Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dead Land Journal August 14th 2027

I was looking forward to her waking up, now I just wish she would drop into a coma. She woke up yesterday morning, her fever broke and she was sweating a river.

My grandfather would have said she was "sweatin' like a nigger on Doomsday". I never understood what race had to do with that. I think Doomsday would be enough to make anyone perspire, regardless of skin pigmentation. My grandfather wasn't a racist, but his father was a self described Confederate Patriot raised deep in the heart of Klan country. Grandpa's best friend was actually a black man he had served with in Vietnam. They would both swap racists jokes and slurs, trying to outdo the other in offensive content, but neither were offended. Both had been raised by racist and bigoted families. Grandpa's father had once gone after him with a baseball bat for holding hands with a colored girl when he was thirteen. He eventually married that girl. That was during a time when white men just did not marry colored girls and those that did sometimes woke up to find a cross burning in their front yard or worse, swinging from a tree next to their wife. His father disowned him of course, but he never seemed to feel that was any great loss.

Within half an hour of her waking Katherine had accused me of feeling her up and ogling her while she was unconscious, stealing her clothes and intentionally spraying her with gravel when she wandered out into the road and reckless driving. I was driving too fast, so maybe she has a point on the reckless driving, I had driven up and down that road 4 times lost looking for what turned out to be an unmarked road hidden by some overgrown bushes. She even managed to imply that I was keeping Dee around to train as a wife so we could, in her words, "repopulate the species." I am willing to chalk up some of her offenses as remnants of a fevered delirium, but if her attitude does not improve I am going to leave her at the side of the road somewhere.

She is a doctor so naturally she disapproves of the treatment I have given her and says that with my level of incompetence it is lucky she is still alive. Dee meant well, but she only made matters worse when she told her about me fixing her broken arm, and how she got it. So on top of everything else she also thinks I'm an unfit parent.

As to how she came to be wandering out here in her condition, she tells me that she had not had any problems or seen anything unusual since the disappearance till about three nights ago. The lights went out in the farmhouse she was staying in. She did not really think anything of it. The generator in the barn was probably purchased new when Reagan was in the White House. She went out to check on it and found that the fuel line had come loose and spilled gasoline all over the floor of the barn. She reconnected the fuel line but it still would not start. She gave up after a few tries. Said that she had decided to move on to the next farmhouse down the road in the morning. I don't think she is mechanically inclined. She was on her way back to the house when she saw what she thought was a bear. It charged at her and she ran into the barn, it being the closest shelter. It got in before she could close the door. I did not tell her that I don't think it would have mattered had she managed to get the barn door closed, it still would have gotten in. It was between her and the door so she scurried up the ladder into the loft. She says it had some difficulty with the the ladder but not enough to significantly slow it down. She ran to outer loft door and leaped out, hoping to catch the rope dangling from the hoist.

If I remember correctly it was about a three quarter moon that night so there would have been enough light to see if the angle were right, but I still don't know if I would have had the nerve to do that. Despite everything I still have a problem with heights. I guess if one of those wraiths was after me I probably would.

She did manage to grab the rope but it was secured below so she was just swinging there like a treat dangling in front of a cat. The wraith took a couple of swipes at her, getting her once before she just let go and fell. The landing was painful but she was not seriously hurt. She looked up to see the thing howling at her. Remembering the spilled gasoline she raced back into the barn and fished out lighter. It was a disposable safety lighter she didn't have the option to just light, toss and run like you see in the movies. Again I have to admire her courage. She had to stand there in the dark interior of the barn find a rag light it and toss it into the spilled gasoline.

The barn was quickly in flames and the wraith was trapped. When she described its howling and shrieking I could not suppress a shudder. But she says that she did not run till she heard answers to it's howls. She says that she has been running ever since stopping only when thirst or exhaustion forced her to.

She is sleeping now. Thank GOD! I honestly don't think I could have kept a civil tongue if I'd had to listen to her for another minute. She is apparently still in hurting so I gave her a dose of pain meds. She carefully examined the pills like she thought I was trying to poison her. I told her that I had been trying to kill her she would never have waken up in the first place.

