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And Then Things Got Weird….

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The Tragic Death and Death of Igorrina

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“I’m bored,” said young Mina, who sat with her face in her hands.

“Me too. Can we go now?” asked the whiny, childish Jonathan while plunking on his dreadfully-out-of-tune guitar.

“Oh, children. I thought that you were enjoying our picnic,” said the very adult and reprehensi… I mean, responsible Countess Elizabeth. 

“There’s hardly anything left of Nic to pick on,” moaned Mina.

“You kids these days,” Elizabeth continued. “Let me tell you a story about patience. There was once a lonely little girl named Igorrina who lived just down the road in the haunted forest.”

“Is there any other kind of forest?” asked Mina.

“No. Now listen, my children of the night. Igorinna, who couldn’t even find a friend to play Toe Tag with, was convinced that there was nothing in her future. So, not giving a damn,  she always took her futen time doing things. She was never in a big hurry to go…anywhere. 

One day, Igorinna decided that she’d had enough of this world. She tied the end of a rope around the neck that connected her useless head to her body and the other end of the rope to a young spruce tree, determined to stay there until either death took her away or her dream-boy Prince Charmin’ arrived on his white steed to rescue her from her misery. Even the local wolves, lynx, and bears found Igorinna uninteresting and unappetizing. Poor Igorrina spent most of her life tied to that spruce tree in Hoia-Baciu Forest, watching the bats and ghosts fly by in the evening, while protected only by vicious badgers who lived in the dens that circled her. 

Why did they protect her? The badgers didn’t care for Igorrina, but were curious to see what might happen to her in the end. They kept her minimally fed with worms, grubs, and insects. Over time, Igorrina had begun to grow old and ugly while tied to the same branch of that same tree for forty-five years until …”

“Until what, Countess?” asked Jonathan. “A handsome woodsman came along?”

“Fah!” said Uncle Vlad.

“A knight in shining armor?” asked Mina.

“Fat futin’ chance!” said Elizabeth. “You children can be so gruesome.”

“Of course! The handsome prince!” said Granny Lupta Axe.

“No vay,” said Vlad. “Prince Charmin’, the ass vipe, never showed up.”

Elizabeth continued. “So, sad Igorrina sat, leaning against the tree trunk until, you know, one lovely grey day the spruce finally grew tall enough…tall enough to slowly pull Igorrina up by her neck and hang her.”

“No guano! That is so cool,” said Jonathan.

“Talk about patience!” said Mina.

“You kids should see her,” said Vlad. “Igorrina can vear a choker, a string of pearls, a locket, and ten necklaces…at vonce!”

Vlad’s eyes seemed to catch fire. His mustache bristled. “Fute patience!” He pounded the table. “I vant all of the Wisitors and tourists out of my castle! Now!”

The Collected Letters of Lord Huthbert Grieves and Lady Penelope Weeps

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From the celebrated Novel, Bats, by Lord Frederick Barnett of Kailuashire 

I.

The Collected Letters of 

Lord Huthbert Grieves and Lady Penelope Weeps

(1779-1790)

A Letter from Lord Huthbert Grieves to Lady Penelope Weeps, Ghoolkamish 

April 30, 1779

Dearest Penelope,

The artillery has stopped momentarily. As I lie awake in my muddy foxhole beneath the night sky of Ghoolkhamish — Alas, my angel, I can only think of you. 

When I come home, my dearest, though it may be five years from this day, I promise we shall marry. Your father hates me, I know, as does your dog — a part of whose shattered jaw is still attached to my buttock. 

Despite what your husband thinks, I know that we can make this marriage work. Though I lost half my face, one-third of my manhood and a nipple in the bloody trenches of Dyfthphedif, I promise that the cottage that I have purchased will be a happy one, surrounded by the warm laughter of children, or — at the very least — very immature adults. 

How is your cough, my Angel? I was distressed to find that your last correspondence had a small bloody piece of your lung stuck to it, Sweetheart. Please hang on to God’s precious gift of life until I can limp to your side.

Your precious letters warm my heart, Darling. I smell your perfume and, with a shield between my mouth and the envelope, kiss the lipstick on the seal before I dream my happy dreams every night.

With my good arm, I long to hug you and keep you warm, even when you cough (Though, alas, I regret, there will be no deep intertwining of tongues).

