AMERICAN MONSTERS, 2020 (How Frankenstein, Wolf-Man, Dracula, & Gill-Man Make An Assassination Attempt on President TRUMP!): A Short Story by Tylor James.

Greetings, fellow readers! The following tale was initially going to be published in my debut short story collection in 2020. However, I realized there were two characters in this story still owned by Universal Studios (Gill-Man & Larry Talbot), and therefore I risked the possibility of a lawsuit for publishing it. AMERICAN MONSTERS 2020 is a fun story, one which made me laugh quite a lot while writing it. It’s also a contemporary political piece, and of course, free for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

 

AMERICAN MONSTERS, 2020

by Tylor James

 

Frankenstein’s Monster walked into Chaney’s Grocery Store at the corner of Whale Street. Fifteen minutes later, he walked out with a paper bag under his arm. His large boots thudded on the pavement.

He leaned against a parking meter and drew out a fresh pack of Camels from the bag. He lit a cigarette, drawing smoke deep into his lungs. The cigarette was good.

People came and went beneath the street lamps. The sky was black, no stars. He began his walk home. People on the street gawked up at him. Some of them screamed. Others ran away.

People were always this way; full of fear and idiocy. So it was since the day Dr. Victor Frankenstein galvanized him into the world. It was tough at the beginning. Real tough. In those days, he didn’t even have a name. “The Monster!” the village idiots called him. But now his name was Frank. He’d immigrated to the USA, obtained a social security card, and had gotten used to the world. Mostly.

He had his cigarettes, beer, and a house where he paid rent. He had a woman, short and stout, who was unafraid of him and provided pleasure once a week (usually Sunday afternoons). He had a day job too, working at a factory downtown, assembling electric motors at break-neck speed. He liked all of it, except for the job. The manager was a grouchy old hag.

“Better speed it up, Frank!” she’d screech. “You’re down a dozen from yesterday.”

“Meehhhhhhrrrggggg!!” he’d say.

“Don’t give me that or you can forget about a pay increase!”

“Mrrrg . . .” he’d say.

What he wouldn’t give to strangle her! His thoughts turned to more pleasant things — to Veronica, his weekly visitor. Frank felt it stiffen in his pants; what Veronica referred to as his frankenfurter.

He stubbed out the cigarette on his front stoop and went inside to make a ham sandwich. Then he plopped down on the couch and turned on the TV, groaning at the sight of President Donald Trump giving a speech.

He hated Trump for his stupidity, arrogance and bad policy decisions. He hadn’t voted for him in the 2016 election, nor would he in 2020. Impeachment was a possibility, though unlikely. Frank turned the station, stuffing the sandwich into his mouth.

Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein played on the oldies channel. One of his favorites. He leaned back, chasing the sandwich with a bottle of Budweiser. He belched. Scratched his balls. Picked at his ear canals. Then his nose.

After three beers, he passed out on the couch, dead to the world. As he should be.

Frank awoke to a great crash of thunder and lightning. Rain and hail pattered upon the roof of his house. The sensitive bolts on either side of his neck ached like an old man’s bones. He looked out the window at the rain, the street lamps and the empty streets and thought about the old days. It made him wistful.

He grabbed another beer from the fridge and sat, elbows on the window sill. He stayed that way until morning. The rain and thunder faded. The sun arose, lighting up the horizon with pinks and golds and reds.

***

Frank looked at his face in the bathroom mirror cabinet. He turned his head left to right, noting his pale green complexion, the dark bags under his eyes, the silver staples in his forehead rusted with time, and, of course, the bolts on his neck.

I’m one sharp lookin’ dude, he thought. He ambled into the kitchen wearing his Universal Monsters bathrobe and had a cup of coffee. Then he got dressed in his usual black attire and thudded out of the house.

Klinker’s Korner was a dirty little pub on Main Street. He met Lawrence Talbot there, old friend and district attorney for Wisconsin. Talbot smiled as Frank walked in the door, stooping his head so he wouldn’t smack it on the frame (a practice which took many years to master).

They shook hands. Lawrence had a kind face with deep, sad eyes.

“How’s it hangin’, Frank?” Lawrence smiled.

“Not bad, Wolfie. How’s things?”

“Better than ever,” he replied, sipping a Bloody Mary.

“You don’t say?”

“I met a woman,” he nodded. “A really fine, beautiful person.”

“You dog!” Frank grinned. “Good for you, Lawrence. Really.”

“Thanks, Frank.”

“What’s her name?”

“Karen.”

“Nice. So, have you told her yet?” asked Frank.

Lawrence gave him a blank stare.

“Told?” he asked. “About what?”

“Oh, come on. You know! That every night of the full moon you transform into a hairy beast?”

“Oh! That!” Lawrence laughed. “Yeah, I told her. She’s okay with it. More than okay, in fact.”

Really?” Frank asked.

“She says it turns her on. She’s got the full moon circled on her calendar, even. She can’t wait for me to turn.”

“What a girl!” Frank exclaimed, shaking his head.

The hunchback bartender came around. His name was Igor.

“What’ll it be Frank?” asked Igor.

“Pint of the Spotted Cow, please.”

“You got it, Master.”

Igor brought him the tall glass of beer. Frank sipped at the foam, grateful.

“How’s your Dad these days, Frank?” asked Igor, wiping down the bar with a towel.

“Been dead a few years now,” he said. “I killed him.”

The hunchback stopped wiping down the bar. He stood there, staring at his reflection upon the shiny countertop. Then he shrugged.

“Can’t say I blame you,” Igor replied. “Your father was a real asshole to work for, you know.”

“I know,” nodded Frank. “He was an asshole to work for and to have a father for.”

“I can believe that,” Igor said. “Holler if you need anything.”

“Will do.” Frank took another sip of beer. Igor went to the opposite end of the bar, flirting with the ladies down there. The ladies weren’t interested. Their pretty faces shriveled with disgust.

Lawrence and Frank stared up at the big flat screen mounted upon the wall above the bar. Trump was making another speech, this one about immigration. Trump wanted Mexico to pay for a wall.

Lawrence and Frank shook their heads.

“What an idiot,” said Lawrence.

“I know,” groaned Frank. “Don’t you just wish someone would just off that guy?”

“Oh, sometimes I do,” he replied. “Though I dunno if it’d make much difference. ‘New boss same as the old boss’. You know. That old hat.”

“Sure,” said Frank. “The majority of our reps are screwy, the VP not excluded. Get rid of one self-serving screwball and he’s replaced by another. But still . . . this guy . . . Trump. He’s the screwiest commander-in-chief this country has ever seen! And man, we’ve had some screwballs in our time, haven’t we?”

“Sure have,” Lawrence chuckled. “Remember Nixon?”

Frank gagged.

“How about Reagan?” he continued. “Clinton? Bush?”

Frank shook his head sadly. “As bad as all those guys are,” said Frank, “their idiocy pales in comparison to this guy. I mean, look at him.”

Lawrence looked. They both did. The President’s yellow hair bounced in the wind. His mouth was wide, opening and closing like a stupid fish.

Frank spit his beer out on the bar.

“The hell did you do that for?” asked Lawrence.

“I’ve just got an idea!” Frank replied, wiping his lips.

Igor came over with a towel, frowning, wiping up the mess.

“Hear me out, Wolfie. What if we got the gang back together?”

Lawrence raised an eyebrow. “You mean, get Drac?”

“Yeah,” he nodded. “You, me, Drac, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Mummy, everyone.”

“What about the Invisible Man?”

“No.” Frank shook his head. “We’d never find him.”

“Good point,” said Lawrence. “All right. So we get the gang back together. To do what? Reminisce? Play cards? Get smashing drunk? All the above?”

“That sounds good, but no. We get the gang back together and we take a trip to Washington D.C. We get ourselves into the White House. Then we find that bigoted, liver-spotted, yellow-haired, science-denying, corporate-shill-fat-boy-plutocrat TRUMP and then . . . ”

Lawrence was at the edge of his seat now, his eyes wide.

