My Brother, the Zombie
By: Peggy Gerber
Penny was just getting ready for bed when she glanced in the mirror and noticed a zit on her chin. She groaned, ‘Oh for God's sake, I am forty-two years old, I should have been done with acne years ago.' She put a quick dab of medicine on her chin and headed off to her bedroom.
Although Penny was not particularly vain, she was scheduled to be interviewed the next morning at the local news station and wanted to look her best. She would be discussing her new book, My Brother, the Zombie, and was dreading the event. She had always been terrified of public speaking, but marketing was built into her contract, and she couldn't refuse. Worried about looking stupid, she spent the entire afternoon preparing. At the end of the day, she was mentally and physically exhausted and craved a good night's sleep.
Penny climbed into bed next to her husband Charlie and thumped him on the head. She yelled, "Seriously Charlie, tonight of all nights you choose to snore. Why did you order that giant bacon, cheeseburger? I told you it was too big and greasy. Now between your belching and snoring, I will never fall asleep."
Charlie sighed, grabbed his pillow, and started walking out of the room. He looked back at Penny sneering, "I know you're nervous about tomorrow, so I am not going to say anything about how rude you are. I'll sleep on the couch."
Penny watched him stomp out of the room and felt terrible. She shouted, "You're right honey, I'm sorry. On the way to the couch though, get yourself an antacid for that belching."
Alone now, Penny fluffed up her pillows and tried to get comfortable. First she lay on her right side, then she bounced to her left side, next she flipped to her back and tried some deep breathing. When that didn't work, she reached for her phone and clicked on a meditation app. Still unable to stop her intrusive thoughts, she took one of her emergency sleeping pills. She knew the pills often gave her nightmares, but she couldn't risk not sleeping. She took an extra half just in case.
The next morning Penny woke up feeling groggy. She contemplated drinking an extra cup of coffee to stay alert but worried the additional caffeine would make her jittery. She needn't have worried though, because when she trudged into the bathroom, she was startled into full attention. Her eyes opened wide as she looked in the mirror and began shrieking. Charlie came running in and covered his mouth with his hands. Penny's face was completely broken out. There was not an inch of clear skin. She had blackheads and whiteheads and a little bit of fluid was leaking out of the giant pustule on the tip of her nose. She began to cry, and Charlie put his arms around her, steering her away from the mirror.
He reassured her, "Penny, it's not that bad. The make-up people at the studio will know what to do. It'll be fine. Nobody will even notice." Although Charlie's words were soothing, she could not ease that sick feeling she had in the pit of her stomach
Penny went into her bedroom and put on the green, floral peasant dress she had laid out the day before. It was her favorite outfit, and it helped her calm down. Feeling a little bit better, she skipped off to the kitchen and ate a small breakfast. When she was finished, she tossed her dishes in the sink and glanced out the window. The driver was already there to take her to her interview. She took a breath, grabbed her purse, and went out to meet him. When he greeted her she noticed he was averting his eyes. She hoped it was her imagination.
When she arrived at the television studio, the hair and makeup team sucked in a deep breath and quickly got to work. They sprayed Penny's face with thick cover up and gave her bangs.
When they were done, Penny looked in the mirror and cringed. She was having an allergic reaction to the heavy makeup and now her skin was red and irritated as well. She felt like her face was on fire.
With her heart beating out of her chest, Penny bit her lip and took the seat across from the talk-show host. He introduced her to the audience, and she tried to say thank you for inviting me Joe, but instead what came out was,"Doh, doh, doh." She couldn't control her voice. She sounded like Homer Simpson. The adrenaline began pouring through her veins and the sweat ran down her cheeks. Soon her hair was soaked and matted to her head. She couldn't understand why Joe was unperturbed that all she could say was doh. At the end of the interview, Joe looked out at the audience and said, "Everyone put your hands together for Penny Pimplehead." Then he held up her book and added, Poems about Pimples is available at Amazon beginning today. Penny began gasping for breath, frantically trying to say, "That's not my name, that's not my book," but all that came out was, "Doh, doh, doh."
Penny put her hands over her face and starting howling, "What's happening to me, what's happening to me?" Next thing she knew Charlie was standing next to her and shaking her awake. He sat down on the bed and muttered, "Penny, did you take those sleeping pills again? You know they give you nightmares."
Penny jumped out of bed and raced to the bathroom mirror. When she saw just the one small pimple, she pumped her fist in the air and belted out, "Yes."
Later that morning, as the cameras began to roll, the host introduced Penny to the audience. She took a deep calming breath, looked at the him and smiled, "Thanks for inviting me Joe."