After having gotten the call from her father, Maggie rushed them all out the door while telling everyone to get their firearms and meet her downstairs.
Rick was now obligated to let them know, as an officer of the law (and he really didn’t want to remind them of that), that he wasn’t so sure the lot of them running out to a farm to kill a bunch of ‘damn bastard gophers,’ Maggie’s words, not his, was such a good idea.
Glenn told him not to worry, the farm was out of his jurisdiction so Rick decided to let it drop.
Daryl and Merle had come running out of their apartment with a duffel bag and a large crate.
Rick noted Daryl was also carrying a crossbow.
Rick yelled out that he would run back in and grab his Python just as Beth had run back up the stairs with Maggie.
“You gotta snake?” the young girl giggled.
“I gotta snake right here for ya sweetheart,” Merle leered as he readjusted his pants, Beth covering her ears and saying “Ew!”
“Merle! Shut the fuck up!” Daryl yelled as Rick ran in and came back out with his .357. “It’s a gun sweetie,” Daryl whispered to Beth. Turning to the girl’s sister, he said, “don’t have to get ammo, Maggie. We got everythin’ we need right here.”
On the way out the lobby, Sasha asked Dale if he wanted to come with them but the man replied, “no, I like my Karma right where it is but you guys go have fun.”
Everyone had gathered downstairs to decide who was going to travel with who. It was only Rick and Daryl who ended up in the back of Andrea’s Mercedes Benz with her and Michonne after Glenn and Maggie managed to drag Beth away despite the girl’s protests of her sitting on Rick’s lap.
Rick had insisted they stop off and pick up something at the Billy Burger drive thru while Daryl backed him up on the matter.
They were both starving.
Andrea caved in only after telling them not to get any shit on her special Italian leather seats to which Daryl replied she wouldn’t have to worry about her special Italian leather seats if she had just bought American in the first place to which Andrea ended the conversation by telling Daryl he wouldn’t have to worry about getting anything on the special Italian leather seats because the burger would be shoved so far up his ass as to not cause a problem anymore.
They both had agreed not to get a damn thing on the special Italian leather seats, so help them God.
After having picked up two double bacon cheeseburgers, a Billy Burger delicacy if ever there was one, Rick thinking it was most assuredly the best tasting thing he had ever eaten in all his life, despite the fact that he had eaten one only two weeks ago and he had thought it merely okay then, he looked at Daryl, his eyes rolling to the back of his head as he pointed to the burger. “Fis mumphs phooh fmph.”
Daryl, whose cheeks were also stuffed, swooned back at Rick, “Ah wuuvn foo hava faux.”
“Hmmm hm,” Rick nodded back.
Michonne turned around in the front seat and narrowed her eyes at both men. “I’ll give you each one hundred dollars if you can tell me what the other said, after you swallow of course.”
Daryl visibly swallowed then rolled his eyes, “Didn’t ya hear him? He said, ‘this is so good.’”
“And he said back, ‘I love the special sauce,’” Rick replied, quite pleased with himself.
Michonne sneered at the both of them, “I’ll catch you later.”
Daryl smiled at Rick as they clanked what was left of their burgers together in a mock salute, careful not to get anything on the upholstery since neither of them wanted to pick pickles and lettuce out of a place where pickles and lettuce had no right to be.
Rick started to wonder if maybe Daryl and him shared the same brainwaves.
And just as he had finished the last of his Billy Burger, they turned onto the road that would lead them to the Greene family homestead.
It was a lovely place. Rolling pastures, a windmill in the foreground. The forest could be seen surrounding the acreage. Michonne pointed out that there was a creek that ran along the property lines.
It looked wonderful, if it hadn’t been for the trails of raised earth all over the grass surrounding the old farmhouse and beyond. It was as if someone had taken hand grenades and bombed various points around the property.
“This place has been in Maggie’s family for one hundred and sixty years,” Michonne started. “That girl was really looking forward to marrying Glenn here just like Hershel had married her momma before.”
As they drove up to the farmhouse, Rick observed an elderly gentleman with a white ponytail, looking very distressed as he nodded his head back and forth at a very agitated Maggie.
Rick got out of the car, followed by Daryl and the girls. He looked back and noticed everyone else getting out of either Philip’s large SUV or Gareth’s Prius.
Of course he would drive a Prius.
The thing probably ran on coffee.
A distraught Maggie walked up to Rick, “this is my daddy, Rick, Hershel Greene,” she said in way of introductions.
