the school, enjoying the warm weather. Joy was surprised to see no churches, not any that were advertised anyway.

 

They arrived at a large, beautiful home where Joy supposed the meeting would be held. Joy noticed that they weren’t too far from the playground and wondered if that’s where the kids would be. She looked at Victoria and saw the wonder in her eyes as she took everything in.

 

Ed parked the van and they all filed out, making sure they stayed together. Joy went around and got Victoria out of her carseat, going over a few basic rules with her. Joy asked Rebecca’s daughter, Ruth, to be in charge of keeping a close eye on Victoria while they went to the park. Joy was relieved to know that there were other adults there that Rebecca said she trusted.

 

Linda had not been able to come, as she had offered to stay at home with the neighbor’s newborn babies, so that he could come to the meeting. Joy shook her head when she thought of how she had pitied him for loosing his wife, and now she was in the same situation as he was.

 

Joy and her family followed Seth and Rebecca into the large home and found places to sit. The place was a little crowded, as it seemed that others had been invited to come to the meeting too. Joy looked around at what appeared to be the living room, noticing the Native American décor. It was a large room with several sitting areas which were now arranged in a large circle so everyone could see each other. There was a large rug covering most of the hard wood floor, and Joy knew that it was home made. A lot of things in the room were. She wondered if a local artist did the paintings hanging on the wall. One showed a beautiful woman, riding a horse into the sunset, and the other one was a tall, good-looking man, standing with the sun at his back.

 

As people started to come in, Joy noticed that most of them were men. Some were women, but not many. She felt a little out of place, but knew that she had been invited, so was happy to be here. Joy was the curious type, and would rather hear first hand what everything was about rather than being told.

 

They went around the circle introducing themselves, saying their name and where they came from. When it came to Joy, she introduced herself, and knew from the quiet whispers and stares that the word about her husband had gotten around. She tried to finish as quickly as possible, wanting to get the attention off of herself.

 

An old, Native American man that had introduced himself as Mr. Bodaway noticed how uncomfortable she was, and moved the introductions on. Joy watched him carefully for a while, trying not to be too obvious as she studied him. He was clearly the leader of the group. He seemed to be a wise man, and Joy noticed that everyone paid careful attention to what he had to say.

 

Once done with the introductions, Mr. Bodaway asked Andrew Atsidi, the chief of police, to share his concerns. Andrew was clearly uncomfortable being in the spotlight of even this small of a group, and was taking his time getting out what he wanted to say.

 

Just then the front door to the home squeaked open, revealing a tall, muscular man. He was wearing a pair of jeans and a plaid blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He looked as if he had stepped out of a western story, even wearing boots and a cowboy hat. He was a handsome man, Joy noticed, but there was a sad look in his eyes. He stepped into the home and took his hat off, showing a head full of peppered white and black hair.

 

“Good afternoon,” The man said. “I’m sorry I’m late.”

 

“That’s ok, Jack,” Mr. Bodaway replied. “We were just getting started. You’ll just have to meet everyone later. Everyone, this is Jack. Jack Daniels.”

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CHAPTER 17

 

 

Joy looked at the man that had just come in the door as he awkwardly found a place to sit. He looked embarrassed to be late and to be the center of attention because of it. Joy watched him closely as he sat near Mr. Bodaway, noticing how good-looking he was. What was her problem? She turned from him immediately, feeling guilty for even looking at someone other than her husband in that way.

 

Mr. Bodaway nodded his head at Andrew and asked him to continue. Andrew spoke about the problems and terrorism occurring everywhere. He told of Jack’s close encounter with the men in the town, as well as others that had experienced similar situations. He encouraged everyone to stay on the Reservation, and to watch each other’s back. When he was done, he sat down quickly, glad that the spotlight was no longer on him.

 

Mr. Bodaway thanked Andrew as he patted him on the back. “Now,” he said, looking around at everyone in the room, “let’s talk business.” He went on to explain why Rebecca’s family was there, and what was expected of them. They would all have to learn how to work the farm they were in, and all that was required of them was to live by the law of the Reservation. They would be responsible for their own supplies, and could trade freely with their neighbors and the Reservation. They could fish as much as they wanted, but were not allowed to bring any outsiders. They could also hunt as much as they wanted on their own land, but would have to make arrangements with their neighbors if they wanted to hunt there.

 

Ed raised his hand and cleared his throat, trying to get Mr. Bodaway’s attention. “Yes, Ed?” he asked once he saw him.

 

“Well, none of us know how to hunt. Or fire any kind of gun, for that matter.” Ed replied, a little embarrassed.

 

Mr. Bodaway nodded his head thoughtfully. “Good point, Ed. Well, there are several people at the Reservation, and even Jack and your family that are good with guns. I suggest you making arrangements for learning with them, soon. We all have to understand something here. We are going to come into a time in which we will all come to depend heavily on each other. It is in my opinion that we trade as much as we can with each other, and then look to the outside for help. In fact, we are working out a way in which we will be able to trade with outsiders, and not involve the people that live here at all. Something like the old General Stores, where the store traded with everyone, and that way everything was available to everyone.

 

“Now. I would recommend all of you going out and getting supplies, but I think it’s too late for that. What you have is what you have, and you will have to learn to either make it yourself or do without. You think things are bad now? Just wait a day or two. They will get worse. And I’m not just talking to talk here. Trust me.”

 

The quietness in the room could be heard for miles. Everyone looked very somber as Mr. Bodaway continued his speech.

 

“Now everyone here knows that they are welcome to stay here as long as they follow the laws of the Reservation. We will not make exceptions. We are now including Seth and Rebecca’s place, Jack’s place and the Larson’s old farm as part of the Reservation, with their permission. At some point we may be in war, and we will have to call on people to participate to defend their loved ones and their home. If they refuse to do so, or to abide by any other law made by the Reservation, then they will be asked to leave and not come back. Is that clear?” Mr. Bodaway’s eyes narrowed as he looked around the room. Everyone nodded.

 

“While you are here, your land and your possessions will not be taken from you, as long as you live your life in peace with others. Now, on to more logistical topics. Ed, you will be in charge of the spiritual welfare of the Reservation. We will look to you for guidance in that area, but you are not to force people into believing what you believe. Everyone is free to believe as they see fit, and to worship whomever they want as long as it is in peace with the rest of us. Ed will have authority to marry people, and whoever gets married under him will be considered married undisputedly. And Ed, you will not be able to charge for your work. You have already been paid with the cabins. But if people choose to pay you on their own, they are free to do so.”

 

Ed nodded his head in understanding. He would have to depend on his family for food, as the work he would do would provide them with shelter.

 

Mr. Bodaway continued talking, making sure everyone knew the gravity of the situation. He asked for people to be fair as they traded and assured everyone that even though the worst was yet to come, they would be able to not only face it together but thrive in their new environment.

 

Joy took everything in, wondering what kind of laws the Reservation had. She didn’t know what else they could do but stay where they were, so she resigned herself and hoped for the best. It didn’t seem like anyone else had a problem with any of this, so she told herself to just go along with the flow.

 

Joy glanced around at the people there and noticed Jack glancing at her. She turned away quickly, hating the fact that her face automatically turned bright red. She busied herself looking away from him, hoping that he hadn’t noticed and didn’t think she was looking at him. Who was he, anyway? She wondered how people had been chosen to attend the meeting. Well, she was glad to be here, and didn’t want to miss what was being said. Joy turned back to Mr. Bodaway and tried to catch what else he was saying.

 

“So Jack will live in one of the cabins until his home is finished. That way, you can learn from him, and he can have a place of his own to stay at. I’m glad that this has worked out. I think it is the best for all concerned.” Mr. Bodaway ended. What had she missed? Joy looked around to see all of her family nodding, including Bethany, who was doing it even more emphatically than the others. Well, at least she agrees, Joy thought.

 

“Now, Roger, that’s your name, right?” Mr. Bodaway looked at Roger and waited for him to nod. “Would you be willing to be our doctor? Each individual person or family would have to pay you for what you did, and I would expect both sides to be fair. You and uh, Marie? Could work together and spilt what you get. Jack,” he continued looking at him, “We may have to ask you to help in that area too. If Roger or Marie can’t be there for some reason, we may call on you, or on some of the other people on the Reservation that know about first aid. We would also like you to teach, if you can, but we’ll get to that later. Does all this seem reasonable?”

 

Everyone involved nodded, and Roger was the only one that had a question. “Where would we help people? I mean is there a clinic or would we go to their homes, or them to ours?”

 

Mr. Bodaway nodded. “Good question, Roger. To start, you’d have to go to people’s homes. Or they could come and see you. After that, we will have to see what we can do about a clinic. Anyone else have any other questions?”

 

When he had paused long enough and no one had responded, he gave the ok for everyone to get something to eat outside. Everyone stood up and started to make their way outside, those that knew their way around leading the way. There was a lot of chatter, but it seemed to be a somber one.

 

Once outside, Joy got in line with the rest of the people to get food. It looked like everyone had brought something to eat except her and her family. She wished she would have known, but knew that they had probably planned it this way so that they could just relax and get to know everyone.

