The Dweller in the Christmas Mustard (Ep.3)

Oswald Madness was sitting at the end of a very long table in a very white room that had a long line of narrow vertical windows against one wall. The windows were covered with chemical blue curtains, the bottoms of which gently swayed because of some sort of artificial air being pumped in.

His eyes hurt. His throat felt like he had been screaming for a long time, but he didn’t know why. There was some sort of lingering cloud over the table that silently churned like a butter thunderstorm. Then someone spoke and the cloud began to twirl into a tighter vortex and then drifted up and out of the room through an invisible hole.

“Can you pass the Christmas mustard?” the young girl called from a seemingly long way away. “I have some vivacious ham here that I would like to add a little more zing to.”

Oswald looked down in front of him at the table adorned in a crystal white cloth. There before him sat a jar of unopened Christmas mustard from a deli in Chicago that he used to know of because his Aunt Sharlene would never shut up about it at family gatherings around the holidays.

He looked up and called out. “Who’s there?” He saw the vibrations of his voice shoot across the long table and stumble into something on the other end.

The girl’s voice came back. “Do I need to come over there and get it myself? You really don’t want that.”

Oswald pushed his chair back and got up. The floor didn’t feel real. He picked up the jar of Christmas mustard and started walking toward the other end of the table. He walked and walked and walked. “This is the longest table I have had the displeasure to encounter,” he said out loud.

“Just keep going. You’re almost there.” A small hand suddenly reached out and snatched the jar from him. “Thank you.” And then the mist around her cleared and she slowly came into view. He just watched as she struggled to open the jar. “Fuck!” she said loudly, and then she handed the jar back to him. “Could you open it please?”

Oswald pushed his hand against the lid and turned. There was a little audible pop. He handed it back to her and she smiled up at him. “I don’t know why they make those things so damn hard to open. What if this had been an emergency?”

“A sandwich emergency?”

She gave him a dirty look as she did not care at all for his sense of humor.

He quickly altered the awkward moment. “I know you,” Oswald said to her.

“That’s right,” she said as she smeared Christmas mustard on a piece of rye bread with a silvery knife that flowed like liquid. “I know you as well.”

“What is this?” Oswald wanted to know. “It seems that just a minute ago I was chained to a very different table. I was in some sort of trouble, I think.”

“You were in trouble, but I decided to get you out of it,” the girl said, and she looked around with admiration. “This is my home and I have invited you for lunch. Are you not hungry? I assure you the meats and breads are top of the line… Top of the line.” She took a monstrous bite of the sandwich she assembled and chewed. She casually swung her legs beneath the table and hummed while slowly moving her head side to side as if she didn’t have a care in the world. She was wearing washed-out blue jeans cut by ragged stone, red high-top tennis shoes and a Nirvana T-shirt. She swallowed and looked back up at him as if she was annoyed. “Are you just going to stand there and stare at me all afternoon?” She took another bite of her sandwich and chomped. “Go on now. You can go back to your seat and have your lunch.”

Oswald looked to his right and down the long length of table to a chair in the distance. “We can’t possibly carry on a conversation with so much space between us,” he said to her. “Can’t I sit closer to you?”

She ran her hand across her mouth and looked at him as if he had requested something horribly unreasonable. “Why would you want to do that? We’re eating, not talking. There’s a time for talking and it’s not when we are eating.”

“We can’t do both?”

“No! They’re two totally different and unrelatable things. It would be a mess!”

Oswald decided it was not in his best interest to push the subject, so he turned and walked away from her toward the other end of the table, a table that seemed to have become even longer than before. When he reached his end, he sat down in the chair there and scooted it in closer to the table. He sighed when he realized he forgot to bring the Christmas mustard back with him. “Hey!” he yelled out.

“What do you want now!?” the girl answered sourly.

“I forgot the mustard. Can you bring it to me?”

There was a cackling, childish laugh. “You’ve got some nerve, Mr. Madness. You’re in no position to ask me to do anything for you.”

“I just want some mustard. You can’t expect me to eat a dry sandwich. It’s not like I’m asking you to jump off a cliff.”

“You want me to jump off a cliff?”

“No! I just want some mustard!”

