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Thicker Than Water
I'm working on three or four stories at once now--and I'm going much slower, doing a lot of rewriting as I go--
So fair warning--its going to be slow.....
Thicker Than Water
Zane was working on a drawing, and was just as happy as if he’d been in his right mind, when someone knocked at his door. Many things might surprise Zane, but there were very few things left in the World of mortal man that would astonish him. Therefore he was properly surprised, but not shocked, to see that his cousin Kurt was at the door.
Kurt had never been to his house. He hadn’t even run into Kurt for perhaps twenty years. He had nothing against Kurt, but on the other hand, he had nothing for him either.
“Can I come in?” Kurt asked.
“If you don’t mind the Dogs.” Zane said with a shrug.
There were three very large dogs, and a rather small one. They rushed Kurt, but when Zane spoke sharply to them, they contented themselves with sniffing, and forbore leaping upon Kurt.
“Sitzen Sich” Zane said with an off-hand gesture towards a couch.
“Do you remember the get-togethers we used to have at Grandpa’s farm?” Kurt asked.
Zane paused for several long moments, just to reminisce. He wasn’t terribly observant of most of the social conventions—and consequently he left a rather large hole in the conversation—But Kurt wasn’t that easily deterred from his purpose.
Uncle Mathias and Aunt Katy had been Kurt’s Grandfather and Grandmother, and he and his mother had lived with them. Every weekend, kinfolk had come from far and wide, to get together at Uncle Mathias’ farm. They weren’t really “ Family Reunions”, because “Reunion” presupposes a reasonable period of separation.
Zane’s Father hadn’t taken the family down every weekend. If someone had asked him why, he’d have likely answered that he wasn’t a damned Kentuckian, and thus didn’t have the built-in compulsion to go “Over Home” every weekend…
But it would have been a rare month that he hadn’t gone at least once. He was there for most three-day weekends.
Zane had read the funny papers as a boy, and he was earnestly puzzled as to why the artist insisted on calling Uncle Mathias and Aunt Katy “ Snuffy Smith” and “Loweezy”. Anyone could plainly see that it was Uncle Mathias and Aunt Katy. The old Hound Dog was even the same.
Uncle Mathias didn’t wear a big black hat almost as tall as he was—but he did wear bib overall’s, had less than half his teeth and drank his coffee from a saucer. Zane had no idea if he ran a moonshine still way back in the hills—Maybe in days gone by. Zane gathered that Uncle Mathias was a reformed alcoholic…
He didn’t “White-Knuckle” his sobriety, but one day, long before Zane had been born, he’d simply tired of being drunk or hung-over most of the time, and he’d stopped.
Now so far as stealing chickens, Zane hadn’t realized it, but Uncle Mathias was a bricklayer when the market for bricklayers and masons was booming all around Kentucky Lake and Lake Barclay. Despite his hillbilly ways, and the ancient rusty truck he’d driven, he’d been a successful entrepreneur, with several men working for him—what Marx would have called “Petty Bourgeois”. He wouldn’t have any need to steal chickens—and there were plenty chickens strutting around Mathias’ farm—making it a rather moot point.
And so far as that went, both Uncle Mathias and Aunt Katy had been born and raised in Indiana—but they were from a largely by-gone era, even when Zane was a boy.
“I miss those days,” Zane said. “I was just a boy then. I didn’t realize what a special time, and set of circumstances they were. At the time, it seemed commonplace, and sometimes boring.”
“Several of us have bought a small farm—its not nearly as close to the Lake as Grandpa’s farm, and it’s a bit farther drive from Indiana—but then again, the roads are much better now. Anyway, we wanted to invite you down sometime, to visit with us—any time. Bring your Dogs, there is plenty room for them. Stay as long as you’d like.”
Zane studied Kurt as if he’d proposed an astonishingly new Theory in some Thorny and Obscure Discipline.
“I’m on disability now. I could say for a week or two,” Zane Proposed.
Zane figured that Kurt would draw the line at such a long stay. He was calling the man’s bluff.
