Category Archives: Weirdness

The Sour Scarecrow

Photo by Samuel Benjamin Hernandez Lopez on

A dark day rises gallantly toward the sun. Love is tattooed on the skin of beckoning stars. Red huts line the perimeter of the crater. Down in the belly is where they grow worship plants. The royalty ships float above, the strong hulls crush the air, the flamboyant sails unfurl ahead of the breeze of a sun flare.

The Egg House is crowded this nochy (night) and the barons of love and lust are roaming freely, checking pocket watches and the walls and the windows and the doors.

Harver Fielding feels his guts are all clamped up as he sits in the corner and tries to write a novel beneath a lamp with a green glass shade. This is what it feels like, he thinks. Trying to write in a noisy atmosphere such as this. He does it to train himself, to make him better in the battle against distraction. But the work forces deep breaths and tinges of twists and turns in the guts. Breathe.

He scratches a pencil into paper. The tip breaks, his heart breaks, his eyes cascade over the clamor of the room. A large room, a dim room, a room filled with people, the ones who live in the red huts out on the rim, the ones who caretake the worship plants in the crater’s belly, the royal ship captains and their high brow beaten bruises, the ones the women cling to like plastic wrap in space.

He breathes a restless scarecrow sorrow, a sour candy taste… Keep going he whispers to the inner parts of his own mind. Keep going. Sleep is still, sleep is destiny unfolded. A warm mouth beneath a tree unpeeled, a ripe banana wristwatch, a Fielding statue at the great park. Images upon images bleed fast through Harver’s mind. He’s scared, he’s happy, he misses love, he’s alone, he is crowded in.

The Egg House is a big wooden structure with multiple decks and porches and small windows and ceiling fans that chop away at the smoke and the talk and the smell of the eggs they cook all day. It’s the biggest place to be out on the edge of the crater. It’s the center of humanity for most. It’s the centrifugal engine of all life in this place, this far away place, a place etched away in the corner of the universe unplagued by God and his soldiers of misfortune.

They are far from Earth now… Farther than any of them have ever been. It was a high so high that none of them thought they would ever come down… And now, they don’t want to come down. There’s something in the air here, the shallow thick air that tastes like butter mints and paint. There’s something in the rain, the snow, the chill, the heat, the eggs. The eggs are eggs plus. There’s always a little extra something added that sharpens the corpuscles, unfamishes the blood, lifts the fog and makes the whole world seem like polished glass.

Harver closes his notebook and relents to the growing madness of the people. He sees a woman looking at him… But the restless edge of his heart and soul rust from the weight of love, the weightlessness of joy. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out the small plastic pill bottle. He swallows another mood stabilizer and washes it down with water. What seems to be water. Nothing is defined as it used to be. We are no longer Earthlings; we aren’t any sort of Ling… We are puppets or masters or anything in between, Harver thinks, knows, believes, distrusts.  A cluster of royal captains shout and laugh… their princely lives off Earth seem to suit them well.

Harver suddenly gets cold and pulls on his beat down brown leather jacket. He tucks his notebook under his arm and exits The Egg House, the Exeter, the exile, the existence, all in the same. Once outside he sees the green and blue suns are beginning to dip away. The devil is playing with his chips. He’s betting on frailty and poverty and hate. All the things that destroyed Original Earth, well, some of the things, Harver thinks. The wind plays with his hair. He’s disheveled now, sour, sweet, bitter, and blessed. He wonders as he walks along toward the inner guts of Crater City, if his skin will simply just split tonight and all that he is will spill out onto the floor of his domicilian cubicle. Where to next? Harver wonders. The vastness of all space is deeper than anything that’s ever been.

The wind kicks up as he turns onto Castleberry Street. It’s a place of narrow walkways and tall thin trees and lamp posts that squirt liquid light of orange and basil green. It’s a place of tall buildings, squat buildings, windows, doors, lights, tears, falling souls, nightmares, and beautiful dreams. His building is number 117. He activates the lomtick clock tick, the amber lock, with a wave of a hand and the peering of an eye. He steps onto an air pedestal and is immediately lifted with great speed. Harver almost feels as if he is flying. Almost? He is flying. It stops at level 42. The lock disengages. He steps inside. He goes straight to the one window and looks out.

The world still breathes and then Harver thinks, the world will still breathe long after he himself stops breathing. That pains him, and he wonders if he’ll miss the world or if the world will miss him. The new world, that is. How could the new world possibly miss him.  

In the lonely edge of the end of another day, he regrets much. He laments the losses; he winces from the tragedies. He sits sown in the one chair and is quiet for a long time. He listens to the rhythm of his own heartbeat, but then it changes, it slows, then stops completely. The notebook slips to the floor, and Harver now floats above the rim of the crater, his soul tenderly grazed by the hull of another royal ship.


