Monthly Archives: July 2012

Story post, part 1

My name is John Marcom, and I have completely lost my mind.
I don’t mean to have lost my mind, it wasn’t as if I went on a trip and left it someplace, but at twenty two years old, the only rational explanation I have for what’s going on is that my mind must be gone. After all, not everybody suddenly travels through time and gets shot, do they?
I guess I should start at the beginning, since I’ve always heard that is the best place to start almost any kind of story. Maybe along the way I can find the shreds of my sanity that have melted away, and if I’m very lucky, maybe my mind will come back.
My name is John Marcom, I’m twenty –two years old, my parents own a funeral home and I am their only child. I represent a major casket manufacturing firm as a Sales Consultant. That is a fancy way of saying I drive around and sell my brand of caskets to funeral homes across the country, or at least I try to. Growing up in the ‘Death care Industry’ has given me a slight edge and I’m pretty good at what I do. I have been employed by Danville Casket Corporation for two years, and last year I earned the regional sales bonus coveted by all Sales Consultants. We also sell urns and cremation accessories. “Need a necklace to put your Granny’s ashes in? We are your cremation jewelry experts. “
I’m not normal by societal standards but people in my field consider me normal and competent. I’m tall, athletic, and generally considered good looking. I inherited my mother’s hazel eyes and my father’s wavy, light blonde, hair. I dress nice and often get the attentions of stewardesses and waitresses, though right now I’m still single, much to the disappointment of my parents, who can’t wait to have little John-lings cavorting around the halls of the funeral home.
Other than my parent’s spooky profession, and my well paying, but socially repugnant career path, I consider myself normal and sane. I rent an apartment in a nice neighborhood, I drive a newer model car, and on my days off I work out and watch movies. I keep in touch with friends from school on social networks, and I don’t time travel or get shot at. Except for today, today I traveled back to the Civil War and got a Mimi ball in the shoulder.
I was lying on my own brown, plush, microfiber sofa, watching a football game my own TV and generally minding my own business. It wasn’t as if I climbed into a blue box with a Timelord or anything, I stood up, took three steps in the direction of my kitchen, on my way to get a beer , felt suddenly dizzy and the next thing I know I’m sitting in a shallowly dug trench behind a log.
I realized I must have fallen asleep on the couch so I willed myself awake, with no result. The guy next to me in the trench looked barely old enough to hold a gun and smelled like a mixture of gun powder and rank body odor. He held his rifle over the earthen edge of the breastworks and fired a shot that cracked my ear drums. The smell of powder was around me and a faint smoke hung over our meager cover. The person, or persons he had fired at were obliged to return fire, and I heard the projectiles launched from their guns whiz over us. A sudden burning pain shot through my shoulder and I felt as if the world was shattering in red pieces. I heard my voice scream and the boy solider next to me hollered something I couldn’t quite make out. I dropped to my knees and vomited into the thick, wet dirt, which was splashed with red flecks of my blood. Overhead I heard shouts and yells and the smell of gunpowder was choking my lungs. A man dressed in dirty gray leaned over me and stuck his filthy finger into my wound. The world heaved again and I faintly smelled tobacco. Overhead I heard someone yell “ Ye’ll be alright, son, the ball done passed clean through, quit getting yer vittles all over the ground and put a few balls in them damn blue scoundrels, that’ll cure ya right up, boy. “ I felt a rifle pushed into my hands and the grey tobacco giant was gone, wading his way through the trench to infect someone else’s wounds, no doubt. The boy next to me, who had summoned the man I’d decided to call “the infector”, pressed a flask to my lips. The substance I swallowed from that flask must have been half cousin to the embalming fluid that my folks used to prepare bodies, because it seared its way down my throat, making a fire path to my guts. I momentarily forgot the searing pain in my arm in favor of the searing pain now running rampant in my guts, at least until I felt him splash a little of the same into my slightly charred, gaping wound. This caused my eyes to water and I’m certain I wept great tears of pain while trying to assure myself that at least no germs could possibly survive whatever satanic mixture dwelled in that boy’s flask. He stuffed the offending mixture, flask and all into the front of his tattered coat and started to reload his rifle. I stared down at my own shaking hands and wondered what kind of hell I’d stumbled into.
