Writing a book of any kind is one of the greatest challenges a person can undertake.  I learned a lot about that while writing this story – I hope you are enjoying it.

 CHAPTER   THIRTEEN

 “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.  It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”

 William Pitt – House of Commons, 1783

 It became known as the Day of Tears and the following day, the sky cried too. The clouds and rain would be good for their garden crops, but it did little for Cliffson’s dark mood.  The destruction of San Diego and Dallas weighed heavy, but the reality of every major city in America containing a nuclear bomb was chilling.  Fear and confusion tag-teamed to rule his mind and he felt himself on the ropes.  It was unfamiliar territory and the match was moving into extra rounds.

Cliffson sat in his Adirondack chair on the front porch smoking a cigar and choking down a stiff bottle of reality.  He’d always enjoyed watching the storms from the shelter of his front porch and the rain freshened air was sweet, but today the tempest in his mind was greater than that in the skies and he found little enjoyment in the rain.

There was no longer any doubt his son in Seattle was in danger and likely his son in Boise Idaho as well, yet, when he called, they were reluctant to come home.  His pleading ignored, he settled for warning them to keep their gas tanks full in case they needed to leave town in a hurry and at least they’d agreed to do that.

His thoughts were interrupted when a small white car he did not recognize pulled into the driveway.  Cliffson stood and reached behind his back to rest a hand on the pistol he carried and watched a man and his son get out of the car.  With the dad’s arm resting over his son’s shoulders, they approached the house and soon Cliffson realized who it was.  The dams holding back all his fears broke and rivers poured from his eyes when the boy broke free and ran to Cliffson.  After a giant bear hug, he held the boy out at arm’s length to have a good look.

“I’m Alan,” the man said, extending his hand to Cliffson “and this is my son Bobby.  I want to thank you for what you did for him and for all of us.”

“No thanks are necessary, it’s enough just to see him alive and well.  My name is Cliffson. How are you doing, Bobby?”

“Better sir.  The doctors say there’s no permanent damage and I’ll soon be good as new, thanks to you and your friends.”

“Thank you Bobby, but we only did what was right.  Please come in. My wife would love to meet both of you.”

The four of them spent a congenial afternoon together and it was just what Cliffson needed.  The meeting left Cliffson in a much better mood and he slept as well that night as he had since the D.C. bombing.


The Jeffersons did not sleep at all.  Davis had not returned home and they’d spent many frantic hours driving through town looking for him.  Calls to the police were ineffective.  Thomas kept thinking over and over, the government should do something, they need to help us.

The next day was even worse.  Davis was supposed to catch his flight back to school but there was no trace of him.  It didn’t help matters the power was out.  Out of options, the Jeffersons were crushed and Mary cried for most the day.


The next morning a golden sun glinting on the dew covered grass greeted Cliffson through the kitchen window where he stood in his bathrobe, making coffee and watching the finches at the thistle feeder. There’s no yellow like the vibrant yellow found on a finch, he thought.

Welfare was sitting patiently at his feet reminding him he needed to go outside.   Cliffson carried his freshly made, steaming cup of coffee to the patio door and opened it for Welfare who made a dash for the field in back.  The new blades of green grass sparkled and the crisp air invited Cliffson outside.  Cupping the hot brew in his hands, he stepped onto the paver patio to drink in the rain cleansed air and gaze at the mountain tops gleaming in the sun.

Minutes later Welfare returned and sat beside him to gaze out at the snowcapped mountains.  Cliffson couldn’t help but wonder if the dog enjoyed the view as much as he did.  After drenching themselves in the brisk morning setting, the two went back inside.  The fire in the wood stove popped and Cliffson returned to the kitchen to cook some eggs.  It was then he noticed the clock on the stove was off.  He looked to the microwave and found it was off too.   For Pete’s sake…had to have just gone off.

Cliffson yelled down the hall.  “Jean, if you want to shower you had better do it soon, the power is off.  I’m going over to see Monk.”

Cliffson found Monk sitting at his workbench tinkering with an old motor in his perfectly ordered garage.  The shop had a faint smell of oil and contained the most eclectic collection of things one could imagine.  An old baseball wrapped in the palm of a glove sat on the top shelf of the wooden bench where Monk was working.  Above him a kite hung from the ceiling.  Old posters for Coke, Ford pickups and recruiting posters for the marines hung from the other walls.  Against one wall was a well organized collection of tools and engine parts.  A small collection of oil cans lined the top of another shelf.  There was camping gear, a chainsaw and, of course, Monk’s own ham radio.

The wood in the cheery little pot belly stove crackled a greeting when Cliffson walked in.  “Good morning, Monk.”

“Mornin’.”

“I always marvel over how neat and orderly your garage is.  I think I see a little military influence here.”  Cliffson smiled.

“Well, you’d be right about that.”  Monk reached for a rag to wipe his hands.

“So what’s the box there on your bench?  Don’t believe I’ve seen that before.”  Cliffson pointed.

