Monday, March 27, 2017

Hindsight is 20/20 Except for those that Wear Blinders - Part 5 (The End)

“How many times do I have to ask before someone let’s me scratch my nose?”   

That’s what they said I said when I finally woke up.  I don’t remember so maybe I wasn’t as awake as they thought but it was a beginning.  I did remember the second time.  It sounded like there were angry squirrels in the room.  I turned my head and spotted Kelly and the boys pitching a fit as some woman tried to lead them from the room.  I wasn’t having it and rolled off the cot that I had been laying on trying to stand and get to them. 

The children screamed and suddenly the room was too full of people.  Jax picked me up and laid me back on the pallet despite the fact that I was fighting him.  “Don’t let her … take them …” 

It took a few more minutes before things were sorted.  The children had snuck away during lunch to come see me and the woman, one of the classroom aides, had been trying take them back to their class.  From that point on I improved though my mouth was so sore that talking was difficult.  And that made it even more difficult that people wouldn’t stop talking to me.  I was questioned by federal investigators.  The old gang stopped by, ostensibly to cheer me up and cheer me on.  The kids were non-stop magpies though that didn’t really bother me except that it was hard to answer their many questions.  And then there was Jax. 

Jax looked awful.  I hadn’t seen him like this since … well the first dam incident.   

“I’m not that hurt,” I said slowly.  “I don’t see why I can’t just go back to the farm.” 

“Because … because I … I …” 

“Enough Jax, just let it go.” 

“You don’t believe me.” 

“I suppose I do.  I’ve had enough people tell me I should.” 

“But that’s not you.  You don’t believe me.” 

“I believe you … that you didn’t do anything.” 

“But.” 

“Jax, just let it go.” 

“I can’t.” 

“Jax, I’m asking you to just … let … this … go.”   

He would have said more but he was called away to an emergency.   And by that time I had gotten enough of my energy back that I refused to discuss it anymore and finally Jax didn’t have any choice but to accept that. 

Two days later I had had enough.  I explained to the children that just like their father needed to be a doctor and take care of people I needed to go back to the farm and take care of it.  I just wasn’t made for town life … or for people sticking their noses into my business. 

“Will you go away forever?” 

“Of course not Kelly.  Besides …” 

Jax came into the room and said, “Besides, we’ll be there with her.” 

The children were speechless.  I was simply suspicious. 

“You have your work,” I told him.  “Important work.” 

“I also have a family.  The town has agreed to hire two more trained medical personnel … one of them is even going to be a trained surgeon.  I … I still need to come in but it won’t be for seven days a week for such long shifts.” 

“You need …” 

“I need my family.”  He was looking at me so intensely I could only nod in resignation. 

We rode back to the farm in the hybrid-conversion van and were met by Johnson who seemed relieved to see Jax.  I got out and made my way inside to the kitchen and stood wondering what to fix for their supper. 

Jax came in to find me and said, “I’ll fix …” 

All three kids yelped, “No!” 

For some reason that struck me funny and then I remembered when he’d first come to the farm and insisted on eating the toast he had burnt and all I could do was hurry back out of the house and to the barn only there was no King Kong to cry to, he’d passed away the year before, already much older than most rabbits of his species, the last of my brother’s “pets” to pass. 

“Lydie?” 

“I just needed some air Jax.  I’ll be right there.” 

Instead of letting me by he tentatively pulled me into his arms.  “I’m sorry.  I know it doesn’t make things better but … I’m sorry.  I guess I … I guess I just didn’t want to see what was happening.” 

“Jax I told you I didn’t …” 

“I know what you said Lydie but I just … I just can’t let it go.” 

“Well you’re going to have to if you want us to move forward.” 

“Can we?  Can we move forward?” 

“Do you want to?” 

“God yes.  Of course.” 

“Then let it go.  Matt was always really good at finding the chinks in people’s armor.  I don’t know why.  Most of the time it was too stupid easy for him to get away with it.  It was just his talent.  But he’s gone.  This time for good.  We managed to survive him before.  Let’s just … let’s just survive him this time too.” 

Was it easy?  No.  We were a long time dealing with how easy … how too easy … it had been to separate us.  Jax had needs.  I thought I was supporting those needs … maybe too much support if that makes sense.  He thought I didn’t need him anymore or that he could prove himself or something … never have been completely clear what it was.  Jax never seemed to be completely clear about how he’d gone so far down a road that he’d almost gotten lost. 

But eventually we grew up a little more.  Found out we both had faults and weaknesses that we hadn’t realized were there.  They weren’t big faults, big weaknesses, not individually but put together and acted on they nearly destroyed us.  We found out it is usually the little stuff that will trip you up the most.  We had thought dealing with the big stuff, triumphing over Matt the first time, that we’d won our own personal war.  And we had … but just like the world had failed to completely heal, so had we.  But from that point we did start healing … a healthy healing though there were set backs. 

