Welcome to new readers who Neil Gaiman may have prodded in my direction. Strange how he mentions me the day I write about zombies. Coincidentally, today is the second day of a general strike in Haiti, so getting a man in to raise your Uncle Pierre from his icy grave will be nigh on impossible, unless he's not a member of the National Union of Witchdoctors, JuJu Men and Allied Trades. I know - get on with it!
Brains! Let me eat your
Regular readers may have noticed by now that I heart zombies. Zombies are great, and as an aspiring JuJu Man (I’m on a correspondance course from the University of Port-au-Prince), I feel it is my duty to promote the cause of the preparation and eating of spicy brains whenever possible; even if the undead have all the charm and elan of a piss-soaked tramp, staggering around like a drunk wombat spewing fetid pineapple chunks.
Not that I feel the urge to eat yours, it’s simply because, let’s face it, the Undead have rights too. What would you do, rising from your cold, cold grave, to find nothing but an indifferent population and quarter pounder brainburgers with cheese still off the menu at Maccy D’s? Exactly. Zombies need representation in this mortal coil, and that person is me. There are whole swathes of the population who never use their brains (let us, for the sake of argument, refer to them as “Sun Readers”), and it is only fair that they donate them to the cause of equality for the reanimated.
And what brought about this personal Road to Damascus? As usual, anything which occured in my late teens can be laid squarely at the door of my college contemporary Balders. OK, everything except for that business with the submissive cross-dressers coming to clean my house, but I still maintain I was set up. It was his idea that we go and see Return of the Living Dead. After all, once you’ve turned eighteen years of age, it is your duty to go and see as many X-rated movies as possible, and this was one of the first. Coincidentally, the second I turned fourteen, I went and saw Life of Brian, damning me to an eternity in Hell, loudly quoting from Python movies, leaving me the screwed up mess I am today.
The point! Get to the point, man! Balders took us to see Return of the Living Dead at the ABC cinema in Reading, where the box office lady was so fat she resembled Jabba the Hutt's sister. They wedged her in when the place opened, and as far as I know is still there, feasting from the popcorn stand. RotLD a rather fabby comedy zombie movie in which brains are eaten and the dead walk the Earth, rather like an episode of Last of the Summer Wine crossed with a Cliff Richard concert. It is, in fact, one of my favourite films, which John, Sarah, Balders and I shelled out good money for that evening. We laughed like idiots, but Sarah seemed to take it all rather seriously, with the look of a rabbit caught between the headlights of a redneck with the horn.
Ernie: What the hell is in those bags?
Burt: Rabid weasels.
Ernie: What? What the hell are you doing with a bunch of rabid weasels?
Burt: That's what I was trying to explain to you, they came in as part of a shipment. Of course, they weren't supposed to be rabid.
And just when you think a tender love scene is getting far too drippy:
Freddy: But I don't care darling, because I love you, and you've got to let me eat your brains!
However, Balders reminds me of a running gag throughout the movie:
There’s a classic scene when the police turn up, and are attacked by the zombies. One grabs the radio in the police car and says "Send... more... Cops!". Later an ambulance arrives and the occupants fall to a similar fate. Another zombie radios in "Send... more... Paramedics!".
It was after the film, giggling and scared shitless by turns, that the four of us returned to the car with the intention of repairing to the Old Devil for a few after-the-event drinkies. John had parked his car next to a rusty 1980 Volvo 240 Estate - the undead of the road - under the Prudential building in Reading, a horrifyingly bad concrete edifice built as part of a scheme to drive four lanes of traffic through the middle of the town centre’s only open space. Dark, dank and filled with horrible smelly things, some of which were still alive.
It was half-dark in the feeble street-lighting. It was gloomy, and the skulking figures of the town’s down-and-outs gave the whole area a certain not-quite-alive not-quite-dead feel. In the neon light, shadows ran into the darkened corners, while the smell of piss, vomit and that fetid tramp's odour of crumbly cheddar hung in the air. And Balders, bless him, wasn’t what I’d call the most beautiful of people, and though I’m sure he’s lovely now, parents often ushered their offspring to the other side of the road as he approached. In his own words: "A simpering chimpanzee with a drool fixation and fondness for Blair's Babes." I was hardly an image of loveliness in those days, come to think of it.
With the cold night closing in, John flipped the central locking on the car, and he and Balders got into the front, Sarah and I into the back.
“Well, that was good”, said Sarah,
"I'm so happy! It's like a koala crapped a rainbow in my brain!" I replied, “I liked that bit wh...”
I never got to finish the sentence. There was an explosion of brown leather jacket and black hair from the front seat as Balders leapt into the back of the car, pulling a rather spectacular back flip with one and a half twists that you just wouldn’t think possible in a Renault 25, landing almost, but not quite, on top of Sarah.
The effect was electrifying, and I don't mind saying that it was brown trouser time. Sarah’s not exactly the calmest of individuals at the best of times, and her screams left me with perforated eardrums and impaired hearing for the next two weeks. I wouldn’t say she jumped out of her skin, but we had to get the tyre iron out of the back of the car to prize her off the ceiling.
"Meep" said Sarah, eventually.
"Good golly Miss Molly, you've shat on my apples!"
Balders was never forgiven. Even so, the “BRAINS!” gag was tried out another six times that night, and it worked each and every time. Imagine the effect in a crowded pub where everybody else had picked up on the joke. And me? Too traumatised to speak, I was left with a lifetime of therapy, and a never-ending afterlife discovering new recipes.
Mmmmm.... Brainssss... in cheese sauce....