When the Zombies come…
“Well, the bunker is almost finished.” The voice on the phone said.
She sighs. Probably her third sigh since the phone call began. “Really? That’s nice.” She tries her normal tactic of short-phrasing her way out of this part of the conversation. This part and…Most others.
“…Yeah, got the shelves up, bolted to the walls. It took some time to get some of them in, the concrete is still pretty tough in some places…”
“OK.” One word. That’s short enough to communicate discomfort, right?
“…So the lag-bolts didn’t always work, and we had to try different…Uhh, you know, not just bolts, but other systems…Fasteners! That was what I was…shooting for..The word…”
“Mm-Hmm.” Not even a word, just a compound sound. Her lips didn’t even have to move.
The voice continues undaunted. “…But the shelves are up, so we can start…Filling them, with canned goods, other non-perishable foods. Ha, oh yeah, a local guy from the group, he says he has a good source for MREs, someone on the Inter-Net…”
“Hmm.” Single syllable. Beyond discomfort, now she’s getting annoyed. Especially at the way he overemphasizes the term “inter….net” as two words, hard on the consonants with a pause in the middle. He almost spits them out, like they’re offensive to him. He uses the same pause with “Electric Car” and “Black Person”.
“Oh, you remember those?” He finally acknowledges that he’s not really talking to himself. “…Yeah, I gave one to you, and your brother, when you were kids. You acted like you hated them, but I knew you guys had to enjoy them.”
“Nope.” She didn’t expand upon her answer. Not “Nope, didn’t like them”, or “Nope, don’t remember”, or “Nope, you teabagging douche”. Could have been any of them.
“Oh, no? Oh well, I liked them. And we might have a nice supply of them, more than these shelves can handle, we may need to go back and get more shelves, but we bought all they had last time. Wal-Mart might have to special order us some more…”
She breaks her silence. “Wait…This bomb shelter you’re building, you’re furnishing it with stuff from Wal-Mart?”
“Bunker, honey, it’s a bunker. Civilians have bomb shelters, soldiers have bunkers-”
“Whatever. Your bunker is sponsored by Wal-Mart?”
“No, just the shelves. Well, and the fasteners for the shelves, maybe a few other things, but there isn’t much around here, Wal-Mart is very convenient. One of the guys in the group, a Navy retiree, he works there, he can gets us stuff we need and it is a lot cheaper…”
“OK, I get it. ‘Save Money, Live Better, Build a Better Apocalypse Bunker.’ Wal-Mart’s new ad campaign. Genius.” She was channeling her wise-ass husband, now.
“Well, it isn’t for the apocalypse, honey. It’s for when society falls, you know that. We’ve talked about it. You know society is gonna collapse soon. This country has strayed too far from our Constitution and founding principles. Core American values are being eroded by persons and groups who are willing to ignore and dilute the basic principles of the Constitution and America is on the verge of economic meltdown…”
Not this shit again. “Stop. You know I won’t have this conversation with you.”
He would go on and on about how society is going to collapse, the minorities will riot and pillage everything they can from good white people, and America as we know it will end. Once, he said it in front of her husband, which was a big mistake because her husband (who is a shamelessly sarcastic, impudent asshole) laughed in his face and from then on referred to it as “When the Zombies come.” So, whenever the bunker is mentioned, or any other aspect of this discussion comes up, her husband interjects “When the Zombies come” into every other sentence. It almost got violent during one visit, when he asked them where he could look around to find a cheap gas generator for the bunker. Her husband giggled and yelled, “Yeah, cause there will be a shit load of gasoline lying around…When the Zombies come!!! You better hope they aren’t diesel Zombies. Or worse, ethanol Zombies. That’d just be corny.” His comments were not appreciated.
He stammered a bit. “OK, ok…I’m sorry, honey. But, this is what is going on, in my life, what I’m involved in, so when we talk to catch up, inevitably we’re gonna talk about…”
“No. We’re not.” She asserted again.
Difficult, awkward silence.
“What else is going on, then?” She offered, feeling a tiny twinge of guilt for having to scold him like he was a child.
And he replied slowly, like a scolded child. “Well,” he started carefully, like he was searching for something that wouldn’t offend. “…Oh, I am going to school to get my Ham radio license.”
This took her a moment to process. She had to remember what the fuck a ham radio was, to begin with. “Oh…Really?”
“Yeah!” He seemed delighted that she wasn’t completely disinterested. “They are a lot of fun, I had one as a kid and I used to talk to friends down the street, or in other counties. Mine was just a child’s model, though. Now, you can get radios that reach very far, and talk to people over great distances.”
She suppressed every urge to mention the whole rise of the cell phone to him because he was TALKING TO HER on a cell phone and that seemed too easy. No, there was something behind this. “So, you already know how to use a ham radio?”
