We’re still in Tuesday, and will be for the next several episodes. This is a long day.
“Hey Dad!” Kelly pulled the gate open; he and his two companions rode through.
“How ya doin’ sweetie?” Charles said. “You remember Max Wright, right?” Max, a blonde guy who reminded Kelly of a teddy bear, grinned and nodded. “This is Sondra Lucado. I wasn’t sure about letting her come, but she insisted and did a fine job of keeping up.” He dismounted and hugged his daughter. “Good to see you.”
“You too, Dad. Hi, guys.”
“Hey.” Sondra reminded Kelly of Cody; about Kelly’s age, dark eyes, olive complexion, long black hair pulled back, wearing a ball cap, loose black shirt and black jeans. Even without the gun, a certain male friend of hers would have taken one look at her and described her as “All Business” — but he was probably off driving. Her right forearm and hand looked strange, a whiter shade than the rest of her. A shoulder holster cradled a handgun just below the ribs on her right side. The men carried rifles on their backs. All had small packs strapped to fender racks.
“Did you have to use those on the way up?” Kelly asked Sondra.
“No. But after Friday night, we aren’t taking any chances.”
“Yeah,” Charles said. “But we’ll talk about it when everyone can hear. Then we want to hear your stories.”
“Sure. We aired out the house across from my place for you guys. Drop your stuff there, then we’re going to the pool and having a cookout. We got steaks and chicken yesterday, and picked through the produce that still looked good.” She mounted her bike and led the way.
“How are you keeping it cold?” Max asked as they pedaled past the mailboxes and into the community.
“Cody — that’s the kid who lives a few blocks down — had an extra generator. We siphoned some gas at QuickFill so we can run the refrigerator and a couple of lights. And we got what was left of the ice from the Super-Saver and the QuickFill.”
“All well and good until the gas runs out.”
“We had a fuel shipment come in Thursday evening,” Kelly said. “Considering what was happening by then, it’s kind of amazing it got through. But we won’t be needing the refrigerator much longer, I guess. Sara said the emergency power at Saver-Market was good for about a day, and we had power until Monday morning, so it probably died this morning. Once the meat and milk’s gone, there won’t be much else to put in it.”
“Yeah. Hey… is this a pickup-free zone?”
“I guess so. Cody let some out yesterday morning, and we haven’t seen any in here since then.”
“Ohh,” Sondra said. “I wonder if we should put up barricades, maybe it’ll keep them off our street.”
“Y’know,” Max said, “I never thought I’d ever say this, but moving out to suburbia is starting to look like a really good idea. Have you cleared out the other houses?”
“We just started this morning,” Kelly said. “Except for the place across from us where you guys will be staying, that we did last night. The fridge was stinky and we left some windows open. We’ll probably have to do that with all the houses, whether or not people are in them — Tim said it would keep vermin down.”
“Who’s Tim?” Charles asked.
“He owns the bike shop in the strip where Mom would get groceries. He’s in one of the walk-off houses, they were already cleaned up. Sara’s in the other. She was a cashier at the grocery store.”
“Yeah. We had a couple owners pack up and leave earlier this year. They left their keys in the front door and just… disappeared. Nobody knew they were leaving, or why they left — probably couldn’t keep up the mortgage. It was a big stink with the HOA, but everything’s a big stink with some of those people, y’know?”
“I know the type,” Sondra said. “What was their big deal? Property values?”
“Probably,” Kelly answered. “Mom had to get involved some, but I didn’t want anything to do with it. The HOA got the banks and the real estate agents together and worked out an agreement to make sure the houses got kept up so they wouldn’t pull the rest of the community down, I guess. So when we brought Sara and Tim back with us, we had two houses all ready for them. Here we are.” She pointed to the Kumars’ house and led the visitors up the driveway. “There’s three bedrooms,” she said, “so I guess you won’t have any problem with that.”
“We just get to fight over who gets the master bedroom,” Max grinned. He unshouldered his rifle and unstrapped his bag from the rear rack. “Me, I don’t care. Just give me a bed and I’ll be happy.”
“I don’t want a huge bed,” Sondra said. “I guess that means Charles gets the master bedroom. He’s kind of our leader, anyway.”
“Such as it is,” Charles said. “Well, let’s get our stuff inside and then you can take us to your cookout.”
“Sure,” Kelly said. “We’ll have it at the pool, we rode by it on the way. Cody should have the grill going by now.”
“Cody… he’s about your age, right?”
“He’s sixteen. And… I don’t know. I guess he’s okay, but he’s not my type.”
“I think nobody is anybody’s type anymore.”