 

Joy wished she could relax. Who was to say that all these people were trustworthy? Maybe they wouldn’t blow up, but maybe they would. How could she know for sure? She made her way in the line, eyeing everyone cautiously. Would she ever be able to trust again?

 

Suddenly she realized someone was talking to her. It was Roger.

 

“Joy, we are going to sit over here. Would you like to join us?” He asked in his thick, African accent, his eyes full of compassion.

 

Joy kicked herself mentally for allowing her emotions to show. “Sure,” she smiled, trying to look as normal as possible. She followed Roger and sat down next to Marie, moving a plate full of food aside. She could see that her dad was already engrossed in a conversation with Mr. Bodaway, and that the rest of her family was also trying to get to know others.

 

She tried to eat the food that she had gotten, but really had no appetite. She looked around at the landscape, enjoying the beautiful view. She closed her eyes and took in a deep breath, enjoying the warmth of the sun, and the breeze on her face.

 

 

 

Jack hated being late, but this time he had not been able to avoid it. Luke had not readily stayed with the kids at the park, until some of them welcomed him to play. He felt that at this time it was more important for him to make sure that Luke was ok than to be on time for a meeting. Later on he apologized and explained to Mr. Bodaway why he was late.

 

After he had finally settled into his seat, he had a chance to look around and look at who had come. Everyone that had been there for the meeting on Friday was there except for the Larsons. Jack had wondered how they were doing and if they had made it to Florida ok. In addition to those there, Rebecca’s family had also been invited to the meeting. It had made the room that they met in a little crowded, but Jack was glad they were there.

 

As he looked at the new members of the Reservation, Jack caught Joy’s eye and saw her turn away abruptly. He hoped she didn’t think that he was staring at her, but the truth was, he did wonder how she was doing. He had assumed that it was her, but wasn’t sure. The three sisters look remarkably alike, and then there was the other girl there too. What was her name? Jack couldn’t seem to remember. He figured he would probably find out soon enough.

 

After the meeting they all went out side for the supper that had been prepared by some of the ladies at the Reservation. Jack loaded up his plate and looked around for a place to sit as he balanced the plate in his hands. He saw the couple from Africa and sat down next to them, hoping to get to know them a little better.

 

“Hi,” he said after he put his plate down on the round picnic table and extended his hand. “I’m Jack.”

 

“Hello, I am Roger, and this is my fiancée, Marie. Nice to meet you!” Roger returned, shaking his hand happily.

 

They chatted a little about where they were from and what work they did in Africa. Jack was glad to know that he was no longer one of the only Christians around. The conversation soon turned to what was happening all around them and how it was going to be.

 

At a break in the conversation Jack excused himself to get something to drink. After offering to get them one, he made his way back to where the beverages where. He noticed that they had been very careful to leave alcoholic drinks out. It didn’t bother him one way or the other, but he knew some of the men didn’t know when to stop, and there had been problems because of it in the past.

 

“Hi, I’m Bethany.”

 

Jack looked around him to see if the lady was talking to him. She was.

 

“Oh, uh, hi.” Jack looked around for somewhere to put the drinks he was holding down, but couldn’t find a spot to put them. “I’m sorry,” he continued apologetically, “I’m Jack.”

 

Bethany smiled. “Yes, I know. You came in late, remember?”

 

Jack swallowed, and glanced away, embarrassed. “Yeah, I, uh, what did you say your name was again?”

 

“Bethany. Bethany Wilson. Are you the neighbor that provides the fresh milk and eggs?”

 

“Um, yes, I guess I am. Although recently I haven’t been the one doing it, I, uh, have been busy with my kids and-“ Jack hated feeling so out of control. What was his problem? Something about this woman just rubbed him the wrong way.

 

“I know. And I’m sorry about your loss,” Bethany said, placing her hand on his forearm.

 

Jack retreated from her touch shocked. He felt bad that he had reacted that way, but he was in no way ready for another woman to touch him. His wife hadn’t been gone for even a week, and he knew he wasn’t done grieving her yet.

 

“Uh, yeah. Thank you. Excuse me, I, uh, I need to get these back to Roger and Marie. Nice to meet you.” Jack said as he started walking away.

 

“Well, we’ll talk another time. Nice to meet you, too!” Bethany said, grabbing a drink of her own.

 

Jack made his way back to where he had been sitting, only to find that Joy took his place.

 

Joy looked up as Jack approached the area where she was sitting. Oh, no, she thought, realizing she had taken his seat.

 

Jack put the drinks down and motioned for Joy to stay seated. She smiled at him gratefully, and helped him rearrange the plates so that he could sit with them comfortably.

 

Jack got another chair and quietly thanked Joy for rearranging the plates. “I’m Jack, by the way,” he said, extending his hand to hers.

 

“I’m Joy,” she said, taking his hand.

 

Jack lingered holding her hand for a second, wanting to say something more, but not knowing what. “I’m very sorry for your loss,” he finally stammered, letting go of her hand.

 

Joy looked away quickly, her blue-green eyes troubled. “Thank you,” she replied quietly. “Now, where is it that you live?” She asked, wanting to change the subject.

 

“I live across the lake from where you are. I have a six-year-old son, Luke, and two newborn babies, Victor and Grace. My wife also just, uh, just recently past away.” Jack replied, hoping that he didn’t have to explain things any further.

 

“Oh,” Joy said, a look of realization crossing her face. “I’m sorry for your loss, too,” she said quietly, and then tried to change the subject again. “I have a little girl, Victoria. She’s four.”

 

Jack smiled. “So she belongs to you? I met her at the park when I dropped Luke off before the meeting. Friendly little gal. She wanted to make sure Luke would play with her at the swings. I’m not sure Luke has made friends with anyone quiet that fast.”

 

“That’s our Victoria,” Marie interjected with a smile of her own. “We have to watch her constantly, or she will go and smother other kids with affection. She’s a great kid, though.”

 

“Well, I’m glad Luke liked her. Maybe we could arrange for them to play together?” Jack asked cautiously, looking at Joy. He didn’t want to push, but knew that Luke didn’t get close to anyone that fast, and wanted to make the most of it. He needed more friends in his life, especially now.

 

Joy nodded. “Yeah, sure, and it will be easy and natural, I think, now that you will be staying at the cabins near where we will be at. Did I understand that right?”

 

Jack looked at her intensely as his blue eyes lit up. “Yes! And I am so grateful for that. I am forever thankful to Seth and Rebecca for putting up with me this long, but I’m glad that I can have a place to have my kids spread out a little. I may have to ask all of you ladies to help with my twins one in a while. In exchange for me helping you, of course.”

 

Roger laughed and patted Jack on the back. “Do not worry about it brother! We will all be helping each other. The day will come when none of us will be able to compare who has helped the other more. We will just do it, and it will come naturally. I know Marie has told me that she is excited to see your babies, and young Luke, too. Aren’t you, Marie?”

 

Marie nodded eagerly, her eyes shinning. “Oh, yes. I love babies.”

 

“Ah, yes, my darling,” Roger said, putting his arm around Marie’s shoulders, “And hopefully soon we will have our own. As soon as we get married, or as you say here, ‘Hitched’!”

 

The foursome laughed at his pronunciation of the term. They went on talking about the seasons in Minnesota, and how different it was going to be for Roger, especially during the winter.

 

“I have never seen snow,” he commented with excitement, his eyes dancing with laughter. “Except in pictures, of course. Now I hope and pray all of these problems go away soon, but I have to say, I am secretly enjoying the thought of beating Marie in a snow fight. Imagine that!” he laughed.

 

Joy enjoyed the conversation, especially getting to know her future brother in law better. Marie had done well in waiting. Roger seemed to be worth the wait. He treated her like royalty, and didn’t hide the fact that he felt honored to be with her. It was all bittersweet to Joy, as she knew that her romance with her husband had come to a sad, dramatic end.

 

“Should we be checking on the kids?” She wondered out loud. “Where will they have supper?” Joy felt guilty that she was just now thinking about feeding her daughter. How could she have forgotten? What kind of mother was she?

 

“No,” Jack responded. “They were going to feed the kids at the park. They wanted to make sure that for this time, the adults could really get to know each other, and that the kids could have some fun together, too.”

 

“Well, that was a good idea,” Bethany said as she approached the table. She grabbed an extra chair at a different table and put it uncomfortably close to Jack’s. “Mind if I sit here?” She asked him and she sat down, not waiting for an answer.

 

“I, uh, no. Go ahead. But I think I need to get going. I also have to get back to my twins.” He said, pushing back his chair and putting his hat back on. “It was really great to meet ya’ll” he said in his best western drawl.

 

Joy grinned at his attempt to be funny as she cleared the disposable plates from the table, including his. “Nice to meet you too, Jack,” she said as the others chimed in.

 

She has great smile, Jack thought to himself as he tilted his hat up. “Ladies, Sir.” he said before walking away. Jack made his way to Mr. Bodaway to thank him for the evening and say goodbye.

