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The Fox

The Fox

By William Currens Devol

Copyright May 2012

The Fox, El Zorro, was on the prowl. He moved like his namesake. He blended with the shadows. He was itching for a fight; the Governor was hatching a plot to relieve poor villagers of their pitiful homes and their land.

A boot scuffed. Zorro froze. He heard a match scrape on a boot heel. He saw the glow of the match as it arched towards the cigar stuffed in the unshaven and meaty face of Sergeant Garcia. As the Sergeant puffed the cigar to life, the match burned down to his fingers.

“Yieee,” Garcia said as he dropped the match and waved his injured fingers about.

Zorro chuckled inwardly at the antics of the fat soldier who strained the buttons of the biggest uniform Zorro had ever seen. Garcia was a good man at heart, but he answered to the Governor. That was unfortunate.

The Sergeant removed the cigar from between his lips and replaced it with his burned fingers. He sucked at them for a minute and wandered off in the general directions of his barracks.

Zorro stepped back into the feeble light cast from a candle in the window on the second floor of the hacienda in which he had found the deep shadow.

“Don’t move a muscle,” snarled the voice of the Governor as several muskets were cocked and pointed at Zorro’s back.

Zorro laughed loudly, “You will never learn will you, Governor. Please accept my apologies, but I choose not to be caught today.”

The long, black leather bullwhip shot out from Zorro’s cape. It’s tip wrapped twice around the banister on the porch on the second floor of the hacienda. Shots rang out, but Zorro had already climbed up his whip, yanked it free, and was running along the banister like it was a mile wide.

The glass in the hacienda’s windows on the second floor began to explode as the soldiers that had not fired in the first volley fired behind the streaking figure in black…

“Bill, are you trying to break your neck,” Grandma yelled. “Get down off that banister. What do you think you are doing?”

“I’m escaping from the Governor and some soldiers,” said the slight, tow headed six-year-old. He was in the complete Zorro costume he got for Halloween last year.

The pants were a little short, but Bill could tuck them into the tops of his second favorite possession, his black cowboy boots with the red stitching on the outside. The red stitching showed a cowboy waving his hat from the back of a bucking Bronco.

Grandma walked over and held out her strong arms, “You are going to crack your head open, yet,” she said as she reached for the boy who let her hug him close and set him back on her front porch.

“You’re going to put your eye out with that sword,” Grandma said. “You’ve only got one good eye, Bill. Be careful, and stay off the banister.”

“Yes, Grandma,” Bill said. “But the eye with the patch on it is a good eye. Mom said the patch was to make me use my other eye and make it stronger.”

“I know, Baby, but you only get two eyes; try to keep both of them,” Grandma said. “And what is that above your lip? Is that black marker?”

“It’s my moustache,” Bill said as he ran off the porch and onto the sidewalk next to the house.

Grandma stepped onto the sidewalk to tell her grandson not to break his glasses, but Zorro had escaped.

Zorro would never admit he was nearly captured, but he knew in his heart how close it had been. If he would have hesitated for a second, the soldiers would have had him in their sights.

Zorro used the bullwhip to swing down off of the back roof of the hacienda. He coiled the whip and hooked it on his belt. He looked both ways up and down the alley, put his thumb and forefinger of his right hand up to his lips and whistled.

Almost immediately Tornado, a jet black stallion, came galloping between two out buildings. The powerful horse put his head down and raced right up to Zorro. Tornado slowed for a second as Zorro bounded into the saddle and sank his boots deep into the tooled leather stirrups.

“Make haste, my friend,” Zorro said and Tornado did just that. Zorro looked back once to see the Governor throw his hat down in disgust at being bested again.

Tornado slowed to an easy gallop when he and his master were beyond fear of capture.

“Well, we shall try again tomorrow night, Tornado,” Zorro said as he patted the neck of his horse. “But there are too many people looking for Zorro and his black friend. Perhaps our mutual friend Don Diego de la Vega can be of assistance.”

Zorro laughed loudly at his own joke and started formulating a plan.

Paladin awoke in his suite in the Carlton Hotel in San Francisco. Boy hadn’t opened his curtains, but he could tell from the bright corona around the heavy, black velvet drapes that the day was well begun. He would have to give Boy stern lecture about forgetting to wake him.

He arose and dressed. His client had hired him the day before and had paid the $1,000.00 fee in advance and in cash. The client had said there would be another thousand if the job was completed by Monday, and Monday was only four days away.

Paladin buckled his black belt around the waist of his black pants after tucking in the black shirt. He pulled on his black boots and noticed that his pants would need to be let down. He would make sure Boy got that done as soon as he got back from this job.

He went to the gun cabinet where he pulled a key from his pocket and unlocked the cabinet doors. First he tucked the double-barrel derringer into his belt. Next he withdrew his black holster with the chess knight symbol on the holster. Then he gently placed his Colt Peacemaker with the ivory handle grips embossed with the knight, as well into the well-oiled leather. He laid the gun and holster on his bed and pulled a set of black saddle bags from the cabinet before relocking it.

He started to buckle the holster around his waist, but he remembered that firearms were not allowed in the Carlton dining room. Paladin left the gun and the saddle bags on the bed and smiled as he double checked the derringer in his belt. He pulled his black hat off of the hat rack and tossed it on top of the saddle bags before heading down for breakfast.

“Aren’t those the same clothes you had on yesterday,” Grandpa said over his copy of the Logan Daily Press. “And what’s that on your lip?”

“He’s Zorro and that’s his moustache, Gerald,” Grandma said. “Zorro, would you like some pancakes?”

“If I was Zorro, I’d be wearing my mask,” Bill said. “I’m Paladin.”

“Well, Mr. Paladin,” Grandma said. “Would you like some pancakes?”

“Yes, Grandma,” Bill said. “Can you make them in the shape of a six shooter?”

“”I’ll see,” said Grandma and she dipped batter into a skillet.

“Mr. Paladin, what are you going to do today,” Grandpa asked.

“Mr. Archer of the Cross Country Railroad wants me to find a bunch of sidewinders that have been robbing his trains,” Paladin said. His hand went to the derringer in his belt and he smiled a cold smile. “And when I find them, I aim to put them out of business for good.”

Paladin tugged backward ever so lightly on Curley’s reins. The big bay stallion froze immediately. Paladin patted his neck softly,

“Good horse,” he whispered and dropped to the ground silently. He tied Curley to some brush under a nearby tree.

Paladin upholstered his gun and crouched low. He began to move along the ridge being careful of where he stepped. A loud cracking sound made Paladin turn his head involuntarily. The wind had dislodged a big dead branch high up in an oak tree. It has come crashing to earth.

Curley was spooked and reared up on his hind legs. His reins pulled free of the brush, and he galloped away down the ridge.

“Darn horse,” Paladin said and took another step before he looked back at his feet.

Bill found he was tumbling down a steep shaft that had been covered with some honeysuckle vines. His gun hand struck something really hard and he cried out in pain. His Paladin Peacemaker flew out of his hand. Bill had the fleeting thought that the Peacemaker was his favorite possession and then there was a sharp pain just above his good eye and all was dark and peaceful.

Paladin lifted his head and groaned.

“They must have clocked me a good one with a rock and tossed me down this old mine shaft,” Paladin thought.

Bill couldn’t see. He pawed his own face. His hand came away wet but he hadn’t lost his glasses; at least Grandma wouldn’t kill him. His right eye was patched and he could see dim shapes now with his left. He carefully felt around his left eye. It was real swollen and very sore. He had a cut that was still oozing blood. He’d need stitches probably.

Bill tore the patch off of his right eye and put his glasses back on.

Paladin took an inventory of the damage he’d absorbed. There was the cut over his left eye. It was bleeding, but that was slowing down. He had a championship shiner in that eye, but he could still see out of it. After he wiped the leaves off of his right eye, he had no problem seeing with it at all.

His right hand hurt badly, but he flexed it and decided it was just bruised. It was swelling, but he could shoot with his left hand.

“You can’t shoot at all if you don’t have a gun,” Paladin said in a voice that sounded slurred to him.

Paladin rolled over on his back, leaned against the side of the mine shaft and looked up at the sky far above him. The sky whirled about, and Paladin was overcome with dizziness and vomited into his own lap. Everything went black again.

Paladin woke in his hotel room. The room was bright and his head hurt; he closed his eyes. He could smell the clean sheets, and his head hurt. He decided he’d go back to sleep for a while and solve the mystery of how he got from the bottom of that mine shaft to his hotel room much much later.

Bill opened his eyes and saw his Grandma’s worried face. His Grandpa was standing behind Grandma with the same look.

“Marjorie, the boy is awake,” Grandpa said in a thick voice as he reached into his hip pocket for a handkerchief.

“Bill, Bill, do you know who I am,” Grandma said as tears leaked from her eyes.

“Yes, Grandma,” Bill said realizing his throat was very dry. “Can I have a drink of water?”

“Gerald,” Grandma said to Grandpa. “Go tell the nurse he’s awake, and have her see if Doctor Webb is still making rounds. Go now, and ask them if he can have some water.”

“I’ll be back in two shakes,” Grandpa said as he hurried out of the room.

“Where am I,” Bill asked.

“You are in Mount Saint Mary’s Hospital in Nelsonville,” Grandma said. “You have been here two days. You fell down an old well up at the Zimmerman place. You cracked your head real good. You got ten stitches over your eye, and you broke a bone in your right hand, and your Mom and Dad are on their way and probably won’t ever let you stay with us again.”

