Category Archives: Stories

Weathergirl Reduced (536x800)

Available in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and in print format from many other online retailers, including BarnesandNoble.com. See what’s become of Effie Mae, the notorious “spin the bottle” girl from Zendoscopy, and some of your other favorite characters from that novel. And now meet the hapless Horace Tibbles, ex-CPA and aspiring but terrible nightclub magician, and bumbling detective Dudley Boomchika, arguably one of the most unlikely heroes since Inspector Clousseau. It all makes for quite a romp in the Southern California of the 1980s.

 

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Weathergirl: Chapter One Still Online!

For those of you who perhaps missed the last post, you can still see it and read the first chapter of my latest novel, Weathergirl. Please check it out and, if you like it, surf over to Amazon.com and pick up either a print or an e-book copy of the book. The story picks up years after the events depicted in my previous novel, Zendoscopy, and follows several of the characters in that book. Most notably among them is the notorious “spin the bottle girl”, Effie Mae McStutz, now divorced from and in pursuit of her alimony-shirking ex-husband Horace, who abandoned his practice as a CPA to become a rather terrible and pathetic nightclub magician. Things begin to go wildly out of control as as the increasingly deranged Horace is moved to pursue desperate measures to resolve his financial problems.

Weathergirl Is Here!

Weathergirl the not-quite-a-sequel to Zendoscopy is now available on Amazon.com in print and Kindle e-book formats, and the early reviews are terrific. To whet your appetite, here is Chapter 1. Read, enjoy, and then pick up your copy of the book to find out what happens as Effie Mae, the “spin the bottle” girl from Zendoscopy, pursues her deadbeat ex-husband, Horace, who’s ducked out on his alimony payments and is becoming more and more unhinged with each passing day.

Chapter 1

The Great Tibbles Vanishes

The Great Tibbles stood in front of the bathroom mirror, assessing himself with unpitying honesty. “I am a great magician,” he said aloud. “A great magician with a lousy act. No, a lousy fifty-year-old magician with a lousy act. But there’s greatness in me, somewhere, isn’t there? I mean, it can’t really be this bad.” He clucked in disgust and finished readying himself for the evening’s performance. Then, leaving his room in the scummy hotel reserved for the troupe during its latest engagement, he only wished he could be anywhere else. Bora Bora, maybe.

The Vroom Vroom Room was no palace. Truth be told, it was a dump, but Horace Tibbles, ex-CPA, aka “The Great Tibbles,” liked to eat and so was at least grateful for the work. Still, about the only thing that had gone right with the whole gig was that his performance didn’t have to follow Missy Lamb and Her Frolicking Cockapoos. No, he was indeed fortunate in that. She followed him, and that meant that he at least had the best of an admittedly depressing situation. He wouldn’t be overshadowed by the lovely Missy and he could hang out in the wings after his act to ogle her as she performed in her delicious milkmaid’s costume.

Even more in his feeble favor, the program had him onstage after Henrietta Egret did her Dance of the Seven Veils. Actually, Horace thought, it was more like seven bedsheets, given the woman’s gargantuan proportions.

The regular audience wasn’t much for breeding. Drunk and raucous on watered-down, overpriced firewater, dissipated men and abysmally degraded women hooted and jeered as a motley succession of pre-intermission acts laid ostrich-worthy eggs, slicking the way for Henrietta and then The Great Tibbles to face what—by the time intermission was over and additional liquor consumed—was little more than an ugly, vindictive mob out for blood, whether it be from the performers or anyone else unfortunate enough to get in the way.

Tibbles and Henrietta stood in the wings, Henrietta awaiting her cue. Suddenly, she turned to face the magician. “Tibbie, quick! Help me. My left pasty won’t stay on.”

The Great Tibbles tried in vain to avert his gaze from the enormous nipple thrust barely two inches from his left eye. “Er, just a second, Henrietta.” He ran to the dressing room, grabbed a small bottle of spirit gum, and ran back, panting. “Here,” he wheezed. “This should work.”

“No, you do it, Tibbie. I’ve got to hold onto my veils.”

Nervously, Tibbles painted on the spirit gum, fanned it with the tails of his coat while Henrietta giggled girlishly, and then slapped the pasty into place. “All fixed,” he said with evident relief.

