Make Your Own Zombie


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Chapter 1

Before we get too comfortable I’d better take you on a short trip down memory lane. It’s a fairly ordinary journey by Burbridge standards, or maybe I’ve become blind to my family’s bevy of nuances, or insanities, as I’ve come to think of them. Either way, it’s something that can’t be escaped, so buckle up and hold on to your hats.

To understand me you must first understand my family. I shouldn’t have to suffer alone. Oh, and don’t worry, I’m not about to regale you with the miracle of my birth. That would be gross and rather uncomfortable for me, not to mention my parents. According to Mom, I’m enough of an embarrassment without throwing fuel on the fire. So, we’ll hop on the express and skip most of the awkward years, where I was even more of a klutz than I am today, and exit at the station marked tragic teens.

A few days before my fourteenth birthday, which proved a fiasco and not worth mentioning outside of a therapist’s office, a new family moved in next door. We never expected the house to sell that quickly, if at all, given how the previous owner had died in a horrific yard accident the month before. Actually, the incident rated higher than horrific on the vomit-inducing scale and I’m fairly certain that a few of the weaker stomached neighbors threw up for weeks afterwards. Dad probably kept a list on the chance property prices dropped and he felt obliged to post a placard outside each offending neighbor’s house to properly alert the nation that their puking caused house prices to plummet. I’ll tell you more about Dad later, but now back to the accident. I had never heard of anybody being run over by a ride on lawn mower before, especially when they were driving, but that’s exactly how the previous neighbor died. I’ve racked my brains ever since, trying to imagine how such a death occurred. After a few years you begin to accept that it’s just one of life’s little mysteries, and maybe we’re not meant to know how lawn mowers can kill man. I’ll admit that it sounds a little funny now, and my guilty little secret is I sometimes still get a giggle from the memory, but it seemed anything but funny at the time. I hold that event solely responsible for my morbid fear of lawn mowers for almost three years afterwards.

I still remember the following day’s dinner table conversation.

“Damn cheek of him to go and do that when we’re in the middle of a property slump,” Dad said and helped himself to a large helping of Mom’s tuna casserole.

In Dad’s view the death would knock the neighborhood property prices down well below the city average. You see where I’m getting at here? A person could sneeze on our street and Dad would take out his calculator to estimate the damage on property prices. I remember looking down at my plate thinking that property prices would struggle for as long as Mom continued to cook.

Mom is not the world’s best cook, or even frozen dinner preparer, but she makes a mouth-watering tuna casserole and we were borderline safe with boiled or steamed vegetables. If it wasn’t for tuna casserole I think I would have died of malnutrition before I finished high school.

“Patrick, you can’t say things like that. Think of the poor man’s family,” Mom said, but not in a scolding tone.

I kept my head down to hide a smile. Mom would not approve of me finding our neighbor’s horrible death the slightest bit amusing. It didn’t matter that I heard her let out a small chuckle when she first heard the cause of death. In her mind, the neighbors would discover that I smiled about the death, even from the privacy of my own home. Mom hated, above anything else, to be embarrassed in front of the neighbors. You’d think living with Dad for all these years would have cured her of that particular phobia.

You see, Mom likes people to believe that she’s a saint. I know better. There’s a bottle of gin in the high kitchen cupboard from which she takes a swig whenever the stress becomes unbearable. Don’t get me wrong, she has never been a heavy drinker. The most I’ve ever seen her drink in any one day is three swigs of gin, and only on a blue moon during a Friday the thirteenth. Afterwards, she would fall asleep in front of the television. Mom can’t handle much alcohol.

“Don’t tell me what I can’t say about the neighbors, Petunia,” Dad said. “The man was a walking disaster area from dusk to dawn and his family damn well knew it. Why else do you think they never left him in charge of the barbeque?”

One thing Dad likes more than calculating property prices is a good barbeque.

“I thought it was because he was a vegetarian,” I piped in and Dad gave me one of his you must be joking looks.