This Ludicrous Life

Photo by Edwin Soto on

The electric teeth motorcar humming on a vibe vine in West Hollywoodland and the nails of Dracula scratch at the sides of a red streetcar while people are trying to read, trying to sleep, trying to sip the atmosphere because sometimes things just don’t seem right… Like tonight. He watches the golden oil beads run down the angle of a taut line of plastic thread. A couple of circus freaks are humping beneath the gloss of a red tent. The moon keeps dripping. The humans keep dripping. The alligator boy is eating a sandwich at the pop-up lunch counter.

The oil bead watcher carries a mockup of the moon in his hand as he walks the dusty midway. The carnival has all but closed, a few green and gold lights flicker, a man dressed as a sad clown pushes a broom. The humpers bellow on the release. A short man comes tumbling out of the slit, struggling to pull up his pants, chomping a fat brown cigar. It’s all ludicrous. The world is set to ludicrous speed.

The oil bead watcher takes off down a lonely dirt road toward the town. He waves a hand over the mockup of the moon, and it starts to glow blue. The humping short man goes running past. He’s trying to attain ludicrous speed… But he’s just ludicrous.

The oil bead watcher’s name is Krumble Conway. He was brought forth by the loins of a carnie or two or three. No one really knows. He was raised by psychotic wolves. He doesn’t mind the name because it helps him remain authentic. He tried magic and trapeze tricks and juggling and clowning and mind reading… But he was never good at any of it. The only thing he was good at was operating the rides and communing with the moon. Some of the other carnies nicknamed him “Werewolf.” But he has little to no body hair, the hair on his head is short and knobby, he keeps his face clean shaven. His favorite soap is Irish Spring because it gives him a sense of clean escape.

 As he walks along the lonely dirt road toward the town of Apple City, he feels like swallowing a table saw. The humping short man comes running back toward him at full speed. As he swooshes by, he cries out, “I need more of that delicious woman!” He vanishes into the darkness, an invisible dust cloud heading toward a gallery of carnival lights strung out in the distance. Red, blue, yellow, purple, amethyst, emerald, diamond…

When Krumble Conway reaches a suburban neighborhood on the edge of Apple City, where all the houses look like apples, apples with windows and doors and yards and lights and cars in the driveway… He goes up to one of those apple houses and peers in the window like a creep. It looks like the family is all gathered around watching a movie with a big bowl of popcorn and a scattering of soda cans. It must be a comedy because they all burst out laughing at the same time. Same. They all look the same. Pale white skin. Blonde hair. Most likely they all have black eyes.

Krumble Conway decides he wants to play a trick on them because playing tricks is another thing he enjoys doing and is relatively good at. He sneaks toward the front door, lifts a fist, begins banging. He runs and scrambles into a nearby cluster of neatly trimmed bushes. He has a perfect view of the front door. It opens. A tall man in a bathrobe is looking for someone who’s not there. “Hello!” he calls out. “Is someone there!?”

He gives up. Goes back inside. Closes the door.

Krumble Conway the trickster goes back up to the house and once again pounds on the door. A porch light comes on and illuminates the yard. The door swings open again. “If you don’t stop, I’ll call the police!” the tall man in the bathrobe yells. He slams the door. The porch light stays on.

Krumble Conway waits a while. He lies down in someone else’s yard and looks up at the night sky. He wants to count the stars, but he knows he’ll be dead before he even gets close to counting them all. He thinks he just has a bunch of stupid ideas. He starts to realize he doesn’t know what to do with his life. He wishes a woman would sit on him. He doesn’t want to go back to the carnival but that’s where he lives, it’s all he knows. But then again… An idea.

He goes back to the house and climbs in through an unlocked window. A very small lamp casts a glow about the small room. There’s a bed. Someone is sleeping in it. He quietly moves closer and looks. It’s a scarecrow dressed in farm clothes and with yellow straw for hair and guts. It’s somehow breathing. It must be dreaming of rainbows and fire. The scarecrow’s eyes suddenly pop open. The mouth moves to form words. “What are you doing here?”

Krumble jumps back. “You’re alive!”

“Shhhhhhhhhhhhh… You’ll wake the people. They are very weird people.”

“They must be if they let a scarecrow sleep in their house.”

“I’m a summer lodger. I work in the fields.”

“I work for the carnival. I’m a ride operator… Doesn’t that sound boring?”

“Not any more boring than being a field worker.”

“My name’s Krumble Conway, by the way.”

“Scott Scarecrow. Good to know you… But I think you should leave before they find out you broke in. Why did you break in?”

“I guess because I’m just full of mischief.”

“Don’t you know blind mischief can get you killed?”

Krumble shrugs. “I’m not sure I really even care about that.”

“Sounds like someone’s got a case of the Mondays,” Scott the Scarecrow says with a funny chuckle.

“It’s Friday, dumb ass.”

They then both hear the sounds of animalistic mating coming from another room.

“Oh boy.” Scott Scarecrow groans. “They’re at it again… Every single damn night they do this. I have to get up early for work. Just look at these dark circles under my eyes. These people are killing me with all their damn sex.”

