Back then ...
The cookies were store bought but tasted like heaven. As she watched me devour the first two Chips-Ahoy cookies without pausing to breathe, she said, "Let me get you a piece of leftover chicken." I think my eyes rolled back in my head. It was unexpected treasures to me. Even at that age I didn't take anything for granted. She made me sit at the counter and slow down gobbling the food while she shook her head.
Swiping the back of my hand across my mouth I finally thought to ask, "What's wrong?"
Looking at me with a cautious concern, my grandma admitted, "Sammy, something is not right here. I fear for your safety."
Hell, I feared for my safety daily, but she seemed to mean something else other than my crazy-ass mom.
"Okay." I took another sip of milk and saw that the glass was nearly empty. Without asking, my grandma went and got the carton of milk out and topped my glass. Crinkling her nose at me she said, "It'll just go to waste. I don't know why I won't buy the smaller containers of milk. Too cheap, I guess. When I was a child the milkman would come to the door every Saturday morning and fill up the refrigerator with any manner of different treats. I never could see paying nearly twice as much for a smaller bottle even if I didn't use it all."
I know I was confused by that and she could see the puzzlement on my face.
"Sammy, when you pay fifty cents for a cup of milk and only seventy-five cents for a bottle with four cups inside it's sheer wrong. Do you understand?" I had no idea what milk cost, but she seemed to be trying really hard to convince me, so I smiled and nodded. I stuffed another cookie in my mouth so I didn't have to talk. Politeness kept me there while I was still wondering why grandma was so talkative. Usually she was nice to me for a minute or so and then told me to run along and get back to the job of being a good boy. Then my mom, who was usually with me, would begin hissing nasty bits at her mom, and I would run away to stop from hearing stuff I couldn't unhear.
Then grandma sat in the chair next to me at the counter. I didn't remember ever her doing that. She usually went to her chair in the family room or at the dining room table. Looking at me she said, "I have to leave town tomorrow. I am worried about you. Your mom knows I have to go, but won't let me take you with me. She's telling me that I am spoiling you and that she can handle you."
Nodding, I didn't let her know my mom called me 'her damned brat' at the very least, and probably was pissed that grandma had made such an offer. She was forever going on about how her mom never gave her nothing, and that grandma owed her for keeping me.
It confused me until Damien told me that my mom hadn't wanted me, and that the church folks had gone to her when she was pregnant with me and lots of shouting happened. That made me mad, but I didn't know if Damien was just making that shit up because he could, or if he actually knew something. I couldn't ask.
Smiling at grandma I said, "Thanks, Grandma, just talking to my mom tomorrow should help."
Even she knew it was a lie but maybe she could get me a few days to heal up.
Reaching over she touched my face gently saying, "Sammy, know you are always welcome at my home. Wherever it is. Promise me that you'll call if you need help, and I'll get you to me." I nodded, gulping back stupid tears that were threatening to spill out over my face. I couldn't talk. She patted my face and said, "Okay then. Go get yourself to bed and double check the windows. I am pretty sure they're all locked."
I didn't think to ask how I could reach my grandma if I needed her when she was away, but I was just a kid and not thinking that far ahead. I was sleepy and stuffed and checked the windows and went to bed. Little did I know that would be the last good night of sleep I'd get for a long time.
I sat upright on the bed while thinking I had to be on crack or something pumped into the sleep rooms, because there was no way that curly headed young man was Sammy. But I knew in the pit of my stomach that it was, and wondered what that meant. As far as I knew, zombies hadn't made it this far south, but dammit, I'd been overly hopeful before and Florida had more than its fair share of the bizarre, supernatural and just outright weird. The local radio news-type folks had segments called "Flor-id-DUH," devoted to telling about the police reports of stupidity done by the locals, whether recently transplanted or natives. At first I had thought it was a joke, but then saw newspapers and TV news that were cleaned-up versions of the laughter and jokes that accompanied the radio news.
Still rocking gently on the bed, I went over that quick glance of the young man I'd seen briefly and swore, remembering how his hair was curly and Florida had brought the bounce back. I didn't see his eyes, but the way he walked and his quick smile pretty much cinched the sighting. What was Sammy doing here? He had been following Grant, and a bit of nonsense I'd overheard earlier snapped back in place. A week or so ago they'd 'lost' the night man due to unforeseen circumstances. That the clientele were supernatural folks, or those who knew about them, and were being stalked or hunted -- that meant the man was either dust in the wind or feeding some of the local sharks. Then I remembered I was in Florida, and added the big invasive species of boa constrictors that littered the Everglades and homes around the Glades. Another stray thought, and I was forced to add the random alligators or crocodiles depending on where you planted the body -- Florida being one of the few states that offered both reptiles outside of zoos.
