The Museum of Sudden Disappearances

MUSEUM available as an ebook at Amazon Or, for temporal travelers, PAST IS PRESENT at Amazon.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

WORLD WAR 3
(beneath the Christmas tree)
the *adult* version of the children's Christmas story?

Below this post is the children's version of this story. If you haven't yet hit your tenth birthday, check out the kiddie version. Just page down once and you'll hit it. The link is located just below the picture of the Little Drummer Boy.

On the other hand...

Today the slightly grittier and more deranged version of the story appears on the criminally entertaining and eye-popping blog, ALL THINGS CRIME. If you are reading this post and are ten years old or older (don't lie), and have at least a diploma from fifth grade, then you're already sufficiently disillusioned by life, and can now handle the crappy side of reality. So, here's the link to the grown-up version. Buckle your seatbelt. Oh...and Merry Christmas!

SECRET LINK TO UNSPEAKABLE YULETIDE TERROR



Monday, December 16, 2013

WORLD WAR 3
(beneath the Christmas tree)
a children's story?


This holiday story has two versions. One for children. One for adults diagnosed with inoperable humor disorder. The adult version will appear soon on Patrick Moore's criminally fascinating blog, ALL THINGS CRIME. In the meantime, below is the link to the slightly dark and demented kiddie version, which appears with music and sound effects on Booktrack. Now, let's get in the mood...

TWAS THE NIGHT before Christmas, 
when all through the McNutt house
Creatures (with impoverished consciences) were stirring, 
not much bigger than a mouse.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

THE EXPEDITION


British explorer, Ernest Shackleton, and his crew sailed on their legendary ship, Endurance, to the South Pole in 1914...and disappeared. What happened next is widely viewed as the greatest survival story ever told. 

Well, almost.


Below is the missing chapter of the Shackleton story. For the first time ever, at the centennial mark, the world will now finally learn what really happened on that fateful journey. Are you ready, dear reader, to know what Shackleton really discovered at the South Pole?


Put on your hat and boots. Button your coat. Say goodbye to your family and friends. On this polar expedition, you may never return. Now head to the bottom of the world...and disappear. 

The Expedition
a chilly short story by Thomas Davidson
can be read (and heard) HERE on Booktrack.

Imagine the response rate for this ad in 2014

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Booktrack Trailer - Exit by Thomas Davidson



EXIT was among the three winners of the 2013 Litquake Booktrack Halloween Short Story Competition (San Francisco) for dark fantasy/horror fiction. You can read, shiver, shudder, and hear the story HERE at Booktrack.


Winner

Exit

Thomas Davidson


Do you enjoy the movies? At this theater, you may never go out…the way you came in. Now turn off your cell phone. Dim the lights. Shhhh. The feature is about to begin. It's showtime!

All of the events in this story are true,  but the name of the theater has been redacted.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Botch Cassidy & the SunDunce Kid
hit The Home Depot


This piece appears today on ALL THINGS CRIME. Click HERE if you're a connoisseur of bad behavior.


Monday, October 28, 2013

EXIT

Do you enjoy the movies? At this theater, you may never go out…the way you came in. Now, turn off your cell phone. Dim the lights. Shhhh...the feature is about to begin. It's showtime.



This new story, EXIT, is featured exclusively on Booktrack. It's dark and deeply demented. For story and soundtrack, click HERE. Have a horrendous Halloween!
Patty Hearst - the untold story!


[This piece originally appeared 10/22/13 on the crime blog, ALL THINGS CRIME.]



Patty Hearst, SLA, Beatle—the Secret Link

At 9:20 p.m. on February 4, 1974, there was a knock on the door of apartment #4 at 2603 Benvenue Street in Berkeley, California. The young couple inside, a college student and a teacher, looked up.

Knock, knock.
"Who's there?"

Wait. Before we open the door, let's go back two months. On December 3, 1973, a record was released in the U.S. The album's titular song would hit the airwaves, enter the national eardrum, and set the "musical" stage for one of the strangest cases in FBI history. Now, let's return to that chilly February night.

Knock, knock.
"I said—who's there?"

Eight kidnappers burst in with guns drawn. The boyfriend was thrown to the floor and stomped by a dedicated communist masseur. His 19-year-old fiancée was dumped into a car trunk. Seconds later—screams, three shots, screeching tires…history.

Next morning, the name Patty Hearst circled the world.

Who's there?
What's there?
Open the door and say hello to…
Synchronicity.

(rakish revolutionary)

America's most famous fugitive since Dr. Richard Kimble was on the run for the next 19 months, until her headline arrest in September, 1975. Millions know the electrifying story. Until now, the strangest part of this crime saga has been hidden in plain sight. Years ago, vintage rock deejay "Jurassic Jim" Fleetwood connected the dots and went public. Jeers followed. "Alas," Fleetwood said, "the sign of a true visionary is an arrow in his back—next to the bullet hole." WikiLeaks has released FBI documents that vindicate Fleetwood's assertion.

In a nutshell, a "cosmic quirk" occurred in the spring of 1974, after the Symbionese Liberation Army demanded that the captive's family distribute "$70 worth of food" to every needy Californian (think Oxfam America with a desperado twist). However, the weird-o-meter of life throttled up to a solid, pants-piddling 10 when Patty's surreal odyssey banged a sharp turn into Carl Jung's Twilight Zone.

You may reasonably ask: What's Patty Hearst and a pop tune got to do with Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung? This: the term synchronicity was coined by Cosmic Carl to express a concept about an acausal connection of two or more psycho-physic phenomena. What we perceive as coincidence (e.g. you spend two sleepless, tweaktastic weeks on crystal meth, then join a public tour of the West Wing of the White House) is often something deeper and not chance driven (e.g. the universal human need to be noticed by the leader of the free world as you claw your chest and shake like a paint-mixer).

Now, chew on this. Throughout the time Patty Hearst teamed up and hit the highway with the SLA, what was the #1 album in America? What song shook the soundtrack to the 1974 zeitgeist? Come on…ah…

Answer: Paul McCartney and Wings. Band on the Run.

It gets better. Remember the album cover? A dark alley at night. A group of outlaws dressed in black. A police spotlight.

(Paul started it all)

Coincidence? Please, put the glass pipe down and get a grip. This is synchronicity. Feeling faint? You should. That's not cottage cheese dripping onto your shoulders—your brain just exploded.

(SLA roadies checking the stage design prior to the performance)

Picture it. April 15, 1974. A ho-hum Monday morning on freakin' tax day. Maximum bore. Unless you were lucky enough to be inside the Sunset District branch of the Hibernia Bank at 1450 Noriega Street in San Francisco. That's where Dr. Jung's theory was literally caught on surveillance camera, officially crossing the criminal line. Patty was photographed wielding an M1 carbine while making an unorthodox cash withdrawal. The camera snapped a babe in a rakish black beret barking financial directives to bank customers. And who better to offer free fiscal advice at gunpoint than a Hearst heiress?

(note the quartet of dancing shadows on the floor)

Now. Drumroll. The blast-your-brain Jungian moment of synchronicity. The paranormal collision of Patty and Paul. Beret and Beatle. When a band of bank robbers met a Band on the Run. Among the iconic surveillance pictures, one grainy image shows four shadows on the shiny floor, near the velvet ropes that lead to the bank tellers. This explosive shot has been compared to the Zapruder film of the JFK assassination. Four SLA members, beyond the camera's eye, are backlit by ceiling lights. A freeze-frame of finger-poppin' choreography. Song-and-dance shadows. SLA bank robber #1 sings lead. SLA bank robbers #2, #3 & #4 sing backup. Classic call-and-response.

SLA bandit #1: "Do ya DIG me?"

SLA bandits #2, #3, #4: "Yes we dig ya."

SLA bandit #1: "Do ya D-I-I-I-G-G-G me?"

SLA bandits #2, #3, #4: "Yes we dig ya."

SLA bandit #1: "Now…that I…can…rob and dance."

SLA bandits #2, #3, #4: "Rob-n-dance…rob-n-dance."

