SWAT Mad Max Fiction Archive
 

A Threshold Moment
by Road Worthy
 

Published on the Mad Max Movies FAQ Message Board by Road Worthy, March-June 2000
Reprinted by the Seattle Washington Autoduel Team, September 24, 2003


1

Ethan squatted beside the old farm pickup, cautiously-attentive of any signs of trouble. It was well past midnight, and the countryside was asleep, making the slightest noise very audible across the farmland. His best friend Joshua, of whom he had known since the age of five, came skirting up to the vehicle, kicking up small stones on the gravel driveway. One of the small stone thudded up against the chrome wheel cap of the pickup's rear wheel. A hound, on the other end of the property, began to howl.

"Shhhh!" Ethan angrily said as he grabbed Joshua's shirt, pulling him down behind the cover of the pickup. The two 1.5-liter fuel cans, Joshua was carrying, hit the ground with a hollow resonance, as Joshua struggled to keep his balance. "You dumb bastard. Do you want us to get caught?" Ethan harshly whispered.

From on the front porch of the run-down farmhouse, an elderly farmer, wielding a shotgun and a flashlight, came bursting out from the front door. He came to a stop on the rotted planks a few feet from the edge of the porch. The old man began to scan the beam of the flashlight
wildly across the yard, moving way too fast to be effective.

"This is private land. You . . . You . . . Youuu better move along if you know what's good for you!" the old man yelled out into the night, in grumbly non-confident voice.

Ethan and Joshua froze still, their eyes wide open, and their hearts pounding, behind the shadowy darkness of the pickup. Joshua looked over to Ethan, scared, his lips parted as he tried to mumble something. Ethan shot Joshua a threatening stare, Joshua changed his mind and went back to just looking real scared.

Time seemed to crawl for the two teenaged boys that night, as they waited the old man out.

The flashlight beam, still wildly spotting the yard, suddenly stopped in one location, just as the remnants of a rotted crabapple fell from a tree bouncing off the rusty lid of an old steel barrel. The hound dog, in the back, erupted again into a chorus of horse howls. "Shut the hell up!" the old man grumbled.

"Just an apple," the old man thought, trying convince himself that there was no danger out there in the dark. "That's right, just an apple," he thought again now truly convinced.

The old man switched off the light and lowered his gun. He then slowly shuffled back into the house, never looking back.

"Man, if you would have got us caught, I was gunna use your ass for a shield," Ethan scolded Joshua."Where's the hose?"

Joshua reached around his neck and handed Ethan the four-foot section of green garden hose. Joshua loosened the caps on the fuel cans, as
Ethan inserted the hose down the throat of the pickups fuel tank.

The two boys looked at each, reading each others' mind. Both simultaneously shot out their hands. "Paper covers rock!" Ethan triumphantly whispered.

Joshua rolled his eyes and picked up the other end of the hose and placed it to his lips. He sucked into the hose several times, each time try placing his thumb over the end of the hose while he regained his breath. On the third try, Joshua's eyes grew bloodshot, as the nauseous gasoline flooded his mouth. Joshua spat out the fuel onto the ground, his eyes were watering, as he tried to hold back the gagging coughs. A steady stream of fuel streamed from the end of the hose onto the ground. The smell of fuel was heavy in the air. Ethan reached down plucked the end of the hose off the ground and inserted it into the mouth of first fuel can. Meanwhile, Joshua sat back against the wheel trying to regain some composure.

This was a pivotal moment for the two boys. A passing of some invisible threshold, of which there was seemingly no return. Long ago were the days of care-free living. It was a much different world now. A world filled with tormoil and uncertainty. A world that seemed to teeter on the edge of some unknown crisis yet to be seen.

Things really hadn't changed for the boys, who lived far inland in the quiet country, until the drastic change in fuel prices. The fuel prices rocketed earlier that summer, driving up the price of everything. Families struggled to make ends meet, many resorting to selling off livestock and equipment to keep food on the tables.

