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Posts Tagged ‘Louise Archer’

WMSP, Part II, Episode IX: Journal

In Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Sci-Fi, Theatre on June 19, 2019 at 12:24 pm

(Ongoing weekly narrative; new readers, the story begins here.)
The next paper is from a journal, the top of it scorched but intact. It looks familiar. Writing on both sides of the page in rushed but neat penmanship, it begins:

moved the gate at the back of the front yard. We heard it creak. That gate only opens when you lift the latch, Dad fixed it special. We thought it was Mom, so we put out our cigarettes and turned off my flashlight, peeking over the edge of the window in Georgie’s fort.

There was someone standing in the shadows just beyond the gate, under the arbor. We couldn’t see anything clearly. I was holding my breath. I thought it had to be Mom or Dad, but there was something wrong with the shape. Its legs were wide. Like the legs on that Turkey costume from our 4th Grade Thanksgiving play.

It just stood there. I felt like it could see us, but I wasn’t sure—and I couldn’t move. I wanted to duck down and hide, but what if it saw us because I moved?

Bess whispered, “Why am I so scared?” She was already hiding near the floor, curled up.

The thing under the arbor stepped forward, like it heard her. A shaft of moonlight lit its face. All white. I ducked down below the window. Then I wondered if we’d pulled the rope ladder up. I turned but it was still down! I reached for it and, turning, my foot hit one of Georgie’s wooden swords. It fell over. So loud.

Jingle, jingle, jingle, louder with every step. It was coming toward the tree!

Bess grabbed me and pulled me back toward the wall. We heard the rope ladder creaking. I reached to my right and grabbed that wooden sword—something better than nothing.

The rope ladder creaked again, the bolts holding it to the wall above the trap door straining a little–and then again it creaked, a head appearing at the trap, turning as a hand reached to the next rung up and it pulled its face off.

We both screamed.

What awe yoh doowing in my tweehouse?”

It was Georgie. Wearing a Howdy Doodie mask. Looking peeved.

Bess started laughing right away. There’s something about Georgie, whenever he gets mad Bess laughs like a loon. Part of it is his kid voice, what Mom calls Little Boy-ese: “Whot awe yoo dowing in my tweehouse?” And when he’s mad, he over-enunciates because he really wants to make sure we understand him. I expected him to throw a fit and start crying when she laughed, but he didn’t respond, just frowning at us. That was really weird.

He said, “You giwohs bettoh come down the laddoh wight now, oh ewse.”

Bess laughed even harder. But Georgie was being strange. I got chills.

Now as everyone knows, any of his blackest moods can be broken up with the Little Bo Peep bit. Georgie tries to say, “It’s in the book!” But he laughs so hard that he can’t talk. The harder he tries, the harder he laughs. It’s the cutest thing.

So I said, “Georgie, Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep and she doesn’t know where to find them.”

Georgie turned and looked at me. His face was blank, not even frowning. His eyes got huge, and he opened his mouth too wide for his little skull, his jaw jutting forward into a grin, head tilting forward so he was glaring at me from under his eyebrows. He didn’t even look like himself any more. He went, “Hyulk-hyulk-hyulk-hyulk-hyulk! Girls in a midnight treehouse, come and help me poop and peehouse!” Only now his accent was gone.

Bess laughed even harder. Then she started to pee. She said, “Oh my gosh, what the heck—oh Louise, I—I can’t believe this …”

The treehouse reeked of pee. Georgie reached his right arm up inside the trap and he wasn’t wearing his bathrobe at all. His arm was in poofy, striped material and his mask had slipped back over his face. His left arm was out of sight, but looked like it was shaking.

Georgie, stop it!” I said. But he was laughing the hyulk-hyulk way (I’ve never heard him laugh that way before) and I thought it looked like he was reaching for her pee, but why would he do that? I should have paid closer attention.

True, I was distracted: Bess was panicking, laughing but scared. She couldn’t stop peeing. I laughed for a second, until she grabbed my arm, “Louise, Lou, something’s wrong—” Her pee sounded like it was being sprayed from a hose. I mean that literally. Then the smell changed from pee to coppery blood.

