Edger Forever ExcerptsHistoric Cajun Corn Kernels By Herodotus (C. 424 - C. 485 BCE) Chapter Nine
The Über Dork breakroom is as mind-numbing as a Novocain shot to the brain. The clock on the wall ticks off seconds like centuries. The air is thick with the stench of burnt Maxwell House, and a fluorescent lightbulb is flickering at such a fast rate as to be all but imperceptible, like a continually misfiring nerve a person can almost ignore, but once identified becomes a padded-wall conveyance into madness.
Once, this room constituted a purgatory. A place where dorks gathered to rest and contemplate opening their veins using nothing but the edge of a stale, half-eaten bran muffin. But today, there are no resting dorks. There are no stale muffins. The tables are spotless. The chairs are pushed in. Each locker is empty and left open like school on summer break. But beyond the closed breakroom door, the situation is more dire than ever. Muffled voices dripping with improbable glee:
“Monday means fun-day!”
“Turn that frown upside down!”
“There’s no I in team!”
Wang lifts his spinning head from the breakroom table, nausea phasing through the walls of his stomach. He heaves up his gaze to the pale wall clock, which blurs, then focuses. Even before the world went zombie he’d hated that clock. Hated its low-level buzz, the tiny crack in the plastic from where he’d hit it with a brick muffin, and he hated the way it was just so…time consuming.
“Ready to give our 110 percent!” a muffled voice gushes from the other side of the door.
Wang’s nose wrinkles. Lips sneering on both sides, his tongue curls at the back of his mouth. He chokes down his gag reflex, focuses on the smoke detector in the corner of the ceiling. Anything to distract. If only he’d had the foresight to pack a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. But, wait a second. He follows a thread in his brain back in time. Maybe it isn’t the zombie talk making him want to puke. Maybe it’s…
Memory crashes in: They’d reached the vault. They’d tripped the alarm!
He bolts upright, coming fully awake and taking stock of his surroundings. Shmuel’s slumped over the table like he’s imitating the course of his life, his face slack in a lake of drool, his balding crown reflecting fluorescent light. Wang shakes his head, but it’s a sight that won’t erase. Scowling, he continues inventorying his surroundings.
A box of condoms on the table.
A pig near the breakroom door.
Questions roll into Wang’s brain like a fog. He narrows his eyes at the creepy four-legged oink dispenser. It narrows its eyes back. Wang’s gaze glides to the ceiling vent. So does the pig’s, he notices to his dismay. Strange, the vent is shut now. The screws screwed back in. Even the table they’d stood on earlier is no longer beneath the vent, but returned to its spot near the snack machine. There, his gaze lingers momentarily on a bag of Chili Cheese Fritos before angling back to the pig, whose attention lingers a moment longer on the Fritos before zeroing back in on him.
Wang grabs Shmuel’s shoulder, shakes, and the human man boob lurches upright.
“If I’m not back in five minutes, blow the whole marshmallow!” Shmuel exclaims.
“Shh! Keep your voice down, dick floss!”
Shmuel squints at Wang. He teeters in his seat, takes in the breakroom, the pig, and Wang. He takes in the pig again and his eyes widen.
“Wait a minute?” says Shmuel, in that irritating up-speak of his, where everything sounds as confused as a crack-addled giraffe at communion. “You’re telling me the People’s Liberation Front for S’mores isn’t invading Choco-menistan?”
“Not today, no.”
“What a relief. They were about to run out of maraschino cherries?”
Wang blinks. “I don’t know what happened to you as a child, but whatever it was, it was thorough.”
Shmuel takes in the breakroom again, re-discovers the pig, opens his mouth, shuts it. This time his eyes narrow.
“Remember we were in the vault.” Wang points at the ceiling vent. “We got in through there at nighttime.”
Shmuel focuses on Wang. “Because the zombies are out during the day?”
“Good. Yes, Shmuel. The zombies are out during the day. That’s why we had to sneak in after curfew.”
“Because zombies go to sleep after curfew?”
“Yes, Shmuel. Very good.”
Voices carry from the sales floor.
“But I hear zombies out there now?”
