by David Michael McKinney

Over the years the story of Mel’s Hole has been largely relegated to the trash-bin of ‘urban legend,’ written-off as ‘wacko-conspiracy’ propagated by aluminum foil-helmeted crack-pots with too much free-time and overwrought imaginations. But this cynical version only emerged since the government stepped-in and took over the story.

Before that happened, Mel’s Hole was common knowledge among the locals. Many knew they could discreetly dump their trash there. It used to be the towns best-kept secret before Mel Waters, believing he was the first to discover it, obsessed about it to everyone he met. Some feel that is why the government shut it down. It was simply getting too much attention and too much attention is a bad thing when it involves unnatural phenomena. I am one of the relatively few still alive to have actually seen Mel’s Hole with my own eyes and possibly the only one to have any idea what potential danger it presents.

My name is Mike McKinney. Forty-some years ago, when I was just in my mid-twenties, I was part of a post-grad geological research team summoned late one night to investigate “the hole”, a mysterious anomaly discovered on a forested piece of property in eastern Washington. As promised, I haven’t spoken about it in all these years but it was only after me and the other members of my team were coerced by the government to sign NDAs which bound us to absolute secrecy about what we had experienced. But as my days on Earth appear to be drawing to a close, and I am the last alive to remember—there’s a true-life story that needs to be told. A story deliberately hidden from the public for decades and if it’s the last thing I do, I need to get the information into the hands of future generations of knowledge-seekers in the hope they will learn about its existence and get to the bottom of it.

Ellensburg, Washington, a quiet town nestled within the foothills of the Cascade Range, borders an enigmatic plot of land purchased by Melvin “Mel” Waters in 1979. Mel gave-up his promising career at a pharmaceutical lab to become a wildlife biologist, living a tranquil life far from the bustling city lights. His days were spent in peaceful solitude, tending to his garden and exploring the ancient forest surrounding his property. He is well-liked at the local watering-hole but pretty-much keeps to himself most of the time.

Early one morning, wandering deeper into the woods than usual, he came upon something peculiar. At the edge of a small clearing, obscured by a tangle of overgrown shrubs, was what appeared to be a sinkhole. But this was no ordinary sinkhole. It was perfectly round with smooth, stone retaining walls that descended into nothing but dark emptiness. Curious, Mel tossed a rock to test its depth. Straining to hear its impact when it hit ground, he was all the more curious when none could be heard. Intrigued, he looked about for larger and larger objects to drop into the hole; larger stones, a fallen tree, even a rusted butane tank were tossed, shoved, dragged and pushed over the edge but nothing gave any evidence of ever hitting bottom.

Over the weeks, Mel began using his pickup truck to bring things he’d been meaning to get rid of to toss into the hole. He cleared clutter from around his property, everything from used tires to worn out appliances and drove them out to what he considered a convenient dumpsite. He would always listen carefully to discern if anything hit bottom, yet nothing he disposed of ever made a sound. It was almost as if the hole was a vortex to nowhere. Long after he’d cleared all the debris from his property, his curiosity continued to grow. He was particularly curious why Max, his German Shepard, who was used to going everywhere with him, avoided going anywhere near the edge as if some strange energy was causing him to be unusually wary.

Mel’s discovery consumed him. He got to where he would offer to dispose of neighbors junk just for the thrill of dumping it, regaling their imaginations with stories of the mysterious anomaly. He dropped countless items over the following months, each time waiting for a sound that never came, the story fascinated everyone who heard it. That…or they were the first ones to rumor he was crazy. Mel began to pride himself on having the power to maintain such a tidy town. There wasn’t one piece of junk or dilapidated car within a five mile radius.

The hole seemed to defy the laws of physics, and Mel couldn’t shake the feeling that it was more than just a geological anomaly, eventually leading to why my associates and I became involved.

The Mel I came to know was a level-headed guy, not given to flights of fantasy, but he is quick to tell the story about the night he had a vivid dream. In it, he saw ancient symbols surrounding the hole and a deep, resonant voice echoing from its depths. He said it was uttering a language he couldn’t understand. The dream left him with an uneasy sense of foreboding. The clarity with which he described the dream was indeed compelling. He was hard-pressed to recall anything in his life that afforded him more intrigue. Listening, one could get the impression, the hole had become Mel’s reason for living.

Determined to uncover the truth, both about his dream and the hole’s unfathomable depth, Mel contacted a former colleague, a lady-friend for whom he remembered having fond memories. This woman happened to be my mentor at Washington State—Dr. Eleanor Ross, professor of anthropology, specializing in the study of obscure languages. She too was intrigued by Mel’s story, and warmed by hearing from her old friend, she agreed to make the two hour drive from Seattle to surmise the situation.

On her arrival, Mel welcomed her with open arms, Eleanor, still somewhat at a loss, brought nothing but a tape-recorder and a few modest research books referencing the area. They relaxed with some tea and caught-up on old news but Mel was eager to get to the point and soon thereafter, they drove to the location of the hole. Together they walked the circumference as closely as they dared, Max at a guarded distance. Eleanor couldn’t resist the temptation to find a hefty stone and toss it over the edge. She listened intently for the sound of it hitting bottom. Just at that moment, Max started barking ferociously as a guttural-vibration began to reverberate from the dark-depths.

Mel wanted to hear it and hollered—Max,hush! But to no avail. Eleanor, on the other hand, keenly focused on her mission, ran over to the truck, grabbed her tape-recorder and turned it on. Stepping gingerly, she got as close as to the edge as she could. Unfortunately, she was only able to capture a few seconds of the noise before it went silent.

“I wasn’t ready for this”, Eleanor whispered in a trembling voice.

They couldn’t get into the truck fast enough and they returned to the house much faster than when they left. Mel made a nervous meal, opened a bottle of shaky-wine and stoked the fading embers in the fireplace. Mutually intrigued by the mystery they had just witnessed, clueless as to what they had just experienced, their conversation shifted nonetheless toward the other great elephant in the room—why the two of them never got together when it was their chance.

Eleanor had ended-up marring a business man, raising two boys, both of whom are now professionals living in Spokane, each married with children of their own. Her husband and she divorced after 26 years, a long story apparently, one she only alludes to with resignation. Mel solemnly admitted he had married a girl he knew from High School but she died several years ago from cancer. The reason, he explains, why he retired, left the city and moved to the country where he could live-out his days in genteel grace.

Ellie and Mel found feelings for each other had not wained. They became so engaged in conversation they lost all track of time. The sun had set too quickly and it was too dark to drive to the hotel in town. On Mel’s insistence, Ellie agreed to spend the night. But first—she needed to make an important call. That’s where I come in.

She promised I would not be disappointed by what she had to show me. She even told me to extend the invitation to any of my nerd-friends in the department who may be available…but to only come if they wanted a life-changing experience.

10:30 the next morning, Aaron, Philip, Charles and I were knocking on Mel’s front door. We came equipped with sophisticated sonar and a half-ton of surveyor-equipment we borrowed from the university. Mel & company lead the four of us to the site. Using sonar-technology we pinched from the science department, we immediately began setting-up detection devices around the perimeter of the enigmatic-orifice. It’s seems no one was convinced what they were dealing with until they had personally found the biggest stone they could lift and toss over the edge, always listening but never hearing the “plop”.

We discovered the hole was not just deep but seemed to extend infinitely. According to our graphs, it extended well beyond our equipment’s capacity to measure. One might have thought it was a portal to a parallel universe—but I’m getting ahead of myself.

That afternoon, while reviewing the data we had collected earlier that day, Eleanor noticed strange electromagnetic fluctuations in the readings, and noted how they were corresponding with an eerie-hum now audibly emanating from the hole. As we investigated further, we heard variations in the tonality that seemed to be a language coming from the blackness itself.

Once again, Mel felt obliged to share the details of his dream.

Indeed, Eleanor said, it all seems so real now. Just standing on the threshold of something so vast has a transformational effect on one’s being.

We inhaled the etherial sounds of garbled-gobble-gook, uttered with the strain of deep emotion. Our tents, tables and equipment began to appear distorted as a Dali painting. It seemed as if reality itself was warping. We found this sensation disturbing and questioned if perhaps we were breathing something toxic.

Knowing it would go against everyone’s better judgment, I volunteered to explore the hole personally. But after heated debate, they convinced me otherwise, deciding instead to devise a crane capable of lowering a 3D video camera into the abyss which frankly, is all I was really hoping to do. I’m no hero.

In the time it took Mel to drive back to the house, make several sandwiches, grab some warm sodas and get back to the site, we had completed our DIY spy-camera. It was so funky one might have thought it built by the Flintstones…but we were proud of our resourcefulness. We used an exceptionally long branch, counter-balanced on a tripod of sturdy-sticks, attaching several spools of 50+ pound filament-line totaling 26-hundred feet in length to the camera. We hoped this would give us some idea of what was going-on.

As the make-shift capsule descended, the video-feed showed the walls of the hole glowing eerily with bioluminescent patterns, patterns Mel instantly recognized as similar to the ones in his dream, hinting at an undeniable connection between the hole and an unknown past.

Mel is astonished at what he sees. He is not familiar with the language of lucid-dreaming nor has he ever been prone to believe in paranormal happenings. He is first and last…a practical man and he is definitely out of his element.

Suddenly, the feed cut-out. The ground beneath our feet began to tremble. Mel and Eleanor are shaken to their knees. They exchange worried glances as a low, guttural growl reverberates from the depths of the Earth.

Startled, Philip, Charles and I began retracting the wire, wrestling with the weight of it as though having caught a mighty Marlin on the other end. We almost lost our balance and the crane. We struggled, but held tight. Having already experienced more drama than we bargained for, once the camera was back in our possession, our terror had only begun. The camera was battered and scorched, with bizarre claw marks scarring the surface of the lens. Max whined painfully. So did I. I only borrowed that camera, never intending to replace it.

We planned-on spending the evening analyzing the damaged camera, while attempting to decipher the symbols sent by the video transmission, looking for patterns, clues as to its origin. Everyone had their ideas. Eleanor suggested the hole might be a gateway to an ancient civilization, one that existed in a subterranean world of its own. She reference ancient tales of there being an actual Middle-Earth. Someone suggested it might be a vortex to another dimension. Pure-apprehension made us interpret the dissident-hum ringing in our ears as a warning, a signal to keep our distance. Only a handful of halfwit enthusiasts would interpret such a vibration to be an invitation to explore. We boldly looked where no man had looked before. It was clear—we were not welcomed here. We learned our lesson but unfortunately, we lost more than we gained.

As we set about striking the camp, we discovered one of our team was missing…Aaron. We called-out to him, thinking he may have stepped into the forest to relieve himself. There was no response. Then Philip found his gear near the hole. The ground around it was charred and disturbed, indicative of a fierce struggle, claw marks like those on the camera left scratch marks on the ground dragging something downward into the abyss.

Unanimously gripped by desperation and fear, realizing we had awakened something we could not control, we decided among ourselves—the hole had to be be sealed…but how?

By evening, after hastily moving our camp closer to Mel’s house which we felt was a much safer distance, we morned the loss of our friend but we were highly motivated to move ahead. There was no body, nothing to prove or defend. How could we report it? How could we explain our hubris?

Life always moves forward and we had to get-on with ours. Dinner conversation was, nonetheless, reverent in tone. Speaking in whispers, we contemplated what we should do and how best to accomplish it. No one slept easy that night. For emotional support, Eleanor, moved into Mel’s bedroom. The rumors are very true—the intensity of the moment made the temporal aspect of our daily existence all the more meaningful. While Mel and Eleanor had each other, we three survivors found loving solace in each others company.

The next morning, after a quick breakfast, we collected vital materials from Max’s storage-shed and with the dogged- determination of a royal executioner, we headed back to the site. Oddly, Max refused to jump in the truck with us. Naturally, we found this troubling. No amount of coaxing would budge him. He knew something was up. Undeterred, we drove ahead leaving him behind.

With heightened anxiety, Max watched us drive away.

Once at the site, we acted-out our plan—systematically rigging explosives around the perimeter and preparing to detonate them, but before we could finish, the ground shook even more violently than the day before, knocking us off our feet. From the depths of the unknown emerged shadowy, enraged figures, with eyes that glowed with an unnatural light. We were defenseless…in awe.

Unimaginable acts of bravery can happen when you least expect. Sensing the immanent danger, Mel wrapped his chest with as many packs of explosives as he could carry then without another word, cast himself into the abyss…holding the detonator firmly in-hand. The next fourteen seconds of horror felt like an eternity. The hole swallowed the explosion and imploded into itself. Mel had sacrificed himself to ensure the portal would be sealed in the hope he would spare our lives.

He did.

The explosion rocked the forest like a sonic boom. The bottomless pit collapsed creating an enormous depression that threatened to swallow us all. Frantic, Eleanor, Charles, Philip and myself managed to stay atop the descending rubble. As the dust began to settle, all that remained was a smoldering crater the size of Candlestick Park and the rumbling-echo we still hear to this day.

Epilogue

Months later, Eleanor and I decided to return to the site, which we heard had recently become designated as a restricted area. We had a good idea why, nevertheless, Ellie felt compelled to place a small memorial plaque for Mel near the crater as a tribute to his courage. The hole might have been sealed, but its mystery still lingered.

It was obvious the government was nervous investigating what they referred to as a “seismic-event”. Stern-officers detained us. Eleanor and I were both interrogated at length about our history with area. We were eventually sworn to secrecy and allowed to leave but were instructed never to return.

That was a long time ago. It’s been over forty-years since we last drove-off that property, agreeing never to mention what we knew. But I will never forget the experience, or Mel’s dream for I can still feel the wind whispering through the trees and the forest humming a faint and eerie refrain, reminding us all—some mysteries are meant to be buried. Others are meant to be found.

If you ever find yourself in Ellensburg, Washington, take a moment to ponder the hidden depths beneath the tranquil surface. Somewhere, out there in the forest, lies the remnants of a hole that defies the laws of physics, a hole that has swallowed not just objects, but the hopes and fears of those who dared confront its secrets—There are truths out-there we aren’t being told and life’s greatest challenge is to find them.

by Wes Hansen

They ran from the bloody scene, two rebellious lovers left over from the brethren war. They had received the directions for the ritual from the wise old wizard reading from an oracle – ancient Egyptian bones. A necromancer, a whore, a curioso forever immortal, he was older than any artifact even when Trismegistus roamed the land, this a long while before the war. With a sleight of hand and in a voice virtuoso, he said they’d see two forces fighting but hadn’t warned them of the rest, or mentioned anything about a test. “Ran river, past the Mother and Son, by fetishism, a commodity between negation and renewal – magical system, around the bend and over the bow, you’ll find some places where need sink real low, but hang on to one another and you’ll eventually come out from under.” Next came some gibberish neither understood, drugs and blood, two minds made one, ripped asunder once again, a critical boundary painted in murderous blood, muscaria amanita . . . divine path to She the Divine One?
Of course, the old wizard knew all along the truth about Sati and her lover Shiva. He stood by and cheered: her devotion; her asceticism; her desire for her lover’s flesh. “Take eat,” he cried. “Take drink,” she replied. Oh, mercy and the serpent! Yes! She brings life forth and taketh life away like the Ouroboros fixed in eternity; She is the sow who eats her own litter; the Black One with Her tongue extended to catch the blood; approach Her with lust and She will destroy; approach Her with Love and She is the Ferry Across the Ocean of Existence. She, it is, who brings renewal! This all came later but before they ran scared.
They ran towards the light and through the automatic doors. They were in a supermarket – produce section – held in arrest by the dazzling brilliance of the organic carnival laid bare before. They breathed in the cold air becoming newly aware of each other’s beauty; his breath quickening with rising ardor, her nipples, hard and sensitive from the manufactured cold and the potential of the story, waiting to unfold. The man stepped forward taking up the plump, red, juicy fruit. He and his lover were affected like all other, an assault to sensual synapses – polymorphous perversity, bright colors on bound flesh, stretched taunt, waiting to burst forth with sweet nectar. The woman read as much in the man’s bright, feverish eyes as he sank his teeth into the fruit’s succulence; she watched the juice course down his chin, sighed with unquenchable hunger and bit into the red flesh.
They kissed and the orgasm came like Napoleon on his great white steed; lands discovered and conquered between quickened breaths; clothing torn and tossed aside; budding flesh teased with hunger and need; villages plundered, lands raped, and stores pillaged – violence contained in ecstasy – a sacrament proving that the temple is everywhere. And the temple was filled with a chorus of Shrieking Angles, sharp horns and hollow bowls, cut up and spliced like a Niblock drone. She put her head back and screamed; he thrust out his heart and moaned, a pulsing beat, crying out her name – to Sati, with Love.
The erotic smell of spent fertility, like freshly turned earth rich in humus, brings thought back to that most sacred furrow quivering in the aftermath of recent pleasure. The olfactory, gently assaulted by the feminine dew rising from the furrow’s delicate petals, creates masochistic images tempered by love and some mute sense of self-transmigration. Tantric intuition persevering in the deep recesses of our common psyche, bringing forth the Divine Comedy, a gamma ray burst made manifest in the hero’s mind. He leans forward, a willing supplicant come to worship Yoni. Shiva the Destroyer, Lord of Yoga, brought forth from his self-imposed exile by the pristine austerities of Parvati, Queen Avatar of the Divine Kali. Shiva, infused with Shakti; the Solar King reunited with the Lunar Queen – to Sati, with Love.
They came out of the comedy in a vintage Cadillac full of bullet holes with the top down and the seats torn. They were naked, their bodies covered in dry musky sweat. They held each other’s hand and stared forward with determination spawned by the bliss of discovery. It had been some time since the cold winds of infinite ages had coursed unchecked across the exposed landscape, raising awareness, exposing the mystery. They felt like conquerors who had in turn been conquered, their innards laid bare; fear and desire negated by the beautiful journey which began with the ritual, a call to adventure – to Sati, with Love.
The Gamma Ray Burst
Detonated in Our Minds;
Revealing the Ancient Fragments,
Fragments Born from the
Unmoved Movers,
Unmoved Movement;
Ghost Mother,
Send Me a Shockwave,
Remind Me that Our Blood
Is of the Same Well!

by A.E.D. Sideen

THE TRIUMPH OF THE WAR-CHIEF FROM THE SURFACE

A man clad in wolf furs and bronze armour hops into a chariot with a Druid clad in white and red with a crown of regal oak. In his hand he holds a spear that feels like a thunderbolt with which to smite his enemies in vengeance. Truly an awesome feeling. The horses start to move again, racing like the wind He notices that The Druid Tinumaros the Green-Eyed isn’t holding the reins. They run as if the strange man can talk to the animals themselves or simply has some type of an odd influence over their feeble animal minds. As he stands like a stoic statue armed with the spear, he wonders what this strange power could possibly be.