Krumble snaps his fingers. “Hey, I got a great idea. Why don’t you come with me back to the carnival.”


“Yes, really. I’m sure I could get you a job…”

And the door bursts open and there stands a fat teen with bulbous hair and a shotgun in his hands, and he just starts blasting indiscriminately and he’s screaming, “This is for Waco!”

Krumble feels the slugs fill his guts and he senses himself sliding down, down, down, and soon his face is against the floor, and he looks up and sees tufts of straw floating through the air, and it isn’t long before Scott Scarecrow is lying on the floor beside him, the life draining out of his eyes.

Krumble coughs. There’ spittle and blood. He looks at his short-lived friend. “I’m sorry about this Scott. I’m afraid it’s all my fault.” He coughs and there’s more pink spittle. “Everything that goes wrong in the world seems to be my fault. I should have never come in here. Go to Oz and rest in peace.”

The next day Krumble Conway gets out of his silver drawer at the Apple City morgue and walks outside. The sun is shining, and the birds are singing, and he finds the lonely dirt road and walks back to the carnival just as they are loading up to move onto the next town. He thinks about the moon and smiles.


Ms. Grundy and the Bone Ghosts (4)

Allison Grundy stood in her front yard behind the safety of a white-picket fence and a grouchy demeanor. She had binoculars set against her sour face and she was watching the chorus of children playing out in the street and the neighboring yards. The song of stimulating play played up and down the roadway. “Damn, rotten kids,” she grumbled to herself. “So many damn kids. Who the hell is doing all this humping to make so many damn kids!?”

There was a man behind her, and he was busy fixing the broken window on the front of the house from when someone threw a rock through it. “What’s that, Ms. Grundy?”

“I wasn’t talking to you, Pascal,” she grunted without turning to look at him. She was too deeply focused in on the kids in the street.

“Oh, sorry. How’d this happen anyway?”

Ms. Grundy lowered the binoculars and turned around. “How’d it happen? See those damn kids clogging up the street?”

Pascal turned and craned his neck to look. “Yeah… It was them kids that did it?”

“That’s right,” she croaked. “One of them damn kids threw a rock and busted out that very window you’re fixing there. I could have been killed! Of course, none of the little shits came over to admit it or apologize or even offer to pay to fix it. They victimized me and now look at them… Playing around like little fantastical faeries.”

Pascal sighed. “Little bastards. You know what the problem with kids these days is, Ms. Grundy?”

“Oh, my. Please, Pascal, enlighten me with your what will surely be invaluable insight.”

“Hey… If you don’t want to talk, just say so.”

“No, no, no. I’m listening.”

Pascal scrunched his face. He removed his company ball cap and wiped the sweat from his head with his sleeve. “Geez. It sure is warm today. What do you say when I’m done here, we go inside. I could sure use a cold drink… And we can talk some more. I can lay out my philosophy. I’m not just some window man, you know. I’ve got a lot of good ideas.”

Ms. Grundy scowled. “That’s awful pushy of you, Pascal.”

“I have confidence in myself. Is that a problem for you?”

“No. Is my abrasiveness a problem for you?”

“Hell no. I deal with assholes all day. Not to say you’re an asshole, Ms. Grundy.”

“I appreciate that… All right, go on with your work and I’ll fix us a pitcher of my delicious lemonade.” She cackled to herself all the way into the house.

Pascal Bravo the window man noted to himself that the house smelled of bitter oldness. He waited politely in a small parlor room with antique furniture, pleasant bookshelves, and a large window that looked out onto the world of rambunctious youngsters playing in the neighborhood.

Ms. Grundy walked into the room carrying a trembling tray with a buxom pitcher of swirling lemonade with ice cubes and two inverted glasses. She set the tray onto a table and sat in the chair opposite him. She leaned forward, plucked up one of the glasses and poured. “I’ll let you do your own, Pascal. I’ll never be slave to a man.”

Pascal smiled, leaned forward, and poured his own glass. “Thanks very much. I really like this room. You must enjoy reading.”

“I do. When I have the peace and quiet. But again. Those damn kids. I was considering moving to a place of isolation on the outskirts of town… But I fear I’m beyond the ability to do so now. Too old. Too much work. I must come up with a better way to deal with all this commotion in the neighborhood… And violence! Like I told you, the rock.”

“Well,” Pascal began, beaming with self-importance. “Like I was saying in the yard. The whole problem with kids these days is they have no discipline. And without discipline there’s no respect for others and what belongs to others.”

“You speak the truth, Pascal. It’s the parents I blame, and the parents’ parents. They are far too busy with their own damn lives to care about what the children are up to. They just let them run wild like Indians.”

Pascal cleared his throat. “I believe the correct term is Native Americans.”

“Whooey!” snapped Ms. Grundy. “This is my house and I’ll use whatever god damn words I want to.”

