Yellow Mama Archives

Raymond A. Valent
Home
Abbott, Patricia
Aclin, Ken
Adhikari, Sudeep
Ahern, Edward
Alan, Jeff
Aldrich, Janet M.
Allen, M. G.
Allen, Nick
Allison, Shane
Ammonds, Phillip J.
Anderson, Peter
Andreopoulos, Elliott
Anick, Ronald
Anonymous 9
Arab, Bint
Arkell, Steven
Ashley, Jonathan
Aymar, E. A.
Ayris, Ian
Babbs, James
Baber, Bill
Bagwell, Dennis
Baird, Meg
Bakala, Brendan
Baker, Bobby Steve
Baker, Nathan
Balaz, Joe
Baltensperger, Peter
BAM
Barber, Shannon
Barnett, Brian
Bates, Jack
Baugh, Darlene
Baumgartner, Jessica Marie
Beale, Jonathan
Beck, George
Beckman, Paul
Beloin, Phil
Benet, Esme
Bennett, Brett
Bennett, Charlie
Bennett, Eric
Berg, Carly
Bergland, Grant
Berman, Daniel
Berriozabal, Luis
Beveridge, Robert
Bickerstaff, Russ
Bigney, Tyler
Blair, Travis
Blake, Steven
Bohem, Charlie Keys and Les
Bolt, Andy
Bonehill, L. R.
Booth, Brenton
Boran, P. Keith
Bosworth, Mel
Bowen, Sean C.
Boyd, A. V.
Boyd, Morgan
Bracey, DG
Bradford, Ryan
Bradshaw, Bob
Brady, Dave
Brannigan, Tory
Brawn, Jason D.
Brewka-Clark, Nancy
Britt, Alan
Brock, Brandon K.
brook, j.
Brown, Melanie
Brown, R. Thomas
Brown, Sam
Bull, Warren
Burton, Michael
Butler, Janet
Butler, Simon Hardy
Butler, Terence
Cameron, W. B.
Campbell, J. J.
Campbell, Jack Jr.
Cano, Valentina
Carlton, Bob
Cartwright, Steve
Carver, Marc
Castle, Chris
Catlin, Alan
Chen, Colleen
Chesler, Adam
Christensen, Jan
Christopher, J. B.
Clausen, Daniel
Clevenger, Victor
Clifton, Gary
Coffey, James
Colasuonno, Alfonso
Compton, Sheldon Lee
Conley, Jen
Conley, Stephen
Connor, Tod
Cooper, Malcolm Graham
Coral, Jay
Corman-Roberts, Paul
Cosby, S. A.
Crandall, Rob
Criscuolo, Carla
Crisman, Robert
Crist, Kenneth
Crouch & Woods
Crumpton, J. C.
Cunningham, Stephen
Curry, A. R.
D., Jack
Dabbe, Lyla K.
Dallett, Cassandra
Damian, Josephine
Danoski, Joseph V.
Daly, Jim
Dalzell, Randy
Davis, Christopher
Day, Holly
Deal, Chris
de Bruler, Connor
De France, Steve
De La Garza, Lela Marie
de Marco, Guy Anthony
Deming, Ruth Z.
DeVeau, Spencer
Dexter, Matthew
Di Chellis, Peter
Dick, Earl
Dick, Paul "Deadeye"
DiLorenzo, Ciro
Dionne, Ron
Domenichini, John
Doran, Phil
Doreski, William
Dorman, Roy
Dosser, Jeff
Draime, Doug
Drake, Lena Judith
Dromey, John H.
Duke, Jason
Duncan, Gary
Dunham, T. Fox
Dunn, Robin Wyatt
Dunwoody, David
Duxbury, Karen
Duy, Michelle
Elias, Ramsey Mark
Elliott, Beverlyn L.
Elliott, Garnett
Ellis, Asher
Ellman, Neil
England, Kellie R.
England, Kristina
Erianne, John
Erlewine, David
Esterholm, Jeff
Fallow, Jeff
Falo, William
Fedigan, William J.
Fenster, Timothy
Ferraro, Diana
Filas, Cameron
Flanagan, Daniel N.
Flanagan, Ryan Quinn
Folz, Crystal
Franceschina, Susan
Funk, Matthew C.
Gallik, Daniel
Gann, Alan
Gardner, Cheryl Ann
Genz, Brian
Gilbert, Colin
Gladeview, Lawrence
Glass, Donald
Goddard, L. B.
Godwin, Richard
Goff, Christopher
Goodman, Tina
Goss, Christopher
Gradowski, Janel
Grant, Christopher
Grant, Stewart
Greenberg, Paul
Grey, John
Grover, Michael
Gunn, Johnny
Gurney, Kenneth P.
Haglund, Tobias
Hamlin, Mason
Hanna, J. T.
Hansen, Melissa
Hanson, Christopher Kenneth
Hanson, Kip
Hardin, J. Scott
Harrington, Jim
Harris, Bruce
Hart, GJ
Hartman, Michelle
Haskins, Chad
Hatzialexandrou, Anjelica
Hawley, Doug
Haycock, Brian
Hayes, A. J.
Hayes, John
Hayes, Peter W. J.
Heatley, Paul
Heifetz, Justin
Heimler, Heidi
Heitz, Russ
Helmsley, Fiona
Hendry, Mark
Henry, Robert Louis
Heyns, Heather
Hilary, Sarah
Hill, Richard
Hilson, J. Robert
Hivner, Christopher
Hobbs, R. J.
Hodges, Oliver
Hodgkinson, Marie
Holderfield, Culley
Holton, Dave
Hor, Emme
Houston, Jennifer
Howard, Peter
Howells, Ann
Huchu, Tendai
Hudson, Rick
Huguenin, Timothy G.
Hunt, Jason
Huskey, Jason L.
Irwin, Daniel
Jacobson, E. J.
Jaggers, J. David
James, Christopher
James, Colin
Jensen, Steve
Johanson, Jacob
Johnson, Beau
Johnson, Moctezuma
Johnson, Zakariah
Jones, D. S.
Jones, Erin J.
Jones, Mark
Kabel, Dana
Kaplan, Barry Jay
Kay, S.
Keaton, David James
Keith, Michael C.
Kempka, Hal
Kerins, Mike
Kerry, Vic
Keshigian, Michael
Kimball R. D.
King, Michelle Ann
Kirk, D.
Klim, Christopher
Knapp, Kristen Lee
Koenig, Michael
Korpon, Nik
Kowalcyzk, Alec
Krafft, E. K.
Lacks, Lee Todd
Lang, Preston
La Rosa, F. Michael
Larkham, Jack
Leatherwood, Roger
Lee, M.A.B.
Lees, Arlette
Lees, Lonni
Leins, Tom
LeJay, Brian K. Jr.
Lemming, Jennifer
Lerner, Steven M
Lewis, Cynthia Ruth
Lifshin, Lyn
Lin, Jamie
Lodge, Oliver
Lopez, Aurelio Rico III
Lorca, Aurelia
Lo Rocco, Brian
Loucks, Lindsey
Lovisi, Gary
Lucas, Gregory E.
Lukas, Anthony
Lynch, Nulty
Lyons, Matthew
Mac, David
MacArthur, Jodi
Macor, Iris
Madeleine, Julia
Malone, Joe
Manteufel, M. B.
Manzolillo, Nicholas
Marcius, Cal
Marlin, Brick
Marlowe, Jack T.
Martyn, Clive
Mason, Wayne
Massengill, David
Mattila, Matt
McAdams, Liz
McBride, Matthew
McCabe, Sinead
McCartney, Chris
McDaris, Catfish
McFarlane, Adam Beau
McGinley, Jerry
McElhiney, Sean
McLean, David
McMannus, Jack
McQuiston, Rick
Mellon, Mark
Memblatt, Bruce
Memi, Samantha
Merrigan, Court
Miles, Marietta
Miller, Laurita
Miller, Max
Mintz, Gwendolyn
Monaghan, Timothy P.
Monteferrante, Luigi
Monson, Mike
Mooney, Christopher P.
Moore, Katie
Morgan, Bill W.
Morgan, Stephen
Moss, David Harry
Mullins, Ian
Mulvihill, Michael
Murdock, Franklin
Muslim, Kristine Ong
Nardolilli, Ben
Nazar, Rebecca
Nell, Dani
Nelson, Trevor
Nessly, Ray
Nester, Steven
Neuda, M. C.
Newell, Ben
Newman, Paul
Nielsen, Ayaz
Nienaber, T. M.
Ogurek, Douglas J.
Ortiz, Sergio
Pagel, Briane
Parr, Rodger
Parrish, Rhonda
Partin-Nielsen, Judith
Penton, Jonathan
Perez, Juan M.
Perl, Puma
Perri, Gavin
Peterson, Rob
Peterson, Ross
Petroziello, Brian
Pettie, Jack
Picher, Gabrielle
Piech, JC
Pierce, Rob
Pietrzykowski, Marc
Plath, Rob
Pletzers, Lee
Pluck, Thomas
Pohl, Stephen
Pointer, David
Polson, Aaron
Power, Jed
Powers, M. P.
Price, David
Priest, Ryan
Prusky, Steve
Pruitt, Eryk
Purfield, M. E.
Purkis, Gordon
Quinlan, Joseph R.
Ram, Sri
Ramos, Emma
Rapth, Sam
Ravindra, Rudy
Rawson, Keith
Ray, Paula
Reale, Michelle
reutter, g emil
Rhatigan, Chris
Ribas, Tom
Richardson, Travis
Richey, John Lunar
Ridgeway, Kevin
Ritchie, Bob
Ritchie, Salvadore
Roberts, Paul C.
Robertson, Lee
Robinson, John D.
Robinson, Kent
Rodgers, K. M.
Roger, Frank
Rogers, Stephen D.
Rohrbacher, Chad
Rosa, Basil
Rose, Mandi
Rosenberger, Brian
Rosenblum, Mark
Rosmus, Cindy
Rowe, Brian
Rowley, Aaron
Ruhlman, Walter
Rutherford, Scotch
Saus, Steven M.
Savage, Jack
Sawyer, Mark
Sayles, Ryan
Schneeweiss, Jonathan
Schraeder, E. F.
Schumejda, Rebecca
Scott, Craig
Scott, Jess C.
Scribner, Joshua
See, Tom
Seen, Calvin
Servis, Steven P.
Sexton, Rex
Seymour, J. E.
Sfarnas, John
Shafee, Fariel
Shaikh, Aftab Yusuf
Shea, Kieran
Shepherd, Robert
Sim, Anton
Simmler, T. Maxim
Sin, Natalie L.
Sinisi, J. J.
Sixsmith, JD
Slagle, Cutter
Slaviero, Susan
Sloan, Frank
Smith, Adam Francis
Smith, Ben
Smith, C.R.J.
Smith, Copper
Smith, Daniel C.
Smith, Paul
Smith, Stephanie
Smith, Willie
Smuts, Carolyn
Snoody, Elmore
So, Gerald
Sojka, Carol
Solender, Michael J.
Sortwell, Pete
Sosnoski, Karen
Sparling, George
Speed, Allen
Spicer, David
Spires, Will
Spitzer, Mark
Spuler, Rick
Stephens, Ransom
Stewart, Michael S.
Stickel, Anne
Stolec, Trina
Straus, Todd
Stryker, Joseph H.
Stucchio, Chris
Stuckey, Cinnamon
Succre, Ray
Sullivan, Thomas
Swanson, Peter
Swartz, Justin A.
Sweet, John
Tarbard, Grant
Taylor, J. M.
Thoburn, Leland
Thomas, C. T.
Thompson, John L.
Thompson, Phillip
Titus, Lori
Tivey, Lauren
Tobin, Tim
Todd, Jeffrey
Tolland, Timothry
Tomlinson, Brenton
Tomolillo, Bob
Tu, Andy
Ullerich, Eric
Valent, Raymond A.
Valvis, James
Vilhotti, Jerry
Waldman, Dr. Mel
Walsh, Patricia
Ward, Emma
Ward, Jared
Waters, Andrew
Weber, R.O.
Weir, G. Kenneth
White, J.
White, Judy Friedman
White, Robb
White, Terry
Williams, Alun
Willoughby, Megan
Wilsky, Jim
Wilson, Robley
Wilson, Scott
Wilson, Tabitha
Wright, David
Young, Scot
Yuan, Changming
Zafiro, Frank
Zapata, Angel
Zickgraf, Catherine
Zimmerman, Thomas
Znaidi, Ali

