Authors: Jerry D. Young
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Post-Apocalyptic, #Two Hours or More (65-100 Pages)
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THE SLOW ROAD
by Jerry D. Young
Published by Creative Texts Publishers
PO Box 50
Barto, PA 19504
Copyright 2006-2016 by Jerry D. Young
All rights reserved
Cover photo modified and used by license.
Credit: Carl Wycoff
This book or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without prior written permission of the publisher, except as provided by United States of America copyright law.
The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual names, persons, businesses, and incidents is strictly coincidental. Locations are used only in the general sense and do not represent the real place in actuality
THE SLOW ROAD
JERRY D. YOUNG
Jasper Willingham cranked the old rototiller engine again, and then for the third time. It started and ran rough for a minute or so, but then settled down into a modest roar. “Better get a new muffler,” Jasper said aloud. “Neighbors will have my head.”
With a pleased smile on his face at his successful refurbishing of the old Sears rototiller, Jasper gripped the control that tensioned the drive and fast walked the tiller to where the new garden was going to be. He stopped, dropped the drag bar down and squeezed the handle again, the tines of the tiller beginning to cut the turf.
It took three hours of steady work to complete the first pass of the tiller over the garden area. Jasper’s hands and arms were numb from the vibration of the tiller. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. Only the top three inches of the ground were turned, but the grass was incorporated into the soil. Using half a dozen soaker hoses he’d picked up one or two at a time at yard sales the previous year, Jasper began to water one section of the new garden.
With the goal of the day done, except for moving the hoses a couple of times, Jasper went into the small, two-bedroom park model mobile home he, Millie, and the bank owned. He said a little prayer when he saw Millie waiting for him with lunch on the table. He still couldn’t believe a woman like Millie had married him in the first place, and still continued to love him.
He’d put her through some rough times, but she’d stuck like glue and pulled him out of those bad times without ever complaining. Jasper stepped up to her and gave her a quick kiss on the lips.
Millie smiled. “What’s that for?”
“Just because I love you,” he said, going to the kitchen sink to wash up for lunch.
“I love you, too, Sweetie. Now come have your lunch. You look tired. Perhaps you should have just done half today.”
“No,” Jasper replied, sitting down to a California BLT on whole wheat bread and a glass of milk. “The sooner the better. We’re catching a lucky break in the weather. I’m hoping to have the garden plot ready for winter before it actually gets here.”
Jasper took a bite of the sandwich. The comment was automatic. “You shouldn’t use so much bacon on my sandwiches,” he said.
“You let me worry about that,” Millie said. “It’s not a BLT if it doesn’t have enough bacon. And I know you like them like that.”
“Of course I do, but you shouldn’t indulge me. Bacon is expensive. Especially bacon this good.” Jasper took a long drink from his glass of milk. It had taken a long time before he could drink powdered milk, but he’d finally made the transition.
It had been Millie that found the powdered whole milk. It was much better than the non-fat powdered milk. It was a little more expensive, but it was well worth it in Jasper’s opinion. They were still saving money by using it over fresh whole milk.
After the lunch, which Jasper made himself eat slowly rather than wolfing it down the way he used to do, he moved the soaker hoses to the second half of the garden. Until they could get a well and pump, they were going to have to really conserve on watering the garden. But it was important to get the soil ready for winter.
“Honey, will you give it an hour and then turn off the water?” Jasper asked when he came back into the house. “I’ve got to get to bed.”
“Of course,” Millie replied. She was finishing up the kitchen cleanup. She wiped her hands on a dish towel and hung it on the refrigerator handle before she walked over to Jasper. Much as he’d kissed her earlier, Millie kissed Jasper. “I’ll be sure and get you up in plenty of time.”
“Thanks. I’ll see you at nine.”
