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Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Seven — C&R III, Midnight After Montclair

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on September 22, 2017 at 12:15 pm

(You don’t need restful sleep, you nee to know why the madness!?: start here.)

Day Seven: Wednesday, 26 July 2017 – C&R III,  Midnight After Montclair

The white globule shifts, a sideways pupil rolling into view. “It’s an eye! A creepy-ass goat eye just came out of that thing’s thorny squid vagina, and you want to sing?! The eye quivers, sprouting thick black eyelashes that angle up and jut down to the hood of the car.

“A-long the midnight trail to redemption,” Weedbeard sings. Jingles the Creeper shrinks back. Weedbeard continues:
“There’s a shadow lurking betwixt!
A-long the midnight trail to redemption,
There’s a quest that can’t be nixed!”

Jingles the Creeper is wary, grinning like a debutante who forgot which punch bowl holds the turd. The eye skitters toward the driver’s window on its beveled eyelashes. “Oh fuck no, those are spider legs. Fucking goat’s eye spiders, now? This is a really efficient nightmare buffet — ”

Weedbeard puts his hand on my arm. I glance at him. He’s completely calm. It’s like we’re not moving at all. Time slows down to stillness beyond the Kuiper belt. He says, “Sing with me, Brother. For human voices, raised in darkness, bring light where only despair has flourished.”

I want to tell him that I don’t know the words, that I sometimes struggle with harmony. I want to fall back on all my actory excuses, but something in his eyes – a deep, reassuring calm – quells every mote of uncertainty.

I’m aware of the goat’s eye spiders: there are six of them, now, skittering up the driver’s window, scratching and digging at the glass. The glass is cracking, a – ha ha – spiderweb of fractures.

I’m aware of Jingles the Creeper: its squid vagina hand palm is opening wider as it pulls its arm back to punch through the glass of the driver’s side window. It’s jabbering something out there, but all in the cab is the smooth, rich caramel of certainty. I know that the first thing it will do — if it breaks through — is pull my tongue into its maw with those millions of spikes in there; I’ll feel it chewing and ripping at my tongue and lips as I try to scream. It will send tendrils up my nose and down into my lungs to latch and drink, my jaw snapping, my head tilted back, I’ll be alive for all of it. Because in the tops of the trees it spins its eyeball webs, and no ranger will ever look for anything like that.

The stillness of Weedbeard, it soothes me. I’m aware of all the darkness getting ready to smash through the window, but it simply does not matter. He smiles, inhales, and we continue the song; I don’t know how I know the words, all that matters is that it’s a deep and delicious old-timey / bluegrass Americana pie, and every slice is heavenly:

“Along the midnight trail to redemption,
There’s a hole in the timely rind;
The longest midnight trail to redemption
Is the one you don’t want to get left behind!

And we’ve got one string between us –
As we stretch to reach the fret –
One string between us,
Plus the skin of our teeth, now, you can bet

That on the midnight trail to redemption
There’s a lot of tears that flow;
Along the midnight trail to redemption
There’s a shadow creepin’ up from the hidden below!

And though the park is dark
And the night is cold
We will find the light
To be brave and bold!”

It’s not a perfect song. But it seems to work. During that last verse, Weedbeard pops open the back of the uke and pulls on the strings, a ball of white material – salt? – clutched between the strings and his fingers. No ukulele strings should be able to stretch that far, but he pulls that thing like a longbow, holding the uke up by the neck and sighting through the sound hole.

Jingles the Creeper’s grin falters. Its thornfingers writhe. We sing louder; whatever Jingles the Creeper is saying or singing, we overpower it:

“Yes we’ve got one string between us!
And it’s used
To launch
This
Salt!”

Weedbeard does just that, as we hold the last note in tasty harmony – and the ball of salt finds its mark – squarely in the gaping maw of the squid vagina hand claw. Sizzling, thrashing, twitching, it gouts green effluvium mixed with deeper chunky brown; scalded goat’s eye spiders plorp writhing on the hood of the truck, sliding off.

With a cry like a wounded castrato and a terrified Madagascar hissing cockroach, Jingles flings itself from the hood of the car, cradling its arm like a precious baby. We hear it crashing away through trees and underbrush.

We come to a halt. We’re at the stop sign where this back exit road meets the main entrance road. We’ve been driving for under a minute.

It feels like hours.

“Did you kill it?” I say. I’m a little too loud, and I can’t stop shivering.

“No,” he says. “It will be back. And probably stronger.”

“What can we do?” I say.

Weedbeard is silent for a time. Then he says, “Leave your car, I’ll have it retrieved. We’ve got to get away before the Fire Marshall sees us.”

I glance in the direction of the deeper park. The lights of multiple firetrucks are still flashing deeper in, but I can’t smell smoke anymore. It seems we may have avoided that danger. For now.

We switch places again – this time he steps out of the passenger door and walks around to the driver door as I scoot to my right – and Weedbeard sets the old firetruck in motion.

We take every road I’ve never seen before in Montclair. By the time we reach Weedbeard’s house, I’m shaking beyond control. I have no clear memory of walking inside. He pushes me into the bathroom with a towel: “Leave all your clothes outside the bathroom door. If I have to, I’ll burn them. But first they’ll be washed and searched for mites.”

“I keep a packed bag in the back of my car,” I say.

“Give me your keys; we’ll get that for you. Take your time. You swallowed enough of that water that you may need to do more than puke.” He nods toward the toilet and as if on cue, my intestines groan like a disturbed cow. “In the shower, you’ll find a tub of lemon-ginger salt. Use all of it. No matter what.” I close the door and avail myself of the facilities.

The shower is incredible. There’s a plastic jar with holes poked in the screw-top lid. The scent of lemon and ginger throbs off of it, burning my nose at first. Tears blur my vision and when I pick up the jar, a giant globule of thick green chunk sleurbs out of my right nostril. I feel it peeling more out of my sinuses.

