Category Archives: Writing

The Glorious Sunset of Taffeta Spaulding

Despite the fact that she stopped using an alarm clock several years ago, it was a rare event when Taffeta Spaulding slept beyond 7:26 am.

This morning, her eyes fluttered open into a beam of sun that made her squint and shift her head into a thin line of shade away from the intrusion into her slumber.

Pulling the sheets from their restrictive placement near her neck she raised her head to get a better look at the clock.

9:58

“Well,” she said to the room, rolling onto her back and staring at the ceiling. “That’s a hell of a thing.” She couldn’t remember the last day the clock greeted her waking with anything but 7:26.

She pulled the covers further away, crawled out of bed and set about the rigors of her routine. It was later, of course. Quite a bit later than usual, so she had to keep moving if she was to stay on schedule. The doctor was very keen on reminding her ad nauseam about the importance of maintaining a healthy and regular schedule.

“Pfft,” she thought. The focus on regular everything seemed to be the only thing she was taking away from being older. Regular this, regular that…regular my ass.

She smiled a bit as she worked. “That too,” she said.

She walked around pulling and straightening the sheets and blankets as she made her bed, pausing for a moment to kiss the palm of her hand and place it on the pillow that lay undisturbed next to hers.

“Looks like one more day, Abel,” she said.

She approached the bathroom mirror with her usual aplomb. She gave up vanity years ago. Where the idea of slim waists and toned calves were the comparative factors in relation to where she stood among her peers, now, at seventy-four, it was who was still alive, who was still functioning independently and who still had all their marbles.

She ran her fingers through her still fairly thick mop of silver hair, pulled it back and secured the mess with a clip. She bathed, dressed and moved to the kitchen for more, more of the same.

In the kitchen, she muttered something of the time and it being so late, more out of the feeling of obligation than really being upset by it. “It’s closer to lunch than breakfast,” she said to no one, but probably Abel. If she made the adjustment to the notion that it was lunch, she would be back on schedule just like that, done and done, except of course for her pills.

Her friend Sylvia from Kettleton took no less than 30 pills during the course of a day, or so she remembers her saying. Taffeta herself was up to a modest 12. Spaced throughout the day, they averaged four per meal. On regular days, it’s never a problem. On special days like today her breakfast pills were already running into her lunch pills, not that it made any difference. No matter how many pills she took in, she felt pretty much the same day to day.

She gathered up her morning doses from the counter near the sink and put them down with a glass of water, then popped open the fridge to see what she might fix for lunch.

Bing, bong.

For as many years as she lived in the house, the doorbell ringing is more and more a rare and fleeting event. She raised her head out of the fridge like a deer that heard a twig snap in the forest. She looked slowly both ways and listened carefully.

Bing…bong.

The chime stirred the air of the quiet house with its confirmation. Taffeta closed the fridge and stepped quietly through the dining room and closer to the front door.

Doors were tricky at her age. She never liked answering them. It was either someone selling something or…actually, it always seemed to be someone selling something. Things she did not need. Unless it was a child with a parent selling cookies, she had little inspiration for front door encounters.

On the other hand, it wasn’t safe to let people on the other side of the door think nobody was home, at least, not with the recent rash of break-ins and such.

She neared the door with stealthy footsteps. Inching her face closer to the peephole, she imagined wiring her doorbell button to a recording of a very large and angry dog barking his fool head off. That would get them, she thought.

On the other side of the tiny telescope, in a fish-eyed distortion stood Myrna Billingham, weaving back and forth in her nervous way, in an effort so see, or at least sense what might be going on inside and if everything was alright. Taffeta unlocked the door, unhitched both chains, worked the latch and swung the door open.

“Thank God!” Myrna said, throwing her hands in the air as far as she dared while still being able to avoid hitting herself with her purse. “I thought you were dead!”

“Two rings, Myrna,” Taffeta said. “No answer on four rings is the key right?”

“Four rings, yes of course,” Myrna muttered as she pushed her sturdy and fairly solid five foot two inch frame past Taffeta to welcome herself inside. “But you know Taffy, if you’re going to be that slow in getting to the door, we might as well make it two…or three. A woman of my experience just can’t take that level of excitement.”

Taffeta considered Myrna, also 74, a friend for life even if she wasn’t a life long friend. They found each other socially several years ago, they helped each other through the passing of their husbands, and now, in whatever time comes to them, they work through the unspoken pledge of keeping an eye out for the other. Myrna was the only person, besides Billy Tendicore back in third grade who called her Taffy. She never spoke in terms of age. She found it more dignified to speak in terms of life experiences.

Taffeta followed Myrna back to the kitchen as she shed her coat, placed it on the hook in the hallway and set about getting to what she saw as her chair at the small table in the kitchen.

“Oh my God!” Myrna said, throwing her arms out to her side and stopping dead in her tracks. “You’re sick!”

“What?” Taffeta said nearly bumping into her from behind.

“No breakfast dishes in the rack,” she said pointing to the empty drying rack near the sink. She spun on her heal to face Taffeta. “Every Thursday when I come over you would be putting your breakfast things away before we go to lunch.” Myrna’s eyes darted over Taffeta searching for clues of illness or traces of despair.

“Is today Thursday?”

“Oh, Lord! You fell, didn’t you? You hit your head.” Myrna grabbed her friend’s head with hands on either side of her face and deepened her examination, what she lacked in a delicate touch, Taffeta was certain she made up for with bona fide caring.

“I’m not sick,” she said through scrunched cheeks. A vision shot through her memory of her mother doing something very similar when she was in school. Taffeta gently wrapped her hands around Myrna’s wrists and gave them a squeeze of reassurance. “I’m not sick. I just slept in a little today.”

Myrna gave one last look into Taffeta’s eyes before she released her grip and turned back toward her chair. “So you say. If you ask me something is wrong. You slept late, but you don’t do that. You say you missed breakfast, but you don’t do that. Apparently, you forgot it was Thursday. You don’t…”

“I don’t do that. I know,” Taffeta said. “Look, I didn’t forget about our lunch.” Although, she had. “I just…”

“Oh my God,” Myrna said slapping her hand against the table. “Did you remember to take your pills?”

“I remembered my pills. In fact, I was just getting my midday doses together when you rang the door.”

“Good thing I did too. We’ll get you back on track.” She shuffled in her chair adjusting her comfort. “You can’t take those on an empty stomach you know. “

“I know.”

“Where should we go to lunch then? You look pale. You pick.”

“I’m fine. You’re being silly. I look the same as I did yesterday and the day before,” Taffeta said patting her on the shoulder. “How about Carsoni’s?”

“With my heartburn? I knew it! You’re trying to kill me!”

Taffeta laughed, “It will take more than a spicy pepperoni roll to take you out my dear. What about…”

Bing, bong.

Again, the chime from the front door rang out and seemed to fade into the quiet that settled between the two ladies. They both turned their heads just enough so their eyes met. One eyebrow rose slightly over Myrna’s left eye to seemingly question why someone might be ringing her friend’s door when they were scheduled for lunch.

“Quit that,” Taffeta said, softly, almost whispering. “I don’t know who it is.”

Bing, Bong.

Thump, thump, thump.

A ring and a knock. They looked at each other closer, puzzled and now more curious. Myrna stood from her chair.

“Well, we should see who it is.”

“Yeah, OK.”

Thump, thump, thump.

“They seem very eager,” Myrna said, grabbing Taffeta’s hand. “Whomever it is.”

They journeyed quickly through the dining room and to the door. Myrna took point and poked her eye up to the peephole holding Taffeta back at arm’s length.

“It’s the Daily Parcel guy,” she said.

Taffeta gently guided Myrna out of the way and again worked the chains and the lock then solely opened the door.

Figuring nobody was home, the Daily Parcel man was two steps off the stoop by the time the door opened.

“Young man!” Taffeta shouted then shuddered. She hated saying that. “I’m home.”

The deliveryman caught himself and turned back. “Ah…” he said as he took three bouncing steps back up the steps.

“Great,” he said, reorienting his clipboard. “I have a delivery, for one Ms. Taffeta Spaulding. It says here it’s a crate.”

“A crate?”

“Yes, Ma’am. If you sign here, I’m happy to go get it.” He handed her he clipboard and jumped back down the steps toward the dark blue delivery van accented with bright yellow letters.

“I’m getting a crate,” she said to Myrna as she leaned her head back into the house a bit.

“A crate…nice, “ Myrna said.

In no time at all, the deliveryman had the crate on a small dolly and wheeled it up to the door.

“I’m not supposed to do this, but I’d be happy to move it just inside the door for you.”

“That would be wonderful, thank you.”

In another moment, the excitement of the delivery was over. The three-foot by two-foot by one-foot crate stood in the middle of Taffeta’s front room with Myrna and Taffeta eyeing it from either side.

“What on earth could it be?” Myrna asked.

“It’s a crate,” Taffeta said, forcing herself not to smile. “The man said so.”

