The Mini-burger

FanFic in the Birmoverse

Coming Home – Without Warning FanFic by Stephen Francis Murphy

            “This is the last stop, Specialist,” the African American driver, an above the elbow amp, said.  “Sure you want to walk the rest of the way?”

            Bobby Wilder, still in his desert fatigues, nodded.  “Yeah, I’ll be fine.  Just a couple of miles.”

            “I’d take you there but the roads aren’t clear and they watch my mileage pretty closely,” the driver said.  “Fuel ain’t that hard to come by but they watch it anyway.”

            “They’re more concerned about wear and tear on the bus I suspect,” Wilder said, with a sixteen in one hand and his ruck in the other.  “Thanks for the lift.  When will you be back through here?”

            “Same time tomorrow.  Got some homesteaders here in Northtown and the work details down in the rail yards.  There are some folks up at Cerner and the hospital as well.  They keep me pretty busy,” the driver said.  “Rule of thumb is around noon or so.”

            Wilder nodded.  “Noon it is.  Thanks.”

            As he stepped down off the bus, the driver tooted his horn.  “Do you expect to find anything?”

            Wilder looked up I-35 where cars, trucks and semis were rusting away in the early morning dew.  Congested roads were a problem in many Wave affected urban areas but Kansas City didn’t have as much of a problem.  Spread out over a massive tract of land which spanned two states and several counties, density was never an issue.  Rush hour had just about petered out when the Wave hit three years ago.  It made the region a prime candidate for resettlement. 

            Wilder shook his head.  “No, I don’t expect to find anything at all.”

            The driver nodded.  “Good luck.  See you when I see you.”

#

            Wilder fell into an easy stride, walking up the hill that was I-35 until he reached the Parvin Road exit.  He didn’t bother to examine the vehicles, some of which were burned out.  Others had their windows up against the March cold of 2003, their contents dried and preserved against the local wildlife.  Dogs could be heard in the distance, concealed by the rotting houses and thriving trees, most of them long since having gone feral.  Deer grazed in the waist high grass, ignoring him as he passed. 

            He did stop at the Shell gas station at the corner of Parvin to check for salvage.  He walked inside, stepping over a pile of clothes, ignoring the empty sippy cup and the charred baby carrier.  Bags of Cheetos, pretzels and other junk food were ripped and strewn all over the floor.  These he ignored and went behind the counter in search of something far more valuable.

            Smokes, chewing tobacco and lighters.  Wilder wasn’t a nicotine fiend himself but he knew plenty back in the 137th who were.  The store’s supplies were still untouched and given the concentration of people down in North Kansas City, that situation was not likely to last.  Forage parties were expanding their reach into the Kansas City North area.  He had a day or two to collect. 

            Wilder decided he would swing back later. 

#

            The heavy vehicles of the Kansas City, Missouri maintenance department sat intact in the deserted motor pool.  Orange dump trucks still filled with salt for a late winter storm were lined up at the gate ready to roll.  Wilder looked inside and made a note of the condition of the vehicles.  There was a bounty for reports of salvageable heavy vehicles from both government and private sources.  He took out his map, made a few notes as to the location and the number of vehicles.  With keys still in the ignition, he checked each one only to find the batteries were dead and the tanks were empty.  They had been idling when the Wave hit. 

            “Parts,” he said to himself.  It didn’t matter.  He knew a Sergeant who had connections with a private contractor who paid in British Pounds.  That would work just fine.

            Wilder proceeded up from the motor pool, past the Kansas City North Community Center, a rather pathetic looking tan brick building with her side gashed open.  Some sort of construction work had been in progress when the Wave hit.  He spent hours of his early childhood in the place, taking crafts classes, tennis lessons and such.  Wilder’s mom, separated from his father, used the center as a way of keeping her son out of trouble and entertained during the summer months. 

            Her last letter, received after the Wave hit, was in his breast pocket. 

            He shook off the tears and made his way across Antioch for Russell Road. 

#

            It was a 1930s bungalow style home with some sort of spackle on the front two thirds of the home which Wilder never liked.  His mom’s Ford ZX-2 was still in the asphalt drive way covered in leaves, branches from the oak trees and bird shit.  Rust broke out across the roof, chewing away the silver paint for a patina of brown rust.  Dead telephone, power and cable lines were strewn about Russell Road with a heavy layer of branches and tree trunks.  A fierce tornado had blasted through the city not long after the Wave lifted, scything up the Northland. 

