I’m all moved into my new office space. Well, at least the important stuff has been moved. At least temporarily.
As you may remember from my last post, I was moving my home office from the guest bedroom upstairs, to our newly reclaimed basement space.
I was planning on moving it into one of the bedrooms downstairs while I make repairs to the other one where it used to be. Once the repairs are done, I plan on moving it into the room where I did my best work. After that, the other bedroom is going to be turned into a home gym and eventually, the overly large living room will be turned into a home theater/entertainment area.
Unfortunately, my plan hit a bit of a snag.
As I was preparing the “usable” bedroom for move in, I started to realize that the moldy smell wasn’t just coming from the other bedroom. The water damage must have gotten into the shared wall between the two bedrooms. So that will have to be taken out as well.
So, change of plan. Until I’m able to make repairs to both bedrooms, I’ve decided to temporarily put my office in the currently unused living room.
After several trips up and down the stairs, I finally have a usable workspace.
This isn’t all of it. In fact, there’s still a lot to move down, but I should have everything I need to start writing again. Except for ideas.
That’s a joke. I have more ideas than I can handle right now. I just need the time and motivation.
I even put in a small area for when I need to relax and blow off some steam because a story is frustrating me. Overall, I’m pretty happy with how it all turned out. Still, I can’t wait to get everything back into the room where it belongs.
I’m actually eager to get some work done. For now, I’m just going to do some very short fiction, just to get my fingers moving again. Once the bird has been eaten, the real work will begin.
I’m trying to decide if I should pick up my long neglected YA novel, or start fresh with one of the new ideas rattling around in my head. What do you think?
Now that I have a decent place to shoot, I may even start posting YouTube videos again. I’d love to get some suggestions on topics you guys would like me to cover. Leave me some comments at www.YouTube.com/justinmkellywriter .
As for my reading, I fell off for a little bit while I was making the move, but I finally finished Firestarter by Stephen King and am now reading Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman and I’m listening to NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. So far they’re both really good. I’m also reading a couple of nonfiction books on Freelance writing and copywriting.
That’s it for this week. Hopefully next week I’ll be able to write about some actual writing progress.
No. I’m not moving to a new house. We’ve put too much work into this one to abandon it and start over now.
What I am doing is moving into a new home office space.
I love my home office. It’s kind of become a combination home office/study/man cave. It’s very comfortable and if I were single, I would probably spend most of my time in there.
There’s only one problem.
On the other side of a very thin door is our living room, bedroom, and the rest of the house. I always feel guilty locking myself away and working when life is going on on the other side of that door. Shannon swears she doesn’t mind, but I can’t help but be distracted knowing she’s out there alone.
I also worry about keeping her awake when I’m writing at night.
I don’t want her to have to walk on eggshells trying to be quiet so as not to disturb me while I’m concentrating either.
Even the window can be a bit of a distraction. Basically, I need a distraction-free workspace. Or I at least need to limit them to distractions that inspire me.
As some of you may know, due to a water leak, our renter in the basement apartment had to move. Instead of trying to find a new renter, we decided that we could afford to take over the whole house.
Before buying the house, we used to live in the basement apartment ourselves. This means I can move my office back into its original space… eventually.
Remember the water leak I mentioned? Well, here’s what my basement office used to look like.
And this is it now.
As you can see, we have a lot of work to do before it’s a usable space again.
So for now, I’m going to move it into what was our old bedroom.
It’s going to be pretty basic. I’m not going to decorate it much since I hope to be able to get the other room in shape over the winter, but it’ll be a good space to work.
Once I’m able to move back into my permanent space, We’re planning on turning our old bedroom into a home gym and the downstairs living room into a combination library/home theater. Once the back patio gets a makeover, we should have a nice party area to have parties, movie nights, and game nights. Maybe even an occasional poker night with the guys.
It’ll be nice to have an actual guest room upstairs again. Then I’ll just have to work on talking my friends into coming for a visit.
Reading update. I finished Full Dark, No Stars and Carrie over the last week. Now I’m reading Firestarter. Yes, I’m on a Stephen King kick, but hey. It’s almost Halloween.
First off, let me explain. No, I haven’t fallen victim to drink or drugs. It’s not that kind of rehab I need. It’s something much, much worse for a writer.
