"I'm not," I snapped. "Turn here."
Junior told me not to worry. "We're used to killing zombies all over the world, Heather." He leaned forward and patted me on the shoulder.
Finally, we pulled into Fred's driveway.
"Okay, now, boys," Dave said. He counseled them on how they couldn't run around or talk too loud or rifle through things, and not to ask to swim; wait until Fred offered. He spoke softly and they sat calmly in the back seat and listened.
I needed to be in there giving Fred a similar consultation. Don't hit me or the boys. Don't pinch people. Don't yell. Don't tell nasty jokes or pee off the back porch.
Then they were out of the car and running around in the yard, which had gone to sand and seed. The house looked terrible, gutter hanging off the front, shutters broken and peeling, loose bricks lying at all angles on the front walk, abandoned. Someone had intended to make repairs, but they hadn't gotten very far.
We stood on the stoop, Dave with his arm around me, his politeness like a silver cape around him, around all of us. The boys stood behind us, painfully well behaved. It was like we were time travelers - I felt we'd come from somewhere so far away. I rang the doorbell, half expecting electrocution: the doorbell had lost its cover, and wires stuck out of the socket. At the same time, I half expected applause from within. I felt like a magician: Et voilà! A little family! At thirty-eight, I felt late for my own life.
We waited out the long sequence of chimes, dum, dum, dum, da dum, dum dum dum dum dum da dum. From inside, Wheel of Fortune went to commercial. A ball game blared from a scratchy radio.
Junior socked Jacob, who protested. Dave stepped back and stood between them, putting an arm around each son. He looked over the wall. "No one is swimming in that pool," he said. Even in the dark, the water smelled green, and when I looked closely, it was - thick green soup. The boys moaned and my heart sank. I'd promised them a swim. I'd promised them sandwiches, cards, a fun grandfather. Where was everybody? I pressed my hands to my face.
"You don't just go in your own house?" Junior said. His voice was loud.
"Boys," Dave said very quietly. "'Member?"
I knocked, hard. I rattled the latch, and the door just opened. I could hear snoring.
Jacob said, "This one time, The Flash, you know The Flash, he ran so fast he outran himself and touched his own back. It makes no sense. So cool. One time he died, and then he outran death when death came to claim his soul. That's pretty fast. Outrun death. Gotta be pretty quick."
I smiled at Jakey. Whenever he sensed I was nervous, he introduced a superhero. I rubbed the top of his head. I stepped inside the house. Cigarette smoke, television, mustiness.
"Fred," I called out, sweetly. "It's us! We're here! Fa-red!"
Then I stopped and rubbed my hands, like I was trying to erase the knocking. I did not want to go farther.
Excerpted from You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers. Copyright © 2010 by Heather Sellers. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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