No One Wants to be Rover’s Chew Toy

I never really know what genre my nonsense fits into. This one starts out as a Slice of Life tale. But then, as in most of my stories, things go awry…which can be said of normal life as well. Give a listen by clicking below, and then tell me what you would call it.
Is is Slice of Life (gone awry)?
Is it Horror?
Experimental?

 

 

Late on a Friday at the end of July in a park somewhere in New England a couple walk their dogs along the footpath that winds its way under great Pin Oaks and Long Toothed Aspens. On one side of the path is a stream with a swarm of mosquitos hovering over an eddy. On the other side is grass, thin and weedy due to the shade of the mature trees. Plenty of people use the park to walk their dogs during the better part of the day, yet the usual land mines one would come to expect are absent due to the poop-bag dispenser right at the entrance. Coming from the other direction, an older woman walks her golden retriever and when she approaches the couple walking their dogs, the man has to reel his charge in because the little pooch has gone temporarily insane—snarling and barking. The man chuckles politely in a bid to minimize.

On one of the park benches sits a man in his late thirties who is aged beyond his years due to nicotine, alcohol, and a seven year affair with heroin. He wears his tattered Boston Red Sox cap backward and in the bag on the bench next to him is his self-allotted buzz for the evening—a forty of cheap-ass beer. He rations what he can barely afford, and sits in the park because its cooler here than in his second floor apartment with the single fan stuffed in the most likely window to offer relief that never seems to be enough. Everyone knows what’s in the bag. Everyone sees but doesn’t see. No one wants a confrontation mainly because it’s just too damned hot for that.

Two boys coming down the path command the attention of Mr. Ball Cap. They are young, between ten and twelve. Well dressed for boys that age, their gait is casual, and their conversation is animated. For them, it appears, the rest of the world has melted away. They are alone with each other and the man on the bench notices this, would like to take advantage of their apparent naïveté. The man would like to bolster his financial situation any way he can and as the boys draw nearer, Mr. Ball Cap decides that two forties might make the night more tolerable and the boys look like they can help the cause.

High overhead a bird calls out to the others that the show is about to start. Mr. Ball Cap doesn’t see another soul around as the boys approach and prepares for the occasion of their meeting by slipping a folding knife from his back pocket and opening it, out of sight along his leg of course, and when they are within earshot he offers his greeting. The boys are understandably wary. They look like the sorts who have been coached about strangers from a very early age. They don’t say anything and avoid eye contact enough to get the point across. During their final approach, the man stands, blade jutting from his hand and says, “Why don’t you boys give me everything in your pockets.”

The boys stop. They look at each other with stoic calm and then turn back to the gentleman with the knife. “We don’t got nuthin’ mister,” claims the boy with the blue tee shirt.

That the boys appear unflappable unnerves the man. He’s used to being feared in such situations. He swirls the blade in the air and a brief stint in a restaurant kitchen comes to mind as a flashback. He says, “Turn ’em out. I want to see those pockets.”

They rabbit ear their pockets, then Blue Tee Shirt says, “We got some money stashed under a rock by that overpass mister.”

Sure, you’d think that would raise some suspicion. But this guy’s used some of his deck in the spokes of his life. He says, “How much?”

The kid in the yellow tee shirt says, “My twenty is there.”

“And I’ve got two tens and a five.”

Mr. Ball Cap scratches at his arm and asks “Why you put your money under a rock?”

“Big kids,” the two chime in together.

That answers everything for Mr. Ball Cap and he motions for the boys to lead the way with his knife. At the overpass, the boys begin looking around like they can’t figure out which rock it might be. Soon enough, they’re on either side of Mr. Ball Cap, heads down and looking all around.

As soon as Mr. Ball Cap focuses on Blue Tee and asks, “Where’s this rock?” Yellow Tee runs at him, pulls the knife-hand into Mr. Ball Cap’s chest and wiggles and jiggles while clamping down on his jugular with a pair of teeth designed to extract a person’s life force in mere moments.

Blue Tee joins in by removing the knife and sucking on the gaping wound.

When they’re done—faces gruesomely red, Blue Tee says, “Rover will love this chew toy. Let’s go.”

They exit through a shimmer in the wall under the overpass dragging Mr. Ball Cap into their where—a place much different than the park it shares a border with—a border that is thinner right there in that spot. Inside—beyond the shimmer—Rover does a happy little jig on six legs that are oddly jointed. His mandibles flex open and closed while sending telepathic barking sounds to a select few.