Pascal took a big gulp of the lemonade. “Ahh, that is tart, Ms. Grundy. But cold and refreshing just the same… But like I was saying. Kids these days get to do whatever they want. They have little to no guidance. No rules. No consequences for their actions.”

“Right. No consequences,” Allison Grundy agreed. “And wouldn’t it be fun to give them some consequences? Hmmm, Pascal.”

“What? Me? You want me to do something to those kids? Because that’s sort of the vibe you’re putting off. I’m not dumb. I have a very keen intuition.”

“I’ll make it worth your while if you help me.”

“What do you mean? Just what is it you plan to do to these kids?”

“Your spine seems to be shrinking, Pascal. Tisk, tisk, tisk.” She wagged a finger at him while she took a gulp of the lemonade for herself.

“I won’t kill anybody,” Pascal stressed. “Not for all the money in the world.”

“I’m not talking about money or killing.”



“Then what are you talking about, Ms. Grundy?”

“Are you a married man, Pascal?”

“No, but I’ve dodged the bullet a couple of times. I’ve given up on that scenario. Now I just do my work and go home to be alone. And you know what? I prefer it that way.”

“You and I are very much alike then, Pascal. Very much alike… May I ask you something else?”


“When is the last time you’ve had any sexual relations?”

Pascal nearly emptied his mouth of the lemonade he had in it at that very moment. “What!?”

“The last time you’ve done the ol’ in-out, in-out.”

“Ms. Grundy… I think that’s a bit personal.”

“Spill the beans, Pascal. When was it?”

Pascal sighed. “If you must know. It’s been six years.”

Ms. Grundy laughed out loud. “Six years!?”

“Surely it must be something like 60 years for you!”

“Zip it, Pascal… The point is, I could do for you, and you could do for me. And when we’re not messing around, we can be messing with those little brats out wandering the neighborhood. We’ll be a team.”

Pascal stood up. “I’m not going to have sex with you. No way, no how.”

Allison Grundy snickered. “I can guarantee in due time you will change your mind.”

“I seriously doubt it.”

“Come over here.”

“What? Why?”

“Pascal… Breathe. Just go with it.”

Pascal stepped closer to her.

“Drop your pants,” she ordered.

He paused for a moment and then undid his belt buckle and let his Navy blue window man uniform pants fall to the floor. Allison Grundy looked him over and grinned. She poked at him with her finger. “Reminds me of a sea cucumber.” She looked up at him. “Let me see your cucumber.”

Pascal scoffed in frustration, pulled up his pants and turned away from her. “No. This is too gross and weird.”

“It’s okay, Pascal,” she said. “We’ve got plenty of time. But for now… Let’s figure out what we’re going to do about those rotten kids.”


The Liquid Lust of an Ordinary Day (1)

Liquid Pablo Pablum stood in the aisle of a warm CVS store in Lucifer, Colorado and stared at a shapely bottle of Scope mouthwash. The liquid was such a mystical green color, a leprechaun on acid green. Liquid Pablo Pablum liked colorful liquids and so took the name he had without any sort of official court decree. He wasn’t one to be ruled by the rules of ordinary men he had never met. He was an independent nation. He was a rebel.

Liquid Pablo Pablum had been standing there mostly motionless, dreams and desires spinning in his head, for nearly 37 minutes when a middle-aged woman with a red vest approached him to see if he was shoplifting or just crazy. “May I help you, sir?” She looked as if life had been brutally tough on her.

Liquid Pablo Pablum turned his head slowly and looked at the human roughage. Her nametag read Rose. She didn’t look like a Rose, he thought. She looked more like a tattered chrysanthemum. “I’m just trying to decide on some mouthwash. What would you recommend?”

Rose scrunched her soft-as-a-Colorado-cloud face. She had mauve goose lips, the top one nearly touching the tip of her nose. Liquid Pablo Pablum wanted to pick her up and throw her into the sky to see if she could fly. Her hair was the color of a lazy orangutan drinking hot cocoa from a Christmas mug, and the hair jingled soundlessly as natural ringlets bounced against the tops of her shoulders.

She fitted reading glasses over her dragon-green eyes and looked over the massive selection of mouthwash that was neatly arranged on the shelves, plastic soldiers of oral sanitizer, cake hole cleaner. “I suppose it depends on your personal needs,” Rose said. “Are you looking for something that simply freshens the breath… Or are you interested in dental hygiene? You know, the never-ending battle against tartar and plaque and gingivitis.”

Liquid Pablo Pablum put his pointer finger to his chin and went “Hmmm… What I really want is something for kissing. I want to cram my tongue into a woman’s mouth without the fear of being gross.”

Rose took a step back, cleared her throat, touched her hair. “Oh,” she stammered. “Then perhaps what you need is Close-Up.” She reached down and grabbed a plastic bottle of liquid lava mouthwash and showed it to him. “Look right there on the label. There’s a picture of a couple about to kiss.”

