*Hey Clicky. Is it that time?*
*Hopefully Dear Reader knows my penchant for synchronicity and the number 137 by now… /lights up and smokes…*
Howdy, Dear Reader 😀
I thought today would be a good day to post my short story from Underdog Anthology XVII: The Wrong Kind of Leaves. It sees the return of Harry Egg, last seen in 2020, entering lockdown…
… And I thought it time for a catch-up, 731 days later…
731 Days Later
By Roo B. Doo
The best thing to come out of the past two years of the Rona pandemic was the shift to working from home. Not my home exactly, but my best friend Lol’s home, as he’d asked me to move in with him to ride out the initial ‘lockdown’. How naïve we all were thinking that sacrificing weeks off work for time on the sofa could ever defeat a virus. At least I didn’t partake in the weekly doorstep pot bashing ritual; that seemed totally medieval to me.
Three weeks ‘to flatten the curve’ inevitably rolled over into six and then nine weeks, and even after we were allowed back to work, restrictions remained. Wave after wave of illness and death were predicted, so that the threat of further lockdowns became endemic and it seemed pointless moving out. Besides, Lol and I rub along together great; we’re like brother and sister but without the fights or incestuous thoughts getting in the way. Even his pampered puss Mr Tibbles now considers me fam.
When the opportunity to work remotely presented itself, I gladly took it. Not that I was afraid of the Rona per se, but the possibility of catching the ‘Stupid’ from my colleagues at F. A. Kontrell has always been a constant fear. Well, from one work colleague in particular – our virtue signalling receptionist Shazza is something of a super-speader when it comes to the ‘Stupid’.
Unfortunately, when I woke up this morning, I discovered the wi-fi was on the fritz; I had to go into the office, breaking my current record of three straight months working from home. Up until now, 2022 was going so well.
Good grief! She’s still wearing a mask? I don’t know why I was surprised; of course Shazza would still be wearing a face-mask. Personally, I was torn on the face-mask issue that had come to dominate so much social interaction during last two years. On the one hand, there was no way the weave of a cloth mask could ever stop an itty-bitty virus passing through it – it’s like using a chain-link fence to stop a mosquito – however, on the other hand, wearing a mask is definitely an improvement for some people. Massively so in Shazza’s case.
“Slava Ukraini!” Shazza repeated, this time with a raised fist. Her face-mask was two-tone: bright blue over gold, like the Ukrainian flag. I wondered how long before the next cause de jour would adorn Shazza’s face. Probably May.
It’s wearing your heart on your sleeve in the new normal, I concluded sadly.
Raising my right forearm, palm outward facing, I smartly snapped my heels together. “Heil Hitler!”
Shazza was shocked. I could tell because one of her chins slipped beneath the bottom edge of her face-mask. “Oh my God, Harry, how could you say that?”
“Say what?” I asked, feigning confusion.
Shazza’s eyes compressed into a glittering squint. “Heil Hitler.”
Sometimes it’s just too easy to wind our airhead receptionist up. “Heil Hitler!” I replied abruptly, this time with a straight arm and accompanying finger moustache.
The office appeared sparsely populated, so not too many heads poked up at the sound of Shazza’s astonishment. Pammy in Payroll smiled and waved hello. I waved back.
“Aren’t we doing Nazi greetings?” I asked innocently and signed in. “I’m sorry, I thought we were doing Nazi greetings.”
“What are you talking about?” Shazza demanded.
“You do know that Slava Ukraini is neo-Nazi, don’t you?”
Shazza crossed her chunky arms in front of her ample bosom. “No it isn’t,” she replied fiercely.
“Sure it is. You should research it,” I suggested nonchalantly.
Of course Shazza had no idea the month-long war between Russia and Ukraine had actually been going on for a good deal longer; she thinks ‘Crimea’ are the first three words of a Justin Timberlake song. She didn’t move except to furrow her brow and, I assume, purse her thin lips behind the mask: I know that look; best to skedaddle.
“Seriously, you should google it,” I said, moving away from reception. “I’ll be at my desk.”
Shazza mumbled something darkly into her face-mask that I didn’t catch, but no matter. However, whatever she said seemed to greatly amuse her because she cackled loudly as I rounded the corner to my work area.
I stood and stared at dozens of archive boxes surrounding my desk and piled high upon it. A large paper shredding machine stood off to the side, with fat sacks labelled ‘Confidential Waste’ stacked against the wall. Everything was covered in a film of grey dust and ribbons of paper littered the floor.
“I said, you’ll be lucky, Harry,” Shazza laughed from right behind me; for her size, she can be deceptively light on her feet.
“What’s going on?”
“We’re having a clear out.” Shazza couldn’t keep the glee out of her voice at my consternation. “Getting rid of the old crap, you know.”
“And you’re using my desk?”
“Why not? You’ve not been around to use it.”
Shazza had a point – I hadn’t stepped foot inside the place since Christmas – but I didn’t appreciate the total takeover of my work area, nor the snarkiness with which the point was made. “It would have been nice if you’d let me know, just in case I had to come in to work. Like today.”
