Good Company

As I approach my seventh decade of life, I find myself, once again a general laborer.  Though no longer in my teens or twenties, it is in very good company that I find myself.

Bukowski, Basquiat and Vivian Maier.

They are each right here with me, sweating out a days work on cheap whiskey, strong coffee and long nights enjoined by memories of our ignorant youths. Oh, how we love our art and how we laugh at ourselves.

Upon Meeting Jeremy Renner

In case you misunderstand my sense of humor…this is a fiction story…I’m too lazy to take morning walks —

My habit in the morning is to walk up the hill take a left at the major intersection in the neighborhood, continue to the main drag and then return using the first street offering entry back into the neighborhood. One morning, I decided to head the opposite direction.

As I continued along the street, I saw a man in the distance, playing fetch with his Malamute puppy. I said, “Good morning,’ as I passed and he stopped, looked at me and returned my greeting.

Something in my mind ‘clicked,’ and I stopped, turned back the few steps I’d taken and smiling said, “I know you from somewhere. I’ve seen your face, heard your voice, but can’t recall where from.”

The man pleasantly smiled, responding, “Take your time – I’m sure it’ll come to you.”

It was my turn to smile as it had jus’ dawned on me and I excitedly stated, “You’re Batman.”

We laughed. He continued laughing as he walked up his drive, his walkway and into his house.

Instantly I knew I had it all wrong, as I mumbled, “How could I be so stupid – not Batman, Green Arrow.”

Little Dolly

“See?” mother offered, “I told you Santa would get your letter even though you misspelled his name.”

The little girl blushed, recalling how she had printed ‘Satan,’ instead of ‘Santa.’ She loved her Christmas gift; a little dolly with blond hair and blue eyes like her own.

She fell asleep in bed that night clutching her little dolly tightly to her chest. She woke at 3:13 am, with little dolly tightly clutching her throat.

Hanukkah 5732

From a true childhood story…

“We do not use the menorah like that,” Grandma said.

“But I need a little more light over here by the window so I can read,” the granddaughter countered.

“Those eight shamash are holy and not to be used for reading but for worship – besides carrying them around like that can be dangerous – so set them down and leave it be,” Grandma returned.

“I’m being careful – besides what could happen that makes them so dangerous?” the granddaughter asked as she accidentally set the drapes in the living room ablaze.

The home was a total loss.

Lips

At 77, Henry’s mind started to go. Alzheimer’s. It was the first anyone heard of his childhood friend William. They used to wrestle till one day their lips touched. Henry beat William half-to-death proving to his other friends what he wasn’t. Eventually, Henry forgot his wife and his daughter’s names, but William remained pressed on his lips to the end.

A Few Minutes, Episode 10: The Devil

https://soundcloud.com/sierra-tom-darby/afm-10

As I awoke, only my left eye would open.  The right was swollen shut.

“Ah, I let the Devil out of the bottle and he kicked my ass again.”

I heard her as she squeezed water from a cloth.  The smell was familiar, but I could not place it.

“Eucalyptus?  Mint?”

The instant it graced my face, its warmth relieved my pain. Neither of those…chloroform.

Listen Up, You

In the U.S., the NSA is the only government agency that actually listens to you. They even have their own pick-up lines:

“Did you fall from heaven? Because there’s no tracking data on how you arrived at this location.”

“I’d tap that.”

“I know exactly where you have been all my life.”

But then…

A woman goes on a date with an NSA agent, and says, “So, tell me about myself.”

And yet, the date didn’t go well — because at the NSA, everything is done through the ‘backdoor.’

The Deaths of Millain and Bulette, an Alternate History

“Now remember, Lieutenant, you’ll only have three minutes to accomplish your goal,” the doctor said as she injected him with jus’ enough narcotic to help him relax through the transition.

Davis instantly felt himself relax as he heard the canopy on the time machine close and latch. He hid it well, the trepidation he felt of time-casting into the past in order to see how the future would be changed. However, he was a US Army officer and he knew he had to obey regardless, thus were the rules for having volunteered for duty at Area 51.

The proton collider could be heard whining as it increased in speed. He closed his eyes for a second as a static charge of electricity coursed through his body, growing to a painful vibration. Then he recalled that he must keep them open for the coming trip.

The thin snap of a crackle slipped through the capsule and with a crashing pop, he felt himself slip apart, as if he’d fallen into a million, million pieces. Yet, he could still hear his heart beating, his breathe drawing in and blowing out and his own swirling thoughts. He crashed onto the wooden floor of the highly ornate room, stunned.

Over him, stood a man, frightened and looking as confused as Lt. Davis. He was holding an object in his hand, perhaps the knob from the nearby four-poster bed. At the sight of Davis, the man threw the thing at the newcomers head.