“Tell you what: let me give you a week to get packed and ready. You can ride down with me next week,” Kurt said.
“Unk-Uhh!” Zane Said. “I don’t groove on riding with folks—and having to depend on them. I’ll follow you down.”
Bring a few Guns, if you want to. We do some shootin’ pretty regular,” Kurt said.
Zane and Kurt, being almost exactly the same age, had been the closest of Cousins and friends. They’d swim in the farm pond together and sometimes Zane’s Father would take them to the lake to swim. They’d fished together. They’d hunted squirrel and rabbit, crows, pigeons and ground hogs together. They’d wrestled and boxed—and sometimes when all the beds and mattresses had been taken, they’d shared a bed.
Then Uncle Mathias had died when Zane was a freshman in High School. Zane hadn’t cried at the Funeral. He hadn’t wished Uncle Mathias any ill, but Mathias wasn’t “Child Friendly”. He didn’t dislike children; he just didn’t have much, if any interaction with them. He had seemed one hundred percent zeroed in on adults and adult conversations and adult concerns. Zane was hard-pressed to recall anything that Uncle Mathias had ever said directly to him.
Aunt Katy had sold the farm within weeks. She quickly became one of the old ladies who have no permanent home, and alternate staying with children, grandchildren and nieces and nephews. She’d lost a bunch of weight with age, and so became a little old lady—even shriveled. Her eyesight had gotten progressively worse—so she’d ended up as a little old blind lady.
Mathias’ death had ended the weekend rendezvous. About a year later, Kurt’s mother had moved to Indiana. Kurt had ended up going to Zane’s High School when they were sophomores. Zane had proudly proclaimed that Kurt was his “Cousin from Kentucky”.
Kurt had pulled him to one side, and said, “I wish you’d keep that to yourself. I mean like, no offence dude, but I really don’t want to be associated with you.”
Zane hadn’t been offended. But he had been puzzled and had crossed Kurt off the list of folks who weren’t wasting perfectly good Oxygen.
Now after all these years, Kurt seemed to want to be Cousins again. Zane was willing to meet Kurt on equal terms—that was okay—though he didn’t necessarily trust Kurt, or his motives.
Zane had an old truck that he kept in very good running condition, though he had deliberately let the appearance slide a bit. No one was likely to want to steal it—though if they tried, not only was there a clever alarm system—and if one didn’t cancel it before starting up, there was a timer and a valve that shut the fuel off thirty seconds after the truck had started moving.
He had a simple bed cover on the truck—and he used it for storage. There was a trailer hitch on the back, and Zane had his own Teardrop trailer that he’d made. The floor was steel, but the framework on the walls and top were tubular aluminum. The walls were aluminum sheet as well. Zane was tolerably good with an Oxy-Acetylene torch—but he preferred to weld aluminum with an Oxygen-Hydrogen torch.
A bright shiny aluminum trailer would have brought the wrong sort of attention—so Zane had painted it jet-black, and then Airbrushed in a bunch of Psychedelic Designs over the black. People just assumed it was made from Masonite or Plywood—and probably an ancient relic of the Love generation…
There was room to sleep in the trailer, but not to stand up. The weather was nice, so Zane set up a Tarpaulin to sit under, laid in a fire pit and set up a portable, but heavy-duty chair.
No one bothered to say, “Yea, Hey, or Nay!” To him, so he’d figured that he was cool where he was.
“I see that you’ve set up camp,” Kurt said.
Zane shrugged indifferently.
“Come on, there is something inside the barn that I want you to see.”
It was an old barn, with thick oak clapboard sides and rusty Iron Corrugated Sheet on the roof. At least it didn’t lean drunkenly. But what he saw inside caused him to be as close to being astonished as he had in some time.
Inside the old barn—the uncommonly large old barn—there was a squat brick building—maybe half again as wide as a full-Sized Duplex, and twice as long. Kurt opened a door, and it was four steps down to the floor of the building.
“Notice the brickwork,” Kurt said, pointing to one exposed portion.
