Lucky for us here in my small Wisconsin town, the big zombie outbreak is over and life is kind of back to normal. Well, if you can ever call becoming a part-zombie, normal, of course. I can’t, but I’ve adjusted. We’ve all adjusted. It happened just in time, too, with my aunt all excited about the holidays coming up. No way was she going to miss any of that.
I wasn’t looking forward to it. From the day I got infected with the Z virus after being scratched by my other cousin, I’ve had all kinds of weird things happen, like my eye twirling, bad skin... and worse, being unable to eat real food. Medicine’s helped some of those who’ve been infected, but not me. I eat other proteins—Oh, no, not that. Never that. Still, when Tia Imelda made her announcement about Thanksgiving being at our house this year, I wished I could be somewhere, anywhere, but home.
“All the family will be here,” she told me, her voice lilting. “It’ll be just like the old days!”
I didn’t say the obvious. Instead, I put on a smile, not wanting to spoil my aunt’s fun, her loving to cook and all.
She and my mama spent days stirring big pots of soup, cooking vegetables, baking two giant turkeys with homemade sage stuffing, (that I would miss), and of course the stuff I wouldn’t miss—the veggies. I’d never been a big fan of cranberry sauce which my aunt and mom made themselves, along with the famous green bean casserole baked with fresh mushrooms and homemade mushroom sauce. No canned stuff in this house.
Even before my big change, I’d never liked either one. Not the green beans and definitely not the cranberries. Ick. Ketchup for me, but the rest of mi familia love cranberry sauce almost as much as they like my mom’s incredible spicy guacamole and salsa. So, it was a grande disaster when we got this surprise two days before the holiday.
“Honey, did you see the cranberries?” my aunt asked. “I put them in a bowl on the windowsill like I always do, and they’re gone. I was going to fix them and then work on the beans next.”
“Gone?” I tried not to smile though I knew everyone else would be mucho disappointed. “How does a whole huge bowl of cranberries just disappear?”
My aunt sighed and wrung her hands. “I wish I knew. I don’t think there’s time to get more. I heard there’s been a shortage, the odd weather, I guess. I’d hate to disappoint everyone.”
“Can’t you use the canned stuff?” I asked.
My aunt’s wide eyes and sour expression needed no explanation.
“Okay, I’ll look around,” I mumbled and headed outside.
A quick search around the yard yielded nothing. No fallen berries, no berry trail, no discarded bowl. Stumped, I pulled out my cell phone and texted my other cousin, Carm (short for Carmella) to come over. We needed more eyes on this—especially ones that looked straight at the problem, unlike mine. I whacked my arm and waited for my one eye to twirl back in place. Annoying.
Ten minutes later, my cousin drove up and parked her bicycle with a wave. “Hola, Bec. You said to hurry. What’s up?”
“Tia’s going to have a fit. The cranberries are gone.”
“Gone?” Carm gave me a puzzled look. “What do you mean gone?”
“I mean vanished, disappeared in thin air. Poof. She put the bowl on the windowsill like she always does and now they’re gone.”
Carm made a face that started me laughing. “Ugh, who’d take them? I hate cranberry sauce. Everybody’s always pushing it on me like it’s the best thing ever. It’s gross, all those berries and that jelly stuff. Yuck. Maybe they did us a favor.”
I paused before I spoke to get the giggles under control. “Maybe, but everybody else won’t think so, they’ll be loco. I checked around real quick, but I guess our looking again can’t hurt.”
Our search around the yard, further out in the woods, and even out near the still unfrozen pond left us clueless. I was puzzled.
“Someone took them, bowl and all,” Carm announced. “What’ll you tell Tia?”
I sighed. “Buy some more.”
The kitchen had the distinctive tangy smell of cooked cranberries when I came back in, my cousin having left to go home. Puzzled, I looked around until I spotted the big blue pot filled with berries in the sink. “Tia, you found them?”