“Ha, ha. Why don’t you get something to open it?”

“Ah,” she said, “Good idea.” She left the room and went down to the basement where Abel used to keep a modest array of hand tools. Grabbing a small crowbar from a hook on the pegboard she went back to the front room a woman on a mission.

“Who’s it from?”

Taffeta slowly knelt down and searched the outside of the box. “I don’t know,” she said. “There’s this envelope, packet thingy, but that probably only has the shipping invoice in it.” She thought a moment, “But, I guess it’s worth a shot.”

Picking at the glue sealed flap of the clear plastic envelope, she raised up enough of a chunk to get a good grip and tear the top open. She reached in and pulled out the contents flipping them over in her hands and unfolding them.

“Yup,” she said, “Here’s the invoice, and this…”

She unfolded the second page and turned it so that is sat right, “This one is a letter, here.” Taffeta passed the page to her friend.

Myrna pawed at the reader glasses that hung from the chain across her chest, brought them up to her face, slid them up onto her nose and squinted, working to see more clearly.

“Dear Ms. Spaulding,” she said. “’In an effort to bring resolution to the last portions of the estate of your brother, Lester J. Munce (Deceased), We are releasing this box and its contents to your care.’ I thought your brother died four years ago.”

“He did.”

“Hm,” Myrna said turning back to the page. “’Amongst your brother’s base belongings, was a key to a small offsite storage facility. In his particular unit, we discovered no less that twenty-three wooden crates of various sizes and weights. Per his instruction, the crates were not to be opened, but to be distributed equally amongst, and as quickly as possible, to the person(s) noted in the documentation. Your brother included the following message to all. Life is too short for the bull shit…’”

“Oh, my,” Myrna said, a bit taken aback.

“Er…,” Myrna looked back to the paper to find her place. “‘Life is too short for the bullshit. Take this, may it serve you well. There is no available information at this time. Once all the crates are delivered, we will consider our association with the Munce estate to be complete. Angela Deffert. Deffert, Smith and Deffert, blah, blah.”

With her knees complaining about their place on the floor, Taffeta stuck the crowbar into what looked like a soft spot and pushed down. The nails and brads which held the crate together for such a long time creaked and groaned in defiance as the worked themselves free. Still, they held until the last, giving the lid very little movement. Pulling the crowbar out she quickly stuck it back in what looked to be a new soft place and repeated the exercise until finally, the lid was free.

Setting the crowbar down at her side, she stuck her fingers under the lid and lifted through the last bit of the nails’ commitment then tilted the lid back to the floor. Reaching in, she grabbed the large piece of foam packing and lifted it up and away allowing her to see the contents clearly.

“Well,” she said. “That’s a hell of thing.”

 Subscribe in a reader

Kilt – Finale

“I kind of lost it after that,” Paul said, slowly, softly running is fingers along the gauze that covered the stump of where his arm used to be. For all he knew his fist was still clicking away on that trigger in the belly of that thing. “I can’t tell you how I got away. I can’t tell you how I got to the hospital. You know what I know.”

“How do you feel?” Doctor Kernz said, setting his pen on his pad and lowering his pad to his lap.

“I feel…,” Kilt concentrated on the gauze and how the sensation of his touch felt against quiver of his new reality.

“Mister Kilt?”

Nothing.

Doctor Tarden Kernz breathed a deep sigh and slowly packed his things. Before he left, he patted Paul Kilt on the shoulder and moved out into the hallway. As he stepped down the hall, he clicked the speed dial on his phone and began making the arrangements to have his patient transferred to Starkton and finished by the time he reached the nurse’s station.

“Excuse me,” he said pulling up to the counter, “Nurse Pike, right?”

Amanda turned, “Yes?”

“Paul Kilt. We’ll be moving him to Starkton tomorrow.”

“Did he tell you what happened?”

“He told me what he believes happened.”

“Is he sticking with the big dog story?”

“I can’t discuss the specifics,” Kernz said signing his name at the bottom of Kilt’s chart.

“Will he be all right?”

Kernz looked at the nurse. “I believe he will. We may never know what really happened, at least until he decides to tell us. Our job is to make sure we get him headed in the right direction. At least to the point where he is no longer a danger to himself…or others.” He politely slid the file back to the nurse across the short expanse of the counter. “The long and the short of it is, we’ll just have to wait and see. It’s really up to him. He needs to find his truth and the courage to face it. Have a good evening.”

He gave her half a smile as he stepped away from the desk and walked to the elevator. What a day.

———————

Epilogue:

Tarden Kernz pulled his car to a stop at the end of the long driveway the led up to his house.

He lived on the farther edge of Cardington, probably as far as one could get before stepping into Blakewood County. He liked it that way. He liked to be close enough to his work in case of emergencies, but he treasured at least the perception of distance his set up allowed. The country road, the long driveway, the fair amount of trees that bordered the small lake, or large pond depending on how you look at it, all provided the illusion of serenity, solitude and distance.

He sat in the car for a moment, both reviewing and purging the day from his mind so that the evening belonged to him. The only work he brought home was the Kilt case, and that was just so he could make some additions to his notes before he had them transcribed for the official file.

He shut down the engine, popped open the car door, then scooped up the file and stepped a foot out onto the tarmac all in one movement. A moment later, he was out and heading for the front door. Without him looking, his fingers worked to single out the door key from the rest.

He grabbed a scent of freshness from the trees carried by the small breeze that moved past him, another item of note to further solidify why moving out here was such a great idea.

As he slid the key into the lock and the pins of the mechanism found their place, the crack of a branch rose up to his ears. It wasn’t out of the ordinary to hear such a noise. Not out here with the woods and all still, while he paused for the briefest moment, nothing felt as if it needed further exploration.

As he turned the key, a deep, low rumble reached out to him. Not so much a purr, it was bigger than that. It was more like..a growl?

His hand stopped on the key. His gaze, trained a second ago on the the lock and his hand slowly drifted up the side of the door and leveled off. If he were in front of a mirror, he’d be looking at himself now. His breath caught. His heartbeat seemed to slow as it moved from his chest to his ears.

He couldn’t place the next sound he heard behind him. There was no point of reference, but he imagined. It was close. It seemed…big.

His chest started to rise and fall with a heavy sense of urgency with each new breath.

The hand that held the key let go and dropped to his side.

The rumbling growl drifted closer.

Closing his eyes, he drew one deep breath to try and calm himself. He even tried to tell himself it was nothing and that he was being stupid, but the rest of his body resisted the notion of comfort.

He opened his eyes and slowly turned.

If Tarden Kernz had the luxury of telling his story of what happened next from a room set inside the safety of a hospital as Paul Kilt did, he could have said, that before the reality of his situation blew every circuit of his thinking mind, he could recall what looked like a dark, empty cave of blackness opening up before him. It came at him with a speed he couldn’t have imagined and the edge of the cave was lined with…teeth.

If…

Instead, there was no story to tell. The bits and pieces that were left of the doctor lay in a pool of drying blood. The folder filled with the notes and documents that detailed Paul Kilt’s experience, his horror, dropped to the ground with a flutter the instant the doctor ceased to be. A breeze kicked up working to move the pages away from the carnage. They blew and scattered across the driveway and into the trees to be lost forever.

Kilt – Part VI

Kilt lurched as the head swung down toward him again, aggressively pecking at the hole in the windshield of his newly smashed tuck like a bird eagerly picks at a bit of seed.

He stumbled through the open doorway and rolled out into the rain. Head groggy and still working to normalize his breathing, his brain screamed, “Move!” Eager to comply, he inched forward from a crab walk to a crawl, then moved from his knees to the first few steps of a feeble run. The wind whipped rain tore into his eyes.

Just run, he thought. Don’t look back! Don’t even dare! Just run!

And as if his head was incapable of comprehending the messages form the brain urging him on, he turned ever so slightly, just to see.

It might have been the storm, the sound of the beating of the rain, the wind or the bursts of thunder, but in the time it took for him to get this far, far enough for his head to feel safe enough to chance an ill-advised glance backward, the animal-thing was on him.

With a grunt, the massive head swung at him at pretty much the same time his look back was complete. The nothing but rain image changed in a blink to that of a large, scaled, wall of head that hit him with the force of a truck knocking him easily from his wavering stance. Entirely off his feet, he flew backwards and down onto to the soaking wet ground.

He worked to tuck and roll himself to the point where he might be able to get back to his feet and felt as if here were making progress the wall hit him again.

Once more Kilt left the ground, tossed backwards away from, and yet still firmly entrenched in the creature’s sphere of control. Pain seared across his back as he came to an abrupt stop. He slid down and stumbled away from the trunk of the tree that cut his flight short, but fell in a way that his feet found purchase in the grass and was able to stand.

Gasping again for breath and squinting into the rain, he grasped the crow bar with both hands.

“Well?” he screamed into the rain. “Where are you? Let’s go!”

