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Chapter Fourteen

Rog and Palumbo were trying to stuff an air hose down Zachary McCloud's throat. It was like using a garter snake for a cue stick, and besides that, they were zombies. However, four solid years of listening to the bray of Lyle Dwyer in the classroom and on the field had made them sensitive beyond the grave to the sound of his voice. The late great all-stars of Freeman Memorial High turned in the direction of their drunken bio teacher out by the gas pumps.

Archie decided to chance it: he ran over to the Plymouth. Dwyer had the cap off the gas tank. He was mumbling and humming vaguely to himself and to the night his favorite Chuck Berry tune:

"She's got the grown up blues"
He tried to mate the nozzle and the Plymouth's gas tank, but he kept missing, clanging the hose against the car.
"Tight dress and lipstick
She's sportin' high heel shoes"
He'd also forgotten to turn on the pump, so he started hitting the nozzle, hard, on the Plymouth to force the gas out.
"Oh, but tomorrow morning
She'll have to change her trend"
Archie slapped at the pump lever and hurried around to Dwyer's side of the car. The drunken Dwyer still didn't have the nozzle in and now he was spraying gasoline all over the place. Archie grabbed the hose from him and slipped it home.

"Hi," said Archie, breathlessly.

"Oh, hey there, kid," said Dwyer. " 's tricks?" He burped loudly and leaned over very close to Archie, trying to get a focus on him.

"It's me, Mr. Dwyer," said Archie, as the pump rang up two dollars. "Archie Meader."

"Archie?" Dwyer was leaning alternately on the car, on the nozzle, and on Archie. He was really smashed.

"Yup."

"Archie Meader? Good ole Arky meedeesOn Floating Bodiesh…hydro…hydro….ssss"

"Hydrostatics, right," said Archie. "You got it, Mr.—"

Dwyer stumbled against the nozzle and it slipped out, spraying them both with acrid gasoline. Archie fought him for control, slipped the nozzle back in the tank.

"Look, easy, Mr. Dwyer. Sir, I need your help."

" 's when you working here, Archie?" Dwyer straightened up, gesturing towards the station. Archie noticed that he hadn't changed his clothes from the ceremony, and that his face was all bruised and cut. He must've been drinking all day.

"No, I don't work here, I—"

"Thas right. You work for th' undertaker. You work on the kidsch. You shaw the poor babiesch after all that awf'l stuff."

His rap started to degenerate badly.

"We w're only having fun. I din mean anythig by it." He shook his head in drunken antagonism. "Din have to do what they did…plenty there to go around."

The pump clicked off another couple of bucks of gas.

"Sucha pre liddle peece of assh. Like to jus geddown there 'n grovel inna groove…"

"Oh Mommy Mommy Please may I go…"
Rog and Palumbo had stumbled outside, and slowly but surely they approached the pumps. Dwyer's attention turned back to the present:

"No! I don wanchu pumping up my car, Archie! You have better thingsh to do! Hey!" he yelled to Palumbo and Rog, who were less than a first down away, "how aboudt a lil servicsh here?!"

Archie thought the two dead jocks looked at each other as if to seal some sort of agreement, but he wasn't sure. It was like it was late in sudden death overtime and they'd both agreed to cream the opponent. They seemed to step up their approach to the car.

"Unh, Mr. Dwyer," said Archie. Eight dollars would get them anywhere they wanted to go. "There's been some trouble here. Let's just get out of here, hunh?"

Dwyer was in a rage now. The distant figures were close enough for him to recognize them as people. People who would no doubt respond to a little old-fashioned temper tantrum:

"Wha kinda servicsch you call this shit? Who's gonna check my oil, goddammit? Lookkit that windshield!"

The zombies moved agonizingly closer. It was plain to see that any sober man could outrun them, so Archie relaxed a little. He had a definite advantage. Dwyer staggered towards Rog and Palumbo:

"I know the owner! I been coming here for fifteen years n I never seen service like this!"

The dead football players were close enough to Dwyer to hit him with a high/low block and put him away, but the zombies kept walking, past the biology teacher. Archie moved to his left, around the car. Dwyer spun around in confusion:

"Hey!" he yelled to Palumbo, "how come you're dressed like that?"