Another strike against her is that she does not like Emily and the feeling appears to be mutual.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Friday, August 28, 2009

Dead Land Journal August 11th 2027

Didn't really take long to figure out where I was this morning. Pulled into Carthage around ten and found a drug store. Found some powerful antibiotics for out guest. Was able to wake her up enough to swallow a dose. That fever scares me.
Her name is Katherine Cooper. I took the liberty of checking her ID while I was putting her clothes away. I was going to save her clothes for her when she wakes up. There is a certain sense of vulnerability one gets when one is stripped of their clothes. When I was fourteen I was helping my grandfather string a baited line across the pond on their dairy farm. It had been stocked with catfish. I fell out of the boat into foul smelling muddy water. I hit my head on the side of the canoe and was knocked cold. I woke up later in the hospital. The nurse told me they had thrown my clothes away. Made me feel like a captive. But Emily kept growling and barking at the pile of clothes. There is a scent to them that she does not like so I took them a short distance off and burned them.

I cleaned out the wounds on her abdomen with hot water and alcohol. She was thrashing about so much I had to tie her down first. I am sure that is against some medical ethics rules but I did not have anyone to help me hold her down. Got her to take some chicken broth too. That's a good sign I think.

Found an RV dealership, just outside of Carthage and traded in the van for a motor home. But not just any motor home. It's a damn Mercedes Unimog, built on a heavy duty chassis. Ugly thing, looks like it would be at home in the Australian outback. The Grumman was ok, but a little cramped and sorely lacking in basic amenities. Like a bathroom. The Unimog should be able to handle most off road conditions when needed. It's not as big as a traditional motor home, but it will go places a tradition motor home won't. The price sticker read $293,000 and that is for a ten year old used camper. It was probably over half a million new.

I pulled both the Grumman and the Unimog into the huge garage at the dealership and made sure it was clear before closing it up. I did not want to take any chances while transferring everything to the Uni. It did get rather hot but not as bad as I expected. There were large vents in the roof. I transferred all the gear and supplies first, figuring I could pick things up quieter than I can set them down (or drop them in some cases).

Katherine did not wake up till I moved her to one of the Uni's beds. And then only long enough to cuss at me.

Going to really like the Uni, it has powerful AC and storage for just about everything. And it is built like a fucking tank. Dee is quite happy with the change too. She gets a real bed again. And she is very excited to have a someone else around. I am constantly having to shoo her away so that Katherine can rest. I think Dee is convinced Katherine will be her new mommy like I am her new daddy. Don't know how you explain to a 3 year old that you are not ready for a relationship yet.

I also am eager to talk to our new guest. To actually have an adult conversation with someone other than myself. I also need to know where she came from. I strongly suspect that those wounds on her belly came from a close encounter with a wraith. Emily's reaction to her clothes was enough to convince me of that. She was trembling almost as bad as the night that thing came in the house. I need to know where she has been. I was hoping to be putting those things behind us.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Story Update

I have reached a point where I now think that I will be able to put up story posts on a daily basis (Monday thru Friday with weekends off). I have three posts already done in advance. I will try to keep a 3 post buffer just in case I miss a day.


Dead Land Journal August 10th 2027

Picked up another stray today. We were driving down a gravel road, I don't know the name of it because I am LOST. She wandered out in front of the Van and came so close to running her down. I slammed on the brakes and everything in the back of the van tried to migrate to the front seat. The van skidded on the loose grave and the rear wheels slid into the ditch. With that big 454 under the hood it was easy to forget about the Jeep I was towing. I sure remembered it then. The tow dolly went off the edge of the road and the Jeep flipped over the fence along side the road. Dee yelled "Jeep Daddy" and I looked over towards her just in time to see it careen into a John Deere tractor that had come to rest, driverless, under a billboard that by some miracle was still standing. The Jeep remedied that.

I jumped out of the van to check on the woman who had by this time fallen in the middle of the road. I admit that I did take a second to glance over at the Jeep. It was of course destroyed. Jeeps are tough, but it was no match for the tractor.

The woman appeared to be uninjured at first glance. She is blond and tan, not from a tanning bed, but from spending a lot of time out doors. When I felt for a pulse I noticed that she was burning up with a fever. I am in decent physical condition, but no one would ever mistake me for Arnold Schwarzenegger. At 5' 9" and 170 lbs I am best described as average. So manhandling her into the van was not an easy task. And then I had to clear junk out of one of the bunks so there would be room for her. The Jeep had taken off the rear bumper, destroyed the right hand tail lights and damaged the roll up door. After setting her in the bunk I tried to close the door and half of it just fell off the track and hit the ground. The other half then shot back up the track, pulled by the springs that now had only half the intended load on them and fell off the track and across the tops of the shelves.

