Saturday, February 12, 2011
Five minutes into the first quarter, Bob heard something behind him. He looked behind the sofa and saw his son trudging towards the stairs. He wore his cowboy hat and cap gun belt.
"What did Mom say about wearing that stuff inside, Junior?"
The boy didn't look at him. He said, in a pathetic John Wayne impression, "I've come to kill Mom." ...
The girls in the office whispered in conspiratorial tones over lunch about their evening’s plans for Valentine’s Day. Several had boyfriends and were heading out for dinner. A few debated the pros and cons of commercial romanticism. Two had already received bouquets of roses. One of the girls had a fiancé and kept twirling the diamond around her finger. Helen listened in as the married woman of the group, smiling at their exuberance. She felt a little embarrassed by their open conversation. Elise was mid-sentence describing the new lingerie she had bought and how she had sent her boyfriend a picture via her phone whilst wearing it...
The first time I kiss you I want you to be standing up. I want to press the length of my body to yours...
She was almost entirely invisible; hidden behind vines and creepers which fell across her niche like a curtain, but something drew me towards that section of the ruin. The faint glimmer of my failing torch danced across the smooth black stone of her fingers, protruding from the foliage, and I stepped forward to pull aside the vines, to draw aside the curtain and reveal what Nature had hidden...
Holy Moley! MICHAEL MAY'S ADVENTUREBLOG talks about Captain Marvel - always a favorite character of mine.
What's interesting to me is that DC's first attempt to bring Captain Marvel into its shared universe tried hard to capture the whimsical tone of Fawcett's version. DC even hired original Captain Marvel artist CC Beck to draw the book. But even more fascinating than that is the reason they wanted to try Captain Marvel out in the first place: Superman sales were tanking...
Friday, February 11, 2011
Thursday, February 10, 2011
THE MANLY ADVENTURES OF ABNER DEGGENT
The Sultan’s Challenge
Al Bruno III
“Are you sure you have to be completely naked?” I asked.
Abner Deggent answered me with a distracted tone, “Of course.”
“Well if you say so...”
At the sound of a key turning in a lock, he looked up from admiring himself, “It’s time.”
“Already?” I felt my throat go dry. Our evening in captivity had passed so quickly.
The door to our cell swung open to reveal a pair of the Sultan’s personal guards. Personal guards! That was a joke. These men were mercenaries, lowly cutthroats with no sense of morality or dignity. The very dregs of humanity.
“Hey Ralph,” the taller one of the two said, “long time no see.”
“Er.. yes. Hello Francis,” I said, “...and Joe.”
The mercenaries led us at gunpoint through the twisting dungeon hallways.
Who am I you may ask? I am Ralph Brooks the official unpaid biographer of the legendary Abner Deggent, and this is the tale of the Sultan’s Challenge.
Of course you readers must speak the name of Abner Deggent with tones of hushed wonder but just in case you are exceptionally uninformed or stupid I will try to encapsulate the greatness of the man in a few sentences. Abner Deggent was the greatest adventurer of the post World War Two era. He was a righter of wrongs, a soldier of fortune and creator of a delicacy known in some corners of the world as ‘the Bloomin’ Onion’.
Our quest for the treasure of Priester John had brought us here to a tiny protectorate on the Horn of Africa. This land had recently fallen to the control of a Sultan who was as cruel as he was riddled with gout.
It had come to our attention that this Sultan had in his possession the legendary Map To The Diorama That Revealed The Location Of The Tomb Of Priester John. We presented ourselves to the Sultan and requested to see the map.
He refused and that left Abner Deggent with no choice but to steal it. I have learned that the call of adventure and the rule of law frequently find themselves at odds, this may be why many adventurers frequently find themselves having to call lawyers.
But I digress, let me turn our attention back to our fully justified attempted robbery.
Yes, attempted because dear reader, while Deggent’s fingers were legendary among the brothels of Singapore they utterly failed him when it came to the art of safecracking. We were captured and found ourselves brought before the Sultan.
To save us from the executioner’s block Deggent challenged the Sultan to a duel of honor but as gout had left the Sultan’s left foot swollen to the point where his toes looked like small yams he instead presented Deggent with a challenge as intriguing as it was deadly.
