Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Chapter 8

This is the longest chapter so far.  Ten chapters just might finish it out.

Chapter 8

Clarke found a phone book at a deserted gas station, “Lou, I can't remember the last time I actually used a phone book.”
“I know. This is just like it's 1984.”
“The year, yes. The book, no.”
“Didn't I tell you? I used to be in the Big Brother/Big Sister program.”
Granby was not a large town,(the sign read 1663), but it had a mechanic with auto parts. A few townsfolk helped them push for the last stretch. “I heard about you guys on the radio!” A boy said. He wasn't helping at all, but tagging along happily, “They said it was so sunny that your car went a hundred miles an hour and jumped canyons all the way across New Mexico!” Louis smiled, “We were trying to outrun the mutant killer tumbleweeds.”
Doc, of Doc's Auto, was lounging in his garage, throwing lug nuts into a can and drinking whiskey. “What are you doing?” Louis asked.
“Playing lug nuts. Point is to toss lug nuts in a can without knocking it over.”
“That sounds boring,” Louis replied.
Doc shrugged, “It don't take no batteries like Game Boy. It's catching on a little bit, people are buying lug nuts off me now. Been slow.:
“Say,” began Clarke, “We have a bent control arm that needs replacing. Could you help us out? We'd be happy to do some work for you, run some errands, that sort of thing.”
“Well,” Doc slugged the rest of the bottle down, and threw the bottle in to a rather impressive pile of broken glass, “I could think of a few things. It's getting' dark now, how 'bout you boys come back tomorrow morning around noon?” Doc fished another bottle of whiskey from some corner of the garage, “I got plans tonight.”
“You know anywhere we can spend the night? It gets chilly in these mountains,” Clarke asked.
“You can stay in the liquor store down the street. I moved all the hooch to my garage, so there's lots of room for you two in there.”
“Do you think he's going to fix it right? He looks like a drunk,” Louis stated as they stretched out in the dark liquor store. Doc had negelcted to take the snack items out of the store, and they helped themselves to peanuts and jerky.
“I hope so, because he's the only mechanic in town,” Clarke answered, “But it shouldn't take too long. I don't think he gets a lot of customers lately.” They bundled up and slept until dawn. They partly woke because of the light beaming in, and partly because they were cold. They ate, then headed back to Doc's to see what they could do. They knocked, but there was no answer. “He might still be asleep. We can try again in an hour,” Clarke suggested. Clarke hunched himself up and wrapped his arms around himself to stay warm. Louis thought the best way to stay warm was by doing cartwheels. A stray cat regarded him uneasily.
“Can cats do cartwheels?” Louis asked, dusting his hands off on his jeans.
“Of course not. Cats do catwheel,” Clarke replied coolly.
They waited, and waited, and played lug nuts with some kids, and finally, around noon. Doc opened his door. At the moment he was hodling a can of beer. “Well,” Doc said scratching his stubble, “I got some work for you boys alright.” Clarke was tasked with tilling the soil where the Dumpster and receiving bay had been. Doc wanted to plant corn to make his own bourbon. Louis was sent in the yard to gather lug nuts from wheels, as well as valve caps from the tires. “Lotta people ridin' bikes now, and they can use these caps too!” Doc explained. He liked working on bicycles. They were lightweight and simple, and he made it sound like working on their car was a huge inconvenience.
Clarke had hard work to do, but it kept him warm. Louis had a more leisurely approach, stopping every now and then to talk to the stray cat and make cartwheel motions. They worked for hours. In this same span of time, Doc had found a car with a control arm that would work and got it up on jacks. After that he sat in a chair and drank Jack Daniels. Clarke approached him, “Are you goint to work on the car, or not?”
“I'm feelin' a bit under the weather,” Doc said, tapping the bottle. “It's not safe to mix car jacks with Jack!” Doc laughed. Clarke did not.
On their way to the liquor store, a woman with two young children approached them. “I saw you sleeping in there. Why don't you stay at my house? If you chop some wood for me, I have a couple of couches by the fireplace.” The woman, Emma, was having a hard time raising two sons without a husband, running water, or toilet paper. They chatted with her, and found out that Doc's cousin Larry had owned the liquor store. Larry had been out of town for his honeymoon and given Doc the keys to the store, just a few days before the world lit up.
The next morning they helped Emma around the house. They had hours before Doc roused himself, and Clarke had a plan. “Okay Louis, you're the affable one. I'm thinking that you can be a drinking buddy for Doc today. Offer to get him drinks all the time, make a lot of toasts, whatever. After he passes out, we can fix the car ourselves. I don't trust Doc.” Louis didn't like be deceptive, but he did like having a good time, so he agreed to it.
As soon as the door was open, Louis strolled in smiling. “Hey Doc! I got lots of lug nuts for you yesterday, how about I get a few beers?” This sounded like a great idea to Doc, certainly better than working on their car.
“Sure thing! Beer makes the best breakfast!” Doc laughed. Louis laughed. Clarke quietly grabbed some tools and went out in the yard. The car on jacks was a junker without an engine, but the front suspension was in good shape. He removed the tires and rotors, and then went back to the garage for some different sockets. Doc was already drunk, and telling Louis about a guy in town trying to convert his bus to steam power. Doc was so engrossed his alcohol-fueled conversation to notice Clarke's activities.
It didn't take Clarke very long to finish removing the control arm. Just for good measure, he took the tie rods and ball joints too. The ones on their car could very likely have been bent or damaged as well, he wouldn't get a good look at it until Doc was passed out and he could work in the garage, where their cat sat. Clarke went back to the garage, where Louis and Doc were singing, “Piano Man.” He shouted to Louis that he'd be at Emma's house. Louis nodded and pushed another drink into Doc's hand.
Clarke helped Emma with a few things, ate some lunch, and took a nap. Louis roused him a few hours later. They only had a few hours before sunset, but they were so familiar with their car that they had he front suspension replaced and everything put back together before they had to turn on the work lights. They lowered it off the jacks, happy. Doc snored on a beat up chair.
While they had been working, a heavy snow had started. They decided to give it a try the next day when, hopefully, there would be better visibility. It would be another night at Emma's for them. Emma's husband had been away on business when the bombs fell. “Where was he?” asked Louis.
“Ames, Iowa,” was the response. “But I don't think he made it. He was diabetic,” Emma continued. Diabetes, or more accurately, people with diabetes, had nearly been wiped out. The facilities that manufacturd insulin, if they were still operating, had lost the global shipping and distribution systems that people relied on. “If you're ever up that way, can you show him how to get home? His name is David.” They all knew the goal was Topeka, but Clarke said they'd ask around if they changed their minds. Who knows? Topeka might just be a big hold in the ground.
Doc was waiting for them at noon. “I don't recall all the details, but it looks like I finished fixin' your car.” Doc was drinking, as usual. Just how much booze did he have left? “Tried to take it for a spin, but it won't start. I think your solar junk might be broke.” Clarke gave a half smile; it must have been the breathalyzer that kept the car off.

