Neighborhood Games

by Russell Portier © 2001

Slowly, ponderously the chain-link fence swung open to reveal Johnson's teal 1999 Plymouth Voyager SE. Slowly, cautiously, the van crept forward.

"Bastion Two, this is Lord Four. All clear, code Hedge Link Chain Five," I heard over my hand-held. Immediately my mind registered that Johnson's wife was driving and Smith's second daughter was manning the lookout post.

I was proud of myself for breaking their radio scrambling, and I knew that I could've taken the car then and there with one of the rockets we had in store. However, that would lead to a pitched battle, and with Red and his family out collecting until tomorrow, I was under-strength and vulnerable. Anyway, it would make a better target when it came back in three days, laden with collection.

Four hundred years ago, before the Collapse, out families' conflicts were nothing more than spying on each other, and the occasional sprinkler battle. Now, we fight for our survival, and there's not a sprinkler to be seen for over 2000 miles. For the most part, we're all self-sufficient. However, once every year or so, we have to send an expedition into the ruined town to see if we can collect anything useful. Being the only four families left in this area after the Bomb and its babies, we truly have choice picks. I guess you could say we're lucky to have had our feuds, because that's the only reason we both had bomb shelters: us (the diAngelos) and our allies the Reds, versus the Smiths and the Johnsons.

Every 70-80 years we call a temporary truce to allow inter-breeding, and to pull in new stock from the slowly growing town 600 miles away, and most of the time nothing happens anyway. We all use our time wisely.

But greed and envy are embedded in our genes. Our families are proud of what we've accomplished in 400 years, and we're not about to give in to that filth across the street, to let our children be raised by the likes of them.

"Let them pass, Sanctuary Seven," I reported to my son.

x x x

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