Archive for the ‘survival’ Tag

#Free #Apocalyptic   1 comment

lifeasweknewitA small town must forge its own disaster plan when terrorism cuts them off. Free Today ONLY.

Chaos is Coming   1 comment

My mind is certainly filled with apocalyptic visions these days as the characters in Objects in View start to feel the long-term consequences of their situation. You’ll get to read those soon.

It’Image result for image of preppings coincidental that this summer is somewhat paralleling my fictional world. I alluded to it in Life As We Knew It – riots, food shortages, signs of economic collapse, and general chaos, all bubbling under a veneer of civility.

In the real world, the rose-colored glasses have been ripped away from large swaths of the population all at once. Cops are shooting people for traffic violations and exercising their Constitutional rights. The politicians and media have jumped on the false flag of “race war” in hopes that the newly awakened will be distracted from the blatant corruption in our government.

I think they may be reacting too late. The country has already become a battle zone after decades of abuses of power. The actions of individual cops in certain police departments have made all cops targets for violent retaliation. I know some people will claim that above statement misreads the situations and makes it worse. I don’t think so. If cops weren’t abusing and killing citizens in an abuse of their power, citizens would not be responding with violence.


Regardless of what you think about how or why the events of last week occurred, it seems that the potential for violence is spreading across our nation in a pandemic fashion. I think the situation is being manipulated for power and political gain and I believe it’s going to get worse. Last weekend, communication between one of the leaders of Black Lives Matters and some followers suggested a “day of rage” what being scheduled that would have caused widespread disruption in major cities across the country.

Pretending that it isn’t happening or planning kumbya gatherings is not a rational response to the chaos that is building. We need to face reality, accept it and prepare for it.

So, how prepared are you? No, really? How long could you last with the supplies you have on hand? Do you plan to bug out or, like me, shelter in place? Do you have a plan for defending wherever you end up?

My view on this has evolved over the years, so we only did this with our son and our disaster plan is mostly for natural disasters because we live in Alaska, where societal unrest is less likely to happen. If I lived in a city in the Lower 48, I’d really be thinking more about how to survive widepread societal breakdown.

By planning ahead, we avoid the fear, panic, and confusion that leads people to rush to the store and clear the shelves like a horde of hungry locusts. We don’t have to venture out into the angry mobs, the rioters who will use any excuse to steal, and the hungry people who are only thinking about feeding their own kids. A prepared mindset, a defense plan, and a well-stocked home can help to keep you and your family out of harm’s way.

This may not be entirely your choice. Martial law often involves the authorities forcing people to stay in their homes, as we saw in Boston following the bombing at the marathon. Although the directive was supposedly voluntary, but if you ventured outside, you would have SWAT teams pointing guns in your face. Staying home during this martial law was the only option. Some people ran out of supplies the same day. Don’t be one of those people.

When you take out the government factor and consider just civil unrest, your lockdown area may be greater than your own home. In a small town (like Emmaus), far away from riots and protests, your lockdown area could encompass your immediate community. Life might go on as it always has for you, aside from the need to stay just a little closer to home than before.

In a city or suburb, it may become essential to make a decision quickly. Do you lock your doors and stay home or do you bug out?  Only you can answer that question, but don’t contemplate it too long because there’s a rapidly closing window of opportunity. If all your neighbors get the same idea, you’ll most likely be stuck in traffic and trapped in your car. Protesters shut down highways more than once in the last six month just in protest of Trump rallies. Think about what people in a food riot could do? That’s why my plan is to stay home. I can’t think of any place less safe than a car stuck in traffic.


Front Cover LAWKI no windowIn Life As We Knew It, I showed what could happen if you’re not home when terrorism occurs. I’m going to expand that in Objects in View. In a perfect world, we’d all be home, watching the chaos erupt on TV from the safety of our living rooms, but the fact is that some of us will be at work, school, or in the car when unrest starts.  That’s where a “get-home” plan for all of the members of your family is very important.

