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Waking Up Republican – the American Nightmare

Waking up Republican – the American Nightmare

by John DeBellis

It started out like every other morning; I spent most of it sleeping. Then, it all changed. I woke up, and for the first time I noticed how disgusting my room was— clothes, mostly t-shirts and jeans, lying everywhere. Not one suit, tie, or even a white shirt. As I started to rise from the bed, I tried to cover my eyes. Luckily, I followed my middle finger and noticed a few garments hanging neatly in my closet, all separated evenly, two inches apart: a blue jacket, matching pants, a starched white shirt, and a red tie. When I examined them closely, I felt a surge of pride grow inside me.

I noticed that on the jacket’s lapel was a small flag pin (I swear I could hear Rush Limbaugh making a racist remark with Ann Coulter harmonizing in the background). Tears marched from my eyes, but I quickly made them retreat. I am an American male; we don’t cry—it just uses fluid that could be made into testosterone.

I jumped out of bed (on the right side, of course) and instead of running off to the shower, I did what I never had done before (without being ordered to)—I made the bed! Yes, the bed, but I didn’t only make it; I changed the sheets (not just switching bottom with the top), disappointed that I couldn’t find any that had thread counts over 200.

At first I was disoriented, but somehow felt stronger, more self-assured, like I couldn’t possibly be wrong about anything. I took a shower, not caring how much water I used, whether my soap was made from chemicals that would seep into the ocean and kill everything but the legs of an oil rig, and dried off using a towel made by slave labor in China. It was then that I knew I had to do it. I wanted to do it! It was the right thing to do! I shaved off my mustache and beard. I had never felt more like a real clean-cut, conservative American male. At first I was disappointed in my shaved head, but then realized that in a day or two a circle of salt and pepper hair would grow around the perimeters and I’d look like someone who had the stuff to break a union, render the FDA impotent, bankrupt a financial institution, and still give myself a million dollar bonus.

Back in my bedroom, I eased into the suit and tied a perfect Windsor knot. I went into the kitchen, made a cup of instant coffee, scrambled a pair of white eggs from caged chickens, fried bacon cut from hormone-enhanced pigs, and toasted two slices of artificial ingredient-enriched white bread. When I was finished, I left the dishes in the sink to be cleaned up by an illegal alien I would hire later that day and, of course, pay only in cash (which I’d get back when a border patrol friend would return her, unless she had breast implants, to a refugee camp built on a toxic landfill). I pompously walked up to the corner and bought a New York Post. I read it cover to cover, sucking up and believing every word as if it were Christian Fundamentalist gospel (which—except for the news-worthy girls in bikinis and strip club ads—it is).

As I marched up the street looking for something to obstruct, I felt the word, “No,” forming on my mouth. I passed bums and no longer felt sorry for them; now I just felt that they were lazy and should be gathered up and starved to death. I kicked a few, accusing them of buying booze with food stamps. A car backfired, and I smelled the gas fumes which triggered a brilliant thought, “We could take all the starving bums, give them guns, and put them in ANWR (Alaska), and let them kill all the wildlife for food. Once they’d wiped out the animals and burned the trees for firewood, we could airdrop booze, which they would eventually kill each other over. Then, with the natural habitat destroyed, we’d be able to drill right through the bums’ unproductive bodies for oil.”

I walked another block and passed a woman in a wheel chair and had a disturbing thought, “If we had universal health care maybe she wouldn’t have become crippled, and she, and maybe thousands of others, wouldn’t need a wheelchair. That would put hundreds of wheel chair builders out of work, and then they would consume our tax money by collecting unemployment insurance, which would close up small businesses everywhere.” Quickly, I began to hate handicapped people for their potentially negative impact on our economy. I proudly mocked their movements—my transformation into an American Republican god was almost complete.

I crossed the street, turned right, and walked by three foreclosure signs and thought, “Now, that will finally discourage those people from thinking they deserve to live the American dream.” I wasn’t being insensitive of their plight. I felt that we should help them buy houses, but only if they’ll live next to nuclear power plants and let us use their backyards for radioactive dumps.

I walked for several blocks, and I thought I might be late. So, I flagged down a cab and stepped inside. The driver—who was from one of those countries (probably an opiate-producing terrorist community) and wore old bed linen on his head (the thread count not even close to 100)–asked me in some form of English that could only come off a tongue used for eating food that should be fed to goats, “Where are you was going?”
“To work,” I said.
“Where is that?” he asked, each wooden syllable colliding.
I started to tell him, but what came out even surprised me, “I don’t know.”
“You don’t not know?” He spanked out, his words sounding like they were critically broken in any language.
Then, I started to stutter, “I-I-I don’t have a job.”
“You want the unemployment office.” he asked, as if his vocals chords were strings on Ravi Shankar’s sitar.
As he spoke, I reached into my pocket, pulled out my wallet, and rummaged through nothing. “I don’t have any money.”

The cab driver looked at me and fired words that weren’t even distantly related to English, but I understood. By the time I leaped from the cab, it was already in motion.
I was flat broke; I’d spent my last fifty cents on The New York Post. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t have any money and left the Post in the cab. I felt sick and nauseated. I stumbled a few blocks to the hospital emergency room. Before I could tell the nurse my symptoms, she asked if I had insurance. I checked my vacant wallet, and, like a true Republican, I mumbled incoherently about tax cuts and passed out.

