Not Non-Fiction

Stories.

Halloween Watching

THROWINGEGGSThe World’s Ten Worst Horror Films—as compiled by the critics at the film review site Throwing Eggs.

Arbor Day

Unrated. Brief violence and a mild sequence involving a diaper.

A babysitter is terrified by an axe-wielding stranger in a hockey mask arriving at the back door of a house where she’s taking care of small children. Over the course of seventy somewhat harrowing minutes she finds the stranger at every window and every door as she waits for the police to respond.

The figure finally enters the basement and is revealed to be the homeowner, a local professional hockey player taking part in a promotional tree-cutting competition. He left the house without his keys.

A Tisket, A Tasket

Rated PG. Alcohol use, language, evil twin.

A man carries his hideously deformed twin brother in a basket through the seedy streets of New York. Together they write a bestselling series of romance novels.

Sleepaway Camp

Rated R. Disturbingly realistic adult awkwardness.

Two teenage camp counselors lose their virginity to each other. Ten years later the counselors return to the camp for its grand reopening. They reminisce about the tragic drowning of one of the young campers rather than talk about how uncomfortable and awkward their first sexual encounter was.

Caller ID

Unrated. Mildly disturbing popcorn consumption, binge watching of prime time TV dramas.

In this example of the found-footage genre a woman decides to test her new video camera by filming herself home alone. Over the course of the evening she receives a series of mysterious phone calls. Growing increasingly concerned, especially as the phone calls grow more frequent. She finally checks the caller ID and discovers she’s been butt-dialing herself the entire time.

DVD Bonus features include low audio of the three hours of “Scandal” she binge watches and twenty minutes of handheld video of a fourth-grade Thanksgiving pageant.

Slaughterhouse

Unrated. Heightened expectations, failure to make use of premise.

Five young people are driving through a remote part of Nebraska when their van runs out of gas near what they believe is an abandoned slaughterhouse. They decide to investigate and meet a mysterious one-eyed man who lives there. He siphons gas from an old generator and warns them “Don’t take any wooden nickels” before they resume their drive.

Needles

Rated PG-13. Contains sequences of interest only to pre-teens.

Three people are abducted by a mask-wearing figure who only appears to them on a television screen and speaks in a computer synthesized voice. He keeps them prisoner until they can successfully do that trick where you stick needles in your fingers without actually breaking the skin.

Abduction

Unrated. Ratings board didn’t want to bother.

A couple spending a weekend in a cabin in the woods are abducted by strange alien creatures. The creatures keep the couple in cages, strap them to tables, and perform a series of experiments with strange devices before returning the couple to the cabin with profuse apologies and the explanation that the aliens could have sworn this was Neptune.

Pizza Face

Rated PG. Contains graphic scenes of acne medication failing to work.

A teenage boy with a horrible case of acne is dubbed “Pizza Face” and ostracized by his classmates. Forced to spend all his time alone he stays in the back of an old gas station doing odd jobs and quietly plotting. Years later he extracts his revenge on the children of his former classmates by opening the first ever fast food place to offer free drink refills.

Board Game

Unrated. Ratings board unwilling to finish watching.

Four teenage boys–Allen, Jeff, Michael, and Fred—use a Ouija board to summon the spirit of their friend David who was tragically killed a year earlier in a joyriding accident. Wracked with guilt and horrified when the ghostly form of David materializes before them everyone is made incredibly uncomfortable when Fred asks if ghosts can go in the girls’ locker room.

Previously: This movie has everything!

The Other Three Bears.

When I was a kid my parents would sometimes have dinner parties. When I was very young, when we lived in a single-floor house the kitchen and dining room were right down the hall from my room. I would lie in my room with the light off listening to the grownups talk, and sometimes one of my parents’ friends would quietly come into my room. He’d sit by my bed and tell me the story of Goldilocks And The Three Bears. By the third time I was tempted to ask if he knew any other stories, but I was too polite for that. And in retrospect he taught me a valuable lesson: no story is ever told the same way twice.

I.

