The Museum of Sudden Disappearances

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

Friday, December 11, 2015

Santa sends Xmas gifts via drones

Forget the quaint picture above, imagine this news headline:

Santa sends Christmas gifts via drones

“Flexible workforce,” said Santa, when asked why he upgraded (fired) his package carriers (reindeer). “I saw the writing on the wall: climate change. Here at the North Pole, the ice is melting. Reindeer will soon be extinct. So I downsized Rudolph and the other disgruntled deer. Oh, well, ten fewer mouths to feed. Screw ‘em. Ha ha. Drones, baby, are the way to go. You don’t feed drones. You just attach cheesy gifts, and send them out around the world. ‘Tis the season for merry mayhem.”

Here at The Museum of Sudden Disappearances Blog, we reminded Mr. Claus that the FAA set laws regarding drones, including these laughable restrictions:

-  Stay under four hundred feet.
-  Keep your drone in sight at all times.
-  Stay far away from manned aircraft.
-  Don't fly in bad weather...such as high winds and reduced visibility.
-  Stay five miles away from an airport or two miles from a heliport.

Santa frowned. "Restrictions? Seriously? Give a boy a BB gun on Christmas. Wait one day. Watch. He’ll be shooting at windows, birds, cars, neighbors, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, unicyclists, schools, police stations, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, crowded city buses, City Hall, and folks walking out of church. Fortunately, only two types of targets fall under his purview: things that move, things that don’t move. All else is off-limits.”

Asked if he could describe this typical, innocent lad, Santa replied:

"A book was written about an innocent child who got a BB gun for Christmas, and underwent a personality disorder within 10 minutes. The little boy's name was Freddie. You may have heard of it. The book is called..."

"Jackal," Santa went on, "is actually a thinly-veiled autobiography of a boy who gets a BB gun for Christmas, and in no time becomes an international assassin on a ten-speed bicycle." 

Asked if he could further describe innocent kids like Freddie, Santa replied:

“Typically, he’s a chubby-cheeked sniper with crooked teeth and a Justin Bieber haircut. His moral view of the world could fit within a buttonhole. I should know. I’ve delivered tons of BB guns. I’m December’s #1 gun runner. There is no background check for BB guns. Or for drones. It’s already projected that a million drones may be under Christmas trees in 2015, prices starting at $20 on up. By December 26, our skies will be crowded with surface-to-air toys of trouble and terror. Everyone currently not hiding inside the International Space Station will be a potential target, getting in the cross hairs of a drone being flown by a 12-year-old kid who's gotten bored with playing Grand Theft Auto V...and has upped the ante. Yikes! But...not to worry. Despite centuries of bad behavior, surely we humans will religiously observe the five FAA restrictions noted above.”


The interview ended on that upbeat note. Santa had to continue attaching crappy gifts to his fleet of drones, with less than two weeks before Christmas. This year, there will be no sound of sleigh bells and dancing deer on your rooftop. What sound will you hear?

It will be the sound of your responsible neighbor, Larry Kowalski, flying a big kite with a four-hundred foot string in a snowy wind. This way, Larry will know precisely how far up he can fly his new drone without pissing off the FAA. Why? Because he's responsible. Because, in today's world, everyone is responsible.

IF you’re among the 2 or 3 doubters who think Larry Kowalski is a reckless, feather-brained nitwit who would refuse to fly a kite to an exact altitude of 400 feet for measuring purposes and public safety, then you may be on board with this pessimistic vision of our drone invasion. See previous post below (scroll down slightly). 

PS: From Sunday, December 13 to Thursday, December 17, my thriller EXIT will be free on Amazon. What's it about? Drones. Click HERE for description, reviews, and download link. And, yes, EXIT has far less whimsy than this blog.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

drones -- the new locusts?

Drones. UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). The new locusts?

In the legendary TV series, Kung Fu, Caine, the wandering monk, was nicknamed "grasshopper" by his Master. Who wouldn't want to be called a locust? At any rate, do you recall this exchange:

"If you make me mad, your ass is grass."
- the Grasshopper

Master Po: Close your eyes. What do you hear?

Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.

Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?

Caine: No.

Po: Do you hear the grasshopper, which is at your feet?

Caine: Old man, how is it that you hear these things?

Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?

Now imagine Caine in California next year. He still has his satchel, but now sports red shorts and a white tee. He may be a wandering monk, but he also has a wandering eye. As they say, "He who travels fastest, travels alone." But even Caine gets lonely sometimes. Hence, he and this high-stepping lady are at Big Sur, catching rays at the beach. Until...

What's a monk to do?

Imagine this updated exchange:

Master PoClose your eyes. What do you hear?

Young CaineI hear birds. No, I hear a plague of locusts. Robot locusts. I hear the sound of major guano hitting the fan.

PoDo you hear your own heartbeat?

CaineIt sounds like a jackhammer. I'm petrified.

PoDo you hear the grasshoppers, which are at your feet?

CaineFeet? They're in my face, over my head. They're flying up my swim trunks. They're everywhere. I see a freakin' swarm of mechanical locusts. I see the end of life as we know it. I see a dark mass flying over the horizon. Here they...ahhhhhh...