All my love,

Yours forever — Huthbert Grieves

 April 30, 1779

_____________________

II

The further love letters of Lord Huthbert Grieves and Penelope M. Weeps 

England 1769 -1784

(Sent from Port Apotty, Africa, May 31, 1784)

My Dearest Darling Angel Penelope,

Alas! This will be my last correspondence, my sweet, as I make my way home across the sea to your warm bosom after so many years in the muddy battlefields of Hominahomina. Please have a coffin and a plot prepared for me if I do not make it home alive. Our cavalry surgeon, Doctor Osândă, has informed me that the insect known as Arden’s creeper or the acid roach, has taken up residence in my ear, while I was stationed in the steaming tropical jungle of Haffarredrash. The creature has traveled to the part of my brain called the dorsal hypothalamic, which controls the heartbreaking spread of psoriasis especially in the remaining two-thirds of what the natives call my huk-huk.

Oh, blessed heavens above! Before we left port, I had received a correspondence from my servant, Mr. Upton. He says that you are now a free woman. Joy of joys! Could that be true, my angel of angels?

Upton had written that your childhood sweetheart and spouse of twenty years had passed on after receiving a dreadful blow to the skull. My tears are flowing for you, my love, like the mighty Incontinence Falls of the great Amazon.

Mournfulness overtook me when I had found out your tiny cherubs had been called to heaven on that calamitous evening as well. Your poor spouse and children—all dead—all on the same day! Oh, Providence! Forsooth! I had no idea that you ‘were with children.’ Eight? Well, fuck meself.

I had instructed Upton, my man Friday, to insure the safety of your children, but alas, it was too late. Upton reported that the fire had spread too quickly through the mansion. By the time the frightening oaf had arose from his drunkenness in the barn, the mansion had become a mound of ashes. Thank the Lord that Upton was able to rescue and deliver you to the safety of the barn before the fire spread.

About the pregnancy. For my part, I do pardon you your irresistible charm. Upton can be unruly and some days I question my hiring the brute from the Calcutta Circus. Be assured that he is my “responsibility.” Upton comes from fine stock and I will personally claim the cherub, Uptonette, as a Ward of Court. When he approaches his fourth year, the child will be assured a fine position in a reputable shop.

I am a gentleman, my love. I will support you both until I can find the guttersnipe bastard a suitable place of employment where the sun and lice shall not harm his fair skin.

 The hour of my arrival draweth fast on. Lastly, I vow that mine remaining eye desireth thou above most.

All my love,

Yours forever and ever,

Huthbert Grieves

___________________________

III

(Sent from Bristol, England, May 14, 1784)

My Dearest Darling Huthbert, 

Every day I look for your letters. Today, I feel that cupid is in the air.

A terrible thing happened at the Hollis’ grand mansion next door to my home this week. A terrible man attempted to kill neighbor’s entire family, except for the young wife, Hippolia, a woman who might be mistaken as my twin.

After clubbing the husband, Rhynos Hollis, to death, and presuming that the children were all asleep in bed, the villain set the house on fire. Thank the Lord above that all eight Hollis children were spending the week in London’s Marshalsea Children’s Prison because of a misunderstanding over the property rights of a beaten elder, or they all would have perished in that fire.

 During the blaze, the wife, Hippolia, was dragged outside only to be violated repeatedly until the rapist dragged her blindfolded down to Cornwall, where she was spotted, by drunkards no less, laughing at the Duck n’ Fishes pub. The rough beast continued his assault upon Mrs. Hollis the entire weekend, attracting numerous noise complaints at the inn. Mrs. Hollis had managed to escape from the brute and seems to be handling her weekend of terror quite well. She did tell me that the impetuous monster has threatened to return again, here to Bristol! The cheeky devil warned Hippolia that he will hunt her down like a fox, and imprison her royal suite at the notorious Saint Germaine Hotel in Paris and prod her day and night until her wicked spell upon him is broken. The poor woman. How dreadful!

There is some good news—for you, my hero.

My husband, Owen, has left me, knowing that my heart belongs only to you—and his own heart belongs to his ballet coach, Fabricio. My two children are both fourteen-years-old and have moved away with their own large families. I sit, all alone, waiting ONLY for you, my love. I pray that I may be worthy of such a pure soul.

More good news! My consumption has disappeared entirely since I refashioned my diet to only simple sweets. You will find that there is much more of your dear Penelope to love when you return.

I hope you are well. Please tell me when your ship, The Obbrobrio (The Disgrace), comes into my port, my heart of hearts.

If the recipient of this letter is not my beloved Huthbert, please disregard, I prefer chocolates.

My love, you are forever in my thoughts and dreams.

Penelope

_________________

IV

(Sent from London, June 1, 1784)

Penelope,

Oops!

