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Posts Tagged ‘Woodminster’

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — Dark Carousel III

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on October 17, 2017 at 12:06 pm

(Hi, friends! New to this story? Avoid the spoilers below; start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 12, 2001 – Dark Carousel III

I resist at first, but Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit leans in an brushes her lips across mine. I follow. She leads me past what I now know are the stage left stairs. Nobody sees us. We’re among picnic tables, turning right and going down three steps to a shadowed terrace. She draws me to the darkest corner, furthest from all sources of light. In the moment, goosebumps and arousal fight for dominion.

Re-visiting the memory, I’m galvanized by fear:

We’re on the rooftop picnic terrace above the mens’ dressing room.

As if on cue, a sound floats from the trees on the dark slope beyond:

“Ma-Ma … Ma-MA …”

It’s like a whisper; it could be mistaken for a night bird. I didn’t notice it at the time. My impulse, in the clarity of hindsight, is to turn and run. Only for some reason, I can’t flex this memory. I’m stuck. And Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit is kissing me, so it’s much easier to just give in.

“Close your eyes,” she says. I do. She says, “The moon is waning, did you know?”

“Yes,” I say. “My mom’s an astrologer – ”

She stops my mouth with another kiss, then says, “The moon is waning and the dust will blow.” Then she knees me in the balls.

I gasp, eyes popping open, as she blows something in my face. It’s powder or dust and I feel little bits of it get in my eyes and on my lips. I’m gasping, choking, sputtering. I can feel my eyes swelling up. The urge to rub them is overwhelming. “What the fuck was that?!” I say, raspy, coughing.

“The webs of fate have all been spun,” she says, and she sounds ecstatic. Euphoric. She puts something on her tongue and kisses me, shoving her tongue into my mouth as she pushes me to the cold hard concrete. I’m trying not to cough into her mouth, but whatever is on her tongue is in my mouth now, and it’s crunchy. Like, bugs crunchy.

At the time, I thought she was trying to be kinky. Clumsy, embarrassing, potentially fatal kinky, but still — sex.

Pulling up my shirt, she breaks the kiss. Knowing what I know now, I realize she isn’t really trying to undress me. The concrete is cold and rough on my low back. I want to tell her this is really uncomfortable, but it feels like my throat is closing up.

“Ma … ma?” from the shadows in the trees just beyond the terrace. It sounds excited.

She’s whispering, grinding against me, and I hear her words this time: “This day’s the last you’ve seen the sun. This day’s the last you’ve taken bread. This day’s your last, your end’s begun. The dark moon grows, your breath’s unspun, the webs are strong, you’ve lost the sun, your lust is crumbs, the bread is mold – ”

I want to tell her I’m surprised at her use of internal rhyme, because she’s strictly an ABAB kind of girl — but I’m distracted by the click of something metallic. I try to open my eyes. They’re swollen mostly shut. In spite of that, I can see movement now among the branches, in the darkness beyond the terrace. A shape is coming closer.

Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit puts a cold, sharp blade against my low back, on the left side. She says, “I promise you will Not.” The blade cuts into me. “Get.” I struggle back from her, trying to push her off, but her fingers are pressing, rubbing a stinging substance into the slice. “Old!

Even with my eyes swollen mostly shut, I can see something strange in her face: her left eye has something shiny in it. Something … golden. I marvel at it a moment before the shape in the darkness raises up above and behind her. It looks like a fleshy scorpion’s tail, but all wrong. Unnatural and revolting. It jiggles as it moves with such wrongness that I sit up fast and straight – smacking my head into Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit’s nose.

She cries out, clutching her face.

Electric light floods the terrace. The thing of wrongness is gone. Blood is pouring down Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit’s face.

“What the hell’s going on here?” I hear a familiar voice. “Laurabell? Is that you?

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Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — Dark Carousel II

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on October 16, 2017 at 12:07 pm

(This is a serialized narrative. I’m telling this story in order. To avoid confusion and spoilers, start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 12, 2001 – Dark Carousel II

“Oh sure, she’s so hot you fainted,” Billy is saying. There’s mockery there, but deeper down I hear the venom that would eventually poison our friendship. With my eyes shut, I regain some perspective: I’m in another memory. It’s Friday, July 12, 2001 – we’ve just watched Noel Antonio Escobar give a lovely singing of Billy Bigelow in Carousel at Woodminster Amphitheatre, Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit (who would later choose Laurabell Beaujolais as her stage name, of course) is my … undefined intimate romance. I’m twenty-seven years old, I’m not in any pain and I have yet to make the cascade of mistakes that characterized my 30’s.

