Author: Derek

Tropical Storm, No Hurricane, No Tropical Storm

I will admit to being a little concerned when the projected track for Elsa took it up the west coast of Florida. After all, The Wife and I have been in the new house for a little more than three months. And although Florida building codes are strong, I had this tickle in the back of my mind. The one that was screaming about how fast they’re churning out homes. How we keep finding little issues, like the dryer vent I talked about yesterday. So, we did a little bit of storm prep. I pulled in the grill from the back and The Wife’s decor from the front porch. We were a little perturbed with our neighbors who still had their garbage cans out due to a SNAFU with collections.

The rain came down and the wind blew. Not as bad as we feared. The Wife has anxiety around storms, so she didn’t get much sleep. Overall, we suffered one major casualty. The sapling tree in the front yard was blown down. The lawn guy’s coming out to take a look to see if he can get it back up. Failing that, he’ll get us in contact with someone who can.

Overall, not a bad first tropical.

Joys Of New House

Don’t get me wrong. I love our new house. I love that it’s a new house. Particularly with a tropical bearing down. However, because their cranking these houses out as fast as they can, sometimes we run into little issues.

Shortly after we moved in, the dryer’s performance degraded. Rapidly. Frustratingly. I blamed it on the fact that we got, as my nephew in the business calls them, “renters specials”. These were base model washer and dryers that came with the house. Okay, they were part of an upgrade package – which we mainly got because they put blinds on all the windows. I used the dryer’s poor performance to lobby for a sooner-than-planned upgrade for the washer and dryer.

New washer and dryer came in last week. LG’s recommended by one of the consumer sites I frequent. All the options I could want. (I am the family laundry person, so I want all of the fabric, temp, and spin options). Dryer still isn’t working right. However, because this is a nice, new, higher-end dryer, it tells me that the issue is it’s having issues with the dryer vent. Check the hose? Some there, but not a significant blockage.

We call the dryer vent cleaners we used at the old place. They tell us since we’re in a new-build house, the construction folks probably forgot to take the screen off the vent. We could call the builder office and put in a warranty issue. Last time we did that, it took better than a month. I’ll pay the damn service charge and get it fixed faster. In the meantime, we put a pantyhose on the dryer hose and at least get the week’s laundry finished. Okay, the laundry room was a little bit of a sauna, but at least it worked.

Vent tech came. Yep, they didn’t take off the vent screen. You could see the striations of lint from all of the loads of laundry. It was like the walls of a canyon. Except, you know, made of lint. Now to go fight with the warranty folks to see if they’ll refund us the service charge.

I feel like we’re in the shakedown cruise for this house sometimes.

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 8 – Chapter 78

Kirkwood, Missouri, 3 June 2011, 2330 hours local; Countdown: 6 months, 27 days

Evan Torrelli was deafened by the twin roars as he blasted the jumping humanoid creature with both barrels of his shotgun. He could barely hear its screech over the echoes of the shotgun’s report. Instinct took over as Evan snapped the shotgun’s breech open and yanked out the spent shells. As his hands dug around his pants for a pair of new shells, Evans finally got a look at what attacked him. In the odd combination of moonlight and orange-colored light from the streetlights, the creature looked like a withered human with slate black skin decorated with bright blue symbols. Its face was twisted into an inhuman snarl as it shook a crude black-bladed axe at him. The creature reminded Evan of a model of a caveman he’d seen on some field trip.

“Down kid!” shouted Jim. Evan barely hit the soft grass before Jim’s rifle boomed behind him. Evan heard the snap of the bullet over his head. The bullet lanced through the thin creature. The creature staggered back a step before sprinting at the cowboy. Jim shifted his grip on his rifle, holding the weapon more like a staff. The creature’s axe whistled through the air as it lashed at Jim. The cowboy caught the axe on his barrel before twisting and slamming the butt of his rifle into the creature’s chest. The blow drove the creature to the ground, but it sprang back and buried its axe into Jim’s chest.

