Friday, August 1, 2014

Part 25


I've heard people say that morning light makes things better.  Bull poopy.  There are things that happen that nothing is ever going to make better.

Jace was up and gone when I woke up and I could have kicked myself.  I wasn't sure what to expect but suicide and other nasty things went through my mind based on what had happened to some of our group members in the city.  I scrambled up and then tripped over the blanket I had wrapped myself in the night before and went down to my knees.  I tried to untangle my feet and then a voice said, "You ... you ok?"

I jerked my head up and Jace stood there in the door way.  He put the rifle he had obviously been carrying down against the wall and then offered me a hand.

"Yeah," I answered carefully.  "Are you?"

He thought about it a moment then said, "No.  But ... but I'm not feeling like I was."

"Oh.  Uh ... good."

He looked around rather than at me and then mumbled, "Thanks."

I mumbled, "You're welcome."

We couldn't seem to find anything else to say then Jace said, "It is too wet.  I couldn't get the building started."

"Started?  Oh ... oh you mean ...  hmmm ... well, it might not be the best thing.  Woods and stuff.  Forest fire.  Could attract more ... er ... puss ... er ... infecteds.  Might spread and burn your village down too."

He grunted an acknowledgement.  "Not my village.  Not anymore.  Burn the whole place down for all I care."

"Might not be the smartest thing to do until you can find some place else to live and a plan to get there."

"Got one.  Owe you.  I'll ... I'll teach you the stuff Dad taught me.  Then we'll be even."

That was a little strange.  "You don't owe me."

"Yeah.  Yeah I do.  Been thinking about it."

"Kinda soon to be thinking about that kind of stuff.  You just ... I mean the ... the shock and all of that ... last night ..."

He winced and tried to not let me see it.  "Yeah.  But that's why I owe you.  Last night ... and then it was you who ... and then here ... and ..."

I looked at him and his shoulders were all hunched like he hurt.  And he had reason to.  I tried to think about how Mom might handle things.  She was always better at handling Toddie than Dad had been and Jace was about that age.  "Jace.  Just let it rest for a bit.  You've got this store and all of this other stuff.  You aren't going to want to leave it.  You said yourself you have enough food for the winter.  You can ..."

"I've got a truck."

His statement caught me off guard.  "Huh?"

"I said I've got a truck that works.  And it has a camper top too.  It's how I got here from Springfield.  Uncle Simon was going to take it to run off but halfway out of the village I guess he started to forget how to drive.  That's why I didn't let ... let ... Sammy know about it still being around.  I've given it some thought.  I ... I think Uncle Simon might have known about ... about what we found in the garage.  That that is how he got infected.  I can't imagine Sammy, as scatterbrained as she is ... was ... setting the place up like it is.  I can't believe she would have been so secretive without giving herself away in the beginning."  He bent over like he was going to be sick.  "Oh God ..."

Jace had started shaking again.  I stood up and shivered in the cold store but at least I wasn't in jammies.  I pulled him over and made him sit down; then lit the fire and got it going again.

After watching me he asked, "You know how to use a wood stove?"

I nodded to him and explained, "It was the only heat we had in our house.  Oil and gas were too expensive and our house was little so the fireplaces and stoves could make it almost too warm sometimes."

"Oh."

"Yeah."

I looked around the store shelves and grabbed the ingredients for Russian Tea.  I made it hot and sweet and he sipped on it.  He gagged for a minute like his stomach didn't ever want anything in it again but then the warmth and the sweet took the edge off the shock he was feeling.

I tried to drape the bedspread around him again but he shrugged it off.  "This is good.  I'm ... I'm fine now.  Get too warm and I'll get sleepy.  Need to think and plan."

I let him go after that, realizing he was an action person.  You try and stop an action person and they only get more depressed or out of sorts.

"If you're sure."

"I'm sure."  He shook his head and I thought for a minute that he'd changed his mind but then he said, "I know that it has just been one bit of crazy after another since you got here but really ... I'm not bad.  I won't ... give you the kind of problems you've had with other guys.  I'm ... I had a girl ... we were engaged.  I had to ..."  He shook his head.  "I'm just not looking for that.  Clarey and I ... we were good together.  We understood each other.  She was sweet, gentle.  That made it both harder and easier.  But she ... she got bit on the way here ... then ... then had to ... die."  He shook his head again and I realized there was a lot more to his grieving - and his story - than he'd let on.  "But I won't let the same thing happen to you.  Clarey ... Clarey was ... was soft.  You don't strike me as that type."