The jingling has stopped. Wait, why was I concerned about bells?

I open my eyes.

All of this has happened in seconds. I stand back up, a little wobbly. Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit is “concerned,” Billy Seltzer rolls her eyes. The cast of Carousel is bowing. I applaud, whistling. They bow again.

I bellow/sing, “Escobaaaaaaaaaar!”

People in front of us turn to stare at me.

Billy Seltzer takes two steps to our left, pretending not to know me.

this is something she will do in the future on a much larger scale, then pretend she didn’t do it and tell mutual friends that she doesn’t understand why I “abandoned our friendship” …

Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit puts her hand on my arm in an attempt to “calm” me.

this is something she will keep doing over the next many months – try to control my behavior, to edit my demeanor, to gently chastise me for not spending every waking moment literally polishing the figurative golden statue she demanded I sculpt of her in my heart …

These prophetic memories are less disorientating than the first. I find them useful: they’re like emotional ballast, keeping me stable – reminding me that I’m just a re-visitor here.

But why am I here?

The curtain call is over, people are gathering their things and leaving. Our seats are in the back of Section 4, which is house-right of the center section.

“It’s gonna take him a minute,” Billy Seltzer says. “Let’s sit. I fucking hate the crowds.”

A young mother walks by with a sleeping toddler in her arms. They’re jingling! Terror shocks through me and I give an involuntary fight-or-flight twitch: backwards over the seats to the back of the house, sprint for the entrance — this escape path is clear in my mind. Then I see that the toddler is wearing a onesie with little jingling bells in the peak of its elfin cap.

I relax. But — why am I relaxing? Why was I scared? There’s something nibbling at the back of my mind.

Alarm fades and the question follows it to sleep. We watch as parents and grandparents are gathering their sleepy, unconscious or bored kids and grand-kids for the long trek back to the cars. I hear more than one grandparent say, “Did you like the show, honey?”

I let those people get far away, then say to the ladies, “As though a child of six is going to be just riveted by Carousel? This baffles me: grandparents being excited to take their grandchildren to see Rodgers & Hammerstein. These shows are not fast-paced, the subject matter tends to be a little bit heavy, and kids aren’t going to relate to any of the characters.”

I’m talking a little too loudly, making an aesthetic proclamation. Strutting for Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit. Watching myself do this, I cringe at the memory. I don’t say it, but the words may as well be silently appended to the beginning of every sentence: I went to the Boston Conservatory, and …

“You don’t know that,” Billy Seltzer says.

I say, “Little kids are going to say, ‘Golly, I sure do want to be Curly in that dream ballet down there’?”

“I think the Dream Ballet might have a lot to do with certain little boys realizing they might need to do some musicals,” says Billy Seltzer.

I laugh. “You have a point. We must proselytize! Bring all your grandchildren, conservative grandparents, and let Musical Theatre work its bright and sparkly charms!”

Billy Seltzer is smiling, but she turns away; I see it in her eyes: a jealousy I didn’t catch at the time. “I’m heading down,” she says. “I think there’s a bathroom down there.”

there wasn’t …

“We’ll be down in a minute,” says Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit. As Billy picks up her jacket and blanket, Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit takes me by the hand and draws me away, to the right, up the last few steps to the back of the amphitheatre, heading toward the actual restrooms. She’s turning to smile at me, allure her clear intention.

she may as well be wearing a neon sign …

I figure we’re heading for the restrooms and I want to ask her if she’s going to poop with that same expression on her face, but she turns left at the top of the far house-right stairs, drawing me down. I follow, of course, and when she pauses at the fork in the stairs, I see right through her pretense of debate. She knows exactly where she’s taking me. She turns and looks at me, an eyebrow arched in sexual promise, then draws me toward the cement walkway on the right.

At the time, I had no idea where it went. Now, I see it with two sets of eyes: not knowing in the moment where we were going, and the knowledge what happened when we got there, which – until now – I had entirely forgotten.

I try to pull back, to stay in the light.

It’s impossible.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — Dark Carousel

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on October 13, 2017 at 5:04 pm

(Tell your friends to read this story so you guys can chat about it over absinthe. Tell your enemies to read this story so they will come to you and say, “Why did you tell me to read that? Now I’m afraid to poop. I’m so afraid to poop!” Because your enemies are clearly idiots. Start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 21, 2017 – Dark Carousel

Judy steps between Weedbeard, myself and the door. She fixes her eyes on mine. She’s calm, firm and strong like Half Dome. She says, “Ed, I want you to think of a girl you once knew. That may take you some time – I know a lot about you.”

