Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Kidney Stone Trilogy part two

“What’s going to Happen to Al Bruno III?”
Or
“Papa Has a Kidney Stone”


“Well Mr. Bruno,” my urologist explained, “It looks as though that kidney stone has gotten itself stuck. We’re going to have to go in and get it.”

These words distracted me from ruminating of the urologist’s baldness. That’s right he was bald, but it was the kind of bald that looked like a fashion statement of the manliest kind.

This is opposed to my kind of baldness- the kind that looks like I had suffered a mishap while starting up a gas grill.

“Mr. Bruno? Did you hear what I said Mr. Bruno?”

“Yes.” I made eye contact, “I just had hoped it wouldn’t come to this.”

“Well the CT scans don’t lie I’m afraid. It’s pretty well stuck in there.”

I sighed, “So I spent a week straining my urine for nothing.”

“I understand your frustration.”

Straining your urine. Sounds kind of absurd doesn’t it? Well it looks pretty damn absurd when you’re doing it I can tell you that; a solid week of standing at the toilet, one hand holding my Thunder Lizard and the other a plastic funnel with a fine mesh at the bottom.

And please don’t forget that most of the time I was doing this I was stoned out of my mind on Vicadin. I hit my toes, my bathrobe and in one moment of combined brilliance and clumsiness even managed to ricochet my urine stream off the lip of the plastic funnel back into my eye.

I began to wonder when it was I had crossed the line from medical science to fetish video.

I think I was Tuesday, but don’t quote me on that.

“So what happens now?” I asked.

“Well two days from now you come down to the surgery center. We put you under and we get that stone out before it causes any kind of serious damage. It looks like it should come out pretty easily; I don’t think any cutting will be necessary.”

He smiled reassuringly when he said that but to my Jedi senses it was as though thousands of wieners had cried out in terror and were suddenly flaccid.

Of course I’m kidding, I’m not a Jedi and I don’t have thousands of readers.

We finished with some pre-surgery guidelines -no eating or drinking after midnight. I wasn’t implicitly told to refrain from masturbating but I felt it was implied. I went over some insurance paperwork and made sure that they knew my wife would have final say over what happened to me should I slip into a coma.

Note to self; clean out the dishwasher STAT.

“Now,” he said, “Do you have any questions?”

I nodded, “Yes I have a few. Can you-”

“Now please keep in mind there is nothing I can do to make your penis larger.”

“Oh, well what about-”

“Or thicker.”

“But-”

“And I can’t make your foreskin come back.”

I slunk back in my seat, “Never mind then.”

Next he explained to me that I might come out of this with a stent and then picked me up off the floor when he was finished.

The drive home from the urologist was a somber experience to say the least. I ha always assumed that if I was going to pay someone to manhandle my junk it would have been a sprightly Korean woman with red hair, masseuse training and a willingness to wear a spanglely catsuit similar to the one Wendy Padbury wore in the 1968 Doctor Who serial The Mind Robber.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about but you’re disturbed anyway, then you know how my wife and child feel every day.

Speaking of my wife and child when I gave them the news my wife was the very epitome of love and concern. My daughter’s only comment was that she hoped it didn’t ruin her plans for the school’s holiday party.

Hearing that I started to worry that perhaps this was a sign that my daughter was becoming a cold and unemotional sociopath. Just to be sure this wasn’t the case I told her that Hanna Montana was canceled.

The way she shrieked and tore at her clothes was such a relief to me.

So now here I am waiting for the morning of Thursday the 17th, and there are a lot of butterflies in my stomach. Yes I know I will be unconscious, yes I know this is a simple outpatient procedure.

But my imagination won’t let those facts take hold, the instinct to imagine things going hilariously or hideously wrong has me in its sway. Will I contract the flesh eating virus or will there be a major earthquake just as the doctor starts to do his work?

Lets face it folks, every time we go to the hospital it brings us one step closer to that final trip to the hospital.

I know that there are people out there with real medical problems and I shouldn’t whine. This is probably just my midlife crisis talking here. My 41st birthday was a few months ago and it brought to me the realization of my own mortality. And things like this just bring it home to me all the more. I guess on some level I always thought that death was something I would be able to weasel out of, like jury duty or foreplay.

Thankfully I have been able to distress by writing things like this.

So I’m sure everything will turn out ok.

But just in case thanks for reading…


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Kidney Stone Trilogy part one

“Whatever Happened to Al Bruno III?”
Or
“This Too Shall Pass”


So it has been some time since anyone on the internet has seen or heard from me. Now in many quarters of the world such news is greeted with a resounding “Who cares?” but my blog has ten subscribers who haven’t been getting their money’s worth so I feel an explanation is in order.

You see my problems all began when I started peeing blood.

(And there goes one subscriber)

I’ve had kidney stones before and for those of you who don’t know it is not a pleasant experience but now I know what to expect and how to react.

But blood? That was a new one.

I left work early and called my doctor but they were having an early Christmas party so they referred me to their urgent care center but they were having a Christmas party too. Since it was a Friday I took a lot of over the counter pain killers and went to bed early. In my addled mind I imagined the staff of my doctor’s office singing ailment specific Christmas carols to me.

Like this one,

Oh kidney stone, oh kidney stone
Will it break your urethra?


(That’s another subscriber)

The pain and blood faded as I spent the weekend taking it easy and watching television. Much as I loathe reality TV I must admit to having affection to THE SMOKING GUN PRESENTS series. It is essentially a clip show of humorous and true events commented upon by comedians and celebrities that have had brushes with the law like Todd Bridges, Danny Bonaduce and Tonya Harding.

I must admit for reasons I could never adequately explain I have always had a thing for Tonya Harding. That’s the story of my love life really- forever drawn to troublemaking blondes and crazy redheads, maybe that’s why I married a brunette and made her dye her hair.

(There goes another one. Was it a redhead or a blonde- that’s a question I’ll carry to my grave.)

As the weekend wore on the pain and blood dwindled to nothing, much like the career of Nathan Fillion-

(Oops there goes the Firefly fan!)

