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Original Work Stateless Society

Discussion in 'Survival Reading Room' started by C.T.Horner, May 7, 2016.

  1. C.T.Horner

    C.T.Horner Monkey

    Stateless Society - Prologue

    Fought mainly in Europe and the Middle East, World War III lasted four years and sapped whatever wealth was left from an already indebted United States. Natural resources were decimated by fiat government spending, so the dollar ultimately collapsed. Major corporations fell by the wayside and global trade and transportation came to a screeching halt.

    Conscription stole the youth and strength of the country to waste them on the battlefield and, by the time it was all over, the citizens were fed up with the federal government and forced their states to secede from the Union.

    The last official act of the military was an endeavor to return the few surviving soldiers to their homes or, at the very least, as close as they could get them. The states resisted the effort, closed their borders and demanded proof that the returning men were residents.

    The citizen-states - which had no currency or resources to steal from - collapsed shortly afterwards, but a few states managed to hold on for a while longer by selling-off federally held lands in exchange for precious metals and other goods. Eventually, even state employees realized the attempt was “too little, too late” and stopped showing up for work.

    Stateless Society - Chapter 1

    Eighteen-year-old Evan Newton held his discharge papers firmly in his left hand while he slung his rucksack over his right shoulder and stepped out the door of the troop transport plane. He stood six feet tall, was one hundred and eighty pounds of lean muscle and his square jaw gave him the look of a fighter, but in reality, Evan was as gentle as a kitten.

    The summer sun bounced off the tarmac and reflected off the windows of the small airport terminal building, so while he let his eyes adjust to the harsh glare, Evan sighed and thought, I wish I still had my sunglasses. But it’s my own fault, I hadn’t eaten a thing since I started the long journey home three days ago and I was starving by the time I traded them for a half a loaf of stale bread yesterday.

    He kept in line with his fellow travelers as they worked their way to the demarcation checkpoint where the clerk carefully looked over Evan’s identification documents, verified that he was a legally sponsored resident of the state and stamped his papers officiously.

    As soon as he was outside the terminal, Evan breathed a sigh of relief while he watched the Pedicab drivers frantically vie for passengers and thought about the radio telegram he’d received just before he got on the plane heading home. It was from his brother, James, and read, “OUTSIDE GATE.” The two-word, frugality of the message told him volumes about the conditions his family must be dealing with in a ravaged and depleted state and gave him a reason to not scan the faces of the people on the sidewalk outside the terminal building.

    While Evan, moved through the crowd, he studied the large, congested group of anxious travelers looking for their sponsors or relatives and mused, Now, I get why James didn’t want to bring our truck inside the airport. It’s one of the few motorized vehicles left that doesn’t need fossil fuel, but because supply is so scarce, it’s unaffordable for most folks and the amount of biofuel it’d take to push through this sea of humanity would be cost prohibitive for our family.

    When he reached the end of the road he spotted his younger brother standing in front of the truck holding a handmade sign which read, “PLACERTON - 10 OZ SILVER OR 1 OZ GOLD”.

    He observed his fifteen-year-old cousin, Ted, standing up in the bed of the truck next to the wood-gasification burner readjusting the firewood in the box on the roof of the truck and Evan reflected, Without Ted, our family never would’ve survived. After his mom ran off, Ted and Uncle Tim came to stay with us, but both of our dads were drafted and killed while they tried to take back Brussels. Ted was only twelve-years-old then and, when fuel was no longer available, we struggled to survive, but he took it upon himself to save us.

    As he got closer, he noticed other barrels in the bed of the truck and two people sitting behind the burner. He gestured toward the passengers with a nod of his head, smiled at his brother as they shook hands and chuckled, “Just like you to turn a buck at every opportunity! It’s a good thing you were only thirteen when they started the draft ’cause it would have been a shame to waste your talents on the frontlines.”

    “Good to see you too, bro, but it was mom’s idea,” James replied, took his brother’s pack and tossed it on the hood of the truck. Then he held his sign high as a new wave of pedestrians started to flood out of the airport and advised his brother, “Let’s give it a little bit longer, we still have room for two more.”

    When they had two more passengers loaded-up, the brothers climbed in the cab, Evan counted the silver and gold coins, James slipped a CD into the player to set a relaxing mood and, when Ted rapped twice on the roof of the cab, James put the truck into gear and they started out on the three-hour drive to Placerton.


    Along the route, James kept the truck in the middle of the road while pushcarts, bicyclists, and pedestrians stayed off to the side of the highway and explained to Evan, “This baby’s capable of highway speeds, but thirty miles an hour is the best we can hope for because of traffic congestion and road surface conditions.”

    Occasionally, they met another vehicle headed in the opposite direction, so James pulled into a gap to allow the other to pass by. While they waited, Evan asked, “Are most of the cars and trucks that run on fossil fuel driven by wealthy owners?”

    James answered, “Yeah, but there are a few other wood-gas trucks like ours and their numbers are increasing.”

    Occasionally, a shantytown broke the monotony of the seemingly unending stream of roadside stands. The local residents took advantage of the fact that the going was slow and travelers stopped often. The downside for the Newton’s was that scavenging for fuel along the way was no longer an option, so fuel had to be purchased and, halfway home, they stopped at a roadside stand to take a break as well as work out a trade for some wood so they could finish the trip.

    While James haggled with the wood vendor, Ted drained the condensation from the gas tank, refilled the hopper of the burner and checked his pressure gauges. He was proud of his design and felt that he was the most qualified to operate it, Even though James does the driving, I have the more important job of maintaining the pressure and gas-to-air mixture from the bed of the truck.

    Meanwhile Evan walked over to a stand which offered beer and jerky, but when he saw the prices, he did a quick about-face.

    Ted saw the look on Evan’s face and nudged his cousin toward him, “Go cheer Evan up, I’ll finish loading up here, James.”

    James turned Evan back toward the beer stand, put his arm around his big brother’s shoulder and said, “Hey! Let me buy you a beer to celebrate your homecoming.”

    “No thanks, little bro. The price is ridiculous and we can’t afford it,” Evan declined.

    James pulled Evan right up to the stand and insisted, “No worries! I got this!” He carefully set four ounces of silver onto the counter and ordered, “Two pints of the good stuff, Barkeep.”

    “Hey, Mr. High Roller, what do you think mom would think of your reckless spending?” Evan challenged weakly before he took a long pull on his ice cold beer.

    “Mom will never find out because you’re not a snitch and neither is Ted. Besides, who’s to say we had three passengers or four?” James insisted and gulped down his beer.

    When the brothers finished their beers, James called for his passengers, “We’re pulling out now, so get in the truck or stay here!”


    Once they reached the small village square in the center of the sleepy, rural community of Placerton, James stopped the truck in front of the abandoned courthouse to let his passengers out. One of the men offered, “I’ll give you a half an ounce of silver if you’ll drop me off at my front gate.”

    “Sorry, mister, but it’s in the opposite direction of where we’re headed and we’re almost out of wood,” James reluctantly declined.

    The man hopped out of the truck, hefted his backpack onto his shoulders and started off with a sigh, “That’s okay, son. I’m in no real hurry to get to what’s left of my home and the walk will probably do me good.”


    The trio pulled into their own dooryard on fumes. Evan and James left Ted to shut down the burner, empty the hopper and drain the condensation off, while they headed to the house.

    Annabelle Newton met them on the back porch and greeted Evan warmly with an overly generous hug followed by several kisses. Then a stern look shrouded her face as she stepped back, looked from face to face and accused, “You two have been drinking!”

    Evan couldn’t lie to his mother, so he kept silent and directed a sheepish gaze toward James who lowered his head in embarrassment.

    Annabelle abruptly slapped Evan across his broad shoulder and scolded, “The answer isn’t written on your shoes boy. You know we can’t afford to waste money on frivolities!”

    “But, why’d you hit me mom?” Evan demanded.

    “Because you’re the oldest and you can take your brother in a fair fight if he disobeyed you, so the way I see it, it was all your fault.” Annabelle explained as she held out her hand for what was left of the gold and silver she knew they’d have.