As it gets darker, it seems as if the warband has entered into a subterranean jungle. The black and purple jungle surrounds them with bizarre twisted trees. Bellovorix, their proud chieftain, notices the lack of animal sounds. One could tell he was a proud chieftain because of his spectacular angel-wing helm and brazen armour. His garb was that of a typical Celtic chieftain with tartans green as the virile spring and sun-golden armbands and rings over a blood-red tunic, which complemented his shoulder length fox-fur coloured hair. Why would they not inhabit this forsaken land? Perhaps only the most evil and twisted creatures of ink-black darkness of perverted heart live in this foul and cruel abode. In contrast, the chariots radiate solar light, the wheels like the glorious sun that never fails. No matter how dark it is, even obscured by clouds, it still keeps rising and shining bright everyday. Around them there are herb and berry bushes with leaves in the shapes of foul medieval torture weapons. It’s oddly a lush environment with all of the odd plants despite there not being any apparent water sources around from what the Chieftain can sense. The cavernous environment reminds Bellovorix of the buttery sweets and licorice from the surface world. But he takes suspicion as to why a dreary absurd cave smells so sweet. Perhaps something evil covers up its scent and seeks to lure and kill. There are small faerie lights that flash somewhat like stars in the void-forest. But the warband ignores them and races on like the very winds. They keep racing on but then, all of a sudden there appears to be a lake in front of them. Not a lovely lake with a Lady in it as the weird colour shifting light makes it appear a deep dark purple lake of sorts. The band starts to cautiously approach the lake slowly, though the rocks underfoot are very loud as they approach.

The beach rocks are like coloured glass and pretty gems. Perhaps their horses will have something pleasant to drink? They get closer to the lake to look at it These warriors have never seen anything like it during lives full of adventure. Bellovorix is unsure if this water is safe to drink although he senses its malevolence.. Drinking cave water is a bad idea. The water starts rippling as jelly fat on meat. The Chieftain races back over to the chariot and grabs the spear, as the warriors do the same. Certainly, this has to be some sort of evil creature from the depths of its heinous abyss. Filled with a cool fire of fear and excitement, he runs and throws the spear at the water. He can’t see where it went but it surely has not fallen.

All of a sudden, a beast of what appears like India ink and rotted blood starts to poke its disgusting horns or heads up out of the water. Like a gunshot, the warband starts screaming obscene insults and making hellish noises like vengeful cruel wolves drunk on blood of lambs. They start swimming in all their heavy brazen armour to kill the colossal brutish beast with their razor sharp swords of iron. They swim like dolphins not knowing how infernally deep it is, nor caring about drowning horribly, as they are beyond human and strong as Clydesdales. The Chieftain does the same even though he knows he lacks a sword.. But he has only a knife. And so he ran as fast as he could towards the water, almost as fast as a colt.Gaining the momentum before he hit the water, he triumphantly threw his spear at the creature. It seemingly disappeared. As his toes hit the water, he feels the warm and relaxing water. But he carries on the fight for this is no time to relax. The creature was near the middle of the lake, so he swam as fast as he could. Exhausted and tired, yet he carries on. The Chieftain certainly was no whipped dog. And then the spear hits it in what looks to be a mouth amongst its Tiamatian untellable form as it comes out of the water, finally. The form keeps screaming and doesn’t come out of the water and The Druid starts yelling various incantations, as furiously loud as a mad shepherd’s dog bays at rabid wolves and unscrupulous thieves slinking about through dark nights. The spears seem to make the creature get smaller and smaller, as a fire starts burning from the ancient spells of The Druid. The fires of The Druid burn, scorch, immolate, and smoulder the beast. The lake starts sizzling and gassing and evaporating before the warband which swims towards it, as the Druid raises his hands higher.

Lightning rains down on the damned beast as if the sky was falling. Bellovorix continues swimming towards the middle of the lake, just because he wishes to stab it and rip it apart just like how the goddamn barbarians ripped apart his brother. “This is for you, Laurent!”, he cries. As he swims tirelessly, his knife cuts his shoulder, so he holds it in his mouth, on the verge of suffocation. He can’t breathe great this way but, possessed by smouldering rage, keeps swimming despite the water trying to calm him down. He brushes against a slimy surface and starts stabbing it like a killer. He drank the hot scalding blood and felt drunk on its power. Bellovorix stabs beneath the waters, exhausted yet tireless, knowing that it would take him an eternity to kill it. He sees his spear, and tries to climb the thing, but slips and falls into the water. Screaming out in anger, he starts stabbing it again. He stabs it in a way that he can slide his feet in it. He kicked his foot into the hole he just struck in it, and struck another in, and felt a rock. I look up, and it is what looks to be an evil eye. He grabs the knife and strikes it and it shatters like crystal glass.

The water starts steaming like water added to an oiled pan, revealing more and more of the burning form. Blackened like necrotic flesh, like death incarnate. The burnt flesh is tough and has plenty of ridges, which he tries to scramble up. The flames seem to not burn him somehow. He is a few metres from his spear. He grabs hold of it, and jumps out with it into the water. Blood, so much blood gushes out like water out of a trough. The blood splatters onto him as he

falls a good distance and hits the water like a falling bomb. He swam in bloodied waters that burned around him and he felt the flame licking his face but yet he was not burning. The water is about as high as a meagre pond he assumes, as he felt the ground and opened his eyes to see it before him.

Light of the sun slowly fills this evil jungle and the wicked plants become a forest of evergreen and wildflowers and Bellovorix hears the sound of kindred birdsong. But it reveals the form… one can only truly describe it as a perverse mass of evil carnivorous ancient eyes and forms upon three wicked bastard heads combined with a giant mass of millions of slimy snakes, being eaten by maggots. All of this, in the colours of ink and blood. Bellorix reaches for his knife, but there is no knife. It is now a beautiful iron sword with carvings of him killing the foul mass. Did it transform and he could not see it? Bellovorix sees the warband surrounding it, making sacrifices to the valiant and vengeful eternal gods of war, eating its grotesque flesh and immolating it in ripping sun-flames, then taking the bones and heads out of it to nail it to their chariots. Ecstatic from his revenge and feverish bloodlust he walked over and participated as well. He slashes the mighty iron sword through one of the heads and cuts into the thick armoured skull, tearing apart the disgusting mushy snake-like thing that must be brains. As the giant pile of flesh burns violently, the Chieftain cuts the head off of the body of the foul evil mass and it shrinks somehow after it is cut, he then thrusts it hard as if he is trying to kill it again onto one of the spikes on the chariot. All the while, he is jubilantly laughing like he’s quite drunk on vodka,hearing a great joke.

The Druid sings strange songs of ancient lore as the warband dances around the fire and keeps dismembering the dead corpse of the foul abomination. The stench of burning smells of house mould and sea winds. All he can see is golden flames of the sun and the red of bloodlust. Hours later, there is but a burning pyre of flesh and pillars with mysterious bloodied symbols made out of the giant bones.

The light of the sun has returned to this part of the earth. Nobody slept so elated they were in victory. And tomorrow, they will depart to find this kind of danger again.

They bring order to chaos and create the chaos to bring order to.

Without death and war, there is no life and peace. That is the code of the barbarians and warriors.

PRELUDE: INITIATION INTO THE INNER-EARTH

The Chieftain stands on a hill above an orange burning city, burning with black and grey fumes of pure death. The reflection of the burning city reflects off of his brazen armour and in his winged helm. And by his side are the weapons of his conquest, yet the blood is not very visible on his bright red tunic and dark green tartan. The sun never sets in the inner earth making the fire look brighter than it is. Within the inner earth burn the fires of war that long have been simmering. A simple band of great power and ambition set out the last equinox to shake the colonies and hives of demons that brooded in their giant hives. The Chieftain was rumoured to be a man who came from the surface-earth, a place that was collapsing its own flames of greed and hatred. The hill on which they stood on was green and lush in tones of blues and greens with pink flowers here and there. The trees were much taller than anything on the surface earth, with alpine flowers beautiful as those from fairytales.

The bell-chiming of clear and shining streams was heard throughout the woods and there was a slight cool humidity. These were woods so dense that someone who wished to could simply disappear in these woods and never ever come back. The warband settles down onto some logs, detaching the horses from the chariots and finds their mead made with the summer’s finest herbs. The Chieftain thinks in his head that everyone looks like they came straight from a Wagnerian opera, with their shimmering hauberks and elaborate shields. He sits down and drinks an old draught of juniper and pine infused mead and starts to remember once again the journey of the Hollow Earth.

“Ah, my good friends and fellow warriors. It is time now for me to tell you of my voyage into the inner earth. Indeed did I come from that odd land far away and I plan to never return.”

The warriors set up a fireplace, gathering rocks and tinder. The Druid-man lights a fire with a simple spell. They start to feast on their stolen provisions of bread and meat and dried vegetables. The warband of 12 was looking at him with great feverish curiosity. For them, he was sent down by the three brothers of war to bring them glory. Perhaps he was. Even the wolves, Callam and Argyas look at him with great interest. Bellovorix said that who he was before he entered the inner earth was silly and unimportant and refused to reveal much except for his profession, his clan and some of the recent happenings of the Surface-World. It is the present that matters, it is what will be that matters, he said. From far off, the screams of the city echo as the giant longhouses filled with a cruel and perverse spider and her unintelligent, death-worshipping spider-spawn burned, forgotten by all. Across the unknown lands of Agartha,

there lives all manner of hives of cruel invertebrate and reptilian demon-men. They have legions of soldier-drones. Mindless and weak though they like to appear powerful in number.

As they drink the mead infused with the plants from the mountains and dry deserts of the haoma plant leaves given to them by their eastern raider friends, the warband starts to see in the burning fire the images of a forest akin to their own. The mighty jade and emerald greens of the oaks, cherries and hazels are illuminated with sunlight as the rain falls through the canopy of the forest. The bottom of the forest stands in contrast to it with the oranges and browns of the fallen leaves and red of the poison mushrooms and dark rotting wood where the little foxes sleep, to which the grey autumn sky contrasts. In the forest is a fox-fur headed peasant man whom the Chieftain once was. His clothes were his old uniform from the first world war and some old hand me downs with folk motifs on them. He carried not much except for a dream and higher purpose that burned within him. To find Agartha and escape the banality and growing wickedness on Earth and to find a place for his family to live in peace.

The cold coastal air of Brittany rushed through the old forest. Since the war ended, Bellovorix had become obsessed with Agartha, the Hollow Earth. Within the deep and forgotten forests are passages to what we can only call fairyland, to the land of advanced peoples and adventure. The fairies are no cute little spawn from the stories. They are human in appearance, but with mysterious and odd powers. Some are kind and god-like, whom once brought knowledge and technology to humanity, and some can only be described as the most malicious and sinister of demons. Bellovorix had learned that he was descended from the kind and god-like faeries, the children of Danu. As the wheels of time turn, the humans forgot their fantastic friends and foes from the Hollow Earth. They returned into the mist and in the mountains and the wildest places. Or they went under the earth into Agartha, or back to the silver isles of the north. Bellovorix could see all sorts of magical symbols and meanings in the things that others couldn’t. In the carvings of wood and in the lace-like patterns of lush undergrowth in the forest, in the guts of fish and deer and in the flight of the birds he could see magic messages. Those messages revealed to him after several years the way to Agartha. Symbols given to humanity in ancient ages, symbols one can see if they look at the patterns in nature, or in the timber houses. In the patterns of the stars and grand cycles of the planets, the vessels of the sun were found the secrets of the entrances to Agartha, the Hollow Earth.

And so, he saw the last glimpses of the surface-world as he approached a strange cave. The entrance was hidden by the giant roots of trees and lattices of plants. An entrance absent from the earth. Going down, descending was the path to the lost land of the ascended beings side the earth. Bellovorix thinks the entrance is far beyond me now. The golden caverns are far beyond me now. The surface is far beyond me now. The green and life covered entrance. The light and the waterfalls from the roots. The light from above is behind me. The voices of the people, once like me, are so muffled. But I chose this. This is my cold fate. There is no turning back now. The

truth is I don’t want to turn back, no matter how much my mortal fears scream at me lost in their pathetic doubts.

All around him are great and sharp stalagmites that look golden impaling torture stakes in the torchlight. As he walked further, the stalagmites seemed to disappear in the tunnel. In caves such as these, one seems to lose all perceptions of time and dimension. The tunnels are so waterless and dead. Only the most treacherous and vapid of horrors come to those who are lost in these tunnels. However, the Surfaceman was no weak minded man. In his heart there was a vision, a higher principle that guided him even in the depressing, unglamorous and disgusting tunnels. Within the tunnels there were no signs of any bats or tunnel creatures, no moss even. They smelled much akin to old dishwater and sweaty socks. In the tunnels, a crash and scream manifested along with the sound of hooves and clashing metal and harsh squeaking noises.

The fox-haired surfaceman turned his head and grabbed a hold of his trench-knife. Demons, he thought. Foul demons. And indeed, they were. The torchlight revealed them, stick-like rat men with red eyes and ink-fur with crude steel armour fighting amongst each other. They were ripping each other up with their claws continuously, as they were all weak. An orgy of blood and guts flying everywhere, staining all around them. The Surfaceman, even being shorter than the foul creatures, was much stronger than them despite them appearing to be strong, with all of their bones and spikes and red-hot-iron eyes decided to fight them. There were five of them all fighting each other all at the same time with axes made of bone and metal. The Surfaceman ran behind one of them and ripped its back tendons and stabbed the one next to it in the gut.

