The Shakes (Excerpt 4)

From Chapter Three

Momma and Eddie said goodbye to Magnolia and me in the driveway at the home of the Beasleys. I’m going to call them the Beasleys, like my daddy did, because they didn’t really seem like regular grandparents to me. I thought mom and Eddie would maybe at least stay for lunch, but they didn’t. He kept whining about having to get back to Chicago and I don’t think he liked the way old man Beasley was looking him over and being judgmental. I think deep down Eddie was a bit of a coward himself, but he just acted like he knew everything. I was glad to see him go but wished my mom would have just decided to stay and forget about him. But she didn’t. I wondered as they drove off if I’d ever see her again. I just got that feeling, that feeling of a forever goodbye, but unfortunately, it wasn’t.

Living at the home of the Beasleys was kind of like living at military camp. At least that’s how it felt to me even though I’d never been to military camp. Old man Beasley was especially picky about his library, that’s what he called it. The room kind of formed a corner of the house on the front and doors with little squares of glass opened into it from the den. It had a big wooden desk in there covered with papers and books and there were lots of shelves with more books and plants and framed pictures.

Up on one of the walls he displayed the front page of the newspaper when it was announced that he would be the new editor of the Blue Shore Gazette. I looked at it under the protective glass of a boastful frame and the article included a picture of old man Beasley smiling like I had never seen him smile and he was shaking another man’s hand. In the background of the photo, they had gathered the staff to be in the picture as well and they all looked sad and scared. I guess I could understand that.

He also had some pretty nice maps up on the wall all about the Great Lakes that I liked looking at. I could only look at them when he was around though, otherwise I wasn’t allowed to go in there. That kind of made me sad because it was a nice room with big windows that looked out onto the front yard and then the street. It was a quiet street in a quiet neighborhood almost in the country on the edge of town and I kind of liked that. There weren’t ever many cars that came by. People walked their dogs occasionally. I saw kids once in a while, too, but I don’t know where they came from. The houses were kind of far apart, but not like miles apart.

I would have liked to sit in that room by myself, behind the big desk, and just think about things because that’s one of my favorite things to do. But old man Beasley wouldn’t let me sit at the desk and think about things. He was always good at stifling a wandering imagination. There was a smaller chair against one of the walls and that’s where we had to sit, mostly when he was giving me or my sister a talking to about something we did wrong. It was like a boss towering over a shoddy employee.

 He did let me spin the big globe of the Earth he had in there, but never too fast. I’d set it in motion and then I’d stop it with my finger and wherever it landed that’s where I was going to live someday. A lot of times it turned out I was destined to end up in the middle of the ocean. “Well, what did you expect?” he would say. “Don’t you know that 70 percent of the Earth is covered by oceans?” Then he’d wag a big finger at me and say, “You’re wasting your time with such foolish dreams.”

When we first moved in, old man Beasley gave me and Nola a tour of the house which was kind of stupid because we’d been there before. It was more of instructions on what we could do and what we couldn’t do and what we could touch and what we couldn’t touch. As you can probably guess, there was a lot more couldn’t than could.

When we got to his library, he bragged about how it was a momentous collection of his life’s work and all his accomplishments and that he did a lot of important thinking in that room that impacted a lot of people’s lives. It’s also where he kept his books and magazines about gardening because now that he was retired, he was really into studying about growing his own vegetables and flowers in the back yard. He said a man should never become idle and lazy even when he retires, and he looked straight at me and made a gesture with his bushy white eyebrows as if he was saying: “Don’t be like your daddy was.”


I guess I had it better than Magnolia as far as rooms went because I got put in the basement all by myself. It wasn’t a horrible basement like some could be. With the way the Beasleys were, everything was neat and tidy, and it was mostly like a regular part of the house, maybe just a little darker since there weren’t a lot of windows down there and they were small. Mine was a room that they had set up for guests that rarely ever came. It had a decent bed and some furniture and a desk with a lamp where I could sit and write things down in my notebooks like I do. I did a lot of reading too.

There was a bathroom right across the hall and a room to do the laundry right next to that. There was another room lady Beasley used as sort of a pantry for extra canned goods and food and storing things. The main part of the downstairs was one big room lady Beasley used as her art studio and for sewing and crafts she sometimes did. There were a lot of paintings lying around, mostly of people and flowers and bowls of fruit, and countless tubes of paint and brushes and rags and sketches on paper tacked to the walls. One time I asked her if I could try painting because I thought it might be something I’d be interested in doing because I’m creative. She looked at me like I was stupid and just said, “I’ll think about it,” but I don’t think she ever did because she never let me paint anything.

The best part of being in the basement was that I could go up the steps and then there was a door right there at the top that went out into the back yard. I started slipping out at night after the Beasleys went to bed which was usually before 10. I just had to be quiet. I found a little can of household oil in the garage and oiled up all the hinges on the doors I used because they would whine horribly. More often than not, I’d steal one or two of lady Beasley’s cigarettes and some matches from where she kept them by her sitting chair in the den or from the cabinet by the dining room table. I don’t think she ever noticed because she smoked a lot and probably didn’t really keep close track. She bought them by the carton. I’d walk down into the back yard to the edge of the woods and smoke them while I looked up at the stars and try to communicate with the universe. I worried about what the Beasleys would have done to me if they ever caught me. I was always looking back over my shoulder imagining Grandpa Roman trudging toward me with a flashlight in his hand and yelling. That took some of the enjoyment out of it.

I was also worried lady Beasley might smell it on my clothes when she did the laundry but then I figured she was probably so soaked in it herself she wouldn’t even notice. If she ever did say something about it to me, I planned to just answer back, “No grandma, not me. Can’t you tell the whole house smells that way?” And it did which was kind of funny to me since she was so fussy about everything. She kept windows open a lot when it wasn’t too cold. Old man Beasley didn’t care nothing about it because he puffed a tobacco pipe, and it made him look like Popeye covered in snow because of his white hair.

Magnolia was confined on the main floor of the house where the bedrooms were clustered together in a hallway on one end. Her room was in the corner, next to the old man’s and right across from lady Beasley. The Beasleys didn’t sleep together in the same room anymore because lady Beasley had the shaky legs. I heard once through the family grapevine that old man Beasley threatened to crack her legs in two if she didn’t quit all that jittering around. I believe it. I can see him cracking somebody’s legs in two, clear as day. Honestly, I think it was more than just lady Beasley’s shaky legs. I think they just didn’t like each other anymore. I never once saw them act like they were in love. Never. They snapped at each other a lot though. I also noticed they spent a lot of time just off by themselves. Seems the only time they were together was at the supper table or when they were sitting in the den watching the TV or reading, and even then, they didn’t really talk much.