Ethan had really felt the effects, even at his age. As newly proud owner of his first vehicle, (a long deserved birthday/Christmas gift for working hard on the farm while his father held a second job in town), Ethan hardly had a chance to learn to drive before the sudden fuel crisis forced him to park it due to lack of funds. It had been several months since it all started. The promised relief in prices never came. That's when Bulldog Nations began their bickering.

The two boys silently made their way back off the old farmer's property, sloshing cans of fuel at their sides. After walking several hundred yards up the road the boys stopped and retreived their bicycles that were hidden along the edge of the road in the thick brush. The cans
were lashed to the front handle bars of their bicycles with thick twine. Soon the boys dissappeared into the moonless night.

After riding several miles away from the farmhouse, the whole time thinking of what they just did, Joshua spoke, "I can't believe we just did that. Man, were close to getting caught!"

"How are we supposed to drive without fuel? You know I don't qualify for rationing. That old man, he'll be able to get more, and besides, no one was hurt. That's what we agreed upon, wasn't it? That no one gets hurt," Ethan tried to explain.

Far off in the distance two headlights crested the horizon.

"Quick, ditch the bikes!" Joshua shouted as he pointed to the fast moving vehicle moving their way. The two boys quickly hid the bicycles in the brush again along the road and then began to walk.

Several minutes later, the vehicle's lights flooded them. The boys squinted their eyes, bringing their hands up to cover their eyes.

The vehicle slowed dramatically and then finally stopped. a dozen yards ahead on the road. The babble of a radio could barely be heard over the grumble of the idling engine.

The boys stood there waiting, now wishing that they hid alongside the road along with their bikes.

Suddenly, from on top of the vehicle, two piercing lights stabbed the darkness. The strobe-effect of the flashing lights made it even more difficult for the boys to see. The vehicle began to move again, but this time at a crawling speed. It finally stopped alongside the nervous
boys in the middle of the road. The driver switched off the lights and cut the ignition to the engine.

It was several seconds after the lights were cut off, that the boys' vision returned. They stood there rubbing their eyes.

"What are you boys up to?" the driver asked in an authoritative vioce.

"Ah, we . . . Ah we, were just out getting for some fresh air. We couldn't sleep, so we thought we'd go for a walk," Ethan said, his eyes now fully adjusted to the darkness, seeing an uniformed officer inside a marked vehicle.

"We've got a curfew here. Haven't you heard? No one out after dark," the officer said trying to size up the two boys.

"No sir, we haven't. We don't get much news out here on account of not being able to get to town much because of the fuel problem," Joshua said.

"Well now you know, you need to tell all your friends and family about it. Next time, I going to have to haul you in," the officer said.

"Why is there a curfew?" Joshua quizzically asked.

"Let's just say these roads are not as safe as they use to be," the officer replied.

"Are you part of the town's police? I've never seen a vehicle like this before," Ethan asked, truly impressed with the officer's vehicle.

"No, we're a new outfit sent to help make safe passage for the land-trains that travel the Transcon. There have been reports of trucks being
attacked and looted, we just here to wipe 'em out and secure the roads. No big deal really. You kids go straight home. I wasn't kidding about
hauling you in next time. You don't want those gangs to get you, so to be safe, stay inside."

The officer's speech was abruptly interrupted by the radio above.

"MFP unit 4224 . . . Come in."

"This is unit 4224 . . . Over."

"Assistance needed in sector 3. Officers in pursuit . . . Over."

"I'm on my way . . . Any details? . . . Over."

"Not at this time . . . Over."

"4224 out."

"Look boys, listen to what I said and go straight home," the officer said with the dead look of seriousness on his face.

The boys nodded. The officer started the engine, and revved it. The vehicle growled, as it took off down the road, leaving the boys alone again in the middle of the night. On the rear of the vehicle, the boys were just able to the word "PURSUIT" boldly painted on the rear of the vehicle before it vanished into the darkness.
 