Liquid Pablo Pablum quickly snatched it out of her hand. He greedily looked it over. “Damn. That looks hot. Perfect to me.” He suddenly tore off the protective plastic around the cap, opened the bottle and took a big swig.

“But, sir,” Rose began. “You can’t do that in the store. You must pay for it first.”

Liquid Pablo Pablum paid her no attention as he swished. He then spit the liquid out onto the floor and leaned into Rose the CVS clerk’s face and kissed her right on the mouth. Once their lips parted, Liquid Pablo Pablum gleamed and said, “Well, what do you think? Does it work as well as they portray it does?”

Rose nearly lost her balance. She had to straighten the glasses on her face. She looked at him intently for a moment, and then she rushed off toward the back of the store. There may have been crying.

Liquid Pablo Pablum sat in his car listening to alternative rock music from the late 90s. It was currently something by the band LIVE. Something about dolphins crying. He watched the doorway of the CVS store for signs of Rose. He had already been there for two hours. “Shit,” he said aloud. “Does this lady ever get a break?”

Then it dawned on him that being an employee, she might park her car at the back of the store and therefore could exit the building from its rear. He started his engine and crawled the car around to the back of the CVS. Lo and behold, there was Rose standing outside near the loading dock smoking a cigarette and slurping on a can of soda pop. Her eyes widened when she saw him. Liquid Pablo Pablum rolled down the driver-side window. “Hey there,” he called out to her. “What time do you get off?”

Rose exhaled. She was afraid to approach the car, but she did it anyway. “Is there something else I can help you with, sir?”

Liquid Pablo Pablum smiled his best smile. “I wanted to know what time you get off work.”

“Why?” She turned her head to the side, exhaled her last puff and tossed the cigarette.

“I thought you might want to do some more kissing. I really enjoyed it. Did you enjoy it?”

“I think maybe you should just go home,” Rose suggested. “I don’t want to have to call the police.”

“Police? Jesus, Rose. I just want to make out with you.”

“I don’t even know you. And what we did inside… That was just wrong. I could get fired.”

Liquid Pablo Pablum reached over into the passenger seat and lifted the bottle of Close-Up mouthwash and showed it to her. “I’ve got plenty. We can share it.”

“Oh please, sir. This is becoming absurd.” Rose started to walk away.

“Wait. Don’t you want to swish some of this delicious cinnamon-flavored mouthwash after your cigarette?”

Rose stopped and turned to look back at him. He wasn’t bad, she thought. He was maybe about 20 years younger, dark hair, a warm Latino sheen, soft eyes the color of newly born mud after a warm rain in the desert. Her heart skipped a beat and her insides felt like golden-yellow butter melted by a microwave. She approached the car and held out her arm. Liquid Pablo Pablum placed the bottle in her hand. She uncapped it, took a shot, and swished furiously. She spit the red liquid onto the ground. She looked at him, waiting for a prompt.

“Come here,” he said softly. She moved closer. He reached out his hand to touch the side of her face. “Give me some sugar,” he said. She pressed her face to his and their lips tangled for several seconds. There was an audible smack when they pulled away from each other.   

He grinned.

She smiled. She blushed. She fidgeted. “I should really get back to work,” Rose said.

“Okay,” Liquid Pablo Pablum said. “Do you want to get together later? Maybe share some more mouthwash?”

Rose smiled. She couldn’t help it. “How? Where?”

“I’ll pick you up when you’re done with your shift. We’ll go have some fun.”

“I’m off at 6,” she said.

“I’ll be here at 5:59 then,” Liquid Pablo Pablum said with a charming smile. He backed the car away from her and drove off.


The Gravy Canoe of Wild Wyoming – 10

man in white suit standing on street
Photo by David Henry on

It was a sunny Sunday morning in Berlin, Wyoming and Steel Brandenburg III was sitting in a modern honey-colored pew inside The Carbon Copy of Christ Church on Alameda Avenue.

Up in front of him on an elevated stage with big displays of fresh flowers at each end and a large bodiless cross that hung high behind as the centerpiece, a man paced as he preached. He was wiry and energetic. He held a Bible and wore a white suit with a yellow tie tacked to a blue shirt, and his thin hair looked greasy, but maybe it was just a manly grooming product. The dyed black hair was slicked back, and along with his pencil-thin moustache, it made him come off as a homemade dungeon in the basement kind of creep.

Creep. Jarrod Creep. Steel was sickened that he was suddenly reminded of his horrible boss at the Berlin Daily Times. And that’s when, like a nudge from the Holy Spirit herself, he slowly turned his head to the left and saw Jarrod Creep sitting with his wife in a pew across the aisle. He was sternly returning the look. He waved. His eyes were investigative slits. His wife turned her head, too. She tried to smile but she gave off the impression that her life was hell.

Did Mr. Creep really attend The Carbon Copy of Christ Church? Steel wondered to himself. It was possible. Highly likely even. But on the other end of the stick, Steel considered he was there to just spy on him to make sure he was living up to his end of the bargain when it came to Carrie Gould and the disastrous outcome for all if she decided to walk and talk.