Deggent and I were marched up a flight of stairs and into a room decorated with the soft colors and lurid paintings. The air was thick with the odor of exotic perfumes. The Sultan was already there, he looked up from conferring with his seven beautiful wives. “Deggent!” he said, “I thought I told you that nudity was unnecessary.”
“Did you?” Deggent struck his manliest pose, his loins were at their most rampant, “I only hope that I don’t ruin your lovely wives for you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The challenge of course.”
I cleared my throat, “Ah, Abner, the Sultan’s challenge is to resist the charms of his harem, not to charm them yourself.”
His expression tensed,“What?”
“Weren’t you paying attention?”
“Assume I wasn’t.”
“The women of the harem will entice you for an hour,” I explained, “and if you show any signs of... excitement the Sultan’s guard’s will castrate you with a blunt potato peeler.”
Abner Deggent nodded with understanding. I couldn’t help but notice that his hands had shifted to his suddenly decidedly unrampant groin. “Could we...” Deggent asked “...perhaps talk about this further?”
The mercenaries forced Abner Deggent into a soft chair; one stood on each side of him. Francis had his M-16 at the ready, Joe ran his thumb along the edge of the gold-plated potato peeler.
At 11 o’clock the Sultan placed a hot pink hourglass on a nearby table and his wives went to work.
And such work it was! First they danced, slowly undressing each other. Each discarded veil was allowed to drift across Deggent’s exposed skin. When the women were naked they began to oil each other’s bodies until they gleamed, not a single soft crevice went neglected. Occasionally lips brushed against flesh and they cooed with delight.
I tore my eyes away from the scene to see Deggent watching them, his eyes wide, expression grim but thankfully his manhood remained flaccid.
The room seemed to have become very warm and the scent that hung in the air might remind one of the odor of the locker room of the Rockford Peaches women’s baseball team circa 1945.
Not that I was ever caught spying there. That was a completely different Ralph Brooks.
The women of the harem surrounded the chair Abner Deggent was seated in, prostrating themselves and grinding against one another like a living carpet of sapphic desire. The mercenaries kept a close eye on Deggent, carefully watching for the first stirrings of arousal.
Which, as far as I’m concerned, spoke volumes about them.
After what seemed like an eternity the lasts grains began to run out of the hourglass. The Sultan whispered in amazement, “I don‘t believe it!”
Suddenly Abner Deggent screamed and rand from the room. I followed as quickly as I could but his speed was almost inhuman.
He locked himself back in our dungeon cell.
Did he make it? You might wonder but as I heard the frantic slapping noises and grunts of relief I knew that an hour had gone by and Abner Deggent had reached the stroke of midnight.
As I said in a previous post my dog Jake got part of his ear bitten off so now he is off to the vet. It looks like the bill could be in the $200-$400 range so I was thinking that if any of you folks that enjoy my work and happen to have some of that Oh so rare commodity known as 'Disposable Income' why not drop a few bucks over in the donation over via the button over to the left?
Your name will be added to the PATRON'S PAGE and you will be the envy of most of the Internet.
Thanks again for your time...
...comics fandom loves to eat their own. Take for example how many so-called admirers and fans of Watchmen spit pure venom at Alan Moore because he kept them from having a stuffed Rorschach to sleep with at night. Also note how quickly they turn on creators who have the audacity to take their employers to court over ownership of intellectual property, how they sneer at every writer who fails to kowtow to continuity, and everything ever said by every comic book blog on the internet since all time forever – particularly this one...
Michael lay the phone in it’s cradle. He’d been expecting the news in the same way you expect winter to follow autumn. But just as you can never quite prepare yourself for bone-chilling temperatures, you can never prepare your heart for loss. Poor Vincent. Michael’s friend’s voice had been shaking as he gave Michael the news that Sage was gone...
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
"In an attempt to cope with the grief and despair of losing their only child Alice (Ella Connolly), mauled to death by a savage dog, veterinarian Patrick Daly (Gillen) and his pharmacist wife Louise (Birthistle) move from the city to the remote Irish village of Wake Wood. With Patrick taking over the local vet's practice and Louise working in the village chemist store, the couple soon become friends with many of the local landowners, farmers and their families.
IN THIS TWILIGHT
By AL BRUNO III
Those green eyes were to blame. They caught Thelma French’s gaze and held her fast; everyone else, the other students, the teachers and the chaperones all seemed to fade away.