“Well,” Louis said, “It's because the steering whell is coded to our finger prints. It's an anti-theft feature.” Doc had never heard of such a thing, but when Louis sat down and it cranked right up, he was a believer. And so they left Granby. Though it had only been a few days, that had been their longest stop on the road to Topeka. They felt restless to move past the drunk mechanic, the hard working Emma, and the stray cat that, according to Louis, could be seen doing cartwheels in his side mirror.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Chapter 7

Back on track this week.  I also have a headstart on the next chapter, and an outline of what'll happen in it.  I like to be a little ahead, makes things go more smoothly.

Chapter 7

They left at dawn, their electric motor silently moving them along the empty highway. The mountains would have set up a lovely sunrise, if it wasn't snowing. Clarke rounded a corner and braked hard, swerving around a large animal in the road. The car started to spin on the snow before stopping very suddenly as the driver's side front tire smacked into a tree. A little bit dazed, Clarke asked, “Was that a buffalo?!”
“I think so. I've never seen them in the wild. You know, the Indians were so eco-friendly, they ate every part of a buffalo.”
Nervous about the condition of the car, and a tweaking a little from adrenaline,, Clarke only replied with, “Whatever you say, Louis.” Clarke and Louis both got out through the passenger door to inspect the damage. There was some minor scratches to the body, a damaged solar panel, and, worst of all, the control arm was obviously bent control arm. With the slope of the road, the switchbacks, the inch of snow that had already fallen, and possibly other fauna romping along, the car was not driveable.
By the map, it looked like they were only a few miles away from Granby, Colorado. Clarke volunteered to push first, and they switched every half mile. One of the nice things about their car, especially in the mountains, was the weight. For a solar-powered car, the less weight the better. Most of the body had been replaced with pricey carbon fiber paneling. The gasoline engine, radiator, gas tank, and all the other typical parts weren't present, because they used a simple electric motor. The backseat cushions had been removed, along with cupholders, rear seatbelts, and even the overhead light. Pushing a car through the Rockies is hard work, but at least they had a little less to puch.
“You know what's great about horses?” Louis said between pants on one of his turns to push, “You dno't have to push them when they break down. You just let them take a nap.”
“I'm glad that wasn't shown in the Western flicks. Tombstone would have been really boring if half of it was footage of sleeping horses.”
“It would have been innovative! Like panda cam, but earlier.”
“Oh yeah. It would have been like that thing on cellphones, when we had cellphones, shown on the internet, which doesn't seem to work lately. Now that I think about it, sleeping horses sounds like a great show. Hell, turn it into a play. We can tour across the country.”

Whoever was steering (their job was arguably as hard as pushing) got to play with the iPod. They'd been listening to the same music for over a year now, and on a whim Louis tried the radio. They were surprised to find stations broadcasting from numerous small towns. They heard local news of the communities, live music from singers and musicians (Western music was making a comeback in these parts), and, from Steamboat Springs, something unexpected. “...and for listener's East of Steamboat Springs, keep an eye out for an electric car. There's two guys trying to find safe passage to Topeka, and if they're successful there may be a path for the rest of us too. Wish them luck.”

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

chapter 6

I've been bucking the porcelain bronco the last few days and felt run down.  I'm also preparing for a trip this weekend.  In conclusion, just one chapter this week.  Even as I write this stuff I'm struck with how different it will be after editing.  Editing and revising is what takes boring rocks and makes them into pretty trinkets.