 

“I see you are making new friends, Jack,” Mr. Bodaway said, raising his hand to put it on Jack’s broad shoulder. “That’s good, real good.”

 

Jack nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, especially if we are going to have to come to depend on each other as much as you say we will.”

 

“Well, the end of the world as we know it will be here soon, Jack. I suggest you go home and use your truck to haul as many things as you can to the cabin you are going to use. Soon you may not be able to use your vehicle anymore.”

 

Jack looked at Mr. Bodaway, his eyes darkening. “What do you mean, Mr. Bodaway?”

 

“Don’t ask, Jack, I can’t tell you. I’ve already told you more than I should. Just know this. Tonight will be one of last nights that we will have enjoyed it the way we are used to. From now on, it will be a different way of life. A different America, a different world.”

 

“Well, I guess I don’t have much of a choice but to trust you. You haven’t been wrong so far, and I don’t expect you to start any time soon”. Jack shook the old man’s hand, grateful for the information, but troubled by it as well.

 

 

Joy finished clearing off the plates and other garbage from the table with Marie’s help. Bethany had made herself scarce as soon as Jack had left, and was nowhere to be seen.

 

“I’m going to take a short walk on the lake,” Joy told Marie, looking down towards the shore.

 

Marie looked at Joy concerned. “Do you want me to go with you?” She asked quietly.

 

“No, I’ll be fine. It’s just a short walk,” Joy reassured her sister.

 

“Ok, but we will be keeping an eye on you,” Roger said playfully.

 

Joy smiled at them, hoping that it would show her strength instead of her weakness. She made her way through the crowd to the steps off the patio, and down to the dock on the lake. At the end of the dock she sat down and pulled her sandals off, letting her feet dangle in the cool water. She looked back up to where the gathering was, surprised that it was very hard to see up the hill with all the trees in the way. She turned back around, glad to have some time to herself. Dave would have enjoyed this, she thought, memories of her late husband flooding her mind. She held back the tears as well as she could, not wanting to have any sign of having cried while she was here.

 

“Well, hello there,” A voice said behind Joy, startling her. She quickly wiped away the tear that had escaped before turning to respond. She hadn’t heard anyone coming, and chided herself for it.

 

“Hello,” she was all she managed to say. There behind her stood a short, thin man, Joy guessed in his mid thirties. He also was wearing cowboy clothes like Jack, and it made Joy wonder if it was common to do so in this area.

 

“I’m Simon. Simon Smith. And you are Joy Wilson, right?”

 

Joy felt a little uncomfortable that the man knew her name, but figured that the news about Dave’s death and her being a widow had already spread.

 

“Yes, I am,” She replied quietly as she stood up, still uncomfortable with the situation.

 

“Well, nice to meet you,” Simon said, gawking at her figure as he extended his hand to shake hers. “So you like it up here?”

 

Joy squirmed under his gaze and wished he wouldn’t have looked at her like that. She wasn’t wearing anything that would put her in a bad place, but still wished she could crawl under some covers, out of this man’s leering sight.

 

“Yes, it is beautiful,” she murmured, taking his hand.

 

“Well, I for one am sure glad you came,” he said, still holding her hand and not taking his eyes off of her.

 

“Um, yes. Thank you.” Joy looked up to the patio, hoping that someone would notice what was happening, knowing it was hard for them to see. She tried taking her hand back, but he held it firmly.

 

“Excuse me, I think I need to get back.” She said courtly, taking her hand back a little forcefully.

 

“So, when did your husband die?” Simon asked, ignoring her statement.

 

Joy looked at him surprised. How dare he? What was he doing? Trying to make her cry?

 

“Yesterday,” she said looking down, her voice filled with emotion.

 

“Awww, man, I guess it’s too soon to ask you out then, ain’t it?”

 

Joy took a step back in disbelief, almost falling into the lake. Simon reached out to grab her by her wrists and pulled her back, close to his chest.

 

“I’ve got ya, don’t worry, I’ve got ya!” Simon grinned, revealing a row full of crooked teeth, stained by tobacco.

 

Joy stepped back again, this time making sure she didn’t go into the lake. “Excuse me. I need to get back now.” She said tensely.

 

“Stay and chat a little, I won’t hurt ya,” Simon said as he stepped in her way, blocking the way to the shore.

 

“Hey Joy?” Joy heard a voice calling from the other end of the dock. It was Jack. “You about ready?”

 

Joy looked confused for a second, and then relief swept over her face as she nodded. “Yes, thank you.”

 

She walked past Simon quickly and made her way to the shore.

 

“Hey, where are you guys going? We were just starting to get acquainted!” Simon yelled.

 

“We are going to pick up the kids. I told Joy I would walk her over so no one here would bother her.” Jack said, his eyes on fire.

 

Simon tilted his head back and laughed. “Bother her? Who would bother her in this town?”

 

“Come on, let’s go,” Jack murmured, grabbing Joy gently by the arm.

 

As they made there way back up the steps to where the rest of the gathering was, Joy shook her arm free from Jack.

 

“Look, Jack, thank you for helping me back there, but I want you to know, I can take care of myself.” Joy paused on the stairs and turned to look at him, her face straight and her eyes flashing.

 

“Well, I never doubted that, Joy. I’m sorry, I thought I was helping you!” Jack looked at her confused. He had just met this woman, and he was already having an argument with her? He thought he had done a good thing! Simon Smith was a slime ball, and everyone knew it. He had been in jail for rape and attempted rape before, and Jack knew it was only a matter of time before he struck again.

 

“I don’t want you to think I’m the poor little Wilson Widow, because I’m not. I can and will take care of myself, and that is all I can depend on. Now thank you for trying to help me back there, but just keep that in mind next time. Now excuse me, I really do need to get home.” Joy turned and raced up the rest of the stairs, leaving Jack standing there, dumbfounded.

 

Once in the patio, Joy found her father and asked if they could get back. Ed looked at her, wondering what had flustered her daughter so, but agreed, not wanting to press her.

 

They worked out that Ed, Juan, Allen, Joy and Victoria would head back to the farm, and the rest would come later. Roger and Rachel had gone to pick Victoria up, and she was full of excitement and laughter. Joy was glad for the distraction on the way back, but worried about the confrontation she had just had, not only with Simon, but with Jack, too.

 

Once back at the farm, Joy helped Juan and Allen get some things into the nearest cabin. The place was small, but it would do great under the circumstances. They worked hard and long, trying to get as much stuff put away and in its place for the night. Victoria did her best to help Joy make the beds, and soon it was dark, so they made their way back to the farmhouse. With a double bed and two single beds made and ready, they decided that Juan, Ann, Marie and Leslie would stay there. Joy would stay in the same room that she had the night before with Victoria. Roger, Marco and Allen would stay in the basement and Bethany would stay with Rebecca, since the room that Jack was occupying was now empty. Joy heard that Jack had moved as much stuff as he could into the third cabin, the one furthest away from the farmhouse.

 

Joy went to bed that night exhausted, the events of the day finally taking their toll. She fell asleep crying again, longing again for her husband and the comfort she knew he no longer could provide.

 

 

Jack also had a tough time falling asleep. He had been left speechless when Joy had been offended at his help, and had a tough time figuring her out. He and Luke had moved all of their stuff out of the room that they had been staying in, and moved into one of the cabins. Bethany had insisted that the sheets didn’t need to be changed, so he had left them on the bed he and Luke had shared, and that now Bethany was going to use, hoping that Rebecca wouldn’t mind.

 

The cabins were rustic to say the least, but definitely livable. Jack put Luke in a room of his own, hoping that this way he’d at least get some more sleep. They slept on the mattresses without any sheets, as it had been a long time since Jack had made a bed. The twins finally fell asleep, and Jack fell into his own restless slumber. Every two hours he woke up and fed the babies, hoping that they would soon learn to sleep through the night, or at least a little longer.

 

He woke up early the next day, tired and weary of what the day held in store for him, hoping that the picture that Mr. Bodaway had painted would never come to pass.

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CHAPTER 18

 

Joy rubbed her eyes and sat up in bed, yawning and stretching as she stood up. She checked on Victoria, grateful that she was sleeping well through the night again. A few weeks had passed since the meeting at Mr. Bodaway’s house and the confrontation she had encountered with the man named Simon, and with her neighbor, Jack.

 

Since then they had all worked hard at getting things in order and put away as best as they could. They had separated everything into piles by family, according to what each of them had bought. Although they did share, it was clear that it was to be maintained separated. Joy had put her stuff into a storage barn except for some of the foodstuffs, glad to have a place to put everything until she was ready to use it. She had no cabin of her own, as Jack was using the one that was going to be for her. She thought it was better this way, as she didn’t know if she was ready to be alone like that yet.

 

They had also worked out a schedule to help Jack with his babies. Each of the women would take a turn helping him, and he would help them around the farm, teaching them to do things like shooting, harvesting and taking care of some of the animals. Joy had been busy cleaning and organizing, and had been able to avoid spending too much time with Jack. She felt bad for how she had treated him the day they met, and had meant to apologize for that, but just hadn’t gotten the chance. Once she had calmed down and had been honest with herself, she realized that she really couldn’t do everything for herself, and that she had to depend on everyone else as they were going to depend on her.