The entire gymnasium had been made over to look like a disco; dim lights and streamers of foil and paper decorated one side of the gymnasium, while the other side was cluttered with chairs and refreshment tables.
A drooping banner proclaimed that this was the ‘1982 Spring Dance’ but most students weren’t dancing all that much, most just milled around in small groups. The A-V club geeks were working the sound system, arguing about treble settings and taking requests from kids that ordinarily wouldn’t even speak to them. The guys from the football team kept as close to the cheerleaders as they could without actually having to step out onto the dance floor. The theater club kids hovered near the exits, whispering conspiratorially and rolling their eyes with mock agony at each song.
The boy that owned those green eyes didn’t belong with any of those groups, he didn’t even belong at this school at all. Thelma wondered if he might be some other girl’s date or if he was just crashing the dance. In the pause between one song ending and another starting up she found all she could hear was the pound of her heartbeat.
She wondered if she dared to go over and talk to him? He must have noticed her staring by now.
How could he not notice her? After all she was the only student of Chinese descent in this small Florida high school and a gray-eyed tomboy at that. She suddenly felt self conscious, a few hours ago her jeans, suspenders and black T-shirt had seemed like a cool statement. Now she just felt ridiculous.
Someone said something to the green-eyed boy and he looked away. The spell broken Thelma wandered over to the refreshments.
“Hey.” A red haired boy walked up to her, “I didn’t think you’d come.”
“Hey Winston.” It was her former boyfriend. He was named after a rich grandparent he had never known and hated it, “It’s a free country you know?”
“Yeah, whatever. The whole thing’s a joke anyway, the stupid principal won’t let them play any metal.”
“Who wants to dance to Iron Maiden?” Thelma had been on three dates with Winston Krosky before she had broken it off. At first she had thought he was cute and funny, but he turned out to be just another dog in heat. He had grabbed her chest at the movies, her ass at the roller rink and Thelma did her best not to think about what he had tried at Homecoming.
The song Abracadabra ended, Funky Town started up, the theater club kids started to howl with laughter. Robin Vance came running up to them, she was wearing a billowy, low cut dress and a suicidal pair of heels. Every male in the room, be they student or teacher was watching her cleavage. She hugged Winston from behind, “Hey Eddie. I was getting lonely… Oh. Hi Thelma.”
They were both watching Thelma intently, wondering if she would get angry or upset. Thelma didn’t really feel much of anything, except amazement that her ex-boyfriend had finally gotten someone to call him by his middle name. “Hi.” Thelma said, “You two going out now?”
Robin’s mouth was smiling but her eyes were pure venom, “Hot and heavy.”
“Great.” Thelma said, “Good for you.”
“Who are you here with?” Robin asked. Winston was already looking bored.
Thelma said, “I’m here alone.”
“Oh!” Robin snorted, “That’s so sad.”
Winston took her by the hand, “Let’s go out to my car, I gotta hear some Krokus before I go outta my mind.”
That’s the line he used to get me out to his car during Homecoming. Thelma realized. I hope she’s ready for him to whip it out during his air guitar solo.
She probably is.
Some fresh air was in order, so Thelma headed out to the school’s side entrance. It was supposed to be locked but none of the chaperones seemed to have realized that the lock never quite caught. She wasn’t alone, five or six other students had found their way here, mostly nobodies and wannabees. They were talking and smoking; trying to sound jaded and world-weary. No one talked to her; no one offered her a cigarette or even a snide comment about her outfit.
Typical. She thought. She while wished that Peanut and Sam were there.
Thelma was adopted, shipped off to America by birth parents that were only interested in having a son. Sometimes Thelma wondered if her natural mother had ever held her, if she ever mourned her. Not that it really mattered; the Frenchs’ were good parents. They worked hard to take care of her, if anything they sometimes worked too hard.
The only thing she really had to be miserable about was they had moved down here.
For the first decade of Thelma’s life she had lived in the same city, and gone to the same school – The Blessed Heart Academy in Albany. The Blessed Heart Academy was a Catholic School that tried its best to act non-denominational. The students went there from first grade to Graduation, and Thelma had been having lunch with the same four friends since the age of six.