She was sweating and white as a sheet. She whispered, “Oh no … ” blood gushing out of her, soaking her pajama pants and pooling on the floorboards. She was having trouble, crouched there with her arm braced against the wall. It looked like she was going to fall over.

Georgie was grunting in a way that boys his age shouldn’t grunt, his hand was in the pee, his white gloves (white gloves?!) rubbing blood and pee counter-clockwise. He smeared it under the nose of his Howdy Doody mask and inhaled so weird (I don’t know how to describe it. A reverse sigh?), tilting his head side to side and smacking his lips under the mask.

I said, “Georgie, that’s disgusting!” And I pulled his mask off. Everything happened in seconds.

It wasn’t Georgie at all. Bald head, bone-white grinning face, black marks over the eyes and red circles on the cheeks. A grown man. Why did we think he was Georgie?

He said, “Girls who speak of Holly Granger, piss and bleed when they’re in danger. Hyulk-hyulk-hyulk!”

Head tilted back, a thick brown tongue flicked out of his mouth. It was spiky and corkscrew-shaped, dipping into the pee and blood, flapping like a fish. He smeared the blood and pee under his actual nose, then sucked the soaked fingers of his glove—and that’s when I realized his left arm was shaking because, honestly, this guy was pulling himself. Like what we caught Walter Bennington doing behind the tennis courts last year. Only Walter, in comparison, is cute and charming. Just bad timing. This creepy man, though, his eyes were rolled back in his head. Eyelids fluttering, tilting his head side to side, it was like a pantomime or caricature of a fancy man enjoying, I don’t know, an éclair?

Like I said, it took seconds. After he laughed, and I realized what his arm was doing, Bess fainted. She fell to her left, knocking over the pitchfork, hitting her head hard on a box of Georgie’s wooden blocks.

The pitchfork fell fork-first, straight into the scary man’s face, ripping his eyelids and cheeks. The middle tine pierced his tongue (?!) straight through, just below his chin.

He screamed and fell. Bess was unconscious and had somehow rolled onto the handle. The man was hanging by his tongue, screeching, struggling, reaching up to grasp his tongue and pull at it. Still using only his right hand. I grabbed the wooden sword again and beat against his writhing, impaled tongue, scream-whispering, “Go away. Go. AWAY. GO! AWAY!”

His tongue was trying to spike me. I had to jump out of the way. I saw through the trap that his left hand was indeed buried in his poofy, striped pants, jerking frantically. The harder I beat his tongue, the faster he jerked.

I can’t get this out of my head: his eyes popped open, fixed on mine. He grunt-groaned really loud, his back arching. There was a noise like a gallon of chunky old milk being poured messily onto a lawn from a height of about 15 feet. Lots of splats. The smell of rotting meat.

He grasped the edge of the trap as he reached up with his left hand, coated in viscous glistening thick dark pudding-like liquid. It was dripping all over the rope ladder. He ripped his tongue from his mouth.

I fell back against the wall, trying not to puke.

He pulled his face up through the trap, turning to grin at me. Blood welling up, pouring down the sides of his face, splattering on the edges of the trap—and, no doubt, the rope ladder below him. He batted his torn eyelids at me like a coy little old lady, saying, “I’ll be back for fun and games. I have learned your lady names. You have made me feel so nice, I will have to bite you twice—!”

That’s when his tongue ripped and he fell, landing with the sound of crunching bones. Followed by silence. I wanted to pull the rope ladder up and slam the trap door shut. But I couldn’t move for the longest time. I was cold. So cold. I may have passed out. I remember coming to myself, feeling like I snapped back into focus.

I sprang to the ladder and trap, careful to avoid any of his splattered blood or fluids.

Except there was no splatter. The rope ladder, trap door, everything was completely clean. I shined my flashlight everywhere. There was nothing.

Looking for your secret lover?”

I jumped out of my skin. It was Bess, sitting up and smiling at me. She looked fine. Like she’d had a nice nap. The pitchfork was standing up against the wall where she’d first put it.

He’s gone,” I said.

Who? Your actual secret lover?”

No,” I said. “That scary fellow. The one who tried to get in.”

Are you trying to frighten me, Lou? That was Georgie. He told us to get out, we said we’d buy him ice cream cones and he went back to bed.”

