Friday, March 27, 2015

Part 126


A woman ran in and said, "What?  What happened?!"

Moe just kept looking at me and pointing.  My mouth was completely dry.  The woman turned sharply with her hand on the head of a baby to keep from giving it whiplash from where she was carrying in a sling across her front.  She squinted at me evilly for about two seconds and then I saw her knees give as recognition set in.

I don't know, habit or something, made me run forward and catch her and we wound up nose to nose which was strange because I knew for a fact that she was tall and willowy ... or had been.

No one said anything until I squeaked out a very weak, "Oh carp."

That broke the shock.  "Moe" started laughing and then whacked me so hard across the back that I nearly lost my breath.

Josie said, "Hey!"

I turned to look at her and said, "Uh ... that's just kinda Mose ... uh ... Moe's way of saying hi."

Then the woman grabbed me in a strangle hold and both me and the baby squeaked in protest.  "Sherry, ease off ... I can't breathe and I think you're like suffocating your kid or something."

She let go but was having some kind weird reaction and was laughing and hiccuping at the same time and saying, "Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God."

I looked at Josie who was just standing there assessing.  I said, "Uh ... I guess you can tell I kinda know them."

"Hmm," was all she said.

I looked at Moses and wasn't sure what to say so I said the first thing that came out.  "Where'd you get the eye patch."

"That bastard Jerry."

"Well ... in case you didn't know he got chomped trying to escape from the city.  It was the kind of nibble that gave him the slow infection.  Last I saw of him he was running back into the city looking pretty freaked out."

A sneering smile of satisfaction crossed his face and he said, "Couldn't happen to a better man."

No one was saying much after that and I was getting tired of being stared at so I turned to look at Josie again and said, "Uh ... what do I do with that paper thing.  I don't know how it works."

She looked at Moe and held up a piece of paper.  "Scrip.  The girl needs boots."

Moe snorted and said, "DeeDee doesn't have feet.  She's got toothpicks with toes."

I hunched my shoulders in disgust but didn't say anything.  Moses may have shortened his name but he hadn't shortened his stature in my eyes.  When he said, "That's no good here.  She's our kid.  We'll put boots on her feet."

Josie stiffened and looked at me.  I shook my head and said, "No.  These aren't my parents.  I told you all that I got taken in by a group of people right after Z-Day ... well these two were the leaders of the group."

Sherry shook her head.  "Moe was the leader.  I just got lucky."

When she looked at him with that goofy worshipping face she had always given him I sighed.  But when Moses stared back at her the same way I almost laughed.  Almost.  I looked at both of them and scratched my head confused.  Moses caught me looking and growled, "Watcha looking at?"

I shrugged.  "Dunno.  It's just ... kinda ... well ... ew."

Sherry sighed, "Oh DeeDee."

Moses snorted.  "Brat."

Sherry looked at Josie and said, "We'll take her if she isn't enlisted yet."

"Well I am," I said to everyone.  "OK, maybe not enlisted but I'm a contractor and I'm gonna be a cook ... am a cook.  I've got a job and everything.  I don't need babysitters.  I can take care of myself."

Moses barked, "Hah!  If you can that'll be a change.  Honest to God we thought you were dead or infected that day.  Get over here Brat and tell me what happened and how you got out of the city."

I heard the "right now" in his voice and well ... a year has passed but he's still who he is and I'm still who I am and it is partly due to Moses teaching me how to survive and keeping the perverts off of me so I did as he ordered.  A few sentences in Josie interrupted and said, "This is all real interesting but don't you forget ..."

I nodded.  "I know, I know ... I need to report back or you all will send someone looking to make sure I haven't gotten into trouble."

Josie nodded and added, "And you don't want us having to pound on anyone now do you?"

"I said all right already.  I'll stay out of trouble.  Geez.  Go do your stuff.  I don't need my hand held.  I'm six ..."

"Teen.  You've said that plenty.  Now prove you are and stay out of trouble."

She left but only after she gave Moses and Sherry a good stare down.  I said to them, "Ignore her.  I don't know why but I think the patrol that I'm going to be cooking for has some idea that I'm like their pet or something."

Moses growled, "I know that one and the ones she patrols with.  You ain't going to be slipping their leash to hunt up junk food that's for sure."

"I never did!  Well, just that one ... ok, couple of times.  And it isn't like I didn't tell someone what I was doing."

Moses snorted and said, "You could wind Doc around your little finger.  Fat lot of good he did looking after you."

"He didn't look after me ... not the way I think you're thinking.  I never ... uh ..."