“How did you find me,” Bill asked closing his eyes and leaning back into his pillow.

“When you weren’t home for lunch, your Grandpa went looking for you,” Grandma said. “After asking people if they’d seen you for about an hour, Maddie up on the corner said she saw you heading toward the Zimmerman house.”

“Grandpa finally saw that black broom you use for a horse next to a broken well cover,” Grandma said. “Now hush and wait for Doctor Webb.”

“Good horse,” Paladin said as he nodded off for a short nap.

Robyn’s Run

By William Currens Devol

Copyright January 2012

“The idiot and I are leaving the Pub now,” Robyn said into the cell phone. “If we don’t win this $100, I’ll kick your ass, Neil.”

The idiot in question called himself Dub. The $100 was a bet that Dub’s old, green pickup truck could go from The Pub in Windsor to the Ranch House Bar and Grill in Painesville faster than could Neil’s 2007 Monte Carlo.

Neil was Robyn’s boyfriend, and Dub’s girlfriend Hannah had called Dub to tell him that she and Neil had made the 25-mile run in 18 minutes. When Hannah finished speaking with Dub, Dub handed the phone to Robyn and let her speak to Neil.

When Robyn closed her phone, Dub looked over at Robyn with eyes that were the brightest blue she’d ever seen. Dub screamed, “YIPPY-O-KI-A, Motherfucker,” and floored his old, green pickup truck.

Dub’s truck sputtered and died.

“Jesus,” Robyn thought.

Dub looked confused, but then he smiled and opened his door. He climbed out of the truck and reached behind his side of the old bench seat and came out with a rather sizeable pipe wrench. Dub turned his Indians cap around backwards, flipped the big wrench in the air and caught it after one revolution. Dub then reached under the dash and pulled the lever that popped his hood.

Robyn watched through the cracked windshield in amazement as Dub unlatched and lifted the hood and struck something under it a crushing blow with the pipe wrench. The clang was loud and Robyn jumped in her seat. Dub stared under the hood a few more seconds and then dropped the hood in place, returned the pipe wrench to its spot behind his half of the seat, and climbed back behind the wheel.

Dub turned his ball cap back around and said, “Don’t forget your seat belt.” When Robyn clicked her seat belt into the latch, Dub started the truck.

“Damn,” Robyn thought. “This old bucket of bolts sounds better, but how can a wallop with a pipe wrench make an engine sound better?”

This time, Dub whispered, “YIPPY-O-KI-A, Motherfucker,” and floored his old, green pickup truck.

Space Shuttle astronauts can expect a maximum of 3 Gs when the main engines are throttled up on the final push to orbit. It is uncomfortable, but they can still move and perform tasks with some dexterity. Robyn was pinned to the bench seat and she couldn’t lift her arms. She quit worrying about her paralysis when she looked out the windshield and saw nothing but blue sky and clouds which seemed to rush toward her.

“Hang on Robyn,” Dub said, “This is the worst bit. Give it another 10 seconds.”

Ten seconds after that, Robyn felt like she was kicked in the back. One second after that, she realized she was weightless. One second after that, Dub’s truck swung around to point, nose down at what looked like the United Kingdom.

Robyn stared slack-jawed at the earth which filled the windshield. Robyn then slapped her hand to her mouth. Dub reached under his seat and pulled out what looked to be a waxed, brown paper bag, and held it out to Robyn.

“In here, or we will spend all day chasing chunks,” Dub said.

Robyn grabbed the bag from Dub and got it open and up to her face with nearly no time left on the vomit clock. Robyn retched up beer and food until she was empty. She turned to Dub with the bag to her face and, with her eyes and body language, asked him what she should do with the bag.

“Pinch it shut and give the neck a twist or two,” Dub instructed.

Robyn did as Dub instructed.

“Put it in the glove box and shut it,” Dub said.

Robyn did.

“Thanks. Now watch this,” Dub said. Dub pushed a tri-angular logo on the truck’s radio face plate. Robyn heard hydraulic systems start up, and the entire dash of the truck transformed into what any science fiction fan would recognize as a space ship control console. Rob pushed a light on the console, and the glove box whined and flashed a bright green.

“Take a look,’ Dub said and pointed at the glove box.

Robyn leaned forward and opened the glove box. It was empty and now looked quite deep.

“What,” Robyn said. “What, Where, Who, Where.”

“Dematerializer, Spaceship, in orbit above earth, I am Dubrztsorg, and straight out your side of the truck about 175 light years,” Dub said reaching into the front pocket on his bib overalls and pulling out what looked like a stainless steel Tootsie Pop. “If you are still nauseous, touch the big end of this anywhere behind your ear. Space sickness can be a real bitch.”

Dub gave the Tootsie Pop a tiny push, and Robyn grabbed it as it floated by. She touched the implement behind her right ear and all trace of her flip-flopping stomach was gone.

“Thanks,” she said. “That did something to my inner ear, right.”

“Yep, good call. I knew you were bright the minute I met you. Keep that; it fixes dizziness, nausea, it cures hangovers, and it makes your breathe sweet again,” Dub said.

Robyn smacked her lips together and swished her tongue across the roof of her mouth. Her mouth tasted sweet. She blew her breath into her cupped hand and inhaled through her nose. She smelled cinnamon.

“Dub,” Robyn said. “Who the fuck are you, and why do you have me in earth orbit in an ugly green pickup?”

“Is Neil the one,” Dub looked into Robyn’s eyes and asked. “Is he Mr. Right?”

“What,” Robyn said.

“You say that a lot,” Dub said. “Is Neil your one true love? Do I have a chance with you Robyn?”

“Are you trying to pick me up.” Robyn said with irritation. “Is this how you impress women on Mars? You kidnap them against their will and whisk them into orbit for an ultimate game of put out or get out?”

“Whoa,” Dub said. “I didn’t kidnap you; you agreed to come with me to time the race. I haven’t laid a hand on you, and I said 175 light years, so you ought to know I’m not from Mars.”

“Mars was a figure of speech,” Robyn said.”You haven’t laid a hand on me, that’s true, but pardon me for being freaked out, and how the hell do you plan to win the race, we are in orbit, Dub?”

Dub looked at the watch on his left wrist, “We took off 11 minutes ago; we can stay up another six minutes and still win this bet. Let me try this again, Robyn, are you free to date, and if you are, can I call you and maybe we could get coffee or leave some tire tracks on the moon they can puzzle over if they ever go back?”

“No, Dub, Neil is Mr. Right Now, but what about Hannah? I don’t steal men from other women,” Robyn said.

“Well, that’s a positive development,” Dub said smiling, “Hannah is my sister Hanrztsorg, and she has no problem stealing men from other women. That’s the second reason I asked you about Neil.”

“You’re telling me that your sister is a space slut and she is trying to steal my boyfriend…well, good. Neil was starting to be a real pain in the ass, and I think he’s an alcoholic,” Robyn said. “Hey, are you actually a reptile or some other bizarre alien life form?”

“Nope,” Dub said. “It’s a long story, but the same folks that started my world also started your world.”

“What about God,” Robyn asked.

“I said it was a long story, but for now let’s just say that we have common beginnings and leave it there,” Dub said.

Robyn looked perplexed for only a second and then smiled and said, “You still up for a cup of coffee.”

“Absolutely,” Dub said. He beamed a simile right back at Robyn.

“How’s the coffee on your planet,” Robyn asked.

“It’s called fruzhrf,” Dub said. “And it’s as good as Starbuck’s. On my planet, we have genetically altered the fruzhrf beans to come in black, cream, sugar, and cream and sugar flavors, but, with all our technology, we couldn’t make a decent cappuccino until I bought one on Ebay and sent it home to be reverse engineered.”

“How long would it take us to get there,” Robyn asked.

Dub looked at his watch and said, “Not more than a few minutes, but we’ll lose the race to the Ranch House Bar and Grill if we go.”

“Are you shiting me; fuck the race,” Robyn said. “How the Hell can we go 175 light years in a matter of a few minutes?”

“Well,” Dub said. “The universe is like a piece of paper. You can fold it so one spot is very close to any other spot…I can go on with the explanation, or you can push that blinking green button.”

Robyn leaned forward and depressed the blinking green button.

The Walrus

By

William Currens Devol

Josh only had the attic to clean out before he could put the house on the market.

The “Old Man” had had the courtesy to die in the late fall when Josh wouldn’t bake or freeze while he worked to clean the crap out of his father’s attic. All-in-all, the Old Man had been pretty considerate with his dying.

The mortgage was paid off. The taxes were current. The second wife had died the year before. The Old Man had rewritten his will leaving everything to Josh…everything but enough money to send his two ancient cats to a retirement home.

Josh laughed out loud when the will was read. His Dad had donated 2000 dollars to a cat shelter so his cats could live out their lives in plush surroundings. His Dad was such a pussy…his Dad had been a pussy, Josh reminded himself.

The Old Man had even gone fast. The neighbor across the street said the Old Man had been cutting the grass in front of the house and just sort of slumped to the ground. No wasting away in the hospital spending Josh’s inheritance…a massive coronary at 80 and…POOF!

Josh opened the door to the attic expecting an avalanche of dust bunnies and the smell of heat-baked wood and insulation. He encountered neither. From what Josh could see at the top of the steep, and now carpeted stairs, the Old Man had finished the attic. There was a newish vinyl window in a solid wall and there was a real ceiling.