“A vegetarian!” he said. “The man didn’t know what a vegetable was. He ate more meat than a bloody lion.”

“Language, Patrick,” Mom said. “Deane doesn’t need to hear those words.”

I guess I had better explain my name. My parents called me Deane. Not Diana, or Deanna, but Deane. I think they secretly wanted a boy, and had already picked out the name. Rather than waste time thinking up a new name for their newly born female bundle of joy, they just decided to change it from Dean to Deane. It’s a wonder I survived my childhood at all really. Now, I quite like the name. It’s unique. I haven’t met another woman called Deane before. If I ever have a daughter, I think I’ll give her an unusual name. Nothing along the lines of Apple or Tiger Lilly. That would be going too far. I want my daughter to love me when she’s older, not wait for the first available opportunity to throw me into a home. I’ll probably give my kids enough reasons to do that without handing them excuses on a silver platter.

Anyway, dinner conversation at my house usually consists of Dad complaining about at least one of the neighbors and Mom making a light hearted attempt at correcting him. My folks are one of the originals in the neighborhood, you see, and that gives them the right to look down on everybody else who moved in afterwards. Dad believes it’s a council bi-law. I’d like to see where he gets his ideas. There are times when I think Mom really agrees with his complaints. She rarely tries to convince him otherwise or stop him from carrying out one of his crackpot plans. Maybe she thinks of his obsession with the neighbors as a way to get him out from under her feet. It works for them, so who am I to judge?

I’ve gone a bit off track, so let’s get back to the new family that had moved in next door. They were the usual boring mix of two parents and two children, one boy and one girl. If that’s not cookie cutter enough for you, both children were tall, slim and blond. In fact, the boy looked absolutely gorgeous. When I first set eyes on him I thought of bronzed statues and all that romantic stuff teenage girls are likely to think. I think at that time I’d just read Wuthering Heights and for the next few nights I lay in bed and stared at my window, hoping he would appear and ask to be let inside. Well, it went on for longer than a few nights if you really must know, but I’m not going to tell you how long. A girl has to have some secrets.

I can still picture the look on my parents’ faces when they first glimpsed him stepping from the car and strutting through the front yard like he already owned the neighborhood. In those days a cute smile and swagger could set my teenage heart aflutter. Today isn’t much different, but I’ve developed ways to conceal my attraction so I don’t make a complete foot of myself. I don’t scribble, ‘I love so and so’, on my books anymore, for one thing. It took Mom no longer than five seconds to weigh him up and calculate how much of a problem he would be to the teenage girls in the neighborhood, most noticeably me. I have no idea why she worried so much. I hadn’t even had a boyfriend by then, or come close to sharing a first kiss. The Darlington sisters, who lived at the other end of the street, would have been the major attraction for him anyway. They were both early bloomers, and schoolyard rumor had them being easy. Dad watched him with a look I came to know later in life. It said that no matter what the boy did or how good his intentions were, nobody would ever be good enough for my daughter and if you do anything to hurt her I will cut off your legs and use them as tomato bush stakes. Sometimes you have to love your parents despite their faults.

Despite the fact that I now had a Greek god living next door, the highlight of this new development had to be that a girl my age now lived next door. I expected we’d have sleepovers, go to the mall, watch movies, and talk about boys. Given my lack of experience with boys at that age, I didn’t have a great deal to say on the matter barring the usual who is cuter than whom debate. A day or so after they moved in I went over to say hello and ask if she wanted to go to the mall. I expected an average teenage girl to come to the door, but instead I got somebody holding a book about bugs in one hand and a live spider in the other. The spider wasn’t even in a jar! It didn’t take me long to realize that I lived next door to the resident weirdo. In fact, the whole family seemed weird. It took a while for us to figure that out, but I should have realized as soon as the sold sticker had been plastered on the real estate billboard. I mean, who buys a house that comes with death baggage? It didn’t matter that the death had been accidental and comical. Death baggage is still death baggage. It means you live in a house that could be haunted. Do I believe in ghosts? Sometimes, like when I’ve been watching Supernatural or had a little too much to drink. I’ve inherited Mom’s capacity for alcohol, so a little too much means around one and a half glasses of wine. I save drinking for extremely special occasions, such as almost never or when I have a really awesome date, which again is almost never. I wouldn’t mind going on a date with the Supernatural boys. Either would do, but I’m really a Dean fan. Just imagine. If we were married we’d have the same first name!

