Once Christopher was on the exam table, she cut his shirt off for a better look at the severity of the wound. As she removed his shirt, she noticed the scars from Christopher’s shrapnel wounds he had accumulated over the years as a fighter pilot, “Well, it explains why you’re not in severe shock. The experience is nothing new to you.”
Christopher talked, but Sylvia cut him off, “You lay back and be quiet. I have work to do. You’re distracting me with your tongue flapping. This shot is a local anesthesia, but you may still have slight pain.” As Sylvia was digging the bullet out of his shoulder, a single shot rang out from the fighting positions. Sylvia put her forearm across Christopher’s chest.
“All we need to know is whether the shot was out going or in coming?”
Christopher looking at Sylvia, “It was outgoing.”
“Stay still then.”
After Sylvia removed the bullet, she bandaged and put his shoulder into a sling and administered a shot to help fight infection. Christopher now setting on the edge of the exam table, “I need to check on Bryan and Natalie.”
“Fine, take these crutches. I don’t want those stitches torn open.”
As Christopher walked out of the exam room, he was greeted by Bud and Claudia. Bud hugged his leg, “You ok Christopher?”
Christopher looked at Bud hugging his leg, I’m fine Bud it was just a scratch. You and Claudia stay here with Sylvia. I’m going to check on Bryan and Natalie. I’ll be right back.”
Christopher radioed, “Bryan, Natalie. I’m coming back to the fighting positions. Don’t shoot me and stay down. No need to give them a clear shot after surviving that battle.”
Natalie radioed. “One tried, but didn’t get the chance. I took him out quickly.”
Christopher radioed, “That’s my girl. Keep those heads down and eyes open.”
When he arrived at his fighting position, he scanned the battle line. Nothing was seen, even on infrared. He radioed, “Anyone coming down from the adrenaline rush yet?”
Christopher clicked his radio, “OK, you two can keep each other company for the rest of the night. Increase your scans with infrared scopes from the front to each side. If someone eludes your scans and tries to flank us, you can catch them when you scan to the side. Make your scans smooth but quick. Scan from the sides first, moving to the front. Understood?”
Natalie radioed, “Acknowledged.”
Bryan radioed, “Acknowledged, sir.”
Christopher radioed, “Sylvia or myself will be out at the top of every hour with snacks, coffee and breakfast tea. We’ll radio before we come out. No radio call, shoot first, ask questions later. I’ll be back at the top of the hour.”
As he entered the cave, Sylvia helped him to the kitchen table, “Now you ready for bed?”
Christopher looked at Sylvia, “It will be light in a few hours, Natalie and Bryan are pumped up on adrenaline and won’t be able to sleep for two days. I need to make sure they are fine until daybreak. We will detect aggressors better during the day. I told them I would bring out snacks and coffee and breakfast tea for Natalie at the top of every hour. I also told them if they don’t get a radio call and they see someone they were to shoot and ask questions later.”
Sylvia sitting at the table, “In that case I’ll let you go. If they shoot me, there won’t be anyone to patch me back together.”
Christopher chuckling, “You have a point there.”
Sylvia set the timer on the range and got a deck of cards from a cabinet drawer, “Ginn Rummy, 500-point game?”
“No strip poker?”
“We’ve only been through one battle. What kind of girl do you think I am?”
Christopher laughed out loud.
“Quiet, you’ll wake the children.”
Ginn Rummy and shuttling food and drink to the fighting positions kept them going through the night.
When the sun was above the horizon. Christopher sent Natalie and Bryan to get their rest. They would be on watch tonight. After Bud and Claudia had their breakfast, Sylvia brought them out to start their game of finding people playing hide and go seek. After the kids were in place, Sylvia stared at Christopher, “Its daylight. Time for you to hit the rack soldier.”
“I have pulled an all-nighter before.”
“Not with a bullet wound. I’ve had much more all-nighters than you can imagine. I spent three of my five-years as a nurse pulling double shifts. You are going to bed for the next few days. I’ll wake you for lunch.
Christopher hearing her logic could not argue with her. At lunch Sylvia came into Christopher’s room with hot soup and pain pills, “You’re going to need both. Pills first, then the soup.”
As Christopher tried to sit up, pain shot through his shoulder. The pain pills were the first thing he reached for. Looking at Sylvia, “How are our game players doing?”
“They’re doing fine. Bud is upset, there is no one playing today. I told him to keep watching, it was early yet for hide and seekers to be playing. Bryan and Natalie are awake. They have been asking about you. Natalie volunteered to make you dinner. So, I will get my sleep after your finished with lunch. In four hours, I’ll check in on you and give you your meds. Bryan has instructions concerning any efforts you may make to get out of bed. If you don’t want a poke in your shoulder, stay in bed.
“I’ll be a good patient Nurse Sylvia. Don’t worry.”
“Good, it’s time for you and I to get some sleep. I’ll check in on you later. Good night.”
Before Christopher knew it, Natalie brought in dinner. It was soup and more medication.
