Before his life of crime, when he was a musician with the stage name of “Hank Druid,” he’d been a real honest-to-goodness local Hollywood personality. A “barely been” Sunset Boulevard rock star.
Denny was the only surviving member of the almost-famous 80s musical duo called “Short and Curly.”
Short and Curly’s claim to fame was starting fist fights, on stage, wherever they performed. In most cases, the fights were simply between Denny (Hank Druid) and his partner Jerome Horwitz, who was called “Curly,” in response to his shaved head.
Short and Curly’s band played Country Rap Music, which one critic abbreviated and addressed as “Crap music.”
* * * *
Behind Denny, the TV in the Flamingo Arms Hotel was showing commercials, which were only occasionally interrupted by a TV program. The program was the zombie classic movie, Day of the Driving Dead which had been filmed in the fast lanes of Honolulu’s H-1 freeway.
Ruby and the two kids had already forgotten what they were watching.
Mom and the kids were no longer complaining about being hungry or about how they were going to be tossed out of their tiny motel room tomorrow by the manager, a biker named “Thug.” It didn’t seem to matter to them that they would be living on the filthy, hot, smoggy pavement of Sunset Boulevard by tomorrow after the 11a.m. check-out time.
The Joyces were months beyond caring.
The four “Joyce” family members remained slack-jawed, ill, drugged, and depressed. Their lifeless eyes watched and waited for more disappointment. There was that knee slappin’ commercial announcing the new season of Putz, the crude golf comedy.
Their newly adopted kitty, afraid of being smoked or eaten, was pacing behind the couch. Ignored.
Denny was doing “jes fine” compared to the rest of his family because he had a dream about “God’s Plan.” The plan essentially said, “We ONLY exist to feed our cats.” This dream revealed itself to Denny, in Prison, after he’d been “saved.”
He prayed that the rest of humanity would come to know the true and noble reason for man’s existence in the cosmos.
Denny’s wife, Ruby, high and delirious on bath salts of all things, was thinking about putting the two kids out of their misery in the tiny bathtub and sending herself “packing” with painkillers.
That, and getting rid of the damned cat.
That horrible creature that her half-witted daughter had brought home a year ago.
Things are really getting El Fucktorino in this, the land of dreams that we all know as Hollywood, she thought.
The beer and Cheetos were gone. The uninsured 1959 Chevy that the family lovingly called the “Taco Wagon,” with its fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror, had been stolen a month ago. They had no more money for Denny to gamble away. It was over. This was probably as Fuctorinoed as things would ever get.
Reminder to the Joyce family: This time tomorrow, you will all be enjoying the great outdoors, while living on the glamorous sidewalk of the world famous Sunset Strip!
* * * *
Denny stood at the ground floor motel apartment door of Room 21, trying to come up with another scheme, crime or whatever it would take to get himself back on track, or better yet, as high as the space shuttle. Denny was also waiting for the rest of the motel’s inhabitants, roaches included, to go to sleep. He considered delivering the rest of his own family into the motel’s dumpster before taking off at sunrise. Because of his strong religious beliefs, Denny calmly kept his gaze focused on enjoying the cool night and the quiet of the hotel’s parking lot, by the door.
* * * *
The Flamingo Arms Hotel was a faded pink, early 1960s art-drecko monstrosity whose neon sign faced the Sunset Strip. The sign sported a twenty-foot high pink top-hat-topped flamingo that never stopped flapping its neon human arms. It flapped spasmodically 24-hours-a-day, as if to air out its hairy armpits (thanks to a graffiti artist with the tag “Killah”).
The ugly bird had been trying to fan the smog off the hot Sunset Strip for twenty years.
* * * *
A long black limousine slid out of the oily night and pulled up to the curb in front of the depressing eyesore of a hotel.
The Cadillac Behemoth limousine slid up to the motel curb and appeared to sputter and die there. The driver, in silhouette, pointed its long index finger at Denny who was smoking in the doorway of Room #21.
Denny thought, What’s a limousine doing in front of this hell hole?
A town that snorts people up and sneezes them out. Probably just another drug addicted sleaze-ball looking for a thrill.
The Flamingo Arms was a popular drug stop for the legions of the L.A. law firms, and the half-dead rock stars.
The car sat idling for nearly twenty minutes. Black exhaust caused the rare evening stars to disappear over Hollywood.
The limo gave forth its last wheezing breath and after a long pause, the “chauffeur” seemed to struggle with the limo’s heavy door. He unfolded his long frame and very slowly stepped out into the street. He wore an old-fashioned chauffeur’s outfit and cap. He adjusted the brim to avoid the light and keep his face hidden in shadow.
He was tall, pale, and barely able to keep his balance.
Denny’s watched the man and thought of his eighty-pound crackhead buddy Jeff, who looked more alive than this loser.
The tall figure stepped slowly around the vehicle and opened the back door of the bus-sized limo that faced the hotel. Two large muddy brown shoes appeared out of the darkness of the open door. A large, white-haired gentleman dressed in a dusty, ragged tuxedo stepped out onto the sidewalk with great difficulty.
