A Minute with Michael

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Yule Get it One Day

Creepy Christmas

Rows of colored lights

strung across frosty winter

windows, wreaths of pine

hung on doors, stockings

placed over family hearths,

and a family huddled under

a colorful blanket, sipping

hot coco in front of a roaring

yule fire.

 

In the background of this

scene, Bing Crosby gently

croons about being home for

the holidays and counting blessings

instead of sheep, the fire crackles,

the flames shimmering off the

bright wrapping paper of gifts

under a festive fir tree.

 

A curious satisfaction rests on each

family member’s face as they sit quietly

enjoying the coziness of the holiday…

 

And this is where my holiday spirit

breaks down. In each version of this

poem or story, the roof caves in on this

sweet, contented family, crushing them or

the fire gets out of control in the fireplace

and the house explodes, and Christmas time

is ruined for years to come.

 

The son, a survivor, winds up in a

Chinese prison, the crippled daughter,

spends the rest of her life clutching a

burned dolly as she stares out the

window of some hidden away mental

hospital.

 

I cannot seem to just write a happy scene

without dropping Stephen King’s foot on it

all. It’s probably my own problems with this

holiday season. A time that should be spent

on family and peace and joy, that seems to

forsake the hardships, troubles and ills of the world.

 

There’s something quixotic

and diametrically opposing about

Christmas Time. On one hand,

it is a gentle time to embrace loved

ones and share in each other’s life,

on the other hand, it’s a cruel knife

jabbed into Santa’s back as he delivers

presents to refugees in some forgotten

back-water camp.

 

My confusion is based in the commercialism

of the holidays, Catholic indoctrination and

Hollywood mythology, would be my guess.

I want there to be peace and love and joy all

over the whole world, but I’m practical and

a realist and I know that even on Christmas day

people will die, some violently I’m sure.

 

My conscience will not be assuaged with

charity work though. It hardly seems like enough,

or is it all that we can do? It seems Sisyphean to

roll up the sleeves one day a year and expect the

hardships and troubles of the downtrodden to be cured

with a little Christmas cheer.

 

So maybe that’s why I wish the roof would collapse

on that idyllic family scene. Or maybe, by staring into

the roaring flames of a comforting fire while sipping

coco, I can ignore the troubles of the world. Maybe that’s

what Christmas is really about now?

 

Well, it’s still a few weeks away. I’ve got time

to figure it out I suppose.

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

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In The Mud

Clay Pots

 

In form, we are but mud,

smoothed and shaped,

mixed and churned,

blended into existence by

natural and unnatural forces.

 

Mud; heated and cooled next

to an enormous nuclear ball,

hardened and wilted, eroded,

molten and changed, in the image

of and by the whims of the universe.

 

We are but mud, a soupy mix,

stirred together in a puddle,

coalescing into the rock and mortar,

the sand and ash, of an unforgiving

world designed to test our muddy hearts.

 

It is the same mud for us all,

the same dirt, the same sticks and

stones, the same stardust, the same

wretched curses of time, erosion and

shifts.

 

It is the soil that we sprouted,

of which we will return, that

blood spills upon, that absorbs

us and distributes to the next tributary

of hereditary.

 

We are molded by older hands,

muddy clay that is smacked, cut, stacked, shaved,

turned and told that we are special,

unique and that our production was

important.

 

A vessel of hardened mud, delicately

filled to breaking, yet holding its form,

cracking and chipping ever so slightly,

along the way, repaired and sealed

with patience. All mud. All the time.

All the same mud.

 

Perplex-Giving

first-thanksgiving

Thanksgiving.

A Holiday drenched in

memory and nostalgia.

I’m never really sure if

I like it or not.

 

Its History and tone

confuse me.

As a child we’re told that

it celebrated the survival of

the Pilgrims with the aid

of the Native Americans.

 

It was mildly celebrated,

on and off over the years,

Thomas Jefferson wanted nothing

to do with it and didn’t

celebrate it at all.

 

As we got older, we learned

Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving

a National holiday during the

American Civil War in 1863 to help

bring about some hopeful peace.

