Night of the Living Dead Part II                                  GREEN  13

     Stan has a couple of Presto Logs flaming in the fireplace, and the lights are turned down low. The beer is open and a nice fat spliff is making the rounds. Stan turns the television on and a makes a point of switching to CNN.  He stands in front of the television for a deadpan minute, then laughs and says "Screw it. Lets watch the 'Living Dead'."
      Stan slides in the silver disk and they are transported to a patch of country road in a backwoods section of Pennsylvania, driving up a winding road to a sadly neglected graveyard.
      The film has the look of vintage newsreel, scored with authentic fifties sci-fi orchestration. As soon as the dialogue begins, with Freddie and Marion bitching about the three hour drive to the cemetery and the futility of it all, you just know that bad things will soon befall this twosome.
      “We’re already here Johnny, so there’s no use complaining about it,” complains Marion. That’s the way she explains reality to him. These two are a singularly unpleasant pair. Just as they are about to step out of the car, the radio sputters on with a breaking news bulletin, which they fail to listen to.
      "Hey, that guy isn't named Freddy,” says Lex. “She just called him Johnny".
      "Whatever," says Susan. "Watch."
      Uh oh, there is a huge storm brewing, thunder rumbling in the background, and Johnny is going into full asshole mode. He recollects that Marion has always been afraid of this particular graveyard, even when she was a young child, and he feels compelled to start riffing on it.
      "They're coming to get you, Barbara.” Johnny actually sounds more like Bobby Boris Picket than Boris Karloff. “They’re coming for you, Barbara."
     "Hey, that girl isn't named Marion” says Lex. “Johnny just called her Barbara."
      "Whatever,” says Susan. "Watch. Zombie coming."
      Uh oh, a Zombie is coming, and Johnny is fool enough to be goofing on it. What a jackass. "Here comes one now," he intones.
      Oh dear, oh dear, a confrontation. The Zombie commences to manhandle Barbara, and since Johnny is responsible for provoking the ghastly creature, he has no acceptable moral option left other than to try and pull the goddamn Zombie off of Barbara's back. Which means that Johnny is now the one suffering from Zombie problems, and he's not about to get any help from Barbara. She finds it best to hide behind a rather quaint and photogenic tombstone and watches as Johnny gets his stupid head smashed in.
      "Hey, the Zombie didn't eat Johnny,” says Lex. “I thought the zombies were supposed to eat you".
      "I think I saw him eat a little bite of Johnny while Johnny was on his way down" says Melinda.
      Uh oh, now the Zombie is coming back for an after-dinner Barbara, and she takes off running, getting about fifty feet before falling right over.
      Damn these high heels.
      Pretty, though.
      Good thing Zombies are so slow.
      Gives her enough time to make it to the car. But damn it to hell. Wouldn't you just know? What remains of Johnny still has the car keys! Barbara has to sit there in the driver's seat, waiting to be horribly mutilated, and watch as this insidious creature tries to crack open the car window with a rock, crack it open as though it were an enormous crab. This Zombie is furious. His metabolism is cranked way up.
      Wait a second, thinks Barbara, I seem to have an idea. It could work. Let's see, I'm parked up here on top of a hill. If I take off the emergency brake maybe I can roll my way out of here. And off she goes, the Zombie still hanging onto the side of the car until they reach Zombie Warp Speed, which is approximately two miles an hour.
      "You go girl" shouts Susan.
      Uh oh, a tree pops up right out of nowhere and Barbara promptly runs into it. Duhh. She's gonna have to hoof it now. Luckily she has a good twenty yards on the Zombie.
      "I bet she falls down again," says Melinda.
      Look, dead ahead, there's a deserted gas station. Bad place to hide but surely a good omen, because wherever there’s a deserted gas station, a deserted house is sure to follow. Barbara spots the house directly up the road. She reaches it, runs frantically around the yard for a minute, and then trips on the crabgrass.
      "Hee Hee Hee," says Melinda.
      Well, it's a damn good thing the back door of this old abandoned house is unlocked, because the Zombie is really barreling down on her. He's only about a half mile away and closing fast. Barbara locks the door and begins to scout out the house, wandering from room to empty room. You know, they've really got some nice things in here… Wonder if any of them can be used as weapons? How about this butcher knife…
      Uh oh, there must have been some sort of a cinematic time lapse because the Zombie is suddenly right outside, stumbling around like a dead Joe Cocker. In his rage and fury he jerks out the phone lines, mere seconds before Barbara can call for help.
      Uh oh, another time lapse. It's gotten dark dreadfully quick, and looking out into the moonlight Barbara sees Yiiii!, two more Zombies.
      “How did it get dark so quick,” asks Lex.
      “It’s Night of the Living Dead,” says Susan. “You get maybe one more question before we eat your entrails”.
      Now the existence of Zombies is something that Barbara has never really pondered at any great length, but the gravity of her situation is starting to sink in, and when she runs up the stairs and finds a decomposing body ("No Lex, I don't know why it didn’t turn into a zombie, it just didn’t”) she has no viable option left other than to run out screaming into the night. Bright lights appear from nowhere and Barbara is momentarily blinded.
     Yiiii!, it's a Negro!

