Hot For Spock

Below you will find the results of my having challenged myself for a number of days to write a short story with a beginning and middle and an end inside of 30 minutes.  Here is what I came up with.  I hope you like it.

(For Leonard Nimoy — 1931-2015.  You were the best, man.)

He recalled a group of girls a few grades ahead of him who were powerfully attracted to Leonard Nimoy, specifically his portrayal of Mr. Spock, half-human/half-Vulcan science officer on Star Trek.  They were not the goofy, nerdy gals who generally dug Dark Shadows and The Carpenters.  These were witchy, dark hippy chicks who wore swirling-patterned skirts over tight black leotards.  Lots of Zodiac type pewter jewelry.  Suede boots.  Shades that covered their faces.  Unsmiling, hex women.

Man, they loved Mr. Spock.

They’d arrange a semi circle of plastic chairs in the art room, around the Zenith television.  They’d smoke Newports and watch reruns of Star Trek in stoic silence.  Occasionally, there’d be a smirk or a biting comment when Captain James T. Kirk, sucking in his paunch, seduced a green-skinned Orion Slave Girl with all the subtlety of a water buffalo scratching its haunches against a tree.

When Mr. Spock came onscreen, he would observe those witchy women, and he understood how Charles Manson could work the room.  During extended scenes, the women would sit like men:  they’d spread their legs and lean forward and rest their elbows on their knees.  They looked like soldiers examining a map of Korea.

He would watch them watch TV.  Ordinarily, there would be no easy way to explain this practice.  He didn’t like Star Trek; he found it dour.  He wondered when they’d run out of crew members, what with all Kirk’s underlings getting devoured or vaporized on a weekly basis.  He grooved on Gilligan’s Island, The Monkees and Batman.  Those shows were fun.

He could watch those women, all day, though.  He didn’t know their names, but he could tell something about them.  Something intuitive.  A code.  A shibboleth.  He knew not to bug them when they were watching Star Trek, though.

One weekend, he visited his brother up at MIT.  They were having a Three Stooges film festival at one of the halls, and it sounded like a blast.  Sixteen-millimeter projectors and a smartass comedian who served as emcee.  The cat did impressions and gave away kitschy records by Myron Floren and The 101 Strings.  It was great.  All these brilliant kids laughing it up at Moe, Larry and Curly.  When the sexy lady did the tap dance in Disorder In The Court, somebody yelled ‘More.’

On the way out, 4AM, he saw some tables set up in the lobby.  A couple of real freak types were selling ‘magazines’ that they had made themselves.  They had written all the articles, with some help from like-minded friends; photocopied them; stapled them.  Selling for 25 cents each.  There was a ‘magazine’ about weird music; one about horror movies; one about Star Trek.

Aw, what the hell.

On Monday, during a commercial break, he approached the witchy women in their TV coven.  He held out the Star Trek booklet and attempted an explanation.  One of the women – she wore a huge Scorpion medallion – took it from him and raised an eyebrow.  He wondered if this was an affectation.

The next day, at his desk, was a paperback copy of ‘The Left hand Of Darkness’ by Ursula K Le Guin.  Inside, an inscription:  “Thanks!” accompanied by a smiley face.


Interlude With Black Metal

Below you will find the results of my having challenged myself for a number of days to write a short story with a beginning and middle and an end inside of 30 minutes.  Here is what I came up with.  I hope you like it.

Høygaffel were considered the most extreme Norwegian black metal band in all of New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Rising like a demon out of the remains of Starch, a youth crew hardcore band, Høygaffel enthusiastically embraced the tenets of the dank, sinister European music.  Their local notoriety came from the degree to which they amplified the implicit malice, creating something unique.

The members communicated with each other, and, indeed, to everyone outside the band, in a form of pidgin Norwegian.  None of them spoke Norwegian, nor made any effort to learn Norwegian, so their argot evoked to outsiders – and to certain members of the band, itself – a combination of the rasping fiend from The Exorcist and The Swedish Chef from The Muppet Show.

Corpsepaint, a ghoulish make-up style favored by many black metal bands, one intended to evoke the grim pallor of death, was incorporated into Høygaffel’s daily existence.  Members wore the chilling masquerades to their day jobs at Carpet King, Chuck E Cheese and, most alarmingly, The Holiday Nursing Home.  When other bands began appropriating the distinctive look, the members Høygaffel took to applying a second coat of corpsepaint over the already existing layer.  This practice was quickly abandoned after rumors circulated that the band had taken to performing in blackface.