I woke up, ready to plead my case to the nurses and doctors, tell them that I’m an American, I pay my taxes, and that everyone has the right to health care. “What about the Hippocratic oath?” I screamed, slamming my fist down. That’s when I felt the 85 thread count sheets, and for a minute I thought I had turned gay and was in bed with the cab driver. Before I thought too seriously about moving to San Francisco and getting married to another man, I looked around and saw my messy room: wrinkled jeans, the empty suit-less closet, yesterday’s New York Times on the floor. My heart slowed, I relaxed, inhaled, and filled my lungs with the reassuring sweaty smell of my one-size-fits-all-causes T-shirts, relieved that I was still a Democrat who believed that because of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren that someday we, the American people, might have universal health care.

Then, I remembered that Donald Trump was the President of the United States, and this nightmare was one I couldn’t wake from. But before I dove into the safety of depression, I realized that I wasn’t alone. There were millions more like me, and with each other’s help, we can rise and turn this nightmare into the real American Dream: healthcare, jobs, a living minimum wage, repaired infrastructure, fully funded Planned Parenthood, solar energy, open borders, and tolerance for different cultures and people. In other words, Make America Kind Again! Drain the country of President Donald Putin Trump and toss him into a deep swamp—which, of course, would be a very real American wet dream!


Sea Hunt is ON!

seahuntWe were an odd trio of kids, although if you observed Chet, Russell and myself we were pretty normal looking.  I had my hair styled in an all American greasy pompadour that acted as a sunblock for my entire face. I wore chinos tapered at the bottom, with barely enough room for a skin rash.  I sported a plane white T-shirt.

The psychedelic 60’s hadn’t arrived yet so T-shirts didn’t look like the big bang exploded on your chest.

Russell had thick dark hair that was pushed to one side as if it had been run over by a street sweeper. Although he wasn’t fat, he was chunkier than most of us skinny kids, whose body definition was comprised of bones that rippled through our skin. Chet was a year or so younger, but was mature enough to be at least 17 months older.  His brown hair could have been a neglected golf-green stuck in a drought and he was a shorts and sneaker guy, Con’s of course.

Back then TV was like a talking Norman Rockwell and had yet to be thrown up into adulthood. For awhile our “really” big show was Route Sixty Six,. a weekly drama about a pair of twenty some things: Buzz, played by George Maharis, and Todd, portrayed by Martin Milner, traveling across country in search of the meaning of nothing. Every season despite neither having even a part-time job, faking to be a blind beggar, or forging checks, they drove a brand new corvette (that had to be either stolen or was given to them by Elvis Presley).  Each week they’d stop in a small serene town, meet its only bad stereotype and wind up in a fistfight at the climax of more or less the same story.

We took Route Sixty Six seriously. We didn’t have a choice; it was in our television DNA. Me, Chet, and occasionally, Russell lined up two sagging chairs for bucket seats. Our engine was a cardboard box painted dark grey since even the best shows were still broadcast in black and white. If you looked under the hood, once you opened the cardboard flaps, you’d find our 4000 horsepower engine—nuts, bolts and wires from my dad’s workshop that looked exactly like a box of nuts, bolts and wires from my dad’s workshop.  Our muscle car roared like a bad three-part harmony comprised of voices that still hadn’t cracked the adolescent barrier as we blazed across country without moving the length of a cellar tile.  On the fly, at a hundred and fifty miles an hour, we made up our own far more inventive plots.

Other big TV hits we immersed ourselves into were Mike HammerPeter Gunn and Richard Diamond, three detective shows, which we lived in on Sundays because our folks sent us to church in sports jackets; all professional detectives wore their conformation suits.  We used our dad’s old wallets and drew three colored badges on index cards for our official detective licenses.  And we always packed a rod, a gatt, some heat, another words, a real unauthentic looking plastic gun that never ran out of bullets just like on TV.

There were others programs we spent days and nights in, like Seventy-Seven Sunset Strip where we all wanted to be Kookie, played by Edd Burns, although the other star Roger Smith in real life ended up with Ann Margaret, Hawaiian Eye with one of my early TV heart throbs, Connie Stevens. Although we never played Dobie Gillis, my all time fantasy chick, number one with two large caliber bullets in a tight sweater was Tuesday Weld. When she was on the screen I imagined I was the one she was manipulating. We spent some time in, Combat, and less in Gun Smoke.  We were not inspired by the gimpy Chester or the inbred Festus. No one from our neighborhood would dare play anyone in the Patty Duke show and risk being banned from Wiffle ball for life.

The most fun we had was playing the best show ever seen on a 21inch RCA picture tube, Sea Hunt, which if you happened to see us in underwater action you’d think we over dosed by mixing Ovaltine, Bosco, and some experimental drug being developed by Timothy Leary.  Sea Hunt stared a real man, no a legend, the hero of all heroes, the Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron of television, Lloyd Bridges, as Mike Nelson. Nothing was too dangerous or daunting for the emperor of the deep.  Sea Hunt was an adventure slash detective show, which procreated the inferior copycat, the Mike Nelson-less, The Aquanauts.  Sea Hunt and its second-rate imitator were the inspiration for our indoor, down the basement, most challenging undertaking.  We cleverly combined the two, which catapulted us into a world that was as real as fake could be.

