Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Zombie Bocephus Chapter 1

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They never should’ve killed me.  I never was a saint, but I had my good qualities--I can’t think what they are right now, but I know I didn’t deserve a bullet to the brain.  Sure, I harbored a few indecent thoughts in my time—I coveted my fair share of asses, that’s for sure, and I did a lot of drugs. I 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.

Talk about a crazy night.  My friends Willy and Earnestine were the ones doin’ the digging.  They walked away from a shallow hole, Willy carryin’ the shovels and Earnestine hoistin’ my dead weight.  She tossed me into the back of her pick-up truck and drove my corpse through the black of night, bouncin’ over potholes left and right--for once I could stand ridin’ 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 lookin’ 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.  The good thing about Earnestine is she knows she’s ugly.  She’s accepted that fact and doesn’t let it stop her from livin’ 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 wearin’ her trucker hat and an unbuttoned, un-tucked flannel shirt. 

We met a few years ago, right after I caught The Spirit and was gettin’ ready to go out on my first real conversion tour.  She found me outside a Denny’s about three in the morning.  I was high as a bat, havin’ gone behind a dumpster to plug my face with my favorite glass pipe.  She was on the tail end of a long haul at the time, on her return trip Dallas, and had parked at the Chevron station next door and was fillin’ up with the diesel.

“Hey, what are you doing over there?” she called out to me. “You smokin’ crack or somethin’?” As a matter of  fact I was, and as it happened, a couple of state troopers had just pulled up to the gas station in their cruiser, lookin’ to take advantage of their shield and title to the tune of some free fried chicken from the Popeye’s that had opened up adjacent to the cooler section.  Earnestine thought it funny to draw attention to my illegal activity.  She would have loved nothin’ more than to watch those cops haul me off in handcuffs—but little did she know I have cajones the size of wrecking balls.  To put it simply, I ain’t scared of shit, least of all when I’m soarin’ on the big C. 

At that point, I had nothin’ left to lose.  I had just lost my job washin’ dishes at Denny’s after the shit-for-brains manager caught me smoking crack behind the dumpster.  As if that would affect my ability to wash the dishes.  I wasn’t going to let it bother me though.  Shit, what do I care about some shitty ass restaurant?  You can keep Denny’s.  I’ll take a Shoney’s Big Boy every time.  Besides, I wasn’t put on this earth to wash no dishes.  I have been called to a higher purpose.

“Who’s that vision of loveliness?” I hollered just as loud as I could.  Meanwhile I slipped my crack pipe into my shirt pocket as I walked across the grassy divide between the Denny’s and the truck stop.  “I do believe the Venus de Milo has done sprung arms and walked out of the Louvre.  God almighty, what’s she doing this side of Birmingham?”

Earnestine looked at me strange, like she was sizin’ me up.  She glanced over to see if we had the attention of those state troopers, but they were already wedged in a booth, lickin’ their fingers.  “Ain’t you the sweet one,” she responded.  “I mean, for a crack head.”  She devoted special emphasis to the word, like she was spittin’ it out of her mouth.

“Don’t hate me because I’m a scumbag,” I said.  “You may not know it from lookin’, but there’s more to me than meets the eye.”  I was already reaching into my coat pocket for the book that changed my life.

“What you got there?” Earnestine asked.  “Don’t tell me the crack head is gonna read a book to me.”

“This is no ordinary book, Darlin’.  This here’s got all the answers to all the world’s most important questions.  This here’s the word of God.” 

Earnestine made a fart sound with her lips and tongue.  “I’m too old for bible stories,” she said. 

“This ain’t the Bible,” I said, holdin’ up my well-worn copy of the holiest of holy books.  I recognized that this was not the time to try and convert her.  “But I respect your lack of belief.”

“I drive trucks,” Earnestine said.  “That’s my religion.” 

It is too.  Drivin’ eighteen wheelers was a dream of hers long pursued but never realized.  Earnestine started out her professional life as a two-bit truck stop whore, selling her body for crystal meth at weigh stations and welcome centers all along interstate 59 from New Orleans to Atlanta.  It turns out that while she was on her back gruntin’ and moanin’ for all them truckers, what she really wanted more than anything was to be one of ‘em.  Naturally, her abuse of meth tarnished not only her looks but her employability. 

She knew she was in no condition to drive, nor could she afford to learn, but her diminishin’ looks turned out, in the long run, to be a stroke of good luck.  Before long, she could hardly find a trucker left to fuck her.  That’s when she hit rock bottom.  As any reformed drug user can tell you, you got to hit bottom if you expect to work your way back up toward the top.  I know it was true for me.  If I hadn’t been killed, Lord only knows where I would be today.

Somehow, against the odds, Earnestine managed to turn her life around.  She kicked crank, turned what little tricks she could find for cash, and saved up enough money for her CDL.  She’d been around enough truckers to learn what to say in an interview—she ultimately stuck to the truth—and some poor sap of a warehouse manager felt sorry for her and gave her a chance.  It was all the opportunity she needed.  She never looked back. 