At one point I was in danger of sliding back into the loneliness and self-isolation that had been my go-to protection protocol, but then Jax up and convinced me to join some committee or other in town that was looking for sustainable living plans.  And it grew from there.  The farm was and still is my primary pursuit but I finally opened up to other experiences.  The children were growing like weeds and then Jax and I added a few more to our team roster.  We’ve been lucky that they all turned out more human than enviro-geek but a couple of the grandkids … well, you can’t have everything I suppose.  Kelly laughs when I say that.  She followed her father in to the medical field as did the boys.  Some of the younger kids have taken a swipe or two at farming but it didn’t stick.  It makes me a bit sad but then again, I’m an elder and older … but I don’t feel so old I have to worry about what these days they call estate planning just yet. 

Jax still works in town but only on special cases and for friends.  He teaches more than anything these days.  Some of his students are horrified by the stories he tells of the “old days.”  But then he’ll get a call from one where they’re blessing him for teaching them survival medicine because they were able to use it and save a life.  I hope those skills aren’t lost.  Just like I hope small scale farming isn’t lost.  Machines can’t do it all regardless of the techno-snobs’ opinions. 

Perhaps it is going to seem anticlimactic to some but I guess the bottom line for this memoir is that … life happens.  You might try and white wash it but eventually the stains will come through.  Like with Matt.  We tried to do it not once, but twice.   He really was certifiable when he fell over the edge of the old dam trying to run away.  At least I think he fell.  There’s some that says he jumped … some that said he was pushed.  I’m not sure I want to know.  Regardless it was tragic.  And yes, despite all the evil that Matt did I can still say his death was tragic. 

What was his father’s betrayal?  At some point his father realized how unstable Matt was.  It was likely when he found out about how he was continuing to manipulate people to try and get back to the town to reboot his “empire.”  No one will ever know exactly what happened.  They didn’t find Matt’s father’s body for almost a week.  But the notes that his father had left, found after Matt’s own death, indicated he’d meant to take his son to a mental health facility and quietly have him committed, that he’d hoped that it was simply a form of PTSD or something similar, and eventually he and Matt would continue working together for the betterment of mankind.  Matt’s father was a bit of a narcissist but how different things might have been had he succeeded in getting Matt sufficient help. 

But none of that came out for years.  Out west Matt had a following.  I wouldn’t say it quite qualified as a cult but it wasn’t far from it … and he was held up as some kind of martyr for many years.  Then like always, the stains started showing through the white wash and the truth came out.  For those of us left from that time, rehashing it was sometimes painful but so’s life on occasion.  Either way it didn’t destroy us anymore than Matt had been able to destroy us while he was alive.  It reinforced that it isn’t the outside that matters, it isn’t always how smart or dumb you are either, it is what is on the inside in your heart.  Your motivations are what truly dictate who you are.   

And the years have continued to roll by.  Some of the old gang didn’t last that long in this new world.  Some of them thrived in it … and still do.  Their stories are their stories.  I’ll let them tell it if they want to.
 
The End

Hindsight is 20/20 Except for those that Wear Blinders - Part 4


I couldn’t open my eyes or move my arms and my nose itched.  All of that was my first impression when I woke up.  Only woke up probably isn’t the medical term for it.  I could hear but that’s about it.  I couldn’t interact with my surroundings … or the people in them.  I existed in twilight and could hear but not necessarily really comprehend. 

“Jax you gotta stop this.  It was a mistake.” 

“I’m telling you I didn’t … okay, it was nice for … for someone to … to see … me … but … but I never … god I never did.  Yeah, she offered but I never took her up on it.  I didn’t know about … about all that she was doing … my God … Lydie will never believe me.  I’ve …” 

Another voice sighed in fatigue and said, “Jax, man … give it a rest already.  We all got played.  Those government contracts were just too sweet to turn down.  We all got caught up.  We all got pulled away.  None of us ever suspected that Matt was behind things.” 

“Reggie it isn’t the same thing.  And Lydie didn’t get played.” 

“Oh yeah?  And what were those letters we found?” 

In a voice that sounded like someone had finally understood something, only too late, “A lonely woman thinking she had found a friend.  That’s all they were.  No matter what Vicky tried to make them out to be.  There wasn’t anything like she said there was in them.  I can at least tell her that I know … that I know she didn’t fall for …” 

Then it was like a switch flipped and a connection got made; like more than one piston had started to fire inside my brain.  I was finally able to say, “My nose itches.” 

“Lydie?!” 

“Where are the kidlets?” 

“In their classes.  I … I …” 

“We’re at the clinic?  I can’t … can’t see.” 