So, poor Magnolia was stuck between them two and she said she was scared half-to-death about breathing too loud or if she had to get up and go to the bathroom. One time she couldn’t hold it anymore and she did get up and she snuck down the hall to where the bathroom was and went inside and closed the door real slow because it made a noise. Well, after she was done and flushed and washed her hands, she opened the door and there was old man Beasley standing there with his big arms crossed in front of his big chest, and he beamed down at her and wanted to know why she was disturbing the whole house in the middle of the night.

She told him she had to go to the bathroom, and he told her that she was supposed to make sure she used the bathroom right before bed so she wouldn’t have to get up in the middle of the night and wake everyone else up. Magnolia told me she said she was sorry to him, but he grabbed her by the arm and kind of dragged her down the hall to her room and flung her inside. He told her to stay in bed and go to sleep, then he went away. It scared her bad she told me. A kid shouldn’t be scared about having to go to the bathroom.


The Shakes (Excerpt 2)

From Chapter One

One day Eddie and my mom sat me and my sister down in the living room after supper to tell us something important. Eddie said he had gotten a promotion and that he was being sent to work in Chicago. I didn’t know why the hell anyone would want to promote Eddie, but they did. At first, I was fine with it because I thought it meant he wouldn’t be around much anymore. But then my mom said she was going to go with him and help him settle in and things like that, but that it was just going to be a small apartment so my sister and I would have to go live with our grandparents, “them damn Beasleys” as my daddy called them, up in the Badger Sate, that’s Wisconsin, for a while.

Eddie went on and on about how it would be best for everyone while he makes his way at the new job and makes a good impression. He didn’t need too many distractions. Then he talked about how the big city was no place for us kids and that we would come later when they were officially married and had a house set up in the suburbs and then my mom stuck out her hand and wiggled her fingers in the air and there was a new ring on it. It wasn’t the ring my daddy gave her. She probably threw that one away. They said we were going to be a new, happy family. They acted like they were excited, and they wanted my sister and I to be excited, but I wasn’t very excited, but then why would I be?

In the summer of 1979, Eddie helped momma sell the house and he got it packed up. He sent most off to a storage place in Illinois. A lot of it was stuff that belonged to my sister and me. A lot of it belonged to my daddy, too, and that made me mad as hell. Magnolia and I were only allowed to take a few things with promises that everything would be back to normal once we were all reunited in Chicago. I didn’t believe Eddie and part of me was hoping he was making it all up anyway.

My Grandma Mavis and my Grandpa Roman were my mom’s parents. I think she kept them disappointed much of her life. They never really liked my daddy too much either. They thought he wasn’t motivated enough and wasn’t giving us a good enough life. I don’t think it affected them too much when he died even though they acted like it did.

They lived in a nice house near Lake Michigan in a small town called Blue Shore and it was full of blue people and cold people but there were streaks of sunlight, too. And it was the sort of light that made your guts jump a bit with lonely happiness if that makes any sense. It was the sort of light that made its way through the trees and filtered through the autumn leaves set to fall and it cast color like loaded dice. It was September light, October light, and it would come in on an angle through the trees like I said, and it would hit against a neighborhood of neat little houses of white and yellow and pink and sweet ocean blue all lined up in Americana serenity and the echoes of life there called down to the fallen bodies of yesteryear in triplicate. I had been to Blue Shore a few times or so, Nola some too, and I liked it. I would have liked it more if the adults around me had just left me alone.

Them damn Beasleys would come and visit us in Arkansas once in a while, but they didn’t like the heat or the food or our living conditions. Not that they were terrible, just not up to their standards. Grandma Mavis would spend most of the time trying to clean and organize our house and Grandpa Roman would get to lecturing my daddy at the kitchen table on how to be a better man. My daddy would just nod his head up and down and say real seriously “I know, sir. I know.” I say daddy did the best he could. He worked odd jobs. Mostly construction and electrical and fixing things and we always had something to eat and had the lights on. I never understood what was so bad about that. There were a lot of other men in the world who did a whole lot worse.

My Grandpa Roman was an overly stern man, and he was pushy, too. He worked at the newspaper in Blue Shore for more than half his life. Worked himself up all the way to editor. He was opinionated and he was always pressing people to be better than what he thought they were, but not in a good way. He was arrogant and critical. He didn’t like laziness or mistakes. He didn’t like unruly kids either, and so he’d get on my momma for that if Magnolia and I made too much noise or ran around too much. He’d tell her that we weren’t disciplined enough because we were acting like animals and that we’d end up just like my daddy if she didn’t lay down the law. I thought he was a mean and heartless man, and I don’t see why he seemed to be so proud of that fact.

Grandma Mavis kind of followed in his ways. She was a fussy lady. Their house was clean and neat, and it looked like no one even lived there, like it was always up for sale or something. Grandma Mavis always kept herself polished, too. Seemed like she even dressed up to clean the house. The only time I ever saw her in something else was when she was riding the mower around in the yard cutting the lawn. She steered that thing with authority and in straight lines. I wanted to ride on it one time, but she wouldn’t let me.

She had worked for Lake County for a long time. She oversaw the running of the museum and historical places like that. She had something to do with the art center, too. I guess she was kind of important because she had to go to town meetings sometimes and talk. She could be a very pointed and serious woman at times, and I always thought she would have made a good guard at a jail.

I don’t think either one of them were ever very fun. Maybe at Christmas. That’s one time we would usually visit if the weather wasn’t too bad. There’d be other people there too, like uncles and aunts and cousins from different places. Some we hardly knew. We got a lot of presents, though. Nola and I would play outside with the cousins while the grownups stayed in the house drinking cocktails and gossiping loudly about family members that weren’t even there. Believe me, my daddy wasn’t much for cocktails and talking and so he’d usually end up coming outside to watch us run around. Grandpa Roman took it as an insult and thought daddy couldn’t stand on his own with the adults.

