Sunday, February 23, 2014

Chapter 3

Her name was Lilly Belle, and she was about as beautiful a woman as I have ever seen.  She had tar black hair running down the middle of her back and she had these big bushy eyebrows like Brooke Shields.  She had a mole above her lip that reminded me of Marilyn Monroe.  I ran into her in at The Brass Monkey after about twenty bottles of Dixie beer.  “Hey there, Honey,” I said in my suave voice.  “They call me the Love Zombie.”

She looked at me like I’d just asked her to French kiss a porcupine.  “Does that line ever work?”

“It works on the kind of girls who will go home with a guy like me.”

“Those aren’t ladies.”

She had a point.  As I was quickly finding out, it wasn’t like it was in the old days when all you had to do was walk into a bar, scan the room until something pretty looked your way.  Ever since I died things have become a little more complicated.  It ain’t like the stories you read in books or see on TV or in the movies.
Take all those vampire stories for instance.  In Fantasy Land, being dead appears exotic.  All these chickadees wetting their panties over these pale dead monsters.  The real world is nothing like that.  Pale guys have nothing on a man with a tan.  Pale means you don’t get out much.  It suggests anemia, and anemia is not a turn-on.  I can’t emphasize that enough. 

Then there’s me.  I’m a little green.  I can’t tell you how many women walk away from me in bars once they notice my skin color is not a result of poor lighting.

And that’s nothing compared to when they find out I don’t have a heartbeat.  You can forget it.  In vampire stories, sleeping with some sexy dead dude seems exotic.  In the real world, there’s a thing called  necrophilia--vampire novelists should look it up. 

Here’s what a vampire personals ad would look like in the real: Single Supernatural Paranormal, pale, cold and stiff, seeks sexy necrophiliac to keep me warm at night.  Must be okay with cannibalism.
How many women do you think that ad would attract?

Well, maybe a few.  There’s always a few who are into the weird stuff.  Just like there are always a few who are into a guy like me.  I tell you though, it takes a special kind of lady to hook up with a zombie.

Lilly Belle was not that kind of lady.  She left me at the bar, sucking on an empty beer bottle.  I would have ordered another but I was tapped out, so I threw a handful of peanuts into my mouth, and swiveled around to check out what was left of the scenery.  To tell you the truth, there wasn’t much to look at.  It was getting near closing time, and most of the patrons had skedaddled.  Earnestine and Willy had gone home fifteen beers earlier.  I saw a few good-lookin’ ladies mingling about, but they was all paired up with dudes.  Then I looked down at one of the tables near the bandstand--the band was long gone, and that area was all dark and deserted except for this one lone figure dressed in black.  She had curly blonde hair and she had her head down on the table like she was asleep.  I took one last sip off my bottle, found one last swallow of foam, and then slipped off my bar stool and headed in for the kill.

“What’s the matter pretty lady?  Your boyfriend leave you all alone?”

She looked up at me with these big sad eyes, like at first she couldn’t see me, but then her expression changed--like a flicker of curiosity passed through her mind--and she lifted her head off the table.  “Who are you?”

I thought about calling myself the Love Zombie again, but my previous result had been less than satisfactory, and I didn’t know if this chick knew Lilly Belle.  I couldn’t stand the thought of those two birds yapping about my cheesy line, so I just told her my name was Bo.

“Hey Bo, you wanna buy me a beer?”

I was just trying to piece together how I was going to either a) buy this chick a brewskie with approximately twenty cents in my pocket or b) convince her that she didn’t really want a beer, when c) the lights came on and the bartender cried out, “That’s it, folks, you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”  I was happy to go with that one.

“I didn’t even hear last call,” she said.

“What’s your name?” I asked, but damned if I can remember what she said.  She gave me a smile.  As we shuffled toward the door, I regaled her with the tale of my recent demise and resurrection.  Long story short, we took a little walk out into the parking lot, and that’s when I remembered I didn’t have a ride back to Skwerly’s shack.  Earnestine and Willy had gone home in the pickup but I had been certain in my abilities to find a nice girl to drive me home.  Unfortunately, she never had the chance.

As we were going out, Skwerly was going in, or at least trying to, he was in the midst of arguing with the bouncer.   

