I'd Rather be Dead



I’d Rather Be Dead


Chapter 1

“Sherrie, why did you even bring the subject up?” Aaron Greenbrook asked his wife.

“I don’t know! I know I shouldn’t have, but Bridgette was going on and on about the trials and tribulations she and David are going through financially with the economy the way it is. You know how she is. I just couldn’t take it any more. I had to respond.”

Aaron hid his smile from his wife. Any mention of her impatience could result in him sleeping in the spare room. “I understand. David is just as bad. He was giving us the sob story while you, Bridgette and Michelle were in the kitchen. Brian just kind of ignored it, and I made sympathetic noises.”

“At least you stepped in to defend me. Finally.” Sherrie cut a look over at Aaron, and then put her eyes back on the road.

A slight smile curved Aaron’s lips. “Couldn’t let you take that kind of abuse by yourself.”

“Well… It really wasn’t abuse. But Bridgette and David are in for a rude awakening some day. That attitude of theirs about rather being dead than live in a post apocalyptic world will change quickly if anything really bad ever happens.”

“I know, Sweetie. But people are entitled to their opinions. Even if we know they will change in the future.”

“Can you believe that woman?” Bridgette asked David. They were in the process of getting ready for bed after their guests left. “Telling me we should be preparing for much worse than we’re going through now! I told her in no uncertain terms what she could do with her prep ideas. I won’t have talk like that in this house.”

“Yes, Dear,” David replied. “I must say, I was a bit surprised at Aaron’s support of his wife. I thought he was more level headed than that. We all know Sherrie can be a bit extreme.”

“Extreme? She was talking about the end of the world! Extreme, indeed! I told her flat out that I’d rather be dead than live in a situation like that. I hope if it happens an atom bomb falls right on this house.”

“Yes, Dear. Though I don’t remember her mentioning an atomic war.” David flipped the coverlet and top sheet back on his side of the bed.

“She did in the kitchen. Atomic war with China. China! Everybody knows how backward that country is. China and atomic war! Preposterous!”

When David rolled toward Bridgette, she rolled the other way. “Not tonight. That woman has given me a headache. David sighed and rolled onto his other side. The talk of war and protection and preparing had sort of turned him on. Too bad.

“Michelle,” asked Brian, as they, too, were getting ready for bed, “What did you think of that little spat that Bridgette and Sherrie got into tonight?”

“It was so silly. Oh, Sherrie is something of a hot head, and full of some antisocial opinions and beliefs, but I think Bridgette over reacted.” Michelle looked over at Brian. “Why do you ask? What do you think about what happened?”

“I don’t know. It’s just… I guess David and Bridgette are loosing some money on their portfolio, just the way we are. But Aaron and Sherrie are doing okay, even with the economy the way it is. And that talk of war… What would we do? We don’t even keep three days of food in the house. Remember the storm last year? I was starving by the time the roads opened up and we could go to the store.”

“You’re not thinking of becoming one of those survivalists, are you?” Michelle said it with a bit of a forced laugh. “I don’t think even Sherrie is that far gone. They don’t say anything much about doing something about the government. Well, other than voting.”

“No, I am not thinking of becoming a survivalist. But maybe we should at least think about getting a little more food in the house. And some water. Every time the subject comes up all I can think of is what happened during Katrina. All those people in that heat, without drinking water.”

Michelle frowned. “There’s nothing around here that could turn into a situation like Katrina!”

“What if Sherrie is right? War with China? Nuclear war?”

“I don’t want to talk about it, Brian. It’s too distressing. Come to bed. Just hold me for a while.”

“Sure, baby,” Brian said. He could use a little being held time, himself. The subject that had come up just before the get together had broken up was somewhat frightening.

“Give me a hand, Aaron?” Sherrie said after sticking her head inside the door between the garage and the kitchen.

“Sure, Babe.” Aaron got up from the desk where he’d been working on the computer. “What’cha got?”

“The order from Emergency Essentials came in at the rental box,” Sherrie replied, propping the door open.

It took several minutes to unload the rear of the Suburban. The rear seats were all down and the entire rear of the Suburban, except for the storage cases always kept in the truck, was stacked to the top with cases of #10 cans of freeze-dried and dehydrated food.

“How’d you get all this loaded?” Aaron carrying one of the cases through the kitchen and down into the basement.

Sherrie cut him a grin. “Hired one of the clerks at the place to help me.”

“Good,” replied Aaron.

When they had moved everything into the basement, the two went over the packing list to make sure everything had come in that had been ordered.

“All here,” Sherrie said. “Now to get it in the computer.”

“You do that and I’ll move everything into the shelter.”

“Good. I was hoping you would say that.” Sherrie smiled and gave Aaron a quick kiss and then went upstairs.

Aaron took his time, loading the cans into the #10 can rotation system racks in the shelter storage room. Besides the racks for #10 cans, there were rotation racks for smaller cans, plus flat shelves for other storage items. Almost all the shelves were full. The open wall areas were stacked three deep by three high with six-gallon Super-pails of additional food supplies.

After carefully locking up the shelter entrance and rolling the cabinet that hid the door back into place, Aaron knocked down all the cardboard boxes and bundled them up to be recycled. He went upstairs and into the living room where Sherrie was still at the computer.

“That should have brought up close to our goal,” Aaron said. “Because we are just about out of room in the storage room.”

Sherrie turned her smiling face toward Aaron. “Yes! Just some odds and ends to pick up now, and then maintenance orders to keep the supplies up as we rotate through them.”

“What do you say we celebrate?” Aaron asked. “For scrimping and saving these last ten years to get our preps in line.”

“I can do that. How long has it been since we had a lobster?”

“A long time. Come on. Let’s go.”

The two grabbed coats and went to the garage to get into the Suburban. The food was good and the two had a good time. At least until they headed home. The news on the radio wasn’t good. China had just reiterated its assertions that Taiwan would not be granted independence and any attempt for the residents to declare it would be met with harsh measures.

“Maybe we shouldn’t have wasted the money,” Sherrie said as they went inside their modest house.

“No. We needed the break. Can’t do without all the time. I love you, you know,” Aaron said as he put his arms around her from behind and rested his chin on her shoulder.

Sherrie lifted a hand to cup his cheek. “I know. And I love you right back. And not that I don’t appreciate the sentiment, what brought it on?”

She slipped away and took off her coat to hang it in the entry closet. Aaron took his coat off, too, and handed it to her to hang up before he spoke. “Well. Just seemed like a good time to say it. And I guess I was thinking about Bridgette and David. They go out and eat all the time. And can’t make ends meet. I’m just glad I have you and you are agreeable to our current lifestyle.”

The two made their way to the living room to watch the nightly news.

“I know, Aaron. And I should say the same. We’re pretty compatible people. Don’t know what I’d do if I was stuck with David. Or even Brian.”

“Both are handsome devils. I’m sort of plain.”

“I love plain,” Sherrie said. “I’ll take substance over show every time. You’ve got substance to spare.”

“I was wondering about that, too.”

“That? That what?”

“Spare substance. Do you think we should try harder with David and Bridgette? We’ve been friends with them since we got married.”

“You know better, Aaron,” Sherrie said firmly. “They don’t even want to hear about it. Now, if Brian and Michelle were to express an interest, I’d be inclined to lend a hand. Teach them what we’ve learned about making preparations for an uncertain future.”

“I can see that, too. It’s just… I hate to see a couple with so many advantages be so on edge all the time. David makes almost half as much more than I do, and we have more in the way of real possessions than he and Bridgette do.”

Aaron could see that Sherrie was about to protest, but he said, “Yes, they have their Cadillacs, and David’s sports car, and the home theatre in a house twice the size of ours. But from what David said, they owe more than they have equity. And that’s on top of their credit card debt. David didn’t say how much it was, but he did let out that they were only paying the minimums and interest was killing them.”

Sherrie nodded. “I guess you’re right. For all they have, they don’t seem to be very happy.”

“And look at us,” Aaron said, snuggling Sherrie under his arm. “House is paid for because we paid double for the last ten years, and we have the pool and outdoor kitchen. Both vehicles paid for. Credit card use paid for in total every month. Money in the bank for replacement vehicles when it is time. And that doesn’t include any of the preps.”

