I met Jim at a coffee shop a half mile from the office park where he works. It was a local place filled with all the color and cultural significance the chain stores shoot for.
He had the build of a high school basketball player: tall, lanky and devoid of muscle. He had a mop of curly hair that looked like a still from a mortar shell explosion. His face was flat and long with a scraggly goatee that made it look longer. He ordered a double latte with cream and goat’s milk. He mused over his cup and talked about the weather before I asked him the big question. “What do you do on the weekends?”
Jim smiled. One of those wide, knowing smiles. “Why do you want to talk about that?” he asked.
“It’s why I’m here,” I said.
“I know…” he said, “but most people ask me that to make me say something crazy or try to prove I’m a moron.”
“Wait,” I said, “let me get out my recorder so I can get the crazy word for word.”
He laughed but his face didn’t show it. He paused, then stood up. “Thanks for the coffee,” he said. His feet suddenly turned traitor on him and refused to move.
“Come on,” I said with a conciliatory tone, “You haven’t even said anything crazy yet.”
He broke into a wide smile. “You’re the worst reporter of all time.”
“I prefer the worst ‘journalist’ of all time.”
He sat back down.
“Relax,” I said. “This is just two guys grabbin’ a cup of Joe. Shooting the breeze. So what do you do for a living?”
“I’m a web designer. I work for a small marketing agency.”
“You ever have plans for your own agency?”
“Me? Nah, not my thing. Too much bending over to kiss up.”
He slumped a little in his chair and seemed more comfortable.
“You got a family?”
“Not yet, but I’m working on it.”
“There’s a girl who seems to like me.”
He traced the walls floral pattern with his finger.
“So your weekends are pretty free?” I asked.
His eyes darted to mine almost like I’d called his mother a name. He sat up and cleared his throat. “Train,” he said.
“We’re preparing for the worst.”
“The national guard prepares for the worst. You’re doing something different.”
“No, it’s the same.”
“Ok, can you stop beating around the bush?”
He sighed and laid back in his chair. “We prepare for the worst scenarios possible. Scenarios vary from week to week, but include such things as natural disasters, atomic winter-”
“And the zombie apocalypse.”
He shot me a nasty glare, but nodded. “We prepare for everything,” he said.
“How do you kill a zombie?”
“You honor, permission to treat the reporter as hostile?
“We train for all situations. Most of the time it’s plain survival skills, sometimes it’s martial arts or how to negotiate under duress, but all the time we’re maximizing our utility, getting ready in case society implodes. Zombies or otherwise.”