The truth is, for the last couple of years, I haven’t been writing. This isn’t something easy for someone who claims to be a writer to admit. In fact, I’ve been lying about it because if I’m not writing, I’m just a fraud. Which, since I’ve resorted to lying about it, I guess I am anyway.
Sure, I’ve scribbled a few lines here and there. I’ve even written a few pieces of flash that weren’t worth showing to the world, but for the most part, I having written anything worthwhile.
I could blame this on any number of things. My struggles with anxiety and depression, twenty-four hours a day access to entertainment via Netflix, Hulu, etc., the fact that I lost one of my best friends over the summer, (Although that’s unfair to him. My troubles started long before his passing and he was never anything but encouraging.) or just sheer laziness.
All of these are true to some extent, but after much soul searching, I’ve come to realize that they’re all just an excuse. I thought long and hard about those glory days when I could hardly stop my fingers from moving across the keyboard. What’s missing from the equation?
The answer? Reading. Looking at the past few years, I hate to admit it, but I’ve only read a handful of books. I, the kid who used to always carry around a battered old paperback. The one who used to get in trouble in math class for reading during the lesson (but not too much because whenever the teacher would try to surprise me with a question, I always knew the answer.) The guy who, when he didn’t have a new book to read and couldn’t get to the library, would re-read one of his favorites until the cover fell off and it started bleeding pages. The one who often had several books in strategic places around the house, all of which I was reading at the same time.
Once upon a time, I even filmed a YouTube video on the importance of reading for writers. Looking back, I think I was mostly talking to myself. Especially looking at the view count.
Truth be told, I think the biggest reason I stopped reading was the advent of unlimited entertainment at my fingertips. When I was younger and the internet was in its infancy, if I got bored, I would pick up a book. Or, barring that, I would make up a story to entertain myself. It wasn’t long before I started writing them down. Especially once smart phones came out, I became a screen addict.
So what’s the solution? I think that’s obvious. I need to become the voracious reader I used to be. Instead of taking my phone with me to the bathroom, I need to take a book. I need to make sure I always have my kindle in my man purse.
In case I find myself with only my phone, I need to make sure I always have a book on there just in case.
Now I’m not saying I’m going to follow the advice of Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and kill my television. I still enjoy watching some TV and I believe there is value in visual entertainment. What I am going to do though, is stop turning it on unless there’s something I actually want to watch.
To this end, I think I’m going to start posting weekly on what books I’m reading. I might even give soft reviews, but don’t expect me to just shred someone else’s work. I’m a big believer in karma and I rarely just don’t like a book. Currently I’m reading Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King. I’m on the last story, A Good Marriage, so I’m already deciding on what’s next.
Here’s hoping that a couple of weeks of solid reading will start the words flowing again. In the meantime, I’m going to be moving my office to a more remote part of the house so I’m ready to go when my muse returns.
I’ll see you next week with an update and possibly a tour of my new (albeit temporary) writing space. I’ll explain more then.
When we last left you, our hero had just won a major victory over his arch nemesis Depression and its sneaky sidekick Anxiety. In the ensuing weeks, Writerman has continued to succeed in defeating many of Depressions henchmen such as cluttered house and even scaled the terrifying Laundry Mountain.
All joking aside, it’s been a really good couple of weeks. I’m finally getting my life back in order and it feels great. I realize that the basic chores I’ve listed don’t sound like much. They’re things most people do every day. Still, when you haven’t had any motivation to do things like that in months, getting the house clean feels like a major victory.
I’ve also been getting my old SUV back in driveable condition so that I can sell it and finally start work on the writer wagon. I’m really looking forward to getting it going and doing some touring in it. If nothing else,I can’t wait to take it to some secluded spot in the black hills and get some real writing done with no distractions. Updates on the van build hopefully coming soon.
So far, there hasn’t been much progress on the writing front, although I feel it coming. I haven’t lost my skill at procrastinating though.
So far, I’ve installed a new operating system on my writing laptop. (Linux Mint Cinnamon.) Then, of course, I had to work out all the bugs that come with a new OS. After that, I had to reinstall all the programs I need and then customize everything just how I want it. (I might have to redo that again later.)
Later today, I might play another round of “I need to clean the office so I can finally get some writing done.”