BATH TIME

 

By

Raymond A. Valent

         

“Sunday night, Sport!  School tomorrow!  You need a bath, Buddy!  C’mon John.  Turn the TV off and let’s go!”  Ron DeLuca yelled upstairs to his son from the living room.

“Okay dad.  But let me finish by myself and don’t walk in on me, okay?”

“I promise.  I’ll come up and get the water going and you get your jammies from your room and put ‘em on the toilet seat for after you’re dried off,” his father said.      

“I know what to do!  You don’t have to say it every time!”

Johnny got his pajamas while his dad got the water going and put the bubble bath in and waited for the Everest of foaming bubbles to form in the center of the tub as it always did.

When Ron felt it was full enough, he turned off the water.  He turned and his son was already down to his undies and piling his clothes in a corner. 

“Dad,” he said.  “I’m old enough to take my bath by myself.  You don’t need to rinse me any more.  I can work the handles and drain the soapy water out.  I can turn on the shower and rinse the soap off me.  Can you let me do it all by myself this time and promise you won’t come in?”

“Okay.  I’ll only come in if you call me or if I think you’ve hurt yourself.”  He ruffled his son’s hair and stepped out closing the door behind him.  He opened the door again quickly and popped his head in. 

“Oh, and John?  No talking to your friend, okay?  You’re too old for that now.  You should’ve grown out of that two years ago.”

“If Rall shows up, I’ll ask him to come back later.”

“No John.  Tell him to leave and never come back.  That you’re too old for him and he needs to go.”  He shut the door firmly.

Ron DeLuca was always warning his son Johnny about his bath time buddy.  He hated when his son played with Rall, Johnny’s imaginary friend.  And he hated that Johnny always took bubble baths.  Never showers, never straight baths.  He was obsessed with bubbles.  And with Rall. 

Strange kid, he thought.

“I don’t know why he can’t just break free of this Rall crap, honey,” Ron told Jeannie, his wife.  “I mean, he’s eight years old.  Going on nine!”

“He’ll grow out of it, they all do.  Give it time, Ron.  Think about something else.  You’re always riding him about everything.  School, sports, his friends.  You even chide him for insisting on bubble baths!  Let him have one thing to himself.  Hell, you might have actually helped create Rall with your constant nagging,” his wife said while doing the dishes, her back to him.

What did you say?”  She didn’t respond.  In the moment of silence between them, muffled conversation wafted down to the kitchen from the upstairs bathroom where John was.

“I can hear him up there, talking.  If he’s doing it after I asked him not to, his TV goes up into the attic until it stops, and it stops tonight!”  Ron leapt from his chair and stormed out of the kitchen.

Ron took the steps two at a time and made for the bathroom door.  He stopped just outside it, and listened.  He heard voices from inside the bathroom.  He listened from the hallway and heard his son’s voice and for a moment he almost thought he heard another, more adult voice. He waited for his son to speak to muffle the click of the lock as he gingerly turned the doorknob.  He swung it open as if in slow motion, and swore he could hear a deep whisper.

“My dad wants you to leave, forever.  He says I’m too old for you to be with me,” Johnny said.

“Too old?  Why would...”

It was a voice!  A whisper.  Someone was in the tub with his son!  He looked at the window.  It was locked. But John could have opened it and let someone in, closed it again.  He said he could work the shower handles.  Maybe he did the window...or maybe he’s schizophrenic.  Maybe he‘s...(possessed?)

He heard the whisper again and rage took him. 

Who the hell?

He lunged forward and grabbed the shower curtain, flung it open wildly, tearing it loose from the rod, sending some of the plastic rings flying into the wall, noisily bouncing off the tiles.

Johnny looked up at his father in total shock. 

“You promised!” he screamed, his head covered in mounds of soap bubbles which dripped slowly down the sides of his cheeks.

Across from his son was something that totally disarmed him.  It was a monster with a big head, bulging eyes and a gaping mouth filled with rows of shark teeth.  It seemed to be made of soap bubbles and bits of wet toilet paper.  He momentarily forgot his anger and marveled at the amazing sculpture his son had created. 

“Johnny, did you...”  He knelt in front of the tub and reached out to touch it, vaguely aware of his son’s angry screams when the foam sculpture lunged at him and grabbed his head with its pit bull jaws and crushed his skull. 

The sound of splintering bones echoed off the tiled bathroom walls as the thing stood up to its full height, like a living volcanic eruption of suds, a leviathan rising out of the water, and throttled John’s dad, like a feral cat with a freshly caught mouse, sending his limbs crashing from wall to wall, knocking tiles loose and flinging a shoe out into the hallway, until his head was torn off and his stump of a neck sprayed blood all over the bathroom in rhythmic jets, his body collapsing, bent over the side of the tub, feet and legs on the floor, arms and torso in the bath, turning the water a dark crimson.

The soap-bubble creature swallowed Ron’s head, licked its Tyrannosaurus Rex chops, and belched.

Johnny looked at Rall.  “He promised,” he said, and shifted his gaze to his father’s headless body.

“Your mother is running up the stairs to see what all the noise was about.  After she’s gone, there’ll be no one to come between us,” the thing whispered as it picked its teeth with a spindly claw.

Johnny smiled at Rall. 

His teeth were shark teeth.

mansbestfriendillus.jpg

MAN’S BEST FRIEND

Raymond A. Valent

 

          Ed was fourteen the first time it hit him real strong.  He’d felt it before, but in a vague, misty way.  Sort of like when you’re not quite well but not yet sick.  Your stomach’s doing butterflies but you don’t quite have to puke. 

          He was in tenth grade math class, sitting next to Sally Stern, studying the geometric possibilities of things he would never use in later life, as all kids felt about education.