It’s twitching.

I sprinkle it with the salt when it hits the shower floor and it sizzles, breaking apart and melting away down the drain. So I shake the salt onto my head and face, then fall to my knees as my sinuses birth an entire litter of giant chunk mollusks. My head feels like it’s wreathed in flame and I can’t breathe.

There’s a knock at the door. Weedbeard pushes it open a crack. “Forgot to tell you,” he calls above the shower. “Start at your feet. Wherever you start, the most will come out.”

I want to tell him to fuck off, but I’m vomiting a bullfrog-sized wad of lurching algaeic phlegm. He laughs. I kick the wall. He laughs again and closes the door.

After a few minutes of blorking these things out of my head, lungs and stomach, I sit back on the floor of the shower, breathing deeply the lemon-ginger steam. I feel reborn. But I’ve only used a quarter of what’s in the jar. So I sprinkle it on my feet and watch as every bit of toe fungus erupts out of me like the flaming snakes in a set of safe and sane fireworks. It’s disgusting. And it’s awesome. But, what the fuck was in that algae?

The sprinkling continues up my entire body, leeching and burning out any fungus. Strange things fall off of me. From my left shoulder, about a dozen fist-sized gelatinous brine shrimp. When they hit the floor of the shower, they burst into a sulfurous reeking pus that brings up another load of vomit. Which is good, because the vomit has what look like tiny fetal batworms squirming and squealing. I salt them and they crackle apart. From my ass crack, a nest of fuzzy crawdads that try to crawl up the walls of the shower. I will not tell you what my junk produced. I will only say that I will never eat pastrami again.

When the salt is completely emptied out, I unscrew the top and fill the jar with water, dousing my head in this way three times. By this time, nothing more comes to the surface. My body feels fresh, clean, new. My toenails are all completely healthy and strong. But legs feel like they’re made of rubber, and I’m moving very slowly.

My bag is sitting inside the bathroom door. I dress in fresh, clean clothes and join Weedbeard at the table, where there’s a small stack of correspondence and a steaming cup of lemon ginger tea.

I’m thinking about this chain of events when Weedbeard walks back in with a tray of charcuterie and freshly baked olive bread. “You’ll note,” he says, “that there’s no pastrami.”

I cant imagine even a nibble. He says, “Eat. You need it.”

I dip a tiny piece of bread in thick homemade mustard and as I bring it to my mouth I’m ravenous, reaching for meats and, oh my, grapes and — yikes, not the cheese —

“Eat the cheese,” Weedbeard says. “Live cultures.”

“I’m lactose intolerant — ”

“Your body will tolerate it. This is special cheese. From a monastery, Mont Perdu, in the French Pyrenees,” he says. Something in that name rings a deep and secret bell in my memory. He watches my eyes as I take a small bite of the cheese.

I see snow and a mountain path. There’s an old man struggling in the cold, fumbling for something in his robes. From the darkness below comes a howl.

“What the fuck?” I say.

Weedbeard looks satisfied. He sits back, munching on a piece of the cheese himself, washing it down with tea that smells different from mine. “I think it’s time for you to read the next letter,” he says.

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Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Seven — C&R II, Montclair After Midnight

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on September 21, 2017 at 12:15 pm

(It’s like a delicious enchilada, only slightly creepy: start here.)

Day Seven: Wednesday, 26 July 2017 – C&R II, Montclair After Midnight

I stare at Weedbeard a moment, formulating my question. I don’t want to spook him.“Is there a reason you didn’t tell me this earlier?” I say.

“I didn’t expect you to interrupt our gathering,” he says. “That shows real gumption. But the thing in the trees – what did you call it?”

“Jingles the Creeper.”

“Right. Jingles. Well, if it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t have known it was there.”

“It stuck a leaf up my nose. Twice.”

“Ah,” he says, to the floor. Then he looks me in the eyes. “That tells me it wanted us to know it was there. You’d better keep reading. But first, sip your tea. I’ll prepare charcuterie.”

I sip my tea. There are more letters. But I’m trying to wrap my head around everything that’s happened tonight. It’s after one in the morning, I’m wide awake, and an old hippie is preparing sustenance. I’ve only met this man once before, but I am comfortable here. I feel safe. For the first time, in fact, I feel like I have some purchase on these uncertain slopes.

I find myself going over the events that followed Weedbeard’s fortuitous arrival. I’d barely had time to jump into the cab of his vintage firetruck before he threw it into gear and the truck lurched forward. “How did you find me?” I’d started to say. It came out as, “How did youfucking Christ, do you have a gun?!

Jingles the Creeper, leaping out of the darkness, strides long and springy like a goddamn evil gazelle, launched itself from the shadows. I hadn’t watched it moving before now.

My impressions, formed in a moment of headlight illumination: horizontal stripes, head to toe. Poofy pants, poofy sleeves. What I’d thought was a lace ruff is a ruffly collar of the same striped material. Tight-fitting striped socks, left hand gloved, right arm held just behind itself – why? Face bone white, eyes and lips lined in black. Circles of rouge on the cheeks. An impression of strange marks on the forehead –

It lands on the hood of the truck – ah! Running on stilts! – they clatter on the metal hood, it can’t find purchase. It’s grinning, giggling, jingling, holding on to a point above the front window.

“Friend of yours?” Weedbeard says, resigned, calm.

Jingles the Creeper raises its right arm, and it isn’t an arm at all. It looks like the dead, black, wet trees of winter – the fingers long, gnarled, tapering to needle-sharp points, glistening and covered in thorns. At the center of what would be its palm is a vulvic squid mouth, chomp-chomp-chomping, thick green ichor leaking from it.

We’re heading up the back exit road, full throttle, and Weedbeard says, “Take the wheel, my friend.”

