The Trouble With Zombies

The more you tell people that you’re not crazy, the crazier you sound.

Which is probably why I’ll never be able to convince my sister-in-law Gloriosa that I ain’t taken leave of my senses.

I blame it on the vampires and the zombies.

It could have happened to anybody.

What happened was, I went to one of them Twilight vampire movies with my daughter Gladiola, so naturally I dreamt all night about vampires.

In the dream, vampires had got in the house and I was escaping out the bathroom window when the phone rang. It was my sister-in-law.

(When she has something to say, she calls, no matter what time it is.) I must have snatched up the phone in my sleep, because I screeched, “They’re coming up the stairs!” She says “Who?” And I say “Vampires!” Then I hear her say to her husband, very calm, “Honey, Modine thinks she’s being attacked by vampires.” That snaps me out of it, and I realize where I am and there ain’t no vampires.

Like I said, it could have happened to anybody. But it gets worse. Gloriosa wanted to tell me that her friends the Pursleys from Ohio are in town. They represent the Last Tribute Mortuary Florists (“Flowers for Forever Farewells at Friendly Prices”) and they’re here to finalize the details for the New Orleans gathering of floral grief specialists. I am a walking tour guide, and she’s going to tell the Pursleys to take one of my tours. If they like it, they’ll hire me to guide the association’s Southern plantation bus tour. Besides the money, which would be nice, I would get to ride in an air-conditioned bus all day, instead of walking around in the heat with a frozen washcloth in a Ziploc bag under my picturesque straw hat like I usually do this time of year.

I am wide awake now and I tell Gloriosa I’m fine, the vampires are all gone, and I will give the Pursleys a very nice tour.

Which turns out not to be so easy, being as the Pursleys are suspicious of everything outside of Ohio. They brung sterile sleeping bags to put on top their hotel beds, in case of contamination. They don’t like our food. “You can call it gumbo, but I call it soup with a claw in it,” says Mrs. Pursley.

Well, they must like flowers, so I take them to the old Ursuline Convent garden and show them the relief of St. Fiachra on the wall. St. Fiachra is the patron saint of gardeners. Now, Fiachra happens to sound like Viagra when you say it, so I usually spell it out, but this time I forget. Unfortunately, I don’t forget to tell them that Fiachra makes things shoot up, and that he’s also the patron saint for hemorrhoids and venereal disease. This is actually true, but them two thought I was making dirty jokes about a saint; that’s what they told Gloriosa later.

They also told her that I said Mardi Gras parades and balls are all paid for by a cruise ship company. (I said Carnival krewes sponsored them.) They are convinced that the debauched life I probably live in New Orleans has cost me my sanity.

I try to explain my side to Gloriosa, but I doubt she believes me. She does make me promise that I won’t go to no more scary movies with my daughter.

But I don’t promise not to use my daughter’s iPod.

Gladiola is doing a project for school about exercise motivation. She is trying to find out whether you run faster to music or because of something else. And she says I can help by playing a little running game on her iPod to see if it motivates me.

It turns out, the motivation is fear. This is a game about zombies. You start out walking with the iPod on and the earphones in, and all of a sudden this voice bellows into your ears “RUN! Run for your life! Zombies are after you!” You also hear grunting and slobbering, which are zombie noises, I guess. So you run like crazy and whenever you slow down, it yells that there are more zombies coming from the left! Then from the right! You get so carried away, you actually forget you’re on a street in the French Quarter, weaving in and out of innocent drunk people. Until you zip past two pairs of raised eyebrows that don’t belong to no zombies but to the Pursleys. And if they thought you was a few bananas short of a bunch before, you can imagine what they think now that they seen you zig-zagging around with your eyes bugging out.

By the time I get home, I don’t even care. I plop off to sleep, and I have to grope around to find the phone when Gloriosa calls. I mutter hello and she tells me she just spoke to the Pursleys, and … I interrupt, and say, “They saw the zombie attack, I know.” I hear a sigh, and “Honey, Modine thinks zombies attacked her.”

Anyway, she says the Pursleys found a nice, stable, older gentleman to lead the plantation tour.

But lo and behold, the night before the plantation tour, the phone rings. This time Gloriosa leaves a message, being as I now turn off the phone before I go to sleep. In the morning, I play it and what do you know? The Pursleys took the old gentlemen out to a nice chain family restaurant like they have in the Midwest. And would you believe, there was something wrong with the mashed potatoes and they all got sick. So they are all three at East Jefferson Hospital, and the Final Tribute Mortuary Florists need a tour guide.

I get the job.

Evidently sanity ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

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