I’m going to focus on my son’s “get-home” plan from when he was in elementary school. We were honest with him and said “There may be a time when Mom and Dad can’t get to your school. What do you think you would need to get home in a crisis?”

Kyle asked us to walk him home from the school several times so he would know the way on foot. One of those times, we started out in on a lovely day and then got rained on and then the temperature dropped. The Alaska weather taught lessons I had never considered. When he went back to school that fall, he carried a thick pair of socks, gloves, a hat, a flashlight, some Powerbars, and a cell phone charger with him. He also chose to stash 20 1-dollar bills. At 10, he understood the value of being able to give people money. He also had a taxi cab company programmed into his phone. I had pre-paid a trip home from school. But just in case he had to walk, he knew the route that avoided major thoroughfares and he had a laminated map that would allow him to stay oriented should he have to deviate.  We planned ahead for extreme cold weather by identifying places where he could stop to warm up, but he also had a couple of chemical hand warmers in case he had to make the walk without shelter. He knew where the back-up to the back-up key was, could build a fire in the woodstove and had controlled access to the firearms … just in case.

By the way, when his bus broke down that winter and the back-up was slow in coming, he had already calculated his route home when rescue arrived. He planned to just tell the bus driver that he was going and walking in the direction he needed to go. “How could she stop me, Mom? She’s not armed and I’m strong.”

Yeah, okay. Good plan. At 10 years of age, he understood that sticking around in a situation where the authorities thought they were in control was a dumb idea.

Once everyone is safely home, you need to commit to your decision to lockdown. This could last a day, a week, or longer. There’s really no way to predict it. Maybe you’ll have electrical power throughout the crisis, but what if the grid goes down due to rioting or government attempts to gain control of the situation? Yes, in foreign countries, the United States Army has shut off the power to cities to pacify the locals. In a martial law situation, you are the locals. Are you prepared?

What do you need?

  • Water sufficient for your family for a month or a supply you don’t need to leave home for. If the second one is your choice, consider how you will filter it. We have a well under our house that is our back-up plan. We live in a suburban area. The water isn’t contaminated, but we don’t trust that it won’t be, so we have filter material ready. It’s just a bucket, some screening, a bag of activated charcoal, a bag of zeolyte, a supply of iodine tablets, and a jug of bleach.
  • Food for at least one month sufficient for the entire family including pets.
  • An off-grid cooking method. We have the woodstove, a barbecue and the ability to build campfires. Alternatively, we have food that doesn’t require cooking.
  • A GOOD first aid kit. Research what I mean by that.
  • Lighting in case there’s a power outage. We have lanterns and flashlights.
  • Santitation supplies. Trust me, you don’t want to get sick.
  • A way to stay warm. I live in Alaska. This is more of a concern for me than it is if you live in Florida, but staying warm is important. Woodstoves work without electricity. Pellet stoves do not.
  • Means of communcation that allow you to get updates about the outside world. How many of us actually own a radio with an AM receiver anymore? We should.

If you are completely unprepared for this type of thing, you can pick up buckets of emergency food at Walmart. Stick them in a closet where they will last for 25 years. This is absolutely the fastest way to create an emergency supply. It’s an expensive way to do this, but it’s better than starving in a crisis. We have accumulated about a six-months supply of rice in addition to a lot of canned goods and dried fruit. Don’t forget the toilet paper and laundry soap.

Your best defense is avoiding the chaos. You want to stay under the radar and not draw attention to yourself. Invest in good security before the crisis. I don’t mean a security system — I mean locks and barriers to entry. Remember that a well-lit house becomes a beacon for people looking for shelter or an easy mark. Cover your windows. Don’t answer the door. It’s harder for people to play on your feelings when you don’t talk to them and many home invasions start with an innocent-seeming knock at the door to gain access to your house. We all gather in the living room during a power outage to save on lights, but this is a good idea in a crisis. If someone does try to breach your door, you know where everyone is who is supposed to be there.