Rog walked right up to the regular pump and kicked it. Once, twice, three times. He looked back over his shoulder at Dwyer as if to say "I'm just warming up."

Palumbo, in the meantime, kicked the car. He kicked the right front hubcap and all along the right side, clang clang clang, and all the way past the right rear hubcap. The two of them looked like one of those German clocks that does weird stuff every hour on the quarter hour. Clang clang bonk bonk bonk. They were destroying Dwyer's car. Methodically.

"Hey!" screamed Dwyer, "That's my car!" Rog was working on the left side, kablong bong bong. Archie moved around to the front. Dwyer huffed his way back towards the jocks.

"Whoo, boy, I'm gonna turn you in," he warned. "This the last time you work here, you guys."

He steamed up to Palumbo: "You're taking drugs, boy."

Palumbo kept kicking. It was taking a while, but they were doing a lot of damage. Dwyer hustled back over to Rog:

"You jus keep keeping, boy. You are kicking yourself right out of a job, boy. Old Miller's not putting up with this."

He was close enough to Rog to kiss him. The banging and clanging got to him at last:

"Stop it!" screamed Dwyer. Clang bhang, clunk. "I said stop it!"

And he grabbed Rog by his oily tuxedo. Rog swung around, his face very close to Dwyer's.

"What the hell you think you're—" Dwyer stopped suddenly, noticing perhaps that this fellow wasn't wearing overalls or a smile. He appraised Rog's face the way he might check out a partially dissected leopard frog:

"Jesus, man. You are some messed up. Where's your eye, boy?" Palumbo had worked his way around behind the biology teacher.

"Hey!" realized Dwyer, alas, too late. "You don't work here!" Palumbo grabbed him by the collar of his sadly overworked blue serge suit.

"Hey! You're…you…you guys are—" Rog grabbed up his feet. "No! You're dead! Davis! Put me down, goddammit!"

They carried him, a sack of drunken potatoes, back towards the service bay. Archie sprinted to the pay phone.

Meanwhile, back inside the garage, Joanie was sitting on McCloud's face, trying to get his shoes and socks off. She was having an awkward time of it. With all the grease running down her legs, she kept slip-sliding away. McCloud was alive, it looked like, but barely. He was having difficulty catching his breath.

As soon as Joanie recognized Dwyer's pitiful cries outside the door, she stopped what she was doing, stood up, and grabbed the grease gun. McCloud whimpered on the floor like a fat baby rolled in Crisco, but his army training didn't fail him. As the inevitable revenge of the zombies unreeled, he crawled away towards the shadows of the recaps in the corner.

"Now look, boys," Dwyer was saying, as they pulled and pushed him through the door with the jagged glass still in it. "Let's just forget all this, hunh? I'm sorry! I didn't know you didn't work here! Hunh!"

He struggled mightily, but he was no match for two dead football players with a grudge. They stood him roughly in front of Joanie. Dwyer's pig-eyes grew very large and frantic:

"Aw, fellas!" He nodded to Joanie and turned this way and that, trying to track the jocks as they moved away. "Hi, Joanie." Eyes and mind worked desperately to coordinate the impossibility before him.

Rog moved over to the controls of the hydraulic lift. He switched it on. By this time, Palumbo, as part of a literally well-oiled machine, had taken up the air hose and begun uncoiling it from the ceiling receptacle.

Joanie grinned crookedly at Dwyer, her face a mass of goo and grease and hatred. It was all happening too fast for the poor drunk bio teacher:

"Look Joanie, I'm awful sorry about the other night. That's a very nice dress—"

The lift groaned higher. Zachary McCloud followed its movement towards the ceiling from his dark safe corner.

Joanie sneered at Dwyer. She thrust her grease gun roughly into his chest for him to hold while she pulled her hair back with both hands, like a supermodel in the swimsuit issue, revealing her gruesome lacerations.

"Aw Joanie…" whimpered Dwyer. Joanie took the grease gun back again with a snotty toss of her head. "If only we could have stayed there, honey."

Palumbo took a few steps toward Dwyer. Dwyer started to back away. The lift had just about reached its top stop, maybe ten, twelve, feet off the floor. Its hydraulic piston gleamed like the slick steel phallus of a dangerous dragon.