She was certain of this.

I am doubting my sanity now.

We went inside, she took the other twin bed in my room, falling asleep right away. I lay awake for a couple more hours. When I did sleep, my dreams were full of stained white-gloved hands reaching around wooden corners.

This morning is bright with clear blue skies. Dad’s making waffles. We’re about to go down for breakfast, then we’re getting ready for the backstage introduction or whatever it is at Woodminster. Mother says we have to go to that because Mr. Bell expects us. We decided not to tell her about our audition plans. Bess thinks I should definitely do my Ezio Pinza impersonation. We’re singing along with Eddie Fisher and Rosemary Clooney, searching Mom’s sheet music for songs we actually know.

I asked Georgie if he came outside last night, right in front of Bess. He looked at me like I’m crazy. Bess didn’t even hear him. I wonder if I am crazy, but Bess keeps rubbing her head, and I keep offering to check her for a bump or something. She refuses to admit she’s rubbing her head.

AND we went outside this morning when I told her again what happened last night. Each time I tell her, she forgets more and more of what I said. I took her outside to try to jog her memory, even though all the blood and stuff disappeared last night.

Everything was exactly the same. Except for one thing:

Under the rope ladder. A couple feet from the base of the tree. A large dark burn mark on the grass, like something thick got dumped out, splattering everywhere.

And the smell.

Rotting meat.

The journal entry ends there, no similar pages follow.

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Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — C&R V

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on October 3, 2017 at 12:06 pm

(You’ve maybe clicked on this because I’m bugging you to read it, but you don’t know where to begin. Hint: start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July 2017 – C&R V

Beneath this last letter is most of a neatly-penned page from a journal:

May 10, 1952

Bess and I snuck out last night. The moon is so bright! We brought flashlights, but we didn’t need them. And by God, if she didn’t bring a damned pitchfork! I snorted so loud when I saw that thing, I think I may have inhaled a firefly.
We had all sorts of plans: walk to MVC, egg Sadie Ballard’s house, dance an actual quadrille. I liked that one until Bess pointed out that requires at least eight people. She’s a good dancer. She knows this stuff. So instead of all that, we climbed up into Georgie’s tree fort and smoked cigarettes. I went first, and Bess handed her pitchfork up before she climbed the rope ladder. She said this was for safety, in case of marauders. She didn’t know how right she was.
It was so exciting and dangerous. Bess said, “Do you think Holly Granger was this excited when she ran away?”
I said, “I’m not sure. Because of her dad.”
Do you think anyone told the police – ?” Bess was saying, but she stopped. “Do you hear that?”
Hear what?”
That sound. Listen.” Bess gets annoyed with me when I ask questions sometimes.
I don’t hear anything – ”
Shh!” she said, “It’s like … sleigh bells.”
I was going to say something about Santa and the Nice List, but I just listened instead.
I hear it,” I said, “It does, it sounds like … ”
Jingles,” she said.
That’s when something

The page is torn and burned at that point.

I set it down, looking at Weedbeard. He sees the question in my eyes.

“Yes, I think that may be the first appearance of our enthusiastic passenger from earlier tonight,” he says.

“I have a fuckload of questions,” I say.

“Have some more of that cheese,” he says.

I take another bite of the cheese, which I’ve been quietly avoiding since the strange vision that came with the first piece.

I see pools of light illuminating statues and ancient reliquary in what looks like a Victorian museum of antiquities. An older man, professorial in a three piece suit, is gasping as he struggles to pour a circle of salt around an ancient, sealed funerary urn on a marble pedestal. He mutters under his breath, words that sound like, “Mae Mirthin in chenouk hen galen thon, Protego! Servo! Praemunio!” A crash of shattered ceramic from the darkness behind him, and he freezes. A guttural chuckle rolls from the shadows. All color drains from the professor’s face as he falls to his knees.

The vision recedes and I reach for my tea. “What the hell is in that cheese?”

“It’s not so much what’s in the cheese, as it is what’s in you. The nature of the Mont Perdu Abbey and all it produces is to draw from within us that which is hidden, lost or obscured. It seems to me you might have some … lostness. Is there anything you need to find?”

