Lorraine was digesting what Peter was saying, but the queasiness she felt made digesting her food difficult. Eat babies? Eat Suki?? She looked at the greasy platter on which the bacon had been before Peter had devoured most of it, and she thought she would never be capable of eating meat again. “I just have a hard time wrapping my mind around this picture you paint of this Mad Max kind of future you are predicting,” she said.
Peter got up and poured himself another cup of coffee, and then returned to the table. He scanned the room, taking in the antiques, art, and soothing colors of Lorraine’s apartment. “Yeah. Well, people like you, soft people, will have the hardest time adjusting to the new world. You need to start toughening up.”
“Are you saying I’m not tough? I walk almost a mile every day exercising Suki! I barely get winded going up and down the stairs in the building! My core is getting so strong thanks to Katharine Winship’s Pilates class. I am quite strong, Thank you very much!” huffed Lorraine.
“Oh yeah? Let’s just see how strong you are,” Peter challenged. He cleared a space on the table, moved serving pieces to the kitchen counter, and put his elbow down on the table. “Let’s arm wrestle.”
Lorraine stared at Peter beckoning her to clasp his up-raised hand. He was leaning forward, bracing himself with his right leg under the table. When was the last time she wrestled anyone? Sixth grade? On television earlier in the week she watched Anthony Bourdain get defeated in an arm-wrestling contest with an elderly woman who appeared drunk. Maybe she, Lorraine, could take this guy down! “Okay! I’m ready,” she stated.
She sat opposite him at the table, placed her elbow down, palm up, and braced herself for a long battle. Five seconds later, the back of her hand was pressed down onto the table top. “Dang!” she gasped. “I wasn’t ready!”
“Okay.” Peter said. “Best two out of three.” And he readied his arm on the table for the next contest of strength.
Lorraine shook out her arms and ran in place for a minute, then she sat at the table across from Peter and assumed the position. He hunkered down and quickly slammed her arm backwards onto the table. “Ouch!” she cried.
“You really are a weenie,” he said. “You need to bulk up some before the crash. Would you like to join me in the back yard to bulk up so you can survive when everything tumbles down on us?”
Lorraine had been working out to a certain extent with Katherine at the Pilates studio, but understood that having a strong core was one thing and upper body strength was another. Maybe she should consider Peter’s offer. It couldn’t hurt. She imagined herself with strong, sculpted upper arms and with no wobbly skin hanging off her. She could make an outfit that showed off her strong upper body, get a bow and arrow set, and rename herself Katness. “Maybe,” she mused.
“I thought it might be good if we joined forces, you know?” he asked. “Two are better than one, and it gets kind of lonely out there.”
“Hey! No! I might work out with you, but I can’t see Suki and me living in that cold yurt.”
“Not yet, maybe,” said Peter. “But when we run out of petroleum and have no electricity, it will feel great in that yurt. There is an opening in the roof so I can built a nice fire, and the yurt stays pretty toasty. Oh! I almost forgot. I brought you a gift! Open it.” Peter fetched the bag he had brought in and handed it to Lorraine.
The bag was heavier than it looked, and Lorraine was so pleased that someone, anyone, had brought her a Christmas gift. As she opened the package she caught a whiff of something unusual. Cheese perhaps? As she peered into the bag, though, she screamed and dropped the bag to the floor. There appeared to be a voodoo doll or some kind of native scarecrow in the bag. A glossy red surface surrounded a small head and a grinning mouth full of small sharp teeth. Tiny claws reached for her on skinny legs. The smell of blood made her nauseated, “What the hell is that!” Lorraine yelled.
“Squirrel,” answered Peter calmly. “I already skinned it for you. All you gotta do is stew it with some carrots and other veggies, and you have some good eating. It’s really good.”
“Where did you buy that?” Lorraine asked, horrified.
“Buy it? I didn’t buy it, I caught it in a small trap I set in the back yard. That’s what you have to do if you are going to survive.”
Lorraine thought about the cute little squirrels in the yard. Squirrels to whom she fed peanuts. Squirrels who would almost eat out of her hand. And here was this skinned, lipless creature, dead and ready to stew. She ran into the bathroom and got on her knees in front of the toilet just in time. Her entire breakfast spewed into the bowl. All that guilt about eating that fattening food was a waste of time after all. Maybe if the crash did actually come, she would lose weight. Not totally a bad thing, then.