By The Chronicler
Wind whistled through the night, twirling and dancing, rocking the trees. Their half frozen branches creaked in protest.
A branch snapped. A slim, little limb so fine it floated through the air rather than fell, swishing this way and that, amidst a light shower of powder snow. Bright moon light reflected off the iced limb, sparkling and glinting as it twisted and blew, until it finally came to rest on a larger branch below
Already over burdened with snow and ice, its back bowed by the cold wind, the added weight of one, tiny, whisp of a limb was enough.... the proverbial straw that broke the equally proverbial camel's back.
The branch splintered, tore itself from the trunk, and came crashing down across the power lines below.
In one fateful breath of wind the civilized world was brought down in a shower of snow and sparks, down into an existence of dark, dark, forever dark...
Mrs. Eunice Johnson set the battery lantern on the corner of her desk.
"Mrs. Johnson, that you?" came a call from the balcony that over looked the entry and her desk.
"Yea." She grabbed her flashlight and turned it to light the stairs for Peggy Banzai. "You and the baby alright?"
Peggy carefully made her way down, holding her two year old daughter in her arms. Close behind her was four year old J.B. being protectively lead under the arm of six year old Ducky. "Why are the lights out? Didn't the generator kick on?" Peggy wanted to know.
"Don't know." Mrs. Johnson answered. She pulled out her chair for Peggy to sit down, before scooping up little J.B. and sitting him down on the file cabinet behind her desk. She turned and held her hands out to Ducky.
The little girl shook her head. Holding up her A-Team flashlight, she declared "I'm gonna go check on my horses." She turned and headed for the door.
"Ducky..." Peggy started, but it was Mrs. Johnson who stopped her.
"Hold on there, cowgirl." She grabbed the back of the little girl's PJs and pulled her back. "I need you to look after Peggy and the babies."
"I'm not a baby!" J.B. declared, pounding himself in the chest.
"Are too!" Ducky returned.
J.B. pouted. "Mommy!" he wined.
Suddenly the lights flickered then buzzed on.
"About time." Mrs. Johnson breathed.
"And then there was light!" announced Perfect Tommy as he walked into the entry.
"Uncle Tommy!" Ducky cheered, running and leaping into his arms.
Laughing, Perfect Tommy hugged her. "And what are you doing outta bed? Don't tell me the light goin' out woke you little rugrats up."
"J.B. was scared." Ducky told him.
"Was not!" the child protested.
Perfect Tommy swung the girl around onto his back, holding onto a leg while she wrapped her arms around his shoulders. Once secure, he hobbled over and bent down so as to be eye to eye with J.B. "You weren't afraid?" he asked in awe.
J.B. shook his head, his black curls bouncing falling into his eyes. With a little hand, he brushed them away.
"Well, maybe you should stick with me then, buddy." Tommy winked at Peggy, before turning back to her son. "'Cause I was shaking in my skibbies."
The children giggled. They didn't find the thought of their uncle being scared so funny. But the fact that he had said skibbies... now that was something to laugh about.
"What's going on?" Peggy asked now that the children were distracted. "Why didn't the generator kick on?"
"It did." Perfect Tommy reminded her, nodding up at the lights. "Just took a moment longer is all. A cold start does that." He glanced at the children, then rose up. "Mrs. J, Rawhide says to shut down the excess systems. Everyone has go-phones, we don't need the house com system. Stuff like that. And the kitchen staff needs to get down to the freezers, take inventory. We need everything turned off that we don't need."
"We're stocked for winter." she reminded him.
"He knows." Perfect Tommy shrugged. He wrapped an arm around J.B. and hiked him up under his arm. "How'd you little rugrats like to have a sleep over, huh?"
"In your room?" Ducky asked excitedly.
Peggy chuckled. "Ah, no." she assured. She had seen Perfect Tommy's room. She didn't need to wait for his answer to know there was no way in hell the children were gonna step foot in that mess. "Zoey's room." She rose to her feet. "Tell Buckaroo to come through our door when he comes to bed. Don't want him stepping on anyone."
"I'll tell him." Mrs. J assured. She eyed Perfect Tommy. "You'll get them to bed?"
He nodded. "Alrighty, rugrats, let's say good night to aunty Eunice."
J.B. yawned. Ducky offered a tired wave before dropping her head on her uncle's shoulder.
Mrs. Johnson smiled. "Make sure to get them some extra blankets." she told him, taking a moment to wrap her coat around Peggy's shoulders. "And you, you keep that little lady warm."
Peggy smiled. She tugged the coat around her and her little girl. "Good night, Eunice." Then she turned and started back up the stairs.
Perfect Tommy scooted J.B. up on his hip and was about to follow, when Mrs. Johnson stopped him.
"Tommy? We're digging in for the long haul, aren't we?" she wanted to know.
The Cavalier became serious. "Yea, looks like it. Whole city is down.... an' probably a lot more."
"Refugees?" she wondered.
"We'll know more come mornin'." He smiled down at J.B. as he snuggled under his chin. "Better get these rugrats to bed."
Mrs. Johnson watched as he lugged the two children up the stairs. She could hear Ducky's tired voice ask "Uncle Tommy?"
"Whatta we gonna haul long?"
Perfect Tommy's laughter echoed down the stairs and through the halls.
Mrs. Johnson shook her head, smiling. "Oh life with children." she whispered to herself. Her hand dropped to her ever so slightly bulging belly. For a moment she wondered if Perfect Tommy could juggle three rugrats up the stairs. For another moment she wondered how he was going to react when he found out... not to mention Rawhide and Buckaroo and the others. So far only New Jersey knew. But it was only a matter of time... Jeez, if it wasn't for her baggy sweat shirts, they'd already know.
The lights dimmed for a moment.
She sighed. Grabbing her check list from her desk, she headed off. It was gonna be a long, cold night and she had a lot of work to do if they were gonna make the next long, cold night.