Attack of the Food Zombies

Chapter 1

Jenna Louise Bushnell grunted as she hauled her 317-pound body up from the chair at Bob’s Belly-Buster Buffet (which Vegas Reviews had dubbed “The most repugnant food-like sludge imaginable.”). She had already made two trips to the steam table, and was ready for her third. She had the trip thoroughly planned out, since she well knew the buffet layout from her many previous trips.

She yanked at the back of her elastic-banded pants to make sure the fabric had not wedged in her butt crack. That was embarrassing when it happened. She always wore the stretchy pants to give room for her meal.

She picked up a plate and started down the buffet behind a rail-thin, whiskered man in a stained cowboy hat and worn jeans. She took generous globs of the unnaturally yellow, gelatinous mac & cheese; and the congealed, brown beef-like stew. She decided to save for the next trip the pale, rubbery hot dogs, and the slimy, beige shrimp. This trip would involve the first of several desserts. She chose a rectangle of desiccated cake with its slather of gummy frosting.

She was about to return to her table when the counterman brought out a new tray heaped with potato salad. She liked potato salad. She was able to make some room on her plate, so she doubled back. She reached out a pudgy, pasty hand and used the large spoon to plop some onto the plate. The whiskered cowboy did the same.

Settling in at her table, she took a bite of the mac & cheese, then the stew. Then she tried the potato salad. A look of absolute bliss rose on her fleshy face. Her beady eyes widened. Food Nirvana! The potato salad was wondrously delicious! Its taste suffused her very soul with its luscious, delectable savoriness. Uttering a guttural “mmmm,” She stuffed gob after gob into her mouth, each one bringing a transporting gustatory bliss even greater than the last. She would remember this moment for the rest of her life!

She had to have more! She hefted herself from her chair as quickly as her poundage would allow. She fast-waddled to the steam table, grabbing a plate and moving to the potato salad. She shoved aside a portly, balding man in a jogging suit and grabbed the spoon, plunging it into the yellow-beige mass to haul out a large mound of the enticing—nay addictive—potato salad.

She felt herself grabbed from behind and heaved out of the way, as the whiskered man in the stained cowboy hat and worn jeans shoved in front of her, snatching up the spoon. A low furious growl rose in her throat, and she plunged forward, grabbing him by his belt and flinging him backward, sending him flying over a table, knocking over a pudgy, elderly lady wearing a jet-black wig, which flew from her head.

Two other Bob’s Belly-Buster Buffet diners had also surged forward, their eyes glazed, riveted on the potato salad. But Jenna Louise Bushnell was optimally positioned, and she ducked under the plastic spit shield and plunged her face deep into the potato salad.

The nearest counterman stood transfixed, as she gobbled her way into its depths with a loud snuffling. She grabbed the metal tray for leverage, hauling it off the table. The counterman bolted for the kitchen, hauling out the skinny manager, whose name happened to be Robert, but was definitely not the Bob of Belly-Buster Buffet fame. Nevertheless, he considered himself a Bob-like authority figure. He wore a skinny tie and a short-sleeved white shirt with black pants, which he thought gave him an air of authority. But in his first attempt at asserting authority, he was less than articulate.

You! What do you... hey... quit that!” He exclaimed in a quavering, high voice.

He rounded the counter to timorously approach Jenna.

She ignored his approach, continuing her determined feed, her flabby jowls quivering with each bite.

The Bob-like manager shouted at the security guard stationed at the buffet entrance. He was supposed to be checking entering patrons’ coronavirus vaccine cards—ensuring the continued safety of the establishment. But he was bent over his smartphone playing video poker, as customers walked freely past.

The manager shouted again, and the guard tore his gaze from the game, staring blankly at the growing tumult. The manager gestured wildly for the guard to help, and the guard hefted himself off his stool, watching the melee, still uncomprehending that anybody would fight over food at the buffet.

The manager, with little expectation of help from the guard, considered whether to stop the madly gobbling woman. But before he could, a big-bellied man in a Hawaiian shirt, tore the tray from her sausage-like fingers. But instead of setting it back on the buffet, the big-bellied man plunged his hand into its mass, drawing out a fistful of beige, lumpy potato salad and cramming it into his mouth, uttering a loud, satisfied grunt.

Other assorted denizens of the buffet began shoving forward, shouting variously “Give it!,” “I want that!” “Hey. . . you fat bastard!” and other exclamations indicating that they wanted in on the largess.

The shoving then exploded into an out-of-control melee, with wrestling, punching, grabbing, and even kicking—all with the objective of getting at the shrinking treasure of potato salad.

Observing the growing food-related violence, the guard concluded that he wasn’t being paid to handle such a hazardous event. Seeking help from more well-paid casino security guards, he trundled away into the adjacent Bob’s Big Casino (Which Gamblers Monthly dubbed “A rather seedy backwater joint in the low-rent environs of Vegas.”).

Back at the buffet, the cowboy being the most spry, leaped onto the buffet landing one boot in the meat-like stew and the other in a beige casserole of indeterminate ingredients. He clambered onto the floor and headed for the kitchen. Several of the other diners realized his strategy of going to the source and followed him, slamming the Bob-like manager back against the wall, and overpowering the counterman, who cowered beside a rack of day-old bread.

The breaching of the first counter triggered the breaching of all, as the mob stormed the buffet tables. Quickly discovering that all the cold salads were maddeningly delectable, they began stuffing globs into their mouths with abandon. They found almost every fistful addictively delicious, which only whetted their appetites for more.

A phalanx of muscular casino security guards burst into the dining room, followed at a safe distance by the buffet security guard. They bellowed deep, authoritative commands, which rose above the clamor of shouting patrons who had not reached the food, and the gluttonous grunting of those who had.

Four guards shoved their way through the crowd, attempting to determine its epicenter. They finally arrived arriving at the feeding Hawaiian-shirted man. Deciding to start with him, the senior guard wrenched the tray from his hands, leaving him with only a glassy-eyed stare and an open, potato-salad-encrusted mouth. He recovered himself enough to grunt “Gimme it back! Gimme!”

“What the hell?” exclaimed the guard. “What the hell are you doing?”

“’S amazin’!” exclaimed the Hawaiian-shirted man. “You won’t believe! Gimme it back. Gimme!”

The guard started to put down the tray, then reconsidered. He’d tried the buffet once when he first took the casino job and could not fathom any of its offerings being remotely edible. He scooped a fingerful of potato salad and poked it into his mouth. A look of pure bliss rose on his face. Pausing to plot his next move, he wrapped his arms around the tray, and like a football running back penetrating a defensive line, burst through the crowd and ran for the exit.

The Bob-like manager decided even more drastic measures were required. He took out his phone, and amid the tumult, dialed 911.