Zane couldn’t recall the technical name for it—but there was a double course of bricks, alternating two bricks side-by-side, and then a single brick at right angles. It created a wall as thick as a brick was wide. But there was a third course of bricks on the outside, laid in the Conventional manner.
Zane looked around what appeared to be an over-sized living room. The floor was old-style hardwood. The walls and ceiling were amber colored knotty pine. The furniture looked like something you’d see in an exclusive English Men’s Club, in some Television show on BBC America.
There were rich walnut bookshelves along one wall. There were a half dozen deer heads with impressive racks mounted on the other three walls, along with a Couple black bear heads, a couple boar heads and a couple bass.
There was a stuffed Red fox standing on a table, and a Couple Stuffed squirrel, in life-like poses on their own piece of tree, standing on another table. It wasn’t uncomfortably warm, even though there was a roaring blaze in both fire places, and it was the hottest part of the Summer.
“It is like: Really man! Be for real!” Zane said. Then he added, “My, but aren’t the walls vertical.”
“We’re about ready to have a family meeting—You are invited,” Kurt said.
He seemed very pleased with himself.
“Afterwards I have more to show you.”
There was room in the big Drawing Room for the whole Clan—but they had to bring in folding chairs, and move much of the furniture around. The family moved with practiced ease. It was obvious that they’d done it before.
Zane knew some of them. He knew that he had Cousins that he’d played freely with as a boy that he couldn’t pick out of a Police Line-Up now. And those Cousins had married, bringing in In-Laws and having Children and in some cases, the Children had Children. And there were doubtless long-time Family Members that Zane had never met.
Zane counted diligently and decided that there were around two hundred Adults—counting anyone close to Adult size as an Adult, which doubtless included several Adolescents—but was close enough for a Government Survey. There were over twice that many Children. That meant, he supposed, that his Kin tended to have more than the Average 2.2 Children per Nuclear Family. Two Children per Adult Couple would tend to give equal numbers of Children and Adults…
Of course, single Parents would tend to skew the results. Zane snorted almost silently, and gave his head an almost imperceptible shake. None of his ruminations were particularly relevant. But he was always doing that—counting, surveying, and comparing results.
He was no Idiot Savant—he used some brutal guesstimations when figuring in his head, nor was he engrossed in his calculations totally like an Autistic. But he frequently noticed contradictions—at least apparent contradictions—between what was claimed and the numbers, or between common sense and the numbers or sometimes there were odd anomalies that he just couldn’t explain. And he shelved those cases away, to await further data. Sometimes after having laid for a decade or two, as an unsolvable riddle, a new bit of data would make it all clear and solve an old puzzle.
But right now, it mattered little how many folks were in the Clan—at least at that precise moment in time.
One wall opened up, revealing a rather large whiteboard. A big burly man that Zane didn’t recognize stood up to begin speaking. He had all the family characteristics though—big Indian nose, Big Boned. He had Jet Black Hair and Blue eyes—a combination that was only really common in Ireland and Scotland, and in the descendants of expats. Zane had been cheated that way, since his hair was flaming red, and he’d inherited his mother’s short Celtic nose—but no one who’d known his father, could miss the family resemblance—even so.
“I’m Jethro O’Leary,” The Cousin began.
“How droll, “ Zane remarked silently to himself.
Zane’s attention was immediately drawn to the Projection—it was obviously one of the new Laser Projection displays. Red Lasers were, green ones too—though much more recent. Blue Lasers—especially blue Lasers powerful enough to make a third of the “Red-Blue-Green Palette” were still very expensive—hence Laser projectors were very expensive.
He could probably have bought his truck and his whole Gun collection for the price of the projector in this strange semi-hidden room.
The Cousin had Google Satellite Maps of the whole area. Then he had a couple of sets of Satellite Photos from a source that was unknown to Zane—then Aerial Photos commissioned by the clan. Then they had numerous ground photos.
The Clan had bought a rather large Dairy Farm that was about to be foreclosed—over two thousand acres. They had divided the land into several smaller portions, owned by several family members—but they’d retained the original owner to manage the whole property—though they’d brought in some other laborers for wages.
