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    WARNING: Stories on this site may contain mature language and situations, and may be inappropriate for readers under the age of 18.

    DON’T YOU WANT SOMEBODY TO LOVE? By Mike Buckendorf
    September 18, 2012  Short stories   Tags:   

    What do the dead want?  To the most casual observer to any apocalypse concerning the dead getting up and walking around, the usual answer is mindless hunger, just a dead body re-activated by a virus that propagates itself endlessly.  And I suppose they’re right, of course.  But there are always two sides to an argument, even if one side can’t articulate its statements anymore beyond the odd groan.  But what is hunger?  It’s a need, an imperative, a want.  And what is love if not the same thing?

    I remember my Dad talking about the parades they got when they came back from Europe.  I never got that.  I served two tours as a young man, and the notion that I was fighting for my country was well and truly gone from my thoughts after only one month in the Iron Triangle.  I came back different, a lot of us did.  And we never connected with our fathers.  They had the good war, the one where it was pretty obvious who was wrong and who was right, they could go to sleep at night with a clear conscience, even if they were sometimes haunted by the old ghosts of victors and vanquished they’d known.  And more importantly, they won theirs.  They looked at us like we were somehow a disappointment, that we’d dropped the ball and hadn’t measured up to their achievement.  I drank a lot after I came home.  I lost my way, I admit that.  And I’m so sorry, Shirley.  That wasn’t me, babe.  Those weren’t my hands that curled up into fists that night, that wasn’t me that freaked out so horribly when the kids were blowing up firecrackers out on the sidewalk and all I saw was Cu Chi Province and that terrible night when Charlie got in through the wire.

    But it was me.  It was.  I understand why you left, I understand why you took the kids.  I understand why Dad turned his back on me.  I get it, you know?  I wasn’t safe to be around and it only got worse afterward.  I finally died in a shooting gallery in an abandoned apartment building, alongside two other burnouts.  I don’t know their stories, but I don’t have to really.  It’s all the same.  We died alone, unloved.  That we might or might not have deserved it is incidental.  God, if I could just hold you one more time and beg your forgiveness… but that’s not likely is it?  Still, the yearning is there, the want, the need for contact, the hunger for it.  It’s too strong, too desperate.  Oblivion didn’t grant me any solace, and so I got up.  And I’m not alone….

    They always said in school that I was too pretty for my own good, too proud of my looks and what they could get me.  Of course, I was young and stupid, so did I listen?  Of course not, some lessons have to be learned the hard way.  Prom queen, head cheerleader, dating the football captain, yeah, I had it all.  I even did modeling for awhile, nothing too big, just some local stuff, but I knew I was destined for greater things.  College was for chumps, so I headed west.  I was going to be a star.  Yes, I realize now what a cliché my life was, but when you’re 18 and have stars in your eyes, nobody can tell you a damn thing.  I didn’t know who Peg Entwistle was when I got to Hollywood.  I didn’t know about her until after I’d gone to every cattle call posted in Variety, taken every shit waitressing job I could land, and yes, even blown more than one sleazy so-called producer just so I could have a walk-on background featured extra part in some piece of shit direct to video action flick.  My dreams didn’t exactly work out as planned.

    Did I find work?  Yeah, sort of.  Eventually.  You ever heard the term, “I was young and needed the money?”  Well, that was me.  And no, they weren’t ‘art films’ either.  Remember that porn star that had the huge dick?  The one who was sooooo famous?  You know, the one who died?  Well, he was the one I got AIDS from.  I’d just gotten back from the clinic with the test results, just found out I was positive.  I was about as low as you could possibly get.  Except I then got a call from my agent saying there’d been a call-back for a straight, legit role that would have gotten me out of porn and let me use my real name in the credits for once.  The irony wasn’t lost to me.  And then I remembered Peg, the patron saint of failed actors, the martyr to broken dreams.  That night I took a walk up Mount Lee and climbed that big sign.  Laughing and drunk as the proverbial skunk, I took a swan dive off the ‘H’….just like Peg.  I hope I left a good-looking corpse at least.  At least my tits probably still look good.  God knows I paid enough for them.  And Johnny?  I’m sorry, sweety.  I broke your heart when I left, I know that.  I wish I could kiss you one more time…I’d just eat you up.

    I think I lived a pretty good life, all things considered.  Well, it was up till the end anyway.  My parents came over from the Old Country through Ellis Island, changed their name to something that was a little more American sounding and headed into the heartland.  I did my time in the Navy and had a pretty uneventful hitch.  I learned a trade, and parlayed that into a small business when I got out.  Being an electrician wasn’t going to make you rich, but it was honest work, it was enough to put bread on the table and a roof over the heads of the woman gracious enough to marry me and the children we had together.  We lived quietly and we lived well.

    And then one day you left for the grocery store and never came back.  They found your car a week later, torched and stripped, no clue where you went.  The Police eventually filed it away as a cold case, forgotten and dusty.  I hired private detectives, still nothing.  I let the business go as time went by and no word emerged.  It just didn’t seem important anymore.  The kids….well, they turned out to be a bit of a disappointment.  They told me, “It’s been years, pop.  She’s gone, its time to move on and accept it.”  But how could I be expected to do that?  You were my world, my life, my one true love.  Your disappearance left a void in me that had no closure.

    Eventually I saw a news report about two horrible men who’d crisscrossed the country taking lives and….and doing horrible things to them afterward.  Toole and Lucas….they’d come through our town at least twice.  Before they were executed they told the authorities about many, many burial sites across several states, and about the many highways where they simply threw body parts out the window after they were done with them and become too rotted to be of use anymore.  The numbers were so high, not even they could remember each and every victim.  Your name was never brought up in any of these investigations or recoveries, but I knew.  I knew it in the deepest pit of my gut.  And when the cancer took me, I didn’t care.  I welcomed it, because I knew that not even death could keep me from finding you again.  I’ve seen so many victims, so many others lost and lonely and hurting since coming back, but I still haven’t found you yet.

    I died in a nursing home, my mind shot all to hell with the alzheimers.  This really isn’t all that different, now that I think about it.  But did my kids give a shit?  Did my grandkids even know who the hell I was?  I hadn’t seen any of them in years.  I worked double-shifts to put those ungrateful little bastards through college.  But what did they do after college?  They made their piles of money and never looked back.  And when the wife died, and I started losing my marbles, did they come take care of me?  Oh, yeah…I’d say they did.  Nobody in the hellhole they put me in ever came in to turn me over when the bedsores got so bad I’d started to merge with the bed sheets.  The solution to my screaming was thorazine.  I recall the last thing I ever saw was one of the orderlies stealing my wedding ring off my finger.  But I remember now what it was like before, to know that zest, to feel what it was like to grab life by the scruff of the neck and wrangle every last bit out of it, to take a big ol’ bite of that apple and let the juice run down.

    I was just eight.  And all I wanted was for the hitting and the hurting to stop.  But you know what?  Death doesn’t change any of that.  I’m still hurting, and I’m still alone, and I can’t even tell you how much worse this is.  I want my mommy.

    I was a victim of a hit and run.  I left behind a husband and two children.  I had a life, dammit.  And I was so happy.

    I had an aneurysm at my desk at work.  I knew what I was, fat, boring.  I couldn’t even work up the courage to pick up a hooker and even get a bad parody of what intimacy was like.  I had maybe two people show up at my funeral.  One was the rabbi, the other one was the gravedigger.

    I was walking back to my car after a couple of drinks with the guys when the crazy man in the alley bit me.

    I held the perimeter until the last belt on the .50 was used up and the barrel was so hot that it warped like a pretzel.  That crazed crowd tore me apart.  I don’t know if the rest of the squad got away or not.  I could barely hear the chopper rotors over the moans.

    And the list goes on and on, the brave, the cowards, the noble and the small, all equal now, all equal in want.  We’re all here, for misery loves company.  We long to tell you these things in the only way we know how to now.  We can no longer say what’s in our hearts, for our tongues have withered away.  We can’t see the beauty of a sunrise, or the faces of our loved ones because our eyes have gone glazed and opaque.  But we still feel that most primal of needs, and we shamble inexorably forward, desperately grasping for it, anxious to share in it.

    And the living man their barricades, cock their weapons and wait for our arrival, like suitors with a bouquet, pulses racing with nervousness and palms sweating.  “Just look at those stinking, stupid  motherfuckers…stumbling around with their arms out….looks like they all want a hug, don’t it?”

     

    17 Comments

    1. I’m a bit confused. As to whats going on firstits a man than a woman. Its hoping back and forth unless I just read it wrong. But over all good story loved it to the fullest extent.

      Comment by Jeremiah Jallorina on September 18, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

    2. Negate my previous comment sorry bought that. It was just the way I read it./ And I still loved it. Thank you.

      Comment by Jeremiah Jallorina on September 18, 2012 @ 3:26 pm

    3. \A very thought provoking take on the walking dead. I liked it.

      Comment by David Daly on September 18, 2012 @ 4:45 pm

    4. Excellent writing.

      My only suggestion would be a mark to indicate the change in narrator – a “-” or “*” between each paragraph would make it easier for immediate comprehension.

      Great work! Moar!

      Comment by Max rockastansky on September 18, 2012 @ 8:31 pm

    5. Brilliant writing and character development. I could see each and every character crisply and clearly. Great story, great idea and great writing,

      Comment by Jgoss on September 19, 2012 @ 5:16 pm

    6. My Name’s Lucas…

      Excellent job! I really enjoyed this! More I say! More!

      Comment by Lucas Gardner on September 19, 2012 @ 7:43 pm

    7. Mike,

      You hit me where I live.

      Comment by WPM on September 19, 2012 @ 8:58 pm

    8. Thanks. When I wrote it, I left extra spaces between the paragraphs to delineate the shift in character voice, but it apparently didn’t maintain when transferred here. Oh, well….now you know!

      Comment by Retrobuck on September 19, 2012 @ 10:14 pm

    9. Mike,

      Getting the text from various formats (I understand we had someone submit in Wordstar format once. Remember that?) into TOWWZ can lead to some strange formatting, which 9 times out of 10 means we have to manually edit line breaks and spacing (its not just copy and paste believe it or not!). If you want to maintain a slightly different formatting as part of the story then let me know in the covering email. I can restore the story “as sent” later today if you wish. Let me know.

      Comment by Pete Bevan on September 20, 2012 @ 2:36 am

    10. Oh, no worries, Pete. I think folks get the idea at this point. If nobody else is bothered, I’m fine with it as is.

      Comment by Retrobuck on September 20, 2012 @ 10:43 am

    11. Loved it. I was a bit confused at first too but I picked up the changes in the second story when it said prom queen.

      Awesome story and great writing. Miigwetch.

      Comment by Terry on September 20, 2012 @ 3:43 pm

    12. Mike,
      As usual, I am impressed with the detail in your writing. You write the same way you speak. That is an incredible talent, my friend. I am looking forward to your next piece.
      Your Friend,
      Katie

      Comment by Katie on September 20, 2012 @ 7:31 pm

    13. Excellent character potraits each and everyone and just like what others have mentioned, very crisp.

      Comment by bong on September 21, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

    14. Fabulous piece! Loved this read and loved how it picked up momentum. Great timing, great scale and tempo! Crisp real images.

      Comment by Hijinxjeep on September 26, 2012 @ 4:25 am

    15. Fine work!

      Comment by Ryan on September 29, 2012 @ 3:21 pm

    16. Well written, insightful perspective and a pleasure to read. From reading this and other works of yours I get the feeling you may have been a vet yourself. If not you do well conveying the vets side. My only adverse thought was; where were the noble dead, the ones who merely wanted life back? At the end you threw a little in there, but for most of the story it seemed only those with hatred or longing re-animated. Was that the idea?
      That aside a good read and I look forward to more, thank you for sharing this with us.

      Comment by Ike on October 2, 2012 @ 8:37 am

    17. High praise from President Eisenhower himself! And from beyond the grave at that! Thank you, Ike, I appreciate the commentary. Sadly, the honor actually serving was not to be mine through circumstances of familial obligation. One of my children was having medical issues at the time I was about to go in, and it was ultimately really no decision at all. I stayed where I needed to stay. I have been a big supporter of our military and been a collector of WWII militaria my whole life, and a teacher specializing in military history for the past several years. I do a lot of volunteer work with a couple of the military museums in my state as well. If the honor of serving was not to be mine, the least I can do is help honor the memory of those who have.

      Comment by Retrobuck on October 15, 2012 @ 7:16 pm

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