Grief. It’s a tough emotion. As humans, we all deal with it at some point or another. For some of us, we experience it in early childhood. It could be the loss of a pet or a loved one; usually a wrinkled old elderly grandparent who can barely get out of their La-Z-boy. Some of us don’t experience it until later in life. That can be a real shock to the system. If we’re lucky, we donn’t know them all that well and our parents give us a nice little song and dance about some mythical farm or fluffy cloud palace. If we’re lucky they drift off peacefully in their sleep.
Doctors like to babble on about five stages of grief. About how people stricken by this insidious emotion have to go through each of the five stages individually so that they can move on with their lives and accept death.
Well, I have no problem accepting death. I happen to be the one who summoned it, and frankly, I hope Jim is rotting like road kill in Hell.
Ok, so, that might come off a little harsh. I don’t really care. Here’s the deal. Jim was a shitty husband. Even when he proposed, right after finishing off a beer bong on the back of his pickup at a bonfire after a high school football game by the way, I knew I had made a bad choice. He only got worse during our fifteen years of marriage. He couldn’t hold a job. He drank relentlessly. The dude spent more time at the sports bar with his dude-bros ogling waitresses than he ever did eating dinner with me. PS, I make awesome ribs. Then, he started in with the name calling, the cheating, the hitting. So, you get why I had to kill him, right? There was no way I was losing half my shit to divorce because that asshole couldn’t pretend to be a civilized human being.
Anyway, Jim was a klutz, and he wasn’t very smart. Trust me, he was well-known for it. So, one night I convinced him to sit in his ’67 Mustang with me and listen to the classic rock station while we drank some whiskey and reminisced. Except, he was drinking a lot more than I was. While he knocked back one drink after the other in our garage with the music blaring, we laughed and talked about all the fun we used to have around the fire in high school. He bragged about squealing his tires and showing up other guys when he cruised down the boulevard in his baby. He kissed the steering wheel on the damn thing before he passed out. You know, not once did that bastard lean over to kiss me.
So, I shrugged, told the old boy g’night, and started the engine. That thing burned so much fuel I could smell the exhaust in the bedroom. I spared poor Jim a suicide investigation and told the cops he was just dumb. He was working on the thing, probably got drunk, and passed out with it cranked when he was checking the engine. The cops don’t ask a lot of questions of locals, especially when you’re Jim Davies’ wife, and he’s a belligerent fool.
The worst is over now. I watched them lower his coffin into the dirt today. Christ, it was hard not to smile and wave sayonara as those gears squeaked and turned. All those people dressed in black, dabbing their eyes, hands on my shoulder, and ‘Jim’s in a better place now’. I sure as hell hope not. I didn’t do it for him. I did that for me. I’m in a better place now. Screw Jim, let the worms have him.
I just finished a steamy shower and collapsed on the sofa. My oil diffusers are spitting lavender scented mist into the air, and I am sipping a nice cold glass of Moscato from my favorite Day of the Dead, sugar skull decorated, wine glass. Ironic, I know. I have the remote and I’m sifting through my Netflix cue. I smile to myself and wiggle my toes in excitement; it’s all mine now. No more stupid frat boy comedies, no more faux documentaries about alcoholics in trailer parks. From now on I can watch whatever I want without Jim grumbling that it is boring. This is going to be glorious.
I fall asleep on the couch covered in my favorite quilt. It’s a purple patchwork thing I picked up once when we drove through Lancaster on the way to Ocean City. I wake up the next morning, drink coffee, watch trashy talk shows, answer some texts like a grieving widow, ignore phone calls…like a grieving widow, I take a nap, and at one point I start perusing the local animal shelter’s website because I had always wanted a cat but Jim wouldn’t let me have one. I decide, I am so getting a cat.
Around 6:00 the autumn breeze really starts to pick up outside and that arm I’d broken twice as a kid aches like someone has beaten it with a sledgehammer. I decide to order in. Better the Chinese delivery guy braves the storm to bring me some General Tso’s than I go out in a storm and risk wrecking Jim’s precious mustang.
I snuggle under my purple quilt on the couch and giggle at the shenanigans of my favorite office workers as giant raindrops descend from the dark, looming clouds. Every now and again thunder rolls, and lightning strikes violently which causes my lights to flicker. I roll my eyes at the decrepit house I have spent too many years pacing.
I hear gravel crunching and leap excitedly from the couch. Listen, I really like Chinese food. I grab the tip I have laid out on the counter and scurry to the door. Peeking out the window, I don’t see the delivery guy on my steps, or his car lurching up my driveway. What I see is a dark shadow, limping on one good leg as the other drags behind it, drenched and muddy, in a tan suit with a pink silk tie.
