Chapter 5:

A Boy and His Do*g

A Boy and His ****


Fucking fuck.

Fuck fuck fuck.

Fuckity fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuckballs.

Fuck on a fuck sandwich. Fuck with a side of fuck. Fuck o’clock in the afternoon. Fuck-a-doodle-doo. Fucking fuckers fucked fuckingly.


Scant else but thoughts like these swam through my head as the shimmering outline of familiar metal bled over the horizon. An electric fence topped off with rusty spirals of barbed wire.

Upside Town. Population: 1K on the dot. Location: the asscrack of nowhere. The place was a stinking, fenced-in sweatstain of a trashheap of a compound, a shitplop squat stuck in the center of the desert, and a pretty ballsed-up place to grow up in on top of it. But it was my fenced-in sweatstain of a trashheap of a compound and my shitplop squat stuck in the center of the desert and my pretty ballsed-up place to grow up in.

We were home.

We had made it. Somehow or the other, we had made it. All three of us. Me, Scratch, and Ned. And without a single scratch (lowercase). Anyway it was practically a miracle, but we had done it. Made it all the way back across the plains, and then the wasteland, and now we were back. It was morning, just past a dreary dawn but already boiling. It was gonna be a hot one alright. And not just cause of the weather.

Even from this far away, I could see who was awaiting us at the town gates.

“Don’t look now,” Scratch mumbled as we dragged our tired bodies across the final stretch of sand.

“Too late.” I knew he had smelled the three of them from farther off than I could have possibly even seen them, and I silently thanked him for not saying anything about it. For giving me another couple minutes’ peace. A final few minutes of stillness inside my head before my brain started rattling and the fear started clawing up my throat and I had to swallow hard and dry just to choke it back down.

I mean I should have known they would be there at the town gates. It was their shift after all. Our shift. But what can I say? I’m an idiot.

“Who are they?” Ned asked. He could see the trio by now too, I guessed. Oh, Ned. Sweet, sweet, innocent Ned. They were right, what they said about ignorance. It’s bliss. Heaven. Always knew it. And I knew it even more now.

“You don’t want to know,” I told him.

“But… I just asked?” Spongy bits of brain sprinkled to the sand as he ticked his head in confusion.

Scratch sniffed. “Well, you’re gonna find out in a minute.”

He was also gonna find something else out soon enough. Why we’d even brought him back home with us in the first place. I wondered how he would take it. Some things you were better off not knowing. Most things, actually. Of course me and Scratch had already came to a decision. We weren’t planning on going through with what we were originally planning on going through with anymore. Not with Ned. Ned was our friend now.

Knucklehead Ted and his two stupid flunkies weren’t.

We reached town.

“Well, well, well. What have we here?” Knucklehead Ted looked the same as ever. Like a fat sack of pus pretending to be human. He was a head taller than me and probably double my circumference. His fifty chins blobbed around as he spoke and his sunburned, hairless belly was squishing into the butt of the shotgun he had strapped over his shoulder. As if uncontent with being fat as fuck, he was also ugly as dirt and sweating a slick film onto his skin. Like usual, he was sitting in his favorite chair, the filthy plastic barely containing his hulking mass and straining under his immense weight. His bare feet were planted in the sand. He hadn’t had his favorite footstool — me — around for the last couple of days. Still, he didn’t look too happy to see me. He was nursing a sludge-colored bottle, sharp cracked lips ringing foggy brown glass. There were a lot of old beer bottles piled into the trash heaps outside town, or half-cemented into the sand and Ted had a habit of sucking on them like the fattest meanest triggerhappiest baby you ever saw. The liquid once inside had dried out or been drank up eons ago, before Ted or any of us was even a tingle in his daddy’s crotch.

“Yeah, what have we here?!” Cockroach repeated. Cockroach was less pus sac, more walking talking scab. He let slip a cackle that was like shoving glass shards in your ears.

