(Fangs of the SS) CHAPTER 17: The Zombies, They Like White Meat

If you like this story, you might like this comic book.
If you like this story, you might like this comic book.

As night falls, a businessman returns from a hard day of meetings.

“Ok, so I pieced off the crap game to Stankovic, introduced Ferris to Muldoon over at the quartermasters, and told Darlac to find another sucker for his dope bizness.”

Mirsky is walking between the tents of Camp Cuckoo talking to himself. It’s an old habit and one that people have warned him about for years. He doesn’t care all that much. When he talks to himself, he uses such a mix of ungrammatical Russian, Yiddish, English, and even some Greek that he picked up on the Odessa wharves, that no one really has any chance of understanding what he’s saying. “Jumping out of a plane is gonna be a fuckin’ nightmare. But it’s Leah. So, sure, I’m going to jump out of an airplane in two days. I survive that, I make sure the Rabbi survives this queen bitch monster we’re going up against, and then, little sister, I’m coming to make sure you’re safe.”

He stops his monologue. Something different up ahead, around a couple of tents. Not the usual chanting, weird mechanical noises, or something that sounded like some sort of wolf fucking some sort of cat. No, this is much more familiar to Mirsky. The voices of drunk and stupid authority throwing its weight around. A gentle smile appears on Mirsky’s face. He rolls his shoulders, loosening muscles. He cracks his knuckles. He heads towards the voices.

Three drunk white soldiers, two sergeants and a corporal, are clustered around a black guy in an Army uniform. Mirsky thinks he’s seen him around Camp Cuckoo, maybe once or twice, some sort of hoodoo man. The soldiers must have gotten likkered up and got brave enough to come inside the wire of Camp Cuckoo to see what shit they could stir.

“God. Damn. I don’t fuckin’ believe what I’m seein’! A nigger in uniform! In uniform!”

“I don’t think I can allow this. I can not allow this uniform, this uniform of the American fighting man, to be sullied like this!”

And now the corporal adds his voice, a yapping little dog. All three men have accents of the American South, Mirsky thinks. He’s not really sure, he’s not gotten further south than Newark in his couple of years in America. “We gotta erase this shame and teach this nigger a lesson.”

The black guy keeps his voice low and his gaze lowered. He’s letting himself get pushed around, offering no resistance. “I don’t want no trouble. Just let me go on my way and we’ll forget all about this.”

Mirsky, still unobserved by everyone, blinks at that. The behavior is familiar from the streets of Odessa, Jews not wanting to cause offense, trying to act small so that the Russians, the Cossacks will move on and stop tormenting them. But the words, the words are words of warning. And he’s not the only one to catch that.

One of the sergeants loses his shit. “You see? That’s what you get when you put a nigger in a uniform! He starts telling white men what to do!”

“He surely has forgotten his place.”

A hand goes out and grabs the black guy’s uniform. “You get the hell out of that uniform or we’ll take it off you. And you don’t want that to happen.”

Mirsky looks around. These pieces of trash have picked their spot well, out of the way, nobody around, but that cuts both ways. He decides. It’s been too long, too damn long, since he’s put the hurt on some Cossacks. And these are Cossacks, no matter what their language. He steps out of the shadows. He can barely keep the anticipation out of his voice. “Maybe you mugs don’t want to do that.”

The three white guys wheel and face Mirsky. The black guy fades back a little but doesn’t run.

“Get the fuck out of here, buddy. This don’t concern you.”

“Who the hell are you to tell us what to do? We’re doin’ what any right thinkin’ white man would do.”” He actually sounds aggrieved and put upon.

And this one gets political. And starts with the finger pointing. “Maybe you’re one of them pinko nigger lovers. Maybe you can’t stand to watch the white man stand up for what’s his.”

“Maybe I’m really fucking bored. You know how many times I’ve seen little shits like you? You know how many times I’ve killed little shits like you?” Mirsky doesn’t draw his gun, not yet, doesn’t really need the hassle of cleaning up the bodies.

One of the white guys looks at the other two. “Three to one. I like those odds. You’re gonna die here, you mouthy nigger lover.” The three of them spread out and start to move towards Mirsky.