The last time Josh had been in the attic…Christ, was it 25 years ago…the Old Man would have been 55 the summer Josh moved out for good…on Father’s Day that was…Happy fucking Father’s Day, Old Man.

Back then, boxes and totes had been piled high on the unfinished outer walls and furniture had been huddled together under blankets and sheets in the open spaces fore and aft of the chimney.

Hell, when was the last time Josh had seen his Dad alive, for that matter. It was probably at Josh’s Mom’s funeral nearly 10 years earlier. Josh thought it weird that the Old Man went to his ex-wife’s funeral. Josh had two ex-wives and he couldn’t imagine going to their funerals except maybe to make sure they were dead.

Josh flipped the light switch and headed up the stairs.

The attic space was now a white room with storage cupboards low along both sides. The chimney was gone and two large ceiling fans stirred the air under the lights suspended from the peak of the ceiling. The floor was polished hardwood, and a huge white sofa took up most of the available space on the far wall.

“Wally Fucking Walrus,” Josh said.

Josh stared at a big, brown stuffed toy walrus sitting on the middle cushion of the couch. Its big, sparkly blue plastic eyes stared right back at Josh.

Wally Walrus was actually a plush puppet from way back in Josh’s childhood when his parents were still together. Josh used to check a puppet just like Wally out of the Burton Library when he was a kid. The head librarian had told Josh’s Mom where she could buy him his very own Walrus puppet, so Josh got Wally Walrus for Christmas when he was five.

For four years, Josh and Wally were “best friends.” The Old Man would make the puppet talk and tell jokes and make Josh fell like a big shot by pretending to interview him on the Wally Walrus Talk Show. Wally would interview the big league ball player Josh or the famous explorer Josh or the famous actor Josh.

The Old Man gave the puppet a tough guy personality which was pretty funny when you thought about what a pussy the Old Man really was. It had been Josh’s favorite times with his Dad until his Dad just up and moved out on Josh and his Mom.

After that, Josh couldn’t stand to look at the fat puppet with two hollow rubber tusks coming out of a thick black moustache. The Old Man had been really pleased to find Wally in Josh’s stuff when Josh had to move in with him when his Mom moved in with a guy without any spare bedrooms.

The Old Man had wanted Josh to play the Wally Walrus Talk Show Game right then and there. As if a 15-year-old man was going to play dolls with anyone, let alone the guy that ruined his life.

To top everything off, the Old Man had moved Josh in with him and that woman. Shelly had pussy whipped the Old Man into making Josh’s life a real shit pile. All that woman cared about was keeping the house clean. Josh would be damned if he was going to kiss that woman’s ass by helping keep the Old Man’s hovel clean and in good working order.

Josh walked over to the puppet and punched it right in the mouth. The puppet flipped once and landed on the floor behind the huge couch.

“Take that, you shit,” Josh said to the puppet. “As a matter of fact, I think I may rip you apart one seam at a time. Come back here.”

Josh knelt on the couch and reached over the back. He reached down and saw that Wally had landed with on his head with the armhole pointed straight up. Josh reached out and slid his right arm into the puppet.

Every muscle in Josh’s arm went into a violent, painful spasm then the pain was replaced by a numbing cold. The Walrus puppet started swinging right an then left with more and more power until it spun Josh around so he ended up sitting normally on the couch with the fucking puppet right in front of his face.

Josh could no longer feel his arm, but he could see it shoot out to his right and he could feel its motion pull on the rest of his body as it slammed the puppet full force into the bridge of his own nose.

Josh felt his nose break. He felt the substantial flow of hot blood gush down his lips and spray off of his chin like a waterfall. “Fucking Christ,” Josh sputtered as he put his left hand up to his already swelling nose. That’s when he felt his lips start to move.

“Well, if it ain’t that ungrateful little fuck, Josh Donovan. How the fuck are they hangin’, you little shit”

Josh froze. That was the Old Man’s voice coming out of his mouth…well, that was the voice the Old man gave that Christing puppet back in the day.

“Hey,” Josh shouted in Wally’s voice as the puppet’s mouth opened and closed matching the voice coming out of Josh’s mouth. “I’m talking to you. Look at me when I’m talking to you.”

At that, Josh’s right arm snapped forward again and the puppet smashed into Josh’s left hand.

Josh howled in fresh pain. The blow, while not as hard as the one that broke his nose, was in the exact spot where it would produce maximum pain. Josh’s vision was glazed over by a white flash he both saw and felt just behind his eyes. When his vision cleared, he looked at the puppet.

The unblinking eyes stared at him with a dumb malevolence. Blood spattered the bottle brush moustache and beaded on the plastic bristles that were the Walrus’ whiskers. Blood had run down both rubber tusks and dripped from the ends and landed between Josh’s legs.

“What are you lookin’ at you punk,” Wally/Josh said in a low, menacing voice.

“Nothing,” Josh answered.

“Oh, so I’m nothing am I,” Wally/Josh said. When Josh’s mouth opened to pronounce that last syllable, the puppet leaped forward and up to deliver an upper cut that snapped Josh’s teeth together.

Josh felt something snap in his mouth and he chased a suddenly free chunk of something around his mouth with his tongue. He spat the crown that used to be on one of his front teeth into his blood-caked left palm. The tooth bounced once, hit the floor, and skittered under the couch.

“Well, Josh,” Wally/Josh said. “The last time I saw you, you barely had any hair on your pecker. How’s life been treating you?

Josh started to answer, but Wally cut him off.

“Never mind,” Wally/Josh said. “I really don’t give a fuck how life has been treating you. What I give a fuck about is your Dad being dead and you being alive. He and I talked about you all the fucking time. He said you were a good kid and you’d come around some day and you’d realize he was a decent Dad. I told him you were an ungrateful little shit that was more worried about himself than about how miserable he and your mother were together.”

“That Little Mary Sunshine you had as a father believed you’d snap out of it one of these days. I told him you were a twerp that didn’t have one grateful bone in your fucking body. How you ended up caring so much about that bitch of an ex-wife of his and so little about him is beyond me. How’s that nose; is it starting to feel any better?”

“Why do you care,” Josh said.

“I don’t,” Wally/Josh said as Josh’s right wrist snapped the puppet around and smacked Josh in the nose with the puppet’s big tail.

“Fuck,” Josh screamed. “That’s enough of that.”

Josh grabbed a dark brown top knot of hair on Wally’s head and yanked hard hoping to rip the puppet off of his arm. All he accomplished was sending a bolt of white hot pain up his right arm and up into the junction of jaw bone and skull. It felt like someone was burning his arm and jamming a screwdriver into his right ear at the same time.

“Oh, no,” Wally/Josh said. “I don’t leave until I’m ready. You could, of course, go fire up your Dad’s table saw and cut my head off, but your hand would come off with my head. It might be worth it to be rid of me, you little fuck.”

“Like I was saying, your Mom took alimony and child support from your Dad while he was unemployed, and then she left you and two cats stranded in that big old wreck of a house while she took the money and moved in with her boyfriend. You didn’t even tell your Dad she left you alone for days at a time until you got hauled into court for not going to school. Your Dad took you in and made you go to school and kept you out of jail and gave you and the cats a place to stay by buying a house he could barely afford while half his salary at his new job went for alimony, child support, and to pay back the alimony and child support he owed from when he was unemployed.”

“In return, you ungrateful little whiner, you did everything you could to come between him and Shelly. When you didn’t come to their wedding, she was relieved and he was heartbroken. I told him to call you up and to tell you to go fuck yourself, but he wouldn’t hear of it. Would it have killed you to send him a card when Shelly died? She was all he had for the last 25 years of his life, you asshole.”

With that, Josh’s arm warmed back to room temperature, and he could feel his fingers again. He yanked Wally Walrus off of his right arm and held it up to his face by the top knot.

“Fuck you,” Josh screamed in his own voice and he stomped down out of the attic with Wally in his left fist. He stopped in the bathroom and washed the blood off of his face. He filled the sink with cold water and stripped to his underwear and put his clothes in the sink to soak.

Josh found a pair of gym shorts and a tee shirt in a bag of clothes he was going to put out with the trash before he left. The Old Man’s clothes were too big, but he knotted a corner of the gym shorts so they would stay up.

On the stairs, Josh tried to drop kick Wally, but the puppet twisted in his hands and leaped to his right thigh where it sank suddenly solid and very sharp tusks deep into the muscle. The surprise and pain made Josh forget he was on a set of stairs. He pitched forward into space and tried to catch himself with his right arm when he crashed to the carpet. The fire that shot up his arm this time came from a broken wrist.

Josh knew his wrist was broken because the back of his right hand was resting on the top of his right wrist, and he could see slivers of bone sticking through the skin where the heel of his hand became the bottom of his wrist. There was that and the grinding pain that made him scream like a little girl.

The gnawing at his thigh muscle finally got his mind off of his ruined wrist. At first, Josh thought the puppet was trying to eat his leg, but he soon realized that the puppet was trying to free himself from under Josh’s leg. The pain from the tusks yanking back and forth in his thigh caused him to flip over on his back. Wally’s tusks came free with a sickening pop.

Josh could feel a pool of blood spreading under his ass as the thigh wound bled steadily but didn’t spurt.

“At least the fucking walrus missed the femoral artery,” Josh thought.

“Daddy wouldn’t let me smoke in the house, whaaaa,” Wally said directly into Josh’s left ear.

The fucking thing had moved right up next to Josh’s head.

“Daddy wanted me to cut the grass, whaaa,” Wally said.

