The Kid Is Alright

 

by Fielding Goodfellow

Its been getting a little scary around here, I mean the middle aged guy who did the deliveries for the pharmacy was brutally attacked right there in front of the grocery store on Wellesley Street. There were cars on the road and people on the sidewalk, but nobody stopped to help.  My daughter was taking it pretty hard, I mean I think the entire neighborhood was beginning to feel quite vulnerable.

“I can’t believe you made us move down here.” she said.  You’re supposed to protect us from things like this. If you don’t care about us, why did you even have kids anyway?”

“It seemed like a good idea at the time.” My wife said. “But lately, I’m not so sure.” I sat quietly, not wanting to get involved in what I was sure would very soon turn into a nightmare I may never wake from.

“Nothing to add?” my daughter asked, turning to me.

“I wasn’t really thinking about kids.” I said. “I was just enjoying all of the sex that went into trying to get your mother pregnant.” My daughter made a noise that I don’t think I’d ever heard before, and went into her room, slamming the door.

“Nice one.” My wife said. “Now you’ve gone and pissed her off.”

“She’ll be fine. She really needs to lighten up and relax, though.” She’d always been that way. She was histrionic and high strung as a kid, I mean I don’t think she stopped screaming until she was five or six, and even then she was a handful. We’d go shopping, she couldn’t have been more than two or so, and as we loaded everything into the van, we’d find all kinds of candy and shit she stashed in the sides of her stroller. My wife was sure that we were raising a thief. I thought that it was just a phase that she would grow out of and that she would settle down. Well, she’s twenty five now, and we’re still waiting.

We went to a family camp one summer when she was about four, although I never really wanted to make the trip. I was pretty sure that all of the planning and preparation wouldn’t really make a difference, I mean nothing good had ever come from putting the five kids in a minivan and hitting the open road. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked my wife.

“One hundred percent.” she said. “It’ll be fun.” My wife was right about a lot of things, but spending two and half hours in the van with the kids was almost never fun. But we headed out on what the kids would later refer to as the best fucking family road trip ever.

“When will we be there?” my daughter asked.

“Ah, hell.” I said. “We’ve barely pulled out of the driveway.”

“I think we should get some Timbits or something.” my wife advised. “That usually keeps her quiet for a while. The quiet didn’t last very long at all. Within minutes the Timbits were gone, and the screaming began again. It was incessant.

“Any other ideas?” I asked, “Or do we just head home?” By now the boys were shouting at her to shut up, but that only made her scream louder.

“Try putting on some music.” my wife said. “I think she likes The Spice Girls. There’s a CD in here, somewhere.”

“Oh, fuck no.” I said.

“Its that, or the screaming.” she said. “You decide?” The CD went in and my daughter immediately stopped screaming. The van filled with the rhymes and rhythms of the inane lyric of ‘Wannabe’. We were all relieved when it ended, but apparently that was the only Spice Girl song she liked. We spent what seemed like forever trapped in the living hell of ‘Wannabe’. I found myself praying,  although it was more like begging, for the aliens to appear and abduct me. I was sure that their probing would hurt significantly less than the tripe that was beginning to make my ears bleed. As luck would have it, the aliens never came but the screaming stopped, only to be replaced with my daughter’s off key vocals that included the brilliantly insightful ‘I really, really, really wanna zigazig ah’,

“I think I’d like to stop and take up drinking.” I said to my wife.

“Not now.” She said. “You can’t drink and drive.”

“Well, I can’t drive and ‘slam my body down and wind it all around’. Isn’t there anything else she’ll listen to?”

“We’ve got Sharon, Lois and Bram if you’d like.” It was then that I realized that if indeed there is a hell, I had found mine.

“Let’s give it a shot.” I said. “It can’t be much worse.” I was wrong, I mean what the hell is a skinamarink anyway?  I pulled off of the highway and into the parking lot of one of those tourist stops that lined the four hundred series of highways. I turned off the van, and sat on a curb stone in front of the golden arches.

“It will be okay.” My wife said, sitting down beside me. “We’re almost there.”

“I know.” I said. “But then there’s the trip back.”

“I’m afraid so.”

“That’s too bad.” I said, as we listened to the kids fighting in the van. “I suppose I should go get them some fries and nuggets or something. That might get us twenty minutes of quiet.”

“You might as well.” she said. “And you can get me a cheese burger and fries.”

The week at the camp went by far too fast. The kids had a great time, and I suppose that was really all that mattered, I mean we did this for them. Even the little screamer was so busy particpating in all of the activities, particularly the ones held in the water, that I didn’t hear a single scream. The night before we were to leave they held a parents’ night off camp property. The counselors were left to tend to the kids, while the parents headed off to the excitement that was downtown Collingwood. We went for dinner and sat with a few people my wife had befriended. Mary Ann Perkins, a diminutive blonde from Mount Forest was sitting directly across from me and was plastered before dinner even arrived. She regaled me with her sordid tale of how she had raised her daughter as a single parent given that she had no idea who the father was. “Just so we’re clear” I said to my wife, “I have never been to Mount Forest, and I’m pretty sure I’d rather be listening to the kids yell and scream than this drunken idiot’s fucked up life story.”

