“There’s a zombie in the electronics section,” Dane said through a mouthful of chips. He took another handful out of the bag and stuffed them into his mouth, crunching as he gazed at Greg.
Greg stopped sweeping. “What do you want me to do about it? I’m maintenance.”
“Ross said we have to take care of it.”
“Why doesn’t he do it? He’s the manager.”
Dane shrugged. Crumbs fluttered to the floor like yellow, flaky dandruff. Greg swept them into his dustpan with a sigh. Then he leaned the broom against the rack. “Let’s go.”
The zombie was along the back wall, where the flatscreen TVs were. He was pacing back and forth, gazing up at the screens as they flashed blue light onto him. The zombie was wearing red flannel pajama pants and a stained wife-beater. His skin was grey and splotchy.
Greg and Dane stood at the end of the aisle, watching him. Greg crossed his arms. “How do you know he’s a zombie? Could just be an old guy.”
“Sure,” Dane said. He tipped the bag into his mouth for the last of the chips, crushed the bag up and set it on the rack next to a 50-inch Samsung. Then he grabbed a wet-floor sign, collapsed it, and casually jabbed the zombie with it.
“Hnng”, the zombie moaned, swinging itself towards them. His arms flapped like noodles, and Greg saw that it was indeed a zombie. His face was rotted, one eye was missing, a huge hole that looked like a shotgun blast was in its place. Greg could see his brain through the hole, grey and pulsing.
“Sir, we have to ask you to leave,” Greg said. He was using his customer service voice; it wasn’t deep and raspy like his normal one. It was higher, like he didn’t chain smoke on break. Like he had a high credit score.
“Huh-rahh,” the zombie said. It began taking shuffling steps towards them. One grey arm lifted and brushed against a TV, making it wobble dangerously.
“Sir-,” Greg began to say, but Dane sauntered over and kicked the legs out from under the zombie, sending him crashing to the floor. Dane handed Greg the wet-floor sign.
“Keep an eye on him, I’ll go get a cart.”
“Yeah, we’ll push him in the cart and dump him outside. Let the cart-pusher deal with him, fuck it.”
Dane wandered off. Greg watched the zombie kick its feet and wave its arms, like a turtle on its back. The TVs switched to a preview for the Super-Mart cooking show with Lisa Portre. Lisa Portre was a gorgeous older woman who wore low-cut blouses as she smashed things with a rolling pin and talked about home cookin’. Greg loved her.
So did the zombie. He stopped kicking and groaning. Together, he and Greg watched Lisa Portre whip up her special sugar cookies, “just in time for the holidays! And all the ingredients can be found in the baking section of your local Super-Mart. Remember, your dollar goes farther at Super-Mart!”
The zombie turned his head to Greg.
“It does, dude. Lisa Portre don’t lie.”
Chantelle, who stocked the cosmetics department, stopped next to them. That meant it was 2am; time for her lunch. “Is that a zombie?”
“Yeah, Ross wants me and Dane to get rid of him.”
“Isn’t that Ross’s job?”
Greg gave her the “hey man I just fuckin’ work here”-look that every Super-Mart employee knew. She returned with the “I-hear-you-life’s-a-bitch” shrug. Her tennis shoes squeaked on the white tile as she walked away.
Greg heard a squeal as Dane arrived with a shopping cart. Together, they hoisted the zombie up and tipped him into the cart, as if they were helping a drunk friend get into a cab. He went along willingly enough; no biting. He seemed to be enjoying the attention. His arms and legs stuck out the sides. Bone was bursting through the skin in spots, and he was seeping a dark, bloody fluid.
“He’s falling apart, be careful,” Greg said.
“If I have to mop up a fuckin’ mess I swear to god–,”
They both got behind the cart and started pushing. Greg was reminded of all the times his car wouldn’t start and had needed to push it to get it going. The cart gathered speed as they passed the CDs, the DVDs, the video games, and out into the main aisle. One of the wheels was making a steady “eek-eek!” sound.
“You picked a great cart,” Greg said.
“Didn’t I? I thought to myself, what cart do I see myself pushing? What cart really says “Dane”, ya know? The one with with a fucked up wheel, that’s the one!”
They rounded a corner but the wheel caught, the cart threatening to tip over, like they were a car in a police chase drifting through an intersection. Greg ran to the front and shoved the side, settling it back on four wheels. The zombie looked up at him quizzically.
Everything went smoothly until they got near Home and Garden. They were passing aisle 6, “Hoses, Sprinklers, Lawn Care” when a wooden pallet jutted out. It was an iceberg and the cart smashed into it like the Titanic. The cart overturned, Greg fell over it, jamming his knee against metal. Dane tried to save it and landed on his back, and the zombie tumbled out and smacked his head against the floor. His head popped like a zit, sending a spurt of black-red blood all over the tile.