“Thanks, Tibbie.” Henrietta, a good six inches taller than the magician, bent over and planted a little kiss on his forehead. “You’re a sweetie.” Just then, the drummer began banging a very loud burleycue hump-a-dump rhythm on the bass drum and Henrietta was on.

It was not pretty. Stunning, maybe. But not pretty.

Her bulk was unconvincingly camouflaged by the veils, a bit like trying to cover an aircraft carrier with a few washcloths, and the catcalls began almost immediately. But Henrietta would be a trouper. In a manner highly suggestive of the dancing hippos in Fantasia, she began to pirouette and prance about the stage, the multicolored veils soaring in her turbulent wake.

Too soon, she began shedding the components of her patchwork tent. As each veil was discarded, the catcalls grew louder, the crowd more aggressively offended.

And then, there was the drumbeat: Hump-a-DUMP! Hump-a-DUMP!

Finally, the veil covering her breasts was shed, and this final assault upon her inflamed audience being met with outraged shrieks and, most objectionably, by loud mooing and snorting from the drunker revelers who, without warning, suddenly charged the stage, followed by the rest of the inflamed villagers. The only things lacking were the flaming torches.

The curtain dropped; the tidal wave of outraged humanity ebbed back to the cheap seats. Moos and catcalls and piggy snuffling noises persisted far longer than necessary while, backstage, Henrietta fled sobbing into the wings, throwing herself into The Great Tibbles’ awkward embrace and causing both to fall against a large, painted flat. Only marginally supported, the flat began to tip, its upper end catching the edge of a metal catwalk along the stage left wall. But the arrested flat was no match for Henrietta and, preceded by Tibbles, they both crashed through it, Tibbles ending up with his neck between the hippo’s two gigantic mammaries, each the size of Montana.

“Tibbles!” came the distressed, urgent stage whisper from Sleazy Freddie—that would be Freddie Vroomski—the Master of Ceremonies and owner of the World Renowned Vroom Vroom Room. “Tibbles! Get up. You can bang her later. You’re on!”

Dazed and partially strangled, The Great Tibbles could only gurgle, “Wha???”

“Get up! Come on, Tibbles. Get out there. You’re on, dammit!”

Henrietta, well cushioned by her own fat rolls and by Tibbles underneath her, had managed to remain somewhat oriented. “Tibbie, get up!”

“I can’t. Roll over, Henrietta. Roll over.”

“Oh, sorry, Tibbie.” Henrietta rolled to the side and Tibbles struggled to his feet.

Still disoriented, he had to ask, “Which way’s the stage?”

Freddie aimed him in the right direction and then ran center stage to introduce, “…an act that will amaze, will mystify, will leave you enthralled and uplifted! I give you The Great Tibbie-er-Tibbles!” There were a few scattered cries of “Boo!” and “Foo on Foodini!” from regulars, who knew only too well what to expect.

With all the composure he could muster, Tibbles marched out to face the drooling mob, by now so far gone that it didn’t give a rat’s ass whether it was about to witness a magic act or the Second Coming. (There is something to be said for truculence held in check by advancing alcoholic stupor.) And in any case, as long as Henrietta wasn’t going to take the stage again, another assault was distinctly unlikely.

Tibbles’ act, as he had long ago acknowledged to himself, was pretty cheesy. He’d never managed to achieve any large degree of mastery over sleight of hand, so most of his tricks were based on “gimmicks”—small pieces of machinery or bits of apparatus to facilitate what more skilled practitioners of the art routinely did by means of wonderfully smooth manipulation. Tibbles’ disappearing coin trick was accomplished using clips attached to elastic bands sewn into his coat. His card manipulations always involved stripper, alternating blank card or other doctored decks. Even his few larger illusions used mechanics so crude and old that any attempt at finesse just made him look silly. Take his sawing a party doll in two illusion. Pathetic by the most generous standards, it employed a clunky blade setup whose unresisted fall accompanied by fingernails-on-a-blackboard scraping noise when inserted into the cabinet immediately ruined any possibility of deception. The hackneyed illusion never, ever brought the least gasp of surprise from anyone embarrassed enough on his behalf to suffer through it. In fact, the only reason anyone was willing to sit through it at all was that he always drew lots to give “Susie” to a lucky audience member when the trick was done. Henrietta, perhaps to her credit, felt that a real, breathing female instead of a party doll would spiff things up substantially, and she had repeatedly offered herself as his willing accomplice. Appalled at the prospect of trying to stuff her corpulence into the flimsy cabinet and afraid that if he did the whole apparatus might collapse under the load, Tibbles had consistently, if politely, declined.

