Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Remnant: The Beaches of Dunkirk

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.


  1. Presumably, Pastor Morales has a destination in mind for his people. Might it be Eaton Rapids? And if so, has he thought about how the residents of Eaton Rapids and surrounding farms might react to the sudden influx of 500-750 Central American migrants into their community? Unless there is a dire need for their labor, they represent hundreds of extra mouths to feed when the community is barely feeding itself as it is.

    1. An earlier episode had the butchering crew identifying vacant buildings and asking permission to have families move in.

      Yes, the destination is Eaton Rapids.

      The area around Eaton Rapids has many vegetable farms due to the muck soil. The general impression is that if you want to grow food that requires manual hoeing or manual field-work, you are probably going to hire people a lot like most of Pastor Morales's congregation.

    2. I foresee a problem. Veggies are wonderful and I like them as well as anyone and better than most, but living on them alone is next to impossible without various dietary supplements that I'm guessing aren't available in this situation. Humans need meat, even if in far smaller amounts than we tend to eat in our current environment, for protein and various amino acids. The amount of meat that can be raised is going to be a limiting factor in the size of the population that can be supported.

  2. The issues are building, and the moves need to take place NOW... However... Nicely done build up!

    1. Thank-you for the kind words.

      You and other, serious writers will probably hate me for this but I am writing this on the fly. The story is writing itself and pulled along by the characters.

      There is no outline. It is an avalanche hurling down a mountain side.

      I wrote it as a distraction for me and for any readers out there. It is like watching Doctor Phil "Hey, I don't have it so bad and maybe my family isn't that dysfunctional after all."

      My distaste for what will happen next is so strong that I typically write an installment the night before it runs.

      What we have seen so far are "recreational riots". People stealing electronics and burning buildings as venues of self-expression. When they get hungry the social fabric will shred and lawlessness will increase by a hundred times or thousand times over what we have seen to date.

      Right now, in Blue Cities, we might have half a percent of the population behaving lawlessly an a riot filled night.

      If we get Kosovo*Zim*Rwanda^2, virtually every mobile adult in large cities will be lawless every night.

      I would far rather write about those who get off the X and don't have a safe or a piano land on their head.

  3. ERJoe, do you have a compilation of all the Remnant episodes starting from the first one? I kinda came late and I generally don't read books on the computer (But try to take a hard cover) but I got hooked on your Remnant series and would like to start at the beginning which is a good place to start. Thanks, Kevin


      The first dozen or so are daisy-chained together. You can read to the bottom and hit the link "Next" which should take you to the next installment.

      Thanks for reading

  4. The plot is being stirred over the heat and the rue is forming nicely...


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