Time to restart TMC?

We the writers let down the readers. We didn’t finish our stories and we just stopped trying. We can offer some reasons and excuses for that, but in the end we just came up short.

But maybe it’s time to start anew.

So, let us know if you want to see more oddly twisted stories from us.

Also, let us know if you want to join us as a writer.

?

posted 2 years ago on November 18th, 2011 at 11:17 /
Comments (View)

Changes to Ham

If you’ve already read Chapter 6 of Bedeviled Ham, I just had a brainstorm while in bed and came out to add a few more lines. I think it’s a better ending than what I posted several hours ago. Of course, that’s my opinion, but I’m not overly fond of “The Lady or the Tiger” type of ending. This gives a bit more closure to the story. Hope you approve.

posted 3 years ago on December 23rd, 2010 at 22:31 /
Comments (View)

Bedeviled Ham - Chapter 6

Previously

Perhaps pain was a clarifying agent. Ham realized that if there was one time in his life where he needed to use his wits, this was it. Nathan was ready and almost eager to put an end to Ham’s life, and if Nathan’s story was to be believed, Ham knew that choosing death now would not turn happily into him being alive and well tomorrow. So much for the perfect life.

Nathan was standing over him again, an alpha dog confronting another pack member for dominance. “Ham? What’s it going to be?”

Ham felt weak, but realized that this was most likely due to several days without food or water. He was not in shape to make wise decisions. He needed time.

He then realized that Nathan couldn’t possibly be one of the main players. If these men behind the scenes were so powerful, they would have others do the dirty work. If Nathan came prepared to kill him, Nathan was one of the, what had he called them…Future Loyalists. Yes. Nathan worked for these men just as he wanted Ham to do. Nathan perhaps occupied a higher rung on the ladder, but when told to jump, he still responded with, “How high?” Ham instinctively knew that if he opted for a choice that was not one of the three given him, Nathan would be unable to carry it out without permission. At least, Ham *hoped* he instinctively knew that. Given his current situation, no harm could come from testing his idea.

"Nathan," he croaked, his voice surprising them both, "I need a little time to think about what you’ve told me. If you and your friends have put so much time and money into my ‘project,’ I would think you would at least want me to make a lucid decision. I’m tired. I’m hungry and thirsty. I’m also very confused." The effort of speaking was too much. Ham closed his eyes and drifted. 

*******

Sunlight poured in through a crack in the curtains. Ham opened one eye and looked around. He was in a bed but it wasn’t his bedroom. He opened the other eye and swiveled his head to take in the room. “This must be how the Tin Man felt when he was oiled up after a long freeze,” he thought, as he continued to check the condition of his arms and legs. He was wearing clean pajamas. He didn’t feel hungry or thirsty, and a quick check under his sleeves showed him a piece of gauze taped to his arm. “Hmmm…it would appear that someone had me on an IV. That’s promising, I guess.”

Ham sat up and swung his legs onto the floor. He stood unsteadily and took a few steps over to a window. He was on the second floor of a house that was surrounded by trees and neatly tended lawns. No other houses were visible through the foliage. The area was unfamiliar to Ham, but he wasn’t frightened. In fact, he felt strangely calm. His bid for time had worked. Now, he had to figure out his next, and possibly his last, move.

He tried the door; as expected, it was locked. He heard rustling in the hallway and then a soft click. He backed away from the door and sat down on the bed. 

The door swung open and a woman entered, carrying a tray. Ham was surprised to recognize her as the woman who was always leaving Nathan’s office whenever he arrived for his appointments. She settled the tray on a small table underneath the window and turned to face Ham.

"It’s good to see you up and about," she said. She had lovely gray eyes and a sweet smile. Ham caught a slight scent of honeysuckle as she passed him on her way out of the room.

"Wait. Don’t go yet." Ham moved over to the door, blocking her exit. She looked down at the floor, unwilling to meet his gaze.

"What’s your name?"

"Cynthia."

"I’m Hamilton. Ham."

"I know."

"Are you one of Them? A Future Loyalist?"

Cynthia seemed perplexed by the question. “Am I a what?”

"You know. One of the players in Their game. You go around and make things perfect for people. Then, these same people end up choosing their fate from a less than stellar list of options. Game over."

"I have no idea what you’re talking about." Cynthia tried to step around Ham, but he grabbed her by one elbow and refused to let her move.

"There’s a movie called ‘The Manchurian Candidate.’ Did you ever see it?" Ham asked.

"Yes, I saw it. Angela Lansbury, Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey…" Cynthia’s voice trailed off.

"Think of me as Laurence Harvey. I’ve been manipulated and now there’s no way out. I don’t know why I was chosen and I don’t know whether or not to believe what I’ve been told. I just need to have some questions answered. Can you help me?" Ham released Cynthia’s elbow; she rubbed the indentations left by his fingers and moved closer to the door.