Carrie Gould. And there she was sitting to Steel’s right. The right hand of the priesthood holder, she probably thought. Her body was pressed up tight to him and she was holding his hand within both of hers. It felt like a hand-hold cage to him, and he couldn’t break free. The skin of her hands was soft, warm, moist, puffy. He could feel the cholesterol pumping through her veins.

She was wearing a white dress with a pattern of common garden flowers flung about by a madman. She had curled her golden hair with one of those curling iron things. Steel caught the faint scent of burning hair. Her lips were doused with a much too heavy slick of red gloss. Her eyelashes were grossly plump. The rouge on her cheeks nearly resembled the blood on a deeply pink carnation after a Mafia shootout.

Carrie’s attention was fully on the preacher up front, and she smiled when he said something funny or nodded her head gently when he said something very aggregable to her. Whenever he touched on the subjects of love or marriage or relationships between men and women, she would squeeze Steel’s hand and look over at him with bewildering eyes of adore.

On the other side of Carrie, sat her mother, Melba Gould. She was an exact duplicate of her daughter, just 25 years older and with less body mass. She fanned herself with the paper church bulletin as the preacher ranted and raved about sin and purpose and the laws of spiritual physics. Occasionally she would glance past her daughter and look directly at Steel. She was sizing him up, perhaps uncertain of the new relationship he was beginning with her only and fragile child. When Steel caught her studying him, she would give him a sour smile and quickly turn away.

After the service, people filed out of the church and Pastor Craig Stikk shook hands and chatted at the exit. When Carrie Gould reached the doorway, the pastor licked at his sickly worm-like lips and grinned. He too had a thing for fetching fat girls. And especially one named Carrie Gould.

“Carrie, Carrie, Carrie,” he repeated with joy as he clutched her hand with one of his own and gripped her arm with the other. “It’s so good to see you back in the pews.” He leaned in to awkwardly hug her. Carrie squirmed. He had a sour body odor. “What did you think of today’s message?” His breath smelled like deli salami.

“I thought it was very inspiring, pastor. Very inspiring.”

Carrie’s mother squeezed forward and reached out to shake the pastor’s hand as well. “As did I,” she sneaked in.

“My, my, Melba,” Pastor Stikk said. “I can certainly see where Carrie gets her delicious beauty from. My God, if you were an ice cream cone, I’d lick you all over.” His laugh that followed was boisterous and sickly.

“Well, thank you, pastor… I think.” She giggled. “But I give all the glory to God. For he made me.”

“Indeed, he did,” the pastor agreed. “And he did a very good job… On both of you.”

Steel tried to keep walking on through, but Carrie stopped him. “Steel, please introduce yourself to the pastor. Don’t be rude and just run off.”

“I wasn’t running off.”

“And… Who is this fine young man?” Pastor Stikk wanted to know; a fog of suspicion veiled his eyes.

“This my boyfriend, Steel Brandenburg,” Carrie noted with an air of pride.

“The third,” Steel added to correct her omission.

The pastor reluctantly reached out and gripped Steel’s hand. “I’m Pastor Craig Stikk. I’m glad you could attend our service today.” It seemed to Steel that the holy man wanted to crush his bones, being that his hold was so pressurized. He looked Steel dead in the eyes. “The boyfriend, huh?”

“So I’ve been told,” Steel said. Carrie scowled at him and slapped at his arm. Steel cleared his throat and reworked his words. “Right. I’m the boyfriend.”

The pastor seemed puzzled. “I had no idea,” he said, his head moving from one to the other. “How long have you two been an item?”

“Just a little while,” Steel answered. “But it seems like forever.” He chuckled but no one else found it funny. “I mean, as in I feel like I’ve known her forever. Like I have always known that she’s the one for me. Since… The beginning of time.”

Carrie melted inside. “Awww,” she purred. “That’s so sweet, baby.”

The pastor scoffed and started to turn away to attend to other worshippers.

“Pastor Stikk?” Melba Gould called out to reel him back in.

He turned. “Yes…”

“We’re having a sort of ‘welcome to the family’ dinner for Steel at the house. We would be honored if you would join us. It would be wonderful if you could sprinkle your blessings over the two lovebirds… And the pot roast.” She laughed at herself.

The pastor searched his mind for an excuse not to attend but he came up empty. But then again, he felt he needed to do something to intervene. This young cock blocking fool Steel Brandenburg III was moving in on his territory. His very large territory. He felt threatened. “I would love to,” Pastor Craig Stikk relented. “Sounds absolutely wonderful.”


The Harmonious Calliope Fortune Machine

Photo by Fernando Paleta on

Midnight moon plus 33 is the title of his latest thought. A man named Lance Birmingham and nearing the end of the road sits in a chair near an open window and listens to the rain and the emperor sighs of summer cicadas. Someone’s playing Monopoly out on the lighted screened-in porch across the way. He can see how it juts out the end of the neighbor’s house that sits too close by.