For now, forget military drones. Think: commercial drones. UAVs. Uninvited Aerial Voyeurs.


One of the unintended consequences of commercial drones is that they will remove boredom from our lives. Once they start showing up outside our windows, above our cars, or invading our chimneys, a whole new dimension of excitement awaits us. Imagine a drone the size of a pizza pie slipping inside the local supermarket, and chasing you down aisle five. Imagine it knocking boxes, cans and bottles off the shelves. Imagine getting hit with corn flakes and ketchup while slipping on spilled pickles as you flee for your life.

Imagine slipping on a dill pickle and taking a header onto the floor. You roll over on your back, look up. The drone is circling in for the kill, swooping past a box of macaroni. You grab a jar of spaghetti sauce off the bottom shelf and fling it at the drone, but misfire. And your last thought is: "I am about to die because of a dill pickle."

Think it can't happen? Within the last year we've seen, among other incidents, small drones drop drugs and porn onto prison yards, Mexican cartels move product across the border, and a small drone crash onto the White House lawn.

Lord have mercy.

Pretty much everything in this blog is a stretch, so why stop now? I can easily see a parallel between commercial drones and a plague of locusts. As the FAA opens up restrictions, commercial drone use will soar. The sky will be increasingly filled with birdlike robots. One hopes the National Audubon Society will send a heads-up memo to their flock: "Dear Birds. Sadly, you are the low-income residents of the sky. You are non-tax-paying moochers consuming our garbage. You are about to be displaced by drones carrying cargo for profit and mayhem. Y'all screwed." 

Drones seen through car windshield in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.

The drone plague is underway. Crop-sprayers can't stop them. Spraying pesticides from the air and at ground level can't stop them. Someone, please, call Pest Control. As for the loss of personal privacy? Yikes! Then again, privacy is dead. But drones will be dancing on its grave. This blog, The Museum of Sudden Disappearances, is dedicated to the illusion of privacy.

This unsettling photo was sent to me today by a concerned reader from a large American city, which shall go unnamed. According to the sender, it was taken last week from the rooftop of her high-rise building. 

The new urban skyline.

Can it get any worse? Yes, it can. Another concerned reader sent this unnerving photo last week. 

Is your town next?

Which city is it? Hint: the city that's no longer on the map. Brothers and sisters, this city is totally gone. No way this city survived a massive plague of commercial drones. Note the church steeple pictured at the bottom. One can scarcely imagine what the congregants must've thought, peering through the stained glass windows and seeing a dark trail of madness descending onto the city. 

We live in uncertain, knee-knocking times. Here at the blog, what do we advise? The obvious.


P.S. My recent thriller, EXIT, is on sale this week (November 18-24) for 99 cents. It's about, yup, drones. Suspense with a touch of dark humor. Reviewers have likened it to the TV series, The Twilight Zone, and also Black Mirror

This click-happy cover is the exit to my EXIT Amazon page.

P.P.S. Here's a link to a recent interview with Rod Serling regarding EXIT. Rod came back from the beyond, the zone. He brought his unique (terrifying) perspective concerning the impact of drones on today's world. In short, welcome to...deet deet...deet deet...deet deet...deet deet...the Twilight Zone.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

cell phone vs. phone booth (part 2)

This post is Part 2 of “cell phone vs. phone booth” by our (vastly misunderstood) contributor, “Jurassic Jim” Fleetwood, embattled host of the U-turn Time Machine Show. Jim’s first post can be found here.

Why Bees & Telephone Booths are Disappearing

by Jurassic Jim Fleetwood

The news is not good.

Each day, over two billion cell-phone addicts are exposed to electromagnetic radiation. True or false? You decide. Here’s a happy customer who just bought an iPhone and is calling his girlfriend as his brain explodes. Does this look like a health hazard to you? Did you ever see the movie, The Fly, starring Jeff Goldblum? Watch it again. Two minutes into the movie, Jeff calls Geena Davis on his cell. Shortly thereafter, he turns into a fly. Coincidence?

Health hazard? What makes you say that? 

“Bees are the most important pollinators of our fruits and vegetables and flowers and crops...More than one third of the world’s crop production is dependent on bee pollination.” – Marla Spivak, American entomologist, and Distinguished McKnight University Professor at the University of Minnesota

Remember this guy?

“A dial tone sounds like a buzzing bee. Coincidence? Or a warning of environmental collapse?” - Jim Fleetwood, Distinguished Host of the U-turn Time Machine Show

What's the difference between this and a polar bear?

No difference. They're both screwed.

Be honest. A phone booth is a cozy, sidewalk meditation-center where you can close the (admittedly filthy) glass door, shut out the ceaseless tumult of passersby, and collect your deranged thoughts before buzzing your soul mate, moms, pops—or the loathsome leech who spotted you at a club last week. Yes, you had made the mistake of standing still by the dance floor for more than three seconds. The leech detected you by scent (a $2 bottle of amber romance mist) and sound vibrations (your cell phone buzzed). The leech dropped from a bar stool, splatted onto the floor, and slithered toward you like an inchworm with (egads!) a strawberry daiquiri. 