“What choo mean, you close at two a.m.?” He asked the hulk standing before him.  He looked at his watch, a big homemade piece a junk that looked like it came out of a 50s sci-fi movie.  “It ain’t but one fifty nine!”
No doubt Skwerly would have argued for the remainder of that minute had he not spotted me trying to sneak by him. 

“Hey, who dat over dere?  Is dat my zombie?”  He forgot about the bouncer and wandered over.  

“Hey Skwerly.”

“Who dis pretty lady?”

As I had forgotten the girl’s name, an awkward silence followed.  The girl swayed and smiled.  I said, “This here’s Skwerly,” and she said hey. 

All the while, Skwerly’s just staring at her like a Doberman stares at a piece of steak.  “You sho’ is pretty,” he said, which was, like I said previously, a bit of a stretch.  “Where ya’ll going?” 

The girl looked at me, and as I had no good answer at the ready, I just shrugged.

“I know where ya’ll going.  Ya’ll going home wit me.” 

That’s how we ended up riding home in Skwerly’s Dodge Dart.  There was a great big hole in the dashboard where the radio was supposed to be, Skwerly having taken it out for one of his science projects, but that didn’t stop him from swaying back and forth and singing at the top of his lungs, “Oh, girls jus wanna have fu-un.  Yeah girls just wanna have fun.”

We all three crammed into the front seat, with the girl in the middle, and I could tell by the way he turned and sang to her, that he was putting on his best moves, like he was serenading her or something.  He nuzzled his face into her neck, and I had to reach over and grab the wheel to keep us from steering into a ditch. 
I’d have to find a way to shake him loose.

Well we get back to the shack and Skwerly puts on a CD and as the Bangles start to sing, he goes to pop open a box of wine.  I take the opportunity to slow dance with the girl to “Walk Like an Egyptian.” 
She’s putting her body up against mine and grinding her pelvis into my frontal bone, and I start to think maybe this girl’s into me after all, but then here comes Skwerly carrying the box and three coffee mugs full of the pink stuff.

“Woo-eee, look at dem love birds,” Skwerly says, only coming out of Skwerly’s mouth the last word sounds like boids.  “Look at dem love boids.  Lemme get some of dat action.”  And the girl turns and looks at him in a way that causes me some concern, like maybe she’s into it.

Skwerly dances his way into our huddle and passes off the wine mugs only I have to reach off to the side for mine, while he moves in real close to the girl with hers, and whispers something into her ear, and all of a sudden they’re the ones slow dancing and I’m a third wheel. The odd man out!  The girl giggles at whatever it is Skwerly said, kind of a fake shocked kind of laugh, like he said something bawdy that she hadn’t heard and done a thousand times before, but then again maybe she can’t understand him.  I know I can’t understand him half the time, and sometimes I laugh to try and cover it up.

I stand there for a second, sipping on cheap wine and staring at Skwerly, wondering how in the hell I’m gonna ditch this cock blockin’ sum bitch who seems hell bent on poaching my hard-earned tail.   I abide by the age-old adage of finders keepers.  I drained my mug and danced in on the girl, trying to ease old Skwerly out.  Damned if he doesn’t move to her backside and grind her butt like she’s the meat in a man sandwich.
The girl is starting to register the effects of the wine, and I’m a little worried she’ll pass the point of no return.  I may be a scumbag, but I don’t abide screwing no drunk girl (not too drunk a girl anyways), and I ain’t gonna let Skwerly do it neither. 

“Say there Skwerly.  It looks like the lady needs a refill,” I say, if only to buy myself some time.  When he takes her cup I say, “Oh, and I need one too.”

“You ashhole,” says Skwerly, like I’m the one bustin’ in on his groove and not the other way around. “Da Wine is right deh.”  He pointed to the box on the table, but I play it cool.

I get up close to his ear and say, “We can’t serve this honey Boone’s Farm, Skwerly.”

“Why not?  I likes it.”

The girl’s not listening to any of this.  She’s just swayin’ to Bananarama.

“I hid a bottle of vodka in the back of the freezer.  Why don’t you mix up a batch with some cherry Kool-Aid."

At this, the life returns to the girl’s eyes, and even though I can tell by his squint that Skwerly don’t trust a word I’m sayin’, the girl only has to repeat the word, “vodka,” and his expression changes.

“You want some dem tater spirits, Baby?”

The girl just looks at him all blank-like, but all the while she’s swayin’ to the music, she starts hiking her skirt up above her thighs.