      "Good first ten minutes, I have to admit," says Lex, opening a fresh beer. "The acting, in particular the main Zombie, two stiff thumbs up."
      "That’s Johnny Rozito" says Stan.
      "From the Mumblepeg series." Lex knows his Johnny Rozito. "He rarely got a chance to stretch like this."
      "QUIET!" shouts Melinda. "I'm trying to watch the movie."
      "It's a classic" says Stan. "Never gets old."

      Well, this is one black man who really knows his way around a Zombie. He makes a couple of quick maneuvers which totally confuse the lumbering creatures, and wham, he's got Barbara, panting and squealing, dragging her back inside to relative safety. Barbara should be feeling some blessed relief now, hooking up with another human being. The odd things he’s talking about, though, are most troubling in her discombobulated state.
      "There'll probably be a whole lot more of them when they find out about us," he says.
      More what? More Zombies?
      Barbara now enters her catatonic stage, which she will drift in and out of for much of the movie. Until a Zombie eats her, of course.
      The black man is trying his best to get organized now, and Barbara is not being at all helpful, just moping around like a sad sack.
      The unnamed fellow has a car, but he's run out of gas, and the gas station is closed, and for Christ sake, he looks out the window and a couple of the living dead are vandalizing his ride. Yeah, right! He goes outside and kicks their Zombie asses, just to get it out of his system. A few blows to the head with a heavy stick seems to do the trick.
      Uh oh, here come their Zombie friends. Four, five, eight, seventeen. He's got no choice, he has to run back inside the house and think.
      What to do, what to do, and then the doorbell rings.
      Like 'Candygram'. Stupid Zombies. Who’s going to fall for that old trick? Huh? Wait a second.  What’s this? One of those filthy abominations has somehow managed to sneak inside of the house…
      "Stan. That was your doorbell."
      "Don't pause the movie. I'll be right back." Could it be pizza? Stan wasn’t sure. He certainly wanted pizza.
      The situation is like this: an individual Zombie is not all that hard to handle if you can keep your wits about you, but one Zombie is like a lone cockroach, a phenomenon that doesn’t exist in nature. And there are literally tons of Zombies in the hood right now, just look outside. Oh, they’re a motley crew aren't they, loitering in the front yard, growling, picking their sores, all ready to swarm in and, you know, eat everybody.
      The black man has a pretty good idea. He has to have an idea. He's the only living character in the movie at the moment, unless you count Barbara. And nobody counts Barbara.
      As we are tired of referring to the black man as the black man, we will henceforth call him Mr. Black.
      Mr. Black takes a large overstuffed chair, the kind that’s nearly ubiquitous in deserted houses, and proceeds to soak it with a can of gasoline that he’s found sitting inside of the kitchen cupboard. The chair appears to be stuffed unto popping with foam rubber.
      “Wait just a second, now,” says Lex. “I thought this guy needed gasoline for his car. Why is he using up all the gas on a chair?”
      “I believe he’s using kerosene, Lex” says Melinda. “I’m pretty sure that I saw a K on the back of the can.”
      Mr. Black continues to saturate the chair with kerosene, all the while providing the catatonic Barbara with background information regarding the terror being spread throughout the nation by the horrible awakening of the Living Dead. It's more than she needs to know. When he finally gets the chair sufficiently soaked, he flings open the front door, rushes five yards straight ahead, fake shifts to the left, escapes a tackle on the right, then doubles back and runs the chair a few yards straight upfield. Grandstanding, he performs a spectacular backhanded lighting of the matches, and sets that nasty thing on fire. The Zombies immediately groan and shrink back.
      “Good move” says Susan admiringly. “Everybody knows that Zombies are afraid of Wing Chairs.”