    As soon as the boys handed over the coins, Annabelle chided, “Now, get on inside and wash up for supper.”

    The extended, family of four sat at the kitchen table while Evan said “Grace”. Almost in the same breath, he glanced at the bowl which sat in the middle of the otherwise empty table and asked, “James, will you please pass me the potatoes?” Evan took a small scoop from the bowl and made sure that he took less than one fourth of its meager contents before he passed the bowl back with the thought, Mom’s only gonna eat what’s left after we take what we want first and, every time, without exception Ted, James and I make sure that the bowl contains more than one forth when she gets it.

    While Evan stared at his plate, a sudden rush of guilt overcame him, I shouldn’t have let James waste money and buy me that beer! Things are worse than I imagined! Food was scarce before I got drafted a year ago, but it was never this bad! Feeling too ashamed of himself to eat, he pushed his plate away and walked out the back door.

    He came back into the kitchen an hour later and saw that the table had been cleared and everyone else’s dishes sat in the dish drainer, but his plate still sat on the table. Evan sat down, picked up the fork, divided the lump of cold, mashed potatoes into two lumps, ate them in two big bites and sighed, Just like when I was a kid. I’d better clean my plate before mom comes in here to tell me, “That plate’s gonna sit there until you eat it ALL, son!” Evan took his plate and fork to the kitchen sink, used the dishwater left in the sink to wash them, rinsed them off, put them in the dish drainer and went to his room.
  2. C.T.Horner

    C.T.Horner Monkey

    Stateless Society - Chapter 2

    Evan woke with the sunrise and, while Ted built the fire in the burner, he helped his brother load firewood onto the truck as James explained the plan for the day, “We’ve got only one delivery today, Mr. Peterson wants a hundred-pound tank and mom’s coming along with us ’cause she needs to go shopping.”

    James helped Evan hoist a large propane cylinder filled with compressed wood-gas into the bed of the truck. Once James had it secured safely, Annabelle came out of the house and got in the front seat of the truck with her shopping bag. The truck pulled out the front gate and they were on the road a few minutes later


    While the boys unloaded the full cylinder and loaded two empties into the bed of the truck, Mr. Peterson chatted with Annabelle through the open window of the cab.

    When they were finished and he was satisfied with their work, Mr. Peterson led James onto the front porch and unlocked the padlock on a crate near the front door, “Go on, boy, choose.”

    James sat on his haunches as he looked through the small pile and took his time inspecting each piece of fruit as if his life was held in the balance. When he had the five best apples, he stood up and said, “Thank you, Mr. Peterson.”

    He carefully carried the apples to the truck and gently placed them in a small crate he’d lined with straw to keep them from bruising.

    Evan watched the process and questioned his brother, “What? No silver?”

    “This is a better deal. Mr. Peterson usually pays five ounces per tank, but he’s a little short this time, so I made a deal for the apples. Miss Baker will give me five ounces for four good apples, so we get the money plus one apple for us!” James explained proudly.


    The family continued on into Placerton and James stopped the truck in front of the only market. The two brothers followed their mother inside while Ted stayed in the truck bed and fiddled with his boiler.

    James and Evan stayed with Annabelle in case she needed any help and watched their mother take her time while she studied every item carefully and considered the constantly rising prices.


    Outside, Ted leaned on the cooling rails of his pride and joy day while he daydreamed about chocolate.

    His fantasy was interrupted by a stranger’s shout, “Hey! Sonny! Boy! Yeah, you! Is it true you built that thing by yourself?”

    “Yes sir! She’s all mine,” Ted answered proudly.

    “How much to build one for me?” the man followed up.

    Ted’s joy turned to despair when he heard the question and his mind raced, Crap! I already spent a lot of time trying to calculate how much it would cost! I even collected all the parts I’d need to build two more, but I gave up when I found out that welding rods are impossible to get! I tried making my own from regular wire and wet paper, but the weld wouldn’t penetrate enough! The weld failed when the temperature got above 2,000 degrees, so I couldn’t get the thermal-chemical reaction you need to make wood-gas! Ted shook his head clear - as if he’d been in deep thought - and replied hesitantly, “I can’t help you, mister, unless you have a bunch of welding rods.”

    “Okay, then, how much for the one you got?’ the stranger pressed.

    “It’s not for sale. My family needs it,” Ted replied.

    “Bullshit! Everything’s for sale, son! I’ll give you twenty ounces of gold!” the man insisted.

    “Sorry! It’s not for sale at any price, let alone no measly, twenty ounces!” Ted declared.

    “That’s a load of crap you little, wise ass! Name your price!” the man demanded.

    Paul Jordan was relaxing in a rocking chair in front of his bar until he heard the commotion across the street, so he adjusted his gun belt and headed over to see what was up.

    Several other men in town also heard the commotion, but waited until they saw the leader of the town vigilante squad cross the street, before they joined together and followed suit.

    When he reached the scene, Paul asked, “Is this man bothering you Ted?”

    Ted knew what would happen to the stranger if he answered honestly, so he said with a shrug, “Not really, Mister Jordan.”

    The vigilante leader contemplated Ted’s reply and considered what he had witnessed before he turned to the stranger, “Look here, mister, the people from these parts are a peaceful lot and the one thing we don’t like is strangers causing trouble. There ain’t no more lawmen, courts or jails, so we do for ourselves. Do you understand what I’m gettin’ at, mister?”

    By the time Paul finished his speech, the stranger realized that a dozen armed men had surrounded him, so he stuttered, “I don’t want any trouble with you. I’m just passing through town selling soap. That’s my peddler’s cart right over there.”

    Paul waved him toward the cart and warned, “Then I suggest you go back to your cart and sell your soap. And understand this, mister: if you cause another disturbance, we won’t be so kind to you.”


    Annabelle placed her items on the counter and watched the clerk assay her gold and silver. When he was finished, she pointed to one of the two chocolate bars behind the glass display case and asked meekly, afraid of the answer, “How much for one?”

    As soon as he answered, Annabelle declined the purchase, “Sorry, Mr. Richardson, but I don’t have enough this time.”

    Evan and James both felt sick and reflected as if in one mind, She doesn’t have enough because that was the exact amount that we wasted on beer! All Cousin Ted ever asked for - and only when he was pressed - was for a chocolate bar every once in a while!

    While Evan carried his mother’s shopping bag out to the truck and helped her into the cab, James grabbed the small crate of apples and ran back into the store. He came back without the crate, but carried a small package instead. As soon as he was seated next to his mother in the cab, he handed the two chocolate bars to her and smiled.


    James stopped the truck next to the garage, helped Evan unload the empty cylinders and stopped to watch Ted skillfully connect a hose which ran from a deflated child’s bounce castle set up inside the garage. Once the connections were made, Ted filled the huge, inflatable toy with wood-gas and James smiled, I’m always amazed by the magical quality of Ted’s inventive mind.

    Ted ate his lunch in the bed of the truck, so he could keep an eye on his gauges. When he thought he had enough gas, he disconnected the hose, ran it to the generator he’d converted and fired it up. Ted had designed a modified air compressor to compress the methane into the empty propane cylinders.


    After the family finished dinner, Annabelle took Ted’s plate away and slipped one of the chocolate bars on the table in front of him before she turned back to her work at the kitchen sink.

    Ted shaved a tiny sliver off the bar with his pocketknife, let it dissolve on his tongue and his cousins heard what could only be described as a slight moan escape his lips.

    Evan nudged his brother and whispered, “It looks like he’s in pure ecstasy!”

    James whispered back, “It’s about time something replaced that look on his mug that’s way too serious for a fifteen-year-old!”
    Tully Mars, 3cyl, techsar and 3 others like this.
  3. duane

    duane Monkey++

    Of to your usual fine start. Thank you and I am looking forward to your insights. Wood gas, methane etc.
    C.T.Horner likes this.
  4. azrancher

    azrancher Monkey +++

    Thanks, welcome back...

