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    All The Dead Are Here - Pete Bevan's zombie tales collection


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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.

    A ZOMBIE’S BEST FRIEND By Sonny Zae
    March 17, 2013  Humorous   

    Ramon was munching on a human leg bone, determined to get every last bit of meat, when he stopped chewing.

    “What’s the matter?” Nash asked, noticing Ramon’s pause.  “Get someone stuck between your teeth?”

    “No, look.”  Ramon pointed behind Nash.

    Nash turned to see a dog sitting a distance away, watching the two zombies with the rapt intentness of a starving creature.  “Oh, hi, puppy!”  Nash patted the side of his leg.

    “What’re you doing?” Ramon demanded.  “We don’t need—oh, I get it, you’re gonna call the dog closer so you can grab the mutt and chomp it.”

    “What?  God, no!”  Nash recoiled in horror.  “You don’t eat dogs!”

    “The living don’t eat dogs,” Ramon corrected.  “We zombies eat whatever we hafta eat in order to keep going.  I’ll eat it if you don’t want it.”

    “No, no way!  A dog is man’s best friend.”

    “I’m your best friend,” Ramon said sourly.  “You don’t need a dog.”

    “No, you’re not,” Nash answered, keeping his eyes on the dog.  “You keep telling me you’re my zombie mentor, remember?  Anyway, why’re you even bringing it up?  You’re sounding as paranoid as when we ran into that zombie chick at the flashmob, the woman you thought I was going to run off with and leave you alone?  You’ve got some serious trust issues.”

    “Bite me!”

    “Thanks, but no thanks.”  Nash picked up a foot chunk and held it out.  “Come here, doggie.  Come on, you can have this.”

    The dog moved closer.  “Hey, it only has three legs!”  Ramon exclaimed.

    “Yeah, and he can still walk better than you,” Nash noted.  Nash’s eyes remained fixed on the dog, so he didn’t notice the hurt look that flitted across Ramon’s face.

    The dog sidled up slowly, sniffing as it approached and moving with an awkward, hopping gait on its three legs.  “Go on, boy, you can have it,” Nash coaxed.  “Go ahead and eat.”  He gave Ramon a sidelong look.  “I won’t let the old guy hurt you.”

    The dog snatched the portion of foot and backed away.  It sank down, chewing at the tough foot flesh.

    “Whatsa matter with his tail?” Ramon asked.  “See that sharp bend?  Looks like it was slammed in a door.  He could wag his tail around a corner.”

    “Yeah, and his right ear’s been torn off,” Nash said.  “Musta been in a big fight.”

    “That dog’s lucky you’re here.  I wouldn’t have given it any of my food.”  Ramon looked at the clean-polished leg bone in his hand.  “Lucky, that’s what we’ll call him.”

    “Now he’s our dog?”  Nash snorted.  “A minute ago you wanted to eat him, and now you’re giving him a name?”

    Ramon shrugged.  “Whatever.  When you get an idea, I can’t talk you out of it.  So I might as well have some fun.  S’pose we can build him a peg leg?  Then we could give him a pirate name.”

    “Such as?”

    “Black-lab-beard.”

    “Black labs aren’t brown with white spots.”

    “Sure, but look at his head.”  Ramon pointed with the leg bone he’d been picking clean.  “That’s the skull shape of a retriever dog.  And he has the body shape of a Labrador.  Just because he’s brown and white doesn’t mean he isn’t a Lab.  He looks mostly Lab to me.”

    “Whatever, Pops.”  Nash reached out slowly to pat the dog on the head.  “Good dog, Lucky.  You’re really hungry, aren’t you?  You’re a lucky dog to find us.  Hey, Ramon, toss over that liver if you’re not gonna eat it.”

    “Why?  You gonna give it to that mutt?”

    “Yeah.  He’s really thin.”

    Ramon shook the leg bone in Nash’s direction.  “Never give a dog people food!”

    “That liver is people liver.”

    “Doesn’t matter,” Ramon said stubbornly.  “It’s still people food.  And it’s the last we have.”

    The dog had gulped down most of the foot, and now crunched a remaining bone, snapping it in two and swallowing the pieces.  Big brown eyes rolled up to stare into Nash’s eyes.  Its tail wagged.

    “What a good dog.”  Nash patted the dog’s head again.  “You like that, Lucky?  Don’t worry about that old grump.  He couldn’t catch you if you only had one leg.”

    “I caught this, and I’m eating it.”  Ramon picked up the liver and bit savagely into the purple, jelly-ish mass.

    “Who do you like, Lucky, me or him?”

    Lucky moved closer and put his head on Nash’s leg, staring up into the younger zombie’s face with an expression of adoration.

    Nash turned to Ramon.  “See?  He’s really smart—knows which one of us is a really cool zombie and which one is a crotchety old skinbag of decaying flesh.”

    “Piss off!”  Ramon muttered.

    “Even with only three legs, a dogcatcher hasn’t caught him.  He must be really smart.”

    “Oh, right!”  Ramon shook his leg bone in the air.  “Look, if he’s so smart, then have him go hunt down some food for us—like a little kid with a big, juicy brain.”  Ramon took another bite, purple-blue blood from the liver trickling down his chin.

    “You expect a three-legged dog to hunt down a stray human, kill it, dig the brain out of its skull, and bring it back here to you?”

    “If he could do all that…”  Ramon issued a wet-sounding belch.  “…then Lucky’d be my best friend.”

