(Shallow Note: This zombie is from a series of monsters I drew in 2002, back when I was still trying to draw hands.)
As a father, I’ve always got a plan. For certain scenarios.
I frequently rank the objects and people I’m holding from most fragile to hardiest, in case I get tackled or the earth starts shaking and I need to drop something/one to keep my balance to protect the rest. The baby and eggs are priorities.
Some of my plans are decidedly less practical.
When I spot a secluded area with an overhang, I note it and tuck it away into the “if we’re trapped outside and need someplace dry to stay for a while” mental file. This wouldn’t be a case of our getting locked out of our condo. This is like “disaster is upon us and martial law has been declared.”
I don’t stock up on fresh water or anything. I have a hand-crank-powered lantern/radio combo, but I’m not sure where it is. So yeah, maybe I don’t have a plan for most things. But I don’t think I’m alone as a husband and father in latching onto some odd and unlikely or impossible aspect of survival and running with it. I’ve talked with other dads who do the same thing. Maybe moms do it too, but I’ve yet to meet one who brought it up.
When my wife and I found ourselves to be the only guests at a country bed and breakfast (even the caretaker was out for the night; we were seriously alone), I laid awake for quite a while after my wife fell asleep. Every time the crickets and other night creatures all went silent at the same time, my heart started pounding. I began devising strategies for what I would do if I heard someone breaking in and coming up the stairs. The best I came up with: Quickly move aside some of the bulk packages of toilet paper under the bed and have my wife slide between them, moving one back into place to shield her so if anyone looked, all they would see is two-ply. Unplug the lamp, hold it like a club, and hide behind the door so I can whack anyone over the head as they come in. In case of desperate emergency—e.g. I take out a scout, but more attackers start to come in—we go out the window over the Jacuzzi tub (no screen to kick out) and inch along the sliver of roof.
That’s as far as I got before the sun came up. When I told my wife about my (theoretical) heroism over breakfast, she wasn’t knocked off her feet by my (theoretical) actions, like I hoped she would be. She was amused. And a little annoyed, I think, that I didn’t get as much sleep as I should have.
To my credit, however, we’d been seemingly followed by a truck for the whole drive after leaving the restaurant in a nearby town where we’d had dinner the night before. I didn’t want it to follow us all the way back to where we were staying, so I pulled off the main road and down a dirt lane to a driveway a few turns before the bed and breakfast—and the truck continued to follow us. I did a three-point turn at the random house and drove back out past the now darkened vehicle, which was either filled with bad guys I’d just outsmarted or a creeped-out family wondering why I inexplicably acted like I was leading them home, then turned around and left.
In the years since, I’ve learned that my wife isn’t into romantic acts of bravery. She prefers a living, accessible coward.
When we saw the preview for World War Z—about a man who gets his family off of the zombie-ravaged mainland and then leaves them on a ship to go back in and try to find a cure for the undead plague—my wife turned to me and said, “You will not go back. When we get out, you will not go back.”
I later learned that *spoiler alert* the guy is forced into action by a government that will kick his family off the boat where they’re staying if he doesn’t cooperate. So I explained the situation to my wife in a pitch to try to get her to watch the movie with me.
“I don’t care,” she said. “You don’t go back in.”
“You don’t go back in.”
“He has no—”
“You don’t go back in.”
“We’d get kicked off the ship.”
“You don’t go back in.”
“But in your scenario, we’d all go back in.”
“Yes, we’d survive together. You don’t go back in.”
I appreciate her loyalty and tenacity, but I must admit that I have a hard time picturing my kids cooperating in a survival scenario. As soon as I told them to be quiet, one of my girls would start whining that the other one got a bigger piece of emergency rations or that the knife we issued her had the wrong colored handle. The more I tried to shush her, the louder she’d get.
Either that, or my son would see a zombie shambling in the distance and shout “Doggie!” as he does at everything that moves that’s not a ball. “Doggie! Uff uff!”
When I told my wife about what I was writing for this post, she laughed. Then a few hours later, she said, “I’m really good at walking quietly.” I didn’t know this about her.
As parents, we like to think we’re protectors, that we can shield our kids from the world. But we can’t. Even the best of us can’t. So I think that in order to cope with the unpredictability of car accidents and disease and other scary but real things we have no control over, we enjoy exploring threatening scenarios in which we can do something tangible and effective. By we, I mean me. I do this.
So I make myself the hero in the zombie apocalypse. In my nightmare (dream) scenarios, my family is always tucked away somewhere safe, barricaded on the second floor of our condo after I’ve taken out the stairs. I have roof access via a ladder that can be pulled up and down. I scavenge for food, plot escape routes, protect us from raiders, and pretty much keep us alive.
A global doomsday scenario would be horrible, horrible, but there’s a part of me, and not a small part, that wants to know if I have what it takes to bring my family through. So I get a little excited about hints of such disasters.
When the power went out one evening earlier this year, I lit some candles and briefly entertained the thought: “Is this it? Has it started?” Then I worried that the flickering light in our kitchen window would draw whatever was out in the dark like moths.
I’m not alone in this, am I?