Young Clark Kent At Dorking

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.

Despite their paltry means and plainly limited intelligence, Jonathan and Martha Kent were determined to make sure their adopted son, Clark, had every advantage in life.  Through personal industry and canny manipulation of the family’s silverware collection, they were able to generate sufficient funds to send Young Clark to Dorking, a private all-boy’s school located in nearby Bigton and affiliated with The Methodists.

Young Clark adapted very well to his new surroundings.  An earnest boy with a muscular interest in justice, The American Way and truth, he dived headlong into Dorking’s well-respected athletic program – which was the best in the Mid-west and not inferior to any found in the East.  Clark excelled at running, jumping, leaping, swimming, gymnastics, foot-ball, base-ball, cricket, hockey, wrestling and boxing.  Clark was so adept at fisticuffs that the other students refused to meet him in the ring, and Young Clark was forced to batter the custodial staff and local tramps.

In addition, Young Clark was renowned for the speed in which he could run the school flag up the pole in the mornings, and for his ability to extinguish modest fires using only the power of his lungs.

Such a remarkable lad soon ran afoul of envious students.  “Irish” Mickey O’Flaherty and “Irish” Paddy O’Sullivan were roughneck boys attending Dorking on The Hibernian Scholarship established by Pope Leo XIII.  The grant indicated that certain boys who could count to 10 without erupting into profanity or invoking Saint Hubertus would be allowed to attend the school, provided they stayed in Gethsemane, a special dormitory located across town and built specifically for Romists.

Young Clark has made every effort to win the friendship of O’Flaherty and O’Sullivan, offering them boiled potatoes and speaking to them in Latin.  O’Flaherty, who, at 52, was one of the oldest boys on campus and who should have developed a certain maturity, rejected Clark’s friendly gestures.  He and O’Sullivan clouted Young Clark on the head with a board with nail in it on more than one occasion, to mysteriously little effect.

One morning, after a spirited game of Bury The Chinaman, Young Clark and his chum were quaffing lime rickeys at the off campus spa. 

O’Flaherty kicked open the door and brazenly adjusted the suspenders on  the barrel he wore around his trunk!

“Fi,” ejaculated O’Flaherty!

“Take that back,” retorted Young Clark!

Instantly,  O’Sullivan emerged from behind the medicinal leech tank with a blunderbuss!  He pointed the dangerous machine at Young Clark and it disgorged an inky cloud of deadly buckshot.

The scalding metal killed several of Young Clark’s classmates, but – no fear! – our hero was uninjured.

“Give me that,” declared Clark, tearing off one of O’Sullivan’s arms!  He instantly compressed the blunderbuss’s mouth into a useless metal slot.

O’Flaherty was, by now, praying feverishly to Saint Jude Thaddeus. 

Young Clark leapt the length of the wooden floor, and was about to permanently compress O’Flaherty’s head deep into his shoulders, when the front door flew open.

An imposing man stood in front of Young Clark Kent!

“Great Caesar’s Ghost,” the man shouted!

Clark recognized him immediately!

“Daddy Warbucks!”

The Wish

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.

Joey wished real hard and he prayed real long.  Every day.  Every day, he wished and every day he prayed.  One morning, God granted him his wish and answered his prayers.

Joey’s Dad came down the stairs in a big hurry.  He found Joey’s Mom in the kitchen.

“Why the fuck is Al ‘Grandpa’ Lewis from The Munsters in the upstairs bathroom?”  Joey’s Dad jerked his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the stairs.

“Joey wished him back to life,” Joey’s Mom stated in an even voice.  She’d been practicing her even tone of voice all morning.

“Joey what?”

“He wished Al ‘Grandpa’ Lewis from The Munsters back to life.  It’s beautiful.  It’s a miracle.”

“It’s neither of those things,” declared Joey’s Dad!  “There’s a very confused man-vampire in the upstairs bathroom, and he’s not happy!  Where is Joey, now?”

“He’s at school!”

He’s at school?  He resurrected the dead and threw it in our lap while he’s at school?”

Joey’s Mom absently arranged the forks and spoons on the kitchen counter.  She thought for a moment.

“Joey has been wishing and praying for years.  Years!  This is what he wanted, and it came true.  I know it wasn’t what we expected, but we have to believe in him, to trust him, and we have to believe that Al ‘Grandpa’ Lewis was brought back to life for some reason that is greater than our understanding.”

A series of small thuds reverberated from upstairs.  Joey’s Parents knew that bewildered Al ‘Grandpa’ Lewis had knocked over the decorative wooden bowls near the bathroom door.  New visitors to their home always did that.   The bowls were arranged in an inconvenient fashion.

“This,” asked Joey’s Dad, pointing at the ceiling, “was what he was praying for?”

“I guess so.”

