We walked out of the electronics and around to the sporting goods section. After a short search, we were found several hooks of plastic encased machetes. Most were simple blades with nylon or canvas sheaths, a few had saw teeth on their back edge or different shapes. One had skulls painted on it. I grabbed the most normal blade I could see that came with a sheathe.
As I struggled with the plastic, Andy pulled out a pocket knife, flicked it open and presented it to me handle first. “Thanks,” I said as I took it and slit the packaging open, “I should probably get a knife for myself.” I carefully handed the knife back to him.
I slipped the machete and its sheath out of the plastic and took a few steps away from Andy before taking the blade in hand to get a feel of it. The handle was molded plastic but felt sturdy. The blade itself was plain steel, pre-sharpened. I rotated my wrist and wagged it back in forth. I would need to chop horizontally at a standing zombie. Too low and I’d hit a shoulder, too high and I’d hit the head. I moved the blade across in front of me stopping where I imagined a zombie’s neck would be.
“You need to swing past where you want to cut. Like hitting a baseball. Swing through it, not at it,” Andy said. He raised his machete near his right shoulder and swung his arm across his body passing the blade though the imaginary zombie’s neck without stopping. His machete hit some hanging items off their hooks at the end of his swing.
“How do you know that?” I asked while taking a few practice swings. Swing through the zombie, I repeated to myself.
“I used to help my uncle clear brush on his land. He taught me how to use a machete,” Andy said.
“Any other tips?”
He thought for a second. “Watch where you swing, make sure if you’re not going to swing into your body if you miss. That’s about it. These blades need to be sharpened. I mean they’re not dull but they could be sharper,” he said examining the blade edge.
I sheathed my machete and considered where to put it. The sheath could go on a belt but I wasn’t wearing one. Should I get a belt just for the machete? The baseball bat was ok to stuff between the backpack and my back but it would probably be safer to have the machete hanging from belt. Until then I put it in the top of the backpack along with my bat. I also grabbed a couple extra machetes as back ups.
Andy had wandered off while I had sorted out my pack. I found him looking in the display case of rifles.
“Do you know how to shoot?” I asked him.
“No, you?” he asked back.
“No, if I did I would have grabbed a rifle the first time I was here.”
“It’s not that hard. I could probably teach myself,” he mused.
“Maybe and maybe you attract every zombie in the area while learning. Remember what happened when you made too mush noise moving shelves around?” I said.
“Oh yeah. Maybe that isn’t a good idea.”
We made our way to the canned food and began “shopping”. I was less cautious of overloading since I could unhook the straps of my backpack in just a couple of seconds.
“Why don’t we just move in here?” Andy asked while browsing the soup cans.
“Really? Can you not smell that?” I asked pointed toward the meat rotting thirty feet away.
“Yeah but maybe we could get rid of it?”
“There has to be at least two tons of meat, not to mention the frozen foods and dairy aisles. Even if it was possible to get it all out where would we put it. Out back on the loading dock? Are you going to truck it far enough away or bury it all? And how would we get the smell out of here? Open all the doors and let the breeze and zombies in? And if we get that far what happens when someone else comes along? Anyone wandering into town is going to come here. You want every stranger that comes through knocking on your front door?”
“Ok, ok, I get it wasn’t a well thought out question,” he said holding his hands up in surrender.
“We can’t under think things. One mistake could kill us,” I said. I picked out a pot roast soup and stuffed it in my backpack. There was room for more but it was starting to get heavy. I zipped it up and settled it on my shoulders to feel the weight. Heavy but not heavy enough to make walking difficult. I checked the strap releases by unhooking the left strap. It popped free and the backpack swung to the right. If I dropped my shoulder a little, it would slip right off. Satisfied that I could drop it at a moments notice, I rehooked the left strap and put it back on.
I watched as Andy stuffed a final can in his pack and struggle to close the zipper.
“You’re not taking more than you can carry, are you?” I asked.
“Nah, I can handle it,” he said shouldering the pack. He started to tip backwards. I reached out and steadied him.
“You seem a little off balance.”
He walked a few steps swaying slightly. “I’m fine.”
“You don’t have to take that much at once. We can come back in a few days.” It was almost comical but hauling too much weight could get him killed.
He turned quickly to face me and wobbled sideways into the shelves knocking over a few cans. “I can…”
I cocked my eyebrow at him.
He sighed in defeat, “Ok, it’s too heavy,” he said dropping the backpack and unpacking a dozen cans. He hefted it briefly and took out one more can before reshouldering the backpack. This time he didn’t tilt or sway or wobble as he walked.
“Better?” I asked.
“Better. So you all loaded up?” he asked.
“Yeah, I was going to do a quick lap of the store looking at stuff and then go,” I said.
“Cool, mind if I join you?”
“Sure, why not?”
“I always want to be able to afford nice stuff and now that it’s all free I can’t afford carry it,” I said looking at comforter set.
“You could take a cart,” Andy said.
“Carts make way too much noise and I don’t like being on the street that much.”
We walked away from the bedding to the shoes. I stopped to look at some hiking boots. My shoes were non-slip restaurant shoes. They were well padded for long days on your feet but not super durable. The soles were starting to wear out and a few stitched had popped on the side of one. I found my size, dropped my backpack and sat down to try them on.
“New shoes?” Andy asked.
“Mine are getting worn out. Might as well upgrade while I’m at it.” I stood up and walked a few paces. Stiff but not uncomfortable and they didn’t pinch anything. I took them off and stuffed them in my pack.
“You’re not going to wear them out?” Andy asked.
“I’d rather break them in at home. Get used to them in a safe place, first,” I said while slipping my shoes on. I glanced at Andy’s feet. He was wearing some sneakers that had some wear and tear to them. “How are your shoes?”
“You might want to get a new pair before they wear out,” I said.
“They’ll last for now,” he said.
“You do a lot of walking before all this?”
“Not really. The bus stop is a block from my house and it drops me right on the corner. Work is- was a lot of standing,” Andy said, “What about you?”
“Same mostly. Bus to work, lots of standing at work, bus home. I used to walk to my old job that was in the mall.”
“How far was that?”
“Eh, about sixteen blocks, sounds farther than it is.”
“That’s a respectable distance.”
The rest of the store tour was done in silence until we got to the front doors.
“So how long until you come out here again?” Andy asked.
I stared out into the parking lot looking for movement. “I don’t know. Three or four days. Depends on if I need food and water. You want to come if I do?” I glanced sideways at him.
“Sure,” he said.
“Ok, it looks clear. Let’s go.” I slid the door open and exited the super store. Andy closed the door with a light thump behind us.