I published this short story on a popular online fiction forum and now bring it here for my readers who may not have seen it. Don't worry, there is more of the burnout coming soon.
Entry One -
She received word her mother passed away and with it came the usual heartache and grief. Her husband, faithful through eleven years of marriage, stood by her side as she completed the final arrangements and cleaned out her late mother's home. When all was done, the lawyer presented her with a check containing her mother's complete finances, life insurance and the title to her small home. After final expenses, she was left with about ninety thousand dollars.
Considering what to do with what was the largest amount of money this middle class couple had ever seen at one time, her husband asked if she had considered investing part of it in a piece of land in the country. "It could be for our retirement" he suggested. Images of a country cottage, a scenic view and a nearby quaint town filled with antique stores flooded her mind. He offered to investigate possible locations and would run everything by her.
He told her he found the perfect place. It was one hundred miles from their home, on open land with a creek running through the property to a small lake nearby. It sounded wonderful. They went the next weekend for a day trip to see it and while he was ecstatic, she was less so. The land was far off the main road and was actually down a small dirt track. The nearest town was not a pleasant country village with a main square and antique stores, but instead featured a truck stop, package store and run down Dairy Queen. The home on the land was not a cottage, but a falling apart farm house with an attached double wide mobile home.
Before she could register her objections, he proudly showed her the title to the place with a broad smile. "It only cost fifty thousand dollars, so we have plenty of money left for remodeling". She forced a smile and tried to act happy.
He had spent every weekend and was using all his vacation time getting the house ready. The third week, she went with him to see his progress. She found the property littered with lumber and building supplies, as well as most of the gutted farmhouse kitchen fixtures, but little else done. She did find he had built a shooting bench and clearly had spent quite a bit of time practicing judging by the number of spent shells and empty beer bottles.
With the skill of a diplomat, she suggested that they find someone nearby who could work on the remodel full time as he had to return to work. In the end, she located a reasonably priced handy man, outlined the work and gave him a timeline for completion. While she had to take an additional twenty five thousand dollars of her dwindling money supply out of the bank for the work, she was sure they could unload the rural disaster and recover most of her money when all was said and done.
The home remodel was nearly complete and the house actually looked decent. The manufactured home had to stay on the property as the cost to haul it away or sell it was prohibitive. He suggested that they could rent it out or use it as a guest home for friends when they came to visit.
She said nothing and made plans to put their rural house on the market.
The war in the middle east finally erupted and while it took a few weeks to spread, it did. With it came the specter of nuclear war and the couple had to decide what to do. He suggested that they relocate, temporarily, to their country home. Out of fear, she agreed. They cleaned out the bank account, went shopping for food and other supplies, buttoned up their city home and trekked to the country.
He had taken a leave of absence from work but instead, was offered a package to leave permanently as work was down at his job. He took a final check for two months salary and rubbed his hands together with glee. It was possible that the end was finally here and he would be prepared for the worse.
Two days later, she was still unpacking their things, hanging curtains, putting away groceries and making beds. He was often outside, "puttering around" in his shop or making preparation plans. Shortly afterwards, his brother and wife showed up with their three children, dog, two cats and hamster. "Of course you are welcome!" he exclaimed before she had made it outside to greet them.
Later, he explained that it was great she would have another lady to spend time with and to help with the chores in the kitchen and around the house.
The war was heating up and he discussed events with her one evening. "We have to be ready for the long term. Make a list of what we will need. You know, food, water, clothing, that sort of stuff. I will be in charge of guns and ammo and you get the rest. We have the rest of your mother's money and my severance from work to spend".
She spent the next week driving back and forth to the distant Walmart and the grocery store with her sister-in-law buying canned goods, batteries and extra socks, not only for herself and her husband, but for his family who had brought little with them and even less spending money. He went to the sporting goods store and spent his entire severance on ammunition and one very expensive rifle with all the accessories.
As feared, the war went nuclear in one day and in the same amount of time, was over. They were cut off from the civilized world and her husband was the only one who saw this as a positive event. Shortly afterward, a man stopped by their front gate and told them the locals were forming a group to deal with the situation. He was invited to a meeting which he immediately jumped at the opportunity to attend.
Before leaving, he told her to consider a vegetable and fruit garden while he was out as they would need the food in the future when their stored food ran out. He also reminded her it was laundry day and he was out of clean underwear. Then he left.
The next day, he went to another meeting to discuss the latest news with the group and to talk about things. He left her with a selection of hand tools and large bucket of seeds. "The kids and my sister in law will pitch in" he said as he left.
She ended up doing most of the work while the kids played in the creek. Her sister in law claimed she had a headache and went to lay down.
He dumped a set of 1950's text books on the kitchen table that morning. "You are going to have to start home schooling those kids. My sister in law never finished high school and isn't good with learning like you are." She watched him walk out the door as he went to "putter" in his shop with his brother. They were going to work on a project.
Later, he asked what the ladies had planned for dinner. She did not tell him that his sister in law was only able to burn water and was useless in the kitchen. He told her to let him know when dinner was ready. Then he went to inventory his tools with his brother.
Soon after, her husband said, "Looks like your garden is going great. I got all the jars and lids out of the basement for you to start canning with. Speaking of which, what's for dinner tonight?" Then he went hunting with his brother. They went every day and usually came back with nothing, but blamed it on the locals killing everything before they had a chance.
When he returned, he and his brother's family ate and then went about their respective past times. He enjoyed reading in the family room while she did the dishes. By the time the kitchen was cleaned, he had gone to bed leaving her alone to pick up the family room and catch up on laundry.
He pushed his plate away signifying he was done and stood up from the breakfast table. "Great meal, ladies." he said and then he went outside to go to a meeting with some of the locals.They were concerned about raiders from the city and they were going to make some plans and discuss their different guns and ammunition. He was going to bring his new rifle and explain how much ammunition he had purchased before things went downhill.
She picked up his dirty dishes and his families' and washed them by hand in the sink.
He came home late and asked where dinner was. She explained that the brother's family had eaten most everything she had made that night. She also told him they were running out of packaged and canned food and had only the garden and whatever meat he could hunt for the time being.
He went in the pantry and took down the last can of Spam, opened and ate it. Afterward, he told her she did a bad job and once again, left all the planning to him. He went to bed and left her in the kitchen.
The next morning, he handed her a list of chores he expected her to get done. "These are your jobs". Work in the garden. Can more fruit and vegetables. Homeschooling. Laundry. Organize and inventory their remaining food. Prepare breakfast and wash the dishes. He was going to go and inventory his ammunition and clean his rifle. Later, he had a meeting to attend with some of the locals. As he left, he said, "No reason to get angry. I am only trying to help."
She spaded the last of the soil onto the compost heap which was significantly larger than it was yesterday. By next spring, the soil would be full of nutrients and ready for the garden, in fact, she expected a bumper crop. Before she walked away, she noticed his hand was sticking out of the freshly turned soil. She promptly piled two more shovels full of dirt on top and went in the house to do some reading about his new rifle. She had his family to deal with and wanted to know what she was doing when the time came.
In retrospect, living in the country wasn't so bad after all. After all, nobody would hear the shots in the middle of nowhere.