Skip to content

Dear Diary, It’s Me, Jessica: Part 8

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you’ll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

Missed the other parts? Find them here:

Dear Diary,

It’s me, Jessica.

Diary, you will not believe who I ran into today . . . Savannah.

You remember her.  She was that bully at school who disliked me for no reason.

But hold on a sec.  I want to write down the rest of what happened with Justin and Janet and the kids before I forget . . .

The next morning, after the rain stopped, they were back on the road. It was still cool and damp, but the clear sky and rising sun were promising. Janet noticed that even the kids seemed glad to be back in the saddle as Justin alternated the horses between a quick walk and an easy trot.

It was around mid-morning when they came across a farmhouse.  Dogs enclosed in a chain link fence in the backyard barked at them as they approached.  White smoke was coming out of the chimney.  Someone was home.  As they came up to the drive, an old man came out on the front covered porch with a rifle.  He did not point it at them, but he could use it quickly if need be.  Justin held up his one hand but kept the other on his own rifle and said they did not mean any harm, just passing through.

Janet asked if there had been trouble.  The old man seemed to relax a bit.  He said there was some after the power went out.  But after the winter, they were the first people he had seen.  That is when a rooster crowed.  Justin then asked if the old man if he had eggs or be willing to part with a chicken.  The old man’s eyes narrowed and the muzzle of the rifle came up a bit.  Justin then quickly added he would be willing to trade for it.  The old man asked what Justin had in mind.  Justin slowly reached into the saddle bag and pulled out one of the handguns he took off the dead who attacked their home by the muzzle end, like he was holding a dead rat to show he was not going to use it.

The old man seemed to consider but said would not do him any good without ammo.  Justin offered two magazines, loaded.  Now the old man was much more agreeable, even smiled.  He seemed to consider and then offered two dozen eggs, laid today, a chicken, two onions, four carrots and four parsnips.  Would make for a good dinner, he said.  Justin pretended to consider, but really, the handgun was in a caliber different than his own handgun, and he still had three more handguns and magazines in the saddle bag.  But he did not want to seem too eager.  Justin gave a look over at the kids and then said, “Be nice for the kids to have something not out of a can for tonight’s dinner.  Deal.”

That said, the old man went back into the house.  Janet then saw an older woman in the window.  She waved, and the woman waved back.

The sounds of distressed chickens came from behind the house.  Several more minutes passed when the front door opened again and this time the old man and the woman Janet saw in the window came out.  No rifle.  The old man had a live chicken trussed upside down by its feet with twine.  The older woman had a plastic bag.  Janet slipped down out of her saddle and handed the reins to Justin.  She asked David to take the chicken and tie it to one of the packs.  As David took the chicken, the old man said it was an older bird and would be best to cook it low and slow for Janet.  The older woman held the bag open and smiled to Janet.  In the bag were two cartons of eggs and veggies.  The older woman said she added some potatoes too.  Janet smiled, thanked her, and took the bag.  She placed the plastic bag in one of her saddle bags, arranging some of her clothing around to protect the eggs.  She then said to Justin,

“No running if they could help it.”

Justin smiled and said, “Yes mama!”

Justin handed the old man the handgun and the two magazines.  The old man looked them over and nodded.  The older woman looked them all over and said it was nice to see young kids again.  Janet was not sure if she was talking about them or David and Charlotte but smiled back.  The old man asked where they were from.  Justin told them, and Janet said they were on their way to get to her brother’s and his family’s place.  Janet swung back up into the saddle, the old man and older woman wished them luck and to be safe.  They wish them well; the kids said thank you as they brought the horses about to get back on the road.  The old man slipped his arm around the older woman’s shoulder and they both waved.  As they rode away, Janet could not help but feel sad leaving the couple.

In order to cook the chicken ‘low and slow’ as the old man suggested, Janet had Justin and David build a larger fire than their usual size.

Justin had taken dozens of wild turkey, pheasants and quail over the years, a chicken was nothing different to dress out.  Even the kids knew how.  Only the slaughter with a knife was a bit different, with the chicken flapping about as it bled out, hanging upside down from a tree.

Once the fire had burned down, they spread out the coal bed to set the Dutch oven over and shoveled some of the coals on top of the oven lid.  While they waited, rather than playing cards, they talked about how it had been since they left home.  Charlotte said she was still sad but felt better about losing their home and now thought of the journey as an adventure.  However, she would be glad to reach their uncle’s place and sleep in a bed.  They all laughed.  David agreed but also said he did not mind being in the saddle or camping out.  He kinda liked it.

