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Freddy Barnett's

And Then Things Got Weird….

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Freddy Barnett

Find my fine literature at: http://www.amazon.com/Fred-Barnett/e/B002N60GRQ Books: "Bloody Good" (True shark stories) PG-13 "Bug House" - PG -rated "Bats" -R-rated "Shark Fin Soup" - R-rated Coming Soon: Perdido -PG-rated NetworkedBlogsBlog:Freddy BarnettTopics: Fantasy, Horror, Humor  Follow my bloghttp://widget.networkedblogs.com/getwidget?bid=1453548

Boldizsár, I Came to Kick Your Bony Ass

Boldizsár, I Came to Kick Your Bony Ass.”

Illustrations by the incredible Anita Benson-Bradley

For decades, Lazlo Toth has been one of the world’s most famous authors. Until 2019, he always wore a wig of thick brown hair that made him appear young, healthy and virile. Last March, while he was being interviewed on the Red Carpet at the Oscars. That night, in front of a billions, a sudden gust blew the expensive toupee right off of his head, exposing him as the vain “cueball,” that he is.

Laszlo wrote novels about the supernatural. They were based on scientific fact and he prided himself on being a rational man. He became interested in genetics while working on a new novel, and joined the group called BlameYourAncestors.com.

Within two weeks after sending in his DNA sample, Laszlo discovered he was 87% Hungarian and, apparently, 13 percent cheese, citing a few stray genetic threads to Luxembourg, Switzerland and four other cheesy countries.

Thanks to BlameYourAncestors he was also able to narrow his search back his Hungarian family.

With a little bit of digging, he discovered an old Tóth family portrait. The Tóths in the painting, all the men, some of the women and even a few of the children and even a few family pets (hairless dogs and cats) suffered from severe baldness (alopecia).

Laszlo allocated another fortune, that he’d saved on haircuts, to expand the DNA search and finally received the results that he’d been hoping for. The ‘bald problem’ that plagued his life was traced back to a singular human monster.

The monster’s name was Count Oszkár Tóth. He was a rich landowner in 16th century Walachia.

The Count once possessed long flowing locks that made him look like a golden hero on the cover of a bodice-ripping romance novel. The vain Oszkár combed his proud mane day and night. One evening, he desired a grooming, and summoned his magic golden comb — Magic comb? Yeah, right, Give me a break — only to find out that the comb had been stolen.

Oszkár’s mother, The Countess Cynthia, told her son that she had seen a well known local magician, named Madik, running away from the castle and into the Scary Dark Forest carrying a shiny yellow object in his hand.

After apprehending Madik, Laszlo ordered the Magician to be burned at the stake. At the Barbeque, Laszlo, was cornered and cursed by the magician’s wife, a powerful witch named Eegahd.

The next morning, as Oszkár combed, his glorious mane shed. The hair that made him such a ‘wench magnet’ fell to the ground.

As a result of the Eegahd’s curse, all of Count Oszkár’s children, male and female, became bald as well; that is until in October 31, 1712, when the entire clan were tortured, murdered, dismembered, and turned into a savory paprika goulash by a nomadic Gibors.

Only one Tóth escaped the massacre, the youngest noble in line, Boldizsár, who continued to selfishly spread the Tóth baldness curse throughout the western world.

“The Bastard!” Thoughts of revenge pushed their tendrils in into Laszlo’s vain and twisted mind. Online, he hired a Hungarian scholar, to help him track down ‘Baldy’ Boldizsár’s resting place. That is when Laszlo made the first irrational decision since his seventh marriage, to visit his cursed ancestor’s crypt and ‘kick his bony ass to Hell.’

The following October, before the frost set in, Laszlo made his trip, alone, to Walachia.

Unfazed by local superstition, Laszlo arrived ten minutes before midnight at Tóth Citadel in Ploiești.. He quietly drove his rent-a-car around the back to the cemetery, parked and opened the trunk and removed a lantern and a Road Rager Crowbar.

Laszlo found the rusty cemetery gate open, and by the light of the full moon, jimmied his way into the Tóth Mausoleum. Once inside, he lit his lantern, shooed away the vermin (Bald rats!) and quickly began to go to work. He located the Count and slid the heavy lid off Boldizsár’s stone coffin, only to find out that most the Count’s bones had already been defiled. The pelvic bone, the skeleton’s ‘ass,’ was still in tact.

Jubilant, he carried the pelvis outside among the gravestones.

MIDNIGHT

Laszlo kicked Boldizsár’s bone ass all over the churchyard until he could kick no more. After a short rest and a drink from his flask, Laszlo gathered up the broken pelvis parts back inside the mausoleum, dumped them back into the coffin and took a cellphone photos — including one of the inscription on the wall above:

Lehet, hogy halott vagyok, bolond utódom, de még mindig kopasz!’

The author, satisfied with the bony ass kicking, didn’t review the inscription until he arrived back home in the states.

Translation:

“I may be dead, asshole, but you’re still bald.”

For Halloween! BATS!

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No Noose is Good Noose (A Dick n’ Jane Story gone very bad — in its entirety — You’re welcome)

No Noose is Good Noose

The Everyday Adventures of Ether Gray and his sister, Anesthesia

Two dull grey smudges appeared on the horizon — with a happy dog in tow.

The smudges and their spotted companion approached the blossoming rural town of Cowsill.

When six-year-old Ether Gray and his four-year-old sister, Anesthesia, took their little brown and white dog, Femur (Woof! Woof!), for his morning walks down tree-lined Sunny Lane, the street was normally empty.

The two Grays were not welcome in town.

Innocent seven-year-old, red-haired, Theodore “Squiggy” Martin walked along the flowering gardens, toward Ether and Anesthesia. Involved with performing a “cats cradle” on his new Imperial Duncan Yo-Yo he couldn’t avoid them in time.

Squiggy, though shaking, forced a smile. “Hi, Ether! Hi, Anesthesia! Are you going to the Big Fair tonight? They got bumper cars and a giant slide!” said the good-natured young boy, dressed in blue overalls.

“Yes. That may prove diverting. Don’t you agree, Ether?” said the drab four-year-old Anesthesia, who was looking up at her equally drab older brother.

Ether approached the red-headed young boy. “Pay close attention, Squiggy. Do you know where the bumper car ride came from?”

“N-n-n-no, Ether,” said the apprehensive boy. He felt trapped.

“The bumper car ride was invented in 1917 by Victor Levand, an inventor who was employed by General Electric or, by two siblings, Max and Harold Stoehrer, who called their company ‘Dodgem.’ They started their version of the flat amusement park ride in Massachusetts in the year of 1919. Electrical contacts established on the ….”

Within twenty minutes, Squiggy was falling asleep on the sidewalk. Even with the crows pecking at his eyes, Squiggy knew that he must lie still.

That was okie dokie with “Squiggy” Martin.

He’d heard, many times, (He’d been warned!) that Death was always preferable to one of the Gray children’s droning monologues.

Saying ‘Hi’ to the Gray children was a very serious mistake; a lesson that he should have learned from the “stories.”

“If only … if only…” thought Squiggy.

A great light came on in the boy’s head. Squiggy understood that he’d been too careless to live. So, he surrendered to the black crows.

Esther and Anesthesia’s only joy in life was chocolate. They scattered the crows and searched through Squiggy’s overalls. Sadly, they came up empty.

No chocolate.

Ethan kicked the red haired boy with his new pair of Buster Browns and classified the kid as “a waste of space!” He stopped kicking when saw his sister had shed a tear — out of hunger.

Uh-oh. Big brother Ether needed to look elsewhere to satisfy his little sister’s sweet tooth.

“E-E-E-Ether? Maybe we could trade the Yo-Yo for chocolate later on,” whimpered poor Anesthesia.

“Of course, my darling sister!” Ether wrenched the Yo-Yo out of Squiggy’s cold, dead hand and the two moppets skipped down the street toward Wingnut’s Drugstore and Soda Fountain.

Wise old Alvin Wingnut hid behind the counter when he saw the children approaching his store. The two colorless tykes and their friendly dog, Femur (Woof! Woof!) waited patiently as the Gray children would negotiate a trade with Alvin; a Yo-Yo for some chocolate snacks. They had a very special speech prepared for the cranky old skinflint.

Tap. Tap. Tap. No Alvin.

Ether and Anesthesia began talking about real estate and pop music to each other, instead. Alvin, though suffering severe arthritic pain, crouched quietly until he could no longer hold his bladder nor stand their chatter.

Escape. The old druggist began his painful lurch from behind the counter. He would make a lame dash toward the outhouse, which had never looked so exquisite and inviting. Freedom, relief and a meager, but peaceful future waited beyond the back door. As he moved below the cash register, the druggist discovered that the two boring tykes had put each other and their doggy into a deep sleep on aisle two.

This was no time to take any risks. He had been lucky enough to escape Stalag 13 during the war. Maybe the lord that he’d cursed was still watching over him.

The Gray children awoke to the festive sounds of local kids laughing and stealing all the cookies and candy off of Wingnut’s counter. From across the street, Old Alvin watched — as the well-bred children of Cowsill ransacked his life.

“Fine.”

Even a pauper’s death was preferable to listening to those two lifeless whippersnappers who were still inside his store.

The Gray’s classmates had run out of the store with their booty in a hurry, making believe that they didn’t hear Ether and Anesthesia calling their names.

It was dark when Ether and his little sister had left Wingnut’s. Bags full of “free” chocolaty snacks were stacked up in the little red wagon that the two tykes had borrowed.

The Gray kids and their trusty pooch (Woof! Arf!) headed off for the Fair.

“Observe, Anesthesia! It’s Goofy Moofy!”

Moofy whined to himself as he lay in the gutter.

“I’ve got ‘man tits.’ My suckling babies are coughing up hairballs! Whaaaaa!” cried Goofy. Moofy was Cowsill’s official town drunk.

Anesthesia was puzzled. She looked up to Ether and asked, “What are ‘man tits,’ big brother?”

Ether began to roll on the subject. “Well, my little sister … Wait! … Sit, Femur! Sit!” ‘Woof! Woof!’ Good boy! … Okay, Anesthesia. Man tits. What Goofy Moofy means is … that he is in possession of rather capacious breasts for a male of the human species.”

“Oh! You mean hooters!”

“Uh — that’s what our father used to call them until mom castrated him with the Hamilton Beach juicer, Anesthesia. A sophisticated person would refer to the mammary glands, respectfully, as breasts. Breastfeeding provides nutrition for baby mammals….”

“What are you kids yapping on about? Please! Stop!” said Goofy Moofy.

“Listen, Mr. Moofy, and you will learn! A mammal is a warm-blooded animal, associated with the class Mammalia. Mammals possess a vertebrate, hair, or fur, and bear live young who are nourished by the secretion of milk by the females of the species by way of special glands, or as my Yale Medical professor called them … ‘a nice rack.’“

(Luckily for Goofy Moofy, he was piss-drunk and had already passed out.

Another lucky soul saved from tedium by alcohol.)

Femur, after licking up the booze in the puddle next to Moofy, was trying to bark “Woofth! Woofth!” (which means: “Hey, I love you, Dog.”).

The little terrier could not walk any farther. Femur needed to be put into the wagon with the bags of Wingnut’s candy.

The trio soon entered the Fairgrounds.

* * * *

Marcus, the 16-year-old carny, had never met Ether and Anesthesia. However, he knew that they were too young to ride the Ferris wheel without an adult present. Then, there was the drunk dog (‘Woofth, man!’) in the wagon.

“Sorry, kids. You’re too young,” said the bloated teen (whose greasy long hair and face might have been a promising new site for Shell Oil exploration).

Anesthesia’s turn this time. “Age is relative, Your Unctuousness,” she said. “My brother and I are quite mature for our age. We have both been favored with IQs well beyond the genius range.”