“I thought he was praying about his aunt or about soldiers in Iraq or something.”

“No.  He wasn’t.”

“He was praying for Al ‘Grandpa’ Lewis to come back to life?”

Herman!” blared Al ‘Grandpa’ Lewis from upstairs.   His voice bounced off the recently installed tile.

“I didn’t even know Joey was such a fan of The Munsters,” said Joey’s Dad, leaning unsteadily against the kitchen counter.

“I didn’t knew, either,” Joey’s Mom said, quietly.  “I guess he was.”

I guess he was!  Well, you’re correct.  He was a big enough fan of The Munsters to pray with such dedication to bring one of its stars back to life.  Why didn’t he pray for John F Kennedy to come back to life?  Why didn’t he pray for Hitler to drown as a child?”

“We can’t pressure him.”

“When word gets out that our son prayed Al ‘Grandpa’ Lewis from The Munsters back from beyond the grave, do you know how people are going to react?  Can you imagine?  Can you imagine how much television we must have let him watch?  Last year, Diane Eloise’s son gets killed in a motorcycle accident.  She’s inconsolable, and our son decides that the person he will resurrect is Al ‘Grandpa’ Lewis from The Munsters.”

Joey’s Mom slammed the palms of her hands against the formica countertop.  She burst into tears.

“He was on Car 54, Where Are You, too,” she hissed between sobs.

Joey’s Dad stared at here, long and hard.  There was an iciness growing around him that she did not like.

A knock at the door, which was unusual.  Visitors tended to ring the bell.

Before he could move, she ran out of the kitchen.

He heard her open the door.  He heard soft muttering.  Stifled tears.

She walked back to the kitchen.  Her eyes were bleary and red.  Her mouth was slightly open.

He had to protect her.  He took her hand.  She rested her forehead against his shoulder.

She spoke in a soft, tired voice.

“It’s Richard Deacon from The Dick Van Dyke Show.  He doesn’t know what’s going on.”

Back In Black

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.

It might.

Look at him.  Long arachnid arms and bloated belly.  A hump.  He looks like he’ll have trouble chewing his own food.

When the nurse tries to move his wheelchair, he clamps his fingers around the edge of the dinner table.  Surprisingly strong.  Ornery,  He’s just so old.

The nurse, a pretentious, dimwitted girl with her nose forever buried in one of those useless magical adventure books, likes to talk.  Most of the ‘clients’ can’t hear her, but she talks anyway. 

She leans over the aged spider in his wheelchair.

“Don’t let the new seating arrangement preclude you from enjoying your meal, Doctor,” she drips.  She’s used to people simply adoring her.

The old spider doesn’t look at her.  “Preclude me enjoying my meal,” he spits.

“What?”

“’Preclude me enjoying my meal.’  You said, ‘Preclude me from enjoying my meal,’ which is incorrect.  ‘From’ is understood in the use of ‘preclude.’”

“…”

It’s him.

He tries to adjust his spine, to turn towards the nurse.  He can’t.   Nothing left in him.

“Two stupid nurses ate breakfast together.  Both of them drank this terrible iced tea.  One stupid nursie swallowed them very fast…”

It’s him.

Night.  I don’t know what time.  I awake.

My wheelchair makes too much noise.  My artificial leg is useless.  I’ll have to crawl across the carpet.

Gordon was a fool.  He should have set fire to the building and watched them all burn.  Gordon was perfect:  noble, sentimental and dumb as a post.  No wonder they loved him.  A man who congratulated himself on his failings and expected congratulations.

I look at the names of the ‘clients’ printed on the doors.

“Rutherford, M.”

“Phillips, J.”

“Nigma, E (Dr.)”

It’s him.

I don’t have to force the lock.  The presumptuous clods left the door open.

He lies on his bed, flat on his back.  I’ve seen him like this hundreds of times before, only now there isn’t blood pouring from his nose.  I must be responsible for half of his missing teeth.

I’m going to press my forearm against his throat.  If I do it correctly, I’ll stop the flow in his carotid artery and he’ll pass out.  If I do it wrong, I’ll crush his windpipe and he’ll die.

I hope I do it wrong.

I brace myself against the wall and reach for his shoulders.  He doesn’t even wake up.

It’s done in 5 minutes.  70 years are over in 5 minutes,

A nurse walks in.  She’s heard something.

“Mr. Wayne!  What are you doing?”

Vitalogy

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.

Some guys in a band called City Slang were booked to play at the student union.  I wasn’t doing the booking, but it was up to me to make sure the PA system worked properly or that the stage didn’t accidentally catch fire from all the cables writhing around behind the drum set.

They were older guys.  Early 30s.  Not at all what we were used to having.  Usually, we got young bands from the local schools or hip, independent acts.  City Slang had prematurely graying temples and vintage equipment.  They even dressed kind of square:  white slip on loafers and polyester pants;  thin gold chains;  collared shirts with palm tree patterns.