          At home, it started with his mom, constantly criticizing his friends.

          “You think they like you?  They don’t like you.  They’re just using you.”

          “Using me for what?  I’m twelve, mom.  I have no car, no money, you won’t let them in the house so they’re not eatin’ our food or watchin’ our TV.  What the hell could they possibly be using me for? You IDIOT!  Do you ever think about the stupidity that comes out of your mouth?”  Ed said, fighting back tears.  His mother never had anything good to say about his friends.  And the few she liked were the ones he didn’t care for.  They were on the periphery of his crowd.

          “Don’t you ever talk to me like that again, Edward!”

          Ed felt that he’d explode in a matter of seconds if he didn’t get out of the house and away from this woman.  He sensed the volcano of anger surging up his back and spilling over into his shoulders.  Hot lava flowed down his arms, curling his hands into fists.  He felt the heat blast his face, the hair on his neck stand on end; he thought of the statues he’d seen in National Geographic of Buddhist demons with their eternally opened mouths displaying endless rows of fangs and giant wide open eyes like brass cannonballs searching for some poor, dumb soul to eat.

          Ed looked at his poor, dumb soul of a mother.  So defenseless, it would be no great victory to swallow her whole, but the meal would still be satisfying.

          “Fuck you and the rock you crawled out from under,” Ed said in a flat monotone.  He opened the door to the kitchen and walked out, slamming the door so hard that the glass fell in long, flat icicles onto the kitchen floor.  His mother screamed after him that she’d change the locks and never let him in again.

          Now Sally was in class whispering to him, berating him for a wrong answer to an easy question.

          He hated her, hated his mother, hated everyone.  Especially girls.  Boys he could dismiss as useless, but girls, women.  They were deliberately evil, mean to him on purpose.  He glared at Sally.  She giggled at him.

          His felt like a balloon about to burst.  His temples throbbed and his left eye twitched until it was almost closed.  Then he felt it.  Raw hatred.  He fumed, turned red, bit his tongue and endured.

 

          Later that week, Sally Stern’s dog Chummy would run away.  A few days later, Sally’s father would notice a detestable smell in the garage and he would eventually find Chummy decomposing in the trunk of his new Saab.  Sally blamed Ed, but her parents discounted that.  How could he get in the garage and get the keys to the car?

          In school, Sally kept far away from Ed.  She was careful never to make eye contact with him or sit near him.  For Sally, Ed was a non-entity.  Even worse—he was a possible dog killer.

          Ed liked the reputation, and it spread like a Serengeti wildfire.  Soon, the whole school regarded Ed as the dog-killer.  Ed was “special.”  The kids called him “Special Ed.”   And Ed just smiled contentedly to himself.  He was already itching for bigger game.

 

          Sally’s baby brother liked to hang out around the pond and catch frogs and tadpoles and newts and anything else that would happen to be around the dampness of the lily pads. Ed saw him as just another piece of potential fun.

          Ed played with the idea of just walking up to him and killing him.  But the thing inside him that made him do these things wouldn’t be satisfied with that.  It wanted squirm and screaming and terror and...

          Ed began his descent from the small hill above the pond, only a few yards from the house, but concealed by a thicket of wild rose bushes.  No one in the house could see him or the child. He stalked up behind Sally’s brother and stopped a few feet from the intended victim, and realized he had no weapon.  He’d have to do this with his bare hands.

          This was new.

          Now what?

          This opened up new doorways, new passages through his psyche.

          Ed was about forty feet from the boy, crouching in the bushes.  He slowly stood up and began to take careful, measured, hopefully silent steps.  He waited until the kid was engrossed in some aquatic event or creature and then he began to stalk his way to the small target, the sense of excitement mounting inside him like the hiss of a firecracker fuse makes you tense up waiting for the impending explosion.

          Ed stopped dead in his tracks, frozen.  He heard something in the bushes behind him.  He actually felt a shiver of fear run up his spine and wondered whether to turn around or not.  But he needed to know.  If someone was there, he’d have to kill a witness as well.  He didn’t know if he could handle two in one day.  On the other hand, hitting a double was always better than a base hit.

          He leapt straight up and spun around in mid-air. Ed landed in the same spot, looking into the shrubbery from which he heard the noise.

          Nothing.

          He slowly turned his attention back to the boy.  Still absorbed in whatever it was.

          Kids get so engrossed in what they’re doing.  Then again, so do I, he thought, and smiled broadly.

          He was about ten feet from Sally’s brother and decided he needed to get there fast.  He stepped forward briskly, fingers curling and uncurling in anticipation.

          I can feel his throat already.

          Ed reached down and grabbed the child around the neck from behind.  The kid immediately began thrashing like a crazy thing, kicking, biting and screaming.   Ed tightened his grip on the boy’s throat to stifle the screams. He didn’t think there was enough for anyone to hear.

          The kid was a wild one for a four-year-old.  Every muscle was seemingly in spasm as the kid flailed wildly.  Ed was losing him.  He was on his knees with the kid at arms length, trying to avoid the flailing extremities.  He decided to drag the kid to the pond and hold his head under water.  He got up and the brat landed a foot in Ed’s testicles, and Ed dropped to one knee and fell forward, driving his victim’s head into the pond.  Bubbles emerged from the pond where the kid’s head was.   

          That should shut him up.

          Ed’s guts hurt from the kick, but he had to keep the kid submerged until he stopped moving.   Only a few seconds had passed but it seemed like hours.  He felt better enough to get to his knees and try to bear hug the kid and break his neck.  He took a deep breath and bit down hard to fight the pain in his groin, and pulled the splashing maniac out of the pond, quickly getting a hand over his mouth.

          He heard the rustling in the bushes again.  He started to turn to look over his right shoulder, when the rock hit him in the cheekbone.  It dazed him and distracted him enough for the boy to get free and he heard a high pitched voice screaming.

          “Run Timmy!  Run home and tell Mommy!”

          Ed tried to stand up and lunge at his attacker, but he saw Sally already had a rock about the size of a basketball in her hands just above her head.  She was straining to get it higher as he got one foot flat on the ground, but the other was still kneeling.   Sally pushed the rock forward with all she had, and it hit Ed squarely in the forehead, knocking him backward off his feet.  The rock sort of pushed him over and rolled down his body as he fell, then rolled off his waist to the ground.

          Ed lay stunned on the ground staring blankly into the sky.  He couldn’t move a muscle.  Sally came around to his side and strained to lift the semi-boulder again.  She planted a foot on each side of Ed’s head and managed to get the rock about five and a half feet off the ground, directly above Ed’s head.  He heard Sally say “Goodbye” and saw her let go of the rock.  He strained to move his head but couldn’t.

          Ed saw the rock fall, closed his eyes and waited.

dogbite.jpg

THE MAN IN THE CAR

 

Raymond A. Valent

 

 

          He drove like a lunatic.

          The kid in the car had his hands clamped onto the steering wheel so tight his knuckles were white.  The tires threw gravel and dust like a Kansas twister in August.        

          The car clung tenuously to the dirt, ready to fly off into the woods on either side of the old farm road at any moment.  One miscue by the kid and it would all be over.  He’d be a fond memory, a bloody lump of chopped meat covered in glass shards and metal fragments.  Except, there was no one to remember him.  Paulie had been alone ever since he was old enough to drop out of school.  He never liked crowds.  He had a few friends, and even those, not really what you’d call close.  He couldn’t share with his buddies the way other kids shared their inner thoughts and desires.

          “’Cause I’m a freak.  A fuckin’ wack job,” he said.

          He stretched one long arm out over the dashboard and grabbed for his pack of Newports.  His six-foot-five frame barely fit into the old Nissan.  He flipped open the box with one finger and shook out a smoke.  One eye on the road, the other searching the car for a book of matches or an old lighter.  He never knew what would come flying out from under the seats at the next turn. Once he took a ninety-degree left at almost sixty.  He’d lost control of the car for a few seconds but quickly regained it again, when he noticed something round and cylindrical on the floorboards.  It had rolled out from under the seats.  When he got home later that night, he discovered that it was a wad of hundred-dollar bills all rolled up and wrapped with a rubber band.  Almost three thousand dollars.  Just the amount he needed to cover the last three month’s rent before Mrs. Broderick threw him into the street.

          “Well fuck me,” he had said.

          He spied a lighter on the passenger seat, under some old mail he’d never gotten around to dealing with. He reluctantly relinquished his right hand’s grip on the wheel and groped for the old Bic.  Paulie quickly flicked it, and a yellowish flame almost two inches tall flared out from the plastic torch.  He flinched in surprise and then touched the end of the flame to the cigarette that was dangling from his mouth.  After a long drag, he flipped the lighter back onto the seat next to him and locked his fingers around the wheel again, staring straight ahead at the unlit road, wary of odd things popping out in front of him in the dark.  He slowly exhaled a long blue plume of cigarette smoke that fogged up the windshield a little, making it difficult to see.  He cracked his window and waited for the glass to clear.

