|Aldrich, Janet M.
|Allan, T. N.
|Allen, M. G.
|Ammonds, Phillip J.
|Augustyn, P. K.
|Aymar, E. A.
|Baumgartner, Jessica Marie
|Bennett, D. V.
|Bernardara, Will Jr.
|Bohem, Charlie Keys and Les
|Boyd, A. V.
|Brown, R. Thomas
|Burke, Wayne F.
|Butler, Simon Hardy
|Cameron, W. B.
|Campbell, J. J.
|Campbell, Jack Jr.
|Cooper, Malcolm Graham
|Corrigan, Mickey J.
|Cosby, S. A.
|Danoski, Joseph V.
|Davis, Michael D.
|de Bruler, Connor
|De France, Steve
|De La Garza, Lela Marie
|Deming, Ruth Z.
|De Neve, M. A.
|Dennehy, John W.
|Di Chellis, Peter
|Drake, Lena Judith
|Dromey, John H.
|Dubal, Paul Michael
|Dunham, T. Fox
|Dunn, Robin Wyatt
|Fisher, Miles Ryan
|Flanagan, Daniel N.
|Flanagan, Ryan Quinn
|Funk, Matthew C.
|Gardner, Cheryl Ann
|Garvey, Kevin Z.
|Gay, Sharon Frame
|Goddard, L. B.
|Greenberg, K.J. Hannah
|Gurney, Kenneth P.
|Hanson, Christopher Kenneth
|Hayes, A. J.
|Hayes, Peter W. J.
|Hockey, Matthew J.
|Hogan, Andrew J.
|Hoy, J. L.
|Huffman, A. J.
|Huguenin, Timothy G.
|Huskey, Jason L.
|Irascible, Dr. I. M.
|Jaggers, J. David
|Jones, D. S.
|Jones, Erin J.
|Kaplan, Barry Jay
|Keaton, David James
|Kevlock, Mark Joseph
|King, Michelle Ann
|Krafft, E. K.
|Lacks, Lee Todd
|La Rosa, F. Michael
|Lerner, Steven M
|Lewis, Cynthia Ruth
|Liskey, Tom Darin
|Lopez, Aurelio Rico III
|Lucas, Gregory E.
|McFarlane, Adam Beau
|Mooney, Christopher P.
|Moran, Jacqueline M.
|Morgan, Bill W.
|Moss, David Harry
|Muslim, Kristine Ong
|Neuda, M. C.
|Ogurek, Douglas J.
|Perez, Juan M.
|Perez, Robert Aguon
|Powers, M. P.
|Purfield, M. E.
|Quinlan, Joseph R.
|reutter, g emil
|Rhiel, Ann Marie
|Richey, John Lunar
|Robinson, John D.
|Rodgers, K. M.
|Sayles, Betty J.
|Schraeder, E. F.
|Seymour, J. E.
|Shaikh, Aftab Yusuf
|Sheagren, Gerald E.
|Shirey, D. L.
|Shore, Donald D.
|Simmler, T. Maxim
|Sinisi, J. J.
|Small, Alan Edward
|Smith, Brian J.
|Snethen, Daniel G.
|Solender, Michael J.
|Stanton, Henry G.
|Stewart, Michael S.
|Stryker, Joseph H.
|Swartz, Justin A.
|Taylor, J. M.
|Thompson, John L.
|Valent, Raymond A.
|Waldman, Dr. Mel
|Weil, Lester L.
|White, Judy Friedman
Shower Of Power
I got a great deal on my house. I’d been a renter for years and houses had been out of my reach
until I saw a listing for this place. The price was $50,000
under comparables because of its checkered history.
All of the prior owners hadn’t stayed more than two years, and some had lasted
less than two months. On top of all that,
the last owner had drowned by accident in his tub and the mortgage banker wanted a
quick sale. It came furnished, because that
was easier for the bank than selling off his property. Because of the turnover,
it hadn’t been well maintained, but I like projects like this.
A week later I was relaxing on
the sofa after I had painted the interior. The
chair seemed lumpy. Checking revealed the
journal of the previous owner, Duke Hanley, under the cushion. I felt a little guilty about reading the
words of the late home owner, but I was curious about how a seemingly pleasant, happy person
had, according to my neighbors, become completely mental before his death.
After the first page, I read sporadically,
ignoring the quotidian, and concentrating on the bizarre.
June 13, 20XX – I really
like my new home. It suits my needs completely and is easy to
maintain. The landscaping is natural, no
need for fertilizers or continuing pruning. The
yard is small enough to mow in ten minutes with a reel mower. I may
want to paint, but not right away. Before winter, I might invest in better
June 20, 20XX – There is
a little leak in the shower. I’ll get a repair kit from Jergens Hardware.
June 21, 20XX – Proud of
the fix I did. Got it done in ten minutes, and even
remembered to turn off the water before I started. Ha-ha.
June 30, 20XX – Leaking
again. May be a bad repair kit.
July 1,20XX – Repaired again.
July 3, 20XX – Dammit, leaking
again. I’ll call a plumber.
July 6, 20XX – SOB plumber
says it’ll cost thousands and he’ll have to remove drywall to get at the problem. Screw that.
I can live with a little leak. It
won’t affect my water bill much.
8, 20XX – The dripping at night is keeping me
awake. That’s OK; I put down a wash
cloth over the drain. That will quiet the
July 11, 20XX – Now I’m
hearing what sounds like whispers and cries from the shower room when I try to sleep. When I go to check, all is quiet. I’ve developed a tic in my left eye, and I can’t seem to
concentrate at work or at home whatever I’m doing. My best friends
are avoiding me and strangers are giving me looks.
July 18, 20XX – Just when
I thought that I had experienced the worst, I woke up this morning with the memory of luminescent,
multicolored things growing in my bathroom when I got up to urinate last night. This morning, nothing.
July 20, 20XX – Enough of
this shit. I’m removing the shower head and capping the
pipe. No more drips, no more sounds. I’ll just take baths. No
shower is going to beat me.
That was the last entry.
The late Mr. Hanley apparently had gone batshit crazy for some reason. I had replaced the shower head the first day that I moved in, and I’ve
had no problem at all with the shower.
