Authors: Joe Nobody
Tags: #Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #War & Military
Holding Their Own:
A Story of Survival
Kemah Bay Marketing LTD.
All rights reserved.
Other Books by Joe Nobody:
Holding Your Ground: Preparing for Defense if it All Falls Apart
The TEOTWAWKI Tuxedo: Formal Survival Attire
Without Rule of Law: Advanced Skill to Help You Survive
The Home Schooled Shootist – Training to fight with a carbine
Holding Their Own II: The Independents
Holding Their Own III: Pedestals of Ash
This is a work of fiction. Characters and events are products of the author’s imagination, and no relationship to any living person is implied. The locations, facilities, and geographical references are based upon factual research, but set in a fictional environment.
s I conceived this story, one of my biggest challenges was to create a fictional, economic collapse that would seem realistic to the reader. When I actually began writing, I couldn’t help but notice how disconcerting, economic news seemed to dominate the headlines with increasing frequency. Things got a little surreal as I would write fiction and then watch similar real-life events unfold on the nightly newscast. The riots in Greece and France, economic protest in London, and budget gridlock in Washington, D.C. all seemed to coincide with the pretend world being created inside my word processor. The Texas wildfires of 2011 were another example. It was a little uncanny at times how I would finish a section and then watch it being played out in real life. Honestly, I wasn’t trying to write a script for cable news.
As we were finishing the final edits, economic protests led to fires and violence in Oakland. At one
point, my editor even suggested we consider accelerating the timeline in the book.
All the while,
Holding Your Ground
(my first book) was climbing in sales, eventually making the top 100 Best Sellers on Amazon. The emails, letters, and customer reviews all relayed the same basic message:
Thank you for writing the book.
. People are concerned, some even frightened, and the book made them feel like they can have some control, regardless of future events.
I pray the remainder of my work remains purely fictional.
Holding Your Ground
played a greater role in this book than one might think. More than anything else, I consider myself a problem solver and teacher. My experience as an instructor has proven that some people learn well using an instructional guide like
, while others do better with a scenario, or story based environment.
This led to my desire to write a novel (or story) that utilized the methods described in
while using “real life” situations.
AP Press Release - Washington, D.C. 08:00 April 20, 2015
US Commerce Department today announced that the gross domestic product declined by almost two percent for the first quarter of 2015, resulting in the third straight quarter of contraction. Most analysts were hoping for a slight increase in the GDP, as today’s announcement indicates that the United States economy has officially entered a depression.
Mark Goldberg, senior economist at Baker, Dean and Morgan, stated, “Three straight quarters of decline is the textbook definition of a depression. Soaring energy costs, natural disasters and federal debt are all contributing to the re
traction in the size of the US economy.”
In related news, The Department of Labor announced yesterday that
first-time claims for unemployment benefits rose to 1,241,000 last week, increasing for the 42
straight week. The economy lost 210,000 net jobs in the private sector and an additional 121,000 public sector positions were eliminated.
When asked about the grim economic indicators, White House spokesman Jim Grease replied, “We see light at the end of the tunnel
. The downward trend in manufacturing actually slowed last quarter, and we believe that is a positive sign.”
The United States unemployment rate now
stands at 19.4%, ranking as the 7
worst among the G-8 nations. Japan currently ranks first with 22.4% unemployment; the United Kingdom and Germany round out the top three.
On a positive note, oil fell $3.11 per barrel yesterday to $344.96. Declining demand from developing countries was the root cause of the sell
-off, according to traders.
The whine of the miniature, remote control dune buggy gave away its position before his eyes even detected its movement. In a single motion, he pivoted his body left, dropped to one knee and aimed the rifle--but he was too late. Scooting over a low embankment, the target disappeared out of sight and out of range. Stinging sweat rolled into his eyes, and his legs were beginning to seriously protest the day’s activities. He listened carefully, trying to detect his target’s direction, but the thick air was absolutely silent.
What the hell am I doing here
, he thought.
It’s so hot even the fire ants are hiding underground.
He decided to flank the vehicle’s position, zigzagging to his right, moving as quickly as his legs could support the additional forty pounds of body armor, ammunition and supplies strapped to his chest. He pushed himself hard the last few feet to get an angle on the target, but he just couldn’t gain enough momentum. Worse yet, the drone of the toy’s engine indicated it had rolled into a strand of trees that was now blocking his shot.