“Well, the pool and outdoor kitchen are preps,” Sherrie said.

“True, I guess. I don’t think anyone in our circle of friends think of them that way. Same with the greenhouse, garden, and orchard. Just our eccentric hobbies. David can’t understand why I only golf with him and Brian once a month instead of almost every weekend.”

“Bridgette and Michelle are the same about our tennis and the time at the day spa. Tennis once a month and a day spa day every three months or so is plenty for me. They play almost every weekend and usually go to the spa afterwards.”

“Do you wish you could do that, instead of working in the greenhouse and garden?”

“No, Sweetie. I wasn’t saying that. I like the feeling of accomplishment of growing some of our own food as much as I enjoy the thrill of a good tennis game or day at the spa. And a day at the shooting range gives me a sense of accomplishment and security.”

Sherrie chuckled slightly. “I wonder what Bridgette would say about that?”

Aaron chuckled, too. “I hate to even think of it.”

“Let’s forget about our friends and just watch the news.”

A few minutes later the two almost wished they were discussing their friends again. The news was disappointing. Another new economic crisis. Two major banks needing bailouts from the Federal Government was only part of it. There was talk of new taxes. More military excursions in unpronounceable countries. The pullout from Iraq wasn’t going well. Iran was making noises about reforming the Persian Empire.

France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Japan, and Germany were all spreading their wings in colonial fashion, primarily in Africa. China was making a bid to bring much of South America into her sphere of influence, as well as Indonesia and Micronesia.

Both sat up when a reporter, standing in front of the entrance to Fort Knox, Kentucky Bullion Depository, discussed the role of gold in the world today. All the facts were essentially those that Sherrie and Aaron already knew. What was new in the broadcast was a cut to tape of the Director of the Mint making the announcement that the Mint would no longer produce gold and silver bullion coins and all in dealer hands were being reclaimed, at a price almost fifty percent of the current spot price, starting in three days. All precious metals sales between now and then had to be documented.

“I guess our PM acquisition plan just stopped,” Sherrie said.

“I think so. And you know what else it means. A recall of precious metals in private hands can’t be far behind.”

“Do we or don’t we?” Sherrie asked, know full well that Aaron would know what she meant.

“Could get risky,” Aaron said, looking off into space. “Wouldn’t be able to use it until they lift the ban or a really big balloon goes up.” He turned to look at Sherrie’s face.

“I know. I say we keep it.”

“I agree. Guess we should throw another shovel of dirt over it, though.”

“That means I can’t carry any with me in my money belt now?” Sherrie asked. She really liked having that gold and silver in her five custom leather money belts, each one a different color.

“I don’t know. Maybe just a few tenth ounce gold coins and some quarters or halves.”

“Halves are way too big for my belts. Quarters, too. Have to stick to dimes.”

“Well, maybe they won’t recall it.”

“Yeah, right!” Sherrie snorted. “You know we’ve prepared with that very thing in mind.”

Indeed they had. The couple had been buying small quantities of US Gold Eagles, US Silver Eagles, and junk pre-1965 US silver coins for years. Always with cash, and no names on record, the purchases spread out over several cities in several states that Aaron’s business traveling took him.

“We might still be able to get jewelry for you before…”

Sherrie cut Aaron off. “You know good and well that it will be difficult to trade and barter jewelry, when that time comes. I think we should put our PM money into trade goods. And maybe more medical equipment and supplies.”

Aaron was nodding his head in agreement. He’d just wanted to give Sherrie the opportunity to get some more jewelry. She only had a few pieces, though it had all been bought with the value of gold in mind as much as the jewelry value.

“Come on,” Sherrie said, turning the TV off with the remote. Let’s go to bed.”

Brian and Michelle were watching the same news broadcast. “That doesn’t sound good, Brian said, after taking a sip of his Scotch and water.

“It’s rather like Sherrie was talking about,” Michelle said, putting down the knitting she was doing and picking up her own drink, a Long Island Iced Tea. “You don’t think she could be right about war, do you, with China?”

“I don’t think so,” Brian replied slowly. “There always seems to be talk of war.” He smiled suddenly. “But that news about the gold. That may solve a couple of our problems!”

“How so?” Michelle asked.

“I added a gold mining mutual fund to our portfolio.”

Michelle smiled. “You are so smart! Just before the announcement! How did you manage that?”

“It was Sherrie, actually. And that talk you and I had that night. I thought ‘What would be the best investment if there was war?’ and I came up with gold.”

“I should do my part, too,” Michelle said. “I’ll lay in a few supplies this week. You know. Just in case. If nothing happens, we can throw a big party and use them up before they go bad.”

“Good for you, Sweetheart! We don’t want to go overboard, but a few days supplies can’t hurt anything.” There was a long pause. “But lets not say anything to Bridgette and David. I don’t want to be laughed at.”

“Agreed,” Michelle said, and then took a long draught from her drink, thinking, “Better add a case of Brian’s Scotch to that list. And the ingredients for her Long Island Iced Tea.”

“What do you mean, we can’t have a party?” Bridgette asked David. “It’s our turn. And you know how I like to have them here. We have the best house for it. I like to show it off.”

“Honey, we just can’t afford it right now,” David explained. “I had to clear the savings account to make the mortgage payment this month.

The checking account is down to under one hundred dollars. Until we get a dividend check, we’re going to be on a pretty tight budget.”

“I did not marry you to be put on a budget!” Bridgette was torn between being livid at David for being in such a fix and fear that it was true.

David ran his hand over his thinning hair. “I know! I know! But Bridgette, we’re just in pretty deep right now. A couple of investments haven’t turned out very well, and the bank won’t extend my line of credit any more than they have. It infuriates me. I’m a Vice President, and have a limited line of credit. But there is no arguing with them.

“I’ll make it up to you. I promise. As soon as that dividend check comes in we’ll go all out on that party.”

“Really? The good champagne, too?”

David almost bit his lip. Cristal Champagne was over four hundred dollars a bottle, even at the discount place, and he didn’t like buying there. It didn’t look good for a man in his position to be buying in discount houses.

After the very slight pause David nodded. “Yes. The good stuff. Beluga caviar, too.”

Bridgette clapped her hands delightedly. “I’ll start planning! And make some excuse to postpone the party until we get that check.”

“That’s not like Bridgette,” Sherrie told Aaron a few days later, after Bridgette had told Sherrie there would be a delay before their next get together. “Something about David’s job keeping him busy for a while.”

“I wonder if he’s taken on a second job?” Aaron asked, maneuvering the Suburban skillfully in city traffic.

“You have got to be kidding!” Sherrie said. “David moonlighting on the Bank? I don’t think so. Almost more likely Bridgette has taken a job.”

Aaron looked over at his wife. She was already shaking her head. “No. No way she’s taken a job. Something else is going on.”

“They may just not be able to afford it,” Aaron said. “You know how Bridgette goes overboard. After what happened the last time we were there, you know she is going to want to have a doozey.”

“That’s probably right. But surely they can’t be in such a state they can’t afford even one of Bridgette’s parties.”

“I don’t know, Honey. David gave me the impression that evening that things were really tight for him. I know he was heavy into the subprime housing market. You know what happened to that recently.”

Three hours later they were on their way back home after putting in two hours of range time. Aaron pulled into the service station they usually used when they were in town. “Would you look at that!” he said when he looked up at the pricing sign. The numbers were being changed. Diesel for the Suburban was now seven sixteen nine a gallon.

“That’s a jump of over a dollar!” Sherrie said. “What’s happened? And he just changed 87 octane to six thirty-eight nine!”


“I’m sure it must be going up all over,” Aaron said slowly. “I think we’d better go ahead and fill up. There’s a chance it will be hard to get. We can listen to the radio and see what’s happening. After we fill up.”

Sherrie nodded and jumped down out of the passenger seat of the truck to the ground. While Aaron, six inches taller than Sherrie, cleaned the windows, she filled the rear tank. The Suburban also had a midship tank, but it was already full.

When she printed out the receipt from the pump she handled it to Aaron. “Ouch!”

“Yeah. I think we’d better start using my Subaru for trips like this,” Sherrie said.