The elderly man, Hershel, shook Rick’s outstretched hand. “Sorry this couldn’t be under better circumstances,” he sighed.
Daryl, who had been standing next to Rick, asked Hershel what the hell was going on.
“I just couldn’t…the pest control men…they said…they said,” Hershel tried to continue as he grabbed his head in hand, Maggie and Beth putting a hand on either of his shoulders. “I just couldn’t let them do what they were gonna do. Maybe if there was a gopher refuge somewhere, where they could take them. But they kept on insisting they were a danger to the populace and the other farms and then they promised they would be merciful…”
“Daddy?” Maggie said. “Tell them what you were hollering ‘bout on the phone to me earlier.”
“So I trapped ‘em…trapped ‘em all, in the barn. I just couldn’t bring myself to have them killed. These varmits, they may be animals, but they have families, just like we do,” Hershel whined as he looked pleadingly up at Rick and then the others.
“Daddy. If there were this many to have caused this big a problem, they have to be put down. This is dangerous,” Maggie implored of her father, looking at Rick as if he could reason with the man.
“But its not right!” Hershel sobbed angrily.
“Dude, Santa is so sad,” Alex said dismally.
“Not this again. I’m not Santa,” Hershel grumbled out.
“Alex, sssh!” Gareth whispered to his brother.
Everyone turned as one to look at the two young men, Gareth nodding his head back and forth and holding his hands up in surrender. “I swear, I’m not really sure if we even share the same DNA.”
Rick had to wonder about that too.
Everyone looked to Rick to see what he could do to diffuse the situation.
Why they had all decided to relegate Rick to the role of the one to do the diffusing, he wasn’t entirely sure.
He also wondered if the free ‘spay and neuter your cat’ program, cats being the natural predator to rodents such as gophers, was such a good idea in the long run.
“Maybe one of us should take a look at the barn,” Rick said, as he addressed Hershel. “Assess the threat.”
“I don’t know iff'en you want to open those doors, son,” he said. “I have them padlocked for a reason.”
“There a way up there?” Rick asked, his hands on his hips.
“Yeah, the hayloft! Maggie and I used to sneak up there to,” Glenn stopped when he saw the look Maggie’s father shot him. “To…read…Bible verses and…stuff.”
“It’s okay sweetie,” Maggie said. “Daddy knows we used to sneak up there to have sex.”
Marty snickered, “sex with the farmer’s daughter up in the hayloft. Sounds a little too cliche for me, bro.”
“Shut up. You’re making Santa…Gah! I mean, Hershel pissed off,” Gareth whispered angrily.
Rick looked over at Daryl, not having to look far as he was standing right next to him, once again. They nodded to each other, as if Daryl already knew all of Rick’s plans and what he wanted him to do. Facing Glenn, he said, “you’re going up there with us too.”
“I’m jus’ gonna stay back here if ’s all the same to you,” Merle said anxiously.
“Like I’d want you stompin’ around up there with us, ya damn fool,” Daryl muttered.
Maggie brought Glenn a flashlight and the trio made their way up the ladder at the side of the barn.
“Be careful,” Maggie said and kissed Glenn at the bottom of the rungs.
“They’re damn gophers,” Daryl grumbled. “Not like ’s a barn full of flesh eatin’ zombies or somethin.’”
They climbed the ladder, one by one moving forward deeper into the hayloft, just stopping short of the ledge to look over into the bottom of the barn, which Hershel had said was made of concrete, which is why it made it the perfect place to trap them in the first place.
Nowhere to burrow.
“Guys? Does the floor look like its…moving?” Glenn whispered.
All three peered down and noticed that the floor was indeed moving. Rick could see scattered pairs of glowing red, beady eyes, all peering into the darkness.
And as Rick adjusted his eyes to the dimness, he swore he could make out even more pairs of the aforementioned glowing red, beady eyes.
“Shit!” Daryl exclaimed as he hit the floor. “Psst!” he hissed at the other two, indicating that they needed to lay down next to him, both men getting down quickly and quietly. “They can hear us,” Daryl whispered urgently. “Shine your light, so’s we can see how many of them fuckers there are.”
Glenn turned on the flashlight and ran the beam down into the dark depths.
“Oh God,” Rick stuttered. “This…this is…”
“Like a fucking scene out of one of those stupid horror movies with the rats. I’m not fucking staying here,” Glenn lamented while scampering away, running out of the hayloft as quickly as his feet could carry him.