The whole original Farm, along with several Smaller plots, adjacent, or at least close, was ran as a Single Corporation—and there was more than one Lawyer and Accountant in the family to keep the paperwork straight.
The original owner, who’d stood to lose everything, was now making more money than he had been able to pay himself—and didn’t have to do all the work by himself. Also, he didn’t have the financial worries.
When the Farmer worked for the Clan fourteen years—the length of time that Jacob had worked to earn Rachael and Leah--then he would once again own the seven hundred and thirty acre plot that was the nucleus of his original farm, and contained his home and all his important farm buildings.
There were at least a half-dozen surnames that were common in the Clan: “O’Leary”, “Kelly”, “Hawkins”, “Martin”, “Campbell”, “Burke”—and a few odd ones possessed only by a handful of folks.
They had started buying land in the area, and spreading at least the nominal ownership among families with different last names. They had almost five thousand acres lying in a big irregular “X” shape, with the Northwestern arm being noticeably longer that the rest. The Clan also figured that if things really went to hell in a hand basket, that they were strategically positioned to claim squatting rights to almost another seven thousand acres.
The lecture was rather long—but Zane had a good command of Mnemonics, so he retained more numbers and tallies than many would have upon first exposure.
He was absolutely astonished though, when Jethro handed out Thick Leather Bound volumes that contained all the Maps and Diagrams and other info in vivid color, on archival quality paper.
“How is all this possible?” Zane asked Kurt.
“We got a lot of people in the Clan,” Kurt said rather ungrammatically. “Like Jethro said at the Council, several of or members are Doctors, Lawyers and Accountants. We have Electricians and Plumbers and Brick Layers in the Family—Architects too.”
“Okay,” Zane began.
“But that’s not all. We have three fairly large Construction Companies that are owned by Family members—not to mention several smaller operations. We even have three Ministers, and a bunch of Farmers. We had lots of capital to call on, lots of expertise—and we got a lot of the building done at considerable discount—and with lots of donated labor.”
“So what now?” Zane Asked.
“Study your book. I know how you tend to remember facts and figures. Doubtless you’ll have some new ideas to contribute soon. It isn’t quite time yet for everyone to pack up, move into the Compounds, and hide their heads—if for no other reason that it will draw a very plain arrow to us once things do start to avalanche.
“However, being that you’re unemployed and free and Kin…
“We just might be able to make it worth your while to move into one of our facilities and be a full-time caretaker. We are always quite generous with making it worth one of our folks while, to work full-time for the Clan,” Kurt Concluded.
“I don’t know what to say. I need to know more before I can even begin to make informed opinion. It’s like Really Far-Out, and Hermetical.” Zane Said.
“I meant to show you around after the meeting—but now it’s a bit late. We’re having a big shoot tomorrow.”
As always, you weave a great tangled web. Continue...
|The Following User Says Thank You to Hard Hittin 54r For This Useful Post:|
Looking forward to more, when you get around to it.
Zane slept that night in his Trailer, although he could have gotten a Bunk inside. He was used to the Trailer, and he never slept at all well his first night in a strange bed.
One of the youngsters woke him up by beating on his Trailer. The Trailer was just wide enough for a Queen Size mattress, and long enough to have about thirty inches of mattress-free foot space at the front end…
But it was still a challenge to disentangle himself from his Dogs. He had two Bloodhounds, An American Bulldog, and a Small Dog that was the result of someone letting a Feisty French Bulldog breed a Champion Sired Basset Hound. He wasn’t going to pen them up unless it was a dire necessity, nor did he think it prudent to let them run free at night.
Zane lived by the rule that his dogs were family. He took them with him whenever he could—and deliberately avoided some places that he couldn’t take them. They shared his food—but he also kept a couple Dog bowls full of Purina High Protein down for them.
The weather was nice. It was still a wee bit chilly, since there was dew on the grass and the Sun had just risen. The family served breakfast on several—more than several—outdoor picnic tables.