The Surfaceman released a blood-curdling scream, making it sound as inhuman as possible to scare the creatures. Then, he grabbed the axe from its dying hands, and suddenly hacked at one of them in the gut. The guts of the Rat-Man fell out completely from its body and the skin slid off of it. It had green and foul smelling blood. The remaining three rat people started charging at him. One of them kicked him hard, but the adrenaline was surging strong. Before they could rip him to shreds he ran behind them quickly and with the spiked knuckles of his trench knife he crudely ripped its head off with only its spine and the sinewy flesh behind it remaining. The head then slipped off of the tissue and flesh. The two creatures started fighting each other again, and so he hacked one of them in the back with an axe like one would hack at wood. One of them was remaining and it started to run away pathetically. The Surfaceman picked up a crude bone-spear and thrust it at the rat man with all of his might, like a thunderbolt. It utterly impaled the rat man as it ran away pathetically. The Surfaceman started laughing from ecstasy from his victory and prowess of battle. He was never trained in the ancient war arts but fought with his siblings and cousins as a child and was in the first world war, yet he was competent against the woe-wielding menaces of the Inner-Earth. He cut the head off of the biggest one of the rat-men and tied it by its greasy and stringy hair onto his belt. He resisted the strong feelings of wanting to rest boiling

inside of him. Perhaps he had been wandering for days in the cave and he’d be wandering a few days more.

As he continued to walk, he noticed that the tunnel seemed to stop being a tunnel, and there was a ceiling high above him.The cave he had entered through was fairly large in size, but this was certainly another ordeal. Some civilization or old gods or foreign species must have dwelt in here. Could they have mined in here, and that is why it is so large? There is no water here, no sign of any animals. No sign of life. Only a void, where there has never been life or death. A realm of pure silence, neverending, never beginning, unknown, lifeless and deathless, but real. It is simply, eternity. The stone is pure grey and somewhat silvery as it was in my dreams and rigid, yet not sharp. It is like Notre Dame, but without any god or humanity. There are no holes within the jagged and cruel, intricate gothic rock formations.It is completely empty as there are no pillars or stalagmites. The Surfaceman decided to circle the cave. The stone shifts to a white, marble colour. He took his gloves off and felt the smooth and cold marble, which was completely flat. From the edges of the angry flames, he could see that the marble went up and formed two large door like formations. No handles, nothing that would make it look like a gate, but no gate like us humans have known. The marble-like vertical rock was the size of Chateaux de Brissac. Monolithic. It seemed to fade into the iron coloured rock.

He heard echoes within the cave, even though he had tried to be quiet. He did not fear, but rather seemed to wonder as he heard those bomb-like sounds scream throughout the lifeless cavern. He heard the scream, clear and awful screams now. But they are not human, no they were infernal inhuman screams. They are the screams of a snake, the mortal and poisonous enemy of man. The screams are repugnant lukewarm slime to his ears. The Surfaceman’s heart races like a propeller as his body is filled with the glacial scorching-hot juices of adrenaline. Yet he is not scared, because he embraces a fearless death as he senses his death coming soon. He grabs his knife, the trench knife already stained with green blood.

Shadows move and scream, but the flame he holds shines brighter. “You have no power!”, he yells at the phantoms. The yell reverberates throughout the cave as the shadow steps into his light for a minute and it.-It is batlike and it is horrible. It is death, it is pestilence, it is senility, it is the spirit of the wind and it is leviathan. The wings are outstretched and it screams and screams at the brave Surfaceman who runs towards it, without fear and ready to die. This moment, it is eternal as the Surfaceman accepts his deadly and cold fate. Rather than die running away from it in cowardice, he runs towards it in courage as his mortal fear and body grabs at him, but yet his higher instinct raced him on. What will happen to the brave Surfaceman may as well be beyond horrible and indescribable. But it will happen to the brave adventurer regardless so why not face it with honour? The foul and sublime demon starts whelping as it pathetically falls on itself. The light burns it alive. It returns to dust and the Surfaceman goes forward.

Perhaps this was a sort of initiatory test to prove if he was courageous enough and right in spirit to be able to find Agartha.

He starts to venture over to the other side of the lifeless uninhabited cave. The ground is very level and smooth. Perfectly flat and a bit slick, like that of the floors of a courthouse. Suddenly, bright lights start to phase into the Surfaceman’s mind. They appear like gems, beautiful glittering diamonds of snow and ice. The Surfaceman has never seen such enchanting beauty which steals his eyes and the beauty of the gems pry at his mortal soul. But, this must be some illustrious trap for this cavern has nothing to desire or pine for. Yet another weird test or trap. The lights start to shine brighter and brighter but the flame does not reach them. They appear closer and closer, but the Surfaceman does not run in the lusts of possession to unite with them. Simply, he stands out as a monolithic mountain or great statue, unmoved by such subversive and silly delusional temptations. If he pined for them he would die in an unspeakable and awful fate. The gems start to shift their colour into a beautiful orangish red with hints of azure blue, one of his favourite colours. It may be his favourite colour, but they are still viperous and twisted like black hearts of killers. They would have not given the surfaceman an unsettling and nervous feeling if they had good and true intentions. He wants to spit at them, but even reacting to them like that would give them power. Realising how silly and pathetic they are, he starts to laugh at them and smile knowing that they have no power over him. As he laughs, the laughter echoes like gunfire throughout the cave, and the gems’ light starts to fade and fade, returning to the darkness of the path of death from which they have spawned. The whole cavern is roaring, loud as the ripping roars of a violent and vengeful storm. The area near the holes starts to tremble and tremble. Swiftly, the Surfaceman raced over, with his bright torchlight. But alas, it is brighter than his torchlight. A mighty solar light mixes with the flames, and one of the holes, the eighth one in the horizontal thirteen holes, is full of the light, as tall as a human. The light is beyond colours, like looking at the light of the sun. The light fills the cave with a cool warmth. It was taller than a normal human. The Surfaceman was suddenly filled with joy and power, not an illusioned joy coming from mortal fading passions. The light is bright but it does not scald his eyes, but rather allow him to begin to see anew. He looks around and starts to see through all of the dark and the flame is put out. There are shadowy phantoms which would love to torment and subvert him, but they are all powerless illusions that fade. There is no smoke or water, the flame however merely ceases to burn.

And from the hole there was a man who materialised, dressed in iron-age Celtic garb. He wore a white cloak with red trimmings with odd images of animals on them over various animal pelts of creatures unknown to the surfacemen. His tunic was of red trim on ocean blue-green and he had various jewellery of gold and bronze that glowed like the sun and had on leather moccasin-like boots.

“I am Aelfrix, Chieftain of the Agartan Tuathi. You, Surfaceman, are worthy of entrance to Agartha. Your spirit is of the right character, superior to that of most of the surfacemen by the character of finding the way to Agartha.”

“I am honoured to hear your good words, Chieftain.” The hole that Aelfrix materialised from started to become larger and larger, and through it did The Surfaceman see the most lush and vibrant green forest.

“Come with me, Surfaceman.”

The Chieftain walks into the portal as the Surfaceman follows him. Suddenly they are in a lush and beautiful forest like that from fairytales. The grasses and various plants were like those of the mountains of earth, but even greater. The flowers resembled buttercups, indian paintbrush, lupin, wild roses, beargrass, trilliums, arnicas, forget-me-nots, edelweiss, thistles, and snowbells. The vibrant blossoms were the size of a fist, and the plants, the plants themselves at least a foot high and a metre long. The grass was up to the Surface-Man’s knees and was the colour of new evergreen needles. The sun was more vibrant than the one on earth, shining warm golden light upon everything it touched. The Surfaceman couldn’t help but smile as he looked upon the endless valleys and giant mountains of all sorts of goldens and greens and soft earth. There were some lakes as well, giant lakes and rivers the size of endless oceans. Untouched by human greed and pollution was the cedar ocean breeze and vanilla scented sweetness of the fresh air. Now, did the Surface-man see why Surfaceworlder aren’t allowed here and why the Agarthans have decided to close themselves.

The Chieftain turned and looked at the Surfaceman with his sky blue wolf-like eyes. He held his spear in his hand and stood proud and stoically like a Roman statue.
“Surfaceman, what is your name?”
“My name is not important. My old life means nothing. Who I was on the surface means nothing.”

“Wrong. Who were you and what did you do?”
“I was a farmer and a hunter, a man of the land. My name is Didier.”
“So I see. And what tribe are you from? You look like you’re from Ulster but your accent is strange. I don’t know how to describe it, it’s kind of like vulgar Latin but also somewhat Brythonic.”
“I am from Breton, in Gaul. I always heard strange legends about some of our ancestors being the fairy-folk. My Grandmother always looked like she was 19 or so, despite her being well into her 60s.” The wind whistles loudly hissing like a dragon. He looks above himself in awe, and a large eagle flies over. That’s a good sign for him, a sign of hope and strength. One of the feathers drifts swiftly and smoothly over his head eastward, to the shining mountains of pearl and silver.

by Anna Rosé

To the residents of Earth, Halley’s Comet is just a giant rock hurtling through space and leaving streaks of light in it’s wake. But not to the Zephyrians, who have been keeping patrolled watch on Halley’s Comet, Earth and the inhabitants thereof since Neanderthals came to be. After about one hundred thousand rotations of Earth around its sun the Zephyrian patrol ship was scheduled to pass close to Earth. A few dozen solar rotations before nearing the planet, they received a message on an emergency subspace frequency from an outpost stationed on the dwarf planet Pluto. The message reported that the inhabitants of Earth had been making a mess of things within the past one hundred rotations, with multiple accounts of ecological terrorism, plain stupidity, and of Ky’Dol — the failure or refusal to change actions or behaviors for the betterment of oneself or the whole–, which the Zephyrians considered an immensely shameful transgression.

Upon receiving this emergency update, the ship’s crew of 123 Zypherians, led by their dual captains S’Xine and Rohg’Bd, discussed what to do. Should they just continue their observations and refrain from interfering? Should they relay the message on the emergency frequency back to Zephyr, their home world? Or should they go ahead and make contact with the Earthlings? S’Xine wanted to relay the information to Zephyr and proceed with the observations and data recording. Rohg’Bd wanted to follow the moral code:, if a species is ever able to evolve to the point of space travel, they must first learn to live cohesively among themselves on their home planet. Otherwise, that species could be destructive not only to itself but also to other worlds.

The lead scientist, Drah-Min, direct descendant of the first scientist to discover the existence of Earth, was concerned for the well-being of Earth’s creatures, as well as their potential effect on the rest of the cosmos if the inhabitants ever successfully made it off their planet. Ultimately, the two captains and Drah-Min decided to test the Earthlings with the Empathy Examination, a scientific protocol that had been developed to deal with the occurrences of Ky’Dol on Zephyr. This examination entailed subjecting the offender to the thoughts and emotions of those individuals affected by their malevolent actions. If the offenders could acclimate to the protocol, they would learn to consider more seriously their actions and behaviors; if they could not acclimate, then either their bodies or their minds would not survive the process. Either way, the cosmos would be better off.

Preparations for executing the Empathy Examination took about one of Earth’s solar rotations, during which time the observation ship relayed the initial outpost message to Zephyr along with their plans for proceeding. The ship agreed to implement the examination protocol in as inconspicuous a way as possible. A vessel disguised as an asteroid was outfitted with a small core filled with atomic- sized technobots calibrated to the bio-metrics of Earthlings (The initial decision of some rogue Pluto outpost members to acquire a few inhabitants for closer non invasive study was frowned upon by the Zephyrian majority.) Between the data acquired from the technobots and from the rudimentary satellite devices invented by the Earthlings, now known to self-identify as “humans,” the margin of error for the Empathy Examination was 46%. Not ideal, but these “humans” matured and reproduced at an alarming rate, and they exhibited a level of aggression suggestive of a potentially volatile outcome should they discover the existence of what they call “aliens. With the observation ship still twenty solar rotations out, the launch of the disguised “asteroid” vessel went as planned. It would follow its programmed trajectory and land next to one of Earth’s most inhabited settlements, known as “Beijing.” The techno bots inside were programmed to replicate rapidly upon contact with Earth’s atmosphere, then rapidly disperse when the vessel would break upon impact with the planet’s surface. The Earthlings took little notice when the vessel crashed near Beijing, and the released bots slowly infused the Empathy Examination protocol throughout the population. One solar rotation later, the protocol was activated and every human was bombarded with the thoughts and emotions of others. Seizures liquefied the nervous systems in a third of the population, spreading confusion and terror around the globe. Paralyzing migraines left some people catatonic in their beds, chairs, cars, and even in the middle of streets. As the initial outburst of chaos slowly subsided, the Zephyrians noticed that the younger the Earthling was, the more readily they adapted to the Empathy Examination. This was also noticed in certain individuals and groups that regularly practiced self-reflection and meditation. On the opposite end of the spectrum, those who were rooted in their own convictions, justifying their thoughts, /actions, and /behaviors to the complete exclusion of other people’s influence, suffered agonizing effects.

Upon the second orbit after depositing the Empathy Examination vessel, as the Zephyrians expected, every region the humans classified as a “country” and the societal infrastructure thereof, collapsed. What the Zephyrians were surprised by was the effect the Examination had on human genetic makeup. Though the technobots were working on relatively thorough information about the human genome, that had still left gaps in exactly how the bots were to complete their tasks. As a result, the bots unlocked certain genetic characteristics previously unknown to humans, including psychic powers, heightened senses, and exponentially amplified speed, strength, flexibility, and reflex responses.

Fascinated by the unexpected results of the secret intervention, the Zephyrians kept observing. After another one hundred rotations around the sun, they noted that the Empathy Examination had wiped out nearly 67% of Earth’s human population. The human race slowed its societal and technological progress. With their never-before-experienced sensations of knowing another being’s emotions and thoughts completely, some humans lashed out in fear; others no longer knew how to process anything and became isolated. While a significant majority chose to try to understand what caused this bizarre occurrence, without being able to discover or identify the technobots remnants the humans investigations were inconclusive. Their thoughts and concerns turned to what the next step for their species should be. And that was something that would take Earthlings decades to figure out, let alone implement. But eventually they did.

By 2467 A.D. in the Gregorian calendar, humanity had found a balance of nature and technology, leading to living tree buildings, solar panels on vehicles and low-orbit spacecraft, and the recycling of old metals and plastics with minimal environmental impact. Fighting and war mongering diminished greatly, and the occasional disputes were resolved quickly. Though life was not a perfect utopia, humans of all walks of life and evolutionary ability learned to coexist. One day on the Lunar Outpost, a group of scientists in charge of communication relay were looking for a faster way to communicate between spacecraft and stations to improve Martian exploration. In the middle of their experiments they manufactured a device intended for the task. When they turned it on they weren’t expecting to find an incoming signal, and they had a hard time understanding the odd language they heard coming over this subspace-frequency radio.

Only time will tell if the cosmos was ready for humanity.

by MyKA Mckinney

Wealthy, handsome and spoiled, with an attitude that makes it easy to dismiss his finer features, Andrew Taylor Scott, gazes through the French-lace sheers that filter the afternoon sunlight, casting delicate shadows across his all-white bedroom carpet and silk duvets. Andrew Taylor Scott is a man for whom maturity has done little to temper his arrogance; a man who by all rights should show some sign of gratitude, perhaps an inkling of modesty considering his good fortune came not by his own labor nor cleverness but by that of a distant relative whom he’d never gotten to know nor, frankly, ever cared to know, but his great-uncle Cornelius’s Spanish mansion in Beverly Hills, and finely crafted furnishings are indeed rare and precious…thus suitable to reflect the image he holds of himself.

He watches as the hired-help, a crew of Salvadoran women, walk the long driveway after their days work; checking to assure himself they aren’t carrying-off anything they shouldn’t. He refuses to let them park their car on the estate, telling them it’s because he considers their car to be unsightly, not admitting it’s mainly to afford himself the opportunity to frisk them visually as they leave. They are a relatively new-hire, and trust is not a virtue Andrew easily extends.

It’s five-o’clock. Andrew’s husband, Randal, should be home any minute.

Randal is an entirely different kind of man. Half of Andrew’s age, he more than makes-up for what Andrew lacks with kindness of heart and generosity of spirit. During the day he’s just—“Randy”, to everyone at the charity bazaar where he works, but that name doesn’t appeal to Andrew, sounds too ‘pedestrian’ he says, so in the evenings, he’s “Randal” around the house, or when they’re out together in public. Randy is good-natured and has a way of overlooking Andrew’s pretentiousness. He knows he wouldn’t have to work if he didn’t want to. After all, they are legally married and by all rights, half of Andrew’s inherited wealth is his, but Randy doesn’t think about things that way. Besides, he hesitates to take anything for granted knowing Andrew has a long history of relationships with younger men. It was only because Andrew got into some kind of legal trouble a while back that they married as quickly and unceremoniously as they did, mainly to prevent Randal from being forced to testify should a case be brought to trial. Without a witness, the case was dropped and nothing more was said. Since they still get along as well as they do, being married hasn’t been an issue. Nevertheless, Randal prefers to be useful more than purely ornamental, so he helps-out three days a week at the bazaar.