It has been observed since then. (More or less.)

 

Yet, I’m perplexed by it. I always

have been. It is a strange story of

two peoples, getting along through

tough and changing times, only to

eventually have one people practically

wipe the other out.

 

It is a holiday confusingly doused in

blood and dirt, wiped off, shined up,

and put on a display shelf, but still

infected with an odious, dubious,

past.

 

Here we are again, faced with a Holiday,

a Holiday season in general, tinged with

sadness, horrors and a sense of casual unease

with the state of the world, our nation

and in some instances, with each other.

 

I don’t honestly recall a recent

Holiday Season that wasn’t touched

by some unrelenting grief. I can’t really

remember the simplicity of childhood

wonderment at the feasts, laughter and

obviously, wine induced euphoria of the Holiday.

 

I’m deeply saddened by the roughness of

this holiday, the coarseness of which we have

to carry on through it, pretend to see the

laughter in each other’s eyes but commonly

disavow the depression present there too.

 

We will feast in the face of famine,

we will drink in the face of sobriety,

we will fight in the face of reason,

we will ignore in the face of horrors,

we will laze in the face of hardships.

 

What are we?

Are we celebrating the work of

Colonial Entrepreneurship?

Are we ignoring the past and future

to revel in the present while simultaneously

ignoring it?

 

I’m quite perplexed by this holiday.

I’m very confused by us.

I’m not sure about it at all.

 

Perhaps, in the gathering of family,

friends and loved ones (maybe not so loved)

we can start to clear up some of this confusion,

to wipe away the muck of history and re-classify

this Holiday as one in which we can be proud of.

 

A holiday celebrating our humanness, our

universality, the fact that we’re not so different,

from one another, that violence is not an answer,

that hate has no place, that an open mind is

one of the most beautiful human traits we have.

 

Maybe that’s the solution to my confusion,

perhaps over cranberries and mashed potatoes,

we can try to heal each other, really see each other,

all of us, together and maybe; that is something

to be Thankful for.

 

 

The Reveal

sculpting stonejpg

The painting, I have been told,

is already on the canvas before

the painter starts, the painter

just has to lovingly reveal it.

 

Much can be said about the

sculptor, tenderly releasing the statue

hidden in a block of stone, a figure

that was there all along.

 

A poem however, doesn’t feel

like it’s always on the page, waiting

to be revealed. The page is always

empty until it is filled.

 

A poet and the page are like

well accustomed rivals vying

for the affections of the same

lover.

 

The poet writes the word,

the page judges it,

the poet erases the word

or forces the page to take it.

 

The page never relaxes its

criticisms, but fights to keep

itself blank and crisp and clean,

unsullied by poetic rambling.

 

The poet, furrowed brow, can’t

understand why the words are so

lofty and lovely in their head but

so flat and obtuse on the page.

 

The page needs to be impressed

and smooth talked, complimented and

soothed into accepting the poet’s

need for expression.

 

There is no stone to chisel away

or paint contoured into a shape

that was already there. The words

have to stick to page’s slippery surface.

 

The poem lives, breathes,

rides the emotional wave of

each reader’s perspective before

expiring in memory.

 

It was not there before,

it may not be there after,

it is transitory

and illusive.

 

Only the page knows if

the words will live or die

in the chests of the poetic

beating hearts.

 

The poet, unknowing,

persists in hope,

the page will reveal some

tenderness and love it so harshly withholds.

Therapy on a Cold Day

Therapist office1

Charlie rested his chin in the crook of his arm as he leaned on the window ledge. He watched as melting snow dripped slowly down the window in a pointless race to the sill. He looked out at the gray November morning. The day had hardly begun and he was already feeling sad. He had spent most of the session staring out the window.

“How do you talk about the un-talk-about-able,” asked Charlie finally.

“What do you mean,” asked Charlie’s therapist, “you know there’s nothing we can’t talk about right?”

Charlie pressed his index finger against the glass window and traced the path of a descending water droplet. The glass was slightly cold. Charlie felt the chilly numbness in the tip of his finger. He pulled away from the window. He turned in his lounger chair and faced Dr. Applebaum.