He heard a plate clank in the distance and then it was quick footfalls coming toward him. The girl suddenly appeared, and she slammed the jar down in front of him. “Here’s your fucking mustard!” she barked. “I wouldn’t want you to choke on a dry sandwich… Or would I?” She scowled at him, turned, and walked away toward the other end.

Oswald cringed and called out to her vanishing trail. “Thanks.”

He worked on assembling a sandwich and when it was built to his satisfaction, he took a big, deep bite. It was very agreeable to him. But then he realized as he reached out in front of himself that there was nothing to drink. He looked all around to see if he had perhaps overlooked something. He swallowed what was in his mouth, cleared his dry throat and called out to her again. “Hey!”

“Jiminy Cricket! What the hell is it now!?” the girl replied from the other side of the vast distance.

“I don’t have anything to drink. I could choke without something to wash this rye bread down with.”

“Ugh!” she scoffed loudly. “Seriously, Mr. Madness. You are becoming a real pain in the ass.”

“You sure do swear a lot for a young lady.”

“So fucking what!”

“See.”

“I’m sorry if I offend you, but I was unfortunately raised in not the most stable or proper environment. I’m afraid I’m the product of poor parenting… But despite my personal woes, I persevered. As you can see. But try not to be so judgmental.” She reached for and rang a small bell.

He thought he heard her whispering to someone. And then that someone suddenly appeared beside him balancing a small silver tray on his hand. He was tall. His bald head was large and shiny. He had small facial features. He was dressed in a black and cornsilk-colored suit. And when he spoke it was in a very soft, almost undecipherable tone. “The lady has asked me to bring you something to drink.”

Oswald hesitated to answer the strange man at first. “Yes. What do you have?”

The strange man nodded his head and a slight smile appeared on his face. “Whatever you want, sir.”

Oswald thought about it. “Chocolate milk.”

“Fine, sir. I’ll bring it straight away.” He gave a quick bow and then was off. He returned in nearly an instant, and the strange man’s hand, clad in a tan glove, set down a tall glass of chocolate milk in front of Oswald.

Oswald peered up at him and tried to smile. “Thank you.”

“Oh, you’re quite welcome, sir,” the strange man answered. “I do hope you enjoy it. I worked it out of one of our brown cows myself… May I get you anything else?”

Oswald nodded. “I think I’m good.” He lifted the glass to his mouth and took a deep drink. He smacked his lips and looked at the strange man who had brought it. “That’s the most incredible chocolate milk I ever…” The glass suddenly fell from his hand and the chocolate milk pooled on the table and began to seep into the tablecloth. Then Oswald’s eyes flickered and closed, and he collapsed headfirst into the spill. The strange man got down on his knees and moved his face closer to where Oswald lay. The man shook his head and made a noise with his mouth. “How unfortunate,” he whispered. Just then the girl appeared. She was whimsically eating a chocolate covered banana as she looked things over.

She cocked her head and asked. “What happened to him?” Then she laughed before taking another bite of her treat.

The strange man looked up at her and grinned. “Must have been a bad cow.”

TO BE CONTINUED

Go HERE to read the previous episode.

Have you heard of a cereal bowl that isn’t the size of an ashtray?

This past weekend, my wife and I took a mini vacation to a nearby college town – just to get away from home and visit her son’s future campus, among other things, like good food and coffee.

I had searched online for a hotel and found one of those “suite” places, thinking it might be a good alternative to an Airbnb that I just couldn’t get my hands on. It was my wife’s birthday and I wanted her to have something nice – even though she’s very appreciative of anything, except Motel 6.

I was pretty disappointed with the hotel from the get-go, considering I paid so damn much for it – $250 a night plus all those damn taxes. They should have been charging $59 a night in my opinion. I guess the room was decent enough, but NOT worth the price of admission. I was hoping it would be much larger than it was, but it was pretty much the size of your run-of-the-mill hotel room – just with a bigger refrigerator and a dishwasher that was falling apart. Whoop-tee-doo.

In my head I was saying “I am pissed!” just like Tourette’s Guy would. If you don’t know who Tourette’s Guy is, look him up on YouTube. Hilarious.