Høygaffel’s legend is built not on their linguistic or cosmetic innovations, but upon their infamous composition, ‘Her Kommer Djevelen,’ a song so terrifying that the band was unable to play it all the way through in one sitting.

Translated as “Here Comes The Devil!”, “Her Kommer Djevelen” was intended to be a 25-minute exercise in pure metal obliteration.  Unfortunately, it so upset the members as they were performing it that they were required to take breaks in order to calm down.  At least three bass players quit the band rather than face even rehearsing the piece.

Fragments of the song have surfaced on the Internet over the years.  One recording, a performance at Joker’s in New Bedford, is known among collectors as the “I’m Shitting In My Pants!” tape, due to the drummer’s repeated exclamations of panic and unease.

Other bands, such as Haunted Afro and The Scandinavian Untouchables, have tried to cover the song, such as it is, with little success.  In order for “Her Kommer Djevelen” to truly work its magic, the 11 men of Høygaffel must perform it.

Høygaffel occasionally reunite to perform in New England clubs, most recently with Rentagram, a Pentagram tribute band.  They still have yet to play “Her Kommer Djevelen” in its entirety.

Highway Patrolman

Below you will find the results of my having challenged myself for a number of days to write a short story with a beginning and middle and an end inside of 30 minutes.  Here is what I came up with.  I hope you like it.

He was sprawled in the middle of the street.  Had he been able to feel anything, he would have certainly noticed that the force of the impact had launched his knapsack down the block.

A circle of frightened people stood over him.  They had witnessed the accident while waiting in line at Starbucks.  Some of them were holding distinctive green and white paper cups.  Two teenage girls wept; presumably they were in the car that hit him.

He felt the presence of God upon him.  God did not take the form of a man or a woman, nor of a ball of white light.  God was a weight of intuitive, irreducible calm balanced on his chest.  Something he remembered experiencing as a young child.

“Is this it?” he asked.

“Yes,” answered God.  “This is it.”

“Is everyone going to be OK?”  he asked.

“I can’t tell you that.”

He smiled and closed his eyes.

“Before we go,” he thought, “can I ask you a question?”

“Certainly,” said God.

“Will people remember my band?” he asked.

“No,” replied God.  “You guys were awful.”

His eyes flipped open.  He detected a wave of anxiety, like someone forcing cold water down this throat.

“I said, ‘Will people…”

“I heard you,” interrupted a testy God.

“We played a bunch of shows with The Meat Puppets…”

“You played exactly two shows with The Meat Puppets:  an all-ages matinee and a later show.  That was it.  Those are all the shows you ever played with The Meat Puppets.  You talked about them for 28 years.  You got a lot of mileage out of those.”

God’s tone had changed.  It reminded him – more anxiety – of Mr. Powell, his high school guidance counselor.

He continued.  Maybe God was confused.

“The guys in The Meat Puppets said I reminded them of Robert Quine and Clarence White.”

“No,” said God, abruptly, “the guys in The Meat Puppets said you ‘sounded like Dickie Betts.’  Somehow, you got ‘Robert Quine’ out of that.  While we’re here, those Meat Puppets guys were high a lot, and had weird senses of humor.”

He was quiet for a long time.  He could not hear the sirens or the young girls crying.  He was too angry with The Meat Puppets, who were never any good after they left SST.

He closed his eyes, again.

“Is there Duke Ellington in Heaven?” he asked.

For the first time, he heard God get angry!

“This is exactly what I mean,” spat God!  “You hate jazz!  You spent thousands of dollars on jazz records and you used them all for background music at dinner parties…”

“That is not true!”

“There was one time – oh, I remember this…” God was actually tripping over his own words.  “You had a dinner thing.  It was you and girlfriend…”


“No.  Her, I liked.  The other one, I mean.  Anyway, you had a dinner thing and you put on an Art Pepper record, and you spent the entire duration of the Art Pepper record talking about Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska!  You called it, ‘as honest as a Walker Evans photo.’  Man, you should have heard yourself…”

He cried softly.  “Am I going to Hell?”

