Clerk Company: The Taco Incident
Of course, it was hotter than normal that spring day followed by a downpour creating a thick ground fog you only see in a Stephen King movie. It was my luck that as the fog was filtering through the city my phone decided to ring. The boss was calling me and my team in.
“Damn tourists,” was my last thought as I headed out the door.
I chuckled as I saw the ground fog combined with the dark clouds and wondered if we were all really stuck in a King novel; after all, this would be like something out of his mind. Everyone had always worried about Anthrax or a dirty bomb leaving a zombie apocalypse in the realm of fiction. Except for one crazy, not so talented, biochemist.
“Tom Tom!” I heard my friend and teammate, Jim, calling my name, snapping me back to reality and making me slow my pace. “Boss called you too huh?” he asked, catching up.
“Yeah, more tourists and people trying to take advantage of them in the Food Graveyard again. Just a bit spicier than I would have expected this early in spring,” I replied sarcastically.
“Well, who do you expect to believe that zombie food is a thing in the first place, much less still possible after ten years?” he asks logically. “I mean to everyone, even, us zombies of any kind were just a thing in entertainment.”
“But you’d think the lessons of Christmas were still fresh enough in their minds,” I replied as we got to the office.
“True,” Jim conceded. “By the way, what do we use to take out tacos anyways?”
I answered him by going to a red cabinet and opening it carefully, pulling out a clip marked Habanero Bullets along with Salsa Grenade. Jim just smacked his hand off his forehead as if he had asked me to explain 2+2=X in an Algebra class. I chuckled as we started putting our gear on as the rest of Clerk Company started showing up. I still found it hard to believe we had all been convenience store clerks when this all started a decade ago, when the unit formed and was ironically given the name for that very reason.
The captain showed up shortly after we finished preparing to deal with tonight’s undead meal. He looked annoyed as well as pondering something (most likely when the tourists would learn) as he came into the room. He didn’t stop to greet us since this wasn’t a social visit; we had time for those later. Instead, he went straight to what had once been a menu board and posted a series of photographs.
He began the briefing gravely. “Gentleman, these photos were taken six blocks from the edge of the Food Graveyard. By now, thanks to whoever brought in a supersized taco truck combined with a sour cream truck crashing near it in the heart of the city, this gang of zombified tacos are probably four blocks from the border of the Food Graveyard.”
“You know what needs to be done and the consequences of failure so I will leave you to it,” he finished.
That was one thing I was always thankful for from the captain. He didn’t make briefings long, just gave us the facts and let us do our jobs. I began formulating what was going to happen.
“Tony! You and the Cooler Trolls come in from the right side! Mikey, you and the Gas Hogs flame in from the left! Me and the Register Acrobats are going right up the middle this time!” I barked as we head out the door.
I sat behind a line of long-abandoned cars, hearing the approaching crunchy squish of the tacos as they came within half a block of the kill box. I could feel my adrenaline begin to seep into my system, knowing all exits for the tacos had been blocked off as I kept listening. Gas mask sitting on top of my head, I pumped my knees preparing as the tacos took their final steps. I stood up, tacos roaring at me as if I were a steak hot off the grill as I did.
“Waste them!” I roared, slamming my mask down over my face.
The rest of Clerk Company sprang from hiding Habanero Bullets, flying along with Salsa grenades. Tacos roaring and gagging on spices as they died trying to take us with them as a final meal for themselves. Without the masks, we would have been gagging with them as if hit with super pepper spray.
I call a cease-fire as the roaring and gagging ceased. As the air cleared, we gathered the bodies together, laying them on a bed of charcoal and lighting it up. I chuckle, thinking of my sister, far removed from this and how she would have hated the sight of tacos being wasted like this as I led the Register Acrobats and the Cooler Trolls deeper into the Food Graveyard.
Within an hour we are at the heart of the city and surprisingly, we find a guy trying to salvage a giant battered taco truck as if he plans to try and run it. Jim takes him into custody as I light a cigarette, finally able to relax while I soak a rag in oil before sticking it in the gas tank. I let the rest of the team get a head start before putting my cigarette to the rag. As it ignites, I walk away, knowing I will feel what comes next in the morning. Just as I think of the morning, the truck explodes, the shockwave throwing me like a Linebacker.
Jim comes over to check on me asking, “Are you sure you know how to estimate gas tanks still?”
“It’s always been a haphazard thing. But at least we made sure for sure to erase all trace of food from here again,” I reply, dusting myself off.
I leave out the hopefully it stays that way part since we both know that isn’t going to happen. I strip off my gear, suddenly wanting tacos. Ironically, back at headquarters, we are reminded to be prepared for the rest of the upcoming holidays. I groan, wondering what this Easter will bring. Jim knows after so many years that sleep will elude me for a while yet. He’s a taco fan himself and as we get ready to head to a taco bar, I look at the calendar and start belly laughing. I should have known when the phone rang that it would be tacos since it was Tuesday.