There you have it. That’s when I first met Trish, and to tell the truth that was almost the only time we spent together. All through high school we never mixed. She spent her time hiding out in the library or with her head buried in a book. I spent it with my friends, sitting outside and talking about clothes and boys or sitting inside and talking about clothes and boys. It just seemed the thing to do. Did I spend a lot time with boys? No, but that’s another story.

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Chapter 2

Fast forward a few years and I’m in my mid-twenties, driving a piece of garbage rusted and half dead Corvette which had definitely seen better days. At least that’s what I like to imagine.

I remember the day we bought the rust bucket. Dad unearthed the Corvette at a used car lot that, by all appearances, used to be landfill. Most of the cars they had for sale could have easily been pulled from a pile of garbage and given a brief dust off that morning. After one glance I felt as if I’d need shots before I gathered the nerve to sit in one. Most unnerving of all, the Corvette didn’t come close to being best in lot. But, I couldn’t really complain, could I? After all, I wouldn’t be footing the bill for the ugly thing.

“Dad, it’s hideous,” I said as he walked towards the salesman to make an offer.

I resisted latching onto his arm and digging in my heels.

That had been my effort at not complaining. I figured that now I’m a little older we’d have more of an adult to adult relationship, where I could have my say and be listened to as an equal.

“It’s in your price range,” he told me.

“Which is?” I asked, and cringed when my left elbow almost brushed against a roach infested pickup.

“Whatever I say you’re bloody getting,” he said.

That hardly resembled a discussion of equals.

Dad has a unique way with words. He rarely uses many and likes to get to the point. I think it’s a time saving device. The fewer words he speaks the more time he has to watch sports or plan his next neighborhood maneuver.

“But, it’s not even the right color,” I said and turned back to look at the ugly beast. “I can’t even tell what color it is!”

He stopped then and turned, first looking at the car and then at me. I felt the soft glow of hope that he’d somehow come around to my point of view. Then I noticed the same look in his eyes that either meant he would soon tell me to go to my room, or give me a lecture on the merits of earning things for myself. I figured that if I pushed him any further then I may soon be saving up for a car.

“If you don’t get a car today, your mother will kill us both,” he said.

I didn’t expect that, especially coming from Dad. I knew I’d been grating on Mom’s nerves a little by begging lifts every second day, but what else could I have done? I needed transportation to live my life.

“I bet Mom wouldn’t let me drive that death trap,” I said, playing the ace up my sleeve.

Besides avoiding embarrassment, destroying meals, and the occasional swig of gin to calm taut nerves, Mom is a stickler for safety. I think it comes from having such an uncoordinated child. She had bubble wrapped the edges of furniture until I turned eleven, and only then because I managed to become entangled in the evil material and chipped a tooth on the kitchen counter.

“Your mother isn’t here,” he said.

Damn! She had to have gotten to him first.

I looked passed Dad and noticed the salesman waiting near the office door, checking his watch. I didn’t know what could be so important. We were the only customers. Other car shoppers were probably in lots where the cars were clean, reliable, and without the apparent appeal of being used in an armed robbery or a police shootout. He’d seen us walk in and probably clocked us as suckers after ten seconds. Then again, maybe he picked me as the sucker. Walking into that lot, I didn’t even know how to put oil in a car. I know how to now. I don’t want to know, but I do.

“But the color,” I said. “What will the neighbors think?”

I should have chosen my words better. Dad doesn’t give two hoots what the neighbors think about anything, especially the color of his daughter’s first car.