The object, glanced off of Davis’ head and the Army officer rolled, scrambling to his feet. The timing of the transition was almost too perfect, Davis thought, as he drew his knife and thrust it deep into the man’s chest. As the man relaxed in death, Davis lifted and then pushed the dead body away from himself.

Looking about the room, he found a letter opener on a nearby table and quickly inserted it into the wound. “After all,” he thought, “Gotta make it look like a part of this time period.”

In the hallway came the sound of heels, a woman’s heels. Davis knew he had to hide and wait for the three minute jump-period to reverse itself. He stepped into the ward robe closet and pulled the door closed behind himself.

When he awoke, he was in the base infirmary. His head hurt, he felt dizzy and was extremely sick to his stomach. Try as hard as he wished, he had no recollection of his return trip.

Hours later he was summoned for a debriefing, where he would detail his actions on the late night of January 19, 1867 in Virginia City, Nevada. In turn, he was told that the experiment had been a success as the time line of history had been altered, but with a twist.

“You see,” Doctor Gladys Ames stated, “You were assigned the task of killing John Millain before he murdered Juliette Bulette.”

“I see,” Davis responded, “So, it was Bulette’s room I jumped into and it was Millain that I stabbed?”

“Yes,” she answered.

“So, what’s the twist?” Davis asked.

“In the previous timeline, Millain was tried and hanged for her murder. In the new timeline, Bulette was hanged for Millain’s murder.”

Davis was stunned, “So nothing really changed, save for the order of those who were either murdered or executed.

“Correct,” the doctor said.

Later at the base library, Davis looked up the brief history of the Millain/Bulette case and learned that the Comstock’s favorite author, Mark Twain had written, “I can see that stiff, straight corpse hanging there yet, with its black pillow-cased head turned rigidly to one side, and the purple streaks creeping through the hands and driving the fleshy hue of life before them. Ugh!”

Davis felt sick to his stomach, “Oh, dear god.”

A Few Minutes, Ep. 9: Sleigh Bells

https://soundcloud.com/sierra-tom-darby/afm-9

He sat quietly next to the hospital bed, holding the hand of his dying mother. The thump-hiss of the ventilator and steady high pitch beep of the heart monitor, with its neon green peaks, plateaus and valleys, slowly hypnotized his emotionally-fatigued mind and he lightly closed his eyes.

“Do you hear the sleigh bells, son?” she asked.

He opened his eyes and strained against the quietude, “No, Mama, I don’t.”

“Well listen – they’re there.”

“I can’t hear them, Mama”

Again he allowed his eye-lids to gently fall together.

“There, right there,” she said again, adding, “Can’t you hear them?”

He turned his head and cocked it upward slightly, “No, Mama, I can’t hear them. I think you’ve been dreaming.”

As silence fell between mother and son, she cried out, “Don’t tell me you can’t hear them now. They’re so close!”

Patiently he listened. Then much to his surprise he heard the faint jangle and jingle of sleigh bells as the horses’ high stepped along their way.

“I can hear them, Mama,” he smiled.

She smiled too, and allowed her grown child to rest his eyes once more. Soon the gentle ringing of the dainty bells came to an abrupt stop.

“I’m going for a ride, son. Wanna come along?”

He watched as her frail body slipped from the bed and crossed the floor. The sight warmed his heart.

“No, Mama. You go and  I’ll join you when you come back ’round.”

“Okay,” she called out, “Love you, son. See real you soon.”

He listened as the bells faded from his hearing. They were quickly replaced by the maddening peel of beeps, buzzes and high pitched whining.

He opened his eyes to a room that was a swirling mass of movement; nurses rushed to begin chest compressions, turning off noise-making machines and emergency calls for the doctor. He released her hand and step back towards the corner of the room near the window.

As he watched the scene unfold before him, he heard the soft chatter of sleigh bells chiming somewhere off in the distance. It was then that he felt the stinging burn of tears and the sudden salty taste as they spilled from his eyes, raced down his cheeks, finding their way to his lips, chin and eventually the floor.

Kathi Ann Campbell, 1965-2019

“Hi Tom, Kathi passed away tonight.” The words hit me hard as I sat in my truck and I felt my heart start to ache and eyes begin to sting.

Kathi had been in the hospital for at least a week before being transferred to ICU. She was on life-support as her liver failed and her brain swelled, leading to a coma.

