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Desi Suspense Funny

Where's the Can Opener?

Time is ticking down. The end is near. Grandma rechecks her list for the umpteenth time.

  1. Candles with lighters and matches
  2. Radio / Ham radio
  3. Flashlights; lanterns; batteries, all sizes
  4. Tool box / sewing kit
  5. Generator ready
  6. Bottled water, for eight people for 30 days
  7. Canned goods, dried fruit, ready to eat meals
  8. Plates, utensils, pots
  9. Blankets, pillows
  10. First aid kits
  11. Medications / vitamins
  12. Reading material, especially Bible and survival magazines
  13. Warm clothing
  14. Air purifiers; gas masks; emergency oxygen; Geiger counter
  15. Cash, lots of it; all of her life's savings
  16. Firearms / ammo
  17. Seeds: numerous varieties for planting to revitalize desecrated universe

She knows she has probably not thought of everything. And what will become of her and her family if the crisis lasts beyond thirty days? It probably won't matter because it means they never survived beyond the first few moments anyway.

No one knew exactly what to expect but it would undoubtedly be cataclysmic. The only ones that would be able to survive were those wise enough to prepare and stockpile plenty because hard to tell if any necessities would be available afterwards. And the ones that could stay below ground. Imperative. Air quality would be questionable. At least for thirty days as all the experts claimed.

We're hunkering down in our cramped bunker, really no more than a flattened out tin can buried underground. Sleeping accommodations for each person, a cooking counter, small bathroom/shower combo and minimal extra storage or moving around space. It would be our world for at least thirty days -- or our tomb.

Grandma insisted we each pack a suitcase and take the cross-town bus to her place to wait out this doomsday prediction.

10...9...The count down has started. The eight of us clasp on to one another. 8...7... My ever vigilant Grandma, her two sons, their spouses and us three kids. 6...5... We are praying like we have never prayed before. 4...3... With tears in our eyes we convey our love for one another. 2...1...

….............................................................................................................................

At first it seemed like nothing, nothing at all happened. Was this all only hype, a cruel hoax played on the world?

Then a loud rumbling started in the distance and rolled over us in a whoosh of violent wind. A cacophony of sounds none of us had ever experienced exploded above. Even Grandma who lived through the last war wasn't sure what it could be. All of our electric devices winked out at the same moment. Grandma was quick with a candle. Dad with a flashlight. We donned our gas masks to be extra cautious. We waited.

Finally, we sighed a collective sigh of relief when we were sure we had survived at least for the night. The unknown still awaited us.

Uncertainty loomed large. Somehow we struggled through those first miserable days. Yes, we love our family but too much familiarity can breed resentments, regrets and misunderstandings. We were literally nearly on top of one another. Patience grew thin and tempers short. If it hadn't been for Grandma's wise interventions we may never speak to each other the rest of our lives. Given the perspective that may not be all that long.

I take stock of my nest mates. There's my nucleus family (too soon to use that troublesome word?). My dad, Raymond, Grandma's baby boy. He puts on a strong front but I know he doubts his capabilities. He was incubated in an office environment. What will he know of survivalist skills? My mom, Charity. Her name says it all. She is expecting a third child within five months. What kind of world will that babe be brought into? My younger sister, Clarissa, or 'Claire-Bear' for short. Not even six-years-old yet she is innocence personified. I can't help feeling protective toward her. Then crusty old me, Luke, already a disillusioned youth at age fourteen.

Dad's older brother, Rupert, is a take charge kind of guy whenever Grandma (or his wife, Aunt Lou) allows it. Their daughter, Cousin It, short for 'It's all about me all the time' (she takes after her mother in that respect), is so painfully beautiful at fifteen one could hear hearts shattering whenever she walked by boys at school. Now all that charm is directed at me and what can I do about it, her being my cousin and all...

Last, but not least, Grandma. Whose diligence and absolute belief this madness was real saved us all thus far. Months ago she had Rupert, who as a carpenter should be good with his hands, refitting and stocking this old bomb shelter from the fifties that was in her back yard unused all these years into this comfy abode.

The place was built for four. It was tight for eight. The coned hatch above ground opened to a rusty ladder leading down then through a tunnel to the airtight door. Inside to one side was a camper-style mini-kitchen with two propane fueled cooking burners and tiny fridge. To the other side of the door was a wall-mounted hand crank to circulate fresh air next to a small desk that held Grandpa's old ham radio with a shelf above for the modern one. In the corner was a opaque curtain hiding the wet room consisting of a composting toilet with shower head above it. Next to that was a walk-in pantry holding all the canned goods, boxes of pasta, oatmeal, powdered milk, bottled water and the preserved mason jars of tomato sauce and chicken vegetable soup Gram had painstakingly prepared to keep us well fed. A long, narrow folding table like one from church with four folding chairs to either side ran between bunk beds. Curtained off double beds filled the far end with a changing room/closet between them at the back wall.

