Chapter 4 Dinner at the Kellies

As they approached the farmhouse, someone tall, slender, and beautiful waited for them on the front porch.

 “I’d like you to meet my wife Sheryl.” The woman had as much poise as her daughter, but looked sad.

“This is Thomas Hatter,” introduced Teddy.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’ve been told you’ve already met our daughter.” Thomas felt his face turning red.

“Honey, we’ll be in my study until supper. Feel free to send our porter to call on us.” The porter was a beagle, exceedingly loud and trained to announce dinner for the household.

Thomas followed Teddy through a door opening into a well lit study. Tall bookshelves lined the wall and a spiral ladder led into a celestial observatory.

“I’ll show you the plans for the weapon.” Teddy flattened a scroll lying on his desk showing the dimensions of an unusual crossbow.

“But I thought werewolves couldn’t be killed,” reminded Thomas.

 “It isn’t an ordinary crossbow, but one designed to snare the monster and inject it with Wolfsbane Potion to counteract its transformation.” Teddy was proud of his product even though he wasn’t the architect. He sold the design like a true salesman.

Thomas surveyed the plans with curiosity. “Rather than a flint arrow, it’s outfitted with a syringe. This needle must deliver a knockout dose.”

“You’re absolutely right, my boy. Could you wield it against a swift adversary?”

“It’s too cumbersome and lacks proper engineering. It’s capable of administering a sizable dose, but if it fails, I’d wager it’ll antagonize the brute.”

“The Doctor and I are planning to incorporate secondary features to the design. Most arrows are crafted to penetrate. This one will carry a compacted net. When the arrow strikes, the shaft will spring forth on all sides. Rope will unwind and fall on the drugged shape shifter. You’ll only have a few seconds to deliver another dose. If you’re lucky, the beast will fall after the first shot.”

“I don’t want to be the hero of your adventure. I just want to marry your daughter!”

“You can and you will my boy, but first take courage.”

Teddy retrieved his topographical maps and launched into tactics when the beagle barked. “That’s the signal for dinner.”

Sheryl served her husband delicious meats and Teddy began the conversation.

Thomas noticed land features cut into the walnut dining table. He wasn’t looking at table wear, but intentional groves. There were the Albadorous Mountains and the Forest of Dawn.

 “Grace dear, would you tell us where you’ve been today? I’m sure Thomas and your father would like to hear how you’ve helped them.”

She nodded and began to share… “It’s a commonly held belief that werewolves hunt by scent and have poor eyesight. When a werewolf lusts for blood, it rages, and according to mythic lore, becomes blind. In this way, it has no disgust for its despicable acts. I’ve harvested wild mint weeds growing in the hills above our valley so you can camouflage your scent with its rare tannin.”

“I wish you hadn’t put your life in danger on my account,” pleaded Thomas.

“That’s nonsense, you’re as good as family now,” interjected Sheryl. “After the meal, Grace and I will mix the ingredients. I know it’s been Teddy’s plan to use my orchids to brew the Wolfsbane Potion. After you prepare at least two doses, I insist we make a mist from the vapors.

Thomas thought it strange that an entire household knew so much about werewolves, but he recalled the tragic impact Elizabeth’s death must have had on the family.

A pool of wax dripped from the candleholder, burning a black spot on the North Hill.

“We should attempt to get some rest before morning. There are many plans that must be laid out and put into action. Thomas, I’m counting on you to be ready for the day ahead of us.” After saying “goodnight” to everyone, Teddy took his leave and staggered off to bed. Grace didn’t want the evening to end. For a moment her emotions welled up, but were immediately sunk into the depths.

Thomas was the last to leave as he stared at the burned map carved into the wood. The black spot gave him an idea. A fire tower on the North Hill could signal the mint village from the wilderness. It would only need to be ignited if their party failed to kill the monster. At that moment, it was difficult to think of the consequences if they should fail. Thomas finally left the table with hunting strategies flitting in and out of his consciousness. He was a man in love, whose chances of happiness were being threatened by a beast with a disposition of indifference and a love for killing.

In the morning, Thomas entered the kitchen smelling bacon and eggs. The Kellies sang a tune while preparing lunches and mashing orchids; even their beagle joined in the song.