Grandma and Grandpa Beasley had about seven acres of land and where the yard ended in the back there was a wooded area with some walking paths worn into the earth and a trickle of a creek. The trees were thick in places. Magnolia liked to call it the “100-acre wood” like in Winnie-The-Pooh, but I don’t think it was a hundred acres, but maybe to her it felt like it. I guess it could have been.

One time after a Christmas lunch I was out there with my cousin Angela from Oshkosh, and we were just walking around hitting sticks against trees and not really talking much. Maybe some stuff about school. It was winter but the sun was shining, and it was even kind of warm and I had to unzip my coat.

She was a year older than me and just out of the blue she asked me if I had ever kissed anyone. I said no, which was true. She said she hadn’t either and wanted to know if we should try it with each other. She was pretty decent for a cousin, so I said yes. Then she kind of backed me up to a tree. She was a bit bigger than me, and I remember her face was really close to mine and she smelled like the bubblegum she just spit out. I was nervous because I wasn’t sure what to do. I just closed my eyes, held my breath, and waited. Then I felt what must have been her lips on me and it lasted for about 10 seconds and then she was done. Her mouth was soft and felt warm and cold at the same time. I think she lied about never doing it before because she seemed pretty well versed in it. I was suddenly worried I had to deal with a cousin for a girlfriend, and that I’d have to write letters or call her up on the phone every day. But it was stupid for me to worry because I never had to do any of that because she just shrugged her shoulders and looked at me like it was nothing special. We went back to walking around and she never said anything more about it or wanted to try kissing ever again. I was relieved and grateful.


Refrigerated Dreams (Act 2)

The wheels suddenly slowed, and the bottom of her sneakers slid into the gravel as Veronica Genesis stopped her bike at the rim of the garbage-strewn hole in the ground. Rude Rusty came up behind her in a cloud of dust.

“He’s in there?” she asked, pointing down into the trash pit and where an old goldenrod-colored refrigerator stuck out like an alien monolith.

“Yep,” Rudy smacked.

The girl turned to look at him. “You really locked him in there?”

“Yeah. You should have seen him. He was crying and acting like such a pussy.”

Veronica looked back down at the refrigerator. “That’s murder.”

Rusty scoffed. “So. No one’s going to miss him. He was a nobody.”

She snapped her head back in his direction. “He had a family.”

“They probably suck, too,” Rudy laughed, and he climbed off his bike and let it fall to the ground. “Come on,” he said, and he started making his way down the side of the landfill pit.

The girl reluctantly followed after him.

She stood before the nasty looking old refrigerator and watched as he undid the scrap wiring that they had wrapped around it to keep poor Adam Longo securely shut in. When the last of it dropped away, she stepped back as he went to pull the door open. He looked at her and grinned. “Are you ready?”

She shook her head, but her face showed she was frightened.

“You might want to hold your nose because he’ll probably be a bit ripe,” he said, and he laughed and yanked it open.

It was empty.

They stood there and stared inside it, absolutely puzzled.

“You made all this up, didn’t you,” Veronica snapped. “What an awful dirty trick.”

Rusty was stunned for a moment. “No. I swear! We put him in here.”

Veronica rolled her varnished lemon-yellow eyes and scoffed. “You’re so full of shit.”

“Go ask the other guys!” Rusty yelled.

“I don’t want anything to do with your stupid friends,” Veronica said, and she turned and started to make her way back up.

“Wait!” he yelled out. “I swear it. He was in there!”

“I’m going to the mall,” she yelled out without turning to look at him. “And I think we need to reevaluate our relationship.” When she got to the lip of the landfill, she got on her bike and rode away toward the Grainer Falls Outlet Bazaar.


The mall was a mix of inside and outside spaces connected by walkways and manicured green areas and small bricked plazas where there were little booths set up that sold sodas and snacks and homemade trinkets and wares, and they sat in the shadows of the big box behemoths stuffed with China-made crap. Somebody somewhere decided to turn the place into a festival of shopping, a carnival of capitalistic hot iron branding and the cattle came in droves and made animal noises as they grazed the asphalt acres.

Veronica Genesis sat on a slotted wooden bench beneath a tree and licked at a vanilla ice cream cone. She was watching a man on stilts juggling bowling pins. He was dressed as a scary clown for some reason. In the other direction, she saw a bare-chested man with big muscles and hairy arms swallowing fire. People with fancy shopping bags dangling from the crooks of their arms were gathered around him and clapping and yelling out “Oh my!” and “Whoo.” Veronica rammed the tip of her tongue deep into the ice cream to make a fashionable dent. “People are so god damn stupid,” she mumbled to herself.

A figure suddenly appeared at her side, and she looked up. It was Andy Bliss from school. He wore a shirt with horizontal stripes, tight jeans and a had a blue baseball cap plopped atop his head of curly brown hair. Veronica thought he was dreamy.

“Hi,” he said, being very friendly.

She quickly wiped the ice cream from her mouth with her forearm and looked up at him and smiled, hoping to God there was nothing on her face still. “Hey,” she said back.

“Have you seen Rusty anywhere?” he asked her.

“I left him at the dump.”

The boy snickered, climbed off his bike, and sat down next to her on the bench. “He is kind of a piece of trash,” Andy laughed.

Veronica made a noise of agreement as she shoved the last of the ice cream cone into her mouth, her cheeks puffed out like a fish. “You got that right,” she sloppily grumbled. “Sorry,” she said with a white smile. “I shouldn’t talk with my mouth full.”

Andy Bliss studied her for a moment. “It’s okay. I think you’re pretty no matter what.”

Veronica’s heart invisibly swelled, and her stomach tingled with happiness. She could feel the heat rising to her face and she knew she was blushing. “Thanks,” was all she could say.

“I was supposed to hang out with Rusty, but… Do you want to go get high?” He reached into his pocket and carefully showed her a baggie of meaty, glistening buds.

She stared at it. “I don’t know,” she said, and she looked up into his rich green eyes. “I’ve never done it before.”

Andy was surprised. “Really?”

“Yeah. Really.”

“It will be fun. I won’t let anything happen to you,” he reassured her, and he climbed back onto his bike and motioned to her with his head to follow him.

MORE TO FOLLOW

You can read the previous part of this story HERE.


Comic Stripped (END)

Author’s Note: Mature Content Warning – Sex. Violence. Language.