There have been electrical problems. This is just the project I’m looking for. I’ll upgrade the wiring while I’m
at it. After all, I’m an electrician. Piece of cake.
|Art by Ann Marie Rhiel © 2017
by Doug Hawley
I’m a volunteer at
Ryon State Park, named after an early settler, Aristotle Ryon. I’m a two-way guy in that I edit the Ryon Newsletter and do physical
work in the park, getting rid of invasive species, improving the trails, and doing some
planting. I’m retired now and love
spending time in Ryon’s natural beauty. There’s always a chance that I might
see a coyote, an owl, or maybe a salamander. It is no surprise that this place
is so popular.
Recently, our executive
director asked me to write a column in the newsletter about
the most notorious episodes in our history—two brutal murders about a year apart. Each homicide stayed in the papers for weeks
and caused visitors to avoid the park at night and to only visit while accompanied.
After a bit of research through old newspapers,
and interviews with police investigators, I came up with this:
There were a couple of things in common about
the murders. Both occurred on an obscure dead end trail, Illana, where hardly
anyone goes, and even though it is not polite to speak ill of the dead, neither
of them were upstanding citizens.
Victim One was Charlie Talbot.
The police concluded that he was on the trail after
dark because he had been excluded from the park after repeatedly and illegally bringing
his vicious dog, Caesar, off leash to the park. Caesar was known to attack wildlife, people,
and other dogs, with impunity. Mr. Talbot was found with his head bashed in, after Caesar
showed up the next morning at park headquarters and led a ranger to the body where it
had been dragged, twenty feet off trail.
Two was Chris Massey. She, too, had been excluded from
the park because she had been caught digging up plants in the park to take home. Her murder
was even grislier. She was killed a year after the first, in a similar location to where
Mr. Talbot was found, but with her head cut off by some sort of curved blade. She was easy
to find because she had told her daughter where she was going.
The park is in an urban area with many entrances and
no way to register those that enter the park. Despite a plea to anyone in the metro area
who had seen either of the victims in the park on the day that they were killed, or anything
suspicious, there were no leads in either case. In both cases, there was no forensic
evidence— identifiable footprints or DNA. The two victims had nothing in common
except for being excluded from the park, so the police assumed that there was
no connection between the two crimes.
murder has been solved.
I didn’t mention in the article that no one checked
the shovel that I use. It wouldn’t have been a problem, anyway. I got a new
Nobody messes with
|Art by Cindy Rosmus © 2017
don’t drive. Everywhere I need to go
I can walk, bus or taxi. I take a bus to
my job at Hadleys Department Store in the Consumer Help Department. You should know that I am a highly valued
employee based on my ability to resolve customer problems while still maintaining
company policy. Trying to find a parent for
a screaming child or dealing with someone whose credit card bounced without ruffling feathers
or giving away the store is like walking a tightrope.
Someone who wasn’t both reasonable and sensitive couldn’t handle it,
believe you me!
There are a lot of places I can walk to.
The library, post office, my softball field and a lot of shopping is within two
miles. Mostly the weather is nice and walking
is easy. Even when the weather is bad, you
can still walk if you dress for it.
I don’t fight with anyone.
Everyone who knows me could tell you that.
In my volunteer position as citizen park commissioner, there are lots of controversial
issues, but I am always the voice of reason keeping opposing parties civil. You should have seen the ruckus about a
separate dog park! But I kept everyone
I’ve been on jury
duty three times and foreman once.
I like girls a lot and I think that they like me. If I weren’t a
little overweight, I’m sure that I’d have a steady girlfriend by now. But don’t you worry, I’m on a new
diet right now and I’ll be OK. I’ve
got my eye on a girl in my Bible study class.
I think that we would be a great couple.
When I lose that weight it will be easier for her to see my inner glow and get over
her boyfriend with the looks, money and a Jaguar.
He isn’t even of our religion!
There is one thing that really burns me.
There are all of these just beautiful boys and girls in their spandex running over
the neighborhood with their expensive bikes.
I don’t think that their clothes or their bikes are made in this
country. They think that they own the
place! Once a couple of years ago, a biker
came close to hitting me in the dark. It
might have been partly my fault because I was wearing dark clothes and
Those bike riders
almost run me over every other day.
Usually I don’t recognize them, but there is one guy who I see every
Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6PM as I come home from my bus stop. He
has come close to hitting me several times and he cusses
me out for being on his streets. This jerk
never stops for a stop sign and I’m not the only pedestrian he has almost hit! He also swears at drivers. He thinks that if he spends enough on his tight blue spandex and super
bike he just owns the road.
Last month he nearly hit me on a sidewalk going the wrong way on an
overpass. “Get out of my way a**h**le”. There is only so much one can take. But
I got out of his way. I have to admit to a bit of self
loathing. Why do I let everyone walk
over me? If only I had time for a plan
of action, but he didn’t give me time to think.
If I’d had time to think I would have held my ground. It’s
my sidewalk! Pedestrians have the right of
Finally, he made a
big, fatal mistake. I was still walking
on the long overpass when he came back the other way. I
could see a car far behind him. I acted like I was intimidated
from the last time he went past me. I squeezed up tightly
against the rail. I could see it work out just right. As he came up right behind me I turned around
and faced him, taking up just about all of the sidewalk. He swerved off the
sidewalk and his bicycle fell over on the road just
in front of the car that had been overtaking him.
It wasn’t pretty. The motorist
couldn’t stop. The grille caught a leg and a wheel went over
his head. He ended up in one piece, but
extremely, immediately dead. The poor
driver blamed himself. I tried CPR, but
there was no hope.
took our statements. I told them that the
bicyclist had startled me causing me to turn around suddenly. Everyone agreed that it was just a horrible
About a week later
there was an opinion piece in the newspaper written by Fred Janes, a friend of
the deceased Sam Wilkins. The point was
that bicyclists are so much superior than drivers and pedestrians and that
their superiority made it OK to ignore all rules and etiquette. He wrote
about how Sam Wilkins could have bought an expensive
car but chose to do the right thing and bicycle everywhere.
Fortunately, there was a picture of Mr. Janes.
