|This week in SHOWCASE|
|A Turning Point by Michael D. Turner|
|Waste Not by Rhonda Parrish|
|Full Disclosure by S. R. Mastrantone|
|The Lost Chapter from Stranger in a Strange Land by Sean Thomas|
Mark Niemann-Ross on
writing “The Music Teacher”
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by Rhonda Parrish
The sun peeked over the horizon, sending its golden light out over the land. The beams danced on the water in the creek and flowed over the green field of corn. Even through the dirty hayloft window it was a beautiful sight, a lovely moment. Then he had to go and spoil it.
“You still in bed? Useless as yer pa! Git up. Those pigs won't feed ‘emselves.” Grandpa’s voice, slurred already, drowned out the morning birdsong.
I rolled out of bed and got dressed, then wandered into the kitchen-area. He could scream all he wanted, I wasn’t going to run for him. If he was in such a hurry for the pigs to get fed he could do it his own damned self for a change.
He sat at the scarred table that I’m told had been in the family for generations. All’s I know for sure is that it’s heavy as sin. Damned thing was a bitch to get into the hayloft when we moved out of the house to get off the ground level. I glanced in his direction and confirmed, as if there was any doubt, that he was drunk. It was there, in his liquid posture and glassy eyes. He’d always been a drunk, but it got worse after the ghouls came, and worse again a couple years back when he drank the county dry and had to start brewing his own poison.
I grabbed a couple cold biscuits out of the basket on the table and jammed them into the pocket of my overalls. Gran’s back was to me, but she turned as I put my arm around her shoulder, planting a kiss on her soft, wrinkled cheek. “Good morning.”
“Morning,” she said, her voice low so as not to draw Grandpa’s attention. He hadn’t done it recently, not since I told him anything he did to Gran I’d do back to him, but he used to hit her. A lot. “I’ll collect the eggs shortly, but do you mind milking the cow? My knees aren’t what they once were.”
“Of course.” I smiled at Gran, and after giving her shoulder one last squeeze climbed down the ladder into the barn proper.
I milked Clarabelle, then let her out into the field with her calf and our two heifers. I’d been separating her from the calf at night to start the weaning process and ensure some milk for us. I was just shutting the big door when Grandpa came down. He grumbled at me—nothing new—and then stumbled out the big door and into the field. I halfway-hoped he’d get into the bull’s field. Bataar had never been a friendly bull, and having his field made so much smaller hadn’t improved his temperament. There wasn’t much I could do about it, though. I had to keep everything of value, including him, inside the perimeter. I was the only one who could maintain it, so the chain-link fence I used to pen us in, and the ghouls out, enclosed only a fraction of the original farm.
Originally the fence was electrified, but power had run out long ago. Truth-be-told, I was halfway happy when it did. On my daily patrols round the fence line I found a lot more fried birds and bunnies than I did ghouls. Living out in the middle of nowhere had its perks. Fewer people meant fewer ghouls. I hadn’t seen sign of one in weeks.
I was just finishing up with the pigs when I heard him holler. I drew my pistol, not so complacent that I’d stopped carrying it, and ran toward the sound. My boots sounded hollow against the hard-packed earth around the corrals as I ran toward the shell of the old farmhouse. The ghoul, a fetid, long-dead thing with barely enough of itself left to stand, held Grandpa up against the boarded-up picture window. The old drunk’s screams were constant, but rose in pitch when he saw me. Then the ghoul buried its face in his throat and the scream bubbled away into a wet gurgling sound. I was too late.
I shot the ghoul in the back of its head. The black-and-green sludge that had replaced the creature’s blood and brain as it decomposed splattered Grandpa’s face and the house. The ghoul fell with a soft thud at Grandpa’s feet. He, too, slumped to the ground, clutching the bleeding wound in his throat, his mouth gasping like a landed fish. His eyes were wide with awareness of his fate. The scent of the ghoul reached my nostrils and I retched, then lifted my gun once more.
“Don’t!” Gran’s voice stopped me as she hobbled over from the barn.
“He’s been bit, Gran. I’m sorry.”
I looked back at Grandpa. He was shaking his head from side to side, like a dog with a tug-rope, and trying to stand. Blood loss and alcohol kept him from success. Still, as pitiful as he looked, I had no sympathy for him. Not even a little.
“I know,” she nodded, “but I have an idea. Waste not, want not.”
Grandpa had grown up during the Depression and “waste not, want not” was one of his favourite things to say. Over and over. When the ghouls got my Pa, Grandpa had insisted on stripping him naked before burying him, to save the clothes. “He won’t need ‘em where he’s going,” he’d said. “Waste not, want not.”
Gran’s a clever lady, and by working quickly, before Grandpa bled out and turned, we managed to put her plan into action. He’s up there now, thrashing and flailing, but the way I impaled him there’s no way he’s getting loose until his ribcage rots. By then he won’t be a danger to anyone.
And in the meantime, you’ve never seen a more effective scarecrow.
Rhonda Parrish is a master procrastinator and in love with maps. When she’s not doing those things, however, she somehow manages to find time to manage and publish Niteblade Magazine and even to write a thing or two herself. She also maintains a blog at rhondaparrish.com.