Friday, November 11, 2011
You know who will never work at the Genius Bar? Or see his name anywhere near the word "genius" in his lifetime? Michael Alan Skopec. The 48-year-old from Bristol, Illinois, was arrested at 1 a.m. on Wednesday morning, for, according to the sheriff's office report, calling "911 on five occasions to report that his iPhone was not working..."
The Right Kind Of Bullets
Al Bruno III
The sight of blood crusting the welcome mat was enough to make Phil decide to investigate further. The doorknob was streaked with red, so was the keyhole. He broke into John's house easily... hestill had the touch. He stepped inside, his footsteps echoing in the naked room. “Love what you've done with the place,” he muttered to himself.
Phil stopped dead in the front hall. He bent unsteadily and carefully examined the pile of tattered clothes. They were stiff with dried blood. Where they John's? Or somebody else's?
They were too ruined for him to be certain. There were bloody footprints everywhere, steeling himself for the worst Phil followed one of the trails into the kitchen.
The floorboards creaked underfoot but Phil was too lost in thought to hear. They way the bodies had been found had also set him worrying. Bodies had been found floating in the Hudson River thirty years ago in roughly the same condition. He wondered how long it would be before someone connected the dots between then and now.
The kitchen was a ruin of opened tins of SPAM and pastry boxes. The patches of dried blood were thick with crumbs and flecks of meat. Phil breathed heavily, this was bad. The rust-colored footprints lead back to the stairs, he followed them.
Three steps up the stairs something squished underfoot, oozing out from beneath the undersides of his sneakers. Reluctantly Phil looked down, relieved to see it was only vomit. Skirting as much of it as he hurried to the second floor.
The blood trail led straight to John’s bedroom door. For a moment Phil considered just turning around and heading straight back home.
After all, what if he was still hungry?
But on the other hand, if not for John he’d be worse than dead.
Phil cautiously pushed open the door.
Pale sunlight streamed in through the cracked bedroom window. The only furniture was a bloody mattress; John lay on it, curled into the fetal position. His back was to Phil and his breath was coming in shuddering pants. He looked emaciated, like a starving animal. Phil felt his mouth go dry as his gaze lingered on the fist-sized exit wound in the man's back. The borders of the laceration were crusted and dark, but the center was wet and gleaming. He could just see the edge of John's spine.
“Why the gun?”
Phil started at the sound of his John's voice, “What happened to you?”
“Why did you bring a gun?” he said again.
“Just in case.” his hand drifted to the .38 in his jacket pocket.
“Just in case of what?”
Phil shook his head, “I don't know! Just in case.”
“What kind of bullets are in it?”
“John, stop talking nonsense and let me help you.” he drew closer.
“Do you have regular bullets in there?” he rolled over and glared at Phil. It looked as though the lower half of his body had been soaked blood, there was a bullet wound in his gut. His face was drawn, his eyes were feverish and resentful, “Or the expensive kind?”
“You're hurt. I need to call Zara.” he looked around, “Where's your phone?”
“After all this time... you still don't trust me.” he set his good leg down beneath him and stood, “No matter how hard I try, I don't belong.”
Phil put a hand up, “Look just calm down and get back on the bed before something falls out
“What was it Victor said about me? Too much a monster to be a man,” he hobbled forward, every step threatening to pitch him forward, “Too much a man to be a monster.”
Phil shrugged nervously, “Victor also said that no one could stop him. We stopped him didn’t
He drew closer, “I'm a murderer.”
“So am I, what's your point?” Phil took an involuntary step backwards.
“When I reach you I'm going to tear your throat out.” the sunlight cast John's face in shadow, making his expression unreadable, “Just like those men in the hotel.”
“I might even attempt the Metastasis.” he said, “Hell I might even get lucky, even the best enchantments fade over time.”
“I'm not going to kill you.”
“Then why did you bring the gun?”
Phil muttered “Fuck.” under his breath and took another step back. He was in the hall now, one if his hands snaked into his jacket and wrapped around the comforting weight of the pistol.
“That's it.” John cooed as he limped closer.
“Don't make me...” he shook his head, “don't you dare fuckin' make me.”
“There's no telephone here Phil and even if the neighbors hear your screams, they wouldn't get here in time.”