The “toy” was a common remote control vehicle that could be purchased at any hobby sto
re, typically delighting the 5-year-old boy who discovered it peeking through the boughs of a Christmas tree. While such a device could bring a smile to a young man’s face during the holidays, it rarely produced anything but agony at this facility. This specific model had been modified with a coat hanger which carried a paper bullseye two feet above its frame. The inexpensive child’s toy was an excellent training tool, as it allowed students to test themselves against a moving target controlled by rather crafty instructors. This particular one was known by the trainers as the “Dune Buster,” but all of the students at the facility called it the “Ass Buster,” because it was wickedly fast.
Today, Bishop was the student, and the toy was the master. Not only was it faster than he was, it didn’t seem to mind the heat. He had been hunting the little bastard for twenty minutes while cocooned in an oven of Kevlar
, and it was taking its toll. His exhausted mind returned to questioning the wisdom of training in this weather. While the blistering Texas sun was bad enough, it was the blanket of humid air pressing down that was making the exercise insufferable.
This is like trying to swim fully clothed…upstream…in hot water…with sharks around,
He gathered his strength and pushed off for one last effort.
In a safety bunker
twenty-five yards away, two instructors were watching Bishop through a small slit as he tried to maneuver for a shot. A momentary smirk formed on the lips of the older man as he remarked to his comrade, “He’s falling for it.”
“They always sucker for that move. Are you ready?” replied the other gent as he lifted the paintball rifle to his shoulder.
“Let’s nail this guy and get back into the air conditioning.”
The senior instructor positioned the joystick
, commanding the toy to move away from the student, baiting him out into the open.
As the toy began rolling again, Bishop adjusted his direction, and in doing so, exposed himself to the bunker
. He centered the red dot on his riflescope and began to squeeze the trigger when two paintballs struck him in the thigh, mixing their red coloring with the sweat that had soaked his pants. The sting of the impact caused Bishop to miss the shot and then roll to the ground panting for air and cursing under his breath.
He opened his eyes a few moments later and looked up at two smiling instructors. “That was too easy, Bishop
. An old dog like you should know better,” the older fellow said as he offered a helping hand.
“You guys suck.”
“Oh now, don’t be bitter, Bishop. Everybody falls for that trick. Besides, I could have hit you in the ear with those paintballs, and that really hurts, so don’t start whining like a little girl. Now be a good lad. Clear that rifle, and join us for some cold iced tea.”
Bishop looked at his watch, “Oh shit, I can’t
. I have to go downtown and file paperwork today. Thanks for the offer though.”
Bishop gave the pickup truck some gas and accelerated up the entrance ramp
. He was behind schedule and trying to get out of the city before the roads filled with the afternoon rush. He had always thought that “rush hour” was an interesting term, as in this gridlock, no one could “rush” anywhere. When the freeway came into view, he realized it was too late. There were five lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic stretching as far as he could see
. So the economy sucks?
Even with gas prices above $6.00 per gallon and unemployment over 20%, enough people managed to clog the roads every afternoon to cause a “non-rush hour.”
After merging into what was more of a parking spot than a moving line of traffic, he glanced over to see a truck almost identical to his own in the next lane. It was simple male bravado for both drivers to size up the other truck.
So that’s what it looks like going down the road,
they both thought. The other driver, wearing a 10-gallon hat and a western shirt, raised a bottle covered in a brown paper bag and toasted Bishop’s truck. After giving his vehicle’s twin a quick look, Bishop motioned to the cowboy with a nod and flashed a “thumbs up” approval.
At least he looks like he belongs here.
While his parents claimed he was a natural born citizen of the Lone Star State, Bishop often mused that he was a victim of a “birther conspiracy” and really didn’t fit in. He didn’t like beer, preferred vintage Rock n’ Roll to country music and didn’t care much for horses. As a boy,
he had used dirt bikes and ATVs on the ranch – horses were for parades and shows. But his most egregious sin was his dislike of traditional cowboy garb. He owned a single 10-gallon hat, and the last time it was on his head was four years ago at the rodeo. The matching pair of calfskin boots sat in the closet, a layer of fine dust obscuring their multi-colored hues.
Give me a good pair of jump boots any day,
he often thought. “I still have my guns and drive a pickup, so I guess they won’t revoke my Texas citizenship any time soon,” he had once joked with a co-worker.
n’t had any reason to go to downtown Houston for a long time. He avoided traffic whenever possible because the inactivity frustrated him. He had dreaded this trip since learning that all employees were required to file their annual insurance papers in person, at the downtown headquarters. The visit to the training facility had been scheduled in a vain attempt to salvage the day, but his performance had been a disappointment.