It was a good count of three before a large shadow filled his field his vision. The thing moved toward him….slowly. Kilt almost expected a heavy thud to quiver across the earth with each foot fall, but there was none. It moved with what he might describe as a certain sense of elegance.

Without taking his hands from the crowbar, he tried once again to wipe some of the rain away by digging his face into his bicep. The creature growled long and slow before taking in a raspy breath and letting loose with a deafening roar.

As the roar trailed off, the head shot down at him, jaws still open and in fact widening as it turned to capture him. Kilt swung the crow bar and missed entirely, tossed by the rain and his churning adrenaline. The head pulled back a bit, turned and then shot down on him again, chomping closed just shy of catching Kilt’s jacket. He swung the crow bar again back the other, but caught the target in stead with his hands and arm which the heavy skin deflected quite easily.

Once again, the creature pulled its head back and spread its jaws wide as it shot down at the small, wet man. The jaws slammed shut shy of his leg. Stand ing firm, Paul raised the crow bar over his head and brought it down with everything he had.

Everything shifted, like the moment you know when you hit a homer over a line drive, everything felt…in the moment. The curved, clawed end of the crow bar found its mark and pierced the tough hide sinking down to what Paul was convinced was the certain uneasy scrape of metal against bone.

The animal-thing lurched back with a scream in its throat, carrying Paul and the crowbar with it. On the second shake the creature made to free himself of the stinging pain in its snout, Kilt lost his grip on the crow bar and again flew backwards and down into the wet, grassy muck below.

The creature, unable to reach the weapon with its short arms, snarled and shook its head.

Kilt hit the ground hard…again, and rolled to a stop as the water beat down upon him. Has he lay on his stomach fighting for breath without sucking water into his lungs, he felt the lump.

The gun.

The creature swung its giant head back and forth as the screams told the tale of its pain, frustration and anger. It shot it’s jaws down to the ground again and again, blindly searching for the thing that cause this.

Paul pulled himself to his feet and reached his hand into his pocket. He pulled out the pistol and took aim…as well as he could.

As the anger grew as a distraction to the pain, a new fire burst into the creature’s dark eye. Squeezing its eyelids shut and jerked its head in recoil. A roar tore from its throat that turned into a ragged scream. Rage took control, issuing simple and base commands.

The first shot landed square in the middle of the creature’s eye. He was sure of it. It was all he could to stop himself from doing his end zone victory dance, but there was no time for that. The thing was hurt, he thought, but not hurt bad, not dead. He fired again…missed.

The little flash of light was nearly missed but it was enough. The creature spun and trained its remaining good eye on the spot where the light came from and lunged.

The animal-thing cut through the rain in his direction with a speed he could never describe if all the words were his. Kilt fired again. Missed again.

Another small flash of light confirmed everything. The creature leapt forward as it opened its mighty jaws.

A cave of darkness, darkness surrounded by long, razor-sharp teeth opened before him. His eyes grew wide, then wider still as the cave and the teeth disappeared and with it the sight of his arm and the gun. Thinly connected lines of tissue sent impulses to the hand as it squeezed the trigger again and again. Muffled shots reached out to him from inside the closed mouth and while the louder shots ended, the hand kept pumping the trigger instinctively.

Click. Click. Click. Click.

 

Kilt – Part V

“At least,” Paul said slowly and pausing to run over it all…yet again, “I think they were teeth.”

For the first time since starting his story, Kilt looked away from the thumb that had been rubbing across his fingers, now so vigorously that he could feel an element of heat from the tips.

“That’s the look I was waiting for,” he said, forcing Kernz to break the stare to look down at his notepad. “Not just teeth, of course. They weren’t just hanging there. They were attached you know.”

“To what?” Kernz asked.

Paul sat for a moment. “I don’t know. To be dead honest, I don’t know what I saw, because my mind can’t get around it.”

“Take your time. Let’s start with what you think you saw.”

Paul turned his attention back to his fingers, back and forth. He drew a half a breath and said, “Dinos….”

After the first part of the word came out soft and difficult to hear, the second half faded into a whisper. He coughed.

“Dinosaur,” he said louder and with a touch more of commitment. “I believe I saw a dinosaur.”

“Good work,” Kernz said, “Now we are making progress. What ki…”

“If you ask me what kind of dinosaur,” Kilt cut in, “I won’t be held responsible. I don’t know what kind of dinosaur! I’m not some kind of pale, paleon, paleo…whateverthehellitis! I can’t even say with one hundred percent certainty and conviction that it was a dinosaur. Maybe Starkton is where I belong! But you asked. You wanted to help! And this is the news. Whatever I saw, my brain registered it as a dinosaur. Apparently, I hit it with my truck as it was going wherever dinosaurs go here in Cardington when the skies and the earth decide to open up and take giant shit on us!”

“I understand Mr. Kilt,” the doctor said in a trained and calming voice. “Really, I do. Based on your injury, it is certainly more possible that something like a dinosaur could take your arm before something like a dog could. Please trust me. We will get to the bottom of this. Take a moment, then tell me what happened next.”

Paul tilted his head pulling in hard, but steady breaths, and staring down at his working fingers.

“I have a gun…in my glove compartment,” he started up again. “I keep a pretty good sized crowbar under my seat. My head was…pounding. I was gasping for air after having the wind knocked out of me and maybe half my senses. The mouth seemed huge, but all I could really see was the teeth. They looked long and sharp and dripped…dripped with what I can only imagine was a mix of rainwater and saliva.”

“Go on.”

“I tried to calm myself down. Tried to get my breath. The thing roared again. I’m not sure if I hurt it or it was just pissed at the rain, or that it was lost or…I don’t know, but as soon as I got a breath I found myself screaming right back at it. That was a mistake. I have to remember that. The yelling and screaming and roaring or whatever…that was all about it…whatever it was. If it heard me, when it heard me…when the roaring stopped…”

“Yes?”

“That’s when it turned it’s attention to me.”

——-

The moment the last bit of scream escaped him, the animal, the thing, tilted it’s head in a way that brought an enormous eye to bare.

“Oh, Shit.”

He certainly experienced moments of panic in his life, some that even moved his heart to his throat, but this…was new. A super-panic seized him as all life around him seemed to slow to a cinematic crawl. He lurched over the passenger seat and pawed at the glove compartment, but all movement seemed slow, and well below the expectancy set by the fire of urgency in his head. The compartment door popped open releasing a shower of useless things he kept in there for emergencies, hand sanitizer, an old map of historic Boston, well outdated mints and aspirin. Even in full panic mode, a voice in his head declared that if we all live after this, we are taking the time to re-evaluate our definition of emergency.

He heard the gun topple to the floor. The pushed away the bits and pieces that followed after it and jammed it into his coat pocket.

The giant head of the animal-thing swung quickly down towards him, the nose scraping along the edge of the roof where bits of what was left of the windshield hung on for dear life. A cloud of hot breath moved over him bringing with it the smell of rancid meat and deep earth. A heavy gag jumped into his throat causing his shoulders to heave as he worked to hold back whatever he had in him that was suddenly and vigorously looking for a way out. He reached his hand under the passenger seat feeling across the mat until his fingers landed on steel. They gripped tight around the crowbar as he pulled it out, making a mental note not to hook it on anything.

A low rumbling growl pulled itself from within the beast and into rain reaching Kilt’s ears and igniting a new fire of urgency. With a speed unimaginable for its size, the mouth poked into the hole left by the windshield. It had no room to do its work effectively, but the jaws, the teeth, snapped open and shut as it reached for what might be inside.

“No!” Kilt heard himself say, almost as if it came from outside of himself. “No!”

He flopped over onto his back and kicked out at the thing as a new wave of nausea poured into his stomach every time his boot found purchased on the leathery hide. It felt like kicking an old sofa, a hungry old sofa.

The head pulled back, but for only a moment to re-evaluate and adjust before bobbing down for another try.

With what room he had, Kilt swung the crowbar out in front of him connecting with one of the long bayonet-like teeth with a sickening crack. The connection was enough to force it back. A new and more inspired roar burst from the animal-thing above him. He shifted himself again as quickly as he could to work the door handle. After pushing with no success he shot his feet out again and again until the door swung open.

The next moment unraveled itself into existence with a slow and overly deliberate pace. An electrical charge of hope surge through the man as he saw the pathway to his escape before him, He heard each breath. Each heartbeat throbbed within him as he turned to look at the animal-thing. The thing looked back at him. Paul looked back at the open door.

Time to go.

 

 

 

Kilt – Part IV

“Dammit.”

Kilt peered out into the darkness as the automatic doors opened wide to release him from the bountiful confines of Barner’s Groceries. The moment he stepped forward, the falling rain seemed to intensify, even more with the next step. He paused on third step, that one that would move him from the relative safety of the door’s overhang and into the brewing elements, as a gust of wind forced the rain at him, as if almost a warning.

“Shit.”

He turned his head back to the store just as the automatic doors closed behind him leaving him to stand alone in that moment of decision, back to the store or forward into…whatever this was.