“There are compresses on your eyes.” 

“How bad?” 

“Lydie …” 

“Just spit it out.  I gotta make plans.  The farm … need to get back.  Just …” 

It was Reggie that said, “Don’t worry about it.  Johnson said he will keep an eye on things.” 

“Fine.  Take that away too.  Whatever.  Just leave me alone.  I can deal.  Like always.  I’ll figure things out.” 

I didn’t know it at the time but there was a shocked silence in the room with everyone looking at each other, not knowing what to say.  Before anyone could say anything I was unconscious again. 

Next time I woke up it was to hear crying.  “Kelly ...” 

“I do have a mommy.  I do!  Don’t let her leave!” 

“Kelly, look at me.  Lydie isn’t going to leave.  She’s just … she’s just … healing.  That’s all.  She’s healing and it has her tired out.” 

I heard more crying realized it must be the boys and then there was some shuffling sounds and then the room grew quiet.  I was almost asleep again when the door opened.  There were too many footsteps at one time for it to be one person and that proved to be true.  Two female voices started talking. 

“I had no idea the doctor had a wife.  Did you?” 

“I’d heard rumors but … Vicky … she seemed so sure and reasonable.” 

“Reasonable?  Geez, she is one sick chick.  And that man?  The one that jumped over the side at the old dam?  Have you heard who he was?” 

“He fell is what I heard.  And yeah, but better stay quiet about that.  That Major Something-or-Other that has been prowling around … just better stay quiet about that.” 

“I suppose.”  She squawked and then said, “Okay, I get it.  Stop pinching.  But seriously, how could a good-looking guy like Doc R have a wife and no one know?” 

“Look, it was a … um … a ploy.  Vicky just … look, I don’t know the details, I don’t want to know the details.  But the doc is really broke up about this and look at his kids.  Whatever it is or was or whatever … it was real so … let’s just leave it at that.” 

“Yeah.  Yeah I suppose.  It’s just so strange.” 

Eventually they left after changing the sheets.  I was sore from being moved around but I also felt better too.  Then I heard the door again and wondered who was doing what next.  A chair scraped across the floor and then I jumped when I felt something cool against my lips. 

“Shhhh, I know you don’t really hear me but it’s alright Lydie.  It’s just ice chips.  You were right, it was worth building the machine.  It’s been dead useful now that we’ve been able to secure the water source for it.  Your mouth is a little … a little cut up.  The ice will help with the swelling.  Thank goodness he didn’t crack any teeth but … but the inside of your mouth is cut up.  I … I had to put stitches …”  Then he just laid his head next to mind and I could hear him crying. 

No, that couldn’t be right.  Crying?  Jax?  No.  Uh uh.                                        

“I’ve messed up so bad Lydie.  But I swear … on my life … on Kelly and the boys … I was tempted but I never … never … gave in.  I swear it Lydie.  Please believe me.  Please don’t leave.  Don’t leave me.  Don’t leave the children.  They’re terrified you will.  They … Vicky has been … talking to them … saying things.  I didn’t know.  You have to help me Lydie.  Kelly is … she’s so confused.  I don’t know how this all happened.  I mean I do … Matt … again … but … oh god Lydie, just come back to me.  You’ve been asleep for so long … too long … please you have to wake up.  I can’t lose you.  I deserve to but I can’t.  Please …” 

I wanted to wake up at that point but something wouldn’t let me.  I tried and tried but then grew tired and all was black again.

Hindsight is 20/20 Except for those that Wear Blinders - Part 3


“Matt?”  I looked again and then said, “God you look awful.”  And he did.  He looked like he’d been in gaming purgatory for too long.                                                                     

Briefly surprised then thorough affronted Matt snarled, “Of course.  Your plebian tastes always were the first thing to give you away.” 

I was in no mood and told him so.  “Get real Matt.  What hole in hell did you crawl out of and what are you doing here?” 

“I’ve come to see the fruition of my plans.” 

The world was slipping sideways.  “You’ve what?” 

“Wake up and keep up Lydie.  Or did you really think that the little interlude you arranged would actually stop me.” 

I don’t know why I said it.  I was in shock … had been in some sort of shock since Ginger had come by the farm.  Shock from seeing Jax smiling and laughing like I hadn’t seen since the twins were babies it seemed.  And now shock at seeing Matt.  So I fell back on the old Lydie and her grade A snark.  “Okay Maestro, enlighten me.” 

And he did … or that’s what he thought he was doing but all he was really doing was blathering complete, nearly incomprehensible nonsense.  Until he got to my letters.   

“You were so easy to reel in.  But you were so damn slow.  Just like you always were.  Slow.  I needed those plans and you just were too damn slow.” 