Jockstrap was there too. “L-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-look who decided to come crawling back!” he stuttered. Him and Cockroach were leering at me with their ugly mugs and yellow teeth from behind the electric fence. They were the west gate interior guards, meaning it was their job to stand between the fence and the big iron gates to the town, and light any intruders up like new years.

Of course any potential intruder would have to get past the electrified fence and the barbed wire first. That was how it worked. Four lines of defense keeping anyone who wasn’t supposed to be inside out. First the guys with guns outside the fence, then the fence itself, then the guys with guns inside the fence, then the gates. If you could get past all of those, you were in.

But far as I knew nobody from the outside ever really tried stunts like that anymore. Not in this day and age. No matter how much firepower they were packing. Even the biggest packs of outsiders, crazy ones like we’d ran into, didn’t really give towns like ours any trouble. We made reports if we ever spied any riding past, just so we’d know who was in the area, but they never really tried stirring anything up. Probably cause they knew any town left standing had enough ammunition to blow intruders to kingdom come fifty times over should things really get furry. So unless they caught you out of your own territory and defenseless, outsiders mostly left insiders alone.

And anyone who thought we were bluffing? They’d quickly learn we weren’t and even quicklier proceed to eat it. Rumor a while back was some outsiders up north got it into their idiot skulls to see if they couldn’t plow into a fortified city much like ours. Well, turned out the people in the stupid holeup were hoarding nukes and whoever was in charge was nutheaded enough to use em. Whole place is a crater now, if the stories are right. Upside Town wasn’t that hardcore, but we surely had enough to make sure unwelcomes would eat it if they tried coming in.

Anyway here at the west gate, the first line of defense was Knucklehead Ted. Plus his counterpart, the lookout.

A.K.A. me.

That’s right. That was my job: west gate exterior lookout. I wasn’t trusted with a gun. So Knucklehead Ted was the muscle and I was the eyes. I was, unfortunately, his partner.

Yeah. Partner. More like punching bag. Ted had given me more scars — mental and physical — than anyone or anything else ever. Ever since he learned about my big, embarrassing secret. My favorite pastime. The only activity I ever truly loved. Ever since then, I’d been the object of ridicule of all the other guards here at west gate.

And to think we used to be friends.

“Well twirl my titties.” Ted heaved out of the plastic chair and wiped his sweaty, creased brow as he waddled out from under the canopy into the sun. He loved the sound of his own voice. I, meanwhile, hated it. It sounded like a hiccup had a baby with a burp. “If it isn’t” — he looked at me, swiveled his nonexistent neck to Scratch, back to me — “the boys! Cockroach! Jockstrap! Check it out! It’s MD and Scratch! The boys are back in town!”

“M-max…” I muttered, not even making eye contact.

“Ha ha! They made it back to town!” Cockroach echoed.

“F-f-f–f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-finally made it!” Jockstrap added.

They started whooping and whistling and saying stuff like “You sons of bitches really did it!” and waving their guns all over the place and “J–j-j-j–j-j-j-just in time for a f-f-f–f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-forty-five-minute bathroom break, M-M-M-M-M-M-M-D!”

“And lookee here…” The words rolled grossly off Ted’s tongue like vomit dribbling down his infinite waterfall of chins. His beady eyes locked on Ned. “A real live zombie, in the stinking flesh.” He pinched his too-small nose. “Tickle me turquoise — they actually went and did it!”

Cockroach and Jockstrap erupted into laughter again and I had to wonder what was so funny. Of course we had did it. We’d brought a zombie back to town just like we were tasked to do. Of course it was just one instead of the two they asked for, and Ned was a special case besides, considering he could talk and all. But we had still mostly accomplished the mission.

Then Ted snapped at his flunkies. “Quiet, you idiots!” The two followed the command instantly. “Squirt and the mutt may have made it back to town. But they sure aren’t making it back into town!”