The sun warmed her hair and cold water surged around her waders. Goldilocks cast and immediately felt a tug. She’d matched the hatch perfectly, her favorite wet caddis fly working perfectly. This one could be at least thirty inches, she thought, playing the trout at the end of the line. She gently tugged it toward her. Her heart beating in her ears mingled with the buzz of gnats all around her. The whole world was radiant. Within herself she felt the tug of conflicting emotions. She couldn’t wait to get back to camp but she also wanted this moment to last forever. She was so engrossed she didn’t notice the three bears approaching the river.

II.

“And that takes us back to the main foyer,” said Goldilocks, leading them out of the dining room. “Well, what do you think?”

Mama Bear looked sideways at Papa Bear. He looked uneasy.

“Well…” he said.

“What?” Goldilocks forced herself to count to ten. She’d shown these people three houses in the last two weeks and there had been something wrong with every one. At one they’d even refused to get out of the car. “This house has everything you’re looking for, doesn’t it? It’s a single level, in the right kind of neighborhood, near a park. It’s even got a guest bedroom. And it’s well within your price range. In fact,” she looked at her tablet and took a breath as discreetly as she could, “I think we could even negotiate a little bit lower. What could be the problem?”

Papa Bear shifted. “It’s the boy. He’s, you know, had problems. We really want to get him into the right school and I’m pretty sure this house is outside that district.”

Goldilocks looked back at her tablet. “I see. Well, I have a friend at the board of education and I think we could get him a waiver. It would mean you’d have to drive him but that wouldn’t be so bad, would it?”

Please say yes, she said to herself. If I don’t sell you people a house by the end of the day I’m going to jump out the window and run screaming down the street.

III.

Mrs. Bear rolled over in bed.

“Paul,” she hissed, shaking her husband’s shoulder. “Wake up. I think there’s someone in the house.”

He grunted. “Good. Maybe they’ll steal that urn with your mother’s ashes.”

She hissed again. “I’m serious! I think they’re downstairs!”

Mr. Bear responded by pulling the blanket up over his head.

She slipped out of bed and picked up a heavy floor lamp. She opened the door quietly and moved forward, then stepped back to unplug the lamp. She wrapped the cord around the base and crept back out into the hall. She put a hand on the bannister. Her ears pricked. There was the noise again. It wasn’t coming from downstairs. It was coming from her left, in Ben’s room. She opened the door and snapped on the light.

“GOTCHA!”

Ben was straddling the window. He looked so shocked she was afraid for a moment he was going to fall out but recovered quickly.

“Downstairs, mister. Now.”

She added a little milk to her tea to cool it then pushed the jug over to him.

“You were out with her again, weren’t you? What were you two up to? Breaking into another house?”

He wouldn’t look at her.

“Next time I just might tell the cops to lock you up. How would you like that?”

He still kept his head down.

She sighed. “What is it with you? What happened to Pamela? Pamela was nice.”

“She broke up with me, remember?” he said quietly.

Good job, go ahead and rub salt in that old wound said a voice in her head that sounded like Paul’s.

“Sorry.” She took a sip of tea. “And Angela? I liked Angela.” She hoped this wasn’t a mark against Angela. Ben hadn’t been a rebellious boy until recently. He stayed silent.

“Look,” she said, “I don’t know what it is but I don’t like you seeing that Goldilocks. She’s got a criminal record and she’s nothing but trouble. She’s not good for you.”

“I think she’s just right,” he muttered into his milk.

goldilocks

What It Was Was Fantasy Football.

fieldDefending Team:

Safety-Jim Hudson

Safety-Rick Volk

Cornerback-Gerry Philbin

Cornerback-Billy Ray Smith Sr.

