Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ricardo Morales

Rick scooped the French fries from the bin, fed them into the paper container, and then placed them on the tray in front of the customer. Reaching under the counter he removed two medium cups and placed them upside down next to the fries, “The burgers will be up in a moment, Ma’am.”
“Thank you.”
He looked past her and said to the man behind her and next in line, “May I help you, Sir?”
The man stepped forward as Jimmy Polaski nudged Rick aside with his shoulder, “I’ve got this, Morales,” he said. “Why don’t you grab the mop and give the backroom a quick cleaning.”
“Alright, Mister Polaski.” Rick stepped away as Jimmy started taking the man’s order, but he noticed he wasn’t punching in the appropriate keys on the register. Another free meal for another friend? Someday all the free food was going to catch up with Jimmy, in the meantime he was Rick’s boss, so Rick headed for the backroom.
When he finished with the floor in the storage room he gravitated back to the front counter and saw Jimmy trying to take an order from a customer who only spoke Spanish, finally in frustration he looked around and saw Rick.
“Hey, Morales. Take this guy’s order!”
Rick stepped up to the counter, “Sorry, Mister Polaski, but I don’t speak Spanish,”
“What? What do you mean you don’t speak Spanish? You’re Mexican, how can you not speak Spanish?”
“I’m not a Mexican, I’m an American.”
Benson frowned, “I know that, but you’re Hispanic, right?”
Rick shrugged, “That’s how some people refer to my heritage.”
“I hired you so we could take orders from people who speak Spanish!”
“If that was the reason you hired me, I guess you made a mistake; I don’t speak Spanish.”
“How the hell can you have a Mexican last name and not speak Spanish?”
“You have a Polish last name, do you speak Polish?”
Polaski’s face went blank, “What?”
Jesus, Rick thought, how does this guy function? “Though I have had no training in Spanish, perhaps I can be of help though.” He stepped in front of the customer and smiled, then pointed at the menu board above and behind him, “Numero uno? Dos, tres?”
The man smiled, “Numero cinco, grande, no kaychup?”
Polaski leaned forward and looked at the register as Rick punched in the order. “What did he ask for?”
“A large number five with no ketchup,” he said as he took the man’s money and returned his change.
“Why did you tell me you didn’t speak Spanish?” Polaski’s face bore an expression of suspicion.
“Because I don’t, but we live in Southern California and it’s impossible not to pick up a little Spanish along the way.”
Polaski’s eyes widened, “Are you trying to insult me?”
I don’t have to try, it’s easy. “Not at all, Mister Polaski, we use Spanish all the time and don’t even notice when we do. Have you ever ordered a burrito, or carne asada? Been to San Diego, or Los Angeles? We live in San Bernardino County, all Spanish names. You probably know just as much Spanish as I do, but it’s difficult to put it together into a conversation.”
“You mean it’s difficult for me to put it together.” Polaski’s face was beginning to turn red.
“Mister Polaski, you have an important job here and you have many concerns on your mind; with all of your responsibilities I can understand how it might be difficult to switch gears.”
Jimmy blinked several times, and then, “Yeah, yeah I have a lot of responsibility and I don’t have time to learn Spanish. Okay, good job Rick, I’m going to keep an eye on you; you might make a good assistant manager someday.”
Oh boy! Rick thought as Jimmy walked away and then looked to his next customer, “May I take your order, Ma’am?”

Rick stepped out the door as Polaski closed it behind him, “See you tomorrow afternoon, Rick.”
“Yes Sir, Mister Polaski.” Walking to his beater car, Rick removed his keys and unlocking the door, opened it and sat down. One more year, he thought. One more year and I can get a real job. Was it going to make any difference though? Working fast food hadn’t been a bad job until the franchise brought in Polaski, but things had been going downhill since. Most of the experienced workers had left and Rick would too if he had the time to look for a different job. Between working, attending class, and homework he just couldn’t see it happening though. He twisted the ignition key and the engine started turning over, and then over, and over; Come on, come on, shit! Start damn it! The engine backfired and then caught as it began to roughly idle.
Sighing, Rick removed his ball cap and scratched at his head; there was no way the car was going to pass its up-coming smog check and he didn’t have the money to get it worked on, hell it wasn’t worth having it worked on. Putting the old Chrysler in gear, he feathered the gas pedal to get the vehicle moving and it promptly died. Back into park, turn the key, and finally it started again, it was best to let it idle a while longer before heading for his apartment. At the far end of the parking lot a police car pulled in and began to slowly progress along the store fronts of the strip mall playing its spotlight around and then picked up speed as it approached Rick’s parked and idling car, Great! Now I get to deal with the cops.