"I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about. All I know is that you were brought here in horrible condition; it seems you chopped off one of your fingers and then disappeared for several days. Nathan was worried sick about you and had almost lost hope of finding you alive. When he brought you here, he gave strict orders that you were to be kept sedated until your body healed. You’ve been out of commission for three weeks now and the rest has done you a world of good. I heard you moving around and brought up something for you to eat. It’s time you had some real food in your system." Cynthia went over to the table and busied herself, setting up the lunch tray.

Ham tried to process what he had been told. If she was telling the truth, she wasn’t involved in the ruse that brought him here. If she was lying, he needed to know why. Were They testing him again? He thought of his three choices: a life of misery, a life as a pawn of a group of bizarre strangers, or death. None of these choices appealed to Ham. He decided to try more conversation.

"So do you live here?" he asked, walking over to examine the contents of the tray. He picked up a small sandwich and took a bite. Some sort of meat paste, but it was good, so he chewed and swallowed.

"Yes. I moved back home when our parents became ill and stayed on after they died. Nathan says it’s really helpful to have me here since he has to travel so much."

"Wait. Nathan lives here?"

"It’s his home, too. He’s my only sibling, so we inherited everything when our parents died. He is away a lot, so I do what I want. Life is pretty perfect."

Hamilton shot her a glance, but she didn’t appear to be speaking cryptically. So Nathan was her brother? Perhaps she was telling the truth and she didn’t know about his extraneous activities. Regardless, he needed help and she was here.

"I need to get out of here. I need to go home." Ham looked around for shoes, but found none. Cynthia went out into the hall and returned with his shoes in hand. He took them from her and slipped them on, then addressed her again. "I don’t want to involve you in anything dangerous, so if you can just tell me where I can find a car and the car keys, I’ll be on my way."

"Dangerous? Ham, you’re sounding delirious. Nathan said you might experience after-effects from whatever you’ve been doing, so perhaps you should stretch out on the bed and rest again. I’ll give Nathan a call to let him know you’re awake, and…"

"NO!" Cynthia jumped at the sound of Ham’s voice. "I mean, please don’t call Nathan. You don’t understand what’s going on. He’s involved with a very unsavory group of people and the longer I stay here, the more likely you are to become involved. I can’t have that on my conscience, no matter what else I decide to do." Ham pushed past Cynthia and went out into the hall.

Making his way downstairs, Ham headed for the front door. Once outside, he realized how futile his escape attempt would be. There was no sign of a vehicle and no sound of traffic, while only the occasional chirp of a bird broke the stillness of the day. He decided to walk. There had to be an access road nearby where he could pick up a ride to the nearest town. Anywhere would be better than staying here. Nathan would call or return, and Ham intended to be as far away as possible when that happened.

The breeze shifted direction. Honeysuckle. 

"Cynthia? Is that you?" Ham peered into the dense foliage by the driveway, but could see nothing. The aroma of honeysuckle hung in his nostrils. She was nearby, but why?

"Cynthia, come with me. I’ll explain everything. It will sound fantastic, but you have to believe me." He heard a rustling in the shrubbery, and Cynthia stepped out onto the drive. She was holding a small pistol, and as she stepped closer, she raised the pistol and took aim at Ham.

"Wait a minute! What are you doing? Give me the gun. Whatever Nathan has told you is a lie. I’m not dangerous and I won’t hurt you." Ham reached out for the gun, but Cynthia raised her other hand to bring him to a halt.

"You may not be dangerous, but *I* am," she answered. Her lovely gray eyes had a hardness to them and the sweet smile was but a memory. "You men are always so cocksure about everything. Did it occur to you that everyone in Nathan’s fancy little group might not be male? Of course it didn’t! Dear Ham. Nathan works for me. He never had a good head for money and quickly squandered his share of the family fortune on ‘sure things’ and ‘guarantees’ while I sat back and watched. Once he was in over his head, I introduced him to my group of friends and we brought him on board. He has done fairly well in the past, but for some reason, he was making quite a mess of your situation. I had to step in. Normally, I would not become involved, but you’re rather special and I felt that we should give you a little time to come around." Cynthia flashed a small smile, but held the gun steady. "You know your three options. You’ve had time to rest, heal, and reflect on your future. I will now ask you for a decision. Go out on your own and have us ruin your life for you. Work for us and live a fairly comfortable life. Choose death and it will be immediate."

"When you think about it, each choice is a type of death, because my life is no longer my own." Ham watched Cynthia’s face as he spoke.

"That’s true, and that’s what makes it so perfect, don’t you think? It comes down to which type of death you can handle today. Make your choice, Ham. Your time for thinking is over."

Ham lunged at Cynthia, grabbing her hand that held the pistol. They struggled, locked in a bizarre dance, until a shot rang out.

The body hit the ground with a thud and all was quiet once again. Somewhere, a bird burst into song.

*******

The cell phone was set to vibrate. Nathan pulled it from his pocket, flipped it open, and said, “What?”

He listened intently, said, “I’ll send a clean up crew,” and hung up.

When he reached his house, everything was as it should be. He took a seat in one of the rocking chairs on the front porch and accepted the tall glass of tea handed to him. “Very nice work. I’m impressed. I knew I would be.”

