Tag Archives: writing

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.

 

 

 

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 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.”

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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.

Boys – Part IV

Video Hell spewed gore, blood, screams and horror down upon the boys from the large flashing screen. 

The two stared, wide-eyed and unblinking. The knots in their stomachs, visceral responses to images they had never seen, and could never imagine before. The vivid colors and sounds raised the level of their education, by exposing them to the broader notion that true evil may actually lurk behind close doors and in thick shadows, and that true evil was angry and merciless.

The flickering lights and sounds from the screen joined with the brilliant flashes of lighting from the raging storm that began its romp through Cardington. Waves of rain raked the roof, at times making the television hard to hear.

Unknowingly, the boys had inched closer to each other and enlisted the potential protective powers of their sleeping bags by having them at the ready, should the need to pull them over their heads arise. The converted attic seemed smaller somehow. Close.

“My God, Brock,” said the soon to be unraveled character Sally Moon. “What are they? What are those things?”

“I’m not sure,” said Brock Addams, or hero for the moment. “I remember Spoons saying something about the mouth of Hell or whatever, before … well, all Hell broke loose. He said something about the creatures who guard it or something. I’m thinking these might be whatever those are.”

“Riiight,” said Sally, “But they didn’t guard it. I remember him saying something like, should the mouth of Hell open, the first wave of terror to descend upon humanity would be the, the…ugh. I can’t remember.”

“Corgoons, Corgons, Corlons …” Brock said quickly, as he tried to jumpstart his memory.

“Cordallits!” said Sally. “Should the mouth of Hell open, the first wave of terror to descend upon humanity would be the Cordallits, a mindless army of Hell bound beasts that kill without compassion and without remorse. They have one goal and that is to rid the world of those who stand the path of the Master’s return.”

“Cordallits,” said Brock. “That’s it.”

“How many of them are there do you think? What do we do?” asked Sally.

“Pull it together, Sally,” Brock snapped. “I remember now.” He walked to a giant closet and swung open the doors. “Spoons said there’s only one way to kill a Cordallit, and that is…”

BOOM!

The blinding flash of light and explosive thunder happened virtually simultaneously. It was loud enough and strong enough that it shook the whole house beneath them.

The blast took everything, but the thrashing sound of the relentless rain attacking the attic roof. Brock and Sally evaporated into the darkness. The attic went from close to claustrophobic.

Two hands reached blindly for each other in the darkness. A minor dash of relief pulsed through them as they touched, quickly replaced by panic as they clenched.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaah!”

Boys

Gunther Reef and Taddy Markum might have been Cardington’s most likely pair of best friends. They met, unofficially, in Cardington Memorial’s maternity ward, when fate placed them side by side in the viewing room after being born a day a part from each other.

They met officially in kindergarten. Due to Gunther’s preoccupation with tiny metal robot toys and Taddy’s incessant drawing, it was three days in before they actually connected. It could also be said that fate played a strong hand in their association, for the occasion of their connection, the spark as it were, was a shared deep, rolling on the floor type belly laugh generated when Cassidy Lombeck dropped her glasses in the class fish tank.

All the elements were there. Both Gunther and Taddy had independently come to the conclusion that Cassidy Lombeck was a snob. She hovered over that fish tank like she owned it. She took great pride in telling everyone everything she knew about aquariums and fish and such because her Daddy told her it was so when they got a fish tank at home. Which, of course, was much bigger and better than this.

Cassidy was holding court at the tank on the morning of that third day. It so happened that the boys were in proximity to each other, not by design, but by happenstance.

First, Cassidy explained the proper way to feed the fish to prevent them from over eating, getting sick and possibly exploding. It was a delicate balance she liked to say and her hands moved with a fluid grace as she demonstrated her technique.

After the feeding lesson, Cassidy explained to her curious onlookers that if you wanted the fish to like you, you needed to talk to them. The best time to talk to the fish of course is when they’re eating because it brings them closer to the surface and they can hear you better. Duh.

Despite the grace she displayed while feeding the fish, her method of establishing communication was less so. The table on which the aquarium sat was sturdy but high and Cassidy needed to step up on a chair to look up and over the edge so that she might share her wisdom with the lesser creatures. When the eager to watch and wanting learn Orlan Phibbs stepped a little too close, a little too fast, he jostled Cassidy, forcing her to jerk in a way that saved her balance and avoided toppling the aquarium, but launched her glasses into the air.

It was enough of a commotion that the boys turned from their respective hobbies to watch as the pair of glasses lifted off the girl’s grimacing face. They floated and spun in mid-air for what seemed like a long slow motion movie shot before descending with a plop into the water. The moment of hilarity was not so much the glasses hitting the water, their long slow, swirling decent to the bottom of the tank, or the look of complete terror and rage that contorted Cassidy’s face.

