Fiction: The Best One-Armed Waiter in the West

Read More: A brief interview with Jen McConnell

On our first date, Shelly admitted she hadn’t noticed right away that I only had one arm. To be fair, I was a zombie at the time.

“Zombies first,” she said.

I mumbled thanks. We were in line for coffee during a break on the first day of the movie shoot. She was one of the cute young villagers that wouldn’t make it to the end. But I didn’t know that when we met. All I knew was that female extras rarely talked to the undead.

“I haven’t seen you before,” I said. “Is Stabby Stabby, Death Death your first horror film?”

“I’m starting to fear that’s not just the working title.”

“I guess Hollywood’s running out of words.”

She smiled. “This isn’t just my first horror film. It’s my first film. Like ever. I don’t even know where to sit.”

I stared at her as she tilted her head back to drink. The sun lit up her marble-green eyes. I’d been kicked in the teeth enough times not to get my hopes up, but it couldn’t hurt to be friendly.

“Over here,” I said finally. All the tables in the shade were taken so I led her to the edge of the forest where Zed, the lead zombie, would later gather his army. My makeup was melting into my eyes. Not that it mattered. This was one time when the worse I looked, the better I looked. I wiped my forehead with the back of my hand.  At the table, I angled to sit on her left. From experience, I knew the longer we went without her noticing my missing arm, the longer she would talk to me.

“My non-zombie name is Vic,” I said.

“I’m Shelly. So what’s your zombie name?”

“In the script, I’m number 22 but really it’s Ahhhh or Nooooo. Whatever they’re screaming as they run away.”

“Do you do this often?” she asked. “Be an extra?”

“It’s a steady gig. I don’t have dreams of making it big.”

“I do,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to act in movies. I have an audition for a commercial next week. After that, who knows?”

A PA on a bullhorn called the zombies to set before she could tell me more. Walking away, I glanced back to see her watching me, puzzled. There was something about me that was different but she hadn’t figured it out yet. I didn’t want to be there when she did. […]


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Jen McConnell is a fiction writer and poet. Her work has recently appeared in Bookends Review, Buck Off Magazine, No Extra Words, Luna Luna, Mused, and Blue Lotus Review. Her debut collection of short stories, Welcome, Anybody, was published by Press 53 in 2012. She’s currently working on her second collection. She earned degrees in English and Philosophy from the University of California, Irvine, and her MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College in Vermont. By day, she works as a copywriter in the corporate world. Her website is jenmcconnell.com.

Read More: A brief interview with Jen McConnell