Marcus looked perplexed. “Smart asses” he thought. Impatience lit up the bloodshot eyes beneath his filthy baseball cap: “Screw I.Q. I prefer D.Q.!”

“D.Q.?” said the two Browns, who themselves, were perplexed.

“D.Q. — you know — Dairy Queen! ARE YOU KIDS MORONS?!” barked the carny, hard enough to release a pint of crude oil from his fat neck.

“I beg to differ!” said Ether. “My sister and I will soon be entering Harvard Medical School, following our graduation from Yale Law School, next year. My sister Anesthesia already merits a top ten nonfiction book on the New York Times bestseller list. Perhaps you’ve heard of it, Mr. Trailer Trash? The book is titled ‘Gray’s Quantum Barbie.’ It is based on the theories set forth by Einstein’s granddaughter, in which she states, ‘If there were a universe completely devoid of genitalia …’ Sir? Hello-o?”

The young carny had fallen asleep and tumbled into the motor assembly of the Ferris wheel. It spat him out — as a green and red paste.

* * * *

The fair closed at 10 p.m. Ether, Anesthesia and the hungover Femur (Woof! Woof!-which meant “Ow! My fuckin’ head!”) were walking along the country road on their way home.

Out of the darkness, a big black sedan pulled in front of them and blocked their path.

A sweaty Frenchman with a pencil moustache, wearing a beret, an earring and a black overcoat hopped out of the car and said, “Bonjour shildren! Do you know where zee Old Mill Road is?”

The coat was buttoned. The Frenchman’s legs were bare except for zee black shoes, Argyle socks, and zee garters.

Enfants! I cannot find zee road on zee map. Do you like chocolat? How about some of zee best chocolat ever?”

Outside of the accent, this fellow had a curious way of speaking. Muffled. Slurred.

“Woof! Woof!” Femur knew the word “chocolate”!

“I have some here in zee back seat of my seenister black seeeedan! Ju me-pelle, uh, my name eez Chester (he pronounced it “Chesthair”) I’m a very nize guy. You can trust me. Hop in! S’il vous plaît!”

The obedient trio climbed into the back of the Cadillac.

As Anesthesia spoke about economics, the sweaty trench-coated Frenchman began to appear tired: though not out of boredom. Chesthair had been driving the country roads in search of chocolate-loving children since last night’s opening of the Fair.

For the second time that day, the two children were perplexed. Zee Frenchman should have fallen asleep by now. They should have already been on their way home with Chesthair’s chocolate.

The man was still awake and driving deeper into his favorite secluded spot, the dark rock quarry. The perv had not fallen asleep like everyone else to whom Ether and Anesthesia talked.

Chesthair was more than determined.

“Sir! Can we go home?” Anesthesia was beginning to get frightened.

“Sir? Can you hear me?! Chesthair! I cannot speak French! Monsieur! Do you understand English?” screamed Ether into the man’s right ear, which sparkled with a gold loop earring.

(No reaction from zee Frenchman.)

“Oh — my — God, Anesthesia!” said Ether. “I think that monsieur is deaf!”

Deaf. DEAF!

* * * *

Sensing the concern of his human friends, Femur began to bark loudly at the unresponsive and dangerous man behind the wheel.

Ether had to think fast. He reached into his pocket and felt for poor dead Squiggy’s Imperial Duncan Yo-Yo equipped with special high-tensile, polyester Slick String. According to the advertisement, the new Duncan Yo-Yo string was “strong enough to use as a garrote.”

Young Ether tied one end of the slick nylon string to the back door handle on his sister’s side of the car. As the road was too narrow for the trench-coated Frenchman to exit the car safely, he would need to back the car up away from the edge of the 100-foot drop off. Then, he might be able exit the shotgun seat and begin his fun.

As the car backed up, Femur “took his cue” and leaped into the front seat, ripping off the man’s right earlobe along with his earring.

Ether kicked one back door open, looped the string around Chesthair’s neck, and, like lightning, wrapped the other end around the opposing door handle. The open door snapped on to a tree as the car jerked back in reverse. The choking Frenchman was losing his control of the pedals. The door, grabbed by the pine tree, pulled the nylon line tight enough to slice the perv’s head off completely.

A guillotine may not have been faster or cleaner.

The jubilant Ether produced a triumphant, “Vive la France!”

Femur followed with a proud, “Woof! Woof! Woof!” (which means, “I deserve to sniff some ‘fine’ French poodle butt!”)

The terrified Anesthesia finally caught her voice and spoke to the man’s head lying by the gas pedal, “Monsieur! The garrote has been a method of silent assassination for centuries since the Spanish Inquisition. It may have originated in Spain, but gained renewed popularity in the 1970s movie classics, Godfather’s One and Two….”

The children rolled Chesthair’s headless carcass down into the fathomless quarry and spent the night sleeping in the car — fat on the day’s bounty of chocolate. Femur rolled the head like a ball until it too tumbled down into the darkness.

Police rescued the trio the next morning after a quarry truck driver spotted the sleeping children and their dog.

Chesthair was found at the bottom of the hundred-foot drop-off.

Femur barked happily inside the police cruiser. Next to him, the monotonous Gray children were driven home with gags tied through their lethal mouths.

All three were later hailed as heroes on the evening news.

Chesthair had been unsuccessfully hunted by police detectives, in five states, for over three years.

Coming soon: The further adventures of Ether and Anesthesia Gray

Their own horrible mother bores them to death, by cooking them tofu in: “A Tisket, a Tasket; a Green and Yellow Casket.”

The Kingdom of the Cats (Dave’s 9th life). A long story.

The Kingdom of the Cats

Chapter 1

Dave “Kvetches”

Dave Berg just couldn’t imagine “himself” appearing on the cover of FAART, or AARP or whatever the goddamned magazine was called. The slick advertising had lain in his mail box since last Monday.

He was not a 6-foot tall, trim, WASPy guy, with a slightly greying hottie for a spouse. Nor did he ride a mountain bike or wear a Land’s’ End sweater tied around his neck.

Dave stood only 5′ 2″ in shoes — with lifts. He weighed two-hundred and eighty pounds. He did not have a full head of executive hair, or perfect teeth—more hair grew from Dave’s ears than on the top of his scalp.

His smile? With teeth that only an Englishman or a hillbilly would envy.

Perhaps an English hillbilly.

“Crap!” he said, remembering Linda.

Linda Berg, Dave’s wife, would never be the woman with a “healthy, active lifestyle” on the cover of a senior citizen magazine. Linda, the slug, was long gone. She’d run off with Dave’s psychiatrist.

Both Linda Berg and Dr. Mel Tishman had to get away from “that black hole of a human being.” Mrs. Berg and Dr. Tishman had only met for the first time, and fallen in love ten minutes before their plane lifted off for “anywhere-else-but-where-Dave-Berg-is, USA” Dave never heard from either of them again.

After his “healthy, active” walk of twenty feet to his mailbox, Dave was even more depressed than he had been earlier in the day, when he’d awoken to discover “Mr. Decay” looking back at him. Mr. Decay lived inside Dave’s bathroom mirror, and this morning he looked like a plucked turkey. Not the little one, but the big prize turkey hanging in the window of the butcher shop on Christmas Day.

Who’s this guy? What is he doing in my mirror? thought poor, poor Dave.

The photo of the handsome bike riding couple on the cover of FAART or AARP was the last straw.

So again, Dave had left the magazine in the leaky mail box.

“Let’s see who rots first, Mr. Magazine!” he said while grinning at its mold spots.

Sunday, July 10 was a “day of hurt.” Dave had once been a reasonably handsome and successful lawyer. Divorce law had worn him down and depressed him until one day he’d tried to strangle attorney Gloria Allgood in front of the judge and the court.

A bad day it was.

That day wasn’t as bad as this day. Dave was sure that this day would be his very last day on Earth.

He decided to crawl beneath his paid-for house, dig a comfortable shallow bed in the sandy soil,

lie down,

and die.

Like many of the brave cats that he had known, he would leave this world without causing a mess for his famil…uh…

“Crap!” he said.

Dave didn’t have a family. There hadn’t been another human in his life for nearly ten years.

Even the cats were all gone.

Under the house—they had died there. Nearly all of those cats. A few of his “old” friends, notably Coco and Spook, were among the last two cats to disappear beneath the house four years ago.

He’d last seen them, staring at him, patiently waiting for death, out of reach.

His last cat (What was her name? Foo-Foo?) may have ended up under the house as well. She’d disappeared only two months ago, before she’d even been given a proper name.

Dave had read, “When a cat’s health fails, it will often crawl away, to a dark quiet spot where it can be alone with ‘its maker’ and perhaps, without any muss or fuss, it can calmly and nobly accept death— to gracefully ‘move on’ to wherever it is that they ‘move on’ to.”

Dave could vividly remember the eyes of Coco and Spook, reflecting the beam of his flashlight when he went to look for each of them. Regardless of bribes, they had both refused to come out from beneath the house. He was sure that he’d never see them alive again. They had passed on without any complaint, nor odor, beneath the area of Dave’s living room.

In his later years, two or three of his other cats had probably done the same, when they too went missing. Dave was just never able to spot those sick cats when he searched with his flashlight through the wooden skirt around the home’s perimeter.

” Crap!” Dave had a very hard time bending down these days. As for wanting to peek under any skirt, he thought…

“Crap!” Dave paused. That thrill was gone as well.

Show’s over. Drop the curtain.

A handful of the Berg cats had been buried in the backyard years ago. Too many of them became the victims of cars as they raced across the busy street nearby.

Cars. Ten years ago, Mr. Fuzzy committed suicide beneath the tires of “his Dave’s” own Toyota station wagon, as he backed out of his own driveway. All that Dave saw was a black flash in the car’s rear view mirror.

The very old and sick Mr. Fuzzy had used his last burst of energy to dart behind, and end his life, beneath the car’s right rear tire.

Mr. Fuzzy had become one of those souls buried in the backyard, among the other pets. He was buried beside the various fishes, birds, and iguanas, and directly on top of over $700,000 dollars in gold coin. The gold had been buried in Dave’s backyard by Mr. Alvin Raymundo, the home’s previous owner.

Dave always lived with the definite knowledge that he’d missed out on everything good in life, so of course he knew nothing about the buried treasure in his yard, or Mr. Raymundo.

By day, Mr. Alvin Raymundo was a solid citizen and a “respectable” businessman. By night, Mr. “R.” was just a crazy bastard who enjoyed burying gold in his backyard.

* * * *

(Sorry. I was talking about cats’, wasn’t I?)

Together, about twenty cats lay around and under Dave’s house. Most had lived pampered lives within the long decaying downhill slide of Mr. Berg’s miserable life.

Pili, Meshugellah, Seven-Toes, Gravity, Sylvester (Bubums), Felicity (Flisky), Maui (Mr. Kitty), Einstein, (crazy) George, Coco, Fart, and Spook were among the personalities interred beneath the Berg’s home.

All were loved. All were missed.

It troubled, no… it didn’t surprise Dave that he could no longer remember all of their names.

The rest of Dave’s human family had moved out of the old man’s life long, long ago. Either they too had passed on, or left the house because of Dave’s bitching. Most just couldn’t listen to him anymore, and were jealous of the attention showered upon the cats.

On Monday, July 17, Dave paid his bills, closed his bank accounts, and completed and signed his will, leaving most of his money as a gift to a few animal shelters. He cleaned the house, removed the food from the refrigerator and cabinets, and when he was done, he left a goodbye “to whom it may concern” note on the front door, as if anyone, anyone at all, would stop by to say “hello.”

The note read, “I have gone to take a long nap. See you in the next life! Signed Dave.”

No one would even notice that he was gone. Sad, but true.

Across an open field, just upwind of his house, stood the ugly rusting three-story Royal Tallow Glue and Rendering Company. Since 1945, they’d “boiled down” dead farm animals and pets into liquid, later to be made into bars of luxury bath soap. Therefore, nobody would notice the inconsequential smell coming from beneath Dave’s foundation, even if he were to rot like that moldy AARP magazine in his mailbox.