Kathi seemed to be getting better, waking up, according her youngest son, Sean, but at some point on December 9, she took a turn for the worst and passed away.  Sean and I have been communicating back and forth since I first learned of his mother’s fragile health and after her passing, I figured that the least that I could do is help him with her obituary:

Kathi Ann Campbell was born May 27, 1965 in Chatsworth, California to Dorothy Udell Olson and Lester Vincent Olson.  She entered into eternal rest on December 9, 2019 in Reno, Nevada at the age of 54, following a brief illness.

She graduated from Chatsworth High School in 1983.  Following graduation, Kathi attended Pierce College in Los Angeles, studying photojournalism.

Aside from enjoying photography, Kathi also wrote country-western lyrics with a desire to make it her profession one day.  She loved the outdoors, camping and hiking and had a special place in her heart for dogs.

Kathi is preceded in death by her parents.  She is survived by her sons, Kyle Campbell and Sean Campbell, her brother, Kim Starkel Olson, of Anchorage, Alaska and sister Karri Olson, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

The family asks that in lieu of flowers, a donation to your favorite charity be made.  Date and time of a memorial celebrating Kathi’s life is to be determined.

I feel so sad — not only for myself — but more over for her boys.

Black-eyed

The car, high centered on the embankment, was the first thing seen as I rounded the downhill corner. Nearby were two thin males waving wildly for me to stop.

As I halted and rolled down my window, both separate of the other, cried, “Let me in.”

It was this short, three word phrase that caused me to assess the two teens: disheveled, black attire and pale skinned. Most noticeable were their totally black eyes, devoid of the natural white of a sclera.

Instantly, I knew these were not children, but rather satanic spawns and that their plaintive calls, a mere ruse. I tried to drive away but my engine stalled and I found myself unable to roll my electric window up.

As I continued to struggle to restart my vehicle, they continued with their individual requests, “Let me in.”

Then I remembered that I could enter their weak minds and project myself on their psyche, so looking away, I calmed myself and thought of a red stop light. Then I raised my head and stared at them menacingly as I envisioned my eyes to be glowing red lights, I hissed, “No!”

Instantly they stepped back, my vehicle sparked to life and I drove quickly home. I have since come to my mistake, for now I have several of these evil entities hanging about my home, hiding in the shadows asking, “Let me in.”

Orville (Ozzie) Smith, 1925-2019

At age 94, my Uncle Ozzie was the last man standing of his childhood family. He was born March 1, 1925 in Pepperwood, California to Iva (Amen) and Harry Smith, who had a total seven children, though I never knew exactly where he fit into that total.

The last time I saw him was at the memorial for my Aunt Barbara, whose husband, my Uncle Adam was Ozzie’s younger brother, in December 2013. The one thing I will always remember about Uncle Ozzie was his sense of humor and his unwavering work ethic.

Uncle Ozzie lived his entire life in Humboldt County until being drafted into the US Army at the age of 18. This happened in 1943 and before completing his senior year at Fortuna High School.

He went on to served in the South Pacific during World War II, where he was wounded and received the Purple Heart. Following the war, he was honorably discharged and he returned to Fortuna where he lived the remainder of his life.

Shortly after coming home, he met Aunt Jo Ann (McLure) and the two married in June 1947, having recently celebrated 72 years together. They owned and operated Bob’s Foot Longs, for nearly 40 years until they retired.

It was one of my favorite places to visit when I was a kid, and I always liked the story behind how the restaurant came to Humboldt County. Bob’s started out in Los Angeles as a small corner concession stand owned by Bob and Lula McLure and was towed to Ferndale for the county fair in 1950.

Later it was moved to 13th street in Fortuna, before being handed down to daughter and son-in-law, Joann and Ozzie Smith. The current Bob’s was built a block south in 1967, next to the Fortuna High.

At least that’s how I recall the story…

My deepest condolences to my cousins, Mike and Debi, who were adults before I was born, and who I doubt would remember me. Know that your dad will be missed by many.

Finally, thank you Ozzie, for teaching me how to milk a cow.

Food

“Destroy this,” Dr. Butler Wyman directed, as he handed Rodney Bekker the tray containing the liver-sized organism, “And be careful, it’s a genetic cross between an amoeba and a micrococcus, and if it gets any larger, it could become hard to control.”

Without a word, Rodney took the tray and left the laboratory and walked towards the incinerator. As he did, he watched the viscus object wiggle about as if it were curious about where they were heading.

“Doctor effing blow-hard,” Rodney thought, “Always trying to impress us with big words like genetic, amoeba, micrococcus and stupid shit.”

He pushed the green button that lit the blaze, that in a couple of minutes would heat the incinerator to an intolerable temperature. While he waited for the flame to grow into an orange glow, he grabbed his lunch bag and pulled out a ham sandwich.