 

She was still mad at God. The wound of her husband dying was far from being healed, although a scab had begun to form. She felt like no one else was to blame for her husband’s death but God. She knew that He would never shut her out, and she felt as though she was in a room, full of His presence, not being able to escape Him. In turn, she felt as though she kept herself in a box in this room, shutting Him out. She would have nothing to do with Him. She closed her eyes when her father prayed, and even encouraged Victoria to do so. But she was hurt, and had resigned herself to never being cared for by Him again.

 

Today was the day that Joy was going to take her turn caring for Jack’s twins. This was her first time, even though everyone else had done it several times. She had gotten the scoop the night before on what was expected of her, and found that she was actually looking forward to seeing the newborn babies. She was a little apprehensive of seeing Jack, but Marie had commented that she had only seen him twice the days she had taken care of them, once when she got there, and then again later when she got ready to leave and he was there to take over. Marie said that Jack must have had lunch elsewhere that day, as he never showed up to eat until supper time.

 

In addition to taking care of the babies, whoever was there was also in charge of meals for the day for Jack and Luke. Luke sometimes went with his father, and other times he stayed home. Bethany had reported that the days she had been there, Luke mainly stayed to himself, not saying much, and not wanting to participate in anything. She also sounded disappointed that Ann had been the one that had seen Jack the most. Jack had stuck around that day, and done things closer to the cabin, like cutting wood and taking Luke on walks.

 

Nothing big had happened like Mr. Bodaway had predicted, and it made Joy wonder if it ever would. She knew that things had deteriorated in the cities around the country, but was hoping things to get back to normal soon. Even her family was starting to talk about venturing out and going back to Mexico. Roger and Marie, along with Ed, were the only ones that were not ready to leave. Joy had resigned herself to this being her life, and had no desire at all to move back to the Twin Cities.

 

Even though she had her doubts, she trusted the old man and knew that this was probably just the calm before the storm that was yet to come. Well, if you could call it a calm. The terrorist attacks had stopped, with a lot of them being prevented by the local officials. Martial law was still in place though, from dusk to dawn, due to continued unrest in the cities and even small towns. Mr. Bodaway had encouraged everyone to stay at the Reservation, close to home. Once in a while Joy would hear glimpses on the radio of what was going on outside of her new little world. Gas prices had peaked at an all time high of $8.59 a gallon in the Northern area, higher in places like California or even Florida. Riots had become wide spread as people lost their jobs or couldn’t afford the food prices that had been raised to reflect the cost of gas. Joy had been so thankful that they were in a protected environment, far from the riots and small wars that had broken out.

 

No one seemed to have a set schedule, and Joy looked forward to a day when things would take a more normal pace. She had been able to learn a few things about the farm in these few weeks, including how to work a wood cooking-stove. She didn’t know if she would ever need the knowledge or not, but found it fascinating to do. She had tried to bake bread and make a few other simple things in it, but it was taking a long time for her to get it right. Still, she practiced at least once a day by making different kinds of breads as well as other meals, and also helped in the garden and with taking care of the produce that they were getting either by canning or drying it.

 

Joy got ready for the day, enjoying the hot shower against her body. For a moment it was like nothing had ever happened, and she was back in her apartment, humming her favorite song. Joy missed Dave, and the closeness she had had with him. As she finished up and toweled of, Joy wondered if anyone would ever love her the way Dave had, want her and long for her the way he had. She sighed and pulled on the light, long sundress that she had chosen for the day, not allowing the tears that were forming to fall down her cheeks.

 

“Joy, you almost done in there?” Ed asked, knocking on the door.

 

“I’ll be out in a minute, Dad,” Joy said as cheerfully as she could.

 

“Already then,” came back his reply.

 

Joy finished getting dressed quickly, and went back into her room to finish brushing her hair. Victoria had slept through it all, and was just now waking up.

 

“Good morning, honey,” Joy said softly, smoothing Victoria’s hair away from her face.

 

“Good morning, Mama,” Victoria said sleepily.

 

Joy laid next to her daughter for a few minutes, enjoying her close presence. They talked some small talk, catching up on what colors of butterflies Victoria had discovered, and how many rocks she had collected.

 

“Well, guess what we are going to do today?” Joy asked, trying to build up some excitement for something that she wasn’t at all together sure she was excited for herself.

 

“What?”

 

“We are going to go to Luke’s house!” Joy said as Victoria clapped.

 

“My friend Luke? Really Mama? Yeah!”

 

Joy loved seeing Victoria so excited. It didn’t take much to get her thrilled, and Joy wondered what happened to people that they lost their love for life. Life, she thought as she helped Victoria get dressed. Joy smiled as she watched Victoria gaze at herself in the mirror after taking her braids out that she had slept in the night before. Victoria called the curls that they left ‘triangles’, and liked admiring herself with them.

 

After they were ready, they made their way to the kitchen where Ed was having his second cup of coffee and Liz was preparing breakfast.

 

“Hi honey,” Liz greeted her. “How did you sleep last night?”

 

“Better,” Joy replied, amazed at the truth in her statement. “And you?”

 

“Like a baby!” Ed replied.

 

“Yeah, speak for yourself, mister,” Liz countered jokingly.

 

“Are you ready to go?” Ed asked as Joy gathered the basket and small cooler with the food she had gotten ready to take the night before.

 

“Yeah, I think so.” Joy nodded her head. “I’m taking along some toys in case the kids want to play inside or it rains and they can’t play outside. And I think I have all the food I need for the rest of the day too. We do breakfast too, you said, right?”

 

“Yup. That way Jack doesn’t have to worry about any of that, and he can focus on other things that he has to do. As it is he is getting a broken night of sleep, but he has insisted on keeping the babies with him at night.” Liz said, setting the table for everyone else that was going to be there eating. “But what’s really going to get you is how they have to wash dishes. It’s kind of a bear, having to haul in the water, but I guess everyone has tried to leave the place clean for Jack at the end of the day.”

 

“Ok, then, I guess I’ll do that to!” Joy said, faking her enthusiasm.

 

Liz laughed. “I know washing dishes isn’t your favorite thing to do, honey, but you’ll survive.”

 

“Oh, I’ll try,” Joy laughed, heading for the door. “Well, we better go. Have a good day everyone!”

 

Victoria got off her Grandpa’s lap that she had been sitting on, and went and gave her Grandma a kiss. “Love you, Grandma!” She called, running out to the front porch.

 

“Bye sweetie, love you!” Liz called out as they left.

 

Joy and Victoria made their way to the last cabin, carrying all the things they needed for the day. Joy wished she had some kind of cart or something to carry all the stuff, but the weather was beautiful and she enjoyed the walk immensely. Once there she put the stuff down on the porch and knocked lightly on the door, apprehensive of what was to come.

 

Jack opened the door slowly, and was surprised to see Joy and Victoria standing there. “Good morning,” he said quietly stepping back to let them in.

 

“Good morning. Are the babies sleeping?” Joy asked, picking up the basket as Jack carried the cooler in.

 

Jack nodded. “Yes. They just both fell asleep. Thank you for coming, I’ll be leaving soon,” Jack said. He felt a little uncomfortable with Joy there, knowing that their last encounter had not ended so well. He had done a good job avoiding her, until now.

 

Joy nodded as she busied herself getting breakfast ready. Victoria had sat down at the table and had made herself comfortable looking at a book.

 

“Where’s Luke?” Victoria asked, looking at Jack.

 

“He’s still sleeping, but he’ll be up soon.”

 

“Ok,” Victoria responded simply and went back to her book.

 

Joy looked at Jack over her shoulder. “How is he doing?” she whispered.

 

Jack left what he had been doing and joined her over by the small propane stove she was making breakfast at, glad that Joy seemed to be over whatever he had done to tick her off.

 

“He didn’t sleep well last night, he had a couple of nightmares. He said that he dreamt that his mom came today, and that they were able to spend lots of time together. I wasn’t able to spend as much time with him as I wanted because of the twins, but I thought you should know. What are you doing?” He asked, peering over her shoulder.

 

“What am I doing? I’m making breakfast! What does it look like I’m doing?” Joy kicked herself for responding so strongly. She hoped that he saw that she was humored by his question, not bothered. She was hoping to make peace with this man, not make things worse.

 

“Well, I know you are making breakfast, I just wondered what.” He answered in kind.

 

“Pancakes. Pancakes and some fruit that I cut up last night, together with some homemade syrup that someone from town made. Is that ok?” Joy smiled, nodding at the cooler.

 

“Yeah, sure,” Jack shrugged. “Beets having cereal,” he grinned sheepishly.

 

“I can arrange that if you’d like,” Joy laughed quietly, trying not to wake up the kids.

 

Soon she was done making breakfast and had Victoria helping her set the table. Jack had offered to help, but Joy had shaken her head, wanting to involve Victoria in whatever ways possible. As Victoria set the plates down for everyone, the door to Luke’s room creaked open.

