PANDEMIC

Chapter 3

Jessica

What was taking Matt so long? It had been hours since he’d left his office. He should have already gotten home. Even with stopping at Costco.

Jessica tried not to worry, but her active imagination had Matt in a life-threatening car accident or some other awful situation.

“Mom,” Dylan said, “I’m hungry.”

Trying to push down her worries, Jessica told Dylan he could have an apple. Moments later she heard the deadbolt unlocking on the front door. Exhaling in relief, she hurried to greet Matt, sliding her arms around his waist.

“How’d it go?” she asked as she pulled away.

With a wry look, he tilted his head. “It was crazy there.”

“Really? Crazier than normal?”

“I’ve never seen it this bad. Not even right before Christmas.”

That concerned Jessica, because if that many people were as worried about this flu as she was, it had to be serious. “Were you able to get what you wanted?”

“Yeah.”

“Good.” They walked toward the kitchen. “By the way, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly.”

Matt grimaced. “Good reminder. I think some of the people there were sick.”

Startled, Jessica didn’t say anything. No reason to get worked up over things they had no control over.

“Hey, Dad,” Dylan said around a bite of apple.

“Hey, sport.”

Matt turned on the water, then glanced at Jessica. “Can you move your car out of the garage? I want to back my truck in for us to unload.”

Jessica’s eyebrows tugged together. Matt never put his truck in the garage. Mostly because it was too long. “You won’t fit.”

He scrubbed his hands with soap. “I’ll back in as far as I can. I, uh, I don’t necessarily want the neighbors to see all of the stuff I bought.”

“What’d you buy?” Dylan asked, his eyes wide.

Matt finished washing, then dried his hands on a towel. “Nothing exciting. Just lots of food. And I’ll need your help to bring it in.”

Dylan nodded. “Okay.”

Jessica parked her car at the curb in front of the house and watched as Matt backed his truck into the garage. Canned goods were stacked in the cab of the truck, and when he opened the gate on the back to reveal the rest of his purchases, she turned to him in shock. “How much did you spend?”

He looked a little sheepish. “I’m not sure you want to know. But I mostly bought stuff we’d use anyway.” He grinned. “Now we won’t have to go to the store for a while.”

Jessica shook her head. “Yeah. Like, three or four years.”

Dylan lifted a case of canned chili from the truck. “Where do you want me to put it?”

Matt turned to him with a smile. “Let’s put everything in the basement storage room. And get your sister to help.”

That brought a grin to Dylan’s face. “Okay.”

“Ask nicely,” Jessica called after him. Then she faced Matt. “Do you really think you needed to buy so much?”

Matt lifted his shoulders in a shrug. “Who knows? But when I saw the purchasing frenzy and the shelves emptying out, I kind of panicked.”

“Emptying out?” The shelves at Costco were never empty. Except for that one Christmas when a particular toy had been all the rage. But never food items.

“Yeah. A lady even yelled at me for taking the last boxes of face masks.”

Jessica had trouble picturing a random stranger behaving that way. The people in their community were generally friendly. Especially when they were face to face with someone.

“Whoa,” Kayla said with a smirk as she stepped into the garage and looked at the contents of the truck. “That’s a lot of stuff, Dad.” Face sobering, she looked at Matt. “Do you really think the flu is that serious?”

Jessica smiled. “I think your Dad went a little overboard.”

Kayla’s face smoothed out. “Yeah. And now we have to carry it all down to the basement.”

“Yes, you do,” Matt said. “So get busy.”

Kayla rolled her eyes before hefting a case of canned green beans into her arms and heading into the house.

“I’m sorry,” Matt said. “I didn’t mean to go so crazy at the store.” He chuckled. “You should know better than to send me alone.”

Touching his arm, Jessica smiled. “No. I think what you bought is fine. I just…I said that to Kayla because I don’t want her or Dylan to worry. This flu scare will probably pass like previous flu scares and we’ll all be just fine.”

“I hope so.”

With that, they helped the kids carry the food down to the basement, although Jessica noticed Matt carrying several boxes of ammo into their bedroom. Curious what that was all about, she followed him.

“I didn’t know they sold ammo at Costco,” she said with a smirk.

He smiled as he put the boxes on a high shelf in their closet. “I stopped at a sporting goods store afterwards and decided to stock up.”

She shook her head. “Are you done with your shopping spree now?”

He laughed. “Yeah. I think we’re good.” His eyebrows rose. “Unless you want to risk going out?”

“No. That’s what online shopping is for.”

His face got serious. “That’s actually not a bad idea.”

“What do you mean?”

“We ought to see if there’s anything else we should have on hand. You know, in case of an emergency.”

Jessica agreed, and once the truck had been completely unloaded and moved back into the driveway, she and Matt sat in front of the computer and pulled up Amazon. They ordered a number of items to add to their emergency stores, including a solar hand crank radio/flashlight, four portable water purifier straws, and four bug-out bags, each one providing seventy-two hours of supplies.

“In two days we’ll be ready for the end of the world,” Matt said with a grin.

Jessica forced a smile, hoping that in two days they would be laughing at themselves.