“Yeah, I mean, sure, we can talk about anything, but what about the things we’re not supposed to talk about,” said Charlie.

“Charlie, really, there’s nothing we can’t talk about at all. Everything is fair game. I’m not here to judge you or tell you if what you’re thinking is right or wrong. I’m just here to help you get to the core of what’s troubling you,” said Dr. Applebaum.

Charlie looked around Dr. Applebaum’s office. There was a single motivational poster on the wall featuring a humpback whale cresting through the ocean in a flurry of white foam. The motivational phrase didn’t seem to relate to the picture of the whale. It was some claptrap about achievement or over-coming adversity. Charlie didn’t care for it. Dr. Applebaum had multiple certifications and degrees framed on the walls. There was one slowly withering house plant in the corner that had obviously been neglected for a few weeks. There was a little dust on the bookshelves Charlie could easily see.

“I’ll tell you Doc, there’s a lot troubling me, but I don’t really think it has anything to do with me,” said Charlie.

“How so,” asked Dr. Applebaum.

“Well, the world seems mad Doc. Like, no matter what I do, with good intentions, love in my heart and sympathy in my soul, and doing what I’m told, the world keeps trying to kill itself, along with all the people in it. How do we talk about that,” asked Charlie.

“Those are pretty large-scale problems for sure. The world is indeed a complicated place, but perhaps we can try and bring this down to a more, individual perspective,” said Dr. Applebaum.

Charlie nodded absently. He had already decided that this was dumb. Charlie didn’t feel depressed. He was sad. There was a big difference in his mind about the two things.

“Yes, big problems for sure,” said Charlie, “the whole thing though, the whole mess of the world, the people, politics, this hatred under the skin, the lack of togetherness, it’s all just too much for me to bare and honestly doc, it’s bumming me out.”

Dr. Applebaum flipped to the front page of Charlie’s medical file folder. He tapped at one of the forms with the tip of his ball-point pen.

“Charlie,” said Dr. Applebaum, “I understand that you’re upset about it all. What really has me concerned is that you’re eight years old and you’re having some, very mature thoughts. Thoughts fairly unexpected for an eight-year-old. Do you see why that might be a point of concern for your parents?”

Charlie folded his arms across his small chest and looked back at Dr. Applebaum. Dr. Applebaum was looking back at Charlie over the rims of his reading glasses. They stared at each other for a long while until Charlie finally spoke.

“I’m a really smart kid,” said Charlie, “I know my parents are worried and maybe it’s their fault for raising such a smart and emotionally aware kid. Maybe it’s all their fault. I mean, I didn’t make this world that is bothering me so much. They did, my grand parents did. Heck Doc, even you made this world and I’m here, struggling with the consequences.”

Dr. Applebaum sat back in his own chair.

“See, these are the things that are un-talk-about-able,” said Charlie, “The fact that I’m just a kid and I’m smart and I’m aware and I read the news but there’s no one, absolutely know one that can relate to me, to talk about any of it. It’s un-talk-about-able.”

“I don’t believe that Charlie,” said Dr. Applebaum, “we can absolutely talk about it. Is that what you’d really like?”

Charlie wanted to leave this small room. Dr. Applebaum could never understand. His parents in the waiting room outside would never understand.

“I’m eight doc. There’s nothing I can do to fix it,” said Charlie. “I’m trapped in this small world, this small body, I hate playing soccer which my dad makes me do; I’m running from bullies at school, being called a nerd, afraid of girls but I really like them, and hoping that someone doesn’t barge into my school and start shooting everybody because they are crazy or depressed or sick on medications. It’s making me really sad doctor. What does that have to do with me? Isn’t that everybody else? Why isn’t anybody doing anything?”

Dr. Applebaum scratched his nose. Charlie saw he had some long gray nose hairs. Charlie wished Dr. Applebaum would trim his nose hairs.