This is the most anyone has seen of that other place, and we’re lucky—you and I—to be mere ethereal audience participants. No one wants to be Rover’s chew toy.

Heh…

***

I hope you enjoyed this craziness. So what genre would YOU tuck this one into?

On the Hunt for Eastus Hutt

This is an odd Keelian sort of story. John Keel wrote The Mothman Prophecies, which is even weirder than the movie.

 

“Records indicate Eastus Hutt bought the place—a total of ten point eight acres—last October. Nobody at town hall heard of Swiller Road. I had to look it up at the Registry of Deeds. Turns out it’s an old fire road that leads out to the middle of nowhere.

“Turn here—”

The rutted access road was potholed at the beginning. Thirty feet in the hard-pack smoothed out.

The older of the two detectives, Becker, rode shotgun and read the map. He had a clean cut look that reminded Rodrigues of the nineteen-forties.

Rodrigues said, “Perp knows how to hide, eh?”

Becker looked over at Rodrigues and said, “Everyone’s got an address, Rodrigues. You get that angle and you’ll get your perp.”

“I’d just be happy to see that car again. You know it was a ’91 Town Car? Fine ride man. Had some trick rims or some shit. They looked like they weren’t moving. I want a closer look.”

“All I know, it was black and had no plates to run.”

The road crested a hill and there was a house fifty feet away. Rodrigues stopped the car to survey the scene. It was a single story home with a white picket fence. The fence had no posts or rails, just pickets sticking up.

Neither detective said anything so Rodrigues released the brakes and rolled in closer. Out in front of the house was a well-appointed living room with hardwood floors. Off to one side was a dining room and to the other side was the kitchen with all its appliances.

Becker said, “This doesn’t look right to me.”

Rodrigues looked at Becker, tossed the gearshift into park and said, “Yeah? No shit?”

Becker looked at Rodrigues then back at the house. “I don’t see the car.”

“You want point?”

“Yeah. I don’t think anything will happen, but I still want you drawn and ready. Got it?”

“Let’s do this.”

They got out together—synchronized cops, and walked to the door through the living room, skirting furniture. Becker made to ring the doorbell, but there was no button. They looked at each other again before Becker knocked on the door. After the third knock, he tried the knob and was surprised to find the door open. The knob was only a knob; it didn’t turn, there was no keyhole, and there was no latch.

Becker raised his weapon, nodded to Rodrigues and then entered, aiming as he scanned the inside. Rodrigues was right behind him, scanning and aiming as well. Both came out of their crouch, lowering their weapons.

They had stepped out into a dark, parched, and barren landscape. The few trees in sight were phantoms; leafless and stunted. There was a distant muted light in the sky as if from a fingernail moon on a foggy night. Something bug-like skittered across at a distance.

“Fuuuuck me,” Rodrigues said.

They both looked back through the door into a sunny day. The door began to close and Rodrigues stepped back into the doorway to keep that from happening.

Becker turned with his gun hanging by his side and made to walk back out, an exit which was relative. Rodrigues stepped aside to allow Becker egress into the living room and then followed to sit on the arm of a couch.

“What now boss?”

“I’m not sure. I mean, what the hell was that?”

“I didn’t see no Lincoln.”

“The inside is outside and the far-out is inside.”

“Say again?”

Becker looked at Rodrigues, just to see if he was fucking with him. Rodrigues looked sincere.

“All this inside stuff; the furniture, the flooring, the appliances. It all belongs inside, right?”

“With you so far.”

“We go inside and there’s…what?”

“A whole ‘nother outside. A dark and freaky place, man.”

“Does that make any sense to you?”

“I gave up trying to figure out why some people live the way they do. As long as my crib works for me…Know what I’m saying?”

Becker walked out of the living room and when he got to the picket fence he turned to face the house. Everything here was so blatantly wrong. But you couldn’t bust a guy for that if no rules had been broken. They didn’t deal with code violations.

They were only here because Eastus Hutt, a total stranger to everyone and a guy who wore sunglasses everywhere, had spent an undue amount of time in town just before the water tower collapse which crushed three houses and several occupants. Also…his car had no plates to run.

Something as big and hairy as a German Shepard darted out the front door of the house. It was heading toward Rodrigues on six legs with its mandibles spread wide.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Becker raised his gun to fire. Before he could get a round off, something exploded behind him.

