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GALACTIC TSUNAMI

By: David L. Souers

Chapter 4

Acquisitions

Waking early, Jimmy had decided to let Ellen sleep in for a few extra hours, as the stores weren’t going to be open for a while where she was going to start gathering the items that he had written down the previous evening. As he had predicted to his daughter, Ellen had not wanted to accept the gravity of the situation at first, but as she finally realized the fact that denial wasn’t an option, she eventually came around, and he knew as he left the house, she’d do her part to prepare for the wave, and do it well.

Pulling into a fast food joint, he got a large coffee, and a couple of those breakfast sandwiches. It really wasn’t his idea of morning food, but he had so much to do, and he hadn’t wanted to cook anything, or take the time to go to a regular restaurant, so he choked it down, as he headed for the big park and swap down at the old racetrack on the east side of the city.

Starting up the first long aisle, Jimmy spotted a real treasure. It was a homemade garden cart, with wide pneumatic tires, so it wouldn’t sink into soft soil. The builder had used three quarter inch marine plywood for the sides, so it should never deteriorate in bad weather, or break under heavy stress. Yes! It was a real find, one that would be used for many years. When the owner said, “fifty bucks”, Jimmy didn’t bat an eye. He just reached into his pocket and paid the man...cash. Squinting into the rising sun, he spotted several garden tools leaning against the bed of a pickup truck, where a man was just setting up for the day. Parking his cart by the stand he walked over to the tools, and a cursory examination showed they were all new, or in new condition. Glancing over to the owner, Jimmy saw him watching his appraisal them.

“How much do you want for these tools?”

“Three bucks apiece, if you’ll take the lot of them, mister.”

A few minutes later, Jimmy had handed the guy thirty bucks, and loaded ten good tools into his cart.

Back in the booth, the vendor was mentally kicking himself. He knew that Jimmy would have been willing to pay four, or even five bucks apiece for those tools, but he hadn’t asked, and visions of a twenty dollar bill, flying off on a breeze crossed his mind. His unvoiced, “Damn!” was a mini-wave spreading out among the crowd of would be bargain hunters.

By nine-o-clock the cart was full to the point of overflowing. He had buckets of nuts, bolts, and washers. Several boxes of nails, in dozens of different sizes, and countless different sizes and types of; fasteners, hinges, tubing, hoses, belts, and even a couple of small conventional ignition, gasoline powered lawnmower engines. He also found a thirty-six inch bow saw with a box of twelve new blades for ten dollars. He figured that if all else failed, they could do it the old fashioned way, work for it! The cart was definitely getting a workout, and so was he, for that matter! Just as he had suspected, it would carry as much as he cared to push. He figured he must have bought nearly fifty differ-ent tools that would literally be worth their weight in gold, in the very near future. He had purchased two, meter long machetes, with their own scabbards that had stones in them that sharpened the blades every time you extracted or replaced it or withdrew it. What a buy! Only fifteen bucks each. He didn’t have any idea why he bought them they just seemed like something that would be good to have in his uncertain future.

Pushing the overburdened cart towards the exit that was closest to where he had parked, he stopped to listen to a huckster who was peddling a water purification device. It was identical to the one that he’d seen on his favorite outdoor show a couple of weekends ago. The gizmo required quite a bit of pumping on the handle, but with a little patience, and a liberal dose of some elbow grease, you could convert salt, or even swamp water into drinking water at the rate of a quart per half hour. Not even waiting for the spiel to end, he set sixty bucks on the counter, picked up two of the units, set them in the cart, and continued on his way to the gate. He was starting to breathe heavily by the time he parked the overloaded cart next to his truck.

Loading the cart’s contents onto the two year old F-250 4X4 was a sobering experience. The truck was his pride and joy, and the thought that it would soon be nothing but high tech junk, when the wave washed over it, did not make him a “happy camper”. Pulling out into the morning traffic, he did manage to smile, just a little, when he remembered that the payment coupon book was going too die at exactly the same time that the truck became useless to anyone.

Three blocks down, he saw a convenience mart on the right, and pulled in for a hot cup of coffee, and to purchase a, ”Truck Trader”, type magazine and a copy of that days newspaper. He went through them both while sipping his hot coffee in the parking lot. Using his cell phone, he contacted the owner of the first item of interest. It was a vintage pick-up truck that claimed to be in nearly new condition, and the location was not to far from his position. Two rings later, he got an answer and made an appointment to see it during that day’s lunch hour, just a couple of hours from then. Switching to the classifieds in the newspaper, he went to the trailer section, and located an advertisement that seemed to have what he was looking for. When the man answered and told him that he still had the trailer, and could see it anytime between twelve and one o clock, he marked the address, and saw that it was less than a mile from where the truck was located. He wouldn’t have any trouble making both appointments with any luck at all.