I managed to get the panels for the door back in place but I can't open it without the whole thing falling apart now. It is in no way secure.

If I can find my way back to the highway I saw and RV dealership that should have what I am looking for.

I stripped the woman down to her underwear to clean her up. She looks like she has been wandering about in the wilderness for days. She is covered in scratches and bug bites. She is dehydrated as well. But what really worries me are the three diagonal lacerations on her abdomen. I have a feeling I know what gave them to her but until I can talk to her it is just speculation. They are badly infected. I'm going to have to find some antibiotics for her. But it's getting dark and I am already lost. I will just have to camp here for the night.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Dead Land Journal August 6th 2027

I made the mistake of taking I-70 out of Independence and it was a nightmare. Cars were piled up all over the highway. Most of the time I was able to just swerve around them but a couple of times I had to ease the van off the road. Just north of I-70 before you get to Bates city there is a small airport. I think its Harry Truman Regional. A private jet apparently did not make it to the landing strip before its pilot disappeared. I got stuck a couple of times trying to get around that but with a little rocking was able to get out. I do not want a repeat of that. From now on I am taking back roads. Why couldn't the disappearance have occurred at night? Would have made things a lot easier.

I am typing this entry while Dee eats breakfast. Will be heading out again as soon as she finishes. We're in a Podunk town by the name of Diamond in southern Missouri now. Coasted in last night on fumes. At Diamond 71 highway becomes Washington street. I was taking 71 highway as it seemed relatively clear and Diamond was the town I just happened to come when I decided to call it a day. The van has two 40 gallon tanks but it has been a while since they have been filled. Barely made it into a Conoco station at Market and Washington.

I had to open up the service panel on one of the pumps and hook the pump up directly to my portable generator to get gassed up but I have had a lot of practice at that lately.

I don't really know yet where I am going. Just heading south for now. Would like to be in a warmer climate come winter, but that is still some ways off.

This is an old van and is has an odd mixture of added features. There is flat panel TV/DVD player built into the dash and an 8 track stereo leftover from the 70s. Plugged into the slot on the 8 track is a cassette tape converter, fitted into that is a cassette adaptor like they used to plug CD players into. The plug from the cassette adaptor is plugged into an 8 Terabyte iPod. The antique stereo has a pair of expensive Bose surround sound speakers. The dash board is a exhibit of the evolution of car audio. There is also an in dash UPS which I have the computer plugged into now.

Speaking of radios, I am going to have to figure out what to do about my radio broadcasts. I just left it running. I was too preoccupied with getting out of town. I will have to go back sometime and cut if off. I don't want it luring someone else into danger.

God, my eyes hurt this morning! I think I should see about getting a pair of reading glasses at the next drug store I come to. Probably should have got to an eye doctor a year ago, but I just didn't care enough about myself then.

Well Dee is just playing with her food now so I guess she is done. Time to get moving.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Dead Land Journal August 4th 2027

This farmhouse is nice but I don't think we will be staying her long. Haven't seen any signs of the wraiths, but I just don't feel like I have but enough distance between us and them yet. We are about three quarters of a mile south of I-70 on Curtis Road and three miles east of Bates City. Calling Bates City a city is like calling a short man Stretch. It is a small town barely more than a village.

I rejected the first farmhouse we came to because it was surrounded by trees. I felt that gave them too many places to hide. There is no power here, but the house is more easily secured. All the windows have sturdy shutters, not just ornamental plastic like you seen on so many houses, but fully functional. As many tornadoes as we get here in the Midwest I am always amazed that more houses don't have them. They appear to be a recent addition. The shutters are all closed and I have lanterns in all the rooms. There is a real basement, not a cellar as found on many older farmhouses. There is an outside entrance with a cellar door. The door itself is new as well, very sturdy. I locked it with a big stainless steel padlock. I could not do anything about the basement windows so I just locked the door at the head of the stairs in the kitchen and moved the refrigerator in front of it.