“Charlie, you are an amazing young man,” said Dr. Applebaum, “I’ve have provided years of treatment for some patients that haven’t come close to your level of maturity. You’re right. You’re eight and you have little control over where life takes you. You are at the whims of terror far greater than I ever had to deal with as an eight-year-old. I never had to worry about shootings or terrorism or any of that stuff. Well, maybe the communists, but even that was so far-fetched. But none of it is un-talk-about-able. I hope you and I can talk more about it but unfortunately, that’s our time today.”

Dr. Applebaum stood from his leathery worn chair and reached out to shake Charlie’s hand. Charlie stood up. Politely shook the doctor’s hand.

“Charlie, please send your parents in please and we’ll see you next week,” said Dr. Applebaum.

Charlie nodded and exited Dr. Applebaum’s office into the waiting room. His mother looked up at him with wet, teary eyes and his father barely looked at him at all.

“He wants to see you,” said Charlie.

His parents stood up from their chairs and walked toward Dr. Applebaum’s office and closed the door behind them.

 

 

Punitive Pumpkins

SJM-L-PIZARRO-COL-1028

Brain bashing brutality

bludgeoning the carefully

carved characters on All

Hallows Eve.

 

Crime scenes of carnage,

pumpkin pulpification

plastered on pavement and

porches.

 

The pumpkin’s toothy grin

shattered and smashed from

shenanigans of school-aged

smart alecks.

 

Unsolved these unfathomable

unsavory acts will remain, as

no one mourns the tears of a

smashed and shattered pumpkin.

 

Witches will keep witching,

Zombies will keep braiiiiiinnnsss…

Werewolves will keep howling,

as the goblins gobble greedily.

 

Woe to those that wrought

such willful wanton waste,

to the flickering faces of

pumpkin fancy.

 

Candy wrappers winding a

whimsical trail over walkways

and woodland paths, leading

to a wonderland of fright.

 

Pumpkins will be avenged,

pumpkins will get you in the end,

pumpkin pie, pumpkin beer, pumpkin

spice latte for $12.99.

 

The brutal bludgeoning will

be revenged.

Do Not Be Afraid

Nighttime machupicchu

Auqui sat up from his woven mat. He was startled by the noises of the night outside. He heard something and it woke him from his sleep. He looked across the hut toward his sleeping father and cried out to him. His father, Sinchi, stirred as he heard the quiet sobbing of his son. He sat up from his mat and animal skin bed.

“What is it Auqui? Why are you crying,” asked Sinchi of his young son.

“I am scared father,” said Auqui, “there are noises outside and I am afraid.”

Sinchi quietly rose from his mat. He did not wish to wake Auqui’s mother or the rest of the children. Their sleeping, rhythmic breathing filling the small hut. Sinchi moved toward his son, stepping over each child and family member in the dark. He sat next to Auqui on his small sleeping mat. Auqui grabbed his father’s strong arm and held it close. Sinchi felt the light tears of his young son on his arm. He pulled Auqui closer to him.

“Tell me son, what has you so afraid,” whispered Sinchi.

“I don’t know. There were noises. Noises in the dark,” said Auqui.

“There are always noises my son. Noises are normal. This world is a noisy place,” said Sinchi.

“I’m afraid they will come and get me and take me away,” said Auqui.

“Who? Who will come and take you away,” asked Sinchi.

Auqui did not know how to answer. He only pulled his father closer to him. Sinchi put his arm around his son’s shoulders and hugged him.

“No one is coming to take you away my son. There is nothing to be afraid of,” assured Sinchi.

“How do you know,” asked Auqui.

Sinchi smiled slightly. He looked out into the dark of the hut. A single flickering ember still twisting in the evening fire.

“I was once a small boy too. A small boy who was also afraid of the dark and the things I could not see. Your grandfather, he told me that I should not be afraid because there is nothing in the dark but what we put there. The dark would always come, every time the sun set, whether I was afraid or not, so why should I be afraid,” said Sinchi.

“I don’t understand,” said Auqui.

Sinchi thought about his own terrifying nights, lost in the thick jungle, hunting, and hearing the Earth move as if it was alive and coming to get him. He tried to remember what his father taught him, the words he used to help him not be afraid. He knew that indeed there were things in the dark that were dangerous but he also knew that being afraid of them was not helpful.