SLA bandit #1: "Watch-me-now…hey!"

SLA bandit #1 pumps fist, drops to floor with legs split, bounces back up like a cheerleader on crack. Cheering customers give standing ovation.

SLA bandits #2, #3, #4: "Shoop-de-shoop…work it out baby!...Shoop-de-shoop…death to fascist insects…loop-de-loop…that prey on the peeps…"

[To topple the pillars of fascism, the SLA understood that redistribution of wealth could be achieved through entertainment. Dazzle the masses with tight-ass dancing, and the cash will come.]

SLA bandit #1: "All right everybody…purse and wallets on the floor…Then poppa gonna show you…how to dance some more!"

SLA bandits #2, #3, #4: "We're sym…bun…neeze…liberationarmy…We bring bourgeois pigs…to their sleazy piggy knees…Cuz we're the sym…bun…neeze…liberationarmy…"

SLA bandit #1: "Yo…freedom flips me out…hey!"

Shadow #1 does a back flip without dropping his M1 carbine, kicks out legs, hits the splits, pops up, shoots ceiling—pop-pop-pop—while sliding across tile floor on knees à la Bruce Springsteen.

Shadows #2, #3, #4 sing "Shoop-de-shoop… sym…bun…neeze…b-a-b-y," then cartwheel, hit the splits with one-hand-down-on-floor, pop, stop, wave berets.

(The Temptations – the greatest assault weapon ever seen on stage,
with lethal vocals and high-capacity-magazine footwork)

Reached by phone last week, an anonymous eyewitness recalled, "Those four men. They lined up like a firing squad. I was scared to death. But Lord Jesus, they did a line dance. Like they was the Temptations with firearms. They danced and waved those weapons. Dancing bandits? I never seen nothing like it. Holy Jesus, imagine blagging banks in your beret and salsa shoes. Dash in, wave a weapon, and do the Boogaloo at Wachovia while shouting, ‘Everyone on the floor…the dance floor! That’s right. One, two, three—drop! Hit it, people!’ Goodness, what fun. I mean, come on…rob Citibank while dancing the Skank in front of the security cameras? What kinda world we live in?"

Answer: a world of cosmic confluence. A big shout-out to Carl Jung in the afterlife—Doctor J, you put the shoop-de-shoop into quantum physics. Welcome to banditry, berets, bullets and a backbeat. It all began with a rock record release. So jump up. Slap on your ballroom shoes and dance the Skank at Citibank.

[Thomas Davidson would like to thank Carl Jung and "Jurassic Jim" Fleetwood for their valuable insight.]

AT

Thomas Davidson is the author of two quirky thrillers, THE MUSEUM OF SUDDEN DISAPPEARANCES and PAST IS PRESENT. His nonfiction has appeared in The Boston Phoenix; and is excerpted in the national bestseller Missing Beauty by crime reporter, Teresa Carpenter. His comic fiction has appeared in MudRock: Stories and Tales and The American Drivel Review; crime fiction in A Twist of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, and All Things Crime. His literary humor column appeared at The Electronic Drivel Review, ADR's online supplement. He lives in the Boston area.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

BAD LUCK CHUCK

Helpless, Hopeless, Hapless

Charles Murkle ("Bad Luck Chuck") is widely regarded by the FBI as the unluckiest crime victim in history. His stroke-inducing story, "UP," appears today on the stellar crime blog that's so good...it's criminal: ALL THINGS CRIME. Read it here, then drop to your shaky knees and be thankful this crap never happened to you.


Charles Murkle

If you have a Google Chrome Browser, you can read and hear this story (replete with disturbing music and harrowing sound effects) at Booktrack. Hear it here.



UPDATE: Charles Murkle's fugitive widow, Wanda Wackett-Murkle, was recently featured in the investigative New York Times piece, "Unholy Trinity--Al Capone, the Unabomber, Wanda Wackett-Murkle." She remains at large.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Vampire's Chauffeur

Ever notice.....the steady DECLINE of nice people? You're not hallucinating. What follows may sucker-punch your outlook on life. Be warned. You may lose bladder control.


Stop reading if you're glum, drunk, and teetering on a windy bridge in a sleet storm as soulless motorists pound their horn, cackle ha-ha-ha, and scream "Jump, you chicken shit. I double-dog dare ya!"


[NOTE:  The following story, THE VAMPIRE'S CHAUFFEUR, is posted here (text only), and is also on Booktrack.com (with text, music, sound effects). In my previous post (9/16/13) I give a brief rundown on this new app here. For the audio version on Booktrack, click on the image below. At this time, only the Google Chrome browser can open the app.]



Ahem.

When you read the ghastly newspaper or watch the grim news unfold on TV, do you ever shudder, spill your drink on your trousers, and sense a rise in bad behavior? Does your queasy gut insist the world is getting worse? Are maniacs on the march? If so, why? 

In a sense, picture a wicked Wizard of Oz behind a flimsy curtain, pulling the icy levers of destiny. This blog, dear reader, shall reveal forbidden knowledge at the brutal core of human events. As a result, your brain may explode. So relax, you are seconds away from clawing your chest and gazing cross-eyed into the lugubrious abyss (with a string of saliva swinging from your lower lip). 

Listen up. Do you have an iron heart, a steel soul, a shatterproof scrotum? If you answered 'Yes' to two of three questions, proceed. [If you answered 'Shit yeah, homey,' to all three inquiries, exit this blog and see your healthcare provider.]

Come hither, oh brave and reckless snoop; it's story-time. You shall now meet the dark architect of our crummy apocalypse.....Master Ellsworth Bazarsky.


The irrepressible Ellsworth Bazarsky


THE VAMPIRE'S CHAUFFEUR

- or -

The Steady Decline of Nice People

- or - 

(apologies to Anne Rice)

Interview with a Low-Budget Vampire's Right-Hand Man



“Now, now, Mister Renfield. Are you saying the public has been misinformed about vampires?”

A wispy silhouette stood by the window. Outside, a crackly Murky Motel neon sign blinked in the parking lot, making the silhouette turn off and on like a light switch. “The public has been force‑fed fibs and flapdoodle.”

“Are you…”

Renfield continued in his high-pitched voice: “Forget all the hoopla about a vampire being a tall, peroxide Aryan on the make, surrounded by six glittering mannequins from the Ford modeling agency. Forget it—we’re not talking a dishabille Brad Pitt with fangs.”

“I must say, Mister Renfield, I was expecting perhaps a rock superstar. A blond bidentate with tails and leather chaps over black patent-leather pants studded with silver adornments. A reanimated corpse who’ll never know what it’s like to be human again, quite like those in the music industry.” The reporter paused and caught his breath. “This is a flat-out shock.”

“Shock?” Renfield blinked on again, twitching his pallid cheeks. His ratty cardigan sweater drooped to his bony knees. “Try being a vampire’s aide-de-camp.” Then the pipsqueak blinked off.

Earlier, the reporter received a whispered phone call. A squeaky voice promised "inside information" concerning the steady decline of nice people in an increasingly nasty world. The conversation ended with: “Meet me at Murky Motel. Midnight.” Click.

“Let’s start at the beginning.” The reporter sat at a table, snapped a tape into his recorder. The table supported a collision of bottles and cans: vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire, Tabasco. Little boxes of Roach Hotel were scattered across the floor. “How did you first meet...ah...?”

Renfield inched forward until the tip of his crooked nose emerged from the shadows. “I was utilizing a footbridge, expectorating into a river. An elderly gentleman with a nightclub pallor approached me in his sharkskin raincoat. ‘Sir,’ he said, ‘you strike me as a lingering malingerer with free time on your hands.’

“I shrugged, took aim, and hawked on a water bug below.

“The elegant one introduced himself as Master Ellsworth Bazarsky and said he was in the market for a butler, a chauffeur, an all‑around right‑hand man. ‘Primarily graveyard shift,’ he purred, ‘with some diurnal commuting.’ We agreed and high‑fived.”

The reporter found Renfield’s facial tics a bit distracting, as if a bee buzzed behind his teeth. “Perhaps we could touch on the vampire’s much vaunted love life.”