Today I watched as Dee carried a toy down the stairs using both arms. When she got it down stairs she very carefully put her splint back on. I told her that I thought it was time to get rid of the splint. Her arm seems to be almost if not completely healed. It has been almost 7 weeks since the accident. And if she is able to use it without pain then she does not seen the splint. Her arm is a little weak, but that is expected.

While I was tucking her in last night, Dee asked me if I was going to be her new Daddy. It was to say the least, unexpected. Not being prepared for such a question, I told her that I would be standing in for her Daddy for the time being. She asked me if her Daddy was ever coming back. That is another question I don't know the answer to. I told her that she would see her him again one day. I did not see a lot of signs that the Mason's were very religious. I found one dusty Bible and a tarnished brass crucifix in her mother's bedside table. I suspect that Mr. Mason and my former father in law had the same views on religion. But Dee surprised me yet again when she asked if she would see them again in Heaven. It was a bit of a relief so I told her that she'd see everyone that she loved when she got to Heaven. She asked if that would be soon and my heart skipped a beat. I think it's time to admit to myself how much I have come to love Dee as if she were my own daughter.

For the first time in years I took the time to kneel down and pray before I went to bed. I mean I really prayed. Not the going through the motions, get through this as fast as we can prayer I used to do when I was a kid, but true heartfelt prayer. I was in tears before I went to bed. But I slept like a baby last night.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dead Land Journal July 31st 2027

Could not have picked a worse time to be on the move. The moon was waning on the night we left. It is now just the tiniest sliver. It is like they wanted me out in the dark.

It did not take long to pack everything into the back of the jeep. Dee was upset because She like the house but she settled down when I gave her some Oreos. I was almost falling apart myself. I don't think I would have handled a tantrum very well at that point. To tell the truth I was scared shitless.

I drove the Jeep to the Wal-Mart at 39th and 291. I parked in one of the bays at the Tire & Lube Express at the north end of the building. I had to shove a car out of the way in order to close the doors. Like so many big stores like this Wal-Mart has its own backup generators and I wasted no time firing that mother up.

There was a big Grumman Olson stepvan parked outside. It's an old thing with a 454 big block V8 under the fiberglass hood. No wimpy 4 cylinder hybrid conversion, just a big hunk of good ole fashioned American cast iron. It even has a tow dolly already hooked up so I will be able to take the Jeep along.

The engine started on the second try. Good thing it's not the middle of winter or I would have had to thaw the battery before trying to charge it up. That can blow a whole day.

Spent most of the afternoon just throwing shit into the back of the van. Would be nice if it had a ramp, but you take what you can get. It has some deep shelves running along the sides. I loaded them up to capacity with food and supplies. I left a spot clear on the shelves on each side for Dee and I to sleep and laid out some pillows and sleeping bags there.

I grabbed a few rifles and every box of ammo I could find, as well as fishing gear. Not only do I want to be able to defend myself, but I would like to be able to get some fresh meat now and again. Never cleaned and dressed a deer, but I am going to have to learn.

I got a lot of stuff at Sam's Club next door too. Grabbed a portable generator which I will hook up later, if I get the chance.

Seriously considered staying here. There are probably enough supplies here to last a couple of years at least. But looking at those big glass doors convinced me not too. I was unable to properly secure one residential house against them. There would be no way to secure a place this big. I would be sure to miss something.

I did not want to, but it was dark before I finished loading the van, so I pulled it into the bay next to the Jeep and pulled the roll up doors down. It was a tight fit but it cleared the top of the doors, barely. The doors were equipped with a simple sliding bolt so they were easy to secure.
I had Dee lay down in back. I locked all the doors to the van and sat in the driver's seat all night. I don't think I slept more than twenty minutes all night. I was jumping at every little sound. It occurred to me that leaving the generator running and all the lights on might be a mistake. Those lights would act as a beacon to any nasties out there. But I could not bring myself to cut them off. I thought about it several times, but I just locked up each time. Could not make myself move at all.

So I spent that night sitting on that cracked vinyl seat, trying to peer out through the small garage door windows, almost wetting myself every time a bug bumped into the glass. The cicadas buzzing did not help either. My nerves were raw the next day and it felt like my eyelids were made out of sandpaper.

I am typing this entry in a farmhouse outside the city. It seems secure for now and I have not seen any sign of those creatures here.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dead Land Journal July 24th

Oh, Crap I Fucked UP!

