He wiped a bit of beans from his mouth and made sure he had drained the last bit of water from his cup and then, with an almost clean, damp cloth he wiped clean the plate, cup and bowl and placed them back on the shelves in their proper places. He walked from the kitchen into the front room of the house. Litter; clothes, paper, and discarded food containers filled the floor of the room, the walls were covered with multi-colored spay paint graffiti. An oversized flat screen television, looking very out of place, had somehow escaped the looting and some of the vandalism of the first days of chaos, he stared at the white peace sign spayed across the screen, without electricity or UHF it was still almost as entertaining as it had been in the time before. He, once more, resisted the urge to clean-up the mess, strangers looking through the front door should see just another abandoned house although strangers were less and less a problem now-a-days. He looked at the ceiling and smiled, no leaks, the house still had a good roof and all of its walls. Three bedroom, two bath, air conditioned stucco home, near schools and shopping. Only the baths were useless, the bedrooms were trashed like the front room, the schools were empty and not a single shop remained open, he figured the AC would work if he could get power to it. He walked into the bedroom that had been his since the day he was born. His bed frame was still in the corner by the window but the mattress was on the floor in the kitchen where he slept.
Enough of this, there was work to be done and the walk to his place of work would take time. Instead of walking toward the town he walked through the tracks of homes, following the zig zagging of the residential streets until they ran out of empty houses and into what had once been irrigated fields. Cotton and alfalfa and corn and potatoes had grown green and productive here but when the water had stopped the plants had turned brown and then, for the most part, blew away. Brown ground with brown winter grasses covered thousands of unused acres. He walked toward a one-hundred-sixty acre rectangle of walnuts trees, a clearly marked border of a straight line of trees, now just dry trunks with leafless branches but they were still a thick forest that provided shade and privacy. He walked into the deceased woods being careful not to walk where he had walked before, creating no path, he came to his place, far from the edges of the trees. His tools were where he had left them. He picked up a sharp chisel, a hammer and went to the spot where he had stopped yesterday and began to carefully chip away bits of walnut. The tree no longer had the shape of a tree, it had the head of a man six feet off the ground the branches spreading from the hydrocephalic head, the handicap necessary to keep the branches intact, the branches were his uncombed hair, his body was only roughly defined and was the task of the day and several more days to come. He worked carefully until the sun made long shadows, put his tools in their place, swept wood chips from the base of the tree. Three people, who had once been walnut trees, watched patiently as he cleaned up and ended his work. He nodded to the people trees and made his way back through the forest remembering a stash of canned goods that would make a proper dinner as he walked back toward town.