If You Give Squeaks A Cookie


caspian_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title If You Give Squeaks a Cookie…
Synopsis Chances are good that she'll return for more food.
Date March 30, 2018

Caspian's House

It's raining.

This is a thing that happens, that needs to be considered. While it helps get rid of the remainder of the snow and washes the streets clean, it's also wet and tends to make everything else wet.

For most people, that would be an issue. But part of that making things wet also means it makes puddles. Big puddles. Which keeps Squeaks and Jude entertained on the long above-ground walk from one old subway entrance to Caspian's apartment. The dog chases after a stick which is usually thrown into some small pooling of water or another. And he comes back a soggy, soaked mess only to be sent off again when the girl manages to liberate the stick from him.

They're both soaked. Jude more so than Squeaks, but then she's not the one bounding through puddles. She's mostly wet from the knees down, but her shoulders and hood and ratty backpack are looking a little soggy also.

Caspian is one of those people that finds rain to not be an issue at all.

The owner of waterproof boots and jackets, a van to carry his tools, and a fixed roof over his head puts him at the lucky end of the stick as far as things go for most people. Sure, he got a little wet today doing some work outside on a fuse box, but that was kind of how it just had to be, and he dealt with it. He had a place to go when a lot of people didn't. And he's been doing well for himself, offering assistance to those who ask for it. Eimi, for one, who comes and uses his shower and clothes washer from time to time, and some of the Lighthouse Kids. And Squeaks.

The electric fence outside of his house is off - it normally is during anything that may cause weather to arc. Once the rain stops, though, and it gets dark, it'll be turned on, protecting him and whatever's inside from whatever's outside. Mostly. He's actually pulling into the driveway right about now, parking his truck in the garage and locking it up for the night. Just in time to be caught by a visiting Squeaks.

The kid is still across the street when the van pulls into the driveway, but it's appearance is noted. She'd have found a place to perch and wait if she found the house empty of its owner. Since timing or luck won out and Caspian's arrival coincides with her own appearance, she gives Jude a push and tells him to go.

The stick is abandoned as readily as the game, left like so much other refuse on the sidewalk.

Squeaks crosses the street, purposeful but in obviously no hurry to reach her destination. She's become accustomed to letting herself in and out of the property, of the outside portion at least. And so, when she reaches the gate, she lets herself into the yard. Long strides, almost comically long, bring her to the steps and onto the porch and cease only once she's in front of the door. There, the girl turns and looks to the garage. And waits.

It takes a few moments for Caspian to finish in the garage, putting up tools and the like, the garage door closed and locked behind him to keep anyone from being tempted to give theft a shot. Being careful is definitely a thing he needs to do in the Safe Zone.

When he comes around the corner and starts up the stairs through the rain, he stops at the sight of a shape on the porch but, thanks to the porch light, continues up the stairs towards this front door.

"Evening, Squeaks." There's a rattling of the gate as it closes on its motorized track, his keys coming out to work on the front door. "Haven't seen you in a few days. C'mon." The door swings open. "Let's get out of the weather. Dinner'll be ready in about thirty minutes."

"Hi." That's at least offered. Little else aside from she moves herself out of the way so the door can be unlocked and opened. Squeaks pushes her hood back from her head as she follows Caspian inside.

"I saw Brynn." That was a couple of days ago, but it's still relevant. "I brought some books for her. She wants to see the others, but I brought these because they're the best." The girl drags off the wet backpack next and pulls it open. From within it, she pulls out a parcel wrapped in layers of plastic, probably the aforementioned books.

He's getting conversation - one or two words at least which is probably better than most do. Caspian hangs up his bag and jacket, closing the door behind, but not locking it so Squeaks can come and go as she wants. "Brynn's nice," he says, looking over to Squeaks with a nod. "She's really good at art and is a super kind person. Be careful around her and her brothers - they might adopt you into their little group of Lighthouse Kids. Which isn't a bad thing.".

Caspian heads to the kitchen - it's right off the living room, so he really doesn't go where she can't see him. "Do you want to leave them here for her?". He starts rummaging around in a cabinet, pulling out a bag of rice, adding some to a pot and putting enough water in to cook on the stove, some shiitake mushrooms going into hot water to start soaking up. "How are you holding up?"

