The first Christmas in Zombie Land is....different. Columbus family had been what he thought of traditional. One present opened on Christmas eve, then the rest Christmas morning, with lunch after.
Witchita and Little Rock have never really celebrated. They'd been on their own since Witchita was old enough to get them out of the group home and scam them to better life. Nobody is willing to broach the subject with Tallahassee. Columbus suspects that whatever belief Tallahassee had in God was destroyed when his son was killed.
So, when Witchita approaches Columbus about putting together some kind of Christmas celebration of Little Rock, part of her continued attempts to make sure Little Rock has some kind of childhood, Columbus goes along with it.
The find somebody’s fake Christmas tree still stuffed up in the attic. And somebody else has a bunch of the stupid blowup Christmas characters. Snoopy and the Minions, and a half dozen other cartoon characters Columbus doesn’t recognize.
Turkey in a can, canned yams, a bag of stove top stuffing, and a gelatinous jar of cranberry sauce gets added to their scavenged celebration. They’ll need to convince Tallahassee to stop somewhere with a working kitchen for the actual celebration.
And they will probably have to convince him to cook as well. Columbus existed on junk food both before and after the zombie uprising.
Witchita might cook, but Columbus has never seen her do it. And he doesn't know where she would have learned.
With most of their preparations sorted, Columbus starts thinking about gifts. “Do you want to do like secret santa, or maybe just pick names out of a hat. What do you even get people in the zombie apocalypse? Are guns appropriate when you can just go out and steal what you need?"
Wichita snorts and rolls her eyes. She’s started getting used to his habit of rambling even if she still seems to prefer him when he was quiet. “There are only four of us, I don’t think that is going to be enough for anybody to have a hard time guessing who got what gift,” it takes her longer to answer the second question. “We can do longer scavenger trips, or take bigger risks to get the gifts. I don’t know. Little Rock and I never had problems giving stuff we scammed to each other for Christmas.”
“I guess,” Somehow the discussion has only made his anxiety worse.
Tallahassee is the easiest to scavenge a present for. Both because he is easy to make happy and because his wants were straightforward. Any strange device that can be re-purposed for killing zombies with was as good as gold. Columbus ends up getting him a tshirt gun, and a ukulele.
For Little Rock, he finds a nice set of china plates in a house they are scavenging. Pretty, with gold leaf along the edges. She’ll love using them for target practice.
Wichita is the hardest, both because she tends to go on most of the scavenging runs with him, and because he likes her. And not just as a friend. Dead people’s jewelry seems disrespectful, even if she steals it for herself sometimes.
He picks up a couple of her favorite type of makeup while he is out scavenging a drug store with Tallahassee, but ends up leaving it behind when a group of nearly a dozen zombies busts out of the pharmacy section, some using walkers, and others desperately trying to bite with their dentures falling out of their mouths.
Two days after that, he finds an unopened box of fancy chocolates. He slips and falls on the box, halfway back to the car.
At this point, there are only two days til Christmas and he still has nothing. He had hoped that the zombie apocalypse would make him better at getting presents on time. Having less to distract him and all that.
But, really it was so much easier when he could go online, and research a dozen possibilities, before picking something amazing. All without having to worry about successfully delivering or wrapping the present after.
Finally, the day before Christmas he happens on a nest of kittens down in a storm drain. No mama cat in sight. He waits there, standing watch for either the mama or zombies for hours before he finally gives up and fishes them out.
There are three of them, small, warm squirming bundles. That send him running half in terror to the nearest pet store for kitten formula, and cat rearing books.
After skimming the books, he adds another dozen thing to his cart, and then fights off a group of zombies in the cat little aisle. Social anxiety is a strange beast. In the pre-zombie days he’d have been terrified to go down any aisle with that many people in it.
Now he mows them down like it’s nothing and just gets on with his shopping.
Columbus doesn’t want to think about what that says about him. By three am he’s really wishing the momma cat had come back. Who knew that three creatures barely bigger than his hand, could be that loud?
Tallahassee had even kicked him out of the bedroom they were bunking in, and into the kitchen to get away from the noise.
And that was where, true to Columbus’ luck, Wichita comes into the kitchen for a drink and sees him trying to syringe feed the little loud mouths
“Are those cats?” She whispers. Seemingly unsure how to handle walking in on someone feeding cats at the kitchen counter at three in the morning.”
She gives him her usually unimpressed glare. “I’m pretty sure they are, and we aren’t keeping them. We have a hard enough time keeping ourselves fed.”
“But their mom didn’t come back for them. And they were tiny and I couldn’t just leave them there.” The kitten he is feeding choses then to chime in, letting out a ridiculously adorable sneeze and hiccupping up a little milk in the process.
Columbus sees Wichita’s face melt for a second before she gets it back under control. “Whatever, but if they keep us up once we are back to living in the car, they have to go.”
Staring at the tiny potato of a kitten in his hands Columbus tries to figure out if that meant he needed to come up with a different gift for her. “What do you think, little guy?” He asks the kitten.
His only reply is another yawn, cute enough to melt his heart. Yeah, maybe Wichita wouldn’t like them, but Columbus is keeping them anyway. Maybe he can come up with something from his own supplies to give her for Christmas.
Tallahassee finds him passed out at the kitchen table a couple hours later, and shoves a peeler and a couple sweet potatoes into his hands. “I found actual potatoes, instead of those canned monstrosities you brought back.”
It takes Columbus a couple minutes, and pealing half the potatoes, before for he’s awake enough to ask questions. “Did you find an actual turkey?”
“No such luck, doesn’t look like anybody was planning that far ahead three months before Christmas. And this isn’t a part of the country where I can just go out and shoot one for dinner.” Tallahassee looks super annoyed about that fact.
Columbus wonders if it frustrates Tallahassee that you couldn’t even shoot potatoes. He valued his life too much to ask. The kittens woke up when he had almost finished pealing all the potatoes, and proceeded to chase the peelings around the table.
“A couple spunky spitfucks, just like you,” was Tallahassee’s only comment on the subject. The man seemed immune to the cuteness of baby animals. Columbus tried not to think about why.
The girls come down not long after Tallahassee sticks the turkey in the slow cooker with the potatoes, a can of broth, and half a bottle of wine.
Wichita is basically silent as she drinks a mug of the coffee Tallahassee made. Little Rock squeals over the kittens and helped Columbus feed them. Wichita doesn't talk about kicking them out again, which at this point Columbus is willing to count as a win.
The turkey isn't half bad after being drowned in booze. And after dinner it is time for presents.
Columbus had managed to halfway wrap Tallahassee and Little Rock’s presents in newspapers. He still has no idea what he’s giving Witchita, but he grabs a couple chocolate bars out of his pack, and tries to stick a bow on one of the kittens.
They immediately paw it off. It’s supposed to be the thought that counts anyway.
He gives Little Rock and Tallahassee’s gifts first. And they barely have them unwrapped before they are running out into the backyard to use the tshirt cannon on the dishes. Already bickering about what they think the cannon can shoot.
He pulls the candy bars out from behind his back, once they are outside and won’t be able to tease him about his gifts.
“Um-uh-I know its not the greatest. I just couldn’t really figure out what to get…and then there were the kittens.”
Thankfully, she takes the candy from him and stopped his stammering. “It’s fine Columbus. You got something for Little Rock, and that is all that matters.”
It really isn’t, but Columbus can’t figure out the words to explain why it isn’t.
Wichita shuffles over and pecked him on the cheek, before stealing one of the kittens from his lap. “Besides, these little guys are pretty cute.”
Maybe the kittens hadn’t been such a bad gift after all.