"It played out exactly as you said it would," replied Ham. "I think I’m going to like it here. It’s not perfect, but it’ll do."

posted 3 years ago on December 23rd, 2010 at 17:54 /
tags: Too Many Cooks Bedeviled Ham Wednesday
Comments (View)

Bedeviled Ham — Chapter 5

Previously

The pain throbbed into being at his shoulder, just a modest bubbling of discomfort surfacing from some unseen source. It swished about up there until, as though by accident, it tipped downhill into the biceps, picking up speed as it went and, with it, a subtle sharpness to its ache. The pit of inner elbow slowed the movement, caused it to pool and concentrate, but only briefly. Then the slick, sharp run through the forearm, the rapids of the wrist and knuckles until it spilled out at the base of the pinkie.

The echo of a scream splashed around the room and Ham thought of rubber balls as a child, the blinking lights of pinball machines, planets strung up in a science classroom, the shockwave of every star in the universe exploding at once.

"Alright, Ham," a voice said, "that’s enough."

Ham opened his eyes and saw concrete laid out before him, stretching out past his peripheral vision on either side and about three feet in front until it reached a wall—also concrete—and climbed out of sight. From his hip he felt the searing throb of a newly-missing digit. He looked down to see his hand had been roughly bandaged while he was unconscious.

"Any time, buddy. I can wait."

"I did it," Ham said. "I showed you."

"Oh good, you’re back. And you’ve placed my voice. How lovely."

"Nathan," Ham said, "I did it."

"You sure did, Ham. You chopped your finger off like…I can’t find an appropriate simile here, Ham. Like a particularly clumsy ninja? Oh, that’s awful. I did warn you. But the point is this: from now on you can only count to ten in the bathroom."

Ham finally rolled over. The room was immense. Like a concrete airplane hangar. Everything faded to darkness twenty or thirty yards past where the man was seated in a familiar armchair. The voice was right, but nothing that person was saying matched the entry in his head for “Nathan.” It was definitely Nathan. Crisp, pastel Oxford and neatly pressed chinos, a notebook in his lap. Only, he was wearing combat boots. Ham could see the big, right sole as it dangled from a crossed leg several inches above his face.

"What is this? Where did you—"

"Short answer, Ham, is that this is the fork in your particular road. But as that won’t make any sense to you without the benefit of hearing the long answer, I’ll continue. Beforehand, however, can I offer you something to drink? Perhaps a change of clothes? You’ve been sleeping in your own urine for days now and there’s quite a lot of dried blood."

"Please." Ham moved to sit up but felt a stern tap from Nathan’s boot at the top of his head and instinctively stopped.

"Really—I can’t get you anything? Very well then, I’ll continue. Or I suppose I’ll begin. But where to begin, that’s always the problem. You ever meet someone at a party and they start in on a story or a joke and then halfway through they say, ‘I forgot to tell you—the car was blue at the beginning. You need to know that. Blue.’ It ruins the whole thing, doesn’t it? All the pleasure just dries up. So I guess I’ll start at the beginning, Ham, and try not to ruin this for you.

Once upon a time, long before you or I made our inaugural splash in this world, a group of educated, curious men, relaxing over scotch and billiards, allowing the current of their conversation to ebb and flow as it does among educated, curious men relaxing over scotch and billiards, found themselves debating a question posed by one among them: would it be possible to construct a perfect life? They defined the terms of the query and were soon crafting ways one might cause someone to believe he was living a perfect life. It would take, they decided, only wealth and manpower and secrecy. They had enormous wealth. And as a result of their enormous wealth, they each had their share of loyal employees—valets, drivers, bodyguards, spies. That cured the loyal manpower problem.”

Ham was suddenly gasping for air. Water was running down his face, into his mouth, dripping from his eyebrows.

"I’ll not have you falling asleep, Ham. Not during this riveting tale. Now. Our heroes solved the wealth, manpower, and secrecy problems. And they’d roughed out the mechanics of the act. They could monitor a subject closely, repair his mistakes as needed, cure his sicknesses before they’d manifested, plant false characters in their daily lives to lie about events and shared memories—everything, in essence, we’ve been doing with you these last several years, Ham. The repaired towel rod, the wine stains, me. We fixed them.

And these men—we’re back to the men now, Ham, so stop staring—these men saw all of this unfolding before them as though right there on the billiards table. They saw how it could work, understood the potential pitfalls, the mental strain it might heap on some men, the freedom it might afford others. And they wondered how those separate outcomes might work to their advantage. Because let’s face it, Ham, wealthy, educated, curious men might engage in experiments of the mind over scotch and billiards, but if they’re to continue on in the light of day, there better be some profit motive.”

Ham felt a familiar sensation at his center. He’d felt it each morning when he found the troubles of the previous night had been swept away. It was the recognition, he realized now, that reality was slipping away from him. “You’ve been toying with me so you can make money.”

