Here’s an account of my Author Appearance in a newsletter I sent out in the past. All the free offers by me are still good. I also offer free stuff from other authors; I don’t know if their offers still hold. I keep gaining new subscribers to the Zombie Turkeys newsletter. No doubt they want the free stuff I offer with every email. (If you want to get in on the free stuff, click here.)
“You know I love your mother. But your mother’s a zombie. Who wants to see one zombie, let alone four of them?”
“Now that’s not fair. Mom and Dad have adjusted to their zombiism very well. Mom still volunteers at church and bakes cookies and pies for the bake sales. Dad still works as an accountant at GM. There’s nothing to worry about!”
“That covers Diane and George. I know them. I guess I’m ready for them. What about your brother and this new girlfriend of his? I don’t think Don has said two whole sentences to me since I’ve known him!” “He’d never get a word in edgewise, with you Ron. You said yourself; you’ve had diarrhea of the mouth. He and his friend Maggie will be fine.”
“Whatever you say, Karen,” I knew when to surrender. I focused my eyes on the Indiana turnpike ahead.
I glanced at Karen while I drove. Her arms were crossed under her breasts and she looked out the window, away from me. Trying to make peace, I said, “I thought we dodged a bullet when the zombie turkey plague just missed Gary Indiana. I never dreamt this zombie thing would hit our own family.” I said in a carefully neutral tone.
“So far, it hasn’t hit us hard. Life goes on as usual.”
Great! At least she’s talking to me. “As great as it can with glowing red eyes,” I said with a big grin.
“I suppose. I hadn’t really thought about how hard life would be, like that.”
“I have no clue what that’d be like.”
“Clueless from Toledo!”
“Clueless going to Gary.” We laughed. “Remember our rehearsal dinner?” I said.
“Sure. That was six years ago. Hard to believe.”
“Your Mom and I got along fine there. We dominated the conversation, as I recall. I hardly noticed the rest of your family. I do remember your Dad impressing me with his analytical mind. Did Don even talk? He’s like a mute bivalve.”
“Yes, a little, to me.”
“Well, I don’t remember anything.’ I only had eyes for you’,” I warbled.
“Ha! Good thing I didn’t hear you sing before I said ‘I do’.”
“I’m sure you did.”
“I’m sure I wouldn’t notice. I was too amazed I got to marry the ‘Big Man on Campus’, college graduate and internet marketer, Ron Yardley.”
“So why did a beautiful girl like you marry a guy like me?”
“I still don’t think I’m beautiful, just average. You’re the good looking one!”
“Thank you, but you’re wrong. You’re the good looking one. I’m just average.”
“We’ll have to agree to disagree.”
We settled into a companionable silence for ten miles or so. Then I said, “I know why I’m so reluctant to meet your family.”
“I did some marketing for the Midley Beacon during the turkey apocalypse last Thanksgiving and then later for author Andy Zach’s book about it, Zombie Turkeys. I saw a lot of bloody photos and videos and read too many gory details. I never liked the idea of pretend zombies, let alone real life ones. I was just glad we missed it in Toledo. Now I’m in the middle of it.”
“Now Ron, meeting my family, even if they’re zombies, doesn’t put you in the middle of another zombie apocalypse.”
“Yeah, you’re right.” That was the ultimate solution to any marital disagreement, I’ve found.
“What’s Don’s girl friend’s name again?”
“Maggie. Maggie Unsicker. Mom said they were going to announce their engagement this weekend, for Valentine’s Day. That’s why we’re going. Remember?”
“Of course. I wonder why so few people have turned zombie? First, there were zombie squirrels, then zombie rabbits, then zombie cows, and finally, a dozen people or so turned zombie.”
“None of those zombies were really numerous like the turkeys were.”
“Thank God for that! What does Maggie do, anyway? Besides play video games like Don, I mean.”
“Maggie’s a phlebotomist and a lab technician at Methodist Hospital in Gary.”
“Phlebotomist. She takes blood samples from people and then runs lab tests on them.”
As we pull up in their drive, I’m reassured by the sheer normality of their three-bedroom suburban home: Green yard, partially covered with snow, evergreen bushes, two car garage. There is no sign zombies live there. Of course, what sign could I expect? A skull and crossbones and ‘Beware of Zombies’? Perhaps a biohazard sign?
Diane greets us at the door. “Hello, my love!” She hugged Karen. Karen barely flinched as she looked into her mother’s bright, red eyes. But she grunted “Ugh!” at the force of her embrace.
“Ease up Mom.”