My folk’s basement was large enough for a year of Governor Christie’s dietary needs and could fit the entire east coast mob including my grandfather’s Chicago pal Al Capone and all his bootlegging equipment.  It was divided into six sections; a summer kitchen (it was always cool no matter the temperature outside, none of us had air-conditioners), a bar my folks seemed to enjoy when I wasn’t around to see them enjoy it, my father’s TV repair workshop which looked like a disemboweled robot, an area of a thousand tools (which I’m sure my grandfather used to make silencers) and a wood working bench, a wine cellar that stored plumbing equipment, long florescent light bulbs and gift bottles of Scotch trapped for eternity in holiday boxes.  More importantly the rear of the basement, home of our adventures, was insulated by a long counter swollen with toys, baseball equipment and clothes that got lost on the way to the hamper.

*Duplicating Sea Hunt was no run of the mill task; it took creativity, ingenuity and know-how in order to construct the perfect environment. We needed a boat, aqua-lungs, spear guns, and equipment that Lloyd Bridges/Mike Nelson would not attempt a voyage without.  For our boat we placed two wooden benches from an old breakfast nook covered with paint that had peeled from the fumes of burned bacon and eggs.  For our galley, between our seats, we shoved a prehistoric wobbly table with legs that must have been amputated by a carpenter without a tape measure.  We hung–well, nailed two or three old blankets my dog refused to lie on, to the ceiling beams so they fell to the floor protecting us from the elements.  That shantytown doppelgänger according to my unimaginative parents became our vessel, surrounded by the deep dark sea, more commonly known to closed-minded adults as the floor (painted the lovely color of an anemic rain cloud gray).

Now any outstanding aquanaut worth his weight in wet suits, like Lloyd Bridges, only jumped into the sea with topnotch, state of the art gear, since we all knew that lost treasure is buried too deep to reach without a breathing apparatus or as they say in the biz, an aqualung.

That’s where my grandfather stepped in.  No, he didn’t dive, although during his day in the rackets many of his fighter friends did their share. My grandfather’s best friend was a mammoth, no, let’s be honest, fat man, a Humpty Dumpty that if he sat on the wall would collapse it, named Pocket Book Louie.  He got his name because he owned, what else, a pocket book factory.  Today he might have been called Handbag Louie, which lacks a bit of the flare.  Louie had a spacious color-full factory strewn with pocket books that neighborhood girls could have played Gidget, or Lucille Ball, or Patty Duke or all three.  With a few pillows stuffed in their gut and apron they could have made a trio of glitzy Hazel’s.

How did Pocket Book Louie become the key ingredient in our innovative underwater adventure?  Like I said us aquanauts needed to dive and dive deep and for that we needed special scuba gear designed for that perilous undertaking.  None of our parents had aqua-lungs since they didn’t own boats, or even snorkels and had little if any interest in finding sunken treasure, especially in the basement.  A few parents bowled, which didn’t really help us unless we wanted to find, if we could lift it, the largest ever black pearl and one that had three holes so it could be easily plucked by an adult who had the courage to stick his or her hand into a giant oyster.

I spent a lot of time with my grandfather, who spent a lot of time doing time. I always had a feeling that Pocket Book Louie didn’t make his money selling pocket books. That suspicion was reinforced years later, a few days after his factory burned down, for which he collected a treasure chest full of insurance money. My mother found in the garbage, charred gloves and rags soaked in gasoline. It could have just been a coincidence that night when my grandfather’s car exploded with his winter clothes in it or he could have pulled a deadbeat associate out of an unfortunately timed fire.

For Chet, Russell and me it all started to come together during a visit to Pocket Book Louie’s factory, where we found what we immediately knew were our scuba tanks! Lying in a stack were long cardboard cylinders that once had pocketbook material rolled on, perhaps removed to encircle other disagreeable cronies. Using my under water expertise I decided that different diameters rolls were designed for diverse diving depths.  My fellow aquanauts quickly agreed—it was a Sea Hunt-ee’s paradise.

Okay, now that I’d found our tanks, how were we going to get the air out of them in order to breath underwater? That would come a few days later; first I needed to bring the cardboard cylinders home.  My grandfather, who, liked free things even if he didn’t steal them, filled the trunk of his old black Ford Fairlaine with our soon to be trend- setting deep-sea diving equipment. The car’s trunk was large enough to take all we needed even if there had been a body or two, alive or dead in it.

After studying the two shows closely we noticed that sometimes divers used one, two and, on occasion, three air tanks.  This was not a time to take any chances on not being able to make it back to the surface (especially if we were carrying heavy sunken treasure). So my innovative grandfather cut the tubes according to our specifications and attached them into the crucial combinations with wire.

