After returning home, I took a short rest before beginning to fortify my apartment. I started by moving the bookcases and mattresses away form the windows. I pushed the mattresses to the side and emptied the bookcases, pulling out the shelves as I went. The shelves were just long to reach across the window frame. There wouldn’t be a lot of over lap to anchor it and the particle wood they were made from wouldn’t take too many nails too close to together. The best thing would be to nail them on the outside. That way a zombie would have to break the board and push through it to get inside not just pop the nails out of the frame.
This, however, would mark my apartment as being occupied to any people who came along though. Even if Andy wasn’t that dangerous that didn’t mean everyone I met would be as harmless. I debated with myself for several minutes before deciding that zombies were the bigger threat. Also, to see my boarded up windows any potential raiders would have to come into the complex and they would find me anyways if they started searching apartments.
I took quick lap around the building and checked outside the complex’s entrance before taking the boards outside. I made sure to keep my bat within easy reach. Then I began nailing the boards in place. Each hammer impact echoed and rang in my ears. Was I ringing the dinner bell for nearby zombies? They didn’t eat people though, so maybe it was like tolling my own bell. After I had a couple of boards up I stopped to check outside the complex’s wall for zombies again. Once I felt safe again, I got back to work. I repeated this a few times until both windows were boarded up.
The window on the right from the outside, which looked in on a dinning area we had never used, I covered completely except for a gap at eye level to look out through. The left window, which looked in on the living room, I left more gaps. Along with wanting to be able to look out standing or sitting, I had been spending most of my time in there and I wanted light in the room. I gathered up the one leftover board and the rest of my stuff before retreating back into the apartment. I locked the door and replaced the sofas blocking the door. Until I could find a better way to reinforce the door it would have to do.
The mattresses were under the windows where they had fallen after I took the bookcases away. I tilted my head at the one in the living room. Why not leave it there? With the sofas blocking the door the living room was kind of bare. I had been sleeping on the sofa to be near the front door so why not just make it official. I dragged my roommate’s mattress over to the living room and stacked both mattresses in the corner. My lookout chair and the coffee table fit nicely next to them. I remade my bed on the stacked mattresses and cleaned up the piles of books that had been displaced from the bookcases.
For a late lunch, I ate some tuna on crackers and then took a shower to cool off from the heat. I rinsed out a few of my dirty clothes from the past couple of days and left them hanging on the shower rod.
Afterwards, I sat down and read until I began to strain to see the words on the page. I reached to turn on my lantern but stopped. The mattresses had completely blocked the windows but the boards didn’t. How much light would show through the windows? The curtains were still up but they were thin fabric that didn’t block out light.
I checked through the windows for zombies, moved the sofas, and grabbed my bat. With the lantern on the coffee table, I turned it on. The room instantly brightened. I opened the door and took a few steps away. The light shined through the gaps like a beacon. Not at all what I wanted. I would need to get blackout curtains the next time I went to the store. Until then, I would just have to live in the dark at night.
I walked back inside and turned off the lantern. After replacing the sofas, I laid down and tried to sleep. I laid in the dark for hours or maybe just a few minutes but I did, after a while, sleep.
I woke up to the sound of a sizzling pan. The smell of bacon wafted through my mostly closed bedroom door from the kitchen. Grabbing a shirt, I covered up and walked into the kitchen. My mom stood at the stove in her nightgown cooking breakfast.
“Wake up, sleepyhead?” she said, “You want eggs?” I nodded. “Scrambled or over easy?”
“Over easy,” I said while getting a glass out of the cupboard. I took it to the refrigerator and filled it with cold water from the glass water pitcher. The pitcher was nearly empty so I took it to the sink to refill.
I sat at the kitchen table across from my dad. His bushy eyebrows slightly knotted as he read the newspaper. A yoke smeared plate sat before him. He was dressed as usual in a shirt and slacks. We only ate breakfast together on weekends but only after church on Sundays. Mom was still in her nightgown and they would never have let me miss church. So it had to be Saturday.
Mom placed a plate with two over easy eggs and a few pieces of bacon in front of me. I reached into the bowl in the middle of the table and pulled from within the folded towel a fresh warm tortilla. I tore off a piece and began eating.
“Viejo, do you want more bacon?” Mom asked Dad. Dad hummed an agreement and Mom dropped a few pieces on his plate. He drizzled some honey on the pieces and began eating them careful not to drip honey on himself.
Mom tided up the kitchen, wiped the counters, put up the eggs, put the leftover bacon in a small bowl, rinsed off her plate and set it in the dishwasher.
“The grass needs to be cut,” Dad said.
“Ok,” I said hearing the implicit command.
“Thank you, mijo.” Internally I flinched but said nothing. I finished my eggs, washed off my plate, and walked back toward my room to get dressed.
I woke up to a beam of sunlight in my eyes. I rolled away from light. Had my parents made it out of the city? I didn’t know. I hoped they made it. I tried calling them when things were starting to go bad but they hadn’t answered. Would they have come for me? Maybe. We didn’t always get along. They had… resisted using my pronouns after I came out to them but they hadn’t pushed me out of their lives. I had done that on my own. No phone calls except major holidays and birthdays. I gradually stopped visiting until we only saw each other on holidays.
I shook away memories of the past five years and refocused on the present. I got up and looked outside. All clear. I shuffled to the kitchen, grabbed a glass, and turned on the faucet. Water spurted out followed by nothing for a couple of seconds before a final few drops dripped out. Hmm, I had hoped the water would last longer. I still had the four water bags so I wasn’t going to die of thirst too soon. I would have to see about getting more water from the superstore until I could find a permanent water source.
I hauled one of the water bags from the bathroom and set it on the kitchen counter to fill my glass. Afterwards I settled into my “watch” chair and continued reading the last book I had started. Around mid afternoon I opened a can of Spagettio’s and ate it cold from the can. I considered using a sterno can to heat up my lunch but I didn’t want to waste the sterno on something I could safely eat cold. I read until the light became too dim and then remembered that I needed blackout curtains before I could have a light in the living room.
I munched on a few breakfast bars for supper and made a plan to return to the superstore tomorrow. A few days had passed with no zombie sightings but it was still safer to travel in a pair like I had told Andy so I would swing by his store to pick him up on the way.
I stripped and laid down on my mattress. Blackout curtains. More food. A clock; I missed knowing what time it was. Wet wipes I could use to clean myself since I wasn’t going to be showering any more. More water if I could manage the weight. I drifted off wondering if loading up shopping cart would be a good idea or too dangerous.
Author’s note: Viejo means “old man” and can be used as a term of affection. Mijo is a shortening of “mi hijo” meaning “my son”.