    C.T.Horner likes this.
  5. C.T.Horner

    C.T.Horner Monkey

    Thanks for your support, been working on getting Mr. and Mrs. Gray published, should be out soon.

    azrancher and duane like this.
  6. C.T.Horner

    C.T.Horner Monkey

    Stateless Society - Chapter 3

    The brothers watched Ted until a knock at the front door interrupted their entertainment. James got up, opened the door and greeted his neighbor warmly, “Hey, Mr. Jordan, what brings you by?”

    “I’ve got two batteries I need charged right away,” the vigilante leader announced.

    “What’s the rush? Can’t it wait until tomorrow?” James asked.

    “Nope. We’ve got a gypsy caravan that just pulled into town and I want to keep my bar open all night,” Paul replied.

    As soon as he heard the urgency in Jordan’s voice, Ted slipped his chocolate bar into his pocket and headed out the back door to fire up his burner.


    While he waited for the fire to build and the temperature to climb, Ted ran a hose to his DC generator in order to charge the batteries faster without power loss due to conversion.

    James pulled Jordan’s wagon, loaded with two large truck batteries, up the driveway and left it next to the generator, so Ted could hook them up for charging and asked his cousin, “Is there anything I can do to help you, Ted?”

    Ted impatiently waved him off and insisted, “No. It’s my equipment, I designed it, I built it and I’ll run it by myself.”

    So, James carried in some more wood and brought Ted a glass of iced tea from the kitchen.


    Mr. Jordan sat at the kitchen table as he counted out twelve rounds of .22 long rifle ammo and smiled, “I’m glad you’re giving me a discount this time, I know your price is normally ten rounds to charge one regular twelve-volt battery.”

    Annabelle smiled at Jordan as she scooped the bullets off the table, “Think of it as a simple thanks for looking after my boys today.” While she put them in a jar on the shelf Annabelle thought, We don’t have a .22 - or any gun for that matter - but bullets are worth their weight in gold for most people, so I take them in trade when I have to. However, I’ve never traded any back off because I hate what they mean: death and destruction. I plan to hold onto them and pray the time will never come when I’ll have to cash them in in order to survive.


    While Ted was occupied charging the batteries, James led Evan into the back of the garage and dug out a metal box from behind some junk on a top shelf. He opened the box, unwrapped a cloth covering a semiautomatic pistol, handed it to his brother and asked earnestly, “They taught you how to shoot in the Army didn’t they? So how about teaching me?”

    Evan ignored the question and lit into his brother angrily, “You know damn well mom doesn’t want guns in the house! I ought to kick your ass!”

    “It’s not in the house and, besides, we need to protect ourselves!” James sputtered in defense, took the gun back and rewrapped it in the cloth when he realized his brother wasn’t going to help him.

    “That’s not the point! Mom hates guns and you know that!” Evan reminded him.

    “Yeah, I know that, but you don’t understand! Last week some drifter stole the Carter’s milk goat and by the time the vigilante squad caught up with him, he’d already butchered her!” James explained.

    “And shooting him would have brought the goat back to life?” Evan challenged.

    “They didn’t shoot him! They stripped him down to his underwear and ran him off, but that’s not my point! All I’m saying is: if someone tries to steal from us, we can run them off before the damage is done!” James claimed.

    “We don’t need a gun to run people off, little brother. Besides, you know mom, she’d rather let the thief get away than kill him, so not another word. You get rid of that gun tomorrow and I won’t tell mom!” Evan warned and left the garage.


    The following morning, Ted had the truck fired up and ready to go by the time the two brothers joined him to load up the two gas bottles and secure them in the bed of the truck.

    Before they headed off to make their deliveries, James went back into the garage, retrieved the pistol, tucked it into his waistband at the small of his back, got into the truck and whispered to Evan, “When we’re done with our deliveries, we’ll go to town and I’ll trade this off.”


    On their way to town, they spotted a young woman, standing by the side of the road, frantically waving her arms to flag them down. When the truck stopped in the middle of the road, she pointed to a body, face-down in a ditch, so the brothers hopped out to do what they could to help.

    James was struck dumb when he turned the man over to find himself staring down the barrel of the gun in the man’s hand and heard the man order, “Both of you! Hands up and back up!”

    Once the two brothers were back far enough to suit the bandit, he swung the gun around, pointed it at the bed of the truck and yelled at Ted, “You climb down and join these two ’cause we’re taking the truck!”

    Ted opened every valve to the max, the truck engine raced, abruptly died and Ted spat in defiance, “This truck isn’t going anywhere without me!”

    In an instant, whether it was pure instinct or military training, Evan saw an opportunity, pulled the gun from his brother’s waistband, leveled it on the bandit and shouted, “Drop your gun!”

    The robber kept his weapon pointed at Ted as he glanced toward Evan and bargained, “Unless you want to watch that kid die, you’d better drop your gun, he can fire that thing up again and be coming with us!”

    “Umm, I think you should let them have the truck, Evan, ’cause I never stole from the kitchen jar,” was James’ way of letting his brother know that he held an empty gun.

    When he realized the only way to win was a stone cold bluff, Evan snarled back, “No way am I letting this dirt bag take Ted anywhere!” Then he issued an ultimatum to the bandit, “I got you dead in my sights, so drop your gun or you’ll be dead before you hit the ground!”

    The robber quickly considered his options, came to the only reasonable conclusion available and dropped his revolver.

    When he saw the gun hit the dirt, Evan warned the pair of bandits, “If I were you two, I’d run as fast and as far away from here as I could get before the vigilante squad hears about you! Trust me, the second that we get to town, they’re the first people we’re gonna tell about this little encounter!”

    The couple grabbed their rucksacks from the bushes and took off as if they were being chased by a pack of hungry wolves. When they were out of sight, Evan retrieved the gun and, when he had the cylinder open he chuckled, “It’s as empty as ours!”


    James pulled into town and stopped the truck in front of the Honky Tonk-Inn. The two brothers went inside and saw that, except for the owner mopping the floor behind the bar, the place was empty.

    Without looking up, Jordan sighed, “Sorry boys, we’re closed. I ran out of hooch last night…”

    James interrupted, “Were not here for a drink, sir. We want to report a couple of highway robbers heading east on Route Six.”

    Evan followed, “We also want to trade off a couple of hand guns, that is, if you’re still in the market…”

    James cut in, “You still want to sell the gun after what just happened to us?”

    Evan sighed, “Not really, but you know as well as I do that mom will have a cow if she finds out.”

    “So we don’t tell her and keep it just in case,” James bargained.

    By the time the trade was over, Jordan agreed, “I’ll give you twenty-five rounds of nine-millimeter for your Berretta in exchange for the .38 snub nose you took off of those bandits.”


    Halfway home, the boys stopped the truck on a deserted part of the road so Evan could show Ted and James how to load the magazine and operate the gun. Then he let them fire two rounds each before he reloaded the magazine, wrapped the gun in a rag and put it, with the remaining bullets, under the driver’s seat in the cab of the truck.


    When the boys pulled into the driveway, they spotted Sarah Mitchum standing on the front porch in a heated argument with their mother. James looked at Evan with a crooked grin and whispered, “I wonder who’s she after this time?”

    The three boys reached the porch together and the young woman rushed to Ted, so Evan jabbed James in the ribs and snickered, “Well, I guess that answers that.”

    Sarah smiled her warmest smile for the overwhelmed teenager and offered him a pie, “I baked this just for you, Ted! It’s plain old custard, but I sprinkled cocoa powder with sugar on top ’cause I know it’s your favorite!”

    Just as Ted was about to accept the gift, Annabelle broke in, “Don’t you dare take that pie son! And as for you, missy, I already told you he’s only fifteen and too young for marriage. Evan is the only one of my boys old enough, but I won’t give my blessing to a gold digger!”

    Ted smiled weakly and shrugged before he headed toward the garage.

