Jack slid the Kimber pistol out from his blue jeans waistband, held it firmly at his side, and walked to the threshold of the garage’s open door. In the distance, on the other side of the road, he saw a man walking with a Parkinson’s shuffle. His white business shirt was untucked, its sleeves covering dangling arms. He was looking down, not turning his gaze toward them. “The daylight hasn’t killed that zombie, Professor,” Jack said. “He’s still alive and wandering around.”
The professor seemed to not hear as he took the van keys from Father’s quivering outstretched arm. He took the garbage bags off his feet, got into the driver’s seat, and turned the key just enough to turn on the accessories. The gas gauge needle barely moved. “Don’t you believe in keeping vehicles fueled, Father? It’s almost on empty.”
“What can I say, we need more donations,” he joked. “I see you found the gas can, anything in it?”
“Not enough, we’ll need more,” the professor said as he got out of the van. He stood by the open door and looked at the clueless person across the street, still ignorant of their presence as it changed course and walked with stiffened limbs past an old beat-up Impala parked at an angle in the road. “Where’s your car, Father?”
“It’s in front of the rectory, on the other street,” Father said quietly as he moved to the shadows in the corner of the garage, out of the zombie’s sight.
“How much gas is in it?” the professor asked, keeping his movements to a minimum as to not attract the roaming zombie’s attention.
“I think a quarter tank.”
“I see another one of those zombies,” Jack said, putting the Kimber back into his waistband while walking to get the half-full gas can. “We’d better get busy; I don’t think these zombies sleep.”
“We should probably take both the van and Father’s car,” the professor said, still standing motionless beside the van’s open door. “Even though it means we’ll have to gather more gas because I don’t think nine of us are going to fit in the van with all our gear.”
Jack began emptying the gasoline from the can into the van. The red metal can gurgled as it gave up its contents. “We may end up splitting up because we’ll need to stop for gas, but let’s try to keep together because I don’t know where that Owl Observatory is.”
“Not a problem. I’ll take the van because I have the most gear to haul,” the professor said. He looked over at Father and frowned. “Where’s your sunglasses and mask?”
“In my pocket.” Father smiled, patting the breast pocket of his jacket.
“Why?” the professor asked, raising and lowering his shoulders, trying to release the tension that was growing.
“Because I’ve already been exposed to the light, and I’m okay,” Father said as he placed his elbow over his mouth to catch a dry cough. “I’m just as exposed as everyone else and I don’t think your efforts at isolating us are going to make a difference. Besides, I can’t see with the sunglasses on, breathe with the mask, or walk with these bags on my feet.”
“He just coughed,” Jack said, removing the gas can nozzle and replacing the gas tank cap.
They both looked at Father as he retrieved a white handkerchief from the pocket of his jacket.
Father blew his nose and wiped his mouth before replacing the wet cotton cloth back into his inside pocket. “Don’t worry; I had this cough before all this started. I was coming down with a cold; I’m fine.”
“He could be right,” Jack said, walking over to a green garden hose snaked around a reel. He found a pair of utility scissors on the workbench and used it to cut a section of hose long enough to reach the inside of a gas tank so that he could siphon gas. “I think we’re fighting a losing battle with this isolation stuff, Professor. Besides, you’re walking around without the bags on your feet, and you’re going to get back into the van. There could be spores on the bottom of your shoes now.” He smiled, knowing he caught the professor not following his own isolation rules.
“Shit,” the professor said as he walked to the back of the van. He handed Jack one of the bags of groceries and put the other gas can in its place. “Here, just in case we get separated.”
The professor then turned toward Father, who was now taking the bags off his feet. “I wish you would at least put the sunglasses back on.”
“Not gonna happen, son. I’m blind as a bat with ‘em.”
“I’m with Father on this,” Jack said, removing his sunglasses and surgical mask, placing them into the bag of groceries. He walked to the damp, cold corner where Father was standing. “Do you have the keys to your car, Father?”
Father handed Jack the keys. “Thought you might need them.”
Jack took the keys reluctantly, knowing that Father had just touched them with the hand that touched the used handkerchief; the contaminated hand. “I’ll take Sarah, Willis, and Georgie in the car with me,” Jack said. “How many people does your car fit, Father?”
“It has two bench seats, so at least six.”
Jack’s hands were now full with a bag of food, gas can, siphon hose, and billy club. The Kimber was tucked securely into the back waistband of his jeans. “Father, you come with me and the rest can go with you, Professor.”
The professor nodded in agreement as he closed the back cargo doors of the van, gently pushing until they quietly latched.
Father moved from his safe hiding spot and peeked out the garage door. Another somnolent person was stumbling down the street, having difficulty negotiating the potholes. He pulled his head back, like a child playing a game of hide-n-seek. “Okay boys, enough dilly-dallying around,” Father said. “Let’s get out of here and go to that observatory.”
Jack stood at the garage door entrance and looked out at the street; he stood motionless until all the zombies had passed. The rectory blocked his view of Father’s car, no telling what was on that side of the building. “We’ll meet you back at the school, Professor. Come on, Father, let’s go.”
With Father on his heels, Jack ran to the side of the rectory, pausing to look around the corner of the brick building. He saw no one. He looked down at the fluffy pink particles covering his boots. For a moment, he wished he had bags on his feet again, too late for that now. He continued around to the front, past more yew bushes, to where Father’s old gray sedan was parallel parked along the street.
“The car has a roomy trunk,” Father said, motioning for Jack to unlock it. Jack pressed the unlock button on the key fob; the door locks clicked, and the trunk lid popped up a couple inches.
Jack dropped the items from his hands into the trunk and shut the trunk lid as quietly as he could while Father got into the passenger seat. Jack opened the driver’s door; pink particles fell from the corner of the roof onto the gray vinyl seat. “Damn it. Do you have anything to wipe these with?”
Father handed Jack a rust colored shop rag and hand sanitizer. “Put them in the door pocket when you’re done.”
The particles seemed to disappear as Jack wiped them. He stuffed the rag into the door pocket, squeezed the clear hand sanitizer gel into the palm of his hand, then rubbed them briskly. “There’s just no way to keep away from this shit.”
With sanitized hands, Jack got into the driver’s seat and turned the ignition, the old car hummed like a champ. He looked at the gauges, “You’re right, a quarter tank of gas.”
“This old baby gets pretty good gas mileage,” Father said affectionately as he tapped the dusty gray dashboard. “She’s been good to me.”
Jack laughed as he pulled forward to the school’s front entrance. “Stay here, Father. We’re going to move quickly so no sense of you getting out.”