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Magic and Lost Bookmarks

MAGIC AND LOST BOOKMARKS

The decision to release my novels in Ebook format was difficult, I love the feel and smell of a physical book in my hands. I was a little slow accepting the format- it seemed temporary, unreal and as amorphous as dissipated fog- it also smacked of a format custom-made for the dilettante; a screenshot of a plastic dildo, a vanity project worthy of prescient banality – but I evolved. I suddenly began to see the many advantages- the hovering/definition feature, and the lovely font enlargement feature of the Nook or Kindle Readers. Portability ranks high, so does the storage of multiple books. The final decision to release my novels in digital format was financial- for an independent Author to produce, market, and distribute physical books is cost prohibitive. Yes; the more you order the better the price; and then you have a basement full of unsold books to remind you of your lack of marketing savvy (or more likely, lack of operating budget.) Once Amazon Prime gets hold of your product, they unilaterally reduce your copy price, until it costs you money to sell your novel. It is a frustrating and maddening conundrum; very disheartening considering that the act of writing and editing a novel is barely changed in respect to the real WORK involved in the conception and completion of a manuscript.

Does the falling tree go boom if no one is there?

Is an unread book still great?

Simple answer: it’s much better if people read your work.

I have no advice for trees, they’ve been here longer than I have.

The Pandemic has eviscerated the Arts- particularly the performing Arts- but it also has made for a very strained economy- Pay rent, buy food or buy Art? Most know the apt decision. No one can blame struggling families forgoing ‘fluff’ like Art- unless of course it comes with the cable T.V. bundle. In the case of Fiction, Literature, or Poetry – I am a firm believer in the sad fact people don’t read as much as they THINK they do. This is not anyone’s fault, time has become an ever more precious, measured. Speed rules. Most of us read scores of short snippets, rushed paragraphs, cute quickies and social media posts. It takes dedication and love of the Art of Fiction (or for that matter, non-Fiction) to apportion  time to sit still, focus and absorb a novel of any length. It also obliges the Reader to release control, allow the story to unfold, to give the author nearly total control of the mind of a Reader- and here may be the rub. No scrolling in between metaphors. Sacrifice is not a common predilection for the ‘average’ consumer. Watch the Trailer- here’s the plot and explosions. No need to wait.

Such is the pretension born of ‘individuality’ or ‘freedom’ for most Americans, or anyone else who now spends a large chunk of their lives staring at screens.

Technology is ecumenical. The other great equalizer. Available to anyone with a credit card. It’s in everyone’s interest.

A frighteningly large percentage of fellow travelers read or watch screens and come to the bewildering conclusion that wearing a mask is a sacrifice, an intrusion of their rights as sovereign herd-members to resist tyranny. Inalienable Idiocy. It’s in the Constitution. The Right to be intractably stupid.

We can all be virtually absent from grasping…one…single…thought.

The Mind tells us an accomplishment has been made, or goals fulfilled by interacting avatars on Instagram or (pick one- we ALL have choices.)

Reading is just so boring. (Yes; I’ve heard it spoken more times than I care to recount. I once even heard it said on a train and felt a strange repressed strangulation in my mind.

{To Sleep, Perchance to Dream?}

I too plead guilty. I’m staring at a screen as I write this. I have several Art-related FaceBook pages. The need to interact and with any luck, gain ‘followers’ is pure Crack propane to the sense of fulfillment- like a never-ending stream of opiated whipped crème being shot with happy gas down the throat. We willingly pull the trigger; the flaky spume collects around the corners of the mouth. Sweet, filling, tasty- but mostly empty. No Likes yet. Bummer. No love. Not even the pretend kind- which is enough in a world where touching, singing, hugging, praying, laughing, shopping, attending a wedding or burying our dead could mean our own lonely, painful, death. Petrifying. Horrifying. Unimaginable.

Wholly incorrect. The correct word? Inhuman.

Even a Loner needs the human touch – even if the last time it was truly experienced was traveling down the Birth canal toward the cry of vagitus. You can’t hug Mom now. She needs you too. Now more than ever. Dad is facing his mortality. They nurtured us, taught us to speak, eat and spell. How to scab and learn from pain.  And now, as a direct result of pure IGNORANCE, we are unable to reassure and comfort them. We can interact with technology, with cameras, cool space-age telephones. Touching the other side of the glass window at the Nursing Home.

