Jack took the cell phone from his pocket and called Clare. “We’re leaving . . . wish us luck.”
“Good luck, Jack,” Clare said. “We’ll see you back here shortly.”
“That’s my plan,” Jack said, then disconnected the call.
Jack looked over at Sarah, gripping her 12-gauge. “Here we go.”
“I’m scared,” she said, biting her lower lip.
“It’ll be okay, just watch my back,” Jack said. He winked at her then looked forward as he lifted his foot from the brake.
The car crept forward. To Sarah, it felt like they were on a roller coaster ride, with a clacking chain pulling them toward the summit, while they waited for the cart to plummet down the other side. The only difference was that the coaster was safe and their current ride was not.
Jack steered Old Nelly around the corner of the plaza and drove into Walmart’s parking lot. Seagulls were standing on abandoned cars, walking on the pavement, and perched atop the building’s roof.
“That’s a lot of birds,” Willis said, tightening his grip on Miss Foo. “If you blow the horn will it scare them away?”
Jack did not say anything as the car moved ahead at a pace so slow, an old man with a walker could beat them to the finish line. The birds in front of the car tilted side-to-side as they walked out of the rolling tires crushing path. Jack approached the front entrance, but the poles prevented him from getting as close as he wanted to the door. He pulled next to Max’s Mustang. “I wish we could drive inside the store.”
“I don’t see anyone with a gun,” Sarah said, slouching down in the seat, trying to become invisible.
Birds flew toward the car and landed on the hood and the roof. They waddled around on the bonnet as if they were drunk.
Jack looked back at Willis; both dogs were trying to climb onto his lap. “Put Jibber outside first and make sure you close the door fast behind her.”
“I’m afraid to let her out,” Willis said, not wanting to obey Jack. “I don’t want anything to happen to her.”
Jack was not a father, yet he felt like he had to play one. “Jibber will be fine. She scared the birds away, didn’t she?”
“She didn’t scare the birds away,” Willis countered. “They just flew away.”
“Well, there you go,” Jack said, sounding as if that was proof the dogs would not get attacked by the birds.
Willis slid close to the door so that he could open it and allow Jibber out, and then close it without hesitation. He opened the door a few inches. “Come on, Jibber. Get out.”
Jibber did not move.
“Get outside, girl.”
Jibber was not leaving the car.
“You’ll need to push her out,” Jack said.
“I don’t want to push her out.”
“Just do it,” Jack insisted.
Willis sat his rifle down and started pushing the resistant dog off his lap and out the door. As Jibber exited the car, a bird flew toward the opening. Willis let go of Miss Foo, grabbed his gun, and whacked the bird with the butt of his rifle, knocking it back so that he could close the door.
“Crap,” Willis said, startled. “Miss Foo got out with Jibber.”
They watched as the dogs just stood there by the car. Then they walked to the sidewalk, sniffing a bag of groceries that someone dropped when they started changing into a zombie.
“The birds are keeping their distance,” Sarah said. She watched as the gulls moved away from the canines a few feet, some even flew away. “But I don’t know if it’s enough so that we can run inside the store without being attacked.”
“Blow the horn,” Willis said.
“I don’t want to attract attention to us,” Jack said. “I don’t want those crazy armed kids to know we’re here.”
“What are you going to do?” Sarah asked.
“I’m going to run out there, pick up Miss Foo, and run inside.”
“So Miss Foo is going to be your bodyguard.” Willis laughed.
Jack cracked his window. “Maybe I can call her over here.”
“She probably won’t listen to you,” Willis said.
Directing his voice to the open slit in the window, he called, “Here, Miss Foo. Come here, Miss Foo.”
“She’s not listening to you,” Willis said.
“You call her, then.”
Willis lowered his window just enough to call the little poodle. Neither Miss Foo nor Jibber responded as they ate the contents of the shopping bag.
“You’re going to have to do it the hard way,” Sarah said.
The birds were still keeping their distance from the hungry dogs as Jack jumped out of the car and hustled over to them. The birds began squawking but did not come near him when he picked up the teacup. He then disappeared through the automatic doors. Jibber followed him inside.