“Hello Mom,” I said, as I hugged her as hard I as could. She hugged me back twice as hard. “Ugh,” I grunted too. Diane still had blonde-highlighted brown hair, as she had when I first met her. She’d gained a pound or two, though. She smelled of the body talc “White Linen”. I recognized it because Karen and I bought it for her birthday last year, pre-zombie.
Diane seated us on the living room sofa. “Suppers on. I have a nice pot roast for us tonight. Donnie and Maggie should be here soon. George!” She called. “The kids are here!”
A heavy tread down the stairs announced George Newby. His eyes shone red too, but while Diane was built like a middle-aged woman, George was a classic wide-body. His shoulders filled the stairway. You’d think he was a truck driver or a lineman, rather than an accountant.
“Hi, Karen. Hi, Ron.” he rumbled. He hugged his daughter, like he held a baby bird, and shook my hand without hurting me in his bratwurst fingers.His bright red eyes looked squarely into mine.
“I’m so glad you made the trip. You can help us put to rest the ugly rumors that people with zombiism aren’t human. It’s just a disease. It’s not even harmful,” enthused Diane.
“Mom, we love you. You don’t have to convince us.” I said.
“Of course not. I know that. It’s just that we’ve had people talking behind our backs at church and the public health officials trying to pressure us to get the treatment to eliminate the disease.”
“Don’t you want to get rid of it? I think the antibiotics for it are safe and effective.”
“You’d think so, but we actually have never felt better in our lives! I have more energy than ever, and so does George–right George?”
“My arthritic aches and pains have completely disappeared and George’s old football knee injury is all better too.”
Looking out the window, George said, “Don and Maggie just pulled up.”
Entering the room, Don looked like a smaller version of his Dad, with the same squat build. Maggie was also short and plump and attractive in a round sort of way.
I’m glad Karen got all the good-looking genes in the family, I thought to myself.
We sat down to dinner. The pot roast was delicious; Diane had made it with caramelized onions and mushrooms, mixed with carrots and potatoes. Seeing four pairs of shining red eyes around the table twisted my stomach around the pot roast. I wrestled my stomach into submission and tried not to think about it.
For dessert, we had a New York style cheesecake, decorated with a big heart and “Be My Valentine” on the top.
“We have the two old sweethearts, me and George, the recent sweethearts, Karen and Ron, and the new sweethearts, Don and Maggie!” Diane announced enthusiastically. She divided the cake into six equal sections.
“Oh, that’s too much for me!” Karen exclaimed.
“OK, how about half?”
Everyone else ate the big portion of cake. Diane noticed me watch her eat hers and commented, “Our appetite has really picked up recently. We’re eating more, but not gaining weight.”
“That alone gives us reason to stay zombie,” Don spoke for the first time. Becoming a powerful zombie had really brought Don out of his shell.
“Yes, we were talking about people pressuring us to get treatment before you came.”
“Over my dead body!” Don said fiercely and then laughed at the irony.
“That’d actually be pretty hard to do,” Maggie said with a smile. Zombie jokes arose spontaneously around the Newby’s dinner table.
“And now, you two, don’t you have an announcement?” Diane looked at them expectantly.
Maggie looked at Don, raising her eyebrows in question. Or maybe, she meant, ‘She’s your mother.’ “What did you have in mind, Mom?” Don asked with a frown.
“Didn’t you say you’d get engaged this weekend?”
“Yeah, we talked about it, but we don’t see the point. We’re happy living together.”
“You told me you’d propose to Maggie this weekend!” Diane’s outrage crept into her voice.
“Yeah, but I changed my mind.”
“You promised!” Diane stood and yelled, “Don’t lie to your mother!”
“We’re adults,” Don stood too. “We’re allowed to change our minds. And don’t yell at me like a little kid.” Don stood too, glaring. at his mother.
“You’re adults, but you can’t live in adultery. If you ever want to stay in our house, you have to get married!”
“We don’t have to do anything! Let’s go, Maggie.” Don reached to take Maggie’s hand, but Diane rushed to him and grabbed his other hand.
“No, you don’t! You won’t leave until we settle this and you agree to get married!”
“Don’t be silly Mom. You can’t stop me.” He tried to push her away, but she clung burrlike to his arm.
“Don’t make me angry!” she threatened.
Finally, with a convulsive fling, he pushed her across the room. The wallboard dented where she hit. Don looked startled by his own action.
George suddenly stood up, like a mountain rising from the sea. The chair shot out behind him, hitting another section of the dining room and cracking it.
“Don—” he began, firm as a stone.
“So you want to be rough, do you?” Diane’s sudden soft tone was far more chilling than her yelling. Every eye, red and otherwise, focused on her. Diane’s eyes narrowed. George stopped, waiting.
“You asked for it. You’re not hurt anyway.” Don said. He sounded nervous