The February weather in Black Mountain had been brutal. Despite a few amazingly brilliant days where Sunny and Tom had eaten outside in the sunshine at the Black Mountain Ale House wearing short sleeved shirts, the Arctic Blast the weather people had threatened swept down indeed and crushed the city.

The residents of 44 Cherry Street hunkered down and tried to stay inside. Lorraine wore long underwear to bed and was happy to have the warm body of dear Suki snuggled up beside her. When Suki would whine to go outside to do her business, Lorraine would layer on clothing including a pair of goggles imbedded in a woolen face mask she got from Tommy Finton. Ingenious! Suki, dressed in a cute fleece coat Lorraine had bought her at Bone-a-Fide, would empty her bladder and do her other business in record time, pulling Lorraine back towards the front door of the apartment house.  Lorraine scooped up the turds, already half frozen, in a disposable bag, and scurried back inside. We are not used to this kind of cold down here!

The resident of 44 Cherry Street who was having the toughest time with the bitter weather, however, was Peter. As you recall, Peter is the Doomsday Prepper who pays rent on the apartment directly across the hall from Lorraine, but has sold all his belongings from the apartment and has built a compound outside in the back yard of the building. He has a snug yurt where he sleeps, complete with a hole in the round roof to allow smoke from his campfire to escape. He has built raised beds to plant crops in the spring, and has built a chicken coop and a fenced in area to keep the chickens from wandering all over Cherry Street.

One day before the fenced in area was built, Peter had to chase the chickens to Cherry Street where they were happily eating insects and food scraps from the patio outside Dark City Deli. No one seemed to mind, though. He overheard one tourist say, “Doesn’t this remind you of Blue Heaven in Key West? This is so charming! I love this little town. It’s way cooler than Asheville!”

Peter had to grab the birds and hustle them back to his compound before they got too used to wandering.

This cold weather was tough to take, Peter thought. He was hunkered down inside the yurt, huddling over the small fire, but still he was shivering. Even the squirrels he was shooting and skinning were hidden away in their nests, and the water faucet from which he had been getting his water was frozen solid.

Peter planned to maintain his compound behind 44 Cherry Street when the economy collapsed and world-wide chaos began. He was prepared with all kinds of equipment for putting up food, making clothing from squirrel skins, and shooting intruders who would be wanting to take his stuff. What he wasn’t prepared for was this bitterly cold air, having no food, and having no water.

As he hunched in the yurt beside the fire, he thought about the delightful Christmas breakfast he had had at Lorraine’s house. It smelled so good in her apartment, and he enjoyed sinking into the soft cushions of her sofa. The food she prepared was so delicate and flavorful, and the coffee was hot and didn’t fill his mouth with grounds the way his cowboy coffee, boiled in the pot, did. Most of all, he thought of her soft curves and her sweet smile. The dog was annoying, but it wouldn’t live forever.

The apocalypse hadn’t happened yet. So would it be cheating if he spent a little time warming up in Lorraine’s apartment? Who would care? Who could blame him?

And after the collapse of civilization as we know it, he could return the favor. He could teach her to shoot and to clean small animals to eat.

Peter sniffed his armpits to see if he smelled awful, but it was too cold to smell anything, so he ran his fingers through his matted, tangled hair, and crept out of the yurt. Before heading upstairs, he grabbed a gallon of Kombucha he had brewed from some green tea and pine needles. She would probably like that better than the skinned squirrel he had brought her last time.