“Sorry.” Shazza’s apology dripped with insincerity. She was far too happy to be contrite.
Touché, I thought and smirked. I do believe you’ve missed me.
”Apology accepted,” I replied graciously. That was a mistake.
“It is very dusty round here,” Shazza said, wiping a fat finger over the nearest archive box. “I can always lend you a mask.”
Eww. Now she’s getting nasty.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, Shazza, but I’d rather lick a tramp than wear one of your masks,” I replied irritably.
Fortunately our sparring was interrupted by the sound of rolling laughter, as the side door to the office opened. The Fat Kontroller stood holding it open for a young woman I didn’t recognise. She shuffled beneath his outstretched arm, intent on not spilling any tea from either of the mugs she was holding.
“Boss,” I called out.
“Harry!” The Fat Kontroller seemed genuinely happy to see me. “The prodigal assistant returns.”
“’Fraid so.” My eyes swept over the mountain of boxes. “Glad you’ve not let my desk go to waste.”
The young woman carrying the tea stopped and smiled shyly. I’m a sucker for doe eyes and this filly had the biggest doe eyes I’ve ever seen. I could feel the wolf in my loins start to salivate.
“This is Lucy,” the Fat Kontroller said, placing his hands on the young woman’s shoulders. “My wife’s niece.”
Oh shit! I hoped he hadn’t spotted the lascivious look on my face.
“Lucy’s been helping us out with the archiving since the leak,” he said, giving those slender shoulders a squeeze.
“That’s right,Uncle Farn,” she said sweetly.
Lucy must have been all of 18 years old and nubile as fuck. She was petite but fully rounded in all the right places. Her thick, blonde hair was feather cut like a 70s rock chick, but coupled with those doe eyes, she could have walked straight out of manga. Or hentai…
“A leak?” I suddenly felt adrift. “What leak?”
Shazza, was still hovering and eager to join the conversation. “The leak from the roof caused by the storms last month. Rainwater got into the store room. I sent out an email.”
Ouch! Shazza is a prolific sender of emails. They’re usually over punctuated and full of inanities, but I do read them all. Eventually.
“Has the leak been fixed?”
“Oh yes,” the Fat Kontroller said, taking one of the mugs of tea from Lucy. “But we had to move the box files out here while the room was drying out. Your desk was the obvious choice, Harry.”
I couldn’t fault his decision; it’s the logical place to put them.
“No problem. I can work from any desk.” I looked around, trying to work out which one would give me the best view of luscious Lucy at work, but not place me in Shazza’s direct line of sight. I could feel her beady eyes boring into me – I’d already disrespected one of her sacred cows and Shazza had a whole herd of them.
“You can set up in my office, if you like,” the Fat Kontroller offered. “I’ll be out here going through the old paper records with Lucy. I’ve become a dab hand with a shredding machine,” he boasted jovially.
“It’s always nice to see you roll your sleeves up, Mr K,” I gently teased. “Thanks, I’ll go and set myself up. Nice to meet you, Lucy.”
“Yeah, you too.”
Perfect! The glass front of the Fat Kontroller’s office would give me a very good view of Lucy in action. I could feel my nipples stiffen in anticipation; it seemed I was destined not to get any work done today after all.
* * *
“Please tell me you didn’t hit on her, Harry,” Lol asked as he refilled my wine glass. “Not your boss’s niece.”
We were sitting in Dionysus, our regular place of respite after a hard day at our respective grindstones. Or rather it used to be before the Rona turned everyone’s lives upside down. It was still our weekend bar of choice, but this was the first week night Lol and I had pitch up there in quite a while. It wasn’t very busy, which suited me just fine. I’d had enough of people for one day.
“No, of course I didn’t. What kind of idiot do you take me for?”
Lol didn’t look convinced; he knows exactly what kind of idiot I can be.
“Really, I didn’t,” I said, taking a surreptitious sip of wine. “I mostly just looked.”
Lol laughed. “Harry, when you say ‘mostly’, I picture a TV reporter describing a riot as ‘mostly peaceful’, whilst stood in front of a building on fire.”
“Yes, but you fancied the pants off that guy. You were glued to his reports.”
“Well, that’s true, but stop deflecting, Miss Egg. Did you go out of your way to talk to Lucy, the young and impressionable niece of your boss?”
I could feel the wine start to course through my veins and flush the day’s tension away. “No. As a matter of fact she approached me.”
“Really? And where was this?”
“In the kitchen. I was making a coffee and she came in to get some god-awful concoction in a Tupperware box from the fridge. It was her lunch. Ugh, it was full of carrots and beans-”
“Stay on target,” Lol interrupted. “What happened?”
I took a gulp of wine. “Nothing, we just chatted. She’s going to Manchester University in September and we talked about that.”
“Our university? Interesting. Did you give her any tips?”
“On how to become a PA? No.” I placed my glass back on the table.
A look of concern crossed Lol’s face. “Harry, what’s up?”
I wondered if I should tell Lol about the epiphany I’d had whilst talking to Lucy. I thought about it as I emptied the last of the wine into our glasses. Oh fuck it. Just tell him.
