The Cornfield

Here’s a new story never before seen on my blog that has been published. It is in Ariel Chart Review, October 20, 2019. You can look it up if you want to. It’s free on the web. It’s easier if you google “Ariel Chart Magazine Cornfield”.

I don’t know where this story came from. Many of my stories have a background, some thing that sparks the story. If this one did, I can’t remember it. I’ve been thinking the past couple of days trying to remember what gave me the idea, and I just can’t remember anything.

Update: a reader has reminded me that I told her I got the story from a Melissa Etheridge song. It was “We Got Nowhere to Go”. I remember seeing a homoerotic music video of it on Youtube. I was touched by the hopelessness of the song and the feeling of empathy for the characters. I hoped to capture some of that in my story. Thanks, Cate.

The publication of this story was interesting also. I submitted it to Ariel Chart in September. I quickly received a message from the editor who read it that she liked it. A lot. She really wanted to publish it, but there were several changes they wanted. Without the changes they couldn’t use it. The changes were minor, so I agreed.

First, there was an overt implication that sex occurred. She asked that I take that out. I didn’t think the magazine was prudish, but what do I know. They’re Australian. So, I took it out.

Second, it didn’t have an ending that worked. It kind of just petered out. Or died. She wanted me to give it some kind of resolution. I did and it really made it a much better story.

Finally, was the length. It was somewhere under 3200 words or so. She said her managing editor would absolutely not accept anything from her over 3000 words; could I cut it back? That took a bit of work. Taking out the references to sex reduced it some, but the resolution at the end added some words back. I did a line by line edit to get it down. It’s now a very lean story. But I managed to turn it in to her at exactly 3000 words. What I’m putting here is not exactly the story that appears in Ariel Chart. I’ve added 6 more words to the last paragraph that I think gives it a nicer finish. So now, in all it’s 3006 word glory, here is The Cornfield. More to follow.

The Cornfield

            Dylan Westfield was a great guy. Everybody liked Dylan. What’s not to like? He was affable, charming, a friend to all. The girls fawned over his long, lanky frame and easy good looks. His hair shone yellow blond like newly mined gold, his blue irises had little radiating spokes of silver, making them sparkle like starlight. And his daddy being the richest man in town didn’t hurt. The girls idolized him, and the boys flocked to him.

            There were certain things everyone knew about Dylan. If you were in a jam, he’d bail you out. At the tavern he always picked up the tab. He didn’t date much, but never talked trash about the girls he went out with. And one thing everyone knew about Dylan was he hated Logan Thomas. No one knew exactly what Logan had done to draw the ire of the most popular, easiest going guy in school, but it must have been awful. If Logan even walked into the same room, Dylan’s expression would cloud. It was like shutting off the sunlight.

            Logan seemed to return the dislike tenfold. Maybe it was Dylan who had offended him. No one knew. The beginning of senior year had seen the boys thrown together in the same class and suddenly the sparks flew. The one thing everyone knew about Logan Thomas was he despised Dylan Westfield. 

***

            “Thomas!” Dylan yelled angrily. “I’m gonna kick your sorry ass back to hicktown where you came from.” School had just let out, and they were in the parking lot. Dylan and Logan were chest to chest like two bantam roosters ready to fight.

            “You and what army, you prissy little rich kid? Gonna get Daddy to fight for you?” Logan sneered. He was a couple inches shorter than Dylan’s six feet, but you had to give him credit for never backing down. Working in his father’s garage gave him the muscle to back it up. It was obvious words had been spoken before the crowd started gathering. Dylan stared at Logan with a coldness that accentuated the silver in his eyes. That iciness would make anyone shiver. Logan was red-faced with his anger. His jet-black hair was near shoulder length, almost touching the frayed edges of his denim vest with the POW and MIA patches. In his t-shirt, jeans, and ragged sneakers, he stood in stark difference to Dylan’s classic elegance. 

            “Keep your grubby hands off my car. I just had it waxed and I don’t need trailer trash like you smudging the shine. Now back off!” Several of Dylan’s larger friends loomed up beside him. Logan, realizing retreat was sometimes the better part of valor, glared at Dylan but backed away. Eventually he turned and continued through the parking lot to begin his long walk home.

            “You okay, D?” asked Big Tommy Shaw from the football team. “Me and the boys would be glad to go rough him up for you. Just say the word.”

            “No, let the little shit go. I’ve got better things to do than worry about him.”

            A girl wearing entirely too much makeup and an over the top pink cashmere sweater and wool skirt, despite the day’s heat, came gliding up to him. She laid her hand on the fender of his new sports car.

            “Ooh, I love red cars,” she purred. “Give a girl a lift home?”

            “Marlee, you live two blocks from here.” There was only a little exasperation in his voice. “But hop in.”