Anyway by Monday I felt fine and I headed out for my appointment with my therapist. My therapist and I have been trying to understand how I could have a god complex and low self esteem. It was in the middle of a story about how my brother Phil and I shared bunk beds and an unfortunate penchant for bedwetting that a fresh bout of pains hit me in the kidney.

And this was bad folks, it felt like my kidneys were burning and my loins were aflame- and not in a good way. I cut the therapy session short and spent about half an hour in the bathroom dealing with pain and nausea; my urine the color of Hawaiian Punch and my face was the color of Mountain Dew.

I made my way to my doctor’s office and even though I didn’t have an appointment they rushed me right in to see him. Now this might have been because of their thorough professionalism or it could have been because they just wanted to get rid of the big bald idiot that was curled into a ball and whimpering on the floor of their waiting room.

My general practitioner gave me a shot of a painkiller and referred me to a urologist; the urologist saw me right away. You know you’re in good shape when you hand your urine samples over and the nurse blanches.

Tests were performed, internal organs were scanned, co-pays were deferred. The news was that I had a 4ml kidney stone trying to make its way into my bladder via 5ml vein- hence the blood and pain. I used to experience the same thing with a pair of corduroy slacks I refused to throw away but could never quite fit into. In that situation it came down to either dieting or giving the slacks away to goodwill.

Maybe one of you readers are wearing those dark green corduroys right now!

The urologist gave me two sets of pills and a funnel with a mesh at the end. One set of pills was to widen out my urological track and grease the gears if you will, the wire mesh was so I could strain my urine and catch the kidney stone. At first I thought this would be a great thing- I could give the kidney stone away to on of my lucky readers as a prize!

The urologist told me this would be impossible, he needed to kidney stone for tests.

(Of course this revelation won’t be enough to stop subscriber number 5 from leaving. Sorry. Be sure to drink lots of cranberry juice.)

My new urologist also gave me a prescription for a week’s worth of Vicodin and a note to take the week off from work.

Now this worried me a little, I wasn’t sure how my corporate overlords would react to me being gone for that long. It isn’t that any one of my six supervisors are bad people in any sense of the word but when you work for an organization that considers Goldings’s Lord of the Flies a training manual you have to be a little worried.

I got home and went to bed early, I was to take the Vicodin as needed and thanks to my general practitioner all I needed now was a few hours rest.

The next morning I called in sick to work but in retrospect I should have waited to until after I this was accomplished before I took my first ever dose of Vicodin. For those of you that haven’t followed my work closely (That’s you Western Hemisphere.) I should inform you that in my 41 years I have never tried illegal drugs of any sort. This is because of my high principles and intense cowardice.

The end result of this is that as I was on hold waiting for a supervisor to give them the news of my extended absence the Vicodin hit me like a freight train.

In truth I am not exactly sure who I spoke to or what I said, all I know for sure is that my speech was slurred and I told them that I loved them. With that done I called my wife at work and told her that I loved her. Then I sent my ex-girlfriend’s husband an email telling him that I loved him.

(And he was a subscriber! Who knew?)

I’ve spent the last seven days in a stupor, too wasted to write anything coherent at all- I mean if you thought my grammar are badder now…

So with writing off the table I tried to watch TV but I kept fading in and out so I really didn’t get to enjoy much. I couldn’t read because the words kept getting melty. Pretty much all I could do was nap and play Tetris on X-Box Live.

In other words I was turning into my two slacker pals Love Boat and Chaw Monkey.

(And there they go! Can’t you guys take a joke? How many subscribers do I have left now? Just two? I better be more careful.)

Whenever I napped my dreams were in color and the stuff of fanfic but they were poisoned by the constant ache in my bladder. If I was the captain of a starship I would find that a transporter accident has caused there to be only one bathroom available for the entire crew to use and that bathroom’s location was constantly changing. Many of the crew had already lost control of their bladders but I, their captain, was fighting to keep control. But it already seemed like a lost cause, no one was at their station, there were Klingons everywhere and I had to go to yellow alert.

Sometime during this long hazy week I somehow ended up insulting my 8 year old daughter’s playmate and now she won’t come over for playdates anymore. I know I made her cry but I’m not sure what I said. I mean I have a vague idea but…

Anyway I apologized to her and her parents but they’re all still pretty upset.

(Ok I deserved to lose that subscriber. I’m a total jerk.)

The last of the Vicodin is working its way through my system now- I wish that explained the quality of the writing but let’s be honest here…

My follow up appointment is for this afternoon, there’s no sign of that pesky kidney stone and the word ‘stent’ has been used. I wasn’t sure what I meant so I checked Wikipedia.

Oh. Damn.

So depending on how things go I’ll ether be adding more stories sooner or later. I can only hope that this update has amused and informed. Maybe the one reader I have left will keep following along with what I’ve-

(Damnit. You too Mom?)



Sunday, November 30, 2008

Price Breaks and Heartaches: part six

The story you are looking for has been relocated and retooled.


If you can't find one of your favorite chapters don't worry, it'll be back!

Still chugging away...

Hello readers.

Just wanted to mention that I am still here and I am still writing. In fact Part 6 of Price Breaks and Heart Breaks is finished, I just have to get it edited and formatted.

I hope you all had a nice holiday and in honor of MST3K's 20th anniversary let me ask you all to KEEP CIRCULATING THE BLOG.

I always wanted to say that.

Friday, November 21, 2008

In This Twilight: Pass It On, It’ll Make Your Skin Crawl

IN THIS TWILIGHT
Pass It On, It’ll Make Your Skin Crawl
By
Al Bruno III





The dog was barking, its voice high and frightened. Josh woke at once wondering how long he had been asleep for. He had just lain down for a moment to relax but the clock told him he had been out for hours. Josh shook his head, no wonder the dog was barking.