    Nash picked up a nearby bone and waggled it above his head to get Lucky’s attention.  “Ready, boy?  Here, go fetch!”  Nash gave the bone a toss.  “Go get the arm bone, Lucky.”

    “It’s a humerus,” Ramon noted as Lucky hopped in the direction of the bone.  “But he’s not gonna fetch it, he’s gonna eat it.”

    Lucky hopped back to Nash with the bone in his mouth.

    “What were you saying?” Nash asked sardonically.  “See?  He’s a smart dog.  Aren’t you, Lucky?”  The dog wagged his tail enthusiastically.

    Ramon scowled.  “He’s only good for being a pet—and we don’t need another mouth to feed.  It’s hard enough keeping you full.  I’ve never seen a zombie eat as much as you do.”

    “So what’re we gonna do for food?” Nash asked, tossing the arm bone again and watching the dog launch itself in pursuit, running for the bone with an awkward, bobbing gait.  “Has it been long enough that we can stage another wreck?”

    “Yeah, I suppose.”  Ramon craned his head to look up at the underside of the freeway bridge.  “Soon as it’s dark, we’ll go up and cause a pileup.  I feel like having a party, and I know just where to find us some delicious party-crashers!”

    ###

    Ramon peered over the low concrete wall that formed the edge of the freeway bridge.  Shock waves from passing vehicles fluttered his thin gray hair.

    “Well?” Nash demanded.  “We gonna cause a pileup or not?”

    “Patience, crash-hopper.”  Ramon stared intently at the upstream traffic.  “A little planning can make a big difference.  We can’t rush it.”

    “But I’m so hungry!”

    Ramon lowered his head below the top of the barrier wall, even though he was nearly invisible in the California twilight.  “You wouldn’t be so famished if you’d listened to me and built the hobo trap correctly.  We’d still be gorging ourselves.  By rushing things, you bungled the last kill.  This time, we do it strictly by-the-book—my book!  You’re supposed to be listening to me and learning.  I’m not gonna try and teach you the secrets to zombie success if you aren’t gonna listen.”

    “Yeah, yeah.”  Nash’s gut rumbled in agreement.  “How come I’m so hungry all the time if I’m no longer living?  It’s not fair!”

    “But you’re also not dead,” Ramon corrected.  “Everything that isn’t dead has gotta eat.  Now shut up and let me think.”

    Nash turned to Lucky, scratching behind the stub of the dog’s torn off ear.  “You wanna watch Daddy work?”

    “Looks like now’s the best time to go,” Ramon announced.  “Got your running shoes laced up tight?”

    “Do I hafta do this?” Nash complained.  “It isn’t any fun to get clobbered by a speeding car.”

    “Just how hungry are you?”

    “Alright, alright,” Nash grumbled.  “I’m going.”  He turned to the dog.  “Stay, Lucky.”

    “Oh, for chrissakes!  You really think that mutt’ll take off while you’re working?  Get your mind in the zone.  Concentrate on causing the biggest pileup possible.  The dog’ll be fine.”

    “Yeah, I suppose.”  Nash shifted weight from his good knee to his bad knee, then back again.  He stared at the torrent of vehicles streaming past in the deepening darkness.  “They’re going awfully fast tonight.”

    “That’s good,” Ramon replied.  “Run straight across and they won’t be able to dodge you.”

    “Wish me luck.”  Nash crawled over the concrete barrier wall, staying low.  He stood and flexed his knees before closing his eyes and lunging out across six lanes of racing traffic.

    Lucky stood on his single hind leg, front paws on the barrier wall, watching Nash run.  A low whine escaped from the dog’s throat.

    Vehicles in the second and third lanes nearly clipped Nash. He leaped into the air to avoid them, but a minivan in the next lane hit him and catapulted the young zombie to the far side of the freeway.

    “Oh, crap, that looked bad.”  Ramon stood up, but couldn’t see Nash. Traffic continued to whiz by.  Ramon pointed across the freeway.  The dog’s remaining ear went up and his head cocked to one side.  “Go, boy, go fetch Nash!”

    Lucky bounded over the wall and raced across the freeway, hopping and lunging erratically on his three legs.  A truck veered to avoid the dog and slammed a car against the barrier wall. A car skidded sideways, its wheels locked, and was hit thunderously by following vehicles.  The dog was lost to sight as other cars and trucks piled on, like uprooted trees forming a haphazard dam across a flooding river.  Long seconds elapsed before the sounds of crashes turned into screeching tires, then into the honking of horns of cars and trucks now blocked by the mass of accumulated wreckage.

    “Nash!” Ramon shouted over the smoking jumble of crumpled vehicles.  He cupped hands to his mouth and yelled again.

    “I’m okay!” came the reply from Nash, barely audible over the traffic noise from the farther six lanes, still rushing in the opposite direction.

    Ramon clambered over the barrier wall and hobbled between the closely-packed vehicles, glancing warily upstream as more crashes occurred.

    “Hey, I’m here!” Nash called out from above, climbing over the top of a delivery van.  He lost his footing in the gloom and tumbled to the pavement.  “D’you see Lucky anywhere?” he asked as he struggled to his feet.

    Ramon shook his head.

    “Lucky!”  Nash cupped hands to his mouth.  “Here, boy!  Damn, I’m gonna kill myself if anything happened to that dog.”

    “Stop yelling!” Ramon hissed.  “We’re trying to not be seen, remember?”