Anyways, another perk to having the suite was having it stocked with dishes and silverware we could use if we wanted to eat in… Or in my case, enjoy a delicious bowl of cereal.

Even before arriving at the hotel, my wife and I stopped at a nice grocery store, and I grabbed myself a box of Corn Pops and a box of Apple Jacks and some milk. I was pumped! To be able to have a bowl of cereal at the hotel – “I was in such bliss, my brothers,” as Alex DeLarge would say. If you don’t know who Alex DeLarge is, Google him.

But upon arriving to the room and inspecting the dishware that was provided, I just about lost my shit. “What the hell is this!?” I cried out to the cereal gods.

The dimensions of the bowls did not exceed the size of my palms.

“Are those ashtrays?” my wife wondered.

“No, they’re cereal bowls the size of ashtrays. How can this be? How in holy hell am I supposed to eat cereal out of these?”

My wife just looked at me like I was crazy, but I was crushed. Another dream had been snuffed from my life like a dirty cigarette – how appropriate, right?


Yellow Corn Pops polished with sweetness tinkled into one of the tiny bowls in the middle of the night. I poured in a little milk. I couldn’t sleep. My mind and soul were restless. I sat down on the uncomfortable couch on the other side of the partition from where my wife was sleeping in the bed. I began to spoon in the delicious late-night snack. It was so good, but due to the size of the bowl, the pleasure didn’t last long. I had to go back for more. And I did. And I did again. Like crack.

Still restless afterwards, I went down to the lobby and out into the hot air of a summer night. Corn Pops tumbled in the tum-tum. Light pollution blotted out the stars. I turned back to look at the lobby through the sliding glass doors. A few annoying weirdos were playing pool. Yeah, they had a pool table in the lobby. There was a lone lady clerk behind the front desk pretending to work. I considered complaining about the size of the bowls. But what good would it do? It wouldn’t matter what I said – nothing would change. The lady clerk didn’t care. She had more important things on her mind… Maybe.

The lobby doors slid open, and my wife appeared. She was fuzzled and bedazzled. “Are you still upset about the size of those cereal bowls?”

“Yes,” I confessed. “No one should be forced to eat cereal from such a small bowl. It’s ridiculous and inhumane.”

“But you could have no cereal at all. Think of that and all the other things you do have and stop being so glum.”

I looked at her, pure beauty radiating in the neon glow of the high hotel. “You’re always the positive end of the battery,” I said. “Cereal trouble may have killed me by now if it weren’t for you.”

I wrapped my arm around her, and we walked back into the hotel. There at the front desk was a man and he was loudly complaining about something to the clerk. We stopped in the shadows as I wanted to eavesdrop.

“How the hell am I supposed to eat cereal out of a bowl like this!” he screamed to her, and he threw it down and it rattled against the counter.

The clerk was shaking and crying because he was being so mean and hateful. “I’m sorry, sir. I’ll make a note of it for the manager.”

“Oh yes, a note for the manager. I’m sure you will,” the man grumbled. “You’re nothing but an inept ding-a-ling. I’ll never stay in this hotel ever again! You’ve lost my business!” And he angrily stormed off, tossing a perturbed glance in our direction.

“See,” my wife said to me. “Aren’t you glad you didn’t become an asshole like him?”

“Yes,” I said. “You’re right again.”

“Of course, I am. You should listen to me more often.”

I gave her a squeeze and a sultry smile. “Let’s go upstairs and watch some crappy TV, and maybe later you can give me a reason to have another bowl of cereal.”


The Naked People (Part One)

Publisher’s Note: Mature content warning. This is the first of two-parts.


Papa Wesley was out back in his workshop tinkering with an old radio beneath the glow of a soft lamp when the door slowly opened and the boy appeared, shivering.

He quickly turned to look at him, using only his eyes and not his head. “Close the door. It’s cold out there.”

The boy closed the door and moved in deeper, his bare skin slightly blue and pale.

“What do you want?” the man asked.

The boy hugged himself as he shook. “I was bored in the house. I just wanted to see what you were doing.”