      Red is standing at the door with a wide grin and a twelve pack of Coors Light. Stan had so been hoping for the pizza man.
      "You still watchin' the movie?" Red hasn't been invited, no way, not by any stretch of the imagination. It’s no surprise that he knows where Stan lives, but this is the first time he’s ever shown up at the door. Stan would just as soon see a zombie right about now.
      Red thrusts the beer into Stan's hands and tells him to stick it some place good and cold.
      "I got somethin' else for your little party, man. It's out in the van." 
      It was weird. In the space of an hour or two, Red seems to have gained back twenty pounds, added two days beard, and acquired a mighty foul smell. Stan’s heart sinks like a cherry in an iceless whiskey sour. This night had been going so well… Don't make me deal with Red tonight, Lord…. Please?
      "Well, this is really not very much of a party, you know Red, it's just a few… they’re not even really friends of mine, seriously, it’s just a bunch of boring business types. Yeah, you know, I really should have you in, you’d probably liven things up a bit. But, uh, you know, I do have to get together with these guys from time to time, I guess, I am in that business. Work work work. Got to entertain the guys sometimes. Sorry. Hey, tell you what, I'll get you a promo copy of that new Kid Rock CD, okay."
      "Shit man..."
      Oh, that was a bad chuckle emanating from the throat of Red.
      "I know who you got there inside your house. You think I'm a little weak in the head, don’t ya."
      Red is slowly shaking his head and grinning, like what you up to?
      "I seen you all tonight. Watchin the big show with your friends at the pub. I was sitting at the bar with you, ya nutbag. You really do make for one sorry ass liar, Keaton."
      Big ugly laugh.
      "You got your old lady inside there, right? And you got that new government friend of yours in there too, right? What, they name that motherfucker after a car? And you got that sweet young thing, name’s Melinda, right? Who you have never bothered to introduce me to.  Keepin her for yourself, are ya? They all working in the music business now?"
      Red emits a large, foul-smelling laugh.
      "It’s alright man," Red chuckles, "I’m just bustin your chops, that’s all. Don’t worry about it. I got you covered. Hey, tell me something. That girl Dora that was comin on to me at the pub tonight, she was a pretty hot piece of ass, wadn't she? Wha'd you think of her?”
      “Mmm, tell you the truth, Red, I really didn’t get a good look at her…”
      “That’s a load of crap. I saw you starin at her, man. Dancin around and starin. Looked to me like your eyes were gonna pop out of your head.”
       Red passes over a sticky pint of Jamesons.  “Here, man. You want a hit off this?"
       Stan takes a swig as a stalling mechanism.
       "I’m pretty sure what I heard you say was you were gonna be watching Night of the Living Dead. That's a classic. Never gets old."
      Stan is staring at Red’s beard. There’s a large red spot on the side that looks like dried ketchup.  What a fucking mess this guy is. Red looks Stan in the eyes for a moment, and then laughs happily. "You lyin sonuvabitch, I can hear that movie playing in the background right now. You’re a trip, man.  You are a trip. That's what I like about you. But you cannot lie worth shit… Yeah, I think I brought you just the exact right present for your little party tonight." Red turns and wanders merrily back towards his van.
      Meanwhile, the entire Zombie population is milling around on the far side of  the burning chair. Time is on their side. They know the house is sparsely furnished.

      Stan tramps unhappily back into the house. Maybe things will be okay. He wants to put the best face possible on this development, but he feels a little sick. That's the roller coaster he's been on tonight.
      Speaking from the doorway, he pauses and says “Shit, guys, looks like we’ve got some unexpected company.”
      "Who?" says Susan, speaking in a voice so Zombie-like that Stan mistakes it for film dialogue.
      Stan walks back into the den cradling the Coors Light, and puts the movie on pause to a chorus of groans. The screen freezes on a scene where Barbara is gazing dreamily upon a cut-glass music box. 
      "You froze the one tender moment," says Melinda.

      “Guess who wants to join us? Red.” Stan frowns as he carries the beer to the refrigerator. "Yeah, fuckin Red," he says under his breath.
      He is feeling tongue-tied as he reluctantly rejoins the others. Why didn't he just tell Red that he wasn't welcome? Is this a self-image thing? Could be, but why would he want to keep up appearances for Red? Maybe he should just go back outside and tell him to forget it, go home. Maybe there was an element of fear in his not telling Red to scram. What a pussy I am, he tells himself.
      But no, he knows better, and he's a little shamed by the knowledge: He's been using Red as a personal source of entertainment for quite a while, and in that sense he owes him. Well, okay then. Roll with it.
      “You didn’t invite him in, did you?”  Melinda, visibly alarmed, frowns and reaches for a cigarette.
      “I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter, Melinda. And stop looking at me. He's out there in the driveway right now, and he didn’t seem like he would take kindly to being refused. Anyway… he brought beer, and we’re almost out, okay. Really, the dude is so polluted that maybe he'll just sit there and keep his mouth shut. That’s what I'd bet. And I think he's got snacks."
      "Have a fucking pepperoni," says Susan.
      Another thought creeps in, conjured up by the look on Lex's face, and Stan wonders if it’s too late to deal with. Stan needs to address the potential problem of Lex’s existence. Stan knows that he can be convincing in any forum as long as he’s allowed to talk bullshit.  A critic is, after all, a salesman of sorts. Now he's playing to his own house.
      "Lex, I don't think he even remembers your little altercation. That was nothing to him. Red goes off on tangents. That's what he does. He's Red. He probably doesn't even remember who you are. So just be cool about it. And FYI, he did bring something else besides beer, a surprise. I'm thinking maybe it's a pizza. He’s out in his van getting it.”
      "To mix our modes for a moment," says Lex, "let us consider the social behavior of the vampire. It is my understanding that a vampire cannot bite you unless you invite him inside your house."

