Brains

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“Wow my sister has changed. She used to whip her boobs out for no reason. Now she does it to feed her child.”

Oh Khloe, you’re, like, so hilarious. 

Fucking Kardashians. I hope the zombies ate you. 

We didn’t have any cutesy clever names for them like they always had in the movies and tv shows back in the day. They were zombies, so we called them zombies. And they loved the Kardashians. 

When they came, we thought we could handle it. Zombie apocalypse movies were such a huge thing at the time, we figured there was no way we weren’t prepared. We’d all been gearing up for this shit, some of us even maybe hoping for it a little, since The Walking Dead first aired on tv. 

It was nothing like tv. Of course we didn’t know that in the beginning. In the beginning, we went for the brains. The Hollywood zombies all had one thing in common – they were dead people, except for a small, primal part of their brains, which a virus had infected and brought to life. They were basically rabid wild animals, fueled by nothing but hunger, because that was the only part of them that worked. To kill them, you had to shut down that part of the brain, stab it, shoot it, etc., etc. 

So, naturally, that’s what we did. Except it didn’t work. We thought we were going for the wrong parts. We tried everything, but nothing worked. One day Paul managed to hack off one of their heads, and we were horrified to realize that both pieces could still move on their own. 

Paul had then, fueled by disgust, horror, and frustration, raised his machete and brought it down on the decapitated head, slicing it into two. 

It was empty. 

Like, empty empty.

There weren’t rotting brains or anything inside; there was literally absolutely nothing. Just skull and nothing. 

To add to our horror, the eyeballs on both halves were still moving, both halves of the mouth focused solely on Paul’s leg, trying to tear a chunk off every time he got close.

After that, we started slicing heads, hoping to find some semblance of proof that Hollywood hadn’t lied to us and left us completely unprepared for the most terrifying event in the history of the planet. After about a month of slicing and chopping, we were forced to admit that the movies hadn’t done anything to prepare us for real life. Who would’ve thought?

They did, however, prove to be great distractions for the zombies; we figured that out pretty early. There was a Walmart in our small town that had a modest selection of tv’s, which were playing re-runs of stupid reality shows any time you went in there. When the power plant had shut down and we’d lost electricity, the backup generators in the biggest store in town had kicked in and kept the equipment running for a good two weeks or so. We had, of course, all noticed that the Walmart had power on the first night of the blackout, when we looked out and saw it illuminating the pitch black streets around it. 

It had seemed like a good place to spend the night, considering there was light and all. The sight that had greeted us when we’d walked in was definitely unexpected – about a hundred zombies gathered around the tv’s, completely absorbed in Keeping Up With the Kardashians. They’d been so absorbed, in fact, that they’d paid absolutely not attention to us.

“Well I’ll be a monkey’s left nut,” Paul had said, “they don’t even notice us.”

We’d decided to put that theory to the test. We’d made noise, cracked open the cans of food we’d snagged for dinner, Paul had even sliced open his palm, thinking the smell of blood might break them away from Kim’s ass. Kim’s ass had won that battle. 

After that, we’d filled the center of town with tv’s, Blu-Ray players, and generators. We’d scoured houses and the Walmart for dvd’s of every season of every stupid reality show we could find, siphoned fuel out of every car and lawn mower in town to power the generators, and created a little movie theater for our short-of-brain friends. 

They loved it. 

Every now and then, a few would get hungry enough to abandon their entertainment and head toward our little row of houses in search of food, but it was never more than three or four at a time, certainly nothing we couldn’t handle. We used Machete’s, axes, and crowbars to hack them into a few pieces so they couldn’t get away, then set them on fire. 

Burning them was the only way to permanently get rid of them. 

A few months turned into two years, and we adjusted to our new way of life. Things were ok, for a while, until our supplies started to run out. The little Texas town we’d all grown up in didn’t have very much – a Walmart, a general store, and a few mom and pop diners. We rationed the canned and packaged food as much as we could, but we eventually had to face the fact that our supply was going to run out, and sooner rather than later.  To make matters worse, we were running very low on fuel. 

Paul’s solution was to jump ship. Pack up everything we couldn’t live without, hop into a van, and find another town, one who’s supplies hadn’t been raided yet, and start over. 

