The news man is calling it a cold war, like that’s supposed to sound reassuring. It’s still a war. The White House and the Kremlin are primed to bomb each other flat if one side so much as sneezes. If - hell, when - that happens, everyone will go up in smoke.
That is, except me.
I’m ready. It’s taken a year and a half, but the concrete bunker under my house is stocked: food, communications, even foil caps. Rumor has it the reds are working on mind control. They can’t get their x-rays into your head if you chrome up your lid.
Now that I’m ready, what’s left is to stay vigilant. Playing defense is a loser’s strategy, and holing myself up in that concrete cave is a last resort. I listen to the ham radio every night. The airwaves are filled with commies chattering in code. They’ll let something slip eventually.
The radio is a real piece of work. It’s not powerful enough to listen in on the commies at home in the C.C.C.P. but I don’t need it to. They commies are here, in the States. My rig picks up restricted channels, so I’ll be listening when the Kremlin calls. When that happens, I’m taking a road trip. My van out front doesn’t look like much, but it’s a surveillance vehicle that the Federal Communications Commission retired last year. Uncle Sam used it to pinpoint people who beamed up unauthorized broadcasts on restricted channels. The government stripped it of all the equipment, but left the electrical hookups in place. It wasn’t too hard a job to wire it up with goodies from the electronics store where I work. All I need to do is dial in a suspicious frequency, and I’ll be pointed right to its source.
August 28, 1962
I fell asleep at the radio again. The clock says 3:42. Down here in the bunker, I can’t tell if it’s a.m. or p.m. The radio’s silent. I rub the sleep out of my eyes and reach for my glasses, when suddenly a boy’s voice comes on.
“Three times three is nine.”
“Twenty-one. Forty-eight. Negative thirty-six.”
The boy speaks slowly and with long pauses between numbers. I snatch a notepad off the desk and jot down the numbers. Before I know it, a half hour has passed. The broadcast cuts off. Silence.
The numbers make no sense. I tear the page out and rewrite the numbers down the left margin of a new sheet. Holding both sheets up to the ceiling light, I can see the number’s I’ve written through the page. No matter how I hold the sheets to make the two lines of numbers intersect, nothing leaps out at me.