Is The Mail Here Yet?


Is The Mail Here Yet? - Chapter 1

Regina Prescott walked down the driveway to get the mail from the mailbox just recently repainted with the Prescott family name on it. Regina and Hadley, with their two children had moved in a month ago and were just now getting their mail forwarded from their old house.

“That’s funny,” Regina said, when she pulled a sheath of papers out of the box, along with the regular flyers and bills. “Someone is in a bunch of trouble,” she thought to herself. “Not supposed to be anything put in a mailbox except USPS mail.”

When she got inside the house she started to throw the literature away with the flyers she never looked at, but the word Katrina seemed to jump out of her. Setting the bills in the mail holder on the wall for later handling, Regina sat down at the kitchen table and looked over the papers in more detail.

One of the women Regina worked with at the temp agency had relatives in New Orleans when Katrina laid waste to the city. Her mother had died, and the rest of the family lost everything. They were now still spread out in a couple of the host towns they’d been bussed to during the trouble.

Regina intended to just scan through the material, expecting to see some kind of sales pitch at the end. But sections of it kept catching her eye and she wound up reading the entire packet through.

She sat back in the kitchen chair thoughtfully. There was no sales pitch, just information on how to prepare for various disasters that could happen. There was no contact information. Regina smiled for a moment. Probably a good thing for the one that had gone to the trouble of putting it in the mailboxes. Someone was bound to turn them in, if they could find out who it was.

Just from the way some of the information was formatted, Regina was sure it was printed off an internet website. Taking the sheath of papers over to the kitchen computer she plugged in a couple of the web addresses from the material. Sure enough, some of the information displayed was the exact same thing printed on the paper.

Suddenly, a bit alarmed, she called her next door neighbor. “Hi, it’s Regina. Next door. Did you get some strange papers in the mail today?”

“I certainly did!” Mrs. Thompson’s voice was shrill. “And if I find out who put them there I aim to get them arrested. Have you ever seen such nonsense? Talk of nuclear war, like it was the ‘50’s or ‘60’s! The nerve of some people! Just wanting to stir up trouble.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Thompson.” Regina hung up the phone slowly, still thinking. It wasn’t directed at the Prescotts alone. Just to make sure, Regina made a few more telephone calls. The reception she got was about the same as Mrs. Thompson’s. Those in the neighborhood certainly didn’t like the idea of non-mail things in their mail boxes, especially something pointing out potential problems.

Not all were as adamant as Mrs. Thompson, but the undercurrent was one of anger, fueled, Regina was beginning to think, by fear more than anything else. Fear, perhaps, that the information might be correct. Only one woman had not expressed dismay, at the least, of the information packet. Karen Lyons was cautious about it, but was interested in what Regina thought about the information.

“I don’t know,” Regina said. “Sure has stirred up something. The people I’ve talked to are out to get whoever put the packet in mail boxes.”

“The person must have been foolish to do that, don’t you think?”

“I think so, Karen. Whoever it is could get into a lot of trouble over using mailboxes for something like this. But you don’t seem as incensed as the others. What do you think about the information?”

“I think it is something to think about. I’m sorry. Someone is at the door. I have to go.”

Regina hung up the telephone slowly again. She tried a couple more numbers, getting them from directory assistance for the homes in the area. It seemed the material had just been placed in the mailboxes of their small development.

Late that afternoon, right after Hadley pulled into the drive and Regina was about to show him the information, a car pulled in right behind Hadley’s. Two men got out and identified themselves as US Postal Inspectors.

“We’d like to talk to you, Mrs. Prescott.”

Hadley looked at his wife questioningly. “I’ll explain later,” Regina told him. “Come in, officers. I think I know what this is about.”

The two entered and took the seats at the kitchen table that Regina offered. Hadley stood behind her chair after she sat down. “It’s this, isn’t it?” She slid the packet of information over to one of them.

He pulled out a set of the papers from inside his jacket pocket. “We have a copy. Several. What do you know about this?”

“Nothing, really. I found it this morning in the mailbox. I knew someone would be in trouble, since people aren’t supposed to use the mailbox for anything except official mail, if I’m correct.”

“You are correct. You seem to know quite a bit about it. Most of the people that called in and complained said you had contacted them about the material. Are you trying to stir something up, Mrs. Prescott?”

“Wait a minute, now!” Hadley said, his hand going to Regina’s shoulder.

“It’s okay, Honey,” Regina said, patting his hand with hers. “I didn’t distribute this,” she told the Postal Inspectors, “if that’s what you are asking.”

“An awful lot of interest in something not to be a part of it,” said one of the men. “Do you have any idea of who might have done this?”

Regina thought about Karen, but didn’t mention her name. “No. No, I don’t.”

Both men looked at Regina carefully, but she was a very good poker player. Her expression gave nothing away. “What do you plan to do about this?” she asked.

“Oh, we’ll find out who it is. Then we will enforce the law.” The man that had spoken gave her one of his cards. “Call us if this happens again, or you find out any more about the situation. I might caution you about calling and talking to people about this. You might be considered an accomplice if this turns out to be a homegrown terrorist trying to scare people, leading up to some kind of an attack.”

The two men left, leaving Regina in a minor state of shock at the Inspector’s last words. Hadley moved around and sat down across the table from her. “What is this all about, Regina? Those guys weren’t playing around.”

“I know. And Honey, not that you would ask, or anything, but no, I didn’t have anything to do with this. I just got curious and made a few telephone calls to see who might have received the same information. I think you should read it.”

“No, I wasn’t going to ask. I know you. You wouldn’t have done this.” Hadley picked up the sheath of papers and began to scan through them, the way Regina had at first.

“No, Hadley. Read it all. While I get supper started. The kids should be home pretty soon from school.”

If Regina wanted him to read all the information, then Hadley would. She had a reason or would not have asked him. He wasn’t finished when Ray and Gina got off the school bus and came into the house, one asking what was for supper and the other if she could go to the mall after dinner.

“We’ll see,” Regina said, giving each of the children a quick kiss as they passed by her, headed for their room to put away their school things.

It wasn’t until after dinner, and Ray had been persuaded to drive Gina to the mall, that Hadley finished reading through the information. “Okay, Regina. I’ve read it. Now what is up?”

“Hadley,” she said, curling up on the sofa beside him in the living room, “you can not believe how upset people were about this. I mean, sure, putting something in the mailbox is against the law, and I understand people objecting to that, but almost everyone was angry. I mean really angry. I think some of them took a look at that information and got scared. And you know what happens when people get scared.”

“They get angry,” Hadley said for her. “I know. You didn’t get angry, from the looks of it.”

“No. But Hadley… It has scared me, too. More than a little.”

“You think we should do something about this?”

“Hadley, we don’t even have a decent first-aid kit. Every time one of us gets sick, I have to run to the pharmacy and get NyQuil or whatever. Look what happened in Katrina. Marley’s mother died, for heaven’s sake! What if we get the earthquake they keep talking about? And you watch the news. Things going on all over… Yes, honey, I’m scared and I think we should do something about it.”

“Where do you want to start?” Hadley asked.

“With this,” Regina said, picking it up from Hadley’s lap. “I want to read this again.” She thought for a moment and then said, “And then I want to talk to someone I think might be able to help. I checked the telephone book. There aren’t any survival stores listed.”

“Who do you think might help? And how much might it cost?”

Regina grinned. “I bet the help won’t cost anything. The doing, on the other hand, just might. But you love having a project going. You haven’t had anything to do outside of work for a couple of months. Time to get you started on a new project.”

“Your really think that’s wise?” Hadley asked with a laugh. “You know how I am with a new project.”

Laughing too, Regina said, “I know. And this time I might be right in there with you.”

“Well, you just point me in the right direction and I’ll get on it.”

“Oh, you!” Regina said, still laughing. “Be careful what you ask for. You might get it.” She punched him on the arm lightly and bounced up off the sofa. “I need to get things ready for tomorrow.”

“Be sure to bring enough toilet paper this time,” Hadley said to his wife’s retreating back.

“Never make that mistake again,” Regina said over her shoulder. She stuttered in her step, but caught herself without falling. “Toilet paper. What if…” Regina shook her head. “Surely TP can’t be that big of a deal…”

It had been a big deal when the last time they went camping Regina had failed to add additional TP to the camping tote. Though no one came out and said it, the family had cut the trip short because of it.