The act opened with his pulling coins from the air and dropping them into a jar. This was, in fact, the only actual sleight of hand trick in his repertoire. It consisted of repeatedly producing the same coin and only appearing to drop it in the jar. The actual coins clanking into the jar came from the hand holding the jar, giving him time to palm the original coin for the next pull. By this means, he could produce as many coins as he could conceal in the jar hand. It was an old trick, endlessly performed by magicians over the years, artlessly and mechanically performed by Tibbles. The audience was seriously unimpressed.

For his next trick sequence, he did a variation of the color-changing handkerchiefs, making individual colored silks disappear, only to reappear in different colors and, as his climax, producing a long string of differently colored handkerchiefs all tied together in a prison-escape sort of string. Ho hum.

From there, Tibbles moved on to some cabinet and container magic, making a vase of flowers disappear and reappear from a box painted like a circus wagon. He made milk disappear when poured into a seemingly hollow tube and, for the grand finale, that “famous” sawing in two of the inflated party doll. Just that afternoon, Henrietta had yet again begged him to let her be sawn but Tibbles had, for the umpteenth time, rejected her entreaty. The last thing he needed was jeers—or worse—sadistic encouragement from the audience to bisect the corpulent woman in public view. Not wanting to hurt her feelings, he told her he didn’t have time to make a set of false feet that would match hers, necessary of course to complete the illusion. In any case, he knew, the really big draw for the whole thing in the first place was the party doll giveaway.

All went pretty well, notwithstanding the general audience hostility, until he was ready to pull “Susie’s” winner. Usually, this was no problem. He simply did it as a raffle, each lusting drunkard having earlier in the evening placed his name in a large goldfish bowl at the bar. This particular evening, however, after the name was drawn and the lucky winner staggered with his compliant, plastic wench from the stage, the fellow was rushed by several sore losers. There ensued a spirited melee during which the lovely Susie was popped, deflated, drawn, quartered and beheaded, leaving only limp vinyl and none of the highly engineered functionality that was so inherent in her formerly pneumatic pulchritude. As the desecration of the corpse proceeded, The Great Tibbles retreated to the wings, relieved to have lived through yet another evening of supreme self-degradation and, now, to reap his reward, the opportunity to experience the delectable Missy Lamb brush by to take the stage.

Tibbles harbored a wicked, lusting crush on Missy, even to the extent that he forced himself to tolerate her two fricasseeable mongrels, which he thoroughly despised ever since one of them had peed all over a new pair of Oxford wingtips he’d planned on wearing to his mother’s funeral the next day.

He knew just where to stand along the curtain legs and, in a few seconds, Missy appeared alongside him. She paused for only the briefest moment as Sleazy Freddie finished delivering her introduction and, in that moment, Tibbles drank in the sight of her with desperate thirst. Then, without seeming to notice him at all, Missy broke out in a broad smile and pranced into the limelight, trailed by the two yowping cockapoos, leaving her musky scent for him to taste as much as smell. It made him dizzy, and the ache he felt nearly brought him to tears. This, however, was quickly followed by protective anger as her cherry-ready appearance elicited catcalls and obscene invitations from newly aroused males in the audience. And, as if such prurient disrespect weren’t depressing enough, Tibbles was moved to desperation when he saw Sleazy Freddie plant a kiss on her neck and pat her behind before leaving the stage.

Thoroughly demoralized, Tibbles could bear to watch no longer. He turned, making his way rapidly between two rows of curtain legs. To reach the men’s dressing room—there were no private dressing rooms in the dump—he had to pass the women’s. In front of the latter door, he knocked lightly, wanting to check up on Henrietta. There was no answer, and so he assumed that she must have fled the building following the debacle of the veils, no doubt still quite upset. Oddly, he was disappointed. Sure, Henrietta was a lipoid mess, but Tibbles had to admit she was nice. In fact, she was just about the only nice person he knew. He shuffled back to the men’s dressing room, put his things together, and headed back to the hotel.

