Reflection before Election

After the world governments through the world into chaos, surviving the madness was nearly an impossible struggle. Death was everywhere. Attempting to survive alone was practically a death sentence. The smart ones quickly joined a tribe or a gang and made alliances.

Madie never considered the children living in Bear Country a gang, although by definition a gang is exactly what they were. Madie considered everyone living in the school her extended family. A loud, annoying and sometimes dysfunctional extended family.

It was easy to distinguish one local group from another. Your clothing, your hair and your tattoos let everyone know your  affiliation. The Red Hyenas wore black and sported red Mohawks. The Central Bobcats wore gray and kept their heads shaved. The Blue Monarchs wore black mini-skirts and walked around with giant blue wings in their hair. Nearly everyone that lived in the school displayed a bear tattoo of their own choosing. The tattoo gave everyone a feeling of pride and unity. Madie sported a bear tattoo on her left shoulder.

In the beginning, the pavilion was a blank space with a couple of tables and a few chairs. As the years passed, the area evolved into a sacred chapel, a place of inspiration. The children covered the walls and pylons with pictures, banners and posters of bears. It wasn’t unusual to find someone sitting alone in the center of the pavilion praying or meditating by candle light. As Madie waited for her friends to arrive, she walked around the perimeter admiring the decorations. One newly placed poster in particular caught her attention. She stopped to stare at its uniqueness and beauty.


Madie greeted everyone with “Good afternoon”. It didn’t take long for the vacant pavilion to fill with people. The empty chairs filled first. By the time, everyone had arrived there wasn’t a vacant seat left. Late stragglers sat on the floor.

Madie jumped on her milk crate and gave a loud whistle to quiet everyone down. The room dropped to a dead silence.

“Thanks for coming,” she said with a smile. “Is everyone ready to elect a Sheriff for Bear Country? “


The first birth Madie ever witnessed was a horrific tragedy. The event left her scarred. The streets of town resembled a war zone. Populated by rats the size of a house cat, the park where she played as a child had become a landfill of dead bodies. Like a wild animal, she scavenged for food; to help ease the pain in her stomach she sometimes stole food from the hands of others.

At night, Madie found a place to hide but never in the same place twice. Sleep didn’t come easy; she hated the dark. Horrible monsters lived in the dark.

Almost daily, the local tribes and gangs committed senseless brutality. Dragged into the street the soon-to-be-dead always kicked and screamed. Their cries for help and mercy ignored. Afraid for her own life, Madie hid, closed her eyes, covered her ears and prayed she wouldn’t be next.

On this particular day, Madie was exhausted, tired and hungry. The Red Hyenas were hunting and Madie was their prey. Already caught but released during a game of cat and mouse, she ran into an alley and hid in a crawl space. From somewhere in the damp darkness, she hears a young girl say “Help me, please!”

Madie’s first reaction was to flee but she couldn’t the Red Hyenas were in the alley. “Shhh…Be quiet!” she begged in a whisper. The girl answered the pleas for quiet with moans of agony.

“Sssshh, please they’ll hear you!” Madie peeked into the alleyway. The hyenas were fighting amongst themselves as they searched for her amongst the garbage. The lead boy wasn’t happy Madie escaped.

Fearing the hyenas would hear the moaning and cries for help, Madie crawled deeper into the darkness and demanded the girl be quiet. “Please! Shut up!” What she saw terrifying; blood was everywhere and the smell nauseating.
Please…oh please, help me!” The girl cried as she reached for the blood-covered infant lying in the mud.

Madie stared in horror and scooted back against the far wall. She prayed in a whisper, “please don’t let the baby cry, please don’t let the baby cry!” If the baby cried, the Red Hyenas would find her.

Several hours later, Madie ventured back out into the alley. The girl and her baby both died in the dark.
Afraid and drenched in body fluids, Casey knocked on Madie’s door around 2am. Attempting not to panic or look worried, she woke Gretchen, and Cecelia. The three of them changed Casey’s clothes and put her into a clean bed. After reassuring Casey, everything would be fine; Madie woke Evan and JT and sent the boys on an errand to find a mid-wife. The boys returned in less than half an hour with a girl named Lizzy.

