The bathroom door was thick, but if she pressed her ear to it, she could just make out the confusion and yelling outside. Once some tried the door but gave up when it didn’t open and they banging got no response from inside.
Totally baffled by all the goings on, she wondered if it was rush hour or something. Then she remembered the speech the president was giving when she turned off the radio. She pulled out the radio and wound it up, slipping the ear piece into her ear.
Static was all she heard. She spent a good half hour trying to get a station to come in but finally gave up. She figured that the radio waves couldn’t get through the walls of the bathroom. The bathrooms were sandwiched in between a large walk in cooler that held all the “coldest beer in town” and what might have been the office.
Carrie pressed her ear once again to the door and didn’t hear anything. Thinking that maybe it might be safe to venture out, she sent a prayer up asking for protection and wisdom and quickness if she needed to lock herself in again. Then she turned the bolt and stepped out of the bathroom. She didn’t see anyone, but the place was a mess. She made her way to the front counter and noticed that the closed sign had been flipped to the outside. She tried the door, it was locked and it needed a key to unlock it.
Well, maybe there is a back door. She thought. And so she started to make her way to the back and thinking that no one was there, she didn’t know who was startled more, herself or the guy who had his head in a closet and was bringing out a broom and dust pan.
They both shrieked at the same time and the guy almost lost his grip on the broom. The dust pan went flying and landed on the wall. He stuck the broom out in a defensive position and pretty much yelled “who are you? How did you get in here?”
Before he could swing the broom at her, Carrie spoke up “I’m sorry, I was in the bathroom and then there were so many people, I’m sorry, I kinda freaked out and so locked myself back in there. I’m sorry, I’ll leave…really, I’m so so sorry….I don’t mean any harm.”
The guy could see that the young ….was it a girl? Yeah, it was a girl…was shaken. He felt a twinge of guilt for scaring her.
“Ok, ok. Look, I got to get this mess cleaned up and there is no way I’m unlocking that door right now. I’m thankful that the glass is bullet proof. That was a mean crowd; I thought for sure they were going to tear me apart. This isn’t your fault. Heck I wish I could have hid.”
“What happened?” Carrie asked.
“It was that stupid announcement by the president that has all the folks riled up. They are out spending like fools so they can hide in their homes and …as one guy said…hold out against them ...well excuse me, I won’t repeat what he called them…the UN forces and that new NSA. It ain’t right them trying to take away guns from folks, it’s our constitutional right to bear arms and the real people of this country are not taking the threat lightly.”
Carrie didn’t know what to think. She had never really had any kinds of guns in her life and now that she thought about it, she was glad her mom didn’t have one.
Carrie decided that since she really didn’t want to go back outside until she figured out what to do, she would make nice with this guy. Sticking her hand out, she said “My name is Carrie.”
The guy shook her hand “mine is Roger.”
“I don’t suppose you could use some help? Could you?” Carrie asked.
“May as well, I don’t think it would be in the best interest of either of us to go out there. They didn’t really mad until I turned the pumps off. They were just filling up and driving off! Lord knows just how much gas was stolen.” Roger shook his head sadly.
They worked steadily for two hours cleaning up the mess that the people had made. There was a lot of waste but a surprising amount of things that had just been knocked around or off a shelf.
“Thank the Lord they didn’t get into the back store room.” Roger said “Then we would have had a bigger mess.” The store had just received a delivery about two hours before the president had made his announcements but Roger hadn’t had time to begin to stock anything, so he had just locked up the store room and worked the counter. Mornings were pretty brisk anyways since many stopped in for morning coffee and gas. He usually did the stocking in the slower afternoons.
“How long have you had this place?” Carrie asked.
Roger scratched his chin, which was in need of a shave. “Well, my dad really owns it. I’m working here during the mornings and afternoons and then take online college courses. Man, dad is really gonna be mad.” He looked thoughtful for a moment and then said “I wonder why he hasn’t called?” He walked over to the counter and turned on the small TV that was up on a small shelf. “It don’t have cable but the local news should be covering something about all this.”
“….has grounded to a halt with all the riots.
Well Bill, things are even worse in the bigger cities. UN forces have combined with the new NSA to control the swelling protestors.”
A pretty young woman was speaking to a man who looked like he was in a war zone.