Well, Skwerly’s eyes bug out of his head, and I  must admit my eyebrows are climbing up my forehead.

“Look at dem, Boy,” Skwerly says, slapping me across the chest.  Then to the girl, he says, “Show us yo poo-nanny,” and damned if she doesn’t lift that skirt up to her waist.

“She ain’t got on no pannies!” Skwerly cries out, wild as a loon.   Sure enough, she’s showing us a rough little patch of Velcro, and you don’t even have to squint to see the vertical sliver--the entryway to the magic kingdom. 

Well, Skwerly reaches out his hand for a stroke, but I slap it down.  He looks at me like I just punched his favorite dog.

“First the vodka,” I say, and for once the girl backs me up.  She’s still wearing a big smile on her face, but she lowers her skirt to hide her glory, and waves a no-no finger at him. 

“Vodka,” she says again.

Skwerly starts nodding his head like a jackhammer, and he has a big dumb grin plastered across his face, and he tells her he’ll be right back.

Now, I know right then I have to act fast, lest by date for the evening ends up on the floor getting plowed by a deranged redneck other than me, so I grab her by the waist with one hand and pull her up to my chest, and with the other hand I work up the backside of her skirt.  I say, “You and me need to get out of here."
She shows me a little twinkle in her eyes.  “You don’t want to share me, Baby?”

I think about this for a second.  It’s true I have no desire to have Skwerly’s penis in my immediate vicinity, or to put my own appendage into close proximity with his, but at the same time I notice in her face a slight resemblance to a certain barnyard animal, a lengthening of the jaw reminiscent of a horse, or perhaps a sheep, and for one brief instant I am not sure if my heart is all into the night’s entertainment, but then again, she is here, and she is waiting for an answer. 

“That’s right, Darlin’,” I say, and I take her hand and drag her out the back door, but not before I scoop the keys to Skwerly’s Dodge of the coffee spool.

She walks limp through the flood lights protruding from the back yard, and I can tell the girl don’t really care where she goes.  It’s a warm night, not too hot, and less humid than usual.  No sooner than we hit the darkness of the tree line, I hear Skwerly calling out for us on the other side of the house.  As I suspected, he noticed his keys missing, and goes out the front to stop us from stealing his car, while unbeknownst to him, we are snaking our way down a grown-over trail, heading down to another property I know that’s not far away.  As we venture out into the woods, with only a half-eaten path and the moon to guide us, I can still make out Skwerly yelling, “Hey Where’d ya’ll go?  I want me some poo-nanny!” At this, the girl and I both laugh.

There’s this little tree stand I know of that will mark the perfect end to this the first day of my Zombie Life.  I tell the girl about how Ernestine and I sometimes come to this spot to poach deer.  Technically, it’s Earnestine’s granddaddy’s land, but he sold the hunting rights, so technically she has to ask permission from a stranger to hunt the land.  “Screw that noise,” she always says, and these are the words ringing through my head as we climb up into that tree, and as I lay the girl down on an old blanket stored for just such an occasion.  I strip off the girl’s blouse and look down at her pale naked titties, hanging loose in the moonlight.  I know what Skwerly would say. 

“You ain’t wearing no bra!” I say in my fake Skwerly accent, and the girl giggles, causin’ her titties to bounce side to side. 

I won’t tell you the rest of what happened.  I may be a zombie, but I am also a gentleman. 

Later that morning, I woke up and the girl was gone.  When I got back to the shack, I found out that Skwerly’s car was gone too.  I thought maybe Skwerly had done got some action after all, and then maybe took her home, until I went inside and found him sitting in his ripped-up recliner, red-eyed and drunk as piss
“Hey there, Skwerly.  What’s shakin’?”

“What’s shakin’?  What’s shakin’?  You an ashhole, that’s what’s shakin’?”

“How’s that, Skwerly?”

“You took away the skank!”

I wondered if he knew about his car being stolen.  “Oh yeah.  Sorry about that Skwerly.  She had to go meet up with her sister.”

Skwerly’s eyes narrowed down to slits.  I could tell he wasn’t buying what I was selling.
“You know sumpin’ deh zombie boy?  You gonna need another dose of Formula real soon!”

“How’s that, Skwerly?”  I was still new to life among the undead.  Until then I didn’t know about the Formula; all I knew was that I had once been dead, but now I was alive, and I saw reason to question how or why.  “What are you gettin’ at?” I asked in an annoyed voice.

