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A Journal of Life on the Mississippi (The Epic Stoner Novel)

This is book that shows a different perspective of life in America. I have included chapter 1 in text below as well as the URL to the PDF version on my AOL page. The book is 15 chapters long and details life in America after a global economic crash initiated in the 70s. America has returned to frontier style justice and trade is a way of life for everybody. Please let me know what you think.

Jal

jalepenoenma@aol.com

https://hometown.aol.com/jalepenoenma/myhomepage/book.html

Chapter 1

This is a dream. Or it’s my journal. I’m a merchant. I trade stuff for other stuff. I lived in Boston for a while when everything started going to hell. I lost my job like everyone else. I pawned off most of my shit, then reclaimed some back during the riots which always seemed to follow bad news. It was August and I remember thinking that it was cool here. But it was still hot where my Aunt lived down near Memphis. My landlord was a tough old broad. She had me on the commons trading shit every other day. I barely had time to myself for running down her shit. She traded for anything she could trade back off. I usually just traded for the stuff I could manage, but she liked to trade for shit that we would have to get rid of in a hurry like produce and meat. She convinced me to trade for liquor whenever a good deal presented itself.

I went to Framingham for a swap meet once where she expected to trade for some fuel oil for her furnace. I suddenly became afraid of the cold which would descend onto Boston quickly. While the phones were still working, I called my Aunt who had a little grocery store outside of Memphis. My Aunt was all I had of a family. My folks bought it year ago thanks to some drunk asshole in a Buick. She was not doing too well. Memphis wasn’t the war zone that Boston was becoming, but I was still not happy to hear she was having a hard time. She had been robbed a few times by some Niggers and a group of Orientals. This made my blood boil. She said I could come down whenever and that she had help to defend her property. The robbery was just a mishap. Still I wasn’t in the mood to lose the last member of my family.

I started my trip to the broiling fucking south. I had to trade my shit down till I was able to carry what I still owned. But I traded well. I was going to miss my bike, but the clutches were shit and I didn’t have the trade to fix it. So I got it running so-so and traded it off. I knew that fuel would guarantee me a ride so I traded for as much as I could get. But I was only able to secure a small amount of gasoline and some alcohol fuel. I caught a ride with a guy who was running his car on kerosene and homemade liquor which had become tainted and an even smaller portion of gasoline. The car ran like shit, but the radio worked so I didn’t have to listen to this guy boo-hoo all the way to Cincinnati. But we had to go up to Gardner first to pick up somebody else he knew who said they had some gas. I remember going by the Big Chair for the last time and seeing the people who lived in it. I guess it was dry.

They were having a swap meet at a Church/Hotel where I traded some of my best Bud-Meat for some oil and a set of points for Asshole’s car. I tried to keep him stoned most of the time so he would just shut the fuck up. He just went on and on about his losses. Hell who didn’t have losses? I tried to trade weed for some pussy, but got nowhere. Asshole redeemed himself for the moment by pitching me a couple of cans of peas (the little ones) which I quickly auctioned off among the sluts for a totally working knobber from a Latino girl named Marissa. I tipped her a little bud and got Asshole totally stoned for the rest of the day.

We finally caught up with his friend who had conveniently been robbed of the gas. He begged to come with us and I finally got to see some backbone out of Asshole who proceeded to beat the shit out of this guy screaming at him about how much fuel he had already cost him and on and on. I think the guy on the ground got the entire losses speech that I had to listen to on the way up, but he got slugged with every high point in the conversation. Asshole was quite the psycho when he wanted to be. Me and Marissa just watched for a while till she finally piped up that she knew where some gas could be found. I had to laugh as the bloody face looked up with hope in his eyes. Asshole tossed him down and walked toward us. His former friend was begging for a ride. She said she knew a guy who would trade for weed which I had plenty of.

Seems I am the sole witness to a Drug Deal Gone Bad. I got a duffel bag full of weed and a little bag of coke and a bag of junk food which was worth gold till I consumed most of it myself. We got in the car and went to the place. It was an old fast food place with metal drums all over. I managed to trade a teaspoon of coke and a baggy of weed for seven gallons of good smelling gasoline. It was only slightly amber and the dude swore it was premium. I think it was. The car was now able to break the twenty six mile per hour mark. The lunging and lurching were also over. The chick fucked me for some weed and a snoot full and I told her where to find me if she ever got to Memphis. She WAS a good fuck after all. We spent the night at Asshole’s friends place while he spent the night trying to redeem himself by finding some food and more gas.

Asshole started the car at dawn and we left before the poor shit could return. Maybe he got torched by a gang or went to con someone else. I could give a shit. I stole a copy of Hustler I found in his place. I always liked Hustler when I was in the Navy because the ads in the back were always prime yankin quality porno. At least I had something I could use to bargain with asshole. The drive was uneventful. The traffic was nearly non-existent and lots of cars were abandoned. The freeway was no better but at least we go to stay on the road all the way to Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh really sucked. I traded some more weed for fuel and some cans of Vienna sausage and another big can of potatoes. Me and asshole eat well if nothing else. He is more of a vegetable person than me, but I eat whatever he offers. He has cans of spinach and collard greens and such. I swiped a can of hominy from him before the trip was up. My duffel bag was starting to make room for food and such. I traded for a can of Bud in Newark Ohio which I was going to save till I got to Memphis.

Asshole’s car started giving us shit outside of Springfield. We hit another swap meet and found a guy who had an electric fuel pump and claimed it would work just as good. Of course it didn’t. We could only drive the car for about twenty minutes till it flooded and quit with a black cloud following us. We had to let it dry out for almost as long so the trip to Cincinnati sucked the rest of the way. I parted company with Asshole who had found the love of his life. His girlfriend was waiting at her parent’s house just as she had said and he proposed on the spot. He wanted me to be a best man for him, but I felt it was like lying or something and told him I had to go. I ended up staying for another couple of days. Her family was pretty big in town and they threw a Kennedy’s style wedding. I didn’t see how such a worm like Asshole rated all this, but he was a rich boy in the old days. I guess rich families never really lose it all.

