June 5th, 2012

The Dead Walk in Florida

Hover over Spanish phrases to reveal their English translations.

“You know they got zombies in Florida now.”

Huddled shoulder to shoulder with his twin brother Marco and frequent out-of-town mischief-maker Cheehawk Parker, Alejandro smoothed the newspaper out on the dirt, waving for the other two boys to move in closer. They scooched on their butts, making the circle tighter. This discussion was obviously serious business, and Marco could tell Alejandro didn’t want their parents snooping on them.

“Aw, there ain’t any zombies in Florida,” Cheehawk said importantly, sucking his teeth. Of the three of them, worldly knowledge such as the whereabouts of zombies was squarely in Cheehawk’s domain. Marco and Alejandro were only eight, but Cheehawk was nearly an adult at the ripe old age of eleven. As far as the young boys of Love & War were concerned, Cheehawk’s knowledge of the world was legendary. After all, he lived in Odessa. “Where did you hear that? I swear, Alex. You’re gullible as a girl sometimes. You’ll believe anything.”

But Alejandro ignored his friend, tapping the newspaper with his finger. The article depicted a man’s headshot with a headline that read, “Miami Man Shot to Death After Eating Homeless Man’s Face.” Alejandro turned a smug smile to the older boy. “Lookit here. That dude in Miami — and that’s in Florida, by the way, I asked my Dad — nommed that other guy’s face off. Just like zombies do.” He grinned with self satisfaction, folded his hands under his chin in triumph. “What do you make of that, jackass?”

Cheehawk held up a soft, ample hand up as if to say “Wait” while leaning his face closer to the newspaper. “Hang on, hang on. Let me read it, geez.” The boy’s eyes moved slowly over the article, his lips mouthing the words as he read. His jowls quivered with his concentration. Marco read the article along with Cheehawk, and halfway upside down at that, but finished much sooner. Cheehawk might know all about the dangers of hand grenades and girls who wore short short skirts, but he wasn’t a very fast reader. When he was finally done, he sat back and pushed the paper slightly forward. “It’s pretty gross, but it doesn’t say he ate that guy’s brain. Zombies eat brains, not faces.”

Marco had to agree. As intriguing as the idea of zombies in Florida was, he didn’t think that this newspaper article proved anything. “Also,” Marco said slowly, “I don’t think zombies are real.”

At this, Alejando pounded his fist into his leg, eyes wide with incredulity. “Not real? Are you crazy? Maybe they didn’t used to be real. That’s why it’s so scary! Because zombies used to just be fake but now something is happening in the world and it’s making normal humans into face-eating monsters.”

“But zombies eat brains,” Cheehawk reminded him.

Alejandro gritted his teeth, narrowed his eyes at his friend. “How are you supposed to get to the brains, moron? Even zombies probably aren’t strong enough to eat a guy’s skull. You have to start with the face and then work you way up to the brains.”

But Cheehawk was not convinced. “But how do you get to the brains through the face?”

“Through the eyeholes, asshole!”

Marco gasped at his brother’s language, but as soon as the breath of air passed over his lips, Marco already regretted it. Alejandro and Marco were twins, but they were also natural enemies, with Alejandro being by far the more vicious of the two. It was not unusual for Marco to suffer sudden kicks, fists to the nose, or toothpaste in his shoes whenever he managed to raise his brother’s ire. Marco was a pacifist and could rarely find it in himself to retaliate against his brother’s attacks. As a result, Marco’s primary survival tactic was: Do not invite danger.

Marco gulped, hurried to meet his brother’s eyes. “No te preocupesDon’t worry, Alex. I’m not gonna say anything to Mama about what you just said.”

Alejandro growled. “That’s because I didn’t say anything. Right?”

Marco pursed his lips, choosing not address this. It was one thing for Alex to call their friend a jackass. Even their stepfather Chucho sometimes called people burrosliterally “Mule”, slang for a very stubborn person. But to call their friend an asshole was a whole new level of slur. Marco didn’t like it, but he also didn’t like being awoken in the middle of the night with a pillow being pressed over his face. It had happened more than once.

“Anyway, I’m still not so sure it’s zombies though, Alex,” Marco pressed on. “I think you gotta chop off a zombie’s head to kill it. Nobody chopped off this guy’s head. The police just shot him.”

“Show’s what you know,” Alex snarled. “You don’t gotta chop off their head. You just gotta destroy the brain.”

Cheehawk clucked his tongue, eyes moving purposefully over the article a second time. “It doesn’t say they shot him in the head, though, Alex.”

“It doesn’t say they didn’t.”

“But — “

“Hang on,” Marco interrupted, sensing that the growing debate around him might degenerate into fisticuffs as so many of Alejandro’s arguments tended to do. “We don’t gotta argue about this. I think I know an expert we can ask. About zombies.”

The other two boys immediately quick their bickering, eyes turned on Marco. Alejando leaned back, placed his weight in his palms against the dirt. “You know a zombie expert, smart one? Really? Why don’t you go find out right now? I’ll wait.”

Marco glanced up at the sky. It was nowhere near nighttime yet, and while the expert Marco had in mind wasn’t completely averse to daylight, he preferred to lurk amongst shadows. Twilight, Marco suspected, would be a much better time of day to call upon his secret friend.

“I can’t ask him right now,” Marco explained. “I don’t know where he’s at. Probably in a couple hours — “

At this, Alex socked his brother in the arm. “I said we’ll wait. Right, Cheehawk?”

Cheehawk sniggered. “Yeah, we’ll wait. See ya, Marco.”

Marco glanced between the two boys faces, momentarily confused until he realized he was being played. Not only was he being tasked with hunting down the zombie expert, (which they no doubt didn’t believe existed) buthe was also being dismissed. Alejandro and Cheehawk meant to cause mischief that he was not being invited to participate in.

That would mean trouble for him later. He was sure of it.

Sighing, Marco hauled himself to his feet, dusting sand from his butt. “Fine,” he said. “I’ll go find him and see what he says. You’re gonna wait right here, right?”

Alejandro looked up into his brother’s face with an angelic expression composed of sugar and light. He brought his hands together in front of him, palms touching, as though in prayer. He batted his lashes innocently and gave a solemn nod. “We promise,” he said, the impish beginning of a smirk tugging playfully at the corners of his mouth.

Marco frowned and kicked the dirt, knowing full well that as soon as he left, Alejandro and Cheehawk would forget about zombies completely and begin to plot some devilish trick to play on Marco that would either leave him bruised or embarrassed, possibly both. But what was he supposed to do? Where a battle of wits was concerned, Marco considered himself no match for his brother. His twin’s penchant for guerilla warfare far outweighed his own, and besides, he was curious about the answer to the central question: what was the deal with zombies in Florida?

Back turned against the muffled sounds of wicked laughter, Marco dug his hands in his pockets and shuffled grudgingly across the street to seek out the Prime of Darkness.

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