Practicality in the Face of Destruction

A ramshackle, dust-coated world filled with tradition and suspicion, a la that of the inestimable Cathy Perdue. In the woods, dark and choked with clutter as though long abandoned, a brown clapboard house, low to the ground, but many-gabled.

I’m lost, wandering, with no idea where I am or how I got here. I find the door hanging loose from the hinges, clear myself a place on the floor in the living room and take up residence among the mice and spiders.

I’m careful. I know that people in this age (whatever age it may be) don’t take to strangers. I only go out at night. In the woods, in the dark, in some abandoned ruin, I figure I ought to be safe.

But I get caught. A fat bald guy with a shotgun and a giant flashlight warns me off his land, suggests I get out of town altogether. I’m ready and willing to take his advice. It was a nice place, a relief from wind and waking up with frost on my clothes. But these things are temporary, as are all comforts. I walk on–or I start to.

My dad steps out of the wooded shadows and stops me before I get 20 yards. He points out an even more ramshackle, even more ruinous outbuilding to the dark ruined house–just a shack, really. A single room. Inside, however, is a stairway leading down into a vast, high-ceilinged basement. A gas lamp casts unsteady light across drifts of abandoned crap. My dad shuts the door, leads the way down, and gets back to work.

I find myself helping him to clear space, to clean and organize and forge some kind of living space from the chaos. He has found an old upright vacuum cleaner and is tinkering with it, trying to make it work.

“So what happened here?” I ask him. “Is this supposed to be some kind of post-apocalypse?”

He gives me a look that says “No kidding,” and sends me off scavenging for power cord.

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