“Shit, this is bad Rick,” Daryl muttered.
The floor of the barn was covered from corner to corner with gophers, without a single break.
Hundreds of gophers.
Large gophers. Small gophers.
Fat gophers. Thin gophers.
And they were all looking up at the loft where Rick and Daryl were currently looking back down at them.
“Yep,” Rick said, trying hard not to laugh. “The old man’s been pret-ty busy.”
Daryl started to chuckle too. “Man! How’d that ole fart trap ‘em all?!” Daryl turned around so he was laying on his side as he talked to Rick, who had also twisted around so he could listen to what the other man had to say. “That crate I brought over’s full of birdshot. The kind you kill rodents with. Mostly 12 gauge, since everyone’s got their shotgun, Hershel’s got one too. I even got some shotshells for your .357.”
“You always carry spare birdshot so’s you can kill barns full of rodents,” Rick snickered.
“Shut up,” Daryl teased not unkindly, “it’s for my business. I’ll tell ya about it later. Let’s get back down now and convince the old man what we gotta do. He ain’t gonna like it but these critters can’t get outta here. They’ll wreck the damn countryside.”
“I hear ya,” Rick said as he looked back down. “Hey! I think one of ‘em just gave me a nasty sneer.”
“‘M pretty sure that one right there gave me the finger,” Daryl bantered back.
Both men started snickering again, as Daryl helped Rick up with one hand.
Climbing down the ladder the two men rejoined the group, now in the midst of a heated discussion Glenn was currently having with his future father-in-law.
“Hershel, this is not good. There’s too many in there. If those gophers were people, that,” Glenn pointed to the barn while yelling, “would be China!”
“Whoa!” Michonne said as she looked at Merle skeptically. “How come you didn’t make a Chinese joke just now? He practically gift-wrapped it for you.”
“That’s not what I was doing,” Glenn shook his head and then stopped. “Yeah. Merle? What’s wrong with you?”
Everyone stopped to look at the older Dixon brother. He was pacing back and forth agitatedly, his hands rubbing up and down over his arms.
“How bad’s it in there?” Merle asked quietly as he looked at Rick and Daryl who everyone just noticed had come back.
“It’s pretty bad,” Rick sighed.
“Jesus! You got wall to wall fuckers in that there barn!” Daryl yelled. “And what the hell’s wrong with you Merle?!?! You’re actin’ like a damn girl!!”
“Hey!” Andrea and Michonne shouted indignantly.
“I never told ya ‘bout what daddy did to me, ‘fore you were even born,” Merle started. “He decided not to use the belt one day, so’s…”
“Excuse me, but I don’t think this is important right now,” Philip cut in.
“Oh God. Why’d ya bring him?!?!” Hershel groaned as he looked at Philip.
“Are ya lettin’ them fuckers outta that barn?” Merle yelled.
“Fuck Merle! What’s gotten inta you?” Daryl hollered back.
“Daddy locked me in the damn shed once! With three…three of them minions from hell! They climbed inta my pants and I don’t wanna go inta detail ‘bout what they did in there baby brother,” Merle sulked. “And now you're talkin’ ‘bout hundreds of 'em! All wantin’ to get inta my pants.”
“Aw,” Sasha pouted, “I actually feel sorry for him.”
“Well, there not gettin’ inta my pants, I’ll tell you what,” Merle said determinedly as he started to pull off all his clothing, while standing before everyone completely naked. “Now they can’t get inta my pants! Take that you fuckers!!!” Merle screamed at the barn.
“Okay, and feeling sorry for the naked man time is over now,” Sasha scowled.
This was the second time that day Rick had seen Merle naked.
He expected the man to buy him dinner at some point in time.
They all watched as Merle ran around the barn and farmhouse naked, screaming obscenities.
“He has completely lost it,” Andrea said.
“Doesn’t he get it that it doesn’t matter if he takes off his clothes, I mean, you know, they can get to him easier now!?” Glenn whispered to Daryl, who was looking at his brother.
“Ya think he’d even listen,” Daryl sighed.
Rick wondered, and not for the first time that day, if Daryl and Merle shared the same DNA too.
Ignoring Merle for the moment, everyone looked back to Rick, especially Maggie, for someone to appease Hershel so the man could see reason.
