Sunday, October 21, 2012

An Average Day for the Stevensons

[So sparse updates have been sparse lately. In an attempt to alleviate that, today I'm going to present you readers with something a little different. I'm currently in a Creative Writing course that I had to write a short story for and this was the result. It's an easy way to fake content give you something to hold you over until I write a proper update, and I think it's the type of tale the internet might approve of. The rest of this update is the aforementioned short story, unchanged but for a few formatting edits to make it more readable in an online format]

It was a quiet morning for the Stevenson family. Early morning light was starting to filter through the blinds. Mr. Stevenson was a tall, serious looking man in a gray suit, striped tie and thin rimmed glasses. He was currently reading the paper, his other hand clasping his morning cup of coffee. Mrs. Stevenson was an amiable looking woman with frizzled brown hair she could never quite get the way she wanted it. She was currently scraping some more bacon on to their young daughter Sally’s plate. It was a Monday morning and they were all a bit groggy, so it took them a minute to notice the noise.

            “…did you say something, dear?” Mrs. Stevenson said, not looking up from the fridge as she pulled out a carton of orange juice.

            “Not a word, dear,” replied Mr. Stevenson.

            “Hm…” said Mrs. Stevenson, stopping for minute to strain her ears for noise. “I could have sworn I heard some type of…grumbling or something…”

            “Perhaps it’s Sally’s tummy, the way she’s putting away that bacon,” said Mr. Stevenson with a smile at his daughter. Sally stuck her tongue out and made a face at him.

            “No…I think it’s coming from outside…” said Mrs. Stevenson slowly. Mr. Stevenson lowered his paper and shot his wife a questioning glance. Looking pensive, Mrs. Stevenson walked over to the window and peeked through the blinds. “Oh dear…” she said.

            Mr. Stevenson sighed, placed his coffee mug on the table and folded up the paper. “How many of them are there, Carol?” he said.

            “Oh, well, it looks to be about a half dozen or so, dear, out near the begonias,” she said meekly, fidgeting with her apron. “But Harold, you know you don’t have to-“

            “No no no,” said Mr. Stevenson briskly. “You ought to occupy yourself with getting Sally ready for school; I’ll just have to rush my commute a bit, that’s all. I’m sure the boys at the office will understand.”

            “Well…if you say so,” said Mrs. Stevenson as her husband opened the door to the basement and descended.

            Picking the right tool for the job was always something that Mr. Stevenson took his time on. Of course when used properly just about anything would get the job done, but Mr. Stevenson prided himself on efficiency. He examined the various tools arrayed across the wall with a critical eye, occasionally stopping to pick one up and weigh it in his hand. “All together in a huddle I’m guessing, dear?” he shouted up to Mrs. Stevenson.

            “Just so,” she replied from upstairs, “thick as thieves, as they tend to travel.” She paused as she heard a soft thump near the door, as if something was walking into the wall. “Though there may be one or two wandering about the yard. If you can, try not to stain your clothes dear, we just had that suit dry cleaned.”

            Mr. Stevenson’s hand, which had been hovering over a weed whacker, paused for a moment and pulled back. After a moments deliberation he selected a pole hedge clipper, and carefully carried it with him back upstairs. As he closed the back door behind him, Sally walked over to the blinds.

            “Now Sally, you don’t have time to watch your father, you need to get ready for school” said Mrs. Stevenson with a stern expression.

            “But mum, I wanna’ see ‘em,” Sally whined, gripping the windowsill.

            “I can’t imagine why a lovely young girl like you should want to see that,” said her mother airily, shooing Sally away from the window and upstairs. “Your bed needs making, and if yesterday was any indication you just threw the comforter over the top and hoped I wouldn’t notice. Go on, up with you!”

            Mrs. Stevenson was just putting away the last of the dishes when Mr. Stevenson walked back inside, conscientiously wiping his boots on the mat before setting them aside. The tip of the pole hedge clipper he was carrying was covered in blood, with a little bit running down the pole onto his hands. Mrs. Stevenson offered him a paper towel.

            “Went as smoothly to be expected,” said Mr. Stevenson as he wiped off his hands. “I’ll run the hose on the clippers before I leave for work. And of course I could use a hand getting them to the garbage after the bus comes for Sally.”

            The Stevenson’s house was one of the last on the bus route, as it was out in one of the outer districts. As a matter of fact, theirs was the only house on the block left standing. Of course the city had done its best in recent years to remove enough rubble to make it look presentable, but you could tell the few that had actually been damaged in The Incident itself apart from the many intentionally torn down after residents moved. This comprised many of them, as regardless of whether it was their home in Hampshire or elsewhere, people had moved away from the Incident areas and into the cities. They just weren’t comfortable living where they used to afterwards and this led to the odd imagery of seeing a single home standing amidst a block of empty lots and the weed covered foundations of former houses.