The TP was the first thing she checked. There was a new 4-roll pack in the tote. Regina breathed a sigh of relief. She checked the rest of the four totes in the garage that contained most of their camping supplies. The tent, sleeping bags, stove, and lantern were all in their own bag or case. The ice chest was there, too, ready to be loaded the next morning from the refrigerator and pantry.

“Better check that, too,” Regina said to herself and went back into the house. Sure enough, they were short on bread. And better pick up more milk. Gina, and especially Ray, could go through the milk.

On her way back into the living room, to watch a television show with Hadley, Regina saw the information packet on the kitchen counter. She debated whether or not to call Karen. “No,” Regina said to herself. “It’s too late tonight. Monday, after we’re back from the campout and settled again.”

During the campout with a few friends from church, Regina found herself looking around at the various families and wondered if they were prepared for some or any of the things in the packet of information that had been in the mailbox. The weather cooperated and everyone had a good time. Regina made several mental notes to herself about the group camp out.

One was that the camp had bathrooms and showers. It also boasted electrical and water outlets at each campsite. Each campsite also had either a fire ring or charcoal grill, or both.

That following Monday, after she got Gina and Ray off to school, and Hadley off to work, Regina quickly did her daily cleaning, Then, with a cup of hot tea, the sheath of information, and a notebook, Regina called Karen Lyons and said, “Karen, it’s Regina Prescott. Do you have a moment to talk?”

“Actually, I’m in the middle of getting ready to go out.”

“Oh. I see. Well, I won’t keep you then.”

“What was it you wanted to talk to me about?” Karen asked.

“That information we got in the mail. It started me thinking, and you’re the only one that didn’t get upset over it. I’d just like to talk it over.”

Karen was silent a long time and Regina thought she might have hung up, except there was no dial tone. Finally Karen said, “I have a doctor’s appointment. If you really are interested, I usually treat myself to a coffee at Starbucks when I’m in that area of town. Would you like to meet me there?”

“I would. What time?”


“That is fine for me. I’ll see you there, Karen. And Karen… Thank you.”

Both women hung up. Each a bit unsure about how their meeting might turn out. Regina arrived first and had just picked up her coffee when Karen walked in. “Karen?” Regina asked, walking over to her.

Karen nodded and held out her hand. Regina shook it and said, “I have us a table if you want to get your order in.”

Karen nodded again, still not having said anything. Karen stayed at the pickup point until her drink was ready, and then joined Regina. “I hope this isn’t an imposition,” Regina told Karen.

“No, of course not. What is it you wanted to know?”

She seemed very nervous to Regina. Linda kept looking around, as if to see if there was someone watching them. It suddenly dawned on Regina that Karen might be worried about being set up about putting the information packets in the mailboxes.

“Karen, before we start, I want you to know a pair of Postal Inspectors visited me last Friday afternoon.” Regina could see Karen’s face tense up even more. Before Karen might blurt out anything that could get both of them in trouble, Regina quickly said. “I had to tell them that I didn’t know who might have put those papers in the mailboxes. I’d hate to see someone get in trouble that was obviously only trying to help people. I just hope whoever did it, doesn’t do it again and never brings the subject up around anyone. Hopefully the subject will just go away without anyone being any the wiser.”

“Yes,” Karen said, rather quickly, almost breathlessly. “Yes. Perhaps whoever did it knows better now and will just let it be. That would be wise, I think.”

“Me, too,” Regina replied, smiling as Karen began to relax. “Now. To the subject at hand. I’m assuming you’ve read the material,” Regina said, drawing another small smile and a nod from Karen.

“So did I. From the calls I made to other residents in the neighborhood, I doubt if any of them did. More than a quick glance, anyway.”

“That’s too bad,” Karen said softly. “I think the information could be useful. For someone that sees what is happening all around us.”

“That’s what I think, too. That’s why I wanted to talk to you. You’re the only person I know to talk to about the information. The implications… I don’t know what I should do.”

“You should prepare. For all the reasons in that packet, and more,” Karen replied earnestly.

“I’ve come to that conclusion,” Regina said, just as earnestly. “I just don’t have a real clue as where to start.”

“In the grocery store. Double buy shelf stable foods that you use. And other consumables.”

“Like toilet paper.”

A slight smile curved Karen’s lips. “Oh, definitely TP. It’s a running joke in the prep community, but it is, in fact, important.”

Regina was nodding. “You said prep community. Are there many people doing this?”

“I don’t know the real numbers. My only contact with other preppers is through Internet websites, particularly the forums.”

“Oh.” Regina’s disappointment was obvious. “It seems like it would be easier if there was a group.”

“That’s why I… I think that’s what the person who put the information in the mailboxes wanted. To get others involved. To get the whole community prepared. The more prepared people there are, the better it is for everyone.”

“I see… And I think you are probably right about that person wanting to have help. I know I do. I just… well, I wouldn’t be much of a help to anyone. I’m just learning.”

“Well, we’ve started, but just barely, ourselves. That’s why I was hoping for a group. The same reasons you think one would be good.”

“I guess we could start our own group,” Regina said.

“It would be a start. And I can give you some websites to check out for you to get an idea of what some other people are doing. Just… Just don’t get discouraged. There are people on some of the sites that have been prepping for years and have just about everything I could hope for, and more. If you will take some time to look over these…”

Karen handed the list she’d been jotting down as she spoke to Regina. “If you will check some of these sites out and get back to me when you’re ready to discuss things further, it will be a step in the right direction. I just as soon no one knows about this. I don’t want the word to get out that Frank and I are preppers. And please. If you don’t want to be involved in this, at least let me know. As soon as possible.”

Regina looked over the list. “I will. And I am interested in being involved. I have enough spare time to look at these sites.” Regina looked up at Karen. “I won’t mention it to anyone but my husband, Hadley. I will call you in a couple of days, okay?”

Karen nodded and both women rose, taking their coffees with them, and left the Starbucks.

Regina went directly home and fired up the kitchen computer. She set her cooking alarm to signal her when she had to get ready to go to the women’s shelter where she volunteered three afternoons a week.

She was so engrossed in one of the websites that it took her a minute to realize the alarm was ringing. Frowning, Regina stepped back out of the site, after adding it to her favorites, and shut down the computer.

Hadley was home, preparing supper when she returned to the house, just a few minutes before the children got home. Regina kissed him and said, “You won’t believe what I’ve been up to this morning.”

“Part of my new project, I hope,” Hadley replied, draining the spaghetti.

“Yes.” Regina began to set the table as she spoke. “I met with Karen Lyons, today. The one I told you about that wasn’t upset about the papers.”

“Un-huh. And?”

“Well, whoever put the papers in the mailboxes, we figured they were looking to get stir our little community up enough to get off its collective rear ends and get prepared for things.”

“Things?” Hadley poured the spaghetti into a serving bowl and poured the meat sauce over it as Gina and Ray came into the house.

“Looking good, Dad,” Ray said. “I’ll definitely be right back down.”

“You made salad, too, didn’t you, Daddy?” asked Regina.

“Of course he did,” Regina replied, taking the salad bowl out of the refrigerator and putting it on the table.

“I’ll tell you after supper,” Regina told Hadley and Hadley nodded.

After Ray and Gina had gone upstairs for the evening, Regina began showing Hadley the websites that Karen had told Regina about. After just a few, Hadley said, “This could be much more than a project, Honey. This could very well turn into a way of life, from the looks of it.”

They were in the study and Hadley turned the desk chair around. Regina took a seat across the desk from him. “Almost a secret second life,” Regina said, “The way some of the people on some of the forums talk. Secrecy about what one is doing seems to be a very prominent theme.”

“Well, I had no idea anyone was doing any of these things, much less the Lyons specifically.”

“I don’t know how much she does do,” Regina remarked. “We didn’t really talk about that. She almost swore me to secrecy not to tell anyone but you.”

“Considering some of our neighbors, I think the secrecy is probably a good thing. I still don’t have my drill back from Dave.”