Renfield blinked on. He clasped his hands as if in prayer. “There was a recent incident.”

“Do tell.”

Renfield blinked off.

The silhouette licked a fingertip in the dark, turned halfway and ran it across the dirty windowsill, tasted it, then squeaked, “It began...”

#

Bazarsky the Vampire and his right-hand man had been on the road in the vampire’s candy‑apple red Chevy, crisscrossing New England, staying in cheap motels. Master Bazarsky would disappear in the evening and return before dawn, with a drop of blood on his chin, along with a wallet or occasional purse. Early each morning Renfield would empty a pocketbook on the nightstand before they checked-out. Chief among Renfield’s duties was to lock his master inside the Chevy’s trunk before sunrise, where he slept through the day using the spare tire as a pillow. Occasionally, when Ellsworth Bazarsky was potholed awake on a bumpy road, he passed his time reading vampiric porn (Brooding Bucktooth Babes, Shapeshifters in D-Cups, and Vamps) by flashlight.

Ellsworth Bazarsky sneaking back to Murky Motel after hectic night of biting strangers.

And so things went until a fortnight ago when they pulled into the parking lot of a 24‑hour convenience store.

#

“The vampire naps in the trunk all day?”

“Come evening, he taps the lid.”

“And then...?”

“Usually I stop on a deserted road, unlock the lid, and His Elegance climbs out, stretches, squirts in the weeds, and slips into the back seat.”

The reporter squinted in the low lamplight. “I see.”

“That night we were caught in traffic when the Master knuckled the trunk. In a bit of a snit.” Renfield picked up a Roach Hotel box, shook it next to his ear like a bell, heard nothing, and dropped it. “So I pulled into a 7‑Eleven, stopped and popped the lid.”

#

The vampire sprang from the trunk like a jack‑in‑the‑box. The 7‑Eleven neon lights ignited his wild white mane and pale skin. A rumpled god suffering from a bout of pernicious anemia. “7‑Eleven? Renfield—where are we, Renfield?”

“You sounded antsy, Master.” Renfield got a whiskbroom from the glove compartment and dutifully brushed his Master’s wrinkled raincoat. “So I pulled over.”

The vampire stood by the Chevy, frowned, listening to the radio:

“The former president should be executed for high treason on pay‑per‑view. The opposition party should be hung by their thumbs, brushed with barbecue sauce, and slowly dipped into a shark tank. You’re listening to ‘Unhappy Hour’ with Hap Toogler…”

“Egad, Renfield. I recognized the voice from inside the trunk.”

“Talk radio, Master. Did it wake you?”

“Hap Toogler was a gentle, soft‑spoken usher at a homeless shelter in Boston. I fanged him last summer as he escorted me to my cot. Now he’s back from the dead, hosting his own show. Hmm…Hap’s acquired an edge since I saw him last.”

Ellsworth Bazarsky aboard "Good Ship Lollipop," sailing from Transylvania to America.

I’M THE STATUE OF LIBERTY
Gimme your tired, your poor, your wretched? 
Gimme your broke, worthless vampires with clue disabilities? 
Gimme your fanged freeloaders?
Gimme Ellsworth Bazarsky???
Is you crazy?

The vampire approached 7‑Eleven. His arm trembled when he pointed at something beyond the plate glass windows.

Renfield turned. “You mean the customer at the counter wearing a Mother Theresa rubber mask? He looks fishy.”

“No, you numbskull.”

Renfield spotted the cashier, a young woman with white lipstick and bright green hair, ringing up a pack of smokes.

“Behold,” the vampire announced. “She’s pure green lightning. Observe that column of hair shooting skyward from her forehead—it looks like a cathedral’s spire made of sprouting spinach!”

“It’s all the rage these days,” Renfield squeaked. “Bangs heading in the wrong direction. A gravity-defying hairdo.”

Ellsworth Bazarsky held up his hands, clapped twice, pumped. “And those matching green stretch pants”—he spun, squatted down, did a dance, sprang back up like a piston—“got-damn! She’s avocado thunder! I must have her, Renfield.”

“Think she’s got a short sister? Perhaps a half‑sister?”

“Alas,” the Master said, “a vampire cannot enter the premises uninvited. You know the rules, Renfield.”

Bazarsky mentioned an incident from the previous night when a taxi driver pulled over and said, “Hop in, Slim Jim, where to?” Bazarsky happily climbed aboard and fanged him from the back seat—cabbie al dente.

The vampire watched the green goddess. A cat beneath a birdcage. When the cashier glanced his way, he puffed his chest and commanded, “Come hither!”

The cashier rolled her green mascaraed eyes. She returned to Mother Theresa and her hands flew up, as if singing in church.



Mother Theresa darted to the front door and opened it, producing a pistol from his pocket. “Get in here, gramps.” Then he snarled at Renfield: “You too, twit.”

The vampire addressed the customer with a thin smile. “Are you inviting me in?”

Mother Theresa grabbed a fistful of the wrinkled raincoat.

“Sir,” the vampire asked, “is this an official invitation?”

“Get the hell in here!”

“Master...ahhh...don’t be duped by this egregious dump of DNA.”

“Renfield, stop being so judgmental.” The vampire’s eyes brightened. With a jaunty step, he brushed past the robber.

Renfield followed, spotting a squished beetle stuck to the glass door, which promptly disappeared in his hand.

“Good e-v-e-ning,” the vampire purred to the cashier.

“Zip it, pops—grab sky.” The thief grabbed Renfield by the collar and bounced him against his employer. The two stood in front of a shelf of groceries, hands raised like choir singers.

choir singers with upraised hands
(or 50 churchgoers held up en masse at gunpoint)

The cashier opened the register. “Here—take it.”

Mother Theresa stuffed the cash inside his jacket, turned to the elderly man. “Okay, pinhead, gimme the green.”

Renfield looked up at his employer and nodded.

The vampire fumbled inside his raincoat and produced three wallets. A fourth billfold fell onto his shoes.

“Master Bazarsky!” Renfield squealed. “Wow, busy last night, eh?”

“Memo to Renfield. We need a comptroller, part‑time staff position.”

The thief inspected each wallet. “Whatsis? There’s a blonde on the driver’s license, says ‘Judith Ann Jawicki.’”

“Judith,” the vampire sniffed, “had a penchant for postprandial peregrinations in the park. She invited me to sit and chat on a bench.” He clicked his choppers. “I did.”

The second wallet flapped open. “This here’s...C. J. Harwood.”

“Erstwhile cabbie.”

And the third: “LaMont Harrington Tithesdale, IV, Esq.?”

“A greeter at Wal‑Mart.” The vampire shrugged. “Little shrimp, LaMont, a munchkin munchie. A morsel, not a meal.”

Mother Theresa retreated a step. “This ain’t right.”

The vampire faced Renfield. “They all had one thing in common—they extended me an invitation. Friendly to a fault. Thus, killed by kindness.”

“Master, you’re chewing up all the nice people. Cold, selfish people are left untouched. Saved by their inhumanity and me-firstism.”

“Alas, the world is getting grimmer by the day. Because of me. I’m doomed to walk among my handiwork, a growing population of unsmiling, heartless humanoids for eternity.”

“Whoa,” the cashier said, “I’m surrounded.”

The thief pointed at the remaining wallet on the floor. “Pick it up.”

“I didn’t hear ‘please.’” The Master advanced a step.



The gun jiggled. Two shots rang out, ventilating the vampire. The bullets buzzed through his chest and hit the shelf, exploding a jar of tomato sauce.



The vampire studied the smoking holes in his chest. “My shirt is ruined. Young man, you’re beginning to set my teeth on edge.”

The thief staggered back.

“Oh, miss?” Red sauce oozed down the back of the vampire’s raincoat. “May I lick that mole on your neck?”

A police siren screamed nearby.

Behind the mask, Mother Theresa’s eyelids fluttered. He fainted into a rack of pretzels, then closed the gap between himself and the floor.

“Reminds me of an Irish proverb, Renfield. ‘May the floor rise to meet you.’”