    Nash ignored the question.  “Lucky!” he called, but softer.  “Where are you, Lucky?”

    Scratching sounds came from the wreckage to one side.  Lucky’s head squeezed through a space under interlocked bumpers.  The dog wriggled and squirmed and popped free, leaving a patch of brown fur on a corner of twisted metal.  The dog shook himself and wobbled over to press his muzzle into Nash’s cold hand.

    “Lucky!”  There was a quaver in Nash’s voice as he knelt to throw his arms around the dog.  “Why’d you do that, boy?  Why’d you run across to me?  I’m so glad you’re alive!”  He looked the dog over.  “No blood.  You’re fine, aren’t you?”

    “Except for all the things already wrong with him,” Ramon noted drily.  “You’d think that dog had already used up all his luck.  But enough chit-chat.   We need to get busy.”

    Ramon tried to peer into a convertible lodged under a truck trailer.  “Damn.  There’s gotta be some free body parts inside.”

    Nash moved up beside Ramon.  “Yeah, I smell blood, lotsa blood.”

    “Lucky, come here, boy.”  Ramon patted the crumpled door of the convertible.  “Come find the food, Lucky.  Fetch!”

    “Don’t say that!” Nash snapped.  “You yelling for him to fetch me was what caused him to run out into traffic.”

    “Yeah, but it worked out okay,” Ramon retorted.  “He didn’t get so much as a scratch, did he?”

    Lucky shoved his snout into a gap between the top of the convertible’s door and the underside of the trailer.  “You smell that, Lucky?”  Nash’s voice rose.  “Go on, boy, go find us some bits of food.”

    Lucky paced left, then right, before wriggling into a small space in front of the truck’s driving wheels and disappearing.  Scratching and scrabbling sounds indicated the dog’s progress as Lucky worked his way back toward the embedded convertible.  The scratching sounds moved forward again, and a moment later Lucky emerged with a severed arm in his jaws.

    “Good boy!”  Nash took the arm from Lucky, who looked up at Nash and wagged his tail with pride.  “Say, this’s a mighty nice arm,” Nash observed, squeezing it to test it’s firmness.  “Good muscle tone.  Not flabby at all, and with smooth skin.”

    “Not to mention wearing a very expensive gold watch,” Ramon noted.

    “You can’t eat gold,” Nash responded, slipping the watch off and flinging it away.  “Hey, look, Lucky thinks I’m number one!” Nash exclaimed.  The pointing finger of the severed hand was fully extended, while the other fingers were curled inward.

    “Oh, right, the mutt found just the right severed arm for you.”  Ramon shook his head.  “Probably did that yourself.”

    “You’re just jealous,” Nash observed. “You’re miffed because Lucky brought something for me and not you.”

    “Hmmph!”  Ramon bent over to put his face closer to the dog.  “Be a good three-legged, one-eared, bent-tailed mutt and go fetch me a chunk of human.”

    Lucky’s hindquarters dropped and the dog sat, looking up at Ramon and giving no sign of moving.

    “Ask him nicely,” Nash suggested.

    Ramon opened his mouth as sirens wailed nearby, rising in pitch as they raced closer.

    “Shit!  Already?”  Ramon had a stricken look on his gray face.  Ramon hobbled toward the edge of the freeway.  “Come on!” he called over his shoulder.  “We gotta vanish right now.”

    Nash followed reluctantly, with Lucky at his heels.  “We could hurry and hit up the closest vehicles, couldn’t we?” he said hopefully as he clambered over the barrier wall.

    “Look at yourself,” Ramon said sourly.  “You just took a big whack and you’re barely able to get over a three-foot wall.  How’re you gonna hurry among wrecked cars?”

    Nash peered over the wall one last time before sitting down beside Ramon.  “Gad, what a colossal waste of food.”

    Lucky hopped up onto the wall then dropped to the ground next to Nash.  The dog licked the back of Nash’s hand before settling himself down beside the younger zombie.

    The sound of a voice on a police radio came over the barrier wall, along with the sound of engines as more emergency vehicles arrived on the scene.

    “Let’s crawl down the riverbank and get away now, in case things get too busy around here,” Ramon suggested.

    “No, not yet.”  Nash peered cautiously over the barrier wall.  “They aren’t really that close yet.  Crap!  We need to harvest more food from the pileup.”

    “Yeah,” Ramon grunted.  “If you really think this … this uh, reduced dog … is so smart, then why not have Lucky do all the work?  We can hide here while the mutt gathers up chunks and pieces and bring them to us.”

    “Put him to work?”

    “Sure! He can be our Limb-brador retriever.”

    “Don’t call him that!”  Nash patted the dog on the head.  “That’s a ridiculous idea.”

    “I’ll bet he can do it.”  Ramon leaned across Nash to be closer to the dog.  “Go get more food, Lucky.  Fetch!”  Lucky’s single ear lifted, then the dog got to his feet and scrambled over the wall and disappeared into the darkness.  Ramon directed his best smug look at Nash, who exhaled loudly and looked away.

    “Think he understood?” Nash asked as they settled themselves on the ground with their backs to the barrier wall.  “Why do I get the feeling that you’re just trying to get rid of him?”

    A heavy object dropped over the wall, hitting Ramon on the head with a solid sound like a dropped bowling ball.  “Ow!” Ramon exclaimed, catching the object as it rolled off the top of him.  He turned it over and gave a start.  “Ack!  That’s one ugly man!”