It was a sore spot for Hadley. He had a very good set of tools and took good care of them. He seldom loaned any out for reasons like Dave. She managed not to grin. Instead, she said, “We do have some high maintenance neighbors, I must admit. Every time Dana needs to make cookies or something for Scouts or whatever, she comes over and borrows half the ingredients.” Regina looked thoughtful for a moment, then, all sense of humor gone, added, “When I have them. Which is certainly not every time.”

Hadley was leaning back in the desk chair, his fingers templed over his chest. “The Weather Channel is always having a piece on preparing for hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and all kinds of other disasters. Honda and a couple other standby generator companies advertise there, too. Remember last year when the power was off for half a day?”

Regina nodded. “It didn’t really affect us, since we were all either at work or school. But to hear the neighbors it qualified as an unmitigated disaster.”

“You realize,” Hadley said, rather musingly, “That we are in the process of talking ourselves into doing this… prep… thing.”

“I believe you are right. You want to skip the rest of this step and move on to the next?”

“Might as well. I think the decision has made itself.” Hadley spun the chair around, and rolled it up against the computer Ell of the desk.

Regina got up and moved behind him again, this time taking a chair with her so she could sit down and watch the computer monitor. “Make a note of any good websites you find,” Hadley was saying. “You said the first step that Karen said to do was start buying double in the grocery store. You do that, and I’ll look into a standby generator.”

“Shelf stable stuff, she said,” Regina said. “I guess that is probably what it sounds like. Foods that won’t go bad on the shelf?” It was more question than statement.

“I think you’re right. Let’s see what Yahoo! comes up with.”

The two worked late into the night discussing things as they found more and more information on the net, spending an hour reading one of the PAW fiction stories they found. The last thing Regina said before they turned in for bed was, “We need to get Ray and Gina in the loop. They deserve to be in on some of the choices, and so they won’t just start talking about our preps as casual conversation with outsiders.”

On Wednesday Regina called Karen and told her that she and Hadley were going to start prepping and would like talk to Karen and her husband about some choices they were thinking about. A pleased Karen gave a time, date, and place, and Regina said, “Hadley and I will be there.”

They met at the Red Lobster that next Saturday. After introductions were made, and the appetizer and drink orders were placed, Regina got down to business, keeping her voice low, but managing not to lean forward in a conspiratorial way.

“Hadley and I have decided to start preparing and would like your opinion on several purchases we are contemplating.”

“There area usually several good choices for most major purchases,” Frank said. “And many of the foods are a matter of taste. What is it specifically are you contemplating?”

“A standby generator,” Hadley said. “I thought about natural gas, since it is pretty reliable, but it’s still a risk. So it’s either propane or diesel. Generac or Kohler. 45 kw to 50 kw. I’m leaning toward the Kohler 50kw propane unit.”

“Is it an 1,800 rpm model?” Frank asked.

“Yes. What do you think?”

“I think you’re making the right choice. We have one of their smaller units. We’ve had good luck with it.”

“Now,” Hadley said, “Regina is going to start buying double some of the food we eat regularly. Shelf stable items, she tells me.” He smiled over at Regina and she smiled back.

“But I’d like to start adding long term storage foods, too.”

Frank looked at Karen, who spoke up. “Can’t beat Mountain House for their entrees. And Emergency Essentials is a good place to get them, plus they have their own line of freeze dried and dehydrated products. I’ve had good luck with them.”

“Their website caught my eye,” Regina said, nodding. “I looked at several other preparedness food sites and found an item here and there that Emergency Essentials don’t have, but they’ve got the best selection I’ve found.”

“Same here,” replied Karen. “For dehydrated food, and mixes and such, packed for long term storage, Walton Feed is really good. But you either need to have a really large order, or try to do a group order to keep the shipping costs down. Or go get it yourself.”

They all fell silent as they were served their appetizers and drinks.

“I’ll check them out, too,” Regina said, after the server left the table. “If I find some things I want, I’ll let you know and maybe we can put in a combined order.”

As they sampled the appetizers, Hadley asked, “Can I ask, are there more people prepping around here?”

Frank sighed and replied. “Not as far as I know. We’ve… uh… tried a few approaches to contact people, but without success. It’s hard to make contact, and get the message across, without giving up too much about yourself, unless there is an obvious interest. Everyone is pretty secretive. For good reason, I might add.”

“Regina and I discussed that aspect and believe it is a good policy. We are going to tell the kids about it. Any suggestions on that?”

“It’s real tricky,” Frank said immediately, “From what I’ve read in some of the forums. Really young children just don’t have the concept of secrecy, and if they do, the authorities are immediately on the parents about the fact that their children won’t talk about some things, and want to know why. Older kids understand, and either choose to keep the secret, or not. It’s a very individual thing.”

Regina and Hadley looked at one another, and then Regina said, “I think they’ll be cooperative. We’re a pretty close family.”

“That’s good,” Karen said, rather sadly. “We don’t have that particular problem, yet.”

Frank reached over and rubbed his wife’s back. “We will.” He looked back at Regina and Hadley. “It’s something private. Sorry.”

Hadley and Regina waved the episode off and began asking more questions, Hadley first. “I noticed on several of the forums that weapons seem to be a big part of some people’s preparations.”

Again Frank and Karen exchanged glances. “Yes, well…” Frank said, slowly. “That’s true. But it is a very personal decision. I don’t know if we should talk about it here.”

“No problem,” replied Hadley. “Food is here, anyway.”

The conversation went to mundane things as the two couples ate. But as they lingered over desert and then coffee, the conversation turned back to preps. “Regina and I only touched on shelters in passing,” Hadley said. “What do you think about shelters? If we do a real MAG, like some of the others talk about, would we want to do a group shelter or individual shelters?”

“Well, we’ve prepped the house for quite a few things, but we don’t really have a shelter shelter,” Karen said. “We have a piece of property outside the city we plan to go to if things get too bad here in the city. We don’t have a shelter there, yet, but it is in our plans.”

“Do you know what type you want to build?” Hadley asked. He shifted forward. It was a subject that really interested him.

“We’d like to get a concrete dome home, earth sheltered. But to be honest, it is something of a pipe dream. We’d have to sell our current house in order to do it. Had we known then, what we know now, we probably would have gone that way instead of buying the house we’re in.”

“I saw some sites about dome homes. They are intriguing. What about some type of shelter here in town?”

“If you could get permits for it, I’d say one of the aboveground shelters. The water table is pretty high here, if you didn’t know. Makes for good backup water supply, but it’s a real problem for underground shelters.”

“I guess it would be. Do you have back up water?”

“A well with a hand pump on it.” Frank replied.

Karen smiled. “Its right out in front of the house, as a decoration, but it’s a real working well.”

“Clever,” Regina said.

“We had the water tested. It’s safe.” Karen’s nose wrinkled a little. “But it’s not as good tasting as the city water, even the way it’s treated. If we use the water from the well for drinking, we’ll purify it. We have a couple of water filters.”

“I’ll probably have another one put down in the back yard, if we ever get around to putting in a small garden,” Frank added. “Hopefully it will taste better.”

“Well,” Regina said at the lag in conversation. “It’s been a lot to take in, and it’s getting late. Give us a while to stew on this and come up with some more extensive plans. Then I’d like us to get together again to discuss them.”

“Just give Karen a call. We’ll set something up again.”

They made their separate ways out of the restaurant and headed home. Both couples had much to think about. The following Monday both men did almost the same thing. Each began to make discreet inquiries about the other. Both were pleased with what they found out.

On Wednesday, Hadley broached the subject of preparing for disasters with Ray and Gina. “What do you two think about us trying to get a bit better prepared for natural disasters? Say… Like Katrina?”

“Dad, we don’t get hurricanes up here,” Ray told his father.

“But what about earthquakes and tornadoes?” asked Gina. “They both scare me.”

“You never mentioned anything before,” Regina said to Gina.

“Why? What can we do? If it happens, it happens.”

“But there are things that can be done,” Ray quickly said.

“Such as?” asked Hadley, very curious about what Ray might say.

“Stocking up on food and water for one. Though we don’t have to worry about hurricanes much, Gina’s right about the earthquakes and tornadoes. We’d probably get some help after a tornado, but if it’s a big earthquake? Forget it. It’ll be like Katrina, only worse.”