“You’re right Olivia, but these protestors have quickly turned into looters and there are no UN forces here to help control the crowds. Local authorities are doing their best but these are their friends and families and so are hesitant to use force. Most shop owners have locked up and quite a few are pulling out their now illegal firearms to protect their property. So far no arrests have been made that we know of but I’ve heard a few gunshots.”
“Bill you be careful out there. What is happening behind you?”
Bill turned from the camera as Roger and Carrie watched horrified as a pickup was seen speeding towards Bill and the camera. Well it looked like it but the truck was really headed for the store next to where the reporter was standing. The camera turned and followed the truck as it plowed into the store front. Above Carrie could read the sign that said “Allen’s Gun Shop”.
Roger turned down the TV and pulled the phone over; he hit the numbers but then frowned. He clicked the hang up button a couple times and then said “It’s dead”.
Digging under the counter, he pulled out a cell phone and hit a couple numbers, “I have my Dad on speed dial, but don’t ever tell him that.” He said. His attempt at humor didn’t quite work. Carrie gave a sick half smile.
“Dad….yes yes, I’m fine…no … the shop is all locked up……yes, I’m fine, I swear…..what? …oh, ok….. but dad…….DAD! There is this girl here, she got locked in by mistake……………no, well, now I know who she is….ok ok…geeze……………..well, I don’t think she has anywhere to go really……..” Roger moved the phone from his mouth and asked Carrie “do you have somewhere to be?”
“Nowhere that I can get to fast or easy. I’m on my way to Arkansas.”
Roger put the phone back to his mouth, “Dad…..Dad! what’s going on? She is? Well, we both know how mom is……………….ok, that’s good I’m glad they made it home from school…….ok. If she will, I will. Ok dad, yeah yeah, I love you too…………………..yes I heard her, tell mom I’ll be careful……and yes, I love her too…..ok, see ya soon.”
Roger closed the small phone and looked at Carrie “Well, my dad thinks I that I should drag you home with me like some Neanderthal and not give you a say in the matter. He thinks things are going to get really bad and wants me to lock this place up tight and head home. But I’m not your boss and from the looks of things, you seem to have a good head on your shoulders. But you are welcome to come with me. I do have a couple bratty sisters who love to bug me. They are 12 and 14 but basically they are pretty cool. Don’t tell them that I said that, I’ll never live it down.” He said with a grin.
Carrie didn’t know what to do. She had already taken two chances with strangers and while so far, Roger had been very nice; she didn’t want to kid herself and think that she would be blessed by every stranger she met.
“I’ll tell you what,” Roger began “there still is some clean up to do and I have to close the shutters across the windows. They are from before we had the bullet proof glass and are a pain in the butt to close. But if I don’t, my dad will have my hide.” He looked at her and could see that she was hesitant to go with him, so he continued “and you can just think about it while we finish up. Besides you’ve helped me and so my family and I really owe you at least dinner or something.” He flashed her his most honorable grin.
Carrie rolled her eyes and laughed at him. “You are really silly. I can see why your sisters love to torment you. Ok, let’s finish up and I’ll think about it.”
Roger was right, the shutters were a pain in the butt and it took both of them to get them locked down properly. Carrie was plum tuckered out when they finished up. They were back in the back room where all the cleaning supplies and a small break area were. This is also where the back door was and Roger’s truck was parked right outside.
“I’m not sure what Dad is going to do about this place and what’s left in it. Maybe things will die down and we’ll be able to open again in a day or two. If not, I’m sure we’ll come back and clean it all out.” He looked at Carrie “Well, have you decided? I promise I don’t bite. And don’t forget, we owe you.”
Carrie replied “If you would let me borrow your phone for a minute, I really need to make a call. And then we’ll be even and if I could buy just a few things for my trip, I’d be much appreciative. But I really don’t want to be a bother to you and your family. So I’ll be on my way.”
Even Roger could tell that the girl was exhausted. “Ok, I understand. I’ll tell you what. Here’s my phone and while you make your call, I gather up what you need. Just tell me what you are looking for. You pretty much know what we have left here but we do have a bunch of stuff in the back, here follow me.”
They both walked back out and down towards the bathrooms. At the last door, Roger found a key on his key ring and unlocked the door. Inside were two pallets of goods still saran wrapped. Using a box cutter off of a nearby table, Roger cut the saran.