As his brain began to weigh the pros and cons, the rest of his body was working toward the as yet to be realized decision. He shifted all three plastic bags into one hand, then grabbed the collar of his jacket with the other and pulled it over his head. Surely, he didn’t look as ridiculous as he felt. One deep breath later, he lunged into the downpour and made a break for the truck.

The wind and rain intensified still, blowing him sideways a bit and drenching him to the bone no more than three steps deep into the parking lot. He could see nothing. He heard only rain. He tried to move instinctively to where he thought the truck was parked and hoped he was right.

Two steps later, his brain sent out a single message, “Keys,” and the hand that held whatever protection he got from the jacket released it and plunged into his pocket. He felt for the fob and pressed what he knew to be the unlock button, squinting through the sheeting water to see a flicker of light from the truck’s tail lights.

There.

A quick course adjustment, three steps and a splash later and he was clawing at the door handle to get inside.

Once he slammed the door shut, he sat for a moment listening to his breath mingle with the sheets of wind driven rain blasting his windshield. He tried to wipe some of the water from his face, but really just pushed it around. Everything was soaked. He could end up sitting here all day, he thought, but he didn’t want to. Whatever he was feeling earlier in the day manifested itself in his head which throbbed now. Better to get home.

He put the key in the ignition and turned the engine over. He loved this truck. The dashboard blower started in earnest, working to remove the building condensation from the inside of the glass while the wipers slapped water away as fast and efficiently as it could…which ended up being not very good. He put the truck in reverse and backed out of his spot slowly. So far so good.

——

From what he could tell the roads were fairly deserted. And why wouldn’t they be? What kind of idiot drives in something like this?

Even on a fairly bad day, the trip to the store takes about 12 minutes, max, but Kilt, ever diligent in his desire to doing something stupid as safely as possible was determined to take his time. The wind began to add small branches, leaves and bits of garbage to the mix of rain it hurled at him, but he pressed on.

As he neared the left onto Crestview, the rain seemed to hiccup just long enough for him clearly see the sign and notice that the street was clear of anything he could run into. The brief reprieve allowed him to stop squinting long enough to realize how hard he was working to see…anything, and, how much his head was pounding.

“Note to self,” he muttered. “Get food before stupid storm hits.”

Taking advantage of the minor pause, he spun the wheel to take the turn. The rain returned the second the car banked around the corner and his visibility once again disappeared.

Typical.

He straightened the wheel, then raised his foot gently to press on the gas. If he had the ability to record the moment and review it over an over again, his story would stay the same. As he pressed the pedal to urge the car ahead, a blood curdling…scream, for lack of a better word, coincided with his movement as if he created it.

The noise tore into his head and in one movement, he slammed his eyes shut, slammed both feet onto his brake pedal and gripped his steering wheel to prevent his head from banging into it. The lurched into a skid that was not likely to occur on a dry street, but there was so much water, every movement was amplified.

Despite what he confirmed just before making the turn, that the street was clear, the sliding truck came to an almost immediate and jolting stop, the force of which drove his chest into his steering wheel, cutting his breath. Mixed with the sound of water and debris washing over him, came the sounds of grinding metal, breaking glass and something else.

“What the…”

Another roar tore through the air, causing him to cover his ears with his hands. His body lurched as he fought for a new fresh breath.

Another car? A tree? His aching brain seemed to spin in his skull. What could he have hit? God, let it not be another person…a kid or something!

The new noise, a soft grating, came up from the newly accordioned hood of his truck. As he gasped holding his chest, he blinked at the new batch of water hitting his face through the newly demolished windshield. Whatever it was, it was alive, and it was huge.

One more deafening roar later, and as if by premonition, he looked out into the storm, lightning flashed and he saw them as clear as anything for the first time…teeth.

Kilt – Part III

“Mister Kilt,” Dr. Kernz said with a certain level of matter of factness, “Paul, if I may. This is our third meeting. I can’t prove it of course, at least not yet, but it’s clear that you are not being one hundred percent forthcoming regarding the reality of your injury.”

Kilt looked down at it right hand and stared at the way he ran his thumb back and forth over his finger tips in a soft circular motion. If he had his other hand, he was sure he would have clasped all of his fingers together to accommodate his thumbs tapping each other gently in assured defiance, but his thumb tapping days were over for sure. And with that, some level of his confidence.

“As I explained in our first meeting, we need to figure out what exactly led to your injury. Your insistence that it was a dog, sounds, as we agreed, unlikely to impossible. I surely find it implausible. So if you expect to head back to your home upon your release, instead of a cozy room in the Starkton facility, I suggest we try to explore some new ground. It’s for your own good and the good of the community.” The doctor paused, “I’m here to help.”

Kilt jerked his head away from the oddly calming and near hypnotic thumb movement as if the doctor made a loud noise. His breath quickened as he caught the other man’s gaze.

“Help,” he said, nearly spitting out the p. “How will you help?”

“I…”

“You don’t believe my story. And if I tell you what I think really happened, at least how I remember it, I’m pretty sure you won’t believe that one either. So, it seems a stint in Starkton is probably inevitable. But since you’re so keen on ‘helping,’ I’ll give it to you, warts and all.”

The doctor silently leaned back in his chair, implying in part that he was happy enough to have reached this point. He waived his hand before him as a gesture to Kilt that he was welcome top proceed, please…go ahead.

Kilt swallowed hard, turning his gaze back to his thumb and fingers.

“It was a weird day to start with. I wasn’t feeling well and I’m never sick, but I was off enough to call off work for the day. The reports of a possible storm that evening started early as I recall, but I don’t think they had any idea what type of storm was heading our way.”

“What do you mean?,” Kernz broke in, “Type of storm.”

Paul nodded his head at the doctor as if to look, but kept his eyes trained on his thumb moving back and forth, back and forth. “Aren’t you from around here doctor? Couldn’t you feel it? This storm was going to be different. Different before it even got here. Most storms are stirred up by weather patterns controlled by Mother Nature to help her take care of her business. But this was no Mother Nature storm brewing. You could feel it in the air the closer it got. It wasn’t like electricity or anticipation. It was more like…dread.”

“Dread?”

“Yeah,” Paul said, not realizing how much harder his thumb was pressing against his fingertips. “Dread. Like Mother Nature stepped away for a moment and something else jumped in to steer the storm machine that day.”

“What kind of something?”

“Something…dark.”

“Go on.”

“The clouds…the storm system didn’t just roll in like most storms do. It crept in. It changed the air. It, it, didn’t cover the sun, it was more like it…absorbed the light causing the darkness to increase. And when it got here, it seemed to lock this town down as if it meant to stay a while. Even when the street lights went on, they seemed to have to fight to share enough light to hold back the darkness, at least until the power went out. Even my headlights had a hard time cutting into that blackness.”

“You weren’t home then?”

“No,” Paul said, watching his thumb move. “I was coming off some double shifts, so the cupboards were bare as they say. Even though I felt bad, I would have felt worse with no food in the house and I tend to think storms are better when accompanied by the welcomed comfort of a twelve pack. My plan was to skip to the grocery and get back before things got bad. I left my house just as the winds were picking up and damned if I couldn’t tell something was off the moment I stepped out of that house.”

“The dread?”

“Yeah…,” Kilt’s voice trailed off for a moment. “But not right away. Like I said the air felt…different. The moment I closed my front door, I don’t know if it was a smell or how thick the air seemed, but that first deep breath was nearly like a brick to the head. I had to steady myself for a moment before I moved to my truck.”

“What happened next?”

“Nothing, really. I brushed off the feeling because I didn’t really have anything to connect it to. I just wrote it all down as maybe being sicker than I thought. I got to Barner’s. I got what I needed. I paid and started to leave. In the short time that passed between entering the store to when I stepped on that pad to open the exit door, the light was gone. The darkness had taken over and it was just starting to rain.”

An open letter to congressional Democrats

Java typed with determination and focus, as she was prone to doing in these situations:

An open letter to congressional Democrats –

Dear congressional Democrats:

You don’t know me, but…Ouch! Need some salve for that burn?

Just kidding. My apologies for the snark so early in the note. I sometimes hold that until the end as sort of an exclamation point on the ideas I try to convey, but dang it all if you all didn’t just slap your own big exclamation point on your moment in the sun as the majority seat holders in the U.S. Senate.

I imagine you feel a little salty heading into work these days, what with the Republicans waving their index fingers around, screaming “We’re number one!” and basically telling you all to go suck it. It will make me proud to know that despite the tanning of your hides, you will proceed in your duties as elected officials with grace, professionalism and the knowledge that you are still good people who are there to do a job and to do it the best way you know how. Rise above it.

I would tell you to remember this moment and the feeling that comes with having been defeated, even in what they call a lackluster mid-term election. I would tell you to use this recent string of events as motivation to get back up on your proverbial political bicycles and make a truly inspired effort to regain what was lost so that you might continue to work on making the world a better place. I would tell you all those things…and more… if I thought for half a second that you might a) listen and b) actually remember. Sadly, my faith and my hope in both those areas are severely degraded, if not completely shattered. Shadoobee.