I met a little Italian chick at the reception. We walked out to a big garden behind the big house where the families were partying. As we walked along the flower lined walkways I remember thinking how these people never seemed to work in the real world. They were so far out of my league. But here I was with one of the daughters smoking a joint and squeezing her tits. She threw the longest tongue down my throat and eventually down my shorts as we went into a greenhouse for a respite fuck. I had to keep her quiet a few times. She laughed alot and squealed more. After I sat by the pool another day I knew it was time to split. I packed and I walked to the freeway and started looking for a ride south.

I caught a ride to Aurora from a guy who had an old motorcycle with a side car. It was actually fun, kind of hard to keep my pipe loaded and burning. But not impossible. I then did the Tom Sawyer thing and helped push a raft to Paducah. What a stoopid fuckin name, Paducah. I traded some bud and my arm strength to get down the Ohio river in this primitive way, but it was a gas. We were pushing a big raft made of metal drums with lights and everything. All night long we stared forward to avoid objects and assholes who decided to anchor in the middle for the night. The owner of the raft had a hand generator that we took turns at to keep the lights and the music going. It had batteries as well, but the generator kept them charged up. It rained a little, but it wasn’t too bad and the boat owner let us take a break while he ran us down the river with the little gas motor he had for the return trip up the river. He bitches about it taking him three times as long to get back. He also has some weird tapes but he has some good shit too so the trip doesn’t totally suck.

One of the guys I got stoned with said the Mississippi was dangerous and fucked up and going all the way to Memphis was a mistake. He was an older dude who shared some wine made from scuppernongs with me while we were toking. It wasn’t half bad. I got off the raft and walked my happy ass off all the way to Mayfield. I got offers for rides, but I got a problem with people who are armed more than me. Just south of Mayfield I went to a flea market and managed to trade into a ride to Dyersburg Tennessee. From there it wouldn’t be too long a way to Memphis. I was in the back of a truck that was running on fuel oil/moonshine and was slow as hell. I bet I could get out at one point to take a piss and run back to catch the truck! The dude who had the truck was kind of religious and traded me for a can of beets that I found and a knife that I fucked up trying to sharpen on a brick.

It was more like a trade of obligation. He was giving me the ride really. He was OK I guess. I was asleep most of the trip. We stopped in Union City where he picked up a niece and her daughter. They were kind of trapped there when the fuel shortage shut down their bus trip. Kelly, the grandniece sat in the back with me. She was 17 and kind of shy. She was pretty fine looking and any other time I would have done the deed, but with her family able to look in at any time, I decided to keep it cool. So we just passed the pipe very carefully and kissed a little. She slid her hand down my pants at one point and I had to turn over so we wouldn’t be seen. She was a horny little thing. Dyersburg wouldn’t be too far away after all. I should start making myself at home any way I can.

In Dyersburg the Reverend put me in touch with a guy who had a train of sorts. It was a truck, I remember reading the word READING on the back of it as I rode in one of the three small trailers he was towing on the train tracks. I got a ride into Memphis for nothing. I did promise to kick ass if anyone tried to stop the train so the engineer and I got along OK. I had to walk from the place he let me off at to Raleigh where my Aunt lived. I was totally happy to see her. September in Memphis is kind of hot. I sweat my ass off as I cut wood for fuel to cook with. The Memphis utility went broke and water is about the only thing that still works thanks to planning by the old Memphis government. At least some of those assholes were doing their job for the public good instead of simply lining their fucking pockets.

One of the assholes who robbed my Aunt actually came back to the store to buy some squash with a bag of nails he probably swiped somewhere else. Nelson, a black guy who worked for my Aunt many years recognized him and pulled him out to where I was chopping. After we beat the shit out of him, Nelson tied him up and held his arm against the stump we use for splitting. He told me to chop off the jerk’s hand. I was not ready for this and the guy was begging. Nelson grabbed him by the hair and said that he should cut the jerk’s throat instead. We finally let him go but we kept the nails and his knife and a silver dollar he had. He got off light. I settled into Delta living pretty well. I still had a fair quantity of Yankee weed on me. Actually I think it was Colombian. It was really good shit though. Nelson had planted about half an acre of weed along the fence behind the store.

What we were hoping for was enough to keep us stoned through the winter. Nelson had some really killer buds from Mississippi so I decided to share my only can of Bud with him. He then told me that there was plenty of beer in Memphis. We just had to trade for it. Nelson was well connected, but not terribly organized. He took me to downtown Memphis one night to see some sights. We went to a bar on Beale street that had a hotel on top. I traded some buds and a couple of cans of soup for some drinks and managed to scare up some pretty good dark pussy. She was kind of a bitch so I grudge-fucked her for being a bad slave. If she wanted more trade, she should have said so before my dick was in her. I don’t bargain while I’m busting a nut. Nelson was on the other side of a cloth partition giving a little red haired white chick the fucking of her life judging by the way she was making noise. I got dressed and smoked some bong hits with the black bitch who remained naked so I could admire her shiny brown skin. Nelson peeked in and I went back downstairs with him.

We had some moonshine down in the bar and I got totally ripped. Nelson had a friend with a wagon and we cruised the rest of Memphis getting stoned and raising hell. We even caught a strip show in the bar across from the Graceland Hotel where Elvis lived. On the way back into town we picked up a guy from Alabama. He was trying to sell folks on the idea of steam engines. Nelson and I laughed at the idea till we listened more. It actually sounded OK. We could have lights and such and use wood for fuel or anything else that burns. I never cut a deal when I’m fucked up so I invited him to show us what he had. We stopped along the way home to trade some hinges for some copper tubing and buffalo fish. Not an awful fish, but not wonderful either.

Nelson had a car nobody would steal. An old cricket with the back seat and trunk cut out into a truck bed. He keeps the car kind of fucked up so it won’t get stolen. He even took out the regular fuel tank and uses a really small one under the hood. It does the job. We also traded for some butter beans and homemade corn bread and half a smoked chicken which we devoured in our stoned, munchie state. Life is good.

