2 of 5 stars.
Included in Extreme Zombies edited by Paula Guran, this short story is a mixed bag: great [4-star] set-up and then it got awkward in an I-don’t-believe-the-character-would-do-this sort-of-way. And I want to believe–
Robert and Kenny are a two-man crew that provide a post-Zombie-Apocalyptic service by picking up the dead zombie trash and chucking them into the portable furnace on the back of their truck named Smoky Joe. Deaders [aka zombies] have been around for at least 3 years. And while fuel is getting scarce, the town provides this service to maintain a cleaner, healthier image. Robert even compares himself to the Monty Python skit with John Cleese pulling a hand-cart and calling out “Bring Out Your Dead.” And while funny, the comparison is apt in that many of the dead they now dispose of were surviving residents that “Went Bad;” the dead are the friends and family of the living. There are some “roamers” that a different crew, the hunters, take care of, but Robert and Kenny are the modern equivalent to funeral services for the citizens.
These two guys see how the living treat the undead when sentiments enter into the picture. They would prefer the deaders already put down [with a head shot] or at least muzzled and hogtied for ease of disposal. Not everyone is able to do that to their loved ones. Robert enjoys his job; Kenny, the newer partner, hates it after recently putting down his own live-in girlfriend. This is a great set-up. The “twist” is properly telescoped and not treated as a shocker, which is also good.
[K:]”How’s he doing? Your kid, I mean. What’s his name again? Bobbie?”
[R:]”Yeah. He’s fine. Just started crawling last week.”
Kenny frowned. “I thought he was already crawling. I remember when we first started working together, you said–”
“Walking,” Robert interrupted. “I meant he just started walking.”
Kenny looked at him for a long moment, his expression unreadable. Finally, he said, “Sure, man . . . There’s gonna be a dance in the basement of the Methodist Church . . . You think you’n Emily might come?”
“I doubt it,” Robert said. “Emily doesn’t like to go out much. She doesn’t feel safe outside the house, you know?”
From here, the story follows Robert home and shows his family and life behind the boarded windows and barricaded doors.
A later scene shows the guys back on the job on a heavy disposal day. It was here that I felt a misalignment between the given motivations [which I didn’t believe] and the actions and dialogue. It knocked me completely out of the story, sadly.
[Check out my other reviews here.]