By mid-morning, Casey was in hard labor. Her screams of agony resonated through the halls of the school. Madie put on a happy face and reassured everyone, Casey and her baby would be fine. She kept the fears swirling around in her head to herself. She had seen tragedy. She knew what could go wrong.

There were moments Madie feared Casey wouldn’t have the strength to push her baby into the world. With every contraction Lizzy, Gretchen and Cecelia would yell, “Push Casey… Push!”

At 3:07pm, the baby arrived. After a few slaps on her butt and a rough rub with a towel, the tiny infant let out a loud wonderful cry.

Queen of the Gutter-rats

Dressed in over-sized clothes she found discarded on the streets, Sam was “Queen of the gutter-rats”. The girl could locate, find and steal anything.

“Ssshhh!! “ Sam raised a finger to her mouth. “Stay behind me, don’t make any noise.”

“Are you sure this is a good idea? The serpents will kill us if they find us.” Scat asked as his eyes darted from one side of the rubble to the other. He had only been inside the mall plaza once before and things didn’t end well for his two traveling companions.

“Do you want medicine for Tony or not?” Sam inquired as she squeezed between the rubble.

“Yes… Are you sure there’s not a safer place to steal from?”

“Nope, quit being a baby.”

“I’m not a baby!” Scat said in protest.

“Sssshhh! Be quiet. If I die, I swear I’m comin back to kill you.”

Scat followed Sam as closely and quietly as he could. He tried to remember the direction they were traveling thru the corridors just in case he needed to make a quick escape.

The Pharmacist dealt in hard to find drugs and other deadly concoctions meant to kill. Most of the drugs he dispensed were to junkies looking for an escape from their sad lives. Sam knew the Pharmacist also had a supply of expired antibiotics. She also knew where he kept them but first she needed a diversion.


Scat coughed over and over again as they exited the building. “ started a fire in there. We could’ve both died!!”

Sam rolled her eyes as she tossed Scat a bag of pills. “You’re welcome…I hate to steal and run but I gotta be somewhere else.”

Scat tucked the bag of pills into his shirt. “Sam wait! Thanks!”

“No problem…hey, meet me at the park at sundown. I know where there’s candy for the takin.”

Scat waved goodbye and ran toward his bike hidden behind a plaza dumpster. He didn’t notice Xavier’s goons looking for prey until it was too late.

Xavier enjoyed the thrill of cage fighting but his collection of combatants and practice kill was quickly diminishing. Replacements were needed. Scat was a bit small but size didn’t matter for the warm-up rounds

Tony looks bad

Marty removed the stethoscope from his ears. “Encourage fluids and keep him comfortable. There’s nothing else we can do.”

Tony was in and out of consciousness. Madie understood the situation was dire but she wasn’t about to give up on her best friend and let him die. She leaned over to kiss Tony on his forehead before firmly stating to Marty. “I don’t care what it costs this gang; I don’t care who you bribe or what you have to steal. Don’t let him die!”

Tony was dying; he would most likely die within the next day or so. Not wanting to partake in an emotional discussion with Madie, Marty simply replied, “The girls and I will go to the main library and do some research.”

Madie picked her diary up off the crate next to Tony’s cot. “I’m going to get some sleep. It’s been a long night. If anything changes feel free to wake me.”

Thoughts of slumber filled Madie’s head as she walked down the 2A hall toward her room. She walked most of the way with her eyes closed. A miscalculation in distance and position in the hall caused her to stumble into the water fountain. “God dammit”, she yelled louder than she intended. It wasn’t going to be a good day; she could feel it in her bones. Madie stopped to rub her wounded knee and caught a glance of the community bulletin board. Evan and JT had put up the new Fliers. In big red letters across the top were the words “Fall Festival”.

If she hadn’t been so tired and worried about her dying friend, she would have been more enthusiastic about the message. The Festival would be held in Liberty Park. The invite included everyone in the local area. Everyone loved the Fall Festival; it was a reprieve from the madness. As a sign of goodwill, all the local gangs and tribes would lay down their weapons. For three days, the fighting would stop, disputes set aside for another day or forgotten all together.