“Lol, I want to have a baby.”
To his credit, Lol didn’t spit out his mouthful of wine, although I thought for one moment he was going to choke.
“That’s… that’s…that’s…” he stuttered after he’d swallowed his wine.
“Unexpected? Yeah, for me too.”
Lol was speechless, his bottom jaw hung loose.
“Please don’t hate me for what I’m about to say, but you did ask.” I took a large slug of wine. “Whilst Lucy and I chatted, I could see that her bright and shining future in front of her was exactly what I had in front of me once. And I didn’t take it.”
Lol furrowed his brow. “You didn’t want it. You’ve told me before. How does that get to you suddenly wanting to have a baby?”
“Well, that’s the thing. See, as I was telling Lucy about you and our university days and how we’re best friends and that I’d moved in with you at the start of the pandemic.” I paused to check Lol was following along. “She said ‘Lol? He sounds like a laugh’.”
The corners of Lol’s mouth twitched. “I have heard that one before.”
“Well, I hadn’t. In fact, I laughed like a drain when Lucy said it. I think I frightened her.”
Lol shook his head. “But I still don’t understand, Harry. Why would I hate you? I love you.”
“And I love you.” I reached over and placed my hand over his. “Do you realise that today is the two year anniversary of the first lockdown?”
“Yes, it was on 23rd March 2020, I looked it up. We’ve been living together for two years exactly and they have been the best 731 days of my life. The very best.”
Lol turned his hand over so that he could hold mine. “Me too.”
“And whilst Lucy is gorgeous and vivacious and under different circumstances I could totally plate her, in that moment I knew exactly what I want, like right now want, and that I’ve actually known it for some time.”
I took a deep breath. ”I want to start a family. I want a real baby, Lol, and I really want to make that baby real with you. You would be a fantastic dad. Please don’t hate me.”
Lol stared at me intently before raising an eyebrow. “Is this because you had to go into the office today?”
Now my jaw dropped. Why didn’t I keep my mouth shut. Oh, why didn’t I keep my fucking mouth shut?!
Lol barked out a short laugh and stood up. “You never cease to surprise me, Harry,” he said, holding out his hand. “It’s one of your more endearing qualities.”
I let out a sigh of relief; he didn’t say no.
“I am intrigued to hear your views on the mechanics of your suggestion. Shall we go home and talk about it some more?”
I took his hand and stood up. “Well, I was thinking turkey baster, unless of course you prefer-”
Lol shut me up with a kiss. It was tender and surprising and full of love. Lots of love.
Oh my God, I’m having incestuous thoughts. Who knew the new normal would turn out so perverted?
“Yes, let’s go home, Lol. Mr Tibbles will be wondering where we are.”
*Not for a while yet, Clicky. Harry and Lol will have to conceive first…*
*I have some ideas…*
*We shall see… /stubs butt… Time for a Song, Clicky…*
Until next time, Dear Reader… Have a Song ❤
*Ain’t that the truth, Clicky. How in the fuck are we meant to be April Fooled this year?*
Hello there, Dear Reader! Long time, no speaky 😉
My good friend Cade Fon Apollyon sent me a tweet last night, depicting a weather event at his ‘old stomping ground’…
*He says that’s Tyson’s Corner in Virginia and tornadoes there are extremely rare…*
… Which reminded me of a bunch of tweets that crossed my Twitter feed earlier this week, all saying the same thing…
*Nice example, Clicky, butt that’s knot someone I follow… /lights up and smokes… Say, did you know there’s a 137 reference in that Tweeter’s bio?*
*Just a happy coincidence, then? Okay…*
… And that whole Oscars ‘Slap Heard Around the World’ scene at the start of the week put me in mind of Cade’s short story from Underdog Anthology XIV: Dark Ides of March, published in the Spring of 2021…
… So, I asked Cade if I could publish his story, here, at the LoL today, and he said, ‘Sure’…
*Knockout, Clicky, indeed…*
… So, here is ‘Spring Fevers and Bearded, Clammy Hands’ for your entertainment, Dear Reader. Enjoy! ❤
Spring Fevers and Bearded, Clammy Hands
Cade F.O.N Apollyon
If one were to read “A Novice’s Guide to Understanding Jealousy”, the first sentence of Chapter 1, Page 1 would almost absolutely have to immediately address the subject of a lack of self-awareness. In fact, I cannot see how the entire book could ever get around talking about anything except the topic of self-awareness and identifying one’s own shortcomings within the framework of this concept.
Jealousy, seems to place the offended party in some sort of vacuum. Like a shell or some sort of defensive posture where only the individual and their own interests matter. Their computational systems, assuming they have any, also seem to go offline.
“Mateo! Hel..loooo?!? Are you even fucking listening to me?”
My neighbor, John, was already agitated when he borderline accosted me in my car upon my arrival home from work. My zoning out in contemplation whilst being accused by my neighbor of having an affair with his wife is unlikely to assuage his irritation.
“My name is Matthew, Juan, and yes, I am very much listening to you.”
