This whole staying at other people’s houses just bites; she thought to herself, the only reason I am here is because they have power and internet access. I just want to go back home; Home to a house with no electricity, heat or water. At least she had the cats with her; she couldn’t bear to leave them up there alone. Ever since the event people had to relocate if they wanted to be able to work and everyone on this side of the river worked from home because there wasn’t an easy way to cross the river, not to mention petrol was a huge expense.
There were a dozen people living at her friend Sheri’s house. Janice was lucky, at least she had friends she could stay with and didn’t have to wait on a list for housing. Sheri’s husband worked for one of the big telecoms so his house was designated as a home that needed energy. Plus because he took in people everyone could pool their allotments so that there was power, water, and all the other utilities 18 hours a day. The small hydro plant on the lake in front of his house helped to provide extra power too and would eventually be able to power more houses in the area that could be used by other people.
“I always wondered what a commune felt like,” sighed Janice as she washed the vegetables that had been picked from the community garden down the street, “I realize that this was all a must do since the event, I think I just miss my freedom. Don’t get me wrong I am happy to be here and that you let me bring the cats. It’s just…..Well crowded”
Sheri laughed, “You know you say that about once a week. I find it funny that it took a major event like this for you to actually get out and socialize.”
“I am not sure I would ever call this socializing. Although I do enjoy teaching again, nice small class of three kids who actually want to learn,” replied Janice,” but this is sure better than sweltering up in the hills alone every day.”
“I heard you might take on two more children,” said Sheri as she continued cutting the vegetables up for the salad.
“Yes, a couple of parents from up river asked if I would take their children, I guess the tutor they have is overloaded with students or something. I didn’t really investigate much. I said I would meet with the kids to see where they are academically and if they are compatible with this group here, since they will be coming for the day only I don’t want much disruption in the classroom,” explained Janice.
Janice looked out the window and watched the boys and men try to erect something in the yard. “Sheri what are they trying to build today?”
“I don’t know I heard someone mention a windmill, although that just looks like a messy pile of wood. It keeps them busy for a couple of hours.” Sheri replied, “So what are the kids going to learn tomorrow in class?”
“Jack wants to take them on a nature and survival hike, which means mud and swimming I am sure. I agreed because the kids do need those skills. I believe Harriet has them in the morning for a music lesson, their little quartet is coming along nicely,” responded Janice, “I am meeting with the families tomorrow, and it is all just a formality though. The Browns are just one house down and as long as their daughter is up to speed with our kids it should be okay, I so dislike remedial education. The other family is a bit different. They aren’t known as well in these parts. It is just a father and son. The father travels some looking for work. I am not sure his son will adapt as well to the classroom, but we will see.”
“What is the family name?” asked Sheri.
“Dover or Plover? Something like that. He called instead of sending an email and you know how poor the reception is” replied Janice, “he must have money if he has a cellular phone though.”
“If they travel where are they staying?” inquired Sheri.
“No idea really the phone call didn’t last long. He asked if I was the teacher in the area and if I had room for a student, I said yes and suggested he come by tomorrow. He said he knew where your house was.”
“Well if they come around dinner tomorrow we will invite them to stay the night and join us for a community meal,” said Sheri in her cheery way, “I just know how much you enjoy having guests.”
Janice smirked as she picked up the bucket of grey water, “yea I just love visiting with strangers. So which part of the garden gets watered now?”
“The herbal garden needs water right now,” replied Sheri has she began laying out the food they had prepared on the trestle table, ”Hey while you are out there can you ask Matthew to bring in the venison and the bread, I need to cut them up before we eat.”
“Sure no problem,” said Janice as she walked outside to water the plants.
As Janice went outside she glanced up to see if she needed UVB protection. The good thing about living on the river was that there was always a lot of cloud cover and the yard had a lot of older trees in it to keep the damaging rays away. This was one of the bad things about the event, the Ozone was nearly gone and skin cancer was the biggest health threat.
“Oh I will just chance it, I am only going out for five minutes,” she muttered to herself, “besides it is too hot to put on a long-sleeved shirt.”
Looking up she caught Matthew’s eye, “hey Janice, dinner about ready?”
“I don’t know you tell me if the venison and bread are done, you guys have been out in the summer kitchen all afternoon,” she replied.
“It is I was just letting the meat rest for a while, I will bring it in to my lovely wife,” he said with a wicked grin, “I will get Jack to ring the dinner bell.”
“Sounds good I am just going to water the herbs, and then I will be in. Do NOT let your dog sit in my chair again,” she said quickly, “I saw him playing around in the lake, and last time he soaked my chair through.”
Jack rang the dinner bell and everyone came to the dining room for dinner.
The next day Jack and Janice met to discuss the hike and survival training he was going to take the children on. Janice wanted to stress that the children really need not go swimming every time they went out on a hike. She could understand if they didn’t live on the river, the like the families across the way, but Jack just loved playing around with the children.
“Now Jack you know that this unit of education is important. The children need to understand the dangers of being out-of-doors too long, identifying the plants which are edible and which are not, they also need to become more proficient at tracking small game,” stressed Janice. She knew Jack couldn’t help himself, even though he was a grown man his love of nature and having fun seemed to rule his head more than anyone else in their small enclave.
“Yes Janice I know,” sighed Jack wishing his friend would relax about the education of the three children a bit; he did take them on these hikes at least once every three months. She behaved like every day was another apocalypse in the making. He knew it was because she had lost a lot. Not knowing if her family out on the coast was safe and not being entirely sure where her husband was since had disappeared at the same time as the event.
“Janice I promise to have them name the plants we encounter. They are going to draw them out, color them and list the pros or cons of the plant, they will do the same thing with the bugs and any small creatures. I think Jacob is bringing his camera so we can take pictures of everything for the scrap-book you have to submit to the education authorities,” Jack replied showing that he was very ready for this trip.
“Okay, please if you let them go into the water just tell them to go wading, that way they won’t come soaked through like last time.” She said smiling at him.
“Janice did Elias tell you that we are going into the hills in a few days to hunt?” Jack asked, “I was wondering if you wanted to go check on your home and we can see if there was any word from Max.”
“No, I might have 2 new students to prepare for, and going back is just so hard.” Replied Janice as tears welled up.
Jack hugged her; he knew it was hard for her to admit that she didn’t want to go home even though she really wished she could be up there in the hills in her old neighborhood. He knew she loved her little brick cottage up in the hills and it had been very hard for her to come down to the river to live with them. Only because she was so worried about Max, but it had been 2 years since the event, many didn’t think anyone who got lost would be returning ever.
“It is okay you don’t need to go. We will probably stay at your place while we are up there. It is in the protected zone since the school building and the church are nearby, if that is okay with you.”
Janice dried her eyes, “yes that is fine. You might want to collect anything you find at the house which we might need down here. The books are probably all decayed after all this heat and damp, but the kitchen might have some useful items, if we can’t use it we can always barter for something we need.”
Jack watched Janice walk back to the school room where the strains of a small musical quartet could be heard warbling a bit off-key. He really wished that either Max would come home or that Janice could forget about the life she had shared with Max and notice that there were other available men right there waiting to take care of her.