Rolling down his window, Rick put his work hat back on and then placed both hands on the steering wheel as the cop shined his light on the Chrysler. The patrol car stopped and the driver asked, “Hey, did you see a man run through here wearing pajamas?”
Pajamas? “No Officer, I just got off work and…”
“Thanks!” The cop pulled away and then back onto Haven Avenue headed north.
“Pajamas?” He shrugged to himself and then tried leaving again, this time the car pulled out and he headed for home.

As he was unlocking his door, Rick could hear his phone ringing inside of the apartment. He stepped quickly inside and picked it up, “Hello?”
“Ricky! It’s Thomas! What are you doing?”
“I just got in from work and now I have to work on one of my mid-term papers.”
“Come have a drink with me.”
“Tom, it’s twelve-thirty at night, I just got off work, and I have to work on a paper so I can turn it in tomorrow.” Rick was lying, the paper wasn’t due until next week, but Thomas was a bit of a slut and had been hitting on Rick for a couple of weeks.
“It seems like every time I give you a call you’re either working, or doing something involving school, I’m beginning to think you don’t like me.”
Maybe he’s not as dumb as he seems, “Tom, I work full-time and I’m taking four classes at Cal State Fullerton, it takes up all of my time.”
“Hey, all work and no play…”
“Thomas, I really don’t have time right now, I’m tired and I have work to do, okay?”
“Look, if you don’t want to get together just say so. There’re plenty of other guys I can get with.”
Asshole. “I have things that are more important to me right now, Thomas. Tell you what, give me your phone number and when I have some spare time I’ll give you a call.”
“When you have some spare time? You know what? I don’t need this…”
Rick hung up the phone without allowing Thomas to finish, it was rude, but he really didn’t care at the moment. In fact, he didn’t want to do anything at all, so he went to bed.

When he woke up the next morning he lay there looking at the ceiling of his bedroom. He didn’t want to get up, he didn’t want to go to school, he didn’t want to think about his car, and he didn’t want to think about work. Realizing he wasn’t accomplishing anything he swung his legs out of the covers and stood up. Pull it together. He showered and shaved, fixed cold cereal for breakfast, and then stared at the wall as the cornflakes grew soggy. God I need a change, something, anything. Leaving the cereal on the table he turned on the TV and sat back down and ate as the television warmed up; like everything else he owned, it was on its last legs.
Maybe he could call his father and tell him he wasn’t gay any more, maybe he could go back to work at the family store again. It would be nice to be able to visit with his family again, all of them and not just Louise his sister. His dad might let him move back in the house and he could use the delivery van to get back and forth to class. Maybe.
No, the last time he talked to his father it hadn’t turned out well and now everyone, but Louise, said Rick was dead to them. He had burned his bridges, but it had made him so angry when his father told him he had chosen to be gay. Why would anyone choose to be gay, to be ostracized from their family, to have society in general look askance at them? It wasn’t his fault he was born the way he was, why couldn’t his family understand that?
The picture on the TV finally came on and it looked like they were showing another stolen car chase from a helicopter overhead, he changed the channel and listened to an announcer who was talking about the sudden wave of violence and rioting occurring around the country. He sat there listening and began to wonder, were these riots part of a plan? He had gotten interested in politics and the gay rights movement on campus, but he didn’t like the idea of violent confrontation that some of the people advocated, so he quit attending meetings. Then the SDS and other groups he had ties with, or people he knew with connections to other groups started talking about violence also. Rick severed all ties with any group advocating the overthrow of the government and had even spoken out against it.
The TV suddenly went blank and the picture was replaced with a stationary graphic, what the hell is that? The Emergency Broadcast Symbol. “Great, what have I missed?”
He found the remote for the cable and began searching through the channels until finally he found a channel working. The newscaster looked harried, almost nervous. Looking into the upper corner he saw the channel symbol, Fox news; perfect, the only channel on is the one that’s sole purpose is to fill the airways with conservative propaganda.
He hit the volume increase button just as the picture went off air and was replaced with an outline of the U.S. with red dots on it. Below the picture was a scrolling banner from right to left.
Fox News is currently broadcasting without the permission of the FCC, and against the explicit direction of FEMA and the Office of the President. As a public service, we will continue to broadcast information regarding the outbreak until forced from the air. The President has announced he will address the Nation at 11:00 pm Eastern Standard Time. Secure your home, arm yourself, and be prepared to defend yourself and family with deadly force. This is a public safety announcement. Please stand by.