He lifts himself up in this yogic sideways thing and I slide under him, taking the wheel as he lowers himself into the passenger seat. I don’t even begin to understand how he could do that unless I’m hallucinating or he’s secretly a Chinese gymnast. But my eyes are glued to Jingles.

Out of its vulvic squid palm is plorping a gooey white ball in a milky film that looks like sausage casing. So much for Jimmy Dean. It’s bok choy at breakfast from now on. Jingles sing-songs at us like … a puffy-pants creeper in the night:

“Now the time for fun and games
Has fallen by the road;
Let us sing the darkling names,
Let us mount the toad!” He says these things like they’re really good ideas.

Weedbeard unlatches the passenger windshield – this is a firetruck from the early 1900’s – reaching behind us to a gun rack. He’s obviously going to load a shotgun and blast this fucker off the front of the truck.

Jingles the Creeper continues:
“Let us play and gad about,
Let us taunt and jeer,
Let us bite and rip and taste
The soft-yet-crunchy ear!”

We hit a huge pothole and Jingles the Creeper slips backwards a moment, its right stilt hitting the ground and snapping under the car. The scream that comes from its mouth is like a little girl. If the little girl really likes having her leg broken off. And is maybe also a demon of the netherhells. But – it was a stilt. Right?

Screaming the sing-song in complete clarity, Jingles says,
“So much fun to fun and grin –
Grin to fun and smile,
Smiling, smiling, fun fun grin,
Fun for all the while! (Fun-fun.)”

It pulls its leg back up and I see no splintered wood, but a broken knob of blue-black bone, a joint like a backwards knee, thick hairs sticking out of the bone itself. All of this in a couple of seconds, as it screams its demony girl child scream. It turns its eyes on me and licks its lips, its tongue pushing out of its mouth like the meatus and glans exposed from within an inflamed, pus-oozing foreskin; there’s something glistening and black in its mouth, like oily hair.

“Glaughble, gloughbrle, [gagging noise]
Hurk, hurk, [gag, gag] hurk –” says Jingles the Creeper.

Three more gloopy globules have come out of its squid vagina hand mouth thing, and the first one lands on the hood of the car, where it sticks a moment. Jingles is leaning in toward the passenger side of the windshield, pushing its head under the glass, giggling and keening as it sing-songs our baffling death menu. This fatherfucker is clearly pleased with itself:

“Klorghp, klorghp – gauuuuuugh –
Hurk and hurk, and hurk and hurk and hurk!”

“The fuck are you doing? Shoot it!” I say.

“I’m preparing a little ditty we once sang in the moonlight,” says Weedbeard, not a care in the world. I glance over. He’s tuning a ukulele, humming. “You good with harmony?” he says.

Jingles the Creeper scoots closer to the windshield.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Seven — Correspondence & Revelation

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on September 20, 2017 at 12:15 pm

(Newman? Williams? Elfman? Hermann? Your choice. But there’s only one way to know: start here.)

Day Seven: Wednesday, 26 July 2017 – Correspondence & Revelation

May 2, 1952

Miss Bess Tremaine
1908 Julia Street
Oakland, CA 94618

Dear Bess,

I am typing this letter to you in Miss Fitzsimmons’s Typing Class. Today our exercise is called, Posture and Prose. And so I am writing to you with the most ladylike posture imaginable. Unlike Sadie Ballard, who looks like a roast ham got drunk in a basement saloon before rolling down Lombard Street during a lint storm.

Perhaps that is not the most kind and generous thing to say about Sadie Ballard. I am ladylike after all, and Ladies are always properly behaved. Let me find a more ladylike way of expressing my thoughts. Ah, I have it: Sadie Ballard smells like old vegetable soup. The kind with Okra in it. Slimy. Best left for the piglets you’ll sell to upwind slaughterhouses.

Alas! If only it were all true. Sadie Ballard is sitting two stations in front of me, her every move balletic. Poised like a gentle doe, she wondereth on the in-side of her Dean’s List Brainpan, “Shall I flee hither? Or shall I flee thither? For I have farted, and I must allow others to bask in the magical dust I’ve bequeathed to them with my blessed sphinc!”

We are required to submit these letters before mailing them, so I might type something less honest. I certainly don’t want to straighten Fitzsimmons’s fright mop. I haven’t decided yet. I’ll wait and see: if Sadie Ballard does anything less than perfect before the last ten minutes of class, I’ll leave this letter as is.

Yours Most Sincerely,

[Handwritten Signature]

Miss Louise Archer
5694 Estates Drive
Oakland, CA 94611

PS, Did I hear you say you’re auditioning for that musical?

[Folded underneath this first letter, the following:]

May 2, 1952

Miss Bess Tremaine
1908 Julia Street
Oakland, CA 94618

Dear Bess,

Finally, a chance to write to you about all our exciting plans for the summer. I do believe you mentioned something about auditioning for the musical? Such excitement! Such ennobling artistic expression! And to be close to the enchanting Sadie Ballard, who shall surely have the lead in said expression of ennobling artistry – I just can’t wait.

All I do is listen to the recording. Over and over. I just hope that someone will see me as I see me: a diminutive, female Ezio Pinza. I watch his TV show as often as I can, by golly! I copy his every gesture. Sometimes I even put a potato in my –

Kainotophobia and killcrop kidology! Potato salad, that’s what. I heard my mother say the other day, “I wonder if everyone at the party will eat my potato salad.” And I said, “Mother, except for the cat hair, that’s a dang fine salad.” Oh, how we laughed.

Ever wonder what would happen if we went to college for manly studies like building fires and building forts in the woods? I’ll bet we’d fail, because we’re just girls. Ha ha ha, ho ho ho, where do I get these silly notions? Back to my needlepoint.

Truly and Very Very Very Sincerely Yours,

[Handwritten Signature]

Miss Louise Archer
5694 Estates Drive
Oakland, CA 94611

[Handwritten note at the bottom: Miss Archer, you are nothing like Ezio Pinza. Impersonating boys is a bad idea. Girls who build fires get burned. Needlepoint, indeed. Would that you were so industrious.
– Miss Fitzsimmons
]

[End Correspondence]

I set the letters down.

