Cloverly House, Md
First let me apologize for being so out of touch these past weeks- as you know I had knee replacement surgery less than two weeks ago, and I’m still pulling myself out of the pain drugs and trying to improve my rather limited mobility. My P.T. has given me endlessly boring, repetitive exercises to loosen these disgruntled muscles and tendons, and I tire rather easily. I hate being attached to this damned aluminum walker, but I have made peace with the reality that I will have to rely on this infernal contraption a little while longer. Still, I’m annoyed by my rattling about everywhere. I’ve named my walker ‘Marley’- as in Marley’s ghost from the Dickens Christmas comedy- as it is well-nigh impossible to sneak up on anyone or get to the bathroom six times a night without banging into the doorframe and squonking across the tile to make it to the loo in time- this, as you may imagine, causes my poor long suffering wife to forgo the concept of uninterrupted sleep, and adds to my microwaved sense of dignity.
It could be worse, but judging by the year 2020 thus far, I prefer not to further traumatize myself by random speculation or hysterical conjecture. The entire world, for once, agrees: This year SUX.
The pain drugs are an abomination. They cause untold TMI difficulty in nearly every facet of my current existence- not the least of which is sleep. Trying to sleep on pain meds is quite like being blind-folded and led down a street of dark theaters by a phantom psychopomp , who, after leading you to a seat, abandons you in the bleak penumbra unaware of exactly what the main feature will be; Noir? Horror? Light romance coupled with a wet dream? (unlikely- pain meds kill that entirely) or, if you are very, very lucky: a nice light-hearted comedy. Spoiler alert: There is always a killer clown-puppet waiting for a cameo appearance. (Most times right before the ‘money shot’.) Sometimes you have to stay in the theater and watch the entire mind-film; other times you wake up, readjust your blindfold (or pee) and go back to sleep only to be led to yet another shambolic funhouse mystery mindfuck that never fails to incorporate Fellini, John Huston, Peewee Herman and just for laughs, a leering blood thirsty vampire with a drug problem. I find myself wondering how hard it would be to simply glue my eyelids open and leave a halogen lamp lit in the bedroom 24/7.
Fuck oxycodone. As if I don’t have enough drama.
Speaking of drama; I wanted to tell you about the craziest thing that has happened to me in years- as all such stories begin: On Halloween night.
It was a normal night in the suburbs. Cool for October, wind blowing, some rain, raw and moonless. Our street is on a designated scenic road, which means no streetlights, large lots with spooky trees, and no trick-or-treaters with the stones to troll for Good n’ Plenty candy. Too bleak, too scary – they do much better in the surrounding neighborhoods. In the 25 years I’ve lived here I have seen exactly 5 gutsy Batmen who were desperate enough to venture down my street. ( Wide-eyed and obviously scared poopy by our haunted neighborhood.) Still, out of an abundance of optimism or ritual, we always carve a pumpkin, light a candle inside, and wait for the Vampirellas and evil Chuckies who never materialize. I always end up eating the excess candy (Reeses peanut-butter cups and Snickers) – and always pay for the indulgence the next day.
Back to my tale:
As my knee was mercilessly throbbing, I decided to stay up a little later than usual. My wife went to bed early, put a thick pillow over her head to soften my clunky entry into the sleeping chamber, my son was in the West Wing with headphones on his ears engaging in some video-gaming bloodsport, my daughter, same- but in her case it was loud Gothpop in her earbuds, which meant I was alone with the dog watching an old (you guessed it) Fellini film. At around midnight I was drowsy enough to take another Tylenol and hobble off to bed -but first I double-checked that I had locked the side door and began slogging my way to the front door to do the same.
The dog began to bark. I tried to shush her, not wanting the noise to disturb my wife’s slumber. The foyer was dark as I approached the front door. I became aware of some footsteps on the porch. Unsure if my mind was playing tricks on me (Trick or Treaters at this hour?) I continued to the front door and, in a burst of pure adrenalin induced shock, realized there was a face smushed up against the glass, staring in at me. I barely had time to react when the doorknob twisted open and a rather large man I judged to be in his ‘70’s, burst into my house, and with a crazed gleam in his eyes began bellowing:
WHISKEY, WHISKEY, I NEED WHISKEY.
Needless to say I was freaked out knowing the extreme vulnerability of my position, staples still in my knee from surgery, and quite certain I was unable to dance away or defend myself ( I own no firearms, and anything I might use as a deterrent to mayhem was upstairs by the bed) – instinctively I grabbed the first thing available with which to defend myself- which turned out to be a framed photo of my long deceased grandfather hanging on the wall- which as you may remember- hangs with the rest of my family pictures in the foyer.
WHISKEY, he bellowed, WHISKEY
So, logically, I smashed Grandpa on his head. The glass shattered, the frame broke, the intruder was barely fazed.
WHISKEY, he caterwauled, Whiskey
He seemed much over-wrought as he lunged toward me, so by instinct and impulse I smashed my Grandmother over his head. He began to bleed from his scalp and yowl like the Frankenstein fuc’n monster- grasping about yelling:
WHISKEY WHISKEY WHISKEY over and over.
The poor dog is running in circles like an overfed overwrought spinning flea, barking her poor head off, nipping at the intruder’s ankles, leaping higher than I’ve ever seen a pughuahua jump; I’m watching this maniac scream in despair, blood pouring down his ears from my now depleted arsenal of maternal Grandparents, and he bawls
WHISKEY, I ONLY WANT WHISKEY
I did the only thing I thought appropriate and smashed my favorite Aunt on his forearm, which he instinctively blocked my renewed onslaught incoming relations. Now this guy’s arm is bleeding, and the blood mixed with glass shards on the tile floor is damn near as deadly as Texas on ice.