Part 2: The Beginning

Chapter 6

Clarke and Louis headed Southeast, passing through a number of towns as they drove away from the Salt Lake City metropolis, eventually ending up on Highway 40. They'd seen small groups of people as they passed, struggling but not giving up. They waved, but didn't stop. They'd been cooped up for a little over a year and it was nice to cruise along. The towns gave way to hills, buttes, and flat desert. “I like big buttes and I cannot lie...” Louis sang, mispronoung buttes. After a few hours they stopped to stretch at Starvation State park. “Cheerful place to stop. Lovely,” Louis said. Clarke tested the reservoir there, and it was safe to drink so they filled up several empty bottles. Clarke marked the reservoir as clean on his map.
Clarke had been marking a lot of things on his US highway atlas. Salt Lake City was crossed out with an X. Detours were noted when they left to highway to avoid pockets of radiation, or dormant traffic pileups. The fallout was spread unevenly, moved by wind and rain. It tended to settle in low areas, but there were no hard and fast rules. Their Geiger counter was in constant use as they drove.
Returning to their car with the water bottles, Clarke and Louis saw three men and two women leaning against their car. “Uh, hi. We just came for some water. Who are you?”
A man with dark sunglasses and a bow slung over his shoulder smiled. “I'm a state park ranger here. These other folks are on a long-term camping trip. Nice wheels,” the ranger said, kicking the back tire. “Where you boys headed?”
Louis just shrugged. “We're heading East, to see if Topeka still stands,” Clarke replied.
“That sounds safe enough. You two stay away from the Navajo Nation on your way. They weren't hit like most other places. Most of them are alright, but some of the younger, angrier ones are venturing out to pick fights and settle old grudges.”
“We'll keep that in mind,” Clarke said. Louis, apparently bored with the conversational topics, was drawing on the ground with a stick.
“Say, you wouldn't mind taking some meat and fish to Duchesne for me, would you? It would save me several trips on the bicycle, and my wife'll get you two some lunch.” Clarke agreed and loaded the backseat with as much as there was room. He realized that these people weren't really out here camping, they were hunter-gatherers. Fish, forage, return to town to feed the rest. A state park with a large reservoir could do a lot to help support the town of Duchesne.
They drove the short distance to town and unloaded the prize. The wife indeed gave them a hearty lunch. While Louis argued with the wife about the best Romero movie and what her zombie escape plan was, Clarke studied the maps. They were far enough away from Navajo country that he wasn't worried about any troublemakers there. He knew they'd have to avoid Colorado, and Boulder, and maybe even Colorado Springs. Just how many nuclear missiles had gone off? There was no way of knowing. They would stay on Highway 40 for quite a ways, and then turn onto Highway 34 to go through the mountains well North of Boulder.
The air vents for the AC, along with the vents in the trunk to regulate battery temperature, had been thoroughly cleaned. The AC was off, though. “I heard that nuclear winter would decrease world temperatures by ten degrees farfignugen,” Louis said proudly. Clarke knew he meant Fahrenheit. Louis remembered hearing that climate change had risen temperatures by ten degrees in the last century. Nuclear winter seemed to be, ironically, the quickest way to reverse global warming.
Clarke and Louis pass through the town of Roosevelt and Vernal, seeing more groups of people looking for food, looking for water, and looking hungry. Most of the next few hours are open country and big skies, the same scenery the boys have seen all their lives. “What are we going to do when we reach Topeka, assuming it's in one piece?” Clarke asked. “Settle down? Start a delivery service?”
Louis ansered in his ussual fashion, “We could be the fastest pizza delivery around! Way faster than horses and bicycles.” The truth was, neither knew anything about Topeka. They'd essentially picked a small city and figured the rest would fall into place as it came.
They stopped for the day in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Population: 12,000. They followed some signs to the Edgemont Ski-In, Ski-Out resort, where they found half of the buildings frozen in the middle stages of construction. The completed sections were large and impressive. No one was skiing. “I guess it's not tourist season,” mumble Louis. They parked by the entrance and went to see who was inside.
Juanita was insdie. She explained that the place was going to be a ritzy place for skiing tourists, but they'd run out of both construction supplies and tourists. Clarke and Louis made a deal to fill several gallon jugs full of water from the river a few miles away in exchange for lodging (in one of the finished rooms) and some food. When Juanita found they had a vehicle, she found more containers to fill and kept them busy hauling water for hours.
Over a dinner of rabbit, pine nuts, and wild mushrooms, Juanita told them a story. “This story was told to me by a young man pasing through. He was looking for adventure. He said there was a bridge across a river far to the South. Cars piled up in a gigantic crash. Story goes, both sides were too busy watching the mushroom clouds in their rearview mirrors to see what was right in front of them.”
“Might be they couldn't see through a duststorm,” Clarke offered, “Those blast waves stireed up a mess of wind for months.” Juanita shrugged, “Perhaps, but that's not very interesting.” She nudged some of the wood in the fireplace. “The cities, the places we used to have stories about, they're all gone. We need new stories now.”
Clarke and Louis chatted with Jaunita as the fire burned lower. After the sunset, there was little reason to stay awake, and they had just gotten up to go to bed. “Wait, “ said Jaunita, “If you two tell stories to others, tell them about me, and tell them about the bridge. It might spark a rush of tourism,” she said wryly, retreating to her own room.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

chapters 4 and 5

Sorry, I know it's a day late.  I was almost done with chapter six and was hoping to finish it yesterday to have a whopping three chapters at once, but then I started playing Blood Dragon. 

It's turning out to be a young-adult appropriate story.  No sex, no violence.  Not sure if I'm going to ocntinue the story after Topeka or not.  We'll see.

I'm going to reinforce a few themes in editing.  Right now I know what they are but I haven't worked them in throughout in a comprehensive way.  I suppose I'll have to write the story and fill in the finer things afterwards.

Anayway, chapters four and five:

Chapter 4




Clarke woke with a start, his first thought of bombs falling. As he turned on his light and woke up a bit, he realized the sounds were coming from the barricaded store entrance. Someone, or something, was banging on the doors.
As far as “something,” Clarke hoped it wasn't more rats. Rodents had found some way into the store and were getting into the food. Some of the infiltrators looked perfectly healthy, while others bore tumors and other reminders of the world outside the walls. For lack of anything better to do the refugees sppent a lot of time patrolling the grocery section, chasing and trying to bash the invertible vermin. These extermination efforts were not very successful.
Everyone that had been sleeping was now awake (without daylight, people slept whenever they felt like it). The group converged at the entrance, where Raul was arguing with Steve. “He's gotta be a zombie. Look at him, shambling, skinny, and his skin is all damaged. Maybe from bites” Out of the gaps in the barricade one could make out a man, wobbly on his feet, with red sores on his skin. He was bald, he was holding some kind of box, and a puddle of vomit was at his feet. He looked confused, but kept banging.
“Actually, his symptoms are consistent with radiation sickenss,” Steve started to explain. He loved being the smart one in the room. His explanation was cut off by the man outside, “Please! My cat!” He yelled, holding his box a little higher. Clarke realeaized it was a cat carrier, with some sort of sheet metal covering it. Lead? “We need to let him in, Raul,” Clarke said. “He's not a zombie.”
“But maybe he's a vampire!” Louis chimed in, but it was obvious he was joking because he was dismantling the barricade as he said it. “Is it safe to let him in? Will he make us sick too?” A worried girl named Cindy asked, holding her swelling belly. Cindy and Dave had been cashiers, casually dating just a few months ago. Now Cindy was pregnant. No one knew the anaswer to her question. The reading selection at their disposal didn't cover these sorts of scenarios.
“Look,” said Louis, “He's dying out there. In the movies they hose people down that have been exposed to radiation. We might be able to help him.” The barricade was shoved aside, the door was opened, and the man collapsed forward. The box clattered as it hit the floor and a startled yowl could be heard within.
The man, delirious, was taken to the back and tended to as best they knew how. They imitated whatever they'd seen in the movies, and put the man to rest on a pile of blankets. The box was indeed lined with lead, and the cat, spared the fate of its master, was released. Cindy named him Shabby Tabby, and the vermin problems would soon be a thing of the past.
They took turns watching the man, who was clearly deteriorating. Leafing through his wallet, Raul announced that their non-zombie guest was named Aziz. Clarke and Louis were playing cards near Aziz one night when he sat bolt upright, “The car, I left it in the car!” Clarke and Louis put folded their hands and tried to calm Aziz. “Don't worry, you're safe in here. It's okay,” Clarke told him soothingly.
Aziz kept agitatedly babbling about the car. “Do you think he'll calm down if we show him our car?” Clarke ventured. “Well,” Louis replied, “We'll try that first, and if that doesn't work I'll get some Hot Wheels from the toy department.” The two of them supported Aziz and led him toward the garden center. Most of the others followed; something new was happening, and that didn't happen much.
When Aziz saw the car, he fell silent. A curtain seemed to lift from his ruddy face. He said the first coherent things since he arrived, “This winter won't last forever. When the sun is back, you have to leave this place. You have to move on, and show others- other survivors-” Aziz vomited on the floor, and then collapsed, apparently drained by his moment of clarity. Clarke and Louis looked at one another. Leave? To where? Show what to survivors? They hadn't thought beyond the day-to-day tasks in a long time.
Two days later, Aziz died.

Chapter 5

Some people handled the dark quiet of Wal-Mart habitation better than others. Donna had lost her family, and had been pretty catatonic for eight months. The sky was now clearing enough to distinguish day and night, but this did not cheer her. She missed her family. She didn't know what to do without them. One day she said she was going to try to look for them, and walked out the door. Donna never came back.
Cindy's pregnancy was obvious now. Her and Dave had read the two books about babies at the store, and asked questions to everyone. There was an anxiousness in the air, and a tinge of hope. Sundays were reserved for casual spiritual reflection for anyone that wanted to join in. For the most part, everyone agreed that the world-ending events described in holy books had not occurred. Therefore, the world hadn't ended. It went on, and they with it.
“It could have been The Rupture,” Louis pointed out. “You know, the good people went to heaven and Earth was left with atheists and outlaws. Shabby Tabby, THE BEAST!” Cindy picked up Shabby, “This guy? He's way too cuddly. And I think you mean the rapture.”
“The Raptor? That sounds horrifying,” Louis parried. Moods were certainly improving. Louis insisted that sunflowers were sprouting in the garden center, and told everyone how they'd power up the car. No one fell for it.
“Where are you going to go when the sun comes back?” Raul asked. “Probably to the East,” replied Clarke. “California had a lot of major cities, so that's probably a mess. Arizona and Nevada have massive fires every year withou the help of bombs, so they're probably devastated too. North is tempting, but there's a lot of open nothing in Wyoming and Montana, and we might run out of supplies.”
“I, for one vote that we go to the place in Kansas. The one that makes that orange drink, uh, Tampico,” Louis said. “Topeka?” clarified Clarke, “It might have been spared, actually. That's not a bad idea, just don't expect any oranges.”
Over the last few months of nuclear winter, Clarke and Louis ventured outisde with their Geiger counter, helping find water, fertile ground, and safe areas for the ones that would stay behind. Cindy gave birth to a boy, which Dave named Wolfosaurus. Steve tried explaining why this name was inaccurate, but no one listened. Dave and Cindy moved to a vacant gas station just down the road to raise their family in.
In time seeds did sprout in the garden center, and then outside planting began. Raul led Dave, Cindy, Steve, Clarke, Louis, and the rest in starting over. Dubbed by Louis as the Walmartians, they would make it. Especially if zombies came to town.
The car was moved back outside in the warm, beautiful sun. Louis said he might have become an albino from the extended dark period. Clarke ignored him and checked the air pressure on the tires. Louis was cleaning the windows. The batteries were recharged and the car was ready to go.
“Good luck out there. I hope you find what you're looking for,” Cindy told them, holding Shabby Tabby. Dave was holding Wolfosaurus. Goodbyes were said all around. Clarke and Louis were looking for their way, the open road, and maybe a safe haven of more than ten people.
They headed East.

Monday, October 7, 2013

chapters 2 and 3

this is easy to write.  ideas just keep moving it along, and I had a few hours to type today.  keep in mind, this is still a very rough first draft.  A and B are now named Clarke and Louis, respectively.