“Definitely!” Aaron agreed, pocketing the receipt and going to the passenger side of the Suburban. “You want to drive? I want to think about a few things.”

“Sure, Honey,” Sherrie replied, climbing up into the driver’s seat of the Suburban. She glanced over at him from time to time as he looked out the windshield, his eyes unfocused, but didn’t say anything. She had the radio on, down low. It didn’t seem to bother him when he was thinking like this.

Sherrie found out why the fuel prices had jumped. OPEC cut production and raised prices of crude to over one-hundred-twenty-five dollars a barrel. Futures markets were going for over two hundred dollars a barrel.

When they got home, Aaron came out of his daze and helped Sherrie take the weapons they’d taken to the range back down to the shelter and put them in the gun vault. With a smile on her face, she told Aaron, “You’re smiling. You work something out on the way home?”

“Sure did. The Gregory House. They wanted a fourth bathroom. I just figured out where it will go.”

Sherrie shook her head. Aaron had a remarkable talent at visualizing spatial relationships, but he went almost comatose when he was working one out in his head. “If you want to get that into the computer, I’ll start us a late lunch.”

“Thanks, Sweetie,” Aaron said, giving his wife a quick peck on the cheek.

“Can you believe this?” David asked Bridgette. He was livid. “I need some cash, my dear. I don’t have enough to pay for the fill-up! The price is almost twice what it was a week ago when I filled up.”

“David…” Bridgette started to say, but didn’t really know how to tell her husband she didn’t have any cash on her. Finally, when he looked around at her, she said it. “I don’t have any cash at all, David. Can’t you put it on one of the cards?”

She saw his eyes widen and his jaw clench. “No. We’ll all maxed out.”

“But American Express doesn’t have a limit,” she protested.

“They cut me off. I’ve got almost a hundred thousand on it.”

“Oh,” Bridgette said softly.

“Wait a minute,” David suddenly said and went to the trunk of the Mercedes sports car. He opened the trunk and rummaged in his gym bag. “Ah-hah!” Bridgette heard him say.

As he walked past the passenger side of the car he said, “Had enough tip money in my gym bag to make it.”

Bridgette sighed in relief and could see the relief in her husband’s face when he came back to the car. “I’m calling our accountant as soon as we get home. I want to know where that dividend check is.”

“Honey, it’s Saturday.”

“Baloney on Saturday! As much as I pay him every year, he can take a personal call from me on a Saturday.”

“Yes, Dear,” Bridgette said, easing back in her seat and letting David stew while he drove.

She heard him in his den as she puttered around the house. He did not sound happy. She almost started to go out and get something for them to eat that evening, but with no cash and the cards unusable, there was no way to pay for it. It took her a few minutes to put together a supper from odds and ends in the cabinets and pantry that had never been filled with more than a few day’s worth of food.

“David?” she asked when she went to get him for supper. “What did you find out?”

“I found out I need a new accountant. The good news is the check will be in Monday. The bad news is it is only about three-quarters of what I expected.”

“My party!” Bridgette exclaimed.

David wanted to lash out verbally, but held his tongue. They really couldn’t afford it, but he’d promised Bridgette. They’d muddle through some how. He managed a smile and said, “Of course we’ll have your party.”

Bridgette smiled and led the way to the dining room.

“Did you see the price of gas today?” Brian asked Michelle when he came into the house and gave her a kiss.

“I know! I thought I’d wait to fill my car. Maybe it will come down.”

“I don’t know if I’d wait,” Brian replied. “I didn’t fill up, but I put half a tank in my car. It may go up before it comes back down.”

“I’ll fill up tomorrow,” Michelle said.

“What’s for dinner?” Brian asked.

“I thought we’d go out. I didn’t feel like fixing anything.” She smiled brightly. “I picked up the emergency food today. It took me a little while to unload.”

“How much did you get?” Brian asked, curious, but also a bit worried. He hoped she hadn’t gone overboard.

“Oh, it’s all things we’ll use up anyway.” Michelle took Brian into the small pantry off the kitchen.

Brian smiled when he saw the two cases of liquor. One of his Scotch, and one mixed case for her New York Iced Tea. There were the makings for appetizers, cans of some of the rather exotic soups Michelle was fond of, jars of pickled onions, mushrooms, palm hearts, and fancy olives. Cans of fancy smoked oysters, clams, and tiny shrimp. Tins of fancy crackers and cookies. There was a case of Perrier flavored waters.

“And in the fridge,” Michelle proudly said, leading Brian over, “we have cheeses and those Li’l Smokies you love so much.”

“Good job, Sweetie! Nothing we won’t use even if nothing happens. You’re a whiz at this. Sherrie has nothing on you.”

“Why thank you, Brian. That was nice of you to say.”

“Let’s celebrate you’re good work and have a special meal out.”

“Oh, yes! Let’s. I think I deserve it,” Michelle said with a laugh.

“Yes? Hello. This is Bridgette, Sherrie,” Bridgette said, her eagerness obvious in her voice, even over the telephone. “I just wanted to let you know about the party in two weeks! It’ll be smashing!”

Sherrie smiled. Bridgette was in a good mood. “I’ll mark it on my calendar, Bridgette. You can bet we’ll be there. You have the grandest parties.” Sherrie rolled her eyes and thought, “Grandest parties? Where’d that come from?”

“What should I bring?” Sherrie asked then.

“Oh, nothing at all! I’m having a lavish spread. Just yourself and Aaron. Dress is formal. It’ll all be on the engraved invitation you’ll get in a few days.”

“I’ll be watching for it,” Sherrie said and hung up the telephone when Bridgette’s end clicked.

“Bridgette, I take it,” Aaron said, coming into the kitchen.

“Oh, yes. She’s having that delayed party in two weeks. Engraved invitations. Formal.” Sherrie saw Aaron wince and slapped his arm slightly. “Don’t you dare! You know you like getting dressed up just as much as I do. This is the perfect reason. It’ll make Bridgette happy.”

Her voice going a bit softer, she added, “I’m thinking that she might be needing something to cheer her up. When I saw her the other day she was really down. Wouldn’t say why, but I suspect financial problems. Has David said anything to you?”

“No. And you know how he usually goes on about how successful his private investments go, trying to get us to invest with him through the bank. He’s not doing any business talking at all.”

Aaron put his arms around Sherrie and gave her a quick kiss. “I love you, you know.”

A slight smile on her lips, Sherrie replied, “And I love you, too, Sweetie. What do you want?” She danced away with a sparkle in her eye.

“Ah, you know me so well,” Aaron said with a laugh. “I was just thinking… You know that cruise package we won?”

“Oh yes. I think about that from time to time. You thinking now would be a good time to take it? Before things get to dangerous?”

“You really do know me,” Aaron replied. “That was exactly what I was thinking. But… I was also thinking that we could invite David and Bridgette, and Brian and Michelle. The package is for four. Shame to waste the other suite. My bonus will cover a third suite. My airmiles will cover first class flights there and back for six.”

“We wouldn’t have to choose between them, that way. That’s been bothering me,” Sherrie admitted. “I think it’s a good idea.” She smiled. “Any chance for a Christmas cruise?”

Aaron smiled. “I think that can be arranged. If I do it right now.”

“You’ve been talking to the travel agent, haven’t you?”

“Well… Yes! And it is doable.” His smile faded. “I know we usually use the Christmas bonus for preps, but this year, the good shape we’re in, and the way things are going…”

“I think you’re right, Honey. Don’t back out on me now. I’m already planning which dresses to take.”

Aaron laughed. “Okay. I’ll get it done.”

“Oh,” Sherrie said, stopping Aaron for a moment. “Let’s keep this quiet until after Bridgette’s party. I don’t want her to think we’re trying to steal her thunder.”

“Good point,” Aaron agreed. “You know. If we want to be cheap about it, we can call it our Christmas presents to the two couples.”

Sherrie gave Aaron a hard look. “Or not,” he said and headed for the den.

“Wow!” Sherrie said when Bridgette greeted her and Aaron the night of the party. “You look great, Bridgette!”