Good grief. How many times have you seen this horny dude on the dance floor. Imagine this puny putz oozing your way, and sucking on this pathetic drink? He's the Daiquiri Desperado. Imagine him holding up his cell and taking an unapproved picture of you, while lisping, "Yo, baby, my name ith Thlick. Ya wanna danth? Ya wanna kith me? Wanna thlither to my car and take a thelfie with my thell phone?"

The best protection against a leech is to cover up and use insect repellent. Or call the stalking, bloodsucking worm from a phone booth, and say, “Get the ***k (heck?) outa my life! I got a quarter in my pocket. You are one coin away from me calling the cops.”

Be honest. Ambiance is key. Holding a Samsung Galaxy S6 (the name alone may trigger incontinence) jammed into your ear while surrounded by perverted eavesdroppers in a corporate elevator doesn’t cut it. When you need to get your groove on, to knuckle up the leech and threaten his life, nothing beats a booth. Nothing. You know it. I know it.

We all know it.

If a phone felony is your game plan--verbal assault, homicidal threats--head to the freakin' booth and dial up the leech on a trusty landline with zero Caller ID. Let leech know who's calling the shots, running the show. His stalker days are over. Move from booth to booth, street to street. Threaten his life. Threaten to kick him right square in the daiquiris unless he disappears. In no time he'll be a puddle of pee. And you will reclaim your life.

Thanks to the booth. How do you spell "justice?" B-o-o-t-h. How do you spell "freedom from perverts and stalkers?" B-o-o-t-h. How do you spell "Zen Meditation Temple for Stratospheric Consciousness?" P-h-o-n-e B-o-o-t-h.

Then the 21st century reared its ugly head. Clinical depression skyrocketed. And basically Satan got to check one in the win column.

Once cell phones arrived, the booths, like dodo birds, were easy prey. Dodos once thrived on the island of Mauritius. Booths once thrived on the island of Manhattan, New York. According to the United Nations Environmental Assembly, phone booths, which were endemic to urban areas worldwide for decades, now face imminent extinction. In Manhattan, once mottled with booths on the street, was down to four by 2010. By 2014, two booths were snuffed out by drunk drivers who were texting, and one was attacked with a tire iron by an overzealous Samsung cell phone employee.

One booth remains. One. Tick tock. Once that goes, that’s it. Booths cannot breed, folks.

Who’s to blame? Start with these Four Horsemen of the Phonapocalypse: Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Lenovo. Cell phone assassins. Enablers of global blather that leads to Social Climate Change. Peace and Quiet extinction. Telephone Tourette’s.

It gets worse. Nature abhors a vacuum. As the booth vanishes, what takes it place? What’s appeared across the urban landscape? Same size, same shape. Dear God…this:

How depressing is this?

Porta-Potty. Looks like a booth (occasionally smells like a booth). Gosh, what progress. Hurray for cell phones. What an improvement. It uplifts me...I soar, I sing, I text. Even astronauts are in on it.

One small potty for man,
One giant leap for mankind

Depressed yet? Here's another. I hope a loaded gun isn't within reach of your armchair.

Do Porta-Pottys breed? 
What's your best guess?

Bees, food chain, phone booths, privacy. Going, going, gone. Replaced by genetically modified crops, nonstop blather, exploding brains, and Porta Johns. Grim? Duh? Fortunately there’s a way out. You can get this new app for your smart phone. Here's what it looks like.

Place beside smart phone, pull ring, run.

Well, I mean, doesn't this just say it all? Pictured below, five psychopaths attacking a phone booth. Who are these thugs? Samsung's team of hitmen caught in a covert op. Mission? Destroy the few remaining booths. Predatory capitalism at its worst. Total disregard for our culture's treasures. A triumph of mindless aggression. The uglification of our world. Thanks, boys. I no longer have a compelling reason to get up in the morning. Gracias. Sincerely. Thanks for turning my world into a massive eyesore.

Is there no shame?

You'd think someone with a shred of decency and a cell phone would've called the police? The Thugocracy reigns supreme. So, let's get back to our little flying friend. The one we don't see anymore. Let's get completely depressed. Let's get so depressed that we collapse, and are forced to drag our numb bodies across the floor by our elbows, while chanting: "We live in the best of all possible centuries. Hurray for the 21st century."

Who's the genius who told these guys, "Buzz off?"

This is what happened. The horrendous Law of Unintended Consequences.

The advent of cell phones put phone booths on the endangered species list. Booths are nearly extinct now. Cell phones and cell towers are everywhere, emitting radiation. Brains are cooked, minds destroyed, dreams trampled, which may explain the widespread celebrity status of the Kardashians. Unfortunately, the radiation also KO'd the bees. Honey bees are disappearing at an alarming rate. Zillions. Every freaking time someone makes a call on their cell ("Yo, Brenda? It's me, Joey, the hunky hunkster..."), a bee gets radiation poisoning and drops through the air like a rock. Bang, gone, see ya. So, you may ask, "Holy shit, Jim. What will happen to our food chain?" This: bang, gone, see ya.

It gets worse. See this guy here? The guy who hasn't had a date in 20 years?

