After the Apocalypse
Chapter 87: Department of HUD

by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue

"So in light of what we now know is going on outside, is there any point in trying to fill up other cabins?" asked John. "A threat of armed invasion makes me think we're better off staying as compact as possible. We might even want to think about consolidating ourselves out of Lang. And even if we were to redistribute our weapons, it sounds like what we have will be no match for what they have."

There was a moment of silence as Mark, Ron, and Michelle considered John's points. Ron spoke first. "I think we need at least to think about going on with the big picture, but there's no glaringly obvious reason to think we might be a target. If we're that badly overmatched for weapons, it probably doesn't matter much where we're living when they come for us-if they come at all."

"I see it as a balancing act," said Mark. "We're trying to increase our comfort level-and moving around will do that in a variety of ways-but at the same time, this brings with it a possible decrease in security."

"Suddenly you sound like you're teaching calculus," said John. "Besides, are we really in for that big a boost in comfort?"

Michelle was determined to make her dream a reality, and quickly moved to press her point. "Relative to what?" she asked. "Comfort isn't really the point. I mean, an unheated cabin isn't terribly different from tent camping in the winter. Except for being drier, and that's a plus. In an ideal world, we might not want to spread out to buildings without heat-but this isn't ideal by any stretch. I think what the women want is not so much comfort as a little more privacy-and we're willing to shiver a bit at night if that's what it takes. We have extra blankets."

"Comfort will probably be a personal issue," said Ron. "Some are gonna want to move-with full knowledge of the attendant risks and different hardships they'll face-and some won't. Their choice-we won't be forcing anyone to move anywhere."

"Can we do anything about heat?" asked Michelle. "Do any of these cabins have fireplaces?"

"Only Trout Lake, and that's probably a little less secure than we want," said Mark. "Besides, it's a 52-person cabin-probably not the place you could heat efficiently with a fireplace."

"And the forest isn't too thick there, either," added Ron. "Wood would be a problem."

"Could we rig some sort of wood-burning stoves for the other buildings, maybe?"

"Built out of what?" asked John.

"A 55-gallon drum, maybe? We're in a camp-there have to be a bunch of those around."

"You've been thinking this through, Michelle-tell us more. What's your idea?"

"Well," she said, "couldn't you cut a hole in the side of a drum for the fire, and then rig some sort of ventilation pipe? Kelly's a really good welder-if we could round up some gear, I bet she could do it."

"Joe's got his stuff with him," said John. "Remember-he used it earlier to convert that water heater into a gas tank?" Mark and Ron nodded.

"You'd need a drum with two intact ends," said Ron, "but if we're welding, that could be done. How would you ventilate once you've got the chimney installed? I mean, you couldn't run a pipe out of an open window, cause that would probably defeat the purpose of heating the cabin."

"Do any of the cabins have chimneys?"

"Not functional ones, as far as I know," said Mark. "On the other hand, some of them probably used to have oil heaters in the main rooms. That was a long time ago, but we might be able to retrofit them by opening up the patch that would be in the roof. I'm not so sure about cutting new holes in the roofs, though."

"Of course, all of this depends on us locating enough metal pipe to build some kind of exhaust setup," said Ron.

"There's probably some of that at the shop," said John.

"I think we need a cabin like Rawhide for this," said Mark. "It's one big open room for sleeping and eating-not like so many of them which are split between those functions. Easier to heat where people will be. Fair Oaks is the same way, but it's bigger and tougher to heat."

"Rawhide's also closest to where we are now," said John. "Good for security and for getting back and forth."

"Think it'll have a vent?" asked Michelle, who was becoming more and more excited as her idea lurched closer to reality.

"Maybe," said Ron. "It's easy enough to check."

"Even if we can get outside venting, we'll probably still need to impose some common-sense rules," continued Michelle. "Something like killing the fires at night, just in case something might go wrong while everyone's sleeping."

"It's the Cold Room!" exclaimed John. The Cold Room was a Winter Camp tradition started by John and Steve Donohue in Clearwater cabin many years before, when they decreed that the electric heater be shut off at night. It had caught on-although exactly why that had happened wasn't clear-and Clearwater had been known to some as the Cold Room ever since.

"By and by, we all become Clearwater."

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