The slug-like thing stopped and turned one end towards Rodney, raised up slightly and gave-off what he could only describe as a low-pitched chirp. He cooed as he fed a piece of ham to it, “Ahhh, if you ain’t the sweetest little thing.”

Smiling as he watched as the ham reappeared inside the jello-like body, he decided against destroying it. Instead Rodney placed it in a cardboard box and secreted it behind a stack of cinder-blacks in the corner.

Later that night, he slipped out of the building with the box tucked under his arm and took it home. As he drove through the night, he could hear his new pet squirming about in the box and chirping to be fed.

Once home, he showed it to Mrs. Bekker, who was not happy with his ill-gotten acquisition and demanded, “Get that damned thing – whatever it is – out of my house!”

Rodney headed into the back yard and placed the box on the picnic table, near their swimming pool. He went back inside to see what he could scrounge up to feed it.

He was gone less than 10 minutes, but when he returned to the box, he found it open and empty. Rodney search the area for another 15 minutes before he gave up, placing the food he’d gathered on the grass for it to eat, should it still be around.

One day, nearly three-weeks later, Rodney failed to show up for work. And Mrs. Bekker had not been seen either.

This prompted a call to the police and a request for a welfare check. After gaining access to the home and a thorough search, officers found Mrs. Bekker’s purse in a living room chair, Rodney’s wallet and keys on his dresser and all the doors and windows locked from the inside.

In the backyard, beyond the wooden picnic table, it was noted that the swimming pool was unusually dirty, filled with a greenish algae and a few half-rotted articles of discarded clothing.

A Christmas Frame-up

Santa gave Lawrence a lump of coal one Christmas.  The next year, as revenge, Lawrence poisoned Santa’s cookies.  As Lawrence sat in juvenile detention awaiting an arraignment hearing, he was overheard telling a group of other boys, “Somehow the fat bastard found out, killed my dad and framed me.”

A blond bought four pregnancy tests.
They all came out positive.
Now she’s crying in the bathroom.
She wants to know how she’s going to feed all four kids.

Gnome

He stood, unattended in the overgrown, weed infested flower bed of the vacant house across the street. How this garden gnome came to the high desert, no one knows. Nor is it known why he was left abandoned. After this early morning’s snowfall, I found him standing at my doorstep, too frozen to ask to come in.

The Spoonbill Street Horror

He stepped onto his front porch when he heard a ‘whooshing’sound and felt a ‘thump.’ This was followed by the reverberations of massive, wet thuds on the asphalt in the street before his home.

Yet, Mike could see absolutely nothing in the street. Then he was struck by a putrefied odor than nearly caused him to heave.

Next came the awful howling of neighborhood dogs. And still he had not a clue what was making the sounds that shook the ground beneath him, and which was fading around the corner and north up a neighboring street.

He stood there transfix as the noise lumbered further away, but came to a sudden halt when there appeared three large dogs from a yard further up the street. Mike could hear the low, unhalting growls of the dogs as they seemed to close-in around the unseen entity.

Suddenly as terrific howl echoed up the street as the dogs set their fangs into whatever they could see, but Mike could not. In an instant the fight, if one could be call such, was over and as the dogs retreated into the shadow of their yard, a grotesque mass of green began to fade into sight.

Quickly, Mike raced to the site, wanting to get a better look at the unknown thing. The view that met him, left him shocked and unable to move.

“Good lord,” he whispered, “What is it?”

The green thing was alive but struggling to hold onto its life. It has dozens of red-eyes, some blinking, other staring off into the void, stacked randomly on its back, the legs were many and each came with tendrils, like tree roots and star-shaped mouths at the end.

Mike moved around it in order to inspect what he was seeing. He found it had a human-shaped face, that contained the snout of a pig, the jowls of a goat, unfurled wings of a bat, webbed claws like that of a cross between a crab and a frog, a chest that bore the hair of a bear, flipper of a fish, scales of a snake and the slimy foot of a snail.

He ran back to his home and entered. He had to grab his camera to record what he was witnessing, but by the time he returned there was nothing more than a few bubbles, like that which dish soap makes as water hits it and a trace of grayish-green dust, wistfully tumbling along the guttered curb.

Doppelgänger

“I hate that bitch,” she growled as she glared at her through darkened-eyes, “And I hate the way she ignores me, looking right through me without a single indication she recognizes me. And how dare she laugh, walk, play and keep my family and friends company while I’m consigned to her shadow.”

Padlock

It had been a terribly old and rusted padlock. Many of the plants employees said it looked like it came from a treasure chest. Those same employees shook their heads  when the maintenance man cut the antique from the locker’s hasp. Later, they would scream as an unknown thing dragged one of them into the locker’s darkness.