Postaday for June 16th: Turn, Turn, Turn Seasons change so quickly! Which one do you most look forward to? Which is your least favorite?
fiction by Jason Edwards
There I was at Jay’s Alley, minding my own business, not botherin’ nobody. Eatin a greasy cheese burger and a basket of limp french fries. Kind of a rough day. Lucinda callin’ me every few hours, screamin’ “Child Support!” into the phone and hangin’ up. I just needed some time to myself, a few minutes of peace, right?
And then one of ‘em shows up, and then another, and then one more. Zombies, all dirty and blood crusted and moanin’, green skin and open sores, the whole works. Bangin’ against the front door. Jay himself did the usual, dropped the security bar so they couldn’t get through. Me and three other guys in the little bowlin’ alley restaurant, nobody makes much of a move.
But the noise. They keep pounding on the door and moanin’ like I said. And I’ve been in this situation before. This can go on for hours. So, what the hell. I get up, I grab my shottie, I step out the emergency door, and unload. Take off one head, then another, and the third one I aim low, cut ‘im in half. But he’s still pullin’ himself around with his hands, like they do, so I walk over and stomp his skull with my boot heel. ‘Cause, you know, ammo is expensive.
I go back inside to what’s left of my greasy burger and my limp fries.
Jay himself walks over to me. Filthy apron, fat nose, receding hairline. One arm on his hip, the other cut off and cauterized at the elbow, a zed attack gone bad several years ago. And he’s glarin’ somethin’ fierce.
“Now what did you go and do that for. They wasn’t hurtin’ nobody.”
“I’m tryin’ to eat here.”
“Well what are folks goin’ to think? Pile of dead zeds by my front door? That’s bad for business.”
“So, city’ll pick ‘em up.”
“Yeah, in two or three days. I say you killed ‘em, you move ‘em.”
“Fat chance, man.”
And he walks off.
My phone rings in my pocket. Lucinda again, probably. That’s all I need. I ignore it. We used to get into such fights, especially after the zombies showed up. A real liberal, that Lucinda. Voted for all three Clintons, you know. Me, I went to the rallies, say we should burn ‘em all. And Lucinda’s like, “Remember when people hated the blacks? And the gays? How’s this any different?”
“Cause ain’t nobody ever turned black or gay from gettin’ bit, ya dumb hippie.”
Still, it was good for a few years. Little Charlie came along. And then things didn’t work out, I guess. Child support, my ass. I been out of a job for 6 months. Besides…
Anyway. Last bite of my greasy burger. One more limp french fry. I fish out a cigarette, light up, sip my warm beer. This town wasn’t ever anything spectacular. But if you had a job, and a car, and a woman, and a kid, it was okay. Winters were cold and summers were hot, springs was always too wet. But fall could be nice. The leaves and blue skies and all that. I used to like Halloween, when I was a kid myself. Around here, you could still put on a costume and go around to the houses, not have to worry about perverts or gang bangers.
And then some asshole in a lab squirts the wrong solution into a dead body. Or maybe it was some asshole with a holy book who reads one of the scriptures backwards. Or some asshole with a bad flu steps into a nuclear reactor. I don’t know. All I know is, Halloween went real and the zeds started wandering around. And at first it was scary, and then it was fun and games with the shotties and the machetes, and then it was a pain in the ass with the equal rights and the god damned liberals, and now, well, now it’s just tedious and stupid. I’d kill myself if the thought wasn’t so boring.
I put out the butt of my smoke. I could have another one, but those things’ll kill ya. Stand up, go for my shottie, but the phone rings again. I decide to answer it. “What.”
“He’s dead, Lucinda. I ain’t payin you nuthin.”
“He ain’t dead.”
“A zed got ‘em a two years ago. He’s as good as dead.”
“I don’t care. State says, no DC, he ain’t dead. You owe me three thousand dollars.”
“Oh yeah? Come ‘n get it.” I hang up on her this time. My phone starts to ring again, immediately. I let it ring. Pick up my shottie, walk over to the exit. Go through.