Fucking thing showed up last night like I was hoping. I wish it hadn't.

I was sitting at my bedroom window, window up, screen open, a Winchester SXR rifle in my lap, loaded with .300 Winchester Magnum rounds. Found it in the next door neighbor's house. I am not a gun expert but it feels like a cheap gun to me. The trigger assembly is friggin plastic!. However the magnum rounds are powerful enough to take down elk.

It was carrying something in one of it's front paws? Not really sure of its anatomy. Even in the light, its features are hard to make out. It shambled out into the center of the lawn. That scares me because I thought the light was protection. It seemed bothered by the light, but not distressed. The thing it was carrying was a baby. I briefly considered that it was bringing me the baby because it thought I could tend to it. I actually began to question all the instincts that were telling me that this thing was pure evil. It set the baby on the ground and I knew there was something wrong with it. His abdomen was writhing and jumping like that scene from Alien where the little bugger pops out of the crewman's chest. Then the creature lifted its paw and a long thin claw extend out. My blood turned to ice. It stabbed into the baby's tiny chest. He convulsed and blood welled up. I screamed and raised the Winchester quickly lining the thing's head up in the scope.

I have fired a lot of handguns and a few .22 rifles when I was a kid. But never anything like this damn Winchester. I was totally unprepared for the recoil. The blast knocked me off my feet. I need to either work out more, or stick to smaller guns. I quickly picked up the rifle, intent on finishing the thing if it was not already dead. But it was. The head was completely gone. Red and black goo puddled on the ground at the stump of the thing's neck. Using the scope as a telescope I quickly checked the baby to see if there was any hope for it.

It was a Goddamn doll.

The thing had stuffed a live rat into the doll's belly for some reason.

Suddenly the night was filled with screaming and wailing. Shadows at the edge of the lawn began to break off and drift towards the dead creature. I realized what should have been obvious to me. This thing was not alone. They gathered around their fallen comrade, all moaning and wailing The entire back yard was now a mass of writhing black wraiths. I fumbled with the rifle and dropped it. It shot a hole in the ceiling and the lights went out. I grabbed my .357 and checked to make sure it was loaded. Standing there in the dark like that my fear was physical presence. I looked out the window again and they had scattered, taking the dead body with them. The doll was still there though. I ran down the stairs and quickly made sure the doors were all locked before going to the garage and getting the big Coleman lanterns out and lighting them. In my paranoia I stocked enough of these battery powered lanterns to put one in every room. I started downstairs and worked my way up.

There was one of them in my room when I got there. I had left the window open. It had the rifle grasped in its front paws. For the first time I got a good look at those paws. The pads were huge and widespread, long curved claws hinged up from them like a raptor from the three center most toes, but the longer toes from the sides looked fully capable of grasping and holding objects. Like the rifle it now had. For some reason the only feature I remember of its face was the two obsidian eyes. I just could not seem to focus on its face. It stood by the window staring at me. The rifle was pointed at my midsection. I don't think it could have pulled the trigger, I did not take any chances I ducked back through the door. I fired the .357 blindly into the room from around the door frame. When I chanced a peek into the room it was gone. The rifle was broken into pieces on the floor.

I will miss this house but I don't think Dee and I are safe here any more. Packing up all that matters and leaving today. That wild shot shorted out something in the motors for the solar panels and fried the main controller for the whole house electrical system. While I am sure that I could fix it given time I can't do it in a day. They are out there and they know where we live. I don't think it will be long before they get the nerve up to come in.

Dee never even woke up. Damn that child can sleep through anything!

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Dead Land Journal July 23rd

Our visitor was back last night. It destroyed the perimeter lights. They are just cheap solar yard lights but they were enough to light the yard up. It pulled up every one of them, smashed the head and piled them up in the front yard. Going to install some more motion activated flood lights today. It does not seem to like light so I am going to make sure that every inch of the yard is covered by several hundred watts of light.

July 23rd (again)

Found Dee's home today. It is actually just a block from here. The Meier's house is on George Franklin Drive. I accidentally turned a block early down Debra and she pointed to a house on the left and said "My house!" I almost swerved into a tree. I did not realize that she had unfastened her car seat until she was squealing in my ear. Child proof buckles my ass. She's able to unlatch them one handed faster than I can using both hands. We spent the next five minutes talking about the importance of wearing our seatbelts and reminding her what happened last time.

