Hi, Tommy here with the latest from the road. Thanks(?) to Margi for filling in.
I wasn’t sure what to expect for my trip to Cleveland. My fiends in Pennsylvania arranged for me to stay with the Thomases (names changed to protect the innocent), who have two zombie sons who I’ll call Greg and Dave. Like me, Greg and Dave both died in a car accident. Unlike me, their injuries are both visible and horrific. Greg can still walk, albeit with a pronounced dragging limp, while Dave is confined to a wheelchair. Greg’s face was so disfigured in the crash that he wears a mask like my friend Melissa, although his is a Spiderman mask and not a white theater mask.
Greg doesn’t speak at all; Dave is talkative but isn’t what you would call a fast talker. Both of them are deadly poker players, however. I gathered that Greg and Dave had been popular students at the school prior to their demise; a photograph on the Thomas’s mantel showed them both in the school’s baseball uniforms, smiling for the camera on a sunny day. There was also a prom photo of Greg and a pretty smiling girl nearly a foot shorter than he was. No prom for photo for Dennis; he must have died too soon. Of course he died too soon.
I thought I would just be talked to them and whatever network of zombie friends and maybe parents that they had, so I was a little surprised when Mr. Thomas told me that I was invited to go speak at the high school where his boys still were allowed to attend classes. I said sure, I’d be glad to.
When I followed the Thomas family down the hall, with Spiderman Greg pushing his brother down the hall, using the chair to balance himself, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of their classmates that said hi or called to the boys by name. Dave always waved with his one good arm, although by the time he was able to raise his hand the person he’d meant to greet was already long gone down the hall.
I was thinking it would be something like Undead Studies class, with maybe fifteen students and a teacher or two.
I was wrong. There were over a thousand people in the school’s auditorium, students and many of their parents.
I don’t get sweaty palms or shortness of breath, and when my speech hitches people assume it is because I’m dead and not because I’m nervous, so overall the talk went pretty well. I spoke about what people were doing to zombies across the country, and I encouraged living people everywhere to try and be more understanding of the difficulties that undead Americans deal with on a daily basis. When I was done speaking, everyone clapped. The clapping wasn’t like I was at a U2 concert or anything, but I’d like to think the applause was more than polite.
The principal took the stage, and he shook my hand.
“Does anyone have any questions for Mr. Williams?” he said.
Lots of people did. The parents, especially. Questions about how they could get involved, questions about politicians I had never heard of that might be sympathetic to our cause, questions about how they might get laws to change.
Many of the people that spoke to me didn’t have questions as much as they did ideas, or statements about things that could help. A young girl spoke up and said that a city bus driver threw some “hoods” (her word, which I just loved) off his bus because they were making fun of a zombie and his mother. I told her that was the one thing that beating hearts could for us: speak out.
One elderly woman spoke up and said that she’d invited a couple of runaway zombies to stay with her at her house.
“I love those kids!” she said. “They’re quiet, respectful, and they take my trash out for me. And I don’t even have to feed them!”
That got a big laugh, but she wasn’t done yet.
“They’re so much better company than cats!”
After the applause died down, she looked around at all of her neighbors, her grip on her purse tightening.
“No one should be lonely,” she said, and she sat down, rather hastily.
I wasn’t sure if she was talking about “those kids” or herself, and clearly, it didn’t matter either way.
Like I said, I wasn’t sure what I was expecting out of my trip to Cleveland, but this sure wasn’t it.