Friday, December 27, 2019

Back door (fiction)

Joel was not a computer whiz-kid nor did he have an MBA in Organizational Leadership. He did have about 20 years of real life bump-and-grind in the real working world.

Walking back to the office at ten at night was a real drag but the pretty charts weren’t going to color and hang themselves in the drive-by display.

Besides, Joel had a few things he wanted to check out.

When he was a clerk at the Livingston County Department of Transportation, one of his jobs was to order salt, parts for plow trucks and tools for mechanics. Joel assumed that is why he got this job. Experience.

Entering the building, he turned on the lights and verified that nobody was in the building.

Then, he found a step ladder and climbed on top of a stack of pallets at the pick-face. The poly bags were ten feet off the ground and were slippery. Fortunately, the bags were full and firm. The pallets were jammed close together and it was not difficult to walk across the tops of the bags toward the back of the immense warehouse.

Joel would have walked down the side of the building but the pallets had been wedged in from wall-to-wall. There was no walk-way.

According to the job description, the warehouse had been stocked with enough grain to feed Livingston County residents for about six months. The original chaos made pulling from the warehouse impossible but distributions started shortly after a semblance of order was imposed.

Torvaldsen had been the former Deputy Sheriff of Livingston County and was the highest ranking law enforcement official to survive. He had no problem finding men willing to crack heads to make people behave. He also had no qualms about withholding food from families when folks did not want to play ball.

Given Livingston County’s decline in population and the logistical difficulties of distributing food to the outlying townships, everybody said the food would last for five years. All of Torvaldsen’s reconstruction plans hinged on that fact.

The anal charting demanded by Richards seemed to confirm that fact. The number of bays, a bay being the square defined by the four support columns in the corners, that had been cleared of grain were roughly 10% of the warehouse square-footage. They had been pulling for four months and the population of Livingston County was still dropping.

Joel’s suspicions were confirmed as he neared the back of the warehouse.

The floor at the back of the warehouse was bereft of pallets of grain.

The tale was told in the tracks on the floor.

Grain is dusty. The floor closest to the stacks of pallets showed imprints where pallets had recently been stacked.

Closer to the overhead door...a door Joel did not have a key to...were tracks from a fork-truck.

Counting the number of bays that were emptied of grain, Joel deduced that twice as much grain was getting shipped out the back door as out the front door. The grain that was supposed to last five years would be gone in twelve months, four of which had already past.

Somebody was going to be the fall-guy, and Joel thoughtfully rubbed his throat as he considered who had been cast for that role.


Brett had a discussion with Eli back in Amish-land.

“My guys cannot work as hard as your people.” It hurt Brett to admit it. “Besides, my boss told me to guard you and we cannot do that when we are working.”

There had been some friction at the beginning. Brett’s men wanted to sleep in the houses. The Amish were adamant, no guns in the houses.  Brett required that his fighters stay with their guns.

The compromise was for Brett’s people to sleep in the barns. Firearms were allowed in barns to shoot starlings, sparrows, pigeons and other vermin.

Brett’s guys were creeped out by the creaking of the immense wooden structures and the sounds of cows make at night, as well as the sounds of bats and other nocturnal animals. However, the barns were cooler in the summer and a foot of loose straw makes a wonderful bed for a tired man.

Eli agreed that having one-third of the men working at a time would pay for their room-and-board.

Brett made a simple schedule where six men pulled guard duty and patrolled their “area”, six men were off and six men worked. The two extras were plugged in as needed as the men drank the local water and came down with johnny-trots.

It was a pretty good deal, all the way around. The Amish men ate upwards of 4000 Calories a day. Fried foods, sausage, pies, gravy, carbs, butter, jam...every darned meal. A diet of green, leafy vegetables simply does not work when you walk upwards of twenty miles, six days a week. Brett's men sat at the same tables and ate the same food. It was like they had died and gone to heaven.

From the Amish perspective, there were more animals to care for and more land to keep beneath the plow than there were survivors to do the work. Six more plowmen were a God-sent.

Brett’s first impression of Donnie Galligan was that Donnie was a total R-U-B-E.

Donnie had been hoping to create that impression. He was leading a mare to be bred and was artlessly sawing away at a harmonica as he led the mare.

Hippocrates is reputed to have once opined, “First do no harm.” Donnie’s playing slayed that opinion. His playing put the “harm” in harmonica.

Donnie was wearing cut-off jeans with a bleach-mark where a can of Skoal used to live, untied running shoes, a NASCAR themed baseball cap and a wife-beater Tee shirt. When he wasn’t punishing the mouth-harp, Donnie made an effort to breath through his mouth.

Against all calculus of what is rational and logical, Donnie and Brett were instant friends.

“Hey, rube!” Brett called out. “Can you turn off the noise. You are making my ears bleed.”

Donnie pretended to squint down his nose at Brett. “Be you lost? Be danged. Never figured to find a city-slicker here.”

Donnie approved of Brett’s muzzle discipline.

It never occurred to Brett that Donnie’s tan-lines did not match up to his clothing.



  1. First do no harm... snerk... Playing the village idiot is a good way to 'start'... The 'harm' will come later.

  2. Why do I suddenly see Joel and his family "defecting" soon?


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