Published on The Doomstead Diner January 27, 2017
Discuss this story at the Collapse Narratives Table inside the Diner
Karen's anticipation of spending the day with her biological father at last kept her from getting to sleep the night before, and then she popped out of bed early at 7AM, despite the fact Karl wasn't coming until 10.
There was always a lot of speculation around Quinn's as to what Karl really did for a living, whenever he was asked he would just reply, "I'm a financial advisor". Karen's mom Maggie had shared the exploits of their trip to Las Vegas and all the money Karl won at the Black Jack tables, so there was a good deal of speculation he was a professional gambler, or had been in the past. Others speculated he was a Billionaire Recluse like Howard Hughes. Whatever he was, he never seemed to be short of money to spend at Quinn's, and he always was driving really nice pickup trucks or motorcycles, before he got into the electric scooters.
Karen took her dog Huckleberry out for a run to work out some of the nerves and keep the big Siberian Husky in shape. Huckleberry was a great dog her mom got her for her 16th birthday, and Maggie looked after her while Karen was in college at UoW. Now at 7 years old she was in her prime, and gave Maggie a real run for her money when they were out on the trail together. Huckleberry was faster in a sprint, but Maggie had more endurance and could wear her down on a long enough run. Huckleberry also wasted a lot of energy, often sprinting ahead then doubling back, or running off trail to investigate whatever seemed interesting to investigate.
Despite the cool weather of an early spring morning in the Montana mountains, by the time they got back to Karen's duplex condo in Lolo that Maggie had left to her, she was covered in sweat and Huckleberry was panting hard. She took a nice long shower, and then made her usual breakfast of french bread and cheese, two hardboiled eggs and thinly sliced nova scotia smoked salmon with capers on top. Huckleberry got her favorite dog food meal, Taste of the Wild Southwest Prairie, and Karen wondered about whether Karl would want Huckleberry along for the visit? She had forgetten to mention her, and it was a little late to ask now. If not, she could leave Huckleberry out in the small yard out behind the duplex in her doghouse. Huckleberry was used to this, as she often had to spend time alone in the yard by herself, both while Maggie was at work and then now Karen. Huckleberry had trouble figuring out what happened to Maggie, although she knew that Maggie was sick and had stayed by her bedside until she passed into the Great Beyond. It was the only death of a loved one Huckleberry had ever seen though, so it was hard to figure out why Maggie wasn't there the next day and never came back. Karen was very familiar though even though she hadn't seen her too often while in college, but she remembered well playing with her when she was a puppy. So the adustment wasn't that hard, and after a month or so Huckleberry settled back into her old routines, other than the fact she got a lot more running and exercise in with Karen than she had with Maggie. That was a lot of fun.
Promptly at 10 AM, Karl pulled up in front of the condo, driving an enormous nearly brand new 2017 Chevy Suburban, loaded with all the latest and greatest electronic gizmos like wi-fi and bluetooth as well as gps and a backing camera system. Tacked on the front steel protective grate was a 12,000 lb Warn winch and air compressor as well.
"Jeez Karl, that car is a BEAST!" Karen remarked coming out front to greet him. "I thought you only drive electric vehicles? I would have figured you for a Tesla."
"Nah, If you want some real power, you gotta go with an internal combustion engine. My two wheelers are all electric now and I have some small electric work vehicles, but for carting stuff back and forth to my place I've got this and a Chevy C4500 Kodiak pickup truck. I figured this would be a nicer ride since the Kodiak is a couple of years old and a little beat up now. Still smells brand new!" Karl said with a smile. "So you got any gear you want to bring along."
"Yeah, I have a bag packed with some stuff. I was wondering though, would it be OK to bring along my dog Huckleberry? Do you like dogs?" Karen asked.
"Oh sure, I love animals. I've got chickens and goats and a couple of horses. A couple of outside cats too Felix and Garfield who periodically show up. No dog right now, my Labrador Scooby Doo died a couple of years ago and I haven't got a new one yet. He was around for 15 years and I haven't been able to replace him yet. Maybe this year though…"
"Wow Karl, that's quite a menagerie!" Karen exclaimed. "I'll go in and get my bag and some stuff for Huckleberry. Be back out in a jiffy!"
Karen returned quickly with a small daypack and Huckleberry who followed along right on her heel with no leash. Huckleberry eyed the Suburban somewhat suspiciously, it was way bigger than the Ford Escort that Karen drove. However, when Karen pointed in the back and ordered "IN", Huckleberry made the jump up into the rear compartment. "Good Grief, this car is even bigger than my doghouse!" Huckleberry though in amazement.
"Do you have a leash for Huckleberry?" Karl asked as they got in the front seat of the Suburban.
"Yea, its in my bag but I don't think I'll need to put it on her. Shes a good dog and doesn't run off. Although, she hasn't been around chickens and goats, so no telling there."
"So Karl, when was the last time you had anyone come out to your place?" Nobody at Quinn's has ever been there, even my mom never got out there. She said when you guys were together that you either bought a cabin at Quinn's or stayed at her place."