“And then? What, Frank? What do we do?”

“We kill him!”

“Yes! You’re a genius!” said Lawrence. “Why have I never thought of this?”

“Because I’ve got the brain,” said Frank, tapping the side of his head. His head sounded as if he were knocking on a tortoise shell.

“OK,” said Lawrence. “I’ll go home tonight and make some calls. See if I can get everybody in.”

“Great. Give me a call. Let me know what you come up with.” Frank guzzled the rest of his beer and slammed a three bucks down on the counter. Igor nodded his head thanks. Lawrence stared down at the bar, frowning.

“What’s the matter, Wolfie?” Frank asked.

“Well,” he said. “If we’re going to assassinate Trump, we’ll have to do it on the night of the full moon. When I’ve changed. I can’t do much as I am now . . . I have small hands. I’m weak. But the wolf inside . . . that part of me is strong.”

“Of course,” Frank replied. “We’ll do it on the full moon. When is that? A week? No big deal.”

“But that means Karen and I won’t . . . uhm, you know. She’s really looking forward to that night, as I’ve told you.”

“Just tell her what we plan to do,” Frank replied. “If she’s reasonable, she’ll understand your absence. Trump has got go, man. America has made a terrible mistake. And this country just might just be stupid enough to elect this buffoon for a second term! We can’t let that happen. America voted for him, sure, but that doesn’t mean it deserves him.”

Lawrence’s eyes welled with tears. “You’re right, Frank. He’s got to go. Next week. On the full moon. I’ll call up the others.”

Frank nodded. “Talk to you later, Wolfie. Take care.”

“Yeah, you too, old pal.”

***

One Week Later – On the Night of the Full Moon

The gang took a bus to D.C. They rode in at dark. There was hardly any other choice. Dracula had a curfew. He had to be back home inside his coffin of earth in Transylvania before daybreak. People on the bus stared at the four of them sitting quietly in their seats.

In one seat sat Frank (he chose the window seat) and Dracula (his long black cape strayed into the bus isle, tripping people up). In the seat behind them, sat Lawrence (with only a few hours before the full moon) and the Creature from the Black Lagoon (he’d been out of the lagoon for too long already. His gills were tired and sore.)

The Mummy stayed back home in Egypt; he was apolitical. Nobody bothered trying to locate the Invisible Man.

The four of them had been partying it up and were pretty drunk. Frank kept a silver flask of whiskey under his jacket. He handed it to Creature for a swig and when he’d gotten it back it was nearly empty. The Creature, as it turned out, drank like a fish.

“Damn, Creech,” said Frank. “Save some for me next time, will ya?”

He hung his head in shame, opened his mouth, gurgled.

“Apology accepted,” Frank replied.

Lawrence began to sweat. Thick, coarse hair on his palms and cheeks began to sprout.

“We better get to the White House soon,” said Lawrence, wiping his forehead with a handkerchief. “I don’t have much time.”

“We’ll be there,” said Frank. “I’ve got it all planned.”

“My dear Monster,” said Dracula, his accent thick. “Are you positive this despot is resting where you say is? Or has he gone to another country perhaps, out of some vain posture of diplomacy? Have you considered, perhaps, he may be staying at his friend Kim Jong Ill’s house tonight?”

“Relax, Drac,” Frank replied. “I checked his Twitter feed. He’s staying in tonight. Trust me.”

“I trust you, Frank,” he smiled, canines peeking from under his upper lip. “I’ll be flying away long before the sun comes up, of course.”

“Of course.”

It was an agreement. They had one night. One night to assassinate the President of the United States. Then Wolf-Man would transform into Lawrence Talbot again, Dracula would fly home, Creature would swim home, and Frank? Well. As long as he wasn’t caught and locked away for trying to assassinate the P.O.T.U.S . . . . He’d be returning to his modest house in Wisconsin, drinking beer and eating ham sandwiches.

The Creature sat nearest the isle. He enjoyed pinching the bottoms of damsels walking by. Oddly enough, all of the women he pinched featured striking similarities to Julie Adams.

They reached their destination. Frank, Dracula, Lawrence, and Creech got off the bus. The night air felt cool on their skin. The streets were busy. Dogs howled in the distance. Lawrence’s ears twitched.

Dracula was jubilant. “Ahh, Children of the Night!” he exclaimed. “What music they make!

Lawrence scoffed.

“This a ‘way!” said Frank, holding out his cell. The GPS guided them through the busy streets. People turned their heads, laughing at them. They thought the four of them were just people, dressed up in Halloween costumes.

The pale moon rose steadily into the sky. Bones cracked and shifted beneath Lawrence’s sport jacket. He moaned.

“There, there, Lawrence,” said Dracula. “It’ll all be over soon.”

Lawrence nodded, frowning.

Then, there it was: The Commander-in-Chief’s historic, white mansion. It sported tall windows and white pillars, a lush, green lawn, well-trimmed hedges, a water fountain and a long black fence out front. The US flag flapped in the wind upon a pole.

“What a splendid, accommodating abode,” Dracula said. His dark eyes wandered along the street, then settled on Frank.

“So,” he said. “What is the plan, Frank?”

“Well,” Frank replied, scuffing his black boots on the sidewalk. He’d been the one to insist everyone gather together. Now, here they were. What next?

***

A bat fluttered against the president’s window, its wings tapping against the glass. Donald stirred in his bed. Tap, tap-tap, tap-tap-tap-tap. Donald groaned, tossed back the covers, rubbed his eyes and squinted at the window shrouded in moonlight. An eerie howl sounded from a great distance. He shivered. There was nothing at the window. He pulled the covers over his bulk and went back to sleep.

The bat’s wings resumed tapping against the glass. An aggravated Donald threw his feet upon the floor and thudded over to the window. He looked out onto the lawn and the trees and the garden lights below and saw nothing, heard nothing. He gritted his teeth, now eyeing the walls around him. “God damn rats in this place! That’s what’s making this racket! How dare there be god damn rats in here! I’m the President of the United States, for Chrissakes!”

Another howl outside; a long, dreadful sound. Donald looked left, then right through the window, then opened it wide and leaned out.

WHACK! The bat’s fangs launched into Donald’s cheek. He screamed and cried and hammered at the bat, inadvertently battering his own face. He reeled backward, collapsing upon the hardwood floor. The bat bit mercilessly at his forehead, cheeks, chin, nose, even his tongue.

SECURITY!!!!

The doors of the presidential suite burst open. Two secret service men rushed in. The bat flew out the room, down the hall. Donald whimpered and stuttered in the arms of the secret service, his face a bloody prune.

“My God, Mr. President! What’s happened?”

“B-b-b-bat!” Donald replied, his shoulders hitching with sobs. “A drone bat! It was CHINA! I know it! CHINA sent in a drone to ASSASSINATE ME!”

One of the agents used his walkie-talkie to alert the night guards and other members of staff, putting the White House on lock down. “This is Code Red,” he said. “I repeat: Code Red!”

***

The great, black bat attacked the men guarding the White House entrance door, swooping and diving and biting them into hysterics. With this distraction at hand, Frank and the Creature climbed over the black fence, ran across the lawn, up the red carpeted steps and into the White House.

The guards tumbled down the porch steps onto the lawn, their faces bitten into unrecognizable, blood pieces. The bat suddenly burst into a cloud of fog. Dracula appeared and entered the mansion, locking the front door behind him. He joined Frank and the Creature at the staircase.

Staff and secret service men reeled in terror as the three of them walked up the stairs. Some collapsed in shock. Dracula, Frank, and Creature walked up to the second floor. The agonized howls outside grew louder.

Dracula stopped in front of the president’s wife’s room.

“No, Drac,” said Frank. “The presidential suite is this a ‘way.”

“I’m aware of that, my dear Monster,” Dracula replied. “But it is many miles from D.C. to my homeland Transylvania. I’d like to take a bride for the long flight home.”

“I like your thinking, Drac. Creature and I will be in the president’s suite . . . ahem . . . impeaching the president.”