Yesterday was supposed to be a meeting of the “Black Hills Writer’s Group” which I’ve been a member of for years. Unfortunately, it was cancelled due to snow. In May. IN LATE MAY!!! Still, an intrepid few of us made it to the location and had an unofficial meeting. I have to say, those meetings are usually a great boost for me. It seems like whenever I share a story with the group, I get mostly praise from my fellow members. Being professionals themselves, they aren’t the type to blow sunshine either. After one of my stories goes over well, it’s always a great feeling.
That’s about it for now. I’m really hoping this bad weather ends soon. I’m not sure how much more I can take. I really want to ride my motorcycles.
On the other hand, if the snow holds out for another month or so, I say it’s time to have an official Christmas in July.
Okay. The title was a bit overdramatic. I didn’t actually return from the dead. It just feels like it.
As you may know, for the last year or two, I’ve been dealing with some major mental health issues. I’ve had issues with anxiety and depression for most of my life, but I’m only now actually dealing with them. For the first time in forever I’m starting to feel like myself… Sometimes.
It’s still an uphill battle. Some days, I wake up filled with motivation and the will to get things done. Others, I just don’t. So far the latter still outnumber the former, but it’s getting better all the time.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean I’ve gotten any writing done lately. Still, I did finally get my office back in order and ready for me to get my work done. I’ve even gotten most of my house clean so I’m out of ways to procrastinate. Mostly.
I’m also looking to get away from one of the biggest outside influences on my mental health. My job. I won’t go into details other than to say that while it was a great job and gave me the ability to write while on the clock, things have changed for the worse.
I know I’ve talked about it in the past, but I’m finally taking steps to start making money freelance writing. While my first love and ultimate goal is to make a living from my fiction, for the time being, I think it’s time to put my skill with words to work for me. I’ve been taking some online courses to learn marketing and business management. I’ve also picked up a couple of books suggested by Reddit on the subject of freelancing. If I can match my current income (which shouldn’t be hard) with freelancing, I’ll be free to do something I’ve always wanted to do. Travel.
And that brings us to the next update.
The Writer Wagon
I’ve mentioned it in the past, but I’m finally ready to start work on my 99 Chevy Astro van.
My goal is to turn it into a camper van. Basically sort of a mini RV.
Step one is to clean the inside thoroughly. The previous owner was a cowboy who used it to get to rodeos. As you can imagine, the inside is pretty filthy. I’m going to scrub the hard parts and take a carpet cleaner to the soft ones.
The next step is the bed. This is a small van, so I’m planning on rear bench seat that folds out to a full size bed. When it’s in bed-mode, it’s going to take up most of the back. Once I have the bed figured out, then it’ll be time to plan everything else around it.
Ultimately, I’m hoping to take it to writing conferences and eventually on a book tour. I’m also designing it to be a mobile office for when I want to just get away into the mountains to commune with nature and get some writing done.
I’m really looking forward to the freedom the freelance life and The Writer Wagon will give me. I have a dear friend in the hospital in California and I would love to go visit him and be there until he recovers, but my current job doesn’t allow for vacation time. Much less an open-ended leave. If I were freelancing, I could take the wagon and still work while I’m on the road.
Don’t worry. I’m not giving up on my fiction. This is just to bring in money until I can make a living from my books. I’m actully looking forward to getting back to work. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to read over my current projects to get back in touch with the stories.
I suppose that’s about it for now. I’ll be posting updates on The Writer Wagon when I have something to share. I’m also considering starting a couple of blogs on various topics. One of which will be on dealing with mental health issues.
I’m not sure when I’ll post another WUW. I suppose when there’s something to report.
As I sit here being a stereotypical writer in my local Starbucks while I enjoy my free birthday drink as I agonize over every word, my mind wanders over the last year.
It’s been a weird year for sure. It seems like it flew by, but at the same time, it seemed to drag on forever. While Shannon has been furiously working toward finishing her master’s degree, I’ve done absolutely nothing.
The fact that I’ve long struggled with my mental health is no secret. For years I’ve been adamant that while I struggle with anxiety, I am not depressed. Every time I would ask my doctor for something to take the edge off of my anxiety, he has tried prescribing me antidepressants. I would argue, sometimes angrily that I’m not depressed, just anxious.