I didn’t sleep at all that night, wondering what kind of torture the trip back was going to bring.  We packed up the van early the next morning, and headed out before most of the others were even awake. It didn’t take long before I heard her voice. “I won this CD at camp.” she said as she passed it forward to my wife. “Can we listen to it?”

“Sure, honey.” My wife said, and in it went. After the first two tracks, I knew the drive home was going to be as much of a nightmare as the trip up to the camp, I mean I was almost tempted to put The Spice Girls back in, but it was during the third song that I lost the hearing in my right ear.

“What the hell is this?” I asked my wife. “Did she just say ‘life in plastic, its fantastic?”

“I think so.” she said. I was not prepared to endure this for the entire drive home, I mean I just couldn’t. After ten or twenty listens to Barbie Girl I stopped at one of those tourist stops that lined the four hundred series of highways. I sat in silence under the golden arches, trying desperately to get that shit out of my head. But it was still there, long after the music stopped playing. “Are you okay?” my wife asked.

“I think so.” I said. “But I can tell you that I’m way too old to party with Barbie. I’ll go get chicken nuggets and fries for the kids, and I suppose you want a cheeseburger and fries.”

“Make it a Big Mac.” she said. “And see if they have any of those orange milk shakes.”

And twenty years or so after that week on the shores of Georgian Bay, my daughter still tries to manipulate and cajole us with her big mouth and idiotic sense of entitlement. I suppose its our fault really, I mean we should never have given in, but my wife just wouldn’t even consider any of the alternatives. She’s a good kid really, but she’s a bit of an ass. My wife says she gets that from me, which I suppose is true. Anyway, the hoodlums involved in the beating of the delivery guy are still roaming around out there. He was too afraid to go to the police, and he quit his delivery job at the pharmacy. The neighborhood is as safe as any really, I mean shit happens and you just can’t live your life hiding somewhere hoping to avoid it. Thankfully my daughter moved out and is living in the suburbs with her boyfriend, who’s a  nice enough guy, but I’m not sure he has any idea what he’s in for. It doesn’t really matter to me though, I mean I have given him the blessing and the problem, and I have a very strict return policy. Its now up to him to decide if he needs to pull off the highway or spend the time trying to slam his body down and wind it all around.

 

The Man In The Shark Skin Suit

 

Nora Kesler had lived on the street for as long as I could remember, but ever since her husband took off with their Spanish cleaning woman and moved to Ibiza, she pretty much kept to herself. People talked about her a lot, I mean they thought that she was some kind of witch or something. She was definitely odd, but it was in a kind of Sylvia Plath meets Wednesday Addams way. She wasn’t evil or anything, she was just kind of lonely and morose. Even so, almost everyone had a story or two to tell about her. Growing up I heard that she was possessed by demons, or that she had been mutated by the electric radiation emanating from the hydro towers that skirted the edge of her property. There was even talk that she been cursed by the spirits laid to rest in the ancient, sacred burial site that sat directly beneath her house.  Nobody really knew for sure, but they were certain that something weird was going on at the Kesler house.

It was brutally cold that winter, the kind of Canadian cold that could freeze the world for a moment so that everything looked like one of those Christmas postcards. There was an Arctic wind that blew so hard you could actually hear it moan, and I’m sure that’s when Farberman pissed himself. He denied it, but Tate and I both knew that he did. We would hang out on the ice at Rockford Park most of the time, and discovered that if we stood in just the right spot we could see directly into Nora Kesler’s bedroom window. We would huddle together as close as possible without getting all Oscar Wilde or anything, and freeze our nuts off just to catch a glimpse of her tits as she took off her shirt and bra. It was so worth it, I mean we were only thirteen and it was such a big fucking deal. There were times when I was sure that she knew we were watching her, but she never turned away or covered up. I used to clear her driveway when it snowed, I mean I thought it was the least I could do considering what she had been doing for me. Sometimes she would invite me in for a hot chocolate before I headed home, and I would sit at her kitchen table listening to her talk about feeling lonely and everything, while I silently prayed that she would show me her tits again. I suppose that she just needed someone to talk to but none of the adults in the neighborhood would give her the time of day. She was alright though, I mean despite what everyone said about her, she was okay.

It snowed like crazy the day before Christmas Eve. The roads were nearly impassable, with drifts so high that several neighborhood dogs had become lost in their own backyards until the spring thaw despite the extensive search parties that had been organized to look for them. I headed over to the Kesler house to try to clear some of the snow, spending hours out there moving snow across the asphalt that I knew was buried somewhere down there until Mrs. Kesler called me inside to warm up. I sat at the table, cradling the cup of hot chocolate in my hands, as Mrs. Kesler flitted about her kitchen wearing only a robe. I began praying again, asking that the damn thing would just pop open as I watched her every move, hoping to at least catch a glimpse of this or that. I had never really put much stock in divine providence, but an eerie sense of calm seemed to settle around us. The clouds lifted and the heavens opened, letting in a solitary ray of light that I’m certain could have illuminated the cosmos. And then, the hand of the Lord himself reached down and flashed a peace sign, as Mrs. Kesler’s robe parted like the Red Sea. The cup slipped from my hands as I stared in awe at the wondrous glory that was Nora Kesler’s body. It was then that I became a believer. “Oh, my.” she said as she walked towards me with her robe still opened.