The Getaway

Max Pine sat with rattled and tattered Christine LaBrush in a small room off the kitchen that was kind of like a screened-in porch. He tried to look at her through the glaze of a rhombus evening, a yellow light seeped in from the house. Her eyes were red and puffy from all the crying she had done. He was reluctant to comfort her. He blamed her for the horrible evening he was having, and all Max wanted to do now was escape from this hell. But she started to talk, and he was forced to listen.

“I’m so sorry I put you through this, Max,” she said. I am so humiliated and embarrassed and angry. I just want to have a normal god damn life!”

Max sighed as he pondered a reply. “That’s probably out of the question at this point.”

Christine’s head snapped in his direction, and she scowled at him. “Wow. Wonderful support.”

Max suddenly shot up from his seat. “You know what… Fuck this shit! I’ve tried to be nothing but nice all evening and all I’ve gotten is hateful crap from your father and now attitude from you. You dragged me into this nightmare, and I owe you nothing. I think I will be going now.”

Just as Max was about to leave, Mrs. LaBrush appeared at the precipice to the room. “Everything okay?” she wanted to know.

“I’m actually heading out, mam,” Max said. “Thank you for dinner. Have a pleasant rest of your evening.”

“But you haven’t had your schaum torte.”

Max sighed. “I really should be going.”

“It’s a very difficult dessert to make. I went to a lot of trouble, Max.”

She cocked her head oddly and smiled at him. “Please? It would bring joy to my heart after such a rough and tumble evening.”

Max conceded. “All right. I’ll have some of your schaum torte.”

“Wonderful,” Mrs. LaBrush gushed. “Shall we go into the kitchen. I’ll make some coffee,” she said, and then she looked over at her blubbering daughter / son. “Come now dear and wash up some. Wipe away those tears and pull yourself together.”

The trio sat in a nook with two benches and a table between. Max looked out a large, dark window as he sipped on his coffee — instant Sanka — and ached to disappear from his present situation.

Mrs. LaBrush cleared her throat. “Are you enjoying the schaum torte, Max?”

“It’s delicious.”

“I made the strawberry compote myself.”

“It adds a delectable zing to the entire dish,” Max said with a hint of sarcasm.

“I was thinking, Max,” Mrs. LaBrush began as she spooned a wad of whipped cream-dappled schaum into her mouth. “It is getting so late and it’s such a long ride back to Mankato… Why don’t you just stay the night.”

Max nearly choked on his schaum torte. “Well, if it’s all the same to you, mam, I think I may just walk into town and get a room until the bus comes in the morning.”

“Oh no. I won’t let you do that. We have a big house here with plenty of room,” Mrs. LaBrush insisted.

“I appreciate that, but I don’t think your husband will like me being here overnight. He hates my guts.”

Moody Christine finally lifted her head from her bowl of schaum torte, her inflated fake lips white with cream. “He doesn’t hate your guts. He’s just very overprotective and old-fashioned.”

“He’s a hypocritical asshole,” Max blurted out. “No offense to you, Mrs. LaBrush.”

She smiled in agreement. “He is quite the challenging mate,” she said. She sighed and then started licking at her spoon seductively yet grossly, her eyes aimed directly at Max. He caught on to her flirtation and it sickened him, and he squirmed where he sat. “But don’t worry about Herbert. He’ll drink himself to sleep in front of the television and you’ll be gone before he even wakes up.”

Max’s eyes went from depressed Christine to her mother and then to the gaudy walls and finally the stained ceiling. “I suppose one night wouldn’t hurt.”

“Wonderful!” Mrs. LaBrush excitedly exclaimed. “A sleepover! You can use our guest room — upstairs and at the end of the hall. No one will bother you in there.”

“That will be fine. If it’s all right, I’d like to go up and take a shower and turn in for the night. This has been an overly exhausting day,” Max said, and he wiped his mouth with a napkin and got up from the table. “Thank you for dinner and the schaum torte and the accommodations. Goodnight.”

“Wait,” Christine said. “Would you like me to come sleep with you. I mean… In the same bed, tonight? I need to be held.”

Max beamed at her like headlights on bright. “No,” he said, and he left them.


It was uncharacteristic for Herbert LaBrush to wake up in the middle of the night from his drunken stupor and begin to wander around the house, but on that night, something in the walls, the air, shook him and he did.

He fumbled for a familiar switch in the kitchen and clicked on a light. He opened the refrigerator door. He peered inside and the glow of the appliance bulb reflected against his slick dome. He looked for something to eat. He picked a few things up, sniffed at them and then put them back. He opened a carton of egg nog, drank from it, and then wiped at his mouth with his hairy arm.

After he closed the refrigerator, he thought he heard a noise coming from upstairs. He went to the bottom of the stairs and pointed an ear upward. There were noises drifting in the air. Something out of place was indeed going on. Mr. LaBrush tip-toed halfway up the stairway and then stopped. Again, he pointed an ear upward and it was then that he realized what he heard were the sounds of lust being played out in real time. Some sort of lovemaking was happening, live.

Herbert LaBrush gritted his teeth and clenched his fists in a silent rage that turned his face red and caused steam to swirl from the top of his head like in a cartoon.

“That bastard!” he seethed quietly to himself. “He’s having his way with my son… And in my very own house! I’ll kill him! I’ll kill him to death!”

Herbert LaBrush went to the garage. He was fuming and out of his head with debilitating anger when he retrieved an old baseball bat buried in a corner. He held it in his hands. It was heavy and solid. “I’ll knock that sinful fornicator straight to hell,” he said aloud as he took a swinging stance and swayed the bat in the air a little bit. “He’ll never see the lights of Heaven when I’m through with him.”

Once back inside the main part of the house, he quietly crept up the stairs, the filthy moans and groans blurping forth like rapid heartbeat elevator music in a snobby office filled with lonely orifices. He rattled like a fake plastic tree in a turbulent wind.

Herbert LaBrush held the bat high and slowly moved down the dark hallway toward Christine’s old bedroom. It was then, as he got closer and reached for the doorknob, that he became aware his hearing had deceived him, and that the sex noises were not coming from Christine’s old room, but instead, his very own bedroom.

A symphony of confused wrath choked his mind and body as he got closer to the room and suddenly realized that it was his very own wife from whence the sounds of animalistic passion were percolating from. He trembled with pain and anger as he pressed his head against the door and listened to her moist and guttural ramblings as the bed squeaked and the headboard smacked against the wall.

