“Fourteen Feet by six feet.”
Desi looked over his bowl of grits the next morning and asked, “Huh?”
“That’s the size of the truck bed we have to work with. Fourteen by six. The bed is twenty inches deep without the camper top.”
“And the topper adds?”
“Near the cab it adds another twenty inches of height. At the tailgate it adds thirty-six inches. Seems like it should be a lot but now that I’m filling it …”
“We’ll work it out somehow. Unless you need me for some lifting I’m going to start wrapping the mattresses. Uh … you sure about …”
“Dezz you said yourself that the cellar is a good size but it isn’t the Taj freaking Mahal. The girls will just wind up in the same bed anyway so we take the full size for them to share. We take the king sized mattress off my parents’ bed so in case all four of us have to be in the same bed for warmth.”
“Yeah … but what about …”
Quietly Jack said, “You aren’t Don. And … and the rest of it will work itself out. Just don’t … make things complicated. Not unless we get ready for complicated at some point and both want it.”
Just as quietly Desi asked, “You sure? I know I was complaining about the mattresses but … I … I didn’t mean for it to sound like it came out.”
“You need to stop worrying that I’m going to go off like a Tallahassee bottle rocket. I’m not the women in your family.”
“Yeah well … it is taking some getting used to I admit,” he said with a small grin. “But you know what I mean. It seems like this is getting more complicated than I ever thought about it being. Then there is that Josh thing.”
“There is no ‘Josh thing’ so just drop it. He left me and never looked back. The jerk had the nerve to say it was for my own good that he was setting me free. Like he was doing me a giant favor or something. Ass. I thought we were working on forever. Apparently he was just working on what was easy. I’m done with him and if I never hear his name again it will be too soon. Got it?”
“Got it Chica. His loss is my gain.” Upon saying Desi winced. “That didn’t come out right.”
For about a second and a half Jack looked outraged then she just looked tired. “Don’t worry about it. Let’s just keep going.”
“Ok, but when I’m finished wrapping the mattresses and getting them tied down I’m going to take a quick creep.”
Jack looked at him sharply. “Dezz …”
“I know Jackalene. Still, I wanna look one last time. I also need to make sure that the gates at the back of the subdivision haven’t been blocked off or chained or something. I doubt they are but I don’t want to drive out of here and suddenly find a hitch in our plan before we’ve even gotten on the highway.”
It was smart, Jack admitted it to herself, but all she did was nod and try not to watch when after about an hour he told her he was finished with the mattresses and heading out for “wood.” The girls wanted to know if they were leaving that night why they needed more wood.
“Because your brother likes to be ready for just in case. Concha that box isn’t even half full. Look through the games and books again. Remember this is all the toys and stuff we are going to be able to take and all you’ll have for a long time. Lena start bringing me the rest of that stack of Mom’s cookbooks and recipe boxes. I’m taking these even if I have to tie them to the hood of the truck.”
“What about all the pictures? Is there room for them?”
“Yeah. The ones from the wall will have to come out of their frames but we’ll squeeze them in.”
“Even the pretty silver frames?”
“Would you rather save the pictures or the frames?”
Lena merely sighed, did as she was asked then went to help Concha pick through some of the books and toys. “Can we take movies?” she asked a few minutes later.
“No Lena,” Jack asked on a long suffering sigh.
“But you’re taking all the family movies that Daddy took? Right?”
“That’s different. There isn’t going to be a tv or electricity to watch them on and they’ll take space we don’t have, but the family movies are … are memories … for down the road.”
“What about movies for later when the ‘canoes are over?”
That stopped Jack and she didn’t know exactly how to answer that “later” might be not be until they were too old to even want to watch the movies she wanted to take. Instead she said, “We’ll have to figure that out when the time comes. For now let’s just do the best we can. Though … look, bring over the zipper book that Mom was going to organize the game console stuff in. No Lena … no way can we take the game console but if you take the games out and put the DVDs in there then … then maybe at some point we can have them to watch.”
“Down the road?” the little girl asked hopefully.