As luck would have it, I recognized Janes as somebody who frequently
rode the same circuit as Wilkins. One place
was on a sidewalk between bushes and a busy road where they regularly terrified pedestrians
and bedeviled drivers. It took several
weeks, but finally I was in the right place to tip him into traffic from my
position in the bushes.
may have been some suspicion about the second death of a bicycle advocate in such a
short period, but no one saw me and nothing came of it.
I’m happy to report that bicyclists were
strangely silent after Wilkins died. No
more moral superiority in the editorial pages.
I don’t think that it is prudent for any more bike accidents in
the near future. One doesn’t know what
might happen in a year or so.
Don’t you just hate door
to door salesmen? Always so pushy, won’t
take no for an answer?
“Bike Killer” originally appeared
in Nugget Tales, in 2015.
|Art by Cindy Rosmus © 2017
You probably read about it or saw it on
television, but let me refresh your memory. I know quite a bit about it because I reported
on the incident for Associated Press. The continuing mystery knocked the twentieth anniversary
of Kennedy Jr’s supposed tragedy, and the civil war in the reconsolidated Soviet
Union, out of the news for awhile. My reporting really made my career. Fortunately, I had been AP’s obituary guy, with a special interest
in suicides. I had done think pieces about causes and frequency and high profile
analyses of celebrity cases. I’d like to think that I know more about suicides
than the so-called “experts”. My biggest year before the elevator case was the
year when both Sean Penn and Penn Jillette did it. I consider that my
Penn-ultimate accomplishment, ha-ha. I think that I even got people to cry over
Dennis Rodman when he did himself in. I had my own talk show for two years. I didn’t
last too long, but my initial ratings were at least enough to get one of the talk show
hacks off the air. The country should be grateful to me for that if nothing else. Even
now I’ve got several offers for syndicated radio programs and I may make it back
By the way, thanks for the
drink. I’ve got awhile to kill before flying to CBS headquarters.
Five hundred people committed suicide in
elevators in 50 countries on 5 continents at 5PM local time. Initially there was no common
thread even though most had some sort of statement on his or her person. Some stats:
283 male / 217 female.
Of the 156 American
suicides there were 106 Caucasians, 21 Hispanics,
18 Blacks, 9 Asian Americans and 2 Native Americans - in other words the demographics
roughly match America.
88 Non-Russian Europeans, 20 Russians, 103 Asians, 25 Australians,
65 Africans and 43 Non-US North or South Americans.
The age distribution
skewed both young and old—182 were under 19 and 153 were over 64. The middle aged
only contributed 165, many fewer than would be expected in a random draw.
As might be expected, the suicides had a high incidence of
physical and mental illness. 128 had been
diagnosed as mentally ill—schizoid, bipolar or depressed and 165 had less than a
year to live.
As would be unexpected, the economic status of
the victims was pretty high. There were no homeless. It is difficult to
calculate an average income for those outside America given the different currencies
and income reporting, but the overall victim income seems consistent with the American
average of $57,562.
cases were all over the place:
The 18-year-old Algerian, Ahmed Ali, who died for a secular government.
The 19-year-old Oregonian,
Doug Ivy, with acne.
Quebecer who urged French to be adopted as the universal language.
A 54-year-old Republican
senator from South Carolina, Grant Holmes, who had been married three times, and who didn’t
want to be outed.
Caucasian Australian, Jimmy Sanders, who died to promote ousting Euro
Australians from Australia.
Prominent 75-year-old Chinese Communist, Wen Wang, who admitted to living
a lie all his life—he entered politics to get a good car.
33-year-old Frenchwoman, Marie Simone, with
ranged from the short and direct “I hurt” to the rambling “I die for
my country, I die for Islam, I die for the future. No one knows the anger I have. No one
outside of Samolar [an extreme religious group with less than a
thousand adherents] knows what I feel. I die that millions should live. I die for the hungry.
I die for the oppressed. All should die or no one should die. History will record this
day as important as the messenger’s birth. From this date all will
The methods used for death were diverse.
Most used guns, but some took fast-acting poisons such as cyanide. The elevators varied
from rickety antiques to glassy wonders outside beautiful resort and hotel buildings. There
was no attempt to kill any bystanders. One man in Morocco died of a heart attack during
the excitement. Several people were injured in trying to get out of the elevators.
In short, there is no immediate,
obvious central theme to the suicides. They were obviously organized, since the common
circumstances were beyond coincidence. One may infer that they were willing to kill themselves
and wanted publicity. An ordinary solitary suicide gets noticed only locally unless someone
famous is involved. These people should have known that 500 people committing suicide
under identical circumstances would get world wide press and the individuals
involved could all be famous or notorious.
No connection could be made between most of the victims. At most,
a connection to one other party could be made in the case of a couple of Right to Life
crusaders. No correspondence between suiciders could be found.
I have a theory that I was not allowed to
report on. I think that the group was organized by email. My problem is that I could not
establish any evidence other than that all of them had access to computers. Without evidence—and
I think because of the fear that there would be copycat situations—my editor would
not let me put my theory in writing.
I don’t think this
group came together on their own. Someone got them started and told them the rules.
Two things that I wonder
about the organizer. Did he / she kill himself / herself? I don’t think so, since
none of the dead claimed credit and each one wanted either notoriety or maximum publicity
for his or her purpose. Second, what did the organizer have to gain?
for listening. I’ve never seen someone so interested in my work on this story
guess we’ll never know some of the answers, but I have my suspicions. Thanks for
the drinks, I’ve got a plane to catch.
|Art by Cindy Rosmus © 2017
|Art by Bill Zbylut © 2018
Eric was complaining to Jeff at the next cubicle
again. “Look, my wife is such a pain
in the butt. She rags on me if a leave I
light on when I leave the room. I follow
too closely when I drive. If it’s
not one thing it’s three things. I
don’t know what to do about her.”
Jeff had the
usual advice “When you were a kid, did your parents ever spank you?”
that turn you into a good citizen? Did
it turn you into some kind of monster?”
“Think about it. Jane just needs
some strong-handed discipline. Maybe you
don’t need to get physical with her, maybe you do.
You could start off by just putting her in her place. Explain the facts of life. You are the one bringing home
the bacon; she just has to keep the house in order, right?”
“I see what you are saying. Things
are going to be different around the house.”
the weekend, Jeff asks “How did it turn out?”