          “What‘s it gonna be this time?”  When he frightened himself with these death-tempting daredevil rides, something always happened.  Either something rolled out from under the seat, or someone he needed to see, meet, or interact with in some way manifested before him.  Sometimes a hitchhiker, sometimes someone who needed help fixing a flat or to pour some water into the radiator in a broken down over-heated jalopy.  But he had to get to that point where fear took over and logic ceased.

          Only lately, he really didn’t need the car to scare himself.

          Things had begun to happen to him lately.  People had come to him unbidden.  People he didn’t know who heard about him, about the things that happened when he was around.  Or the things that seemed to happen around him, and only him.  That’s why he  left his parents and quit school.  To get away from them.  He just wanted to live his life as a normal nineteen-year-old without strangers looking for him, hunting for him as if he was some kind of trophy.  Like they were waiting for some kind of reward.  Maybe a healing or a conversion.   A photograph, some type of memorabilia.

          “Something to tell the kids, or the grandkids about,” he said aloud in the car.  “Maybe a fuckin’ medal.”

          Maybe I should just pull the wheel to the right and floor it.  Head into the woods.  Pick myself a nice big red oak and turn myself into worm food, he thought.

          Up ahead, there was something in the road.  Something large and upright.  He glanced at the speedometer.  He was doing seventy. Slowly, he took his foot off the gas.  Immediately the car began to slow down.

          Up ahead was the figure of a person standing in the middle of the road, stooped over a dark mass on the pavement, directly in front of him.  The figure stared down at the blob and remained still.

          Paulie was less than two hundred feet from the man, if it was a man, so he slowed  down and hit his high beams to see if he could make out more detail.  The man in the road looked at the car and waved his left hand, signaling the car to slow down, be careful of the blob, and pass him without stopping. Paulie did just that.  As he passed, he noticed the man, apparently quite elderly now that he could get a good look at him, was staring down at a dog that had probably been hit by a car.  It lay in the road, motionless.  Paulie pulled over to the right shoulder and parked his car.  He got out and took one last drag on his Newport and flicked it into the road ahead, sending a spray of orange sparks ahead of him as it struck the pavement.

          “What happened?”  he asked the old man.

          “My dog’s been hit.  Goddam dog’s all I got left.  Wife’s gone, my kids don’t care.  Fuck ‘em.   They‘re out of the will. Take care of that soon enough.  Call my attorney first thing tomorrow.  Damned ungrateful brats.  Now Fella here’s been killed by a damned moron racin’ down the road.  Maybe a drunk at that.  Or maybe one of them sick fucks that swerve intentionally to hit an animal.  Any animal.  I was at Fort Hood in Texas when I was invited to join the service.  I was buddies with a guy like that.  Liked to get liquored up and race around killin’ strays.  Fucker he was, though.  Vietnam.  You remember that shitty little war?  Damned Johnson and Nixon were suckin’ each other’s dicks, you ask me.  No one cares about anybody else these days.  Everyone for himself.  Fuck your neighbors, fuck your family, fuck the human race.”  He pronounced it “hyooman,” like Paulie’s third grade teacher, Mrs. Halberstam.  The thought of her triggered a set of associations and he let them flow through him. 

          He remembered the time in the third grade when Angela Dixon was telling the class about her grandfather.  Mrs. Halberstam asked the class to talk to their grandparents  about how life was when they were younger, and Angela told the class about how her grandfather had been in the German army in the Second World War.  The kids taunted her about it.  Called her a Nazi and all the cruel things kids do.  Paulie felt sorry for her and thought to offer to walk her home after school that day, when it took him.  He stood up violently, the backs of his knees pushing the seat back behind him and into Mary Lou Hacker’s desk, knocking her history workbook to the floor.  He stood frozen, a living stalagmite.  He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move or speak.  It had him again.  He clenched and opened his fists over and over.  They were the only part of his body that responded.  His eyes were clamped shut and his head throbbed at the temples.  He saw Angela’s grandfather in an old Nazi SS uniform walking down a row of very skinny men in white and black striped clothes that looked to Paulie like pajamas.  They all looked sad to Paul.  The men needed shaves and many were sickly.  A lot of them were missing more than one tooth.  Some could barely stand without the others holding them up.  They were lined up as if they were in a parade, except that they weren’t moving.  Then a man in a black military uniform came up to the first man on the left and spoke words Paulie didn’t understand.

          “Different language.  It’s German, I think.”  Paulie stood erect like a buck private when an officer steps into the room.  He repeated loudly:  “I think it’s German.”

          Mrs. Halberstam asked him what was wrong.

          “I’m sure it’s German.  His name is Herr Dixon. (In his mind-he thought “hair”) They’re all calling his name now.  Softly, with respect.  Yes, Herr Dixon. No, Herr Dixon.  And fear. Terrible, terrible fear.  They’re all so afraid of Herr Dixon!”  Paulie was sweating now, and his hands trembled so badly that he thrust them into his pockets to keep them still.

          “Paul!  Paul Wilson!  You sit in that seat and you don’t stand up until I say so.  Do you hear me?  Paul!  Is that clear?”  Mrs. Halberstam was trembling and she flushed a bright pink with a little crimson thrown in for dramatic effect.  Her face looked like a ripe apple.

          Little Paulie Wilson was still standing behind his desk.

          He was crying.

          “Mister Dix...I mean Herr Dixon, is yelling at a man and smacking him in the face.  The man falls down on his knees and starts to cry. Herr Dixon, he...he...”  Paulie was starting to sob audibly.  Mrs. Halberstam thought he was having a fit and sent Johnny DeMarco, one of  Paulie’s almost-friends, to fetch the nurse.

          Paulie began to rock back and forth in rhythm with his deep sighs and sobs. 

          “He is shooting the man.  Herr Dixon is.  He shoots the man in the head and there is blood.  So much blood!”  Paulie wipes his hands on his shirt over and over, trying to get the blood off of them.

          “And then there is another shot and a new man falls down holding his head and he’s running around with his feet but he’s on the ground so he keeps going in circles like a circus clown, or is it a rodeo clown, and now the man Dixon, the “Hair” man is shooting him again and again and the first man is bleeding, oh all over the ground and the second man has stopped running and after the war Herr Dixon thinks he will go to New York with a fake ID and no one will suspect that he was a butcher in a kosher meat store called Buchenwald and he thinks the Fuhrer is a madman and we must get our little Gertie out of this terrible place before the Russians come and take our women and little girls, and now he is leaving for America because they will never find out who he was and he can live and never think of the things he did in the war and....”

          Paul stopped speaking.  The class stared at him.  Little Michael Federico was unconsciously grabbing his crotch to try and stop the uncontrollable flow of urine that was slowly trickling down his pant leg, turning it a darker shade of blue. Mrs. Halberstam’s mouth hung open as she slowly approached the boy.  She sat down at a desk directly in front of Paulie and stared at him, waiting for him to . . .

          What?  Explode?  He’s just a child, she thought.

          Paulie was frantically wiping his hands over and over, and then he stopped.  Paul slowly opened his eyes, stared at his teacher.

          He smiled.  It was an eerie smile.  A smile that Mrs. Halberstam never saw before, and if there was a God in heaven she would never see again.  It was a Cheshire cat smile.  The smile a predator might flash its victim just before the kill.  A shudder ran down Mrs. Halberstam’s spine.  Paulie looked at her, cocked his head to the right, lifted one eyebrow.  The old woman grabbed her forearms, stared at the boy.

          “What do you want, Jew?”  Paulie said to her.

          She jumped up and grabbed him then.  She grabbed him and shook him and shook him until it stopped. Oh, she’d stop it.  If she had to shake that little monster to death, she’d stop it.  This was her class and no psychotic eight-year-old was going to ruin it.

          Paulie felt Mrs. Haberstam’s hands shaking him and shaking and yelling and more shaking and...

          “Paulie!  You wake up now.  Stop it, Mister!  You hear me? Right now, Mister.”

 

          “Mister?  Somethin’ wrong?,” the old guy asked.

          Paulie looked at the old man, shook his head and sniffed.  “Nah.  Just reminiscing a little.”

          “Best to keep that for inside.  Cold as a witch’s tits out here, boy.  Why’d you stop anyway?  I motioned for you to keep goin.’   Don’t need anyone out here with me and Fella.  You go on about your business now.  I don’t need no one hangin’ around.  Jus’ wanna bury my dog.”  Paulie noticed a tear on the old guy’s cheek.  The old man looked away, embarrassed by his affection for his animal.

          Paulie shivered and his body broke out in a furious sweat.  Paulie took off his coat and dropped it on the ground next to Fella.

          “Looks like a shepherd mix, no?”

          “What’re you doin’?  Wanna freeze to death?  Yeah, he’s a mutt.  But mostly shepherd, or coyote for that matter.  Not really sure.”

          Paulie put one hand under the dog’s head and his other hand stroked Fella’s belly.

“He doesn’t seem to be hurt too badly.”  He gazed up at the dog’s master.  “Let’s see if we can fix him.”

          The old guy snorted in disdain.  “Buddy, I appreciate the sentiment.  His skull’s a bloody mess.  He’s deader than a rock.  Don’t fuck with my head.”