Madie was unaware JT had walked up behind her, she was staring at the flier has happy thoughts of last year’s event filled her head.

“Are you going?” JT said innocently as he reached to touch Madie’s shoulder.

Not hearing the question but the touch of a possible intruder, Madie spun around and threw a punch.

JT ducked and avoided the first hit. The second landed square on his left shoulder, “Hey! It’s me!” he cried out as he deflected yet another blow.

The familiar sounding voice caused Madie to stop flailing her arms in what was quickly becoming an out of control windmill. “JT, why the hell are you sneaking up on me?”

“I didn’t sneak! I’m on guard duty.” he waived his flashlight around as proof of his duties. “I noticed you were staring at the poster and stop to see if you were going.”

Madie felt foolish and a bit embarrassed. “I’m sorry”, she said apologetically. “I hope I haven’t given you a bruise.”

JT snapped his flashlight onto his belt. “It’s Ok, I’ll be fine, don’t worry about it.”

I really, really am sorry,” Madie said as she turned around to look at the flier again. “I love fall festival, don’t you?”

“Yeah!” JT replied as he glanced at his watch and suddenly realized he needed to be somewhere else. “Madie, I gotta go, I was supposed to meet Evan in the admin office like five minutes ago.”

“No problem, I’ll see you later…and JT don’t sneak up on anyone else.”

Madie walked the remaining few steps to her room and fell onto her awaiting bed for a couple of hours of sleep. It was almost sunrise, a cue for Scat to start wreaking havoc around the school. If she were going to get some sleep, she would have to do it fast.

A Meeting of the Minds

Shortly after the world fell into chaos, Matt, Jonas, Lisa and Madie took refuge in the abandoned Bear Country High School. Within a few years, their little gang of misfits grew from four members to more than three dozen. As a member of the original four, Madie was elected leader. There was no fighting or posturing for the role of leader, no one else wanted the responsibility.

Madie tried to make good sound decisions. The only person who ever opposed those decisions was Matt. Madie was certain Matt caused conflict for the fun of it. Madie called a meeting to ask for volunteers to travel to Wolf Valley to replace the fuel stolen by the Bobcats.

“Thanks for coming.” Madie said as she welcomed everyone to the meeting. “I don’t want to take up too much of  your time. I only have a couple things on the agenda. The Bobcats have taken our winter fuel. We need to replace what we have lost. I need three or four volunteers to travel to Wolf Valley.

In a display of “I am king of the warriors.” Matt jumps on top of a table. “Why travel all the way to Wolf Valley. We know where are fuel is. The Central Bobcats have it. He raised his fist into the air, “Lets take back what’s ours!”

The calm silent room broke into cheers of “Fight, Fight, FIGHT!”

“Wait…Stop…Quiet!” Madie yelled. “Who hasn’t seen what the Bobcats did to Tony? He’s one of our best fighters. The Bobcats almost turned him into hamburger. Most of us in this room couldn’t fight our way out of a paper bag! You’re all idiots with a death wish”.

Madie took a deep breath. Her face was on fire. “I know everyone wants to pummel Central and take back what’s ours. I want that too but we are not strong enough. Risking the lives of everyone in this school is stupid. We don’t need to fight Central. We can travel to Wolf Valley and replace the fuel.

Marty spoke up, “Wolf Valley is 8 miles from here. Longer if we travel around the Red Hyena territory instead of going thru it.

“Look, I know it’s a pain and inconvenient,” Madie said as she jumped onto the table next to Matt “If it were any other gang or local tribe I would say ,Let’s fight and take back what’s ours!”

“Why don’t we fight?” Matt said in reply.

“Because if we fight, one or more of us will die. I don’t want to die. Do you want to die, Matthew?” Madie said stepping up face to face with her good friend.

“Why don’t we vote on it?” Cecelia said from across the room.

“Yes, why don’t we vote on it, Mad-del-line?” Matt said in reply.

Madie thru her hands up into the air. “Fine, we’ll vote. Everyone that wants to fight Central in a fight to the death to get back out fuel raise your hands.”