Max is gay too, though most people wouldn’t think so. He has a rugged, weathered look to him, unaffected by trends or the need to be pretty, still, he has what it takes to be attractive when the situation calls for it. He lives in a cottage adjacent to the garages on the back of the property and serves as a Jack-of-all-trades for Mr Scott: occasional driver, bodyguard, confidante, pool maintainer, and is basically responsible for any domestic task necessary to keep Andrew from getting his hands dirty. He values his situation, knowing full-well his alcoholism would not be tolerated by other employers. Andrew knows this too and leverages Max’s disability it to his advantage.

The Abby is the most popular gay bar in West Hollywood, very trendy and definitely the place to be seen, particularly if you’re either rich or beautiful, and since Mr & Mr Scott are both, they are well-recognized and always well-received, though for obvious reasons…one of them is not necessarily well-liked.

The Abby owners announce they will be hosting an open-mic poetry-slam on Wednesday evening, which for all intents and purposes seems like a perfect distraction for men with time and money on their hands. In West Hollywood, it’s hard not to run into someone who isn’t promoting a book, or a screenplay, ever-looking for that big-break, hoping to be discovered. Eager talent abounds, so Wednesday’s poetry-slam ignites a lot of interest.

Andrew calls Max on his cell. “Max, Randal and I will be attending an event at the Abby tonight. I’d like you to drive us. Drop us off in front at 9:00. If you can find a park, you may join us later. I’d like to take the Bentley.”

“You think that wise”, asks Max.

“It’s been long enough”’ Andrew says. “Besides, I saw two other white Bentleys just today. Everybody knows I have one. It might seem more suspicious if they don’t see me using it. You got that little problem with the front fender taken care of didn’t you?”

“Yes, Sir. Of course. I took care of it immediately.”

“Well it shouldn’t be a problem then.”

“Oh, and Max…no drinking tonight. Got that?”

“Of course, Sir. Shall I pull around to the front?”

“No. We’ll meet at the garage and leave by the back gate just to be on the safe side.”

“Very good, Sir.”

Randal is in the kitchen. His culinary skills are modest but he is nonetheless enthusiastic as he removes his homemade macaroni and cheese with toasted bread crumbs hot from the oven.
“I hate to go to these things on an empty stomach,” he says, hoping Andrew is as pleased with his effort as is he.

“Carbs and cheese” says Andrew. “Are you trying to kill me or just fatten my ass?”

“You need carbs for energy. You don’t want to be falling asleep in the middle of the show”, Randal insists.

“I think I’ll just order something when we get there.”

Only slightly disappointed, Randal takes a big spoonful and blows on it to cool. “Alright…but you’re missing-out”, Randal says, satisfying himself with a single bite. “Max will eat it.”

Showtime. Andrew selects his traditional attire, a white linen suit, white shoes, and shirt. His 6’2” height and slender frame elongated all the more with a white Fedora.

Randal, a tidy 5’7”, tucks his bubble-butt into well-worn Levis and dons a small-size baby-blue T-shirt, accentuating his eyes and perfect proportions.

Max had the white 2004 Bentley sedan freshly buffed and was looking the part in his black leather pants, gloves and chauffeur cap. The Bentley had been parked in the garage, unused for several months but it’s one of Andrew’s favorite cars, all of which are white, so he chose to bring it out tonight in honor of better days.

“What’s that painting still doing here,” Andrew bellows. “I thought we got rid of that thing. Wouldn’t they take it at the bazaar?”

“I hesitated to take it in,” Randal explains, “thinking you might change your mind about it. After all, it’s the portrait of your great-uncle who built this place. It’s irreplaceable and couldn’t possibly be worth more to someone else.”

The painting of Cornelius Peyton Scott looks eerie leaning against the garage wall along with other miscellaneous items ear-marked for disposal. Perhaps it was just the lighting but he appears to be scowling.
“I gave it a chance”, Andrew miffs, “I certainly wasn’t going to leave it hanging in the great room. I didn’t like it in the library or billiard room, and who would want it starring down on them in any of the guest suites? I sure don’t want to look at it. I have no sentimental attachment to him or it. It creeps me-out. I want it gone.

“It’s nine o’clock,” says Max, “we should be going.”

“I’m not worried”, Andrew insists, “they’ll hold my table until I get there.”

Within fifteen minutes, Max is dropping them off in front of The Abby. The place is crowded as usual, gas patio-heaters are a-blazing, but the atmosphere was slightly less talkative than most nights. Inside, a heavy-set Fluid with colorful-tattoos, heavy-piercings and faded blue hair stands at the microphone reciting an angry diatribe possessing neither pentameter nor rhyme.

The host welcomes Andrew and Randal and escorts them to their table.

“Can I get you something to drink”, he asks softly so as not to distract the poet.

“I’ll start with a Cabernet”, says Andrew in a bombastic tone, “while I consider how much of this I can stand”.

Randal orders a Corona beer with a tequila shot and a margarita.

The drinks arrive, the poet concludes, the crowd applauds, and the MC introduces the next poet.

“Im not sure where he’s from, or when, there’s a mild chuckle from a few, but let’s give a warm welcome to, MyKA, who will be reciting an original work entitled—Masters of the House.

From the shadows emerges an elderly young-man, obviously a throw-back from old hippy-days. He’s tall, gaunt, with long-hair, wearing a floor-length hooded robe. He steps-up to the microphone.

“Oh God”, says Andrew, loudly motioning to the waiter, “I’m gonna need another drink, this wine isn’t going to cut it. Bring me four shots of whiskey and an Irish coffee.”

“By the time you’re back I’ll be ready for another round,” says Randal.

In a voice raspy and deep, MyKA begins…

“Stories of Love are often told
By romantics young, and mystics old
By heavenly stars
Love’s light unfolds
On human hearts it’s rhythm”.

The waiter delivers their order. Andrew downs two shots immediately and sips the Irish coffee. Randal is feeling warm and relaxed and is in the mood to listen.

“But before I speak of love’s intrigue
Heartless abandonment, and denial,
Let me describe the lay of land,
Impressions worth a pleasant smile.

Two rivers converge the lands high ground,
Escorting to the seas,
Mighty forests of evergreen,
Whose bough could bend the morning breeze”.

The poetry is having a hypnotic affect on Randal. He closes his eyes and releases his imagination.

“We take a craft, de-board at pier,
Give baggage to our coachman,
And while he travels on ahead,
We’ll walk as I do often.

The path we take is plain to see,
Planted very liberally
With trees and flowers—so intense
They suffice to serve as critters fence,
Whose nibbling only seems to thin
The very thing that keeps them in”.

Andrew, ever contrary to anything tender, becomes louder and harder to ignore.

“Watch now as we turn,
See colors soften,
Contrasts fade,
Bird song pauses,
Winds whisper,
And for a brief moment,
There is silence.
Now watch for crimson Hollyhock
That line this path they tower
And bend to arch
Our graceful stroll
With fists of yet unopened flower”.

“Is there supposed to be music to this?” Andrew thinks he’s reading the room but is merely reinforcing his reputation as a self-inflated dickhead.

“There! Beyond the fields of corn and rye,
Between the mountain and the sky,
A great house sits like a throne on high,
Bringing dignity to the earth,
Like heaven having given birth.
It’s roofs are high.
It’s views are many.
It’s chimneys tote of wealth and plenty.
A setting sun on shingles show
A craft forgotten long ago,
Nor are any still around
That might recall constructions sound.

It’s windows, walls and floors are stone,
Burnished smooth by time alone.
They echo soft the servants scurry,
And loud the voice of noble fury”.

The busboy comes to their table to clear away the empty glasses. He’s a particularly nice looking Hispanic and enjoys prolonged eye-contact with Randal, but in doing so, the edge of his tray accidentally knocks-over Andrew’s un-finished glass of red wine, smashing it against the table and splashing all-over Andrew’s white linen suit. Andrew jumps out of impulse to avoid the inevitable, knocking over the table and everything on it.

“You stupid wet-back! Now look what you’ve done! Andrew is livid, a condition easily accessed after a couple of drinks. “You ruined a suit that costs more than you make in a year. How you gonna pay for that…huh? You stupid Mexican”.

MyKA pauses until the commotion calms itself.

A team of well-rehearsed waiters and busboys work in tandem cleaning-up the shattered glassware, wiping-up the spilt drinks, setting the table aright, and bringing a fresh set of drinks compliments of the house.

The busboy is apologetic but Andrew is in no mood to forgive and loudly demands he be fired. The owner motions to Jesus to leave the room and comes over to the table to apologize in his behalf.

“He’s new and inexperienced”, the owner explains. “If you send me the cleaning-bill I’ll take care of it personally”.

“Let’s just get back to the poetry, alright! What’s done is done. Andrew tries to claim the high ground unaware it’s already been pulled-out from under him.

MyKA continues…

“The Masters House lives very well,
A visitor can plainly tell,
But peace not only ruled this land,
And there was suffering at the hand
Of ignorance and fear—
Even people we hold dear.

Imaginative listeners might assume
This house and gracious land were doomed
But it was not the threat of army leagues or cataclysmic famine
It was for Love—or the lack thereof that did its halls contamin.”

Randal is quiet, listening to MyKa speak. Inside, however, he is furious. He felt something for that busboy, Jesus, and is ashamed of how Andrew behaved over that stupid suit. He gets them from a mail-order catalog out of Indonesia for less than $100 each, and must own twenty of them.

“I was young some years ago,
And must regress if one’s to know,
To be told a story must begin,
And the teller find himself within”.

Max found a parking space but decided to stay with the car. Having remembered to bring his flask with him, he puts the seat back to relax, waiting until Andrew decides to call.

“The Masters House was much like now,
With farmers carts and wagons driven,
Indentured servants, apprentice trade,
All by Master’s order given.

The Master had a son, sole heir,
Bereft of any brother,
Who bore the burden of
Marriages duty, though first
He loved another,
But she was born of servants blood
Not the type to breed
Heirs to the Masters House,
And so was planted bitter seed”.

Randal excuses himself….says he needs to use the can. Andrew is drowning himself in self-pity as if it was whiskey, and doesn’t make a remark.

“To his father, and the house he lied,
And to the face of his new bride,
Affairs with servant-girls denied,
With frozen-heart he turned.
There was talk to put the servant out,
But because the truth was still in doubt,
Decision was made to keep her down,
Or bear the brunt of Masters frown.

Unbeknown to Masters son,
For she hid her pain and smiled,
And kept a secret in her womb,
And told no one it was his child.
She labored hard beneath the floors,
In cellars and back stairs,
And bore her child behind dark doors,
Helped by those who answer prayers.
A mothers love is bonded strong,
For Hope there is no replacement,
She hid her son from his Lord,
And raised him in the basement”.

Randal heads for the restrooms, but diverts toward the kitchen. He asks where Jesus is. “He’s out-back”, they tell him. Randal slips through the chaos, out the screen door into the alley behind the kitchen. Jesus has been told to stay out of sight until Mr Scott leaves. He’s emptying cans of trash into the larger dumpster.

When Jesus sees Randal he looks down in shame.

“No! Don’t feel that way. You’ve done nothing wrong, Randy says. I’m so sorry for the way you were treated, and ashamed of the man who did it.

“Meanwhile, upstairs, all was gay.
New Master’s wife gave birth one day,
And for all any knew, the only one,
So celebrated they the Masters Son.
And to this child, the world was given,
All the promise of his lot,
While below in whispers and muffled cries,
Lay the son that love forgot.
Neither could he understand his mothers shame
When a fever relieved her of her name
And left it on a simple stone.
Him, to find himself alone.”

“It’s ok”, Jesus offers. “I didn’t take it personally. I’m not Mexican. I’m from Salvador.”

“The Master’s butler knew the story,
But fearing for positions glory,
To spare the Master’s household hell,
Promised God he’d never tell,
But he kept a distant watchful eye
Upon this young man growing,
And meld him with the downstairs staff,
The house’s inner-workings showing”.

Police spot Max drinking in the car. They arrest him for being under the influence and run a make on the car. Their inquiry brings more questions and Max starts singing like a canary.

“Upstairs, more delightful days, a
Lord’s son prospers many ways,
Fashioned by the style imparted,
Grows tall and strong and gentle hearted.
As adolescent compulsions grew,
He learned his roll commanding crew,
But to find the place only privacy fills,
He sought out a cave in the nearby hills”.

“That’s interesting”, says Randy. We just hired new housekeepers and they’re from Salvador too. Maybe you know them.”

“Indentured servants know long duress,
But find late at night a time for recess.
Young man escapes from the basement brave
To play by himself in that moonlit cave”.

“Maybe I do. My father was killed last July by a hit and run driver, so my mother, sisters and I needed to get jobs to support ourselves. They got hired as housekeepers for a big mansion in Beverly Hills. I came here.

“What was this special place they found,
Two boys alternating time around,
One by day, and one by night
They learned of each other without having the sight.
Always alone, together they played,
A message in sand, or by sticks arrayed.
They knew from the start their friendship was banned,
Attached to ideas they did not understand
But happy in the thought of each others existence,
They conspired between them to remove any distance”.

“Did they ever find who did it,” Randy asks.

“They never did”, Jesus says. “They have security-camera footage showing it was a white 2004 Bentley sedan but it could not see the license plate or who was driving, so they have no way of proving anything. No witnesses came forward”

“It was the Masters son who advanced their fate,
Excusing himself, slipped out late,
And there in the moonlight—met his mate
As they beheld each other.
Face to face they understood
The feelings of their childhood.
Not knowing of their brotherhood,
They promised to love forever”.

“Here. I want you to take this”. Randy pulls a hundred dollar bill from his pocket. “It’s the least I can do for the scene my husband made tonight.”.

“No. No. I don’t want to take money from you. It’s you I want”.

He doesn’t have to say it twice. Randy and Jesus lock-lips and start making-out behind the dumpster.

“Sinuous saplings, eager to grow,
Upright intentions are natural to show.
Facts in the face are hard to deny.
Some questions are answered without asking why.
The moon shines soft on flesh in the night.
Moist marble glistens by dawns early light.
Two voices groan the same song as one.
Birds of a feather all greet the same sun”.

Police enter the Abby asking if a man by the name of Andrew Taylor Scott is there. The owner points to his table. Andrew is too plastered to understand what’s happening. Nevertheless he is handcuffed, read his rights and placed under arrest for suspicion of vehicular manslaughter, tampering with evidence, and fleeing the scene of a crime.

“It wasn’t enough cheated lives could now heal,
There still was concern how the household would deal.
You see, relationships of this sort, between men,
Are hard to admit, hard to defend.
The truth of their nature already denied,
They accepted that love was a sin, and so lied.

When the prosecuting attorney presented the case, Randal recognized the timeline and understood why Andrew had been so spontaneous to “make it official”. To say he felt used would be an understatement. He told the judge exactly where Andrew had been at that particular moment in time.

Our story continues, though now, Love, turns the page.
Young men soon enter their coming of age,
Masters inherit their ancestral place,
(What some cannot see they find easier to face).

The young men avoided the obligation to marry,
And for cover, instructed the servants to carry
A rumor designed to account their affection,
And send rattling tongues in another direction.

And so, THIS incredible tale was conceived,
That they were, half-brothers, the real truth? Indeed!
Well, whatever the ‘real truth’, the fact is – they paired,
And the wealth of the land was the life that they shared.
Whether as brothers, or as husband and spouse,
Together – as ONE – they Mastered their House.

Despite numerous distractions, the audience offers gracious applause to the old poet who humbly bows his head and walks away, only to be reabsorbed into the shadows from whence he came.

Andrew Taylor Scott loses his case in court and is sentenced to three to five years in State Penitentiary but his prick-ish attitude doesn’t serve him well in prison. After just three weeks he dies in his cell from internal injuries.

As Andrew’s legal spouse, Rand, the name he goes-by now, is eventually awarded 100% of the estate. Having moved Jesus, his mother and sisters into the house several months ago, together they create a loving, happy home, and one of the first things they do is restore Cornelius’s portrait to its proper place above the fireplace in the great room.

Now, admittedly the lighting in the great room is different than it is in the garage, but everyone swears the scowl can no longer be seen…and there are a few who insist they detect the slightest glimmer of satisfaction on old Cornelius Peyton’s face.