Phil's back hit the wall, cursing himself he drew the gun, “John-”
“There is no John, there never was.” he took another unsteady step forward, “He was an affectation, a role to play. I am Sig! And I am alone.”
“I don't believe that.”
“You know it.” he was close now, close enough for Phil to smell the stink blood and shit on him. Tears ran down his cheeks, “You're going to die if you don't shoot.”
“And then when I'm done with you maybe I'll pay Zara a visit and do all the things-”
“Fucker!” Phil swung the barrel of the pistol down catching John on the side of the head. Gasping, John dropped to his knees. Phil swung the pistol again, striking this time on the other side of John’s head, sending him sprawling. Phil stood over him and took aim.
There was a long silence broken only by John's trembling whisper, “Do it.”
Phil looked from the supine form to the gun in his hand and back again. He lowered the weapon, “I can't- I could never-”
“I am alone.” Sobs racked his body. His head was in his hands, his fists tangled in his long silver hair. He wailed again, “I am alone...”
Thursday, November 10, 2011
thought this timely with the passing of Bil Keane, creator of the widely loathed Family Circus. Though numerous parodies of his maudlin creation existed, often with his blessing, only the now-defunct Nameless Dread was actively suppressed, presumably after touching some dark nerve in Keane's soul...
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Madison's site is one of the premiere online destinations for authentic Hollywood entertainment memorabilia and collectibles.
Since the damn thing is going to take three years to complete I wanted to give you all a good taste of the story...
A Soul In Tension
And thanks to everyone that voted on the title!
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
THE COLD INSIDE
By AL BRUNO III
Friday November 4, 1994
The Kaspary family didn’t have a back yard they had an estate. That, coupled with the fact her parents never seemed to be home, was why Linda always threw the best parties. In the wooded area behind the disused stables with bonfires blazing and beer kegs on tap, she would gather the most popular and beloved students of Blessed Heart. To be invited to one of her parties was to be assured a place among the student elite, to not be invited was a sign that your popularity was in free-fall. Pamela Bloom had been a staple at these parties since her Freshman year. She sat on a lawn chair nursing a beer and watching the underclassmen frolic around her. Nirvana was blaring from a nearby boom box- people where playing Kurt Cobain’s music obsessively now that he was dead. She wondered to herself if they even remembered that it was her brother that introduced them to the band’s music.
Probably not. she realized. They probably weren’t even giving him a second thought. All they knew about her brother now was what they had seen on the TV and the wild rumors that followed.
There was just a hint of frost in the air, the long Indian Summer was drawing to a close. Plastic cups littered the ground. The fire blazed and crackled. The underclassmen cheerleaders where fawning over the Senior boys, most of the underclassman boys where too drunk to even move. It was only a matter of time now before somebody threw up.
Linda’s dog Scooter was sniffing around and wagging his tail but she had no time for him, she was off in the corner with a trio of other girls. Pam watched them, huddling conspiratorially their smiles cruel, their eyes like razors. Pam knew that look. It would only be a matter of time before someone was singled out to be the subject of some catty remarks. By the end of the night their target would be reduced to a social ruin. Another tradition, the ritual sacrifice. They’d tried to come for Pam once but she’d met them blow for blow, slur for slur. It had been like something out of that movie her Mom had liked so much, Dangerous Liaisons.
Of course it was her stupid brother that had put her in the danger of being ridiculed in the first place. The only way that she had been able to save herself had been to join in on the abuse. She remembered that first day of classes, the way he’d looked so pale and terrified. He’d approached her when she at her new locker, fumbling with the combination. Pam knew that everyone was watching. When Tristam tried to speak she’d rounded on him screaming –”Get away from me you fuckin’ freak!”
A pair of chilly hands wrapped around her shoulders, “Hey babe. Everything all right?”
She almost smiled up at her boyfriend, “Just thinkin’.”
“About what?” Ronnie’s breath was warm and tinged with the scent of beer.
There was a whoop as Bobby Hilton and Kenny Wurman began chasing Scooter around the campfire.
Pam said, “That this is probably the last outdoor party until the spring.”
“Yeah so?” Ronnie smiled.