Renfield tugged his Master’s sleeve. “Master Bazarsky, perhaps another time.”

“A little peck on the neck. Pretty please. Uh oh, Renfield, I feel woozy.”

“Woozy?” Renfield glanced at the floor and read the label on the broken jar of sauce: oven roasted garlic. He applied hand to head. “Oh no.”

The cashier winced. “Buzz off, you creeps, alla you!” She grabbed a box of Ding‑Dongs and chucked it at the senior’s head. “I oughta knee you in the do‑da.”

“Perhaps another time,” Renfield intervened, steering the unsteady Vampire Bazarsky from the premises.

Sirens wailed around the corner. A tsunami of sound waves.

The cashier bade them farewell: “Look at the mess! Die you dirt-bags!”

A police car and an ambulance screeched in front of 7-Eleven. The vampire and his right‑hand man stumbled outside into a crossfire of headlights. Two cops and two paramedics appeared.



“I’ll handle this,” Renfield whispered.

Bazarsky swayed in the flashing blue light, buzzed on garlic. Behind him, a trail of red footsteps led back to the store. “Renfield, I need a bio-shower.”

“Shhh!”

A paramedic ran up to the old man. “Sir, you’ve been shot—get the stretcher.”

The vampire squinted at the rear doors of the ambulance, spotting a plump technician. “Sir,” he slurred, “are you…inviting me…inside?”



“Pardon?”

Renfield glared at his cross‑eyed master, and removed his garlic‑stained raincoat. The effect was immediate.

“Is that an official invitation?” Bazarsky inquired, perking up.

Renfield inched closer and whispered, “Master, please. Not now.”

Bazarsky waved him off, and was set on a stretcher.

Renfield watched the ambulance exit the parking lot. Through the rear windows, signs of mayhem erupted inside the vehicle. Fists flew. Screams. Red stains splashed the windows like tomato juice. A grinning Master Bazarsky appeared behind the glass, winking at his right‑hand man. Then the interior lights blinked out.

The ambulance careened up the curb and crashed into the plate glass windows of:

Community Services
"It's Nice to be Nice"
  
The police stood and stared, stunned, as Renfield escaped in the Chevy.

#

“That’s extraordinary,” the reporter said.

Renfield crept into the lamplight. He paused, his nose and mouth twitching furiously, then reached for the table lamp, removed the shade, and raised it like a goblet. He appeared to be drinking from the glass globe.

Dead bugs sprinkled from the bottom of the upturned lamp.

“Ah, Mister Renfield? Excuse me. I couldn’t help notice, are you an insectivore?”

Renfield set the lamp down, flicked his tiny pink tongue, and burped. “Oh my, look at the time. Goodness me, I must run. The Master Bazarsky will be waiting for me at 7‑Eleven.”

“Seven...?”

“He’s gone back each night for two weeks. He stands in the parking lot and waits till dawn. Except he’s got a tiny prob—burp—problem.”

“It’s the girl, isn’t it? He watches her through the window as she flips him off?”

“Worse. There’s been a turf war. The greeter from Wal‑Mart—LaMont Harrington Tithesdale, IV, Esq.—has returned from the dead with a wicked attitude. Each night he’s been showing up at 7‑Eleven, wearing his little red vest, trying to get inside and fang the girl.”

“Mercy!”

“Last night was the pits. Including…um…a labor dispute…”

#

Reanimated prick and undead WalMart greeter, LaMont Harrington Tithesdale, IV, Esq. 
(wearing his cherry-red vest)

“Beat it,” the eminent Ellsworth Bazarsky told undead LaMont Harrington Tithesdale, IV, Esq. “I was here first.”

LaMont countered: “Screw you. I got dibs on the green gal.”

The Vampire Bazarsky stepped forward. “Young man, you’re beginning to set my teeth on edge.”

“So? Thanks to you, I’m a reanimated cadaver dressed in full Wal‑Mart for eternity. I’m a Wal‑Martian! And you’re my undead deadbeat dad. Did I ask for it? No. Pick on someone your own size, you bidentate brute!”

“Why you whiny little misanthropic monkey.” Bazarsky’s face collapsed in concentration. “Hmmm. Renfield, get over here.”

“Uh…yes, Master.”

“Renfield, I command you, kick little LaMont’s deathless derrière. Make him scram screaming.”

“Huh?”

“You heard me, Renfield. Concuss the undead greeter. Renfield, wait! Get back here, Renfield. Are you a man or a mouse? Renfield! Ren-n-n-n-n-n-n-field!”


- the end -


(The end? Far from it. Alas, with Master Ellsworth Barzarsky and LaMont Harrington Tithesdale IV, Esq. on the loose, the steady decline of nice people will continue exponentially.)

I’M THE STATUE OF LIBERTY
Gimme your undead, your blood-sucking WalMart greeters? 
Gimme LaMont Harrington Tithesdale, IV, Esq
Is you shitting me?
Gimme a break!

Monday, September 16, 2013

ADRENALINE RUSH with a 4/4 BEAT

Movies have soundtracks. Why not a quirky thriller with a soundtrack? With an audio layer, a reader can read, dance, and -- while hearing shouts, skidding tires, growls, howls, and bang-bang-bang  -- duck from danger. Thanks to Booktrack, my thrillers have music and sound effects. Imagine an adrenaline rush with a 4/4 beat.


Story + music + ambience + sound effects = Booktrack, the wonderful new free app available on Google. My time-travel thriller, PAST IS PRESENT, is featured on the new releases.



Sample chapters from both of my novels are posted on Booktrack. You can read and hear THE MUSEUM OF SUDDEN DISAPPEARANCES here, and PAST IS PRESENT here.


A short, instructive (humorous) essay called PHONE JU-JITSU, packed with sound effects, is here. What's it about? Well, it's about the art of telephone self-defense. I share tips regarding how to wrestle, grapple, flip, and do telephone takedowns. I earned a black belt at the Telephone Martial Arts Academy, and am currently ranked third in the world as a phone ju-jitsu master. Until now, I've been sworn to secrecy regarding the dark art of phone judo. But the rising tide of telephone assaults impels me to go public. So this is a PSA - public (dis)service announcement.

telephone fundraiser (top) vs. docile donor (bottom)
(Note the fundraiser's left hand, either reaching for the donor's wallet,
or punching the donor in his sweet spot.)
After reading my tips, you can be...
plucky non-supporter (top) vs. flummoxed phone fundraiser (bottom)

Telephone assault victims are encouraged to post on this blog. Yes, if you've ever been phone-whipped by a telemarketer, you may find this essay helpful on your road to tele-recovery.

Remember, never pout: "Wah wah wah...take me off the list!" That's for weaklings who deserve to be kicked to the curb. Instead, get stoked. Get up in the grill of these slobbering mad dogs and put the judo to them! Yeah, buck up, baby! Pound some ass. GET YOUR PHONE ON!


PS: One final item. Please, this is critical or you may end up destroying your life. Make certain you....oh shit, wait. My phone's ringing. Christ, now who? I gotta go. Later, y'all.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Jurassic Jim Fleetwood - heading backward as the world rolls forward

What's really written on Liberty's tablet? This:

I’M THE STATUE OF LIBERTY! 
Gimme your tired, your poor? Is you crazy? 
Gimme your broke, worthless dudes with clue disabilities? 
Gimme your cheaters, your promise-breakers? 
Gimme your lazy-ass weasels yearning to drink free on my couch... 
while I’m at a jay-oh-bee paying the bills? 
Are you shittin’ me, people? 
If I wanna hunky monkey with no money, honey, I’ll go to the zoo!

Why is Liberty so peeved? Well, it's part of a long story. Okay, she's (literally) at the beginning of a novel titled THE MUSEUM OF SUDDEN DISAPPEARANCES. That book kick-started this low-budget blog, which is dedicated to, in no particular order, the Statue of Liberty, the misunderstood city of Detroit (the jewel of the Midwest), heart-breaking doo-wop ballads, wandering Detroit expatriates here and abroad, vinyl records, all things obsolete, the faded, the vanished, beautiful stuff that has gone "poof" and popped out of sight. And, of course, America's foremost curator in search of a museum -- "Jurassic Jim" Fleetwood. Mr. Fleetwood is also a deejay and host of The U-turn Time Machine Show.


