Thursday, November 03, 2011

Zeke


Old Zeke was a jerk, there was no doubt about that. A list of his redeeming qualities would be shorter than his temper, shorter than his nose hair, and certainly shorter than his rap sheet.

But here was the thing: Zeke was the best pest-removal man in the county, the best I’ve ever seen. Folks would tolerate his limited people skills and disgusting personal habits because they knew they could count on him to get rid of everything from ‘possums in the attic to mice in the kitchen. And the critters never came back; I don’t know what he did, but it was effective. It was not something you wanted to watch, people said.

For years, I was able to keep my distance from Zeke. My place was mostly pest-free, nothing I couldn’t handle myself. Our paths rarely crossed, and when they did, I tried my best to avoid eye contact, or anything else that might set Zeke off.

Everything changed last week, when something ate my dog one night. Beau was a good dog. He slept on the porch, and he was a better security system than any alarm. I had just drifted off to sleep when I heard Beau start to bark. I think that’s what he was trying to do. It was a weird sound, and then it just stopped. I could hear something moving around on the porch, and then out in the yard, so I grabbed my shotgun and opened the door.

I think of myself as a pretty tough guy, but I have to admit I wasn’t prepared for the carnage I saw in the front of my house. Suffice it to say that there wasn’t anything left of Beau to bury. I knew right away I was gonna have to call Zeke.

As I explained the situation over the telephone, Zeke interrupted. “Don’t touch nothin’. I’ll be there in 20 minutes.” And he was, rumbling up in his ugly, old green pickup truck. He stepped out of the truck, and I could tell by the smell he’d been drinking - and not bathing.

He limped around my yard, pausing now and then to lean down and pick up a piece of Beau. He’d sniff whatever it was in his hand, eye it closely, and I’d swear he licked one piece. Finally, he sat down on the porch steps, coughed into a red bandana for about five minutes, then looked up at me.

“Zombie ate your dog.”

That’s not what I was expecting to hear, let me tell you.

“Zeke, what the Hell are you talking about? Zombie my ass!” I hissed. “Wolves, maybe. If you’re not gonna take this seriously...”

Zeke stood and stared me in the eye so long that I blinked and looked away.

“You don’t have to believe me,” he said quietly. “I’m not gonna explain it to you. Not gonna tell you about the type of punctures left behind in the dog meat. I know it was a zombie that done it.

“You want me to take care of it or not?”

I nodded my head, feeling a little too freaked out to speak.

Zeke nodded too.

“I’ll come back tomorrow night,” he said. “You make sure everything’s locked up tight, and don’t come outside ‘til the next morning. Then you can go get yourself another dog.” Without another word, he got back into his truck and rumbled off.

As you can imagine, it was hard to concentrate on work the next day. I kept thinking about what Zeke said.

Zombies.

Damn.

Night finally rolled in, and I did like Zeke said. I locked all the doors, made sure the windows were shut tight and the curtains drawn. I sat in a chair with my shotgun to keep me company, waiting.

Just past midnight, I heard Zeke’s truck coming up the drive. He killed the engine, and I could hear the rusty hinges of his door swinging open and shut. Then, nothing. Crickets, for a long time. Pretty sure Zeke was sitting on the front steps.

The next sound I heard will be with me to the grave. A moan? Was that what it was? It was low, and sounded painful. Did Zeke make that sound? Or something else? Pretty soon I heard it again, only now it was coming from the side of the house, sounded like. Then there were two moans at the same time, and it was all I could do to keep from screaming myself.

I’ll always be glad the curtains were drawn, because I did not want to see what made the sounds I heard next. The moans were replaced by scuffling sounds, and something that sounded like a ripe melon hitting the ground. Then ripping noises for a long, long time.

When morning finally, blessedly, came, I slowly opened the front door and peeked outside. It looked a lot like it had the night before, so I went around back to get the hose. There were scratches all over the front of the house, and Zeke’s truck still sat in the driveway. Blood soaking everything, of course. I tripped while rounding the corner of the house, and when I looked down, I saw a hand. Just a hand. Clutching a red bandana.

We never saw Zeke again, but no one in the county could truthfully say they missed him. Come to think of it, everyone’s pest problems pretty much went away about the same time. So maybe Zeke’s still out there.

Me? I went and got another dog.




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Postscript: This was another exercise in Flash Fiction, directed, in particular, to the Three Word Wednesday blog.

2 comments:

Sheilagh Lee said...

Loved your story.

Morning said...

awesome job.