“So? Think about it, after this its Thanksgiving break, then its midterms then the semester break, then it’s back to school. We’ll have a few more parties, then it’s time to start thinking about the senior prom and graduation…” She shook her head, “Then it’s over.”
“No.” Ronnie circled around to the front of the chair, “That’s when it really starts- college, work, real life. It’ll be cool.”
Ronnie pulled her out of the chair and took her in his arms. He kissed her just the way she liked. Why couldn’t we have just one more year? She thought as she held her him tight. In her heart of hearts she knew that the end was approaching fast. He was going to college in the southwest and she was staying here. They didn’t stand a chance- ten years from now they might pass in the street and not even recognize each other.
Kenny Wurman caught Scooter and held the dog by its collar. “Whoo!” he screamed as he humped the air behind it, “Look at me! I’m Pam’s brother! Look at me!”
Then again… Pam thought, …there are some people I can’t wait to never see again.
THE COLD INSIDE
By AL BRUNO III
Monday November 7, 1994
Low to the ground and speeding fast, dodging around and over cars. Occasionally he would collide with one and feel the gentle tingle of solid matter passing though him. He just had to be careful to avoid the driver and passengers and the firey pain that brushing against or through one of them brought.
He didn’t know why it happened, it was one of the many things he needed to figure out.
But not tonight. Oh no not tonight.
Hovering above the street he spied his goal. He was downtown again, a few blocks from where all the neat little stores like Lehman’s Army Surplus and Fanboy Comics clustered. A few more blocks either way was a no man’s land, places where crime and poverty had left the houses empty and the streets dangerous. Tristam smiled a little, if his mother only knew he was here at night.
Except I’m not really here or am I?
He’d come here looking for The Booby Hatch. The Booby Hatch was a strip bar but not just any strip bar, it was always on the local news because the police claimed it was a front for all kinds of outrageous and illegal behavior. All the authorities had ever managed to prove however was that the dancers occasionally danced sans g-strings. Tristam remembered wasting an entire afternoon last year speculating with his friends about what went on in there. Their imaginations, fueled by trashy TV and surging hormones had concocted a scene more in line with the latter days of the Roman Empire than the south side of Albany. Tristam remembered they’d made a vow to pay the place a visit when they where all twenty-one.
Except that those friends threw pizzas at me this afternoon. He thought, So guess what? I’m goin’ in. I’m goin’ in way before any of you will be able to.
With that thought he sailed forward, melting through the frosted glass door and floating over the head of the bored-looking bouncer. The Booby Hatch was smaller than he’d imagined. The bar itself took up one fourth of the floor space, the lights and the DJ’s booth dominated the rear. Tables clustered together in a space no larger than some living rooms he’d been in. An empty stage took up the remaining visible area. Music assaulted him, it was too loud for such an enclosed space, each throb of the bass made him feel as though he were rippling.
The crowd was thin, three men sat at the bar nursing drinks another pair sat at one of the tables. The men at the table where trading lapdances from a squat-looking girl in a camisole. Tristam watched her for a time but she wasn’t much to look at- Monique had a much better body.
This is pretty damn disappointing.
The song ended, the DJ’s amplified voice filled the room, “Now coming up to the stage is Ariel. She gives me that special feeling but I wish she’d keep her hands to herself.”
“Shut up!” Someone from the bar screamed.
“My fan club speaks! Thank you! Now put your hands together and don’t forget to tip when she comes by later.”
The music blared once more. Tristam turned his attention back to the stage, to the figure grinding sinuously before him. Ariel wore tight red shorts, a matching halter-top and a pair of lethal-looking heels. Her burnt almond skin was speckled with glitter. As she eased out of her top Tristam felt a fluttering in his stomach. His eyes traced a path down from her reddish-brown hair to the sculpted smoothness of her neck. The milky-white fabric of her bra was a stunning contrast to her skin, it made the swell of her breasts stand out all the more. Her slender hands glided to the waistband of her shorts, one hand held them open, the other slid down inside. Her mouth became a grimace of mock arousal as she rocked in place.
One song faded into the next. The shorts pooled at her feet, she bent over to step out of them. The g-string she wore matched the bra. Tristam felt himself aching to touch her, aching to know what her perfume would smell like. He wasn’t a virgin but that first time with Monique had all happened so quickly. What he wouldn’t give for a chance to do it all over again, and to do it at a more leisurely pace. But that wasn’t going to happen, not now.