After a few more rounds of blathering I realized he’d been my penpal and it hadn’t been friendship being offered on the other end.  He’d been pumping me, using me, to get plans that he then foisted off as his own.  But it hadn’t been the priority for me that it had been for him.  I’d been doing it for companionship, he’d been doing it because he needed the designs we came up with.  Then someone had figured it out and whatever stay-out-of-jail card he’d been using was vacated by the powers that be that held him.  And he blamed me for that on top of everything else he’d already blamed me for. 

Apropos of nothing I asked, “Where’s your father?” 

“Dead.” 

“Oh.  Sorry.” 

“No you’re not.  You hated him.” 

“I disliked him, I didn’t hate him.” 

“Yes you did!” he screamed.  And then he said, “As you should have.  He betrayed me like all the rest.” 

“Uh …” 

“Never mind.  You aren’t capable of understanding.  But it was at his betrayal that I knew what I had to do.” 

“Oh … uh … really?” 

“You had to pay.” 

It was at that moment that my sense of survival started knocking on my consciousness.  Matt was feeling the need to meet out some vengeance.  I knew him too well to think that there wasn’t going to be a lot of pain involved.  ‘Me?  I thought you just said it was your dad who betrayed you.” 

“Don’t try it Lydie.  Don’t try and play.  This game – my game – is too deep, too intricate and ingenious.  You’ll lose.  You’ve already lost,” he said sounding so sane that he sounded crazy.  “Get out.” 

Then he pointed some type of stunning device only I didn’t know what the stupid looking little stick was until he triggered it.  It basically hit me with a concentrated sound wave and the resulting force caused me to be pushed out of the back of the van’s doors and onto the ground.                                                                    

It was that stupid statue, the one I still hate - Chimera … or Venustas like they call it these days – that told me where we were.  The old dam.  The water was far below the embankment where it tumbled over the new boulders and other debris left from where I’d blown things up a few years earlier.  I was feeling some serious déjà vu. 

“Cute,” I told him.  “Come to finish the job?” 

“In a nutshell?  Yes.  You’ve wasted too much of my time.  Now I have it all in place once again.  I’ll …” 

“You’ve got to be kidding me?” I said, despite everything feeling pity for him.  “There is no way you are going to walk back in and …” 

“I already have.  It took me time but I’ve rebuilt my fledgling empire and now is the time to make sure that no one interferes again.  With you gone they’ll all fall apart.” 

“Seriously?  Seriously?!”  And then something snapped.  I didn’t go berserk, I’ve only done that a few more times in my life but of all the times that wasn’t one of them.  But something did snap.  “You know my day has sucked quite enough as it is.  Did you really have to bring your crazy train of stupidity and ignorance back around?!” 

“Don’t call me that!” 

“Which?  Stupid, ignorant, or crazy?!” 

The expression on his face reminded me too much of wax head that had been left out in the sun too long.  There was no one single emotion, but too many fighting for space and they kept morphing over and over.  It was sick.  And then he said, “I was going to draw this out but it is simply not worth it.  You’re dead Lydie.  And good riddance.” 

Oh how quickly some people forget.  

See when I said that Matt looked bad I hadn’t been exaggerating.  He didn’t look like he got out in the sun very often and the handsome guy he had once been was gone.  Wherever he’d been he hadn’t been getting much exercise.  He was soft and pudgy to go with pasty.  I on the other hand I may have given up my books and such but I’d continued to work … and work hard. 

But Matt had crazy on his side.  That and his little stick of pain.  He stunned me again and was rolling me to the edge before I could recover.  But when I did I ripped the stick out of his hand and tossed it over the edge.  All of the pain I was feeling just came pouring out of me. 

Every statement was punctuated with a punch.  “You are NOT going to waltz in here and take over.  You are NOT going to just play us all for fools again.  I am DONE with the pain you cause.  I totally PITY you.  You are CRAZY.  I don’t know who you THINK you are but MAESTRO you are no longer IF YOU EVER FREAKING WERE!!!!” 

“You can’t do this to me!!” he mewed, pawing at the ground where I’d left him.  My mistake. 

“Newsflash.  I just did,” I growled. 

And then he gave one more effort and flew at me.  Strong I was but he had the leverage of height and weight.  We wrestled around on the ground and then he got a rock and tried to hit me with it.  Did hit me a couple of times but nothing fatal no matter what he tried.  But he did hurt me, that he did just like that other night.  But unlike that other night I didn’t think I had anything left to live for so when he got me up and was pushing me over, I didn’t fight. 

But before I couId go over someone was pulling me back and there was screaming.  “No!!   No!!” 

A man yelled, “Arrest him!” 