* * * *

On Tuesday morning, July 18, Dave Berg squeezed his flabby frame beneath the back porch of his home. Then he dug a shallow, comfortable indentation in the sandy soil, lay down on top of his new sleeping bag, ate an entire two pounds of See’s triple-chocolate fudge, and a lethal dose of Seconal, which he washed down with his favorite Dr. Brown’s cream soda as he waited for death.

His cell phone lay by his side…. You know, “just in case.”

At two a.m. on Wednesday, July 19, a giant roach ran across his arm. He went back to sleep.

Not dead yet.

Six a.m. Friday, July 21, Dave dreamt about various “cat noises” and a short, violent cat confrontation.

Not dead yet.

Two a.m. Thursday, July 27, he felt a cat sleeping on his feet.

One hour later, at three a.m., he dreamt about a cat purring on his chest and occasionally batting his nose with a soft closed paw.

Still not….

Five a.m. Sunday, March 30, Dave opened one eye to see what looked like a catnip mouse and a bowl of milk next to his head. The phone was missing. Still in a haze, Dave thought that he’d heard “almost human” voices around him. A few of the catlike, but familiar voices discussed whether to let Dave “stay dead as planned,” or “join the group.” They voted, unanimously, to “let him live with them in this place” (wherever “this place” was) and “teach him the law” and “the responsibility of nine lives,” when he finally “woke his lazy fat ass up.”

Suddenly, he was looking into the bright green eyes of his ex-tabby cat Felicity, her striped head tilted in her familiar upside-down posture and with her tail tapping impatiently. Felicity stared her comic stare as Dave lay on his side nose-to-nose with the fuzzy girl. Dave was having trouble focusing.

Around them, the frame of the house floated as if it were only a vague outline above a sunny field of grass, surrounded by flowers, trees and hundreds of chattering birds. Mice raced by. A small patch of blooming catnip stood by Felicity’s musical tapping tail. Some trees in the area had grown with ready-made platforms and scratching posts.

“Felicity?”

Felicity, smiled and then turned back toward the two cats behind her.

Dave immediately recognized the other two. “Gravity? Seven-Toes? It can’t be!”

Felicity turned and asked the two cats, in perfect Human-ese, “Should I?”

They both nodded affirmatively.

Should you what? thought the groggy old man.

Chapter 2

The Kingdom of the Cats

(A Children’s Book)

Note: This chapter was originally printed in large, easy-to-read type for children — Yeah. That also means you “four eyes!”

“Felicity? Where am I? Is that really you?”

“You know, Dave, she said in perfect human-speak, that you cannot tell anyone about this place. Any… one! We mean it. If you do tell someone, I promise you, you will be sent to bed without any dessert.”

“We? Who’s we? What place are we talking about? We’re under my old house for Christ sakes!”

“No!”

She quickly held a paw up to his lips. “Cool it with the language, crusty old dude! We’re in a children’s book. Notice the big type font?”

Dave had no idea what-the-Fu… Fuzz Felicity was talking about.

“So, think ‘cute,’ Dave. You’re in an alternate universe discovered by your old cat Einstein.”

“Think ‘cute’? Einstein?”

“In the ‘Kingdom’ everything is cute,” said Felicity. “Really fuh … I mean really, really cute. Got it?”

Dave turned over onto his stomach, and lifted up his head. He’d spotted his old friend. Oh my God! It’s Einstein! That IS Einstein over there. What a smart, handsome cat he was. “Flisky. Do you know Einstein? Hey! Einstein!”

“Finally voke up, did chu!” said Einstein. “Feeeeeeed me! Ach! Sorry Dave. Just kiddink!” said the brilliant blue-eyed Burmese kitty.

“I’ve known Einstein for ages!” said Fliskers (another name for Felicity).

“Of course I know zee Flisky!” said Einstein. “‘Her Fliskyness’ ist funnier zan shi … uh schnitzel … I mean a vounded rodent. Vee are ALL here David. All uf your old cats are here. Ve’re all alife undt vell In zis place. Efery cat zat anyone has effer known liffs here.”

“Some of us only have a few lives left,” said Felicity.

“Too many of us haff to stay inside ze community because ve haff used up all uf our 9 lifes. Zhen zhere are many cats here who are about to start new lifes as kittens, vhere zhey vill go out into ze first three dimenchunts again. Vould you like a sniff of this mighty fine catnip dot I haff been vorking on?”

“Mr. Einstein, this dialog is becoming a little too complicated for a children’s book,” said the Flisk.

“Thanks Fliskers,” added Dave.

“Where vas I?” Einstein continued. “Oh yeah! Just a few days ago, vee were talking about you, Dave. Normally ve vould just let a human die. Insteadt, vee decided to take a vote, and offer you an honorable place in our vorld. Though you vere depressing to every human that came near you, you vere very good to us. Felicity iss right. You haff to keep zis place a seechret. You liff here now. You can leaf soon, if you like, but you cannot bring anyvone, any ozer human, back in here viss you. It’s alvays been a cats-only place.”

Sylvester, looking dapper in his permanent tuxedo, spoke next. “Tally ho, old bean! All the chaps here agreed that—you deserved a better ending than crawling under a house and dying in utter loneliness. We can only offer you one more lifetime, Guvnor. George gave you one of his own lives because – pip pip – You, Dave, cared enough to scrape him off of the pavement while he was still toasty warm… even though his eyes were hangin’ out and shi… stuff. Be careful my lord. George’s lives are action packed.”

“Anosser zing,” said Einstein, “If you fuh…mess up this last chance for a happy life, you are Kaput! Finished!”

Einstein stopped to lick his paw and then resumed, “Did you know zat humans, according to Tac, are just not cool enough for multiple lives. Two lifetimes, max.”

“Tac? Who’s Tac?” said Dave.

“Tac is who you must thank for bringing you here,” said Einstein. “First, we must find George.”

“Well, then,” said Dave, “where is crazy George? He was such a punk. Please tell me Einstein, is this Kitty Heaven?”

“No. This is (dramatically, with reverb-turned-up-to-ten) The-Kingdom-of-the-Cats!” said the white and yellow striped Meshugellah. Meshugellah was the crazy huntress who had disappeared into a farm field during a hurricane, over 20 years ago.

Meshuggi continued, “We cats call our home ‘Meow.’ Then again we call everything ‘Meow.’ In human-speak, you can call this place (dramatically) ‘The-Kingdom-of-the-Cats,’ but ‘Meow’ is a helluva (Oops, sorry kids) lot simpler, huh?”

David sat up without banging his head on the vague outline of the house frame which was now just a ghostly line.

“So I’m in ‘Meow?'”

“We will call you ‘Meow,’ which, of course, means David, or ‘Meow,’ which means Dave… and about two million other things,” said The Meshug.

“Remember,” said the beautiful black Seven-Toes, another victim of hit-and-run, “you can leave through the outline of the back porch opening, but you cannot bring in other humans. They’d have to die under the house just like you did and stay dead. You’re the first human that I’ve known to be ‘voted in’ to our exclusive Kitty Club unanimously. Other humans’ admittance to our Kingdom would be highly unlikely. Well, maybe if they bring us magic treats….”

“Especially Tuna Crunchies,” said Felicity.

“We are quite happy here and self sufficient even though we had no ability to open a can of food, until Einstein showed up. Little paws can now operate the ‘Professor Einstein’s Cat CAN Opener.’ Have you seen his design for Kitty-wings? It’s called ‘Professor Einstein’s Cats CAN Fly!’ His submarine design? ‘Cats CAN Fish’…. You people certainly picked the perfect name for him. As you see, we have plenty of fresh birds and mice to eat and fields of wild catnip to play within,” said little brown Coco. Coco had vanished from Dave’s house by falling asleep in the back seat of a visiting vehicle on Dave’s street.

“There’ll be plenty of fresh fish soon! Thanks to Professor Einstein!” said the beautiful orange Gravity.

“What kind of shape is crazy George in these days?” asked Dave. “The crazy assho…. I mean, puah wittew kitty! Last time I saw him, he was flat as a pancake, and his eyes were all popped….”

“Hey! We’re supposed to be living in a children’s book! Remember?” said the Fliskers, who was busy scratching her way through the latest issue of “Amazing Tails.”

“I’m fine!” said the very-in-tact, grey and white George as he dropped down from a tree and stepped forward from the group. “I’ve only got two lives left. Guess what Dave? The good news is, I’ve gotten over my car-chasing obsession with the help of a three step program and my belief in ‘Tac.’ I’m so confident of my own actions, that I’m giving one of those two lives to you!”

“Okay, George. So, who’s this Tac person?”

“Dogs spell the word dog backwards to name their creator. Cats spell cat backwards to name theirs. Of course, we just pronounce our creator’s name….”

(He points to Dave as if to cue him for a line.)

“Oh… uh… Meow,” said David.

“Verrry good! You catch on quick,” said Mr. Fuzzy (Pili).

” Yah, I’m anosser Einstein,” said Dave.

“The Human God is called ‘Tihsbmud,'” said big fwuffy orang-y Gravity. Some of the cats nearby broke into applause. Applause by cats is very quiet due to padding on the paws. Some of them thought that the joke was a real “tail slapper.” The others just kept their cool and acted bored.

“We may be ready to let you run around outside of the Kingdom if you behave,” said Mr. Kitty, who, these days, was wearing a gold diamond-studded crown and matching collar. He stepped out of the crowd framed by his bodyguards, the big black Mr. Fuzzy (Pili) and another giant grey one-eyed tom cat named “Broozer” that Dave did not recognize.

“By the way,” said Mr. Kitty, “isn’t it generous of George to give you one of his two remaining lives? Thanks, George.”

“Don’t mention it. You can bring me back a bag of Mouse-sicles sometime. We can’t get those here. Did they go out of business in the first three dimensions?”

“Probably,” said Dave with a trace of his old negativity. “Thank you, George! So what do I do with this great gift of another life? Should I just get old and sick and kill myself again?”

“This IS your last chance. So use it thoughtfully. Sleep. Eat. Chase stuff. Lick your bal—”

“STOP!” said Flisky.

“Oh, Mr.Kitty! It’s so amazing to see you again,” said Dave.

Mr. Kitty said, “Peasant, I’m only to be addressed as ‘Lord Kitty.’ You can call me ‘Your Lordship’ or ‘the Divine Meow-meow’ or ‘Your Highness.'”

“There’s no need to go outside of (dramatically) The-Kingdom-Of-Cats! However, we still cannot get and cook chicken livers. So, if we do let you out, this one time, and remember, this is the ONLY time we’ve ever considered letting a human out, can you go to Safeway could you pick up some? … You know and….”

“Ix-nay on the iver-lay,”said Gravity. “Remember, Your Lordship, we’ve got other big plans for old Dave here.”

“Hey! Gravity, cut out the ‘old-ay ap-cray,'” said the Buby Cat (another name for Sylvester).

Mr. Kitty continued,” Yeah and… uh…. Oh, by the way, Felicity went online and converted your bank accounts into stock in cardboardboxes.com. They make our furniture. Aaaaaannnd… let’s see… nothing but junk mail aaaaand… uh… only one gal came sniffing around the house looking for you. She saw the note that you left on the door.”

“Who was it?”

“‘Meow’ was the name. All that Sylvester, our Defense Minister, could see were the decidedly shapely female legs sashaying up to your front steps. He didn’t see much else. ‘Real swell gams’ he said. Bubums (Sylvester) is NOT easily impressed!”

“MEOWWW!” said Vester (another name for Sylvester) from a nearby self-cleaning litter box. It was one of “Professor Einstein’s CATS Cans.”

The rest of the cats laughed. That was a very disturbing thing to see and hear two dozen cats laughing.