“Look, even if you left right now, you would have to go through town and it’s still a mess out there. Not really a good place to be right now.” Roger began, as an idea formed in his head “if you don’t feel comfortable going with me to my home, what if you were to stay here? Would you feel safe here?”
Carrie looked shocked, “No, I don’t want to be here by myself if someone wanted to break in. If they want in bad enough, they’ll get in.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right. So actually you’re only choice …your safest choice…is to come with me. But we’ll get you stocked up first.”
Carrie felt like she had just been somehow bamboozled into going with him. She laughed, shook her head, and said “ok, I’ll go with you.”
“I knew you couldn’t resist my charm.”
Carrie picked out the few things she knew would fit in her pack and tried to pay for them, but Roger insisted that it was nothing compared to the help she had given him that afternoon.
She then remembered that she still had his phone in her hand and while he set the alarm, she sat in his truck and dialed Lady Jane.
“Hi Lady Jane, it’s me Carrie.”
“Oh Carrie thank God you are ok, where are you? We’ve been so worried.”
“I’m in a little town, and don’t worry; I’m fine.”
They chatted for a few minutes and Carrie got her all caught up on what had happened since she had last talked to her. Roger had gotten into the truck and they were on the road. He listened to Carrie’s side of the conversation and didn’t feel a bit guilty eavesdropping.
“Yes, Lady Jane I’m being careful; although I am right now riding in a truck with an almost complete stranger, he seems nice enough.”
“You give him the phone right this minute, I want a word with him.”
“Ok, sure” Carrie smiled as she handed the phone to Roger “she would like to speak with you.”
Carrie could hear every word that Lady Jane said to Roger, she was speaking so loud. All Roger was able to get in was a “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am” and “of course not ma’am” every once in a while. He was almost pasty looking when he handed the phone back to Carrie.
Carrie looked at the phone like it was a snake, Roger shoved it in her hand. “Hello?” Carrie began.
“Carrie dear, I know it’s none of my business but honey you really have to be less trusting of strangers. This Roger though does seem to be an ok guy. Just please promise me you’ll be careful, ok? Duke and Beautiful DO want to see you again someday and so do I.”
“Yes ma’am. I would love to see you guys too. I’ll be careful. I promise. Please give Duke and Beautiful lot’s of hugs and rubs for me, ok?”
“You’ve got it. And Carrie, I know about Sam and Rhonda, do you mind if I give them a call and let them know you are ok?”
“Oh, I don’t have their number. Could you please? I would appreciate it.” Carrie wondered how she had found out about them but didn’t really want to ask. Adults seemed to just know things sometimes.
“Of course dear. Now you call me again as soon as you can ok?”
“Ok, I will. Thank you Lady Jane. Bye for now.”
“Bye bye sweet heart.”
Carrie closed the phone and handed it back to Roger. “Thank you” she said.
“No problem, it’s the least I can do.”
The rest of the ride was quiet and both were deep in thought wondering what tomorrow would bring.
Roger and his family lived outside of town so they didn’t run into anyone causing trouble and made it there in about 15 minutes. It would have taken longer, but Roger was a little heavy on the gas pedal.
As soon as he pulled into the driveway, the front door was thrown open and what looked like a small army poured out into the yard head for the truck. Carrie didn’t get out. Roger hopped out and was smothered by someone who had to be his mother. She was the picture of what Carrie had always thought a real mother would look like. Apron around her amble waist, hair swept up into a bun on top of her head and a bosom big enough to smother someone…kinda like she was now doing with her son. Just when she thought Roger was a goner, he was released and two girls began to pull on him from both sides like they were trying to tear him in half.
Carrie could hear him insist that he was fine and then before she knew it, his mom was at her door and opening it. Immediately she began to cluck over Carrie like a hen with a chick and before Carrie could even defend herself, she was gently pulled out of the cab of the truck and being smothered herself. Roger’s mom must know exactly how long to hug because just when she thought she was going to die, she was released.
“Why you are just a young one! Poor thing, you look like you’d blow away in a good stiff wind. You just must come into the house, I’ve got supper ready. No, I’m not going to take no for an answer, you just come with me, I’ll make sure you are taken care of….” Carrie was carried away in the whorl-wind who insisted she call her Naomi.