Gertie and the Zombies
by Beth J. Whiting
Gertie died in the 1950’s when she was just fifteen years old. She didn’t resurrect herself until sixty years later. One day she just woke up in her coffin.
The last thing Gertie remembered was a car plunging into her side. She wasn’t so much surprised when she found herself in a coffin; she was terrified and screamed. She clawed her way out of the coffin in terror.
When Gertie broke ground she felt a hand on the other side. A green girl in fish net stockings and a leather coat lifted her up.
“Hey, you just woke up.”
“Huh?” Gertie asked.
“You look awful.”
Gertie looked at herself. She was dressed in a white lacy dress. She actually thought she looked good. However, her skin was green just like the girl’s.
“I’m taking you to the mall.”
Gertie just looked at the girl incredulously.
The mall was a mile walk from the graveyard.
The girl talked. “You know, people come out of the graveyard all the time now. It’s coming to the point where the undead are being accepted. We even have a place in the mall that sells blood. It has different flavors too, like whipped cream blood and chili blood.”
“I thought zombies ate flesh.”
“They did until it became socially unacceptable. After the new law was passed we got free blood so everything became okay.”
“Wouldn’t you rather have flesh?”
“Of course. But we’ve got to make a living like everyone else. You have to fit in, you know.”
“You have to work after you rise up?”
“I can get you a job at the blood store. I work there. They send me to look for applicants at the graveyard every once in a while.”
“There must be a lot of dead people walking around if there’s a blood shop in the mall.”
“Zombies aren’t the only people who come to our store.”
“Really? That’s odd.”
“That’s why we sell coffee too.”
As Gertie approached the mall she saw that the blood shop was just past the food court. Gertie figured that many humans wouldn’t be comfortable eating in front of the shop.
Her new acquaintance, Laura, told her that there would be an interview. Granted, she already got the job, but the manager wanted to get to know her.
He was a human in his early 40’s. He had black hair and a medium build. The interview took place in the storeroom.
“So, what age did you die?”
“Good because we want to keep a fresh young vibe. Since you’re a zombie there won’t be a problem with you being under-aged.”
With that Gertie was hesitant. She was afraid that he would ask her when she rose. It appeared that everyone had risen recently from their graves. If she said that she was from the 50’s then she would look ancient.
She tried to keep things vague.
“What are you interested in?”
“Watching movies. I like music.”
She was glad that he didn’t pursue the question. If he had answered what movies Gertie liked she would have said musicals and pre-code movies.
“Do you have any work experience?”
“I worked in my parents’ mattress store so I know how to work a cash register.”
He began to explain how she had to punch in when she came and punch out for lunch. He said that showing up late wasn’t tolerated.
“Humans, typically goths, do come in here at times. If the guys flirt, flirt back.”
She lied and said she would.
He gave her a firm handshake in the end. “I’m glad you’re a part of the team.”
Gertie started that afternoon. Gertie concentrated on the cash register. Barely any people came during the day. However, at night it was a zoo. A crowd of green-skinned people and human teenagers in dark clothing showed up.
One human asked, “Why are you dressed so dainty?”
Gertie dodged the question, though she did appreciate the elegance of her dress.
The manager played loud rock music, which Gertie didn’t care for at all.
When Gertie was cleaning up, she saw that Laura was kissing a human boy. He looked to be twenty.
Gertie heard Laura complain, “I have to show this new girl home. Otherwise I’d go with you.”
Gertie felt like an obligation.
It turned out that Laura lived in a warehouse lined with bunk beds. Laura left after Gertie was led to an empty bed. Gertie lay there with nothing to do. Night wasn’t peaceful. The zombies piled on the bed bunks. There were a bunch of people snoring. Gertie barely got any sleep.
* * *
Oliver wasn’t the sort of person to meddle with the undead. Zombies scared him. Actually, that whole goth crowd scared him. Oliver was a nerdy boy. He didn’t go to parties. He just did his homework and watched movies with his mother.
Oliver’s wore plaid shirts and corduroy pants all the time. He had various set of glasses to match his mood. His style was definitely dweebish. He was short, thin, and pale.
Oliver didn’t expect anything new to happen that day. His life was entirely predictable. The only thing that varied were the movies he watched. The movies were chosen by his mom. She loved Doris Day, Kathryn Grayson, and Judy Garland movies. Sometimes she threw in an old movie horror like The Wolf Man to spice things up a bit.
The last thing Oliver expected in his life was a girl. Not for a geek like him. He didn’t even consider the possibility of another geek. That was far outside his zone.
There were two places that Oliver loved: the library and the movie theatre in the mall. Every once in a while they showed an old movie. Tonight it was My Dream Is Yours. It was a Doris Day movie and one of Oliver’s favorites. Oliver considered the scene where Doris Day sang “Canadian Capers” as one of the all-time greatest movie moments.
His mother was a large woman so Oliver had to walk at a slow pace for her to keep up with him. As they were passing through the mall, they saw the blood shop.
“That place should be outlawed,” his mother moaned.
He looked in and saw a blonde zombie in a white lace dress. She was at the register.
He thought to himself, “She’s pretty.”
Normally he wouldn’t think of things like that. Zombies turned him off just like teenagers did, with all their trendiness. But the girl wearing that dress there seemed out of place.
His mother tugged on his shoulder and said, “Let’s keep moving.”
Gertie didn’t notice Oliver. But she did notice that the marquee read My Dream Is Yours. She liked Doris Day especially in the 40’s when she was with Les Brown. She wished she could go. But she didn’t have any cash on her.
Gertie didn’t get paid until Friday. The manager handed her a check. “Wash that dress and get some new clothes.”
Gertie did. She went to the mall and was dismayed by the clothes around. They were so slutty. She was able to buy some lovely clothes in the kid’s section. She was still petite enough for youth sizes.