“What?” He quickly scanned the rest of the channels, found nothing, and returned to Fox. Below the map was a title, Areas of reported infection. “Infection? What infection?”
He picked up the phone and dialed Louise, but there was no answer. Finally he dialed the number of his father’s business, the phone was picked up and he heard his father’s voice, “Morales Garden Center.”
“Dad, it’s me, Ricardo.”
There was a long pause, and then, “Hello.”
“Dad, I just turned on the news, but I don’t know what’s going on, there’s just a map of the United States and it says ‘areas of reported infection’, do you know what is happening?”
“Why don’t you call, Louise?”
“I tried, but the call wouldn’t go through.”
There was a long pause before he answered. “There are a lot of crazy things happening. People are attacking other people and biting them and then the people who are bitten get sick before they try to bite people too. I’m looking out into the parking lot right now and there is a group of people who attacked the delivery man of one of our suppliers; Ricardo, it looks like the man is dead and the other people are eating him.”
“Did you say the people are eating him?”
“Yes, they are covered with blood and I tried to call the police, but no one answered.”
“Are you safe right now, can the sick people get to you?”
“I have the store locked, but I can’t leave. I tried to call your mother, but she didn’t answer.”
“Alright, I’m going to come, Dad, and help you get home, okay?”
There was another pause, “Ricardo, I…” Another pause, “Ricardo, I should not have sent you away, I should have tried to understand better what was happening, but…” Another pause, and then something Rick had thought he would never hear again, “I love you, Ricardo.”
He swallowed hard as he tried to choke back the emotion he felt, “I love you too, Papa. I’m going to my car now and I’ll get to you as quick as I can, alright?”
“Be careful.”
“I will, Papa.” He hung up the phone and changed into his hiking boots, then grabbed his softball bat as he ran out the door. On the walkway of the apartment building he squeezed past one of his neighbors as they struggled with a mattress trying to carry it down the stairs and then to the parking lot where he sat in his car and made a silent prayer as he tried to start the motor. The motor kept cranking over and over, but just when he thought it wasn’t going to start, it coughed and began to run, Thank you, God!
He allowed the engine to warm up, then put it in gear and headed for his family’s business in Pomona, at the exit of the parking lot the engine died, worse yet, it wouldn’t restart no matter what he tried to do. He managed to push the car out of the driveway and then ran to the nearest bus stop where he impatiently waited for a bus that never came. Finally, running back to his apartment he tried to call his father back, but like his call to his sister, it wouldn’t go through.
“Damn it!” He started pacing back and forth; maybe one of his friends would give him a ride? He leafed through his address book and tried several numbers, but again, the calls wouldn’t go through. This was his chance to return to the family! There had to be a way, some way to get to his father!
The phone rang and Rick snatched it up and placed it next to his ear, “Hello!”
“Ricardo?” His father.
“Dad! My car died and I can’t get it started!”
“It’s alright, as soon as we hung up before they got in and…well, I got away, but I was bitten.”
“Papa?” His heart began a slow pounding in his chest and it became hard to breathe.
“I tried to call your Mama, but there was no answer, so I called Louise and she says they got to your Mamma.” His father’s voice was close to breaking. “They killed her, Ricardo.”
Rick sat down heavily, “I see. I’ll try and get to you somehow, Papa, you and Louise.”
“No, don’t come here, it won’t do any good and don’t try to reach Louise, I sent her to your Aunt’s house in Solana Beach. If you get your car going, go to your Aunt’s house and find Louise, alright?”
“I will, Papa.”
“I’m not feeling very well, so I think I’ll lie down for a while.” There was a long pause, “I love you, Ricky, and I wish I would have told you long ago.”
“I know, Papa. I love you too.” He waited several long moments; finally he heard the distinct click of the phone disconnecting. “I love you, Dad!”
Rick hung up the phone and stared out the window of the apartment as tears began to trickle down his cheeks. Eventually he lay down on his couch and slept.

