David Allan Barker introduces us to a zombie psychiatrist, a vengeful tree, alien rednecks, a horny sasquatch, an aphasic priest in a whorehouse, and a block party for suburban cannibals. At the same time we confront the frustrations of suburbia in all its banality: pretentious neighbours, waste disposal disasters, lawn-care rivalries, dehumidifiers run amok, invasive bugs, perfumes that smell like urine pucks, and labyrinthine roads through communities where each house looks like every other. Then, of course, we have the title story, Sex With Dead People (which has nothing to do with necrophilia, in case you were wondering). Here, we discover one of the horrible truths of the 21st century: I forgot what it is. Oh yeah, people have short attention spans. No, that's not it. Maybe something to do with memory.
Excerpt from The Green Capsule:
They give me a green capsule and tell me it contains a radioactive isotope. I swallow it and wait in the reception area until they call my name and lead me to a special room. They leave me alone to put on a gown. I don't understand the concern for privacy given a) the gown has a single tie in the back and the rest hangs open and gives the world a clear view of my ass, and b) they'll be using a machine that can see through bone, so a few articles of clothing aren't going to make a difference. Doesn't matter to me though. I'm not much of one to get all bashful about things. They lie me down on a table beneath a big scanner. A technician explains that the isotope binds itself in a special way to uric acid so the images of my kidney will show up bright green. They do a couple passes with me lying on my back then a couple more with me lying on my stomach. When they're done, they tell me the doctor will be in touch. After I get dressed, I check my watch and see it's nearly rush hour. No point going back to work so I ride a bus to the subway station.
The passengers flow like lava from the bus station to the subway platform, streaming down steps and through tunneled corridors. It's in the converging of two streams that I find my nose in the back of a blond bob. Could it be? I jostle a bit so I can get a look at the woman's profile. It looks like Samantha—but the Samantha I remember from high school never wore red lipstick. It's striking the way her red lips are set off against her pale complexion. And she looks smart in her business suit.
Context is everything—and in this unexpected context Sam is slow to recognize me. And besides, in high school my face was clean; I couldn't have grown a beard if I tried, but now a full thatch covers my face.
Rob? Is that you?
Dave? Ya Dave. From home form.
She does remember me after all.
We pass the bathroom and I need to go but I really want to talk to Sam. It seems ultra dorky to ask her to wait for me while I take a leak, so I walk past the bathroom door. Things are tightly packed in the subway train and we find ourselves smushed together at one end of the car, pressed against the glass and smiling at strangers who are smushed together in the next car, pressed against the glass and smiling back at us. We talk easily and it's as if the years melt away. Fun times. Saturday nights. Teachers we hated. Friends in rehab. I ask about her sisters and her mom and she asks about my brother Gordy and whether he got the mole on his face fixed. But as the train lurches from the station, it reminds me of my bladder and I start to do an awkward dance from one leg to the other.
We're deep into the tunnel and Sam is deep into a story about her best friend Augusta who married a guy who turned out to be bi-polar and treated her tenderly whenever he was depressed but beat her and tore off with other women whenever he was manic. And now Augusta is living with Sam until she can get back on her feet. And just as she says the word feet, the train screeches to a halt. The motor dies and there's a stunning silence and the lights go out and there's a blackness blacker than the deepest night. But after a few seconds the emergency lights flicker on and cast everything in a dim yellow.
Sam lets out a sigh. Thank god. I thought we'd be stuck here in the dark.