Recognize and accept that first responders may be tied up. When my mother held off three soon-to-be rapists when I was a kid, the police were dealing with a huge bar fight in downtown, so the only one protecting me was Mom. In a civil unrest situation, it may be entirely possible that the cops won’t be your friends anyway. There is a federal law that says they can confiscate any food stores you have.

If your property draws the attention of people with ill intent, you must be ready to defend your family. Sometimes despite our best intentions, the fight comes to us. Many preppers stockpile weapons and ammunition for just such an event.  Firearms are an equalizer. My tiny little mother defended us against three large intruders because she had a firearm and knew how to use it. Had she only had a kitchen knife, things would have turned out much differently.

When people breach the door of your home, you can be pretty sure they’re not coming in to borrow a cup of sugar. Don’t rely on 911, which may be overwhelmed by the ongoing crisis or may use it as a means to stomp all over your liberty. Be prepared to protect your family because nobody else can do that for you.

Above all, stay home. I love my neighbors and we might coordinate with them to defend the whole neighborhood, but Fairbanks is an odd situation where people are armed any way and the circumstances of severe weather makes us more cooperative in practice. If you don’t know your neighbors, the best way to protect yourself is with strong walls and narrow entry points. Every single time you leave the house, you increase your chances of an unpleasant encounter. Nothing good will be accomplished by going out during a chaotic situation, something I show in Objects in View. Keep an eye out for the publication. If might be worth reading while you wait out the crisis.

Images of Fiction   Leave a comment

Town ResizedOftentimes when I write about a landscape that I don’t actually live in, I search for images that will allow me to visit a location sort of like exists in my story.

The town of Emmaus doesn’t exist except in my mind, but you might find some of these images if you could walk inside my head.

Typical small town main street like you might find in any Midwest state.

That’s actually the main street of a town I’ve been to.




Maybe Alex’s farm would look like this.








Can you imagine a storm coming in?







Aviation is very important to Kansas history and to the town of Emmaus and the characters in the book.







Of course things aren’t going to stay so pleasant in Emmaus after the bombs go off.


On Writing a “Cozy” Apocalyptic   4 comments

TownI’m working on my second draft of Life As We Knew It (which will be Book 1 of Transformation Project). This book was formerly known as A Well in Emmaus and you can find rough draft exerpts on this website.. Cover art will be forthcoming.

A friend who is acting as an alpha reader remarked that it’s a “cozy” apocalyptic. It deals with an apocalyptic theme — the end of the world as we know it — but it’s focused primarily on a small town trying to survive in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. There may be folks passing through who are tied to the attack and the people of Emmaus will not always stay in the town, but the main emphasis is on the relationships and survival strategies of the townsfolks. There will be plenty of adventures and crisis, wars and rumors of war, deprivation and depravation.

Stick around because life happens in small towns.

Posted February 2, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Writing

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9000 More Words to Go   Leave a comment

Front CoverThe rough draft to A Well in Emmaus (which is fixing to get a title change and new cover) is that close to being completed and that’s even after something glitched on my computer and wiped out two weeks worth of work. I was at 48,000 when that happened. Now I’m at 41,000.

This will be a 50,000 word thriller about a town surviving in the aftermath of a national terrorist attack and it will be the first in the series.

Although I’ve posted early versions of the initial chapters, it has already undergone considerable revision.


My Starter Has Indigestion   Leave a comment

It’s a living organism and living organisms can get sick. Starters that are very sour, fail to double in size during feeding or grow a black crust on top while in the fridge are not feeling well.

My starter has been living now for about four years. I experimented with parts of my starter, leaving it on the counter between uses. One died. The other lived, but it became very sour. I’ve also occasionally forgotten to feed it after I’ve used it and I’ve left it out overnight in the warm kitchen. Both will give it indigestion.

