Black Petals Issue #98 Winter, 2022

Lamont A. Turner: Hoola

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Bug-Fiction by David Starobin
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Hoola-Fiction by Lamont A. Turner
The Barber Shop-Fiction by Roy Dorman
On the Corner of 15th and Jackson-Fiction by Kat Vatne
Prisoners-Fiction by Paul Lee
Twinkles-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
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Regards to Buzzards-Poem by Meg Smith
Failed Conjuring-Poem by Meg Smith
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Lords of Extinction-Poem by Meg Smith

98_bp_hoola_cfawcett.jpg
Art by Cynthia Fawcett 2022

Hoola

By Lamont A. Turner

 

      The woman touched me. Rushing past without paying proper attention to where she was going, she had allowed her hand to brush against mine.

     “What the hell?” I shouted, demanding her startled attention.

     “Were you talking to me?” she asked, feigning innocence.

     “You bumped into me!”

     “I’m sorry,” she said, though she really wasn’t. “I hadn’t noticed.”

      Liar! I wanted to scream at her, but I knew it would serve no purpose. People like her couldn’t be shamed. I turned to go about my business and collided with a pimply faced boy.

     “Why don’t you watch where you’re going?” I said, shoving him away from me.

     “It was an accident, man,” he said, his tone defensive rather than contrite. I reached out and yanked the headphones out of his ears, threw them to the ground, and stomped on them.

     “You walked right into me, you filthy animal!” I admonished as I ground the headphones under my heel. People started shouting, cursing the boy, but the idiot grew more defiant, seeming to think the insults were meant for me. I waved a hand in dismissal and stomped off, leaving the dolt to the crowd. They were still cursing him as I rounded the corner.

     By the time I reached my apartment, the skin on my hand was burning where that woman had touched me. Her skin had touched mine! I shivered thinking about it. I tried to wash away the stain she’d left upon me, but it was no use. I had to take drastic measures. I got a pairing knife out of the kitchen drawer and carefully sliced off the skin on the back of my hand from the knuckles to the wrist. As I performed this painful, but necessary, procedure, I cursed myself as much as the woman. I had been a fool to think I could safely navigate the streets of New York without gloves. I resolved henceforth to always carry an extra pair.

     I didn’t sleep much that night. No amount of medication could stop the throbbing in my hand, so I was constantly reminded of that awful feeling of the woman’s skin touching mine. When I finally managed to doze off, I had a nightmare in which I was suspended naked on a chain while hands reached out of the darkness to caress and prod me with filthy fingers. It was too much! After that, I abandoned my bed and all hope of getting any rest before my morning book signing engagement.

     I’d worked hard on my craft, not from any desire to express myself, but from the need to support myself in a manner that allowed me some measure of isolation. It had worked out well. I was seen as a great artist, an iconoclastic chronicler of the meaninglessness of human existence. The apes liked my work. Unfortunately, my latest novel was lagging a bit in sales, and my publisher had insisted I participate in promoting it. I agreed to do a book signing at a small venue, hoping nobody would show up.

     It turns out my popularity exceeded my estimate of it considerably. When I arrived at the book store, my right hand gloved and my left swathed in bandages, there was already a line in front of the table they’d set up for me. I was tempted to turn around, to slip back out before anyone noticed me, but the manager, a corpulent slug-like man, saw me and waved me in.

     “We’ve been waiting for you,” the slug announced, trying to sound jovial. “We’ve quite a turn out.”

     I nodded and took my seat behind the table. I managed to scrawl my name in the first three books without having to look at the beasts presenting them to me, but the forth was more insistent.

     “Can you make it out to Hoola Bean?” she asked, forcing me to ask her to repeat herself.

     “H-o-o-l-a B-e-a-n,” she said somewhat condescendingly.  “It’s a common enough name.”

     I looked up to see a tiny woman of about thirty. She wore bib overalls, which she’d tucked into her white galoshes, over a plaid flannel shirt. She was actually wearing a straw hat with a daisy stuck in the band.  Extending all most to her waist from under the wide brim of the hat were two bright red pig tails held in place by yellow ribbons. I cringed. She was obviously another writer.

     “If I were to use a name such as Hoola in a novel my publisher would reject it on the spot,” I told her. “It’s a ridiculous name.”

     “Is not,” she said, puffing out her chest. “I use it for all my characters, and nobody has ever complained.”

     “You use it for all your characters?” I asked, instantly regretting that she’d shocked me into a conversation. “Every single one?”

     “Well, I give ‘em different last names,” she said. “Nobody’d be able to tell ‘em apart otherwise.”

     I shook my head, made the preposterous inscription, and handed her the book. Then she bent over the table and kissed me! She put her wet rubbery lips on my left cheek! I clasped my bandaged hand to my face and jumped up out of my chair.
   

“Where’s the restroom!” I shouted. Most of the apes just stood there gaping open mouthed. A few of them snickered. Finally, the manager slithered over and pointed to a door behind me at the other end of the room. I stumbled headlong through the store, knocking over shelves onto the heads of the customers milling about between them. I heard a woman scream as I trampled over a child who happened to be between me and my goal, but I didn’t pause. I made it to the restroom just as the bile forced its way up my gullet.