But we were yet to figure out how to get the air out of our scuba tanks.  It didn’t take us long to find a solution. Under my grandfather’s workbench were old garden hoses. When we asked him to cut up all the hoses, even my grandfather who didn’t back down to machine guns pointed at him, couldn’t resist the puppy dog eyes of three (manipulative) kids.

My grandfather had the ability to make just about anything except twenty dollar bills that couldn’t be detected as counterfeit, thus spent five years not confined to his cell.  Mobsters who took the rap and didn’t rat out his partners were given a key to the slammer.  At home we paid negligible electric bills because he used honey in just the right places to slow down the billows and practically halt the meter. So he easily figured out a method to attach the hoses.  Now we only required an effective breathing apparatus to suck in the oxygen.  That took us a bit longer, one afternoon to be exact.  We searched through all our toys, my mom’s old makeup compacts and even through my dad’s workshop without the desired results.  In the wine cellar, Mother kept, remarkably untouched by man or rodent, an old air blown bingo game.  Poking out from behind it was a huge checker set made out of large, hamburger size plastic pieces. They were thick enough to cut holes in the sides for our air hoses and by cutting a circular hole in the center we could stick two-inch tubes in them so we could hold the checkers in our mouth (without using our hands) which would deliver the vital air needed for us to reach the depths of DeBellis Jone’s locker. We fastened our father’s old belts to the tubes and tied them around us so that the unpredictable ocean currents that course through the deep crooks of my basement couldn’t dislodge them.

We had everything necessary, except one very important thing–treasure.  Again Pocket Book Louie was our benefactor.  His factory was crammed with clumsy goods that had fallen off trucks and a rainbow of plastic beads and fake jewels that adorned the side of handbags making them irresistible to grown women.We found a fortune in gems for skilled salvage divers, especially when they are stuffed into old suitcases—the perfect treasure chests.  **

We had the boat, the gear, fake rubber knives and fire place pokers to use as spear guns – we were ready to dive.  Lloyd Bridges/Jeff Nelson would be proud, well he would have been unless he found out we were also pretending to be some of the guys from the Aquanauts.

Diving off a boat, constructed of benches and blankets took skill acquired from practice and techniques that could only be learned by a dedicated fan of Sea Hunt and The Aquanauts. We adapted our scuba diving procedures to a unique set of circumstances, low ceilings, a cement floor, and unpredictable undercurrents in the sea streaming around the walls of my cellar.

We’d strap on our gear, including our masks, which were a combination of our parents’ large sunglasses, catcher’s masks and old football helmets. We checked our gauges, that were wristwatches taped to a hose, to make sure our tanks were full and then put in our mouthpieces so the oxygen flowed through with sufficient pressure.  We had developed a method of deftly pushing aside the blankets, and quickly diving into the savage ocean.

To grownups, three kids wearing card board cylinders on their backs with garden hoses attached to giant plastic checkers stuck in their mouths as they waved their arms around like they were swimming underwater (or blind and searching for walls) with large rubber boots as flippers, carrying fire place pokers as spears, while making bubble sounds, would look a bit odd like they’d been exposed to radiation from an underground nuclear test that somehow leaked into our basement or we had swallowed the asbestos that circled our hot water pipes.

We’d spend days swimming the span of our basement, killing invisible sharks, fighting other divers, rescuing each other, saving fellow good guys, and getting my grandfather to repair our gear, or glue together broken pieces of treasure.

Never once did we get seasick, sunburned, or experience the bends from rising two quickly to the surface.  Oh, there were a few times when a bench would fall and our boat almost sunk, but we’d always managed to insert the disaster into our story line, and make it sea worthy again, even while under attack from killer sharks, barracudas, and octopuses (which were an assortment of the remaining garden hoses and wire’s from my dad’s workshop intertwined and then taped to an old partially deflated basketball.

I began to notice that my parents had fewer and fewer guests venture to the basement when we were exploring the oceanic depths.  At first I figured that they didn’t want to disturb us divers when we needed to use a hundred percent of our faculties just to survive.  I began to suspect that there was more to it than meets our ridiculous diving masks when the days grew longer and the summer heat invaded our upstairs real life living quarters.  Normally, by now we would be eating in the basement kitchen.  Could they be that ashamed of their only son, no only child, who was acting like a failed CIA experiment? Nah, they loved me for who I was pretending to be.

At first those thoughts didn’t disrupt our adventures, but after a few weeks I became more concerned about the absence of my parents in the downstairs kitchen and it became evident in my underwater skills.  I was waving my arms unevenly, breathing without the same intensity and you could barely here my bubble sounds.  Russell noticed it first then Chet, leading both to simultaneously point out my sloppy technique and lackluster effort.  Although, still fun, my underwater skills were disintegrating. So, I dug deep into my inner resolve, imagining how Mike Nelson would address this dilemma, and threw away the negativity that adults try to pour into the effervescent minds of their offspring.

Then the first big blow occurred.  And it materialized suddenly. There it was in the newspapers, we’d have never noticed it except that the article was near the sports section. The Aquanauts was cancelled!  Why? Shouldn’t someone tell the networks about all the trouble we had gone through to build our modern-day boat, with underwater gear unequaled in any basement in America?  Well, what did it matter we still had Sea Hunt.  No one could get Lloyd Bridges out of the ocean to become a land lover. No way! Not Mike Nelson!