Bobby-Joe, who was the elder among us, said he’d rather swallow his tongue than leave the town he’d been born in, had lived in for sixty-four years. “Sixty-four years boy, You wouldn’t know that kinda commitment if it spit in yer cocky mug. This is my home, and I ain’t leavin’!” 

And so began the battle between the old man and the young, the old one suggesting that we drive to neighboring towns and collect supplies to bring back, the young one arguing that we would have to do that at least once a month, which would put the teams making the supply runs into significantly more danger than his plan, which would result in the entire group having to seek a new home once every few years or so. 

I sympathized with Bobby-Joe; I’d lived in the same town all twenty-two years of my life. Leaving for college had been the hardest thing I’d ever had to do, and even then I made it a point to come home every spring, summer, and winter break. My parents were buried here – hell, my fucking dog was buried here. But it was hard to argue against Paul’s logic. And as indifferent as he tried to seem to everybody else, I knew him, knew leaving would break his heart just as much as everybody else’s. But someone had to be the voice of reason in a group of small-town rednecks, most of whom had never seen the world beyond their own backyards and had absolutely no interest to, and Paul had taken the burden upon himself.

“I can’t believe how fucking stubborn and short-sighted they’re being!”

“Sure you can. You just described every old man in the history of this town.”

I almost didn’t come home that summer.

I always came home for Paul. That summer, he said he didn’t want me to. 

He was mad at me. That first year had been so hard. We’d been together since we were in diapers, and suddenly, in the blink of an eye, I was “too many miles away in sunny California surrounded by surfer boys.” His words. I tried to explain to him that I was only going there for school, my dream school; that I didn’t care about sunshine or surfer boys or anything else; that I loved him, since before I even knew what love was. I came home winter and spring break, but it wasn’t enough for him. Right before summer break, when I was signing up for fall semester’s classes, he told me not to. Told me to come home and stay there. Told me; didn’t even ask. 

So I politely asked him to take his demands and shove them up his ass. He didn’t like that. He said to not bother coming home at all, then. Said he’d moved on and didn’t need me anymore.

I was so mad. I knew he was full of shit. I was never one of those girls who’d like beg her asshole boyfriend to stay with her or anything, so I wasn’t hysterical or in tears or whatever. I was just seething, pissed off mad. 

I went so far as to contemplate actually staying in L.A. for the summer, but in the end I came to the conclusion that one asshole wasn’t worth my missing out on spending the summer with my parents and Toby. Especially Toby. He’d been glued to my hip since he was a tiny puppy, and I knew the separation was as hard on him as it was on Paul. Except Toby wasn’t a jackass about it. He gave me big slobbery kisses on FaceTime every night.

So I went home. A month later, the virus broke out. Within a few weeks, mom was gone, and dad followed only days later. Somewhere in between, Paul lost his mom too, and nobody had ever known where the fuck his deadbeat dad was, so that just left the two of us and Toby, and suddenly our fight seemed silly. In this new world, Paul didn’t have to worry about feeling mediocre next to a girl with a big fancy college education while he worked at Walmart for minimum wage his whole life. I was obviously never going to finish college now, and everybody kind of just took what they needed from Walmart so it didn’t need employees. Water under the bridge. Bastard always got his way. 

The three of us lived together in my parents’ house for two years. Losing Toby last week was a blow I wasn’t ready to face – that dog was the love of my life – but he died a true loyal dog’s death: protecting his owner. I buried him in the backyard next to my parents. Paul didn’t help. 

Now he was ranting and raving about how Bobby-Joe didn’t know shit and we needed to leave. 

“Look, I’m not saying you’re wrong. I agree with you; it would probably be a whole lot safer for us to just find a new place to live. I don’t feel good about frequent supply runs either. But everyone’s with Bobby-Joe. Majority rules.”

“Fuck everyone and fuck Bobby-Joe! We don’t need ‘em!”

“Paul. Please don’t be saying what I think you’re saying.”

“Why? Would bein’ stuck with me really be so bad?”

“Dude this has nothing to do with you! You’re suggesting we go out there by ourselves; live by ourselves. Us two kiddos all on our own in the big bad world. ‘Cause that’s so much safer than supply runs.”

“I ain’t no kid!” he practically roared. I’d hit a nerve. 

“Honey, if you had any semblance of an adult in you, you wouldn’t be suggesting what you’re suggesting right now.”