            “Seems the bus is running a bit late again…” said Mr. Stevenson, looking at his watch with a grimace.

            “I don’t want to make you any later, dear,” said Mrs. Stevenson, ushering Sally out onto the door step. “Why don’t I head out back and help you until the bus gets here?”

            On his way around back, Mr. Stevenson opened up the special disposal dumpster the city had given to everyone still living in the outer districts. He’d often grumble that they it was just about all they gave them but he had to admit it was useful. A minute later, the couple was in the backyard with rubber gloves and a small tarp. “I tried to keep it clean, of course,” said Mr. Stevenson. They lifted the first headless corpse onto the tarp and from there to the dumpster. “But I’m afraid they got a bit of blood on the rose bush.”

            “Well, I suppose they were red anyway…” sighed Mrs. Stevenson. “Still, I’ve always found it odd how creatures so wrinkly and dry can squirt quite so much.” There were seven of them total, now separated into seven gray-skinned bodies and seven similarly ill-complexioned severed heads, strewn haphazardly about the yard.

            Mrs. Stevenson couldn’t help but notice one of the heads was hanging from the back door. Mr. Stevenson followed her gaze and said “Ah. I think it was trying to eat the door knob, the daft bugger.”

            “Well, nothing a quick shine won’t fix I suppose” said Mrs. Stevenson wearily as she removed the head with a dry pop.

            “So I heard that the Andersons son Philip was in the paper the other day” said Mrs. Stevenson conversationally as she buffed the door knob with her handkerchief.

            “Is that right?” said Mr. Stevenson as he got the tarp under the first body. “What’s the occasion?”

            “He was involved in making a float for the Labor Day parade as a school project” said Mrs. Stevenson, helping lift the rotting cadaver. “Mrs. Anderson informs me that he had a quote in the article and everything.”

            “Well fancy that. The Andersons have a daughter Sally’s age, don’t they?” said Mr. Stevenson as he picked some shattered bits of spinal column out of the weeds.

            “Indeed they do” said Mrs. Stevenson as the couple rounded the corner of the house. “Her name is Gloria and I take it she’s a very sweet little girl from what Sally tells me, though she’s in a different class than her so she only talks with her at recess.” This last part was said slightly louder to be heard over the sound of the next corpse hitting the bottom of the dumpster.

            “I don’t see Mr. Anderson around very much” said Mr. Stevenson, a hint of reproach entering his voice. “And when I saw him at the Smith’s party last month he kept his distance. Is he a particularly reserved man?”

            “Not exactly,” said Mrs. Stevenson, a mischievous smile appearing on her face. “However, it might be that he doesn’t want to talk to you because I know for a fact that he’s a stalwart Tigers supporter,” Mrs. Stevenson paused to get out her handkerchief and wipe some blood off the side of the house. “And they’ve been having a much better season than us, as I’m sure you know.”

            “Oh,” said Mr. Stevenson with just barely audible relief. “A Tigers fan in my neighborhood?” he chuckled. “Might be for the best that I don’t know the man anyway.”

As they slid the last corpse off the tarp into the dumpster Mrs. Stevenson noticed Sally peeking around the corner of the house at them. “Young lady, don’t you have a bus to look out for?” she admonished as they shook bits of stray flesh off the tarp. Sally’s head quickly retreated. “Honestly,” she said, turning back to her husband, “I don’t know why she’s so interested in these dreadful things.”

            Mr. Stevenson sighed. “I gather that some of the children find them fascinating, as they often do with morbid things” he said. “The young ones who’ve never seen one are also a bit ill-informed, and tend to have all manner of fanciful ideas about them. They think zombies are like the old movies.” Mr. Stevenson shook his head. As if barely conscious, mostly decomposed masses of brittle flesh could be any more threatening than an angry raccoon.

            “You’d think their parents would set them straight on the matter” Mrs. Stevenson said with a raised eyebrow.

            “Well dear,” Mr. Stevenson said as he closed the dumpster, “I don’t think the kids talk much with their parents about the undead. I bet they hear about them from other kids, and kids love telling stories. No doubt Sally will get some interest over mentioning it.”

            “Goodness” said Mrs. Stevenson as she started to hose down the tarp. “And here I thought she would want to keep such things to herself. I feel I shall have to bring up the difference of positive and negative attention to Sally after school. No need to be crude just to get attention.”

