The snarling zombie throng attacks.
A board with nails collides with the mutilated head of what once was a human. The creature rears back and slashes. A scream of agony as the board-wielding zombie-slayer falls to the ground, his weapon shattering on impact. A woman rushes over the fallen body and slams a chainsaw into the zombie pack. Body parts and viscera drip from the screen.
Ollie drops the controller.
Toby doesn’t look away from the mélange of digitized gore, his monastic focus pointed towards the undead mission at hand. He taps the button with a calm fury.
–– Has she left yet?
Ollie peers over Toby’s head. He listens for the jangle of keys and the bang and clang of muffin tins.
–– Nope. Are you sure we should be playing these? Shouldn’t you take some time off?
Toby shrugs. His chainsaw rips into the flesh of an acid-spewing fat guy.
The keys jangle. The muffin tins bang and clang.
––Alright, boys I’m off. You sure you’re going to be OK?
Olivia stands in front of the television. Toby hits pause as his chainsaw slams into another flesh-eater.
Toby and Ollie nod.
Olivia taps her foot. Her eyes glisten. She drops her massive, heated delivery bag emblazoned with a “Fluffy Muffin” logo to the floor.
–– Everything’s going to be ok, honey.
She leans in and embraces Toby. He grunts under the pressure of the hug. Ollie rubs Olivia’s back.
–– I’ll keep him in line. You go on and feed those hungry bill-payers.
Olivia wipes away tears.
–– Did you take your medicine?
Toby nods, looking past her to the game in stasis.
–– You’re sure?
Toby nods and rolls his eyes.
Olivia nods and composes herself. She looks at Ollie.
–– You took yours?
She embraces Toby and picks up the Fluffy Muffin delivery bag. Her keys jangle.
Ollie and Toby watch as Olivia closes the door.
The car door shuts. The ignition turns over. The Golf goes to first. Second. Out of the driveway.
• • •
Toby spins around in Ollie’s old green office chair (pilfered from a previous employ) and takes in all the memories scattered throughout the room. Ollie sits on the bed. He rubs his hands together. They sound like sand paper.
–– Grandpa’s in trouble buddy, and I need your help. Physical therapy. I’ve got an assignment due at the end of the week, and I haven’t even started.
–– Physical therapy?
–– Yeah. Bad knee.
–– You don’t have a bad knee.
Ollie rubs his knee.
–– Old Grandpa’s got more aches and pains than you know. Anyhow, I’ve got an assignment.
–– Like math?
–– I suck at math.
–– This isn’t math.
–– Gotta remake something I loved as a kid. Art therapy thing. I need you to draw it.
–– Shouldn’t you do the drawing?
–– You’re better.
–– But if it’s therapy for you, shouldn’t you do the drawing?
Ollie spins the Decoder Ring.
–– You know all those bedtime stories about The Sentinel? We’re gonna make a comic book about him. Just like the one I had.
–– Is that why Billy said to kick your ass?
–– He really said that?
Ollie rubs his hands together. Toby spins around in the chair.
–– What am I drawing?
Ollie jumps from the bed into a superhero flight pose.
–– The Sentinel! He flies in and saves a kid from his mean and nasty dad! Then back to Walker and the Daily Record! And then…
–– Whiz!Bam!Pow! Comics #7. Early Fredricksen.
Ollie lowers his arms to his side.
–– Pre ’39. 1939 he started getting blockier. Lines were different. Heavier. ’38, they were scratchy. Hesitant. Always did great faces though.
––Right. Right. Exactly.
Ollie sits back down on the bed. It creaks. He doesn’t.
–– I think we can make it better.
–– No, no. We’ve got to make it exactly like the one I had.
–– For art therapy?
Toby stares through Ollie to the Jane Russell pinup above Ollie’s bed.
–– Is that grandma?
–– I wish.
–– What’s our workflow?
–– Our what?
–– Well, we’ve got to do this in secret, right?
–– And I can’t tell Mom anything, right?
Toby stares at the floor and ponders the proposition.
–– I’ll need a script. And ten percent.
–– Ten percent? Of what?
Toby shrugs. Ollie sweats.
–– Don’t know. I’ll still need a script.
–– I can’t write.
–– I’m only drawing. You have to write.
–– But you know what it looks like too. Right?
–– You have to write.
Toby looks up at the laundry chute.
–– Pass it up through here.
Toby slides off the chair and out the door.
Ollie watches him round the corner then lowers to his knees and reaches under the bed. He runs his hand over the “Toby’s College Fund” box. As he brushes by it, he hears the jangle of the casino chips inside. He winces. Pushes past the box and wraps his fingers around his old typewriter. He pulls it from under the bed and blows off the dust.
He moves the accumulations off his desk and sets the typewriter down. He rolls in a piece of paper. He settles into his green chair and closes his eyes. He spins. He flips the “on” switch. The hum of the word machine gun. He sees The Sentinel soar through the skies.
1. The Sentinel flies through the night.
Caption: A TIRELESS FIGURE ROCKETS TOWARDS AN UNKNOWN DESTINATION.
A car door slams as Ollie depresses the “N.” He looks down at his watch and rushes out the door. The green chair keeps spinning.
• • •
The zombie’s head flies through the air as the roaring chainsaw slices through it.
Toby sits, covered by the blanket, the washcloth on his head, the manipulator of video game death in his hands. Ollie sits next to him.
–– Good boy.
Toby nods and lifts the blanket. A plastic robot claw sits next to him.
He looks up to the ceiling then at Ollie.
Ollie takes the claw and pinches its pinchers. He nods.
The door opens. Ollie stuffs the robot claw under the cushion.
–– My boys.
Olivia drops the heated Fluffy Muffin bag next to the couch and sits next to Toby. She stares at the zombie massacre on display. She opens the bag and pulls out a muffin. Hands one to Ollie. She hands one to Toby. Ollie and Toby stare at the muffins.
–– Didn’t think there’d be any left.
Olivia says nothing. She stares at the TV screen and takes a bite.
To be continued.