Matt, Jonas and few others raised their hands. JT counted out loud and wrote the number 6 on the black board.

Madie smiled and cleared her throat. “All those in favor of making a trip to Wolf Valley, please raise your hands.” Madie looked at the sea of hands. “Looks like I’m gonna need those volunteers, Matthew!”

Irritated with the vote, Matt, Jonas and their supporters storm out of the room.


Pete comes for a visit

Wearing his over-sized combat boots, Scat stomped up and down the 2A hall singing, “Madie, Madie, Madie.”

Madie pulled her mom’s quilt over her head and tried to ignore the noise.

“Madie….I’m hungry!” the boy yelled as he pounded his fists on her door.

“Go eat a potato!” she yelled from the comfort of her bed, “I’m not your mother!”

“But I don’t like potatoes!” Scat responded. “I want eggs!” His voice sounded pathetic and needy. Tony catered to the boy’s every need and treated the gutter-rat as if he were helpless toddler. The boy’s neediness drove Madie crazy.

Irritated with the boy, Madie climbed out of bed, flung open her door and leaned into the boys face, “I don’t care! Gutter-rats don’t get to be choosy; especially ones that enjoy disturbing my sleep. Now go away and leave me alone!” Madie gave the boy a stern look before adding, “Disturb me again and you die!”

Before Madie could slam the door in the boys face, She hears a familiar voice, “Mornin, Sunshine”, It was Pete.

Pete did his best to keep the lawlessness around Bear Country to a minimum, a difficult task considering the circumstances.

Madie glanced at the clock on the wall. It was much later that she thought. “Afternoon, Pete, How you been?”

“I’m well,” Pete said, “Sounds like  you’re off to a cheerful start.”

Madie rolled her eyes and motions for Pete to enter her room. “Better lock me in my room now. I’m gonna kill that boy one day”.

Pete stepped into Madie’s room and sat on the edge of her desk. “The Hulk and his goons antics are getting closer to Bear Country. I’m thinking we should have an official security force for Bear Country. With your permission, I would like to throw my name into the hat as a candidate for the position.”

“Oh, Pete!, I can’t think of anyone more qualified, especially since you and your boys already take care of much of our security needs.”

Pete smiled, “I’m just wanting to make it official.”

Madie hugged Pete, “I’ll schedule a meeting. We can take care of this right away.”

Still hungry, Scat returns to Madie’s room holding four eggs he stole from the farmers market. “If you cook these, I’ll share.”

Madie couldn’t turn down the boy’s offer. She hadn’t seen or eaten an egg in weeks.

The Central Bobcats break into Bear Country

Get up! Get up! Scat yelled as he ran up the 2A stairs in his over-sized combat boots. The boy was a constant nuisance and had a bad habit of waking everyone up before dawn for the attention. Madie slid deeper beneath her blankets and tried to ignore the noise.

“MADIE…PLEASE!” the boy yelled as he banged on her door.

Expecting another false alarm, Madie threw open her door and grab the little pest by the arm. She squeezed hard in an attempt to cause the boy pain. “Ok, we get the point!”

JT and Evan occupy the room next to Madie’s. Irritated with the frequent nightly false alarms, they stepped up behind the boy holding a rope and masking tape ready to hog-tie the boy and toss him into a rat infested dumpster.

“Can we not lock him in a closet somewhere?” Lisa begs from her doorway.

A dozen others agreed with whistles and grunts of irritability. Three nights within the last week, the boy had woken everyone up before dawn.

“Tony’s hurt!” The 8-year-old sobbed.

Madie looked deep into the boy’s eyes for any indications the dramatics on display were a fake. “What happened to Tony?”

Scat wiped his tears and runny nose on his shirtsleeve several times, “The Bobcats beat him up!”

The Davis brothers could read Madie like a book. Before she could say, “grab your weapons” Matt and Jonas were at her side.

The Bobcats were gone by the time the Madie, Matt and Jonas arrived in the basement. Tony’s neat and tidy work-space resembled the aftermath of a tornado. The Bobcats broke what they could, threw tools around the room and knocked over benches. The winter fuel stored in the utility shed, stolen.

