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“Amen,” the little girl whispered after her carefully recited and rhythmic prayer was complete.
“Amen,” the entirety of the crowded dinner table echoed. Though it had only been a few months, the moment-to-moment living, the nature of their new lives and the changes they’d undergone made for an accelerated sense of time. But even with all the stress and harrowing circumstance just beyond the border of their property, everyone had gotten along very well.
The kids had taken to the new arrivals of Jeff Jackson, Kenny Alderman and Dusty Strickland just as they’d taken to Tyler Tarver and JL Sloan. A zombie apocalypse was a lot to ask three small kids to endure (Sam and Janie had proven adept at keeping their children far removed from the swirling mayhem of the apocalypse) but the intensity of that reality paled to the actual and tangible difficulties of adjusting to life with five new and strange men. But they’d managed.
The buzz of dinner conversation and the movement of plates being passed around was muted when Janie spoke up.
“Lila, did you show the boys what you made today?”
Lila avoided eye contact and sheepishly shook her head in the negative. She wasn’t what you would call shy, as she was used to receiving significant praise and attention in academic settings. But removed from the comfort of that world and thrust into this one where her precocious intelligence was mitigated by the task of surviving, she’d grown to hate the spotlight.
“Sweetie, you worked so hard on it. They really would love it.” Janie paused to measure the impact of her persuasiveness. It wasn’t much so she appealed to the wider audience at the table.
“Guys, wouldn’t you LOVE to see what Lila made you?” Hearing this, Lila picked up her head ever so slightly to gauge the response, which was decent, but stifled by all the cramming of various food items into the respective mouths of the intended audience.
Janie cleared her throat loudly and with demonstrable affect.
A barrage of answers in the loud affirmative assured Lila that everyone there was dying to see the fruits of her young labor.
Hearing this, Lila quickly disappeared into the kitchen after being silently prodded by Janie.
“Sweetie,” Sam began, “I know you love your arts and crafts. We love that about you. And the kids do a great job. But can I make a small suggestion?”
“Here we go,” Janie replied.
“Can you maybe peel off from the necklaces for a while? I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth, but I think we’re all running out of real estate in which to wear the necklaces.”
Sam peeled back the opening of his his button up to reveal a thick cluster of effeminately colored necklaces, as did the rest of the adult males at the table.
“I’m just saying maybe you guys could find a new patron for all the hand-crafted jewelry. Like Charlie maybe?”
“They have actually and I’m good, Dad,” Charlie said while sliding a sleeve up his arm and revealing as many effeminately colored bracelets as Sam had necklaces.
Lila returned to the table with a sheet of paper and stood next to her mother. Janie took the paper.
“Submitted for your approval, we have a new piece of art. Drumroll, if you please.”
Everyone at the table did their version of a drumroll before Janie loudly presented Lila’s drawing. It was a crayon drawing (infused with watercolors in spots) of an epic battle between the family and a horde of zombies.
Each person had their own affectation indicating who they were: JL had his dog, Ajax, Tyler had his trademark bandana around his head, Kenny had his ghillie suit, Dusty had his hockey stick, Jeff had his backwards hat and Sam had his glasses. The entire group passed it around and each person alternated genuinely appreciating their own depiction.
When the drawing had made its way back to Janie, she announced, “Ok, time for the judges to make a decision. The picture is good, but is it refrigerator worthy? Let’s consult our panel. JL?”
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