Creature nodded, the gills on either side of his face opening and closing enthusiastically. Dracula knocked on the door of Melania Trump’s bedroom.

“Come in!” said the voice on the other side. Dracula entered, holding his black cape over the lower half of his face. His dark eyes beamed with mystery, romance and evil.

Frank and the Creature entered the presidential suite, just down the hall. Donald sat at the end of his bed, the breeze from the open window chilling the room. His head rested on the shoulder of one of the secret service agents. He was sobbing. Snot dangled out of his nostrils in long strands.

“There, there,” said one of the agents. “We’ll help you get China for this, Mr. President. And we’ll even get Mexico to pay for it. We promise.”

Donald nodded pathetically, sniffling. He held a tiny mirror up to his face and asked, “How’s my hair look, boys? The news will want to cover this within the hour.”

“Your hair looks great, Mr. President,” said one.

“Yet, it looks very full,” replied the other.

“Ahem,” Frank interjected, switching on the light.

The secret service agents stood up, drawing their guns. “Move one step and we’ll shoot!”

Frank laughed. The Creature gurgled. The President screamed like a girl. The Wolf-Man leaped through the open window, launching at the agents.

Wolfy tore and bit at the men’s necks. They screamed until their tracheas were ripped out. Donald cried, bumbling toward the door. Frank grabbed hold of the President’s pudgy neck, lifting him up off the ground. Creature’s webbed feet jumped up and down with joy.

Wolfy occupied himself by running out into the hall, shredding remaining staff members to a bloody pulp. People outside the room screamed. Pistol shots rang out. None did Wolfie any damage. The bullets weren’t silver.

Trump’s eyes rolled back into his head. His face turned beat red, then corpse blue, then moon white. His tongue lolled out one side of his mouth. His throat made low, croaking noises. His legs ceased their kicking and his arms hung limp. Frank released Trump from his iron grasp. The body thudded violently onto the floor.

“We’ve done well, Creech!” said Frank. “Now, let’s go find Drac and see how he’s progressing with his new bride.”

They exited the presidential suite, its floors drenched in blood and tracheas. They opened the door to Melania’s room. Drac’s butt bobbed up and down between a pair of long, quivering legs. Melania groaned. The Creature cocked his head, gills expanding.

“Hey, put that thing away, Creech!” said Frank. “We’ve got business to tend to. We’ll let Drac and Melania to tend to theirs.”

The Creature bowed his head. He wanted to stay and watch. They closed Melania’s door and ambled down the stairs. Upon each step; a severed arm here, a severed leg there, some intestines, a decapitated head, a spleen, and a plethora of other dispatched anatomies.

The Wolf-Man stood by the front door, licking his bloodied paws. “You did a fine job, Wolfy!” said Frank. Creature clapped his webbed hands, gurgling praises.

Wolfy raised his head and howled. It was a howl of triumph and glory. The Revolution had begun.

***

TWO WEEKS LATER

Frank sat with his feet up on the desk in the Oval Office. On the phone was Lawrence Talbot, his new VP.

“So you think free health care is really the way to go Lawrence? Uh-huh. Great. We’ll hold the meeting in my office tomorrow morning. We’ll draw up a plan, then send it to Congress. Okay. Thanks, Lawrence. See you tomorrow.”

He hung up. Good old Wolfy. His ideas and advice were inestimable to Frank as the new president of the United States.

Sure, he hadn’t been officially elected. He’d just sort of taken over. Nonetheless, Frank had become popular in a short amount of time. The media loved him. So did the majority of the country, according to opinion polls. Even a few conservative congressmen approved; a fact which surprised Frank the most.

It had all worked out okay, really. The Creature had been gifted a villa on his Black Lagoon, accompanied by a babe who looked identical to Julie Andrews. She catered to his every whim (and was paid for it of course, on Frank’s dime). Dracula had returned to Transylvania with his vampire bride, Melania. Everyone was happy. What else could he ask for?

A knock at the door.

“Come in!”

A secret service agent entered. His cheeks were hairy. Canines protruded from beneath his lips. “Mr. President,” he said. “I’d like to take the night off to be with the wife. It’s a full moon tonight, Sir.”

Frank nodded. “Say no more, Paul. I’ll be fine. Go make your woman happy.”

“Thank you, Mr. President! Thank you!”

He left in a hurry, howling down the hallway. Frank smiled, knowing he would always treat his staff with the utmost courtesy and respect.

He leaned back in the luxurious, leather chair and dreamed of the future. It was destined to be a future where political monsters were extinguished and, at last, the poor and working class had a real voice. It was a chance to create the America they deserved; an America of great education, universal health care, a conversion from coal, gas, and oil to sustainable energy sources, taxation of the rich, and an overhaul of the criminal justice system.

President Frankenstein was going to work his hardest to make America truly great again.

 

THE END

 

 

 

© All Rights Reserved. Tylor James. 2020

Hallowe’en, 1933 — A Short Story

I’m rather proud of this story and happy that it was a finalist for the 2019 Halloween Writing Competition hosted by a literary magazine entitled, The Furious Gazelle.

You may read this haunting tale about two young boys pulling the ultimate Halloween trick in Gordo, Alabama, 1933. It was the time of the great depression. The tail-end of Prohibition. And a time for terror.

Note: Referring to October 31st, 1933, many newspapers of the time referred to it as the “Black Hallowe’en”.

Enjoy by clicking here.

A Short Walk with Randolph Metzger (SHORT STORY)

They hauled him, black bag over his head, through the jeering crowd, toward the gallows. He endured the wild curses, demands, and insults as one does with a cold wind. He accepted, and shivered. But what hurt him, what affected him, was hearing them shout his name…

My own name, he thought. Why does it make me cringe? What is it about a title I’ve had since birth that brings these shivers up my spine? Makes my hair stand on end? Gives me gooseflesh?

Randolph Metzger.

A name given to me by my mother, not without a lofty pride. It was my grandfather’s name. My grandfather – a heritage of honor, a noble Captain of a ship. My grandfather the courageous explorer, loving husband to my Grandmother Rosemary, and lifelong giver of alms to the poor. By all accounts, my grandfather was a great man.

By all accounts, I am not.

Hence, up ahead. The gallows. I see only black. But I know that noose is there all the same. It’s almost as if I can smell it…swinging to and fro, in the wind. It smells of an odd mixture of pine, sweat, and desperation…

A shiver ran up his spine. His spine was like a long fuse, burning up into explosions of fear inside his brain. His temples throbbed. His knees began to tremble.

So this is how my life ends, thought Randolph Metzger. As a short, nightmare walk toward grim fate. With blackened sight. With hatred, stuffed into my ears. With cold, hard prods from the guards, and sharp jabs and gobs of spit from this stupid, undulating mass of serfs.

Ah, but there is a brighter side. There is, there is.

Just think! I could be spending the remainder of my days like these fools. Sweating away the years, giving all, having nothing, starving, suffering, proffering sins, aching for a better life after death. Ha!

And there lies the rub. Life after Death, the only thing – the only delusion! – that makes this life the least bit tolerable.

As any wise man knows, if he is wiser than St. Thomas Aquinas, there is no such thing. These poor fools! These lousy, damned Idiots! What do they know with their shouts and damnations? They know only hatred and stupidity and work – that is their lot in service to the King. That is their life.

Why in hell would I ever want a part in that?

Yet even if there is some paradisiacal after-life, it won’t be for me. Not with the things I’ve done.

Indeed. If there be a Pearly Gates, they are open to some, closed to others, and yet barricaded with chains, locks, and hexes for those rare wicked, debauched souls like Randolph Metzger.

For Randolph Metzger the sign slapped across those golden Gates reads loud and clear:

KEEP OUT!

The guard on his left rammed an elbow into his gut.

“HAULT!” he screamed.

“What, god damn you? What?!”

“The stairs! Step UP!”

Randolph stepped up, then up again, and up, up. A new pain radiated up his left leg, following the track of his spine, exploding ghastly fireworks inside his brain again.

My head, oh my head, he thought. Wouldn’t it be a beauty if it just exploded, right here upon the gallow steps?

