Here’s a quarter. Call me an angel.
“If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!”
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley – Frankenstein
Monsters are as real as you and me,
lurking in the darkest corners of humanity.
I live in a tower overlooking a lake on the edge of a village not far from nowhere. From my tower, I ponder the possibilities of human nature, the universe, life and death, life after death, love eternal, redemption denied.
Then a plan. Some say a dream, but indeed a plan.
I will create a creature in my own image and he will be the thing I’m not. I will name him Gogad, after the great nomadic Gogadian warrior. I will make him a rock star with tacky tattoos and a Fender Stratocaster swung across his body. I will teach him Russian so that he can know the language of deceit and revenge. I will deny him certain pleasures to justify his rage. I will make him neither human nor beast, but something resembling both in the worse ways. That’s how creation works.
And when the time is right, I will release him upon my enemies and therefore destroy all who have wronged me. And though he may call me Papa, he will loathe me for what I have done to him. And when he finds the time right, he will one day return to the tower and destroy me as I have created him, and the villagers will mourn my death and call me a great man, a visionary whose only sin was being a man with a vision.
And this is how the story goes. As destiny unfolds, so is destiny foretold. And more is evermore.
But before I am destroyed, I will create a wife for Gogad so that he may know the difference between love and hate. I will call her Gogoishe. She will be big, beautiful and brash—created from the remains of graves of castle lords—with the mind of a rock star groupie lifted from an asylum basement. I will also teach her Russian so that she can understand and fulfill the desires of her mate. In her creation, I will fail to give her the joy of music, and she will never understand the joy of life.
And as Gogad has destroyed me, so will Gogoishe destroy him.
And as I write this, I see that the monster hiding in the closet is wearing my clothes, telling me to sleep with the lights on.
a short story by Gail L. Winfree
Six men in black suits stood around me, reminding me of my rights. Tied to a chair, helpless, I listened. Then one of the men—apparently the leader—took a gun from his shoulder holster and put it to my head. The others watched, lingering, occasionally glancing at the clock on the wall, drinking their coffee out of paper cups.
“Clinton or Trump? Your choice.” He smiled at no one in particular. “Clinton or Trump. You decide. Either vote or…or…you know, it doesn’t have to be this way.” At that moment, I realized the horrors of politics are no different than the horrors of war and the casualties of both are just names checked off an invitation list.
Clinton or Trump. I weighed my options.
“It didn’t have to be that way,” the man in the black suit said. The others all agreed as they packed up and left the room.
Nobody can argue the impact Elvis Presley has had on modern culture, especially music. His talent, good looks, and southern charm has established him as a legend, an icon in American culture. Born Jan. 8, 1935, Elvis would be 80 tomorrow. His life continues in his music and the stories written about him. Here is my story about the King, written a couple of years ago, for no particular reason at the time other than expressing how he impacted the lives of many “normal” people.
The Day It Rained Popcorn at the County Fair
Aunt Faye and the Seven Kings
Aunt Faye was determined to see Elvis, even if it meant making a fool of herself. So when she heard that the King was going to be at the county fair, she went into a state of adrenaline-induced panic. First thing she did was go down to Dalke’s Drug Store and load up on loud lipstick, eyeliner, makeup, and a little bottle of cheap perfume. On the way home, she stopped at Larry’s Liquor Store and bought a bottle of tequila and a whole box of those little bottles of chasers.
I tried to reason with her. “You know, Aunt Faye, Elvis died five years ago, drug overdose. You did read about it, didn’t you?”
“You little smart-ass, you don’t know anything. That’s all a big publicity stunt and everybody knows it.”
“OK, let’s say he’s alive then. Why would he show up here and now? I mean, he’s the King. This doesn’t seem like the proper place for the King to be.”
“It’s all part of his plan.”
“His plan to connect with the common people again, to get back to his roots. You see, Elvis wasn’t happy with all that fame. He lost touch with his fans, his family, his friends. He couldn’t go out on the streets or anywhere without being mobbed. Hell, he couldn’t even keep his family together. That Priscilla’s a bitch anyway. It’s all her fault she left him for some karate guy. He wanted to let go of all that and be normal again.”
“Oh yeah. So now he’s a normal person again? Anyway, who told you he’s going to be at the fair?”
“That’s for me to know and you to worry about. Listen, if you wanna go with us, you better be getting ready. We’re not waiting one minute for you.”
The fairground was a thirty minute drive I had to endure with Aunt Faye and her friends Ricky Ray, Bobbie Jean, Thelma, Louise, and Cracker Jack Joe. Otherwise, I would have had to go with my parents which would definitely damper my excitement level.
