Zombie Dealer by Christie Cox

Although he only existed in Eubie’s mind, Eubie liked to quote his old Canuck friend as though he was threaded through the fabric of a life Eubie blinked himself into like a bad sitcom episode.

“If you can’t be handsome, be handy,” was Robin’s shop-worn motto and since it was easier to fake handiness than handsomeness, Eubie went for the former. A roll of duct tape and the ability to tell a hawk from a handsaw had served him well in his salad days in The City, and even when maturity and responsibilities forced him to the chemically greener pastures on The Shore, a passing familiarity with a hammer, the ability to differentiate between a nail and a screw and the electric screw-driver with multiple heads meant Eubie more than held his own among the honey-do set.

Most of the time, the incongruity which was simply “then” and “now” to Eubie was like a well-crafted flight of stairs. Eubie glided up and down unaware because the effort required was negated by simplistically elegant design coupled with flawless implementation. There were moments though when the hasty craftsmanship of this new reality resulted in mis-step. A face would turn up wrong. Mud brown eyes tinged with jade that should have been the green of a shadowy forest, or a mis-matched couple with children who seemed uncomfortable in their skins. Children, Eubie noted early, jittered perceptibly with low-level awareness. The dissonance of existence coursing through them like the after effects of a taser jolt. They reminded him of Zoey’s Siamese, Mrs. Fletcher.

“She disapproves of me,” Eubie complained one hazy morning as they sat on Zoey’s enclosed patio that just skimmed the treeline of the massive green space of City Park.

Mrs. Fletcher narrowed her china sky eyes and sunk deeply into Zoey’s lap as she lounged on one of the rattan chairs Eubie had liberated from a posh address recently in lieu of payment for  a disposal service. Her snow white feet propped up on the matching table, she stroked the animal from head to rump with hypnotic rhythm.

“She has cause,” Zoey said, leaving Eubie to the mercy of his half-memories and imagination. It had occurred to him even before Mrs. Fletcher’s obvious disdain that the animals whose paths crossed with his own were aware in a way what was wrong.  Just as children sensed their altered states, pets possessed a caged attitude that manifested in knowing looks and inappropriate contact. Cats were especially seductive, Mrs. Fletcher excepted, when they weren’t sizing Eubie up for meal potential, and dogs ran the gamut of psychiatric disorders. It was like karma had conspired to incite a rampant deathbed belief in its own self.

Eubie missed Robin just like he missed Omar, the coffee cart guy. But the difference was that Omar still haunted the corner of 42nd and Passing Square which is where Eubie stopped for his double-double on his way to the public library on mornings after a subway run.

Running subway had been the bread and butter of his trade in the early days after he’d found Zoey again. These days his clientele was semi-exclusive and his reputation beyond his active control, but he found peace riding the sewers of The City. Far beneath the concrete, time couldn’t torture him.

Zoey called it “temporal sensitivity”. It didn’t bother the vampires. In fact, vampirism inoculated it’s members to a large extent from the déjà vu vertigo that roiled Eubie’s consciousness.  He remembered people who’d never lived, events which hadn’t happened and a world that suddenly wasn’t a cesspool at all by comparison.

Memory has become a perpetually chipped tooth that I can’t keep my tongue off of, Eubie thought.

He longed to be counted and ignorant, but he had stepped off the early evening transit eighteen months earlier to find himself displaced and horrifyingly aware of it.

“At least you’re not a cat,” Zoey said.

“And that would be the only upside,” Eubie replied as Mrs. Fletcher purred and smiled Cheshire-like, as though she knew something Eubie did not .

A Eubie Blake Flash Tale*

Eubie rode the subway downtown on weekday mornings even though he’d last worked for Banality of Evil Inc. four years earlier. He thought it was four years at any rate. Time was elusive since time had become other than what he remembered, a world where vampires were his friends and rather than short selling commodities he peddled necrotizing flesh like Hell’s butcher.