“Did you know…,” said Felicity, “that we have twenty-two billion cats living in [dramatically] The-Kingdom-Of-The-Cats? Our residents are always allowed to play outside of the first three dimensions and use up another lifetime whenever they please. So Dave, aren’t you proud of our Mr. Kitty? He is a wonderful King! He marked the entire kingdom’s borders all by himself! Our great leader!”

All: “Hail to Mr. Kitty! Our King!!!”

“I always knew that Mr. Kitty was the ultimate in coolness,” said Felicity. “I had a dream that he invented the shower. That was in another incarnation, of course.”

“I like that! ‘The Ultimate in Coolness!’ You can all call me that too!” said Mr. Kitty.

“Wait!” Dave said. “Back up! Please, Please sir, tell me more about the girl who stopped by.”

“Well, she was definitely tall, Caucasian, long hair,” said Sylvester.

“I thought that you only saw her legs?”

“Yeah. Long white hair on all of her legs.”

“Hair? All?”

“All four.”

“Why don’t you just shoot me, Sylvester? Stop being such a total assho… oops … sorry, I mean, baaaad kitty!” said Dave. “That girl that you saw was probably my last ‘missing’ kitty named FooFoo or whatever it was that I called her. Awww that must have been her… I hope that she found a good home.”

All (in shock): “Did you say ‘FooFoo’?”

“You named her… ‘FooFoo’?” said Fart, who had stopped chasing a flying fish, with his good friend Spook. “I will never forgive you for naming me Fart. You deserved to die back then. Gimme a Fuc—sorry. Gimme a… a… uh…oh, just gimme a FREAKING break! You named her ‘FOOFOO’?!”

Spook said, “She, ‘FooFoo,’ whose real name is ‘Meow’ is still enjoying her first life. She has already adopted a family of gluttons. She’s not allowed to come down here yet. Not until she finishes her work in the first three dimensions… hack! Hack!” (Hair ball.)

“You’ve got plenty of work to do, Dave. You’d better get some sleep,” said Mr. Kitty.

“What work, Your Highness?” Dave said, as he drifted off onto another long sleep….”

* * * *

On Friday, May, whatever, 2008, Dave woke up, feeling rather spry, as a ninth tier fluffy orange, long-haired domestic kitten. He could finally scratch his own back with his rear foot.

A ball flew by Dave’s face and caught his attention. He could not resist following it outside of the borders of the Kingdom.

“Ball! With catnip! Simply irresistible!” Of course, he ran like lightning, out from beneath the house and into a brand new morning…It was a brand new meow.

“Remember to bring back our treats [pronounced Meow Meow]!” yelled a chorus of kitties.

The last thing that Dave heard was Mr. Kitty saying, “I think that we’ve made a BIG mistake, Einstein. He will destroy everything.”

“Yeah,” said Felicity. “Old Dave usually manages to fuck everything up. Uh… Sorry.”

“Don’t you vorry. You are vitnessink a great experiment,” said the professor. “Mr. Dave Berg iss goink to prove my theory about ze existence of mini-black holes.”

* * * *

On that morning, Dave, once a depressed and battered “old guy,” was adopted by the family of a sweet little girl with bright red hair. Her name was Mia. She welcomed her new kitty to her home with a warm bowl of milk.

On Friday, after an agonizing bubble bath and a giant warm fluffy towel, Dave was given the embarrassing name of “Angel Puff,” along with a sparkly gold collar and a cute bell.

He accomplished all of this by eight p.m. that evening.

He was feeling good. Of course, being Dave, feeling good would never last.

One day, Dave/Angel Puff would become the most seriously depressing son-of-a-queen that you ever could imagine. All because of his new home.

Chapter 3:

“If we eat stupid brains, we get stupider.”

After five years of rotting in prison, any day on the outside was a beautiful day to Henry Wayne Druid. He figured that he’d paid his dues. Five long years of sitting in San Quentin for the brutal beating and murder of a young immigrant. Who cared if she left behind five children? She wasn’t even legal here, guys!”

Heck, even the parole board agreed that made it all “hunky-dory.”

Today, his name was Denny. “Denny Joyce,” the latest name on Henry Wayne Druid’s bogus driver’s license.

Denny stood at the motel room doorway, smoking. He tried to concentrate on the beautiful night outside after another sweltering August day.

The three other members of the new “Joyce” family lay bored, sick, and hungry, stretched out upon the king-sized bed.

Denny’s spouse Ruby had been too high and depressed to work the boulevard tonight. The kids, Mia and Johnny, ages seven and nine, would never be able to earn or be sold as long as their mother was still kicking. She just wouldn’t allow herself to stoop that low, even though Mia and Johnny “just got in the way” when it came down to the two model parents enjoying their inactive and unhealthy lifestyles.

* * * *

Before his life of crime, when he was a musician using the stage name of “Hank Druid,” he’d been a minor local Hollywood personality. A‘barely been.’

Denny was the only surviving member of the almost-famous 80s musical duo called “Short and Curly.”

Short and Curly’s claim to fame was starting fist fights, on stage, wherever they performed. In most cases, the fights were simply between Denny (Hank Druid) and his partner Jerome Horwitz, who was called “Curly,” in response to his shaved head.

Short and Curly’s band played Country Rap Music, which one critic abbreviated and addressed as “Crap music.”

* * * *

Behind Denny, the TV in the Flamingo Arms Hotel was showing commercials, which were only occasionally interrupted by a TV program. The program was the zombie classic movie, Day of the Driving Dead which had been filmed in the fast lanes of Honolulu’s H-1 freeway.

Ruby and the two kids had already forgotten what they were watching.

Mom and the kids were no longer complaining about being hungry or about how they were going to be tossed out of their tiny motel room tomorrow by the manager, a biker named “Thug.” It didn’t seem to matter to them that they would be living on the filthy, hot, smoggy pavement of Sunset Boulevard by check-out time, tomorrow.

The Joyces were months beyond caring.

The four “Joyce” family members remained slack-jawed, ill, drugged, and depressed. Their lifeless eyes watched the television and waited for more disappointment. There was that knee slappin’ commercial announcing the new season of Putz, the crude golf comedy.

Their newly adopted kitty, afraid of being smoked or eaten, was pacing behind the couch. Hungry.

Denny was doing “jes fine” today because he had a dream about “God’s Plan.” The plan: “We ONLY exist to feed our cats.” This dream revealed itself to Denny, in Prison, after he’d been “saved.”

He prayed that the rest of humanity would come to know the true and noble reason for man’s existence in the cosmos.

Denny’s wife, Ruby, high and delirious on bath salts of all things, was planning to put herself and her little munchkins out of their misery.

That, and eating or smoking the damned cat.

That horrible soul sucking creature that her half-witted daughter had brought home a year ago.

Things are really getting El Fucktorino in this, the land of dreams that we all know as Hollywood, Ruby thought.

The beer and Cheetos were gone. The uninsured 1959 Chevy that the family lovingly called the “Taco Wagon,” with its fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror, had been stolen a month ago. They had no more money for Denny to gamble away. It was over. This was probably as Fuctorinoed as things would ever get.

Reminder to the Joyce family: This time tomorrow, you will all be enjoying the great outdoors, while living on the glamorous sidewalk of the world famous Sunset Strip!

We’ve Got A Winner!

* * * *

Denny stood at the ground floor motel apartment door of Room 21, trying to come up with another scheme, crime or whatever it would take to get himself back on track, or better yet, as high as the space shuttle. Denny was also waiting for the rest of the motel’s inhabitants, roaches included, to go to sleep. He considered delivering the rest of his own family into the motel’s dumpster before taking off at sunrise. Denny stood by the room’s door, focused on the cool night air and the quiet of the hotel’s parking lot.

* * * *

The Flamingo Arms Hotel was a faded pink, early 1960s art-drecko monstrosity whose neon sign faced the Sunset Strip. The sign sported a twenty-foot high pink top-hat-topped flamingo that never stopped flapping its neon human arms. It flapped spasmodically 24-hours-a-day, as if to air out its hairy armpits (thanks to spray painted hair beneath its arms by the graffiti artist known as “Stinko”).

The ugly bird had been flapping his pits to fan the smog off Sunset Strip for twenty years.

* * * *

A long black limousine slid out of the oily night and pulled up to the curb in front of the depressing eyesore of a hotel.

The Cadillac Behemoth limousine slid up to the motel curb and appeared to sputter and die there. The driver, in silhouette, pointed its long index finger at Denny who was smoking in the doorway of Room #21.

Denny thought, What’s a limousine doing in front of this hell hole?

A town that snorts people up and pukes them out. Probably just another rich drug addicted sleaze-ball looking for a thrill.

The Flamingo Arms was a popular drug stop for the legions of the LA law firms, and the half-dead rock stars.

The car sat idling for nearly twenty minutes. Black exhaust caused the rare evening stars to disappear over Hollywood.

The limo gave forth its last wheezing breath and after a long pause, the chauffeur, Grieves, seemed to struggle with the limo’s heavy door. He unfolded his long frame and very slowly stepped out into the street. He wore an old-fashioned chauffeur’s outfit and cap. He adjusted the brim to avoid the light and keep his face hidden in shadow.

He seemed weak and barely able to keep his balance.

Denny’s watched the man and thought of his eighty-pound crackhead buddy Jeff, who looked more alive than this loser.

Grieves stepped slowly around the vehicle and opened the back door of the bus-sized limo that faced the hotel. Two large muddy brown shoes appeared out of the darkness of the open door. A large, white-haired gentleman dressed in a dusty, ragged tuxedo stepped out onto the sidewalk with great difficulty.

Behind the big guy, but remaining in the limo, Denny glimpsed a ghostly platinum-haired female in a white dress.

The portly old man swayed weakly on the sidewalk and shielded his dark eyes from the faint glare of the flickering street light above his head.

Perhaps, the weak lamp post still burned brightly in another dimension.

The rail-thin Grieves grabbed the bigger gent’s elbow and with some effort, steadied them both. Humming a slow dirge, he escorted the larger man up the walkway. Grieves let go of his passenger who continued on his own.

The big man’s large gloved hands carried a large piece of cardboard. Alone, he “shambled” toward the curious Denny who stood in the doorway of Room #21, leaving his chauffeur behind.

Denny did not look at the big man’s face at first, but at the cardboard poster that he held in his filthy white gloved hands: a two-foot by five-foot-long humungous check made out to Mr. Denny Joyce. Dated two weeks ago and signed by Charles “scribble scribble” from the Publisher’s Clearing House. The amount written on the check was for “One Million Dollars.”

The thing at the door uttered a rasping “HEY HO!”

Denny looked up at the maggot-filled mouth that omitted the unearthly sound. The face was slack and it looked slightly decomposed with its teeth drawn back and bits of skull showing beneath the thick white hair and cracked glasses.

The corpse spoke to Denny through creaking jaws, with a voice and breath that could only have risen from the rotting bowels of …well, almost anywhere east of Lincoln Boulevard.

“Denny Joyce! You’ve just won the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes! You’re now a millllllllllionnnnnnnnaire!”

After his initial shock of both seeing the walking corpse of the fifteen-years-extinct Ed McMahon and hearing that he had suddenly became a millionaire, all propelled by a blast of fetid (you-call-that) breath?… all Denny Joyce could say was, “Aren’t you… Ed McM… Mc—”

“Hey Ho!” said the corpse. “Dennyyyyyyyyy it’s yourrrrrrrr luckkkkky dayyyyyy.”

Denny felt his bladder threaten “let go” and he began to feel dizzy.

Something deep down in his fried brain, perhaps a little angel, warned him:

“Don’t ever invite them in.”

“We’re all sick, man… sorry,” said Denny. “This is crazy! Is… is that check for real?” He hurled the last of the Cheetos upon his own shirt and the battered screen door that separated the living from the dead.