“Good morning Tom,” said Teddy cheerily. “We’ll be leaving shortly. I’ve arranged everything with Doctor Thurston and Alex Jorkins. We’ll put the crossbow together in his woodworking store.” ����

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Chapter 3 Wiliver’s Pub

Since Thomas walked through town the other day, things had changed; windows were boarded up, the mortician crafted a surplus of coffins, and the townsfolk no longer chatted cheerily. Everyone moved quickly from one store or residence to the other. Weapons were sold from Mr. Pot’s Cookery and Truffelsnout’s Hardware Store. Diminutive townsfolk swung pickaxes at imaginary monsters, testing their weapons. The werewolf would be quicker and more powerful than any of them.

Only one man behaved reasonably; Dr. Thurston sat at the bar. Wiliver was also there, getting just as drunk as he could on his own imported rum. He was a tall man, unusually fat, light on his feet and the fountain of town gossip. Everyone felt comfortable talking to him. Wiliver was nearly bald, except for a wisp of curly grey hair protruding from his shiny head.

He was worried now, glancing quickly at the Doctor who sat patiently sipping a tonic and lime. “How can you just sit there doing nothing while a monster is on the loose?” he demanded.

The doctor surveyed his companion who perspired and twitched around the jowls. “Sometimes during crisis, the best course of action is to do nothing.”

 “But someone must do something; the commissioner’s daughter has been murdered!” This latest outburst caused the bartender’s brow to furrow; a continuous eyebrow, with grey streaks running from one end to the other. Soon afterward, Teddy and Thomas entered the pub. Both gentlemen looked like they needed a stiff drink.

“What will it be?” gurgled Wiliver.

“It’ll be two single malt whiskeys; one for me and the other for the man who’s going to slay the monster.”

“How can you be certain he’s capable?” asked the Doctor. “I’m sure he’s a decent hunter, but this shape shifter we’re after isn’t a normal dog.”

“Are you suggesting we’re dealing with a werewolf?”

“I’m not suggesting it; I’m telling you.”

Thomas looked at Teddy and Doctor Thurston in disbelief. Did they really intend to hunt a werewolf in the mountains he grew up in? He was aware of these devils, but always took precautions to avoid them. He didn’t think it was possible to kill one.

Then another idea occurred to him. “Wait a minute, Angelica wasn’t murdered or mutilated under the full moon. We must be dealing with a madman who’s framed the murder to look like a werewolf killing.”

Doctor Thurston gave Thomas a wry smile. “I’m afraid the myth concerning the werewolf is nothing more than man’s speculation. Evidence from these hideous murders suggests a man who willfully transforms. Though an ordinary man may be bitten and turned by accident; once saliva enters the bloodstream it gives him power to make the transformation at any time. The nature of man doesn’t change, but the inner beast becomes his master.”

“But can werewolves be killed?” demanded Mr. Wiliver. “I thought they were immortal.”

“We know wolves can be killed, along with men. It may be difficult to identify the man who has savagery in his soul. We must figure-out the monster’s identity and strike when it’s most vulnerable.” The doctor finished his statement and downed his drink.

“Wiliver, could you fry me up a rare steak behind the bar?” The bartender mumbled something about “eating during times of crisis,” but hustled back to the grill to cook the beef.

Thomas looked at both of his companions. “How do you propose we discover the identity of the werewolf?”

“People who become werewolves undergo specific changes in their physical appearance of a canine nature. They’ll have hair growing under their skin and their pupils may become dilated during daytime hours. A werewolf masquerading as an ordinary man will have oddly shaped fingers. They’ll develop an insatiable appetite and desire to eat raw meat.” Teddy relayed his mastery of the subject like a tenured professor.

“But we can’t arrest everyone we suspect to be a werewolf. Even if we do arrest the right man, it’ll be difficult to legally confine him. If I was a werewolf, I’d eat any arresting officer faster than he could say, ‘you’re under arrest.’”

“That’s why we must have a fool proof plan,” suggested Teddy.

“You mean a foolish plan. How can you prepare to face an invisible monster? He could be me or you, possibly even Dr. Thurston who just ordered a steak extra rare.” This comment pricked the Doctor’s countenance and a thin smile spread across his face. “Or perhaps the wolf is not a man at all, but a woman? Can you imagine kissing your wife goodnight, only to realize she had whiskers and a tail? How can any man know how to face the monster?” Thomas pointed toward Main Street. “You know as well as I, this village has a habit of forgetting past tales of horror.”

