The U.S. of After Chapter 12
I was kinda suspicious of this Ralph guy from the start, but Amy was sure sold on him. I’ve seen lots of normal lookin’ people do strange things after the world fell apart. I just had a bad feeling about the guy, that’s all. He was all smiles, but it was similar to when you go to the doctor and he tells you some bad news and you both talk in quiet friendly tones, that is until you leave and you’re cryin’ in your car.
I figured I’d just keep my mouth shut along the way. At least the guy had given us a lift and it was pretty nice to not have to huff it down the road. Ralph had three fifty gallon drums of diesel in the back of the truck that sorta drew attention everywhere we went, but he would pull out his pistol and shake the business end at anyone who started lookin’ our way and than hit the gas when they started towards us. Sometimes they threw rocks or other things or shot at us. Not many people were very good shots, but it was still scary times. We stayed pretty much on highway nine all the way. Every small town we came to, Ralph’d run all the stop signs and barrel on through so’s not to attract attention. I was thankful none of them decided to light out in pursuit of us or had set road blocks up. That was what some of the pocket dictators that had control of some of the bigger towns were doin’, as I had seen first hand. Now and again he’d stop the truck and me and Amy would get out to look for supplies with Ralph sayin’ he wanted to be the “get-away driver”.
The meteor shower we had the night before kind of shook things up in pretty much every place we passed. Houses were on fire, trees were burnin’, big grass fires could be seen for miles over every hill. Pretty soon we got past Eufaula lake and then headed south toward McAlester. We’d gas up when we didn’t see anyone and made sure we had plenty before goin’ through any towns, but we tried to skirt them when we could. Sometimes we didn’t have a choice and that was hard to do without feelin’ that finger of fear run down my spine. Amy would grip my leg and squeeze. I made her sit next to Ralph once I figured he wasn’t all that bad, but I don’t think she minded too much.
I noticed that Amy and Ralph were gettin’ more and more chummy by the second and I started feelin’ like a third wheel. He started to loosen up after we got down the road a ways and they started looking at each other like I wished she’d look at me. I just kinda stood around with my hands in my pockets and kicked rocks when we’d stop for bathroom breaks or I’d work the hardest to find food and water at places that looked abandoned. I was just hopin’ that she’d get tired of him when she found out how he really was. But I really didn’t know at the time. I was almost as snowed as she was but not really.
When we made it to lake Eufaula we saw the strangest sight. People was campin’ out all around it, a weird village of hippies. We decided to stay away from the tent city. We’d all heard stories. We cut south through some back roads and skirted most of the bigger towns by scootin’ down Highway 62. It wasn’t until we got in toward McAlester that we saw the big columns of smoke risin’ up, like some sort of black markers of evil. We just got closer and closer to it until the bottom fell out of everythin’ and Ralph did somethin’ that didn’t make no sense at all.
Like I said. I was kind of suspicious.