Quietly I said, "Used to be.  I only survived ..."  I couldn't explain it in only a handful of words.  "Geez ... I just got lucky.  The guy who ran the group I was in, and the woman who had found me in the beginning and taken me in, were both hard people ... they just made me get ... get not as soft as I was I guess.  I was still bottom of the pile though, the weakest link.  They left me you know.  At least you can say you didn't leave your people ... Clarey or Sammy or John-John or even your Uncle Simon.  Sometimes people leave us but at least you can say you never left them."

He glanced at me from the corner of his eye and said, "Maybe.  Doesn't make it feel any better."

As matter of factly as I could manage I told him, "Nope.  Probably never will.  But at least you can say you did the best you could and didn't run away even at their end.  I saw a lot of people leave without caring enough to put folks out of their misery.  That's just wrong.  You didn't do that.  You did ... what you had to.  What they didn't give you a choice about doing, not if you really cared enough."

We sat there not talking until it was pretty obvious the rain wasn't going to stop any time soon.  Jace turned to me and said, "I'm serious.  I ... I don't want to stay here any more ... I won't one way or the other.  You seem like you have a place you are going to.  I'll help you get there."

I shook my head more depressed than I had been in a long, long time.  "I don't even know for sure if there even exists anymore."

"My guess is that it is one of the vacation areas north of here."  Sometime must have given me away because he then said, "Yeah, I can see it in your face.  You really need to work on being a better liar.  But anyway, it's actually a good idea.  I thought of doing that too.  I always wondered why Uncle Simon was so against it and now I think maybe I know.  I guess he might have found that Sammy's mother didn't run off like people said.  Maybe he was even helping Sammy ... take care of her ... quarantine her or whatever you want to call that sick crap they were doing.  It was probably over the baby.  She was preggers ... they spent a ton of money on fertility treatments and stuff.  I guess her being pregnant and then infected ... Oh God, I just don't know, don't know if I want to know."  He swiped at his eyes like he was trying to scrub away what he had seen.

Knowing the feeling I told him, "Then stop wondering about it.  It was what it was.  I heard stories in the city that people tried to do the same thing ... supposedly until a vaccine or treatment could be found to fix the people that got infected.  Thing is there is a reason why we called them puss brains."

"Yeah," he almost groaned.  "Yeah, I get it.  It fits. Which is why I don't understand why Uncle Simon would do ... I mean Sammy I can put down to crazy 'cause she was a little bit.  John-John sorta kinda the same thing, or too young to really understand what he was doing was so crazy.  But Uncle Simon?"

"Who knows?  Love does stupid stuff to people.  Makes them try crazy things."

He slowly nodded.  "Yeah."

We were silent for a while more and then I heard my stomach growl real loud.  He made a face at me and I sighed.  He wouldn't let me be embarrassed though which was unexpected.  He said, "Gotta eat or we aren't going to be able to stay warm when the weather gets seriously cold."

"Who said I've agreed to this plan you supposedly have?"

"You haven't.  Yet.  But it makes sense.  I need ... need to ..."  He looked at me.  "I owe you.  And ... and I need to pay that back.  It doesn't matter whether you think I owe you ... I know I owe you.  For Sammy ... and stuff.  Let's just leave it at that."

Oh I think I've finally got it after thinking about it for a while.  When I first met Jace he struck me as a guard dog for some reason.  I'm pretty sure that is exactly what he is.  He needs to be a guard dog ... kinda the same way that for my dad being a deputy was the only job for him.  If Jace isn't a guard dog he won't have a purpose and without a purpose he won't know how to go forward.  So I figure that maybe I'll let him be a guard dog, so long as we get a few ground rules set up first.  And then maybe I'll find him someone new to guard and that will be ok.  It sounds selfish but at the same time I'm thinking a guard dog might not be a bad thing to have from here on out.

1 comment:

  1. No problem conjuring a suitably horrific scene with the mum and baby puss brains. Thanks for a great read.

    ReplyDelete