Randolph imagined his pink, fleshy brains littering the imbecile crowd all ‘round him in one great BLAST! — a cranium ignited by pain and fear and set to fracture, split, and fly all in one breath!

Oh, how they would scream!

The crowd cheered madly as Randolph shambled onto the stage. It was one hell of a great show and – by god! – he was the star of it. The closest he’d ever gotten to the gallows was as a child, when forced by parents and instructors to act in those cute little theater plays of Sophocles and Aristophanes.

Look at me now, ma! He thought, laughing wildly beneath black cloth.

The guards looked at each other and scowled. One of them struck a blow to his stomach. Randolph doubled over in agony. They jerked his shoulders back, forcing him straight again.

“What!” Randolph hissed. “Pray tell, a man cannot have a bit of fun at his own funeral?”

“Funeral?” shouted a guard. “There is no funeral for you, Randolph Metzger! The world should never provide you such fortune – You do not deserve it. No. For you, there is only execution. Justice!”

The guards dragged him to center stage. He now stood upon the trap door, which felt no different to his feet than the rest of the stage. He knew he was standing on it all the same. That cold wind blew again, carrying the sea of shouts and voices even closer to his ears. He drowned in that sea, but did not shiver, did not twitch. They put the noose around Randolph Metzger’s neck, snugging it tight.

Why fear what is deserved? He thought. Why fear at all? What is there at the end of this rope other than the inevitable? I am to be swallowed up by black nothingness. The void. The thing that exists for all mankind before birth…so what?

The shouts from the crowd grew ever more excited. Damnations, condemnations, or insults, it was no matter. He was becoming used to it.

So I never followed in my grandfather’s footsteps. I’ve ever had any desire to! I was never a kind man, compassionate man, a loving man…this is perhaps the most loving I’ve ever been. Here on the gallows, wind shivering my body, enduring the hatred of my country…this! I love all of this! I have walked a short life…yet I have walked in steps true to me and only me. This, I love. This, where I belong.

A voice, novel and foreign, shouted from the stage.

“QUIET! QUIET!” demanded the voice.

The crowd simmered to a low boil, leaving the air heavy, thick. The wind blew. The shivers on Randolph’s spine were pleasurable now, almost sensuous.

My god! he thought. I’ve never felt so alive!

“Randolph A. Metzger,” the voice boomed. “You have lived a life of thievery, decadence and murder. You have cheated and exploited every living soul you’ve ever known. Therefore, you have been condemned to execution by your King and country. You are hereby sentenced to be hung from the neck until you are dead. Have you any last words?”

“Yes,” Randolph replied without pause. “My last words are for my children. I know not their names, nor their homes, nor do I care. Yet if they ever become curious of their old man, and inquire to their mothers about my existence, they ought to know this:

“I, Randolph Metzger, am by all accounts a great man. My children shall know I am honorable heritage, for I am captain of my life. I am honest to my own Self, for one must always be honest if they are to live outside the law. I am a lover of widows and wenches, of money and of fools – murdered. I am a lifelong thief of the rich and poor alike, for all men and ladies are equal before my eyes. For all of them, as good as rats! Thus it is with great happiness that I be condemned – for it means I shall rest, at last, free and dreamless, of the stupid, mindless torrents of this plagued world!”

The crowd grew ever angrier. They threw stones, soiled fruit, whatever they could get their hands on. None of these flew high enough to strike their desired target – the man in the noose whom laughs.

“May the Lord have mercy on your soul!”

A guard pulled the creaking lever. The trapdoor swung open with a clatter, and Randolph dropped through.

SNAP!

The body came to a sudden mid-air hang as the neck broke. Somehow, the black bag around his head had dropped, leaving the face exposed. He appeared handsome, peaceful.

Randolph Metzger swung to and fro, a lifeless pendulum in a cold wind that no longer brought cold, nor shivers, nor wind.

 

 

© April 2019. Tylor J. Mintz. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

An Early Morning at Caffeine Purgatory (Short-story)

Every day, I commit myself to writing just one page. Here is my page+ for today. Enjoy!

the following is a narrative of fiction.

Today the sky is dismal and grey. It is not too cold for mid-January, at least. The trees are barren and roads are still and quiet. It all makes me want to collapse into my bed and sleep. I awoke at four this morning. I yawned, stretched, groaned, and rubbed by puffy eyes until they were raw. Then I clothed myself, tripping once onto the floor as I tried to put pants on. Kimberly laid in the warm bed and groaned at all the noise I was making.

I splashed cold water over my face, tamed my crazed, spikey hair down into something more conservative. Then I walked into the kitchen and grabbed an energy drink from the refrigerator. I pounded that sucker and poured myself a cup of coffee. Christ, am I tired. Please. You work at a coffee shop. What do you have to complain about? It isn’t hard work. It’s just tedious, sometimes.

Kimberly and Annie are staying home sick today. I kiss them goodbye, leave a little post-it note on the fridge for them when they awake at a more sane hour.

I pull into the parking lot of Caffeine Purgatory, making my way through the back entrance, into the darkly lit kitchen. I shove my coat into a steel locker, grab a headset off the shelf, and place it upon my head. The headset is what you use to communicate with customers in the drive-thru. I hate wearing these damn things. Every time an intelligent thought drifts into my mind, my ears are bombarded by loud beeping and customers shouting their orders. It reminds me of the head contraptions citizens of the future are forced to wear in the Kurt Vonnegut story, Harrison Bergeron.

I open the store with my co-worker, Kellie, whom is fresh out of high school. It’s a slow morning, which I like. Not too many people shouting at me at 5AM over the headset. I even have time to read a book for a while. Soon the daylight begins peak over the horizon. All the retired men, our loyal, early morning regulars, begin trickling in. They’re ordering black coffees and breakfast wraps. Kellie gets the coffees for them and I make the wraps.

I don’t mind making wraps. They’re easy. Slap a pre-made egg souffle into a pan, cut up whatever meat and vegetables they want in there – and the old men always want a hell of a lot of stuff in their wraps. All of the stuff, and for as cheap a price as possible. I had one of them haggle me over tomatoes once.

“Not enough tomatoes in my wrap!” he says.

“Alright, you ancient bastard,” I smile.

I add some more diced tomatoes, fold the tortilla back up nice and neat, heat it up one more time, then serve it to him.

“Thank you,” he says, sternly.

“You’re welcome, you decrepit old senile,” I say.

He nods once and goes about his breakfast, laughing at some dirty jokes with his buddies.

Ten o’ clock rolls around and I am relieved because I only have an hour left of my shift. Then I can go home and write. Not too shabby. A man orders a sugar-free hazelnut latte made with skim milk. I take his cash in the drive-thru. I say, “Thank you, Sir,” and he says nothing, only gazes at me tight-lipped and stern, with piercing blue eyes. I hand him his change. He sets the change on the metal counter between the tiny windows. I walk over to the bar to make his drink.

I pull the espresso shots, then go hunting for the sugar-free hazelnut bottle. I find the Hazelnut, but none that’s sugar-free. I’m looking high and low and can’t find it. I get the feeling the man is studying me through the window. Ah, hell, I say. He’s going to have to settle for the regular stuff. I add the Hazelnut, the espresso, then I steam the milk, pour it into his cup, and cap it. I hand him his beverage and he squints his steel blue eyes.

“This sugar-free? I’m diabetic.”

I look back hesitantly over my shoulder, over at the dozens of syrup bottles, as if seeking a verbal encouragement. I realize they’re only inanimate objects, and therefore, no help.

“Ah, well, no, Sir. We’re all out of sugar-free Hazelnut. That’s just regular Hazelnut in there.”

A great frown of dismay befalls his face. He hands me the drink back and stares straight ahead at the road.

“Fine then,” he says, vacantly. “Keep the money. I’m going.”

It is as if the man has lost all hope.

“I can make you a new one with a different sugar-free flavoring,” I offer.

He stares at me with the expression of a father disowning his only son.

“Got sugar-free Vanilla?” he asks.