      Susan rolls her eyes, a gesture that Stan is starting to find increasingly irritating. It was probably not the brightest of ideas for her to ask Stan to introduce her to Red in the first place. Not that it wasn't funny. It was. But before he disappeared on his sabbatical, she had begun seeing his blue van quite a bit. She would see it slowly cruise by her as she walked the neighborhood streets, his face turning slowly towards her until she could see her own reflection in his wraparound shades. No sign of recognition on his part. She hadn’t mentioned it. Uhhh… This feels bad.
      Melinda hops up off the carpet and takes the empty slot on the couch beside Susan. God forbid that she be sitting on the floor with Red anywhere behind her. She would like to be wearing more clothes than she has on now. She is wearing shorts and an oversized tank top, but she's thinking that a jogging outfit might be perfect for this occasion.
      Lex doesn’t say anything further. As excellent as his vampire metaphor was, no one seemed to pick up on it.
      Such is my lot, thinks Lex.
      I have wise things to say, but my words fall on deaf ears.
      Lex is thinking that he will never get to watch this movie all the way through. He is thinking that maybe he should just get up and drive home, but he doesn’t want to pass by Red on the way out. He can't go to the Sportsman now, because he smells of reefer. He is thinking that if he stays in this room he will be making a moral compromise that he is not prepared to make. He will in effect be accepting Red as an equal, or even worse, as a friend. You share a beer, and then the Zombies…

      Stan looks at the others, who are looking expectantly back at him. He is a little surprised at the hostile way that they are staring at him. He hasn't done anything wrong. This is not fair.
      “This is your house, isn’t it?” says Melinda. She is uncommonly passionate, as close to shouting as he’s ever heard. “You don’t have to let him inside of your own house. We don't want him in here. Can’t you tell? Why don’t you just go out there and tell him not to come inside. Just stand up to him, Stan. We do not like him. Give him back his beer.”
      Lex nods in sympathetic agreement, although personally, he would like to keep the beer.
      Susan makes a pistol out of her left hand and pretends to fire it through the center of her brain. She scores a direct hit. Her head falls to her shoulder and her tongue hangs out.

      Stan stands there for the longest time, a pleading look on his face.
      I don't believe he's got his shit back together yet, thinks Susan. Maybe just a little. Should I try to help him out? How?
      "Well go ahead and let him in if you feel you have to," Lex says finally, “but don't let him keep us from watching the rest of the movie. That's your mission, Keaton. You want to start the show back up for us now?"
      "Yeah, sure," says Stan. Lex called him Keaton. Stan has a number of sarcastic retorts that he wants to use right now, but he can't sort them out. Life is not paper.

      Red has to shift a few things around in the back to get to Selar. When he ran into that embankment earlier, it played havoc with the contents of his van. A tool box had fallen right on top of the little fucker. The scattered vinyl paneling creates a ragged white blanket - a comic effect that Red pauses to enjoy - but Selar is soon readily accessible.
      Selar is grabbed roughly by the shirtfront and flung on to Stan’s driveway. So easy to maneuver. He's just a slight little faggot. Hundred-thirty? Barely more than a handful.
       “Oops, dropped him.” Red may be drunk, but he’s moving like a sober man. The booze is in his eyes. They’re glassy and don’t seem to be focused on anything in particular.
      "Sorry, little buddy, guess I had me a spazz attack."
      Selar's eyes aren't focused on anything either. He doesn't recall how to focus. Something hurts. Everything hurts. He has never felt so bad in his life. His head is spinning wildly, and he has befouled his new black shirt. It is ruined. Such a pretty shirt, and way too expensive for him. His mouth tastes vile. He must have contracted some horrible illness. Maybe he is dying. Where am I, he wonders, why am I here?

      Red grabs him by his bloody left arm and jerks him to his feet.
      "Not feelin too good, are you little buddy? Must've been something you drank." Selar tries to respond, but is stopped by a fit of dry heaves. Aside from experiencing his first drunk, he has also suffered the first serious beating of his life. A lot of punches and other physical indignities have come his way. He is not sure what has been done to his body. Teeth seem to be missing. It must be his own fault, some unknown breach of etiquette.
      "You're looking a little white there, dude. Little joke, son, a little white. Don't you wish." Red places a brutal fist into the center of Selar's gut. He feels ribs. Selar would like to fall down about now, but Red is holding him erect. "Don't you worry, little buddy, help is on the way. I'm takin you to a party. They gonna love you there."
       Selar tries to think. What is he doing here with this big man? He was only talking… He doesn't remember much else.
      "Ya know, I think I know what you really need? I think you'd feel a lot better about yourself if you had a good kick in the pants. That's an American expression, fucker. Ever heard it? It means a kick in the pants. I can see that's what you need. I can sense it. Trust me. Here ya go, here's a little prescription from Doctor Red. This one here's for New York City. Home of the Long Island Ice Tea, you Moslem piece of dog shit."
      Selar is sent sprawling, gashing his chin on the asphalt. He thinks that his best strategy might be to pretend to be unconscious. He's not far from it.