“What I’s gettin’ at is you need my Formula to stay alive.”

Now it started to dawn on me that I was at the mercy of a crazy sum bitch, and I had just given him all the reason in the world to hate my guts 'til his dying day.

“You know that Formula, it ain’t cheap,” Skwerly said, matter of fact.

“It ain’t?”

“No suh.  It ain’t.”

I had no idea of whether or not he was telling the truth or not, but I made a vow to myself  right then and there to find out more about it.  “How much does it cost?”

“It gonna cost you two hunert!”

“Two hundred?” I let out a whistle.  “I ain’t got that kinda money.”

“Well you better got it, else you gonna die all over again, and this time I ain’t gonna be so nice as to bring you back.”

“Well shit,” I said, “How much time do I have?”

“You pay me on Fridays.”

“Fridays?” I asked, emphasizing the s.  It was Tuesday.

“Every Friday.  Two hunert dollahs,” Skwerly said, “or you is goin’ to the sweet hereafter.”

“That’s kind of steep, ain’t it?”

“You don’t like it, take yo’ self to the hospital.  See what they charge you."

“Do they have the Formula?”

Skwerly let out screeching cackle.  “Hell no, de’ ain’t got no Formula.  De’ ain’t gonna save ya.  They’s gonna charge you about six thousant dollah to tell you you is already dead.”  He cackled again.
It was kind of hard to argue with his logic.

“Well shit,” I said again.  It was all I could think of to say.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Chapter 2

Now if you’ve never seen Skwerly before you’re missing one crazy looking dude.  Each individual strand on his frizzy head stands up like the bride of Frankenstein, and he has these big bulging eyes that seem to stare in two different directions at once.  He covers his face with something he calls his beard but which is more like patches of tumbleweed glued on in random locations.  Whenever he’s about to snap, and believe me, he’s likely to snap at any moment, one of those eyes (the left one usually) will bounce over to the side and then shoot back into alignment, like something just popped in his brain. 

When he came upon my dead body splayed across his dinner table he was wearing his usual attire—a white lab coat overtop a pair of green surgical scrubs.  He had a stethoscope slung around his neck and one of those reflective mirrors attached to his forehead.  He was barefooted. 

“You think you can save him?” Earnestine asked.  

Willy stood beside her, shaking his head as if he was the one being asked a question.

Skwerly looked down at my bloated face and frowned.  One eyebrow raised high above the other.  “This ashhole owe me ten dollah!”   

He dropped his black doctor’s bag on my belly, popped it open, and pulled out a foot-long needle that he proceeded to jab repeatedly into my left arm until he located a vein.  Something about the concoction that drained from that syringe into my body must have laid the groundwork for what came next—it didn’t bring me back to life all at once, but rather it put my body into a state where it could be made to live again. 

After the shot, Skwerly started massaging my heart while Earnestine delivered mouth to mouth resuscitation, Skwerly having not wanted to touch my mouth with his own, and Earnestine only slightly more inclined--Willy beat her in the coin flip.

While Earnestine tried not to gag, Skwerly brought out those jumper cables like you see on the emergency room TV shows.  You know what I mean--that little box with a the hot laundry irons attached to wires.  The doctor yells, "Clear!" and then all the nurses and everyone step the hell out of the way while he blasts the corpse with about a million watts of electricity.  Skwerly’s model isn’t the same kind you see in the hospital though--he literally pieced his together from an old Macintosh computer, a couple of flat irons and an old tractor battery. 

I pieced all this together later--I have no actual recollection of my resurrection.  I was in a place beyond conscious recognition, where pain and pleasure cease to exist--that great dreamless sleep that we all face sooner or later.  At least we used to. 

I felt like Frankenstein when I woke up, I was that stiff.  All I needed were a couple of bolts sticking out of my neck.  Earnestine came in with a can of Colt .45 to celebrate my second coming, but you know it didn’t taste the same as I remembered. 

Nothing tastes the same.  Everything has a metal taste to it that I don't particularly enjoy.  I eventually stopped eating, but not before I gained twenty pounds.  Since I can't take a crap anymore (and believe me I've tried), I can’t lose weight.  It sucks a big one too because eating gave me such pleasure when I was alive before.  Now I don't need anything but a beer every now and then and my formula.  That and I have to go in for servicing every six months or three thousand miles, whichever comes first.