(This is a Time Machine. Imagine drag-racing through the decades with this, honking your horn through the 1940s and 1950s, throwing beer cans through the window through the 1960s.)

This blog is also dedicated to weary pilgrims searching for their place in this world where nothing stays in place. If that journey doesn't tire you out, nothing will. And if you're beat and broke and need a place to collapse, feel free to spend the night at The Museum of Sudden Disappearances. We completely understand. We've been there. Many times. One wing of our museum is dedicated to 18th century fainting couches. We have over 200 plush couches, and can accommodate an entire neighborhood that feels the need to faint. Bring the folks. Bring the kids. Come on over and faint.

This woman was listening to Jim Fleetwood's midnight show on the radio, and just heard that the legendary Dancing Dictators of Doo-Wop will no longer be singing and dancing across America's street corners, and touching the nation's soul. She fainted. Can you blame her?


Or, for those who prefer to collapse in luxury after getting hammered with the grim news that their favorite TV show has been canceled, imagine keeling over and falling face down on this.


At any rate, relax and read, on or off the couch. Below is an excerpt from the novel, PAST IS PRESENT, a sequel to THE MUSEUM OF SUDDEN DISAPPEARANCES. What's it about? Well, it's just over 100,000 words. So it's about 400 pages. And yes, both stories feature Jurassic Jim, who loves heading backward as the world moves forward. Also, these are thrillers with a backbeat. Feel free to laugh, gasp, and dance through the pages. Deejay Jim would encourage it.




PAST IS PRESENT

 first 2 chapters from a novel by

Thomas Davidson



Time is like a river.
It flows one direction,
but with a little force
you can go back.
But like a river,
everything you do has a ripple.
— Kevin R. Hutson


In memory of Jayne Voskuil







Prologue

WIZARDS, CARS, STARS

October 3, 1968




Life must be lived forwards,
but can only be understood backwards.
— Kierkegaard




Buddha sat fuming beside her on the front porch.
Etched on his little green belly was the word: incensed. Jasmine smoke poured through Buddha’s ceramic ears. Enlightenment never looked so furious. The world is strange, Linda Mitchell thought, each day presents the familiar in unfamiliar ways. An uneasy feeling stirred inside her, again, as prickly as thorns, until footsteps snapped her dark reverie.
The screen door squeaked open in the fading twilight. Her three-year-old wore a pink sweatshirt depicting Little Red Riding Hood inside a dark forest. Celestial slid her Mother Goose book onto Linda’s lap, and climbed aboard the wicker chair. Behind the living room window, a black-and-white Walter Cronkite flickered on the TV screen. “And that’s the way it is, Thursday, October third, 1968.”
“What shall we read tonight?” When she opened the book, a sheet of paper fell onto her lap, a crayon picture of a face in a window. Her back stiffened. “Who is this, Cel?”
Inside the floppy hood, Cel’s sky-blue eyes drifted toward their little white bungalow with green shutters. A whisper on the wind: “I dunno. I just drawed it.”
Linda pinched the paper, lingering on the drawing until she heard a noise.
A rusty VW van clattered up Stardust Lane and stopped. Its bumper sticker announced: I brake for hallucinations. A shaggy-haired man waved. “Hello, ladies.”
Cel pumped her hand in the air. “Hi, Trippy!”
“Peace!” He flashed the peace sign with two fingers.
“Peas!” Cel echoed. She tried a V-shape, but only her middle finger popped up.
“Whoa!” Trip said. “That’s a little harsh for a preschooler.”
“Honest, she doesn’t get it from me.” Linda first met Peter Van Winkle in junior high school, when he weighed ninety pounds with two pounds of pimples, and wore pants that surrendered several inches of shin. A classmate suggested that Van Winkle’s brain was on permanent vacation. The nickname stuck—Trip Van Winkle.
Linda set the book on a crate, next to Buddha and a box of incense cones. She jogged down her front walkway, six cement squares. The square adjoining the sidewalk announced to the world in yellow-chalked words: Mitchell Mansion this way. A green arrow decorated the next square, with the chalked proclamation: Cel’s Castle straight ahead. But the third square warned in screaming red letters: Goblins begone!
Linda stood on the curb, facing the van. “Any update on Kenny Grogan?”
“I went to see him again yesterday. He’s still…” Trip looked at her as if from a great distance, his eyes creased with worry. “And Blue dropped from sight.”
She swayed on her feet as her paisley, button-front long dress rippled in the breeze. “I last saw Blue and Kenny here on Sunday, and later that night when Blue showed up alone. But I have the strangest feeling he’s been around here again.”
“Is that guy weird…or what? If he fell out of a window, he’d fall up.”
“What’s his story?”
Trip shrugged, scratching his goatee. His green army jacket hung loose on his thin frame, a faded red bandanna tied through one of the epaulets. When he adjusted the door’s rearview mirror with his left hand, she saw a red line between his thumb and index finger, running into his sleeve. His tour of Vietnam went without a scratch. During his R&R in Bangkok, alas, he got robbed and stabbed in a rainy alley behind a massage parlor, and suspected his taxi driver was somehow involved. But he wasn’t sure because the rain blurred his bloodshot eyes. Sometimes life tattooed the hands of callow boys from Columbus High School in western Massachusetts.
He finally answered, “I don’t even know his real name.”
Linda recalled Blue lurking on her porch—six feet tall, jet-black ponytail, and an ornate design stitched on his shirt. “It’s the legendary phoenix being consumed by fire,” he’d said. His sapphire eyes sparkled, intense as an electrical fire, when he revealed the back of his shirt. “And this is the phoenix rising from the ashes.”
She shook off the image, and asked, “How’s Kenny?”
“He looks like he got shock therapy at Castle Frankenstein. Been flying four days on Saint Anthony’s Fire. Get this, he said Blue was into the CIA. But with a head full of acid, he just as easily could’ve told me that Superman flew by to play pinochle.”
Linda leaned against his door. “He what?”
“That was my reaction. I don’t mean that he belonged to the agency, but he’s fascinated by its history, its drug experiments.”
“I don’t want him suddenly showing up, ever again, not with Celestial here.”
He watched her intently. “Anyone ever tell you that you do that a lot? Rock back and forth when you’re deep in thought?”
She waved it off. “Be careful. That guy is twisted.”
“He’s worse. The dude’s crooked molecules from the hat down. If he comes here again and you’re alone, get out. Take Cel and run. You don’t want him inside the house.”
Linda turned, seeing her walkway warning: Goblins begone! “Sunday night, when I told him to leave, he said ‘It’s cool. Cool as permafrost.’”
“Linda, the guy belongs in a freakin’ hospital—blowing his nose in the curtains.”
She leaned back on her heel, an admonitory finger waving in the air, and said, “Watch out.” Then she headed back to the porch and scooped up Cel and Mother Goose.
A pool of lamplight shone through the window screen and illuminated a wizard on the open page. He wore a purple peaked hat and long coat decorated with silver crescents and stars, and stood on a deserted road filled with rocks and stones. Next to the wizard was a nursery rhyme:

For every evil under the sun
There is a remedy or there is none.
If there be one, seek till you find it;
If there be none, never mind it.