Behind the big guy, but remaining in the limo, Denny glimpsed a ghostly platinum-haired female in a white dress.
The portly old man swayed weakly on the sidewalk and shielded his dark eyes from the faint glare of the flickering street light above his head.
Perhaps, the weak lamp post still burned brightly in another dimension.
The rail-thin driver grabbed the bigger gent’s elbow and with some effort, steadied them both, and escorted the larger man up the walkway.
The big man’s large gloved hands carried a large piece of cardboard. He “shambled” toward the curious Denny who stood in the doorway of Room #21.
Denny did not look at the man’s face hidden in the shadows, but at the cardboard poster that he held in his filthy white gloved hands: a two-foot by five-foot-long humungous check made out to Mr. Denny Joyce. Dated two weeks ago and signed by Charles “scribble scribble” from the Publisher’s Clearing House. The amount written on the check was for “One Million Dollars.”
Denny was pondering if this was just a bad side-effect of bath salts that his family had ingested, when he heard a deep dead rasping “HEY HO!”
Denny looked up at the maggot-filled mouth that omitted the unearthly sound. The face was slack and it looked slightly decomposed with its teeth drawn back and bits of skull showing beneath the thick white hair and cracked aviators.
The corpse spoke to Denny through creaking jaws, with a voice and breath that could only have risen from the rotting bowels of …well, almost anywhere in Hollywood.
“Denny Joyce! You’ve just won the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes! You’re now a millllllllllionnnnnnnnaire!”
After his initial shock of both seeing the walking corpse of the fifteen-years-extinct Ed McMahon and hearing that he had suddenly became a millionaire, all propelled by a blast of fetid (you-call-that) breath?… all Denny Joyce could say was, “Aren’t you… Ed McM… Mc—”
“Hey Ho!” said the corpse. “Dennyyyyyyyyy it’s yourrrrrrrr luckkkkky dayyyyyy.”
Denny felt his bladder nearly “let go” and he began to feel dizzy.
Something deep down in his fried brain, perhaps a little angel, warned him:
“Don’t ever invite them in.”
“We’re all sick, man… sorry,” said Denny. “This is crazy! Is… is that check for real?” He hurled the last of the Cheetos upon his own shirt and the battered screen door that separated the living from the dead.
Recovering, Denny looked up and asked, “Is… is there anything that I have to do?” Cough, cough. “And just curious pal… are you, like, dead?”
“Yes, Denny. Hey Hooooooohhhh! The last time I looked, yeah! I was very dehhhhhd. The check is reeeeeeeeeal. You are a millionaire! Can I come in? Can we talk?”
Don’t let them in. Never let them in Denny, said the imaginary little angel, now on his right shoulder.
Denny wiped his eyes in disbelief. All of them zeros…. “Uh no, not yet.” As he knew from his prison dream, this was part of God’s “plan.”
“There, of course, is one little catch Mr. Joyce,” said dead Ed. “I need to eat someone’s brains and I need them now! By the way you’re a mess, son, you’ve ruined your shirt.”
“Oh sorry man, er Mr., uh, Mr. McMahon. You gave me quite a start. I’m a smart guy. I knew that there would be some sort of ‘a catch.’ How about my wife Ruby, pal? She has some brains.”
(Ruby used to have a good brain, before she started to date a crack pipe frequently.)
“Come here, Honey. There’s someone that I want you to meet. This is Mr. McMahon. Remember Ed McMahon?”
“Whah” his wife said from the bed. “Who’s there?” She crawled over to the door.
“Holy shit!” she said looking at him through the Cheeto gauze on the screen, and from three different angles in the dim light. “Hey! You used to be the fat guy from the Tonight Show!”
“Hey Hoooooooo! You are correct, sir! I mean Mrs. Joyce! I am Ed McMahhhhhhhon, and you, my lovely woman, and the man that you are married to, are now millionaires!”
Ed bent his creaky frame over toward Denny and then whispered through the screen toward Denny’s ear. “I bet that she did have a good brain ’til she met you and Mr. Dope, huh, Denny?'” said Ed with another putrid blast of his breath that sent Denny hurling away from the door.
“Johnny! Mia! Come here!” Ruby said. The two munchkins crawled off of the bed and “shambled*” over toward the door while moaning. They had just started watching the Walking Dead on the Food Channel and were mimicking the zombies on TV
(*Shambling. That’s what the walking dead do rather than walk. It’s their idea of a good time….)
Only Mia was brave enough to come up to the door. Johnny stood back.
“Oh crap Dad! Mom! This fucker’s a real zombie!”
“I’m only here to helllllp you sweeeeeetnesssss.”
“Yeah, gang, uh, we got us a real zombie,” said Denny.
“This is Mr. McMahon, kids,” Ruby said. “Mr. McMahon used to be on television, before he … went bankrupt… died … and rotted… and beetles started living in his ears.”
“Okay, Dad. Tell him to go away. He smells like balls!”