“Shut up,” Josh croaked.

“Daddy sided with Shelly when she told him I should clean out the shower after I took one, whaaa,” Wally said.

“Shut the fuck up,” Josh croaked, this time weaker.

“Daddy didn’t love my Mommy enough to take her crap and let me get away with bloody murder, whaaa,” Wally said.

Josh didn’t answer; he was passed out from loss of blood.

Josh woke in a world of light. His right wrist hurt like a mad bastard, and his right thigh felt hot and swollen. Someone noticed he was stirring, and cool fingers lifted his right eye lid and shined a pen light right into his pupil. Josh winced at the bright light.

“Mr. Donovan,” a soft female voice said. “Mr. Donovan, I’m Dr. Kelly Wright. Do you know where you are?”

“Hospital,” Josh mumbled through dry lips. It came out sounding like, “hosspull.”

“That’s right,” said Dr. Wright. “Do you remember how you got here?”

“It was that fucking walrus,” Josh said. It came out sounding like, “E wuss thfushing walrich.”

The voice inside Josh’s head sounded loud and clear, “You bet your sweet ash e wuss thfushing walrich. It’s always going to be e fhushing walrich from now on.’

Dr. Wright had no choice other than to heavily sedate Josh when he began to scream and thrash. He was posing a danger to himself. She made a notation on Josh’s chart that he needed a psych eval, stat.

By William Currens Devol

Copyright 2011

Michael reached across the table and grabbed one of our unlimited breadsticks. He took a bite, chewed, swallowed, sipped his beer, and then assumed his deep-thinking pose.

He stroked his beard with his head tipped back and his jaw jutted forward. “Why do more people see the image of Jesus Christ on a slice of toast than on a communion wafer?”

“There’s more surface area on a slice of toast,” I said. “Your mind gets more detail to play with.”

Andy swallowed a big mouthful of Chicken Marsala and wiped his mouth with his napkin before he put his two cents in, “Hell, more people eat toast than go to church; it’s a much bigger pool of idiots.”

Michael and I both laughed. That encouraged Andy to continue.

“If you think about it,” he said, “People see Jesus on toast, pancakes, and tortillas. These things are all made from flour, so I propose that Jesus visions are carbohydrate-induced hallucinations. I wouldn’t be surprised if the two of you didn’t start seeing Jesus because of all the bread sticks you’ve been packing away. Come to think of it, poor people eat a lot of carbs and Napoleon once said something about religion being invented to keep the poor from killing the rich, so I also suggest that the rich make sure the poor keep eating high carb diets as a way of promoting religion and keeping the poor more worried about the next life than the one they are living.”

“As conspiracy theories go,” I said. “That’s pretty good, but I am the fattest of us all and I’ve never seen Jesus after carb loading a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter.”

“Yes, but,” Andy said. “You are a heathen atheist liberal socialist who would be more predisposed to see Satan or Karl Marx than Jesus. Now, Michael here, he comes from a very religious family, so I’d expect he’d be the one to start seeing Jesus.”

Michael grinned from ear to ear. “Damn, Andy, you’re right. I think I see Jesus in the Marsala sauce left on your plate.”

Andy grabbed his fork a made a couple of quick passes through the congealing sauce. “Ta-DA,” Andy said. “It’s Jesus.”

With those few strokes, Andy had created what could be construed as two eyes, a nose, and a beard in the sauce on his plate. He we all chuckling when the waitress stepped up to the table to ask us if we wanted more of anything.

“Dios, Mios,” she shrieked. She dropped to both knees crossing herself and praying feverishly and loudly in Spanish. “It is Jesus.”

Just that quickly, the plump but cute waitress that I thought was flirting with Michael when we first sat down, was consumed with religious ecstasy in the middle of a chain Italian restaurant in Mentor, Ohio.

“No,” Andy said. “I drew that; no, please, I’m sorry.”

The girl paid no attention to Andy. She began crying and saying “Ave Maria, Madre de Dios” over and over again.

This attracted two bus boys clearing a near-by table. They both stepped over to see what the girl was screaming and crying about. They both fell to their knees and began making the sign of the cross and adding to the religious din.

A middle-aged woman with bleached blonde hair wearing a blue dress was the next to fall to her knees. She produced a rosary from her purse and began praying an fingering the beads quickly with a practiced movement.

Other patrons left their tables for a quick peek, more than half fell to their knees. Some began reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Some began speaking in tongues.

A group of African American women began clutching at their chests with one hand and waving their other arm back and forth in the air above their heads. They went from table to table testifying about the miracle of Jesus in the Marsala sauce.

When the kitchen staff pushed their way into the knot of people that crowded around what had been our dinner table, Michael, Andy, and I started backing toward the front doors.

The last thing we heard before we backed out of the restaurant was, “Look, that pasta is the crown of thorns.”

The doors of the restaurant closed on a new chorus of religious exclamation.

We stared at each other for a time. No one said a word, which was unusual for our crowd. After what seemed like 30 minutes, Andy spoke up, “Who knew we were having supper in the deep end of the pool.”

The Ex

Copyright 2011

By William Currens Devol

(The resemblance of any characters in this story to actual persons living or dead is a coincidence.)

“Some days are longer than others,” Ted thought as he unlocked the door to his tiny apartment. He opened the door just wide enough for him to slip in without letting out the cool inside air. The good thing about having a small place was that a small air conditioner worked very well indeed.

Ted flipped on the light and dropped his car keys in the ceramic ashtray his oldest daughter had made nearly 30 years before. It was still very yellow, and according to Chrissy…Christine, he corrected himself…Christine hadn’t let anyone call her Chrissy for a long-long time…according to a 4-year-old Christine, the big blob of clay on one side of the ash tray was a “horsey.”

The day’s mail had been dropped through the slot in Ted’s front door and onto the floor. Ted bent and retrieved the mail.

“Electric bill, gas bill, water bill, cable bill,” Ted said as he laid each envelope on the waist-high table next to the door.

“It’s good to know that someone is counting on me,” Ted said to his reflection in the mirror. He took off his McDonald’s baseball cap and smoothed his thinning gray hair. He leaned in close to the mirror and saw that the red splotch on his left cheek just under his glasses was more red than it was the day before.

“Skin cancer,” Ted said sarcastically. “Thirty-five bucks for the office visit, Fifty bucks for the procedure, thirty-five bucks for the special cream, waiting for the next outbreak so you can do it again…priceless.”

Ted hanged his ball cap on one in a row of hooks to the right of his door and turned and walked the four steps to his bathroom. He very nearly pissed himself trying to fish his works out of his pants, but he managed to avoid flooding his jockey shorts. Any more, Ted’s bladder started to let go the minute he saw a toilet.

“It’s probably something very expensive and ultimately deadly,” Ted said to his reflection in the mirror over the sink

He put his works away and washed his hands. After drying his hands, Ted fished the dirty clothes out of the laundry bag on the back of the bathroom door and opened a set of bi-fold doors next to the shower stall across from the toilet. Ted clutched the load of laundry to his chest with his left hand and opened the old, avocado Maytag washing machine with his right.

Ted dumped the laundry into the machine and kicked his Dr. Scholl’s shoes into a corner. He peeled off his McDonalds polo shirt and the rest of his clothes and added them to the load. He turned naked from the washer and turned the water on in his shower.

Ted was clean, dried off and starting the load of laundry in less than five minutes. He left the bathroom wrapped in a towel and walked across his narrow kitchen and into his bedroom which was really little more than a closet.

“I’d get something to eat, but I’m too freaking tired,” Ted said to the skinny naked man he saw reflected in the mirror on the back of his bedroom door. Ted flipped off the overhead light and lay naked on top of his covers.

“Three more months, and I can quit at McDonalds,” Ted thought as he drifted toward sleep. “The last three payments on the Chapter 13 bankruptcy will mean one job for the first time in six years…Holy Shit!”

Ted sat straight up in bed. He was going to be 60 years old tomorrow…he looked at the clock…he was 60 years old already.

“Sixty fucking years old,” Ted said out loud to the darkness. “I forgot my own birthday…Christ, how did I get this far into life and have so God-Damned little mentally and financially to show for it?”

Ted knew the answer to that question…Naomi.

He winced even thinking the name of his ex-wife. He had once heard that the single most important decision made by a human is the decision of whom to marry…and more than 90 percent of us fuck that up. Ted was in the 90th percentile on that score..

Thanks to Naomi, Ted had been arrested for conspiracy to commit embezzlement, tax fraud, and mail fraud. Arrested but not convicted…thank God. When Ted had finally had enough and asked for a divorce, Naomi paid Ted for his half of the house with money she embezzled from the school district where she was the Treasurer.

The county prosecutor was certain Ted had been in on it, but a special prosecutor from the State of Ohio had determined that Ted was just as stupid and clueless as he said he was. Ted’s lawyer went through all the money Naomi had paid Ted for the house and most of what he had saved from his job with the Ohio Department of Transportation after his divorce.

Ted spent $175,000 for lawyers until the State determined he was an idiot. Between the money Naomi gave him and what he had saved, Ted was $60,000 in the hole with his lawyer when he was released and all charges were dropped.

ODOT wouldn’t take Ted back, and so he caught on with the Bainbridge Township Road Maintenance Department…lower pay, longer hours, but it was a job. Ted found his tiny apartment in Newbury Township and began paying for his ex-wife’s crimes.

