Snapback

The children from the apartment complex next door hollered and carried on all Saturday morning and into the late afternoon. The pond behind the old folk’s home had frozen over and was now hard enough to skate on.

Annie Clarke sat at her bedroom window, knees tucked beneath a knitted throe and watched, remembering her childhood and living vicariously through the boys and girls she saw playing atop the pond’s frozen surface. In recent months it had become difficult to remember things, including her own name, which had been Annabelle Thornton before she married Aldon Clarke nearly 65 years before.

But today, Annie recalled in vivid detail how her Aldon had proposed to her on a frozen little pond like this in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, all those decades ago. They were a happy couple, having raised two daughters and a son, all who would be here tomorrow with her grandchildren, to celebrate her 88th birthday.

“Fun times,” came the familiar voice behind her. She turned and saw her Aldon, though most folks insisted on calling him ‘Bull,’ which is due to his size.

Even at 90-years of age, her husband had a demanding presence. And he was still as handsome as the day she’d first met him.

“Yes,” she said, “Wish I could get out there and take a spin.”

“You could,” he said.

She looked at him with surprise. “What do you mean, I can barely stand up.”

“I can help you stand up and I’ll even let you hold on to me, if you’d like to have a try.”

“Don’t be silly.”

“Feelin’ a bit shy, are you?”

The sun had set and the sky was clear, with a full-moon reflecting of the now-battered ice. The children had long retired and it was nearly bed-time for Annie and the other residence of the home.

As she began to get ready for bed by first closing her curtains, she saw Aldon again. This time he was standing in the center of the icy pond and looking towards Annie, waving his arm, inviting her to come down and join him.

“Damned fools gonna catch his death,” she thought. Then she smiled, went to her closet and pulled down her red wool jacket, her favorite and slipped it on.

Then she stepped out into the hallway and walked towards the back door and stepped out into the evening’s cold. Next she found herself walking, albeit carefully, down the hill side to the pond, where Aldon waited.

True to his word, her Aldon took her hand and led her onto the ice. And with her left arm tucked tight in his strong right, she glided in her house slippers across the ice.

By this time a light snow had begun to fall from the otherwise cloudless night. “What a treat,” Annie laughed as Aldon held her tight to his side.

As they twirled across the ice, the snow began to come harder and harder. The sky also began to cloud over and a certain darkness fell over the pond, save for the two faces that skated there, glowing in an otherworldly manner.

Their laughter echoed across the pond and through the asphalt parking lot of the rows of apartments next door. A woman in an apartment, whose kitchen window overlooked the pond, heard the laughter and upon seeing an old woman spinning and twirling, wondered, “What in the hell is she up to?”

Seeing that the woman was clad in nothing more than a red robe, light blue slipper and little else, she grabbed her jacket and started for the door. She rushed as quickly as she could, taking care not to find an icy patch of sidewalk to slip and fall down on, to the front door of the care facility.

It took a few minutes to get anyone of the staff’s attention to come to the locked door. By this time, the sky had clouded over and the snow came down so thick that it could be called blinding.

Two staff members raced down to the pond to find Annie and return her to her room. Once there they found no one on the pond, though they did locate a pair of baby-blue house slippers and a worn out fishing cap.

After two days of divers scouring the pond and finding nothing, the search was called off. A week later, Annie’s two daughters, their husbands, along with her son and his wife, 11 grandchildren and two great grand-babies all gathered to say goodbye to the empty coffin that they laid to rest next to Aldon Clarke grave site.

The three adult kids of Annabelle and Aldon ‘Bull’ Clarke couldn’t explain where their father’s work hat, a Long Bill Fishing Snapback, came from when investigator’s turned it and the slippers over to the family. As far as each knew, that hat, clearly recognizable to each of them since they’d given it to him on his 56th birthday, a year before it was lost and long missing, along with their dad, when the charter fishing vessel he was operating, disappeared in a sudden white-out on Lake Superior 33-years before.

The Man from the Wall

“I’m all fucked up in the head and no-one understands,” he grumbled as he climbed from his truck, “And someone has to pay — and I don’t care who.”

Drowning in a violent madness, Manly Davis breached the locked front door of the Catholic Church by kicking it in, jus’ as he had learned to do while serving with the Marines in Iraq.  Rifle in hand, he found above the alter, what it was he sought.

The life-sized man, hanging from the cross, his blood feet, hands and side, reflecting through the stain glass windows. Davis stood there, looking up, transfixed on the gaunt figure he once worshiped.

“Come down here and face me like a man, you bastard!” he screamed at the man stuck upon the wall.

When Davis got no response, he raised his rifle and fired, the round piercing the carving’s plaster chest. Amid the white chalky dust, the burnt gunpowder and the resounding echo, he dropped to his knees, crying so hard that he couldn’t catch his breathe.

As he lay curled in a fetal position, gasping and sputtering for air, at the foot of the alter, he saw bare blood-smeared foot. Before Davis could raise up to see who it belonged too, the foot moved away and was replaced by a pair of knees.

Then Davis felt himself raising up to face what he found to be a man, the man that had been on the cross above him, the one whom he’d jus’ shot, hearing these word, “I forgive you, my brother and I have your six. Remember that I love you and always will.”

A weight lifted from his heaving shoulders and he slumped heavily to the ground and fell into a deep, catatonic sleep. It was the first real slumber Davis had experienced since returning stateside.

When he next woke, he was in the psychiatric wing of the local Veterans Administration hospital.  While a confusion overwhelmed him, the peace Manly Davis finally felt, never again left.

Out Boxed

In both grade and high school they had teased him, called him ‘nerd,’ and at the time, it bothered him. But as a ‘senior,’ as society is want to do, at 60-years-old Rod Westford didn’t care what anyone called him.

“Jus’ don’t call me late for dinner,” he often joked.

He had married his late wife right after college, had a son with her, was a grandpa now. He’d also became filthy rich, becoming one of the first people to get in on the tech boom of the late 80’s and sell his insurance company before the bubble burst.

Now retired, Rod enjoyed his past times; traveling, writing, photography and doting on his grandchild. He especially liked collecting antique toys and refurbishing them if possible, using original pieces and then gifting them to the little girl.

Rod pulled his small truck into the gas station on the western edge of Waggoner, Oklahoma, got out and pumped gas till his tank was full. Then he went inside to pay.

It was there that he found an old faded and dusty display case filled with odds-and-ends including a weathered Jack-in-the-box. The metal box and handle had rust on them, but the container was in good shape.

“How much?” he asked.

“Five bucks,” the old woman said, “Don’t work though.”

“That’s okay. I’ll take it.”

“Your money.”

Having paid for the gas, the toy and gotten a coffee and a couple of stale doughnuts, Rodney turned his truck out onto the road, the box and two glazed maple bars seated next to him. An hour later, he pulling into a rest area and got out to ‘drain the dragon’ and stretch his legs.

Having done both, he returned to the drivers seat and then turned his attention to the Jack-in-the-box. Taking it from the plastic bag, he held it up and examined it.

“I like the used look of it,” he smiled.

Then he turned the crank on the side. The toy played the customary carnival music with its ‘tink-tink-tink,’ but where the Jack should have popped out of the spring loaded lid, nothing happened.

“She did say it was busted,” he reminded himself as he set the toy back in the seat next to him.

At Las Vegas, in southern Nevada, Rodney made the northward turn on 95 and home in Reno. It was jus’ before 11 pm and he debated whether to stop or not, but he was itching to get home and sleep in his own bed after 10 days of travel.

Slightly after five the next morning, Rodney pulled into his driveway. He was tired and decided to leave most everything in the vehicle, save for his cellphone, camera and the Jack-in-the-box.

No sooner had he opened his front door and stepped inside than he was confronted by a quick-moving man in dark clothing. He struck Rodney in the head with a fist then stabbed him under the left arm, up near the pit.

Following two swift, but brutal kicks to the head and right side, Rodney lost consciousness. Yet jus’ before he did, he thought he heard something – a ‘tink-tink-tink,’ sound.

Darkness engulfed his brain.

It was a neighbor, out walking her dog, that noticed the front door to Rodney’s home was open and that a pair of legs could be seen from the sidewalk. She called the police.

It would take a six-hour surgery to close up the deep penetration of the knife and another three days in a hospital bed before Rodney could return home. By that time his son, his daughter-in-law and granddaughter had come to see him and were planning to be at his home upon discharge from the hospital.

Now home, Rodney was also met by investigators.

“As you know, we found the guy that did this to you, down the street, dead. Any idea how you injured him so badly.”

“None, I don’t even recall fighting with anyone, it all happened so quickly.”

The older cop added, “We figure you fought back, injured the guy and his accomplice tried getting him away, but left him to die.”

It wasn’t till late in the evening, once everything had settled down, that Rodney had time enough to think. Still sore, he got out of bed, where his daughter-in-law and granddaughter insisted he stay and went to the front room.

He pulled back the drapes and opened the sliding glass door, hoping to get a little fresh air. That’s when he saw it; the Jack-in-the-box, open and bobbing back and forth in the nighttime breeze.

Stepping out onto his patio, he picked the box up off the picnic table and looked at it closely. It’s hard plastic face and once-bright nylon clothing seemed oddly stained.

He gently pushed the Jack down into the box and closed the lid. Then he turned the handle on the side, listening to the musical  ‘tink-tink-tink,’ before the toy failed to open.