          Paulie shuddered. 

          Paul Wilson was shaking like an epileptic on crystal meth.  His arms shook as he gripped the dog so tightly that clumps of fur came loose in his fists.  The heat ascended his spine in a slow, agonizing spiral, twisting and turning its way up, radiating out from him in great undulations, from his hands, from the top of his head.  Sweat poured down his forehead, filling his eyes and making the world a watery blur.

          “Hey mister, you okay?”  The old man stared at Paulie, shifting his feet and looking around to see if maybe someone was watching.  “Mister?  Hey Buddy.  What’s wrong with...”  Paulie turned and glared at him.  His face was glowing, otherworldly.  It reminded him of the look on the face of a soldier he knew in Vietnam just after he saw his buddy’s head torn off by a mortar.

          The old guy stepped back a few paces.

          The dog snapped its head up and whined through its bloody muzzle.  Blood bubbled from its nose and reddish saliva oozed from its jaws.  He jerked upright and fell on his side, scrabbling on the tarmac, trying to stand on two mashed legs, the pain forced agonized yelps from his slobbering jaws he collapsed to the pavement.

          Steam rose from Paulie’s body, like thick smoke from a grass fire, distorting the air around him into a shimmering mirage.

          “Hey!   What the fuck are you...”      

          The dog yowled and pushed himself up again, this time managing to get to a sitting position.  Paulie yelled in unison with the hound’s baying and they both caught a pink shower as the dog barked, yelped and growled his way upright, fighting the pain and the blood and the cold.  Paulie’s grip never loosened.  The heat inside him built to a smoldering crescendo. Every last bit of it had to go into the dog, or he knew he wouldn’t sleep for days. The old man looked at the dog and his jaw went slack.  It looked like a scene from The Exorcist and his dog was Linda Blair.  Paulie’s arms throbbed with the weight of the mutt.  He held Fella upright and bolts of pain coursed through his arms as if he‘d grabbed a live wire with wet hands.  The dog’s spine was twisting and cracking, sounding like a bag of popcorn in a microwave, its head violently swinging from side-to-side, eyes rolled up showing the whites.

          The old man thought to get a weapon, to kill his Fella, his dog.  Something to bring this horror show to an abrupt end.

          Then the dog jerked erect, stood up and shook off violently.  Paulie and the old man were showered with a gooey spray of half-frozen blood and saliva.  Paulie let his hands drop to his sides as he stood up, panting like a long distance runner, plumes of steam sprayed from his gaping mouth.

          The old man looked at Paulie, and then looked at his dog.

          “He’ll need lots of rest and water.  He’s lost a lot of blood.  Pretty strong little fella, though.”  Paulie reached down and rubbed the dog’s bloody muzzle.  The mutt’s tail began to wag.

          The old man stared at Paulie as if at a leper.  He looked at his dog, who now bounded over the stone wall to the front door of his house.  He barked a few times, and then ran back to his master’s side, tail wagging furiously, impatiently stamping his paws.

          The old man looked at Paulie again.

          “Mister.  I don’t know who or what you are, or how you did this, or what fuckin’ planet you’re from, but that was just fuckin’ amazing.  Anything I can ever do for you, if it’s within my means, I’ll do it as long as I’m still breathin’ God’s clean air.”  He knelt down to accept the slobbering kisses his best friend began to cover him with.  The dog jumped up and put his two front paws on his master‘s shoulders.  “All right, all right, Fella.  Let’s git you in and git you cleaned up a bit.”

          “Remember, lots of rest and water.  Maybe some well-cooked hamburger, too.”  Paulie watched the dog follow the old guy into his front door, the man mumbling baby-talk to his resurrected pooch. The man stopped after the dog ran into the house, turned and looked at Paulie.  A single tear coursed down the side of the man’s nose.

          “Anything you need, ever.  You just knock on my door.”  He sniffled, nodded slowly, and closed the door.  Paulie could hear the dog barking inside the house.

          “How ‘bout keepin’ your mouth shut.”  Paulie stood in the road, looking down at the small puddle of blood at his feet.  He wiped his hands on his shirt, picked up his coat, and got back in the car.  He turned the key and the engine started.  He flipped the heater off, and opened his window and took off his bloody shirt.  He stared ahead and thought of the old man’s offer.  But what could the old guy do for him?  He lit another cigarette,  stared out the windshield at the dark road ahead of him.

He heard the old man screaming as the dog tore into him. Paulie wondered how long it would take; after all, the old guy was pretty feeble. The mutt should finish him off pretty quick.

          “Sorry dude.  Must’ve crossed some wires in his head. But you’d never be able to keep quiet about it anyway.”

          After a few minutes, he turned the car around and drove home.

todayislostinyesterday.jpg
Art by W. Jack Savage 2014

TODAY IS LOST IN YESTERDAY

 

By

 

Raymond A. Valent

 

 

          It was there, just out of his sight.

          The fresh-cut grass smelled sweet and green in the afternoon sun, and young Bobby Thompson sat high in the seat of his John Deere. The tractor pulled its circular blades that plowed the rich, dark soil into deep, even rows.  The corn would be planted soon, and about the time the plants were up to his belt, high school would be over forever. To Bobby, his eighteenth birthday meant freedom. Then thoughts of college would swarm into his head, crowding out those of farming, football, racing and girls.

          Well, maybe not girls.

          Bobby stood up on the tractor, careful to keep his hands on the wheel, and gazed around the field. In whatever direction he looked, there was farmland. He held the wheel, kept one eye on the row to his left, and sucked in a deep breath of that sweet air, filled with pollen and that curious ozone smell your skin took on when the sun beat down on it. There was the rich, heavy smell of manure, always manure, combined with the smell of freshly turned earth, topped off with cut grass and an occasional whiff of the ’Deere’s diesel exhaust. He threw his head back and took in another lungful of that magnificent tossed salad of aromas. The rumble of the tractor and the incessant chirping, whistling song of the swallows that dive-bombed him, trying to get as close as they could without committing suicide, rang in his ears. Everything was grand in that magnificent, eighteen year old life he was living. Everything was wonderful; the air, the sun, the dirt, the farm, his parents and siblings, and himself.  It was nineteen fifty-five, and he stood up on that tractor like he was on top of the world. The smile on his face was angelic. He saw the Johnson farm across the dirt road to his left. He imagined Margi out in the front yard, and he studied the way she walked.  Her posture always mesmerized him. He wondered how someone with such an erect, athletic body could not be an athlete. It wasn’t fair how some had to work for a body like that and she was just born that way.

          He looked back at the row to his left and then glanced directly ahead to see how much room he had before the road came up on him and he’d have to turn around.

          That’s when he saw it.

          He cut the wheel sharply to the right and almost ditched it. If he did, the tractor would bog down in the soft earth and he’d have to solicit the neighbors to help get it out. Nothing would hide his embarrassment then.  He’d have to endure an entire summer, three months of ribbing.

          “Neva woulda got that cawn planted if t’werent fer us gettin’ that tractuh outtuh thayah,” old Mr. Neville would say in his New England accent. No one was sure if he was from New England or if he just like affecting the accent. Sometimes he spoke like he was British, sometimes, Australian. 

          “Shit!”  He almost lost it, but managed to keep the machine on a somewhat straight path, albeit not a planting row. He’d have to do the end of that one over again.

          The tractor came to a stop and Bobby sat down hard on the unpadded seat, put it in neutral, depressed the brake and locked it. He turned off the ignition, stepped down off the machine and stood looking out at the dirt road not a hundred and fifty feet from where he stopped.

          “What the hell is that?” he whispered.

          He began to walk slowly, very slowly, towards the road. From where he was he saw only the top of the thing. The rest of it was hidden by the tall roadside grass, swaying gently in the breeze. Waves of heat were radiating from its black surface in the direct midday sun. The image took on a dreamy, hallucinogenic quality, and Bobby began to feel a little light-headed, as if he’d seen the thing before. He slowed down his pace, stared at it. He shook his head slowly.

          It was black, shiny, like painted metal. He’d heard about the UFO things buzzing the White House, but hell, this was nineteen fifty-five. There were no such things as aliens and even if there were, why would they be on his family’s farm? Shouldn’t they be back in Washington or Moscow? As he got closer, he saw windows. Two. One directly behind the other. Glass, he thought. But they were dark, like smoked glass or some kind of stained glass, but not the kind you see in church. He couldn’t see into it, whatever it was. Then there were two more big windows. One in front and one in back.  The entire upper part that was visible to him was glass, except for the roof, and that looked like it had some kind of windows in it too. Fear started to creep up on Bobby and he slowed his pace even more.

          He made his way over to the right, so he could get in the road behind (or in front?) of it so he could see the whole object without the grass blocking his view. He made a wide detour in the field and stepped over the small fence and onto the road. He stared at it. There was a white rectangle with numbers and letters on it. Below this were two round objects with extremely shiny metallic centers, spaced evenly apart. It had what looked like lights in various spots. There was a symbol, writing, a word, a long word in shiny silver or chrome to the right of the white triangle.