Rather, the glasses landed in such a way that, from the boy’s perspective, when Rascal, a Black Demecin swam into the lens, it made his already large and bulbous eye appear cartoonishly enormous and somewhat expressive.

After watching the action unfold before them, they turned to face each other, as sometimes people do, they caught each other’s gaze and burst into speechless laughter. The fact that the first outburst forced a glob of snot from Gunther’s nose, which landed squarely on the toe of Mary Hasting’s shoe, bumped the laughter level up from holding your sides funny to silent, hard to catch a breath, tears dripping from your eyes hysteria.

Once they figured out that they lived three slight blocks away from each other, they became virtually inseparable. Not in a “peas in a pod” or a “two sides of the same coin” kind of way. There were definable differences between them. But, their friendship grew from the basis on which it started, a silent common understanding, a way of communicating beyond the standard surface chat, and in many ways, unknown to them at the time, a certain admiration and respect.

On the night of the storm, when it was still just large weather pattern far off to the west, the boys were setting up for a night of monsters and snacks in the converted attic of the Markum house. Both sets of parents were set to be out for the night and agreed, that if they boys could be responsible they could stay alone together without someone to watch them.

Of course they could. They were in the seventh grade now and practically invincible. Plus, as Taddy’s mother pointed out only about fifteen times, the number for Mrs. Krepp’s from next door was on the fridge if they needed anything.

It was all they could do to contain themselves as the cars drove off in the night, with the boys waving vigorously from the large bay window in the Markum’s front room.

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Eulogy

Calvert Jennings gripped the edge of the lectern. He looked up into the moderate crowd of mostly strangers, strangers to him anyway. He supposed that, while still on the younger side, in his mind, this sort of thing would start happening more often, but he hoped the opportunity to play this role would be rare.

“Friends and family of Cranston Bink, thank you for being here today and thank you for this opportunity to speak on Cranston’s behalf.”

He paused, needing a deeper breath due to the weight of the moment.

“I’ve known Bink most of my life. Although our paths moved us near and far and near again, we kept in touch loosely over the years and when we were able to get together, we usually picked right up where we left off, as if I had just seen him the day before.”

A slight smile came to him.

“Bink would probably hate this. Those of you who knew him well, knew that he didn’t stand on ceremony. He liked things to happen organically. He thought if people really wanted to celebrate, or react to something, they should be able to drop everything and do so. He would say that celebrations rarely happen organically because there is always someone somewhere who feels the need to organize. They would want to make it an event and it would be something bigger than it needed to be. Organization takes time and planning, and time and planning tend to kill genuine impulse, genuine joy. Celebrations should not be events, he would say. Events become more about the planner than the occurrence.

While tragic for us, Bink is probably happy that his passing came at a time where people who really knew him could gather and reflect upon the joys of his existence. He told me once that he feared getting too old, because when you’re too old and you die, there is nobody left to speak for you…the real you. Rather, if you get someone to stand up for you, it’s generally a canned speech from someone who sees you as an assignment, something on a to-do list before they wash their hands and go home for dinner, or get a drink, or to take their kid to soccer practice.

Being properly represented was important to him. You know that in talking to him, he worked to make himself clear and that there was a rationale that drove him, and a sense of self-image he felt comfortable working with.

As I look at you, I sense some of you may still be a little tender about some of the things he said about God, about religion. One of the last things he said to me was that he hoped you understood where he was coming from. It’s not an apology. It’s just more reflective of who he was. However, since he was likely going away, he didn’t want to leave on ill terms. His words.

You see, not being religious himself, an offer of prayer, while heartfelt and genuine for you, was for him a failure in his ability to communicate with you his feelings and needs without trampling on yours.

He knew that a sense of faith is something deep inside people. He knew he could no more ask someone, or expect someone, to turn off his or her prayer mindset, than he could not tell a joke. But he felt that if you really knew him and respected who he was as a person, there would never be a prayer between you. For him, that was OK. While he would take all the good energy and good thoughts you might throw his way, he had very little use for someone’s prayers.

It might be semantics. Maybe prayers are just another way of sharing good energy, but he liked to say that reaching out to some far great beyond for assistance is like bringing a mediator into your negotiations for buying a new car. Why do you need the middleman? You’ll get to where you need to be eventually, and you’ll be stronger for the journey. He thought it diminished the direct link between you and I know he got a lot from you all directly in those last few weeks. It was your being there, your energy that helped him through to the end.

Bink was a moral man. He was a smart man. He had a nearly unshakable faith in himself, a confidence that many of us might envy.

I don’t know where you go after this. Bink and I had many long discussions on the matter. We got no closer to a final resolution than we are today. We thought once the best heaven was where you got to go be your favorite character from your favorite movie, so it’s quite possible that there is a new Han Solo galloping around the galaxy, fighting the good fight.

