Friday, January 24, 2020

Tenterhooks (fiction)

Chernovsky waited for near-dark. He changed out of his clean clothes and into his stumble-bum, drunk disguise.

He lowered his kit down the dark side of the elevator with brown paracord. There were many choices. There was no street lighting. Chernovsky chose to put it into some shrubbery.

Then after waiting a few minutes to see if anybody raised an alarm, he went down the fire escape.

Chernovsky had already picked out his next observation post. He retrieved his kit and moved it to his new choice.

Then he staggered from bar-to-bar, slowly and randomly moving northeast toward Dave William’s home in the no-man’s-land between Livingston County and Milford. He made it there by one-thirty in the morning. It had been a twelve mile hike.

Dave had been awake. He heard when Chernovsky came in. After waiting fifteen minutes, he went to go check on him. He had been gone for thirty-six hours. Chernovsky smelled of shit, piss and vomit and cheap booze.

Dave was not angry. He was sad. Dave had been sober for forty-five years and had helped many men on the path to sobriety. He had helped even more men who tried and failed. And failed. And failed. Chernovsky gave every indication of being in the second group of men.

But that didn’t mean Dave would stop helping. Who made it and who failed was up to the individual, and God. That was above Dave’s pay-grade.


Janelle moved back in with Kate and Rick. It never occurred to her that being pregnant and having a kid might be hard. Her birth mother seemed to pop them out with the frequency and ease one associated with microwave popcorn.

Kate was so understanding that it hurt. Distance was one of Janelle’s defense mechanisms. The only people who can hurt you are the ones who care for you. Janelle’s armor was that she was independent and that nobody cared for her. She was undone by the kindness shown to her.

Janelle wondered what her miscarriage would do with her relationship with Chernovsky. Without the baby, he had every reason to bolt. Janelle was on tenterhooks waiting for his return.


Wilder was impressed by Miguel’s ability to render information into sketches. At the start, Miguel waded out into the streams and called out the length of the span, the depth of the water and so on.

Wilder faithfully wrote the numbers down in a table.

After slogging his way back up to the road-grade, Wilder was impressed to find Miguel had not only recorded the numbers but he had produced a very credible sketch of the bridge and its approaches.

After that, Wilder, the former millionaire did the scut work and Miguel did the recording.

In nearly every case the bridge was skewed to one side of the valley or the other and a built-up roadbed extended across the floodplain up to the bridge on the far side of the valley. In most cases the roadbed was six-to-eight feet above the stream. Wilder’s intuition told him this was significant but he couldn’t put the pieces together while out in the field.


Quinn kicked sleeping troopers awake. He started by kicking the soles of their feet. If that didn’t work, he dumped five gallons of water on them.

Then he sent them on a five minutes-out, five-across and five-back patrol.

It only took a few examples before his fighters decided it was better to run the 5-5-5s before they fell asleep. Better to do it dry than wet.


General Patrick had Lieutenant Martens split the corp into equal thirds. Equal, on paper that is.

Martens' plan made a show of dealing evenly from the deck. From a distance, each third appeared to have about the same range of skills and “seniority”. Up close, well, it was a fine way to pass off the trash.

General Mark Richards categorically rejected his third. He demanded three-quarters of the soldiers be placed under his command. His reasoning was that he commanded the offense and the rule-of-thumb was that attackers need a three-to-one advantage over the defenders to prevail.

The three men were not able to come to an agreement so they submit their arguments to Torvaldsen. Generals Patrick and Rife emailed Marten’s plan along with summaries showing the equity of the division. General Richards went and made an impassioned plea.

Richards was sure he would prevail. Not only had Richards and Torvaldsen gone to the same University, but Richards and Torvaldsen had both belonged to the Gamma-Delta-Iota fraternity.

General Patrick had read the situation correctly. Torvaldsen was autistic and was completely immune to emotional appeals. Not only that, Torvaldsen saw facial emotions as random twitches and those twitches made him very uncomfortable.

Lieutenant Marten’s plan was implemented as written. Richards received 1200 soldiers, the same number under Rife and under Patrick’s command.


Shad walked into Kelly Carney and Milo Talon’s workshop.

“Is there any reason” he asked “that you can’t run a gassifier on bales of hay?”

Kelly laid down the wrench he had been wielding. “Well, other than the fact that our bins are set up for corn, I cannot see any reason they couldn’t.”

“What do you think, Milo?” Kelly asked.

Milo rubbed his chin as if thinking deep thoughts. “We would have to make a rectangular bin for the bales” Milo said agreeably. “The round barrels we use to hold the corn won’t work.”

“You would have to refuel a lot more often” Kelly opined. “A fifty-five gallon barrel holds pretty close to three-hundred pounds of corn. What does a bale of hay weigh? Maybe thirty?”

“Closer to forty, but I see your point.” Shad said.

“What would it cost to have you make an adapter for one of your gassifiers?” Shad asked.

“I reckon we would do that for free if you have a lot of hay to burn.” Milo offered.

“Well, I do. But I have on additional requirement for this gassifier.” Shad said. “I want to save the ashes.”



  1. So how are they keeping up with lubrication needs on these tractors and associated equipment?

    1. There will be a lot of cars and trucks out there that aren't running due to lack of fuel. Lots of lubricants to be had.

      And I doubt they're the sort of thing that's looted first or maybe even last. Plus the bulk suppliers will have rather large stocks. Someone who figures this out could be a very important person very quickly.

  2. There is value in MOST things. Finding and using that value.... not always obvious...


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