Jacob Farley sat in his freezing living room about forty miles outside of Sweetwater, Texas. He was cold. The wind turbines weren’t doing their job and the power grid left him with no electricity. From the last newscast he had heard it was the same for everyone else in the area . . . perhaps the entire state of Texas. He thought, “Well, I just need to make it through a day or two perhaps before everything starts working again.” That gave him solace for about an hour. It was one in the afternoon and bitter cold. It struck him that he had to do something. “I’ll take stock of what I got.”
Jacob moved to an ice covered window. He could just make out his old shed and the red barn a little further away. “Thank god I don’t have cows any more . . . he mused for no reason.” He thought about going to the shed and the barn to see what he had there that might help him, but the wind was really blowing and going outside to look around didn’t seem too smart. He sat down to make a list. He already had several layers of clothes on and sitting still just made him colder. He went walking from room to room. The old “sling” room seemed to have the most crap it. It was where he moved things that he should have thrown away, but was too lazy to do.
Just moving about had warmed him up a bit, which ramped up his enthusiasm a tad. He scanned the crammed bookshelves and laughed when he saw his mama’s recipe book. He opened it up. He settled for the warm memories . . . for less than a minute. “Mama used to cook the greatest food on that old cast iron stove.” The “cast iron stove” snapped him back to the present. “That’s still out in the shed and it’s still vented. Too bad I don’t have a wood pile.” He thought again of the red barn. It wasn’t what it used to be, but then neither was Jacob. The barn took lots of wood to build, but the years had not been kind to it.
Putting on a couple more layers for warmth Jacob quick marched against the wind to the shed and opened the door. The afternoon sun lit up the once busy shop. “Oh, yeah . . . crammed full.” Luckily he wasn’t having to face the wind as he moved rusting tools, pulled out boxes and old furniture. “Too bad they’re not wood,” he thought to himself.
Within half an hour he had cleared away most of the mess and hunkered down to reach the stove. He looked at the old stove and gave it a quick appraisal. He nearly jumped six feet when he opened the door under the burners and mice charged out at him and scurried away. “Ah, fresh meat if I need it,” he said to himself. The stove pipe seemed to be sturdy and connected. Next, he realized he didn’t have matches.
Back in his home, he found matches and went once more to the sling room for inspiration. He looked around. He pulled out an old oak end table, a cheap foot stool, and his wife’s exercise bike. “Maybe I can pedal my ass off and get warm,” he thought. He remembered seeing rope in the shed and chastised himself for not bringing it with him. “Once more into the breach” he quoted and did his own mouse scurry carrying the foot stool, matches, and a butcher knife, a plate, and a knife and fork to the shed. He busted up the foot stool, used the butcher knife to make shavings of one leg, and soon had a little fire going fed by the rest of the stool.
Back at the house with rope in hand he pulled the oak end table out the back door, and went back to the sling room. In the closet he found a kid’s wagon. He took that outside. He grabbed a couple more books off the shelf, a framed photo of his wife, and put them in the wagon. He dragged the exercise bike outside and placed it on the wagon, he added his favorite pillow and some wool blankets. From the kitchen he emptied the plastic trash can and filled it with canned food, frozen meats from the freezer, a couple bottles of water, and six packs of Budweiser and Martin House’s sour pickle beer along with a bottle of whiskey for medicinal purposes, and a cast iron frying pan.
As he pulled his wagon piled high with treasures and tied securely, Jacob thought to himself, “My god I’m an Okie.”
Back at the shed he moved everything inside. He added oak pieces from the end table to the fire and braved the wind and cold again and headed to the barn. He looked around for inspiration. He spied his old bike he had gotten as a Christmas gift when he was fourteen. The tires were long flat, but he wasn’t going to ride it. He found old pieces of siding that he still hadn’t replaced and tied them to the sides of the bike. He found an old axe and soon had everything wheeled back to the shed.
Soon Jacob had a frozen steak cooking. He cursed himself, “I shoulda brought seasoning and some barbecue sauce.” He felt like his old self after eating. He looked at the exercise bike and laughed, “Well, it’s here, but I’m warm enough without pedaling.” He was feeling more alive than he had in years. His mind was flashing with ideas. “My old bike!” He brought it in. He disconnected the little generator that the tire turned as well as the headlight and connected them instead to the exercise bike. He turned the headlight around and soon he was pedaling, reading, and laughing. He kept chopping wood and stoking the fire. He was warm and cozy as pleasant memories filled his mind and heart.
About half an later a knock came to the door of the shed but got no response. A voice called out, “Jacob, are you in there?” There was no answer. Only the wind was making noise. “We saw the smoke and smelled the food. We’re having a tough time and looking for a little help.” The door opened and John and Sharon and their baby, Cindy came in and quickly closed the door. In the flickering firelight they saw Jacob slumped over on his wife’s exercise bike at peace with the world.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.