“It’s rust,” Dad said. “They made them that color back in the nineties. It’s a classic.”

“Dad,” I said.

I think I whined at this point, but who can remember every detail from four months ago?

He walked on, ignoring me. I think by now he had more than enough of talking about the car. He just wanted to buy it and get back home. There was a game on that night. A game of what, I didn’t have a clue. Nor did I want to know. Despite being landed with a boy’s name, I never developed an interest in sport. Well, if the sport were good looking and naked hunks wrestling in a ring filled with mud I may be interested. I don’t think Dad would have watched it, but after one or two gins I bet Mom would give it a whirl.

When Dad was handed the keys I felt on the verge of a panic attic. I could feel the car lurking in the background. Mocking me. If cars could speak, I bet right at that moment it would have said something like, “Game on, bitch!”.

So, that’s how I ended up behind the wheel of a run-down Corvette, heading to dental school. I defied my guidance counselor’s advice to find a job in retail and set my target on dentistry. My friends decided to be hair dressers or beauticians. I chose teeth. I’m not entirely sure why, and it definitely hadn’t been my first choice. When I broke the news to my friends we laughed and joked about how we could give people the full wedding beauty treatment; snappy hairstyle, gorgeous makeup and teeth bleaching. We even had a great business name lined up. Head Job.

Before dentistry reared its ugly head I had my heart set on becoming a paramedic. Mom almost fainted when I broke the news to her, mainly because I had yet to pass my driving test. She reminded me of the five driving instructors I’d already managed to wear out and the remaining three on my list who refused to take my calls. To Mom’s embarrassment, I caused what could be classed the first and only ever recorded driving instructor shortage to hit Burbridge. Trust me when I tell you that if you’re looking for a good way to become popular, don’t target driving instructors. For weeks, whenever Mom hit the local shops people accosted her for having a dunce of a driving daughter. The talk became so bad that she almost resorted to home delivery for our groceries. That would have suited me fine. I could have finally become a hermit and rid myself of the need for a driver’s license. Hermits must have the life. I’ve wanted to try ‘hermiting’ since I was five.

As soon as I earned my driver’s license, and yes I did earn it legally, I raced off, on foot, to enquire about being a paramedic. They told me to complete a first aid course to make sure I really had my heart set on the life. A first aid course sounded like a piece of cake, so I cheerfully booked into the next available session. After one day I left the course in disgrace and tears, refusing to return for the second day. I’d been the only student who failed to revive the dummy when I performed mouth to mouth resuscitation. To make matters worse, even the instructor couldn’t revive the dummy after I’d been let loose on the poor thing. I became the first, and still only, person to kill a first aid practice dummy. If you didn’t already know, every first aid dummy is called Annie. News traveled fast, as it always does when it humiliates somebody who isn’t the spreader, and before long everybody in Burbridge heard how I’d killed an Annie. I became blacklisted from ever becoming a paramedic. They figured if I could kill a dummy, I posed a risk to every human being who teetered on the precipice of life or death. That’s why I’m studying to be a dentist. I can’t kill somebody by drilling teeth. At least I hope not.

Anyway, I hadn’t thought about weird girl Trish since finishing high school. Not until I picked up a newspaper to read with my lunch at the café near school. One of the supplements in the paper included a feature article about a local girl who’d made a big splash in the business world. Trish. Immortalized in a half page photograph; wearing a black business suit and high heeled shoes that I would kill to be able to walk in without incident. I never learnt how to master heels. I don’t think I have the necessary gene. I’m surprised an enterprising pharmaceutical company has yet to patent the high heel gene. There are thousands, maybe even tens of thousands, of obsessed stage moms out there who’d refinance their homes for that type of gene therapy.