Herbert LaBrush looked skyward, his eyes penetrating the ceiling and beaming straight to Heaven. He shook a fist in the air. “Why have you brought this demon into my house!?” he whispered through clenched teeth and spit. “Why have you allowed my own wife to be speared by such a sinful wretch!? What have I done to deserve this, Lord!?” He panted as he waited for a sign, an answer, but there was nothing besides the orgasmic cries of his wife beyond the doorway.

Herbert LaBrush slowly stretched his sweaty face with his taut fingertips and then kicked the door in and switched on the ceiling light. And there it was, all splayed out in a naked, twisted and jungle steamy mess. The air soaked with the scent of unfathomable love. It was his own son, or the one who used to be his son, an unrecognizable creature now grinding groins with his own mother and drooling like a hell-fired fiend all over her.

Herbert LaBrush let out a horrifying howl and went at Christine with the bat. He first brought it down against her sweaty back and then went for her head and hit a blood-spangled all-American home run across the room. Mrs. LaBrush got splashed in red and then tried to scream as he came at her next and her yellowed teeth soon started to flow down her esophagus and into her guts.

Herbert had completely lost it. He dropped the wet with blood bat on the floor and went down with it when the full scope of what he had done hit him. He stayed like that for a long time, bent over, panting, weeping until finally the sun began to creep up and tap the new day on the shoulder. The smell of death began to rise more forcefully as he went to the phone on the bedside table and called in his confession as if he were ordering a pizza.


Max Pine sat on the curb outside the bus station somewhere in Minneapolis smoking a cigarette and feeling a bit sad. He looked up into the sky and saw birds. Then he thought he heard sirens screaming toward the burbs and he felt somewhat relieved and calm about the fact that he had snuck out of that madhouse around midnight and hoofed it downtown. He had a sense about things like that.

People were crazy, he concluded most days of his life. People were fucking nuts and that’s why he felt it was a wise decision to steer as far away from them as possible whenever he could. This devastating brush with Christine LaBrush and company solidified that fact for him. It felt better to be alone, he knew. It felt better to be alone all right.

Max enjoyed a stale cup of coffee by himself before he boarded the bus. He took a seat in the back by a window and the bus hissed and lurched forward and soon it was out of Minneapolis and onto the open road and back the 80 some miles to Mankato and then the unlocking of the gallery door and releasing the curtains and letting the sun in and sitting at the cash counter and polishing glass doorknobs and feeling good about being fucking independent.

It was another quiet, sunny day… And Max Pine liked that for sure.

END


Comic Stripped (P.4)

Disturbing dinner conversation

Once at the modest brick and vinyl Midwest bungalow, Max Pine took a seat in an uncomfortable chair near an unlit fireplace. The mantel above was littered with framed photos of Christine as Chris, images of another time that Max scanned with wild sick eyes. An old clock quietly ticked away in the middle.

Mr. LaBrush was fixing drinks at a small wet bar on the other side of the room. Max could hear ice being dropped into a glass.

“You drink whiskey, Max? Or does your kind prefer a wine spritzer?”

“My kind, sir?”

“Well, you’re porking my son so technically that makes you queer, right?”

“I don’t think you know me well enough to make such a brash and insensitive statement, Mr. LaBrush. And what makes you so certain that Christine and I have had any sexual relations? I mean, we haven’t known each other that long. I’m not a pig… And I’ll have a whiskey.”

Mr. LaBrush dropped another round of ice and poured whiskey in a glass. He walked across the room and roughly handed it to Max.

“I wasn’t born yesterday, Max. I spent over 30 years in the military, and I know a thing or two about human behavior. I’m not accepting of any of this at all. It’s wrong. It’s ungodly. I’m not going to cave in and be nice about it either.”

Mr. LaBrush took a deep gulp of his drink, picked up one of the photos on the mantel and studied it with disappointment in his aching eyes. “Just look at what my son used to be. When I think of all he could have become, all he could have accomplished. He’s destroyed his life and soul. It hurts my heart. It truly does.”

“But Christine is still your…”

“I demand you refer to my son as Chris in my house!”

Max sighed with frustration. “Chris is still your child regardless of what he or she accomplishes or doesn’t accomplish in life. If I could be so blunt, sir, you talk as if she has absolutely no value anymore. It’s untrue and sad.”

Mr. LaBrush chuckled as he took another gulp of his drink. “Wow. You certainly are bold. Maybe you could lend some of your balls to my son.” He came closer to Max and hovered over him in a threatening manner almost. “But let me just make one thing nice and sparkling clear, Max. Once you leave this house tonight, I don’t ever want to see you again. I don’t want you back in my home and I definitely do not want you screwing my son. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll just walk away. Walk away, Max.”

Max gulped down his drink, held up the empty glass to Mr. LaBrush and smiled. “May I have another?” he asked.

Mr. LaBrush snatched the glass away, set it on a nearby table and disappeared into the dining room.


The dining room hummed with an uncomfortable quiet as they gathered at the table to eat Swedish meatballs.

“Max,” Mr. LaBrush began. “It’s customary in our household for the guest to lead us in prayer before we eat our meal.”

“Actually, I’m not religious,” Max let it be known to those gathered. “I’m afraid I don’t know anything about praying.”

Mr. LaBrush shook his head in disbelief and dismay.

“What do you mean you’re not religious? Everyone is religious. Don’t you believe in God or his little friend, Jesus?”

“No sir, I don’t.”

Mr. LaBrush slapped the tabletop with a meaty hand and the dishes jangled. “Well god damn it! I never thought I’d have a real live pagan sitting here at my supper table. I’m really at a loss here, people. Seems everything is going to hell in a hand basket. The problem is, you young people have no standards or religious morals anymore. You young people just think you can go off and do anything you want. If it feels good, you just go and do it no matter the consequences to your body, mind or soul.”

Mr. LaBrush glared at Christine. “Take my son, for example. He didn’t want to be a man anymore because it didn’t feel right to him… So, what does he do? He decides to turn himself into a girl. Well, I call all that bullshit! Now look at him — he’s got manufactured body parts. He’s defiled God’s own work. It makes me sick.”

Christine started to whimper within the cloud of his berating. She dabbed at her tears with a napkin.

“Herbert!” Mrs. LaBrush screamed. “You stop that right now or I swear I will leave you! This is our child! No matter what, this is our child!”

Mr. LaBrush snorted.