Sherry patted my arm.  "It's all right.  The drunk bastard may have been the best of a bad lot but I'm glad you escaped that life.  Now finish telling your story."

I shrugged.  Doc is a conundrum in my memory.  I liked him and despised him at the same time.  It's just now that he is dead I'm trying to dump the garbage and keep the good.  I told them what had happened, how I had put Doc out of his misery - that drew an approving rumble from Moses - how I had crossed the bridge and seen Jerry and the others but was only for sure what had happened to Jerry and then all that I have done since that day. "I always wondered what had happened.  I kinda figured you got knocked up Sherry because of the puking and that you and Moses were thinking about leaving but ... I ... uh ..."

Sherry sat nursing the baby - it sounded like a pig the way it was grunting - while Moses set up their tent.  She looked at me sadly.  "We did try to look for you DeeDee but things were really bad.  I don't think you saw everything.  Jerry tried to use the puss brains to get rid of Moses and when that didn't work he stabbed him a couple of times.  All I could do was drag him into a stairwell and down a couple of flights of stairs to find someplace to hole up.  He was bleeding so bad I couldn't leave him.  Things were crazy.  I went out and looked in the building a couple of times - found what was left of a couple of the group but there wasn't enough to identify.  I ... I ..."

"Don't cry Sherry.  I lived.  You lived.  It's all good.  I'm sorry Moses lost his eye though."  I looked at him and asked, "Does it hurt?"

"Naw.  Ruined my aim though so my idea of being a hired gun had to get changed.  It was a ***** to get out of the city but we finally did and we headed to my brother's place in Florida hoping to hole up there over the winter.  Change of plans.  Met up with him just in time to follow him and what was left of his gang out here but Sherry was having the baby and they moved on so I hired on as security for this place.  The guy was an idiot and picked a fight with a knife artist when I wasn't around.  It would have been stupid to just walk away from this when I got a wife and kid so now I'm Moe the shoe salesman."

I laughed.  "Moe?  Still not getting that one."

Sherry burped the kid only the noise came out of its other end.  Moses barked a laugh and said, "That's my Dawnie.  You tell her."

I was confused until I saw the look on Sherry's face and then I just about keeled over even though I was already sitting on the ground.  "You ... you named it ... uh ..."

"She's a baby, not an it Silly."  Sherry told me.  "And yes, we named her Dawn."

"Please say you don't plan on giving her some awful nickname like I'm stuck with."

She chuckled.  "No.  Just Dawn."

Moses said proudly, "She was nice and big from the get go, like her ol' man.  No puny kids for us."

Sherry didn't look as enthusiastic about it as Moses but she still smiled.  Then she turned to me and said, "Now I want to know the truth, did you sign up because you wanted to or did you get forced into it."

I shrugged.  "I had options but signing up seemed like the best of them."  Carefully I added, "Still does."

She looked sad for a moment but then smiled.  "Sure.  I can see that.  But you have to promise that when we wind up in the same place you have to stop by."

Moses growled, "She better."

I gave them both everything I had and asked, "Think you could stop me from it?"  Moses laughed his big booming laugh and laughed even louder when he saw how pleased that Sherry was.

I did eventually get some boots.  I never knew it but Moses' father actually was a shoe salesman and his grandfather worked in a shoe repair shop that he'd inherited from his grandfather.  "Damned if I haven't wound up doing exactly what I tried to escape from as a kid.  I hated shining shoes for all those rich dudes downtown."

"But here you are getting rich off of shoes," I answered back after watching him do a brisk trade in everything foot related including socks and heel repairs and laces.

"Yeah.  Guess that's what you call irony.  Though we ain't getting rich, we do make a decent living," he said proudly.  Then he shook his head and added, "But I could make more money as a merc."

Sherry warned, "And you could also get deader faster."

"Shut up woman.  Think I'm gonna take a chance and leave you and Dawnie with no security?"

She said, "I'm not worried about security.  I just don't want to lose you."

Oh gag.  Sorry but it is a bit too much for me to watch high romance between a felon and an ex-call girl.  Too much like one of those bodice ripper books that have all sorts of stuff in there I didn't need or want to know about but was too bored over the winter to put down.

Moses fit me with a real nice pair of moccasins that had tire treads for soles.  They laced up over my calf and when he was through making adjustments they fit better than almost any pair of shoes I've ever had.  I was bent over admiring them when Moses said, "Leave your other ones here.  I'll do what I can to fix 'em and then you'll have a second pair in case these get wet."

"Uh ... you know you don't have to do ..."