Obscene phone caller working his magic.

This asthmatic weasel spends each night calling orphanages, convents and convalescent homes, sharing his breathy objectives with orphans, nuns and the elderly. Each time he picks up his cell phone, a bee dies. Each time he asks a nun, "What are you wearing?" -- another link breaks in the food chain. Global hunger spreads like an Exxon oil spill in coastal waters.

What nerve. The obscene phone caller lives to see another day. The bumble bee takes the hit. Are you serious? Each time you hear a dial tone buzz, think of a bee pleading for its life, begging you to use a landline.

Yes, bees and booths, together, over the cliff. We're all going to get snuffed out, one call at a time. Why not call the local funeral home, make an appointment, get it over with. Cause of death: "cellicide." Or: "I was diagnosed with incurable Nokia."

Wait. Stop. I'm not a buzzkiller. Here's the good news. What priceless treasure have we moderns gotten in return for the mass execution of bees?


Inventor of iPhone at Apple Headquarters

Progress. Oh, yippee.

Bring back the booths.

Jim Fleetwood

[to be continued]

Saturday, May 16, 2015

cell phone vs. phone booth - by Jurassic Jim Fleetwood

Here at The Museum of Sudden Disappearances, we would like to thank "Jurassic Jim" Fleetwood for today's guest post. 

Jim sent this impassioned plea from "parts unknown," his whereabouts still a mystery. We are always delighted (relieved) to hear from him. As readers of the Jurassic Jim thrillers already know, Jim is a bit out-of-step with the times. Not that he cares. Among other concerns, Jim doesn't understand why so many wonderful and beautiful things must fade and disappear from our world, and be replaced by things of lesser value. Perhaps he has a point. You decide. 

Posted is the initial salvo of his lengthy dispatch, pictures included. The rest will soon follow. What's it about? It's a heartfelt celebration of phone booths, and their unwarranted disappearance. Some say Jim occasionally values passion over logic, heart over head. No argument here. Stay tuned for the next installment. 

Herewith, his spirited missive--a celebration of the obsolete telephone booth.

Tom Davidson
Museum Blog CEO (janitor)

* * *

MUSEUM READERS...WARNING: I urge you to turn off your phone before reading this. This is a cell-free zone.

Phone booth...or meditation chamber?

Going, Going, Gone.....the Telephone Booth


Welcome to iArmageddon

What's iArmageddon? It's the final battle between cell phones and humans who crave 10 seconds of peace and quiet per day. 

Yes. iArmageddon. Where Apple iPhones blast our brains, erode meditative silence, and pave the way for the end of the world through nonstop chatter. Holy crap. What's that I see? Storm clouds are gathering on the Verizon.

[NOTE: Nostradamus, the cranky French seer, coined the word "iArmageddon" 500 years ago when he warned that "...round Earth is like a round, rotten Apple, and endtimes will worm through its core." But hey, to be fair, this dude said a lot of sketchy stuff.]

You ask: When did the world lose its mind? When this device appeared on the marketplace -- a plastic barnacle welded to everyone's head. What exactly does iArmageddon look like? You're holding it in your hand. This addictive tool (think crack with apps), the size of a hand grenade, is dropping the curtain on the 21st century. 

Let's cut to the chase (before you get another annoying call coming in). Picture it. A dark and stormy night. You're alone downtown at midnight. 

Will I get home alive?

You suddenly see a "lumpy thing" barreling your way like a gut-shot bear in the rain. It's half-human, half-metrosexual. When it screeches, it sounds like a tow truck having sex with an aluminum garbage can. You attempt to escape on the wet pavement, but slip and fall in your $900 hi-top sneakers with goofy zippers. The lumpy monster closes in. It smells worse than a sauerkraut fart, but never as bad as blue cheese. What to do? Surrender. If you try to whale on the monster with your puny cell phone, you will die of humiliation. Once your self-respect takes a lethal blow, it's over. If you must die, die with dignity.

This dinky dude pictured below? Be honest. Does this little puke look like he can stop the lumpy monster? 

No freakin' way. His batteries will die while your ass is on the line. Guaranteed. He's not a cell phone; he's an accessory to murder. Look at him. Is that the face of remorse? I don't think so. Not by a long shot. You call for help in the middle of the night, downtown, and his power goes out. Screw him. Put him in prison where he belongs, a cell phone in a cell. Stick him in with gen pop. Turn the tables. Make him call for help. 911. See how he likes it. Make him spend all day pressing numbers on his little chest as he runs for his life from the inmates. Force him to listen to a silly ringtone, maybe Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You." When his batteries die, he can get a taste of his own medicine. Hey, the little puke had it coming. He never gave you any consideration.


Cheer up. There's an alternative. Hit the rewind button on the above scenario. Ready?

Same horrendous crap. Dark and stormy night, etc. One crucial difference. See that rectangular box on the left side of the photo below? It suggests a glass and steel coffin? That's your shelter from the storm--the obsolete thing at which the unappreciative world sneered. Ready? Let's go.