I close the curtain and slam my back against the red front door. I must be seeing things, because I could swear that Jim is walking up the driveway looking like he went mudding in his funeral attire. Clearly, I’ve had a little too much Moscato. Maybe you can have too much of a good thing, or maybe the lightning and the rain and the glee of it all is messing with my head. So, I decide to just get over it, stop being stupid, because zombies aren’t real, and open the damn door before my food gets cold and Golden Dragon stops delivering to me, again.
I fling the door open, and there in the hazy yellow light he stands. His thick brown hair is matted to his forehead, the makeup the funeral director applied to cover his cornflower blue skin is smeared beneath the mud caked to his face. Actually, he is covered in gritty clumpy mud. It hangs from his suit, spots his tie, is buried under his fingernails. At least something is actually buried. The dark bags under Jim’s lifeless eyes make him just look tired.
“Mother shit!” I yell.
Jim looks at me with a confused expression, “Viv?” His jaw is stiff as he speaks.
“This isn’t happening. I’m dreaming. This is just a bad dream.”
“What’s a bad dream? Why was I in a graveyard?”
“You’re dead, moron,” I stick my hand out and give him a good hard push. I mean, if I am dreaming, or hallucinating, or drunk; if Jim isn’t really there he should just disintegrate, or my hand should pass right through him, right?
No such freaking luck. The bozo teeters, stumbles, and falls over like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and I hear a disgusting snap emanate from his right forearm. He doesn’t even flinch.
“What’d you do that for?” He slurs and heaves himself off the ground. The arm that snapped now dangles precariously at his side.
“Really,” I say as I raise my eyes to the porch roof.
“Why’d you leave me in a cemetery?”
“You’re dead, Jim.”
“As a doornail.”
“Then, how am I standing here.”
“Beats me,” I shrug. “Why don’t you go on back to the cemetery and get cozy.”
“Huh uh. No,” He attempts to shake his head and all the vertebrae crack and groan.
“Well, this is just like you,” I huff. “You wouldn’t stay dead, would you? Oh no, that would be way too convenient for me.”
“Just let me in.”
I scratch my head trying to remember zombie rules. “Do I have to invite you? Or is that vampires? Shit I can’t remember.”
“Stop screwing around, Viv. Let me come in. I’m covered in mud.”
“No. If you come in you’ll want to live here again.”
“It’s my house.”
“Not anymore. You’re dead. The coffin I picked out and put in the ground yesterday is your house now.”
A pair of headlights shine through the pouring rain and tires crunch over the shale driveway. Jim stares at me, and my head jerks toward the oncoming car.
“Shit,” I say.
“They’re delivering here again?”
“Well, yeah, Mr. Nguyen wasn’t worried about sending his drivers out here anymore because your ass is supposed to be dead.”
“How was I the problem?”
“Jim, you used to yell racial slurs and do a vulgar ‘China man’ dance when they came here…and you didn’t tip.”
He averts his eyes.
“Shit, just, come in. Stand behind the door. Do not go anywhere else.”
I give Benny, with his bleached white mohawk, a $15 tip for hauling my General Tso’s out in the rain. He smiles gleefully and relaxes once he realizes that my terrible husband won’t be harassing him anymore. He also thanks me several times, wishes me well, and promises speedy service from now on.
I watch from the doorway, holding the aromatic food as the sweet and savory aroma invades my nostrils, and I eye Benny’s taillights as they recede into the night. Jim is quiet the entire time, which is a shock considering he lived for causing a scene, but I realize why when I reach around to pull him from behind the door and he isn’t there.
I fling the door closed and see only emptiness where Jim should have occupied space. Maybe I had gone temporarily insane. After all, there is no such thing as zombies or the living dead or whatever. Jim must have been a figment of my imagination. Except the clumps of mud on the floor. Those are hard to explain away.
I carry my food into the living room prepared to resume my program and chow down, and that’s when reality hits. There is Jim, dripping slimy mud on my clean hardwood, holding the remote, laughing wildly at my show.
“The hell, Jim!”
He laughs hysterically as one cast member slaps the other across the face, “What?”
“I was watching that. You don’t even like that show.” I walk over and take the remote from him.
His hands are clammy from the rain and ice cold. Yeah, he is definitely dead. He turns mechanically in the little spot where he stands and watches me sit down and rewind the show.
“Yup. You’re getting shit all over the floor.”