We spent most of this afternoon at her old house. The kitchen was a mess. Pop top cans littered the kitchen floor and the stench of rotting garbage filled the entire house. The first thing I did was open all the windows. I found several pictures of her and her parents. I also found her immunization records and a copy of a daycare enrollment form with her medical history. As I suspected, she is allergic to strawberries. Also found out she has a Birthday coming up in a month.

I let her gather up some of her toys while I gathered up photo albums and such before I locked the house up.

Got the new lights installed. Sun will be going down soon. Put Dee to bed early. I will be sitting in vigil tonight for its return.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dead Land Journal July 21st

There is someone else out there!

I have developed a bit of a routine. Once a week I go out and do the shopping. I have also been going around to the local gas stations measuring how much fuel is in the underground tanks and then adding what I hope is the proper amount of fuel stabilizer to it. Like I said, gas is plentiful, but it does me no good if it goes bad. I visit the local grocery store pick up some canned goods, get some gas for the generators that I keep running and check the radio.

Incoming messages are saved digitally on the computer's hard drive. And there have been a few "messages" recorded. So far though, these have all been just short bursts of static or maybe a single tone. While these could be signs of someone trying to communicate with me, they are most likely radio interference from some kind of automated machinery that is still running. For all I know they are secret alien broadcasts and the aliens are watching me. Better not go there, I am paranoid enough as it is.

So today when the computer showed an incoming saved message I almost did not check it. But the time stamp on it showed that it came in less than ten minutes after last night's 8 pm broadcast and it was four minutes and thirty five seconds long. Unfortunately I could not understand a word of it. It was all in Chinese. At least I think it was in Chinese. The signal was weak and staticky. The speaker sounded elderly. His words were slow and there were long pauses between words sometimes. Two years before he died, my father had stroke and he spoke in much the same manner.

I think it was definitely in response to my message. I am hoping he makes contact again, but I have also decided that twice a day is not enough. I will be setting it up to run hourly for a while and see how that does.

I will record a new message and see if that generates another response from my Chinese friend. Maybe I can get a Chinese For Dummies book so I can actually understand what he is saying.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dead Land Journal July 20th

I decided against putting a cast on Dee's arm. She is doing fine with the splint and I am able to keep her cleaner that way. Emily is still very protective of her but no longer growls when I approach.

Dee is starting to talk more, but I still know very little about her or how she survived on her own. I think I almost fed her something she is allergic to yesterday. I thought the canned strawberries I found would be a special treat for her, but she started crying when she saw them like she was scared of them. I'm just glad I didn't have everything I needed to make that strawberry-banana bread I found in the bread book I have. She would not have known they were there until it was too late. Sometime this week I am going to try to get her to show me where she lived before. If I can find any medical records and see if she has any other allergies or medical conditions I should know about. Be a good idea to look out for any pictures. It would be a shame for her to forget her parents and as young as she is that could easily happen.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Monday, August 17, 2009

Story Update

As anyone reading this blog knows, the story I have been posting here was originally written when I was between the age of 12 and 14. Years ago I transcribed it from notepads and typewritten pages into a word processing program (LEWP). It has since been transferred from computer to computer. Much of it has not translated very well so it has had to be reconstructed mostly from memory. I figured while I was doing this I would take the time to bring it up to date. Much has changed in the world since I was 14. I have always found it easier to create than to recreate so there may have been some less than perfect moments in this story.

My last story post marks a turning point. It was the last segment of old material. I have a basic outline, a narrative road map if you will, but it is just names, dates and places. So everything I write from this point on will be all new. I am hoping I can keep it fresh and exciting, and still keep to the spirit of the story written by my younger self.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Garage Sale Tips - first installment

I was out garage sailing today and it occurred to me that someone out there really needs to educate people on the right and wrong ways to have a garage sale.
So this is the first installment of how to have a garage sale.

Tip #1: Pricing.