His wife Dina stirred uneasily, eight months pregnant and forever uncomfortable. Josh smiled at her in the dark, still terrified and bemused at the thought of fatherhood. Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt Josh opened the back door expecting to find his beloved mastiff bounding in place expectantly.


Good thing my nearest neighbor is over a mile away.


The fenced in back yard was empty and the front gate was still latched. Up ahead the dog’s barks had become combative snarls.


This made no sense. Josh had trained Roscoe well; the dog knew his boundaries and going past the front gate when he wasn’t on a leash was simply not allowed. Josh headed around to the front of the house, to the dirt driveway that was far enough back from the road to reduce the occasional pair of headlights to frail shafts of illumination flickering between the trees. After ten years of living in the heart of Chicago he still found it hard to sleep without the murmuring din of the city and the light from oncoming traffic.


Earth oozed between his toes as he scrambled between his old battered truck and the newly purchased minivan. Four footsteps later and his feet were caked with mud and he vowed to himself that this spring he would find a way to finance paving the driveway.


Along with touching up the roof and re-grouting the bathroom wall … and the baby too. He thought. So many plans, so many expenses.


The dog became silent. “Roscoe?” Josh called, “Come here boy!”


A muffled cry filled the air. It was a human cry. No dog ever made a sound like that.


Visions of lawsuits filling his head Josh plunged forward into the trees to find Roscoe half-chewing, half-gagging on something wet and gleaming. Another shape was retreating toward the road, nearly collapsing with every pained step. Josh ordered the dog back to the house but Roscoe was snarling, his ears pinned back. Josh had to strike the dog to make him obey.


This is crazy! Roscoe never acts this way. At least until now.


The trespasser, if that’s what it was, collapsed between a pair of trees.


“Are you all right?” Once he was sure the dog had retreated back to the house Josh moved closer, “Did he bite you?”


A car sped past leaving him with a snapshot image; a supine shape, slender and dressed in a shapeless orange and white hooded suit. A dark stain spreading out from the figure's midsection; blood soaking through the layers of cloth and PVC. The suit was hooded with a clear plastic faceplate that was cracked into a dozen spider web patterns; it obscured the wearer’s face beyond any hope of recognition. Josh involuntarily took a step back, a generations worth of TV shows and movies had taught him what a hazmat suit looked like. The knee of the suit was torn away, marking the place where Roscoe had bitten. There was something about the wounds that looked too dark and too greasy.


Then the car was gone and all Josh had left was shadows.


The figure in the hazmat suit spoke with a voice that was a sexless rasp, “I’m sorry.”


“Are you all right?” Josh felt ridiculous asking the question. He and his father had gone deer hunting for years, he knew a bullet wound when he saw one. The bite on the knee from Roscoe was nothing compared to that.


“Somehow dogs always know. It’s even in one of the memos. I should have stayed back but I saw your truck…” The figure made a sound somewhere between choking and a nervous laugh, “I thought you could help. Isn’t that hysterical?”


“Look, you wait here. I’ll call an ambulance.”


“Wait. Don’t go,” the figure in the hazmat suit sat up suddenly and whimpered from the pain of it. Josh flinched away from the smell of the wounds; the scent brought to mind something septic and rotten. The flesh beneath the cracked faceplate was all swollen ridges and thick furrows. Those unnatural striations shifted and slithered of their own accord. The figure pushed the strap from a tattered knapsack into Josh’s hand, “Take these. It’s almost too late...”


“What-” Josh drew back.


“I can feel it. I can feel it in my bones.”


With a soft splitting sound a thin weal opened up on the flesh of the dog bitten knee and blood, heavy with thick wormy shapes began to ooze from it. The shape in the hazmat suit mewled. Flecks of red began to spatter the face plate from the inside, shapes wriggled against the broken visor.


Stunned and almost breathless Josh ran back to his house. The front door hung open; he must have forgotten to close it behind him. There were muddy paw prints in the kitchen. Josh scrambled for the phone. Who could he call? The police? An ambulance? The fire department? Josh dialed 911 and let them decide. Whoever they decided to send it would take fifteen minutes at best for them to get here. Would the man- or woman- in the hazmat suit even be alive by then?


When the 911 operator finally answered Josh gave them whatever information he could and hung up.


Should I wake Dina? Should I go out there and tell that… guy I think… that help is on the way? Maybe I should wash my-


Josh looked down at his hand; he was still holding the muddy, torn knapsack. He looked at it for a moment, and then dropped it. It tore open from the impact, a digital camera and a sheaf of papers spilled across the kitchen floor. Tilting his head at an angle he saw they were all documents with some kind of a corporate letterhead.


Trinity Advance Corporation, they have a place about a few miles up the road. They’re a medical research facility… they make artificial limbs and stuff.


Josh glanced closer at the papers, they were all photocopies and they looked to have been hastily made with the images off center and marked with the occasional glimpse of a finger or hand near the corner of the document. They all seemed to concern something called ‘Research Initiative I:VI:VII’, it was all over Josh’s head but the one thing that did catch his eye was a map of an unnamed city with concentric rings drawn around a central point. Each ring was marked with different percentage- ‘99% Efficiency… 71% Efficiency… 49% Efficiency.’


Sifting through the papers Josh found other documents, letters from ranking military officials first sanctioning then removing support for the project. The dates however didn’t add up to the other requisitions and testing data.


The digital camera was within arms reach. Josh picked it up and flicked it on. A small LCD window lit up giving him an image of the Trinity Advance building; he could see their triangle shaped logo that read TRIAD near the main gates.


With a push of a button he was looking at another image, this one of a room full of prosthetic arms in sealed vacuum pouches. Figures had been caught moving in the background but the picture had been taken in haste making them seem distended and inhuman. Josh wondered how the person in the hazmat suit had gotten onto the grounds of the building, past the checkpoints and electrified fences.


Another press of the button and another picture, this one of men in familiar-looking orange and white hazmat suits. They were working in a long white room, tending to vials incubators and microscopes. Is this where they make vaccines? Whoever did this had brass balls. I wouldn’t break into a lab like that for a million bucks.