We spent the better part of the afternoon with Nora teaching me exactly what she wanted me to do, and exactly how she wanted me to do it. She had a mannequin in her bedroom, a full body replica of a man dressed in a shark skin suit that she said she used to keep her company and to keep her warm, but she was certain that she wouldn’t be needing him any longer. I began visiting her every Wednesday after school, at exactly four o’clock whether or not her driveway needed shoveling or her lawn needed cutting. Farberman and Tate never knew what I was up to, I mean I wouldn’t do that to Mrs. Kesler, but man, I wanted to tell them just what I had been doing with her. It would have killed them both. I never really said anything about it to anybody, but for three years I never missed a single Wednesday. The neighbors continued to talk about her being a witch and how weird things were always going on at her house, and I can attest that there was a lot of weird shit going on over there, at least every Wednesdays at about four o’clock.

Another Family Fun Fest

 

by Fielding Goodfellow

“They need to start figuring things out on their own.” my wife said. “I can’t be dealing with all of their shit, all of the time.” It had felt like that for both of us for almost six months and there didn’t seem to be any end in sight. “Why can’t they figure it out on their own?  We did.” she continued. It was really starting to get to her I mean, she had been dealing the brunt of it. The only calls that came my way were the pleas for money, or the two in the morning medical emergencies. My wife dealt with the rest and it was driving her precariously close to the point of no return. I had only seen her there once before, and the carnage was indescribable.  The story is legendary, recounted year after year in suburban family rooms and around campfires every summer.

As the plans for the rapidly approaching holiday family fiesta got under way, I couldn’t figure out why she bothered, I mean if history had taught us anything it was that nothing good had ever come out of having all five of our kids together at the same time. There was always an inordinate amount of crap to deal with, and we were always the ones left to clean it up when they all went home. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked.

“Not really” she said, “but they’re still our kids. We’ll just do what we have to do and have a nice evening.” I thought that she was being a bit too optimistic, but that was just the way she was.

The kids arrived with the reckless abandon usually reserved for frat parties or English football games, chanting out their resentment of the traffic snarls and parking issues they faced on their journey downtown, each one sharing their indignation with the others. “Hang up your coats.” my wife said as they began tossing them haphazardly across the furniture.

One of my daughter’s arrived with her new boyfriend,  a nice enough guy I suppose, but he seemed very out of place as she dragged him around and introduced him to the family. I was informed that they were living together, and to be honest, I was a little surprised. “What happened to the little guy?” I asked my wife.

“That ended almost a year ago.” she said. “Where have you been?” More often than not I felt like I needed a scorecard to keep track of all of the comings and goings within my family, I mean I’m generally out of the loop. My wife has told me that its my own doing. She thinks that I should take more of an interest in my kids’ lives but to be honest, I’m just too busy surfing the waves of my own discontentment with humanity to pay attention to their piddly ass, little lives.

Somewhere between the soup and the brisket all hell broke loose. “I quit my job.” one of my sons said. There was a moment of silence as my wife looked at me. Her eyes were dark and she had stopped blinking. “The chef is a prick and I’m tired of him always giving me shit.”

“What are you going to do?” one of the kids asked.

“I don’t know.” My son said. “It’ll work itself out.”

“When are you going to grow up?” my wife asked. “You have bills to pay.”

“Its not a big deal.” my son said. “Worst case scenario, I’ll just move home until I sort it all out.” I swear I saw steam coming out of my wife’s ears, and I put my hand on her thigh, gently squeezing it to let her know that I was there to support her. It turned out to be just a cake burning in the oven, but the boy had certainly pissed his mother right off.

“Just so you understand” she said, “if you really need to move home, you’d better figure out how you’re going to pay for it. If you have no money, you’re going to have to pay your way by working around here. There is no free ride any longer. Not for any of you.” A hush fell over the room that seemed to last forever. No one seemed to know what to say or do next. I wanted someone to pass the eggplant, but it just didn’t seem like the right time.

“I suppose you feel the same way?” my son asked me.

“Not at all.” I said. “I think your mother and I should just move away and leave you kids to sort out your own damn lives.”

“Well that’s a little irresponsible.” one of my daughters said. “You’re our parents. If you weren’t prepared to be a parent, you shouldn’t have had kids.”  I could feel the muscles in my wife’s thigh tighten and I realized that the point of no return had been crossed. I just hoped that it would be quick and merciful.

“I’m okay.” My wife said to me as she squeezed my hand that was still on her thigh. “I’m okay.” She leaned back in her chair, and took an incredibly deep breath. “You are, without a doubt, the most self-centered and ungrateful people I have ever known. We have spent our lives teaching you, taking care of you, protecting you and fighting for you even if we didn’t like the choices you made. If you don’t like how we parent, feel free to make the choice to get out of my house. All of you need to grow up and learn how to take care of yourselves and maybe spend some time in your incredibly busy unemployed days to make sure that we’re okay. I don’t remember the last time any of you has ever bothered to find out if we need anything. And now, you can sit here and finish eating or take whatever you want with you, but your father and I are going to leave. We’re going to our room now as the old man has had his hand on my thigh for the last fifteen minutes, and I think its excited the hell out him.” We stood up and headed into the bedroom, leaving the murmuring of the kids and their partners behind.

“Well that was brilliant.” I said.

“Do you think I was a too rough on them?” she asked.

“Not at all” I said, “but then I like it rough, and they’ll get over it. What about you?”