“No!”  God was genuinely startled.  “You’re going home.  It’s beautiful there, and you get to listen to as much Ben Folds Five as you want.”

They both laughed.

“What is Hell like?” he asked.

“Everything’s on fire and people are burning and screaming and wailing and gnashing their teeth, Sometimes Satan jumps out and clocks you with a flatiron.  That whole “Punishment Fit The Crime” thing is a man-made construct.  Very few people go to Hell, actually.”

“Who goes?”

“Martyrs,” answered God.  “Bad coworkers, too.”

They listened to The Beach Boys on the way home.  The early, fun stuff.  Not the weird, later records.

Saving Throw

Below you will find the results of my having challenged myself for a number of days to write a short story with a beginning and middle and an end inside of 30 minutes.  Here is what I came up with.  I hope you like it.

Skippy had never won a fight against an umber hulk in his life.

His previous player characters – Pendar Of The South, Celtic The Conjurer, Wolverine – were each ripped to ribbons by the horrifying creatures.  Skippy probably still had nightmares about Celtic’s Robe Of Useful Items, shredded, dangling off the behemoth’s mandibles.

Skippy’s older brother, Flame On, had been Dungeon Master, and had taken pride in the amount of cruelty he could direct at his easily-agitated sibling.  The campaign in which an Executioner’s Hood fell from the stalactites onto Pendar’s head while a Ju Ju Zombie simultaneously kicked the Halfling fighter thief in the crotch became local legend.

Flame On had joined Up With People and then moved to Altadena.  His family saw him about once every two years.  Their conversations dealt exclusively with his convincing them to join an offshoot of est. 

The new Dungeon Master was a meticulous young kid named Roy, who vibed Mr. Spock, but was a genuinely nice, warm-hearted dude.  He brought lots of soda and snacks by, and would go out of his way to acknowledge Skippy and Flame On’s parents.

The party was exploring a haunted temple that squatted in the overgrown jungles of Tazatania.  They’d made short work of some bush league orc bandits who were pillaging a tomb.  They’d kept their wits about them enough to dispatch a Cave Fisher.

Unfortunately, an umber hulk blocked their passage to the stone staircase.

Skippy staved off an anxiety attack by taking a series of warm showers in the upstairs bathroom.  Once he returned, the party members informed him that he would hold back and guard their loot while Mulder The Ranger and Paladin John Elway slaughtered the unsightly mound.

A tense debate ensued, with Skippy demanding to face the beast.  Someone spilled a Styrofoam cup of grape soda.

Skippy broke procedure by going over the heads of his party and appealing directly to Roy.

Finally, Skippy got his way, and an uncomfortable, resigned gloom settled over the basement.

Skippy grabbed the 20 sided die and, without hesitation, rolled an 19.

“Fuck Flame On,” Skippy erupted!  The umber hulk was already pissing blood.

Spacey Count Basie

Below you will find the results of my having challenged myself for a number of days to write a short story with a beginning and middle and an end inside of 30 minutes.  Here is what I came up with.  I hope you like it.

I used to hide things.

My neighbor was ill in the head.  People said she was melodramatic.  On shopping trips, she would start conversations with strangers in the checkout line, and, within minutes, be in tears.  She was once pulled over for rolling through a stop sign.  She cried so much that she hyperventilated and had to be taken to the hospital.  She never drove a car in the state of Rhode Island, again.

I would visit my friends, her sons.  We’d play LEGOs and watch Batman and The Monkees on Channel 56.  She’d sit in the kitchen and smoke and cry.  At the end of the afternoon, she would angrily remind us of how nice she had been, tolerating our antics.

One day, and I don’t know why, I hid her brass clock.  I took it right off the bureau.  It wasn’t very big and fit easily under the couch.  According to her sons, she collapsed when she noticed that the clock was missing.  Rather than looking for it, she called her ex-husband and screamed for 20 minutes.  Family lore tells that the brass clock was under the couch for over a year before some of her sons’ other friends discovered it.

Not long after that, I started rearranging the magazines on the rack at the pharmacy.  Not messing them – rearranging them.  Modern Bride rested elegantly next to Black Belt.  When I would return, the following week, the magazines would have been returned to their original, less interesting locations.

A test of wills.