Matt sounded several bricks shy of a full load as he sing-songed, “Too late!  Too late!!  Hahahahahahaha  Too late!!  She knows.  She knows all about you and how weak you are!  She’ll remember I never betrayed her like that!  She knows who the better man is!!  You won’t fix this!  Too late!!  Too late!!” 

A different voice shouted the order, “Someone tranquilize that bastard already!” 

Matt screamed, “No!  I won’t be thwarted!  It’s mine!!  It’s … No!!!!!!!!!!”  And then I heard yelling and then I didn’t hear anything else for a while.

Hindsight is 20/20 Except for those that Wear Blinders - Part 2


The past.  The road not taken.  The temptations of regret.  I loved Kelly and the boys though even Kelly was slipping away from me, so it seemed at the time, as she started going with Jax to town during the week to attend the new school they had built.  The boys weren’t even babies anymore and Jax asked if they too could come to town to play with kids their own ages in the medical center’s daycare.   

I was alone.  Very alone.  I was in danger of slipping into the funk I had been after the terrorist attack … back to when my family was killed.  I tried to fill my time with constructive things like I always had but somehow or other there just didn’t seem a lot of point to it.  No one needed me.  Oh, they needed the things I provided for them but even that was less and less as the town started to provide more and more. 

Then a letter came.  It was innocuous, or so it seemed at the time.  It had gone to the medical center and Jax had brought it home.  Several such letters arrived in our town from some recovery effort group.  The letter said that they were surveying farmers to find realistic and sustainable methods that fit with the limited resources we were experiencing back then.  Jax encouraged me to respond with ideas otherwise I might have just thrown the letter in the trash.  I let it sit on my desk out in the barn for almost a month before I decided to sketch out the pond that we were still dependent on though we managed it slightly different these days than we had when the pellet food was so easy to come by. 

I didn’t think another thing about it until another letter arrived for “Lydie Remington.”  This letter asked questions about the set up and whether it was a theoretical design or under current construction.  Again I delayed responding as I was in the midst of three kids have colds and then doing battle with one myself.  When I did respond I perhaps wasn’t as careful as I should have been though I did say that I knew of one such in current production. 

Then another letter, this one more personable and admiring.  And more letters continued.  In the old days I suppose I would have been ripe for some stupid online “romance” due to all of the things I was going through but in truth “romance” didn’t have a thing to do with it.  In all honestly it was simply vanity I suppose.  I missed someone acting like I had answers, acting like I was … well … acting like I was smart.  I’d been relegated to play a “hausfrau” and while I didn’t resent it, and in fact enjoyed that position in my family … part of me was resentful when others acted like their ”real jobs” were so much more necessary and integral to the continuation of our community.  So it wasn’t romance I was after even when Jax didn’t seem to have the energy or time for it any longer.  We were growing apart and he seemed to be taking the children with him. 

No, what I wanted and needed was … companionship and conversation and the letter writer gave me that.  I thought it was safe.  I never wrote anything inappropriate and in turn made sure that I never encouraged anything inappropriate.  All we ever talked about were projects and plans and theories.  My brain seemed to come alive again.  I felt like I was alive again.  But most of all, while  might have been alone most of the time, I no longer felt lonely. 

And when I started building things again it wasn’t to Jax that I went but to Ashton and Reggie.  In hindsight that was a mistake but by that point I honestly didn’t think Jax would care in the least.  He’d gotten into the habit of falling asleep as soon as he’d eaten, there was never any talk between us.  All he needed me for was to make sure that he and the children were fed and clothed.   

I came to accept that as the reality.  And without realizing it I had walled off the pain that feeling created.  But rather than let a vacuum exist I replaced it with work and with … my letters … and then the projects.  The projects I didn’t discuss with Jax because I didn’t think he cared. 

I was out at the biofuel shed measuring to install a new vat system when I had a surprise visitor. 

“Whoa, should you be out and about Ginger?  You look about ready to pop,” I told her as I led her back to the hose to offer her some cool water. 

“I’m fine.  Just came from the clinic as a matter of fact.  Um …” 

“I know that look.  What is it?” 

“I’m probably sticking my nose in where it doesn’t belong.” 

“Has that ever stopped you?” I told her grinning.  She wasn’t smiling in return.  “Okay, what’s up and what I have I done wrong?” 

“Huh?  You?” 

“Yeah.  That’s usually at the bottom of it.  None of you ever come by for any other reason.” 

“Hey that’s … uh … that’s not …”  She stopped and said, “Can we sit down?” 

“Ginger what’s wrong?  Are you and Reggie …?” 

“No!  Absolutely not.  As a matter of fact … everything is great and …” 

“The baby?” 

“Yeah.  He’s finally done with the over compensating.  Look, just let me get this out.  Are you and Jax … okay?” 