Holy crap. The lumpy monster closes in. You turn on the dark street, spot the phone booth, dive in. Slam shut the shatterproof glass door. You're sealed inside. Enraged, the Lumpy One batters the door to no avail. Behind the glass, you laugh, flip him the finger. You call the police. No dime? No sweat. You buzz the operator, say, "Yo, help, now." Within minutes you hear a siren. Lumpy freaks. Lumpy legs it out of there. End of story.

Saved by a phone booth. How do you spell sanctuary? Easy: B-O-O-T-H, baby.

Phone booths.

Save lives.

Bring back. 

I await.

Phone booths can also be used as fallout shelters.

Jim Fleetwood

click HERE for Part 2:

"Why Bees & Telephone Booths are Disappearing"

Friday, May 15, 2015

stop yawning...start reading

Are you a museum lover? Are you bored silly with the Louvre Museum? Totally tired of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art? Does the British Museum cause catalepsy?

cat catalepsy
(bored cat spotted at the Louvre Museum)


Instead, welcome to the world’s #1 imaginary museum, THE MUSEUM OF SUDDEN DISAPPEARANCES. Step inside and meet the irrepressible curator, “Jurassic Jim” Fleetwood. Jim’s mission is to save and restore…well, you’ll see.

same cat after meeting "Jurassic Jim" Fleetwood
at the Meowseum of Sudden Disappearances

This thriller features six "M" words.
("mothballs" & "musty" not included)

Warning: this tale will put your emotions into motion.

Mystery & Melancholy

Mirth & Music 

Mayhem & the Missing

Museum. On sale for 99 pennies. May 16 - 22.

Take a tour inside THE MUSEUM OF SUDDEN DISAPPEARANCES. For book description, click on the cover for Amazon link. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

put your emotions into motion


This time-travel novel features six "M" words.
("mundane" & "monotonous" not included)

Warning: this tale will put your emotions into motion.

featuring the irrepressible "Jurassic Jim" Fleetwood
(Jim is so out-of-it, he's right back in again)

Mystery & Melancholy

Mirth & Music 

Mayhem & the Missing

The Past. On sale for 99 pennies. April 8 - 14.

Give yourself a present with Past is Present. For book description, click on the gramophone for Amazon link. 

PS: If you can hear the soul-shakeup song the gramophone is playing, you are a wonderfully imaginative reader. Toss your ticket and suitcase into the air--welcome aboard. Buckle your seat belt. First stop: 1968. Sedatives advised.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

(almost) same book, new cover

Can you judge a book by its cover? If so, how's this for a total snazz-fest?

This humor collection was released last year as "Botch Cassidy & the SunDunce Kid." Today I added my Frankenstein story to the skimpy collection, which first appeared on ALL THINGS CRIME BLOG. The piece is partly based on a true story, wait, I can't get into it. I'm not in the mood. Let's just say that it's "Hall of Fame" bad behavior. Note the above title: FRANKENSTEIN: SPERM DONOR DAREDEVIL. Consider that a hint. If you already have a dim view of humanity, I urge you to skip the story. In fact, skip the whole book. I don't want to be sued for your clinical depression. If you have an upbeat view of humanity, definitely skip this book. No need for me to pop your bubble. If you're somewhere between those two camps, and occasionally find bad behavior entertaining--because, let's face it, it's easier to laugh than to collapse into nonstop, moral outrage on an hourly basis--you may enjoy these pieces.

Humor is subjective. Is it ever. From Chris Rock to Erma Bombeck. Finding humor in bad behavior has limited appeal. I totally get it. For every person who laughs, a handful are offended ("You think that's funny? That's not funny--it's pathetic!"). I choose to laugh. Not all bad behavior is funny, of course, but much is. 

Here's a nutshell example. Back in the previous geological era, I lived in a section of downtown Detroit called Cass Corridor. No one mistook my neighborhood for Beverly Hills or Bel-Air, California. At the time, Detroit had the highest homicide rate in the U.S. In this neighborhood, you could die of many things, but never of boredom.

I lived on the first floor of my apartment building. The stone over the front door said: Villa Lante. Everyone called the building the Vigilante. A heroin dealer camped out on the second floor. His clientele would show up at unconventional hours, in various states of altered consciousness, and invariably press the wrong buzzers in the foyer. Including mine. Zing zing zinggggggggggg. I'd open my apartment door at 3:00 in the morning and glance slit-eyed down the hall. The dealer's customer base would be sort of melting against the glass foyer door. All loose-kneed legs and limbs and rolling eyeballs, swaying like saplings in the wind. This went on pretty much every night. Despite the entertainment value, the bloom quickly faded from the rose. Zing zing zinggggg became charmless. However, the merchant upstairs was a very sizable dude, and his calling in life suggested to me that he may be a bit of a hothead. Also, when you live in the homicide capital of the U.S., the opiate distributor upstairs gets pretty much overlooked. If you call it in to the police, you can kiss your dime goodbye.

What to do about this bad behavior?

This: I taped a piece of paper over the merchant's buzzer. The message:

Welcome. Press #12 for heroin. Open all night. We never close. Press #12 for scag. Competitive prices. Will match your best offer. Press #12 for smack. 

