"Zombie Cake" and "Loaner Car": Two Short Stories
Vivian’s hands were covered with flour. Pausing to wipe them on a Frankenstein-themed apron, she reached into the jar labeled “Peppered Black Widow Spiders.” After extracting eight of them, she shut the lid so the rest couldn’t escape. Although mostly dead, they had more vigor than expected.
It was the fourth anniversary of the day her son, Edward, became undead. Last night, as she was reading him another chapter from “Goblins Lost In Georgia,” he asked what would happen tomorrow.
“I don’t know,” she replied airily, unwilling to mention the undeadday cake she planned to make. His undeadday cake last year wasn’t well-received, and she was convinced she knew why: she hadn’t added enough spiders. Last year she’d added four spiders, so this year she was adding more. And, in case that didn’t appease him, she would add a cup of diced bacon. Edward loved bacon. Every time he ate this, he would tell his mom this with the awe of someone discovering something for the first time.
This was the most baking she’d done in months. For the birthday of Pavler, her husband, she’d baked a pie with maggots, sunflower seeds, and peanut butter. Sounds disgusting, doesn’t it? He immediately ate the entire thing; afterwards he complained about wishing he still had a working digestive system. His sense of humor wasn’t usually this crass, yet he was uncomfortable (and for good reason; the pie should have lasted him at least three days).
Edward, dressed in his favorite red-and-yellow stripped tee-shirt, strolled into the kitchen. A dead wasp was affixed to his left temple. Idly, Vivian wondered if he’d been playing “Night of the Almost Alive” with his older sister Roxanne.
“What are you doing?”
“I don’t believe you. I think you’re making me a cake.”
“Possibly. Don’t you like cake?”
“Mom, I don’t want to eat more undeadday cake. I want to eat cake like normal boys. You know: human boys. I hear they like whipped cream or frosting on their cake instead of dead cat hairs.”
“Where did you hear that?”
“On the internet.”
She grunted in dismay. “I knew it wasn’t a good idea for you to use the internet. This cake will be delicious. I’m adding extra spiders.”
“But I don’t want extra spiders. I was strawberry slices and vanilla ice cream. I want to be a real boy.”
“Edward, you know that isn’t possible. You’ll must be content with being undead.”
“I guess. But I don’t have to like it!” He informed her.
“That’s true. Would you like June bugs in your cake?”
“That’s fine. I don’t care what you put in it. It won’t taste as good as what a normal boy would eat.”
“You could be wrong, Edward. This cake could be the tastiest thing you’ve ever had.”
“We’ll see.” Edward replied skeptically before shuffling out of the kitchen.
Pausing to unscrew the jar containing the barely alive June bugs, Vivian wondered if this was the best way to celebrate the anniversary of Edward’s undeadness. Perhaps Pavler was right: the less notice they paid to such events the better. After all, they’d little reason to celebrate their undead state. It was factual, nothing more. No reason to use her supply of bacon for a cake when this could be used for muffins tomorrow morning.
Sighing, she looked around her messy kitchen in dismay. She simply wanted to make Edward happy, but it seemed hopeless. He wasn’t going to be satisfied until his life resembled the life of real people, the alive ones, those who ate birthday cake and grew older and taller every passing year.
Jessica sat uncomfortably in the driver’s seat of the cherry red Ford Focus the dealership had loaned her while her Ford Explorer was being repaired. After years of sitting higher in her Explorer, the Focus felt precariously close to the ground. It also felt cramped. With her long, lean legs she shifted until she was almost comfortable. Adjusting the rearview mirror, she noticed how being this much lower changed her perspective. No longer was she looking down at anyone driving a smaller vehicle; now she gazed directly into their vehicles, and, by default, they could see her more clearly.
Displeased with this fact, she focused on studying the dash to ensure she knew where all the essential gauges were before she left the dealership.
The Focus didn’t have the nearly the oomph her Explorer did. It seemed dainty, almost ladylike. She could imagine it refusing to accelerate while trying to traverse a narrow mountain road in her home state of Colorado. Good thing we’re in Nebraska, she thought with a bemused shake of her head.
After years of essentially living—eating, occasionally sleeping, stealing kisses from unsuitable men at stoplights—in her Explorer, the Focus seemed impersonal and sterile. It lacked the accumulated debris found in her Explorer: gum wrappers, receipts from SUBWAY, and abandoned movie stubs. Gone were the untouched maps in the glove box from her old-fashioned father; unable to believe she could get by using her smartphone for directions, he wanted her to have “real” maps as backup. Also gone was the place she’d rest her right hand while driving, or the CD collection she desperately needed to sort through. This collection included music she was horrified to have once liked—a list which included unmentionable boy bands and Taylor Swift—yet she never cleaned them out. They were part of her Explorer, and, by extension, part of her.
Merging onto the interstate, she was bewildered by how enormous the pickups and semi-trucks seemed. They whizzed by unknowingly; she sensed they could easily crush her if she didn’t pay attention.
With twenty minutes until she was expected back at work, she adjusted the review mirror and concentrated on driving. Tomorrow she’d be reunited with her Explorer and this insubstantial piece of machinery would be returned to the dealership.
Feeling grateful for a possession she typically took for granted, she shuddered as another semi-truck whipped by her. Still unsettled a minute later, she turned on the radio in search of any song which might help ease her transition into her loaner car.