Three kids in pajamas. They can’t sit still. He can hear their bare feet slap against the plank flooring when they run around. Who runs around when they play Monopoly? Maybe not kids—preteens, full teens, adults who act like children. What’s the difference, he wonders. Unlike him, they have all the time in the world. Or do they? What about a lightning strike, or what if an alligator gets up in the yard and sucks one into its powerful jaws during a lightning bug hunt.

He can hear their squeals, laughter, taunts upon one another that float out through the thin mosquito netting in the window frames. One of them just landed on Park Place and it’s breaking them to pieces. A girl complains loudly of going bankrupt. Maybe she’ll jump off the ledge of a tall building. But then again, maybe she’ll just go to bed, wake up in the morning and go to school. But then again, maybe she’ll get gunned down in the cafeteria just as she’s about to dig into her fruit cup. Where are the peaches for justice?

The tumbling dice scurry like mice and helicopters now fill the air above our playgrounds.

You bastards don’t want to save anything. You just want to corrupt your own corruption. Those were Lance Birmingham’s last thoughts as he crawled into bed and turned off the lamp on the table beside him. Click. Quiet. Dark. Mostly dark save for the glow coming from his harmonious calliope fortune machine that sat atop a well-polished dresser of deep-veined oak.

The very first thing Lance Birmingham would do every morning is go to the harmonious calliope fortune machine and pull out the white slip of paper from the dispenser and read it. Sometimes it gave medical annotations, like it did yesterday when it spit out: Your heart will not stop today. Good. Other days the little white slip of paper will show something completely random and mostly of little concern. Like the day it coughed up: There will be no newspaper on the front walk today because the industry as a whole is collapsing. But so what? Just get on your computer, Lance. The entire world exists in an electrified vapor.

Yes, the harmonious calliope fortune machine knew his name somehow even though he had never programmed it to do so.

“Well, someone did,” he told his invisible wife. Well, she wasn’t really invisible. He spoke to her picture. He carried it with him all around the house. It was in a silver frame, and she had the prettiest smile. He missed her.  

On the most recent of his days, Lance Birmingham shuffles out the front door and looks around the yard. It’s about 6:30 in the morning and the day is just beginning to yawn and the grass is wet with dew. No newspaper once again even though the harmonious calliope fortune machine said nothing about it this time. He forgot what it had said. He tries to remember but it just isn’t getting through the thick walls of his corroding brain.

He goes inside to make himself a cup of coffee. He sits at the table in the mostly quiet kitchen and waits. The sound of the coffee maker dribbling the juice of the gods into a red cup is the exception to the silence. The cup had belonged to his wife. It has her name on it: Monika. He gets up, retrieves the cup, and sits back down. He drops in some artificial sweetener and a couple glops of flavored creamer. An egg yolk-colored glow fills the room as the sunlight outside stands taller, a nuclear soldier. He takes a sip of the coffee. Now it is very quiet.

He notices the slip of paper from the harmonious calliope fortune machine. He must have set it down on the kitchen table in his aimless wandering to get to the morning newspaper that never came. He picks it up with a shaking hand and looks at it. It’s blank. No words at all, just an empty white space. He hears a whisper fall upon his ear. He suddenly turns around and sees his wife standing there. It’s Monika, young and golden. She smiles and holds out her arms. She isn’t inside a picture anymore.


The Potion Maker

Bubbles chemistry close up color. For the Potion Maker
Photo by Pixabay on

He was blind about something as he drank milk from a tall glass and stared out the window. The leaves on the trees in his overgrown yard shook with autumnal fear. The doorbell rang. He hesitated for a moment, drained the glass of its milk, and threw it down into the sparkling clean sink and it shattered.

“I’m trying to focus!” he yelled out. The doorbell rang again.

He went to the front door and tugged it open. A young girl in a white uniform looked up at him. She was holding a basket, the contents covered by a white kitchen towel. “Hello,” she said. “Would you like to buy some eggs?”

He looked down at her, confused. “Eggs?”

“Farm fresh eggs,” she beamed, and she lifted the towel away and revealed to him the cluster of white ovals.

He looked down into the basket. “Are you sure they aren’t poisonous?”

“Poisonous?” the girl laughed. “They’re not poisonous at all. They’re delicious.”

The man rubbed at his chin as he pondered his present-tense situation. “If they’re not poisonous,” he began, “Then prove it. Come inside and cook one of those eggs and let me see you eat it.”

The young girl became concerned. She scratched at her polka-dot face and looked around at the surroundings and through his door and into this stranger’s world. It seemed normal enough. But then again… “I’m not supposed to go into my customers’ homes. It’s against the rules.”

The man sighed and looked out at the world around them, over her head and beyond. “I’ll tell you what… If you come in, cook one of those eggs and eat it, I’ll buy every single egg you have.”