The bug thing burst in an eruption of blueberry colored glop.

Becker turned and Eastus Hutt said, “Wolf Ant. Communicate telepathically.” He pointed to Rodrigues, who was still looking around trying to figure out what happened, and said, “You there, kindly close that door please.”

The gun Eastus Hutt was pointing had a bore bigger than anything Becker had ever seen before, easily an inch in diameter. It was a revolver of cartoon-like dimensions.

Becker faced Eastus Hutt, his gun still drawn. He was ready to make an arrest. Before he could say anything, Eastus Hutt spoke up.

Flashing a badge quickly, he said, “You two have stumbled upon a secret facility. It would be smart of both of you if you forgot everything you have seen here today. For the sake of national security, I ask you to return to your car and leave immediately.”

They did just that.

Later, Becker said, “It’s after noon and I can’t remember what we did this morning.”

Rodrigues cocked his head, eyes searching, and said, “Huh, me neither.”

***

If this sort of thing interests you, pick up anything written by John Keel. Most of it is out of print now, though you’ll likely find his stuff at the local library. The Mothman Prophecies are highly recommended by yours truly.

Other names to look for include Ivan T. Sanderson, and Charles Fort.

Static


Another story about places where the borders are thin and things get through, Click on the arrow and let me tell you about it.

 

It didn’t occur to Zachary Mosko that anything was amiss when he awoke to the static and hiss. He felt around the bed for the remote and found it near Margaret’s pillow. She remained sound asleep. He pressed the power button, which shut down the LCD monitor and the cable box.

In the quiet of the darkened bedroom, after setting the remote on the nightstand and lying back down, he could still hear the static in his own mind. There had to be some sort of input for static to occur, a channel number without a channel. Zachary realized that what woke him up might not have been the lack of a cable program and the resulting hiss of static.

In the static was another sound: lip smacking was the description which came to mind; as if someone or something had just taken a taste, licked the flavor off its lips a couple of times. Casually. Repeatedly.

Zachary’s eyes were open, searching—guiding his other senses in that way. He was on his left side, facing away from Margaret, facing the closet. He rolled to his back so he could blindly assess the darkness more fully.

The red LED of the television didn’t light the room at all. It glowed like a single eye peering from the edge of the monitor. It remained unmoving, watching its prey in constant calculation. The rest of the creature to which the LED-eye might belong resolved in Zachary’s mind as muted shades of terror and teeth.

Zachary slowly and carefully propped himself up on his elbows, daring not to make a sound. He regretted the recent death of his alarm clock, the room’s lone nightlight. Mental note: go shopping tomorrow.

With a hand on the chain-pull, he focused on the part of the bedroom most likely to have a lurking presence. He prepared to shed light on the situation.

When he turned on the light, he followed the illumination as it reached walls and corners—a tsunami of light; finally casting shadows where there had only been murk, shades of gray replacing the deep darkness of space. His space.

There wasn’t anything to reveal. All threats disapparated under the illumination of truth. No foe could move faster than the speed of light; his retinal perception had a hard enough time just keeping up.

He turned the light back off before it woke Margaret. She might not understand his heebie-jeebies over a little static. Hell, he didn’t understand his heebie-jeebies. He grunted a little chuckle and paid a smirk into the dark.

Outside, the wind gusted up, sounding like the tide coming ashore. As that sound dissipated, another rose to replace it—a high pitched sound, electrical and faint. It was a sound which would prick the ears of a dog before human perception. But there it was, feeling like predatory tinnitus.

The red LED of the LCD monitor went out showing that it had been powered up and in the darkness of his bedroom he felt alone, utterly alone; left to deal with whatever was lurking in the darkness—something he knew was there even after confirming it wasn’t. He was still propped up on his elbows so he could see what happened next.

japan-static-black-mystery

Static began to show up on the screen. It began in black turned to a deep impenetrable gray as it washed in on the speakers. A few scattered bits of light, mere pixels really, scurried across the screen. More pixels vaguely made manifest a shape. As the head and shoulders of the static-thing resolved, the screen seemed to bow and flex, warp and ripple.

Two hands, then two arms reached out across Zachary Mosko’s dresser to pull the static-thing out as if drawing itself from a pool after a few laps. It yanked once and had its chest resting on the dresser. The hiss of its breathing, shallow yet rapid with its exertions, should have woken Margaret. But she remained unmoving and deeply asleep.