Chapter 2

This was not part of the plan. Go to college, get a kick ass job, and life is great. Nuclear bombs weren't part of the American dream they'd been eating. They got back in the car, thankful for sunglasses but still with blind spots from seeing one dozen suns. They turned off the music; it wasn't helping.
“Do we have anything stronger than Coke?” Clarke asked, leaning his head on the steering wheel. “No,” Louis replied soberly, “The breathalyzer, remember?” The university had helped come up with most of the funding for their solar-powered alterations, and as a requirement of doing so demanded a breathalyzer be installed. If breath had too high BAC, the engine would turn off, or just not start.
“Damn,” Clarke said, “Just... damn.” He turned the car back on, turned around, and sped back the way they had come. Their families, their friends, their professors... everyone and everything they knew was in Salt Lake City. They had to know what happened there.
Once they got back on the interstate, things slogged considerably. Cars were packed on both sides, fleeing the city, or seeking the city, everyone was looking for something. Safety. Loved ones. Answers.
It was a quiet, slow journey. Clarke and Louis were both wracked with tumultuous thoughts and fears. As they approached Salt Lake City, the air became heavier with smoke. The general direction of the city burned a dark orange with thick black clouds. Ashes started to rain on the the windshield. Clarke turned on the wipers to see better, but he knew this would ruin his air filter. Clarke sighed, “Loius, I'm sorry but I have to turn off the air. These ashes will plug up the air intake. I don't know if this stuff is radioactive, so we should keep the windows shut too. It's going to get hot in here.”
With a grave expression, Louis reached to the pilfered Geiger counter and pulled the tigger. It chirped immediately. Louis frowned. “What's it read?” Clarke asked, worried. “100 microsieverts,” B replied, consulting the chart that came with it, “The same dose as a chest x-ray, except this is continuous.”
Clarke pulled on to the shoulder, dazed, “Well... what do we do? We're still miles away from downtown. Everyone we know is further in...”
“We have to turn around.” It was hard to see Louis acting so seriously. He was usually goofy, “Salt Lake was obviously hit. Anyone at the center is gone, and anyone much closer than we are is going to be seriously irradiated.” They both knew they had to abandon the people and places they loved. To do otherwise was suicide, but it was still a heavy decision. They would never get a chance to say goodbye.
In a grim mood, Clarke got onto the opposite lane, and started heading away. “We passed a Wal-Mart a couple miles back.” The ash fell steadily and the skies, so bright only a few hours ago, were darkening to a black hellishly lit by fires below. The Wal-Mart in question was nearly surrounded by burning buildings, while somehow not catching itself. A trick of the wind, perhaps.
They would survive. Everything they knew was gone, and the future, well... they couldn't think too far ahead. Despair hung around their necks, longing, loss, and uncertainty. The Wal-Mart paking lot was deserted. Apparenly when the world ends people don't go shopping.

Chapter 3

Clarke, Louis, and about ten employees made up the entire population of Wal-Mart refugees. Everyone appreciated the potential value in a solar-powered car, so the first order of business was to get the car indoors. It was just a little too big to fit through the garden center doors, so the side mirrors had to be removed. The battery was disconnected and the interior side panels were removed. The speaker grill covers were take off, along with the speakers, to expose the nuts holding the mirrors on. The car was rolled inside. The doors were locked and barricaded to withstand the strangely strong winds blowing outdoors
Outside it grew even darker, and there was no power indoors. A desperate lot, the refugees were quick to follow any leader. The manager of the store, Raul, knew what to do, “Don't worry, I've had a plan for this kind of thing since I started here pushing shopping carts in.” They gathered flashlights and batteries so they could see what they were doing, then Raul directed them to use the camping stoves and salt to start curing all of the meat. They did this while scarfing ice cream. The frozen stuff had to be dealt with now, because the freezers had no power.
“See,” Raul explained, “Anyone that's seen Dawn of the Dead, or played Left 4 Dead, or knows anything about zombies, has a plan in case the shit hit the fan.” A single, middle-aged man with no family, Raul had little reason to mourn, and, in fact, saw the apocalypse as a bit of excitement far beyond the usual Wal-Mart fare.
“I totally had a plan for zombies!” Louis piped in, while he and a few others used tools to dig a well in the floor of the stock room. “I was going to go to one of those shrines with the eternal flame, 'cause, you know, zombies are really flammable. Then I was going to eat beans all day and easily eliminate any zombie that wandered in.”
“Can zombies enter a shrine?” asked Clarke. “That's holy ground, even if you were proudly flatulent.”
“They're ZOMBIES, not vampires,” Louis chided, rolling his eyes. After a few days, the fires had mostly stopped burning, but the sky was completely black. Anyone passing in a vehicle might now even see the store with the raging winds blowing ash all over. The only way to tell time was by clock and calendar. Air temperatures began to fall. Nuclear winter was setting in.
Some of the refugees drank heavily, and for good reason. Raul tried his best to keep everyone occupied. Everyone worked together to dump bags of dirt onto the floor of the garden center and spread seeds. Three was no sun now, but someday there would be, and the glass ceiling there would make a perfect greenhouse. They had a few bonfires in the garden center using wooden palettes. They cooked and drank and drank and sang along to the iPod in the car until the batteries in the trunk had drained.
After a few weeks, it was too cold to stay in the garden center all the time. The group bundled up in clothes and blankets and relocated. “Hey,” Clarke asked one day (or possibly night) as the group played cards and board games. “I played Fallout 3, and all the water was radioactive. How does this Brita water filter fix it?”
Raul didn't know because it didn't involve zombies, but a somewhat awkward teenager named Steve had the answer. “Well,” Steve said, snuffling his nose, “Water isn't radioactive, it's particles in the water that are dangerous. Activated carbon filtering removes the particles, and that's why our well water, from an irradiated aquifer, is safe for us to drink.” He looked proud to have chipped in. The poor kid really missed his pet gerbil, and hadn't had much of a life off the internet before now.

There was no water pressure, so pits were chiseled into the floor for toilets. When they were used up, they were filled in and covered to contain the smell. A couple of months passed with Raul as leading his motely bunch as best as anyone could. Secretly, he hoped for a zombie or two to knock on the door just so he could really feel like he was accomplishing something amazing.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

On the Road (working title)

I had an idea for a story (or a book if it goes long enough, we'll see) a year or so ago.  I came up with a few ideas but never typed anything.  I figured I'd give it a whirl.  The base premise is two guys with a solar-powered car driving around what's left of America after nuclear winter ends.  They'll meet interesting people!  They'll hear interesting stories!  Some humor will be in there along the way.  We'll see how it goes.  Here's the rough (no edits or revisions done) of the first chapter.

