Zombies © 2016 Stephanie Heijkoop
It taste like baby food but not the good kind like custard or apple pie. It’s spinach and carrots and boiled potatoes and I’ve mashed it in a food processor. There’s more in the freezer. Six containers of them.
When I finish eating, I slide the container of mush to the centre of the table. Let the cat finish it off if he dares.
Mum is sleeping on the couch. The coffee table is piled up with junk, like beer bottles and plastic bags, and pizza boxes. I’m not sure if I should wake her up now, or wait until the morning. I have to remind her that it’s Jessica’s birthday tomorrow and we need to buy her a cake.
Mum has one of her zombie friends over. His head is sleeping on her lap. I tip-toe towards them and lift the blanket from the floor and throw it over mum. I don’t care if it covers mum’s zombie friend’s head. I don’t even care if it suffocates him.
In my bedroom I take out a book called Matilda, by Ronald Dahl, from underneath my pillow. It’s Jessica’s favourite movie and now I can give it to her as a book, which I’m sure she’l appreciate. I nicked it from the library.
Still in pretty good condition.
I read half of it first to make sure it doesn’t include any profanity.
I don’t have any nice wrapping paper for it, but I do have tissue paper. My best friend, Gemma was kind enough to give me some from her kitchen, so I wrap up Matilda as neat as I can and stick it all together with blue tack, because I don’t have sticky tape.
Jessica isn’t awake yet. Neither is mum, though her voice box sure is. She’s snoring extra loud this morning.
I’m standing against the kitchen counter in my favourite white tank top, the one with Miney Mouse. Mum’s zombie friend approaches me and I offer him buttered toast with Vegemite.
“I also think we might have some cheese left over.”
“Left over from what?” He says. He’s staring at the part of my chest where my breasts are supposed to be, and it’s really the only time I’m grateful that they haven’t graduated beyond tiny hills that can easily be mistaken for fat. Still, I don’t like it when he looks, even if there isn’t anything there to see. I cover my chest by folding my arms over them and stare at the pimple on Zombie’s chin.
“What’s your name?” He asks me.
With much hesitation I answer, “Sarah.” It’s a bit of an old fashioned name, and I don’t really care for it, but I only tell this to people that I like.
“And I’m eleven,” I add just in case he plans on staring at anything below my chest.
Zombie takes a beer from the fridge and opens it up with his teeth which are black and mostly missing. Yuck. He has long thin hair that he keeps tied up in an elastic band, and the yellow kitchen light above bounces off the bald spot on his head.
“How old are you?” I ask.
“Old enough for you to not ask questions.” He says, which doesn’t make any sense.
I turn around and start on the dishes, which lucky for me, is only some plastic containers and a few drinking glasses.
“Happy birthday to you. You’re one hundred and two. You look like a monkey, and you smell like one too.”
I knew Jessica would like that. She’s sitting at the kitchen table resting her chin in her palm and she’s laughing.
I still don’t have a birthday cake for her yet because mum hasn’t woken up. I’ve bought us some time by lying and telling Jessica that the bakery is making her a special cake, and we have to wait until they’ve finished making it before we can eat it, obviously.
She’s bought it.
Mum’s zombie friend has multiplied into seven of them, and they’re all drinking beer and sitting around the coffee table. One of them has stuck a needle on the inside of his elbow, and my old t-shirt that I never wear any more because I spilled spaghetti sauce on the front, and it won’t wash out, is tide around his arm.
I’m not stupid. I know they’re doing drugs.
I wonder why mum is still sleeping. It’s kind of rude to be asleep while your friends are over.
Jessica has opened up her present. I gave it to her before she had the chance to wake up properly, or brush her teeth. I was too excited to wait.
Mum is making moaning noises now so I walk over to her and stand above her sweaty forhead. I can feel her zombie friends staring at me, but I don’t care.
Mum’s eyes open and I smile. She smiles back.
She’s in a good mood.
She doesn’t look at all surprised that there are seven of her friends in the living room, in fact, she looks happy. She doesn’t greet them like normal guests, instead she says, “Give me that,” and one of her zombie friends, the fat one, hands her something, but I don’t know what.
Mum looks up at me. “Sarah, go outside and play. It’s a nice day.”
“No it’s not,” I say. “It’s raining.”
“Well, go find something to do.”
“Actually,” I say, and I bend down to ear level. “We have to buy Jessica a birthday cake.”
“Isn’t your daughter just a beauty,” says one of her zombie friends. “You’re going to have to chase men out of this house with a rifle in a couple of years.”
Mum ignores her friend and tells me that I can take whatever I find in her purse and use it for Jessica’s birthday cake.
I walk into mum’s room where she always keeps her handbag and I open up her purse. I count out four dollars and fifty cents.
None of the bakery’s near my house had any nice birthday cakes for four dollars and fifty cents. There was a really yum looking cake with chocolate swirl icing for thirty four dollars and fifty cents, but there was no way to steal it because it was locked behind the counter glass.
Mum forgot to buy Jessica a birthday present and promised her two of them for next year.
I did end up finding a birthday cake. It’s a white chocolate mud cake from Woolworths and it tastes absolutely yum.
I smile at Jessica from across the table as I savour every bite of yum cake.
Jessica is nine now. I ask her if she feels like she’s gotten any older. She shakes her head. I squint at her and say I can see a new wrinkle.
We both laugh, and a little bit of cake goes down the wrong way.
I cough madly until the tiny piece of wet cake flies out and hits one of the zombies on the back of his head. I can’t believe it made it all the way to the living room from the kitchen table. I’m impressed.
Most of the zombies are asleep. Mum isn’t. She’s wide awake like she’s had ten coffee’s all at once and she’s talking to one of her friends, really fast and really excited.
I never listen in to any of her conversations, because if I do I’ll have questions, and if I have questions I get told to mind my own business.
It’s Sunday and it’s raining. Typical. I’d love to walk Jessica over to her friends house before I go and visit Gemma, but for the life of me, I can’t find my umbrella.
So we play poker in the living room, even though neither of us knows how to play. One of mum’s zombie friends offers to teach us, but Jessica and I find it hard to listen to him because of his accent. I wonder if it would be polite to ask him where he is from?
I don’t ask.
Before I go to bed I tuck Jessica in. Something in her bedroom smells.
“Did you wet the bed again?” I ask. “Because I need my bed all to myself,” I say.
I’ve almost outgrown my bed, and there is simply no room for the two of us anymore.
“If you have, you’re going to be sleeping in mum’s bed.”
Jessica shakes her head. “It’s not my pee.”
“What do you mean?”
Jessica tightens her lips together for a second. “A man came in here last night and peed.”
Jessica points to her big stuffed bear that sits on the floor in the corner of her room. It’s even bigger than I am.
I walk over to her stuffed bear and touch the belly with the back of my hand. Sure enough, it’s wet.
And it sticks of piss.
“I don’t know what I’m more angry about,” I tell mum, who has a big stupid smile spread across her face.
“The fact that one of your grown man friends walked into Jessica’s room last night, or the fact that he pissed on her stuffed bear. Or both”
I cross my arms over my chest and stick my chin out.
I said the word piss, which is swearing, but I think this is an occasion where I can be forgiven.
I’m in the living room. All of the zombies have left, except for one. The fat one.
Mum is lying on the couch still smiling. Her eyes look sleepy now.
I wait for an answer.
I don’t get an answer so I kick the coffee table and a glass falls off, smashing to pieces against our wooden floor boards.
I still don’t get an answer, in fact, mum isn’t moving at all besides the odd blink.
Her fat friend is watching the news with the sound turned off.