I’m sitting at a small, round oak table. Next to me is a steaming cup of fresh ginger tea. My stomach is barely settling down, but the tea – even its smell – seems to help. The table sits in a pool of golden light cast by an original mica lamp overhead. Across the room, just out of the light, stands Weedbeard, left arm crossed over his chest, holding his right arm at the tricep. His head is down, but his eyes are locked on mine.

He says, “That’s how it started.”

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Six — Voice Memo V

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on September 19, 2017 at 12:43 pm

(If you like to be frightened, at least know the backstory: start here.)

Day Six: Tuesday, 25 July 2017 – Voice Memo V

[Sound: still garbled and watery; frantic sloshing through water, wet hands on concrete; in the background, growing closer from the right, jingling and high-pitched laughter.]

Edward: Not one single fuck do I give right now, I’m getting out of this fuck-cunted fountain. Nightmare where you can’t run fast enough from the monster, and now I’m in a fucking toxic algae bloom!

Voice: Splishy splashy, little fish … !
Toxic algae, be my pal, gee!
Little fishy, grant my wish!
Crunchy-cralgae,
Here … !
I … !
Come!

[Sound: light footsteps on concrete and jingles punctuate the last three words, moving just above and to our right.]

Edward: Do you have to do everything with internal rhyme? Fucking creepy shitbags!

[Sound: During the above, huge frothing splash of a fully-dressed 190lb man throwing himself out of a fountain into dry dirt and brittle weeds.
In the far distance, sirens and horn of firetruck.
Hands and feet scrabbling for purchase, we hear wet shoes squeaking, wet cloth squelching under the following:]

Edward: In the movies, everyone gets away so fucking easy

[Sound: car engine close by, brakes engaged, engine idling. Sirens are closer.]

Edward: Headlights! On the trees above me, please let it be …

Voice: Scribble-scrabble in the dirt!
Fearful panting, jeerful janting.
When I catch you, it will hurt:
Leerful lanting, tearful ranting!

Edward: How does it feel about headlights, I wonder? Oh fuckno – it’s here, stripey pants – on the wall of the fountain – yeurks –

[Sound: Edward scrabbling to his feet, stumbling.]

Edward: Run fucking run, fucking run you pudgy fuck …

[Sound: running feet underneath the above line, then a trip and a fall into leaves and dirt.]

Edward: Graughhh!

[Sound: a voice, male, from the direction of the idling engine: You hear that?
Edward is struggling to his feet, cursing, breathing hard.
Another male voice from the direction of the engine: What, you think it’s the old Witch of Woodminster?]

Edward: They’re right up there. Here we go –

[Sound: THUD, Edward falling to his knees in leaves.]

Edward: Fuck. Tree. Head. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. … Bleeding … Oh God …

[Sound: stumbling steps through leaves, panting, wet shoes squelching with every step.
Second Male Voice from car: It’s an old wives’ tale, man.
Jingles and snapping branches overhead.
First Male Voice from car: So you say, but my friend said he saw her.
Idling engine and the voices in the car are getting louder as Edward moves up the slope.
Sirens are much closer.
Giggles and jingles and branches rustling, snapping overhead.
Second Male Voice from car: Okay, fine: what does she look like?
First Male Voice from car: Covered in leaves. He called her a bog hag.
Second Male Voice from car: (laughing) Bog hag? Your friend into D&D and shit?
First Male Voice from car: That’s the thing. He wasn’t. And he couldn’t sleep alone for two years after.]

Voice (whispering, with glee): I’m above you in the trees

Edward: Finally. Haugh, it’s the police. Get these leaves off my face.
Excuse me, Officers?

[Sound: from the right, Ma-MA! Ma-MAAAaaaaaeuuuurrrghllllthhhh …]

First Male: What the fuck – ?

Voice (whispering, with even more glee): Jingle branches, queurky queranches!

Edward: I need your help –

Second Male: The fuck is in that tree?!

[Sound: Jingling, giggling, thrashing branches.]

Voice (whispering, with way too much glee):Yous will not escape from mees … !

Edward: Offfficcc –

Voice (whispering, with what can only be called an excess of glee): Tingle tanches, tingle tee … hee … heeeeeee … !

[Sound: hacking, retching, the splashing of chunky vomit]

First Male: Outside your window!

Edward (groaning, doubled over in pain): Fuchhthasserbrilighhhh … [Fuck, that’s a bright light.]

First Male (simultaneous): Jesus Christ!

Second Male (simultaneous): Jesus Christ!

Edward: Glorphloorgh, phflorgleblorg … [I’m sorry about the vomit, but this is an emergency.]

Second Male: Bog Hag! Drive!

[Sound: Police vehicle thrown into gear, tires screaming as it speeds away; Second Male’s voice fading with distance as he bellows, What the hell, man, what the holy hell?]

Edward: No!

[Sound: Shambling, squishy footsteps as Edward runs after the police car.
Sirens are blaring, close.]

Edward: Fuck. My car. It’s in the lot at the top of the hill. Wait …

[Sound: squishing footsteps halt. A jingle and a giggle from behind us.]

Edward: … I smell … smoke.

[Sound: Firetruck hurtling down the road toward us, horn blaring, siren howling.]

Edward: Oh shit. I look like the guy who’d set a fire. In a bog. To roast toads.

[Sound: screaming squeal of brakes, footsteps on gravel as Edward leaps to the right. Siren cuts off, window rolls down, a voice speaks from the driver’s seat:]

Weedbeard: Edward. Get in. We don’t have much time —

[Audio cuts off. Battery dead.]

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Six — Voice Memo IV

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on September 13, 2017 at 12:32 pm

(You, like me, are a geek. Timelines matter: start here.)