The food took Zane back. There was Sausage—Pan Sausage and Link Sausage, Ham, Bacon, and leftover Fried Chicken from Supper. There were Scratch-Made Biscuits with plenty of Real Butter along with plenty of Home Canned Jelly—Blackberry, Strawberry, Apricot and Grape. There was also Oatmeal, Milk, Chocolate Milk, Buttermilk and Coffee.
Zane went through the line and piled his plate up with several kinds of Meat and a few biscuits. He was pretty much a Cold Cola drinker, even at Breakfast. There was a cooler left on the ground from Supper, and Zane grabbed himself a one-liter Double Cola from the largely melted slush of ice and sat at a table.
He was quietly enjoying the process of getting around all those great tasting victuals when his Cousin Pamela brought him a plate piled high with Fried Eggs.
Pamela had always been nice to him. She was only a Second Cousin to him; her father was his First Cousin. Fact was, she was only a Half Second Cousin, if you wanted to be technical, since Zane’s father was only a Half Brother to Pamela’s Grandfather.
Pamela had been reasonably attractive when young—and if Zane were ever going to consider marrying a Cousin, it would have been Pamela. But she was married now, to a man, no less, and had five children of her own. She also a typical Clan Mother—close to six feet tall, and weighing around 240. Even so, she still had a pretty face, and certain femininity.
Zane almost always dated Black women and he was at that point in life that he was ready to swear off courtship altogether.
Pamela was cool. The plateful of eggs though, was not. Eggs made Zane gag. Just the aroma was enough to make him queasy. The odor from the platter of eggs was ruining a very good meal for him. And anyway, even if he ate eggs, did Pamela think that he’d want to consume a dozen and a half, in addition to all the other good grub he had—or maybe she knew that he shared whatever he ate with his Dogs.
He looked all around, picked up someone’s used fork and started dividing the “Sunny-Side-Ups” between his Friends.
Then he heard some childish guffaws. Several of the children were watching him feed the Dogs, and thought it was hilarious—particularly in view of the faces Zane made as he served each Dog in rotation.
“Whose little no-neck inbred Pygmy mutants are y’all?” Zane asked.
One of the boys sucked a finger momentarily, to get some jelly off it.
“Dude! It is like: don’t put that finger in you mouth, you have no idea where that finger has been,” Zane told him.
The boys really rocked with that one. One of them even fell off the picnic table, he was laughing so riotously.
From then on, Zane had a Praetorian Guard of children and Dogs everywhere he went, much to his discomfiture.
The clan had built a nice little private Shooting Range, and everyone gathered to shoot and talk Guns—except for the folks working on Dinner and Supper.
Zane brought out a Roadwarrior Pistol.
“Is that a Sawed-Off Shotgun?” Kurt asked, “Is it Registered?”
“No and no,” Zane replied. “It is a custom double barreled Pistol in .45-70. It has rifled barrels and it’s never been a long Gun—in other words, it has a virgin receiver—perfectly legal.”
Zane had handed the open Pistol to Kurt. He stared down the bores from the breach end.
“Yup, I can see the rifling, “ Kurt said. “What is this up front though?”
“I counter bored the muzzle for about an inch up front—to make it look more like a Shotgun.”
He dug into his Gun case.
“Here’s one in .500 S&W Magnum and here’s a little double barrel in .357 Magnum,” Zane said.
“Where did you get them?” another Cousin Jason asked.
“Well, I made them, of course,”
“Could you make more of them?” Jethro asked.
“These are made largely with hand tools. I know how to use a Lathe and a Mill, but I don’t own either. My tools are quite rudimentary. I could turn out all sorts of nice things, if I only had a proper workshop…
“Thing is, I can make things for my own use, or for a prototype. If I started making stuff for others, I’d have to get a Manufacturing License. License are but they are a bit of a hassle to get” Zane said.
“I’m sure that we can work something out,” Jethro said.
After spending about three hours on the shooting range, Zane and Kurt went on a walking tour of the compound—such as it was. There was no fence surrounding the place—that would be asking for trouble—nor was there any obvious armed security.
Of course, Zane was followed by his four dogs, seven or eight children, and he seemed to have picked up a couple extra Dogs—a smallish Collie and a stout little Beagle Dog.