Not making it back into town? What the heck was that supposed to mean? I didn’t know, but the way they were all looking and laughing at us — especially at Ned — made me feel like I had a hole burned into my stomach lining. I could already see where this talk was headed. It was a fight waiting to happen. And the way I saw things, there were two kinds of fights waiting to happen. The kind you walk away from with your tail between your legs. And the kind you run away from as fast as you possibly can while screaming three or so octaves higher than normal.

This was the second one.

Except, for once in my life, I didn’t want it to be. I didn’t want to turn tail and run. We had made it all this way. We had made it out to where we had and survived and had came back — I glanced at Ned — better off than when we started. Turning away now would be worse than facing whatever was about to happen.

I gulped and took inventory of our side. Scratch was on the defensive, hairs on his back spiking. Ned was kind of cowering behind him or something. Had to wonder why he was so scared of jokers like these considering what had happened with those outsiders.

Then again, I was scared too.

I psyched myself up and looked Ted square in the eyes. Last time I did that I’d lost a tooth.

“What’s that look in your eye, squirt?” Ted said before I could even say anything. “I’d say you were about to break out crying if I didn’t know your preferred way of getting your moisture out!” All three of them cracked up again at that.

Then Ted noticed my spear. I’d been holding onto it the whole time — had it on me ever since I snatched it back off the treehouse walkway — but Ted was never too quick in the brain. “Say, looks like you found yourself a weapon! If you woulda asked me I woulda guessed you’d be more comfortable with guns, MD! Since you’re such a great shooter and all!”

More grating laughter.

“Wh-what did you mean?” I asked, confident as I could, over the cackling. They were just making fun of me now. I had to get this conversation back on track. “What did you mean we won’t be making it back into town?”

“Oh.” Ted’s lips peeled into a sickening smile. “That. Well, squirt, here’s the thing. You and your mutt? You’re just not welcome here anymore.”

“Not welcome?!” What was that supposed to mean? We did like they asked. Risked our asses out in the wilderness for days cause they told us to. We may not have completed the mission exactly like how we were meant to, but I’d have said we came pretty damn close given the circumstances. “Just cause we failed to bring back enough zombies for your fat ass to chow on?!”

“Wait.” Ned froze. “What?! You guys brought me back here so you could freaking eat me?!?!?!?!?!?!"

“U-uuuuhhhh…!! W-well, about that… haha…” Shit. Well, he was bound to find out eventually.

“But we promised we weren’t gonna eat each other! Screw you guys!”

All I could do now was try to smooth things over, sand his surprise down. “No, Ned, it’s not like that. We weren’t gonna eat the zombies we were asked to bring back, per se…”

“That’s right,” Ted said. “That’s why they were supposed to bring back two zombies. A male and a female. So we could breed ‘em. ‘Bout slurped down all the canned crap we’ve got left uptown, and the rabbit farms haven’t been producing this year.”

“Not producing nearly enough!” Cockroach repeated.

“S-s-s–s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-so we figured,” Jockstrap added, “why not give z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-ombie husbandry a shot? S-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-ee if we can’t start farming the undead for food.”

“That makes it even worse!” Ned threw his arms up in the air, flies buzzing out of the open wounds that were his armpits. “Max! Scratch! I… I hate you!”

“N-no, that’s not it!" I pleaded. "We didn’t bring you back here to eat you. We brought you back to town so you could stay here with us!” I thought back to what had went down at the treehouse, and then added: “And so that maybe one day you can figure out just what… just who you are! You have to believe me, Ned. We decided it as soon as we learned you were sediment.”

“Sentient,” whispered Scratch.

“As soon as we learned you were sentient. Decided it as soon as we met you and you became our friend. We would never even think about using you for food you, Ned. I promise. Scratch, I’m telling the truth, right?”

“He is,” Scratch told Ned.