Late in their 20-year marriage Naomi had forged Ted’s name on dozens of credit cards and maxed them all out to the tune of $102,000. Naomi repaid the embezzled money with the money her boyfriend paid her for the house and through the bonding company by which Naomi had been bonded. After an incredibly short 120 days in County jail which included a work release program that had her working in her boyfriend’s house from 6 to 6 every week day, Naomi declared bankruptcy. That’s when the credit card companies zeroed in on Ted.

Ted had kept up for a while, but was finally advised by a lawyer to file for his own bankruptcy…thanks to George W. Bush, the best Ted could do was file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The court ruled that Ted could pay his creditors 8 cents on the dollar, but 8 percent of $102,000 is still nearly 10 grand…

A sharp stabbing pain shot through Ted’s left jaw and up into his head. He was grinding his teeth again. That’s something Ted did when he thought of Naomi. TMJ was just another gift from his Ex.

Ted was rubbing his jaw line when someone knocked on his front door.

“What the fuck,” Ted said out loud. He looked at the alarm clock and saw it was nearly 2 a.m. “Who in the Hell…”

Then there was a tapping at Ted’s bedroom window. The curtains were shut, but Ted grabbed a pillow to cover his nakedness. “Who’s there,” Ted squeaked.

“It’s me,” said a voice Ted didn’t recognize. “You need to let me in, we are running late.”

“Who the fuck are you,” Ted asked, and he pulled on a pair of jeans, barely missing catching his junk in the metal teeth of the zipper.

“I’m going back to the front door,” the voice said. “If you don’t open up and let me in, “I’ll wake Susan your landlord and tell her I’m your gay lover and you have thrown me over for a younger man…real young…let’s say 16.”

“Christ, don’t do that,” Ted said. “Come around to the front, but keep your voice down.”

Ted fished under his bed for a second or two and pulled out the head of a 9 iron that was welded to a one-inch metal rod which was bolted to a wooden handle. The whole nasty business was less than a foot long, but Ted believed it would bust a head wide open. He stuck the bludgeon in his back pocket and went to his door.

When Ted fingered the curtain away from the window in the top half of his front door, he cried out in fear. For all the world it looked like a man in a neat black suit with the head of a snake was standing on his front stoop. Ted flicked on the front stoop light to see what was really at his door and saw to his horror that it was a man in a neat black suit with the head of a snake.

“Open up, Ted,” the snake said with a mouth that looked nearly human. The teeth were smaller and sharp, but the snake’s lipless mouth made the correct shapes for the words it was speaking.

“Nope,” Ted said. “I am not opening my door to an hallucination. “I am dreaming, and you, my snakey friend are just what Scrooge said to Marley’s ghost. You are an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard.”

“Sorry, Ted, but Marley’s ghost was real and so am I,” the snake man said as his snake eyes began to glow blue and then red and finally violet. “Open the door and let me in…now.”

Before he knew it, Ted was reaching out and flipping the deadbolt so that it was unlocked. Ted never took his eyes off of the glowing eyes of the snake man. Ted stepped back to allow the snake man to enter.

The door knob rattled and then turned. It pushed in toward Ted and the snake man came into the apartment. He was quite short, Ted noticed. Ted surveyed the short, snake-headed man from head to foot.

“Are those snake skin boots” was all Ted could say.

The snake man looked down and held one booted foot up off of the floor, “Yes, they are snake skin. I used to be a lawyer. Well, I still am a lawyer, but now I have a snake’s head. Some of us look like Hyenas, and we even have a few with actual shark heads. The boss is a laugh riot.”

“The boss,” Ted said. “Who’s the boss?”

“Tony Danza,” the snake man said laughing at his own joke. “No, I’m just kidding. It’s the Devil, Satan, Beelzebub, Lucifer. I used to say The Prince of Darkness, but everyone kept asking why Ozzy Osbourne wanted to see them.”

Ted backed up and sat down in his lounge chair. It was a 30-year-old Lazy Boy he got from a cousin, but it was still very comfortable. He jumped right back up when the 9 iron jabbed him in the ass. Ted reached into the back pocket and grabbed the handle of the bludgeon.

Ted brandished the 9 iron at the snake man, but the snake man smirked and snorted a little laugh. The snake man made a pass in the air with his left hand, and suddenly Ted was holding a live rattlesnake.

“Holy shit,” Ted screamed and dropped the rattler. The rattlesnake landed with a solid thud on the carpet at Ted’s feet and disappeared into a puff of green smoke.

“Holy shit,” Ted said again.

“Look, Ted, can I call you Ted,” the snake man said and went on without waiting for an answer. “I know this is a shock to you, but I have come to get you and your soul and take the pair of you back to Hell with me, post haste.”

“Hell,” Ted asked.

“OK, listen close,” the snake man said. “Yes, Hell. Your ex-wife sold your soul to the Devil nearly 25 years ago, and the terms of the deal said that the Devil got your body and your soul when you turn 60. Your 60, and I’m here to collect. Let’s go.”

The snake man tried to grab Ted by the elbow, but Ted pulled away quickly, “Fuck you, I’m not going anywhere with you. My Ex couldn’t sell my soul she could only sell her own soul.”

“Yeah, here’s the scoop on that,” the snake man said. “Your wedding vows included the words Love, Honor, and Obey. They were spoken in church before a minister. It is through this loophole that my boss can buy up the souls of married couples. It’s a real bitch for you, but God isn’t going to save you. His hands are tied…metaphorically, of course. There isn’t any S and M for the big guy. That’s why nobody promises to Obey any more.”

“You mean I could have sold my ex-wife’s soul while we were married,” Ted asked.

“If she had a soul, yes you could have,”snake man said.

“Naomi had no soul,” Ted said.

“How do you think she got into graduate school,” snake man said.

“No way,” Ted said. “Fuck you and fuck the Devil. I’m not going.”

Snake man’s arms and leg disappeared, and everything below his snake head turned into a huge snake. It shot out and wrapped around Ted in the blink of an eye.

As Ted started to struggle, the snake started squeezing the air out of him. Every time Ted exhaled, the gold and silver coils of the snake tightened a bit more so he couldn’t draw in a complete breath.

The snake man put his mouth right up against Ted’s ear and whispered, “Come on Ted, you know that eternity in Hell will still be better than any day you have ever had since you met Naomi…her soul will come to us after she dies, and you will have seniority on her. Trust me Ted; in Hell, shit rolls down hill.”

Ted stopped his struggles and smiled. He and the snake winked out in a puff of red smoke that smelled just like burning match heads.

Copyright 2009

By

William Currens Devol

I spent some quality time in Swanky’s basement in the early spring of 1975. The joke at the Ohio University of the Swanky’s era was that it was a gay bar. It was a place where you could find any kind of college kid, college kid wannabe, or sad post grad that was fighting growing up and leaving the 1960s. And you could find dope…any kind you wanted.

Hell, I bet most people didn’t even know Swanky’s had a basement. The door to the basement was below the stairs outside the rear door of the notorious night club where Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were playing the week that Born to Run went to the top of the Billboard 100 and where I once got high with an incarnation of the band Deep Purple that included no one from the original group.

There was a set of fire-escape stairs behind Swanky’s. The stairs descended to the brick alley  behind Kantner Hall. Swanky’s basement door was under the stairs and down another flight of four steps. Today there is a CVS pharmacy roughly where Swanky’s used to sit.

The night of Swanky’s basement I had been drinking cheap pitchers at the Frontier Room in Baker Center with guys from my old floor section in Jefferson Hall. We decided to go to Swanky’s because Matt swore he knew a guy that could get us some hash if we could scrape $30 together and we didn’t mind waiting an hour or so. Amazingly, we did have $30 among the seven of us, so we piled out the side door of Baker Center and started north on College Street.

An alley ran from College to Court Streets right next to Kantner Hall. One of us, I don’t remember who, stopped to relieve himself on Kantner Hall. That seemed like a great idea to most of us and we were engaged in trying to wash Kantner Hall away when the police lights started flashing.

Athens police were really pissy about public pissing. They booked you on indecent exposure and loved to listen in while you tried to explain to your parents how you got arrested on the streets of Athens with your pecker hanging out.

Six of us took off in as many directions. Only Matt, who was holding the hash cash, had his dick zipped safely away when the police flashed their lights. He stood and laughed at us until the police decided they’d take him in for questioning. He wouldn’t narc on any of us, so they threw him in the drunk tank for public drunkenness. He kept the $30.

I ran up the alley in behind Swanky’s thinking I could hide in the stairs to the basement. I peeled to the left and took a running dive into the short flight of stairs. I poked my head up to see three the other guys keep going up to Court Street. A policeman was right on their tails. I ducked back down and crouched against the basement door. It creaked inward and I rolled in and down another set of wooden stairs to the basement floor.

The wind rushed out of me and I thumped my head pretty good on the concrete. That’s when I realized my dick was still hanging out of my pants. I used the stairs to pull myself up. I had just finished zipping when I heard running outside the door. I rolled under the stairs into a pile of old, paint-spattered canvas drop cloths. I pulled the canvas up to my nose when I heard the door creak open again and saw a flashlight beam cut the darkness. The light swept back and forth across a surprisingly clean and roomy space. Upstairs in the bar, you could imagine catching all manner of clap and syph. Down in the basement, you could eat off the floor.

After a few sweeps of the light, it went out and I heard the door shut above me. I wasn’t going to leave Swanky’s basement for a while. I had visions of Athen’s finest setting a trap for me out in the alley. I was safe where I was, and I was surprised how quiet it was in the basement, considering how loud things got in Swanky’s on a Friday night.