“My son, you are brave and strong. I know this about you. You possess the blood of very many brave and strong ancestors within you. They will give you strength to conquer your fears in time. I will not lie to you my son, there can be things in the dark that are dangerous, but you do not have to fear them. It is good to know that your senses are strong, but do not let this fear overtake you my son. Because in the dark, while there are terrors, none are as scary as your imagination,” said Sinchi.

Auqui held his father’s arm tighter and buried his head into Sinchi’s chest.

“Auqui, let us listen to these sounds together,” said Sinchi. Auqui nodded against his father’s chest.

“There…do you hear the frogs by the river? They are singing love songs to the moon. They are not afraid to sing. We know it is just the frogs praying and not something to fear. The rustling overhead is mother owl, she is hunting to find food for her family, she is a night hunter and she is not afraid. the chirping of the crickets as they search for love, they do not fear the night. The jungle is full of life my son. Life is all around us doing what it must do, life cannot be afraid of the dark,” said Sinchi.

“I hear them father. They are not afraid,” asked Auqui.

“No, my son. They are not afraid. They are not afraid, just as we should not be afraid, because we understand them. We took time to learn about the noises in the night so we are not afraid of them. Tonight my son you are learning that you must listen, even when afraid, so you can learn and grow and understand that the dark is only scary if you let it be. If you know what is out there, have heard their songs, you will understand and not be afraid,” said Sinchi.

“I think I understand father,” said Auqui, “I should not be afraid of what I do not understand. I should learn what the noises are, hear them, and then I will not be afraid.”

“That is right my son. It is okay to be afraid. It is normal. Yet remember not to let fear cloud your mind. It is far braver to listen to the night than to cower in the dark,” said Sinchi.

Auqui hugged his father, “I can go back to sleep now.”

Sinchi hugged his son, “I know. Sleep well and I will see you in the morning.”

Sinchi laid Auqui down on his woven mat and brushed the hair off his forehead. Sinchi sat for a moment in the night, listening to the sounds around him. He smiled. He knew his son would no longer be afraid of what he could not see.

Resting in Peace

Spooky candle

The newspapers on the coffee table rustled as a breeze blew through the living room. The fluttering caught the corner of Dan’s eye. He looked around the room for the source of the breeze but there was nothing to make the papers flitter. He looked toward the front windows of the small house and verified they were shut tight. Dan sat back on the small living room sofa. He was trying to relax, but there had been a lot of strange goings on in his small house lately. These strange occurrences were starting to get on his nerves. He glanced suspiciously at the newspapers again and they were motionless.

Dan heard the kitchen cabinets opening and closing by themselves the previous day. When he hurried into the kitchen to investigate there was nothing. There were also the issues with the trudging footsteps down the hallways, the creaking of the bedroom window that sounded like someone was trying to open it and the odd voices Dan could hear every so often. He was getting terribly annoyed. He had lived in this small house for as long as he could recall and there had never been a troubling sound. It was a nice quiet place normally.

He hadn’t gotten a decent night’s sleep since the noises started. He rubbed his face and yawned loudly. He leaned forward on the small sofa and stretched his arms wide to his sides. He arched his neck and rolled his head back and forth across his shoulders. He looked up at the ceiling and sighed. He cracked his knuckles loudly.  He sat quietly watching the dust motes float across the rays of the setting sun dappled room. He considered he was just overreacting to the strange noises in the house. It was an old house and old houses make noises.

His momentary peace was interrupted by a scream. A blood curdling scream from nowhere. It made Dan jump from the sofa and stand up in the middle of the room. The newspapers on the coffee table were swept aside by an unseen hand and they spun like Maple tree seeds to the hardwood floors. Dan stepped to his right instinctively out of fear. He heard hard footfalls on the floors that seemed to head down the hallway. The bedroom door slammed shut. Dan jumped and backed himself up against the wall. He was terrified.