    “Good thing ugly doesn’t affect the flavor,” Nash noted.  “Don’t let the mustache fool you, that’s a woman.  Gad, I love Italian food.”

    Nash pulled a plastic bag from a pocket and shook it open.  “Drop it in.  I figured we might need something to carry the booty in, if we were successful.”

    “Good thinking, kid.”  Ramon examined the lettering on the bag.  “Fresh organic produce, huh?  D’you think she was organic?”

    Nash nudged Ramon with an elbow.  “Between you and me, I don’t think anyone’ll give us grief about using an organic produce bag.”

    “What if Lucky brings us her booty?  Got a bigger bag?”

    Nash giggled.  A chunk of upper thigh dropped over the wall, falling between them.  It was shortly followed by an ear, then a man’s toupee.

    “Oooh, that leg’ll be good.”  Ramon smacked his lips.  “I’ll garnish it with a coupla sprigs of rosemary.  Too bad we don’t have any dill—or paprika.  Paprika’d be better.  But I’ll have to see what I have.”

    “When we get back to camp, you’d better give Lucky a big thank-you.  Rosemary?  Now you’re a French chef?”  Nash flinched as a jaw dropped onto his shoulder.

    “Don’t worry, it won’t bite you,” Ramon quipped as Nash plucked off the jaw and stared at it.  “No, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a Frenchie.”  He took the jaw from Nash.  “Yeah, I owe the mutt an apology, don’t I?”  Ramon held the nearly-complete lower jaw under his own and moved it up and down, talking in a falsetto voice.  “Me so sorry, doggy.  I shouldn’t have snapped at you.  I can be such a mouth sometimes.”

    “Stop that!”  Nash looked away.  “Seems kinda … indecent to use the body parts of the living to make fun of them.”

    “Oh, lighten up, kid.”  Ramon dropped the jawbone into the bag.  “I was just having a little fun.  Ya gotta learn to enjoy your work or you’ll be miserable.  You suppose I should get Lucky a little make-up gift, too?  Maybe I could fashion him a peg-leg.  Or a little doggy crutch.”

    Nash scowled.  “Don’t be such an asshole.  Dogs can sense your true emotions, you know.  He’ll be able to tell if you don’t mean it.”

    “Oh, for chrissakes!”  Ramon rolled his eyes in disgust.  “Careful about mentioning assholes, or the pooch may drop one over the wall.”  Ramon picked up the arm Lucky had retrieved and brandished the pointing finger at Nash.  “Quit nagging.  If you don’t, I’ll…”

    “You’ll what?” Nash pulled his head away from the rigid digit.  “You gonna pick my nose?”

    “Crap!”  Ramon held up a hand.  “Hear that?”

    “Yeah.”  Nash turned his head toward the sound.  “It’s a helicopter.”

    “A police helicopter,” Ramon corrected.  “And it’ll have a spotlight on it.”  Ramon rolled forward onto all fours and began scrabbling down the brushy riverbank.  “Come on!”

    Nash started to follow, then looked back toward the freeway.  “What about Lucky?  We can’t just leave him.  Lucky!” Nash shouted.

    “Move!” Ramon yelled, not slowing down.  “The dog’ll have to escape on his own.  I’m not waiting for him or you.”

    ###

    “Ah, this’s the life!” Nash proclaimed, holding a partially-eaten arm in front of himself like an ear of corn.  “But if we’re the living dead, we can’t really say ‘life,’ can we?  Maybe I should say this is the unlife.”

    “Good enough,” Ramon agreed.  “We made quite a food haul tonight.  And if anyone saw a Limb-brador retriever moving among wrecked vehicles with a human spleen in its mouth, no one’ll suspect us.”

    Nash squinted at Ramon in the low light from the sterno can.  “You gonna keep calling Lucky that?”

    Ramon shrugged, tossing a polished rib bone onto the pile between them.  “Could call him other things, I suppose.  How about Chesapeake vertebrae retriever?  Or cerebellum springer spaniel?”

    Nash sighed.  “I guess Limb-brador retriever isn’t so bad after all.  Why can’t you just call him Lucky?”

    “‘Cause it’s a stupid name, that’s why.”

    “Why is it stupid?”  Nash poked a finger bone in the air at Ramon.  “He’s lost a leg, an ear, and nearly a tail.  He just ran across six lanes of zooming traffic without a scratch.  How’s he not lucky?  Anyway…”  Nash sniffled.  “I … I really miss that dog!  I can’t believe you made me leave him there, the poor thing, used by us and left to take the heat.”

    “You gonna start that again?”  Ramon eyes narrowed in disgust.  “He’s just a dog.”

    “Just a dog!”  Nash’s voice rose.  “I’ve never had a dog before!  As a matter of fact, I should go back up onto the bridge now and see if he’s still wandering around up there, alone, lost and looking for us.”

    “No, you won’t,” Ramon responded.

    “Don’t you tell me what to do!”  Nash rose to his feet.  “We betrayed the poor dog!  I don’t care what you say, I’m going back up there to find him.”

    “No, you’re not.”

    “Yes, I am!  And there’s nothing going to stop me,” Nash declared.  Then he turned to look where Ramon was pointing.  Lucky stood behind him in the darkness, a severed arm in his jaws.

    “Lucky!” Nash shrieked, dropping to his knees and throwing his arms around the dog.  “Oh, Lucky, I thought I’d never see you again!  I’m so glad you came back.”