It’s not unusual for a starter to develop a purple liquid on top as it rests in the fridge. It’s called “hooch” and you can just stir it back in if you don’t mind a sour sourdough. Or you can spoon it off if you prefer a sweeter starter, but it will also be a less active starter, prone to death. I keep the hooch and sweeten the sourdough other ways.

Black crust does not necessarily mean your starter is dead, but it does mean it’s not well. It sometimes forms along the edges as a sign that it’s time to clean your crock. I break the crust off the edge, throw it away and pour the starter into a clean crock.

However, when it forms a crust in the middle, your starter has indigestion and is about to die. This has happened to me three times. The first time, the starter died because I didn’t know what to do. The last two times, I recognized the symptoms and treated my starter as a pet owner would treat a pet.

I peeled off the crust from the top of the starter and ladled the starter into another vessel. I then stirred it thoroughly, fed it a half-cup of hot milk and AP flour each, and let it feed. The two times I’ve had this happen, it didn’t double. The first time, I called a long-time sourdough baker and she told me what to do next. I fed the starter in the morning, let it feed, then in the afternoon scooped out a half-cup of starter, and fed it again with a half-cup of hot milk and AP flour, then repeated the same process in the afternoon. Both times, I’ve saved my starter and the last time, it became a much better starter producing bread with better flavor and loft.

Of course, you can avoid all this by regular starter maintenance.

Posted December 30, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense

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Lela’s Basic Loaf   4 comments

Bring your starter out of the fridge at least a couple of hours before you intend to use it. Let it warm to room temperature. You’ll usually see some activity, as well as a purple “hooch” on the surface. If you don’t like really sour sourdough, you can spoon the hooch off. As I want my starter to be very active, I stir the hooch into the starter.

What? I keep suggesting that sour sourdough is not all that nice to me, but I just stirred the hooch in. Aren’t I working against myself? No, and I’ll explain why as we go along.

When my starter is warmed up, I stir in the hooch and scoop out some part of my starter — typically 1 to 1 1/2 cups, more if I’m making a whole wheat bread, less if I’m making a sweet bread with AP flour. I never take more than half — that’s important. Whatever I took out, I match for feeding. So 1 cup out, 1 cup of AP flour and one cup of hot milk go into the starter. Ignore the conventional wisdom of bakers for 110 degree water. You want water/milk that’s 115-120 degrees. It should hurt your fingers a bit.

I also add one cup of hot milk and one cup of AP flour to the “sponge” — the starter that is destined to become a loaf — and a tablespoon of sugar or honey. This is one of the secrets to sweeter bread.

I leave both the starter and the sponge to feed. I come back in an hour and put the starter somewhere where it will not be disturbed. It needs to feed for another couple of hours before it is refrigerated.

I then add whatever remaining milk (make it hot) for the loaf and aother tablespoon of sugar to the sponge and go do something else. Why sugar? I find it balances the sour and unless I am making actual sour-dough, I want to balance the sour. I come back in an hour (or so, this is not a precision hobby) and start to make my loaf.

I usually put the starter away in the fridge at this point. It’s fed enough and could use a nap.

For two average sized wheat loaves

  • 1 1/2 cups of sourdough
  • 3 total cups of hot milk
  • 2 Tablespoons of sugar to set the sponge with an additional 2 tablespoons
  • 2 Tablespoons of salad oil or melted butter. Your choice. My daughter uses olive oil, I use corn, vegetable, safflower, or (once and it turned out fine) melted shortening. Your choice. I only use olive oil if I’m making small Italian loaves.
  • 1 Tablespoon of corn syrup. This is optional. I like the moisture it provides.
  • 2 teaspoon of salt. I use kosher salt, but whatever you prefer is fine.
  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups of flour. That includes the 1 cup of AP you fed the sponge in the beginning. Experiment with the proportion of whole wheat to white flour. I prefer the entire loaf, except for the sponge to be made with wheat flour, but that can be a challenge to get to rise. So experiment.