“Stupid gollum,” Jim grunted, dropping his rifle. As the creature struggled to free its axe, Jim drew a monstrous revolver. The creature realized its mistake an instant before Jim fired. The creature flew off of Jim, letting out the most horrendous scream Evan could have ever imagined. Jim straightened, took aim with his revolver, and placed a single round into the creature’s head. Evan stared wide-eyed as the creature’s head exploded like a pumpkin. Then the creature withered away to dust before Evan’s eyes. His mind was grappling with what his eyes were seeing.

“Jim, are you okay?” Mateo called out. Evan shook his head as he suddenly realized he had lost track of Zombie Strike’s leader. Mateo was crouched behind the school’s electrical box taking down the zombies now staggering towards the trio. The four men that with the zombies were now sprinting away from them.

“Chest plate’s cracked. I think I’m bleeding,” Jim reported.

“Evan, how’re you doing?” Mateo asked casually as he placed a burst into a zombie’s head.

“I’m a little freaked out right now,” Evan blurted out. He finally managed to fish out a couple of shotgun shells. With slow and steady movements, he managed to reload his shotgun.

“That’s fine,” Mateo reassured the boy, “Would you please go check on Jim?” Evan nodded, and then cursed at himself. Mateo was busy killing zombies. He couldn’t see Evan nodding.

“Yes sir,” Evan said, hoping Mateo didn’t notice his screw-up. Evan rushed over to the cowboy’s side. The man had stripped off his web gear and shirt. Evan could see axe buried in what looked like plastic armor. Evan started to grab the axe handle, but Jim’s hand clamped down him.

“Just help me get this piece off,” Jim said. Evan could see the trickle of blood coming from the break in the armor. Jim showed Evan the quick release points. The plate clomped to the ground. There was a bloody gash in the undergarment.

“We need to get you to a doctor,” Evan said, staring at the wound.

“Doc’ll be here in a moment,” Jim said, standing up. Holding the big revolver in a loose Weaver stance, Jim took aim. With measured movements, Jim brought down four zombies with four shots from the revolver. Unconcerned about the approaching undead, Jim tucked the spent brass into a pocket and fed five fresh cartridges into the cylinder.

“Get into the fight, kid,” Jim said, snapping the cylinder back into the frame. Evan swallowed hard and looked at the zombies. There was now only about a dozen of the walking dead. The closest were maybe fifty yards away. A bit long for buckshot. Evan’s mind slid back to his hunting days. Okay, so maybe zombies were a little different from hunting deer. Zombies made things easier by coming to you. Evan popped out the two shells in his shotgun. He loaded two of the four slugs he kept in his back pocket. Even in the moonlight, Evan could see the golden bead of his front sight. He chose one of the closer zombies. A little Kentucky windage, and Evan squeezed the trigger. The heavy slug easily shattered the zombie’s decaying head before nearly tearing off the arm of the walker behind it.

“Not bad,” Jim commented, but Evan didn’t hear the words. He was too busy lining up his next shot. He felt as if he was taking forever to get a good bead on the zombie’s head. They were much smaller targets in real-life then they seemed on television. He jerked the trigger just a bit hard. Evan cursed under his breath as the slug tore out the zombie’s neck. It fell to the ground and started to crawl without pause. Then there was more gunfire. Suppressed bursts of automatic fire cut down zombie after zombie with an almost contemptuous ease. It took less than a minute before the last zombie dropped to the ground. Evan turned around to see the rest of Zombie Strike spread out in a traditional fire line.

“Clear!” shouted Chief Stahl as the last echoes of gunfire died away. “Sport, Slim, get down to that graveyard and make sure nothing else is coming up our way. Jess, cover them.” Two of the men nodded and dashed across the corpse-strewn field. Jess crouched down and brought her rifle up. Her big dog sat obediently next to him. Evan closed his eyes and forced himself to look away from her. She was too pretty for his teenage mind to handle properly, and he knew it. Maybe later he could work up enough courage to talk to her.

“Dude, you look like you just got sliced by a samurai sword,” The Steve commented as he started working on Jim’s wound.

“Gollum,” Jim grunted out as The Steve slathered the wound in a thick, gray paste.

“A gollum? We haven’t seen one of those in months,” Quentin McLintock said. The former linebacker’s face scrunched in thought.

