Hortense gave her meat hammer an absent rub as she surveyed the horizon. So far, it remained clear; the ocher rays of the setting sun lit only the barren landscape and not shambling corpses.
“These are really good, Mrs. Montgomery,” Johnny said behind her.
“Thank you, Johnny.” She didn’t bother to turn; one didn’t, when one served as lookout. Unless one were suicidal or stupid. Hortense was neither, and she certainly didn’t intend to die before trying out the recipe she’d just found for pumpkin cinnamon rolls. So much to live for, even in the midst of the epidemic.
Johnny’s voice was muffled on account of a mouthful of graham crackers as he said, “If I’d known I’d be eating homemade graham crackers, I wouldn’t have bothered nicking those boxes from the store.”
“Johnny! What have I told you about stealing?”
Johnny huffed. “I keep telling you, Mom, it’s the zombie apocalypse. Normal rules don’t apply anymore.”
Mrs. Huntington sniffed. It was a sound Hortense had become sick of in the last couple of hours. If she didn’t find herself craving human company, any human company, she would have long since stopped attending Mrs. Huntington’s “neighborhood picnics.” Heaven knew Hortense did not attend for the joy of the digestive difficulties imposed upon her when she dared eat the things Mrs. Huntington called canapes.
“It’s not just a rule, Johnny, it’s a law. And a commandment,” Mrs. Huntington said. “‘Thou shalt not steal.’ ”
In the distance, something rustled. Hortense frowned and shaded her eyes with one hand. It might just be the wind, blowing a low-lying bush. She gripped her meat cleaver more tightly.
“Yeah, well, the Israelites didn’t have to deal with their dead trying to eat them. I think God might have given them a pass if they had.”
Mrs. Huntington sniffed again. “It’s not just that it’s a law or a commandment, Johnny. It’s the principle of the thing. If we cannot keep to the mores of civilization, then what differentiates us from the zombies?”
“Oh, I always thought not trying to eat each other makes for a pretty big difference.”
Mrs. Huntington sniffed. Johnny munched.
“Say, Mrs. Montgomery,” Johnny at last said around a mouthful of cracker, “how’s the search for the grandkids going?”
Hortense’s throat clenched a millisecond before she heard the moan. “Hush,” Hortense said. To their credit, both Huntingtons obeyed.
It was a slower zombie than most, having lost its right arm and leg, and having just a stump for the left leg. It did its best to crawl along with the single arm and leg-stump. Given the extent of its torn flesh, Hortense thought it had gotten caught in a hay baler at some point. She swept left to right to make sure it was alone, and only then did she rise from her perch and trot out to meet it.
It had been female. Clumps of shoulder-length hair were still attached to its skull, and it wore the tattered remnants of a daisy-print dress. It raised its head and hissed at her through a maw of broken teeth.
“Poor, poor dear,” Hortense said. She lifted the meat hammer and struck right between its eyes. Fetid blood and chips of bone flew. Hortense hit it twice more, just to be sure. She wiped the hammer off on the grass the best she could, then she straightened and grimaced. Her back was acting up again. Rubbing at the small of it, she trudged back to the Huntingtons. Mrs. Huntington had her hand at her mouth. Johnny stuffed another graham cracker in his.
“Getting late. We ought to return to our respective homes before nightfall. Johnny, would you do an old woman a favor and come burn the body in the morning?”
“Sure thing, Mrs. M.”
“All right then. Good evening.”
Mrs. Huntington lowered her hand and gestured to her Tupperware. “Oh, but Mrs. Montgomery, you haven’t eaten any canapes! Do take some home.”
“That’s very kind of you, Mrs. Huntington, but I’ve rather lost my appetite.” Hortense proffered her meat hammer.
Mrs. Huntington paled. “Oh, of course. I’m sorry.”
Hortense nodded and bid them goodbye again, and at last was permitted to go on her way. It was a lie, of course; she found that zombie-killing burned a lot of calories and left her ravenous despite stress or worry.
Eveleen and Joe Junior are fine.
Of course they were. Which was another reason to not to risk Mrs. Huntington’s cooking. Fine lot that would be, to survive attack after attack from rotting corpses but die of food poisoning.
Well, Hortense reflected, little good had come out of the epidemic, but at least it gave her a plausible excuse for turning down others’ culinary ineptitude.
I’m not bothering to include the graham cracker recipe, because I followed the one Deb gives at Smitten Kitchen and it’s just about perfect. The only difference I made was to use Tahitian Vanilla Sea Salt instead of kosher/coarse sea salt. Granted, I haven’t made them with the plain sea salt so I can’t rightly say if the graham crackers’ deliciousness is due solely to that one ingredient. But I doubt it. So if you are the least bit fond of graham crackers, go here and make these. Johnny’s right; there is no reason to subject yourself to the store-bought ones when such deliciousness lies in your grasp. And her pictures are much prettier than mine, featuring graham crackers that did not get slightly burnt (and that they were still tasty is another measure of Deb’s fabulousness).
But! Much as I love Deb, she doesn’t include zombies with her recipes. If you like Hortense, check out her previous zombie-killing.