Day Six: Tuesday, 25 July 2017 – Voice Memo IV

[Sound: rusted steel doorknob rattling, stuck.]

Edward: It’s locked. Fuck. Okay, moving along the wall …

Where was I? Pyramid, chanting … right. So I was listening to the chanting, standing up, getting ready to jump out and scare them. Because it would be fun to scare Burton Thomas. I think he’d enjoy it, actually. He’s that kid, at your 8th birthday party, the one who brought a VHS tape of Faces Of Death. Tells your mom it’s a comedy.

Anyway, I’m standing there and a leaf goes up my nose. I snort it out, shake my head, rub my nose.

The chanting stops. Someone says, “What was that?” Sounded like Weedbeard. That would be fucking weird.

[Sound: footsteps on concrete, occasional crunching leaves.]

… Another corner … and … a tree near the wall … and more trees, feels like … Redwood. Growing right against the wall. Listening …

[Sound: wind in the trees, Edward breathing. Forest, night. Nothing else.]

Okay, I’m waiting here for a minute. These trees make me feel safe. And I need to record this. Phone’s at 8%. So … I was breathing in to jump out at them. The leaf goes up my nose again. I smack the branch away.

It’s solid. Meaty.

It’s an arm. I think it’s Burton, because Burton would stick a leaf up your nose in the dark.

I turn to my right and there’s a face. Bone white. Grinning at me. It says, “Yeuhls-yeuhls-yeuhls-yeuhls-yeuhls-yeuhls-yeuhlssssssssss …” Rocking side to side, moving closer. Hands in white gloves. Squeezing my shoulder. Puffy, striped sleeves. I think, I swear I saw … a ruff around its neck? Like, an Elizabethan ruff. Or lace?

[Sound: whispering from the right, then, barely audible, a jingle.]

Okay, moving along. Away from the trees … feels like metal … another door, wait …

[Sound: pulling, turning knob that doesn’t want to move.
Whispering moves closer, jingles are louder.]

Double doors. Also locked. Moving on … the ground is sloping and the wall is curving outward. I’m following …

[Sound: from the right, jinlging and high-pitched giggles.
From the left, overlapping: Ma-MA! Ma-MAAAAaaaaaa … !]

Voice: I am silent when I need;
Sneaky-sneaky, peeky-peeky!
Thickly do you think you’ll bleed?
Reeky-creeky, cockie-leeky!

Edward: What the holy fucknuggets?

[Sound: from the right, jinlging – much closer, overlapped with keening screech laughs.
From the left, louder than before, closer, angry: Ma-MA! Ma- MAAeurghghgllllllphhhmmmmmnnn … !]

Voice: Some are here who should be not!
Interloper! Dolly groper!
I will bite you, like as not …
Filthy roper. Secret doper …

Edward: There are two of them. (A shout, surprised:) Fuck!

[Sound: huge splash, phone submerged; when it comes up, sound is garbled and watery; we hear gasping, coughing and retching.]

Jesus! … Christ, I’m … I’m in … disgusting water. It’s all goopy and full of algae. I’ve got … chunks in my mouth …

[Sound: more coughing, hacking, retching.]

Fuck. Is my phone still working?

Wait … goopy water, curved walls …

[Sound: wet hands smacking concrete, water sloshing.]

I think … I’m at the theatre. In the fountains … that means the parking lot’s …

Voice: I can hear you in the dark.
Secret noser, red-red-roser …
You will not escape this park,
I’m the poser, moving closer …

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Six — Voice Memo III

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on August 31, 2017 at 12:06 pm

(Juice it! Juice it like a MANGO: start here.)

Day Six: Tuesday, 25 July 2017 – Voice Memo III

[Sound: rustling leaves.]

I’m at the bottom of the slope, around the corner. Maybe if I stay still it will pass right by me. This building is larger than I thought.

Wait …

[Sound: distant sirens, fading]

Nope. Nothing.

So I never found the pyramid. Did I already say that?

My hands are shaking. It’s not cold. Christ.

So … looking for the pyramid. I was thinking I’d see them, their lights; we put water bottles on top of our phone lights to make water lanterns last year. Works really well.

I didn’t see any lights. But I heard voices. So I moved in the direction I thought I heard them, and there was a little deer trail off to the left. Sounded like the voices were in there, so I switched off my light and tried to sneak up on them. More fun to scare imaginative artsy types.

The voices were chanting, and the closer I got, the clearer it became that they were trying to freak me out. And it was kind of working. I think what they were saying was, “In by the Sunset, out by the Moon; Help us to find you, morning and noon; We seek you in darkness, now, under the trees – lead us to answers, please, Bess and Louise.” I think that’s accurate. I memorized it while I was crouching maybe ten feet away, trying to see their faces.

[Sound: distant high-pitched laughter, overlapped with cloth on concrete, leaves rustling, quiet footsteps under the following.
In the distance, also, jingling. You’re not certain you hear it, at first.]

Christ, it’s coming. I’m moving along this building, using it as a guide. Maybe it will lead me to a road. Keeping my phone light off. Can’t sit and wait for Dolly Jingles. Jingles the Creeper? Lurker Jingles … ?

[Sound: cloth on concrete, footsteps, leaves overlapped with the distant laughter and jingling. Then a change: the laughter segues into sing-song.]

Voice: In the darkness, now, we dance …
Tra la la, tra la la!
Do you like my poofy pants?
Tra la la, tra la la!

Edward: Okay. Okay. It’s talking now. Not great.

Voice: Gate is locked! Left or right?
Jingle-jangle, jingle-jangle!
Be my friendly, in the night?
Bingle-bangle, tingle-tangle!

Edward: Holy shit, a door.

[Sound: hand grabbing rusted steel doorknob, turning.]

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Six — Voice Memo II

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on August 30, 2017 at 11:52 am

(This blog is a gateway drug: start here.)