Add 1/2 cup at a time, stirring to completely incorporate the flour — this is where a Kitchen Aid stand mixer is a lovely thing — before you add the next half-cup. At about 2 1/2 cups, stop and let the dough rest for a half-hour. It may still feel sticky, but sourdough will slowly infuse the loaf and when you come back, it may be ready to shape. If it’s still sticky, but can be turned out of the work bowl without having to scrape the sides a lot, sprinkle a little bit of the next half-cup of flour on a board or table and turn out the dough. Sprinkle more on top and dust your hands and give it a few turns of kneeding.

Now walk away. Let it rest. Come back and see if it’s ready to go into the pans. If it isn’t, dust it with a quarter cup of flour and kneed it again.

NOTE: You are not going to the window pane test here. You are aiming for a soft dough that doesn’t stick to your fingers during brief contact.

Set your oven to the lowest setting it will warm at — mine is 230 degrees.

Split the dough in half and form into two loaves. Place in well-greased pans. I’m mostly making sandwich loaves. I’ll talk later about other baking methods.

Notice that the dough has not risen yet. The starter has been slowly fermenting the bread while I’ve been working it, but I don’t like sour sourdough all that much, so I only proof it once, in the baking pans. If I’m going for sour-dough, then I let it rise once before putting it in the pans to rise a second time. It reduces the amount of mechanically produced gluten, but the bread still ends up with good loft and wonderful chewiness.

I’ll say that again — this method produces less mechanically-produced gluten, but it still creates a wonderfully chewy bread.

Turn off the oven and check the temperature. I’m using an electric oven, so cannot speak for what would happen with a gas or propane stove. Experiment. It should feel like a sauna, but your hand shouldn’t feel like it’s burning.  Place the pans on the middle shelf. Close the door. Set a timer for 1 hour. This is so you don’t give your loaves a chill checking on them. Come back and see if your loaves have risen to loaf heights. If not, warm the oven briefly (to about 100 degrees) and set the timer for another hour.

To be perfectly honest, this method took a while to perfect. I’ve had to let loaves rise overnight a few times. Experiment. Increase the starter, add some baking soda (1/4 teaspoon at a time) to the loafs, use more AP flour and less wheat flour, work with a wetter dough — I’ll discuss pan loaves later. I can usually get loaves to top the pans in 1 to 2 hours, but it took me a long time to figure out how to do that, even though I was following friends’ recommendations.

Bake the two loaves at 375* for 35 minutes. When the timer goes off, have the cooling racks ready to go and de-pan the loaves immediately. Let them cool completely before putting them in bags. I save bags from the store-bought loaves we buy once a month or so.

You can store sourdough-started bread on the counter with good results if you live in a dry climate, but I’m told by friends who live in more humid places that it will mold there, so again — experiment.

And there you have it – a basic reduced-gluten loaf without having to buy commercial yeast.

Posted December 27, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense

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Free Book to Read … With Corrected Link   Leave a comment

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Home Pasture – Chapter 7 A Well in Emmaus   Leave a comment

                Rob Delaney glanced at the clock. He sort of wanted to mull his reply to Jason Welton’s email before sending it, but it was only 2:30 and he didn’t have an excuse to leave for the day.

                “I recommend a test of the safety valves in the town well house.”

                Jason was the “county” engineer. Most of the towns in the county used him for their utilities, to review building permits, etc. His construction company was his main priority and Rob sometimes suspected that he suggested certain things to try and generate business for that company. Who else would do this test?

                Rob’s hands twitched over the keyboard. A tall, broad-shouldered sandy-haired man with blue eyes and a reddish beard, Rob was more likely to pass as a construction worker than a small-town mayor. He closed his hands into fists. A small town mayor could get into a fair bit of trouble by rattling off the first thing that came to mind. He pushed back from the computer and looked at the pile of paperwork sitting on the desk blotter.