Outside Linebacker-Don Shinnick

Outside Linebacker-Johnny Sample

Middle Linebacker-Al Atkinson

End-Verlow Biggs

End-Ordell Braase

Tackle-Dick Butkus

Tackle-Alex Karras

Wide Receiver-Jimmy Orr

Wide Receiver-Bill Mathis

Tackle-Paul Rochester

Tackle-Fred Miller

Guard-Bob Talamini

Guard-Dan Sullivan

Center-John Schmitt/Bill Curry

Tight End-John Mackey

Quarterback-Joe Namath

Fullback-Don Maynard

Running Back-Jerry Hill

Receiving Team:

Safety-Festin

Safety-King Meshugah

Cornerback-Garet Jax

Cornerback-Dejah Thoris

Outside Linebacker- Thorin Oakenshield

Outside Linebacker-Yog Sothoth

Middle Linebacker-Sandman

End-Ningauble Of The Seven Eyes

End-Conan The Barbarian

Tackle-Sir Gawain

Tackle-Mongo

Wide Receiver-Namor Of Atlantis

Wide Receiver-Balon Greyjoy

Tackle-Hellboy

Tackle-Xena, Warrior Princess

Guard-Anita Blake

Guard-The Red Queen

Center-Lessa/Ramoth

Tight End-Lord Voldemort

Quarterback-Atticus O’Sullivan

Fullback-Eeyore

Halfback-Rudy Ruettiger

If you recognized the reference to Andy Griffith give yourself five bonus points and a big orange.

Maybe It’s An Omen.

babyThis is some party, isn’t it? The Thorns really don’t spare any expense. I’ve been to some of the other events they’ve put on and they always go big, but this is pretty huge even for them. I guess since the kid’s adopted they want to make a big deal out of his first birthday. They’re trying to make him feel welcome and all. I wonder if he’ll even notice it or remember any of it.

I noticed that weird birthmark too! It’s kind of hard to miss. Maybe that’s why Mrs. Thorn keeps putting his little cap back on. Isn’t that cute? You’re right, it does look kind of like a cluster of 9’s. At least it did earlier. Maybe it’ll change as he gets older. His hair will cover it up anyway. You want to hear something weird? That priest thought it looked like something completely different. You know, the priest who was harassing the family a while back. He kept saying it looked like the Roman numerals DCLXVI. He said that even stood for something from Revelations. What a crackpot. That was right before he was killed in that freak accident when a gargoyle fell off his church right on top of him.

Is it just me or do a lot of crazy accidents seem to happen around this kid? No, really, I mean it. Did you hear about his pediatrician? Oh, this is too weird. His pediatrician said the kid had jackal blood. I know, right? I didn’t even know they tested for that sort of thing. I asked my kid’s pediatrician and she thought I was insane. I guess doctors all have different opinions. Anyway right after the pediatrician said that he was killed in that freak elevator accident. The investigators said it was really a million to one chance something like that would happen. Well, I guess that was the millionth chance. Maybe it’s not that weird. People win the lottery too every day, right? I guess it was just bad luck.

The accident the maid had isn’t nearly as weird. I know she yelled at him the same day it happened but what was she thinking? Who in their right mind cleans a chandelier from the second floor landing on a rickety old ladder? Really. It’s like she was just asking for a fall. Lucky for the Thorns that new maid was available to start right away. Well Mr. Thorn said it was lucky. Between you and me Mrs. Thorn—you know, Rosemary—she doesn’t like the new nanny one bit. She especially doesn’t like that big dog that came with her, but the dog is very protective of the kid. I told her they should consider obedience classes. She said she’ll look into that but it’s like the dog is very well trained already and will do anything the kid or the nanny wants. I guess that’s a good thing.

There really is something weird about him. The kid, I mean. Have you noticed he never cries? He just seems, I don’t know, really intense. And what’s the deal with the choir that follows him around? It seems like they always start chanting right when somebody’s about to die. The priest, the pediatrician, the maid, that private investigator who was looking into the orphanage, the photographer who said there were strange shadows in the pictures, the kooky archaeologist with the daggers, the nurse that drew his blood, the cousin who was afraid of the kid. I’m not saying the choir had anything to do with all those deaths. I mean, those were all accidents, right? There goes the choir starting up again.

Have you noticed the kid’s been staring at us this whole time?

Dog Walk.

dogwalkThese morning walks with Bruce are the best. The afternoon walks are good too, but in the mornings it’s cooler and still damp. Everything smells so much better when it’s a little wet. Smell rises in the mist. Bruce is going the wrong way. Why is he doing that? I try to pull him the other way but he’s insistent. Okay, I’ll go with him.

