Solar Storms 2012
by Ted Howe and Shirley Swift
A week later there was the usual January thaw and Frank came over and helped R.J. and Ralph bury the bodies. “By the way,” Frank started, “I came upon that guy we let go lying face first in the snow.”
“You mean he was dead?” Ralph asked.
“Yup. Too bad. Those fellas probably weren’t thieves before this whole mess.”
“Desperate times,” R.J. answered.
“The National Guard seems to have gotten more under control. Some of the places east of here have their power grid back up.”
“Thinking of travelling?” Frank asked.
“Yes. I know my parents would like to get back to the city.”
“Whatever for? It’s going to be chaos there,” Ralph said.
“Better listen for reports of looting and such,” Frank added.
“Well, we won’t be going anywhere for at least two weeks after the grid is up.”
“I’ve been thinkin’ of going back to the farm when Henry is up to it.”
“His arm still giving him fits?” Frank asked.
“Yeah,” R.J. answered. “It got infected but we had some anti-biotics here. He’d been in a real fix if we hadn’t.”
They finished burying the bodies in silence.
“Come on and have a hot meal,” R.J. offered.
“Will do,” Frank smiled, thinking of Sally as much as the hot food.
Iowa – February 2, 2013. On ground hog’s day the power came on. The news from the Iowa City Armory was that the grid was up and running all over the area. The atmosphere relaxed around the house and farm and the most appreciated part was the flushable toilets. Frank came over every day to visit with Sally. They took walks around the perimeter, Frank carrying his Remington. One day he brought an AK-47 and showed her how to load and shoot it. It appeared that in the midst of all the chaos and unrest they had cultivated a close relationship. Frank invited her to his fortress. For the first time in over 30 years Frank had a lady inside his house. She was impressed with the work he had done but she surprised him by telling him if he expected her to live here with him he would have to get electricity when it’s fully restored. And more to his surprise, Frank readily agreed. The next two weeks Frank and Sally made plans to have her move in with him.
The National Guard reported that it was clear and presumed safe to travel. The power grid had stayed on for over 10 days and there were no more solar flares predicted. Frank came over for dinner that night and the adults around the table afterwards decided on a plan. Gert was going to stay with R.J. and Nancy. Henry, Ralph and their families would all go home in the morning. R.J. would take Jim and Sally and his parents home in their Dodge Ram 4-wheel drive.
“I don’t think so,” Frank spoke up. “Miss Sally will be staying with me.” There was a lot of animated talking between the women and good natured joking with both of the “senior citizens.”
Sally smiled through it all. She was already packed and went home with Frank that night.
The next morning the rest of the company parted ways with grateful goodbyes and hugs. R.J. and Ron packed their sparse belongings into the huge truck and headed toward the Quad Cities.
They decided to leave the cats there until Spring when it would be easier for them to travel. Passing through several National Guard check points delayed the normal one hour trip. After almost two hours on the road they found Bettendorf in ruins. Cars were burned out on the streets. Stores had been looted with windows smashed.
“Thank heaven we have food stored at home,” Jil said as they turned down their street.
Jim was the first to see that Ron’s and Jil’s home had been burned. The garage was totally gone.
The couple stared in disbelief. “You can stay with me,” Jim blurted out. No one answered him.
R.J. turned into the drive. “Get what you can. You’re coming back home with me. Jim, it’s your choice. There’s room at the place if you want to come along.”
Jim went to his house to check on things. His place had been ransacked as well. He went to his gun safe, hidden in the back of his garage and emptied it of the ammunition and other weapons he had.
Jil and Ron stumbled their way slowly through what was left of 40 years worth of marriage. They picked through things, finding their computer discs with their family pictures and important papers in the strong box. It had been hidden under what was left of the sink. There were no cans of food on the shelves. Nothing but smoky, upended furniture was left.
Ron held the box and Jil said, “the papers aren’t so important now, are they?” The couple came out, tears streaking their faces. R.J. was talking on his CB. He signed off and then helped them into the car. Jim was headed their way with a large duffle bag on each shoulder and another bag in tow.
“Nancy told me to turn on the truck’s radio,” R.J. said and flipped the switch on.
The Emergency Broadcast System’s warning alarm was blaring.