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A Fighting Chance

by Catfish Russ

After The Fall we moved up deeper into the hills of East Dekalb County. Up near Stone Mountain, where all the Rednecks moved. Margie and I took Barry and the dog. We made three trips into a hideaway cabin that Margie’s Dad owned.

He died a few weeks ago, and believe me it was a relief as much for him as it was for us. He had worked his whole life, and all he could figure out was the cabin that he had as a last resort had become his only resort.

When the electricity went, he had solar panels and two windmills he had converted into generators. Plus there was a creek that ran through the center of the cabin, and Grandad had created a small generator that sat under the current and generated electricity as well.

He had saved himself a few years of pain by having something to fall back on and some place to go. So many homes were foreclosed that eventually everyone just stayed in their homes because the banks were powerless to do anything. Some people who foreclosed moved back into their old houses just for the hell of it.

Grandad had saved us, too. His cabin was hard to find, and that meant it was hard to rob. People don’t forage in the middle of the woods. Well, not yet anyway.

Grandad was quiet towards the end. He was actually not an engineer, even though he could engineer anything. He was a biologist who worked with primates in genetics at Yerkes Regional Primate Institute. He worked with Chimpanzees and Bonobos and was always giving them shots and teaching them language on the computers. They were his first love, the monkeys. He loved them and cried the day they had to let them into the Georgia countryside.

Margie said to him one night, “They’ll be okay, Grandad. They’ll figure out a way to survive.”

“I know,” is all he said.

It took me a few weeks before absolute panic disappeared and I could see a way to survive that would work for us. This would be like Adam and Eve, and our neighbors at the bottom of the hill would be our friends like old times. We had enough room for gardens, we could raise our own vegetables and we had milk from the neighbors and perhaps we could shoot deer and live off of them.

From time to time we would hear large groups of people walking down Old Briarcliff, looking through abandoned houses for food, or whatever they might need to live. Sometimes they stayed a few days, and we had to be really quiet because the cabin is all but invisible from the road. Once we heard a struggle in one of the old brick Georgians, and it sounded like an extended drunken brawl.

Two weeks ago, someone had found one of our food caches and entered it. It was really weird because this was a lock that had to be picked, and it was, but the chamber had only been robbed of a few items, mostly fruit, all the bananas, all the peanut butter and all the bread.

Then the door had been locked back up and whoever it was carried the food over the fence. The dog didn’t bark and even though the motion sensors were not on, it must have taken a cat burglar to get in and out. It didn’t make sense. Why would someone who finds a food cache not just take everything?

Yesterday, Margie said she was at the edge of the property priming the well, and on the other side of the fence was a chimpanzee, standing straight up, leaning on a walking stick, and staring at her. She said, “I yelled and screamed ‘Go away’.” It walked off into the dense thicket.

This worried me, not because there may be upright chimpanzees, but that my wife might be imagining something because of the stresses on her. Typically chimps don’t walk upright or use walking sticks. But that’s not my area anyway.

Tonight I got a call from the Andersons, who lived on the old Pet Dairy at the bottom of this mountain. They gave us milk and cheese and in return we gave them the option to hide on our property if brigands overran them.

Poppa Anderson called. “George, I think you have campers on the Northern Ridge. If you head North and walk up the slope tonight, you should see them about a hundred yards away. If you want, I’ll try and sneak up on them and see what they’re up to.”

“I would appreciate that so much. I figure if they’re moving through, it’s probably better to leave them alone. I mean if I confront them, they’ll know we’re here.” I was happy to have such a great neighbor at times like these.

“Okay, then, I’ll head up there around nine. I’ll walk up the county road a ways. They shouldn’t be able to hear me. Let’s agree to talk on the Ham around ten o’clock.”

“Mr. Andersen, just letting you know, someone got into one of our food caches and stole all the fruit and butter and bread, and that’s it.” I thought it best to share information.

“That’s funny,” he said. “ I never lock the gate because there’s no one out here, and few would get past the dogs. But day before yesterday someone went into my truck and went through some papers and a pistol, and left it all there.”

“Wow. That’s weird. Do you have digital night vision cameras?”

“Well, no,” Mr Andersen said. “You know me: I’m no good at electronics. Besides, let’s not get crazy. It might be Margie sleepwalking.”

Around 8:30 pm, Margie had found some music on a Ham radio channel and we piped it into the living room speakers. Barry was asleep. It was Charlie Christian, a jazz guitarist who played like a virtuoso, even if every song he played sounded like the one before it. It was wonderful. I hadn’t heard music in weeks.

The set chimed. It was Mr. Andersen. He had been up the mountain and found the campfire, and he found the campers. Or those who started the fire. I hung up, poured a scotch and lit a cigarette, a delicacy and a rarity by the way.

“What did he say?” Margie stared.

“Well, I know what Grandad meant when he said the Chimps would be okay.” I sat down, took a lungful of smoke in and felt the dizzy high climb up my spine in a shiver. I turned to Margie. “Guess who made that campfire.”

Copyright © 2009 by Catfish Russ

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