On the Road (working title)

Greg Thomas

Part 1: The End

Chapter 1

It was the brightest day imaginable, how could it be better?
A and B had just driven on to the salt flats of Utah. Their solar-powered project car was a joint senior capstone, and this was their third test drive. With the latest round of tinkering, their goal was to get it up to a sustained fifty miles per hour for six hours. A nice, leisurely test drive to finish their engineering degrees.
On such a sunny day, they could drive until nightfall, and even later with the battery reserves in the trunk, but there wasn't any reason to. As long as they could show that the converted Ford Taurus was a viable alternative to gasoline, they'd graduate with honors, get great jobs, and make lots of money. At least, that was the plan, and it was going well so far.
“Why the hell did you bring a Geiger counter?” asked A, after setting the car on cruise control. B was pointing the device in every and making noises like it was a laser pistol.
“Haven't you ever seen the movie 'Them?” Giant ants in the desert. It's a classic. With this, I'll be able to see them coming!” B explained.
“If they're giant, ants couldn't we see them through the windows?” A replied, turning the AC up a notch. He had grown well used to B inanities.
“Not if they're invisible. Radiation can do that, you know,” B patiently pointed out.
“I must have missed that lecture. Hey, pass me one of those Cokes.” B grabbed two Cokes out of the cooler in the back and popped the tops. They each took a nice long gulp.
There wasn't much to see out here. Mountains in the distance, but otherwise just a huge expanse of flat glaring sand. A could probably take his hands off the wheel, there was nothing to hit, but there was the odd race now and again. Their car hummed along wonderfully, with the passengers comfortably passing through the wasteland.
“You know, I don't know how the settlers got through this place. It's desolate. I don't remember it from in Oregon Trail,” B wondered whimsically.
“Dude, we're in Utah. Not Oregon.” Batteries were fully charged from the sunlight. Speed had been maintained for one hour now.
“I think they're sister cities,” B said nonchalantly. “Hey, we rigged this up to power my iPod over the weekend,” B said, fishing an iPod out of his pocket. “Let's get some tunes going!” Soon, Led Zeppelin was coming out of the speakers. B sang along, “When the levee breaks, I'll have no place to stay...”
A flash in the rearview mirror. “Was that lightning?” A asked his companion, turning the music down. The brightness was unbelieveable. A few seconds passed, then a brighter flash, from the right. A turned off cruise control and stopped the car. “There was only sun in the forecast...”
They both got out of the car. B had the Geiger counter in hand, but looked serious for once. They stood baking on the hard salt, scanning the horizons. Bright flashes seemed to have sprouted all around- but not lightning. Clouds were forming in dreaded mushroom shapes. The iPod had been left playing, the doors half-open, “Crying won't help you, praying won't do you no good...”

It was the brightest day imaginable, and things could not be more dire.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Oh, Not You Again

I'm going with trite rhymes again this week.  I'd like to have a conversation about why, use of rhyme, and so on, but this isn't a very good place to do so.

Oh, Not You Again

I knew someone from there
I can't remember who
They bored me half to death
(that is, at least, half-true)

I don't recall just how
Their little talk explained
A single reason to
Engage in their refrain

With lengthy stories that
Aroused no sentiment
Another day had passed
Another yawning spent

Perhaps some sunny day
We'll meet again, us two
And you'll remember me
While I've forgotten you

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

One for the Dogs

My mother suggested I write a poem about dogs.  What is there to say?  I kept things very simple; it could fit on a Hallmark card.  The upside of predictable rhymes is that it took about five minutes to write.  Perhaps next week I'll try something more challenging.

One for the Dogs

The wagging tail
The lolling tongue
The love of play
The need to run
The friendly eyes
The fluffy fur
A few things that
I love dogs for

I'll talk to him
In loving tones
He'll be right there
When I'm alone
I'll brush him soft
I'll throw his balls
We'll go for walks
'Cause we're best pals

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Internet

The Internet

I found I found it founded
(and not so carefully)
In young confounded logic
And multitudes of memes
Within this social meltdown
Of watching cats by day
A very vocal billion
With nothing much to say

And don't forget the pornos
Because they paved the way
For tweets and likes and comments
For boredom on display
So keep your smart devices
With all the internet
Connect me to my footsteps
They are more permanent

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


The hardest part of writing is staring at the blank page with no ideas.  After I get a line, a rhyme, a homophone, or something to begin, it's not so bad.  Some weeks I come up with something I like.  A lot of the time I find myself writing without a great deal of satisfaction other than keeping the tools sharp, so to say.

In any case, this week's efforts keep sharp the tools of basic rhyme and meter.


I biuld a monument
For things that had passed through
A shifty gust
A migrant moth
A memory of you

And resting on the top
In Western-facing view
A followed whim
A brief embrace
A timpani of two

I built this edifice
Of sand and dusk and dew
For melted wax
For ended songs
For shifting motes of blue

The tide comes rolling in
To claim what rites it's due
My monument,
My sacrament
I knew it would pass too

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


backwards and forwards.  


Bleak this morning
Bury her
This delicate window
Kept everything out with 
Glaring confidence
Our eyes, why?
Questions that beg
In so late it
Begs that question
Why arise?
Confidants glaring without 
Everything kept window delicate
This barrier
Mourning this bleak

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


I know I should try writing in different styles, but I do so enjoy the homophones.


For a
Battle meant
Less edibles
Less said, able
Though to stay employed

Miss, I'll
Fire another
Fire and other
Objcets slung
Come from down below

Great at hacking
Grates,  attacking
For the win!
For the when-
ever we play serf
I'm glad we're using Nerf

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Clockmaker

After taking some time off, I think it's time to get back to one poem per week.  It's a good way to keep my mind in shape.  Homophones!

