Normally, I would post some of my own writing here, but I am busy working on my long-awaited follow-up to my 1988 history of tree bark: Bark! The new book, entitled Bark II: Botanical Boogaloo, is due out in June of 2014.
As I still haven't heard from former editor Christamar Varicella since he was taken to the hospital, I can only assume that he is dead. While rooting around in his desk drawer I found the following chapter of his latest novel. I'm posting it now in lieu of some other space filler.
See also Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3
I was over at Earnestine and Willy’s trailer, pacing their little cubby hole of a living room, debating on what to do next. I knew I couldn’t go on living with Skwerly. That bastard had started doing all kinds of nutty shit just to fuck with me, like putting a dead snake head in my cereal box. I tell ya, that’s one surprise you don’t hope to find in your Cap’n Crunch. Plus the sum bitch has all these goddamn zombie squirrels running around as pets, and he started letting ‘em in the house.
Out in the yard, in the late afternoons, he pits them against the normal squirrels. You ain’t seen nothin’ until you see his big gray uglies go to town on a little brown, bite down on their little heads like an acorn, and chew out the juicy center. You’d think they was like the zombies in the movies--eatin’ brains and whatnot, but really they spit out the brains after they kill ‘em. No sense eatin’ when it only makes you bloated, there being no functioning digestive system anymore once you're a zombie.
You should not have got me started on zombie movies. Man, there ain’t nothing more unrealistic than one of those flicks. I used to love ‘em until I became an actual zombie--now I just ain’t got the patience for fantasy. Nothin bothers me more than zombie movies. Folks staggerin' around, arms and legs falling off. First of all, how am I supposed to get scared by a critter that falls apart when he tries to catch you? What’s he gonna do, beat me with his own rotting flesh? That ain't scary, it's gross! And that brings me to my second point regarding your typical motion picture zombie: What mechanism of propulsion is driving those things anyway? They ain't got no blood pumping to and from the heart, no neurons firing in their heads, no oxygen in their lungs. So what the hell’s driving ‘em?
And don’t give me none of that “They eat brains,” nonsense either. They have no method by which to manipulate their jaw muscles into the act of mastication, and presumably their digestive system has done shut down just like everything else, so there is no way to extract the beneficial contents of those nutrient-rich brains, nor an excretory conversion process to dispose of the waste matter. Have you ever seen a zombie on the john? Of course you haven’t. The whole idea is ridiculous.
I’m sorry I got so riled up about this. As you can probably tell, motion picture zombies poke at my sore spot. They contribute to negative stereotypes and stir up natural prejudices. Sometimes it seems as if prejudice against the zombie American is the last accepted form of discrimination left in this country. First it was the blacks, but then they won their rights. Then for a long time, it was OK to bash the gays, but then along came Glee, and now even they’re off limits. It got to a point where there was no one left to hate and ostracize, and then along came Skwerly and his first human guinea pig--the self-propelled dead body--and now all of a sudden I find myself in the unwarranted and unusual position of oppressed minority.
I seem to have gotten off track. What was I talkin’ about? Oh yes, the hazards of my temporary living arrangement. Let me tell you, living with Skwerly ain’t no picnic. He’s got this big old sum bitch squirrel he’s named Mary, and he keeps her in his lap and strokes her head like a goddamned James Bond villain.
The damned thing’s as big a dachshund, and it leaves these great big old squirrel shits all over the living room. The other day I came in, and old Skwerly was sitting on the couch watching wrestling, and the place was a godforsaken wreck as usual ‘cause don’t nobody ever clean the place up. (I’ll be damned if I’m the first one to lift a finger.) So, I looked down, and see something I didn’t want to see.
“Skwerly," I said, "there is shit on the bottom of your foot,” and I didn’t mean on the bottom of his shoe neither, there was a big long smear of squirrel shit all over the bottom of his bare foot. I mean, how could he not notice that? For just one moment he took his eyes off the wrestlers and looked down at his foot with a kind of dazed expression, and then he said, “Well how about that? I sho ‘nuff do.” Then, he went back to watching wrestling.
Now, that there is disgusting. I can’t live with that.
“Yeah, Old Skwerly is a crazy motherfucker.” Earnestine commiserated. “But he saved yo' ass from the grave.”
To that I had no other response than to continue pacing her green shag carpet. I could not, however, outpace the troubles percolating in my zombie brain. “He saved me, but now he’s got it in his head I cock-blocked his rightful piece of ass, and he’s gonna stick it to me however he can. How am I supposed to come up with two hundred dollars a week?”
“You're a religious man, ain’t you?” Earnestine said. “Why don’t you pray for it?”
“If there’s one part of the Bible I believe in it’s ‘The Lord helps those who help themselves.’ The trouble is I have no idea how to help myself.”
“Why don’t you get him laid,” Earnestine suggested. “Maybe he’ll ease up then.”
“How the hell am I supposed to get that fuck-nut some action?”
“You said you thought your girl from the other night was up for the challenge. Why don’t you ask her?”
Now I had all but forgotten about her. The truth was I still couldn’t even place her name. I recognize my own fault in this matter--I tend to objectify members of the ovarial persuasion, not because of some inborn hatred or overt chauvinism, but merely as a byproduct of my competitive nature. I suppose us boys like to beat each other in any sport and that includes the sport of seduction. Skwerly, I think, is one of those socialist share-the-pussy type dudes, whereas I am of the survival-of-the-fittest-may-the-best-man-win camp. My having seen her first, I viewed the girl as my rightful prize. Once I won the key to her secret compartment, I put her on a shelf in my memory along with all the other trophies and then moved on.
