I'm Ray. I don't drink, smoke or do drugs. When you can't afford to eat the rest really never comes over the horizon.
Being homeless is a bitch. The apartment building burned out while I was at work. The accountant job at H&R Block dried up after April. I finally got a job as a bubble dancer--that's dishwasher to you outside the service industry.
It's not a bad gig. You stay warm and salvage a decent meal from the plates coming off the floor.
I found a cheap way to stay clean. I run my clothes through the dish washer every night after changing the water.
Nobody caught me standing around in socks, skivvies and an apron while waiting for my clothes to dry--or they were too bemused to mention anything.
I'm not much to look at--four foot eight of skin and bones.
When I look in the mirror a weasel with receding brown hair and washed-out blue eyes stares back. For Christ's sake--I LOOK like an accountant. Hunh. I never expected to lose my hair at 24. I've got some skills and good habits, though.
The navy taught me to stay clean and shaved if nothing else, so I don't look too scruffy.
The guard at the repo yard gets ten bucks a night to let me sleep in an unlocked van. I do Tai Chi with the group down at the park every day at dawn to keep body and soul together. For the last few months all my spare time has been spent at the library studying for the CPA exam.
If I can pass that sucker then maybe--just maybe--I can get a job that will front me enough cash to get off the street.
I've got a bike to get around with (and a decent lock on this one!), a backpack with my life in it, a couple blankets and a wool pea coat. I found a suit without too much wear on it at the thrift store as well as a pair of dress shoes.
These last two months of dish washing has been great. I feel better about myself having a full-time job, even if it's second shift. I rented a box at a Post Offices Etc. shop so I have a legal residence.
The boss was handing out paychecks at the beginning of the shift on Friday when it hit. The floor started jumping around like a hyped-up cocker spaniel. The dishes hit the floor with a crash. The fire suppression system took out the grill and fryer. The back end of the building collapsed.
The grinding roar I hadn't noticed in the frenzy gave way to silence. What a mess. Oh well, it was a good job while it lasted.
I snatched my paycheck from my now ex-boss who was still trying to take it all in. He was sitting on the floor muttering "oh, crap!" over and over. He was really out of it.
I grabbed my stuff and headed out before any aftershocks could hit. Damned if I knew about any fault lines under Amarillo Texas, but there you go. The Super Target was still in business. I knew that they'd cash a payroll check, no questions asked. I picked up socks, shorts, jeans, a cap and poncho. I probably wasn't going to sleep where I usually did, and April gets a bit testy around here. I also grabbed a small transistor radio, canteen, small flashlight and a fist full of batteries. I wanted to find out just what the hell was happening. A few cans of beans and a can opener rounded out my purchases. I got out of there just as an aftershock hit. With all the screaming and thrashing around you'd think the world just came to an end.
I sat against a light pole in the parking lot and stuffed batteries into the flashlight and radio. Holy shit.
Yellowstone did a Mt. St. Helen's, taking out large parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, setting off every stressed fault line this side of the Smoky Mountains in the bargain.
Almost all of California was missing. With that I kissed goodbye to the suit and dress shoes I'd salvaged and dove back in to Target for a pair of construction boots. I figured that I was going to get called up quick, having mustered out of the Navy as a communications Warrant Officer 5, so I started to high-tail it over to the Ranger station to pitch in. I know, I know. Everyone early on in their blue water career learns that NAVY means Never Again Volunteer Yourself, but I had an ulterior motive.
Three squares a day and a dry bunk.
If the winds shifted to the North West the ash fall would be devastating. The prevailing winds meant this had a good chance of happening.
I got caught up in rescue operations over the next day and a half and never did get to the ranger station.
All available hands were formed up in teams and we went through each collapsed building we found as we combed the city.
I finally found a police sergeant taking a break outside a C&C trailer (Command and Control) drinking a cup of coffee.
I got the evil eye. He was tired and it showed. I must have looked like five miles of bad road myself.