2

It was well past one in the morning before the two boys arrived back at Ehtan's family farm.  The remaining potion of their trip was uneventful, but the the run-in with the officer lay heavy on their minds.  They knew that somehow they would be linked to stealing the old man's fuel, but they tried to be optimistic.

Once on the property, the two boys headed straight for the lean-to structure built along side the barn that housed Ethan's Ford.

It was draped with a large dusty tarpaulin. Ethan, picked up the corner of the tarp exposing the rear deck lid. He then dug around his pockets til he found his keys and opened the trunk. Ethan and Joshua then placed the stolen three liters of fuel in the trunk.

"Tomorrow, we'll take her for a ride after my parents leave for the day," Ethan said, closing the trunk lid and then replacing the tarp back over the vehicle. The two boys then snuck back into the house.

Sitting on top of an old oil drum inside a battered metal building, Thomas Morgan watched over the deserted garage for his father. His father who decided to run his shop on a "need to" basis, had left him here alone. Since the fuel crisis, business was slow and it didn't make much sense to hang around Morgan's Garage and Salvage for nothing, so he hired his son Thomas to watch the place and perform some remedial tasks and to call him when there was a true service call. In his father's absence, Thomas took the liberty of making himself comfortable at his
father's shop. There was plenty of things to do, especially after his friends arrived. They were always coming up with new and creative ways of getting into trouble.  This morning was no exception, shortly after Mr. Morgan dropped off his son in front of Morgan's Garage, Thomas's friends arrived.

Thomas, still sitting on the oil drum, vaguely heard a vehicle approaching the shop. He hopped off the barrel, and walked outside expecting to see some farmer who needed a tractor tire plugged or some local fool wanting a used battery, but Thomas was really shocked to see Ethan and Joshua inside Ethan's primered Ford coupe.

Ethan sat behind the wheel with that shit-eating-grin on his face, that Thomas knew all too well. "Let's go for a ride!" Ethan shouted out the driver's window.

Thomas stood there, looking back towards the open doors of the shop and back again towards Ethan. "I don't know . . . My old man would kill me if he knew I left the shop," Thomas said, again glancing back at the open doors of the garage.

"Come onnnn . . . It's only up the road and back. It's been so long since I've had a chance to drive. It'll only be for a sec,"  Ethan said, as he tried to coax Thomas into the Ford.

"Oh . . . alright, just up the road and back, but I ride shotgun!" Thomas said, as he ran for the passenger door. "Move over Dog Boy!" Thomas said, as he swatted Joshua over the head through the open window.  Joshua looked over at Ethan for support. "You heard him. Get in the back!" Ethan said to Joshua now impatient to get moving.  Joshua reluctantly moved to the back, allowing Thomas to slide into the passengers seat.

"Here we go!" Ethan shouted as the car shot out of the dirt parking lot of the Morgan's Garage, they howled out the windows with pure joy and excitement all along the road.

Ethan looked down to glance at the speedometer.  The needle was approaching the 110 kph mark. The narrow tree-lined road made them feel that they were doing twice that speed. The Ford drove straight and true, and the boys were still yelling with excitement. Suddenly, the engine begin to shutter and cough. Ethan looked wildly around wondering what happened, all he could think was that his newly built engine ate itself up. The color washed from his face, as he thought of how he was going to explain this to his father.

Meanwhile, Thomas leaned over to look at the guages. "You dumb ass, your out of fuel! What kind of dumb ass drives around with no . . . Hey, where did you get the gas?" Thomas demanded. Ethan was too busy trying to get the vehicle off the road to listen to Thomas gab. "I said, Where did you get the gas?" Thomas shouted again, this time emphasizing his question with a smack against the back of Ethan's head.

