Max, Tony, and Father Mitch collapsed into the black cushioned styling chairs, turning them to face out toward their feathered guards.
“I don’t know about the rest of you,” Max said, lighting a cigarette and taking a long drag, “but I’m exhausted.”
“I think we should use this quiet time to rest and figure out what to do,” Father said, rubbing his sore wrists.
Tony’s back was tender from the seagulls’ attempts to peck away at his flesh, requiring him to lean forward, away from the back of the chair. He watched the stout birds perched outside the security screen. Seeing webbed footed animals scattered throughout the store made it seem like he was a character in a cartoon.
Aside from a few squawks, Walmart was eerily quiet. Max flicked his ashes onto the floor as Father closed his eyes.
“I bet Jack and the rest will come back for us,” Tony said, “especially since those kids left.”
“If they saw the hooligans leave. If not, it may be awhile,” Max said, watching the white smoke, from the tip of his cigarette, swirl up towards the ceiling, looking brilliant in the strategically placed lighting.
Tony stood up and looked toward the rear of the store. “These places usually have a back door.”
Max stood up and followed him down a small corridor to an open breakroom and storage area. Mixed smells of ammonium hydroxide and burnt coffee filled the air. When they reached the back door, they stood still, listening.
“Stand back,” Tony said, his hand resting on the lock.
“Don’t let any of those damned birds in here,” Max said, stepping behind Tony.
Tony unlocked the door, turned the knob, and pulled it open a couple inches. He looked out then closed the door. “Shit.”
“The parking lot is full of those gulls.”
Max turned and walked back to the parlor; plopping back into a chair.
Father opened his eyes and looked at Max’s sullen expression. “Must be it doesn’t look good outside.”
Max tossed his cigarette butt into the sink and lit another. “You got it.”
Tony returned with a can of pop and piece of white frosted cake. “The refrigerator in the lunchroom has food and drinks in it. They must’ve been celebrating someone’s birthday.”
“You know what we should do,” Max said, turning to look at the salon counter. He looked at his reflection in the mirror above the sink, scratching his uneven beard. “We should give each other buzz cuts and shave while we’re trapped in here.”
“Good idea,” Father said. He turned his salon chair and spotted a pair of clippers on a shelf. “Who’s first?”
It was not long, and all three were looking like they were ready to join the army. Clean heads and smooth faces. It was one of those rare moments when they were all smiling, admiring their new haircuts.
“If I had a camera,” Father said, wiping hair and water from the countertop, “I’d take our picture.”
“Clare and Jack have the cell phones,” Tony said, tossing his paper plate into the trash. “But let’s look around, there has to be a phone around here someplace.”
They searched through drawers, behind the counter, and in the waiting area. Looking through purses and jacket pockets made them feel like they were invading the beauticians’ privacy but, on the other hand, zombies would not care.
“I found one,” Tony said, holding up a Hello Kitty phone. “The battery’s almost dead, but there’s enough to snap a picture and to call Clare.”
After fiddling with the phone for a few minutes, he stood next to Max and Father. He held the phone out in front of them until they were all in the shot. “Say cheese.”
They laughed when they saw how they looked with their amateur butch cuts and the pieces of tissue stuck to their faces from razor nicks. Then Tony took the phone and dialed Clare, but the signal did not go through. He tried again, but with no luck.
“It’s a shame the professor’s medicine is lying on the floor by the entrance,” Max said, sitting back in his chair. “I’m getting tired of taking two steps forward and falling one step back.” He paused, then said, “Strike that, we’re taking one step forward and falling two steps back.”
Tony looked over at Max and nodded. “You’d better get something to eat and drink before the power goes out. That will be the next thing.”
“We should’ve overpowered those kids and taken that Hummer,” Max said. He slammed the side of his fist on the arm of the chair. “Instead, those punks got away.”
“I don’t want to make light of our situation,” Father said. “But the Gospel of Matthew does say, ‘Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are?’”
“I hope the answer is to the affirmative,” Max said, exhaling white smoke toward the hair covered floor.
“Those birds made me think of that verse,” Father said, smiling. “But the point is, it also says, ‘Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’”
“Amen to that, Father,” Max said, raising his cigarette into the air as if he were raising a glass in a toast.