Nearly depleted in the cash department, he pulled into a branch of his bank, and wrote a check to himself for a hefty re-supply of greenbacks. Heading west on main, he figured that the next stop would have to be at his favorite outdoor store where he anticipated that he would abuse his plastic, to the maximum, one of them, anyway.

“Cold!” The thought sent a shiver up his spine. Danielle had told him that she figured that the, “Mother of all winters”, was headed their way. If a regularly spaced wave could make things colder, this delayed event could be very bad indeed, even in the southern part of the country where they were headed. He didn’t think they’d need snow- mobiles, but the clothes for riding them wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Pulling into the, ”Outdoor World’s”, parking lot, he had a list in his hand, and another list that was still growing in his head. Grabbing a cart, he headed for the outdoor wear, which was very abundant on the shelves. Contrary to popular knowledge, Arizona could be very cold and snowy. There were a couple of ski resorts in the mountains, and snowmobiling was also quite popular. Snowmobile suits, boots, gloves and other accessories soon filled the cart. The heavy duty sleeping bags had six pounds of fiberfill each, and were rated at twenty degrees below zero. He had to carry one in his arms as he maneuvered the cart to the registers. After paying for the load with his credit card, he took it to the truck, and soon returned to the aisles for another load.

“Hey Jimmy! Where you going, to the North Pole or something? I saw you pushing that cart full of cold weather things, and was wondering what you were up to.”

Looking up, he saw his friend Stan, standing behind the guns and ammo counter, with a big smile on his face. “No Stan, just a winter camping trip to the high country close to the New Mexico borderline. It’s our first time up there in the winter.”

“What else can I get for you today?”

“Well, I’ve got a list of things that I need for you to fill for me, while I get some stuff that’s not behind the counter.”

Taking the list, Stan whistled softly, “Have you declared war on someone, or something? This is quite a list, Jimmy.”

“You know me, I just don’t like to run low on supplies. Don’t you have all that stuff in stock?”

“Sure Jimmy, we’ve got it. I’ll work on it while you do the rest of your shopping.”

“OK Stan, I’ll see you when I finish picking up the items on my other list in a few minutes.”

Working his way up the fishing supplies aisle, he put four new ultra-light rods and reels into the cart, and started on some basic supplies. Everything he bought was for small sized fish. Many tiny jigs, hand-tied flies, hooks, lures, and spools of light line went into the cart. Heavier duty items weren’t even looked at. Jimmy knew that they might have to rely on some fish as a part of their diet, and he also knew that large fish that were in the waters where his daughter lived were so contaminated with mercury and other poisons that they just weren’t safe for human consumption. The last time that he was at his daughter’s house she showed him an advisory from the state fish and game department that stated that the pollution levels were now so high in most of the waterways that some types of fish were too poisonous to eat. When the large fish ate the little ones, they also took in the small amount of poisons that the smaller fish had ingested. Over a period of time they built up to a point in these predators, until they were totally inedible. On the other hand, the small fish like crappie, bream, and bluegills, were not so full of contaminants as to be unpalatable, as long as a little prudence was used. Bottom feeding fish were also ruled out, as they spent to much time grubbing around in the contaminated mud. This wasn’t a problem that was confined to the area where industries like paper manufacturing and gas well drilling were common, most of the country was in the same shape. Jimmy knew all to well that his favorite mountain trout streams were sometimes poisoned with mercury from the old style placer mining that took place wherever a little gold could be found. As an occasional, weekend gold panner, he knew that the more modern methods prevented any further contamination by heavy metals, but what had already been done, could not be rectified economically with the technology that was then available.

Walking slowly down the aisle he added an item here, and an item there, until he once again had his cart on the very full side of too full. As he came around the end cap display, he spotted a small Hawaiian cast net that was used for catching baitfish, and threw it on top of the load. He figured that they could eat minnows if they had to. Muttering to himself, he commented, ”What are anchovies, anyway?”

Pulling up to the same register with the second load, he smiled at the clerk, and commented, “My family just loves the outdoors!”

She didn’t say a word, but gave him a silly grin, and rang the items up as if she was making a percentage on the sale. Once again he handed her his credit card, and when the transaction was complete, took the load out to his truck, which was also showing signs of having a full load. Very full!

Stan had his list completed by the time he returned to the back register, and had the same silly grin on his face. Signing the credit slip, Jimmy began to wonder if these folks didn’t get a commission. His silent, “Does it really matter?” went through his mind, as he bid Stan goodbye, and pushed the cart out to his truck for the third, and what would have to be, the final time.