Mirsky smiles in anticipation and makes to pull his gun, but is interrupted.

All four men have forgotten the black guy, intent on each other. They all jerk as he starts to speak. Not softly this time, no attempts to make himself smaller. He speaks loudly, clearly, confidently, with a religious cadence. “All of you so hungry for fightin’. So hungry for killin’. But I’ve got someone who’s hungrier. And now he comes to his table to eat. And he never leaves empty. Come, Papa Ghede, come, the table is set, come and feast.” He gestures at three Southerners, an inviting wave. Then he stiffens, his eyes roll back in his head, the whites gleam in the darkness. Then he chuckles, deep and appreciative. His posture changes. And the voice is completely different. “This is a well set table that my horse has brought me to. Good eating.” Another rolling chuckle that lifts the hairs on the back of Mirsky’s neck. Oh, yeah, that’s right, he’s a hoodoo man. “Finger licking good!”

Mirsky takes his hand off his gun and steps back. The three white guys looks at each other, unsure, starting to be afraid. Something, hopefully someone, brushes up against Mirsky’s back and he freezes. He swallows convulsively as the ripe scent of dead meat fills his nose and coats the back of his throat. Without moving his body, he rolls his eyes right and left and sees the still figures surrounding them. They stand awkwardly, twitch, and start to moan. Ghede, taking his time lights a cigar, one of the white guys, the leader, the one with the biggest mouth, he pisses himself, and when his cigar is going to his satisfaction. Ghede gestures and the dead men move in. Mirsky keeps still but he’s not of interest. The white trash start to scream and yell in shock and then they start to beg. White guys, racists, beg and plead to a black man for mercy and forgiveness. The zombies attack them, drag them down, rip them apart with hands and teeth.

The screams go on for a long time. No one comes from the tents to investigate. This is Camp Cuckoo, after all. There are plenty in the camp who can feel what is going on, can feel the cold pressure in the air, can feel the pressure of Ghede’s feet on the earth. Those that can feel stay in their tents as Death sits at his table and tucks in. And those that can’t feel, trust those who can, and stay in their tents.

Ghede walks among the zombies, patting them on the head. They gaze up at him in bloody mouthed adoration. A few even offer him dripping gobbets, presented in cupped hands, sacrificial offerings of the tastiest bits.

When the zombies are down to bickering over scraps, and his cigar is smoked down, Ghede bows his head. His shoulders slump, the mausoleum coldness leaves the air, and when he looks up, it’s the other guy.

Mirsky breathes out in relief. “Well, shit, looks like you didn’t need my help at all.” His voice isn’t entirely steady.

“Naw, man, I ‘precciate the thought. Takes some stones to come up on somethin’ like this and not back down. My name’s Marcus, by the way, Marcus Jones.” He holds out his hand, a testing look in his eyes.

Mirsky doesn’t even hesitate, he has no reason to, and he shakes Marcus’ hand. “Benny Mirsky.” The two men stand side by side and watch the zombies play with the bloody bones. “I wasn’t lyin’. Been fightin’ fuckers like them all my life. Doesn’t matter what language they speak, what clothes they wear, they’re all the same. What you plannin’ on doin’ with this mess?”

The hoodoo man’s smile is broad and mocking. “Well, since the Army done and gave me a shovel, I figger I’ll use it.”

Mirsky takes off his gunbelt and rolls up his sleeves. “If you got a spare, gimme one, I don’t mind throwin’ dirt on these schmucks’ faces, what’s left of them.”

The two men start to shovel dirt on the chewed remains. The work goes fast with both of them working. The zombies stand back.

Bloody mouthed dead guys aside, this sort of work is familiar to Mirsky and it puts him in a reminiscent mood. “Shit, getting rid of bodies here is easier than in New York. Back there, you whack somebody, you gotta roll their body in a rug, drag it down to your car, drive it to the river, dump it, always scared shitless that the cops got an eye out.”

Marcus glances sideways at him. “Sounds like you’re talking from experience.”