“Sure,” I say. “Or we can do sugar-free almond.”

“Almond then.”

“Okay. I apologize, Sir.”

I go back and make him another drink. I pull the shots, steam the milk, add the flavoring, cap it, and hand it over.

“Just a little education for you guys,” he says, putting his car into gear. “Being diabetic, if I had taken that drink, I would have had some serious health problems.”

He peals out of the drive-thru.

An intense sense of guilt pervades. What if I had handed the man the drink and let him go? Would he have died? Would he have gotten half-way through, spit up foam, and croaked? It all seemed so absurd, but a possibility, no less…

I thought of me looking back over my shoulder at the syrup bottles. I shook my head.

Am I truly less than a good man? In that moment, yes, I was. I thought I had grown past this. I thought I had matured beyond such cowardliness.

I decide to take it easy on myself. After all, yes, of course I am a man. And men, good men and bad men alike, will make mistakes. There is no way around that. The tortured world shows it plain as day, every day. The cruelty of man prevails, but redemption becomes possible after conscience intervenes and we at least try to make things better the next time around.

***

I counted up my tips and I went home and snuggled up to Kimberly, sick with the flu. Annie remained on the downstairs bed, with her toy horses and her own TV. Kimberly and I laid on the couch, watching an Indiana Jones movie. Occasionally I would pet her head and massage her shoulders. Soon I fell into a deep sleep beside her. I dreamed of purple doors with Aztec faces on them. I dreamed of great, mighty fires raging in whirlwinds inside my skull. I opened one of the purple doors and slipped off into the immaculate blackness behind it. The door closed. My fate, sealed. I awoke coughing with a sore throat and my nose running. Damn.

Love in the New Year (Short Story)

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Love in the New Year, 2019

On New Year’s Eve, Kimberly and Annie were sitting on the couch playing Mario on the Nintendo Switch. I sat in the adjacent rocking chair, spinning records and downing glass after glass of red wine. First I spun some Traveling Wilburys, then The Beatles’ Let It Be, Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II, and to cap it all off, one of John Prine’s very best, 1973’s Sweet Revenge.

“You want to go out to the Muddy Cantina for a bit? Christa and Toby are going to be there tonight.” asked Kimberly.

“Sure,” I said, gulping down the last of the wine. “Why not?”

Christa and Toby are new friends of ours. We’d only just met them in the first week of December, at a neighbor’s birthday party. As couples, we have a few things in common. Christa and Toby are ten years apart in age – as is Kimberly and I, but plus one more. Toby and I are the younger ones. We tend to prefer older women. Our girlfriends, favorably for us, happen to like younger men.

Annie suddenly set aside the Nintendo controller, and with tears in her eyes, said she didn’t want us going out. We bribed her with Dairy Queen ice cream, to which Annie was quite amicable – after all, what ten year old passes up an ice cream blizzard from DQ?

Kimberly and I polished off the last of our bottle of Jägermeister and headed out into the last, frigid night of December.

We entered the side door of the Muddy and immediately spotted Toby sitting at a table in front several six-packs of beer. Toby is an alcohol sales rep and tonight is his night to do some business. Seeing that he was occupied with giving a pitch to somebody, we took a seat at the bar and ordered some Jaig-bombs.

“Double shots, please,” said Kimberly.

The old bartender nodded and brought us the shots. Kimberly paid in cash. We downed the stiff, black liquor and red bull, then walked over to Toby. His wife, Christa, joined us now. Christa has short blonde hair, round glasses, and like her husband, retains a rather plump figure.

“How are you guys tonight?” Christa asked.

“Doing great!” said Kimberly.

“Making a lot of sales tonight, Toby?” I asked.

He frowned, brushing his curly hair away from his glasses.

“Not so much, I’m afraid.”

“Agh! That’s a bummer, dude,” Kimberly said.

We sat there and chatted at their table for about an hour while Trandy Blue, a musician, performed in the far corner of the restaurant. I had never seen Trandy perform before, but she was quite good. She played guitar and sang many classic rock tunes; standards like Blue Bayou and Bobbie Magee. She sang them with an apt passion.

Kimberly and I got back at the bar, ordered another round of double-shots. Kimberly looked over at Trandy for a bit, then returned her gaze to me.
“You should talk to her,” she said. “Maybe she can introduce you to the owner, get you in for a gig.”

“Nah,” I said. “That’s okay. I’d rather spend my time writing, I think.”

Kimberly shrugged and ordered another round. Down the hatch! We ambled back over to Christa and Toby’s table. We talked about Stephen King novels, fantasy fiction, our favorite musicians, things of that nature. Kimberly’s cell rang from inside her purse. She picked it up.

“Hi, honey.”

I could hear a faint, “Hi,” at the other end. It was Annie.

“We’re going to be home very soon, okay?”

“That’s okay. You guys have fun. I’m just playing Zelda.”

“Aw, that’s very sweet of you, Annie. We’ll be home soon anyway though, okay?”

“Okay.”

“’Kay. I love you!”

“Love you, too. Bye!”

Kimberly stuck out her bottom lip, playfully.

“She’s such a sweetheart! She said for us to stay and have a good time.”

“Aww,” said Christa. “Well, that’s very nice.”

We continued chatting, acquiring interesting facts about our newfound friends and, very drunk now, I began grabbing for the New Year’s Day balloons that were attached to the tables. I pulled them down by their plastic red strings and bit into them with my teeth, sucking as much helium as I could into my lungs.

Welcome to the Lolly Pop Guild, the Lolly Pop Guild, the Lolly Pop Guild!” I squeaked.

Kimberly giggled. Then she took one of the balloons down herself and inhaled the helium, saying funny things. A few of the waitresses began eyeing us disapprovingly. I had the feeling we were behaving like a gaggle of mischievous children. A grin grew upon my face at the thought.

After a few more balloons were popped and robbed of their helium, Kimberly and I said our goodbyes to Christa and Toby. We stopped at the bar and had a last round of shots. Then we drove the short mile home and put Annie to bed. It was about 11:00PM and she was quite tired because her usual bedtime is 8:30.

I felt dizzy and drunk. I began raiding the fridge for food to fill my stomach. A large dill pickle. A hard-boiled egg. A cold hot dog. Kimberly witnessed me raiding the fridge and laughed. I sliced up a bit of sausage and chewing it, said, “Blech! It tastes dry and old. This is how I imagine Claudette would taste like!”

Claudette is our pet cat, a rotund orange tabby.

“Ha-ha! You’re so silly,” she said.

We went into the bedroom and laid down upon the bed. The lamp on my bedside table lit the room with a soft glow.

“I love you so very much,” I said. “I’m very happy to be spending another year with you.”

“Me too, honey. I couldn’t ask for a better man. I love you, too.”

We kissed and snuggled up next to each other’s warm bodies. Within minutes, she began to sleep. I was a bit too dizzy to sleep and felt as if I might be sick. I decided to go into the bathroom and run a warm shower. Showers always tend to calm me and make me feel better – especially when I have drunk too many spirits.

I sat in the tub with the warm shower cascading down upon my head. I imagine I was sitting in a spring rain. I stared vacantly, mouth half open, watching the water circle into a little whirl pool and drop down into the drain. The clock struck midnight on January 1st, 2019 and I wasn’t even aware of it. After about half an hour of this, I stood up, groaned, shut off the shower, and dried off with a blue bath towel.

I went to bed stark naked with the vague hope that Kimberly would discover my nudity at some point in the night and I would get lucky.

At 5:00 AM, I awoke with a slight headache. I felt chilly, so cuddled up next to Kimberly. She, too, was awake. I began running my hand softly over her body, lifting up her shirt, fondling her breasts, rolling my thumb over her nipples, causing the to become erect, then dipping my fingers to her stomach and down to her bush, then around and up her back, her neck, back down to her breasts, etc. Kimberly loves it when I touch her so delicately.

Soon we were having a spectacular bout of love making. We came to a powerful climax and, breathing heavily, Kimberly said, “Happy New Year, honey.”