"Oh, it's been a long time Karen, I had a friend with a cabin nearby who came over while he was living near me, but he moved up to Canada after 9-11. Before that even longer, right after I moved to the property in the 1970s one of my cousins came to visit. She wasn't too impressed and thought I was off my rocker.", Karl laughed. "Never came back. It wasn't as well built up as it is now though. Hope it doesn't put you off the way it did her."
"Oh, I'm sure it's beautiful Karl.", Karen replied, silently wondering to herself what the place was really like. Maybe it was some kind of Underground Bunker? Karl was well known by everyone at Quinn's to be a Doomer preparing for TEOTWAWKI, or "The End of the World as We Know It".
Still, if he had chickens and goats and horses, the whole thing couldn't be underground, Karen reasoned to herself. Keeping all those animals underground was a mind boggling idea, although the engineer in her started to calculate how much space would be needed and how to power it all up.
"So how big is it Karl? Like how many acres?"
"Oh, it's pretty big." Karl replied, declining to put numbers to it specifically.
Karen laughed. "Karl everybody at Quinnl's knows THAT! Could you be a little more specific?"
Karl smiled. "You'll see."
As Karl finally brought the Suburban to a halt, Karen remarked, "You are right Karl. This would have been tough to find, even with a GPS."
Getting out of the car and looking around, she could see some raised beds and potato towers, and some split rail fencing with a pasture and some goats & mangalitsa pigs nosing around, but at first did not spy either Karl's house or the barn. Maybe he did live underground after all?"
"So Karl, where do you actually live? You got some kind of Bunker or something?"
Karl laughed. "No not quite, only about half undergound. It's an Earthship, and its built into the side of the mountain. You can't really see it from this angle. Follow me around the fence here.
Walking around the fence line, at first Karen saw nothing, but then focusing her eyes as they came around about 90 degrees from where they parked, she spied it. Built in to the side of the mountain with all glass facing to the south was what looked to be a Hobbit House on steroids, it appeared to be around 200' long with windows popping out of the ground in various places, and no real idea how deep into the mountainside it had been cut.
"Good grief Karl, that place is HUGE!"
"Oh, it's not that big." Karl replied. "It only goes in about 30' at the deepest and part of it serves as a barn for the horses and goats and a chicken coop. Then some storage areas for preps."
Karen shook her head in disbelief. Not only was the Earthip immense despite Karl's downplaying it, looking around the pasture and counting in the driveway, there had to be at least 50 acres, if not 100.
"You must have 50 acres at least here Karl." she said.
"Oh no, more than that." Karl pointed up the mountain behind the Earthship. "See up there? That's mine too."
Up the slope of the mountain about 1000 feet Karen could see what he was pointing at. There was a large solar Array and 4 large commercial grade Wind Turbines on Towers. Karen's eyes opened wide.
"You own all of that?" she asked incredulously.
"Oh yes, everything on this side of the mountain and down the other too. It's Karl's Mountain. At least that's what the property deeds say while BAU holds up and I can pay the taxes on it anyhow."
"So all the folks at Quinn's who speculated you're some kind of eccentric billionaire were right?"
"Oh hell no, not that loaded. Not sure what the whole portfolio is worth these days, and some of it is not too liquid either, like the land itself. Maybe $100M."
"Well, that's still fucking rich Karl!".
"Nah, I'm just Upper Middle Class. You gotta have at least $10B these days to be considered rich."
"Yea, right.", Karen remarked, rolling her eyes.
"Come on inside, lemme show you around the place." Karl said. He was feeling much better now, since Karen was clearly impressed with the place. Living the kind of isolated life he did, he didn't really feel all that rich, although he knew by the numbers that he was. Mainly he just felt like he had done pretty well financially over the years.
Walking inside and looking at the polished wood floors and sparkling clean kitchen all lit up by the big windows, it looked like a showpiece from Better Homes & Gardens. Karen took pride in keeping her Duplex clean and neat, but this took it to a whole new level.
"You're a great housekeeper Karl! Not too many single men are so tidy!"
"Uh, yea, sometimes." Karl coughed. His knees were still sore from the hours spent scrubbing the tiles in the kitchen and bathroom.
"Would you like a snack or something to drink?"
"I had a pretty big breakfast this morning, not too hungry yet. A cup of coffee would be nice though if you have some."
"Oh sure, I'll brew some right up. It's just Maxwell House, I don't get into town much to buy fresh coffe beans."
"Maxwell House is fine Karl, I'm not too picky." Karen laughed. "Mind if I check out the rest of the house while you make the coffee?"
"Sure." Karl replied. "Make yourself at home. My home is your home." The words spilled out of his mouth almost without conscious thought, and the warmth he felt as he said them was something he had never before experienced in his life.
"Uhhh, well, is it OK for me to start calling you "Dad", instead of Karl?" Karen asked nervously.
Karl felt the joy in his heart overflowing, and the tears of that joy followed closely behind.
"Yes Karen, that's OK if you want to. It's going to take me a while to get used to that though."