On our side of the room I had the top bunk with Claire-Bear under me. I could crawl over to the double-decked full sized bed my parents used where extra storage was for propane tanks, etc. On the other side Cousin It used the top bunk with Gram below and her parents in the double bed once again complete with storage over top. Our suitcases with personal items were tucked under each bunk or bed.

Conservation was the main rule. We each could take two short showers a week then rinse out our most used clothing and hang to dry over the bathroom curtain rod. Had to respect someone else' dripping unmentionables.

We had a trash compactor—Rupert's size twelve boot stomping down in the waste bin. Compacted plastic bags replaced the stacks of bottled water as they were used. There was a long narrow trap door that opened to a sandy pit where we (meaning me) buried the bags from the toilet.

All of us desperately missed some aspect of our previous lives. Claire-Bear cried for Ellie, her favorite stuffed toy, a large elephant. Cousin It talked endlessly about her friends this and her friends that. Mom and Dad lacked privacy. Aunt Lou obsessed over having no mirrors or soaking tub. Rupert liked to spend time smoking and drinking with the guys talking sports. Oops, Gram packed no booze whatsoever and absolutely no smoking allowed. She missed her soap operas. I was suffering Nintendo withdrawal and having a hard time sleeping.

We all missed normal meals but Gram had food pretty well covered although everything was rationed. For breakfast it was oatmeal with raisins. Lunch was peanut butter on crackers. Suppers were pasta with homemade sauce or chicken soup. Treats were supposed to be canned fruit cocktail but the can opener was never found. Rupert had to beat them open with a knife and hammer.

I eked out a little space to do calisthenics. Claire-Bear would climb on my back when I did push-ups and I would sit on a chair to lift her over my head as she laid out stiff like an overhead press. It was fun for both of us. Cousin It usually rolled her eyes at us but I caught her doing sit-ups in her bunk, too.

Mom practiced yoga and and something she called Pilates on her bed. She tried to teach Aunt Lou but she no would do. When he wasn't climbing the walls Rupert would challenge Dad to arm wrestling because he knew he would always win. Whenever I had finally fallen asleep he would wrestle Lou around on their bed making the springs squeak. With all the moaning and groaning I'm not sure if there was ever a winner behind their curtain.

I read the same books so much to Claire-Bear she was starting to 'read' them back to me. Actually, I guess I was helping with her home schooling. Mom took on that function for all three of us, her being a real teacher out in the old order. We weren't going to get to escape that necessity. Gram led daily Bible studies.

Together we played a lot of cards and board games. Even had a few puzzles to pass the time. Gram or Mom had thought of everything. And so the days passed. Oh-- so-- slo---owly.

It was impossible to tell night from day. Something was blocking the small round skylight in the ceiling or else there was no more sunshine or daylight left out there anymore. Only perpetual darkness.

Gram was the timekeeper. She was the only one responsible enough to remember to wind that annoying old clock. It often kept me awake listening to the endless 'tick-tock' well into the sleeping hours. She marked off days on the desk calendar.

Every once in a while the men would hover around the radios to try to catch some news to see if any sign of civilization still existed. The radios only squawked static.

One night after we kids were supposed to be asleep I heard the adults discussing something around the table with an apparatus spread out before them. One dim candle burning.

“Mom, there is no way you are going to be the one to do that.” Uncle Rupert. “I am the oldest, I'll do it.”

“Oh, Rupe, how can you risk it. You still have us to worry about.” Aunt Lou as she clasped his elbow. ”And I am still not expecting like Charity. Let Raymond go.”

“I know more about it. I'll do it.” My dad spoke up.

“You have a bigger family with a new member to consider. I'll take care of it myself.” Gram seemed to settle it.

“Lou is right. The more we can reproduce to populate this new world, the better. Charity and I have a head start.”

“Maybe it isn't wise to put anybody else through what we may be facing. We don't know what kind of conditions await us. Maybe there is nothing left and we can't grow food.” I had never heard anything so negative from my mom before.

I poked my head out from behind my bunk curtain. “What task do you need done? I have no family to take care of or no way to start. Can I do whatever you want?”

“Oh, sorry to wake you, Son. You are so young with your whole life ahead of you. We can't ask you to put yourself at risk.” Dad insisted.