"Oh lord no, Ham. We have all the resources we could need. I’m getting to the point now. Be patient. I’m just trying to be thorough. I don’t want to ruin the ending for you. They thought about money, obviously, and while there is the occasional financial reward from our experiments, our aims are slightly less tangible. You see, our original group of men figured that a person living with the unique circumstances you’ve been recently familiar with has one of three potential outcomes. One: he enjoys or simply doesn’t notice his unusual situation and continues on unhindered until he sinks away with time. Two: he recognizes his situation and takes advantage of it, becoming nihilistic and reckless in his daily activities. A little murder here, a little voyeurism there—whatever he’s into, he’s really into it. Three: he recognizes his situation and the horror of it drives him to test the boundaries of its goodwill. He might, for instance, chop off his left pinkie on a live video feed broadcast on his website.

I’m sure you’re asking yourself what could be gained from this? And you’d be right to do so. The first possibility, I’ll admit, doesn’t present much sport. But you know what, Ham? We’d have to get our hands on a mackerel someone had dressed in men’s clothing in order for the first outcome to happen. And that metaphor might be unfair to the fish. Nobody is that idiotic, Ham. It just never happens. We vet our subjects rather rigorously before engaging them, but still, even before we could just Google you it never happened.

What you need to do is ask what problems our heroes may have envisioned for themselves. Long view, Ham, what did they need?”

Ham moaned and let out long, shockingly wet fart.

"That’s lovely, Ham. But no. Wealth like our heroes’ lives on, it passes from one generation to the next and, provided there are no troubles with the gene pool or degenerate gambling, grows as it moves in time. But what these men saw on their billiard table that they would be wanting for was their supply of loyal manpower. Valets and drivers die like the rest of us and will need replacing. This is where you come in, Ham, but we won’t spoil the ending just yet.

There is the additional problem of enemies. You might not have any yourself, but men like our men acquire their fair share. And sometimes enemies need to be made to go away. Or strongly urged to go away. Or maybe sometimes their daughters go away to college and need never return home. Or anywhere.

You see, Ham, an individual who has lost the ability to know right from wrong is fascinating. Especially when the situations their enacting those loose judgments in are being controlled and manipulated by us. When our subjects have lost their filter, they become like a bullet in a gun. A gun we get to aim. We might bump into them at the coffee shop in the morning, staining their tie; ensure they lose their keys before lunch; steal their cab home while they stand screaming on a sidewalk. The hammer cocks, the trigger twitches. And then from there, through means invisible to them, we guide them into a room with An Enemy and watch what unfolds naturally. Maybe it needs to happen more than once, maybe not. Maybe we can fix it afterwards, maybe not. Either way, the experiment succeeds and all the parties who matter are left happy.

But you—and there are many like you, Hamilton—you are what the educated and curious architects of this program called a Future Loyalist. You broke the code. And in doing so, you ruined your reputation, slight as it may have been, by broadcasting that silly episode to your meager following online. Don’t fret, though, you’ve gone viral. We saw to that. It wouldn’t have happened without us, though. Really, Ham, is it that hard to maintain a blog? To earn a little readership? The way you went about it, you’d think you were constructing a functional time machine from pantry items rather than spinning anecdotal yarns about your daily life. But I digress. And as I said, we took care to ensure that millions have seen your…body modification video. If I can speak for a moment in a capacity outside that of your therapist—which of course I’m not really, Ham—I have to say you come off as nothing more than a raving lunatic in that video. Which means, of course, that now we have you.”

Nathan tapped Ham’s head with his boot and smiled briefly, wiped at the corners of his mouth, and chuckle.

"Don’t I have you?” Ham said up into the bottom of Nathan’s boot. Nathan’s laughter increased. “If I broke the code, I mean. Doesn’t that mean I have you?”

"You haven’t once tried to fight this situation you’re in, Ham." Nathan’s voice was calm and flat, like the sea of concrete surrounding them. "You haven’t really tried to get up, or overpower me, yelled out for help, tried to ‘kill’ me again. However highly I might think of my own storytelling, I don’t believe that alone could keep someone captive against their will. You’re interested. And weak. We have you, as I mentioned.

Now you’re asking yourself why? Fair point. I like how your mind works. Well, for starters, it takes a shockingly large bureaucracy to maintain these experiments. And like all bureaucracies, we require an army to enact our will on the world. You, Ham, are now being drafted into that army.

But when we began this conversation, I said you were at a crossroads. I meant it. Much as you did when we began our experiments on you, there are now three options available to you. Of course, this time you are allowed to actively choose between them. Can you guess what they are, Ham?”

Ham’s eyes were closed against the pain in his hand. He was remembering a trip to the beach with his grandmother the summer between fourth and fifth grade. He’d asked to be buried up to his neck in the sand—something he’d seen in a movie—and his grandmother complied, digging out the hole and slowly piling the sand on top of him. Ham knew it was a mistake even as it was happening, but enjoyed the smile he saw the old woman’s face and didn’t wish it to end. When the tide started coming in a few hours later, he cried like he never had in his life.

Nathan ended Ham’s reminiscence with a sharp kick to the head. The tapping was over. “Hamilton, I need you here, please. Option one: you walk out of here a free man. Mind, you are now known internationally for believing you’ve been cursed and chopping off your own finger on camera. The life you’d be leading wouldn’t be one you enjoyed. And trust me, Ham—we are capable of ensuring that happens just as we ensured it was perfect. It’s actually much easier to destroy something, as you know.