The canvas was comfy and warm. I had about four pitchers of beer in my system. I fell asleep. A while later, I woke up because I had to pee like a race horse.

I knew people were in the basement before I opened my eyes. I heard feet shuffling, the snap of crisp cloth, and finally a man’s voice saying, “Watch it, you stupid fuck. If you snap me with that alter cloth again, I’ll rip your eyes out with my teeth.”

When I opened my eyes I saw a string of low-wattage blubs glowing a pale yellowish light across the basement. At the end opposite me, a large table was being draped in red cloth. It looked like satin. A big man with a biker beard and wearing biker colors stood at one end of the table. At the other end of the table a tiny man in a black suit with no shirt on under the jacket was grinning from ear to ear.

“You won’t lay a hand on me, you ape,” Shirtless said. “The black shepherd would have your balls.” He giggled then like a little girl…high-pitched and kind of crazy.

“Well, fuck you, asshole,” Biker bellowed. “One of these days, he won’t think your shit don’t stink, and I will snap your spine and eat your heart.”

A door in the wall behind the table opened into the basement and a human shape was silhouetted in the door frame. Both Shirtless and Biker snapped to attention.

A very soft but deep voice came from the shape in the doorway, ”Our guests will be here very soon. If the church isn’t ready by the time they arrive, I’ll make you wish you were never born.”

“Yes, Master,” said both men and they exploded into a flurry of activity.

“Better,” was the one-word reply from the closing door in the far wall.

Silver candlesticks were fitted with black candles and a huge inverted crucifix was suspended above what I could clearly see was intended to be an alter. The crucifix had to be at least six feet long and three feet wide. Someone had painted Jesus with clown makeup and stuck a red, round clown nose on this face.

I still had to pee, and it was getting imperative that I figure out what to do about it. I had resigned myself to pissing my pants when I saw an empty orange juice carton against the wall to my left. I inched my hand out and hooked the open spout with my pinky finger. I dragged it back under the canvas very slowly.

I took advantage of a lull in the action when both Biker and Shirtless went in through the door in the far wall by getting to my knees and pissing into the waxed cardboard carton. I had zipped up and gotten comfortable again before Shirtless came back through the door and lit the five black candles on the alter. Before he went back through the door, he turned off the overhead lights and left the basement flickering in the weak light of five candles.

I should have bolted for the alley the minute the door in the far wall clicked shut. I could have been up the stairs and into the alley in less than five seconds. I was tensing to do just that thing when red spot lights blinked on up in the corners of the basement ceiling.

The lights didn’t just blink on. There was audible thud like a big circuit breaker had been thrown. I saw, heard, and felt those lights go on. There was another thunk, and a series of black light spots must have been activated.

The clown makeup on Jesus glowed like neon. Writhing, twisting fanged snakes glowed to life on the side walls of the basement. They must have been painted with ultraviolet ink or paint. A giant goat head was painted in the same manner on the wall with the door in it. The goat’s beard took up the entire length on the door. The goat’s eyes had upside down stars for pupils.

Low, throbbing drum music came from speakers I couldn’t locate, and I was officially scared shitless.

I pulled the canvas up around my head so I was peeping out of a tiny eye-sized gap. That’s when Biker came through the door in the far wall buck naked except for a sheathed knife strapped to his massive left forearm. Biker had a big tattoo of a goat head that went from just above his rather substantial sexual equipment to his collarbone and from armpit to armpit. His nipples were the pupils, and I shuddered thinking about how much it had to hurt to get your nipples tattooed.

Biker stood to one side of the door in the far wall, and I quit worrying about tattooed nipples when Shirtless came through the door wearing a knife just like Biker and with a thick sliver chain wrapped around his waist and a thick metalring through his rather substantial dick.

I have since found out that it’s called a Prince Albert. A ring goes into your urethra and is shoved through the underside of you dick right were the soldier’s face would be if the head of your dick was actually a helmet. I moaned softly inside my canvas hideout and grabbed at my own, not nearly as substantial sexual equipment.

The drum beats easily covered my moan. Then I remember thinking, “Charlie Manson.” Sharon Tate hadn’t been dead all that long. The trials of the Manson Family were still fresh in the collective mind of America. I imagined being discovered and being stabbed 27 times with a fork. I wondered what they would write in my blood. I started shaking. I bit down on my tongue to get myself focused.

There are few things like the taste of your own blood to bring focus. Get punched in the mouth, taste blood, get focused. I bit hard enough to draw blood and focused on the issue at hand. Was I safe were I was?

I would have been much safer in my bed in my apartment on Fort Street behind the National Guard Armory, but no one in the basement knew where I was. I was pretty sure Biker and Shirtless would have taken turns chopping me into pate’ or sodomizing me, or both, if they knew I was a witness to what was going on.

That’s when it hit me. What the fuck was going on? That’s when the first guests arrived.

I saw feet on the stairs in front of me. The drum music drowned out the opening of the alley door, so the first I knew we were no longer alone was when a combat boot came down on the stair tread about a foot in front of my face. It was a green canvas and black leather combat boot. They were standard issue in Vietnam, but I’m certain the girl wearing them didn’t pick them up in country.

Combat Boots was a tall, thin girl in a black granny dress. She was accompanied by a shorter, plump woman wearing a tie-dyed peasant blouse and a matching skirt.

Tie-dye and Combat Boots walked down the short flight of stairs into the basement without making a sound. They stepped to my right and began taking off their clothes. Combat Boots was painfully thin. Her collarbones stuck out above her flat breasts and her hip bones looked sharp enough to slice through her abdomen.

Tie-dye, it turned out, wasn’t plump so much as her breasts were twice the size of her head. Neither Combat Boots nor Tie-dye owned a razor. Combat Boots had a snake tattooed on her left butt cheek, and Tie-Dye had a goat’s head tattooed on her left ankle and blue mushroom on her right.

Over the course of the next ten minutes 8 more people entered Swanky’s basement and stripped. There was Jeans Jacket; he had a black palm print tattooed between his shoulder blades. He was scrawny and had the first penis smaller than mine I had seen in the basement so far.

There was Bald Boy with a pentagram tattooed at the nape of his neck. Equipment gigantic, of course.

There was Blonde Surfer Girl with no tattoos but gravity-defying boobs and steel bars pierced horizontally through each cute pink nipple. She obviously had access to a razor.

There was Fat Cher with long, straight black hair, eyebrow length bangs, and crooked teeth. She wore a pentagram on a leather thong that dangled between her dangling breasts; the cellulite on her butt looked like purple cottage cheese.

Castro Beard had an ivory bone through his nose and a studded leather cock harness…yes, and giant equipment.

Pixie Haircut had a Bette Paige haircut and a body to match. She was deeply tanned. Her equipment was shaved clean and something down there was pierced and sparkling.

Sleepy Girl yawned non stop as she stripped. She was short and thin with washed out red hair. She had a dagger tattooed on her stomach with its business end dripping blood and pointing down toward her lady business where the carpet matched the drapes.

The last guy to arrive made the stairs creek when he descended. Steroid Steve was well over six feet tall. He was an artistic stack of lean slabs of muscle and totally hairless below his eyebrows. His shoulders were wide and his hips were narrow. His equipment looked like it had been doing some weight training, as well.

The 10 new nudies arranged themselves in a boy-girl-boy-girl semi circle facing the alter. Without a word, the group held hands. Biker and Shirtless went down on one knee at their respective places beside the door in the far wall. There was no sound.

My pulse was banging at my temples hard enough to hurt. I was sweating and cold at the same time. I was as scared as I had ever been in my life. I was scared because I knew I would be discovered and I was convinced that they would kill me or worse.

The pounding drum soundtrack continued to throb and grow louder. I could feel the bass thumping my chest through my canvas covers. In just an instant, the drums stopped and a loud explosion sounded as a huge fire ball blossomed between Biker and Shirtless.

Where the smoke cleared, He was standing in the room.

He must have stepped through the door in the far wall just as the fire ball reached its maximum diameter. He had shut the door behind him leaving the impression that he had materialized in that ball of fire. He was tall and hairless…he didn’t even have eyebrows. He was totally naked and apparently very glad to see everyone as his package was at maximum tumescence… and hard enough to drive nails.

Biker boomed out , “Hail, the Black Shepherd.”

Shirtless followed suit with a higher register, “Hail, the Black Shepherd.”

The naked 10 dropped to their knees and shouted in unison, “Hail, Master.”

“Praise Satan,” shouted the Black Shepherd.

“Praise Satan,” everyone else responded.

“Oh shit,” I whispered.

Then, everyone started fucking everyone else. It was a full-fledged, no-holes-barred Roman orgy of an orgy. People screwed on the alter. People screwed on the steps in front of my hiding place. There was moaning; there was groaning and squishing and skin slapping against skin…there was Satan praising…then, Shirtless made what turned out to be a huge mistake.

Shirtless had been astride Fat Cher. From where I was under the stairs, it looked like Shirtless had been trying to crawl inside Fat Cher…and it looked and sounded like Fat Cher was more than a little into the scenario. Shirtless, in a moment of abandon as he reached his dénouement, shouted out the “G” word…”Gooooooodddddddddddddd!”

All movement stopped. It was like someone quick froze the previously gyrating group. Biker crawled out from under Tie-dye, Sleepy Girl, and Steroid Steve and stood staring at Shirtless who was just starting to realize what he had shouted.