      Back on the screen it's the same old story, Mr. Black is doing all the hard work while the white woman stands there vacantly watching and occasionally bitching. Thanks to Mr. Black, this old house is Living Dead free for the moment, but you know that's a situation which is not going to last forever. Right now would seem to be an excellent time to board up the windows, what with the zombies being preoccupied by the flaming chair, but Barbara starts to talk again, hysterical whining really, reprising the story of her graveyard sojourn, and it doesn't take long before everyone is wishing that a Zombie had eaten her back in the first scene.
      Here’s the situation. Barbara wants to go back and find Johnny. Simple as that. Even Lex is savvy enough to know that by now Johnny himself is a flesh-eating Zombie. Barbara rants and raves and cries and whines until Mr. Black is forced to knock her out cold. Everyone cheers. Well, she did hit him first.
      Hey, check this out. The radio is working, and it's all news all the time for as long as this unspeakable crisis continues. Reports are coming in saying that an epidemic of mass murders are being committed by a vast army of unidentified assassins. The assassins have been described as vacant-eyed, misshapen monsters, stumbling around like lethargic killing machines. The announcer has not used the Z word yet - no need to unduly alarm the populace. The president, who has just been briefed on the extent of the situation, is heading for a closed door meeting at an undisclosed location with members of his cabinet and NASA scientists, trying to determine the appropriate American response.
       This report just in from Cumberland, Maryland. Authorities are confirming that in nearly all incidents the creatures are devouring the flesh of their victims.
      "That is just so wrong" says Lex.

      There is a rumbling from the outside and a loud grunt as the front door is pushed open.
      "Zombies," hisses Susan.
      "Red," hisses Melinda.
      And with a few heavy steps, there is Red standing in front of them, his face lit up like it's Christmas morning. For some reason he is with that little guy from the Seven Eleven.
      Oh jeez, thinks Susan, two dumb drunks to deal with… The little guy can barely stand up. These two can not stay here. “Let's drink a quick beer with them in the driveway and then get them the hell out,” she whispers to Stan.
      God, look at the Seven Eleven dude. Pretty gross. Red has to hold him upright, he's so wasted. He looks like he's been in an accident or something. The stench of puke from his clothing is overwhelming.
      Get them out of here.
      "Lookie here," Red says proudly, thrusting Selar out in front of him like a rag doll. "I brought you a sand nigger."
      Are you serious?
      What are you talking about?
      Everyone loses interest in the movie.
      What the hell is this?
      "What the hell is this, Red? What the hell are you talking about? What the fuck are you doing?" Stan is alarmed.
      Stan is freaked out.
      He has invited the vampire inside.
      Red releases his grip on Selar, who promptly falls to his knees.
      "Oops. Pardon me," chuckles Red. "I seem to have dropped a piece of shit on your floor."
      Red reaches down and violently rips at Selar’s shirt, then proceeds to scrutinize the piece he’s torn off.
      “Hey, look what I found here, Stan. It’s a little American flag. Don’t know what this little camel-humper would be doin wearin a flag, do you? Me neither. What you doin with this, Omar? Better tell me quick. What you doin with this? You even know what this little thing is? Guess I gotta educate you. It's the stars and bars, partner. So tell me, what you up to? You tryin to pass? Maybe you tryin to infiltrate our little town? That what you up to?”
      Red grinds his boot heel down on one of Selar’s hands.
      “What’s the matter? Camel got your tongue?”
      Selar has started to softly weep. He cannot help himself. He is so ashamed. He is a stranger here. "Please do not hurt me anymore. Please do not hurt me. I have money. You can have my money."
      "Now ya talking. That's good. You been real quiet. It's good to talk. But, now, in response to your monetary offer, there’s a small problem with your logic, little buddy. Maybe you gone and barfed all your sense away, ya think? You did have money, but that was a long time ago. Don't you remember, I had to help you pay off your bar tab? Cindy thought you was gonna walk right out of that place without payin." Red lets loose a bone chilling laugh.
       "And you are gonna be payin, little buddy. You are gonna be payin."