After the short rest, the static-thing took a great inhalation filled with electrical interference and launched itself at Zachary. It grabbed him by the legs and began drawing him back, back toward the LCD display.

Zachary reached to anchor himself in the room. One hand landed on the remote control and he frantically tried to turn off the television—turn off the terrorizing presence that couldn’t possibly exist.

Again, and again, and again—he stabbed at the power button.

When that didn’t do anything for him, he dropped the remote on the bed and grabbed at the footboard in a last ditch effort.

The electrical discharge grew louder as Zachary’s feet and legs passed through the surface of the LCD monitor. Pixels parted in fluid motion, engulfing Zachary and taking shape around him.

He inexplicably uttered no cry of help, too busy in the attempt of staying alive. He flailed in desperation as he was drawn in; denial written plainly on his face.

And then he was gone.

He had passed on to another where. A looking glass made by Samsung.

Margaret Mosko woke up then. She felt around on Zachary’s side of the bed and came up with the remote. She used it to turn off the television which was reduced to a light static anyway. She figured Zachary had gone for a snack when the cable went out.

Irony in that. Think about it.

Later, the police didn’t believe her. The spouse is always the first suspect.

But the surveillance video was pretty clear.

So now you know what happened to Zachary Mosko.

I understand it’s going around.

Illusory Storage

It’s been a while since anything’s been posted here. I have plenty of excuses, but I’ll spare you that. Instead let me tell you a story. Click the arrow below, sit back and enjoy!

I hoisted the rollup door and it banged at the top. My wife, Patricia, was standing next to me. I could feel her sidelong glare as she rubbed her hands together. Me? I was looking at what we bought. Still trying to guess what was under the ancient floral bedspread.

We participate in auctions at a few storage facilities in the area, bidding on abandoned storage lots and then emptying out the ones we win. People, for one reason or another, stop paying their rent and the storage company sells off their stuff at auction. It’s part of the deal and they know it.

One time, we bought the contents of a storage bay and all we could see were Rubbermaid tubs and furniture. It was basically junk. But something was covered in the back corner, too low to be a motorcycle yet the shape at one end said ‘handlebars’ to me. You can’t go in and rummage around until after the auction so there’s a lot of guess work. The bidding got to fifteen hundred or so before we won that lot. Turned out the hunch was right. There was a snowmobile underneath which we turned over for sixty five hundred. I still love to tell that story.

This time it had that same feel…of being more. No handle bars, but the layer of undisturbed dust told me this was something important to someone—important enough to take out a storage cubicle long enough for that dust to accumulate. There were some boxes of old books. There were some stage props and costumes we could consign out. A top hat in clear plastic was intriguing. But this time, we were in it for eighteen hundred and whatever was under that bedspread had to be the goose for us.

I finally stepped inside and pulled the bedspread away to reveal a trunk. Pat stepped around the side, looking it over, and said, “That’s different. I wonder what’s inside.”

The bottom half of the trunk stood nearly crotch height and the curved lid made the whole thing reach to the bottom of my rib cage. It was made of wood and the corners were strapped in metal and hand wrought fasteners. The locking hasp took a skeleton key, the hole was so big.

In my best pirate, I said, “Arrrgh, and if ye be knowin’ ye be guardin’ this here treasure till my return.”

Pat shoved me and we laughed. I was glad she didn’t seem worried about losing money on this lot. The trunk was old and ornate enough to pull down a few hundred at consignment; I had my doubts about what could be inside. Something was whispering to me that the trunk itself was the treasure here, and nothing to bank on. I had a lock picking kit in my satchel, so I went to work.

When I finally got it open, we lifted the lid together and peered in. “What am I looking at?”

“Huh. Stairs,” she said. “What’s up with that?”

I looked at the front of the trunk to gauge its depth—then looked inside again. “The stairs go farther down than the trunk.”

Pat performed the same assessment and said, “You think?”

Subtle sarcasm. She was good at it and she made me smile.

I rummaged the flashlight from my satchel and shined it down the murky staircase. There was a landing after fifteen stairs. They continued on to another landing, and another, on into infinity—or whatever passed beyond the scope of my flashlight beam.

We were on either side and after shining the light around down there I turned it off. We looked at each other stoically. I gave the trunk a quick shove as a weight test and it didn’t even budge.