Rodney Westford couldn’t be sure, but he thought maybe, jus’ maybe, the toy had saved his life, by savaging his attacker. He chuckled at the thought as he sat the toy on the nightstand beside his alarm clock before laying down.

Nine Spider’s Trivia

Appearing as a smallish, dark spot on the wall in front of her, without her glasses, Edeana Winters couldn’t tell what it was. Then it moved.

Spider. And while she didn’t fear of them, she didn’t like them.

Her mind raced to a piece of trivia she’d learned years before, ‘We swallow at least nine spiders in over our life time while we sleep.’ She shuddered at the thought.

“How the hell does anyone know that?” she laughed, adding, “We’re supposedly asleep when it happens.”

Since she was sitting on the commode, in the dark and only half-awake, she unceremoniously wadded up some toilet paper and pounced. She had it bunched in the paper before it knew what had happened.

Next Edeana pushed the paper between her thighs, then turned on the seat and flushed. Feeling better, she returned to the task at hand, peeing and getting back to bed.

As she gathered another wad of paper, she felt a strange sensation move across her right butt-cheek. She stood up, flipping on the light to see what had caused it.

To her fright, a spider, the size of her hand, had crawled out of the sewer line and try as she might, she could not flush it down the drain. She quickly left the bathroom, closing the door behind her.

Beneath the doorway, she could see the shadow of the spider, crawling, testing to see if it could escape. At seeing this, Edeana Winters decided she’d be better off sleeping elsewhere for the night and the Clown Motel was only a mile down the road.

David LeVeque, 1961-2020

It’s  hard knowing that someone I’ve known since the mid-70’s, and who is a year younger than me, has passed away. Dave and I used to run track together and that’s where I first met him.

We ran for the Del Norte Track Club, run by Dee Sullivan, out of Crescent City as well as our high school track team. We were both sprinters and long jumpers.

In 1979, David set the school record in the 100 meter dash, eclipsing my record in the 100 yard dash from the year previous. They changed from ‘yards’ to ‘meters’ that year, making the race about nine and a third yards longer than it had been.

As I was perusing through Facebook, I learned he had passed away following a heart attack while working out. I sat there re-reading the post made by his brother Daniel, and I started crying.

After taking a couple of days to process his death in my heart and in my mind, I reached out to Dan and asked if I might help him by writing David’s obituary.  He granted me the honor…

David Anthony LeVeque was born on July 15, 1961 in Ridgecrest, California, passing away in Dubai, UAE on June 18, 2020, where he was working and living.  A gifted athlete, David played football, basketball and ran track-and-field all four-years, before graduating from Del Norte High School in 1979.

Following school, David went on to establish himself in the entrepreneurial field, where he earned the nickname, ‘Master of the Deal,’ by those he brought together in business.  He also owned and operated ‘Prince Engineering’ and ‘Prince Transport,’ before selling both and embarking on his life-long dream of world travel.

David is survived by his mom, Lucy Gonsalves; wife, Darla; and children, Christy, Debbie, Katie, Ryan and Stephen.  He also leaves behind sisters, Loretta (Paul) and Lisa (David;) brothers, Eddie (Martina,) Charles (Jennifer,) Jason, James and Daniel (Cynthia,) and 13 grandchildren.

The Go-Fund-Me page, “David Anthony LeVeque Memorial Scholarship Fund,” has been established for deserving students attending Del Norte High School.

David had a natural capacity for leadership and he demonstrated this ability, both on the playing field and off. I am so happy to have called him friend and I will continue to do so until my final breath.

Her

She asked me to write a romance story…

It was the gray largest wolf I had ever seen in my life, the size of a smaller Shetland pony.  I only saw it for a couple of seconds, before it disappeared into the wood line ahead of me.

Reflecting back on the sighting, I realized something about the animal was off, perhaps unnatural, maybe nature, an accident or purposeful. At any rate, it was missing its tail.

As I rested by the trail from where I had first seen the beast, I realized that I was no longer alone. I suddenly felt a heavy panting breathe steaming at my left shoulder.

Without moving my head, I slowly lifted my hand to my shoulder and touched the bearded jaw of the wild dog. And though a chill shuddered its way through my body, I remained calm and gently scratched at the hairy patch that was slightly over and above my shoulder.

It groaned gently and laid down next to me, exposing it’s furry underside. I rubbed it’s belly.

The creature slowly transformed into a petite woman, white haired and brown body. We made love on that trail from where I first saw her, without a single word passing our lips.

Small Gods of the Shed

The wood shed was visited rarely, was weather beaten and had begun to slide into disrepair. The previous winter rains and spring wind had knocked the old building from its foundation and the process had been made easier by the fact that what was stored in it was stacked away haphazardly.

George Nilsen decided to remedy the situation by fixing the thing up and reorganizing the items stored in it. It was a slow process as first he needed to empty the building of several plastic containers, unused camping gear, old records and cassette tapes, misfit plates and silverware, an old couch, chair and side table, all of which sat collecting dust.

With the unloading of the stored items and following a week, the building was back on it’s proper foundation, and George began to return the previously stored items to their place. He looked at each piece he returned, making certain to take care to keep the interior properly balanced.

One curious item drew his immediate attention; a small red wooden box labeled “Små guder,”and a tiny lock holding it closed. “What is that? Norwegian?” he asked himself, thinking back to a book he’d once read to his now grown son, as a young child.

The lock, no bigger than a half-dollar, made of a cheap aluminum was easy to remove. George set it aside, once he’d gotten it of the box.

The box contained a set of antique ventriloquist dummies, that he’d forgotten about. It had belonged to his friend Casey Johansen, who’d disappeared two years previously.

He tried to recall how he came to be in possession of the dummies. Nothing came to mind.

“Like it simply appeared out of nowhere.”

When he lifted the lid, he felt a chilly breeze rush over his entire body.

“Perhaps, it’s the weather change we’re expecting this weekend.”

With the possibility of rain on it’s way, George hurriedly returned the remainder of the items back to the shed and barred it shut. He’d return once the sun had a chance to dry things out, and since it was the high desert of Nevada, he knew it wouldn’t take long.

The following day, as he sipped his morning’s coffee, he saw that the shed was open.

“I know I put the bar in place,” he told himself and he walked out and reapplied the length of wood.

Come the next morning, it was open again. He searched around the building, in the damp earth for foot-prints.

None were to be seen.

This time he looked inside the shed. There he found the red box with the ventriloquist’s dummies slightly out of place.

Since he’d broken the lock when he forced it open, it wasn’t secure, so opening it was less of an effort. There he found both dummies gone.

Angry, George was certain that someone had entered the shed with out his knowledge and had stolen the pair of dummies. As he turned to leave, he was struck in the head and his world quickly went dark.

By the time he regained consciousness, it was dark and he was hanging from the center beam of the shed, upside down and trussed up like a feral hog for slaughter. He could hear and see no one as he struggled against the ropes that held him.

Then somewhere from behind, he heard the high chanting of voices of what believed were children’s voices and smelled the harsh aroma of a wet wood fire. George wiggled until he was turned, so he might see what was happening.

To his shock and fright, he saw the two dummies moving about a small blaze with a miniature kettle with a boiling liquid steaming from it.

“What the…” he uttered, his voice trailing off from the shock.

Both dummies looked his way, grinning their odd frozen show-like smiles, then returned to their chanting and what looked to be, to George, a ritual dance. With his blood congregating in his head, he passed out once again.

Awaking, this time he found himself, wet, cold and centered over the kettle. It took him a few minutes, amid his struggle to get free, to realize that the kettle had grown in size.

“…or am I smaller?”

Since he could neither hear, nor see the dummies, he thought that perhaps they had abandoned him. But then he felt the slip of the rope that held him about the legs and knew he was about to drop into the still-steaming cauldron of brackish fluid.

He plunged into the liquid. It was warm, thick and sticky, and he was certain that he was going to drown as he held his breathe.

As fine bubbles began to issue from his lips, and knowing he was losing the battle with his lungs, he was quickly raised and this time he saw his two minute agitators. They were hastily dousing the flames and removing the kettle.

In it’s place, that dragged the box that one held the pair. In it, he saw another figure, a woman, bent at the middle and folded to fit in the cut-out that had once held one of the two dummies that were now preparing him for the same fate.

Though he tried to struggle, George discover his body was limp and practically useless. He screamed hoarsely as they dropped him without onto his back and without ceremony into the padded box, roughly arranged him, folding him at his middle, his legs over his head, and face poking out from between his shins.

In place, he saw the lid as it slapped shut and listened as the lock he had busted, and now repaired was clicked into place. He heard the pair speaking in muffled tones and giggling as they left the shed.

“Who’re you?” George Nilsen choked, his voice thick and clumsy while becoming less and less.

A long ragged draw of breath and gurgle was all that could be heard with nothing more than continuous darkness and silence following.

Little Dust Devil

It was jus’ a short trip, time-wise, as I wanted to take a few pictures of how Mid-town Reno is coming along after the beginning of the COVID-19 stuff. I hadn’t even turned my camera one when I was yelled at for not wearing a face mask.

No wanting the woman and the guy with her to continue haranguing me, so I pulled my mask from my pocket and proceeded to put it on. This didn’t go well as I have a mask that displays the Eagle, Globe and Anchor of the US Marine Corps.