     After I had finished heaving into the sink, I moved to the sink next to it and started splashing water into my face. I looked in the mirror. The imprint of her lips was still there on my cheek! No matter how I scrubbed, I couldn’t wash it off! I had to find something to cut it off. Remembering the knife I carried on my keychain, I shoved my hand into my pocket, but pulled it back as the fabric scraped against the bandages. I ripped my glove off the other hand with my teeth, dug the keys out, and tore into my face with the knife.

     I can still see the expression on the manager’s fat face as he opened the restroom door and saw me there, panting, the knife dangling from my bloody fingers. It was an expression I saw mimicked by what was left of my own face as I looked in the mirror. They say I started laughing as I wiped the blood out of my eyes, and I vaguely remember the manager staggering back out of the room just before I passed out.

     I awoke to find I could not move. I was strapped to a bed. Tubes ran under and over the straps to merge with my flesh. My head, except for holes for my eyes and mouth, was completely covered in bandages. Worst of all, my left arm terminated in a stump. I was later told the hand had become infected and couldn’t be saved, though I suspected they had done it to punish me. Apparently I had been out for nearly two weeks. I shudder to think of how many hands had touched me in that time.

     Another week passed. The bandages had been removed, the monitors unplugged, and plans had been made to transfer me to a psychiatric facility. Of course I opposed this, but the family I hadn’t seen in years had agreed to consign me to the mad house, and being mad I had little say in the matter. After spending the morning plotting my escape, and not really coming up with anything remotely realistic, I drifted off only to be awakened by something falling upon my legs. I opened my eyes and looked down to see a straw hat resting on my blanket.

     “You! How did you get in here?” I shouted as best I could with my mangled mouth.

     “I think you’re asking how I got in here,” said Hoola, from the side of my bed. “I convinced them I was your sister. It was easy as pie.”
      “What do you want?” I asked.

      “I just wanted to make sure you were okay,” she said, wiping the drool off my chin with her sleeve. “I figure I’m to blame for what happened. I’d like to make it up to you.” She slid her hand up the inside of my thigh and up under my gown. I started to scream as she grabbed my member, but she smothered the sound by pressing her lips over mine. I struggled against the straps as she tugged on my manhood and nearly suffocated me with the violence of her kiss. It went on until I was finally still. She pulled back, the finger she held up to her lips demanding silence.

     “Still want me to stop?” she asked. “Seems like we’re making some progress down there.”

     I nodded, tears streaming over the stitches in my face.

     “Alright,” she said, smiling. “But you have to promise to be quiet.”

     I nodded again and she pulled her hand out from under my gown.

     “Why?” I whispered through clenched teeth.

      “I needed something to write about,” she said, sliding over a chair. “I guess you want to hear my story.” I didn’t, but I knew it was useless to protest. I watched her pick over the leftover food on my tray and tried not to think of all the places she’d touched me.

      “It all started when the guy living in the apartment under me went nutzo and started killing his neighbor’s pets. He was a real sicko, carving them up and making hats and things out of them. Eventually, he moved on to killing hookers and girls he picked up in bars. Just before he got caught, he’d had me pegged as material for his haberdashery but as soon as he found out I was a writer, he decided I could serve a better purpose. He was pretty sure the forces of justice were closing in on him, and he wanted to tell his story to the world before they fried him.”

     She paused to wipe apple sauce from her chin and take a sip from the box of fruit juice. My legs were itching where she’d slid her greasy palms over them, and my lips were on fire. The other parts she’d touched felt like they’d had salt poured over them after being flayed.

     “So, they caught the guy, and I ended up working with the police to help put him away. I became something of a celebrity, getting a book deal before I’d even made an outline. By the way, do you do that? I mean do you map everything out before you start writing? No? Well, you are writing from your imagination. I have a lot of facts to keep track of.

     “Anyway, my book was a big hit. I was marketed as some kind of specialist on the subject of aberrant personalities. Of course, it was all bull shit. I’d just been lucky. The thing is, I needed to write another book, and you don’t get lucky like that twice. That’s where you come in. I’d heard about your, lets call it a condition, from an editor who’d worked on one of your books. It was perfect. The brilliant and popular author harboring a secret madness. I just needed to get your story out there so people wanted to hear more about it.” She set down the food tray and bent over me, unfastening my restraints.  “That and I needed an ending—something spectacular that would really get people’s attention.” 

    “What are you doing?” I asked, the burning in my groin and on my misshapen lips almost too much to bear. I was tearing at the stitches in my face as soon as my hand was free.

     “Writing the ending,” she said, throwing her red vinyl purse over her shoulder and heading for the door. As she reached it, she paused, pulled something from her purse, and dropped it onto the floor. It was a knife.

                                                                    The End

Lamont A. Turner’s work has appeared in numerous online and print venues, including The Half That You See, Horror For Hire, Death and Butterflies, and Scary Snippets anthologies, as well as Crimeucopia, Frontier Tales, Terror House, Lovecraftania, Abandoned Towers, JitterSerial, The Realm Beyond, and Dark Dossier magazines.

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