“I apologize, Matthew,” John fired back sarcastically. “Now, are you fucking my wife?”
“No, John, I am not. I’m standing here in the middle of my own front yard holding an empty lunch box, quasi-talking to you, really just hoping to go inside at some point and take my shoes off.”
I’d retorted with my usual dry and unemotional sarcasm. I tried not too sound precocious though as this was an extremely delicate and dangerous situation, and the last thing I need at this point is my friend thinking I’m trying to be cleverly deceptive.
“Have you, at any point, from the beginning of creation, to this very day, ever, fucked my wife?”
John was struggling, choosing his words for clarity; an obvious frustration and impatience in his voice.
“Yeah. But I only stuck my dick in halfway so I’m not fucking her nearly as much as I could be. And when one considers that my dick is only six inches long, it could be argued that I’m not fucking her very much at all.”
The look of shock and disbelief on his face reflected that my retort had caught him completely off guard. But as the initial look of surprise left his face, and his brain began to compute my actual words, his face contorted in confusion, began to relax, and I could tell it may have finally broke some ice as John’s default facial express returned. That expression then started to crack into a smile, it was obvious he was trying to restrain it, and he turned away from me briefly in order to, I assume, stymie a giggle. The slight hunch in the back, a hand to the face, and a couple of shoulder twitches were a dead-giveaway.
I’d already answered his initial query as to my ‘fucking his wife’, definitely and without hesitation in the negative. Quite easy to do as I was most certainly not ‘fucking’ his wife. Something very odd was going on here. This had to be one of his stupid, drawn out ‘practical jokes’. Surely some utterly ridiculous punchline, for which I will have to feign a fake laugh, is coming.
“Look John,” I said to his back. I have walked…” I glanced down quickly at the pedometer hanging from my belt to check the distance I had walked at work today; 17.3 miles, holy shit, “…seventeen point three miles today and my feet are feeling every foot of that. I’m going in to put my lunchbox down, take my shoes off, grab a beer, and I’ll be right back out. Do you want one?”
He knows, came a female voice in my head.
I froze. A warm tingling sensation suddenly appeared in my head, and quickly began to run from my crown, down my neck, and into my spine, as another warm and tingly feeling began in my feet and started emanating up my legs.
Great, I thought to myself. That’s all I need at this point…her.
The two opposing tingly feelings continued their creep and met somewhere in my lower back: we were connected now. That warm pulsing tingle of The Connection. We were synced.
Hello Matthew, came the woman’s voice again. I feel The Connection. I needed to speak with you. I needed to let you know that he knows. I needed to speak with you about how best to proceed regarding…
The woman’s voice was cut off as John, apparently having finally regained a composure he was comfortable with, turned back towards me.
“Yeah,” John started as he nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I’ll take a beer if it’s cold Matt. You get your shoes off, and I’ll meet you on your porch in a few. I’m going to go ask Patrice about dinner. Any chance you might wanna pop over? Do you have plans?”
John asking me to join he and his wife for dinner was not unusual. I was, after all, a lonely bachelor. A lonely divorcee. A washed-up burnout who over the past nine years had been fixed up with virtually every single woman John and his wife knew. But dinner tonight did not seem appropriate. I was in no way trying to read John’s intentions regarding this particular invitation as we had too much experience between us for me to read into it as being hostile. But I had to seriously consider it inappropriate under the circumstances.
Jesus, how uncomfortable might that dinner be? I thought to myself.
If you come to dinner, I’ll make you cum, came the woman’s voice again. I’ll cum all over your face Matthew, and you can cum on mine, if you want. It will be nothing but cumming for the both of us if you come to dinner.
Dammit Patrice, can you at least allow me to get my shoes off and grab your husband a beer before I make a decision on dinner?
Sure Matthew. I know my cooking isn’t always that great, but my dessert will make that dark and lonely heart of yours shine like the sun that it actually is. Mmm, I’m getting wet just thinking about having you inside me and seeing your light.
“Matt?” John said, snapping me away from my internal dialogue. “Matt, you’re zoning out again.”
“Sorry John. Been a long day at work and I have an even longer one in store tomorrow. I have a lot of work stuff on my mind,” I said, turning away from my neighbor and heading for the faux safety of my own home.
“Already trying to think of all the stuff I need to do tomorrow. Lemme grab you that beer. About ten minutes.”
I did not glance back to see if John was retreating back to his own property as I neared the relative safety of my own front porch.
Sorry you had a long day. I hope I get a long one tonight, Matthew.
Patrice, I myself would take an explanation of any length as to why your husband is over at my house breaking my balls over allegedly, quote ‘fucking you’, unquote.
I’ll explain in a bit Matt, and it will all make sense. I promise.
As I reached my front door, I tried to put Patrice and her shenanigans out of my head. Just as I began to fumble with my key for the lock, and just as freedom seemed imminent, I heard John call from what sounded like his driveway. I froze, closed my eyes, and tried not to shudder.
“Hey, Matt! Pedometer!” he shouted. “They ought to give those to pedophiles so cops know how many kids they’ve molested!”