The article about Trish prattled on about how she’d taken over the helm of a dying company and transformed it into one of the country’s leading manufacturers and distributers of novelty occult toys and products. In laymen’s terms, she sold a load of crap to drunken college students and teenage boys looking for a way to scare their girlfriends into giving up one or all of the bases. Sure, as a teenager I had performed the odd séance here and there with my friends under the cloak of darkness and a cloud of peppermint candy. Everybody does, right? None of our efforts worked, which we thought sucked the big one at the time. Maybe we failed because we didn’t have one of the highly priced Ouija boards that Trish’s company sold. I hunted though the article for the company name. Trish Inc. Hardly original. I expected something with a little more spark, especially from somebody wearing such a chic ensemble. And she did look good, the bitch! Maybe a name along the lines of Scary Wares, or Bits for Witches. Okay, so I’m not very good at business names. I don’t need to be if I’m going to be drilling teeth. I just need to know how to say things like this will only pinch a little and spit and rinse. If history is any indication I’ll also need to learn things like, “yes, I am insured”, and, “I’ll just call the doctor for you”. How will I become a dentist? I don’t even have faith in my own abilities.

Reading how my old next door neighbor now lives the high life turned me off eating lunch, which really annoyed me since I just spent my last five dollars. I’d have to eat dinner at home now and borrow money for lunch tomorrow. Yes, I still live at home with my parents and they are as annoying now as they were then. Pull out your loser detector and point it at me while saying, “Alert! Alert! Loser in the vicinity!”. I’ve heard it all before. The thought of dinner at home usually sends chills down my spine. Dinner conversation has not improved over time. If anything, it has deteriorated. Dad is now retired, which gives him all day to watch over and obsess about the neighbors.  Mom doesn’t like him having extra time to think and plot. She says it’s dangerous for the peace of the neighborhood, but I’ve noticed that she still hasn’t tried to stop him. Only last week he dropped a note in the Snickerson’s letterbox to demand that they remove the plum tree from their front garden. According to the rules that exist only in his head, fruit trees should only be grown in the back garden. Mom hit the gin particularly hard that afternoon. I came home to find no dinner cooking in the kitchen and Mom snoring in front of The Price is Right. Dad was in the back yard watching his fruit trees. At least he hadn’t been talking to them. If he could, he’d probably try and convince them to perform a tactical strike on the Skickerson’s plum tree.

Leaving the café, I noticed Trish had used the article to advertise her new product. Trish Inc now sold a new party game called Make Your Own Zombie. What a load of crap! Who in their right mind would buy that? As a teenager I probably would have, but kids are a lot smarter now. They all play computer games and waste their lives on Facebook. They don’t have time to make their own zombie. I looked around at the other people eating at the café. Most of them were reading the article about Trish and some were even circling the new product’s name. Fuming, I stormed out of the café, dumping the newspaper on the waiter who had been lucky enough to stand near the door. He fumbled the hundred or so supplements that seem to come with every newspaper these days and shot me an awkward smile. He seemed cute, but I didn’t have time to flirt. Not that I would have known what to say. Flirting is not something that I’ve ever been comfortable doing. I usually make a fool of myself. Anyway, I had more important things to do, like learning how to extract wisdom teeth without killing the patient.

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Chapter 3

Three days later and I had forgotten all about stupid Trish and her stupid company that makes stupid things like stupid Tarot cards and stupid zombie games. Okay, so I was not totally over reading about Trish and her fabulous life and expensive clothes. But I had moved from hating Trish, to feeling sorry for myself, and then back to hating Trish. So, you see, I had made progress. Going around in circles is a type of progress. Well, at least it isn’t standing still.

Mornings have never been my favorite time of the day. They clash terribly with my biological clock, which prefers going to bed late and rising when my eyes open of their own natural accord, not when my alarm screeches so loud that Mrs Lambert’s car alarm goes off. Okay, so I didn’t know for sure if her car alarm went off since she lives half the street away, but I didn’t know that it hadn’t gone off, and I like to imagine that it did. That way I feel justified for hating my alarm and mornings.