“I guess we’ll see if that winch is worth anything now. I’ll be right back.”

We come to these auctions with a trailer hooked up to my pickup truck. I have a winch mounted on the trailer in case we get heavy stuff. I meandered out to the parking lot and brought the truck around. By the time I got back, Pat was gone.

“PAT!”

“Down here!”

I looked down into the trunk and she was three flights down. I could see her pointing the flashlight this way and that. As I moved away, I saw something else. Unsure what it was, I looked back down in time to see a figure one flight above her skitter away. It was a skinny thing, short with thin little arms. Immediately after it was out of my sight, Pat shrieked.

“Pat? You okay?”

“Yeah. I just thought I heard something.”

Two more shadows well below her and I had to remember she was a student of Karate.

“Well, come up. Okay? I’m going to hook up the trunk and haul it onto the trailer.”

“Okay.” She started back up.

With the winch cable hooked to two cargo straps wrapped around the trunk, I took up the slack. The trunk jerked and the lid flopped down. I didn’t stop dragging the trunk until it was fully into the light of day. Then I went to look in the hole it was covering—the hole with the stairs leading down into oblivion; looking for Pat, my wife of fifteen years. I wanted to be sure she was alright.

But there was no hole; just the scuffed concrete.

After a moment’s reflection, I scrambled to open the trunk—frantically picking the lock a second time. My mind reeled and I couldn’t bear the thoughts that came to me so I focused on getting it open.

And then it was.

This time, the inside had a bottom.

This time, the trunk was empty.

The scream, I realized, was my own.

 

Well, that’s the story and I’m sticking to it. This is the product of that thoughtful zoned-out gaze while watching Storage Wars or some such and wondering how things could go wrong. If you enjoyed it, leave me a comment. Even if it’s just a simple “Thanks!”

Oh, and tell your friends, because I love to tell a story to anyone who’ll listen…

Be Back Soon

This is the first bit of flash fiction from me for 2012. Let me read it to you by clicking on the arrow below.

[audio http://k007.kiwi6.com/hotlink/jejvgxtdj0/BeBackSoon.mp3]

We were living in the house for six months before the crack started. The builder called it a settling crack—made it seem less important than I was making it out to be. He had one of his guys come over, trowel some mud on it (their term), and paint it over the next day. It looked great when he was done.

A week later, it came back. The jagged crack was wide enough to stick a letter opener in and tapered off to the ends.

So I went to the hardware store and talked to the guy in paints and he gave me a product which came in a tube he said was like spackle. He recommended it for use in bathrooms and kitchens where the temperature and humidity constantly changed, because the stuff remained flexible. He suggested that because the crack was near the fireplace in the living room, perhaps there was a similar expansion and contraction issue there as well.

So I tried it. It didn’t come out as smooth as troweling on the mud, but it was better than that unsightly gap.

A little over a week later, the crack was back and it was bigger. The original foot and a half long fissure was evident, and splintering off from that leading over to the mantle was another foot long crack. So there were two.

I could feel cold air coming in.

I called the builder back, told him I wanted the whole inside wall torn down and rebuilt. That got his attention. He came over with two of his guys. They were both older and more experienced looking than the first guy who troweled on the mud.

They examined it. They went outside after feeling the cold air coming in and inspected the wall from the other side. The conversation became animated out there and then the builder came back to the door and I let him in.

He said, “We’re going to bring in a foam insulation sprayer and fill the wall with foam. It’ll set up pretty quick and help stabilize the wall. Then we’ll mud it over and paint it and everything will be as good as new.” He smiled. “Sound good?”

I nodded without conviction.

He patted me on the shoulder once and said, “Good, we’ll get right on it.” And then he left.

That was three weeks ago and the cracks are back. There are three vertical ones and the horizontal crack leading from the top of the mantle. I can feel the cold air seeping in even though they filled the wall with foam.

I went out to try to see any sign of a problem on the other side. Everything looks normal out there—tight and well built. The shakes butt right up to the chimney and there are no gaps on the outside.

Yet inside, I can feel that cold air coming in. Worse, situated on the northeast side of the house and with the setting sun, the room is cast in shadows. Yet in the gloom, light beams from the cracks as though the inner wall were some other place.

What I’ve done is to pry the wall open. Beyond is another when—another where. Beyond is seaside, a white sandy beach and water as far as the eye can see.