I suddenly felt a tinge of fury. My heart knew that I should not be feeling this feeling, but I was. Whatever my neighbor was digging for, and why he was digging for it in me no longer mattered. This asshole has to be begging for a beating, but why he has chosen me to give it to him is a total mystery at this point.
Don’t let him get to you cowboy. You are closer that you know to being free of him forever.
I ignored Patrice’s comment entirely, turned to peek around the corner of my front porch to look over in the direction of the voice. Sure enough, there stood John in his own driveway. Immobile, and looking in my direction with a giant ridiculous smile on his face as if he’d just told the joke of the century and was now eagerly awaiting my guffaws of approval.
“That’s a great idea John,” I said in an absolutely flat tone. “Fantastic in fact. Why don’t you head inside right now and dial 911 and tell them your genius idea. You can tell me all about it when you come back over for your beer.”
The dry and unimpressed nature in my voice appeared to have gotten the message across, as his previously grinning face was now melting into such a pathetic sag that it appeared it may slide off his head.
He turned, looked down and I could tell his face was now twisting with confusion, and began walking dejectedly towards his house.
I turned back towards my front door, inserted my key into the lock, opened it, and stepped inside. Closing the door behind me, I could only think one word…sanctuary.
It may be a sanctuary from John, but not from me. With me, there is no sanctuary Matthew.
I need no sanctuary from you Patrice. You are my sanctuary.
* * *
John and I had become fast ‘friends’ when he and his wife, Patrice, had moved in next door to me a little over nine years ago. ‘Friends’ in the loose sense in that it was quite obvious from the start that John more or less inserted himself into my life whether I wanted him in it or not, and he was the type of fellow that clung to certain others who could provide him with specific things. He had a bombastic way for introducing himself to others, at which point he would size them up for what they could and could not provide.
I never considered him a bad guy, just not exactly a good one. Never seemed to have a thought of his own, which, unfortunately for me and because I was both easily accessible and tolerated his bullshit, just about every crazy idea, weird concept and stupid joke that drifted through John’s transom he would almost certainly parrot to me.
I stood inside my doorway for some time contemplating the nature of my relationship with my neighbors, and wondering what in the hell John was on about. As such, I find myself back at day one of when John and Patrice moved in, and going over every little detail as to how he’s gotten wind of mine and Patrice’s, alleged, affair.
Are you fucking my wife? Who in the hell asks a question like that? He didn’t really seem that peeved or upset. Perhaps the exchange didn’t happen like it does in the movies, and as such, he didn’t know how to react?
You’re contemplating aren’t you Matthew?
Patrice’s voice, in my head again. I’d forgotten we were still actively connected.
Yes Patrice, I am. Can you hear what I’m thinking? Like, the specifics?
No Matt, it’s more of a feeling. When we communicate directly, then yes the information sent along The Connection is very clear. But when you are mumbling internally I get nothing specific. Just maybe a feeling about what it may be regarding.
So, when I jerk off at night, you get no specifics nor details, you simply know I’m masturbating.
Rawr…so saucy Matthew. So aggressive. I like it. And speaking of, what was with that ‘you are my sanctuary Patrice’ nonsense?
For once, Patrice, I guess I just felt I needed to defend myself. The walls were kinda closing in, ya know?
Good on you Matt. That was brilliant. You’ve taken yet another step into…oh wait…John is calling me, needs to talk, he says.
OK, well, I’m going to ground myself and disconnect. I need to get your husband a beer, and I really need to get these fucking shoes off.
Matt, did you really walk seventeen point three miles today?
Yes I did Patrice. It was awful and I’m currently feeling all fifty-five of my years, and then some.
John wants me to come over and talk to you Matt.
What?! You, Patrice? Why you?
He feels that he may have upset you.
He did, Patrice. But that still doesn’t explain why he wants you to come over.
John seems to think that I’ll be able to smooth things over and you’ll come to dinner.
Patrice, I really don’t know if…
Shhhh….Matthew, just, let me come over. I’ll tell John it may take a bit, but I think I can smooth things over.
Patrice, this is weird as hell him sending you over, whom he just accused me of having an affair with. I’m on edge here.
Ground yourself Matt. Grab that beer, and I’ll drink it when I get there.
Patrice wait. Patrice?
“Fuck!” I said aloud.
She’s disconnecting. I could feel the tingly feeling in my back partially unwinding. She was already grounding herself.
I was still standing in the doorway, holding my keys and lunchbox. I felt so alone in the moment. Only recently had I, by some fluke of nature, acquired the ability to speak with anyone, any time, anywhere in the world, and yet at that precise moment I’d never felt more alone.
It didn’t help matters that, for the first six months after discovering my ability, I’d been talking, via thought alone, to a someone who originally told me that they were on the other side of the world. But as it turns out, this distant and seemingly completely harmless someone was actually less than fifty feet away the entire time. Patrice. And boy oh boy, once we discovered who each other actually was, did the tone and topics of the conversations ever change. The small talk and vagaries were gone. She was suddenly a firebrand, passionate, but a rogue, a rebel and downright nasty at times: and I don’t mean just and only sexual stuff either. For the last four months, she had toyed with me and psychologically beaten on me relentlessly. I had no idea what to make of any of it. Still don’t. Perhaps she’ll explain it someday if I can keep myself from tying cinder blocks to my feet and jumping into a lake.