Recovering, Denny looked up and asked, “Is… is there anything that I have to do?” Cough, cough. “And just curious pal… are you, like, dead?”

“Yes, Denny. Hey Hooooooohhhh! The last time I looked, yeah! I was very dehhhhhd. The check is reeeeeeeeeal. You are a millionaire! Can I come in? Can we talk?”

Don’t let them in. Never let them in Denny, said the imaginary little angel, now on his right shoulder.

Denny wiped his eyes in disbelief. All of them zeros…. “Uh no, not yet.” As he knew from his prison dream, this was part of God’s “plan.”

“There, of course, is one little catch Mr. Joyce,” said dead Ed. “I need to eat someone’s brains and I need them now! By the way you’re a mess, son, you’ve ruined your shirt.”

“Oh sorry man, er Mr., uh, Mr. McMahon. You gave me quite a start. I’m a smart guy. I knew that there would be some sort of ‘a catch.’ How about my wife Ruby, pal? She has some brains.”

(Ruby used to have a good brain, before she started to date a crack pipe.)

“Come here, Honey. There’s someone that I want you to meet. This is Mr. McMahon. Remember Ed McMahon?”

“Whah” his wife said from the bed. “Who’s there?” She crawled over to the door.

“Holy shid!” she said looking at him through the Cheeto gauze on the screen, and from three different angles in the dim light. “Hey! You used to be the fat guy from the Tonight Show!”

“Hey Hoooooooo! You are correct, sir! I mean Mrs. Joyce! I am Ed McMahhhhhhhon, and you, my lovely woman, and the man that you are married to, are now millionaires!”

Ed bent his creaky frame over toward Denny and then whispered through the screen toward Denny’s ear. “I bet that she did have a good brain ’til she met you and Mr. Dope, huh, Denny?'” said Ed with another putrid blast of his breath that sent Denny hurling away from the door.

“Johnny! Mia! Come here!” Ruby said. The two munchkins crawled off of the bed and “shambled*” over toward the door while moaning. They had just started watching the Walking Dead on the Food Channel and were mimicking the zombies on TV

(*Shambling. That’s what the walking dead do rather than walk. It’s their idea of a good time….)

Only Mia was brave enough to come up to the door. Johnny stood back.

“Oh crap Dad! Mom!” said Mia. “This fucker’s a real zombie!”

“I’m only here to helllllp you sweeeeeetnesssss.”

“Yeah, gang, uh, we got us a real zombie,” said Denny.

“This is Mr. McMahon, kids,” Ruby said. “Mr. McMahon used to be on television, before he … went bankrupt… died … and rotted… and beetles started living in his ears.”

“Okay, Dad. Tell him to go away. He smells like balls!”

“Mia! Use your manners! Sorry, Mr. McMahon. Kids, huh! Mr. McMahon has got a pile of money for us, children. Be polite, you little shits.”

“Those three brains would do fine, Denny… IF they weren’t all high on bath salts. You’ve ruined them all, Denny. If we eat stupid brains, we get stupider. You were always a bright kid. No thannnnnnkssss. Can we seeeeeal the deeeeeal? Can I come in and—seeeeeeal the deal?”

Wow! That sounded too much like seal-a-meal to Denny.

“Wait! N… no, not yet,” said Denny. “How about you just sliding the check under the door?”

“That’s not how we do things here in Hollywood, Denny, sir! We need to shake your hand and capture this wonderful event on video.”

There was another walking corpse behind Ed, holding a moldy broken video camera. It was hard to see the cameraman, as the camera was supporting a blinding spotlight. The cameraman wore Ray-Ban sunglasses. The mysterious camera-guy also sported sideburns and emitted a truly horrible spoiled bacon smell from his a mold-covered black leather jacket.

“I always liked you Mr. McMahon. I don’t want to do this,” said the shaken Denny.

“Whaaaaat Dennyyyyy?”

“If I let you in… well… Okay, then. Let me think this over”

“Six zeros Denny!” said the little fire-engine-red devil on his left shoulder.

“How about you meet my son!” said Denny. “Come here, John! Meet Mr. Ed McMahon! Mr. McMahon! HERE’sssssssss JOHNNY!”

Ed hissed like a snake. “Hahhhhhh, hahhhhh, hilariousssssss. You’re a real charmer, Denny.” Looking at little Johnny with worm-filled eyes, Ed said, “Your old man’s a comedian, son. Did you know that you can’t say that, Denny?”

“Say what?”

“You can’t say, ‘Here’ssssss Johnny!’ I’ve still got a trademark copyright on that phrase.”

“No way!”

“Waaaaaaay…. Oh, and that word ‘way’ belongs to Mike Meyers. US patent and trademark office, Denny. I can use ‘way’ because I’m a shambling undead fiend.”

“Gee, I wouldn’t have thought!” said little Johnny.

Ignoring the warning from the little fuck-head angel on his right shoulder, Denny said to the dead Ed, “Why you smelly piece of… yeech! Just to make it clear. Are you listening, Ed! ARE WE CLEAR ON THIS? I am NOT inviting you in! This is NOT an invitation. Right?”

With that, Denny wrenched open the Fuckinggoddamnedfuckingsonofabastard door, and grabbed onto the lapels of Ed’s threadbare tux. He then pulled the big smelly fat-ass zombie into the motel room. Denny’s wife and kids, all back upon the king-sized bed, just slid over to accommodate the big stiff, and continued to ignore the real horror show next to them.

Ed struggled and gurgled as Denny dragged him into the room.

Ed McMahon, though over six-feet-tall, was nearly weightless: an empty shell, except for a few shreds of some poor souls whose brains he had feasted on within the last couple of weeks.

A few feeble minds were the only things that had kept old Ed McMahon barely moving along with a very nice shamble these days.

Ed had only been feasting on the brains of the weak and greedy. At this moment, Ed who was very weak and very greedy for a “noggin nosh.” His scam was not working on this hardened punk, who moved quickly and gracefully.

Denny threw the big lug onto the bed.

Hell! That was easy! thought Denny. Maybe I’ll be going out to look for the ex-Elvis and ex-Marilyn later.

“Thanks for the check, Ed,” said Denny. “Money is a good thing and I certainly thank you for it. You still have one very important thing that you’re going to give me tonight Mr. McMahon! You see, Mr. McMahon, it’s time to feed the kitty!”

“Wait! The check will not do you any good. My lawyers will be suing you for one million dollars! Hey Hooooo!”

Denny still held onto the lapels of Ed’s rotting tux and easily held the big weak zombie flat on the bed.

“My lawyer, Denny. I want my lawyer!”

* * * *

Denny whistled for Angel Puff (another name for Dave), while Ed McMahon snapped, squealed and squirmed beneath Denny’s weight,

Denny told him, THIS is God’s plan. Don’t you know that Mr. McMahon? Angel Puff! Come here, Puff Ball!” (another name for Angel Puff).

Angel Puff had always hated his name, though it served him many fine souls. He licked his paws, got off of his furry butt and slowly walked over to the bed.

With his green eyes, orange fur and sparkly gold collar, the cat leapt upon the bed and sat himself squarely upon the trapped zombie’s chest.

Angel Puff tossed back his handsome mane, focused his slitted emerald eyes upon his prey, and began to inhale his psychic meal. “Meowwwwww.” I’ll start with a little soul food—better than tuna.

Ed, being a brainatarian, was a soul buffet!

Inhale….

The last thing Zombie Ed saw was Denny leaning close.

“The world is full of hungry, fluffy, lovable kitties, Ed. We ONLY exist to feed our cats. Don’t you know that Mr. McMahon?”

* * * *

Angel Puff had inhaled his last tortured soul from the zombie’s empty husk, when all of a sudden:

The room went black as the lights and the TV went off.

Chapter 4:

Abracadabra!

When the lights flickered on, the zombie shell of Ed McMahon had crumbled into dust and Angel Puff, the kitty, had changed — dramatically.

A dark-green, short, fat, bald, and naked old man with long hair growing out of his ears sat on top of the pile of McMahon-dust. When the stranger spoke, “Hi I’m Dave!” His family, the Druids, saw that his crooked teeth and the white sclera of his eyes had turned black. His pupils were orange. They family that had adopted him when he was Angel Puff were frozen in place, unable to scream.

Old Dave, no longer cute, caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and said, “CRAP!”

He was looking at a negative image of his fat, ugly ‘old self.’

Then everything in the motel room had begun to suck. Literally. His personal negativity had caused the universe to go haywire.

Light and the electricity were pulled from the wall outlets and the appliances.

The bolts of energy swirled in the air and streamed into Dave’s butt.

Then Dave sneezed … No. He farted through his nose as he became the black hole that his ex-wife had predicted in his past lifetime as a human.

*****

The Druid family huddled together against the bed’s backboard in total horror. They were so afraid that the bed began to shake.

Denny, the father, was speechless and shaking against a wall.

Mia said, “Mom? The room feels like it’s spinning!”

“Help Mama!” said Johnny.

“Think of it as dancing, kids,” said Dave, who knew what was happening to them all.

Dave spoke to Mia who was shaking violently to calm her down. “Mia? When you found me on the street as a kitten, did I have a cell phone attached to my collar?”

“Huh?” said the frightened girl. She knew nothing about his suicidal negative past and his reincarnation as a kitten.

*****

Dear readers: What you are about to witness is an “upside” for a miserable, chaotic family like the Druids.

*****

“Come closer. All of you,” said negative Dave.

The Druids could not resist the pull of Dave’s gravity. The boy, Henry, looked at his new black market watch. It had begun … to… slow… down….

The room began to turn. The closer they moved around Dave, the faster they spun. Soon they all felt as though the universe had flushed them down the crapper…

… which wouldn’t have been a bad idea…

They’d all approached Dave’s inescapable gravity field. This is what the physicists would call “the event horizon.”

Everything went black.

Dave spoke from the blackness. Well, being his old self, he droned on and on….

“Don’t be scared—I used to be your little Angel Puff—but before I was called Angel Puff, I was Dave Berg. Actually, the truth is, no one called me Dave Berg, because I didn’t know anyone. You see, I supposedly committed suicide under my house and ended up in The Kingdom of the Cats—where my seven-times-dead cat George gave me one of his two remaining lives so that I could try to repair my rotten life by going out into the world and improving myself. I’ve learned that we should all invest wisely. Would any of you like to buy the Brooklyn Bridge?…..”

The Druid family were becoming very sleeeeeeepppppyy as Dave droned on into infinity…

“That is supposed to be the reason that we reincarnate – right? To make things better-right? Well, then you assholes came along and adopted me—which was a nice thing to do, Mia— and then you turned out to be dirt bags who made my new life even so much shittier that I had finally changed into a— I’ve become— I think, a Black Hole. Apparently this is what happens when things really, really suck big time. Einstein did say, and I should not be surprised, as objects come closer to me—they would appear to dance and spin around my mass—I guess. I’ll never lose this baby fat. Einstein warned me about the possibility yata yata yata. …”

* * * *

“All Things Being Equal”

The lights came back on.

The Druids relaxed together on top of fresh silk sheets on a brand new California king-sized bed.

The movie came back on. On the new 60-inch 3-D screen TV, the zombies were still shambling, but away from the humans.

A news flash along the bottom of the screen talked about a protest in Washington DC, by the 99% of the US population, the filthy rich, who were marching against the other 1%, the nation’s poor.

When the Druid family finally ventured outside of their room, they followed a passageway leading up to the bright sunlight. They emerged from beneath a beautiful, new, clean house, owned by a family of cats who were naive enough to believe that they were in control of their pet people.

A brand new limousine (without zombies) waited for the Druid family at the curb. Soon they would be on their way to their new home in the seven-star Dizzy World Waldorf Hotel.

Black Hole Dave had flipped their world!

Einstein, the Cat’s, theory about the mini-black holes was correct; however, an important calculation was missing somewhere. Einstein (the cat) was concerned.