“I’m already over it.”

“So, what now?” I asked.

“Well I notice you’ve got your hand on my thigh again.” she said. “I’ve never lied to the kids, so I suppose we could get a little rough, if you’re interested.”

I Know A Little

 

by Fielding Goodfellow

I don’t know how she didn’t wind up with whiplash, I mean she turned her head so fast that I was sure it was going to sail across the room into the fish tank, settling at the bottom where it would forever stare at me with suspicion. “Did you do something you weren’t supposed to?” she asked. Hell, I had been doing things I wasn’t supposed to, sometimes two or three times every day of my life, I mean, that’s just the way I am. My mother used to worry that she’d get a call some dark and stormy night that I was laying in a ditch somewhere in rural Dufferin Country, and the old man, well he was certain that I’d wind up in prison. To everyone’s surprise, I managed to evaded both. I tried to think of what I had done that day, but nothing came to mind.  My wife however had her voodoo thing going on. She got these waves of energy and she knew.  She said that she could always sense when something was amiss, and to tell the truth, she usually could.

It had been going on for decades really, although it took me nearly twenty years of marriage to figure it out. It was never a big deal, I mean it was always some trivial thing, like an unpaid parking ticket or a bill for driving on toll highways.  It was always about money. Its not that I ever tried to hide anything from her, I mean it all seemed so meaningless in the general scheme of things that I just simply forgot to mention it. But we played this game often, round after round of some Spanish-Moroccan version of ‘I know what you did’, that always seemed to leave me feeling like Mr. K. in The Trial. “More than likely.” I said, recognizing that really was the was the only move. In all likelihood I had. It didn’t really matter what it was anymore I mean, once she was sure that I was involved, a confession was the only way to end the entire proceeding and possibly save a life.  Pleading innocence was suicide, but that innocuous confession would save me from the customary two or three days of her not speaking, followed by a review of the incident that would raise its ugly head semi regularly for the rest of my life.

“I just wish you’d tell me.” she said. “I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”.  She was right, but it could very well have been too much to ask, I mean we just didn’t see it the same way. I know it was important to her, but it meant nothing to me, I mean there was a truckload of  stuff that was important to me that she didn’t give a shit about. That’s just how it was. And yet when I raised a concern, we never seemed to resolve it, I mean there was no confession or even a concession on her part.

“You know” I said, “you win every argument.”

“That’s not true.” she said. “Remember when I moved the furniture around you said you wanted it moved back.”

“It was never moved back.”

“Well, as I recall you got very distracted and we never really got to finish the discussion.”

“Right.” I said. “You took your shirt off and showed me your tits. What did you think was gonna happen?” And there it was. I had always thought that I was a relatively bright man, I mean I’m not claiming to be a genius or anything, but I get it. I generally understand what’s going on around me. That being said, I had absolutely no idea why I hadn’t realized this before. She played me. She used her body to distract me whenever there was an issue she didn’t want to deal with. It was no wonder that I never got to ask the questions. Anytime she wanted to avoid the confrontation, she simply showed me her tits.

“You manipulate me.” I said. “What if I did that to you?”

“You’re kidding.” she said.

“No. I’m dead serious. What if every time you got upset, I whipped my junk out?”

“You’d stand a fair chance of losing it.”

“What?”

“If I am upset” she said, “I’m upset. That’s it. But every time you see a pair of tits its like your twelve years old and you’re seeing them for the very first time. You have no idea what the hell you were doing once I take my shirt off.”  Well, she was right. Hell, that pissed me off, but she was right, I mean that really is all it takes to distract me. A pair of tits or a thigh, it didn’t really matter. All she had to do was take her clothes off and whatever else was going on vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

“Well that’s gonna change.” I said.

“Okay.” she said. “But you can’t help yourself.”

I knew she was right, I mean she knew me better than I knew myself. I had no idea why I even said it, but if I could have done it, I would have. Not four hours later, after she informed one of my sons that he could move back home if he wanted to and before I had a chance to express my displeasure with the possibility, she said that she was hot and pulled her shirt up over her head. “Come on” she said,  tapping her hand on the mattress, “come to bed.”

On The Roof

 

by Fielding Goodfellow

The family that moved in directly across the street from us when I was growing up were pretty fucking strange. Not in a creepy sort of way or anything, but they were weird. Everyone thought so. They weren’t really friends with anyone on the street, I mean there were the obligatory hellos and other familiar pleasantries, but no one ever really hung out with the Klingmans or anything. We called them the Klingons, simply because we were sure that they had come from some other planet, and if not then they were most likely the product of inbreeding. Either way, they were definitely messed up.  In the two years since they had moved in, I had barely said anything to any of them. In the summer of 1970, that all changed.

In that summer I began spending a lot of time on the roof of my parent’s house. It was quiet and peaceful, and the world seemed so different from up there. And there was Bonnie Klingman, who at eighteen years old had become the object of many of my wet dreams, had been mounting the ladder that bore the tv antennae and carefully placing a foot on each rung, made her way to the roof of her parents house. And there, in the heat of the midday sun, she took off her clothes and lay naked on the bath towel she had spread out on the hot shingles. I Knew that I probably should have turned away, but I didn’t, I mean I couldn’t. I stayed right where I was, spellbound as I watched her breasts heave with each breath, and followed the curves of her body with my eyes. Hell, she was beautiful.