A stricken Eric says “She’s talking
At lunch in the cafeteria,
Lamar sits down beside Eric. “Hey,
I know that you’ve been taking advice from Jeff.
There are a few things that you don’t know.
The ‘expert’ on relationships has been
married three times, has restraining orders placed against him and has spent a little
time in jail for domestic violence. I don’t
think that you’ll get anything helpful out of him.”
think that you know better?”
I’ve been happily married for thirty years, and hope for thirty years more.”
“OK, I can’t argue with that. Shoot.”
I suggest anything, let me ask you a few questions. Do you kiss your wife before you go to work? Have you had a ‘date’ with her lately? Do you thank her for cooking your meals and cleaning
about it, maybe if shown tenderness and thoughtfulness, she’d return it.”
“Worth a try, Jeff’s advice sucked,
and I sure want my marriage to work.”
After a few
days, Lamar asked Eric “How’s it going?”
A smiling Eric said “I can’t believe
the change; it’s like when we were first married. She is so loving,
the house is immaculate and the sex is like our honeymoon.”
The next month Eric asked Lamar to come over for
dinner to see the wonders his advice had wrought. As they entered
the house, Lamar encountered a terrible stench. Eric didn’t seem to notice.
Lamar then was shocked to see a filthy house with a kitchen filled to the ceiling
with dirty dishes. Eric was oblivious. A nervous Lamar asked “Where is Jane?”
must be taking a nap.”
When they went
into the bedroom Lamar saw Jane decomposing in bed.
said “Let’s just let her nap a little longer.”
Lamar started to shake, but did what he could
to remain composed “Say Eric, she looks like she needs her rest, why don’t
we just postpone dinner for a couple of days.”
who saw nothing out of the ordinary, said “Sure,
but I really want you to have dinner with us soon.”
As soon as Lamar
was out the door, he called 911.
The police investigation
found some things which were surprising and some that were not. Jane had been dead for about three
weeks. Eric was a diagnosed schizophrenic
who could behave fairly normally when he took his meds. Like so
many others, he did so well on his meds, he recently decided that
he didn’t need them.
The surprising part is
that he didn’t kill her. She died of
an aneurysm, but he just could not acknowledge it and slipped into a dream world.
detailed description of their fantastic sex life over the last few days troubled his
interviewers for weeks.
There are some things that no marital advice will help, but it didn’t seem that way
to Eric. His life got even better when some
nice people found him a new home where he didn’t have to go to work anymore and a
lot of friendly people took care of him.
The best part came when Jane told him they would be parents.
“Marriage” originally appeared in Penny Shorts, on June
|Art by Cindy Rosmus © 2018
by Doug Hawley
like I’d been caged forever, but I’m sure that it was only a few days. I
suppose that I might consider my imprisonment my fault, but I blame my
family. They gave me a horrible example
of how to live and I ended up just like them. But I must not dwell on that, I
must think only of my present situation and how to escape my captivity.
feed me a few vegetables, bread, and water a day. I get nothing but verbal
abuse from them: “You deserve your treatment!” and worse.
starving; I don’t know how long I can survive. If that weren’t bad enough,
I’m forced to endure torture three hours a day. There is nowhere to sit, just a
thin mattress on the floor.
Finally, I’m eligible
for release. I’ve lost the twenty-five pounds that I signed up for. Sure, I could
have stayed at the Hilton for less, but I’m sure I would have dined on steak and
had four or five drinks a night, and ended up gaining weight. With the Guaranteed Weight Loss Plan, I can finally get into last year’s
I’ve got to admit that the exercise machines were first-rate,
even though they were killing me.
|Art by L. A. Barlow © 2018
The nightmares started shortly after we
inherited a fortune from my in-laws. I would
go to sleep and immediately go into a dream in which my late in-laws tortured me. Before the first dreams, I had started to adjust
to a life of leisure and luxury, but it didn’t last long. These were not like normal nightmares, they were completely
realistic. I heard all of the words
spoken by me and my tormenters. I felt
all of the pain inflicted on me. To try
to make sense of it, I wrote all of it down.
night I was just continuously insulted by my former father-in-law Grayson Jennings. His remarks are imprinted in my brain:
miserable pig, what makes you think that you could possibly deserve my
daughter. If she hadn’t gone slumming
with bad boys, she never would have gotten pregnant, and ended up married to
you. After that, you had her get an
abortion which caused her to be infertile.
She’ll never have a chance to have a baby with a real man, now that you ruined
her life. What do you have going for you,
a little muscle and a glib line? Once she
was stuck with you, you treated her like dirt. Maybe you never
left any marks, but you didn’t mind twisting her arm a little,
maybe slapping her from time to time. She
was so ashamed, Mandy and I could not talk her into leaving you.”
“Too bad old man. She’s
stuck with me, I’ve got your money and you are dead”, sleeping me said.
are worse things than being dead, as you will find out”, responded dream
The first night could
be chalked up to guilt or an upset stomach, but it seemed that dead Grayson knew things
that he should not have known. I wasn’t
too upset; I thought it was a onetime thing.
It started with my
late mother-in-law, Mandy.
“It is so funny
that your name is Duke. You are about the
furthest from royalty imaginable. Were you
even able to get our daughter Jessie pregnant, or was that one of your friends when she
was drunk. I know that all of the sluts that
you hang out with wouldn’t get in bed with you if they weren’t drunk or high. You don’t have manhood, you have boyhood. Are you stupid enough to think that all of the
quack doctors with their pills and surgery will do you any good?”
had no response.
the morning, I started to be really worried, because I hadn’t actually called
any doctors yet, but I had been looking at ads on the internet.
My jaw was really sore, and I didn’t know
why. I hadn’t been physically abused in
my dream – yet.
hadn’t noticed any disturbance during my sleep.
When I thought
it couldn’t get any worse, it did. At
night my in-laws didn’t talk, they tag-teamed me. I was unable
to respond to their kicks, elbows, slaps. All I could do was yell at them to stop, but they acted as if I had
said nothing, they just kept hitting me.
the beginning of the dream torture, Jessie noticed bruises and welts all over
my body. She thought I had hurt myself
sleepwalking, and there was no way I would tell her the truth.
