I will "celebrate" the third anniversary of the fall of our civilization to the Campion virus by recounting the thoughts going through my mind during our most recent scavenging mission.
I've been to my dad's newest house on several occasions. It never felt like a home. That prefab house was an empty husk, a fitting representation of all that was in his life. I hardly dream of that place and when I do they are never pleasant.
Our house in Lodi, now that was a home. In the blistering summers we'd dig fox holes, I guess they're called improvised fighting positions these days, in the field next to our house. The kid next door, Jeff, my brother, and I would sit in those holes for hours with our pop guns, boxes of mud balls, and 49 Mhz walkie talkies. Other times, we'd play "hot lava" in my backyard on a homemade wooden and sheet metal slide that my mom and dad built together from a do-it-yourself magazine. I knew that there would always be a tall chilled glass of milk to quench my parched throat when I came home.
We'd sneak into Popeye's garden and steal blackberries off of his bushes and eat them in our forts. Across the street was a community garden. It was really just undeveloped land that the neighborhood sort of took over to grow all sorts of produce: tomatoes, beans, zukes, swiss chard, even tall stalks of corn. There was a pond where I'd take a glass jar that I would tie a long piece of string to. I'd throw the jar into the pond and pull it back up. More often than not there would be a little tree frog that I would play with for a while before releasing.
Winters had us playing mud football at the local school. Frigid central valley mornings were comforted with a hot mug of Swiss Miss cocoa that came with freeze dried marshmallows. Jeff would always beg my mom not to stir his. The air had a pleasant smokey aroma as it wafted through the street from the houses' chimneys.
I remember playing slot cars with Jeremy, Jeff and his older brother, Steve. We'd also reenact the hallway battle from the opening scene of Star Wars on the side of my house. We put on our hard soled rain boots so that we made the same clicking sound that the Stormtroopers made was they walked down the conquered passage.
At that age, a bicycle was freedom. We rode everywhere. My parents were health nuts so I wasn't allowed to have sweet cereals or candy. I'd beg Jeff to bring me a bowl of Lucky Charms or Cocoa Pebbles and hide in our foxhole as I wolfed down the sugary delight. When the gum, Big League Chew, hit the market we had to organize secret expeditions to ride our bikes to the 7-11 to buy the stuff. The pouches of pink gum were ten cents each. One of us would collect dimes from the others and make the harrowing ride to the convenience store. The rest of us would try to distract our parents long enough for the mission to be completed. Then we'd hide out in the field or in the mulberry tree in front of the house seeing who could blow the biggest bubble or who could stuff the entire pack into their mouth.
The four of us would always compete to see who had ridden the farthest from home ever. It was Jeff, Jeremy, and me against the older Steve. Naturally, Steve always won because he was bigger than us.
"We rode all the way to Sylvia Court!" we'd say.
"I rode all the way to Woodbridge!" Steve would counter. We didn't even know where Woodbridge was. All we knew was that it was at the edge of town where they grew the grapes.
Those times seem so long ago that it feels like its harder and harder to remember each moment. How hot was it when we were digging our foxholes and pretending to defend America against invaders? How cold was the milk afterwards? How smokey were the winter mornings? How much did my fingers sting when Steve would fire a bullet of a pass to me with a football? How far was Sylvia Court?
Now I'm living a world that is so alien to me. It's bad enough the infected ghouls relentlessly hunt those of us that are not infected. Evil bands of marauders make the existance of our group of survivors doubly dangerous.
I was feeling so lost. Then tonight as my scavenging patrol was securing a long dormant grocery store I came across the wine and liquor aisle. I was originally looking at the dust covered bottles of sherry and port. Never been much of a sherry drinker but I had seen Frasier and Niles drinking it all the time. Then out of a long shelf full of similar looking flagons my eye was somehow drawn to one singular bottle.
The label read:
It was bargain priced. Unwanted in this dead city amongst more premium wines, I suppose. A silent allegory to my own condition. I snatched the bottle up. So now, as my fingers tap out these very words, I inhale the fruity aromas and let the blackberry, mint, a licorice spice dance on my palate from this cast-off libation. Bargain wine my ass! These grapes were planted, picked, and fermented just a couple of miles from a place where I once had a mom and a dad, a life of normalcy. One of the very few places I will ever remember as a real home. Here's to you; Jeff and Steve, Jeremy, everybody else from my youth that made the neighborhood on Cardinal Street. Here's to you, Lodi. Thank you to the vintners at Talus for giving me back a shard of my childhood and home at a time when I feel farthest from it.
A lost wine for a lost sojourner.
Happy birthday, Lost Zombies! Thank you to the creators for giving us all a creative outlet for our love of all things zombies.