They ate most of the chicken, all the veggies and a few potatoes.  Janet stripped the rest of the  chicken meat off the bones and would use the meat to make a chicken, scrambled egg and potato hash for breakfast in the morning.

The next day was also nice, even warmer. Justin guessed they had another day, maybe two at the most, on the road if all went well.

When they rounded a bend in the road in the afternoon, they saw another rider coming toward them. He was on horseback, with two other horses tethered behind him, all carrying saddle bags and packs like theirs. And there were three dogs with him.

He stopped and ordered the dogs to sit while they rode up to him and stopped.

“Howdy,” he said with a smile and touched a gloved hand to the tip of his leather cowboy hat.

In his other hand, he held a rifle across his saddle, just like Justin. He had a handgun on each hip, like something out of an old Western cowboy movie crossed with a modern military action movie. The dogs sat but looked intently.

Justin and Janet both tipped their own hats and replied, “Howdy,” back in unison.

He introduced himself as Garret, and his dogs were Sorr-Ra, Lee-Loo, and Naga.  At hearing their names mentioned, the dogs wagged their tails.  Janet looked at them questioningly.  Garret seemed to sense Janet’s unease and said, “Easy, girls.  It is okay.”  Sorr-Ra suddenly found a spot that required intense itching.  Lee-Loo decided to take a nap and rolled over to one side.  Naga laid down but continued to watch. Janet could see the intelligence behind those eyes.  That dog was not to be messed with.

Garret asked where they were heading.  When Justin told him, Garret shook his head and said,

“Someone used heavy machinery and dropped the one end of the bridge over the river.  But there is a spot shallow enough you can cross on horse back.  I had to wait out the rain and then another day for the river level to drop back to normal on the far side before I could cross to this side.”

Justin pulled out the GPS from his coat pocket,

“Could you show me where,” he asked Garret and handed him the GPS.

Garret took off his gloves to use the touch screen.  After a few seconds, he held it back out to Justin, pointing,

“The bridge is here and about a mile or so to the South,” he slowly swiped the touch screen.  “About here is where I crossed.  You will see my tracks.  If you follow them, you will find where I camped out on the far side and the trail I used to get back to the road.”

Justin thanked him and asked Garret where he, and the dogs, were heading.  Garret’s journey was just where they had come.  Justin and Janet told Garret of the older couple they traded with, the mass grave, the town past it, till where he would turn off from where their home was.  Janet asked him to tell the older couple of her thanks for the potatoes, and she wished they could have stayed to visit with them longer.

Garret said he would make a point of stopping to pass the word, then said he needed to be off. He wished them luck with a tip of his hat and said, “Girls!  To me!”

He rode past them, horses and dogs on the trail.

They found the river several miles later. A backhoe and an earth mover were off to the side where the one end of the bridge once stood. Justin led them south to where Garret said was the place to cross the river. It was wide but shallow, only coming up to the horse’s lower chest. The current was still strong, making crossing by a man on foot difficult, but not for a horse.

Once across, they found Garrett’s camp. The sun was about three fingers above the horizon, and it would be dark soon. Janet said they should make camp. Looking at the GPS, Justin said they would reach the Miller’s the next day.

Entry two


Jack, Rae, Dad, and I went to the market again.

Jack was looking to keep ‘tabs’ on things.

Rae was looking for more medicinal herbs or seeds for medicinal herbs.

Dad was looking for more veggie and herb seeds for Mom.

I was along for the trip, and Jack said I needed to have more of a ‘situational awareness and security  mindset.’  He said I needed to take it seriously.  While we were making the ‘hump’ to the market, I asked Jack and Rae more about the ‘situational awareness and security  mindset.’  As they talked, I made the mental notes Jack told me to make.

Once we arrived, I was still amazed at the organized chaos of the market.  It was throngs of people milling about.  At the same time, it was so alive.  People talking, chatting, laughing.  Others are deep in business and haggling.  The smell of fires or the smell of things cooking in the wind.  While it seemed exciting, I kept Jack and Rae’s comment in mind about my need for a ‘situational awareness and security mindset.’  The market still could be a dangerous place for the unaware.

I had just passed a man who, in a loud voice, announced to those in the market,

“Looking to trade for shoe strings!”

When I saw a young woman staring at me with wide eyes.  She seemed to recognize me.  She then turned and tried to walk away from me.  I followed quickly, hearing Rae call out my name as she fell behind.

The market crowd slowed the young woman down and allowed me to catch up with her easily.  I spun her around by her one shoulder and said,“You know me.  Who are you?”