    Rebuffed, insulted and rejected, Sarah turned and stormed off in a huff with her pie. By the time she made it to the front gate without breaking down in tears, she calculated, Mama and I are having a tough time surviving without a man to support us, but I’m set on getting me a husband who can provide. Oh, well. Ted was on the top of my list of eligible bachelors ’cause he’s the most productive, but those Turner boys, down the road, are up next and maybe one of them will take this pie off my hands.

    Stateless Society - Chapter 4

    After the empty tanks were refilled and the daily chores were done, the family sat down to their evening meal together. As usual, the meal was meager, but, none the less, they were thankful in their prayers because they still had each other.

    As soon as the supper dishes were washed, Annabelle emptied the coins from the cookie jar, stacked them in small piles on the kitchen table, did a careful calculation in her head and sighed, “We’re still short.” She reluctantly pulled the jar of bullets off the shelf, spilled them out on the kitchen table, lined them up in neat little rows according to their calibers, counted them and recalculated. When she was sure, Annabelle made an announcement to her boys, “Now that the borders are open, Mrs. Jackson wants to move in with her rich brother in Mill City. We have enough to buy her out, so you boys will leave in the morning and drive her there. I’ll go over and look after the chickens, so when you get back, you can move our chickens and our coops to our yard.”

    “But Mill City is five hundred miles away, it could take a week to get there and back,” James said.

    “I know that, but it’s the only way she’ll do the deal with us, otherwise, she’ll put the chickens up for auction to the highest bidder to pay off her debt to that loan shark Smithers and hire a ride with the difference. If that happens, we won’t stand a chance of getting those chickens,” Annabelle explained.

    “If we spend all of our money paying her debt, how will we eat on the road?” Evan asked.

    “As soon as she made up her mind to leave, I struck the deal with Lilly. That was a month ago and I’ve been putting aside a little food at a time ever since. Besides, you boys have that gun that James thinks he has hidden in the garage. In Mill City, it’s worth its weight in gold, so you can trade it off there,” Annabelle smiled wisely.

    The brothers stared open-mouthed at their mother until James found his voice again and changed the subject, “What about wood for the truck? I heard there wasn’t any wood in the cities these days.”

    Annabelle started, “When I got the idea for the trade, I discussed it with our brilliant Ted…”

    “And I told her I can make my contraption run on other things besides wood and I’m sure you guys will be able to find what I need along the roadway,” Ted finished.


    After a restless night’s sleep, the family piled into the overloaded truck and drove the half mile to the Jackson homestead where Lilly stood waiting for them in her driveway with her small suitcase on the ground beside her.

    Annabelle got out of the cab while Lilly handed her suitcase up to Ted who sat atop the pile of wood before she climbed in the cab and clutched her large handbag as she squeezed between the two brothers.

    The truck drove off and Annabelle hollered after them, “Teddy! I’m counting on you to make sure all my boys get home!”


    As expected, the highway was congested with travelers which made the going slow, but the boys pressed on and, when they stopped for the night, they set up camp on the edge of one of the thousands of shanty towns which littered the highways. While James and Evan set up their tent, Ted tended to his burner, Mrs. Jackson sat quietly in the cab of the truck and ate a pickled hardboiled egg.

    No sooner had they settled in, then a group of desperate travelers quickly surrounded the group and vied for their attention as they begged for food. Rather than risk being overwhelmed, Evan folded the tent up, tossed it to Ted and announced, “We’re getting outta here!”

    They continued on for a few miles and, as soon as they found a desolate area, they stopped again to set up camp well away from everyone else. Evan pulled the pistol out from under the seat, worked out a watch schedule that allowed one of them to sleep as the other one stood guard while Ted and their passenger shared the tent.


    The next morning, after the boys ate a small meal of stale bread and a can of pork and beans, they set off again. On the road, Mrs. Jackson slowly nibbled on another pickled hardboiled egg.

    After an hour, James’s eyes watered copiously and Evan held his head out the window, so he pulled over and the two brothers jumped out of the truck for a breath of fresh air.

    James heaved, “My God! I can’t stand it! Do you think she’s dying?”

    Evan patted him on the back and whispered, “No, buddy, she’s been living on nothing but pickled hardboiled eggs for who know how long.”

    “What are we going to do? We’ve got at least two more days to go,” James gulped.

    “All I can think of is: one of us can ride in the back with Ted while the other drives,” Evan suggested.

    “Why not make her ride in the back?” James asked.

    “Because mom made the deal and we can’t break it, that’s why. Now you hop in back and I’ll drive for as long as I can stand it,” Evan ordered.

    When the group stopped for lunch, both Evan and James waved off because they’d lost their appetites, so Ted finished off the rest of the stale bread and some wild onions. Mrs. Jackson stayed in the cab of the truck while she ate another pickled hardboiled egg and washed it down with a can of warm beer.


    The morning of the third day, James noticed, “I haven’t seen any wood-gas trucks for a while now, but I’ve seen more and more regular vehicles on the road, so we must be getting close to the city.”

    An hour later, he saw the city skyline up ahead and a few minutes after that, he stopped the truck at a roadblock. Several men approached the truck and Evan noticed that the one with the clipboard wore a sidearm.

    The armed man coldly asked, “Destination and sponsor?”

    Mrs. Jackson dug through her purse for the radio telegram her brother sent her and handed it to the guard.

    After he read it, the guard handed the message back to Mrs. Jackson and instructed, “Okay, ma’am you’re free to come in. Driver, turn around, up ahead before the barricade.”

    “But I can’t walk the rest of the way! Besides, I paid for door-to-door service and that’s what I intend to get!” Mrs. Jackson insisted as she pulled a large jar of pickled hardboiled eggs from her purse and handed it out the window.

    The guard snatched the jar out of her hands and his mouth watered as he thought, Guard pay sucks and my rations are practically devoid of protein. Once he had the container cradled in his arms, partially hidden by the clipboard, the guard signaled the sentry monitoring the barricade to let the truck pass and happily waved the truck through.

    Once the Newtons dropped Mrs. Jackson at the front door of her brother’s apartment building, Ted handed down her suitcase and they drove away to look for someplace to trade off the gun in the bustling city.
    Tully Mars, techsar and 3cyl like this.
  7. C.T.Horner

    C.T.Horner Monkey

    Stateless Society - Chapter 5
    When he spotted a sign in the window of a dry goods store which read, “GUNS & AMMO - BUY - SELL - TRADE”, Ted banged on the roof of the cab and hollered, “James! Stop! NOW!”

    When he stopped, Evan unloaded the pistol’s magazine, put the bullets in his pocket and rewrapped the gun before he and James got out of the truck to go into the store while Ted stayed with the truck.


    There were several people in the store, so they waited for a free space to open up at the gun counter and, the second that one did, Evan carefully set the gun down on the counter and unwrapped it.

    As soon as the other customers got a look at what the boys had, the crowed hushed and, almost immediately, one of the patrons bargained, “You boys selling that? Because if you are, I’ll give you twenty ounces!”

    “You wait just one, damn minuet, Chester! This is MY store and these boys are MY customers, so if anybody’s gonna buy THAT gun, it’s gonna be ME!” the burly man behind the counter bellowed.

    Chester bit his tongue and scowled as he backed up, but he kept his eyes focused on the pistol while Ned Dickerson picked up the weapon to inspect it and, in a soothing tone, asked the brothers, “How much did you boys have in mind for this old gun of yours?”

    Evan answered honestly, “Not rightly sure, mister. We just came in to see what it’s worth.”

    Ned removed the empty magazine, tried the slide, shook the gun and, when he heard it rattle, he shook his head and said, “Action’s a bit sloppy and she’s awfully loose - probably shot-out - if you ask me, but, bein’ new customers, I’ll give you ten ounces for it.”

    James pointed his thumb toward Chester and said, “That man said he’d give us twenty…”

    Ned held a beefy paw up, “Phttt! Chester don’t know what he’s talkin’ about! Besides, he can’t afford the ammo, but, if you insist, I guess I could go twenty just to make you happy and I’m losin’ money on the deal because of his big mouth.”

    Chester calculated carefully, City Security will pay me more for it! Then he haggled, “I’ll go twenty-two!”