When Gertie showed up the next day, she was in a maroon corduroy dress.
The manager came up to her and said, “I thought you were going to buy clothes that fit the store. Make sure you do that next paycheck.”
She looked at Laura over there in a midriff and a tight black skirt. No, that wasn’t her.
Gertie didn’t know what she was going to do. She didn’t want to lose her job.
* * *
A week went by.
Oliver’s mother wasn’t feeling well.
He wanted to go to the showing of Step Lively with Frank Sinatra. He told his mother that he would just go by bus. He didn’t like the bus since it was so overcrowded. Yet he needed to get out.
Oliver went to the mall. The theatre was almost empty. But he noticed that zombie girl was there.
It was a 9 o’clock showing.
Oliver was surprised with himself when he approached the zombie. “What did you think of it?”
Gertie answered, “I think Frank Sinatra didn’t have his persona yet. It was his first movie. I liked Gloria DeHaven though.”
“Yes, Gloria was a wonderful actress.”
He thought about asking her out for blood and coffee next door, but had trouble getting the words. Gertie waved politely as the moment passed by.
* * *
When Oliver came home he told his mother, “I think I have a crush on a girl. I met her in the theatre.”
He was about to say that it was a zombie. But he held himself back. He didn’t want his mother freaking out. He knew she felt zombies were vultures.
The theatre didn’t have another old movie until the next month. It was Meet Me in St. Louis with Judy Garland.
Gertie came after work and watched it. She was delighted when Judy sang “The Old Trolley Song.”
She saw the human boy and said, “Hello” as she was leaving.
But then she saw a woman behind him come into view. It was obviously his mom, judging by her glare.
Gertie was embarrassed.
He said hello back, though he also appeared uncomfortable.
When Gertie was out of sight, his mother asked him, “What were you doing talking to that zombie?”
“I saw her here before. She can’t be all that bad. Most zombies aren’t into old movies.”
“There must be a reason why.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let’s talk to her next time.”
He was shocked to hear his mother say that. For his mother to be interested in the zombie was something that Oliver hadn’t anticipated. He told his mother that she worked at the blood shop. The next afternoon they showed up at the blood shop.
Gertie was petrified with them both being there.
The mother asked for two coffees, then asked if Gertie had a break.
Gertie said she could have one in five minutes.
The three of them sat together. Gertie had cinnamon-flavored blood.
“What are you doing at the theatre?” the mother asked bluntly.
“Can’t a zombie like old movies?”
“Most zombies don’t.”
Gertie couldn’t disagree with that.
“So, what’s your story?”
“I come from the 50’s.”
Gertie explained to them that unlike most zombies she didn’t come out until decades later. She felt out of place altogether, yet alone with the zombie culture in particular.
“Maybe we can meet for the next movie. What are they showing?”
“The Letter with Bette Davis.” Gertie smiled; she already had investigated.
After the movie, the mother agreed to go to the blood shop. But she expressed her disdain.
“I don’t like these places.”
Gertie felt uncomfortable and gulped down her blood.
“That was all right,” the mother said. “I liked Now Voyager best.”
“Yes,” Gertie’s eyes glittered. “That is her best.”
The boy stated, “I like new-school Bette Davis, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”
The mother answered, “I heard that was quite the scandalous show in its time.”
The mother was only forty. She had been born in 1965. Most of her childhood was spent in the 70’s.
“I grew up watching The Brady Bunch. I didn’t know any better.”
Gertie didn’t know what she was talking about.
“When did you get into old movies?”
“I got into them when I had my son. I say he watched the movies right in the womb with me. The father left me after the birth shortly for his secretary. Since then it’s been a movie every night.”
The boy said, “You should come sometime to our house. Stay the night and watch a few.”
“I’d have to get back by 9 o’clock at the mall the next day.”
“We can do that.”
Gertie was excited. A sleepover. She hadn’t had one since she was twelve. Her mother had declared afterwards that she was too old for sleepovers.
Gertie was waiting for them at closing time at 9 pm. The dweeby looking boy and the mother approached her. They drove in a green mini-van from the mall parking lot to a middle-class home. Their house looked just-cleaned. Vacuum lines remained on the rug.
The mother and the son had ten movies stacked in a row.
“We will watch them the whole night.”
Gertie asked, “Are you serious?”
Gertie had only watched An American in Paris. The others were new to her. There was 12 Angry Men, The Apartment, and The Barefoot Contessa, which Gertie didn’t think was very good. Gertie didn’t say anything though, as she didn’t want to spoil the mood.
They had candy, popcorn, and soda.
After it all when they dropped Gertie off the mother said, “So then, we’ll see each other every Friday?”
* * *
A few weeks later the manager approached Gertie about her clothes.
“Why do you dress this way? All dainty. Do you want to throw off customers?”
She decided to admit the truth. “I came from the 50’s.”
“It looks like it. I suggest that you buy some new outfits.”
Laura overheard and approached her later. “Do you even like it here?”
Gertie didn’t answer.
“You could just go back to the 50’s.”
“What do you mean?”
“If you dig up your grave and have it buried on top of you you can go back to your time period. It’s like a time machine. Only you come back as a zombie. Most people don’t want their loved ones to see them that way.”
“Can a human go into the grave without getting hurt?”
“I guess so. Why?”
Gertie had Laura do it. The mother and Oliver looked nervous.
Gertie had helped dig up the grave. Then Gertie said they were all ready. Oliver, the mother, and Gertie stepped into the grave.
Laura piled dirt on top of them.
Oliver pulled Gertie from the path of an oncoming Cadillac. They were both fine, a second within danger.
The mother said, “So, then. We’re here.”
They decided to check the nearest cinema.
Copyright © 2012 by Beth J. Whiting