Mirsky throws a shovel of dirt onto a gnawed skull and goes for a nonchalant tone. “Yeah, I was a hitter for some mobbed up black hats, Jews, back there.” He’s not sure why he’s dropping his pants for this guy he just met, but this Marcus, he’s got that air about him. He’s easy to talk to. And then Mirsky figures it out. Yeah, just like the Rabbi. This guy’s a priest. The last couple of days has made Mirsky a lot more ecumenical. So Marcus’ congregation is a bunch of dead guys who like to eat people. So? The Rabbi’s surrounded by living talking moving statues that he and his girlfriend made with help from God.

Marcus pulls a disbelieving face. “You weren’t never no gangster!”

Mirsky pauses in his shoveling and looks straight at the hoodoo man. “Fuck you, I wasn’t. Been one since I was a little pisser in Russia, then in New York City after the fuckin’ Commies took over the rackets.”

“New York City, man! You musta seen some sights!” Marcus’ tone invites further reminiscences.

Mirsky leans on his shovel and obliges. “You can say that twice. Nothin’ else like that city, all lit up at night, the dames in the clubs, Broadway, all of it. All types.” He nods at the Zombie Priest. “You should go when the war’s over. Fuck, up in Harlem, there’s even a crazy hoodoo fuck like you, goes by the name of Papa LaBas. You’d fit right in.”

“Now I know you’re just fuckin’ with me!”

“Do I look like I’m stupid enough to fuck with someone like you?” Mirsky shakes his head. “Nope, this is the straight skinny. Papa Labas, and lemme tell ya, nobody, but nobody fucks with him. Not my people, not the Italian mobs, not the cops, nobody. You, your talents, your…” Mirsky hesitates and gestures. “- followers, all of that, you’d find New York City a welcoming place. And hey, no offense or nothin’, but it’s gotta be better than whatever place you’re from down south.”

“Well, you ain’t wrong about that. Maybe I will get myself up North.” Marcus throws one last shovel of dirt over the scattered bones and steps back. “That’s good enough. The jackals will clean everything up after we move.”

“Sounds good.”

Marcus hands his shovel to one of the zombies. When he sees that Mirsky isn’t sure what to do with his shovel, he grins and takes it, gives it to another zombie. “You know, I think I’ve seen you around here in Camp Cuckoo the last couple of day. You’re workin’ for that Jew priest and his walkin’ statues?”

Mirsky brushes the dirt off his hands, keeps his tone nonchalant. “Yeah, I’m working for the Rabbi. What’s it to you?”

“Maybe something, maybe nothing.” Marcus digs out two cigars from a breast pocket of his uniform shirt. “Smoke?”

“Don’t mind if I do.” If the hoodoo man wants to take his time to get to his point, Mirsky has no problem giving him all the time he needs. He bends his head to the lighter flame that Marcus snaps on and draws deep. He ignores the way that the eyes of the zombies all follow the flame. Nice. Very nice and smooth. He mentions as much to Marcus.

“Cuban, my man. Got a connection with a Cuban santero, their version of a hoodoo man.” He draws on his cigar and comes to his point. “Somethin’ one of them statues said to me recently. Said that me and my boy would be good at fightin’ the leeches. So now that you’ve seen my boys in action, maybe you can put a good word in for me?”

“You lookin’ to fight in the war?” Mirsky exhales a plume of smoke.

Marcus nods, his voice is tight with frustration and pride. “Damn right!”

The zombies pick up on Marcus’ state of mind and get agitated: twitching, moaning, looking around for something to attack. Marcus mutters to himself, sticks his cigar in his mouth, and goes to calm them down.

While Marcus does that, soothes the monsters, pats them, whispers in their rotting ears, Mirsky pulls on his cigar. The fragrant smoke covers up the smell of meat going bad and the shit smell from the white trash intestines buried nearby. He kicks some more dirt over a hand that’s been stripped down to the bone and another facet of his plan starts to take shape. He stares blindly at the ground while gears whir behind his eyes. After all, nothing matters but Leah. He looks up as Marcus walks back towards him. “Everything ok?”