“Oh,” he looks down at the puddle of muck under his feet. “Sorry. I could change.”
“No way, pal. You aren’t hanging out. I got rid of you for the long haul. Done. Finito. Go somewhere else until whatever this is passes.”
“What do you mean you got rid of me? How did I die?”
I raise my eyebrows and stuff a hunk of breaded, saucy chicken in my mouth. “Well, it’s like this, Jim.” I cough on the chicken and take sip of wine. “You, uh, it was exhaust fumes. In the garage.” I sound like I am playing a game of Clue.
“Did I commit suicide? That doesn’t sound like something I’d do.”
“No. Not really.”
“Was it an accident.”
“That’s the official report.”
“What’s the unofficial report?”
“Jim, look, you were a really shitty husband. You know that, right?”
He looked confused.
“Dude. You were. You had been cheating on me for six months with Stacy Harris. That’s not even the worst of it. Anyway, you might have passed out in the car and I might have left the engine running with the garage door shut.”
“You killed me!”
“I hardly think anyone would have blamed me.”
“Was that a question?”
“I didn’t think you were coming back! I didn’t plan on seeing you again. I just wanted to go on with my life minus one big pain in the ass. Now, look where I am. So, just scoot along and leave me alone and we can all get on with out lives…non-lives. Whatever.”
“Look at me. Where am I supposed to go?”
“Just apply makeup and don’t go out in the rain.”
“Look, at least let me change.”
“I gave your clothes to charity.”
“After one day?”
“Five days. You weren’t coming back, Jim. I needed the closet space.”
“Apparently, you were wrong.”
“Well, I’m not Doctor Frankenstein here. I thought what was dead generally stayed that way.” I sighed and threw my head back. “Maybe I still have something. Hold on.”
After rifling through dresser drawers and all the shelves in the closet, I am able to produce a pair of Jim’s sweatpants and an old Zeppelin t-shirt. I put his burial suit in a burn pile in the basement because I don’t need that kind of weirdness hanging around. Jim takes a shower to wash the mud and debris off him. It doesn’t help. After his shower, it is even more obvious the man is deceased. His whole body is a strange shade of blue. His lips are pale and there are dark black circles under his eyes. Speaking of his eyes, I cringe a little when I get a good look at them. There are broken blood vessels all over the white part, there are broken blood vessels all over his skin. I guess it was part of the asphyxiation process. I’m not totally sure. In any case, my bad.
We can’t figure out a good place for Jim to go late in the evening, in the middle of a storm, and I’m not cool on the idea of driving him to a hotel. Realistically, everyone kinda knows he is dead. So, dead Jim checking into a hotel might raise a little suspicion. Just a guess. I begrudgingly decide to let him stay one night. I’ll take care of all this tomorrow.
Here’s the thing. I’m not the type of person who makes a mountain out of a mole hill. I tend to just quietly sit back and stew in anger. Well, until it builds like a geyser and explodes in a fountain of fury. The whole Jim rising from the dead thing sure put a damper on my plans for the rest of my life. I mean, who has the audacity to do that? Jim, that’s who. I should have known that douche wouldn’t go down easy. So, I decide to end it before it gets any worse. Let’s be realistic, because I’m nothing if not realistic, I can’t have zombie Jim roaming around knowing I killed him. I have to put him down, again.
The next morning, I wake up to the smell of bacon wafting through the house. I roll over in bed and rub the sleep out of my eyes and stare at the brown water stain from the leaky roof on the ceiling. I wonder what the actual hell is going on.
I plod from the bedroom to the living room where I peer into the kitchen. Jim is standing over the stove flipping crackling bacon in a pan with a fork. He is having a tough go of it. His fingers are clearly stiff and fighting against him.
“What the hell are you doing?” I sneer.
“Making breakfast,” he says as skin flakes fall from his hand and sizzle as they hit the grease in the pan.
“Ew,” I wince, “you don’t cook.”
“I thought I’d try. Why don’t you sit down? I’ll bring you some juice.”
I sit down on the couch and flip on the tv. I scan the channels until I find the trashiest talk show currently airing. The guests are going on about affairs and baby daddies. I pretend to be interested while I shoot secretive glances at Jim. He brings me orange juice in a champagne flute.
I furrow my brow, “Thanks.”
“I made you a Mimosa.”
“You don’t even know how to say Mimosa.”
“Clearly, I do. Dippy or scrambled?”
“What?” I ask taking a sip. The drink is really good.
“Your eggs. Do you want dippy or scrambled?”
“Dippy. With toast.”
