Category Archives: Stories

Upcoming Zendoscopy Signing

On Saturday, 11/21 from 10 AM to 1 PM , I will be participating in a local authors’ fair at the Peninsula Center branch of the Palos Verdes Library, located at 701 Silver Spur Road, Rolling Hills Estates (main entrance located on Deep Valley Drive).

I will be signing my book, Zendoscopy, so if you don’t have a copy and can stop by, please do so. I’d love to sign a copy for you! Even if you already do have a copy, bring it and I’ll sign it for you.

Here’s the full text of the book’s review by B. Case, a top 500 reviewer for Amazon.com:

5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, warm, and wonderful, December 26, 2014

“Zendoscopy,” by J. Allan Wolf, is a fictional memoir that tries to be both emotionally honest and delightfully hilarious. It succeeds admirably at both. I haven’t enjoyed a work quite like this since I read David Niven’s autobiography, “Moon’s a Balloon” some 42 years ago. That bestseller captured the essence of the famous English actor’s sparkling personality mostly through a collection of outlandish (but narrowly true-to-life) tales. It’s the same with this book. It’s the personality of author that shines through loud and clear out of the pure joy of the reading experience.

“Zendoscopy” defies categorization. I called it a fictional memoir because it reminded me of Niven’s autobiography. But I could just have easily have said that it was a character study, a coming-of-age-novel, or a collection of linked stories. Whatever it is, in summary, it covers the early life of a geeky, insecure, and bright young man named Sherman Alt. The stories start with his birth in a hospital where a plumber’s plunge serves a vital role. It ends with Alt as a medical doctor with a wife, a home, and a major plumbing problem. In between are many stories that help describe what it was like to grow up in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. The stories cover a broad range from serious to slapstick. It’s a work full of wry humor, ironic circumstances, and somewhat exaggerated tales. Many of the stories have to do with the main character’s adventures and misadventures with the opposite sex.

On a serious note, the book covers the journey of one man toward self-acceptance and the deep psychological reward of a validated life. It’s impressive the way the author pulls off this serious theme from a book that is mostly light and brilliantly funny.

Wolf’s prose is rich and polished. He keeps his readers engaged by focusing almost entirely on action and dialog rather than weighing down any particular piece with too much descriptive prose. Most of his character development takes place through authentic action and dialog. As a result, these secondary characters flash to life off the page.

As for the meaning of the unusual title, “Zendoscopy,” trust that there’s a gratifying explanation at the end of the last story. And, yes, it’s tied together with further revelations about the honorable, rational, and world-loving character of Sherman Alt.

Naturally, the perfect audience for this book would be other bright, geeky men who grew up in the same time period (i.e., Baby Boomers in their mid-60s). But I am sure the many universal themes in this book can resonate nicely with a much broader range of readers. As far as humorous anecdotal story collections go, this book gets an easy five stars in my rating scheme. It’s brilliantly written and had me smiling almost constantly and laughing out loud a number of times.”

   So, plan to attend if you can. If you can’t, you can still get hard copy from Amazon.com or the e-book format for Kindle. The book is also available from multiple other online sellers.

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Dogmadillo: Part 2 (conclusion)

This week’s blog entry is the conclusion of my short story, Dogmadillo. To recap, our narrator had been having terrible dreams about a hybrid-appearing, bloodthirsty creature that he and his physician were calling a “dogmadillo”. The doctor, Oglethorpe, had special knowledge of history and lore which strongly suggested that the beast was, if not quite material, nevertheless real. Part 1 of the story left off as our narrator has come to realize that the creature of his nightmares had been freed from some dormant state by his own excavation of a strange appearing dirt patch in a plot of land he was evaluating for possible development into a shopping center. What he didn’t know was why the monster was coming after him, assuming that there was any logical explanation at all which, maybe, there wasn’t…

 

DOGMADILLO

A Creepy Tale by J. Allan Wolf

Part 2 (Conclusion)

    Of course, I didn’t know it then but, immediately following my leaving Dr. Oglethorpe with the sleeping pill prescription, he closed his office for the remainder of the day in order to visit an acquaintance with a large library of the occult. I only learned what he was thinking much later, but that would place me ahead of my tale.