Yours,

Huthbert

One last abysmal Letter from Lady Penelope Weeps 

Sent from: Kent on Birminghanfordkingshire

To: Lord Thaddeus Huthbert Grieves— by way of Lord Ward Toady, Wraithamwichshire, February 21, 1790

_______________

V

 My poor dear Lord Huthbert!  I am in distress!

Since you wrote Oops! as the only and last word in your final letter, I’ve had troubling cogitations, my dearest. For aught I know that you may soon be with the angels, and after losing half of your face, one-third of your manhood, one nipple, and discovering that an acid roach that had entered your brain at Hominahomina, has affected the remaining two-thirds of your huk-huk. 

Three days ago, I found out that you were alive, my darling. Joy of Joys! While I was relaxing at the Drivel Pub in East Piffle I overheard the sailors, talking about how their frigate, the Countess of Cachtice, rescued a man who called himself “Huthbert” within the hold of an abandoned Chinese junk (?). One of the sailors at the Pub, who’d been given the epithet Jack-the-Gaff by his shipmates (Curiously, it was neither of Jack’s rough hands that were shaped like a hook), said that you were found nearly dead aboard a ghost ship adrift among the treacherous whirlpools of Vodu, West Africa. 

Oh dear, what were you doing in China? 

The Daily Advertiser directed me to Charity Hospital in Piffle. Alas, I was barred from visiting your room by the Empiric Doctor Phineus Osândă who instructed me to come back later in the week, as your medical situation was “extremely distasteful.” What could that mean? I thought.

 While resting at the Piffle Inn, I came across this story on the front page of the Journal. A similar story regarding your recent condition also appeared in Lloyd’s Post. 

“One unfortunate passenger, identified as London’s Lord Thaddeus ‘Huthbert’ Grieves was found below decks, soaked in his own blood. Specialists from Shire Bedlam Hospital reported the Lord Huthbert’s colon was “severely damaged by an Asian swamp eel” (Monopterus albus). The grotesque fish had chewed through the poor fellow’s colon!”

Huthbert my love, how on Earth did that abhorrent creature end up inside your lower intestine? What were you doing in China, my heart of hearts? Who were these “opium men” who were “playing a trick” on you, as per the article?

I fear that this may be the last chance to tell you that you have always been the Love of my Life, my greatest thrill, equal to my recent swim in a vat of chocolate, with the two equally pale Cadbury Brothers at their new desert parlor in London. The brothers playfully nicknamed me “Bonbon.”

I ended up marrying the elder of the brothers, Sir Richard Cadbury. I never saw his very wealthy brother, Sir Simon, alive after our dip. The police had come over one afternoon asking questions about a public argument that the two brothers had had in the Lamb’s Lair Pub. It is as though the thick London fog had swallowed Simon. He was a nice lad.

My new husband, Sir Richard, it seems, has had a number of wives but only keeps a picture of his first, Hermia, upon the piano. The sorrowful man had lost Hermia along with his only two children when the three sailed into a maelstrom, though, this time, near the island of Bermuda. Richard often talks of her beauty and her long red hair and warned me that his deceased and beloved Hermia, managed to ruin his following six marriages and mysteriously drove all the ensuing wives away! Richard fears that I will also disappear because of an apparition. You, of all people realize that I am made of sterner stuff.

Oh goodness! As I look from the front window into the moonlight, I can see a woman with long red hair, with two barely clothed moppets in tow. Poor things, so pale and hungry. I will not wake our butler, Grieves, who has already turned in for the night. 

I’ll try to write again, soon. The children are crying just outside my door. They seem to be asking for pudding, of all things. Poor dears. Their cries are weak.  I’ll offer them a warm fireplace and something to eat. 

My heart-root, I have addressed this letter to your very close friend, Ward Toady, at Wraitham, as I cannot seem to locate you, my love, my life. 

Yours in Eternity,

Lady Penelope Cadbury

P.S. Richard said that he would post this for me on the morrow. It is time to greet the poor family outside. More crying. I must go and answer the door.

________________________________

VI

This last express post was sent on August 6, 1790

From: Lord Ward Toady / Wraitham Hospital, Southeast Londonshireham

To: Lady Penelope Cadbury, London

This letter was never read by the recipient, Lady Penelope Cadbury *Lady P. never had a chance to read her last mortal link to her beloved Lord Huthbert. The letter was found unopened at the Cadbury home a week after her disappearance.

_______________

My Lady Penelope Weeps Cadbury,

My god woman, did you not hear? It is with great sadness that I must inform you that your love, my oldest and dearest friend, Lord Huthbert Grieves, had been brutally murdered in the early hours of February 18. I pray that you will not take umbrage. I was certain that you, yourself, had been murdered back in February. The Lord’s assailant was a maniacal woman with long red tresses followed by two young children. 