He seemed to stand there against the wall for a long time. He was waiting for whatever it was that scared him to just go away. He felt silly, thinking that if he just ignored it perhaps it would go away. It wasn’t like there was a school bully trying to take his lunch money. There was something definitely in his small house and he didn’t know what it was. His terror slowly ebbed as he tried to catch his breath. He was able to move and slide his way along the walls toward the kitchen. He wanted to get a flashlight. A flashlight seemed like something he would need and he just wanted it.  As he felt his way along the cabinets he heard a voice, a clear voice saying something.

“Dan, Dan Estevez? Is that you? Are you with us,” asked a loud male voice.

Dan ran from the kitchen back toward the living room. The newspapers had been picked up off the floor and were back on the coffee table. On top of the newspapers was a lit candle in a candle holder. The small flame flickering faintly in the darkening room.

“Mr. Estevez, please communicate with us,” said the same loud male voice, “let us know that you are here.”

Dan heard more shuffling footsteps around him and could make out small blinking green and red lights along the wall toward the hallway closet. He started to move toward the blinking lights.

“Dude, I’ve got movement! Movement,” shouted an excited voice from the darkness.

Dan jumped backwards back against the wall. He felt like he couldn’t breathe. He felt his throat was closing up. His mouth was dry but he had to speak. “What is going on”, he yelled into the candle lit room.

“Dude, did you hear that! It said, ‘I’m going to kill you all!!’ Holy shit bro”, exclaimed the male voice.

There were more excited footfalls in the small living room. Dan saw his sofa slide backwards slightly without anyone touching it. Dan gasped. The room seemed to be filled with electricity and too much activity. Dan just wanted to get out, he just wanted to get back to his peace and quiet.

“Please go away,” pleaded Dan as he pounded the wall behind him.

The room filled with excited shouting and Dan cowered against the wall. He felt weak. He didn’t want whatever was happening to continue. Nighttime had filled the small living room and the flickering candle seemed to illuminate disembodied faces and bodies moving back and forth across the floor.

“Dude! The spirit communicator just said, ‘I want to play’,” said another strange voice.

Dan ran from the front room toward his bedroom and dove onto his bed and pulled the covers up over his head. He felt like he wanted to cry. He just wanted his peace and quiet.

“Oh my God Bro! We got that! We got that on video bro,” said another excited voice.

The night wore on and Dan continued to hear footsteps and loud voices all through his house. The voices kept asking to speak with him, to show himself. Dan stayed in his bed. He prayed it would all be over soon. He felt himself get lighter as morning started to creep closer. He closed his eyes and vanished into his dreams.  His dreams of his youth when he was strong and brave. When he had been alive.

Haunted Houses

Haunted House Entrance

The sign painted over the threshold read, “To Hell”, in bright and bold red lettering. Charlie looked to his right and up at the bent and deteriorated street sign which read, “Good Intentions”. A flickering street lamp buzzed on and off overhead.  Charlie shrugged and kept walking forward. This Haunted House wasn’t exciting. There were a few deranged clowns and the usual slasher movie characters lunging at people occasionally, but they weren’t enthusiastic. There wasn’t anything that had Charlie startled or even remotely scared. Normally there’d be one or two things that would make Charlie chuckle in embarrassed fright but this local Haunted House clearly was on a shoestring budget. He continued to move through the black lit Chamber of Horrors with the small crowd of other haunted house goers he had been corralled with at the entrance.

Charlie used to hate being shoved into a group of strangers to tour a haunted house. It always seemed to happen to him. He’d go with an odd numbered group of friends and the haunted house “bouncer” would split them up into even numbered groups. Charlie always wound up being cut from his group of friends and was forced to go through the scares and chills with strangers. It happened every time. Although it was always happening now since he went to the haunted houses alone. His old friends, they just didn’t do it anymore.  So, he was accustomed to being with strangers now. In fact, he now enjoyed the reactions of the strangers around him. It was fun to see people scared. If the Haunted House were scary that is.