    Ned made his way from behind the counter and spat, “That’s all I’m gonna take from you Chester! Get outta my store and never come back!”

    While Ned physically escorted Chester through the front door, Evan studied the nearly, empty display case and nudged James, “Look, there are only three handguns in there and they’re all really old revolvers.”

    James nodded thoughtfully and added, “Yeah, and look at that little, locked box with the wire mesh on top. It’s only got about a dozen bullets that look like old reloads.”

    Evan counted the few lead, flat-nose bullets a second time and muttered, “Guns and ammo must be really scarce here.”

    When the owner returned to his place behind the counter, he smiled at the boys and apologized, “Sorry about that. Now, how would you like your money? Gold or trade goods? I just got a shipment of canned peaches in and they’re sellin’ like hotcakes at an ounce of gold per case.”

    Evan took the gun off the counter, handed it to James, pulled a single bullet from his pocket and laid it in its place on the rag. When he saw the saliva form in the corners of the man’s mouth he knew he was right and asked, “Like I said before, I’m just lookin’ to see what the pistol’s worth. What’ll you give me for this one bullet?”

    Ned dried his sweaty palm on his apron. His hand trembled as he carefully lifted the precious metal from the counter to get a better look at it and, in a shaky voice, he asked, “Is this a real, factory hollow point, ’cause I ain’t seen one in years?”

    “How much?” Evan pressed.

    ‘Well… I… Ah… Um… Three ounces?” Ned stammered.

    “Are you sure, because this is just an inquiry, if I get a better bid elsewhere, I won’t be back,” Evan warned.

    “Fine! The going rate for your bullet is five ounces in an open bid from City Security, but I have to make something!” Ned bargained.

    “Okay, since you’ve been somewhat honest with me, I’ll let you have it for three ounces and a case of peaches.” Evan countered.


    The boys found the remnants of a large park in the center of town. James drove around until he spotted a secluded area on the far side and stopped the truck under a large tree. They sat in the shade and ate peaches until their stomachs hurt, then drove back into town to ask for directions to City Security Headquarters.

    Once they easily located the almost pristine building in the middle of the heart of the derelict Civic Center complex, James and Evan went inside to trade-off the gun and the rest of the ammo. By the time the deals were struck, they had one hundred and forty ounces of gold, so they agreed to go on a shopping spree,

    By the time they left Mill City to begin the long journey back home, the sun was setting, so they decided to only go a few miles past the city limit sign and stop somewhere safe, next to the road for the night.


    The next morning, Ned was the last to rise, so Evan started to pull out the tent stakes up and yelled at his cousin, “Get up sleepy head! We have a long day…”

    When he was cut short by a muffled groan that came from the tent, Evan knew that something was wrong, so he ducked inside and saw Ted drenched in sweat. Evan tried not to sound as panicky as he felt when he ducked back out of the tent and hollered for his brother, “James! Come here quick!”

    After he explained Ted’s condition, James had a look for himself, paced in front of the open tent and muttered, “What are we gonna do?”

    “The only thing we can do is go back into town and find a doctor!” Evan insisted.

    The brothers carefully loaded their cousin onto a makeshift bed in the back of the truck and, with a little help from Ted, as he drifted in and out of delirium, Evan managed to get the boiler up and the truck running.


    The going was unbearably slow because Evan couldn’t get the air-to-gas mixture right, but they made it back to the checkpoint. They were stopped by a different guard who barked, “You aren’t authorized to enter the city!”

    James plead, “Please, sir, we’ll give you an ounce of gold if you’ll let us in…”

    The man scoffed and rudely informed James, “The guard who took that jar of pickled eggs from that old lady was banished! If you don’t turn this truck around and get outta here NOW, I’m gonna confiscate it and everything in it!”

    James grudgingly turned the truck around and sputtered toward home.


    They drove all day without stopping.

    Evan unpacked their supplies, busted up crates and cardboard boxes to keep the boiler going, finally got the hang of the gauges to smooth out the ride and gain much needed speed. James did all he could to make use of the fuel and, often frightening other travelers, sped as fast as the conditions allowed.

    By nightfall, the traffic abated and the road was clear, but they were running on fumes. There was nothing left in the truck to burn except their clothes, so Evan fed the blankets into the boiler as well as their spare clothing.

    It was about three o’clock in the morning when, ultimately, the boiler fire wouldn’t make gas anymore, so James pulled over. One of them sat with Ted while the other scavenged the roadside for anything that would burn.


    By noon the following day, they had enough fuel to get the boiler up to temperature, but the truck wouldn’t start and the gas pressure gauge rose too fast, so Evan shook Ted awake and begged him, “Sorry, buddy, but we need your help. Try to concentrate: what’s wrong? We’ve got heat and pressure, in fact too much pressure, but the truck won’t start,”

    Ted said weakly, “Sounds like the filter. Did you check it?”

    “What filter?” Evan asked.

    “Bleed the pressure off. Open big box full of hay and wood chips. Gotta be clogged. Too much pressure…” Ted mumbled before he faded back to sleep.

    Evan looked into the filter box and saw that everything was covered in a sticky black substance. He reached in, pulled the mess out and tossed it all onto the side of the road. When Evan had most of the box cleaned out, he was covered in creosote and no amount of scrubbing with the expensive soap they’d bought for Annabelle got it off.

    James gently woke Ted to tell him what Evan found in the filter box and asked, “What should we do next?”

    “Special shovel for cleaning out the box. In a bag in front of the box. Creosote is nasty stuff. Don’t get it on you…” Ted tried to drift away.

    James closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose in an attempt to avoid the sight of his tar-covered brother, “Ted, the filter box is already cleaned out, so now what?”

    Ted sighed weakly, “Refill it with more hay and woodchips. Extra is in the bottom of the kindle barrel. Pack it in tight. Off we go…”

    Evan felt sick when he realized he had burned their spare filter material, and pressed for a solution, “What if we don’t have a filter? Will the engine still run?”

    “For a little while. All that creosote will clog the engine. Take at least a week to take engine apart and clean it. If we can get solvent. Don’t worry. Enough hay and chips to change it two times. We’ll be fine,” Ted closed his weary eyes.

    James saw a flicker of fear cross Evan’s eyes and whispered, “Calm down! Don’t freak out! Ted will help, no matter what!”

    As soon as he had himself settled down enough, he nudged Ted again, “Can we use something else, you know other than the chips and hay, ’cause I didn’t know we needed them and I burned them last night.”

    Ted barely registered what Evan said and was too sick to sense the apprehension in his cousin’s voice, “It’s okay. Use anything porous. Stuff our blankets and clothes in. Pack ’em in tight and full or it won’t work. That’ll get us home. Don’t worry…”

    James watched Evan almost fall out of the truck bed, slide down the door of the cab and throw up a little in his mouth. He climbed down, stood over his brother and offered hopefully, “What about other wood-gas trucks? They have to have spare filter material. We could trade with the next one that comes by.”

    Evan held his head in his hands and sighed, “Uh huh, we could. But when was the last time you saw one? There’s no wood in this area and hardly any trash fit to burn. It took us fourteen hours to find what we have and we busted our butts to get it.”

    James flung his hands up in surrender and asked, “Okay, then, what do you suggest we do?”

    Evan stood up, spat in the dust, squared his shoulders and started walking up the side of the highway, “You stay here with Ted and I’ll go and get what we need. I got us into this mess and I’ll get us out. Last night, I spotted a shanty town off the road. It’s only a few miles back…”

    Stateless Society - Chapter 6
    He’d been awake for two days straight and, by the time Evan reached the shanty town, he felt exhausted and knew he was dehydrated, so he stopped at the first stall he came to and bought the biggest glass of lemonade the woman in the booth had to offer. As soon as he got his strength back, Evan roamed the tiny village in search of anything that matched Ted’s loose definition of “filter material”.

    Evan quickly realized that the people in the shanties were so poor, that there was precious little they could live without, but, just when he was about to give up, a familiar aroma caught his attention and Evan smiled, “Fresh tamales.”