“You’ve thought about this, then?” Hadley asked his son.

“Some.” Looking rather embarrassed, he added, “Come up to my room. I’ll show you.”

The family went up to Ray’s bedroom and he opened the closet door. Inside were several six-packs of bottled water and a large box that Ray bent down and opened. It was full of power bars, jerky, and dried fruit.

“You did all this out of your allowance?” Regina asked.

Ray nodded. “I just didn’t want any of us to wind up like those refugees in Katrina, with no food or water.” Suddenly he grinned. “I like to eat too much.”

“I’m proud of you, boy,” Hadley said, giving Ray a respectful look. “You’ve been doing what your mother and I are just starting to get around to doing.”

Hesitatingly, Gina spoke up again. “I kind of do some things, too. I’m afraid I’ll get caught without…” She turned a bit red, but continued, “monthly supplies. I’ve got enough saved up for half a year.” She looked at Regina. “For both of us.”

“Oh, sweetheart! That is so thoughtful of you!” Regina gave Gina a big hug, which Gina wriggled out of.

“Mom! Come on! It’s not that big of a deal.”

“It is, in a way,” Hadley said, his pride in his children making it difficult to speak. “It shows me that we’ve raised two children better than we ever dreamed. You both have been thinking more about the family, in some ways, than your mother and I have.”

“Come on, Dad!” Ray said earnestly. “You’ve set things up so we have money for college, and a start on retirement. And your own retirement is set.” He grinned then. “So you won’t be dependant on us to provide for you, in case we turn out to be useless, and Social Security goes belly up.”

Hadley shook his head. “You have a way with words, Ray. That isn’t the reason I started the annuities for us. It’s just sound financial practice.”

“I know, Dad. I was just trying to be funny.”

“Try harder,” Gina said.

“Look. Let’s resume this conversation over the dinner table. The hot food is getting cold and the cold food is getting hot,” Regina said, and began ushering her family back downstairs.

Once they were at the table again, Hadley said, “So I take it that both of you would be onboard a program to improve our readiness for various disasters?”

Both children nodded, and then Ray asked, “This won’t cut into our allowances… much… will it?”

“No, son.” Hadley shook his head again. “You’ll still get your allowance. Perhaps even an increase for both of you, to do some additional preps on your own, for yourselves, that you feel important.”

“Wow! Cool!” Gina said. “I want to get more feminine supplies. And toilet paper. Remember when we ran out on that camping trip?”

“We’ll handle those items,” Gina said. “I’ve already started buying double at the store of things we use all the time. Including TP. I’ll add feminine needs to that. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it myself.”

“There is one aspect of our preparing needs to be discussed and agreed upon,” Hadley said then. “It’s about staying low key about all of it. The few people that know about what we are doing the better. Your mother and I have discussed this, and we plan to include some extra supplies, just for neighbors, friends, and for the church. But we don’t want to be considered the local supply house if, God forbid, we do wind up in a disaster situation.”

“I’m all for that!” Ray said, rather adamantly. “I made the mistake of mentioning that I might start doing what I’m doing before I started doing it, and three of the guys said, and I quote ‘We’ll come to your house, if something happens’.”

“Yeah,” added Gina. “I’m the go-to girl for feminine supplies if someone forgot theirs or the machines are out in the girls’ bathrooms. Which is often. The fewer that know, the better, in my opinion.”

“Well then,” Regina said, “we have a consensus.” She looked over at Hadley. “That was easier than I ever thought it would be.”

“You raised them well.”

Everyone laughed at the expression on Regina’s face.

“Okay, guys,” Hadley said when the laughter died down. “We’re new at this, and we’re getting some help and advice from Karen and Frank Lyons. Now I’m sure they aren’t going to tells us to the last detail what they have or plan. There is no need, even with them, to discuss everything we might wind up doing, either. Just so you know. And, since you both seem to have thought about this to a degree, we’d like you to make any suggestions and recommendations you think pertinent.”

“Are we going to get guns to protect ourselves?” Gina asked, surprising the other three no end.

“Well…” said Regina.

Hadley spoke up when Regina hesitated. “We’ve only had a small discussion about arming ourselves. How do you feel about it?”

“I think we should. You heard what happened to women in the Super Dome in New Orleans. I don’t want that to happen to me or to Mom. I know what I want if we get guns. A Ruger 10/22. I shot one out at Nancy Harrison’s last summer.”

Hadley and Regina looked a bit shocked.

“You know. When a bunch of us stayed over for her birthday party?”

“You never mentioned shooting a gun,” Regina said.

“Uh… Well… We kind of agreed amongst ourselves not to bring up the subject. Some of the parents wouldn’t be too happy if they knew… Just how much trouble am I in?”

“You realize, whether we agree or not, that it is the parents’ responsibility to decide whether they want their children around guns,” Hadley said in his best parental voice.

“I’m a bit disappointed that you didn’t tell us. Your mother and I would have discussed it with you.” He looked over at Regina a moment and then continued. “And if we were convinced that it was safe, probably would have given you permission.”

“I’m sorry,” Gina said, hanging her head.

“It’s all right. Keep it in mind in the future when you think about doing something you think we might not approve of you doing. You might be surprised,” Regina said.

“So,” Hadley said, “That water being under the bridge, how did you like shooting?”

Understanding she wasn’t going to be punished for her indiscretion, Gina eagerly said, “It was fun. A twenty-two rim fire… That’s what a Ruger 10/22 is… is loads of fun. Mr. Harrison made us all wear hearing protection and eye protection, and we had to follow all regular firing range rules, even on his little home range.

“It’s really easy to shoot because it doesn’t recoil much. He even had some long magazines for it. And it’s magazine,” Gina stressed, “not clip. Twenty-five shots without reloading.” Proudly Gina added, “I made the one-hundred-yard eighteen-inch diameter gong ring nine times out of ten, twice in a row.”

“Geez, little sister,” Ray said, “I’m proud of you. That must have been pretty cool.”

“It was!”

“So, I take it you are both on board arming ourselves. If your mother and I agree to it?”

Both children nodded eagerly, and Gina asked, “Could we shoot just for fun, too? Mr. Harrison said we could use his range just about any time we wanted, if we prearranged it, and agreed to follow all the safety rules.”

“Let your father and me discuss this a bit more in private and we’ll get back to you on that particular subject,” Regina said.

Then Hadley told the children what Regina already knew. “We’re getting a standby automatic generator for the house, so if we lose power like we did last year, we’ll still have electricity.”

“Wow!” Ray said, “That’ll be cool.” Then his face fell. “But I can’t even tell the guys about it. Rats!”

“Oh, I think you’ll live,” Hadley replied with a grin at his son’s sudden disappointment.

“Now,” Regina said, “I’ve already told you I’m stocking the pantry. Make a list of foods you want me to be sure and stock. Needs to be shelf stable… that means storable without refrigeration or other special considerations.”

“Chili,” Ray immediately said.

“No beans, though,” Gina quickly added.

“Well, perhaps canned chili without beans,” Regina said. “But there will be beans in storage. But there is a product called Beano that reduces the gas produced. I saw that in one of the stories I read in a prep forum. I’ll see if I can find some.”

“Please do, Mom,” Gina said, giving Ray a hard look.

“Hey! It’s a natural body function. What can I say?”

“Double stock the Beano, Mom. Okay?”


“Sure, sweetie. Double Beano it is. Now you two need to finish up with your kitchen chores and then get on your homework. Your father and I have some things to discuss.”

Discuss things, they did. Late into the night. Several decisions were made that would be carried out over the next several months.

As an upper middle class family, they were able to do many of the things discussed, soon after a decision was made. But a few things had to be put off. A major effort at an all-purpose shelter was one. However, after the basement was cleaned up and items rearranged, the family could boast a good tornado shelter.

After many meetings with Karen and Frank, the Prescotts agreed to buy half of the retreat property the Lyons had. Neither was quite comfortable with joint ownership. But they would coordinate with one another what went on the land, to avoid unnecessary duplication of facilities and increase the overall effectiveness of the property as a retreat site.

The original purchase by the Lyons had been ten acres, in an almost perfect square. Six-hundred-sixty feet and a fraction by six-hundred-fifty-nine feet and a fraction. The two families each had a three-hundred-thirty feet by six-hundred-sixty feet parcel, the ten acres enclosed on three sides by state forest, fronting a deeded access road, maintained as a fire road.