“Nonsense. If the boy is willing to be a man let him step up to the plate.” Rupert willing to take charge. “We are running low on supplies. It is time to check the outside conditions to see if it is safe enough to venture out. This device will read air quality. There may be some risk to exposure that could leave a man sterile. You understand?”

“You mean I would never be able to start a family. That's already a real possibility. We don't try to go out, we die of starvation. We go out and can't restart the world, we die. We go out and there are no women available for me to hook up with. I got that now unless you want to count my very own cousin. E-ewe! What do you need me to do? I'll take my chances elsewhere.”

So Gram hazmat-ted me up and sent me out with instructions. While out I was to take a good look around to assess the situation. And see what was blocking the skylight.

With my personal headlamp on high beam I slip through the steel door; hunch down through the tunnel; climb the rusty ladder; push open...push...push... Oh, no, started to wonder if Gram had packed a bigger kind of can opener. Finally, those overhead presses with Claire-Bear paid off and I was able to push open the coned hatch. A branch had been tangled across it.

I crept out expecting the worse. Imagine my surprise and delight when I saw sunshine. Yeah, real honest to goodness normal winter pale sunshine! Lots of snow covered the ground and naturally the skylight to our domain. Had to dig some but I brushed it off. I could hear squeals of delight from below.

I looked at the air monitor and all the numbers read good to me as the adults had explained it. I ventured a little farther. The oak tree littered the yard with limbs and branches. One fell across the wires leading to the house. The in tact house! I ventured a little farther and opened the gate of the back yard.

Standing at the front of the driveway I realized a few people were out and about. Sure they were bundled in their winter garb, but I was the only one wearing hazmat. Gram's neighbor walked up to me.

“Did your grandmother get back from snow-birding in Arizona already? Is that a new look the kids are wearing these days? New millennium or what? Could you douse that light?”

“Tell me, Mr. Ambrose. How did everyone make it through the Y2K Bug?”

“Y2K bug? Oh, you mean the computer scare? A few isolated minor glitches but generally not as hyped up as everyone was predicting. No planes fell out of the sky. No nuclear missiles automatically launched. Did have that horrendous snowstorm come through right at midnight. Thunder snow! Knocked out some power. People still talking about it! Ha! Say howdy to your grandma will ya?”

“Know where I can find a can opener?”

January 16, 2024 03:56

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35 comments

Alexis Araneta
14:05 Jan 23, 2024

This was genius ! That twist towards the end. Hahahaha !

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21:12 Jan 21, 2024

Sounded like a camping trip. Then, oh my goodness. Such a dark scenario. You really had me going. I checked back to see if the prompt even suggested apocalyptic stuff. First person kicked in at 'We're hunkering down. . .' Didn't register really. Just switched in my mind and imagined him/her relating what he saw his grandmother doing. So, she wasn't the main protagonist. Maybe Luke should have introduced himself at the start? I kept expecting to see his name. When he mentions himself, after everyone else, I could visualize the whole thing b...

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Mary Bendickson
22:49 Jan 21, 2024

The Y2K scare was a real thing when people were afraid the changing of the year 1999 to 2000 would really mess up our computer controlled world because programs could only read two digit years like 95 for 1995. It saved valuable space when computers first came out. Some doom-dayers convinced people to stock up supplies and get ready for the worst. They made money on people's fears. Companies spent millions trying to make sure their computers would not mess up. Did the worst not happen because of the preparations or was there really no danger...

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Michał Przywara
21:41 Jan 19, 2024

Ha! I was expecting some kind of nuclear catastrophe, but like other readers, you got me with Y2K :) I remember all the fear and doubt around it, which certainly seemed exaggerated, but it was also easy to get swept up in things. I thought the narrator's tone might have been too cheery, all things considered, but knowing the twist, it all makes sense. “We're hunkering down” - prior to this, the story sounded like it was in third person, but this sounds like a shift to first. Having read on, we know it's first person, and this section is ...

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Mary Bendickson
22:44 Jan 19, 2024

So glad you liked it and thanks for the in depth review. I did struggle a bit with past and present sense. Grandma,having lived personally through war time in her land of birth, believed this to be a real threat. The others were skeptical until all power went out and the awful sounds that occurred. Tried to make it from a fourteen-year-old's perspective. He didn't have much say.

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Michelle Oliver
06:50 Jan 18, 2024

Loved the apocalyptic prose that lead us to believe the worst. Y2K! Haha wasn’t expecting that. Great story.

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Mary Bendickson
15:13 Jan 18, 2024

Thanks you. Glad you liked it.