The fourth picture was similar to the first except now it appeared the picture taker was on the other side of the room. There was a trough of some kind to the left of the frame; it seemed to be filled with some kind of a dark liquid. There was a stain on the floor nearby, a patch of discoloration that seemed to resemble a smeared handprint. There was something about it Josh didn’t like.


The next digital photograph was the last, the symbol in the upper corner of the frame read ‘5/5’. This picture was almost the same as the third picture except for the two figures in the center of the frame, a man and a woman. They reminded Josh of sketches, all clean angles and perfect features. They were dressed in street clothes. The woman had her head thrown back in laughter, the man had his head turned towards the strange troughs but his eyes were focused directly on the camera taking his picture.


What is all this? Will I ever know? Do I really want to? Well the police can sort it out. But I still better wash my hands just in case.


Roscoe groaned. Josh turned to see the dog laying half in and half out of the bathroom doorway. The old mastiff’s breathing was labored and phlegmy.


Josh knelt beside the old dog and reached out to stroke his fur. It writhed beneath his touch. Josh pulled his hand away as though it had been scalded. Roscoe took a final sobbing pant. Pale shapes began to seep from the dog’s mouth and the corners of his eyes.


“We have to get out of here,” Josh choked back tears. His car keys were on the counter in the usual place; he called his wife, shouted for her.


“What’s wrong?” Dina’s speech was slurred with sleep.


He rushed into the bedroom, pulled her to her feet, “We have to get out of here.”


He was afraid that if he explained more he might start sobbing or screaming.


He thought of the map in the pile of papers on his kitchen floor…


‘99% Efficiency… 71% Efficiency… 49% Efficiency.’


Where was he now on that map?


“What’s the matter?” Dina pulled away from him, “Tell me.”


“Listen, please…” He kept tight hold of her hand; out of habit he put his arm around her waist.


He felt the skin of her belly flutter and undulate.


Dina winced, “Oh! He’s awake too.”


Josh’s eyes found the muddy paw prints and it all made sense. Didn’t Roscoe always go to her when he thought he might be in trouble for chewing up a pillow or having an accident?


“Honey?” Dina asked, “What’s the matter?”


Josh didn’t answer; he just kissed his wife and waited for the police to arrive. He tried to tell himself it was just the baby kicking, but he knew that when the police arrived here they would find something terrible.


He could feel it in his bones.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A few quick notes and a sad goodbye

An unfortunate series of personal and professional setbacks has slowed down work on this project. I had hoped to be able to have new material before I left for the weekend but I am afraid it is not going to happen. I'm not even close.

But fear not! Tomorrow I plan to dredge something up from my files to share with you.

Perhaps using the word "dredge" when discussing my fiction is not a good idea.

One of the many awful things that happened this week was the death of one of my favorite writers. George C. Chesbro's mystery novels are was evocative, strange and never failed to entertain. His most famous creation was a private detective with dwarfism called Dr. Robert "Mongo" Frederickson. These fantastic books were the X-Files before there was an X-Files, each mystery would start out in the most innocuous way and suddenly you were dragged through the funhouse mirror and loving every minute ot it.

Allow me to quote from the email I received from the George C. Chesbro mailing list:
_______________________________________________

I am very sad to report that George Chesbro died this morning after anillness.Like all of you, I am a huge fan of George's work. My friendship withhim began in 1999 when I sent him a letter describing the fan websitethat I had created for his work. He liked what I'd done, and over thenext couple of months, the fan site was transformed into DangerousDwarf, the official George C. Chesbro website.I've very much enjoyed my friendship with George and Robin over theyears, and I will miss being able to correspond with him.I'm sure Mongo and Garth will miss him, too.

HunterWebmaster for DangerousDwarf.com


---------------------------------------
NEW BALTIMORE - George Clark Chesbro, 68, of New Baltimore, diedTuesday, November 18, 2008 at St. Peter's Hospital.Born in Washington, D.C. on June 4, 1940, he was the son of the lateGeorge W. and Maxine (Sharpe) Chesbro. An author of over 25 novels andnearly 100 short stories, George was a recipient of an Ellery QueenAward and had served as president of the Mystery Writers Associationof America. Earlier in his career, George had worked as a specialeducation teacher at Pearl River and at the Rockland PsychiatricCenter where he worked with emotionally troubled teens.Survivors include his wife, Robin N. Chesbro; a son, Mark Chesbro;, adaughter Michelle Chesbro; two stepdaughters, Rachael and Leah Gass; asister, Judith (Richard) Ragone and many nieces, nephews, great-niecesand great-nephews.Services are private at the convenience of the family.In lieu of flowers, those who wish may send a remembrance in his nameto the Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society, 3 Oakland Ave.,Menands, NY 12204.

_______________________________________________

If you have never read one of Mr.. Chesbro's novels then do yourself a favor and head on down to DangerousDwarf.com to order a few.

George, I never met you but I miss you already.

I find I miss a lot of people lately.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Different Kind Of Ghost Story

A Different Kind Of Ghost Story

The mall had slowly rotted away from the inside, it was not a physical rot mind you but an economic one. The stories had trickled out of it bit by bit, when the small chain stores disappeared that was one thing, when certain stories went away it could be seen as a sign of changing trends and fashions.

But when the McDonalds has to close down? That means it's all over but the liquidation sales. I was at one of those liquidation sales, it was for a big box electronics store that had been placed there in hopes of reviving customer traffic. The plan had failed and now this store was the last one left. Everything else was empty storefronts and boarded up windows.

Now this store it had a main door in the front and a second doorway that led to the interior of the mall itself. The liquidators kept that inner door open so they could bring in more merchandise and equipment from the loading area. It was easy enough for me to slip past those doors and wander into The mall's darkened interior.

Where there had once been music and voices there was not nothing but the click of my footsteps, I could see the empty spaces that had been a Woolworth's, a restaurant and a Spencer's gifts. As a teenager how many hours and dollars had I frittered away in this mall and the three or four others on the main bus route?

