Man’s Best Friend, Zombie’s Worst Enemy Part 20

Sitting underneath Stacy’s desk while she accepted a flan square, Blas reflected on just how much he hated Julia’s smell. It wasn’t a zombie smell. He wished it was a zombie smell. It could be. It was a zombie smell, but it was also a fermented food smell. Although Blas didn’t think in such terms, the fact was either Julia was a zombie, or she ate miso soup every morning. He couldn’t know, and he couldn’t just go attacking whoever. Especially now, Stacy smelled happier than she had for years, and whatever was going right, he didn’t want to screw it up. So he just spent his time around Julia placing himself between her and Stacy, hunched over his one front leg, growling under his breath. If at any moment she lifted her arms in front of her or said “uurgh,” oh boy. The satisfaction of tearing her throat out sent a shiver down Blas’s spine.

Not that he would do that, even then. Even together, non-violent zombie-like behavior and a borderline smell were still insufficient to justify more than a tackle. Without actually attacking anyone, she would need to smell like a walking corpse. Like the ones out in that awful forest that Stacy now seemed to be addicted to. Blas’s missing leg itched, and he chewed at the stump. That leg was his constant reminder of the price of rushing in too soon.

Back when his name was Killer. Back when Stacy didn’t always smell angry, some stupid little boy lifted his arms and said “uurgh,” and, top-performing anti-zombie dog he was, Blas snarled and dashed out to tackle him. What he forgot was that this boy was on the other side of a busy street. Maybe if another car had been coming in the direction of his good eye he would have stopped himself. But it wasn’t. He was halfway across the street. All he remembered was the deafening blare.

Stacy found Killer behind the car, not in front of it. When she screamed, a woman stepped from the champagne Rolls-Royce, followed by a gorgeous jet black afghan hound and insisted that she take them to the emergency vet immediately. Stacy fought not to cry the whole time, holding tight onto two tourniquets to keep the blood from emptying out of Blas through the ragged tatters of an ear and the mangled remains of a leg.

“No!” Stacy shrieked at every prognosis, and why wouldn’t she, when they were all death? Whether they put him down right there or he died on the operating table, he was through. If they could theoretically save him but Stacy’s family couldn’t afford the bill, he was through. If he emerged with a disability that he couldn’t overcome to pass the zombie dog certification exam again, her parents wouldn’t be able to afford to keep him as a pet, and he was through.

One stroke of luck, the woman was still there. Tall and elegant, she had long black hair just like her dog that framed her pale face. With a deft flourish of her pen, she signed a $100,000 check to pay for any care Killer could possibly need. Then she kissed Stacy on the forehead and left. In the heat of the moment, Stacy forgot to find out who this woman was. The hospital listed Killer’s bills as paid by “an anonymous contributor.” She continued to think of her as her and Killer’s dark-haired angel, who swooped in at her time of need.

Killer emerged from the vet with his leg amputated and bandages on most of his face. He needed months of physical therapy. Stacy couldn’t leave the house alone without a fit zombie dog, so, with the money covered, she brought in a physical therapist from the vet to help him back onto his feet. Her parents thought it all extreme and may have privately wished that they could have spent $500 to train a new dog and use the other $99,500 to put Stacy through college, but the money was not theirs to spend.

To cope with the looks she got when she said she was rehabilitating a half-blind dog that got run over by a car to submit for zombie re-certification, Stacy devoted herself to stories of disabled heroes. Her parents Madeline and Marco forwarded her videos of dogs that used wheels to get around and dogs that stand on two strong hind legs or navigate their homes with ease despite being completely blind, but she herself scoured human history. Beethoven composed music long after going deaf. Franklin Delano Roosevelt led a country out of depression and through the second world war while partly paralyzed by polio. Of course, there was Helen Keller, too.

For a couple weeks, Stacy ordered everyone to call Killer “Roosevelt,” and her family dutifully obliged. For another week, she asked them to call him “Ludwig,” so they did. Several shouting matches erupted in the house when one unlucky parent or another forgot and used the wrong name. For their sake, Stacy settled on “Keller,” which didn’t sound much different from his original name. With his regular physical therapy visits, Roosevelt/Ludwig/Keller continued to grow stronger. When he could walk again without help, Stacy took him by the road in front of her house and trained him never to cross without her.

When Stacy had her temporary permit to take Keller places where other zombie dogs would be present, she was able to bring him back to school. Mr. Chapman the history teacher was a man with a shining head and a perpetual smile, who seemed to love his subject almost too much to teach it. After a student asked if George Washington had wooden teeth, he had spent all class recounting the history of the iconic general’s dental troubles. When the bell rang, he asked Stacy and Keller to stay behind.

“You have quite a dog here,” Mr. Chapman said with a smile, petting Keller’s head between his good and his half-ear. Mr. Chapman’s own dog was named “Fido” after Abraham Lincoln’s dog, and he insisted on calling the breed “yellow mongrel.”

“Your dog reminds me of a Spanish general I once studied. With just one eye, one leg, and one arm, he repelled the British from Cartagena during the war of Jenkin’s Ear.”

Stacy stared as Mr. Chapman rambled on, “granted he also had an army, and the defining feature of the conflict was more British incompetence than Spanish brilliance, but nevertheless, he was the sort that inspired his troops not in spite of his challenges but because of them.”

Stacy nodded mutely. “Um, that’s cool. I should get to the next class.”

“His name was Blas de Lezo,” Mr. Chapman shouted after her. “I wrote a book about him if you ever want to borrow it!”

The next day, Stacy accepted the book and read it cover to cover. The War of Jenkin’s Ear was truly a bizarre chapter of colonial history, but more importantly, she had a new name for Keller. “Blas de Lezo,” she said, and her dog nuzzled her arm and rolled over on his back for belly rubs.

“Who’s a good boy? Who’s a Spanish general? You are! Yes you are!”

Now the Spanish general sat underneath his commanding officer’s desk, fretting about enemies that lurked in plain sight. He had seen more carnage than he would wish on anyone else, but still he wondered how long this tenuous peace could hold. Fingers reached toward Blas underneath the desk. He sniffed at them and licked off the sticky caramel, appreciating a much needed moment of respite in these dark times.

Gray Paw Print Clip Art at Clker.com - vector clip art online, royalty free  & public domain

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By Sam Munk

Science fiction and Fantasy author with a focus on philosophical inquiry and character-driven drama.

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