Back then ...
Uncle Scott wasn't old or anything, but he definitely wasn't a young dude. Ginny was happy to catch up on shared family members -- it seemed that my grandma had brought out the old family photo albums at one point during Ginny's visiting -- so I was pretty sure that now she knew more about my family than I did. Over the course of the morning, the two of them chattered like they were actually related. Uncle Scott wasn't fond of my mom, so thankfully I didn't have to hear about her. There wasn't much of my mom I'd ever been told that made me feel proud -- disgusted and pissed off, but never happy. Besides, he was actually more like a cousin, but I'd always called him my uncle.
Dean sat around looking like he'd been smacked with a rolled up paper one too many times for piddling on the rug. Uncle Scott kept giving him long looks that confused me, but Dean bristled every time so I guessed it was an adult thing. Finally Dean jumped up in the middle of one of Ginny's stories.
"What the hell is wrong with you? Don't you all know there's a sickness out there killing people?" His eyes looked more than a little crazy, and I saw Lindy pull her gun closer and Uncle Scott stood up and put his hands on his hips.
Yeah, I know I told you that he was like a numbers cruncher, but all my family tends towards big ass mean looking no matter what day jobs they held. Uncle Scott wasn't mutant big but he wasn't a small guy. With his hands on his hips he looked wickedly big and with his face still -- not a peek of the grin that he'd been flashing to Ginny -- his mouth was a straight line in the middle of a full dark beard. His beard was rough, like he'd not taken a pair of scissors to his face in months. Not a suit and tie sort, Uncle Scott was wearing a red and black flannel shirt tucked into worn blue jeans, hiking boots on his feet. He looked pretty damn scary and I knew him.
"Son, there ain't nothing wrong with us. We all know those damn zombies are out killing anything and everything in their path. There's no reason to interrupt Ginny here with your nonsense," Uncle Scott stepped closer to Dean, an arm length from him, and breathing deeply he added, "Apologize and sit your ass back down."
Dean's eyes were nearly all whites and his pupils were disappeared into pin points. I'd seen more than one of my kinfolks drugged up, and thought Dean looked like he was shot up with some major joy juice. His whole body shook and he shot out, "Or what?"
Without a word, Uncle Scott simply clocked Dean on the chin with a closed fist and we all watched him topple to the ground like his spine had been cut and he had no legs. Lindy didn't scream or even look like she cared, but I didn't think she much liked him. Ginny's eyes had gone huge but she didn't utter a sound. I may have squeaked a bit, but I too saw why Uncle Scott had punched him. Dean didn't completely lose consciousness, but stayed down on the floor whimpering. From the disgusted look on Lindy's face, I gathered he'd done plenty of whining and crying since she'd met him.
Sitting back down he turned to Ginny and asked, "And then what happened?"
Ginny's eyes were still wide, but she continued with her story while we all ignored Dean's huddled figure. It was looking like the blizzard was going to be the least of our troubles.
I shook my head free of the memory and started getting organized for my first night job.
I couldn't sleep any more. I wasn't hungry enough to start a meal, so I walked around the small suite and pondered what the hell Sammy was doing here. I didn't have the fondest memories of the young man. I knew it wasn't right to simply assume he was still that manipulative little kid I'd met years ago, but still, I was pretty sure his character wasn't much different. There were too many things he'd done -- I couldn't simply erase those thoughts because he looked older. He had always watched me with a smug look of self-satisfied arrogance. I hadn't bothered to reply to any of his barbs nearly as much as I would've liked, but back then, I really had to actively resist smacking that look off his face. Even after all the years I'd been zombie hunting, I still remembered West Virginia and the inhabitants.
Back then ...
"Uncle Scott, what the fuck?" Sammy stood watching his uncle slam back half a bottle of bourbon. I hadn't realized that all the bottles of booze he'd brought were just for a day or two, but I was quickly gathering old Scott was quite the drinker.
"Sammy, grow up. Zombies are amongst us, and I have no desire to go gently into their stomachs." Scott was openly mocking the kid as his eyes twinkled with liquid courage. He'd plucked one of the bottles out of his stash right after he'd nearly cold-cocked Dean unconscious. Dean hadn't challenged him since, and it had taken a good hour for Dean to drag his ass off the cabin flooring.
Dean had then gone into the kitchen and grabbed out a bag of frozen peas and slapped the icy plastic against his chin. He'd waited too long. The bruise on his jaw was the size of an orange and far more colorful. I wondered if Scott had cracked any of Dean's teeth, but wasn't willing to listen to Dean whine, so I didn't bother to ask or volunteer any of the painkillers that I'd picked up during our journey. I'd nibbled half a Vicodin an hour ago and my ankle still was throbbing. Either I needed to up my dosage or I had trashed my foot far more than I knew. I could feel the other half in my pocket and went into the kitchen for a bottle of water. Nobody was facing me as they were all focused on Scott and Sammy interacting, so I popped the pill quickly and drank down the water.