Black Shepherd lifted his bald head from between Blonde Surfer Girls legs, looked once at the now horrified Shirtless, and then looked and nodded at Biker.

Biker pulled his knife out of its arm scabbard and took three huge steps toward Shirtless, who was still more than halfway inside Fat Cher. Shirtless never said a word as Biker grabbed him by his hair and bent his neck back to his shoulder blades.

Shirtless’ head came off with one huge slice. The fountain of blood that gushed from the stump of his neck drenched Fat Cher, Combat Boots, Jeans Jacket, and Castro Beard…that was before everyone kicked into full psycho mode and began rolling in Lake Shirtless.

Everyone was soaked in blood in seconds. They began tearing at the headless corpse, and when it broke open like a grisly piñata, they rolled and screwed in the innards. Biker had retrieved Shirtless’ head and was grinding his giant dick in what had become the ruined left eye of the recently departed.

That’s when I lost it. First, I pissed myself. Then, I began screaming like a little girl. When I saw heads jerk up from the pile of blood fucking humanity and turn in my direction, I bolted from my hiding place and crawled up the stairs on my hands and knees.

I saw Biker try to lunge in my direction, but he slipped on a piece of liver or stomach or some other part of Shirtless and went crashing to the floor at the foot of the stairs. Just before I pulled open the alley door and bolted into the Athens night, I saw Shirtless’ head become dislodged from Biker’s pike and go rolling back into the pile of bloody fuckers.

I ran toward the East Green. I think I must have rolled more than half way down Jeff Hill. I think I tore the knee out of my jeans on the bricks of the hill. I didn’t stop running until I found myself on the path by the Hocking River behind New South Green. I collapsed on the path and rested until my breathing slowed to normal.

I felt suddenly exposed out on that path by myself. I worked my way back toward Peden Stadium and eventually to the West Green. I fell in with a bunch of kids heading up Richland Avenue Bridge and kept going straight out South Congress when they turned on East Union to head uptown.

I walked in shadows as much as I could. Some asshole blew a trumpet from the window of one of the fraternity or sorority houses next to Bromley Hall. I pissed myself again. I started running again and soon crossed West State and then East Carpenter. There was a big church on the corner of East Carpenter and North Congress. I think it was a Baptist Church.

I ran up the steps of that church and pulled one of the doors open. They used to leave churches open back then. I don’t think it was just for people that had the fear of God put in them by witnessing a murderous, Satanic orgy, but that’s why I went in.

I ducked inside the sanctuary and sat in the back pew. I didn’t exactly pray, but I kept saying “Dear God,” under my breath. When the minister put his hand on my shoulder, I pissed myself for the third time that night. I screamed too. I scared the minister and he jumped back. He told me later he thought I was hopped up on goofballs which he explained meant he thought I was freaking out on drugs.

Reverend Graham was very kind. He sat with me and talked, but I could tell he was trying to figure out if I was drunk or stoned. We talked about where we were from and how we came to Athens. We talked about my major and how my classes were going. After about an hour of small talk which established that I was neither drunk nor high, Reverend Graham finally asked me why I was in his church at midnight on Friday with piss in my pants.

I told him everything. It took me about 30 minutes, and I left nothing out.

“Are you ready to call the Athens Mental Hospital, Reverend Graham,” I asked when I finished my story. His answer nearly was more frightening than what I’d seen in that basement.

“Did anyone see your face, boy? Can any of them identify you,” the tone of terror in Reverend Graham’s voice chilled me to the bone. He had grabbed my upper arms and was staring intently into my eyes.

“No,” I said. “That end of the basement was in deep shadow. They know somebody saw everything, but I’d bet my life they didn’t see my face.”

“That’s what you’ll have to do unless I can talk you into leaving town tonight and transferring to another school,” Reverend Graham said. “You’ve heard all the crazy ghost stories about this town, I assume?”

I nodded my head.

“Most of them are crap,” he said letting go of my arms. “The ones that have some validity aren’t nearly as spectacular as the one that get repeated. The biggest problem this town has is that it is lousy with witches.”

“Witches,” I said, “Witches in 1975?

“Boy, you didn’t just see a bunch of crazy people that play at being Satanists. You saw a coven of witches at a Sabbath. You saw real Satanists. You would be dead right now if this so-called biker hadn’t fallen down. He would have killed you and fucked YOUR eye socket,” Reverend Graham said, giving the curse word a hard emphasis that sounded strange in a minister’s mouth.

I could only stare at the Reverend.

“I am the last person you will tell this story,” he had grabbed my arms again. “If you want any kind of life that doesn’t involve either looking over your shoulder for or actively fighting these people, you will keep your mouth shut. Do you understand, boy?”

I shook my head vigorously, “Yes, sir, Reverend Graham. I understand.”

“If you ever need to talk about what you saw, come to me and we will talk. I will not betray you to anyone. Now, go home and never speak of this again in your life unless it’s with me…go,” he said, and I did.

I talked with Reverend Graham two times before I graduated. Each time he convinced me that I wasn’t equipped to fight the kind of battle I would be in for if I told anyone, let alone the police.

Reverend Graham died in 1979, two years after I graduated from Ohio University. I was still in Athens. I was in my second year of teaching at Vinton County High School in McArthur. I happened across Reverend Graham’s obit in the Athens Messenger and saw that visiting hours were that evening in the funeral home just south of the Baptist church.

The funeral home was packed with parishioners, fellow clergy, friends and family. Some people say things like, “They look like they could sit right up and talk to you,” when they see bodies at a funeral home. No one would have said that about Reverend Graham.

Whatever killed him had left him 40 pounds lighter than the last time I had seen him. My guess was cancer, but all the obit had said was “after a long illness.” I spent as little time as I thought respectable at the coffin and got in line to give my condolences to the family.

Just as I got to the family group standing near one of the doors to the viewing room, I stuck out my hand but tripped on the leg of a folding chair. As I looked down to see what I had stumbled on, a woman took my offered hand and said, “So nice you could come. How did you know my father?”

I looked up into the face of Fat Cher from Swanky’s basement. She had lost 30 pounds, but her hair and her teeth were the same.

I couldn’t talk. I tried to speak, but instead I squeaked. I pumped Fat Cher’s hand and tried to make words, but it was useless. I finally pointed to my mouth, moved my lips, and shook my head like I was a deaf mute.

“I understand,” Fat Cher said and thanked me for coming. I ran out of the room and ran out to my car.

I was shaking behind the wheel of my car when I spotted the Black Shepherd and Biker walking up the front steps of the funeral home: they were both in solemn black suits.

I started looking for a new job the very next day. That fall, I was teaching in an out-of-the-way school district to the west of Toledo and hoping three quarters of a state was enough real estate between me and Athens.

Flash forward to three weeks ago when I was visiting my parents who live within 25 miles of Athens, Ohio.

I was driving into Athens on old back roads because I wanted to see if a trailer park friends of mine had lived in at one time was still operating after more than 30 years. I was alone because my wife had stayed home in the Toledo area to be with the dogs, the cats, and the hamster…and to avoid my asshole brother-in-law who insisted things would be much better in America if everyone was armed and very, very pale.

I was thinking about how many times I hitched out to the trailer where my friends lived back when we were all college students and about how high I always was when I hitched back.

I was nearly to the Athens city limits when I saw someone on my side of the road with their thumb stuck out. I figured I needed to repair my karma for all the people that gave me rides back in the day, so I flipped my blinker and pulled over to the shoulder.

The hitcher was a woman with salt and pepper shoulder-length hair. At first, I thought she was fat, but she had gigantic breasts and they made her look much heavier than she really was.

She stepped to the passenger door and bent to see what kind of a maniac had stopped for her. She smiled at me and opened the passenger door and scooted into the bucket seat. As soon as she pulled the door shut, my car started to stall out. All the liquid crystal displays on the dashboard went black, and the glove box dropped open.

“Oh, crap” she said. “I do that sometimes. Give it a few seconds and it will be OK.”

I started to ask what she meant, but, before I could, everything went back to normal and the engine revved twice and returned to a quiet idle.

I looked over to see if the glove box door was going to jump shut on its own and saw the goat’s head tattoo on her left ankle and the blue mushroom tattoo on her right ankle…It was Tie-Dye.

I took a deep breath and managed to sound almost normal when I said, “That was weird. Where are you going?”

“You could drop me at the CVS if you are going up town,” Tie-Dye said.”You know where that is, don’t you?”

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, I most certainly do. Feel free to roll your window down if you want .” That was all the conversation I managed on the trip to the CVS.

Three minutes later, I stopped on Court Street to drop off Tie-Dye. She opened the door and got out. When she turned to shut the car door, she leaned into the car.

“Thanks, Thanks a lot,” she said, and then she called me by my first name.

How am I going to explain to my wife that we will be moving to Florida?

By William Currens Devol

Copyright 2009

Shelby Dempsey applied her lip gloss for the hundredth time. She couldn’t get it right and she couldn’t decide which shade of pink to wear.

“It’s not like Jamie is going to notice,” Shelby told herself in the mirror. He wouldn’t notice her lip gloss or how nice her auburn hair looked with the turquoise prom dress.

“He’d call it green, anyway. I don’t know what I see in that boy,” she said. “But I know what he sees in me,” she thought as she looked down at her considerable cleavage.

Shelby looked at the clock on her bedside table; Jamie was already 20 minutes late. The Federal Hocking Prom was going to start in about 90 minutes.

The doorbell finally rang, and Shelby’s mother called up the stairs to tell Shelby that Jamie had arrived.

