Emerging from the tent, Lawson squinted in the mid-afternoon sunlight. He was fully clothed, much to Ted’s relief.
“What are you doing staring at me? We’ve got to go find Vernon so that you can make something of yourself.” Lawson said. “Come on!”
Ted appreciated Lawson’s initial no nonsense manner. However, it turned out that this was not Lawson’s normal persona. Their journey across the tent city was often thwarted by Lawson’s obsession with small talk. Lawson had a lot of friends, and he thoroughly enjoyed talking to them about absolutely nothing. Ted would stand their awkwardly and occasionally introduce himself if the topic came up. By the time they reached Vernon’s tent, it was dusk. Now, this is the part where any normal author would go into a detailed description of Lawson’s tent. However, this author has decided to spare you this Dickensian tradition save to say that the tent looked exactly the same as all the other tents that Ted had seen in his travels so far.
“Hey Vern!” Lawson screamed.
“What do you want?” Vernon retorted.
“My friend Ted here wants to prove himself worthy of living in our community.” Lawson stated.
“That’s the sharply dressed fool I beat up earlier!” Vernon exclaimed. “He’s not worthy.”
“This man is terrible at first impressions.” Lawson admitted.
“Hey!” Ted responded indignantly.
“From what I know of you so far, it’s true, bud.” Lawson said.
“On second thought, if he brings back some vaccination vials for the community, that would be incredibly useful. Not all of us are fully vaccinated yet.”
“I’ll do it!” Screamed Ted, without thinking.
“Very well. Get on with it!” Exclaimed Vernon.
“We will.” Ted stated. He promptly turned on his heel.
“Who is “we?” asked Lawson.
“You and me. Perhaps Allison if I can get her on board.” Ted saod.
“Awfully bold of you to assume either of us have no plans and would want to go with you.” Lawson said intimidatingly.
“Do you have plans?” Ted asked.
“No…” Lawson deadpanned.
“Great. Have you ever met Allison before?” Ted asked.
“I don’t think I have.” Lawson said.
“You’re in for something special.” Ted said in a matter of fact manner.
“Do you like her?” Larson inquired.
“We are just friends.” Ted said, a little too quickly. “If this mission of ours is to succeed, we must go straight to her tent without you talking to all of your friends again.”
“You need to learn how to use less words when you speak.” Said Lawson.
“You’re one to talk.” Ted said. “Come on! Let’s get going.”
Ted liked this sudden wave of assertiveness that swept over him. He hoped it would stay. Clothes really do make the man, he thought. Ted had acquired that suit at a thrift store for a summer job he had as an event planner, back when he was eighteen. Unfortunately, he was let go after he forgot to include the name of a high profile cosmopolitan on the guest list of a very important dinner party. Word of this social disgrace got around quickly, and Ted never worked in the field of event planning again. The suit still fit all these years later. Seven years seemed like a long time to Ted.
Mercifully, the duo arrived at Allison’s tent, relieving this author of the duty of filling time with adolescent suit stories.
Without thinking about any possible consequences of his actions, Ted crept into Allison’s tent. Lawson remained at the tent entrance.
Feeling around mindlessly in the dark, Ted touched upon something soft and warm. It was the shoulder of a sleeping Allison. He liked how smooth it felt. In the literal heat of the moment, Ted made the stupid decision to let his hand linger. His brain refused to notify him that Allison had quietly woken up and was swiftly preparing to strike him.
The blow was sharp and purposeful. It left an impression Ted would remember for the rest of his life as he crumpled to the floor.
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t finish you off right now!” Allison screamed.
“Relax! It’s me, Ted.”
“Do not tell me to relax, and do not assume that you can touch me in any way! I do what I want with my body! You will not dictate how I behave!” Allison stated firmly.
“I was just trying to wake you up. I met with Vernon. He gave me a quest to bring back more vaccines to the community, and I need your specific set of skills to make everything succeed.”
“What makes you think I’ll go along with you?” Allison snapped. Her previous impression of Ted being a decent human being seemed to vanish.
“Well…we’ve been a great team so far, and also, I just had the exact same conversation with this guy.” Ted stated. He motioned toward the entrance of Allison’s tent. Lawson approached the pleading man and the strong, independent woman.
“Hello, my lady. My name is Lawson.” He flexed his biceps, causing the sleeves of his tight fitting shirt to be destroyed. Ted threw up in his mouth, just a little. Allison smiled, and immediately followed the gentlemen outside. So much for modern feminism, thought Ted. If Lawson kept this up, how could Ted possibly compete for Allison’s friendship? Ted forced the nagging questions out of his mind. There was a bigger matter to attend to. He grabbed three rugged knapsacks from Allison’s collection of beginnings and followed the others outside.
Using the naive kindness of a couple passing strangers, the trio hitchhiked back to the metropolis under the cover of darkness. After refueling their guts at an all night fast food restaurant, the trio wandered toward the very same walk-in clinic where Ted had received his first shot.
Standing next to a basement window of the building, Allison forcefully kicked the window in. Glass shattered everywhere, stunning Ted, but Allison was not fazed one bit. This was not her first time. “Hold the bags, Ted,” she instructed. She turned to Lawson and smiled, “Come with me.”
Allison and Lawson disappeared into the darkness. Ted stood there bewildered. It was his quest, and he wasn’t even involved in any heroic sort of way. He was literally left holding the bag. He should have been thankful that they were doing all of his hard work for him. Instead, Ted was filled with rage. How could two people with such similarly sounding names become such fast friends? He longed for the intimacy of friendship that they seemed to already have with each other. Everything he wanted from life was happening close by, Ted was sure of it. He just wasn’t involved. Then Ted heard a crash from above him. “Ted! Open the bags!” Allison screamed. Together with Lawson, she started throwing vaccines down to Ted who collected them all and put them in the three knapsacks. Fifteen minutes later the trio re-convened on the sidewalk.
Taking a bag each, Allison and the boys walked toward a streetlight that didn’t have any action brewing underneath it. Removing a vial from her knapsack, Allison proceeded to quickly inoculate Ted with his second dose. At this point, nobody was going to care if it was “too early.” Taking a second vial, she turned to Lawson and smiled. She felt around his bicep to find a vein. When she did find one she slowly inoculated Lawson, breathing in and out in time with him. Lawson gently returned the favour inoculating her. The sound of Ted’s retching promptly ruined the moment.
To avoid detection, Ted suggested that the crew take the subway to the edge of town, and walk the remaining distance. This would give everyone a chance to at least attempt to get some rest. The sun rose as the group crested the hill overlooking the tent city. Vernon and some of his friends happened to be standing at the bottom of the hill. Allison and Lawson tossed their bags at Ted’s feet. He would carry all three bags down the hill to Vernon.
“Here are the vaccines you asked for.” Ted said.
“I was not expecting you back so soon. Maybe you’re not so bad after all.” Vernon said.
“They aren’t so bad either.” Ted stated, motioning to his two friends.
“Come with me.” Vernon commanded. “We must set up your tent. It’s more productive when you earn your tent, rather than waiting for one of our community members to die.”
Ignoring the morbid part of the remark, Ted followed Vernon.
Allison, Lawson, and those friends of Vernon who were assembled there began distributing vaccines to those who needed them. After that was finished, they went to find Ted, and helped him get settled into his new home. For this brief moment in time, Ted was on top of the world.