Or sometimes I'd post this:

Heroin-R-Us. Don't O.D. in the foyer. C'mon upstairs and collapse. Press #12. Shoot (heroin) first, ask questions later. Cop humor, ha ha. I'm the Man. I'm the Po-leese. Ha ha. Just fuckin' with ya. Press #12 for horse, H, shit, junk, mud, whatever.

Well, gosh dang if that sign didn't work real real good. My buzzer went into a coma. Of course, the sign kept disappearing. But I was always happy to make another one, same or similar message, and tape it again in the foyer over the mailbox. Praise Jesus. Commerce flowed through proper channels. I slept uninterrupted. Everyone's happy.

Some folks found my sign funny. Some didn't. They found zero humor in that. Oh well. For each one who laughs, a handful...oh, never mind. You get the drift. And it wasn't long before the dealer disappeared altogether.

Which brings me to one of the funniest humorists in history. Mark Twain really nailed it: "The secret source of humor is not joy but sorrow; there is no humor in Heaven." Mr. T was dead-on. If you sit alone in a chair for endless hours, facing a wall, and write humor, well, you're probably not the centerfold for Mental Health Monthly. You may occasionally wonder what's up with your sorry ass? You suspect there's a stream of dissatisfaction deep down inside you. You sometimes think of it as the Colorado River running at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. If you stand at the top of the steep canyon, the tiny river looks like blue sewing thread. The river is always rolling on, always, cutting deeper and deeper into the rock. Into your bones. Maybe that's the secret source of humor. A constant current of dissatisfaction, sorrow, heartbreak. A need to reinvent the world. Or at least break it apart like a big jigsaw puzzle. That way, you can pick up one small piece at a time, pinch it between two fingers, stare at it until your cross-eyed, and try to figure it out. Try to understand. All the while, you're holding the piece and asking, "How the hell does this fit into the big picture?"

Anyway, FRANKENSTEIN: SPERM DONOR DAREDEVIL is sort of like whitewater rafting on an icy stream of dissatisfaction. I mean, you know, the Colorado River.


[If you click on the Frankenstein cover at the top, the link will take you to Amazon. Oh my God. Colorado River. Amazon. What's up with this river thing?]

Saturday, February 21, 2015

EXIT - excerpt

Last summer I published a thriller, FLOATERS (a nervous novella at 35,000 words). Releasing a new work on Amazon as an indie author, and getting noticed, is always a challenge (translation: understatement of the century). Amazon, literally, has more titles than there are people in Tokyo, so getting visibility is...uh...a bit tricky. I'd liken it to drowning alone in the middle of the cold, choppy waters of the Pacific Ocean---I'm clinging to an overturned rowboat (my new novel), waving my wet sock in the air (my low-budget marketing strategy) and hoping a jumbo jet (filled with cherished readers) at 35,000 feet (from hither and thither) flies overhead (above my Amazon page) and rescues (purchases my book at an insanely reasonable price for a priceless tale, for which they will be rewarded with nonstop insomnia and occasional laughter)...oh, never mind.  

So I greatly appreciated the positive reviews that popped up over the months. At this time, it has a 4.9 star average. Go figure. Whoever you (insightful) folks are, I salute you!

Evidently I became a bit attached to the central characters, and their tortuous plight. I scribbled a sequel, realized it couldn't be released as a standalone without the reader knowing the back-story. So I combined both dark tales, and titled it EXIT. It still features the two main characters, Rayne Moore and Tim Crowe. What's it about? This: it's about 73,000 words.

(Psst! if you really want to 'Hit the exit," click on the cover.)

a near-future thriller?

excerpt - chapter 1

October 30, Devil's Night

Maybe it was a Halloween stunt.
The cashier inside the theater's box-office resembled a psychic from a traveling carnival. She sat on a stool, not saying a word behind the window, staring at the street with vacant concentration. Her empty eyes suggested she was a million miles away.
Tim Crowe took a half step back on the sidewalk in the gathering gloom. Dead leaves skittered past his sneakers. He closed his left eyelid and looked through his right eye, his good eye. For the last week or so, his world had rotated on his right eye.
Crowe faced the ticket booth, an oblong structure the size of a large coffin. Glass, chrome, wood. It took a moment before the image clicked. The booth reminded him of a coin-operated fortune-telling machine in an arcade where, behind a window, a mechanical mystic named Zoltan or Esmeralda would stare at you with glass eyes, and speak your fortune via a hidden record player. Or pass you a slip of paper with your fortune written on it in language so cryptic you didn't know if you were blessed or cursed.
Zoltan creeped him out; here, Esmeralda had a similar effect.
She had wireless, blue-tinted glasses, her pale skin smooth as a ceramic bowl. She wore a gold shirt, black vest, and a turquoise scarf over her bowed head. The paisley design suggested swirling eyes. The booth had no interior light, just a lit candle. A shadow flickered across her face.
The sign posted on the window read: Free Admission - Donations Accepted.
Crowe withdrew a ten-dollar bill from his wallet and pushed it through the ticket slot. "Will that cover it?"
The cashier responded by tapping the donation sign with her fingernail. Click.
Crowe couldn't resist, and asked, "Are you a cloistered nun? I see you took a vow of silence."
No response, but something dark flashed in her eyes for an instant. Not anger; something else. The vacant stare returned.
Crowe looked up at the wide marquee: Gateway. Below the theater's name, the featured movie: Gone. The theater had been around since the 1920s, judging by the architecture. The Gateway appeared to have recently changed ownership. It now offered more independent and off-beat fare. Not to mention eccentric employees, eccentric pricing.
The cashier slid a ticket across the wooden counter.
Crowe looked through the glass with his right eye. Coins, dollar bills, and what appeared to be Tarot cards covered the counter. The Gateway was a theater. And this was pure theatrics.
Crowe took the ticket, and heard someone singing and playing guitar. He turned halfway around. Across the street, a young woman with a glorious afro and a black hat stood on the sidewalk beside a corner church, a faded purple bandanna tied around her forehead, and an open guitar case by her feet. A teenage granddaughter of Jimi Hendrix. The two exchanged a glance beneath a streetlamp. The restless shadows of tree branches, stirred by the wind, tattooed the concrete, the dark shapes moving back and forth. She leaned back on one heel, and strummed a familiar song called Eye Seek You.