Millie watched Jasper go toward their bedroom for his shower and bed before he had to go to work that night at eleven. She sighed. He really wasn’t a nighttime person and struggled with getting enough sleep in the daytime to pull the graveyard shift he’d taken for the shift differential. It wasn’t much, but it added a few dollars a week to his check. Every little bit helped.
After taking her sewing machine and sewing basket out of the closet in the second bedroom, Millie began working on embellishing some of the blue jeans she had bought at the thrift shop with her sewing money. It was quite a bit of work, but she could sell the fancied up jeans at the consignment craft shop for almost three times what she put into them out of pocket. It didn’t really amount to much of a salary per hour, but she liked to sew, and it was income.
She almost didn’t hear the telephone ring, with the ringer turned down low, and the sewing machine going. Millie hurried over to it as soon as she realized it was ringing. “Hello?” she asked a bit breathlessly.
“This is she.”
“Millie? It’s Sara. Down at the consignment shop. I just sold the last pair of jeans you had here and I have a customer asking for more. When do you think you’ll have another pair or two ready?”
Millie smiled. “I’ll bring you three pairs this afternoon. And I should have a couple of bandana tops done, too.”
“Good! The tourists love your stuff. I’ll see you this afternoon.”
When she hung up the telephone, Millie was humming softly. After a glance at the kitchen clock she went outside and turned off the water to the garden, before resuming her sewing.
Millie finished the work, not hurrying so she didn’t short the quality of the work. She had delivered the clothing to the consignment shop and returned by five, after a stop at the grocery store. “Soon,” she said to herself, as she picked over the fresh food. “Soon, we’ll be growing our own.”
She quietly cleaned house when she got home, had her own supper, and had Jasper’s breakfast of granola, toast, coffee, and milk ready when she woke him at nine that night. It took him a few minutes to come awake, and a few more to get dressed and ready for his breakfast.
As usual, he was quiet during the time, as was Millie. He needed the time to get adjusted to waking up at the hour. After a kiss goodbye, Jasper picked up the lunch box that Millie had prepared for him, and the Aladdin thermos of strong tea he took with him each night to his watchman’s job at the furniture factory.
He left at ten, always wanting to be able to get to work on time, even if he was delayed for some reason. Millie finished up in the kitchen and took her shower before turning in for the night. She’d be up the next morning to fix Jasper’s supper when he got home the next morning about eight.
After his morning time supper of vegetable beef soup, Jasper got on the computer, one of the few things he and Millie had really splurged on. They could have bought a much cheaper computer, even a new desktop. But for the same reasons he and Millie were in the midst of many other projects, they opted for a laptop. Used, but very capable. With one of the bundle deals on cable, telephone, and internet, they saved enough to pay for the high speed internet portion.
Both used the computer often, mostly to find information that would improve their lives, save them money, or both. They invested in an all-in-one printer/fax/copier, a couple of extra laptop batteries, several pen drives, a high capacity external backup drive, a small uninterruptible power supply and a foam lined aluminum case that cost as much as the computer.
The computer was religiously kept in the aluminum case, which was kept in their fire-resistant metal filing cabinet, along with the accessories, unless it was being used. They wouldn’t use it connected to the internet or AC power when it was storming, or threatening to storm.
Despite the expense, which they paid with their tax refund the previous year, it had probably already paid for itself in savings.
His research on gardens done for the moment, Jasper went out to till the new garden plot again, this time going down a full six inches in depth over the entire area. He started the soaker hoses again, and used another hose to water the trees, vines, and bushes he and Millie had planted the previous year. Learning about orchard work was one of the first things they’d done on the computer after they got it.
Again, with careful shopping in the area, done mostly through the computer, they found bargains on almost all the things they planted that spring. It would be a few years before the nut trees began to produce, but the dwarf fruit trees should be producing in two more years. They had quite a selection, including several grape vines.
The gaps in the hedges that had developed for lack of care by the former property owner had been planted with thorny blackberries and equally thorny wild rose bushes. Jasper and Millie planned to replace all the hedges with the two alternatives. The neighbors on each side encouraged the hedges, though they didn’t want to do the work themselves. Both the blackberries and the wild roses made good hedges.