When the breeze shifted, bamboo wind chimes the size of bones rattled from the awning, the sound of a magic spell being cast. Jasmine smoke swirled across the page. The wizard appeared to be staring up at Cel from a fog-bound road. She pointed at the little man with the long coat. “Spooky.”
Linda thought of Blue. “If you see a spooky wizard, do you know what to do?”
“Nuh uh.”
“You hide.” Linda put her hands over her face, peek-a-boo style, her long, chestnut hair falling forward. Her daughter’s hair was lighter, the color of sand on a sunny beach, on a secret island that never-ever appeared on a map. “You duck and cover.”
“Duckie cover,” she repeated solemnly, head bouncing. “Ho kay.”
The phone rang. Cel scooted into the front room and picked it up. Linda, peeking through the screen, tied on a brown headscarf the color of a boxing glove. Cartoon characters covered the cloth. A two-inch Underdog stood on Linda’s forehead, the caped canine ready to spring into action. Cel loved Underdog.
Cel stood by the fish tank, receiver to ear, forefinger tracing an imaginary line on the glass. A plastic peace symbol glistened at the bottom of the tank. Until last week it was a kitchen wall ornament, but Cel took it down, carried it from room to room, and eventually dropped it into the water, turning it into an orange starfish.
Linda went inside, snapped off the TV and took the receiver. “Hello?”
The caller was humming a tune.
The Earth’s axis shifted a notch; her voice went cold. “Who is this?”
She turned toward her daughter and noticed a blazing red rose on the dining table in the adjoining room, near an open window. The phone fell from her hand, hit the edge of the fish tank and splashed inside, descending on the peace symbol like a predator. The goldfish nervously circled the black receiver and coiled wire.
“Come on, Cel, let’s go for a ride. We’ll have ice cream, would you like that? Maybe we could go to the drive-in, stay out late, huh?”
Cel danced with joy, making the floorboards squeak. “I take my Mother Goose?”
“Yes, sweetheart, let’s go. Let’s duck and cover.” She grabbed their jackets, took Cel’s hand and kicked open the door, hurried past Buddha through the jasmine fog, down the steps. The wind sounded the alarm along the street—rattling red, yellow and orange leaves. They escaped in their ‘62 Chevrolet Corvair Monza, nicknamed the Monsta.
They sped down Elmont Avenue, past the neon golden arches of McDonald’s Restaurant with its sign: OVER 2 BILLION HAMBURGERS SOLD! Linda monitored her rearview mirror, finally turning at Beacon Boulevard. Columbus had two drive-ins. The Bel-Air across town drew a more genteel crowd than the nearby Galaxy, a theatre known for its drunken patrons igniting into fistfights in the lot.
Another glance in the mirror. A dozen headlights behind her, moving from lane to lane like a stampede.
Blue.
“We going to the movies, mama?”
“Yes, honey, won’t that be fun?”
A car broke from the herd, closing the gap.
“Can we see Snow Light, mama?”
Two white lights approached the Monsta. Linda tried to appear calm as the wind lifted her hair beneath Underdog.
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? I don’t think it’s playing tonight.”
Two bright polka dots glowed in her rearview mirror.
Her eyes darted for an escape until she spotted the Galaxy Drive-In ahead. She pulled over to the far right lane and turned for the drive-in’s entrance.
In front of the Galaxy was a miniature golf course. A giant green leopard with black spots crouched at the entrance. Nearby, a ten-foot, duck-billed platypus with fire-engine red fur stood guard at the first hole of the course. But the central attraction was an enormous, purple hippopotamus that swallowed golf balls. The animals mesmerized Cel from behind the windshield.
Castle Dracula
Frankenstein’s Freak-Out
Linda looked at the marquis, then at her daughter, made a silent prayer, and crept behind a monkey-shit brown ‘59 Ford. As the attendant passed a ticket through the Ford’s window, someone sneezed. He stepped back, said something to the driver. The teen got out and opened his trunk. Three red-faced boys popped up like Jacks-in-the-box.
“Look, mama, they’re sleeping in there.”
“Not exactly, Cel.”
The world of grown-ups was crammed with mystery. Golf ball-eating hippos, car trunk naps. Her daughter’s eyes sparkled with anticipation, wondering what awaited her inside this place called the Galaxy.
The Ford turned around. The Monsta pulled up.
“Kids under twelve are free,” the teenage attendant said. “That’ll be two dollars, please. And beware, tonight is special effects night.”
She couldn’t help but notice his clear emerald eyes, the flicker of boyish innocence that would soon be gone and never return. These days she noticed that sort of thing, unbidden, and always felt a feathery twinge in her heart. It wasn’t that long ago, really, when even Trip Van Winkle had that same coltish glint in his eyes. When they all did. Without turning, she instinctively reached over and held her daughter’s hand. Cel’s fingers were as warm as…sand on a sunny beach, on a secret island that never-ever appeared on a map.
“Special effects?” Linda echoed. “What’s that?”
“You’ll see.”
She dug into her suede-fringe shoulder bag.
He smiled. “I hope nobody’s hiding in your trunk.”
“Nuh uh,” Cel assured him.
He hunched down under the neon lights, a Galaxy logo on his red cap. “Sweetheart, I sure hope your daddy isn’t hiding back there. He isn’t, is he?”
“Nuh,” the little girl said, leaning forward with both pink hands on the dashboard, “my daddy died in the Vet Man War.”
The attendant’s face flushed with blood. His eyes flicked skyward, then down again. He handed Linda a ticket and waved her through, not taking her money.
Her daughter’s response made her hands tremble, so she gripped the steering wheel to hide her reaction, and said, “You’re very kind, but—”
“Please. Have a good night, ladies.”
Linda hesitated before pressing the pedal and turning off the headlights. The Monsta entered the dark, gravel lot and gravitated toward the middle. Tinny voices crackled from hundreds of speakers mounted on car windows.
Cel’s eyes were glued to the windshield. “Mama?”
A sky-high vampire appeared on the giant screen in a black cape as big as night.
“It’s just a TV.” She tapped her daughter’s knee. “A very big TV.”
They found a space near the center of the lot, surrounded by tail-finned Chevies, DeSotos, Ramblers. The screen cast an artificial moonlight on the rooftops.
Linda hooked the speaker onto her window. Blood-curdling screams filled the car. She winced, set it back on its rack. “I think we can hear just fine without that, hmm?”
“Ho kay.”
A half-full bottle of warm ginger ale was wedged between the front seats since the day before. Linda unscrewed the cap and took a sip.
“Can I have orange pop?”
“Well, I guess we”—she turned in her seat and looked through the rear window—“I guess we can go to the concession stand. Come on, Cel.”
As they walked in the dark, hand-in-hand, across crunchy gravel toward the yellow neon, a teenage vampire flew by with a black nylon cape. “Hello, ladies.” He licked a front windshield, a glass graveyard for head-on-collision bugs. The occupants squealed. “I love to suck the windows.” He flared his cape with both hands and disappeared.
They hurried into the drive-in’s jammed concession stand. A green ghoul stood next to a trash can by the door, dabbing his shirt with a fistful of paper napkins. “Some jerk hit me,” he told the counter girl pouring soft drinks.
“What?” The counter girl had a rubber knife stuck in her back, bleeding catsup. Whenever she turned, the knife wiggled.
Cel saw the knife and her eyes lit up. She tugged on Linda’s sleeve.
“It’s okay,” Linda said. “It’s not…uh…” Three years into motherhood and she was already running out of explanations for the adult world.
The ghoul said, “I knocked on his window like I’m s’posed to, and he hand-grenaded a Coke at me. What a nasshole.”
“Watch your mouth,” a man in line said, “or I’ll punch your lights out.”
“I said ‘a nasshole,’ not ‘an asshole.’”
“Kid, you’re one sass away from a full-body cast.”
Cel shook her mother’s thumb. “What’s a nasso?”
The ghoul scowled, tossed the wet napkins on the floor in disgust, and retreated outside. Linda squeezed up to the counter, ordering a large orange soda and popcorn.
A skinny vampire with plastic fangs rushed inside. “Thum one thnuck up from behind and thook my cape!” He faced the counter girl and spit out his fangs. “I quit!”
“Come on, Cel.” Linda held the snacks. “Let’s go back to the car.”
The green ghoul stuck his head inside the door. “Yo, pops! Come kick my teeth, you shit-head!”
“You little punk.” His two boys yelled Dad! and chased after him. The man crashed into Linda on his way out. She spun—her popcorn and soda flew through the air—and fell back into the crowd.
Regaining her balance, Linda looked around. Cel was gone. She muscled through the crowd, stepped outside, called Cel’s name. Someone yelled shut up! and a car horn blared. A giant werewolf dominated the screen. Every speaker in the Galaxy crackled with howls. She ran down a lane, calling her child.