“Happy New Year, indeed,” I replied.

At 7:00 AM I was sitting in my car, parked in the back lot of the coffee shop. I was supposed to be opening the store that morning, but my co-worker was nowhere in sight and I was locked out. I cranked the heat to the max, read a book and waited. At 7:35, Kelly’s car drove up in the space next to mine. She ran to the door, took out her set of keys, and rushed in.

“Damn,” I said.

I was hoping she wouldn’t show. Then I could just go home and call my boss. “I’m locked out so I can’t work today!” I would tell him. But, alas, I turned off my engine and entered the back of the café. The shift was a short one that New Year’s Day. Just six hours. In and out. No big deal.

It felt so strange putting all the chairs up on the tables at just one in the afternoon. Nonetheless, I was glad about it. I went home, and since Annie was at a friend’s house for a few hours, Kimberly and I made love – this time on the couch.

I started by massaging her feet with lotion, then working up to her calves, her thighs. I removed her underwear with my teeth.

“Want a tongue massage, Kimberly?” I asked.
Oh yes, indeed, she wanted one.

Soon she was giving me a tongue massage too. Then she was on top of me, rocking me as I held her full breasts, bringing them to my mouth. She looks like a goddess up there, her glorious body bobbing rhythmically up and down. There is a heavenly eternity in that rhythm. Yet another wonderful, Earth-quaking orgasm was achieved on both accounts.

What more can I say other than that 2019 is shaping up to be very fine year? I am surrounded with love. I hope the same for you too, dear reader, in whatever year or time you may be reading this.

At home in the mid-west at 7:30PM, on January 1st, 2019.

 

***

The Walker (Short Story)

I’m walking along a barren road at sunset. All around me are hills and fields cast in a golden light. A mangled corpse of what was once a man lies beside the road. Crows land and pick at his intestines. I am glad.

A crowd of people gather around the body. They are dressed in traditional, 19th century clothing. They must all belong to a nearby Amish farm, I am thinking. They are crying, on their knees, praying to the Lord above. A woman approaches me and, noticing that I am not praying, nor shedding tears, asks if I am at least feeling compassion for this poor, murdered man.

“No,” I said. “He was my enemy and I am glad that he is dead!”

Tears stream down her ruddy cheeks. She adjusts her white bonnet, falls to her knees, and, lips quivering, folds her hands in prayer. I continue walking down the road, with the horses and carriages sitting off to the side. A cold wind whines through the trees, past the field, and chills my cheeks. I give a last look back, peering at the bloody carrion that was once a human being. I wonder why I had such hatred for this man, this man I never knew. What exactly had happened to him? Who had struck him and then carried on as if nothing mattered? Who could do that?

Then I knew. It was me. I was the man who had struck him, who had nodded frankly at the supposed rightfulness of his death, and who had continued on, meaninglessly, down this road.

This dreadful road, called Samsara, I am still walking. The sun sets eternally, but never sets. I am walking down this narrow way, this dire path of forever.

I become mindful of my each step, and I think, what if I did fall to my knees? What if I did fold my hands, and, like an idiot, prayed to the empty yellow sky above? What if I did? And what of it?

My heart began to palpitate, and, with my whole body shaking in ecstasy, I walked back to the grim scene of prayer. I knelt down beside the people, my people, and I wept, wept, wept.

My tears ran off my cheeks and cascaded down upon my folded hands. I murmured sweet offerings, tender protections, and compassions.

The people’s hands all fell to their knees and they turned to me, slowly. And in their teary eyes I saw not sorrow, not grief, not compassion, but joy – pure, sweet, and eternal joy. I became overjoyed with bliss.

The golden evening light suddenly faded and turned dark. The bright, fiery stars burned in the heavens and I knew that we, all of us, are golden. We are bright, we are stars burning like holy torches in an eternity of dark, and we, too, as much as Hell, can be of Heaven.

If we choose.

 

At the Mercy of the Flat (A Short Story)

I threw off my apron, put on my winter jacket, grabbed the tips from my cup, and exited the Dunn Bros. Coffeehouse. I had just spent the last ten minutes of my shift showing some crazed paintings of mine to Michael Moen, a kindly old artist. Mike is a composer of surreal images. His work is on a level of color and vibrancy which I aspire to reach some day. In the meantime, I throw my stuff onto the passenger seat of my car and take off for home.

A mile down the main stretch of the city and my car begins to rattle violently. My first thought is that my laziness in getting the oil changed has finally caught up with me – my engine is about to commit mechanical suicide. Then it dawns on me that it isn’t the engine. It’s my front, driver’s side tire, which has gone immaculately flat. Months of driving around on a leaking tire, and re-filling it with air, ad infinitum, combined with my cheap refusal to shell out the cash for a new tire, has resulted in this present predicament.

The car shook as the rim touched pavement. I wasn’t about to pull over and bother someone for roadside emergency. So at the risk of further damaging my rim, I drove the pathetic hunk of metal the last mile home.

When Tessandra arrived home, I drove her car to Wal-Mart and purchased the required tire. We went out into the cold night (it is already dark out by five in the evening this time of year) and couldn’t fit the jack under the car to even allow for a lift point. It turns out that one can’t change a tire if the vehicle is still on the ground. Who knew? We head back inside.

Because I obviously know nothing about fixing cars, I call up my old man, the erudite mechanic.

“Hi, Dad,” I said.

“Yeah?”

“I blew my tire.”

“Oh!”

“It’s parked on our street in front of the house right now and Tessandra and I can’t get the jack under the car.”

“OK. What I would do,” he said, not without an overly serious undertone, “is grab yourself some two by four’s, drive the car onto those. That will give you an inch and a half, to two inches of clearance to fit the jack underneath your car. Understand?”

“Yeah, sure. Makes sense.”

“Alright? So you do that, then….you got a lug wrench, right?”

“Yeah we do. Well, Tess has one.”

“That’s fine. I’m pretty sure your car has ¾ lug nuts. I know your car has ¾ lug nuts. So that’s the size socket you’re going to use. Once you have the car parked on the two by fours, you place the jack at a decent connect point. Make sure you don’t place it in any obviously rusty areas –you’re not stupid, you know that. A good connect point is the cradle, which you’ll see if you just look, or the unibody…

Unibody? I pondered.

He said if we had any more trouble to give him a call.

Tuesday. I am reading and writing in my warm home. All is well, except that I am missing my writer’s meeting due to my lack of working transportation. I’ve thought about what my dad has said about using the two by fours. Seems like the perfect solution. I put on my old man slippers and go out into the freezing garage. I take a hammer to a wooden palate that’s been hanging around, collecting dust for many months. I provide numerous blows, none of them very effective. After about five minutes of pounding away at the palate, I toss away the hammer.

My eye is drawn to the rusty bonfire bin we haven’t used in years. I fish two pieces of wood out of there, each about three feet long and an inch thick. Perfect! Now to attach them together into a functional prop. I hunt around for some nails. Can’t find any that are long enough. I look around for some duct tape. No luck there either. Damn! A roll of blue masking tape sits atop Tess’ tool box. I consider using it, but I know it won’t hold. Then I remember the packing tape sitting on the office desk. That should do the trick! I run inside, grab it, and tape together the two kindling pieces into a workable prop.

When Tessandra arrived home from work that day, she put a pan of pork chops and cream of mushroom soup into the oven for dinner. Then we bundled ourselves up in our winter gear. Tess in black, bulky snow pants, two shirts, a hoodie, a coat, another coat, a hat, gloves, scarf. I put on my brown corduroy jacket, then a coat over that, plus a stocking cap and gloves. We walk out into the cold night with the jack, jack-stands, tire-iron, the taped-together wood prop (of which I am beginning to doubt my craftsmanship) and a tiny flash light.

Tess takes the wood prop, situates it under the shredded tire. “Okay, let’s give ‘er a shot,” she says.

I turn the keys and the ol’ Chevy Cavalier starts up fine – a good thing. I put it into drive and slowly approach the prop. It merely slides upon the icy ground.

“Too slow, hon. Try again!”