Papa Wesley set down the small tools and removed his glasses. His blonde hair was parted in the middle and fell against each side of his face like a woman’s; he used his fingers to stroke it back. “It’s just a hobby to keep my mind occupied. I’ll probably never get it to work again, but a man needs a hobby nonetheless.” He rubbed his tired eyes and smiled at the boy. “So, young David. Have you thought about what you want for Christmas?”

The boy looked up at him, shining blue eyes sparkling forth from an innocent yet troubled face. He was indeed a very childlike version of the man. “Yes.”

“Well, tell me all about it.”

“I want some clothes.”

Papa Wesley sighed, and his face turned troubled.

“Now son,” he began. “We’ve talked about this a million times. We don’t wear clothes in this family. Clothes are unnatural. Do you so quickly forget how you came into this world?”

The boy thought about it for a moment before answering. “Naked and afraid?”

“Yes. That’s exactly right. That’s how the good Lord intended us to be, and we will not stray from that path.”

“But when we do have to go out into the evil world, we are chastised and chased away because of our nakedness. Why does God allow this if this is how we are meant to be?” the curious young boy asked.

“My boy, as I have explained to you before, the world is a fallen, sinful place, and the sinners must cover themselves in clothes because they are dirty and evil. Their bodies and hearts are unclean. They are not like us. They do not understand our ways and so tease and taunt us, threaten us with confinement.” The man slowly shook his head in distrust for the ordinary world and then looked up. “But the good Lord is on our side. He favors our nakedness, young David. He will protect us from those clothes-wearing pagans. Do not be afraid or ashamed. Remember, our ways are rooted in the time before the apple.”

“Yes, father. Thank you, father. I appreciate the lesson.”

Now, is there anything else you want for Christmas?” Papa Wesley asked the boy.

The boy stared up at the rafters and thought. “Yes. I want to go to a real school. I want to be around other children. There’s no one to play with around here.”

Papa Wesley became stern and raised a hard finger toward him. “Absolutely not. You will be brought up in our ways and nothing else. I forbid you to speak about it again.”

“But it’s what I want,” the boy pleaded.

“You will not have it! Why can’t you ask for something sensible, like a shovel?”

The boy became mute and stared at the floor. Then there was a knock at the door and a young girl poked her face inside.

“What is it, Camille?” the father snapped.

“Mama said to come fetch you for the evening meal.” She licked at her shivering lips and tried to decipher his temperament, brushing back the same blonde hair her father had. “It’s meatloaf and potatoes, and I prepared a rhubarb pie for dessert.”

“Very well, we’ll be there shortly.”

The girl closed the door and disappeared, and Papa Wesley grasped young David by the chin and pulled his lost gaze upward. “Are we settled then? No more talk about clothes and school. Is that understood?”

The boy blinked slowly up at him. “Yes, sir. I’m sorry, sir. A shovel for Christmas would be fine, sir.”


The farmhouse was old, white, plain, simple; nestled comfortably in a patchwork of meadows, low hills and fields now harvested and frosted. The cold moon and clouds barked quietly high above as the two walked toward the rear porch and its yellow light in the shivering silence of early night. Young David’s bare feet burned from the cold ground. An animal made a frightening noise in the forest. He looked back at his father and saw that his body was covered in a downy fur of soft human hair, and he thought he looked like an ape man on a hunt. “Keep going,” the man ordered. “I don’t want you to get frostbite again.”

They entered the house and Papa Wesley went immediately to Mother Ruth in the scented kitchen and kissed at her glowing and flawless cheek. One of his hands fell to an ample bare breast, and he playfully squeezed it as his other hand smacked her buttocks. “Smells wonderful,” he said.

Mother Ruth giggled and kissed him back. “Me or the meatloaf?” She called out to their daughter, Camille. “And don’t forget the fresh milk, darling,” she said. “Bring the entire pitcher to the table.”

Mouths were in motion and silverware clinked against plates as they ate in the simple dining room. Papa Wesley finally looked over at his daughter and admired her as if she was a hardy stock animal, and he smiled with pride. “I see you really have begun to develop nicely, Camille. That’s wonderful, and what a fine tribute to our heavenly father.”

The girl looked down and became somewhat shy. “Yes father. I’m very excited about it.”