Not everything turned out as Einstein had predicted. For some unknown reason, the children of these positive parallel worlds still declared to their parents that most strangers STILL smelled like balls.”

The Druids spent most their afternoon riding the boobsleds down Magic Mammary Mountain.

* * * *

Chapter 5:

“Tie a bow around it.”

(The Seychelle Islands – Three months later.)

He had never slept this well.

Dave found himself waking up facing the prone figure of a well-tanned, full bodied woman whose wondrous topography was barely covered by a very thin white sheet.

Celia!? She was so beautiful at this moment — no longer “shit-faced.” Did I ever call her shit faced? No, Celia called herself shit faced, when she was drunk.

Celia loved to drink.

How could he assume that she’d been drinking when he didn’t even know where they were, or even what day it was?

That’s it! Celia must’ve been wasted, otherwise how could I, fat old inside-out Dave, end up in a bed with her.

Dave found his long-lost cell phone on the night stand beside the bed, and picked it up only to find it lifeless. He was sure that he’d left his phone… under his old house? Cats?

His old house? What old house? What had he been doing beneath an old house? Old house….

To find out the where, when, and why of things, he’d have to get off and out of the bed. Sweet smelling Celia faced away from him and that beautiful smooth, brown behind under the satin sheet gave him second thoughts about unraveling any big deal mysteries of the universe.

Sigh. Celia was so peaceful in slumber that he decided to sneak out of bed and take a peek outside. He tip-toed toward the drapes where the bright sunlight was cutting through, and pulled one edge of the heavy curtains open. The first thing that he’d learned on that morning was that he, sure as poop, wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Outside of his private lanai was the most inviting sky-blue water that he’d ever seen!

The light had illuminated the dresser near the big screen TV and the ‘In A Bunch brand lingerie that hung over it. Looking back toward the door, Dave saw the edge of a paper beneath the opening. This would probably be the information card concerning his check-out time.

He opened the door carefully, and found a “complimentary” newspaper waiting for him. When he picked it up, it turned out to be the Perdido-Bermuda Reporter.

“Holy shit!” He was over 4000 miles away from home. According to the line above the headline, he was also 3 months away from home.

What have I been doing over the last three months? He had to wake Celia up now.

The dresser drawer hung slightly open and the corner of a one-hundred dollar bill stuck out. Dave opened the drawer and found that it was filled with cash and gold coins. He had a vague memory—was it in a dream?— about digging up treasure0 in his back yard long, long ago.

Three of the dresser drawers were stuffed with gold.

Dave looked another time.”Oh my god! Where did this come from?”

Should I awaken the woman in the bed? He needed to find out just what was really going on.

When Dave did turn toward the bed, the sleeping woman’s skin had turned pale and her hair color had become red. It was Arlene. A redhead. Dave’s favorite flavor. Arlene was a girl that he’d known in college, long ago.

He parted the curtains to let more light into the room. When he, with much trepidation, looked a third time, the woman was Kathy, the girl who had shut him down in high school with a cold stare that produced actual spunk icicles in his shorts.

Oh my god! All of this cool stuff! The gold! These beautiful women! Oh no! WHAT HAVE I DONE?

His “dead” cell phone rang. He grabbed it off of the night stand and nearly slammed it through his skull in a rush to find answers.

“I’ll tell you what you’ve done, Dave,” said the small voice from the other end of the phone call. “You’ve done well! Life is good?”

“Who is this?”

“M. K. Is your new world ‘sucky’ enough for you, Dave?”

“M. K.?”

“Mister Kitty, schmuck.”

“What?” said Dave, who became understandably distracted when he caught a glimpse of himself in the hotel mirror. Looking back at him was an optimistic, bright-eyed, young, healthy, muscular version of himself.

“Sucky? No! You should see this place and who’s in my bed. Holy shit! It sure ain’t fucking Goldilocks!”

“Language, Dave. Remember? You should know that we, down at the Kingdom, were all very nervous about setting you loose with that fucked up attitude of yours,” said M.K.. ” Oops. Fuck. Do you know if we are still in a children’s book?”

“No, I don’t know. Your Highness!” My memories are coming back. “This really IS you, isn’t it, Mr. Kitty?”

“You made your old friend, Einstein, very nervous about his experiment. He always believed that each of us housed one of a billions of universes in our minds.”

“Thanks for that information.”

“You’re welcome. Einstein called you a prime psychological candidate to become a physical example of a mini black hole. Well, Dave, we’re all relieved over here in the Kingdom that you’ve sucked yourself and the Druid family through to a more positive place. By the way, where did you carry your phone? No. Please don’t answer that. Oh… one more thing, Dave.”

“I just found my phone right next to the bed. I’d dreamed that I’d lost it back at the old house. Wow! C’mon, man! Can you guess who’s in my bed?”

“No, I can’t Dave; or would you rather be called ‘Angel Puff’? Hahahahahaha.”

“That’s right, Mr. Kitty. You always were a dick. Hey! You should see the beach over here!”

“I hate water.”

“Is there anything that I can do for you? Your wish is my command, Your Highness!”

“Can you look around for my lost collar with the golden bell and diamond name tag? Professor Einstein says that you may find many lost things in the Triangle. George wants to know if you can pick up some Tuna Crunchies on your way home, that is if you ever find your way out of the Triangle.”

“Crap!” Bermuda Triangle? Dave dropped his phone. Click. Is that garlic I smell? He smelled something delicious and was suddenly starving. He turned toward the bed. Sophia, wearing Pasta Primavera perfume and black lingerie, was just waking up.

Dave never did find Mr. Kitty’s collar, among the other items on the beach as he skipped, with a previously lost puppy, along the shoreline.

Instead, the sand was covered with odd socks, phones, wallets, jewelry and lost car keys.

My Date with Mr. Jingles (The Bouncy Town Diaries)

“My Date with Mr. Jingles”

NSFA (Not Safe For Anyone)

Illustrations by Anita Benson Bradley (Mahalo!)

A tiny polka dotted VW pulled up to the curb outside the window below her small apartment. A cacophony of horns went off from inside the car. Who was this mysterious stranger?

Miss Giggles paced the hallway of her small Bouncy Town apartment. She did not know what to expect of Mr. Jingles, the blind date that her friend Trixie had set her up with for the evening.

She paced. Her silver jumpsuit looked very sexy in the funhouse mirror making her look slimmer and taller than her roly-poly five-foot frame. In Intermediate School the mean kids would call her “Chunk-O.” When she went to college, they called her “Balloony Toons” to her face. That name stuck for years until her kindly new boss at the ACME Bicyclle Horn Company had given her a new name, “Miss Giggles.” Giggles fixed her orange hair and repositioned the two balloons and paper stuffed in her giant funny bra.

Her date knocked on the door with a familiar rhythm, “Shave and a haircut. Five cents.”

“Hiya, hiya, hiya! Call me Mithter Jingles!” He thaid with a funny lithp.

Mr. Jingles was dressed to the nines in a yellow baggy jump suit with six-inch blue polka dots and three red buttons the size of custard pies. His matching hat was two feet high and came to a handsome duncey point. Thank Bozo, he wasn’t just another hobo clown like her ex, Patches —with charcoal all over his face. My daddy, Boingo would like this clown, she thought. So would my mommy. Miss Giggle’s mom, Bingo always wore the baggy pants in the Tumbles family.

“I bought you some di-did-diddlely flowers!” Mr. Jingles said, as he thrust forward a bouquet of roses.

The flowers flopped over as soon as she grabbed them. “How pretty! I’ll put them in water.”

“No probalobelum, Miss Giggles! I have plenty of water right here!” He squirted her with his platinum plated Fizz-o-Rama seltzer bottle. “Hyuk, Hyuk!”

Miss Giggles followed Mr. Jingles down the stairs and out to his star-covered Volkswagen bug, she wondered, “Is it true what they say about size 28 feet?”

Mr. Jingles clicked his remote and the “Merry-go-round Broke Down” played across the Rubbermaid Habitat lined street as the two doors popped open. “Everybody out! Hyuk, hyuk!” said Mr. Jingles as he motioned for his date to step back. Twenty clowns, two wearing “Kick Me!” signs on their backs, three riding miniature bicycles, some with pet chimps, and a couple with a pig in a baby carriage wearing a bonnet emerged from the back seat. They streamed down the dark street, each honking their “own horn.” Mr. Jingles held open the car door for Miss Giggles. “Safety first! Buckle up!” He handed Miss Giggles an unnattached buckle. “Golly! I hope you’re hungry! Hey! Let’s go to Chuckle’s Cheese!”

“Isn’t that a bit pricey?” Giggles asked politely.

“Heck no! Hyuk, hyuk!” said Mr. Jingles as he pulled out a wad of Monopoly money. “We’re gonna paint the town red, and green and yellow and…”

Part II — Chuckle’s Cheese

“Please, my dear have a seat. Ha ha! Gotcha!” said Mr. Jingles as he pulled a “Wet Paint” sign from underneath his date.

“Oh, Mr. Jingles!”

“How about pie? Do you like pie, miss Giggles?”

“Custard.”

“Oh, goody!” He called to the waiter, “Garçon! May we order a half dozen custard pies — with whipped cream?” Mr. Jingles turned toward Miss Giggles and placed his giant red glove on her giant blue glove. “Would madame care for something to drink? Oui?” He turned back to the waiter. “We’ll have two bottles of your finest seltzer, monsieur.”

When their meal arrived they each shoved three pies into the other’s face and washed each other off with the two bottles of 1856 Dieu Maudit le Clown Seltzer water.

“I don’t feel well,” said Giggles suddenly. She bent over the dinner table, stuck her tongue out and said, “Hack, hack, hack!” Then she pulled a blue handkerchief out of her mouth, which was tied to a yellow one, which was tied to a green one, which was tied to…… This went on and on for nearly a two gazillion minutes.

“Are you okay, missy?”

“Whatsamattah? Can’t ya take a choke?” she giggled.

Mr. Jingles took her outside by the hand. He lit a bubble gum cigarette and carelessly threw his flaming blowtorch into her pocket.

Mr. Jungles casually asked Miss Giggles if she smoked.

Striking a hooker pose, she said, “I only smoke when I’m on fire, handsome! Oh, Noooooooo, I’ve been incarcerated!”

“Well, there ya go! Hyuk Hyuk! You sure are hot!” Mr. Jingle’s lifted his duncey cap to reveal a plastic fireman’s hat. His red nose began to blink as he blew into a siren ring while they ran in circles.

“Save me! Save me, Mr. Fireman!” she cried.

Mr. Jingles stopped at his VW, unlatched the hood and grabbed a pail of confetti and dumped it on her head. “Hyuk Hyuk! Gee, I’m sorry!” he said. “Here! Have another flower!” It squirted into her eye, then drooped like the roses. Mr. Jingles grabbed her rouged cheeks and kissed her on her big red smile. Their noses beeped together.

“C’mon!” said Mr. Jingles. “Let’s go for a ride!”

It was a wild ride as they careened through the faulty stop lights of Bouncy Town and headed up the Benny Hills toward Sock-it-to me Lane overlooking moonlit Lake Harr Harr.

Sock-it-to-me Lane

Once parked, they kissed and squeezed each other, producing many honks and beeps. There was a woof from the back seat? Mr. Jingles was also an accomplished ventriloquist. “Woof! Woof!”

“What’s that Mr. Jingles?”

“A banana!”

“No. I mean who is barking?”

“That’s my dog Sprinkles! Wanna see? Hyuk, hyuk.” Mr. Jingles opened his door and got out of the car. He tilted his seat forward and said, “Mr. Sprinkles needs to go for a walk!” as he grabbed a leash and pulled on it. The leash had an empty loop where the dog’s head would have been. Mr. Jingles walked to a nearby tree with the leash and waited while his imaginary dog did his business. When they returned to the car, Mr. Jingles threw the leash into the front seat. “Oops! Sprinkles wants to sit in front, Miss Giggles. Whaddaya say? Let’s relax in the back seat. It’s made to hold forty clowns!”