The property right across the fire road from theirs was a large lot of one-hundred-sixty acres, also surrounded on three sides by state forest. From what Frank had been able to find out about the other property, it was held by an insurance company as an investment for future sale and development as the area grew.

With the money from the sale of the land, the Lyons fenced three sides of their property, and from the fund the Prescotts set up and contributed to every month, they fenced three sides of their property, which gave a security fence all the way around the ten acres. There was no fence between the two five-acre plots.

The Prescotts and Lyons had slightly different goals in mind, so the division of labor and resources were agreed upon and began to be implemented shortly after the land deal and fencing installation.

As much due to their own wants, as Gina’s request of a secure shelter because of the events during Katrina, Hadley and Regina agreed to construct and equip a shelter large enough for both of the families. They calculated the minimum space requirements using information from the internet, and then agreed to double that for the six of them, as the minimum space that the Prescotts would build.

After private discussions, Hadley and Regina decided to double that again, and began the preliminary preparations to install the shelter. First came the proposed positioning of the shelter, with some input from Frank and Karen. No mention was made of the increased size.

With an agreed upon location for the shelter on the Prescott side, and a planned garden and greenhouse complex on the Lyons side, Hadley brought a well driller in and had a well drilled and a solar powered pump installed, with a hand pump back up.

A large water storage tank was put in place and a solar pump installed in it to provide water for irrigation and other outside uses. The tank was plumbed to allow for more pumps to provide for the planned shelter, and the trailers that would provide non-disaster living quarters if wanted.

Next came the septic systems. One for the shelter and another for the Prescotts intended trailer. Frank and Karen had a septic system put in for their intended trailer at the same time, sharing mobilization and demobilization fees for the equipment the contractor used.

The two septic tanks were filled with water so they wouldn’t float out of the ground, come a hard rain.

Frank and Hadley made a deal with some local farmers and ranchers that could provide manure for the large garden plot on the Lyons property. Frank and Karen started the process of prepping the ground for, ordering, and installing a large freestanding greenhouse.

The two families camped out on the property that fall, before school started. The Prescotts invested in a chemical toilet, sunshower bags, and two privacy enclosures for the toilet and shower for the camping trip.

They used the time to have a friend of Frank’s show them how to cut, split, and stack firewood. First they cut up the trees that had been cut down and the stumps removed for the installations that had all ready been done.

After a few trees were cut down by Frank, Hadley, and Ray, the man told them he’d taught them all he could and took his small agreed upon wage of a cord of the wood that had been cut. Hadley had rented a self-contained splitter and bought the thing after they were done. They’d tried splitting a bit of the wood by hand. The splitter was much faster and easier on all parties concerned.

They all took turns running the rototiller that Frank had bought, to incorporate the loads of manure they were getting into the earth of the garden. It wasn’t a preferred job for any of them, but all took a turn or two, including Gina, dressed in coveralls, rubber boots, gloves, a floppy hat, a dust mask, and safety glasses. There was no way she was going to get any of the stuff on her.

With both families at the limits of their prep budgets, not much was done during the winter, except stockpiling food and other consumables. Regina and Karen put their heads together and put in a large order at Walton Feed, with delivery expected the next spring.

All the Prescotts had been studying up on firearms, and discussed the pros and cons of different calibers, weapons platform types, possible uses, and how much they should invest in the weapons. The only thing not questioned was the idea of becoming an armed family. That decision had been made, unanimously.

The discussions faded away as more mundane things took precedence in their lives. School for Ray, now a senior in high school; and Gina a Junior. Sports and other school activities took up quite a bit of time, but all four were constantly aware of the news and the dangers life could throw at them.

Thanksgiving came, and then Christmas morning rolled around. To Ray’s and Gina’s total amazement, they were given the rifles for Christmas that had been on the list of prep items to get, sometime in the future.

It wasn’t just the rifles they got. Included in the package, but unwrapped, were cleaning supplies, spare magazines, ammunition, load bearing equipment appropriate for the individual weapon, and a few other accessories.

Hadley and Regina stood by proudly and watched their children thank them over and over for the guns. “Until just recently it never would have occurred to me that I would be giving my children firearms, much less them being this excited over them.”

“Things change, Mom,” Ray said, giving Hadley a hug, and his mother a peck on the cheek, in thanks.

Gina had received her favored Ruger 10/22. Ray a HK-416 carbine in 5.56mm.

Then, to Regina’s total surprise, Hadley took a package out of the hall closet and handed it to Regina.

“What? What’s this?” she asked.

“Open it, Mom!” cried Gina eagerly.

“Yeah, Mom!” Ray added his urgings to Gina’s.

“Oh, my goodness! Hadley, you didn’t!”

“Oh, I’m afraid I did,” he said, leaning down so Regina could give him a quick kiss.

Like Ray, Regina had favored the 5.56 military cartridge in a lightweight weight carbine. Hadley had bought her the same package the two of them had bought for Ray.

“But what about you, Dad?” Ray asked.

With a small smile, Hadley walked back to the closet and took out a case similar to the ones that the other three had for their weapons and opened it. He’d had his preferences, too, and indulged them when he bought the setup for himself.

He thought the family should have something with a little more range and power than the .22 rim fire and the 5.56mm, so he’d opted for something in 7.62mm NATO. He had a fondness for German engineering, and had opted for a full dress HK-91. He’d paid a premium for a pre-ban, slightly used rifle, but it had all the options and accessories he wanted with it, except for the number of magazines. There were only two with the rifle. He’d remedied that lack.

“Now, at some point in time, you two,” Hadley said, addressing Ray and Gina, “We’ll get you handguns, and possibly a shotgun. But for the moment it’s just the rifles. Your mother and I, however,” he said, taking a box from within the gun case, “have decided to go ahead and get a handgun for each of us.”

“Oh, we did, did we?” Regina asked.

“Sure we did. Not necessarily at Christmas, but the decision was made, and I happened to get a very good deal on the entire package for all of us.”

Regina opened the box. Regina had fairly weak wrists, and had had some trouble firing the several handguns she’d tried in the gun shop pistol range. She’d fallen in love with a Walther PPK that she’d shot. It was a .380 ACP, but a round you can shoot accurately is much better than a more powerful cartridge you can’t.

“Wow!” Gina said, watching her mother carefully handle the small pistol. “Cool!”

“Okay, Dad,” Ray said, “Give! What’d you get for yourself?”

“Just a plain Jane Glock 21, like the one we shot at the range that day.”

“Excellent! That’s the one I want when I can get one.”

The firearms were put away, and the family opened the other few presents they’d purchased or made for each other.

They had a chance to sight in the new weapons, and become familiar with each others selection, late the next week, just before school picked back up. But the day before school started two things happened that caused the Prescotts to make a couple of major changes in their plans.

The first thing that happened was Gina broke her leg. She was with Regina, getting groceries, when a car trying to hurry and get a parking space pinned her against the bumper of another car. Gina tried to jump out of the way, but caught between the two bumpers the impact fractured the left tibia and fibula.

Regina had no more than taken her home from the hospital, a cast on her leg, than a small earthquake occurred. Fortunately it was relatively minor. It was bad enough to interrupt most of the utility services. The house had been built after the latest changes in building codes, so it stood up quite well.

The standby generator kicked in, they had electrical power. There was plenty of bottled water to drink and Ray filled all three bathtubs in the bathrooms for hand washing water. The chemical toilet was set up in the largest bathroom, so they had a working bathroom.

Though Hadley had the jets to switch over the natural gas appliances to propane, it was deemed not worth the trouble. The camping gear was more than adequate to carry them through, as long as things didn’t get worse. Since the propane tank had a wet leg, they could refill the twenty pound tanks they used when camping.

Regina and Hadley had both picked up the habit of keeping the family vehicles above half a tank, which was a good thing, as all the local stations shut down for lack of electrical power.

The family sat around in the living room, wearing sweaters, a small enclosed bottle propane catalytic heater taking the chill off , and watched the event unfold on television.

Suddenly Ray sat up straight. “Look. Mom. Dad. That’s the way we’d be going to get to the retreat property if we had to evacuate.”

