Festival of Savings

19 Nov

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Previously

He dreamed he was walking. Looked down and his hands were holding papers. Folders of mistakes he’d made at work. It was the day of his annual review. In one or more areas he had not been Very Satisfactory. He woke up thinking he was late. Then remembered. There had been a nuclear holocaust.

Thank God, he thought.

Then felt bad. Millions dead. Millions more burned. Irradiated. Trapped even now, lungs half crushed choking on smoke. Pinned in flaming rubble. Can’t even scream, and if they did– who would come.

Still. It felt like a snow day.

They were in the car. The front seats of the 1979 Mercedes 300SD reclined fully. If you removed the headrests they lined up with the back seats. Formed beds. The Germans thought of everything. Marcy asleep on the passenger side. Really she ought to have taken the seat with the steering wheel, at five foot five. But she’d had a rough day. Gender roles persist.

They hadn’t made it far. Trees in the roads. Phone poles but no live wires. He dropped a stop sign across two downed cables to see if it would spark. No light, no cracking sound. Just shrieking black winds, car alarms slowly drowning into dead battery moans. It rained. This is good, he told her. Less fallout. He had no idea if it was true. When the sun seemed to go down behind staticky black clouds the headlights picked out shapes like huge dark demons running. Outside the car you couldn’t see your hands in front of you. They pulled over in a lean-to formed by a collapsed billboard. It said your partner might be lying about HIV.

The sun was rising now. He reached back, pulled an Activia from the tote bag in the back seat. Strawberry banana. Realized he’d forgotten utensils. Peeled back the top and raised the 8 oz. cup to drink it. But the product was made to hold its shape pleasingly in a spoon. The yogurt flopped out around his mouth in a gelid hunk. Ran chilly down his neck. Billions of probiotic organisms died in open air. Marcy moved. She turned toward him. Black dust smears around her nostrils, mouth and eyes. Where are we, she said.

We’re still in Sherman Oaks.

Why am I in a car with you.

We’re the only two who lived. There was a bomb.

That’s right- you wanted this-

I didn’t. I didn’t do it.

But you wanted to.

I don’t know anything Marcy. I don’t even know if it was the same people. I shouldn’t have said anything-

You killed everybody!

I fucking TOLD YOU I didn’t go through with it. If you don’t believe me, you can get out of the car and you can FUCKING DIE too.

When he yelled she got scared. That too felt good for a second.

Why, she said…

I-

Why do you have pink stuff on your face.

It’s Activia.

… are you trying to shit?

No, it’s… it was the only food in the office.

You didn’t take the broccoli?

I didn’t.

We need to get food, she said. We need to find people.

**

The Safeway shared a parking lot with a Pet Smart and a Chinese massage spa where he’d once tried to get a handjob on his lunch break. The woman was 50, pink terrycloth track suit with silver letters across the ass spelling JUICY. Police come, she explained. Massage only. He looked it up after. Three sheriff’s deputies had been masturbated. Their masseurs deported. District Attorney Takes Down Human Trafficking Ring. She ran for senate. The election would have been next week.

They were parked on a hill. He’d insisted they look first. He had binoculars in the trunk, next to his paperback of Birds of Los Angeles. On the back cover a Western scrub jay and Bullock’s oriole perched together by the Hollywood sign. Below, the Safeway was smoke black, glass blown in but largely intact. And in the parking lot, among the ash-streaked cars: people. Living people. Maybe 20, 30. A big white sheet with a red cross crudely painted on hung in front of the corral of pumpkins. Some stood guard. Others waited in line at a jagged hole that had been the Safeway door. A group went in, three at a time.

You were right, he said. I didn’t think it would be like this. He held out the binoculars so she could see. I’m still not gonna stay here, he said. I’ll drop you off. He couldn’t keep a hitch out of his voice. Like he was fourteen. For a long moment she looked.

Something’s wrong, she said.

What.

Why is it only men.

It’s not.

Look. She handed back the binoculars.

She was right. Women and children in line but only men at the door. Men by the ersatz first aid tent. Men keeping the line orderly. Maybe we’re back to gender roles, he said. Maybe the women are safer inside.

It’s not like that, she said.

Well we need food, he said. There’s medicine. I’ll take a gun. I’ll go down around the back and look. If it’s OK I’ll come out front and wave. I’m going to leave you the keys. If I don’t come back, take the car.

He waited for her to say no, I’m coming with you. There weren’t even crickets.

**

No one was guarding the back of the Safeway. He was able to hoist himself up on the concrete loading dock. Duck through a half open rolling steel door. Collapsed pallets of Lucky Charms scattering blue moons, purple horsehoes in the darkness. .45 tucked in back of his pants, as seen on TV. Past half charred towers of Angel Soft Family Paks double doors led into the retail space. A man was yelling inside. Echoing in the quiet without electical hum. He held his breath and put his eye to the door crack.