      Melinda is frozen to her seat. This is a nightmare, okay, a waking nightmare.  She must collect her thoughts. Breathe steadily and concentrate. This is a real nightmare. She can deal with the real ones. This is what Melinda has decided about herself.
      Susan walks cautiously over to Selar, and extends her shaking hand to try and help him up. “Do you need a doctor?” she asks him, then answers herself. “You need a doctor.”
      Selar shrinks from the contact.
      Red is grinning from ear to ear. “Leave him be, darlin. He’s already seen Doctor Red.”
      Stan turns and moves towards Red. He gets right in Red's face. ‘I’ve got to be a man’ he thinks. ‘Oh shit’.
      Stan puts his hands on Red’s shoulders and pushes him back a few feet. Red doesn’t seem to mind. He's in a right good mood. He’s busy chuckling at Selar, who is still on his knees, emitting soft shaky whimpers.
      “What did you do, you asshole?” shouts Susan. “What have you done to this man?” She grabs Red by the neck of his shirt.
      Red doesn’t even bother to look in Susan’s direction. He wants to talk to Stan. Stan is a good listener. Red brushes Susan's hands away like he is shooing flies. “You ought to tell your old lady to back off,” he says in a mild conversational tone to Stan. “She’s just about to get me pissed off."
      Red prepares to teach class. What he has to say is important.
      "Now get a grip on yourself and listen up Stan. Quit bein so emotional about things. This is the God’s honest truth I’m speakin. We're at war in this country. Even your boy Clinton would tell you that. You need to try and listen to what I'm talking about. I know what I’m sayin. You gotta admit, you can be a little naïve about things sometimes. I'll wise you."
      "Here's the story, and you need to hear it. This is no shit true. Lemme clue you in on somethin real recent. I saw this foreign sack of shit sneaking around the other day at the Seven Eleven with a hypodermic. He was sticking it in the donuts when he thought nobody was lookin. You hear what I'm sayin? You tell me what he was tryin to do. He was sticking the needle inside of the donuts. Coulda been Anthrax. Coulda been anything.”
      Lex is having a hard time deciding on what course of  action he should take. He is in the scene now. Maybe he should start by standing up. Stan and Susan are standing up. Of course, his best move might be to pretend that he is still watching the movie. That would be believable. Lex glances at the tube, and realizes that he's totally lost track of what’s happening on the screen. Mr. Black is busily disassembling the furniture.
      Susan and Stan are standing up. Maybe he should stand up too. Well, Melinda’s not standing up. Well, okay, he is a little bigger than Melinda. Probably twice her size. And he is a man. ‘I think I better stand up’ he decides.
      “Red, you better get your dumb ass out of this house right now. I’m calling the cops. Right now.” Stan is trying hard to sound  tough, but Red just looks perplexed. Stan is looking around the room for something good to use as a weapon. If he needs it. He is trying to keep his composure. This is his house. He needs to defend it.
      Lex stands up. He has an idea.
      “Hey Red, how about a nice cold beer,” he asks, heading to the refrigerator. "I owe you one." Red doesn’t even bother to respond to this asshole. He's trying to figure out the situation. Things don’t add up. Something is wrong.
      This reflective moment allows Lex the opportunity to arm himself with two cold bottles of Coors Light – a potentially lethal weapon if properly used – and linger in the kitchen where he can spring out at a moments notice, startling Red with the element of surprise. This is a pretty good plan…
      “Are you telling me you don’t want me in your house?” Red asks Stan incredulously. “Stan. You really gonna call the cops on me? That hurts man…" Red looks genuinely distressed.
       “Get out asshole. Get out of here!” Susan smacks Red up side of the head as hard as she can. Her hand stings. He ignores her.
      ‘I wonder if this is a good time to come flying out of the kitchen’ thinks Lex.
      “I brought you an Arab, Stan,” Red says sadly. “I know how much you hate these fuckin Arabs.” Red walks over to Selar and gives him a small little kick, like his heart isn’t in it anymore.
      “You fucking moron!” screams Susan. “He’s an Indian.”
      “No shit!” says Red, blinking his eyes in amazement. He stands still, staring at Selar in disbelief.
      “You know what?” he says, turning to Susan. “You’re right!” 
      Red’s face crinkles up with laughter. He slaps Stan on the back, and wags a finger at Susan. “You’re right!"
      "Let’s kill him anyway.”
       Lex bounds out of the kitchen and attacks. The first bottle of frosty Coors Light hits Red hard on the meaty part of his shoulder. This is enough to piss Red off royally, and when he turns around to see what’s up, Lex lands the second bottle squarely to the center of Red’s forehead. The bottle doesn’t break but there is a mighty ugly thud.
      “You freak,” Red screams.  He should have taken care of Ex a while back. "You’re a dead man.” Red is standing there motionless, growing redder and redder. He is ready to erupt. How could a visit that started out with such good intentions have turned bad so quickly? They don’t want me here…
      Lex again takes advantage of Red's moment of reflection and slips back into the kitchen to hide. Red doesn't notice.

