Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Part 23



Sammy was still staring morosely into her empty bowl and said for the umpteenth time, "You cook good."

I felt like grinding my teeth.  She acted like it was something to cry about.  John-John and Jace however were acting like Christmas had come early.  I looked at Sammy and said, "It's no big deal.  I'll ... I'll show you if you want."  Trying to find common ground I added, "You don't have to but it'd be better than giving those two any more ammunition.  I swear, they are such guys."

She looked at them and then all but spit at me.  "I don't want you for a friend."

I snorted and rolled my eyes.  "Tell me something that isn't obvious.  I just have this thing about guys acting all ... guy-ish.  Even when they are little guys.  Girls can't help we are born girls.  Guys don't need to rub it in while we are still learning how to be girls.  They sure as heck don't like it when we laugh at them for being stupid guys."

"You're weird."

"Not weird ... I'm ... I'm eccentric ... unique."  To me the word weird was reserved for stuff that was really weird and shouldn't be used for anything else.  I wasn't about to explain why to her though.

"And bizarre.  Really, really bizarre."

I'm surprised she didn't use the word crazy but I guess she might have been as sensative to crazy as I was to weird.

I shrugged since my point had been made.  "Fine.  Whatever.  So do you want to know how to make this or not?"

"Or not.  John-John and I have things to do."

Jace growled, "You aren't going out in this weather Sammy so forget whatever scheme you've got going."

Sammy looked mutinous.  "You don't boss me Jace."

"Yeah.  I do.  And I'll lock both of you up if I catch you trying to go out in the middle of the night again.  You know I will."

Sammy's look turned cautious but rather than rebell more she grabbed John-John by the arm and practically dragged him up stairs ignoring his wails and complaints all the way.  The sound stopped at soon as I heard a door slam.

I shook my head and muttered to myself, "This is no going to end well."

"Wish I could deny it," Jace muttered back like I'd been talking to him.

He surprised me by helping to clean up.  "Relax.  Usually I am the one doing the cooking and cleaning.  Sammy nearly poisoned me the few times she tried to cook ... and one of them ... literally you know?  I think she was trying to make it so I'd let her do ... the stuff she wants.  I was in a cloud for a while until she went a little overboard with whatever she was using and I puked for 48 hours and it pretty much cleared my system.  That was right after ... Uncle Simon ..."

"Died?"

He looked at me and then leaned over to make sure that Sammy was still upstairs with her brother.  "He didn't leave to go look for other people.  He left because he got infected.  I don't know how it happened because all of the infecteds around here have been euthanized.  I figured out what was wrong when I caught up with him.  He'd left a note and it didn't make much sense.  He'd been acting strange and I had already started to worry about him.  He said it was just a little scratch but that he could feel infection crawling around his head and that he was leaving so that he couldn't hurt us.  He asked me to look after Sammy and John-John.  That I had to watch them really carefully and to not let them wander any place anymore like they had been, that it wasn't good for them."

I nodded realizing what must have happened.  "The smaller the dose of infection you get, the longer the change takes.  I've seen it take days but that is a really awful way to go.  Sometimes you don't even realize someone is infected until it is too late."  I stopped for a moment to weigh my words then asked, "Have you seen any puss brains lately?"

"No.  I took ... I ...," he stopped like it hurt to tell me.  It didn't take an Einstein to know why.  "I fixed Uncle Simon.  Before that I saw a few when I went hunting but none here in the village.  Uncle Simon had this hypothesis that the infecteds can sense if there are people around and that they avoid places that don't have people in them."

I shook my head not really agreeing.  "Not so much from what I've seen.  The puss brains go where they can get stuff to eat.  Maybe there is nothing around here worth eating ... or not enough to draw their attention.  But they'll eat almost anything that used to be living.  I've seen them eat leather off an office chair."

He made a face then nodded.  "Maybe Uncle Simon didn't know everything he thought he did.  I saw Infecteds eat some weird stuff in Springfield before I left.  As for this place, every little bit of food that is left from the village is in this store.  We went through all the houses and stuff after Uncle Simon ... left ... and brought everything back here and organized it.  There might be enough to make it through to spring if I can get some hunting done.  I just haven't been able to because ... well, you see how they are," he said referring to Sammy and her brother.

"Yeah," I admitted carefully.

"If you'll stay I'll be able to hunt and bring in more meat and it will make the food we have go a lot farther."

Thinking it over cautiously since it had been one of my concerns about going to Singing Waters on my own I asked, "You know how to do that?  Hunt and then do what you gotta do to make it stay good to eat?"