The wooden stock of a seemingly ancient gun was grasped in my good hand. It looked like something the pilgrims would use to shoot turkey for the first thanksgiving, and not like a weapon with which I could actually defend myself. My fingers were brown and callused, almost as filthy as The Infector’s, with nails chewed to the quick and black dirt under what remained of the nail beds. The bullets kept cracking from all directions, sounding like someone playing with a bull-whip. I stayed hunkered down next to my pile of vomit, which I slowly realized smelled better than my motley brown and gray wool clothes. The boy had shot and reloaded his gun again. I felt him take my old musket from my shaking grasp and watched him load the thing. In my haze I thought “That’ll never shoot, it’s a damned antique!” The boy looked up at me and I realized that I must have said my hazy opinion out loud. “It was good enough for your people in 1812, it’ll be good enough to kill some of these damn yanks, Johnny, now quit acting like we’ve never been shot at before and help me hold these lines, you don’t want to disappoint the folks back home.” He snapped at me as he pressed my now loaded rifle back into my hands. I glanced around and counted at least twelve men in the ditch near us and more in another ditch several paces off, all dressed in varying shades of browns, grays and stolen union blues.
I raised the rifle with my good arm and aimed over the log in the general direction of the incoming rounds. I didn’t intend to actually kill anyone, but I figured that I better shoot at something before my young friend decided I needed more Satan juice poured into my wound as motivation. I still felt sick, but shock or the whiskey was dulling the original pain, though the smell of sick and unwashed bodies was fast competing for the attention of my heaving insides. I closed my eyes and pulled the trigger on the old gun, half expecting it to do nothing, and half expecting it to blow up my other shoulder. It did neither and instead issued a vaguely familiar sounding crack, and some of the gunpowder smoke. I settled down against the earthen wall of our defenses and watched some of the other men around me load and fire guns in varying shades of repair. The firing in our area from the offending Yankees was letting up and the boy informed me that “We’d licked e’m now.” I dug through my pockets, hoping for some clue as to what this nightmare might actually be about. I found a dinged up gold watch, a tiny framed picture of an attractive looking woman, some letters addressed to Johnny Dawson in a pleasantly sloping female handwriting, along with a small snuffbox containing wisps of foul looking tobacco clinging to its tiny insides. I offered it to the boy who gratefully scraped up what was left of the tobacco and shoved the whole wad into his mouth with relish. I pocketed the empty box and watched him. The shooting had died down, with only an occasional crack coming out of the air to my fair right, and a better dressed, but crazed looking man on horseback rushing to and from different positions on the field. The boy settled against the earth next to me and threw a wad of dirt over the vomit I’d left earlier. “Well, Johnny, guess when those bastards are done dying over there we’ll prolly get our orders to move forward and join the rest of Lee’s army. That’ll be right good too, I can’t stand all this being strung out and never knowing what the devil is going on. “ I nodded in what I hoped was a convincing manner. My shoulder felt stiff and painful and I began to wonder if on the way to my fridge , in my nice, modern home, I had hit my head or something, because, try as I might, I couldn’t seem to wake up from this foul smelling, painful nightmare.
The boy’s name was Daniel, I found out later, when the Infector came back by to check on things around dusk. The infector’s name was Joe, and he, Daniel, and I were part of the army of the Confederate States. I listened through half closed eyes as they talked about getting new orders and hopes that those damn yanks would be beat for good soon, because Joe had gotten a letter from home and his wife couldn’t manage the planting by herself, and their daughter Katie was sick with some kind of fever. Daniel ‘s mother hadn’t written a thing and since his Pa was in the army too, he hoped she was managing things okay by herself , but he was awful worried about things at home. Daniel turned to me “You had any letters from Sue lately? I know you were mighty hopeful that she’d marry you when this damn war is over, but if it keeps up I’d worry about her finding other beaux.” He teased. I wasn’t sure who Sue was, much less if I’d heard from her, but I figured that the picture and letters must be from this strange lady that I apparently was courting. “Danny, you know mail isn’t good out here, besides, I’m not that easy to replace, I’m sure she’ll be waiting with bated breath for me to come home.” Daniel laughed and handed me a piece of stale hard cracker that he’d already half chewed on “You better eat this, you always talk like a fool before you fill your belly, Johnny.” I nodded what I hoped was a polite thanks and pretended to nibble at a section of the rock hard cracker. Someone had started a fire nearby and the sounds of making camp could be heard along with the smell of wood smoke and something vaguely resembling burned bread. I closed my eyes and prayed to anyone who might be listening that I wake up at home, in my warm bed and not still in this unholy place.