The very next day the steam engine guy showed up. He had pictures and diagrams and such from his plant in Winston County Alabama. He had an entire machine shop that he converted to steam which he fired with coal from the adjoining hills. The deal was to include a generous portion of coal to start the system rolling. The price was kind of high, but we came to an agreement that my Aunt didn’t like. I convinced her that there was a living to be made here. We could generate electricity and operate a saw as well as other machines which we could use to produce trade goods of all kinds. One of Nelson’s friends is an ace mechanic who thinks it’s a workable idea. So I’m on the road again. This time to Natural Bridge Alabama to see one of these engines in action. I also plan to trade some homemade wine for deer meat in Tupelo and I hope to find some corn meal and maybe some crawfish.

I stuck a note up on the board in the mall to try for a ride as far as Tupelo and got one response from a guy who was going as far as Hamilton. He wasn’t a regular stoner so I did the deal for some liquor and a couple of pounds of smoked bacon. Fuel was to be split along the way at various trading stops. He had a Toyota truck and we made a deal to do some big trading so we didn’t drive back empty. He wasn’t too hip to the idea of trading pot around. But when I managed to get the truck filled up on the first stop he got very interested in the stuff. Gasoline is a fuck of a lot easier to get down here than it was in Boston. We stopped in Tupelo for some much needed food. Seems Mr. Straight ‘n Narrow developed quite a liking for weed and was suffering from his first munchie crisis. We were shocked to find a dude selling Polish looking sausages grilled with onions along with sourdough bread wreaking of garlic. I was in heaven. It would have been an expensive trade, but I had something he really wanted; a can of sauerkraut with caraway seeds.

We also shared a drink from our only bottle of booze that my host had along for such trading occasions. He said it sweetened the deal everywhere he went. The stuff tasted like piss I guess because he must have a small bit of every bottle he ever saw since the fifties. It soon had me begging for water. The local government no longer allows traffic on these waterways in north Mississippi and Alabama. At least no motorized traffic is allowed. I saw a bunch of folks on a raft that had a couple of converted bicycles for propulsion. It was kind of weird looking, but it was moving up river right by where we stopped for a leak. In the bushes of course. It reminded me of the washer that Nelson and I made out of Bicycle parts. We got the idea from Gilligan’s island. It kicked our asses for a week among the other chores we had to do. I was glad to be on the road while he tried to make it work. But he will probably bribe that friend of his with some of our dwindling party supplies.

I really like clean clothes and I thank god for the people who still make soap. It was getting dark when we arrived in Hamilton. The driver stopped in front of a hotel that was a Big Bear grocery store. Another stupid name from the south. I guess the weird thing was the lights. Most of the block had electric light. I saw the usual lanterns everywhere, but so much electric light was really unusual. I talked with a guy in the hotel bar who explained the conversion of an old military generator from diesel to steam. I begged for a look and explained the reason for my trip. Seems I found the other guy’s competition. He was glad to try and steal the deal and led the way up the lighted street to his plant. It was noisy as fuck in the building. The heat was like 3 o-clock on Mud Island. The whole thing was very organized. On one side guys were chopping up wood and breaking coal with sledge hammers. The wood was put into a chamber below the coal in a big brick oven looking thing. The thing was fed by a small water tower out back which had a guy pumping water from a well to fill it. They drain about a third of the tank each time they fill the boiler which must be fed about every hour. From the brick oven a large pipe carries the steam to the converted diesel engine in the next room. It was bizarre looking with lots of pipes and tons of welded fittings. It was huge.

He said under steam power he could not get the same performance from the engine and had to settle for less than specified power figures. But it worked and the owner said he never did any real ball busting work as long as he had electricity to trade. He was rich in his own way. He tried hard to sell me on it and even showed me another unit he had that was ready to go. But he wanted more trade and the whole thing was very complicated. I put him off and caught up with Mr. Straight n’ Narrow at the hotel game room doing a fair job of staying afloat in a draw poker game. He agreed to meet me in the morning and I got a room for myself. More like a closet. But as I turned from the desk with my key I was facing a real fox of a southern chick. She was a little hefty, and started a sob story about losing her house which I cut short by explaining how tired I was of hearing about losses again and brought her to the point.

She said she would like to trade. I traded. It was worth it. She really knew how to hone the bone. As agreed I also took her to breakfast I guess so she could show off her catch or whatever as it seemed she knew everyone in the restaurant. I gave the cook the high sign when I went for a piss. He and I passed the peace pipe and he made me a killer breakfast. I had eggs and a chopped steak made with deer meat. I love the south. I paid for her meal with a small bag of nails. These days it pays to carry a lot of different shit to trade with. I seem to be eating tons of cornbread these days. But it travels well. In the morning I went out to the lot and met my chauffeur.

The trip to Natural Bridge was short and we had no trouble finding the place as it had a huge sign from when it was a tourist trap of sorts. The guy I met in Memphis was real glad to see me and we went immediately to see what he had. It was really done right. The water came from a creek and was filtered in a homemade water plant which was made up of steel barrels and plastic pipe. He also used a brick house for a boiler, but it was much smaller. He had a friend in Birmingham who supplied him with coal. He said wood just takes too much work. He built the steam engine out of steel pipe and such. The whole thing used regular motor oil and was actually much simpler than the one in Hamilton. It made noise, but it was nothing compared to that other hunk of steel. He used a shaft from each side of the piston and had one turning a band saw and the other pumping water from a well for drinking and such.

He showed me how he used it to drive 2 generators at night or he could use them one at a time. He was able to produce enough power for a shop and several homes. I told him about the guy in Hamilton and he said another guy dealt with him and ended up coming out to Natural Bridge for the real deal. I guess he’s a good salesman. I learned about power in the Navy. I was a radio operator for a while but I got busted for slugging an asshole and spent the last year as a deck ape. But I can make anything you want out of rope. I am also an excellent painter. My Naval attitude went to hell when I failed an inspection for having lint on my new shoes from the tissue in the box. I scrubbed heads till my feelings for the Navy nearly caused me to split. But a friend talked me into sticking out my last few months.