Before you know it, Miss Giggles was out of her silver jumpsuit and wearing only her sexiest pair of heart festooned boxer shorts.

Mr. Jingles began to jangle.

“Wait!” Said Miss Giggles! “Protection.” She produced a package of multi-colored condoms from her purse.

Mr. Jingles produced a pair of blunt kiddie scissors from his baggy pants and opened the package. Then, he fashioned Miss Giggles an array of balloon animals of such size and quality she’d never could have imagined.

He slipped off his size 28 shoes. “Yes, thought Miss Giggles. It’s true what they say about big feet! ———— They stink!

Mr. Jingles had stripped down to his Happy Birthday Suit. There stood his candy striped ‘Jo-Jo,’ ready for a round of ring toss. The big goof then lit the tip on fire. “Make a wish, Miss Giggles!”

Mr. Jingles is so much fun! Hee Hee! Up until now, my love life has been a roller coaster — a Tilt-A-Whirl! — No! More like the projectile PlayDoh I hurled on the Mad Hatter Tea Cups — or maybe as bad as the up-chuckles I suffered on the Swing Boat!

There was a knocking on the car window. The spell was broken.

“Uh, oh,” said Mr. Jingles. “It’s the Keystone cops! Get dressed, Bobo.”

“Bobo?!!!!!” Who’s Bobo?

“They usually want to chase us around the car with billy clubs,” said Mr. Jingles, “till our pants fall down.”

“Who is Bobo??? Oh, so you’ve been up here before, with other clowns?” asked the jealous Miss Giggles, looking for the giant green bra, she’d stuffed with colorful tissue .

“Oh come on! Isn’t this fun?” Mr. Jingles rolled down the window! “Good evening officers…huh?”

Miss Giggles recognized the men outside the car behind the glare of their kaleidoscope flashlights. They wore black masks, striped shirts and short brimmed newsboy caps. It was the notorious Boffo brothers. “Muggers!” she said.

“All of youz! Everybody! Outta the car!” said Boffo #1.

Mr. Jingles buttoned up his jumpsuit and stepped out first. He offered the two muggers some jelly beans, if they promised to go away. Miss Giggles followed straightening her boxer shorts. She looked behind her to find out that another steady stream of clowns were exiting the car.

The two men in burglar masks and striped shirts began “mugging” or making faces at the couple. Mr. Jingles surprised #1 and knocked him down with a punch, resulting in birds around his head. Naturally, being a clown, Boffo #1 popped right back up. Boffo #2 said, “Give us all of your jelly beans, Jingles.” Boffo #2 pulled out a gun that looked like a cannon. Mr. Jingles stood back and offered to give them everything. He started to empty his pockets. There were frogs, a rabbit, white pigeons and hand-buzzers. “That’s all I got! Hyuk.”

#1 said, “Mr. Big-shot Jingles is holding back on us, Boffo #2.”

#2 blasted Mr. Jingles until the “Bang!” sign popped out of the gun barrel. #1 hit Mr. Jingles with an inflatable sledge hammer sending him flying across the dirt lot where he landed squarely on his butt. Jelly beans blasted from his pointy hat like a Piñata.

Miss Giggles remembered the two whoopee cushions in her back pocket. She threw them onto the ground and jumped on them with both feet, scaring the Boffo brothers away, and leaving the candy safely behind.

“You saved my life, uh …Oh, yeah, Miss Giggles,” said Mr. Jingles as she scooped up all of his candy and put it into her over-sized pockets. She was still upset to find out that her new man, clown or no clown, was only dating her for “FUN.” He passed out before she could strangle the Casanova with his own six-foot checkerboard necktie.

The ambulance arrived within minutes. Miss Giggles watched as the attendants loaded Mr. Jingles into the back on a gurney and sped off, in circles… dumping him back onto the parking lot and fatally running him over, repeatedly like a sack of potatoes.

Mr. Jingles had gone to the Big Top in the sky. “Huyk, hyuk, hyuk!” Miss Giggles laughed. “Your fun-filled nights at Sock-it-to-me Lane are over Romeo!” She skipped back toward Bouncy Town, laughing-all-the-way. “Hyuk, hyuk, hyuk!”

Poor Miss Giggles was really crying on the inside.

The Kingdom of the Cats (Poor Dave)

Have you heard about shit-shoveler Dave?

For sixty years, worked like a slave.

He learned how to chisel,

When it started to drizzle.

Just in time to slip into his grave.

On Tuesday morning, July 18, Dave Berg squeezed his flabby frame beneath the back porch of his home. Then he dug a shallow, comfortable indentation in the sandy soil, lay down on top of his new sleeping bag, ate an entire two pounds of See’s triple-chocolate fudge, and a lethal dose of Seconal, which he washed down with his favorite Dr. Brown’s cream soda as he waited for death.

His cell phone lay by his side…. You know, “just in case.”

At two a.m. on Wednesday, July 19, a giant roach ran across his arm. He went back to sleep.

Not dead yet.

Six a.m. Friday, July 21, Dave dreamt about various “cat noises” and a short, violent cat confrontation.

Not dead yet.

Two a.m. Thursday, July 27, he felt a cat sleeping on his feet.

One hour later, at three a.m., he dreamt about a cat purring on his chest and occasionally batting his nose with a soft closed paw.

Still not….

Five a.m. Sunday, March 30, Dave opened one eye to see what looked like a catnip mouse and a bowl of milk next to his head. The phone was missing. Still in a haze, Dave thought that he’d heard “almost human” voices around him. A few of the catlike, but familiar voices discussed whether to let Dave “stay dead as planned,” or “join the group.” They voted, unanimously, to “let him live with them in this place” (wherever “this place” was) and “teach him the law” and “the responsibility of nine lives,” when he finally “woke his lazy fat ass up.”

Suddenly, Dave was looking into the bright green eyes of his ex-tabby Felicity, her striped head tilted in her familiar upside-down posture and with her tail tapping impatiently. Felicity stared her comic stare as Dave lay on his side nose-to-nose with the fuzzy girl. Dave was having trouble focusing.

Around them, the frame of the house floated as if it were only a vague outline above a sunny field of grass, surrounded by flowers, trees and hundreds of chattering birds. Mice raced by. A small patch of blooming catnip stood by Felicity’s musical tapping tail. Some trees in the area had grown with ready-made platforms and scratching posts.

“Felicity?”

Felicity, smiled and then turned back toward the two cats behind her.

Dave immediately recognized the other two. “Gravity? Mr. Kitty? It can’t be!”

Felicity turned and asked the two cats, in perfect Human-ese, “Should I?”

They both nodded affirmatively.

Should you what? thought the groggy old man.

Note: This chapter was originally printed in large, easy-to-read type for children — Yeah. That means you “four eyes!”

“Where am I? How can you all be alive?”

“You know, Dave, Felicity said in perfect human-speak, “that you cannot tell anyone about this place. Any… one! We mean it. If you do tell someone, I promise you, you will be sent to, sh…heck, I dunno, sent to bed without any dessert.”

“We? What place is this? We’re under my old house for Christ sakes!”

“No!”

She quickly held a paw up to his lips. “Cool it with the language, crusty old dude! We’re in a children’s book. Notice the big type font?”

Dave had no idea what-the-Fu… Fuzz Felicity was talking about.

“So, think ‘cute,’ Dave. You’re in an alternate universe discovered by your old cat Einstein.”

“Think ‘cute’? Einstein?”

“In the ‘Kingdom’ everything is cute,” said Felicity. “Really fuh … I mean really, really cute. Got it?”

Dave turned over onto his stomach, and lifted up his head. He’d spotted his old friend. Oh my God! It’s Einstein!That IS Einstein over there.

“Finally voke up, did chu!” said Einstein. “Feeeeeeed me! Just kiddink!” said the brilliant blue-eyed Burmese kitty. Vee are ALL here David. All of your old cats are here. Ve’re all alive undt vell In zis place. Efery cat zat anyone has effer known liffs here.”

“Some of us only have a few lives left,” said Felicity.

“Too many of us haff to stay inside ze community because ve haff used up all uf our 9 lifes. Zhen zhere are many cats here who are about to start new lifes as kittens, vhere zhey vill go out into ze first three dimenchunts again. Vould you like a sniff of this mighty fine catnip dot I haff been vorking on?”

“Mr. Einstein, this dialog is becoming a little too complicated for a children’s book,” said the Flisk, “and please lose that annoying German accent.”

“Thanks Fliskers,” added Dave.

“Where vas I?” Einstein continued. ” I mean,….Oh yeah! Just a few days ago, we were talking about you, Dave. Normally, we would just let a human die. Instead, we decided to take a vote, and offer you an honorable place in our world. Though you vere depressing to every human that came near you, you vere very good to us. You always kept treats. Felicity is right. You have to keep this place a secret. It’s always been a cats-only place.”

Sylvester, looking dapper in his permanent tuxedo, spoke next. “Tally ho, old bean! All the chaps here agreed that—you deserved a better ending than crawling under a house and dying in utter loneliness. We can only offer you one more lifetime, Guvnor. George gave you one of his own lives because – pip pip – You, Dave, cared enough to scrape him off of the pavement while he was still toasty warm… even though his eyes were hangin’ out and shi… stuff. Be careful my lord. George’s lives are action packed.”

“Undt, I mean, and,” said Einstein, “if you fuh…mess up this last chance for a happy life, you are Kaput! Finished!”

Einstein stopped to lick his paw and then resumed, “Did you know that humans, according to Tac, are just not cool enough for multiple lives. Two lifetimes, max.”

“Tac? Who’s Tac?” said Dave.

“Tac is our lord who you must thank for bringing you here,” said Einstein. “First, we must find George.”

“Please tell me Einstein, is this Kitty Heaven?”

“Tac no!. This …. (dramatically, with reverb-turned-up-to-ten) ….. is……

The-Kingdom-of-the-Cats!”

Terry and Bobbi Joe.

American Legends:

Terry and Bobbi Joe

They had met in a head-on crash. Terry and Bobbi Jo had been jettisoned through the front windshields of their respective cars, smashed into one another in midair and died face to face on the rough, wet pavement. Rather than die alone, they had reached out to one another. Their cooling hands intertwined, forever bonded on that lonely country road.

Both had been speeding: Blame it on youth.

Both had been texting: Blame it on technology.

Both had been sipping beers: Blame it on the alcohol.

Both had been scanning their radio dials: Blame it on rock ‘n roll.

The roads were dark and slick: Blame it on the rainy night.

The head-on crash: Blame it on love, baby, baby, baby.

There was a ballet in midair when Terry and Bobbi Jo’s bodies collided, mangled and tangled. They’d almost reached their goal, the perfect melding of flesh and spirit that the two teens had been working toward. They were splayed out only a few yards north of the wreckage, among a glistening field of glass and burning debris.

“We have to stop running into each other this way,” said Terry, who was always the class clown.

“Hey, Terry, listen.”

“Sirens. Grab my hand, Bobbi Jo. The response time is quick today. I have to admit, I called in the crash ten minutes ago on my way over to Highway 95 and Cedar Lane.”

“A ten minute warning? Fucking with their heads. That sounds like you, Terry. Do you think that anyone will catch on to our routine?”

“Nah! Before the light fades from your beautiful eyes, Bobby Jo, I want to give you new flowers.”

Terry’s last human act was to hand Bobby Jo the bloody bouquet.

“Awwww thanks, Terry.” Blood spilled from her lips onto the pavement as she mimed a kiss. (cough, cough) “You brought me white roses this time. They’re beautiful. I’ll…I’ll see you at the funeral. I hope that they can bury us closer this time.”

