The Woes of the Zombie Man – Chapter VI
In which Boris begs the Butcher
The Butcher smiled. Within the dank recess of his meat emporium’s killing room, pacing on a blood-stained and soon to be blood-soaked floor, he cradled a fully grown pig in his gargantuan arms as he stared deep into its eyes and whispered to it in sweet, nonsensical baby talk. He sang to it the same lullaby he always sang in these situations, and it sounded as good as it never did. The pig oinked softly, happily dreaming and then happily not, lulling in and out of consciousness. The Butcher kissed the beast wetly on the snout, then forcibly shoved a substantial hand into the things mouth, his arm following it in well past the elbow. The muscles of his forearm danced inside the animal’s throat as his fingers searched blindly for its heart, which they soon found, removed, and tossed still beating into the fryer before being licked clean each individually by a bearded mouth and thrust into the pig once more, hunting for something else. They weren’t sure what yet. Whatever they found would most likely be used in some capacity, seeing as the Butcher wasn’t much one to waste.
He didn’t believe in paying another man to do a job he could easily do himself and he definitely didn’t want anyone under the impression that he was just a meat middleman. Hell no. He was equal parts slaughterer and salesman, and his killing room was where the meat he sold was harvested. He had brought doom to many a species of beast in that room. Pigs. Chickens. Rabbits. Possums. Deer. Cows. He had once slayed a bucking bronco with a sledgehammer just to see what it would taste like fried. Chickenesque. This death-loving, angry-browed, foul-smelling behemoth of a man who never wore a shirt not covered in blood stains was the sole owner and operator of A Meat Shop, his aptly named place of business.
The sun had barely risen and Boris was already having a bad day, as was the norm. Dumpster diving halfheartedly, he was having trouble committing himself wholly to his craft. Perusing particularly putrid perishables peeved him as he peered across the parking lot at a portly person publicly punishing a pan-fried pork chop on a patio. He or she looks well-fed, Boris reflected as he wasn’t. Boris gazed on as the pork-chop was greedily wolfed down. He had never eaten a cut of meat like that before, but if he had, he imagined it would have been an agreeable occurrence. As he enviously watched the globular guy or girl put away the platter with gusto, Boris slid into a meat-induced hunger trance. Visions of succulent steaks swirled in his mind, occupying his full attention. His eyes stopped focusing on actuality as deeply realistic daydreams of pot roast brought to his nose pungent smells he had never known but somehow loved. Vividly hallucinating, he stood there smiling and moaning with an almost sexual desire, starry-eyed, salivating, craving tender meats.
A car horn sliced through the air and Boris’s regrettable reality thudded back into place. His senses adjusted to his surroundings. Dizzily finding himself inside a dumpster, he let go of the garbage that was clenched in his hands. Wading waist deep in waste, a wave of want washed over his being. He needed to get his hands on a nice steak.
Discontinuing his dig in the filth, Boris jumped out of the dumpster with a calling. He briskly walked around the corner where Bugger was taking a nap in the shade. Bending down and petting the dog’s hairless, lumpy back, he pictured the two of them sharing a filet. He would find a way to make it happen. Walking off a ways so Bugger could sleep, Boris looked up into the sky and contemplated praying, but decided against it. It had never helped him before. Resolute in his aim but unsure how to proceed, he looked down and saw between his feet a twenty dollar bill. He picked it up and looked at the crumpled, rectangular piece of fabric in awe. He held in his hands more money than he had ever seen. He thought of the things he could do with it. He could buy something. Or he could make a purchase. Both ideas were alien. His body jolted as he was struck with a sudden revelation. He could buy meats.
Within the red brick walls of A Meat Shop, the Butcher was busy strangling a lamb to death with his bare hands. Outside of them, just across the street, Boris was cozily concealed inside a trashcan, examining the slaughterhouse through the slit under the can’s lid. He was apprehensive; he had encountered the Butcher before. Once, in his younger, braver days, Boris had gotten caught fishing for scraps in the dumpster behind A Meat Shop and been bludgeoned badly by a buffalo femur. Since then he had kept his distance. He knew he should continue to do so, but he was hungrier than he was scared of the Butcher. And he was terrified of the Butcher.
Observing the scene from his tasteless hideout, Boris used every brain cell he had on his person trying to think of a course of action in which he would accomplish his goal and not get pulverized in the process, but he came up with nothing. He knew only one thing: he couldn’t enter A Meat Shop looking the way he did. The Butcher would surely recognize and probably attack him, which could prove fatal. Boris also took into consideration the general sense of panic his being seen in public would without a doubt give rise to. The acceptability of his appearance was at the lowest trough yet in its wavelength, which was really more of a downward slope seeing as it had never experienced an upswing and was relatively steady in its descent. Every square inch of him was either blistered, scarred, gangrenous, greenish, warty, chapped, or blemished in some other way. In any case, all of him was thoroughly yucky. To squirm is the correctest, elective, selectable action permissible in reaction to his septic epidermis. Boris was confident that anyone who saw him enter the place would be responsible enough to call the police or the health inspector.
A light bulb flashed brilliantly in his head before blinking on and off a few times and burning out, but Boris decided to go with it anyway. He did not know very much about his target, but he did know very little. Boris had heard somewhere that the Butcher was a bit of a racist. This, coupled with the need to keep his own identity a secret, was the basis for his plan. With some reluctance, he slithered clumsily out of the trashcan and went off to gather the necessary materials. After half a day of dumpster diving, he discovered and donned a dirty, previously-white bed sheet he hoped would resemble a Ku Klux Klan uniform. And with that his plan was in action.