            The school took up two entire city blocks of town. Dylan jack rabbited his roadster along each of the four boundary streets, circling the school, working through the gears, trying to get up to fourth before slamming on the brakes for the next stop sign. Marlee squealed her pleasure, eyes agleam at being in Dylan’s car and at being with Dylan.  With the top down, they gloried in the cool wind and afternoon sun.  He took a circuitous route through town, finally ending up in Marlee’s driveway. He turned off the car, and they sat for a minute listening to the ticking of the cooling engine. Marlee pushed her lower lip out in a pout.

            “How come you haven’t asked me to Harvest Fest yet?” He figured that was coming. Truth be told, he didn’t want to go to Harvest Fest, or anywhere, with Marlee. He wasn’t even sure what he saw in her to begin with. She acted cheap, common. All the things he despised. He’d only dated her a few times, among other girls. But she had decided that they were a ‘thing’. He’d hesitated to set her straight, knowing it would be a scene. He hated scenes.

            “Look, Marlee. I’m not even sure I will be around to go to Harvest Fest. My family has plans. If I can, I’ll get in touch with you.”

            “Promise?” she asked like a four-year-old trying to extract a guarantee for a treat from Mommy.

            “Of course,” he said. Disaster temporarily avoided, he thought.

***

            Logan walked along the state road, beside a cornfield on his way home. The stalks and leaves were turning brown. The pickers would be by any day, reducing the fields to stubble. Then the vista of sweeping plains and distant rolling hills would again be revealed. Once again everyone could see what a shit hole they lived in. Welcome to Butt Hole, Iowa.

This being a Wednesday he didn’t have to show up at Dad’s garage. He had a late study group on Wednesdays. At least, that’s what he told Dad. He was so lost in thought the loud rumble was almost upon him before he processed it. As soon as it registered, his heart was in his throat. He fought the urge to plunge into the cornfield, avoiding the bullies about to beset him, but that was the coward’s way out. The pickup with ridiculously high tires throttled down as it pulled up even to him. He continued walking, refusing to acknowledge the truck or its crew. Big Tommy Shaw was driving. Without looking, Logan knew that his right-hand man, Doug Mason would ride shotgun. Some mixture of football punks would ride in the back.

            “Hey, trailer trash. The trailer park’s the other way. You lost?” Tommy shouted, to hoots and snickers from his cronies. Logan walked on.

            “Hey, dick face. I’m talking to you.” Tommy didn’t like being ignored. Logan eyed the cornfield. If the guys jumped from the truck, he felt he could probably lose them in the field. Probably. The drying leaves rustled louder than when they were fresh and green.  He suddenly felt a thud, as someone hit him in the side with a soft drink cup, half full. Fortunately, it struck him broadside so when the plastic cap popped off, the soda splashed away from him.  He stopped and stared at the cup. There were ominous “oohs” from the truck bed as if daring him to retaliate. He bent down and found a fist-sized rock with nice jagged edges. He turned to face the truck.

            “You know, Tommy, I could probably get Dad to give you a discount on the body work your truck’s gonna need,” he said hefting the rock, and then looking at it pointedly. Tommy’s tricked out pickup was his baby. It was bright blue without a speck of dust. Logan knew just how to hurt Tommy the most.

            “You wouldn’t dare, faggot. I’ll kill you if you touch my truck.”

            “Well, I got a head start, and it’s a big cornfield. You’ll have to catch me first,” he hefted the rock again as if deciding where to start.

            “I’m warning you, Thomas. Don’t mess with my truck.” A succession of loud beeps suddenly interrupted him as Dylan’s roadster shot up into the gap between Tommy’s truck and Logan.

            “This pissant causing you trouble, Tommy?” Dylan called across to the truck.

            “Yeah, the fucker’s threatening to scratch my truck.”

            “Really!” There was the ratcheting sound of Dylan setting the emergency brake. “I think it’s time Mr. Thomas was taught to mind his manners in the presence of his betters.” He climbed out of the car and Logan took a step back.

            “Want any help, D?” Tommy asked. All the boys were getting excited now.

            “No thanks. I been wanting to kick this peckerwood’s ass for a long time. I plan to enjoy it.” As all the boys hollered, Dylan charged Logan. Logan seemingly caught Dylan’s arm unawares and swung him around. Releasing, he let Dylan stumble into a pile of kudzu in the ditch bank. And with that, Logan was off like a shot through the cornfield. The noise of the boys shouting their disappointment at losing the afternoon’s entertainment quickly faded in the background. He could still faintly hear their shouts of “Coward!”

            Logan slowed down to ease his breathing. No one was giving chase. He sighed. Just another day. He rolled with the emotional punches just as he did the physical ones, whether from his classmates or his dad. It was just how things were.

