I can’t remember who started it, but someone painted the rules in black on plywood, nailed them to the wirepole by the wall. We just kept adding rules with time. The other poles were pulled down and used for kindling or building material, so this one stood out like one of those totems they have up in Feathersville. Some of the more religious types would sit at the bottom and pray. Hometown meetings were held in chairs on the street-corner next to it, weather permitting. It was just useful to have the rules right there in case of arguments. And we had a lot of arguments. We were running out of room on the board by the end. You could tell, because the first rules were written in big. Things got smaller as we kept adding.
These were the Hometown Rules as I remember them.
- Pissing, spitting, jacking off in or around the well (that goes for you, Helmut).
- Walking through Jel’s garden in nothing but a bowler hat.
- Not pulling your weight.
- Killing someone during a meeting or afterwards or before on purpose or anytime even if its not on purpose. That’s not the same as having a reason we all agree on.
- Kicking, punching or messing with the wall, playing matchsticks by the firewood shed or singing with the window open before firstmeal.
- Taking stuff and hiding it.
- Eating Suri’s oatmeal muffin during midmeal, but it’s okay if she leaves it for lastmeal as long as you ask her first.
- Changing your name to Gandalf and not telling anyone.
- Keeping secrets, telling secrets.
- Not telling secrets.
- Saying bad stuff about Delma or Hanuf and pretending you didn’t say it when they ask you about it
- Being paranoid.
- Being smelly for any meal, or kicking one of the kids in the groin. That last part is for anytime, not just during meals.
- Licking a spoon so no one will use it, putting carrots in Friday Meatloaf.
- Not wiping.
Most everyone followed the rules, because we all had to agree when we put one up. Then, Kraft Sedgers caught L’il Joker pissing in the well on a Thursdayeve and that’s when everything went crappers.
L’il Joker was always that way. He was the reason for at least three of the rules. Everyone knew what’s likely to’ve happened. I can see him standing under that sign, decoding the top line (Kolbi was convinced learning him to read would give him the wisdom he was missing, but she was just pouring gas on a fire already blazing). He went straight to pissing in the well because he was too lazy to read any farther. We just didn’t know how long it’d been going on until Kraft caught him during a nightly beansoup dash to the toilets. Selly always told Kraft to cut back, and still the man couldn’t hold his tempers.
L’il Joker should’ve known better, but maybe he was looking to get caught.
We had a meeting right then and there with Kraft holding L’il Joker by the collar and the poor kid hollering like a midwinter’s fire alarm, his pants at his ankles and his little bit getting hard from all the excitement. Every single one of us was mad at the thought we were drinking the kid’s piss. We didn’t care he wasn’t hardly 10 seasons tall. Some yelled out to toss him over the wall. Some wanted to give him a good strapping and be done with it, but all of us knew that wouldn’t work. People’d been giving L’il Joker straps and punches since he figured how to walk where he wasn’t supposed to.
Then Drake put his meatcleaver straight down the middle of the boy’s head and that was that. No one would argue with him because of all the zombies he’d put down over the years. Drake was a legend across half the towns we knew. Killing was his way and we loved him for it.
I can’t say I didn’t feel a thrill seeing that boy’s head split open. Just last week he’d broken one of my windows with that damned slingshot he always carried. Didn’t say sorry or nothing. The way his skull cracked was different from what we were used to. Zombie heads split open like dried apples with nothing but dust and brown inside. L’il Joker’s burst like one of Jess’s summer tomatoes, but redder. I’d forgotten colors could be like that. He twitched like a zombie, but not for as long. I felt bad for the kid, but we all knew it was bound to happen. Drake just saw to it to cut short the wait. Some people went searching the board for the rule about not killing. Drake had a reason we could all agree on, though. And pissing in the well was higher on the list.
No one could know that killing was like a rock slide – the first bouncing stone only the warning for thunder on the way. I guess we must’ve missed it – the killing, I mean. We missed it the way Selly misses her leg, feeling that itch at the bottom of a foot that’s no longer there, trying to get at the scratch and only catching wind.
To be continued…
To read previous installments of The Zombie Apocalypse After-Show, please click on the links below:
Sean Koji Callaghan has a doctoral degree in modern Japanese literature from the University of Toronto. He is currently at work on short and novel length pieces. He lives in rainy Vancouver with his wife, daughter and a disgruntled guinea pig named Wilbur.