At 36 it made me feel old just thinking about it but I walked on. The mall's fountain had dried up long ago, the water turned off the pennies and nickels snatched away. There was dirt and dust everywhere as well as scraps of old paper and rat droppings dried and fresh. The newspapers said that as soon as they electronics store was emptied this mall would be knocked down and a much more eye pleasing shopping plaza would rise up from its wreckage. There were even hushed and reverent whispers that a Target store would soon be there.

Well they could do that if they wanted to, they could do whatever they wanted. I just needed to get one last thing before they tore the place to its foundations.

Despite the dark and the grime and the passage of almost two decades I found the spot easily. It was just an ordinary everyday bench, I remember it faced a women's clothing store. The bench was chipped and lopsided so I sat down on it comfortably. I stayed on the left side of the bench because I remembered she had sat to my right. Then I closed my eyes. It all came back to me in a heartbeat.

The sounds were first, the murmur of voices the empty din of the piped-in music. I saw myself sixteen years old and awkward with self-doubt, never feeling quite good enough always feeling like I had just missed out on the joke. Finally I saw her, I could tell you that she was as cute as a button but that would be a lie because there wasn't a button made in the 1980's that could have held a candle to her. I remember the white winter jacket she wore and that when I drew close I caught a whiff of the perfume it was soft, gentle and unique just like her. We were talking, joking around and when she landed that first kiss on me, that first real kiss ever, well nothing was ever the same again.

And then I open my eyes again and I'm sitting alone in the faux-deco tomb the mall has become. I'm older, more mature and maybe a little wiser. I have a wife, daughter and appalling number of pets waiting for me back home.

Still though I linger a moment longer, savoring the memory and when I get up to leave I bring it with me. No one will mind one less ghost in a place like this.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Well I suppose it doesn't hurt to Just Ask...

Admittedly I'd write these things even if there was no internet, even if I had to take random hostages and force them to read my stories before having them fill out a questionnaire and letting them go...

Oh wait... I just got into a whole weird area didn't I?

Let me try this again...

If you have enjoyed the works you've read here or on my webpage and if your 401k is not swirling down the drain then why not go to http://albruno3.com and leave a few bucks in my virtual tip jar? All monies given to me will be put right back into my writing projects in the form of research, printer ink and the occasional eBay auction of Doctor Who merchandise.

So what do you say?

Stop by http://albruno3.com/virtualtipjar.html and avoid the rush...










All donations are not tax deductible and will most likely cause your accountant to shake his head in disgust.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

In This Twilight: The Fat Guy Gets The Girl

IN THIS TWILIGHT
The Fat Guy Gets the Girl
By
Al Bruno III


Dedicated to Francis Hogan




BEGIN TRANSCRIPT




Does that light have to be so bright? Yeah. Yeah. For the cameras… I get it. No I don’t need a lawyer. I’m just sorry you guys couldn’t wait until I get out of the hospital.


Where do you want me to start? But you know that already. …right the video record.


Ok. Ok. My name is Adam H. Drahm… I’m 18, almost 19 really.


I know I look older; it’s the weight, the only good thing about pushing 300 pounds is that I never get carded… I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that to policemen… I mean a policeman and a woman…what I mean is a policewoman and a policeman … I mean police detectives… sorry.


Yes Detective Connelly I am ready to go on… I’m just kinda… it’s kind of jumbled in my head but I know what happened. And I’ll tell you everything. I don’t want there to be any questions or doubts about what happened. So let’s get started.


There were six of us. There was me, Kev and Jenny, Laurie and Mark, and Alice. We were in my Hummer heading out to a camp on Schroon Lake…


The Hummer, well it was my Dad’s really but he let me borrow it. He was just glad to see me out with my friends. What? You’re surprised they were my friends? The most popular kids in the school and the fat kid don’t mix, is that what you think?


Look, for as long as I’ve been able to put two thoughts together I’ve known I was overweight. When the other kids in Kindergarten won’t play on the see-saws with you, you start to realize a few things. It’s just that I decided a long time ago that fat or thin I wasn’t going to be a punch line.


Yeah a punch line, like every stupid comedy movie- the fat guy never gets the girl he just gets laughed at. That’s not me. No matter what else I am that will never be me.


It’s like my Dad always told me that you can get whatever you want in this world. You just have to really want it and you have to be patient.


And Dad should know. He is filthy rich after all.


Oh, I totally admit my Dad being filthy rich helped open some doors for me, but money can only get you so far. That’s not why the cool kids let me be part of their group, I’m sure of that.


Anyway, I was driving. We were going to camp out by the shore, a little post prom celebration. I had us all kitted out with a portable gas grill and tents and a portable TV… yeah roughing it. We had to make a lot of u-turns to get there – I kept missing the turnoff to the camp.


…no I had never been there before and I was kind of mad that Kev was making fun of the music I was listening to.


I mean since when is Liz Phair not relevant? She’ll be around a lot longer than any of these teenyboppers that are on the radio these days. Alice always reminded me of Liz, maybe that’s why I liked her.


Yeah I liked her. And I think she liked me, at least a little. After all it was pretty much two couples, and me and Alice. The numbers seemed to be in my favor. Plus she was pissed off at her boyfriend Tom. He was back in rehab again so she had ended up going to the prom with me. Good thing I was planning to go stag anyway.


I knew this was it. It was time for me to make my move. I’d been waiting years for a chance like this. She was really going to kick him to the curb this time for good, I was sure of it. I mean why else would she volunteer for us to use his family’s camp? Sheesh, they call it a camp, it was like an acre of primo lakefront property with a cabin and a boat dock and God knows what else.


…yeah, yeah we were totally trespassing but we knew no one would catch us. Tom was off getting clean and sober and his parents weren’t using the place because there was some kind of toxic mold in the cabin. I guess they were waiting for some kind of special toxic mold guy to come and clean it out.


