I look through the slightly parted slats of the work shed to try and spot any movement, but itís so dark out...
Itís finally light, and I decide that I should move. The fruit and bread that Iíd stuffed into my pack is almost gone, and I need to do something about this situation. I should be OK ó itís finally light out.
I grab the only thing that seems small and sharp enough to use to defend myself, a paint scraper, and head out.
I know better than to try the house. Itís too dangerous. I slowly make my way to the front yard and take a look around while hiding behind hedges.
The fires were gone now. There was just smoke rising from the distance. It was finally quiet. I canít see them or hear them, but I can feel them... theyíre out here somewhere...
I have to stay away from houses. I remember seeing a small store on the way here. I donít have to go all the way in. I have a plan. I can just wait to see if there is any movement. I can run in and quickly grab some chips and energy supplements. These things are right up front. I can run in and stuff my bag and get out.
I donít use the sidewalks. I stick to the yards ó behind hedges, through the brush, over fences, avoiding the streets until the boulevard.
At the boulevard no cars are crossing. Nothing moves. Some vehicles sit quietly in the center on the lanes, near the median, with their doors ajar. Some of the cars have open trunks. I guess itís OK to check them out.
I approach the first one ó a red Lexus. There is luggage inside, hastily packed bags with clothes spilling from within. I assume that the rest will be the same. Itís possible that I can use something from these cars, but for now food, is the priority. I need to get to the quick mart.
The store is in sight now. The parking lot is empty and the door is wide open. I sit and watch the door for 20 minutes before I make my move. In and out. Smash and grab. Chips and energy shots. Perhaps peanuts.
When I enter the parking lot I see him. Heís a heavyset guy wearing a ripped and bloodied Kenny Rogers t-shirt. I freeze and hope that heís too busy digging in the dumpster to notice me. I have no choice but to try to back away slowly. I canít let him see me and I canít let him follow me back to the work shed.
I donít know what to do about food. I donít know when Iíll get another chance to search. The Kenny Rogers guy is digging through the dumpster and occasionally shoveling things into his face. It is possible that heís in the same situation as I am, although, if that were true, why wouldnít he go into the store? Why eat from the dumpster?
I quietly make my way back across the boulevard and though the yards until finally Iím back in the work shed. I try not to think about the hunger. Instead, I think about other ways to get through this. I start to realize that, maybe, I wonít.
The work shed is about four feet square. Itís 6 feet high. Other than the paint scraper, everything inside is useless. There is an old tarp that I sleep and hide underneath. There are a couple of old and nearly empty paint cans. The labels say that the color inside was ďLegendary Black.Ē
There is a small brown lockbox. I havenít been able to pry it open, but there is something heavy inside.
Before I know it, itís almost dark again. I crawl underneath the tarp and prepare for the night. Soon, Iíll be able to hear them moving around out there. If Iím quiet and still, they wonít find me. They wonít search the work shed because there wouldnít be any food in a work shed. This is the safest place. This is the safest place.
It starts to rain. Thatís not good because I canít hear them moving around beyond the sound of the drops hitting the tin roof of the shed. I know they wonít find me here, but I canít be too careful. I hate not hearing them. I hate not knowing where they are.
The sun comes up and makes everything steamy and hot. Iím afraid. I have to try the quick mart again, but I have no choice. I stuff the paint scraper into my belt and start down the street. Something has changed, but I canít put my finger on it. When I reach Third Street I realize what it is: More cars have been opened. Theyíre searching the cars now. At first they were sticking to the houses, looking for food and for other people that could be hiding. Now they are checking the cars. Now I donít feel that the work shed is safe anymore. They could come for me at anytime. I have to find a safer place to hide.
As I approach the quick mart, I see the Kenny Rogers guy again. Heís digging through the dumpster again. I move slowly to try to get a better look. I hide behind a newspaper box. From the box I can see that the store has already been stripped of any food. It was a wasteland.
Kenny Rogers guy suddenly stops and looks. He sees me. I prepare to run. The Kenny Rogers guy stares at me, sizing me up, then continues to dig. Heís not one of them ó heís like me. He must be hiding at night just like me. He goes back to the dumpster. Itís probably a bad idea, but I approach him slowly. I say hey, but he doesnít answer. I tell him, as inoffensively as possible, that I thought that he was one of them. I walk closer. I tell him that they arenít just checking houses anymore. Theyíve moved on to cars and probably other places. I tell him that I donít know how safe hiding in smaller places is going to continue to be.
When he hears this, he looks up at me, worried. He doesnít say anything, but he runs away, behind the store then out of sight.
There isnít much food left in the dumpster. I take what I can and stuff it into my pack. I have no idea what to do next. Iím probably going to die out here. I stand in the middle of the parking lot and wait. Night will come and Iíll fight. Iím tired of running and not knowing what will happen next. It will be dark, they will come, and I will fight.
Stories by JíMel Davidson appear in every issue of Birmingham Weekly. Write to email@example.com