These guys were exhausted.  They made no secret of ducking into the bathroom for instant bumps of coke.  They didn’t speak much.  Communicated through the eye rolls and hand gestures that only band mates can understand – developed after years of tolerating and being tolerated.

City Slang hit the stage at 10PM in front of about 50 people.  They played a great set. Elvis Costello-style pub rock with cool singing.  Once again, it wasn’t the most fashionable thing, but they did it well.  Two sets – which was unheard of – and a long encore of Kinks and Yardbirds covers.

1 AM.  As they were loading up their – of course – station wagon, I asked if they had any merch.  I always make it a point to buy something off a touring band, be it a t-shirt or a record:  often, it pays for a full tank of gas or a meal.

One of the guys in City Slang reached into the back of the wagon and handed me a single.  7 inch.  Black vinyl.  Paper sleeve.  Orange label.

Thanks, guys…

…and they were gone.

Red brake lights into the night like eyes.  Eyes like a ghost.

I dismantled the PA system so the girls’ Judo club would have a place to put their mats in the morning.  I sat on the concrete steps outside and drank a couple of beers.  All alone.  Pitch black.  Good old New England dark.  Just the trees rocking in the spring air.  Their full leaves wafting like underwater ferns in all that darkness. 

I got back to my dorm close to 4AM.

First thing, I slapped the City Slang 45 on the turntable, an old Technics. 

The single was OK.  It was called “Pigeons From Hell” and, frankly, the version they played live was much better.  The record sounded thin and, horribly, there was a ‘flash’ guitar solo in the middle of what should have been a cool, Stones-y crawler.

I flipped it over.  The b-side was “The Monkey’s Paw.”  The song started out with just a drum beat – not quite dance-y, but insistent.

I leaned my head back against the pillow and was asleep within seconds.

I woke up at 9AM to the sound of drums.  I looked at the turntable;  “The Monkey’s Paw” was still playing.  I must have left the stylus on repeat.

I hadn’t.

Drums.

Drums.

The record didn’t go anywhere.  It was just drums.  Incredibly, the needle seemed to roam around the grooves at will, but the regimented beat of drums was uninterrupted.

I stared at the spinning black circle for a few moments.  Or hours. 

It just kept playing.   Never getting any closer to ending.  It just continued.

Drums.

I turned the volume down.

Silence.

I turned the volume back up.

Drums.

Drums forever.  Always drums.

The single played continuously – never getting any closer to an ending – for the entirety of my sophomore, junior and senior years.  When it came to clear out of the dorms for the summer, I’d turn the volume down, shut off the lights and close the door.  In September, I’d return and turn the sound back up. 

Drums.  Right where we left off.  Never getting any closer to the end.

I’m graduating in two weeks.  I’m going to clean out my dorm room, but leave the stereo system for whoever shows up.  Maybe they’ll hear what I heard.

I talked to my parents about my driving around for the summer.  Cross country.  “Finding myself.”

I don’t want to find myself.  I’m going to look for City Slang.

     

Speak Like A Child

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 read that Shorty Maurice died.  The obituary didn’t say how he died, which was revealing to the people who actually knew him.

Those people probably knew how he died.  Or why he died.

His shtick was the crossbow.  At the end of the night, after last call, 2AM, the bands would be loading out and the kids would be gathering on the sidewalk.  Talk of an afterparty.  Who had what substances.  Shorty would insinuate himself into a conversation and, within minutes, take grave offense at something someone had said.  The conversations were often so innocuous that Shorty would require a few tries to get really pissed off, but he always succeeded in blowing his stack.

Shorty would run to his car and return – steely eyed – with his Barnett crossbow.  He’d point it at the offending party and talk would cease. 

He’d do this about once every two or three years.  Short, wiry bastard with a reddish-brown afro and a mustache.  Oxford shirt tucked into his jeans.  Coked up to the rafters.  His hands would shake and people would lean away from him, 45 degrees at the waist.

Shorty’s unhinged Vietnam vet/Deerhunter number didn’t withstand much scrutiny.  He was 5 years old when the US pulled out of Saigon.  Both his parents taught art history at a big deal Catholic college.  Shorty was crazy because it was easier than getting a job at a bank or going to grad school.

Anyway…

Cooler heads would eventually prevail.  Shorty would return the weapon to his car, but only after announcing that he could only be pushed so far and that nobody appreciated him as much as they should.

Shorty’s girlfriend, Carlotta, who had plenty of masculinity issues of her own, would drive him home.  She was a short, grumpy bodybuilder-type with a smoker’s cough who liked to get drunk on bourbon and wrestle the guys in the bands.  Her thighs were so pumped up that she tended to teeter-totter when she walked.  People called her “The Penguin.” 

