Prompt: Place anywhere in the story, the sentence- "This was the life of a country star."
Tommy Lee didn't give himself a chance to think too hard; if he did, he
might just plumb give up. He set his guitar case down by his feet. The dust on
the road swirled around his worn brown boots, and he tilted his hat forward to
keep the sand out of his eyes. His hair had been long prior to the apocalypse,
but it was longer and dirtier now, some dark strands caked to his face with old
The last few days didn't go so well. He lost his shotgun two days prior to a
zombie girl, who he thought he had recognized from his past-- blond curls and a
dress with faded flowers. Maybe an old fan? Maybe, but he couldn't recognize
any features when she turned around, with her face half rotten off with visible
gums and teeth from the hole in her cheek. She took him by surprise, and when
she lurched towards him with gnarled, moldy fingers, he took his guitar and
ran... and left the gun sitting where he had been sunning himself. It was obvious
what his priorities were. And as he knew from experience, he was good at
He figured playing and singing kept him sane, kept him human. Kept him
different than the lumbering ghouls that followed his every step. He was used
to followers running after him. But they usually didn't want to eat him.
He had been an alcoholic—he could admit that now, now that he couldn’t drink
booze anymore, since dulling one’s senses increased the likelihood of being
caught by a zombie. He hadn’t been the nicest guy either—he cringed when he
remembered how he treated some of his most devout fans. He almost fell on one
in a drunken stupor, threw up on another, and shouted expletives to yet
another. At the time, he had rationalized, telling himself, “This is the life of a country star.” What
would he do to get another chance to make up for past mistakes? But now, there
were no stadiums of fans chanting his name. There were no chances for him to
shine in the spotlight. Now, it was surviving by the edge of his teeth.
He had been on his own for a long time, and was hoping one day to find
someone else in this barren wasteland. Plenty of empty houses with cupboards to
plunder; plenty of houses with zombies that never escaped. Apparently, they
weren’t so good at turning door knobs. He had a nasty surprise when he opened a
closet a week ago.
He stuck a blade of grass in the corner of his mouth. There were benefits to
the end of the world. Instead of writing songs about dead dogs, pickup trucks,
or a wife that left him, he could sing verses about losing a limb, escaping
death at every turn, or a relative or ex-wife that became a zombie. He was in
the middle of the unfortunate observation that the most obvious rhyme with
"zombie" was his own name "Tommy," when he heard an excited
"Mister? Mister? Are you him? Are you really the famous Tommy
Tommy turned around and saw a young boy wearing tattered rags and no shoes,
streaks of soot on his cheeks. At first he was shocked, because he had not seen
another human being in days, maybe months. He was losing track of time. “Who
are you?” The words came out harsher than he intended.
The boy took a step back. “Artie. I’m a huge fan. My dad--“ he stuttered.
“My dad used to play your music all the time on our stereo system. That is,
when he was still alive.”
Tommy couldn’t believe this kid had survived this whole time. Who was taking
care of him? He was skin and bones. Then he realized. This was his chance. His
chance to make up for a lifetime of mistakes and disappointments.
He knelt down in front of the boy. “Do you have a favorite song?”
The boy gave him a shy smile. “I really like It’s a Honky Tonk Life.”
Tommy had to laugh. That was his least original song, but probably his most
well-known. And the irony of singing that particular song now was not lost on
He flattened the case, popped the latches, and took out his guitar. He would
have to break into another music store soon—he only had one set of strings left
in his case. “For my biggest fan,” he said to Artie, who was clapping his hands
gleefully. “I’ll sing this song.”
He started strumming with his worn pick. Chord after chord swelled from the
well-loved instrument. He had been through everything with his guitar—the highs
and lows. And now, it was helping him earn his redemption.
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