    The moment Evan got back to the truck dragging an upside down table, James grabbed him and declared, “I’m so glad you’re back! While you were gone, Ted took a turn for the worse, he can’t hold down liquids and I’m afraid that his fever and dehydration is gonna kill him real soon.”

    Evan dropped the load of old planks, a canvas tarp and a burlap bag on the ground next to the truck and instructed James, “Use the axe to break up the table and planks while I stuff this sack of corn husks into the filter box.” He climbed up into the bed of the truck, smiled at Ted while he crammed the tamale wrappers into the filter box and whispered, “It’s gonna be okay, buddy. You just hold on. We’ll be home sooner than you think.”

    As soon as Evan got the lid on the burner, he fed the smoldering fire and quickly had the boiler up to temperature. He banged on the roof of the cab and hollered, “Let’s blow this pop stand!”

    James tossed the last of the table legs into the bed of the truck, climbed into the cab and asked, “Where’d you get the filter stuff?”

    Evan pulled a warm tamale from his pocket, handed it to his brother and answered with a grin, “We were briefly in the tamale business, but we went bankrupt.”


    Just as the sun set, they’d put several miles behind them and James opened the truck up to cruise along at sixty miles an hour, It’s a good thing most people don’t feel safe traveling at night and have cleared off the road. At this rate, we’ll get to Doc Manning’s before it’s too late.


    Just before sunrise the next day, James pulled onto Main Street in Placerton and brought the truck to a screeching halt in front of the Pharmacy. James jumped out of the truck, ran to the front door and pounded on the glass, “Doctor Manning! Doctor Manning! Come quick! It’s an emergency!”

    Evan scooped his cousin up out of the truck bed, cradled Ted in his arms and gently carried the near-lifeless form into the Pharmacy.


    When they had Ted on the examination table, Manning looked him over, checked his vital signs and sighed wearily.

    “Is he gonna be okay, Doc?” Evan asked in a hushed tone.

    Manning answered, “I honestly can’t say for sure. He’s severely dehydrated and has a high fever. It’s more than likely a viral infection. It might just be bacterial and antibiotics would help, but they’re expensive. The tests to determine whether they’d help or not are also expensive, but the IV fluids he needs - just to keep him alive long enough for me to test him - are likely beyond your means boys. I’m truly sorry.”

    Evan emptied the remaining gold from his pockets onto the instrument table and insisted, “If this isn’t enough, we can get more when we sell some of our stuff!”

    The doctor saw the pile of gold coins, went to the IV locker and remarked greedily as he opened the padlock, “For that pile, I’ll throw in a banana bag and start him on full-spectrum antibiotics, that way he has the best possible chance to pull through. Then I’ll run the cultures right away to see if there’s anything else I can do for him.”


    Since it took two people to operate the truck and, because he had no money to hire anyone to drive him, James walked home while Evan stayed with Ted.

    When he got home, he saw that Annabelle wasn’t there, so he walked to the Jackson homestead and found her mucking-out the chicken coop. He put his arm around her shoulder and, after he told her about Ted, James said, “You look exhausted, mom. Sit on the back stoop while I finish up here…”

    Annabelle feebly slapped at him and started to protest, but James cajoled, “Hey! Am I gonna have to tie you down to the steps to make you take a lousy break?”

    She gave in and said, “As soon as you’re done, we’ll go home and get a good night’s sleep so we’ll be rested for the long walk into town in the morning.”


    On the walk back home, James pulled the tamale out of his pocket and offered it to her.

    Annabelle unwrapped the corn husk and scolded, “What did you buy this for if you weren’t going to eat it?”

    James tried to explain, “I didn’t buy it. I think it came with the roadside stand Evan bought…”

    She cut him off, “Were you and your brother drinking again?”

    “No we weren’t drinking. We needed a filter and more fuel to get Ted to the doctor on time and that’s why Evan went into the tamale business…” James stammered and stopped when even he didn’t believe what he was saying.


    When they got to the Pharmacy the following morning, the sun was just beginning to reflect off of the windows around the village square.

    When Annabelle walked into the small room, she saw that Ted was sitting up, slurping a spoonful of broth and smiling. She noticed that Evan was sound asleep on the floor next to the bed, so she let him sleep, sat on the other side of the bed, ruffled Ted’s shaggy hair, held his hand and smiled back, “Feeling better?”

    The instant that Doc Manning strode into the room, she hit him with a barrage of questions, but he fielded the most important one first, “It’s just a simple bacterial infection, so he’ll be just fine in a week or so. Give him lots of fluids and plenty of bed rest and make sure he takes all of his antibiotics. Understand this: DO NOT SELL THEM! We don’t want a relapse, now do we?”

    “How much do I owe you Doctor Manning?” Annabelle asked cautiously, afraid of the answer.

    Manning grinned at her, “Your sons have already settled-up Mrs. Newton. In fact, they paid me so well, that I put together a little, ‘first aid parcel’ for you to take with you when you and your family leave.”

    Annabelle consideredhis offer and thought, I’ll bet the old fart convinced my boys that Ted might die without his services and saw that Evan was willing to offer everything he had on him to keep that from happening. I’ll even wager that he put together that pile of old bandages and outdated salve because he’s afraid that word will get out that the high and mighty Doctor Manning overcharged my boys in their moment of need.
    Tully Mars likes this.
  8. C.T.Horner

    C.T.Horner Monkey

    Stateless Society - Chapter 7

    The day after they brought their cousin home, Annabelle cared for Ted while Evan and James worked at the Jackson homestead, broke down the chicken coop, moved it to their property and reconstructed it there. Once they had their fenced yard enclosed with chicken wire and the nest boxes were in place, the brothers gently transported them to the yard and tenderly placed the chickens inside their new home,

    The next task was to transport and set up the soldier fly bin, it took all they had not to gag from the stench, but they remembered what Mrs. Jackson told them, “The larvae it produces from rotted vegetation and chicken poop are a much needed free protein for the chickens.”

    Finally, they set about the hardest part of the relocation project: breaking down the pond, preserving the duckweed, draining the water, transferring the lot to their yard and reassembling it all before the water-dependent plants died.

    Exhausted, but feeling proud from the effort, James plopped down on the back stoop and sighed, “Now all we have to do is let the chickens do all the work and wait for the investment to pay off.”

    Evan sipped a glass of lemonade and agreed, “Yeah, it’s about time we saw some money to make our struggles pay off.”


    Unfortunately, after two days passed, they only had one egg and Annabelle began to panic. She fretted out her uneasiness to the three boys as they stood out in front of the coop, “Our contract demands that we provide two dozen eggs a week for the small amount of feed we need to buy regardless of production. I just don’t understand it! Lilly assured me that the flock produces about two dozen eggs a day, give or take a few, from time to time.”

    “Do you think something could be wrong with the feed?” James reasoned.

    “Nope, it’s the same feed Lilly always used, supplemented with duckweed and larvae just like she showed me,” Annabelle sighed out her frustration.

    “Maybe, they’re just stressed-out from the move,” Ted offered.

    “We were as gentle as we could be with them, besides, they seem pretty calm all huddled together there in the corner,” Evan upheld.

    “Well something’s wrong and we must have done it! If we don’t fix it soon, we’re all gonna be in big trouble!” Annabelle exclaimed in exasperation.

    Ted headed to the garage and said over his shoulder, “Since I’m feeling better, I’m gonna go catch up on my back log of gas production, so we won’t lose anymore income.”


    When he got to the woodpile next to the garage, Ted saw six, long poles covered in slimy chicken poop. He used his shoe to kick them aside, so he could gather an armload of clean firewood and, when a little got on his hand, Ted muttered, “Eww! That’s just gross!”


    After Ted filled all of the gas bottles and James and Evan finished their chores, the three boys headed off to the stream which ran through Mister Peterson’s empty pasture where the old man charged everyone the same price: an ounce of silver per pole - whether you caught a fish or not. They spent the rest of the afternoon fishing and, between the three of them they managed to land five trout.