"She's teaching me to talk with my hands." It's an agreement of sorts. She likes Brynn. "We talked about books. She has a sister like Pippi Longstocking." The parcel is unwrapped, wet plastic is dropped onto the floor and a couple of books are indeed revealed. Treasure Island and Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Those are set onto the arm of the couch with great care.

"I brought those for her to read." Squeaks prods at the plastic she'd put on the floor, then picks it up and puts it into her backpack. "It's raining. It makes Jude stink. He's not finding much good food right now. Too much wet and robbers took the good stuff."

As she talks, Caspian works on dinner, rice and mushrooms, some carrots and onions are added to a pan with a little bacon to start cooking through, the smell starting to fill the little kitchen and making stomachs growl. "I'm trying to teach myself how to talk with my hands - Brynn says I talk like a caveman." He chuckles and turns to lean against the counter, stepping out to look at the books after a moment, not touching them at all but reading the titles. "Some of the books I enjoyed reading when I was young was 'The Secret Garden,' 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,' 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' and Confederacy of Dunces. Grimm's Fairy Tales were good, too. All the stuff Disney based their stories on."

"These look very special to you." Caspian says as he sits on the chair by the kitchen so he can keep an eye on the food. "Does Jude need a bath?"

"I like Huckleberry. If I could find the right things I would make a raft and float down the river." Squeaks peels off her jacket and drops it onto her backpack. The hoodie stays on, damp as it is. She steps a little further into the living room, examining while she talks.

"Brynn said I should talk to Joe for talking with hands because he's teaching people. And the library has books on how to do it."

Jude bath is deftly sidestepped, Caspian chuckling softly. "I dreamed about doing that too. Growing up in California, there wasn't much of a chance to make it to the Mississippi River, but I did okay with some of the creeks back home.". Caspian remains seated, letting Squeaks explore the space, one foot crossed over the other, just watching. "I'd wait until summer, though. it's still a little cold and wet for that sort of thing.".

Sitting up a little, Caspian slides a book from the countertop separating the kitchen from the living area. "I managed to find a book about that in the market. It helped a lot.". the book, a worn old one from what looked like a library, is opened carefully, turned to show squeaks the illustrations with movements. "It's a lot of daily use stuff. Here, there, please, thank you, hungry. stuff like that.". and he makes he signs as he says the words. "practice makes perfect."

"I learned 'hello' and 'goodbye'. Some others, too. Good starting stuff Brynn said." Squeaks turns from her explorations to look at the book. "I'm going to learn so I can talk with Brynn like she talks. So she doesn't have to write all the time, or have Joe and Lance around."

"I am too, Squeaks. Brynn and her brothers have a different version they taught themselves that's kind of what we're learning, but isn't. New words and stuff that only the people in their group know." Caspian lifts a finger to his lips. "Secret code. Shhh."

Pushing himself to his feet, Caspian puts the book on the coffee table, open to chapter 1, page 1, and heads into the kitchen to stir the vegetables, a fragrant cloud of steam coming from the pan as he lifts the lid, adding some chicken stock to the pot to let the flavors cook down.

"Did you go to college?" Squeaks turns back to her investigations, perusing through whatever odds and ends are laying about. She touches everything. Things are picked up and turned around in her hands, examined from every angle, then placed right back where she found them. "I think it's good to learn things."

"For a little while." Caspian says over the sound of cooking. "I went to UCLA in California for two years before the war started. Supposed to go into business, of all things, but mainly did the basics. Math, english, chemistry, physics. Stuff like that." He gives the pot a second stir, setting it on the back burner to cool, the rice bubbling merrily along. Returning to the refrigerator, he pulls out a small lump of yellow - butter from the shop in the market. A small sliver is added to the rice as he stirs it, fragrant steam rising as he does. "When things started happening, I went to my mom's place in Kansas. Out of the way as much as I could."

He's paying attention to her, but not watching her. He trusts Squeaks enough to not steal.

She might have sticky fingers, but Squeaks has never stolen anything from anyone alive. The dead can't use things, so that technically isn't stealing either. "We got moved when the war started and I changed schools. Then Dad died and a little while after I stopped going. Then Carolyn died and I left and went to the underneath during the rest of the war." It's so matter-of-fact, the way she says it.