Ariel was toying with her bra, she reached behind her. The scrap of white fabric dropped. She covered herself with her hands, delaying the moment of truth. Tristam drew closer, he was just inches away, but she couldn’t see him.
THE COLD INSIDE
By AL BRUNO III
Monday November 7, 1994
Homework done, chores done, played with the bird and survived a five-alarm lecture from Mom… and it’s only quarter till eleven. Tristam thought as he changed into his T-shirt and sweat pants. His mother had already gone to bed, Pam was on the phone with one of her fellow airheads. Now it was time to work on his journal.
Usually he tinkered with it in the morning when everything was still fresh in his mind, but this morning he’d overslept. He’d been oversleeping a lot lately. It seemed the further he got from his house the more exhausted he’d be the next day.
Which made Tristam more certain than ever that what he had been experiencing these last few weeks where not really dreams. What was it then? He remembered that old campfire ditty- the one about the woman who dreams night after night about walking through a beautiful old house. A year or so later she’s out house hunting and she sees the house from her dreams. Unbelievably it’s for sale, so of course she wants to buy it. She goes in to check the place out and sure enough room for room it’s just like her dream. They speak to the realtor and find out the price is dirt-cheap. When they ask the realtor why the owner is selling it for so little she confesses that the owner- a sweet little old lady- believes its haunted. The owner hears them talking and walks into the room. She takes one look at the prospective buyer and says Of course its haunted. It’s haunted by you! End of story, cue Rod Serling.
Was that the case? Was he doing something straight out of the movie Ghost every night? And if he was, what was he going to do about it?
One thing's for damn sure- I’m not telling my Mom, my Psychiatrist, my sister or my probation officer! Tristam thought grimly as he pulled the battered hatbox out from under his bed. He pulled off the cover to reveal a modest stash of Playboys- nowhere near as extensive a collection as Warren’s but Warren needed them more than he did anyway. Beneath the Playboys was a frayed, spiral bound notebook, a remnant of his freshman year and Mr. Meahar’s English class. Mr. Meahar had made journal keeping mandatory, it had counted for twenty percent of the final grade. You could write anything, poetry, inner thoughts, diary entries, stories, grocery lists- anything you just had to write.
Tristam had filled up the pages with ‘I did this I did that’ style entries and transcribed Nirvana song lyrics. His freshman year he’d been too busy to do much more- parties, dates and school events had been more important.
Now of course he had a reason to keep a journal. It was helping him to make sure his nightly adventures where really happening and he wasn’t just losing his mind.
Tristam shivered at the very thought.
He pushed the box of Playboys back under the bed, got a pen and started scribbling…
Made it all the way to the capital last night. Stayed far away from any other people but a bird did fly through me. For some reason that didn’t hurt…
THE COLD INSIDE
By AL BRUNO III
Monday November 7, 1994
Carol Bloom didn’t get out of work until almost seven o’clock so they ordered out. It was Pam’s turn to decide and she chose pizza.
While mother and daughter waited for the delivery man to show up Tristam did his chores. He started a load of laundry and cleaned Cookie’s cage. Both sets of chores had their problems. Cookie always liked to supervise the cleaning of the tall cage, as Tristam was working the bird would hop out onto his shoulder and squawk bits of encouragement directly into his ear. And no matter how fast Tristam worked the bird always managed to poop on him at least once. As for doing the laundry, Tristam didn’t really mind but it was always there. No matter how many loads he did he never seemed to be able to get the pile down. More than half the laundry was his Mom’s and his sister’s and he always felt a little uncomfortable when it came to handling their underwear.
By the time the pizza arrived Tristam was done. He sat at the table and worked on his assignment for English class. Occasionally he would nibble at his dinner.
“Yeah, so there’s no way we’re going to make it to the finals now.” Pam explained.
His mother nodded, “How does Ronnie feel?”
“He knew it was going to happen. The coach has no idea what he’s doing. I mean Ronnie played a killer game but it was like he was all alone out there.”
“The poor dear it must be very frustrating for him.”