Ricky Ray and Aunt Faye were high school sweethearts. They’ve been engaged—or more like going steady—for as long as I could remember. Ricky Ray worked at his dad’s garage and used car lot, so it didn’t surprise me when he pulled up to the house in a pink Cadillac off his dad’s lot. He drove a different car every week.
Aunt Faye and Bobbie Jean sat up front with Ricky Ray, with me wedged in the back seat with Thelma, Louise, and Cracker Jack Joe. Cracker Jack Joe was trying to get into Louise’s pants the whole drive, and a couple of times, almost made it there. Most people in town knew Louise was pretty loose and rumor had it that Cracker Jack Joe had a pecker the size of a donkey. A pretty good match, I thought.
I just sat there watching them when I felt Thelma’s hand crawl up my leg. I always thought that Thelma would be an attractive woman if she lost about sixty pounds of baby fat. She did have good teeth and I admired her for keeping them straight and white. At thirteen, though, I wasn’t ready for a relationship with an older woman. So I asked Thelma if she had some chewing gum.
She dug into her bag and pulled out a pack of Spearmint and gave me a piece.
“Thanks,” I said. “By the way, did you guys hear anything about Elvis being at the fair?”
“You got Elvis behind the wheel, baby,” Ricky Ray yelled out in his best impersonation.
“And the king’s in the house,” Cracker Jack Joe blurted out.
“Screw the king,” followed Louise, chewing her gum with great vigor. I noticed she was rubbing Cracker Jack Joe’s crotch real slow.
Everybody laughed and I began to think that going to the fair with my parents might not have been such a bad idea.
By the time we got to the fairground, Aunt Faye was pretty loaded, staggering and hanging on to Ricky Ray as we walked through the grounds toward the rides. On the way, we stopped and got a couple of boxes of popcorn and some cotton candy. Aunt Fay gouged down the popcorn saying the grease would sober her up, mumbling something about being fit and in top form when the time comes. By now, nobody knew what she was talking about.
“Ricky Ray, I wanna go on the Ferris wheel. Let’s get a ride on the Ferris wheel,” she said slurring the words Ferris wheel, sounding something like fairy hill. Ricky Ray did everything Aunt Faye told him to do. People said he was pussy whipped and should just go ahead and marry her, have some kids, and get it over with.
I stood by myself near the Duck Shooting booth looking around for an exit point while Ricky Ray and Aunt Faye staggered onto the Ferris wheel. Before we left the house, she told me I better stay within sight of her but not too close to be a nuisance. I figured by now she had probably forgotten I was even here.
I watched as the Ferris wheel began to move. After a complete rotation of the big wheel, someone tapped me on the shoulder.
“Here you go, kid.”
I turned around and saw the weirdest thing. There stood Elvis, or at least somebody who looked like Elvis. He handed me a paper. “We’re doing a show here tonight. Come on out and bring your friends,” he said, then walked off.
I looked at the paper. The biggest Elvis show in the world. More than 20 of the world’s top Elvis impersonators will perform the King’s greatest hits…and so on, and so on. I couldn’t wait to show this to Aunt Faye.
I walked toward the Ferris wheel looking up trying to spot Ricky Ray and Aunt Faye. All a sudden, I heard a commotion around the wheel. I saw Ricky Ray trying to hold Aunt Faye as she stretched out with her head hanging over the side, throwing up all over the place. I thought I had told her tequila, popcorn, and cotton candy don’t mix, but maybe I didn’t.
The scene was sickly funny. Aunt Faye hanging over the wheel puking her guts out while Ricky Ray was trying to hold her head, and people running around on the ground trying to avoid the spray of popcorn, tequila, and who knows what that just kept coming out of Aunt Faye’s mouth.
By the time I got to the Ferris wheel, the attendant had it stopped and was escorting Aunt Faye off. Ricky Ray practically had to carry her down the ramp and put her on the ground.
I ran over. “Is she dead,” I asked. Ricky Ray was lightly slapping her on the cheeks trying to get some kind of reaction.
“Give the lady some room,” I heard somebody say. I turned around and saw the Elvis dude pushing through the crowd with six other Elvis dudes. “Don’t worry, I’m a paramedic in real life,” the Elvis dude said.
“Somebody get the little lady some water.” He kneeled down and checked Aunt Faye’s pulse with his Elvis buddies standing behind him. About that time, Aunt Faye started coming too. She rolled her head around and slowly opened her eyes.