 

Joy turned to look at him and smiled. “Good morning Luke, how are you today? I’m Joy, Victoria’s Mommy.”

 

Luke looked at Joy with wide eyes, but didn’t say anything. Victoria stopped what she was doing and went and stood next to him.

 

“Luke! We are going to have pancakes and fruit! Do you want some?” Victoria asked pulling him towards the table. “Here. You put these plates over there, and I’ll put these over here. Then we need forks, too.”

 

Luke looked a little dazed, but did as he was told. Soon they were all sitting at the table, ready to eat breakfast.

 

“Let’s pray,” Jack said, bowing his head.

 

“Wait!” Victoria interjected. “We aren’t holding hands!”

 

“Oh, honey, we don’t always have to hold hands when we pray.” Joy tried to talk her out of it.

 

“But I want to!”

 

“It’s ok, Joy. We’ll hold hands, ok Victoria?” Jack said. “I have a feeling God likes it better like that anyway,” he smiled and winked at her.

 

Victoria grinned as she reached out her small hands to hold Joy and Jack’s hands. Joy was relieved that at least she and Jack were sitting across from each other and didn’t have to worry about holding each other’s hand.

 

They ate their meal quietly, once in a while whispering something to each other. Victoria would giggle, thinking that it was funny that they were being so quiet, only to be shushed by the others and then they all tried hard not to laugh out loud.

 

Once they were done, Jack got up and helped Joy clear off the table, with Luke and Victoria helping as well.

 

“Mommy, can we go outside to play?” Victoria asked after they were done clearing the table off.

 

“What do you say?” Joy asked, her hands on her hips.

 

“Please?” Victoria asked, batting her eyelashes.

 

“Sure. Make sure that Luke wants to go too, and stay close to the cabin, ok?” Joy said putting her hand on Victoria’s head and stroking her hair.

 

“Ok! Luke, do you want to go outside with me?” Victoria asked, turning to look at him.

 

Luke nodded his little blond head, looking at Jack.

 

“It’s ok, Luke, you can go.” Jack reassured him. “Stay close though, ok?”

 

“Yes, Papa.” Luke responded quietly.

 

As Victoria and Luke made their way out, Joy looked at Jack. “Nice kid, Jack.”

 

“Thank you. He’s always been quiet, but more so since his Mother passed away.”

 

Joy nodded. “I figured that much. I’m worried about Victoria. She’s hardly even mentioned Dave.”

 

“Yeah, it’s hard to know what is going on in those little minds.”

 

“Well, I’m not sure I’m going to figure it out today, but I do know that these dishes aren’t going to wash themselves. Now how have they been doing this?” Joy asked.

 

“Well, actually, I’m not sure.” Jack said, a little embarrassed. “I’m usually gone by now.”

 

“Oh. Well, do you need to go?”

 

“I suppose I should,” Jack started to say, but was interrupted by one of the twins.

 

“I’ll go,” Joy said, excited to finally get to see the babies.

 

She left Jack standing there, and went quietly into his room. The place was filled with boxes and big black bags, and it looked like he had been sleeping on the mattress without any sheets. She bent over and picked Victor up carefully from the crib that he shared with his sister, caressing his cheek. Victor turned his head towards her, trying to find her breast.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry, honey,” Joy laughed. “Right equipment, just not functional right now. Come here. Let’s get you something to eat.” Joy took little Victor out into the main room and found the bottles that Jack had prepared. Jack had left, but the door was open and she could see him outside, busy getting water from the well with a hand pump.

 

“Man, your Papa makes that look easy,” She murmured to Victor. She was glad he had set the bottles out, and it was simple enough to prepare the formula, even one handedly. She knew that breast milk was the best, but obviously this would have to do in a situation like this.

 

Victor ate contentedly and Joy barely had enough time to burp him and change his diaper before his sister woke up. Joy went and put Victor down and picked Grace up. She wasn’t used to two babies, especially not at once.

 

Joy busied herself taking care of the babies as Jack continued to get water into some large containers out on the porch. By the time he was done, both babies were well taken care of and happy. Soon they were fussing, trying to fall asleep. Joy made sure that their diapers were dry and that they had been awake for a sufficient amount of time before laying them down again. As soon as she put each of them down, they started crying. Joy bent over and kissed each one, and left the room.

 

Jack stood in the doorway, bringing in a couple buckets of water. “Aren’t you going to rock them to sleep?” he asked, a little confused.

 

“Well, I can if you want me to, but I learned with Victoria that it’s best that they learn to fall asleep by themselves. It worked wonders for her. She was sleeping through the night at three months old.” Joy responded, taking a cup and filling up a pot with water to heat up.

 

“Really? And you just laid her down?”

 

Joy nodded. “Yes, but you need to be consistent. If you aren’t, you are just shooting yourself in the foot, making it harder on you and them.”

 

They talked for a while about the method, and finally Joy put the hot water in to wash the dishes. The twins had stopped crying after a few minutes, and gone to sleep.

 

“Well, it worked!” Jack said, surprised.

 

“Yeah, it did. Sometimes it takes longer than other times. And I’ve never done it with twins, but they seem to have done ok. We’ll see how it goes for next time.”

 

Jack nodded. “I’m very impressed. So, do you need some help here?”

 

“No, I don’t think so. Thank you for getting the water, Jack.” Joy said, thankful that she hadn’t had to get the water herself.

 

“No problem. I wish I had thought of doing it before. I’m afraid your sisters and Bethany all had to get their own. I’ll make sure these barrels stay full from now on.”

 

“Well, I’m sure they will appreciate it as well,” Joy said, adding some of her home made soap to the water.

 

“Man, that smells good!” he said, leaning into the steaming water. “What is that?”

 

“That,” Joy smiled, “is lavender soap. I made it myself.”

 

“Really? Well, I wouldn’t want to smell like that, but it sure smells good! You sure you don’t need any help?” Jack said, still breathing it in.

 

“I’m fine, Jack. It’s not the first time I’ve done dishes you know.”

 

“Alright then. I’m going to take off. What time do you want me to come back for lunch?” He asked, looking at his watch.

 

“Lunch? You can’t possibly be thinking about lunch!” Joy teased him. “Is one o’clock ok with you?”

 

“Man, give a guy a break! It’s hard work getting all that water!” Jack teased back. “Yes Ma’am. One o’clock sharp it will be.” Jack tipped the hat he had just put on, and left the cabin.

 

Joy smiled and shook her head. Jack turned out to be nicer than she had thought after their encounter that first day. She would have to apologize for treating him so badly that first day. She finished the dishes quickly, glad that Jack had left the door open. It was getting warm, and this way she could get some breeze and keep an eye on the kids outside.

 

Joy was surprised at how much Luke came out of his shell when he was with Victoria. He seemed like a whole different person, and Joy appreciated that he was careful to tell Victoria when to stop if she was getting to close to something dangerous, or going too far away.

 

Joy finished the dishes and checked on the babies. Since they were still sleeping, she decided to tidy the place up a bit, and make it more livable. She found some paper, and after cleaning the cabinets from sawdust, she carefully lined the shelves with the paper and put the dishes that Jack had out away.

 

She went into Luke’s room, and saw that he was also sleeping on just the mattress, with a sleeping bag for a blanket. She looked through some of the boxes, finding everything but sheets for a single bed. She did find some queen sized ones, so after checking on all the four kids, she busied herself quietly making Jack’s bed, careful not to wake the babies up. She’d send some single bed sheets home with who ever came the next day, so that Luke would have a nice bed to sleep on too. For tonight she tucked in an extra queen sheet so that he would at least have something.

 

Then the babies woke up, and Luke and Victoria came in from playing outside, thirsty. This is where it’s going to get tricky, Joy thought, trying to manage all four kids at once. She picked up Grace first, asking Luke and Victoria to wash their hands before sitting down at the table. They used the left over water from the dishes, and sat down, eager to get their drinks. Joy poured them some water in juice glasses while still holding Grace, tipping one of them over and spilling water all over the floor.

 

She still had to deal with Victor, and wasn’t sure where Jack had more towels to be able to clean up the mess. Just then Jack walked in, at one o’clock sharp, just as he promised.

 

“Oh, no, Jack! I’m sorry!” Joy blushed, embarrassed that he had walked in at the worst possible moment. Both babies were crying by this time, the water was all over the table and floor, and Victoria was talking loudly trying to get Joy’s attention. And to make matters worse, he was on time, but she hadn’t made lunch!

 

Jack laughed and came to Joy’s aid. “Here, let me take Grace,” he said, taking her from Joy. That freed up Joy to get the towel she had used to dry the dishes earlier and gave it to Victoria to help clean up the mess.

 

“But I didn’t spill it, Mama!” She complained.

 

“I know honey, but right now, we all have to help, ok?” Joy said as she went to get Victor. “Oh, Sweetie. We didn’t forget about you,” she said as she picked him up.

 

She came back to see the glass still on the floor, with Victoria holding the towel, not wanting to clean it up and making her complaints known. Grace was still crying, and when Victor heard his sister he thought it was a good idea to join in. All of the sudden Joy felt as though the rug had been pulled from under her, and the day that seemed to be going so well was crumbling down on her. She looked at Jack for help, but he was looking around the cabinets for something that he could munch on.