I didn’t give him the chance to respond. I turned around and walked upstairs, off to bed. I just wanted to sleep. Maybe when I woke up, Toby would still be alive and Paul wouldn’t be such an ass. Maybe.

He slept in one of the guest rooms that night. 

“Paul I’m going to Bobby-Joe’s for a bit!”

No response. The high sun overhead told me it was past noon, so he definitely wasn’t still sleeping, which meant he was ignoring me. I had me a keeper. 

I walked out the door and let it slam behind me. Part of me started to wish that he wouldn’t be there when I got back, but I quickly checked myself. Those kinds of wishes could be granted pretty quickly in this new world.

I had to walk through the center of town to get to Bobby-Joe’s; right through the whole Keeping Up With the Kardashians herd. 

We’d tried to set the whole herd on fire once. We figured we’d just burn them up and rid the whole town of them all at once while they were absorbed in the latest Kardashian/Jenner drama. It didn’t work. Apparently, some things we learn get absorbed from our brains right into our souls, because on my dog’s grave these bastards stop-drop-and-rolled! 

So we realized with some dismay that we had to hack them apart before we burned them, which is pretty impossible to do with a whole huge herd. I mean, as mesmerizing as reality show boobs are, at some point survival instinct kicks in and you start to fight back. Hearing your buddies or whatever screaming as their limbs get chopped off sends you into survival mode I guess, and having the zombies fight us just wasn’t worth it. One thing Hollywood got right was the zombie bite; it turns you. That’s how mom and dad went; how Paul’s mom went. Why risk that when we could just make it so they didn’t bother us?

“I’m so thankful for Kim Kardashian West because without her this family vacate wouldn’t have happened,” I heard Khloe exclaim.

“Or our careers.” That had to be Scott. Gotta love Scott. 

“Howdy boys.” I tipped my hat to our friends as I passed by. I didn’t really have a Kim K. ass though, so nobody noticed. 

I found Bobby-Joe sitting on a rocker on his front porch smoking a pipe. Such a southern old man stereotype, but that was Bobby-Joe.

“Howdy sunshine,” he stood up when he saw me coming. Also a southern gentleman stereotype, which I always appreciated. It was a tough thing to find among the boys of my generation. 

“Afternoon Bobby-Joe.”

“What brings you out yonder all by yerself, little lady?”

He opened the screen door and led me inside, into a pretty kitchen covered in daisy-print wallpaper.

“I baked some cookies yesterday,” I put the basket on the kitchen table, “thought I’d bring you some.”

He smiled then, a bright. genuine smile that had been absent from the old man since his wife had turned. Kristen had been everything to Bobby-Joe; the light of his life, the apple of his eye, etc. etc. They had one of those storybook marriages that every little girl dreams of before she discovers that all boys are assholes and she’s better off chasing her own dreams. 

Bobby-Joe wasn’t an asshole. Bobby-Joe had loved his wife with a kind of pure love that just didn’t exist anymore. Boys were too busy thinking up clever ways to get into girls’ pants to love them purely. Kristen had been a lovely, lucky lady, and when she’d turned, Bobby-Joe had blamed himself for not being able to protect her. Paul had taken her out, I think to compensate for not being able to do the same with his mom. That had been a rough one, but nowhere near as bad as my own mom and dad. Anyway, life goes on. 

“Ya know, yer ma always used ta say she was worried she’d never be able ta make a proper southern lady outta you, what, with yer head always in them books an’ all. An’ I’d tell her, I’d say, “Molly, that girl o’ yours, she goin’ places; places none of us can’t even dream of. But wherever she goes, ye can bet yer bottom dollar she’s goin’ te be bringin’ her neighbors cookies, ‘cause she’s her mamma’s daughter, and them genes is strong stuff.’”

I smiled. I felt a tear coming on, but I inhaled sharply and it went away. I wasn’t about to cry over my mamma; I had no right; I didn’t deserve closure. 

“Anyway, thanks for provin’ me right doll.”

“Anytime Bobby. Anytime.”

“So that fella o’ yers.”

“Yeah…I actually kind of wanted to talk to you about that.”

He pulled out a chair for me and took his own seat across the table. 

I plopped down, but didn’t really know what to say. I started tapping my fingers on the table, a rather annoying nervous habit that I’ve been carrying around my whole life. I was worried about Paul and I wanted Bobby-Joe’s help, but I didn’t really know how to convey all of that to the old man without making Paul sound like an irresponsible jackass.