I’m guessing you don’t remember, because those who don’t remember their histories are bound to repeat them and guess what? You’ve been here before! That’s right! You have had it all, the control, the faith of the people, the momentum to proceed with a reasonable agenda and boom, you squandered it! Pissed it away, as my grandfather might say, through petty squabbles, lack of conviction, misguided alliances and dare I say, a fair bit of your own hubris. With all your power and promise, you accomplished nothing. And while you can say, “Well, the Republicans didn’t do anything either.” (which will make you sound small, petty and immature) you forgot that they are the masters of that game and it is an arena where you clearly cannot compete.

I think you need to take some time for reflection. Not a lot of time mind you. You could probably suss this all out over the few minutes it takes to drink a decent cup of coffee. But you need to consider what went wrong and how to fix it, for while you may be down right now – you are not out…provided you get your shit together. Here are a few things to ponder.

  • The people did not let you down – Quite the opposite, you let the people down and this is their way, misguided as it might appear right now, of telling you that you sucked it up.
  • Try taking more credit for the way things are going – You need to pay more attention to the real world and less of what’s going on over at Fox news. Things in America are better than they were when you retook control. Yes. There is a lot more to do, but housing is up, employment is up, the stock market is up (aside from a few days here and there where the market takes a dump – but hey, we all have our off days) gas prices are down. I’m not convinced that you really had anything to do with these trends, but it’s fair to say they happened on your watch and the mindless collective called the voting public appears to believe what they are told with little question (for evidence, please refer to Tuesday’s election results).
  • WTF – Middle East and other areas of global unrest – Look, this is a thorn in everyone’s paw. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. A case could be made that the for many on the other side of the world, creating and maintaining a constant state of turmoil, unrest and a slow simmer of self-destruction seems to be what they do best. I mean, after all this time, if they really wanted to work things out, they probably could. My guess is that there is more money in turmoil and distress than in peace, so until we can create a higher profit margin for peace, we are kind of stuck. The point here is, many have tried. Many. Have tried. For decades and decades to get things straight over there. At some point, the rest of the world is just enabling the conflicts. The Republicans were burned by it and you have been burned by it. I don’t have any answers on how to resolve it, but we need to decide how much longer we need to participate, what we are going to do where – do it and then get the hell out of there and focus on the good work that needs to be done here at home.
  • Reacquaint yourself with Dr. Seuss’s story of The Zax. – Seriously. Read it, or watch the cartoon, or have somebody read it to you and show you the pictures. I don’t care. There is a message for congress there.

I could go on and on, but I realize that you are only congressional representatives after all, and that your attention spans are short, your memories are thin and your intentions are about as deep as the next election. If you take that as fairly harsh criticism, then I’m OK with that. If you could muster up a moment of self-reflection I dare say that you will come to the conclusion that you deserve it.

My one parting notion to you would be that while you are down right now like the stock market in ’07, you are not out. The deck is shuffled and you still have some good cards to play. You will need to be smart over the next year or so, which will be hard, I know, but buckle down and get the work done. I’m fairly certain that you can count on the Republicans doing nothing, aside from setting their focus on the next election, but I’m pretty sure the potential for a bright future lies ahead if you do what you need to do. And if you, meaning both parties, could consider for at least a half a second what it is you are supposed to be doing in Washington instead of what you actually do (or more commonly, do not do), the put upon cogs and wheels of this country – the American people would be truly grateful.

Your friend – Java

 

 

 

 

An open letter to the new republican congress

Java typed with determination and focus, as she was prone to do in these situations:

An open letter to the new republican congress – Dear new republican congress:

Your don’t know me, but I wanted to be one of the first to congratulate you on your retaking of the U.S. Senate and retaining control of the House! Congratulations! And while this may sound sarcastic, I have to tip my hat to you, well done. Really, very well done.

On the surface, I would attribute this turn of events to a small miracle or raging luck. But when one digs deeper, it’s easy to visualize how this is really the one thing you, as a group, have wanted bad and have worked hard on to actually accomplish since the tables upended for you in 2006. If we disregard divine intervention and pure luck (I’m not willing to go as far to say some souls weren’t sold for this outcome) one could surmise that your good fortune comes at the hand of three primary factors.

1. Bottomless financial resources and a singular focus

2. Clever maneuvering and positioning

3. The mindless collective called the voting public

To be brief, let’s again be honest with each other. You spent billions to get here. And not just for this race exclusively. You’ve been spending money hand over fist to reclaim what you feel is rightfully yours since ’06. And if you weren’t making money in a vast suburban basement operation somewhere in middle America, you certainly have some very wealthy benefactors with cash to spare who want you back in the driver’s seat. (Be careful. Those favors and promises are going to come faster than a fist full of Christmas bills in February). Reports appear to indicate that you outspent virtually every opponent in every race. So, like any winning sports team who can afford the best players…wait, sorry. That one doesn’t work. Even with the money spent – you don’t really have the best players. Ok – so, point one – money.

When we look at clever maneuvering and positioning, your manipulation of voting districts and voting laws really are to be admired. And the voting public, whom I’ll get to in a minute, really don’t seem to mind, or actually realize what’s going on around them. Let’s consider that they are so busy working to survive these days, that rezoning districts and such is just too much to bother with. The up here for you is that you developed a plan, you put it into place and it appears to have worked to your advantage. Cheers!

On this last point, I want it known that there are many people in the mindless collective called the voting public that I call good friends and family. Good people who get up every day to do the best they can to eek out a living on this earth and try to have some fun while doing it despite getting punched in the face everyday, just for trying. They carry the wealthy on their backs and seem happy to do it, if and when they get a little piece of the good life to make it all worth while. That said, collectively, the voting public is not very bright – and that is polite. They have no long-term memory. They have no real short-term memory. They are easily distracted by the shiny object and miss the big picture entirely. They are easily swayed by whomever has the biggest sign. More often than not, they just can’t be bothered.

Take my district as an example. We keep electing the same dunderheads over and over, but if you look at their records in congress, they have not successfully introduced or passed one major piece of functional legislation during their entire tenure. They make no waves. They vote the party line. Nobody knows who they are or what they do. The only thing they are really good at is getting re-elected and going to parades and mall openings. Because there is nothing to say they are doing a bad job, or to be more descriptive, any job at all, they are just good guys doing the right thing.

I do not blame you for taking advantage. People should be smart enough and dedicated enough to make informed voting decisions…and actually vote instead of naming each cheek and voting for the one that itches more.  So, the voting public absolutely gets what they deserve. As my grandfather use to say, ignorance is acceptance.

And this is not like the PTO. We can can’t count on a few dedicated people to be able to do the work of many for all. All to the point, you played it right. You swooped in during a lackluster mid-term election with your money and your big signs and your “don’t blame us, we haven’t done anything…really…nothing…in years,” script and got just enough of the right people to the voting place and here you are. Winners.

The big question now is, now what? Will you further deconstruct the middle class? Find a nice war to ramp up somewhere? Remove Obamacare from the face of the earth? Further reduce opportunities for women and the less fortunate? Your options are many, but I suspect your decisions are few…and have already been made. 1) Do nothing. Hey – who can criticize? It works. If you actually do nothing but spew rhetoric and get in the way of others, with patience, you get to win. But I suspect you have your eye on the bigger prize making 2) Take back the White House in 2016. Then you will control the planet and it will be so much easier for you to continue to do…nothing. But it won’t be your fault, or your problem. It’s what the people want right?

I wish you all the very best in the years to come. May all your wishes come true. And again, congratulations! Well played you crafty bastards. 🙂

Your Friend., Java

 

 

Kilt – Part II

“Omahookamobie!”

Kilt jerked awake as he pulled away from a giant mouth dripping with long strands of gooey saliva and filled with long, razor-sharp knives hanging down like fangs that stood above him, poised to snap his head clean off. The movement stirred the slumbering pain in his arm, or what was left of it. And it was only after his darting eyes confirmed that he was out of danger, that he allowed himself to drop his sweaty head slowly back to his pillow.

A slight, soft tap worked its way through the door of his hospital room, not so much a request for an entrance, but rather a polite announcement that the door was opening.

“Yes?” he said.

The door swung wide even before he responded to allow the nurse access. “Good morning, Misteeer…,” she said, searching for the right name and never looking up from her chart. “…Kilt,” she said, almost surprised. “Mr. Kilt. Hello. Good morning. I’m glad you’re awake. How are you feeling?”

The dull throb that seemed to come from the place where his left hand should have been generated new, and probably less than appropriate responses to the question of how he was feeling. Like a man who will be really good at swimming in circles and so on.

“Fine,” was all that worked it’s way to the surface. “O.k. Where am I?”

“You don’t remember?” the nurse asked, looking at him for the first time.