“You’re going to leave me? Hah! That’s a laugh. You wouldn’t survive one day out in that crazy world without me you silly bitch! Those pagans and hippie liberal assholes would eat you up like a bowl of dog food.”

Max started to get up from the table. “I think we should leave, Christine. I feel very unwelcome.”

“Sit down!” Mr. LaBrush barked. “My wife went to a lot of trouble to cook you this meal and you’re going to eat it!”

Max grudgingly sat back down and plunged his fork into the plate of the worst Swedish meatballs he ever had. He looked around the table at the startled, dying eyes as the people there ate the food without any hint of real purpose in life.

“By the way, Max,” Herbert LaBrush started up again, slushily talking with his mouth full of food. “What kind of a person are you?”

“What do you mean what kind of person am I?”

“I mean your background, your ethnicity. Your skin seems a little… Off.”

“Daddy, stop it!” Christine cried out. “You’re being awful.”

“Zip it, girly boy! I want to hear what he’s got to say.”

“Well, if you must know, my father was black, and my mother is Chinese.”

“Holy dog shit!” Mr. LaBrush bellowed. “God damn, this just gets better and better! But it explains a lot.”

“What the hell do you mean by that!?” Max asked, his blood boiling to the point of overspill.

“I’m talking about consequences, Max. Consequences.”

“Consequences?”

“Yes. You’re the unfortunate consequence of the sinful mixing of skin types.”

Max slammed his napkin down on the table. “You know, Mr. LaBrush, for a man who constantly spews talk of God and righteousness, you sure are one hell of a hateful bigot!”

“Don’t you dare talk to me that way in my own house you little son of a bitch!”

Mrs. LaBrush suddenly shot up from the table, her arms raised above her head, hands violently shaking in the air. “Just stop it, stop it, stop it right now!” she wildly screamed and stomped. “No more! I’ve had enough of this ugliness! Now, we are going to act like civilized human beings or there will be no dessert for anyone. And I’m serious. I’ll go throw it in the garbage!”

“Don’t you dare touch my schaum torte!” Mr. LaBrush warned. “I’ll stick a fork in your face!”

“Oh, shut it, Herbert!” she said, breathing hard as she looked around the table at them. “Understood?”

Mr. LaBrush grumbled under his breath. Christine hung her head in embarrassment and shame and pain.

“Yes, mam,” Max said. “I agree we should try to be a bit nicer to each other. And I apologize for the role I may have played in the disruption.”

“Thank you, Max,” Mrs. LaBrush said. “I’m glad you are willing to make this evening work… Herbert?”

“What?”

“Don’t you feel you owe us all an apology for your cruel antics?” his wife asked.

Mr. LaBrush sucked on his teeth for a bit as his eyes went from Max to Christine and then up to his trembling wife. He scooted away from the table, got up and walked off into the other room and poured himself another drink.

TO BE CONTINUED


The King of Genitalia Street (FIVE)

I awoke the next morning, a Saturday, to the sound of a baby crying and the strong smell of bacon cooking in the underworld. There really is nothing more distinct than the smell of bacon cooking. It has a strength to it, a powerfulness, it’s almost pushy about it. It has a hypnotic purpose that draws people to the table like zombies. But I had other things on my mind.

I got up and dressed and went out into the hallway. Maine’s cries were louder, and I went into the guest room where they had decided to keep him. I pushed in on the slightly ajar door. My sister Emily was holding him, rocking him, trying to soothe him. She turned when she sensed me standing there.

“Good morning, Everett,” she said, and she looked down at Maine in her arms. “I’m afraid I’m not very good at this. Would you like to try?”

I moved closer and took the baby from her. I awkwardly held him.

“Make sure to support his head,” Emily instructed. “That’s very important.”

“Or his neck will break?”

She shook her head at me. “I don’t think his neck would break… It just isn’t good for them.”

I did as she said and soon Maine settled in my arms. I looked at my sister who was oddly watching me. “What is it?” I asked her.

“Nothing really. It’s just I never expected to see such a moment such as this in my lifetime — my baby brother Everett holding a baby. It just doesn’t seem real, that’s all.”

“You don’t think I’d make a good father?”

“Well, for that, you must first have a girlfriend… A real girlfriend. Not a fly-by in the night,” and she nodded toward Maine. “Don’t get too far ahead of yourself.”

I paused for a moment as I looked at her, suddenly remembering the taste of her mouth for some odd reason. “I need to talk to you about something. Would you go for a walk with me?”

“What is it you want to talk about?” she asked with a scrunched face of curiosity.

“It’s important. Please?”

“Okay. Take him down to Eliza and let me get dressed. I will meet you out in the front of the house.”


I smoked a cigarette as I waited in the cold and wondered what I would say to her and how I would say it. I tried to predict her reaction, but the only outcome I saw was her being mad. Very mad. At me.

The front door opened. She was wearing a puffy green winter jacket, a scarf, and she had a raspberry beret atop her head. I was reminded of that Prince song. “Okay,” she halfheartedly smiled. “Let’s go for that walk.”

We moved side-by-side along a snowy sidewalk lined with tall trees, iron and stone fences, and big fancy houses beyond them. There was the dead crispness of winter in the air. The dark branches above us were leafless and crooked like old fingers. I looked over at one of the opulent homes through a vapor of my own chilled breath, and I saw people in a big window, and they were just living their lives in a seemingly perfect way and then I wondered why mine always seemed so damn broken, the pieces of it scattered in a fit of rage.

“So…” she began. “What’s this important thing you need to talk to me about? The kiss? Because I haven’t forgotten about it… And I don’t mean that as a compliment.”

“No. It has nothing to do with that.”

“Well, then what is it?”

“I don’t know how to tell you this and I really don’t want to. But I think it’s something you need to know.”

She stopped walking and we looked at each other for a cold moment. “You’re scaring me. What’s going on? Is it dad? I know he’s been slipping a bit…”

“Emily. It’s about Frost.”

“Frost? What about him?”

I just let it out. “He’s cheating on you.”

“What!?”

“And not only that… I saw him with mother.”

“What do you mean you saw him with her?”

“He’s having an affair with our mother. They are being intimate with each other. Physically. I saw them last night. At the house.”