    “Gawd, you gonna cry?”

    Nash ignored Ramon.  “And you brought me another piece of food.  What a great dog!  Go on, drop the bone.”

    Lucky moved over to Ramon, instead.  Ramon took the arm.  “Hmmph.  Wealthy old lady arm.”  The skin was wrinkled and loose.  The fingernails were painted an elegant red and the fingers were adorned with expensive rings.  But most noticeable was the extended middle finger, rising from the balled-up fist in an unmistakeable last driving gesture.

    Nash grinned.  “You’re a smart dog, Lucky.  You showed that grumpy old zombie.”

    Ramon exhaled loudly.  “I hope the dog was smart enough to not lead investigators here.”

    “Why can’t you just acknowledge that he’s a great dog?”

    “Oh, sure, he did good,” Ramon said grudgingly.  “But he coulda’ done better. You see the sheer size of that pileup?  I’m sure there were more limbs that we coulda’ got out of that wreck.  We came back with only a single decapitated head—and I really woulda’ liked to have had an entire brain to myself.”  Ramon pointed a finger accusingly in the dog’s face.  “You do better next time, mutt, or I might just call the dogcatcher on you!”

    Lucky growled and his ears pulled back.

    “Don’t sass me, dog, or I’ll find a newspaper and smack your snout!”  Ramon shook his finger threateningly, inches from Lucky’s face.

    Lucky’s jaws snapped on Ramon’s hand.  Ramon screeched in surprise and tried to yank his hand away.  Lucky backed up, tugging on Ramon’s hand, then whipped his head from side to side.  Ramon’s arm stretched noticeably, then the rotting flesh gave way with a “thwip” like a decayed rubber band.  Ramon fell over backward as Lucky leaped away in the night.

    “Gaaa!  Stop him!” Ramon howled, holding his stump up in the air.

    Nash scrambled to his feet and pulled Ramon up off the ground.  “Crap!  You okay?”

    “No, I’m not okay.  He ripped my damn arm off!”  Ramon stared and his forearm in shock.  “Damn dog,” Ramon muttered, clamping his remaining hand around the end of his forearm.  “I wish that mutt had been hit by a car up on the bridge!”

    Nash picked up his newly-acquired severed hand and leveled it at Ramon, with the pointing finger jutting accusingly into Ramon’s face.  “This’s all your fault!  I told you to apologize to him.”

    Ramon picked up the hand that Lucky had given him, holding up the extended middle finger like an amulet for warding off spells.  “Go to hell!  That dog is way too sensitive.”  Ramon looked at his drooping sleeve.  “Now I gotta make sure no one knows that my hand is gone.”

    “Why?” Nash demanded.  “Afraid you’ll look strange somehow?”

    “We don’t want to draw any attention, any attention at all.”  Ramon frowned.  Then he unbuttoned his empty sleeve, put the severed hand in it, and tried to re-button it.  After several tries, he looked at Nash expectantly.  “Well?  You gonna help me here?”

    “You gonna apologize?”

    “Yeah, I’m sorry,” Ramon responded, hanging his head.  “Now, help me get this buttoned.”

    “No, I meant you need to apologize to Lucky.”

    “Fine, fine, I will when we catch up to him!”  Ramon glowered at Nash.  “Now, will you please help me button my shirtsleeve over this severed arm?  It should be kept in place that way.  Then we go find the dog—and get my hand back.  We can’t take a chance of anyone finding it.”

    “And apologize to him,” Nash reminded.

    “Yes, I’ll apologize.  Now, give me a hand with my hand … that isn’t my hand.”

    ###

    They caught up to Lucky a half-mile away.  The dog sat on its hind end, with Ramon’s hand and forearm drooping from his jaws like a cigarette in a wino’s mouth.  The dog watched as they approached, then got up and moved when Ramon and Nash drew close.

    “Call him!” Ramon implored.  “Make him come back with my hand.”

    “Maybe you should call him,” Nash replied.  “Tell him how sorry you are for saying what you did.”

    “I will when he gives me back my hand,” Ramon grumbled.

    “And what if he is as stubborn as you?  What if he won’t give back your hand until you apologize?”

    “He gives me my hand, then I’ll apologize,” Ramon muttered.  “To hell with the mutt!  Let’s go back to the camp.”

    “What if the living find the hand and figure out what it is?”  Nash turned to face the older zombie.”

    “You’re right.”  Ramon sighed, drawing his shoulders up.  “Let’s march.”

    ###

    “There he is!” Nash whispered a half hour later.

    “Where?” Ramon gasped, leaning against a small tree next to the sidewalk.  They had left the safety of the slums near the freeway and were now moving as silently and quickly as possible through the streets of a shabby neighborhood.  “It’s about time he slowed down.  I can’t go much farther.  And we’re a long way from camp.  I don’t like being here, still too many of the living out and about, even though it’s after midnight.”

    Ahead, Lucky had stopped at a street-front house on the boundary of a low-rent commercial district. A few people moving about singly in the darkness.  A lone street light glowed across the street from the dog, giving Ramon’s purloined hand an even more pallid cast.

    “Gad, I hope the dog is getting tired of the chase,” Ramon groaned.  “I’m about dead.”

    “You started out that way,” Nash reminded him.  “This’s a strange neighborhood.” He inspected the run-down houses along both sides of the narrow street.

