Prologue 4

End-Day + 4

When the whole world blows up, grammar and problem-solving suddenly become fun again.

Dad and I were out until late yesterday, looking for food. Abandoning Londis, we moved out in widening concentric circles from the bunker until the daylight started to fail, the sun nothing more than a  street lamp seen through the curtain of an ash-clogged sky.

We found enough for supper, the contents of someone's kitchen cupboard that was no longer surrounded by kitchen. By candlelight mum slept and I was left holding Ben. He didn't fidget, nor cry, nor even stir as he slept. He seemed lighter.

But today, we struck it lucky.

Near the collapsed superstore we found a metal footlocker half buried in the ground. In the top was a ragged hole big enough to get an arm or a torch inside. Dad said it was half full of what looked like tinned food, too far down to reach.

The lid was padlocked.

"Jimmy it," I said. Dad looked confused. "Jimmy the lock." I repeated, rolling my eyes, "Jimmy, as in the verb, not the proper noun."

Dad didn't laugh; the lock didn't budge. Then I bet him I could get the tins before he could. We shook on it. Then he watched me have a go.

First a stick, then a paperclip, then the rusty end of a saw blade got jammed in the keyhole.

"Finished?" Dad said, picking up our bottles of water.

When he poured the water through the torn opening, a moment later we werprovisionse loading up our wheelbarrow with enough food to last us a week; the tins bobbed and clanged against the metal sides, a triumphant drum.

"I think that makes me the victor," Dad said as we heaved the treasure home, "And that's the common, not the proper noun."

While we ate, I told dad that we should keep our eyes out for other things to pass the time. Maybe we'd spot a Rubik's cube, or a copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves. Dad half choked to death on a mouthful of beans.

End-Day + 5  >>
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