Monday, August 18, 2014

Chapter 7


Bottom line is Mack is going to flop here at the Loudon House too and we're going to set this place up good before we have to worry about winter.  Scratch that and inhale the realism along with the rainbows and skittles.  We are going to set it up as good as we can for as long as we can.  Starting with working fast and getting creative.  

Mack was finally up to looking around and getting a feel for the inside of the House.  We’d already had a discussion about what he called the “exterior defenses” and now we were onto the “interior defenses”; only he got a little side tracked with what he called supplies and logistics.  When we came up from the cellar Mack stood there for a moment catching his breath and looking gobsmacked then finally asked, “Where the hell did you get all the propane?!” 

“Commercial district,” I told him smugly.  “But I think I got most of it.  There was this truck behind one of the warehouses but it had all flat tires sooooo I figured it I couldn’t get the truck to me I’d get containers to go to it.  My aunt’s stove was propane and … well I went through a gory-death-phase thing and liked to imagine all the ways we could die.  Aunt Trudy had a way of busting my bubble though and instead of imagining how we were all going to blow up or suffocate or something she made me stand there and catch a lecture from the propane guy who not only told me I was being a knot-head but showed me how all the valves and hoses and gizmos on his truck worked.  And how to fill up smaller propane tanks from big ones.  So … ta da!  Aren’t I brilliant?” 

Mack shook his head.  “For a goth chick you’re awful damn cheerful.” 

“Former goth chick.  The clothes are now just camouflage.  Besides I doubt anyone would recognize me if I dressed any other way.” 

Mack snorted but gave a grin.  “Shani would have been all over the stores picking out new clothes if she were here.”  Then he lost the grin and said, “But I’m glad she isn’t.  One less thing for me to worry about.  But we are going to have to do something about your … er … uniform there.  Too much black for the color scheme around here.  And in the winter you’ll stand out like pepper on snow.” 

“Maybe.  I’ll think about it,” I told him having already thought about it … I just hadn’t gotten around to actually doing anything about it.  Instead I said, “I knew I would go through a lot of propane canning so I got what I could while I could.  I was also thinking of trying to heat with it but that’s out.  I found some kerosene but I’d rather not use it in this place.” 

“Yeah, I saw you’ve got fire extinguishers all over the place like crazy Christmas decorations,” he said. 

Knowing that I’d likely catch it if I didn’t explain I asked him, “You remember those homeless kids who died last year when the house they were flopping in burned down?” 

“Yeah, someone was cooking some dope.” 

“No they weren’t.  They were trying to cook up some heat.  The dope thing was just a rumor that the papers took off with because it made better headlines that a kerosene heater turned over.” 

“And how do you know this?” 

“I was in that house.” 

“What?!” 

“We had temporarily been kicked out of here and … it got cold.  One of the old dudes … anyway it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal if there hadn’t been a panic and if there had been fire extinguishers.  The ones that died had gotten stuck upstairs in the boarded up rooms.  I was sleeping in the old kitchen and went out through the window over the sink when there was a pile up at the door.  I ain’t ever going through that again.” 

Surprised he asked, “Were you hurt?” 

“A few cuts and stuff but nothing like the others.  I was barely sixteen and if the cops had got ahold of me they would have made me go back.  I wasn’t ready to then and by the time I was it was too late.  But I’m alive and I mean to stay that way.  So I don’t care if the fire extinguishers clash with the Victorian d├ęcor … they’re staying.  And so are the smoke alarms in the kitchen and the ones up here.  Non-negotiable.” 

“Uh huh,” he said scratching his chine.  Then completely ignoring the stink I was ready to make he asked, “Anything else down in this commercial district worth the effort?” 

Nothing like preparing for an argument and not getting one.  I got comfortable for the long conversation he was apparently ready for by grabbing a tin that I had stored an open box of cookies in and bringing them over to the ginormous butcher block and jumping up on it to sit.  I held the cookies out to him and while he ate a couple I told him, “Probably but let’s leave it to Dylan and the other folks to fight over.  I have some other places in mind to hunt and peck through.  Closer and less dangerous.  There are a lot of Infecteds between here and there.  Unless you want to go down to there for some reason.” 

Mack said he’d rather avoid coming into conflict with any other groups – especially the one he just escaped – if it was avoidable so instead of giving me grief Mack actually listened to my ideas.  He thought about it for a moment then nodded, “All those ethnic stores.  Yeah, you could be right that there would be things in there worth taking.” 

“I know there are.  It won’t be big hauls like I got from those warehouses but there is enough stuff in there worth the effort to get.  And it will be stuff that we don’t have to refrigerate.  And then there are the schools.” 

“Schools?” 

“Yeah.  They evac’d lots of kids early on but didn’t clean out the schools.  The rumor was that kids were germ machines so no one else went raiding the school cafeterias and store rooms either.  There and the stores along that strip of stores near the uptown area were next on my hit list.  Even if they don’t have any cans of stuff I bet they have things like salt and pepper and paper trays and junk like that.  And the daycare centers probably have diaper wipes and all sorts of things I haven’t thought of.” 