Hello, Grampy. We haven’t forgotten. We love you, but it’s impossible to adequately explain to you why we can’t just…simply…touch…you.

If I believed in such nonsense, I would define 2020 in one word:

Demonic.

I believe we’ll make it as a species. It’s simply our turn for brazen, harsh, raw lessons. We aren’t the first, or the last generation to be challenged with the threat of annihilation. Obliteration.  Eradication by way of the polished turd of exceptionalism.

No more –Black Friday.

Suddenly fighting over the widescreens at a big box doesn’t seem worth the effort; besides, that might mean we’ll need to give up our place in the line at the Food Bank. Or the Testing Station.

Blink and you’ll miss it. The closeness. The Love. The Art. The myth of INDEPENDENCE. To seize back mental control would require the realization that we allowed ourselves to be duped into believing that there is a shortcut to understanding. That information equals knowledge. That an App can make you pretty.

Ah, the crass irony of our collective November. It seems endless. Cynical. Ambivalent.

I’m no half-baked conspiracy nut. As time has gone on, I’ve begun to trust logic, science and informed consent over astrology, magical crystals, and decapitated flopping chickens. I still like the romance of whooping shaman and wide-eyed ghosts. Spirit dances and creation myths. Stories crooned around a fire-pit. I believe in a tale well-told. A conclusion reached by intelligent consensus.

Common fucking sense.

But now I fear I’ll be the only one sitting on a rock watching the sparks flow upwards and disappearing into the night sky. I just told a joke to no one. I still imagine the laughter. Something moved in the dark.

The Boogey-Man doesn’t lurk in the shadows.

One look in the mirror should illustrate that point.

As my Momma, the English Professor said:

Trust the Tale- Not the Teller ~ D.H. Lawrence

WORLD WAR PASTA #3 Finale

See if it STICKS

Under Less Heavy Fire

Finally the Chinese delegation weighs in at the U.N. by issuing the curt, polite yet succinct statement; ” We invented these noodles and we’d advise all of you over-excited round-eyes that Pasta is SO last week, they thank Bruce Springsteen for the new folk song- it has boosted the economy in Beijing by giving the sole proprietors in the CD pirating kiosks something new to share for a few yen.” end quote.

The Chef Boy-r-Dee plant in Dubuque gathers all it’s employees to raise their middle fingers in protest while pictures are taken and sent to the Chinese government. Americans like their response. An emboldened Chef Boy-R-Dee unleashes a new product, “These Ain’t No Chinese Noodles In A Can Spaghetti-O’s.” Dubuque-ians become empowered. They decide to launch their own reality show. If Togo can do it, so can they. They test the waters with a reality Xmas special, “Ho-Ho-Ho Bags of Dubuque.” It’s number one in the ratings. So, they branch out and launch a New Year’s special along the lines of Amish Mafia, “Rebuke Dubuque.” It fails miserably. Sales of canned pasta with absurdly kindly old, fat, Italian chef logos begin to tank rapidly. Wall St. panics.

…And by noon, Australian time, WORLD WAR PASTA is declared. Switzerland declares a bank holiday, with the promise of chocolate microwaves for all new accounts opened before Iran drops the bomb they aren’t developing.

And Bono weeps…bitterly.

The Westboro Baptist Church are enroute, but are turned around when The Pope issues a statement from the Rome Motel 6 with the papal bull declaring that ” All you peoples are tripping, there is no such thing a Gay pasta, and everyone EXCEPT the members of Westboro Baptist church are going to heaven. Please keep the noise down, I need a nap.” And Bono  nearly drowns in his own tears while sitting in a lawn chair, and is revived by para-medics by an empty hotel swimming pool. In his pocket is a peniultimate missive penned in disappearing ink. Crytologists are called in to closely examine the contents – which turn out to be a grocery list with Goya Black Beans crossed out with extreme prejudice.

There is loose talk of amnesty by All-Saints Day.

Next Week- Socialist Peanut Butter- and Communist Jelly- Are Our Children safe from Georgia’s Agricultural Sub-cult of Legumes?