“Your steak is ready sir.” Wiliver handed Dr. Thurston a sizzling t-bone with blood boiling in the middle.

Teddy eyed his companions seriously. “I intended to meet with you for a reason. I already have a plan.”

The three men became deathly quiet. “All of the women abducted, killed, and mutilated were between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five. They were exquisitely beautiful, had blonde hair, and radiant eyes. The beast has gone undetected for years and I’m certain it’s the same animal that killed every time. My Elizabeth was torn from her carriage on the day of her wedding. I’ve not talked about her death because it upsets my wife. My daughter fell in love with Wiliver. I hope you don’t mind me saying that you were much better looking in those days and quite robust.” Teddy gave Wiliver a kind smile as the bartender shed a tear.

“As I was saying, my daughter and Angelica met the same fate under similar circumstances. I’m convinced the beast attacks young women who’ve found true love. Elizabeth loved Wiliver and Angelica had a whirlwind romance with Edmond Trufflesnout. They were going to be married within the month. All of these coincidences are not the labor of fate. They’re the work of something evil that must kill love before it can flourish.”

“We know the modus operandi of the creature, but we must find a way to trick, capture, and slay the beast. Dr. Thurston, I believe you know about natural animals and something of the unnatural kind.”

“I do, but you must realize preternatural occurrences of magic are unique and open to speculation. Most living things can be killed with modern weapons. This werewolf, if that is indeed what we are dealing with, will be vicious in close quarters. Undoubtedly, Mr. Trufflesnout is doing a fine business at his hardware store selling gardening tools as weapons, but they only enforce a false sense of security. The best method used to eradicate mythological monsters is one that allows killing from a distance.”

“Your latest point is precisely what I had in mind,” cried Teddy with enthusiasm. “I convened our meeting in a hub of social gossip. Wiliver will put the bait in the open faster than anyone. I’ve already sent a messenger to call on Madam Bane. She’s purportedly an expert on werewolf attacks and will be traveling by carriage, just like the other victims. Dr. Thurston, I trust you’ll be able to design a weapon capable of slaying a burly, swift, and indistinguishable monster from a distance. Our ambush must be ready within three days.”

Thomas and Teddy left Dr. Thurston at the bar with Wiliver. “Sir, I’m sorry I’ve fallen in love with your daughter. I can’t bear if anything happens to her.”

“I know my boy, but don’t worry. Nothing can stop true love and it’s as plain as mint pie the two of you are destined to be together.” �����z�_J

Game Night

I was invited to game night
with some average “good people.”

My friend says, “This couple is really cute when they play board games.”

I’m greeted at the apartment door by a balding man who is roughly my age or a little younger, 30 ish.

He gives me a neutral handshake, noncommittal hello, and we walk up to the apartment.

It’s the type of place that is simple in every respect, bare, no personality

but there is something there, a holiness or sacred solitude

They have cheese, wine, and grapes displayed on a cheap table

I greet the man’s wife
She gives me a genuine smile, despite her shyness.

She must be really shy, given that she has been drinking for some time
There are six or seven empty wine bottles in the corner

“Would you like a glass?” She asks.

“No thank you. I don’t drink.”

“Are you religious?” 

This always happens to me. It would be so much easier to have a drink. Everybody thinks that I am making a statement.

I have a selection of potential replies…

“I have an addictive personality. I do everything in excess” or

“I’ve got enough bad habits. I don’t need another.” or

“Drinking is unhealthy. I don’t care what they say about 4 oz. of red wine.” or

“Every man in my family is an alcoholic, except me.” 

But here is the one I chose…

“I did some underage drinking while I worked at the golf course, sampling beers from the golf carts while I washed them, but the stuff never appealed to me.”

“Have a drink of wine,” they say.

“No,” I tell them. “I don’t want to.” 

I’ve already hurt their feelings. 

“What should we play?” They ask.

“How about Secret Hitler,” my friend suggests enthusiastically, maybe a little too enthusiastically. 