One evening, as I was practicing my slap shot against the garage door, Bonnie came across the street. “I know you’ve been watching me up on the roof.” she said. I tried my best to deny it, but I suppose that my embarrassment or perhaps it was my guilt that gave me away. “Its okay.” she said. ” I’m not gonna tell.  I kind of like it.”

“Me too.” I said.

“You know you’d get a much better look if you came up to the roof with me.”

“I suppose I would.”

“Well, you’re welcome any time.” she said, as she walked away, just like that.

I had trouble sleeping that night, I mean there was this movie that just kept playing over and over again in my head, and no matter how many times I rehearsed every moment and contemplated every possible scenario in order to leave nothing to chance, it always had the same ending, with me falling off of the roof and being discovered naked in the bushes beside to Klingman’s house. I suppose that I should have seen it as an omen, but at thirteen years old my dick was making most of my decisions.

I watched from my roof as Bonnie came out of her house in the morning and began her long, sultry climb up the rungs of the antennae base. Once at the top, she began a slow, purposeful strip tease allowing me an opportunity to see her as God intended. She stood, proudly displaying her nakedness, lit up a cigarette and smiled at me as she seductively caressed her breasts before sitting down on the bath towel. With nervous excitement I scurried down the antennae at my house, raced across the road, and flew up the stairway to heaven. I have no idea where she learned to do the things she did to me, but it confirmed my suspicion that she was indeed not from this planet. The rooftop rendezvous went on for most of the summer. It always played out the same. For a couple of days Bonnie would perform for me from her roof, dancing naked and touching herself, teasing me to no end while I sat across the road and watched. On the third day I climbed the ladder at the side of her house and made my way to her body where we spent most of the afternoon banging our brains out. I suppose it was kind of cheap and sleazy, and I suppose it cost me some of my self respect, but hell it was worth it every bit of it. The old man had started worrying about the amount of time I had been spending alone on his roof and pointed out that it could be very lonely at the top, but as far as I knew, the old man had never been with Bonnie Klingman.

The Crazy Train

by Fielding Goodfellow

 

Drug induced psychosis is what the doctor said. Hell, we didn’t even know that was a thing. Drug induced psychosis. The more we heard those words, the more ominous it seemed. But I guess it was a big deal, I mean the doctor said he’d never really be the same. All they could do now was give him some pills that would mess around with his brain and settle him down and everything, which we found insanely ironic, I mean but that was exactly what got him into this mess. I guess life can be like that, sometimes. As we watched him in his bed sedated and strapped to his bed on the seventeenth floor, it was obvious that  Pauly Herman was pretty well fucked. I suppose it was bound to happen to at least one of us, I mean we were pretty messed up most of the time, riding the ebb and flow of the peyote express. Pauly was always up for the ride. We all were. We’d hang out for what seemed like days at a time, listening to ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ over and over again, as it carried us across deserts and oceans of mind blowing melodies catapulting us to the top of the mountain from where we were pretty sure that we could see the future. It was just what we did then. We’d invite Mindy Kessler and take turns with her in the bathroom.. She wasn’t very pretty, but there was little she wouldn’t do at the drop of a pair of pants.

Things got pretty weird sometime after side ‘A’. We were used to the flying monkeys and the singing grapes and everything, but this was a completely different kind of weird. Pauly met God, or so he said, right there in the kitchen. He didn’t stay long, but he told Pauly that there were only two truths. First, there are aliens living among us, and second, Paul McCartney was, in fact dead. I was already pretty sure that beings from another planet were living in my neighborhood, but the McCartney thing, well that was a pretty big deal. I can’t verify it or anything I mean, I didn’t hear God say a word.  By the time the sun came up we had all come down from the mountain top, although Pauly was still up there, convinced that we needed to sacrifice a virgin, even though not one of us knew of any. We thought he was just stuck in some kind of bad trip or something, but Mindy was sure that he had lost his fucking mind. We had to believe her I mean, she was a psych major and everything.

Pauly had always been a fairly normal guy, despite having only one testicle which, I was assured by a nurse, had absolutely nothing to do with his mental breakdown. I wasn’t as certain though, I mean I think anyone would be a little fucked up if they was missing a testicle. He didn’t lose it or anything, I mean it was just never there. It seems that it was stuck somewhere inside, although I have no idea what use it was to him there. From his stretcher in the E.R., Pauly reiterated all of the clues that existed in Beatles lyric and album covers that clearly noted the death of the famed musician. We had been over this before and the truth was none of us really cared. They were still The Beatles, and to be honest, we didn’t really think that McCartney had written anything of substance since well, forever. Pauly saw it as a great conspiracy, the grand cover-up that scammed a planet. He became loud and animated and was eventually subdued by two rather large security guards and a syringe in his ass. He was moved to the locked unit on the seventeenth floor, where he remained for twenty-three days. We visited him a few times during his stay and he was pretty much out of it most of the time. Whatever pills they were giving him seemed to have turned off his mind completely, but I suppose that was the point. I don’t think he knew we were even there. We took Mindy with us once in the hopes of cheering the poor bastard up I mean, who wasn’t happy getting a blow job, but Pauly wanted nothing to do with it. He pushed Mindy away every time she tried to touch him. After a while we just stopped visiting, I mean there seemed to be no point to it, really.