            The afternoon sun could not penetrate the thick canopy of cornstalk leaves, creating an oasis of coolness in the shadow. The rows were parallel to the state road, so he continued walking in the direction he had originally been travelling. Maybe I should walk a few rows inside the field every day. Avoid unnecessary conflicts, he thought. But then, the cornfield wouldn’t be here much longer.

            It wasn’t as if everyone hated him. He had friends. But the ‘in’ crowd had made him their whipping boy. The jocks, the rich kids, the social elite. What kind of threat was he? He never bothered them; he definitely didn’t want to be one of them. He was just marking time until he could escape this hellhole. Leave Iowa far behind.

The corn field abruptly ended at a dirt path, a path tractors and other farm equipment used to maneuver between fields. He turned left to follow the path. After a few miles of twisting through the fields, he would find his house.

            And no, he was not trailer trash. The Thomas house wasn’t nice like the rich kids, but it was respectable and paid for. Dad said it was his castle and couldn’t no one throw him out. Dad frequently made such pronouncements, usually after putting away a six-pack of beer. Logan had long since figured out that Dad was what was called a ‘functional alcoholic’. He owned his own business, made it successful, never showed up to work drunk or laid out. But evenings and weekends, he was drunk more often than he wasn’t. And he was a mean drunk. Along about the fourth beer you could see a change come over his face, an ugly sneer would form. That was the time they all made themselves scarce. His rages were unpredictable, triggered by anything or nothing. He knew Dad slapped Mom around, but weirdly, he never did it in front of the kids. However, he had no qualms about knocking Logan and his siblings around while Mom watched with worry. As the oldest, Logan took the brunt of it, often putting himself at risk to protect the younger ones. He was seventeen and just beginning to realize he could take on his father and best him in a fight. But he was unsure if he could ever really raise a hand to the man. He was so conditioned to back down.

***

            Logan rounded a curve in the path, about a mile in from the state road and straight ahead he saw a gleaming red sports car. Dylan Westfield was standing beside the car, leaning against it with arms crossed, as nonchalant as if it was not odd to see a pricey sports car parked on a dusty farm path. And Dylan was staring at him. Logan felt his pulse quicken.

            He continued trudging along the path, never looking away. He slowed slightly as he neared the car but kept moving ahead. When it looked as if he might pass by, Dylan abruptly stepped forward, blocking the path. He forced Logan to stop. Dylan regarded him with his arms still crossed, a wry grin on his face.

            “They almost got you today. You need to be more careful.”

            “Yeah, thanks for the bail.”

            “Always. What would I do without you?” He opened his arms and Logan stepped into his embrace. They stood for a few minutes, as if drawing strength from each other.

            “It’s just so hard. I hate this stupid game we’re playing,” Logan mumbled into Dylan’s shoulder. “Having to act like I hate you all the time.”

            “I know, babe. It sucks. But we have our plan. It’ll work out.”

            Releasing Logan, he walked to the trunk of the little car.

            “By the way, nice ride,” Logan said. “Birthday present?”

            “Yeah, thanks, maybe I can give you a ride sometime.”

            “Not likely. What would people think?”

Opening the trunk, Dylan removed a blanket and a cooler. They walked over to a grassy spot near the edge of the field. The stalks blocked the lowering sun, casting a shadow over their little picnic area. After spreading the blanket, they both sat down.

            Dylan opened the cooler and took out a couple of beers. He also had a bag of chips.  He sat the bag between them and passed Logan a bottle.

            Logan looked at Dylan.

            “Trailer trash? Really? You called me trailer trash? I gotta admit. That stings.”

            “Well, you called me prissy.”

            They both burst out laughing at the same time. Logan held his beer out. Dylan tapped it with his and they drank.

            After the beers, and most of the chips, they laid on the blanket, Logan on his back, Dylan on his side, looking at him.

            “Hey, babe. I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. You know I didn’t mean any of it,” Dylan said.

            “I know. I was just razzing you.”

            “Promise?”

            “Yeah.” Logan heaved himself up on one elbow. “C’mere.” Dylan scooted closer so they could get their arms around each other and laid back in a kiss.

            When they finally came up for air, Dylan whispered huskily, “Oh man, I needed that.”

            “Me too.” They resumed kissing and exploring each other’s bodies. After a while they simply rested in each other’s arms, relishing the quiet of nature and the simple joy of touching.

            All too soon the creeping shadows said the day was done. They both had worlds requiring their return.

            “When will this end?” Logan asked plaintively.       

            Dylan smiled at his undeclared lover. “Soon, babe. Just a few more months and we can leave this punk ass town.”

            “It’s so easy for you to dream. Any dream I’ve ever had was quickly stamped out by my bastard of a father. I don’t think I know how to dream anymore.”

