Good morning, Internets! How’s the weather where you are? Here it’s cloudy and cold, on this 2nd day of June, which puts me in the perfect mood for a zombie story.
This week’s Free Fiction Thursday story is JESSIE. Fellow OWNers, you might recognize the setting for this one. *g*
Published by Thunder Valley Press
Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed
Cover art copyright 2008 by Ivan Bliznetsov at iStockphoto.com
Cover layout by Thunder Valley Press
Tommy met Jessie on the beach.
He’d been wandering along the shore line, walking on the wet sand because it was easier, and playing keep away with the waves so his shoes wouldn’t get wet. The day was cold and cloudy. He was looking for driftwood to make a fire, but he wasn’t looking all that hard. This part of the beach was sheltered from the big part of the ocean by a sand bar, and for some reason there was a lot of driftwood here. Everything from dry twigs and bark to huge old tree trunks covered with big black splotches that looked like they’d come from a burned out forest about a million years ago. Tommy wanted to climb on top of the biggest ones and see what he could see, but Leon always told him to stay off the logs, it wasn’t safe, just like Leon had told him to walk along the water because the sick wouldn’t go in the water and it was one way to get away from them.
That hadn’t turned out to be true, but Tommy still walked along the water’s edge like Leon told him to even though Leon wasn’t there anymore.
Tommy had just picked up a piece of wood about the size of his forearm when he saw her sitting on top of a huge log near the water’s edge, watching him.
“You’re not supposed to be up there,” he said.
She stuck her tongue out at him. “Says who?”
“A wave could come in and knock you off and drop the log on top of you, and no one would come to help you get it off.”
She shrugged. “So?”
Tommy didn’t have an answer for that, so he shrugged back.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
Tommy told her, and she told him her name was Jessie. Tommy didn’t ask her how old she was, and she didn’t ask him. Nobody really cared about that stuff anymore. Grownups were the only people who wanted to know, and Leon had been the last grownup Tommy had been around who wasn’t sick. The ones who were sick didn’t care about anything other than eating you.
“Do you know how to fish?” she asked.
Tommy shook his head. His grandpa had talked about taking Tommy fishing someday, but he never had. Tommy’s dad didn’t know how to fish. All he knew was how to crunch numbers, whatever that meant. One day he’d gone to work and hadn’t come home. He was in the hospital, Tommy’s mom had said, and she left Tommy with their neighbor Leon. Neither of his parents had ever come back home. Leon told him once it was better that way.
Tommy hadn’t believed him until Leon had to kill his own girlfriend because she’d gotten sick and tried to hurt Tommy. After that, Tommy figured it was better to remember his parents as his parents, not as creepy sick people who wouldn’t even know who he was anymore.
“I know how to fish,” Jessie said. “Want me to teach you?”
Tommy shrugged again. “Sure.” He had nothing better to do.
Jessie had a fishing pole she said she found half-buried underneath one of the logs. She stuck something slimy on the hook and showed him how to fling the hook with that slimy stuff out into the water.
He stood next to her and watched until one of the waves came up higher on the shore than the others. She laughed at him when he backpedaled away from the water.
“Are you afraid of the ocean?” she asked.
“No. I’m just not supposed to get my shoes wet.”
That had been one of Leon’s rules. He’d seen a movie once, he said, where shoes were the next most important thing after food and water. A person had to take care of their shoes if they wanted to survive. According to Leon, wet shoes wore out faster. Tommy didn’t know if that was true or not, but everything else Leon said was.
Well, almost everything.
(read the rest of the story here)