Ned’s eyes pingponged around, landing on everything but us, like he couldn't bear to look at us. “If you say so…”

“And besides,” I said, taking a deep breath. I snapped off my goggles to look at Ted raw, right in his eyes this time, forcing all my fear down where I couldn’t feel it. “We failed. We didn’t bring back a male and female zombie like we were supposed to. All we brought was Ned. So keep making fun of me till you croak, for all I care.” That was how all this started: they’d promised to ease up and let me be a part of the group again if I delivered both zombies. “Doesn’t matter anymore. The plan’s off.” I dusted off my hands

“Well, that’s heartwarming and all,” said Ted, playing with the patches of scraggly facial hair cropping up here and there on his fleshy chins, “but thing is, squirt, I’ve never seen a zombie quite like this one before. One with a mind of its own. Might as well see how it tastes, right?”

“No! You can’t!” I said pathetically. “Ned has a mind of his own. H-he’s pretty much human, just like us!”

Ted licked his awful lips. “Even better!”

He tried to step forward and grab Ned then with his big puffy red hand. But before he could, Scratch jumped in between them and started growling.

“Outta my way!” Ted sent his stupid boot sailing into Scratch’s soft underside. Scratch went flying with a whimper, landing hard in the sand. Ted and the other two got a laugh out of that.

“Scratch!” I was about to run to his side but he just looked up at me and in his eyes I could see he was telling me to protect Ned. So I did. I got between him and Ted and spread my arms wide. I wasn’t much of a barrier.

“Funny, kiddo,” Ted said. “But you’d best back down if you want to make it through this breathing.”

“Do your worst,” I spat back. “You kill me and I bet the Clown will do your ass in the second he finds out, fatso.”

“And I betcha he won’t. After all, you’re not even a real member of this town anymore.”

What? Not a real member? What the heck did he mean by that? I’d gone on a whole-ass journey and stuck my neck out for Upside Town. How could I not be a member? “Wh-what do you mean?”

Instead of telling me what he meant, Ted just hiked a fat thumb off to the side. I followed where he was pointing to the sign marking off the town limits. It was green and metal with a couple bullet holes in it, and it spelled out the name of the town and how many people lived here:

Welcome to Upside Town

Pop. 1,000

Only something about it was different now. Something was out of place from how the sign looked when me and Scratch left town.

The “1,000” was X-ed out with black spraypaint. Next to it a new number was scrawled on the green metal.

The word “town” was crossed out too. On top of it someone had sprayed, in letters so scrambled you could hardly make them out, a different word entirely. So all together, the thing now read:

Welcome to Upside Village

Pop. 999

“See, thing is,” Ted explained while the other two snickered behind him, “when we sent you two out to find a couple of zombies for us to eat? When we promised you’d be back as one of the gang if you did? We were lying out our collective shitholes, kid.”

“Hahaha! Lying!”

“O-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ut our asses!”

Hideous shrieks of delight from the other side of the fence.

I could feel the sun pounding into me, but suddenly the heat was draining from my body. I was beginning to understand. To see what this had all really been about.

“The truth is,” Ted continued as all the warmth just guttered out of me, “we didn’t really think you’d make it. Didn’t think you two’d even last a day by yourselves outside of town. The whole point of all of this zombie bullshit was actually to get rid of you. Y’know, have the cruel outside world do you in. Why waste a good bullet banging you out when we could have nature do it for us? See what I mean?”

“You g-guys sent me out there… to kill me?!”

“Sure did! I mean, what? You didn’t think this zombie breeding gamble was waterproof, did you? I mean, great if it worked out, sure, but anything coulda gone wrong along the way. So it wasn’t even worth trying without additional motivations, which, thanks to you, we had. See, even if by some miracle you did make it back with the undead goods, the backup plan was to take the zombies for ourselves and then exile you. You know, a real ‘two assholes, one dick’ type of situation.”

He pointed to the stupid sign again and the words burned into my eyes.

Welcome to Upside Village

Pop. 999

They weren’t the only thing burning in my eyes. Were these… were these tears? What the heck? What was that all about? I couldn’t even remember the last time I cried. I didn’t even like Upside Town that much. Was I really that sad I was seemingly getting kicked out of it for good? I wiped my bandana on my face really quick before any of the others could tell what I was doing.