Wearing the unfashionable getup, he walked into A Meat Shop with his newly found money held high and declared:
“I’ll take twenty dollars of meat, please.”
But the Butcher, who was a surprisingly despicable man in terms of his personal views on civil rights and would have been proud to feed a fellow advocate of Klankraft at no charge, refused to serve him on grounds of confusion.
In the Butcher’s defense, the bed sheet was very dirty and tattered and made a poor costume. It didn’t even come to a point atop Boris’s head. Hardly any blacks would have found it offensive.
The Butcher grumbled in a low, gravelly voice, “Just what in the hell are you supposed to be?”
“Well, actually, I–”
“Scratch that. I don’t wanna know. Just get out my shop, maggot.”
“Please, sir. All I ask of you is twenty dollars of meat.”
Boris extended the twenty into the air with both arms as a sign of good faith. Even his hands were covered by cloth as he held the cash. The only part of him that could be seen under the bed sheet were his beady, desperate eyes through two ripped holes.
Visibly annoyed, the Butcher flexed the arms he had crossed in front of his massive chest as he stared disdainfully at the disheveled crackpot who was waving money around and making odd requests. In his unique choice of apparel, the vagrant looked like a ghost without a house to haunt. The Phantom Hobo. The Butcher didn’t have time for this. He had a rambunctious pack of wolves in his killing room and he was anxious to try out his new broadsword.
“I told you to get out. I’m not gonna say it again.”
“I have money. Please, sir. I just wan–“
The Butcher had had enough. He snatched up a 72 ounce rib eye (bone in), jumped swiftly over the counter, and swung the flaccid steak with lethal force at the intruder’s head. The gigantic slab of meat wiggled in a wide arc with increasing speed and smashed into Boris’s face, breaking his nose and bloodying his mouth. Boris flew back, his feet just inches above the tiles. The way the bed sheet flapped as he hovered made him look like a real ghost, but instead of passing through the wall, his body slammed into it and he fell to the floor, nearly unconscious.
The Butcher walked over to the crumpled nuisance and slapped it around with the rib eye a little more. He then ripped the filthy cloth off its almost lifeless body.
“You! I remember you. You’re that little zombie boy.”
Blood leaked from Boris’s mouth and ran down his corroding face as he smiled up at the hulking death bringer and weakly croaked:
“It’s Zombie Man.”
The Butcher cocked the steak back behind his head and brought it down like a hammer. A wet whistle preceded a SMACK! Our hero, feeling fairly flattened, saw the Butcher move to ready a second blow, which both he and the Butcher knew would put him down for good, so he latched on to the juicy weapon tightly. The Butcher chuckled and easily lifted the steak in front of himself with one arm and Boris came up with it. Grabbing on to the steak fiercely, biting into it to improve his grip, Boris rose until the two were eye to eye. The brute looked at the rabid madman curiously for a few seconds. He didn’t know if he was more annoyed or amused with the pest.
“You’re a hungry little fucker, ain’tcha?”
The Butcher shook the giant piece of meat, but he could not free it from the hungry creature. Being jerked back and forth, enduring whiplash, Boris frantically clung to the steak with both arms and his teeth. The room wobbled around him as he hung on. His teeth sank farther into the meat and he hugged it with all of his strength. He felt weak, but he had never been so strong. He was going to bring the steak back to Bugger.
The Butcher laughed heartily as he shook and shook the dead flesh being clutched by seemingly dead flesh.
“You know what? I’m impressed. You can have it. It’s no good to me now.”
Holding the mishmash of meat and miscreant in front of him like a dirty diaper, the Butcher walked outside and threw the whole mess overhand towards the street. Boris watched the whole world whirl by before – Wham! Landing hard on his ass, still hugging the steak, he sat there stupidly. It was then clear to him just how big the hunk of meat was. It was as big as his torso and covered him like a beef blanket. He sat there longer, studying the thing incredulously. His entirety hurt, but he didn’t care. He couldn’t believe it. He had steak. His plan had worked perfectly.
Bugger had not moved all day. He was still asleep, relaxing in the cool breeze tunneling lightly down the alley. Boris found him lying there and smiled down at his best friend. He nudged the sleeping dog with his foot.
“Got us some real food, boy. We’re gonna be doin’ some good eatin’ tonight.”
Bugger woke with a start. What had resembled road kill seconds before was now full of life and excitedly running circles around its caretaker, the Guardian of Garbage. Even with his grievous injuries, Boris could not stop his heart from warming at the sight of his buddy. The duo sat down on the concrete, preparing for dinner. Boris did his best to cook the huge steak with a BIC lighter he had found on the ground, but the small, hand-held flame only charred the outside of it in grayish spots, leaving the center completely raw. Finding the eatin’ as good as it was likely to get, the main course was served. Boris gnawed gently on one end of it while Bugger tore himself off a large piece and swallowed it whole. Boris had lost some teeth from the meat beating, making it difficult for him to eat, but he was relieved. For the first time in a long time, he was focused not on surviving, but on enjoying himself, which he wasn’t. He was miserable. His mouth was so busted up he could hardly chew. But Boris could see how happy he had made Bugger, and that made it all a little easier to swallow.
previous: The Woes of the Zombie Man – Chapter V
more by S.P. REILLY
photograph by Benjamin Faust