Moses looked at me and gave me a growled warning so I shut up fast.  I'd forgotten just how fast Moses could lay into you if you didn't do what he said.  Sherry smiled like she approved and then Moses went off to dicker with the next customer.

"Sherry really ... I mean I don't know exactly what scrip is but don't you think you should take it?"

"No.  Moe said no and that's all there is to it and I don't want to hear another word about it."  Sherry could be as bad as Moses so I shut up.

"Hey, what is with Moses changing his name to Moe and I hear everyone calling you Sher instead of Sherry."

She shrugged and rocked Dawnie's cradle with her foot while she cut boot laces from leather circles.  "We decided we were dropping our old lives and starting new ones so we dropped some of our name.  Symbolic you know?  His grandfather was called Moe so for him it just fit.  He got a bad fever after that bastard Jerry stabbed him and half the time only had the energy to say half my name so I just went with it.  You'll run into a lot of people out here who have changed their names to start over.  You could too if you really want to dump that name you have."

I gave it two seconds of thought and said, "I suppose but ... it kinda connects me back to my parents.  If I change my name to change who I am ... I don't know ... it ... it just doesn't seem respectful to my parents."

She nodded.  "I figured you say something like that."  She looked at me and was about to say something when there was a commotion at the tent flap and my whole flaming patrol walks in.

I stood up and put my hands on my hips and said, "Aw c'mon.  What's the big deal?  It's not curfew yet."

Sgt. Shelly laughed and said, "God, now I know why my father was always complaining about my attitude when I was your age.  I'm not here for you Pip ... I'm here to trade with Moe.  Go back to jabbering."

I muttered, "I don't jabber."

Sherry smiled and stood up.  She told me, "Watch the baby."

As soon as she stopped rocking the baby started making this awful noise and Sherry - gotta remember to start calling her Sher - ordered me to "just pick her up before she brings the tent down."

Now I've babysat my fair share of kids but it had been a long time but I suppose holding a baby is like riding a bicycle.  You remember after you give it another try, all you just need to do is try not to fall off ... or in this case drop the baby on its head.

Dawnie decided I made a good chew toy and slobbered all over me much to my disgust and Sher's amusement when she came back and found me wiping baby spit off of all of my exposed surfaces.  "She's teething."

I answered, "I never would have guessed."  I had little indents to go with the baby spit.

Moe and Sher and my patrol were all talking and getting along fine when this really nasty looking bunch walked in.  I could tell there was an immediate change in everyone's stance and it hacked me off to be the only one to not know what was about to happen yet again.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Part 125


"Boots?  You take her Moe's.  He'll fix her up," the petite Asian woman practically ordered.

Josie asked, "Moe is here?"

Carol bobbed her head in a yes as she walked away.  "He come by this morning to let us know.  You take her to Moe's," she said basically dismissing us so she could get to work.

Josie jerked her head in a "let's go" motion so I followed her in a direction I had not gone yet.  Curious I asked, "Who's this Moe?"

"Looks like a pirate ... eye patch and everything.  Even has a stuffed parrot in a cage.  Guy is supremely crazy but it's where most of the women go."

"Why?" I asked thinking if the guy was crazy that's the last place I would want to shop.

"Because he doesn't put up with crap.  Before winter set in and most of the sutlers closed up shop for the season there was this girl ... she is in another unit now that has since been transferred down south so you won't meet her ... anyway she got the holy living crap beat out of her by a couple of guys in her unit.  Guys said she started it, had been after them, liked it rough, same old crap guys always say.  Of course she said different, that they started it and so on.  Her unit commander at the time was a complete ass and wouldn't do anything about it and it just kept getting worse.  The guys in that unit kept getting bolder and started following her everywhere and giving her a hard time ... giving just about all women they ran into a hard time.  Even got to the point that MSgt. Shadwell had to say something to the other commander which of course he blew off.  One day a couple of the jerks involved in the original attack followed this chick into Moe's place and started feeling her up and then got rough ... pinching, lifting her shirt, really harrassing her.  Moe told them to get out.  They told him to **** off, that she wanted it no matter what she was saying, that they could tell by the way she acted.  Moe told them to leave again.  The took a swing at him ... and the medics had to carry them out on stretchers and then come back and collect a few pieces they had forgotten.  The incident came to the Area Commander's attention and there was an inquiry and a few heads rolled and now every woman at base takes all her business to Moe's when she can."

I shrugged.  "Ok ... Moe is one of the good guys."

"Hell no.  Moe doesn't just look like a pirate, he probably was one.  The last thing ol' Moe is is a good guy."