When it comes to board games, I know myself.
I know that I love to suggest games where I can slowly torture my competition and I’m starting to realize I have more in common with the girl I came to game night with.

“Secret Hitler, it is,” they laugh. 

I forgot to mention the other member of our group. I went to see Jurassic Park with her and my friends.

She wore a dinosaur dress and dinosaur earrings to the movie. This can be counted in her favor, but so much of this woman is disagreeable. 

Her blonde hair is thinning on top, exposing her sun burnt head. She is drinking a lot of wine now, which causes her to speak louder and more forcefully.

Can you trust a person who is under the influence of alcohol to be more honest than when they are sober?

Anyway, the girl was becoming more aggressive, slamming her hands on the table; she made me jump. 

She looks at my clothes and asks me a rhetorical question, “Did you just come from the golf course? You look like a golfer.”

“Thank you,” I said. 

“It wasn’t a compliment,” She replied. Apparently, the girl I was with thought this comment was completely normal. But she decided to defend me anyway. ” He made it to state with golf when he was in high school.”

I totally missed this comment, but it doesn’t matter. I quit caring about the opinions of other people a long time ago. I do social things so that I can write about them, but the whole experience is usually boring or unpleasant, and in this case, both. 

When you stop caring, unpleasant people take on a low drone. They’re trying to cut into you, but you’ve learned to mute their hatred a long time ago. 

We start playing the game, and oh… the talk will drive most insecure people into a frenzy. 

“That play just went over your head. What are you doing? You still don’t know how to play?”

The man’s wife is looking at me. She can tell that I disengaged a long time ago. “Andy is introspective,” she comments out loud.

I snap back to reality. She noticed that I wasn’t having a good time. 

“He is either completely clueless or he is a fascist feigning ignorance,” one person says. 

The aggressive woman in the yellow dress comments, “You haven’t tried the food that I made. She demands that I try her stuffed peppers. “What’s in them?” I ask.

“Goat cheese,” she says. “I don’t like goat cheese,” I respond. “Have some anyway, “ the group suggests. I take some, while resenting the social pressure. 

The stuffed pepper is as bad as I thought. “Aren’t you going to finish it?” She asks. “No,” I retort. She continues to bitch, but I just ignore her.

After six games of Secret Hitler, I am ready to get out of there and never do a game night again. The girl I came to the party with was Hitler almost every single time. She was a good liar and it made me wonder about women.

If they are this good at lying, they could pull the wool over my eyes without much effort. My intelligence has been brought into question. Not to mention my manhood. 
The aggressive woman was making jibes at me all night.

When it was time to go, they asked me if I would be coming back and I told them “No.” 

“What do you mean, no? Didn’t you have a good time?”

“Not really,” I replied. 

“How did you like the food?” 

“It was okay,” I lied. They didn’t buy it. Apparently, I am not practiced up on my lying the way they are.

“Well, we hope you come and see us again,” they lied. 

I got up and walked out of the apartment with my friend and the aggressive woman. I can tell the aggressive woman is lonely. She doesn’t understand that men don’t like to be insulted about their intelligence, or told they are not well traveled or made fun of for the way they dress.

She offers me a hug before she goes. I consent and she nearly squeezes me to the point that I can’t breathe. “I hope you come back,” she says. 

“Sure,” I say. 

I get into the car with my date. “What a fun time,” she tells me. 

“That was the most miserable time I have had in months,” I share. 
“That woman is a bitch.” 

“Which one?” she asks? I can tell she is offended that I used the “b” word. 

“I pray for any man who feels alone enough to date that woman,” I replied. “What a piece of work.”

“She is just misunderstood,” my friend says. “I think she wants to find a man.”

“That is the problem with the world. The acerbic people are given a pass. Hopefully nature will sort them out. There must be justice in the world.” |�r*z�

Chapter 2 The Murder

Thomas woke the following morning from a commotion downstairs. Light filtered through a screen in the attic causing him to blink in the semi-darkness. Every surface was covered in dust. There were collections of primitive arrowheads, mounted bugs, and assorted books on the shelves. From first impressions, he didn’t think Grace’s father to be the outdoors type. Teddy looked too sophisticated to be comfortable in the woods.