Rick was startled awake and looked quickly around himself, but it was the TV that had awakened him and he recognized the Speaker of the House giving a speech… tonight at a time when our great nation teeters on the precipice of disaster and we are confronted with the worst calamity we have ever faced in the history of our land. As you may know, riots and murder are sweeping through our peaceful neighborhoods as I speak. The poor people who are carrying out the crimes we are experiencing, are not to blame for what is happening, they are as much victims as the rest of us are, therefore we must first address the underlying reasons, the conditions, which have allowed this terrible event to occur. Under the leadership of the President, and the Vice-president, we have seen a reduction to the internal security of our nation, our homes have been thrown open to the will of foreign terrorists and now we, all of us, are paying the price. Because of the ineptitude, or the will, of the President, the Vice-president, and certain others of the opposing political party, this evening I have been forced to have the President, the Vice-president, the Whitehouse staff and five members of the United States Supreme Court arrested and incarcerated in a location to be revealed when the current crisis is resolved. I know this is a frightening scenario, but a necessary one. I was sworn in as President of the United States of America under the rules of succession, less than one hour ago, but I assure you I am completely in command and will soon order the distribution of the cure and the vaccine for the disease which is at the moment ravaging our nation. Naturally, under the conditions we are faced with, I am hereby declaring a state of national emergency and I am imposing martial law. Both houses of Congress will be suspended and I will lead by presidential decree until enough of the membership of Congress can be located and brought to the Capitol to form a legal quorum. Please be patient and know help is on the way. God bless you, and God bless the USA. Good night.”
His stomach was churning as she walked off the platform, but he continued to watch the screen. Did she just say what he thought she had said? The President and everyone else were under arrest? Did this mean the progressives were now in power? Was any of what she said legal?
As he watched another man approached the microphone. “Can you turn the camera back on…It is…” He looked into the camera, “Listen, uh, listen America,” he pointed off stage. “I don’t know about a revolution, or a coup, but I know this, there is no cure for the disease we are facing and there is no vaccine. The Speaker, or President, whatever she is, is lying to you. Right now the only chance you have is to stay away from the infected and kill them from a distance if you can. Do not approach them! Do not try to help…” There was a muffled cracking sound and the man stepped back, a look of surprise and pain on his face. Another man stepped into view and fired a second shot; the bearded man fell from view off the screen.
The man with the gun stood looking down at where the wounded and maybe dead man would be on the floor. “Who is this little weasel?”
One of the other men who had been standing behind the Speaker spoke up, “This little weasel was Dr. Thaddeus Brown. He was going to help create the vaccine that would have helped those of us who have not been infected yet. You just murdered the only man who could save us and it was televised nationally.” The picture faded to black. The screen flickered and the map was back, it seemed to be a lot redder than it was before.
Rick shivered, his eyes frozen to the screen, “What the…did I just see someone murdered, for real?” Outside his apartment he heard a door slam heavily and when he walked to the window he saw several people run by with suitcases or boxes; they ran down the stairs in the direction of the parking lot. “Where are you going?” He muttered to himself as he glanced at the red dots on the outline of the United States on the TV. “There’s nowhere to run to.”
Returning to the couch he sat down and watched the dots on the screen spread; after a while he lay down and dozed off again.

The long drawn out scream wrenched Rick from his sleep with a cry of his own, “Papa!” He sat there trembling until the scream came again; he jumped up and ran to his window. On the second floor across the courtyard from his apartment a middle-aged woman was struggling with a young man dressed in gang attire who was trying to rip a bag from her grasp. Grabbing his bat next to his door he ran out and around the walkway to where the two were fighting over the woman’s bag.
“Hey! Leave her alone!” Rick had stopped a good ten feet away and held the bat up in as menacing a manner as he could.
The man looked over his shoulder and laughed, “What you going to do, Pendejo? You gonna hit me?” He pushed the woman away and turned to face Rick with a gun he pulled from his waist band, but Rick had already closed the distance while he wasn’t looking and hit the man a resounding blow with the aluminum bat. The gun went off as the man fell against the side of the wall and Rick struck him again; the vibration from the metal bat stinging his hands. The gangbanger tried to raise the gun and Rick hit him with the bat again, and then again, and again until he was slumped in a fetal position on the walkway, a puddle of blood spreading from his head.
Breathing rapidly through his clenched teeth, he stood poised to hit the man again if he moved, but he didn’t. His shaking hands released his tight grip on the bat and he lowered it to his side. Looking at the woman, she stared back, her eyes wide and frightened, “Are you alright?” He asked.
She nodded and then glanced down at the punk on the walkway before meeting Rick’s eyes again, “Thank you, I…Thank you.” She looked quickly around, “I have to go, I’m going to my sister’s house in San Fernando.”
“You better hurry,” Rick mumbled, and then he pointed to the gun. “You should take that with you, it might come in handy.” He turned and walked to his apartment and didn’t look back.

