Spite Face

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"This is not my nose. Get it off, get it off." The lady in the tightly-curled silver wig pawed at her face. Her diminutive husband dithered around her, waving his hands ineffectually.

Fred leaned back on his Formica table and found he had exactly zero fucks to give. "If it attached to you, it is your nose," he explained in a tired voice as he gazed past the woman to the whiteboard on the far side of the scuffed hospital basement that was his workplace. She should be grateful any nose wants to be associated with her face. And once we get rid of this bitch I am done for the day.

"No," the lady shrieked. "It's some kind of social climber nose that wants to improve its lot. See, see!"

She shoved a glossy pre-poc photo at him. Back then Mrs. Mitcham had boasted a platinum-blonde pixie cut, chubby face, and she had definitely hired a portrait photographer who knew all the flattering angles.

Fred sighed. "Ma'am, you are very fortunate to have had such a conspicuous body part returned to you." He looked at the collection tag which was from more than forty years ago. "And after such a period of time. Why don't you take it home and see if it, uh, grows on you?"

"It's already growing on me," she muttered. "I never had this plebian, potato-shaped nose." She held up the mirror again and surveyed the offending feature with the sizzling scorn of a cross-fit jogger confronted by an under-endowed flasher.

"Maybe the doctor has a point, dear?" ventured Mr. 'call-me-Eddie' Mitcham.

"He is not a doctor. He is barely some kind of... of... reverse butcher. This is not my nose, my nose would never itch like this."

She slammed the mirror down on the metal trolley by her side and grimaced, causing the freshly reunited tissue on her face to gape open and her nose to resettle crookedly on her face.

"Uh," Mr. Mitcham said, sotto voice, "Is it, uh, meant to do that?"

"Maybe the wind changed," Fred opined.

"What are you two whispering about!" the woman shrieked, knocking her nose further askew.

Fred's assistant, Jenny, returned with a claim form on a clipboard. "Sign here, please. Or we could always repossess it." In her other hand, she held a very large pair of pliers.

"Maude, I think you should..." Mr. Mitcham indicated the forms, in triplicate, vaguely with his forefinger.

Her lips pursed, Mrs. Mitcham grabbed the clipboard and flailed for the dangling pen-on-a-string. "I'm on the hospital benevolent board, you know," she snapped.

"We just moved back into town," Mr. Mitcham added. "We hadn't meant to leave, uh, anything here but the human agitants kicked up while we were visiting our..."

"We don't have anything to explain to this man," Mrs. Mitcham snapped as she signed the paper with an angry flourish.

"Yes well, do try and get me fired if you can," Fred said flatly. "I hate this job but they just won't assign me another one. The wig fittery for example, they have a window to the outside and a massage chair up there."

Jenny attempted to hide a laugh as a snort. She used to work as a dog kennel attendant. Being a lost-and-found tech was a pretty good deal for her. Fred used to have a rather better sort of life. And a left pinky finger, and a penis. Now he just had trays and drawers and jars full of body parts, and none of them a match for him.

As Jenny showed the Mitchams out, Fred straightened up the nose tray. As a largely external organ, noses were stored dry on a bed of sand and silica. By now the lady's reconnected schnozz would be starting to... yes, he heard an explosion of sneezes from somewhere down the corridor towards the stairs. As the mucous membrane started up again it would slough and regrow its surface in a frankly disgusting but ultimately harmless process.

Most customers were given a box of tissues and a few minutes to get through that phase before they left, but Mrs. Mitcham could go fuck herself.

Jenny came back in. "You could have been less of a bitch to that bitch," she said.

"You could lay off it with the pliers. It's not like we're actually allowed to repossess their bits."

Jenny shrugged. "It gets them to sign."

Fred slid the nose tray carefully back into a repurposed butterfly specimen display cabinet.

"That was the last one for today," Jenny said. "I'm off. You going to hang around and tinker with the old tubes? I don't know why you bother, all the bits stick on just fine. Viva la undead, as they say."

"But when there's a gap, they do end up looking funny. Or there's still a hole, I do hate it when there's a hole." Fred shuddered. His job these days might be easier, but as a surgeon, he still tended to dislike an untidy result.

"It's not like you fucking care, is it?" Jenny lit up a cigarette as she shrugged a duffel bag over her shoulder, which was half-full of hospital supplies that she pilfered on her lunch break.

"Maybe under this veneer of utter bastardry I am actually a saint who is just too humble to let people know about my state of abject virtue lest it make you lesser immortals feel bad about yourselves." Fred wiped his hands on his apron and glanced over at the locked fume hood that held the equipment for his personal experiments.

"Yeah, all right then. It's not like I care either but try not to blow the place up. These people's bits are already in small enough pieces.

She locked the door to their half of what used to be the morgue and pathology suite on the way out. Fred pulled his padlock keys from his back pocket. He smiled for the first time that day as he lifted the shutter on the hood, spray painted with white enamel to keep his little project under wraps.

He had a number of flasks set up fermenting different formulations of his potion. He broke out his tools from the old autoclave. He took off the discrete half-glove from his left hand to avoid any possible contamination and proceeded to streak the different aged formulations over agar plates of emulsified zombie cells. Each made up from the cells from two different donors. The co-mixture immediately stopped proliferating, and his potion, when it worked would allow the pulverized donor cells to integrate into a sample of undifferentiated tissue.

Somewhere near the top of the building was a proper zombie R & D department, but they didn't want any input from a former heart transplant surgeon. And he really had no faith that they were even working on zombie transplantation. Nor was he going to ask them.

Maybe this will be the one. Fred felt like his latest foray into proliferative keratin was really showing promise. I'm close, I know I am.

On the way out, Fred stopped briefly in the private side room where some of the more intimate specimens were stored. He pulled out the drawer that held what he considered the best specimens. Lined up like noble gray sausages with variable amounts of dumpling attached. His favorite was top row, third from the left.

We'll be together soon.

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