“I’ll add my accolades to that,” Aaron said, getting a demure little smile from Bridgette. “Thank you. I must say, you two look wonderful tonight, too. Don’t you just love formal affairs?” Aaron and Sherrie shared a secret smile when Bridgette turned away to lead them inside.

The house was immaculate. The caterer’s service staff members were in formal uniform. Aaron and Sherrie were met by a server with a tray of champagne tulips. As soon as Aaron took a sip he whispered to Sherrie. “No expense spared. This is Cristal.”

“Um, yes!” Sherrie said, taking a small sip from Aaron’s glass. “I think I’ll hold off until dinner. I didn’t eat much today, anticipating a major eating experience tonight.”

The couple shared a laugh, and then went to talk to Brian and Michelle as Bridgette welcomed them into the room. Both snagged champagne as the server drifted past again. “Quite the party,” Brian said. “Haven’t been to something like this since last New Year’s Eve. Bridgette is in her own tonight.”

“Aw, guys, give her a break. This is what she loves to do,” Michelle gently chided Aaron and Brian.

“She certain does know how to throw a party,” Brian said, stopping another server, this one with appetizers. He took three as the others took one each.

“I must admit, I wasn’t aware that there would be other guests,” Aaron said. “I thought it was just the six of us.”

“So did I,” Brian said.

Michelle and Sherrie were shaking their heads. “Not even Bridgette would have sent engraved invitations for one of our regular monthly get-togethers,” Sherrie said. “I think.”

The four separated and began to circulate among the other guests, renewing acquaintances among the other ten guests until dinner was announced. It was as lavish as the rest of the party.

It was after midnight when the party began to break up. Aaron and Sherrie were the last to leave, thanking Bridgette and David for a marvelous time. A horn honked and they hurried outside to the cab they called for, having taken a cab to the party so they both could drink without worrying about driving later.

“Did you notice David?” Aaron asked as soon as they were in the cab.

“Yes. He was tense the entire time. Pleasant enough when required, but when he wasn’t talking to someone, he was on pins and needles. I think he counted every glass of champagne poured.”

“I’m wondering if they could really afford this lavish party,” Aaron said, taking Sherrie’s hand in his.

“Surely, Aaron, they wouldn’t spend it if they didn’t have it. Would they?” Sherrie asked, snuggling against him.

“I don’t know. It makes me think twice about our plans.”

“Oh, Honey! You so want to do this! We can afford it, with your Christmas bonus. From what you’ve said, we’ll even be able to put some more into preps with it.”

Aaron nodded. “I really do want to go. And maybe it will be a relief for the others not to have to worry about anything for two weeks. We shouldn’t wait too long to invite them, though. I know Brian and Michelle always take a week at Christmas. I just hope they can arrange for two. Shouldn’t be a problem for David. He’s always got vacation time he hasn’t used.”

“I’ll give it a week and then call Michelle and Bridgette. Give me a kiss.”

Aaron leaned down and did so. They rode the rest of the way home in silence.

“I can’t believe we’re doing this!” Michelle exclaimed as the plane they were on began loosing altitude in preparation of landing in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

“You keep saying that, Honey,” Brian said with a laugh.

Bridgette, David, Aaron, and Sherrie all laughed, too. All were in wonderful moods. They’d left the city in the middle of a snowstorm. The forecast for the Caribbean cruise was perfect.

Bridgette had a few harsh words for one of the porters, but that was the only thing that marred their arrival and then check in on the cruise ship. Even Bridgette was satisfied with the three suites, two of which were adjoining.

Sherrie had made sure that the single suite was the one Bridgette and David would occupy. For everyone’s sake.

It was a marvelous two weeks, including great Christmas and New Year’s celebrations aboard the ship while at sea. The three couples did a bit of sightseeing at the ports of call, but after a couple decided to stay aboard the ship for the rest of the cruise. There was a lot of anti-American sentiment in several of the areas, and none of the three had any intentions of doing much shopping, for different reasons.

When it was time to settle up the shipboard finances, Aaron felt a small stab of anger, but quickly suppressed it, remembering that he’d told the others that it was an all expense paid trip for them, by him and Sherrie.

Brian and Michelle had spent a reasonable amount. David rather more, and Bridgette, considerably more. But Aaron forked over the traveler’s checks without comment and decided he wouldn’t even mention it to Sherrie.

Later, as they unloaded the Subaru at home, Sherrie asked specifically, “What did the tally come to? Bridgette and David hit us pretty hard?”

Aaron admitted they had and told her the amount. Like Aaron, Sherrie felt a flash of anger, but let it go with a laugh. “Well, we knew they probably would. I’m of a mind that it is more than worth it. Bridgette and David look so much better when we got back than they did when we left. And I know Brian and Michelle had a good time. She told me she’s pregnant. Pretty much had to happen the first night or two on the cruise.”

Aaron laughed. “If they’d known that a cruise was all it took to conceive, they would have booked one a couple of years ago.”

Sherrie laughed, too. “She and Brian are ecstatic.”

More seriously, Aaron looked at Sherrie and asked, “You still think we should wait?”

“Yes. Don’t you?” Sherrie asked. It was a subject they talked about from time to time. So far, the decision was to wait a while longer. Sherrie still had plenty of years to have children. She was five years younger than Aaron.

“I do. I just wanted to check. Sometimes women change their minds when one of their friends gets pregnant.”

“You’re a dear, Dear. But you know if I change my mind I’ll tell you.”

“Yeah. I know.”

“But I do know how I want to spend the rest of your bonus check. Birthing and baby supplies. We don’t really have much. And if I was to get pregnant, I want to have what we need.”

“That’s a good idea.”

Bridgette and David carried their bags inside the house from the porch where the cab driver had dumped them. “That was a wonderful treat, wasn’t it?” Bridgette said.

David was smiling. “It certainly was. I never thought Aaron and Sherrie could afford such extravagance.”

“Oh, didn’t Aaron tell you? He won the trip in some kind of design contest.”

“Well that explains it,” David said, a self-satisfied smile on his face. “I just couldn’t feature how he did it. Now I know.” The last bag inside, David said, “I’m going over to the neighbors to pick up the mail.”

“Okay, honey. I’m going to lay down for a nap.”

David wasn’t smiling when he came back from the neighbor’s house. They had kept the paper picked up and the mail taken from the mailbox so it wasn’t obvious that Bridgette and David were gone.

He thumbed through the envelopes. Bill after bill after bill. David shook his head. “Something has to change.”

Michelle was on the phone with her mother a few minutes after they got back to the house. She’d done another Over-The-Counter pregnancy test and it had confirmed the first one. She’d go to the doctor in the next couple of days, but she was sure enough to tell her mother.

Brian had a big grin on his face as he carried their bags into the house and into the bedroom. Michelle was as happy as he’d ever seen her. They’d been trying to have a baby ever since they were married. They hadn’t wanted to spend the money on specialists, other than to find out there wasn’t anything major wrong with either of them that would prevent conception. They just kept trying. And the cruise seemed to have been the key. No worries and it happened. He’d have to get Aaron something special for inviting them along.

He stopped suddenly, the news he’d heard on the radio driving home coming back to him. “Maybe I should talk to him and Sherrie about things. With a baby coming…” He hadn’t spoken and quickly began walking again, but the thought lingered. “What if China really did start something?”


Spring rolled around after the rather severe winter and the three couples were meeting for drinks and dinner in lieu of a party at Brian and Michelle’s. Michelle was just starting to show, and was being very careful not to overdo things, so everyone was more than amiable to dinner out than have Michelle host a party.

“How’s the banking business?” Brian asked David as their drinks were served, Coke for Michelle.

“About the same. Can’t really talk about it, you know. Privacy issues.”

It was essentially the same response Aaron had received some time before. David was being very closed mouthed about both the bank business and his personal business. That subject closed, Brian asked Aaron, “What do you think about the China situation now, Aaron?”

“Oh, please,” Bridgette asked, “No talk of such depressing things.” She put a hand on top of Michelle’s. “We don’t want to upset Michelle or the baby.”

“Bridgette is right,” Sherrie quickly said. “Let’s keep this evening light.”

“Sure,” Brian said. “I should have thought of that. Sorry, Honey.”

“Oh, Brian! You worry too much. All of you do. But I guess I’d rather not think about such things right now, anyway.”