More yelling and screaming ensued and I decided that I should head back to my truck. Neither person would make that an easy venture as they followed, hollering and cursing at me for the image on my mask.

Then, no more than 20-feet from my truck, the woman raced up and shoved me hard in the back. Caught off guard, I fell, but because of my martial arts background, I rolled right-shoulder-to-feet and popped up.

Both were right there to continue their harassment. I backed away in attempt to keep the peace and to keep an eye on the pair.

She rushed at me again. This time I was facing her and I stepped to my left and thrust my arm straight out, palm open, smashing her in the face.

Her momentum carried her body out from under her head, which had come to a sudden and sickening stop at the end of my arm, She dropped like a sack of wet cement on the asphalt, bouncing her head off the ground in the process.

She did not get up.

With that her male companion started screeching about ‘not hitting a woman.’ As he did this, he rushed me, throwing wild punches, hoping one would connect with me and hurt me.

Ducking to my right and then spinning in the same direction, I popped up over his left shoulder and when he turned to face me, I cracked open his nose with my right elbow. He dropped, still conscious and but screaming in pain.

Not wanting to wait to be the victim of another attack, I drop to the police station and reported what had happened. I had to sit and wait for an officer to check on the situation, the people and the scene.

While he found blood drops on the ground, he could find no one willing to press charges or anything. Fortunately for me, a business across the way caught the entire incident on their security camera and I have been sent home to wait for further action, if any is to be taken.

My wife said it best, “Trouble seems to follow you like a little dust devil.”

They shouldn’t have done what they did and now, I’m sitting here wondering if I’ll have to pay for their actions. I’ll have to keep you posted.

The Wicked in Washoe Lake

Malone Davis loved to surf, but he had accepted a job on the morning side of the Sierra, slightly east of Reno, Nevada and had to leave his ocean side home in Santa Barbara, California. Soon though, he discovered wind-surfing.

His favorite place had been Lake Tahoe, but it proved crowded and with self-quarantine, social distancing and COVID-19 a big deal, he chose a small body of water. Washoe Lake was ideal.

It was man-made and filled with winter run-off. It was also shallow, so at six-foot tall, Malone could stand on it’s soft, silty bottom and still keep his head above water.

He even decided to try wind-surfing at night, under the full moon. It was an off-shoot of the sport that he’d only heard about, but hadn’t seen anyone else doing.

“I could write a little piece on it, and submit it to a magazine,” he told his friend, Jimmy, who seemed genuinely interested in joining him for the outing.

The next full moon came and Jimmy had to beg off as his girlfriend’s parents had come into town from South Dakota, unannounced.

“Man,” Jimmy said, “I can’t get away tonight.”

“That’s alright, I’m still gonna go.”

“You shouldn’t go out by yourself.”

“What could happen?”

“You never know,” Jimmy answered.

“Yeah, well I used to swim with Great Whites,” Malone said off-the-cuff, “Besides, I got an article to write.”

Out on the lake, a dying wind carried him gently back and forth across the water, but once the sun disappeared beyond Slide Mountain, the zephyr fell away leaving Malone standing on his board in dead calm water. More than a little frustrated with his failed effort, he dropped from the board and into the pulpy lake bottom.

As he walked through the alluvium deposit, his foot touched something large. At first Malone thought it might was a piece of wood or perhaps a rock, but then it painfully clamped down on his foot, above the ankle, then jerked hard, yanking him below the now-muddy surface.

Malone, who still clung to his board, resurfaced, sputtering, gagging and coughing, struggled to climb onto it. But it became impossible as more and more of the sinister forms affixed themselves to his still dangling legs.

And as he lost his grip on his board, and a mere second before he dipped one final time below the lake’s once-glassy surface, he saw what had him in a death grip, dozens of the rough-shelled desert oysters. The archaic brachiopods refused to release Malone Davis, their newly found meal.

Monday morning, state park rangers found his van and ticketed it, for failing to pay for the extra day use. It wasn’t until that afternoon, when he’d been reported missing, that they located his board on the southeast side of the lake and shreds of a wet suit, still in the water, but nothing else.

Peggy McMillian, 1955-2020

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Peggy passed away on May 10, 2020. She was born in Crescent City, California on December 13, 1955 to John and Eleanor McMillan. She grew up on the McMillan ranch in Klamath, with sister Kathy and brother Brian.

One summer, when she was 15 or 16-years-old, Peggy was our babysitter. Her style was too keep us very busy and entertained by doing small backyard skits, building forts in the house, drawing, painting and coloring, playing board games, and especially taking us on hikes up behind our home and into the Redwoods she loved so much.

Shortly after leaving the Air Force in 1980, I went to work  at McKay’s Grocery Store in Crescent City, where Peggy was a register jockey and I swept and mopped floors. Customers and co-workers loved her because she was always happy — laughing and smiling.

Peggy also encouraged me to keep the lines of communication open when it came to my folks during their divorce. She said over and over that, “One day, it’ll become important.”

I should’ve listened to her advice.

Her passing hurts my heart, not only because it proves I’m getting closer to that inevitable day, but more so that the world has lost a wonderful person in Peggy.

That Big Silver Dog

It was a fair piece of asphalt between Cheyenne  to San Francisco and to ride the bus made it the perfect adventure for Jesse Costa. He’d traveled the many by-ways across the good ol’ U.S. of A., the same way he was traveling now.

Always in the same seat, the ones on the right, jus’ before the back tire’s wheel-well. It’s where Jesse felt the most calm, because it soothed his OCD and the tires hum and drone made it easier to fall asleep.

This didn’t mean that he might not move elsewhere on the bus as they slipped down the road into the sunset and deeper into the night. It jus’ meant that for now he was comfortable and might even get a few z’s before their next scheduled stop in Rock Springs.

The bus always stopped in Rock Springs. It’s where it took on more fuel and the passengers had a chance to have a real meal, and not simply the snacks provided at the smaller stops.

It’s also where the couple stumbled aboard the half-full bus. Jesse could tell that there was trouble amidst the pair.

She was plain, a petite blond, and could be pretty if given the chance. He was tall, rangy in stature, smelling of stale cigarettes, sweat and cheap booze, with shoulder length greasy hair.

Jesse put the thought aside as the bus moved back out onto Interstate 80. Before he realized it, the sun was gone and the dark was becoming more and more pronounced.

Dream-filled sleep crowded Jesse’s head again, but for how long he’d been asleep, he did know. What he did know was that he could hear a woman crying and it wasn’t from happiness.

Looking around, he studied the faces of the passengers, which were drawn tight, nervous and in some cases pale. He also detected the musky odor of fear.

Then he heard it. That sharp snap of a face being struck.

He turned in his seat. Greasy-hair was berating the blond, calling her names and when she dripped a tear, he struck her.

“Whatcha lookin’ at?” Greasy-hair growled at Jesse as he watched the man’s behavior.

“Nothing,” Jesse replied.

“Then mind yer own business.”

“Don’t mind if I do.”

Jesse stood and in three steps reached Greasy-hair’s seat. Without a word, he reach down and grabbed the abuser by the throat and squeezed.

The violent and sudden closure of his windpipe left the man unable to speak or breathe. In a low growl, he said, “Hit her again or make any other sound and I’ll toss your ass off this bus and I won’t be using the door. Got it?”

The man, wide-eyed, shook his head rapidly.

“Now go sit in the front of the bus and stay the hell away from her for the rest of your trip.”

He released Greasy-hair, who flopped back in his seat, then quickly got up, coughing and pale, and slipped past Jesse, towards the front of the bus. He dropped hard in the second seat from the front, behind the driver.

Jesse looked at the driver in his rear-view passenger mirror and the driver smiled. As for Jesse, he simply went back to his seat and slipped into sleep.

In his dreams he returned to his wilder days, running with his pack, when Jesse Costa was their silver-haired Alpha and not jus’ another lone wolf traveling the roadways of America.

Weekend Warriors

“Geezus, I can’t believe that I signed up for this shit,” he whispered into the stock of his gun as he glanced at the shoulder patch bearing the letter’s’WW’ in black thread on his upper right sleeve shoulder.

“I’ve done some stupid fucking things before in my life,” recalling how he accepted a dare to jump from a jagged cliff side into the ocean, “But this…”

The though faded as he held his corporate-issued gun, black plastic and heavier than he thought it would be, against his chest. His uniform was insufferably itchy and far too hot for the jungle they were helicoptering towards.

The green canopy zipped by at a quick pace, and even faster when they drew closer over top of it. Staring at it as they slipped made him feel sick to his stomach.

Across from him was a man, heavy in gut and wearing the same uniform withe same patch. The only difference were the small dark dashes on his left arm, denoting the number of kills he’d attained on each weekend he’d gone out.

“Done this before?” Frank shouted over the din of the engine.

“Tenth time,” the man hollered back smiling, holding both hands up, palms open, finger extended.

“I’ll stick close to him. Who knows, looking at him, maybe this is really more game that anyone realizes.”

Corporate battles were nothing knew. They’d become popular in the early 21st century, after the excitement and adrenaline rush of first-person video gaming had worn off.

Before reality reset itself, Frank thought, “Maybe it’s the same shit, but without the stupid goggles.”