The establishment wasn’t much but the booking agency had at least found the troupe rooms in a place he could afford. After his divorce and landing a job performing in a Pittsburgh dive bar, he’d taken an apartment. But that was before everyone with an act there got cancelled in one fell swoop. They all decided to stick together and eventually found an agent who got them a gig in Newark at another low-class establishment similar to the Vroom Vroom Room. That lasted only three months before they again found themselves unemployed. Then, miraculously, on the day they all were let go, the Vroom Vroom Room in El Segundo, California, near Los Angeles International Airport hired him, Henrietta, and Missy in a package deal and simply got them all rooms in a residential hotel while paying them to perform the same shtick, night after night, that they had been doing in Pittsburgh and Newark. He had no idea how the club had decided to hire them, as they never auditioned. Missy had apparently gotten the call but had been sort of cryptic about it, just saying she knew someone “out there.” At least, he thought to himself, no matter how it happened, best of all, I can still be near Missy. Delicious Missy. But then he also thought, and Henrietta, too. He was surprised to be thinking about Henrietta again, especially when he had just been jonesing about Missy, but he was reassured by the fact that it wasn’t thinking about Henrietta that always made him break out in a sweat.

Now back safely in his room, Horace was suddenly tired but still wound up and not ready for sleep. Instead, he decided to work on what he had taken to calling his Grandest Illusion. This, he had determined, would be his masterpiece, the illusion that would raise him from the ranks of mere magical hackdom and turn him into a legend as famous as Houdini, as respected as Robert-Houdin, as great a genius of the magical arts as P.T. Selbit.

The vehicle of his transport to greatness was taking shape in the dingiest corner of the dingy room. To all appearances, it was a simple box measuring about three feet on a side and four feet in height. The bottom edge of each side and the rear edge of the top panel were attached with hinges to respective support members of the cube’s skeleton framework. The opposite edge of each panel latched to a corresponding piece of the frame. The bottom panel was fixed in place without any hinging.

Horace had studied the secrets of the most venerated masters of magic and knew well how most, if not all, cabinet-type illusions were performed. He knew just where the mirrors should go, how the boxes should be supported onstage, which way the panels should open, and how lines of sight were critical to successful execution of the effects, whether it be appearance, disappearance, transformation, or the presentation of ghostly images. Horace truly understood how to do them all.

This one was going to be different.

He began painting the complex, essential, final design on the last of the panels, the front one, knowing that the appearance of the cabinet was critical for achievement of the ultimate emotional effect. A bit over an hour later, he stepped back to inspect his work. The panel was, at last, perfectly finished. He looked at his watch. It was 2 a.m. and his fatigue had vanished. Still not ready to go to bed, he decided to make himself a cup of decaf, but when he went over to the stained hot plate and looked in the coffee canister, he realized he had used the last of the instant.

Maybe someone was up. He went out into the hallway. Henrietta’s room was right next door, to the left. Missy Lamb’s was the more distant, three doors to the right, but there was something important that he desperately wanted to say to her. Why not, finally, tonight? He forced down his anxiety, took a deep breath and turned right.

Not wanting to wake her if she had already gone to sleep, he stopped and placed his ear to the door as a prelude to knocking. At first, he heard nothing. Then, just as he was deciding not to disturb her, he heard what sounded like soft sobbing and a man’s voice. Horace strained to make out what the voice was saying. It sounded angry, and then he heard the word “bitch” and some other words he never used himself. The man was saying something about already having “paid the creep” for her. That if she and her other friends wanted to keep working at the Vroom Vroom, she knew what was required. Upset, yet feeling powerless, Horace headed back to his room. Just as he was stepping inside, he heard the door to Missy’s room open. He backed up slightly and looked just in time to see a man in a long coat and fedora slam the door and stride down the hall, away from him. Horace only caught the merest glimpse of the man’s face, but it was enough to see that it was Sleazy Freddie. He felt nothing so much as revulsion.

When he was certain that the Vroom Vroom’s owner and M.C. was really gone, Horace summoned his courage and went back to Missy’s room. He knocked, and there was no answer. He knocked again. A whimpering voice on the other side said very softly, fearfully, “Who is it?”

“It’s Horace. Horace Tibbles.”

“Go away, Horace.”

But something in her voice, and something in The Great Tibbles, wouldn’t allow him to leave.

“Missy, open the door. Please.”

A long moment passed, and then Horace heard Missy slide back the chain. The door opened to reveal the object of his secret lust. She was wearing a skimpy and diaphanous robe in pale pink, revealing more of her than he ever thought he’d see this closely, but that was not what caught his attention. Instead, it was the swelling over her left eye and the still wet blood just beginning to congeal on her split lower lip.