 

by Eden Omari

Prologue

Jimmy Carver and Lester Franklin wasn’t no regular boys growing up as sharecroppers or son and grandson of great men in the not southern, but southern acting, town of Oakfield. Between the two, they knew all of the towns people secrets, which was easy to know when they were fetched and made to stand around and the masters and mistresses act like you don’t understand English. They talk all they mess around you, and you learn all the goings on of the white people and of their ways. Oh, if they only knew how they all besmirched each other in their separate homes, nobody in the town would ever speak to each other again. You see it ain’t known yet, but Jimmy was the brother of George Washington. Not the President but George Washington Carver, a scientist who would become rich and famous and then famous and poor. Jimmy knew all there was to know about growing things in the earth from his brother George and they had dreams of learning big things and maybe a dream of attending one of those big schools. Where?..why in Washington D.C.! His brother George was kinda frail and sickly and spent most of his time helping his mother with chores around the cabin, so Jimmy did the heavy lifting in the fields. As babies, they was kidnaped from the Carver farm by one of the bands of slave raiders that roamed Missouri during the civil war era which is how they wounded up in Illinois. Nobody coulda knowed that George would be freed from slavery, never have no chilren, never marry and become famous for his land work and die as poor as he was born. But now Lester, well that’s another story entirely. He was high yella with red hair and you could see those little dots all over his face like some of the whites. He wasn’t an albino or nothin’ like that, but iffin his lips wasn’t so large and his nose wasn’t so wide, you would think that he was a white person from a distance. Now he got the last name Franklin but nobody else in his fambly got the name Franklin. Legend says that he is a direct descendant, and that Benjamin Franklin was is great granddaddy and that his grandmama was freed as a slave by Benjamin Franklin once he got a conscious and all, and that his grand momma forbid anybody to change his and his sons and daughters’ names for generations to come.

Yesterday when they was downtown, they seent Dora Ann Bunch. Dora Ann always lookin at Lester and smiling. I think she didn’t understand why he wasn’t all the way white and only halfway lookin. Today when Lester seent her, she looked different. And then Lester noticed the two bumps on the top of her shirt and knew what those was. He was so amazed by the sight that he didn’t notice that he had stopped mid step and was standing still and staring. Jimmy bumped him and said “come on” that’s when he knew he was standing still and staring and that he didn’t even notice the big, huge yellow sign announcing the Annual Picnic. He loved when it was Annual Picnic time. That’s the only day that the few slaves and free people could enjoy they picnic without worrying about those scary white men who would often come on horses and ruin it for them. They had theirs on the outskirts of town in a clear open field and he thought about how wonderful and glorious it will be just two days from now.

The Picnic 1847 (Inspired by a Magnolia tree)

By Eden Omari

(Narrated by Pete Wallart 3 years before he kilt hisself)

It’s a very languishing afternoon in Oakfield. The sun is softly touching the treetops on top of Growler Peak. The temperature is just right and there’s just the right number of clouds in the sky for a picnic. The wind wasn’t blowin too hard and the barbeque smoke was sailing high in the sky. The little children ran round and round the huge footed Magnolia tree singing and playing cocoa-leveo. The Great Magnolia, a glorious tree, was always the centerpiece of the ceremonious annual picnic and it is said that its seeds was planted by the doves that were released when our ancestors first arrived here on the Plymouth. It was so huge and grand that when you stood under it, it took a whole minute to come out. It is here on top of this rollin hill where we is right now with some other old but not so grand Magnolias and Maple Oaks that we have the picnic. Up here, you can see the river that run mighty wide on the outsida town. Many of the farmers have rolling fields of every shade of green and various colors that one could only imagine-huge plantations that were dwarfed by the longer and wider 80 acres they occupied. Over there atop of those boulders, you could see a sunset and a sunrise if you sat in the same spot all day and all night. Yonder left you can see Marcus Evans new modern four-story barn. It got windows on the top too. Juss about everybody in town is jealous about it. It stands white and glistening in the sun. It shines so much that at four o’clock in the afternoon it’ll hurt your eyes juss to look at it. Next to that, you can see Lizzie’s place. The moonshine in Lizzies place comes from the Evans barn-but we ain’t spose to know ‘bout that. Lizzies place is a show piece with two grand stairways that lead upstairs and a long, long bar that curves around the room with golden railings. There’re eight big, huge mirrors on the walls with the finest burgundy and gold wallpaper I ever seent. Fine velvet like. Georgie and Paulie is our towns finest carpenters. They could build anything. They built most a Lizzie’s Place-the large stage where there’s two grand pianos and places for a band to sit under those blood red curtains that you could see in the mirrors on the walls. There was every kinda of a fornication that happened at her place…and she been in business soo long. She dams near seventy years old. The townsfolk know what it is that Lizzie do, but they pretend they don’t cause Lizzie gives so much money to the church. While it is an establishment of ill repute and talked about a lot, its sure grand with its tall golden finial on top and its even taller silver spire and gables painted gold. Georgie and Paulie built that part out of remnants from Beau Wilkins house after it mostly all burnt down, and Beau never came out. It was strange. Only half his house burnt down, and he barn never caught on fire. And when Sherriff Wilkins went to check on everything, they fount some lady’s things and taught it mighty sad that Beau would keep his mama things out like that after so long she been dead. We like to think of Beau looking down on us from atop his favorite place in town. Lizzies place (laughing). He wouldn’t mind us jokin’ about that. Beau’s father was in the war and died and Beau juss never got over that. And then when his mama died, he spent more time at Lizzies than at work or church. He died of a broken heart; I think. He was only 45 when he got burnt to death. I think that maybe he set that fire and didn’t wanna come out to the life that it became. But I ain’t never said that to nobody out loud as I’m learning how to bite my tongue as I get closer to the Lords hebbenly gates. We got a small museum on the side of Maddie Mae’s place to showcase Oakfield’s history. It has Beau’s dad’s army purple medal of courage. It’s quite sentimental. I like it. When Lizzie comes to the picnic with all her girls, all the towns women get to see their unspoken rivals up close and pay close attention that they stay on their side of the picnic grounds but paying close attention to whose husband might be looking familiarly in their direction while all of their small daughters flock to them tugging on their dresses, touching their earrings, taking and donning their fancy hats, swiping at their rouge and sitting on their laps. All the mothers thinking in unison that their fine lace and velvet dress are totally inappropriate for our annual picnic.

So’s it’s here on top of Growler Peak, near and under this Great Grand Black Old Magnolia, is where we have our annual picnic for more in a hundred years.

Georgie and Paulie been best friends since they was knee high to a tadpole. They can build everything from a baby rocker to Lizzie’s rooftop and anything in between. They was takin they time as usual haulin up all the timber to be used for buildin’ the stage for the band, the pulpit for the Pastor and the altar for the dammed and of course their customary argument ensues. They bicker back and forth like old, widowed sisters. Paulie says, “Well Georgie, you know that post is just a little too high-a person might slide offa there and slide down and kill they selves.” Georgie responds in his dry raspy tipsy slur “OK then-just let the devils slide and ride right down inta the dirt-I don’t care.” Paulie says, “Well let’s hope it ain’t your sweet lil darlin’ Harriet be one a the ones that go slidin’ down inta the dirt, cause I’s shore to tell her that it was her “true hearted one” that done dirtied your dress Miss Harriet by not listening at my advice.” Georgie gives Paulie a raised eyebrow and then turns his back and goes back down the hill to drag up the last piece of lumber for the stage. He knows that Paulie been pining after his Harriet since he and Harriet tied the knot. He had tried askin her out juss before he hadda leave mid school and tend to his Granddaddy’s ranch outside of Perchsmith. He never did regain any confidence in hisself since then cause the kids teased him ‘bout his ragged dusty farm clothes and shoes and he never had no money to go do fun stuff with the other kids. When the Johnstones found out ‘bout that, and they begin to give Paulie money to join the other kids. And when the kids found out about that, they teased him even about that, so he just kinda worked on the farm and grew into a big strappin farm boy that all the girls was smitten to but he ain’t never married nary of ‘em and been single alla his life. Even in his sixties he still got that strong manly body. All the young men in town admire his physique and call him Strong Farmer John. And everyone in town know who they be talkin about. He left on a long train ride up to the north-Philadelphia-for quite some time and returned even more broken than when he left. But came back he did and turned that farm into a oasis of very kinda thing that can grow from the ground when his Granddaddy died. He even let Henrietta Harding grow a big, huge pepper field, peppers that they sold far and wide. So, he kind of a legend round here and the women all say “What a shame. All that strappin’ man gone to waste.’ His daddy was a Cathlic. That’s all we’s know.

Somewhere in between they bickering and brotherly affection Georgie and Paulie always come to a compromise and chose the best timber for the job. Georgie done already told his wife Harriet and his older children that Uncle Paulie might be they daddy one day iffen anything should happen to him. And he made Harriet promise to marry Paulie if that happened and after many times of him askin’, she agreed. Georgie always knew how hard it was for her to decide between the two and her love for Paulie ain’t never really gone completely away though she chose the one in the end that she really wanted…at the time. He couldn’t think of no better man he’d want in his bed after he was gone. Plus, he knew Paulie would love her and take care of his four children even more than he does now. And the kids adore they Uncle Paulie to deff. Georgie did all that more than a year ago after the doctor told him about the thing they found on those x-rays. He ain’t never told a soul. And he been feelin’ the most worse lately. Harriet ain’t never found the secret pills he hides behind the window curtains in the attic.

Oh, nobody don’t pay no attention to Georgie and Paulie during this part of the celebration, they too busy reveling in the fact that there’s gonna be picnic today and ain’t nobody payin’ no mind to Georgie and Paulie. The dogs are all scattering about and barking at their owners to give them a little scrap of this or that, and you can hear the band tuning up they’s fiddles. Margie gonna be playing the lead today. We likes it when Margie plays lead. She just gives it that extra little special something-especially when we havin a picnic. Some say she a witch ‘cause that fiddle has been known to be heard all the way over to Oak Brook in the middle of the night when Margie’s lights is on. And that sometimes when she be playin so fast, it’s like the fiddle bow just be standing still, but you know its movin’ but you can’t see it movin’ cause its goin’ so fast. Her and her mama didn’t get along a tall. For years you would hear them cursing and fighting drunk as two witches in a cauldron. They’d scream un-natural sounds that didn’t sound like screams but more like screeches that reminded me of what a Hyena might sound like if I ever heard one. Eight years ago, her mama drove herself offa Pikes Cliff during a rainstorm into the river. The car was found but never the body and of course the whole town made specalations about what might a happened. The sheriff’s office searched every piece of they land looking for the body and even pulled the foundation of the house apart lookin underneath. But Lenora ain’t never showed up nowhere. Margie probably turned her inta one a those Hyenas I was talking about. Margie, she sweet now and everything. She started wearing face powder and rouge and colors around her eyes to hide it, but you can’t get pass the fact that her face is like a bulldog with those low hanging jowls and large watery eyes she got. She short and round and her hair used to look like electricity ran through it. Now she visits Matties beauty shop and wears hair rollers and the like and her hair look nice and curly and fluffy. She look like a different person altogether. Lenora woulda hate that. Then Margie married Ben Carter. Lenora woulda hated that too. Some old folks think she casted a spell on him cause before that Ben ain’t never seem to look up much, never mind lookin up at Margie. It’s like she was the frog, and he kissed her cause everybody like Margie now. Seem Lenora ain’t want Margie to have no kinda life. When asked, Lenora told Margie that her daddy ran off and that she ain’t know where he at. Margie finding out that her momma used to work at Lizzies place back in the day made her hate her momma and made her feel like she was the towns secret love child of any one of these men in town. But no luck because none of them ain’t look like her. Nobody looked like Margie. When Ben lost his best friend Beau in that fire Margie was there to console him. But before that Margie and Ben had a big fight in private. She accused Beau of acting like a lost lover and that she had Ben now and he should get used to it. She threatened to take Ben away if he dared interfere with her plans and she did. She told Ben that Beau had made a pass at her and Ben just cut Beau off. Just like that. Without never a look back, although in private he yearned for Beau deep in his bones. In his mind, at the time, Margie was a trade he was willin’ to make. But that was the old mean Margie. She’s as lovely as a flower now and often wishes Beau were still alive so that her husband wouldn’t be so ever blue. She would have made up for the fight had he lived. She swears by it to herself.

Lenora seem went plum crazy right after she had give birth to Margie. She walked around town unkept and talkin to herself. Some of the women in town took to goin by her place to make sure the chickens and hogs was being fed and that she was being fed and that her house dint burn down with the baby in it. Some of the women took turns taking care of the baby. They did that for about three years. That’s how long it took for Lenora to come back to her senses. It seem like Lenora ain’t never ever really took to her own child. Never comin’ to any of the school pageants, never dressin’ her up for Easter or anything like that. Margie was the talk of the town but not for the reasons she was thinkin’. Margie playin’ lead today and the whole town excited ‘bout that.

And now here come the Boylston’s with those six children of theirs toting that fat pet hog they named Jethro that the whole town will feast on one day. It was bigger and wider than any hog you ever gone see. It were more like a baby bear with all that size and hair on it. Jethro knew word signals and would stomp on the ground and squeal whenever he heard a fiddle. It could chew its way through a cane stalk like a tooth straw. Alla these things made Jethro very entertain’ and well loved by the town. Mrs. Boylston was so tall and elegant and dignified you’d never tell she a farmer’s wife by lookin at her. She heavy bosomed with the most perfect shinin’ teeth framed with that orange lip rouge she wear-sometimes pink or red. She buy the finest of dresses from Lyla Bates stores and the finest, I think they call it millinary. She could hitch a carriage, bareback a horse, ride side saddle, chop a full cord a wood and even help her husband when it come to the gold mining and oil drilling on they land. Everyone calls her Lady Boylston. It just seems fittin’. They’s always a penny short and a minute late, but they a fun family and we love ‘em.

And then there’s the ladies all lined up behind they table’s russlin’ up a little a little this and a little that for they men’s. And there’s the men’s who all just sorta mole about doin things like packin they pipes and smokin, stroking they dogs, and slappin they knees, laughin real loud and all but ignoring the ladies whose sweat should not be out matching theirs-but they do. Amelia Riggins and Lyla Bates have the prettiest tables of anybody. Lyla and her husband Delmont Bates got nine boys and no girls and Lyla pregnant again. I think they just gonna try juss one more time to get a girl. And iffin they do, she sure to be the most spoilt child Oakfield ever seent. Lyla been taken with Becky Wallart ever since she was a young girl-seein’ as Becky ain’t had no momma and all. Lyla also helped Pete get over the horrible way his wife died. Tragic circumstances. The Bates took to carin’ of they house and animals and all. Havin all the boys pitch in. They own the dress shop, the hardware store, the telegraph station, and the feed store. All they boys is all the smart types although they next to oldest boy Roscoe has a physical ailment-like one side of his body hangs down lower than the other and his face do too, and he’s real small in height, and width, but he the smartest of the whole eleven of ‘em and after a while you don’t even notice his affliction-much like Margie’s face. We call him Little Roscoe Bates and he don’t mind. He kinda snickles when you say it. He real nice too-just like his brother Percy Bates who is the oldest of the boys and the Don Juan of the town. Town say he gonna break every girl’s heart in this town till one day one of they daddies gone shoot him dead. Percy gives a lot of time to the church and helps out Old Man Johnson at home, so he got some real good qualities too. Well, Amelia Riggins and Lyla Bates, they been feudin’ like cats for years over whose cakes and pies is best. It got so bad that the cake judges had a secret meeting and decided to alternate the winner every year or so so’s to make them both equal, cause a few years back, Amelia’s husband Tiberius got so riled up that Amelia didn’t win the prize that he start to hollerin’ and screamin’ and discharged his rifle into the air when Lyla’s four-layer Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate cake won for the second year in a row. I’m sure Amelia put him up to it, cause as pretty as she is, she can be awful spiteful. Like the time when Dixie Elkins first pie won the pie challenge and Amelia, so jealous and petty and evil, went and put some bad tastin stuff on top of Dixies second pie when nobody but Henrietta Harding was watchin. At first, Henrietta thought Amelia was just tasting the fruit glaze on top but later when the contest came and all the judges spit out Dixies pie, Henrietta knew it was Amelia but couldn’t tell nobody bout it right at the time unlessin’ Tiberius might a gone hog wild mad and shot her. So, Henrietta waited and told the ladies at the Auxiliary meeting that next Wednesday when Amelia was absent, and they told they husbands and the nosy children all “over-heard”. So now Amelia and Tiberius got a real bad reputation in town-and they’s the last ones to know it. But for the moment, Lyla Bates won last year so we ain’t got to worry ‘bout Tiberius this year at least. Henrietta Harding is Oakfield’s finest seamstress, and she made every apron worn by the ladies today. Her white apron with those huge pink flowers is spectacular. We suspect that she always makes the worse one for Amelia and Amelia ain’t never said a word about it all these years-but many years in the future we know that Henrietta Harding will die from a heart attack at 38 years old while visiting with Amelia and that Amelia will buy her two sewing machines at Henrietta’s estate sale and that each year after that Amelia continued Henrietta’s tradition of making the aprons but she made the dullest aprons for all the ladies, whose politeness made them not refuse to wear the god awful things. No vibrancy, no padderns. Just plain colored smocks which the ladies all adorned with pins and flowers and things to pretty them up a little. The ladies only wore them as a tribute to Henrietta ‘cause they was made on Henrietta’s machines but Amelia didn’t know that fact as her evils ways just took pleasure in the act of getting back at them all, including Henrietta.