"Eye seek you in the morning
Eye seek you at night
Eye see you soon…"

Crowe listened as he reached into the pocket of his green, army field jacket, fingering aside his plastic vial of Vigamox, one of his three eye-drop drugs. As a reminder to take his medicine, his girlfriend had taped a small picture of a mirror on the front of the pocket, and wrote on it: medicine cabinet. Crowe took out his cell phone, thumbing a number while looking down the street with his good eye. Chinese restaurant, bookstore, Starbuck's, watch repair, parking lot.
Three rings. Then a recorded voice, smooth as honey: "Rayne." A declaration, an answer, and a smoky-voiced invitation—all rolled into one.
Crowe squeezed the phone and said nothing. Several seconds passed. Before the connection died, he said, "It's me. I've been locked up for a week, and had to get out. I stopped at the movies. I'll be back in a couple of hours or so." After another pause, he said, "I'm sorry for being such a pain in the ass. I miss you."
He put the cell phone into his pocket and withdrew the medicine. He shook the vial, uncapped it, tilted his head back and fingered his eyelid down. The liquid drop stung for a moment and his eye watered. He blinked several times. This daily routine was annoying, particularly if his hand was unsteady and the dropper hit his eyeball. Within minutes the drug would migrate from his eye socket, leaving a bitter taste at the back of his throat.
Across the street, the busker sang:

"…Eye see you soon
Real soon."

Tim Crowe opened a glass door and walked alone across a faded red carpet, past a closed refreshment counter with an empty shelf. On the wall behind the counter was a poster of a condemned prisoner sitting in his cell with a priest, eating his last meal—a paper bucket of movie popcorn. Tim glanced at the poster, then at the empty popcorn machine on the counter. And where was the ticket taker? Perhaps the donation policy precluded the need for one. The musty foyer was filled with dim lights and vintage movie posters of Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolfman, and the Mummy. He thought of Rayne as he passed through a doorway and left the light.
Crowe sat in a dark theater with few people on a Wednesday night. Empty seats, with their rounded backs visible against the silver screen, suggested rows of moonlit tombstones in a cemetery at night. On the wide screen, the opening credits rolled up on Gone. Soon he was watching a grim story about an alternate world that almost mirrored his own.
During the movie, his thoughts kept drifting back over the events of the last two weeks.
Tim Crowe began to go blind in mid-October.
One morning a spider suddenly appeared in his left eye. Soon another spider appeared, along with floating dots. Floaters were common, usually benign, and would eventually disappear. But his spiders soon morphed into a dark shade that, within a couple of days, steadily closed over his eye from the bottom up. An inverted window shade. Half of his field of vision disappeared. The shade continued to rise. Half became 75% and counting. And then, presto, 90% of the eye went dark. Gone. As if the ceiling light inside his skull were being dialed down with a dimmer switch. The remaining 10% at the top of his eye was a blur, similar to looking through a dirty windowpane.
A visit to a local clinic put everything into focus: get thee into an emergency room. Or lose the eye. You have a detached retina. Hurry.
Within an hour he had checked into Massachusetts General Hospital, the Eye and Ear Clinic. A female technician in a black lab coat and black boots stood before him in a small room and asked, "How many fingers am I holding up?"
Crowe, sitting in a chair, raised his head and looked through his bad eye while thinking, "Finger? That's funny, I can't see the hand. I can't see the freaking technician."
The next day Crowe lay under a blue plastic sheet that covered his head and torso, similar to a burial cloth. The sheet had one small hole for his left eye. Anesthesia flowed through a catheter in his left hand. A drug was shot into the side of his head. The heart monitor beeped in the background. He was 28 years old—a high school substitute teacher by day, a struggling screenwriter by night—and for the first time in his life he got an unbidden glimpse of his own mortality. Lying on a gurney will do it every time.
"Your retina is like wallpaper," the ophthalmologist said. "It's peeled down. We have to roll it back up."
Two surgeons went to work, rolling up the wallpaper. The operation included a gas injection into his eye, creating a bubble that pressed against the retina, keeping it flush against the back of the eye.
He hoped that it wasn't too late. He hoped they could save his eye.
Tonight, at the Gateway Theater, random images of the hospital rolled through his head, as if a list of credits rising and disappearing. His left eye still had the gas trapped inside. The dark blue bubble looked like an eye within his eye, unblinking, watching him round-the-clock. Whenever he moved his head, the bubble moved in sync, vertically or horizontally. As the gas dissipated over time, the bubble would diminish. The strange blue eye would finally disappear.
For two hours, Crowe sat within the glow of the screen and watched Gone with uneven attention. Earlier events clouded his thoughts. His argument that afternoon with his girlfriend, Rayne, still echoed in his head. He'd been in an irritable mood all week. Post-op instructions: he had to stay face-down because of the gas. If he lay on his back, the bubble would move away from the retina. So he slept face-down. He had put a TV on the floor and watched it face-down. Same for the computer monitor, on the floor. He drank with a straw. Being face-down day and night, he looked woefully depressed, the most disconsolate man in America. His bowed head felt as heavy as a barbell, but he shouldn't have taken it out on Rayne.
The movie ended.
The screen brightened. A white rectangle without sound. He could see the silhouettes of a few heads. Then these words appeared in the middle of the screen:
to a theater near you
The screen darkened and an image emerged: the interior of a dark theater. The scene was shot in black-and-white, except for a single red exit sign in the left corner that offset the gloomy hues. Crowe stared, his attention focused for the first time that night—the theater looked familiar. He watched the trailer for an upcoming indie movie or documentary. All he could see were the legs and feet of people on a crowded city street, as if the camera were pointed downward at a sea of shoes. He could hear footsteps on pavement. Boot heels clicking, sneakers squeaking. The crowd hastened their pace, started to run. Then the camera swung upward just above the crowd, showing a quick shot of something suspended overhead against a blue sky. Written on its surface: DR1. Then a voiceover broke in. The weary tone suggested a soldier in a foxhole whose view of the frontline filled him with dread.