You’re drifting again Matt. You really should ground before some sneaky someone you don’t know tries to connect.
I reached up with the hand holding my key ring, and selected the key that allowed itself to be singled out, as which key I used did not matter. This time it was the key to my one and only padlock.
I don’t even know where in the hell that padlock is, I thought to myself. No idea why I still have the key to it on my key ring.
No response from Patrice, nor anyone else for that matter, doesn’t feel like anyone else is connected nor trying to connect, so now all that remained was for me to close the current connection completely.
I reached out with the key, and touched it to the metal screw holding the face-plate cover to the light switch on the wall. Almost immediately, I could feel the somewhat diminished ball of coursing energy in my back begin to unwind like electrically charged noodles being slurped out via my head and feet, and then vanish completely.
I pulled the key away from the screw; disconnected. With little very little gusto and no thanks given to the key for its additional service, I hung my key ring on the key rack above the light switch, and retreated inward to get my shoes off my aching feet.
* * *
The doorbell rang and my hands suddenly went clammy.
How should I greet her? Should I shake her hand? Just say hello and immediately hand her a beer, while shuffling myself outside so that she does not attempt to come in? Should I go out into my backyard, toss the beer over the roof and into the front yard, and cry ‘My mom says I can’t come out to play right now, but there’s your beer crazy woman! Just like you like it! Shaken and stirred and every other fucking thing!’
It was just now dawning on me that, not only did I not really know my neighbor Patrice, we had never really spoken before. Not at any length, and most certainly never alone. Well, not ‘in person’ anyway. And most of the “remote” stuff was so scattered, unintelligible and seemingly pointless that the fact we’d been speaking almost non-stop for ten months, now too felt more like we’d never spoken at all.
Should I check my breath? Wait a second Matt…this isn’t a date. Relax.
Only now did a calmness fall upon me. The absolute absurdity of being thrown into a tangent over nothing at all. I was rattled over basically, nothing. A married woman is standing at my door, ringing the bell, because her husband, my neighbor, not fifteen minutes ago accused me of having an affair with his wife, the woman in question is now standing at my door, and he now wants her to smooth things over so I’ll come to dinner with them. Simple. I had not a damn thing to worry about. Except…
…Patrice and I have not spoken in person about our, less than conventional conversations. Wait, that doesn’t sound very good at all. “Less than conventional’ sounds exactly like what John was just accusing me of.
The doorbell rang again. My chest started to tighten.
Holy hell. It’d never occurred to me that myself and Patrice had not yet talked in person about our abilities. What if…oh my God…what if all this time, I wasn’t actually communicating telepathically with Patrice. What if some malicious asshole with psychic powers has been toying with me this entire time, and passing it off as if I was speaking to a neighbor because of some clue I’ve given away. Some game psychics play to amuse themselves, similar to a cat playing with a mouse.
I felt a very cold chill at the base of my neck, and for the first time in a very long time, I actually felt afraid. My mind was awash and digging through the memory banks for the last time that I’d even seen Patrice, let alone talked to her.
A knock now at the door. They are getting impatient and require a response. Doorbells fail, malfunction and sometimes just go unheard, but not knocks.
Face the music Matt. Grab a beer, this very second, then go answer the door.
“Hey Patrice. How are you?” I attempted to sound as nonchalant as possible as I pushed open the outward-facing glass door and made my way outside.
“Hello Matt. Is that beer for me? Or you.”
I could not tell if she was being playfully ignorant or not, so I just played it as cool as humanly possible for now.
“Why don’t you have a seat on the porch swing, I’ll sit in this chair here opposite you, and we can figure out who this beer is for.”
“Oh, OK, well, I hadn’t planned on staying long, but I guess I can sit for a moment Matt.”
“Whatever you want to do is fine Patrice,” I said while trying not to allow my face to twist with a confused look. “It’s just that I don’t think you’ve ever come over here before, so I guess I just assumed maybe you came to talk a bit, considering the circumstances and recent events.”
Patrice sat on the porch swing opposite me, and once she was seated I chose one of the four porch bar-chairs that were place around a small round table I’d picked up at a garage sale a few years back. The table was small, the chairs uncomfortable and I’d really only purchased the set as decoration as I had no friends to speak of and almost never had guests. For once, the table would come in handy and I placed the unopened can of beer on it.
Hands folded in her lap, Patrice was looking at me almost impatiently as if waiting for me to situate myself. For the first time I noticed that she had very beautiful blue crystalline eyes. I tended not to like blue eyes very much, crystalline blue even less, but in this case they suited her. She was attractive. I snapped out of my study of her form as it suddenly occurred to me that I was in great danger.
My heart was pumping at this point. Not from lust, nor anger, nor even fear nor any other emotion I could think of…this was a feeling of confusion that I’ve never before felt, and it was causing my heart a stress it had never before known. Not even twelve years ago when my wife of eighteen years told me she was through with me and my broken self, did my heart suffer this kind of trauma.