The trio were seen by my own hospital staff, hovering near the stone path leading into to the hospital grounds at two in the morning.

No one knows how the fiends had gained access to Lord Huthbert’s private room, as several members of my hospital staff were awake and on duty! 

My primary nurse, Mrs. Walinkova, was first alerted when she heard the voice of a woman screaming your name from the garden. “Penelope! Penelope’s gray matter will be my …pudding!” The woman’s screeching was followed by the wailing of children (“Pudding! Pudding!”) which was heard by the entire hospital staff. 

 The cacophony outside was followed by the agonizing scream of our dear  Lord Huthbert. His private room was on the second story. The staff and I ran to Lord Huthbert’s door. It took four people, ten minutes to force the door open as it was being held shut by a ghostly gale of wind. When my four servants were able to gain access the wind came to a sudden halt. They found Lord Huthbert in the closet, hanging by the neck. My scullery maid, Fifi LaDerrier, reported that the poor man’s skull had been gnawed through as if by a giant rodent. 

After the staff and I had taken Lord Huthbert’s body from the closet and lay him on the bed, Fifi, whispered in my ear — with hot breath — in French, that poor tortured Lord Huthbert was finally at peace. As we drew a sheet over Lord Huthbert’s face, we both caught a glimpse of the Arden’s Creeper (the acid roach from the jungles of Hominahomina) crawling behind the headboard. I could no longer blame Lord Huthbert’s insanity on my souple pâtisserie Fifi! Indeed, It was the roach, boring into the afflicted man’s brain that drove him mad enough to harbor eels in his bottom!  

As the Lord’s body lie covered, a quartet of my servants, who were embracing and adjusting one another’s bed clothes at the chamber window, were frozen by a spine-chilling scene in the garden below. They had become transfixed by three pale figures beneath the cold moon, screeching like Irish banshees and dressed in thin white shrouds — It was the red haired demon and what must have been her two children. As if gliding on wheels, the phantoms left a trail of fresh sea algae along the cobblestones before vanishing into the woods. Wraitham is a two day’s journey to the nearest coast.

Dearest Penelope, I am so sorry to be the one to impart this terrible news.

May our Huthbert rest in peace,

In friendship, 

Lord Ward Toady

P.S. Mrs. Walinkova says that she was familiar with you from the circus days at the Drury Lane theatre. She asked me to relay this message: 

“Cheers, Penny! I am well, and though I no longer soar above the crowds at Drury, Toady says that I still defy gravity. The silly man! Please stop by for draught someday.”

_____________________

Prey-Lewd (Introduction of ^^ö^^ Bats)

BATS-FINAL LG>Prey-Lewd
(Enemy Territory)
Čachtice, Slovakia (Formerly Hungary)

 

Inside his melon-sized head, the bus driver heard the menacing voice of Boris Karloff: “Even your bus is dead, Kimo.”

Please! Anywhere but here. Not in front of creepy Čachtice Castle, thought the Type A Tours driver with the name tag: ‘Aloha, My name is Big Kimo.’

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Kimo announced, “we may be here awhile, so you can get out of the bus, walk around a little and stretch if you like.”

Bats and huge fanged moths — the kind that would happily eat your shorts—with you in them — were attracted to the lights within the bus and began pounding themselves against the windows. Anyone who was about to ‘go outside and stretch’ quickly gave up on the foolish idea.

“Look, driver!” Someone stood and pointed out of the right side of the bus. Big Kimo couldn’t see anything, at first.

“It’s a lady!” said a British woman in back.

Oh, boy…and she has dogs!” said her son. Four shadows trotted from the parked Bats Mobile and took their places behind the Countess. They held baskets in their mouths.

Sure enough, a tall beautiful woman was approaching the bus from the car. She was bathed in moonlight. She wore a bouffant hairdo and a checkered blue homemakers dress straight out of the 1950s. The lovely redhead waved at Kimo through the closed door. She held up a pitcher of an ice-cold beverage and a stack of Dixie Cups. He relaxed.

“Oh goody, goody!” a child in the front seat squealed. “The nice lady brought us Kool-Aid!”

What the tourists thought was rain, started to hit the windows. The drops were plague tears. The sound of the wind was a sickening wheeze.

“Let her in, driver! The poor woman’s blouse is soaked,” a woman from Ireland called out. All of the men were suddenly interested. “It must be the lady of the house,” she said.

I hope it isn’t the lady of the house, thought Kimo. The Bloody Countess, Elizabeth Bathory once lived here. That was centuries ago. Still, it is Čachtice!