Thomas got out of bed and made his way downstairs. The animal heads were no longer frightening, but looked forlorn, as if they wanted to go home, but were trapped in the dingy corridor forever. When he reached the landing, he immediately encountered a hysterical scene.

Grace tended a girl lying prostrate on the dining table, changing bandages soaked in crimson blood. “Wolf attack, I’d wager,” diagnosed Alex Jorkins. “Not a common assault, but a grizzly affair. It looks like the beast mutilated her body deliberately.” Thomas was almost afraid to look at the chief magistrate’s daughter.

The doctor who would’ve attended to him the night before was inspecting the wounds. “I’m a student of the natural world, but I must say that nothing pertaining to this girl’s misfortune is natural. The beast that did this had the spite of a human and the power of a lion. It attacked the artery at the neck first, indicative of a wolf, but mutilated her remains without ingesting any of the flesh. All of the bite marks were inflicted by the same animal; also in contrast to wolves that usually hunt in packs. We are looking for a rogue; a brute that enjoys killing and slashing the remains after taking life. It’s probably a cunning animal because it kills with efficiency.” There was a hush from the onlookers who watched the naturalist physician examining the poor girl.

“We must catch the devil that did this to her!” screamed Mr. Pots.

“But how do you intend to track this creature down?” asked Mr. Jorkins. “We don’t know what it looks like and it appears to have some higher mental faculties. How else could it have snatched Angelica from her carriage while her father was driving? The commissioner didn’t notice she was taken until he opened the door to let her out at their residence.”

“I’m prepared to lead a hunting party for the brute if anyone will join me,” declared Teddy. At this moment, the townsfolk noticed Thomas for the first time. He awkwardly stood there not knowing how to react.

“What do you say, my boy,” asked Teddy?”

“Let’s not make any rash recruitment just yet.”

“But that thing is still out there!” demanded the chief magistrate in hysterics.

“We can’t do anything about that now. We must tend to the wounded,” said Mrs. Pots with an air of practicality.

Dr. Thurston stopped inspecting the body and sadly lowered his countenance. “I’m afraid the poor girl has expired. There’s nothing left for me to do. If you have further need of my services, you can find me at Wiliver’s Pub.” It was uncommon for the doctor to need a drink, but on this occasion he was willing to let the taps keep running until he was thoroughly drunk.

Teddy motioned for Thomas to meet him in the adjoining room. “This is just foolishness to do nothing when a beast is on the loose. It has a taste for human flesh now. We must orchestrate a town meeting. I know the commissioner is not up to the task.”

“But sir, most of the townspeople are not hunters; they’re shopkeepers. If we let them traipse across the countryside, they’re sure to meet the same fate as the commissioner’s daughter.”

“That’s why I’m relying on you, my boy. I can tell you are a cunning huntsman. I will only say it once; if you do not take up the task of killing the monster, I will never let you marry Grace.” Teddy knew how to strike the heart of any man. “The funeral will be held at the commissioner’s residence. They have a family burial site behind their lot. Be there at one o’clock and meet me for drinks at Wiliver’s Pub afterward. I want to have a talk with the good doctor.”

Thomas walked back to his room to contemplate what had just happened. Without thinking, he pulled one of the dusty volumes off the shelf. It read Werewolves and their Relations. Intrigued by the cover, he examined the text closer. It was a handwritten account of a hunter’s personal exploits with supernatural monsters authored by Tobias Kelly. The name was neatly inscribed on the binding and he wondered if Tobias was Teddy’s real name.

After opening the cover, he noticed the dedication page: To Elizabeth Kelly, My Darling Child. Thomas wondered if Teddy had already lost a daughter and was motivated by revenge.

It was impossible for him to sleep before the funeral. He knew Teddy was planning a hunt that could last for days, if not weeks.

Thomas had tracked monsters above the snow line before. During a storm he stayed in an ice cave at high elevation. An Albadorous Bear entered, intending to rip him apart. Reacting to the brute, he grabbed a nearby arrow, shoving it into the beast’s heart. He’d almost suffocated under the weight of the carcass. Now he was assigned to track a creature twice as fast, as silent as a deer, and certainly more cunning.

It was nearly one o’clock. He dressed himself and walked to the landing below. Teddy and his daughter waited for him. “Did you rest well young man?”

