Chapter 4: The Barrel Man

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I pulled the handle of the car, and as I slid out, my stomach gurgled again. I remembered how hungry I was and decided I should go look for some food. Mr. White had always brought me my own food so I didn’t know how to find it myself.

I walked on the black street and looked around. There were no pictures of food or anything, so I would have to walk around until I saw one — or found someone to ask. The streets were deserted. I left the cars quietly flashing their red and blue lights behind me, keeping the man’s blanket wrapped around my shoulders because it felt good.

After I walked to another street, I looked to my right and saw a car coming. I stepped out in front of it so it would see me. It slowed down, but it made a loud sound like WAHHHH. The car was big and blue and only had front seats. The back was open and had 13 big barrels in it. It came to a stop in front of me and the front window rolled down.

“Kid! What are you doing??” the driver asked me. He looked at his watch and then asked me, “Where are your parents?”

I don’t know why everyone kept asking me that. Didn’t they know I haven’t seen my parents in a long time? I told the driver I don’t know, and he angrily punched the steering wheel and said a lot of mean words.

“Ok, get in, I’ll take you somewhere.”

I walked over to the door and pulled myself up into the truck. I remembered it was called a truck, not a car, because I had seen one in my books and Mr. White told me that’s what they are called.

“It smells like a garden in here,” I said. The man was silent when I said this. “What’s in your barrels back there? Do you have garden supplies in them?”

“Umm. No, kid,” he answered. “It’s not for gardening.”

“What is it then?” I asked.

“It’s, uhhh…” the man hesitated.

“And what are these tubes running from the back of the truck to the front where your feet are?”

“Look, kid. You gotta stop asking questions, okay?”

“Well, where are you taking me?”

“I was going to…uh, the Federal Building. But I gotta figure out where to take you first.” He looked at his watch again. He seemed to be in a big hurry.

“Do you know where you live, kid?”

I smiled because now I knew the answer: “Steam and Soak!” I replied. “Oh, I also heard Mr. White sometimes talk about a place called Oak…” I couldn’t remember the word. “Oak my home.”

“Oklahoma?” he said.

“Yah! Oklahoma! That’s the word. It’s fun to say.”

“Well good job, kid. That’s this entire city. You haven’t really narrowed it down much.” He paused for a moment, then said, “Wait, did you say you live at the Steam and Soak?”

I nodded.

“No one lives at a Steam and Soak. It’s a place where you go to sit in saunas and hot tubs. Does your daddy work there or something?”

“Mr. White isn’t my daddy. I told you, I don’t know where my parents are.”

Just then, my stomach let out the loudest gurgle I had ever heard. The man driving the truck looked down at me angrily. “You hungry, kid?”

“Yes,” I said. “I ate my Pop-Tarts which are better than Pop-Tarts, and that was a long time ago.”

“Okay, kid. I’ll get you some McDonalds and then take you to the police. Okay?” He looked at his watch again. “I can’t take you to the police,” he said very quietly, like he was thinking really hard. He turned the truck off of the street next to a building. He yelled into a black box and then drove around the building. A woman opened the window and handed him a bag of food which smelled so good. It was warm and delicious. I had never had food like this before! I felt my mouth watering.

He handed me the bag and drove forward. I opened it and pulled out the warm food. After the first bite, I couldn’t stop eating it all, and before I knew it, I had eaten everything.

“Wow, you put that down!” said the man. We had been driving for a few minutes and he was talking to himself the whole time. He had a bunch of papers on the seat between us and would occasionally flip through them. Sometimes, I don’t think he even spoke the same language. He said things like, “Sick semper tirannis,” but I didn’t want to ask him more questions.

He reached over and opened up a hatch right in front of my legs. He pulled out a small black thing that looked just like the ones the men in the Steam and Soak had! I knew those things made loud sounds, so I covered up my ears.

“What is that thing??” I asked him.

“It’s a gun, kid,” he answered. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to shoot you.”

I took my hands off my ears.

“McVeigh is going to kill me,” he muttered.

“Who?”

“Kid! Stop asking questions!” He thought for a moment. “My friend and I — my friend Tim — are on a…a mission. And if we run out of time, the mission will fail.”

“What is the mission?” I asked.

“We…There are some bad people and we have to…uhh…stop them. Negotiators don’t know what they’re doing.”

“Negoshiaters?” I asked.

“Nevermind, kid. You won’t understand. I…I have to blow some people up to put a little fear back in the government…return the power to the people.”

I didn’t understand. “Is that what the barrels in the back are for?”

“Yah, kid. Thirteen barrels of ANFO and acetylene. Direct delivery to the Federal Building.”

“You’re going to put people to sleep just like Mr. White?”

The man was silent and looked over at me, trying to think of what to say. “Who is Mr. White?” he asked me.

I smiled. “He took care of me! He brought food and books to my room!”

“At the Steam and Soak?”

“Yah!” I answered. “But now he’s asleep with red water coming out of him because someone used a gun to poke holes in him and he won’t wake up.”

“Well, I — I’m sorry, kid,” the man said. Then he was quiet for a long time.

e

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