So with a heavy heart, enduring the loss of the Aquanauts, we submerged again. The adventure continued! And just as we were about to forget that the cheap imitation of Sea Hunt had left us, we suffered another blow.  No, Sea Hunt wasn’t cancelled, but it was an earthly catastrophe and nearly as bad!

Outside, envious forces were out to get us.  One night I was awakened by a crack of lightning, like Mickey Mantle’s bat had struck my eardrums.  I ran across my clothes (on the bedroom floor) and looked out my window, and saw the start of a powerful rainstorm. Thunder that I’m sure shook our boat, even though it was expertly tied to the dock (a support pole) and lightning slit a tree nearby, and then the floods.  Everyone ran to the basement for both protection and to look for signs of water.  At first it was just a trickle almost like the walls of the house were sweating, but soon the water surged, as if the God’s were telling us aquanauts that our antics were beginning to annoy even them.  In the back of the cellar, where our boat was secured, the floor flooded with a tidal wave.. Our gear sopped fast into water logged and our boat took on real water in our make believe ocean.  There was no way to stop it.  I may have looked like a fool waving my arms around like a condor in a tornado while sucking on huge plastic checker, but I wasn’t foolish enough to go down with my ship.  I watched the water rise a foot or two, until I could no longer see the chalk writing on the boat’s bow. The S.S. Brook Street was lost forever.

Maybe it was fate, or oddly timed synchronicity of the universe at work.  As we tirelessly rebuilt our craft, the worse news ever stopped us in our wake.  Sea Hunt was cancelled! A double whammy! The great Mike Nelson was being put ashore for good.  What would happen to the emblematic Lloyd Bridges?  Of course, a few years later, much to our delight he surfaced again in other shows and movies, but to us he’d always be Mike Nelson.

Well, there still was Peter GunnRichard DiamondMike Hammer and of course, Route Sixty-Sixin reruns (which each weekly show always felt like anyway), with Buzz and Todd and a whole country to fist-fight across.  A year or so later Combat arrived and then a few years after, which in kid years seems like a new historical age, came a TV show tailored for the skills of us veteran aquanauts and detectives: The Man From Uncle starring Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo, who I became because I was the first to get a the real official Man From Uncle wallet.  Today that wallet hangs on my office wall as a reminder of the spy drama’s perfectly timed arrival.  It had landed on the heels of the cancellation of the remaining mind-expanding shows. Fortunately for us The Man from Uncle stimulated our rich imaginations and led to new distinctive adventures—none as exhilarating and ingenious as Sea Hunt. The Man from Uncle also marked the line in the sand of life, which I wouldn’t cross again for many years, until I became a voyeur of my kids as they became enveloped by their own uninhibited boundless alpha state.

After Man from Uncle’s first or second or third season I became a teenager where I managed to override my adolescent soul and gave in to my genetic sexual predisposal.  I no longer wanted to play make believe except for fantasizing about dating cheerleaders.  Previously dormant hormones drove the Disney molecules from my consciousness,  until I became a writer where once again I gave myself permission to dive head first (without gear) into my imagination, this time to earn an adult living.  No matter how successful I become, the fictional world will never ever be as outrageous, electrifying and boundless.

But not all is lost, this year coming to theaters near you, me, Chet and Russell is The Man from Uncle.  For 120 minutes I’ll reminisce not about Napoleon Solo, but about being the greatest TV hero ever, played to perfection by Lloyd Bridges, the unrivalled Mike Nelson.  Now if they make a theatrical version of Sea Hunt, possibly starring Bo or Jeff Bridges, the circle of life will be complete.

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Date of the Dead: A Zombie Love Story (Part 13)

DATEOFTHEDEAD-2Mander and the Plan


The plan was to leave this place because food and ink were running low and Dr. Bliffover had convinced us that if we could find a lab, he could study Klaus, our half and half human, and come up with a cure. The Times had a great resource department, but the maps of the building drawn by a former one-legged ballerina, who later spun herself to death, just led us around in circles, so it took us half the morning to find it.  There we discovered the locations of several nearby labs and decided to go to the one closest to an adult video store.  Hey, after looking at Mander for more than five minutes we males needed something to keep our minds from accidentally drifting her way during an apocalyptic sexual fantasy where we died of fright at the end.

The plan was simple, load us up in a few newspaper trucks and if the street got clogged we’d use the band to clear a path.  We also loaded each truck with plenty of Sunday editions in case we needed to flatten any zombies who got too close.

It only took an hour or so to load up the trucks, the Times’ workers union met and stated that they were off the clock so there was no need to drag things out.   We left through the rear loading bay and didn’t run over a zombie until we made it to the street.  I wish I could say that about the Times’ worker who was changing the oil.

By the time we reached the street there were hundreds of zombies, so in order to clear some space, we opened the windows and rear door so the band could scare them away. That’s when we realized a small over sight.  The bands instruments were left on the street, when they ran for the Times’ building.  Unfortunately for a few band members we had prepared ourselves for their musician ship and were wore earplugs.  We didn’t notice they weren’t holding instruments until a few guys playing the air trombone and air tubas were pulled from the truck.   Luckily what was left of the marching band realized that they also weren’t holding instruments and started tossing Sunday Times at the zombies, then closed the back door and pelted the monsters from the windows.