Later when they were more or less alone, Zane had a few questions.
“How is all this possible? I mean, I understand that you salvaged and bought your building materials wholesale—at large discounts. I get that someone in the family was an Architect. I het that most of the labor was donated. All that’s cool, but how?” Zane asked.
“It’s largely due to Jethro. He is very persuasive and charismatic—and he’s a Millionaire. You know, he did have a bit of a base to build on—a lot of people in our family remember the old weekends at Uncle Mathias’ Farm…
“Then he got such a deal on the big dairy farm,” Kurt said.
“That’s one particular point I don’t get. If the original owner couldn’t make a go of it, how can Mathias?” Zane said.
“Do you understand ‘Gambler’s Ruin?” Kurt began.
“Yeah, even in a game where the odds heavily favor the Player, can still lose all his winnings in a statistically unlikely run of bad luck. The more the odds favor the player, the bigger reserve that he has, and the smaller his individual bets—the less likely he is to face Gambler’s Ruin…Of course, cutting the size of your bets also lowers your payoffs,” Zane Said.
“If the odds didn’t heavily favor the farmer, humans would never have developed agriculture. Still, there are times—particularly in an system where government and finance have rather large randomizing effects on the system, many farmers face Gambler’s Ruin—not necessarily due to any fault or bad Playing on their Part…
“And that’s what happened to our farmer. We could afford to run the Farm co-op at a modest loss, for a good long while. It is essential if we’re going to build and maintain a Retreat—but actually, we’re managing to make a reasonable profit almost every year.” Kurt said.
“So why did you invite me?” Zane wondered aloud.” I mean like Dude, you’d rather not be associated with me.”
“That was over thirty years ago—are you still ****ed-off about that?” Kurt asked.
“Yeah, I am,“ Zane said.
“Put yourself in my place. I’m in a new school, in a new State. I wanted to be inconspicuous and blend in, especially the first few weeks. Then you come stomping up in your green cowboy boots, your big silk shirt with a tiger striped pattern…
“You stop the heel of your boot every step you take, so no one will miss you. Then you come braying at the top of your lungs that I’m your Cousin.
“And why do folks call you ‘Zane’—that’s short for ‘Insane’ isn’t it. What would you have done?
“I’m struggling to comprehend. You wanted to fit in—to be like the rest of those Nebbishes? You wanted to join their parade and march in lockstep with them? And you were afraid that I’d blow your cover, and show that you were real?
“Dude, that is one of the strangest thing that I ever heard…
“Wanting to blend in…”
Zane realized that with the shooting, and the long walk that they’d taken afterward, that it was almost time for Dinner.
“How did all this come about?” Zane asked.
Kurt shrugged and frowned. He wasn’t an abstract thinker.
“You haven’t met Mike yet—he’s Roland’s Son. Wait until you hear him speak. You know all that stuff that you used to say about Blood and Kin and the demise of the extended Family?”
Kurt and Zane hadn’t found much to speak about in their High School days, but they’d often been in the same classes. Kurt had been a captive audience while Zane struggled to present his ideas in the classroom, while almost everyone booed, hissed and used indecent insults—including many of the teachers. Kurt had sunk lower and lower in his chair, while Zane cranked up his volume, and tried to shout loud enough to get his say in, regardless of the hecklers.
“Well Mike says many of the things that you did,” Kurt started. Then he paused significantly. “No offence man, but you rub people the wrong way—and sometimes you wax repetitious.”
Kurt smiled and tapped Zane’s shoulder. “Wax Repetitious” was one of Zane’s favorite sayings.
“He says the same things, but he says it persuasively. He’s like an Evangelist. I loaned him a copy of your book, and turned him on to your website. He thinks you’re a Genius. He hasn’t arrived yet, but he’s dying to meet you.”
“I’d have never guessed that you had a copy of my book,” Zane said.
He’d paid to have the very modest amount printed—though on archival paper, and good stout bindings—though he could raise the Nut for leather. He still had over eight hundred of the original twelve Hundred left.