4 - 10
Some nights I would
wake up bleeding, sometimes I would have contusions, I never knew what would happen, but
it was always bad. I can tell you, take
the verbal torture, words don’t hurt like fists do.
Pliers and knives are worse than fists.
my worst fears. One night they are all friendly
and we go for a walk. It was a beautiful
day. We come to a cliff and I am slowly pushed
to the edge and then thrown down. I scream all the way
to the bottom. After a little time in extreme agony I wake
up sore in every part of my body.
night started friendly, at a picnic. We were
having barbeque. Just before we started eating,
Grayson squirted me with lighter fluid and threw a match on me. As
I went up in flames, everyone laughed.
I gave up and went to a doctor who guaranteed
that he could stop my dreams. He prescribed
six different pills. He wanted to tell me about the side effects,
but all I could hear was “No more dreams.”
sleep is great. I’m back to my old
life. I’ve just got a minor tremor in my
left arm, probably the side effect doc talked about.
I can live with that after what I’ve been
I’ve got to fill out some forms and
am having a little trouble remembering my social security number. No biggie, I’ll just look it up.
anymore pretend. Stumbel, no
reemebre. Say doc med stuf.
Nitmare or zomby. Take zomby. Not last much.
Wish no burn Grayson house.
Appeared in Jitter Press
|Art by Cindy Rosmus © 2019
did for the last eleven years, Duke and Jane packed
up for their two week vacation at their secluded cabin at Frog Lake in the Cascades. As
always, Duke told Jane to pack his xydox. And as always, he cautioned her, “Taking
my meds is a matter of life and death.” Jane said nothing, despite being sick of
got to the cabin, Duke said “I’m an hour
overdue for taking my meds, and I can’t find them.”
because I didn’t bring them.”
can’t stand you anymore, and I saw my way out. There is no way that you can get your meds before
plan on marrying Jason after I’m gone?”
“That’s right. I’ve got him in
the palm of my hands. After you’re gone, I’m moving up to an exciting guy that
doesn’t think that watching TV for four hours after coming home from the
insurance company, and then going to bed at nine, is a good time. How did you
know about Jason?”
are a few holes in your plan.”
what, smart guy, soon-to-be-dead guy?”
“First, Jason talked to me about
you. He thinks that you are pathetic and crude. He shudders every time you rub
up against him. What you thought of as affection was just Jason being polite.”
“Even if you are right, I’ll still
be happy to be rid of you. No one can prove that I deliberately forgot your
look at mistake number two. You have totally misunderstood
the meaning of ‘life and death.’ It is your
life or death. Years before I met you, I killed several people in a tavern
brawl. The shrinks said I had ‘extreme anger issues.’ Rather than go to jail,
I was placed in an asylum. After a few years there, they found that with xydox, I could
be very mild-mannered, or as you put it, deadly boring. With the understanding that I would
always take my meds, I was released. Without my meds, under provocation, I’m likely
to kill again. You are so self-centered that you never asked me what the meds were for.
You just made a faulty assumption.”
wouldn’t hurt me; you love me.”
“You bring up your third mistake.
I know that you only married me because the rich guy you tried to entrap by
getting pregnant was sterile, and the real father was a meth-head loser. I was
supposed to be a second choice meal ticket for you and your kid before you miscarried.
I admit that I was mesmerized by your hourglass figure and felt lucky that I could land
a prize like you. That was before your hourglass turned into a fireplug, and your using
sex to manipulate me caused me to look around. I found someone who loves me and wants to
marry me as soon as I’m out of your clutches.”
“You’ll never get away with it.”
“What is this, some bad TV show?
For the most part, I will get away
with it. Jason will be happy to testify that you had hinted I might not be
alive long. You will be blamed for denying me my meds. I’ll do a little time at
my former institution, followed by being cured again, and in the arms of my curvy young
beauty. Now, why aren’t you running?”
make it to the door.
appeared in three paperback issues of Down in
the Dirt in 2016 (June 2016, Jan. – June 2016, and 2016 Chamber) and also
appeared in the 2016 electronic version.
|Art by Hillary Lyon © 2019
by Doug Hawley
Tommy first saw the trucks unloading things at
the old warehouse when he was riding to high school. “The
Old Warehouse” was what everybody called the
building at 1100 SE Clay that had been used as a distribution center for furniture ten
years ago. Ever since distribution had moved
to Seattle, the building had stood empty. Now not only
was something moving in, but broken windows were replaced and graffiti was
At school Tommy asked
his friend Joseph (never Joe or Joey) what was happening. Joseph
said “I’ve asked everybody around, but nobody seems
to know. There are a lot of tech firms moving
into the neighborhood, so maybe that’s what it is. Maybe
if there are some unskilled jobs, my lazy-ass dad can get some work.” Tommy worked the angles in his head. He was getting low on cash, and it was getting harder to steal anything
that was lying around in his neighborhood. It
seemed that crime stoppers has wised up everybody for miles around before he and his
friends had taken everything easy to grab.
There could be something of value in the new ‘Old Warehouse’.
Three days later, there was no more obvious activity at
what people called “The Mystery Building”.
The next night Tommy went over to the building and knocked on windows and rattled
doors without finding any signs of life – no security, no employees, and no alarms. There was a sign that seemed inappropriate
- “Trespassers Will Be Violated”. Tommy laughed out loud and said “With no
security and no alarm, how is that going to happen?”
The place was clearly easy pickings.
A very confident Tommy showed up after dark the next night with a pry bar and a
sturdy bag. He was amazed to find the door
unlocked. Inside the building had very
low intensity lights which seemed just about right for his pillaging. Before he could look for valuables, he heard
a very sultry voice say “How about a kiss and a hug, you beautiful boy.” He looked in the direction of the voice and
saw a woman built along the lines of Sofia Vergara. “Hell
yes” he either said or thought, he wasn’t
sure which. Maybe there could be more than
kissing and hugging – based on what he saw and heard, he was game. When he got close, her arms extended ten feet towards him, and her
tongue fell out of her mouth to the floor. Her
appearance morphed into Roseanne Barr. As
he backed away, he felt something against his back.