The kid finally makes her way to the open book and leafs through a few pages. Without asking, she picks up the book and sits herself on the floor with it, legs crossed and book resting on the floor in front of her.

Caspian makes his way to the kitchen as Squeaks reads in the middle of the floor, taking the time to set out two plates, two forks, two cups ready to be filled with water from the tap or, in the case of Squeaks, a soda if that’s what she’s interested in. The rice is taken off the burner to cool while the vegetable and bacon mixture is flipped with a twist of the pan, a pair of eggs cracked into it and swirled around to start cooking up properly. Once that’s all done, the rice - still hot - is dumped into the pan along with a generous helping of soy sauce and, within a few minutes over his gas stove, Fried Rice is now a thing. “Squeaks?” Caspian calls. Come eat. His hands move as he signs it, motioning to the table as he scoops out servings of the steaming fried rice. “Come.” He makes the sign. “Eat.” He makes the sign for eat.

“I’m sorry to hear about your parents.” Caspian says softly. “My dad died when I was young. My mom is still alive, though, but I don’t see her much.” He takes a sip of his water. “I think she’s angry at me for coming out here to New York.” There’s a moment when Caspian pauses, his fork already buried in his rice. “What do you want to drink? I’ve got water, tea, soda and a little milk, if you want a treat.”

Though she looks up when her name is called, something in her expression implies that she’s unaccustomed to being beckoned. Either in such a calm manner or at all, or perhaps even both. The book is pushed forward and Squeaks stands to join Caspian in the kitchen. The expression deepens as Caspian expresses condolences.

“Why are you sorry,” she asks as she claims one of the set places. “You didn’t make them die. Dad got sick, then Carolyn got real sad and more mean and just didn’t wake up.” The offerings are almost as baffling. There are choices? It prompts her to shrug and turn her attention to eating instead of answering.

Some rice is added to the plate and, after a moment, a tall glass of milk joins it. The more calories Squeaks can get into her tiny body, the better, and full fat milk is probably the best that you can get around this place. God knows it was hard to find in the market, but it was the day the Milk Guy came in from his farm in upstate new york. A place where cows still lived and made milk. This glass probably cost somewhere on the order of $20, and it’s going to the kid who shows up on the streets to eat his food without question.

“I know I wasn’t the cause of any of that.” Caspian takes a bite of his fried rice, adding a few drops of a red sauce to the top of it to give it a little more spice. “It was more an expression of compassion and concern than an admission of guilt or anything like that. You’re kind of a face, if that makes sense. I know a little about you. You’re more real to me than someone just on the street begging for food.” Aside from Jude, Caspian is almost sure he’s one of the few people in the Zone that even cares if Squeaks comes around. At least when he sees her, he knows she’s alive. But he doesn’t say that.

“Being concerned doesn’t make sense.” Squeaks speaks around a mouthful of rice and veggies, one arm half curled around the plate in front of her. She’s practically shoveling the meal into her mouth, and keeping one eye on that glass of milk. “Or caring. They died a long time ago.” It’s like worrying about the weather yesterday instead of today, judging by her tone. The present is way more important than the past. “I’m not sad.” Her tone says it’s just a thing that happens to people.

Caspian makes no moves to take her plate, to pull the milk away, and even dumps another spoonful on top, making sure to get some of the bits of bacon too, since those are the best part of the meal. “I know. It really doesn’t. Back before, it was the thing that people did. Mourned the loss of their family, even if they were not so good.” That’s probably putting it mildly, in the case of Squeaks’, he’s guessing, stepmother. “And people when they found out, would say that they were sorry for the loss, since things weren’t going to go as well after.”

Life underground has hardened Squeaks, forcing her to grow up quickly in order to survive. Something that happened to countless kids her age. The fact that Squeaks is surviving and, in a way, thriving, is kind of a big deal. It shows her resilience to hardship. Caspian eats quietly, watching the little red-haired girl as she shovels food into her mouth like it’s the last meal she’ll see for the next three days, a post-apocalyptic Little Orphan Annie. With a dog and the red hair to complete the look. “Well, I still can be concerned about you, Squeaks. Eat your food. There are seconds and thirds if you need it, and some to take back to Jude.”

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