I just blinked before sighing.  “Something made you ask so what is it?” 

“Uh …” 

“C’mon Ginger, spit it out.” 

Then she did and where she expected to have to deal with an angry Lydie she got … nothing.  “Well I suppose that explains why all he does is come home, eat dinner, and then goes to sleep.  Why should he need to save a little of himself for me when there isn’t anything left to share?” 

“God Lydie … I … I …” 

“Don’t.  It is what it is.  He took the kids, now he’s … never mind.  Look, just forget you saw me.  Go home.  Have a good life.  You and Reggie … you don’t have to make the same mistakes your folks did so just … just have a good life.  I’ll figure this out.” 

I finally convinced her to leave.  And when Jax came home I didn’t say a word.  Just watched him eat, play with the kids, and then fall asleep.  But I was pretty sure that I was done. 

The next day I cleaned up, made a list of things that I needed from town, and then I got on my bike and I pedaled to town.  I looked around and noticed all of the changes, some of them the beginnings of what the town is today.  I rode to the clinic and they wouldn’t even allow me to see Kelly or the boys.  Seems most of them didn’t even know a mother was in the picture.  God that hurt.  I said I would take care of it and went to where I knew Jax had his office.  I walked in and … I didn’t catch them in the act but it cleared up the doubts I’d been having about my suspicions.  I stood there are full five minutes before either of them even noticed me. 

The woman noticed me first and blushed and said, “Um Dr. Remington a patient must have …” 

“I don’t have any patients scheduled Vicky.  Who?” 

Jax was slower but the look on his face when he saw who was standing there was more than I could take.  It dawned across his face like the sunrises we used to watch together.  It was a mixture of both guilt and sorrow.  I slowly backed up and out of the office and left the building.  He caught up with me before I could get on my bike. 

“Lydie!  It’s not like it looks!  I swear …” 

“They wouldn’t even let me see the kids.” 

“Uh … what?” 

“Apparently no one realized there even was a mother in the picture much less that you were married.  But … but you aren’t are you?  It just got away from you and … I just thought the words were enough.” 

“Lydie …” 

“No.  No I am not going to let myself believe some fairytale.  Not this time.  Not ever again.  I believed you that you needed to be in town so much.  I was so proud of you.” 

“Lydie …” 

“Don’t.  Just don’t Jax.  I even believed you that the kids needed to come to town.  To socialize with their children own age.  So that you’d get a chance to see them here more because you worked such long hours.  I even accepted that your work was so important that it was okay that you only came home to eat … and sleep.  That’s it.  That’s all you needed from me.  A roof over your head, food, and a bed.”

 “Dammit Lydie, I said …” 

“Uh uh.  No.  No more.  See I know this feeling Jax.  I just don’t have any energy left to try and go out and find another family that might need me.  Apparently you’re needed here.  And the kids want to be here with you.  So … so fine.” 

“Lydie wait …!”
 
I finally got loose from him and got on my bike and rode off fast and hard.  I didn’t even stop when I heard him yell my name.  I’d traveled the road I was on too many times … both physically and metaphorically; only this time I was careless.  I still to this day don’t know what hit me.  All I know is that I was riding along … and then I wasn’t.

I woke up in the back of a van.  I could tell from the smell that it was one of the new, hybrid eco-fuel conversions.  I knew the smell because I’d just finished building one for Jax to drive into town with the kids last month.  It was one of the plans that I’d drawn out with my letter friend.  I would have thought it was the one I had built except there were no car seats. 

I sat up and took in my surroundings.  I was sore all over and there was a horrible taste in my mouth, my knees were skinned, so was one elbow and an ear.  I looked around and then suddenly I thought I must be hallucinating.
 
“Poor Lydie.  Poor, poor Lydie.  What’s wrong?  Did your Prince Charming finally show his true colors?  Show how weak he was?”

Friday, May 1, 2015

Hindsight is 20/20 Except For Those Who Wear Blinders - Part 1

Part 1

 

I’d give a lot to say that my prediction came true but as with all things in life there are always those surprises.  It isn’t that Matt wasn’t prosecuted for his crimes.  And it isn’t that Matt didn’t go to jail for those crimes.  It isn’t even that Matt wasn’t scheduled to be executed for his crimes.  All three of those took place.  Except the execution never took place.  Somehow, some way Matt managed to find a way to pull himself out of the ashes at the last second.

 

"What?!!"

 

“Easy Son, I’m only relaying what came down the information pipeline.”

 

“No.  No way.  My uncle … He’s alive?!”

 

We were all in shock.  Well angry too as we were still recovering from hearing that Matt had been transferred to federal custody and moved to a facility out west.