So the talk turned to golf and tennis and the new massage therapist at the Day Spa. It was only after dinner, with the three couples on the way home, Bridgette and David in their car, and Brian and Michelle riding with Sherrie and Aaron, that the subject came up again.

“Sherrie…” Brian said, rather hesitatingly, “I was… well… Wondering if you’d help Michelle…” His words faded away when Michelle squeezed his hand.

Sherrie turned in her seat and looked back at Brian. “Brian? Help Michelle with what?”

“Well… Getting ready for the birth. Things we should have, in case of trouble. Or shortages… or something.”

“Of course I’ll help,” Sherrie said. “But you know ‘I don’t know nothin’ about birthin’ babies!’” All four laughed at Sherrie’s attempt to sound like Prissy in “Gone With The Wind”.

“I’m not so worried about things in general, Sherrie,” Michelle said. “It’s just with this talk of war… What if something bad happens? “How will I cope?”

“I think we should wait and discuss this together at a better time,” Aaron said, looking at Brian and Michelle in the rear view mirror.

“Could we, Aaron?” Brian asked. “There are so many things I don’t know.”

“Sure. You two pick a time and call us. We’ll be glad to help you in any way we can.”

“Thanks guys,” Brian said, leaning back in the seat and taking Michelle’s small hand in his. “That makes me feel much better.”

“Me, too,” Michelle added.

When they were home, right after they turned in, Aaron asked Sherrie, “Did you notice that Bridgette wasn’t wearing that necklace she’s so fond of?”

“I did, as a matter of fact. I asked her if the clasp had broken or something when we went to the powder room. She almost started crying, I could tell, but she said she just decided not to wear it tonight.”

“You think… You think they had to sell it?” Aaron asked.

“It’s what I was thinking. With gold as high as it is, good jewelry is worth a lot more than it was, just for the gold. And those are real diamonds in that necklace, of course. I’m sure it would be worth several thousand dollars,” Sherrie said.

“A few days ago David said he was going to sell the Mercedes. It just sort of slipped out when we were discussing the unbelievable price of new cars now.”

“They must really be in a tight for them to give up two of their most prized possessions,” Sherrie said. Both fell asleep worrying about their friends.

It was an evening two weeks later that Brian called Aaron and asked if he and Michelle could come over and talk to him and Sherrie. Aaron said, yes, of course and set the time at seven the next evening.

“I want to thank you for letting us come talk to you,” Brian told Aaron and Sherrie as they shrugged out of their coats.

“We’re friends,” Sherrie said. “Of course you can come talk to us. About anything.”

After Sherrie brought out a coffee and tea set to the living room they all took seats, with cups of coffee or tea. “Now, Brian,” Aaron said, “What is it you two wanted to talk about?”

“The future,” Brian said slowly. “If there is going to be one.”

Sherrie saw the look on Michelle’s face and quickly went to sit beside her on the sofa, taking one of her hands in her own.

“Of course there’s going to be a future!” Aaron replied.

“But you and Sherrie could be right. Things are starting to point to a war with China. What if it goes nuclear? What would we do? How can anyone survive a nuclear war?”

“People already have,” Aaron replied quietly. There were survivors at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I don’t want to diminish the deaths, for there were hundreds of thousands, and would be millions if there was to be a full out global nuclear conflict. But those outside the actual destroyed areas will survive the attack. Whether they survive for long after that is up to them. And in some part, luck and the will of God.”

“But won’t the water and even the air be poisoned?” Michelle asked, one hand on her belly and the other one in Sherrie’s hands. “How can people survive that?”

“The air and water won’t be poisoned,” Sherrie said. “There will be contaminated air and water, where fallout occurs, but the fallout can be filtered out. There are no insurmountable problems to survive after a nuclear attack, as long as you aren’t at ground zero or very close. Here, where we live, we’re at low risk of being a target, but will almost certainly get fallout if there is a large scale attack.”

If anything, Michelle looked more scared than she had.

“Fallout… Radiation… But what about my baby?”

“If you’re protected, your baby is protected,” Aaron said. “If it was to happen while you’re pregnant, you would want the best shelter available. The same for the baby, if it happens after birth. But shelter is available. Your house has a basement. It wouldn’t take much to turn it into adequate shelter space.”

“Wouldn’t that be expensive?” Brian asked. “Doesn’t it take several feet of concrete and lead to get away from the radiation?”

Aaron and Sherrie were both shaking their heads. “No,” Aaron said. Three feet of concrete or five feet of earth provides more than adequate protection if you aren’t very close to ground zero. You’re basement already has five feet of earth around it.”

“But the ceiling? There’s no way to get three feet of concrete on top of it, much less five feet of earth.”

“Well, several layers of concrete blocks can provide significant levels of fallout radiation protection. And there is always the option to build a more complete shelter off to one side of the basement, with that three feet of concrete or five feet of earth over it.”

“Aaron is right,” Sherrie said, patting Michelle’s hand. “There are ways. Why don’t I print off some literature that you can take home and study? Get a feel for what is possible and eliminate some of the misconceptions I think you might have about nuclear war.”

“There are books about this?” Brian asked.

“From the government as well as the private sector,” Aaron replied. “Come on. Let me show you some things I have stored on the computer and get you some URL’s for some useful sites that explain things probably better than I can.”

Michelle excused herself to go to the bathroom and Sherrie went over to the computer with Aaron and Brian.

Sherrie pulled a chair from the kitchen for Michelle to use while looking at the computer monitor as Aaron showed Brian the things he’d been talking about.

It was two hours, and fifty or so pages of printouts later that Brian and Michelle said their good-byes and thanks to Aaron and Sherrie as they went out to their car.

“What do you think?” Sherrie asked Aaron after they gave a last wave and closed the front door.

“I think they will follow through. I hope they have the time and money to get ready. I wish there was something we could do about Bridgette and David, too. But I don’t have a clue what.”

“Should we rethink our decision to keep our preps from them?” Michelle asked.

Aaron only had to think about it for a few moments. They’d made the decision very early when they started prepping not to disclose the fact to anyone. Not even their closest friends. “No. It won’t help and could make for serious problems later. Though…”

“Though, what?” Sherrie asked, gathering up the cups and what not as Aaron carried the coffee and tea service tray into the kitchen for her.

“Though we might want to talk about letting Brian and Michelle into the shelter if they can’t get something built in time.”

“But not Bridgette and David?”

“You know how Bridgette feels about the situation. She made it pretty clear that night a few months ago. She’d rather be dead than live after a nuclear war. David said almost the same thing, if you remember.”

“True. It might even insult them if we suggested it,” Sherrie said.

“What do you think, Michelle?” Brian asked the next afternoon. They’d been back from church for a while, and after Michelle’s nap, she’d been looking at the printed material Sherrie and Aaron had given them. Brian had spent Michelle’s nap time and then reading time on the computer perusing several of the sites URL’s that Aaron had given him.

“I think we should do something. But just what? The thought of our baby being born deformed or worse scares me near unto death. That’s my biggest fear.”

Brian nodded. “We have to have good shelter. I just don’t know how we’ll get it. I was looking at some of the turn-key shelters available. They are simply out of our price range.”

“What about turning the basement into a shelter? Aaron seemed to think that was a viable option. And that one outside aboveground shelter he pointed out. We could use it for storing things in. We need some more storage space. We wouldn’t gain any if we converted the basement.”

“That’s true. I think I’ll have Aaron go over the plans for that outside shelter and see if he can enlarge it without compromising the protection it provides. And have him look at the basement. Go over some of those small shelters that can be built in basements.”

“Oh, honey! I don’t know about those! I’m so claustrophobic, I don’t know if I could stand to be in a little place like that. Especially with a baby.”

“I didn’t think about your claustrophobia, Michelle. It would have to be one of the bigger basement shelters, then. I’ll talk to Aaron about them instead of the small one.”

“What about food and water?” Michelle asked. “We would obviously need more than that meager attempt of mine. And we didn’t even keep it very long. We used everything but the liquor at our first get together after the cruise when we were short because of the insurance increase.”