The wild roses would be a source of rose hips, to ensure the family had a good supply of vitamin C and the blackberries would produce a salable crop eventually. There would be enough for personal use for the first few years.
The strawberry tower had done very well. They should produce a good crop the following year, based on the techniques Millie had learned on the internet and used to make the five tier tower. The berries and grapes were Millie’s pets. Jasper had done the digging work when they were planted, but Millie had done everything else.
Millie had to call Jasper in for his lunch. He never had thought of himself as a gardener, but he was already enjoying the efforts. The fruits of the labors would just be that much more enjoyable.
As he walked toward the small patio at the back of the trailer, Jasper looked around with pride. This was a nice, old, residential section of the city. The lots were large, though the houses were small. There was still much left to do to complete his and Millie’s long range plans.
The smile faded for a moment, as Jasper wondered if there would be time to do everything, before… The smile was back before he stepped into the trailer and went to the kitchen to wash his hands.
“Alvin called while you were outside. He said he’d be here early Saturday morning with the manure for the garden.”
Jasper’s smile broadened into a grin. “Did he say how much he had?”
“Three loads. Maybe four.”
“Yes!” Jasper said, swinging his fist up to shoulder height in a joyful gesture. He grabbed Millie and swung her around twice before kissing her soundly.
Millie was laughing. “All this over manure?”
Jasper laughed, too. “You read the same things I have. Manure is good. It will give us a really good start on the garden. I am really glad Alvin’s kids love those horses so much. Buying that much packaged manure… Well, we just couldn’t do it.”
“Well, put the manure out of your mind while you eat lunch. The two aren’t compatible.” Millie set the platter of three bologna and onion on whole wheat bread sandwiches on the table. Their place settings were already there as was the pitcher of milk.
Jasper poured a glassful of the milk and handed the pitcher to Millie. “What was your day like yesterday?” Jasper asked as he took the first sandwich off the platter.
The two enjoyed their quiet lunch together, the only meal they shared during the week, discussing their individual days when they were apart physically, or separated by different sleep schedules.
As they were finishing up, Jasper asked, “You would have told me, but did Greg Anderson call about the well?”
Millie shook her head. The well and pump project wasn’t going as well as Jasper had hoped. Greg was an old drinking buddy of Jasper’s, and was none too reliable when it came to his side business of jetting down shallow wells for yard and garden irrigation.
“We just have to wait for him, Honey,” Millie said quietly. “He’ll do it when he gets around to it. At least he does a good job, when he does do it.”
“True. He has a pretty good knack at that stuff.” But Jasper frowned. “I don’t know if I like the idea of dowsing, though. The Good Book says it’s the Devil’s work.”
“We don’t have to let him dowse, Jasper,” Millie said softly.
“He won’t do it without,” protested Jasper.
“Honey, we can’t save everyone. I won’t do it, and I don’t want you to do it, but I suppose it is Greg’s choice. He’ll have to make his own peace with the Lord.”
Jasper was nodding. “I get a little carried away, sometimes, I guess, since I became reborn. I wish Greg would get straightened out.”
“We’ll say a prayer for him this Sunday,” Millie said, closing the issue.
The next three days went much the same. Saturday came and Millie went off to her part time job at the consignment shop, taking a few more items to put on consignment with her.
Jasper met Alvin in the alley, opened the gate in the sturdy, tall wooden fence that had been Jasper’s first project on the property and had Alvin dump the first load of manure from the dump bed equipped one-ton truck. While Alvin went for another load, Jasper used a shovel and the garden cart he’d put together from junked bicycle parts and plywood to move the first load.
When Alvin dumped the fourth, partial load, Jasper thanked him and gave him the gas money promised. “See you in a couple of weeks, Jasper. We’ll be ready to raise the new barn then.”