"That makes no sense."

Josie shrugged.  "If you got any sense you'll understand after you meet him."

I followed her to an area that reminded me of a maze.  Tents and wagons of all shapes, sizes, and conditions were set up in roped off "streets" that had names like Dry Goods Alley or Hardware Alley.  Every time I tried to stop and look at something Josie would rush me along.

I complained, "I'm just looking."

"Look on your own time.  I gotta get back so that Gayle can go restock our med supplies."

"I didn't ask to be babysat," I growled.

"Nope but you got it anyway until we're sure everybody knows that your ours."

"Your what?"

Josie chunkled.  "Just ours.  We've got a rep to protect Pip and we're damn tired of doing our own cooking.  Let's leave it at that."

"Oh fine.  I still don't need to be babysat.  I sixteen for goodness sake."

Josie being Josie completely ignored me and then pointed to a tent.  "C'mon.  I'm gonna get you settled, make sure that Moe won't steal you blind and then leave you to your looking."

We walked over to a tent that wasn't the rattiest one on the strip but was far from the best looking.  Hanging on a pole right outside the canopy was a really nasty looking stuffed parrot that had definitely seen better days and some fake vines with even faker plastic hibiscus flowers stuck into the greenery.

The tent was empty when we entered it so Josie called out, "Yo Moe!  You around you gnarly old pirate?!"

I was looking around trying to figure out what I was supposed to be buying because there wasn't anying on the tables when a man walked in and said, "Ain't open for business ye ... er ... uh ... holy ****."

I swallowed and turned and if my life had been a cartoon my jaw would have hit the the dirt.  The man bellowed, "****!!  Woman, get in here!  I think I've gone blind in my other eye!"

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Part 124


"Your waist is smaller than Chris' and I thought he was skinny and boney," Dorrie complained.

I sighed.  It isn't like I haven't had the same problem my whole life.  Nothing age appropriate ever fit right and Mom and I had gotten good at tailoring clothes so I could dress in something that didn't make me look like a stupid china doll all the time.

"Just give me whatever is close and I've got a sewing kit and I'll fix it the best I can."

"Oh no you won't.  Sgt. Shepherd will have my head.  You can fix your stuff when you are out in the field but at base he is the one that says how things go.  And you have to present yourself for inspection every RNR so he can say what needs replacing and what doesn't."

A man's voice erupted from behind me making me jump.  "Do I hear someone taking my name in vain?"

Dorrie stood up straight and said, "No sir.  We just have a tough customer here."

I turned around and said, "I am not a tough ... whooooa ..."  I just kept looking up and up and up.  "How tall are you?"

Dorrie tried to elbow me but since I had already figured that as the main weapon in her arsenal I was prepared to move quick, and did.  Sgt. Shepherd growled, "Tall enough to step on you Shrimp.  And I'm none too happy outfitting another gidget."

I looked at Dorrie and she whisphered, "Girl midget."

I wanted to give him what for but something about the way he carried himself warned me off.  My temper may have gotten worse as I've gotten older but I hope I've smartened up even more.  "Well Sir, I don't want to cause any trouble.  I can fix my own clothes."

"I don't care whether you can or can't.  When you are in my supply depot you will do things my way.  Got it?"

"Uh ... yes sir."  The man was intimidating enough without needing to try.  Adding the extra like he does is overkill in my opinion.

I just stood there and he looked at me but I didn't let it me cow me.  "What are you staring at girl?" he snapped.

"You remind me of the man that was in charge of the group that took me in right after Z-Day."

"Don't look to me to do you any favors."

I almost smiled.  Almost.  "Moses didn't exactly do it to be nice.  He was a felon and figured there was strength in numbers.  The more people that were on his team and could fight the better chance all of us had of surviving."

He barked a laugh.  "You telling me you can fight?  You're nothing but a squirt."

I shrugged and decided to let him think whatever he wanted to.  But Dorrie suprised me by saying, "She can fight.  I watched her and Chris and Chris didn't have to cover for her at all."

Sgt. Shepherd looked at me hard but less jokingly, then slowly nodded like he'd smelled something rotten.  "Not my problem one way or the other.  Get over here and stand on this stool.  I'm not going to break my back bending over to measure you."

Talking to this man was one thing but the idea of being touched by him was something else.  All of a sudden the tent flap opened and there stood Josie.  She looked at me and asked, "Not through yet?"

