Devlin told his wife, Barbara what was happening across the street.
"Bill was kind of a dork, wasn't he?"she asked.
"What do you expect?" replied Devlin.
"You still want to give them food? He's going to be a bear about it." Barb commented.
"He'll change. We all will." said Devlin.
"So what do you want to make? I don't want to give them any of the stored good stuff." she asked.
"Me neither. Let's make an omelette with vegetables, but no cheese. That canned stuff has to last until we can get some goats." he replied.
"Alright, what else?" Barb asked.
"Some of the corn bread, we have an extra pan. Another pint of berries for sure. The greens are going bonkers so we can put together a big salad too. We have extra dressing stockpiled from couponing so we can toss that in as well."
Devlin and Barbara turned on a hot plate (which ran off the solar power) and fried up two large omelettes stuffed with fresh peppers and tomatoes. They put them in foil pans covered with aluminium.
They added the pan of bread which Barb baked in a small Coleman oven in the laundry room, the berries and the salad which Devlin put together in a large foil turkey pan.
"Barb, can you grab a jug of bleach, some bathroom cleaner, a pack of sponges and rubber gloves, please? I have a bad feeling they haven't got far on cleaning yet." said Devlin.
Devlin was right. After Mel let them in, he and Barb found the family either sitting on the couch, laying in bed or picking at whatever was left over from the earlier visit.
Jason was eating a banana pepper while Cole sat on the floor digging through the Fruit Loops box for the last few rings. To their credit, the fire in the fire place was dying down and the doors in windows out back were all open. Also, Mel had piled all the dirty dishes into two laundry baskets and had wiped down the counters.
"Bill! The Devlins are back." called Mel.
Bill came out of the back room.
"Smells good. You sure I just can't pay you for this, Mark?" he asked
Bill pulled out his wallet and held out a ten dollar bill.
"Nope, just sit down and eat. While you do that, we will go over some ideas and suggestions with you."
The Holdens dug in without saying a word while Devlin went over a list in his head.
"Barbara brought over some extra cleaning supplies. After you eat, get the toilets done and I will help you with a better long term solution for hygiene. Also, you will want to wipe down and disinfect as many surfaces as possible so nobody gets sick."
"For clothes cleaning, we have been washing by hand with stored water from our rain barrels. You can make some rain barrels too using the recycle bins the city uses. We can hit some of the neighbors empty houses and grab their bins for that if you want. You can also use a swimming pool for washing clothes, but make sure you rinse well or they'll stink later."
"For fresh water, I have an agricultural well in my backyard. It's nothing fancy and it was allowed under city rules as long as I used it only for watering my grass, but I had the water checked and it is more than drinkable."
"Now, the Quillmans left this morning and gave me their keys. They have several hundred square feet of spare space in their backyard where I want to put in some more raised garden beds. They have some fence sections we can use for the bed construction. Also, we are going to replant their flower beds with food crops as well."
"Sounds like a lot of work. Too bad we don't have any Mexicans around, they'd do it for next to nothing." said Bill nonchalantly.
"Well, we don't Bill. I am going to need your help and probably a couple of your kids as well. Besides, it'll be fun." said Devlin.
"Fun to you, back breaking to me. Besides, do we have to do this many projects at once? Why don't we break them up and do one thing a week? You know, put those beds together next week, replant the flower beds the week after, and so on?" Bill replied with a wave of his hand.
"Because we need to increase our food production now, Bill, not later." said Devlin.
"Didn't you say you had enough for now? I mean why the rush? The government will get it's act together soon enough, right?" asked Bill.
"I don't think so, Bill. It's going to be a long road ahead." Devlin replied quietly.
"Well, let me think about it and I'll let you know my decision."
"Bill, can I talk to you outside for a second?" Devlin asked.
"Can it wait until I'm done eating?"
"OK, let's get this over with." said Bill standing.
Outside in the front yard, Devlin turned to Bill.
"Bill, you don't get it do you? The government you and I knew is gone, didn't you listen to the radio? DC went silent almost two weeks ago. In fact, I have no idea who is president, do you?"
"And what about the state government? Last I heard, the governor is focusing on keeping the capital functioning after laying off nearly every state employee everywhere else. And our fair mayor, if he's still in office, has the city hunkered downtown trying to keep the local riff raff from burning city hall to the ground. Have you noticed there are no more police officers driving around, no fire trucks, no ambulances?"
"How about our local business community?" said Devlin sarcastically. "Kroger was emptied three days ago and the doors locked. I happen to know it was broken into the night before last and everything left was stripped to the shelving."