Laura Lee, a quick thinker, but not very diplomatic, shouted, “Let’s put the ugly broad on the hood like a freak show ornament.

Mander wasn’t pleased about that, “Hey, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.”

Skim Milk growled, “If the guy who made that statement took one look at you he’d scoop his eyes out.”

“Beauty is also only skin deep.” Mander said, as tear snaked around the crags on her face.

Laura Lee countered, “They could dissect you and they wouldn’t find one cell that wouldn’t crack the lens on a microscope.”

“She does have a good point there, whatever it was.” Dr. Bliffover stated while I tried to remember if that was his name.

Skim Milk warmed up to the challenge. “I’m a Lesbo who’s slept with some toothless inbred horse face hillbilly bull dykes and I’d jump on the biggest ugliest cockeyed uncircumcised gorilla rather dick than touch you.”

Even Shrimp gave the insults a whirl. “Yeah, if a clock had your face on it, it would stop time and make it go backwards.”

I’m sure Mander had many other beauty quotes she wanted to say in her own defense but only got as far as “You can’t judge a book by –”before we wrangled her and then tossed her onto the hood, I’m pretty sure it was face first.

The zombies immediately backed away covering their eyes, including the eyeballs lying loose on the ground.  Some threw up.  It was working.   Even zombies have their limit.

It was touch and go at times; we had to drive fast and make quick turns without Mander falling off the hood.  I think at one point she was getting into it, enjoying seeing zombies try to form the word “Ugly,” but not able to pronounce it.

The entire trip took less than twenty minutes.  Mander had scared the zombies so far away there weren’t any in sight when we made it to the lab.  We all congratulated Mander, keeping our backs toward her face.  I saw her reflection in a shattered window and I think she looked proud or radioactive.  I asked her to stand guard while I took orders and headed for the adult video store.   I took a large almost machete size knife into the store in case there were any like-minded zombies browsing the dead girl section.  The others unloaded the vehicles and carefully entered the building through the revolving door — checking for zombies and loose lab rats.  Laura Lee was deathly afraid of rats.  At the diner, before the zombie invasion, she told me she once went to a Halloween party dressed as a hunk of Swiss cheese and got caught by a guy dressed as a mousetrap and then was assaulted by three guys dressed as white lab rats.  Luckily a guy, dressed as a needle and his brother, dressed like a scientist, subdued the rats.  But by then Laura Lee said she was traumatized and to this day won’t go out wearing a yellow dress that had even buttonholes in it.

Date of the Dead: A Zombie Love Story (part 12)

The Times Building and Shrimp




The entire band also made it to safety, but thankfully none of the female singers went uneaten. In the band members’ haste to live, they left all their instruments lying dormant in the street.  Twenty of us joined the Times army of thirty-five, not exactly Woodstock in numbers, but in this environment, it was going be harder to feed 55 of us, well 54 and a half if you count our mixed breed.  He wasn’t noticed at first, but his attempt to say hello came out as a growl.  The Times people grabbed rolls of newspaper and backed away.  Trying to alleviate their fears the doc spoke up.  “Just keep to this one side of him and he’s harmless.  He also might be the secret to a cure.”

A guy big enough to house a dictator’s ego stepped forward holding a stack of papers over his head. “What if he isn’t a cure but one of the reasons this whole thing started?”

It was a good question, not game show good, but one that we hadn’t thought of nor did any of us have an answer to.  Laura Lee jumped in front of the Times guy and said, “You don’t look like Dear Abbey.”

The big guy wasn’t ready for that and didn’t utter a word.

“In fact how do I even know you work for the Times? I didn’t see any identification.”

Again the big guy didn’t have an answer. I think he thought he was thinking but wasn’t sure how.

“Have you ever even had a date before?”

This time he was as confused as the rest of us.

“What is 5025 times 6398 divided by 4.987?”

The big guy put down the paper and started counting on his fingers.

“You don’t have that many fingers dumb ass, although if you counted synapsis and nerve endings in your spine–” Laura Lee left the end of the sentence to our imaginations.

The big guy stopped counting and started to feel around his spine.

This time a little guy, just tall enough not to be crawling, came forward and with a voice that sounded like it had springs on it said, “You can stop counting, Ben.”  Then he turned Laura and spoke. “Ben’s OK. He can handle himself in a fight, but hasn’t quite figured out how to think yet.”

“Yes, he’s on both sides of dumb. So squirt, where, when, and how do we start building our new civilization, free of war, disease, health insurance, car payments, state, local and federal taxes, not to mention” Laure Lee said looking at me.

Before her looks could eat through me I deftly defended my online dating honor. “So, I used a picture of a male model who looks nothing like me, is a different race, and doesn’t have a double chin, a broken nose, cauliflower ears, a cleft pallet, scars on both cheeks, and isn’t crossed eyed.  And I’m not the CEO of Proctor and Gamble and Exxon…”

“Yes and what else?”

“I don’t own a private jumbo jet, my own island, a few slaves from the third world and have never climbed Mount Everest in sandals. We all fib a little.”