I laugh at that – and manage to push Weedbeard back a step.

Judy is still speaking, though: “This is a girl whose eyes looked blue when you met her. She came along at a time when you needed healing, and at first you thought that she might be the one.”

This tickles memories from over a decade ago, but there is power welling inside of me, filling me from my feet upward.

Judy is distracting me with her damned words: “Again, Ed, that could describe a lot of the women in your past – you’ve needed healing all your life. And that’s okay.”

The power is reaching my heart. If Judy would just shut up, I know that – very soon – I’ll throw Weedbeard through that door and leap after him, just to prove that there’s nothing there and we’ve won!

Judy plants her feet and places her hands before her in a stance of, what, conjuring? Protection? It looks familiar to me, but from where? She says, “What makes this girl different from all the rest is that her eyes didn’t stay blue. In fact, they never were. Not since before the first time you saw her. But you saw the slip of her mask. On a very specific night, in a very specific place – they turned from blue to … ”

“Golden,” I say.

The world flips over. Everything on the floor crashes through the ceiling. I need to escape before it lands on me, so I slip straight down – only, up – through the floor.

And I’m falling. There are hundreds of people below me, screaming? No, cheering –

I land with a slam and a lurch and I hear myself say, “Earthquake, sorry, I’ve eaten too much garlic,” to the lady next to me.

She doesn’t notice because everyone’s on their feet, cheering as Julie Jordan is taking her bow. And now here comes Billy Bigelow – and it’s my old friend Noel Escobar. “Holy shit, we’re at Woodminster!” I say.

“Of course we are, silly,” says a young, sultry voice to my right.

I turn and there she is. Brunette. Blue eyes. Full lips. Porcelain skin.

cracking porcelain, paper hands …

I brush that thought aside, noting that it would make a good detail in a short story about a haunted theatre. I take her in my arms, kissing her full on the mouth. She complies, willing, and as I feel her press her body against me – firm, full breasts; muscular thighs – I am overcome with incandescent desire. The people around us fade away and I am unzipping her jacket, reaching to –

“Jesus, Edward, calm down – it’s not that cold!” This from my left and the spell is, well, not broken exactly, more like put on hold. I turn and that lady isn’t a stranger; she’s my friend Billy Seltzer – friend and former lover, she who eventually regretted introducing myself and the Sizzling Bhuddist Yam Pot to my right: Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit.

I haven’t seen Billy Seltzer in over a decade …

For a moment, I see events yet to come as though recalling their memory, and the world splits in two: my eyes lose focus, vision splitting and going sideways as I land heavily on my ass in a hard plastic bleacher seat. Everything is spinning and I hear, faintly, something I don’t want to hear at all: underneath the applause and cheering, bells.

Jingling.

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

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on October 12, 2017 at 11:54 am

(Sometimes you are dusty. Let these mummified hands brush you clean. Listen to their first insidious whispers here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 21 2017 – C&R X

As he braces himself to fire,Weedbeard’s right bootheel touches a small patch of the insect grool and is burned away on the right side. He doesn’t notice, racking a fresh charge with a lever on the underside of the shotgun as he shouts, “Rocksalt, Fatherfucker!” The second blast is a dull roar; my ears are still ringing from the first.

The blast of salt tears through the baby doll, its larval plorper and the rotting hand, burning chunks splattered backwards onto Dolly Lurker’s porcelain skin – which now cracks, like actual porcelain. Dolly Lurker is gnashing its giant flapping shutter trapdoor teeth, breaking spider legs with juicy, meaty chunkings; the arm of the rotting hand holding the nightmare baby doll jutting off at an odd, jaunty angle like FDR’s cigarette holder. We have nothing to fear but a giant mouthful of spider legs! This thought is all mine, and it’s a relief to not hear others in there.

Weedbeard racks a third charge with the lever – I look over: this is a revolving shotgun. I say, “Fucking rad!” – but I’m drowned out as Weedbeard bellows, “Thrice-blessed by Rabbis, Priests and Pagan Conjurers! Smoked in the Smokey Smoke of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme!”

As he says those last five words, ancient harmony wells up around us: thousands of monks, angelic choirs, every hippie who ever lived? Whoever it is, there is a moment of soul-wrenching beauty as that harmony coalesces around Weedbeard. He fires the shotgun on the button of the musical phrase.

