There were three thousand cans of creamed corn in the underground bunker with J.R. Saxson and not much else. At least not today, after six thousand days living below ground. J.R. looked at the cans and shuddered. He had been thirty-four when he entered the bunker. He had celebrated his fiftieth birthday alone several weeks ago with a can of peaches. He no longer had ingredients for a cake.
The bunker had been built by his grandfather, Jedediah, who returned home from the Pacific Theater and didn’t much like way things stood. Once settling back into civilian life, he started up a concrete company. On weekends he used a wheelbarrow and shovel to dig 150 meters beneath the earth. Once the foundation was set, he formed a concrete shell big enough for a family of five.
Stocking the bunker, he knew, would take time. Every week his wife Irene bought five cans of creamed corn, five cans of green beans, and five cans of Spam. She didn’t really believe his doomsday predictions of fire and brimstone, but she loved her husband just the same. They were Oklahomans and knew sometimes God blew in to turn their lives askew.
Jed’s son J.W. flew the coop at eighteen for the beaches and girls of LA. He was blond and beautiful and dreamed some day of being a great actor. Instead, he ended up in porn and then in jail. J.R.’s mother was a deadbeat of the first order. They called her Lady Tangerine. Rather than keeping her one and only son, she shipped him back to Oklahoma to be raised by Jed and Irene. J.R. grew up enamored with comic books and zombie films and one day wanted to join the Merchant Marines.
After Irene died, Jed moved into the bunker buried deep in the backyard. Too many memories were aboveground, so J.R. made weekly visits with a backpack stuffed with milk, bread, and eggs and kept Jed company in his old age. The apocalypse had never come, so he passed away the rest of days watching episodes of Gunsmoke on DVD.
J.R. arrived on a Wednesday after Jed had been dead for nearly a week. The skies were a vortex of gray and pale green. A twister was coming his way and he rushed into the hidden entrance of the bunker where he came face to face with Jed on the bottom bunk bed. His body had begun to decompose. J.R. held his nose and waited out the storm. The next day he turned the hatch and pushed, but the metal door wouldn’t budge. He was trapped in an underground bunker, but figured there were worse places to be. A tree or something must have fallen overhead. He waited for someone to come.
Except no one ever did. He tried from time to time to escape, but soon resigned himself to his fate. He wondered often about the world above. Had it gone on like before? What might have changed? Perhaps pa’s visions came true and the earth had become a wasteland. It was hard to say.
He drew comics to pass the time and tried to stay busy. The days and years passed and the foodstuffs gradually decreased. He tried to grow a subterranean garden of potatoes and yams, but didn’t have enough lamps for artificial light. Soon the jars of jam and cans of Spam dwindled down to none. All that remained were three thousand cans of creamed corn. He would rather die than eat creamed corn.