    “Yeah, it’s pretty seedy,” Ramon concurred.  “I don’t think we’re in much danger of encountering police here.  As a matter of fact, judging from the way the women ahead are dressed, I’d say…”

    “Damn, let’s go!” Nash exclaimed.  “He just ran into that house with the sign by the door, the sign that says ‘Priscilla’s House of Pleasures.'”  Nash broke into an awkward, hobbling trot.

    “Wait!” Ramon called.

    Nash stopped at the door, then stepped inside as soon as Ramon drew close.  An elderly woman in an elegant gown stepped in front of Nash, intercepting him.  Her lurid makeup contrasted with a bun of gray hair that was formed in layers on top of her head.

    “I’m Priscilla,” she purred.  “Can I help you boys?”

    “We need to get Lucky,” Nash replied, looking about wildly.

    “Yes, I can see that.”  The woman looked them over and frowned.  “We don’t get many clients who come in in costume.  You’re in desperate need of a piece of ass?”

    “Um … well…”  A look of confusion passed over Nash’s face.  “Actually, we didn’t come here for food … but I am hungry.”

    Ramon elbowed Nash in the ribs.  “No, that’s not what she means.  This’s a whorehouse, kid.”  He nodded at the heavy red velvet drapes and the garish furnishings.  Ain’t you ever been in one before?”

    “Oh!  I … uh … of course I have.  It’s just that … um … I was thinking about…”  Nash turned to the madam.  “I’m afraid we don’t have time for that.  We’re looking for … uh … something special, and have no time to waste.”

    “I see.”  The woman motioned to a young woman reclining nearby in a red velvet wing chair.  “How about a hand job, then?  Quick and cheap.”

    “Great!”  Nash’s face brightened.  “That’s exactly what we were … uh…”

    “Never mind him,” Ramon interjected.  “We’re not here on business.  We’re looking for … say, I recognize that song.  That’s an old one.  That’s Melissa Manchester, isn’t it?”  He cocked his head.

    “Wouldn’t you give your hand to a friend?” a fluid female voice crooned from hidden speakers.  “Maybe it’s time for us to end…”

    Nash nudged Ramon.

    “Huh?  Oh.”  Ramon gathered his wits.  “Did a dog run in here?  A dog with only three legs … and one ear torn off?”

    “Why, yes.”  The madam’s face registered surprise.  “It ran in here with a piece of dirty, nasty roadkill in it’s mouth.  We chased it out the back.”  She pointed to a plain door at the end of a hallway leading to the back of the house.

    “Roadkill?” Ramon sputtered.  “I’ll have you know—”

    “Thank you, ma’am,” Nash said, seizing Ramon by the arm and pushing him toward the door.

    Outside, Lucky was trotting in a relaxed manner back in the direction of the camp.  He moved slowly until he reached the street that was the boundary of the barren swath that the freeway ran through.  Then he sat and let Ramon’s hand drop to the ground.

    “Hey, careful with that!” Ramon yelled.

    “Get your temper under control,” Nash warned.  “You’re going to apologize to Lucky, remember?”

    “Yeah, yeah, I remember.”  Ramon stopped short of the dog and knelt on the ground.  “Lucky, I’m sorry I insulted you.  I was being a jerk.  You’re a good dog, a smart dog.  I’ll be nice to you from now on.  Now will you please give me back my hand?”

    Lucky’s tail wagged.  Ramon exhaled loudly, releasing his tension.  The sound was followed by the sound of a vehicle approached in the darkness.  Ramon lifted his remaining hand to block the vehicle’s headlights.  “Crap!  This could be big trouble.”  He grabbed his hand and lurched to his feet.

    The vehicle stopped and they heard a door open.  A pole with a loop on the end reached out into the light cast by the vehicle’s headlights, with the loop dropping over Lucky’s head and tightening up.  Lucky struggled, but was pulled around to the back of the vehicle.

    “We gotta run!” Ramon whispered urgently.

    “No, I’m not letting Lucky slip away again.”

    “He isn’t slipping away,” Ramon hissed, keeping his eyes on the back of the vehicle, which was barely visible in the glare of the headlights.  “That’s a dogcatcher, fool.”

    “I’m getting my dog back!” Nash declared, hobbling around the vehicle and ignoring Ramon’s protests.

    The dogcatcher had already climbed in when Nash rapped on the driver’s-side window.  The window slid down.  “Yes?”

    “That’s my dog!” Nash protested.  “You can’t just take him away.”

    “I see.”  The dogcatcher jerked a thumb at the back of the enclosed truck.  “He was wandering free, without a collar.  You got a license?”

    “Um, no.”  Nash took a step backward, bumping into Ramon, who had come up quietly behind him.

    “Then I can’t let him out.”

    The dogcatcher’s face extended out of the side window as he looked Nash and Ramon up and down.  “Why are you dressed up like that?  It’s a long time until Halloween.”

    “Ummm…”  Nash shifted on his feet as the dogcatcher gazed expectantly at Nash’s face in the darkness.  “It’s … it’s not for Halloween.  It’s … um …it’s a frat initiation thing.”

    “Okay.”  The dogcatcher’s face pulled back.  “Why do you have your granddad along?”

    Ramon brought his arm up so that the middle finger of the replacement hand pointed at the dogcatcher.  Nash pushed Ramon’s arm down as quickly as he could  “Granddad?  Ha, that’s funny!” Nash forced a half-hearted chuckle.  “It’s a good makeup job, isn’t it?”

    “See you boys later.”  The window began to slide up.