          English?

          He squatted, bent forward and squinted hard to see if he could read it.

          “C-A,  C-A-D-I”

          Cadillac.

          It was a car.

          A car unlike any he’d ever seen. It had no fins, and its edges were rounded, not sharp like all the modern cars were. He looked again at the rectangle with the numbers and letters on it. It was a license plate. A government license plate.

          Bobby was embarrassed by his fear. He stood and swiftly walked up to the car, false bravado tinged his voice.

          “This ve-HICLE is on our property. Whoever’s car this is needs to move it now!”

There was a rustling of leaves behind one of the oaks that lined the roadside.  Bobby bristled with fear again and overcompensated in his voice. He was almost yelling.

          “This your car, Mister?” he yelled to the tree.

          From behind the oak tree stepped a smallish man in a black suit with a very thin black tie worn against a dazzlingly white buttoned down collared shirt.  e fidgeted with the zipper to his trousers.

          “Sorry. Had to stop to take a piss. This your farm?”

          “Yeah. I don’t know where you’re from, but around here we don’t just stop to piss on private property.”

          “I figured you owned the land, not the roads runnin’ through it. The government owns them, right? So I guess I just pissed on the government, huh?”

          “You a communist?” Bobby asked.

          “No. Are you Bobby Thompson?”

          Bobby jerked involuntarily, looked at the ground. “Who’s askin’?”

          “I am. Came all the way out here from Washington, D.C. that is, to see if we could find you.”

          “We? I only see you.” Then the passenger door opened and Bobby took a step back as another man came out of the car and stood still, leaned against the opened door.

          The man with the bladder problem walked up to Bobby and extended his hand to him. Bobby ignored it. The man wiped his hand on his pant leg and said, “Yeah. Sorry, I understand.”

          He strode over to the larger man and reached into the passenger seat for a pre-moistened anti-bacterial wipe. Bobby stared at him. He cleaned his hands and threw the balled up wipe into the back seat.

          “Excuse my friend here. He’s just so talkative and friendly. You just can’t get him to shut up.”

          The larger man nodded at Bobby.

          “’Lo, Bob,” he said.

          “So, I guess we found you, huh?” the small one said.

          “What do you want? Did I get accepted into another college?”

          “No. No, nothing like that.” tall man said.

          “Then what? And is that a car?”

          “It don’t say Cadillac for nuthin,’” short man said. “And as far as I know, Cadillac don’t make nuthin’ but cars.”

          “I’ve never seen a car like that, Cadillac or not. Where’d you get it?”  Bobby stroked the chrome window frames and pushed on the windows, looking at his fingerprints on the glass.

          “Uh, it’s a, uh…” the small man looked at the silent taller man.

          “It’s for a movie. A man in Hollywood designed it and we were making sure it ran okay for him,” the big man said. “Want to go for a ride, Bob?”

          “So, it’s like for a sci-fi flick, and the engine’s normal, just the body is, well,  I guess you’d call it futuristic,” the small man said.

          “Go for a ride? I don’t know either of you gentlemen, and why do you know my name and why would government men be looking for me? And if this is a fake car for a movie, why would it say Cadillac?”

          The small man with the urinary problem looked at the bigger man and shrugged.

          “Smart kid,” he said.

          “That’s why we’re here,” tall man glared at short man. “Cadillac is paying the producer of the movie to put its name on the super car of the future to help increase sales. Anything else you’d like to know?”

          “What’s the movie called and who’s starring in it?”

          “Plan Nine From Outer Space and Ronald Reagan will be the male lead.”  Tall man picked out whatever he could remember of movies and actors of the fifties, and prayed it made sense.

          “Sounds like a piece of crap.”

          “I’m sure it will be.”

          “Anything with Ronald Reagan in it is crap.”

          “I couldn’t agree more,” tall man said.

          “Can I drive?”

          “Beg pardon?”

          “You asked if I wanted to go for a ride. You don’t seem dangerous or anything, so if I go for a ride, can I drive?”

          “It’s an automatic. Can you handle an automatic transmission?”

          “If you can, I can. You guys can’t decide if you’re from Hollywood or the government, so I guess if a couple of confused guys like you can handle her, I can.”     

          Bobby was already pulling at the edge of the driver’s side door trying to take his place behind the wheel.

          “Where’s the handle?”

          “Let me help you,” tall man said, and punched a series of numbers into a panel on the door and it popped open.

          “Sure you still want to drive?”

          Bobby stared at the luminescent dials, numbers everywhere, red, green, blue, colors everywhere. “Oh hell yeah!” Bobby slid in behind the wheel. “Well?”  He stared at tall man, drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. The tall man walked around to the passenger side and sat down.  Small man took his place in the back seat.

          “Keep it below seventy. These roads are dangerous and you don’t know the car,” tall man said.

          “Yeah. This ain’t no TIE Fighter,” small man offered.

          “TIE Fighter?” Bobby asked.

          “Star Wars reference. Never seen that movie?  Been livin’ in a cave?” small man said.

          “It’s nineteen fifty-five,” tall man said and frowned.

          The tall man put on his seat belt, he looked at Bobby.  “Buckle up,” he said.

Bobby asked for the key.

          “Foot on the brake, press the button on the dash,” tall man smiled.

          Bobby pressed the button, and the engine fired. He’d never heard an engine like that before. He could barely hear it at all. He looked at his passengers and smiled. 

          It was a very big smile.

 

          Bobby took the curves at more than seventy, and although the speedometer indicated the speed, he couldn’t sense it the way in his pickup and his Olds.

          “Slow down, Bob,” the tall one said.

          “What are you guys anyway? You don’t seem like actors. You certainly don’t act like government agents. No dark sunglasses. Everyone knows the FBI wears dark sunglasses.”

          “Who said we were FBI? I didn’t!” the short one said.

          “Can we have some music? Does this thing have a radio?”

          “Yes it does. But I don’t know what kind of reception it might get,”  The taller one looked at the shorter one.

          “Maybe some recorded music might be better,” tall man said.

          “How would we do that? You have a tape recorder in the trunk?”

          “No. Just press this button and it will play.”

          “Are you crazy? What…”  Bobby looked at tall man.

          “I told you it was the sci-fi car.”

          “Got any Chuck Berry?”

          “As a matter of fact…” Tall Man pulled out a CD and pushed it into the player. He didn’t have it on digital yet, but he knew the kid would think it was part of the Hollywood effect. It was a CD he burned himself. Chuck Berry followed by Night Train, Green Onions and then he forgot what was after that. They drove for quite a while, out past cow pastures, a large lake, other farms. And then something unexpected came out of the speakers. A high pitched shrieking sound. A sound Bobby had never heard before. The two men in dark suits were startled to hear it, and the tall man reached over to turn it off, but Bobby blocked his arm.

          “What the heck is that?”

          “Screaming girls.”

          “Why would you have a recording of that?”  Bobby asked. Then a male voice said, over the shrieking females; “We’d  like to do a song called Dizzy Miss Lizzy.”

          The shrieking grew to a fever pitch, a veritable hysterical outbreak.  Bobby couldn’t imagine the crowd size.

          “Who’s that?”

          Tall man turned it off.

          “That’s the Beatles. A rock band. They were, uh, created for the movie.”

          “Rock band?”

          “Pull over, Bobby. We need to talk.”

          Bobby swerved to the right and hit the brakes. The car rolled to a stop on the unpaved road and kicked up quite a dust cloud. Bobby smiled from ear to ear.

          “This is one helluva car, gentlemen.”

          Tall man reached out and hit play. John Lennon was belting out Dizzy Miss Lizzie live at the Hollywood Bowl and Bobby was mesmerized. The crowd was a hysterical shrieking mob. But the song is what interested him.  And Lennon’s screaming. He was entranced.

          “Never heard anything like that, have you Bob?’ tall man asked.

          “No. That’s a real band. A serious band, not a Hollywood creation.  That’s a real song he’s singin’ too. I think you guys need to explain something to me.” Short man looked at tall man.     

          “Bobby, do you know when that song was recorded?” Tall man asked.  Bobby shook his head. “In nineteen sixty-five. The man singing it was shot dead in nineteen-eighty. They were the biggest band ever. Hear those people screaming? No band or political leader or anything or anyone would ever create that kind of hysteria again. Never”

          Bobby stared at him, turned to short man. “Is he nuts, or are you on his side?” Short man pulled out another CD and handed it to Bobby. He perused the artwork, a Medusa-like woman with snakes for hair in an olive drab setting, suggesting Satanic overtones. “Ever see anything like that?”

          “It’s ugly.”

          “It’s ELP. A band from the decade after the Beatles. Look at the fine print.”

          It was an Emerson, Lake and Palmer CD. Brain Salad Surgery. He scanned the cover and opened it. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London, 1973.

          “This is a joke, right?”

          “Play it.”

          Tall man took it from him and put it in the slot, selected the second track. He looked at Bobby.

          “Tocatta,” he said.

          Out of the speakers flowed one of the most mind-bending pieces of music from the acid generation. Carl Palmer thrashing classical piano music into electronic rock percussion madness.