“I lost time,” I say, before realizing I’ve spoken aloud. I eat a third piece of cheese.

“When and where?” Weedbeard says.

“Backstage at the theatre,” I say.

Weedbeard’s eyes widen, he leans forward: “Wait!” he says, “That memory isn’t safe!”

His voice echoes, fading down a long tunnel, blending with another sound until I’m standing somewhere familiar. I don’t just see it; I’m here. There are two or three mannequins. Boxes labeled GARLANDS and BANNERS. My cell phone light is on. I’m at the top of a set of dusty red concrete steps. They lead down to an open steel door. And from the inky darkness beyond,

“Ma-MA … Ma-MA …”

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — C&R IV

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on October 2, 2017 at 11:43 am

(Love spoilers? Read on! Hate spoilers? Start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July 2017 – C&R IV

May 5, 1952

Miss Louise Archer
5694 Estates Drive
Oakland, CA 94611

Dear Lousie,

Goodness, old friend, um … Can kidology yank or uproot rightminded, sober, eventempered ladies? Foolishness! How you carry on. I believe Miss Fitzsimmons is correct: you should be more industrious. Perhaps as applied to my first suggestion.

Regarding the musical, yes. I believe our summer months would be best spent basking in the tropical breezes of the Montclair District, with all its fog and tiny streets. But, to paraphrase Odysseus, how do we get in?

Lousie, Lousie, Lousie … you are my best friend in the world, but I have to tell you that it’s time to invest in a toothbrush. A girl has enough trouble getting a husband without sabotaging her personal appearance. I have some old ones I could lend you, just to get started. Mama uses them to punish the orphans, but a quick rinse and some borax should get them near new.

Sincerely Yours,

[Handwritten Signature]

Miss Bess Tremaine
1908 Julia Street
Oakland, CA 94618

PS, Friday is a full moon. Sadie Ballard shared this in Mr. Parker’s Astronomy lecture. It burst from her like a cry of victory. Mr. Parker praised her, as he should. Noticing the moon! Usually we need boys to point that out, but we never go near boys so it’s really admirable that she figured this out on her own.

[Handwritten note: Your concern for her teeth is admirable, but be nice about it. Awkward girls are lonely enough as it is. -10 points for spelling: L-o-u-i-s-e. I have friends at the theatre, I’ll call and ask if they need people to sweep up. You two aren’t what I’d call stageworthy. Re., Sadie Ballard: it is good that you recognize a role model. Now start modeling yourself after her and you may yet learn your role in life.
– Miss Fitzsimmons
]


 

May 7, 1952

Miss Bess Tremaine
1908 Julia Street
Oakland, CA 94618

Dearest Bess,

I went by the Firehouse the other day to see Bill. He said all the boys loved your mom’s potato salad, and they didn’t mind the kitty hair. What a relief that must be for you! If your salad is anything like your Mom’s, you’ll have no trouble boning up for that MRS Degree.

What a delight to have Miss Fitzsimmons’s personal hygiene advice and her help at the theatre. I’m so, so glad you mentioned that in our correspondence. She has been very helpful: she’s called them up and told them all about how we would be great hands at doing the laundry or sweeping up. How delightful. Now I needn’t bother auditioning at all, because I’m going to be doing peoples’ laundry. Which is my place. Whew! Embarrassment forestalled.

We must be sure to show up at 9:30 am on Saturday, which is when we’ll be expected to learn about how everything works there. Let’s be certain to avoid showing up around 5 pm, which is when the actors will be auditioning. I don’t want anybody to get the wrong idea.

Your Sincere Palsy-walsy,

[Handwritten Signature]

Miss Louise Archer
5694 Estates Drive
Oakland, CA 94611

PS, Without Sadie Ballard, I simply don’t know what I would think. On any subject. Let us celebrate Sadie in the moonlight! Mayhaps a midnight quadrille on Broadway Terrace? I’ll bring the pitchforks.

[Handwritten note: It is good that you recognize your place in daylight, but girls should be home abed at midnight. Please do not let me hear that you’ve been dragging farm equipment out in the dark. Are you ladies making grave mistakes like the Granger girl? Please learn from her foolishness.
Miss Fitzsimmons]

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — 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 Eight: 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.”