My property is all woods in that direction. I went out again to check.

The only sign of life through the wall: a single crab standing tall on segmented legs and holding its claws high as though trying reach for the cloudless sky to pull it down. Two others came out of the surf and joined it.

Afraid of what might happen when I stepped through, I tied an extension cord to the leg on the couch and hung on to the other end. From the other side, the passage appears as a smudge, an indistinct blur. My orange extension cord disappeared into that murk and I followed it back into my house.

So I know it can be done.

I wrote this note to explain things as they stand. Please don’t pull the extension cord back. I’m in the wall—in the other where, and I’ll be back as soon as I can.

I’ve gone exploring.

That’s it for now. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment! I’ll read them when I get back…

Thanksgiving at Gramma’s

Of  three Thanksgiving Day inspired stories, I settled on this one—a gross out story.  Click the arrow below for this fun little tale.

The meat of this story starts the moment little Tyler Tedesco found the sweetener in his grandmother’s pantry and decided to sweeten everything for Thanksgiving. There was a box of it, all in small bottles. So he secreted a bottle into the squash, another into the turnip, and kept going until he sweetened everything except the cranberry sauce, which was already pretty sweet.

He and his mom had arrived at Gramma’s well before everyone else, to help prepare the holiday meal. All the rest showed up soon after the clock in the hall gonged a single time.

Just about the moment conversations began to dwindle to how good the turkey smelled, Gramma announced it was time to sit in the dining room. The whole family crowded around the table and Gramma began pointing to chairs, saying, “Joey, you and Laura sit there. Brandon and Megan sit there. Nicky can squeeze in alongside. And yuh, that’s right Tyler, you sit with your mom and dad right there.”

Gramma went back to the kitchen for the gravy and sat her own self down, looking pretty satisfied with the spread. She said, “I’d like to say grace.” Most everyone bowed their head in preparation, except Nick, who had just been released from prison and hadn’t said anything like grace in several years.

Then they all commenced to eating, filling plates to brimming with all the wonderful food. Tyler was especially impressed, because no one suspected his hand in things.

Tyler’s dad said, “This is the most succulent turkey I’ve ever had.”

“Smashed potatoes,” young Brandon said. “With lots of gravy.” And he reached for the bowl of potatoes a third time.

Little Megan said, “I like the green bean casserole. It’s my favorite.”

Uncle Nick said, “They never made turkey taste like this in lock-up. And I ate a lot of turkey inside.”

Uncle Joey said, “Even the turnip seems tastier.”

Tyler could no longer hold his secret. He said, “That’s because I put sweetener in everything.”

Everyone at the table stopped moving as if someone had yelled freeze. Tyler shrank at all the curious looks he was getting.

Tyler’s mom asked, “What sweetener did you use, Tyler?”

Prompted by his nervousness and before he could get out that the sweetener’s name started with ‘I’, was, in fact, Ipecac, he instead uttered a single, “Urp.” Followed by two more.

Then, everything Tyler had eaten that day came up all at once in one long steaming stream of well chewed and half-digested puke. He didn’t have time to turn away, so it shot out across the table.

Everyone tried to push away from the table in disgust, but Uncle Joey only tipped back. He fell backward to the floor and began to retch a foul stream straight up like a geyser. It attained a height of three feet or more, before splashing down and nearly drowning him.

Gramma tried to hold it back, tried to control it, which didn’t work at all. Her spew sounded as though a knotted rope was being pulled out along with it. To her credit, she did manage to turn her head.

Uncle Nick finally got religion; he uttered an “Oh God” as he ralphed up his meal, some of which actually seemed to have ejected from his nose.

Megan took a cue from Brandon and aimed downward when their barfing started. Each of them nailed Gramma’s little poodle, Precious, with enough bile and brew to swamp the poor thing. It ran out from under the table and was finally found, hours later behind the couch, shuddering uncontrollably. Precious was never the same after that.

Within minutes, everyone at the table had participated in the hurl-fest; each prompted by the other and by the sweetener added to everything by young Tyler. For nearly a half hour, they wiped their faces and uttered little residual stomach spasms and drooled like lobotomized zombies.

Unlike most holiday gatherings in the family, that Thanksgiving Day meal wasn’t mentioned again for years. But it was never forgotten.

I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did assembling it. Leave a comment, tell your friends; tweet it, Facebook it, blog about it.