Mother Ruth cleared her throat and smiled; full earthy lips pressed tightly together before she spoke. “I have some wonderful news. She’s begun her woman time, Papa.”

Papa Wesley set down his silverware and diligently wiped at his mouth with a handmade napkin. “That’s a fine thing, Camille. Very fine. I’m happy for you.”

The girl glanced at him, somewhat embarrassed. “Yes father. I feel as if I’m in bloom, like a glorious flower in a heavenly garden and all the fine saints and angels are watering me.”

“Wonderous. Now, I trust you will keep yourself clean in those times of need?” he asked of her, shifting his faint eyebrows, and lifting a mug of milk to his mouth.

“Of course, father. Mama showed me how.”

“Good,” he said, and he reached for a large bowl of mashed potatoes and spooned some onto his plate. “Young David and I were just discussing Christmas gifts out in the shop. Perhaps you could enlighten us to a wish of yours, dear daughter?”

Camille took a long sip of fresh milk herself and looked back and forth at her parents. “Well, I’ve had my eye on a nice pair of hedge clippers I discovered in the hardware catalog. They’re very shiny and seem sturdy and trustworthy. I thought I could use them to trim back the rose bushes, among other things of course.”

Wesley and Ruth looked at each other across the table and in their minds proudly smiled and agreed. “That sounds like a very practical gift, Camille. I’m proud of you,” Papa Wesley said.

Young David emitted a stressful sigh as he stared at his plate and played with his food with the tip of his fork.

“Is there something wrong, son?” Papa Wesley asked the boy when he noticed his lack of interest in the meatloaf.

“No sir. I guess I’m just not that hungry.”

“If you’re troubled by something, please feel free to speak about it,” Papa Wesley suggested.

“It’s nothing, sir.”

Mother Ruth reached over and placed the back of her hand against his forehead. “Are you not feeling well?”

“I feel fine, but may I go up to my room now?”

Mother Ruth frowned with a hint of worry. “But what about dessert? Your sister made the most wonderful rhubarb pie.”

“I’m sure it will be delightful and delicious, but not right now,” the boy said.

Mother Ruth brushed the hair out of his eyes and gently nipped at his cheek with her fingertips. “All right then, I suppose you can go up to your room, but I want you to be still and get some rest, you have schooling in the morning, and I want you to be refreshed and ready to learn.”

“Yes mam,” David said, and he rose from the table and kissed her on the cheek, and then he went to his father and then his sister and uncomfortably hugged at their nakedness before disappearing up the stairs and into his bedroom.


David sat at a small desk and drew pictures of people wearing clothes in a secret notebook as he did every night. He suddenly got bored, closed it, and tucked it deep in a drawer. He glanced toward his unshaded window and the world looked long and lonely to him. He got up and went to the sill and pushed his face against the glass and looked out. He knew it would be a long way. He knew it would be cold. But the overwhelming need he had to possess the one desire most recently overflowing in his mind could not be tamed. He was nervous and edgy and could not make the thought go away. He stretched out on his cold bed and stared at the ceiling as he waited for everyone else to go to sleep, some twangs of madness stirring in his mind.

He waited and waited and when the time came, and the house was still, he quietly crept out of bed and wrapped his feet in pillowcases and threw a heavy blanket around his body. He went to the window that led out to the roof of the front porch and carefully slid it upward. The wind whipped at him as he carefully put his legs out and felt for the shingles with the bottom of his feet. It was further than he expected, and he nearly slid and slipped as his toes tried to grip a safe place to step. When he was completely out, he closed the window and made his way down the slight slope to the edge where he shimmied down a support post and dropped to the ground with a hard thud, the wind trying to rip the blanket from his clutches.

He carried with him a small flashlight and when he was far enough away from the house, he clicked it on and directed the beam onto the dirt road in front of him. His plan was to stick to the road until he came to the main highway that led into the town; then he would slink among the high grasses and trees of the shoulder so no one would see him in case a car, or more likely a truck, came rumbling by in the dead of night.