To close, one of the last things Bink and I talked about before he faded into sleep was how much he enjoyed the ride. That even the dull, drudgery of the day-to-day, held within it glorious sunsets and magical full moons, flowers and laughter and snow and handshakes, fresh fruit and hugs. The world is magic if you know where to look. And it can be depressing and hard, but it can also be made easier just by saying so.

He does not want you to leave here in tears. He wants you to leave here with hope and a smile. And when we’re done here, he wanted me to tell you to all go out and get a sandwich and enjoy being together.”

Membership

Because it looked a bit on the disgusting side, Den took two towels and draped them over the stationary bicycle. With the bulk of the seat covered, he moved on to the handle and display. Because of the odd way the bike sat, it took about four towels to get it right. He used two more towels to cover any other visible portion of the machine, save for the pedals and any other moving bits. It would not do good to have any of the cloth getting caught up somewhere.

“Damn,” he said.

“Can I help you sir?” The staff representative at the Bright Morning Health Club and Juice Bar startled him.

“Yes,” Den said, not really looking up from his work. “It seems I’ve run out of towels. Could you go get me about four more.”

“Sir, it looks like you already have a fair number of towels.”

Den stopped and finally looked at the young man standing before him. He had a light blue polo shirt, khaki shorts, white socks and sneakers. He wore a name badge that identified the youth both as “Stanley” and as an “Honor Associate.”

“Ah…Stanley is it?” Den said. Stanley nodded. “How does the club here define a fair number of towels?”

“Sir?”

“Simple question Stanley. You said I have a fair number of towels. How is that defined?”

“I’m not sure specifically,” Stanley said slowly and with a modicum of hesitance, sort of like how one might approach a strange animal. “Most people use one or two.”

“Ah. Very good. Do you know how long I’ve been coming to this club?”

“No, sir.”

“I’ve been a paying member of this club for three years. I’ve paid my dues regularly and on time. This is, however, only the second time I’ve ever set foot in this place. The reasons are not important. I get busy. I forget. I have other things to do. The list goes on and on. The main point is, now that I’m here, I feel I deserve a little of what I have been paying for. Does that sound fair?”

“Yes, sir”

“Good. Now the way I see it, using your example, my being a member here allows me access to, let’s say two towels per visit. I imagine an average member might come here three times a week. Over a year that is 156 visits. Over my three-year membership that would be 468 visits. Take away the one time I’ve already been here and that leaves 467. Multiply that by a standard two towel a visit limit and you could say I am due the use of 934 towels.”

“Yes, sire, but that’s…”

“Ridiculous, right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Of course it is. I’m not sure you have over 900 towels available. But if I were to demand them, I would certainly be within my rights as a paid member to use the facilities as I see fit within the rules as they were established. Is there written rule that indicates a limit on towels, Stanley?”

“No, sir. Not that I’m aware of.”

“Do you want to start bringing me out over 900 towels Stanley?”

“I’d rather not sir.”

“I thought not. If you think about it, another half a dozen towels or so doesn’t seem so crazy now, does it?”

“No, sir…if you put it that way.”

“Very good young man, now off you go! Bring me, let’s say, an even dozen towels and we’ll call it a day.”

“Yes, sir.”

Access Denied

Dink entered the passcode multiple times daily, for over a year now. He had probably entered the code over a million times if he took the time to count them. It was automatic. His fingers knew it better than he did. The password box popped up, his fingers did the walking and boom – he was in. So when the words, “Access Denied” popped onto his screen, he froze…confused.

He thought for a second as he looked down at the keyboard. He brought his hand up and typed in his passcode again, a little slower than the last time – just in case.

Access Denied.

Dink looked at his hand and moved his fingers quickly in a rippling motion as if to wake them up. He punched the passcode in again with deliberate intent and recited the change of letters and numbers in his head as he went. As right as it all was in his mind, it felt off.  He was doing it wrong.

He went over the code in his head. Everything was right, but it wasn’t. Somewhere his finger drifted or he transposed something. He had all the elements, but he popped them in wrong. Of course, he knew the passcode. It was silly to think he didn’t, but it was so automatic, so habitual that he barely paid attention. And now…

He stared at the keyboard. His thoughts grew cloudy. Did he really just forget his passcode? A tiny wave of panic rippled over him, not because he couldn’t access his system, but more because of the utter ridiculousness of the situation. He used to have the passcode written down, when he first got, but that was a long time ago and that sticky note was long gone.

He took out a pad of paper and wrote the code down. That was it. No, it wasn’t. Something was wrong with it. He pecked at the keyboard again, slowly just in case his fingers were so fat and clumsy that he really didn’t type the characters in correctly the first several times.

Access Denied.

Ridiculous! He just typed the very same stupid code into the very same machine not an hour ago, and with great success! He crumpled up the small page and tossed it into the bin.

He tried again. Access Denied. Unbelievable.