The herd of Haunted house devotees Charlie was casually following was filled with mostly twenty-somethings, who were indignant at the representation of the living impaired. They scoffed at the alleged terror they had paid fourteen dollars to see. Charlie remembered when he was young and how terrified he was at Haunted Houses. He remembered the sick thrills and his heart leaping into his throat as he was jostled about and stumbled through pitch-black maze-like corridors of carpeted horror. He hated it, yet always yearned for more. He liked the adrenaline rush of fear he felt stumbling around in the dark and being at the mercy of creative scare masters.

There were always one or two haunted house rooms that were legendary. The sort that had you screaming and crying and begging to just get the hell out of there. Your nightmares were being brought to life and there was nothing you could do. You were trapped with all the other screaming people, ramping up each other’s curious fear. Now it seemed like this was a quick march through a poorly thought out cavalcade. It was still fun for Charlie though. He still liked to see how dedicated some people were to making a haunted house exciting and frightfully enjoyable.

The young people Charlie was with were a different type. It seemed like nothing scared them at all. The creepy music and smoke machines were really a nuisance for the young people now. Charlie was disappointed that every scary attraction was met with sarcasm and snark from the small group of bearded and tattooed young people he was with. The were unflappable. Charlie wasn’t scared since he’d been going to haunted Houses since the early 1980’s. There really wasn’t anything he hadn’t seen before so his fear was tempered with age and time. The young people though, they just were too bitter to be scared.

Charlie felt that this was a great loss. He thought about all the money and effort local companies, churches, schools and other organizations put into these haunted houses, only to be met with disgusted sneers from today’s youth. He felt like the age of awesome haunted houses was nearing an end. Charlie envisioned a time that the young people were too outraged by real life to care about the fantasy horrors of the local Parish’s haunted houses. It made him morose.

A giant-sized Chucky doll burst from a small box in the corner while a strobe light flashed aggressively. Charlie heard one of the young women in the group ask, “What was that? Was that some sort of movie character or something?” To which Charlie heard the reply, “I dunno, never seen that character before, just some dumb doll thing I guess. Let’s get artisan tacos after this.”

Charlie thought that this might be his last haunted house. Reality had finally become scarier than the fictional world of Halloween horror and that was more than Charlie could handle.

 

Roadkill

Night headlights

Sarah slammed on her brakes and her car skidded to a screeching hard stop. The seatbelt tightened against her chest and she immediately knew she’d have a long bruise. She cursed to herself. The racoon or opossum or whatever it was that ran across the road had scared her half to death. She was pretty sure she hit the poor damn thing, whatever it was. She felt the sickening thump through her steering wheel before slamming on her brakes.  She felt the soft yet solid thud shudder through her arms. She imagined that poor furry bastard, crushed beneath her tires.  She didn’t want to get out. The quiet country road was dark and it was simply too scary. The trees overhead, slowly dropping their Autumn leaves onto the road played odd tricks in her car’s headlights.

She had to get out of her car though. She had to make sure the poor damn critter wasn’t still alive. She hoped it wasn’t stuck under her tire or that its entrails were all wrapped up around the axel or whatever innards do when a car hits an animal at 65 miles per hour. She just wanted to get up to Kenny’s cottage and enjoy a nice fall vacation, even if it was just for a few days. She just didn’t feel like she had the time to deal with some unlucky mammal that chose the wrong time to make a break for it across the road.

Her car door opened slowly as Sarah peeked into the rear-view mirror. She didn’t see any other cars coming from behind her. She opened the door all the way and unlocked her seat belt. She stepped up and out of the car onto the dark road. It was silent. The early fall seemed to have silenced any of the normal insect sounds you’d expect to hear in the country. The only sound was the ticking noise of her car’s engine and the skittering of leaves being blown across the road. Sarah moved towards the front of her car and looked around the driver’s side front tire. She didn’t see anything. She didn’t see any fur or blood. She thought that maybe she missed the critter. Although she was certain she had felt the thump of its body resonate through the steering wheel.

