Tag Archives: Plymouth

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?

Eulogy for Sunny

This is a rare bit of non-fiction from me. It’s about Sunny, who has been with use since we lived in East Bridgewater. The pictures below can be viewed larger by clicking on them; they’ll open in a new window so you won’t lose the audio feed.

Let me read this to you by simply clicking the arrow below.

***

Shopping for another dog back in 1997, we came upon a Shih Tzu we named Sunny because that was the effect he had on our family.

Our other dog, Dutch, already the most facially expressive dog we had ever owned, raised one eyebrow—then the other, performed a lot of head tilting, and smiled with that long collie beak of his. All the rest of our dogs over the years showed some measure of jealousy at the arrival of the newest, but Dutch was just happy to have another buddy. His name morphed from Dutch to Dutchie-kins to simply Kins.

Sunny and Dutch played together quite a bit, and in the beginning we had to remind Dutch he was much bigger. Sometimes Sunny would stand under Dutch and taunt him by tugging on his chest fur. While Sunny was doing that and matching his moves to escape, Dutch was careful not to step on the little guy. That collie would look all around himself, trying to find a way to stop the young Shih Tzu we took to calling Punk Boy.

Once, Dutch simply laid down in exasperation while Sunny was under him tugging on his chest fur. A smile grew on Dutch—like a face being unzipped—with the realization of his unplanned success.

Our house always had toys laying around for the dogs to play with and Dutch had a hard time discerning the difference between his toys and the Barbies my daughter played with. He decapitated quite a few of those. Every dog has a favorite. Sandy—our first—had a particularly pliable parrot, green with a squeaker in it. Dutch, of course had Barbies.

Sunny loved to chase balls around.

His favorite type of ball came from those displays you see in stores; a hundred or so balls, a foot in diameter, held in a plastic framework of heavy rubber bands so you could just reach in and grab the one you wanted. Sunny loved those big rubber balls.

He’d heave his chest at it or try to bite it and the ball would start moving. He’d give chase like a soccer star all around the house. Dutch would play spectator as Sunny moved that ball around, barking as if heckling it, or goading it on. Dutch would just smile and sigh.

If you tried to take the ball from Sunny, he’d zig to your zag or he’d stop and gather the ball up with his front paws trying to hide it under him, which didn’t work as it was twice his size. The exercise would get him panting, tongue extending from his mouth impossibly long and curled upward.

We moved to Plymouth when Dutch was an old guy and the place didn’t have a stockade fence like the house in East Bridgewater. I’d like to think it was Dutch reminiscing about the adventures he had after escaping the confines of that fence that got Sunny going on his own escape attempts. We’d let Sunny out and stay with him till he had done his thing. He’d walk away from you, peering back furtively every once in a while. He’d wait until you were distracted and looking away and he’d bolt from the yard. He never got far; his little Shih Tzu legs didn’t stand a chance against his owner’s. Or our neighbors would give us the heads-up if it came to that.

One day though, just as the sky was darkening, he took off. Tail down and in a trot, thunder began to rumble in the sky above. Sunny was frightened of loud noises. Motorcycles, loud cars, fireworks, and thunder claps all scared the crap out of Sunny. Literally. I’ve seen him run off down the hall of our house after a really good thunder clap and he’d leave little tootsie rolls in his wake.

That day he got away, there was a lot of thunder and lightning. He was gone for hours and a frantic search during the storm came up empty. I can only imagine the journey that took place during that deluge. Between trying to not be caught and running from the thunder, he must have gotten enough adventure to last a lifetime. When we got him back, he was soaked to the skin, dirty as though he had hidden under every car and in every garden between us and the two young girls who brought him to our front door. They recognized him.

He was quivering uncontrollably. And he had been changed by the ordeal.

We had an invisible fence system installed so he never got out again. For years, we played loud music whenever a storm approached so he wouldn’t have the crap scared out of him.

We loved Sunny so much that when we got another dog to take the place of Dutch, we chose another Shih Tzu and named him Teddy Bear—or Ted for short. He’s my reading buddy. Later, we came across another and named him (Six-gun) Sam because he has a bunch more toes than is the norm. He’s the new soccer star.

None of the dogs we’ve had over the years has equaled Sunny for his soccer abilities, or for his stealth at escape. Sunny is fourteen now. He is blind and suffers from dementia. And now, a tumor presses against his cranial wadding, spazzing out the little guy.

The young, playful, escape artist is still in there. You can see him come out when dreams are full and the legs start moving. He runs still, if only in a world he conjures.