#
Cel stopped by a big black car and bent over, holding her knees, hearing screams all over the Galaxy. Her heart was going boom boom. A vampire, as big as a building, was on the giant TV, with the biggest teeth in the world. Teeth as big as trees. And boys who looked like monsters ran between cars. And where was mama? Boom boom. She leaned against the car with one hand, her knees shaking. Where was...
A big man in a cape approached, resembling the wizard with the long coat in Mother Goose. He stopped and said, “Come here, Celestial.”
She’d seen this wizard on the front porch with mama, and peeking in the window today. Boom boom. Boom boom. Where was...
Then she remembered what her mother had told her about spooky wizards. Hide. Duckie cover. She bent down and crawled behind the front wheel, under the car, hearing footsteps on gravel. Someone grabbed her foot and her shoe came off, because she tied that shoe and not her mama. Mama tied them tight. Cel said “uh-oh” and kept crawling into the dark cave under the car.
Above her, the sound of voices.
#
“Who’s...that guy?” the teenage boy said, looking at the eerie man standing in front of his car. “He’s looks too grown-up to be working here.”
His girlfriend, Vickie, huddled next to him. She hid her face behind the big sponge dice hanging from the rearview mirror. “Scooter, this place gives me the creeps. Let’s go—now.”
The caped man glared at them through the windshield, then bent down by the front bumper and vanished, as if searching for something. He reappeared and began circling the car like a shark.
“I seen enough.” Scooter grabbed the keys.
Vickie bounced in her seat as if she sat on a tack. Either she was crazy, or a voice rose from the rubber floor mats. “You hear it?”
“Huh?”
“There’s like a weird voice by my shoes!” She shuddered as the caped man drifted by her side window. “The floor mat said, ‘uh-oh.’ Oh Scooter—I gotta pee!”
Scooter lowered his window, unhooked the speaker and dropped it. Paranoia flared in his eyes. “We’re outta here.”
#
Voices above her. Cel lay on her back, looking up at the bottom of the car, hiding like mama told her. Nearby, two shoes crept alongside the car. The wizard went round and round. Then something fell from the sky and hit the ground. It bounced and landed by the back tire. A speaker. A voice in the speaker said: “Dracula is here! Run before it’s too late!” A moment later, a big blast. The engine roared above her feet—one with a silver shoe, one with a pink sock. Rust flakes sprinkled onto her forehead like little bugs.
Boom boom. Boom boom.
Scared, she backed up, scooting herself over the gravel with her heels. The stones made her think of the spooky wizard in her book, standing on a rocky road. Maybe this was the same road. But she had to stop when she felt it. Just behind her head, a big hunk of sharp metal hung from the car’s stomach. Pinned down, no room to squirm. Beside her ear, a werewolf howled through the speaker. And the wizard’s feet were gone.
From straight up inside the car, a girl’s voice: “Hurry up, he’s crazy!”
The wizard’s arm appeared, his fingers crept toward her like a spider, touched her ankle without the shoe. She stared at the car, an inch above her nose, and pretended she lay hidden beneath her bed. A drop of goo hit her chin, oozing down her neck. She tried to kick the wizard’s hand, move her foot away. How did the wizard find her hiding spot? Cold metal behind her head, couldn’t back up, pinned in. Wizard fingers pulled her sock. Boom boom. Boom boom. Where was mama? Boom boom.
A curl of smoke from the exhaust pipe trickled under the car, swirling over her. Another trick. Just like the picture book wizard, looking up at her from the foggy road. She had to act. Boom boom. She squeezed her eyes tight and imagined a special nursery rhyme. A magic spell. She whispered: “Wizard, wizard, go away...come again, another day.”
The tires moved, crunching gravel. The metal hunk advanced, kissed the crown of her head, then lifted up like a balloon, tracing her scalp, tickling her baby hair. Her magic spell was working. She wouldn’t be cut in half. Boom boom. Boom boom.
“Wizard, wizard, go away,” she repeated as the shock springs groaned.
From the corner of her eye, she saw the back tire climb over the speaker, making the werewolf howl again. The car rose, as if driving over a big rock. The metal floated past her face like a dark knife, coming down above her chest.
“Come again...” Boom boom. Boom boom.
It dragged across the length of her hoodie—scraping the zipper—slid between her legs, past her knees. It finally bent the tips of her toes forward, and moved on.
“...another day.”
The car passed above her like a storm cloud. Now she saw stars. The spell worked, the wizard gone. What a night in the Galaxy!
#
Linda heard the commotion, turned, saw a tall, caped man prowling around a black car. Headlights, an engine. She ran up, saw the car pull out, and spotted a silver shoe on the ground. She gasped, picked it up. Total heart attack. Suddenly Cel appeared, lying on the gravel, smiling at the sky. “Duckie cover, mama.”
“Oh my God!” Linda gasped, scooping her up. Her baby had a dark goatee of oil on her chin. “Are you all right, honey, are—?”
“Wanna hear my magic spell?”
“I’m so sorry, Cel, I feel like such a bad mom.”
“Wanna?”
Nearby, someone whistled a familiar melody. Linda thought of the mysterious phone call, and froze. Her car was out there, somewhere, but all the rooftops and windshields looked the same under the stars. Steel and glass cookies cut from the same cookie-cutter. She thought of her late husband, Jack, and felt his wedding band on her right thumb. Reliable, resilient, resourceful Jack. What would Jack do?
Think, girl...think!
Beside her was an empty car. She opened the driver’s door and pushed Cel into the front seat. Then she scrambled inside and slammed the door, sending a shudder through the metal.
“Hey!” someone cried.
Linda turned and saw a shirtless boy lying in the back seat with his topless girlfriend. The boy sprang up in his white jockeys. The girl crossed her arms over her bare breasts. The smell of pot and spilled beer hung in the air.
The boy rallied his manhood: “Hey, what the fuh—”
Linda jingled the keys, stomped the gas. The car bolted out of its space, ripping the speaker’s cord in half. The two teens squealed.
Cel studied the topless twins with a serious face, and attempted the peace sign. “Piss,” she greeted, and gave them the finger.
Linda spun the wheels between the rows of parked cars with the headlights off.
“Lady,” the boy protested, “get out of my car or I’ll have you arrested!”
“Shut up or I’ll have you busted.”
“Busted?”
“For smoking a bone—ten years in maximum security.”
“Lady!”
Cel faced the teenage girl. “Look, no shirt.”
Linda reached over and pointed her daughter’s head away from the back seat. “Watch the nice movie, Cel, come on.” To the boy, she snapped, “Indecent exposure in front of a minor—you’re looking at twenty years in D-Block, buck-o.”
“Listen, lady, I don’t want no trouble. We can forget this ever happened...”
Linda glanced in the rearview mirror at the girl: “How old are you?”
“Six…sayteen.”
Linda shifted her eyes in the mirror and addressed the boy: “Sixteen will get you twenty. How dare you take that little girl to the passion pit. I should slap you silly.”
“Jesus Christ, lady, whaddya want from me?”
Outside the car, two drunken men were barking at the moon. A flying box hit the front windshield. Popcorn exploded across the glass.
“Look, mama, it’s snowing.”
“Not exactly, honey.”
A beer can sailed over their hood. A second can hit the rooftop and splashed down Cel’s side window.
“Mama, it’s raining.”
“What kind of a dump is this?”
Two vampires, a werewolf, and a green ghoul suddenly appeared at the side windows, growling and licking the glass. Cel watched in horror and let out a whoop. Her hands flew in front of her eyes.
“Hang on, Cel!” Linda raced to the edge of the lot and punched the brakes. A Nixon & Agnew in ‘68 campaign button was pinned to the sun visor. She muttered something, slipped off her shoe, took aim, and trashed the bulb in the dome light with its heel.
The boy nearly had a seizure. “Hey, this is my dad’s car! He’s gonna kill me!”
“I can’t have that light up when we leave.”
“Do something, Butchie,” the teenage girl said, “don’t just sit in your shorts.”
“Friggin’ hippie chicks!” Butchie whined. “My old man was right. He said: ‘Stick with the greasers, son. Stay on the Slick ‘n’ Stick program. Slick your hair with Brylcreem, and stick with Elvis. Them hippies got tie-dye brain fry.’”
Linda turned to Butchie. “Count to ten, punch on your headlights, and floor it. Or I’ll call the cops and you’ll spend prom night in the penitentiary.”
His muddy brown eyes were vibrant. “Lady—it’s a deal! One...two...four...”
“Don’t cheat!”
“One…two…three…”
She grabbed Cel like a football and escaped, sneaking through the lot to their car.
“…eightnineten!” The two teens barreled for the exit, a rooster tail of gravel shooting from the rear tires. The stones sprayed a row of cars, igniting death threats.
When Linda and Cel were safe inside the Monsta, they peeled out of the Galaxy.
#
At the first set of stoplights, Cel turned and noticed it—a fiery red rose in the back seat, on top of her Mother Goose. She squeezed her eyes shut, made two fists, and whispered, “Wizard, wizard, go away...”
She peeked. The flower was still there, so she finished her magic spell.
“...come again, another day.”