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Electricity-or ” I can’t live with or without you”

So after yet another fun- time electric outlet scare , in which sparks happened and I had to manually flip the breaker off, since despite the flamey-ness it seemed perfectly intent on not flipping off the circuit..and then I couldn’t get a hold of my husband, which is another post for another time, but in the midst of all this chaos I realized yet again how we both take electricity for granted and how we should be able to live without it if needs be. So my next post will be about either temporary or semi-permanent ways to survive without the electric company in case of a catastrophic problem with your electric…

First things first, what are your first concerns when your electric goes out ?
Mine were:
1)The food in my freezer spoiling
2)Animals getting too hot
3)Light
4)cooking (or lack there-of)
So we’ll address these issues one at a time:
If the power outage is localized and caused by a short storm, you likely won’t be in the dark for long, so just shove all your perishables in the freezer and keep the door closed as much as possible.
If things are starting to look kinda bleak, get your hands on some ice and shove it in your freezer or a cooler for your perishables, if you have a chance to plan ahead freeze two liter soda bottles full of water, you can either use these around food the way Victorians used the giant chunks of ice off the ice wagon or you can drop repeatedly and cut away the plastic casing for smaller format ice, for wounds or household. I usually keep about four of these bad boys in the bottom of my freezer.They will stay ice in moderate temps for several hours, I used several under my laptop for giggles and to keep the broken-fanned thing from melting on a day when it was 103 outside and they stayed ice for 12 hours or better even with external heat from the laptop. If you have those prepped already you can put them in a cooler with items you are concerned about as a old fashioned icebox type of deal.

If you are fresh out of ideas and someplace hot, you can build a bush cooler, which is basically a pot inside of another bigger pot, you pour sand in between the two pots as an insulator then you pour water on the sand..the evaporation causes cooling..you can put ice or cold packs in the bottom of your second pot if you have it but if not put the item to be cooled in the inner pot and cover with a towel or blanket and put the whole affair in the shade..but as a warning this is only good for cooling, not keeping frozen or freezing items, it only gets to 60 at it’s very coolest ..so only consider it as a last resort ..
If you have time to spare and frequently worry about power outages, you can build a cellar which is a pit dug into the ground, sometimes the size of a room, to store food items..the deeper the cellar the better the cooling in theory, though it’ll never match the power of your fridge, it will at least comfortably store your soda/spam/canned goods without making them explode..this method isn’t suitable for perishable goods unless used in conjunction with a cooler/ice box method to prolong the life of your ice by keeping it in a cool dark place.
If you are lucky enough to live near a spring or river, or even a healthy creek, you can build a springhouse, which is a building that water passes through, with a trough in the middle so that the water moves over your semi perishable items and cools them as it flows through your spring house..these often have the trough-house area and a dry storage area, they can be as plain or fancy as you please, with some folks just setting their goods in a basket in the shady ,shallow part of their river or creek with the basket tied down to something “so it don’t float away”..a spring house can store eggs, milk, and cheese, but not forever, it’s not a fridge like we are used to but in plantation days it served as one. Make sure anything you put in the trough of your spring house is sealed in a jar or basket so it can’t get contaminated nor contaminate your water, which presumably you are also drinking at this point.
If you have snow/ice outside then use it in a cooler, or straight up to chill your food..duh..