    “Wait!”  Nash’s voice took on a frantic tone.  “How can I get him back?”

    “You’ll have to pay a release fee.  Come down to our facility.”  The dogcatcher handed Nash a card.  “Address is on there.  Then you’ll have to either show a license, or buy one.”

    “We can’t go to a public place,” Ramon hissed from behind Nash.  “And especially not during daytime.”

    “No, I wanna get him back now, right now.  Can I do that?” Nash pleaded, leaning forward as if about to place his palms against the vehicle window in supplication.

    “Only if you pay for a license right now, in cash,” the dogcatcher replied.

    “Um, okay,” Nash said uncertainly.  “How much?”

    “Seventy-five dollars.”

    Ramon leaned to the side so only his face was visible around Nash.  “But you saw the dog.  He has only three legs and one ear.  We should get a discount.”

    “Shut up!” Nash hissed out of the corner of his mouth.  “Don’t screw this up by being cheap!”

    “No discounts,” the dogcatcher replied.  “Look, I gotta go.  Pay now, or I’m gone.”

    “Sure, sure, I’ll pay.”  Nash fished in his pocket and brought out a plastic rectangle that flashed in the low light from the dogcatcher’s truck.

    “No credit.  Cash only.”

    “But I don’t have any cash on me!” Nash replied, his voice rising.

    “You wanna pay with a card, you’ll hafta come to the office during regular hours.”  The window slid up and the dogcatcher’s truck moved off.

    “Shit!”  Nash flapped his arms against his sides.  “Oh, man, what’re we gonna do now?  Lucky!  Come back, Lucky!”

    “Where’d you get the credit card?”  Ramon demanded.  “Didja take it off someone from the pileup?”

    “No, it’s mine,” Nash replied distractedly.  “From before … before dying—or whatever.  It’s mine, not stolen.”

    “But you’re dead in the eyes of the world.”  Ramon grunted.  “It probably wouldn’t work even if we could go over to dogcatcher HQ.”  Ramon put a hand on Nash’s shoulder.  “You’re gonna hafta accept it—Lucky’s gone.”

    Nash’s shoulders slumped.

    Ramon put a hand on Nash’s arm.  “Okay, kid, we won’t stop.  We’ll follow the dogcatcher.  Maybe if he stops again, we can jump him in the darkness.  But that means we can’t let the truck out of our sight.”

    “That’s it up ahead.”  Nash pointed at taillights that were ahead of them and moving farther and farther away.  “We’re not gonna catch up!”

    “Save your breath,” Ramon commanded, moving forward.

    After a moment’s hesitation, Nash followed.

    ###

    “Keep going,” Ramon puffed from a distance behind Nash.  “Go on ahead.  I can’t move as fast as you.”  He stumbled and went down on a knee.

    Nash stopped and put out a hand.

    “Why aren’t you still going?” Ramon demanded, taking Nash’s hand and pulling himself back to his feet.  “You’ll have a better chance of catching the dogcatcher if you don’t wait for me.”

    “Because you’re my friend, that’s why.  You okay to go on?  We can stop for a minute to catch our breath.”

    “That may not be necessary,” Ramon replied, looking past Nash.  “The dogcatcher is coming back.”

    Nash whirled around.  “Crap!  We need to stop him.  Do you see any cement blocks or shopping carts to throw out into the street?”  Nash looked wildly about.  “Hold on, I see something!”

    “Nevermind that.”  Ramon put out a hand to stop Nash.

    “What’re we gonna do, then?” Nash shrieked, throwing up a hand toward the approaching truck, almost upon them now.

    Ramon crouched and sprang out in front of the truck.  The dogcatcher’s truck hit the older zombie with a heavy sound, as if it had hit a sleeping cow.  Ramon was slammed forward and landed in a heap.  The vehicle swerved to miss, but bounced wildly as if a tire had rolled over Ramon’s head.  The truck, still joggling from the undead bump, veered even sharper to the side and slammed into a utility pole, crumpling the front end of the vehicle.  Dust and flakes of paint swirled forward into the beams of the vehicle’s headlights.

    “Ramon!”  Nash rushed toward where the older zombie lay.  He stopped to glance at the dogtcatcher’s smashed vehicle, hearing the dogs inside scratching, barking, and whimpering.  “Oh, god, I hope Lucky isn’t hurt!”

    Nash took a couple of steps toward the truck, then changed course, moving to where Ramon still lay.

    “Ramon!  Ramon, talk to me!  Say something.”  Nash seized Ramon’s shoulder and rolled the older zombie onto his back.

    “You know, you’re not supposed to move a crash victim,” Ramon chided, blinking and looking up into Nash’s distraught face.

    “Oh, you’re still with me.”  Nash looked suddenly unsteady, putting his hands on his own knees as he leaned over Ramon.  “You scared the crap outta me!  Why’d you jump out in front of the truck?”

    “It was the only way to stop him.”

    “Did you suffer any damage?”

    “Help me up and we’ll find out.  Did I stop the truck?”

    Nash grasped both of Ramon’s outstretched hands, pulling Ramon’s replacement hand out of its shirtsleeve on his first attempt, and nearly pitching over backward as a result.

    “Yeah, you stopped the truck,” Nash responded, breathing heavily.  He gave Ramon back his hand.  “Why’d you do that?”

    “‘Cause you’re my friend and I didn’t want your dog taken away, that’s why.”  Ramon grimaced as he shifted his weight from leg to leg.  “Damn!  He hit me in my bad knee.”

