Maureen released. The rest are sleeping or just relaxing. Thanks for the milk and cereal. I promise we won’t eat all your supplies, although Jeff seems to be starving this morning.”
“ Take whatever you want,” I said then added to the boy, “There’s a Zombie Hunter game if you feel up to it.”
He grinned at the irony. “I’d rather play Madden if you’ve got it.”
“ Sorry no sports games here. I was never into them.” I left Jeff and Lainie in the kitchen getting bowls from the cupboard and mixing powdered milk.
Fes was impatient to leave and talking a mile a minute to make up for his downtime yesterday. He filled me and Ashleigh in on more news as we got into the pickup with red handprints decorating the sides like marks in a primitive cave painting.
“ Your friend with the broken arm is doped up and sleeping at Marcy’s house. She’s the vet. Guess she took Richard home with her after she set his arm,” Fes informed us. “When I was at the bar last night, I heard some people discussing making a run for it, maybe head for Topeka before things get worse. But Barry Jensen and some of his pals were arguing to stay put and fight for what we’ve got. We got supplies enough to last for a while yet.”
“ People have to decide for themselves what they want to do,” I said. “The council can’t order them to stay.”
“ I think they’re afraid the town will be left with only the old or weak and nobody to defend them. Like my grandma used to say, somebody’s got to hold down the fort . That’s you and me, Pasman.”
His insight hit me like a baseball bat to the head. I’d been stewing for weeks over whether to leave or stay with only my own welfare in mind. I hadn’t considered that if every strong, able person hit the road, those who couldn’t so easily pack up and go would be left defenseless. I took Fes, someone I’d never seen as a role model for empathy, to understand the truth about our role here. We had an obligation. We couldn’t just take off.
When we reached the administration building, we parted ways. Fes was going to drive out into the countryside with some others to check on other farm families. Ashleigh went to the holding cell to see Maureen and I went to find out what Janice Myers wanted.
She sat behind a polished desk in the office she’d taken over after appointing herself interim council president, papers spread before her and glasses perched halfway down her nose. She looked organized and busy. I wondered what she was studying. It wasn’t as if there was anything to generate paperwork these days. But I supposed she’d been a bureaucrat for so long as vice principal of the local high school that reports and forms gave her a sense of normalcy. We all had our crutches to get by.
She pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose and looked at me. “Good morning, Mr. Pasman. Please take a seat. We haven’t had a chance to chat recently.”
Or ever .
“ I think you and Mike Fessenden have been doing a marvelous job of patrolling. The town greatly appreciates your service in keeping us safe. Thank you.”
“ You’re welcome.” I waited quietly for whatever request she was steering toward.
She leaned her elbows on the desk, steepled her fingers together and pressed her lips to them. “I feel maybe you’ve been underutilized as a resource. You studied physics at Caltech. Is that correct?”
“ So you must be good at calculating statistics, extrapolating scenarios, graphing probabilities and such. In other words, working out the details of plans?”
“ In theory.” It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see what direction she was heading. “My focus was on probability and group theory, but real life situations have innumerable variables that make predicting outcomes much more difficult. Applying abstract knowledge in any useful way in the real world is…” I trailed off.