"That probably can be said for the other stores around here too. What are our neighbors going to do now for food? What about the people the next block over? Or how about all those apartments closer to the toll road? They don't even have a yard to plant a garden in."
"Bill, you have three kids in that house, no job and no food. What are they going to eat tomorrow or the next day? You want them to come live at my house? They can and I will make sure they get fed, but you can't. You have to work for it, just like you did at your old job. Do you get it now?"
"Mark, I think you are getting a little melodramatic about all this. If you want some help with some yard work, I can help you out, but I do it on my own terms." replied Bill, who up until now, stood their silently with his arms folded across his chest.
Devlin sighed. "That's fine, Bill. Why don't you go on back inside and finish lunch. You can send one of the boys over with the pans and stuff when your done. I'll see you later."
Three days later.
Devlin, Barbara and the kids, (with four year old Mallory mostly watching) had the Quitman's flower beds converted and replanted with three different kinds of tomatoes, cucumbers, bell and banana peppers. They also planted more than a dozen blackberry and raspberry plants along the Quillman's fence line as well.
The home store was not open, but the garden section was outside and unattended. Deciding most everything would die without care, Devlin loaded his truck with every fruit tree, grape vine, berry starter and potted seedlings along with several bags of potting soil, fertilizer and soil amendment available. He left an envelope with a few hundred dollars under the glass door and drove home.
Devlin took a chance and also drove his truck to an older part of town on the east side in search of a house where he had seen some goats in the yard, but was out of luck. While the owners were pleasant, they already had most of their neighbors in on the act and were setting up a sustainable urban farm in place.
They suggested he check the feed store but that was fifteen miles north and he did not want to be gone that long. When he came home, Devlin saw Bill out front trying to look over the fence to the backyard.
For the first time in several weeks, Devlin parked his truck out front and asked Bill what he was doing.
"Trying to see where you are hiding all the goodies in your backyard. After that lunch you brought us, you haven't shared anything else."
"I told you Bill, you have to work for it. We still have to build those raised beds, why don't you grab a hammer and some nails and give me a hand?"
"Good gravy, Devlin. I don't want to hammer nails or dig in the dirt. That's Mexican work. I sell commercial real estate. Just let me pay you for a sack of groceries and we'll call it a day!"
"I don't want your money Bill. It's not worth anything anymore. What's wrong with you?"
"Nothing's wrong with me! The government's going to get things working again. My money will be fine and I'll make more than you just like before. And when that happens, I am going to talk to the neighborhood association about that mess of weeds growing back there and those noisy chickens. They are against the CCR's of the HOA!"
"Bill, I don't care, do what you want. Again, if you need anything, I will be working on those projects I mentioned. Take care."
Devlin put his truck in the garage and went back to work in the backyard. He cut a hole in the fence between his and Quitman's property and mounted the cut boards on hinges and made a door. He put a padlock on it and closed it back up.
He went over to the other side of the yard and did the same thing with the fence between his house and the empty home next door. Then he checked their yard and while it had plenty of space, there were two large trees overhead which limited the growing space. He decided to use this space for livestock if he could ever get some goats and maybe some rabbits.
A voice called out from the front yard and Devlin went out to see who it belonged to.
"I'm back here. Hang on and I'll come up there."
"Hi, you're Mrs. Paxton, right?" Devlin asked the woman he recognized as living a few doors down.
"Yes, and you're Mr. Devlin? I am sorry we haven't spoken much to you or your wife, we meant to of course, but I wanted to come by and say hello and talk about things."
"Of course, call me Mark, please. So how is your family doing?"
"Um, alright. We are dealing with no water, no electricity and almost no food. It's not been fun at all. And you?"
"Have you heard anything about the stores? Or from the city? We are genuinely worried about how things are going and how nobody is doing anything about it."
Devlin shrugged and told her what he knew about the city government and the local Kroger grocery store. "So far, we are lucky. I am sure some parts of town are worse off."
"I noticed earlier Mark, that you were driving your truck today. Could you give my husband a ride somewhere? We have hardly any gas in the car and can't seem to find any."
"I might. Where does he need to go?"
"Our restaurant. We closed it down two weeks ago when they started freezing money at the banks and shut down the credit card system. There was no way to charge customers. So we closed it up for the time being."
"I see. Where is it located?"
"Oh, its about fifteen minutes from here in the circle off of Liberty. You know, near the music pavilion?"
"Sure, what kind of food did you serve? Maybe we ate there once."
"Italian, but it was more a modern Italian fusion type thing. Very popular with the young people and all."
"When did he want to go?"
"Today, well, now if possible. We are nearly out of everything and we left a bunch of food down there. We are worried someone has already broken in."
"That's a problem. OK, let's go. Let me tell my wife."