“Matt,” Patrice’s voice snapped me out of my waking coma, “John just told me about what happened earlier, and I must tell you that I am horrified.”
“I admit that I am quite confused as to exactly what just transpired Patrice.”
“Did he really shout out in a very loud voice from across the yard something about pedophiles to you?”
The bottom of the entire Universe just fell out from under me.
“Um, pedophiles?” I was trying to hold it together, but it was now clear that this slimy asshole is playing some kind of twisted game with me. He basically assaults me over adultery with his wife, and he goes home and makes up some bullshit story about a very in poor taste joke, completely omitting the adultery parts? “Yeah Patrice he did, and I guess he was trying to make a joke about the pedometer that I have to wear for work. It wasn’t very funny, was in poor taste, and I admit it upset me. Perhaps more than it should, but I do have to wear this thing every single work day, and to be completely honest and open, his comment is likely going to haunt me for some time for that very reason.”
“Well, I’m sorry that it upset you Matt, but that’s really not my concern nor why I came over,” Patrice said rather flatly.
The entire Universe just exploded. This is the kind of sick twisted games that my ex-wife used to play. Say, anything. Do, anything. Nothing, matters. She, held all the cards, she, was the dealer, and I had to play her games and take whatever she dealt out because I had nothing and no one in all creation, except for her. I was nothing more than a dislodged piece of navel lint in a wind storm.
“Matt, are you okay?” Patrice suddenly sounded exactly like her husband.
“I am contemplating what you’ve said,” I fired back calmly. “Were you expecting me to say something?”
“I guess maybe I expected you to ask me why I came over.”
“You’ve mentioned that you’re aware of something your husband said to me.”
“Yes, but that’s not the real reason I came over.”
“You said that already, Patrice.”
“Matt, are you angry about something?”
The alarm bells were most certainly going off now, full tilt, and this was absolutely turning into a life and death situation.
“Patrice, perhaps you should just tell me what you need since I don’t know you that well, and I’m certainly not a mind-reader.”
Patrice did not really react to my statement, but strangely reached around behind her back, and produced a large, letter-sized envelope. She leaned forward and offered it to me.
“Oh, haha, a mind-reader!” she said in an obviously forced tone, whilst simultaneously urging me with her eyes to take the envelope. “Me and John went to see a mind-reader once, except this one was a hypnotizer. Is that right? Hypnotizer?”
“Hypnotist,” I corrected her as I leaned forward and took the envelope. “I’m quite sure that hypnotists are those who hypnotize people for various reasons.”
A look of relief crossed Patrice’s face as I took the envelope from her hand, and I fell face-first into whatever new game she was now playing.
“Well, me and John went to this show where a hypnotist would pick people from the audience.” After finishing her thought, Patrice raised her hands in an mock envelope-opening type motion, implying that I should open it now, here, in her presence. “Anyway, John of course volunteered us both, and we both got to go up on stage and get hypnotized.”
Only moments before, my fear levels had just about caused my entire existence to seize and stop entirely, but now there was suddenly this strange feeling of…clarity. Perhaps everything leading up to this very moment in time was some kind of test to see if I could in any way handle the horrors that were almost sure to materialize from this envelope’s contents.
I noticed that Patrice was arching her eyebrows as if to hurry me along. I looked for a moment deeply into her eyes, and that gloomy image which was beginning to form of Patrice being John’s soulmate or clone or whatever it was had disappeared. Odd that it continued to rattle on outwardly as I peeled back the flap on the envelope and produced what appeared to be no less than five folded pages.
“John barked like a chicken and clucked like a dog.”
I had only just started to open the letter when it struck me what Patrice had just said.
“He barked like a chicken and clucked like a dog? Don’t you mean that he barked like a dog and clucked like a chicken Patrice?”
“That’s what the hypnotist said Matt. He told John to bark like a chicken and cluck like a dog. I don’t know how John did it, but he did.”
“That’s…frightening, Patrice. I don’t even want to know…”
‘GROUND YOURSELF RIGHT NOW!’
The first line of the first page jumped off the paper and hit me like a lightning bolt. Instinctively I started to reach down and grab one of the metal legs on the small table, but my survival instincts kicked in and I resisted the urge, thinking that this may be a trap of some kind. But almost as quickly as I began to doubt, I remember the odd feelings that I’ve felt during the processes of being grounded, ungrounded and The Connection. Being both an electrician and a semi-amateur radio enthusiast, there are things that have been happening over the past ten months that I can in no way begin to explain.
I looked up from the letter and at Patrice. She gave a small nod, and there was a calmness to her being which provided just enough assurance for me to throw caution to the wind and play along. Knowing that the table’s legs were a poor ground, I reached out and grabbed one anyway and continued to read as Patrice continued to ramble.
“I don’t really remember being hypnotized, but everyone said I was. They said I got trapped in a box that wasn’t there, and I couldn’t get out.”