“Correct. That’s because it’s day again, which by the way happens every twenty-four hours.”
Shmuel nods slowly. “So, you’re saying… Pig got us out of the vault?”
“No. No, I’m not saying that. Because that’s a dumb theory and that’s what you do. Make dumb theories.”
“I wanna keep him.”
“I wanna keep him. You never got Chicowgo back. You said you would but you didn’t.”
Shmuel’s gaze fixes on the pig and his neck elongates as his posture straightens in a way Wang’s not seen since the short-lived days Shmuel worked as a waiter at five-star restaurant. Like Clark Kent transforming into Superman.
“This pig shall fill the void I did not know I had,” announces Shmuel. “A void which began before the dark times, back when it was just you, me, Mr. Mxyzptlk, and Debbie Three Holes. ‘Twas a time before zombies, mind-control monkeys, and the Dudes. ‘Twas a simpler time.”
“What is happening?” Wang eases a knot in his back. “Are you sober right now? How the fuck did that happen?”
Shmuel teeters. His features slacken. “Huh? What was I saying?”
“Nothing. Never do that again.”
Shmuel brightens. “Oh yeah. The last thing I saw before passing out was a pig in a gas mask? He’s like…some kind of…spy pig?”
“Psh. That’s ridiculous. No pig rescued us, I can tell you that. Spy or otherwise.”
“Spy Pig pushed us out of the vault? Spy Pig wore a mask?”
“Stop calling him that! He didn’t wear a–he couldn’t have lifted us into the vent!”
“Unless…he’s a spy pig?”
“You dumb tuna cracker! Stop calling him that!” Wang points at the vent. “Pigs can’t work screwdrivers!”
“Spy Pigs can?”
“How does being a spy pig help him work screwdrivers?!”
“Spy Pigs have all the cool gadgets?” Shmuel shrugs. “They get them from Pig Q.? It’s like Bond Q., but for pigs?”
“That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard. And I am including five minutes ago when you said, ‘The People’s Liberation Front for S’mores.’”
Shmuel lifts the box of condoms. “Okay, Mr. Smarty Pants. If he’s not a spy pig, how do you explain this?”
Wang snatches the box and tears the top off, but the tab meant to lift neatly along the seam rips in half, leaving a thin strip of cardboard still glued beneath. He clenches his teeth, gets a nail in, pulls, and a second, more porous strip of cardboard is exposed below the first.
“Dammit!” he stammers. “Stupid! What kind of spaghetti head…?! Packaging!”
Hands shaking, he rips the box in two. Strips of condoms fly left and right. The instructions fall to the table.
“The thing!” he yells. “Where’s the thing?”
He sticks his finger in the box and fishes around. Nothing. He holds it up and peers inside. Nothing. He scans the tiled floor but the room is spotless. Maybe they’d been wrong? Maybe the vault had been a clever, though extremely messed-up, decoy?
A soft oink draws his attention. Slowly, Wang’s gaze lowers to discover the pig’s round gaze peering into his soul. In his mouth is a slip of folded paper. The pig’s head juts forward. Wang gasps. He reaches, then draws his hand back. All joking aside: What if this…Spy Pig…is working for evil?
Wang blushes, then snatches the paper.
The pig nods. Wang nods back before catching himself. Scowling, he unfolds and reads the paper aloud.
“Jeh-nayy.” Shmuel smirks and nods. “Yeah… That’s Jenny’s number?”
“Da fuck?” Wang glares at the pig. “Our nefarious mind-reading overlord has seven-and-a-half billion people under his power and this is his super-secret security code? Jenny by Tommy Fucking Tutone?!”
Shmuel shrugs. “Easy to remember? Hey, his brain’s probably full of other people’s…brains?”
Shmuel starts humming the song and drumming his stubby fingers on the table. Wang stuffs the paper in his pocket. He tiptoes to the door and presses his ear on it.
“Fake it till you make it!” gushes one zombie.
“Practice makes perfect!” gushes another.
“Today is the first day of the rest of my life!” gushes one more.