Earnestine brought her back to the front of my mind, lifted her off the shelf, and dusted her off. She had a good point too--I’m pretty sure that girl, whatever her name was, would slut up on a horse if it whinnied at her kindly. All I needed to do was get her to mount Skwerly, and my benevolence would surely be rewarded with a lifetime supply of free formula. Or at least a few months worth.
“But how can I find her? I threw her number away.”
Earnestine and Willy sat on the couch in careful contemplation while I continued to pace the floor.
“Why don’t you go on up to the bar,” said Earnestine. “She’s there just about every night.” Even Willy, sitting there with his chin resting between his knuckles, gave a little grunt of agreement.
“All right then, I will.”
I turned toward the door, but then remembered another reason for my visit. “How about lettin' me stay here tonight?" I asked. "I can’t stand to live at Skwerly's no more.”
Earnestine looked over at Willy, and I swear his expression never changed--he had the same flat line across the front of his face, like the line of his mouth matched the three small lines across his forehead. One eye looked up and the other straight ahead--same as always--neither looking at me nor Earnestine with either one of them, nor did he utter a sound. And yet somehow he and Earnestine came to an understanding.
“Willy says OK, but only for a few days. It’s high time you found your own place.”
This was true. Before my death, I’d been crashing on friends’ couches for six months--never at any one place for more than a week or two, and I’d done burned all my bridges ‘cept for Willy and Earnestine, and the only reason I hadn’t bothered them was I could not and can not abide the sound of their love-making--I swear it sounds like a couple of gorillas wailing on a piglet--but like I said, all my bridges were burned, and now that Skwerly had me bent over a barrel and I sure as hell didn’t want to stay with him, Willy and Skwerly were all I had left.
Willy gave me a ride down to the bar so I could go looking for the girl. It was still early--maybe six or seven--so I shot pool with a couple of fellahs I know and managed to win a few pitchers of Budweiser. The night wore on, and I got more and more snookered, but there was no sign of my former hook-up. Then finally I saw Lilly Belle.
By then I was half-sloshedand I had forgotten why I was there. “Hey there, Honey. How about buying me a drink?” I asked, standing over her at the bar. She was perched on a stool, and I stroked her hair, leaned down and smelled the back of her neck. She smelled like a tropical island. Too bad she pulled away.
“Get away from me,” she snapped.
“Now that there’s downright rude is what that is.” I sulked back to the pool table, but by then the alcohol had ruined my game and I quickly found myself in the hole for fifty dollars. I excused myself to use the restroom and proceeded to sneak out the back exit.
Outside, I began to wonder how I would get myself back to Willy and Earnestine’s place, when some asshole cracked me over the head with a baseball bat.
Next thing I know I’m down on the ground looking up these two goons are standing over me along with Lilly Belle.
“Say Honey, you know there’s better ways to show me you’re interested,” I said while rubbing the ever-expanding welt on my forehead.
“Shut the fuck up,” said one of the goons. He and his pal were both wearing lettermen jackets even though they musta’ been at least twenty eight.
Lilly Belle leaned down and screamed in my face. “Where’s Tammy?”
“You know who I’m talking about you goddamned abomination. You fucked her three nights ago.”
“What was her name?”
One of the goons knocked me sideways with a fist to the jaw. I found out later he was Tammy’s cousin.
“Where is she?” Lilly Belle asked.
“Damned if I know.” I spat a wad of spit and blood in the dirt. “I came here to ask you the same thing.”
“Don’t you lie to me, you son of a bitch!”
“I never knew you too was friends. I think all three of us should meet up later to get more acquainted. Do you like hot tubs?” I have never heard of an inappropriate time to hit on a lady. “Sorry fellahs, but you ain’t invited,” I said to the goons. “I don’t think you guys would fit in the hot tub I have in mind.” I was actually thinking of Willy and Earnestine’s bathtub. One of the goons responded to my disinvitation by kicking me in the ribs.
“What the fuck did you do to her?” Lilly Belle screamed. I assumed she was still talking to me.
“You already know what I did. I fucked her.”
“After that, Asshole.”
“After that I went to sleep.” I grinned at the goons. I figured they knew what I was talking about. “When I woke up she was gone. I thought I might see her here tonight.”
“Don’t you fucking lie to me!” said Lilly Belle.
“I may be a zombie and a scumbag, but madam, I am not a liar.”
She looked at me like she didn’t believe me, but other than having her pet apes jump up and down on my head, there wasn’t much she could do.
Her voice softened up. “The bartender said her with another guy two nights ago. Maybe you know him."
“You mean you had these guys kick my ass, and you knew all along she was with another dude?" I worked to lift myself out of the dirt, managed to prop myself up on all fours. I checked to see if any bones were broken. I’d hate to have to drag my ass around town with a body full of broken bones, I’d be like one of those goddamned movie zombies, and that I could not abide. Slwoly, I stood up and dusted myself off.
“I don’t know what happened to Tammy,” said Lilly Belle, “but I know somehow you’ve got something to do with it.”
I felt this was an unfair assumption, but I refrained from telling her so for fear my words would somehow come back to haunt me. I couldn’t think of anything I might have done to the girl Tammy that she did not want done to her, but I don’t always keep accurate track of my actions. “Who was the guy?” I asked.
“The bartender said he was old, maybe mid-forties, real pale and ugly, with sort of a skull-face, and long stringy black hair down to his shoulders.”
I just stood there looking at her. “Yeah, I know him alright,” I said finally. “That’s the son of a bitch that killed me.”