The Clockmaker

It was
In eight
Spinning gears
Spin in jeers
Wrapped around
Rapt, a round
Ever brassy sun

It was just an
Or are we
Clocked work too?
Clogged, work to
Free springs
Freeze brings
No discomfort
Notice comfort
Swings like pendulums

Incomprehensible loops
In comprehensible loupe
The counter waits
The counterweights
Raise him to his feet

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Available on eBook

For many years, I have wanted to publish a book.  Initially this daydream was about physical books, but that's less realistic as the years pass.  Generally, I was waiting to have enough good poems to justify a book.  I've decided that now is the time.  I've developed three new forms of poetry for the world, and included some of my favorite "ordinary" poems from over the years.  Some of these have been featured in this blog, but not all of them.

This is the link to the eBook page:


if you do not have a Kindle you can download a free app to read this on any device:


Please take a look, it doesn't cost much.  Please share with friends.

Thank you,

Greg Thomas

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Sound Poet

Since my last post I have picked out all of the poems I wish to use, arranged them into four sections (homophones, backwards and forwards, word collage, and "ordinary"), added a basic title page, page numbers,  a table of contents and ran a spell check.  I have gone over it once with regard to formatting, and I've whittled a few poems out to maintain overall quality.

I still need to go over it at least one more time for formatting and quality control, make sure the pages listed in the table of contents are correct after that, and add a little about the author/thanks for reading squib to the end.  This stuff is time consuming.  I might do this tomorrow instead of job hunting, or it might have to wait until next week.

after that last bit to finish it, I'll have to go through the amazon kindle store process, which ,*fingers crossed* with any luck, won't disfigure my page and/or line formatting.  I don't know how long it takes from submitting the document to being listed on the store.

So that's the plan.  Hopefully I'll have something to report (and a link!) in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

recent activity

Last week I spent some time reading up on Amazon's Kindle eBook self-publishing.

This week I started dredging through poems worth asking someone else to read, and even pay money for.  This blog has been rather hit or miss, or miss again, as it was a once per week creative endeavor.  Today I got through backwards/forwards and homophones.  A dent.  More progress when I feel better.

eBook this summer, is the plan.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Woman on the Pedestal

This used up all my leftover homophones.  Pretty sure it also includes homophones I have already used in other poems.  Is there anybody... OUT THERE?

The Woman on the Pedestal

She was chaste
She was chased
She had a wit
She had a whit
Of baubles
But bobbles
From a torn knee
From a tourney
She had won
She had one
Acquired medal
Shining metal
A choired mettle
Shines in,  Meddled
With the primeval
With the prime evil
Errant knight
Air at night
Would smell so sweet
As her delight

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

6 AM

word collage.  I'm not sure how much longer I'm going to keep up this weekly poem thing.  I have run out of ideas to challenge myself, and I ran out of ideas to write about some time ago.  Thoughts, anyone?

6 AM

there's     a    g    downstairs
something         host
  cere   w            of   birdsong
      bra l    blinking       for
                       in   the  dawn

a   sl ight  departure   to  the   left
      e      from        morning   horizon
    of  common         coffee
hand  misunderstanding      needs

we  s    in    hushed    voices
    poke   mo no
   at            syl lab ic
     the               grunts
 paper   eggs 

the    slanted     light   is    lazy
news    slouches       ly  buttered
  repeat   are                toast
      droning  warranted

misleading     quiet       sidewalks
 pesky    chiming     and
    bells       alarms   a heavy   dew                        

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

No poem this week

There will not be a poem this week.  I was hoping to start one while babysitting, but yesterday the baby was in a rotten mood and today he refused to take a nap.  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Foggy Walk


Foggy Walk

In the mist
In the midst
Of looking back
I recalled that
I re-called that
Number front to back
What a climate
What a climb it
Helps to clear the head
Still assenting to
Still ascending to
Not yet get to bed

The core of us in
The chorus of an
Arbitrary stream
A well coming
A welcoming
Ending to the theme
Murmured wind with
More myrrh in with
Something calling slow
Fog covers oaks
Fog covers, soaks
It's time to get back home

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


I thought I'd do a backwards and forwards one because I had not done one in a while.  It's a rather bland outcome of a poem, this week.  I'd rather be outside.


Carefully sifted
Valued highly
Powder to ground
Powers magic
Shaking earth
Ringing concussions
Problem solving
Solving problems
Concussions ringing
Earth shaking
Magic powers
Ground to powder
Highly valued
Sifted carefully

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Prismatic Effect

word collage.

Prismatic Effect
  this    water  (a summer state of   mind 
    light                        childhood  ) 
sundered    into     every     color
    the    laughter      smiling
 afternoon                   possibility 

bent    light    in   a    circle
back    back        rainbow 
to      to    the    over the
 watch      sun  moon      horizon

treasure  from    the   shores   of    stars
      made    a    pot        something
 visible    brief   of gold       more
        shimmering         beautiful   or less 
  mirage        image                    acute

then    there    came     a     cloud
  I   stood         an        over
        watering     end        the
   the yard     quietly    moment  spell

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ballet Studio After-Hours

homophones.  maybe next week I'll do a word collage.  any requests?

Ballet Studio After-Hours

An imaginable re-pose
An image in able repose
In prismed
This mirror looks exhausted

Dusk in
Somber hues
Some bear huge
Pointy shoes
Point issues
Sure to set the bar

Toe to heel
Tow to heal
These worn paces
These sworn spaces
Biting their lips
Biding their slip
The empty room
Holds its breath

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Thief

Free verse.  I'd forgotten how easy things can be when sounds don't have to be considered.

The Thief

Who is this theif?
Stealing my attention
I *just* catch my breath
I won't report a crime

Be my guessed
Be a mystery
Try for more
Nothing lost
If nothing takes

This Miss Deameanor
Same thing every year
Stained from tomatoes,
The chipmunk runs away

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Caw caw!