Hurry up and wait---just like the Army. I am 37 years old, and life is half over,
The sand is running through the hourglass faster than ever, and I don’t have the sand to waste on paperwork and traffic.
He sighed and turned the radio to a local news station to determine if the traffic were the result of an accident or just normal congestion. The news consisted of the typical bad economic indicators, followed by optimistic spin
from a government spokesman. Bishop maneuvered the truck into a lane that was creeping forward a little faster than the others and settled in for a long ride home. The radio finally reported that the slowdown on the Northwest Freeway was only congestion, and traffic was moving well a few miles ahead of him. Perhaps he wouldn’t have such a terrible drive home after all.
Five years ago, I would have been stuck out here for hours. Maybe the Second Great Depression was not an entirely bad thing?
, he decided
, it was not a good thing . . . no matter how you looked at it.
Many of his friends, despite vaulted degrees and esteemed careers, were not doing so well
. It seemed like each day someone he knew posted messages on Facebook about being laid off or looking for work.
He was lucky he supposed
. A job with a company that did petroleum exploration all over the world had provided some security. He was essentially a highly paid watchman, but could boast that he had traveled widely and experienced great adventure. That thought caused him to snort out loud.
Adventure was such a bullshit word
. The truth was more like being in the wrong place at the wrong time and yet lucky enough to survive. His mind drifted back to when his current “adventure” began.
Bishop had been deep in the middle of a dream---something about a warm, clear night and soft grains of sand squishing between his toes.
On the nightstand, his cell phone started its screeching assault.
It was way-too-early AM, and he decided to ignore it. As his brain happily returned to its deep REM state, the phone began firing its second salvo almost immediately. He rolled over and through squinted eyes checked the caller ID. The number displayed was an odd format he didn’t recognize. Angry and still half-asleep, he answered the phone, “This had better be good. You are interrupting my debut as a porn star, and I’m right in the middle of a scene with two Asian girls who are not afraid of each other.”
The voice on the other end had laughed and said, “Bishop, you old pervert. That gut hangs over your belt too much to be a porn star, and besides
, your pecker belongs on a mouse.”
Bishop yawned and protested in a gravelly voice, “My gut doesn’t hang over my belt
The caller was Spider, an old Army buddy who seemed to drift in and out of his life, but a friend nonetheless
. “Bishop, I’m in Iraq working security for a US company. The wife of one of my guys has decided to hatch their kid a few weeks early, and we just sent him home to the states. I need a guy who knows a little about pipelines and a little about rifles. Are you still looking for work? ….Bishop, are you there? … Wake up dipshit! Oh, and by-the-way, the food over here ain’t half bad,” he rambled.
Even today, Bishop had to smile at the naivety of his response, “What the hell does a pipeline have to do with rifles?”
Bishop’s recalling of that old phone conversation suddenly reminded him
that he needed to let his bride know where he was. He picked up the cell and called Terri. “Hey babe, I’m going to be stuck in traffic for a bit, but it’s not real bad,” he said.
Her response was hurried
. “No problem---Cindy was over and blabbed for 20 minutes. I’m trying to finish balancing the checkbook, get in the shower and make you something to eat. Some people have way too much time on their hands, you know? I have this new recipe I wanted to cook for you, but I don’t think I’ll be able…”
“I was just thinking about picking you up over my shoulder, carrying you back to the bedroom barbarian style and doing a little
“I have to do a deep-dive into these insurance forms for Mom, and that’s no fun. Do you know how many pages these things…”
“I promise you my idea will result in a
very deep dive
“… and the girls from the bank are having a meeting at the YMCA for the charity…”
“My idea involves a meeting
at the Y
“Oh, and I got the mail. You received your membership renewal for the…”
“I got your
, right here darling, and this
won’t need any
Terri feigned frustration at the innuendo. “Bishop, are you even listening to me?”
“Sorry babe, this traffic is such
a slow grind
, it distracts me.”
She laughed and in a low, sexy voice said, “I’ll
you plenty, big boy. Get your
deep-diving male member
home, and I’ll deliver a
that will make you sleep for hours.”