“Yeah Squirt, down the road. Just stick with the Disney’s first, then the Classics, and … and then we’ll have to see how many slots there are and how many we can find room for.”
A couple of hours later the girls fell asleep after helping to move some of the lighter boxes and totes for Jack to pack. The temperature was starting to drop and Jack was trying not to worry about Desi being gone so long. She added a couple of pieces of wood to the fire and set a pot of hamburger soup close to it so it could simmer and be ready to get dumped into the lunch box thermoses that were lined up there as well. Jack went back to loading things in the truck; if she hadn’t she wouldn’t have heard them.
“C’mon dumbass. Help us and we’ll go easy on the chicklets. Don’t help and we’ll use ‘em long and hard. Up to you.” There was the sound of flesh hitting flesh.”
Then another voice came jogging up. “No way we’re getting in that front door. Metal in metal. It’s this one or a window.”
Someone trying to sound in charge snapped, “Told you asshats I didn’t want to break any windows yet. Might draw the neighbors and give ‘em time to organize against us like across the road. That’s why York ain’t with us no more.”
Creepers. Jack was about to count how many when she saw a chisel wedge its way between the frame and side door. Jack almost cussed but instead grabbed the fourteen pound bulldog sledge hammer she had been trying to find a place for and brought it down on the head of the first creeper through the door. She heard his noggin pop like a melon. She kept swinging until Desi grabbed her and said, “Whoa Jack … alto bebe’, alto. They’re all down. Stop Jackalene.”
Jack was breathing hard. Desi’s arms were around her from behind and his hands were on hers trying to control the swings she was still taking with the sledge hammer. “It’s ok Jack. Let me take the hammer.”
Slowly Jack let go and then ran into the house but was relieved to find the girls had slept through the whole thing. She turned only to stop in shock. Desi was covered in blood and at least some of it was obviously his. “Oh god,” she mouthed without letting a sound passed her lips. She ran over to him and pulled him into the utility room. “Did I hit you?!”
Desi leaned on the washer and asked, “You saying it would take a sledgehammer to take me out?”
“I’m saying … saying …” Then she stuck her head down the utility sink and started puking. She heard Desi grunt in surprise but she couldn’t find the wherewithal to be embarrassed. All she could do was puke and shake.
Forty minutes later it was cleaned up … Jack’s puke, the mess she and Desi had made of the creepers, and getting rid of the bodies by dumping them down into the flood way that was running fast and mean from the hard, dirty rain that had started to fall.
“I’m fine Jackalene. It’s over.”
“Then for gosh sake why go back out? You said all the abandoned houses had been broken into and about half of them trashed. No telling when the rest of their creeper gang is going to be back.”
“This was the day crew. Next crew won’t show up to clean up until almost daybreak tomorrow, if then. I wanna see what they have stashed in that trailer. They owe us.”
“They owe us what? They’ve already paid with their lives.”
“Pain and suffering. They went too fast. If there hadn’t been so many of them …”
“Dangit Dezz don’t go all male machismo on me. You took on six guys with a freakin’ box cutter after they hit you from behind and took the gun.”
“I got it back. I wasn’t gonna lose your dad’s gun.”
“It could have laid there and rusted for all I care! You … you …”
“But I didn’t. You didn’t. We kept the girls safe. Sucks for the bad guys but they got what they went looking for whether they knew they were looking for it or not. But this just means we really gotta get out of here tonight. They have the whole neighborhood mapped. They know about you and the supplies. They said it was Vern that gave you up. Do you understand what that means Chica?”
“It means … it means that if Vern was picked up by the National Guard then some of the guards or local cops are probably in on this. There’s no way it could have gotten to the creepers that fast otherwise.”
“Good. You see it. The who’s and why’s don’t matter though except we gotta go as soon as we can pack up and head out. But I’m gonna check that stash. We deserve that much.”
“But geez Dezz, where are we going to put it?”
“Depends on what it is. You just keep packing. I won’t be long.”
As he jogged away holding his side where he’d been sliced and kicked by the guy he’d taken out with the box cutter Jack muttered, “That’s what you said last time.”