There is a strange stillness to the blast – the salt crystals meet a barrier in the air for an instant, but the words Smokey-Smoke appear in the air, in a circle, around the blast. Is this the smoke of the blast, or the smoke in which the salt was smokey-smoked? I don’t know. But it puffs out into those words and then is sucked into every shard of salt – and the barrier is broken.

Dolly Lurker is blasted back against the wall, shrinking, two hands reaching up to hold its cracking face together, spider legs scrabbling at odd angles for purchase on anything. One of them is caught on the doorjamb of this upper door and rips out, falling to the floor with a clatter. Weedbeard has racked a fourth charge and blasts the leg away from the door; it shatters, but even the shards twitch and jumble about. I have a feeling that they’d slice anyone they could reach right now.

“Ma-MA! Ma-MAAaaughlghghghllllrrrrrghhhhh … ” Dolly Lurker sounds like it’s back down at the bottom of the stairs. I’m standing – when did that happen? – and I move toward the door to look.

Judy and Weedbeard both grab my arms and pull me back. I’m fighting them. Why?

“You heard the voice, didn’t you, Edward?” Judy says.

“It’s got a deeper hold on you that it would if you’d never heard it,” Weedbeard says.

They’re strong, but I’m determined to look through that door. I’m dragging them toward the opening. It looks innocuous. Just a doorway. I say, “How do I tell you both to fuck off but in a very respectful way?”

Weedbeard steps in front of me, grabbing me by the shoulders. I’m able to push him toward the door. I’m not usually this strong. “This is why I told you the memory was unsafe!” he says. “This doorway is warded and therefore acts like a portal – memories are malleable and can be changed here! You passed out when Alan fell, you didn’t see all of this. You need to step back to your present before you alter this leaf of time!”

But I’m pushing him. We’re almost at the door. I’m winning.

It feels so good!

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

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on October 9, 2017 at 11:43 am

(Applebee’s sucks. In your heart of hearts, you know it’s the Fuller House of chain restaurants. If you love both of those things, you probably won’t like this story. If you loathe both of those things, you’re in the right place. Start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 21 2017 – C&R VII

Lanky dark hair just beyond the doorjamb moves in a breeze I can’t feel. I see it now: an eye. Golden iris, pupil far too large. Locked onto me. Skin porcelain white. A gigantic, goofy grin, with way too many huge square teeth. The expression in that one eye: towering, giddy, ravenous rage. A clear thought forms in my head, the entire sentence sounding inside my cranium as though spoken, It wants us dead, and it wants to be the deadening.

Then another voice speaks in my head, shadows of terrified screaming beneath every vowel; my ears itch inside as it slithers around in my brain, unlocking every worst memory, breathing fresh fuel into every fear and insecurity:

No, no, no, no, no, my tasty, I am the deadening. Oh my, oh my, oh my, yes. I am the deadening. I am the deadening.

I shake my head against its slithering brain eggs; the nodule and sporangia all shift to focus on me with wet squish and plorpings. I’m trying to ignore the whirlwind of bad memories in my mind.

No, no, no, no, no, my tasty — all of the things. You remember all of the things. They are your esssssssence. Why try? You are that rejected ring. You are the miscarried child. 

Weedbeard says, “Alan, now!”

I can see outside the door, at last: Judy is there, and now there’s a face to the voice of Alan – it’s Obi-Wan-point-five! He’s throwing a Crown Royal bag full of something that isn’t a bottle to Weedbeard, who catches it without looking, eyes on the nodule. Obi-Wan-point-five is covered in oil. Judy is upending a box of kosher salt over his head, then pouring on more — olive? — oil. There’s another box of kosher salt nearby. I want to make a joke about savory sex, but I’m afraid to speak, and the voice in my head won’t stop:

You are the broken heart, abandoned promises, mistaken love, foolish indiscretion, erotic obsession, shameful indulgences, every dark and bad thing you work so hard to hide is why you should give up.

The nodule and sporangia shift back to Weedbeard – shphleurk-pop-pop-pop! – when he catches the bag, but I can’t stop shaking my head – I can feel it moving in there! – and they shift back to me, the frond fluffing to cover the ceiling and come halfway down the walls. It sounds, I realize, like a tom turkey puffing up his feathers. This strikes me as funny, until the nodule presses against the skin surrounding it, stretching the skin thin enough that it looks like the nodule will break through.

My tasty, when you tell this story, others will come looking for me, and oh how I want to be found.