TJ stood behind the pallet jack, his mouth open. “I’m sorry! I didn’t see you!”
Dane glared at him, but didn’t yell or say anything mean, which Greg had to give him credit for.
“Go get Polly, I think she’s in grocery with the floor machine. Have her run this over quick,” Greg told TJ. He was still holding the stupid wet-floor sign Dane had handed him, so he propped it next to the blood spill. It looked absurd next to the gore. It reminded Greg of that picture of that guy in Tiananmen Square, staring down the tanks.
TJ was panicking. He was a young kid, not even twenty. He looked terrified, probably assumed he would get fired. He hadn’t been around long enough to realize that you could murder someone and not get fired, so long as you did your zones and passed a drug test. “Should I get the blood kit, or call Ross, or–,”
“No, just do what Greg said,” Dane snapped. He picked the cart up, then leaned down to grab one of the zombie’s arms. The skin ripped off in his hands and more blood spattered onto the floor, soaking Dane’s Nikes. He dropped the arm, balled his fists and closed his eyes. His head tilted to the ceiling, as if he was having a religious experience. Through gritted teeth, he growled at TJ: “You’re. Still. Standing. There.”
“Right! Sorry!” TJ scuttled away, leaving them to stare at their mess. Above their heads, Green Day sang “American Idiot” very quietly, very politely.
“Greg, I swear sometimes I want to burn this place down.”
Greg nodded. “We’d still have to come in, though.”
Dane laughed. “Ross would be like, “Make sure you guys change the pads on the machines, we need to get the scorch marks off the floor.”
Greg made his voice nasally to mimic their boss: “Maintenance is going to have to re-wax the shoe department–,”
“Sir, the maintenance crew died in the fire-,”
“Look, we all need to pick up the slack when we’re short handed. Now I’m going to disappear for half the shift, okay?”
They traded impressions for a few moments, and then looked down at the mess, their smiles fading. Dane grabbed the remaining arm and Greg grabbed the legs, and they tried to swing-toss the zombie into the cart like a bag of dirt, but the body broke apart in the middle, spewing out more black blood. There was a wet thump! as the entrails slid out onto the floor. They were now standing in an expanding blood spill that was roughly the size of a kiddie pool.
A customer walked over to them, a tall man in glasses and a green sweater. “Excuse me, do you work here? I need to find lightbulbs–,” he stepped in the blood and his feet slid out from under him. Greg snagged a hand out and managed to grab the front of his sweater, balancing the man out.
“Geeze gosh! You oughtta put a wet floor sign down!” the man said.
Greg pointed at the sign.
“Oh. Well, you should make it more obvious,” the man sniffed. He strode away, tracking red footprints behind him. He apparently forgot about the lightbulbs.
“Yeah Greg. Make it more obvious. Paint it a brighter yellow,” Dane said.
Polly zoomed over on the floor machine. It was a large, black and yellow thing that drove like a riding lawn mower and used scrubbing pads and a squeegee on the back to clean the floors. It would disperse water and vacuum it back up. “Should I get the blood kit?” Polly asked.
“No, I’m not dealing with the blood kit. The next person who asks that is gonna need the blood kit for their fucking face. Greg and I are gonna get the big pieces, you come through and blast it with the machine. And then follow that trail–,” Dane pointed at the footprints the customer had left.
TJ reappeared, this time pushing one of the bins that the bottle room guys used to haul trash. They were plastic totes on wheels that smelled awful, but at least they didn’t leak onto the floor.
Dane, Greg and TJ began grabbing pieces and tossing them in. It was like cleaning a yard during autumn. But instead of leaves and sticks, it was limbs and handfuls of flesh. Polly drove the machine over the blood, leaving a clear streak of white through the middle of it. TJ went for a mop to clean the edges of the aisle, leaving Dane and Greg to haul the bin to the dumpster.
It was dark and blessedly cool outside, a light breeze touching Greg’s hot face. He liked coming outside and looking at the night sky during his shifts. 10pm to 7am underneath the harsh fluorescent lights and dull music could be soul crushing, so he always took time to come out and get away from it whenever he could.
After they finished tossing the body into the dumpster, they wheeled the bin over to the tire garage and used the pressure hose to spray it out. Then they gathered around the mechanics wash and scrubbed the blood off their hands and arms.
“Want a cigarette?” Dane asked as they were drying their hands.
They stepped back out into the night air. They smoked in silence, looking out at the dark fields of emptiness that stretched beyond the Super-Mart. Crickets chirped. There was a shriek from somewhere, probably the baylor crushing something. The sliding doors whirred. And somewhere in the deep shadows of the parking lot, the cart-pusher howled at the sky.