    “I thought both of them were bad?”

    “They are.  Okay, he hit me in my badder knee.”  Ramon took a halting step.  “I’m going to be a little slower now, I’m afraid.  How do I look?  See any serious damage?”

    “Well…”  Nash circled around the older zombie.  “Ooooh, that’s not good.”

    “What?  What’s not good?”

    “When he ran over your face … he gave you a real dirty look.”

    “Oh, very funny!”  Ramon put his hands on his jaw and gave his neck a jerk.  “Seriously, d’you see any damage?”

    “No, I think you’re fine.  Just some tread marks on your face, that’s all.”

    “How’s Lucky?  Did he come out of the crash okay?”

    “Lucky?”  Nash’s voice dropped to a whisper.  “I hope so.  He’s not undead like us.”

    “Let’s not jump to any conclusions.”

    Nash shook his head as they moved closer to the wrecked truck.  “Looks serious, real serious.  And we should know.”

    The barking of imprisoned dogs overwhelmed the sound of the radio still playing in the cab. The headlights were beginning to turn yellow as the truck’s battery drained down.  The chorus of “Who let the dogs out?  Who?  Who?” was beginning to sound slow and syrupy.

    “The dude singing that sounds like an owl,” Ramon observed.

    “Don’t care,” Nash responded. But he stopped at the broken passenger-side window when a moan of anguish came from inside.  Ramon hobbled up to insert his face into the opening alongside Nash’s.  The dogcatcher was slumped over the steering wheel, arms drooping down along either side.  Blood coursed from his scalp.

    “Oooh, that smells A-positively wonderful,” Ramon declared, taking in a deep, slow breath.  “Fresh blood is wonderfully intoxicating, isn’t it?”

    “We don’t have time for a snack,” Nash admonished.  “We can’t linger.  Too many of the living have seen us already.”

    “Yeah, you’re right, I guess.”  Ramon glanced around.  “But no one’s coming.  Maybe we can chop off his head and take it with us for later.  I need some energy.”

    “No, we can’t do that.”  Nash shook his head.  “Damn, it’s strange, me lecturing you about being careful.  We’re already too likely to draw attention.  How d’you think people’ll react if we’re carrying a bloody severed head?”

    “Yeah, you’re right.”  Ramon licked his lips and gave the unconscious dogcatcher one last, longing look.  He wiped a finger through the blood on the dogcatcher’s face and popped the finger into his mouth.

    Ramon turned the handle and threw the rear door open.  Lucky bounded out, then leaped up to lick Nash’s face.

    “Lucky! You had me so worried,” Nash cried.  “Don’t ever run away like that again, okay?”

    The dog jumped up to lick Ramon’s face.  “Whoa, okay, slow down!” Ramon protested, putting his hands up.  “I guess we’re even now, huh?”

    Lucky turned back to Nash, his bent tail whipping back and forth in frenetic excitement.  “We’re so happy to have you back.  Let’s go home, Lucky.”

    “Here, you can have this rude hand, now that I have my own hand back,” Ramon offered, holding the severed lady hand out for the dog to take.  “You might as well chew on it.”

    Nash’s voice quavered.  “You’re a good friend to help get Lucky back.  Thanks.   I’ll never forget this.”

    Ramon flashed a smile.  “No problem, kid.  Even us zombies need a best friend.”

     

    7 Comments

    1. I can definitely see this series being turned into a horror comedy film with a tight script and really good director who knows comedic timing.
      Actually its better to watch comedy than to read it.

      Comment by bong on March 17, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

    2. If this was a film I could picture Simon Pegg as the young one and Nick Frost as the oldie lol.

      Comment by Grandad on March 17, 2013 @ 11:30 pm

    3. While i am a zombie purist i do enjoy this series. Keep up the good scribbling!

      Comment by Gunldesnapper on March 18, 2013 @ 6:39 am

    4. Great job on the story. Bring on Simon Pegg.

      Comment by The Walking Zombie on March 19, 2013 @ 1:52 am

    5. The story is funny enough, and entertaining.

      One problem I have, though, is that this isn’t *technically* a zombie story, of any sort. The type of undead you describe here, that vocally communicates with its fellows, engages in trickery and deceit with human beings to lure them into secluded areas as food, living in the shadows of society and hunting like predators instead of rising up in a mass plague and consuming the world, is known as a “ghoul.”

      Ghoul is not an epithet for a zombie, but a type of undead unto itself. In the past, ghouls were known to linger in cemeteries and feed on corpses, some of which had been dead for months, and were said to prefer dead flesh over live (like the ones in this story seem to). Sometimes, they were known for preferring their meat putrescent. Some tales, those of HP Lovecraft in particular, ascribe inhuman features to them, with certain stories describing them as devolving into dog-like animals (see another connection here?) or even demonic aspects.

      I think this treads the edge of “No Vampires need apply,” but since it is a flesh-eating ghoul, I can overlook the technical un-zombieness for the quality of the story. Good job dude.

      Comment by Jon on March 20, 2013 @ 3:51 am

    6. I like how you keep us laughing at them and still you feel something for them. Really great job one this.

      Comment by Joe from Philly on March 20, 2013 @ 6:03 am

    7. Great stuff. I love this story. It reminds me of a Laurel&Hardy of the undead.

      Comment by John the Piper's Son on March 21, 2013 @ 4:48 am

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