And of course there is the shot I have to take every couple of days to ensure my heart keeps pumping oxygen throughout my body. (The Formula I alluded to earlier.)  Don’t ask me what’s in it: Skwerly keeps the recipe secret, and like many patients, I don't question doctor’s orders.  I just do what I have to do to keep living.

The hard part is keeping to a schedule.  Since my first resurrection, I have died again two more times on account of my forgetfulness.  In each instance I was lucky that either Willy or Earnestine was there to deliver the emergency shot and subsequent CPR necessary to get me going again. 

I don’t need the jumper cables if  I haven’t been out too long. Also, Skwerly developed a new method for CPR whereby a plastic tube is inserted into my mouth and air is forced into my lungs via a mechanism derived from parts of an old bicycle pump. That keeps Earnestine from having to slobber all over me and for that she is grateful.  Otherwise I think she would have let die three months ago.     

Knowing that the next time I stray too far from my friends could be the last time I see this blessed Earth has led me to tattoo a piece of string tied in a bow around my middle finger of my right hand to help me to remember my formula.  Now I just have to remember to look at it.

You see, Skwerly’s medicine can’t bring back any old dead person.  Your dear old grandmammy, who died last year (or even last week) is clear out of luck if she thinks she can resurrect.  At most you only have a window of seven or eight hours in which a dead person can be treated with Skwerly’s formula. 

Since my tattoo, I’ve been pretty good about remembering my shot.  I carry my gear around everywhere in a leather carrying case like I’m a serious heroin junky, or an old-school diabetic.  I need that stuff to live, just as I need Skwerly, and this puts me in something of a bind.  You may be shocked to learn that Skwerly is not the most reliable dude I know. 

Old Skwerly was always crazy, but he came from what folks down here call “a good family” and there was no denying that old boy’s intelligence.  He managed to get himself into med school, only to flunk out, not because of his grades, but because of his increasingly erratic behavior.  At one point during his second year he got caught in the middle of the night down in the coroner’s office arranging cadavers as if they were having a tea party.  They was all dressed up in suits and flower print dresses, and there was an elegant spread all laid out, complete with a pot of Earl Gray and about a dozen finger sandwiches made with cucumber spread.  It is highly unlikely he was expecting any more company than the recently departed; such were the pains he had suffered to formalize the occasion. 

Old Skwerly was just a sippin’ from his dainty little porcelain tea cup with the pink flower on it, his pinky extended as a sign of his social upbringing, when a third-year resident burst through the door unexpectedly, just in time to overhear Skwerly remark to the shotgun victim sitting beside him, “Why yes Miss. Hennessey, I am familiar with that Dost-ah-yesky Russian mo fo, but in my opinion The Brothers Caramelo is one big ole pile ‘o melodramatic bullshit and whas more I caint keep up wit all dem damn character’ names.  Come on now Mr. Dost-ah-yesky.  Pick a damn name and stick to it.”    

Surprisingly, this incident was not a factor in Skwerly’s forced removal from school.  The guy who caught him having the tea party was an agreeable little guy, always willing to play along with a gag.  It seems a bit of gallows humor goes a long way with some of these med school types.  Instead of reacting with shock and disgust, he pulled up a chair and poured himself a cup of tea and then started stuffing his face with cucumber sandwiches.  In between bites, though, he couldn’t help but notice from the way Skwerly eyed him, that despite being the only other living participant at the tea party, the atmosphere was less than welcoming.

Still, all that was perfectly fine by medical school standards.  Hell, I even think they put pictures of the event in the biannual newsletter.  What got Skwerly kicked out of med school was when he went crazy and almost killed his attending physician with a scalpel.  Apparently they couldn’t agree on what radio station to listen to while performing an operation.

I’m partial to country myself, and not just because I’m named after the great Hank Williams Jr.  I actually prefer his father, Hank Sr.’s brand of music, and I’ve always loved the low rumblings of Johnny Cash, especially songs in which he explores the darker side of the human soul.  Ironically, I don’t much care for his gospel tunes.