“Missy! What happened? Did he hit you?” Horace suddenly sensed that maybe he’d overstepped.

Missy looked at him with suspicion. “Were you spying on me, Horace?”

“Me? No. Of course not, Missy.” And he proceeded to explain very earnestly that he had only just been passing in front of her door and unintentionally overheard an angry man’s voice. He had become worried and wanted to see if she was all right.

Missy wasn’t sure she believed that he hadn’t been spying. Finally, however, the strain overcame her and she burst into tears, falling into his arms and sobbing, “Oh, Horace, I don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t care about anything anymore.”

Horace didn’t know what to say—he had no idea what she was talking about. Beyond that, he was never very good with the opposite sex—his failed marriage was a testament to that—and certainly not now, with one of them crying in his arms. Selfishly, he told himself he was probably getting too old to attract anyone young enough to appeal to him. Which, he knew, described Missy to a T. Pretty and in her early thirties at most, she was the kind of fully developed, overwhelmingly threatening specimen of explosively flowered womanhood he’d never be able to have. He realized that saying that thing he ached to say would never be more than a fantasy.

Gently, he guided her to the edge of the bed, had her sit down, and then sat down next to her. The two cockapoos nestled at their feet. Horace was grateful that they appeared to have enough sense not to be frolicking—or pissing. Since he couldn’t fathom anything to do, he just sat there and let her cry on his shoulder. Presently, he realized with queasy self-loathing that he was becoming excited, but he didn’t move.

At last, she recovered her composure. “Thank you, Horace. For just being here. I don’t know why I don’t fall for guys like you.”

“I do,” said Horace and then, thinking that didn’t sound very complimentary, he added, “But it’s okay.”

“No, Horace. I’m sorry.” She kissed him gently on the cheek, and he felt her increasingly bulbous lip brush against him. He twitched involuntarily.

“Will he come back?” he asked.

She sighed. “I don’t know. I hope not. I have terrible luck with men, especially ones I don’t really like in the first place.”

“Well, I hope he doesn’t come back.”

“Thanks.”

They sat in uncomfortable silence until Horace, feeling as if he was now intruding, rose to leave. “I guess I’d better be going.”

“You can stay if you’d like.” She was looking at him very strangely.

But Horace was decent enough to know that this was not a situation he could ever justify trying to exploit, so he only said, “No, I don’t think I should do that,” and then he felt a twinge of disappointment when she didn’t argue the point.

She only nodded and, looking down at the floor, said, “Well, good night then, Horace.”

“Good night, Missy.” He started for the door and then stopped and turned. “Missy?”

“Yes?”

“Missy, I, uh…Freddie? That little shit?”

Missy didn’t say anything.

But Horace had to know. “Missy,” he said, his voice cracking just slightly, “you did what you did…for us? I mean, for all of us? You did that?”

This only caused Missy to begin sobbing again, and Horace silently berated himself for the stupid thing he had just done. He turned and retreated, overwhelmed and saddened by the knowledge of what she must have sacrificed to get them the gig at the Vroom Vroom.

Back in his room without the decaf, emotions churning, he drank a glass of water and paced in circles. He’d never be able to sleep, now, but it didn’t matter because, not five minutes later, he heard the scream.

Horace bolted into the hallway. Again, he heard the scream, and he knew from where it came. He tried the door but it was locked. He pounded, hollering, “Open it, bastard! Open the damned door!” But all he heard was more screaming, then a sick, gurgling moan—and then silence. “Open the goddamned door! Open it!”

Out of nowhere, Henrietta was suddenly there, pushing him out of the way. “Let me!” she yelled, throwing her entire prodigious weight against the door. That did it. The bolt tore through the jamb and the door flew open, the two would-be rescuers tumbling into the room behind it. Missy lay crumpled on the floor, blood flowing freely from both slashed jugulars, bubbles spewing from a lacerated trachea. In the corner, rocking in a fetal position, was Sleazy Freddie in his coat and fedora. The bloody knife was on the floor next to him. The cockapoos were trembling and whimpering pathetically while sniffing around Missy’s blood-drained face. One of them, out of anxiety, had crapped on the floor.

With a throat-sung cry of fury and anguish, Horace lurched forward, reaching the knife before the regressed murderer could react. Then, the crazed magician was on top of him, waving the knife in his startled face, shrieking. “What did you do? What did you do? You putrid sack of shit! You killed her!”

