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Chapter Seventeen

Which brings us back to me.

Archie told me how he killed the zombies. They showed up back at Miller's filling station in the Deathmobile and Archie and Charlie Washington lured them back to McCloud's and ended up stuffing them into that big old tree shredder that you may remember I mentioned, way back in the beginning of all this. It was an ungodly scene, with bits of flesh and bone flying everywhere—Rog even took his guitar down the chute with him—and the last thing Archie described to me was Joanie's beautiful legs being chopped into bite-sized pieces, disappearing into the machine's maw, little by little, once and for all. The end.

Nice. Predictable. Like something you might have seen in a movie somewhere. Trouble is: it didn't happen like that. That was a dream, a fantasy, a delusional hospital drug cocktail-induced reverie. A product of Archie's imagination. The thing maybe he wanted to happen. Because that is what is expected.

It's all the time about expectations, isn't it? Your parents expect you to do this. Your teachers expect you to do that. Your friends and enemies expect you to do this, that, and the other thing.

And that's the problem with zombie stories. We grow up with these monsters lurching across our movie screens and in our casual reading, and they dance grotesquely through the collective popular imagination, and the zombies are always after human brains to eat and the only way you can get rid of them is to chop off their heads. Destroy them utterly. Because it's expected. Because there's no other way, in our collective human experience, to deal with the "problem."

Well once you start thinking about that, you begin to understand what zombie stories are all about, and why they appeal to high school kids. Particularly.

It's all about consciousness. And our lack of it. And it's all about our fear of the unknown. Let's face it: as teenagers, we really don't know a hell of a lot; we just think we do. And we don't really become conscious of this fact for a long time. Sometimes it takes forever.

In my case, it started to become clear the night I helped save the zombies' deaths. Yeah. Weird, I know. It's like Shakespeare used to say: There are more things in heaven and earth, homeboy, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. The thing is, I didn't have a philosophy. I didn't even know what I was gonna do if I ever got out of Willard Freeman Memorial High alive. There's a lotta kids like that I guess. Kinda quiet. Sorta invisible. Just waiting.

It was pretty late when Mr. Davis called. It turned out that the Gulfstream was going to need more fuel, cause his plans had changed. The airport was closed and the pilots were just sitting there on the runway burning jet juice at a terrifying rate. Those 35 million dollar "little" jets do that, you know. It probably costs fifteen grand just to fly from here to L.A. In fuel I mean. Not to mention on-going maintenance and pilot salaries and the loan to buy the plane in the first place. Sometimes they don't even buy these planes; they, like, lease them and then charter them out to other rich dudes who don't have the stomach for the aviation game.

I was learning all about that, working as a line boy at the airport. These rich guys…it's a whole different life. One time I met Neil Young, in the lounge, with just his guitar and a briefcase, having a cup of coffee and writing a song on an FBO brochure. He had to get to Alberta quick, quietly, and you can do that kinda thing with a little 35 million dollar jet plane. Long as you're in The Club I mean. You have to be in The Club. And that's what I was learning about, along with aerodynamics and navigation and the physics and stuff. How you get to be in The Club.

Well I've got the static wire hooked up, so a stray piece of static electricity won't arc through the air and blow the fuel truck and the Gulfstream all to hell, and the plane's drinking a lot of fuel, cause it'll fly coast to coast without stopping you know. Farther. That's why they came out with the Model V over the Model IV. It'll do 7500 miles on 41,000 pounds of fuel. From New York to Tokyo nonstop. It's pretty cool. And Mr. Davis, he just hands me his credit card, topping off with about 15,000 pounds of Jet A. I always like that. The guys in The Club, they have these credit cards with, like, NO limit, you know? Mr. Davis can fly to Tokyo and stay in the best hotel he wants to for a month and then fly back home. On his credit card. That's really cool. He could probably buy a Gulfstream V on his credit card if he wanted to. I love that.