Option two: I put a bullet in your head. Clean and painless, I end your life. We’re not going to flood this building and make you suffer or drop you into the middle of the ocean in blood soaked clothes. You ask me to, I end your life.”

Ham involuntarily let out a whimper and scratched his cheek against the concrete floor.

"Hold on, buddy. I’m not done yet. You haven’t heard option three. You work for us. You do as we say, help us in our experiments, and you live out your natural life. You’re the faceless stranger who bumps into our man in the coffee shop, who steals his cab, who repairs holes in walls or revives fake therapists after a fall. You’re a foot soldier, Ham, if you want it."

Nathan pressed his boot into Ham’s shoulder and rolled him to his back. He then stood up and stepped over him, so that his boots were on either side of Ham’s hips. Ham saw he had missed the gun at Nathan’s waist. He was crying, he realized then, sobbing really, totally out of control, buried up to his neck again.

"Come now, Ham," Nathan said, squatting down so that his face was inches from Ham’s. "Let’s not be like that, man. We’re at the end of my story now. You’re making me feel like I ruined it for you. Just make your decision and we’ll get out of here and on to the next story. What will it be? Just tell me what to do and this is over."

posted 3 years ago on December 18th, 2010 at 10:35 /
tags: tmc bedeviled ham Wednesday
Comments (View)

Rummy - chapter 5

Previously.

The paper was crinkly, like it was really old, and smelled a little like the basement. The letters were small and the words were crammed close together. It was a plain sheet with no lines, and I guess that’s why all the lines slanted down, like they were falling off the page.

Dearest Rachel,

I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.

I should have listened to you. You knew Ricky was no good. You knew it was time to get out. I just wanted one last score for you and Lily. I was a goddamn fool and not a day goes by I don’t think about you.

I didn’t know any of the names in the letter. There was no Rachel or Ricky or Lily in town and I don’t remember Daddy ever mentioning any of those names.

I used to wake up nights gasping for air, dripping with sweat, your face burned in my mind but I don’t have those nightmares much since I brought Lily live with me. Still sometimes it hurts to look at her. When she turns her head a certain way or scrunches her face when she eats ice cream too fast it’s like I’m looking at you. Those nights I know I better drink enough to keep from dreaming.

I don’t like when Daddy drinks a lot. He gets really quiet and sad. I don’t know why he does it. I’ve taken little sips from his glass when he’s not looking and it tastes like medicine and burns my tongue.

She’s safe here. No one knows where we are. I’ll try to mail your sister now and again so she knows Lily’s alright but I can’t let her know where we are. It would just be too dangerous for her and for us.

I wish I could talk to you and tell you all this. I guess I hope you’re reading over my shoulder. That gives me some comfort.

All my love,
Darren

I didn’t know how come he couldn’t just talk to Rachel if she could read over his shoulder. That didn’t make much sense. The whole letter didn’t make much sense, though.

I finished unwrapping the cloth and found a picture and a little velvet bag like I use to hold my marbles. The picture was creased from being folded up for a long time, leaving a big white cross right through the middle of it. There was a woman sitting in a rocking chair with a little baby in her arms. She had long brown hair and a thin neck and long fingers, but her face was right in the middle where the creases were so I couldn’t see much of it. She looked like she was probably really pretty, though.

I undid the bow holding the bag closed and poured it onto my bed. It was filled with beautiful beads like the ones Miss Linda wears. I picked one up and held it up to the light and looked at the way it sparkled and made little rainbows. I’d never seen one this close, but now I was sure my tutor was wrong. They were definitely magic stones. I took one of them and went over to Rummy to figure out how to attach it to his mane, but I couldn’t. Maybe if I had some glue, I could use them like glitter on his side instead. I dropped it into my pocket and went back over to my bed.

I heard footsteps on the stairs and jumped. I had a lot of questions, but I didn’t think Daddy wanted to answer them right now. I scooped all the stones back into the bag and tied it shut so the mouth puckered like a fish. I wrapped the letter and bag and picture back up and tip-toed back over to Rummy and dropped to my knees. I opened the panel, which was a lot easier this time, and slipped the bag back inside.

Daddy opened the door and saw me poking around under Rummy and asked, “What are you doing there, Genny?” He sounded worried.

I started to stand when I saw the apple was still on the floor and I picked it up.

“Nothing, Daddy. I just dropped my apple under Rummy.”

He blew out a big breath and his face crinkled as he smiled.

“Good girl. You don’t want to leave any food out for rats. But come on, I’ve got a surprise for you downstairs.”

I brushed off my knees and followed Daddy out.

posted 3 years ago on December 15th, 2010 at 19:31 /
tags: rummy friday
Comments (View)

'Tis the season for anticipation

Due to circumstances beyond our control, aka LIFE, we have gotten a bit behind with the posting of chapters. All is well, so fear not!

