Robert Garner McBrearty
When I answered my phone this morning, my agent, Burt, screamed in my ear, “What comes after zombies? What comes after zombies?”
“I don’t know,” I said, “I don’t know.”
For weeks, we have been racking our minds on how to catch the next literary wave. We’re sick of being poor, of barely hacking it. The only thing sadder than a failed writer is a failed agent.
My wife called out from the kitchen where she was burning up the oatmeal, “Is it Burt? Is it Burt? Has he sold something?”
“No, he hasn’t sold anything. But we’re close.”
“We’re always close!” She went back to burning the oatmeal.
“What comes after zombies?” I shouted at her.
“Killer squirrels!” she shouted. “A man walks into his backyard and he’s surrounded by killer squirrels.”
“Killer squirrels!” I screamed at Burt.
He paused. “Pitch it to me.”
“Okay, okay, look. Everything appears normal. It’s a Sunday morning. He goes out on his deck with his paper and a cup of coffee. Nice summer morning. His wife is inside burning up the oatmeal. The kids are at the parole officer’s. He watches the squirrels in the trees. Cute. Wow, what jumpers! Look at them go, one branch to another…But something is wrong. Something is out of whack.”
“What is it?”
“The squirrels are devouring something big. Something really big…”
“Like a…like a deer. They’ve dragged a deer up into the trees and they’re devouring it.”
He breathed heavily. “How many squirrels are there?”
“Well, it started as a few, but now its hundreds, thousands. They’re leaping over the fence. Now they finish the deer and start for the man.”
“No. No, it’s been done. Hitchcock. The Birds. Same old stuff, but with squirrels.”
“Burt doesn’t like the killer squirrels!” I called to my wife.
“Tell Burt to shove it!” She came to the doorway, waving a big wooden spoon. “Tell him to sell something or shove it!”
“What’s she saying?” Burt said. “What’s she saying?”
“She says to try a little harder.”
“I’m trying! You’ve got to give me something. You’ve got to feed me, baby, you’ve got to feed me.”
“Little Oscar’s in his crib. Mama reaches in, lifts little Oscar, warm and fuzzy music now, opens her dress to breastfeed… Kid goes for her jugular, blood everywhere, daddy comes in, screams, too late for him too.”
Burt hesitated and then said, “No, no. It’s just a redo of Jaws.”
“Jaws …A sad story about a man who can’t chew anymore.”
“He’s lost his teeth?”
“No…no…He’s…wracked with a moral dilemma. He’s a scientist. He’s produced a kind of technology, sort of like an X-ray that reveals that the air is full of little human beings flying through the air, microscopic human beings, but with the machine he can see them clearly and whenever he opens his mouth the little men and women fly into his mouth, screaming, so if he chews, he will be eating the little human beings.”
Burt made a sniffling sound. He might have been crying. “Yuck,” he moaned. “Serious yuck.”
My wife stood in the doorway holding a big wooden spoon. “What’s he saying now?”
“He says we need a new angle.”
She waved her spoon and went away again.
“Burt?” I said. “Burt? Do you think I should just go back to writing poetry?”
“You’re killing me, baby, you’re killing me.” Then I heard it. The sound that always sends chills through me. He was beating the phone against his head. Tap, tap, tap, beat, beat, knock.
“Alien vampire squirrels!” my wife shouted from the kitchen.
“Alien vampire squirrels…” I said to Burt.
The knocking paused. He took a breath. “Go on.”
My wife stood in the doorway. Her spoon was covered in oatmeal. “Well?”
I smiled at her. “He loves it!”
About the Author
Robert Garner McBrearty’s stories have been anthologized in the Pushcart Prize collection and widely published in literary journals that include the North American Review, The Missouri Review, New England Review, and Narrative. His flash fictions have appeared in Eclectica, Posit, Big Muddy, Opium Magazine, Lowestoft Chronicle, and Flashfiction.net. He is the author of three short collections and his first novel The Western Lonesome Society was recently published by Conundrum Press. His writing awards include the Sherwood Anderson Foundation Fiction Award and fellowships to the MacDowell Colony and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. His stories have been performed by professional actors at Stories on Stage in Denver and at the Dallas Museum of Art.