“Why? Why am I being kicked out?”

“Cause, squirt.” Ted shrugged, the fleshbags hanging off his sweaty arms sagging. “You’re the least valuable member of the town. All you are is a lookout, and you spend most of your shift in the bathroom anyway.”

Damn. Couldn’t argue with him there.

“That’s part of it. The other part is the drugs.”


“Yeah, MD. Drugs. Government handouts. I’m talking subsidies you can smoke. Don’t you know every registered village gets theirs?”

“What the fuck?” That was all I could choke out. It was all I could even think. Since when did the government supply people with fucking drugs? What kind of drugs were they even handing out? And most importantly, why had I not been informed?

Ted kept lipping. The more he told me, the more crazy it sounded. “Villages get a share. Not towns though. That’s the incentive. Uncle Sam wants us to stay small. Beats the tar outta me why, but that’s the way it is. And that’s why it’s come to this.” He nodded to the sign again. “You’re trying to fly higher than the sun, you gotta trim some of the fat first, know what I mean?”

It was at this point something started to snap inside me. I don’t know what. Anger unballing itself maybe. I was hardly even scared anymore. After all, it didn’t really seem like I had anything more to lose. It was like I had some poisonous crazy animal clawing up my throat and all its venom was about to come spewing out my mouth.

“Where’s the Clown?” I spat, glaring. “I want to talk to the Upside Clown.” The Upside Clown was the guy in charge of Upside Town. He wasn’t really a mayor or anything like some other places had, or at least I’d heard they had. He was just the guy with all the guns and bombs and shit, so he was the one running the show. He was mostly pretty fair about everything though, so I guess all 1,000 of us were pretty lucky about that.

Well, 999 now.


“Sorry, scamp. Clown can’t talk. Too busy porking your whore mother.”

“Fuck you.”

“But even if the Clown was available” — he just ignored me and kept talking, each word more horrible than the last — “he wouldn’t tell you any different than we already have.”



“The Clown was the one who gave the ok on this plan in the first place. Shit, he practically came up with at least half of it himself. Sorry, sport. Except really, I’m not. None of us could ever much stand you. Boss man included.”

I spat. “I don’t believe you,” I lied. I actually had no problem believing that the Upside Clown wanted me gone, or dead, or both, considering how unproductive a member of this society I was to begin with. It was just I couldn’t think of any better comeback than that.

“Believe this.” Ted raised his shotgun so the barrels were staring me straight in the fucking face. Then he ground his heel into the ground and dragged out a line in the sand. “Take one step over this line and I’ll have your brains decorating the fucking sand.”

So this is what it had come to.

He was serious too. He’d really do it.

“Now skeeball it, squid.” He yanked the gun to the side for a second, motioning for me to get lost. “Before I decide to do it anyway.”

My teeth were clenched. I could feel the heat and the wetness welling up from behind my eyes again. “What about Scratch?” He was still lying off to the side. Breathing hard. His old chest heaving up and down.

Ted and them looked over there. Then they looked at each other. The flash of an evil idea lit up their eyes, and they smiled.


A minute later me and Scratch were lined up on the line Ted drew. Ted was still pointing his gun at us. He had taken away my spear so that all I had were my pack and the clothes I had on me. The other two had taken Ned safely inside the electric fence and were holding him captive. He was watching this all play out with a terrified look in his non-eyes.

“Alright, you two,” Ted said to me and Scratch. “Listen up. I don’t want any funny moves. Got it? Here’s what we are going to do.” His tongue was like a fat slimy worm as he wet his gross stubbly lips. “As you both know, we’re looking to cut the population of the town down to that of a village. That means we only need to get rid of one person. That person was always gonna be MD here” — he pointed the gun at me — “but it could be, if you wanted it to be, could be this flea-bitten mutt, maybe.”

Scratch was too fatigued to say anything, the wind still out of him. So I chanced some lip in his stead. “The hell are you talking about?”