      Melinda is soaking all of this in. Her face is dispassionate. She is not on Red's radar. She calmly opens her purse, removing her Kools and lighting one. She pauses a moment to see if she’s being watched, and then removes her Professional/Executive Cell Phone Stun Gun, discretely switching it on. This gets Red’s attention. She’s not calling the cops is she?
      Melinda looks blankly at Red as she puts the gun to her ear and says "Hello?" The room has fallen silent. Red is ready to make a grab for the phone. Melinda keeps her face calm and speaks louder. “Who do you want? Who? Okay. Yes, he’s here. Okay. Just a second. Milton. It’s for you.”
      Red is confused. “Who is it? Who’s calling me here?”
      “Just some girl,” says Melinda nonchalantly,  handing Red the pearl silver PECPSG 180.
      “Hello” says Red. “Hello… How do you get this phone to work, darlin’? I can’t hear a thing.”
      “Just hold in that little button on the side.”
      All right.

      ZAPP! Red’s hat literally flies off the top of his head, and his remaining hair stands on end. It smells like something is burning in the room. Red’s muscle tone melts away and he falls in a heap to the floor. Wow. 180,000 is a lot of volts! One of Red’s legs jerks spastically. He pushes himself up into a sitting position and rubs the side of his face. He seems to have forgotten about Selar, who has crawled over in the corner to hide.
      “Whew,” Red says, shaking his head and trying to get his eyes to focus. “Shit. I think your damn phone has a short in it.”
      “No it doesn’t,” Melinda says in a voice as cold as ice.. “You are just drunk. That’s all.” She turns to the others and speaks disdainfully. “Milton is just a big drunken baby. He’s even too drunk to know how to use a cell phone. Can you believe that? Give me back my phone, Milton.”
      Red’s head is so filled with fog, he can't seem to make himself think right. Girl took the phone away from him. What are these people doing, talking to him in such a disrespectful manner? They are fucking with him...
      “You’re crazy, girl. I ain’t drunk. I can drink a hell of a lot more than you think. I sure can.” To prove the truth of this assertion, Red grabs the bottle that was recently introduced to his forehead, opens it, and with a defiant look in his eyes, chugs it. "Now give me that phone back."

      ZAPP! This time the stun gun goes flying out of his hand and through the air. It bangs into the wall, spared from breaking by the exciting space age polymers used in it’s design.
      Red has pissed his pants. He lies there shaking and gasping, legs akimbo.
      As they say in Cumberland, this ghastly story becomes more incredible with each new account.

      Susan opens her purse, lights a smoke and approaches Red. “Here Milton, why don't you try my phone. It's very compact and easy to use. It might work out better for you. See, it’s blue, like my eyes… Oh, you’re not talking anymore. Are you still mad at me? Milton?” She presses the antenna to the wide wet area of Red’s jeans and presses the trigger button. ZAPP! Now there’s a pain that’s going to linger.
      "Better safe than sorry," Susan shrugs.
      Red is out cold. He is spread out like the chalk outline of a corpse.

      Selar, who has been watching this scene unravel, struggles unsteadily to his feet. He eyes Red’s body warily, as though it may suddenly reanimate.
      “Please keep your distance from me," he says in a choked voice. "I am warning all of you, if anyone attempts to touch me with a cell phone, I am prepared to submit a written report to the United Nations Human Rights Commission." He laughs, just a little.
      "And thank you very much for saving my bacon.”

      Everyone piles into Red's van after they have piled Red into Red’s van. Selar has sobered up quite a bit and is able to provide them with good directions to his residence. Susan and Stan have helped him clean up and bandaged some of the more prominent wounds. He has quite an impressive collection of cuts and bruises. His wrist is obviously broken, and some of his front teeth are missing. God know what else is going on with Selar, but he will not even discuss the possibility of going to the emergency room. There's no health insurance at the Seven Eleven. He doesn't want to talk to the police either, and quite frankly, everybody in the van is relieved to hear that.
      Selar is wearing Red's blue flannel shirt. It is way too big for him and not nearly as cool as the shirt he had started out the night with. Ahh, his new party shirt, a black polyester long sleeved number that featured a short skirted World War II pinup girl smoking a cigarette. The girl posed on the left front panel of the shirt, and the smoke from her cigarette rose up and curled across the back.

      Still, sitting in the back of the van, bony ass sitting on top of a toolbox with his feet settled comfortably upon Red's belly, feeling somewhat safe was enough. These people, he thought, these people I'm riding with, they're not my friends, but I know they're not my enemies. They helped me out.
      It means a lot to him.

      They offer to buy him a beer. He politely declines.

      “I wonder if he’ll be okay,” says Melinda, after they drop him off in front of his ramshackled apartment complex.
      “Who knows?” replies Stan. “But he’d probably be dead if it wasn’t for you.”

      The gang parked the panel van in front of the VFW. It was chilly tonight. Red was laid out in wet pants, with no shirt other than the remnants of Selar's, which they had considerately left with him. God, those two had really stunk up the place. Red was out cold, and when he did wake up he was going to be in for some serious hurting. He probably wouldn't be getting up voluntarily for quite a while. He was snoring loudly when they left the van.