There were quite a few people trying to leave the area, fearful of another, much larger, earthquake. There had been a series of accidents on that road out of town, and from the looks of it, many had tried to leave without adequate fuel to get them there.

“We’d be stuck, if that happened in a bigger emergency.”

“We talked about that, Ray,” Hadley said. “We have packs and… Oh.”

They all looked over at Gina.

“We need another optional plan,” Ray said.

Hadley and Regina agreed. Gina was still a bit loopy from the pain medication and wasn’t tracking the conversation very well.

“I’ve got an idea!” Ray suddenly said. He got up and went to the kitchen computer. “Internet is down,” he said, coming back into the room. “I was going to show you something on the Cabela’s site, but I can’t.”

“What is it, Ray?” Regina asked, looking a bit worried. There was always the chance for a bigger quake, or something else that would cause them to have to evacuate on foot.

“There’s a thing called a game cart that’s used by hunters of big game to get deer and other big game animals out from where they are shot, to the camp or vehicle. There are a couple of single wheel units that take two people to handle. I was thinking one of the two wheel units would work to carry Gina if we had to. Or any of us, of course, if we were injured and couldn’t walk. And we’d be able to carry a lot more stuff than just our back packs if we had one or more of them.”

“That’s not a bad idea, son,” Hadley said, thinking hard to find an alternative himself. “Better than the bicycles I was just thinking about. Cabela’s, you say?”

Ray nodded.

Hadley looked over at Regina. “You two be okay for a while? I want to check this out now. Just in case.”

“We’ll be fine. You two just be careful. It looks kind of bad out there, from what we’re seeing on the TV.”

“We will,” Hadley said. “Come on Ray. Let’s go down to Cabela’s and see what they have in stock.”

“Okay, Dad.”

Both put coats on over their sweaters and went to the garage to get in Hadley’s Mercedes-Benz G55 AMG SUV. He’d traded in the two year old R350 SUV not long after the family’s involvement with preparedness. Likewise, Regina’s sporty two-seater had been replaced with a Mercedes-Benz E350 all wheel drive small wagon.

Hadley took extra care driving. People were not reacting very rationally, it seemed to him and Ray. The traffic control lights weren’t working and most of the intersections weren’t manned, although critical ones had a police officer directing traffic. It took a while to get to Cabela’s. It wasn’t quite a madhouse, but it was close. The store was illuminated by various lanterns and each of the sales people had a lantern or flashlight. The check out was being done on paper.

Camping gear was going like hotcakes. Lanterns, stoves, chemical toilets, flashlights. All sorts of things. But when Hadley and Ray made their way back to the hunting accessories area there was virtually no one there. One of the store clerks saw them and walked over, holding his lamp up high. “How can I help you two gentlemen?” the lightly bearded, elderly looking man cheerfully asked. “Looking for earthquake items? Not really many right here.”

“No,” Hadley said. “Actually, in a way. What do you have in the way of…” Hadley looked at Ray.

“Game carts,” Ray quickly said.

“Oh, yes. We have several in stock. Not sure what they have to do with earthquake preparedness, but here you go.” The clerk held the lantern high so Hadley and Ray could look over the differences of the models and the options.

“I’m thinking this one. Ray?”

“Looks good. Get the dual wheels and it would handle quite a bit more weight.”

“Good thing your sister isn’t here to hear that,” Hadley said with a chuckle.

“Oh, yeah!”

“Might as well go full out and get the wheel brush guards, too.” Hadley stood up and asked the clerk, “How many of these do you have?”

“You want more than one?” he asked, a bit amazed.

“Four,” Hadley said, and then looked at Ray. “One for each of us, if needed. Always leave one behind if it isn’t needed or can’t be used.”

“Good idea, Dad. We could move a lot of stuff with four of them if we needed to.”

“We’ll take four of them, if you have them. All with dual wheels and wheel guards,” Hadley told the clerk.

“I’ll have to check the back,” the clerk replied. “Excuse me a few minutes.”

Hadley and Ray stood out of the way, watching the pandemonium gradually slow as the store sold out of those things that people thought they needed or wanted in the aftermath of an earthquake with utility failures. “I bet the rental places are having a field day renting out generators,” Ray said.

“No doubt. Anybody with a generator could probably sell it for twice what they paid for it.”

The clerk came back a few minutes later with three large boxes and six small ones on a hand cart. “I’m afraid I only have three of these in stock. Would you like to take one of the other models?”

Hadley shook his head. “No. Those will do for the moment. We’ll pick another up when they’re back in stock.”

“That shouldn’t be long,” the clerk said, pushing the cart toward the check out stand, Hadley and Ray following behind.

Hadley had taken to carrying more cash than he was accustomed, for emergencies. He paid cash for the three game carts, despite the fact that the store was taking credit cards by hand.

Out of curiosity, Hadley drove past one of the rental agencies in town. Their big announcement board said, “No Generators Left”. Going past an Ace Hardware, they saw a mob much like the one at Cabela’s. Suddenly two men began to fight and Hadley picked up speed and left the area. He looked a bit grim to Ray.

“Dad, what’s up?”

“That fight. It made me realize just how bad things could get in such a short time. I hate the idea that we might actually have to use those guns we bought.”

“I know,” Ray said. “I think about that sometimes. I don’t know if I could. Well… Unless Mom, or Gina…”

“Let’s just hope it never comes to that,” Hadley said and they were silent the rest of the way home.

For something to do, the family put the carts together. Gina was cognizant enough to read the instructions for the other three to follow as the units were assembled. Suddenly she looked down at the cast on her leg. “Hey! You guys got these so I could go if we had to bug out?”

“We did, Honey,” Hadley said. “In case any of us are hurt, or if we have to go afoot, we can take much more stuff than just our back packs.”

“That’s cool,” Gina said, her eyes tearing up a bit. She still was somewhat under the influence of the pain killer.

For three days they lived a post disaster life, and then, slowly, things started to return to normal. Ray and Gina went back to school, and Hadley returned to work on a full schedule, having only gone in for two hours a day for the three weekdays of the event.

Over the next several weeks waterproof cases that would fit on the carts were obtained and loaded up with things the family wanted in addition to their back packs. It was decided to keep the fourth unit, when they picked it up, empty, but with plenty of extra tie down straps on it to carry any last minute items the situation might demand.

That included Gina, so Regina sewed up a set of leather covered hard foam pads to make it a more comfortable ride if it was ever needed.

The entire family noticed a flurry of activity of people hurriedly getting basic preps after the earthquake. Gina and Ray stayed silent about their family’s preps, though it was difficult hearing some of the plans other families had come up with.

They did occasionally interject a suggestion or two, when the discussion was of a general nature, such as a simple bull secession. Hadley found the same thing at work, giving as much information as he could, as an opinion, when the talk turned to the recent earthquake and the chances for another one.

Regina didn’t hear much about it at the women’s shelter. Everyone there had other problems they were dealing with. She did notice something going on at the grocery store. Certain items were in short supply for a few weeks after the quake. “Dollars to donuts,” Regina said to herself, “they just use it up when nothing happens for a few more days or weeks.” It didn’t matter to her. She double bought what she could, and continued to work on an order for Emergency Essentials and a handful of other LTS food suppliers.

Spring was coming up, and that brought up several topics of conversation. Ray already knew where he wanted to go to college, and had been accepted. Gina would be a senior the next year and had her driver’s license.

Per the agreements made several years before on how well the children did in school and stayed out of trouble, it was time for the family to start looking for a used vehicle for Gina. But Ray and Gina had been talking and had a proposal for their parents.

Gina liked Ray’s 2000 Jeep Wrangler and was more than willing to start using it and let Ray get something he wanted. When the subject came up at diner, Ray made his pitch. “I’m going to be a long ways from home…”

He stopped when Regina winced. “Don’t remind me,” she said.

Ray continued. “And since Gina really likes the Jeep, I was thinking of getting something better suited to a long drive, in case of emergencies.”

“I would think that the Jeep would be ideal,” Hadley said slowly, a bit perplexed.

“It is my second choice,” Ray said, and I don’t mind keeping it if you want to get Gina something else. But what I had in mind was an older model 4x4 pickup truck with a non-electronic engine.”