Frank couldn’t for the life of himself understand why, other than ‘peer-pressure,’ he’d allowed himself to be talked into this act of stupidity. What made it so bad was the fact that there was a real chance that rather then getting his ‘cherry-popped in armed conflict,’ he be returning in a plastic bag, blown to and back, dead.

“Is a god-damned promotion worth getting killed over?”

Next to the Beer-belly sat his coworker, James, an asshole if ever there was one. A true kiss-ass and brown-noser, who though five-years younger had used his particular skill-set to worm his way up to the same company level as Frank.

Suddenly the chopper dipped and rushed between two large copses of trees, the tropical variety. Frank nearly lost what little he’d eaten earlier that day as the craft pulled up hard into a maintained hover.

The choppers gunner made a quick hand motion and Beer-belly launched himself into the shin-high elephant grass that was pressed down in the wash of the rotor blade. The Kiss-ass followed suit and Frank, though unwilling, joined them.

Soon the grass was standing up right, higher than the three figures who now used it for cover. They listened as the chopper moved farther away and then listen more for any other sound that might be nearby.

Within minutes, the trio was trudging towards the nearest stand of trees.

“Spread out,” Beer-belly directed.

The Kiss-ass moved to the right of Beer-belly and remained slightly ahead of Frank. This was fine with Frank as he didn’t like the idea of being the first shot if any shooting were to be had.

That night, the clear skies with their bright twinkle of stars, clouded over and it began to rain. Before Frank could get his poncho out of his pack, he was soaked and smelled as bad as a wet-dog that had rolled in a maggoted roadkill.

Meanwhile, Beer-belly and the Kiss-ass seemed to be comfortable and unaffected by either the rain, the wetness or their increasing stench. In the distance they could hear occasional gun fire and an even less-occasional thundering boom of a canon or perhaps the explosion of a mortar.

As soon as the rain slowed, they were on their feet and moving towards the battle. By this time, Frank was chilled to the bone.

“I’m so cold,” he said, “And I don’t care who knows it.”

“Shut yer jawing,” Beer-belly warned.

The Kiss-ass simply smiled a toothy-grin at Frank.

“Christ, how I’d love to wipe that shit-eating grin from his face.”

It didn’t take long for them to join in the fire-fight, though sporadic at best. They had approached from the west, on hands and knees.

“Maybe we can make a link up here with another unit,” Beer-belly stated.

It was where Frank saw his first dead body. It was riddled with holes, each flowering with a dark blood-red stain.

The man’s uniform was different from his. Gray, not Blue and his gun, though also plastic was a dark green hue.

Frank felt the bile rise from his gut and pass over his esophagus in a hot wave. He weaved three more times, but on the third nothing came up.

“Come on you F-N-G,” Beer-belly coaxed harshly, “Get up here and get to fighting. Like our buddy over there.”

“What’s an F-N-G?” Frank asked, as he crawled forward.

“Fucking new guy,” the Kiss-ass answered.

“Of course you’d know that and don’t call me a fucking new guy.”

Beer-gut and the Kiss-ass looked at each other, laughing.

Their laughter fell-away quickly as Beer-belly pointed at the Kiss-ass , who was hunkered down behind a log, taking careful aim and squeezing off one round at a time. Unsurprisingly to Frank, it looked like the Kiss-ass had been doing this for all of his life.

“Of course, he’d be a natural, the mother fucker.”

Frank remembered how the Kiss-ass had swept in that one late afternoon and asked Janey out to dinner, knowing Frank was interested in the young woman. He settled on chubby and drab Mary Anne in accounting.

Without warning the gunfire became more directed. Frank found himself curled in a ball behind a clump of thick weeds, too afraid to move, too frightened to raise his gun, too scared to even shoot back.

Then it was all over. The shooting had ceased and he watched as Beer-belly crawled forward and into the brush, followed closely by the Kiss-ass.

As for Frank, he stood up and looked around. He was alone and wishing he’d stayed home, in bed, wanting to forget that a possible promotion hung in the balance when it came to these war games.

The brush to his right lit up, bullets blazing around him, but none touching him. An instinct to survive kicked in and he returned fire on the place from which he’d seen the violent flashed of light.

Again, a quietness filled the battle field.

From his front came the figures of Beer-belly and the Kiss-ass. They were hurrying to learn what the disturbance was about and to see if they might get in on whatever action might be had.

“Got yer cherry-popped finally,” Beer-belly called out.

Any possibility of celebrating was cut short as a lone figure, in a gray uniform, stumbled out of the elephant grass to Frank’s right. The soldier was on top of Frank before he could react.

The Kiss-ass blew the man in half with a rapid burst of gunfire.

“You dumb ass Cherry, you must have a death wish,” Beer-belly said.

Frank looked down at the body halves. He looked up and saw a green gun laying near where the man had exited the grass.

“Huh…he lost his gun,” Frank said as he walked over, picked it and giving it a once over.

He saw the manufacturing stamp on the guns barrel. It was the same stamp as the one on his gun barrel.

Frank felt suddenly sick again. This time he didn’t heave, but he did feel his neck, face and ears turn to fire as he fought to suppress the desire to pass out.

“Your fuckin’ partner there saved your worthless ass, Cherry,” Beer-belly continued, “You ought to be…”

He looked at James, that tormenting brown-nose, ass-kissing, woman-stealing prick, and with the enemy’s gun angled at him, pulled the trigger. The blast ripped the Kiss-ass’ head off his shoulders and a mass of blood squeezed itself out of his pencil-thin neck in several dark-red gushes.

“Son-of-a-bitch, you little idiot, you killed our own man,” Beer-belly squealed.

Frank found the same pleasure in killing him as he did in wasting the Kiss-ass. In fact it might have cause even more enjoyment as Frank developed a real thick boner as he watched the fat asshole do the dead-man’s dance before crumpling to the still moist earth.

“Killin’ ain’t so bad after all,” Frank smiled as he retrieved his gun from where he’d left it laying, “Maybe by tomorrow, I’ll have enough points that by next weekend they’ll let me go Rambo on some of those gray cock-sucker’s fucking-asses.”

Summer Love

They laid on the plaid blanket in each others arms, watching the distant stars above and enjoying the warm summer evening. The only sound to be heard in the darkening night, was that of the Whipper-Will’s call.

“I can’t believe how perfect we are together,” she said, stroking the side of his bearded face.

“Me neither. I’d be happy to lay here with you forever,” he said.

“Me too, but these bodies won’t bury themselves,” she coo’d, motioning at the pair of long-handled shovels that rested beside their now-empty picnic basket.

“Yeah, we can return to this afterwards,” he smiled.

Grub

The narrow dirt streets, between the brown and towering chimney-like housing, were very quiet this morning, absent the odor of the combustion motored vehicles and the sound of the mechanical gear-shifting and handlebar bells of the hundreds of bicycles, but 11-year-old Xi Yang paid no attention to this. Nor did he think much about the increased number of guards that patrolled back and forth outside the district walls.

His attention though, was drawn to the absence of his favorite statue, the one where images of all the worlds children held hands and appeared to be moving in a circular, clockwise motion. In fact, Xi began to notice how all the statues along his way were no longer there.

“Hello, Acant,” he called out as soon as he say him.

Acant was easy to spot. He stood taller than most kids his age and his multi-horned head was darker and did not match his back-shell or his six thin and jagged exoskeletal legs.

“You should not have come here, today,” Acant gargled, his mouthpiece more suited for his native tongue, a clicking.

“No? Why?” Xi asked.

“You should not have, that is all.”

“But I don’t understand. We played here yesterday and we still need to finish the ramp for your bicycle.”

“That will not happen anymore. You should go. Bad, bad.”

“Is it the stupid war?”

“Bad, bad,” Acant repeated.

Xi watched his friend. He looked neither sad nor angry, but then he also knew that Acant’s type have very little in the way of facial movements, so any real emotion was in the eyes or in their speech.

“Is it because your people are winning?”

“We are not people.”

“You know what I mean.”

“No, you go. Trouble.”

“But what about the ramp?”

“Forget ramp,” Acant’s voice rose sharply.

It wasn’t until then that Xi realized that a crowd was forming. Smaller and larger, older and younger, all of Acant’s kind.

“Okay,” Xi said, disappointed.

Somewhere in the gathering crowd he heard the slur, ‘grub.’ He’d heard it used on ‘district enforcement,’ but had never been called it before.

“I don’t understand,” Xi said, “I was born here, like my parents and grand parents and their parents, but suddenly I don’t belong here, suddenly I’m a — grub?”

“You always been grub,” Acant said.

The claim stung Xi deeply. And though angry, he felt more like crying as he tried figure out what had changed between now and yesterday afternoon after class.

He knew Acant had learned the same lesson in history that he had. On Earth, nearly two-hundred years previous, America and China were at war with each other.

As they battled they learned of a bigger threat, that there was a need to move humans off the planet. That’s how Xi’s family, now called Terrans and no longer Earthlings, had come to the planet Dalis and met the Dalisians.

At first the Terrans enslaved the Dalisians, forcing them to work long hard hours with little food or sleep. This had been more than 150-earth-years ago, but things had changed.

Though separate species, the Dalisians eventually earned their freedom and became equals with the Terrans, who eventually began calling themselves Dalisians as well. But then a war had begun a dozen years ago, before either Acant or Xi were born, between another race of Dalisian-type species and human exploring for new colonizing grounds and mineral enrichment.