Taking a right to go with the flow of traffic, he went down a couple of blocks to the first street that would take him as far south as the junkyard. This was where he usually bought the scrap lead,he used to cast his bullets for the muzzleloaders, and his cap and ball pistol. Walking into the lot, he told the attendant that he needed four of the rectangular twenty-five pound ingots, and while the man was loading them onto the dolly, he paid the bill with his much abused, ”plastic”, once again. Placing them on the front floor of the truck in the spot he had reserved for them, an idle thought passed through his head. “Lord! If that wave doesn’t make it, I’ll be an old man before I get all these bills paid off.” The worst part of that thought was the fact that he wasn’t even stopping to figure what his wife was sup-posed to buy that day with her credit cards!

He still had an hour and a half before he was supposed to meet the guy with the vintage pickup truck, so he headed towards his favorite place to eat in the whole city. Famous for home style barbecued beef, as well as their, homemade, deep dish, hot apple pie. He loved it with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream on top. As he walked into the door, he calculated that it would likely be the last time, or at least nearly so, so he sat down and ordered as if there wasn’t going to be a tomorrow. A sixteen ounce T-bone with all the trimmings, and when he finished with all of that, he had his smoking hot, apple pie, with two scoops of ice cream on top, and another cup of the hot black coffee, with mocha cream, to wash it all down.

“Where do put all that chow? I could live for a week on that much food.”

Glancing up, he saw Jenny, his anorexic looking waitress standing behind him with her hands on her hips. “I’m just a growing boy. Don’t you know?”

“Ha! If you keep eating like that, you’ll be growing all right. Growing round, that is!”

“Don’t worry about my waistline Jenny, I’m going to be on a diet, real soon!”

Leaving a couple of ones under the edge of his coffee cup, he took out his card, again, and paid for his meal. As he climbed into the truck, he knew for sure that he had truly overdone it in the chow department. He was as full as when he was a teen-ager eating Thanksgiving dinner at his grandmother’s house. Miserable, to tell the truth!

It was less that a mile to the address where the truck was located, and he arrived just a couple of minutes before the scheduled time of the appointment. While he was waiting, he scanned the classifieds to see if he could find some other items that would be useful, in his soon to be, much changed lifestyle. Going through the, ”Estate Sale”, notices, he spotted an item that would surely fit that description. He read it out loud. “Ham radio, older model, tube type. Has all accessories including beam type antenna, and power mike. $100 firm.” Just as he was marking the ad with his pen, he saw the truck pulling into the drive.

Jimmy couldn’t help but grin as he saw the truck for the first time. The body looked as fine as the day it was built, at least the side that he could see, sure did. Getting out, he walked up the drive and introduced himself to the young man who was just getting out of the truck.

“Hi, I’m Jimmy. I called you about the truck this morning. You must be Jack.”

“That’s me. You want to check her out?”

“You bet. It’s sure pretty enough. You’ve obviously put lots of work into the body. If the running gear is as fine as it is, I’ll bet we’ll work something out.”

Ten minutes later, they took off for a quick ride to check out the items that can only be done in a road test, and not long after that, returned to the drive. Receipts for a complete overhaul, that had been done just a few thousand miles before, was the clincher for Jimmy. This was definitely going to be his new, old, truck! No matter what it took to get the title into his name.

Trying to contain his enthusiasm, he asked, “What do you want for it Jack?”

“Well Jimmy, I’ve got to get enough for a good down payment on a new one. The dealers don’t want to give me much, as they use that book value, and I know it’s worth more than that, that’s for sure.”

A sudden inspiration hit Jimmy like a heavyweight prizefighter. “How new does this truck you want, have to be, Jack?”

“Just new enough to make my girlfriend happy. She wants one with air con-ditioning, and powered accessories, so her hairdo won’t go limp in my truck during hot weather. She won’t even ride with me in the summer, and I wanted to keep my truck, “stock”, like when it was built.”

“Why don’t you take a look at mine, and see what you think. Maybe we can make a deal and eliminate the middle man with his, ”book values”, in the process.”

Looking more than a little bit skeptical, Jack walked over, and was very impressed by the big four by four, and that was certainly an understatement!

“What’s the catch? This truck’s worth a lot more than mine is, Jimmy.”

“You’re right on that score Jack, but it’s got a payment book with it. As it sits right here, I’ve put over fifteen grand into it, if you include my down payment and the payments I’ve made so far. I still owe about thirteen grand or so. What did you figure yours was worth, and I don’t mean the book value, today?”

“Nowhere near fifteen big ones. I know that much, for sure!”

Making up a little fib, Jimmy told him, “I’m afraid I might get laid off in the near future, and I don’t want those payments hanging over my head. Would you consider a title swap, with you taking over my payments?”

“You just name the time and place, I’ll be there.”