“Not particularly sir. I stumbled across your book and couldn’t help, but read the first few pages.”

“What book is that?” inquired Teddy. “Your journal or I’m assuming it’s your journal, since the author’s name is Tobias. Isn’t your last name, Kelly?”

“Oh, so you found my book on werewolves. I wouldn’t pay much attention to those writings; tall tales written by a blowhard who spent more time bragging to his friends than tracking monsters in the woods.”

“But Elizabeth; wasn’t she your daughter?”

“We don’t speak of my eldest child. She met a similar fate to that poor girl earlier this morning. It happened exactly ten years ago, when our town commissioner assumed office. He was a barman then, helping me track my daughter’s killer. He led the hunt with the help of Mr. Trufflesnout.

It was a large hunting party involving most of the town. The women made lunches for the men who hunted the monster like hounds. It was a bloodthirsty excursion. Nearly two dozen animals were killed. There was no telling which creature had done it.

 I remember Commissioner Peppington managed to get himself into a bad scrap on one of his last tracking parties. Apparently, he followed a savage brute along a ravine, when he lost his footing and plunged into a briar patch. He came back to the hunting party oozing blood, looking as if he fought the monster single-handedly. Since that time, many of his scars never healed. Alan Peppington may not be a backwoodsman, but he’s held the position of town commissioner with distinction.”

“Sir, do you think the monster was slain ten years ago?”

“I can’t tell you, but I will say a creature that kills first and mutilates afterward is despicable.”

“Well sir, how do you suggest we capture or kill the devil that murdered Angelica?”

“It’ll take courage, cunning, and careful planning,” whispered Teddy. First, we must meet with the doctor, he being the expert on natural phenomena who undoubtedly can provide us with some answers regarding the unnatural kind. Can you ride, my boy?”

“Of course sir.” They immediately left on horseback for Wiliver’s Pub. ��՛�’�

Chapter 1 A Beautiful Barista

Thomas Hatter ordered a warm peppermint beverage brewed by a beautiful barista behind the banister. 

“Sir, should I arrange for a hotel where you can lie down?” The graceful woman couldn’t have sounded better. He felt like a boisterous brute transfixed by her beauty. If only he knew the right words to say.

The mysterious woman leaned closer. She had golden hair at shoulder length, beautiful blue eyes, a perfect nose, and a smile reserved just for him. “There’s no reason for you to wander outside in the dark and not even with a coat on your back.”

Grace held the waffling peppermint beverage under his nose. He didn’t have good sense to be pleasant or polite. He just said what came to mind. “Who are you?” She wasn’t taken aback by his directness.

“My name’s Miss Kelly.”

“Does that beverage taste as good as it smells?”

“It tastes better and will cure anything from a sore elbow to a bump on the head. Would you like to lodge at my family home this evening?”

“I’d like that very much.” They walked next to each other down the illuminated street through the center of town. Soon they entered a side road, which turned into a seclude path zigzagging down a hill. Fields erupted with insect choruses and an overpowering mint fragrance. An irrigation stream cycled through an agricultural basin. They reached a wooden foot bridge and crossed into farming country.

Light beamed through a porthole as they walked into the shadows of a tall farmhouse. Several festive conversations were heard. The front door was immediately opened by a stout man with curly gray hair. He wore a purple waist coat, with a golden watch tucked in his pocket.

“Welcome home my darling and who have you brought to stay with us,” he asked.

“He’s a hunter from the northlands who periodically lodges in town. He bumped his head and feinted in my coffee shop. The doctor was sent for, but I think fresh air did him some good.”

“I should say so. Why don’t you give the man a chance to speak for himself? He doesn’t look as if he was struck dumb.”

Thomas smiled at her father and quickly glanced at Grace. “I’m sorry to impose sir, but I lost track of time. I usually hike back to my lodge sooner.”

“Don’t worry young man. We have guests that will never leave.” He motioned to his daughter, “Most of those friends are your mother’s. They can talk for hours about civic meetings and bake sales. They think up projects and I fix whatever they want. I have a list of projects that will never get done on account of your mother’s altruistic ways.

“Oh father, I keep telling you to retire.”

