The problem wasn’t food; the problem was water, there was none. When the looting began he had taken food in foil pouches from camping stores. That food and been taken from him. In the meantime most of the stores had been emptied. A can of beef stew could be found under a display case or once he had found a whole box of spaghetti o’s pushed up against a wall by an abandoned fork truck, and in those days there was still competition by other people, some of them expressed there desperation in violent ways, but most did their best to get along. As the people left they left behind what they could not carry and this became a source of food in abundance. He started the diverse hiding places during this time and if he could remember all the locations there would be plenty of food for a long time. But he had no way to create water. Looking back he knew he should have stashed bottled water. He hadn’t. At first water still came out of the spigot in his kitchen, slowly, without pressure but the water was there. When the water no longer came from the pipes people would form lines at the three giant storage tanks on a hill just north of the city. The water tank gave water for such a long time he almost thought they would continue to do so forever. The lines of people grew smaller and the water continued until the day the water in the tanks no longer reached the outlets. First one tank was declared empty, that day was a boon for food hunting. People had left the town in long lines. The lines shortened and it was a long while before a second tank emptied. Someone unbolted an access point on the tank and six inches of water was found covering the bottom of the tank, with the population greatly reduced over ten thousand gallons of water should last forever but forever is, as they say, a long time. All three tanks were empty now. He searched his own hiding places, not for cans of food now but for soups, and juices, and sodas, anything with moisture, but it was never enough and he accepted constant thirst as a new part of his life.
He remembered a hiding place in a basement after a hard day of finding people in walnut trees and found his way to what had been one of the finer houses in town, a three story redwood sided home, painted white. The entry way was at the center of a ten foot wide front porch that ran the full length of the front of the house, the roof of the porch was supported by six white pillars that stood three stories high. In the olden days he would have never been allowed to approach such a house. Even today he approached carefully just in case someone considered this their property.
“Is anyone here?” he shouted. He leaned into the entryway and shouted again, “Is anyone here?” he waited and listened. The house was empty. He remembered the way to the basement and in minutes was digging through a pile of canned goods looking for some that might contain water. He found a box of kool-aid envelopes and started laughing uncontrollably. And then he saw the blue tank in the corner of the room. It was a commercial sized water heater. He had found water in water heaters before, they were more convenient than going to the city water tanks, and most had been drained long ago. He went to the spigot at the base of the tank and as a show of faith he placed a plastic bucket someone had left in the basement under the outlet before he turned the knob. Water. At first it came out dark orange, filled with rust but then it cleared. He set the rusty water aside, he knew from experience it would take the rust several hours to settle. He went up the stairs and into the kitchen of the massive house, found a pot he could boil water in and returned to the hot water heater, one hundred twenty gallons of water, six months of life! In the back yard of the huge house he built a fire in the bar-b-cue and watched the pot come to a boil, tonight he would have tea with his dinner but tomorrow he would have kool-aid.