Pastor Morales’ problem was essentially a tactical problem with major social ramifications.
Fabulous Acres was no longer a viable place to live. Nobody in the neighborhood had any “pull” or “stroke” with the powers that be. Staying in Fabulous Acres was a dead-end. The best that could happen was slow starvation. Worse would be slavery and plague.
Pastor Morales discretely asked around. More important, his wife put out feelers with trusted friends. The questions were oblique and spread around.
There were 1200 souls living in Fabulous Acres. Between 200-and-250 of them would never leave. They would hang on until the bitter end. While the vast majority of the residents were Hispanic, the north-end held an enclave of African-Americans. Relations were strained in the best of times. Sadly, the African-Americans tended to trust politicians and faceless bureaucrats more than they trusted their neighbors.
If they ever got wind of how the extra grain “magically” appeared, somebody would rat them out in a heart-beat. To that end, it was a very, very small group of mules who made the 13 mile, nightly round-trip. One of them was Pastor Morales and several others were church Elders. Since they were already in-the-know, using them as mules meant they didn’t need to bring more people into-the-loop. Every additional person was additional risk of a leak.
The grain was deposited in the church basement before sun-up and then divvied up with the meager allotment the City was giving food centers in the less-favored parts of town. The vast majority of those who received the grain never knew it came from a different source.
While an additional half pound of grain per person was a God-sent, it wasn’t enough for survival. It simply delayed the inevitable.
The obvious answer was to depopulate Fabulous Acres. The devil was in the details.
Besides the 250 who had an unshakeable faith in the eternal benevolence of government, there were another 200-to-250 whose health was in rapid decline.
The loss of power, space heating, tap water and hygiene, medications, the high level of stress and anxiety all played a part. Perhaps the most widespread debilitating syndrome was plain, old diarrhea*. Sketchy drinking water. Not being able to wash hands. People crammed together cheek-by-jowl. The means to heat food to kill pathogens and the lack of refrigeration. They all contributed. Diarrhea meant wet, contaminated clothes with inadequate means to sanitize them. The epidemic snowballed.
The first to die from diarrhea had both been couples! They died of hypothermia. Wet clothing and bedding do not retain heat. Nights in April are cold. If either of the couple had not been hammered by Noro or salmonella or whatever, one could have cared for the other and they would have both made it. But, both were afflicted at the same time and they were gone before any of the neighbors realized they were in trouble.
That group might be able to ride a bus out of town but a 20 mile hike was completely beyond them.
The tactical problem was to determine the most secure order for the 750 residents who were candidates for relocation. As in many things, the distribution of risk was bell-shaped.
A hundred candidates were prime choices. They were tight-lipped and had a very-strong sense of group affiliation. They would let somebody pull out their fingernails before they put later groups at risk. Those were the easy ones.
The next five hundred were a mixed bag. Some of the women were addicted to social media. Pastor Morales could just hear some of them rationalizing “What is the harm in one little post and a few pictures?” That group had to be sorted and the lowest risk evacuated first to delay the inevitable implosion.
Pastor Morales knew in his heart that there was no possibility of getting through all five-hundred of “the middle” without a major security breach. At that point options were limited. The single best option, in Morales’s estimation, was a quick, mass rush for the exits before the powers assimilated and reacted to the information.
Of course the last hundred in the 750 potential sojourners were least likely to respond when word went out “You have to leave NOW with the clothes on your back and a single water bottle”
Morales was a realist. Knowing what he did about people, he thought it would be a miracle if they could move one-third of the 750 out of Fabulous Acres before the balloon went up.
Three groups of ten huddled two-hundred yards north of the Customs Station. The groups left Fabulous Acres at different times. Two of them left in the daylight.
They covered various distances before dropping into a huddle. Then, after dark they moved to a common rally point. Shortly after midnight the thirty moved an additional half-mile to the staging area just short of the Customs Station.
All thirty were Guatemalans. While Guatemalans are not overly fond of Hondurans, and Pastor Morales was from Honduras, they were even less fond of Mexicans. They appreciated that they had been allowed to take-the-gap before most of the others in Fabulous Acres.
Pastor Morales promised them that he would care for la tias and la abuelas as long as he was in Fabulous Acres. He would care for them as his very own unless he got word that they had ratted.
Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador live under the shadow of the drug trade. They knew what “ratting” brought. They knew an honorable man when they met one. They would not betray their grandmothers and beloved aunts that stayed behind.
Carmen had passed information back that forty was too many. She could hear them from a quarter-mile away. Of course she knew they were there and was listening.
She cranked up the decibels to cover the rustling and jingling. Louisa, nobody’s fool, also started chattering and laughing and even danced a little jig to make the sounds of shoes striking the ground.
At thirty per night, it would take almost a month to move the 750 out of Fabulous Acres.
Execute, execute, execute!
*A tip of the fedora to Anita Bailey for pointing out this obvious health issue. Diarrhea is easy to overlook because it is gross and so very pedestrian.