I hid the birdbath from the Catholic Church in my house for six years.  The police only found it after I wrote those letters.  It had nothing to do with detective work.  A few months earlier, I had gotten shoo’ed away from the reservoir by some EPA chumps.  Some people simply don’t want to hear what I have to say.  I wrote a letter containing some powdered laundry detergent – that’s it –to their office, an action deemed ‘hostile’ by some anonymous cabal.  The authorities came to talk to me, and noticed the birdbath.

I’m back to living with my brothers.

Taker Of Shovels

Below you will find the results of my having challenged myself for a number of days to write a short story with a beginning and middle and an end inside of 30 minutes.  Here is what I came up with. I hope you like it.

They simply stopped giving me shovels.  No matter how many requisition forms I filled out, I would never again receive another.

I was asked to dig a trench along the side of path to prevent flooding.  Unseasonably robust storms had caused the ground to become waterlogged;  the gravel and stone dust coagulated in lumps, leading to minor bicycle accidents.  I was expected to help guide the water runoff by gouging a groove along the thoroughfare.

It was a brisk, misty morning when I found an old, sturdy, pointed shovel in the tool shed.

I located the head of the path, and ascertained the distance.  If the weather had continued in that state, I could have finished the job in two days.

I drove the pointed blade of the shovel into the ground.  Instantly, an oversized gray hand wrapped its stony digits around the forequarter of the implement and yanked it into the earth.

I was left without a shovel, and I had evacuated my bowels.

Over the next few days, no less than nine shovels were lost to the same procedure.  By the end of the fortnight, I had arrived at the idea that the creature at the other end of that mammoth hand either passionately loved or nauseatingly detested shovels.

A brief bit of research at the library revealed that a young woman, purported to be a witch, had disappeared along the path in 1972.

In her high school yearbook, she listed her life’s ambition:  “To fuck Houdini.” 

Brought To You By Luden’s® Cough Drops

Below you will find the results of my having challenged myself for a number of days to write a short story with a beginning and middle and an end inside of 30 minutes.  Here is what I came up with. I hope you like it.

Alec K Redfearn was scandalized to discover that his archenemy, Baron Mordo, had put a curse on his bag of Luden’s cough drops.

“By the Flames of the Faltine!  That damned Baron Mordo has befouled the cough drops I would use to help me stop chewing tobaccy!  Revenge!”

Alec had encountered the fiendish Mordo, enswathed in black and purple robes that pulsated around him like a Portuguese Man O’War, at the CVS in Wayland Square.  Redfearn was approaching the cashier with his plastic bag of cough drops.

“Redfearn!  I curse your cough drops!” bellowed Baron Mordo, gesticulating wildly.

“By the Mystic Moons of Munnopor!” reflected Alec K Redfearn.  “That must have been the exact moment!”

Conjuring The Winds of Watoomb, Redfearn flew to White Electric, his hair twisting like the windsock at an airport.

He descended near the pogo stick rack.

Instantly, a thought penetrated him like an Icy Tendril Of Ikthalon!

“By The Hoary Hosts Of Hoggoth!  What if my old lady should swallow an accursed cough drop upon her return home from pistol range?”

Alec reconjured The Winds Of Watoomb, which would prove to be a real bitch when the paperwork arrived at the end of the month, and shot back home, his socks reverberating like the tires of a P51 Mustang.

He was horrified to discover his archenemy, MORDO!, arriving at his doorstep on his macabre Schwinn Stingray.

“By The Demons Of Denak!  What the hell do you want, Mordo?”

“Ha!  Forfeit your position as The Guardian Of Providence’s Crunk Chalice or I shall transform a player to be named later into wax paper!”

“Ah, your mother blows, Mordo!”

Waving his hands in manner not unlike the members of The Four Tops, Alec K Redfearn invoked the Seven Suns of Cinnibus, which melted the snow, scorched the asphalt and did several hundred thousand dollars of structural damage to the artisan scented candle place.

“Fuck it, Redfearn!  You burnt my robe!”  hissed Baron Mordo.

“Well, there’s plenty more where that came from, Baron!”  sneered Alec K Redfearn.

“Ah, you ain’t got brain one!”

“Ah, you’re fulla shit, ya hump.”

Baron Mordo enshrouded himself in The Vapors Of Valtorr, vanishing from sight, presumably to return.

Alec K Redfearn produced a package of Timberwolf Long Cut Winter Green chewing tobacco from his cape before flying away.