I was caught between a rock and a hard place but Josie just leaned back on the counter and gave me a nod.  Unwelcome relief wound its way into my stomach and it made me feel just irritated enough that I squared my shoulder and stood up on the stool and was ready to spit in the big man's face if he touched me any more than was necessary.

Sgt. Shepherd looked at Josie then shook his head and turned to me and professionally measured me with a piece of twine that had knots in it that had been colored with permanent markers of different shades.

"Damn gidgets," the big man muttered.  Then he bellowed off a string of numbers and a guy came slipping and sliding at a run through the flaps at the back of the tent and I saw a storage truck standing open.

The guy set a stack of clothing on the counter and then looked at my feet and asked, "What size boots?"

"Four and a half or five," I said through gritted teeth.  "I can wear a five and a half if they are narrows."

He chewed the inside of his cheek then looked at Sgt. Shepherd.  "The suttlers?"

The man didn't look happy but he nodded.  "They started coming in early this morning.  Give her scrip and get her out of here."  He turned on his heel and stormed out.

I looked briefly at Dorrie who refused to meet my eyes and then at Josie who was holding back a grin.  I shook my head.  I hate it when things fly over it.

The guy scribbled something down on first one piece of paper and then on another.  He pinned one of the notes to the stack of uniforms and then handed the other one to Josie.  "You know the drill.  Make sure she doesn't fall in a crack some place and get lost."

Josie did snort a laugh at that but said, "Come on Pip, time to see the semstress.  Knowing Carol she'll be waiting to see who burnt Shepherd's tailfeathers bad enough to make him bellow so loud."

I followed her and she didn't make me run to keep up.  "OK, what did I do this time?"

Josie shook her head and answered, "Nothing.  Some men just can't deal with women being on the front line.  It turns their guts to water.  Shepherd's problem is he has a daughter a little younger than you that he guards like a jealous dog.  I think he is afraid she is going to get talked into joining up when she turns sixteen."

I gave it some thought.  "My dad would have been the same way.  If he was alive I would have been happy to do whatever he wanted me to do."

"Hmmm.  You're parents were good to you?"

"Yeah.  The best."

"My adoptive parents were too.  They took a lot of grief for adopting me.  From white people because I'm half black and from black people cause I'm half white."

"That's stupid."

She grinned and nodded.  "Yep.  And my parents didn't care.  I was ten when they came to the island to get me.  They had come to get a baby but Momma saw me and decided she didn't want anyone else.  Dad was so mad at the way I had been treated at the orphanage that he almost got thrown in jail.  The missionaries gave me to them just to shut them up I think.  I couldn't read or anything so they homeschooled me until I caught up with other kids my age."

Without thinking about it I admitted.  "I was homeschooled until fourth grade then to get me some occupational therapy they had to put me in school."  She looked at me and I explained.  "People thought that just because I was a micropreemie that I was going to have learning problems and all that stuff.  They found out soon enough that I was just physically delayed not mentally.  The only thing that really bothers me is my eyes.  I hate wearing glasses but my eyes are the wrong shape for contacts."

"Better be glad you have glasses.  People that only wore contacts have had a hard time finding glasses in their prescription."

I've never thought about it that way.  Amazing.

I found the men and women in the tent used for alterations different from the supply depot.  The woman Carol was a small Asian woman that was an inch shorter than I was.  She laughed at Josie's description of my run in with Sgt. Shepherd and told me to come back in the morning after roll call and she'd have all of my clothing ... including regulation underclothes and socks.

"Speaking of socks we need to get over to the sutlers to find Pip some boots."

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Part 123


A shadow fell across me and a voice asked, "Did you get in trouble?"

It had been a long night for everyone and we were all running short of sleep.  People were making an effort not to be cranky but tempers were close to the surface so since I didn't have any duties assigned to me after I helped finish cleaning up the clearing where the cooking test was held I found a hole to crawl into.  I had just finished a power nap while I waited to see if I passed when Chris showed up.

"You're as out of it as I feel," Chris said.  "I asked if you got in trouble?  MSgt. Shadwell and Sgt. Dreyfuss are tough from what I've seen and heard and they carted you off pretty fast."

I shrugged.  "Not trouble, trouble as in they treated me like I did something wrong."

He slowly and carefully sat down on the crates I had been leaning against, obviously favoring his arm.  "What'd ya mean?"

Trying not to ask why he cared I told him, "Not what you would call trouble.  More trouble like they are ... I don't know ... trying to be ... well ... not friends exactly because I don't think it is supposed to be like that but like they are going to take care of me.  To me that's trouble."

He looked at me and then asked, "Did you get dropped on your head or something?  With the way things are people need friends ... people that will cover your back."