“That’s an old ship’s radar screen,”  Monk replied.

Cliffson tilted his head in a sardonic smile. “Seen any subs lately?”

“You know boy, someday that tongue of yours is gonna get you in a lot of trouble.”

“Aye, captain.”  Cliffson saluted, bringing a smile from Monk.  “Jean says that all the time”

“So what are you up to this morning?”

“I came to see if your power’s out?” Cliffson asked.

Monk was chewing on a tooth pick he’d just taken from behind his ear.  “Yep.  S’out everywhere.”

“What do you mean, it’s out everywhere?”

“Heard it on my radio just a bit ago.

“Radio, I thought your power was out?”

“Just like the national radio stations have backup power, no self-respecting ham operator would be caught dead without a solar powered backup.  As I was a sayin’, they’ve shut the whole dang system down my friend.”

“I don’t get it, what’s that accomplish?” Cliffson wondered aloud.

“Don’t know, but I’m a fear’n big trouble is knockin’ on our door.”

“Yeah, like we don’t have trouble already,” Cliffson answered.

“Listen, the Chinese ain’t been here long.  We don’t know what their plans are.  You best batten down your hatches mate, there’s a storm, a real storm a brewin’,”  Monk warned.

Cliffson threw up his hands.  “But why turn off the power?  There’s just no practical reason for it.”

“You don’t have to understand it, you just need to see it for what it is.”  Monk said.

“All right, all right, you’re beginning to sound a little too much like Jean.”  Cliffson smiled.

“Jean’s a smart gal, you should listen.”

“I do.  Her insight’s invaluable and she keeps me grounded in the truth.”

“Ah yes, truth.  I can still recall such a concept.”  Monk knelt to stoke the fire with one more piece of wood.  “Seems it’s about been bled dry, don’t you think?”

“It, and other values.”  Cliffson sighed.

“Values like individual initiative and personal responsibility?”  Cliffson nodded and Monk continued.

“Thrift, faith, self-reliance…  I could go on.”

“They’ll be back someday, Monk.  Won’t be in our lifetimes, but they’ll be back.  I have to believe that.”

“I hope you’re right, my friend.  I hope you’re right.”

“You know Monk, I never think to ask this because you seem so self-sufficient, but you got everything you need?”

Monk walked to the wood stove and tossed in the greasy rag he’d used to clean his hands.  Then clasping Cliffson on the shoulder looked him square in the eye and cracked open the door the tiniest little bit to the man inside.

“Look, I’m fine and make no mistake, I appreciate your concern, but there’s going to be trouble beyond anything you’ve imagined.  I’ve been in enough situations in my life to know and I can feel it in my bones.  Now whatever it takes, you get your kids home so you can take care of your family.  I’ve never shared this with you before, but I lost my family once upon a lifetime and I don’t want to see it happen to you.”

Cliffson was a little taken back.  Monk had never shared even the slightest measure of his private world before.  Under that thick, coarse, bullet proof exterior was a warm, breathing human being with a real heart and concern for others.

Clasping Cliffson’s arm in both his hands Monk pulled a taut smile.  “The only thing I need from you is someone I can trust and count on when the chips are down, and maybe a little water from that well of yours if the juice don’t come back on.”

“You have my word Monk.  You know you can count on me.”

“I appreciate that.  Now don’t forget what I told you about your family.  It’s important you convince your sons to come home.”

“Thank you Monk, I’ll go call them right now.

Cliffson returned home and took a seat by the sliding door next to the patio.  Gazing at the mountains, he paused a moment to reflect on a lake where he had often gone backpacking with his sons, then completed dialing the first number.  The call wouldn’t go through and after numerous attempts he realized he’d have to try later.

Monk’s words still haunted “…make no mistake, there is going to be trouble…whatever it takes, you get your kids home so you can take care of your family.”


In the days that followed, Jean and Cliffson managed to get calls through to each of their sons.  Though Detroit had been gutted by fire and other major cities were under siege, leaving portions of them gutted, the Northwest remained deceptively quiet and their sons were unwilling to come home.

Five days later the power was still out.  For greater safety, Monk joined with the Wests and Langs on their trips to town.  The men armed themselves and provided “cover” while the women shopped for additional food and supplies.  With each trip they found less on the shelves, higher prices and a growing mob mentality simmering just below the surface.  Without power, gas stations could no longer pump fuel and the lifeline of semi-trucks supplying each store slowed to a trickle.

Jean believed they’d adjusted fairly well.  There was the wood stove for heat, plenty of food stored up and the city’s water remained on, though it didn’t seem to have as much pressure.  Without a refrigerator, perishables were more difficult to keep, but it was still cool enough to keep them outside.  Bathing and washing clothes were another matter.  It wouldn’t be long before that part of the power being off got very old.  Still, they knew they could make do.

Other families were not fairing as well.  The “Green” fad that swept the nation left people prepared to be politically correct and entirely unprepared to take care of themselves.