The pebbles of the road poked through the thin pillowcases on his feet, and it wasn’t long before the fabric was torn, and the stones were working directly into his skin. It hurt him, and along with the chilly wind, it was a miserable journey and several times he stopped to look back and wondered if he should just give up. But the desire of his heart and soul were too much and he plodded along as best he could. When the cold became too much he would step off into the forest and take shelter against a thick tree just so he could rest a bit. He would immerse himself fully in the blanket and shiver in the darkness as cold owls gathered and wondered in the night trees around him.

He went like that for a long while, on and off the gravel road, until he reached the two-lane highway, number 17, the main way in and out of the small and dusty rural town of Octerville. He looked both ways and it was silent and still and cold. His breath shot out of him like a vaporizer, and he glanced down at the illuminated boy watch on his wrist — just after midnight. He coughed and walked on and on and on until the glow of the main drag of the small city began to grow in front of him.


The second part of this story can be found HERE.

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Love and Thunder in the Jailhouse (Part 7)

Author’s Note: You can read the previous episodes of this story by going to the Serials on Cereal tab in the menu bar at cerealaftersex.com.


I would have never believed it myself had I not witnessed it in the realm of real life, but there he was.

“Karl! What the fuck are you doing here!?” Roy blurted out loud enough for the whole world of the underground dead to hear.

Creepy Karl from Indiana held up a dirty, empty plastic milk carton. “I tried to stop you, but you just tore off. You all forgot your milk jug back in California. I thought I’d bring it to you.”

“I swear Karl, you’re cuckooier than a bowl of Cocoa Puffs,” Roy said, exhausted in spirit.

“No, no. I’m just trying to be a decent citizen of the world.”

“What kind of shit is this, Karl?!” Roy demanded to know. “You’ve been following us, and not because of some god damn empty milk jug. You’ve got some serious explaining to do or you’re liable to lose even more teeth. You’ll be swallowing them right down with a warm blood chaser after I punch you in the face.”

“No, now, Roy. There’s no need for physical violence here,” Karl said, and he craned his wrinkled neck to get a peek at me in the bed over Roy’s shoulder. “Oh. Looks like I might have interrupted a hot love session.”

“Roy! Get him the hell out of here. Right now!” I screamed out.

“You heard the lady, get the hell out of here before…”

“Before what?” Karl sneered. “Before you call the cops?” He moved up and down on the balls of his feet, snickering. “Now, that might not be in your best interest, Roy. You know, considering everything that’s transpired among you two and the outside world.”

I got up out of the bed, a sheet wrapped tightly around my body, and I went to stand by Roy and looked that son of a bitch Karl right in the face and pointed my pissed off finger at him. “You don’t know shit about us, so quit playing like you do,” I said to him.

“Well, on the contrary young lady, I do know a few things. Things like how you’ve been fornicating with an outlaw.”

“That’s none of your god damn business,” I seethed.

“But it is my business. And it most certainly is the business of those that I represent. It’s a sin. They know it. I know it. Seems like you’re the only one who doesn’t know it, or maybe you just don’t care.”

“I have no god damn idea what you are talking about, mister, and I don’t really care to,” I said to him. “Now, I’m going to go take a shower and when I get out, you better be on the other side of the Rio Grande, Karl.”

As I walked off to the bathroom, Karl called out something that stopped me dead in my tracks. He said: “Royal is wondering why you ran off with this here killer.”

I turned to look back at him. He was smiling some victorious smile like he had beaten me, beaten Roy, too. We were caught in some sort of web I didn’t fully understand yet. “What do you have to do with my husband?”

And just as he was about to speak, a beat-up car came pulling up to the motel with a bad-news rattle. There was a little lighted sign strapped to the roof and it read: Jim’s Clean Pizza. Roy glanced at me and said, “Finally. I’m so damn hungry.”

Roy went out and paid the kid and then came back inside with a plastic 2-liter of lemon-lime soda pop and a big cardboard box, and the room started to smell so good. It was that smell that told you that you were about to indulge in some delicious goodness sliding down your throat and into your hollow belly. Kind of like when Roy lets loose when he’s in my mouth.