"Depends on how you look at it.  I used to think belonging to a group was a good thing but ... but I don't know.  I guess it still is but all the rest that goes with it ..."  I shook my head.  "It gets too complicated."

He was quiet for a while.  "Yeah, I guess.  But sometimes you have to deal with complicated.  If you ... you know ... don't deal with things they kinda can drive you crazy.  Take Dorrie for example."

"That's your family business and none of mine."  There was a certain amount of "foxhole comraderie" with Chris but I think mostly he is just the kind of person that is easy to talk to even if you don't like or don't agree with what he is saying ... or don't want to hear it.

He nodded and said, "Sure but it's a good example so I'm gonna use it.  Dorrie doesn't want to deal with our Mom being gone and Dad ... well he might as well be gone all the time and when he is around he starts drinking.  Waste of good pay if you ask me.  Between Dorrie and Dad ... they ain't dealing with complicated too well at all and it makes things harder than they need to be.  Look, just keep it simple.  No one says you gotta get married to have a friend you know."

I looked at him and asked, "Did someone set this up?"

"Huh?"

But I had seen the slightly guilty look.  "OK, who was it and how much did they pay you?"

He shook his head.  "You're the most suspicious girl I've ever met."

"I'm no fool and let's leave it at that.  So who was it?"

"If you gotta know it was Limmer."

Never having heard the name I asked, "Who the heck is Limmer?"

"One of the guys you were cooking for yesterday.  He's a cook in the unit I am in and is a friend of my dad's.  Not a bad guy but he has a real case about women and girls being on the front line.  He doesn't like it.  Alot of those guys in your test group don't.  That's why they were so hard on you, trying to get you to run off."

Irritated I got in a dig of my own.  "Those pussycats?  If they think they were being bad then they don't know much."

Chris grinned and said, "I'll be sure and tell them that."  Then he dropped the smile and said, "Don't hold it against him ... or them other guys.  It's their job to make sure that the noncombatants are tough enough to survive ... and mostly to not get underfoot of the active duty personnel.  I told them that wasn't going to be a problem after seeing you in action last night but ...," he shrugged.  "It's kinda hard to describe so that guys will believe.  You're like tiny and then you do something like wade right in to a bunch of infecteds with only a bat and no riot gear on.  It's kinda weird to be honest."

I sighed.  "Probably ... at least that's the way other people have looked at me.  In the city though people considered me the weakest link.  You want rough?  Try living with that for a year."

"Would you go back?"

"To the city?" I asked.  "No way.  I ... I kinda miss some of what I had there but it was already changing and falling apart when I escaped.  And everything that I thought I had after that has fallen apart too.  I just don't think it is too smart to get hung up on people anymore.  Maybe other people can do it and not get burnt but I've never been that lucky.  It is better for me to do things my way.  But I won't stop other people from doing it theirs."

He nodded.  "Good enough I suppose.  Though it might be easier to let people act friendly and not worry about it too much.  You don't have to get in bed with them but you don't need to push 'em off so hard either.  It makes people uncomfortable.  Not that many people that really want to be nice these days.  Those that are ... well ... you don't want to be the one to kill that off do you?"

I rolled my eyes and shrugged but I got the message.

"So anyway, here."

He handed me a folded sheet of paper.  "What's this?" I asked holding it by the corner.

"It isn't a letter bomb Pip," he laughed.  And I cringed because apparently that lame nickname is getting around.  "It's your assignment orders.  Go take them to Sgt. Dreyfuss so she can sign off on 'em and then she'll probably send you to supply to finish getting outfitted.  Though Dorrie is already complaining that she can't find anything in your size."

"You mean I passed?"

He grinned a big freckle faced grin.  "Yep.  And don't be surprised if you don't start hearing people talking about Squirrel Pizza.  You surprised even the old enlisted cooks with that one."

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Part 122


"Carp!  I told you I could take care of it myself!  Give me back my shirt!!"

"Hold still and stop wiggling.  You act like no one has ever seen you without clothes before."

I swear if I had had my bat right then ....

"I don't exactly make a habit of it.  All you doctors are alike.  You just like to embarrass people and point out their shortcomings."

She stopped poking all the bruises and checking my ribs and stood up and looked at me.  I mean really looked at me.  Looked at me until I couldn't look back.  "OK Pip ... let's get one thing straight.  We watch each other's backs.  No one ... and I mean no one ... gets to touch or even see any of us unless the person being touched or looked at is willing."  She sighed and after a brief hesitation said, "Josie ... Josie got used pretty bad when she was little, before she was adopted.  She ... she can be a little rough around the edges and you making friends with those boys so fast ... I think she thought you'd had the problems she'd had and then when you didn't act ... well, when you started acting differently than expected ..."