“What I’m talking about is I’m gonna say ‘Three, two, one, shoot,’ is what I’m talking about. And when I say ‘shoot,’ what you two are gonna do is point to one of you. Each one of you can point to hisself or to the other. Whoever gets pointed at is the one who gets to stay. Whoever doesn’t get pointed at is the one getting exiled today. See what I mean? We’re making things fair and democratic. I’m letting you two decide. Decide who gets to stay and who has to go. And if you can’t come to an agreement, both of you get to eat hot metal for your last meal. Now, are you ready?”

Couldn’t really say no, could we?

Above the whooping and hollering from behind the fence, Ted started the countdown.

Me and Scratch just looked at each other. Gave each other a knowing nod. Each of us — me and him — had been together long enough now to know what the other meant. We didn’t need words. We were on the same page. The same wavelength. Of the same mind. We were one. A boy and his dog. Together till the bitter end. He’d point to me. I’d point to him. And when Ted saw that neither of us was gonna screw the other over like I was sure he wanted, well, then he’d just have to exile both of us. Either that, or we’d die together, like he’d threatened. Right here. I was ready. Scratch was too. And I was glad that, after all we’d been through, if this is where we ended up eating it, I’d be doing it with my best friend by my side.

“... shoot!”

I pointed to Scratch.

Scratch pointed to himself.

… …

… … …

“WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?”

Ted and his cohorts broke out into their most uproarious laughter yet.

“Sorry, MD,” said Scratch. He didn’t sound it. Nor look it.

“What the fuck?! What the fuck?!?!?!?! Fuck you!”

“Sorry, MD,” Scratch just repeated. “I know it’s always been you and me against everyone else. You and me against the world. You and me first, everyone else second. But if it has to be you or me, well… I choose me.”

WHAT THE FLIPPITY FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Now, get this clown outta here!” Ted commanded Scratch with the gun. “Run him off so he never so much as thinks about coming back. Better yet, rip his throat out, why don’tcha!”

He didn't even hesitate. Didn’t even think twice. Scratch just bared his awful fangs for a split second, and then he pounced. My best friends in the whole world.

That was when the tears really came. They were flowing hot and horrible and gushing and I didn’t care. My legs were pumping, pushing me away from town, into the wasteland. Scratch was on me. Right on my ass, gaining on me as he practically galloped after me, snarling, foaming at the mouth practically, barking for me to get back here so he could tear me apart. I ran and I kept running. I ran as fast and hard as I could. I couldn’t do anything else. Couldn’t think anything else. All I could do was try to survive. Even if there wasn’t anything left for me to survive for. As I ran, as I distanced myself from Upside Town for what I was sure would be the final time, I heard Ted’s stupid voice call out from behind me. “Run, MD, run!”


Yeah. That was who I was.

It didn’t stand for my full name, Max Destruction. Not when they said it.

When they said it, they were calling me Master Debater.

And not cause I was good at arguing.

So, that’s my secret out. Go ahead. Laugh it up. Or recoil with disgust. I know you’re doing one or the other. That was why everyone hated me. Why Ted and them had turned against me, made me their punching bag and the butt of every wet fart of a joke they ever told. Why I had wound up in this mess, come to think of it. Because my primary hobby and pursuit in life — my half-hour “bathroom breaks” five times a day, plus even longer and more furious sessions each night once I was off the clock — made me an easy target for ridicule.

I looked behind me and saw my former best friend wearing the face of a demon. A vicious hellhound on my tail.

There was no going back now. Ned was toast. Scratch had turned against me. I was an exile. There was nothing left to live for and, fittingly, I was also about to die.

So you know what?

Fuck it.

If I was gonna die today, I reasoned, I was gonna go out doing the only thing that ever brought me any joy in this sorry excuse for a world. This joke of a life. This shitstain of an existence.

Yeah, I thought, feet — inches, maybe — away from the snapping jaws of certain death, yeah, that’s it! I’m gonna die exactly as I lived!

I’m gonna die having the greatest f*p of all time!