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Dear Diary, It’s Me, Jessica: Part 10

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Dear Diary,

It’s me, Jessica.

With the warmer weather and to conserve our propane, we have been using the charcoal grill but using wood to burn for our hot meals.  To keep everyone from having to build a fire individually, we gather at someone’s home for dinner, bringing something already made or to cook.  Everyone takes turns hosting. Even HAM guy joins in.  It is a lot of fun!  We talk, joke around, and play card games, board games, or corn hole.  If Mom’s laptop has a charge, sometimes we sing and dance.  Rae and, surprisingly, HAM guy are teaching us how to square dance.

While we were eating, and I was slipping Samson a bit of my dinner under the picnic table when Jack was not looking, Dad was talking about building a wood burning outdoor oven and stove. He said the problem was ‘materials.’  Jack said the city might have what Dad needed, but without a vehicle, it would be nearly impossible to bring back things like firebrick, or cement on foot.  There was the small hardware store in the small town to the East that was a full day’s walk.  If they could get some horses and maybe a cart, Jack said it might be doable.  The HAM guy said he would ask around at the next morning’s radio meet-up.  

Rae asked if the HAM guy had heard anything more on the radio nets about other forms of ‘government.’ He shook his head and said it was all a hot mess of rumor, conflicting information, and wild speculation. He did hear more about people forming their own local governments. Some had elected a single leader, while others had some kind of council. He thought it was promising as a new kind of normal society was being established.  

Mom asked about the local governance meeting.  

Dad said Mr. Miller rode out to the other farms past his.  As Mr. Miller was closest to our community and had horses, it only made sense they picked him to be their ‘representative.’  

After a pause, Jack said he would put out the word in the community for a formal meeting at his place at noon in two days.  During his last trip to the market, Jack talked to Sean and the sheriff.  He told them of what our community was doing, and they might consider something similar to give the market direction.  Sean and the sheriff thought it was a good idea and would hold their own meeting with the ‘denizens’ of the market.

With that, everyone finished their dinner.  We all stood up to start clean up when Jack looked at me and said,

“Jessica, you keep feeding Samson under the table like that, he is going to get fat.”

“Yes, Jack,” I responded. “But he does not seem to mind.” I looked down at the big dog.  

Samson answered, looking up at me, with enthusiastic tail wags.

Entry two

The next day, Jack, Rae, and I made the trip to the market.  Mrs. Miller asked if I could see about trading flour for salt.

Dad was going to the Millers’ place to discuss building a cart and using it with the Millers’ horses to go to the hardware store to see what they could salvage to build the outdoor oven.  

This would be my third trip to the market.  This time, more than a few people seemed to remember me.  Something about being a ‘friend’ of Jack got me recognition.  I made it a point of smiling or talking with them, learning their names and faces.  As usual, most everyone in the market was friendly.  Diary, there was something about interacting with others that seemed more important than before the power went out.  I am not sure what it is.  I think it has to do with something with the time during COVID and the ‘isolation,’ and now, with the power out, people seem to have a real need to interact with others.

Jack was talking with Yellow Teeth Bob a few stalls down, and Rae was haggling with someone in the stall next to Bob’s when I spied Savannah about twenty yards away in a grassy clearing behind a rundown RV with a guy. The look on her face, the way she was standing, the way he was standing, and the way he had one hand on Savannah’s upper arm, I knew something was ‘off.’

Diary, I did not think.  I just did.

I covered the distance quickly, walked right up behind the guy and said, “Hey, Savannah,” faking a smile.

He turned around. He was tall but very thin, not that that was unusual these days, but I think I weighed more than he did. He wore a dirty T-shirt and dirty jeans with a hole in one knee. And he smelled badly of body odor. He must have been my age or so. He did not have whiskers or a beard like most men did.  

He was still a boy.  But a bully.

“We were just talking,” he said.

“I don’t think she is interested in what you have to say.”

“Oh, she will be,” he sneered.  “And maybe you too.”

