We were looking for some food in the kitchen of an Olive Garden outside of what was once Durham, North Carolina. It was supposedly December 25th – at least that’s what Earl said. The calendar was pretty much useless by this point. Days and nights were spent fighting the undead as they lurched and hissed all around us. The sound of their clicking teeth took the place of sleigh bells and Bing Crosby.
I tightened the grip on my ugly stick and glanced at a zombie who was inching closer. This one looked like she had been an obese woman in her late fifties when she turned. Stalking the planet for the brains of the living might’ve been the one diet and exercise program which had actually worked for her. Her clothes hung loosely on her now, she had lost one of her scuffy slippers and the remaining one was barely hanging on. A couple of curlers hung comically from her foul, matted hair. She wasn’t one of the fast ones. I stole a glance at Earl.
“You telling me it’s freakin Christmas today?”
“I think so, Bobby. I might be a day or two off, though” he replied. “Feels cold enough to be December, don’t it?”
I shrugged my agreement to him and turned my attention back to Francine. Earl and me took to naming them a while back. It made things a little less tedious and could actually help if things got a little too crowded. Housewife-looking zombies, and there seemed to be quite a few of ‘em, were usually called Francine or Edna. Younger ones were named Junior or Sally Mae, depending on their gender. I tried to give foreign-looking ones a name that would match up with their likely country of origin. Earl’s not all that creative so he names all the foreign ones Saddam, whether they look Middle Eastern, Asian or whatever. A young zombie of Middle Eastern descent would be “Saddam Junior” according to Earl’s rule book. Naming the young zombies is real important, since they tend to move faster’n the older ones. I know that this aint politically correct, but when you’re about to take a Lousiville slugger with spikes in the end of it across their chops, you don’t waste much time worrying about pissing off Miss Manners. I’m pretty sure Miss Manners got herself chewed up a long ways back anyway – likely ’cause she hadda hold her pinky out when she was swingin’ her lacrosse stick at the undead.
Francine was edging closer. She’d slowed down when she paused to look at some shiny, swollen cans of crushed tomatoes on the floor near her feet. These zombies aint exactly like the pretend ones we used to see on TV. They’re hungry alright, but they can be distractable. Shiny stuff, brightly colored stuff - they’re drawn to it like lake carp. Eventually their appetites get the better of ‘em though, and they start back on their quest for the flesh of the living. Francine had lost her interest in the puckered cans and was heading back my way.
The beautiful thing about zombies is they got none of what you call protective reflexes. They don’t flinch or duck or nothin. They’ll walk right up to you no matter what position you’re in. I was standing there looking like a major league slugger at the plate with the bases loaded and here comes Francine. Her head was a far sight bigger’n a softball and moving slow. Her arms were up though, so I switched from my Sammy Sosa stance over to a modified Paul Bunyan. I swung like I was piecing out a sequoia and one hit was all it took.
“When you’re done dancin around with Edna over there, gimme a hand with this stuff and let’s get back to camp” Earl called. “The girls’ll wonder where the hell we are. You know how they worry”
“Her name’s Francine, Earl, and I don’t dance.”
I stepped around her, noticing for no particular reason that her second slipper had finally fallen apart. I found a couple of cartons of dried spaghetti without too many mouse turds in them. Things were looking up for Christmas dinner.