                The Wolf Creek Bridge would probably be completed at the end of the day. Rob was proud of that accomplishment. The bridge had been completed under bid and on time without incurring debt. He’d also managed to transfer the landscaping of the town square to the Rotary, resulting in a much prettier park at reduced cost to the town. That had been in his first term. It had been one of the reasons the town had elected him for a second term. He hoped the bridge would be the first of several accomplishments during his second term. Twelve years would be enough, he thought, if they were productive years. He’d frankly been surprised they’d given him a second term after that mess with Shane five years ago. It wasn’t that people had forgotten. He knew they hadn’t. Still, they’d reelected him, choosing him over Anders McAuliff, who’d been the one reminding them of Shane’s indiscretion.

                You need to stop that, his Savior reminded him. Shane’s coming home and if you’re thinking it, you’re likely to say it sometime when he pushes your buttons.

                Would Shane actually show up? Rob wanted to believe that he would. He thought he was ready to talk to his younger son, to lay some anger to the side, but …. Well, Shane had not come home four years ago, so why should they get all excited this time?

                Rob’s stack of paperwork quickly dwindled. It wasn’t even 3:00 yet. He turned back to the computer.

                “What is this test for, Jason? I need details to justify it to the council.”

                The cursor hovered over the SEND icon. Should he or shouldn’t he? Read it again.

                A quick tapping on his office door caused him to look over his shoulder. His elder son Cai stuck his sandy head into the opening of the door.

                “You headed out to Wichita?” Rob asked.

                “Yeah. I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon.”

                “Good. You should probably be here when … if … your brother gets here.”

                “Well ….” Cai’s sea blue eyes twittered.

                “What?” Rob asked.

                “I think it might be best not to overwhelm him.”

                “If the situation were different, that might be true, but you have something to tell him and it shouldn’t wait for him to find out at the grocery store or over a beer at Callahan’s.”

                “Yeah,” Cai agreed, tone dripping with apprehension. “I’m starting to think we made a mistake by not telling him in an email.”

                “Too late now,” Rob said with a grin.

                Cai nodded. At 30, he was clean-shaven and all-American, athletic, tall and lean. He’d graduated from law school two years ago and was splitting his time between a practice with a friend in Wichita and being the city attorney for Emmaus and the next town over, Mara Wells. Rob was proud of him for planning his life well. He and his wife were living with Rob and Jill while they paid off their student debts. Cai would be done next year. Marnie would need longer.

                Cai reached for his cell and frowned as he read the text.

                “Something up?” Rob asked.

                “Misty just texted me,” he announced.


                “Marnie’s cousin. She’s a waitress at the Barn.” Rob nodded that he remembered now. “Shane’s a day early, eating lunch at the Barn.”

                Rob stared at Cai.

                “She’s sure?”

                “He spoke to her.”

                Rob stood. Cai closed the door and leaned on it.

                “Maybe you shouldn’t,” he said.

                “Shouldn’t what?”

                “Chase him down and catch him unawares. There’s a reason he’s not answered but one text between us in five years and it’s not because he’s comfortable with our company.”

                Rob sighed and admitted Cai had a point. He rubbed the back of his neck.

                “You probably shouldn’t go to Wichita.”

                “Yeah, the judge would really like that and so would my client,” Cai reminded him. “Besides, it’s a cool case — the farmer selling raw milk to the willing neighbors and the FDA having him arrested for public endangerment. No, I’m going. I think I’m right. Don’t overwhelm him. Just think about what I said. You don’t want to scare him away.”

                Cai then shouldered his computer bag and left the office. Rob turned to the window which faced Main Street. He braced his arms on the frames and watched as Wade Lewis’ truck made a slow drive down the street. A familiar long-legged stride drew his attention to the bank. Misty was a good informant. Rob watched his younger son enter the brick building. What to do?