So we were arguing about Liz Phair and finally Alice gets me to go the right way and we are bouncing up the dirt driveway past Tom’s parents’ toxic cabin. A little bit later we were unpacking our gear by the lakeside.


Well, I was unpacking, the others went skinny dipping. No I didn’t mind, I wasn’t ready to go flapping in the breeze before Alice just yet. Besides, someone had to set up the grill and the Xbox. Hey, as I was working I saw quite a lot and the weekend was just getting started. After they got done swimming we did the barbecue thing and everyone had a few beers. I couldn’t help but notice that Alice was having more than a few.


As the sun went down I offered to fire up the Xbox but the others were more interested in starting a campfire and mellowing out. They asked me to set up the tents since I was the only one with Boy Scout experience… which isn’t really true I only made it to Webelos before I got thrown out…


…I kinda punched out the Scoutmaster.


Come on, how many years of being called ‘Piggy’ can a kid take?


What? Oh… Yeah I got the tents out of the Hummer and got to work while the two couples started making out by the firelight. Alice came over to help me. We started talking about finals and stuff. She asked me if I thought I was going to make it through the History final, “Sure,” I said, “Mr. Zick’s finals are all multiple choice and he always has the right answer be an even number. He’s like obsessive compulsive or something. Remember that and you’re sure to get at least get a ‘B’. Oh and study the notes on Rome, he’s crazy for Rome.”


Alice shrugged as I handed her one end of the groundsheet for the first tent, we set it down on a relatively even patch of ground. “Well I don’t think I was paying as much attention as you. Maybe you should come over Tuesday night and we could go over your notes.”


“Sure,” I looked up from securing the groundsheet to the tent pegs and tried to sound calm. I was down on one knee as I worked; I looked like I was ready to ask her to marry me. “I’d like that.”


“I’m really glad you came,” she smiled down at me, she had a great smile.


I told her, “I know it’s no fun being the fifth wheel.”


“How many tents are there? Two?” She asked while I had her hold the tent pole steady.


“Yeah,” I said while fastened the tent’s skin into place, “A boy’s tent and a girl’s tent.”


She started laughing then, I tried to laugh along but then I asked, “What? What’s so funny?”


“Take a look back there,” She pointed to the campfire, to Mark and Laurie and Jenny and Kev. Things had kinda gone beyond the cuddling stage and there was some full-on making out going on. Shirts were getting loosened and waistbands were getting un-tucked. Alice said to me, “You think they’re gonna want to sleep boy girl? Are we kids in summer camp?”


The tent drooped as I realized what she meant, “I never thought…”


“Well you wouldn’t,” she was holding her sides from laughing.


“What the Hell does that mean?”


And I must have sounded pretty pissed because she became sweet again, “Well, I mean you’re so nice and innocent. That’s one of the things I love about you.”


Blushing and smiling I got the two tents set up and Alice and I decided to crash in the Hummer. When I offered to sleep outside she said I could put my sleeping bag next to hers.


I said, “You realize this means we’ll be sleeping together?”


We had a good laugh at that.


With the tents up we made our way back to the campfire, Kev and Jenny had wandered off into the woods, Mark and Laurie were sharing a beer and stargazing. There was no moon and somehow the familiar constellations were so bright they were like fireflies hovering just out of reach. Mark said, “We should a brought some fireworks, it’s too quiet.”


“I like the quiet,” Alice said, “I think sometimes we all talk too much.”


“Yeah” I agreed.


“It’s like we talk just to talk.”


“Yeah”


“But we don’t really say anything.”


“Yeah,” I agreed again.


Mark’s reply was a long forced belch, Laurie thought it was hilarious. After that they staggered off to one of the tents, undressing each other as they went.


“Well…” I said, “there’s fireworks…”


Alice smiled at me, “And then, there are fireworks! Come on, I want to show you something.”


She took me by the hand and led me into the woods. Not the same part of the woods where I could hear Jenny’s voice coming in short gasps. It seemed like there was sex everywhere and it looked like I was going to get some. I mean I wasn’t too thrilled about the idea of doing it outdoors but God hates a coward right?


Right?


Like I said Alice took me by the hand and led me into the woods… away from the lake, away from the cabin – we had to go up a little hill. It was steep but I didn’t get winded until about halfway to the top. I wasn’t about to slow up or let her know, but I did let her get a little bit ahead of me on the hill. But that kind of had its own rewards.


After about ten minutes it was like the trees parted in front of us and there was this clearing.


Well it wasn’t like a natural clearing. It was like it was a place where the trees just wouldn’t grow. They just stopped, and the trees that bordered the clearing… how do I describe it? Whatever side of the tree that faced the clearing was bare, no branches or leaves -there wasn’t even any grass, just dirt.


Maybe it was one of those places where they dump toxic waste. Maybe it was more of that toxic mold that ruined Tom’s parents’ cabin. Whatever it was, it wasn’t very romantic. Not that it mattered to me really, I was so wound up.


There was this big black rock in the middle of the clearing. It looked kind of like a coffin. It was pretty shiny – the starlight almost seemed to ripple across the surface of it like it was water or something. It kind of looked volcanic.


But that was crazy because there are no volcanoes in upstate New York.


I asked her, “What is this place?”


It was dark but I could just catch her smile, she was holding tightly on to my hand,


“Creepy isn’t it?”


“It’s something all right.” I turned to face her. I’d been rehearsing this kiss in my mind for years. It was now or never. Then she started walking, almost dragging me over to the slab of stone.


She touched the black stone the way people touch their Grandpa’s tombstone, “Tom and I found it last summer when we were out walking. No one knows where it came from.”


“Tom’s not here,” I blurted. I still don’t know what made me say that. She let go of my hand and crossed her arms over his chest.


I remember thinking to myself- So this is what it feels like when an opportunity slips away. I tried to salvage things. I remember asking her, “How do you think it got here?”


“Maybe it fell from space?” She chuckled at that, “Maybe it was always here.”


“Maybe this place used to be owned by a crazy rock collector.”


