They exited on opposite sides of the truck. As Mikki came around the front of the truck, she asked, “Hey, Floyd! You wanna hand?”
“Nothing. I just asked if you wanted a hand.”
She held up a severed hand she had dislodged from the truck’s grill. Apparently one of the creepers that briefly made the acquaintance of Freedom’s new plow had left a memento behind. Mikki tossed at Floyd, who let it bounce off his chest and land on the ground.
“You seriously need help. You know that, dontcha, Mikki?”
“Well, when the creepers is all gone and the world goes back to normal, you can pay to send me to therapy.”
“Ha! Ain't enough money in all the world to pay for that much therapy.”
They checked out the two cars before heading over to the stores. The first one was completely empty. Nothing useful appeared to be inside. They moved over to the second car and suddenly a child’s face plastered itself against the inside of the window. Mikki jumped back and Floyd nearly had a heart attack. I’m getting too old for this shit, he thought.
The kid inside appeared to have been a little boy, maybe about nine years old. Unlike other brain-eaters, he looked more like a mummy than a zombie. Central Casting must have sent him to the wrong movie lot. His skin was so dry, it was peeling off his face and his dried-out eyes were sunken inside their sockets.
“Geez,” Mikki commented, “Don't parents know not to leave their kids locked in a car in the heat?”
They headed toward the record store as the raisin kid kept banging against the window. He couldn't open the door so they left him there. No sense wasting ammo.
There was a large, unbroken glass window in front of the store. Faded and peeling posters highlighting several bands were rotting inside the display. The front door was unlocked, so Floyd turned the knob and slowly pushed in the door. They both jumped when the door triggered an assembly of tinny little bells that went off jingling right above their heads. Mikki almost blasted them but somehow managed to keep her finger from squeezing the trigger.
“Damn!” she said softly.
Almost immediately, Floyd was attacked by one of the ugliest little Chihuahuas he had ever seen. The hideous little beast barreled down on him from around a corner, yapping its sick little yelps all the way. Floyd thought the bug-eyed little freaks were ugly enough when they were alive, but to see those bulbous peepers covered in gooey white film was beyond sick and wrong. The little rat-dog chomped onto Floyd’s ankle and wouldn’t let go.
“What the hell? Why do these damn things always head straight for me?” Floyd whined.
“I heard once that animals can smell stupidity.”
“That's fear! They can smell fear!”
“Either, or. Whatever fits.”
“What? You ain’t gonna blow us up now?”
“I ain't wasting a grenade on his little doggy ass! Now, you whip up another creeper bear or some kinda giant mutated sewer rat and I’ll use one of your grenades to take it out.”
“Careful what you wish for. And I told you, you ain't taking my grenades.”
“Yes, sir! Mr. Man, sir!”
“And stop saying that!”
Mikki snickered inside her helmet. A creeper came around the corner of one of the shelves of music CDs and headed straight for them. Floyd took it out with a quick blast to the head. Another soon followed and this time, Mikki did the honors. They walked up and down each aisle, but there were no more to worry about. Throughout the whole thing, little Popeye clung furiously to Floyd’s ankle, growling a sickly little growl.
“All right, I've had enough of you,” said Floyd, who kicked as hard as he could, sending the tiny animal into the air. It hit the wall hard with a thud and a quick yelp, leaving a smeared stain as it slowly slid all the way down to the floor.
“Nice wall art, Floyd.”
“Thanks. See what music you like.”
Mikki walked up and down through the aisles and found the oldies section. She was like a kid in the candy store. She started grabbing CDs until her arms were full. Floyd found a large CD folder and dropped it on the counter for her. Then he headed off to use the restroom. As he came back out, he noticed something in one corner of the store.
“Well, I'll be damned,” Floyd thought to himself. He looked back at Mikki who was oblivious to anything but her quest for the ultimate assembly of tunes. There was an old claw machine filled with kid's prizes inside. In the old days, people would put in a dollar for a chance or two at snagging one of the toys. Floyd would never have been one of them. He sucked at this game. But he had no problem breaking in the plastic side panel with the butt end of his shotgun.
“You OK, Floyd?” Mikki asked in the headset, hearing the noise.
Floyd left the store for a minute, then came back in. He surveyed the multiplicity of artists in Mikki's collection: Eagles, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Bob Seger, The Who – even Elvis, Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin. As long as she didn't pick up any Kidz Bop CDs, Floyd had no objections.
“What, no opera?” Floyd remarked.
Mikki held up a Rigoletto CD before stuffing it into one of the album sleeves. “It's about a dad who won't let her daughter see the man she loves and accidentally gets her killed. I got some ‘Wagner,’ too.”
“You know his name's pronounced ‘Vahgner,’ right?”
“Yeah, but what's the fun in that?”
“Well, you sure have a variety there.”
“A whole lot easier to stay awake on the road with good music. And look! I even found a boom box! Not too big and the batteries are still good!”
“I found something for you, too,” Floyd said.
Floyd couldn’t see her face through the helmet, but there was excitement in her voice. “I put it in the car. Come see.”
Mikki tagged the door with a big red heart and their logo and the two headed for the truck. Mikki carried Bonnie in her right hand, the boom box in her left hand, and the CD portfolio under her left arm. Floyd took off his helmet, opened the passenger side door for her, and announced, “Tada!”
Mikki didn't get what the big deal was at first. Floyd had to point out the Hello Kitty doll he had snagged from the claw machine and propped up in Mikki's seat.
“What, that's it?” Mikki asked, confused. “Thanks, Floyd, I guess.”
“That's it? I thought you'd be thrilled.”
“Well, you lost your other doll to the rats! I figured you must have had it since you was a kid and you was probably missing it. I know I can't really replace something like that, but…”
Mikki busted out laughing as Floyd looked at her, perplexed. “Oh, Floyd! You big doofus! I stole that doll from a Zombie kid about a year ago, right after I blew its brains out. It was just a war trophy. My old man would never buy me shit like that when I was growin' up!” Floyd looked both stunned and stupid.
“But that was awfully sweet of you Floyd, thanks. I'll keep this one, just to think of you.”
“Well, in that case,” he took the doll back and pulled out a black Sharpie marker from his pants pocket. He drew a big X over each of the eyes, made an upside-down curve for a frown, then drew some drool coming out of the bottom of the “mouth,” turning it into a zombie.