Things had been OK, OK since the budget crisis had forced a quarter of a million federal employees to stay at home just a little too long. The Red Cross reluctantly admits that 1 out of every 100,000 people die giving, even if nothing is wrong. Anaphylactic shock, like flash burns, is no respector of persons.

Yeah, one in of every hundred grand go from shock, but twice that statistic go berserk when they loose their job. From the numbers alone five people were destined for naughty former-postal-worker types of things. Not that they're any different from you or I, nope, there's just more of 'em. There was one difference though. The Hanford, Sandia and Livermore employees had been hurting before the money went bad. A few of them, educated at Berkeley's top drawer nuclear engineering department had this internet-physics-hippie, "I can do anything I want" attitude, that had gone unrecognized by the ID card readers and metal detectors of their now budget-idled employers. The advent of personal computers, design software and Federal plutonium had made it all too easy. Most homespun designs were a little crude. Crude by fusion standards and short on tritium, they would fizzle with an incredible hot-as-a-white-dwarf flash, but with blast damage limited to a mile or so. The fallout, what little there was of it, usually got caught up in the prevailing winds.
Eating Borax was the well known solution for that. Plutonium perborate, as in four borons a pop, was much less toxic that it's elemental cousin and easier on the migrant crews washing down the streets afterwards. Made you puke and gave "petra fevre" till you got used to it.

So one would think after the first outbreaks of homemade atomic bombs that the grocery stores would have run out of water, milk, eggs and the other things that go first in any riot or earthquake.

But it wasn't that way at all. It was Borax and aluminum foil that went first. Shiny side out, foil protected people from flash burns better than anything else and it was cheap till inventories ran low. At that point soda pop may as well have come in gold cans cause gold foil worked pretty good too though it was harder to come by. Some people tried covering their cars and one rich guy even covered his whole house, but that quickly built neighborhood resentment. Resentment that meant you stayed outside, above ground if you got caught walking Fifi when the sirens went off. Street people who had a corner on the soda can market split them lengthwise to make a kind of armor that squawked when they walked down the street. Garage mechanics used exhaust header paint right on the skin - good news for headers - bad news for flash burns.

The run on foil started when one bright weather gal had made the mistake of mentioning that foil was a sure bet for flash protection on the evening weather report. So old people who were just crawling out from under their beds started putting it between the mattresses like it was safety or money or both. Of course a foot of mattress already about equaled a mil or two of foil, but no one was going to explain that to 14,000 panicked tenement dwellers after the Brooklyn Bridge flash. A lot of good people cooked that day and a lot of new shadows ended up on the sidewalk. © 1995 Van Warren