In any case, it appears that the good doctor took my description of the “dogmadillo” much more seriously than I had originally thought and, burying himself in his friend’s library, he rapidly confirmed his suspicions. The next day, he called me.

“How did you sleep last night?”

“Like a baby,” I lied. In truth, I hadn’t filled the prescription and had had the dream again. Only this time, worse. Just before stomping on the accelerator, the dogmadillo had leapt onto the hood of my car, its slavering face against the windshield before I awoke in a sweat, shaking with fear, heart pounding.

“Hey, tell me more about the monster in your dream, the hell-beast.”

“Why do you use that term, ‘hell beast’?

“I’ll tell you, but I need to speak with you about this in person. Can I come over?”

Puzzled by his seriousness, I affirmed the address and waited. A half hour later, there was a knock at the door. “Come in.”

Dr. Oglethorpe entered my small apartment. He looked worried and a bit pale.

“It’s my dream, Doc. How come you look so awful?”

The doctor grimaced and, for the first time, I noticed the three old books he was carrying. “Let’s sit…there,” he said, pointing at my crappy walnut colored Formica breakfast table with red and black vinyl-covered chairs.

“Can I get you some coffee?”

“No, thanks.”

We sat. “So, what’s this all about?”

“It’s about your hell-beast.”

“Again, with the ‘hell-beast’. Why do you keep calling it that?”

“Does it bother you?”

“Not really, except that that’s the term I hear myself using in the dream. And now you’ve been using it, too.”

Oglethorpe frowned. “Could be a coincidence. Or not. Look, Armand, this is all very strange and, frankly, it’s the first time I’ve ever encountered a real demon.”

“A what?”

“I’m sort of an avocational student of demonology but I always thought it was folklore. You know, like vampires, chupacabras, devils, ghosts and the like. I know you’ll think I’m crazy but I’m almost certain you’ve got a real one here.”

“That’s ridiculous. What I’ve got is bad dreams ever since I saw a picture of this…thing…on that ewer.”

“What ewer?”

I told him the rest of the story–about the survey and the dark soil and the ewer I dug up.

“Where’s the ewer, now?”

“Here. I’ve got it in the bedroom.”

“Let me see it.”

I fetched the pitcher and watched as Oglethorpe very slowly examined it.

“It’s in pretty bad condition,” I volunteered. “I mean, the cracks and missing pieces.”

“No matter,” said Oglethorpe, far more fascinated with the artifact than I was. “You have to take me there.”

“Where? You mean to Mirrendale?”

“Yes, yes. To where you found this. And the darkness. I need to see it.”

I shrugged. “Okay.” It was Friday. “How about tomorrow morning?”

“Good, yes.” Oglethorpe was shaking with excitement.

“Pick you up at 8:30.”

The next morning, at 8:30 sharp, I picked up Oglethorpe. He was wearing a pith helmet, a khaki shirt with epaulets and snaps instead of buttons, khaki shorts, knee socks and brand new, brilliantly white sneakers. It was all I could do to keep from inquiring as to whether he was Dr. Livingston.

On the way up, he filled me in on a bit of our demon’s history or, as I looked at it then, its mythology. Apparently, what I had disturbed was a somewhat displaced, chimeric death demon. As best Oglethorpe could determine, the ewer had probably been brought to the place where I found it sometime in the 1600s by Spanish explorers who had “liberated” it during the desecration of an Egyptian temple.

“But that’s not all of it, is it?” I asked.

“No, it’s not. You see, I don’t think that what you found was just the picture of the beast. I think you found – and released – the beast, itself.”

“That’s ridiculous! You can’t believe the demon is real?”