“Which means your theory was incorrect,” the last member of the team said. He didn’t look like the others. He reminded Evan of his dad’s accountant.

“Thank you for that contribution Tredegar,” Mateo said, slinging his M4.

“Maybe not,” Quentin said, “What if they were looking for medallions here?” Evan was completely lost. He hoped it didn’t show on his face.

“Possible,” Mateo agreed cautiously, “That could explain their low numbers. Get down there and start searching.” Quentin nodded before sprinting off to the graveyard. Evan couldn’t believe anyone that big could move that fast. Mateo, Tredegar, and Chief Stahl walked away, talking amongst themselves. Evan stood there, not sure where he was supposed to go or what he was supposed to do. Jim motioned for the boy to sit down next to him.

“Relax Evan, it’s just time for the head honchoes of this outfit to start figuring out what to do next,” Jim explained. The Steve was finishing up with a patch of white gauze that stretched over Jim’s entire chest.

“Yeah dude, don’t worry,” the medic chimed in, “We’ll probably be dropping you home pretty soon.” Evan looked down. Part of him wanted to go home, curl up in bed, and pretend this never happened. Another part of him was heart-broken he wouldn’t get to stay with Zombie Strike. The two men didn’t say anything, but Evan could see their sympathy on their faces. His phone started singing Toby Keith’s latest hit. It took a moment for Evan to remember that was his new ringtone. Pulling the phone out of his pocket, he saw the number and froze. It was home. His parents were going to skin him alive. Evan slowly opened the phone, flinching as his father’s voice filled his ear.

“Evan, where are you?” he demanded. Evan shot upright. His father’s voice wasn’t the expected anger. His father sounded terrified.

“At the school,” Evan said his voice cracking as he spoke.

“Thank God,” his father breathed. Evan could hear his mother screaming in the background. The sound drove a spike of fear into the teen’s heart.

“Evan, listen to me, you need to go to the police station and stay there,” Evan’s father said. It was the same tone his father always used to lay down the law. “I don’t care what you hear or see on TV, you are not to come home.” There was the sound of shattering glass and then the unmistakable sound of gunfire.

“Dad!” Evan screamed into the phone, “What’s going on?”

“Zombies are attacking the house.” Evan’s father said, “Remember, we love you.” With that, Evan’s father hung up the phone.

[Zombie Strike Part 8 Chapter 79]

Another Peek Behind the Curtain.

This one’s another in my using the blog as a chronicle of my life.

After months of lies and delays, The Wife and I got fed up and told the furniture store to go fuck themselves, cancel our order, and give us back our money. Good news, we had our cash back. Bad news, we still needed a couch for the upstairs family room. Off to furniture store’s competitors. We wanted a leather sofa or loveseat that didn’t recline or have electronics. And something we could expect to be delivered in less than six months. Sweet FSM, you’d think we were looking for an antique from the colonial period.

One of the competitors said they might have something. Salesperson shows us a floor model of a discontinued line. It’s orange. Very orange. Burnt orange. Not something we’d thought would ever go into our house. We sit down. Damn. Comfy. Very comfy. He takes us around to a couple more that are more traditional in color, but won’t be available for weeks to months. None as comfy as the orange couch. He sees we’re leaning to the orange, but are are still a little leery. Takes us to the sleeper sofas.

It’s gray, so definitely more traditional. But it’s a sleeper. But it has a nifty way of rolling out into the bed that tickles that same part of my mind as my transformer toys. But not as comfy as the orange couch. But we wanted a sleeper sofa. But in the guest room downstairs, not the upstairs family room. But it’s not a bad price. Yeah, not a bad price. In fact, we had some money set aside for the guest room. Calculator. Uh, yeah, we’re taking both.

Actually, the orange couch looks pretty good up there.

Sometimes You Come Back On Your Shield…

Instead of with it. John Hurley stepped up and stopped a madman bent on killing police. Unfortunately, he was killed by responding officers who mistook him for the madman. First, let me offer my condolences to his family and friends. Mr. Hurley did a courageous thing, and I hope that offers them some comfort in their grief.