 

“Argh! Victoria, stop complaining and clean up the mess please. I will not ask you again. Luke, can you help her please? Maybe you can pick the cup up and put it on the counter. Jack, I’m sorry lunch isn’t ready. Now stop looking around for something to eat and help me get these babies fed!” Joy commanded, tired of all the sound coming from the small room.

 

Jack looked at her surprised, but did as he was told. He nodded at Luke who picked up the cup and took it to the counter near the sink, and came back to encourage and help Victoria clean up the mess. Finally, the two babies had eaten and been burped, and Joy gave Jack the task of changing their diapers while she got lunch ready in a hurry and the kids set the table.

 

Joy worked quickly getting everything ready. She fried some bacon and toasted some bread on a pan. She made an assembly line and had Luke and Victoria help with the making of BLT sandwiches, after they had rewashed their hands. Then it happened. She was so busy cutting the tomatoes that she cut herself on her index finger, making it bleed.

 

“Oh, ouch!” She cried, trying hard to not make a big deal out of it. What else could go wrong? she wondered as she grabbed a clean white towel that she hadn’t noticed before, and put pressure on the wound. Man, she thought to herself, this really hurts!

 

“Mama! You are bleeding!” Victoria cried, with fear in her eyes. Luke stared at her, his eyes mirroring Victoria’s.

 

“Joy, are you ok?” Jack asked from the bedroom, still finishing up with the babies.

 

“Yes, I’m fine. I just cut myself a little bit while cutting the tomatoes.” She responded looking at the gash again. A lot of blood was flowing from it, and Joy could tell she had done more than just a simple cut.

 

“Let me see it,” Jack said, walking towards her. He had left the babies laying on his bed, contentedly looking up at the ceiling.

 

Joy shook her head. “No, I’m fine. Really. Here. The sandwiches are almost done and…”

 

“Joy, let me see it,” came back Jack’s stern, but gentle reply. He knew by the look on her face that he was dancing on a fine line. That she might go off on him for wanting to help, or swallow her pride and allow him to do so.

 

Joy wasn’t sure what to do. The cut really did hurt, and from what she had seen she was hoping that she wouldn’t have to get stitches. But if she let him help, wouldn’t it just make her weak? Her dignity was more important to her than a cut finger, yet she also knew that if she didn’t get help, she might make things worse. She finally gave in, and stretched her hand out towards him.

 

Jack took it in his big hands gently, careful not to hurt her. He pulled the towel away, and studied the wound for a second, glancing at her face to watch for pain. Joy felt chills going through her body as Jack held her hand, and fought with herself internally over why she was getting them. I just cut myself, she told herself. I’m allowed to get chills.

 

“Luke, why don’t you and Victoria go eat your sandwiches on the porch? We’ll join you in a little bit.” He said, helping them to put them together quickly, leaving out the tomatoes.

 

“Mama, are you ok?” Victoria asked, pressing herself against Joy’s legs.

 

“I’m going to be fine, Victoria. Dr. Daniels here is going to help me, ok?” Joy replied, patting her daughter on the head with her good hand, and then quickly changing the towel so it wouldn’t reveal so much blood. “Now go outside and eat your sandwich with Luke, ok?”

 

Victoria nodded with tears in her eyes. “Ok, Mama.”

 

Victoria and Luke made there way outside to the porch, to a simple outdoor table and benches. They placed their drinks and plates down carefully and then sat down. Joy could hear Victoria telling Luke that they should pray, and then her simple mealtime prayer.

 

Joy bit her bottom lip, trying to fight back the tears. “I’m so sorry, Jack. I don’t mean to cause this much trouble.”

 

Jack smiled as he nodded at a chair for her to sit in. “No trouble at all, Joy. Here, sit down.”

 

Joy complied, and allowed Jack to look over her finger. She knew that the cut was bad enough, but was concerned about how much blood was coming out, and how it affected her. Jack had her put pressure on it again to help it stop bleeding as he went into his room to look for his medical bag that he always carried with him. He wasn’t sure where he had put it, but he reassured Joy that it was in there somewhere.

 

As Jack looked for his bag, Joy started to feel dizzy. It was hot in the cabin, and she had not had anything to drink in a while, wanting to spare the water that Jack had gotten from the well. She started having feelings of self-pity as the world began to spin around her in what seemed to be a thousand miles per hour.

 

“Joy!” Jack said as he rushed to her side, preventing her from falling on the floor.

 

The last thing Joy knew was that two strong hands were picking her up, and that it felt like she was floating in the air into another room, the world continuing to spin around her.

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CHAPTER 19

 

 

The world had gone black to Joy. She was faintly aware of her surroundings and what was going on, but could not seem to get her head to stay up straight, her long hair falling over her shoulders in front of her face.

 

Jack pushed her hair back and picked her up in his arms in one swift move. “Luke!” He called through the door as he took Joy into Luke’s room and laid her gently on his bed.

 

Luke and Victoria came running in and Victoria started crying at the sight of her mother lying on the bed.

 

“Victoria, your Mama is going to be just fine, she’s just really tired. Luke, run over to the Larson’s place and get one of the ladies to come here and take care of the twins please. Make sure you run as fast as you can and ask if Dr. Roger can come too.” Jack said, gently leading Victoria out of the room and having her sit outside.

 

As Luke took off running, Jack asked Victoria to wait out on the porch to make sure the people coming knew where they were. He was glad when she did, and he was able to get back to Joy.

 

He took care of her finger gently, after finding his bag in Luke’s room. She came to slowly, and tried to sit up in the bed.

 

“Just lay down,” Jack ordered, pushing her back down gently by the shoulder. Joy complied, her head pounding, and her finger feeling numb.

 

Soon Luke and Roger came in the door, followed by Bethany.

 

“What has happened?” Roger asked, his voice full of concern for his future sister in law.

 

“She was cutting tomatoes for lunch and cut herself. She must have fainted and almost fell off the chair. I’ve worked on her finger some, but she may need stitches.” Jack said, holding Joy’s hand up for Roger to look at.

 

Roger nodded his head. “You did a good job, Jack, but I am afraid you are right, and she is going to need stitches. We need to get her back to the farmhouse where I have more supplies to do it with. Joy, do you think you can walk?”

 

“I wondered when you would start talking to me,” she smiled weakly, her face pale. “Yes, I think so.”

 

Joy sat up on her elbows and got up slowly, grateful for the men’s help. She noticed that Bethany had Luke and Victoria busy playing with the babies, and was glad she didn’t have to worry about Victoria.

 

“We can drive her there,” Jack suggested, looking out towards his truck.

 

“Nonsense, I’m fine. Anyway, I think the walk and some fresh air will do me good.” Joy answered, embarrassed that she was causing so much trouble. “I’m sorry you had to come out here, Roger.”

 

“Now you are the one talking nonsense. I am happy to be here to help you, although I am sure our friend Dr. Jack here would have done fine without me.” Roger said, appreciating Jack.

 

“Thank you,” Jack said quietly, helping Joy to the front door.

 

Bethany came out of the room to see what was going on, and asked to see Joy’s wound. Roger stated that it’d be best to leave it covered, as it was still bleeding, and they still needed to keep pressure on it.

 

Jack stood at the door, not quite sure what to do. Should he go and make sure that Joy made it to the farmhouse ok? Or should he stay with the kids and relieve Bethany to go back to what she was doing?

 

Roger answered the dilemma for him. “Jack, do you mind walking with us? I’m sure Bethany can stay with the kids until you come back, right Bethany?”

 

Bethany nodded. There was a strange look of confusion on her face that Joy didn’t recognize, but she agreed to stay with the kids until Jack came back.

 

Jack and Roger walked one on each side of Joy, in case she needed further assistance. Joy wished she had accepted the ride, but was determined to make it as far as she could without any help. About halfway there, the world started to spin around again, and she started to feel like she wasn’t going to make it. As she started to fall, Jack and Roger reached out to grab her, each awkwardly holding her up on his side.

 

“Can you carry her Jack?” Roger wondered, knowing that it’d be less awkward if only one of them carried her, but wasn’t sure he was the man for the task.

 

Jack nodded his head. “Yes. Do you want to go ahead and make sure there is a place for her to lay on?”

 

“Yes, Marie should be working on that now.” Roger answered, helping Jack pick Joy up. It was more difficult this time since she was halfway standing, instead of on a chair.

 

Once Jack had a good hold of Joy, he carried her easily in his strong arms, her head lying softly against his shoulder, her long hair blowing about in the wind.

 

Roger made his way back to the farmhouse ahead of Jack, and waited at the door for him. Jack carried Joy into the house, careful not to hit her against the doorframes. By now the towel that Joy had been using was soaked in blood, and her face was as pale as ever.

 

She woke up as Jack laid her gently on the bed in the room where she was staying. She heard Marie thank him and told him that they would take over from here.