I mean, he was an irresponsible jackass, but still. I didn’t want to shit-talk my boyfriend.

“He wants to leave,” I finally said. I was looking down at my fingers, now tapping “All You Need is Love” on Kristen’s prized antique wood kitchen table. 

“So he said. He was the only one, so that ain’t happenin’.”

“It is for him,” I responded. I snuck a glance at Bobby-Joe. He was staring at me with a puzzled expression, patient and kind, as was his nature, but wondering if he was missing the meaning of my book-learned words. 

He loved me, they all did, but I was different from all of them. I’d left, and nobody ever left and came back, not in this town. It made me an outsider, and they weren’t quite sure what to do with me, even now.

“He wants to leave, Bobby-Joe,” I practically whispered. “Like – by himself. Well, with me. But just us, because nobody else wants to go.”

The old man took a deep breath. He was rattled, and he was rarely ever rattled. “And do ye wanna go girlie?” 

“No. Well, I mean, yeah.” I shook my head, as if forcing all my thoughts into one place. “I think Paul’s right; in the long run, staying and making frequent supply runs is going to be a lot more dangerous than just finding a new place to live. But I don’t wanna go if nobody else is going. I think Paul and me out there by ourselves is more dangerous than anything else. It’s scary, Bobby-Joe. I don’t know why he wants to do it.”

“‘Cause he’s proud, doll. He realized in front o’ everyone he knows that he don’t have no authority. That’s a whole lot te take in fer a insecure boy tryin’ ta be a man.” 

I already knew all that.

“What do I do?” I asked almost frantically. I got up from my chair; sitting was proving to be very difficult exercise. I started pacing across Kristen’s prized, pretty little kitchen. “How do I stop him.”

“Ye don’t. Ye can’t. Ye jus’ decide if yer goin’ with him. I hope ye make the smart choice. Yer a smart girl. The smartest here. I’d hate to see ye suddenly stop fer some dumb boy.”

I smiled. So something my dad would’ve said. I had to see Paul.

“Thanks Bobby-Joe. I think I should get home.”

I was almost out the door; on a whim, I turned around, ran back to the kitchen to kneel in front of the old man’s chair and plant a kiss on his cheek, then ran back out again.

Back across town, through the Kim’s and Khloe’s and Kourtney’s, Kendall’s and Kylie’s, and the herds of zombies. They’d all become so normal, they didn’t even phase me anymore.

“Paul!” I called out as I slammed the door open. “Paul!”

No response.

“What the fuck dude?! Come on, stop acting like a little kid and talk to me!”

Still nothing. I stood outside the guest room he’d holed up in last night. It was locked.

“God you’re such a dick!” I exclaimed, kicking the door open.

I screamed. Paul wasn’t Paul anymore.

“No. No. No. No. No. No.”

He’d chained himself up to the footboard of the bed. His last act was to protect me. Who would’ve thought. There was a gun next to him. He obviously hadn’t had the balls to go through with plan A. That part wasn’t too hard to believe. 

“Of course you’d leave it to me. Like you left your mom to me, and my mom and dad, and Toby…just leave everything to me you asshole.”

I was sobbing as I picked up the gun.

“When did you even get bit? I mean, they like the Kardashian’s for God’s sake! You were outsmarted by a bunch of brainless, Kardashian-obsessed zombies?! What the fuck, Paul?!”

I plopped down onto the bed. 

“What the fuck am I supposed to do now, huh? Why would you make me do this? Why couldn’t you just be a fucking adult for once in your stupid life, and just do the selfless thing?”

It was trying to take a chunk out of my face while I screamed at it. 

“But you don’t have to be a zombie to do that, do you?” I started tearing through the desk drawers, looking for a lighter. “You’ve been trying to tear chunks out of me my whole life, right? Trying to keep me dumb, keep me out of college, keep me in this stupid hick town. You’d be happy if I spent my whole life working at Walmart next to you, right? We’d get fat and live in a trailer and have 8 kids we wouldn’t be able to support, so we’d have to go on welfare. One big, happy, white trash family. That was your dream life, wasn’t it? Well good riddance, asshole.”