One thing you gotta do, when they let you hang out, is: you gotta keep your eyes open and your mouth shut. I mean I could tell you stuff you wouldn't believe (I guess I am, hunh? That's kinda funny.) But, really, loose lips sink ships, right? "Circumspect, Anthony," Mr. Davis always says to me, "Circumspect." Cause when you're in The Club, you can do almost anything. It's cool.

So it's dark and pretty cold, especially out there on the flight line at that hour, and I hear it before I see it: here comes the Deathmobile, all trashed-up with its headlights all pointing in the wrong directions and all. And it almost hits the jet, it comes vrooming down the taxiway and stops exactly at the last possible minute. And out climbs Palumbo, and Joanie and Rog, and last but not least, Roberta Eliot, and the pilot lights up and there's that great smell in the air, of money burning, and even though I've got my muffs on, the sound is deafening.

Mr. Davis, he shakes his head to me, as if to say "Circumspect, Anthony, circumspect," and he motions me to go help Palumbo and Rog with the band gear, speakers and amps and stuff that they've got stuffed in the back of the van, which I do, but it's, like, weird, cause, well, I thought they were all, like, dead, right? But here they are, all messed up and all, but, like, zombies? And when I go around back, who do I see but Mr. McCloud, Archie's boss from the funeral home? And he sorta nods at me, and grabs my shoulder to help himself out. He's limping a little bit, but he quickly climbs into the plane.

It takes us a couple minutes to load and secure all the gear, and we're working very quietly, because of the noise and also, I guess, because zombies can't talk. Or won't. I mean I don't know anything about zombies at this point. I am what you call a tabula rasa, a blank slate, when it comes to weird stuff like that.

I get the plane all buttoned up, and I'm stepping away when Mr. Davis, standing in the doorway, catches my eye. He's got tears in his eyes, and he nods his gratitude, and he turns to enter the plane, but just as quickly, like an afterthought, he turns back to me, and he motions to me: wanna come with?

And I don't know what makes me do this, I really don't, but I jump at the chance. A lotta kids would I think. They let me ride up front with the pilots, and they had, like, really good gourmet food, and my mind is working a million miles an hour, but like they say in the song, it's all good.

________________

When you fly westbound, you're constantly flying into the night you know. Into the unknown. The mysterious. If your plane was fast enough, you would forever outrun the sun, never see the light of day. Understanding where the sun goes is what the Ancient Egyptians were all about, I think, and mankind since then too, on a certain level, searching ever westward, looking for the end of it all, for the answers to all of the questions. Life. Death. Is it possible they're really the same thing? I mean two parts of the Same Thing. Is that the Big Question?

Freeman, the band, isn't really about Big Questions I don't think. They just play old-fashioned roadhouse rock n roll with a touch of the macabre. They're so popular around the world, I guess, because of their look, probably. You know, deep Goth, with a wonderful lot of Sex from the girls. Joanie and Roberta spend as much time on their clothes and hair and makeup as they ever did. Probably more. Kids are into that dark sexuality I think. I mean it's the Unknown too, kinda, isn't it? The Forbidden?

McCloud has been, like, reborn. We started the first tour in Japan, and he told me about a zillion stories about the war and how once you've tasted that sort of violent death it never, ever really leaves you; how you become haunted by it and—if you let it—it can really mess you up. He's much happier now than he ever was before, and I think it has to do with the fact that, for a change, his work doesn't disappear into the ground, shrinking from peoples' memory like a bad dream.

People say they like the songs. That's my contribution, along with the sequencing and the vocals, so I hope they do. I try to make them be about something. The only throwaway I ever did was Accident'ly Auto'rotic, which is sorta based on the official explanation for what happened to Mr. Dwyer. I don't think about that part of it much. How can you? He's dead and the kids who killed him are…dead...too. Right? Everybody's suffered enough.

Archie Meader is on a full scholarship to Yale, which is Mr. Davis's alma mater. He's gonna go to Yale Divinity School. It's definitely a road less traveled, and I think it'll make all the difference.

The End

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