Chapter 2

The mall was packed today. Saturday afternoon, it’s what’s expected. But that doesn’t make it any less irritating when a person isn’t going to just hang out but to actually buy something and can’t because there are 5,000 people just hanging out.

Evan hated it here. But his wife Renee wanted some shoes that you can’t get “anywhere else” so off to the mall they had went. The food court was the only place he didn’t mind, so after shoving through an army of zit-faced teenagers with their pants below their knees, the couple made it to their destination: Roman Empire, Pizza capital of the mall. Where the food is okay and the prices are outrageous. Evan was happy; they were almost out! He noticed Renee had only bought a salad and he tried to talk her into eating more. She wouldn’t budge and he started to get the idea it was a money thing. Not because she was cheap necessarily, but he knew her well enough to know she didn’t like spending too much on herself in one day. They’d bought a picture frame Renee liked and some shoes. That was the real point of going there; the shoes. Evidently, you just couldn’t get them anywhere else. It was a fair trade overall because this particular married couple hanging meant one thing and Evan knew it: Evan would talk, Renee would listen. That was sort of how their relationship worked. And she really did like to listen. And Evan really did enjoy talking. About whatever. Mostly movies and occasionally current events. Although Evan’s most recent topic had been one of particular disdain for Renee. Their conversation/debate had been going off and on throughout most of the day about guns and whether or not Evan could have one. It was a battle for his manhood and he wasn’t going to give up, especially because they went to a place she wanted to go to so they could get shoes and tacky picture frame she wanted. Because that’s what marriage is about right? Keeping score? Maybe not, but that ends up happening sometimes anyway.

“I’m just saying we should think about it,” He started again after finishing his food. He knew she’d know what he was talking about.

Renee sighed heavily because she knew they were running in circles.

“We’ve already thought about it.”

“No, you’ve made up your mind before I was even able to bring it up.”

“Why, Evan? Why do you “need” a gun?

She pushed her long black hair back, her attitude being clear, even for Evan- she was tired of talking about this. He wasn’t. In fact, he sat upright becoming even more excited at the question. More time to explain himself surely meant he’d convince her with this argument.

“I’m just saying, you know? If someone were to break into our house, God forbid it happen, but it could. Where would we be then? We should be ready.”

Renee’s face didn’t change in any way.

“Then we’ll get an alarm system.”

“There are ways around that nowadays.”

“There are ways around a robber getting shot, too.”

She had a point. Evan liked this now; Debate made personal but not quite an argument, a favorite hobby of his.  He came back with “He’s more likely to avoid an alarm system than a bullet in the head!”

Renee sat up, her eyes widening, feeling she finally understood why her twenty-nine year old husband would want to play with a gun. “Yeah, you see? That’s what this is about!

Evan, as smart as he could be, was also the master of ignorance, particularly pertaining to the female mind. “What?”

“You KNOW ‘what?’It’s that whole, macho tough guy thing- you just want to SHOOT somebody!”

Evan laughed. Of course this was somewhat true. Guys like guns and knives because of the idea of using them. And no better way to flaunt masculinity than to overpower someone else. But that wasn’t the only reason and if he gave into that argument, he would be giving in all together. So he just kept laughing and pretended not to know anything. “Whaaaaat are you talking about?”

Renee wasn’t budging.

“Yeah, that’s what this is! You’ve seen so many movies, you want to shoot somebody because you think it’d be cool!” Nail on the freaking head.

“You want me to get you two guns so you can shoot them both at the same time?”

Evan cocked his head and had to smile a bit. “So you’re saying you would buy them for me?”

Renee leaned back. The seriousness seemed to be sucked out of the argument but Evan could still feel a hint of tension was left.

“Oh, sure! Christmas is only a couple months away. You want some grenades too? And then I’ll get you a thing of bullets to wrap around you and I’ll call you Rocky.

“You mean Rambo?”

Renee bobbed her head. “Sure.”

Evan mimicked her head movements and had to help her with her own joke. “Alright, but when we send out Christmas cards, I’m gonna wear the bullets with no shirt and you have to wrap yourself around my leg.”

Renee’s next statement soaked was soaked with sarcasm and Evan loved when she got this way. He tried to keep from showing his love for it back by not smiling. “Oh that sounds great. But if we have pictures taken and no shirt, you have to get a body like Rambo.”

Evan’s brows went down like a caveman. “Yeah, that’s not happening. How about this; you want a kid, right? We can have a kid if I can have a gun.”

Renee rolled her eyes. “Wow, that’d be great parenting, huh? Those are the LAST things I’d want in the house at the same time.