Once she had her trucker’s license, it was like all those bad things that had happened in her life—and believe me it was one thing after another—just vanished in the gush of wind rushing through the open window of her first big hauler, disappeared like each passing mile between cities.  Life on the open road is what maintains her sanity, but it’s more than that too.  For Earnestine, driving trucks is a spiritual endeavor.

If you don’t believe me, ask Willy.  Willy knows her better than anyone.  Earnestine and him have been together for so long they might as well be married.  Willy don’t say much on that account, but then Willy don’t say much of anything since he got brained with a crowbar outside a Tasty Freeze in Kalamazoo, Michigan back before we ever met.  He’s still got a jagged scar running diagonally across the back of his bald, egg-shaped head.  That and his droopy eyes remind me a little of Frankenstein.  He mumbles and grunts, but every now and then he cobbles two or three comprehensible words together. 

“So how’s he look?” Earnestine asked him 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.  Somethin’ about the way he said it must have struck her as funny, because Earnestine started cacklin’ 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 when I received my first treatment of Formula, so I managed to maintain my good lucks, unlike some other Zombies I could name.  Of course we prefer the name Zombie Americans, but I’m not one of those sticklers for political correctness.  You can call me Aunt Susan for all I care, though my given name is Bocephus T. Boswell.  My friends call me Bo.  Some people call me Reverend Bo, or Reverend Zombie, or sometimes just the Reverend.  Earnestine usually calls me Fuckface.

That first night I met Earnestine, I immediately recognized something about the situation, about her demeanor, that I figured could be turned to my advantage.  It’s like that network of truck stop whores she maintains that I always think will come in useful some day, but so far hasn’t. In Earnestine’s case she started out useful for a ride out of town and ended up saving me from the eternal void.  I’d call that damned near indispensible.   

“This here is a hell of a truck you got,” I said the night we met as I admired my reflection in the chrome of her bumper.  The paint job on the cab was fire red and was clean and freshly waxed.  Earnestine takes special care of her rig, like it’s the baby she ain’t ever gonna have.  (she had a hysterectomy some years back.)  “I don’t suppose you could give a lift to a feller down on his luck.” 

“No way.  I don’t take on no crack head passengers.”

“Come on now, Honey.  I’m having a hard day.”

“You ain’t getting near my rig as long as you’re holding.”

I didn’t say a word.  I took the pipe out of my shirt pocket and shattered it on the concrete.  It didn’t matter to me.  I had smoked my last rock and was out of money.  I knew I could get more once I found a crowd and laid down a mean sermon.  I’d pass around a collection plate, and before long I’d be eating my meals at Cracker Barrel.  Lucky for me, Earnestine is a sucker for a strong gesture, however empty it may be.  She gave me a lift to my cousin’s place outside Anniston.  By then I had had plenty of time to lay down the charm along with my life story and the story of my conversion.

“Will you please shut the fuck up?” she asked me more than once.  I pride myself on my ability to talk nonstop, but Earnestine is one of those people who prefers a few moments of silence.  Conversation, I believe, is a lost art.  Anyway, I knew I just had to keep talking and sooner or later I’d hit on a topic that would render her sympathies toward me into a more favorable light.  That topic turned out to me my mother—how she raised me and my seven brothers and two sisters by herself after my dad was killed by a tornado.  By the time we reached my cousin’s house, Earnestine and I were friends.   

Earnestine was overdue for some shuteye and planned to sleep in her truck.  The next mornin’ she was to make a run up to South Carolina, before turning around and heading back down to New Orleans.  I told her she could stay at my Cousin Ernie’s house.  He was away on a fishin’ trip and would never even know we were there.  I just needed a place to regroup, make my plans before I made another move, but New Orleans was already growing large in my estimation.  It seemed like perfect virgin territory for a practitioner of a new religion.  Earnestine agreed to give me a ride.  The rest, as they say, is history.  We’ve been friends ever since.

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.  Then you’ll be all too happy to turn your back on reality and elevate your consciousness.  It’s the same way for religion.  For a man (or woman) to convert to a new religion, a lot of times you have to hit rock bottom. 

Most people don’t find religion, they inherit it.  They believe whatever it is their parents tell them to believe and then they pass on the same brand of nonsense to their children.  A convert has nowhere else to turn, has nothing else to find but religion.  That’s how it was with me.  Also, there was a woman, but I prefer not to get into all that now.

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 represent the fellowship 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 messin’ 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 stiffenin’ corpse, that my impendin’ 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.

The Zombie Bocephus Chapter 2 Chapter 3

Other serialized novels at this site include the romance novel parody, The Oiliest Secret,
and the science fiction novel parody Dinosaur Ghost.
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