The canines stood guard in shadows behind their mistress. Kimo opened the glass door—Oh, what the hell—with a hiss. “The dogs will have to stay outside.” The tall beauty, a very well-put-together June Cleaverhe thought, stepped up into the bus taking a wide stance in front in of the passengers. The “nice lady,” wet, was a great deal “nicer” than most had expected. She captured everyone’s complete attention despite their age, sex, race, nationality, or even in the case of Mrs. Bernstein in the back, species.

“Hello, you nice people. I’m Mrs. June Cleaver!” Elizabeth Bathory, The Bloody Countess lied.

Kimo was taken back. Cleaver? Why don’t I like that name?

Her audience was riveted on the icy pitcher of swirling sky blue liquid that she displayed.

“I brought you some refreshments while you are waiting to be rescued,” said the beguiling housewife. “I’ve got dozens of our best local Batina’s cookies and something to quench your thirst. Here! Pass them back. Thank you. If it’s all right with Big Kimo, maybe I could teach you nice folks a little bit about our local cuisine.”

The tired driver nodded, stared out the bus window into the falling tears of regret and moaning thunder, and decided that he didn’t like the size of those dogs. They were very well behaved and they were all wearing white kerchiefs. No, those are bibs! Cleaver. Cleaver. The name still made him nervous.

“We’re proud of our Fritz Haarmann cutlery,” said the perky housewife. “Mr. Haarmann was originally a meat salesman from Germany, but now he makes and tests his fine cutlery products right here in Transylvania.” She smiled at the man sitting in front of her. “Are you from Germany? Then you would certainly appreciate the craftsmanship. I mean, just look at this beautiful cleeeeeeeeaver!” The big bald German didn’t understand one word. While he smiled up at the outline of her ‘chilled’ nipples above, she stared down at the reflection of the blade on his shiny head. She raised her cleaver, “Just feel this edge!”

Soon, Mrs. Cleaver/Elizabeth was doing the backstroke up and down the blood-filled center aisle of the bus as her good doggies dragged piles of tourist vittles into the Countess’ sob-flooded front yard.

The Countess Elizabeth’s housekeeper, Penelope, disposed of the bus with an explosion fueled by bat guano.

All of this took five minutes.

The flapping bats applauded.

Elizabeth, curtsied, leapt into her muscle car, and floored the gas pedal five-hundred miles to Poenari.

 

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^^ö^^ The Working Dead ^^ö^^

The Working Dead

anitas-working-dead

In 2018, after major science breakthrough, the US Supreme Court ruled that death, as it now stands, “does not terminate the deceased’s obligations to ignore paying one’s bills and taxes until the human body reaches such a state of decay that at least three out of four limbs will not stay attached.”

But dead Neal Orestein was determined to go to work. Work was his life, uh death. You know what I mean. We all know someone like this.

#

After scraping through the mound of loose dirt over his grave, Neal was able to see daylight and the exasperated face of his long-suffering wife, Stella.

“Just look at those fingernails,” she scolded. “The dirt! Just where the hell you think you’re going, Neil?” After 60 years of marriage, Stella, holding flowers, could read his mind, even if it was becoming worm chow.

“Oh, crap,” Neal said feeling all used up. He raised himself onto his elbows 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! I’m off to work. I got to get a doctor’s note or that  that punk Cabebe, will fire me. He hates old people.”

“You mean, dead people,” she said. “You aren’t going to work. Now, lay down and relax. I’ll call your boss and tell him you’re not coming in, ‘CAUSE YOU’RE DEAD!”

“Dead I can handle,” Neal said, “but unemployed and dead? Pour some coffee down my empty gullet . 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! Don’t you feel like a fool. You should rest, Neal. I came here to grieve, 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. They just opened the gate.”

“Give me your hand. Help me get up. I’m already late.” Stella reluctantly pulled her husband to his 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 slit down the back, it’ll have to do. So … You think that you can just climb out of your grave and leave me standing here, for a crappy job? I can’t change you, silly man. Just don’t come home 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. I’m gonna need duct tape to patch this jacket. I’ll stop by Target.”

“I’ve got a nail appointment. Have a nice afterlife, Neil. You never needed me.”

“Oh, thanks. I’m barely cold and you start in with the guilt. So, you’re saying 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.”

“Maybe the office staff never got the memo that you’d died,”She said. “It was so sudden. I never had a chance to call them. Hey, watch where you’re tossing that dirt! I just bought this dress. Look at your dirty nails. Talk to God, Mr. Big-shot. Get yourself a manicure.”

