Low Budget

by Howard Faxon

Tags: Post Apocalypse,

Desc: Fantasy Story: After a debilitating accident I retire for a life on the road...for a while

Have you ever had that odd thought about what's the worst thing that could happen to you that day? It was a Friday that ';exceeded expectations'. I was at the head of the line at the county reclamation site, dropping off defunct servers and battery backup units. I had a big eighty-pound rack-mount server carcass in my hands and had just bumped the rear door of my jeep closed with my hip. A big, black Ford Explorer roared across the parking lot, clipped my right hip and smashed into my old soldier of a Jeep Wrangler. I felt the snap as my hip gave way and passed out before I hit the ground.

I was of two minds about waking up and not being dead. I sure hurt like hell. My right hip, thigh and lower back were in a constant spasm. I'd never known pain like that before. I scrabbled for the cord and pushed the obvious button to let someone at the nurse's station know that I'd awakened. Soon a big lady in whites came in, saw that I was in shock, white faced and trying to breathe then rushed out, hopefully to get someone that had enough authority to get me some pain meds. I didn't see who it was, but someone's hands injected a teeny little syringe of something into my I.V. drip. The relief was so sudden and complete that I passed out.

It took me several days to piece together the story. Old man Zimmerman of Zimmerman Ford wrong-footed his Explorer, smashed my hip and destroyed my faithful old Jeep. The server chassis severed my left hand just above the wrist when I hit the ground and my weight slammed it down even harder. A patient advocate was in the process of getting me out of my apartment lease, as it had two stories and a connecting set of stairs; totally unsuitable to me. My medical bills were totally covered by the county as I'd been performing a function for my employer at the time of the injury. Workman's Comp, you know. The surgeons that had opened me up had found that the hip joint was so badly degraded that a new one was put in and part of my pelvis was re-sectioned. A negligence suit against the hospital was in process due to my not being on an analgesic pump upon awakening. The notation on the doctor's orders was plain as day yet it was ignored by the nursing staff. I requested that a suit be filed against the Zimmerman family for a replacement vehicle and 'damages'.

Things had been pretty well taken care of before I got out of the hospital. I got a visit from grandpa Zimmerman himself asking what I wanted to settle the suit. I thought for a while while he fidgeted in the chair. "I'll tell you what. I'm going to have to retire with this hip the way it is. I figure that I'll look for a small used camper. I need a pickup to haul it. It'll have to be an automatic, be wired for a trailer and have a good hitch, like a Reese. I'm not financially prepared to quit right now because of my credit card. You give me a hundred and twenty thousand, which should net me about eighty thousand dollars after taxes and a pickup in good condition then I'll call it quits. I don't care what model year the truck is or even how it looks--just so that it's in prime mechanical condition, from wheels on up. I'll need that much money to keep going until social security kicks in."

He smiled, relieved. "No problem. I'll have my service guys strip down a F-250 to the frame and build it back out. We'll put an engine in it good for a hundred thousand miles." We shook hands on it.

I got out of the hospital after an eight week stay. I was sure glad that I didn't have to pay for it! At over a thousand dollars a day plus the surgery I couldn't see how anyone could afford a serious injury without insurance. My right leg was two inches shorter than my left and I kept trying to pick things up with my missing left hand. Bummer. I was using a walking, or zimmer frame to get around. I was told that I would only need it for a month or two but I'd always walk with a limp, and wouldn't handle stairs well. By the end of each day my back was on fire due to the different lengths of my legs

I was surprised when Blue Cross kicked in with eight thousand six hundred bucks for the loss of a hand. After thinking about it I considered it an insult. How the hell would that cover rehab or the loss of earning power?

My apartment had been stripped down and the contents put into a twenty-foot long storage cube. It resided behind the building where I'd been working. I really had to quit as the three-story building had no elevator. The last thing my advocate did was to help me file for social security and medical disability with the government. My next task was to find a place to stay. I took my new dark green pickup to Walgreens where I bought one of each local newspaper. I sat down with a cup of coffee and a crummy plastic-tasting danish at Burger King while I tried to find a used small ';house trailer' or ';camping trailer'.

