Thursday, October 4, 2018

Stub 6.3: Scrappin'

Hunter was the only one working at getting the pieces of drill pipe up on the back of the truck. Uncle Bernie was watching and giving advice.

Hunter didn’t mind. Bernie was surprisingly good company.

Bernie had thrown out his back swapping out the transmissions and Hunter had to finish the job. Then, Bernie wasn’t going to be able to pay him back unless he had help “scrappin’”.

So Hunter went with Bernie whenever Bernie called.

Hunter had put his Master’s program into sleep-mode. That froze the interest and gave him extra time to pay it off.

Hunter marveled at how Bernie had changed now that Hunter was twenty-two and was considered an adult. Hunter used to consider Bernie something of a caveman. Everything Bernie said seemed a half-note out of kilter.

Now that Hunter was older, Bernie was by turns funny and profound and profane. Rural southern folks had a vast command of the English language. Sometimes that command was used to skewer the deserving with an arid economy of words. Other times it was used to drown them.

“Do it like I tole ya.” Bernie said. “SLOWLY lower the heavy stuff on the fluffy scrap so it don’t roll off.”

Bernie’s rig was a flatbed with stakes. He had jury rigged a bi-pod that he used as a gin-pole to loft heavy pieces.

Bernie had been delighted when Hunter rigged up an electric hoist to do the lifting. And Bernie had been dazzled when Hunter slaved the hoist to a universal remote where volume controlled the speed and channels controlled the up-and-down.

Bernie stood on the ground giving him advice while Hunter jogged the bundle of pipe he intended to squish down the woven fencing and roofing metal. One of Bernie’s favorite sayings was “It takes less time when you take the time it takes.”

Indie only had two babies she was watching. The parents were doctors at the local hospital. They found Indie when their normal daycare fell through and they were both scheduled for 24 hours in the Emergency Room. Indie took it in stride. It really was not that big a deal to her. It was nothing compared to when she was thirteen and her mama had been hauled off to jail on a bench warrant and she had been left to watch her three younger siblings. The warrant was a case of mistaken identity but it still took a week to sort out.

After that, the doctors would not hear of any other daycware providers than Indie. The hours were inhuman but Indie kept sets of clothing for them and the doctors paid very, VERY well.

Hunter had been pretty much at loose ends after getting the house cleared out. He had been working the microbe project but had hit a snag.

Getting the bacteria to be resistant to any one antibiotic had been fairly simple. Brute force works.

Getting the bacteria to share their resistance had been far more perplexing.

Some bacteria are downright promiscuous when it comes to sharing genetic material with other bacteria. They have snorkels that puncture neighboring bacteria and they inject chunks of DNA. The bacteria Hunter was working with did not seem to be that kind of bacteria.

After developing three different populations with the required degree of resistance to a given antibiotic, Hunter had tried mixing the cultures and had no evidence of DNA swapping.

He had centrifuged them down to increase the population density to a million times greater hoping that having them closer together would make them, ahem, share DNA. No luck.

Literature said that voltage could entice some bacterial to “do the deed.” No luck.

Hunter’s latest effort was to use enzymes to partially dissolve the bacteria’s cell walls. This had resulted in a culture that had the required resistance to two of the three antibiotics.

Hunter believed in buying lots of lottery tickets. He was up to three water bed mattresses and was culturing huge numbers of bacteria, centrifuging them down, mixing them together, shocking them, soaking them in enzymes, turning down the lights and playing romantic music… And then hitting them with a cocktail of the three antibiotics and wiping them all out.

One of these days he would have some survivors. Meanwhile, he was getting pre-paid cards with $3000 on them every week.

“How is it” Hunter asked “that you always know where to go to get scrap?”

“I tried this with Jimmi and we lost our asses. We spent way more in gas than we ever picked up in scrap?” Bernie said.

“I talk to mailmen and bus drivers.” Bernie shared. “Every Christmas and on their birthdays I give them a couple of bottles of moonshine and two cartons of cigarettes.”

“There are a lot of folks who don’t drink or smoke.” Hunter observed as he was wiggling a 16 foot length of pipe to ensure it was settled.

“Mebbe so.” Bernie said. “But every damned one of them knows somebody who smokes or drinks. I just ask them to keep me in mind if they see somebody starting a pile of scrap as they drive around. Some of them bus drivers ask the kiddies. You would be surprised at what those kids start paying attention to when you start askin’ the right kinds of questions.”

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