Unfortunately work had dried up for her father, and he had been forced to take a job in Florida to keep hiscreditors at bay and his daughter in shoes. At first Thelma had been thrilled at the idea, visions of amusement parks and beaches filled her mind. It was only later she found out they were moving to Lake Wales, a small town almost dead center in the state. In the two years since they’d gotten here she’d been to the beach three times and Disney World twice. Her Dad’s work just kept him too busy to be around more; he was always leaving early and coming home late. Sometimes Thelma didn’t see him for days. Her Mom had found a job too; at first she just worked at the fabric store to help pay off the outstanding bills but soon she found she had a taste for it. In a matter of a few months she was practically running the place.
The stars were bright tonight, as bright as they got in Florida anyway. Thelma had never appreciated it before but there was something about the New York skies that made the stars seem a lot closer. Thelma picked out the constellations, an old game from childhood; a way her Dad had showed her she could occupy her mind on nights when sleep didn’t come easily. All around her the other kids were gossiping and laughing, Thelma would have loved to joined in but something held her back, maybe it was the suspicion that she was one of the things that was regularly gossiped about.
It didn’t help that she had come to realize she was seen by the boys as a prize bass that they all wanted to try their hand at landing. A year ago she had overheard a bunch of them talking about Asian girls as though they were all a race of sexually submissive tigresses.
Thelma found her self blushing half with anger and half with… well she wasn’t quite sure…
That was the reason she had tried to make her relationship with Winston move slowly, despite the fact that there were times when she had really wanted to give in to him.
What held her back was the thought that if she was a prize bass to be landed, what would a boy do once she was hooked? Would she still have a boyfriend or would there be a catch and release so the next guy could try out her supposedly exotic charms?
“Everyone notices Vega.” A voice said beside her.
Thelma froze. It was the green-eyed boy- he was talking to her! Close up she could see that he didn’t look like a boy at all. Yes, his chin was smooth but his bearing made him seem older.
“What?” She asked once she’d found her voice again.
“You’re looking at Vega right?” He said, “The bright one.”
He leaned in closer, putting his head beside hers and pointing up into the sky, “Right below Vega there are two stars, see them?”
“Yes,” Thelma felt his hand settle into the curve of her hip. He smelled like sweat and dust, he wore the scent like cologne.
“If you look really closely, you can see that those two stars are really two sets of binary stars.”
Thelma thought to lie and tell him she could see it all but thought better of it, “I’m sorry, I can’t-”
“Well, the streetlights don't help. Maybe some other night.” He stepped back from her, “My name is Chad, Chad Lunt.”
“Hi Chad.” She took his hand, it was cool to the touch, “I’m Felma Thench… damn. I mean Thelma French.”
“Funny,” He smiled at her, “you don’t look like a Thelma.”
“I’m named after my late Aunt.” She said, “My father's sister. She died before I was... born.”
His laugh sounded like a grunt but the smile made up for it, “That’s how I got my middle name. Hugo.”
“You have an Aunt Hugo?”
They both laughed at that.
Some students made their way back to the dance, others dawdled, made out or kept watch for chaperones. Thelma found her gaze wandering from Chad’s green eyes to his square jaw then to his broad shoulders and down over his chest, all the way to his…
“You like the belt buckle?”
“It was just, very… noticeable.”
“It's kinda my family crest. My old man never thought much of it, thought of himself as an American first you know? He didn’t have any use for the old traditions. So he made the family crest into a belt buckle to piss off his old man.”
Thelma risked another glance, it didn’t look like much of a crest to her, just a knot of silver and bronze. “And now you take it seriously to piss off your Dad?”
Chad smiled, “Well grandpa’s stories of the Old World sound a lot better then what we have now.”
The first carload of parents pulled up to the main entrance, three of Thelma’s classmates crowded into the back seat. Chad’s words left her thinking of that awful day last year when the President had been shot. She remembered the Principal, Mr. Rosenberg, getting on the speakers and delivering the news in a shaky voice. The ordinary class schedule had been scrapped and the students spent the last few hours of the day in whatever classroom they had happened to be in at the time of the announcement. A lot of students ended up talking with the teachers about what it all meant. Thelma had heard that the history teacher Mr. Sheehan had given a really rousing and patriotic speech about how the nation was bigger than one man and that America would go on.