Oglethorpe grimaced. “In fact, yes, I do, which is why I want to see where you found the ewer. I think the dark soil has something to do with the demon’s death aura, and that when you unearthed the ewer, somehow – I don’t know exactly how – you freed the monster that’s haunting your dreams.”

“This is starting to sound like UFO, New Age, crystal and crap nonsense but, okay, let’s say you’re right about this. Why would it haunt my dreams? What would it want from me?”

“I’m not sure, yet.”

“But, you think you know?”

“I’m not sure, yet.” Oglethorpe appeared to have said all he was going to say. I tried just to concentrate on my driving.

We arrived at the site around 11 AM. The sun was high, if not quite directly overhead. I walked Oglethorpe in the direction of the dark soil but, upon arriving at the spot where I thought it had been, I saw nothing except uniform coloration. Oglethorpe saw my confusion. “You’re sure this is the place?”

“I certainly thought so but, well, now I’m not so certain. I mean, the area looks no different from anyplace else on this plot.”

“Yes, now,” he said, nodding, apparently understanding something I did not.

I walked around, searching for the hole I’d dug, finding it right where I thought it should be. “Look, here’s where I found the ewer.”

Oglethorpe stared into the hole but there wasn’t much to see. Just the hole, as far as I could tell. “Get the shovel.”

“Why?”

“Just get it.”

I went to the truck, found two shovels, and brought them back. “Here, ” I said, giving one to Oglethorpe.

“Dig,” he ordered, and we began to enlarge the hole I’d previously made.

It didn’t take an awful lot of excavation to uncover more bones. This time, however, it was more than ribs. A fragment of what clearly appeared to be a lower jawbone came into view, followed by a scapula and a fragment of a pelvis. “Human,” Oglethorpe muttered, and I wondered how he knew. “This is bad,” he said, finally. “OK, we can stop digging.”

Oglethorpe was silent for awhile as we began the drive back to L.A. Then, he said, “I want to stay with you at your place, tonight.”

I was taken aback. “Why would you want to do that?” I asked.

“Because I don’t think it’s safe for you to be alone.”

“Oh, come on, Doc. This is just getting downright crazy. You expect my dream to hurt me?”

“Not your dream. The hell-beast.”

I looked over at the ridiculously dressed and now sweaty and dirty fellow next to me. If anything, he was paler than before, and he looked frightened. I decided to humor him. “Okay,” I said. “You’re the boss.”

Oglethorpe just nodded.

We stopped at his place so he could pack an overnight kit and some fresh clothes, and then we got some dinner and headed back to my apartment. He showered and put on his pajamas; I did the same. Then, a thought occurred to me.

“You’re not, er, I mean, this isn’t about, ahhh…”

“Don’t be an asshole.”

“Ah, okay. Forget it. You get the couch. I’m going to bed.

The last thing I remember before turning out the light was looking at the ewer. The hell-beast looked hungry.

And then I was behind the wheel of my car, again, on my way home. I turned the corner onto my street, looking ahead and to the left to see my driveway. Part way down the block, it came into view and, with it, the hell-beast, waiting. It saw the car and began twisting in circles as I had seen it do before.

I would kill it this time. I would floor the accelerator and mash the abomination to a bloody pulp. But all was unfolding very slowly. I crept down the block to my driveway and began the turn. I will kill it. I will step down on the accel–

Abruptly, the hell-beast sprang to the car’s hood, saliva dripping from its leering mouth. I floored the accelerator, swinging the wheel sharply to the right in an attempt to dislodge the monster but, instead, the dominant forward jerk sent it slamming into the windshield, shattering the glass into myriad glinting splinters as the open jaws came directly at my neck. Then, the teeth made contact, puncturing my neck. I vaguely saw a shadow behind the beast, and then a long flashing blade stabbing, stabbing, stabbing into the armored coat and, finally, sweeping forward to slice the head from the body, missing my breast by millimeters. Blood and entrails spewed everywhere and I was screaming, screaming, screaming as I woke up, holding pressure on my spurting neck.