Evan leaned back as though his proposal was literally on the table. “Just saying….fair trade if you ask me.”

Renee switched back to serious mode. “That’s why I’m not asking you. But no, we can talk about having a kid if you want to discuss that…”

All of a sudden, he was sorry he even joked about it and in his mind, desperately tried to find a new topic. “Nooooope, that’s fine, it can wait, the gun can wait.”

Renee enjoyed tormenting him, as serious as she was about having a kid. The two began their argument at the same time, Renee genuinely stating her side while Evan did his best to drown her out. Even as loud as the food court was, the couple was still able to attract attention from nearby customers. The two stopped talking at the same time, Evan started staring at his empty plate. He could feel Renee looking at him to say something constructive. His mind moved quickly, trying to find something to say, specifically a subject changer. We’ve been here before. The mall of course, but the conversation too. Evan broke the silence with something that probably would’ve been best left inside, leaving the silence intact.

“What if I already bought one?”

“A gun?” Evan knew why Renee was asking. This wouldn’t be the first time she’d used this tactic. State the answer as a question. His response would then have a little more impact on himself, have a little more time to sink in, not just hawking something out real quick. Pace yourself, Evan, she’ll use clever female tricks.

Evan digressed and kept it light, staring. “No, actually I bought a kid. Hoped you wouldn’t notice. It’s cool though because he can survive on Pop-Tarts…”

Renee, needless to say, was un-amused and it showed on her stone cold face, not that even her “serious face” was something to take too seriously. But sometimes, dang it, he just couldn’t help himself. “… not to mention, he doesn’t take up much space. He’s been living in my closet. Hope you don’t mind, sweetie.

His ear-to-ear smile and head tilt finished it off in the most perfectly irritating way. Too bad Renee didn’t want to play anymore and Evan knew he shouldn’t have brought it up. “You didn’t.”

Milliseconds went by and Evan started to really think he shouldn’t have brought it up now. “But what if I already did?”

“You didn’t so we don’t need to worry about it. Because if you did…”

Evan’s eyes faded over to the massive TV hanging from the ceiling behind Renee. A news report showing men in white jumpsuits covering a port like ants at a picnic. Renee hadn’t yet noticed he wasn’t listening to a word she was saying and he was catching little pieces here and there; “…we need to have a serious talk about what we’re spending money on, why we’re sp…”

Renee must’ve realized Evan’s eyes were glued to the TV because she turned to see what was on and she turned back. She made it clear she thought he was just ducking out of a finances discussion.

“No, no, no- you’re not changing the subject by acting like you care what’s on the news. You don’t even watch the new-

“Shh, shh, shh! What is this? Just watch it…”

Evan’s eyes never broke contact with the TV, Renee must’ve taken him a little more seriously now because she actually listened. For just moment, Evan broke contact with the TV and noticed the entire mall had been silent at this point. There wasn’t a soul there that wasn’t watching the news. Man, how long has everyone been so quiet? Even the irritating wannabe gangsters stopped their idle conversation to watch. The only noise in the place beside the fryers was the oversized TV. The report was already underway as Evan started to listen in again and it seemed as though Renee’s head was turned almost completely around. Curfews for most counties in the state scrolled at the bottom of the screen. The reporter continued his segment.

“…it has not yet been confirmed just yet as to how this disease is being spread but we have everyone working on that as we speak. Officials still urging families to stay indoors for the time being, although not yet mandatory. We have learned that the symptoms of those infected are the exact same symptoms that the crew members of the Expiscor have shown. If you remember, the Expiscor was the cruise ship that returned from the Caribbean Islands a little more than a week ago. Nearly all the crew and vacationers appeared to be suffering from an illness that has still not been identified. All infected with this mysterious disease were quickly detained in the quarantine department of St. Peter’s Memorial Hospital in the downtown area. No word on whether or not the events on that case and what’s going on now are related, but it appears extremely likely. We’ll be back after a quick commercial break. More on these stories as they develop, stay with us.”

Evan’s face showed his concern. Concern, not worry. Yet. One reason for not watching the news is how easy he swallowed everything, the next natural step for him was to regurgitate it, and think about whether or not it was even really happening, or at least to the degree the news was showing it. This process was even involved with the severity of a storm, much less some unknown plague. Wait, did they say plague? Or just disease? There’s a difference, right? This is too much to think about on a day off.

“Let’s go home.”

Renee looked back. “What? Why?”

Evan stood up, grabbing her bags. “I just think it’d be a good idea.”

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