Sadly Thelma’s teacher of the hour had been Mrs. Kushner and she spent the rest of the day telling them that the actions of John Hinckley had been prophesied in the book of Revelations and that God was going to send all their parents to Hell because they watched Three’s Company.
The worst part for Thelma wasn’t the impromptu sermon or the moment of pointless insanity that precipitated it. The worst part for Thelma was that she didn’t care. Family, friends and even the hot and cold running acquaintances of Lake Wales High School mattered but the suffering of strangers, even important ones, meant nothing to her.
Thelma often wondered if that made her a bad person.
“What time are your parents picking you up?” Chad asked.
You are not telling him you rode your bicycle here. Thelma thought, Don’t you dare!
“I don’t really have a curfew.” She said, and that was technically true. She didn’t have a curfew because she had never pushed her luck by staying out past midnight. “Do you want to go back to the dance?”
“Not really. You want to go for a walk?”
“I’m not… I don’t…”
He had already started moving, “Just a little ways.”
“Where?” She found herself running to catch up with him, they walked quickly until they were clear of the school. Once they were on the county highway they slowed their pace, “Where are we going?”
“Just up to Spook Hill. My place.”
“That’s not too far,” she thought aloud, talking herself into it, “barely even a mile. Do you live with your parents?”
“No. I have a place with my friends.”
“You’re not in high school are you?”
“Nope.” He gave her a sly look, “It’s not too late to turn back if that worries you.”
Spook Hill was one street away. Lake Wales was comprised of anemic side streets that branched off of the State and County Routes, bending back around themselves in grids and cul-de-sacs. Spook Hill was a local landmark and legend; the story was that long ago a powerful Indian chief fought a giant alligator to their mutual death. Supposedly if you parked your car in the right spot on North Wales Drive and put it in neutral you would find yourself rolling uphill. Depending upon who you asked this was either an optical illusion, an anomaly of science or the ghostly remnants of the great alligator and the Indian chief harassing passers-by. Thelma’s father had tried two or three times to make it work but they had just stayed at the base of the hill waiting.
Thelma and Chad turned off of the county highway and started walking along North Wales Drive. To their left were modest homes, most no more than a single floor and a handful of rooms. To their right was the dark water of North Lake Wales. “How old are you?” she asked.
“I’m not in high school.” He paused and looked at the oval shaped lake, the water was still and it reflected the stars. The air was alive with the chirping of frogs and the humming of insects. Something pale and white fluttered past them; it might have been a very large moth or a very small bat. There hadn’t been time to see. “When my Dad died I became man of the house. I had to grow up fast.”
“Oh I’m sorry.”
“It’s all right,” Chad started walking again, “he was sick, but he didn’t suffer. That’s all you can pray for.”
“That’s-” Thelma had to run to catch up with him again, his easy gate seemed to cover ground very easily, “-that’s pretty bleak.”
“It’s a pretty bleak world. That’s why you’ve got to grab hold of the future and make it your own.” They were halfway up North Wales Drive and optical illusion or not Thelma felt an uneasy weight settle into her gut, like something was pulling her back. Who was this man? And what was she doing? Wasn’t it crazy to go wandering off with him? How many lurid news stories and horror films had beginnings like this?
Chad turned back to look at her, his smile was dazzling, “Almost there.”
He pointed to a house on the corner of North Wales Drive and Kissimmee Avenue; a rare two floor building. The lower level was dark but the upstairs was brightly lit. The house was what Thelma’s Mom would have called ‘a fixer-upper’. The front porch was a maze of cracked and broken boards, the gabled windows sagged ominously and the roof was a checkerboard of tiles and exposed wood.
It was hard to turn away from that smile but Thelma remembered another scrap of local legend. “Wasn’t that place condemned because some crazy old lady was living in filth there?”
“That was my great aunt.”
“Oh God! I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be. I never knew her. The whole family pretty much ignored her because of some stupid debate over religion that got out of control.”
“That sucks.” When he started walking towards the house Thelma found she was following him again.
“I guess she got senile or something living by herself. She started throwing her garbage down in the basement instead of taking it out to the curb,” Chad explained, “when the basement got too full she started filling up the downstairs.”
“That’s awful.” Thelma had heard the story a few times already at school but Chad’s personal spin on things was fascinating.
“A year or so later, when the smell and the vermin coming and going in packs got to be too much, the authorities got involved.” the gravel driveway crunched underfoot, “they locked her in a sanitarium and cleared the place out. It wasn’t until after she died under their care that I even knew she existed.”