Suddenly there’s Otis Goodwin known as Old Man Goodwin shoutin “Ok. Let’s get goin now. Everybody gather round.” And all the towns people quickly wrapped up their meats and foods so’s the flies don’t get to ‘em and walked the 200 feet over to the stage that Georgie and Paulie set up underneath the ceremonial Great Grand Black Magnolia Tree that the children ran around earlier in the day. The scent of Magnolia filled the whole of Growler Peak the closer they got to the little stage under the tree and the band began to play. The animals all familiar with the change in the air all settled down to watch their masters simultaneously marching and dancing toward the tree. When they get to the center, the dosey do begins. “Take your partner and swing em around-take em to the well-make sure they don’t drown-now cross your partner by the way-hook em by the arm and do it this a way” and the merriment is everywhere. The little chilren follows the adults’ movements and the little boys is always shy ‘bout holding the girl’s hand to dance. Tiberius loves this song and by the looks of his jolly dance you would never guess he has a screw loose. He’s bigger and taller than any man you ever gonna meet. His momma died on the table givin birth to him. He was 13 pounds and a half plus a quarter. And right after that his daddy married Jenny Frey who raised him to be a wild rascal in a tent like her other 2 boys. Tiberius ain’t never stood a chance at being a decent man. Always at the ploy or the hand of a woman with no good intentions. He gave away a fortune to Lizzie before he had an awakening that the more, they made love the less money and things he had. Till one day he mentioned marriage and she became a wildcat in a barn-cussin and stompin the floor like he had asked her something else. He was baffled and never quite made out all she was sayin but knew that he should leave and never come back. For a time, Tiberius had a Negress that came to wash his clothes and cook his food. She sometimes spent nights there, but she came up with child and was big as a house, Tiberius never let her go. That woman worked there and for years brought the little very light toned baby boy with her to wash his clothes and cook his foods till one day they was just gone. And as I remember that was right about the time that Tiberius changed and began to drink a lot and turn into the man he is today. A big, gigantic walkin mess of danger and crazy and jolly as the day is long.

Clyde Foster beats his banjo to death on this song-his face shining with the joy of a tall skinny man/boy angel with no teeth and scraggily long hair but with all the love in the world in his heart. He got what they call mildly retarded. His momma and daddy died in the explosion when Mr. Foster tried making his own gun powder at home. Clyde was 17 when the explosion occurred. He was upstairs in his room with his tiny little dog named Pixie splayed across on his stomach sleeping thinking about Becky Wallart when it happened. You see, he and Becky did go all the way the third time that they messed around. She pulled him to her and grabbed him down there quicker than the Lord could whisper on a Sunday. He never knew that this was what it was. She put her mouth on him and put her finger at his backside and used her other hand to pull him back and forth over and over until he got the white lighting that came out him. The next times, she showed him how grown folks do it and that was what he thought it was. They did that more than five times. He was thinking about doing that again tonight when the explosion threw him up into a shattering of debris and then a huge cloud of white ashy smoke dropped him somewhere he didn’t know. The last thing he remembered was a pain deep inside his head, but he couldn’t see or hear. In one instant he never remembered Becky Wallart or many other things ever again. He was found the next day under all the piling only cause they heard him singing and pounding. Little Pixie must’ve unbecome unconscious as it started barking like a locomotive. Later we found out that the pounding was him imagining he was playing the banjo and it was so loud cause he couldn’t hear hisself-not knowing where he was or what had happened. The Boylston’s adopted him and the dog into they fambly and the Boylston kids take them all around with them. Becky would spend days and nights at the Boylston’s just make sure Clyde was comfortable and had the things that he needed to keep him tied to the present so the Boylston’s kinda adopted her too. Clyde’d be like to sit at the river all day and night and not go home for days. He just disappears. After a few days the Boylston’s take his little dog Pixie out to search for him and Pixie always is always able to locate him. He just be sittin there staring into the water rocking back and forth and singing and playing his banjo. Sometimes they’d find him sleeping, curled up in a ball right at the river’s edge out in the open for any wild animal to attack his laying prey. Sometimes they’d find him on top a Growlers Peak laying out in the open on the big, huge boulder rocks. The little dog was also affected by the explosion. It can’t hear a dam thing you scream at it. Clyde and the dog got some kinda hand signals they relate to. Neither of them speaks much anymore. Clyde just speaks in dips and drabs on some days but not most-though he understand you enough when you speak at him. The Boylston’s put a tie-on Pixie so that he can now walk and be with Clyde everywhere he goes and dang if that dog don’t bring him back every third night for food and a bath. They stay for two or three days and then gone for two or three days, except in the wintertime when they both snuggle in the barn most nights even though they got a room in the Boylston’s house.

“NOW take your partner up the latter-make sure your heart go pitty patter and turn-and turn”, Dancing is the best part next to eating and the final ceremony. The dancing part is the best though. That Little Roscoe Bates sure can cut a rug. Better even than the normal boys. Little Roscoe grabs Becky Wallart to dance just before his brother Percy come and swoops her away. You had to be lookin real hard to see that suddenly there-suddenly gone flicker of anger go across Roscoe’s black eyes. Becky howled as Percy swung her to and fro. Becky only sixteen but she 35 at the top. Becky be behaving most of the time like she gon be one a Lizzies girl one day. Talk is that she done winked at most of the grown men in town and it’s rumored that a few of ‘em even took to her although no body don’t know exactly who- but otherwise, how a rumor like that ever begin? Becky been noticing a change to her body. She don’t quite know what it is but she been feeling sick in the mornings. Percy Bates took one last look at the top of Becky Wallart and went to dancing with Betty McMinnville and saw her daddy watching him while grittin his teeth and just as fast he dosey doed round over to Madeline Farmer whose daddy was dead and stayed dancing with her. “Now dosey do your way around-don’t stop till the sun go down.” It don’t stop till Clyde Fosters right hand starts to bleeding, knuckles scrapped to the flesh and dripping blood from the frantic playing. Becky notices this and that’s when the band takes a break. Sweatin and panting, everybody returns to the tables and takes some spirits or lemon with sugar drink and cools off before the next part and you can see Lady Boylston cleanin and caring to Clyde’s fingers.

The music stops completely, and a few seconds later BettyAnn Goodwins husband Ted takes the horn and shouts to the towns people at the tables, “Ok now everybody c’mon over. C’mon y’all.” and everyone returns to the tree with children in tow. “Settle down now-settle down. Before we begin, we gon ask Pastor Reverend Hatch to bluss us with a prayer. Pastor.” Pastor Hatch has been in Oakfield since his birth eighty-eight years ago. He tall and fat and huge. Not a tall as Tiberius but fatter and wider. He only got hair on each side of his head and I reckon he always wears big western hats to cover up the fact. He still climbs the butte every morning and can still box for a few minutes and do eight push-ups before his beath takes over him. He been married to God all his life. Never a woman in town who could tolerate his faith in..well…everything. I think the word they use for him zealut or sealut or zelklot or something like that. But he is fire and brimstone walking on two legs. He scares the daylights outta me. That spirit that takes over his body has slanted possessed looking eyes. I don’t much like it. Many says he is one of Gods miracles. A scary miracle. He and Ted Goodwins granddaddy all but built the towns church-so Ted got an affection for him. BettyAnn, Teds wife, works for Lizzie at her place where Lizzie runs the show and holds the secrets of many of the men in town. Everybody wonders why Ted would let his wife BettyAnn work at Lizzies when Ted is such a God-fearing man. It’s a mystery.

Pastor Reverend Hatch began “Last week over there in Gibson County when we pulled them sixteen niggers from outta that jail and sent them to the Lord, that was the night that all the niggers trying to get revenge, cause of they ignence about who in charge around here, had they guns taken from ‘em. They kin send they Fredrick Douglas fella to hell wid ‘em too. He ain’t no Jesse James. Silence. You could hear the sound that the trees make when they are blowin their leaves against each other and the dull distant steady clumpt-clumpt from the coal mine across the valley and suddenly small gusts of wind began blowing the banners on the stage. Pastor continues, “What happened out on Huntingdon Road was God’s mercy on our sovereign town. Err body knows that when the time come to say who makes this land rich and abundant and GLORIOUS as it is, niggers ain’t had nothing to do wit it. Now, Imma tell y’all that when the Lord says love thyne enemy it also says to protect your home and family. Isaiah 41:11 says “BEHOLD! The Lord is with them that uphold my soul. Unless thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing: and they that shall survive with thee shall perish. Matthew 10:28 says, and fear not them which kill the body, both soul and body in hell are not able to kill but rather fear him, which is able to destroy, and finally Deuteronomy 20:3 And I shall say unto them, Hear O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, let fear not tremble neither be ye terrified because of them.” BEHOLD! God of ours. The Lord is with them that uphold my soul. Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in hell. In whom we have boldness and access with confidence, by faith in him. Yet see the poor on high from affliction and maketh him families like a flock. The wicked are overthrown and naught but the house of the righteous shall stand. STAND PEOPLE! And take part in the Lord’s celebration today. AMEM O GOD IN Heaven. AMEN!! AMEN O PRECIOUS LORD!!” The crowd gave a tattered applause, and you could see Old Lady Werner with her red handkerchief dabbing at her eyes and the tears rolling down underneath the glasses of Georgina Beauregard, our towns only piano player. She the only one cause can’t nobody afford to pay for the lessons AND ain’t nobody got the time. All the children works these days. Times is hard round here with crops not flourishing like the used to and the smoke from those fires in Chicagi than ran across the entire valley or the bomb cyclone that would come in November of this year or the drought the year before. Plus, Georgina ain’t got no kids of her own and she ain’t really got no type of personality for kids. She don’t never come round the other women to bake no pies or participate in organizing the spelling bee or any of the little shows down at Mattie’s place. It’s a secret that the men’s will never know about. She grow her own flowers, lots of ‘em and sells ‘em but pretty much stay to herself. Other than her friendship with Henrietta she don’t seem to care much ‘bout socializing, although she been known to visit Lizzie’s and she come to church every Christmas and during weddings where she displays her grandest flowers for a small fee.

Ted Bunch takes the horn from Pastor Reverend Hatch just as a fierce wind blew thru for minute and proceeds: “Now, these two that we got up here, Jimmy Carter and Lester Franklin, well, one of them looked at my Dora Ann just a dam bit too hard day before yesterday and I seent that look in his eyes.” The crowd came closer. Ted continued “And the other one? Well, he was with him, so he up there too.” Lizzie Bell cried out “Paulie! Georgie! Better move that grill away from the stage. You don’t wanna be fryin none of them niggers up there” and the whole crowd burst into laughter. Young Johnny Boylston shouted, “Don’t need to grab no more wood for the fire ‘cause they already black as tar.” As the crowd roared, Paulie couldn’t help himself and shouted “Yeh. We was gonna serve y’all nigger fingers last year” and the crowd hooted and hollered a loud ear shattering roar. The howling stopped as the sudden bursts of wind began to quicken, and all the ladies’ skirts begin whipping around their legs and the dust from the dry dirt was blown into their eyes and in their noses. They all turned around and watched as the paper plates and cups and napkins on the tables flew about as if in a tornado and all the table bows and festive ornaments flew about like decorations in the air. All the children and all the dogs and Jethro just barked and squealed as much as the wind was blowing and the two bodies in the Great Black Magnolia swang back and forth, whipped around like rag dolls from the force of the gust. Petals from the Great Magnolia were whipped from their stems and fell like wild rocking doves onto and across the ground. The ladies fancy hats all flew off they heads, and all blown in the direction of the river like a flock of colorful birds flying somewhere. Some people ran to the tables to rescue whatever they could but were pushed down to the ground by the wind and only wound up with more dirt in their mouths and their eyes-eyes that could hardly blink from the dry dirt encrusting them, tasting the earth, and breathing it in too far before stumbling to the ground, the wind covering them in their own clothing all totally dusted in dirt. Ted tried saving Reverend Pastor Hatch from being blown off the stage but failed. Pastor Hatch’s hat went over the broken railing of the stage before he did. Ted on top of the stage turned to hold onto to the rail before he slipped, banged his head, and was knocked unconscious. He fortunately missed seeing see Old Man Werner on the ground behind the stage, trying to break the Reverends fall and was crushed under the Reverends weight. Old lady Werner was seen holding onto Betty McMinville who was holdin’ on to Percy and Percy was touching Betty in places that she didn’t feel as the wind blew in turmoil around them. The wind began making that whistling sound before it ripped a huge limb off the Great Grand Magnolia tree and blew things even further away. A little rain came and then it was all over. And when it was over, the scene was a big mess of everything. Ham and fried chicken on the ground being greedily attacked by the wild angry and growling dogs who were in a frenzy. Lyla’s cakes, most was forced off their serving platters and you couldn’t tell where her Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate cake ended, and the dirt began. The beer jugs and paper cups went rolling on the ground in every which direction. There weren’t much left of anything still standin except the tables and the beer kegs. That delighted the men. Then Amelia Riggins shouted “Thank the Lord we ain’t lit the fire yet” and everyone within earshot laughed. Lyla Bates gave a scoff thinkn’ “That dam Amelia always got something to say. Dam Hussy.”