Sarah moved to the front of her car and squinted against the brightness of her headlights. She couldn’t really see if there was anything stuck in the grille or under the front bumper. It was too silhouetted by the headlights. She remembered she had a flashlight in her glovebox and she went back to the driver’s side to see if she could retrieve it. The flashlight had probably been in the glovebox since she bought the car. He father insisted she always have a flashlight in the car. She never used it. It had been in the car for seven years. She didn’t even know if it would work. She wondered if batteries even could last seven years. She wondered why batteries didn’t last longer and why science could make an erection last four hours for a man but couldn’t make damn decent battery. She told herself to remember that line for later. Kenny would get a laugh out of it.

She leaned back into her car and over to the glovebox. She thought it was odd that it was still called a glovebox. She thought about the antique cars and wondered if the fancy ladies of the past would actually put real gloves in the glovebox. She rummaged through the glovebox until she found the small LED flashlight. She flicked it on and a bright beam lit up her face. The brightness of the flashlight startled her and she let out an annoyed gasp and a quick god damn it. She was happy the flashlight still worked. Kudos to you scientists. Thanks for not spending all that research money on dick medications she thought.

She got back out of her car and moved to the front and shined the light onto the grille. She didn’t see any blood or fur, no marks at all. She quickly checked the right front tire, but she was sure she felt the thud on the left side. Nothing there at all. She moved to the rear of the car and check the rear right tire and found nothing. She went around the back of the vehicle and checked under the rear left tire. Nothing.

She stood up from her crouch and then shone the light down the dark road behind her. She scanned the asphalt for any signs of an injured or furry lump in the road. She didn’t see anything at all. The road seemed clear except for the damn leaves blowing around. She clicked the small LED flashlight off and started back to the driver’s side. She did another quick check before she stepped in. She didn’t see anything at all. She got back into the car. She put back on her seatbelt. She had been so sure that something, some crazy thing, had darted out in front of her car and she was so sure that she had made contact with it. She shook her head and decided that if she did hit it, she must have only grazed it and it had made it to the woods. She hoped it was okay. Whatever it was.

“Poor thing,” she said aloud as she closed the driver’s side door, “Poor critter.”

Sarah put the car into drive and started moving forward again. Kenny would sure get a kick out this story though. He’d probably taunt her all weekend about the phantom critter and do all sorts of stupid and immature things about it. Sarah considered not telling him about it. She was wondering about their two-year relationship as it was. Was he really the one for her or was she just biding her time she thought. She started to accelerate along the dark road and her eyes were scanning the road carefully. She didn’t want to have to do that again if she could avoid it.

A thumping sound started with each rotation of the tire. A fast thud as the tire rolled over the smooth country road. Sarah cursed. She didn’t check under the wheel-well or the fenders. The damn vermin could have been lodged up there and now its poor little corpse was thumping against the tire. Sarah slowed her car down and the thumping slowed. “Damn it,” she said and she pulled the car over toward the thin shoulder on the right.  She stopped the car and threw off her seatbelt. She was annoyed now. At first, she felt really bad about the little animal, now it was an irritant. She just wanted to get to Kenny’s damn cottage.

She opened the driver’s side door and grabbed the LED flashlight again. She closed her driver’s side door behind her. She stepped onto the dark road again and shined the light onto the front left tire. She didn’t see anything dangling or blood smears, no clumps of fur or anything sticking to the tire. She had to bend down, then crouch down close to inspect the tire, to look up under the fender. She couldn’t see anything up there. She looked back down the road to her right. There were no signs of any approaching cars, no headlights swinging down the dark road. Sarah lay down on the road by the front left tire and shined the light. She was looking up at the wheel-well when she heard something. Something large seemed to be approaching.

“What the hell was that,” said Kenny as he sped down the dark country road. He’d felt something thud and the whole car shuddered; almost leapt up. He had been looking down at his phone, trying to text Sarah that he was running late and he hadn’t made it to the cottage yet. He dropped his phone when that huge thud happened. He was still reaching down for it as he cursed. He finally grasped it down by his left foot. He looked up at the long dark country road.  He didn’t even really want to go to the cottage this weekend, but he promised her that they’d go and this was their first weekend they could both get away. He was starting to wonder about Sarah, if maybe she was just not as important to him as she was when they first met. Kenny’s car seemed out of alignment and was now shuddering badly. “Crap,” he said, “god damn roadkill.”