For your critters you can tote e’m down to your cellar if you have one, where it should be about 10-20 degrees cooler than above ground.
If you aren’t that lucky you may have to put e’m in cages or pens and take e’m outside in the shade and try to find a cool place for e’m with plenty of clean, fresh water, because if it’s hot out then your house will turn into an oven, but until it gets that hot you can open windows and try to get a cross breeze going,  if there isn’t one then you, and they will roast if you stay indoors. If someone you know does still have electric, call and beg their mercy for your pets, and if you have a barn, you can tote your inside pets to chill with your livestock ..but don’t leave your pets anywhere you wouldn’t want to be, and make sure they have water..can’t stress that enough.

If you’ve frozen those bottles as suggested you can put a towel over one and wet the towel down in your pet’s cage, it’ll help cool them off some and give them something to lay on/against that is cool if they get too hot..remember, most household pets, including cats ..don’t sweat like we do so you have to look out for their needs with caution, as they can dehydrate very quickly.

If it’s cold out you handle that situation the opposite way, try to cover your windows and doors with blankets and seal off any parts of the house you aren’t using, try to centralize everything alive into one room or area where you can provide a localized heat source. You can use towels and newspapers to stuff under doors of rooms you aren’t using..but be careful of your heat source, if it is fire or anything that uses up oxygen don’t seal things up too tight, you could poison yourselves..just try to eliminate heating parts of the house you don’t have to use, for example guest rooms are non essential during a ice storm power outage..so close the door, put a towel under the gap in the bottom of the door or hang a blanket over the door to avoid wasting the heat to that area, your furnishings aren’t going to freeze to death, but you and your pets might. , and by putting everyone in one room you have not only less to heat, but also body warmth concentrated to one area. You can also use this close space to cheer each other up by playing silly games. If things are really cold don’t be ashamed to stuff newspaper into your clothes or pet bedding, it does help insulate.

Light is actually one most people do know how to cope with, storm lanterns, camping lights, flash lights, candles etc are common..you can also make tallow torches if you must by putting a wick into saved fat or tallow (I always have some stored for soapmaking) it will smoke alot but works in a pinch

How you gonna fix food?..well it depends on your situation, if you have access to the outdoors you can use an open fire, a camp stove or a dutch oven..you can even make ash cakes if you have a little foil or such handy ..indoors if you have a wood burning stove or fire place you are set, and with adequate ventilation even a camp stove will work.. you may end up eating alot of beans and bacon, or ashcake cornbread, but you won’t starve as long as you have plenty of canned food saved up and a healthy imagination.

I hope this helps some, good luck and remember: You don’t miss that electricity until it’s gone, so if there are non electric survival items you keep putting off buying, maybe now is the time to invest in them, ya never know when they might be handy to have.

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Printed books

So the popular thing now is books on computer tablets or whatever, which I’m sure is lovely..but what if the power goes out and the battery to your voodoo book machine isn’t charged?..What if your access to download a new book becomes restricted by lack of internet connection or zombie takeover? What are you going to read then?..
Books..they aren’t a worthless waste of paper, but rather a real, tangible manifestation that people are still creating and thinking (for the most part) and old books are precious little windows into a time gone by, not just with the story, but the way they were made, the small words we don’t even use anymore …for example: mare’s nest.. nobody uses it anymore .. what does it mean?

mare’s nest
Noun:

A complex and difficult situation; a muddle: “your desk is usually a mare’s nest”.
An illusory discovery: “the mare’s nest of perfect safety”.

I mean ..c’mon folks you just don’t find gems like that in modern writing..
so stop trying to kill paper books..you can’t throw your Nook at a zombie without him laughing..(which may sound more like gurgling) but you hit him with a stack of childcraft books you bought on sale at goodwill, and he’ll know you mean business..