During the week of December 5th, you will see Chapter 5 posts for “They May Not Mean To But They Do,” “Bedeviled Ham,” and “Rummy.”

The week of December 12th will be the week to wrap up, no not gifts, all five of the stories. They will return to their original owners for some creative endings and we’ll bring it all home with a flourish of cymbals and jingle bells!

I’ve probably had too much caffeine today.

Anyway, stick with us and enjoy the ride!

posted 3 years ago on December 5th, 2010 at 11:48 /
Comments (View)

Welcome to Boomtown - Chapter 5

Previously

Floating. Earl tried to open his eyes, but the lids were too heavy, so he continued floating. He couldn’t feel his limbs, but this didn’t worry him. He remembered floating a few other times in his life; times he had intentionally tried to forget since they always had something to do with the bumps on his head.

Mary. Mary and floating. He remembered now. He met his wife on the line at Best-O’s yet he met Mary years before during his trip to Scotland. They were the same person, but events almost took her from him. Again, it all revolved around those damn bumps on his head.

It had something to do with a bus. His thoughts were fuzzy, and years of trying to hide them didn’t help. He had experienced one of his “attacks” while on a crowded bus. The rumbling, accompanied by noises that pierced the innermost core of his brain, caused him to scream out in agony. His arms flailed as if driven by a force beyond his control. The bus driver slammed on the brakes. The bus veered sharply, cutting off several cars in the next lane, and came to a stop. None of the passengers sustained injuries, but Earl was told that they were lucky the bus stopped when it did. A tractor trailer hauling propane ran the red light and would have struck the bus dead center, causing an explosion that would have taken many lives. Earl was taken to the local ER, even though he tried to tell everyone that he was fine. Of course, the ER doctor was fascinated by the bumps on his head, especially when she learned that they were not caused by the accident. 

That’s when The Men appeared. Earl had not yet attained US citizenship, so when The Men came to his door asking questions, he tried his best to be helpful. That was almost his downfall. The Men seemed to know a lot about head bumps, and Earl felt relieved that he had finally found someone with whom he could share his burden. When The Men asked him to pack a bag and accompany them for a few more medical tests, Earl happily complied. He would finally get some answers!

The next six months were a blur in Earl’s mind. No one knew where he had gone. One of his neighbors vaguely recalled two strangers coming to visit, but he was unable to provide Mary with any helpful information when she came searching for him. Earl had vanished.

The next clear memory Earl had was of a warm day, and he was walking along a familiar road. He patted his pockets and found a key with an address written on a label. After asking directions, Earl found himself in front of a building that looked familiar. The key fit the lock on apartment 42, and Earl realized that he was home. He collapsed on his bed and slept.

When he awoke, he took a shower and put on fresh clothes. Then, he investigated his surroundings. He found a folder on his kitchen table filled with bills marked “paid.” Why would someone pay his bills? Why would someone sequester him for months and keep him drugged? That was the only explanation Earl could think of for his lack of memories of the missing time. He also found a large stack of twenty dollar bills; it was almost as if he was being paid for his time away. He also found a slip of paper with the address of Best-O’s written on it. Underneath the address appeared the words, “You work there.”

The next morning, Earl went to work. When he walked through the front door, a woman standing at a counter dropped a sheaf of papers and let out a small yelp. “Earl! Where the hell have you been?” she asked.

"I really don’t know," Earl replied, "But I’m here to work."

He was ushered into his supervisor’s office, where he attempted to answer the questions thrown at him. After a frustrating hour, he was sent out to his station. That’s where he saw her. She was beautiful, with eyes that sparkled and a smile that lit the room. She seemed to know him, and he had a vague feeling that he should recognize her. He smiled as he passed her and went on to his station. It only took him a few minutes to get back into the routine of his job. It felt good to be back in familiar surroundings.

When the lunch bell rang, Earl followed the other workers to the cafeteria. He suddenly realized that if he turned around, she would be there, and she was. She put her hands on his shoulders and whispered, “Earl?”

It all flooded back to him immediately. “Mary? Oh, Mary!” He grabbed her by the waist and twirled her around, much to the enjoyment of the other diners. He held her hand throughout lunch, making eating difficult, but neither of them felt very hungry. He realized that this woman had somehow saved him and he never wanted to lose her again. She would be his wife, no matter how hard he had to work to gain her love.

*****

Floating. Voices. He could feel his limbs again. He tested his eyes. They opened. Kavitha was standing over him, a look of concern showing through the thick lenses. “Ah, you have come back to us,” was all she said.

"How long have I been out?"

"We kept you sedated for a few days to give your brain time to calm down. You have been out for three days now." Kavitha gave him a friendly pat on his shoulder. "You are quite the wonder, Earl."

"What do you mean? Did something happen?" Earl tried to sit up, but Kavitha gently pushed him back onto his pillow.

"Why would you ask such a question? Have things happened before?" Kavitha seemed truly concerned. At this point, what harm would it do to admit it? He obviously had no control over these events and he was already in a hospital. What more could he lose? Nothing could match the emptiness felt by losing Mary.