A stone flew from out the growing crowd that now surrounded the boy, striking Xi on top of his right shoulder and he fell down. This was followed by a din of rapid clicking, some which Xi understood was about him — including grub, kill, feast.

He felt the kicks, clawing, scratching and stabs from the many legs of the crowd that seemed to surge over him. Thankfully, Acant stepped in and stopped what was happening.

“Go! Bad! Trouble! Not wanted!” Acant garbled before falling into a guttural clicking, that sounded far more threatening than Xi had ever known.

Bloodied, Xi got to his feet and turned to leave, only to find his way blocked by other bug-like Dalisians. Another stone sailed from the gathering, smashing into Xi’s left temple.

The boy’s vision swirled into nothingness as he toppled to the ground.

He died from the blow, never understanding why he’d been turned on by Acant and his kind. District enforcers came a few seconds later, but by that time there was very little left of Xi, as his body had been picked clean.

Ralph the Mouth

Judy took her dog to the park to run and play, burn off some energy so that he might sleep the whole night through.  ‘Ralph,’ was named after a cartoon television sheep herding dog that he didn’t resemble in the least.

At the park, he raced back and forth and wrestled and rolled with the other dogs, all there for the same reason. After an hour or so, Ralph found himself alone, and in order to while-away his time, he found other things to do.

“Come, Ralph!” Judy called.

He was slow to respond as he sat on the ground and chewed with an unending intensity on the item he had found. Again she called him, this time sounding more demanding, “COME, RALPH!”

This time, Ralph turned his head slowly towards her voice, and with bright and unblinking eyes, looked straight at her. Judy literally shit herself before she could even think to holler, “Drop it!”

Against the Wall

Another lightning storm and she found a scared Papa standing, his back pressed against the far wall, yet again.

“It’s only lightening, Papa,” the nurse gently coo’d, “No need to be frightened.”

“No. It’s the shadow that comes with it?” his voice quivered.

“I don’t understand, Papa. What shadow?”

“The shadow that wants to get behind me — behind you.”

“What happens if a shadow gets behind us, Papa?”

“Death!”

“Non-sense, it’s only a shadow, that’s all, Papa.”

But she wasn’t looking when the lightning next flashed. Papa pressed himself harder against the wall, eyes closed, knowing what would happen next.

Life Span

All Jerry seemed to do was work and it was never enough. Jus’ ask his wife who constantly told him how worthless he was as a wage earner.

Further, he heard the same thing from his in-laws, who lived with him and their daughter, his wife. Neither thought him the proper husband for their only child.

It didn’t matter to them that he was the soul provider of the family. Nor did they mind the fact that they ate out nearly every night and often wouldn’t even bring him home a morsel from their meal.

One evening after a particularly hard day at the mill, Jerry came home late from work to find everyone asleep. So he decided to pour himself a shot of whiskey, sit on the couch and relax.

Before he knew it, he fell asleep. But sleeping provided him with no relief as he had a nightmare that he’d changed into a cockroach.

When he awoke, he discovered that his nightmare was real and that he had indeed turned into a cockroach. He tried to get off the couch, but fell to the floor and had to scurry away before he was stepped on or the cat caught him.

“Where is that worthless, husband of yours,” the father-in-law asked his daughter.

“Probably out screwing around,” the mother-in-law interrupted.

“Who cares,” his wife finally answered.

Staying close to the living room wall he hurried as fast as his six legs could carry him to the front door, slipped beneath it and onto the porch. The world looked very different to Jerry and he realized he was free.

It would be the best 160-days of his life.

The Fold in Time

The charnel oddity envisioned the strange appliance as it twisted and turned within the abject void of space and time. It reached out, not with hands, but with crimson tendrils that drew the darkened thing into itself.

Never had the oddity seen, felt or breathed in such a confusing puzzle. With in it were malformed slips of pulp, dried and repurposed, with vile, disgusting images and ductile rectangles.

It rifled through the object before deciding it would be best to place in the keeping of the great dreaming god. Surely, it would know what it was and why it had been floating unguarded through their reality.

The great dreaming god examined it and concluded that it belonged to a human, that it had once imagined their hideous odors and warm skinned faces in a most pleasant nightmare. The god decided that their must be a human residing, no hidden, within their antiquarian longitude and that it must be discovered and destroyed.

As creature set upon creature seeking to discern the location and to kill this human, the dreaming god further examined the unfamiliar entities shrouded  within the device. One was a hard surfaced, a strange glyph embedded in it that held much interest.

More intelligent than the other, the dreaming god could decipher these unusual and simplistic scribings which read: Taylor Rundel. The hard surfaced thing also held an image of this bipedal mortal, an image far to abhorrent for it to describe.

“This corporeality must be found, then destroyed at all cost,” the dreaming god demanded, waves of energy rolling from it’s massive misshape.

Within time, those commanded would find no human among their aberrant beings, but by then their world was a shamble, death and rot twisting and turning in an abject void of space and time. And not even the commanding dreaming god was above the ensuing suspicion left by a wallet lost from some other latitude outside their now dead multiverse kingdom.

Retrospect on a Childhood Well Lived

Klamath, California is where I grew up and it’s constantly being confused with Klamath Falls, Oregon. Dad work for the federal government, Mom for a local tourist attraction and with four kids, money was always tight.

We never had a fast-food place like McDonald’s, Burger King or Taco Bell. Fast food was a bologna or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with milk or Kool-Aid, taken outside to the redwood picnic table Dad built.

Going to restaurant was a huge deal that only happened for very special occasions. We ate at the dinner table each evening after Dad said a little prayer. The television was never on during meals. And we ate what was made for dinner or we didn’t eat at all.

Mom made a lot of our clothes and every late summer, we would go shopping for school clothes in Eureka.

Our school clothes also came mail order from the Montgomery Wards, the Sears or the JCPenny catalog. We wore a lot of hand-me-downs. And sometimes we’d get to wear our favorite outfit or best shirt and pants to the county fair.

Teachers were trusted and respected. We went to school everyday. If you were sick and didn’t go to school, you didn’t get to play outside either. We learned our ABC’s, math, how to read and to write in cursive. You took your school clothes off as soon as you got home and put on your play clothes. And we had to do our homework and chores before being allowed outside to play.

Staying in the house was punishment and the only thing we knew about ‘bored,’ was “You better find something to do before I find it for you.” We spent most all of our time, especially our summers, outside. We played Mother May I, Hopscotch, Cops and Robbers, Combat, 1-2-3 Not It, Red light-Green Light, Red Rover, Hide and Seek, Truth or Dare, Tag, Baseball, Kick Ball, Dodge Ball, Barbies, GI Joe, house, football, baseball and rode our bikes, jumping off scrap-wood ramps, or roller skates and skate boards everywhere.

Our finger and thumb or an oddly angled stick served as a gun when playing Cowboy and Indians. A pine cone or dirt clod made the perfect hand grenade in a game of War. We trusted and respected the Law because they had the real guns and would protect us and our families in a time of trouble.

We played deep in the redwood forest, at the neighbors house, in our own backyards, down by the creek and river, and waded in the ditches and ponds. Kids from all over the neighborhood, even kids visiting cousins would come to our house and play. And it didn’t matter whose kid you were, you were always welcomed to stay for lunch and dinner.

We hardly paid attention to time while playing. Not many of us owned a wrist watch or a wallet. We were undaunted by the rain or wind. We knew it was time to go in when the street lamps came on. And we had set bed times, even on the weekend.

We had paper routes, mowed lawns and collected soda-pop bottles and aluminum cans for extra cash and before we could get real summer jobs. There was no bottled water and we drank from the warm water from the faucet and garden hose. And we watched cartoons on Saturday mornings because that’s the only time they came on.

Our only phone sat in the hallway, where there were no private conversations. We didn’t have cellphones or TV remotes and satellite dishes. Television was mostly black and white and came with three channels. And not only did we skin our elbows and knees in the dirt, gravel and rocks, some of us skinned our young hearts on our first puppy-love.

We watched our mouths around our elders, women and younger children. And we were mindful at all times that our Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, Parents, the best friends of our parents and our best friend’s parents could and would spank us for misbehaving.

And if they were still living, I’d call my folks and say, “Thank you for everything.”

From the Ruins

“Happened again,” a Corporal to my left whispered.

“What?” I asked.

Someone answered, “Skipper got us lost again, Doc.”

“Oh.”

We’re on night patrol, maybe two clicks north and west of our fire base. The scuttlebutt is that we were outside the wire to ‘chase our tail,’ meaning we are out here to impress some V.I.P.

“I hate night patrols, so this better be worth it,” I think.

Left and only a hundred yards ahead of us are some ruins. They remind me of the old adobe walls, remnants of an ancient village, like the kind you’ll find at Chaco Canyon.

“Hey!” a harsh whisper came down the line, “Movement in the ruins!”

Suddenly on alert, we drop to the sand, watching, listening, rifles up and at the ready. The Gunny signals and two men, jump to their feet and zig-zag towards the spot where the movement was last seen.

This was followed by yet another pair, who moved in the same zig-zag pattern to the opposite side of where the movement came. A classic pincer-movement.

Within a minute the all-clear hand sign is given and we are all on our feet, breathing again, though slightly heavier than before. We are moving forward toward the ruins.