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Darn those socks

Darning your socks or other items is a quick and easy way to save money and make your common household items last longer.. to darn a sock, take a ‘darning egg’ or a lightbulb, and a matching-the-sock yarn or embroidery floss, now,pop your egg/bulb in the sock and use it to go against as you sew.. go around the hole using a purse string stitch, nice and tight and pretty, but don’t pull it , just sew around the edge of the wounded sock area, then starting from where you ended your purse string stitch go behind the stitchline (using the purse string stitch as a support brace for your new stitches, make your stitches going back and forth across the surface of the hole, just nice evenly spaced, in and out single direction stitches (vertical or horizontal, your choice), then, when you’ve done a nice amount go the other way (whichever- vertical or horizontal you didn’t already use), weaving your stitch into the prior stitches, like screening or netting, only try to make it nice and tight without gaping holes, and just weave back and forth remembering each time to pass your thread behind the pursestring line before coming back up for another row..before you hit your last line make sure you are nice and tight, it needs to be tight enough to hold your string without a knot, so make sure your weave is nice and not spacy and full of holes ..then you should be able to cut your thread ..leaving a small tail to the inside of the sock ..now you are done..congrats on saving yourself a little money!

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The American Dream-What is it to you?

I hear alot of people going on about the American Dream..how free this or provided that is a part of that dream..newsflash, folks, dreams don’t cost anything.
The realization of those dreams might cost you, but since nothing in life is free and it feels good to work for what you have, what is the big idea with the modern attitude of ‘Gimme’ ?
I suspect it is because some folks don’t want to work for their version of the dream, they’d rather take away from everyone else’s dreams to be handed theirs, no more consequences, no more action versus reaction.
From being a small child I was always taught that if you wanted something from this world, you got up off your ass, went out and worked for it, with your two hands and two feet, with the brain in your skull and the heart in your chest, you made things happen and as you worked it brought you closer to the things you wanted, and it also taught you to appreciate what you had, it taught you values that couldn’t be bought, like not to steal because that person worked just as hard for what they have as you worked for what you have. Hard work taught alot of us in the school of hard knocks, but along with the calluses and sore muscles, we had pride and integrity that couldn’t be bought or sold. We had the freedom to try an honest thing to get what we honestly wanted, and if it didn’t work out, we had the freedom to chose to try again.
What about all those with open palms willing to sell the freedom to make their own choices about their bodies and minds , in exchange for a temporary free ride, that is neither really free, nor temporary..For what?..So you don’t have to go out and buy a box of condoms?..So you don’t have to actually pay your doctor the fair wage that he worked hard in medical school for? Really? Is it worth it?
Compassion and decency are well and good, and are the foundation of many charities designed to help the poor and needy get the care they deserve, along with hospitals who don’t turn away emergency room patients that can’t pay if their illness or wound is life threatening..I’m sorry but nobody is going to give you a free boob job..your life doesn’t depend on it, and if your occupation does, well it was your choice to become a stripper and if I have to buy my non slip shoes or khaki pants, you can buy your own damn boobies and lipo..
This is about my choice to cut out the middle man, to tell my M.D. ..hey I just want to pay you up front for your services, you don’t jack up your costs and I won’t be too broke to pay you, instead of feeding a giant government insurance monster for services I hardly use and don’t really need or want..and then to be told my money isn’t just for my health, but to support some asshole who sits on their bum and collects a welfare check while buying a designer handbag and driving a BMW..are you f-ing kidding me?..Fire those people at the IRS and then rehire them to invade the lives of those on Government assistance, cause if it’s okay for the gov to invade my privacy when it comes to my healthcare then I want the lives of those whose healthcare I’m also paying for to feel invaded too..
You know what my ‘American Dream ‘ is?..To work hard, to work hard and earn the things I want, to work hard and earn the comfort I desire, and to be left the hell alone by the Government…not to pay for the damn Welfare state more than I do already..

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