“I’m not sure.”

“Well, I don’t blame you, what with the storm and the amount of blood you lost and all,” she said quickly bringing up her chart and flipping back the first pages. “It says here, you were admitted after falling unconscious to the floor in the emergency room. It says,” she held the s as she flipped a couple more pages, “substantial blood loss due to…,” The nurse slowly leveled the chart to look at him closely. Her glance moved evenly from Kilt’s face to his left shoulder and then to the well bandaged stump of his left arm, cut pretty much at the elbow.

“…dog bite,” she finished bringing her gaze back to his. “Dog bite?”

Kilt lay there breaking a sweat in the heat of her stare. ‘I guess so,” he muttered.

“If you say so Mister Kilt,” she started, breaking the cold surveying look and getting about her tasks. “But if you ask me, that had to be one hell of a dog. Unless, of course, you have always been shy one arm and he just caught the tip,” she paused. “Not to be indelicate to your situation.”

Kilt looked down at his arm and raised it up a bit, despite the staunch objections from the rest of his cells that were working to begin the repair work of his injury. “No, I can assure you that a bit over 24 hours ago, old lefty here was happy as a clam in jam and ready to do whatever needed getting done.”

The nurse, Amanda Pike according to her name tag, checked the bandage, then quickly and efficiently took his temperature and his blood pressure – from his right arm – as unobtrusively as possible.

“Well, Mister Kilt, I can only imagine what kind of animal you were dealing with and what you might have done to him to make him want to bite your forearm and hand clean off.”

“Wait,” he said with a smirk. “What I did? Look, I’m all good with animals. Really. I’m like freaking Doctor Doolittle when it comes to animals. But this, this was…” His voice trailed off before he let himself slip, before he heard him say the words, because then it would make it real. Right now he was happy with dog bite. Hell, even a big dog bite. He had lost a lot of blood. It could have all been a delusion, a big, giant silly manifestation of something that couldn’t be.

“Yeah?” nurse Pike asked. “Are you saying it wasn’t a dog? Because that’s what I suspect. Your arm there, the doctor said it looked it came clean off. What dog can do that? And if it was a dog, you need to tell somebody. Because you can’t have something like that roaming around out there.”

Kilt swallowed hard. He could barely bring himself to muster the thought, much less utter the word. He stared down at the very real injury, throbbing in pain on his left side. Jesus. He slowly shook his head, pressed his lips together to prevent anything from slipping out and drew a deep breath to try and calm the pounding he felt now both in his chest and in what was left of his arm.

Amanda stood next to him, waiting for his response, but as he drew his breath in, she realized this was the end of the conversation…for now. She wasn’t clear on why she had such a yearning to know what really happened out there. Storms always brought in the crazies, and last night’s storm was a doozie.

Instinctively, she reached down to pull up his sheet and blanket and smooth the ends over the edges of the bed. “Don’t worry Mister Kilt. You are safe here. Doctor Blakewood did a great job of fixing you up. Your job now is to get some rest and to start feeling better.” She flipped through the pages of his chart again. “It looks like you are due for another round of pain medication. I’ll be right back.” She turned and let herself out.

Kilt continued to stare down at the stark white bandages. The throbbing pain continued to keep time with his heart, a bit slower now than a moment before, now that the conversation had ended. What kind of dog indeed. He closed his eyes, trying to remember, but not as hard as his expression might allow someone to think. The rain. The lightning. The thunder.

His head twitched with each refreshed vision.

The large, angry eyes. And yes…the teeth.

His eyes shot open and he stared again at the door to his room. No, not a dog. No dogs allowed in this nightmare. But how could he say…

“…dinosaur.”

 

 

My Test Results

Hey All:

My name is Jasper Radnits. I have just completed every single inane online Facebook, Pinterest, Yahoo, social media, email, whatever you can come up with “fun quiz” known to mankind. Every. Single. One.

Of course, some yutz out there, with more free time on his or her hands than should be legally allowed is probably churning up a whole new batch of meaningless, less than clever, not even mildly interesting drivel for the masses to waste even more time doing…and sharing. All with the veiled objective of sharing something about themselves, as if knowing what sort of root vegetable you are tells anyone anything about you. It’s gross.

And why, do you ask, would I take every single test available if I am so set against them?

To get it over with. To put aside the nagging and preposterous notion that I lack a sense of fun and playfulness that those who call themselves my associates think I need to have. To illustrate the absolute and vast nothing that the exercise accomplishes even with the most well intentioned set of questions meant to help us open up to and identify with those whom we call our friends. As if we, who are determined to be the same root vegetable, have a stronger link or association than those who are not.

But, in the interest of being an active player in the morass of social media noise and distraction, I offer you my friends, colleagues, lurkers, stalkers, passers-by and so on, a brief look inside the me I am, as defined by this long and unnecessary series of test results.

If you want to know me, know me as:

  • Root vegetable – Beet
  • Prince – Aladdin
  • Princess – Pocahontas
  • Mountain – Nanga Parbat
  • Mold spore – Aspergillus
  • Cereal – Frosted Flakes
  • Radial tire – Uniroyal
  • Classic figure from literature – Tartuffe
  • Famous symphony – Edvard Grieg Work: Symphony in C-minor, EG 119 (1864)
  • Ice cream – Rhubarb
  • Pie – Pumpkin-olive
  • Hobbit character – The Old Took
  • Matrix character – Dozer
  • Piece of construction equipment – nail gun
  • Titanic passenger name – Mr. R. L. Beckwith
  • I am 11 percent “girly”
  • I would last 84 minutes in a horror movie
  • European city I should live in – London
  • Kind of candy – Dots
  • Tattoo I should get – Full back art of Dirty Harry saying, “Do you feel lucky? Punk?”
  • Spirit animal – Vole
  • Mythical creature – Jibakurei
  • Boy Band – N’Sync
  • Type of chocolate – Carob
  • Under the bed lint shape – Washington crossing the Delaware
  • Kind of pizza – lemon pepperoni
  • I am 8 percent “cowboy”
  • I am 24 percent old fashioned
  • My patronus – Chipmunk
  • Indiana Jones character – Sallah
  • I do not practice proper etiquette
  • President – Millard Fillmore
  • Comic book hero – The Thing
  • I am 2 percent 70’s
  • My dog is well trained
  • I am not a cougar
  • Comfort food – Ring Dings
  • Popular soda – Ginger Ale
  • Classic TV Character – Lurch
  • Type of car I should drive – Camero
  • Horror monster – Jason Vorhees
  • I am 84 percent classy
  • State I should live in – Idaho
  • Favorite color – Burnt Sienna
  • I do not give a shit
  • I am 4 percent witty
  • I am very likely to regret this weekend
  • I Love Lucy Character – Ethel
  • Flintstone’s character – Mr. Slate
  • Jetson’s character – Elroy
  • Lost in Space character – robot
  • I’m more rubber duck than rubber chicken
  • I am more Ernie than Bert
  • I should have been born in the 40’s
  • Type of cookie – macaroon
  • I am the sad emoji
  • I have 12 screws loose
  • I am addicted to bacon
  • My celebrity mentor is Puff Daddy
  • Flower – Dandilion
  • My life is 42 percent awesome
  • I am left brained
  • I am more Sith than Jedi
  • International sandwich – Chip Butty
  • My dream job – Subway train operator
  • Type of beer – lager
  • I am 21 percent lovable
  • I will have 8 kids
  • Pro quarterback I should date – Andrew Luck
  • I am addicted to coffee
  • Late Night Host – Craig Ferguson
  • Word that describes me – buoyant
  • My nickname should be – Clarence
  • Number of people secretly ion love with me – 106
  • I am 28 percent nerdy
  • Wine I should be drinking right now – Champagne
  • My worst quality – I’m noble
  • Who will play me in the movie of my life – Wayne Knight
  • Kind of sea creature – King Crab
  • Language I should learn – Sanscrit
  • I was note a problem child
  • I dream of having two right feet
  • I am 74 percent chill
  • I am 53 percent cute
  • My dog is very awesome
  • Vacation I should take – Nebraska
  • I hate Justin Bieber
  • I should not be a nudist
  • I am a country bumpkin
  • Classic rock band – Average White Band
  • The ancient civilization that suits me best – Aztec
  • I am 0 percent Kardashian
  • Who I was in a past life – Elsworth J. Kimitz
  • Seriously, why are you still reading this?

Kilt – Part I

Paul Kilt stumbled through the double glass doors of the emergency room, dizzy, no… light-headed, still moderately coherent…luckily, and clutching the plush towel over the end of his newly stumped left forearm. The lights, while flickering due to the growing storm outside, were still bright enough to make him squint as he took a deep breath and forged on toward the customer intake desk.

Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen steps to the welcomed support of the faux marble countertop and a certain measure of prevention from landing face first on the floor.

His counting steps was something he had done for as long as he could remember. His trying to keep his face from smacking the floor with any ferocity, and losing consciousness, was something he tried to keep from doing since college.

