Monday, July 1, 2019

Seven Skinny Cows: Quinn's Romance



Chernovsky’s fighters dared to hope.

The pace of operations suddenly slowed to a crawl. It was as if somebody flipped a switch.

The number of refugees picked up. It was as if they suddenly realized that the dissolution of the social contract was the new normal. FEMA and the National Guard were not going to save them. No miracle drugs were going to magically appear.

Refugees from the south fled north. Refugees from the north fled south. East went west. West went east.

Even Chernovsky was baffled by the flood of refugees. “Probably going to bunk-up with family.” he guessed. “When the chips are down, family has to take you in.”

The fighters in the observation post placed wagers on who was going to make it and who wasn't, not they would ever know and be able to collect.

Some you looked at and knew. They had “VICTIM” plastered all over them in bright, blinking, neon signs. Zero situational awareness. Stupid clothing. Lots of bling or valuable goods clearly visible. Pretty girls dressed slut-du-jour. look-at-  me clothing.

Others projected the vibe that they would be a much tougher nut to crack. One group of six adults and a handful of kids were pushing two-wheeled gardening carts. Half the adults were carrying firearms on slings at low-ready. Close examination of the carts revealed that the tarps were untied in the back, right corner and the buttstock of a firearm was ready-at-hand. Even the kids were heads-up.

The flow of hostiles almost stopped. Where Quinn’s squad may have tangled with six-to-ten groups of hostiles on a sunny day, that dropped down to one-or-two.

Quinn assumed that word had gotten around that the forces south of Dimondale were not to be trifled with. Another change was that the groups of hostiles were not bunched up like they had been in the beginning. It was impossible to sweep them all into the kill sack. Inevitably, the hostiles bring up the rear rabbited back to safety at the first hint of gunfire.

Chernovsky shared the old Finnish joke. “So many targets. Where will be bury them?” He did not tell his fighters that Russians were the targets in the original version of the joke.

There was more than a grain of truth in the joke. There were some north-slopes on Canal Road where it was hard to see the pavement for all the corpses. The punt gun had mowed down several large groups in exactly the same kill sack. Peak temperatures barely kissed fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit and other than some bloating and the blood drying, the corpses looked like they could have died yesterday.

Quinn shook his head. The ground littered with dead should be a sign to even the most obtuse that it was not a healthy place to enter. And the hostiles kept coming...until they didn’t.

Chernovsky's fighters started talking about “after”.

They dared to hope that they would go back home and restart their lives.

Quinn looked forward to being able to date Dysen. All the fighters wanted to date her but they figured Quinn had dibs. For the healthy, women-deprived men—for the events of the last three-and-a-half months forged the boys Chernovsky had recruited in January into men---to the men of Squads One, Two and Three, Dysen personified everything that was good and worth sacrificing to save “back home.”

Every two or three days she personally delivered warm cookies to the three squads. She came down Gunn Road, the westernmost road that had seen little traffic from the hostiles. She had a bike and cart parked on the “hot side” of the barrier that she transferred her cooler of cookies over to.

She came down Gunn Road because “Berfa” the punt gun had never been used on Gunn Road and the few hostiles who had been terminated had been shot with .22 LR and had run off before bleeding on to the surface of the road.

Then she delivered to Squad One before heading east on Vermontville Highway to Squad Two and Squad Three.

If the other fighters noticed that Quinn was often missing from camp about the time Dysen would be retracing her path and moving westward on Vermontville Highway, they had the good grace to hold their tongues.

It was deemed unlikely that any “funny business” would occur in broad daylight in the middle of Vermontville Highway. The other thing was that Quinn’s ephemeral romance, chaste though it was, gave the other men a solid foundation for their own dreams.

The most common description of Dysen among Chernovsky’s fighters was “Classy chick.” And she was. Pre-Ebola, Dysen would have bristled at the description but now she took it in the best possible light. She saw the sacrifice and privation “her guys” were enduring.

Pre-Ebola, most of Chernovsky’s men would have been very defensive around the Dysen’s of the world. Pre-Ebola, girls like Dysen moved out of town and went to college. They drove Hondas, liked “girly” boys and got jobs in payroll. When they married they had 2.3 babies, a girl, a boy and a Shih-Tzu or Yorkie. Not every marriage went the distance, but many of them did.

The Quinns and Donnies of Eaton Rapids went to work after high school. They worked a series of short-duration, manual labor jobs. If they were lucky they picked up a trade that paid a little more. They drove twenty-year-old, four-wheel-drive trucks that got fifteen miles to the gallon on a good day.

They never learned about the time value of money. They took on too much credit. They got chewed out by the girls in the office, girls like Dysen, because their 5s looked like their 6s and sometimes their 2s.

Girls? The Donnies and Quinns hooked up with girls with “issues” much like their own. Both parties were settling for the best they could get. Usually they could not afford to marry so they lived together, made babies, fought...sometimes they stayed together. Sometimes they did not.

Quinn and Dysen? That was like grabbing the brass ring on the carousel at the county fair.

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