            “With third graders it might not even be negative attention, dear” said Mr. Stevenson, fixing his glasses and brushing off his clothes. He sighed. “It’s at least a kinder reaction than some adults give. Of course, if we could only afford to live in the city…”

            Mrs. Stevenson gave her husband a sad frown. “You know that I don’t mind it, dear. I know you do your best, and we’ve got a lovely home as it is. There’s no need to...”

            Mr. Stevenson waved her silent. “Yes, yes I know” he said wearily. “It’s not as if I mind the chore much personally. But you know how people talk…”

            Soon Sally’s bus came, and Mr. Stevenson left for work. Mrs. Stevenson spent most of her day cleaning and running errands, apart from a brief break to do what she could about the rose bush. Sally came home from school and talked with her mother about her day. It had been fairly typical apart from this one time during math when Jimmy Palmer sneezed so hard he fell out of his chair, oh and when Sally had told her friends about the zombies, which they found very impressive. Mrs. Stevenson gave Sally a brief lecture about talking about the right thing at the right time and not upsetting anyone with uncivilized conversation, which Sally took with all the severity that a third grader usually does about a lecture on manners.

Mrs. Stevenson was never quite sure how to approach the subject with her daughter. She was certain her mother hadn’t had to deal with any social faux pas regarding the undead. Back then a dumpster full of corpses wouldn’t require any qualifiers. Of course, things were different now. She supposed it wasn’t such a problem to talk about them these days. But even years later, some people still regarded it as a bit…odd, and she didn’t want Sally to have to deal with that.

Not much of interest happened for another couple hours, and before too long Mrs. Stevenson decided that she should start on preparing dinner. Mr. Stevenson was apparently running a bit late, however, and soon enough she decided that she and Sally would have to eat without him for the time being. She hoped her husband hadn’t seen any trouble at work for being late. The third dish was quite cold by the time Mr. Stevenson came home to a slightly fretful wife.

            “Sorry dear,” he said as he walked through the door and hung up his coat. He had an irritated look about him as he walked past his wife into the living room. “It was a bit of a long day, partially because I came in late and was behind on the accounts, though that isn’t the worst of it.” He thumped down in his favorite armchair and rubbed his temples. “They were blocking my commute back as well! A big group of them, must’ve been about 50 or something, wandered out into the middle of 4th Avenue, bold as brass! Lord knows how they such a big group of the blighters went unnoticed until they got to such a busy street! Of course people called traffic control and traffic control called a disposal team but it was well over 20 minutes before they got it all cleared and then obviously it was backed up all the rest of the way home…”

            “Well that sounds awful” said Mrs. Stevenson sympathetically. “I’m sorry to say we had dinner a while ago but I’ll go heat up yours right away.”

            Mrs. Stevenson heated up the food and Mr. Stevenson ate it in sullen silence. Before too long it was Sally’s bed time and Mrs. Stevenson escorted the protesting young girl up to her room. Her and Mr. Stevenson sat watching the news for a while when Mr. Stevenson spoke up again.

            “Today really was too much” said Mr. Stevenson. “City council clearly hasn’t been monitoring the graveyards out in the Historic District enough lately. I mean, I could understand this type of thing a while back but The Incident was over 5 years ago now.”

Mrs. Stevenson nodded. “They’ve got the disposal squads all set up and the city reconstruction is coming along a treat,” she said, “which makes you wonder how they can still be letting so many of the ghastly things loose.”

“Right” said Mr. Stevenson. “You’d think they’d have the situation more under control by now. I’m sure they’d be a good deal more involved if the city was still having undead trouble.” He seemed to think to himself for a moment. “There’s nothing for it, I think I shall have to write a formal complaint. I’ll drive down to the city offices on Saturday after I pick up the groceries and deliver the letter personally. It simply needs to be said.”

“That sounds like an excellent plan, dear” said Mrs. Stevenson. “It’s about time you gave those officials a piece of your mind. Put them right about a few things.”

After the news ended Mr. Stevenson went over to his writing desk and pulled out a piece of paper and envelope. He wrote for a while but it was getting late and he wasn’t quite done when he decided to call it a day and set aside the letter for later. He wrote a bit more the next day but there was an interesting documentary on that distracted him. And of course Wednesday they had to attend Sally’s school play. Thursday they went out to dinner with Smith’s and quite lost track of time. By Friday the letter had been forgotten.

            He still complained of course, every now and again. And he did vaguely remember the letter several weeks later, but at that point the original document was lost and he couldn’t be troubled to start a new one. As irritating as the problem was, he had to admit it wasn’t really that important.

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