May 16, 2021
Plainfield Avenue teemed with zombies.
Zombies teetering and tottering, wobbling and weaving, schlepping and shuffling down the cobbled, mobbed, and mudpuddled promenade.
At their feet crawled stray parts trying to find their way home. The fingers patiently pulling arms forward. Heels digging in and inching legs onward. Ears and noses advancing in tiny flexings.
Scarlet joined the throng.
She waved to a pair of grownups lurching past, “Hi, Mrs. and Mr. Festerson,” she waved to a couple walking by and came down the steps.
“Oh, hello Scarlet,” said Mungo Festerson. Scarlet noticed that his suit was worn thin in several places. “Hey, you should bring your folks by the cafe. We’ve got a new special, country-fried brainsteaks.”
“With an insect-reduction sauce,” smiled his wife, Swillda. Scarlet noticed she had a rip in her dress. “It’s always different.”
“Depends on the bugs we find in the morning,” Mungo beamed.
The Festerson’s lurched on.
Mr. and Mrs. Sputum came gimped up in dirt-stained dungarees and matching flannel workshirts rolled to the elbows. They flitted about, trying to contain the tumbling chaos of their shoddily clad boys — Roscoe, Loogie, Wocka-Wocka, Jethro, Pee-Wit, and Astro. The boys more like a mega-boy, one whirling mass of arms and legs noogie-ing each other’s hair and tripping each other and playing keep-away with an ear they’d found.
Except Astro, a boy from her class.
“Hi, Astro,” Scarlet nudged him. “Whatcha reading?”
“Huh?” Astro looked up from his book. “Oh, h-hi Scarlet.” He blushed. “It’s called ‘Night of the Living Living.’ It’s really scary. It’s about …”
“She doesn’t care, Brainless,” said Roscoe. Astro only had a moment to wave at Scarlet before he was yanked into the brotherly melee.
Scarlet fell in behind the Gallowses, Hallowses, and Oozes, all decked out fine suits and dresses, shambling in an orderly line with their children clustered behind them.
“Morning, guys,” said Scarlet to Sparkle and Spangle Gallows.
Scarlet didn’t expect a reply. she didn’t get one. The twins didn’t talk to Scarlet much in class or in the Threadheads, Plainfield Middle School’s after-school fashion club, unless it was to mock her beadwork. So it didn’t surprise her that their only response now was to give her a glance-and-sneer.
Scarlet couldn’t help but stare close at their capes, their boas, their hats. She tried, but failed to find anything wrong with what they were wearing. That’s okay, she thought, wait till I get my dreams-cape. Scarlet did notice that Mrs. Ooze was lurching along on another new pair of designer legs. Scarlet examined the legs closely, and giggled when she realized that the left one was longer than the right.
Scarlet heard a booming voice behind her and turned to see Squire Cerebellum Augustus Stubbs bustling around and past the slower-moving zombies. “Excuse me, pardon me,” he kept muttering overloudly, consulting, as always, his giant neckwatch.
Scarlet checked the time on her father’s watch, hanging loosely from her wrist.
She hurried on.
Scarlet passed the last of the mold-dappled brownstones of the Festerings, Plainfield’s most fashionable neighborhood (at least that’s what her mother always said). She dodged mounds of rancid rubbish glistening with tribes of slugs. Rat packs skittered here and there, looking for choice morsels.
One of the rats caught her eye. It seemed to have two heads and a brass earring in one ear. But when she looked close, it had darted off.
Her mind was soon on the wonders around her. What a glorious day! She pulled a slug from her snack jar and sucked it down, feeling that all was right in her world.
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