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 Puppets of Kudzu (END)

Karl from the city went to work cleaning the mess he made in the kitchen as Franco and Cheise Karn Mouise looked on. When he finished, he rinsed out the towel and washed his hands in the kitchen sink. “Well, I suppose I should get going now before they wonder if I went AWOL,” he said to them.

“Can I have a hug before you go Karl?” Franco asked with open arms.

The man eyed him, confused, and wondering. He looked around to make sure no one was watching but then again nobody could have been.

“All right,” he said. “Bring it in.”

“Oh yippy!” Franco squealed, and he wrapped his arms tight around Karl’s body and snuggled him lovingly.

“All right, all right, that will do, mister. Thanks for saving my life. You both take care now. And be sure to clean up your yard before they send someone else a lot less understanding.”

Karl limply smiled at them, went to the door, opened it, and walked out into the mean world.

“Well,” Franco said to Cheise Karn Mouise. “Now that that’s over with. Let me ask you one last time. Are you still planning on staying here to watch your stupid football while I go have a sparkly good time shopping?”

Cheise Karn Mouise looked up at him with little expression. “Yes.” Then he turned and disappeared into the other room.

Franco yelled after him. “Fine! I’m going now. You may choose not to be happy, but don’t rain on my parade. I’m going to be so gay they’re going to have to wipe the smile right off my dead body!”

The front door eventually slammed and Cheise Karn Mouise was all alone in the house, nice and snug in a comfortable chair, and he was glad for the peace and quiet.

After a while, Cheise Karn Mouise fixed himself some microwave popcorn and an iced grape soda before getting back to his football. He watched one game, then another, and was then into his third when he realized Franco had not returned home yet. He clicked off the watching devices and the house was eerily silent except for a lonely low hum of electricity throughout. The light of day was beginning to crisp over. He was oddly worried and went to a window and looked at the street. Franco’s car was still gone. Cheise Karn Mouise tried calling him on his cell phone but there was no answer. He began to think something bad had happened, but he decided to just go ahead and take a nap on the living room couch. So what if he wasn’t home yet? he thought to himself. Franco’s a grown man who can take of himself. Besides, they had gotten into a fight, and he was mad, and he had to play the little game of acting like he didn’t care even though he did care. It was a lot of emotions for a small puppet to juggle. Being really alive, he decided, was tough sometimes.

And that’s when he started to cry before he fell into a deep sleep and he dreamt about how he was first created, how he had once been nothing but pieces of a puppet that had to be assembled. He dreamt about how it took the thoughts of some human being in a wood shop down in the snug of Lyon, France to come up with the idea, the design, and to finally carve, shape and birth him into the living world before shipping him off simply for the entertainment of others. He truly was a puppet in a world with countless opinionated hands.

It was later when his phone rang, and it startled him awake. He fumbled in the darkness for his puppet cell phone. “Hello?” he sleepily mumbled.

Franco Dellaronti was crying on the other end.

Cheise Karn Mouise sat up. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“They beat me up!” Franco said, whimpering.

“What!? Who beat you up?”

“Just come get me. I’m at the First Church of Loving Goodness on 37th Avenue. I’ll be the one bleeding on the steps out front.”

“I should call an ambulance for you.”

“Just come get me!”

Cheise Karn Mouise went to the garage and jumped in his dream car — a Kia Soul specially made for puppets with souls. He activated the garage door with a press of a button on a remote, fired up the car, and tore out of the driveway like a puppet with purpose. “Don’t worry my human friend,” he said aloud to the kaleidoscopic dash. “I’m coming to get you!” and he cranked the volume of his favorite song — Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People — and he drove along to the beat like a ferocious dancing wind to get to Franco before he possibly died.

When his GPS had finally guided him to the church, he saw Franco Dellaronti slumped on the stairs out front, leaning against a silver rail. He worked himself out of the Soul and ran over to him. His master was a bruised and bloody mess, and he carefully shook him a little bit. “Hey man. I’m here. Jesus… What happened?”

Franco looked at him with a dazed expression. “I wanted to say a prayer for you. I wanted to pray that you find true contentment in your puppet life and be gay all the time.” He turned his head and looked at the doorway of the church. “I was in there, giving my prayer and they were going to start a night service and then they told me I had to leave.”

“What on earth for?”

“They said I was a sinner and that I was destined for hell. They said Jesus hates people who are gay. And I wondered, how could Jesus possibly be against someone being happy? Anyways, I didn’t want to leave. I told them I wasn’t finished praying yet. That’s when a group of the church men grabbed me and threw me to the floor. They started punching me in the face, and then the women there and even some of the children started kicking me and spitting on me. I think someone threw a Bible at me. They looked right at me and told me God hated me and that they hated me, too. Then they hustled me outside and dumped me, and I’ve been sitting here all wumbly bumbly and half bleeding to death ever since. Why did they beat me up for just wanting to pray for my beloved puppet friend to be happy?”

Cheise Karn Mouise sadly sighed and then said, “Because they’re hypocritical assholes.”

“I just don’t understand, Cheise Karn Mouise. I just don’t understand.”

“I know. Neither do I, but don’t worry about that now… Let’s get you home. Where’s your car?”

“They set it on fire.”

“What!?”

“Yes. They wanted me to witness the burning. They told me it was a preview to my own personal hell.”

“What horrible people.”

“Yes. I’m going to see a lawyer about all this,” Franco said.

“Good. Can you walk?”

“I’ll manage. Thanks for coming to get me.”

“I should have come with you in the first place. I’m sorry for acting like a dick.”

“Oooooh,” Franco managed to happily squeak through his pain.

“Zip it,” Cheise Karn Mouise said, then he laughed. “Let’s just get out of here.”

They rode in silence for a while until Cheise Karn Mouise suggested they get a late-night treat. He thought it would help cheer Franco up a bit. “How about some ice cream? And not that yogurt crap. I mean real ice cream. Are you in the mood for some 24-hour Cream King goodness?”

Franco Dellaronti brightened through the pain. “Cream King? Absolutely. I want to get something super swirly.”

Cheise Karn Mouise shook his head. “God that’s gay.”

Then the puppet with soul gripped the steering wheel of his ultra-cool Kia Soul as he plowed the night streets, and he was glad to be in a fairly decent mood, his good friend and master at his side, badly beaten, but still alive. Then something in the sky caught both their eyes, and they saw magical electric Jesus riding a bicycle, and he gave them a friendly wave and smile before rising and flying off across the face of the blue-white moon — like an E.T. kid — on his way to space Heaven.

END


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.