From what I gathered, though, the attending physician was dead set on listening to classical music—I believe it was Beethoven’s Ode to Joy—while Skwerly was adamant about listening to Duran Duran.  The attending physician was inflexible (as men in positions of authority tend to be), but Skwerly was straight out bat shit crazy (as those with psychotic personality disorders tend to be), and in the end the doctor crawled out of the operating room trailing blood and missing a piece of his ear.  All the nurses and technicians and everyone ran out screaming bloody murder.  That left Skwerly alone in the operating room, happily and successfully completing the surgical procedure, all the while singing to himself at the top of his lungs, “I ra-an...  I ran so far a-wa-ay...  I couldn’t get away.”

He spent thirty days in the loony bin for that one, and the doors of the medical school were closed to him forever.  After that, he drifted away from his rich family and he drifted even further away from reality.  These days, he makes his living cooking up crank for bottom feeders and ne’er-do-wells and spends his leisure time testing various chemical mixtures on the local squirrel population, many of whom congregate in the woods behind his shack.  That coupled with his psychological disability led Earnestine and others to dub him Skwerly.  It should go without saying that folks around here don’t spell too good. 

In addition to yours truly, Skwerly can also be credited with creating a race of zombie squirrels from whence he derives great pleasure.  First he kills them by taking pot shots off the front porch with his bee bee gun.  Then he brings them back with the Formula, nurses them back to health, and then cultivates their misplaced sense of gratitude and loyalty.  “Thas right little squirrel,” he will say while feeding them a bite of bread.  “I am yo daddy now.  I think I will call you Ricky.”

The other squirrels don’t want anything to do with Skwerly’s zombies, and those mutant rodents have since taken over the yard, often bullying the normals out of their nuts.  Skwerly seems to enjoy spreading anarchy to human and varmint society alike.  “Thas it young fellers," he will say.  "Don’t you let dem utter squirrels take yo nuts!  Them is yo nuts!  Them utter squirrels is tryin’ to starve you.  Starve yo family!”  The deranged cackle that follows such statements can be heard from a mile away.  That same cackle was the first sound I heard after he brought me back from the dead, followed closely by his voice.

“Hey Ashhole, Where my ten dollah?”

I’m not exactly sure why he calls me ashhole instead of asshole or why he says dollah instead of dollar, nor can I imagine how, without his family’s money and influence, how he could have possibly been admitted into med school, although the fact of the matter is that he does possess, beneath many layers of ignorant manners and mental illness, a brilliant mind, and he always managed to make his grades in school.  I know because I sometimes copied off of his tests in high school.  It could be also that he managed to fool his interviewers.  Like many southerners, Skwerly maintains the ability to tone down or even change his accent depending on the company he keeps. I’ve known many men to become overly self-conscious of their southern accent when faced with the discerning ears of northerners.  I also knew a guy—a white guy—who always spoke like he was raised in the inner city projects, but one day I heard him call his dad and to my astonishment began pouring forth with the most exaggerated country accent I had ever heard.  “Hey Deddy.  How ya’ll doin’ down yonder?” and so forth.

I was already familiar with Skwerly’s voice and manner on the day I was brought back to life, but I was at a loss about what to make of the situation.  The last thing I remembered was having a nice conversation with some business associates when suddenly I felt light-headed and then everything went black.  The next thing I know, I’m blinking on Skwerly’s table, I’m covered in dirt, and Skwerly is screaming at me for his money.  It was all very discombobulating.  Needless to say I paid him the ten dollars.

Some folks think zombies (be they squirrel or human) are an abomination.  Some of those same folks think God created man out of a lump of watery sand, and woman out of man’s rib.  Is that any less of an abomination?  Just because something has appeared for the first time, doesn’t make it unnatural.  At one point there were no human beings, but they came about somehow or other, and whether it be from the breath of god or from gradual mutations and adaptations of species over millions of years, either way it’s natural, just like it’s natural that before there was people there weren’t, and doubtless they’ll disappear again in the next few million years or so, and that’s if we’re lucky! 

If you ask me just about everything is natural, and that includes artificial flavors.  I don’t even think it matters whether or not you buy into the whole science vs. religion craze.  Personally I do not believe the two are mutually exclusive.  Check this example: Let’s say there is a God, and he formed Adam out of clay and then fashioned Eve out of his rib.  That much is certainly in dispute, but what is not in dispute—what neither scientist nor true believer can deny is that somehow or other human beings got their selves a brain—whether it got there by God’s divine intervention or by the luck of natural selection ain’t really the point.  The important part is that somehow or other we got ourselves a brain, and since it is there—we can all agree it’s right inside out individual noggins—the best thing to do with it is to use it, hopefully in advance of our cause—whatever cause it may be.  Some folks use it to butter bread and others use it to invent microchips, and some feller somewhere used it to invent artificial flavorings, and that’s just as natural as the feller who didn’t do nothin’ but butter bread.  Any way you slice it, you’re using what god or the universe gave ya, so either way you slice it, it’s natural. 