If you are planning a garage sale thinking that you are going to sell accumulated junk and make a huge profit, forget it. I don't know how many times I hear this "Well I paid $145 for that last year and I am only asking $95 for it now." Well guess what, last year when you paid $145 for it, it was brand new, still in box, with warranty and had all the parts. Once it leaves the store its maximum garage sale price is 50% of retail. Maybe 75% if it's a really hot item. And that is new in box with all papers. If you want to have a successful garage sale I suggest you spend a couple of weekends browsing local sales and checking out their prices. Another thing I regularly hear is that a certain item is selling for X amount of dollars on Ebay. This ain't Ebay. Ebay is a worldwide market and has buyer protection policies (too much sometimes but that is an entirely different rant). This is a local market and if your are lucky you might just get 15 people look at the item. If you really want the Ebay price, list the item on Ebay. But let me tell you as a professional Ebayer, the market pretty much sucks right now.

Tip #2: Signage

Customers cannot buy your stuff if they do not know where you are. A good sign is worth the time and money you put into it. It does not have to be fancy and you do not need a full inventory on the sign. Remember, people looking at this sign are usually travelling about 35+mph, 15 if they are making a turn. They don't have time to read a novel nailed to a light post. The sign should be at least the size of a standard sheet of notebook paper (8 1/2 x 11 inches). Bigger is better. All you need on it is the word "SALE" and an arrow. A date would be nice too but this is really optional if you just remember to take the damn sign down. It is infuriating to spend 15 minutes chasing down a garage sale only to find a vacant house with a faded real estate sign in the front yard. Makes me want to call the real estate agent just so I can track down the jerk and staple the friggin' signs to his forehead. And the signs should be legible from at least 50 to 100 feet away. BOLD print too, no sharpies. Bright colors are nice but not necessary. I should not be seeing spots after looking at the sign. And if you are putting up signs in a residential area and put them up in someone else's front yard, ask them first. It's the polite thing to do and getting permission first will insure that you sign is not ripped up and thrown in the trash first time the owner comes home. I live on a corner lot, so I frequently have garage sale signs put up in my yard. I usually don't mind, but last year some idiot put up a sign with no directions on it without asking me. People thought the sale was at my house and were showing up angry because there was no sale.

Tip #3: Cleanliness

If you would not feel comfortable inviting your mother in law into your house, yard or garage, don't invite total strangers there. If my wife or I have to pull out a half dozen wet wipes or douse our hands in hand sanitizer as soon as we get back to the car then there is something wrong. When I walk up to a house and feel like I should be wearing full face respirator and Tyvek jumpsuit, most likely I will not be making a purchase. It is far more likely that I will just turn around and walk (or run) back to my car. Heavy smells of animal urine or feces will drive buyers away quicker than your crazy Uncle Leroy with a running chainsaw and bloody butcher's apron.

Well that's all for now. I'm sure someone will do something to piss me off next weekend and I will have some new tips.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dead Land Journal July 2nd, 2027

Lisa I know you disapproved of those fancy bread machines, you thought they were cheating, but I am terrible at baking. I found one at Wal-Mart that looks simple enough and I have been able to find everything else I need for some of the recipes I found in the bread machine's little cookbook. The dry yeast I found even seems to be ok. The first loaf was a little hard, but edible.

Dee was kind in her assessment of my baking skills, but at least Emily liked it. I found out a little more about Dee today. Her full name is Delores H. Mason. At least that was what was printed on the inside of a pair of shoes I found in the back yard. Don's know what the H stands for. She says they are hers. Never really like the name Delores. It was the name of my least favorite Aunt. So I will just call her Dee.

Even though she is not really our daughter, she still reminds me of you. Dee likes peanut butter toast like you used to. She refuses to keep shoes on her feet and she likes to slide around on hardwood floors with her socks on.

God I miss you.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Dead Land Journal June 28th, 2027

Found a dead dog today. I have seen a lot of dead animals. Nothing unusual about that I know, everything dies. No one around to remove the carcasses. Most of them I think have died from eating something they shouldn't have or disease.

This was different. The body was in the parking lot of the Hy-Vee at 23rd and Lees Summit. Right in front of the main doors in front of one of those little electric wheel chairs. The dog looked healthy enough at first, a big black Lab. Then I noticed that the chest and belly were sunken. A clean cut, starting just below the sternum and ending at the base of the tail. Using a stick to open the wound, I found that the entire chest and abdominal cavity were empty. Everything was gone, removed with almost surgical precision. There were stands of mucous all over the wound.