Henrietta took it all in and reacted, throwing herself across the room and into Horace, knocking him sprawling to the floor. “No, Horace! No!” But there was no longer anything to worry about. Horace was crying and pretty much useless, as useless as was Sleazy Freddie, who only cowered, whimpered, and had begun banging the side of his head against the wall.

Others had heard the screams and ensuing commotion, and someone had called the police, several of whom now rushed into the cramped hotel room and attempted to sort out what had happened. Henrietta was able to give the essence of what she assumed had transpired, and after considerable further questioning, the police took the nearly catatonic Freddie into custody. Then, the coroner arrived and carried away Missy’s body on a stretcher, as Horace, shocked and grieving, watched, glassy-eyed. Henrietta stood at his side, ready to catch him if he folded under the strain of it all. Finally, it was just the two of them, alone save for the cockapoos, staring at the blood, still pooled but clotting, slowly sinking into the carpet.

“I’ll call the pound for the dogs,” said Henrietta. “But right now, let’s get out of here,” Supporting Horace by the elbow, she began steering him in the direction of the doorway.

“Yes, let’s,” mumbled Horace.

Slowly, they made their way along the now-deserted hallway. When they reached Horace’s door, Henrietta’s own emotions abruptly overtook her. Having been a rock through the acute crisis, she was, at last, unable to contain herself any longer. Breaking out in blubbery sobs, she unburdened her hitherto heavily laden heart before the already overwhelmed magician. “Oh, Horace, I know you loved her, I really do. It’s just that…oh…I love you, Horace. I’ve always loved you, Horace Tibbles. Ever since the first time I watched you saw Susie in half.”

Horace was nonplussed. Fumbling for his key, he tried to find something to say to her, but still in shock from the events of the evening and unable to think of any coherent response, he finally unlocked his door and started to enter.

“Horace?’ Her voice was pleading. “Horace, no, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have.”

Horace turned, giving her a long but surprisingly kindly look. “It’s all right, Henrietta.” And then, in one brilliant moment, he thought he understood everything. “Henrietta?”

“Yes, Horace?”

“Henrietta, would you like to assist me with my new illusion tomorrow?”

“Assist you? You mean, like be your onstage girl? And turn into a tiger, or a butterfly or something?”

“Yes, something like that.”

“Oh, Horace! I’d love to. But then, you’re not mad at me? For what I said?”

“No, Henrietta, I’m not angry with you.”

“Thank you, Horace!”

“Well, I’ll see you tomorrow, then.” He started to close the door.

“Horace?”

“Yes, Henrietta?”

“Won’t we need to rehearse?”

“That won’t be necessary. It’ll all be totally clear soon enough. You’ll see.”

“Well, all right, then. Tomorrow at the club.”

“Yes, tomorrow. Good night, Henrietta.”

“Good night, Horace.”

In the morning, Horace borrowed a hand truck from the hotel maintenance man to wheel his new creation to the club, where he spent the remainder of the day working feverishly to get the device ready for its big moment. The final step was to get the box onto a matching, decorated dolly so it could be maneuvered about the stage with ease. He hefted it into place and then stood back to admire his creation.

Yes, he thought, This is really going to be something.

By eight o’clock, the club was infested with the usual complement of lowlife scum well on the way to blitzed sothood. The bartender, himself an ethanolic lout known only as Zits-the-B, was drafted by default to fill in as M.C. Somewhat nervously and with all the enthusiasm of a three-toed sloth, he stumbled his way to center stage and managed to mumble that the honorable proprietor Frederick was indisposed and also that, due to certain, most unfortunate circumstances, Missy Lamb and Her Frolicking Cockapoos would no longer be performing at the Vroom Vroom Room. This latter revelation elicited groans of disappointment from a certain subset of the male regulars, but was otherwise met with the singular absence of anyone giving a shit.

Backstage, Henrietta was positively frothing over with excitement. In contrast, Tibbles was the very picture of composure, appearing more sure of himself than anyone could remember, simply smiling knowingly every time Henrietta met him with a coy look, a jiggle and a giggle.

