Three Words Musing 1: Bacon, Shortage, Blockade – Part VII
The seventh installment of a work in progress, inspired by suggestions on Twitter. All rights reserved.
The fluorescent light flickered above the gray metal desk in the jail’s former booking room. A poster on the board next to the fingerprint station declared that a big orange police dog couldn’t wait to take a bite out of crime.
Patrick Betts fidgeted in a brown folding chair on one side of the desk while Lloyd Porter just stared, quiet but fierce, from a battered leather swivel chair on the other side. Past the inert metal detector and in the hallway, Toby Beauchamp stood with the remaining three newcomers as they awaited their turn for an entrance interview.
“I have to admit, I’m impressed,” Lloyd said, flipping to a fresh sheet on the yellow legal pad so that he could start scribbling notes with a cheap blue ballpoint pen. “I wouldn’t have bet on you making it through July, let alone all the way to now.” He tapped the pen briefly on the desk. “Then again, you always knew how to cover your own ass pretty well, didn’t you?”
His former editor might have survived the Skitters outbreak so far, but not without a cost. Lloyd could see that clearly enough. Once a fastidious, clean-shaven man with impeccably groomed hair and an almost fanatical devotion to pink button-down shirts and blue neckties, Patrick Betts sat before him now with shaggy, shoulder-length black hair and an unruly clump of hair framing his chin, clad in a baggy Jacksonville Jaguars jersey and blood-stained blue swim trunks with white and green wave designs around the legs.
“You’re in charge?” Betts grumbled.
Lloyd shrugged. He jotted a few words on the pad, mostly just for the sake of keeping Patrick Betts off balance.
“What are you writing?” asked the haggard rat-faced man. He leaned forward, trying to get a look.
Lloyd jerked the pad toward his chest, brow furrowing. If Patrick Betts had caught a glimpse, he would’ve seen the words: “BIG SALE TUESDAY.” With a tsk-ing admonishment, Lloyd said, “I make recommendations to the boss about who stays and who goes.” A dark smile crept over his lips. “Hey, sorta like your old job, isn’t it?”
Patrick cringed, but then clenched his jaw and hissed angrily: “Is that what this is about, then? You’re going to condemn me to die for it?”
“I could try,” Lloyd said, but then he sighed. “Jimmy wouldn’t stand for it, though. He plays fair. If you can earn your keep, he’ll let you stay.” He tapped the pen against his chin. “Got any useful skills, Pat? Something other than wordsmithing. I’ve got that covered. Plus, I can fix the generator when it breaks.”
The rodent-man relaxed a little now that he thought Lloyd couldn’t just unilaterally kick him out of the jail complex now that he’d made it safely here. He laced his fingers together. “Is there a garden here?”
Lloyd shook his head.
“I could plant and tend a garden,” Patrick said.
That got the former reporter’s eyebrows twitching. Some lettuce and tomato to go on that special sandwich he planned to have in the very near future wouldn’t go unappreciated.
“Can you use a garden trowel to poke a shambler in the brain?” Lloyd asked.
Patrick gave a weak shrug. “I’ve killed my share.” He jerked his head toward the trio waiting in the hall with the basketball player. “They can vouch.”
The monster’s always hungry, Lloyd thought. Sometimes, it eats its own. But tonight, the inhabitants of the jail fortress needed allies a lot more than they needed enemies. Patrick Betts might have been a conniving douchebag in that other life, but it was a new world now. Even assuming they survived the coming months, and assuming those months translated into years, they’d need all the friends they could get when it came time to rebuild.
“Let the monster starve a little,” Lloyd said.
What I’m Reading
Blackout by Connie Willis
What I’m Playing
Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II
You Don't Know Jack
World of Warcraft
Left 4 Dead 2
What I’m Writing
No Son of Hekayt - Book I: Artifacts
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Coming soon: 31 Days of OtherSpace - 1 work of fiction a day during March 2011.