WORLD WAR PASTA -dispatch #2

Throw it at the Wall –
See if it Sticks

WORLD WAR PASTA #2

Little Details Matter

Later… every one of the U.N. Representatives gingerly order gluten-free  salad for lunch, not wanting to offend any of the bitterly warring pasta factions nor to incite the tomato jihad (tomahadists). Meanwhile, a group of socialists decides to stage a production of the Scopes Trial (Inherit the Wind) casting monkeys in all the parts. The performance sells out immediately. Gordon Ramsey creates a signature dish for the opening of the play which features unpeeled bananas, Saudi-free tomatoes, sugar cane, and a lot of peanuts. Tom Colicchio weeps at the unbridled beauty of its presentation. (But Anne Burrell finds a hair in her entree.) The Tea Party becomes enraged about the play and, on opening night, fills the theater, protesting lack of Christian monkeys in key roles. The next day, the media falls all over itself trying to determine which side, the actors or the Teahadists, flung the most feces in the ensuing riot.

Bob Dylan and Cher release a song “This is The Story Of The Sugarcane” with Bono sitting in on the session playing Irish tin-whistle. In solidarity with ‘his noble Primates brothers, he refuses to shave his back for a photo spread with Esquire magazine which pisses off Annie Leibovitz enough to stage a walkout with Kim Kardashian, who has just launched her signature perfume Ode’d Oyser Bay (to be worn with her Pasta bone colored table-cloth inspired swimwear, with tomato red embroidered “kiss me I’m Piquant” crotch patch) which causes the Saudis to invade Dubuque, Iowa, seizing the headwaters of the Mississippi commanding true believers to publicly urinate into the Big Muddy- Harry Reasoner (and the entire cast of 60 Minutes) is summoned for a marathon interview:

Italy has just declared Spumoni the National Bird.

An enterprising Italian fashion designer with ties to the Mafia invents anti-spumoni. It has, of course, it’s own clothing line of ersatz, lacy ear cuffs, bold fruit-laden tiaras, 2 lb. iron wristlets, grass micro-mini bras, spears in pastel shades, 7.5″ platform mukluks, and elegant band-aids in tropical hues to cover all the female nether regions. Speaking of regions of one sort or another, the Republic of Togo’s Ambassador to the UN unleashes a condemnation speech of gargantuan proportions because Bono and Oprah didn’t invite Togo to their anti-spumoni shopping party for their consciousness-raising charity; the charity being a campaign to educate the great unwashed masses about the personal pain and silent suffering of those with back hair. Bono comes out on a billboard in Times Square – he, too, is one (and for a cool $100, you can get an anti-spumoni shopping bag, just like Bono’s). He is interviewed frequently and often, candidly weeping into the cameras.

At the UN, western nations are not in attendance when the Togo speech is made. An enraged Togo calls in all it’s treaties and declares war on the Kardashians. Togo’s first and most deadly assault comes when it launches it’s own reality show on Bravo, titled, “Trolling with To-go, A Slumming Go-To.” It’s an overnight sensation, changing the way all television is produced and directed in western countries.

More as the situation develops.

World War Pasta (dispatch #1)

Under Heavy Fire by J.D. Brayton

Throw it at the Wall, See if it Sticks

World War Pasta

reporting from The Nation’s Capital.

New From The Discovery Channel: Politicizing Pasta- an expose’ in absurdity.
Chef Ramsey guest stars wearing only an apron as he curses and rants his way through six servings of Gay Rotini and Straight Spaghetti.

A special session of the U.N. General Assembly is called to discuss sanctions against Rigatoni and Angel Hair.

The U.S.S. Enterprise Aircraft Carrier is reported to be in position off Palermo, all off-duty sailors are issued condoms and pasta tongs.

The Saudis demand the seizing and destroying of all secret recipes of “Tomato Sauce.”

Italy shrugs, and naps as important decisions are being made at The Hague.

Bruce Springsteen rushes into a mobile studio with his manually battered folk guitar to record a new Harry Smith inspired Folk anthem titled:

‘This Whole Goddamned World Is Tilted Backwards”

and releases it in blue-ray, which sell out in 12-hours, but because it is pirated by Google, causes Little Steven to go into personal bankruptcy and sell his collection of silk bandannas. Wall Street scrambles to recover.