Well folks. After getting absolutely nothing productive done over the last year, I decided it was finally time to face facts. My name is Justin, and I suffer from depression.
Now I want to make one thing perfectly clear. When I say I suffer from depression, I do not have suicidal thoughts or anything like that. I haven’t had one of those since high-school. Even then, I think they were more environmentally motivated than a result of my depression.
My form of depression was much more subtle. I would wake up in the afternoon (night shift worker) and sit there doing absolutely nothing until it was time to go to work where, again, I would do absolutely nothing. Luckily, my job doesn’t require much of me beyond being there and awake. Still, the whole point of taking this job was to give me time to write. Instead, I would sit in front of my computer browsing the internet and watching Netflix on my phone until it was time to go home.
Other days, I would feel the overwhelming urge to cry for no reason. I would just be sitting there in my usual stupor when suddenly I would feel the tears welling up for absolutely no reason. I wasn’t thinking about anything particularly sad. It was just raw emotion welling up inside me. When this would happen, an inner voice would tell me it’s because I hadn’t written anything in months.
Still, I would sit there telling myself to go write something with absolutely no motivation to actually do so.
Worst of all, it was starting to effect my relationship. I found myself getting irritable for absolutely no reason. I found myself lying about how much writing I’d gotten done out of shame and embarrassment. Shannon has always been so supportive of my writing and I felt like I was letting her down.
I finally decided it was time to do something about it. At the beginning of this year, I made an appointment with my doctor to discuss options and I’m proud to say that I think I’m finally on my way to recovery.
Now I’m not going to try to claim I’ve completely kicked my problem, but I’m at the point where the new meds should be taking full effect and every day, I feel a bit more motivated.
Forget the video I did at the beginning of the year. I’m considering today the start of my personal new year and for once, I’m feeling positive about it. I can’t promise I’ll start blogging regularly, but I’ll hopefully see you again soon. Wish me luck.
P.S. Since I just turned 42, I’m still waiting for the ultimate question to life, the universe, and everything.
“Truck? Oh. You mean that death mobile you used to shoot up a buncha’ my folk? Ain’t seen her.”
Butch stepped forward, pulling his pistol and cocking it.
“I’m not playing with you. Me and my men want our truck back now.”
“Now, now. No need to get testy. Why don’t ya’ put that thing away and set a spell so we can talk?”
As he said this, a small child in ragged clothing appeared as if out of nowhere with another chair and placed it across from the old man and disappeared as fast as she’d appeared.
“I don’t want to sit. I want to get what’s mine and get out of here. If you give it up now, we’ll leave peacefully. Otherwise, my boys are going to come rolling in here and wipe you out.”
“Your boys.” The old man said in a wheezing laugh. “Ain’t but the five of ya. Not even armed that well either. Now my people? We may not have guns, but we got numbers.”
Butch looked at him uneasily.
“That’s right. We seen ya’ coming a mile away. Now think about it. If we had your truck, do ya’ really think we’d let you get so close? Hell. If we took the damn thing, don’t ya’ think we’d have come in and wiped out everyone in that school by now? Probably woulda’ slit a few throats while we was stealin’ her too.”
Butch’s arm dropped just a hair.
“Now why don’t ya’ have a seat so we can jaw. Call your boys in. They’ll wanna’ hear this too.”
Butch waved for Nutcase who approached warily. As he waited, four more chairs were brought out. Bear and Gut eyed the flimsy chairs uneasily and chose to stand.
“Yeah, Boss?” Nutcase said.
“I need you and Bear to run and go get Rat. Might as well bring the bikes up too.”
“But where’s the truck?”
“Never mind that now. Just do as I ask and this gentleman will explain once you’re back.”
Nut gave the old man another wary glance, but then he and Bear were off. Butch sat in the chair across from the old man.
“Okay. So start talking.” Butch demanded.
“If ya’ don’t mind, I’d rather just go through all this the once. Meantime, can I interest y’all in a drink?”
Without waiting for a reply, the old man gave a whistle. Almost immediately, an elderly woman came bustling out with a bottle and handed it to the old man who pulled the cork and sniffed whatever was inside with pleasure. He made as if to take a drink, then stopped.
“Where are my manners?” He asked, shaking his head and holding out the bottle to Butch.