Returning to sit on one of the couches, I looked around to see Dean was staring at Scott with murder in his eyes. That situation looked like it wasn't going to go well.
Sammy growled, "Uncle Scott, getting drunk isn't going to help if we get visitors!"
Defiantly, Scott chugged deeply from the open bottle and laughed, "Ain't going to hurt."
His cheeks were bright red above his scraggly beard and he thumped the nearly empty bottle down without noticing he missed the top of the coffee table and the bottle began to topple.
"No! Alcohol abuse." He caught the bottle with fumbling hands, only spilling a few drops.
Dean growled something and started to get off the couch. Ginny squeaked and Sammy snapped out, "You both knock it off! Come on, Ginny. Let's go get a snack."
He wanted her out of the vicinity if Scott and Dean went at it. I bit back my own growl and instead casually picked up the gun I'd been keeping by my side. "First idiot who stands up and tries to swing on the other gets shot in the leg. The second shot will be to the ass. Understood?"
Something in my tone caught their attention whether drunk or brain damaged. Both of them settled back and they simply rumbled and grumbled nasty things about me and the other. My neck was tight as I waited to see if either of them suddenly took stupid and tried to charge me or each other. It was like herding Jell-O cats. A minute stretched into two or three and finally I was able to relax a bit. The two men were acting like playground bullies trying to push the other one's buttons for lunch money. Despite how sweet Dean had been with the zombies in the last town, he'd definitely sprung a leak and was losing his 'water' fast. I wasn't sure how much longer we'd survive if they didn't stop their bullshit.
Ginny and Sammy came back with some chips and a can of dip. Looking at me, Sammy hissed, "What did you do?"
Neither man would look at me or Sammy so I figured silence was my best defense. I didn't think either of them was going to tell Sammy I threatened to shoot them. And it was true. Sammy glared, and I smiled, watching the boy stiffen and bristle. That kid really had some unresolved anger issues at the very least. Turning to Dean, Ginny asked, "Are you feeling better?"
Dean didn't bother to even answer, but instead walked to the window and pulled the curtains aside to look out into the still raging storm. The frosty pane yielded not much more than white on white scenery with occasionally a falling hunk of ice from the roofline doing little to interrupt the pale monochromatic sight. The chill from outside was leaking into the room as thick as a coastal fog. I wanted to shoot one of them just to break the tension. I resisted.
Sammy snorted and asked, "So, Uncle Scott, how you fixed for traveling?"
Uncle Scott looked up blearily and stumbled out with, "I got here, didn't I?"
Nodding Sammy continued, "Can you go any further? Or is this as far as you are planning on going?"
Good questions. I was thinking the same thing, but since this wasn't my cabin away from the world, I didn't think my opinion mattered or that my questions would be welcome. From the sly look on Sammy's face there was a hidden dynamic in their relationship I was missing. Sammy was drilling for something and I pretended to flip through an old People magazine while actively listening.
They both lowered their tones and Sammy pulled a chair over to his uncle from the kitchen table. Ginny edged closer to me while watching Dean. Feigning interest in an ancient article about one of the little Disney actors acting up, I concentrated on hearing them over the blowing wind and the shifting motions of both Ginny and Dean.
"Uncle Scott, I know you aren't planning on staying here. It won't be long before the mercs make it up here." Sammy nearly whispered but I heard him.
"Those mercenaries aren't from here. They can't know about this place." Uncle Scott was slurring his words now.
"It's on some county maps. Grandma pays taxes on it. They'll eventually get up here. It's not that far from town." Sammy was right. I hadn't thought too much about how long we'd be able to huddle inside without other visitors. The only thing keeping us in the cabin was the treacherous weather, and needing a few more days to recover from everything. My ankle wasn't getting better, and Dean's behavior made me worry more than a little about his having a psychotic break and taking us all out.
"Let me think about it, okay, Sammy?" Uncle Scott simply dropped back and fell asleep. Okay, passed out. Sammy got up and began pacing.
"Sammy, come sit down please. You're making me nervous," Ginny pleaded with her little girl voice. You know the one that girls and women use when wheedling for some favor? Hell, even I used it with clients at times. Sammy sat next to Ginny on the opposite side of me. He squinted at me, as I was still casually flipping pages in the glossy picture filled magazine, and whispered something in her ear. I pointedly ignored the two kids and went back to my own wayward thoughts.
The Piker Press moderates all comments.
Click here for the commenting policy.