I opened my eyes to see Oglethorpe, standing over me, dazed, the bloodied knife in his right hand. “It’s all right. It’s all right. I killed it. It’s all right.” He kept repeating it.

Then, he called 911 and helped me to the bathroom, where he cleaned the symmetrical canine puncture marks while applying pressure to my neck until the paramedics arrived.

“It can’t hurt you anymore. I killed it. I killed it. It won’t come back, again. And now you can sleep.”

And he was right, I did.

© by J. Allan Wolf. All rights reserved.

Dogmadillo

When this blog got under way over a year ago, one of its main purposes was to be flacking my own writing. I’ve written many entries about my adventures to date in writing, getting published, and pursuing marketing, and I hope the columns have encouraged you to snap up copies of Zendoscopy and Spacebraid and Other Tales of a Dystopian Universe from Amazon.com and Amazon Kindle. After some consideration, I’ve decided that periodically I’ll put a few bits of my writing on the blog: everything from the macabre to the downright silly. So, to begin, I offer the short story, Dogmadillo, a disturbing little piece in the horror/supernatural vein. Part 1 this week; part two next. I hope you enjoy it.

DOGMADILLO

A Creepy Tale by J. Allan Wolf

As I approached the driveway, I could see it just in front of the garage door, as if it were waiting for me. A sort of a lupine armadillo, but much larger than the latter: smoothly rounded, armored ass and concentrically ringed torso with short, hairy legs. The creature’s shaggy head had short ears slanting back, and a long – too long for the body – canine snout and jaw. I think it growled, although I could not hear it with the windows rolled up, but I could see the hungry leer and wolfish, bared teeth. Spittle hung from the left side of the monster’s mouth, near the fangs.

I stopped at the driveway’s threshold while, at first, the creature held its stance in front of me. I should run the hell-beast over. The only way to do that, though, would end up with me plowing through the garage door. The automatic opener was broken. I had the inexplicable sense that the creature knew.

I was trapped, certain that the whatever-it-was would rip me to shreds if I tried to make a run for the front door. There was, then, only one way to deal with this. Damn the garage door. I would run the thing down.

I looked at it. Straight. At first, it stared back, and I saw dead emptiness in its black eyes. Then, it yelped – I heard it despite the closed windows – and began twirling as if, but not actually, chasing its tail. Finally, it stopped, staring at me and grinning.

I took a deep breath, took aim, and then closed my eyes and hit the accelerator.

A moment later I awoke, sweating and palpitating, and realized I had wet the bed. Nancy was asleep, undisturbed, next to me.

I swung out of bed and went to clean myself up and get a towel to lay over the wet sheet before trying yet again to sleep without dreaming the dream.

“I just haven’t been sleeping very well for the past two or three weeks, Doctor,” I heard myself saying. “I know it sounds silly, but I keep having this dream. About a dog.”

“A dog?” The company doctor, a gaunt fellow named Oglethorpe with manner more that of an undertaker than a healer, looked up from his note-taking.

“Yes, a dog. Well, not a dog, exactly.”

“Not a dog, then?” He looked puzzled.

“Well, yes, a dog. I mean, sort of a dog. I know how this is going to sound but, really, it’s more like a dog with armor, you know. Well, no, you don’t know. It’s a sort of a…a…dogmadillo.”

“A dogmadillo.”

“Yes, like that. A sort of a hybrid thing, part wolf-like dog, part armadillo. Dark, mean, evil. It wants me. It wants to kill me.”

“You know this?”

“Well, yes. It has these dead eyes, and when it looks at me, I know it wants nothing more than to eviscerate me, to suck me into some place of death that it knows well. That doesn’t make sense, does it?”

“I’m not sure, yet. But, then, how does it end?”

“It doesn’t, really. Just when I’m going to run it over – I always see it from my car as I’m pulling into my driveway – I wake up.”