“I’ve read it several times. Zane, I’ve often regretted what I said that day, and how I acted afterward. Do you remember the Viking Prayer from ‘The Thirteenth Warrior’ that you quoted in your book?” Kurt Asked.
“Lo There do I see My Father;
“Lo There do I see My Mother,
“And My Sisters,
“And My Brothers;
“Lo There do I see The Line of My People,
“Back to The Beginning.
“Lo They do Call to Me;
“They bid Me take My Place among Them;
“In The Halls of Valhalla,
“Where The Brave may live Forever.”
Zane started crying at the word “Father” and the tears accelerated as he recited the little Prayer. He wasn’t ashamed to cry. The Vikings cried. The Indians wept unashamed. Jesus Wept. Anyone who tried to rag him about it would have been treading on very dangerous ground, since in that state; he had little control over his emotions.
“Kurt, I was a grown man, in my late thirties, but I was saying at home. My Father had taken over the cooking by that point. He put a lot of thought into his menus. He would rag on me if I weren’t home at Suppertime. I used to skip out quite often—I had Friends—such as they were, Loose Women to chase, Liquor to drink, Scams to Run…”
Zane started crying harder. Kurt started to touch his shoulder but halted halfway.
“Do you know what I would give to sit down to one more Supper with my father again? I would rather sit down and have Supper with my Father, and My Mother and my Sister than to sit down at a banquet with all the Kings and Queens on Earth. I would give everything I own, for an hour with them. I would give my life…”
Zane started to get the dry heaves.
“This happens to me a lot,” He Gasped to Kurt. “That’s one big reason that I get disability. Can’t be much of a factory worker when you have crying fits regularly. See, it’s getting better already. I just need to distract myself.”
“I thought that you said that Jethro was the leader,” Zane remarked.
“Well he is. Mike is the one who sells the idea to people. Jethro organizes and builds, and persuades folks to dig deeper into their pockets,” Kurt Said. “And just in case you’re wondering if this is some sort of scam or cult—our books and plans are wide open to any family member…
“And we’ve been to some lengths to make sure that if we all get to feuding and split up—or if the balloon never goes up, that no one loses too much. Many would actually come out ahead, but we can’t guarantee that for everyone.”
“That is interesting. I have absolutely no funds to invest, and I’m going to ask some pointed questions before I even commit much of my time—and if I do decide it’s a scam, I’ll spread the word far and wide, before I leave and shake the dust off, “
“You know that your Father seemed to be odd-man out a lot,” Kurt said.
Uncle Mathias had been Zane’s Father’s half-brother. Zane’s father had been a widower with several children, who’d married a widow who also had several children. They were both in their fifties when Zane’s Father was conceived, and they’d both been duly surprised.
Zane’s Father had a slew of half-brothers and sisters, but no whole ones. The next youngest sibling—a half-sister on his Mother’s side—had been seventeen when he was born. Uncle Mathias was twenty-three years older, on the Father’s side.
When Uncle Mathias died, a tenuous bond was largely severed. Most of the Foster Children had been partly raised by Zane’s Grandmother—who stayed with Zane’s father. They had still come by to see her occasionally, or offered invitations, though technically, she wasn’t Kin. (Her second husband, Zane’s Paternal Grandfather—who was Kin on that side—had died before Zane was born.)
Many folks really cut back on visiting after his Grandma died. And then Zane’s Father had a gift for rubbing folks the wrong way—though nothing like Zane, who was an absolute Virtuoso at it. And he tended to carry grudges, and he’d refuse to visit someone eventually, if they didn’t return his visits as often as he thought appropriate.
So Zane kinda knew why he’d been largely pruned off the old family tree, but Kurt was continuing.
“I showed your book to Mike and told him that you ought to be in the Clan. He was pretty ****ed that no one had asked you yet. Would you have an extra copy of your book? Mike doesn’t want to give mine back.”
“I’ll give you a half-dozen, if you want me too—and sign them. Maybe you can auction a few off on “E-bay”, Zane Laughed.