The Dance of the Seven Veils this particular night was an event to remember. Perhaps in anticipation of her impending role as The Great Tibbles’ glamorous assistant, she had spent the afternoon reducing the square yardage of her veils by a considerable amount, thus assuring maximum display of her charms from the get-go of her number, a specially selected hump-a-dump rendition of Scheherazade. amid gasps of wonder and disbelief from the otherwise jaded crowd, Henrietta artfully shed veil after veil, revealing, on this night of nights, for the very first time, the entirety of her beauty.

Someone whistled for the cops.

As a contingent of the local vice squad, conveniently headquartered across the street from the establishment, came crashing through the front door, Tibbles ran onto the stage with a large drape he’d grabbed in the wings, threw it over the naked dancer, and hustled her off, stage left, scooping up the seven veils as they went.

“Quick,” he urged. “In here.” He wedged her into a broom closet and, slamming the door, commanded her to stay put until he came for her.

“Oooh,” came her muffled coo. “This is really exciting!” Tibbles groaned and ran back to the stage.

There was pandemonium in the audience as the inebriated masses were engaged in pelting the vice cops with peanuts, shot glasses, and the occasional beer stein. It took about ten minutes to restore order, after which the police were informed by Tibbles that the naked ecdysiast who was the cause of it all had fled the club and was likely streaking through downtown at this very moment, and what the hell were they doing hanging around the club when they should be out chasing her down? The facts appearing irrefutable, the cops rapidly retreated to the safety of the street.

“On with the show,” announced a suddenly brighter Zits-the-B, who appeared finally to be getting into the spirit of things. It was time at last for The Great Tibbles to etch his name into the annals of legendary stage magic.

He began with the usual crappy dime store routines, eliciting the usual crappy responses from the audience.

“Get the hook!”

“Someone make him disappear!”

At all this, Tibbles merely smiled indulgently, as if to say, “Just wait.”

For the penultimate, he performed his usual climactic piece, Sawing a Party Doll in Two. The trick went by both uneventfully and unimpressively, as regulars in the audience only waited for their chance at winning the prize: a brand new fille de joie named, of course, Susie. Since most had seen his act more times than they cared to admit, and since Missy would not be taking the stage, it was now assumed by the unruly mob that the show—despite whatever pathetic acts might still technically be waiting for their moments in the limelight—was for all practical purposes over.

“Wait, wait!” the Great Tibbles called in an unusually commanding voice. People turned to look at the diminutive conjuror onstage, and he continued: “Tonight I have something special to offer—”

Someone interrupted with a catcall.

“Another plastic prosty?” someone yelled. “Batteries included?” hollered another.

Undaunted, Tibbles began his spiel. “Tonight, I will present a magnificent marvel of magical manipulation, a confusing conundrum to create conniptions in all who may confront it, a—”

“An alliterative idiot, is what he is,” mumbled a drunken English teacher.

But Tibbles was not to be stopped. “And so, my friends—”

“You wish!”

“Tonight, my assistant and I will incredibly astound you, leaving you filled with wonder and amazement, and asking, how did he do it?

At this, he wheeled the painted cabinet on its stand to center stage.

Gesturing in its direction, he announced, “An ordinary—if gaudy—box. Regard.”

He opened the five panels and rotated the whole apparatus, demonstrating its lack of gimmicks. He then closed all but the front panel.

“And now, allow me to introduce my assistant, the lovely, gracious, and graceful Henrietta Egret.”

Henrietta, beaming, entered from stage right, causing Tibbles to gulp hard. He hadn’t discussed costume with her—there had been no rehearsal or discussion of any kind—and she now appeared wearing far less than advisable to cover her massive essentials, or much of anything else. The besotted members of the audience attempted bravely to withstand escalating nausea in the face of growing curiosity. This was certainly an unexpected event. To a person, he had them all.

“My assistant will now enter the cabinet of mystery.”

Henrietta looked at the three-by-three-by-four cabinet, and from there to Tibbles. Silently, she mouthed, “What?”

Tibbles ignored her. “Ahem. Please enter the cabinet, Miss Egret.”

Looking highly dubious, Henrietta approached the open front of the apparatus. Unsure of how to climb into the thing, she first stuck her head in, and then tried to insert her left knee. This had the unfortunate effect of forcing her giant buttocks straight at the audience.

“Whoa!” came the protest in unison from the unwashed masses.