“Oh yeah, well, from what I remember, I can still operate one. I have one, now, and I have relearned most of what I knew, and I’ve been reading up on the rest.”
“Well, if you know already, why get a license?”
“Because, once I know, and pass the test, I’ll be licensed to operate any Ham radio.”
She was missing something. “I am still not getting it. Why do you need a license?”
“Because, you need to be licensed to operate a Ham radio.”
“But you said you know how to do it already.”
“Sweetheart, look, there will come a time, and I know you don’t want to hear this,”
OK, THAT is what she was missing.
“…but the time will come where all those pretty cellular telephones you all have, and the Inter-Net, and even the land lines just aren’t gonna work. But I’ll still be able to communicate with other patriots on my Ham radio.”
She sighed again. “OK, I get it, you’re getting your license so that you can still communicate with other people when the Zombies come.”
“Zombies?” He asked. “Oh, no, not Zombies, that’s that bull shit your husband said before. Disrespectful liberal. Honestly honey, I don’t know what you see in h-”
“OK, then.” She cut him off. A bunker-building, militant nutjob isn’t allowed to question her choice in men. “You did say you already know HOW TO OPERATE a ham radio, correct?”
“Yeah.” He said, somewhat impatiently.
“And you are getting your license so you will be able to operate a ham radio in an emergency situation when other forms of communication may fail…Right?”
“Yes, you got it.”
“This situation you’re preparing for, it’s this whole ‘government collapse’ thing, right?”
“Then my question is, if society is in ruin, and there is no government, and YOU are the only person who can communicate with whatever is left outside of your bunker, WHO IS GOING TO GIVE HALF A SHIT IF YOU HAVE A LICENSE TO USE THE FUCKING RADIO OR NOT?”
“Well…You need a license to operate a Ham radio, honey, that is just how it is…”
“OK, forget it. Let’s move on.” She really wanted to hang up. She needed to change the subject. “Isn’t Katharine’s birthday coming up?” His current wife. She HATED talking about Katharine, but it was better then the illogical circle they were dancing in on the ham radio issue.
“Well, yes, honey, it is. Early next month.”
“Lovely! What are you guys planning? You going out to dinner, or something else?” She was somewhat relieved to at least have found a subject that wouldn’t turn into an argument over politics.
“Well, I have a very nice gift planned for her…” He sounded almost giddy to share.
“Really? What is that?”
“A machine gun.”
She was silent. She could have sworn the voice just said “A machine gun”. Worse yet, he said it with the same excitement a child would exhibit when asked what Santa was bringing them for Christmas.
No reply, so he continued. “Yup, a machine gun. An assault rifle, it is even capable of being made fully automatic.”
She began to wonder if you can bottle angry exasperation…Bottle it, then freeze it, then put it in a sock and beat someone over the fucking head with it.
He kept going, “Yeah, I am getting it from a guy at the local hunting store, it’s a nice looking machine gun too-”
She couldn’t contain herself any longer. “A FUCKING MACHINE GUN?! REALLY?!!! REALLY!!!?” She jumped out of her seat and screamed, pacing across the living room
His voice jumped half an octave, like her outburst frightened him a bit. “HELL yeah, a machine gun, honey.” He chuckled a little, like he planned for her reaction.
“Your wife…” She was almost panting.”…is in her SIXTIES, has POOR EYESIGHT, is practically a SHUT IN, and you’re giving her a fucking MACHINE GUN?” She had lowered her voice slightly, but wasn’t any calmer.
“Well, yes, I am.”
“For personal defense, and she’ll need it. You and Wrecked-Um can make as many Zombie jokes as you like, but when all the blacks come up from the five boroughs to steal our food, water and fuel, well we’ll be ready for them.”
She pulled the phone from her head and stared at it in astonished fury. That was it. Check please.
He continued, “…Plus you said it yourself, her eyesight isn’t what it used to be. With a fully automatic machine gun, she won’t need to aim to hit what she’s shooting at…”
“OK, uhh, you know what, Dad, I hear the baby crying. I better go, she’s probably hungry, and…Yeah, she’s hungry. I gotta go.”
“Oh, OK, well, give my granddaughter a kiss for me. I can’t wait to see her again. Some time you guys are going to have to come up here, to New York, and-”
She cut him off. “Uhh, sure, Dad, I’m not really sure Wrecked-Um’s work schedule will allow for that, but maybe we can talk about…It…Oh, there’s the baby crying again, I really need to run.”
“OK, honey, well, I love-” Click.
She slumped onto the couch, sighed heavily and stared at the end of call line flashing on her phone, “DAD-22m 13s”.
22 minutes of her life she’ll never get back. How the fuck is that man her father?