"Yes. I’ve had…experiences…several times during my life and they usually involved a potential catastrophe. This time…the child in the room across the hall…" Earl’s voice tapered off as he spoke. He was afraid to ask anything specific.

"Ah. So we have you to thank for that. The distraction caused by your collapse saved her life. That is all I am allowed to say." Kavitha stood there, and Earl felt as if she wanted to ask questions but was too polite.

"How do I do it? I have no idea. Has it happened a lot? Not really, but it has happened quite enough for my liking. It’s not something I can explain or control. It just happens. I don’t talk about because it only gets me into trouble. I don’t know if it’s a gift or a curse. All I know is that it didn’t help me save the one thing worth living for. My Mary." Earl realized that tears were running down his cheeks. Kavitha reached for the box of tissues and waited for him to regain his composure.

"There is something else I need to tell you," Kavitha’s hand rested on his shoulder. Earl liked the weight of it; he couldn’t recall the last time he had felt comforted by human contact. He looked up at her expectantly.

"We contacted your children. They are outside, waiting to see you." This was the last thing Earl had expected to hear. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and let the coughing commence.


posted 3 years ago on December 1st, 2010 at 20:25 /
tags: Too Many Cooks
Comments (View)

Bedeviled Ham - Chapter 4

Previously

Ham ran outside and ducked into a gangway. He worked to compose himself. He was hyperventilating and he could not think straight. He just couldn’t seem to comprehend what was happening. He rubbed his face and wrung his hands and mumbled to himself. “That’s it. I know what I have to do.” Passers by looked at Ham a little sideways, but he didn’t even notice. He had made his decision.

He walked in the door of his apartment and looked around. He set the bags down and checked the closets and looked behind the shower curtain. At this point he was so paranoid he wouldn’t have been at all surprised to find an alien standing in the bathtub or sleeping in the closet. Once he assured himself he was alone, he went to work.

Ham set up the tripod and video camera in the kitchen with a view of the counter area. He made sure the camera’s live feed showed up on his website, then he put the camera on standby. He opened the other bag and pulled out the wire cutters. He got the cutting board out of the cabinet and put it on the counter in view of the video camera. He set a bowl of ice out next to the cutting board, took off his belt, and grabbed the roll of paper towels.

With the scotch poured and at the ready, Ham turned the camera back on. He downed the scotch and poured another, this time a full tumbler. He went to the bathroom so he could relieve himself before he got started. He wasn’t exactly sure he could predict what would happen, and he didn’t want to have an accident.

He stepped back into view of the camera and began to speak. “I’m Ham.” He spoke in a shaky voice. He gave his address and Nathan’s phone number. “I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this,” Ham said. He was growing paler by the minute. He had another slurp of scotch. “If you see anything untoward in the next few moments of this broadcast, please contact Nathan immediately. I need to prove once and for all that I am not delusional. This is the only way I can think to do it without hurting someone else.”

Ham turned his attention to the items on the counter. He fastened the belt tightly around his left forearm, laid his arm gently on the cutting board with his pinky extended, and took a deep breath. Grabbing the wire cutters, Ham sighed. “Here goes nothing.”

posted 3 years ago on December 1st, 2010 at 15:38 /
tags: bedeviled ham wednesday
Comments (View)

Len - Chapter 5

Previously

Somehow the word treasure seemed more believable being spoken in this cavernous hideaway. Old milk crates of discarded power cords curled up under the workbench serpent-like and the curved metal roof of the structure caused our whispers to echo slightly.

“Nessie, you can trust me.” 

After all I was an impartial observer here. My aim was to collect data. To collect stories, not personal effects. Although from the look of things on the property, I couldn’t imagine what type of treasure she was talking about but human curiosity won out. 

“What do you mean, you don’t want Len to know about the treasure?”

“There’s treasure here on the property. Surely you don’t think I’d stay here in this heaven forsaken place for no reason. I’m dying, not crazy.”

“So you could leave if you wanted to?” I pressed. I may not be an advocate but this case was causing my brain to hurt and to battle with itself.

“Of course, dear. I’m not a prisoner. You see how easy I snuck out,” she snickered, still feeling the effects of the long drags of pot she’d soaked up, no doubt. “Oh my, but I do seem to have soiled myself. Could you help me get cleaned up?”

Her clarity of communication was in such stark contrast to her physical appearance that it took me a moment to reconcile the two. Clearly we needed to get her back to the house. She got herself out here but now, slightly wobbly from the self-medicating and because she was trying to walk holding her gown so the moisture that ran down her leg wouldn’t cause the fabric to cling to her, she needed an arm to steady her return course.

We moved slowly but deliberately back through the high grass amidst the grabbing twigs of plants long since neglected that reached out in the hopes that someone would come to their aid. I indicated for Nessie to stop for a moment when I heard a rustling in the grass. Sometimes I really hated these rural interviews. Too much nature wasn’t my speed. Then I saw a field mouse scamper away and let my breath back out.