Shaking my head, I got off the bed and watched the two walk down the hallway out of my sight. I wasn't up to following them, and instead latched another set of the locks offered on the door. I hadn't been worried, but seeing Sammy made my body itch and my mind squirm. Then it dawned on me that part of the 'service' was the camera focused on my bed to 'watch over me' while I slept unmolested, unless I brought my own entertainment. Not being of the sort that liked to be watched and recorded having sex, I didn't see the attraction. I'd overheard a few of the clients in the restaurant tittering and swapping tales of the fun they'd had bringing unsuspecting lovers into the sleep clinic knowing that someone was watching.
I didn't know if I should leave, or just ignore the implications of Sammy being around me. I spit out shit about him a few minutes earlier, but thinking back, he was a kid, and pretty much raised by a trashy-ass mom who should have been jailed for her abuse to the boy. I'd heard his grandma had been really cool, but she'd fled just before it all went ugly. Sammy had said that his grandma knew that something was wrong and tried to take him with her. I'd heard that she actually moved to Florida, and since Sammy was now here it sure looked like it worked out for him.
I went to my laptop and pulled up my notes on the zombie invasion in West Virginia. I'd written down everything I'd thought of after I escaped. Some nights I wasn't sure that I'd truly escaped. Looking over my various files I selected the one where I'd first come across Sammy. It was in the town that Dean and I had found ourselves, after the escape from the zombie-filled pizza town. The town where I came into contact with Sammy had been the little real estate burg where I was supposed to have gone to see some prime acreage, but before I got there, I'd been waylaid in Dean's pizza place ...
Back then ...
The town that I'd been sent to by my boss was further along the mountain, and it was where I was to assess what it would take to gobble up that spot, along with some peripheral land to make the purchase worthwhile. At the time, the real estate market was starting to fail because of the inflated properties being exposed in news and lawsuits. The failure of delinquent mortgages in epic waves of hell was something that was being noticed by the market and a few banks, but mostly at that time it was going undetected, under the radar of the public and the media. I'd overheard that my bosses thought that real estate had begun fall long before the people running around getting second and third mortgages had ever known. My company was informed and hungry and naturally well-backed, so they were snapping up the properties whenever they could.
While keeping watch, I saw that kid breaking into a car while Dean slept off his pain as best he could. At that time I didn't know what was happening, other than our desk clerk had turned off the vacancy sign at the hotel and bailed. The TV wasn't working and I was wondering if this world had shifted off its axis before anyone had known. The apocalyptic folks were forever predicting the end of the known world and this business trip of mine was starting to feel like it wasn't just some crap being dished by panhandling crazy folks.
Soon dawn was breaking, and I was half asleep in the chair wondering why I hadn't swapped out watches with Dean. Then he groaned and sobbed out in his sleep, and I knew why. Self-preservation. Dean didn't have anything left to live for with Shelly gone, and I didn't want to wake up suddenly and find that he'd let a few zombies in to ask about his girlfriend. Dean's track record with various zombies that I'd seen wasn't a strong recommendation for me to trust his basic survival instincts. By now I was pretty sure that he didn't have any, and Shelly had been the only one who'd kept his ass alive. With her gone, I was fairly certain that he'd give up rather than fight anyone wanting to harm us.
Hearing a deeper groan and the sounds of him shifting on the bed, I took a minute to go use the restroom and allow him to fully waken rather than be disturbed by my presence. I wasn't under any illusions about how broken Dean was, and didn't want to watch the pain of Shelly's death be realized and hear his suffering. I was starting to wonder if I was going to have to leave him to fend for himself in this town and go out on my own. Decisions, decisions -- nothing appealed to me yet, but I'd let the morning lengthen and make my choice before much longer. I winced as my foot hit the ground. It was taking me time to heal. Certainly I wasn't a teenager, but still, I was growing more concerned that I might have snapped something inside, not just sprained my ankle. I pulled out one of the painkillers from my backpack, dry swallowed the pill and prayed it hit quickly. Sitting and watching all night, I'd forgotten to ice my ankle and keep it elevated, so it could be hurting just because I had been an idiot.
Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2016-03-21
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.