(Looking for Chapter 1? It’s here: Chapter 1, Double-Dog Dare.)
Chapter 3. Shotgun Kiss
The TV had turned itself on. It treated us to a wide-angle side view of the front steps, complete with zombie. Just one zombie, but that was plenty. Nice security system he had there. Too bad he really needed it.
Now, we all know girls who think zombies are to die for, in a manner of speaking. Maybe you’re one of them, God help you. You can have my share.
This particular zombie wasn’t the desiccated, mummy-like type. No, it was the juicy kind, fairly fresh without being anywhere near fresh enough. It had been young and muscular. A man in his twenties who died in a car crash, at a guess. If it made it into the house, the white carpet was done for and we’d be lucky if the smell ever went away completely.
“Frank, honey, this is not the after-school activity I signed up for!”
“Yeah, no kidding. Let’s retreat to the safe room and let Security handle this one.”
What safe room? But retreat was a good idea … wasn’t it?
He added, “If they can.”
“You’re not filling me with confidence here, snookums.”
“Oh, we’ll be all right. It’s just a zombie.”
The safe room, it turned out, was the master bathroom. Frank locked the surprisingly heavy door and barred it with three steel bars he pulled from the linen closet.
There was a phone on the wall and he picked it up and dialed, tapping his foot until someone answered. Then he said, “Yeah, hello, it’s Frank Barron. I’m in the safe room with a guest. That’s right. There’s a zombie at the front door. No, of course it’s after us! If it was selling encyclopedias, it’d carry a sample case!” He slammed down the phone. “Idiot.”
I felt trapped. What were we doing in here? I felt like the room was a vending machine and we were the candy bars. We were helpless, reduced to hoping the monsters were all out of dimes. I wanted out! “I’m starting to freak out, sweetie.”
“Do you want me to comfort you?”
“Get rid of the damned zombie, you moron!”
He laughed. “Atta girl.” He swelled with purpose. He really did. He seemed larger. More dangerous.
There was a little portable TV on the counter. He turned it on. It showed the zombie pounding away slowly with its fists. The front door was already badly splintered.
Frank barely glanced at it. He turned away and opened the cabinet that concealed the water heater. Next, he demonstrated that the water heater was a fake. It spun around like a lazy Susan and revealed … a treasure trove.
He pulled out a nickel-plated double-barreled sawed-off shotgun and handed it to me. “You know how to use this?”
I’d done some skeet shooting. Who hasn’t? I snapped the action partway open. It was loaded, all right. I closed the action. Oh, my. It made the most wonderful muted clicking sound, announcing that Death was in the room. “Just point and shoot, lover boy.”
“Remember to cock the hammers, too, pumpkin.” He handed me a canvas ammo pouch and I slung it over my shoulder.
For himself, he took out a slim brown wooden rod about a foot and a half long, tapering at one end and with a wrapped leather grip at the other. Too thin to be a nightstick. It was a magic wand. Had to be. A businesslike magic wand. Oversized and without a trace of ornamentation. He put its leather strap around his right wrist and said, “Ready, tootsie?”
“Don’t call me tootsie, sweetums.”
“Let’s do this?” I didn’t mean for it to come out as a question, but it did.
He bent down and kissed me on the lips. It was quick, over almost before it began. “Come on.”
Yes, that’s right. That’s the story of my first kiss. But I have to admit that it wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t bad at all. Okay, okay! It was wonderful. Just you try kissing a boy while holding a sawed-off shotgun loaded with (as I found out later) silver buckshot while a zombie is doing its best to break in and kill you. It’s vivid, that’s what it is. It made me feel special. Loved. Invincible.
Frank took the lead and we strode back into the living room. The zombie had battered a hole in the front door that gave us a good view of its chest and head. It saw us, gave a strangled roar, and redoubled its efforts. The hole wasn’t big enough to let the zombie in, but its stench was coming through loud and clear.
“You go first, sweet cheeks,” said Frank. “Just one barrel at a time. That thing kicks like a mule.”
Maybe I should have been scared out of my wits, but Frank was confident enough for both of us. I made a mental note to murder him if he ever called me “sweet cheeks” again. I cocked both hammers and raised the shotgun. I pulled the stock firmly against my shoulder and squeezed the first trigger.
Geysers of rotting gore spurted from the zombie’s chest as the buckshot struck home. Some sprayed into the room. Fortunately, we were too far back to be spattered. The zombie gave a muffled bellow—muffled, I suppose, because the buckshot had perforated its lungs. It fell back out of sight but then popped up like a Jack-in-the-box. It was looking distinctly ragged. I gave it the second barrel, then snapped open the action to reload.
Frank shouted, “That’s right, world! She’s my girlfriend!” Then all was quiet.
My fingers were trembling, making it hard to load the two new shells. I wanted to curse and rush things, but I made myself slow down. I found a pace my fingers could manage, and that felt a lot better.
The click when I closed the action did its magic again. Bring it on! I took a step forward, intending to peer out the greatly enlarged hole in the door. Frank put a hand on my shoulder. “No using the front door, remember?”
A glance at TV showed that my second shot had left the zombie more or less headless. It wasn’t even twitching anymore. The battle was over.
My excitement faded quickly. It was replaced by … other feelings. I sagged. “Can I throw up now?”
Frank deftly relieved me of the shotgun and led me to the hall bathroom. His tone was gentle. “All the comforts of home. Nothing’s too good for my zombie-slaying girlfriend.”
I vomited into the toilet and said weakly, “I promised my father I wouldn’t kill on a first date.”
“No problemo. It was already dead.”
“You’re a jerk.”
“What? And I thought everything was going so well!”
I couldn’t help smiling at that. I waited for my stomach to settle (or not, as the case may be). Frank’s attention was mostly on the front door. It had become a merely nominal barrier. He watched me out of the corner of his eye, though. Every time I looked at him, we both cracked up. I don’t know why. A minute later I got to my feet, used the bathroom tumbler to rinse my mouth, and said, “Frank, honey?”
“If this is a quiet afternoon at home, what the heck is going to happen at the dance?”
To be continued in Chapter 4, “Double Anchovies.”