Ch. 3: The HopeMature

Neil sits across from Bruce in the latter’s rather small and dingy kitchen. Platters of perishable food surround them, mostly meat. Neil leans back in his chair and belches loudly. “Delicious.”

                Bruce stands up. “Good, because this may be the last processed food you ever eat. Most it will not keep much longer without refrigeration. Help me take the rest of the wet stuff outside. We can’t pack it, so we might as well put it somewhere someone can. It is what Aly would have wanted.” He groans as his knees creak.

                Neil look puzzled. “Pack? Are we going somewhere?”

                Sighing, Bruce sets down his pile of meat. “Yes. We live in the suburbs of a sizable city. There is probably a way to survive here, but it will not be easy. And there will be a lot of others trying the same thing. We can try for the less populated places, like north of here.”

                Neil stands angrily. “So, we leave behind everything here? All of our lives? My mother may still be alive! My friends! We can live here! You just don’t like it here!  You want me to go with you so you have someone to boss around! Yo-“

                “Shut up. Now, before you say something you will regret.” Said Bruce, clearly restraining his temper.

                “Like what!” He shouts in return.

                "Like offending the man who saved you life, and is trying to help you.”

                “Like hell! You……” His fury breaks, slowly allowing sadness to take its place. “You are trying to help me.” He sinks back into his chair, sighing deeply. “I’m…I’m sorry. I…just lost so much! I was at the top of my life! My top college had given me a sweet scholarship, Aly was going to a college in the same city…I was out of high school! All the shit I had put up with was over, and the best years of my life were about to begin! I…knew what my life was! Now…it is all gone. It’s…just so much to deal with. And it is all way to fresh.”

          Bruce also sighs and sits back into his chair. “I know. My only connection here was Aly, and you. I’ve just been…stalling here, my glory days long behind me. My life was going downhill. Neil….you are the only thing left to me. I...I need you to live. Aly is gone, but….. you are alive. I need…I need to keep you that way. And you have the best chance if you flee this town. But, if you need to stay….we can. Just…..don’t hold out to much hope for anyone else. Downtown is pretty bad.”

               Neil bites his lip, not used to having to choose the path.  “You…are right. We should get out of here.” His head sinks into his hands as he accedes any hope of restoring a vestige of his old life. “Do you have a plan?”

           Bruce nods as if planning for the end of the world is an everyday thing. “Yes. We pack up all of my supplies here. I have a fairly decent idea of what a person needs to survive. That includes whatever weapons we can get.” Neil starts to object, but Bruce cuts him off. “I know what you are thinking. I know Aly……would not like us using them…. But you will need them to defend your supplies. Soon, the easiest way to get food will be to take other survivor’s. There will be bad people. Aly would mind less if we hurt people who hurt others.  So our stuff will need to be protected. It will only get harder. Within a month, the hordes will flee their cities. You know how big New York is? No way can they find enough food. Unless it has two legs. Very bad people. You get my meaning?”

        Neil nods. “yeah. But I’m gonna make this clear. We die before resorting to such…means. And….we don’t allow cannibalism to live in our sight.”

        Bruce nods. “Good, I wasn’t planning on it. Now, I probably have enough food for you to get by for a week, and a canteen or two…..enough supplies….”

        Neil jumps up with hope. “I probably have some stuff at my house…..” He stops when he looks at Bruce’s face.

       “I….I would not go back into the down town. It’s probably chaos. I tried going down while you slept.” He shakes his head. “It is not safe.”

       Neil shakes his head, unwilling to give up all hope.. “I’m going to go back there. I can’t abandon my mom, if there is any hope…”

      Bruce puts his hand to his forehead for a moment, trying to decide. He nods slowly and sadly, resigned to his choice. “I understand. You stay here and clean up; I’ll make the packs and plan. I’ll be the one to check for your mother. I’ve….been through more than you.” He hesitantly walks over to Neil and awkwardly hugs him. “Neil….. I…..”

       Neil returns the hug and pats him on the back. “Yeah, I know coach.”

The End

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