“No steak? I like steak for dinner.”
Natalie looking at him, “Only soup for the next day or two, Sylvia orders. When your healed you can have steak.”
“How are the scans going? Any movement in town?”
“They’ve seen no one all day. It seems like the town emptied overnight. Bryan and I will scan for any lights tonight.”
“Make your scans 180 degrees. Start by facing the town, then to the other side of the mountain. We don’t want them to seek up on us from behind.”
“I’ll let Bryan know. See you in the morning.”
Christopher laid back and went to sleep. Sylvia came in at 2100 hours, 0100 hours, 0500 hours giving him his medicine. At 0900 hours she had breakfast and more medication.
“How’s the pain this morning?”
“It’s still there, if that is what you’re asking. When did I get the I.V.?”
“The same time I hooked you up to the heart monitor.”
Christopher looked around, seeing the heart monitor and the I. V. bag hanging by the bed.
“You’ve been a busy little nurse. How are the kids doing?”
“They are doing fine. Bud keeps asking how you are doing. You have become quite the father figure to him, you know.”
“He helped me a lot as well. He is a special young man. Any more movement in town?”
It’s been quiet for over thirty-six hours. The odor from the bodies is getting worse in the scorching sun. The bodies are already attracting scavenger birds. Bryan and I are going to burn the field today.
“No, you’re not. I can help Bryan. Remember, if you get shot there’s no one to put you back together. Besides, it won’t take long. I will stay in bed for as long as you want me to after we finish. Natalie can stand watch and you can keep Claudia and Bud in the house. Deal?”
“One hour only. No more.”
Christopher and Bryan burned bodies and mobiles, making the scene look as if it was a military strike. The fires burned well into the night.
For the next seven days Christopher rested while the others-maintained watch over the countryside and him. On the eighth day, Sylvia let Christopher take his meals at the table having conversations with everyone. Spirits were high. Weeks soon turned into months with no one in sight.
Christopher felt a chill in the air. It would be winter soon and the younger ones could not maintain their watch, nor was their food supply infinite. Soon they will need to hunt and gather to survive. Their supply of sugar and flour and canned goods would last 12 months or longer, depending on what they could gather before winter. But there were bigger matters to address today. Bud’s seventh birthday party.
Christopher had gathered decorations for the party before they left town. Along with the decorations, Bud’s Seventh birthday party had noise makers, cake and Ice cream for everyone. Bud was having a great time. After the party, Christopher couldn’t see Bud. He searched outside first, then went to his room where he found him crying.
“Hey, Bud. First birthday without your parents is the toughest. My first birthday without my family was really tough too. From that point forward, I kept my friends close. I still miss them, but I have Natalie, Bryan, Claudia, Sylvia and you. You’re my best friend ever.”
Bud whimpering, peered up at Christopher, “Your best friend ever?”
Christopher nodded, “Best friend ever.”
Bud gave Christopher an enormous hug, “You’re my best friend ever too Christopher.”
They spent the next hour playing and talking in Bud’s room.
As they emerged from his room, they found Sylvia in the front room reading.
Christopher looking at Bud, “Let’s find the others. it’s a pretty day outside to play. You find them and I’ll be out in a minute.”
“OK, see you in a few minutes Christopher.”
As Bud ran out the front door Sylvia looked at Christopher, “He’s missing his family?”
“It’s his first birthday without them. He took it pretty hard, but I think he is going to be OK.”
“The younger you are, the faster you get over tragedy. He has you now.”
“He has all of us now. We’re his adopted family.”
“You know, for a battle-hardened warrior, you have a soft spot there in the middle of your chest.”
“Bud reminds me of the childhood I didn’t have. I’ll make sure he and Claudia have the childhood they deserve. It may not be ideal, but they will have a childhood.”
“We both can work on that project. Let’s check on the children.”
Sylvia and Christopher walked out the front door to see Bud and Claudia playing. Natalie and Bryan were sitting back-to-back, scanning the countryside and talking to one another. Sitting in the grass, Christopher and Sylvia started talking as they watched the children.
As Christopher looked over the countryside, “Winter is just around the corner. Do the children need more clothes?”
“They will, Bud and Claudia are not getting smaller. They will need coats, shirts, pants and shoes. Bryan and Natalie are at the slow growth stage. They need to get their winter clothes from their house. I’ll make a list of clothes they will need. Tomorrow we could go to town and pickup clothes for Bud and Claudia. I haven’t been shopping for a long time. I could use a few things myself and you definitely need more clothes. We may need more party supplies too. Blue streamers and balloons are not the birthday decorations Claudia or Natalie would want for their birthday.”
“You are probably right on the color selection. We’ll look for more decorations too. We’ll need hunting equipment and two or three freezers to hold the meat. Water is not an issue, but we need to consider growing vegetables and fruits. We’ll go to the nursery and check out their selection. We’ll pick up another truck too.”
“Men, always thinking about vehicles.”