[ Chapter 2 is below – if you want to read chapter 1 first, click HERE]
We made our way back out through the lobby past the plastic trees and hostess stand. My bike had a busted shifter and only one gear of the original 10 still working. Earl was on what they used to call beach cruiser. There weren’t any flesh biters close by, so it wasn’t too tough to get up and moving, even with all the scavenged stuff we were carrying. I learned from experience it aint easy to build up pedaling momentum on a one-speed if a Junior or a Sally Mae is grabbing at you.
Gas was still around if you looked hard enough and didn’t mind getting a mouthful of it every so often from siphoning. Keeping enough unleaded in your car ain’t the only challenge though. People just keeled over dead and abandoned things in the worst possible places. Tryin’ to steer around a big old SUV parked all cattywampus dead in the middle of a back road could land you in a ditch with hungry visitors coming out of the weeds.
Earl had a 250 cc Yamaha for a while, but he switched over to the beach cruiser ’cause a Brenda. She musta got bumped off of one of ’em back in high school with some boyfriend. She raised hell with Earl about how dangerous they were. The whole thing struck me funnier’n hell, since he was using it to avoid zombies. Earl seems to think Brenda’s more dangerous than some old zombie – ‘more I see of her, he might be right.
Earl told me his wife Velma left early in the game. She ended up accidentally providing dinner for one of her friends from the supermarket. She had told Earl she was worried about this girl from the deli department who lived alone. Velma brought her over a casserole but no one answered the door. She musta pushed the door open and poked her head in. Earl was waitin’ in the car and he saw her get yanked into the place. Time he got up to the porch, he already knew he was too late. He swore he’da helped her if he wasn’t out numbered so bad – she mighta lived alone, but that deli girl had no shortage of company when she died. Earl said the living room was packed so full of zombies he could only see Velma’s one foot sticking out and twitching. He just got back in his car and tore ass. Anyway, that’s in the past.
I tend to believe Earl’s stories. He strikes me as the sort who doesn’t have the creative energy to tell too many lies. Velma likely ran the show, and he was used to taking orders to keep things civil. I know it aint right to speak poorly of the dead -‘specially the dead you aint even met- but there’s only so many living folks around to talk crap about.
Earl and me met a ways back, long after the shit had hit the fan. People were getting sick and dying, then they were rising up and eatin’ the ones who weren’t dead or lucky. The folks in charge were talking a lot, blaming each other like they do. The military came rolling in, but then they left all a sudden like maybe they knew something we didn’t. We aint seen em since, less you count the ones who show up looking to take a bite of you. Right before the cavalry disappeared, the power went off for good.
Seemed like once there was no juice, people really lost their damn minds. No TV or internet, no smart phones or Nintendos and no more people in camo keeping the peace. Some of these folks looked like they was tryin’ to get killed. Out there fightin’ zombies like they were action heroes. Sure, them zombies aint too bright and don’t flinch when you swing, but if there’s enough of them, you’re gonna feed em eventually.
I was in a neighborhood looking for food when I seen two of these Schwarzenegger wannabees out in the street taking on too many zombies for their own good. They didn’t have no business being out there, and helping them was out of the question. I saw something move outta the corner of my eye and got my ugly stick up. I relaxed a bit when I seen it was this big guy squatting down behind a recycling can joining me in the audience for the show out on the cul de sac. You could spot another health nut. We did things like squat and hide. Zombies don’t waste energy hiding from anyone, they just stagger non-stop till they get some flesh of the living.
“Hey, I’m Earl” he whispered, “Can’t believe these mo-rons fightin zombies in the street – they sure not gone win”
Earl likely heard some cartoon character say morons that way, and it musta made quite an impression on him, because he said it plenty. After the first fifty times, it wasn’t so funny. Still, having a wingman aint a bad thing to help cover your back. Compared to the two bozos out in the street, he seemed like a good candidate for the job.
Earl was wearing a Bass Boss baseball cap that had once been camo-green, but now was the color of phlegm. His pants were riding low and that plumber’s crack coulda had its own zip code. I was a little jealous to see that he’d found a six pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon and three cans of dog food. Zombies were staggering out of driveways and backyards for a taste of the two Rambo’s. It wouldn’t be long.
I had found some dried beans and an aluminum little league bat earlier – this neighborhood was already picked pretty clean. My original ugly stick was an old wooden one, with a couple of landscaping spikes through the end. I wasn’t gonna retire it, but a smaller one could come in handy.
Earl said if I helped him carry his stuff, he’d get us out of there. He put the beer on the ground next to the cans of horse meat and ducked around the side of the house. I was considering taking the dog food and beating feet when I heard the Yamaha start up. He come rolling around to where I was and said get on. A few of the stumble-bums out in the street heard the bike too, so I didn’t squabble.
I quick put everything in my backpack, keeping a grip on the old ugly stick just in case. Earl wasn’t too gentle with the clutch, and I damn near fell off the back right as a Junior and a couple of Francines started lurching up the driveway towards us. We juked the Junior and tore ass across the lawn. One of the Francinces was close enough to smell so I swatted her one as we roared past. We hit the sidewalk and got the hell outta Dodge. We been teamed up ever since.