Ep 4 – Don’t Forget Your Thumbs

Calvin stood at the sink washing his hands, looking out the window over the backyard, and quietly singing. They had dragged the zombie that had been Mrs. Wembly off the couch, its head made a sound like stepping on a wet twig and left a stain on the carpet. They dragged it into the backyard, at first by its ankles. But when that cat-covered housecoat began to ride up, neither Kate nor Calvin was ready for a naked zombie and hastily grabbed it by its wrists. The zombie’s head bonked awkwardly down the back porch steps, the coffee cup shard bobbing up and down where it was still embedded in its eye. They each held a wrist and, working together, dragged it to the back fence where they left it. Surely the officials — some officials — would want to study the body to understand what had happened to the former Mrs. Wembly but in the meantime Cal and Kate wanted it as far from the house as possible. 

“Whose birthday is it?” Kate asked, peering over his shoulder as he scrubbed his thumbs and sang.

“No one’s. Well I’m sure it’s someone’s, but I’m not singing to anyone.” He focused on the backs of his fingers, scrubbing each one as he hummed the tune.

“Then why are you singing happy birthday?” Kate asked, stepping warily back, not quite back on secure footing in a world where neighbors became zombies. “And why are you being so anal about washing your hands?” 

“This is what we’re supposed to do now, didn’t you hear from the TV? The best way we can prevent the spread of the virus is to wash our hands. And they say that 30 seconds is how long you should do it and 30 seconds is about how long it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday.’ So I’m singing happy birthday.”

“I didn’t see the news, but is that all they can tell us? To wash our hands? This is a virus that makes people ZOMBIES and I’m supposed to treat it like the flu?”

Calvin stumbled in his quiet singing, not knowing whose name to use in the birthday song, then deciding it probably didn’t matter in this, the new grand scheme of things. 

“Well they definitely said we should avoid getting infected and the best way is apparently to wash our hands and practice social distancing.”

“What the hell is that?”

“They say we should stay at least 6 ft away from other people.”

“That seems quite random. Six feet, not 5 feet or 7 feet?”

Cal dried his hands on the towel hanging from the stove. “Presumably 7 feet would be even better. But they keep focusing on hand washing. So if we come in contact with something that could carry the virus, we need to wash our hands really well. Anything like hand railings, buttons for the walk sign at intersections, or items on the shelf at a grocery store.”

“Or a zombie?”

“In theory, yes. We should avoid handling zombies and if we have to, we should wash our hands.”

Shouldering Cal out of the way with more gusto than he would have given her credit for, Kate turned the water to scalding and began scrubbing her hands while barking out the happy birthday song. “Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to…ow, damn…you, happy birthday dear…

Whose name did you use?”

“My own. It seemed easiest.”

“But not mine? You didn’t think to wish me a happy birthday?”

“Well, no. It’s not you birthday.” Pointing to her hand washing, “they say to be sure to get your thumbs. Yeah, like that, but really scrub your thumbs.”

“It’s not your birthday either, but that didn’t stop you from singing to yourself, did it?”

“No Kate, you left the underside of your thumbs. You’ve got to really get your thumbs…”

Slamming the faucet off, Kate rounded on Cal blinding groping for the dish towel hanging on the stove. “Forget my fucking THUMBS Calvin! Do you hear me saying that we almost just died and you can’t stop thinking of your SELF? What the fuck about ME? Is there a moment when you were going to remember ME? How have we spent the past 15 years together and it doesn’t even OCCUR to you to sing happy birthday to me when you’re washing zombie off your hands.”

“Is this really the thing we need to be worrying about right now? Are you out of your fucking mind, Kate? There is a virus that turns people into zombies and the podunk town of Riverton has the largest outbreak in the country. Mrs. Fucking Wembly just tried to eat our brains or whatever. There is a zombie that used to be Mrs. Fucking Wembly with a coffee cup sticking out its ear laying in that spot where you wanted to plant carrots next year, and with all of that you’re worried about the fucking happy birthday song?!” 

Kate dropped her head in her hands, her voice muffled, “No, that’s not what I’m worried about, Calvin. I’m worried about whether you have my back if zombies come. No, that’s not it, I wonder if I will have yours or if I’m just phoning it in.” 

“Kate, if you’re going to say that we should break up, I am going to lose my shit, I swear. Can we please get to a place of some stability and have this conversation when there isn’t a zombie in the backyard? Please?”

“OK fine, OK. We’ll talk about it later. But what are we supposed to do now? We’ve washed our hands, what happens next?”

“Well we have to assume that if Mrs. Wembly was infected, Mr. Wembly won’t be far behind so we need to block that window and make this house secure. Then we need to call the authorities and get someone to come get Mrs. Wembly and hopefully help us.”

“And if Mr. Wembly shows up in the meantime?”

“I don’t have a gun, you know that. We need to find a way to protect ourselves. I have to say, we did pretty well with Mrs. Wembly, don’t you think?”

Kate chuckled, “I should have taken the shade off that lamp, but yeah I think we did pretty well. Good thinking with that coffee cup.”

“Thanks, and don’t sell yourself short. That lamp had much greater reach than my cup. We made a good team.” He took her hands in his and raised them to his lips, kissing her thumbs. “I’m sorry I didn’t sing happy birthday to you, but I suspect we’re going to be washing our hands a lot in the coming days, so I promise not to forget you again.”

Kate smiled and kissed him lightly on the lips, “Thanks Cal. I’m glad we’re in this together.”

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