"They are coming. They are here. Each week they invade our world. Some say each day. They walk among us. They look like us. Exactly like us. The invaders are coming and must be stopped. The lines are drawn. The battle has begun."

A single word flashed on the screen. White letters superimposed on the image of a theater with a dark, empty screen.
The trailer ended. Yellow lights came on, dimly glowing in the wall sconces. In the shadows, Tim Crowe rose from his seat. He could hear a half dozen people head up the aisle, shoes whispering on the floor.
Something snapped on. A bright spot in the dark caught his eye. A red light appeared in the far left corner. The exit sign glowed for the first time. He thought of the trailer, the dark theater, the title. He thought of the cashier, the fortune teller in the ticket booth with the lit candle. Everything suggested Halloween, including this part of the show. He stood on the slope of the aisle and smiled, then descended toward the alley exit. Gravitational pull. Soon he put his hand on the crash bar and opened the exit door, passing beneath the glowing exit sign.
For a second, he thought of a red traffic light. Stop.
The heavy door clicked shut behind him.
The alley was full dark. He took a step and felt something cold shiver through him, sensed a change. Was it the chill air of the night? Somehow the alley looked….wrong. His body tensed with hesitation. Perhaps he should have gone through the foyer and the front exit. He felt foolish but was alone. He turned back and gripped the cold, black metal door handle, but it didn't budge. Locked.
He flashed on Rayne at the restaurant, waiting tables, and assumed she was home from work by now. He wondered if he should go to her place again tonight or go home and why did he feel so…lightheaded? So different?
The alley was a tunnel of darkness beneath a starless sky, a city block running between buildings with no sign of lights, closed garages, and a cinder block wall. Dead leaves crunched under his heels. He moved toward the dirty glow of a flickering white streetlight at the mouth of the alley, feeling unsteady. Dirt and sand scraped and scratched beneath his boots. The pale streetlight loomed closer. He needed to go to Rayne's, go home, go anywhere but here. He felt inexplicably alone at that moment.
He stopped, pulled out his cell phone and scanned his surroundings with his good eye. He thumbed her number. Muscle memory. She'd be home by now, and would have gotten his message from a couple of hours ago. He waited a second or two. Until he heard a flat, familiar, robotic voice bleached of any humanity:
"We're sorry. The number you have reached is not in service, or is assigned in a different area code. Please check your area code and try again."
Whenever Tim Crowe heard that familiar recording, it reminded him of the movie, Stepford Wives. He terminated the call, shook his head and wondered if his thumb had gone blind along with his left eye. He squinted in the dark and redialed. Ringing. Click. He couldn't wait to see her. She said:
"We're sorry. The number you—"
Tim froze, aware that someone or something was behind him, hidden in the dark. He heard—what? Something passed right by him. Over him? Something…
"—assigned in a different area code. Please check your area code and try again."
This time he didn't need to look; his thumb killed the call. Muscle memory.
For a minute or so, Tim didn't move a muscle. He peered into the dark with his good eye, listening intently to his surrounds. Five mysterious words echoed in his head.

Please check your area code.