Chipmunks have been here. And rabbits. I’m getting that more earthy smell of rabbits here. Squirrels too. I got a squirrel once. One good shake and there was squirrel everywhere. That was fun. It surprised me so much as soon as Bruce called me I went running to him. He cleaned it all up, but I could smell squirrel guts in the driveway for a week after that.

This is okay but I’m worried we’re going to miss Treat Lady. I like Treat Lady. I like her a lot. I look forward to seeing her. She always has something for me. Sometimes it’s cheese. Cheese is my favorite, but it’s good when it’s something crunchy. She’s nice. She smells like a cat. I’ve never really been around cats but I know what they smell like and I like that. And sometimes her legs have tiny little cuts on them that I have to sniff very carefully. When her legs are bare and have those little cuts they also smell like perfumy soap that makes me sneeze. It’s a little like the stuff Bruce used to use on his face. He’d get cuts on his face too. Then he got the buzzy thing. It attacks his face every morning. He holds it but it still manages to get all over his face. I don’t like it. Sometimes after he’s pulled it off and made it get quiet he lets me sniff it. It smells like his face and his hair and also kind of burned. I really don’t like it. Sometimes I have to tell it to stay away from me. I don’t know why Bruce thinks that’s funny. He can be so weird.

He used to feed me and take a shower after we’d go for a walk, but now he takes a shower first. We used to just get up and go. Then after we started meeting Treat Lady every day he would get up earlier and take a shower before we left. The first time I stuck my head under the shower curtain and watched him and waited for him to figure out he was doing it wrong. He didn’t, even when I stood by the door and told him I really needed to go. He was really messing up my schedule. Sometimes I have to remind Bruce about things. I have to go in circles or stand right by the food box because he’s got the voice maker pressed up to his face and he’s talking to it. Sometimes I have to speak sharply to the couch because my ball’s under there and that’s the only way I can get Bruce to get it out. When we’re lying in bed together and he moves I have to let out a long sigh to remind him he’s not supposed to move while I’m trying to sleep. And when someone knocks on the door I have to yell a lot to let them know I’m here and that this is my house. Bruce doesn’t appreciate how important that is.

The next few days Bruce kept taking a shower before our walk and I said, okay, this is something new and different, like getting to know Treat Lady, but not as good.

This tree smells like squirrels. Like a lot of squirrels. And a dog. Bruce lets me stop and pee on it. I lift my leg really high to let them know how big I am. Usually Bruce pulls me away when I scratch at the ground with my back feet to let those squirrels know how serious I am, but today he just lets me do it. We’re going very slowly today.

There’s a person with a dog on the other side of the street. Maybe it’s that same dog I smelled on the tree. I can’t tell. I stay close to Bruce. The dog says something to me. I ignore it. We walk on. I’m glad Bruce doesn’t try to stop. There’s too much new and different already today.

There’s a spot on the ground that smells like it could be from that dog. I hope we’re not going to keep going this way every day, but I pee on it just in case.

I wonder if this has anything to do with Treat Lady. Yesterday when we saw her I could smell Bruce getting sweaty and his body tensed up. I could feel him getting warm when he was talking to her. It was weird. He wasn’t angry but his voice was tight and he kept twisting the leash. He breathed really fast and really heavily, and Treat Lady didn’t look at me as much as she usually does. She gave me something crunchy that was salty and stringy, and then Bruce and I had to walk away really fast. When we got to the big tree at the intersection, the one with the funky, musky smell I don’t recognize I barely had time to pee before Bruce was pulling me on again. Then when we got home he banged the bowl around while he made me breakfast and that hurt my ears.

Bruce didn’t shower this morning, and the buzzy thing stayed where it is. He’s very slow this morning. He’s not pointing out the squirrels to me. Maybe he misses Treat Lady too. I feel like I should do something to cheer him up. I’ll bring him this stick. That’ll make him happy. He always likes it when I bring him a stick. Hey! Birds!

This May Be The Laziest Thing I’ve Ever Done.