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Jack Kimball
17:29 Jan 17, 2024

You got me also Mary. I remember the hype about Y2K, seems like yesterday. I also like the style of writing for this story. A rattling machine gun... "...Then a loud rumbling started in the distance and rolled over us in a whoosh of violent wind. A cacophony of sounds none of us had ever experienced exploded above. Even Grandma who lived through the last war wasn't sure what it could be. All of our electric devices winked out at the same moment. Grandma was quick with a candle. Dad with a flashlight. We donned our gas masks to be extra...

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Mary Bendickson
18:29 Jan 17, 2024

Whoa! Thanks for the glowing comment.

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Ty Warmbrodt
15:04 Jan 17, 2024

Y2K! What a wonderful twist. That was so detailed. I was immersed in every word. Great job, Mary!

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Mary Bendickson
18:34 Jan 17, 2024

Glad you liked it.

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Jonathan Page
05:34 Jan 16, 2024

You got me. Y2K it is. Great immersive story, and a great twist!

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Mary Bendickson
06:06 Jan 16, 2024

So glad I got you!

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Rebecca Lewis
01:45 Feb 19, 2024

This story provides a gripping portrayal of a family facing an apocalyptic scenario and the dynamics that arise in such a confined space. The characters are well-developed, each with their own struggles and strengths. The gradual revelation that the cataclysmic event was not as dire as anticipated adds an intriguing twist to the narrative, highlighting the power of perception and the importance of keeping a level head in crisis situations. The protagonist's journey to assess the outside world and the eventual realization that life contin...

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Mary Bendickson
06:27 Feb 19, 2024

Thanks. PS are you AI?

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Rebecca Lewis
01:30 Feb 25, 2024

No. I'm not.

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Mary Bendickson
05:48 Feb 25, 2024

😉

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Martin Ross
22:33 Jan 27, 2024

You got me — love that final twist, remembering how panicked we all were. This was one if the mist plausibly realistic apocalyptic tales I’ve read — get so tired of everyone in Hollywood always assuming everything will go all Mad Max or Walking Dead. And your inclusion of seed saving on the survival list reminded me of the huge plant germplasm repository hidden in Greenland fir the possible worst.

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Mary Bendickson
22:38 Jan 27, 2024

Thanks for liking. Most of my grands had no idea what I meant.

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Martin Ross
01:33 Jan 28, 2024

lololol

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Trudy Jas
02:54 Jan 26, 2024

Wonderful! The family vacation from hell. Great twist . (I partied like it was 1999 in New Orleans on NYE 1999)

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Mary Bendickson
16:13 Jan 26, 2024

You can bet that song was circulating in my brain while working on this. Thanks for liking. Party on.

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Luca King Greek
18:49 Jan 24, 2024

Funny and vivid.

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Annie Persson
09:37 Jan 24, 2024

I was thinking this was going to be a post-apocalyptic type thing, but that twist at the end! That left me in stitches! Lovely read. :)

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Mary Bendickson
17:09 Jan 24, 2024

So happy you got a stitch out of it. Thanks for the read, like ,comment and follow. I am honored. And liking my donut story,too.

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Annie Persson
19:47 Jan 24, 2024

You're welcome. I only try to follow the people I think really deserve it. You definitely do.

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Helen A Smith
20:20 Jan 22, 2024

Wow! What an original take on the prompt. I love the characters names alone. Made for an entertaining read. I suppose it pays to be prepared. Good twist.

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Mary Bendickson
20:32 Jan 22, 2024

Just read your one about time running out. It had a twist,too. I either have too many ways to go with time out or not a clue so haven't started it yet.

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Helen A Smith
20:41 Jan 22, 2024

I guess the possibilities are endless with the idea of time running out. I’m sure you’ll get a good story going.

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Ellen Neuborne
22:01 Jan 20, 2024

Prepared or paranoid -- who's to say? I enjoyed this apocalypse tale with a relatable twist.

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Mary Bendickson
22:12 Jan 20, 2024

Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it. Did nothing significant happen because of the preparations before hand or nothing would have happened anyway? A couple of glitches: one baby was born 100 years old and one 105 year old woman was signed up for kindergarten.

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Chelsey B
02:41 Jan 20, 2024

Love the ending!

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Mary Bendickson
06:49 Jan 20, 2024

Thanks. Glad you liked it and loved the ending. Tried to keep it a surprise.

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J. D. Lair
00:53 Jan 20, 2024

I vividly remember my parents buying into the hype back then, storing up tubs of water and whatnot lol

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Mary Bendickson
06:47 Jan 20, 2024

Thanks for liking and commenting. My husband works with computer programming and could have made money fixing the predicted problems, knew of guys that did just that.

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