Excerpt

"No society is more than three meals from a revolution."

– Unknown

Friday – July 30 With his left hand, Tom quietly replaced the cordless handset onto the telephone cradle on the wall above the desk next to the window in the kitchen as he ran his right hand through his relatively short-cropped light red hair. He shoved his gold-rimmed glasses up on his head, closed his eyes for a moment, placing the heels of his hands against his temples, and grimaced as he assimilated the conversation he had just ended. Just as with any problem that had arisen suddenly at the hospital over the years, his first move was reflexive—a quick, but systematic mental digestion of every possible option. The only difference this time was the enormity of the problem, and the simultaneous twin realizations that not only was this one a HUGE problem, but that virtually all his other problems just evaporated. Silver lining, he thought, incongruously.

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He paused for a quiet moment or two more, as if realizing that such moments were about to become few and far between. And then with a single exclamation of, “CRAP!” he slammed the flat of his hand down on the desk, rattling the juice can full of pens and pencils, pulled his glasses down onto his nose, and jumped to his feet, sending a flurry of loose papers cascading onto the linoleum.

He ran through the kitchen and flung open the screen door.

“Laurel!”

“Yeah, Tom. What?” Eagle’s sister, dark hair springing from side to side as she moved, was helping young Emily pick up toys and other kid droppings in the backyard, and her husband’s loud and unusually- demanding tone didn’t help her mood.

“That was Eagle on the phone. It’s bad! He says the government’s all coming unglued, and as soon as people realize what’s going on it’s going to get ugly. Especially in the cities. Especially here. He says we oughta get out. Now!”

“What about the—”

“Sorry. No time for ‘what abouts.’ He’s serious. This is what we talked about when he was here. And he thinks that if it does get bad the President could take extreme steps to deal with it, including declaring martial law. Travel could be prohibited. And we’d be trapped here while it gets really bad. We gotta go. Get the kids together in the living room and tell them to grab their quake packs, and anything else they’ll want. You, too. I’ll get the car ready.”

She hesitated. She had managed pretty well through better than nineteen years of marriage, job ups and downs, five children, dozens of her children’s illnesses and injuries, roughhousing, quarrels, teachers, homework, history projects, five rounds of often-painful piano lessons, countless trips to the park, cooking, cleaning, budgeting on a shoestring, summer camps, boyfriends, the birds and the bees, coupons, car problems, a gazillion headaches—and two big earthquakes. Somehow, she’d met every challenge and still had her sanity. Or at least most of it.

She and Tom had talked at length, together and also with Eagle, about where the ongoing national problems might lead, and how they might personally be affected. Although they had never succeeded in leaving the LA area for dreamed-of greener pastures of a less-crowded, less- hectic, less-dangerous place to live, they had done what they could to cope with the unexpected. Aware, if not fearful, of the dangers of living in an area known not just for movie stars and “California girls,” but also for earthquakes, wild fires, drugs, gangs, and race riots, they had long ago prepared for the possible need for a hasty evacuation away from their home, in case of a sudden natural or social disaster. For some reason, however, Tom’s words stunned her in a new, unimagined way. She instantly knew what she had to do, but felt paralyzed, and couldn’t keep from being bombarded by truly irrational thoughts.

“But the PTA meeting’s tonight!”

“CRAP!” muttered Tom, turning on his heel to make for the garage. But he stopped himself, and ran over to his wife, and kissed her forehead. “Laurel, my sweet, you are a real piece of work. Now, MOVE!” He smacked her on the bottom, and went careening through the screen door again.

Laurel was jarred back to reality, dismissed the brief but unwanted mental misstep without further thought, and dashed into the house. Two seconds later, the door sprang back open and Laurel leapt out, grabbed Emily, and disappeared back into the house. This is not a good start, she thought to herself.

 

 


 

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