“You’re thinking EMP attack,” Hadley said.

“Or worse, Dad. The news has me spooked. Everyone seems to have nukes, and a grudge against the US. I’m afraid it’s only a matter of time before terrorists set one off, or some country does. Like China.”

“I understand, Hadley said. “I’ve been seeing the same news as you. And you have a point. We have three very capable vehicles, but they are all gasoline, and with sophisticated electronics. Having an EMP resistant vehicle in the family isn’t a bad idea. You’ve put some thought into this. Have you found something that might do already?”

Ray nodded and took a page from a car trader’s paper from his shirt pocket and handed it to Hadley.

“I called the guy, Dad. The work is almost complete, but his wife is going to have a baby soon and they really need the money. I got him down a thousand from what’s listed.”

Hadley gave a little whistle. “Not bad, son. Have you seen it?” He looked up at Ray.

“Yes. I went over last weekend. It’s as he has listed in that ad.”

Hadley handed the paper to Regina, and said, “We’ll go take a look at it this weekend. You think it will still be there?”

A bit sheepishly Ray said, “I put down fifty dollars earnest money for him to hold it until the end of the month. I told him I’d know by then.”

“How will you finish the work? This is a bit more than high school auto shop teaches. Oh. Were you thinking Stanley might help you?”

Ray nodded.

“He could sure use the work,” Hadley said thoughtfully. He turned to Regina and asked, “What do you thing, Hon?”

“I think it’s a good idea on all three counts.” She looked at Gina. “You sure the Jeep is what you want?”

Gina nodded eagerly. All of her friends thought it was a cool ride. “Yes, I do, Mom. Ray has taken really good care of it.”

“In that case,” Regina said, turning back to Hadley and Ray, “Let’s look at it this weekend and if we think it’s suitable, Ray, we’ll pay for it.”

Pleased smiles on both their faces, Ray and Gina went back to eating. Regina rolled her eyes at Hadley. He smiled and the two adults also continued with their meal.

That weekend Hadley and Ray took the G55 AMG and picked up Hadley’s old friend, Stanley Harper. Stanley had lost his wife the previous year and in his grief turned to alcohol. He was slowly making a comeback, thanks to his friends and the church.

Stanley had pulled himself together, for the day at least, to go with them to look at the truck. He checked what had been done, and what was left to be done. Then he took Hadley and Ray aside and told them Ray was getting a pretty good deal.

He’d be able to have the truck ready long before Ray needed to head for school in it, with Ray’s help on weekends. So Hadley wrote the man a check for everything. Stanley would make the arrangements to pick up all the pieces and parts and take them to his garage the next weekend, giving the check plenty of time to clear.

Spring came, and with it, one of the severe storms that seem to be the norm now. The Prescott home was in no danger of flooding, but again the power went out, this time for almost a week. The family learned much about prepping in that time, including the number of people that hear about one house having lighted windows when almost all of the rest of the development didn’t.

More than one family came by, asking, in some cases, begging, to be allowed to put frozen food in various stages of defrost in their refrigerator or freezer. It was hard to turn them down, but their refrigerator and freezer were both full.

Though it was easy to say no to those that demanded the privilege, it wasn’t so easy to get by with it. A couple argued for several minutes that it was their right since they didn’t have a generator and the Prescotts did. They finally quit opening the door fully, leaving the safety hook on and opening it just enough to speak through clearly. More than one person pushed against the safety hook, but none tried more than just a hard push, leaving in a huff.

Fuel was again hard to come by, for the same reason it had during the hours and days after the earthquake. Lack of electrical power. The entire family was careful to arrange the vehicles so no one could see them refueling from the fuel cans kept in the yard care shed.

Regina prepared their meals from stored food, leaving what little was still in stores after three days to those that needed it. The telephone lines were still open and Regina called Karen. They were having similar experiences. Karen seemed rather unsettled to Regina.

But the crisis passed, and all concerned went about their business. Kevin Jacobson, the Prescott’s next door neighbor to the west, hailed Hadley one day when he was parking the G55 AMG. “Hadley! Got a minute?”

“Sure, Kevin. What’s up?” Hadley asked, walking over and shaking hands. They were on a first name over the fence basis.

“I couldn’t help notice that you had power when we were out the other day. Do you have one of those generators like they advertise on the Weather Channel?”

What could Hadley say? It was obvious that he did. No point in trying to lie about it. “I do. A Kohler. You want to take a look?”

“Please. If you don’t mind. Helen is almost due, and being out of power is a risk. Fortunately, we were out of town most of that week. But I’m worried it might happen again at a critical moment. Seems to be happening more than it used to, despite progress.”

Hadley led the way around to the side of the house where the generator and air conditioner units were. “I noticed when the propane tank was installed.”

“Same time,” Hadley explained. “I thought about getting a natural gas generator, but I’m afraid we’d lose the gas in a big earthquake. This one will actually run on natural gas, but it’s set up for propane.” Hadley didn’t want to sound too well off. “It’s not big enough to run everything in the house. To use the high power appliances we have to turn several other things off.”

“Still, you had lights and refrigerator and freezer, didn’t you?”

“Yes. We never lost natural gas, during the quake or during the storm, so our heat and hot water heater continued to work. They’re both natural gas, but need AC power for the controls. Same way for the cook top and the ovens.”

“Really?” Kevin said. “Ours must be the same. I kept trying the cook top, and never got it going. Power came back on and everything was okay. Didn’t give it a thought after that.” Changing subjects, Kevin said, “I noticed it’s pretty quiet. Couldn’t tell you were running it from inside the house.”

“I didn’t want something that would annoy you and the other neighbors. I got one of the quietest available.”

“That’s good. Though I must say, I wouldn’t mind a bit of noise if I had power.”

“It really wasn’t as much for us,” Hadley said, “It was for the neighbors. But it is nice, we don’t hear it inside, either.”

“What’s it take to get one?”

Hadley gave Kevin a ball park figure, not willing to disclose exactly how much they’d paid for theirs. “But it’ll be different for each installation,” he hastened to add. “How big the generator is, the size of the propane tank you put in, if you go that way, the size of the transfer switch, and whether you go automatic or manual start and switchover. The costs of the electrical box rewiring. Quite a few little details. Shouldn’t say little. They’re all important.”

“Wow!” Kevin said softly. “More to it than I thought.”

“I suggest you talk to one or more of the dealers and get some quotes. You might find something better for what you want than what I have for quite a bit less.”

“Who did you use, if you don’t mind me asking?”

Hadley told Kevin the name of the dealer where he’d bought his unit, and the propane dealer that had installed the tank and run the fuel line. “I’m happy with them,” Hadley added.

“Okay, Hadley. Thanks. I’m definitely going to look into it.” He held out his hand and Kevin took it.

“I should mention,” Hadley said, feeling obligated to tell Kevin the bad news, too. “There are a couple of problems.” They were walking back to the front of the house.

“Oh. What? I can’t think of one.” Kevin looked puzzled.

“Sometimes people want to take advantage of your forethought. We had several people want to use our freezer and refrigerator for their food. A couple even wanted to bring their appliances over and hook them up to power in our garage.”

“Really?” Kevin asked.

To Hadley, Kevin asked the question like he already knew the answer. “Really,” Hadley replied. “We just couldn’t do it. Our fridge and freezer were full, and there just isn’t enough power to go around for several more appliances.”

Hadley didn’t mention that the freezer was half full of frozen water bottles, rather than food. It wasn’t any of Kevin’s business, just as it hadn’t been those who asked for the space.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Kevin said. He gave a small wave and went back to his driveway and then into his house.

“What was that all about?” Regina asked when Hadley entered and gave her the customary kiss.

“Kevin is interested in getting a generator for their home. From what he said, I think Helen may be having some difficulty with the pregnancy. Kevin wants to have power, just in case.”

Regina was nodding. “I was talking to her before the storm. She is a bit worried. Well, if they do, maybe it’ll take some of the strain off of us. The more that are prepared, the less we have to look forward to asking for our help.”

“I kind of warned him about that. From the reaction I got, I think he’s been talking to some of the other neighbors.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised. We didn’t make any friends during that power outage.”

