BY FRANCIS CROT
The manner in which Brenda receives this harmless pleasantry will convince you that she is mad. Let us leave her a moment where she is packed – she is quite safe – her impertinence snipped, and her mind glitching with God, and consider the figure of the zombie, whom by now you trust has inherited a good deal of sense with his zeal, and the figure – I mean the trope, or circumstance – of the pandemic. Generally if you splatter his brain everywhere the zombie will not get up. But the brain can seep into other parts of the corpse, so head-mashing is not a hard-and-fast rule – when is it ever? If you haven’t got the disdain for what passes as a humane thing yet you are basically my point. But I would also like you to consider the dynamics of pandemic, i.e. to bother about how many die and how. It is a difficult and paradoxical enterprise, to “get” the disdain but also to bother about how many die and how. What you can do is, write down your concerns on a bit of paper, walk about half a mile that way and just pop it off our suggestions cliff. Of you, I’ll ask more or less whatever I feel like. Smack yourself quite hard in the head. You’re more of an idiot if you don’t. The disdain, the plague, the smack. Carry on. “Hello! Hello!”
Joe halted in a general cloud of gravel and nearly overbalanced.
“Get away from it!”
“It’s OK!” said Brenda. “This is His body, which He gave for me. This is His blood, which He shed for me.”
Joe revved the engine tetchily. “Get in! For God’s sake get on!”
“Are you Saved?” Brenda gasped.
The glowing ashes of Joe commenced a vigorous search of their options. “Yes,” he said, and Brenda peeled out and straddled the seat behind him and wrapped her thin, stinking arms around his chest.
I said “chest” but my meaning is not thus fully conveyed. They rode entranced over the smashed glass of a row of shops. A large group of moved vaguely from among the dolls and Joe accelerated. Go cupids (I know ye were left here by the previous tenant) and scatter rose petals on their tombs. Better choose white. Here and there a devil torpidly drew out the intestinal perplexities, and beside each Joe slowed to see if anything could be done; beside each it could not.
They came through the market at the centre of town, where most of the stalls were overturned: the debris spread so there was no clear path, and Joe rode carefully over wares whose crying you would forgive and wares whose crying you would most certainly not. Flapping tarpaulin; spilt fruits, loaves and cakes; all dappled with gore; and limbs and heads smashed not much like, you could see, apples; and grand fans of secondhand books: Boykoff (Jules) & Kaia Sand, Landscapes of Dissent: Guerrilla Poetry & Public Space. Palm 2008. 128pp incl. many b/w photos, reproductions of posters, signs, handouts, etc. pages sl. discoloured, wrprs sw., bloodstain at tail of sp., run through w/ little finger prob. of Lisa Morgan, £6.50, etc.; and Dr. Raphael Lyne, specialising in the Early Modern period, straightening abruptly from the stomach of the vendor of spicy cakes and breads still gnawing a rubbery tube of his offal and so drawing forth a placenta of organed gore, and a slick new flood as the corpse jerked free of it, maybe “the touch that did it,” as Beckett would have it. Dr. Lyne, who also had an interest in Beckett, lurched at them ready to hug but was tangled in the cryer’s offal, and he whipped the bike around him without trouble, sending up a diverse bloody spray. Joe remembered the banana bread had not been that good either. They went past a college; a body fell from one if its parapets onto the road behind them.
No, beside each it could not, and besides Joe wavered before the prospect of seating a third on his commandeered lime green (and red: it goes without saying) Kawasaki ER-6n. But he prepared himself to ram one of them, if he came upon an indeterminate altercation. It was not like domestic violence, Joe thought, it was better defined than that. The girl behind him – “Brenda” – shook more than his new bike. “Try and stay calm,” he said, to him it sounded like, “Do not be frightened.” Chris, Howler, Lisa and Lottie were all heading to their row of houses on Cavendish Avenue to warn the others. Nobody had signal. They were to regroup in the parking lot of Addenbrooke's, or if it proved impossible, in the Golf Course along Trumpington Road. Joe had originally left with Jealsie and Vanessa. What do you think of their screamed arrangements.
“I need a mallet,” said Brenda properly speaking to your surprise. “I’m not interested in a mild tool, as adapted for coaxing nails forth at it is for driving them down. I want a masher with approximately an anvil’s heft.”
They left the Kawasaki by the Cam. They found survivors finally near Addenbrooke’s. Chris, Lottie and Lisa were among those trying to drag someone from his weeping o’er scrubs and the endless rose within. Brenda tersely recounted the seeping belfry. There was a lively discussion, scant on logic. Some wanted to barricade themselves into the upper floor of hospital, silencers fitted to their cereal spoons. Others, petulantly arranging their tattered skirts and so on, thought it safer to strike out by foot in the countryside. Does not the pleasantness of this place carry in itself sufficient reward for any time lost in it? Perhaps they should head for Malton.
“Did you go past the houses?” said Joe.