The council ordered two groups of scouts to leave New Haven this morning on a mission to gauge the size and specific direction of the enormous zombie swarm plodding across the southwest. In a pinch they have permission to attempt to lead the zombies away from populated areas, but only if they're trending more in our direction than we believe they are at the moment.
The teams are heading out in a fleet of hybrid cars with additional gas tanks added in, carrying enough gas to get them nearly a thousand miles without refueling. It should be more than enough to cover any other travel they have to do, including pointing the undead in another direction. I was out this morning when the scouts were gearing up to leave, and I chatted with them for a few minutes before they started to drive away. Problem was, they didn't head for the main gate. They were moving toward the gate between Central and East. When I asked them why, they told me it was for the hamburgers.
The fucking hamburgers. Yeah.
Curious, I hitched a ride with them to this shack hastily built into the side of a house. The house itself is occupied by three families--it's a big house, as most of the ones in East are--and their cohabitation is not an accident. One of the ladies was a butcher before The Fall, and she is again. We eat a lot of rabbit and deer meat nowadays, since we keep rabbits for that purpose and hunt the plague of whitetail around here like it's going our of style. Cows are becoming more plentiful in the wild as the various herds of them don't have any major predators hereabouts and Kentucky was home to many tens of thousands of cows back in the day. This woman gets roughly a cow a week, which is something I'm sure our hunting teams are doing because they like hamburgers just as much as the rest of us.
She butchers the cows, and the baker that lives with her--her husband, apparently--makes buns. Bread of all kinds, but buns specifically for this. Their friend from North Jackson is actually one of the soldiers that are becoming our full-time sentries and guards, but the guy grew up on a dairy farm and made money in high school by making artisan cheeses and selling them. Wisconsin. GOD that place must have been boring.
So they make cheeseburgers for people. They give some away to the hunters who bring them meat, and some to people who give them other supplies they need. They sell the rest. Not for money, of course, but for favors or in trade for services or things they need or want. The scouts got theirs for free. The butcher lady, who called herself Sissy, said it was for being brave enough to go so far away from home and take deadly risks for the rest of us.
I'm pretty sure she slipped the team leader a list of things she would like them to keep their eyes open for along the way, but who can blame her for that? The area of the country they're heading toward is one we haven't pillaged for supplies. Chances are good that they could find some useful loot.
I got my burger for promising to talk to Patrick for them. They have two hand-cranked meat grinders, and Sissy wants a large funnel for one of them so she can load more beef at one time. Pat says he can make one easily and quickly after he takes a few measurements...if the price is right. I love cheeseburgers with the heat of a thousand suns, but Patrick is on a level I can never reach. It's like a vampire and blood, man. For real.
It was nice to sit with the scouts for a little while and shoot the breeze. I briefly considered asking Will if I could go with them since I haven't been further than a few miles from New Haven in what feels like forever, but I didn't end up asking. He would have thought about it because he's my friend. He might have said yes for the same reason. But I'm starting to understand that with so many people here we really do need to differentiate into specialized jobs. I know that our friendship weighs on Will when I ask him for things, and I don't want that bond to be a burden to him.
My place is here. After several months of that being a fact, I think it's time I get used to it. So I toasted to those brave soldiers and wished them well, took the last bite of my burger, and came home. Better in the long run to let them do the work they're best at, and set myself to work of my own.
I had a lot of doubts about society after The Fall, but if we're at the point where three people can set up a sandwich shop, I call that a step forward in civilization. It's like discovering fire but way tastier.