“Honey, you’re going to be OK,” the Elvis dude said. Suddenly, Aunt Faye registered this. Her eyes grew, nearly popping out of her head. Her jaw dropped. She blurted out a shrill scream that dispersed the gathered crowd in a matter of seconds.
“Oh my God, he’s here,” she screamed. Her body began to shake and her voice quivered. Then she raised up and blinked her eyes. “Damned, there are seven of you.”
I can’t say for sure what happened then. Maybe the Holy Spirit grabbed Aunt Faye, I don’t know. But she started spitting out words that made no sense, talking in tongues or something. We all just backed away and let her go, sitting there on the ground rambling away under the Ferris wheel surrounded by seven Kings.
OK, I admit I’m no Stephen King and horror is not my thing. But it is Halloween and that puts me in the mood to share a ghost story with you. This is a story from my first book, “Things I Remember,” and it happened just the way I describe it.
THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT
The man next to me said he was dead. I looked around the bus. We were the only passengers. It was late and raining hard.
“Pardon?” I said.
“I don’t understand. You look ok.”
“No, I’m dead. I’m the only one who knows it, though. My wife didn’t believe me. She left, took the dog. My boss said I needed professional help. Too late I told him.”
“Umm.” I looked at my watch. Almost midnight. This bothered me. I should have been home four hours ago, but my car broke down. Had to leave it at the garage and take the bus for the first time in my life. Just my luck I get stuck on the midnight bus with a man who thinks he’s dead and it’s raining cats and dogs.
I got up and walked to the front of the bus.
“Pardon me, sir, how much longer till Mission Avenue?”
“Listen. This guy back there is sick or crazy or something. He’s…”
“Yeah, that’s George. Don’t’ worry about him. He’s dead.”
“That’s crazy,” I said to the driver. “He’s as alive as you and me.”
The driver snickered.
I turned back to the man who told me he was dead. He was pulling strands of white hair from his head.
I dropped to the seat behind the driver and watched the man. Just then, the bus slowed to a stop and a woman climbed aboard.
“Hello Miss Martha.”
“Hello John. You’re running late.”
“Sorry, it’s the weather, Miss Martha.”
The woman walked past me and smiled. She didn’t carry an umbrella, but she was as dry as a bone. She took the seat across from George.
“Hi George. How are you doing tonight?”
“I told them I wasn’t feeling good. Nobody listened, though. They never listen.”
“I’m sorry, George. You know how they can be at times.”
I listened to their conversation, watching the man pull hair from his head. I was not feeling too good myself at this point.
Then suddenly, a strong wind rattled the bus and jarred me back to my senses. Standing in the middle of the bus was the bus driver, while the bus continued to roll down the road. I looked around the divider and saw the bus driving itself.
“Well, George, we’re almost there,” the driver said. He opened the compartment above the seats and took out a black lunch box. “Here you go George. You take this. It’ll get you through your trip.” The driver handed the box to George.
“Thank you John. You’re a true friend.”
I looked around the bus knowing there must be a hidden camera somewhere. This couldn’t be for real. Then the bus stopped.
George and Martha got up and walked to the door with the driver behind them. The driver stood at the door waving as the two walked out into the darkness.
Then he looked at me, with eyes hollow in his head and a wild smirk. “Next stop, Mission Avenue.”
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Gooood morning. This is WRKA Radio’s Morning Bird Buddy Tweets bringing you the best in early morning, coffee time tunes. Time to wake up and face the day. It’s 7 o’clock in the city, time for you early birds to rise and shine, polish and primp. And now, let’s…
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The old guy sat on the sidewalk, holding a small transistor radio to his ear.
“Batteries,” he said to me as I walked past him.
“What?” I asked, stopping.
“Batteries. Batteries are the future. Can’t go wrong investing in batteries.” He pointed to his transistor radio. “World runs on batteries. Everything needs batteries.”
“You got a point there,” I said to him.
“You got a cigarette for me?”
“Sorry, I don’t smoke.”
“Damned messed up world. Everybody’s done gone squeaky clean. No more real men left. Used to be everybody smoked.”
“Light bulbs,” he said. “Light bulbs are the future. Can’t see shit in the dark without them. We all need light bulbs.”
“That’s some good advice. I’ll have to remember that. Light bulbs and batteries.”
“So how about that cigarette?”
“Sorry, but I told you I don’t smoke.”
The old guy nodded his head toward the grocery store sign behind him. “Advice don’t come free these days,” he winked. “How about it? A pack of Marlboro Regulars. None of that light shit. And how about a couple of double A’s for my radio?”