Yet, like many tragedies, this is a good incident to examine for lessons. J. KB over at Gunfreezone has a good examination of the event. I agree that Mr. Hurley should not have picked up the madman’s rifle. Also, making yourself as much a non-threat when the cops roll up is also a good lesson to take to heart.

However, you can still do everything right and end up shot by the cops. You may not know the danger is over and are still scanning for threats. They are rolling into an extreme situation. Adrenaline is pumping on all sides.

Understand that. You can do everything right and still end up dead. That’s another lesson that needs to be learned.

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 8 – Chapter 77

Kirkwood, Missouri, 3 June 2011, 2300 hours local; Countdown: 6 months, 27 days

Evan Torrelli waited in the shadow of a large tree. The fifteen-year-old’s shotgun was tucked in the crook of his arm. His dad would skin him alive if he knew Evan was toting the coach gun around on his bike. Evan hoped his dad would understand. The email said Evan would be safe waiting in the park, but Evan needed the extra reassurance. He’d seen too much in the last two days.

Evan didn’t much care for living so close to St. Louis. He was a farm boy, and he liked the wide open spaces. The city felt confined, almost to the point of claustrophobic. Evan understood Dad couldn’t run the farm anymore after his heart attack. They needed to go where the family could make a living. Teaching at a small Christian school wasn’t much, but the family was making it. Evan did his best to adjust.

Evans looked up into the night sky as he heard what sounded like a crop duster coming in close. He could barely see the darkened shape in the night sky. It looked like a sleeker version of the Osprey tilt-rotor helicopter Evans had seen at an airshow. A bullet shaped body with two huge props at the end of the straight wings. The sound of the props roared as they rotated up. The tilt-rotor came down in the park’s open area. Red light spilled out of the back of the plane as a ramp came down. Ten dark-clad figures and what looked like a big dog tromped down the ramp. Almost before all of them were off, the tilt-rotor levitated back into the sky. As soon as it was above the trees, the props came back down, and it shot off into the night sky.

“Easy with that scattergun, son,” a voice whispered in Evan’s ear. Evan froze in surprise. He didn’t even notice one of the figures slipping around him. A strong hand snatched the coach gun from under his arm. Evan turned around. The man was a foot taller than Evan, maybe six foot even. The man looked exactly like Evans imagined a spec ops soldier would look like. The soldier’s own weapon was slung as he unloaded Evan’s shotgun.

“Took a chance coming out here with a shotgun,” the man said with a low baritone voice, “What would you have done if you’d come across those guys you told us about?”

“Run like hell and only shoot if I didn’t have a choice,” Evan answered. The soldier smiled, his ivory teeth distorting the black streaks across his face.

“Good answer kid,” the soldier said. He handed the shotgun and shells back to Evan before motioning to the others. Evan’s eyes went wide as he recognized a few of the faces. Evan had been a huge fan of Zombie Strike! Well, at least until his mom couldn’t take the sight of undead anymore and banned it. The events of the last year didn’t help Evan’s pleading to watch the reruns. Still, he recognized three of the people. Quentin McLintock, Steve “The Steve” Mountain, and Mateo Cortez were all champions of the reality show. Evan swallowed and tried to keep cool. He wanted to impress his heroes. He didn’t recognize the others, but they looked a lot like the soldier who took away his shotgun. Except for the guy with the cowboy hat. Then his eyes locked on the face of the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen. His mind froze in shock. Any chance of keeping his cool was shot as he stared at the girl for a long moment.

“Eyes back in the head kid,” the soldier said, slapping Evan in the back of the head.

“Sorry,” Evan said, sheepishly. He could feel his ears burning with embarrassment. He didn’t feel any better when the others laughed. All except the girl. She just gave him a polite smile.

“Evan, I’m Mateo Cortez,” one of his heroes said, and outstretched his hand. Evan snatched it greedily. Mateo wasn’t flashy or had some gimmick. He was the everyman of Zombie Strike!, and Evan was a fan.

“I know,” Evan blurted, and then stopped. Cool, he needed to play this cool. Especially with that girl watching him. He tried not to look back over at her.

