Things have Changed
The New Reality
“And that’s the way we did it back then.” George ended his story by taking a big drink of filtered water from his canteen. Then he sat back and warmed his feet by the fire.
“You’ve got it all wrong. I don’t remember it that way. It was better, more personal.” John was always one to argue. He always wanted to get the last word in.
Millie and Jane watched the two men. Verbal sparring was all that was left now. Then as they exchanged glances, the women both knew this was all that the men had. The constant back and forth was starting to annoy them all.
“Alrighty then, what say we all just get up and go gather some more firewood. We’ve been sitting around here for too long. Let’s take a walk.” Jane jumped up and put on her ragged coat and hat, pulled on some equally ragged mittens.
George and John grumbled but complied with Jane. Millie brought up the rear. The foursome combed the woods for branches needed for the fire. Since their arrival a few months ago, the walks for fuel had become longer and longer. They had to venture further into the wilderness now to find any dead and down trees. Without an ax or saw, it was impossible to harvest trees. All four knew things were becoming progressively worrisome.
“I think we should go back to that house we saw on the way in. Perhaps there is food still.”
“We discussed this, John. The sickness was in that house. That’s why we didn’t go in. Why do you want to go there? We don’t have any medicines here. You can go in. Fine. You can eat all the food you find, but you can’t come back to us.”
“Harsh, George. I thought you were my friend.” John threw down the wood he’d gathered. “After all we’ve been through. You’d do that to me.”
George got in John’s face and punched him in the chest. “Yes, I would. But I would do it because I love you, and I love Millie and Jane and myself also. Besides, one less person means more food here for the three left. So go. By yourself.”
George, Millie, and Jane kept on walking with arms full of wood. John was left standing by his pile of gathered wood.
John left the pile of wood. He headed west. The house they saw when they first entered the woods those months ago was in the west. He estimated it was about five or six miles away. He knew he could walk that distance in a day or so. He didn’t have any food or water, but he knew there was a stream nearby and perhaps a promise of some food in that house.
The next night, George, Jane and Millie gathered by the fire. This time they took turns telling stories. Millie told of her family and their Sunday dinners together. Jane had stories of her pets and her brother, left as adult orphans by the sickness. George spoke of the way people used to gather together. The way they hugged and touched and ate together. Then they shared their favorite restaurant meals and how much fun it was to go out to eat and then see a movie. And because it was now a tradition, George ended the night by saying, “And that’s the way we did it back then.”