“Guess, we ain’t lost after all,” I chuckled to the Jar-head to my left.

He says nothing.

Night vision goggles cast an eerie green glow over the crumbling walls of the village. We set up a comm-site near one of the thicker, longer and higher walls.

Quietly and quickly, I’m moving between our six two-man teams, making certain they have been keeping hydrated and that even the smallest of scratches are cared for. The men both hate and love me for this shit, but it’s my job.

An almost inhuman scream pierces the chilled morning air and everyone drops, heads swiveling from side to side, searching, trying to find the source of the sound. With no noises following it, an immediate head-check is called for; all are accounted for.

Then there’s more movement, all twelve of us saw it this time. A man, whose eye’s captured the indirect glow of our equipment or the stars overhead, darts between the broken walls.

“What the fuck’s that?” a Lance Corporal asks.

No one has an answer, and no one has the chance to answer as a dark-robed figure, eyes cast in a white-glow appears from the darker recesses of a door way, and with a shrill screech, sprints into our blazing gun fire.

As if made of a billion-upon-a-billion dots, the thing fades as if it were mere dust, taking its unholy shrieking with it. It’s quiet for a few seconds as our unprotected ears fight to recover from the pounding of rapid gun fire.

“Fuck! Did’ja see that shit?” someone asks.

The hand signal for ‘silence,’ goes around. Someone’s either crying or laughing, I can’t tell, nerves probably shattered, and soon we are withdrawing back to our fire base.

There will be no after-action briefing.

Under the Influence of a Full-moon

Sure, it was full moon, but not every monster in the underworld was out making mayhem and sowing fear. Werewolf wasn’t interested in blood, guts or gore, knowing it would harsh his mellow.

Instead he was hanging out waiting for some excitement to pass his way, getting high and feeling the munchies coming on. Then he saw Little Red Riding Hood on her way back from visiting her grandma and his mood turned to romance.

As she walked by, he let out a long, low wolf-whistle. She simply ignore him and continued down the street.

“You think you’re too cool for me?” he called to her.

“No,” she answered, “It jus’ you need a hair cut and some better threads, what you’re wearing is all tore up.”

As she continued down the sidewalk, her returned to the shadows complaining, “Damned red-heads anyway.”

Feeling the empty pit that was his stomach, he tripped down to the local Kwiki-Mart and bought a bag of Corn Nuts and a Mountain Dew.

“Maybe the Bride of Frankenstein’ll wanna hang out,” he thought as he struggled to open the back of nuts.

God’s Timing

It’s amazing how things work out: today’s the 22nd anniversary of my mother’s passing and yes, even after all this time, I still miss her. My plan for the day was the same as most others, do some writing and editing of stories I have prepared for future postings.

But as the the saying goes: “We plan, God laughs…”

In 1988, she and her new husband, took the AA pledge, never taking another drink again. In that time, she urged me to attend Al-Anon, which I did up until her death in 2002.

This morning, I received an invite to read a friend’s newly finished manuscript. Without giving away the story line, the plot involves Alcoholics Anonymous.

Reading it brought back all of the information I’d gained sitting in those rooms. And in those 400-pages, it was like having my mom back for a brief time, talking to me, guiding me, urging me to do better.

As I read, I saw myself in his main character and I realized that some self-correction is in much need. In the end, I’m a fellow who likes to see the ‘dots’ connected and they certainly came together today.

Alrighty, Mom – it’s His will, not mine…

Sidewalk Happy Faces

Robbie was the neighborhood bully and everyone either shied away or joined him. Either way, they did what they did out of fear for their safety.

Maggie was the new girl to the area and she had only one real run in with Robbie. He’d pushed her down, then laughed, challenging her to do something about it.

Not one to be confrontational, the 12-year-old took his abuse and once he grew bored of her refusal to respond, he went away. This wasn’t the first time she had to deal with a bully, but she knew it would be the last bit of bullying Robbie would ever do.

The following day, Maggie knelt on the sidewalk in front of her home, drawing smiling faces with large pieces of colored chalk, when Robbie appeared. He immediately began dragging his tennis shoes over her artwork, spitting on the drawings, distorting the once happy faces and laughing all the while.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Maggie warned.

“Oh yeah?” Robbie taunted, “What’cha gonna do about it?”

“I’m not going to do a thing,” she answered.

Suddenly the smiling face he was standing on came to life and before Robbie could react to it, the thing’s mouth opened and the sidewalk beneath swallowed him. It happened so quickly that Robbie never even had the chance to scream.

Frou-frou Coffee, Pt. 2

As he stood by the side of his truck, gassing up, he noticed a woman squatting by the ice machine. She looked tired, was dirty and down on her luck. She leaned on a large metal framed backpack.

Finish at the pump, he walked over, “Can I get you a soda, coffee, something to eat?”

Meyer had a soft spot for the homeless and less-fortunate. She smile with a nod ‘yes’ and followed him inside the store.

He used the can and then got himself a coffee. She had a sandwich, a large bottle of cola and a coffee. He happily paid.

“Thank you, sir.”

“Call me John.”

“Okay, John. Thank you. I’m Sara.”

“You’re welcome. With or without the ‘h’?”

“Without.”

“So where you headed, Sara?”

“Las Vegas.”

“I’m headed that way myself. Wanna lift.”

“Please.”

He hefted her pack into the bed of his truck, opened the passenger side door, cleaned off the seat of the two notebooks and a pen, then let her get in, before shutting the door. She quickly slipped the seat-belt on and leaned back.

The first ten-miles or so were silent ones. Meyer had decided not to ask any questions, rather allow her to open up and talk on her own, that is if she wanted too.

“She’s kinda cute,” decided as he glance over at her from time to time.

Finally, she broke the quiet, asking with a smile, “How do you know I ain’t serial killer or something?”

More than a little shocked, he studied her hard before answering her seriously, “First, not very many women are serial killers and when they do turn out to be one, they are generally in the company of a man, who is usually in the lead role.”

“Women can be lone serial killers,” she argued, “You know, like that Aileen chick.”

“Aileen Wuornos, you mean.”

“Yeah, her.”

“But then what’s the likelihood of two serial killers, each unknown to the other, ending up traveling in the same vehicle?”

It was her turn to study him hard and as Sara did, John Meyer thought wistfully about the ax he had stowed behind his driver’s seat and gently licked his lips.

Frou-frou Coffee, Pt.1

As he turned off his computer, he chuckled at the attempt in humor of the story about the boy trying to solve a murder only to find out it is fiction story written by Stephen King. He got up and crossed the hallway, got undress and laid down on his bed. Sleep found him quickly.

That morning’s alarm burned a hole in his dreamscape with it’s harsh buzz-buzz-buzz. He rolled over, fumbled with the clock, before finally finding the sliding switch that turned the noise-maker off.

It was still dark out, but John Meyer knew the sun would be up shortly. He got up, showered, dressed, made himself a toasted bagel with some raspberry jelly on it and headed out the door, happy that he’d packed his gear the night before.

Before backing out of his drive, he laid two notebook in the passenger seat beside himself along with an ink pen. Meyer enjoyed the ability to write out thoughts while racing along the highway.

Finally, he stopped a the 7-11 store at the corner, a mile or so from his house, and bought himself what he call a ‘frou-frou coffee;’ sweet french vanilla. Road trips were the only time he allowed himself this simple pleasure. Any other time, it black coffee, hot or cold, but always black.

Before long he was heading east on Interstate 80. In half and hour he’d be cruising southbound on US 95 towards Vegas.

Meyer had plans for the weekend. He wanted to take photos and hike the desert, maybe even visit the worlds largest temperature gauge at Baker, the gateway to Death Valley.

Soon, and with the sun up and at a blinding position coming in through his truck’s windshield, he made the left hand jog at Yerington and pulled into the first Chevron he found. He needed to fuel up, take a massive piss and get another cup of frou-frou coffee.

The New Kid

Stephanie first saw him as he stood in the main hallway of the high school, seemingly lost. There was something different about this boy, foreign perhaps, maybe innocence, a shyness or even worldly.

She couldn’t tell. However, she rushed over anyway to ask if she could help.

“New here?” she asked.

“Yes,” he answered.

“Stephanie.”

“Howie.”

“You look lost. Can I help?”

“Do you know where this room is?”

“I sure do. That’s my home room.”

She led him to the door. He opened it and allowed her to enter first.

It was like that through much of the first few weeks of their junior school year. She met him at the front of the school each morning and they’d sit in their home room chatting.

“Would you go out with me?” Stephanie finally asked.

“Sure, but I don’t have a car or my license.”

“That’s okay. I have both. Will Friday night at six be okay?”

“It would be great.”

“Super! Then we have a date.”

“She’ll be like puddy in my hands,” Howie thought as the class bell rang.

Friday night finally arrived and Stephanie pulled up to the curb in front of Howie’s home. He came out and got in the car the moment he saw her.

“So, what’s the plan?” he asked.

“I thought we’d go for a dip in the ocean off of Kellogg Beach.”

“Oh, I can’t swim.”

“Really? I can teach you.”

“Okay.”

Once at the beach, the two stripped down to their underwear and headed for the water. True to her word, Stephanie showed Howie how to swim, though he wasn’t very good.

Afterwards, they returned to the vehicle where they retrieved the towels Stephanie had brought, then started to redress. As Howie stood next to a half-dressed Stephanie, he felt his excitement rise and he leaned in and kissed her.