Butch eyed the bottle, but didn’t take it.
“Well, I guess I can’t blame you for bein’ cautious.” The old man said, and took the first drink before offering it to Butch again.
Butch took the bottle and sniffed. It smelled like paint thinner.
“What is it?”
“I just call it hooch. M’own private recipe. Don’t bother askin’ what’s in it cause I ain’t tellin. Besides, you prob’ly don’t wanna know anyway.” He gave another of his dry, wheezy laughs.
Butch still didn’t trust the old man, but there was something about him that was impossible not to like. He took a tentative swig or the hooch. It was surprisingly smooth considering how it smelled. He took a bigger drink before handing the bottle to Gut.
Gut upended the bottle and began drinking. Butch finally elbowed him in the ribs, causing him to spray a fine mist of hooch into the air.
“You want to save some for everyone else?” Butch asked.
“Sorry.” Gut said sheepishly. “That’s some good stuff.”
“No worries. I got plenty more in the cave.” He gave another whistle and the elderly lady came back out with three more bottles.
Just as she headed back to the cave, Butch heard the sound of approaching motorcycles. Bear and Nut rode slowly behind Rat, who was on the lead bike and wobbling dangerously. Butch had forgotten he wasn’t a rider. He held his breath as Rat approached a large boulder as if he were aiming for it before swerving and missing it by inches. His breath escaped in a loud bellowing laugh.
Finally, the bikes were parked and the five of them sat together as they watched the old man as he started a campfire against the gathering dusk. Two more sturdy chairs had been brought out for Bear and Gut.
Once the fire was blazing brightly, the old man sat back in his own well-worn chair.
“Now then. I suppose introductions are in order.” He said as he uncorked another bottle of hooch. “Name’s Dan, but most folks around here call me Smokey. Some o’ the younguns have taken to callin’ me Old Smokey. They love singin’ that damn song at me too.” He took a swig of hooch and passed the bottle to Butch who introduced himself. He then took a swig and passed the bottle to Bear, who did the same.
And so it went, each man introducing himself, then passing the bottle. Finally, Rat introduced himself and made to pass the bottle back to Smokey.
“Ya ain’t gonna’ take a drink?”
“I don’t drink, sir.” Rat said.
“Hmph’ Not sure I can trust a man sittin’ round my fire who refuses to drink with me.” Smokey said, eyeing him suspiciously. Butch cleared his throat and nodded to Rat who begrudgingly took a small sip.
“There now. That’s better.” Smokey said, relieving Rat of the bottle. “Now then. As I was tellin’ ol’ Butch here. I do believe Y’all got snookered.”
Their knobby tires crunched over the hardpan as they raced toward what they had taken at first to be small hills but were turning out to be mountains much farther away. As the bikes chewed up the distance, Butch wracked his brain trying to come up with some sort of a plan. Not easy when he had no idea what they were walking into in the first place. He briefly considered hiding the bikes once they were close and walking the rest of the way, but he was sure they’d be spotted long before they were within walking distance. Even now, looking at the craggy peak, Butch could imagine a lookout monitoring their progress through a pair of binoculars as the rest of the raider camp readied their weapons.
“This is stupid.” He thought to himself. There was no way they were going to get their stuff back. Part of him was surprised they weren’t being fired upon already. He thought of the powerful sniper rifle he’d kept stashed away in the truck. The one he’d sworn to himself he’d never sell. If the raiders turned that on them, they’d be easy pickings. Still, what he’d said to Jacob about them being dead without their truck hadn’t been a lie. That truck was their livelihood in more ways than one. Sure, being traders was a good business, but more than that, it made them welcome at most of the settlements they came across. Having items to trade literally opened doors to them which would remain shut if they showed up empty-handed.
He supposed they could find a new truck and start over, if they could keep from starving in the meantime. That was a big if. Still, Butch couldn’t see how to approach the raider camp without dying. A full assault was out of the question. They had neither the firepower nor the cover they needed for something like that. They only had one chance of getting anywhere near the camp without being gunned down first. Even then, it was a huge risk. Still, it was the only thing Butch could think of. He pulled in his clutch and slowly applied the brake to avoid sliding in the dirt. The two bikes flanking him did likewise.
“What’s up, Boss?” Bear asked.