 

Mr. Houchins had thought it important enough – and potentially upsetting enough – that he had Lon bring him to the Home Place.  Honestly, when I first saw his face I thought there had been a death in the family; instead we find out that it was the opposite and it was for Jax.  Of course, Jax reacted to it almost like it was a death.

 

It took a while to get the whole story – weeks and months of time as bits and pieces would reach us so that a clear picture and timeline could be constructed.  Rather than dying Matt’s father had been bodily co-opted by certain powers that be to save what infrastructure assets could be saved in certain locations out in Colorado.  Why Colorado?  Possibly because of his experience with dams.  However, what those assets were in the beginning have never been clear as it seemed that no matter what they tried the cascading effect of failures kept them on the move hopping from one bad spot to another.  All we knew is that Matt was gone and not coming back.  Ultimately we had no choice but to accept that what energies we had needed to be focused on our own survival.  There was a bitterness that would have probably overtaken us if we hadn’t had so many other things that needed our full attention. 

 

I was pregnant.  Boy was I pregnant.  To the hilarity of all, except for Jax and I, we eventually presented Kelly with a set of twin brothers.  And this in the midst of Ginger’s pregnancy where Jax and I got our turn when poor Reggie collapsed upon hearing he had a daughter.  Ginger and I went into labor within twelve hours of each other and Jax swore that if any of us did that to him again he’d cork half of us and tie a knot in the other half and that was all he was saying on the subject.

 

It took a month before Johnson and Alex could even get up the nerve to tell him that they’d miscounted as well and were due one of their own six or seven months down the road.  I thought poor Jax was going to hyperventilate.  Lon and Vern had a lot of fun at our expense, calling the Home Place the “Rabbit Hutch” on the radio.  Or at least they did until their daughters informed them they’d be grandfathers sooner rather than later. 

 

Time and energy.  They were suddenly in very short supply for everyone; and what there was seemed to get away from us and move too fast.  It took not one year but two for everyone to move to their own places year round.  They tried to work it out that first year but what sufficed in the Spring, Summer, and Fall was simply too inadequate for the winter. 

 

On top of the micro-environment we lived in, there were a great many changes that came during those two years out in the rest of the world.  The war we faced was unlike any the world had seen before.  World War One was supposed to have been the war to end all wars.  It wasn’t.  World War Two was supposed to take care of the problems left over from WW1.  It didn’t.  World War Three was … well it was terrible.  There are still places on earth not fit for human habitation, some of them even here in this country.  Not even the technology we have today is speeding up the process of the earth healing from the wounds inflicted upon it. 

 

In hindsight had the war just been one of nuclear attrition it would have been over in a short period of time.  Instead what we had to deal with was the occasional limited nuclear exchange, as well as some dirty bombs deployed by terrorists that never claimed responsibility out of fear of retaliation.  There was also bioterrorism and the use of so many conventional weapons that we wondered where all of it was coming from.

 

During those two years something happened in our own government and there was a … I guess basically the Pentagon took control of the Executive Branch of the government because the Executive Branch either had their head in the sand or in their own backsides and nothing was getting accomplished.  Many of them simply hid in the “continuity of government” bunkers waiting for the end of the world to get over with.  Those that weren’t running around like lunatics or frozen like ice dummies were throwing the men and women of our armed forces around in such a way as it was plain that they had no understanding of war and no care that their ill-thought out chess moves were resulting in hundreds and thousands of our forces dying or being so injured they could not go back to fight another day.  It was at that point that the Pentagon finally put a boot to the backsides of some that hadn’t expected it and changed the game from chaos and insanity back to one that, while not bloodless, relied on real strategy that had as its endgame a true win and not just a “last man standing” type of mentality.

 

While the Pentagon took care of the war outside our borders they were more than happy to allow Congress and the state governments to take care of what was going on inside the country.  Surprisingly, many that were blatant screw ups on the international playing field were actually fierce warriors with some sense on our home turf.  The first that accomplished was that Canada and the US formed a mutual aid treaty and combined forces to secure our borders against enemies both foreign and domestic.  And by domestic I mean that you could practice your Constitutional right and protest but if you were found to be participating in terrorism of some type, you were likely to find yourself on a transport and dropped off in a war zone and you could choose to fight … or you could die … but you didn’t have time for sitting around making a nuisance of yourself.  And the federal law already in place regarding crossing state lines to participate in violent protests and/or riots was strictly enforced.  Immigrants, legal or otherwise, also found themselves caught up and shipped out to war zones.  That type of deportation order could happen whether the person was male or female and aged fifteen or older.  The rationale was that if you were old enough to learn to drive, you were old enough to learn to shoot.

