For some reason ocean-loving Salty built a house miles and miles from the sea. And it was also miles and miles from town. Or anything except meth labs. A landmark is the Straightaway Cafe, but you are only halfway to Salty’s when you arrive there up the steep and curvy Route 9.

The only landmark near his place is the New Age Dome up on Route 9, and that is probably the last place you will find Salty. While he is open-minded, he isn’t quite that open-minded. He would have preferred a shooting range or a Gentleman’s Club. So every time Salty decided to come to town, he had to drive half an hour unless he got behind someone timid, and then it could take forty-five minutes or more. By that time his ornery back would be killing him and he was ready to turn around and go back home.For this reason he established his pied-à-terre at 44 Cherry Street. When he wanted to enjoy the nightlife of Black Mountain, he could spend the night in his apartment on a mat under his table saw. Really, there was no room for a bed once the tools were moved in. He told himself that sleeping on the floor was good for his back.

He was very attached to his home place, though, and loved spending quality time there. By quality time, he meant over-extending himself and landing in bed on pain-killers. Recently, he got smart and hired a young man to do the heavy work for him. The young man told Salty to simply point to jobs he wanted done, and the guy would do them. Salty is a guy who likes to be involved, though, so it didn’t work out that way. He jumped right in. By that I mean, he jumped right into his pond up to his waist and began heaving debris up to the bank.

Salty’s neighbors called themselves “neighborhood watch dogs”, but were in fact nosy busy-bodies. When they saw an unfamiliar truck in Salty’s driveway, they strolled over to Salty’s garage, coffee cups in hand. What they saw was Salty in his pond hauling big rocks from the bottom to the young man waiting at water’s edge.

“Whutchuh doin, Salt man?” asked Furd Crock in his braying voice. His frizzy white hair looked as if he had been electrocuted. His cammo sweatshirt had brown stains down the front.

“Hey Salty,” trilled Letitia, who had the hots for Salty. She smoothed back her salt and pepper hair.

Furd and Letitia Crock, the busy-body neighbors, were doomsday preppers who had established a booby-trapped fortress within spitting distance of Salty’s pond. They were itching to annex some of Salty’s property to add to their hideaway, and every time he returned from his apartment in Black Mountain, Salty saw evidence that the couple had been inside his house and had crawled over his land. In the last week, someone had been in his house and had changed the switch plate on one of his light switches. What had been a solid white plate had been replaced with a picture of Jesus feeding lambs. He suspected Letitia had been the culprit but she denied it. He had set up little trip wires that revealed where the Crock’s had been pawing his stuff., and he warned them off, but they didn’t understand the word no.

“Glad to see you are making this pond deeper. You might wanna stock it with Tilapia,” said Letitia sipping out her tall glass of tea. “Love some Tilapia if you drown it in hot sauce.”

Salty looked up at his neighbors and his face got redder than it had been. “Now, why would I want to stock my pond??” he asked sarcastically. 

“You know these is the end days, doncha? According to the Bible, we are entering the time when we will get called home. Before that everything will come tumbling down. We won’t have electric, we won’t have gas, and them who aint getting ready will have to do without.” Furd took a long swig of whatever was in his coffee mug and coughed in a long rumbling way until tears ran down his face.

“I’ve been hearing a lot of gunshots coming from over here lately. What’s that about?” Salty asked. “I can’t stand the racket.”

“Furd and I bought some firearms and we been practicing shooting. We set up a target right back behind those trees back there. Whenever we have a minute, we shoot at those targets. I can sometimes hit it now. Pretty soon we’ll be shooting deer and squirrels to stock up on food. First I gotta learn to hit a target that isn’t moving, though.”

Salty glanced over to where Letitia had indicated and jerked his head back towards his deck. The target was in line with his deck, and when the Crocks missed their target, their bullets were flying right towards his lounge chair. It was a miracle they hadn’t killed him yet. “You morons better move that target! I want to live to see these end times, if you don’t mind!  So you are trying to learn how to hunt? Is that it?” Salty was a pretty good shot and thought maybe he should offer to give his neighbors pointers to improve their shooting. so he didn’t become collateral damage.

“Yeah, we aim to hunt game to eat and to use to make clothes, but we need to get better with these rifles to shoot them as haven’t made plans for the end times. We’ll kill anyone who tries to get onto our land. And that means you, Salty.”

“That’s it!” Salty erupted. “You idiots get off my property.”

Furd and Letitia stood right where they were, blinking their eyes. Furd took another swig of his drink. “Don’t let us stop you. We like to see other people work,” said Letitia.

Salty picked up a rock the size of a grapefruit and heaved it at Furd, narrowly missing his head. The couple silently turned on their heels and walked back towards their house.

“No cause to do that,” muttered Furd.

Salty directed his helper to get ready for the next boulder he was heaving out of the pond. A few stones later Salty felt a sharp pain in his back, and realized he couldn’t straighten up. He wasn’t ready to quit yet, though, so he crawled over the rocks, rubbing them with rags to remove moss.

Some time later the young helper was exhausted and asked to quit for the day. Salty had been eager to quit for a while, but didn’t want to look like a wuss, so he was glad to reluctantly agree. Bent over at a ninety degree angle, Salty waved good-bye to his helper, and once the young man was out of sight he made his way on hands and knees up the driveway towards his bed.