Jay’s outside, tryin’ to pull the zeds away from the door. Poor guy, one arm and all. You’d think he’d hate them more than me. But I feel bad for him. I prop my gun up against the wall and go over to help.
“I got it, man,” he says.
“Yeah, I know you do.” I grab a dead zed hand, drag it over near the dumpsters.
We get ‘em taken care of, stand there for a second under the gray sky. Been cloudy for a long time now. I shouldn’t complain. Summer’s aint so hot, winter’s ain’t so cold. Still. Sunshine would be nice, especially if I gotta take calls from my crazy ex and eat shitty food and drag zombie corpses all over the place. Whatever.
“Well,” I say. “I’ll see ya.”
I start to walk away, Jay goes back into his little restaurant. I’m halfway across the parking lot, and I see another crowd of ‘em. Four or five zeds this time. Why do they shuffle around in groups, I wonder. They’re following an old lady. She’s got a trot in her step, so I guess she’s seen ‘em. Probably waiting for the bus, poor thing. And the zombies come along, and now she’s got to run back home, wait for the next one. I could take ‘em out, even though, technically it’s illegal. Technically, marijuana’s still illegal. But ain’t nobody been busted in at least a decade. I never heard of anyone doing time for takin’ out a zombie mob, especially one that was chasin’ an old lady.
But, like I said, ammo’s expensive. And she’s okay. Probably one of those bleeding hearts. One of those liberals with a t-shirt that says Zombies Were People Too. Please. Get what you deserve. I move on.
And then there’s a loud bang. And another one. And two more. Comin’ from Jays’ place. I heft my shottie and run back lickety split.
Bust in through the door. The smell of cordite and saltpeter, and sharp green mold, and heavy grease. Two guys standing over a pile of zeds, third guy on the bottom of ‘em. The two got their hand guns out, the third guy’s lost most of his insides. Its a mess. One of the fellers looks at me, shrugs, sits down and goes back to his bowl of chili. The other one’s on his phone, callin’ it in to the city.
And then I hear it, from the kitchen. “Aw, God damnit.” Jay’s voice. I walk back there.
Kitchen door’s busted wide open, leadin’ to the back alley. Jays sittin’ on the floor, a huge chunk of his remaining arm is gone. It’s already turning black, dark green on the edges. There’s a body with it’s head shoved in the fryer, and the smell is somethin’ terrible.
“God damnit,” Jay says again.
I walk over to him, crouch down, peer at the wound. I’ve seen it’s like before. We all have. “Looks pretty bad,” I say.
“Yeah, yeah. Can’t cauterize this one, I guess.”
“I guess not.”
We sit there for a bit.
Finally, he says, “There’s some cash in the register.”
“So, I know you got a few shots left. Take care of me, and you can have what’s in the register for the ammo.”
I sigh. Jay’s burgers were greasy, and his french fries were limp, and his beers were warm. But what, I’m supposed to walk over to Chez Richie Rich? I was going to miss the old bastard. “Okay,” I say. “You got your DC on you?”
Despite the obvious pain, he reaches into his back pocket, pulls out his wallet. Tosses it to me. I open it up, pull out his Death Certificate. Poor guy.
I heft my shottie. “Any last w-” I say, and pull the trigger. Damn loud in the small space. I check the time, fill out his DC, leave it next to him.
And walk out, ignore the register. Ya see that? A shitty day turned shittier.
Outside, I half expect to see the city trucks, but Jay was right— they’ll be around in a few days, maybe. I walk on home. I’m spent is what I am. I have one round left, though. When my phone rings again, I pull it out, drop it on the ground, and blast it.
Back at my place, I go inside, drop the security bar down, close the reinforced shutters, settle in for the night. I try the TV, but it’s more crap about rallies and marches and bullshit. Grab a warm beer from my fridge. Pull out my own wallet.
My own death certificate, signed and ready to go, just in case. And my son’s. Charlie’s. Filled it out the day it happened. Had to take his head off myself. Still can’t bring myself to file it with the city, or show it to Lucinda. Sometimes I think the way she screams at me is the only thing that keeps us goin’. Guess I’ll have to get a new phone.