She stared at me for a long while, a tear fell out of one eye and slowly slid down her cold face. She sniffled, and then she scoffed in disbelief. “You are a sick son of a bitch,” she sneered, and then she slapped me hard across the face. It stung. “I know you don’t care for the man I love and am devoted to, but you don’t need to make up some horrible lie about him in an attempt to sabotage our happiness together. That’s unforgiveable, even for you, and you should be terribly ashamed of yourself. And to include our mother in your disturbed fairy tale. I can’t even stand the sight of you right now.”

She gave me a hateful look and then stormed off back toward the house.

“Emily!” I cried out. “It’s not a lie! I can prove it!”

She ignored me and just kept on going.


When I got back to the house, it was very quiet, as if everyone scurried off to hide in their own personal little holes of hell in the walls. I went into the kitchen to get a drink from the refrigerator. I investigated the sunroom and tipped back a plastic bottle of cranberry juice. Eliza was sitting in there, and she was in the very same chair that played host to reckless adultery the night before. She was holding Maine and feeding him a bottle. I stepped inside. She was somewhat startled when she saw me.

“Hello, master Everett,” she said, and then she looked down at the baby vacuuming the formula from its bottle. “He was a hungry little man.”

“Thank you for helping with him. I know it’s not really part of your job.”

She looked up and smiled at me. It seemed to be the first genuine smile I had seen in a very long time. She was pretty in a foreign way. I never had noticed that before. “But this is much better than polishing silver all day long — silver that doesn’t even need polishing,” she said with a frustrated little laugh. “I don’t mind at all. In fact, I will miss him very much when it is decided that he must go. I almost wish I could keep him.”

“He would have a good life with you… I’m sure much better than the one that’s going to be decided for him.” I looked around the room and I was suddenly struck with a wicked idea on how to convince Emily that I wasn’t making up some terrible lie. I bent down to Eliza, and I lovingly kissed her on top of her head. Her dark hair smelled like a flower garden.

She seemed a little shocked. “Everett? Is everything okay with you?”

“Yes. I’ll be alone in my room if anyone needs me.”


That night, once I knew Emily and my father had drifted off into whatever terrible dreams they were destined to dream, I buried myself in a corner of the four-season porch and waited in the cover of half-darkness. I knew that eventually my mother and Frost would stir, their bellies tingling with sexual excitement, and they would come together at their rendezvous point to connect the plug to the socket.

It was Frost who came first. He was wearing what looked like nothing but boxer shorts and a T-shirt. He stood near the windows and looked out. He tilted some sort of a drink toward his mouth. Then he turned when he heard my mother enter. She quickly went to him, and they embraced each other with a kiss. Then she took a step back from him and whispered, “I think Emily knows something.”

“Evelyn. Darling. She couldn’t,” Frost whispered back. “We’ve been very discreet.”

I carefully pushed the buttons that would make my old tape recorder, the one from my high school days, start recording. I stuck a corded microphone out into the darkness to better pick up their voices, their animal noises.

Frost pulled my mother closer to him and started kissing her again. He worked to undress her. She started breathing hard. Then she stopped him. “Wait. I’m serious. She was acting strangely today. She was very moody. Very quiet. Something is on her mind.”

“And you need to stop convincing yourself that this thing on her mind is us. Emily has a lot on her plate right now. It could be a million other thoughts.” And Frost pulled her close again to kiss her some more.

“But I don’t feel right about this,” my mother asserted as she pulled away once more. “Not here. Not now. Let’s wait until we can meet up in the city again. This is too risky. We’re playing with our very lives.”

“But I can’t wait,” Frost groaned. “I just can’t wait. I must have you.” And that’s when he forced her to the couch and laid down on top of her. He quickly spread her legs and worked himself inside her and that is the point my mother completely surrendered, and from there they went full throttle, and the noises they made were devastatingly perfect.  

FINAL CHAPTER STILL TO COME

Read the previous part of this story HERE.


The King of Genitalia Street (FOUR)

Author’s Note: This story contains mature content.

If I haven’t already told you, the full name placed upon me at birth is Everett Alexander Roane King. I don’t know why I have two middle names, but I think it has something to do with being born into wealth and that air of self-importance that surrounds it. I guess it doesn’t really matter that I have two middle names because I rarely use them, and why would I, unless I was in front of a judge or something.

My mother believes my name is very regal, like I’m a prince or something, which I’m obviously not. Although quite common, “even among the rubbish” as my father says, the family is quite proud of our surname — King. For them it exudes an impression of strength, leadership, advanced education, wealth, and royalty. In essence, it makes them feel okay about standing on the backs of others and wiping their muddy feet because their very name dictates it.

When Frost and I got back to the house with the baby supplies for Maine, Christmas music was softly piping out from some invisible space in the walls, even though it was after New Year’s. My family was standing around the giant marble island in the kitchen and they were sipping on highballs and chatting to each other while poor Eliza was scrambling around to get a simple supper prepared and delivered to the massive dining room table.

My mother lives for the holidays and makes that flavor last for as long as she can. She loves scented candles and now she had about half a dozen lit and scattered about the house. The entire place smelled of apples and cinnamon and the Three Wise Men after a long walk in the desert looking for baby Jesus.

“Oh, good, good, good,” my mother happily exclaimed, and she briskly clapped her hands together when she saw us come in with all the bags from the store. “Now that poor child can be properly cleaned and clothed and fed. Take it all upstairs, but please don’t wake Maine… And Eliza dear, you shall tend to the baby after dinner and dishes. Hmm?”

“I can help her, mother,” Emily interjected.

“Oh, come now, Emily. I’ve decided it’s not your responsibility to help the help,” and she drunkenly laughed. “And besides, that’s what we pay her for… To do things we tell her to do.”

Eliza tried to smile as she scrambled about the kitchen. “Yes mam. It’s fine. I would love to.”

Evelyn smirked at her daughter. “See, all I have to do is snap my fingers. Money makes all your wishes come true… Edward darling, would you make me another drink?”


The table was covered with platters of sliced meats and rare cheeses and artisan breads and bowls of different salads, and all kinds of perfectly cut veggies, condiments, and sauces and what not — a lot of the things I didn’t even know what they were. The Kings could even make sandwiches fancy. I took a seat at one far end of the table, opposite my father. My mother was to my right. Frost and Emily next to each other at my left.

My father took a gulp of his latest highball and cleared his throat. “Frost,” he said. “Would you lead us in prayer… I’d have my son over there do it, but I’m sure he’d screw it up. And God does not take kindly to screw ups.” His drunken eyes drilled into me like I was oil in the ground.