By now Tristam had read the same line from Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus seven times. He wondered if his sister had watched the same game everyone else had. A lot of people were saying that Blessed Heart’s team lost because of Ronnie Miller’s showboating. The guy thought he was a one-man team and because of that he made himself the centerpiece of every play. By the first down the other team had caught on to it and then it was all over. She and her jock friends lived in a fantasy world, where they were never wrong.
Worst of all, his Mom bought into it. It made her proud that her daughter was a cheerleader with a grade point average that was a shaky B. It had made her even more proud when her son had been numbered among their ranks. A handsome young Freshman- already dating a Junior.
Of course that part was over now and his fall had made her pride in her daughter all the more extreme. She thought Pam was so damn perfect.
“Well luckily there weren’t any scouts at that game. Not that Ronnie needs a scholarship but it would look nice.”
Carol gave Tristam’s book a nudge, “Hey you’re hardly eating.”
“Sorry.” Tristam took another bite, “I had pizza for lunch.”
“Then why didn’t you say something?”
“Well, you see I didn’t eat the pizza-” Tristam looked up from his book and turned his attention to Pam, “-my sister and her friends were throwing it at me.”
“You little creep!” Pam lunged at him.
THE COLD INSIDE
By AL BRUNO III
Monday November 7, 1994
The buses had departed ten minutes ago. Only Tristam was left, he stood near the school’s main entrance, his bookbag on the ground near his feet. With every gust of wind his shivering got worse.
Come on Mom. He thought, Hurry up. A year ago he could have taken a bus or caught a ride with Pam and Ronnie. Ronnie had a killer sports car with a great sound system and a heater. Now Tristam had to wait for his mother to leave her work to come and get him. Then he had to spend two to three miserable hours at the nursing home where she worked at until could go home. Even then he had to do his chores before he could relax. His therapist had told his mother that he needed structure and she was structuring the Hell out of him.
In his Freshman year the homework was bad enough, but now in his Sophomore year it seemed that just about every teacher was laying it on incredibly thick, especially Mr. Stackman. Tristam doubted that the old man even took into account that all the other teachers were giving thirty minutes worth of homework as well.
No wonder the SOB’s car gets vandalized every year.
Read this. Write that. Do the problems at the end of chapter seven in your algebra workbook. Don’t forget your chores. Tristam could hardly wait until he was an adult and he could decide for himself what he was going to do with his free time.
Another gust of wind, another bout of shivering. At least in the morning he’d had his friends to keep his mind off the fact he was freezing but all he could do now was try to lose himself in his thoughts and the chattering of his teeth.
My friends. It still amazed him to think that his friends where now the likes of Tubbo, Psycho, Sadam Jr., Graveyard Greg, Dick Head and Smudge.
At least that’s what he’d called them a year ago. Now he was one of them, he was ‘Dog-Boy’.
His mother’s maroon Mercury Topaz pulled up to the curb, he quickly got inside. “How was your day?” she asked.
Tristam groaned with relief at the car’s warm interior, “Same old, same old.”
“I know you’re not going to like it,” Carol said as she made a U-turn and headed back the way she had come, “but I’ve got to work a little later than I expected. We probably won’t get home until after six.”
“You can do your homework at my desk.”
“I hate it there, you know I hate it there.”
“I don’t see what your problem is.”
“How can you stand it?” He shook his head, “That place is a funeral home waiting to happen.”
“Oh boy.” An angry blush flooded her cheeks, “You wanna get grounded this weekend too?”
“No!” He replied. God he couldn’t stand this, she was grounding him like he was a little kid. “That place just creeps me out.”
“All that says to me is that you need to spend a little more time there. Remember what Dr. Butterfield said- you need to expand learn empathy. You need to see that other people and animals have feelings that are just as valid as yours.”
The maroon Topaz pulled into the employees’ parking lot of the Carvale Home For the Elderly and Infirm. Tristam crossed his arms over his chest, “I have empathy Mom. I wish you could see that.”
The car eased into an open space. Carol switched the engine off, “And I wish I could believe you but it’s going to be a long time before I can trust you again.”
Whenever his mother spoke to him this way it made that cold he felt lurking inside him grow a little stronger. What would he do if he let it get away from him again? Already it had cost him so much. In one terrible moment he had gone from having the world to being the kid everyone had seen being led away by the police on the eleven o’clock news.