Dwyer eyed the tragically troubled teens, fear, apprehension, and alcoholic nausea fighting among themselves inside him. Joanie advanced in slow seductive undead increments. In the instant before he closed his eyes to the horror, Dwyer observed the thick layers of makeup that gave her face that unnaturally smooth appearance. Her dried blood-red lips nuzzled him, but his panicked eyelids shut out the zombie's kiss. There was a smell about the girl, however, a smell that he knew all too well, and this time it made him gag.

She held him terribly tightly, and she ground herself against him in the bargain. Her tongue, like a fleshy piston itself, thrust between his lips. It was cold and hard and— could it but speak— it would speak hatred for Lyle Dwyer and all the men in the world like him.

Lyle Dwyer screamed. Roger Davis and Allen Palumbo dragged him across the greasy floor to the shiny hydraulic lift. Palumbo, doing his odd little dance, encircled Dwyer with the air hose three or four times, effectively lashing him to the slippery steel column, like Wendy, tied up by the redskins in Never Never Land. Dwyer whimpered like a child, too weak and scared to move. His eyes were still closed.

"Please…" he pleaded, over and over again. "Please please please." Rog came over to him and roughly held his eyes open. "No!" Dwyer screamed. "Don't!"

He could see Joanie approach now. She brushed herself against him, her full breasts in their strapless bodice slowly traversing the length of his body. Dwyer had become, suddenly, as sober as he would ever be, and he was staring, finally, at the true face of death, not as a scientist, but as a man who had made a dreadful mistake.

Zachary McCloud, safe over there in his black rubber corner, couldn't believe what he was watching. Joanie knelt in front of Dwyer, her undead hands working erratically at the teacher's belt buckle. Dwyer's body shook helplessly. Joanie managed to undo him, and quickly pulled down his trousers. Dwyer's legs were skinny and pink and they shivered in the weird fluorescent light. Roger didn't have to hold the teacher's eyes open any longer. Dwyer could do nothing but watch in horror: Joanie's head, bobbing left and right below him there, uncoordinated, yes, but possessed by fury and revenge.

Joanie looked Lyle Dwyer right in the eye as she took her grease gun and shoved it swiftly home, not soft and delicate as a lover, but hard and firm as a sword in the scabbard of a murderous infidel. Dwyer screamed in pain, and the breath went out of him and, more than anything else, he looked surprised. Joanie looked up at him, like a young blond devil, and she pulled the trigger. Again and again and again. Dwyer's breathing came quick and hard, like any animal that knows it is doomed.

Roger took the air hose from Palumbo. He waved it grimly in front of Dwyer. The teacher shook his head frantically as Joanie continued to pump the grease gun. Rog grabbed Dwyer's chin, forcing his head still, and plunged the air hose down his throat. He pushed the button, the orange hose wriggled itself alive, and it was only a matter of time.

Zachary McCloud watched. He was a man who'd witnessed many atrocities, in war as well as in peace. But there was a sick feeling in his old heart that grew and grew as Lyle Dwyer's body distended and discolored. Dwyer's eyes bulged and his belly rumbled and the buttons on his shirt popped one after the other, but otherwise it was strangely quiet there in the garage. The undead teens and evil Lyle Dwyer played out their scene all the way to the end. And Zachary McCloud's heart broke as Lyle Dwyer burst—in bits of pink and flesh and oily black—all over the garage.

Roberta Eliot hobbled late onto the scene, carrying an open bag of Peanut M&M's and a coke. She had all of the yellow ones in the palm of her hand and she offered them to the old mortician, who had, at last, finally seen it all.

Archie didn't need any encore. He hit the ignition of Dwyer's Plymouth, and the radio exploded with a big band version of Patsy Cline's I Fall to Pieces. The heavy old coupe swerved back and forth as it gained the highway. Archie simultaneously punched at the radio and swiped back his tears. The speedometer was broken, but he must've wound it out to eighty by the time he reached Willard Freeman Memorial High.


Next: Taking care of business

Forward

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are you on drugs or just having one of those days?
Freeman and me and the rest of the world

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