He squelched the desire to punch the keyboard. It wasn’t its fault, but this was silly and frustrating and stupid.

He rubbed his hands together and closed his eyes, part trying to clear his mind of the near endless combinations of numbers that swirled with in and part just to calm down and focus. He thought back to an hour ago. He had just come back from the bathroom. He set his energy drink to his left. He sat down.  He cracked his knuckles as he pulled up to his keyboard, moved his cursor into the passcode box and typed in…

Dink held his breath for a moment as he let his hand move to the keys. He hoped the muscle memory would help cool his frustrations. His fingers tapped the keys before him and while not minutes ago the movements seemed foreign and out of place, this time the flow seemed right. Not wanting to jinx it, he let the fingers finish. He opened his eyes, breathed and pushed enter.

“Welcome back, Dink!”

Duh! Of course!

Not pausing to savor the sigh of relief escaping from him, Dink reached for a sticky note. He scribbled down the passcode and locked in his front desk drawer, just in case.

Time

The quiet settled in, really set in, to the point where you could hear it for the first time since they left.

Devlin eased himself back into his chair and closed his eyes. The visits were growing fewer and farther between. He noticed it mostly after his Marie passed. It was partly the time and the sense of sadness he was sure, but also because everyone was getting older and working to control the things in their own lives that often steer people far away to places unknown.

Wrapped in the quiet, he played his favorite moments of the long weekend over in his head, creating memories like photographs he hoped he could recall later, their faces, their smiles, their laughter.  Not just the images, but the warmth as well. He drew a deep breath and smiled.

The laughter was good, so were the hugs, but the laughter was like medicine, especially from the small ones.

He didn’t want a pall of sadness to settle over their visits, so he tried his best to compensate for Marie’s absence, though he was admittedly lost in the kitchen.

He looked over at that last family portrait, the one where Dex insisted in using his “TV smile,” and Alex, who at the time insisted on being called, “Jayne” because it was more grown up.  They never had another one done. They talked about it, but it never happened. He studied the faces, the eyes. He missed them already.

Where does the time go?

Trigger

As he passed the cafeteria on his way to his next morning meeting, Miller caught a whiff of tomato soup and was instantly transported back to the days of his youth.

Tomato soup was at the top of the menu the day he ended up in principal Murphey’s office for the epic explosion that resulted from a single bad idea, an ill-timed execution of that idea, vast over-reactions everyone and then some and the unfortunate, and untimely demise of Mrs. Krenner’s 5th grade class mascots, the hamsters Jenny and Crouton. May they rest in peace.

He worked to block a lot of that day from his memory and after all this time some of the details were starting to get hazy, but the smell of that tomato soup brought it all crashing back.

He remembered the way he was escorted to Mrs. Murphey’s office surrounded by four of Kirkdale Elementary’s larger teachers as if he were enemy number one. He seems to recall they were all armed with yardsticks.

They had to pass the kitchen on the way, and he recalls time slowing up for a moment as they walked by the door. His brief sideways glance allowed him to catch a glimpse of the secret inner workings of the school lunchroom.

Two women were emptying large cans of tomato soup into what seemed like an enormous vat. The woman directing the activity, whom he will forever remember as Olga – even if that was not her name – stirred the cauldron with a gigantic spoon, slowly and deliberately. He remembered her catching his gaze between the orders she barked out to her minions and it was a stare he felt deep in his chest as if a cold hand was squeezing his heart.

Thud

There was a loud thud, followed by silence.

Chince looked up from his book and gave the room a quick once over. Nothing drew his attention. He was alone in the room. Everything was as it was before the thud, but at the moment everything seemed just a touch quieter. He froze for a moment wondering if everything was all right or if he should investigate. Chester had been up in the attic for nearly an hour. It was a warm day, but it was always warmer in the attic.

Chince listened to the quiet, squinting a bit as if that would make him hear better.

A sudden scraping noise cut the silence followed by another profound thud. Then, an exuberant exclamation of the name of our lord and savior and the wish that he condemn all things to Hell rose into the air from above him.

Chince sat a bit longer. If Chester needed help, he would ask right? He closed his book and laid it softly on the end table. He listened to the returned quiet, squinting and moving his eyes back and forth a bit like a cartoon spy.

“Dammit to Hell!” came another roar from above.

Chince looked up. “Are you all right?” he called out.

Silence.

He sat up a bit and inched to the edge of his chair. “Chester?”

“WHAT?!” Chester’s voice, muffled a bit by the layers of the house, rained down upon him dripping with frustration. Another thud rang out to which Chester responded with an even more frustrated, “DAMMIT!”

“ARE YOU ALL RIGHT?” Chince called up to the ceiling.

Silence again.

THUD!

“CRAP!”

“Chester?”

“Wha…”

THUD

“SHI…

THUD

“I’M FINE!”