At least I got out with an honorable ticket. It helped when the VA hospitals were still on government money. Now they work for food like all of us. But they still treat vets pretty good. Especially in Memphis. I had to go there when a long wood splinter punctured my leg then moved away from the hole. A cool guy at the VA traded his work for some of the coke I had. He can use it to offer pain free work to those who could afford it. I guess doctors will never really change. So the parts for a steam engine were to be collected by myself and Nelson in Memphis and when we had what we needed we were to send him a note and he would bring up the rest of the stuff and his know how. He threw in a set of the drawings just in case he got hit by a bus or something. Of course the only way to hit a bus these days was to use your fist. Most any bus you see was a home now. A nice air conditioned bus ride back to Memphis would be great.

But instead we made our way back in the truck using some home made fuel mixed with gas. The truck smokes real bad, but it runs pretty smooth. We made a stop for some meat in Tupelo. I was fortunate to trade for some wheat flour and a bottle of real gin. We waited till dark to finish the trip into Memphis to keep the meat as cool as possible. Ice was expensive but worth it for the 4 coolers of meat we carried back. I was glad to be back home at my Aunt’s place and Nelson just about kissed me for finding real gin. My Aunt used the flour to make a batch of brownies which were quickly devoured. I couldn’t remember my last brownie. It must have been one of those cheap ones in a package. Nothing compares to homemade. I found myself thinking about Asshole up in Ohio. I wondered how his married life was treating him. I pictured him totally wimped out by his wife and mother in law. I also pictured him back-handing them with a torrent of harsh words. Asshole had a short fuse.

While I was gone there was another robbery on the street. It was an older couple who were known for hoarding all kinds of shit. Seems they took my advice and left a bunch of decoys around which were almost all taken while one of the dick heads kept them covered with a homemade gun. The old lady said these were the same guys she saw running out of my Aunt’s store last time before I arrived in Memphis. I spoke with a friend of Nelson’s who seemed to be the guy who took most of the stolen shit in on trade. I was pretty pissed about it and he said he didn’t care where the shit came from. But he agreed to give up the assholes in a set up if he could have some of my coke and as long as he was out of the picture. I agreed but decided to set a trap of my own.

Me and Nelson had built a barbecue pit a short ways from the house. We rigged the lid to dump a bunch of gas onto the flames below and create a good blast. We used mostly bones and fat for bait and started the show burning. It wasn’t long after we went into the house that we heard an asshole in the back yard screaming. Man was he fucked up. The hair on his face was turned to carbon and ash. We threw some gray water on him and tied him up. My Aunt recognized him as did the old woman down the street. Nelson suggested we cut off his hand but he begged so Nelson gave him a prison style tattoo that said thief across the side of his face. Nelson gut punched him a couple of times and threw him into the back of the cricket/truck. We drove down to the Raleigh Springs Mall where all the other thieves were accustomed to hanging out at night.

We threw the asshole out of the back and onto the asphalt. He was kicking and trying to yell past his gag. It was obvious he was trying to signal someone when Nelson pulled out a knife. He was holding it to the guy’s throat and more of the crowd started moving our way. Probably defending their own in the thief world of things. I didn’t care about that. Nelson was in psycho mode. I couldn’t control him. I said No man just in time to see Nelson shove the knife into the guys chest. The crowd was stunned. Nelson said that any other son of a bitch gets caught breaking into a Raleigh home would receive the same treatment. What the fuck could I do at that point? I joined in by placing a price on the head of the other dick we were looking for. I imagined a wanted poster with a reward of a ham and a bottle of wine and a sack of corn meal.

Nelson’s friend The Fence was a little unnerved by the demonstration but agreed to keep trading with us. Word got out pretty quick about what happened. Nelson told me the guy he cut had also beat up a girl he knew. He had no problem removing him from society. And that’s just what he told the Marshall when he asked about the story. The Marshall thanked us and had us sign a statement and accepted some ham and corn bread from my Aunt. She always thought it was good to have lawmen on good terms. That is except lawyers. But there weren’t too many of them around anymore. Nelson and I searched the whole of Memphis for steam engine shit. It was a total pain in the ass. But in the long run it was worth it. While trading in Frasier we managed to get two complete CB sets for one can of creamed corn. Other folks we knew had them lying around so we decided to organize our efforts into a kind of network around Memphis. It made trading much easier. The CB stuff takes much less power than the ham equipment others were using.

After pouring a cement slab for the engine to mount to, we began to build the boiler house. We had all the bricks we could want just for the taking all over Memphis and mortar was pretty common as well. We finally had most of the stuff ready so I went ahead and sent the card back to Natural Bridge. Mail is a funny thing as you have to guarantee postage in the form of a barter for something upon arrival. The stamp area might say a can of something or some cigarettes or whatever. The one going to natural bridge was for a chicken. I guess he really wanted my business. I went down to the main post office in Memphis where all the mailmen still work for trade. Of course they also own it since a union settlement a few years back. Who would have ever imagined it would not make it without Uncle Sam? But it went back into business some time back and is actually pretty reliable.

One could also relay a message by paying to have it written on a vehicle which was bound to have to make stops in trade areas. Not too reliable, but it did work. I remember when me and Mr. Straight n Narrow would stop and people would rush toward the truck looking for writing. He thought it was stupid and contemplated painting the words No Messages on this truck in bright paint to avoid all the people. It took 3 weeks for a reply. Thanks to a sort of strike at the Holly Springs post office. But the guy was on his way. The weather was getting cooler and my Aunt with the help of other ladies and girls from the neighborhood was busy preserving food for the winter months. Everywhere there are jars of every color. And the women were frantically pacing themselves. This meant a need for more firewood and sore backs for Nelson and me. We also ran the smoker night and day preserving the abundance of pork my Aunt traded for and any fish or other game. Beaver is really good. The whole critter tastes like a filet mignon.