Before Laura Lee could beat me into something liquid the squirt interrupted. “Can you two stop this bickering, we have newspapers to deliver.”

“Delivering newspapers? Are you out of your mind, squirt?” I yelled.

“It was a joke. And my name is not squirt–it’s Shrimp.”

“That can’t be your real name, who would name their kid shrimp?”

“Of course not.  It’s nickname.  My real name is Teeny Weenie.  Teeny Little Weenie is my full Christian name. I think it’s Italian, although with the vowel at the end can also be Corsican.”

We were waiting for him to say it was a joke.  When he didn’t, I don’t know how we did it, but we held in our laughter. It’s tough to do when you’re rolling around on the floor, pounding your fist, and trying to hide tears and a red face.

As we picked ourselves up from the floor, everyone started introducing each other by our full names and handing out business cards, a few even had resumes, so it took quite a while.

They had fortified all the doors and windows and had just painted a phony address number outside so we felt pretty safe.  They found us rooms and places to sleep, which I did as soon as I hit the wet men’s room floor.  I dreamed a lot, mostly about zombies, Greek swim suit models sloshing around in a vat of out of date yogurt, headless vegetarian strippers taking literacy tests, discount miniature hookers eating Quaker Oats, naked female locksmiths and the dental students they love, and the occasional transsexual rodeo clown in white go-go boots.”  Except for the zombies it could have been any regular night.

One of the Times’ workers, whose name I’d forgotten, and whose business card and resume I’d already lost, woke us up and took us to the cafeteria.  The food was free, probably because they couldn’t tell you what the hell you were eating.   But I was hungry and I ate, fooling myself into thinking I wouldn’t throw up.  One good thing, at least I might taste bad if a zombie got the worst of me.

We had a pow-wow, which comprised of myself, Laura Lee, Skim Milk, Dr. Bllifover (I think I got his name right, but does it really matter)  Shrimp and a woman who might have been gorgeous in a previous life, but in this one she was making up for being given too good a hand in an earlier lifetime.  She wasn’t just hideous. She was drop dead ugly.  I mean her shadow, which had pockmarks, even looked the other way.  Her misshapen head looked like a bomb had exploded inside.  I’d be surprised if her face, which could be mistaken for a gas-mask, didn’t scare a zombie into vegetarianism.  Her name was Jeraminder or Jeramander (again does it matter), they called her Mander.

Date of the Dead: A Zombie Love Story (part 11)


The Jingle and the Times

After about three miles the band members and Iranian singing group started to tire, so we rotated them (and our tires) and tried to think of songs that we could convince ourselves they were performing.  It was while I was imagining them playing a loud, drum and bugle core version of a Bach string quartet accompanied by a troupe of eunuch parrots, that it happened – a live radio broadcast.  Many who’ve never gone on a blind date and had it turn into a zombie nightmare, with a woman who hates your guts at first sight, might not have realized what the broadcast meant.   It was a man’s voice and he was definitely live, not a recording, since he stuttered and stammered and said he was live, also gave us the time and an accurate three-day local weather report.  He asked if any survivors out there wanted home delivery of the New York Times.  Sure it might be a few days late and have several of the pages chewed out and there wouldn’t be a sports or entertainment section, but we’d get the latest on who was eaten and if the chewing was done by a dead relative.  And best off all we’d save 50% off the first four weeks delivery.  Like I said it didn’t sound like much, in fact the guy sounded out of his mind, but he gave an address, a phone number, which didn’t do us any good since there was no cell power, and then he put a group of assistants on to sing a jingle.  “You’re family may be eaten, but it doesn’t mean you’re beaten.  So get the Times delivered to your door before you are never —never more.”  It was a horrible jingle sung out of tune, and I thought I heard a back ground chorus of “Chew-Wop, Chew-Wop,” but it was people–live, tone deaf people.  Enough to put out a newspaper and stupid enough to deliver it, but hell, stupid is much better than dead, smelly, and lusting after your tasty flesh.

Believe it or not, our GPS actually worked, and we were only a few miles from the only remaining home of the New York Times.  I kept wondering if now was a good time to ask them if they would review my novel.   It was a science fiction/ brush fire cookbook/ historical novel about a Cinnamon breath mint empire. I know it’s not a new idea, but I figured by including a gumball trade show, a fructose for Finland marketing convention, and a bulimic eating and throwing up competition to the story it might put a new slant on an old genre.

We could make it to the Times building, all we had to do was keep the band and the singers alive and playing for another few miles.  Skim Milk had an idea that just might save our lives.  We’d ask the guys and gals carrying the heavier instruments to come into the vehicle for a rest, and then we’d toss them out to the zombies—keeping them off us, as our band, thinned out and our ululation gals ran out of energy. At first it looked as if the plan wouldn’t work when Klaus, our half-breed, tried to bite the bass drummer’s head off causing the other band members to back away. Skim Milk, had her wits about her and shouted, “April Fools,” instantly squelching their fears, while we pulled Klaus away. As the band climbed in and we selectively starting feeding members to the zombies, Dr. Bliffover explained Klaus’s reaction. He had lost his family to a base drummer high on animal tranquilizers laced with silly putty.  The guy beat to death his wife and then tried to bounce his kids off the walls and tile floor in the bathroom.  The drummer himself took his own life by diving out the window, six floors, then three floors and then two floors to his death.

About a mile into our final lap one of the ululation divas, who called herself Snara with a Snar, told us that they’d run out of songs and they never ever repeated themselves.  I said, “Snara—“

She quickly corrected me.  “Call me Snara with a Snar.”

“Ok, Snara with a Snar, can’t you just do this once, after all, to us all your songs sound alike!”

“That’s it.  We quit!  I will not stand here and be insulted.  Next you’ll want to know why we all only have one wisdom tooth,” Snara with a Snar shouted.

Before I could say Snara with a S— Skim Milk tossed her out the window and then proudly exposed her own celestial breasts.  Maria, not to be out done, pushed her aside and double mooned the zombies that had just started to eat Snara with a Snar.  Snara was about to sing, but before she had a chance to scare them away her vocal chords were chewed out.  A few zombies looked up at our exhibitionists, but at the moment preferred to join in on the feast

The other singers, who were outside marching with the band began singing what could have been an ululation version of “Jingle Bells” or “Whiter Shade of Pale,” or “I Did It My Way,” or quite possibly an up tempo “Lady of Spain.” All I know is that Skim Milk’s deadly trick had worked.  The band did their best to match whatever the hell the girls were screeching, which scattered any zombies that dared approach our vehicle.

Another mile and half and we would arrive at the New York Times building and maybe from the home of the best newspaper in the country we’d start a new better read civilization that featured home delivery.

First one of the girls lost her voice and made the mistake of trying to reach our vehicle.  I held the door open, grabbed her hand and did my best to pull her in, she had just got one foot inside when a mob of zombies pulled her to the ground, and ravage her to the bone.  I don’t know what she looked like, because of that Arabian beekeeper’s stage outfit (or maybe it was just a Arabic prom gown possibly for bee keepers), that she wore.  I imagined she was cute—a women I’d probably easily be rejected by—one who would laugh in my face, make her tongue sound like a cop’s siren being played sideways and then call her brother over to cut off my head.  In spite of my good old red blooded American male thoughts, I still managed to feel bad for her, even a rooster with vocal chords made from broken banjo strings deserved better. I was lost in thoughts of the shriek of Arabia when an older zombie in a hotel bathrobe, which wouldn’t be a pleasant sight even before his private parts were rotting, reached in and grabbed my shirt collar.   My leg was caught under the seat as his face came kissing close, his breath smelled like rubber being burned in a vat of Medieval sewage—a scent that would later be bottled and sold on the black market.  His jaws widened, ready to break his five minute fast.  I slugged him in the side of his face, but he didn’t take notice.  When his teeth started their final decent Jo shot him, not dead, but just enough to knock out most of his choppers and a decaying bridge and crown.  He gummed my shoulder like a red neck giving a hickey.  No skin was broken, not until Jo’s next shot which tore his head apart like a Piñata full of tripe parmesan.  I quickly slammed the door shut –- I can take a hint.

“Thanks, Jo.” I said, although I also felt compelled to ask what his hat size was.

“Any time, by the way I wear a size seven and half hat,” in case you were wondering.”  In the heat of battle sometimes men can finish each other’s thoughts.

We were now only about a half mile away. The band’s rhythm was somewhere between a waltz and the hum of an old refrigerator.  The girl’s voices were now only slightly more annoying than a great accordion player.  We had a real dilemma.  Do we just run over the band and singers and hope that the SUV can plow through the remaining zombies or do we stay with the status quo and hope enough live to get us to the New York Times Building?  The decision would have been made easier if someone in the band hadn’t stopped muting his trombone with a duck caller.  That would have been motivation for me to throw the car into overdrive and make the musicians one with their instruments.

We decided to weigh our options, which didn’t work because we couldn’t agree on an appropriate rating system, so we tried to write down the positives and negatives, but that was even harder without a pen and pencil.  After three tries we finally figured out that odd finger doesn’t work well with over three people.  We didn’t have dice or cards, so we used our old standby and played a game of charades.  The driver, who at the moment wasn’t me, didn’t have to participate.   Movie titles we found too easy, the names of presidents too hard, so we settled on popular surgeries. We were all stumped on pubic hair transplants, even Laura Lee, who was good enough to go pro, but by that time we were just a block away and decided to let the exhausted band play on until eaten. I know it sounded cold-hearted, but these musicians weren’t in a union yet, and why wait till they tried to organize?

When we got close to the building the band members stuffed the plume from their hats in the mouths of ululation vocalists and then tossed them at the zombies and ran for the entrance. We had driven the car to the only available parking space, about ten yards from the home of the New York Times and dumped some coins in the meter.  I wasn’t taking chances—who knows what parking fines might mean in these days of deadly choices.  With the zombies only a few yards behinds us, the doors of the Time’s building flew open and a gang of Times’ workers started knocking off our stalkers.  They’re aim was amazing, zombies fell prey to flying rolls of daily newspapers and the ones that managed to move closer got flattened by thick stacks of the Sunday edition.