My greatest hope is that he goes to look for Dutch when his time comes—and that time is near. Those two, Punk and Kins—an escape artist and his mentor, have a lot of catching up to do.

***

 

Five Shots

~*~

The woman I love was snatched from me the day Janice Stobblemeyer’s parrot escaped and I became a world renowned authority on the paranormal.

My girlfriend, Patrice, and I were out and about that day taking in what the world had to offer the way hummingbirds take in a flower garden; flitting from store to sight to shop.

Patrice wore a simple summer skirt and a pair of sling backs. She had just had her hair done very short and her green eyes reflected the day’s sun in prismatic iridescent splendor. We had been dating for nearly a year and were already finishing each other’s sentences and coming up with meal ideas that were uncannily alike.

On that fateful day, we were cruising coastal towns and had stopped in Plymouth to see the Mayflower and the Rock. Up in Plymouth center, we perused a few antique shops and stepped into the Kiskadee Coffee Shop before moving on.

Out in the sunshine, Patrice declared she would like to drive. Palm up, she waggled her fingers and I dangled the keys into her waiting hand while stealing a kiss. She fobbed the car door, opened it and before she could get in I told her to wait.

“I want a shot for insurance purposes,” I said.

She tipped her head to one side, smirked and said, “You shit,” with a seductive quality all her own.

I set the camera for a five shot burst, centered her in the viewfinder, and press the button. She looked directly into the camera. It captured her left hand holding the door open, right arm on the roofline. Her smile genuine, teeth gleaming white from the sun overhead. Across the street I could see two parking spots taken up by a Cadillac Escalade and a two door RAV 4 from the nineties. Someone was reaching for the door of the real estate office from inside; you could just make out the arm.

In the second shot, Patrice’s lips are peeled back more, making her smile a little bigger. The door of the real estate office across the street is opened slightly and the angle of the glass in the door makes it impossible to see the person on the other side at all. A couple with a black and white Pug on a purple leash are entering the frame from the left. The nose of a yellow Mini Cooper has entered from the right.

In the third shot, Patrice has tipped her head back. You can’t tell in the shot, but she has taken to shaking her head slightly—as if her hair were longer and she was trying to move it off her shoulders. The sun is shining fully on her face and her eyes are closed. There is a white vehicle entering the shot from the left, proximity muddled by its whiteness.

In the fourth shot, I can see enough of the white vehicle to know it is a Ford Excursion. The passenger window is part way down, and a blur of color can be seen exiting through it. That is Janice Stobblemeyer’s parrot escaping. It turns out she had accidently hit the window button and was busy trying to catch her bird rather than drive the land yacht she was in. The parrot didn’t get far, landing on a parking meter for later retrieval.

This brings me to the next point in the fourth shot. The nose of the Excursion has actually made contact with Patrice and her smile has been replaced with a mouth tipped back ready to catch what looks like a recently tossed piece of popcorn.

In the fifth shot, I can make out Janice Stobblemeyer who is still looking out the window of her white monstrosity. The driver’s door of our Toyota Highlander is folded neatly against its own front fender. My precious Patrice is bent back against the oncoming vehicle like a ragdoll, arms askew.

The most intriguing aspect of shot five is that you can make out Patrice in wispy detail with the Excursion as a backdrop. Her corporeal self is being thrust forward by that rolling zip code and her spiritual self has already made the break. In that moment, before her spiritualness has realized its fate and moved on, shot five has recorded the eventful split of the spirit and the corporeal.

Shot five gives me some notoriety as a paranormal expert and I ride that wave knowing Patrice would have pushed me on. ‘Take success where you find it,’ she would always tell me. The spiritual split was so well defined in shot five that everyone forgets about the other four shots until—.

Until I was to talk at a symposium in Boston two years later and it was suggested I bring blowups of all five shots. I was to line them up so a sequence of events could be viewed, bringing to life the moments leading up to THE moment.

They were all enlarged to something like three foot by five, and I placed them in a row on easels. Soon, a crowd formed around shot four which surprised me. It was shot five that depicted the separation of body and spirit. So I joined them and discovered what looked like a piece of popcorn tossed in the air above Patrice in a smaller format, was something else entirely.

It looked like a little pixie, but I knew it was an angel. It was as ethereal as Patrice in shot five. But it had wings and appeared to be darting in like a super hero, arms outstretched and reaching for my darling.