I’ll tell you what, though. That damn Karl watched Roy all the way as he carried that box over to a little table and set it down, and I could tell he was going to ask for some damn pizza. Aw, holly hell. I’ve seen this fool drink milk and I sure as shit wasn’t looking forward to seeing him eat pizza. But Roy invited him to stay so we could talk about things. But the weird thing is, he didn’t ask me what I thought about it at all. I think it was a strategy to keep our enemy close as we worked stuff out. But I was already fast-forwarding in my mind to killing this lump of trouble and dumping him deep in the desert so the buzzards could carry him off to the afterlife in pieces.

Roy sat down, rubbed his hands together in anticipation, and opened the lid of the pizza box. “Hell yeah!” he said. “Meatballs, pepperoni, and black olives. Damn that looks good. Well come on you two, pull up your asses and grab a slice before I eat it all myself.”

“Those sure are small meatballs,” Karl said as he curiously peered into the box.

Roy chuckled through a mouthful. “I’m sure you know plenty about small balls, don’t you Karl?”

Karl gave him a stern look of disapproval, reached a spindly hand into the box, and retrieved a piece of pizza. “My balls are big enough, Roy.” Then he slurped the pointy end of his slice into his mouth.

“Well, I sure as hell hope I never find out, Karl,” Roy said to him with another laugh.

“Would you all mind not talking about your balls while I’m trying to eat,” I said to them, and then I filled some motel cups with that lemon-lime soda pop and passed them around.

“Sorry, Sally,” Roy said. Then he cleared his throat and looked around at our humble gathering. “This sure is weird as hell,” he pointed out.

“So, Karl,” I began. “What was this talk about my husband?”

He was tipping his cup back as I said this, and when he got it all down, he smacked his rutted lips and looked at me with a strange grin. Then he turned to Roy and said in an uncharacteristic tone and even with a different voice, “I think it’s time we tell her.”


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Love and Thunder In the Jailhouse (Part 5)

Author’s Note: First, if you have missed the other episodes and want to read them, go to the Serials on Cereal menu tab above. Secondly, the following contains probable offensive language. Turn away if you don’t like that sort of thing.


That familiar ugly ache of an unwanted dawn fingered its way in through a thin slit in the motel room curtains and I knew it was time for Roy and I to move on.

Roy was moaning in the sheets because he was so hungover. I let him just be while I got up, showered and got dressed.

I started packing up some things and was loading them in the car, and that’s when weird Karl from Indiana suddenly appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, in a pink bathrobe and a head of crazy hair that looked as if he had just stepped out of a tornado. He was sucking on a cigarette he had in one hand and sipping coffee from a paper motel cup he had in the other. He was strangely watching me as if he were scribbling notes in his head like a detective.

“Good morning, Sally,” he said in that gaseous, off-planet voice of his.

I gave him a quick nod of acknowledgement and slammed the trunk of the car shut.

“Hey there. Nice outfit,” I said, without really thinking.

He seemed to take offense.

“This robe happened to belong to my mother,” he sternly said, then sighed. “She was wearing it when I found her on the kitchen floor that day you don’t know anything about. She was dead. One of those eternally crippling heart attacks. So they said.”

“Aw holy hell. I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

“It’s fine. I’m through it. I’ll never be over it, but I’m through it.” He suddenly lighted up. “Roy about?”

“He’s still in bed, but we’re about to hit the road. I’m hoping at least.”

“Where you all headed?”

I couldn’t really give him a straight answer because I didn’t really know myself. And I didn’t want to let him in on anything. I simply said, “East.”

“Hell, that opens up a lot of possibilities.”

“It sure does, but that’s how we like it.”

Karl laughed to himself and tossed his nub of a cigarette butt to the ground and threw back the last of his coffee.

“Okay. I get that you have to keep your plans under wrap, but your secret is safe with me. I won’t tell anyone.”

I glared at him, annoyed. “We don’t have any secrets. We’re just wandering. You know, having an adventure.”

“Right. The time of your lives, I suppose.”

“Something like that. And I don’t understand why you have to know where we’re going anyway. I’m not prying into your personal business.”

“And I don’t understand why you have to treat me like a disease. I’m doing nothin’ except trying to be friendly. Hell, in a world like this, why is that so awful?”

“It’s awful because the world is the way it is. You answered your own damn question,” I said to him. “Now, if you don’t mind, I need to rouse Roy so we can get going.”

