Wednesday, 3 June 2009 - 6:23 pm

Drawn straws

Today, I went into Mike’s domain to see about fixing a few cars for us. Each step felt like an apology to him; he never liked anyone in his garage, taking up space and moving his tools so he couldn’t find anything. Even Dad was careful in there, even though it all belonged to him. Mike was a crotchety mechanic, but he could get any machine working and he and Dad were buddies from way back. He might not be here any more but I can still feel him, watching my every move from the guts of someone’s engine.

I think Mike was here, in the time After the bomb. It took me a while to figure it out, but that’s the only explanation. The best set of screwdrivers is gone, along with the one wrench that he swore by – Dad bought him newer, less battered ones, but he only ever used that red-handled wrench, adjusting it to fit every job. A thief would have taken the newer ones. A thief who didn’t know.

It’s possible that it was Dad who took it. If he came here, he would have loaded up with tools before he left again. Maybe he would have taken Mike’s wrench for nostalgic reasons, but I just don’t see it. Maybe that’s me being hopeful, but I think if someone other than Mike had been through here, taking things, it would be more of a mess.

That’s the other thing that it took me a while to notice: the garage wasn’t turned over like the rest of the yard’s buildings. Its barely-controlled chaos made sense to Mike and it was familiar to me. The tools still here lay where he left them, waiting for him to come back and need them again.

So it felt weird helping myself to the tools. At one point I stopped and dug out a pen and a piece of paper so I could write him a little note. I left it skewered on a nail in the wall; that made me feel better, as silly as it sounds. I guess I can’t just assume that he’s dead and past caring about this stuff.


I would have preferred to work alone today. There’s so much buzzing around in my head that I’m distracted most of the time and not great company. I can feel myself being quiet, watching the others talk, my mouth empty of anything to add. I don’t think I’ve got anything left in me right now.

It wasn’t really up to me, though. The others are still on supply-searches and that meant mixed pairs, Seekers and Wolverines. If I stayed behind, that meant a Wolverine had to, and I think they wanted one of their number to keep an eye on me. Of all people I wanted around me today, a Wolverine wasn’t one of them.

I saw Conroy immediately perk up at the idea and went chill all over. I glared at him, almost wanting him to be the one to stay; he’d try something, I just knew it, and then I’d snap and beat him with a spanner. I could feel it, that trembling thread of control that has held me back from so much since we met these guys. All it would take was a word, a smirk, a hand resting somewhere on me, the smell of his breath. I could feel my skin twitching already.

I knew that I would snap and that it would end badly, and while there’s a part of me that wants it, I’m not built that way. I can’t invite that kind of thing.

“Any of you know anything about engines?” I asked. That made them fall quiet. I was sure that Conroy didn’t, not with those soft hands, and I hoped that Kirk didn’t either. That was another encounter bound to wind up with someone in a bad way.

Glances were exchanged and to everyone’s relief, it was Jersey who spoke up. I haven’t had much to do with him – he tends to partner up with Sally and hasn’t caused much trouble. He’s as loud and obnoxious as the rest of his crew, despite being the youngest and leanest of them, but he doesn’t have the hungry look I expected from someone at the bottom of the group like that. I think he makes up for his lack of size with bravado and noise.

Sean had that look when we first met them, before he got too sick to sustain it. I think he’s unconscious now, and probably Rico too. The Wolverines don’t want us ‘messing’ with their boys and won’t even let Masterson check on them. I’d fight harder if I thought there was anything we could really do, but there isn’t. The Sickness hasn’t responded to anything we’ve tried; I don’t think Ben survived it because of anything we did. If it was, we don’t know what that something was.

Conroy was disappointed to have his place here in the garage stolen by his companion, but they all went off to search for supplies anyway. It was interesting watching them leave – Thorpe marched off with Kirk and Masterson shoved Conroy out ahead of him, abandoning Dale to partner up with Sally. The doctor might act like he’s not paying attention or doesn’t care, but he wasn’t going to let that particular Wolverine be alone near his pregnant girl.


That left me and Jersey to go over the off-roaders to see what we could get working. Once the others were out of the way, I asked him where he wanted to start and he shrugged; as it turned out, he didn’t know much about engines at all, but he didn’t fancy traipsing through other people’s homes all day. I have a suspicion that there’s more to it than that, but I wasn’t going to press him. I was mostly glad that it wasn’t Kirk or Conroy here.

Jersey actually turned out to be fairly useful. He wasn’t as boisterous or obnoxious without his friends around, and some of the time he honestly tried to lend a hand. I showed him how to siphon fuel out of the gas station next door and he whined that carrying food was easier than lugging full cans around. Still, by the time the others got back, we had a healthy store piling up.

And I wasn’t tempted to hit him with a spanner once.