*** Chapter 6 part 7
The top floor of the Wells Fargo Building held executive suites with offices that were as elegant and spacious as a New York City high-rise apartment. The CEO quarters held a bedroom, on-suite bathroom as well as small kitchen and dining room, lined floor to ceiling in dark paneling and bookshelves. Both Dell and Panda were delighted to get a look at the way the ‘other half’ lived. Were it not for the 29 flights of stairs and the risk of power outage and no elevators, Dell would have wanted to spend a night or two camping out in this dive. Panda put it into her mental file of ‘perfect hideout getaway locations’.
As well as the executive suites there were also office suites, reception areas, board rooms and elegantly appointed waiting areas. In an alcove flanked by expensive pampered potted plants was a coffee kiosk. Imagine that, they had their own private Starbucks! An abandoned sandwich trolley, looking and smelling a little worse for wear, sat waiting for patrons in the adjacent alcove filled with what had once been fresh salads, fruit compotes and gourmet sandwiches. Paul grabbed an apple and handed Sorrel Bay a banana to munch on from an attractive display of whole fresh fruits.
They were 2/3rds around the perimeter of the hallways when they found the stairs that led to the rooftop. Leaving the remaining penthouse apartment in the far corner of the building to be explored later, they went up the stairs through the door which had been propped open with an office chair.
“Wow! That’s convenient!” said Dell, munching on an apple of her own. They had all discussed how the rooftop was no doubt accessed via the elevator but without some kind of override key, they would not be able to use that way. They were counting on stairs or even a private elevator in one of the penthouses that would give them rooftop access. Panda was hoping for a rooftop garden on automatic water sprinklers.
What they found were the remains of an office party. A dozen charming wrought iron patio tables and 2 dozen matching chairs sat in the middle of the wide slate patio, each one decorated with an expensive and wilting floral arrangement. And everywhere were the obligatory piles of human ash complete with jewelry, shoes, wallets, purses, and office name tags on a string or pocket clip. A traveling bar was set up at one end and at the other end, looking like a disaster zone, was the toppled remnant of a large trestle table laden with food and cake, utterly trashed and destroyed.
“Oh Yuck it smells like pig shit over here!” said Dell, oblivious to having cussed in front of a child. As they turned to her to remonstrate, the sleepy head of a piglet in a bow and a polo shirt rose out of the debris and oinked excitedly. Obviously meant for a gift for the party recipient, the pig seemed none the worse for wear having eaten high on the hog for 3 days, no doubt drinking whatever it could find from the melted ice buckets and buffet table pans once holding orange juices and smoothies on ice.
Sorrel Bay was beside herself with joy as the tiny piglet came up to her and liberally covered her hands and face in snotty enthusiastic greeting. “Oh DADDY! Can we keep him? Isn’t he sweet?!”
Paul sighed and rubbed his forehead. “A pig in a polo shirt, huh? I’ll have to think about this.”
Sorrel, who knew her animal husbandry, said, “Daddy this one is too small to just turn loose to forage for himself! He’s just a baby!”
Paul knew he was beaten on that argument hands down. It looked like he had just acquired a sewage disposal plant of his very own. “Well get him some water from the bar over there, honey. He might be a little dehydrated.”
Dell walked with Sorrel to help open water bottles so the pig could drink its fill. It really was the cutest little bugger, fitting perfectly in Sorrel Bay’s arms and not struggling at all!
Panda exchanged a long look with Paul. “It’s a good thing that it was a tiny piglet. Anything full grown would have eaten through all this food and available liquid 2 days ago.”
Paul, contemplating the imagined spectacle of finding a dehydrated, suffering and nearly dead full grown pig on this rooftop, realized he was going to have to make some serious decisions about how to protect Sorrel from the constant shocks to come as they moved through their new world. No matter what he did, she was going to run up against death, decay, suffering and sorrow again and again. But letting her accompany him into unknown territory was the only choice if he didn’t want to leave her behind alone waiting in the car, or in an alcove, or in a million waiting rooms across the city to kick up her heels while he was forever scouting out the lay of the land. Perhaps she would just grow up immune to all of it? It was, after all, going to be her ‘new normal.’
“What do you want to name him, honey?” asked Dell.
“POLO!” said Sorrel in a decisive tone. “Polo Pig!” Everyone got a good laugh out of that.
Moving upwind of the food mess and pig manure odors, Paul and Panda walked to the edge of the roof and began to check out the city. It was late afternoon and it would not be long before the sun was setting. The view was breathtaking, the air crisp and the visibility was incredible.
Scanning the horizon, Panda let out a gasp and pointed wordlessly toward the southwest part of the city. Dell and Sorrel, pig in tow, joined them at the rail to see what she was pointing towards.
There, in the distance, South Sacramento was on fire.