"You mean just because I was talking to a couple of boys my age you all thought I was some kind of hoochie momma or something."

She looked at me for two seconds then snorted.  "No.  Definitely not a ... uh ... hoochie momma ... but maybe a something."

My feelings are not hurt.  They're not.  But I was ... well ... offended.  Yeah, that's what.  I was offended.

"Well for your information I'm not like a something ... or anything else either ... it's gross and nasty.  I wish people would just stop talking about it!  Just because I learned to deal and live with perverts and freaks to survive doesn't mean that I am one or that I want to be one!  It seems like only two types of people have survived all this carp going on.  Really nice ones or really carpy one.  Go ahead and think what you want, you opinion doesn't mean ... doesn't mean jack to me.  Got it?"

She snorted.  "You're too short to pull that attitude you have off.  I'll relay the info.  Give Josie some breathing room and she'll come around."

"Give her breathing room?!  She's the one that's been all up in my face.  I don't even get why.  I don't go around using my carpy life experiences as an excuse to chew on people like a puss brain.  I'd be happy if they'd all leave me alone.  I'll do the job I signed up for ... but I didn't sign up to be babysat or make a bunch of friends either."

"Then why're you hanging around them boys.  Even had that redhead back after hours."  Josie had come in behind me and I tried to jerk my shirt up and on by she yanked it out of my hand.  "Where'd all them marks come from?" she demanded.  "You into pain?"

"Huh?"

Josie looked at me and shook her head.  "Something wrong with you girl.  You sure you're sixteen?  You don't look it."

Growling and getting tired of having to explain myself to complete strangers I snapped, "I ... was ... a ... preemie ... ok?  Is that a crime?  Something happened and I was like a failure to thrive in the womb baby.  I was sick for a long time and I just never caught up.  But I finally got boobs and all of the other stuff ... I'm just kinda skinny right now.  They'll come back."  Even I heard the stupid desperation in my voice when I muttered, "They have to.  I refuse to look like a boy for the rest of my life."

It was Lucy's turn to walk in and embarrass me by saying, "Being flat chested isn't so bad.  Look at me.  Saves trying to find bras.  And no back aches.  Shelly has back aches all ..."

"Shut up Luce."  Sgt. Shelly had arrived to complete my humiliation.  "She ok?"

"I'm like right here.  You don't need to talk over me like I can't hear you."

Ignoring me with a grin Gayle said, "She's about to explain where all the scars she has come from."

I groaned at the inevitability of it.  "Look.  I'm only going to say this once and then we are completely done sharing.  Got it?  I was just fourteen.  Mom and I had gone into the city to get my first grown up party dress.  Then ..."  I gave them a brief explanation of my life.  I finished by saying,  "Life is just carpy.  I take care of myself now.  Sometimes I do a good job and sometimes not so good.  Sometimes things happen that aren't my fault either way.  End of story.  No more questions.  Now give me my shirt!"

I grabbed it from the extended hand that held it and put it on and finished getting redressed.

I was tucking everything back in when MSgt. Shadwell stuck her head in and asked, "She in one piece?"

"Yes!" I said before the others could answer.  "You got anything you need me to do?"

Lucy drapped her arm over me and said, "We're gonna have to teach you not to volunteer.  You see the trouble it has already got you into."

All the touchy feely stuff was turning my stomach.  I looked desperately around for an escape route and MSgt. Shadwell saw it and said, "I need to clarify some of the timeline Pvt. Peterson gave me."

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Part 121


Those two groups of puss brains were the only ones that came through that area of the camp.  That isn't to say that single ones didn't come through.  Chris and I covered each other while we took turns doing what we had to do to keep them from escaping off into the woods and terrorizing and chomping on other people or from destroying supplies either from eating them or contaminating them.

After climbing the tree for the leventy-dozenth time Chris said, "This job sucks bigfoot's dirty drawers."

"Christopher Randall Peterson, what would Mother say?!"

I knew that tone and tried to stay out of it.  Chris didn't appreciate being reprimanded.  "Oh shut up Dorrie.  Mom isn't here.  And neither is Robbie.  There's just you, me, and Dad and he isn't around much anymore either."

Dorrie teared up and said, "That's not nice Chris.  Dad doesn't like to be gone so much but he needs to run supplies to in-country posts."