________________________

“Poor thing. The flowers are still in her hand. Love at last sight,” said Don, the older of the two highway patrol officers, walking around the wreckage in the rain. “The girl’s car is still running. I can smell smoke from the burning rubber. This just happened.”

“I’m so tired of this spot,” said his young partner Christine. “Are they ever going to put some lights out here?”

Don shook his head. “Yeah. Another one. I feel like God is a seven-year-old boy who gets off by watching shit blow up.”

“This is so wrong,” she said. “Someone called this accident in. The boy must have been bent on suicide.”

“He was hell bent on killing himself and others as well. There must be a registration in here,” Don said as he searched though the glove box.

“Maybe it was her idea,” said Christine. “They both had to be going over a hundred to do this.”

“I hate this damned Dog Park Road,” said Don. “In less than five years we’ve had half a dozen bad accidents at this intersection. Each time, bodies were launched through windshields.”

“Her name is—was Barbara Jo Murray. Poor thing,” said the young patrolwoman as she held the girl’s wallet taken from the spilled purse. “Those flowers. She must have been coming home from a date. What is it about the name Bobby Jo that bothers me, Don? Do you remember, a few months ago, when some creep was stealing flowers from the graves at Acadian? I was there when they found the pile of vases and stems on a grave of another Barbara Jo—Barbara Jo Massey.”

“A few of the young female victims on this road were named Barbara, Bobby, or Bobby Jo. Our boy was Terrence Lazarus, age 18,” said the patrolman holding the boy’s registration.

“Lazarus?” said Christine.

Don studied the wet registration card.

“What? What are you thinking?”

He looked up at Christine through the rain. “Jesus told Mary of Bethany, ‘Your brother, Lazarus will rise again.’”

“Enough! You’re creeping me out, Don. This is one time that I hope you are full of shit.”

__________________

“I wish they’d scoop us up and get us out of here already,” said Bobby Jo.

“Maybe next time we can get really mixed up,” said Terry.

“Mixed up? You’re talking about more than just holding hands.”

“Yeah, totally splattered. A Terry and Bobby Jo smoothie.”

Bobby Jo laughed. “They won’t know what belongs to who!”

“We’ll be totally together, babe! A tragic teenage romance!”

She loved how Terry always made her laugh.

“They’ll have to hose down the street.”

“Wipe off lamp posts for a mile,” she said. “Oh, Terry! That was sooo hot.”

“Just wait. I’ll get us faster cars, next time.”

_____________________________

“Dwayne the Lizard Falls in Love”—— an excerpt from The Love Muscle: The Hidden History of Rock n’ Roll.

Officer Joe Lavelle walked toward the stolen Cheby’s driver-side door, and asked the ugliest man he’d ever seen (Is he mooning me?) …. for his license and registration.

“Let me see your… Holy Lord Jesus!” The ‘thing’ in the driver’s seat smelled like ass and pot. “What the cough! cough!”… Rubio handed the trooper his driver’s license. Thank you verrry much.” Highway Patrol Officer Lavelle looked familiar, with the aviator glasses and turned up collar.

“This you?” asked Officer Lavelle. “You Anthony Rubio?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Is that your, uh, dog on the front seat, sleepin’next to you?”

“No, officer. That’s Felayshia. She’s my baby momma. She’s got a belly full of little Rubio. Please don’t wake her.”

“Sure, son. What you been smokin?’ Does your real momma back home know that you use drugs? I bet the poor woman who raised you from a little pup is cryin’right now.” The trooper then closed his eyes behind his gold-framed aviators, and sung softly to himself, “… and his momma cries.” The officer wiped a tear from his cheek and bent down toward Rubio, “Your poor old momma, son. Do you ever call her?”

“Call who? You know that you look like that guy, man. Cool sideburns. I like your shades, Chief.”

“Thank you verrrry much. I want to know if you call your momma and tell her that you love her, son, before it’s too late. Before your momma has left our earthly building. Don’t be cruel to your momma boy. She’s the only one you’ve got.”

“I don’t even know who my real momma is, Chief. There was this drunken party and I don’t know who my father was eith…”

“Well, it looks like you’re in double trouble, son. The names on the license and registration don’t match, and I believe that you’re under the influence, not to mention the pipe on the floor. I believe that you’re goin’ to be a-rockin’ in the jailhouse and a-cryin’ in the chapel before this is over. I sincerely hope that your momma, bless her soul, isn’t alive to see this. Step out of the car, son, and put your hands up on the roof. I’ll have to wake the girl and put cuffs on her, too. Don’t you realize that drugs are the Devil in disguise? Yes, they are.”

* * * *

Dwayne the Lizard

Twenty minutes later, Rubio was sitting in a Las Vegas jail cell. His Cheby Roach Coach was locked up in police impound with a sleeping, pregnant Felayshia in the backseat.

The impound attendant left the car unlocked. At midnight, Felayshia was dragged out of the impound yard, and into the desert by a giant glowing horned toad.

Felayshia screamed, and startled the ten-foot high toad who then inflated its sedan-sized spiny body and shot blood out of its green eyes.

She was transfixed.

They each took a long deep breath. The toad snapped off her handcuffs with his tongue.

Felayshia then leapt on top of Dwayne the Lizard’s back, patted him on the head, and together, they galloped off into the black Nevada night, toward “Happily Ever After.”

It’s nice to see a reptile have fun without having to stomp all over Tokyo.

The Working Dead

In 2024, after major breakthroughs in science, including the possibility of humans  living a second life by using a series of drugs called ‘2nd Wind’ (which unfortunately could not slow down decay of the human body and did make the newly risen smell like someone broke a 2nd wind) — So, the US Supreme Court ruled that death, as it now stood, “does not terminate the deceased’s obligations to paying one’s bills, student loans and taxes etc.— until the human body reaches such a state of decay that at least three out of four limbs have fallen off.”

But dead Neal Orenstein was determined to go back to work — because he enjoyed it. Work was his life. His death. We all know someone like Neal.

#

After scraping through his coffin lid and six feet of loose dirt over his grave for two days, Neal was now able to see daylight and the exasperated face of his long suffering wife, Stella.

“Tah dahhhh—cough cough…Tah Dahhhh! I made it!” he said.

“Don’t touch me! Just look at those fingernails,” she scolded. 

“I love you too, Stella.”

“The dirt! Just where the hell you think you’re going, Neal? Certainly not in MY kitchen.” After 60 years of marriage, Stella, holding flowers, could read his mind, even if it was becoming worm chow.

“Well, it’s nice to see you, too,” Neal sat up and spat out soil. “Stella, what are you doing here so soon? I thought that I was the one who was to supposed to haunt YOU! And why was I buried? You didn’t have to bury me.”

“We paid ten thousand for the plot, so I decided you should at least spend a few days in it. Was it comfortable?”

“No, it wasn’t comfortable! “Well, Stella,” Neal said brushing off dirt, “off to work. I got to get myself a doctor’s or coroner’s note or that young manager, that punk, Cabebe, will fire me. He hates old people.”

“You mean, dead people,” said Stella. “I admire your dessiccation, I mean dedication, but you aren’t going to work. Not over my, I mean your dead body! So, lay back down and relax. I’ll call your boss and tell him you’re not coming in, ‘cause — SURPRISE! — you’re dead!”

“Dead I can handle,” Neal said, “but unemployed and dead? Pour some coffee on me, Stella. Look at the time.”

“Happy Hills Cemetery doesn’t have a Starbucks. Go back to endless sleep, old man. There is no more job and there’s no more you! I feel like a fool. I came here to grieve your death, so tell me what I’m doing here. I feel like a brainless idiot.”

“No, Stella, I love brains. I mean I your love your brains, brain, your mind,” Neal sputtered.“Where’s my tie? What time is it?”

“It’s 8 a.m., idiot. They just opened the gate.”

“Give me your hand, dear. Help me get up. I’m already late.” Stella reluctantly pulled her husband to his unsteady feet. She was shaking her head, accepting he’d never change. 

“I gotta catch the Long Island Express,” Neal told her, spitting out a beetle. “Is this burial suit okay?”

“Except for the morgue’s slit down the back, it’ll do.”

“I can stop at Target and get some duct tape.”

“I have some in my purse.”

“Somehow, I thought that you would.”

“Turn around. Here. Let me fix that coat. So … You think that you can just climb out of your grave and leave me standing here, for a crappy job?”

“Yeah! I feel great. I’m rrrrrready to go, right out of the box.”

“If you feel so great, you promised you’d fix the roof. You silly man. Just stay outside until you get cleaned up.”

Neal stood and wobbled unsteadily, brushing himself off. “Stella, after my first heart attack, Cabebe, said that myocardial infarction is not a good enough excuse to skip work.

“Listen, Neal. I’ve got a nail appointment. Have a nice afterlife. I feel dejected. Ach! You never needed me, did you? And your precious job is probably gone too.”

“Oh, thanks. I’m barely cold and you start in with the guilt. And you came over here just to tell me I no longer have a job?”

“That would seem logical, Neil.”

“Logical? Well, Mrs. Spock, then I’d better hit the pavement. By law, I’m supposed to have a job until my last limb falls off. The grand kids will need college money.”

“Maybe the office staff never got the memo that you’d died,” said Stella. “It was sudden. I never had a chance to call them. Hey, watch where you’re tossing that dirt! I just bought this dress. Look at those nails. When you talk to God, Mr. Big-shot, ask him to get you a manicure. Ugh. “

Stella pointed to his nose.

“What?”

“You’ve got a worm in your nostril.”

“I love you too.” Neal promised to make it up to Stella the following weekend, but today, he had obligations. 

******

Neal arrived at work a few minutes late and was given a warning by Cabebe, “Just because you ARE “the late Neal Orenstein,” it doesn’t mean that you can come into work late.” Neal was back at his old desk by 9:10 a.m. 

The next day, after a restless night drinking and vomiting coffee and shambling around town in pursuit of an ambiguous protein snack, Neal was still able to make it to work, and right on time. 

Young Cabebe, was happy, because he no longer had to pay ‘old, faithful’ sucker Neal a living wage.  The slick, young exec sniffed the air and suspected that Neal had passed on. No one else knew that Neal was still working and rotting in his corner office making Mr. Milton Armstrong, the top CEO, rich.

On Tuesday, when Neal realized that Cabebe was taking him for a —nearly free — ride, he began to lose the feeling of pleasure he felt working. He left the office while the blinding sun was still high and the season was moving toward Daylight Savings. Neal stumbled toward the station thinking about his grandkids. Tomorrow, he would hit the pavement, seeking the American dream like the other millions of recently deceased workers. Over 20 million of the dead wandered the boulevards. The smug ‘living’ called the sad, dead guys ‘suckers.’ You could see the dead, worn out executives, in every city, shuffling and mumbling “Jobs. I neeeeeeed a job.”

Only because of habit, Neal stopped in at a Denny’s (Stella and Neil’s favorite restaurant when he was alive.) He really didn’t have an appetite for the Grand slam breakfast that he always had ordered. However, the coffee, grown in the blood rich soil of a former cannibal island in Micronesia, named Kupaio, was excellent. As Neal studied the menu, he felt a psychic nudge. It was Stella, conducting a personal seance at another nearby Denny’s, haunting him again. 

Is there no peace even in death? he wondered. These new ouija boards make it impossible to hang up on a call. 

That afternoon, the commuter train passed by Happy Hills Cemetery as it approached Neal’s old neighborhood. Graveyards are for slackers, he thought. A real man needs to work.

While waiting at the 5th Avenue crosswalk, he saw a hopeful sign. A literal sign — on a telephone pole, illuminated by the ghostly moonlight. 

Highly Motivated Executive Services Wants You! YOU need $$$ and WE need BODIES to fill our Diamond Lane passenger jobs! 

We’re also seeking Parking Space Holders, and ticket line space holders — Downtown, Full Time. 24 hours shifts available. 

Call 090-888-0000.

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