I sit in my car and watch this old dude, like maybe approaching a century, drag his sorry corpse-body across the parking lot toward the bakery, staggering like the living dead straight out of vintage Romero. He is wearing these overalls and a feed hat, probably a retired farmer or whatever, although I’ve learned farmers never really retire. The bakery, Munchers, swallows this old guy into its brightly lit belly, and I muster the energy to hoist my butt out of the car.
Inside, tables-full of these peculiar old men sip on small paper cups of coffee. They all turn to look in unison when I walk in the front door. I’ve always been a connoisseur of pastries, and one sure sign of a quality donut joint was the volume of elderly that would beat the sun into the place. Munchers seems to have that market locked. I scan the glass case in front of me, and rows of shiny fried bread, dripping with glaze, stare back.
“Can I help you?” this voice says–a woman’s voice at the lower end of the register–a really sexy growl floating just beneath the words.
“I’m just checking out what you have here.” I look up and see the clerk, this cute twenty-something with her dark hair pulled back from a smooth, milky face and blue marble eyes that are fixed on mine. My brain locks up in one of those cognitive dissonance moments–why is this beautiful creature hawking donuts at six in the morning to all these walking cadavers?
“Let me know when you’re ready,” she says before moving to refill a cup of coffee. I continue to watch her as she snags pastries for a couple of the coffee club members from a rack behind the counter.
“Ready?” She catches me in the middle of my thousand-yard-stare.
“Could I get one of these,” I say, gesturing to a rather opulent-looking wad of dough drizzled with white icing.
“Good choice, the cream cheese donut–Munchers’ specialty.” She turns to the rack and stuffs one in a small paper sack. “Anything else?”
“No–yes.” My tongue launches an ambush on the rest of my mouth, and my reasoning faculties are caught asleep. “Just curious”¦why give the regulars the donuts from that rack?” I poke a thumb toward the special pastries and wait for her return volley.
“Oh–those have secret ingredients.” Her mouth grows into this lopsided smile as she leans forward and says quietly, in a near-whisper with that sexy voice, “Human brains.”
“They look like zombies, right?” She flashes her eyes toward the old guys.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Ahem.” This ancient fellow behind me coughs into his hand as a hint to move on out.
“See you later.” She hands me the bag and I realize I haven’t paid. She winks and whispers, “My treat.”
Aaron Polson is a high school English teacher and freelance writer who dreams in black and white with Rod Serling narration. He currently resides in Lawrence, Kansas with his wife, two sons, and a rather sturdy–almost supernatural–tropical fish. His short fiction has appeared in various places, including Reflection’s Edge, GlassFire Magazine, Big Pulp, Johnny America, and Permuted Press’s Monstrous anthology. You can visit him on the web at www.frozenrobot.com.