“Yeah…” She looked away from me, back towards the camp. I thought then that maybe I was freaking her out because I was standing so close and looking at her so hard.


“Alice…” I think my voice broke a little, “Alice you don’t know how much…”


But I never got to finish that sentence. Alice started and looked over my shoulder, “What’s that? What’s there?”


When I turned around I thought I saw …something. My first instinct was to get in front of Alice. If a hungry bobcat or a bear was going to attack her it was going to have to gnaw its way past my gut first. I thought to myself that if I never got a chance to tell her how I felt I could at least show her.


“What is that?” She said again.


“It’s all right,” I told her.


A tall dark shape walked out of the woods. At first I thought there was something wrong with the guy’s head then I realized he was wearing a motorcycle helmet and some kind of overalls. He was wearing carpenter’s tool belt too. It jingled when he walked.


“Go back to the camp,” I told Alice as quietly and calmly as I could, “The cell phone and the keys are in the Hummer’s glove box.”


Then I stepped forward. At the time I was more excited then scared, after all I had at least ninety pounds on this guy. It was my chance to prove myself to her, to show the depths of my commitment. When I was close enough to the stranger I could see his face was covered by one of those BMX style motocross masks. I remember that I had my arms up in front of me, ready to duke it out. I tried to sound cool but the first words out of my mouth were, “Where’s your bike?”


Then he hit me and I went down.


One damn hit and I went down.


When I woke up I didn’t know how long I was out but my dreams were terrible and cold, so cold. I didn’t think you could feel things in your dreams. Maybe that’s what woke me up. My first real thought when I came to was It’s raining.


But rain doesn’t feel that warm and the sounds in the air- and what I herd was nothing like the sound a rainstorm makes.


I opened my eyes and I thought for a minute that maybe I had just fallen asleep by the campfire. The flickering light almost let me fool myself for a second. Then I heard Kev’s dying groan and wet, warm red splashed down over me.


My hands were tied with rope, me feet too. I think it was the rope from the tents.


There was a whispering sound, like chanting. I even know a word to describe it- it was on the word a day calendar my Nana got me – ‘sibilant’. Yeah it was sibilant. The light was from a lantern hung from a low tree branch. We were all tied up at the base of that weird black stone. Jenny, Laurie and Mark were on the ground near me. Laurie was crying and screaming but her mouth was covered up with tape.


All our mouths were covered with tape. Duct tape. Did I mention that? I don’t know how I forgot it.


…No I can go on. I need to. Laurie was crying and screaming. Mark and Jenny were dead. Their chests were cut open. Then Kev hit the ground near us. He was the same way, a big disgusting hole where his heart should have been.


I started screaming when I saw that, as much as I could scream with my mouth taped up. I was shouting Alice’s name over and over again. I rolled around trying to find her. I knew that if I saw her cut open like that I would just… I would just lose it.


She wasn’t there. That gave me a little hope anyway. I thought maybe she had run while I was getting my ass handed to me with one punch.


One punch! I still can’t believe that it only took one goddamn punch.


Then I saw BMX Man himself. He was all covered with blood and carrying this curved looking knife in his one hand. He stepped over me and grabbed Laurie, she kicked and struggled but he just picked her up off her feet and slammed her down hard on the black stone in this kind of clumsy pro wresting move. I am sure I heard some of her bones break, maybe her arms or her ribs or something.


Not that it mattered in the end.


But when he picked her up the curved blade thing fell from his hand. He didn’t seem to notice, probably because he had plenty of others. I grasped it and tried to cut my hands free. Both the handle and the blade were slick and hard to hold but I managed to get the ropes around my wrists loosened up but it didn’t do much good for Laurie. BMX Man cut her heart out just like all the others then he pushed what was left to the ground and headed over for me.


I remember that with the light from the lantern spilling around him that BMX Man looked like he was made of smoke. I held up the knife I’d gotten hold of and made a “Ha!” kind of sound through the duct tape.


That stopped him at least. BMX Man froze in place. He looked like he couldn’t believe his eyes. Not that I could see his eyes at all. But the point is that Adam Drahm had thrown him a curve ball.


Yeah, I’d see those slasher flicks from the old days… you know the eighties… and it’s always the fat guy that dies like a bitch gets and usually dies a virgin.


Well not me. Not this fat guy.


With my free hand I started to pull off the duct tape, then I saw the black rock… it had changed somehow. The stars and the lantern light were glinting and twisting across its surface but the reflections were all wrong. They didn’t look right. They didn’t even look real. I wish I could explain it better. And the whispering, that sibilant sound? It was everywhere. At first I thought it was BMX man but it was like there was a chorus just out of sight. When I try to remember just what it was they were saying it just makes me more confused.


I think- I think the light on the rock keeping time with the voices? Does that make any sense?


The BMX Man tried to take a run at me. I think maybe he thought because my feet were still tied and I was sitting there on the ground I would be easy pickings. Or maybe it was just the whispers urging him on.


…was there whispering? Was there really? I think there was.


He tried to kick me in the face. Going for my glass jaw again. I caught him in the calf with the curved knife. The blade hit bone and tore down.


When I heard him scream it was almost disappointing. I thought it would be something like the cry of a monster but his voice was normal. He was cursing, calling me a “Fat fuck.” and all the other usual insults. He tried to stab me and managed to cut my arms and hands up pretty good but I pushed myself to my feet and hopped away from him.


Every time I tried to bend down and cut my ankles free he was there crawling after me. He had started shouting things at me… not just insults. I remember only one word really clearly. It was “Anzon.”


And you know that I have never heard that word before. I wasn’t even sure it was a proper word.


But here’s the crazy part, it wasn’t just his voice that I heard it from. It was like the whispering in the air was saying it too.


…no, I don’t know if there was anyone else in the woods with us. But I don’t think we were alone either. I don’t know. All I was sure of was that I had to get out of there. There was something worse than BMX Man there; I could almost feel it pushing down-


…no that’s not right, not pushing down. Slipping free? No, maybe it was another word from that calendar…


…insinuating? Is that right?