“That’s right. I hadn’t thought about that. There are so many things! We’ll need to talk to Sherrie and Aaron some more. Sherrie said she had a program to keep track of food so it can be rotated.”

“How are we going to pay for things? We’re making it okay, but it’s taking every penny,” Michelle said. “The baby costs on top of that in a few months…”

“I don’t know. I just don’t know,” Brian said, taking Michelle into his arms to hold and comfort her for a while as he wracked his brain for a way to pay for everything.

The baby shower was at Bridgette’s, at her insistence, though Sherrie was hosting it. Some of Michelle’s fears of needing to get things for the baby faded as she opened present after present. The shower the women she worked with gave her provided many of the basics she would need for a newborn.

This shower, with her many friends, was providing many additional items, as well as more quantities of what she already had received. She was wiping away tears during most of the party.

Sherrie and the others loaded the things into the back of the Subaru and helped Michelle get into the front passenger seat to take her home after the party. At Sherrie’s insistence, Michelle went to lie down while she unloaded the car. She stayed, puttering around the kitchen, getting an evening meal ready for Michelle and Brian, for when she awoke and Brian got back from Aaron’s and Sherrie’s house, where the father-to-be’s diaper shower was taking place.

Michelle protested slightly when she got up a while later and found Sherrie reading a magazine in the kitchen as she watched the soup on the stove. “You didn’t have to do this!” Michelle said.

“I know I didn’t,” Sherrie replied, taking the lid off the soup pot to stir the contents. “I wanted to. I didn’t want to leave before we had a chance to talk privately.”

Michelle looked a bit concerned.

“Oh, it’s nothing bad,” Sherrie hurried to assure her friend. “I just had a couple of extra shower gifts to give you that I didn’t think you’d want the others to know about.”

“You gave me such lovely things at the party!”

“Those were lovely,” Sherrie said. “These are a little mundane and practical for a new mom that is thinking about an unsure future.”

“Oh,” Michelle said, taking a seat at the kitchen table.

Sherrie went into the living room and carried in three shopping bags.

“Oh, Sherrie! You shouldn’t have! That’s entirely too much!” Michelle protested.

“You may have a point,” Sherrie said, grinning. “These gifts are going to be a lot of work for you. And Brian, of course.”

“What do you mean?” Michelle asked.

“Well, take this, for instance,” Sherrie said, taking an item out of the first bag. The items weren’t wrapped. “Here we have a manual baby food grinder so you can make your own baby food, come what may. Actually,” Sherrie added, “there are three of them. Just in case one breaks.”

“Home-made baby food cookbook.

“And here is a manual breast pump and storage containers for breast milk for those times you will want to use them.

“Four dozen pacifiers, of several different designs, again in case of loss or wearing out or baby’s preference.

“A book on diaperless parenting.

“Reusable flannel baby wipes.

“Plenty of good reusable diapers in several sizes.

“Diaper fasteners.”

Sherrie went back into the living room and came back carrying another, much larger bag. “An odorless cloth diaper diaper pail with half a dozen cotton liner bags.”

“Oh, Sherrie! You guys shouldn’t have!”

“Oh, if you want to use disposables, it won’t hurt our feelings. These things are just for… well… have-to use. I picked them up for your preps. And I’m afraid it isn’t all. I think I’d better tell you before Aaron gets here with Brian.”

“Not more, surely!”

“Well… You know the manual baby food grinder is also for what if. Aaron is bringing a six-month supply of Beech-Nut commercial baby foods and sundries.”

“Oh, Sherrie!” It was almost a wail, and Michelle began to cry. Sherrie moved around the table and put her arm around Michelle’s shoulders. “Don’t cry, baby. This is something Aaron and I wanted to do. Help get you started with preps. We thought the baby should come first in planning.”

Aaron and Brian showed up then, and Brian was given the short tour of Aaron’s and Sherrie’s additional contributions. “Come on, Brian,” Aaron said. “Help me unload that stuff.”

“I don’t know what to say,” Brian said as they went out to the Suburban to get the other cases that had been in the Suburban when Aaron picked up Brian. “What I should say is we can’t accept it… But to be honest, we’re running on a tight budget and these things will really help us out.”

“We thought as much,” Aaron replied, taking a double stack of the case lots of baby food. “And thought it would be an introduction to prepping. You shouldn’t have to worry about taking care of the baby while you’re worrying about other things.”

“I don’t know how to repay you for all this. We just don’t have the money right now,” Brian said.

“This is our gift to you and Michelle, Brian,” Aaron said. “I got a nice bonus at Christmas and Sherrie is doing well with her business.”

“But what about you and Sherrie. You two have been the ones prompting us to make some preparations, in case of natural disasters and the possibility of war with China. I wouldn’t want to think that you doing for us would keep you from doing for yourselves.”

Brian noticed the small smile on Aaron’s face when he replied. “Don’t you worry about that. We’ve taken steps ourselves.”

Since Aaron didn’t offer up what steps he was talking about, Brian didn’t ask about them. What he did ask was, “What about Bridgette and David. Should we try to get them to come to grips about what could happen?”

“You remember that evening last fall…”

“That’s kind of why I brought it up,” Brian said.

“People with that attitude, friends or not, are not going to be receptive to suggestions to prepare, until they see the handwriting on the wall. I just hope it isn’t too late when they change their minds about preferring to die rather than live after a nuclear war or some other equal disaster.”

“I guess you’re right, Aaron. Michelle and I had taken a little, totally ineffective step. But it wasn’t until the baby that we started getting serious.”

“Well, I’ve worked on those plans like you asked and we can go over them if you want,” Aaron said, putting down the last of the cases of baby food and diapers from the Suburban.

“Okay. I’ll take this stuff down to the basement later.”

“I’ll be right back. The plans are in the truck.”

When he returned, Aaron rolled the plans out on the kitchen table. Michelle and Sherrie shifted things to make room.

“Now, this is a copy of the as-built drawing of your basement. I’ve drawn in what would be needed to make a shelter. It’s fairly large in square feet as you requested, but to get the overhead radiation protection you wanted, their isn’t much headroom. Fortunately your basement is full height and I was able to work in thirty inches of concrete for the shelter ceiling, but at your height, Brian, you’ll have to stoop. You won’t be able to stand up straight.

“Now, this area would be the storage area for the shelter. You’d have to leave the shelter proper to restock items as you use them, and take out the trash as it accumulates.”

Brian hadn’t said anything. He looked over at Michelle. “What would we do with all the other things we have in the basement?”

“That could be a problem,” Brian said. He looked at Aaron. “There are other options?”

Aaron nodded and unrolled another plan. “Now, this is plan where we build the full size shelter, any size you want, adjacent to the basement. It would be all new space, with a few steps down, to allow for a full five feet of earth cover. If you pour a thick concrete patio over it, it could be a bit shallower. Projected price…”


Aaron showed Brian the figure and Brian whistled. “What else do you have?”

“There is this one,” Aaron replied, unrolling another set of plans. “This is the above ground shelter I was talking about. There are two versions. One with two block or concrete walls with earth fill between and an earth covered roof, which gives you a high protection factor. The other version uses solid concrete or concrete filled block wall about a foot thick. It doesn’t give quite the PF as the one, but for the same interior size, the foot print is much smaller.”

“Now this is bigger than the drawing you showed me in the Civil Defense pamphlet, isn’t it?” Brian asked.

“It is. Have to be very careful with the ceiling weight. It’s not a big deal to lengthen it, keeping the same width. To lengthen and widen it, I had to add several columns and a ceiling beam to support the weight of the ceiling.”

“What do you think, Michelle?” Brian asked. “Will that be large enough not to trigger your claustrophobia?”

“I think so. Could the ceiling be higher?” Michelle asked.

“Yeah,” Aaron said. That’s easy. Just a bit additional cost.”

“How much for this one?” Brian asked Aaron.

Again Brian whistled and exchanged a look with his wife. “I don’t know, Aaron. That’s quite a bit. I don’t know if we could get a building loan for that much. I’m not even sure the bank would loan us the money for a fallout shelter.”

“I can’t help you there, Brian. Except, there aren’t any charges for my drafting work.”

“You can’t keep doing that!” Michelle said.

“I did it in my spare time,” Aaron said, softly. “It’s something I wanted to do.”

