The doorbell rang, and I looked at my watch. A little late for UPS and the “No Solicitors” sign was large enough to dissuade almost everyone else. I opened the door to find a thirty-something-ish female. She was casually dressed in jeans and a colorful blouse.
“Hi, I’m Jane,” she began, reaching for a handshake. “My family and I are your new next door neighbors. I registered our daughter for school today and they told me the she and your son will be in the same class. Figured I’d stop by and introduce myself.”
“Nice to meet you, Jane,” I replied, “Won’t you come in?” She came in and sat on the couch. “Can I get you something? Coffee? Soda?”
“No, but thank you. I can’t stay too long. I have to get back to take care of my husband, but I did want to introduce myself.”
“Oh,” I replied, “is he ill?”
“No,” she replied. “He’s a zombie.” That took me by surprise.
“I’m assuming you’re talking figuratively.”
“Oh, no, I mean literally.”
My mind raced. I knew I should have checked out that Center for Disease Control web page that provided guidance for the zombie apocalypse. I wondered if the shotgun shells I bought twenty years ago would be effective on zombies. My mind was racing, but none of it was connected to my speech center. I wasn’t sure what to say at this point.
Jane noticed my concerned look. “Oh, you don’t need to worry,” she assured me. “You probably won’t even see much of him – well not much of what’s left of him.”
“How? What? When?” I stammered.
“Massive heart attack. About three years ago. He had a beautiful funeral. I cried buckets of tears. Just as I was getting used to the idea, he showed up again – all dirty and moldy. Been around ever since.”
“How do you manage?”
“Oh, you make adjustments. He sleeps in the basement. He’s more comfortable sleeping below ground level. I can’t believe I thought he snored loudly when he was alive! In any case, if he sheds, it’s easier to clean up from a concrete floor. I don’t let him do any cooking any more. There’s the germ thing, plus I’m afraid he might be flammable. I buy Fabreze by the case.”
“Somehow I just can’t picture you and a dead guy house hunting together.”
“Bob – that’s his name – Bob never could pick a decent house, so that was always my job even when he was alive. Naturally they don’t write mortgages for dead people, but his life insurance was enough for me to pay cash. In this housing market the prices are good, but offering cash let us get a real good deal.”
I heard a noise somewhere between a growl and a groan coming from next door. Jane looked at her watch. “Oh, my!” she said, “Look at the time! Bob’s wondering where his dinner is. Zombies eat brains, you know.”
“Oh, they don’t have to be human. I have a standing order with the butcher. To make it easy I told him I teach biology and need cow brains for my students. However, it’s an easy meal – as long as they’re above room temperature, he’s happy. I wish my kids were as easy to please at dinner time; if it’s not pizza or something with French fries, all they do is complain. He prefers beef. I asked him what brains taste like once and he said, ‘Chicken.’ I suspect his taste buds aren’t what they once were, though.” She got up and extended her hand. “Well, it’s been a pleasure.” Wordlessly I walked her to the door.
“Oh by the way,” she offered, “come Halloween, Bob will be the hit of the neighborhood.”