“The fuck are they doing in there?” mutters Wang, bile rising in his throat. He chokes it back and swings around to face Shmuel and the pig. “Okay, listen up while I break it down.”
The pig sits back on its hind legs, his ears perking forward. Shmuel stares for a second before belatedly coming to attention also. Wang wrinkles his nose.
“Okay, you,” he says, pointing at the pig. “I don’t get you. You make absolutely no sense whatsoever–”
The pig lowers his head.
“–but you’ve proven your value.”
The pig’s head comes back up.
“Does that mean we can adopt?” asks Shmuel and the pig’s gaze swivels between them. Wang waves his hand.
“Stop that. It’s freaking me out. Just…try to act like a normal pig. Okay?”
The pig lays down. Seemingly sensing Wang’s attention, it releases a snort, grunt, and squeal. Wang sneers.
“I don’t know if that’s better or worse.”
The pig seems to deflate before recovering, this time wriggling on its belly before issuing an identical snort, grunt, and squeal.
“Wait a minute,” says Wang. “Wasn’t that the same sequence as last time?” The pig hastens to grunt, squeal, and snort. Wang’s head draws slowly back. The pig lays its head down, wriggles its belly on the floor again and Wang gives a cautious nod. “Okay. I guess that’s better. Now. Where were we?”
“Spy Pig has proven his value?” offers Shmuel, coming around the table to take a spot on the floor next to the pig. Beneath his long bangs, Wang’s eyebrows lower.
“Fine. Now. We wait till curfew to make our escape. Then: We hook up with the Dudes.”
“The Dudes are the Church of the Ladder Day Dudes,” says Shmuel to the pig, who looks up and blinks with open interest. “They’re our disableds?”
“Disciples,” corrects Wang. “Wait. What’re you–? Stop doing that. Stop explaining things.”
“But Spy Pig won’t understand. He is but a pig? He is but new to our ways?”
“Stop that! Spy Pig,” –he winces at having been tricked into using the name– “The pig doesn’t need an explanation because it is a pig!”
The pig lowers his chin and peers up at him from beneath long lashes. Shmuel’s bottom lip shakes. Wang clenches his fists and counts silently to ten.
“As I was saying. We rendezvous with the Dudes. Then, it’s on to the Legendary Temple of Cock Block.”
“That’s basically like the Area 51 of Contraceptives,” Shmuel explains, and the pig’s head comes up brightly. “It’s another one of Wang’s get rich schemes? See, Nostradamus stockpiled all the contraceptives before he outlawed sex, which is what two people have when they love each other very much, sometimes using ‘safe words’ like, um, instead of ‘smelly,’ I guess we say ‘nasally commanding,’ or something, and then–”
“Stop that! Stop that! Stop that!”
“But if we are to adopt Spy Pig, he must know our customs?”
“That doesn’t mean–”
“And he can’t be a full-pledged member if he doesn’t know the plan?”
“Fledged! It’s fledged, you fart goblin!”
“That’s what I said?”
“No, you said ‘Pledged,’ which is what I caught you using on Consuelo’s hairless cat!”
“He smelled really nice after,” says Shmuel to the pig, who’s head recoils.
Wang scowls. “Will you just shut up and let me break this down?”
Shmuel and the pig exchange glances, but neither offer further reply.
“Good,” says Wang. “Fine. Okay. Now. These are the End Times, do you understand? And because it is the End Times we are damn well going to live our best lives. Okay? And that means we are going to the Temple of Cock Block. There, we will loot every condom, pill, sponge, diaphragm, patch–”
“Don’t forget Absinth?”
Wang bites the side of his tongue. He knows he shouldn’t ask. He tells himself not to ask. He will not ask…
“You know, Absinth? The only form of birth control that’s one hundred percent effective?” Shmuel taps his temple and wags his eyebrows.
Wang slaps his forehead.
Spy Pig releases a snort, grunt, and squeal. Wang’s gaze whips to the pig, who hurriedly adds one more squeal, and Wang slumps into the nearest chair.
“Maybe I’ll just explain the plan to a piece of string sometime later.”
Shmuel shrugs. “I mean, if it’ll make you feel better?”