He saw a giant naked man in a hockey mask. Back hair coated with sweat, rank even over the smell of the meat. In front of him on a waist high display of pumpkin pie filling cans a young girl bent over, naked and sobbing. The floor tiles slick and red. Ten men in a circle stood guard with machetes, axes, Bushmaster AR-15’s, cackling. Heads and limbs of men, boys and old women hacked up and kicked into piles at the feet of shelves still half stocked with bags of Fun Size Snickers bars. Kneeling by the guards were the young girls who’d lived. Some weeping, others with dead empty eyes. A dark eyed man stroked a girl’s cheek with a spiny king crab leg.

The fat man pumped furiously. It had been his voice through the doors. He bellowed LIVIN’ THE DREAM, BABY! Looked around for approval. In the mask his blue eye caught the door crack. Stopped.

He ran backwards. Slipped on scattered Lucky Charms. Hit his arm hard on the polished concrete but pulled the pistol out as he staggered back up. The doors thundered open and the naked fat man stood laughing, his cock quivering and blood red. The gun wouldn’t go off. Just like in his dreams. The safety was on. The others’ eyes on him now. Some raising rifles. He scrambled back under the cargo door, hit the asphault hard with his knees and palms, sprinted what felt like miles to the back of the Pet Smart with the wind howling. The fire exit hung open and he ducked in and slammed the door shut and waited.

Waited.

Nothing.

They hadn’t chased him. Why would they. What could he do.

**

The animals were dead except one yellow-crowned parrot, which he let out of its cage. He thought it might hesitate. Like in poems. But it flew out like a bullet through a ceiling hole. In the Amazon they ranged by the hundreds. Covered miles and miles seeking fruit. In LA escaped captives had lived long enough to form wild flocks. Maybe it had a shot. When he stumbled back up the hill with the bags Marcy was still there. We gotta go, he said.

What did you get?

Dog food. Antibiotics. Water dechlorinator- if we find swimming pools- Marcy, we have to get out of here. They were… He caught himself crying. They were-

I know, she said.

10 Responses to “Festival of Savings”

  1. Atlanta Man November 19, 2017 at 3:36 pm #

    I often wonder how long after a catastrophe the men would resort to rape mobs and go after the women and children….

  2. Anony-fucking-mous November 19, 2017 at 7:37 pm #

    “There weren’t even crickets.” Absolutely the best part, I died with laughter. Looking forward to more installments this has been a blast to read so far.

  3. Isaac Simpson November 19, 2017 at 11:11 pm #

    Wow cool. A page turner.

  4. K-hole November 22, 2017 at 12:12 am #

    Excellent work as always. Never heard of a revolver having a safety though.

    • delicioustacos November 26, 2017 at 6:33 pm #

      Replying to this comment so people know that the .45 in this piece was originally a revolver and I fixed it due to reader input.

      • dickycone November 30, 2017 at 5:42 am #

        Don’t listen to the no-talent-not-fit-to-lick your boots feminist hack below who couldn’t write anything 1/1000th this interesting if her life depended on it (no further evidence needed than her unreadable post itself). This stuff is awesome. OK, might have been bolder if the Lord Humungus rapist guy weren’t white but no harm, no foul, still a gripping take on a post-nuke apocalypse and one hell of a disturbing image in this latest installment.

      • K-hole December 6, 2017 at 9:53 pm #

        Well shit.

        I hope the fire isn’t too close to your place. Stay safe down there, DT.

  5. S. Mall November 27, 2017 at 1:00 pm #

    We’ve established that your character isn’t a violent rapist – OK, noted. I’m a little disappointed by this, and I hope to get past the jerk-off fantasies and into something meatier. I know you have more to say.

    An aside: men are adorable. The real fantasy is always that *other* men are the monsters, and that the man who is fantasizing might *save* the women and be given sex out of gratitude. Which is still kind of gross – but I wonder how many men really believe that they are the rare and exceptional hero who is not already murdering/raping/molesting his way through life. True, there are plenty of men doing so. But on the other hand, this is the kind of #niceguy thinking that leads to thinking that is actually a veiled threat. “You should love me because I’m not a violent rapist – because I *could* be, you know. If I wanted to.” To the #niceguy there is only him and the violent rapists for a woman to choose from. But this is a delusion. Similar to women thinking that it’s either me (video game playing coolgirl) or a total handbag-collecting trashslut.

    Most men are just trying to get through their fucking day without getting yelled at, like all the rest of us. We’re all demonizing each other too much. It’s weird.

    • Somebody November 30, 2017 at 3:52 pm #

      “past the jerk-off fantasies and into something meatier”
      We all know you mean get into your preferred jerk-off fantasies.

      Keen insight at the end of your post, I wish you hadn’t stopped typing right when you saw the light. I hope to get past the jerk-off fantasies and into something meatier. I know you have more to say.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Sticky: Finally, Some Good News | delicioustacos - November 19, 2017

    […] Festival of Savings […]

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