This particular morning my alarm failed to screech at me. Probably because I forgot to set it the night before. That may have been my subconscious telling me to give up on dental school, or it could be that I’m simply an absent minded idiot. In the end I didn’t need the alarm. Mom’s shouting woke me up instead.

“Get up or you’ll be late for teeth college!” she yelled from downstairs.

“She’ll never be a dentist,” Dad said, probably reading the paper at the table.

Retirement, so he says, means you can spend as much time reading the paper as you like. It’s part of the city bi-laws or something. I’ve been meaning to check that out, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. While I’m there, I’ll check out what they have to say on fruit trees and report any statement, or lack thereof, back to Dad. He’d probably go down to the council and demand that they rewrite the laws if they didn’t match his own special view of the world. That would be something to see, but I doubt Mom would be impressed.

Bounding out of bed, I tripped on the corner of my bedspread and fell into my wardrobe. I’d left the door open from the night before and collapsed into the clothes that I’d hung in an ordered fashion. On the floor and showered with clothes, I cursed mornings again and cursed my alarm clock. When I finally got myself off the floor and untangled from my clothes, I showered and dressed in record time without another falling incident. It looked likely to be another memorable day. I managed to gulp a quick glass of orange juice before I raced out the door, and just before jumping in the car realized I’d forgotten my text books. Mom waited for me at the front door, holding the books and smiling.

“It’ll be your head one of these days,” she said and slipped me some cash with the books.

“Yeah, thanks Mom.”

She’d only handed me enough cash for lunch, so I’d still need to come home for dinner. Unless I turned up on the doorstep of a friend and begged for food. Just think of the embarrassment it would cause Mom. Forget it, my parents had me in a corner. Walking to the car, I tried to think of a way I could convince Dad to splurge on a pizza or Chinese takeaway, and when a plan hit me I couldn’t hide my smile. If he sweetened the deal by saying it gave Mom a night off from all her hard work, by tonight we’d be eating something edible instead of wondering if that meal would be our last.

One turn of the key in the ignition and the rust bucket sucked my good mood right out of my body. The motor spluttered on the second attempt, dropped to a faint death whisper and then kicked up a gear. It wasn’t quite a purr, but I’d take anything if it got me to class. I’d still be late, and on the very morning that we were beginning our root canal lessons. That had me worried. The teacher had it in for me. She once told me that I had the drilling technique of an old and blind Albanian fisherman and that if my fake jaw were a real person I would probably have killed the patient, the dental nurse and myself. I think she over exaggerated a little there, plus I felt sure that what she said about the Albanian fisherman may have been a little racist.

“It’s because you’re making me nervous, standing over me like a gargoyle,” I told her.

Her face turned an alarming shade of red, but she didn’t walk away like I’d hoped. I don’t think she appreciated being called a gargoyle, especially in earshot of the other students, or maybe she couldn’t cope when students had the nerve to speak back. Some teachers can be like that at times. It’s usually the teachers that refer to themselves as ‘one’ in a conversation. You know they type. They look at you over their horn framed reading glasses and say things like, ‘One does not find it amusing when you draw a cartoon of one, does one?’, or ‘Is one going to spit out one’s gum?’.

“How will you cope doing this in real life if you can’t stand the pressure of my classroom?” she said back to me and stood directly at my shoulder.

I looked down at my drill. Where was a blind Albanian fisherman when you needed one?

“I’ll be alright when someone is not standing behind me,” I said and studied the practice jaw.

If it could talk it would have screamed for mercy.

“You’ll be the death of the profession, Deane,” she said and then walked away.

I thought teachers were meant to provide encouragement, not make you so nervous that you drilled a hole through yet another practice jaw. I’m glad we didn’t have to pay for our own practice jaws. I’d have to start selling my organs on the black market, and then start selling Mom’s or Dad’s organs, just to stay in the black.