Nelson’s weed grew OK, but the buds are real small. Since there is nearly an acre of it around the fences we will have more than enough to survive the winter. Nelson shot a raccoon one time near the fence. He thought it was eating our weed, but a squash vine was growing among the scoob. So we cooked him. Not too bad. Nelson’s girlfriend did a kind of oriental thing with it. It was a good munchie chaser. I still prefer beef, but it’s not as common. The only shame about the raccoon is that the others who kept our trash pile from overtaking us were scared away by the shot. Nelson is a crack marksman so he is trusted with the limited supply of bullets. I really suck with anything but my trusty 38. But I am down to about 30 shots so I carry it only when away from the house or out trading. Nelson has no doubt the coons will be back when it gets a little colder. For now we build a massive compost heap.

The dude from Natural bridge arrived with a truck full of stuff. It looked like a machine shop on wheels. It smoked like hell so I guessed he was running that dirty coal oil or whatever it was that he helped us find. He was towing a trailer full of coal and his wife with their three loud as fuck hell hounds which looked just like the both of them and Satan. Man these kids were a handful. Thank god the neighbors wanted some meat bad enough to watch them at their pool for two days. We worked our asses off trying to get the engine together. Lots of measuring and adjusting. But once it was finished the whole thing moved as smooth as silk. We loaded the boiler house and lit the fire. It took forever for the needle to say we had enough steam to run the show. We opened the valve and Nelson started turning the flywheel. He almost pulled out his shoulder but he kept it turning till we were able to open the valve more than half way. The wheel started turning on it’s own so quickly that Nelson nearly busted his ass on the cement.

It was beautiful. I laughed my ass off as he picked his bent nigger frame off the ground in obvious but not serious pain. It just started running and kept on going. We let it heat up then we poured on the steam. We recorded the settings and measured the top speed and checked oil consumption and all kinds of other shit that reminded me of the Navy. We stopped the steam while we hooked up the generator. The pressure relief valve scared the living shit out of all of us. We used a length of tubing from it which made an earsplitting shriek. We quickly fixed that problem when the engine was restarted. It took only a slight push to get the wheel turning. The lamp came on almost immediately letting us know the power was coming. We switched on the house and turned some shit on. I even ran the blender with water in it just to watch it do it’s thing. I guess I was pretty stoned.

Power is a good thing. Nelson brought out his Gibson and plugged his amp in for the first time in years. He said the gasoline generators put a nasty whine into his tunes which made him even more blue than normal. After a night of very loud partying we made our first payment for getting our power station up and running. They will be eating our smoked meat in Natural bridge for some time to come. We also made a deal for fuel which is where this guy really makes his dough so we plan to look into other sources of heat. Not that I have any problem dealing with this dude, but he can be rubbed out one way or another. And fuel was going to become very important as winter approached. We would have to rely on the railroad system for coal from Alabama or Kentucky and the trains were very few these days. A few restored steam trains are working regular routes, but trade is expensive with them. Food would be the least of our concerns for the cold weather thank god.

I placed a couple of bulletin board ads for fuel. I offered food in trade and was swamped with requests. People have a funny way to think of things as fuel. I traded for a truckload of corn cobs which burn great in the wood stove and the boiler could use them too. I really hit the jackpot when a guy traded his tank full of gas from an old Caddy for some canned tomatoes and deer meat sausage. I now had enough to power the bike Nelson swapped for a few bags of weed. I also traded for a nice sawed-off shotgun. Nelson put me in touch with it as he thought it to be more useful to me than my pistol. I even have a place on the front of the bike for it. My aunt converted some luggage to work as saddle bags on the back and I started to make plans for some trading and traveling. We needed some things to make winter a little more bearable. We really needed some more plastic sheeting to cover the windows and some insulation for the back room where Nelson stayed.

I really liked riding the bike so much I drove into Memphis to celebrate. Soon after crossing the parkway I had to make a trip to the VA for some stitches. I caught the back end of a horse whip from it’s owner. Seems I have a few things to learn about driving around horses pulling wagons. I scared the shit out of the horse and the fat red-neck driver caught up to me and gave me a face full of whip handle. I was in too much pain to argue about it. I got back on the bike and went for a sew job. The Doc was cool about it and laughed when I described the guy who whacked my skull. It seems he was one of the Doc’s in-laws who kept the hospital in alcohol and sheets. It’s a small world. Doc told me about a textile mill outside of Jackson that was making cotton fabric which he really needed for bandages. The sheets were kind of a wasteful way to stop bleeding. I told him that he would need something tangible for me to trade with as medical promises were little more than verbal insurance and too many people were burned by insurance companies in the years before the collapse. Lots of lawyers and bankers caught bullets when it finally came.

Doc and I walked through the dimly lit halls of the hospital toking a big one and talking about this and that when he led me to a room in the basement. When he opened the second door I was nearly knocked over by the smell. Seems the Doc has a taste for veal and chicken since that’s what he is raising in the basement of the hospital. It was a large room that used to be an animal research center. To some degree the Doc has his shit together. I also got to see a really cool hydroponic garden where the hospital had a bowling alley. Among the beans and herbs he was also growing weed. It was really strong smelling with long reddish-purple hairs and just dripping with resin. Doc gave me a huge bud to sample and some honey made by the bees that were everywhere in the room. We then walked to the courtyard garden which was showing the signs of the cooler weather. Doc had tons of squash and potatoes ready to pick.

I told him the bandages were on the way. We talked for a while and he told me about how he planned to line the entire courtyard with aluminum foil and set some reflectors up on the roof to keep sunlight on each wall. It seemed like a workable plan. I went home with a nice veal roast and some potatoes. I made plans to head for Jackson in the morning. Nelson and I smoked nearly all of the killer bud Doc gave me while my Aunt created a totally winning veal stew with lots of garlic bread and some really good homemade wine. I think it was wild berries with some apple juice added. I pigged and got pretty drunk. Nelson and I talked in his place for a few hours trying to come up with some trade ideas. In the morning I carried with me some smoked bacon and corn bread for the road. I also carried some deer jerky in case I ended up walking back home. I loaded the bike up with all of the cool trading shit me and Nelson could dream up. I had nails, fish hooks, a couple of cans of tuna, some smoked ham, a jar of homemade cheese, some rice, a small bottle of bleach, and some other things that I thought might trade well.

