Friday, January 14, 2011

Last Comic Standing

It was like trying to talk someone down from a ledge. Reasoning was a futile effort. This wasn’t a rational person that logic would impact. Then again, hadn’t reason and logic both died with the rest of them? They might have been limping along down the street with everyone else who had died in the first wave of the virus.

“You don’t have to do this,” Pete said it anyway. He knew he would ignore it, but he couldn’t not say it. When you're watching someone up on that ledge- even if you know why they’re up there, even if it makes sense- you don’t just stand there and watch them jump. After all, no matter what the reason, it’s still a long drop.

“No eulogy, ok? Repo man, failed stand-up comic. I never looked good on paper,” Stan smiled at him. “Or better yet- I’ll do the eulogy. I’ll yell it as I lead them down the alleyway.”

Pete smiled in spite of himself. How the hell was he going to get through without Stan’s humor? There were so many days where it was the only thing keeping him sane. And that thought made him frown again.

“Oh, come on- don’t give me that look. You and I both know that only one of us is getting out of here and it’d be a huge waste to make it me.” Stan said with a now serious look.

“That’s not true!” Pete said.

“Really?” Stan asked with an incredulous tone and cocked eyebrow.

He didn’t have long- there was no denying that. Beads of sweat were plastered to his forehead and the skin around the bite on his arm had turned grey. Anyone looking at him would have given him no more than a few hours.

“Still, you can- you can come back to the camp. Live out the rest of your life in peace.” Pete knew it wasn’t true as he said it, but he couldn’t help it. If faced with wading into a swarm of hungry walkers or waiting for the delirium of the fever to take him out he knew which he would have preferred. He felt like a coward for admitting it to himself.

“I appreciate it, I really do,” Stan said as he smiled up at his friend again. “But you gotta take a look at it from my perspective. My whole life I was never good for much. I never had a family like you did, never took care of nobody. Hell, I never helped a single damned person other than me.”

“I’m sure that’s not true,” Pete said.

“Oh really?  You try spending seven years in a cubicle calling up guys to tell ‘em their car is about to be repo’ed.  You see how many people you help that way,” Stan argued.

Pete wanted to tell him that there was more to life than what you did to make money or who you lived with.  That he had affected people everyday just by getting up on stage again to try and make somebody laugh.  That he’d affected him by being his friend after the world ended.  But there was no point.  Stan had made up his mind from the second that walker clamped down on his arm.  Pete knew that.  But you don’t just watch your friend walk out into hell without at least giving an official protest.  Even it was just a formality.

“Look, I know you don’t get it.  I’m glad you don’t get it.  It ain’t much to say the best thing you ever did in your life was to give somebody the chance to make a life for themselves after the world ended.  But it’s all I got,” Stan said, more to himself than to Pete.

Pete took a breath and exhaled.  “Not quite,” he said, reaching into his pocket.  It was the last gift he had to give his friend and he felt bad for delaying it once he saw that look of relief on Stan’s face as he took it from him.  Stan ran his thumb into the pin of the grenade as if it felt like the greatest thing he’d ever held in his hand. 

“Don’t you need it?” Stan asked him.

“Not as much as you do. Once I’m out of here it’s a straight run to the docks and I can make it with all of them… preoccupied,” Pete said. He almost chocked on the last, admitting that what was going to save him was the walkers chasing after his friend.

“Why the hell you leave me flappin’ in the breeze like that?  Goddamn- now we got us a party!” Stan said, jumping up excitedly.  “Alright, enough chit-chat, let’s get this show on the road.  Now look, the second- I mean the second I open that gate you start countin’ and when you get to ten you run and you don’t stop running till you’re back on the boat, you get me?”

“Yeah, yeah- I got it.  Don’t wait to long too pull that pin, you understand?” Pete asked, grabbing his friend and looking him in the eyes.

“You kiddin me? I been eaten alive by the audience before. Now I finally got a chance to go out with a bang!” Stan laughed. “No way, dude. I’m gonna knock ‘em dead. Or, at least knock ‘em so they can’t get up again.” Stan grinned as he put a hand on the gate.

Pete smiled at his friend for the last time and said the only thing there was left to say: “Thanks.”

4 comments:

  1. Ok, so shortly after signing up for twitter I learned the whole txt/tweet/retweet/link/etc thing is a lot more complicated that I originally thought. I think I got this on the flash friday list but i'm not at all confident. If you got here via flash friday please leave a message- even if you thought the story was shite.

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  2. It didn't feel to Horror-y to me, but I was mostly into their friendly dynamic.

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  3. Neat title; I liked the subtlety of the zombies and end of the world. Nice interplay in the dialogue between these two trying to talk the other down.

    BTW, I visited from J.M. Strother's tracker page. I think I followed John's tweet that linked to your flash.

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  4. Welcome to the Friday Flash community. A good debut. Like John, it was the dynamic and interaction of the characters that pushed the story forward for me.
    Adam B @revhappiness

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Thank you for your comment! I will love it and hug it and pet it and call it George. Or, you know, just read and reply to it. But still- you rock!