She pulled back in surprise. Then she checked her partially-naked self, then looked up at Howie, who stood there dumbfounded by her actions.

“Mom and Dad have always told me to beware of the change as I become a woman,” she offered sheepishly.

“Does that mean you didn’t like me kissing you?” Howie asked.

“No! I loved it,” she giggled, “And I want you to do it again.”

The two pressed themselves tightly to together and engaged in a lengthy time-forgetting french-kiss. Suddenly Howie jerked from her away with a frightened gasp.

Stephanie had changed. She was a greenish glob of goo that spilled out of his arms and oozed its way to the ocean.

Howie turned and ran, forgetting the rest of his clothing. He spent the remainder of the weekend in his bedroom trying to figure out what had happened.

Monday morning, a still confused Howie learned that Stephanie’s family had abruptly moved out of state over the weekend. That evening, while preparing for bed, he allowed himself to relax into his natural translucent-red blobulous self.

“If only Stephanie knew how perfect we’d be together,” he thought, falling asleep.

The Seventy-fifth Day

The old man struggled to push the wobbly shopping cart west along Mill Street. He wheeled the noisy cart to the north on Lake Street and under the city’s ancient arch, before turning it west again on the tiny street of Bell.

He’d heard that there would be trouble that night, so he wanted to set up his place on the sidewalk before it got too heavy later on. With a kind-of state-mandated quarantine in effect, life had become somewhat harder and he did need it to become anymore difficult.

“Certainly,” he thought, “This spot’s got no value to those looters and rioters.”

Quietly and methodically, he pulled the cardboard box out of the cart and set it up against the nearby building, a closed bar. It would serve as a place to rest his head during the coming storm.

Over it, he spread a well-worn blue plastic tarp across the box and his cart, affording himself some form of privacy. Then the old man crawled inside.

Now he began the important work, he laid out his several dirty blankets, used and reused over the years. Lastly, he withdrew his cheap 22-caliber rifle still wrapped in a blanket and slid it in against the inside corner of the box, covering it with more blankets.

It didn’t take him very long to fall asleep, after finishing.

Late afternoon, and the old man was awakened. The sound of voices, yelling and screaming, “Fuck the police,” had brought him out of a dreamless sleep.

Raising up on his elbow, the old man looked beyond his feet. Nothing. The street, though now in full shadow, was empty of people and vehicles.

He turned and looked west, through the square opening he’d prepared when he first found this box. It was an opening where the flap should have been, but wasn’t, because he’d removed it so that he might be able to see out if need be.

Here was that need.

The old man watched as a large crowd of young men and women gathered in front of city hall. Then it began, the vandalism, the looting, the arson and the beating of an innocent passersby.

Rolling over he found his rifle and attached the homemade silencer he’d fashioned to it’s muzzle.

“My precious little chihuahua’s tiny, but she’s gotta ferocious bite,” he chuckled.

It took him very little time to bring the rifle around to his ‘gun loop,’ and find one of the marauding and unsuspecting targets through his 4-by-32 scope. He had 13-rounds before needing to reload.

The old man planned to make each one count as the report of the rifle went completely unnoticed.

On the Death of George Floyd

This is going to be controversial to some, on point to others and a mystery to those who cannot understand the situation, because they’ve never operated under tremendous stress as offered in the video evidence provided by both the City of Minneapolis, through police cams and bystanders using their cellphones.

While I am not going to get into the personal behavior of personnel on the scene, I am going to point out at least two things that make me question the professional training of both the law enforcement officers and emergency medical technicians from that day. So please bare with me as I lay all this out.

Along with kneeling on the subject long after he had been subdued, other problems I see with the George Floyd case is how the Emergency Medical Services responded to his unconsciousness. They failed to provide basic life saving techniques including a cervical neck brace as Mr. Floyd was unconscious, there was no 12-lead provided to check for a heat beat and oxygen was not provided immediately.

Now, it is hazy as to when Mr. Floyd actually died. Was he dead at the scene, en route to the hospital or at the hospital? If he were dead at the scene, his body should never have been removed and a police investigation should have been establish right then. However without anyway of actually accessing whether he had a heartbeat or not is is impossible to know if he’d were dead at the side of the squad car.

Then I have to ask, why no cervical collar to protect his airway? If he were already deceased, no collar is needed and we return to the original supposition that a police investigation needed to be opened and his body should have remained in place.

If he were still alive, but unconscious, taking the time to secure his airway, via a cervical collar may have prevent him from dying. But since none was administered, I must assume he was already known to be dead and thus an investigation into his death, was actually thwarted by both law enforcement and emergency medical personnel on that scene.

It’s my conclusion that the City of Minneapolis failed Mr. Floyd and poses a serious risk to every person that it serves. Their actions on the day in question, show neglect and a lack of responsibility.

Prove me wrong.

Supreme Being

Maktub found gaining entry in the human’s habitat easy. All it needed to do is reduce it’s physical structure to an ‘ooze,’ slipping through the crack beneath the main door.

It did this for the simple purpose of learning what it could about the strange and violent specie that called itself: Homo Sapien. Quietly, it had watched from the woods edge, the comings and goings of these strange bipeds.

From where Maktub hid, all he could discern when comparing its species to this odd specie, is the fact that each walked upright. But that was it – so it decided a closer look was needed in order to ascertain more information.

Once fully reorganized, Maktub stood up, immediately striking its large head on the ceiling, “Humans are much smaller creatures than we first believed.”

It moved about the front room, examining the furniture, a folded newspaper and a glossy magazine. Using its eidetic memory skills, Maktub collected images of each item for further processing.

Then it ducked through the very low doorway, into the kitchen. It opened the stove and the microwave, learning nothing, but upon opening the refrigerator it was horrified to see eggs in cartons.

“They know who we are,” Maktub thought, “And they harvest us for food.”

It felt a sudden rush of fear coat its tall, thin grey body. But knowing there was more to do, it fought back the instinct to rush back to its ship and race away from the blue planet.

From the kitchen area, it moved towards a long hallway. As it did this, Maktub halted in mid-step.

In front of it sat a calm, but unknown life-force, a creature certain to be the being-in-charge. When it spoke, a frightened Maktub melted and hastily retreated towards the door from which it had passed under.

Curious about Maktub, two-year-old ‘Tabby’ the cat, pawed at the indigo-colored goo that Maktub had become as the alien made its escape.

House Mate

It was bacon cooking that brought him from his room. He took it in, wishing for a taste.

Then she screamed, “SPIDER!”

He spun around to see where. Seeing nothing, he turned back.

She had the newspaper advertisements rolled up and was swinging away. In a panic, he raced to his left, darted to his right, before scurrying back to his corner of the house.

This wasn’t the first time this had happened, as he’d managed to survive yet another of her fits. Too bad he didn’t understand that he was the ‘spider’ and she wasn’t jus’ his house mate.

In the Night-sky

As of late, I’ve been going out into our backyard, to sit during the early evening hours where I enjoy the slight evening breeze and warm air. During this time, I tend to listen to a podcast or two, sometimes an audio book and stare up at the soon-glowing stars.

From time to time, I see lights speeding across the open expanse. Often I can tell that these are aircraft from their intermittent flashes of red, green and white lights.

Other times, they are simply a white light, that zooms by in a straight-line. Some of these lights will wink out should the craft be making a banking movement and likewise, blink in during the same kind of maneuver.

My belief is that these are often random objects, debris flaming in or out as they skip through the upper atmosphere. I’m also certain that some are meteors crashing towards the earth, burning up as the drop and tumble.

Then there are those times where something I see has no category in which to place it. To wit, last night, as I watched in silence while a light, moving from left to right and slightly southerly, halted and then making a sharp left angle, came north.

As a kid, I used to see the same thing — lights that would suddenly stop and take off at an angle far too sharp for the average aircraft. Even more exciting were the lights that didn’t stop before making a sharp directional change.

These were usually off-set by jet fighters attempting to catch up with them. I never saw any of those fighters get anywhere near whatever those lights might have been.

But last night was different…

Seconds after moving north this particular light divided in to three ‘smaller’ lights. Each of them, as if synchronized, zipped in three differing directions (northeast, southeast and southwest) before blinking completely from sight.

I’ll leave it up to you to call it what you will, but for me, I’ll be out there again, sitting, listening, watching and enthralled.

Cabbage Patch Kids

That unscratchable itch over came him again and Clay Rollins found himself loading his nondescript, white 1974 Chevy van with all the necessaries. As he sat behind the wheel, he glanced in the mirror and saw the six dolls, all hand-crafted to look like the popular Cabbage Patch dolls, each neatly seated and properly restrained on the side seats.

“They still creep me the fuck out,” he thought.

He’d bought them at a church’s craft fair during last years big Christmas push for the authentic item. He’s seen the many national TV news stories of ‘grown ass-adults,’ as he called them, fist-fighting one another for the last remaining doll on the shelf.

“Don’t want any part of that stupid shit.”

Tonight, if successful, he would make his sixth kill. After murdering the child, he’d offer an incantation, transferring the youngsters soul into one of the dolls. While he hadn’t seen any results from his black magic spells, he continued the practice anyway.

“Besides, it kinda satisfies my obsessive-compulsiveness.”