The girl brightened. “Really?”

“Yes. But like I said, you must prove to me they’re not poisonous. The world is a wicked place and trust in others is very hard to come by. At least for me.” He stepped back and opened the door wider. “Come in.”

The young girl selling eggs stepped across the threshold and he closed the door behind her. “Come on into the kitchen,” the man said. “I’ll get you a bowl, a pan and a plate to help you do your magic.” He looked at her and she seemed troubled. “What’s the matter? Surely you know how to cook an egg, right? I mean, you sell them so you must be fully committed to your product, right?”

She tried to smile. “Yes. I know how to cook an egg. I wasn’t born yesterday.”

He directed her to the stove and retrieved what she needed. She set the basket of eggs up on the counter and pulled one out. She cracked it into a pan when it was just beginning to sizzle with a slick of fresh butter.

The man sat down at the nearby table and watched her. “What’s your name?” he asked.

“Penelope Witherspoon,” she said, focused on the egg that was frying before her. She gently shook the pan to check the consistency of the yoke. “I live on a farm down the road. My mother home schools me. She doesn’t believe in the formulaic indoctrination of the modern public school system. She wants me to be a free-thinking individual and not a robot destined to a life of servitude to our corrupt and soul-draining capitalistic system.”

“That’s good,” the man said. “Your mother is a wise woman.”

The girl flipped the egg and cooked it just a bit more before taking it out with a white plastic spatula and putting it on the plate he had given her. She turned to look at him. “Do you have any salt and pepper?”

The man nodded to the shakers sitting on the table like stoic chess pieces. “Right there.”

The girl brought the plate to the table and sat down. She reached out a hand and in turn took the salt and the pepper and shook some of each out over the egg. “I need a fork,” she said.

The man jumped up and retrieved a fork from a drawer and handed it to her. “Would you like something to drink?”

“Do you have apple juice?”

The man smiled. “You’re lucky. I like apple juice, too.” He went to the refrigerator and pulled out a plastic jug from within a forest of other plastic jugs. He poured it into a glass and set it down in front of her. “There you go,” he said.


“Wait,” the man said. “Don’t start eating until I get my phone ready.”

“Your phone?” the girl wondered.

“Yes. I want to make a video of you eating the egg… And surviving. Right?”

“That’s kind of weird. It’s just me eating an egg.”

“The whole world is weird, Penelope Witherspoon. We are simply adding a bit more to it.” He positioned his phone in front of himself and aimed it toward her. “Okay. Eat the egg.”

The girl cut at the egg with the side of the fork and brought a piece of it to her mouth.

“Look at the camera,” he commanded. “The world needs to see your face as you eat.”

She obliged him as she chewed, swallowed.

“Now smile. Act like you are really enjoying it.”

She smiled. She had big teeth that sat like aging tombstones losing their footing on the well-wormed ground of a spooky cemetery.

“Go on. Eat the whole egg… Don’t forget to drink the apple juice.”

She obliged him again. She finished the egg, drained the glass of its juice. She wiped at her mouth with the sleeve of her white uniform. “There. See. I’m perfectly fine.”

The man stopped recording and smiled across the table at her. “Okay. Looks like you were right. I’ll buy the whole basket. Let me just go upstairs and get my wallet from my bedroom.”

A few moments after he left her, Penelope Witherspoon started to feel funny. Her face felt flushed, her stomach felt odd. Her vison was beginning to do strange things. She suddenly felt very tired. Her head fell forward and thumped against the top of the table.

When the man returned to the kitchen and saw her there like that, he knew the poisoned drink had once again served its purpose. “Like a porpoise,” he grinned, amusing himself with the play on words. “A preemptive strike on yet another evil of the world. Young farm girls selling eggs door to door… What a preposterous plot. Why would they do such a thing?”

He picked the girl up and carried her out the back door and across his overgrown lawn and into the forest where no one but himself ever went. The wind chimes in the low branches made their peaceful song in a breeze as he slowly passed through as if in ceremony.

He took her to one of his favorite trees and set her up into a place where two thick limbs formed a junction, a cradle of sort. “Here’s another,” he said to the sky. “Take her to that better place you always tell me about but refuse to let me see for myself.”

The man stepped back and watched as the clouds above split open and released a beam of golden light from the universe. The girl absorbed it and then slowly she dissipated along with it and the storm in its wake churned like time going fast-forward. There was a quick blink, and she was gone.  

The man went back into the lonely, quiet house and cooked himself two of the eggs brought to him by Penelope Witherspoon, the girl from the farm down the road. He ate them. The only sound in the room being his fork scraping against the plate. His mind was struggling to remember what drinks he had poisoned and which ones he had not. He got up and drew water from the kitchen tap and drank that instead.

He cleaned the dishes and put them away. He took one last look out a window and then went up the creaking stairs to his bedroom. He got into his bed and turned on his side. He slept without closing his eyes.