I try again. Not quite.

“Back up! Again.”

I follow her instructions, and, the third time is the charm. We’ve got the vehicle on the prop. I set it in park and kill the engine. Now for the nitty gritty. Tess and I get down on our knees and arms. She gets on her back with the jack. For the first time we are both truly seeing the damage dealt by eighteen years of pure Wisconsin rust. One easy swipe of a hand beneath the undercarriage and ruddy flakes fall to the ground. An image of beautiful snowflakes come to my mind – falling rust is like the dingy snowflakes of time and entropy, I am thinking when Tess says, “Give me some light, babe.”

I turn on the flash light, making sure not to shine it into her eyes as she locates the connect point for the jack. It occurs to me that I should be the one on my back, on the ground, doing this, and for the millionth time in my life, I am endeared to Tessandra. There is my woman, helping me out in my time of need. A broken down car might well be considered an antithesis to romance, but after nearly three years together, we take these minor challenges wherever and whenever they may arise. I want to lie atop her body and begin making love to her right there in the middle of the icy street, beneath the bright, burning stars, with all of the neighbors peeking from their windows. But I know now is not the time. I make a strong effort to break myself from my dreams. You’re working, not romancing, I think. Be focused. Stay present!

Eventually Tess finds a safe spot for the jack-lift, but not before Steve, our obnoxiously helpful neighbor, decides to give us a hand. He sits there with his car parked in the middle of the street with his brights on and shouts, “I figure some light is better than none!”

“Well, we’ve got a flashlight, but, yeah, thank you,” Tess says, slightly annoyed.

The both of us hunkered down in the headlights, she mumbles now, “I just wish I could find a way to politely tell him I don’t want his fucking help.”

Steve, the big hulking man he is, slams his door shut and ambles over. He inquires as to if I have the emergency brake on so that the car doesn’t roll backwards.

“Uhmm…no, not really.”

Tess brings up the point that implementing the emergency break – one which I have never had to use – might lock up my rims and thus require an expensive tow.

“Ah, there is that!” he says.

Tess begins to crank up the car.

“Wait!” he shouts.

“What?!”

“I wouldn’t jack up the car any further without loosening the lug nuts.”

He was right. I vaguely remembered my dad saying something about loosening the lugs before jacking up the vehicle. “You’re right,” she admitted. “Thanks.”

Tess applied the tire iron. She pulled, yanked, grunted, did all sorts of hunchbacked dancing around my dilapidated tire. “Good Christ these are on tight!” she exclaimed at last.

“Have ya got a cross-handle wrench?” asked Steve.

“NO.”

“Just hold on one sec, I’ll run inside and grab mine!”

The man almost literally skipped back into his house. Tessandra sighed, irritated. She began yanking and pulling again. I watched Steve happily bounce back over to us. I looked at his belly and began thinking of a large bowl of green Jell-O.

He applied the steel cross to one of the lug nuts and began twisting, contorting, and standing atop the wrench. He heaved, grunted, grimaced, and then in an expression of utter futility, he wheezed, “WOW THAT’S ON THERE GOOD!

“Yep,” said a frowning Tess.

I laughed, then felt some slight shame at the inappropriate timing. Tess threw down her tire iron, kicked aside the jack-stands with a clatter and said we’d be inside having dinner before anymore more of this shit.

“Got any WD40?” Steve inquired.

“Yeah. We’ll apply some of that and let it soak while we have dinner.”

I fetched our can of WD40 and Tess sprayed down the lug nuts. We went inside the warm kitchen to enjoy our pork chops.

After our bellies were full, we took a shot at loosening the lubricated lug nuts. She tried, then I tried, bending, yanking, gasping, doing the hunchback dance. All to no avail.

“Look at that, babe,” she said, pointing to the exposed rim.

I looked. My poor rim was as warped as the mind of a murderous drug junkie and as crooked as a politician. “Shiiiit,” I stated.

I really think you should move your car off the street.”

“You’re right, hon. I will do that.”

If I didn’t, I’d surely earn myself a delightful orange ticket slapped to my windshield, if not an outright tow. I drove my shitty car into the driveway. It rumbled sadly. Tess grabbed the make-shift two by fours once more and after several tries, accompanied by the stinky emanation of burning rubber (surprisingly, the wheel still had tire left to burn), we had it propped up once more.

We entered our warm abode with a simultaneous sense of relief and failure. I called up my old man again.

“I’m going to call up Wal-Mart. They had my tire, maybe they’ll have my rim.”

“Yeah,” he said. “They’re not going to have it, buddy.”

“No?”

“Nope. Call up New Richmond Auto Salvage. They should have a used one for you, or they’ll order you one. You have to get a new rim, man. You can’t put on a new tire without a rim, you know what I mean?”

I very much knew what he meant.

 

***

It is six o’clock on Wednesday morning. My girlfriend has driven me to work, kissed me goodbye, and gone off to her own day job. I’ve an hour before my shift officially begins, and so I am sitting at the table closest to the front window of the Coffeehouse. It is still dark outside and all the grey, retired men are trickling in, ordering breakfast sandwiches for later and buying their black coffees now.

I’m sipping a dark roast with a few tablespoons of heavy cream from a white porcelain mug, reading Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. I am feeling sorry for that poor, clueless sot, Charles Bovary – the Madame’s husband. He has no idea how unhappy his wife is, nor her strong desire to have an affair with one of his associates. Poor Charles. I know I would feel mercilessly wrecked if Tessandra were unhappy and had another in her heart. Fortunately for me, of course, I know this is not the case. For she loves me madly, and I, her.

I ponder the nightmare I had last night. I dreamt I was having fun sliding down a gigantic car windshield. As soon as I reach the bottom, I would climb to the top again. The air whooshed by my ears. I could hear cracks in the glass beneath me, but this I ignored, deciding to slide down just one last time. And as I did, the glass gave way, and I collapsed into a literal swimming pool of shattered glass. I crawled my way through to the pool rails, and pulled myself out. My body bled profusely. Shards of glass stuck out of my legs and kneecaps. I suddenly awoke, sweating profusely.

I make some notes of this in my blue journal, and, begrudgingly, clock in for my nine hour shift. The day ekes by like a retarded snail undergoing radical constipation and finally the evening arrives. My father walks into the Dunn Bros. He is wearing a large, bulky winter coat with the words SNAP ON printed in red upon the back. Atop his head is his usual camouflage baseball cap. He watches as I make my final round of the lattes, teas, and coffees.

We drive to my home and jack up my car. Dad has already used a miniature blow-torch to heat the lug nuts to cherry red. Using an impact gun, a little battery-operated tool, he finally removes those bastard lugs. As he does so, he recommends I purchase myself the Milwaukee Tool Kit, which comes with the impact gun. “Can’t go wrong,” he says.

As my dad is down there, removing the wheel, I notice how much older he’s gotten over just these past few years. He takes off his baseball cap and he is nearly bald. A thin stubble of grey is all he has. There are strands of grey in his goatee as well, and as he lays upon his side, I see the end of his pot belly beneath his coat and ponder if I might acquire a belly in my old age as well. I am mystified by time and entropy. Rusty lug nuts. Aged men and women. The world spinning, but not forever. Everything, by course of physical law, is being inevitably worn down. For the moment, I cherish that my father is alive, and cares enough about me to help me out. As he takes off the tire, he eyes my brake pads. Disturbed, he shakes his head, saying, “Worn down to near shit….near shit.”

We drive his warm, sleek Ford focus to the New Richmond Auto Salvage, which is located just off of the main highway. It is a strange place. The building looks like an elongated double-wide trailer, transformed into a make-shift garage. Outside the front entrance is a cheap statue of a Greek God. I am not sure which one it is. His figure is fine, except for a dove, quite oddly, covering his genitals with spread wings.

“He’s quite modest, isn’t he?” I asked my father.

He pretended not to hear me. Upon my closer inspection of the replica, I notice someone has applied black earrings to the deity’s ears. He has been transmogrified into a blasphemous idol; a hipster god, ripe for the times. We enter the door.