While he continued to have his mind reprogrammed, we were just hanging out for what seemed like days at a time, listening to ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ over and over again, fucked up on peyote, watching the flying monkeys devour the singing grapes. Mindy was on her knees, honing the skills that had made her a legend when we got the news. Pauly had died. They said it was sudden and inexplicable, but we all  knew that they were full of shit. Pauly just gave up, I mean there was still enough of him left to know that he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life uninterested in blowjobs. With no desire to live, he simply slipped into oblivion and found his way back to the deserts and oceans of mind blowing melodies that carried him to the top of the mountain from where he would be able relive the past.

 

Something’s Different

by Solomon Tate

 

It was an auspicious event, filled with the kind of tension that lives in the pages of a Raymond Chandler novel. It was the christening of my son’s new gas grill and while I was pretty excited about it I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. Well, not wrong really, but different. Something had definitely changed, and for days I just couldn’t figure out what it was. We headed into the desolate wilderness of the suburbs, maneuvering our way through men in cargo shorts tinkering with lawn mowers and lawn sprinklers, and their wives who gathered on driveways in yoga pants to watch. “What the hell are we doing here?” I asked.

“Making your son happy.” my wife said. “Its important to him so please try to behave yourself.”

“I always do.” I said. I really didn’t, I mean sometimes it was just fun to rattle their brains about a little, and other times I suppose that I just didn’t give a shit. This time though, I had all intentions of trying my very best.

Despite the phone calls and inter family memos, one of my sons and his wife arrived fifteen minutes late. My son’s girlfriend had this five minute window either way, and anything else was early or late. Neither was acceptable to her, and both result in a significant brow beating that addresses common courtesy and respect. She slipped into one of her emotional convulsions and the show that accompanied every family dinner since she moved in with my son began. “What time did I tell you to come?” she asked.

“Four o’clock.” he said.

“What time is it now?”

“I don’t know.” he said. “I guess a little after four.”

“Fifteen minutes after four.” she said. “Five minutes is a little past. Fifteen minutes is late.”

“Do you think she’s gonna say it?” I asked my wife.

“Be quiet.” she said. “I don’t want to miss it if she does.”

“I just don’t understand why you think its okay to be so self-centered and disrespectful.” she continued.“Its just common courtesy to be on time. You may as well have not bothered to come at all.” And there it was. Common courtesy. We had all heard it from her a million times and she always seemed to place the emphasis on the word common, and not courtesy. To be honest, we all found it a little strange.

“Why do you talk like that?” my daughter in law asked.

“Are you questioning me?” she said. “I am a teacher.”

“You’re a Phys. Ed. teacher.” one of my daughter’s stated. “That really doesn’t count.”

“Well that was weird.” my daughter-in-law whispered to me.

“Not really.” I said. “That’s actually pretty normal for her. She’s fucking insane.”

That nagging feeling that something was amiss kept hovering over me. It was my wife. There was something different about her. Something had changed and I knew that my not knowing was somehow going to bite me in the ass.

“Something’s different” I said to my wife..

“With what?” she asked.

“I’m not sure, but I feel like something’s changed.”

“I don’t feel anything.” she said. “Maybe you’re just old and losing your mind.”

“It could be.” I said. “It would explain a lot of shit. Did you cut your hair?”

“Does it look shorter?” she replied.

“I don’t know.” I said, “but you did something different.”

“I didn’t do anything. I stopped coloring my hair months ago. I can’t believe you’re just noticing now.”

“Well, to be fair” I said, “I’m generally too busy looking at your eyes. They’re actually quite beautiful. Sometimes I just get lost in there. But now that you’ve pointed it out, your hair looks good. I like it”  She didn’t say a wood. For the first time since this theme park ride with her began she had absolutely nothing to say and  I was pretty sure that I stood a very good chance of getting laid  that night.

“He’s very good.” my daughter-in-law said.

“Ya, but she’s no slouch, herself.” my son told her.

“Well ” my wife said to the kids, “we’re gonna say goodbye now as I’d like to be alone with your father.”

The Talking Dead

 

There is weird, and there’s spending an afternoon at the cemetery with my wife. There’s no particular reason for it, she just likes to go. She says its the only place she can go where she can get any peace. She says that its the only place she can go where spirits aren’t constantly whispering in her ear. I always thought that spirits would be all over a cemetery, but apparently I have always been mistaken. She says that the spirits leave the bodies and make their way to the other side long before burial. Even when they come back, they never return to where the body is interred. Sometimes she says that we should pack a lunch and eat at either of the two nearby cemeteries. Sometimes I wish that I could talk her out of going in the first place. Its not that I mind if she does her thing, but it all just gives me the willies.

The sky was insanely blue and the sun shone brighter than I thought it had a right to, and the universe seemed to have lined up all of the ducks into a single row and managed to create a fucking, spectacular day for us to picnic at the Necropolis. We sat on a bench eating veal on a bun as we gazed at the grave sides of Capt. John Andrew McRae and his beloved wife, Catherine. “If you listen closely” my wife said, “you won’t hear a thing.”