Mack nodded and started making notes.  “Daycare centers might even have baby food and diapers that could make good barter merchandise down the road.  Have a feeling it is going to come to that if we stay cut off.  Have you been to the Vet center or any places like that?” 

“No.” 

“Why not?” 

I gave him the look such as stupid question deserved.  “Because I don’t feel like getting gang raped.  Not all the street people are as harmless as the ones that Dylan picked up.  There are some sick people out there.  I may be crazy and occasionally reckless but I hope I’ve started to dump the stupid I was carrying around with me.” 

He stopped scribbling and just stared at me then nodded.  “Right.  Look, I need to know.  Do you know how to use a gun?” 

“Yeah.  But I’ve never pulled the trigger on a large caliber, only 22 hand guns or 22 rifles.  I … I used to go hunting with my dad.  Hey … guess what I can do.” 

Unsure of my mood he carefully said, “No telling so why don’t you just say it and save us some time.” 

“Bow hunt.” 

“Bow hunt … like bow and arrows.” 

“Yep.  I can use a long bow but I’m better with a crossbow or compound bow.  I was in a sporting goods store …” 

“Why were you in a sporting goods store?” 

Sigh.  “Where do you think all the Gatorade came from that you’ve been drinking?  All the mini marts are trashed.  For a while there I was living on energy bars but the carbs were killer on my butt.  I’d eat the protein bars but they kill your kidneys if you can’t drink enough water and that is the one thing I’ve been having trouble with.” 

“Hold that thought because I can do something about that.  Just get back to the playing Indian thing.” 

“I wasn’t playing Indian … that’s rude.” 

“Who are you?  The PC police?” 

“Hardly.  I’m just a quarter Cherokee and grew up around the PC police,” I told him with a grin.  My grin faded when he said I didn’t look it.  “Yeah, I know.  My dad did though and … and I had a little sister … she looked a lot like Dad.” 

“She’s … not around … either?” 

I shook my head.  “No.” 

“You can borrow Shani though the two of you would probably drive each other crazy.  Or maybe wind up ruling the world.  Both ideas give me an ulcer.” 

“Uh …”  I wasn’t sure how to take him sacrificing his sister like that. 

“Don’t sweat it Sunshine.  Get back to your story.” 

“Ok … sure … anyway I was there looking for camping stuff and things like that …” 

“Dammit!”  He yelled it so loud I jumped and nearly fell backwards off the butcher block.  He shook his head after grabbing my hand to catch me.  “One of these days I’m going to find my brain.  Damn.  Camping equipment.  Why didn’t I think of that?  As far as I know none of Dylan’s group even brought that up.” 

“Relax already.  Geez give me a heart attack why don’t you.”  I shook my head.  “From what I saw you had a bunch that thought roughing it was staying at the local Holiday Inn.  I could have thought of better places to stay than that hotel, man it was starting to reek in the stairwells.  Not nearly enough ventilation, especially on the upper floors where you couldn’t open the windows.  Can’t imagine what it is going to be like in the winter.  If you can figure out the water sitch then that’s worth a sporting goods store, a Chinese restaurant, AND I’ll even throw in a couple of pawn shops.  And if you’re extra special good I’ll even tell you that if you scrounge around in the pawn shops long enough and find the address of the owner and then if that address is in the quarantine zone … you can usually find really interesting things in basements and closets of those places.” 

“Why you little …” he said shaking his head.  “I thought you said houses gave you the Heebies.  And do I want to know where you learned all this stuff?” 

“They do give me the Heebies; but, I didn’t say that the Heebies stopped me though.  And I learned it on the street.  There are a lot of crazy people that live on the street but some of them are crazy for a good reason.  If you’re careful and just sit still and keep your mouth shut you even hear them talking to each other and can get ideas.  I would have thought Dylan would have had the inside track on that sort of thing.” 

“Dylan could be strange.  He was … detached … yet hyper focused.  After he started taking in the kids nothing else seemed to register.  And he was strict about guns.  He didn’t want his family turning into a gang so everyone played pacifist except for a couple of us who were in charge of …” 

He slowed down trying to figure out how to explain it to me so since I already had a good idea I finished for him.  “Making sure that all of the bad stuff was kept out so they could stay pacifists?” 

He nodded and said cynically, “Yeah, pretty much.” 

“It’s not just homeless people that are like that.  A lot of my aunt’s friends were like that.  They screamed and yelled about the eeeeevvviilllllll guns in the world but they were some of the first that always called the cops and expected them to kill whatever was scaring them.  Lucky for me Aunt Trudy was more practical.” 

“Lucky for me too,” he said on a sigh.  “So about the bow and arrows.” 

I grinned.  “You’re all right.  Most people hate the way I talk.” 

“You’re squirrely … but it’s tolerable.” 

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