‘Course, that don’t mean we won’t screw it up.  There ain’t no such thing as a guarantee in this life.  A few million years before we arrived on the scene, there appeared on this planet the dinosaurs, and just look at what happened to them.  Was the appearance of dinosaurs any more of an abomination than their eventual extinction by a comet smashing to earth?  Were they any more of an abomination than human beings, who will no doubt, eventually destroy themselves?  How can the human race, those who kill torture and rape without reason be exalted above those terrible lizards who were simply trying to get by, get themselves a mouthful of something of something or someone here and there?  If you know, please tell me because I am at a loss.

The point of this—and you'll have to excuse me for becoming overly philosophical lately, but trust me I still have a point to make in here somewhere—is that zombies, having been created by human ingenuity, albeit of a mad genius variety—are still every bit as natural as you predeceased individuals, so don’t ya’ll go looking down your noses at me! 


Earnestine was beside herself after my resurrection.  “You did it!” she screamed, grabbing Skwerly by the shoulders and shaking him violently.  “I can’t believe it! I thought I was going to have to bury him in the swamp.  You crazy-ass bastard, you brought him back to life.”

“Course I did,” Skwerly said. “I tole you I’d do it, and that’s what I done.  Squirrels is no different than people, biologically speaking.  Him’n them squirrels out back is 99.997 percent identical in terms of DNA.” He went on in this manner for some time, explaining the science of my resurrection even though we all stopped listening before he finished.

I was still trying to fathom the notion that I had been dead, but now I was alive, and Earnestine was still jumping around the room, whoopin’ and hollerin’ and waving her hat in the air and screaming, “He did it! The crazy son of a bitch did it.”  Finally she stopped just for a minute and turned to her mate.  “Yo Willy.  What do you think?” 

Willy just stared at me and scratched his head a few inches above the left ear. He wore a constipated look on his face.

Earnestine swatted him across the chest with her trucker’s hat.  “So, how’s he look?”

Willy thought about that for a few moments before he answered.  “Still dead.”

Anyway, after everybody got over the shock of seeing my resurrection, we settled in for an impromptu celebration.  Earnestine sent Willy out for a case of beer and we tuned the radio to an ‘80s station to appease our own Dr. Frankenstein.  Willy came back with Abita and Dixie beer and we had ourselves a high time.  I found, to my surprise, that my craving for beer had been depleted some, and I no longer desired any of the hard stuff.  Perhaps something in Skwerly’s Formula satisfies that kind of craving, but that first night, I forced myself to get drunk all the same.  Old habits die hard.

“So, what are you gonna do now?” Earnestine asked at some point.  Of course I thought of my mission.  These days I have a budding congregation to think about, but now I had something more pressing on my mind.

“Well,” I said, all serious-like in order to gin up the drama.  “Life is short.  I found that out the hard way.  You got to make every minute of it count.”

“Amen to that,” said Earnestine.  “So what choo wanna do?”

I leveled my eyes on hers and then opened up a big smile.  “I want to go out and party.” 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Chapter 1

He never should have killed me.  I was no saint, that’s for sure, but I had my good qualities--I can’t think what they are right now, but I know I didn’t deserve no bullet to the head.  Sure, I harbored a few indecent thoughts in my time—I coveted my fair share of asses, that’s for sure and I’ve chased a few dragons in back alleys and smoked crack behind more than a few dumpsters.  Who hasn’t?  But that's all behind me now.  I’ve been clean for almost six months—ever since they dug my ass out of a shallow grave.