Ethan quickly caught Thomas's retreating hand, twisting it with aggressive force. Ethan stared Thomas down, who was now nearly crying with pain. "Never, hit me again unless you think you can take me!" Ethan coldly said, releasing Thomas's hand. Thomas just sat there in pain, staring disbelievingly at Ethan.

Some time had past, the boys just sat there motionless contemplating their next course of action. Finally, Ethan broke the silence. "Sorry, Thomas . . . I really didn't mean to hurt you, but I really screwed up this time. If I don't get this car home before my parents get back,  I'll lose the car," Ethan said almost sincerely. "We stole three liters from the old man up the road last night," Ethan added.

"Three liters?" Thomas exclaimed. "Now I know your a dumb ass. This gas hog only gets 15 kilometres per gallon at best. What made you
think you could drive out here, race around, and then make it back home?" Thomas said as he began to laugh.

Ethan, soon followed by Joshua began laughing along with Thomas. The tense atmosphere instantly dissolved.

They hiked it back to the shop. Luckily for Thomas, the garage seemed untouched just like he had left it. Thomas got on the phone and called his dad to come to the garage.

One half-hour later Mr. Morgan arrived. He wasn't too pleased that he had to waste fuel on his son's sorry friends. He told Thomas that this
would be deducted from his pay. Enough fuel was added to allow Ethan to drive his Ford home.

The next morning the three boys reunited, the same time as usual, but this time they traveled to Morgan's Garage and Salvage on their bicycles. Ethan was pissed because, the evening before Mr. Morgan called his folks, alerting them of their his escapade. Ethan had to give up his keys to his car, and was forbidden to ever drive it again at the risk of it being sold to put food on the table. Luckily for him, his parents thought that Thomas gave him the gas, Lord help him if they knew he had stolen it. Needless to say, the boy's spirits were low and the mood was
depressing.

The entire morning was uneventful, until an old pickup pulled  into the parking lot.

Joshua recognized the pickup at once. He could feel his face become red with fear. Joshua nudged Ethan, motioning for him to see the old man who was exiting his truck. Ethan grabbed Joshua's shoulders, "Keep cool, don't say a word." Ethan said, trying to reassure Joshua that everything was going to be alright. Meanwhile, Thomas went outside to greet his customer, while Ethan and Joshua stayed inside cloaked by the garage's darkness.
 


*     *     *



"What can I do for you?" Thomas said, while wiping his clean hands on a rag trying to make it look like he was a big-time mechanic. The old man wiped the sweat from his brow with his sleeve and said, "I'm here to pick up the part I ordered for the tractor."

"I don't recall there being any parts delivered lately." Thomas replied.

"Well, I ordered it a while back. Mr. Morgan said he would hold it for me 'til I was able to get some cash," the old man calmly said.

"I'll call my Dad and find out where he's got it laying around," Thomas said, walking inside to the office. The old man followed.

By the time the old man made it inside, Thomas was already on the phone with his father. Ethan and Joshua didn't have time to avoid the old man without looking suspicious.

"Morning," the old man said as he saw the two boys. "Morning" Ethan replied. "Sure getting rough, huh?" the old man asked.

"Well . . . Uh . . . Sure," Ethan said, not sure what the old man was asking.

"These damn fuel rations. How they expect us to run a farm with the little fuel they allocate us? We do grow the food they eat, don't we?" the old man asked."
 


3

The old man rambled on. Talking about how terrible things have gotten. Soon, Thomas returned from the office after getting of the phone with his father, he was weilding a large, cumbersome box.

"Dad said you can pay him next Friday when he is back in town. Where do you want the box?" Thomas said, struggling to keep the box from slipping.

"Put it in the back of the truck," the old man replied.

Thomas, escorted by Ethan and Josh followed the old man out to his truck.  The old man motioned for Thomas to put the box in the back as he heaved himself into the cab.

The rear of the beat up truck was consumed with many other boxes of various sizes. Among the boxes, were four olive, drab-colored fuel cans.