“Hershel, I know you don’t know me,” Rick said as he put one hand on the man’s shoulder and looked him directly in the eye. “But this ain’t right. This needs to be dealt with and you know this and I know this.”
“Now I know what you’re saying makes sense Rick, but no. Just no, I know I’m right,” Hershel shook his head.
Just then a gopher ran across the yard toward them, everyone screaming in surprise, the highest pitched scream of them all coming from Merle.
“Fuck Merle! You scream like a fuckin’ girl!” Daryl yelled.
“Hey!” Sasha and Carol complained.
Rick snagged the pole attached to the net the older man had used to catch all the rodents. He quickly slammed the net down and trapped the scampering animal before it could run away.
“Look! Look at this Hershel,” Rick barked as he reached into the net, grabbed the thrashing gopher and held it up to the elderly man, “this is the face of a rodent…a…a pest. Look at what it did to your farm!” Rick snapped as he waved the gopher around indicating the farm as a whole bringing it right back to Hershel’s face.
Considering the wistful way Hershel was regarding the thing, Rick speculated he might be looking at the wild animal as if it had huge anime eyes with big curling eyelashes and rosy red cheeks.
“It’s just so darn cute,” Hershel pouted.
Rick turned the thing around to face him and looked it in the eye. It was hissing and trying to claw Rick’s face off.
He had to wonder if anyone should have happened upon this scene, what they would think of Rick, baiting the kindly old man with a captive rodent.
And he then realized that sure as the sun rose everyday in the East, someone would capture him with the long pole with the net, stick him in a straightjacket and commit him faster than it took Merle to strip down to his birthday suit.
“This is ridiculous!” Philip yelled. “There’s no reasoning with the fool Rick. We gotta take matters into our own hands,” he said as he paced back and forth in front of the padlocked doors.
“Don’t you think you’re being a little dramatic,” Michonne smirked.
“I can handle this,” Rick said, addressing the Governor directly. “We’re not so far gone yet that we have to do anything too drastic.”
“No, this has gone too far already,” he said.
“If we open those doors,” Rick started talking more slowly, trying to calm Philip down, “they’ll all run out and scatter everywhere. We have to keep them corralled, take ‘em out slowly.”
Philip started muttering to himself as he continued to pace back and forth in front of the doors. “Scattering everywhere…huh…”
Everyone watched as the man became more agitated, Gareth in the background mouthing the words, ‘Drama Queen.’
“Okay Philip,” Rick said, “we’ll open the door, one at a time, let a few out, take care of the problem…”
“No! This is about right now. Your way is too slow,” Philip said harshly, a wild gleam in his eye.
“I don’t understand. We’re just gonna kill a few at a time, so we don’t have…”
“Liar!” Philip roared.
“Dude needs a serious time out,” Alex muttered.
“I’m…I’m…excuse me?” Rick said indignantly. Rick looked at Daryl next to him, who shrugged back at Rick.
The man was not firing on all cylinders.
“Da Hell is wrong with you?” Daryl asked.
After that, it seemed like everything just flew in slow motion.
Philip took out his gun and shot the lock off the barn door (Rick sparing a quick thought as to who the idiot was that allowed that nut job to carry a gun in the first place) before both doors swung wide open, Rick yelling “No!!!!”
“Oh God!” Hershel wailed.
Everyone, who had been loading their shotguns during Rick and Philip’s exchange, had pulled out their weapons and started firing, shooting as many of the gophers as they could as they spilled over each other in their escape from the barn.
“Don’t let any of them get away!” Rick screamed.
The air was filled with the sound of shotgun blasts, shells hitting the ground after being discharged, the squeals of the small animals as they were hit.
Despite Rick being busy with shooting and killing the pests, he still noticed Merle hightailing it down the road (noting he would probably be in the next county by the time this was all through) and Hershel, crying on the ground, cursing the high heavens at the utter carnage unfolding in front of him.
And he thought the Governor was a drama queen.
The whole crazy thing had no sooner started, than it was all over, the hush that followed as everyone contemplated what they had been so unceremoniously forced to do.
There were countless dead bodies lying all over the ground.
Not one had been left alive.
Which left Rick marveling at the fact that no one had shot each other accidentally, his new found friends possibly making the nightly news as some weird ritual mass suicide by shotgun.
Everyone was covered in blood, brown fur and gopher gore.
Rick thought if PETA ever got wind of this, they were all pretty much done for.
Rick turned around quickly and yelled to Gareth’s group, “cell phones away now! Don’t even think about it!”