Springsteen is hospitalized as a result of inhaling a miniature harmonica.

The Pope issues a statement from the Rome Motel 6 stating the following:

“You people are crazy- Pasta is not a sex-toy, and all of you, including the C.E.O. of Barilla need therapy.”

Bono weeps openly on Italian T.V.

More to come.

Quote-John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck / The Grapes of Wrath. Pg 367

‘The people come with nets to fish for potatoes in the river, and the guards hold them back; they come in rattling cars to get the dumped oranges, but the kerosene is sprayed. And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quicklime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage. ‘

Blind Again

He died smoking in a courtroom

A bit of a darkhorse

Behind her glass eye

The stenographer was delicious

12 gum chewing jurors

Snuff gravy

A flag frozen, starched dry by the breath of judges

Behind our fundamental throne

Above the sweating bricks

Beyond that, rusty gallows chains

Below the marble hall

Old Sparky smiles

Zero Sum Gain by J.D. Brayton

Today was a no-show

I nearly made a phone call

There was a bus I wasn’t on

Out in the yard my peonies died

I should have thought more

about them

There was a meeting I wasn’t at

And would have ignored if I hadn’t been

Dreaming about Flag day 1966

I missed a package delivery – Memory Pills

My neighbor cursed his pick-up truck

(Openly )– wouldn’t start

He might have been nicer, even carburetors have feelings

But you wouldn’t know that because you bailed

on lunch

Now I’m standing, waiting to meet you

(Whoever you are) – maybe I should just blow it off

Go home. Decipher the house keys and

mutter, worship

An unopened box of Jello and my untuned Cello

Left rotting

in the warm freezer

I keep forgetting to defrost

No Matter What…

A Moment of Deep Self-Evaluation

Though I spend my share of time on Social Media- I think human beings were not equipped to absorb such a continuous, unrelenting amount of information(as opposed to knowledge) on a daily basis. I especially fear for our Youth who have known little else in their lifetimes. Humans need to daydream, recharge, repair broken toys, create,read a long book, laugh about absurdity or simply stare across an open field and LIVE. After the last 4 years a lot of my friends, acquaintances and family have been operating under stress activation mode; it has been really mind-bending and as a nation we are all suffering from PTSD (especially health care workers.) No matter how this election turns out, we all need to focus on repair. I hope all of you are at some stage of Peace. We are fragile, but we are also tough. Be Kind. Stay Human. Protect your mind.

Need Whisky- A Halloween Tale ~ J.D. Brayton

11-1-2020

Cloverly House, Md

Dearest Blinky;

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;

JDB

Excerpt- Aug 25, ’20 Where No Light Escapes (©J.D. Brayton)

On January 12th, at precisely 12:01 a.m. – the phone rang.

He didn’t stir from his typewriter. The Zunis dare not be derailed by wrong numbers on cold islands. He ignored it. It stopped.

It rang again, at 12:02. And once more, he ignored it. The third time he jerked away from his work. Levi Cant answered typically. Yeah, so?

Silence.

Either you’re a confused mute, or an annoying asshole, he groused, jammed the receiver down on the cradle, went back to work on the unresolved chapter.

On January 13th, he’d just finished wolfing down a coldcut sandwich when it rang again.

In his mildly inebriated state, it spooked him a little. His secret phone was defying his wishes. He hesitated. Answered.

Yeah, so?

He heard breathing.

So?

So, said the woman’s voice, what did you find?

Who are you, please?

Mehitabel.

The line went dead, as did the power. For a solid five minutes Levi stood still in the pitch black, feeling each… and… every small hair on his body raise toward the ceiling. Fear antennae. He could scarcely breathe. Alone. An eternity. The whiskey whirl and adrenalin rush stunning him toward a fearsome, solitary, sobriety.

In a rude flash, the power was restored. The digital clock cheeped in protest. The refrigerator dropped the ice cubes in the tray. The furnace blower kicked on. He could smell the dry heat from the floor vents.

Yet, with all these emergent existential parodies designed to soothe consciousness and normality,  Levi could only stare at Jared Chase’s chipped, dented, pus green wall phone. There. In the corner. Silently mocking his grasp on sanity.

Outside, in the pitch-black night, on Pewter Sinks Road, it was snowing again.