After the windstorm passes and the children are all collected and calmed down, Jethro was found underneath a turned over table sloppin’ down all of Dixie Cortlandt’s potato salad and a ham..a ham. It took quite a spell before everything could be put back in place. Many of the ladies were in a fret of tears and sorrow and inconsolable. Most of their years’ work gone in a blast of wind. The children looking like they just came out of a coal mine, snuck, and joined the animal’s merrymaking stuffing foods from the ground into their mouths with their muddied hands while their parents plodded around in a windswept daze. The Pastor Reverend Hatch sits on the ground behind the stage praying over Old Man Werner before he comes around to the front of the stage and sees the wrath that the devil has placed upon this blessed event and curses Satan with the hair on both sides of his head hangin wet over his ears. He decides to wait until after the ceremony before revealing the demise of Old Man Werner. Something tells him to look up and he sees his hat hanging off a branch up high in the tree. Facing the towns people without his hat will be an embarrassment but the Lord tells him that he must do it. He quickly takes to what’s left of the stage to tell of God’s message to the righteous and that the band should begin to take their places. After some time when the tables are looking like a sad Sunday, they all return to the tree. Margie ain’t got no highchair no more so she gotta stand up. The bulldog look had returned to her face without that makeup in place and she was mad as a cat in a pail. The Reverend Pastor Hatch calls on Ted Goodwin to light the ceremonial stick of fire which Ted tosses atop the brindle under the feet of the two men swinging in the Great Grand Magnolia. It gets real quiet as those first flames start to lick at the tree. The flickering flames rise on up onto the men’s shoes and then their pant hems and not much is said after that. Margie grasps her fiddle white knuckles. The crowd just stands around and just…look…look at it silently watching as the softer wind blows the smoke way over to Wheaton County carrying the unmistakable smell of burning flesh that signifies to every other Darkie that this is what you will smell like if you don’t keep in line and mind your manners. Yet, that same smell bringing comfort and tranquility to all the towns folks who couldn’t make it today, who nod to themselves thinkin, “Oh well. We got rid of another one today. Thank the Lord.” It’s not until the torsos of the men are engulfed in flames that the crowd begins to cheer. Margie’s fiddle begins with a slow twine and can be seen moving above the crowd. The tree gives a loud POP and then there comes a wild surge of hootin’ and hollerin that frightens the smallest of the children as the bow of Margie’s fiddle begins dancing faster and faster, whipping the crowd into a frenzy. The adults, all drunk on the type of delight of a child on Christmas morning. The fire reflected in the eyes of Ben Carter and his contorted face as he screamed but could not match the wail that emanated from BettyAnn Goodwin as she and her husband Ted gripped each other’s hands in a fierce battle of the condemned. Tiberius Riggins shot shots into the torsos of the two men from his rifle causing them to jerk backward at each shot, but nobody heard the shots above the wailing and screaming. Amelia Riggins grin spread wide across her face reaching her ears on both sides before she let out an unhuman sound. The drool mixing with the dirt on her face causing a sight like loose running poop down her face. Her husband Tiberius lifting her onto his left shoulder then firing the rifle again with his right hand. Big and drunken, amplified pouring sweat with his dark hair plastered to his face. Then, the half body half slanted Little Roscoe Boylston threw a gas-soaked rag into the fire causing a huge flare of fire that possessed the crowd and they all surged forward drawn to the crackling flames. Percy Bates was screaming so loud that no sound came out of his mouth. His beautiful boyish face gorged with blood causing his red face, blood shot eyes and veins sitting on the outside of his neck. His temples so thick and pulsing they seemed to wanna break outta his skin. He was screaming so loud and shakin his head so hard that his blond hair tousled about his head in a flurry, and he began shouting “OAKFIELD! OAKFIELD! OAKLFIELD! OAKFIELD!” And everyone joined in OAKFEILD OAKFEILD! OAKFEILD! The older children, who by now seems enraptured like ghosts moved closer and closer to the flames, a few disappearing. The bands drums beat louder and Margie’s pace on the fiddle quickened until the possession was complete. Spit flew from her mouth as she began making those sounds that sounded like words but wasn’t and her bow moved with such speed it now seemingly remained motionless above the crowd, but it was that long high pitched screeching syncopated sound that let you know it was movin’. Margie was no longer with us but was somewhere else. The Pastor Reverend could be seen with his hands raised to heaven as if to welcome in the thunder that soon hit the sky with three loud bangs and the sky darkened and a rain shower began. You could see Jethro stompin’ on the ground with its head up in the air squealing with something bloody hanging whipping about his snout. Henrietta Harding was seen down on the ground in the dirt shaking her head from side to side and screaming. Her white apron with those pink flowers hung limp with mud. Old Widow Werner’s red handkerchief could be seen waving in the air sweeping side to side in her bony hand scourged with dark brown age marks singing a hem she made up herself. Dixie Cortlandt was pullin at the rope hoping it would snap so’s the two men could fall right down into the fire. And when she couldn’t do it, she decided to add some fire to the rope to burn it down. The heavy corded braid fell off and struck her in the head catching her hair on fire. She was smackin at her head so hard that she fell to the ground unconscious. Jethro came chewing at her hands till Becky Wallart pounded it with a stick and it ran off. Lyla Bates was singing with her face up to the sky -rain melting that black makeup that she wore around her eyes. She never even noticed the blood that was running from between her legs soaking the ground while the Boylston pig greedily slurped it up. Georgie was so riled up that he can be seen jumping higher in the air than he should be and begins breathin real hard. Becky Wallart could be seen ferociously beating a stick onto the ground while Lizzie threw alcohol into the fire. The “swoosh” getting so close that her eyes and face got too warm from the heat of the sudden flames. And when she looked up at the men, she couldn’t see them and went grabbing at anything nearby. No one noticed the ghastly melted drooping skin on her face or that her hair was all gone. She flattened to the ground close to the fire and passed out. Becky Wallart looked up at the two men. She cursed and spat on the ground and spun around with a feral blackened look in her eyes. She saw Jethro shakin’ Lizzies foot in its mouth. She reached over, snatched Tiberius’ rifle who was passed out, and shot it before she rammed it into the flames hearing its writhing squealing shriek. Then she dropped to the ground yowling on both knees with her long black hair scrapping back and forth in the mud. Lady Boylston fought the rain and mayhem and found her way to the top of what was left of the stage and just then, the dank rain coming down, began to lessen.

The roarin’ and the hollerin’ goes on for quite some time after that until there ain’t nothin more to be seen of the two men. Way above the crowd their souls igniting in two celestial nova’s. The sogginess that assisted the spirit of the two men’s ascension, extinguished the flames until all that could be seen were two charred smokestacks hanging from the Great Grand Old Black Magnolia softly swaying in the parting breeze. Everyone begins chattering and staggering back to their tables, temporarily blind to the devastating carnage surrounding them, to square away more of the wind’s disaster, muster what’s left to eat and officially begin the picnic. You can hear the two axes of Paulie and Georgie chopping down the stage until only one ax can be heard. And then there’s Margie…and the fiddle begins.

Epilogue

Pete Wallart shot himself in the head right after shooting Percy Bates dead.

Pete Wallart nearly beat his daughter Becky to death with a horse strap until she told Pete who the daddy was. Becky knew that whoever she said the daddy was was gonna get shot dead and she loved Clyde even in his present state. But she never got over the betrayal of Percy when he two timed on her with Dora Ann. She was devasted at first, but when Pete actually left Becky for Dora Ann, a deep and dark depression gutted her for almost a year..seeing him with her. With each whip of the lash, she became closer and closer to her baby dying. The names of the many men in town she’d been with swirled around in her head. They mostly all had families and she didn’t want her daddy killin’ any of them, plus they was all nice to her in the end. They gave her things other than just money. She loved Clyde. She always would. Remembering his innocence and boyish charm. She felt her stomach tighten as Pete slashed her again with the horse rubber and her memories screamed out the name PERCY! PERCY DADDY!! PERCY BATES! And just like that Percy’s demise came from the shot gun of a daddy just like I said, even though he ain’t did it, it goes to show that breakin hearts is an awful thing to do to somebody. And Pete did it to most every pretty girl in town. We never even got to see his pretty face one last time through the closed casket. Seems Pete chose to use his huntin’ rifle on young Peter Boylston. How fittin’.

One winter Clyde went off missin’. Took Pixie off her tie and vanished. The whole town went lookin’ all a yonder for him. The town put up signs in all the surroundin’ towns for months on end. After the First winter passed and spring came you could see Becky Wallart walkin’ that dog all around callin’ out Clyde’s name. And when the next winter came, they finally had a memorial for him and put up his picture image in Maddie Mae’s town museum. They put him in the history section with and ending that he was roaming the valley to hills yet unknown. They named the boulder rocks under the Great Grand Old Magnolia after him with a plaque and everything. It Read “The mountains are calling and I must go.” Sometime right after that Becky married Little Roscoe who had become filthy rich when his brother Percy died, and he took over the family business. His family now had stores in every county for miles around. The houses he built was stupendous and all the cars and the fancy restaurant they opened that all the hoity toity people came from miles around to experience. French cook and everything. There was a lot of Bates, generations of ‘em, so they pretty much owned the whole town and with young Alan Bates now being the town and all Mayor, well… Roscoe bought Becky Wallart even though he loved her all the way from the time they first danced under the great Magnolia tree at the Annual Picnic all those many years ago. Even though he wished he wouldn’ta never told Pete Wallart about Becky and his brother Percy, Percy never seemed to care about nobody else so what’s he care if Pete gets mad and stops doing business with Percy. Becky was now a different person. She was so refined and cultured. Roscoe raised Becky’s baby as if it was his own, all the time knowin that it was his brother Percy’s baby he cared for. You see he put the two and two together. From the time Becky was depressed and ain’t no body seent her for a year and his brother Percy startin to go out with Dora Ann. He knew how his brother was and what he was doin and that he got Becky pregnant and stomped on her heart and left her. But when it came to Becky, Roscoe’s anger and intent on revenge never wavered. But Roscoe was wrong. Becky never told Roscoe about her daddy’s whippin’ that night eight years ago. She also never told him about Clyde. She let him believe what he because Clyde was her secret to keep. To cherish. To never have tarnished by anyone else’s mirror. Her and Clyde’s baby will never know that kind of sorrow.

The Bates had the whole three counties tied down until the Radcliffe’s came down from Boston and made Roscoe Little Roscoe all over again. Clifton Radcliffe managed to outmaneuver the Bates every turn. The Radcliffe’s sold everything the Bates sold at a cheaper price. They opened better hotels, better restaurants, built larger homes, larger stores that all had the most modern conveniences and more inviting atmosphere. The Redcliffe’s also outnumbered the Bates. They had 12 children aging from ten to thirty. They all went to school up north and became so popular in town that the whole town started looking to them.. for everything. And when Matthew Radcliffe unseated Alan Bates as Mayor the whole town rejoiced.

From the moment Clifton Radcliffe saw and heard Becky Bates, he was determined to posses her. They way she moved, her elegant carriage and how her hands, so petite and with such expression touched her face when she laughed. Her white porcelain neck and wide smiling eyes captivated and tortured him even in his dreams. He lusted for her endlessly.

On the day that Becky Wallart said “I do” to Clifton Radcliffe, Roscoe Bates hung himself from The Great Grand Old Magnolia tree atop Growlers Peak. He chose a limb right under Clyde’s memorial plaque so that Becky would be haunted forever at the image and the thought and would always wonder how long he knew about Clyde and that that would tear her into pieces making her live in sorrow and lament for the rest of her natural born days. You see, Becky never knew that Roscoe had discovered her diaries in a box hidden between the closet and the chairs. Four years ago. He relished reading her entries but did not enjoy knowing of the few men in town he should be jealous of or want to shoot. She speaks of him with gratitude and thankfulness but not in terms that make him feel like a loving or attractive husband and his physical demeanor strikes him more at each entry. She never initiates love making but never refuses him when he does. He will never know that it is not because of his smallness but because of Clyde’s memorable largeness that she merely succumbs to no pleasure. One of the last entries was about Clifford Radcliffe. Roscoe just attributed it to all the women in town admiring the new handsome stranger. And then all the entries abruptly stopped. It wasn’t until two years ago that Becky made that entry about Clyde. He had to read it several times to believe the words. Was he seeing them, correct? Is he having a brain tumor? He was not raising his brother’s child as he’d thought all these years. The knowledge shot a blazing heat through him. He had to sit down. Suddenly he struggled to breathe. He lost his vision and fell to the bed. Unable to speak his body convulsed savagely and he fell off onto the wood floor. His epilepsy returned in an instant and he went to the ground unable to scream. When Becky heard the commotion, she ran upstairs to find Roscoe on the floor slathering from the mouth gasping for air with her diaries shrewn around his head and the rest out of the box. She was frozen. Her thoughts capsized her. The guilt like a tightening vice around her torso. Her head spinning, she thought she would faint and held onto the door frame. Her horrible thoughts matching her terrible exposure. If she did nothing, she’d be rid of him and be rich with three children. If she did do that, she could never live with herself. She ran down the stairs and out of the house screaming in the street for someone to fetch the Doctor. The towns people unaccustomed to seeing Becky Bates in such an unrefined state all quickly dispatched the message through town to Doc Holly who came and administered to Roscoe. Roscoe asked the doctor to admit him to the hospital just so’s he’d have time to not face Becky’s embarrassment and figure out what to do about these new revelations. His life is over now.

Clifford Radcliffe’s older children never forgave Becky Bates for destroying their mother’s contentment and certainty. They despised her yonder of reason. In the near future, Becky Bates will know how much hate and revenge their money can buy. Together, with Doc Holly and their mother Nancy Radcliffe guiding them the entire way, they will succeed in driving Becky Wallart Bates Radcliffe totally and irreversibly insane.

Paulie married Harriet. Georgie’s kids all called him Daddo. Paulie brutally raped Harriet every night for almost two years till he got full enough and now doesn’t touch her that way anymore when he does. It had been 40 years since he been with a woman. He was thirsty and endless. Never enough water in the well. In truth Harriet found herself surprised by the amount of pain but satisfaction that accompanied the various acts as of Paulie. Georgie was just the opposite. She never knew about thrusting or sodomy until Paulie. She prayed about it each Sunday in church. The fact that she enjoyed it. There’s not a day goes by that Paulie don’t mention Georgie’s name. He more heartbroken and torn than a widow. Harriet was too old to think about havin another baby with Paulie, so the family got a dog and named it Baby and they all treated it like the baby of the family. Teehee.

On that blistering night many years ago at the annual picnic when the Boylston’s hog Jethro ate off Lizzies foot, she was lucky that Doctor March was in town to stop the bleeding and keep out the pig blood from infecting her more. In the end he had to cut it off and she been done had a club foot every since then. It did kinda stomp on the floor when she first got it. You could hear her coming when she was. Behind the bar it was wood on wood and sounded like a hard knock on the door, but everybody got used to the sound till you practically didn’t even notice it anymore above all the noise inside. She wore special spectacles that the doctor painted black so’s you couldn’t see her no eyes. Her skin on her face was so wrinkled up, she looked to be 200 years old. At first, she’d rule the place from behind the bar on a tall stool so nobody can’t see her feet listening to all the comings and goings. By and by, BettyAnn Goodwin took over running the place. Her and Ted had a quick and fast ending. Ted went along with everything BettyAnn wanted ‘cause he knew that she would tell his shameful secrets. When they divorced, the church folk all turnt they back’s on BetttyAnn.

The townsfolk all voted Ted the new Pastor after Pastor Hatch died when he went to check on Old Man Werner behind the stage and had a heart attack when he saw Jethro gnawing on Old man Werner’s head. After causin all that ruckus at the Annual Picnic that nobody ain’t ever forgot about. At his funeral, Old Lady Werner had a spell and died while grieving, laying across top of his casket. She plum fell right in. It was young Jimmy Fallon’s fault ‘cause he wasn’t holdin’ her up right in the first place. I believe’s, but ain’t never said to nobody that I believes that Old Lady Werner and Pastor Hatch did more in juss accounting and sweeping out the church. All of that time she was waving that red handkerchief she was waving’ her heart and that was they secret way of her saying love. She couldn’t bear to live one day without. BettyAnn wondered if Pastor Hatch knew of the devils that walked with Ted in the dark when he went to visit his wife’s bed. Some of them that shamed her so deep she unconsciously went the opposite direction and did those things to the men and the women at Lizzies place.

Margie’s postpartum depression after havin’ her and Ben’s baby caused her face to go right back to what it used to look like. The whole town was whispering whether it was gonna look like Margie or Elenora, who nobody ain’t forgot about, and prayed for Ben’s sake that it took after his side of the family. But as it turns out, luck was not on their side and that baby, they named Bridgette, was pushed about in a buggy that hardly nobody waited to push the cover back for. And when they did, they could only say what they would say to any new mother in joy, but in this case, the awful truth, “Oh my. Why bless your heart. She looks just like you.” Saying anything else would give them reason to pray harder come church On Sunday and give an extra donation for lyin’.

When Beau died in that fire and never came out and Lenora went off the cliff at Pikes Peak and was never found, it was because they planned it that way. Lenora’s death insurance policy named Beau as the sole beneficiary with instructions that no one, not even Margie know about the policy upon her death except Beau. But since there was never no body found, Beau had to wait three years after her death before the insurance company would pay out. Lenora hid out in Beau’s barn for the entire that entire time. Many times, the two, sneaking off to nearby towns in the middle of the night, just to breath some freedom. In between that time their love makin was the things of legends and promises made forever. Beau made sure that Lenora had everything she needed. He served her like a queen. Sometimes Lenora was so happy she wanted to cry. How could she be so lucky. There wasn’t nothin’ Beau wouldn’t do for her, so when Beau confessed to Lenora what Margie threatened him over Ben, it angered her to the point of Lenora screaming to the tops of her lungs inside the barn and Beau did everything her could to quiet her down without shoutin’ hisself. That Margie did this to the man she loves, now gave them both ample reason and time to plan Margie’s death.