 

Jack looked at Joy nervously, and then left the room. Could the cut make her faint like that? Or was there another reason?

 

He peered into the room as Roger and Marie worked together as a team, oblivious to anything else going around them. It appeared that they had done this many times before, as Marie anticipated each move Roger was going to make.

 

“Jack?” Liz said, walking up behind him, startling him.

 

“Hi, Liz. I’m sorry, I didn’t see you.” Jack said apologetically.

 

“That’s ok, Jack. Thank you for bringing Joy over. She’s going to be fine. This is not the first time this has happened to her, and she’ll be as good as new as soon as she gets some rest.”

 

Jack looked at Liz surprised. “Does she faint often?”

 

Liz shook her head. “No, only when she’s around a lot of blood. Now, did you get anything to eat in all this commotion?”

 

Jack shook his head, relieved that Joy was going to be ok.

 

“You were really worried about her, weren’t you?” Liz asked, leading the way to the kitchen.

 

“Well, it’s not everyday that someone faints in my kitchen,” he said, trying to bring a little humor into the situation. Her comment bothered him for some reason, but he couldn’t put a finger on it.

 

Liz supplied some leftover lunch for him, and they chatted a little about the day and how things were going for them. Jack wondered if Liz knew about Joy’s method of training the babies to sleep through the night, and wondered if there was any way that all the ladies could do that while they were at his place so that the babies could have some consistency. Liz assured him that she would pass the word on. Their chat was light and humored, and soon Roger and Marie joined them after they had washed their hands.

 

“Well, what’s the verdict?” Liz asked Roger, looking for clues in his face.

 

“Oh, she is going to be fine. She only needed one stitch, and that should heal fast. In a few days she won’t even know it happened. I think the fainting is what really got her worked up. We gave her some medication for the pain and she will be asleep for an hour or two. Then she will wake up and wonder why she was asleep to begin with!” Roger laughed.

 

Liz and Jack sighed with relief, glad that it was really nothing major. Jack stayed a while longer, spending some time with Roger as the women went about doing other things. He felt bad that he was taking Roger’s time, but it seemed to Jack like he was enjoying just having some down time too. They talked for about an hour, and then Jack got up to leave.

 

“Well, I better get going,” Jack said, hating to leave. He took his dishes to the sink and washed them as well as he could. He said good bye to Roger, and made his way outside, making sure he didn’t let the screen door slam behind him so he wouldn’t wake Joy up.

 

Once outside, Liz caught him before he took off again. “Jack, why don’t you come over for supper?” she asked him.

 

“I better not, Liz, but thank you for your offer. We kind of left Bethany abruptly, and I’m sure she is worried about Joy. Maybe another time?”

 

“Sure! How ‘bout Saturday? We’ve been talking about making it an all day play-day. We will be inviting Seth and Rebecca over too, and thought you’d maybe want to join us. You think you can make it?” Liz said, putting her hand up to shield her eyes from the sun.

 

Jack nodded. “Sounds like fun. It’ll be a nice break. You want me to bring anything?”

 

Liz shook her head and smiled. “Nope, just a couple of babies and a cute kid!”

 

Jack laughed. “Well, I think I can arrange that! Thank you, Liz.”

 

Jack waved and turned to make his way back to the cabin. Once there he found all of the kids crying and Bethany frazzled.

 

“Well, it’s about time you got back!” She snapped at him, handing Victor over to him. “Victoria, stop the crying, you are driving me nuts!”

 

Jack looked around him surprised. In the hour or two that he had been gone, the place seemed like it had been hit by a hurricane. Jack wondered how it had gotten so bad, so fast, but decided that if he wanted to keep his head where it was, he better not ask.

 

“Well, I think I can take over from here,” Jack said cautiously.

 

“Ok. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have snapped at you like that. It’s just that everything kind of got crazy, and I lost my temper. I’ve got a pounding headache, and the crying hasn’t helped. I think I just need to lay down for a little while.” Bethany looked at Jack with a look he didn’t recognize, as if she was waiting for something. Was he supposed to pay her? He hadn’t before, and he thought that the arrangement that they had didn’t include money. Maybe she thought she deserved something as this really wasn’t her day to take care of his kids, and she had had to do so anyway.

 

“I, uh, ok. Thanks for your help.” Jack said, not knowing what else to say. There was a brief show of disappointment in Bethany’s face, but it only lasted a second.

 

“Ok, we’ll see you later. Oh! Do you want to come over on Saturday and hang out? I told Liz and Ed that we are all in desperate need for a day of playing and just getting to know and enjoy each other, instead of working so hard all the time.” Bethany said loudly, trying to make herself heard over the babies.

 

Jack nodded his head. “Yup, I already talked about it with Liz. I’ll be there!”

 

“Great!” Bethany smiled and headed for the door. “Let’s go, Victoria,” She called, and Jack knew she was making an effort to be sweet, although she wasn’t being to good at it.

 

Victoria agreed, but was not happy about it. She waved at Jack and Luke, and pleaded once more to be able to stay.

 

“No!” Bethany yelled, “and that’s final!”

 

They disappeared through the door, and Jack wondered if Joy was aware of how short Bethany’s temper seemed to be with Victoria. Maybe he was over thinking things, but it seemed to him like Bethany had little patience with little ones. Maybe he’d see if there was a way to relieve her of her duties taking care of his kids so she wouldn’t get so stressed out.

 

Jack managed to take care of himself and his kids for the rest of the day, enjoying the fact that he was able to stay home. He hadn’t been able to spend much time with Luke, and took the opportunity to talk to his young son. Tomorrow would be the one month anniversary of Carol’s death, and he wondered if it would affect him. He prepared a simple supper for them with some of the things Joy had brought. It seemed like she had a lot of stuff prepared, but he didn’t want to use it all up. That night he was finally able to go to sleep, grateful to whoever had put sheets on his bed. He hadn’t noticed them until now, and wasn’t sure if it had been Joy or Bethany. He noted that Luke’s bed also had an oversized sheet, but Luke didn’t seem to mind. The babies were sleeping longer at night in between feedings now, and he was grateful for that.

 

 

Joy didn’t wake up until the sun was down, and was confused, just as Roger had predicted. She had eaten some supper and felt much better after that. She was embarrassed at all the trouble she had caused, but Roger and Marie assured her that it was no trouble at all. She couldn’t remember much from the incident, and was too ashamed to ask. Instead, she busied herself helping in whatever she could around the house. She learned that Bethany had come back from Jack’s exhausted, and had laid down for a nap, after she complained about the whole ordeal. Joy felt bad that Bethany had to take over her duties, and so decided to do something about it.

 

“When is Bethany’s turn to take care of the babies again, Mom?” Joy asked as she they folded laundry.

 

“I don’t know, honey. I’d have to see the schedule we made. Why?”

 

“Well, she did about half of my turn, so I was thinking about just doing her day, whenever it is. Ann said that she got really stressed out today, having all four kids to take care of.” Joy responded.

 

“I think that’s a good idea, especially since I know it’s not tomorrow and that will give you some time to let that finger heal.” Liz said, handing her a basket of more clean clothes.

 

“Why didn’t I get on the schedule until today?” Joy wondered.

 

“Well, because we thought you needed some other tasks before going into something that would maybe be a stressful situation for you. How did today go, other than the obvious?” Liz asked, smiling in spite of herself.

 

Joy smiled back. “Well, other than that, I think it went pretty good. Luke and Victoria played outside for quite a while-“

 

“You let them play outside?” Bethany interrupted, coming into the living room and sitting down with them, followed by Ann and Marie. Joy knew that Victoria was outside once again, this time playing with Ruth, and the men were over at Jack’s property across the lake, trying to get his cabin up.

 

Joy nodded. “Sure. As long as they stayed close and I could see them, I didn’t have a problem with them being out there.”

 

“So that’s why they wanted to go out so badly. I wish I had known, it would have given me a break!” Bethany said, explaining how the two kids had begged and begged to go out, but that she had been afraid that they would run off and get lost.

 

They all chatted about their experiences taking care of the babies and Luke, comparing notes with each other.

 

“Well, getting water is the worst. Juan does it for us at our cabin if we need, but mostly we come in here and get cleaned up. That water pump is hard!” Ann complained.

 

All the others nodded, except for Joy.

 

“How did you get so much water into the cabin?” Bethany asked Joy.

 

Joy hesitated, not knowing how to answer as she knew that she had not had to work as hard as the others had. “Um, Jack brought it in.” She replied, blushing a little.

 

“Jack brought it in? Why did you have him do that? I thought we were all supposed to take care of anything that we needed while there!” Bethany said, clearly upset.

 

Joy shook her head. “I didn’t.” She defended herself. “He just brought it in. I never asked him to. He said that he felt bad that he hadn’t thought of it before, and that he would do it from now on.”

 

That seemed to ease Bethany’s complaints, and she decided to tease Joy a little. “So, are you going to take my shift next time, since I took yours this time?”

 

Joy nodded her head. “Sure. I was just talking about that with Mom.”