Day Six: Tuesday, 25 July 2017 – Voice Memo II

[Sound: fumbling thud and scrabble, a muffled curse; footsteps on gravel, panting, more fumbling]

I dropped my phone. I’m … trying to catch my breath. I’ve been running. I threw a pot out a side window of the shed; that thing, whatever it is, went lurching off in the direction of the impact and I bolted from the shed but it’s dark. In the movies, there’s always ambient light in the forest. There’s no fucking ambient anything. Except darkness. I’m completely turned around.

[Sound: in the distance, Ma-MA! Ma-MAAaaaaa … !]

Okay, there’s there’s maybe a sliver of a moon tonight. Marginally helpful. I see a building ahead, I’m heading for it. I don’t have enough battery to keep this going for long.

I was talking about the pyramid. I found it on a map of the park, it seemed like an easy walk. I drove my car to the lot closest to that spot, parked, and took the right fork; according to the map, I thought it would take me to the pyramid.

[Sound: footsteps on gravel, the night breeze.]

Wait … the thing has been quiet a while. I think it’s quiet when it travels. So fucking dark. I can’t risk the flashlight on my phone.

[Sound: Ma-MAAAAAaaaaa!, far away.]

I’m not sure it’s Dolly Lurker. But it fucking sounds like Dolly Lurker. At least … I mean, after I ran away. Not at first. At first it just giggled.

I saw its face.

All white.

Like the mask.

Wait, there’s a gate here, near this building. Chain link … locked. Fuck. Okay. Okay. Up the hill to my left, trees. Probably poison oak, too, so … down the hill. Next to this building, there’s a trail. Right against the side of the building. Okay. I need to rest, I’m sitting down with my back to this wall. Nothing can sneak up on me here.

[Sound: Edward panting, but in the distance, jingles]

Oh shit.

[Sound: jingles, louder.]

It’s the other one.

[Sound: high-pitched giggling]

Time to go.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Six — Voice Memo

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on August 29, 2017 at 11:52 am

(This post means nothing without context. Start here.)

Day Six: Tuesday, 25 July 2017 – Voice Memo

There’s something outside.

It’s dark. I’m in a potting shed at a native plant nursery in Joaquin Miller Park. I have my phone on low so the light doesn’t bleed. It’s 11:45 pm, I have no idea where I am and –

[sound: gravel crunching, dragging footsteps]

It’s moving closer.

I don’t know how much time I have. I’ll try to get this out fast. Here’s what I know:

I should never have come up here. Or I should have brought someone with me.

This is important, I need to remember this: when I got to the theatre today, Joel was hosing the outside wall off next to the stage door stairs. I asked why, and he said graffiti. But it was different because it was easy to wash off, it wasn’t paint, and it was actual words. I asked what it said, because jokes, ha ha Edward you masturbatory jester. He showed me a picture he’d taken of the graffiti – graffito? – on his phone.

I have goosebumps again just thinking about it. Three words, in charcoal:

into the party

Joel said I looked like someone walked over my grave, I made a joke about cadavers and went inside. I didn’t – and still don’t – understand why those words chilled me. They’re innocuous. They mean nothing. But, combined with everything else –

Wait. I’m listening. Have I been whispering too loud? I can’t tell. There’s no sound from outside. I can’t tell if it went away or if it’s right outside the door.

[sound: rustling cloth]

I think it’s … moved off.

… I’m trying to figure out what the fuck happened …

[sound: rustling cloth]

Left leg really hurts, have to change position a lot. Sorry.

Okay, so there was a note at my station saying: “secret party after rehearsal tonight.” This is rad, there were some during Shrek last year. Clandestine weed romps in Joaquin Miller Park at night. Ghost stories, snacks, dress warmly. We’re careful about who gets invited – no buzz kills, all legal adults, no creepers.

When I left the theatre, there was a note on my windshield. It said, FIND THE PYRAMID. All caps.

[sound: thump]

Oh fuck. It’s out there.

[sound: thump, closer]

Jesus, I think it knows I’m in here.

[sound, muffled: aaaa-aaaaa …]

My phone, it’s …

[sound: thump, too close.]

… dying.

[sound: Ma-MA! Ma-MA! … Ahheeeuuurrrrrghghghhhhssssss …]

Oh. Fuck.

Woodminster: South Pacific — A Day Off

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on August 28, 2017 at 11:52 am

(All the cool kids are doing it: start here.)

Day Off: Monday, 24 July 2017

A day off for actors – must be fun, right?

You’d think so. We spend our lives putting on pretty costumes and gallivanting about for applause, some of us actually get paid for it, and then on our days off we go to the seaside and eat fried fishes and bonbons. Right? Life is easy for the actor, all she has to do is learn her lines and be on time. Of course. It’s not like we have three or more other jobs we work to make ends meet. It’s not as though we’re up until 2 am cramming lines so we can drive for Lyft in the morning before heading to an audition that might get us work, but will take three hours from our day. It’s not possible that, in our mid-forties, we’re still being pressured by our family to be a Chiropractor [nurse, dentist, lawyer, brain surgeon, insert pressure here] as well as (read instead of) an actor. Despite prowess. Despite awards. Despite whatever successes may arise.

