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.

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