Jack taught me to carry my rifle in the ‘Mozambique’ carry.  Rifle slung on my weak side, muzzle down, my left hand on the foregrip.  Just using my left hand on the foregrip, I could unsling my rifle, rotate my wrist and raise my forearm to bring the rifle in front of me and grab the grip with my right hand in one quick and fluid movement.

Diary, I am still in shock at what I did next.

I gave him a ‘butt stroke’ right between the eyes.  

It was not a ‘mighty’ butt stroke, as Jack taught me.  I did not want to hurt him too badly, but enough he went down like a sack of potatoes.  

Immediately, I looked around to see if he had any ‘friends’ like Jack had taught me.  

He didn’t. 

But a few people in their stalls and in the road stopped to witness what happened.  After a moment, they went back to their business.  Two men in a stall across the road from us, stared.  The one man then gave me a smile and nod.  He then turned to his friend and said, “There’s something you don’t see everyday.”

I returned my attention to Savannah.

“Is he dead,” she asked. 

Ready to give him another butt stroke if I needed to, I leaned over to check. “Nope.  He is still breathing.  Just knocked out.”

“You have changed.”

I straightened up and shouldered my rifle.

“We’ve all changed.  The world has changed.”

Just then, Jack ran up one hand on his pistol and said he heard there was ‘trouble.’  News traveled fast in the market.  He looked down at the boy and said, “I guess not.”

Yellow Teeth Bob had told Jack about a group that had showed up two days ago. They were asking odd questions and some were threatening people.  

Savannah nodded.  The unconscious boy on the ground was one of them.  She said he told her she needed protection, and e was going to give it to her, but she had to pay.  

“Protection racket,” Jack sighed. 

Rae then jogged up to us looking concerned.  Jack assured her everything was fine, gave me a rare grin and told her that I had everything under control. Jack said we needed to talk to Sean.  I told Savannah to come with us.  We left the boy where he was.

Sean was at his log at the four corners with the sheriff and his two deputies.  Sean said one word, but that was all it took.


Jack nodded.  He then asked Savannah to tell them what the boy had said.  When she was done, Jack said this was not just any group of thugs.  This was an organized gang.  They were doing recon, unarmed to not look dangerous but they were.  Somewhere they had a base of operations.  And likely weapons.  

Sean said they always come in from Old River Road to the North. Several miles up that way, there were some big, expensive homes built on the cliffs overlooking the river. Sean then took a stick and drew in the dirt at his feet a rough map of the river, Old River Road, surrounding hills, and squares representing the homes.  

The sheriff and his deputies were former police officers.  They were not former military.  They did not have the skills or the manpower to take on an organized gang.  Jack nodded, then looked off into the distance, his eyes thinking.  After a moment he said,

“I need my eyes on target to assess the situation.” He then looked at me. Your father would be very upset with me if he knew what I was about to do.”

“Jack,” Rae warned very sternly with a look that said she would hit him.

“I have trained her, I trust her, and she is the only one that can keep up with me.  Jessica, it’s up to you, but I need to see what we are up against.  I need you with me as an extra set of eyes and if something happens to me, to report back to Sean and the sheriff.  It is your decision.”

Diary, I shocked myself for a second time today.  I simply said, “I’m in.”

“Jack,” Rae said even more sternly.

“Rae, she made her decision.  Jessica, rifle and ammo only.  Leave the backpack with Rae.”

Rae looked like she was going to protest again but took my pack and just glared at Jack.  Jack ignored her and said,  “Jessica, to me,” and walked off heading up Old River Road Northward.  I quickly caught up to him.

When we came to the clearing where I found Savannah and the boy, the boy was gone.  

“That isn’t good, is it?” I asked Jack.

“Doesn’t matter now,” he replied.  

Once we cleared the market, Jack took up an easy jog that I matched.  After nearly an hour, we caught up to the boy just as he came to the bend in the road where Sean’s dirt map showed we were coming up on the homes.  Jack stopped and then led us into the woods on the other side of the road from the homes, up a steep hill.  The boy did not hear or see us.  We had to use the trees to get up the last thirty or so yards to the top of the hill.  Once at the top, through some trees, Jack used a monocular to look down on the homes.  After a minute, he handed me the monocular and asked what I saw.  