The end deal was that Zane was gifted a fourteen acre farm, outside the compound, but happily between two of the arms. Zane was gratified that the ground was fairly hilly. Zane really liked the idea of deep basements, but he’d had too much grief with flatland basements in the middle of a lob-lolly.
There was a Small, but very nice (on the inside), two-story Shotgun house—made of thick courses of Flemish-Patterned Red Brick, of course. Then they cunningly sided it with vertical creosoted pine planks, to make it look like a Hillbilly shack. The plans said “Wood”—and indeed, it was Wood.
Even on the plans there was a Basement—a rather curious Basement—it was about ten foot wider on each side, than the house, and about five foot longer on each end too—but the basement was buried deep, and no casual observer would note the discrepancy.
It wasn’t on the building plan; no one wanted Zane to have a property tax assessment like he owned the Taj Mahal. But there were two sub basements under the first basement. Zane’s property also had a modest sized two-car garage. It , also had three basements underneath it, though none of these were on the official blue prints.
There was a very well equipped Machinists workshop taking up one basement floor. There was a big LaBlond full-size Lathe like Zane had only dreamed of ever owning. They weren’t produced anymore, so it was old, but it was fully reconditioned to like new. He also had every accessory that had ever been made for that model, an extra one, just in case, and a few miscellaneous attachments for other Models.
Someone thought that if Wurst came to Wurst, Zane might be able to adapt them. There was a Bridgeport Mill with everything that went with it.
Then there was a small 7”X12” Chinese Lathe that sold for less than a tenth what a LeBlond did. It had every accessory made for it, as well as all the home made parts, hacks and modifications that hobbyists had come up worth to increase its Performance and Versatility. There was a pimped out small Chinese Mill too—and two “Armstrong” Shapers (Meaning they were manually operated.)
Zane had often told himself what fine work that he could do, even with the small and inferior Chinese machines—but along with the full-size stuff, they were mostly for show—and one but Zane ever used or saw the workroom.
In fact, the Workshop was far more elaborate and well stocked than anything Zane had ever dreamed of, or needed. He let it slip that the one “Rich Man’s Luxury” that he’d always wanted, was a private indoor pool. He had one on the third Basement level of the House. It was 55’x33’—the original was supposed to be 50’x30’, but at the last moment, someone had decided to be a wee bit more generous.
The Clan had gotten a few members incorporated, and had gotten their Class 7 Manufacturer’s License. They started a small arms plant. Technically, Zane was paid a generous salary to be a consultant. Point of fact, he was there almost every day teaching seven or eight apprentices as much as he could about Guns Manufacture, and Gun Design.
The factory made generous use of investment castings, CAD, CAM, CNC AND Robotics—and they made good Guns—But Zane and Co had their own area, and Zane was Answerable to no one. The Clan had several Family Lawyers making sure that they’d have no trouble with the ATF. A couple of the Lawyers did nothing else, and they had offices, and a very complete Law Library on the Premises.
Zane ended up with one more job. He’d made the mistake of saying that the Clan should have a Library. In typical Clan fashion, they appointed Zane to Design an Area. Gave him more than he asked for—though very much like his ideas…
And if the books were soft back, or printed on non-archival paper, they uploaded it into a Computer, ran a limited production of ten copies, and they had people who did little but bind the books in fine leather covers.
Zane didn’t really mind. He only worked when he chose to. He put in about thirty hours a week teaching his apprentices—maybe another twenty-four hours weekly in his Library.
He hardly considered it work to sit on an overstuffed chair, reading, in the midst of all the Beautiful books, and Furniture, and highly waxed ceramic tile floors. The Bookcases were of a half-dozen attractive hardwoods. It was cool in Summer, Warm in Winter, and the indirect, soft lighting was over twice the minimal candlepower recommended—without glare, For all of that.
There were a few Computer Terminals, but there was also a huge Hardwood Card Catalog file—Zane had insisted on it—and he had helpers to keep it up to date and current. In fact, at this point in time, Zane’s only real responsibility was to decide which books to order next, and to put in work-orders when he filled yet another group of Bookshelves or Card Catalog Drawers.