Late in the evening, he rose from the couch once again and stared at the television, not much had changed except there were more red dots on the map. The only thing which gave him hope was the distance between the clusters between the Mississippi River and the Rockie Mountains. Rick had never been out of Sothern California, but he knew the region with the least infection reports were areas where farming was dominant. There were probably greater distances between towns and cities and maybe the authorities were able to stop the spread.
He ran scenarios through his head and wondered what he should do. Should he stay in the apartment and try to outlast the violence? Or should he try to leave and go to Solana Beach? He didn’t have a lot of food and he didn’t think making a run to the markets on the corner of Mountain Avenue and Foothill Boulevard was a very good idea without his car; maybe one of the neighbors needed to drive to the stores? The problem was, he didn’t know any of his neighbors well enough to ask to be driven.
What about the power and the gas? How long would they last if everyone was locked inside their homes or trying to drive to safety? There was one thing he knew, American civilization was very complex with layers of inter-dependence; how many nonfunctioning layers were needed for the entire system to collapse? He thought his way through to a decision, he would leave and perhaps he could catch a ride somewhere along the way.
What do I need? I can’t just walk out the door and hope for the best. It was almost 100 miles to his Aunt’s home in Solana Beach and if he ended up walking the entire distance it would take him days to get there, even if he walked twenty-five or thirty miles a day. He was going to need shelter in case it rained and even though it was spring, it was early spring and still got cold at night. He was going to need blankets and warm clothes, food, a way to start fires to cook and keep warm. How was he going to carry all of that? He didn’t have a backpack and the only suitcase he owned couldn’t be trusted for a rough trip by foot.
In his bedroom, Rick stripped his bed and spread two blankets, one atop the other, and then began gathering the items he might need for the trip. The items he chose to take with him he began to lay on the center of the blankets and when he had the food and supplies he thought he would need he began to fold the blankets over and around his supplies until he had a soft, but lumpy rectangular cube. In his closet he started removing the laces from his collection of sneakers until he had enough to loop around the package of supplies and tie them off securely.
Now he had a large cube, but no way to carry it. He stared at it for a few minutes and then returned to his closet and brought out the clothes hanger that held his leather belts. Working them through the laces around the blankets he installed them so he could use the belts as shoulder straps; lifting the bundle, he slipped his arms under the straps and bounced it around on his shoulders; it wasn’t the most comfortable load, but it would work. The problem was, what if it rained? The blankets and the clothing would soak up the rain water and there was no telling how heavy it might become. He removed the expedient backpack, took the shower curtain from his bathtub and wrapped the bundle with the waterproof plastic, retied it and reattached the belts. It was going to take a while to unload and load his supplies after he stopped to camp, but at least it wouldn’t get wet and he could use the curtain as an impromptu shelter.
Water, he needed a way to carry water. Going to the cupboard he used as a pantry he removed two, two liter soda bottles and dumped the cola into the sink and then refilled them with water. Using two additional shoelaces, he fashioned straps for the bottles and then slung them over his head, one on the right and one to his left. Looking around his apartment one last time, he picked up his aluminum bat by the door and then stepped into the early morning light. The sun wasn’t up over the horizon yet, but there was enough light to start his journey.

At the corner of San Antonio and Foothill he realized it was probably a good thing he wasn’t in his car. The streets were totally grid locked and he had already seen two fights break out between drivers; no one was going anywhere in a car. There was smoke in the air and in the distance he could hear screams and gunshots; for the first time in his life he wished he owned a gun. The backpack was loaded off-center and the strap on the left side kept slipping off his shoulder. There was a hard lump over his kidney that was jabbing him with every step and even though the morning was cool he was sweating heavily.
“And I’m going to hike a hundred miles like this?”
Rick turned and saw a man several steps behind him, “Sorry, I was talking to myself.”
“Oh,” he fell into step beside Rick. “Where you headed?”
“Solana Beach, my sister and my aunt are there.”
“You’re lucky.” The man kept looking around them nervously. “I got caught in all the traffic while I was on my way to work.”
Rick glanced up at the man; he was at least six inches taller than Rick’s 5’10”. “You were going to work? Wow! You have a strong work ethic, that’s for sure!”
“Not really, I had too much to drink last night and I missed everything going on until I turned on the radio in my car; a little late though.”
Rick shifted the weight of the pack. “You headed for home?”
“Yeah, but I don’t have any food or anything at the house.” He stopped and placed his hand on Rick’s arm. “See those people?”
