Frazzled
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Frazzled

Is That a Dad or Functioning Zombie on Your Porch Cam?

Let’s take a closer look

Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash

At 5:30 AM the figure emerges from their porch across the street. Shoulders slouch, head is drawn forward, eyes are unfocused. What should be an easy walk down paved entranceway smacks of crucible. The figure wobbles towards the rolled morning paper that’s sat soggy near the driveway for six days straight. One leg drags a tad late in its stride.

The paper is picked up by the plastic string wrapped around it. Gutter water splashes from sodden pages onto the quester’s bathrobe, who scarcely notices or cares and slowly, somnolently turns back towards the final hurdle: the return trip up the walkway to two low-lying porch steps — the first of which he flails on — before reaching front door.

At 5:30 PM the figure emerges from his recently parked vehicle carrying business bag and pauses, dumbfounded. He slowly goes back inside the car grabbing what appears to be a box of birthday cake and a stack of folders that wouldn’t fit in his bag. He fumbles with trying to manage everything.

Your porch cam catches a few garbled, inarticulate refrains as the man nearly drops the cake, catching it before calamity strikes. There is nothing wrong with the cam’s recording mic. The frustrated sounds the man released in his struggles resemble something not completely human, its timbre exhausted and moribund.

The following weekend the porch cam picks up the man’s attempt at side-deck improvements. He carries stacks of lumber like Gorn in 1960s Star Trek. Each supply trip to garage reveals the same gait, somnambulant. He strikes with the hammer, a glazed-over look in his eyes, as if he isn’t paying attention to the nails. The bags under the lids are striking, making the eyes more cavernous and piercing, desiring something from you — besides borrowing the sugar — beyond what you’re willing to give.

The hammer strikes. Instead of metallic slap followed by woody echo, there’s a fleshy mush. The man cries out more garbled gibberish, as with the work papers and birthday cake. He shakes his hand, a cross between gorilla and embittered Neanderthal. He rises clumsily knocking over loose wood-beams, kicking his toolbox. He wobbles and staggers then returns to lethargic hammering. The shoulder slouching is blatant, and it appears any second this DIY project will turn into adult naptime.

Sunday afternoon the man emerges from side yard wheeling the trash barrel for tomorrow’s pickup. He looks even more tired than yesterday’s DIY, which is still unfinished. The barrel hits a snag at the concrete lip from side lawn to driveway. He exclaims another incomprehensible mouthful. You swear you hear brains in there.

After several fails, he manages to roll trash to street. He peers into the barrel before heading back to retrieve the recycling bin. There is a longing in that look. Either he or someone in the house has thrown something out he doesn’t want to part with, or there’s a deeper hungering thought tickling the peripheries of his subconscious all week, all weekend, or throughout his entire existence.

The man’s young ones are on the front lawn. The two toddlers play with squirt guns and soft plushies. The man sips slowly on a koozied beverage, staring blankly at the small screen in his hand. Occasionally when the kids get too rambunctious he hollers more thoughtless, indecipherable refrains. The baffling sounds echo up the street and to your porch cam’s mic, so loud they muffle the receiver. These startling cacophonies have become the daily soundtrack to your suburban life.

The man ambles precariously like a sleepwalker on sleeping pills towards his kids, who by now have worn themselves out, and he calls them inside for the night. He yawns, exhibiting an unnaturally large jaw used to such activity that also suggests others. It’s at this juncture you realize his toddlers look off too. As they follow their father into the house, they waddle with that same tired gait, unsteady, unalert, uncanny. You think: yep, definitely zombies.

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Nolan Yard

Nolan Yard

Nolan is a many-time published, gazillion-time burritoeater. Cinders on the Wind = his SFF novel under Louis Emery. https://nolanyardwriter.wordpress.com/about