Yeah, the zombies are coming and Norm is going on a business trip. He doesn’t travel well. He doesn’t know it yet, but everything seems ominous to him.
Love in the Time Before Zombies
I’m impatient and intolerant and feel confined in airports and on airplanes. Travel exhausts me, which is why I take prescription amphetamines and constantly drink espresso.
A few minutes ago, Jill slept while I put on my consultant’s uniform: gray slacks, white shirt, and blue sport coat. I paused to stare at my wife’s sleeping body. She wore a tank top and boxer shorts. I kissed her on the cheek. “Mmmm,” she said. “Come here!” She grabbed my collar and pulled me onto the bed. “This will only take a minute,” she said.
“I have a minute.”
Jill makes sure we get a quickie in before I travel so she can draw upon recent raunchy memories in case my plane crashes or Peruvians kidnap me. Afterward, I kissed her on the cheek again. “See you in a few days.”
“I might not really love you,” she said, her eyes closed, already returning to sleep.
On the way to the airport, there’s little traffic, but an ominous – see what I mean about ubiquitous ominousness – van sideswipes us on the 125th street ramp to the Triboro Bridge. It’s one of those beat up windowless vans you see a lot of in the city. The words “Ken’s Contracting” are stenciled unevenly on the side in black, a corona of fine black a couple of inches from the letters, where the excess spray from the can collected.
Dave’s Lincoln had scraped against the side of the van as we merged into a single lane, hitting the van’s dangling side view mirror and ripping it from its duct taped mooring. Glass shatters, maybe the headlamp, and that, combined with the caffeine and other drugs kicking in, really gets my heart going.
“Criminy,” Dave says. He slows down and looks in his rear view mirror, considering whether to stop.
He pulls over. The van drives up behind us and instead of stopping, it accelerates into us, sending my face lurching forward into the back of the headrest.
“JFC!” Dave yells. He gets out of the car.
“What is wrong with you? Are you out of your mind?” He doesn’t curse. He speaks clearly and enunciates very well. He controls the tone of his voice the way a TV preacher does.
I click open the door, but as I move to open it, Dave slams it shut with his hip. Just as well. I’m woozy. I touch my face with my fingers and wince when I feel the area beneath my left eye. No blood yet, but it hurts and already is puffing up. There are loud voices coming from outside the window, but I can’t make out what they’re saying. Then the front door opens and Dave reaches in, and just as quickly, is outside again. Something has been smashed. I turn my head around and through the tinted rear window see that Dave is holding a big black pipe. He swings it and shatters a headlight. The three men slowly back away from Dave. One of the men runs back into the van through the sliding door, it behind him. Dave holds the pipe above his head and wiggles it. One gets in the driver’s door. The other is standing his ground, yelling at Dave in another language. Dave takes a step towards the man, who finally yields and retreats to the passenger door. The driver guns it straight at Dave who sidesteps, spins, and swings the black pipe into a taillight, shattering it. Dave gets into the car.
He puts the pipe down. It’s actually a big, metal flashlight, dinged and scraped in a couple of places and wrapped in duct tape at the handle. He flicks the switch. “Perfectly good flashlight, ruined.” He drops it onto the seat. He looks at me through the mirror. “That’s one nasty looking bruise. You OK?”
I nod. My face hurts and so does my head. I might have a concussion. “Christ, Dave, you scared the daylights out of those guys.”
He smiles. “I could have taken all three of them if it came to it.” Despite that unscheduled interaction, we arrive early. The limo has a long scrape mark on the passenger side, and the rear end is dented. It will be a long day for Dave. I hand him a fifty.
“No need to do that,” he says.
“No,” I say. “I owe you. Get yourself a nice breakfast somewhere.”
At the airport club, I have a drink – I know, I know, it’s not even seven in the morning. My father used to joke, “Does your face hurt?” And like the punchline, I whisper, “No, but it’s killing me.” The aspirin has helped to bring down the swelling, but everything throbs in time with the beating of my heart.
“Norman?” It’s Colleen, a business analyst on the project, in charge of infrastructure.
“Colleen?” I say. “What are you doing in New York?”
“I spent the weekend with my boyfriend – he lives in the Village. Remember, we had this same conversation Friday at the airport in North Carolina?”
I don’t remember. I rub the back of my head feeling for the bump, but it’s my forehead that’s bruised, I remember now. “There’s blood on my shirt,” I say.
“Yes,” she confirms.
“I was in an accident this morning,” I tell her. “Nosebleed. Nothing serious.”
“Let me see that,” she says, and pokes the bruise on my forehead with a finger. “Are you all right?”
I ignore the question. “What’s on your calendar this morning,” I say. She’s the infrastructure team lead. “Where are your people on the cabling on nine?”
“Finished two weeks ago. We’re on eleven now.”
“On schedule? What’s the date?”
She tells me, but I’m not listening. I open my tablet. “I have a few emails to catch up on.” I sit down at a chair looking out over the jetways and runways. One jet takes off. Another lands.
Everyday violent encounter or harbinger of doom? You decide. But don’t worry about Colleen. She doesn’t have much more to do here. She’s young and smart and will soon make partner, and shortly thereafter spin off her own tech company. She’ll get to enjoy a marvelous lifestyle before putting all of her time, brilliance, and resources into preserving the natural world, before the zombies come and claw it all to pieces.