          “I’ve never heard anything like that. If you’re not fulla shit and you’re from the future, what do you want with me?”

          “Hard to explain. You are going to major in physics, correct?”

          “That’s the plan.”

          “You are going to be interrupted. See, there’s something you’ve been asking yourself for a long time, and that question is a dangerous one, and some people, and some things that aren’t people, don’t want you to ask that question because they’re not sure they want to know the answer. The answer is not something you’ll invent, but you’ll lay the theoretical groundwork for someone else to. And we need it to be invented.”

          “Why?”

          “To prevent catastrophe.”

          “In the future?”

          “In the future.”

          “Well, you’re both fulla shit.”  Bobby turned the CD over in his hands and saw Jerusalem. The author was William Blake.

          They make songs out of five-hundred year old poems?

          “If you disturb the past to change the future, you’re throwing a rock into a pond and the ripples go on ad infinitum. You have no idea what effect they’ll eventually have.” Bobby was gone. Doctor Thompson had replaced him.

          “Smart kid,” short man said.  Tall man looked at him and frowned.

          “We’ve calculated the effects and…”

          “There’s no way to do…” Tall man grabbed Bobby’s arm, put a finger to his lips and shushed him.

          “We’ve calculated the probable effects, and decided the risks are worth taking, considering the possibility for disaster if we don’t.” Tall man stared at Bobby, waited.

          “What do you want from me?”

          “We want you to come back with us. To your future, our present.  After you get your degree, there will be a concerted effort to kill you before you lay the groundwork for our project. Those who oppose us can see into the past as well as anyone and they mean to stop you. It’s sort of like if the peace freaks of the future could kill Einstein to prevent World War III and nuclear annihilation, would it be worth it? They believe so, just as those who oppose us believe it will be worth it to kill you before you can do something that will keep the world intact, not destroy it.”

          “But if they killed Einstein, Hiroshima and Nagasaki would never have happened and World War II might still be going on.” Tall man stared at Bobby.

          Real smart kid, short man thought

          “So we’re the good guys?” Bobby asked him.

          “Of course.”

          “How do I know that for sure?”

          Tall man looked at short man.  Then looked at Bobby.

          “If we were the bad guys, you’d be dead by now.”

 

---

 

          Bobby put the CD back in the player and hit play, asked Tall man to play the Jerusalem cut.

          “Now?”

          “No. We’ll be back. You need to decide if you will go. It’s free will, no coercion. We’ll be back after you’re Doctor Thompson.”

          “You’ll be back in seven years?”

          “Overconfident, aren’t you? No. Ten years to you. About a day to us.  We need you at full brain power. But you need to think it out. That’s why we’re here now. To give you time to think. We’ll see you in ten years, Bob.  And one thing; try to keep the personal attachments to a minimum. You’re supposed to die in ten years, but we’ll grab you just before they get to you.  Either way, you’re leaving, if you agree. Try to make it as easy as possible.”

          “Well, I guess I’ll see you in ten years, then.”

          “Bob? Give me the CD, there’s no way to play it here.”

          “Hey guys, tell me something that’s gonna happen in the next fifteen years. Just so I know it’s all true. Something big.”

          Tall man looked at him. Short man was already pushing Bobby out of the driver’s seat.

          “You would need to not do anything about any of it. You understand that, right?”

          “Of course.”

          “Not that anyone would believe you. You’ll just be a wacky college kid making predictions. You might impress a girl or two with it, though.” Tall man thought for a minute, got out of the car, kicked some gravel around with his foot, and looked up at Bobby.

          “In nineteen sixty-two the U.S. and Soviet Union will have a showdown over nuclear missiles in Cuba and the world will teeter on the brink of war. It will end successfully and war will be averted. Both the U.S. president and Soviet premier will be very quickly taken out of power. The U.S. president will be shot dead in Dallas, Texas. You’re not going to believe the big one, though.”

          “Try me.”

          “In nineteen sixty-nine, U.S. astronauts will walk on the moon.”

          Bobby’s jaw dropped, and short man started the engine and slammed the door. Tall man got in, and Bobby stood on the side of the road as the car pulled away and threw gravel and dirt all over him. He thought of his tractor and how much time had passed. How was he going to explain this to his father? How was he going to plow the rest of the field? A pickup passed going the other direction and Bobby stuck his thumb out. The truck stopped and Bobby hopped in.

          “You ever hear of the Beedles?” he asked the driver.

          “Annoyin’ freakin’ bugs. Ate the shit outta my damned roses. Wife’s furious. Damned Japs.”

          Bobby slumped in the seat and pondered the events of the afternoon.  The music he heard was certainly futuristic, if not otherworldly. The events were almost unbelievable. Men on the moon? Russian missiles in Cuba?  The truck hit every bump and the primitive suspension was rough on his rear. Certainly nothing like the vehicle he’d just vacated. That thing was no movie car. It was a serious machine, a Cadillac.

          He wasn’t totally convinced yet, but he was on his way.

 

          The two men in black suits appeared in the back of the pickup just as Bobby looked in the rearview mirror.

          “Back already?”  he asked.

          “Where the hell did they come from?” the driver asked. “Did they get in with you?”

          “Our superiors informed us that you apparently already had a visit with some other gentlemen, which leaves you available to the other side.  Sorry Bob.”

          He realized this wasn’t the same pair as earlier.

          “The other two guys told me I had ten years.”

          “Yes. As a result of them speaking with you, you wrote your autobiography, telling the reader exactly when you were visited by the other two, as you call them. We simply went back just after their visit with you to change things the way we want them to be.”

          “Can’t they just come back an hour before this visit and change things again?” 

          “No. This changes the future so you’re no longer a part of it, and your theories never come into being. This ends it.”

          “So, you’re abducting me?”

          “Not quite,” the one immediately behind him said.

          Bobby Thompson never heard the shot that tore open his skull and ended his short life.

          The jury didn’t believe the driver’s story.





kidsback.jpg
Art by Steve Cartwright 2015

'THE KID' IS BACK

BY

Raymond A. Valent

 

          The first time it happened, it startled him.  He awoke, as if from an impossibly long sleep.  He shook his head to try and orient himself.  He stood up, stretched.  Then he saw the table.  He walked slowly toward it.  Somehow, he knew what he was supposed to do.

          The guns were bigger than he'd anticipated.  As he reached out to grasp the polished wood handle of the dull metallic weapons, he stared at his right hand.  His eyes opened wide.  He brought it up to his face, turned it around to look at the palm. His brow wrinkled, and he jerked his left hand up next to his right.  He stared at both hands for what seemed a long time.  He grabbed frantically at his right sleeve and pushed it up his arm to the elbow.

          His hands and arms were massive.

          He turned his hands over a few times, staring at them and his forearms.  The muscles stood out clearly.  The veins that fed them were a network of highways, enriching them with oxygen.

          He picked up the guns.  They were like toys in his hands.

          The guys that used these Colts a hundred and fifty years ago must've been awfully powerful men.

          The Kid looked down at his feet.  The holsters were halfway down his thighs, one on each side.  He spun the guns around, twirled them backwards and slid them into the holsters, and walked out the door.  His feet made a jangling, metallic sound with each step.

          Spurs.

 

         

          The Kid was in the street, walking aimlessly down the dark sidewalk, past all the stores and shops.  It was late.   Everything was closed, except for a bar across the street.  The neon sign said The Grasshopper, but the g and r were burned out.

          You gotta be a real cheapskate not to fix a sign like that, unless it's code.

          He heard some muffled sound coming from somewhere near The asshopper, nothing he could distinguish.  He slowly crossed the road between the streetlights, cocked his head and listened.

          Nothing.

          There was an alley adjacent to the bar.  His legs took him there. No thought, no decision, no weighing of facts was involved.  It happened to him.  He walked steadily, with a firm, determined gait.  As he stepped up onto the sidewalk, he caught a glimpse of himself in a storefront window.  He looked just like he thought he would.  Old dusty beige trousers, boots with spurs.  Black oversize long sleeve shirt with a red bandana around his neck in case he needed to hide his identity. And the guns.  Always the guns. But there would be no more bank robberies, no more train robberies, no more dead lawmen.  He remembered a time when he was supposed to hang the next day and he shot his two guards and escaped.

          Long, long time ago.

          The squealing voice of a woman startled him.  He followed the sound into the alley and stared down its length to a man holding a knife up to a woman's throat.  His left hand held her arms behind her back, and his right held the blade.  The man kept telling her if she screamed, he'd kill her.

          The Kid stared at him.  "Yoo hoo..."

          The guy looked up and stared at the Kid and started to laugh.

          "What the hell are you supposed to be?  Clint Eastwood?  Get the fuck outta here before I behead this chick,"  he giggled a bit at the end.

          "Clint?  No.  Name's McCarty.  Henry McCarty Junior."

          "Like I give a shit?  Get the fuck outta here before something happens you'll regret," the creep said.

          "See, I killed a lot of men back when.  Some who deserved it, most of 'em didn't.  I'm here to make amends, payback for those innocents I murdered.  Maybe you heard of me.  William Antrim, William Bonney?  Ring a bell?"