Even with her slight frame and wobbly motion we returned to the house in a matter of a few minutes, opting for the side door instead of her windowed exit route. We had to go single file through various spots past the kitchen counter and through the hallway back to Nessie’s room with a view. I sat her on the commode and while I didn’t have any nursing training, I figured I could at least help her get changed and back into bed. I had noticed she had started to wheeze ever so slightly shortly before we got back to the house.

I found a new gown for her in the dresser and ventured into the bathroom hoping that I would be the sole inhabitant on two or more legs. As expected it was as “unkempt” as the rest of the residence but I found a relatively clean, albeit tattered, washcloth and a small plastic basin. Filling it was a little warm water and grabbing a bar of soap from the dish next to the sink I headed back to the bedroom.

By the time I returned Nessie had disrobed and sat on the commode with her gown held up as a privacy shield in front of her, tucked underneath her arms to keep her hands free. She and Lulu were in a staring competition with the bedraggled mutt stationed on the corner of the bed with her head slightly tilted to one side, the doggy version of the a girl standing with one hip jutted out.

Nessie took the washcloth from the basin and slowly dragged it over her sagging skin. There was a frailty to her skin that was still too big for her shrinking body despite its compressed, crumpled-paper complexion. Still, there was a certain elegance about her and I found myself wondering what she looked like when she was younger. I took the cloth and helped her with the spots she couldn’t easily reach and then got her dried off and redressed.

I could see that her outing had taken its toll as she struggled to get from the seated position. I gave her a hand and got her back to bed, tucking her in in an odd role reversal from the days when I had visited my grandmother as a child and had been tucked in. My gran would always kiss me on the top of the head and I had to restrain myself from transferring that memory from my head to the physical world. It had been a long time since I’d smoked pot and clearly I wasn’t as clear-headed as I thought.

“Dear, could you get me my comb? No sense putting on a fresh gown and having my hair undone.” She smiled as if to say thank you, not only for your kindness but for your silence. We hadn’t spoken at all since we left the shed.

She’d indicated that it was in the top drawer of the dresser. Inside the drawer I also found a box of graham crackers that were likely contraband snuck in by one of the nurses. Len may have “forgotten” to feed her at times, but clearly someone was conspiring to keep Nessie in snacks. I pulled the box out and motioned to see if Nessie would bite.

“Not just yet, but I could use some water.”

I headed back to the kitchen and hoped that I would find a clean glass there. I made a lucky guess as to which cabinet might house the glassware and took out a small tumbler. Opening the fridge to see if there might be some bottled water I wasn’t entirely surprised to find it sparsely populated. Surprisingly there was a gallon jug of water, so I filled the glass that looked to be one of those collectible edition jelly jars.

Returning to the bedroom Nessie looked like she’d dozed off but her eyelids fluttered open when I approached. She took the water and sipped gingerly at it after sniffing it. Before I could return to our earlier conversation I heard the tell-tale sound of gravel being crushed under an approaching vehicle. While I had gone looking for the escapee, Len had made his own escape.

The truck door squeaked before it slammed shut. It was an old rusty pick-up and from the sound of that door, it may have met abruptly with another unfortunate vehicle at some point. Then a second slam as the screen door slammed from the tug of the spring that automatically closed the door behind him. He seemed startled by the fact that I was still there as I met him in the kitchen.

The brown grocery bag on the table provided a barrier between us. A couple of familiar bottlenecks shown out the top. Jack Daniels was his constant companion, the only one welcomed here.

“I found her.” I said, simply as a factual remark, without emotion.

I was met, as I expected with an unimpressed, “That so. Well then I expect you must be done here.” There was a touch of belligerence growing in his tone. I pegged that it was fueled by liquid courage and decided that I didn’t want to spark anything.

“Yeah, I think I’ve gotten what I need … for now.”

I went to retrieve my bag and take another peek in Nessie’s door. This time she was asleep as I could tell from the slight muffled snore she emitted. Heading out the side door to my car I had to shoo Lulu away from the door. That little mutt certainly could get under foot but was likely just looking for someone with opposable thumbs who could make some food appear in a bowl.

On my way to the car I heard the screen door slam again. It had started to take on Len’s cantankerous personality and seemed to slam louder than necessary. Len stood framed by the doorway, and this time his imposing figure was made more menacing by the shotgun that was now resting along the length of his leg.

“I think our interview has concluded,” Len barked at me as I got into my car.

Heart-racing I clutched the steering wheel with one hand tried to turn the ignition key with the other, all the while keeping my eyes firmly affixed to the straggly-haired creature that guarded the house like a odoriferous gargoyle. I was just an observer here, not an advocate. Keep my distance. That was clearly what all parties wanted me to do. I tried to shove thoughts of Nessie and questions about treasure out of my head as the car rumbled to life. I’d just started to pull away when I heard one final sound.

“Yelp!”

posted 3 years ago on November 29th, 2010 at 20:19 /
tags: Len Monday
Comments (View)

TMC: Round 5, Week 4

Amidst all the turducken and roast beast and green eggs and ham last week, we managed to find room to slip in new chapters for four of our stories. Enjoy these after-dinner treats.

posted 3 years ago on November 29th, 2010 at 15:55 /
Comments (View)