Greetings and Salutations reputable readers of the blog,
I hope you enjoyed Juggling Time last week. As usual I have a tail for you today, but first let’s take a minute today to talk about stories and the people who tell them.
I spend a lot of time reading and listening to short stories. It is a format I’ve always loved. In seventh grade I discovered Edgar Allen Poe. I read The Cask of the Amontillado. I read the rest of Mr. Poe in rapid succession. Since then I’ve collected short stories by Richard Matheson, H.P. Lovecraft, Henry James, Robert Bloch, Peter Atkins, Dennis Etchison, Joe Hill, Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oats, and of course the master Stephen King. This list is by no means complete.
You will notice that almost all of these writers, are best known for their ability to scare the lint right out of your belly button. There are few things in life that give immediate gratification like cracking open a collection of short stories and reading one start to finish in a sitting. The ability of the author to draw you in, make you to give a damn about the characters, cause the short hairs on the back of your neck stand right up, and leave you breathless in a few short pages, is nothing less than art at it’s very best. Their mastery reaches out through time and space causing you to have a corporeal reaction with a handful of well-chosen words scattered across a page.
As a young man I marveled at the talent these writers demonstrated. As a writer, I better understand the level of difficulty they’re able to achieve. Writing comes in many different formats, but if pressed to pick one, I would have to say the short story is my favorite. If you’re in search of something to keep you up at night, look up that collection of Poe you have collecting dust on your bookshelf and set it on your nightstand. If you’re looking for something more contemporary check out Peter Atkins, Glen Hirshberg, Evan Hunter, or Dennis Etchison. All of these authors know what it means to reach down into your psyche to shake your tentative grasp on reality. So enjoy.
In the interest of time I’m including a piece of flash fiction for your entertainment today.
By Dave Benneman
Zach burst through the swinging doors, shedding his wet coat as he went. The bass line from ‘My Girl’ bled through the gray concrete walls of the morgue, answering his first question. With the Temptations playing loud enough to wake the dead, Marvin would be assisting, and the twelve-hour shift would pass quickly and painlessly. The doors to the autopsy room hissed open at his approach. Music exploded through the cold air, bouncing off stainless steel surfaces. Marvin danced across the room, wheeling out their first victim of the evening. He stopped mid-spin.
“My man pots and pans.” Marvin pointed his remote at the Bose player, lowering the volume. “Dr. Zach, you better kick off them winter boots and put on your dancing slippers. We celebratin’ tonight, so it’s gotta be all Temptations, all the time.”
“And pray tell, Mr. Gaye, what are we celebrating tonight?”
“March 6, 1965, ‘My Girl’ hit number one on the charts, and I lost my virginality.” Marvin’s gold tooth gleamed in the harsh lighting.
“Your virginity. That’s too much information.” The phone in his pocket vibrated. Zach checked the display. “It’s the Chief.”
“Uh, oh, the man is going to bring us down.”
“Yes, Chief? Yes, I know the regs about parking in the handicapped zone. But it’s… I know it’s her job, but… I’ll move it right away, doctor. Thank you.” He returned the phone to his pocket and glared at the ceiling. “She called him at home, the backstabbing, brown-nosing, bitch.”
Marvin rolled his eyes. “You know Miss Amelia hates you. Why you give her free ammo?”
Zach shrugged. “I’ll be back.”
“Y’all ain’t fixin’ on doing sumpin’ stupid, now are you?”
“Yes. I’m going out in this God awful weather, without a coat, to move my car so the wicked witch can start looking for some other reason to bitch.”
“I’ll get our first Mr. Doe on the table. You stay away from the second floor, you hear? We got celebratin’ to do tonight.”
Returning from the employee parking lot shivering, Zach’s attention locked on the sterilized instruments scattered across the floor of the autopsy room.
“What the hell?”
“Marvin? Yoo hoo, Marvin? Where the hell…”
The stainless table stood empty. “Where’s the corpse?” He lifted the receiver and punched in Amelia’s extension. “It’s Zach, something strange is going on down here. Is Marvin up there?”
The doors hissed open behind him. Zach turned expecting to see Marvin’s grinning face. Instead, he back-pedaled away from a naked and decomposing, John Doe, until his back hit the wall. Zach’s scream died in his throat when John Doe twisted his head snapping vertebrae C-1 through C-3, severing his spinal cord. The elevator door opened revealing Amelia’s bulk. With one fat hand planted on each hip. She strode toward him as Zach’s vision faded.
Todays quote comes from unknown author: “A species with all its eggs in just one planetary basket, risks becoming an omelet.”
By the way Digger is still mad. He’s started digging a new grave which he refers to as the Grave of the Unknown Author. Sounds ominous.
Thanks for tuning in,