She noticed my rifle slung over my one shoulder, looked at me with what only I could describe as ‘hurt’ eyes and then looked down and quietly said, “Savannah.”

Diary, that is when a whole world of the past crashed in on me.  A time that seemed so very distant but at the same time like yesterday.


The bully and her friends had not liked me for absolutely no reason.  If it were not for my friend Chrissy, the aspiring MMA fighter who told Savannah and her friends to back off, it would have gotten worse.

Now, here we were.  In the ‘market.’  Things had changed.

Savannah was much thinner than she had been in school.

Diary, everyone had lost weight since the power went out, but Savannah was nearly unrecognizable.  I would have never called her fat, but she was big for her age at the time before the power went out.

I do not know why, but I grabbed her by the arm and pulled her to one side of the regular market foot traffic.  A moment later, Rae caught up to us.  I gave Rae a look, she understood turned and gave us some space.

I asked Savannah what had happened to her.

Savannah lived in a very upscale suburb just outside of the city.  Savannah never had a good relationship with her parents.  Just after the power went out, she left her parents to hang out with her college-aged boyfriend.  When he found he could ‘pimp’ her out for things like alcohol, smokes, drugs, her life became a nightmare for months.  One night, when he was passed out, she went back to her parents only to find the house and several others around all burnt down.

There was no sign of her parents.

Savannah found an empty house in the neighborhood and lived there.  She would scavenge for food but was not having much luck.  She was looking in the window of one house to see if there was a way in to look for food when a man in dirty clothes, unkept hair, and a beard rushed out of the house and attacked her.  They were wrestling on the front lawn, him on top of her, trying to hold her down, Savannah screaming, when there was a loud, “PING!”

The man’s eyes rolled up into his head and fell over onto the lawn.  Behind him stood a woman with a frying pan in a two-handed grip, looking to whack him again if she had to.

The woman asked Savannah if she was okay.  Savannah sat up and began crying.  The woman sat down next to her and hugged her.  Once Savannah stopped crying, the woman said her name was Kim.  Several other women then walked up.  Some had backpacks.  Others pushed shopping carts with clothing and other things in them.  Kim and the women stayed together.  They took care of each other.  They had been on the move for over a week, looking for somewhere that was somewhat safe from the gangs.  Savannah told her until the run-in with the dirty man passed out on the lawn, she had not seen anyone around.  Kim invited Savannah to join their group.  Savannah desperately said yes.  She showed Kim and the others the house she had been living in.

Over the winter, things were very hard for all of them.  They ended up eating rats, tree squirrels that they trapped, and even boiled grass.

One of the women found a bow and arrows and shot a cat.  They ate it.

After the polar vortex, a gang showed up in the neighborhood.  Savannah knew the neighborhood very well, led the women out the back of the house, and went around the gang in the direction they had already been and would not be looking at again.

It was night, and they were hiding behind a fence.  They could hear the gang not far away, smell their fire, burning whatever furniture they could find in the houses.  Kim suggested they sneak away under the cover of darkness.  The women took only what they could carry and quietly got away from the gang.  They spent the rest of the night on the move.  Kim led them in one direction and kept them going till it began to lighten on the Eastern horizon.  By then, they had left the city and the sub-burbs behind, surrounded by woods and fields.  Kim led them deep into the woods.  They all got out blankets, covered themselves and each other for warmth, and fell into an exhausted sleep.

The same trip it took Jack and his team to travel in three days took them nearly two weeks, but they were much weaker from lack of food.  They would stop for a day or two for the one woman with the bow to hunt.  She got a some birds, a few squirrels.  If it were not for her taking down a deer, that might have been the end of them.  They did their best to skin and dress out the deer.  They likely made mistakes and wasted some of the kill, but for two days, they ate well.  It was the first time in months they had full bellies.

A few days later, they crossed the bridge to the ‘market.’

Sean and the sheriff met them on the ‘market’ side of the bridge.  They were the first people they had seen from ‘that’ side in months.  Sean and the sheriff traded a lot to feed all the women in exchange for information about the city.  But that only went so far.  Some of the women like Kim and Savannah did not have any skills to trade . . . but one.  So, they did what they had to do to keep themselves fed.

They ‘pimped’ themselves out.

Diary, in the past, I know I would of said,

“Diary, I don’t know how I feel about that.”

Diary, while I do not think I would do it myself, I think I can understand what they had to do to survive.

Thanks to Mom, Dad, Jack, and Rae, I have never been put in that situation.

They have not.

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.

Source link