Welcome to Friday!
I'm not going to rail against the pagan nature of the holiday. Nor will I dwell on the historical significance of the eve of All Saint's Day, or the usurpation of older, non-Christian celebrations by the early church.
No, I'm all about ghost stories, scary movies, and things that go bump in the night. But I'm not a fan of the gore-fests that get passed off as entertainment. I like the ones that rely on our own imagination - which can be far more frightening than any literal description - because they're ultimately more terrifying. Think "Psycho" or H.P. Lovecraft's "Rats in the Walls."
So, with the above as introduction, here's a little something for your amusement. It's kind of a down payment and a brief segue into next week's theme.
I drove across town, frantic to reach my grandmother's house and terrified of what I might find. She lived alone, lavishing her attention on the flower bed and vegetable garden, where she shooed birds away from the ripening berries. She loved the birds too, except for the ones that pecked at her raspberries, incurring her wrath and a stream of invective in Serbian.
Zombies had attacked my house the previous night. I was trapped, afraid to sprint across the lawn to the detached garage. Just after dawn the police arrived and the shooting began.
I tried to call her but all I got was a busy signal. She seldom used the telephone and would leave it off the hook for hours. What chance would a helpless 80-year-old woman have? Yet there was no denying that she was tough in many ways. She'd emigrated from the "Old Country" as a teenager, and she still had a heavy accent. She cooked, cleaned, and tended her plants by herself and disdained any offers of help.
I pulled up in front of the house, my heart in my throat. A man's body was lying on her front porch partly inside the open door. I climbed out of the truck carrying a baseball bat.
"Grannie?" I called through the door. "Grannie? Are you there?"
"Who is it?" Her voice floated down the hall from the kitchen. She stepped into view, a long carving knife clutched in her bony hand. "Oh, Michael, good! Drag dat ting outta my door. It's letting flies in."
I was relieved she was OK, but I did as I was told, dragging the body by the heels. Then I closed the door and locked it.
Grannie was in the kitchen stirring a huge pot of soup. Loaves of freshly baked bread were lined up on the table. "Sit down,” she said. "Eat. You're too skinny."
"What happened? Are you OK? How did that guy get on your porch?"
She gave me a withering look. "When I was little girl day come down from mountains in winter. Day kill alla sheep, bastard sombie." She says something in Serbian and spits. "My father show me how to kill dem. Quick with a knife through eye or up under chin. I'm short. Chin is easy." She gestured with the knife and grinned.
It was unnerving. The whole city was in a panic, yet this old woman was calmly matter-of-fact as she described how to kill a 'sombie' with a knife.
"Eat," she urged. "The electricity no work. Refrigerator no work. Eat before it go bad."
I sat down at the table, but I had no appetite. She quickly put a bowl of steaming soup and some still warm bread in front of me. Then she looked past me through the kitchen window. "Sombie in my garden," she hissed.
It was true. A zombie lurched through the garden, knocking over tomato stakes and a rose trellis. Grannie was out the back door, her carving knife flashing in the sun. "Shoo!" she yelled. "Shoo! Shoo!"
At least the birds could fly away. The 'sombie' never had a chance.