My day off:

Start a load of laundry. Make the bed. Sweep, vacuum, then mop the house (hardwood floors collect dog hair like I collect random bits of paper).
Laundry into dryer, start second load. Dishes haven’t been done in a week. I’ve seen larger kitchens on sailboats. There’s a stock pot full of rotwater in the sink, several frying pans as well. Start by taking all the dishes, silverware and cups/glasses out of the sink and organizing them on the counter. This actually makes processing them much easier in the long run. For me. (Not your style? You can do my dishes any way you want.) Now that the small things are out of the sink, start on the large things.
Ah, but they’ll need a spot to dry. Push the dishes on the counter over, clean up that wine glass I’ve broken because I wasn’t careful enough, lay paper towels down and cover them with a large, dry, clean dish cloth.
Now start with the washing.
Ah, but I’m out of dish soap.
Okay. Check the bathroom.
Out of toilet paper.
What was I doing in here?
There’s the scale. How much do I weigh? 193? I was 187 last week. What did I eat? I can’t remember.
Is that a zit? Ouch. That needs to cook a while before I can get it. Try again. HOLY FUCK THAT HURTS. Okay, tea tree oil and time. I’ll get you, my pus-laden friend.
I want some coffee. Is there coffee in the kitchen?
Oh, shit. The dishes. What was I … ?
Soap! Right. Check the bathroom.
There’s … shampoo. And shower gel. Both from Trader Joe’s. Probably safe? Hmmm. Let’s give it a try.
Ah, where’s the scrubby sponge? Look under kitchen sink …
Dish soap! Holy crap. Should have looked here first. What else is under here?
Mold and mildew spray, never been used. I consider the shower, I read the label: USE IN PROPERLY VENTILATED AREA. I don’t want to pass out while I’m doing dishes. I put it back. What else do we have? Borax. Hardwood floor cleaner, unopened. A variety of spray bottles, all repurposed, with their indelibly-inked new uses crossed out like the tattoos I want on my arms for this show. How long ago did I refill each of these, and with what? Most of the labels are warped, peeling, illegible. I should open one up and pour some out to see what’s in it.
BUZZ – dryer is done. Downstairs to the basement, check the load. 80 minutes on high and it’s still wet. Okay. Reset, head upstairs.
Mailman delivers package.
Open door, take Maxwell outside. Good Lord, it’s hot. How is he so energetic in this heat? It must be 105 degrees out here. Package isn’t for me, it’s for my landlord/neighbor. Drop it off at their front door. Make the circuit with Maxwell, because he likes to migrate with his pack.
The chickens – not my chickens, my landlord/neighbor’s chickens – are literally screaming, fighting each other for my attention, trying to push their way through the wire of the coop. Their water is murky and their food is empty. I feed them, I rinse out their water thing and it refills because gravity and technology. I have chicken shit all over my slippers. I’m still in my pajamas. I leave them inside their coop because if I let them out, they will further destroy flowers and herbs in my garden. Where the hell is Maxwell?
I find him reclining in the relatively cool grass, in the shade of an arbor. He does not want to come inside. I take off my shirt to try to get some color on my pale pudge. Billis is supposed to be brown from the sun. No real time for that, but a little color wouldn’t hurt. I turn on the hose to do some watering. I’ll just water a little. I had no idea how thirsty my Mr. Lincoln was.
45 minutes later, I’m done watering. A little dizzy from the heat. Maxwell went inside long ago. I head in.
My house is dark, but the cool of the morning is almost gone, now. It’s very warm.
Fuck. The kitchen.
BUZZ – check the dryer. Still damp. Check the lint trap. A little lint. Not a lot. I cleaned it before I started this load. That’s something. Restart the dryer. Hang load in washer on lines in basement and start a new load … ? No, dishes.
Still a little dizzy from the heat. Maybe have some water. Yeah, sit down. Have some water. Check my phone.
An hour and a half later, I wonder if I turned of the water. I dash outside. I did! Yay. Back inside.
Fuck. The kitchen.

And that’s how it goes. Because there’s never time to do all of this stuff during the rest of the week, it piles up until it’s near insurmountable.

What did I intend to do with my day? Work on my lines. And I do run them via recording while I’m washing the dishes, which takes about two hours total – pots, pans, then a load of dishes. While that’s running, a second load rinsed and ready to load. But it’s not the same as sitting down with my script for several hours and working with the words right in front of me. When the second load of dishes is in the machine, I realize my clothes are wet from the sink.

I’m still wearing my pajamas.

I shower. No need to shave, not for Billis.

I look at the clock as I’m pulling my boots on. It’s 3 pm. Where did my day go?

The floors are clean, but you can’t tell because of my clutter. The bed is made, but it’s overshadowed by the avalanche of crap on my desk. The dishes are done, but the counter is still somehow a wreck. Looking at it, all I want to do is go to sleep.

I sit down with my cold coffee from the microwave.

Left low back and leg really hurt.

I open my eyes at 7 pm when Max nudges me. His tail is wagging. It’s dinner time. The house is hot and stuffy. What was I doing? Was there something I forgot to do? I should work on my lines.

I open the door to the deck and put a fan in front of it, on low. It will blow coolish air into the living room. Around 3 am, it might be 67 degrees outside. Which is better than 108, the high in Livermore today. I feed Max and sit down with my script. I’m hungry, but the kitchen is clean and I don’t want to cook. Trail mix, I tell myself, is a suitable substitute. I’m trying to focus on my lines, but I’m exhausted. I feel like I’ve failed today. Netflix beckons. The Marvel Universe has untold secrets, calling to me. I need a break. I need to relax. I can work on my lines tomorrow.

This is my day off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fuck. The laundry.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Six — Rehearsal

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on August 23, 2017 at 11:59 am

(Did the cool kids mock you again? Craving validation? Start here.)

Day Six, Rehearsal: Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Hardy Boys had it easy.

Their dad was a detective. They had their chum Chet with his jalopy. They lacked any libidinous impulses whatsoever, so they never walked into a piece of scenery because they were staring at a dancer’s ass during rehearsal.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I asked my server if anyone had given her the note, and she seemed genuine in her bafflement. I looked around at everyone in the restaurant, recognizing none of them and seeing no furtive skulkery or subtle chicanery. I looked so long that some people began to get uncomfortable. I’m told I have a penetrating gaze. But I haven’t done that since college.

I headed for Woodminster, vigilant in scanning my surroundings for lurkers and observers. I saw nothing out of the ordinary.