Shorty and Carlotta didn’t have a healthy relationship.  They had bruises on their necks and shoulders and stuff.  One day, Carlotta disappeared.  Everyone was worried that Shorty’d killed her, but she’d moved to Venice, California, turns out.

I’m going home, next month, for a visit.  I’ll sit down with the old bandmates.  We’ll grab lunch and that’ll be enough nostalgia for the year.  All sorts of weird rumors about Shorty’s demise will emerge.

Some people don’t like having crossbows pointed at them.

Pink Moon

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 was impressed.  Lou had written eleven new songs – great ones – in less than a month. 

I thought about that, a lot.  He had broken up with Miranda, and this evidently rattled awake some dormant genius.  Lou had been good for a few decent songs a year, but the new stuff he was bringing to practice was just killing me. 

They were slow, easily broken things.  They loped quietly and wandered and their chording was subtle.  Open D tuning.  Sad nocturnal drones.  Lou tucked his chin in towards his chest when he sang them.  In the past, he had mimicked Joey Ramone’s adenoidal wheeze.  These new songs required a different approach.  You almost got the feeling that Lou didn’t want to damage them – like he was borrowing expensive china from a woman he really loved.

We kept telling Lou how incredible this new stuff was.  Lou’s brother, Alex, got pissy;  he stopped coming to practice.  I didn’t mind.  One less guitar meant more room for Lou’s unexplored inspiration.  The open D allowed harmonics to hang over the bass and drums.  I would liken it to driving a car through an evening drizzle.

We drove two hundred miles to Brooklyn to play at a fucking Starbucks.  No hipster coffee house for us.  No house parties in Green Point.  No.  We hated that shit.  There was a Starbucks in Brooklyn Heights that booked songwriters.  We figured there’d be parking and free food.  We called them up.  Within 45 minutes, the manager called us back.  Playing New York was easy if you just did it the smart way.

Lou was quiet the whole drive down.  Lied down on the back seat. 

We played at 630PM in front of a room full of unfolded Macbooks.  Lou closed his eyes for the whole set, which was a first.  An older guy wearing a flannel shirt knew the words to all of Lou’s songs.  This blew my mind.  I was aware that Lou often emailed record people in NYC.  I assumed this was a producer.  If he was trying to impress us with his knowledge of Lou’s stuff, he was overdoing it.  Mouthing the lyrics and rocking his hips.

Everyone applauded. 

Afterwards, the manager gave us as much free coffee as we could drink.  Just so we’d be awake on the drive home.  8PM.

He was really into our cover of “Pink Moon.”

In fact, everyone was into our cover of “Pink Moon.”

On the drive home – the very long drive home – Lou explained that he hadn’t written eleven new songs.  He had simply learned how to play the entirety of Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, and taught us the songs from scratch, as if he had written them.

“I never said outright that they were mine,” he responded, at one point.

     

Daydream Nation

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.

Reverb Records, which billed itself as “Providence’s Best Record Store,” was located directly across the street from The Sound Investment, the owner of which handed out flyers proclaiming the establishment  “Providence’s Best Record Store.”

The respective bosses of Reverb Records (Sparky) and The Sound Investment (Big Bear) had never actually met, despite working 100 feet from each other for 27 years.   The nearest thing to an unofficial tete-a-tete occurred when Sparky hired a sign painter to create a mural outside his shop,  Midway through the job, the lumbering Big Bear emerged from hibernation in an effort to bribe the craftsman into misspelling ‘Reverb.’  Sparky’s brother, an ex-Marine named Carl, threw some punches and Big Bear retreated.     

The staff of Reverb Records, a young and pugnacious crew, took to shooting at Big Bear with an air rifle from the rooftops.  Bear, older and perpetually swathed in a marijuana haze, complained to his landlord about the wasps. 

Undaunted, the kids at Reverb Records covered the east side of Providence with gag posters advertising an in-store appearance at The Sound Investment by Skrewdriver, a white power band from England whose existence had been virtually outlawed by the British government.  Skrewdriver, needless to say, did not show, but The Sound Investment was pestered for days by a handful of stoop-shouldered skinheads and their ringleader, a defrocked priest.

Eventually, music changed, and with it, the music business.  Reverb Records, with its contrarian philosophy exemplified by punk, indie rock and old school rap, began to drift away from the youth it so required.  The Sound Investment started charging exorbitant prices for Nick Drake and Incredible String Band LPs that were easily available online or though reissue.

Reverb Records is now pilates studio.

The Sound Investment burnt down shortly after closing.

However, on summer nights, very very late, when the college students are gone and the businesses are closed, you can still hear a Reverb Records employee calling The Sound Investment and asking to speak to Hugh Jass.