"Blood", he murmured. "You've been hurt, eh? I'll take a closer look in a minute, but first, the java", and he raised his cup and drank some.
"Can't do anything without my coffee", he muttered.
"Still got nothing to say?" he said a minute or two later. "It's not like you, Davey boy. Used to always have something to say. Couldn't shut you up half the time."
He gave a wink and a smile at this, but his visitor was still unable to respond. He was certainly trying. He was concentrating as hard as he could, attempting to move any facial muscle at all but it just wasn't happening. Eyebrows? Nope. Mouth? Wouldn't budge. Nose? Couldn't even crinkle it. Maybe if I could write something down, he thought, and turned his head towards the kitchen counter, while at the same time his hand jerked outward and his knuckles cracked against the side of the table.
"Looking for something, eh?" said Ray. "I wonder what. Hungry?"
Dave managed to swing his head to the left and the right again, this time a bit more controlled. He was shaking his head. Definitely. This could work.
"That's a no, I take it", Ray said, and this time Dave lifted his chin and lowered it to signal a 'yes'.
"And that's a yes", said Ray. "Now we're getting somewhere. More like twenty questions but better than nothing I guess."
After a pause he asked,
Again Dave shook his head 'no'.
Another 'no'. He jerked his hand up again and tried to make a writing motion. It was clumsy, awkward, but Uncle Ray figured it out after the third or fourth pantomimed attempt, and brought him a pencil and a piece of paper. He sat back again and watched as Dave struggled to make sensible markings. It was not coming easily and several times he had to cross out whatever he'd scribbled. He shook his head and would have sighed deeply if only he could breathe. Eventually he managed to write one word - wounded.
"Wounded?" Ray stood up. "Where? How? Let me take a look at you."
He came closer again, holding his breath this time so he wouldn't have to smell the guy. He took hold of Dave by the shoulders and turned him out from the table so he could see him entirely. Dave stretched up a bit and tried to glance down at his side to give Ray a hint, but Ray saw the gaping hole in front and was already ripping away the shirt. When he'd exposed the wound to air he gasped and had to turn away and exhale deeply.
"Holy mother of pearl", he exclaimed. "That's some wound, and hardly fresh, by the look of it. Man oh man! We've got to get you cleaned up, son. And I won't be taking any more of those shaken heads for an answer. I'm getting the tub started up right now", and he left to do what he said.
Dave followed willingly to the bathroom and tried his best to cooperate as Ray removed his clothing and helped him into a heaping hot bubble bath. Dave didn't feel it, not the water, not the heat, not the soap. He felt he'd lost all sense of all his senses except for sight and hearing. Couldn't smell, couldn't taste anything but dirt. Couldn't feel any touch. Couldn't speak. It was strange. It occurred to him that maybe he was in a coma, that all of this was just a dream. How would he know? How could he tell for sure?
Uncle Ray, the man said. My uncle? How is that? He didn't really remember him but something was very familiar; everything was. He felt at ease, without anxiety or worry. Uncle Ray was scrubbing his body, his face, his hands, his hair, the hole in his side.
"This ain't normal", Ray was saying. "Some of this junk just won't come off and that bloody wound. It won't be cleaned. I ought to know a thing or two. Haven't I been a barber now fifty years? You'd think I'd be having some idea but no. Ain't never seen nothing like this before. Wish you were talking, son. Well, maybe you're writing will get better and you can tell me what the heck is going on."
"Criminy. Look at that!" he nearly shouted and jumped back. While scrubbing Dave's face a patch of skin came clean off with the sponge, exposing the rawness beneath. Dave looked up at him with an attempt at a questioning look.
"Where you been?" Ray shook his head, as he helped Dave out of the tub, got him dried off and wrapped him up in an old worn robe.
"Still smells pretty bad", he muttered to himself, "and that wound, won't clean up at all, hardly. If I didn't know any better ..."
He paused to consider the implications of his thought. He tried to laugh it off but kept looking back at his nephew and with each glance the notion seemed less and less strange - less strange than the appearance of the young man, and the stink, and the blood, and the skin.
"It's like you were dead", he finally blurted out.
They were back in the kitchen, seated around the table once more. Dave hadn't touched his coffee. Ray had had three cups. Dave was writing once more.
'Under ground', he wrote, passing the note over to Ray, and then seizing another piece of paper and scribbling furiously.
'Dug out night'.
'In park', came the next note.
'One day', he pushed across the table.
Uncle Ray laid the notes side by side and repeated the words, then formed a sentence.
"You were in the ground. Dug yourself out. Last night. Up in the park. Fulsom Park?"
Dave nodded as best he could.
"You mean to say you were buried up there?"
Again a round of furious head bobbing. It was making sense now. After he had clawed his way out of the grave he had forgotten all about that. He had only been concerned with moving on. He had not been piecing together one moment to the next, but each moment was its own discrete reality. Now that he was sitting there, conversing in a manner, he was recalling the sequence, stringing together the facts. It could not be denied. He was dead.
"That would make you what they call a zombie", Uncle Ray shook his head in disbelief. "Or I guess you could look on the bright side. Some people might say you've been resurrected, boy. Hallelujah to that!"
YOU ARE READING
Being a zombie, not so easy. That could have been Dave Connor's six word memoir. "At first he couldn't remember how he'd ended up in that shallow grave; he just knew it was hell to claw his way out, and that the taste of its dirt would remain in his...