My eye sockets suddenly felt too small, my eyeballs—rubbed in salt. A tear raced for my jawline. I had hope in that moment. In all the goodness that was our relationship in the past, my memories flashing stop-motion quick as though as one last glimpse before my own demise, I saw hope for a future both bright and fulfilling. I felt the eternal flame of love.

~*~

I hope you enjoyed that.

Thank you for your kind support.

Collecting Sarah

The prompt for the Manomet Writers’ Group this month was “those who stayed behind.” I started on a story about space travel and abandoned that. There was another about time travel which just didn’t work out. Then there was this one. Everyone collects stuff at one time or another in their lives, and we all have someone we love or are loved by someone. It’s an easy story to related to.

Unfortunately, I could not attend the writers’ group this month so you get this one untested. Enjoy.

I’m meeting Sarah after work. She parks her car in the lot up by the historic Jenny Grist Mill. Why she chooses to park there instead of at the Inn where she works is something of a mystery to me. Maybe she thinks she needs the exercise.

Maybe the exercise is another reason I find her so attractive. So when I first started meeting her, I chose to do a bit of my own walking. I start from the pergola entrance of Brewster Gardens which might seem a bit over the top. I have a lot of catching up to do. Besides, once you get started on something like this it escalates—takes on a life of its own.

I make a point to study the stainless steel sculpture as I enter the gardens. It probably has a plaque explaining some mundane reason why it was erected, but I‘ve never read it. For me, it’s enough that it seems to represent all the tortured souls who died in every horror flick ever made.

Art is about interpretation.

Someday, Sarah and I might just tie the knot. If that eventuality comes to pass, there are a couple of photo ops at Brewster Gardens I would take advantage of. There’s the pergola at the entry of course. And then there’s the wonderful foot bridge spanning the Town Brook. I can’t remember ever walking over it without pausing at its apex to look for herring swimming in the waters below. From mid-April to sometime in May, they’re just dying to reach the pond beyond the Jenny Grist Mill where they go to lay their eggs. The indians taught the pilgrims to scoop the herring from the waterway and use them for fertilizer. Nowadays, the act is illegal.

Making something illegal is our government’s way of telling us to be discreet.

The walk from Brewster Gardens to the Jenny Grist Mill takes place on a paved footpath that passes under the roadways leading south and west from the center of Plymouth. At night it is lit by lamp-posts, yet still offers pedestrians the opportunity to have a contemplative walk—away from motorized traffic.

I like to think of Sarah on these walks. She is a beauty. It’s a shame she wears her long dark hair in a ponytail all the time, but it’s probably a requirement of her job. When I first started meeting Sarah after work, I remember being attracted to her smile. She turned to hear something someone was saying to her as she exited the inn; when she continued out the door, she had a wonderful smile on her face that I can still picture.

The memory makes me light on my feet and I do that little shuffle-step Dorothy did, arm-in-arm with Scarecrow and Tin-man as they declare where it is they’re off to.

Her mere presence brightens my day and makes me happy to be alive. I long to hold her in my arms, look into her eyes or maybe nuzzle her neck and whisper little loving thoughts.

At the mill I stop in the shadows provided by an early sunset and only have to wait a minute or two. Sarah’s timing is impeccable as always and I fall in behind her as we go out to where her car is parked.

As she fobs her lock and opens the car door, I loop a very large zip-tie over her head and cinch it tight around her neck. Her scream comes off as little more than a gurgle and she swoons into my arms. I whisper in her ear how beautiful she is and she flutters her eyelashes.

Flirt.

When she finally relaxes, I take it as a sign she’s comfortable in my loving embrace so I pull her closer to kiss her neck. It amazes me how peaceful she looks cradled in my arms and I brush the hair from her face to enjoy the fullness of her radiant beauty.

The plan for this evening was to cross the upper pond and follow the Town Brook away from the mill. Carrying her like a bride over the threshold, I pause at the center of the footbridge and set her down. The smooth oblong stone, I collected only days earlier, fits snugly under her coat and I zip her back up. She wears the added weight well. I scoop her up once more, give her a peck on the forehead, heave her over the rail opposite last month’s Sarah and drop her into the water below.

Collecting Sarahs has become quite a hobby; once you get started on something like this it escalates—takes on a life of its own. For those who stayed behind there is some regret I could not collect them as well. But I must move on. You can only fit so many Sarahs in one pond.

El Malo: The Wicked One

You may have noticed a slight change in the look of FlashTold. I was sick of the white on black with the red header bar. The picture I used for this header bar is one I took several years ago of the Mayflower sitting in Plymouth Harbor (yes, the Mayflower of pilgrim fame. For me, it’s right around the corner).

