Had a lot of time to think today. Too much time.
There was an old lady at our church that Dad would grumble about all the time.
When he got particularly bad Mom would pinch him for being rude about the
elders. Funny I should remember that. Dad and Mom didn't fight but
they could get irritated with each other. Maybe I would have noticed more
as I got older but I honestly don't remember them ever fighting or even raising
their voices at each other. Dad did like to irritate Mom and then laugh and
Mom could give as good as she got when in the mood. They were both good
sports most of the time but about this old lady, for some reason Mom really
didn't like Dad's attitude. I think the old lady used to babysit Toddie
or something like that or maybe she was some distant relation to Mom, I don't
know. Anyway I sat with Dad too many times and listened to his side of
things when he would come in beat up from a bad day at work. Mom took
care of him but I guess sometimes he just needed me and our ritual late night
secret snack the same way Mom needed Toddie and their ritual of getting the
decorations down the day after Thanksgiving ... it was tradition, something to
count on, and basically just one of those strange parent things you aren't
supposed to understand until you're a parent.
This particular old lady was a lot of trouble for Dad and the other deputies.
She called the cops all the time ... if she couldn't find one of her cats
after checking for like five minutes out the front door only when the cop got
there they'd find it sitting on the back porch. If someone was in her
parking space at church on Wednesday nights you better pray you had a handicap
tag on your car otherwise you were in for it even if it was just an accident.
If she thought someone was "stepping out" on their spouses
because "there might be a murder when the spouse found out about it"
and you knew that she'd be the one telling. If she heard noises in the
middle of the night it meant something must be going on; and, if she didn't
hear noise in the middle of the night, it was too quiet so something must be
going on. Children playing in the road in front of her house, children
playing too loud in the park that was behind her house. It was always the
kind of stuff that took Dad and the other deputies away from the serious stuff
like burglaries, domestic calls, drunks, and stuff like that but if they hadn't
answered her calls and it was something real it would have been bad.
I don't know why I'm thinking about all of that stuff except this woman was
just ... geez ... she was just I don't know what. All I know is that I
don't want to turn into her if I manage to live as long as she had. For
all I know she is still alive; I can't imagine a puss brain really wanting to
get close enough to chomp on her ... she was liable to chomp first. She
wasn't what you would call a happy person - completely pessimistic to be honest
- and I remember she kept predicting to anyone who would listen that I'd never
see my next birthday because I was such a runt, sick all the time, that my
brain was miswired, you name it. I think that more than anything really
bothered Dad. And all those useless memories bubbling to the surface only
because I remembered what she used to say when people asked how she was doing:
"I guess you can get used to anything."
That's how I've felt all day today. I guess you can get used to anything
... whether you like it or not. Unfortunately it seems that I've gotten
used to being around people again. I warned myself and warned myself all
along that this could happen if I wasn't careful. And now I realize that
I've started letting my guard down and worse ... caring about them. I
should know better. How many times does something have to happen before
the lesson sticks permanently? You let people in you are going to get
hurt. I feel ten kinds of stupid but I don't know how to turn it off now
that it has started up again.
I miss Sgt. Shelly's quiet confidence and always knowing what to tell people to
do. I miss Gayle being around because even though she was way too easily
irritated it turns out that she is just as fast to get irritated for you as at
you. I miss Lucy's acceptance. She was the first, and she believes
in me in a way the others don't. Believe it or not I even miss Josie.
She makes me uncomfortable, not because we are so different but because
I'm finding too many ways we are similar. But in a way because of that
she understands me better than the others do. It doesn't stop her from
picking at me but I'm learning to live with that too. It is like having
four un-asked for older sisters or aunties. I'm not sure I want that kind
They left out early this morning after an oversized lecture where the four of
them told me what to do, what not to do, what to watch out for, etc. I
know they meant well but it said a lot about how little confidence they have in
me ... or at least in my survival skills. Now granted I'm not Daniel
Boone or Mountain Man or even a mountain woman but I can do for myself just
fine. Unless of course I run into a horde. The way my luck is ...
Today has been fairly quiet. I did have a run in with a puss brain but it
was sad rather than scary. It ... he ... was probably one of those that
escaped from the places they were being moved to from urban areas east of the
Mississippi. Someone had done a number on him. I'm not sure if it
was done by the scientists as they tried to find a way to minimize the risks of
the infecteds' violence, if some cruel people had caught him and tortured him
for sport, or if there had been some kind of accident and the infected has
healed it enough to hide it from being obvious.
He had no teeth. And no fingernails either. He looked worse than
those pictures in the history books of places like prisoner of war internment
camps. The clothes he had on hung like rags; his skin wasn't much better.
I was down at the creek gathering some wild food for a couple of experiments.
When I realized what was hung up in some elderberry shrubs - he didn't
even have enough energy to push his way through - I don't think I've ever felt
so sorry for a puss brain and I've seen some pretty sorry things happen to
them. It was like a wreck that was so bad you just couldn't look away.
There's no way he posed any direct danger to me but I knew I couldn't let
him contaminate the water source. Where puss brains are concerned there
are very few I feel badly about releasing from their misery but this one is
probably going to stick with me for a long time. This one was as bad as
having to deal with a kid puss brain and that's pretty bad.
I burnt the body on the ashes of the previous pyre after making note of any
identifying marks, hair color, and all that on the form we have to fill out.
It's been bothering me ever since even though I try not to wonder where
it ... he ... came from and who could have done that to him. I can't
start pitying them. I've got a job to do. There's no making them
better. Whoever they used to be is long gone and they pose a threat to society
that is so big it nearly destroyed our country ... and has destroyed others.
As a group their deeds are too horrific to excuse, even out of pity.
But there are individual puss brains that just get to you; especially
when you know that they've suffered too.
Depressing. But I guess you can get used to anything. Because it
didn't stop me from doing what I had to do which is put the puss brain out of
its misery - and mine - and find some way to extend our patrol's food supply.