I spotted an advertisement for an old nineteen-foot-long travel trailer for nine hundred bucks, ';as found', at a farm near Shabbona. I located the place on my map and took a trip, checkbook in hand. I found an old farm house that looked like it was going to fall over at any moment. The barn behind it was in worse shape. I managed to get up the porch stairs and knocked. Soon a bent-over old lady that must have been in her nineties answered the door.

She ushered me in and we shared some coffee. She told me the story of the trailer. Her nephew had bought it and had it re-conditioned as it was pretty old. He'd gone to Afghanistan in 2002 and never came back. She needed to get rid of it before going into a supported living center. We went out to the barn to take a look. We threw open the barn doors. I saw a big, curved something under a canvas tarp. She helped me pull the tarp off. It looked like an Airstream! I slowly walked around the thing. It said "El Rey" on the nose. Boy, this thing was old! It was made in 1957 according to the plate near the door. She offered me the keys. I unlocked the door and pulled myself inside. It was cozy but it had all the comforts of home including a heater, air conditioner, water tank, shower, china toilet, king-sized bed, double sink, stove, oven, refrigerator and microwave. It was rigged for 110 Volts and LP Gas, including the lights. I was hooked. The thing was in immaculate condition. The floors had been taken up and re-done, the inner walls had been torn down and re-insulated. The windows were replaced with thermopane units. I turned to her and asked "Are you sure that you want to part with this for only nine hundred?"

She nodded a little bird nod. "I just want shut of it as it reminds me of losing Jimmy." I shrugged my shoulders and made out a check to her. She handed me the title and kissed my cheek. I smiled and gave her a gentle little hug--no rib crackers, here.

It had been on jacks for about ten years. I got it down on the tires and they held. Good news! I backed the pickup up to the hitch and settled it down over the ball, then locked it down and fastened the chains. I stored the jacks in the bed of the truck, plugged in the trailer lights and headed back to Geneva. I swapped the two fifteen pound propane tanks with thirty pound units and had them filled. The tires got replaced and the hubs were greased. I called a couple friends of mine to help transfer the stuff I was keeping from the storage cube to the trailer. There sure was a lot of stuff that didn't fit! Only about a third of my kitchen stuff fit. I stored my pots and pans in the oven. Jim had installed a demand hot water heater. It was great--as long as you were plugged into 110V mains! There was a rear hatch door accessible from the outside. That held the sewage hose, the water hose and the heavy electrical cord for city services. I bought a factory reconditioned Generac 8KW generator that was quiet as hell--after I had an after-market muffler to it. I had a little ';porch' welded to the rear of the trailer to hold the generator, a spare gasoline can, a little barbecue grill, some 'campaign furniture' and a spare propane tank.

I bought a "Woodall's" trailer park guide at a local book store. Each evening I spent some time hilighting parks that charged less than ten bucks a night, had fresh water and electricity. During the day I sorted through my posessions and filled storage bins with things I wanted to keep. I bought a wall-mount for my flat-screen monitor/tv and set up my computer near it. I had the big king-sized bed cut down to a standard so my bedding would fit. Storage bins of clothing and shoes went into the two feet of freed-up space. I had to spring for a new mattress, however.

The court case against the hospital finally came to a conclusion. I made twenty-four thousand dollars out of it, tax free as it was a penalty judgement.

I sold my electronics lab that I had packed away for four thousand bucks. I took a hit on it but I had no way to store it. Besides, soldering is a two-handed operation. I really hated to lose my oscilloscope, frequency generator and ten-digit counter. Damn! My parts collection alone was worth well over twenty eight hundred bucks. After my friends went through what remained in the storage container for helping me out, I hauled the rest to Goodwill and disposed of the container.

I finally broke the umbilical I had with my old boss and took off down the road. My benefits were set up for direct deposit. I had a new, cheap pay-as-you-go cell phone, my debts were paid and I was a free spirit. A bit damaged, I grant you, but freer than most.

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Story tagged with:
Post Apocalypse /