            Compulsively, he checked the tilted over mailbox and found a bird’s nest inside.

#

            The door was locked, not that it mattered.  A large branch had fallen across the roof, smashing it wide open.  With keys in hand, Wilder unlocked the front door and stepped inside.  Stillness mingled with a musty moist odor of decay and moss.  Mold grew on the walls of the living room and the heirloom organ was sagging.  The floorboards groaned with Wilder’s weight, prompting him to tread light and careful across the water logged carpet. 

            On the south wall of the living room, still in the frame in spite of the branch which bisected the kitchen was a picture of Wilder and his mom.  Wilder, clad in his blue cub scouts uniform, grinned with missing teeth for the camera, held in the arms of his raven haired mother.  She smiled for the camera in spite of the bags under her eyes and the sad wrinkles which puckered her mouth. 

            Wilder put his hand on the photo, tracing his mother’s face.

            It was silly, really, coming back here.  He joined the Army to get away from the dead end jobs his mother labored under.  One of their last phone calls featured his latest attempt to get her to return to school, earn her Bachelors and move up in the world.  That was what Wilder was going to do.  College was the ticket. 

            Not anymore.  There would be no college for Wilder.  He would not get to return to the classroom to reach the classics, study history, hone his writing ability.  He would not get to use his G.I. Bill, which was suspended due to lack of Federal funding in any case. 

            All that he had left was the Army and his friends, many of whom volunteered to help stand up the 137th Infantry Regiment in Kansas City.  Midwesterners all, most of them could not stand Seattle and Hawaii was far too expensive for them.  Alaska was just as cold as Missouri and as for settling in some foreign country, Wilder didn’t see what he could offer.  He was an Eleven Bravo, an infantryman.  Even the commo pukes, who liked to brag about jobs in IT when they got out, couldn’t get accepted overseas.  Britain might take you but it would mean the same thing America was offering.

            Labor, physical labor for two years. 

            Veterans and soldiers were exempt from the Lands and Homestead Act of 2005 insofar as they did not have to work five years on a labor gang.  If he wanted, Wilder could mark his claim with his mother’s house and move in that very instant.  Or he could trade the property to a Federal Agent who would give him some roughly equivalent piece of property in a Resettlement Zone anywhere in the United States. 

            Wilder did neither. 

            He removed the photo of his mother carefully from the frame and made his way to her bedroom.  Pausing for a moment, he took a deep breath and walked inside.

            Sunlight broke through the cloud cover and in through the broken windows on the east wall of the room.

            Her bed was covered with blooms from flowers Wilder couldn’t identify.  A moss slick stream of water trickled down next to the bed, feeding plants which had migrated through the cracked windows.  A ragged edge of her pajamas poked through the blue and yellow blooms.

            Wilder, stepping carefully over the groaning floor boards, knelt down before the bed.  His chest hitched and heaved as he knelt his head down upon the flowers and began to cry.

#

            “Find anything?” the driver asked the next day.

            Wilder nodded, holding up the pristine framed photograph.  A sprig of the blue flowering plant was attached to the frame. 

            The driver nodded.  “It’s the little things.”

            “Yes,” Wilder said.  “It is.

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16 March, 2009 - Posted by | Without Warning

8 Comments »

  1. Murph, i reckon you have a pink flowery softer side we aint quite completely seen yet…….lol.. Not to shabby at all. I liked it

    Comment by havock21 | 16 March, 2009 | Reply

  2. It is all of that time spent writing non-explodey goodness short stories for Americans, Havock. Not normally my bag, but thanks. 🙂

    Respects,
    Murph
    On the Outer Marches

    Comment by Murph | 16 March, 2009 | Reply

  3. Yes. Emotionally credible, very nice.

    Comment by Matthew Keith | 17 March, 2009 | Reply

  4. I like it a lot Murph.
    Homecoming always carries a lot of weight.

    Comment by NowhereBob | 18 March, 2009 | Reply

  5. I liked the ordinary details of the vehicles, the decay and that touch with the flowers growing over his mother.

    Comment by Therbs | 19 March, 2009 | Reply

  6. Thanks gentlemen.

    Respects,
    Murph
    On the Outer Marches

    Comment by sfmurphy1971 | 20 March, 2009 | Reply

  7. Very, very good.

    Comment by Nic | 24 March, 2009 | Reply

  8. Sehr gut, sehr, sehr, gut. Keep it up, Murph!

    Comment by Tom Potter | 4 April, 2009 | Reply


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