 Teddy held the door open for both of them, but before Grace walked over the threshold he stood on his tip toes and whispered in her ear, “In case you haven’t noticed, that boy is head over heels in love with you.” She blushed despite years of immunity to his jokes and witticisms.

 The guest room was flooded with different types of people. Mr. and Mrs. Pots boasted of their secret mint cheesecake recipes. They wore pots on their heads, which complemented their last name. Mr. and Mrs. Trufflesnout and their seven children were everywhere at once. The chief magistrate was introduced, along with his daughter Angelica, who had cherubic qualities. The din of party guests made it impossible to hear.

Grace opened a staircase leading into the attic. “You can stay here for the evening. Breakfast will be served in the morning.” Thomas didn’t find the dark corridor inviting and tried not to stare at the taxidermies on the wall.

The Giggle Machine

 

Juke

The Giggle Machine

I put in a dime or two
to get her joy
her laughter
and her sweet companionship

I don’t care about the rules
I don’t care what we can be
or can’t be
All I want is to spend
one more day with her

I love how she waddles
when she runs

I love how hard she tries
to keep the commandments
follow the rules
and maintain her purity

She is getting older
and she has questions about her life

I love it when she confides in me
trusts me
Makes me feel like a man

Of course I’m an idiot
I say the wrong thing
I try to make it better
but I make it worse

I wish I could tell her
how much I love her
It slips out from time to time
“I care about you Jessica”

I love to tease her
I want her to be happy
I want to make her happy

She has style
and dresses well

I like her thick framed glasses
and curly blonde hair

I love it when she says my name
She sings it to me
with love

I’m afraid to pursue her
What if she runs away?

I enjoy my friend
But I want more of her
I can never get enough

I’ve lost interest in other women
I think of Jessica all the time
It’s crazy, I know

My friend tells me
“There are so many other women out there”
I don’t care

There are fierce women
Sexy women
Women that give me looks

But Jessica is cute
pure
and when she looks at me
I know that she cares for me too

Jessica wants me to find someone to love
She wants me to get married
and have a family

I want the same for her
I want her
But religion gets in the way

I feel like shaking my fist at God
or strangling the man who invented religion
Joseph Smith and the rest
have been wrecking romance
for hundreds of years

I’m just as bad
I have some integrity
I won’t compromise my beliefs or non-beliefs

We would be better off
with
just

love

The World had Class

The World had Class

With US Loyalists
typing on manual typewriters
smoking cheap cigars
unable to get Cubans

The atomic threat
radioactive bugs
growing to enormous size

Our problems today
are smaller
and twice as deadly

People worry about losing their life
in an instant
But what about the slow grind
Lines and more lines
or taking satisfaction
in a job without victories
just the same tired business
day after day

We have lost touch with ourselves
each other
machines

Now everything must be electric
clean
safe

Don’t the lawmakers know
that driving something dangerous
gives a man
control
before his death

He might cause his end
but his life is his to lose

A Man’s word used to be enough
but now we get suspicious
We feel each other out
in the dark
There is a void between us
and no trust

We need contracts, lawyers, and proceedings
to do business
Even then
we feel used

We acquire things
growing our burden

Men want
women
children
and responsibility

But they compound our misery

They make us happy
But happiness will take you to the top of the rainbow
and back down again

When you have things
you hold onto them
without thinking
why?

People want what you’ve got
Most have terrible taste
like the connoisseur on the classical music station
He’s taking a trip on a pleasure cruise down the Danube
with anyone who has enough money
and tolerance for his BS

I’ve spent time with snobs
there is always a bigger one

The most valuable lesson
I’ve learned in life
is to love
myself

I’ve spent time alone
and had the good fortune
of making a loyal friend

A friend who enjoys socializing
with important people
and I’ve spent time with them

In their company
I’ve learned how much I enjoy my own
I always suspected this
but part of me believed I was not good enough
until I witnessed the sneers, put-downs, and cold shoulders

I don’t mind these types
I write about them

We need to spend time with other people
venturing out
into crowds
enamored with self-love

But killing time with them
is like killing yourself

So many things
steal from you slowly
like paying rent
and never owning a house
or loving a woman
and never getting love back