Three years to the day of Lenora’s death Beau had the insurance money. That was the same day he burned down his place. He and Lenora went to live the highlife before returning with their plan to burn down her house with her inside. It represented the hate they both had for sweet Margie. They wanted her to suffer as bad as she could. They waited days on days, surveyin ‘and watchin’ the wood framed house. On the first day that Ben left the house alone with Bridgette and Margie stayed behind their hearts quickened in jubilation. Lenora, watchin’ her baby granddaughter, never knowin her name was Bridgette, the granddaughter that she would never smell, touch, or hold, doubled Lenora’s bitterness as she watched the wagon pull away. They swiftly tarred the doors and three windows at the bottom and poured the moonshine all around the house. When Lenora lit the flame onto the first door frame she wept in vexation. She went around the side, doused, and lit the clothesline connected to the little house, the fire shot like a rocket to the roof hang causing a whoosh sound that engulfed the upper half of the house. She heard Margie scream and some many seconds passed before Margie is upstairs and breaks out a window. The plumes of darkened black smoke that ran out of the window engulfed her entire torso. Lenora sees Margie leaning out onto the window frame screaming waited for her to jump. Lenora steps out. Margie sees her mother standing there and thinks that she is hallucinating.The figure waves at her and grins just as the fire hit her legs and torches up her back. Margie jumps from the window falling into the flames. Her body lands atop the grape arbor and then flopping onto her back she hits the ground paralyzed and broken breathing in the black smoke and looking up at the sky feeling her hair burn her face and body tighten in a wretched hot red flaring pain all over-millions of hot pricking needles digging deep into her flesh all at once all over. She can’t breathe from the burning of the fire, feeling her flesh shrinking around her face and the fire in her mouth before she screamed one short scream like an animal, and she was quickly dead.

Ecstatic and in ecstasy, her face glistening with moisture and eyes red from the smoke, she had forgotten all about Beau. She had fully entered her hatred. Lenora turns around to rejoice with Beau who raises the gun and shoots her twice in the head and then throws her body into the flames with a look of surprise frozen on her face. Now he’s rid of them all, except Ben whom he will reunite with when he suddenly returns to town from death with a cash load to last a lifetime.

The two boys Jimmy Carver and Lester Franklin, had they lived, would have changed the world we live in. Jimmy alongside his brother George would have scientifically isolated the DNA of live algae amoeba, developing technology that would have increased the grow rate of organic matter in living organisms by 27 percent. The world as we know it would now, would never exist. We would have been able to grow trees and algae’s that guaranteed climate stability, reproductive and stem cell technology increasing the human life span and intelligence by seventy-five years, endless food production and the ability to create only diseases beneficial to human reproduction although death would still occur by old age That Little Roscoe sure can cut a rug. Better even than the normal boys. He would have also discovered why gold was used by the ancient Egyptians and Ancient Kingdoms and applied that knowledge to our current day technologies eliminating the need for fossil fuel usage by humans to power practically anything made by man that moves. Those would have been discoveries of his own. Together with his brother George on March 18, 1934, at 2 a.m. the invention of Aybastran would have been developed but not acknowledged by the U.S. government until 2109. It is a combination of chemicals that when mixed in a solid compound and placed onto the surface of any object, would defy Newtons law of gravity, and propel the object small as a peanut or large as a fleet ship to rise into the air. It would have eventually been sabotaged compromising warfare, and global security to the point that no one would have even been safe even sitting in their own homes.

Lester Franklin would have had a son, who would have had a daughter who had another daughter. Her name would have been Faith Evans. When Faith was almost fourteen, she had a dream she’d always remember. She was swinging in a garden of golden flowers. There were several young children below her singing songs. A large silvery white bird flew from the heavens. It’s wings as wide as a rooftop opened and she was guided onto them where she fell into a spaceship and was immediately floating in the air on her back endlessly in delight, when she was suddenly shocked and jerked by the pain entering her vagina. She woke up on a hospital bed bleeding with her first menstruation. She had been unconscious for 3 days. When she had her first child, named Calvin, the circumstances surrounding his arrival were bizarre and unusual. Faith experienced no pain at all. The doctor and nurses saw that her placenta was almost iridescent. When the nurses to place some in the urn, they felt and saw several tiny golden kernels hard as sand. When the nurses cut the umbilical cord, Calvin’s limbs all stretched out and stiffened forming the perfect shape of a 5-pointed star for a good twenty seconds. One nurse audibly gasped and almost dropped him. Then he went totally limp and wailed loudly like any newborn baby.

Faith Evans would have become the first Leader of META-G (META GLOBAL) a global network of governments. META-G would allow everyone everywhere full access to visual and auditory 3D anywhere on the planet. You could see a single grain of rice in a rice paddy in Vietnam if desired. It would foster global friendships, making it impossible to harm another living creature. She would have been the first political figure to ever to be a polyglot speaking thirteen languages and the only to order a world system of government that abolishes nuclear weapons. She would have had a son named Calvin Evans who would work with what formerly known as NASA, now World Science Federation (WSF) to develop an aerosol that deactivates any nuclear device once flown through or placed through the aerosol space. It would have been named Caldecolage. NASA will never develop this advance without his birth. He would also have been the first human to confer directly with our Celestial neighbors. Upon his death, he would be given an all-ALL-STAR funeral by the WSF. All of the global META-G monitors would tune into his homegoing. Calvin Evans would request an open casket funeral, but not because he was outstandingly handsome. He would have planned every note of the horn for this event. At the end of all the eulogies, after the cannon salutes and the placing of the ring of flowers, his daughter Alva would ring the golden bell lined with green amethyst at the bottom with the golden tong following his written instructions. She would ring the bell six times in exactly eighteen second increments. On the sixth gong on the bell, her right hand holding the tong began vibrating and she could not let go of it. She lost her vision and was instantaneously simultaneously inside of her father, his spirit, his soul. She would drop to her knees and begin a slow breathless stream of tears. Calvin Evans body would emanate a golden light from his casket with and accompanying sound like fire crackling and then totally vanish. The world would be astounded. The documents found in his safe chambers would supply the world with precise coordinates, scientific data and technologies needed to be developed on Earth for time and distance travel. They would also instruct on where and how to find him and the reasons the Celestials would not cojoin our worlds. Without the advent of his birth, these technologies will not be developed until September 30, 3056.t17

When the bolt of lightning struck the Great Grand Black Old Magnolia tree, there was just a loud pop and some smoke that nobody saw or heard. They next day when the wind and the rains and the thunder and lightning returned, the town heard a strange thud, but it was so dark and murky from the cascade of pouring rain, one could hardly see anything out their windows. When the morning came, and the rain had stopped, they all woke up at the same time to a loud scream heard in the distance and murmuring, like a hundred people all whispering at once. As they each came out of their front doors, they just followed each other toward and up the hill, all the time mumbling about what could have come about. When they almost reached the top, the sun began shining so bright that they all had to shade their eyes with their hands. They looked up at the hill. The sun was like a big, huge warm white whole covering the sky where the Great Magnolia should be. When the sun proceeded and they could un-shield their eyes, they all stood unable to speak. It was soundless you could hear the sun shining and the leaves blowing on the tree. The Great Grand Old Magnolia Tree was half standing and half laying out on the ground. Split straight down the middle. There was a tall V shape cut right down the center like a tunnel. You could see clear from one side of the tree to the other without moving. The old town folks stood stunned and devasted. Some of them wailing sounds like you might hear at a funeral. You could hear the wind in your ears. Growlers Peak will from here on out, never be the same. The newcomers stood silent for a while but began chattering about the storm- interrupting the moment of reverence. Pastor Ted Goodwin, now greying at the temples, shouted at the newcomers to all shut the hell up. He led a prayer and thanked God for the time the tree was with us and when he finished, people began telling stories about their time under the Great Magnolia. By the time noon time come, they were all, the whole town, children, dogs, pigs, goats and some hogs and chickens circled around the monstrous trunk. It was now tripled in its size laying out across the top of the hill. The animals and children went running all in and out of the huge fallen limbs squealing, clucking, and bleating while the adults ran gleefully fetching them in this new wonderous environment of many hiding places. Clyde’s memorial plaque can be seen perfectly framed by the fallen leaves and before you knew it, it was noontime. People were bringing food and beer and wine and song. Tiberius, big as a house but still drinking mightily at his old age, made it up the hillside step by step, huffin’ and puffin’ the whole way. He was breathin’ so hard he sounded like a fat hog with influenza. He couldn’t make it all the way and fell onto the ground right at the crest of the hill and immediately fired three shots in the air to announce his arrival. Poor Amelia woulda probably be more embarrassed of him now than when she was alive. Lizzie died last May from pneumonia, but BeckyAnn’s girls came on out a little later on.

And then there’s Bridgette…and the fiddle begins.

by Howard Falk

Already a bad dream about a pre-scheduled evening meal with a lady had me as its hostage. No one ever issues AMBER alerts about kidnapped imaginations.

Arriving at the lady’s residence, I encountered her posing at the front door. As I handed the bouquet of flowers to her, she asked me.

“Which coffin did I steal them from?”

We got ourselves compellingly escorted to a fine dining establishment, about which I remarked that it should seat its patrons on a first-come, first-serve basis. However, she complained upon arriving in the parking lot that the staff already demonstrated itself as utterly incompetent, as she observed that no tables, chairs, utensils, napkins, & menus occupied the parking lot’s spaces designated as ‘reserved’.

After entering into the establishment, a host led us both to a vacant booth as I remarked.

“This is why we discarded our hesitant misgivings & reluctance about patronizing this locale, since we didn’t need reservations.”

Having seated us both in the booth, the host placed menus on our table top in front of us & departed. The lady glanced at the menu’s promotional illustration & suggested.

“I’ll insist that they serve the photos of the meals we ordered if they don’t appear as appetizingly delicious as they do on these menu covers.” I responded back to her.

“Until we see what developed, let’s not feel negative about it.” She reacted with a facial expression which even a translator of hieroglyphics & cuneiform couldn’t decipher.

An assigned (or inducted) server approached us both & asked us about what we’d prefer to drink. I ordered a diet soda, & the lady ordered a Pepto-Bismal. That server left, & returned delivering glasses of diet soda & strawberry flavored Nestle[‘s] Quik at our table to us, preceding their providing data that the establishment doesn’t serve seconds of the Pepto-Bismal, to which the lady replied.

“I’d feel grateful that I only needed just this one serving of it”. The server silently slinked away.

We both browsed among our menus’ pages, to attempt revealing a suspiciously conceled offering which we’d deduce the establishment didn’t want ordered, apprehensive that all other patrons might also insist on demanding it ravenously themselves as well. We finally both traced the “WHERE’S WALDO’ of camaflouged culinary concoctions for us to request of our server, who timidly crept back to our table to obey our orders.

After we’d dispatched the server to carryour directions to them out, we sipped a bit of our ordered and delivered beverages; I conjectured about if this establishment also offered diet Pepto-Bismal as an alternative option for selection. The lady speculated that she’d likely still choose the regular brand, to which I remarked.

“Perhaps the diet brand might have got itself labelled as ‘Pepto-Abysmal’ for conforming to the truth in promotion paradigm preference”. Yet again, her facial expression defied description by expert code-breakers’ efforts.

I inquired of her about if she’d attend a concert with me after we’d completed dinner, to which she respoded.

“It depends on if the concert is scheduled to hold a performance later tonight.” Then she asked of me.

“How do I know what you’re thinking about as long as I can’t hear you thinking about it?” Score one winning lottery ticket for my instinct &/or intuition, which she confirmed by suggesting.

“Perhaps this bouffet diner might reduce electricity costs if it’d install sun roofs in its ceilings for letting the sun shine in to light its interior up during the late evenings & nights.” At once I said.

“You’re sharp as a marble.” She thanked me about telling her.

The establishment’s server mercifully appeared, carrying our requested meals to our table barely in time for her to commence consuming cuisine for rendering her silent swiftly. I raised my diet soda glass to offer a toast. After I said,

“Have a happy Valentine’s Day’, she retorted back

“You shouldn’t tell me how to live my life”.

Just to set some semblance of conversation into motion again, I informed her that I watched harness r acing, to which she remarked.

“That must be difficult to race harnesses.”

After I questioned her about how her meal was, she responded.

“I’ve tasted better gold-leaf lobster tail & platinum-leaf crabs’ legs than this, so you shouldn’t feel so bad about that half of a salami sandwich your ordered for yourself.” Yes, ordering an affordable by default meal provided some comforting consolation to myself.

Upon requesting her to explain why she didn’t also order the liquid melted butter for the lobster tail & the crabs’ legs, she claimed that,

“The melted butter would’ve tarnished the gold & platinum leafing on the tail & legs, & I’ve got a digestive allergy to tarnish.”

Concerning a topic which might occur later on during the Valentine’s Day night, I asked her if I could pick her brain, to which she replied.

“I prefer the mind which I’ve already got.” No reason for that to surprise me, I felt.

The server returned for asking if we wanted to perouse the dessert menu, to which the lady responded.

“I don’t want to read an itemized list of those who left AWOL permanently from the Armed Forces.”

“I think you refer to desertions.” I attempted clarifying for &/or to her, previous to her answering back to the server.

“Oh, I’d like to browse through your desertions offerings, for selecting some after meal treat or two to savor.”

As the server backed away up cautiously for filling our request, the lady inquired about if I know any British poetry.

“Do you you like Kipling?” I questioned her back, to which she retorted.

“I don’t know; I haven’t kippled previously.” I knew I should’ve anticipated that answer from her.

Once the server returned back & handed the dessert menus over as though they resembled ransom money to us both, we scanned that menu’s offerings for delectably scrumptious portions for us both to orally linger luxuriatingly over & around & through, to hopefully foreshadow the anticipated highlights of the Valentine’s Day date night for myself.

“I’d like to sample some ketchup flavored sherbert sorbet.” The lady innocently blurted out in a way which compelled & induced my blood to curdle & my arteries, veins, & vessels to cringe about such a very appetite supprressing notion as that. Just guess who wanted to share a lady’s Pepto-Bismal now.

The server asked which which offerings I wished to try tasting, uninformedly unaware os the thought of taste turning tongues tossing.

“I’ll imbibe a ginger ale float, with French Vanilla ice cream scoops packed plunging plenty of ginger ale in.” I delightedly surprised myself in five percent inspiration, & 95 percent desperation decoying doubtful dodging of 100 percent expiration.

As the server left for preparing our last meal requests, prior to the coming capital punishemnt, I ruminated about my dating gestures.

“Perhaps I might’ve brought a painting of flowers for you instead.” I contemplated as an afterthought, to which the lady reacted..

“They’d’ve looked gorgeous, after I’d’ve placed them in a painting of a vase filled with water painted in that.”

The server returned & informed the lady that the establishment doesn’t have any ketchup flavored sherbert sorbet.

“She can share my French vanilla ice cream ginger ale float.” I offered as an alternative suggestion, to which she remarked.

“Ginger ale doesn’t blend with Pepto-Bismal.” I meditated about how ketchup flavored sherbert sorbet fits ginger ale like a latex glove; however, only as long as the glove gets lubricated.

“I’ll arrive with your French Vanilla ice cream ginger ale float, & the cheque.” The server announced, preceding their retreating back to the servers’ station for fulfilling their duties.

“You should’ve ordered a domestic American vanilla ice cream with the ginger ale to support our nation’s economy, instead of ordering an exotic imported product such as French vanilla ice cream.” She admonished me, prior to proceeding on. “Since you’d avoid putting our country’s native frozen dairies out of business.”

I strained at an effort to imagine any ‘frozen’ dairies manufacturing ketchup flavored sherbert sorbets to satisfy mass consumer demands.

While the server showed up delivering my dessert & the cheque, I glanced at the cheque’s charges & remarked.

“I’d need to apply for a second mortgage to afford paying this cheque off.”

“You should just lease, to avoid applying for a mortgage.” The lady recommended predictably, as I mulled on another issue.

“What gratuity should I leave on the table for the server?” I inquired of the lady, who advised back to me.

“Keep your gratuity to yourself. The server will clear plenty off the table , so they don’t need any extra tasks to perform, & they’d place it in their ‘lost & found’ bin if you returned asking them to search for it, & they should just purchase one for themself if they’d prefer one so much.”

At the night’s end, as I arrived with her back at her residence – for giving her back, I gullibly felt confident that I’d exchange Valentine’s Day Night smooches amongst ourselves, & , and orally gestured so, as she intercepted it & proclaimed to me.

“Dating a lady on Valentine’s Day night resembles gambling casino[e]s & investing on the Wall Street stock exchange: the odds favor the house.”

To which I my rectum awakend an [audible] evaporation out of myself in resentful reaction as a ‘good night’ hiss[!].