Most important though: Have a safe turkey day.

Streetlights

Here’s a short Halloween tale, something to stir the imagination. Click the arrow below and I’ll read it to you.

A howl in the night began low and guttural. It intensified like one of those hand-crank air-raid sirens out of an old war movie—wavering and climbing. Others joined in with yips and howls and you could hear a hierarchy there. It was infinitely creepier than the film I was watching—Creature from the Black Lagoon.

It sounded close, but not dangerously so. I stepped out my front door warily and stood on my Halloween doormat to study the yard and then the rest of the neighborhood. The coyotes had moved on and the neighborhood was quiet. My lamppost was the only one lit down the whole street, everyone else had had enough.

I stepped down into my yard and walked out to the street. A thin fog had settled like a shroud, clearly visible in the cone from the streetlight.

It was eerily quiet and so dark I got a sense of being the last man standing. I saw something far down the street walking into the circle cast by the streetlight; a person in silhouette. As quick as I noticed the movement, the person passed beyond the circle of light and melted into the murk of night.

There was purpose in that walk and I waited patiently for another look. I don’t know why I was so interested in the figure and I thought about going back in to catch the rest of the movie instead. Then the silhouette appeared in the cone of the next street light.

The figure was short, the legs seemed unnaturally thick, and there was a tall, wide brimmed hat. It was a boy, I thought; and he was carrying something.

I stepped back onto my lawn when he arrived at the streetlight in front of my house to give him unhindered use of the sidewalk. Instead of passing by though, he stopped in front of me. He was indeed a boy, maybe eight years old. The cowboy outfit he had on wasn’t exactly new and included boots, chaps, and two gun belts that were crossed and worn low on each hip like gunslingers in the movies. He had an old pillowcase gathered in one hand, weighted with candy. With the other he tipped his hat back.

He said, “Evenin’ friend.” His lower lip scraped his upper teeth with the exaggerated first letter of friend.

“Good evening. What can I do for you?” I asked.

He drew a six shooter from its holster and pointed it at me. A curlicue of spent cap paper stuck out from the hammer which he pulled back with his thumb. “Give me your loot,” He said. I noticed dried chocolate at the corners of his mouth when he smiled. It was a devilish smile full of menace.

I raised my hands a little and I don’t know why, but I stammered as though truly threatened and he said, “Don’t make me use this on you.” The hard iron of the six shooter loomed ominously in his hand, even with the spent cap paper jutting out. It could do some real damage, I thought.

I tipped my head back toward the house and said, “The last of my loot’s just inside the door.”

“Alright, but don’t try nuthin’” He motioned to get a move on with his gun and followed behind.

I stepped up to my door, opened it and reached in for the bowl of candy. When I turned he was holding his pillowcase out and open, the six-shooter was pointing off into the shadows—finger out of the trigger guard.

“This is all I got.” I scooped up the box of Dots and three Snickers bars and dropped them into the pillowcase. “Happy Halloween.”

He peered down into the sack and said, “Gee, thanks mister,” and reached in. Tearing open a Snickers and stuffing it into his mouth; he gathered up the sack once more, holstered his piece, and tugged his hat back down. With a mouth too full for words, he nodded once and chocolate glistened again at the corners of his mouth. Strange as it sounds, he seemed more vibrant as if fueled by the chocolate. Then he turned and walked back out to the street, continuing on his way. With distance and through the next streetlight he became a silhouette again.

Beyond that cone of light he blended in with the night. But not before I caught another look. His hat sat on a skull, bleached with time. And that skull was perched on a stack of vertebrae disappearing down the collar of his shirt. He glanced back once, and his jaw opened slightly as if in a rictus smile. A veil of fog and the impenetrable gloom of night swallowed him and I was alone once more.

It occurred to me then, when I had time to think about it, I had seen that boy before. It was last year and he was wearing the same outfit. Why I didn’t remember earlier, I couldn’t say. But there was a magic in the moment of his arrival. And giving him treats left me with a sense that I had averted some trickery as yet undefined.

I wondered about that curlicue of cap paper, evidence he had indeed used the gun. To what end? Or whose?

A chill ran down my spine and I turned off the post light.

~***~

So that’s the story, and I’m sticking to it. Give me a shout out on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, et cetera. And let me know whether you liked it or not, because comments are like chocolate to the spirit in this tale—they fuel me.

Oh, and Happy Halloween!