We need to embrace the problems
rejections
cold-hearted aggressions
and love
this thing
that has become

life

The Imagination Man

 

type

The Imagination Man

made a steaming pot of coffee
sliding a crisp piece of paper into his typewriter

The machine began to scream
and the keys didn’t stop punching
like a heavyweight fighter
refusing to be knocked out

Even through sickness, critics, and rejection
He kept writing

Putting words on the page was sacred
like praying

A cult leader of one
a master and a slave
in his own mind

Sometimes we live dangerously
This type of living is special
It is the type that can kill you

Owning pet alligators
Skydiving
Dancing on the High-wire
Breaking out of the 9 to 5

Roaming the open road
loving freedom
Not allowing one’s self to control one’s self
Moving by the wisp of the wind

A lost soldier who actually has a battle to fight for
the battle for himself

Unwilling to make plans
living life in the raw

Open to new experiences
all experiences
whatever happens
is meant to be

Eating asparagus
growing alongside the road
and trucker food
that will clog his arteries

Losing time
and gaining it

Throwing mechanical measures away

Developing his own religion
and spiritual creed

The Imagination Man lives by his own law

I’m experiencing life
and leaving reality behind

I can’t be afraid
of being the madman

When I type long enough
I start to enjoy it
One thought leads into another

I can write about writing for hours
It is something I love
And the more I love it
the more my writing fills the holes
in my soul

Heaven is a Place that Kills You
Ease of living
can make you weak
It is the place old folks go
before they die

Young nurses make their beds
bring them meals
and comb their hair
until their bodies protest

Their heart stops
Their bowels quit holding
Everything lets lose
Accepting death

Consider eternity and what it means
When we lose the ability to appreciate life
We die

Heaven could be a metaphor
for living well
but life is monotonous

There is not much difference between heaven and hell
Eternal pleasure becomes painful
after awhile

Like a drug addict
with an eternal high
His choicest drug
cannot satisfy

Even in the peak of his pleasure
the emptiness
awaits
A void
never to be filled

An Agent of Chaos

An Agent of Chaos

 

at bible study last night

it was just me and the Russian girl

in the beginning

 

“How is work going?” She asked.

“I just love it!” I said

From her reaction

she wasn’t expecting that

 

Funny

people love to complain about their jobs

But if you hate to complain

All hell will break loose!

 

“Sure, of course you love your job!” she said.

You sit in your office all day

thinking up impossible strategies

for teachers to implement!”

 

The Russian girl teaches Kindergarten

I can see she feels agitated

And I just want to have a good

fun

conversation.

 

“Well, I’m not complaining,” I said.

“It is a pretty easy job. I work half the time.”

The Russian girl smirks,

“I want our psychologist to take my job and teach.

No psychologist could be a teacher,” she said triumphantly.

 

Now I’m sensing her anxiety

And I attempt to build rapport

like a bridge over dangerous waters

 

“The whole education system is broken!” I said

“Yes!” she agreed

“We just went through contract negotiations

And they gave us more time, instead of money

Can you believe that!”

 

“That sounds about right,” I said.

“but it doesn’t bother you?” she asked.

“I work in education because the system is broken,” I said

“You want to fix it!” she cried enthusiastically.

Her eyes were glowing

 

 

“No, I just enjoy chaos!

Parents are angry

teachers are frustrated

And the children are in the parking lot

throwing rocks at cars

That’s why I drive my pickup

20 years old and rear-ended twice

And I hope they have good aim!

I might be able to collect on the insurance money.”

 

The Russian girl looks at me in disbelief

reaching for her cell phone

out of desperation

“Where is everybody?” she demanded

There was supposed to be five people here this evening

instead of just

You!”

 

Ring, Ring, Ring

Someone at the door

And I thank God

for saving me

from

a good

fun

conversation

Inactivity

Inactivity

Our society condemns it

But most people need it

to gather their bearings

make sense of the world

And generally feel good about being alive

Society celebrates ambition

And those who don’t take prisoners

Monsters, all of them

Driven mad by the messages they believe

Earn more money, get the corner office, and screw your competition

No, it is the man who takes time off

Who is the most sane

He recognizes that doing nothing

creates a void

for something

And that “something” will be reoccurring

if it is meant to be done

A wise man is like a volcano

He doesn’t force an eruption

But waits for it to happen

Inspiration bubbles from within

And he knows the words of wisdom