For the time being, please read down only to where it says ‘STOP HERE!’, keep reading until you get there, and I’ll ramble on about hypnotists in the meantime. Also, keep your hand firmly wrapped around that metal leg on the table until we finish here, and please do not begin to wonder internally how I know all of this. I do, and answers will come later.’
“John says that he can remember being hypnotized, and he can remember everything he did, but I don’t remember anything at all,” Patrice continued. “He says he only did what he was told because he knew he was part of the act. But me? He says that I was absolutely terrified and screaming. He said I really honestly thought that I was trapped in a box even though there was no box.”
‘We are both of us in great danger because of our, ‘gifts’. I would ask that you, later at some point this evening, find yourself a proper grounding point, and read the remainder of this letter ONLY when grounded. I will go ahead and tell you that I am a beard. My marriage is an arranged sham so that my husband can collect his inheritance, and myself and John will not be married much longer as he is already arranging the divorce and planning to move to somewhere in Java. I will of course get a piece of his inheritance as payment for services tendered over the past fifteen years of marriage. More on that later though. The Great Magician is awake, and I have reason to believe that The Great Magician has somehow found the both of us…meaning you and I. Does this mean anything to you? I am so very sorry for all of this. Hopefully, the rest of the letter will better explain what I know, and what I don’t. P
A quick thumb through the sheets indicated that this letter was approximately eight pages long. Visions of Armageddon suddenly swirled in my head as my mind flashed back to the horrible tales of the end times taught me in church as a youth. But that’s exactly what this moment felt like. I felt like I had just walked out of the sunshine and green grasses onto the burning and bloody fields of Megiddo, and me right in the big middle of the fighting between the warring factions of good and evil.
“Which reminds me, Matt. John did ask me to tell you that he was sorry about his joke he made earlier, but the real reason that I came over was I wanted to know if I could borrow a cup of milk. I’m making John some cornbread for dinner, and I need some milk.”
“Patrice,” I said calmly, looking up from the letter. “Did you know that you can substitute beer for milk in certain baked goods?”
Patrice’s face was aghast. Honestly, aghast and unknowing. I’d hit her with a curve-ball.
“Really?” she said.
I folded the letter and thoughtfully placed it back into the envelope, before sliding the envelope into my shirt pocket as I stood.
“Yeah really really. I have a beer sitting right here, which I am going to give you. I’m going to go inside and get you…how much milk do you need?”
“I only needed one cup of milk. Whole milk if you have it,” she said rather sheepishly.
“Okay Patrice, I’m going to go inside and get you one cup of whole milk, and if you decide that you would like to give the beer a whirl, only use half of a cup of the milk in your cornbread, and use a half of a cup of the beer in substitution for the other half-cup of milk.”
“Will that really work?” Patrice asked disbelievingly. “What…what does this do?
“It gives the cornbread a bit of a different flavor is all. Better in biscuits, but it works with cornbread too. And you’ll have exactly four ounces of beer leftover you can sip on if you want.”
“Sure Matt, I’ll…give that a try. Thank you. Do I need…”
“This beer has already gotten kinda warm,” I said, not letting her finish. “Just make sure you allow it get a little warmer before adding it to the mix. I’ll be right back with your milk.”
I retreated into the house thinking that I had no idea what answers, if any, Patrice’s letter might contain. At this point, it was apparent that her rather substantial looking letter was more likely to contain mystery than clarity. One thing was certain though, I’d had just about enough of being at the mercy of the whims of an assembly of douchebag neighbors and cryptic mystics playing their god games. It was time for me to stop being a leaf in the wind, get serious, and hit the books to start researching this insanity. It was time that I become the storm.
Right after I get Patrice her milk, of course.
*Wait. he tweets out ‘it’s Friday once again’ each week, Clicky… /stubs butt… Doesn’t he?*
*Ah, ya got me…*
We hope you have enjoyed today’s post. If you’d like to read Cade’s story in proper book form, as well as 12 other short stories and a substantial poem from a variety of authors, then Underdog Anthology XIV is available for a staggeringly low price…
*You could get a full set of Underdog Anthologies for well under twenty quid. That’s fantastic value…*
Until next time, Dear Reader, have a Song 😀
*Yeah, I’m not crying, Clicky…*
Dear Reader, this post is something of a milestone…
… For this post, the one you are reading right now, is the thousandth post at the LoL…
*I’m a Gen-Xer, Clicky… /flicks ash… knot a Millennial…*
*Thousand island dressing comes from ‘Merica? …/drags… A Sophia sync, eh? I must tell Cade…*
The Thousand Islands Bridge connects New York State and Ontario by traversing Wellesley Island at the northernmost point of Interstate 81 in Jefferson County and meets Highway 137.
*/snorts smoke… Bridging to a 137 sync. Blimey, I was not expecting that…*
The Thousand Islands International Bridge system is a series of five bridges spanning the St. Lawrence River.
*/squints… That syncs with your CLICK5 posts, Clicky…*
*And the Underdog Anthology books with Hill-man… /final drag… A doctor, no less…*
*Of course! And a River, who ends up residing in the Library of Libraries… /stubs butt… Clever…*