 

With the worst of the “agitators and terrorists” under control – real or imagined – the federal government instituted a public works program.  With most forms of fiat currency in the tank those in the know considered it too economically dangerous to just hand out dollars to a small cross section of the population they were putting to work so they did the next best thing … barter credits.  And they actually did something quite brilliant; rather than paying people in credits by the hour they paid in work credits by the job.  This gave people that were motivated the opportunity to complete as many jobs and/or projects as they could handle.  It also gave people the opportunity to build a team and then share the resulting credits between them.  It was like thousands of independent contractors were created overnight. 

 

How we got involved in our area is that it started in salvaging.  The town really was almost too big of a mess to be worth saving but there were some structures and a boatload of materials that would be a crime to waste.  We’d already gotten quite a bit of salvaged building materials the year before; none of us seemed to want to play pioneer and live in what amounted to a log-style lean to.  Our experience put us head and shoulders above the outside crews that were brought in and fairly soon Ashton became sought after anytime a particularly tricky problem arose.  Obviously enough Reggie became the go to for demolition work when a little “boom” was required.

 

Jax was a good shade tree mechanic that helped keep the tools and machinery up and running until they found out he had some medical training.  He was then reassigned to the small clinic that was erected in the old Town Green.  The clinic served the work crews and anyone else that happened to be able to make their way there.  Jax was finally getting the training he’d always wanted.  I was proud of him.  More importantly Jax began to be proud of himself and most of the baggage that he’d been carrying around finally disappeared. 

 

Mr. Houchins grew his farm even more by taking over some of the other farms in the area.  No one objected and the food was desperately needed.  He traded food for the building supplies the reclamation crews salvaged.  He would use those building supplies to build homes for his growing clan, taking the pressure off of the farmhouse and getting them out of the travel trailers and tents that were beginning to break down and need replacing. 

 

The other thing Mr. Houchins traded his crops for were supplies for rebuilding Ray’s Landing.  There was a small tussle when the militia wanted to confiscate all of their work but peace reigned when that particular militia was discovered to not have registered with the state and were therefore not officially recognized or sanctioned.  It also turned out that they were a militia in name only and were more akin to a roving band of thieves, living off of whomever was too weak to defend themselves.  There were many such groups in those days and it took the end of the war to take away their excuse for existence.

 

During that second and then third year I went through a time where I wondered what I was supposed to do with my life, I was even maybe jealous.  It came to a head when we found that Gennie’s family – what remained of it – had been looking for her.  Strangely it was Jules that had returned with the news.

 

He had indeed left during that second winter and we hadn’t heard from him in two years.  No one said it aloud but everyone, including Aiden, suspected he was dead.  He hadn’t died, he’d gotten drafted after being in a brawl at a refugee camp where he’d been trying to trace his family.  While he was serving out his term he got friendly with the techs that ran the huge databases where they were trying to count the dead and the living.  After his tour was over and he was released he simply continued working with them, doing what he could to reconnect families who’d been separated by the war, finding relatives willing to take guardianship of children orphaned by it, and reconnected families with their elders that were desperately in need of help themselves.  It was a job that seemed to bring him a peace he hadn’t had for a long, long time.

 

He put in everyone’s information – except for Jax and I since he knew we knew about our own families – and eventually Gennie’s information popped up that she was being sought.  Knowing us he brought the news himself and he also told what he’d found out about the families.  Reggie’s father and brother had died not long after the initial attack when it was discovered they’d secretly taken items from the town that wound up being contaminated.  In fact that happened to several of the adults on those buses that left and never came back.  Ginger’s family died in quarantine as did Ashley’s.  Ashton’s parents were alive but refused, for a long time, to believe that Ashton was.  Guilt is a powerful emotion and apparently they’d been baring quite a bit of it for some time.  It was several years before they finally reunited and both sides could come to terms with what had happened.  Everyone else’s story lay somewhere between those two extremes and are theirs to tell if they want it published.

 

After Gennie left it was like a hole had opened up in my carefully constructed world.  She and I had made truce and I’d done what I can to help her even if it was without any appreciation.  She had a lot of issues and I had to accept that I just wasn’t equipped to help her any further down her life road.  It was then that I took a long look at myself and face my personal reality.  I tried to deal with my regrets but only part way succeeded.  I was never going to college.  I was never going to be known as that smart girl that everyone thought was a little weird but had potential.  Everyone was off finding their own path.  I struggled to find my identity.  Kelly and the twins were my life, as was the Home Place, but I was gazing off at that road not taken and wondering where it might have led. 

 

I buried my frustrations the best that I could and put all of my energy into the kids and the farm.  After all, most of the time it was back to just being me again.  The others were building their own lives and didn’t need me.  Jax was spending a lot of time at the clinic in town and was too tired by the time he got home to really see what I was going through. I existed like this for months.  And then the past reared its ugly head … only at the time I didn’t recognize it for what it was.