Neal promised to make it up to Stella the following weekend, but today, he had obligations. He arrived at  work a few minutes late, was given a warning by Cabebe, and was back at his old desk by 9:10 a.m.

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

Young Cabebe, was happy, because he no longer had to pay ‘old, faithful’ 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 the CEO, Milton Armstrong, 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 how his grandkids needed college money. 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 were called them ‘suckers.’ You could see them, the worn out executives, in every city, shuffling and mumbling “Jobs. I neeeeeeed a job.”

My 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 — Downtown, Full Time. 24 hours shifts available. 

Call 090-888-0000.

The Working Dead

ManEngravingTombstone copy

The Working Dead

In 2018, after major science breakthrough, the US Supreme Court ruled that death, as it now stands, “does not terminate the deceased’s obligations to paying one’s bills and taxes until the human body reaches such a state of decay that at least three out of four limbs will not stay attached.”

But dead Neal Orestein was determined to go to work. Work was his life, uh death. You know what I mean. We all know someone like Neal.

#

After scraping through the mound of loose dirt over his grave, Neal was able to see daylight and the exasperated face of his long suffering wife, Stella.

“Just look at those fingernails,” she scolded. “The dirt! Just where the hell you think you’re going, Neil?” After 60 years of marriage, Stella, holding flowers, could read his mind, even if it was becoming worm chow.

“Oh, crap,” Neal said feeling all used up. He 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! I’m off to work. I got to get a doctor’s note or that young manager, that punk Cabebe, will fire me. He hates old people.”

“You mean, dead people,” she said. “You aren’t going to work. Now, lay down and relax. I’ll call your boss and tell him you’re not coming in, ‘CAUSE YOU’RE DEAD!”

“Dead I can handle,” he 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. You deserve rest, Neal. I came here to grieve, 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. They just opened the gate.”

“Give me your hand. Help me get up. I’m already late.” Stella reluctantly pulled her husband to his 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 slit down the back, it’ll do. So … You think that you can just climb out of your grave and leave me standing here, for a crappy job? I can’t change you, silly man. Just don’t come home 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. I’m gonna need duct tape to patch this jacket. I’ll stop by Target.”

“I’ve got a nail appointment. Have a nice afterlife, Neil. You never needed me.”

“Oh, thanks. I’m barely cold and you start in with the guilt. So, you’re saying 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.”

“Maybe the office staff never got the memo that you’d died,”She said. “It was so sudden. I never had a chance to call them. Hey, watch where you’re tossing that dirt! I just bought this dress. Look at your dirty nails. Talk to God, Mr. Big-shot. Get yourself a manicure.”

Neal promised to make it up to Stella the following weekend, but today, he had obligations. He arrived at  work a few minutes late, was given a warning by Cabebe, and was back at his old desk by 9:10 a.m.

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

Young Cabebe, was happy, because he no longer had to pay ‘old, faithful’ 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 the CEO, Milton Armstrong, 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 how his grandkids needed college money. 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 were called them ‘suckers.’ You could see them, the worn out executives, in every city, shuffling and mumbling “Jobs. I neeeeeeed a job.”

My 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 — Downtown, Full Time. 24 hours shifts available. 

Call 090-888-0000.

The Tale of Igorrina (from BATS ^^Ö^^)

goreybat.jpg

“I’m bored,” said Mina, who sat with her face in her hands.

“Me too,” said Jonathan while plunking on his dreadfully-out-of-tune guitar.

“Oh, children,” said the Countess. “Let me tell you a story about patience. There was once a lonely little girl named Igorrina who lived just down the road in the haunted forest of Hoia-Baciu.”

“Is there any other kind of forest?” asked the young Mina.

“No. Now listen, my children of the night. Igorinna, who had no friends to play Toe Tag with, was convinced that there was nothing exciting in her future, so she always—always—took her goddamned futen time. She was never in a big hurry to go…anywhere. One day she decided that she’d had enough of this world. She tied the end of a rope around the neck that connected her useless head to her body and the other end of the rope to a young spruce tree, determined to stay there until either death took her away or her dream-boy Prince Charmin’ arrived on his white steed to rescue her from her misery. Local wolves, lynx, and bears also found Igorinna uninteresting and unappetizing. Poor Igorrina spent much of her life in Hoia-Baciu Forest watching the bats and ghosts fly by in the evening while protected only by vicious badgers who lived in the dens that circled the tree. The badgers didn’t care for Igorrina, but were curious to see what might happen to her in the end. They kept her minimally fed with worms, grubs, and insects. Over time, Igorrina had begun to grow old and ugly while tied to the same branch of that same tree for forty-five years until …”

“Until what, Countess?” asked Jonathan. “A handsome woodsman came along?”

