Sunrise peeped over the foothills, warming the spring chill from the old man’s shoulders as he cautiously stepped across the grassy lot behind his and Emma’s place, rambling his way to the barn. The back garden appeared safe, he figured, but with the dead popping back up, you couldn’t be too careful. Swinging open the door of the weatherbeaten shanty, the Gardener shuffled over to the old hand plow he’d cobbled together, and let loose a sigh. He be needing help to pull the dang thing, he had to get the soil turned. Since the grocery stores had shut down, there were a lot of people depending on what he’d harvest this year. His grandson, Darrell, had promised to lend a hand, but as usual, the boy was nowhere to be found when there was work to be done.
“God Bless that boy!” the Gardener fretted, as he promised himself – again – not to let it upset him.
Time to wrestle that boy out of his bed, he reckoned. The Gardener took his time, carefully relatching the barn door, before hiking up to the path the boy had worn between their homes begging Emma up for money. Like so much else that was gone, there weren’t no room for bad habits inside the safe zone. It was time for the boy to come clean, man up and help out the community. The Gardener wouldn’t give him a choice.
Disappointment with his grandson and ideas of garden planning flitted through the old man’s head as made his way to his grandson’s. Approaching the house, he saw how Darrell had let the place go, again recalling the pride, my son built it himself, followed by the sharp bite of loss anew. Wishing, once more, Darrell was more like his Da, less like his Momma.
She was bad ground, the Gardener figured.
Cracking the front door, he spotted his grandson sacked out on the couch. It wasn’t until the Gardener grabbed the boy’s shoulder to shake him awake that he noticed the plastic bag, next to the glue bottle on the floor. Feeling for a pulse on the boy’s neck and finding none, the old man sighed, deflated.
God bless that boy! This is gonna break Emma’s heart, he fretted. He couldn’t of passed not long ago…
He sprung back to his feet, spooked. He’ll ought to be coming back soon.
Who’s gonna help me turn the soil now?
That’s when a bizarre, dreadful idea took possession of the Gardener’s mind. Quickly, he pulled off the boy’s socks and stuffed them in his mouth. Fortunate to find a new roll of duct tape in a kitchen drawer, he fast secured the boy’s jaw shut good and tight, making certain zed Jimmy wouldn’t be doing any biting.
That part of the task finished, the Gardener unceremoniously rolled the corpse to the floor and on to its belly, ensnaring its arms behind it good and tight with what remained of the tape. Just in the nick of time, too. Somberly he stepped back, watching, as Darrell – zed, zombie, what have you – started squirming, coming around, a walking corpse now.
The old man discreetly lead the zombie out the door and back to the barn, musing, it wouldn’t due for Emma to see this.
Zombie Darrell helped make short work of plowing the field. After the Gardener had gotten him strapped into the plow, all it took was leashing one of Emma’s wee chiwawas ahead of the hungry thing to get it moving. Wiping the sweat from his brow, he admired the dark, tilled soil in the beaming noon sun.
Emma might not like it, he reasoned, but she’ll have to agree the boy was finally helping to serve the community!