Our heroes — some of them, anyway — have another long day ahead of them…
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Cody unscrewed the milk cap and sniffed. “Smells okay,” he said. “You wanna eat here, or go down to Tina’s? Either way’s fine with me.”
“They’ll have coffee at Tina’s, won’t they?” Sondra grinned. “I get grumpy if I don’t have my coffee. We don’t wanna go there.” She patted her holster. “Especially when I’m armed.”
“Fine with me,” Cody said. “I’ll grab eggs and bacon, just in case they’re missing that stuff. We can take the cereal too.”
“Hey, look who decided to join us!” Tim said as Cody and Sondra walked in.
“Beware, geek bearing gifts!” Cody said, hoisting his bags. Sondra made a beeline to the coffee pot.
“Did you bring eggs?” Tina asked. “Oh, thank God! I don’t know how I ran out of eggs and didn’t notice.” She took the bags. “Bacon and milk too? I think I have those, but thanks for thinking about it.” She lowered her voice. “So… what happened last night?” She glanced at Sondra, stirring her coffee.
“Nothing,” Cody said, shaking his hair back. “Nothing like that anyway. We’re wearing the same clothes we had on all night.”
“Talking about us?” Sondra said, slurping her coffee and crossing the kitchen. She hugged Cody with her free hand, making him grin. “Not like there’s much to talk about, so far.”
“I got that,” Tina said. “You guys want to give Kelly and Sara a break and help me cook this up?”
“Sure.” Sondra took another swig of coffee.
“Great. Can either of you cook? Both of you?”
“Yeah, I can fix breakfast,” Cody said.
“My grandmother was Italian,” Sondra said. “She wouldn’t let me see my tenth birthday before I learned to cook.”
“Oh… pancakes, eggs, and bacon for eight, then. I’ll leave you to it.”
“Hmph,” Cody snorted as Tina left. “What happened to helping her?”
“No problem,” Sondra said, kissing Cody’s cheek before letting him go. “We have more room to maneuver, and I’ve got a direct line to the coffee!” She finished her first cup and poured another. “Do I need to save any of this for you?”
“Nah,” Cody said. “I never got into drinking the stuff.”
“Give it a couple years — you’ll want it, and there won’t be any. You want to do the pancakes, and I’ll take the bacon and eggs?”
Charles, Max, and Tim mounted up after breakfast; the others gathered to see them off. Charles hugged Sondra and whispered, “Try to forgive Max. He knows he was out of line, and he did apologize. And thanks for not poisoning his eggs.”
“I’ll try. You guys be careful. Don’t let Tim get too far ahead of you.”
“Hurry back, you guys!” Sara called at Tim.
“Weather permitting,” Tim said. “You know what we need? Someone to get a knee injury, so they can tell when the bad weather’s coming.” Everyone laughed. “Now watch, it’ll be me.”
“Remember to bring everyone to the clubhouse when you come back,” Tina said. “We’ll make sure everyone’s fed and gets a place of their own.”
“Morning’s getting away from us, folks,” Charles said. “Welcome to the first day of fall. Let’s get rolling.” Cody pushed the exit gate open; the three men rode through and Cody pulled it shut behind them.
“Hey, watch those trucks!” Cody yelled after them. They waved, coasted around the corner, and disappeared.
“Okay, we’re back to five, for now,” Tina said. “We’ve got a bunch of townhouses to air out and lots of food to gather in the next few days. Let’s get at it. I figure we can work in teams again to clear the units, each one will go quicker that way. We’ll need to feed pets as we find them, and go around to the houses we checked yesterday morning. Sondra, would you be able to put down unfriendly dogs?”
“If I have to.”
“Tim had to put one down yesterday morning. Do what you have to to be mentally prepared.”
“Good. We went over this with Charles and Tim last night — we’ve decided to concentrate on the townhouses near the clubhouse for settling the newcomers. That means we’ll be focusing on Clubhouse Drive today. Tomorrow, we’ll go hunt some more groceries. We’ll have to start focusing on what they used to call ‘staples’ — flour, sugar, and the like — because baked goods will be going stale soon. Rice, beans, potatoes, onions, anything that will keep.”
“Maybe we should get the groceries today and tackle the houses tomorrow,” Cody suggested. “We’ll need carpet cleaners if a dog peed on it. Or the furniture.”
“I was counting on some groceries being in the houses,” Tina said. “If we don’t know what’s already in the pantry, we won’t know how much we’ll need.”
“But we’ll need it all, eventually,” Sondra said.
“But we can’t carry it all home right now anyway, even with the trailers,” Sara pointed out.
“I’m all for putting off the cleaning,” said Sara, “but there’s probably cleaning stuff in the clubhouse, if the houses don’t have any. Besides, if we put it off another day, it might be worse tomorrow. If we can get the dogs outside now, they won’t cause any more damage.”
“Okay, we’ll do it your way,” Cody said. “Let’s get it over with.”
“Good,” Sara said. “Kelly and I can do one unit, you three can take the unit next door. That way, we’ll be close together in case we need… expertise.” She waved a hand at Sondra’s holster.
Kelly shrugged. “Works for me,” said Tina.
The townhouses (actually condominiums by another name) were built with their entries facing each other across a hallway. The units on each end had three bedrooms, and all five of them attacked those units and split up to work on units across the hallway from each other. The townhouses were stacked two high: a total of four three-bedroom units, twenty two-bedroom units, and eight one-bedroom units. They held few surprises — just smelly refrigerators and the occasional pet cleanup. All the dogs were small and either friendly to — or at least intimidated by — the intruders. The worst incidents were when two cats bolted out one door and kept running. Several doors were locked, but not deadbolted; Cody used a portable drill to neutralize the locks. “We’ll get some new doorknobs from the Home Center, if we have to,” he said, looking pleased. They rolled a generator to the townhouses and ran extension cords through windows for lights and vacuum cleaners.
Kelly was burrowing under a bed, sliding boxes of random personal belongings into the walkway, when Sara asked her, “Are you doing alright?”
Another box skidded out from under the bed. “Sure,” Kelly said, her voice muffled. “Why?”
“Oh… I just thought you seemed a bit down since yesterday afternoon.”
Silence for a moment. “What do you mean?”
“Well… you didn’t seem that interested in getting to know Cody, but you didn’t like it when Sondra swooped in and carried him off. What’s that about?”
A box careened out from under the bed, traveling nearly halfway across the room, followed (more slowly) by Kelly. “I don’t know,” she said, standing and straightening her hair. “Why should I care who he runs around with?” She shook her head and looked at her shoes. “But I do.”
Conversations: Charles Ball and Max Wright