When I finally hit the road, a large part of me knew I’d be late, no matter how much I tried to push the rust bucket. I suspected that I would not advance to performing procedures on real patients with the rest of the class. I couldn’t bear the thought of being held back in dental school. Imagine being held back because you killed a few practice jaws! I’d be the laughing stock of another profession. Mom wouldn’t be able to go to a dentist in Burbridge ever again.

Cutting my losses with dentistry and moving to a new profession crossed my mind. Maybe I could become a veterinarian. I caught sight of a ginger cat, watching me drive passed from the safety of its driveway. It looked severely displeased with that particular idea, and I sympathized.

The rust bucket spluttered and chugged like Great Uncle Ned and his two cigarette packet a day habit. If it broke down one more time that morning I’d not be responsible for my actions. To drown out the noise I flicked on the radio and listened to the shrill hiss of static. Fat lot of good that did! Another reason I hate the rust bucket so much is the radio. It won’t remain fixed to a station for longer than five minutes, so I spend half the drive fiddling with the dial to tune into different stations. To make matters worse it seems to remember what stations it has recently broadcast and refuses to tune into the same station twice in any given four hour stretch. I couldn’t be bothered buying a new radio and I suspected that the car would reject a new radio in the way that ears sometimes reject piercings. Or the touch of modern technology would throw the rust bucket in to a state of shock, causing it to fall to pieces. I couldn’t risk losing my only wheels. Plus, I didn’t really have the money to shell out on a radio.

While I concentrated on scanning for a new station, and trying to avoid yet another right wing bitch fest, a truck pulled alongside and slowly overtook the rust bucket. I didn’t take much notice of it at first. What was another truck? You’ve seen one and you’ve seen them all. This one had some type of mesh set high in the sides. Maybe they were transporting cattle or horses. As a child I’d wanted a cow, but my parents are not cow friendly. They said we couldn’t afford a cow and I said that it would pay its way by giving us milk and cheese. I even had a name picked out for it. Tickles. Yes, as a child I had my strange moments, but I still think Tickles is a great name for a cow, or possibly a squirrel.

Finally tuning into a station, I settled back for five minutes of broadcast bliss and gave the truck more of my attention. It had a logo painted on its side. Trish Inc stenciled in big green lettering underneath a picture of a black cat wearing a witch’s hat. The picture looked as original as the company name. What would Trish Inc be doing transporting their goods by cattle truck? I hadn’t heard of cows showing interest in the occult. Maybe she planned to make a line of spooky yoghurts or cream cheeses. I laughed at my own hilarity and then realized nobody else had been in earshot. Wasn’t that always the way? You say something clever and nobody is present to bear witness.

Something flicked out between the grates of the truck and then back in again. It happened so fast that at first I assumed I’d seen things. The truck continued to move ahead of the rust bucket, but now I’d become invested in knowing what had stuck out through the grate. I pressed down on the accelerator slightly. Something under the hood started to whine and then gurgle. I suddenly had a brainwave. If it blew up the rust bucket then Dad would have to buy me another car. Maybe I’d get something better. Knowing my luck I’d get something older with more rust and no air conditioning. The truck continued to pass me, but I eased up on the accelerator. As much as I hated the rust bucket, I liked my air conditioning.

Sighing, I’d started to give up any hope of discovering what the mystery object had been when something stuck out of the truck again. This time I managed to get a decent look at it. A hand! I swerved in shock and almost ran off the road. Mom always told me never to be nosy. Braking suddenly, I stopped on the edge of the road and watched the truck pull away. I couldn’t have seen a hand poke out of a Trish Inc truck. That would be ridiculous. She dealt in boxes of trashy merchandise, not transporting human beings. She may have been a weirdo in high school, but it would be a big leap to go from acting weird to kidnapping people and transporting them en masse by truck.

The rust bucket spluttered, gave a final valiant heave, and then the engine stopped. I reached for the keys and noticed how violently my hand shook. Okay, so now I was running late to dental school and my nerves were shot, and it was all Trish’s fault. What a great start to the day! I just knew that I would break another practice jaw.

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