Hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving has a good one! Eat more pie, so you’ll be too heavy to go outside when the pickup comes for you… :-)
Introductions, embraces, laughter. “That’s a nice way to carry things around,” Sara said, waving at the bicycle and trailer. “Beats pushing a grocery cart for two miles, I’ll bet.”
“It’s not much like the exercise bikes at the fitness centers, though,” Tina laughed. “I got it right after I left here on Friday, at the shop down the strip. Maybe we can find you something, if it hasn’t been looted.”
“Hey Tina,” Cody said. “Is this where the beer guy left his carts?”
“Down there by the lamppost,” Tina said. Empty carts were strewn all over the lot. Some lay on their sides, all looked battered. A white pickup stood alone on the far end of the lot; that, broken glass, and scattered carts were the only things to see.
The emergency lighting in the Saver-Market was adequate to see by, and they made quick work of their grocery needs. Tina loaded a cooler with meat, not wanting it to go to waste, and Sara showed her the large ice maker in back.
The display window at the bike shop was boarded up now. The plywood sported a mural, showing a couple (one who looked like the proprietor) on touring bikes in the foreground, and mountain bikes following a trail into a distant wood. A signboard in front of the door, borrowed from the nearby Italian restaurant, read:
LOOTERS WILL BE
LOOTERS WILL BE
Cody shrugged and poked his head through the door. “Hey! Customers and visitors here! Don’t shoot!”
The young man that sold Tina her bicycle on Friday stepped in from the back, wearing a shoulder holster. “Hi folks. Sorry about the sign, I had some trouble here Saturday night. Come on in. Oh, hey, hello Ms. — you were in here Friday when everything started going crazy, weren’t you?”
“That’s right. I’m Tina Ball. You sold me the bike and trailer. It’s been a big help. My daughter Kelly, our friend Cody… and this is our friend Sara, I was wondering if you could set her up with something to get around on as well.”
“Sure. Oh, I’m Tim Petro — great name for a guy in a bike shop, huh? Since you’re here, you might as well let me give your ride a once-over.” He looked through the glass door. “I’ll tweak up the other ones too, no charge. Not like money’s good for much anymore.” He laughed.
“You said you had some trouble Saturday,” Cody said. “What happened?”
“About what you’d expect. Some drunk f— fellow went over to the grocery store and helped himself to pretty much all the booze they had left. He started making all sorts of noise in the parking lot, ‘I’m the last man on Earth,’ crap like that. I left a little light on in the shop here, enough to see by — I expected looters, so I was staying for the night. I don’t know why, but he started running around screaming and banging on lampposts, throwing carts around, that kind of idiocy. I stuck my head out the door and told him to go have another drink, and he came a-running. I backed into the store, he busted out the display window with a crowbar, and I shot him. Don’t know if it killed him or not, but he went away. Loudly. I swept up the glass and put up the plywood yesterday morning, then went and got the sign. My ex-girlfriend painted the plywood last year… I was going to put it on one of the walls, but never got around to it. Good thing I had it, though.”
“We were just over at the Target, picking up some supplies,” Tina said. “It was trashed pretty good. Maybe he was the one.”
“Yeah, it only takes one to make a mess. But enough of that. I think we were talking about setting up this young lady with new wheels?”
“I’m no lady,” Sara laughed, “but you can call me Sara Karsten. Nothing too expensive.”
“Ha! They’re all the same price now — for customers and visitors, it’s on the house. But something not too finicky, I presume. I think I have another bike like Ms. Ball’s here that will fit you.”
Cody cleared his throat. “Um… if you’re giving out free samples, do you think you could set me up with a mountain bike? I like my stunt bike OK, I got it here last year. But if I have to go everywhere on a bike, I think I’ll need something different. Something that’ll take a knockin’ and keep on rockin’.”
Tim laughed. “I think we can arrange that. And the other young lady here?”
Kelly shook her head. “I’m okay with what I have,” she said. “But if you want to tune it up, or whatever, I’d appreciate it.”
As Tim was getting Sara’s and Cody’s bikes ready, Tina asked, “Tim, what do you think about joining our little group here? My ex and some of his friends down in Atlanta contacted us, and they think we’d all be better off banding together — either downtown or out here. I don’t know what your situation is, but you’re welcome to come along. There’s a couple of houses in our development that were abandoned by their owners — I know where the keys are, and we’ve kept them maintained. I was thinking we’d put Sara in one. You can have the other.”
Tim looked at the ceiling for a moment. “How far did you say it was? Eight miles?”
“About. It took us 45 minutes to get here.”
“Yeah, because I was slowin’ you guys down,” Cody grumbled. “A stunter ain’t made for traveling.”
“If you hadn’t been showing off, jumping curbs and bouncing around on it,” Kelly grinned, “we might have got here a little sooner.”
“I could probably make it in 20 minutes, if I had to,” Tim said. “I’ve got the gear, and I’m in shape. Sure… it’s probably a good idea. I’ve got some work to do here, so if you guys have any more shopping to do, you can take care of it.”
“If you don’t mind, I’ll stay here and give you a hand, or just watch,” Cody said. “I can spin a wrench or whatever.”
“Cody, I’d feel better if you were with us,” Tina said. “We know there are — or were — looters around, and I don’t think three women should be wandering around by ourselves.”
“Why? Chromosome!” Cody said, standing and joining the women. Tim snorted, Sara and Tina looked confused, Kelly rolled her eyes and turned toward the shoe store. “Yeah, bad pun,” he said. They left Tim to his work.