          "You got five seconds to get out of here or she dies, and you go next."

          "Apparently there's this stuff called karma.  Eye for an eye and all that jazz.  So if I kill someone who deserves to die for every innocent I murdered back then, I don't have to go to hell.  Killin's all I know.  Sounded like a good deal to me, so I took it."

          "Time's up..." the creep whispered.

          Left disables, right kills.  Left disables, right kills.  The Kid heard in the back of his mind.

          The creep tensed up, and William Bonney pulled both guns.  He was a rifle and single pistol man.  Drawing two guns was different.

          That's why my arms are so big.

          He drew.  The left gun came up in his extended arm and fired.  The creep's left elbow exploded in a pink cloud of blood and bone fragments. The creep gasped, his opened mouth sucking air.  The forty-four caliber slug might as well have been a grenade.  The creep’s arm fell off at the elbow, hitting the pavement like a discarded piece of old meat.   The knife clanked harmlessly on the ground.  Bonney's right hand pulled the trigger, the blast from the ancient weapon echoed off the walls of the alley and the slug entered the creep's opened mouth and took the back of his head off.  He fell straight backwards, dead.

 

          William twirled his guns a little for effect, and slid them into their holsters.  The woman stood staring, mouth agape, unable to piece together what just happened.

          "I'd get home right quick ma'am.  No one's ever gonna believe what just happened here."

          "What...what did just happen here?"

          "Billy The Kid just saved your life, which makes up for Deputy George Hinderman.  One down, six to go."

          "But you're dead, over a hundred...and fifty years I think."

          "Used to be, got a job to finish now."

 

          The woman stared at the Kid, slowly lifted her arm and pointed behind him.

          "Is that yours?" she asked.

          Billy turned and standing behind him was his horse, shifting its weight impatiently.  He walked up to it, put his foot in the stirrup and swung himself into the saddle.

          He stared at her for a moment.  She stood frozen, staring.

          "You want a ride?" he asked.

          She glanced down at the one-armed dead man, and looked up at the Kid.  After a second or two, she began to walk slowly toward the Kid and his horse.



eileen.jpg
Art by Ann Marie Rhiel 2017

Eileen

 

by Ray Valent

 

 

Steven Broshears never accepted his wife's death. He was lost in a miasma of hallucination, not sure why his imaginary spouse could not respond to him. His frustration began to build into full fledged hallucination.

Steven sat in the old aluminum lawn chair, the metal frame pitted and discolored from decades of barbeques and dozens of outdoor family events.

A white wooden trellis archway surrounded Steven with climbing vines of morning glories and roses. His small garden held huge sunflowers bent over from the weight of their seed heads, which Steven tried to prop up with sticks and kite string. A thick carpet of pansies covered the ground, leaving a narrow path from the yard to his seat in the garden. In this floral onslaught, off to his right, stood three or four cherry tomato plants, easily within reach from his chair, which he picked and popped into his mouth every so often.

 Steven's wife, Eileen, had been cremated eleven months and three days before.  Steven mixed her ashes in the soil in his garden.  She was literally fertilizer. He felt comfortable here, but he didn't know why. He could not recall her passing, or what he had done with her remains. He just knew he felt close to her here in his garden.

Steven longed to be with Eileen again. His life had become a shambles. He lost his job, his friends and some say, his mind.

"Sometimes I think about bad things, honey."

 

 

 

Eileen was quiet today.

Steven Broshears was sitting at his dining room table staring at the plate of baked salmon and fresh steamed asparagus on the plate at the end of the table opposite him.

His own plate was empty. He had finished eating ten minutes ago.

Eileen’s was untouched.

“Not hungry again, Love?”

Steven stood and walked around the table to his wife’s seat, pulled back her chair and picked up the plate of cold food.

“Maybe tomorrow. You never seem hungry anymore, Love.”

Steven walked to the kitchen with Eileen’s plate, held it over the trash can and stared at the salmon steak, wondered how long ago that slab of fish was swimming in the Atlantic, free and vibrantly alive.

“Shame,” he said, and scraped the food into the garbage. He put the plate in the sink and ran some water over it.

“Go upstairs and get ready. I’ll draw your bath.”

Steven playfully swatted the air behind her, not connecting with Eileen’s behind. He frowned. He walked to the kitchen again, opened a cabinet and took out two wine glasses and placed them on the counter top. A small smile replaced the frown as he opened the refrigerator and took out the bottle of chardonnay.

Eileen’s favorite.

He poured both glasses three-quarters full, re-corked the bottle and placed it on the top shelf of the refrigerator and closed the door.

Steven stared at the two wine glasses on the counter top. He tried everything he knew to get her to pay attention to him; dinner, wine, poetry. Nothing seemed to move her. When they first met, she was vivacious, sensual, full of the wonderment of new love.

Lately, she was quiet, reserved and almost devout in her avoidance of him and any of his attempts at romance.

“You were the salmon, free in the infinite ocean. Now, you’re like the salmon steak; dead, lifeless on the plate, waiting to be consumed or discarded,” he said. He picked up the glasses and started up the stairs to the bathroom. Eileen would be undressing in their bedroom, and he might catch a glimpse of her if she left the door ajar. But as he passed the bedroom, the door was closed, just as he left it.

He placed the glasses down and sat on the edge of the tub, closed the drain and turned on the water. As the tub filled, he stood in front of the mirror and opened the medicine cabinet. The usual bottles of mouthwash, aspirin, band-aids, and assorted over-the-counter nonsense filled the thin glass shelves. Steve’s eye caught sight of a prescription bottle in the upper right-hand corner of the cabinet, a bottle of pain killers he was prescribed over a year ago for a recurring back injury.

“Oxycontin,” he mouthed the word softly.

He took the bottle and stuffed it into a pants pocket, downed one of the glasses of wine, turned off the tub and started to walk downstairs to the kitchen with the empty wine glass.

“Be up in a minute Hon. Take your time. The tub’s ready for you.”

 

Steven stopped halfway down the stairs and fixated on a photo of Eileen on horseback that was framed on the wall. How beautiful she was then. How full of life.

What had happened to her? To him? He spent all his time trying to engage with her and she shunned him, ignored him, as if he wasn’t there. As if SHE wasn't there,

He continued down the stairs to the kitchen.

“Can’t live like this. Can’t, WON’T be ignored any longer.”

Steven counted the pills that were left in the bottle: eighteen. More than enough.

He placed them in a cup and began to grind them into a powder with the back of a spoon until they were fine like sugar. He poured that into the wine glass and filled it three-quarters of the way with chardonnay.

He turned and began to ascend the stairs to the bathroom, glass of wine in hand. He clenched his free hand into a fist, a vein in his forehead began to throb.

“Done with begging. Can’t keep this up.”

Steven saw Eileen in the tub, submerged to her neck in bubbles, which hid her nakedness from him. Steven placed the wineglass on the vanity, clenched and unclenched his fists, and stared at Eileen’s head. He grabbed the glass that was already there and downed it, wiped his mouth on his sleeve, and stared at her.

“Why can’t you look at me? Why don’t you speak to me? I’ve done everything for you and you act like I’m not even here!”

Eileen stared straight ahead, apparently deaf to Steven’s words.

Enough!

Steven clenched his jaw, opened his fists and lunged at her. He went for her throat, meaning to hold her head under the water, but his hands went through the air and into the water and came to rest at the bottom. He found himself kneeling on the tiled floor, his hands resting on the bottom of the tub, the spell broken, his imaginary Eileen vanished.

Steven was frozen for a moment, unsure what to do. He swept his right arm through the entire bath, searching the water: nothing.

Steven wrinkled his brow, cocked his head to one side.

He stood then, grabbed a towel and dried his arms.

His head was beginning to feel the effects of the wine, so he sat on the toilet lid and tried to think. He closed his eyes and realized what he had just attempted to do, and a tear rolled down his cheek.

Then he recalled the coffin being lowered, the flowers, the sobbing insincere well-wishers at the wake. The friends who stopped visiting, stopped calling. The months of loneliness with Eileen, trying to get a response from…

“From someone who was never there.”

He was ashamed. Steven stared at the glass with the powder in it for a long time.

From behind him came a familiar whisper. He turned, and there stood his Eileen, arm outstretched, beckoning him to hand her a glass of wine.

Steven picked up a glass and turned to give it to...no one. Just an empty bathroom wall. He stared at the wall with the glass in his hand. Reality eluded him for months. Now it was all too clear.

Then after what seemed like forever, he stood up, stripped off his clothes, and drank the last glass of wine, the one with the drug in it. Enough to kill Eileen.

“You won’t need it,” he said. "See you soon, Honey."

After a minute, Steven stepped into the bath tub, sunk down to his neck, closed his eyes and waited.






Ray Valent has about thirty published stories and is currently travelling the country with the love of his life in search of inspiration.

He likes to write stories about the intrusion of the mysterious into everyday mundanity. (Is that a word?)

eileenfooter.jpg
Art by Ann Marie Rhiel 2017

In Association with Fossil Publications