Henrietta backed up and turned around. Tibbles whispered to her, “Backwards, Henrietta. Backwards.” He motioned with his hands for her to back into the cabinet, sitting on the floor. With considerable effort, she planted her bottom in the box and slid rearward. Achieving success, she next drew up her knees and ducked her head. Finally, she folded her arms across her face, leaving only frightened eyes staring in barely concealed panic above her elbows. Incredibly, her entire mass was now well within the confines of the box. A cheer arose from the onlookers.

“Now push her over a cliff!”

Tibbles ignored them.

“All right, ladies and gentlemen. Watch closely.”

Henrietta, peering out over her crossed arms and drawn-up knees, was trembling with such fear that the whole assemblage had begun to skitter to and fro on the stage. Tibbles again smiled at her, as if to say, “Don’t worry.” But he didn’t say that. What he did say, and it was only for her ears, was, “You are the only person who has ever been kind to me, Henrietta, who has ever really cared for me. And I, Henrietta, care for you.”

As he reached down to close the panel, she whispered, “What are you doing? What’s going to happen to me?”

But Tibbles just continued to radiate that frozen smile and slammed closed the panel, latching it firmly. Silently, he counted to five while a hush overtook the crowd. Then, he unlatched the panel, flung it open, and…Henrietta was gone! There was a collective gasp as the literal enormity of the achievement sunk in. This wasn’t merely the simple disappearance of some blonde sylph. This had been the apparent dematerialization of Moby Dick.

“Mirrors,” someone in the audience cried, but Tibbles next opened the four panels and rotated the box all the way around, allowing clear views from all sides. No, Henrietta was gone. Really gone.

Tibbles faced his remarkably silent audience and announced, “Next, everyone, the coup de grâce.”

“Oh jeez, he’s gonna bring her back.”

He ignored the jibe. Instead, he again closed all but the front panel. “Drummer, a dramatic roll, please, for a dramatic event.”

The drummer, heavy-lidded from his recent horse dose but still thinking clearly enough to conclude that, unfortunately, Tibbles really was going to re-materialize the Hippo of the Seven Veils, gave it his best tribute: HUMP-A-DUMP! HUMP-A-DUMP! HUMP-A-DUMP!

Tibbles scowled at the drummer, who made an obscene gesture but ultimately decided to cooperate with a weak, if respectful, conventional roll.

“And now,” Tibbles announced expansively, “The glorious finale. The moment you’ve all so eagerly anticipated. The pièce de résistance: The Great Tibbles’ Grandest Illusion!”

So saying, Horace Tibbles, himself, climbed into the cabinet and, with a long last look at the admiring crowd, reached down and slammed closed the front panel. The latch wiggled fast, fastened through a slit from the inside. And then…silence.

A murmur stirred the crowd as seconds, then a minute, then a minute and a half went by and nothing happened. Someone in the crowd yelled, “Open the box!”

Zits-the-B, puzzled by this unexpected turn of events, cautiously approached the sealed box. “Tibbles?” he called softly. “Tibbles, are you in there?”

Nothing.

Finally, he slid open the latch and swung open the panel door. The cabinet was completely empty. Empty, that is, except for seven silk veils, recently reduced in size. Zits-the-B was at a total loss for words. He looked back and forth between the empty cabinet and the audience. “He’s gone. I mean, she’s gone. I mean, they’re gone.” His befuddlement was almost charming.

A search was begun. No room, no closet, no alcove or possible hiding place was missed in the increasingly frantic effort to find the two performers, but it was all to no avail. And so, in the end, there was nothing left but wishful thinking, the fantasy that the magician and his assistant had to be somewhere and, perhaps, even somewhere better than the Vroom Vroom Room.

Maybe so. Or not. But then, perhaps, where wasn’t really the point so much as, well, just the escape.

Now read the book, available on Amazon.com in print and Kindle editions.

“Weathergirl” Is Coming!

Weathergirl, the “not-quite-a-sequel” to Zendoscopy is now in pre-publication and will likely be available in March. If you’ve wondered what became years later of some of the characters in Zendloscopy, like Effie Mae (the 10-cent airmail girl), you’ll be able to find out soon.

On another note, you’ve no doubt noticed that I haven’t been posting for some time, now. There’s a reason. It seems that pretty much everything I’ve said and continue to think about our current politics and the nut case in the White House is being well reflected in the media. The New York Times, the Washington Post, MSNBC and other outlets are doing a great job, and there’s not much I can add that would be worth your time to read. Stick with me, though, for more posts to come upon the release of Weathergirl. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

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.

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.