Naturally the Zombies wouldn’t be caught dead owning a wood stove.  Cliffson found humor in that thought. Other people just found wood stoves dirty and shunned them.  At least those folks were honest about it.  But either way, the nights were still cool in the high desert of Central Oregon and many found their homes to be quite cold.

Contemporary mankind depended on government assistance, fashionable conveniences, and society’s so-called safety net.  The original hunters and gatherers were better prepared to care for themselves than the typical American citizen.

Compounding the issue was the fact more Americans abused prescription drugs than all illegal drug users combined, and this guaranteed that many were not going to survive for long.

Cliffson wondered what would happen when the water ran out.  It was the last pebble holding the dam together before the flood waters broke—the fraying rope holding the blade of the guillotine over the head of civilization.

Monk and Cliffson looked in on the widow Smith nearly every day to make sure she was safe and had the supplies she needed.  Cliffson split wood, Monk installed some heavier locks on the doors, but most of all, they made time to visit.

Three weeks later the power remained off and Cliffson decided it was time to see Gary about borrowing his tractor to dig a root cellar.  The tractor needed some work and as the two men began making repairs the conversation turned to the rampant lawlessness.

“Gary, can you imagine what it’s like on the east coast?  They’ve been without power for more than a month.  No way they have water—food and fuel has to be impossible to find, or incredibly expensive.  It’s a keg of powder just waiting for a spark.”

Gary said he’d heard our own national guard was not allowed to secure the cities and the Chinese were content to stand by and watch.

“I don’t think we can picture what those cities are like Cliffson, but sure as shootin’ they’re as explosive as any nuke the Chinese might have.  Even here in Redmond break-ins’ are increasing.  Food’s in short supply and people are getting desperate.  I wouldn’t go anywhere unarmed.”

With that Cliffson pointed toward two fuel tanks resting atop metal stands at the back of Gary’s property. “You ever lock those up?”

“No, I’ve never had to, but I see your point.  I just had em’ filled too, so guess I’d better be getting some locks on em.”

Gary leaned back against the tractor tire and wiped the sweat from his brow.  “Cliffson, the major west coast cities probably ran out of water a week ago.  Things are getting explosive.  Both my kids are coming home soon and yours should be too.”

Cliffson smacked the rubber tire with his fist.  “Dang it Gary, I’ve tried.  They don’t want to leave their jobs, but without basic services neither of them is working anyway.  I’m worried they’ll wait too long and be unable to get out before all hell breaks loose.  I’ve got to call them again when I get home.”

“I can button this up myself.  You head on home and make your calls.”

“Thanks.  I’ll get back to you about the tractor later.”

But Gary hardly heard him.  Barb was yelling for them to come into the house and was turning up the volume on their solar powered radio when they walked through the patio door.  The newscaster was describing scenes of fierce riots breaking out all along the west coast.  Swarms of people had taken over San Francisco and Portland and Seattle were engulfed in flames.

“Damn Gary, it’s happening.  I’ve got to get home.  See you Barb.”

Cliffson raced home.  It was only a mile but it seemed like ten.  He first tried calling Dustin in Seattle but it was busy so he dialed Zach in Boise.

“Hello.”

“Zach, this is Dad. Is everything ok over there?”

“Dad, it’s crazy here, we’ve been without water for the last five or six days, but my roommates and I filled our bathtub so we’ve been getting by.  Now the people are marching downtown threatening to riot and tear the place up.”

Zach sounded shaken.  He was a smart kid, but only twenty-four and unsure what to do.  Cliffson pulled up a chair and attempted to calm himself down to think more clearly.  “Are the freeways clear?”

“As far as I know, but we haven’t been driving much to save on gas.”

Cliffson took a couple deep breaths.  “All right, listen to me carefully.  I doubt GPS is working so take your map with you.  If you come to any road blocks whatsoever, turn around.  Do not approach them.”

“Dad, that could be hard to do on the freeway.”

“Turn around and drive on the shoulder if you have to and go back to the last exit.   It’s that important son, they could be traps.”

“Ok, I’m leaving right now, soon as I get loaded up,” Zach said.

“And one more thing, check in once in a while so we don’t worry about you.

“I will, Dad.”

“Keep your wits about you and think things through if you need to take detours.  We’ll see you in a while.  I love you, son.”

“Love you too.  Bye dad.”

Jean was standing beside Cliffson with her hand on his shoulder and he reached up to take hold of it.  “He’ll be all right.  He knows that country well and has a map in case he needs to detour through some of the back country.

Jean forced her confident smile.  “Let’s try calling Dustin again.”

This time they got through after just one ring and Dustin answered in a terse voice.

“Dad, I can’t talk.  There’s a mob of people headed our way and they’re nearing the house.  I’ve got to go.”

“Dustin be smart and call us when you can.”

“What?  Ok, ok, I’ve got to go.” The phone went dead.

Jean and Cliffson shared pained looks.  There was nothing they could do.

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