Read Zombie Online

Authors: J.R. Angelella


Praise for J.R. Angelella’s

“Angelella’s debut novel crackles with energy and attitude.”

—Publishers Weekly

“An irreverent and twisted coming-of-age story with one of the most shocking endings I’ve ever read.”

—Matthew Quick
, author of
The Silver Linings Playbook

“Your home life’s an apocalypse, school’s the plague, and you’re growing up in a wasteland. To survive this zombie movie of a life is probably going to take more than you’ve got. But a world where the dead walk is also a world with miracles. Have faith. Read this book.”

—Stephen Graham Jones
author of
Growing Up Dead in Texas

“Without a doubt, J. R. Angelella is a truly gifted writer, and
, his first novel, is one of the smartest, strangest, and most beautifully crafted coming-of-age stories you will ever encounter. I eagerly look forward to see what he comes up with next.”

—Donald Ray Pollock
, author of
The Devil All the Time

“Wow! A crazy, wicked, knock-out of a book!
is an energetic, hilarious romp through Jeremy’s world, which is full of dangers and perils both real and imagined (or are they imagined?). Remember those Zombie movies from your childhood that kept you up nights holding onto your baseball bat for safety? When you read this book, you’ll go searching for that baseball bat again. A word of advice … grab the aluminum bat. Trust me.”

—Garth Stein
, author of
The Art of Racing in the Rain

Copyright © 2012 by J. R. Angelella

All rights reserved.

Published by
Soho Press, Inc.
853 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Angelella, J. R.
Zombie / J.R. Angelella.
p. cm.

Summary: Fourteen-year-old Jeremy Barker, facing his first year of Catholic high school and major family issues, sees the code he lives by, gleaned from zombie movies, put to the test as he tries to set right what he thinks are terrible wrongs committed by his father.
eISBN: 978-1-61695-089-7
[1. Coming of age—Fiction. 2. Family problems—Fiction. 3. Catholic schools—Fiction. 4. High schools—Fiction. 5. Schools—Fiction. 6. Fathers and sons—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.A58232Zom 2012

Interior design by Janine Agro, Soho Press, Inc.


To my beautiful wife, Kate. For everything and the world


“I have never seen a greater monster or miracle in the world than myself.”



Title Page




Prologue to the Apocalypse

Jeremy Barker’s
Top Ten Favorite Zombie Movies of All-Time;
Or How to Survive a Necroinfectious Pandemic:
The Zombie Survival Code!

he earliest memory I have of Dad is: disappearing.

The details don’t matter much now. It’s more of a grainy, amateur film reel in my mind—the kind taken of some possible monster running through the darkness or a dinosaur descending down into choppy, black water. But still it’s mine.

I don’t remember my exact age. Maybe I was that in-between age where standing on tiptoes accomplishes things. Maybe not.

The house was empty. I walked from room to room. The lights were off. I didn’t turn them on, or call out his name, for fear of disturbing whatever might be inside.

Dad was gone.

But I’m not going to start with my earliest memory. If I do that, how the fuck will we ever make it through to the end? There’s so much left to come.

Like high school.


(Release Date: October 2, 2009)
Directed by Ruben Fleischer
Written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick


ccording to my father, there are three types of necktie knots: the Windsor, the Half-Windsor, and the Limp Dick.

“Jeremy, I’d bet my hand,” he says, adjusting his seatbelt, “that every swinging dick at Byron Hall wears the Windsor.”

“Could you not talk about dicks first thing in the morning?”

“The ladies love masculine things,” he says, pinching his silver tie at the base of its knot.

“Dad, it’s an all guy high school.”

“It’s the principle of the thing.”

“What is?”

“The size of a man’s knot. His bastion of strength.”

“Don’t say
bastion of strength
. Gross,” I say, shivering.

“It’s true,” he says. “Fact. Proven.” Dad turns, facing me, and exposes the flauntingly fat Windsor knot of his silver tie.

Welcome to Necktie 101. I will be your professor today.

According to Ballentine Barker, in order to make a Windsor, you must cross the long, fat end over the short, skinny one; double loop through the cross-over; make a tunnel over the loops; and funnel it through. The Windsor usually makes you look like a fuckwad.

What is that Bible story about the whale and Jonah? Or is his name Jonas? And Jonah is swallowed whole by some gigantic whale for whatever reason—I don’t know—and Jonah lives inside the whale? And then the whale spits him out. Or is it that he swims out? Or is it that he gets blown out through the blowhole? Or does he die inside the whale? Am I thinking of
Moby Dick

We pass a sign on the side of the road that reads

“When they say that—
get in on it
—what do they mean?” I ask.

“That Baltimore is a secret not many people know about,” Dad says.

“A secret?”

Get in on it
. Be one of the people in the know. Be in on the secret. A part of the club.”

“What secret? What club?”

“It’s like referring to Baltimore as
Charm City
. The name creates a buzz where no buzz is buzzing.”

“Buzzing?” I ask.

Dad says, “You ask too many questions.”

Jackson used to call Baltimore by a bunch of different names.
B-town. Charm City. Crabtown. City of Firsts. Monument City. Mob Town. Murderland
. He’d say them mainly to impress girls. They’d stop by the house in the evenings. Groups of them. Whore-ds of them. Get it?
of them? And ask if he was home. They would travel from far away. Randallstown. Ellicott City. Columbia. Westminster. Cockeysville. Perry Hall. Take 83 South to Cold Spring Lane or I-95 to Russell Street past M&T Bank Stadium. Travel just to see him. They’d stink of perfume, wearing short skirts, tight tops, big hair, lipstick-red lips. Jackson would emerge from his room, sometimes wearing only a robe, and descend down the stairs like some Casanova Fuck. “Welcome,” he’d say, “to the
City of Firsts

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