A bag of flour from the wheel chair's basket had been ripped open and scattered about. It had probably been protected from the rain by a plastic grocery bag. My first thought was that it had been torn open by the dog as it rummaged for food. But there were none of the dog's paw prints in the flour. It had already been dead when the flour bag was ripped open. There were prints though. Clusters of rubber ball prints all over.

It was like it wanted me to know it was there.

I decided to do my grocery shopping elsewhere.

Fortunately Dee had fallen asleep in the back seat of the Jeep. Emily was another matter. She was sitting in the front passenger seat trembling.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Monday, August 3, 2009

Dead Land Journal June 17th 2027

I must be the absolute worst parent ever.

I have been driving around town with Dee for days and no child safety seat, and now because of my negligence she has a broken arm.

I have set the bone to the best of my ability and have a splint on it. God, I have to find other people out there. What happens if she really gets sick or something worse happens.

She screamed the whole time, and I had to lock Emily up in the garage until I was done. Fortunately it was a clean break and I could easily feel the bone pop into place when I pulled her arm out straight. Her upper arm is just a massive bruise now and there are bruises on her lower arm from me setting the bone. I thought about putting a cast on it, but decided monitoring the arm for signs of infection would be more important.

I guess I just thought that since there were no cops around and I'm a careful driver, what can happen, right? Well Dee was sitting in the passenger seat of the little Smart, standing actually, when a deer bolted out in front of the car. I slammed on the brakes fast enough to avoid hitting the deer, but she was thrown into the dash. I'm lucky that all she broke was her arm.

Dee is asleep now, Emily curled up protectively by her. She growls every time I approach. I hope she calms down enough so I can check Dee's arm again soon.

There is not one single painkiller out there that does not have a warning about giving to children. I most have looked at everything in drugstore twice over. I thought about looking in the pharmacy, but I did not even know what too look for. Finally I just gave her a shot of whiskey. I know I'm a horrible parent right? I think we already determined that. But that is what my grandmother gave me whenever I was sick or hurt. My mother used to scold her for it. I think she was afraid of Gramma turning me into an alcoholic, but Gramma would just say "It was good enough for you!" and that would be that. Anyway it worked. She has been asleep ever since. I need to find one of those Physician's Desk References like my mother had. She just called it her "Pill Book" But I should be able to find something better to give her in there and proper dosage.

I found a car seat next door and I will use it from now on. I have a feeling Dee won't like it, but I will have to be firm about it. And kids are not supposed to ride in the front seat either so I will be going down Noland Road tomorrow. There is about a mile long strip down Noland that is almost nothing but car lots. I think I will get a four door Jeep. The Smart really is not practical anymore.

It's about supper time now, but I think I will let Dee sleep and give her a sandwich or something when she wakes up. Oh crap I forgot, no bread. Used the last of the bread up yesterday. All the bread that was left in the stores is either moldy or carried off by rats. Maybe some peanut butter on some saltines. I will think of something.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Dead Land Journal June 16th 2027

I was coming back from Wal-Mart after getting some clothes for Dee when I saw the antenna in the back yard of big two story house. I had Dee wait in the car with Emily while I checked the house out. What I found was better than I had any right to expect. When I first thought of finding a ham radio I envisioned lugging the thing home and setting it up in the garage.

Yeah. Not gonna happen.

The previous owner is, or was, obviously seriously obsessed. It looks like commercial broadcast booth. Fully equipped with sound mixers, tons of music stored on hard drives and even some vintage vinyl. It's a God damned pirate radio station really.

This guy had contacts as far away as Beijing. I don't know if any of them relied on outside relays though. I read that some ham radio operators do that, relay for other operators. But that probably is not something I can count on.

I set up a recorded message to broadcast every twelve hours. It was easier than I thought. The equipment was well labeled and all the manuals were on a shelf right there in the booth. Most of it was operated by a computer. I had Dee say the greeting. She was really cute saying "Hi!" into that huge microphone and was delighted to hear the playback. I figure a child's voice will get attention. I set it up to record any incoming messages. Although the radio is set up on its own generator, including a small AC unit for the booth, the rest of the house is reliant on city power, so staying there is not really a viable option. I will have to visit regularly to check on the generator and to see if there are any messages.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride