“We have a problem.” Nash was so upset that color had almost returned to his face.
“What do you mean?” Ramon looked up from the rusty knife blade he had been sharpening on a rock.
Nash threw his arms up in the air. “The hobo liquor store shut down! Closed up! I just came from there. Now there’s no liquor store for the hobos. We’re screwed, just like the cap on a bottle of cheap wine.”
“Nash, Nash, calm down.” Ramon gestured toward a wooden crate. “Sit down. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the hobos will migrate.”
“Yes, it does! I checked all the best hidey-holes in the junkyard, like those old hippie vans that the winos sleep in. All empty. There’s no one left to eat!”
“Sit down, already.” Ramon motioned impatiently. “Let’s do some brainstorming … mmmm … brainstorming. Where was I? Oh, right, we need to come up with a new plan.”
“Got any ideas? Think we can lure hobos back here some other way? Gawd, it’s been three days since we’ve eaten!”
“The problem is, how do we do that without being spotted?” Ramon picked up a leg bone and scratched behind an ear before realizing what he held. “What have I told you about leaving bones around? All bones go down the storm drain. Don’t get careless!”
“I know, I know.” The younger zombie leaned forward. “D’you think we should move? Go somewhere else?”
Ramon sighed. “No, that’s not what I’m saying. I don’t want to leave the bridge, not with all that fresh food zooming by, up there over our heads.”
“Yeah. I just had a weird thought.” Nash stared at the leg bone in Ramon’s hand. “What if there were more zombies in the world? Wouldn’t it be cool if we could pick up the phone and a truck would pull up in a coupla minutes, one of those refrigerator trucks, and the driver is a zombie, and he opens the rear door, and instead of having butchered cows or pigs or chickens hangin’ from meat hooks, he has racks and racks of humans, freshly dead and ready to eat. Wouldn’t that be great?”
Ramon stared at Nash. “Stop it! Food won’t just show up at our feet. We hafta come up with a new food source, and fast. If we don’t eat, we don’t die, but we’ll rot away much faster.” Ramon looked at the polished bone in his hand, still yellowish in color. “We’ll hafta go back to huntin’, prowling around the city at night.”
“Do you s’pose there’s a better city to live in?” Nash asked, a hopeful expression on his face. “A better city for zombies?”
“Naw, I don’t think so. I’ve lived in other cities.” Ramon tried to balance the leg bone on a fingertip, but failed. “LA is the easiest place to hide. The whole population are freaks. Who’ll notice two more freaks in among the locals?”
“But people are too health conscious here. You know that path on the other side of the liquor store?” When I went over to check out the store, I encountered a runner, some pretend marathoner in skintight spandex and flashy shoes with perfect hair. He was running in the dark, checking his phone, and ran into me. I tried to grab him, to pull him down in the dark and rip his throat out, but I couldn’t get a grip on him, wearin’ that slippery spandex. He screamed and ran away.”
“If it’d been me there, we’d be picking spandex out of our teeth right now.”
“Oh, sure, Ramon!” Nash snorted. “You couldn’t catch a quadriplegic turtle.”
“But you caught him by surprise?” Ramon looked thoughtful. “Are there many joggers over there, running in the dark?”
“I don’t know.”
Ramon got to his feet, pushing himself up with his hands. “Maybe we should see if we can build a trap, to catch idiots running and talking on their phones.”
“Razor sharp wire at neck height?” Nash suggested.
“Maybe.” Ramon twirled his rusty knife blade in one hand. “It would hafta be fast, so fast that they wouldn’t have time to scream. I don’t know where we’d find really sharp wire. But I do like the idea of decapitating them. Let’s go over check it out. Maybe we’ll have some inspiration.”
They surveyed the liquor store from behind a scrub brush. A single floodlight in the parking lot bathed the store in ghostly blueness.
“See what I mean?” Nash said. “Completely dark. No lights inside the store at all.”
“Yeah. So where’s all this free-range food you were talking about? I don’t see any runners.”
“I don’t think they run at all hours of the night. Let’s go around to the other side.”
“Here’s the jogging path,” Nash called back to Ramon, who hadn’t accompanied him farther than the store. Nash stooped to pick up something on the ground.
“Whaddya find?” Ramon asked when Nash returned.
“Just the phone that the runner dropped when I surprised him.”
“Could he tell you were a zombie?” Ramon had an intense look on his face.
“I don’t think so. The living can’t see well in the dark, right? And I startled him so much he screamed and ran. He didn’t have time to get a good look at me. He must have thought I was a mugger.” Nash turned on the abandoned phone. “I wonder if it still has service? Ah, yes, I’m getting Internet. Super!”
“Internet? What good is that?”
“I’m googling ‘zombie’ to see if the living are aware we exist.” Nash tapped more keys. “Huh, that’s interesting!”
“There’s a zombie flashmob tomorrow evening. At twilight. Near here. Really close, actually.”
“What’s a flashmob?”
“You’ve never heard of a flashmob? Really? How long’ve you been a zombie?”
Ramon’s eyes had a dull look. “Thirteen years.”
“A flashmob is when people converge at a specific time and place with no warning. For this flashmob, people will pretend to be zombies.”
Nash shrugged. “Just for fun, I guess. The living love fake danger.”
“How far away?”
“Less than half a mile, I’d say.”
“Oh.” Ramon’s face fell. “Too much open ground to cover.”
“We can do it. People’ll be walking there in costume. We can hide in the dumpster here, killing time until we’re ready to walk to the park.”
“Well, I suppose.” Ramon didn’t sound convinced. “But we could get caught.”
“With a bunch of pretend zombies prowling around, no one will pay us any attention. With luck, we can pick off one of the humans and drag it away to eat.”
“Sounds risky.” Ramon shook his head. “We’ll be in unfamiliar territory and won’t know where the hiding places are. And if anybody discovers who we are, we’ll get caught.”
“Relax, old timer. We’ll only make a kill after we’ve checked out the situation. If this park is too open, or if there are too many people to club someone, then we merely pretend, like the others—then slip away, okay?”
“Okay.” Ramon nodded thoughtfully. “I never thought I’d be able to walk among the living again, without anyone knowing.” Ramon held up the old, rusty knife blade. “I’d better sharpen this up real good.”
“See anyone about?” Ramon asked.
“No, it’s all clear.” Nash raised the dumpster lid and stood. “Are you ready to go, to dine al fresco?”
“Sure.” Ramon got to his feet, his brain spoon in one hand and rusty knife blade in the other. “I’m ready to dine Al Fresco—or should I say dine on Al Fresco.”
“Whoa, dude, you can’t walk down the street with that blade in your hand. People might freak.”
“Oh, right.” Ramon looked down at his tattered pants.
“Put it in your gut,” Nash suggested. “You’ve got that big hole in your belly. Just slip the knife in there.”
“Good idea,” Ramon said, pulling the blackened edge of the gash in his stomach aside and slipping the knife in as if it were a carrying pouch. “We don’t want to alarm the flock. Let’s go find this … this fleshmob. Mmmmm … fleshmob!”
When they topped the first hill, Ramon dragged to a stop. “I see a park, but no other zombies. You sure we’re going to the right place?”
Nash kept going. “Yep, we’re at the right place.”
“Why aren’t there any other zombies around?” Ramon grumbled, moving forward slowly, step-drag, step-drag. “Seems too quiet.”
Up ahead, a car pulled to a stop in front of the park and people climbed out, dressed in rags and wearing wigs of long, tangled hair.
“Okay, so maybe we’re at the right place,” Ramon conceded. “But I hope other zombies show up soon. I’m feeling awfully conspicuous out here.”
A car pulled to the curb behind them and three people bounded out. “Hey!” one of them called. “Wait up for us!”
Nash looked at Ramon, who shrugged. “Might as well. We’re so slow, they’d catch up to us anyway.”
The three pretend zombies trotted up, dressed in ragged clothes and with dark circles of makeup around their eyes. “Thanks for waiting,” said the leader, a tall, thin young man who looked to be barely twenty. “I’m Stu Mead. That’s Stu spelled s-t-u. And this’s Patty and Chuck. This is going to be fun!”
Ramon’s stomach rumbled loudly. The new arrivals took no notice.
“We’ll walk there with you.” Stu gestured toward the park. “This your first time?”
“Hardly,” Ramon grunted, not meeting the young man’s eyes. “Been doin’ this for years ‘n years.”
“Years and years? How could that be? Flashmob zombie walks didn’t start until recently.”
“Don’t talk so fast,” Ramon said brusquely. “And don’t walk so fast. You clearly don’t know nothing about being a zombie. You gotta lurch forward—and you gotta groan and growl.”
“Oh, right!” Stu seemed taken aback by Ramon’s abruptness.
“Hey!” Stu half-turned as he walked ahead of them. “D’you know what a vegetarian zombie hunts for?” He looked expectantly at Ramon. “Graaaaiiins!”
Stu laughed at his own joke. “Get it? Grains, instead of brains?”
“Yeah, that’s real funny,” Ramon responded. “A vegetarian zombie? That’s about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Well, d’you have any better zombie jokes?”
“Bein’ undead is no laughing matter, son.” Ramon pointed at Stu’s face. “You wanna act like a zombie? Growl and groan instead of telling lame jokes.”
“You know what I’m thinking?” Stu asked. “That…”
“No, I don’t,” Ramon interrupted. “If I wanted to know what you’re thinking, I’d eat your brain.”
Stu turned to his two pretend zombie companions. “Hey, Chuck, how do you know when a zombie is tired? When he’s dead on his feet!”
Chuck laughed a courtesy laugh.
Stu pretended to limp just as Ramon was limping. “Hey, Patty, you know why the zombie went to see his doctor? Paaaiiins!” Stu didn’t wait for Patty’s reaction. “Why did the zombie go to the missile silo? ‘Cause he heard there was an arms buildup.”
“That’s a horrible joke,” Ramon said loudly. “But your groan is improving, Patty.”
Stu directed his next joke at Chuck. “So how did the zombie find his girlfriend? He was shopping on facebook!”
Ramon leaned nearer to Nash. “I’m gonna call him Stew, s-t-e-w.”
Nash giggled. “Let’s eat him first—or at least clobber him before clobbering anyone else. Turn him into Stew Meat.”
Stu turned, walking backwards and neglecting to shamble. “We’re gonna go on ahead, okay guys? See you when you get there.” The three pretend zombies moved ahead at a faster-than-normal walk.
“Amateurs!” Ramon said dismissively. “Good riddance. I didn’t want to walk with them anyway. After Stew’s last joke, I wanted to hack him apart right here on the sidewalk.”
When they arrived at the small park, other pretend zombies had arrived, clustering together and chattering like children on Halloween’s eve.
“Hi, everyone.” Stu held up his hand up for attention. “I’m Stu. I’m glad to see so many undead faces here tonight. I know most of you. We’ve got Patty and Chuck here, who rode with me. Then we’ve got Cole Cutts, Char Broyle, Hammond Ecks, Brock Wurst, Lambert Rackov, Barbi Kue, and Chip LeBeuf.” He pointed people out as he spoke.
Nash’s stomach rumbled in loud protest. “Oh, why do they all have to sound so tasty?” Nash complained. “I’m already so hungry I could eat an ass!”
“Not advisable. Donkey meat is rather … coarse.”
“Who said anything about donkey meat? You tryin’ to be an ass?”
“Pipe down,” Ramon ordered.
“What if he asks our names?” Nash said in a low voice.
“Um, we’re … Abbott and Costello.”
“Not important.” Ramon glanced around. “Just growl and groan like them.”
“That’s wrong,” Nash complained. “Why would any hunter make noise before a kill?”
“‘Cause they’re pretending,” Ramon said tersely. “Keep your voice down.”
“Listen up!” It was Stu again. “Thirty-five people signed up to be zombies, so we’ve split into two groups. Only seven people signed up to play living characters. The human victims will gather at the center of the park. We’ll drive them to the West, and Troy’s group of zombies will be forming up at the other end of the park. Our plan is to trap the tasty humans between us, and then we eat every last living being. Let’s do it!”
The group began moving in the indicated direction. Stu looked back and saw Ramon walking haltingly. “Stop walking normally, people—I mean, fellow undead. Look at that guy in the back. Now that’s how we should all walk! Arms up and held out in front of you. Uhhh. Uhhhhhh!”
Several pretenders gave Ramon dirty looks, but backed off at Ramon’s unblinking stare.
As promised, human victims loitered at the center of the park, but began to move away when the zombie horde shambled closer. Ramon put a hand on Nash’s arm and steered him to the side, where a young man and woman were slipping toward a cluster of trees. The young woman laughed and said something that Nash and Ramon couldn’t hear, but her tone and movements were clearly suggestive.
“Always go for the young lovers,” Ramon whispered. “Distracted humans make great prey. The rest of these pretend undead numb-nuts can follow the big herd of food, and we’ll corner the boy and girl in a hidden spot.”
“Right.” Nash nodded and licked his lips. “Forget the numb-nuts. Let’s get us some num-nums.”
Ramon grinned. “They’ll be num-nums in a minute. But be quiet, we don’t want to spook them.”
“Young love is wonderful,” Ramon said reverently. “Slipping away to become wrapped up in each other—and easy to sneak up on. They’ll taste wonderful, tender and with flawless circulation.” Ramon licked his lips. “Dibs on the young woman’s brain.”
“Fine by me.”
The young couple slipped behind a stone wall. Ramon and Nash followed, able to stay close in the evening twilight, slowing as they approached a spruce tree. Whispers and giggles came to them through the spruce’s thick boughs.
Nash eased forward to peer around. “They’re sitting on a bench.”
“No, not yet. Hey!” Nash lunged forward, hobbling around the spruce.
Ramon stumbled after him. “Nash! What the hell’re you doing, kid? Don’t jump the…”
Ramon’s voice faltered as he took in the tableau, stopping beside Nash, already frozen in place. The young man and woman sat on the secluded park bench. Their faces turned toward Nash and Ramon as the young woman eased her knife blade out of the young man’s abdomen. Ramon and Nash stared, mouths agape.
Nash broke the silence. “Dude, you’re not … hurt?”
The young man shook his head.
The young woman’s face hardened. “Dammit, you’re a real zombie!”
She got up from the bench, wiping her knife blade on her leg as she approached Nash and Ramon. “You must be real, too, or you’d have freaked out after I stabbed rotting Romeo here.” She moved close to Nash and sniffed the side of his neck, her scabbed nose inches away. “No fresh blood in you.”
“You mean you’re both zombies, too?” Ramon’s mouth hung open, and it wasn’t just due to poor muscular control.
Nash’s upper lip curled in amusement as he turned to Ramon. “Don’t tell me you’ve never encountered another one of us?”
“Not very damn often.” Ramon lowered his voice. “It isn’t safe, kid. You don’t know which zombies you can trust. Friends can sell you out if they get caught.”
“Oh, this’s just great!” the young male zombie kicked the park bench. “All the zombies here are real zombies!”
“No, not possible,” the young female zombie replied. “There aren’t that many zombies in existence. Chances are, most of them are humans pretending to be zombies. It’s just bad luck that the four of us stalked each other. But now we can work together. We’ll have better luck culling out a straggler if we cooperate—and we can make a fast kill. What do you think?”
“Fine. But we split up afterward,” said the young male zombie. “I’m not interested in finding a hunting buddy, understand?”
“Oh, don’t worry about that!” the female snapped. “I’m not hangin’ with anyone. If we make a kill, I’ll take my share and vanish.”
She turned to Ramon. “Are you two, uh … partners?”
“Only in the old-fashioned sense,” Ramon said stiffly.
“Whatever.” She gestured at the young male. “He and I’ll work one side. You two go another way, so maybe we can trap a human between us.” She didn’t wait for an answer, shambling away. The young male zombie shrugged and followed.
“Well?” Ramon stared at Nash.
“Well what?” Nash replied hotly.
“You like her?” Ramon’s patchy eyebrows went up-and-down questioningly. “Shoulda asked for her name and address. Finding a female zombie your age is like … like finding a fresh, warm, pink brain on the sidewalk—you scoop it up as quick as possible and don’t let anyone know you found it, keep it for yourself.”
“You seriously…?” Nash’s face paled, which was even more remarkable given the lack of color in his skin. “Ewww! She’s … disgusting! Stringy hair, blotchy and puffy skin … and she smelled like … like rot!”
“Yeah, she did.” Ramon had a dreamy look on his ragged face. “I love a lady who smells like that.”
“Uhhh, not me!” Nash grimaced. “Didja see her tongue? Thick and blue and goopy-looking. Kissing her’d be like…” Nash’s voice trailed off.
A half-smile played over Ramon’s mouth. “Like makin’ love to roadkill, izzat what you mean? It’d be better’n that.” He let out a long, whistling sigh. “Kid, there ain’t no shame in fulfilling your … personal needs with roadkill. And a female zombie your age? You’re a zombie now! You’re never gonna be able to even flirt with a living woman ever again, let alone get to first base. You have any idea what a living girl would do if she found you on her doorstep, your hair hopefully combed a little bit and wearing a clean shirt with no holes, with flowers in one hand and a heart in a box under your arm? Her reaction’d be a lot worse than yours was right now.”
“I suppose.” Nash’s face sagged further. “So I gotta settle?”
“Yep.” Ramon glanced at Nash’s downcast face and his voice softened. “Adjust your expectations, kid. Things’re never going back to the way they were. Ah, what I’d give to be a young zombie right now. I wonder what her name was? Maybe something romantic, like Fawn … or Desirée.”
“Let’s get back to the hunt,” Nash suggested. “I’ve got a strong Desirée for fresh brains.”
When they emerged from the trees, several human victims rushed past. Nash lunged for a nearby man and missed. The pretend zombies lurched past, jostling Ramon and Nash.
“Shit,” Ramon growled through clenched teeth. “There’s no way we’ll be able to separate one from the group.”
The pretend victims ran toward a public clubhouse at the center of the park. Nash and Ramon hobbled as fast as possible, trying to keep up as the pretend zombies pursued the human victims into the building.
“Slow down!” Ramon snarled at the pretend zombies ahead of them. “You’re out of character.”
“Why do you care?” Nash asked. He halted. “Oh, shit!”
“Up there.” Nash pointed to a banner over the clubhouse door.
Ramon squinted upward. “What’s it say?”
“It says there’s a runners’ picnic today. Runners? Really? Crap! There’s no point in going in. We’ll never catch any of those fast, slippery bastards. It’ll be like trying to catch a fish with bare hands.”
Ramon frowned. “Maybe we should wait here and trip runners that come out.”
“No, no, remember your own rules,” Nash chided. “Never dine in public. Let’s wait in the hallway. It’s private and darker.” He hobbled toward the interior.
Inside, the hallway was dim. Only the farthest room in the clubhouse was lit. Voices came from the illuminated doorway.
Nash stopped to peer into a dark room and found a battered golf club. Screams erupted from farther within the clubhouse.
“Now that’s real fear,” Ramon remarked. “Not pretend victims.”
Nash chuckled. “Somebody neglected to tell the runners about the zombies invading the park tonight, huh?”
Ramon opened his mouth to answer when a stampede of frightened runners burst through the hallway entrance of the picnic room, pushing and clawing in panic, resplendent in tight spandex of all imaginable colors and struggling to flee in the narrow confines of the hallway.
The mob was upon Ramon and Nash before they could move. Nash was hammered back against the wall. Ramon went down under an onslaught of frantic feet, trampled by a knot of runners, the fastest and healthiest of the living.
“Aaaagh! What the hell?” It was gangly Stu, his eyes wide with shock. Stu was at the back of the panicked herd, but stopped when he saw Ramon on the hallway floor. He grabbed Ramon’s hand and pulled the older zombie to his feet. “Hey, man, you okay?”
“Never better,” Ramon said as he pulled out his knife.
“You sure you’re not injured?” Stu looked like he was about to cry or vomit. “They absolutely flattened you, dude! Hey, what’s with the knife? What kind of zombie are you, anyway?”
Ramon smiled grimly. “The hungry kind.”
Another volley of screams came from with the brightly lit picnic room. A smaller group of stampeding runners burst through the doorway.
Ramon swung his knife and the pack leader went down. Nash swung his golf club. A runner fell, but Nash couldn’t score another hit, being jostled as the mob rushed past.
“Crap, I didn’t have enough room to swing again!” Nash complained.
Ramon gestured at a figure writhing on the floor. “Finish him off, why don’tcha? Trampled by his own kind. Just be careful not to hit him so hard you scramble up his brains,” Ramon directed as Nash drew back the golf club. Ramon’s eyes closed. “Mmmmm … scrambled brains.”
“What’re you doing?” Stu screeched, flattened against the wall.
“Stu, buddy, just relax,” Ramon said soothingly. “This’s all part of the flashmob, okay?”
“That’s right,” Nash added before swinging his club and striking the twitching form on the floor. The blow made a solid sound, like a stone dropped from a good height. “It’s all just pretend. My uncle’s the head of a prop department at one of the major movie studios. He gives me really cool items and shows me how to use them.”
“There’s no need to scream like a girl,” Ramon said reprovingly as he sidled up next to Stu. “Don’t freak out, dude. It’s just fake blood. This’s all part of the act, all part of the fun.” With these words, Ramon stabbed the white-faced Stu in the throat. “No more bad jokes for you, Stew Meat! Think zombies are funny now?”
“Good one!” Nash grinned deliriously. “Maybe his brain’ll do more good for us than it did for him.”
“I dunno.” Ramon pulled his knife free and let Stu slide to the floor. “His brain probably doesn’t have much nutritional value.”
Nash nudged his victim with the golf club. “So what do we do now? Hunt more, or cut these up?”
“I’ll do the cutting. You go into the picnic room and see what else you can find. Leave none alive. Pick out the best specimens for me.”
More cries and screams escaped from the picnic room. Nash moved to the doorway and peered through. “It’s those two again—no, it looks like there are three real zombies. Oh, wow, what a blood bath!” Nash exclaimed softly. “It looks like the living are responsible for at least half of the dead, trampling them in a panic.”
“So what’s happening now?” Ramon squatted to saw at a limb.
“The three zombies are chopping up the harvest, just like you’re doing. Getting ready to cart off as many pieces as they can, I guess.”
“Which is what we should be busy doing,” Ramon said pointedly. “Shit! Is it dark yet?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“We need to get outta here, pronto!” Ramon’s voice took on a tinge of panic. His limb sawing became fast and jerky. “How’re we gonna carry all of this?” Ramon focused wide, glassy eyes on Nash. “Find something to carry body parts in. Anything. We won’t be able to take much, which seems such a shame. I hate wasting food. It just ain’t right to kill more than we can eat … or carry.”
“Don’t panic, grandpops. I’ll go see if I can find a box or something. Keep cutting.”
“Watch out for the other zombies. Don’t try to take anything from them, okay? You don’t know how they’ll react, and they could turn on you.”
Nash returned with two huge picnic baskets. And another zombie.
“Carl!” Ramon exclaimed. “It’s been a long time since we last crossed paths.” Ramon gestured at Nash with his knife. “This’s Nash, my new, uh, protégé. Nash, this’s Carl, Carlito the Corpse. He works a territory down south. What’re you doin’ here, Carl?”
“Oh, I needed a change. And I heard about the flashmob today and thought it sounded like a great party.”
“Indeed!” Ramon resumed sawing at the neck he’d been working on. “Sorry, but I gotta have this one. I love me some good head!”
“You know each other?” Nash looked at Carl. “How?”
“How? I took Ramon under my wing when he first turned.” Carl chuckled. “He was totally lost. I found him chewing on a dead cat in an alley and took pity on him.”
“So you, uh, tutored him about being a zombie?”
“That I did. Did a good job, too.”
“Why are you working different territories? Didja have a falling-out?”
“No, not at all.” Carl and Ramon exchanged glances. “It was my work that got in the way, forced us apart in the end. I was a … uh … problem-solver for a major metropolitan organization. That’s how I came to be known as Carlito the Corpse, you see. It’s not a business where I could take a beginner along.”
“Then why’d you help him?”
“Purely self-serving. If he got caught, the living would’ve been out in force, hunting for zombies. I took him in to make sure he survived, so he didn’t expose our kind.”
Nash turned to Ramon. “Why’d you go with him? You’re pretty damn independent.”
Ramon looked up from sawing the neck. “Carlito was an influential guy. He made me an offal I couldn’t refuse.”
Carl chuckled, then gestured at the neck. “You’re doin’ it the hard way, Ramon. Here, try this. It’s an amputation saw I inherited in a … client dispute. Best tool I’ve ever had. Cuts through bone like styrofoam.”
“Sure, thanks.” Ramon took the saw and applied it to the body he was kneeling on. “Oh, yeah, much faster. And we need to vanish. Nash, put the cut-off limbs in the basket while I section up as many dead as possible. We’ll take all the heads, but we’ll hafta leave some other parts.”
“If you lop off the legs and arms, I think I can squeeze that torso into one of the picnic baskets,” Nash suggested.
“How are you two traveling?” Carl asked.
“On foot,” Ramon grunted.
Carl laughed. “Ramon, when’re you gonna get smart and get yourself some transportation? You gonna lurch down the sidewalk carrying a picnic basket dripping blood? I’ve got a carpet cleaning van out on the other side of the building, parked in the service vehicle area.”
“Too risky!” Ramon muttered. “The more you’re out and about among the living, the greater your risk of being discovered.”
“Ah, still the same old Ramon.” Carl winked at Nash. “You two want a ride? I’ll drop you wherever you want.”
Ramon finished cutting and stood and stretched as Nash gathered up limbs. “Are both baskets full?” Ramon asked. “What’s in the other one?”
“Mostly Stew,” Nash replied.
“Okay, let’s go. Lead us to your corpse-mobile, Carl.”
Back at the dumpster behind the empty liquor store, Ramon sighed in satisfaction as he lowered himself to sit in an open spot among the collection of arms, legs, and heads. Nash sat at the far end, a severed head cradled in his lap.
Nash extended a hand. “Can I borrow your brain spoon? I’ll eat fast.”
Ramon handed it over. “You eat brains first, then I’ll pick a head and eat it. I’m saving mine for dessert. Pass me that nice leg, would you?”
“Sure, sure.” Nash picked up the severed leg and handed it to Ramon. Then he lifted the severed head like it was a fancy tourist drink with a weird name. “I need a little pink umbrella. This is a special day, my friend. Here’s to you.” He lifted the head in salute, then dug in with Ramon’s brain spoon.
“And here’s to you, Nash. You’re going to make a good zombie after all.” Ramon tore a mouthful of flesh from a severed leg. He chewed briefly before swallowing. “Ah, I do love a picnic!”