“But I want to be a zombie!”

“A zombie? Why? You’re nine. Can’t you be something cute – like a fairy or a cat? What about Cinderella?”

“I could be a Cinderella zombie.”

Mom rolled her eyes and put her hands on her hips. “We are not buying zombie stuff. End of story. So either pick something else or let’s go.”

“Fine. Let’s go.”

****

“It sounds like she’s a lot like her mama.” Dad scanned the newspaper as he spoke.

“That’s ridiculous. I would have never wanted to be a zombie for halloween.”

“Maybe not. But you would have wanted to be something other than what everyone wanted you to be.”

“See, dad thinks you should let me be a zombie.”

Mom and dad both turned to the doorway, surprised at the interruption. Mom raised her eyebrows and moved her gaze from Julie to dad.

“Whoa, sweetie, don’t go putting words in my mouth. I don’t recall giving an opinion about your costume.” He stifled a laugh when he looked at Julie, her facial expression almost identical to her mother’s.

After a few moments of silence he realized neither was going to let him off the hook without giving an opinion. “I think we should allow Julie to be expressive in her costume, but we need to find something that both of you can agree on.”

“See! He agrees with me. You should let me be a zombie.”

“He also thinks that shirt he’s wearing matches those pants. What does that tell us?”

Dad looked down at this clothes trying to figure out how the conversation had turned to his wardrobe. Julie rolled her eyes and walked out.

“So you think I should let her be a zombie?”

“I think… I should go change my shirt.”

“Good idea. I’m going to the store to get some groceries for supper.”

*****

“Ewww! What is that?” Julie backed away from the plate her mom had just placed in front of her.

“Brains. Doesn’t it smell delicious?”

Julie stole a look at dad to see his reaction. Judging by his face he didn’t seem to know what this was either. “Seriously, mom, what is this? It looks disgusting.”

“You want to be a zombie, right? Zombies eat brains. Think of this as your initiation into zombie-hood. Don’t worry, honey, it’s not human brains. That would be illegal. It’s cow brains.”

“Gross!”

“You’re the one who wanted to be a zombie. I’m just allowing you to be expressive.”

Dad didn’t have to look at her to know she was looking at him as she finished that sentence. “I don’t recall wanting to be a zombie. And, this stuff does look disgusting.”

“I’m sure you’ll be supportive of Julie’s choice, though, right?”

“You’re asking if I’ll eat this? I don’t know.”

A smile broke across Julie’s face as she pushed the plate away. “Ok. That was funny, mama. You had me going for a moment. What’s really for dinner?”

Mom’s face showed no hint of a smile. “This is what’s for dinner.” With that she returned to the kitchen and brought two more plates of brains.

Dad wrinkled his nose as she sat his plate in front of him, but he wasn’t about to say anything.

“Here’s the deal, Julie. You eat a plate of brains and you can be a zombie for Halloween.”

“It’s a good thing you didn’t ask to be a dung beetle.” Dad tried to break the tension, but his smile was met with incredulous looks.

Julie stiffened her back and gave her mother a stern look. “Fine. If I need to eat brains, I’ll eat brains.”

She picked up her fork and scooped up some of the mess on her plate. The closer she examined it, the worse it looked. It had a yellow-green tint. There were parts that looked like meat mixed with light colored chunks of an unknown substance. It was oily and there were hard,crunchy-looking things scattered throughout. She tried not to gag, mustering the courage to eat it. She held it under her nose to smell it. “Are you sure this is edible?”

“Yeah, it’s fine. In some places it’s considered a delicacy.” Mom stirred the brains on her plate with a fork and blew on it as if cooling it off.

Julie resolved not to back down. She stuck out her tongue and lifted her fork towards her mouth. Her face scrunched further as she got closer to it. She jerked her head back as soon as soon as it touched her tongue. “Ewww. It tastes horrible.”

“How do you know? You barely touched it.” Mom laughed.

“I don’t see you eating it?” The blob of food dropped from Julie’s fork as she spoke, splashing some on her blouse. She raised her hands in disgust before wiping it off with her napkin. She scooped her fork into it again and raised it toward her mouth, pausing just inches from her mouth.

“Come on, dear. It can’t be that hard.” Mom scooped up a fork-full and popped it in her mouth. She wrinkled her nose a bit as she exaggerated her chewing.

Julie dropped her fork as her other hand covered her mouth. Her throat gagged as she ran toward the door. “Fine! I’ll be a witch!”

Mom and dad sat in silence until mom resumed eating.

Dad watched her for a moment shaking his head. “What is this?”

“Corned beef hash with a little food coloring. Oh, and I added some bread crumbs to give it a little crunch. I guess you can have her plate too.”