“At least,” Shelby thought, “Jamie drives like an idiot. He can get from Amesville to the high school in Stewart in less than 15 minutes.”

Shelby stood up and smoothed out the wrinkles in her dress, “Here goes,” she thought and headed for the stairs.

“Shelby got her figure from her mom,” Jamie thought to himself as he snuck a look at Mrs. Dempsey’s impressive rack.

He felt stupid standing in the Dempsey entranceway with a corsage in a plastic box and wearing a stupid rented tuxedo with rented shoes.

“Shelby better put out tonight,” Jamie thought. The tux and shoes had set him back $65. The orchid corsage had been $35. How could a fucking flower with a bit of ribbon and a pin cost that much?

“Here she is,” Mrs. Dempsey said. “Isn’t she beautiful?”

“He’s wearing a red tuxedo,” Shelby thought as she stood at the top of the stairs. “What kind of moron rents a red tuxedo and doesn’t tell his date ahead of time?”

Shelby smiled down at her date and started walking down the stairs.

Jamie grinned up at Shelby.

“That’s right, big boy,” Shelby thought. “Look at my boobs and not my eyes, you shit.”

Shelby’s Mom made stupid OHHH and AHHHH sounds as she posed the couple for, “Just a few pictures so you can show your grandchildren that you weren’t always old.”

Jamie didn’t bother to open Shelby’s car door for her. He slid into the front seat of his dad’s Chrysler 300, shut his door and waited for Shelby to let herself into the front passenger seat.

“Thanks, I love a gentleman,” Shelby said in a voice dripping with sarcasm.

“What,” Jamie said.

“Nothing,” Shelby answered.

“You look incredible,” Jamie said and reached over to try and honk Shelby’s left breast.

Shelby slapped his had away and said, “I know that move worked on your last girlfriend, but it doesn’t turn me on a bit, Romeo.”

“Who’s Romeo,” Jamie asked.

“Never mind,” Shelby said.

That was good enough for Jamie. He turned the car on, put it in gear, and sped away from the curb.”

“Where was your dad,” Jamie asked.

“Out at Alli’s in Glouster with his drunken asshole buddies,” Shelby said. “Don’t worry, he’ll be home later.”

The pair rode in silence for a bit.

“Do you have everything” Shelby said, finally breaking the silence.

Jamie grabbed his crotch and said, “Anything you need, the J-Man has right here”

“When did this mental midget start calling himself J-man,” Shelby thought as she stared into Jamie’s blank expression.

“She wants it bad,” Jamie thought. “I am going to destroy that like it has never been destroyed.”

“Now,” Shelby said. “Let’s get to the Prom. If we aren’t there by 9:30, they won’t let us in.”

“Fuckin’-A,” Jamie said.

“Brilliant,” Shelby thought. “A future brain surgeon, for sure.”

After the Prom, Shelby and Jamie sat in the Chrysler three houses down the block from Shelby’s house. Shelby was blocking a frontal assault on her breasts.

“Later, Jamie,” Shelby snapped. “Mom and Dad will be in the living room watching the TV. Well, Mom will be watching Dad will be passed out in front of the TV. She’s scared to go to bed without him and she’s scared to wake him up. Give me time to tell Mom the Prom was fabulous and get my pajamas on before you come in. Watch my window. Wait 10 minutes after my light goes out. Understand?”

“What do you think I am, an idiot,” Jamie said. “Ten minutes after the light goes out, I’ll remember.”

“Don’t forget to take that tux off and wear the coveralls,” Shelby said as she got out of the car and shut the door. She walked two steps and turned back to the open window. “For Christ sake, remember to change your shoes. All we need is for somebody to see you and spot those horrible red, patent leather shoes.”

As Jamie watched Shelby turn back toward her house and walk away he softly said out loud, “Horrible? J-man totally rocked those shoes.” Jamie lit a cigarette and sat back to smoke it.

Jamie finished his smoke and flipped it onto the street where it exploded into a shower of sparks. He got out of the car quickly and walked around to the trunk. He kept one eye on Shelby’s bedroom.

Jamie used the key to open the deep trunk. He had removed the trunk light bulb like he had seen in a movie where the hero is totally cool and never makes a mistake. He began undressing.

Shelby had made nice with her Mom for about 15 minutes which was about 14 minutes more than she could stomach. If that asshole Jamie didn’t screw this up, that was the last time she was ever going to have to speak to the woman. The last thing she was ever going to hear from her father was his drunken snoring…how appropriate.

When Shelby got to the top of the stairs, she opened the towel closet and grabbed a red towel from the bottom shelf. She shut the towel closet door and went into her room. Shelby flipped the light on as she shut the door.

Jamie saw the light go on in Shelby’s room as he buttoned the top button on the coveralls. He was nude under the coveralls, “J-man goin’ commando.” All his Prom clothes were crumpled in an untidy pile at the back of the trunk.

“Fuck ‘em. For $65 bucks they could put the fuckers back on the hanger.”

Jamie tossed the red shoes on top of the tux pile in the trunk, pulled Sketcher skateboard shoes out of the trunk, and wiggled his feet into them one at a time.

He never broke eye contact with Shelby’s window.

Shelby dried her face on the red towel. She looked in the mirror, and, when satisfied that she got all her makeup off, she undid her pony tail. Shelby threw the red towel over her right shoulder and turned off the bathroom light.

When she got back to her room, Shelby neatly folded the red towel over the back of her desk chair, shut her door, and turned off the bedroom light.

When the light in the window winked out, Jamie’s breathing and heart rate quickened. He wiped suddenly-wet palms on the legs of the coveralls. He reached into the trunk and pulled out a ski mask. He set the ski mask on the top of his head and pulled it down to his eye brows.

“You can do this, J-man,” Jamie told himself. “A couple of funerals, sad face, cry, cry, cry, yes, it is awful, what is this world coming to, Shelby turns 18, she gets the insurance money, J-man is up to his eyeballs in money, big tits, and tight pussy.”

Jamie reached into the trunk and flipped the latches on the gun case. His grandfather had given him the double-barrel 12-gauge for his sixteenth birthday. Too fucking bad it was going into the creek later; it was an expensive gun.

Jamie thumbed the latch that broke the gun open. He put a shell in each barrel from the box in the case. He put four extra shells in his right-front chest pocket. “Holy shit, I better not need six shots.”

Jamie snapped the two halves of the open shotgun back together and decided he had waited 10 minutes. Jamie transferred the shotgun to the crook of his left arm and eased the trunk of the Chrysler shut with his right hand. He pulled the ski mask down and adjusted it so he had a clear line of sight.

He held the gun pointed at the ground and quickly walked to Shelby’s house. Jamie tiptoed up the steps to the porch. When he tried the door, it was unlocked just like Shelby said it would be. When the door opened, Jamie heard the sound of canned laughter coming from the living room to his right.

Jamie left the front door open as he stepped through the threshold. He could see blue shadows dancing on the wall of the front hallway at the bottom of the stairs.

In the living room Jamie’s Mom was sitting with her back to the front door. Jamie’s old man was passed out on the couch to his wife’s left. If he woke up, he’d be looking right down both barrels of the shotgun as Jamie raised it to eye level and fitted the stock snug against his right shoulder.

Shelby had been expecting the first blast, but jumped anyhow when the roar of the shot filled the house. Shelby jumped to her feet and pulled her pajama top over her head.

The shot had vaporized the top half of Shelby’s Moms head. In the dark, the brains and blood and bits of bone looked like black paint on the television screen. Jamie stared at the nearly headless woman in awe at what he had done.

Jamie was yanked back to reality when he heard Shelby’s dad roar, “What the Fuck,” just to the left of his line of sight. Jamie snugged the gun back against his shoulder and swiveled toward the man on the couch.

Jamie fired into the middle of the mass struggling to get off the couch. Shelby’s Dad never said another word. He fell back against the couch and tried one last breath which gurgled back through the giant hole in his chest. Then, the man moved no more.

Jamie turned to get the fuck out of the fucking house as fast as he fucking could. Just before he saw Shelby at the top of the stairs naked.

Jamie had just killed her Mom and Dad and should be running for his life, but he still got frozen solid by some boobs and some pubic hair. “What an idiot,” Shelby thought as Jamie lowered the shotgun and started to grin.

Shelby raised the Colt Woodsman with her right arm and steadied it with her left hand. Shelby’s Dad always bragged that his kid could, “…shoot better than nearly anything with a dick.”

Shelby put the first two rounds in Jamie’s forehead; the next four went into Jamie’s chest. He was dead before his legs buckled. Shelby didn’t need to check. She went back in her room and put her pajamas back on.

Shelby went back to the top of the stairs where she had fired the first six shots. She fired the last four shots into the wall well above where Jamie had been standing. This got gun shot residue all over her pajamas and made it look like the first few shots missed.

“Daddy kept that Woodsman wrapped up in a red towel in the closet at the top of the stairs Sherriff,” Shelby imagined saying. “He said that way he’d not go searching around for the gun if he ever needed it. If it was on the bottom shelf wrapped in the only red towel in the closet, you couldn’t miss it.”

Shelby dropped the pistol and watched it bounce down the stairs. One grip panel splintered before the gun came to rest three steps from the bottom of the stair case.

Shelby walked through Jamie’s blood in her bare feet. She left bloody footprints as she stepped out onto the front porch.

Some lights were already on in the neighbor’s house to the right. Many more started blinking on as Shelby began to scream herself hoarse.

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