    Evan cleaned the fish on the back porch and, while Annabelle cooked the catch in some herbed oil, he remarked, “Looks like our luck is starting to change a little, huh Mom?”

    Ted and James stopped setting the table for their feast and looked expectantly at her until Annabelle smiled at each of them and laughed, “Yes it does.”


    The following morning, Ted readied the truck and while James and Evan loaded the last of the bottles for delivery, they heard a loud cry for help and raced to the chicken coop.

    They found Annabelle weeping, “They won’t eat!”

    “What can we do, Mom?” James asked.

    “I don’t know what’s wrong with them, so how can we do something if we don’t know what’s wrong?” Annabelle rambled.

    Ted hesitantly offered, “Sarah Mitchum might know, Aunt Annabelle. Remember how she used to work for Mrs. Jackson mucking out the coop and collecting the eggs for her?”

    Annabelle swiped at her tears and said, “She may not come if I ask her, especially after the way I treated her the last time she was here, so you boys are gonna have to go and get her.”


    The three jumped in the truck and sped off to the Mitchum homestead and, as soon as they pulled into the yard, James laid on the horn until Sarah came out onto the front porch.

    Evan hopped out, walked up to the young woman and begged, “Please, Sarah, you have to come with us! Our chickens are sick and we don’t know what’s wrong!”

    “What? I thought I wasn’t good enough for you Newton boys!” Sarah spat and turned to go back inside.

    Evan grabbed her arm, spun her back around and plead, “Please, Sarah! You have to help! We don’t know who else to ask!”

    Sarah squinted at Evan and said, “If I agree to help, what’s in it for me?”

    “What do you want?” James asked from the bottom step of the porch.

    “I want my old job back at two eggs a day instead of one.” Sara bargained.

    “I’ll tell you what, if you figure out what’s wrong and we don’t lose a single chicken, we’ll let you have the job for the same wage Mrs. Jackson paid you, because I just remembered that we can always drive to Benton and get help there. Sure we might lose a chicken or two, but we’ll save money in the long run,” James bartered.

    “Fine! One egg a day! You have a deal!” Sara pushed past him and headed for the truck.

    “That’s if you save them all!” James reminded as he helped her into the cab of the truck.


    As soon as they got to the backyard, they all saw that Annabelle was still in tears as she stared blankly at the chicken coop, so Sarah went to stand by the obviously distraught woman, studied the chickens and thought, I need this job, so the first thing I have to figure out is why are they all huddled in the corner? Sarah reasoned out loud, “One thing I know is that a stressed-out chicken will go off its feed and won’t lay… Did you change the feed?”

    Annabelle sighed, “No. It’s exactly the same feed Mrs. Jackson used.”

    Sarah asked, “How about the larvae?”

    Annabelle nodded, “Gave it to them as well…”

    Sarah interrupted, “How about the duckweed?”

    “Yes that too,” Annabelle sighed.

    “Ground oyster shells and egg shells?” Sarah went on.

    Annabelle pointed, “They’re in the bowl over there…”

    Sarah interrupted, “Nest boxes clean?”

    Annabelle said, “Yes. There’s fresh hay in all of them.”

    Sarah grasped at another reason for the chickens to be nestled together, “You see any wild dogs come around?”

    Exasperated, Annabelle sighed heavily, “You know as well as everybody there hasn’t been a stray dog since they were accepted as a natural food source. In my own mind, I’ve asked myself these same questions, over and over, at least a dozen times, so do you know what’s wrong or not!”

    Sarah decided to take another approach, so she backed up toward the garage to consider the shade, direct sunlight angles and the way the coop was situated, but as soon as she was certain that the boys had set it up in the same orientation, she started to think, The birds must be sick and I don’t have any idea how to cure them! The more I back up, the more I think something’s off, but I can’t put my finger… It hit her like a ton of bricks and Sarah asked, “One last question, how long have they been here?”

    “Three days,” Annabelle answered.

    “So, let me get this straight, they haven’t slept in three days and you’re surprised that they’ve stopped laying and aren’t hungry!” Sarah remarked sarcastically.

    “How do you know they aren’t sleeping?” Annabelle insisted.

    “Because there aren’t any perches in the coop for them to sleep on, so they huddle in the corner for protection, too afraid to close their eyes on the ground, that’s why!” Sarah declared smugly.
    techsar likes this.
  9. C.T.Horner

    C.T.Horner Monkey

    Stateless Society - Chapter 8

    Fortunately, Ted had kicked the poo-encrusted poles close to the woodpile, so the boys were able to set them up in the coop within a matter of minutes, but it took several days for the chickens to be well-rested and stress-free enough to start laying again and another week passed before they were back up to full production.

    As soon as the first of the egg money came in, the boys built a second coop and, slowly, but surely, the family pulled themselves up out of the depths of poverty.


    After another two months passed, commerce and trade recuperated as more and more traveling vendors and merchants passed through Placerton and the quality of life for the Newtons improved. James managed to make a trade for a box of welding rods, so Ted started building his second, wood-gasification burner. Evan mastered the burner on the truck, so he and James made deliveries on their own. Annabelle used Lilly’s pickled-egg recipe and canned ten percent of production to be put away for a rainy day.

    James changed the way they did business, instead of servicing customers directly, he held an auction once a week in town and the new system of competitive bidding nearly doubled their profits.


    On one auction morning, Annabelle accompanied the boys into town with their eggs and, while James sold them to the highest bidders, Ted worked his way to the back of the gathered crowd, settled down next to the former Placerton Town Engineer and asked, “Just here to check out the action, like most of the other people here, Mr. Blake?”

    The man put his finger to his lips and Ted took it as a signal to keep still until the bidding was over and chuckled to himself, I guess this is the closest thing to entertainment this town has seen in a long time.

    As soon as all the eggs were sold, Blake turned to Ted and said, “Your cousin sure has a good head for figures on his shoulders, but what is it you really wanted to talk to me about, son?”

    In an attempt to voice an idea that had been banging about in his brain for quite some time, Ted laid a barrage of probing questions about the town’s nonfunctioning waterworks on the former Town Engineer.

    Blake listened carefully to the young genius and tried to make him understand the insurmountable challenges he’d faced trying to generate potable water, “After the power went out for good, we tried to generate enough electricity to run the massive motor for the town water pump, but we couldn’t manage it with the small generator we came up with, so we removed the pump and lowered a smaller, submersible pump into the well, but couldn’t get it to lift the water level high enough. We even considered joining several, sub-pumps together at different levels, but the amount of energy it took to draw water made it cost prohibitive. All that was back when we could still get fuel, so give it up son, even with your new wood-gas generator, you’ll never be able to generate enough lift to bring the water to the surface from such a deep well.”

    “Why not use a shallower well?” Ted pressed.

    Blake sighed, “We thought of that too, but we filled in the old well with cement when it couldn’t keep up with demand and a deeper well was drilled next to it and there’s no known well drilling equipment to be had, that we could find, at any price.”

    Ted took the brushoff in good spirits and smiled, I got what I needed. He held out his hand and said, “Thanks for the information, Mister Blake, it was very helpful.”

    Blake watched Ted follow Jordan into the Honky-Tonk-Inn and reflected, Boy! That dredged up some awful bad memories, especially since I’m the one who failed the town after I tried everything I thought would help…


    The minute that he saw Ted step inside, Jordan turned and said, “You know I can’t serve you anything to drink, son, even if there aren’t any more laws against it…”

    Ted held up his hand and smiled, “Oh, I’m not her to drink, Mister Jordan, I just want to ask you a question.”

    “Shoot! I’m all ears! What’s on your mind?” Jordan replied with a sigh of relief.

    “Well, sir, I was just wondering, who owns the water tower and well?” Ted asked politely.

    Jordan scratched his chin a moment and said, “That’s a hard question to answer. If I had to guess, everybody and nobody would be mine ’cause the merchants claimed it when the town government collapsed. We gave it a go and tried to get it up and running again, but, after we tried everything blasted thing we could think of and still failed, we gave up. Why do you want to know?”