The lobby is empty of people, aside from a little old lady sitting in one of the two waiting chairs. The front desk is piled with papers. In the far corner, a seven foot tall shelf chock full of ancient stereo equipment – crappy looking CD/Tape players, radios, and dusty speakers. My father picks one of the stereos up and remarks how expensive they were back in 1990, when he first bought one.

The lobby floor is largely occupied by used, stacked tires. The air smells of old rubber and dirt. A sign which reads, “Tire sets for $100!” is taped to most of the stacks. In the corner, an out-of-order ATM machine placed next to a dingy vending machine, selling Mike & Ike’s and fruit pies. High upon the wall is a shelf which runs 360 degrees around the lobby. Upon the shelf are rusting antique miniatures. There are trains, combines, tractors, milk trucks, old convertibles, racing cars, buggies, etc.

An immense man wearing a bright yellow sweatshirt saunters out of the garage. He is obviously a working man, as he is covered head to foot with grease smears and dirt.

“Y’all must be the folks looking for a rim,” he bellowed.

His voice very easily filled the tiny, crowded lobby. My father and I both confirmed this was the truth.

“Very well,” he nodded. “Rim will be $20. Placement upon the tire will be another $10.”

“Sounds perfect,” I said.

I hand him the new tire and he pops back into the garage. Ten minutes later he returns, wheeling out the new rim and tire. I look at the rim. It is ruddy brown, just like underneath my car. A perfectly matching appliance, I think. A few flakes of rust falls to the concrete.

“Yup,” he proclaims. “It’s a thang of beauty!”

I smile and pay the man in cash. We say ‘thank you’ and head back to my house and attach the new wheel. A great sense of relief runs through me at the tightening of the last lug nut and the setting of the hubcap. At last I am working with four wheels again, which is no small blessing!

The oil change, the fuel pump replacement, the brake pad replacement, will all have to wait for another day – a day to take place far sooner than I had initially planned, I will admit. The event of my flat tire has only awakened me to the realization that I am completely irresponsible with my duties of vehicular maintenance. Due to denying my need for a new tire and behaving negligibly, I have unwittingly wasted the time and effort of my girlfriend, father, and overly helpful neighbor. I have, however, provided some business for my local auto salvage. In life, there are many lessons to be learned. This has been merely one of a great many…and I am a man with much to learn.

The Laundromat Sunrise

The following is a work of fiction…

*

The three of us waltzed into the town laundromat at 5:22 AM. It was time we get down to business, sober up, and wash the whites. I brought a suitcase full of socks and underwear and shirts. I had no pants to wash, as the only pair I owned I was wearing.

Peterson straggled over to the bank of chairs facing the front windows and splayed his weary body over them, placing an arm over his face. Benjamin went to the opposite bank of chairs and sat crouched, head in his hands, elbows on his knees. His eyes were straggled red. I tended to my whites.

The laundromat was mostly empty, with the exception of the woman at the reception desk in back. She was a brunette, was plump and white. She eyed me suspiciously for a moment or two, then went back to whatever she was busy doing before we drunkenly sashayed in.

“What are we doing here?” moaned Peterson.

“Yeah, what are we doing here?” Benjamin laughed, wincing and grabbing his stomach.

“We’re getting down to business, boys.” I said. “We’re sobering up, washing whites. Any of you two bastards got anything to wash? Now’s the time! We have to hit the road before day intrudes and time swells.”

Then I had a brilliant thought which I could not neglect to share. “Daytime is a useless existence which vanishes the madman before he fulfills the dream!” I proclaimed.

“Okay,” groaned the boys.

It took 38 minutes for my clothes to wash and by then the first rays of sunlight broke through the windows. Ben and Peterson moaned in agony, like a pair of mogwais caught beneath a heat lamp. I threw my clothes in a dryer and set it for 25 minutes.

A group of ladies entered the double-doors. They were middle-class mothers bringing in baskets of laundry with their children trailing behind them. They looked down at Peterson’s unconscious body splayed across the chairs and frowned. Then they looked over at Benjamin sitting there with his head in his hands. They curled the corners of their mouths, disgusted. Then they looked over at me.

“G’mornin’, ladies!” I said gleefully.

They snarled and walked briskly past, noses in the air, wrangling a laundry basket in one fat arm and dragging in their children with the other. “God, they smell awful! Don’t they, Clarisse?” I heard one of them whisper.

I withdrew my pocketbook from my coat and began writing some notes about our night and our (well, my) plans for our future in the upcoming days.

Benjamin got up slowly from his chair and calmly walked over to the trash bin and wretched. This sent the ladies into near hysteria. They began petitioning the plump receptionist with such statements as, “How can you allow such filth in here?! Families come here to wash their clothes, for god’s sake!” They spoke as if washing clothes were the very meaning of existence.

The receptionist nodded. “Of course, mam.” She got out from behind her desk, walked over to Benjamin and scolded him. “SIR? THIS IS ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE!” She looked back over her shoulder for approval. The mother-flock all nodded their heads once, arms crossed, children gazing up nervously from their designated play corner. “I need you to leave!” she affirmed.

“Bitch, leave him alone!” moaned Peterson. “This is a good man. Can’t you see he’s sick? This is a human being right here. Where is your sympathy? Where is your compassion? You ought to be ashamed of yourself!” Then he looked past Benjamin leaning sadly against the wall and squint-eyed the mothers.

“All of you ought to be ashamed too!” he said, then brought his index finger to his chin, thinking. He looked back up at them, adding, “and at least three outta four of ya oughtta suck my dick!”

The women gasped in horror and the receptionist turned white, fainting to the floor. Benjamin moved in to help her, tripped over her chubby leg, and now down on one knee he vomited a green splat upon her chest. All the women screamed and covered their children’s eyes with sweaty palms.

I began to giggle (tee hee tee hee!) and the giggle turned into laughter (ha-ha-ha!) and the laughter turned into hysterical howling (TEEHEEHAAAHAAAHAAAAA!!!).

BEEP went the machine! My clothes were finally dry. “Time to leave, boys!” I said.

So I grabbed my suitcase full of clothes and we walked out the door into the glorious sunrise of a new day, leaving the mother-flock to tend to an unconscious laundromat receptionist puddled over in Benjamin’s vomit stew.

Life is funny sometimes.

***

The Crucified Cock (A Letter)

They took the guy’s balls and pecker, nailed them to a crucifix and set it upon the barroom wall. It was to set an example and let all the other drunks know not to badmouth any of the food, drink, waitresses or Feng shui of the bar. The bar was owned and managed, with some evident pride, by the Boston mob.

After awhile, the crucified balls and pecker began to smell pretty bad. No one dared complain. It was better to just keep on drinking, drinking, drinking until one couldn’t smell anything at all. So, this bar became one wherein everyone would be guaranteed 100% smashed 100% of the time.

The prime rule in this mob-run establishment was, “once a patron, always a patron.” If one dared to go ‘cross the street to the other bar-restaurant — the one without a crucified male genitalia hanging on its walls like some warped cannibalistic decor — that person would inevitably be found out and fitted for cement shoes.

I am not kidding.

Sometimes, too, a tourist would walk into the bar (which became well known as “The Crucified Cock” among patrons) and they would see the horrific phallus on the wall, placed right above the cash register. They would contort their faces and make sounds of disgust, but none of them ever thought it was actually a guy’s real cock and balls up there. But, it was. I know, because I happened to be among one of the privileged few whom witnessed the original disemboweling.

As I find myself nearing the end of this letter, I’ve come to discover I’m fairly parched. Think I’ll just take a taxi on down to The Crucified Cock and have myself a beer or several. It’s not so bad a hang-out these days. The new managers (still very much the mob) have long since taken down the depraved cross and replaced it with a framed photograph of Raymond L.S. Patriarca. As it turns out, Raymond L.S. Patriarca doesn’t smell nearly as bad as the previous guy.

Isn’t it nice to be living in such liberal times?

Sincerely,

an anonymous patron of the Crucified Cock.