Half the group guiltily shoved their cell phones back into their pockets, while Marty was furiously deleting something on his.
Rick grimly mumbled, “fuckin' youTube.”
Merle was sitting on the ground in a daze, his clothes lying forgotten in a heap.
“Fuck Merle! Put your damn clothes back on,” Daryl shouted at the man in exasperation.
Rick walked to the opening of the barn, peered inside, doing one more check. There seemed to be not a one in sight.
“Did we get them all?” Gareth called out.
“Yeah, me and Daryl were keeping a sharp eye on the perimeter. None got away,” Rick confirmed.
Everyone stood still as a lone gopher made its way out of the barn, standing just outside of the doorway, staring back at all the people who wore the evidence of its clan’s slaughter.
“It’s just a baby!” Carol called out.
Everyone looked at the very tiny rodent, it sitting on its hind quarters and looking up with its chubby cheeks.
Rick approached the small animal.
“See Hershel? All is not lost. We can let this one go,” Rick smiled.
When he turned back around, the thing launched itself at his face, grabbing on and holding on for dear life, which if Rick had any say in the matter, wouldn’t be for too much longer.
Rick fell to the ground but before the thing could set its teeny tiny claws into his skin, someone had come up alongside him and hit the puny terror with something (that suspiciously looked like a severed gopher’s head) and the gopher had fallen off Rick’s face onto the ground. Daryl swung his crossbow up and pulled the trigger, a bolt going through the small animal.
“Dude, overkill much?” Alex scoffed.
Rick looked up into Daryl Dixon’s face, the sun at his back, and growled, “is the fucker dead?”
“Yeah,” Daryl confirmed and held a hand out so he could haul him up off the ground, Rick patting his back, saying, “thanks, for having my back.”
“Anytime, man. Anytime,” Daryl nodded, both men regarding each other before Daryl turned on the group and starting yelling. “Cuz these asses were just standin' around while you were gettin’ your face eatin’ off!”
Alex hissed to Gareth, “dude! That would have gone so viral.” Before Gareth could shush him, Rick threw a withering glare at the brothers.
“Merle! Put your damn clothes on!” Philip shouted, the tall man hunched over on the ground. “Sorry ‘bout that. You know. The whole…heat of the moment.”
Rick would have to address this at some point later but for now he just surveyed the wreckage, while patting the man on the back.
Maggie was walking through the bodies, shooting every gopher that even so much as twitched, muttering ‘damn bastards.’
Hershel had at some point gotten up and looked at the mess his small patch of ground had become, the soil thick with blood.
“Well, that’s over. I’m goin' into the house for a drink. Anyone want one is welcome to join me,” the man said as he made his way into the house.
Hershel seemed to be taking it pretty well.
Everyone started to gather in the living room, a kindly woman named Patricia yelling at everyone to get the hell back out until they at least ran themselves through a car wash.
So instead, everyone gathered around the porch, passing around a bottle of Jim Beam. Merle had, thankfully, put his clothes back on and seemed to be in better spirits.
“I dunno what I’m gonna do,” Maggie said sadly, taking a rather long swig from the bottle when it came to her. “The gophers are gone, but the place is still wrecked. There’s no way we can get a place on such short notice and we got so many people coming and,” Maggie started to sob as she covered her mouth.
Rick looked at the poor girl. True he had only met her just a scant few hours ago, but he felt so bad for her (and yes, there was the specter of Lori laughing at him, making fun of how he always was a sucker for a sob story).
He most definitely had a soft spot for the Greene girls.
He remembered something one of the county maintenance guys he had come into contact with over the years, told him recently, something about a government run piece of property and thinking it could just work.
Of course, she wouldn’t want that, would she?
“I gotta an idea. Don’t know if ’s still on the table but it’s worth a shot. I have to call this guy ‘bout it. But if it was okay…the property is plenty big, and it would be perfect. The grounds are well manicured. They’ve been well tended to. It would be real cheap, practically nothing. But, I’d have to call first,” Rick babbled nervously.
“Rick?” Maggie said as she looked up, her face full of new found hope.
“It’s a little unorthodox though,” Rick laughed.
“Ah, that’s okay,” Merle piped up, “the Greenes are Christian. They ain’t Jewish.”
Rick’s mental tally drew closer to one hundred as everyone chimed in.
He wondered if Shane was starting to itch down in his nether regions yet.