Chapter 3: An Ounce of Prevention
Anne stands perched in the door way perplexed as her husband strips off his t-shirt. Conflicting emotions go from confusion to concern watching her Ben break into a jog. She steps from behind the screen door calling his name "Ben! Ben honey! What’s wrong?!" They meet on the ornate front white porch "Honey you're scaring me." Ben softly envelopes Anne in his beefy arms attempting to reassure and relay to his wife the gravity of the situation. "Right now nothing honey!" he tells her. He feels her trembling as they embrace "I woke up and you were gone babe. I panicked went checking the house for you." She stammers "The… the kids are awake and worried too and I ....." her husband interrupts "The kids are awake!" he exclaims "Good ... good excellent." He moves for the door but his wife holds tight like an anchor. "What's going on Ben!" she demands. Looking down to his wife Ben watches the men in the street disband and head home their separate ways. "Ok baby…” he concedes. “The short version of the story is this. The power is out globally to hell with EdCon at this point. Massive solar flares have left most of the world in the dark and there's no ETA as to when things will be back up. The military is mustering to step in but good luck with that. You remember Jamal …. Mohammed's son?!" Ben doesn't wait for acknowledgement as he babbles on. "Well he called home last night he told his mom and dad that there was rioting and looting in L.A. All around UCLA there is no law the entire state of California has fallen into chaos. I invited our neighbors to pool their resources with us and hunker down together but so far I got no takers which is for the better anyway. Anne by the time the sunsets I want to have this house reinforced and secured and us sleeping in the shelter downstairs." As Anne is now immobilized by Benjamin’s manic diatribe her mouth hung comically open. She nuzzles in closer to her mate feeling the warmth of his broad arms he'd always made her feel safe and it was useless for her to pretend otherwise. "Anne I'm not taking any chances..." he told his wife "you with me babe?" She’s mesmerized by his brown eyes as they stare at one another "yes" she croaks just above a whisper.
The couple burst through the door into the sparsely lit house and the rambunctious kids stop bickering immediately. Much like in any other species the young of the James clan knew when there parents are serious and they’re dead serious now. "Babies daddy needs you to pay attention!" Ben calls his family to attention. Unexpectedly he pauses consumed with the fear of losing them but from within his gut surges a geyser of pride. He knows his family is the reason why he’s paranoid. Why he takes unknown so serious because he couldn’t be without them. Belinda stands closest to her father a lean stringy nine year or with sandy brown curls tucked delicately behind her ears. She stares at "her daddy" in wonderment as she does most days. Anne had told Ben he'd needed to be firmer with her and learn to say “no” to her. He knew then and as he knows now that was legally impossible for him to do. Brandon leans on Ben Junior’s wheelchair his dusty locks of hair wildly frazzled after having suffered a headlock at the hands of his big brother. Ben speaks "We have work to do guys and we are up against the clock by the time the sunsets we need to be locked up tight downstairs. I have talked to your mother and she agrees with me. There is no time to talk to I'm going to be moving with a purpose guys and so will you. Once we're done tonight we can talk about what's going on but for now everybody has an assignment." Ben draws in a breath to continue when he notices Belinda's hand raised in the air as if she has a question. He smiles there’s no hiding his affections for "his baby girl." Pointing to the bubbly nine year old he acknowledges her dancing about "Yes Belinda." Placing her hands at her side she asks in a melodic tone just short of singing "even me daddy? Do I have a job too?" Ben had always imagined if a humming bird could talk it would sound like Belinda. "Yes my love even you have a job." he told her watching a smile broaden across her face.
Turning to his wife Ben's plan starts to unfold. "Honey I need you and Belinda to grab all the perishables you can find and cook them up or preserve them. I will turn the generator in the basement on today because we will need the power. We will work quickly to conserve power and hide the fact that we have electricity. Brandon I need you to get all the camping gear, clothes and supplies down into the storm shelter. Then I want you to find anything we can use as a weapon baseball bats, axes, sledge hammers anything." Ben counts off on his fingers "Chip you need to go to my room ...." Ben cast a guilty glance at his wife. "Uh …..Scratch that son you, me in the basement we are going to seal off the windows and doors in the house." Chip nods curtly to his father as he sets his wheelchair in motion passing the dinning room tables snatching up a lantern as he passes by. The boy moves easily through the house letting the chair roll as he too removes his shirt revealing a sculpted torso that would make any teenage boy envious. At the top of the stairs to the houses sub level he powers on the beacon sitting in his lap he expertly pops the front of his chair into a "wheelie." Cautiously in the dark he takes the stairs one at a time until he reaches what his father calls "The Depot." This from all appearances looks like a “Home Depot store” except one twentieth the size.
Benjamin James had a knack for purchasing in bulk and with no warehouse to store his tools and raw materials. He left them at home taking the tools and building materials he needed for the day or for the job. The boy rolls over to a tiny red LED hanging in the darkness. Clumsily his hand finds the switch and with a "pop" the generator his father had installed rumbles to life. A set of professionally strung auxiliary lights power up and Chip sets about readying his dad's tools on his bench. Chip hears his Dad come pounding down the stairs "I turned off all the light that can be seen from outside." He says breathlessly. "They're off and running upstairs son..." the two meet at the long workbench over half the basement wall. “Me and you we have the toughest job Junior." Chip agrees with his father's assessment. "We are going to board reinforce every door then board all the windows. Here's the trick though from the outside....." Benjamin pauses tapping his chin. "..From the outside the house has to look as normal as possible." "Got it!" Ben Jr. says pivoting his chair to a stack of fresh lumber at one end of "The Depot." Ben watches his son as he goes then turns his attention to the task at hand. The James Family moves about the house the rest of the daylight hours like worker ants about their nest. The faint sounds of the James men working can barely be heard on the dead end street. It rouses no attention as the house is slowly fortified. They labor against the fear of the unknown that comes with the darkness.
The James family has set in motion a plan to survive the coming storm thanks to Benjamin. A devoted father and loving husband who a deep seed fear of the unknown. What will the night bring?!
Come back the week of August 19th and see.