Part One

THE U-TURN TIME MACHINE

October 1993




Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
— T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets:
“Burnt Norton”



Chapter 1


“So the real estate agent sold the house and you have to be out by when?” Janelle asked.
“End of this month.” Sally Mitchell sat in Janelle’s parked car and repositioned her feet. Her knees brushed the glove compartment. One of the drawbacks of being five-ten in your stocking feet, aside from making short men squirm, was riding with a five–three driver. The front seat was always pulled up. Knee-knockin’ always.
Janelle Sawyer chewed on a twirl of canary yellow hair. “Halloween is your last day.”
“Aunt Alice is in her condo now. And besides, I want to move to Boston and get settled before graduate school starts in January. Can you believe it? Six years later and I’m a student again.”
“How’s Alice?”
“Her knees aren’t very sturdy, and she’ll be seventy-six next month. But her new place is on the first floor, no stairs to climb.”
Alice Reardon, Sally’s great aunt, never married, spent nearly forty years as a secretary and later, manager, at Shrieve-Willis Paper Company located in downtown Columbus and, at the age of fifty, began to single-handedly raise Sally. For that reason, along with the enormous affection Sally felt for her aunt, she came to the house of her childhood on Maple Street in June, and stayed while Alice convalesced from knee surgery. By mid-summer it was obvious her aunt needed smaller quarters. In early September, Alice awoke in a different bedroom for the first time in nearly a quarter century.
Sally faced the side window and looked at the house. “I’ve begun cleaning it out. There’s a lot to rummage through, family things. And yet there’s this feeling...”
“Meaning?”
“I don’t know, really.” She turned back to Janelle, her best friend at Columbus High School, Class of ‘83. “I sense something a bit strange inside the house. Maybe it’s all the childhood things, the toys and games. I feel like I’m going back in time. When I moved to Boston ten years ago, I thought I left all this behind me. But when I came back this summer, it’s as if I stepped back in time. Everything seemed the same.”
Janelle patted her friend on the thigh. “Whenever we visit our parents, we regress.”
“It’s not that way with my aunt and me.”
“Ponce de Leon had it all wrong. If he wanted to find the Fountain of Youth, he should’ve spent a long weekend in a car with his mother.” Janelle paused and looked at her friend. “You’re thinking about Graham again, aren’t you?”
Sally knew she’d been busted. Was her face that easy to read? She blushed, turning away. “Yes, I’m thinking about him, and all the rest of it. To think I quit teaching to start an antique limousine service called Cars ‘n’ Stars—what was I thinking? Beware of business ventures with your boyfriend.”
“Unless your boyfriend’s family is rich.”
“Graham said the client should feel like a celebrity in the back seat of an antique limousine. Particularly at night, driving around town under the stars. Hence: Cars ‘n’ Stars. He assured me it was poetry.”
“The only time men are exposed to poetry is when they take a squirt and see a limerick scribbled on the rest room wall above the urinal.”
Graham and Sally started out with a burgundy 1940 Oldsmobile 90 with whitewall tires, and later acquired a satin blue 1947 Chrysler Town and Country convertible with a shiny harmonica grille. But the two began to drift apart in the spring. When she arrived in July to assist her aunt, she also saw it as an opportunity to put some space between her and Graham, giving them time to sort things out.
Janelle draped one arm on the steering wheel. “So tell me, how’s the hardest-working man in show business?”
Sally smiled. “Jim’s fine. He’s been fun to have around.”
“That man.” Janelle pursed her lips, then tried to hide it with a smile.
“His new apartment opens up on the eighth, this Friday. His landlord spent the first week making some overdue repairs.”
“You took pity on him and let him stay at Alice’s house.”
“Jim said he was the victim of a rent increase, turning him into a homeless deejay. How could I turn him away?”
“I suppose he’s not a bad guy.”
“But?”
“But talk about no money and no prospects.”
Sally looked squarely at her friend, a department manager for Bank of New England. She knew it was impossible for Janelle to imagine the hardest-working man in show business holding down a respectable job. “Don’t be too hard on him. He’s a good guy, a little eccentric, but—”
“A little? I’m glad you’re not serious about him.”
“We’re friends, Jim and I.”
“In other words...”
Sally smiled when she said, “Yes, he’s still on the couch.”
“So what’s he like to have around? Dare I ask?”
“He’s kind of...how would I say? He’s actually really sweet, it’s just that...”
“Yes?”
“Last month he turned 37, but it’s as if he just came to this planet. I can’t really explain it.” Sally giggled. “He told me his birthday, which is September 9, 1956. Do you know what happened on that date?”
“Let’s see,” Janelle said, pulling the collar of her crew neck sweater up to her chin. “Earthquake?”
“His mother delivered him the very night, the very hour that Elvis first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Jim said it was ‘harmonic convergence.’”
“Oh, my God!” Janelle threw her head back, clapping her hands and stamping her feet on the floor mat like a flamenco dancer.
“Can you believe it? He has an odd take on everything. He’s just—”
“He’s Jim,” said Janelle. “Jim Fleetwood—or shall I say ‘Captain?’ So, how does Riley get along with your house guest?”
“Unmitigated mistrust.”
“Good for Riley,” Janelle said.
“Riley usually sleeps on the bureau in the bedroom. One night last week, he went into the living room and saw Jim asleep. Riley jumped up on the arm of the couch, took aim, and sprayed Jim on the chest. Shot him right in the heart. Jim woke up and started shouting. Riley got him good and hid beneath the bathtub.”
“Men,” Janelle said. “I grew up with three brothers, I know how they tick.” A thin smile played across her mouth. “What a buncha...reptiles.”
“And on that note...”
Janelle started the ignition. “Honey, you need a mammal with money.”
“You know what Jim calls himself? A member of the earning disabled.”
“Oh God, an earning disability. That man.”
Sally got out of the car and stooped down by the side window. “He says he’s income-challenged.”
“My advice, stick with Graham.”
“He called again last night. He wants me to move back to Cambridge with him.”
“You could do worse—drastically worse. So, what’s he say about your roommate?”
“Jim’s name always puts a lull in the conversation. I don’t think Graham quite knows what to make of it. He calls Jim ‘the Wrong-Way Corrigan of the nineties, flying against the currents of the hip and the haute couture.’”
“Wrong-Way who?”
“The American pilot, Douglas Corrigan. In 1938, he set out to fly solo from New York to California, but went the wrong way and landed across the ocean in Ireland.”
“Oops.”
“That’s Jim in a nutshell, always heading in reverse.”
The driver burst into another flamenco dance behind the steering wheel.
“Remember, Graham is Tiffany—Jim is Wal-Mart.” Janelle grinned and stepped on the gas.

Prologue and Chapter One of "Past is Present," a quirky thriller with a 4/4 beat. E-book available at Amazon.