Of course I carried a fair amount of weed and a bag of coke to trade to a local Doc in Jackson. A favor to Doc at the VA. I-40 actually had a fair amount of traffic. I liked the organizational efforts of the folks using horses who stayed to the far right and left the other lane to motorized traffic. They also blinded the left of the horses to keep them from jumping when a small loud badly running Jap car goes by burning god knows what. The trip was uneventful. The bike performed perfectly. I got to the hospital in Jackson and had lunch with Doc’s friend. I really love fried chicken and he said I could have all I wanted when he saw the coke I had for him. He motioned to a nurse who took the coke to the lab to break it down for more practical use. He begged me for more and I said I might run into some later. He also gave me a vial of antibiotics he made there for me to give to Doc at the VA. Seems he has a taste for veal as well. The hospital in Jackson raises chickens. An entire wing is devoted to it. Get it? A whole wing. I kill myself. Heh! I tried some smoked chicken sausage that ruled. I think some peppers and onions could have made me feel right at home.

After lunch we walked out to his pot orchard and caught a decent skull numb. Then I saw something strange. An airplane was above us. It was one of those motorized kites pulling a guy with a hang glider. The Doc said he knew the guy after sewing him back together when he ate a tree on take off a year before. I had no interest in flying. But it seemed like a way to move some stuff around. The Doc set up a meeting for dinner. I went out to the mill with one of the Doc’s tough guys. He said I couldn’t hope to get in and out without some form of friendly escort. The mill owner was a bit of a dick. His operation was powered by mules and ran horribly slow. I made a deal on behalf of Doc at the VA. I also promised to find some good whiskey from Arkansas without letting on that I already had gallons of the stuff at the store in Raleigh. I also started dealing on the issue of power. I told him about our steam plant which really got his interest. He stayed suspicious and acted totally paranoid. But I invited him to the store to see our setup. We traded some of the stuff I had for bandage cotton which I fashioned into a massive back pack for the ride back to Memphis.

I stayed with the Doc at a little hotel he owned. It was really nice. He converted an old civil war type mansion and lit it the old fashioned way with kerosene lamps. He had another building out back which was loud as fuck with music and such. We went in and I was immediately taken by one of the girls who worked there. She was taller than me and just beautiful. A big auburn haired girl with massive boobs and deep brown eyes. She had a low voice with a strong southern accent. She was a little dense, but liked to toke. The Doc introduced her as Lyla and said she was a nice girl who was worth any impressing I could muster. Her family was wealthy and traded all kinds of shit. I invited her out for a midnight picnic under the full moon. Of course we took the bike which she loved. She directed me to a dirt road which came out of the woods to a clearing with a small cabin. She said she didn’t want to fight off bugs so we ate on the deck. She lit a fire in the grill and we sampled each other’s cooking. She turned on a small radio and picked up a station in Nashville that was playing cool tunes.

Lyla opened a couple of doors that I thought were some kind of closet out on the deck. It was a bed. She said she really enjoyed fucking under a full moon. I wasted no time getting out of my jeans and joining her on a soft bed she made out of the down from the hospital chickens. I was lumpy, but perfect for all kinds of positions. Lyla really loved my hog and I was gah gah over her tanned firm mounds. I really love the tits on these southern girls. I stayed the night and was awakened to her cooking scrambled eggs with bacon and coffee. This girl was well connected and said she could get all the coffee I wanted. We smoked some weed and went back to the hotel where I caught up with the Doc. He helped me strap on my bundle and gave me a schedule of times and channels for a CB radio network for messages and such. They had been running one with Nashville for a while and he boasted about his ability to throw two kilowatts on a beam as far as Chattanooga in the daytime! I thought about setting a station up in a tall place in Memphis to gain more range. The drive back was a pain in the ass. I could only go about forty before the bundle began to act like a sail and fuck me up on overpasses and such. I passed a burning car that was surrounded by people arguing about it. I just waved as I raced by to avoid getting caught up in it.

My Aunt told me about the people she deals with in West Memphis. They run a store in a tougher area. They get robbed often and have built up a total fort around their land. They are set upon by a group of families from around Helena that had banded together to form a militant assault group. They were suspected of overrunning several farms in Mississippi and killing the owners to loot in support of their cause. The folks in West Memphis wanted to organize a strike into Helena for the express purpose of executing anyone with a weapon. I decided to look into it for my Aunt. I really didn’t want to buy into someone else’s problems but the Marshall’s office was not interested in the unfounded rumors. I figure he got bought off. Even the Mayor’s office in Memphis was unwilling to talk. I decided to take a little trade trip into Mississippi to look around.

In Hernando I learned all I wanted. These people were in charge of everything in sight. The town was like an occupied zone. I met with a friend of Nelson’s. He told me the group was called Free Helena and dated back to the banking fall when several Mississippi financial morons tried to close on some people in Helena who had strong local ties. Now it’s the Helena people in charge. But they were a tough bunch. I saw lots of guns and lots of archery equipment. This was an organized army. So far everything was peaceful. I really didn’t want to upset the balance but the people in West Memphis were sure their lives were in danger. I suggested we move them to Raleigh and combine our resources while using Memphis as a buffer. I saw strength in large numbers as necessary for our livelihood. In the mean time I had some trading to do. I remembered some points of my trip to Memphis. In particular I remembered Kelly in Dyersburg.