"Wrong.  He can't stand to be around either one of us too much or he starts thinking about Mom and then he starts drinking.  I can live with it if he'd just be honest about it.  He isn't the only one that looks at us and sees Mom.  I look at us and see Mom's hair.  Robbie could too.  But at least he made sure we had a gun to protect us.  Dad just leaves and doesn't even ..."

"Chris!"

Family drama.  Ugh.  Now I know why Dad hated domestic calls more than anything else.  They were so messy and dangerous and draining.

I just closed my ears to their quietly fierce discussion, one I was pretty sure they'd already had more than once, and kept an eye out for trouble.  A couple of minutes later, hearing movement but being unable to see it, I told them both, "Hush.  Listen."

Chris almost immediately heard what I'd heard and cursed which caused Dorrie to chuck him in the ribs with her elbow.  He made a practiced evasion and moved out of her reach then whispered to me, "Scabs," he said as people dressed to blend in with the surrounding woods slowly crept into the clearing.  "They're like thieving coyotes.  They hang around and will steal you blind if you leave anything where they can get at it.  They follow the camps and hang around settlements until they get run off ... but they always come back.  They must have come through where the fence isn't finished."

"So they aren't puss brains?"

"You mean infecteds?  No.  But they are bad in their own way.  If they can't get what they want one way they'll do it another.  And they fight dirty."

"They sound like looters."

"That's pretty much what they are.  Except sometimes they'll start a riot just so that they can loot if you know what I mean."

"Like a flashmob kind of thing."

"Uh ... yeah ... yeah I think so.  Kinda.  I gotta try and stop them.  They'll take all the gear and food."

"OK.  You got a plan?"

"Not you," he said dead serious.  "You're a noncombatant ... a cook."

"You weren't saying that when ... oh carp ... come on.  They'll get away."

Back down the tree and before I could make sure he actually had brains under all that red hair he shouts out, "Stop!  You're under arrest!"

Doh!

The one I pegged as the leader almost dropped what he was carrying and ran but then he saw us and smirked.  "Well, well, well.  Look what we have here.  A little rooster that thinks he's king of the barnyard."  Then before I expected it the Scab pulled a gun and goes to shoot but Chris gets him first and dang if he isn't really fast and good.  Every guy that pulls his gun Chris shoots.  If the guy doesn't pull his gun Chris doesn't shoot him.  Then some chick comes out of the dark and stabs a knife into Chris' arm and he goes down and she growls ... I mean really growls like a dog or something ... and comes at me.

I hate fighting.  Just leave me alone, ignore me, or whatever.  I always feel like a fool getting into a brawl.  Jerry and some of the other men used to cause fights with the girls just so they could see the fur fly.  It was humiliating.  I will avoid fighting if I can even at the cost of some pride.  And I really haven't had to brawl since I left the city but in some ways I am in better shape than I was there.  So I was holding my own but I wasn't winning.  Then the girl gets over confident 'cause I am on the bottom and she is so much bigger; but I wiggle and wedge my boot in her stomach and flip her up, over, and off me.

I'm up and on my knees prepaing for her to barrel back into me when this leg with with this big boot attached to it comes out of the dark and catches the girl so hard in the side that she goes flying.  The night lights up with spot lights and people are all around shouting, "On the ground!  Hands where I can see them!  On the ground!  I said on the ground!!"

I duck and almost out of instinct raise my hands in the air when I see the booted foot belonged to MSgt. Shadwell and that there are men and women all around us hunting down the scabs and covering the corpses of the puss brains and dealing with everything so professionally that I realized this wasn't the first time they'd had to do something like that.

I wheeze, "Chris ... this guy ... is stabbed ..."

MSgt. Shadwell grabs me by the scruff and hauls me up like I'm a kitten or puppy and sets me on my feet.  "Stay put," she orders.

I do but I can still look around and I do, looking for Chris.  I find him in the dark just in time to see Gayle jerk the knife out of his arm and apply direct pressure while telling him there is a medic on the way and that if he hurls on her boots he will be cleaning them up.  Only the way she says it doesn't match the words she uses and I realize that maybe, just maybe, Gayle isn't the awful person I was beginning to think she was.  I've met too many people that are double natured like that ... Doc, Moses, Sherry ... even Jace to some extent.  Sometimes you can work with the double nature someone has and sometimes you can't.  Seeing Gayle with Chris made me think maybe there was something to work with.

Lucy was using some kind of plastic thing to hog tie a scab and saw me.  She said, "Gayle ... two o'clock."

Uh oh.