“There is a way to cut costs,” Sherrie said. “You said the walls could be block or solid concrete?” she asked Aaron.

“Yes. The blocks would be filled with concrete grout.”

“What if we helped them build it? Not hire a contractor. Just build it ourselves.” She looked straight at Aaron and added, “Maybe we could enlarge it slightly more and reserve a space in it for our sweat equity if something happened.”

“Of course you would be welcome!” Michelle said. “With what you’ve done, you’d have a place even if you didn’t help build it.”

Aaron looked at Sherrie and asked a question with a lift of one eyebrow. With her slight nod, Aaron said, “Tell you what. If you’ll make some extra space for us, we’ll help stock the shelter. At least our portion of the needed supplies.”

Michelle looked over at Brian. “What do you think, Brian? Can we afford it if we do it ourselves? Maybe we could get help from some of our other friends.”

“On that, Michelle…” Aaron said, but stopped.

Sherrie spoke up when Aaron didn’t. “It might not be a good idea to let many people know what you’re doing. You can say it’s going to be a storage room, or garden shed, even a pool house for when you get a pool, when people ask you what you’re doing. But those working on it are going to know it’s a fallout shelter. They might very well show up on your doorstep wanting in, if the worst happens.”

“Oh. I didn’t think about that,” Michelle said. She looked over at Brian.

“Me, either. I guess it wouldn’t be a good ideal to tell everyone what we’re doing. You’ve mentioned keeping a low profile before, Aaron. So has Sherrie. About not telling anyone about you two helping us with even the advice.”

“We don’t want people coming to our doorstep either,” Sherrie said. “Think how hard it would be to turn us away if we came to you if the missiles were flying and we said we wanted to share your shelter when you hadn’t made any prior arrangements, like we’re doing. We’d have a hard time not taking you in if we had the ability.”

Aaron took note that Sherrie wasn’t admitting to having their shelter. At least, not yet. “That’s true. It’s something everyone that prepares has to think about. They and their family’s survival with the preparations they’ve made, or sharing what they have and no one surviving or suffering horribly even if they did survive.”

“I think I need to think about this some,” Michelle said. “I’m beginning to wonder if Bridgette might not be right. Not helping our friends when we could… I don’t know if I could live with that.”

“Think about it real hard, Michelle,” Sherrie said. “That helping when you can. Everyone has the chance now to get ready. Those that don’t… Well, I would help if I could… But not if it was going to cost the life of Aaron. Or my children, if I have any before something happens.”

Michelle nodded.

Aaron and Sherrie knew it was time to leave and hurriedly made their good-byes. Brian saw them out as Michelle set the table to have the soup for her and Brian’s supper.

“What do you think, Sherrie? Fifty fifty?”

“No. Michelle is strong. Seventy positive, thirty negative.”

“I noticed you brought in the birthing kit when we came in.”

“I changed my mind about giving that to her. At least right now. All the other things were pretty positive. Thinking she might have to deliver the baby herself would have taken all the positives away, I thought.”

“I think you’re probably right. She was on board all the way, right up to the point of needing to exclude some of our friends and acquaintances from shelter. I also noted you didn’t give any indication that we have a shelter…”

“No. I want them to build their own. If they know they have a spot in ours, the urge won’t be there. And I would want to take them in, especially now, with the baby.”

Aaron nodded. “I know. I do as well. The big decision is Bridgette and David.”

“Like Michelle, I need to think on it some more. Though we could handle both couples, before… If Brian and Michelle build one, that gives us some more options.”

“Yeah. Let’s think on it some more.”

“We’ll be all right, Bridgette,” David said, holding her in his arms as she sat on the bed and cried. “Another dividend check is due and perhaps we can get some of your jewelry back.”

It didn’t seem to make a difference. Bridgette just cried and cried and cried, till well after dark. “Come on, Honey. Let’s go to bed. Things will look better in the morning.”

David sighed when Bridgette just slipped out of her clothing and under the bed coverings. He went about his evening routine, ignoring the rumble of hunger in his stomach. There was no food in the house and he wasn’t going to leave Bridgette in the state she was in to go get something with the few dollars he had left in his wallet.

It was with relief the next morning, a Saturday, when the mail came and the dividend check was there, actually two days earlier than expected. It was disappointingly small, due to the economy the last quarter, but adequate for their immediate needs.

“Maybe, when the other one comes in… I can get Bridgette’s jewelry back… If the economy would just pick up some,” David whispered. He forced a smile onto his face and went in to tell Bridgette the check was in.

“Let’s go out for breakfast,” he suggested as Bridgette got up and went to the bathroom after he told her the good news. The suggestion was to give her something to look forward to as much as it was because there wasn’t anything in the house for breakfast, anyway.

On the way home David stopped at Wal-Mart, to pick up a lawn mower and some hedge trimming shears. He was going to start doing the yard work himself. They just couldn’t afford the service any more.

When he discovered the fact that the Wal-Mart included a full fledged grocery store, he and Bridgette did their food shopping while they were there. There were only three bags of groceries, and the price seemed high. When David mentioned it, Bridgette said, “Honey, it isn’t. If I’d bought the same type of things we got today at my regular stores, the cost would have been at least twenty percent higher.”

“Oh,” David replied, a little taken aback. He had no idea groceries had become so expensive.

The monthly get together was rather subdued. Michelle had been in to see the doctor for early contractions. They faded, but she and Brian were worried a little about the birth. Bridgette simply wasn’t herself. And David was unusually quiet, as well. Only Aaron and Sherrie were in good spirits, which quickly faded when they felt the moods of the other four.

After a light dinner, very light, for one of Bridgette’s efforts, and a few minutes of conversation in the living room, Brian made his apologies and took a pale Michelle home. Aaron and Sherrie left shortly after that, sensing that David, and even Bridgette, didn’t have their hearts in the evening.

“What say we stop for ice cream?” Aaron asked Sherrie.

She brightened up and agreed.

“Kind of a downer at the Kingsley’s, huh?” Aaron asked as the two shared a banana split, sitting in the Subaru.

“I think Michelle and Brian are probably okay. They’re just a little scared. I think it’s only natural with a first pregnancy. But Bridgette and David… There are real problems with them. That was actually David out there mowing the grass when we arrived, though he hurried and changed. But I could smell the fresh grass smell on him when he came downstairs.”

“I thought the same thing. Things must be really bad if he dropped their service.”

“Bridgette only had on a couple of pieces of jewelry. Definitely not the quality stuff,” Sherrie added.

“I wish we could do something for them,” Aaron said. “But what?”

“I know, Honey. But their lifestyle is so different from ours. What could we do?”

Aaron shook his head. “I almost feel guilty that we’re doing so well.”

“I know what you mean,” Sherrie replied. “But we can’t feel that way. We’ve worked just as hard to get where we are as David and Bridgette have to get to where they are. The fact that we made the decisions we made and wound up in decent shape for the times, and the Kingsley’s didn’t… Well, it’s their problem, I guess, not ours.”

The next weekend Aaron and Sherrie showed up at Brian and Michelle’s for an early breakfast and a day of work on the planned shelter. “What we want to do, I believe,” Aaron said when the four of them stepped out the back door, “is to get the inner ring wall up, with the bracing for the ceiling in place, and pour the ceiling. Add the perimeter wall for the roof fill and get it filled and compacted. That will give quite a bit of protection as soon as possible.

Then we raise the outer ring wall and compact the fill in layers until we reach the level of the perimeter wall. Each lift will give just that much more protection as we go along. That way there will be some protection long before the project is finished. What do you think?”

“You’re the architect and shelter expert,” Brian said. “I say, what you say, goes. Honey?”

“Ditto,” Michelle said, her hands cupped under her baby swollen belly. “I wish I could help.”

“Michelle, just keeping us supplied with cool drinks will be more than enough work for you,” Sherrie said. “Now. Where do we start?”

“We stake out the ground so the dirt guy will know where to put the fill for the floor pad,” Aaron said, walking out onto the lawn.

They were finished in plenty of time before the first load of fill dirt arrived. Aaron had rented a couple of jumper style flat plate tampers and he and Brian ran them while Sherrie used a garden hose to moisten the soil so it would compact well. The delivery timing was such that by the time one lift was tamped, the next load was being delivered.