On sixteen, he hit the counter hard and leaned onto it with his full weight, puffing out  heavy bursts of air to match the effort. He let his head rest softly on the window as his breath splashed itself across the glass in small, temporary waves of condensation. His head swam. His arm throbbed. His legs quivered. He was sweating and shivering all at the same time as his resistance to giving into shock started to falter.

“Off the counter and on the line please.”

The voice was heavy, gritty, and colored by age, countless cigarettes, a measure of malt whiskey and fair amount of contempt for those she spent her eight-hour work shifts attending to.

“I’m sorry?” he muttered, still trying to catch his breath.

A burly hand reached across and slid the visitor window open with an air of authority.

“Incoming patients must stay off the glass, stay off the counter and stay on the line. We will get to you as soon as possible.” The hand then slid the glass pane shut.

Paul rolled his head along the glass to where he could see the floor, blurry, but still. “Ha!” he thought. There was a line of tape on the floor about a foot away from the counter. Go figure.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I would… love to step back to the line there…the one you have on the floor, really, I would. But I…”

The window slid open again, fast and loud. The business end of a clipboard emerged. “Due to the storm, our computer system is down. Complete the top portion of the information sheet remembering to add your full name, the name of your insurance carrier, insurance group number, family history, any allergies and what brings you to the emergency room tonight. Then have a seat and we will call you when we’re ready.”

He blinked hard to see the end of the clipboard that protruded from the glass partition. It hung in mid air, waiting for him to take it and his place among the others who had brought themselves here for an evening of gentle care and healing.

“Sir?” The floating clipboard jutted out a couple of times indicating a sense of urgency.

He looked down at the death grip his right hand had on the towel, grown damp now from the mix of rain and blood. His subtle laugh forced a tiny hiccup through his body which sent a fresh shiver of pain into his left arm. “Uh…,” he managed through the wince. “I can’t…I’m not really in a position to…”

The clipboard hung in the air for a moment longer and then, ever so slowly, receded back to disappear behind the glass.

“Name?” the gruff voice asked, but he heard it as “nay-MAH!”

“Paul”

“Middle initial?”

“T.”

“Last name.”

“Kilt.”

“Killed?”

“No, Kilt. K-I-L-T.”

“Like the dress.”

“No,” he shifted again, hoping to ease the throbbing coming from the wound. “And it’s not a dress. It’s a traditional garment worn by men dating back to the 16th century and originating in the Scottish Highlands.” He had explained his name so many times in response to the “dress” question that even in his debilitated state, it just rolled off his tongue.

The elongated pause that followed reflected what he was certain to be the deep soul-searching on the part of the emergency room representative as she considered whether or not she would take this any further because she, most assuredly, was not paid enough to “deal with this kinda shit.”

“Address,” complete with an exaggerated hiss of “sss.”

“67 North Algiers Drive, Cardington proper.”

“Phone number.”

His vision started to blur further, as his head grew heavy. The voice seemed to come from farther and farther away.

“Phone number,” the request came more stern this time.

“Three.”

“Excuse me? Ugh. Do you have your insurance card Mr. Kilt?”

“Forgot…to…grab it.”

Another pause allowed him to hear more clearly the pounding that was starting to build in his ears.”

“Reason for your visit this evening?”

This time, the pause was his. Not so much for payback as he was trying to stifle throwing up. “Bleeding…to…death,” he managed. “And…the allure…of…good company.”

“Cause of injury, Mr. Kilt.”

He tried hard not to laugh. It hurt too much. His eyes traced his surroundings back and forth as if he might never see anything ever again and he was taking it all in. He felt himself slipping away from the counter and into the nothingness that was both the air of the emergency room and the darkness of being unconscious. And in that very last moment of lucidity, he giggled, “dog bite.”

 Subscribe in a reader

Boys – Part XIII

The beast stepped forward and leaned in on Taddy, forcing him to inch back further into Gunther, pushing him enough that it caused the other boy to moan. It’s skin was red and taught like Carlo Farinni’s The Burned Man from 1967, but this…creature was much bigger.

He moved his face close enough to the boy that Taddy could smell the foulness of its breath; a mixture of sour fish, bad milk, garbage and earth. And still, it was the eyes, that caused the boy the greatest amount of discomfort. Deep black and gleaming, yet hollow as if looking into a well where there was no way to tell where the bottom started, if there was one.

“Your friend is useless to me,” the beast said. “He lacks a certain…quality that I require for what I have in mind. He reached his hand forward and placed it on the boy’s head. “I need someone, with courage, someone with strength, someone with…spunk.”

The last word sprayed from the beast’s mouth and into his face causing him to flinch and making his stomach turn, even worse than the time Cody Trentwell spit on him just because he could. The hand on his head sent a trickle of energy through his body, making his skin tingle and his fingers flinch.

“I need someone, who is… ,” the beast continued as he searched and probed. “…healthy. And…you…will…do…nicely!”

The beast moved faster than Taddy could imagine. Before he knew what was going on, his head was clamped between two giant hands. The initial trickle of energy jumped to a sizable pulse that forced him to quiver and jerk. He bit down hard and his eyes rolled up into his head as the energy surge grew and grew.

Once again, the beast felt the energy exchange of the transformation rage through his entire being, albeit slower than before. He never had to initiate the transformation twice in such a short period of time before. And he was already diminished by the ones who came before. If this didn’t work, it would be eons before he would have the strength and the fortitude to try again.

Despite being slower, this new vessel was already proving to be superior, absorbing his energy like a rag soaking up blood.

Taddy twitched and jumped as the heat filled him. The sensation of burning from the inside out was too much. He wanted to scream. He needed to scream but the hands that held his head covered him almost so completely the he could barely move, but less scream. And still, the energy seemed to transform him. The beast before him seemed to diminish in some way. He felt as if he were almost growing…gaining strength against what was before him.

“Sooooon,” the voice of the beast purred, but not like he was speaking. Taddy felt the voice in his own head. His hands clenched as he tried to fight back from inside. A new pain sprung up from his back.

“AAAAAAAAAARRRRGH!”

The beast recoiled, as the flow of energy dropped. Taddy felt the grip on him loosen. Another sharp pain shot into his back. And yet another shot into his thigh and again into his back.

“You can’t have him!” a voice cried, part howl, part shriek. “You can’t have him! He’s broken! He’s BROKEN!”

The beast’s hands released Taddy as he fell backward along the ridge of hole in the backyard.

Taddy dropped to the ground and  onto his stomach. Shaking, Gunther slowly pulled the kitchen knife from Taddy’s back. The blood mixed with the rain that started to creep back into the beast once commanded.

Gunther sobbed as he let the knife fall to the ground. “He’s broken. He’s broken. He’s broken.”

The beast lay on the ground, breathing heavily, yet still clawing at the dirt reaching for the boys. Taddy was right. He was smaller. He looked frail and grey and old. He fought for inches with determination and rage. If he could not transform, then he would certainly take these two to where they would suffer…immeasurably.

Taddy rolled over in great pain to where Gunther sat. “C’mon,” he said grabbing onto his friend. “We gotta go.”

The two helped each other up wincing and groaning, but making progress.

The beast continued to scratch and claw.

Taddy tried to lead Gunther away, but with a renewed burst of energy, Gunther broke free and stood watching the beast.

With what was left of his energy, the beast lunged to grab the defiant boy, but fell short.

Gunther kicked out hard and caught the beast in the head, forcing him to tumble back into the hole from which he emerged.

The ground shook, forcing the boys to steady each other again. The orange-yellow light diminished as the crack sealed leaving little more than a puff of smoke to show it ever existed. And that was soon washed away by a fresh torrent of wind and rain.

– THE END –

Boys – Part XII

The energy exchange of the transformation raged through his entire being and into the small human body. It was delicious. Already he could feel the a new sense of life as he forced his essence into the vessel.

Then, like a fast speeding car being tossed into reverse, he hitched. The energy flow crackled and popped in his head. His breath caught he gasped for more air.

The little body before him, began to seize. The legs shook and quivered up into the midsection causing a tremor up into his hands where he held the head firmly down to the altar. The connection allowed him to search, something he should have done before he started the transference, but he right sense fell victim to his eagerness, his growing weariness and the prospect of rejuvenation so close.

Through the connection, he saw concussion, broken bones, bleeding…injuries substantial enough that the transformation would only exacerbate the problems and make the new vessel a very short -term option, if now viable at all.

“AAAARGH!” He screamed, pulling his hands from the boy’s head and stumbling backwards. “He’s broken!”

Dizzy and gasping at breath, his eyes landed on the Calligar. “HE’S BROKEN!”

He reached out toward the beast from the depths, the one who secured the vessel to begin with and who stood by to protect them both and ensure the transformation was completed. His arm shook as it flexed with power that rippled down to his clenching fist and he released it at the creature who exploded into flame and ash, once mighty and powerful, now pushed back down into the earth by pounding droplets of rain.