“I see six very large homes on good-sized lots. I count thirty-eight men sitting at picnic tables, camp chairs, or standing in the driveway of one home. Most are muscular. I can see some of them have tattoos on their arms or necks. Some of them have rifles. A few have pistols. There are . . . I count seven women. They are grilling something.”

“There are likely other men and women we are not seeing.  What else?”

“There.  That one.  He’s the leader.”

“What makes you think that?”

“He is sitting in a big plush chair.  He has two women . . . waiting on him.  He has gold chains around his neck and gold rings on his fingers.  And he is fat.”

I looked over at Jack, who gave me a grin.   I returned, looking through the monocular.

“He has a tattoo on his face, looks like half a skull on half of his face.  The boy I hit just walked up.  He is telling the leader what happened.”

“Good.  What else?”

“All their rifles are those black rifles.  Magazines inserted.  A few of them have something under the barrels of their rifles.”

“Grenade launchers.  Military-grade weapons.”

“That is bad, right?”

“Yes.  Yes, it is.  We need to get back to the market.”

The jog back was slower, but I was still feeling it by the time we returned. Seeing Jack and me jogging through the market, people in the road quickly got out of our way, sensing something was up. Many of them followed us at a quick walk to the four corners.  

Sean, the sheriff, his deputies, and Rae were still there, waiting for our return.  We took a moment to catch our breath and had some water.  A large group of people from the market gathered around Sean’s log to hear what was going on.  Sean stood up on his log and said, “Dispell the rumors with facts.  Jack and Jessica went about to do some looking into it.  Jack, what did you find?”

Jack un-slung and handed me his rifle, then stepped up next to Sean on his log to address the now large crowd.  In a loud but clear and commanding voice, Jack described what had been going on the past two days, giving both Yellow Teeth Bob and Savannah credit for their accounts.  Several others in the crowd called out their confirmation of them, too, being threatened.  Jack then described what he and I saw.  He made a point of the military grade weapons. 

Jack then said, “Many of you know me. Others know me by reputation. The fact is there is an organized gang with the intent of either taking over the market or using the protection racket for their gain at your expense. It’s not much different from Andy and his own gang and their taxes.”

A wave of disgust rolled through the crowd at the mention of Andy and the ‘taxes’ he had imposed on the market.  

Jack held up a hand for quiet and continued, “You need to understand what we are facing.  This is a vicious, organized gang with serious firepower.  And likely, they are going to come into the market tomorrow, use their brutality, their firepower to try to take the market or put you all under their power and control.  Seems to me the best defense is a good offense.  I can bring a number of our militia members but we are going to need more.  I need those of you who have training and experience to fight.  We also need people who can support in medical or other ways.  People will die.  Others will get wounded.”  

Jack then gave Sean a nod and hopped down from Sean’s log.  

Sean looked over the crowd gathered and said in his heavy Irish accent, 

“This, is not a decision to be taken lightly.  Each of us needs to decide our own path.  Stand and fight.  Or live under the yoke of tyranny.  To a degree we have already experienced that with Andy and his thugs.  This will be worse.  What says ye?”

Diary, there was a long pause that seem to last forever.  Then, it came to a sudden end.  They, the denizens of the market, raised their voices and many with raised fists,


Diary, I do not know how I feel about that.

About 1stMarineJarHead

1stMarineJarHead is not only a former Marine, but also a former EMT-B, Wilderness EMT (courtesy of NOLS), and volunteer firefighter.

He currently resides in the great white (i.e. snowy) Northeast with his wife and dogs. He raises chickens, rabbits, goats, occasionally hogs, cows and sometimes ducks. He grows various veggies and has a weird fondness for rutabagas. He enjoys reading, writing, cooking from scratch, making charcuterie, target shooting, and is currently expanding his woodworking skills.

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