“I’m thinking we should come up with an alternative to a straight ‘no’ when the situation comes up.”

“Like what?” Regina asked, tending to the oven, where their supper was just about done.

Hadley chuckled. “Haven’t come up with anything yet.”

“This is ready. Could you get it out of the oven for me? It needs to set for a few minutes.”

A few minutes later Ray and Gina came in. “Wow, Mom,” Ray said, “That smells great!”

“How’d you two get hooked up?” Hadley asked. “I thought you were going to be working on the truck.” He was looking at Ray.

“I did. Gina needed the Jeep and came by and picked me up after she was through.”

“Oh?” Regina asked, looking at her daughter.

“Oh, Mom! It was nothing. We needed to get a few things for the gym decorating party tomorrow.”

“How many passengers?”

“Just Amy. I know the rules.”

“Okay, then,” Regina said, relaxing. Her children were growing up and she didn’t know if she liked the idea or not. The thought of Ray going off in fall… She turned around and busied herself so the rest of the family couldn’t see the tears trying to form.

The truck was ready and well tested by the time Ray and Regina needed to visit the campus where he’d be attending college that fall. He asked about taking the truck and Regina agreed. She wanted to know a bit more about it, since Ray was going to be on his own with it for at least four years. And if something happened, she wanted to make sure he had something that would get him home, no matter what.

Ray, having seen his mother teary-eyed several times lately, and suspecting the reason, offered to let her drive when they were packed and ready to go.

“Sure,” Regina said brightly, “Why not?” She grunted a bit getting up into the driver’s bucket seat of the crew cab truck. She checked everything out, adjusted the mirrors to suit her height, and then fastened the seat and shoulder belt.

“This is a lot longer than yours or Dad’s rigs. The Jeep especially. It takes a forty acre field to turn it around.”

“I doubt that,” Regina said. But she was extra careful backing the truck out of the driveway. She said a short prayer thanking God for having Ray warn her about the length of the truck. Regina was sure she would have run over the trash cans if he hadn’t.

“It’s got really good brakes,” Ray said. Just before Regina hit them and they slammed back into the seats, the tires chirping just a bit.

“That’s good,” Regina said. “Good brakes are important.” She got the transmission in first gear and headed for the main street that connected with their side street. It took her a few minutes, but by the time they were on the interstate, she was comfortable with the truck. It had been some time since she’d driven a stick, but it was coming back to her.

Ray hadn’t said a word while she was getting used to driving the truck. But as they traveled down the Interstate at an easy 75mph, he finally asked, “What do you think, Mom?”

“Well, I have to admit, I had my doubts about a vehicle this old, but you and Stanley have done a good job. And I think your father and I got a bargain.”

“Not really,” Ray said, truthful as always. “You guys let me equip it the way I wanted and that cost as much as something a lot newer would have.”

“We look at that as part of our preps. This is as much our family Bug-out vehicle as it is your personal ride.”

“I know. But you still aren’t getting your money’s worth in my opinion. You won’t even have access to it for months out of the year, for years.”

“Don’t remind me,” Regina said, fighting back tears again.

“Sorry, Mom.”

“Don’t be, sweetie. It’s all part of growing up. Even for me.” She reached over and held his hand in hers for a moment, then put both hands back on the wheel as they started around a semi tractor trailer rig.

By the time they got home, both were more than satisfied with both the truck, and the college. Besides making arrangements for on campus housing, Ray rented a small storage room in a secured facility so he would have a place to store prep items that wouldn’t fit in the room he shared with another student. It also allowed him to have a weapon relatively close. He couldn’t take one on campus.

They had brought the preps, and stashed them first thing, before going on campus. They picked up the weapons on the way out of town. Regina was as sure as she could be that Ray was going to be all right. He’d handled himself just fine getting everything taken care of on campus. She’d mostly just stayed out of the way and watched. And signed checks.

Once back, the truck was used up until the day before Ray had to leave for college. Mostly for work at the retreat site. More wood was cut, split, and stacked. The family camped out on site while doing the work. Hadley kept an eye on the contractor constructing the shelter.

The monolithic pour of footings and floor had been done as soon as the weather had permitted that spring. The walls were now going up, with two parallel walls around the entire space, set five feet apart. The area between the parallel walls was filled with earth fill and compacted.

More manure was spread and tilled into the garden, and then a winter cover crop was planted. It would be tilled under the next year, adding more nitrogen to the soil. Large propane and diesel tanks were set on each lot, and the smaller gasoline tank on the Prescott’s lot.

The pads for two small manufactured homes were poured and rough plumbed. The units would be installed the next summer. A third pad was poured, for a small motor home.

Stanley, making a comeback from alcohol abuse, was going to start staying on the site, to reduce the chance of vandalism. It gave him a place to park the small motorhome he lived in, without charge. The deal included free water, sewer, and propane. The motorhome had a propane fueled generator, so he would make his own electricity, primarily just to keep the main batteries charged.

Ray had to leave for college before the roof went on the shelter. The last thing the truck was used for before he left was to haul the containers and contents for two caches on the route from the house in town to the retreat.

Each cache consisted of four Hardigg medium size shipping cases, 2 20-litre water cans, 4 20-litre gasoline cans, and 2 20-litre diesel cans. Despite all of the cases and cans being very environment proof, they were still individually double wrapped in heavy gauge plastic sheeting.

The Hardigg cases held food, tools, hygiene and first-aid supplies, two spare magazines and ammunition for each weapon, ponchos with Ranger Rick type liners, and a change of outer clothes and two changes of underwear for each person. There were windup lights and radios; means to cook; plus tarps, stakes, poles, and cord for making shelter. A few other things that each person thought important.

Both caches were spotted in out of way places, not far off the road on public land, out of sight from the road. Having scouted the spots several times before hand, Hadley judged them safe enough to use. And both were easy to set.

The sod was cut and moved from the area. The foot of the slope was cut back, and the soil above brought down on top of the case, and then the sod replaced, with an E-tool just under the surface at one corner. Three days later a moderate rain removed all traces of the work that went into burying the cases.

The shelter was finished before Thanksgiving, and Ray had a chance to see it completed then. With the deal with Stanley going okay, both the Prescotts and the Lyons’ moved essential supplies to the shelter and stored them.

That year’s Christmas was another prep themed one. Mostly odds and ends to make life easier in the aftermath of a disaster. But it wasn’t all odds and ends. There were many books given and received by all four Prescotts. Both the children received $100.00 in face value pre-1965 US silver coins, and 10 one-tenth ounce US Gold Eagles.

All four spent quite a bit of time in front of the television. The news was not good. Despite all the UN talks and sanctions, multilateral talks, Greenpeace appeals, and everything else that was going on to try to reduce the world’s armament of nuclear weapons, they were proliferating at a remarkable rate. Many nations that were gaining the ability to deploy nuclear weapons had to be called, at the least, aggressor nations.

Also much in the news was report after report of unseasonable weather and weather extremes. It seemed a new weather record was being set nearly every day. Hadley and Regina, with their new awareness of potential problems, gave Ray and Regina each a debit card for use in emergency, along with a packet of currency for the same reason. The two items, plus the precious metals, were insurance to help get them out of trouble and home, if necessary.

“You shouldn’t need it,” Regina told Gina when they gave them the cards and the money, but there are times your father and I might not be available. Use your best judgment with these. It might be tempting… But they really are for the same kind of emergencies we prep for, not quote ‘emergencies’ unquote.”

“I understand, Mom,” Gina replied. “I’ve got my own emergency stash, saved up out of my allowance, for regular emergencies.”

“Ditto,” said Ray, putting away the card and the cash. “Thanks, Mom, Dad. It’s a scary world out there, sometimes. It’s good to know I have a safe place to come home to, and the means to get here. Thanks.”

He gave both his parents tight hugs, and then one for Gina. “I miss you guys at college. A lot.”

Regina fought back her tears, and noticed that Hadley had to blink back a tear or two as well.

Ray had the truck loaded and fueled on January second and headed back to college. He had chains on all four wheels due to the foot of snow that had fallen over the last three days, and left during the continuing snowstorm.

Regina kept her cellular telephone handy until Ray called the following day and told her he had made it safely. Then things went back to what passed as normal in the world today.

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