He turned around to see what appeared to be cobras dangling from the rafters. Vergara-Barr said, “You’re no fun,
forget you.” After she got his attention,
he turned around again and the cobras were gone.
When he looked for Vergara-Barr, she was gone.
He must have imagined them, but he was still
After looking around awhile for things to take,
he noticed lights were coming up on a twenty-foot by twenty-foot enclosure in the middle
of the building. When the enclosure was fully
illuminated, he saw something chained up at the back through the enclosure’s window
that looked like a monster six-legged dog with a giant head filled with teeth like
knives. The ‘dog’ seemed to see him
and started to strain at his chain. To
Tommy’s horror the beast broke his leash and jumped at the window. The window bulged and cracked, but held. The animal didn’t immediately try to attack
again, but circled the enclosure while making strangled barking sounds.
From time to time it would look at the window
again as if planning another assault.
Tommy started to sweat,
but he remembered he came there to see what he could lift.
Mostly speaking to himself he said “You must have something really valuable
here if you’re working that hard to scare me away.
I’ve got news for you – it won’t work.”
As soon as he said that, the beast hit the window again. The window was so close to breaking through that
the ‘dog’ was sticking his nose through.
Tommy’s stomach was tied in knots, his intestines turned to water and his
mouth was hanging open. Before his brain
started working again, something with bright red eyes, a green body and big fangs flew
past his face screaming as it went. After
that he heard an even more horrifying sound. It
took him a minute to realize that he was screaming.
Tommy no longer cared about stealing anything, he just wanted out. As he started towards the door, he heard a
chittering sound. Worse, he felt
something like small appendages probing his ankles and calves. He could barely
make out huge spider-like animals all over the floor
and on the walls. He forgot an orderly retreat
and ran out the door as fast as he could, whining and swearing all the way. He had nightmares about monsters of various sorts for the next month. When he was able to think about what
happened, he wondered if the “Mystery House” was some sort of advanced genetic
laboratory, maybe run by some general.
He didn’t know much about biology beyond his raging hormones, but he
half believed what he had seen in horror and science fiction movies and what he
had seen looked a lot like those movies.
In fact, the non-human monsters in “The Mist” resembled what he had seen
that night. Vergara-Barr looked like the
before and after women that needed to feast on youth to become young and beautiful
that he had seen in old movies on the “Creature Show” on late-night TV. Tommy’s mother was surprised that after
his encounter, he always left the room when a science fiction or horror movie came on TV. They used to be his favorites.
The next day, three people in business suits reviewed the footage.
“I think we’ve got a hit,” Jim said. “We
can double admission over other venues. Of
course, if they will know it’s a Halloween House of Horrors, they’ll be better
prepared than the guys we see on film. Jane, how do the financials look?”
“Well, our show will be a little more expensive than
most, but since we’re franchising, we get a break from mass production and amortizing
capital expenditures over a wider base,” Jane said. “We’ve got patents
on many of the animatronics, so we can’t be copied without their paying us royalties.
What about marketing, Henry?”
golden,” Henry said. “We’ve got all the outtakes from filming over the
last few days. Legal says we don’t have any problems with our ‘testers’
because they don’t want to admit to trespassing, anyway. To be safe, we’ll
blur their faces. The guy last night was great. You can see that the crotch of his pants
is wet. He pissed himself. Anything else we need to cover, Jim?”
“Before we finish getting ready to open
on October 1st, I’ve got one thing that might amuse you,” Jim said, smiling.
“Both ‘Sofia’s’ & ‘Roseanne’s voices are from an
eighty-year-old woman that weighs 250.”
|Art by John Thompson © 2019
Locals from Igaluit on Baffin Island north of mainland Canada found what
appeared to be odd pebbles which were exposed when the recent heat wave melted a layer
of snow. As the sun warmed the “pebbles”, their shells broke and flying insects
flew out. The first poor unfortunates who examined the insects were stung and died from
the multiple venomous stings. The terrified survivors barricaded themselves in their
The biologists and exterminators from the mainland were quickly overwhelmed.
Nothing in the exterminators’ toolkit had any effect on the insects, and the
mainlanders that didn’t die were quickly run off.
Out of any other options,
the remaining human population of Baffin was evacuated to mainland Canada. With only 6,532
survivors from the original 11,000 human inhabitants, the resettlement was not too difficult.
after the resettlement, flyovers revealed the bones of polar bears, foxes,
rabbits, caribou and wolves picked clean. Because Baffin didn’t amount to much,
the invasion of the insects was just viewed as a small problem of global warming.
It was assumed that the insects, now called Death Flies, would die out with nothing left
to eat, or that they would form cysts again and become inactive.
Emil Yancy from the University of Laval in Montreal assured the public that the flies
were adapted to cold temperatures and would not venture south. A month later, the flies
had invaded Hall Beach in northern Nunavut on the Canadian mainland. Yancy and his colleagues
backtracked quickly, suggesting that the flies were reproducing extremely fast and mutating
like a virus, adapting to warmer weather. They were no longer consulted.
then reported its first Death Flies. The governments of the world became
serious and seriously scared about the threat of human extermination. Homes
could be sealed, but no one could leave, and a truly
safe sealing kept out fresh air and ended in the occupants’ asphyxiation.
capriciousness of the miles-wide cloud of death flies made the invasion even
more frightening. The horde skipped Edmonton, but hit Calgary in Alberta.
and television was preempted by the film of the plague taken by helicopters. The
world was told that the only poisons strong enough to kill the flies would kill
even more people than the flies would.
On October 31, a few days after Calgary was deserted, the retired couple
Duke and Sally, in Lake Oswego, Oregon, discussed the situation. Sally said “We gotta
get out of here, go as far south as we can, our lives are at stake. Just leave
everything and save our lives.”
Duke, who like a former president was always
certain, but frequently wrong, said “There is nothing to worry about. They aren’t
in the US and they will never get here. I’ve got that from an unimpeachable source.
The best thing that we can do is turn off the TV. All it does is depress us and none of
our shows are on.”
Partly because she had deferred to Duke through
many years of marriage and partly because he was so convinced, Sally decided to accept
his word that they would be safe.