Rehearsal began for me at 12 pm with the staging of Honey Bun. I fell off the platform, landing hard on my left leg and then my right ass cheek – kind of rocking backward onto another, perpendicular platform. This is what happens when Edward tries to learn a dance step that doesn’t belong to him. Foolish Edward, attempting the Sailor’s Hornpipe. Which sounds dirtier than it is. Speaking of getting ahead of myself. Zing! (Calm down, Perry.)

When I wasn’t onstage, I took a few hasty moments to jot down further notes and questions:

Montclair Historical Society: does not exist as a brick-and-mortar location – so how do I meet there tomorrow?
What the hell was Louella (Aughra) talking about – the girl with the eyes?
How did that card get into my pocket to begin with?
Why does Bill Weedbeard keep leaving me clues?
Who is watching me and leaving notes that arrive with my bill at restaurants?

When I was onstage, I admit that I was a little distracted: the puzzling messages, the overheard conversations. I started thinking about detectives. Holmes would be storking around, observing things with his aquiline brow perfectly smooth, fully in command of the situation. Watson would be by his side lending able assistance, steadfast and firm. Holmes would already have an idea of who Dolly Lurker really is (because in his universe it wouldn’t be anything supernatural), all based on the rolling of an actor’s cuff, the brush technique used to paint the clouds on the backdrop, or that dancer’s amazing ass.

Poirot would be asking many charming questions, his eyes all warm twinkle, his moustache perfectly waxed. He would be stepping around drifts of sawdust as Captain Hastings makes a series of social gaffes, and Judy would be Poirot’s true assistant in solving the mystery. Quick and nimble, he’d gather all his evidence; he’d pause for a revelatory tisane; then assemble everyone in the men’s dressing room for a stunning and climactic reveal based on the way this actor was staring at that dancer’s ass.

Nick Charles would send Nora off with a series of false clues to try to get her out of the way long enough that he could do some solid detection. She and Asta would see a suspicious character and inadvertently fall into the basement of Woodminster, where they’d find an abandoned distillery and the body of the man everyone thinks is the killer. But Nick would have known it wasn’t Cranky Jack the whole time, because Cranky Jack was really Rooster Carruthers, crime-boss-turned-alchemist, who gave it all up twenty years ago to turn lead to gold. Nick would stage a climactic reveal as well, with plenty of pithy commentary from Nora. And, truth be told, I’m deeply in love with Myrna Loy. So she can comment all she wants. She’d probably make a crack about me staring at things that don’t belong to me. In her incredibly fashionable but utterly impractical hat.

The Hardy Boys would be up to all good, just being clean-cut American white boys who only ever interact with other clean-cut American white kids, when they’d hear a scream from the abandoned old theatre on the hill. They’d run up there just in time to see a figure disappear into the trees, dropping a creepy doll as it ran. They are each other’s companion, but they also have their chum Chet with his trusty jalopy and unreliable fortitude. Because fat guys are weak, right, Franklin W. Dixon? Or do I mean Edward Stratemeyer? I wonder if Frank and Joe ever solved the Mystery of the Old Publishing Syndicate. Either way, you can bet that they wouldn’t have noticed anybody staring at that dancer’s ass. They’d solve the mystery sans craving.

But what is the damned mystery? There’s no body. Some girls disappeared in the 50’s, there’s a creeper with a doll, there’s a group of old hippies who like to talk about fountain pens, Louella (Aughra) drives a very nice car. But there’s nothing right now to connect the Peet’s Eager Quintet to my experiences at Woodminster. And until I know exactly what the Montclair Historical Society is, there will be no connection. For all I know, someone could have put that card in my pocket while I stood waiting to cross a street. And if I spent more time working on my lines than trying to solve this mystery, my work on stage would be a lot more solid. Almost as solid as that dancer’s amazing ass.

That’s a lot to think about. And so maybe you can see how all of these competing thoughts could easily lead a grown man to walk into a wall of the set. I think Judy saw it happen. I tried to play it off like a bit of intentional slapstick. She just stared at me, no expression, then turned to watch the scene onstage with a slight tilt of the head that said, “That’s what you get for staring. Fuckmook.”

We broke a little before 4:30 to get into costumes for program photos. I made a lot of jokes. We took a lot of photos. I was released around 5:30, I think. By the time I left, my left leg was in a lot of pain.

There is nothing sinister about Woodminster in daylight. The smell of pine dust is strong in the parking lot. Taking my keys from my back pocket, the mysterious Historical Society card fell out. I bent down to pick it up, and there, in charcoal on the curb next my driver’s door was:

get to leave

Same font, same medium: mesquite on concrete. Well, now, that seems to be the kind of connection I was lamenting earlier. I looked around for Bill Weedbeard, as he is my chief suspect in this game of smoky messages. Again I saw nothing out of the ordinary, but I had the distinct feeling I was being watched.

Getting into my car, I tossed the card into one of the cup holders in my center console, then wrote this new phrase in my notes; together, they read:

was my purpose
get to leave

More damned anagrams? Red herrings? Bad poetry?

I did a Google search and found articles about the purpose of dogs, and millennials trying to find their purpose. Useless. Until one remembers that this cast is made up mostly of millennials. Is this a cry for help? Are they all confused about their futures? Do none of them want to admit the crushing guilt they experience every day over their secret shame that they voted for Jill Stein?

There was the possibility of my seeing a performance of The Four Immigrants at Theatreworks, but I was sweaty and smeared with sunscreen. My leg hurt, and maybe my head. How I hit my head, I have no idea. But one attends the theatre only in appropriate attire. Shorts, sandals and a Hawaiian shirt are unacceptable.

I went home. Veronica was making thick-cut pork chops. There was a hot shower and cold beer. I was able to set all these thoughts aside for a time.

Just as I was falling asleep, a thought occurred to me; I wrote it in my notebook, then closed my eyes. It was this:

A good detective has a companion.