“What did you do?”
“I sued. I sued the city, the county, the department of mental health, anyone my lawyers could get in their crosshairs,” he stood on the front steps of the old house, “I got the house, I got some very nice big checks and I’ll never have to work a day in my life.”
Thelma stayed in the driveway; she could hear music and voices from inside the house “So you spend your time visiting High Schools?”
“I was out for a walk and I poked my head in. High school kids always sell their weed too cheap.”
“Then I saw you, and I just had to meet you.”
“Look…” Thelma was torn, she wanted to follow him in there but she’d already traveled farther than she should have at this hour of the night with a stranger.
He opened the door, “Come on in for a bit and I’ll drive you back home as soon as you ask. I promise.”
She looked back to the road, to the oval mirror of North Lake Wales, something disturbed its surface and the ripples made the stars crash together and split apart.
What am I doing here? She wondered. What am I trying to prove?
“Come on.” He said.
“Ok” She said, “But no funny business.”
He caught her in the doorway and leaned in for a kiss, it was brief and chaste but it left Thelma trembling. “Nothing will happen here that you don’t want to happen.”
The lower floor of the house was stripped bare; every click and shuffle of their footsteps echoed. The air was tinged with the aroma of mildew and something else- a thick, cloying odor that Thelma couldn’t quite place.
“Come on,” He closed the door behind them, and latched it, “I’ll introduce you to everyone.”
“Everyone?” Thelma asked.
Kerosene lanterns filled the second floor with white glaring light; two of them were at the top of the stairwell, and more were placed in each one of the upper floor's four doorways. The lanterns were all at their maximum settings, Thelma could hear them hiss and feel their heat as she walked past them. At the end of the hallway five girls sat huddled around a radio, playing cards with a handmade deck. Each girl was barefoot and dressed in faded, oversized clothes. When they saw Chad approaching they all started talking at once.
“Your harem?” Thelma surveyed them with a worried scowl. None of the girls looked much older than her but they all seemed haggard and sleepless.
“They had no where else to go.” Chad said, “ladies this is Thelma. Thelma this is Annie, Sara, Maureen, Jackie, Laurie and Bonita.”
“Nice to meet you all,” Thelma waved, “I should be going.”
“What?” Chad spread his arms, “What's the matter?”
“This is just getting too weird.”
All the girls shared a conspiratorial giggle at that. Thelma shoved past Chad and headed back for the stairs. She no longer cared who these freaks were or what they were all about. This is what I get for listening to something other than your brain. Let’s hope I make it out of here alive…
Then something in the last room on the left caught her eye, the light from another lantern lit the room but the radiance was pale and quavering, it reminded Thelma of a dying campfire. There was a mattress shoved up against the far wall, and three corpulent figures crouched around it. There was someone stretched out on the mattress, pale and pink. Thelma couldn’t make out the body on the mattress but the gasping cries and choking grunts she heard were distinctly female.
…alive and unmolested.
Chad’s hand settled onto her shoulder, his breath was quickening. There was something guileless in his voice “What is she doing without me?”
“It started an hour ago.” One of the other girls said, “Maybe it’s a flashback or something?”
Another girl said, “We tried to make her comfortable but I think she’s waiting for you.”
Slipping out of his jacket Chad walked into the room; he murmured an apology to Thelma and begged her to stay. At the sound of his approach the three hulking figures straightened and turned.
They were taller than Thelma had thought, at least as tall as her father but their hunched postures made it hard to be sure. The sight of their faces set her running.
She blundered down the steps, falling and catching herself. No one called after her or gave chase but Thelma didn’t dare a look back until she was almost to the school.
The dance was wrapping up, most of the larger groups had moved on to post-dance parties but some couples remained, snuggling in quiet corners and doing their best to delay going home. The AV kids were breaking down the audio setup while the teachers supervised and commiserated. Thelma’s bicycle was alone on the bike rack but she begged a quarter off of one of the teachers and called home. When her Dad answered she told him the truth; that it was too dark and she was too scared. He promised to be there in twenty minutes with ice cream sundaes for both of them.
As Thelma waited for him to arrive she found her gaze wandering across the night sky to Vega and its twinkling emerald light.