Rick looked up the road and saw three women running in their direction, behind them was another group following. The women looked frightened, the people behind looked…angry? As Rick watched one of the group chasing the women turned off and leaped upon an elderly man and bore him to the ground between two cars. “Uh, maybe we better…”
The man beside him turned and began to jog the opposite way, “Fucking A.”
Rick followed suit and began to run also. Other people, sitting in their immobilized cars, saw Rick run by and began to get out so they could see what was happening; in moments people were abandoning their vehicles and running away. Rick realized panic was beginning to build in those around him and he was shocked to discover he could feel it growing inside of himself. He tried to run faster.
People began to pass him, the lump in the backpack was pulverizing his kidney and the left strap came completely loose. Looking over his shoulder he saw more individuals and groups of runners who were covered with blood race onto Foothill and turn in the direction he was running. He stopped, removed his pack and left it on top of a car with the intention of returning for his property when he could. He began running as fast as he could. Ahead he could make out the man he had been talking to and slowly gained on him.
Running full speed, Rick burst into the intersection of Mountain and Foothill as another group of people trying to escape ran across his path. Leaping the hood of a car, he angled across the intersection, and then continued west on the north side of the boulevard. Less than fifty feet ahead, he saw the man he talked to suddenly hit from the side and knocked to his back; the man who had run into him full force was straining to reach the man’s throat with his teeth as Rick swung his bat and connected with the attacker’s head. The bat stung his fingers as he heard a crack, the bat had bent and broken.
Reaching down he pulled the man to his feet and together they ran towards a steel security gate two women were trying to enter, reaching them just as another young woman on the inside unlocked the gate and the four newcomers burst through the opening as the woman slammed the gate in the faces of the infected chasing them.
Rick and the man leaned over and began gasping for breath. Their run apparently had been much farther than the two women they had followed through the gate.
The woman from inside rested her hand on Rick’s shoulder, “You’re safe now.” Looking around herself at the three others she asked, “Have any of you been bitten?”
Rick noticed she was carrying a rifle and a pistol was in a holster on her hip. Everyone shook their heads and then Rick looked up at her concerned face, “Thanks, if you hadn’t opened the gate…”
She patted his shoulder, “It’s okay. All of you come with me and let’s get out of sight and upstairs. If they infected lose sight of us they’ll lose interest also.”
Rick turned to the man who was still gasping for breath as the two women followed the girl up the stairs, “Hey, are you going to be alright?”
He straightened up, “Yeah, just been a while since I ran so far, so fast, you know?”
Rick nodded, “I know what you mean.” He extended his hand, “I’m Rick Morales.”
The man took Rick’s hand, “Wilken, Thomas Wilken.”
“Come on, let’s get upstairs and out of sight.” Rick headed up the stairs he had watched the young woman climb.
Behind him he heard Wilken say, “You wouldn’t have anything to drink would you?”
“I had a couple of bottles of water, but they were slowing me down.” He turned his head as he continued up the stairs, “I’m sure our benefactor has some water though.”
“I was hoping for something a little stiffer than water.”
Rick continued to the top of the stairs and looked back at Wilken, at first he thought his face was flushed from running for his life, now he wondered if Wilken had a drinking problem. Down the hall he saw several kids and the two women speaking to the girl who had let them in. She opened a door and directed the group into an apartment, then stopped Rick and Thomas at the door.
“This is my neighbor’s apartment, he’s asleep right now, so try and keep the noise down, okay?”
Rick nodded, but Thomas asked, “You look familiar, have we met?”
She shook her head, “I don’t think so.”
Wilken shrugged and walked through the door.
Rick said, “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you’re letting us in, I don’t think I could have run much farther.”
“That’s okay, really. My neighbor said we needed people, do you know how to do anything? You know like, plumbing, or something like that?”
“I’m a college student, I know how to stay on the Honors Roll, but other than that I can flip burgers pretty good.” She frowned, “Sorry, I guess that wasn’t what you wanted to hear?”
“It’s okay, come on in and relax for a while and get your breath back.”
“You said your neighbor was asleep, is he going to mind all of these people showing up?”
“No, I don’t think so. He’s really nice and he seems really smart, I think he’s going to be the leader of our little group.”
Rick walked into the room and saw a man asleep on the couch with a pistol on his hip. “At least the two of you have guns, I’m already feeling better. My name’s Rick Morales,” he said as he held out his hand.
She shook it and responded, “Catherine Bodine.” She pointed to the man sleeping on the couch, “That’s Michael Moore.”

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