“Sounds good babe
. . . love you.”
a sec, I forgot. Can you stop and get some milk, oatmeal, dishwashing detergent and a dozen apples on the way? Love you, too.”
Bishop laughed, hung up and turned up the radio to listen to the news
“This just in to the news
room - A spokesman for Houston General Hospital has informed KTRT that a bankruptcy judge has ordered the facility to cease operations in three days. Furthermore, the hospital is requesting anyone with a family member or dependent, currently admitted at the medical center complex, to make arrangements for immediate transfer of the patient to another facility. The Houston General Hospital system has been ordered by the court to execute these bankruptcy procedures immediately. Any patient not transferred voluntarily will be automatically relocated to neighboring City Hospital in the next few days.”
The station went on to give details of the financial troubles of the hospital system, the delay in Medicare and Medicaid payments from the government, and other background information. Another announcer reported that City Hospital had no knowledge of any large transfer of incoming patients. A spokesman for City Hospital said that the facility was at capacity and would not be accepting any new patients.
Bishop’s phone rang
, and he didn’t even have to check the caller ID to know it was Terri. “Hey darling, are you listening to the radio?”
A now very serious voice replied
, “No, but it is on the TV news. What are we going to do about Mother?” Terri’s mom had cancer and had been admitted into the Houston General two months before. She was not expected to hold on much longer and spent most of her days sleeping from the heavy pain medication.
Bishop was at a loss
. “No idea. I just heard the report myself.”
The tone of Terri’s voice became even more stressed, “Oh my God
, Bishop! They are showing nurses and doctors walking out of the hospital. It looks like they are abandoning the patients. Bishop, what will happen to Mom?” Terri broke down and could no longer be understood between sobbing and blowing her nose. Bishop tried several times to calm her, but communication was impossible. She finally managed to blurt out that she needed to settle down, and she would call back in a bit.
Bishop worshiped the ground Terri walked on, and it put a knot in his gut anytime she was hurting
. They had met five years ago and married eight months later. Terri worked part time as a bank teller and kept busy with their suburban home. She rounded out Bishop’s life, and he considered her not only a great lover, but a partner as well. Terri was “with him” all the way. They were beginning to talk about having children when the economy improved and their savings allowed. While houses were cheap, loans were difficult to secure. It had drained all of their resources to obtain the American dream. Terri’s job at the bank had made the difference.
lost her father years ago and had been raised by her mother. Consequently, she and her mom were very close. When the doctors had informed them of the cancer, it had been the worst week of their lives. In reality, Bishop hoped the kind old lady would pass on soon. Her quality of life was terrible, and the cancer was clearly taking its toll every day. He would support Terri through the grieving process, and then they could continue on with their lives.
I can’t go there
, thought a guilty Bishop.
That is not fair to Terri or her Mom. If I were lying on my deathbed, would I want someone thinking that way about me?
Bishop called Terri back.
“I’m not far from the hospital and will head over there to see what is going on. You know the news media, always sensationalizing everything. At least I’ll be able to check and make sure she’s okay.” He ended the call with a calmer wife and began to switch lanes to get off of the interstate
. I hope moving Rita does not involve a lot of forms and paperwork. I’ve already had enough chicken shit paperwork for one day.
His dislike of paperwork sent his mind back
again to Iraq and Spider. He had agreed to take the job with Spider, and after going over various details over the phone, had begun the “process.” He had to snicker at the word “process,” as the experience was more like a steady diet of pure, pasteurized
. For three days, he was fed an unending meal of passport verification, State Department regulations, work permits, insurance documents, a Last Will and Testament, next of kin forms and all kinds of mind-numbing paperwork. For dessert, he was given an intrusive physical, topped off with several inoculations. Why hadn’t he just told Spider, “Go to Hell,” and gone back to sleep?
The flight to Baghdad included two stops, was totally boring
, and thus exhausting. Bishop exited the plane onto a small, stainless steel platform and immediately received a blast of hot air right in the face. While he had been raised in West Texas and was accustomed to heat, this experience was on a totally different scale. It was as if someone had turned on a hair dryer and pointed it at his head. He followed the other passengers into a line that was Customs, which amounted to a few cursory questions in broken English. The ancient Iraqi man at the counter asked him, “Country of birth please?”
“Texas – oh, I mean the United States of America.”
The old gent smiled and waved him through.
They do that every time
, the Iraqi thought.
I wonder why only the Americans from Texas think their state is a different country.