One day, my nephew Billy had a birthday party. His mom, Elaine, and a few of her other “mom” friends helped coordinate it. Eight or nine of Billy’s little school and/or neighborhood friends were invited, most of them between the ages of five and seven. A few fun games were planned, like “pin the tail on the donkey” and “toss a beanbag at the empty-can pyramid”, followed by a yummy ice-cream-and-cake treat and the opening of Billy’s birthday presents. It sounded like a potentially fun-filled party for the children, and it most likely would’ve been, too, if only Johnny Cash’s reanimated corpse hadn’t shown up uninvited and disrupted everything.
How he came back to life and why he picked this particular house to show up at remain a mystery. Yet there he was, right between little Sally Feldman and Eddie Green in the line of children filing through the front door for the party. The children should have been giddy with happy anticipation for the coming festivities as they entered the house in their nice party clothes, but instead they were mortally terrified of the shambling, gibbering corpse in their midst. Needless to say, Johnny Cash looked pretty horrible. Already in a fairly-advanced state of decomposition, the deceased country-music legend was more ghastly-looking than the Frankenstein monster, and his burial clothes were split up the back to clearly reveal his big, warty ass, which somehow just seemed to make things worse.
Billy’s mom and the other moms stood frozen in raw, naked fear as Johnny Cash lurched toward them, his hideous face contorting and convulsing as he attempted to speak. But all that came from his festering mouth were blood-chilling croaks like “bllnnggff” and “guhhh-uhhhh.” The children, now well beyond the point of thinking that this might merely be some kind of party entertainment, began to hide behind various items of furniture and cower in whimpering terror.
Johnny Cash looked around in confusion, as though he himself dimly realized that he belonged in the grave and had no business walking around like this. All at once, his bulging eyeballs focused on something familiar. There, leaning against a wall in the corner, was Billy’s guitar. It wasn’t a real guitar, but one of those little plastic toy guitars that plays a tinkly tune when you turn the crank. But Johnny Cash made a horrible croaking sound of recognition and grabbed it up.
“Guh GAHHH, gnog nggghh NAAAHHH!” he croaked obscenely, attempting to entertain his captive audience as he had so often done in life. He banged clumsily at the guitar, stomping his feet as he staggered from one shrinking spectator to the next. “Plink-plonk” went the fragile plastic strings of the toy guitar as Johnny Cash’s dead hands clawed tunelessly at them, ripping them asunder one by one. “Mmmfff, GAAAAHHHH HAAAAAAA!” he gurgled, trying to sing the remnants of “Folsom Prison Blues” that his rotting brain still retained.
And then, he saw the cake. The beautiful, rich, gooey cake. He remembered that he should love the cake, be hungry for the cake. Tossing what was left of Billy’s guitar aside, Johnny Cash lurched toward the gaily-decorated dining table and plunged his hands into the cake, ramming huge gobs of it into his mouth. “RAAAAR! GRAAAAAR! MLAAARFF!” he gibbered, slobbering cake, his face dripping with frosting. Some of the candy letters that had spelled out “HAPPY BIRTHDAY BILLY” were stuck to Johnny Cash’s face, and they now spelled “YIRPAL DRIB.” He vaguely remembered that he should now be thirsty for some of the sweet, refreshing punch that filled the large bowl on the table and made a diving grab for it, losing his balance and crashing through the table as the punchbowl landed upside-down on his head like some horrible space helmet.
Johnny Cash staggered to his feet, covered in frosty cake and dripping with once-festive punch, the huge glass bowl wobbling on his head, and lunged for the gaily-beribboned presents that sat in a pile waiting for the birthday boy to open them. In what was inexplicably left of Johnny Cash’s clouded mind, HE was the birthday boy. Emitting a series of horrendous barks that sounded like a herd of seals being run over by a steamroller, he ripped into the presents and came up triumphantly with a happily-grinning “Danny O’Day” ventriloquist dummy. Johnny Cash thrust his hand into the dummy’s back and worked the controls, making its toothy mouth snap open and shut as he screamed “GARRR-GAAAAAAR! MUFFF WUFFF! NNNGGGGFFFFF!” He staggered from child to child, proudly performing the most hellish ventriloquism act imaginable for their entertainment. To this day, my nephew Billy still has nightmares of an insanely-grinning Danny O’Day croaking “BLAAAR GNNARRRRR!” at him, and wakes up in the middle of the night screaming “YIRPAL DRIB!!!”
Anyway, Johnny Cash’s reanimated corpse finally left. I don’t know what happened after that, because the phone rang while Elaine was telling me about it, and it was her husband telling her that there was a guy on his way to their house to fix the garbage disposal, and she had to go let him in. Not long after that, I heard something about Chris Farley’s reanimated corpse showing up at some Jewish kid’s bar mitzvah in Houston, Texas, but I don’t know if this was part of a mysterious pattern of some kind, or just an unrelated event.