"Has the call-up started for reserves yet?"
"Nope. Too busy to worry about it, I guess. You in the reserves?"
"Yeah. Al Cook, Warrant Officer 5, Electronics communication, USN."
He smiled. Oh shit. "We need operators. We're so short staffed they're falling out of their chairs in there."
Oh, hell. Well, three squares and a bunk. A bonus was clean air. The equipment was a bit fussy.
"If you've got any proof, we'll take you immediately. You'll have to apprentice for a while to learn our protocols, but then you'll be on your own. Deal?"
"Deal." I fished out my DD-214 (mustering out papers) and handed it over.
"Are you a heavy hitter?"
"Umm, 2nd shift chief radio operator on a destroyer. Heavy enough?"
"You just made my day, Al. Jim French. Let me tell cap the good news." He polished off his coffee and headed out to show his boss my DD-214. I was in. I stood there beating clouds of dust and crap off my pants, wondering where I could shower and change. They wouldn't want me near a commo shack with all this grunge.
I got questioned, bent over, probed, pawed over, passed around, threatened, pre-judged and signed up. Then they let me loose on their equipment. Their protocols were based on channel assignments.
WHAT encryption? This was EASY. I had it licked the first day.
There were only six nets with trunked frequency hopping.
The only thing screwing me up were the damned police 10-codes.
I got a chart of 'em for the wall and I was in business.
Within a week I got passed up the line to the FEMA group. What a cluster fuck. Everybody had to get authorization from somebody else and nobody wanted to take responsibility. We were stretched tight as a piano wire--over-worked and short on bunk hours.
During one of the identical interminable meetings I finally lost it.
"Goddamned it! We're in here playing pass the turd when there's people dying out there, sleeping on the streets, without emergency medical care. What the fuck is wrong with you people?"
Well, that did it. I really expected to get booted out of there, but something else happened. It was so out-of-control that the loudest voice won. Mine. I got promoted to expediter. I asked for and got a list of resources and phone numbers. I got ahold of my old commander and explained where I was and what I was doing.
Resources were stretched pretty thin. Entire naval bases had disappeared along with most of California. However, there were still piles and piles of stuff remaindered from the Gulf actions.
Troops and equipment were being pulled back to the states from overseas. He gave me a couple of contacts to try and wished me luck.
We had gone from the 113th. largest city to the 58th.
We needed shelters. Material was salvaged from downed buildings and the junk dozered into piles outside of town. The homeless were sheltered in schools. Entire gymnasiums were converted into open wards with field hospitals set up just outside the doors.
We needed medical support and communications, food, water and shelter.
There was so much to do that I had to delegate. It was too much.
I head hunted teams of expediters and tasked them with different areas. Ground team took over the power grid and water mains.
Fire team took the natural gas system. Fires went out.
Grub team insured that everyone got fed.
We all went on the cafeteria plan, as in U.S. Military.
Shelter team took over rebuilding, and got trenches run for sewer, water and electric. We started building at the East end of town and proceeded West, where the most build-up was. We settled on blocks 1/2 mile on a side.
Supplies team worked with construction hand in hand--they got into salvage and reclamation.
We stole the whole damned city under thing eminent domain. Everyone owning property got a thousand buck check on the city. Everything was salvaged out and bulldozed. We pulled out all the materials we could, including fixtures.
We ran through that city like rats through a granary.
The houses were systematically rifled for food, clothing, bedding, emergency gear and firearms.
We were trying to keep the guns out of the hands of the looters, which were everywhere. We had to form up another group to police the area. Looters got shot.
This is Texas, after all.
That was the first month.
A construction company got dropped on us. Thank God.
The cell towers went back up with gigabit switches. Land lines were abandoned and the poles cut. We ran eight fiber lines in a ring thirty feet deep with switches every mile and a half around the city along with a power feed.
That's where we put the cell towers, and three fiber lines went to support them.
.... There is more of this story ...