After the last load, gravel this time, creating a two foot high platform, Brian and Aaron used the tampers until dark. Aaron dropped the tampers off at the rental place when he and Sherrie went home that evening.

The next morning they were back, ready to help Brian dig the foundation footings for the shelter. It took all day Sunday to get the trenches ready, a layer of plastic down, and the rebar placed for the monolithic pour of footings and floor at once.

Brian and Aaron had both taken Monday off from their work and were out at the site early to meet the concrete truck, pouring crew, and finishing crew. There wasn’t much for the pair to do, except watch, but both had wanted to be there.

The concrete was poured, finished, and covered by dark. That was all that could be done until the concrete cured.

Michelle’s baby was born while the concrete was curing. A healthy boy, weighing eight pounds, three ounces. Brian made the first payment on the ‘pool house’ loan.

They waited a full two weeks before having the first load of concrete building blocks delivered, along with mortar supplies and tools. Sherrie made mortar in the mixer while Brian and Aaron mortared the blocks in place. A horizontal row of rebar was placed every other row of blocks, and a vertical bar placed every block. The blocks they were using were open ended, therefore easy to set around the vertical rebar.

It took three weekends of mortaring blocks to reach the height they wanted for the ceiling, including the permanent posts inside the shelter. The next weekend temporary support posts and form plywood was placed, and the twelve inch thick ceiling poured and finished by the concrete professionals.

Another weekend had the inner perimeter wall emplaced and a start was made on the outer block wall.

The next weekend the ceiling was covered with three feet of tamped earth fill, and the first lift of fill put between the inner and outer walls of the shelter. The shelter was finished a month later. And there was even a pool. A medium sized aboveground pool with a deck around it that had stairs to the roof of the shelter and down to the entrance of the shelter.

Aaron and Sherrie gave the couple and new baby three month’s worth of long term storage foods, and ‘The Package’ from www.ki4u.com as shelter warming presents. The shelter was otherwise very minimally equipped, but had everything necessary for an austere stay. Brian and Michelle would add things occasionally, as money permitted.

“Oh, Sherrie!” Michelle said. It was almost a wail. “You guys do too much!”

“We’ll bring over some of our supplies to store here, just in case we have to use your shelter and not ours,” Sherrie said as Michelle and Brian were unpacking ‘The Package’ containing the radiation meters and such.

“Ours?” Brian asked. He shook his head. “I mean, yours? You have a shelter?”

Aaron nodded. “We do. And you guys have a spot if, for some reason, you can’t use yours, just as you said we could use yours. In our minds, you’ve always had a place. We just weren’t ready to tell anyone we were preppers, until you became preppers, too.”

Sherrie added, “And don’t worry about getting supplies for it right away. We have everything you need, until you can pick up things yourselves.”

“I hope you understand why we wanted you to have your own shelter…” Aaron said, seeing a funny look on Brian’s face.

Suddenly Brian smiled and nodded. “Thanks, man! We wouldn’t have done it without your help. And the thought of being totally dependant on someone else… That would have been hard.” He held out his hand and Aaron shook it.

“Bridgette and David…” Michelle said softly. “Shouldn’t we try to get them to do the same thing? Life wouldn’t be the same, afterwards, without them.”

The four exchanged glances but nothing was said for some time. Finally Aaron said, “I’ll talk to David. Feel him out again. I don’t think it would be any use to approach Bridgette.”

“You’re right about that,” Michelle said. “I still remember how adamant she was about not living after a nuclear war.” She looked over at Brian. “I’m glad we learned what we have,” she said, looking at Sherrie and Aaron again. “Thanks to you guys. I always had just put it out of my mind when something scary came up.”

“Knowledge is power,” Aaron said. “It empowers a person.”

“Oh, no,” Sherrie said with a laugh. “He’s getting philosophical!”

The others laughed too, and turned to putting away the supplies and equipment.

It was one of their now infrequent golfing days that Aaron asked David, “What do you think of all this war talk, David?”

“I don’t know, guys. I just don’t see how it can happen. Global wars can’t be fought today. Not enough money out there.” A frown crossed his face. “I should know.”

Brian cut a glance over at Aaron, but it was his turn at the tee and silence fell as he stepped up.

The response decided Aaron to leave the subject alone for the moment. He brought it up again at the club house, over their usual post game drink. “I was thinking I might want to get an extra set of tires for the Suburban. I remember learning in history class of the shortages during World War Two. What do you think, David, Brian?”

“Might not be a bad idea,” Brian quickly said.

Surprisingly, to Brian and Aaron, David agreed. “With the economy the way it is, and inflation on the rise, other than keeping an emergency reserve, I’d spend everything as you make it, or put it in income producing property. I’m switching my investments around because of it. Doesn’t have anything to do with war. Not only can’t one be fought, for lack of money, if there was to be nuclear war, we’d all die anyway. If not during the attack, shortly afterwards. Poison air and water, you know.”

“I have some information that states otherwise,” Aaron said. “That you just need to treat the…”

“Hogwash! It’s not going to happen! Let’s discuss something else.”

After Aaron dropped David off at his home, Brian said, “He’s burying his head in the sand. Like I used to do.”

“Can’t make him change his mind,” Aaron said with a sigh. “You noticed he asked me to pick him up, and didn’t buy a round of drinks, much lest the first one like he used to do?”

“I didn’t know he asked you to pick him up. I did notice him not offering up to get the drinks. Especially since he won the game and collected twenty bucks.”

“I think they must really be hurting, financially. You know how adamant he’s always been about his investments. If he’s changing them, something is up. It could just be the economy, but I don’t think so.” Aaron stopped the car in front of Brian’s house.

Before he got out, Brian said, “Do you think there is anything we can do to help him? I don’t have the money to do much, but surely we can come up with something…”

“I don’t know, Brian. He and Bridgette are so set in their ways. His change in personal economic policy really threw me. I’ll think on it. One thing I plan to do is start taking our surpluses from the garden and greenhouse to them.”

“If it will help,” Brian said, “Give him the share you’ve been bringing over here.”

“There’s enough to go around at the moment. I’m not even sure they will take the stuff. But Sherrie and I are going to try.”

“Oh, thank you!” Bridgette said when Sherrie dropped off two grocery bags of fresh vegetables at the house a few days later. “Are you sure you can spare this much?”

“Of course,” Sherrie said, taking the cup of coffee Bridgette offered her. “The garden and greenhouse are really producing this year.”

“Look, David,” Bridgette said when he stepped into the kitchen to see who Bridgette was talking to. “Sherrie brought over some of their surplus.”

“That’s thoughtful of you,” David said. “Thank you.” He turned away quickly, adding, “I need to get to work.”

“Work? On a Sunday?” Sherrie asked.

“David has started up an accounting service,” Bridgette said. “He works so hard now…”

“I see,” Sherrie replied.


“I’m thinking about taking a job, too,” Bridgette added, not looking at Sherrie. “Just something to keep me busy. You know how it is.”

“I do,” Sherrie replied, understanding instantly that things must be dire for Bridgette to be considering actual work, though she had always been an active charity worker. “What type of job?”

“Haven’t decided yet. Might just start a home business, like you and David. So, I haven’t seen Michelle and the baby for a few days. How are they doing?”

Sherrie could tell that Bridgette wanted to change the subject, and she went along, talking about Michelle and how the baby was doing as they finished the single cup of coffee each had. It was all that Bridgette had made.

Sherrie told Aaron what she’d heard at the Kingsley’s. “You should have seen Bridgette’s eyes light up at the food I took over.”

“I’m sure they are having a financial crisis. But there is only so much we can do.” Aaron shook his head. “We’re doing all we can. David was adamant about their either not being a war, or if there is, it is hopeless.”

“So you said. Maybe things will turn around for the better,” Sherrie said, ending the conversation.

It would have ended anyway. The NOAA National Weather Service All Hazards Alert radio sounded an alarm. A warning came over the speaker. “Take shelter. The United States is under suspected nuclear attack by…” The radio was on, but only static came out of it. A second later the lights went out.

Click here to read Chapter 2