“I expected nothing less.” I said. “After all, it is a cemetery.” But she was right. If you really listened, there wasn’t any sound. There was no wind rustling through the trees, and there were chirping birds. There was nothing, and it was pretty fucking weird. We walked along the pathways that wound through the myriad of headstones that often seemed untended and occasionally illegible.  She said that sometimes she could pick up latent energy from the graves. She said that this was often a message indicating a troubled spirit who was unable to rest. She said that sometimes these restless souls get angry. I had no idea what the hell she was talking about, but I was pretty sure that I wanted no part of any of it.  Suddenly she stopped dead in her tracks. The color seemed to drain out of her face, and she burst into tears. Right in front of the final resting place of William Tyrell. Now I had spent a great deal of my life traversing space and time and as I wandered through assorted dimensions I discovered that while life races past at warp speed returning us full circle to where we began, its the attractions that make it all worthwhile, and not the journey itself. Sooner or later the lights of this amusement park will go out and I had always tried not to miss a single ride. This was not, however one of the attractions that I had any interest in riding. Sometimes you just have to pass.

She stood there crying for what seemed like forever, unable to speak. I held her until she stopped. She told me that she had been overcome with an intense feeling of sadness. She said that it enveloped her like a blanket and she just couldn’t seem to get it off. She was shaking. “I think we should go.” I said.

“Not yet.” she said. “I can’t explain it, but I feel like something’s here.” For me, that was the sign that it was time to leave, but for my wife, well she had yet to meet a ghost she wouldn’t want to talk with.  She stood there for a long time waiting, although I have no idea what she was waiting for, while I smoked and  polished off her iced tea.

“We should go now.” she said as she turned and started walking quickly across the cemetery grounds. She seemed afraid or worried, or both, and I followed close behind. She didn’t stop until we walked out the front gate, and stood on the sidewalk.

“What the hell is going on?” I asked.

“I don’t know.” she said. “Something was there. I don’t know what it was but it wasn’t good.”

“Are you alright?” I asked.

“I’ll be okay.” she said. “But that was pretty weird. I wish you could have felt it.” She could never understand just how happy I was that I couldn’t.

“I’m not doing this again.” I said.

“I know.” she said. “But I have to. Sometimes they talk to me. Sometimes they need my help.”

“Can we just go home?” I asked.

“Soon.” she said.

“I just want to go, now.” I repeated.

“In a minute.” she shouted back. “I thought we’d get a soft serve from the ice cream truck over there. Do you want one.”

“Ya. I suppose.” I said. “Medium chocolate vanilla swirl.”

“Ok.” she said. “You just sit here and rest. I’ll be right back. And then if you’re up to it,  I think you’re about to get incredibly lucky.”

 

What Do You Think

by Fielding Goodfellow

It was one of those oppressively hot summer days that sent the heat waves dancing across the road, making him think that he might just be having another flashback. They had been driving for an insanely long time, or at least it felt that way, and his wife hadn’t stopped complaining about the fact that her ass was sticking to the seat. “My God.” he thought. “Will this nightmare never end?”

“What’s that supposed to mean.” she asked. He wasn’t sure what she was referring to, but he prayed that those words didn’t really come out of his mouth. He was pretty sure that he didn’t make a sound, but he had learned a long time ago never to underestimate her super powers. With her he knew that he couldn’t really be sure about anything.

“I didn’t say a word.” he said.

“It doesn’t matter.” she told him. “I can hear what you’re thinking.” At first he didn’t believe it. He was pretty sure that if she could really hear what was going on in his head, he would have been dead a long time ago. As far as he could tell, this was just another round of the game that she liked to play with him whenever he was quiet and she was bored. A part of him knew that he had been wrong about her many times before, but this time, this time he was almost certain that he was safe. He was however, about to find out that he was mistaken.

“The only reason you’re not already dead” she told him, “is that I have way too much fun tormenting you.”  He leaned over and turned on the radio. “That isn’t going to help.” she said.

The truth was he had to try to silence the residual thoughts that continuously swam laps around his brain. He thought he had found some relief with The Tubes when ‘Talk To Ya Later’ came out of the car radio, but as he sang along, he just couldn’t stop himself from wondering how long she been able to hear what he was thinking, and why she had never mentioned it before.

“Its been years and years.” she said. “And letting you know about it wouldn’t really have changed anything.”

“No, I suppose not.” he said as he turned the radio off. “So you pretty much know everything I’ve been thinking about?”

“No, not really.” she said. “It doesn’t work like that. There are some limitations. Sometimes I can’t hear a thing. Sometimes I pick up so much that I can’t figure out anything. Its all just a jumbled mess, like listening to a bunch of songs at the same time. Its hard to isolate them and hear just one.”

“Well, I’m not sure that I like the idea of you nosing around in my head.” he said.

“There’s nothing to worry about.” she said.

“That may be.” he said, “but still, it would be appreciated if you could knock first and let me know you’re there.”

“Do you want to find a place to stop?” she asked.

“Why”.” he asked. “Are you gonna tell me I have to pee?”

“We both know you have to.” she said, “but I’d like to stretch my legs, if I can pry my ass off of the seat.”

It was a little concerning to him that she was sure that he needed to use the bathroom, but hell, she was right. All of a sudden he needed to pee. “I think I’d better find a place to pull over.” he said.

“If you think so.” she said.

He pulled into a small rest stop just off of the highway, fully equipped with a gas station, a restaurant, and a small motel. She got out of the car and stood in front of the restaurant giving it the once over as he walked towards it. “Did you want to eat something?” she asked.

