What would you take with you if your house was on fire?
Your wallet, your phone?
Your secret stack of cash inside the washing machine?
Or your cat Piecrust maybe, even though she doesn’t like to be hugged?
No. You take your record collection, your CDs, your cassettes, the biggest poster of your favorite band from your wall, and run with everybody else!
You did the right thing. No one’s judging you for not saving your cat. Piecrust is an independent cat after all, she’ll take care of herself. You were sure you caught her jumping out the attic window before the pillars crumbled. And even though you haven’t seen her again since the day of the ‘Unspeakable’, deep down in your heart you believe that she has started a new life somewhere with a bunch of cat survivors and doesn’t even remember that once, she had a human. After all, Piecrust is an independent cat.
Oh, stop. You’ve been telling yourself that story for three years now. Give yourself a break, Bee. Lots of people lost their loved ones that day; lots of phones and books and photos and cars and houses and please don’t giggle when I say, careers. Everybody lost something that day. You missed the cat, and I’m sorry for that. But at least the greatest hits are safe. You did a favor for the surviving mankind and their future. You, young lady, are preserving a piece of history.
“Hmm?” Bee looks up to find Arny sitting cross-legged in front of her. His wrinkly hands are busy organizing a few cans, and she sighs realizing what’s about to go down the very next second.
“Now, listen listen. This is a good offer! THREE cans of tuna, TWO bottles of semi-mineral water, and a 1/4 bag of Jalapeno chips.”
Bee shakes her head fast, “No, no. SEMI-mineral water? What’s that supposed to mean? Half-pond water? Are you trying to kill me?”
Arny chuckles excitedly, “Well, if that’s what it takes to borrow your CD!”
Bee scoffs. She picks up her backpack, decided that she’s not gonna spend another minute negotiating with the old bloke. “I told you I’m not selling or lending any of my collections. Ever. My deal is, I LET you listen for 2 hours for a can of tuna. Take it or leave it.”
Arny laughs, his hands are still cupped around his cans of tuna. “You expect me to listen to Michael Jackson for 2 hours?”
“That’s as good as you can get. I can’t risk damaging the CD, man. 2 hours is generous of me because you’re a friend.” Bee replies, wondering how many times have she has had this kind of conversation with Arny. On stormy weeks where they were stuck huddling under the ruins, Bee has kindly let him listen to a few CDs and even casettes for nothing! Now asking to borrow Thriller for 24 hours is just too much. Nobody touches her collection but her and only her.
Arny stands up, trying to get her attention. “Okay, let’s say I listen for 2 hours. I dance a little, maybe sleep a little, but mostly dance, right? Then what’s gonna happen after my 2 hours are up? What then?”
“I don’t know Arny, maybe later. I’m late for the wedding,” Bee says, carefully strapping her backpack around her waist. The wedding is held at the ruins of a fitness center a few blocks from here. It won’t take her more than an hour to reach, but the safety of the wedding songs is top priority.
“After my 2 hours are up, I’ll be thrown back here! I would be happy, for 2 hours faaaar in the 80s and I don’t wanna go back here like it was all just a dream!” Arny says, a bit dramatic.
Bee can’t help but turn to Arny and his skinny limbs; he’s standing among those cans of tuna he stole from the bandits last nights. Bee has never co-op lived with anyone longer than Arny- it’s been six months now. They’ve been living inside this makeshift shed under the highway, and Arny has occasionally provided her with freshly-expired canned goods, in return for some music.
“Alright. I still can’t hand you my discman, but why don’t you come to the wedding with me? The couple is not into MJ, but I’ll be playing them lots of songs there. And there’s hot food too.”
Arny’s eyes lit up. “Bee. You’re an angel,” he says, scooping all his loots up in his arms before following her out of their shed.