Anyway I tried hopping away and crashed into the tree holding the lantern. The glass shattered and fire just shot up the side of my leg. I did the drop and roll thing but remember this whole place was at the top of a steep slope so I went tumbling ass over teakettle down the hill. As I was rolling I could see flashes of the tree I had crashed into, it was starting to burn. I think I saw BMX Man up there and he might have been on fire too but the shadows didn’t make sense.


At least I couldn’t hear the whispering any more, real or not, sibilant or not it stayed at with the black stone. When I reached the bottom of the hill I barely missed smashing my head into the Hummer. It took me a moment get my feet loose. My body felt bruised everywhere. There was blood in my eyes. I leaned my head against the cool metal of the SUV’s bumper. I think I could have fallen asleep right there but then I realized that if the Hummer was still there then Alice might still be in danger. I made myself get back up and start moving. I was pretty proud of the fact I only threw up a little. I wasn’t at all happy that I still had the duct tape over my mouth.


I don’t know what hurt more tearing off the tape or having barf come out my nose.


That’s when I saw that the lights were on in the cabin. And then it all fit together in my head. After all Alice was a hot blonde and the one thing that serial killers and rock stars agree on it’s that hot blondes are at the top of the food chain.


I was sure BMX man had left her trussed up in there, probably as a bit of dessert after had finished whatever the Hell he thought he was doing with the rest of us.


Well I knew that BMX man wasn’t going anywhere fast so Alice was as good as saved. And I would be the one saving her. I could see the headline in my head already ‘Fat Guy Gets the Girl’. Just this once the fat guy gets the girl.


The cabin door was unlocked and I walked in and looked around.


There was plastic over the cabin walls, probably because of the toxic mold. And there were scented candles … like everywhere. There was a pile of papers on the table, they were old and wrinkled. They looked like mimeographs.


But who uses mimeographs anymore? I barely know what they are and that’s because I was in the library club.


I glanced down at the top page and a familiar word struck me, it was BMX man’s favorite word.


Anzon.


Of course then I realized what these papers were or what they were supposed to be. The Anima Pilgrimage.


You’ve never heard of it? It’s like one of those famous books that never existed, like the Necromonicon or the Pnakotic Manuscripts.


How do I know this? I used to be into metal music, you get stuff like that all the time in it. The Anima Pilgrimage was mentioned in the last studio album from the band ‘Relick’- that’s spelled R-E-L-I-C-K. It was in a bunch of the lyrics and all over the liner notes. Yeah the band where the lead singer legally changed his name to Evil. I guess his wife had him locked up for being crazy or taking too much PCP or something. But the Anima Pilgrimage was supposed to be an anti- bible related to the seven dark gods that had hidden their souls in the lost and empty places of the Earth.


…yeah I know its bullshit. Remember how I said it was a fake book? People that believe in stuff like that believe in vampires and leprechauns. But the songs were awesome.


They rocked.


So there I was looking at a copy of it and thinking to myself that BMX Man must have been one of those suckers. He really thought he was calling some kind of demon god down by killing my friends.


Then I heard Alice’s voice. I couldn’t tell you what she said but I can tell you that she was wearing the sheerest pinkest lingerie I had ever seen in my life and I can also tell you that I was not who she was expecting to see.


And then she said- and this part I do remember- she said, “Where’s Tommy?”


“Tommy?” I said.


“What did you do with him?” She demanded. She actually charged me, her stiletto heels clacking on the cabin’s wood floor. I backed up, knocking the mimeographed pages to the floor. My ass hit the door, pushing it closed. “Why are you here? Why are you still alive?”


I said, “I’m here to save you?”


“What did you do to Tommy?”


“Was that Tommy? Up on the hill?”


“What did you do?” She pushed a knife against my man boobs. I don’t know where she got the knife from but honestly with that outfit she was wearing she could have been juggling ferrets and I wouldn’t have noticed.


I probably should have lied but I remember I said to her, “I think he’s… I don’t know.”


She slashed at me, cutting my face, my body and my arms, “You idiot, you stupid useless idiot! After putting up with your shit for months! You can’t even die right.”


“I don’t understand.” I was sobbing.


She cut me again. “This world is a shadow. An imperfect reflection. And only people that know that have any value.”


“I love you,” I said to her… finally.


Then she started laughing, “Will you love it when I gut you like the fat piggy you are?”


She raised the knife. I grabbed hold of her wrist trying to keep her from hurting me any more. Alice was pretty strong for a cheerleader. I couldn’t hold her back so I did the only thing I could do.


I fell on her.


Now I want it on record here that I didn’t want to kill her, I never wanted to kill her. I don’t care if she was crazy or evil or both, I loved her. But when we went down her arm twisted wrong and my 300 pounds drove the blade into her belly. It took her a while to die but I stayed with her right until the end. And when it was over I lay down next to her, in a puddle of our blood and just waited.


So, I guess that’s my story. I mean you know the rest. I guess I went into shock, that’s what the doctors tell me. Funny thing is that breathing in all the toxic mold did more damage to me than Tommy or Alice.


Maybe I would have just stayed there in that cabin and waited to die but the fire I accidentally started… accidentally started, let’s stress that… the fire brought out the fire department and police and they found me.


…Detective Myles I don’t know. The black stone was there. I saw it. I almost died on it. I don’t know where it is now. It’s not like someone could have carried it off right?


Couldn’t one of your CSI guys look into this? I mean everything else checks out. You found Tommy right? The bodies with no hearts? The weapons?


It’s not my fault you can’t find a bunch of mimeographed papers and a boulder and I don’t much care. My Dad is going to have an army of lawyers on this and I’ll never see any jail time. I mean look at you, you both think I’m crazy right now.


What? DNA evidence? You mean the blood on my clothes?


Oh… oh. That.


Well. What do you think it means? It’s like I said before, you can have anything you want in this world if you want it bad enough and you’re patient.


And like I said, just this once the fat guy got the girl.



END TRANSCRIPT