Caw caw!

Raucous carrion
Rock us, carry on
You liars
Your lyre
Sees the day
Seize the day's
Doctrine of decay

Awful ganders
Offal, dander
A smorgasbord
As morgues aboard
A verse
To burial and hearse

Insects swarming
In sects, warming
In the bluster
Ravens, buzzards
And others, all voracious
Another salvo raises
They came, they saw
Crying like macabre macaws
Caw caw!
Caw caw!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Roller Coaster

This is the third poem in a row with summer on my mind.  Homophones.

Roller Coaster

And it's a patient
Standing teen
Stand in teams
Her next hug?
Harness, snugged
Instill calm!  Oddities
In steel commodities
Water blasts
What a blast!
Ever the notion of
Every motion of
Racing too quickly
Raising to quickly
Heightened alarm
Height and all arms
Wrecked if I'd
Start to break
Starts to brake
Coming to a rest
Calming too impressed
Riders getting off
Already back in line

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sudden Downpour

I wanted to add another stanza, but after about twenty minutes of coming up with nada (and watching Amanda play Halo) I decided it wasn't getting any longer.  Word collage.

Sudden Downpour

if   rain's   not  for  falling what is   it
  this           the ducks        summer 
     blushing         to    dabble       for?
  morning    sky
     sagely   should   come   
 surrenders     release    down  on   me

a    smell  so   lavendar  the
 leaf  hovers  fresh     grass
making      like   dew  would
  veined  faces      drop  smile

playing    follow    the     liter
  leapfrog,    me!   end  is
    a                 nigh  not so bad
     second  unmasked

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

No Poem This Week

This week I'm going to be editing, dismantling, and otherwise dredging through the backlog poems. I've already found some lines I can use better.  Since I'm busy with that, no time for a poem this week.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Fourth

I did not feel like focusing on writing this week, but it was fun to dream about warmer weather.  Word collage.

The Fourth

bursting     with     excitement
bastion    of   combustion   and
   we   set   the       a pplaus e
 absorbed   sky  mood           ible
   it         on whiskey        vigor
  all         fire

the   colorful    echoing    finale
  acrid  smells      walk home   so
       of  irony                 many
gunpowder    rust            cars   people

the   mosquitos   like  the  idea
  party    flourish   event     is
   just  like it's all         a little
began              perfect      crazy

the next day

flippant    empty   bottles
   ashes      park      discarded
another year has   passed

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

In the Web

In the Web

A spider
Espied our
Hungry scene
Hung, re-seen
In silken strands
In sulk's entranced
Grubby hold
Grubs, behold!
I, the fly, am caught

Branched in grumbles
Branching  rumbles
Blowing leaves
Blow in, leave
A space in a scape
As paced, an escape
I, the fly, am freed

Away to a burred shrub
A way to a bird *shrug*
That, the fly, no more

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dinner and a Movie

Stanzas alternate between homophonic and simple rhyming.

Dinner and a Movie

All askew
I'll ask you
(all as cued)
To a movie
(to a move, he
rang of modesty)

"Add in a meal and
We'll call it a deal."
(a deal isn't dating
but still he's elating
to do the date cliche)

They meet and vegetate
The meat and veggies taste
So lavish he
(so lavishly)
Ponies up the bill

They find a darkened spot
For quite light-hearted plot
They share a laugh and
Notice hands have
Formed into a  knot
Now they deal (they date)
Far more oft than not

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Water Way

Today Blogger was stubbornly against switching to Courier font.  After half a dozen tries, I finally prevailed.  I had colored some of the letters, but after hassling with font for ten minutes I didn't feel like hassling with font colors too.

The Water Way

re make   every  thing
  fund   moment    reenacted
 it   a   messy      distant
all    mental   mis
   anew      ity   step

            r      flagon s
a          v ag a bond     welt er
 stream           buccaneer
       of      walk  the plank
 flot s  consciousness        ton
  jet  am             castaway

thoughts  eddying caught on
mingle  crash       facts kelp
    with     like   against
fishes  relish   w  v  s  the damn
                  a  e       dam

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


word collage.


BEEP!                   k
this      reluctant  fun ction
    foggy     stirrings  oh,
inertia   murmuring  just   five
f umbling for  groggy   minutes 
 m    quiet  displacement  more!

          erved      ur      agn
BEEP!   sw          c  ved  t eld
   huh?      dumbly  lidded images
   what  time           convulsed
  light  is this?   simplicity  ends

BEEP! the   cobwebs   clear
        reality  con      ly
                    verge on
                     the nightstand
                     the alarm clock
                     this woeful hour

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Kingdom Couriers


Kingdom Couriers

The livery
(royal's permission)
Roils per mission
A long road
Along rode
Hungry guards and
Hung regards and
Oh, of course, the horses

Pack edges
Arrows, spears
A rose peers
At this manifest
At this man, if as
Though they had merit
Though the head mare had
Snorted at the thought

Tracking by degree
Trekking by decree
Never ceasing
Never seizing
Much beside the mail,
Galumphing down the trail

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Scatterbrained Scholar

Word collage.  It's a day late because I had things to do yesterday.

The Scatterbrained Scholar

    spatters   pitter-
splatter   patter   of the little
 racing         ned clock     feet
   the       lightning struck  floorboards
ho    moon     with  midnight
  ooowing     -out heed   sincerity
 wolves   wind

All that, went unnoticed.

he  spent   energy   bent  out
      time       over notes  of
 so close!   desks books    shape
   pouring       (tired)
coffee  himself        poring  repetition
    into  every  recitation  until
focus     page    repetition   it sticks

the   storm    had    passed  out
   studies    a    at    last!
 unfinished   dawn  tended
     stubbled   roughness
 work   ending   il i
he dozed off     leg
 before he      ble