Jim scurries back into the kitchen, dragging the bad leg, and finishes making breakfast. He brings me a plate and sits it on the glass coffee table. I admit, it looks delicious. I take a few bites but can’t get passed the image of his rotting flesh falling into the bacon grease. I don’t care if heat kills germs. I can’t eat zombie skin flakes. What if that shit is contagious? I’m not trying to be linked to Jim, forever among the ranks of the living dead. No thanks.
“Hey, Jim,” I ask innocently. “Do you think you could help me with the burn pile real quick before you go?”’
“You’re still making me go?”
“Shit yes. Sorry, but don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya. We said ‘til death do us part. I didn’t sign up for any of this.”
Jim struggles but carries the muddy burial suit and the pile of wood and brush to the burn pile out back. The storm ended overnight. The clouds have cleared away, and the sun is shining making the sky a warm, haunting neon pink.
I go to the garage and load two shells into Jim’s favorite shotgun. I know, I know, insult to injury, Viv. Twice. First the mustang and now his favorite gun. Sometimes you’ve gotta get shit done. I hit the button on the garage door opener and take a firing stance as the door lifts. I watch as Jim’s body comes into view; first his legs and a stream of gasoline spilling onto the pile, his torso, the logo on his Zeppelin shirt, and his head.
He turns and looks in my direction. He only has a moment to realize what is happening before I press the trigger with my index finger. The gun fires with a loud boom. The recoil almost knocks me on my ass. I watch Jim’s head fly back, his body follows landing next to the wood and clothes and brush he has dumped gas on.
I put the gun back on the rack and saunter over to where Jim’s dead body lays. I figure I could just take him back to the cemetery later that tonight. Hopefully, no one realizes he is gone yet.
Jim lays there sprawled out. His eyes are closed, a huge bullet wound in his forehead. There is no blood, because, hello, Jim’s been buried already. That means no blood, no organs, no nothing. How the hell was he walking around and talking anyway? It doesn’t matter he is definitely dead this time.
“The shit, Vivian,” he says after a minute and rubs his forehead.
“Oh, come on!”
“You’re a zombie, Jim! It can’t be healthy.”
“A bullet in the brain is?”
“You don’t have one.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Jim, you’ve been embalmed. You literally shouldn’t have a brain in there,” I knock on his head. “I don’t think.”
“I can’t believe you tried to kill me again.”
“Can you really kill someone who’s already dead?”
“Well,” I say offering him a hand up, “it didn’t work.”
“I made you breakfast. Stop being a bitch.”
“Oh, really, like one breakfast makes up for all the shit you put me through? Get over yourself.”
“Just let me try to make up for it.”
We head inside the house. There is no sense in standing outside arguing in the mud where someone might hear us.
“Oh, because now that you’re a zombie you’ve turned over a new leaf?” I open the door to the house.
“I don’t know, maybe.”
It turns out death does something to a person, or at least being a zombie does. I won’t lie. I tried to kill Jim at least three other times over the last two months. He doesn’t have a persistent need to eat or drink. Turns out those stories about zombies and brains are just science fiction. I did convince him to drink some pop that I laced with a whole lot of rat poison. He foamed at the mouth like a 4th grader’s volcano science project and got a bad case of gas. Zombie farts, you don’t want to go there. It didn’t kill him. I tried to suffocate him with an old pillow, but after sitting on his head for three hours while his limbs flailed and he screamed obscenities, he still wasn’t dead-dead. I even sawed off his head in his sleep. Kind of. I made it like half-way through before he realized what I was doing. It wasn’t killing him, just making two of him, two halves of him, I’m not sure how to work that out. At any rate, I had to sew the front half back on. He looked like a Pez dispenser.
Having Jim around isn’t so bad, I guess. He helps with laundry and cleans the house. He used to rub my feet before his fingers started to get really brittle. If he uses too much force now, they just snap like twigs. Poor guy. He is deteriorating. You just can’t stop nature. I figure at some point the dumb ass will die naturally, or I’ll have myself one hell of a Halloween decoration. Anyway, I’ll let the new and improved undead, zombie Jim make up for being such a dog turd his whole life. No skin off my back. It was a waste of a good coffin, I guess. Maybe I’ll actually grieve over him next time.
Oh, I did get a cat. She’s an impossibly adorable, super fluffy calico. Her name is Jim.
#HumpdayHorror #Deader Copyright 2018 Kira McKinney
Welcome to my blog. Sit back and enjoy a short story, a poem, or some flash fiction--whatever I have recently cooked up. I will post a new piece as often as possible. Check back once a week to see what's new.