    “I just thought I would try and make it work,” Ted answered honestly.

    “It’s impossible son, besides, why would you try? You already have a well on your place and you don’t have any interest in town, so what are you really up to?” Jordan pressed suspiciously.

    Ted had no reason not to trust Jordan, so he explained, “The reason Main Street is mostly empty is ’cause there’s not enough water hauled-in to keep the sewer system working and the merchant’s association and vigilante squad demand that anyone who does open up a shop has to prove that they’re hauling-off and disposing their waste properly. I believe that if the well was pumping and the water tank was filled, Main Street would thrive again.”

    “I like your civicmindedness and wish everybody felt that way, but it’s all academic. Like I said before: one, it’s impossible to restore the town’s water supply without the proper equipment; two, we already tried; and three, the well is just too deep. But if you insist on wasting your time, I guess you could make a public claim for the waterworks and, if nobody challenges you, it’s all yours. My men and I will enforce your claim for our regular fee, if and when you get the town’s water flowing again,” the vigilante leader promised.

    “Thank you, Mister Jordan. I agree it’ll be impossible to get the water running for the whole town, but I’m confident I can get it running for Main Street with a small surplus. Oh, as for civicmindedness, to be honest, I’m in it for the money that it will bring to our family,” Ted admitted.

    Jordan said, “Let’s make it official then.”

    Ted shook Jordan’s hand and stated, “I, Ted Newton am officially filing a claim on the Placerton Waterworks on behalf of the Newton Family.”

    Jordan promised, “I’ll spread the word that you’ve filed the claim and all you have to do is give it a week and I’ll let you know if any other claims are filed.”
    Tully Mars and techsar like this.
  10. C.T.Horner

    C.T.Horner Monkey

    Stateless Society - Chapter 9

    The week passed quickly and, at the egg auction, Jordan cornered Ted and told him the good news, “Not only has nobody else claimed the waterworks, but all the Main Street merchants are behind your efforts, so if you need any help, just let them know.”


    As soon as they got back home, Ted let the rest of the family in on his plan to restore water to Main Street and handed James a list of the supplies he needed.

    His cousin started to scan the long list, but his eyes stopped on the word “gunpowder” and James asked, “What heck are you planning on doing, Ted? Are you gonna blow the thing up?”

    Ted chuckled, “Not all of it, only a foot or, maybe, two.”


    The following week, the boys worked with Ted under the water tower setting up the equipment which included a dozen, shallow, submersible pumps with some pipe.

    The moment the gas burner and generator were up and running, Mr. Blake scoffed to the crowd which gathered to watch, “We already tried what the boy’s doing and it won’t work ’cause the well’s too deep, besides the fact that the generator he’s using is only enough to run one pump and not the dozen he’s attempting to use.”

    While the sound of the explosion wasn’t very loud - because it was sixty feet below ground - the report did get the town merchants’ attention and, by the time they made it to the water tower, the boys were connecting pipes to a water pump. They lowered it down, one section at a time and, when they had eighty feet of pipe in the well, the boys attached the well head and hose.

    The burner was already up to temperature, so all Ted had to do was fire off the generator and turn on the power to the pump. When a stream of water gushed from the hose, the whole crowd cheered and James sprayed the crowd as they celebrated together.

    After a minute, the crowd hushed when the flow of water stopped abruptly and fell silent when it sputtered then stopped again. Ted shut off the power, waited ten seconds, turned it on again and the water gushed, but stopped after a few seconds.

    Ted was as happy as he could be and smiled, “Just as I predicted…”

    James interrupted, “I’m confused. Why are you smiling when it doesn’t work?”

    Ted held up his hand and exclaimed, “But it can work! We just proved that! I just have to figure out how much more gunpowder we’re gonna need.” He looked at his watch and, after one minute passed, he switched on the power again. The water gushed for a minute and shut off again, so Ted did a few calculations in his notebook and told James and Evan, “In order for this to work, we’re gonna need enough gunpowder to make three more pipe bombs, but four more would be better.”

    Evan shook his head and muttered, “It was nearly impossible to get the powder we did get.”

    Ted pointed at the merchants who stood off to the side, still dripping from the first test, “They saw it for themselves! Tell them that all we need is some more gunpowder to get the water flowing on Main Street again!”

    While Evan pulled the pump from the well, Mr. Blake pushed his way through the crowd and demanded, “What’s going on!”

    “He got water from the well!” someone from the crowd shouted hysterically.

    “But only for a minute!” someone else qualified.

    “Sure, so did I, but that’s just the water in the pipe and you have to wait an hour or so for it to refill, so what good is that?” Blake insisted.

    Ted stood his ground, “I don’t intend to wait for the pipe to refill! I intend to eliminate the need for most of it!”

    “What the heck are you talking about?” the retired engineer asked desperately.

    “We can’t use the deep well and we can’t drill a shallow well, so I’m shortening the well we have,” Ted explained while he uncoupled a section of pipe Evan pulled up.

    “Then what are all those pumps for?” the engineer pressed while he tried to save face in front of the huge crowd.

    “I got as many as we could find in abandoned wells ’cause I have no idea how many I’m gonna burn-out refilling the tank,” Ted pointed skyward to the huge empty water tower above their heads.


    The smell which wafted off of the roast - James managed to get from several of the grateful merchants - was breathtaking and Evan practically drooled when his mother placed the platter on the table. It had been several years since they’d had beef, so the second his mother was seated at the table, he rambled off grace and nearly dislocated his shoulder as he reached for the platter. In his haste, Evan accidently stabbed two slices and reluctantly put one back before he passed the plate.

    Ted selected his slice of beef and asked James, “You did tell them that it will take weeks to fill the tank enough to get the water to flow reliably, didn’t you? And in that time we’ll have to sort out the pipes to make sure that only Main Street gets the water?”

    “Sure, I told them, that’s why they gave us the roast and offered discounts for our family in their shops. It’s also, ’cause we haven’t said how much we’re gonna charge them for the water and I think they want to soften us up to get a better price!” James said while he took his time choosing his slice of beef and handed the platter - with the largest piece left - to his mother.

    “Yeah, I was wondering how much were gonna charge because the Turner brothers are already hauling water into town for their established customers,” Evan chimed in.

    “That’s what created the problem in the first place. It costs a lot to haul the water into town and people are a lot more careful with their money and how much water they use. The sewer doesn’t work properly because people aren’t using enough water and they have to haul off their waste, so we’re not just selling water were selling convenience. As soon as more merchants see the value, all of the storefronts will be full again and, since they’ll get more customers, we can charge more,” Ted explained while he cut his meat into tiny pieces in order to savor every morsel.

    “But how are we gonna get them to use more water as a whole to get the sewer working?” Evan pushed.

    Ted smiled, “That’s the easy part! I’ll calculate how much water we can reliably provide daily, subtract twenty percent for a margin of error and to build a reserve, then we’ll run it through one meter and sell it to the merchants as a whole. We let them divide the bill how they like and the cost will go down for individual merchants as more stores open. Only the amount of water will remain the same, so that way, human nature and the overwhelming desire to get all you pay for will take care of the problem for us.”

    Annabelle interrupted, “But that will put the Turners out of business! They’re good, hardworking people and - I don’t know if you boys have noticed - but Sarah, our ‘Chicken Whisperer’, didn’t waste any time getting pregnant after she married Jack Turner. If I knew that it would hurt them, I never would have agreed to this.”

    The table fell silent, the mood went sullen and, no matter how hard they all tried, it was impossible to enjoy their meal. When an idea came to him, James broke the silence with an outburst, “I have a brilliant idea! We’ll contract them to run the waterworks for us! You said it yourself mom, ‘They’re good, hardworking people’ who also happen to already be skilled in running a wood-gas powered wellhead and, the best part is, they’ll do all the work, take all the responsibility and we can sit back and rake in the profits!”
  11. duane

    duane Monkey++

    Good one, thank you for your time and effort. Lots of things to think about after reading that.
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