I don’t remember much about that night.  The trauma of death has a way of erasing memories.  Maybe it was the head shot that caused me to blank out--a small caliber slug that somehow wedged between my scalp and skull, one that I can still push along the circumference of my head with the pad of my pinkie finger--but it caused little lasting damage.  Still, I have only the haziest of recollections regarding that evening.
I do have a visual impression of the man that pulled the trigger.  He was a pale ghost of a dude with a face like a skull and thin strips of silver hair that hung down almost to his shoulders, and he wore a black wide-brimmed hat that made him look like an Amish crypt keeper, but for the life of me I don’t remember why he did it.  I don’t remember anything about that day or the day before.  It’s a mystery, I guess, and I just have to figure out whether or not I want to solve it.
Talk about a crazy night.  I can only imagine.  My friends Willy and Earnestine dug me up.  They walked away from a shallow hole, Willy carrying the shovels and Earnestine hoisting my dead weight.  She tossed me into the back of her pick-up truck and then drove my corpse through the black of night, bouncing over potholes left and right--for once I could stand riding in a truck minus shock absorbers; I was just too dead to care. 
Earnestine drove the whole way with her headlights off, or so old Willy told me later in that monosyllabic way of his.  “No lights.”  Earnestine had on her night-vision goggles, the ones she picked up second hand at an army surplus store outside of Enterprise.  Anyway, she didn’t need to see too well to find what she was looking for.  She knew the roads well enough.  She’d driven to Skwerly’s meth lab before. 
Earnestine is a plump little ex-hooker, real butch on the outside and typically meaner than boiled hell to strangers, though she softens up after you get to know her.  One of the great things about Earnestine is that she knows she’s ugly.  She’s accepted that fact and doesn’t let it stop her from living her life to the fullest, nor does she try to change herself to meet someone else’s expectations.  She never wears makeup, keeps her hair cut short, and walks around in saggy blue jeans or chinos stained with axel grease.  She’s usually wearing her trucker hat and an unbuttoned, un-tucked flannel shirt over a wife-beater. 
“So how’s he look?” Earnestine asked Willy after they dumped my carcass onto the ground outside Skwerly’s meth shack.  I was bloated and ghost-white except for the parts of me caked in mud.
“Dead,” Willy said, shaking his head sadly.  Something about the way he said it must have struck her as funny, because Earnestine started cackling like she just heard the dirtiest joke in the world.  Even now, six months later, every now and then she’ll turn to Willy and nudge him with her elbow and then point at me.  “How’s he look, Willy?” She’ll ask.
“Still dead,” Willy will say.
Course, I don’t look that bad.  I was still in the early stages of decomposition.  I often wonder what might have happened had a larger caliber bullet traveled in front of my skull instead of that little .22 slug.  Had that dude shot me with a .38 my brain might have been splattered all over the dirt road, Skwerly wouldn’t have been able to put my Humpty Dumpty ass back together again.  Worse still, I could have come out like old Willy like one of those drooling zombies in the picture shows instead of this gallant bag of charisma before you today.
You know I don’t think I’ve properly introduced myself.  My given name is Bocephus T. Boswell.  My friends call me Bo.  Earnestine usually calls me Shitbird.
After they unloaded my corpse, they dragged me into Skwerly’s shack and laid me out on the table where Skwerly normally takes his meals.  Skwerly wasn’t around just then, so Earnestine raided the mini-fridge, and she and Willy cracked open a few beers and waited for him to turn up. 
“I never thought he’d die like this,” she said after a long swig.  Willy shook his head in agreement. “I thought cocaine would kill him, or maybe pills.  The murder part makes sense, but I expected him to get killed in a botched drug deal.  Not like this.  Not like this.”
“Not this,” Willy agreed. 
People often wonder how a man of faith could get himself hooked on chemicals, but that’s not the right question to be asking.  Anybody can get hooked on drugs. It’s easy.  All you need is a shitty life, and then you’ll be happy to turn your back on reality and alter your consciousness in the most affordable way possible.  Becoming a drug addict is kind of like finding religion.  Before you convert, you have to hit rock bottom. 
The important thing for you to know now, the thing I set out to tell you before I got off track, was how I came to be the first and only (so far) real life member of the living dead.  Really there’s only one man I have to thank, although he’s not the type I enjoy owing favors to. 

Skwerly is as crazy as his name implies.  It was his idea to bring me back to life, and his ingenuity that pulled it off.  Earnestine had been content to mourn my passing—she’s not the type to go messing with the natural order of things.  Honestly I don’t think she fully realized what was going to happen, or maybe she didn’t believe Skwerly could pull it off.  How could she know, when the shadow of the madman fell across my stiffening corpse, that my impending resurrection was not only possible but would foreshadow changes from which the world may never recover?  She couldn’t have known.  But that’s just what happened.