“Fah!” said Vlad.

“A knight in shining armor?” asked Mina.

“Fat futin’ chance!” said Elizabeth. “You children can be so gruesome.”

“Of course! The handsome prince!” said Lupta.

“No vay,” said Vlad. “Prince Charmin’, the ass vipe, never showed up.”

Elizabeth continued. “So, sad Igorrina sat, leaning against the tree trunk until, you know…one day, the spruce finally grew tall enough…tall enough to slowly pull Igorrina up by her neck and hang her.”

“No guano! That is so cool,” said Jonathan.

“Talk about patience!” said Mina.

“You kids should see her,” said Vlad. “Igorrina can vear a choker, a string of pearls, a locket, and ten necklaces…at vonce!”

Suddenly Vlad’s eyes seemed to catch fire. His mustache bristled. “Fute patience!” He pounded the table. “I vant all of them out of my castle! Now!”

In Enemy Territory – BATS ^^Ö^^ — Chapter 1

In Enemy Territory

Čachtice, Slovakia (Formerly Hungary)

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BATS ^^Ö^^ — OPENING CHAPTER — In Enemy Territory

Čachtice, Slovakia (Formerly Hungary)

Inside his melon-sized head, the tour bus driver could hear the voice of Boris Karloff:

“Even your bus is dead, Kimo.”

Please! Anywhere but here. Not in front of creepy Čachtice Castle, thought the ‘Type-A-Tours’ the driver with the name tag: ‘Aloha, My name is Kimo.’

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he announced. “We may be here awhile, so you can get out of the bus, walk around a little and stretch if you like.”

Bats and huge fanged moths — the kind that would happily eat your shorts—with you in them — were attracted to the lights within the bus and began pounding themselves against the windows. Anyone who was about to ‘go outside and stretch’ quickly gave up on the foolish idea.

“Look, driver!” Someone stood and pointed out of the right side of the bus. Kimo couldn’t see anything, at first.

“It’s a lady!” said a British woman in back.

Oh, boy…and she has dogs!” said her son. Four shadows trotted from the parked Bats Mobile and took their places behind the Countess. They held baskets in their mouths.

Sure enough, a tall beautiful woman was approaching the bus from the car. She was bathed in moonlight. She wore a bouffant hairdo and a checkered blue homemakers dress straight out of the 1950s. The lovely redhead waved at the unnerved Kimo through the closed door. She held up a pitcher of an ice-cold beverage and a stack of Dixie Cups. He relaxed.

“Oh goody, goody!” a child in the front seat squealed. “The nice lady brought us Kool-Aid!”

What the tourists thought was rain, started to hit the windows. The drops were plague tears. The sound of the wind was a sickening wheeze.

“Let her in, driver! Her clothes are getting soaked” a man from Ireland called out. Soaked? All of the men were suddenly interested. “It must be the lady of the house.”

I hope it isn’t the lady of the house, thought Kimo. The Bloody Countess, Elizabeth Bathory once lived here. That was centuries ago. Still, it is Čachtice!

The canines stood guard in shadows behind their mistress. Kimo opened the glass door—Oh, what the hell—with a hiss. “The dogs will have to stay outside.” The tall beauty, a very well-put-together June Cleaverhe thought, stepped up into the bus taking a wide stance in front in of the passengers. The “nice lady,” wet, was a great deal “nicer” than most had expected. She captured everyone’s complete attention despite their age, sex, race, nationality, or even in the case of Mrs. Bernstein in the back, species.

“Hi, everyone! I’m June Cleaver!” Elizabeth Bathory, The Bloody Countess lied.

Kimo was taken back. June Cleaver?  Cleaver….

Her audience was riveted on the icy pitcher of sky blue liquid that she displayed.

“I brought you some refreshments while you are waiting to be rescued,” said the beguiling housewife. “I’ve got dozens of our best local Batina’s cookies and something to quench your thirst. Here! Pass them back. Thank you. If it’s all right with Mr. Kimo, maybe I could teach you nice folks a little bit about our local cuisine.”

The tired driver nodded, stared out the bus window into the tears and moaning thunder, and decided that he didn’t like the size of those dogs. They were very well behaved and they were all wearing white kerchiefs. No, those are bibs! June Cleaver…June Cleaver. The name was making him nervous.

“We’re proud of our Fritz Haarmann cutlery,” said June. “Mr. Haarmann was originally a meat salesman, but he now manufactures his fine cutlery products in Transylvania.” She smiled at the man sitting in front of her. “Are you from Germany? Then you would certainly appreciate the craftsmanship on these knives. I mean, just look at this beautiful cleeeeeeeeaver!” The big bald German didn’t understand one word. He smiled up at her chilled boobs. She stared at the reflection of the blade on his shiny head as she raised her arm. “Just feel this edge!”

