The entire band also made it to safety, but thankfully none of the female singers went uneaten. In the band members’ haste to live, they left all their instruments lying dormant in the street. Twenty of us joined the Times army of thirty-five, not exactly Woodstock in numbers, but in this environment, it was going be harder to feed 55 of us, well 54 and a half if you count our mixed breed. He wasn’t noticed at first, but his attempt to say hello came out as a growl. The Times people grabbed rolls of newspaper and backed away. Trying to alleviate their fears the doc spoke up. “Just keep to this one side of him and he’s harmless. He also might be the secret to a cure.”
A guy big enough to house a dictator’s ego stepped forward holding a stack of papers over his head. “What if he isn’t a cure but one of the reasons this whole thing started?”
It was a good question, not game show good, but one that we hadn’t thought of nor did any of us have an answer to. Laura Lee jumped in front of the Times guy and said, “You don’t look like Dear Abbey.”
The big guy wasn’t ready for that and didn’t utter a word.
“In fact how do I even know you work for the Times? I didn’t see any identification.”
Again the big guy didn’t have an answer. I think he thought he was thinking but wasn’t sure how.
“Have you ever even had a date before?”
This time he was as confused as the rest of us.
“What is 5025 times 6398 divided by 4.987?”
The big guy put down the paper and started counting on his fingers.
“You don’t have that many fingers dumb ass, although if you counted synapsis and nerve endings in your spine--” Laura Lee left the end of the sentence to our imaginations.
The big guy stopped counting and started to feel around his spine.
This time a little guy, just tall enough not to be crawling, came forward and with a voice that sounded like it had springs on it said, “You can stop counting, Ben.” Then he turned Laura and spoke. “Ben’s OK. He can handle himself in a fight, but hasn’t quite figured out how to think yet.”
“Yes, he’s on both sides of dumb. So squirt, where, when, and how do we start building our new civilization, free of war, disease, health insurance, car payments, state, local and federal taxes, not to mention match.com.” Laure Lee said looking at me.
Before her looks could eat through me I deftly defended my online dating honor. “So, I used a picture of a male model who looks nothing like me, is a different race, and doesn’t have a double chin, a broken nose, cauliflower ears, a cleft pallet, scars on both cheeks, and isn’t crossed eyed. And I’m not the CEO of Proctor and Gamble and Exxon…”
“Yes and what else?”
“I don’t own a private jumbo jet, my own island, a few slaves from the third world and have never climbed Mount Everest in sandals. We all fib a little.”
Before Laura Lee could beat me into something liquid the squirt interrupted. “Can you two stop this bickering, we have newspapers to deliver.”
“Delivering newspapers? Are you out of your mind, squirt?” I yelled.
“It was a joke. And my name is not squirt--it’s Shrimp.”
“That can’t be your real name, who would name their kid shrimp?”
“Of course not. It’s nickname. My real name is Teeny Weenie. Teeny Little Weenie is my full Christian name. I think it’s Italian, although with the vowel at the end can also be Corsican.”
We were waiting for him to say it was a joke. When he didn’t, I don’t know how we did it, but we held in our laughter. It’s tough to do when you’re rolling around on the floor, pounding your fist, and trying to hide tears and a red face.
As we picked ourselves up from the floor, everyone started introducing each other by our full names and handing out business cards, a few even had resumes, so it took quite a while.
They had fortified all the doors and windows and had just painted a phony address number outside so we felt pretty safe. They found us rooms and places to sleep, which I did as soon as I hit the wet men’s room floor. I dreamed a lot, mostly about zombies, Greek swim suit models sloshing around in a vat of out of date yogurt, headless vegetarian strippers taking literacy tests, discount miniature hookers eating Quaker Oats, naked female locksmiths and the dental students they love, and the occasional transsexual rodeo clown in white go-go boots.” Except for the zombies it could have been any regular night.
One of the Times’ workers, whose name I’d forgotten, and whose business card and resume I’d already lost, woke us up and took us to the cafeteria. The food was free, probably because they couldn’t tell you what the hell you were eating. But I was hungry and I ate, fooling myself into thinking I wouldn’t throw up. One good thing, at least I might taste bad if a zombie got the worst of me.
We had a pow-wow, which comprised of myself, Laura Lee, Skim Milk, Dr. Bllifover (I think I got his name right, but does it really matter) Shrimp and a woman who might have been gorgeous in a previous life, but in this one she was making up for being given too good a hand in an earlier lifetime. She wasn’t just hideous. She was drop dead ugly. I mean her shadow, which had pockmarks, even looked the other way. Her misshapen head looked like a bomb had exploded inside. I’d be surprised if her face, which could be mistaken for a gas-mask, didn’t scare a zombie into vegetarianism. Her name was Jeraminder or Jeramander (again does it matter), they called her Mander.