I set his shirt on fire and walked out of the room. I could hear his screams as I ran up the stairs, two at a time, into my old room. I pulled out the old backpack I’d used for school and started throwing stuff in there; 2 shirts, two pairs of pants, extra pair of sneakers, a few pairs of socks and underwear, and a family photo – me, mom, dad, and Toby. There was one of Paul and me too, but I left that. The only good thing that bastard ever gave me was convincing me, at the very end, to get the fuck out of this useless town. I threw in a knife, my Glock 43, some ammo, a big box of matches, and a few lighters, threw the bag over my shoulder, and left my room. 

I could still hear not-Paul’s piercing screams as I hurried down the stairs and out the front door. Behind me, Paul burned, the whole house probably caught fire and burned to the ground, but I didn’t look back. I should’ve never looked back. I wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice.

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I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

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So I’m mainly writing this post to ask a very serious question, but before I do, I’d like to give you guys some pretext –

I started a new job in February, and I feel like it just healed my soul. That sounds dramatic, but seriously, that’s how I feel. My last job nearly killed me (metaphorically). I won’t get into much detail, but I was miserable. The people I worked with were awful, my bosses were awful…I worked so hard to get absolutely nowhere, with a company that I’d dedicated my life to, and it broke my heart.

I lost myself a lot this past year. There were a lot of changes, sure – moving across 4 states, getting married – but it was the job that did it. If you’ve been reading up on my site, you know that I’m a person who feels things very strongly, and the misery I felt at this job seeped into every fiber of my life, from my hobbies, to my health and fitness, to my relationships. I was a raging bitch to my husband, I would forget to text my friends back, I stopped working out, stopped making art…I would get home from work, and I’d be so emotionally drained, that I’d just go to sleep. I literally just slept all day.

That was then. Fast forward four months, and I’m a changed woman. I took control of that situation. I left the job and got a new one; I took the time to get to know my boss before I said yes to the offer – and it’s been a pretty great decision. My team is amazing, my boss is the best support system, teacher, motivator, and cheerleader I could possibly ask for; I’m feeling creatively challenged again, for the first time in a year; I’m feeling like I’m building real connections with my team, which is the most important thing to me. After all, my favorite part of what I do is helping people learn and grow, and that’s definitely happening now.

And the effect? Well, I go running at least three times a week – running has always been a passion of mine, and I hadn’t stuck to it this consistently since college. I’m reading books, writing, drawing, playing music…I feel inspired again, finally.

My company got us on this app, Virgin Pulse, which basically rewards you for healthy behaviors. You can track your steps, workouts, water intake, financial health, etc, and you earn points the more consistent you are, that you can later redeem for actual gift cards. It’s such a brilliant idea, and I’m so amazed at my company for investing in us like that. It has definitely helped with my self-accountability.

I have two co-workers who challenged me to give up Starbucks. I was going every other day, at least, and when I added up the amount of money I was spending there monthly, I nearly fainted. I’m proud to say that I’ve been Starbucks-sober for nearly two weeks now. My boss put a Keurig in our office and I bought a bunch of K-Cups, and that’s how I get my coffee fix now. And every time I think about running to Starbucks, I think about how disappointed these coworkers would be in me, and I stop myself.

I also got to see my friends a few times at the start of this year. I finally went home to visit after a year of being away; then one of my closest friends came and stayed with me for a week. I hadn’t seen any of them since we moved, and I loved spending time with them and catching up.

So now that you have all that pretext, here is my question:

Is it ok for me to allow these outside forces to affect and influence me the way they do?

We all do, right? When one thing upsets us or stresses us out, we carry it with us into everything else we do. We’re human – we can’t repress how we feel, or erase and reset our feelings when going from one situation to the next. But we can choose to rise above them, right? For example, when I came home from the job that made me miserable, I could’ve chosen to go for a run to help release my stress and anxiety. Running definitely does that for me. Instead, I chose to succumb to my negative emotions and become a victim to them. Why did it have to take an app and a good day at work to get me off the couch and into my running shoes? Are we really that dependent on the people and circumstances around us. Is it ok to be? Hey, even the Beatles said, “I get by with a little help from my friends,” and I think anybody with real human emotions will tell you that when you’re in a toxic situation, that toxicity spreads into other aspects of your life. But we can choose to stop it from spreading, right, even if we can’t always remove ourselves from the situation right away?

Theoretically, yes. We can CHOOSE to do anything. But is this asking too much of mere mortals? I don’t know. I don’t have an answer.

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