 

Bethany looked surprised that Joy would take her up on it. “Well, I’m on for the day after tomorrow, and you are welcome to do it if you want. That’s Friday, and that will free me up to help with the preparations for the all day party on Saturday.”

 

Joy shrugged. “Ok.”

 

The rest of the evening they spent talking about Joy’s finger and other accidents that each of them had suffered in the past. Bethany poked a little fun at Joy for fainting at the site of blood, and the others joined in. They had a good time, and soon it was time to get Victoria cleaned up and ready for bed.

 

The next day, Joy busied herself with several tasks, including getting stuff together to take to Jack’s cabin the next day. She thought that if the place looked more like a home, it might be better for Luke, and might make his transition from place to place a little easier.

 

 

Jack spent his day helping with his new home. It was coming along nicely, and he found that this was work he really enjoyed. He had worked with a few animals in the last month, and that was ok with him. If he didn’t miss Carol, he would have thought of this as a vacation. Luke had gone with him this day, and had really taken seriously his roll of helper. Jack noticed that Luke was quieter than usual though, and wondered what was bothering him. The men there were nice enough to have around, though some of their language he would rather Luke not hear, let alone repeat.

 

One thing that he had been glad for was that he had been able to convince Mr. Bodaway to add some rough bathrooms to the small cabins at the Larson’s old farm. He had agreed to do it, adding the cost to Jack’s log home. The bathrooms would consist of one waterless self-contained toilet system each, together with a simple washbasin that would go into a drum of water and collect the gray water. Jack knew that Mr. Bodaway had access to these toilets, and it allowed him to do something for the family that was helping him so much.

 

Jack looked up and stretched his back. He took a few steps back, enjoying the scene unfolding before him. His home would also not have electricity, but it would have running water as it was hooked up to his well, and the sewage would be able to go directly into his septic tank. He was thankful for that, although he felt a little guilty for the comforts that he was going to have that those in the cabins didn’t. He knew that the old farmhouse was set up this way too, so they at least they had that.

 

Most of his log home was done, and he figured it would be done in a couple of weeks or three, tops. There weren’t as many people working on it as there had been on the cabins, so the whole thing was taking longer. Mr. Bodaway had told everyone that they could have the coming weekend off, since he knew that Rebecca and her family were planning a gathering, and Ed was organizing the first church service for the Reservation on Sunday.

 

Mr. Bodaway approached Jack as he wiped the sweat off his brow. “Well, Jack,” he said, his face reflecting the seriousness of his voice, “it’s happened.”

 

Jack looked at Mr. Bodaway confused. “It’s happened? What’s happened?”

 

“The end is now here, Jack. Life has changed dramatically in the past month, but now, we are really going to be set back at least a hundred years, if not more.”

 

Jack shook his head, still confused. Was the old, wise man loosing his mind? What was he talking about? What had happened?

 

“I don’t understand, Mr. Bodaway. What are you saying?”

 

Mr. Bodaway smiled a slight smile. “You will, Jack. You will. I’m going to send everyone home for the weekend now, and I suggest you do the same. We need to enjoy the rest of this weekend so that come Monday, we really can come together and get this place done. By giving them an extra day off, I’m hoping it allows them enough time to recuperate and get back to work on Monday. We’ll see. It may take longer, even though I have been warning people for a while. I’ll let you know on Monday what’s going on with the house, ok?”

 

Jack nodded, still confused. Mr. Bodaway wasn’t making much sense, but he figured he’d find out soon enough. He gathered some of his own personal tools, and watched as the old man went to talk to the men. His shoulders were slumped, and there was a heaviness in his step that Jack hadn’t seen in him before. He saw the men’s reaction, and soon everyone was taking off. Jack noticed that everyone walked away, instead of using the vehicles that they had come in.

 

He called Luke and they went back across the lake to the cabin that they now called home. They were both tired, even though they had only worked about three quarters of the day. When they reached the cabin, Jack picked up a note on the table that Ann had left him, saying that she had taken the babies to the farmhouse, and that she would be back later with supper.

 

“Do you want to go see Victoria?” Jack asked Luke, putting his hand on his shoulder.

 

Luke nodded, a little more eagerly than Jack was expecting. “Ok, then. Let’s go!” Jack took Luke’s hand and they made their way outside. They walked together silently, until Luke surprised Jack once again by interrupting the silence.

 

“Is Victoria’s Mama going to be there, Papa?” he asked Jack.

 

“I don’t know Luke, why do you ask?”

 

“Is she going to die?” he asked, his eyes filling with tears.

 

“What? No, Luke. No.” Jack said, stopping in his tracks and turning to look at his son. He knelt down and lifted Luke’s chin. “Is that what has been bothering you all day?”

 

Luke nodded and looked away. “Luke, Victoria’s Mama is going to be just fine. She hurt her finger a little, that’s all. I think it will probably hurt for a little while, but it won’t hurt bad. Do you want to see her?”

 

Luke nodded again, this time his eyes becoming alive. “Papa, could I take some flowers? Would that make her feel better?”

 

Jack smiled and stood up. “Sure, Luke. I’m sure it will. Here, let’s go pick some over here.”

 

 

Joy looked up to the light as it went out, wondering what had happened. She walked over to the light switch and flipped it a couple of times. Nothing. Her heart began to sink as she went to the refrigerator and found that it too, was off. She closed it quickly, wanting to keep what was in there cold as long as possible.

 

“Mom,” she called out, wondering if the whole house had lost its power.

 

“It’s out here, too, Joy.” Liz responded before Joy even got a chance to ask.

 

The ladies made there way outside to find others looking around to see if anything electric worked. When nothing did, Ed decided to drive over to Seth and Rebecca’s place to see if they had lost power. Ed got into Joy’s van and turned the key to start it. Nothing. He tried it again several times, to no avail. He looked at Joy confused and then just shrugged his shoulders and went to another vehicle. The same thing happened. He went to all the vehicles they had on the property, and with each one he tried, their hopes of anything happening dampened.

 

Joy’s stomach was in knots as she remembered when Dave had read her some warnings about Electromagnetic Pulse, EMP for short. Was this what had happened? If it was, the impact would be great, as everyone’s lives would be changed forever.

 

Joy looked around her family members, not knowing what to think. Ann came out of the farmhouse with the two babies, followed by Marie and Bethany. Joy walked over to take one from her, glad to have a little distraction.

 

“What’s going on?” She asked as she looked at Joy gratefully for her help.

 

Joy shook her head. “I’m afraid that what Mr. Bodaway had predicted has finally happened. The end of the world as we know it has now come to pass.”

 

Ann laughed softly, trying not to disturb the babies. “Oh, Joy, don’t exaggerate!”

 

“I sure wish I wasn’t,” Joy said, caressing Victor’s cheek.

 

They all chatted for a while wondering what to do, not knowing where to start. They decided that they would try to eat all the food in the fridge and freezer first, hoping to not waste any food. Ed and some of the other guys went into the storage areas to get some more oil lamps and flashlights.

 

While they did that, the ladies stood outside, wondering how all this was really going to affect them. Just then Joy spotted Jack coming over with Luke.

 

“Hey Luke! Jack!” She called, waiving at them.

 

“Hey yourself,” Jack replied, a strange sensation going through his body. What was that? He wondered. He shook the feeling away and approached the ladies, still holding Luke’s hand.

 

Luke looked up at Joy shyly, staring at her finger. Joy noticed, and carefully kneeled down to talk to him.

 

“Luke, see my finger? It’s going to be all better now.” Joy said, holding her bandaged finger up, a smile in her voice.

 

“Does it hurt?” He asked quietly, looking intently at her eyes.

 

“Oh, a little bit. Nothing a little medicine and some tea can’t help.” Joy said lightly, trying to reassure the little boy that seemed to be so worried about her.

 

“Will these help?” Luke asked as he pulled his hand from behind his back, revealing the flowers he and Jack had picked for her. “Papa and I got them for you.”

 

Joy smiled at took them in her free hand. “Oh, Luke! They are beautiful! Yes. These will most definitely help. Thank you!” Joy looked up at Jack who seemed to be more than a little embarrassed.

 

“Well, Luke, it was really your idea!” He said, trying to not involve himself.

 

Joy smiled at how uncomfortable he was, and struggled to get up. Jack came to her assistance quickly, only furthering his awkwardness.

 

“Thank you,” she said quietly, wishing that she didn’t have to have his help so often.

 

They all walked into the house again and talked about the situation they were in, and what could be done about it. Jack offered to ride his horse to Seth’s place and see what was happening there. He had been able to bring the horse to the stables on the farm, so that he was able to keep a closer eye on it. The cows and other critters were being taken care of by Seth and his kids, and they would keep the eggs and milk in exchange for their help. Jack got most of his food from Joy’s family, so he didn’t need the it. Once his place was livable again he would take them back, a little at a time.

 

Jack made his way to Seth’s house, shocked to see Mr. Bodaway’s horse there. He recognized it, as this was one that Jack often took care of, making sure he was in top condition.

 

“Well, no power anywhere, Jack, and our vehicles aren’t working either.” Seth said as Jack approached him. “Welcome to the eighteenth century.”

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