                Rob found Shane’s Jeep on the side street. It wasn’t parked so as to indicate hiding. He could see a duffle bag in the back, a water bottle on the passenger seat and a takeout cup for coffee in the consol with a logo from a stand Rob had stopped at before on his way out of Denver. There were a couple of boxes in the cargo area. Nothing else. Rob leaned against the passenger door and watched the town go by.

                Shane hesitated at seeing him, but it was only a momentary hitch in his stride.

                “I don’t see any traffic cams,” he noted, indicating the roof tops. “Misty?”

                “I saw you from my office when you went into the bank,” Rob reported.

                Shane nodded. He leaned against the door next to Rob. He wore sunglasses, so Rob couldn’t see his eyes. He seemed taller, leaner, his hair clipped short, but still curly. His tan looked permanent. It was still the dog days and he wore faded jeans and a green t-shirt with a loose plaid shirt over it. Rob let silence hang between them for a while.

                “Are you early or were you planning to keep us waiting until tomorrow?” he finally asked.

                “I don’t know.” His voice seemed deeper, still with that lush quality. “I didn’t plan to get here a day early and maybe I wasn’t prepared to just show up at the house.”

                Rob nodded. A million questions ran through his head. Where have you been? What have you been doing? Where are you going?

                “It’s good to see you,” he finally said.

                “Is it?”

                “Yes,” Rob assured. He scratched the front of his head, where his hair was starting to turn grey along the hair line. “It’s hot.”

                Shane didn’t look hot. Rob suspected he’d been spending time in some mighty warm climes the last few years. He was acclimated. Rob had lost that decades ago. The dog days were hot.

                “You want to get an iced tea or something?” Rob asked. “We could talk.”

                Shane let the silence hang for a bit. Rob waited. Don’t let him push your buttons! If he says “beer”, let it go and get a rootbeer. It’s not like Callahan’s can make you drink alcohol.


                He let Rob lead him to the Soda Fountain. Although the sunglasses hid his eyes, Rob could see that Shane was surprised to see it. The Soda Fountain had once been the lunch counter of the Woolworths, which had closed before Shane could remember. The block sized building had stood empty for nearly 30 years, but now the lunch counter had been reopened as the Soda Fountain and a book store sat beside it. The rest of the block was begging for development.

                “Wow,” Shane said. “I noticed the new houses up on the Heights. Things have grown since I left.”

                He looked around the Fountain with its red and cream tile and sleek counter with all the images of an old-fashioned soda fountain. He removed his sunglasses as they took stools.

                “This was here when the store was open, right?” he asked.

                “Yes. We used to bring our dates here. Jacob and Vi probably had their first kiss here.”

                A shadow passed across Shane’s green eyes for a moment, reminding Rob that he’d not been here for Vi’s death and funeral. They both decided to ignore the obvious, while Rob wondered about the dark shadows under Shane’s eyes. Rob ordered lemonade. He’d had lunch at home earlier and Shane had eaten at the Barn, so after a moment’s consultation with the menu, Shane ordered a cranberry smoothie.

                “So how many new people are there in town?” Shane asked, hooking his sunglasses in the front of his t-shirt.

                “In five years … about 50. A 1% gain in a Kansas small town is a miracle.”

                “Next thing you know, Emmaus is going to have traffic jams.”

                “We used to.”

                Shane gave him a skeptical look. Since they were keeping it light, Rob opted to keep it light.

                “When 24 was Main Street and a major highway there were a couple.”

                “I can’t even imagine that. Coming east, once you leave Denver — it’s like no man’s land.”

                “It’s quiet,” Rob agreed. “I guess that’s why they call it flyover country.”

                The following quiet between them grew painful.

                “So you were out west. California?”

                “That was my base, I guess,” Shane said. When Rob didn’t rush to fill the silence he added “San Diego.”

                “But it was only your base?”

                The waitress brought their drinks. She was high school aged, but gave Shane an appreciative once-over. He didn’t seem to notice. At 26, he shouldn’t. He sighed.

                “You aren’t asking.”