He nodded.  "Yeah.  My parents are ... were ... divorced.  My dad was Uncle Simon's brother and kinda ... well ... most folks would have thought him strange.  He wasn't ... he just liked to live life on his own terms.  But he still had to have money to do it so he was a college professor.  History.  He was big into re-enacting and demonstrations of pioneering skills and stuff like that.  His student's loved him according to what I heard from people.  He'd teach the fall and spring semesters and then we'd come here during the summer and Dad would ... would do the things he'd like to do without having to worry about hauling me around with him."

"Your mom?"

"Not in the picture.  Not really, not for a while anyway.  When I was little I had the mandatory holidays with her like Thanksgiving and every other Christmas but she remarried this guy that couldn't stand my guts because I reminded him of my dad for some reason.  I don't even look like him ... I look like Mom.  And they started a new family plus the guy had a couple of sons from his first marriage that he had custody of that I was constantly fighting with.  Anyway, right before I turned sixteen we all just agreed to stop playing games and totally went our separate ways.  Lots less stress for everyone involved."

He sounded like that had all happened a long time ago so I asked him, "How old are you?"

"Nineteen."

Surprised at his answer I squeeked, "Seriously?!"

He snorted.  "Seriously."

I muttered, "You're older than Lee."

"Who's Lee?"

"A friend.  His dad was the sheriff and my dad was a deputy."  We got off track sharing mutual stories from our pasts then I asked, "If you had this place to come to why didn't you leave Springfield sooner?"

"My dad and some other people had taken a stand at the community college.  It was a sweet set up.  Or at least I thought so at the time.  There was a working radio and people who were growing gardens ... it was a real viable operation.  Then someone got stupid and brought in some spoiled food that our cooks didn't catch.  Three quarters of our group went down and security got lax and ..."

"And that's all it takes."

He nodded sadly.  "Yeah.  Food poisoning got Dad before an infected could."

"It was a drunk that took my dad.  That first morning of Z-Day.  Only I didn't know that until the sheriff told me.  I still don't know what happened to Mom but ... but there are some things you just don't think about if you can help it."

"Yeah," Jace agreed softly.

We sat there quietly and I tried to not nod off though with the nice fire in the wood stove and a full stomach it was a losing battle.  Jace said, "I better go check on them."  Them being Sammy and John-John.

I was rubbing my eyes, trying to wake up, when I heard a door crash.  "Dammit!  Dammit dammit dammit!!"

I jumped up and was looking around for the threat when Jace came tearing into the room.  "Those two little sh ... dammit!  They are out in this crap!"

Fully awake again I asked, "You mean they've run away?  In this weather?"

A rattle of thunder was my answer until Jace said, "Not run away.  They just take off a couple of times a week and wander around for a couple of hours but they always come back.  They haven't been able to get away for about two weeks now because I've practically kept them tied to me.  They keep trying to go back over to their old house ... Sammy's old house I mean before she came to live here at the store with Uncle Simon.  I don't know what the deal is.  I told her next time I caught them anywhere near the place I would burn it down.  She was scared enough that she ... or at least I didn't think she was ...  Dammit!  I really will burn it down this time!"

I was at a loss as to what to do but then Jace said, "I ... dammit."

"You've already said that."

"Yeah.  I know.  Look, I need some help.  It is going to take everything I have to deal with Sammy and not hurt her until she calms down.  I need some help with John-John."

My automatic response was, "No way."

He turned to me and grabbed me by the shoulders and I didn't want to see how desparate he was but I didn't have a choice.  "You're dad was a cop right?  You understand that sometimes you gotta do things you might not want to so that everyone can be safe.  Sammy and John-John ... they aren't ... aren't responsible enough to take care of themselves, to make good choices.  I can't just ... can't just walk away.  But I can't do it alone anymore."

He was on the edge of cracking.  Unfortunately I made the mistake of looking at his side of things before I could stop myself and then folded.  I wish I hadn't.  I really, really wish I hadn't.  I swear I am such a girl.  I've really got to get over that.

"Take your hands off of me," I told him.  "You do that and I'll help.  You try and make me and Sammy isn't the only one who is going to fight."

He turned loose of me like I was a hot skillet.  The relief on his face made me sick to my stomach.  I knew that I'd need to get away fast after I was done helping him.  The whole situation was too messed up for me to deal with.  If I had only known.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the new chapters Kathy looking forward to more when you can.

    Wayne

    ReplyDelete