I made some inquiries on the CB net and found a buyer for some smoked meat and charged car batteries. We did a good deal of battery charging for folks. It was easy to strip off a few watts from the generator to trickle charge a row of batteries. We kept a bank ready to go all the time. Nelson and I worked part of the night making a cover for the Cricket/truck. The weather was getting cold and I didn’t want to freeze my ass off all the way. Nelson left a trusted friend in charge of security and we took off. It was a dull drive which was shortened by staying stoned and jamming to the wide variety of tapes we collected. We stopped by an abandoned gas station to pick off some parts from a couple of cars lying around. I got some light bulbs and plug wires. We also found half a box of 22 caliber long rifle rounds under the back seat of an old Dodge. We stopped for lunch at a swap meet near an old Stuckey’s. I traded some carbon batteries we threw a cheap charge on for some ribs and beans. I got some beer for some staples but I think it was worth it. I also found some more plastic sheeting which I traded some weed for.

We got back on the road and I showed Nelson some homemade hash I had scored for half a box of raisins. We crumbled it into the pipe and toked it down while being deafened by the totally excellent stereo that Nelson pulled from a dude’s car for some bacon a long time back. I think the Cars will never go out of style. I like Candy-O. We got into Dyersburg and looked up a couple of folks who wanted batteries. We went to the Reverend’s house and found them glad to see me. I had a ham under my arm, but I thought they really meant it. Kelly looked good. She had put on a little weight which really hit the right places. She yanked me aside and licked my tonsils. I took this as a good sign. Nelson hit the door laughing. He can really be a dick when he wants to. She told me she had some friends who wanted some weed. We got together after an early supper to take a walk. A long walk.

We ended up at one of her friends’ houses after a short detour in an empty house she partied in from time to time. After some serious throat action, I gave her the hammer doggie style on a denim bean bag chair. She was young. She was tight. And made to keep me hard all night. At her friend’s house I met a bunch of stoners who were playing music with an awesome array of amps made from old car boosters so I naturally mentioned that I had a few batteries left and might be interested in an exchange situation. They had a kerosene heater and some fuel and a hand generator they couldn’t figure out as they were techno-morons. They traded to get as far as they had. Their music was so-so, but it was nice to hear live rock and roll music again. I also traded for a rare treat, Acid. I hadn’t tripped since the Navy, but I remember how good it was to fuck on uncle cid. I got about 6 doses for a little bud and I traded some pot leaves to one of the other friends, a guy from New Jersey who spent some time in Boston.

We talked about old haunts and cool places and I described his trip down as did I. He drove his own car till it fucked up in Indiana. He rode in a wagon the rest of the way to the Mississippi river. He confirmed that going down it was a total drag. Kelly said we could spend the night at her secret hideaway. When I asked about the Rev. she said he did not attempt to hold her back these days. She must be the wild child every mother dreads having. I think she has a good grasp on things. Hell she has her own digs and my high hard one to ride so what else could a body want? Well, I’ll tell you, she also has a girl friend. Seems she likes it both ways. She says I’m the only guy she has done the deed with in a long time. But she hasn’t been lonely. All I can say is Yee Haa with my Yankee accent. I heard Nelson’s car pull up as he had gotten directions from the Rev. They invited us to the house for real Irish Coffee and Ice Cream. I nearly outran the Cricket/Truck.

The Rev. was all into the state of things. The world was being punished and all that shit. I heard it from the street preachers that always tried to peddle their shit in the combat zones of Boston. But he said they were sure things in Dyersburg would continue to improve. I talked about steam generators and selling power. He became very interested. He had some pull with the telephone guys and suggested we talk about starting up a line to Raleigh for trades. The whole thing looked pretty good to all of us. The Rev. said he also knew a ham operator down the street from my Aunt. We made the call and I was able to patch into her CB and talk about stuff. Nothing new was up but trade for blankets and corn meal were way up. She was excited about a movie theater opening in the old library building in Bartlett. People are ready to trade for entertainment. I thought about the band I heard. I could put some butts into a night club. Hell we had plenty of trade for liquor and beer. Nelson really liked the idea of women all around the place. We bounced the idea around.

The Rev. was an old fashioned guy. He even arranged to have a pretty young black chick drop by during coffee to meet Nelson. They immediately hit it off, but I knew Nelson’s heart would never leave his little oriental honey in Memphis. Nelson will sample as often as he pleases. He’s a total Cad! Kelly asked if I had room for she and her girl friend in our Raleigh operation. I did. My Aunt had just annexed another cool house with a pool from the Raleigh town auction. We had a plan to trade for all the adjoining property we could. This place was up on the hill overlooking the Raleigh springs Mall area. I had been in the place several times. She made the deal for 6 months of free power at city hall. I thought it was a good trade. We got a good site for growing stuff as well and Nelson said we should use the pool to raise catfish. I think not. I think I might just lay claim to the house myself.

Kelly and her friend Amritte, a cute girl from India could tend the place and pull shifts at the store and I could throw killer parties that wouldn’t wake my Aunt up. We already got the place next door where I thought of living, but I told Nelson it was his crib till we got something cooler. Nelson was a good man. I still call him a nigger for the way he acts sometimes. But he’s a good person and good for my family. So the place he got was nicer, but I had a pool and a bar. He had a pool table and a car. It worked out pretty good. My Aunt was glad to have the help. We cut the deal. The Rev. and I talked about steam power till late. Kelly had fallen asleep on the porch swing with a quilt covering she and Amritte. It was so cute and a total turn on. I had my Aunt arrange for a night at Graceland since the girls were dying to go. They don’t know we can sleep in the Jungle room for a couple of hams. But then it’s always been that way. Heh. Elvis the pelvis is a total porker. But he likes his coke. Go figure.

The trip home was cramped with the girls sitting on the sacks of rice we found on a fluke and traded for instantly. Nelson’s old lady would be totally happy to have rice again. We also had a couple of pounds of nails and some duct tape. I was also fortunate to trade for a couple of cans of cocoa powder. My Aunt would be very pleased. We stopped at the same Stuckey’s to trade for more fuel and some candles I saw earlier. I also got some incense from a rasta guy for a small bud. He was on his way back to the Florida keys and sold shit along the way from Seattle. It was a totally cool little get high session. Nelson traded for some chitlins. A totally disgusting dish. I made him slam a glass of beer before getting back in the car to kill the stench he would leave on my pipe. The girls decided to put on a show for us among the sacks of sugar and rice. These were two hot bitches. Nelson just about hit a wagon for not watching the road. I pointed to him and told him I would be really pissed to get killed that day. I laughed and the girls lost the mood in the hail of laughter. We were all pretty stoned.