      No one has a car. They will have to walk or catch a cab later.
      What a night. Stan feels as though he has awakened from an extended sleep. He feels he has learned a valuable lesson. Don’t look too closely at the working of the world, or you may find yourself caught in it.

      Moments later, back at the DownUnder for last call, Stan proposes a toast. "To Melinda," he says. "For saving our bacon."
     "Yeah, somebody had to." Melinda's head is held up proudly. Tonight she is the conquering heroine, yeah, yes she is.
      “Lex was pretty good too,” says Susan. ”The Coors Man.”
      “Thank you. Thank you very much. It was my pleasure. As I say at work – not - I always welcome new challenges. So Susan, why don’t you tell us all what the hell happened next in the movie.”

      “Oh man, you realize that we turned it off just as it was starting to get really good. You hadn't even seen any entrail eating yet, Lex. So okay, the black guy, I believe his name is James, James is poking around and he finds out that the house has a basement. This hadn't occurred to him. Can you imagine? So that’s where that door goes. So he pries it open – it’s all boarded up - and there's a whole bunch of human beings down there. They’ve locked themselves away...  I don’t know how they got all the boards on the outside, I must’ve missed a critical plot point… Old guy and a young guy come upstairs. They just want to listen to the radio, see what's goin on with this Zombie attack. They stupidly forgot to check it out earlier, but they did abscond with all the Spam."
      "You can tell right away that the old guy, his name is Frank, is a real asshole. He has a big dark splotch on his head, just like Gorbachov." 
      "Who's Gorbachov?" asks Melinda. "One of the Zombies?"
      “You must have seen this before,” says Stan.
      "And then, all of a sudden, Whoa, hands start coming right through the cracks in the wall, filthy Living Dead hands. It's Whack-a-mole time! Fun! Those stinking Zombie hands don't stand a chance."
      "Those hands are probably stinking from their unsavory practice of eating human entrails," says Lex.
      "That's right," says Melinda. "You're finally starting to get it."
      "Okay. You ready, okay, the little wife is upstairs now. She's disturbed by the sound of James shooting filthy flesh-eating Zombies in the head. Good lord, there's a lot of Zombies in the back yard. One of them is butt naked! They are all messed up."
      "Okay, now we switch down to the basement and there's Frank with his unhappy wife, and they have a sick little girl lying on top of an ironing board. Keep your eye on the little girl, Lex. I'm not going to tell you that she turns into a bloodthirsty baby Zombie or anything like that. I don’t want to ruin the story for you."
      "The little girl definitely does not turn into a knife-wielding, flesh-eating baby Zombie," Stan adds helpfully.
      "Okay, so now Frank and his ugly wife, I think her name is Margo, they get into a heart to heart, they're discussing the fact that he's an enormous asshole, and he does not agree at all with her assessment. 'No, they're the assholes, I'm not the asshole.’ So she really starts to unload on him and his denial problem. ‘We may not enjoy living together, but dying together isn't going to solve anything.’ They are so wrong… It solves everything!”
     “Frank is all freaked out about the way that she's disrespecting him, and he probably would explode in another minute, except upstairs they've just discovered - dah duh dah - a television. Imagine that…"

      They loved to hear Susan talk.

      At 3:52 AM, Selar awakes to a powerful wave of nausea. His forehead is beaded with sweat. His skin is cold to the touch. He finds that he has no strength to get to his feet, so he pushes his thin blanket to the side and crawls to the toilet. The blood comes gushing out of his mouth, splashing loudly and obscenely into the commode. The blood is mixed with bile. It tastes so bad.

     At 3:53 AM, there is a sudden round of projectile vomiting, which leaves Selar limp and gasping for air. It is so fortunate that he is not able to reach the dangling cord for the bare overhead light. Because of this blessing, he does not have to see his life leaking away. He cannot marvel at the riot of red that his body has sacrificed to paint his tidy little bathroom. In the dark, he can only see what he needs to see.

     There is a glow, just out of sight. Selar manages to turn his head in the light’s direction. It is Red’s Wife. Her hair is alive, long radiant strands blowing in the wind. Selar can feel the wind. It is drying him off, calming him down.
      Red’s Wife smiles gently down at Selar. He tries to speak, and she holds a finger to her lips. No need for talk. There will be time later.
      Red’s Wife wears a long gauzy dress of the purest white. It is billowing in the wind. Selar has never seen a garment so divine. She takes his hands in hers, and he is rising. So at peace. He is lighter than air.

      At 3:54 AM, Selar’s heart beats for the last time. His body will be found in a couple of days, after a neighbor complains of the smell coming from his room. There will be a short article in the Metro section of The Potomac News, an article mentioning foul play and a police investigation. There will be no accompanying picture, and his name will mean nothing to anyone who matters.

      It will be as though he never was alive.