It’s the face of a turkey. If a turkey was part vulture and part newborn baby. Grinning, with wriggling tongues for teeth, its eyes crudely-chopped mismatched triangles like a psychopathic jack-o-lantern. There’s a flickering light inside, casting horrid little shadows on the inside of its skull. It’s the light of a candle made from human tallow. How do I know that?

I am the one standing at the foot of your bed, that’s how.

Weedbeard is muttering something over the open Crown Royal bag, moving his hand in a pattern as he does so. The turkeybaby is getting closer to my face, the sporangia growing darker, like they’re engorged with blood.

I am in your closet, watching you sleep. Sucking at your dreams.

“You’ve got one chance, Edward,” Judy says, all calm business, tearing open and dumping the next box of kosher salt on Obi-Wan-point-five, “But you’ve got to shut your eyes. Trust me. Shut your eyes, and when I say NOW, you turn and reach out your left hand. We’ll try to get you in time. Edward? Shut your eyes.”

Mine are the grabbing hands waiting under your bed, reaching up to touch you.

I do as she says, shutting my eyes. Something warm and wet gloms onto my face, wrapping my head in flesh, clogging my nose, sealing my mouth shut. I try to breathe, to scream. I can’t!

I use your mouth to spill my seed in your lungs. Hold real still. Hold
real still. Hold real still.

“Edward, listen to me,” Judy says, her voice still low and calm. “It’s making you think you’re suffocating, but you’re not. And if you open them again, it’s going to breathe those spores right into your eyes and you will be lost to us forever, with no memory of any of this. Be ready, Edward; to your right, with your left hand. Trust me, you’re breathing. Just trust – NOW!”

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

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on October 6, 2017 at 12:24 pm

(Your curiosity has gotten the better of you, now take control! Start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 21 2017 – C&R VI

I feel pulled toward the first step, even as another cry echoes from below:

“Ma-MA … Ma-MA …”

It looks like there is light coming toward the dark doorway, a dim glow outlining shapes in the darkness not revealed by the light of my phone.

I hear Judy to my right, it sounds like she might be coming from the scene shop, but I can’t turn to look. She’s saying, “I think I heard it coming from over here, Bill – Oh Good Lord – ”

She’s much closer now, I think she’s just outside the door to my right. A set of footsteps has followed her; someone says:

“I thought this door was warded.”

“It was, Alan — it is. Where’s Bill?” Judy says. Her words are casual, her tone is one of deep concern.

From far away, I hear a man bellow, “Protego!”

Weedbeard

But that doesn’t matter, because at the bottom of the stairs, a hand is reaching around the right side of the doorjamb.

“Ma-MA … !”

Closer now, Weedbeard’s voice bellows, “Servo!”

I’m very cold. The light is brighter down there. Fingers numb, I drop my cell phone. I sense that Judy catches it, her reflexes quick. I note my surprise at this through a novocaine mist of fascination. The light looks like wisps of fog, it’s spreading and reaching along the floor to the doorjamb and beyond. It looks warm like butter, and I take the first step of the stairs.

Running footsteps arrive. I hear Weedbeard outside the door to my right. He bellows, “Praemunio!”

A wave of warmth washes over me from the right. I shudder at the initial contact, goosebumps covering my body. A second hand grasps the doorjamb below.

“Ma-MA! Ahauuughghghghghlllrrrrrblghhhhh … ”

One of the men gasps. Judy says, “No – it can’t be – ”

I’m shoved to the side, landing among boxes and large umbrellas – and Weedbeard is there, throwing a handful of white powder down the stairs. Where it hits, the concrete walls and steps sizzle as little black burn marks appear.

Something pink unfurls from around the base of the door at the bottom of the steps. It looks like a fern frond, growing fast. Weedbeard goes very still. I follow his lead. He moves a foot and the pink thing puffs and stiffens, expanding across the ceiling of the stairwell like a cobra inflating its hood. Only it sends out meaty pink tendrils that stick to the ceiling and walls, a nodule under the surface of its skin turning to follow any movement by Weedbeard.

“Alan,” says Weedbeard, and the nodule pulses out toward Weedbeard’s face when he speaks, as from all of the frond’s meaty surface little sporangia blossom with thick popping plorps. They look like strange lollipops: a thin white stalk supporting a dark pink candy. Weedbeard is more still than before, and I sense that he’s barely breathing.

I see movement at the bottom of the steps. The buttery light is much brighter, and with tarantulic precision something crawls around the doorjamb below the two hands – then grasps tight.

It’s a third hand.

 

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.
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 — 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 Eight: 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.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — 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 Eight: 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.