“Don’t let me stop you. Bitch.”

I didn’t reply to him calling me a bitch because in all honesty I was kind of being a bitch, but I didn’t care. It seemed like the right thing to be at the moment. I turned, walked back into Room #13 and locked the door behind me.

Roy was up and sitting on the edge of the bed without any clothes on. He was holding his head in his hands and mumbling something. I thought he was praying.

“Which one of them gods are you talking to, Roy?” I asked him.

He shook his head slowly.

“Whichever one is going to see me through this god damn life to the end and with the least amount of damage.”

He grudgingly got up off the bed and went into the bathroom to take a shower. When he came out, he got dressed in some fresh clothes and brewed us some coffee in the little coffee maker they had there.

We ate the chocolate donuts with our coffee and Roy had some more of his Lucky Charms.

“What the hell are we going to do with all this extra milk?” he wanted to know after he poured some in his cereal bowl. “Why’d you buy so much god damn milk, Sally? We can’t take it in the car with us. It’s 400 degrees outside.”

“I don’t know why you’re riding my ass about milk. I got it for you because you wanted cereal so bad.”

He sighed and shook his head at me.

“I know, I know. I’m sorry I snapped at you.”

“It’s okay. I know you’re not feeling so well.”

“I’ll just take it over to Karl. Poor guy looks like he could use some milk. Why don’t you come with me, and we can say goodbye. Together.”

“Do I have to?”

“It would be the right thing to do.”

Roy knocked on the door to Karl’s room and it quickly opened, and he halfway emerged, and it looked as if he had been crying.

“Well, hell, folks. I thought you two were already on your way.”

“We’ve been somewhat delayed, Karl. Damn hangover is kicking my ass,” Roy told him.

“I understand.”

Roy held up the half-empty gallon of milk.

“You go on and take this milk. We can’t bring it with us.”

And I’ll tell you, I’ve never in my life seen a man light up so much over the stupidest things. He was grinning so wide I thought his face would crack apart and fall to pieces. Over milk. And not even a full gallon of milk. Holy hell.

Creepy Karl from Indiana reached out with two hands and took it. That strange fellow nearly hugged the damn thing.

“My, my,” he said with a gross smile. “I don’t believe anyone has ever given me milk as a parting gift before.” He suddenly looked at us with wide, curious eyes. “It is a gift, right? I get to keep it?”

Roy scoffed with a laugh. “Jesus Christ, Karl. It’s just milk.”

“But you thought about me. You must consider me a friend. I mean, at least you do, Roy,” and he shot me a scowl.

Roy looked at me and smirked, then he turned back to Karl.

“To be honest with you, Karl. It’s just we don’t know anyone else around here,” Roy teased with all seriousness.

Karl looked at us like we just kicked him in the everlasting heart.

Roy slapped him on the upper arm and laughed. “I’m just kidding, Karl. Sure, we’re friends.”

His face switched back over to a grin.

“Come on, Roy. We’ve got to get going,” I said impatiently.

Roy stuck out his hand to shake.

“Take care, Karl. Enjoy the milk.”

When we finally started pulling out of the Furnace Springs Motorlodge, I could see Karl in the rear-view mirror as I adjusted it. To me, that’s usually the best way to see people you don’t really like — as you’re moving away from them forever. That damn Karl though, he was madly waving one arm goodbye and in his other hand he had that milk jug tilted up and he was drinking, but he was being really messy about it, and I could see the milk pouring out of his mouth and running down the front of him. And the whole time his eyes were as big as plums, and they were aimed directly at us.

And then as I was waiting to turn into the road, he came running up behind the car and he took that milk jug he emptied, and he threw it at the car as hard as he could. It bounced off with a plastic doink, and then he was stomping around like crazy and yelling out, “I’ll get you milk fuckers! You won’t get away with this!”

I punched the accelerator, and we were off.

“I’ll tell you, Roy. That Karl is one of the strangest people I ever had the misfortune to meet. He gives me mile-high anxiety.”

“He sure as hell was a strange bird,” Roy agreed. “Like some sort of poor cuckoo soul tragically lost in the world.”


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