He stumbled again with a rage so thick and complete that he saw little else but more fire. He swung an arm backward knocking the altar askew and sending the once to be great host to the ground and back into the mud.

Broken. Human. Filth!

He reached down for the boy with the intent of tearing him into oh, so many parts and pieces. The boy struggled to move, propping himself up onto his elbows in a lackluster effort to crawl away to safety.

He reached down to exact the punishment for being broken when a scream came from the darkness.

In a full-out sprint, Taddy screamed from the moment he pushed away from the side of the house to the moment he leapt at the creature. It was all his brain would allow. It was everything he needed to express.

With the kitchen knife held tight in both hands held high above his head, he jumped and swung the knife down in one fluid motion, catching the red flesh of the beast and sinking the blade deep and to the hilt.

The beast raised his arm and howled as much from shock and surprise as from pain. What is this? And, how dare he?

Breathing hard Taddy, held on to the knife handle for dear life. There was no plan. At least nothing beyond getting Gunther and getting him to safety…whatever that meant.

He felt himself being lifted from the ground and brought to dangle in front of the beast’s eyes.

“What is this?”

“Let him go,” Taddy yelled, strong even though he realized he has started to cry. “Let him go! Leave him alone!”

The beast shook his arm once, then twice before the boy fell free and scurried across the ground to where his friend lay in the mud. He reached over with his hand and plucked the knife from his forearm. He turned it before him to assess the weapon this new boy had come to fight with and found it woefully underwhelming.

“This boy,” the beast said, his voice dark and filled with gravel. “He is your…’friend?'”

Taddy nodded aggressively, while backing closer to Gunther who was still trying to crawl away.

“And you wish to…’save’ him?”

Taddy nodded again, stirring his courage and wiping at his nose with his arm.

“With…this?” The beast flicked the knife at the boy, who scuttled away to avoid being hit as it landed in the dirt at his feet.

The boy looked down at knife. The blade glowed with reflection of the orange light still beaming up from the hole in the earth. It looked so very small. So much smaller than he ever imagined. Slowly he traced his vision up from the knife and into the eyes of the new beast. His heart beat filled his chest as if it too were trying to escape. Slowly the air slipped out of his lungs. His shoulders dropped as his hands clenched into the grass.

Shit.

 

Boys – Part XI

The nauseating sound of tearing sod, breaking rock and dripping mud rose up from the center of the backyard.
Beams of bright ogange-yellow light shot from the crack in the earth.

The rumble in the ground made it difficult for Taddy to stand. Using the house for balance, he forced himself up, but held close to the side as if standing on a cliff. As the crack expanded, more light reached into the darkness. It was a little easier to see,a s if his bad movie form before had been colorized. It was also, he gathered, easier to be seen. The minotaur thing stood at near attention behind the make-shift table where Gunther lay barely moving.

With his hands and back pressed against the siding, Taddy could feel the shaking in the ground slow, then fade, then stop. The falling rain, accented by a burst of wind were the only sounds now and that settled in for the moment as the new standard in calm.

He rose slowly, up from the crack in the earth and into the sweet air of the surface leaving the earthen stench of sweat and decay behind him. He breathed in slowly and deliberately, savoring not only this moment, but relishing the promise of what was to come.

The elements of the moment proved to be a minor distraction and with a wave of his hand, the wind and the rain no longer dare enter his arena of destiny. It still came down of course, all around him and with great determination, but where he stood and where he willed, nary a drop would fall. Not ideal, of course. Even moving the rain took extra energy, but with the next transformation so close, it seemed trivial not make the scene as pleasing as possible.

He looked around slowly to find most was to his liking. The Calligar stood at the ready having prepared the altar, haphazardly it seemed, yet functional to its purpose. He stepped closer. His breath caught for a moment at the sight of the new vessel, young, fresh, some would say innocent to the hard ways of the world, and most certainly, the underworld.

He leaned over the boy, raised a large eager hand and clumsily mopped away the residue of rain from the small face, careful enough not to cut the tender flesh with his razor edged nails. Placing his hands on either side of the boy’s head, he moved them in slowly, nearly engulfing the smaller human skull. And from that first touch, he felt the connection, a direct line created.

He threw his head back, taking in another full, fresh breath and released the push, the flow of his energy and his essence into his new mortal body.

The new pressure on Gunther’s head was like a hammer to the skull, igniting once more the splitting pain and fire, but there was something more. He had no words, but he grew hot, burning from the inside out as if he were being filled with lava. Boiling energy surged into him making it harder to breath or to move and yet when his eyes shot open, Gunther began to scream.

With the new light, Taddy watched the new beast rise up from the hole in the ground as if on a small elevator. He stretched hard, reaching full into the sky much like Taddy had seen his dad do after “watching the game” on a lazy Saturday afternoon. He watched it all unfurl before him, while he stood, pressed against the house, just a casual observer waiting for the next commercial.

In his head, a new mantra rose up to consume what was left of his processing power, “OHMYGOD, OHMYGOD, OHMYGOD…” He never really heard the words. The words weren’t meant to form a message. It was just habit tied to panic tied to disbelief that set off the whirring engine of noise.

Then he heard the scream.

Gunther’s voice, ripped and ragged with terror and pain cut through all the noise, leaving his mind vacant and white for one hot second. The next message came in clear as a bell, “Go!” Without another thought, he pulled the kitchen knife from his belt and tore off for the altar.

Boys – Part X

Taddy, in a full-out tear, slipped into the muck as he breached the corner of the house. As he went down, the lightning flare revealed the full figure of a beast he had only seen bits and pieces of so far. The flickering light held off the dark and the sheeting rain just long enough for him to see the thing drop Gunther, quite unceremoniously, to the ground. It pulled its head back and let out a roar that mixed with a crack of deafening thunder.

“Dammit.”

Lingering flashes of residual lightning made the scene across the lawn look like something from a grainy and poorly maintained monster movie. Taddy worked to keep the water from his eyes, squinting and wiping the pelting drops from his eyes as he willed himself to see deeper into the cheap looking animation that played out before him. Gunther rolled slowly to his side mere yards away as…that thing stood over him and howled.

The creature, reminded him of the giant minotaur from Stanley Kaldon’s 1956 classic, Labyrinth of the Damned. Big and ugly and likely surrounded by the smell of death.

The Calligar screamed into the dark thunder, calling his master. It’s head whipped to the left and right, its large black eyes searching for the right tools to make the offering. A large pole stood, stuck in the ground just behind him and next to a small table that would serve him well. It’s massive hands reached out and grabbed the pole, immediately pulling and shaking it free from the wet, muddy ground. He raised it over his head and then, holding it like a giant bat is his hands. He raised the pole a bit more before bringing it down fast and hard.

The pole came down so close to Gunther’s head that he could feel the wind it made followed by the earthy stench of the deep ground. He flinched raising both a dizzying fire in his head and a sharp breath catching pain in his chest. Broken rib flashed through his mind, quickly followed by broken ribs, every last one of them of them for all he knew. The monster stepped away and he tried to raise his head.

Without really knowing it Taddy slipped closer to the outside wall of his house and started inching along the foundation line trying to see and trying to stay hidden. If he could get to Gunther while that thing was distracted, they might make it out of this mess. As best as he could tell, Gunther was alive. He was moving a bit and he held onto that. The rain didn’t help but he was certain he could hear the other boy breathing. Well, wheezing anyhow.

The beast had forced the pole deep into the ground, much deeper than when he pulled it out. If Gunther stood up at tat moment it would probably rise up just above his head. The Calligar had stepped back to grab the flat surface which was, Gunther knew, the bulk of Taddy’s family’s backyard picnic table. He spun and raised the table up, setting the flat top of the table down onto the pole. He began lashing the two together with the ropes and wire he pulled off the nearby drying rack. Once he finished, he stepped back throwing another earth-shattering howl into the rainy sky.

The howl forced Taddy to pull into himself, covering his hears and hoping the sound of the rain covered any whimper his fear and surprise may have generated. A line from Souls on Mystery Island spoke to him, “I’d pay cash money on the dot, to get that thing to shut up.”

Underneath him, Gunther could feel the ground tremble ever so slightly beneath him. How sensitive he was, he wondered in the fog of his head. He didn’t know how the ground could be trembling, especially with all the rains coming down, still…he knew. And the very, very soft tremble began to grow, up into a full shake at least until…

The Calligar reached down and seized upon the legs of the little one. He dragged his prize through the dirt and raised him up before slapping him down upon the table contraption, the…altar, he created with the pole and the small table. Gunther landed hard, like the next cartoon fish in a monger’s shop. He whimpered and tried to recoil from the pain, but everything was pain, there no other way to respond.

Taddy noticed the ground shaking now. He pressed his hands against and into the wet grass to make sure. The shaking grew more intense and the sound of the shifting earth began to roar up canceling the voice of the rain. He looked from the ground back to the alter just in time to see the ground just below Gunther spilt open.