“Good. Are the vehicles parked where they were supposed to be?” Mateo asked.

“Yes sir,” Evan answered, “Right outside the park.” Evan pointed to where the three vans were parked.

“Good, you’re riding with me,” Mateo said, “Jim, you’re driving. Chief, get the others divvied up.” The soldier nodded. Mateo led Evan away from the group. The guy in the cowboy hat followed closely behind him.

“Did you actually see a zombie?” Mateo asked in a low voice. It took Evan a moment to realize the question was directed at him.

“Yes sir. There were a bunch of them,” Evan answered, remembering back to two nights ago.

“Can you remember how many you saw?” Mateo asked. Evan concentrated hard. He stumbled onto the guys in black raising zombies. He wasn’t trying to count the zombies. He was trying to run away. He settled down and framed the last image in his head.

“Ten or fifteen or so,” Evan finally answered.

“You sure?” Mateo asked. Mateo’s eyes bored into Evan’s. The boy swallowed hard and steeled himself.

“Yes sir,” Evan said, squeezing every ounce of confidence into his voice.

“Well, hell kid, you might just be useful,” the cowboy said, his light words filled with twang.

“Stow it Jim,” Mateo ordered. “Evan, I’m going to need you to take us back to exactly where you saw the men.” Evan nodded, trying to keep his fear from showing on his face. If Mateo saw past Evan’s façade, he didn’t say anything.

Mateo, Jim, and Evan climbed into the first van. Evan clung tightly to the seat at the cowboy sped through the streets following Evan’s instructions. Evan closed his eyes and waited for the van to roll over as Jim took a turn at nearly fifty miles an hour. The ride was mercifully short. In less than ten minutes, the van pulled up to the Christian school where his parents taught.

The cowboy unslung his big rifle as he stepped out of the van. Mateo unslung his M4 carbine. Evan loaded his shotgun. The cowboy looked over at the noise of the shotgun clicking closed and smiled. Evan led them around the converted church and through a small playground enclosed by a chain link fence. Maybe a hundred yards beyond the chain link fence was an old graveyard. Some of the older students snuck out to hang out amongst the gravestones. Evan liked to come out there at night. It was the only place that felt open enough and quiet enough to remind him of nights on the farm. Evan froze. They were back. In the moonlight, Evan could clearly see the four black-clad figures and the over twenty zombies. The undead were standing as if statues made of decaying flesh. They weren’t even moaning. The four figures were darting about the graveyard. It looked like they were searching for something.

“We have contact,” Mateo whispered into his mike. He had his M4 up and trained at the figures in the graveyard. “Four minions, maybe two dozen zombies.” Evan’s eyebrow quirked upward. Minions? Minions of who? Mateo listened for a moment and then made a hand motion to Jim. The big cowboy moved maybe thirty yards to the right before crouching down and aiming his big rifle. Evan was about to ask Mateo what to do. He stopped when his eyes caught movement behind the three of them. He turned back around, his shotgun coming to his shoulder. His shoulders tensed, like they did right before that hog had come out of the bush on his last hunting trip. It was something in the playground. Evans took a step closer, and something leapt into the air. Its screech broke the night’s silence. Evan pulled both triggers.

[Zombie Strike Part 8 Chapter 78]

Friday Quote – David Bowie

Discipline doesn’t mean you make sure you have breakfast at eight o’clock in the morning and you’re out of the house at half-past eight. Discipline means that when you conceive something, you decide whether or not it is worth following through, and if it’s worth following through, then follow it through to its logical conclusion – and do it to the best of your ability.

Can We Just Celebrate?

Last week President Biden signed legislation designating Juneteenth as the newest federal holiday. Of course, like everything in the news, this gets politicized. I’m kinda getting tired of it. We commemorate momentous events. Please explain to me how the end of slavery is not a momentous event. Yes, technically, slavery wasn’t officially ended until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment. However, that’s not the tradition that has arisen. Kind of like how we celebrate Independence Day on July 4 instead of September 3.

So, instead of letting the chattering class whip up dissent, how about we remember those who suffered under that terrible institution and those who fought and died to end it.