“Rat, Nut. Sling those guns across your backs.” Butch ordered.
“But what if they start shooting?” Nut asked.
“Then we’re dead either way. Let’s just hope they won’t if we look friendly enough. If we show up looking for a fight, I’m sure they’ll be happy to give us one.”
“I don’t like it.” Nut said, doing as he was told anyway.
“I didn’t ask if you did.” Butch barked, a little too harshly. “Look, I don’t like it either, but I don’t see any other chance we have. Just put on your friendliest smile and be ready to empty your mag if negotiations fail.”
Butch looked at Rat, who already had his rifle slung across his back. He nodded, first to Bear, then to Gut as he put his bike back into gear.
They approached the craggy mountains slowly. Warily scanning the rocky outcroppings for anyone who might be laying in wait for them. Butch could feel his muscles throbbing and realized he’d been tensing for the inevitable gunshot ever since they’d crossed into rifle range. He consciously tried to relax them, but as soon as he stopped thinking about it, they’d tense back up.
Butch felt the air cool as they passed into the shadows of the mountain. He stopped his bike and dismounted. The others did the same. They found themselves at the mouth of a funnel leading to a narrow canyon between what were actually two mountains standing side by side.
“I don’t like this, Boss.” Rat said nervously. “It looks like a…”
“A trap. I know. But unless you’ve got a better idea, we have no choice.”
“Well, I’ve been thinking about that.” Nut chimed in. “What about that thing Rat wired up. What’d he call it?”
“A failsafe.” Rat said.
“Yeah. What about that failsafe thing?”
“Jesus Nut. Do you know what that thing does? If Rat presses that button, the truck, and everything in it, blows up. Including Bertha.”
“Better than letting these assholes get their filthy hands on her.”
“So you’re telling me we came all this way, just so we could vaporize the whole thing without even trying to get it back? Is that what you really want to do?”
“Well, you asked for ideas.”
“Fine. Let me clarify. Does anyone have any GOOD ideas?”
The rest of the group stayed silent.
“Okay then. Here’s the plan. Gut, Bear, and I will see where this canyon goes. We’ll keep our guns holstered.”
Gut and Bear exchanged a look at this but said nothing.
“Nut, I want you to follow us with your rifle, but try to stay out of sight. Keep your distance, but stay close enough to cover us if need be. Got it?”
Nutcase nodded, but the look on his face said he didn’t like the idea.
“What about me?” Rat asked.
“You’re staying here with the bikes. I want you to be able to make an opening with your rifle if they box us in. If things go bad, I want you to blow the truck, jump on my bike, and hightail it back to the school, got it?”
Rat nodded solemnly.
Without another word, Butch headed down the canyon path with Bear and Gut flanking him. None of them said a word. Soon, the sheer walls of the mountains pressed in on them. Even though they tried to be as quiet as possible, the crunching of their footsteps echoed off the rocks, making them feel like someone was following them. Here and there were shadowy holes in the rock face. Butch assumed they were cave entrances and eyes them warily, waiting for an army of raiders to come boiling out of them, but none did. Still, from time to time, he could swear he heard sounds coming from them that weren’t their own echoes.
Finally, the path began to widen as the sides of the mountains retreated from each other and they suddenly found themselves at the mouth of a box canyon. At the far end, sitting in a battered lawn chair, sat an old man. Smoking a pipe. He felt Bear going for his pistol and stopped him.
“Well, well, well. Look what the cat drug in.” The old man said with a chuckle that turned into a wheezing cough. “Looks like they done got you too, didn’t they?”
The broken chain lay on the pitted asphalt next to the open gate. The shiny ends of fresh steel where the chain had been cut stood in stark contrast with the patina of rust that covered the rest of it. Butch was about to ask the obvious question with its equally obvious answer when he heard a voice behind him.
“Hey guys. Man, have I got a story…” Nutcase began.
Butch wheeled on him and punched him in the jaw, knocking him to the pavement.
“Where the hell were you?” Butch screamed at him.
“What the hell, boss? I was just about to tell you that before you decked me.” He said, holding his jaw. “Hey, where’s Bertha?” “I was going to ask you the same thing.” Butch spat. “You were supposed to be watching the truck.”
“I was. It was fine when I left it. I swear.”
“And when was that?”