My Aunt welcomed us home and quickly pointed to the small pile of firewood which needed to be replenished. I grabbed the ax and set to making myself look manly for the girls. I cut a bunch of kindling and split some short logs with a 2-cycle log splitter. It was worth the gas. It looked like a cold night would befall us. The girls set about looking in the empty houses for stuff to put into the new house. The place looked like an Indian Opium den by the time they got through, but they really outfitted the cooking area well. They had a smoker and a barrel grill on the back porch and a small dorm type fridge that seemed like it would use very little power. They took the cabinet doors off and made the kitchen look like a bar. We moved most of the liquor collection from the store up to the house. Of course I said it was to keep the theft risk down. Heh. With the ice from the store’s deep freeze we could throw a hell of a party. I am still amazed at how quickly these two got the digs straight. I came home at 6:00. They both met me at the door dressed in swim wear. A quick peck on the cheek. A couple of bong hits. A slam of an ice cold beer and I was ready to do the deed in the living room with a rager of a fire going.

We christened every room of the place in some way. Nelson dropped by with the old lady and a big bowl of rice with pork and veggies. It was terrific. We mixed some drinks and toked a few and relaxed. Nelson brought out the last of the hash he got on the trip and we clouded for a while. We planned to run some intercoms between the houses and keep a CB nearby. My Aunt’s friends in Arkansas are working on acquiring some of the property next to ours. We will consolidate after all. They have a good stock of useful shit and we have plenty of food. They have a truck, but we need to guard the place while the move goes down. I think I will carry a small force of Nelson’s bad ass friends with me for extra security. I passed out in the den with Kelly in a recliner beside me. It was cramped but nice. The telephone from Dyersburg was working in less than a week. We were able to plan weekly trips and make a decent profit. The Rev. really wanted to see our power plant. I invited him down and he spent the night with my Aunt. I guess they were both overdue. She later confided that he was not her type, but he was good enough for weekly visits. She’s the most practical woman I ever met.

He fell in love with the steam engine the same way I did. We set up a deal to build one up for him with a healthy kicker going to the dude in Natural bridge who was very glad to hear about the deal. I made a deal for a bar in Frasier. It was closed for some time, but still in pretty good shape. We used a 2 cycle generator and battery power to run the joint and we got Kelly’s friends to play for room, board, and tips. They were also required to chop wood like everyone else. And since they were living in the club I had built in security. Christmas was coming and I wanted to see a good one after all the years of bullshit. The girls decorated the places with all kinds of shit and begged for some power to waste on lights in the yard. I reluctantly agreed. Nelson and I were hard at work piping some of the boiler’s excess steam to the store for heat. It hasn’t been too cold yet, but we know it will be. I will be relying on the fireplace and the kerosene heater.

The Rev. had a friend in Dyersburg who made wagons. He made all kinds and specialized in old fashioned ones. Rev. arranged one for my Aunt. It arrived on Christmas eve with a driver who was to train my Aunt to drive the thing and, of course, a horse. Of course! Ha ha She took a little while learning to drive the thing, but she loved it. She went to the movies with her friends in style. I gave Nelson two hits of acid and a crossbow I traded for at the VA. He gave me a gallon of peach liqueur that was like Southern Comfort. I loved the stuff. He also gave me a smoked turkey and he had one for everyone else. Nelson was turning into quite the tradesman. The Rev. gave me a stack of fuck books. I guess he didn’t feel the need anymore since he and My Aunt were comfortable. I guess once a week or so is good enough for him. I’d be crazy. I gave him a tape deck and some jarred peaches. I hate to refer to anything in a jar as canned. It just seems stupid. The girls borrowed the use of a neighbors’ brick oven to bake a beautiful cake. We all pitched in for a pot luck supper. We had Rabbit stew and barbecued ribs. We also had spinach and kale salads with tomatoes and pumpkin pie. They also had sweet potato pie which tastes pretty much the same though it was a first for me. Of course we had ham and turkey. Doc came by with an Italian dish made with veal that was making me real homesick.

But Boston would never be home to me again. I was living like a king in the deep south. My buddies in Boston would be totally green if they saw how I had it now. But I’m not really in the mood to share it with the likes of any no account Yankees. Heh. Nelson took me aside during the festivities to rap. We went out back and twisted a big round one. He handed me another gift. It was a bullet proof police vest. He wanted me to wear it during the months ahead while I was on the bike. He thought someone hungry might get desperate and shoot me to get the bike. People were killing for less. And the winter months seemed to bring out the real nasty survivors. He also had some more shells and some 38 ammo for my pistol. I don’t get fucked with much.

We celebrated New Years eve at the club. We had a long buffet spread with all kinds of cool shit. Everything but the liquor was on the house. I even sprang for a keg of Memphis beer. The band had been doing alot of practice. They did a Boston tune that put me right back on the Commons. Nelson got up and wailed on his ax for a couple of Blues tunes. The girls got up and did a cool country sounding number. Amritte caught the eye of a guy who lived in Bartlett that I had seen around. He seemed OK. They talked at a table for a while. As it turns out they went to the same school in California. He had a sister I used to eye at swap meets. Kelly was jealous as shit but I told her it was cool. I thought he had a family. As it turns out the two of them were hitting it off. She went out back and burned one with the guy and invited us out. Kelly warmed up a bit and we all got along fine.

My Aunt found a new hobby. Blowing the same fucking fuse over and over. I seem to be having the same problem with her that they had on Green Acres with the trying to calculate power usage on the fly. She just has to have her microwave oven. She uses it to heat up shit in the little cafe she has turned the former garage into. She serves wine and beer, but no liquor. She doesn’t want any more of my element hanging around than is necessary. She can be a bitch when she wants. She moved down to Memphis fifteen years ago and had yet to shed her New York accent or manners.

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