Soon, Mrs. Cleaver/Elizabeth was doing the backstroke up and down the blood-filled center aisle of the bus as her good doggies dragged piles of tourist parts into the Countess’ tear-flooded front yard. Elizabeth’s housekeeper, Penelope, disposed of the bus with an explosion fueled by bat guano.

Elizabeth’s family, leaning against her shiny Bats Mobile, applauded. All of this took five minutes.

*****

After clean-up, the Countess Elizabeth Bathory emerged from Čachtice’ main gate and walked toward her loving family, ready for action.

“How’s it hangin’ troops?” she asked.

“From the rafters, baby!” said Elizabeth’s slobbering main squeeze, Vlad, who was busy aurally undressing her with a combination of suggestive squeaks and smutty echolocational chirps.

“Get a tomb, you two!” said her embarrassed daughter, the willowy Mina.

By the Sea (from Shark Fin Soup)

 

The warm morning sun shimmered upon the rippling sea. A nice sized coconut bobbed up and down just past the surging shoreline and a few yards past the black skinned, golden haired, fifteen-year-old Mmbop Handsun, the prince of his own itsy-bitsy teenie-weenie Micronesian kingdom.

It was going to be another hot one, and Mmbop had forgotten his newest pair of certified-previously-owned Ray-Ban sun glasses given to him, in trade, by a rich tourist woman for one of his prized wood carvings — carvings that he ordered, weekly, from what he thought were poor dumb hard-working saps over in Malaysia. He did not realize that the Malaysians had been outsourcing the genuine Fijian carvings to a sweaty warehouse in Alabama, USA, that employed the children of ex auto workers. Mmbop only paid twenty-five cents apiece for the crude art. Yesterday he’d sold ten oversized one-hundred dollar wooden cannibal forks that his father, the Chief, Papaumaumau, had ordered from Taiwan at 50 cents apiece. It had been a good week, now that he’d also helped his parents decimate and sell off most of the island’s remaining palm trees to the Chinese.

As if any drunken tourist would even notice, there was hardly a substantial palm tree left on any of the High Society Islands within three hundred miles. Coconuts were scarce on both Little Hubba, and Big Hubba-Hubba, the two islands comprising the kingdom of Hubba Hubba Hubba.

“Shouldn’t waste perfectly good food!” Mmbop said, as he pushed his thick blonde dreadlocks back. The golden hair and clear blue eyes were a throwback to his Scandinavian sailor ancestors who’d visited, mated and had been munched on, in Micronesia over seven hundred years ago.

Mmbop lifted himself up, stretching his long thin shadow across the beach.

After eating the sweet coconut meat he would clean off the husk and carve a bearded monkey head for the dwindling tourists that have been disappearing along with the trees. Maybe he’d add a human finger bone through the nose.

Tourists always assumed that the “nose-bone” came from a chicken. Chickens were revered as Gods in Hubba-Hubba. They were only used for their eggs, by order of Queen Erica, after the island’s omelet loving priests had convinced her that the chicken fruit were a gift from Lomalagi (Heaven) and that ‘the sacred chickens, DID, in fact, come before the eggs.’

He watched the coconut bobbing in the water. After the carving was finished, he would add some shell teeth and toy glasses.

Tourists love that stuff, Mmbop thought as he bent forward, and tried to grab onto the bobbing nut that persisted on floating away in the slow current and morning glare. He hit at the coconut with a stick and it turned over. It appeared to have already been carved with a funny beard and a big schnozolla with a human bone through it!

It, of course, was a real human head.

Mmbop scooped it out of the surf and carried it to shore.

Granola grinding, hemp wearing, coral hugging tourists don’t want a real human head, he thought. Not even a fresh one like this. Maybe I should toss it back? He shook his head ‘no.’ I shouldn’t waste a perfectly good head. He decided to ‘fix it up’ with a few artful cuts. He reached into the pocket of his Izod swimsuit, which yet another rich tourist had traded him for a necklace of genuine plastic whale teeth, and grabbed his Swiss Army Cannibal Fork, that came complete with a saw blade, a grater, a marital aid, assorted knives, an Egyptian nose hook (for removing brains), a Phillips screwdriver, and a waterproof universal remote.

At home, waiting for him, was his main squeeze, Mmbopalula.

“Maybe I’ll take it to her as a gift.…Besides, nothing turns a woman on like a full head of hair.”

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