After agreeing to meet at Jimmy’s bank the following morning, he got back into his soon to be ex-truck, and bid Jack goodbye as he headed for the address where the utility trailer was located just a few blocks up the road.

Jimmy’s mental, “Yes!” and high-five to an invisible hand was a good indication of what he thought of the deal. The 1970 F-250 had a 351 V-8 engine with the complete towing package, and lots of extras. The automatic transmission had a heavy-duty oil cooler, and the engine radiator was of the, ”desert cooler”, type with the extra cores. Someone had even installed a non-computerized trailer brake controller unit under the dash! Air shocks and overload springs were also noted during his brief examination. As soon as the title, plates, and insurance were taken care of the following day, he would take it to the shop, and have the brakes, wheel bearings, and other running gear items lubed, replaced, or repaired as needed, from one bumper to the other. Dave, his mechanic, was going to love the classic truck. He knew that for a fact.

The trailer was located at a home that he found at the end of a cul-de-sac. It was parked next to a dark green lemon tree that had some of the biggest lemons that Jimmy had ever set eyes on. They looked like those small sized, soft foam footballs that the kids liked to play with! Getting out of the truck, he ambled over to look at the trailer, as well as the outsized fruit. Just as he reached out to open the rear doors of the trailer, he heard a masculine voice, “Morning’.

Can I help you with something?”

A young man was standing just a few feet away wearing a bright smile.

“Hi...You’re...Terry?”

“That would be me. Are you the one that called about the add for the trailer that’s in today’s paper?”

“That’s me. The name’s Jimmy Biedler, pleased to meet you.”

“OK Jimmy, I see you’ve got a good start on checking out the trailer, don’t let me slow you down. You seemed to be doing just fine without me”

Walking slowly around the trailer, Jimmy noted that the electrical plug was the same style as the one his new, old truck, and even the ball was compatible. The tires were totally worn out for sure. His dad would have called those tires, “Bologna skins”. Referring to the old style gut that was used as casing for sausages. It was very thin to say the least, and so were those tires.

“You sure got every available mile out of those tires Terry.”

“They weren’t much when I bought it, and I used it for just one trip to move my mom’s stuff up north.”

“How long is it?”

“The title says it’s a twenty two footer, but that includes the tongue.”

“You didn’t have a price in your add. What do you have to get for it?”

“Well...I gave eleven hundred, and didn’t really use it much...How about an even thousand?”

“I was considering offering you nine hundred, so I could put some rubber on it, but I’d be willing to go nine fifty, if you’d throw some of those lemons into the deal.”

Looking up at the tree, Terry laughed. “Those things end up on the ground every year. I can’t eat any citrus. The only reason I water them is for the shade, and they dampen the noise of the traffic from out on the main street. Nine fifty will do, and I don’t care if you take every lemon on the tree! I’ll even help pick them for you, if you want me to.”

“If you’ve got the title, and a notary somewhere close, we can take care of this right here and now. I’m ready to pick some lemons.”

Reaching into his front jeans pocket, Jimmy pulled out a wad of cash, and counted nine one hundred dollar bills and a single fifty into Jerry’s waiting hand.

By one thirty, they had the paperwork done, several large boxes that had been commandeered from a dumpster were in the back of the truck, the trailer was hooked up, and two ladders leaned against the lemon tree. Two large boxes of lemons were in the trailer, and as soon as they had filled a half a dozen more, Jimmy thanked Jerry for the help, and headed for the nearest tire and mechanical shop.

Once again his cash reserve was on the low side, but he would use his plastic to get four new tires for the tandem axle trailer, and to have the brakes and wheel bearings done too. He was sure happy that citrus ripened in the middle of the winter! Danielle loved lemons, and as a matter of fact, he could drink a gallon of homemade lemonade any time. As long as they were kept cool, and not allowed to freeze, those lemons would keep for months.

Remembering the ad for the radio, he picked up the paper from the seat, and headed for the address. He still had the necessary one hundred dollars in cash, and it was one item that he desperately wanted to have in the post-wave era. Forty-five minutes later, he was “high-fiveing” the same invisible hand that he’d used when he found the truck. The radio was a real find. It was in great shape and included a power-mike, and the directional antenna would home in on a signal like a bird dog. The old lady had explained that her husband used it for years, but had a stroke, and could no longer operate it. It was a hell of a buy. There was no doubt about it. The thought went through his mind. “With our generator and the directional beam type antenna, we should be able to keep up with what’s going on in the rest of the country, and the world too, for that matter. We will, as long as someone out there can keep transmitting anyway. We don’t have the proper licensing from the FCC, but who’s going to give a damn in the post wave society anyway. They’ll be as dead in the water, as the rest of the government is going to be.“