Now the intruder starts to cry, his eyes red-rimmed, bulging from the sockets, every capillary pulsating, and now I’m absolutely certain he will deal me his deathblow, as he out-weighs me by at least forty pounds, has two good legs and two powerful arms, looming above me at 6’ 3”. I reach over, and in desperation take one last photo off the wall and hit him square in the forehead with Molly, my blessed mother – who dead or alive- was always capable of belligerent anarchy in the face of impossible odds. It did the trick; the intruder sobs and crumples to his knees, and seeing that I might be a split-second away from being summarily overcome by a mangled bleeding house breaking dipsomaniac, did the only thing left- I picked Marley the Walker up over my head (no mean feat considering my entire right knee was sutured with nagging, jutting staples ) and prepared to bend the aluminum around the lunatic’s head if he so much as blinked. After all, I’d nearly exhausted my entire family gallery on the guy’s head, and now he was bleeding like a character from the Oxycodone Night Movie Fun-Time, and I was flat out of other options, except the photos my wife’s relations who were not, in my skewed opinion, capable of crushing monsters or drunken home invaders.
Hence, I gritted my teeth, lifted Marley overhead, took a deep breath and…
Dad! For Godssake what the fuc’n hell?
My son, who despite the animated head-crushing metal Warrior-fest in his headphones, had somehow registered that the dog was barking like a fanged pughuahua banshee flea creature and that there was something amiss and very much off-script.
WHISKEY, the lunatic pleads, WHISKEY!
Here I am, my eyes as wide as a wounded battle steed, frothing at the mouth, teeth bared like a murderous gimpy-cat, ready to utterly dispatch this apparition over his whiskey-loving head with Marley’s aluminum ghost.
Dad! Stop! Wait.
My son rushes forward and blocks my intention, looks at the intruder in horror.
Holy shit. Mister Wallinger. What has happened here?
So, what? You know this guy.
Jesus, Dad. It’s Billy Wallinger’s dad from up the street. He’s got dementia.
Do. Fucking. Tell.
No, really- calm down. Holy shit there’s blood all over the floor! The dog has pissed all over the place and what have you done to Grandma’s portrait?
He helps the babbling traumatized man to his feet, pulls a clean handkerchief from his pocket, (he was raised with manners) and begins daubing Mr. Wallinger’s blunt trauma wounds.
You KNOW this guy? I keep repeating, Marley still held aloft for a death blow.
Dad, I told you. The guy has dementia. Billy keeps him inside the house, so he won’t wander away.
Yeah, great. How’s that going?
That’s why you’ve never met him. I did some yard work for them last year.
Well your garden gnome just walked into our house unannounced.
You realize you have blood all over your underwear, right? Put that damned walker down before you need surgery again.
WHISKEY, sobs Mr. Wallinger, WHISKEY.
Okay. So, your hidden pal wants a drink, I guess.
No, no – Mr. Wallinger- we don’t have Whiskey. Whiskey’s gone, remember?
The poor man stares blankly back, blood dripping off his earlobes.
Whiskey is gone now, remember? My son grabs for his Smartphone and speed dials.
Hey, Billy- get over here. Your Dad got out and there’s been a slight, um…miscommunication. He’s bleeding a little. I’ll explain when you get here. He may need some band-aids. He was out looking for Whiskey.
My son pulls a chair from the dining room and helps Mr. Wallinger sit down.
Jesus, Dad. You clocked him pretty good.
Your Grandparents helped.
Fucksakes. Dad; I can’t expect you to know this, but Whiskey was the name of Mister Wallinger’s Schnauzer- who I helped bury last spring.
WHISKEY, sobbed the old guy, WHISKEY.
Well fuck me runnin, y’know? Why did he come here?
That’s just another mystery, Dad. (He sighs) Like how your mind works.
At this point my daughter arrives, takes one look at the blood dripping off Mr. Wallinger’s chin, me in my gore-spattered undershorts, and down at the amalgam of effluvia on the floor and begins to laugh-scream in a most inappropriate manner.
Coolest Halloween ever, Daddy!
So, Blinky – I can only hope your October 2020 is somewhat less eventful, and that you get that electric fence you’ve been threatening to install to discourage interlopers from tracking through your garden.
As for me, I keep my doors locked and the porch light on 24 hours a day.
I am amazed to report that my wife did not wake up during any of this – in fact, she’s not sure if I’m putting her on about the incident, and that I haven’t enlisted the kids in the ruse just to yank her chain. She’s still annoyed at me and has remarked it was appropriate that I used my bar-brawling ancestors to assault the poor helpless demented neighbor and left her family portraits out of it. I’m still trying to sort out my feelings on how I should react to all of this. (What, pray tell, is my lesson here? Stock up on pepper spray? Never answer the door? Put my Grampys in thick oak picture frames? Make donations to a fund out of remorse or guilt? Install holiday land mines? A 12-foot fence full of razor wire?)
Honestly, it’s a bit much.
Happy Halloween, Blinky dear. To this I add: ABJURE THE UGSOME.
Never underestimate the power of a photogenic family kept within reach.
Best Wishes and infrequent Whiskey Hauntings;