Several years ago I saw this headboard and thought it was a terrible idea.

headboardWhy is it a terrible idea? Because when you’re in bed there are just certain things you don’t want to hear:

“That’s very well lit for the bottom of a crater of an abandoned volcano at the bottom of the sea.”

“We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese.”

“Santa’s going to whimper like a whipped pup.”

“Make my muscle car prune colored.”

“Next on ESPN, full contact nightgown wrestling!”

“This is where my tongue lives.”

“I need to know what not to do on a date!”

“So can I split your top and butter your buns?”

“This man is wearing a push-up bra. Now he’s pleasing.”

This time, don’t make so much noise when you ‘read.’”

“I don’t make threats, Mr. Fingal, only promises. And a great pork roll!”

“He tried to kill me with a forklift!”

“You have fingers. I like that in a man.”

“Do you know that I have little bunnies painted on my knees?”

“Look, look, look at my crotch. Look, look look at my crotch. Loooook at my crotch. Yay!”

“Oh, and “go Packers” too, but mostly burn the witch.”

“Some carrots are frozen. Some carrots are humiliated publicly.”

“Watch out for snakes!”

“I’ve got a mantis in my pantis.”

“Just puttin’ the salmon balls away.”

“He takes on a series of strange body habits…wears toast in his pants…”

“No springs? I don’t care. There’s still butter and meatloaf.”

“Jiminy, thinks Johnny, if only I could get a ride in one of those.”

“The ear is the human organ the public speaker is most likely to try to impress as he makes a speech…after the human nipple.”

“Oh, the previous tenant didn’t flush.”

“Kids’ brains always taste better when they’ve been thinking about donuts.”

“Trumpy, no!”

And, of course:

“Well, there it is. Spankings all around then.”

If you need me I’ll be in bed.

Submerged.

Note: Because of my schedule this week my friend Allen Walker has allowed me to publish one of his articles. Walker is a professional journalist and regular feature writer for Catchall, the alt-weekly for Catalpa, Tennessee. His articles have also appeared in Matrix, Road Hogs, Elsewhere, and other publications.His essay Patagonia Dreamin’ is included in the anthology The Journey Of A Thousand Miles.

His work, previously uncredited, has also appeared here:

Living Or Dead is Purely Coincidental, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

The Year That Was, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

ellentonKatherine plans to keep working at Ellenton as a tour guide once it’s opened to the public. She’s been here for two years as a government inspector ensuring the safety of the remaining buildings and working as a diver. Removing as much hazardous material from the water as possible has been an arduous task. Luckily it was a small town, dying economically even before Hurricane Philip and before the underground aquifer broke permanently flooding the area. No geologic survey of the area had ever been done so no one realized how lucky it was that the town hadn’t already been permanently flooded.

“The biggest problem is security,” Katherine tells me as we stroll around the edges of what’s now known as Lake Ellenton. It’s only May but the air is still muggy, the temperature already soaring this early in the morning. The surrounding trees buzz with insects. I look down at the water and see water gliders skating across the surface. Looking up I can see the public library nearby. A Neoclassical building that must have cost the town a fortune its steps are now submerged. I can see the head of something, a carved bird, I think, poking up next to one of the columns. A real bird is perched atop it.

“There’s just so much area to cover. People have been trying to sneak in almost since day one. We’ve caught all kinds of daredevils, and just curious types.”

We stop and look down a broad street.

“The closest precedent for this is lakes made by dams, intentional flooding done by the TVA [Tennessee Valley Authority]. Houses were submerged, but they were cleaned out first, and mostly burned. And there people had warning. They had plenty of time to leave. Here it was all over in a flash. Two days.”

It’s still called miraculous that the entire population of two-hundred and ninety-seven people survived. The heavy rain from the hurricane was expected to bring flooding so people were prepared, and many had already left ahead of it. The realization that no one would be able to go home again was a shock no one could have expected. The insurance debacles, the lawsuits, and the story of Henry Clovis, the last resident who had to be forcibly removed from the attic of his home, have all been written about. Now, two years later, Ellenton is about to experience a new economic boom. It’s going to be opened to tourists to join Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Alta Mira as a site for disaster tourism, famous as The Underwater Town.

(more…)

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