“Mia! Use your manners! Sorry, Mr. McMahon. Kids, huh! Mr. McMahon has got a pile of money for us, children. Be polite, you little shits.”
“Those three brains would do fine, Denny… IF they weren’t all high on bath salts. You’ve ruined them all, Denny. If we eat stupid brains, we get stupider. You were always a bright kid, Mr. Henry Wayne Druid! So, no thannnnnnkssss. Can we seeeeeal the deeeeeal? Can I come in and—seeeeeeal the deal?”
Wow! That sounded too much like seal-a-meal to Denny.
“Wait! N… no, not yet,” said Denny. “How about you just sliding the check under the door?”
“That’s not how we do things here in Hollywood, Denny, sir! We need to shake your hand and capture this wonderful event on video tape.”
There was another walking corpse behind Ed, holding a moldy broken video camera. It was hard to see the cameraman, as the camera was supporting a blinding spotlight. The cameraman wore Ray-Ban sunglasses. The mysterious camera-guy also sported sideburns and emitted a truly horrible spoiled bacon smell from his a mold-covered black leather jacket.
“I always liked you Mr. McMahon. I don’t want to do this,” said the shaken Denny.
“If I let you in… well… Okay, then. Let me think this over”
“Six zeros Denny!” said the little fire-engine-red devil on his left shoulder.
“How about you meet my son!” said Denny. “Come here, John! Meet Mr. Ed McMahon! Mr. McMahon! HERE’sssssssss JOHNNY!”
Ed hissed like a snake. “Hahhhhhh, hahhhhh, hilariousssssss. You’re a real charmer, Denny.” Looking at Johnny, Ed said, “Your old man’s a comedian, son. You know that you can’t say that, Denny?”
“You can’t say, ‘Here’ssssss Johnny!’ I’ve still got a trademark copyright on that phrase.”
“Waaaaaaay…. Oh, and that word ‘way’ belongs to Mike Meyers. US patent and trademark office, Denny. I can use ‘way’ because I’m a shambling undead fiend.”
“Gee, I wouldn’t have thought!” said little Johnny.
Ignoring the warning from the little fuck-head angel on his right shoulder, Denny said to the dead Ed, “Why you smelly piece of… yeech! Just to make it clear. Are you listening, Ed! ARE WE CLEAR ON THIS? I am NOT inviting you in! This is NOT an invitation. Right?”
With that, Denny wrenched open the Fuckingoddamnedfuckingsonofabastard door, and grabbed onto the lapels of Ed’s threadbare tux. He then pulled the big smelly fat-ass zombie into the motel room. Denny’s wife and kids, all back upon the king-sized bed, just slid over to accommodate the big stiff, and continued to ignore the real horror show next to them.
Ed struggled and gurgled as Denny dragged him into the room.
Ed McMahon, though over six-feet-tall, was nearly weightless: an empty shell, except for a few shreds of some poor souls whose brains he had feasted on within the last couple of weeks.
A few feeble minds were the only things that had kept old Ed McMahon barely moving along with a very nice shamble these days.
Ed had only been feasting on the brains of the weak and greedy. At this moment, Ed who was very weak and very greedy for a “noggin nosh.” His scam was not working on this hardened punk, who moved quickly and gracefully.
Denny threw the big lug easily onto the bed.
Hell! That was easy! thought Denny. Maybe I’ll be going out to look for the ex-Elvis and ex-Marilyn later.
“Thanks for the check, Ed,” said Denny. “Money is a good thing and I certainly thank you for it. You still have one very important thing that you’re going to give me tonight Mr. McMahon! You see, Mr. McMahon, it’s time to feed the kitty!”
“Wait! The check will not do you any good. I’m suing you for one million dollars! Hey Hooooo!”
Denny still held onto the lapels of Ed’s rotting tux and easily held the big weak zombie flat on the bed.
“My lawyer, Denny. I want my lawyer!”
* * * *
Denny whistled for Angel Puff (another name for Dave), while Ed McMahon snapped, squealed and squirmed beneath Denny’s weight,
Denny told him, “THIS is God’s plan. Don’t you know that Mr. McMahon? Angel Puff! Come here, Puff Ball!” (another name for Angel Puff).
Angel Puff had always hated that name, though it served him many fine souls. He got off of his furry butt and slowly walked over to the bed.
With his green eyes, orange fur and sparkly gold collar, the cat leapt upon the bed and sat himself squarely upon the trapped zombie’s chest.
Angel Puff tossed back his handsome mane, focused his slitted emerald eyes upon his prey, and began to inhale his psychic meal. “I’ll start with a little soul food—better than tuna.”
Ed was a virtual soul buffet!
The last thing Zombie Ed saw was Denny leaning close.
“The world is full of hungry, fluffy, lovable kitties, Ed.
“We ONLY exist to feed our cats.
Don’t you know that Mr. McMahon?”
* * * *
Angel Puff had inhaled his last tortured soul from the zombie’s empty husk, when all of a sudden:
The room went black as the lights and the TV went off.