bedtime stories

Serial Short Fiction: What We Talk About When We Talk About Zombies, Part 1.

My friend Karl was shooting zombies. Karl Kaiser’s mother got eaten by zombies, so nobody denies he’s got the right.

The four of us were sitting around his heated tree-house drinking hot chocolate. The grey light of another post-apocalyptic day filtered in through the tree-stand door. There were Karl and I and his current girlfriend,  Joyce, and my wife, Paula.  We lived in New Hampshire then, but we were all from somewhere else.

There was a space heater in the middle, with a hot plate and a kettle. The hot chocolate packets kept getting passed around, and we got, unsurprisingly, on the subject of zombies.  Karl thought zombies were some sort of walking metaphor for spiritual emptiness come home to roost. Karl spent five years working as a corporate lawyer before he quit and joined the Marine Corps, and he said he saw the same look in the eyes of the senior partners that we all saw in the eyes of zombies now.

We were all pretty glad he had joined the Marines now, as he put another .50 caliber sniper rifle round between a zombie’s eyes a half-mile down the road.  I watched its head explode through the spotter scope as I sipped my Swiss Miss.

bedtime stories

The Ides.

After a long, nasty, cruel, heartless winter, here we are, the lion still gnawing at us and an hour of sleep lost to daylight savings.

For various reasons I couldn’t sleep last night. I sat up and stared out at the squatting cinderblock boxes with tarpaper roofs that pass for garages in this town, lining our alley in Siamese-twin pairs, and the false gloaming of the city lights diffused through the low-hanging clouds. And I cursed the grey night and laid back down, trying to block the alley street light’s amber glare with a wedged pillow.

I’ll be glad when this winter is dead and gone. The snow has finally thawed away from the shadows under the relentless rain, and the storm drains are clogged with urban jetsam and runoff with no place else to go, but there are still places where grey icebergs stand like Lot’s wife at street corners, like they’re waiting for the crossing light to change before they give up and melt into mud.

I know now why Brutus did in Caesar on the Ides. The goddamned Ides. It was the waiting for a change that drove him to do it. Something has to break, and let things start again.

bedtime stories

The Princess and the Marshmallow-eating Shark

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in Baltimore who had a pet shark. She and the shark were best friends; they would play together all day long, and sleep together at night. The shark wasn’t like others of his kind–he was furry, and had soft vinyl teeth. And his favorite food was marshmallows.

One night, at three a.m., the little girl decided she was going to surprise the shark with marshmallows for breakfast in the morning. So she quietly slipped out of bed and tiptoed downstairs to the pantry to make sure there were enough marshmallows around to feed the shark. But she couldn’t find any, so she tiptoed back upstairs and woke up her father.

“Daddy, where are the marshmallows?” she asked, as she jumped on her groggy father. He rolled over and said, half-asleep, “There are some packed with our camping equipment, I think.” As she scampered back down the stairs, he went back to sleep, thinking that it was all a dream.

The little girl went to the basement and found the box with the family’s camping gear in it. She pulled out the box, dug deep into and find a half-bag of Jet-Puft Marshmallows, just as her father had said. She brought the bag up to the kitchen and left them on the counter, happy that she would be able to surprise the shark in the morning.

Meanwhile, the shark had awaken while the little girl was away, and had followed the sound of her rummaging down to the basement, where he saw her pulling out the camping gear. “We must be going on a camping trip!” the shark thought excitedly. “Maybe I’ll get to go swimming and chase some dolphins.” He flopped back up the stairs to the little girl’s bedroom, and got back into bed, dreaming of campfires and marine mammal harrassment.

When the sun rose, the little girl woke the shark and said, “I have a surprise for you!” The shark, thinking he knew what the surprise was, jumped and squirmed excitedly after the girl as she ran downstairs, following her to the kitchen. As he slid onto the kitchen tiles behind her, he shouted with glee, “Oh boy oh boy! We’re going…” and stopped when he saw the little girl holding up the bag of marshmallows.

“I have marshmallows for you for breakfast!” she said with a smile. She reached into the bag and pulled one out.

Something did not look right about the marshmallows. They were flattened, and had black spots on them. The bag was old and dusty. And when the little girl pulled out one, a moth flew out of it.

The shark looked at the bottom of the bag. “Hey, the bag says, ‘Best if used by May 5, 1985!’ Those marshmallows are ancient!” Realizing that the little girl wasn’t taking him camping, and was actually planning on feeding him rancid marshmallows, the shark chomped on her piteously with his soft vinyl teeth (which are only any good for eating fresh marshmallows.

The moral of the story: never wake up your dad at 3 a.m. for marshmallows.

The End.