Tony was slumped against the far wall, beaten but in good humor. “It’s the Calvary!” he said coughing up a mouthful of blood.

Madie squatted down next to her broken friend to assess his injuries “You should have ran, one person can’t fight an army of thugs.”…….


The VEP Administrator

The sign on the door designated his title as Vocational Education Program Administrator. His dark blue jacket hung on the coat rack next to the door. The white shirtsleeves rolled half way up his forearms. He sat behind his desk with his face in his hands attempting to calm the migraine. The stack of VEP applications on his desk were at an unmanageable level. His staff of four overwhelmed. There weren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week to complete all of the required inspections and paperwork. His most experienced and reliable inspector abandoned her position for maternity leave. She would not return for at least 4 months and there was no replacement. The remaining inspectors slow, sloppy and teetered on the line of incompetence. Government funding for the program depended on the number of VEP applicants certified in a given year. His boss breathed down his neck to increase productivity 8 percent over last year. He looked at the stack of applications, he could fabricate the reports and save time, no one would know.

The Retriever

He was in his mid-thirties but he looked older. 10 years spent as a retriever of runners had caused not one but two ulcers to develop in his stomach. He wore a black suit as required by the agency. A 9mm .40 cal semi-automatic pistol and a badge rested on his belt. The badge gave him the authority to capture runners. Dead or alive it didn’t matter. He had a quota and he was running behind this month.
The rain pounding on his windshield was making it difficult to see. He pulled into the Diner parking lot. The signal from the girl was weak but she was somewhere in the area. He slapped the side the tracking device a couple of times before giving it a big shake. The damn thing never worked right.

Commodity Tales – 2

The Diner Owner
The young man behind the counter was tall and lean. His dark curly hair handed down from his mother; “God rest her soul”. With a heavy sigh, he wraps the food-stained apron around his waist. He loathed this place: the counter, the stove, the constant smell of grease. The diner and its associated debt belonged to his dead parents; their lives stolen as they returned home from a friend’s anniversary party by a drunk driver grieving the loss of his cheating girlfriend.
Matt considered abandoning the diner and its associated debt to attend college but his younger brother would suffer the consequences. The boy was only 15, and considered property of his parent’s estate. The Office of Financial Affairs could legally tag the boy as a commodity and sell him into slavery to pay off his parent’s debts. He would not reach the age of independence for three years.

The Waitress
Her entire wardrobe consisted of half a dozen blue waitress uniforms. As a child, she had been a commodity; life was hell. Her teenage years spent on the run fighting to survive in a world that treats children as less than human. Her employment at the diner began at the age of 18. The previous owner and father of the young man behind the counter had been good to her. She cried the day he died.
A member of a secret society of child advocates, she aids runners in evading capture by the retrievers.

The Retriever
He was in his mid-thirties but he looked older. 10 years spent as a retriever of runners had caused not one but two ulcers to develop in his stomach. He wore a black suit as required by the agency. A 9mm .40 cal semi-automatic pistol and a badge rested on his belt. The badge gave him the authority to capture runners. Dead or alive it didn’t matter. He had a quota and he was running behind this month.
The rain pounding on his windshield was making it difficult to see. He pulled into the Diner parking lot. The signal from the girl was weak but she was somewhere in the area. He slapped the side the tracking device a couple of times before giving it a big shake. The damn thing never worked right.

The Waitress Pt.2
The moment the diner door chimed, she knew a retriever had walked in. They all looked the same, black suit, badge and firearm displayed on their belts. This one looked unhappy. Something weighed heavy on his mind.
He walked to the counter and took the first available seat.
“What can I get you?” She asked as she listened for the young couple’s exit thru the backdoor.
“Just Coffee and toast.” he replied as he fidgeted with the non-functioning tracking device. The girl was close. He could feel it. If it weren’t for office budget cuts and a freeze on buying new equipment, he’d have this commodity bagged and tagged for the landfill.
“You look like you could use a hardy meal. The boy in the back makes a tasty breakfast platter. Let me serve that up for you.” She slaps the counter to get his attention. “It’s on the house!”