At 6pm Duke looked out the
window and saw his neighbor, who was his best friend and tennis partner, running around
his yard. Duke said “I see Jim is wearing a black Ninja outfit for Halloween and
practicing some martial arts routine…ooooh shoot!” At that point Jim collapsed
on the ground, twitched and died. Duke saw that the sky was black and heard the buzzing
roar grow louder.
rolled down Duke’s face and he said “How could I ever have listened to that
crackpot evangelist Samuel Sanctum. He said ‘The US is special. God would never
allow the plague in our holy land’. I’ve been such a fool for so many years.
I’m so sorry. Get the gun.”
“The gun won’t
stop the flies.”
“The gun isn’t for the flies, it’s for us.”
thought “Bloody heck, I’m going to die soon, but at least I lived to hear Duke
admit he’s wrong.”
“Fly” originally appeared in
Commuter Lit in November 2017.]
A Life Examined
- Found in a Recorder of the Deceased
By Doug Hawley
Well, that felt like the big one. At least
the first jolt. Okay, I had been warned. The docs said I should stop with the alky and
pills, but I thought I knew better.
Isn’t modern medicine supposed to fix all of our mistakes? Especially at 48? I guess
not. I had never been introspective. This may be my last shot at explaining myself
to anyone who cares. What could I have left,
maybe an hour or so?
I suppose it would be fair to say that I wanted to get
ahead the easy way. In grade school I wanted
to get attention and the easiest way was to be the class clown. As long as I picked my spots right and stayed in bounds, the teachers
even liked it. I didn’t get good grades,
but I won all the class offices.
In high school the stakes were much higher. The cool guys were bad boys.
I smoked plenty of grass and lied my ass off about using the harder stuff. I partied hardy with all of the popular kids,
but was discrete enough to not offend the parents.
Okay, I was in school to have a good time.
I had no plans and no thoughts. The
idea was to get loaded and get the best babes. And
I did just that. One of my best moves was
getting a job for an insurance agency getting leads for the agents to follow
up. I learned all that I needed in that
job. High school taught me jack. People didn’t succeed by being smart; they
succeeded by being great with people.
More cynically, you got ahead by being manipulative. Can we say
sociopath? I think so.
Let the geeks in the back office understand the premium rate
structure. Salesmen know the latest joke,
the best gossip, and what the trends are. I
got so I could say “Impact the bottom line at this point in time” without
blowing chunks if that’s what it took to sell the biz droid.
Of course, I was too young to
be an agent, and the pay sucked, but it was enough to get me a car, which is what you
need in high school. I may or may not be
the daddy of a couple of bastards out there.
A girlfriend, Betty Boobs if I recall correctly, left town for a year
ostensibly to visit with her aunt in Utah.
She never said anything to me, but then I don’t think that I projected a
domestic image. I appreciate her
discretion. I just can’t imagine
daddyhood. Did I mention that I might be
a bit self-centered? There was also a
one-night stand with the girl from Century High School across town. I just
have a feeling that it took, I don’t know why,
I never saw her again. I know that Jane got
an abortion. It was easy, and I might not
have even been the father. She got around
and her family was rich enough to take care of it.
Marsha is the one I never
understood. She just hung around. Didn’t appeal to me at all.
I mostly told her to go away. Women, I can’t understand them at
all. Why do they think that a good-looking
guy like me is any better than some honest, ugly dude?
I never wanted to get in the sack with Sister
The point is that high school was great for me. I got C’s, didn’t study much and made
out like a bandit.
I wanted to become an insurance agent immediately after
I graduated, but they made me go to Carman Community College for a couple of years while
I worked part time. Fortunately, CCC was
just high school revisited. I could handle that.
Real college would have been way too much work.
As a beginner, I got the lower class leads.
I still did pretty well. It’s
amazing what you can achieve as long as you have limited regard for truth, beauty and the
American way. In the cosmic sense the sucker
clients got what they deserved. If they believed
me and ignored all the clearly worded warning and fine print, it’s got to be their
Since I’d learned about condoms, at
least I didn’t have any more kids.
You’re not likely to buy insurance from the guy your wife is pregnant
After a couple of years, I’m doing
pretty good. Got a suit for every day of
the week, vacation in the Bahamas. I
found a company that pays 150% first year commission. Hey, all I got
to do is pay the first year premium for the “client”
and make an easy 50%. Doesn’t make
any difference what happens after the first year. Sure,
after a few years Idiot Life (actually Ideal Life, but I like my name better),
figured it out so I had to move on, but by that time I had “sold” $5,000,000
in premium and cleared $2,500,000. Idiot
Life could have tried to get some of their money back, but then they would have looked
like, what can I say, idiots. A scandal like
that would have cost the honchos their jobs, which were more important to them than their
When I changed insurance companies, I
got the high rollers based on my previous “success” (my new employer only cared
about how much premium I sold, not that the business was crappy). This
required that I go to the best restaurants, drink a
lot and stay up all night. Rich people are
funny that way. In order to keep up, I started
taking uppers and downers. It seemed smarter
than crack or injected drugs and it worked for Elvis, at least for awhile. My ability to party all night, catch a little
sleep and be sharp the next day was widely admired. I’m
the company’s best agent on the coast. Of course, I had to make some sacrifices. Never got married, never had a family, never read the great works of
Western Civilization. The women I go out
with are great-looking and as shallow as I can find.
They are just out looking for a good time, maybe a few thrills.
I’ve never done a thing to help man or
mankind. I’ve only looked out for
myself. God, I wouldn’t change a thing.
“A Life Examined”
originally appeared in Fiction on the Web, on May 15, 2015.
By Doug Hawley
“Hey Jane, you are sure to get a Pulitzer
and lots of awards for the Louisville Times.
Your story on the deadliest industrial disaster in America may be bigger than
India’s Bhopal poison gas disaster.”
“Yeah, but at the price of thousands dead in Kentucky and
Indiana, Duke? We are just lucky that we
live a few miles out of range of the leak.
You didn’t see the many horribly contorted dead foaming and the mouth
and bleeding from their noses as I did.
Anyway, we just started, don’t think about awards now.”
“Sorry, but damn, it is
so big that I really can’t get perspective. Anyway, how did the interview with Harrison go?”
Jane frowned “I’ve got a feeling that
there is something wrong about the boss at Kentucky Chem. Read the transcript of my interview out loud, Duke.”