Ethan eyes lit with delight when he saw the cans, he just stood there in disbelief. Meanwhile, Thomas was having a hard time trying to manuever the box into the crammed space.

"Ethan! Wake up! Can't you see I need help?" Thomas yelled. Ethan blinked his eyes wildly, before he realized he must have gone into some
trance. He then hopped in the back of the truck and moved some boxes around 'til there was enough room for Thomas's box. Before exiting, Ethan thumped each can quickly, a widening smile that grew after every thud. His suspicions were correct.

The old man fired up the truck, wretched the gears into drive and stomped the gas. Thomas, still on the back of the truck, made a less than graceful lunge off the back. He landed hard on the ground, rolling in the wake of dust lifted from the departing truck. Josh and Thomas came running to his aid, yelling "Are you all right?"

Ethan sat grinning, covered in dust, the right side of his face now sporting a small cut. "Men . . . I think we've got ourselves some guzzoline!" he said.
 


4

The three boys quietly stood vigil over the old farm, waiting for the old man to go to bed. It was 12:20 a.m., the night following their encounter with the old man at Morgan's Garage. They had waited several hours, all the while hoping the old man would just pack it in. The boys had plenty of time to rehearse their plan. They checked and rechecked their gear.

Finally, at 12:36 a.m. the lights went out in the farmhouse. They waited another thirty minutes to ensure the old man was asleep.

The boys departed silently across the field into the yard, each following a pre-determined course with a pre-determined objective.

Josh stood as picket along the long gravel driveway, armed with a birdcall whistle he used when hunting with uncle, Josh was instructed to sound the call at any signs of oncoming trouble.

Meanwhile, Ethan and Thomas quietly scaled the front porch steps, careful not to jar any loose boards.

They planned to tie up the old man, wearing masks of course, grab the fuel and run. Sneaking the fuel off again was out of the question; they didn't want that old hound tipping off the itchy triggered old man of their arrival.

They entered the house through the front door, which was unlocked as they expected it would be this far out in the country. They made it as far as the front room's rear exit when they were caught off-guard by the wide-awake farmer that was sitting across the room in a thread-bare chair.  He had his shotgun resting on his lap.

"You boys going somewhere?" the old man whispered. He raised his weapon. The boys froze. The old man got up and flicked on the lamp that was on a small table near his chair.

From outside, Josh saw the light come on. He wrestled with what to do. Finally, he began running towards the house.

Back inside, the old man slowly walked closer, when he recognized the boys from earlier the day before. "Won't your dads be pleased to
know that your breaking into old men's homes at night," the old man said, wiping his brow with the sleeve of his shirt.

Ethan seized the moment, and tackled the old man to the ground. Thomas just stood there. The old man was no match for Ethan who out-muscled him easily. Josh rushed into the house, and after seeing the gun laying nearby, picked it up.

The old man desperately struggled to get free. Ethan squarely punched the old man in the face, knocking him unconscious.

Ethan stood up rubbing his sore knuckles. "Well, things didn't go as planned, but things worked out nonetheless," Ethan said.

"Wait a minute!" Thomas shouted "He knows who we are! All he needs to do is tell the police . . . not only will we get charged for stealing,
and assault, but also for breaking curfew and whatever else they can think of."

"What are our options?" Josh asked.

"Not many," Ethan added.

"Well we just can't kill him," Thomas said.

"I don't think we have much choice," Ethan said.

"The hell we don't!" Thomas shouted.

Ethan rolled his eyes and turned away. He turned back around. "Look, I can plainly see that if we were to get caught we might as well kiss
our lives goodbye. We're all legal age or damned well near it. You know we'll be tried as adults and they'll put us away for sure . . . I'm not going."

He crossed the room and grabbed the gun from Josh. Ethan leveled the gun and unloaded a shell into the old man's body.

They left the farm as wanted men with their bounty of fuel. It was the start of a never-ending quest for fuel that would plague the boys 'til their
deaths.