This story is sort of a response to a comment someone wrote a while ago. In the comment he mentioned peasants in the Mexican countryside referring to me as El Nocidar, and I started writing this. I put it away and forgot about it, only to find it this week while rummaging. It’s one of those with the same beginning and ending lines, another style I like. And it is post-apocalyptic.

 

He wondered, as he walked into the desert east of Yuma Island, how much longer he would do this. The setting sun turned the sky a violent pink. Cactus jutted out of the scrabble and scrub looking like odd stalagmites in silhouette. He was dressed in black to blend in with the coming pitch of a moonless night.

The Great Quake marked the beginning of this part of his life. The San Andreas ripped California apart and rendered Arizona a coastal state. The desert ended at the Pacific Ocean, an odd juxtaposition of geography; beach for as far as the eye could see.

He was headed south to get into position. The sky was fading to a shade of purple that always reminded him of the low point of a corpse.

He thought of his wife.

He lost his wife during the Great Quake. She was heading to a symposium in California and simply disappeared. That is how he thinks of it. Swallowed up is just too graphic for his sensibilities regarding her. His eye sockets burn with the memory.

The looters arrived with the aftershocks. They came across the border in groups looking for basics like food and medical supplies. Parts of Mexico sheared into the Pacific as well and they didn’t have the wherewithal to deal with it.

The U.S. Army stepped in to help until the funding ran out. He doesn’t understand that. The army is still the army and their base is not far away. So it’s not funding that’s the issue; it’s interest.

Several hours of sitting at the top of the cragged rise overlooking the rest of the desert and he sees a juddering light in the distance. It is a flashlight. He stands for a better view in time to get a sense of where it is before being switched off. He begins walking toward a location that he feels will place him just ahead.

He doesn’t use his night vision goggles until he needs them in order to conserve the batteries.

He switches them on when he feels he is close.

The border-crossers used to be a minor inconvenience before the Great Quake; crossing for jobs, health care and anything else they could get without ruffling too many feathers. In the aftermath the United States has nothing to offer them—nothing to spare; yet they still have less. So they come to steal whatever they can from whoever they can. They’re called night-raiders and coyotes. They ransack homes, stores, and hospitals stealing everything and selling what they don’t want.

Survivors are his best weapon against the war he wages. He started with heavy fire power that usually killed right away. But they kept coming. No one was left to warn others away. Then he started carrying his paintball gun and things changed.

He developed his own weaponry.

The sixteen inch barrels strapped to his arm, extend out beyond his hand and are fired by flexing his wrist downward. The firing barrels are fed from a backpack hopper of paintballs and a co2 tank.

To the uninitiated, he looks like an errant paint-baller gone rogue and ready to run the gauntlet.

The peasants talk of la marca del Diablo, or the devil’s mark. At night he can hear the terror in their voices when they see the signature red mark of his laser sighting system. They scramble when he starts firing.

The paintballs are his very special reloads. He carefully removes the paint and replaces it with an acid solution that reduces organic matter (like flesh, for instance) to a jelly-like state.

It burns.

They scream.

It scars them for life.

He’s seen them around during the day. Just a few days ago he saw a woman with his mark on her. The skin of her ear was fused and shiny and the scar extended below the collar of her shirt. Her normally cocoa-tan skin was an ugly mix of white and pink. She was working at a gas station in Gila Bend when he noticed her, which means she no longer crosses at night to loot.

She’s gone legal.

With his night vision goggles on he sees the group easily. They are heading north, single-file, and look to be mostly men. He begins firing, aiming at the guide first.

Soft air sounds punctuate the night as the balls of acid hurtle in the dark at nearly four hundred feet per second.

The looters begin to scream in Spanish. What he hears most is the name they’ve given him.

“EL MALO!”

“Ohhh, El Malo.”

“AAAAaaaiiieeee, El Maligno!”

“Santa Madre de Dios, mis ojos.”

The group scatters mostly south and he watches, sure that most of them were hit. There is a sudden swish sound behind him and he drops to his left. He brings up the barrel and tips his wrist. A forty round burst spews out. At least thirty of them pepper a would-be attacker.

The man drops to his knees, a machete falls, and his hands move up to his face. He mops at the acid; at first like so much sweat on a hot day. Moments pass and he starts to wail in pain.

“Puta,” is the only insult El Malo knows in Spanish.

That was the first time he ran into a flanking guard.

Later, he wondered as he walked home how much longer he would do this.

Comments on the story, the new look, or pop tarts as a memory enhancer are all appreciated.