Mason felt relieved that he and Brandy had a week of peace. He went out now and then to check the area, and they did not have a fire to cause smoke. After a full seven days, Mason decided it was safe to have hot food.
He and Brandy decided on a schedule to keep sane. She slept in the loft bedroom and he slept on the camp bed in a small side bedroom off the main room.
Chores were divided. The fresh underground stream which was accessed by an old fashioned pump seemed to be clear and good. No contaminants as of yet appeared in the waters.
Mason proved to be a top prepper. He has collected all sorts of dried foods and water for years, as well as building a water purifying system, a heating system which ran off an oil generator, and other useful items.
He even built a primitive washing machine and shower which did not need electricity.
On the seventh day, Mason decided it was time to have "the hard talk" with Brandy.
He made beans and franks, coffee and even a pineapple upside down cake in his dutch oven. He opened two beers he had made himself from a small brewing kit, and asked Brandy to sit down.
She did. Mason at first did not know how to start the conversation. He decided to start with nature.
"Did you noticed there are no birds, Brandy, not even small ones?" Brandy nodded.
"There are no geese, no pheasants, and I have seen one deer. If it comes back, I shall kill it and we shall have venison. But, most of the animals are gone."
Brandy listened attentively. She felt like a school girl being prepped for a test. She knew Mason wanted to explain how bad things were going to be. She would be patient and listen. But, she already knew how bad things were and that things could get worse. But, she wanted to her what Mason had to say.
"We could stay here for six months with the provisions I have, if there are no more volcanoes, earthquakes and the stream stays clear. The problem I anticipate are raiders, people stumbling across us, or seeing smoke it we cook using the fire. I do not want to deny us hot food, and I do have some smokeless fuel, which I suggest we use until we run out of that."
Mason stopped and watched Brandy. She was calm.
"I can guarantee your safety but I want you to learn how to shoot Please, let me teach you some basics."
Brandy stared. She had been a liberal all her young life. To think of joining the prepper Mason to the point of learning how to use a gun was a huge challenge to her ideologies. But, Mason interrupted her thoughts, "You know, Brandy, you might need to defend me."
Brandy looked at the floor. She thought of her ancestors, Kanien’kehà:ka Nation and French. She thought to herself, "Well, they used guns.."
"OK. I shall learn for your sake." Mason grinned. He was beginning to realize that Brandy was flexible. This was a good sign.
The next morning, Mason set up some targets in the back yard. He wanted her to learn how to use the Ruger 10-22, but first he showed her his small collection of guns. He had three Czech rifles, a British one and a Japanese one, used by the Brits in WWI. Brandy was fascinated that Mason knew the entire history for each gun. He also showed her how he made bullets. This was a new world for her, far from her somewhat sheltered background.
They practiced with the 22 for about an hour. Mason said he was impressed, and that, weather permitting, they would try again tomorrow. But, the sky was dark, and a heavy, dirty rain began to splatter muddy water so that had to go inside.
The rain seemed odd for both scientists. The dust cover should have prevented rain for some time. Mason had some idea. He noticed how fast the temperature was rising, which would cause the change. The dust was warming the air and this could lead to monsoon like rains. Mason said nothing of this to Brandy, but he liked the idea of being separated from other humans for a while by severe rains. The cabin he built was on a small incline and would not flood.
Brandy looked out the window at the rain. Then she said something startling to Mason, "Mason, are you religious. I mean, did you ever go to church or pray?" Mason came over and stood by Brandy, handing her a hot cup of coffee. "Nope, I have to admit I am not a church-going man. But, I was in the army before I studied science and prayed a few times in Afghanistan."
"My uncle was in Afghanistan. He was killed by a landmine." Mason said nothing. He had too many bad memories of mines.
Brandy continued. "I would like to read the Bible and pray every evening. Would you do that with me, Mason? My mom and dad would read the Bible every night and say a few prayers. They were Catholics, but I fell away a long time ago, after they died in a car accident. I guess I have been mad at God."
Mason said nothing. "Well, it was hard for you to shoot today, so I guess I can compromise and read the Bible and pray with you. That seems fair. My parents were not religious. But, these are new times, and we all have to change."
Brandy smiled and drank her coffee. The noise of the rain on the roof comforted her. She went up to her loft room and brought down a leather-bound Bible and a little prayer book.
"After dinner,,,, " she said. "After dinner..., " Mason answered.
to be continued...