3 Words: Eat, Greedy, Expedition (December 21, 2012 prompt)
The Hazards of a Small Business
by Jon Clapier
A man, disheveled and unshaven, rolled out of bed in a dim studio apartment. He picked up a sawed off shotgun from against the side of his bed and walked to the bathroom. He leaned the shotgun in a corner by the door only after checking the bathroom. He emerged some time later, shaved and with his hair combed into a wave. Carefully he dressed and then, taking the shotgun with him he unlocked multiple locks on the door before standing back to open it carefully, gun raised. When nothing happened he yawned and stepped out on the landing and took a short flight of stairs up to the roof of his small apartment building.
He repeated the unlocking-and-pointing-the-gun procedure at the door, finding nothing and then stepped out onto the roof. Buildings flanked the roof on three sides and an open street with more buildings across the way stood empty. Walking over to the edge that sat above the front of the building, he peeked over the short parapet to the street two stories below. A horde of about twenty soulless ghouls clawed ineffectively at the reinforced steel doorway. A few turned rotting faces up to him and growled like dogs with cut throats.
“Not a single good set of hair anywhere. Greedy animals.”
The man picked up a five gallon bucket of gasoline/diesel mix from a row of similar buckets placed carefully on the roof and emptied it down on the zombies. Then he carefully lit a cigarette and took a few puffs while the fuel spread below him.
“They say cigarettes can kill you.” He said to no one and flipped the lit cigarette down. With a whoosh the ghouls begin to howl, crackling and burning.
“Don’t even have the sense to run away,” he commented. The ghouls crowded forward, forcing themselves into the flames as they tried to surge at him. He waited until the flames died away, trying vainly to keep a flickering grip on the brick building. He noted there were only a few of the ghouls left, and then used the shotgun to finish the job.
“Good thing they’re stupid or else I’d have run out of ammo weeks ago,” he told himself as he retraced his steps and went back to the apartment and heated up some soup, eating it straight from the can. After checking his hairdo in the mirror he started down the stairs to the main floor, omnipresent shotgun to hand.
Downstairs he repeated the careful unlock procedure and stepped into the room the zombies had been trying to get into. He checked his large mirrors and barbers chairs and then peeked through the main window, which had no glass but a tight lattice of steel bars.
Several zombies were collected by the door in the short time he spent eating. He used a few choice expletives and stepped to a cross-shaped opening in the bars just big enough for the muzzle of his shotgun. From it he could see everything in front of his door.
“Stupid things are getting worse,” he mumbled.
Several shots later he opened the massive, fire-proof door and carefully locked it behind him. He walked around a corner and started a loader-tractor there, returning and scraping the ghoulish detritus away and dumping it in a vacant lot a block away. He checked his watch as he dumped the last load of gunk and swore again.
“I’m gonna be late,” he slapped the steering wheel and gunned the motor, running over a walking ghoul before speeding back to his shop. “Every day is practically another expedition.”
After parking the loader he walked with gun held ready until he entered the door in his shop, shutting the massive door with a sigh of relief. Then he put a sign on the door that read, “Haircuts. Price negotiable.”
He checked the street in front of the shop and sighed again, then sat in one of his chairs and pulled out a magazine that had been read many times.
He woke with a jolt hearing pounding on the door.
“Let me in!”
The voice sounded weak and scratchy. The man scooped up his shotgun and stepped to the cross shaped opening. A young man stood alone. His face was sickly gray and his hair was a tousled mess.
“I don’t serve the half-dead. Go away.”
“I’m not sick,” the young man protested with the same raspy voice. “Not like that. All I have is a cold.”
“Until you taste flesh, and then the virus finishes its course. Go away!” The proprietor of the shop racked a shell into the already-loaded gun, just for effect.
“Please, this is why I need my haircut! Everyone thinks I’m turning into one of them!” The young man raised his hands to show he was unarmed.
“And how can anyone who isn’t half dead go anywhere without a weapon?”
The young man struggled to follow the logic, and then snarled and threw himself at the opening in the bars, desperately trying to force his way through the small opening.
One shot later, the proprietor of the shop carefully stepped out and drug the body to the bucket of the loader to be disposed of later.
“Three days without a real customer. I really hope I don’t have to apply for unemployment insurance. I doubt the local economy could stand the strain.”
He chuckled at his own joke and locked himself back in his shop, picking up the magazine again.
A knock at his door interrupted him before he got comfortable.
“Are you in there? We need haircuts!”
The man stood and took his shotgun to the opening in the bars. Three men and a woman stood by the door, practically bristling with weapons, their hair too long but tentatively combed. They noticed his face at the gap and one of them stepped close.
“Are you Bob? The hairdresser?”
The man in the shop smiled, “I am. Welcome to Bob’s salon.”