The doctor looked concerned, in an unconcerned sort of way, or maybe a harsher but more honest way to describe it would be to say that he oozed hypocritical sympathy. “Well,” he opined, it doesn’t sound like much. Some unresolved anxieties. Concerns. Transmogrified, as it were, into your hell-beast.”

I sat up straight, startled. “What did you call it?”

“I said, ‘hell-beast’. Why?”

“Nothing, I guess. Just coincidence.”

“Coincidence, you say?”

“Yeah, coincidence. Forget it.”

The doctor shrugged. “As you wish. Perhaps things at work have been a bit too stressful for you. I’m going to give you something to help you sleep. Short term, though. Just a week’s worth. By then, your brain will have had time to resolve whatever is troubling you, and you should again be able to sleep through the night without these disturbing dreams.”

“I hate taking stuff like that.”

“It’s only to get you past the crisis, whatever it is. There’s no harm.” Dr. Oglethorpe held out a prescription, and I thought I detected a brief twitch in his smile. I took the piece of paper.

“Thanks but, you know, my problem isn’t falling asleep. It’s what happens after I fall asleep.”

“Take them. They’ll do you good.”

“Yes, all right.”

I left the office, not feeling reassured, and went to my office. I’m a geologist working for an engineering company. I go to proposed construction sites and assess soil and geologic stability, and then I generate reports for the company’s clients that provide the information they need to decide whether to proceed with whatever they plan to do. It’s a stressful job and, although no one has ever pressured me here, I always feel that the company’s expectation is for me to green-light everything to keep our clients happy.

Recently and in good conscience, I’ve had to advise against several projects and I don’t think the boss has been too pleased about it. I’ve tried to tell him that there’d be a lot of company liability if I were to give the okay to an unsafe development, but I think the argument hasn’t had much traction.

As I said, I’m a geologist. I’m not a paleontologist or anthropologist but, about a month ago, when I went to perform the survey for a proposed new outlet shopping mall just west of Mirrendale, a planned community in the Mojave Desert west of I-15, I was struck by some peculiar findings at the site.

I arrived at about 10 AM on a sunny but cool Wednesday in October. The thing that immediately struck me when I began to walk the flat, treeless, rocky site was that one small area, roughly circular and about forty feet in diameter, appeared dark. I don’t mean that the soil was darker than the surrounding area. No, I mean that the area was actually without sunlight.

At first I thought it might be the shadow of a cloud but, looking up, I saw none. The sky was as uniformly blue as I had ever seen it. As I crossed the boundary from light to dark, I cast no visible shadow on the darker area, and when I took a handful of sand from the area and dropped it outside the circle, it immediately brightened to match the surrounding sand.

I went back to the truck for a shovel, which I used to turn some of the dark soil. It was dark as far down as I dug. I dumped some of the dirt outside the circle and watched as it became light. Damn. What is this?

I picked an area at random and began digging in earnest. At around two feet below the surface, I hit something solid. Carefully, I excavated what appeared to be a large ewer decorated with – I swear – what looked very much like Egyptian hieroglyphics. My eyes were drawn to an animal, or god, or demon depicted in faded browns but with large black teeth. It was dog-like, with a rounded behind, short legs and small ears.

In the ewer were bones. I’m no expert, but I think maybe they were ribs.

Back at the office, I sought out the boss. I told him I wasn’t sure of the meaning of what I’d found but I thought we should get someone from UCLA to go up there and take a look. The boss wasn’t impressed.

“Were you on Indian land?”

“No, of course not,” I answered. “I know where I was. I was right where I was supposed to be.”

“Well, then, there’s nothing to worry about, right?” It wasn’t really a question. More like a directive.

“Yes, sir.”

And that’s when the dreams had begun. I know now that the creature on the ewer is the monster of my dreams. What I don’t know is why.

Part 2, the conclusion of the story, will appear in next week’s blog.

© 2015 by J. Allan Wolf. All rights reserved.