“If you want.” he said, as he headed inside.

She wasn’t in the restaurant when he came out of the bathroom. He checked outside and she wasn’t by the car either.  “She went over to the motel.” some pimply faced kid in coveralls sitting outside at the gas bar told him.

He found her in the motel office, seemingly waiting for him to arrive. “I got us a room.” she said.

“Really.” he said.

“Uh huh.” she replied. “For the last half hour or so all I could hear from you was ‘fuck her’, so here we are.” She handed him the key as they walked towards the room. “You don’t mind me hearing what you’re thinking now, do you?” she asked.

“Not at all.” he said as he opened the door to the room.

“I didn’t think so.” she said as she walked in and lay on the bed. He supposed that there could have been a myriad of things she could do that would be far worse than knowing what he was thinking. And perhaps, if he thought real loud, he wouldn’t have to say a word. He tested his theory that evening in room 5 of the Crown Motel, and he decided then and there to never question or challenge her thought reading again.

Season Of The Witch

by Solomon Tate

 

Things were getting weird. Something strange was going on with my wife. She’d been lighting candles.At first it was just one or two small candles at twilight which she believed was helping to keep the planet green, and as she explained, the candles  helped her to relax. But then it spiraled out of control. She was lighting so many candles that the house was lit up like Mass at St. Peter’s. We were awash with candles. There were tall ones and short ones. There were candles in glass jars and candles in pewter holders. There were holiday candles, tapered candles, and scented candles. They were everywhere. She was lighting them day and night, closing the curtains and turning off the lights in order to obtain just the right effect. And while she found it soothing, we were all concerned. She had become a candle junkie.

She developed a fondness for candle shopping, seeking them out where ever she went. She was finding them everywhere, bringing them home home from stores, and ordering them on line. She waited with anxious delight for the deliveries to arrive, and was overjoyed when the packages finally came. There was great anticipation wondering just which of the candles had arrived. She looked at them carefully, examining them methodically as she searched for any damage or flaw. Once certain that they were exactly what she wanted, she carried them to the bedroom and kit them, losing herself in the orange glow of their rather insignificant flames. I tried to warn her of the fire hazard but she  assured me that she was always extremely careful. She positioned them in very specific and precise arrangements, and made it clear to all of us that they were not to be moved.

One of my daughters began to question her mother’s motives for this new found interest in candle lighting. She suspected that my wife may be a witch. It was not a new supposition, but the multitude of candles being lit at any given time had only served to heighten the concern. “She could be practicing witchcraft.”, my daughter stated. “Sometimes I hear her mumbling in there.”

“Its not likely.”, I remind her. “You’re mother rarely feels the need to practice. anything. If she’s doing witch stuff, she’s probably already turned pro.”

She was particularly partial to those little tea candles which she purchased at Ikea, and the citrus scented ones that come in little glass jars that she said would be use to hold spices once the candles were spent. It was a well thought out scheme, although I did let her know that we could purchase small spice jars at Ikea as well. She balked at the idea, reminding me that she liked the candle light.

“Wasn’t there an aunt or someone who was a witch?”, my daughter asked. Indeed there was. A great aunt, who was believed to have put a curse on her husband and turned him into a zombie. There are numerous stories about curses and hexes she had placed on several people over the years that served to make her the scourge of the family and allowed her to wield great power over her mere mortal family. Everyone was afraid of her. Everyone, except my wife.  I had met this woman on two occasions, and for weeks after I regularly inspected my boxers just in case the story of her turning a neighbors genitals into a pretty useless sock puppet was true.

Aunt Layla was quite old when I first met her, and she also had a fondness for candles and had amassed a rather festive collection in her home. We visited her home just one time, and found her husband sitting in a chair, neither blinking nor talking, surrounded by an array of tapered candles of assorted sizes that appeared to have been used often. I had been warned by other family members  not to accept any food or drink Aunt Layla may offer as this was her preferred method of getting someone to ingest any one of hundreds of potions. They said her husband simply drank some mint tea, and within hours had become a zombie. He stayed that way for over thirty years. My kids, who know the stories of the family’s witches, have advised me to keep a close eye on my wife, and not to eat or drink anything she prepares.

And as the candle lighting continued flooding the house with the warm glow of yellow and orange, we all kept our eyes wide open. We sought out professional help, but my wife was unwilling to participate. We considered an intervention, but worried about the consequences if she really were a witch. If she was casting spells or reaching out to her long deceased Aunt Layla to increase her powers, we were all pretty much screwed already.

My daughter has pointed out that I appear significantly shorter than I once was, and while I thought it was due to aging, it could very well be my wife’s handy work. She was always resentful that she was so much shorter than I. My daughter continues to watch her mother like a hawk. She just can’t seem to relax and let it go. “Have you seen her stirring her cauldron in the morning?”, she asks.

“She’s making oatmeal.”, I reply.

“Really?”, she questions. “Are you sure?” I would like to believe that I am pretty sure. It’s unlikely that she’s cooking up eye of newt, and toe of frog. But in the meantime, the candles keep burning, my wife keeps chanting, and the rest of us, well, we regularly roam the house searching for wool of bat and tongue of dog and any signs of a pentagram drawn on the floor. So far, its all good.