                “Would you tell me if I did?”

                “I don’t know. I planned to tell people — even you — that I was in the military. That’s close enough to the truth.”

                “Is it?”

                Shane bought some time by taking a sip of the smoothie. Rob waited.

                “You know I didn’t go to jail,” he said in a low voice.

                “Jacob took your Jeep somewhere, so I guessed. You working for Jason Breen made so much more sense then.”

                “Jason was clean.”

                “McAuliff was the target all along?”

                Shane nodded.

                “How did you get mixed up in all that?” Rob asked.

                “My roommate at Embry. His dad. They paid off my student loans.”

                Rob had always assumed that Shane had done something that had gotten him in trouble with the law, so this was welcome news, but for the dark circles and a curious wariness about his son that he thought he recognized.

                “Was it worth it?” he asked.

                “No,” Shane answered promptly. “McAuliff wasn’t hurting anyone. Jacob was pissed.”

                “Your grandfather is an anarchist, son. Is that what you’ve been doing?”

                “Yeah, sort of. I’m not really supposed to talk about it.”

                Rob watched Shane’s hands slowly turning the shake glass between them and knew avoidance was not the best answer.

                “When you’re ready, I’m ready to listen,” he assured his son.

                “And if I’m never ready?”

                Rob sipped his lemonade. It tasted fresh-squeezed, but he figured it wasn’t.

                “There may come a time when you’re the one who will need to listen,” he replied. Shane‘s eyes darkened. “You’re not ready now.”

                “It’s not Grandpa fighting in the Pacific or you going to the Nam. What I did –. There’s nothing honorable, noble or brave about taking money to f –.”

                The bell on the door tinkled. Shane cut off his fierce whisper to look and Rob saw where his hand went when he pivoted on the stool. Jason Breen’s blue eyes were cold and piercing. His dark hair was thinning back from a craggy face. Rob wanted to step between him and his son, but Shane’s hand was behind his back and Rob thought he might not live if he were shot twice.

                “Peace, kid,” Breen said, bringing both hands up to shoulder level. He held keys in his left. The right was empty. “No need to get blood on the floor,” he added.

                Shane watched him as he walked to the counter. Breen had apparently ordered a sandwich to go. The transaction took less than a minute. Shane’s gaze never wavered and his hand remained behind his back and under his shirt.

                “If you’re looking for work,” Breen told Shane. He set a card down on the counter near the register. Then he nodded at Rob and walked out. After maybe the count of 10, Shane’s hand came away from the small of his back and he turned back to his smoothie. He left the card where it lay.

                “You always on, son?” Rob asked, turning back to his lemonade.

                Shane didn’t answer. Rob waited, but not even the pain of silence forced a response.

                “Okay, fair enough. Your mom has probably heard you’re in town by now. You coming home with me or did you book a room at the Super 8?”

                “Don’t need to.” Rob looked at him, curious. “I own Jericho Springs.”

                Rob laughed, but Shane looked dead serious.

                “Four years ago?”

                “Yeah. Uh, you know of any activity going on there in the last few weeks?” he asked.

                “I haven’t been paying attention,” Rob admitted after a moment. “It’s a ghost town, after all. Why?”

                Shane shook his head and shrugged.

                “Probably just me being ‘on’,” he said. “Let’s play it by ear. I’ll go to the house with you and then decide my next move.”

                “Seems fair,” Rob told him. Shane slid off the stool. Rob followed. “I guess I’ll meet you at the house in a few minutes then.” Shane nodded. They stepped out on to the sidewalk. Shane paused as if to say something, but then turned to walk away. “Shane — I’m glad you’re home,” Rob called after him.

                Shane broke his stride and glanced over his shoulder.

                “You probably shouldn’t be,” he replied, then continued toward where he’d left the Jeep, leaving Rob to wonder what that meant.

Copywrite — All Rights Reserved by Laurel Sliney dba Lela Markham 2014

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