Marcus nods.

“You’ve got a pretty good hand with those… with them.” Mirsky motion with his head. “Let’s take a walk, get away from this mess.” The two men start walking aimlessly through the tents of Camp Cuckoo, trailed by Marcus’ zombie cadre. “I’ve been thinking about what you want. And understand, I’m completely on your side, pal. You and your dead boys are the types I want fightin’ with me.”

Marcus glances sidelong at the Russian. “Any white boy talks as good as you do about me and mine, I know for god damn certain that there’s one fucking huge catch comin’ up. So tell it to me straight, gangster, what you got in mind?”

Mirsky nods, concedes the point. “Right up front, I’m gonna say that no matter what you say to my proposal, I’m gonna put in a good word for you with the Rabbi. Hell, a whole bunch of good words. You got that?” He waits until the Zombie Priest gestures for him to go on. “Ok, so here’s what I’m thinkin’. Really looks like the Army gives you the shitty end of the stick. It’s filled with fuckin’ crackers like those that you put the hurt on back there and they think that all you’re good for is just liftin’ and diggin’. You want in on fightin’. Does it matter to you if you’re in the Army or not when you’re doing that fighting?”

“Well, now.” Marcus walks for a bit, concentrating on his cigar. “That’s one real interesting question. Not what I was expecting at all. I think that you’d better lay it all out. I know you ain’t plannin’ on joinin’ the Nazis, so what you got in mind? And keep in mind, I ain’t interested at all in bein’ your muscle for any kind of gangster shit. Yeah, America treats me second class, if I’m lucky, but them Nazis, they’re fuckin’ evil. I can feel what they’re doing over there in Europe. They’re doin’ shit that makes even Papa Ghede look away.” He grips Mirsky’s arm with enough strength to make his point abundantly clear. “So I want you to keep that in mind when you speak your next words.”

Mirsky looks down at Marcus’ hand until the other man loosens his grip. “I’m gonna give you that one for free, cuz you only know that I’m a gangster. But don’t talk to me about what’s going on in Europe. It’s my people that they’re killing. I’m here in this fucking desert instead of New York City because I want to kill Nazis. And I’m gonna keep on killin’ Nazis until they’re all dead.” He takes a deep breath and breaks the stare with Marcus. “Killin’ Nazis and keeping my family safe. That’s what you can help me with. The Rabbi’s promised to help me with somethin’ and that somethin’ means I ain’t gonna be with the Army for much longer. And when that happens, I’m going to be killin’ Nazis on my own and I could really use your help with that. I can promise you a lot of fightin’ against Nazis. You’ll get to show them all what you can do.”

Marcus puffs on his cigar and the glowing coal at the end of it reflects in his eyes. “Now you’re talkin’, white boy. I’d be sure as shit be down for somethin’ like that. You’re damn right I’m tired of bein’ treated like a dog by the Army.”

“Nothin’s gonna happen right away. The Rabbi and his statues, his golems, they’ve been assigned to take out some head leech bitch in some castle. And I’m going along with them. When we come back, and we’re comin’ back, that’s not even a question, then you and I meet again and we’ll go start killin’ Nazis together. Ain’t gonna be here, I’ll tell you that for free. We gotta get across the Med, to the Balkans, I’m thinkin’.”

“So you’re talkin’ full on desertin’.”

“Ain’t you been listenin’?” Mirsky shrugs. “This Army don’t care about either of us. We, you and me, want to do what needs doin’. Killin’ Nazis. We’re both good at it and the Army is stopping us from doin’ that. So, fuck the Army. Yeah, I’m talking about desertin’.” Mirsky shrugs again. “I’ve got some ideas about how to make that happen and get across the Med. You put your mind to it as well, and let me know what you come up with when I get back with the Rabbi.”

“Yeah, I can do that.” Marcus thinks for a couple of seconds and nods. “Yeah, I can get us all to the coast, that’ll be the easy part. I’ll think on how to get us a boat.”

“So we got a deal?” Mirsky sticks out his hand.

“We got a deal. See you when you get back.”

They shake hands. The zombies moan happily.

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