“Edward,” my mother scolded. “Spare the poor boy for one night.” Then for some reason she laughed like she didn’t care either way.

“I’d be honored,” Frost said, and he folded his hands and closed his eyes like a real phony before he started tapping his telegram off to Heaven. “Dear Lord, thank you for bringing us all together this evening to enjoy this bounty of delicious deli meats and fine breads. Bread not unlike your very son and our beloved savior broke with his disciples at the Last Supper down in the snug of Brooklyn, New York. They celebrated your wonders then, just as we do this night.”

I opened my eyes and looked around at all these fools falling for his unholy crap. I just shook my head, reached for a sip of my imported bottle of beer, and yawned before he continued.

“We are forever indebted to your boundless love and mercy. May you protect us, guide us, and wait to welcome us at those heavenly gates where we will cleave to your holy bosom to absorb the full effect of your eternal grace. Amen.”

“Amen,” they said in unison. I chewed on a carrot and for some reason thought about when I was a kid and rode my bike to the arcade in town to play pinball. I was never very good at it, but I loved the lights and the sounds. I don’t know why I remembered that just then. Maybe because I longed to escape the table and those dead souls around it.

My father unfurled his big cloth napkin of virgin white and tucked a corner of it in his shirt collar. “Thank you, Frost,” he said. “That was a fine prayer. A bit unusual, but fine nonetheless,” and he leaned forward with a fork to get himself some mesquite smoked turkey breast.

My mother slapped at his hand. “Ask for the platter to be passed, dear,” she growled. He ignored her command and plunged for the meat.

“It was my pleasure, sir,” the prick Frost replied. “God is very important to me.”

A laugh sloppily slipped from my guts, and everyone beamed at me.

“Was something I said funny?” Frost wanted to know.

I reached for some bread, sliced Black Forest ham, and some rich people mustard. “Not really. I just never took you for the religious type.”

“Is that so, Everett?” He chuckled and looked around the table at everyone as if saying watch what I’m about to do. “I guess you don’t know me as well as you think you do. You shouldn’t even try to figure me out because you may injure your small and struggling mind. But I’ll let you know that I happen to be a very spiritual person, among other things. I have a multi-faceted personality.”

“Frost took a semester of theology,” Emily added. “He feels architecture and religion are very connected. Why, just think of all the wonderful cathedrals in the world. I mean, they’re perfect examples of man and God coming together in the form of art and engineering. Wouldn’t you say, Frost?”

He threw some black olives into his mouth, chewed, annoyingly smiled, and said, “That’s right, honey. But let’s not forget who’s the expert.” He laughed and then bit into his roast beef sandwich. Then he turned and winked at my father.

“Let the man be the man, Emily,” my father said, nodding in Frost’s direction. “You’d be well-minded to follow in step behind this one. I’m assured he will lead you to many, many fine destinations in this world.”

Emily dabbed at her mouth with her napkin. “That’s all and well, daddy, but I do have a mind of my own, you know.”

“Of course, you do, dear,” my father answered, and he pushed himself away from the table and went off to the kitchen to fix himself yet another highball.

“Mother,” Emily said from across the table. “Are you going to let him keep drinking like that? What he said was very hurtful to me.”

My mother just looked at her and grinned. “Oh, Emily. You’re always so dramatic. Let your poor father drink himself into a coma. He does it nearly every night. We all know you are your own person, and we love you for it… Could you pass me the chilled beets?”


Later that evening, I was upstairs in my old room lying on the bed and staring out the window. The usual pastoral view of hills and trees was veiled in darkness. A quarter moon hung on an invisible nail among the stars. Its faint light highlighted the unruly movement of winter clouds.

I couldn’t sleep so I got my clothes back on and crept out into the hall. The house was quiet except for the faint sound of late-night television coming from below me. I went down the stairs. I walked through the half-darkness of the house, the lingering scent of the now snuffed holiday candles lingered in the air. I peered into my father’s den, his study. He was asleep in his favorite chair and aglow in the electric light of the television. I studied him for a moment and realized he looked like some crooked lump of an angel sitting there like that. He was my father and I loved him, of course, but I also hated him, probably because I felt like he hated me. I think that no matter how long he lives, I will never meet his approval. I suppose I have already given up on trying to do that a long time ago.

I suddenly decided I was hungry and went off to the kitchen to find myself a snack. I pulled the double doors of the massive high-tech refrigerator open and peered inside. The bright light hurt my eyes as I scanned the gross abundance of food and drinks. Then I thought I heard a noise coming from somewhere behind me. It was almost like the sound of unwanted animals scurrying around in a place where they shouldn’t be. I quickly closed the refrigerator doors to camouflage myself in a better form of darkness. I heard the noise again. Animals had gotten into the house for sure, I thought.

I moved slowly and quietly toward the four-season porch at the back of the house. It was mostly windows on the outside part of it and a small sliver of moonlight was leaking in. I crept closer to the shuttered inside entrance to the porch — wide French doors with multiple squares of glass to utilize all the natural light during the day. I peered in and saw figures moving in that familiar half-light. I thought at first it was Frost and Emily basking and dancing in the details of their own perfect lives, but as I focused, I realized it was Frost and my mother, and they were having sex.

They were both naked from the waist down and Frost was behind her, and he was roughly pushing himself against her as she was bent over an expensive indoor/outdoor patio chair. He had one hand on her hip and his other hand was tangled in her aging blonde locks and he was pulling on her like he was guiding a temperamental horse with the reins.

I didn’t know what to do. I was frozen and just watched as Frost and my mother went at it. Then my thoughts drifted to my father. Did he know? Did he care? I thought about Emily, too. I was certain she had no idea as she peacefully slumbered somewhere above me now. Then I wondered if this was the first time, but just the way they were going at it, they seemed experienced with each other’s bodies. And when my mother got up and then forcefully rode him as he sat in the chair, I concluded that they knew every intimate crevice and contour of each other. They were in perfect animalistic rhythm. I knew it was animals. The sounds of my mother’s muffled moans worked their way through the doors. I gritted my teeth and clamped my eyes shut. And then I started to feel really sick, and so I turned away and went back up to my room without even getting anything to eat. It took me a long time to get to sleep, and my dreams were corrosive and unrelenting.

TO BE CONTINUED

Read the previous part of this story HERE.