“Daddy, I want to go home,” Amy said as she pulled weeds and harvested zucchini from the raised garden bed she was working on. “I miss my friends and I miss going to school.”
Working on another garden bed with his back to her Paul said, “I know you do sweetheart, but this is our home now and we have to make the best of it. Besides, I thought you enjoyed coming to the family cabin.”
“I did when it was only a couple of weeks in the summer, but now I can’t even go swimming in the lake. It’s so dried up that I have to walk out a half mile through the soggy mud flats just to get to what little water is left.”
Paul sympathized with his daughter but could not come up with a suitable answer so he asked his wife, “How are those tomatoes coming over there Joan?”
“Fine, looks like we might have a good crop,” Joan replied.
“Speaking of those mud flats, I’m going to take the wheelbarrow down to the lake bed and dig up some topsoil.”
As Paul returned with a load of dirt, Joan asked, “Do you have patrol duty today?”
“Yes, I have to leave in about an hour. The sheriff wants me to start at 4 o’clock so I better go get cleaned up.”
Paul was not a law enforcement professional, but like many others in the community, he volunteered several nights a week or when the sheriff needed him. It was like neighborhood watch duty. All this became necessary when so many climate refugees found their way here and many of them setup an impromptu camp where Jenkinsville Road intersected with the main highway, intersection camps as they had come to be known collectively.
“How’re things today, Marge?” Paul asked the dispatcher when he checked into the office for any assignments and to pick up his radio and magnetic signs he put on his car identifying him as a sheriff’s department volunteer. “So far so good, but the sheriff wants you to first take a run out to the camp and check that all is quiet.”
Driving out of town, Paul passed the town’s only gas station and gave a wave to the armed guard standing out front. The sign on the road advertised $47 for a gallon of gas. It was at these times Paul was thankful that he had the foresight two years ago to buy an electric car.
On the ten-mile ride out to the camp Paul passed many gas guzzling luxury pickups and SUVs that had been abandoned over a year ago when coastal towns became uninhabitable because of flooding and people flocked to the hills. What happened to the people that owned these vehicles, Paul wondered?
It was only a week ago when a gang of campers stopped a gasoline tanker truck hoping to steal some gas, but the tanker was empty having just delivered fuel to the town’s gas station.
Paul saw Sam, a local farmer delivering some produce to the campers, and stopped on the road next to the camp.
“Hey Sam,” Paul said in greeting. “How do things look today?”
“Fine,” said Sam. “Some campers have moved on and new ones have arrived. A camper told me that the state delivered some fresh water earlier today and that the port-a-potties were serviced earlier in the week.”
Back on the road Paul radioed back to Marge, “Looks quiet at the camp. I’m heading back into town.”
As Paul passed the town’s welcome sign proclaiming Jenkinsville, Pop. 3,128, Elevation 945 feet, his cell phone rang. It was Joan. “There’s some trouble here at home…” That was all she said as the call disconnected, like it frequently did.
Paul radioed to Marge and told her, “Some trouble at my cabin, I’m going home.”
“Okay, keep me posted,” Marge replied.
As Paul pulled up to where his driveway met the road he saw through the trees a pickup with two solar panels in the bed parked in front of his cabin. The tailgate of the pickup sported a message saying, “I’m proud of my large carbon footprint truck.”
Suspecting foul play, he left his car on the side of the road, grabbed his 12 gauge and crept quietly through the woods toward the cabin. It was then that he saw two men on his roof and his wife and daughter looking out of the window. They appeared to be safe, Paul thought, but these guys must either be desperate or stupid not to have checked to see if the cabin was occupied.
Using a tree at the edge of the cabin clearing for cover, he saw two men on the roof working to remove his solar panels. Among the many things he learned as a career Marine it was to maintain your cover.
“Hey,” Paul yelled, “What y’all doin?”
One of the guys turned to look at Paul and said, “Helpin ourselves to these panels.
“This is my cabin,” Paul yelled to the men. “Get down off my roof.”
The two men looked at each other but didn’t make a move to comply. “We’re not leaving till we got what we came for,” one of the men said.
It was only after Paul fired a warning shot in the air that the men couldn’t move fast enough.
As the two men climbed down the ladder Paul walked over to their truck, reached in and removed the ignition key to prevent any escape.
When the men were on the ground Paul ordered them to lie face down with their hands behind their back. It took another blast of the shotgun to achieve compliance. Paul then took a seat on the hood of their truck with the shotgun across his lap and radioed Marge, “Need some backup at my cabin.”
“Okay,” Marge replied. “On the way.”
The sheriff pulled in behind the truck, saw the situation, and directed his deputy to take the men into custody while Paul filled him in on what happened.
The sheriff said, “We’ve had a string of similar robberies, especially from cabins around the lake like yours. We suspect the panels are finding a way into the black market, but we haven’t been able to connect the dots yet. Maybe these two can be influenced to provide some information. You okay to finish your shift?”
“No problem,” Paul replied.
“Good, I’ll send someone to get the truck out of your driveway and be careful with that canon of yours,” the sheriff said.
“You’ll be needing these,” Paul said as he handed the sheriff the keys.
Paul went inside the cabin to check on his wife and daughter then went out to finish his patrol duty, arriving back at the cabin around midnight where he found Joan curled up in bed asleep with Amy in her small ground floor bedroom. Not wanting to disturb them, he trudged upstairs to the attic turned master bedroom and fell into bed.
This story was submitted to a contest in response to the prompt “Write a post-apocalyptic story triggered by climate change” on Reedsy.com There were 148 entries for this category. This story didn’t win.