The hunt underway, he found his victim only a few minutes after the sun had officially set. The girl was playing hop-scotch on the sidewalk in front of her home.

He slowed the van, stopped lifting one of the dolls up, it appeared to be peeking over the edge of the open passenger window at the child. Within a minute, the little girl noticed and came happily skipping up to his van.

“I have five more in back, wanna see’um?”

He popped the door open and she willingly crawled in. Within a second Clay had his large hand over her tiny mouth and was nonchalantly driving away.

That night, a few minutes before midnight, after performing his incantation, Clay buried the now-dead child in the gray sand dunes of the beach, near his other five victims.

“My own cabbage patch of kids,” he chuckled at his joke.

He returned to his van and lay on the floor between the two row of seats, reliving the nights events. To his way of thinking, “It had been a good night.”

The was sound was so small, that even had Clay had recognized it, he would have had no chance to react.

About seven-thirty, the following morning, a police officer noted the van. He’d seen it the night before, but because he’d been busy on other calls, it has sat there the entire time, in violation of city ordinances.

“Come on, time to get your ass outta here,” the cop shouted as he rapped his night stick along the van’s side.

With no answer, he looked through one of the rear windows, where the curtain was partly drawn back. The officer discovered Chase Rollins, covered in dried blood, dead.

In the seats, properly belted in, sat six look-a-like Cabbage Patch dolls, also soaked in drying blood.

Where Crazy Exceeds Word Count

Being out of a paying job again has put me on the road to a stress attack. Elevated blood pressure, headache, sickly stomach and a case of anger, have been my companions for the last few days.

And before you start giving me remedies (not to discount your caring for me and my health,) know that I’m doing everything my mental health doctor is recommending. This includes no booze and to get my ass outside for a daily walk.

She suggests that I also avoid watching the evening news on television. She knows how I end up yelling at the various talking heads and all the lies, propaganda and fake news they spew.

I add to this the viewing of videos shared on other social media platforms, including this one among many:

https://twitter.com/i/status/1266921821653385225

Talk about pissing me off. I’d be willing to die on my porch standing up against this sort of UNCONSTITUTIONAL thuggery.

These people were doing nothing unlawful on their private property and for the cops and National Guard to threaten and then fire weapons at them is beyond the pale. I don’t care if they were paint ball and they felt they had a duty to act; unconstitutional is unconstitutional.

Anyway, the attempted sharing of this video has led me to stop using Facebook. I posted it and somehow the social networking platform’s algorithm made it practically invisible on my wall.

As for the loss of my employment: the COVID-19 scare and the bankruptcy of a couple of national store chains during these state mandated closures has left the image processing plant in Reno closed for good. The place had been in operation for over 30-plus years and it’s a shame to see it shuttered. (Pun intended.)

With this, my wife has been sending me applications she finds online, for me to fill out. We had a little tiff over an application for the position of COVID-19 Contact Tracer.

She saw the ‘$17/hour’ tag on the job-site ad, and got excited, wanting me to fill out everything as fast as possible and get an interview set up. On the other hand, I didn’t want to to because I’m not even sure I believe in all the hype surrounding the ‘virus,’ and I don’t feel it would be a ‘good fit,’ since I couldn’t honestly say my heart isn’t into it.

This has, along with this ongoing and needless situation, caused me to reassess my position on a lot of the information coming from so-called ‘trustworthy’ sources. Okay, that really isn’t true – I’ve never fully trusted these sources as I’ve found many to be wanting and dishonest over the years.

And as this stuff continues, I continue to write. I am trying to use all this crap to my advantage by integrating it into various stories, something I don’t think enough writers – especially ‘horror’ genre authors – are visiting.

Further, and I swear that though I’ve been blogging for around 20-years there is always something to learn about the Internet and posting, I’ve concluded that it doesn’t matter the length of the story, it’ll only be visited by jus’ so many people. So whether 100-words or less, or a thousand words, I’m posting my stories as one and will endeavor to avoid parting them out.

(I’m posted out through June 13 already, so those will not count under this missive.)

Lastly, my frustration over the ‘lack’ of readership is gone to the wayside. I understand that don’t write about food, health and beauty, music, history or massive amounts of poetry, which are by far more popular than my faux ‘horror’ genre and other odds-and-ends — so I’m cool on it – jus’ as long and you and I keep writing.

Boy, I needed to vent…and it’s almost better than sex! NOT!

Antipode, Part 4

Into their third decent of the 2020 Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission’s season, pilot Fred George and engineer Maurice Oliver, of the deep-sea submersible, “Aegir” cautiously approached the sea bed. The yellow and black, two-person craft had been named for the Norse God of the oceans.

During their second assent, the duel propellers of the craft had kicked up so much silt that the pair could hardly see beyond their own flood lights. This time they were allowing the weight of the craft to easy them into a closer position with the ocean floor.

Finally, after hours of dropping through the inky blackness, the radar showed they were nearing bottom. George turned on the forward and bottom lights, then gently throttled the submersible forward.

“Top side, this is Aegir – we’re on the bottom,” Oliver spoke in an even and calm voice into the mic.

“Roger, Aegir,” returned a woman in the same evenly paced voice.

“What is that?” George asked as he brought the power to neutral.

Oliver looked at where the pilot was pointing.

He could see a lengthy white object that seemed to be tapered, “No idea.”

Together they worked to position the craft over the object and then carefully retrieve it from the soft silt. Gently, it was placed in the retrieval basket in front of their bubbled canopy.

“Looks like a spear point, perhaps obsidian. We’ll know more once we get top side,” Oliver said.

“Well, what ever it is, it doesn’t look like it belongs,” George offered.

Antipode, Part 3

Tired, he felt himself beginning to doze off. Taylor got to his feet and leaned on his spear, continuing his vigil.

Night time came and still he stood guard. It wasn’t until it was dark that a sudden stirring came as a faint glow from the cauldron of stones.

“There you are, bastard,” he said, moving closer to the ledge to get a better look at it.

He watched with a combination of fright and fascination as the creature twisted about, trying to render a hole through the lining of the two realities. Suddenly he felt the ground beneath him shudder and the beast, if that’s what one could call it, bellow and bay.

It pushed hard against the envelope, coming closer and closer to the ledge where Taylor stood. It was now or never, as he raised the spear over his head and spring on the demonic outline, like a mountain lion.

The spear slipped though the membrane with easy and with Taylor’s help was driven into the creature. It was with a hideous and tortured squeal that they both disappeared.

The ungodly thing struggled for only a few minutes, then became suddenly still. Taylor withdrew his spear and stood triumphant on its carcass as the body slipped through an unknown universe.

Like his reality, this one was filled with stars and other celestial bodies. But unlike his reality, he could breathe and when he spoke, he heard his voice echo.

Taylor rapidly slipped through the reality, through an entire university in less than 45 minutes. Then without warning, the dead body of the slayed beast struck an unseen force, a sac of some sort and Taylor found himself toppling into it.

He slipped through the tissue-like lining and found himself in the deep cold of the Indian Ocean, southeast of Madagascar, though he would never know this. Instantly,Taylor Rundel was crushed like a watermelon in a kitchen’s trash compactor and soon all of his being ceased to exist as the creatures of the deep feasted on what remained.

Antipode, Part 2

That night as he lay in bed asleep, he dreamed a nightmare; the thing, the creature, the face with the teeth was trying and succeeding at busting through the barrier. It was a barrier that once Taylor awoke, realized was a membrane that kept an alternate reality, perhaps an entire alternate universe from violating this one.

That morning, he decided he had to stop it before the horror on the other side tore that protective fortification. This too, had come to him in his nightmare.

That day he returned to the spot. He searched the stones and walked among them unable to find a possible portal or gate. Neither did he he the beast again.

Taylor did find a large and jagged piece of white obsidian, a volcanic rock that should not have been where it was. He kept it, considering in a gift from the gods on this side of the veil.

With the stone and a carefully selected Pine Nut tree, stripped of its branches and about ten-feet long, he returned to his apartment and began crafting a weapon. By the time he was done, he created a spear, that with the heft of his 200 pounds, he was certain would kill the awful thing.

That evening, an hour and half before sundown he left his place and headed for the formation. All night he sat on the ledge above the formation, looking down and into the center of the rocks.

Nothing.

Antipode, Part 1

“Son of a…” Taylor Rundel  began as he looked at his dead camera and seen that the battery had drained. It had been a brand new one, purchased the day before and had registered fully charged that morning when he slipped in in the camera.

It had taken him a good couple of hours to hike to the spot on Hungry Valley Indian Reservation, where he’d seen the strange shadow on Google maps. Taylor didn’t expect to see very much once he’d found the place, but he did want to take a few photographs.

Frustration washed over him like the dark clouds that seemed to appear from no place. As he sat and rested, he looked at the natural formation of rocks, which reminded him of a sort of stone-hedge.

As he watched, he realized that the cloudiness was more localized than he ever seen. A vague shadow grew and remained in the center of the stones.

Then Taylor thought he saw something more within that shadow, a form that he did not recognized. When it shifted again, he saw it clearer; a large shape that seemed to be trying to escape an opaque balloon.

What saw in that shape was terrifying and he scramble backwards from where he sat. It twist this way and that, pressing what he believed to be a head covered in tentacles, eyes and teeth.

Taylor wasted no time collecting his camera and racing away back to where he’d left his new ’92 Ford truck.