The last stop before the financial district was the Grand Hall. It hadn’t changed but for the murals which depicted a national history he knew he didn’t learn in school though everyone around him seemed quite comfortable with it. Eubie stopped to ponder an intricate portrait of the March on Washington that took place the year he remembered being born. The Mall was awash in reds and greens. Red blood and Army khaki. Photographic in detail Eubie found himself choking back a warm lump of bile and looking around as the few people who rode the trains as earlier as he did hurried past without a glance.

His own eyes burned as bloodshot as the bodies when faint strains of a classical tune he knew but whose dead composer slid just past his tongue tugged his attention toward the tunnels leading back down to the platforms.

Violin? No, viola, Dad, how could you not know the sounds of a viola?

That little girl’s image was tattooed on the used to be side of the dual screen deep in his cerebellum. Once he was certain he carried years worth of photos of her in his wallet. Now the only thing in his wallet, aside from a disturbing amount of cash stamped with likeness of dead presidents he didn’t always recognize, was a state mandated i.d. – chip-less because despite the equally mandatory prison farm sentence – it was just the way he rolled through this brave new existence. He could afford it.

Following the soft, insistent melody Eubie tried to remember the last time he’d been to see the Philharmonic. Zoey had season tickets but when she was in a snit she’d drag along one of her stiff vamp friends making sure he knew. Zoey was an old friend, a new lover and someone like himself who seemed to remember there was another time before the present one. She was also a vampire which had been Eubie’s first clue that life was amiss. Zoey was as beautiful and enticing as ever but not nearly as robust and ruddy with life and not nearly as obsessed with his inner thighs then as now.

“I have always loved a man with a good leg,” she’d said when he pointed out the differences.

“Did I have a good leg then?”

“When?” she asked.

Vampires had the attention span of a dog in an aviary. Zoey used hers to great advantage.

Short of the severely sloping floor that ran up to the turnstiles, he saw her. Sitting on a collapsible stool and propped up a bit by the tiled wall, her head tilted to the right and holding the viola lightly with her chin and graying cheek. Her skirted legs splayed in a manner most unladylike and had her legs not been covered with the first signs of mottling, Eubie would have been sorely tempted to bend a bit to sneak a peek.
Duo in G Major? ” Eubie asked as he approached.

Unusual for one so involved in craft and decomposition, she nodded though it was more of an off tempo lolling of the head from side to side. It was a difficult piece for someone whose fingers weren’t near gelatinous and being sawed slowly off by the strings. Eubie admired pluck when he encountered it. He rocked back and forth from heel to toe and hummed along until instinct, and his appraiser’s eye, took over. He noted the youthful plump smoothness of skin that hadn’t yet to visibly succumb and the sureness of tone and pace in the music.

He reached into his jacket pocket for the phone to post a quick listing when a young suit walked between him and the dead musician. Eubie enjoyed catching shadowy glimpses of his former self from time to time but as the fellow continued by without a glance to right or left as all attention was honed on the blue-tooth and his own vacuous words, Eubie passed the phone and gently fingered the frequency jammer he never left his apartment without.

The infant businessman stopped in mid-word and stride and tapped quizically and than angrily on the hard black plastic protruding from his ear.

“Damn,” he said and continued on as he appeared to have caught the clatter of a coming train.

“Philistine,” Eubie said to the former girl who was finished and half-staring at him, her arms limp and the bow and viola balancing precariously on her thighs.

He walked a step closer, but no more. It looked hungry. He dropped a hundred dollar note in the open viola case that was well within her lunging range, but she watched him dully with seeming interest.

“Have a nice lunch on me,” Eubie told her.

*I write Eubie stories under the pen name of Christie Cox. This is an original flash fiction piece written especially for #fridayflash and it is the fourth Eubie Blake story I have written this summer. My inspiration will be obvious to a few who read my blog regularly and complete a mystery to others. I am currently waiting on a Eubie short story I have submitted to a spec fiction magazine. I am 50/50 hopes wise. Zombies are a hard genre because they are hard to make original because as a story there is not much by way of undiscovered country.