“Mr. Harrison, this must be the absolute worst thing that you
can imagine, your family dead and your company the cause of the horrible disaster.”
Sam Harrison: “Ms. Price, you’re
right about the loss of my family. I grieve for them and
all of those that died or were injured in the Kentuckiana territory. I may seem brutal to mention it at this time,
but I’m not convinced Kentucky Chem is at fault. There
are two other entities that may have greater blame than us – the subcontractor for
the containment unit, and the US government.”
Jane Price: “How
it obvious that the containment unit failed?
I think that Zimco, the subcontractor, is to blame or at least shares
much of the blame.”
chance of sabotage?”
Harrison: “I can
see why you might think that somebody evil and crazy, or one of our foreign
enemies might have done it, but our security cameras suggest otherwise.”
Jane Price: “You mentioned the government.”
“Our business is harmless agricultural chemicals, not poison
gas, and I can’t say anymore about it. We
are subject to non-disclosure agreements.”
Jane Price: “What
is your next move?”
Sam Harrison: “For
the company, it will be to do what we can to help our community heal. I’m afraid that the courts will determine
what, if any, legal responsibility we have.
For me personally, I think that I’ll retire and try to live with the
“What’s your take,
“He acts like a guy trying
to sound like he wants to do the right thing while’
protecting his company. He seems to be implying
that the Feds screwed up a poison gas project. Other
than the government angle, I’m not seeing anything unexpected, Jane.”
“Here’s what you don’t get out
of the transcript. If I had not been doing interviews for a lot
of years, I would not have seen it.
Harrison was acting. He had
prepared his answers in advance, knowing what I would be asking. When
he didn’t think that I was watching, he looked
at me like someone who didn’t care that his family had just died.”
“You mean like I look at you all the time, Jane?”
“Shut up and get serious.
Don’t try my patience, Duke”
“Sorry, levity uncalled for. Have I ever told you that
you do really good stern?”
“Will you let me finish, Duke? By the end of the interview,
I felt like I was watching a monster. I hope
that I didn’t give my suspicions away.”
“So you have a lot of feelings, which for an extra five
dollars would buy you a cup of coffee in a cheap San Francisco joint. But don’t worry about him catching on; Jane
Price’s poker face is famous.”
“One more thing. He
was off fishing miles from the Louisville epicenter during the disaster, but his family
was at home just within the diameter of disaster. Coincidence?”
“If you didn’t get anything else,
I like the sound of ‘Diameter of Disaster’.”
“Need I repeat, ‘get serious, Duke’”
What do you want me to do, Jane?”
“You’re stronger on research.
You should do a thorough check on Harrison’s background. I’d be amazed if you didn’t find literal skeletons. Meanwhile, I’ll see if the military backs
him up. And it’s ‘colleague’,
Jane reported: “Let me tell what I got first,
or I should say didn’t get. All of my military
contacts said something like ‘no comment’ about poison gas production
or boilerplate like ‘The U.S. honors all of our treaty agreements relative to that
subject’. I interpret that as validating
Harrison’s implication that Kentucky Chem was producing poison gas for the military.”
“What did you get on Harrison’s
Duke reported: “There
are so many things that I suspect he did without being able to prove any of them.”
“When he was in high school, a girl disappeared. Police suspect that she was murdered, but no body was ever found. One little detail – she had made fun of
Sam Harrison’s acne when he asked her for a date. No
one thought anything as trivial as that would have been a reason for
“His first wife died from
food poisoning. No foul play was suspected.
His ‘grief’ led him to build a park and name
it in her honor. He then went on an
extended leave from his job and returned to work with the wife that died in the
disaster. With a little digging, I found
out that wife two was pregnant when wife one died.”
“His former business partner was discovered with three
prostitutes in his room when police went to arrest him for embezzlement from
Kentucky Chem. He always claimed that he
had been set up on the embezzlement charge, something easy for Harrison, and
that the hookers had just barged into his room before the police showed.”
“Just last year, Harrison
put out feelers about becoming the Democratic candidate
for governor, but couldn’t get any support.”
“He quietly increased insurance on Kentucky
Chem and began to sell his company shares over the last three years.”
“The friends and family of Mrs. Harrison
indicated that Harrison was a control freak at home who scared their boy. She had not mentioned divorce, but the family
thought she would have filed for one soon.”
“Putting everything together, I’d say that he had
thoroughly plotted revenge against his wife and all of the Louisville area with
a convenient poisonous gas leak.
Jane considered Duke’s report before responding “You are
painting a guy who ruins or kills anyone who irritates or offends him in any
way – a sociopath that makes Ted Bundy look like a choir boy.”
“Yeah, but no proof of anything. With what I found in just a few days makes me
think that the ‘Diameter Of Disaster’ is just the latest and worst of his many
crimes. With his combination of perverted
brilliance and money, what can we do? I
don’t think that we or the police can do anything. What do we
do now, Jane?”
“OK, we check and double check all of our facts. Cooperate with the police on this.
On the off chance Harrison makes a mistake; show him the story before we
“We were right, Harrison
laughed at us and the police told us we have nothing,
but I’m still glad that we ran the article. I just
got a letter from a concerned, but anonymous citizen. Want to hear it, Duke?”
the implications of your article about Harrison. Someone had to act, so I did. He’s gone on his last fishing trip. You can find him floating, or maybe on the bottom of the lake. I don’t know how long bodies float. This is for all of his past and future victims.”
Jane said “I think that this is justice.
How about you?”
“I Agree. It calls
for drinks and dinner. My treat.”
Doug Hawley is a former mathematician turned actuary
(mathemortician) who writes, snowshoes, volunteers and hikes. He was a
volunteer wheelchair jockey (pusher, role model, unpaid escort) at a hospital, greeter
at the Marine Mammal Center, “normal” in a balance study at OHSU, and docent
at China Camp in California, and now is a volunteer bookseller in support of his local
library, and a killer of invasive species at his local park. He lives with editor and musician
Sharon. He currently resides in Lake Oswego, OR and has lived in Manhattan (KS that is),
Atlanta, Louisville, Denver, LA, and marvy Marin CA.
In Association with Fossil Publications