“Just after sundown. Not long after Rat went to bed.”
“You left it alone all night? And where exactly did you go?”
Nut blushed at this.
“Well… You see. I was sitting here, finishing the lockdown when this girl comes up to me. She was really friendly and, you know. One thing led to another and we went back to her room.”
“And you left the truck unlocked?”
“No, Boss. I swear. I’ve got the keys right…” Nut stopped, patting his pockets. “They’re gone. I swear I had ‘em. Honest.”
Butch put out his hand to help him up. Nut shied away as if he were afraid of being punched again. Butch probably would have, but by now, the citizens were starting to dribble into the courtyard. Some held bundles of treasures they were hoping to trade, but most of them only seemed interested in the commotion.
“Oh my god! The gate’s open!” A woman screamed. “Somebody go get Jacob.”
Several people rushed off, only to return with the weapons they’d bought the previous day as they eyed the shadows and the rooftops, looking for raiders.
By the time Jacob Drake came puffing into the courtyard, carrying with him a fresh length of chain, the courtyard was full of wide-eyed people.
Drake rushed right past Butch and swung the gate silently closed. He took the lock from the broken chain and attached it to the new one and locked it, giving it a tug to make sure it was locked before striding angrily over to Butch.
“Would you mind telling me what happened here?” Drake demanded.
“Why don’t you tell me? How could this happen without anybody noticing? Don’t you have security patrols?”
“Normally we do, but I had your assurance that we were safe as long as your vehicle was in the yard. Where was your man?”
Butch shot a withering look at Nutcase.
“I’m sorry Boss. What was I supposed to do? Bring a stranger into the truck?”
Butch silenced him with a look, but it was too late. Drake was now looking at them with suspicion and hostility.
“I think it’s time you men got on your motorcycles and left.”
“I think you’re right. Just point us in the direction of that raider camp and we’ll be on our way.”
“Don’t be a fool. You won’t get within a hundred yards of them with that machine gun in their hands, not to mention all the other arms you had in the back.”
“That may be so, but we’re dead anyway without our truck. That thing was our whole livelihood.”
“Suit yourself. I’m pretty sure they live in the hills to the south.” Drake shrugged, walking away.
“If we could just borrow a couple of rifles…” Butch started, but then stopped again as everyone holding a weapon suddenly hugged it tighter to their chest.
“Oh don’t be such fools. Don’t you see that they’re our best hope?” A familiar voice said. Melanie stepped out of the shadows and into the center of the crowd. “If they don’t get that truck back, the raiders will be back as soon as these guys leave and mow us all down.”
At this, a couple of men loosened their grips on their guns. Melanie immediately targeted them. She walked to each man, whispered something to them, and then deftly plucked them from their hands. She then returned to Butch and handed them to him.
They weren’t much, one semi-automatic rifle, and one bolt action. Still, Butch knew complaining wouldn’t do him any good, beggars not being choosers and all.
“Thanks.” Butch said, handing the semi-auto to Nutcase and the bolt action to Rat. “What did you say to them?”
“Oh come now. A girl’s got to have some secrets after all.” She said, giving him a peck on the cheek. “Take this one too, she said, slapping the thirty-eight he’d sold her into his hand.”
“I can’t take this. You need it. Besides, I’ve already got a pistol, he said, nodding down at the nine millimeter strapped to his hip.”
“Take it anyway for good luck. You can give it back to me when you get back.”
“But I might not…”
“Shhh.” She said, giving him another kiss, this one on the lips. “Don’t talk like that.”
Without another word, Butch tucked the revolver into the back of his waistband. He turned and started to walk away before turning around and striding back to Melanie. He grabbed her and she let out a brief squeak of surprise before melting into his arms. He kissed her. A real kiss this time, holding her body tightly against his. He heard a few people in the crowd gasp, but he didn’t care. This might be his last kiss ever, and he was determined to make it a good one. He could feel tears welling up inside him and released her, turning quickly and nearly running to his bike. Bear was already mounted up with Nutcase gripping his rifle behind him. Rat was squeezed in behind Gut. Butch mounted his bike which sat between them. They started their bikes as Drake swung the gate wide. The courtyard rumbled as the three beasts roared to life. They warmed their engines for a moment before putting them into gear and heading back out into the wasteland.