            “We’ll make it. I’ll dream for both of us if I have to. I meant to tell you, I got early acceptance at Dartmouth. The letter came this weekend. You’re coming with me. We’ll use your money to enroll you in classes to become a certified mechanic. You already know all that stuff.”

            “Suppose it’s not enough?”

            “You worry too much. I’ll pay our way until you’re on your feet. If you’re too proud to let me support you, then keep track and you can pay me back. We love each other and this lets us get out of this shit hole state and be together.”

            “I’m afraid to hope for it. What’ll we tell our folks?”

            “I’d say we tell your dad nothing. That asshole doesn’t even deserve a ‘goodbye’. I think my dad’s figuring it out. He’s not going to want a fag running the company, so he’ll probably offer me a shitload of money to stay away after college. I plan to take the money and then come back and milk him for more. Surely, he can spare a few million for his least favorite son. And Mom still loves me, and she’s loaded, too. More money than Dad. Money will never be a problem for us.”

            “But I mean how much longer at school? I’m tired of pretending to hate you.”

            “Yeah, it’s getting old. But we agreed that this was the better way. The so-called popular crowd already hated you, so there was no real way we would ever be friends. But if we didn’t do something, people would figure it out just from the way I stare at you. This way, I can look at you, drink in your beauty, interact with you, even touch you, and no one’s the wiser.”

            “Yeah, but it’s killing me.”

            “I know, me too. But it’s the only way I can figure. Don’t you think we’re worth it?”

            “We are so definitely worth it. You are worth it. I’ll do whatever it takes to be with you.”

            Dylan leaned in for a long, lingering kiss.

            “That’s what I need to hear. We’re strong. We will prevail.”

            After a few moments of silence, both boys stood and without words stowed the blanket and empty bottles in Dylan’s car. When everything was cleared, Dylan sat in the driver’s seat of his shiny red roadster. Logan leaned against the door, holding Dylan’s hand as if it were a lifeline. He hated the stinging of unshed tears as he kissed his lover goodbye.

            “See you tomorrow, babe. And I promise. No more trailer trash. I’m so sorry I hurt you.”

            “It’s okay. I may still call you prissy, though. This car is so prissy.”

            “Yeah, and you love it,” Dylan laughed and sped away down the dusty lane. The sky was a glory of reds and purples desperately trying to hold on to the day. Logan couldn’t take time to notice the beauty. His family expected him home soon. No, not home. Just a temporary stopping point. His real home was elsewhere, with the boy with golden hair, icy blue eyes, infectious grin and a shiny red car.

Reset

Most of the magazines I’ve been marketing my stories to say that the work shouldn’t have been published previously. They also usually add a statement that putting them up on a personal blog does not count as publishing. Some of them are now saying they also don’t want them if they are published anywhere, including a private blog. So, to keep my writings viable I’m taking down the stories that I’m marketing. I’m leaving up stories that I don’t plan to try to sell, general writing and a chapter (Best Summer Ever) from my novel in progress. As stories are published (hopefully), I’ll create a menu of published work and post those stories on my blog. I have three I can post right now, one of which has never been seen on the blog. I have another three that I need to wait until the magazines publish them. Sorry for all the confusion.

DWTS 8

OK, technical difficulties may be a thing of the past. I am typing this on my brand-new HP Pavilion 360 touch screen. Sweet. And the space key actually works.

Now, on to more important matters. I’ve been seeing chatter online and on Facebook that people are starting to realize what I called some weeks ago. Sean Spicer is going to win DWTS unless someone does something. If the crazies can elect a nincompoop for president, they can easily elect at stumblebum as a dancer. When they get down to 4 celebrities and the bottom two are named is probably our last chance for him to be at the bottom. They will want 3 for the finale. Two will get perfect 10s and Sean will get 3 sevens. Just like Bobby Bones. Len has already said that he doesn’t belong in the competition and Carrie Ann seems to feel the same way. If only we could find a friendly producer to fudge the numbers just a bit. Or if the judges could get together and give Sean three 0s every time he’s up. I mean they say the judges’ scores count for fifty percent. Jefferson talked about this – letting the masses vote. People are stupid. You let them vote and there’s no telling what they might do. Witness Trump and Brexit. Witness Bobby Bones. If they go to the mat and let Sean take it, then that is my last day with DWTS. Someone else can write the reviews in the future. If they have a future. Allowing voting blocks with an agenda to hijack the show is making it a joke. A laughingstock. If that’s the case, why bother with the dancing? Just go right to the results. We all know what it will be. I feel they may be sealing their own doom. I have read that a lot of people are touting So You Think You Can Dance. I have a number of issues with that program starting with Nigel Lithgow. During the preliminaries a couple of years ago two men came on as what they called Male Pair Dancers. Two men, doing acrobatic and somewhat ballroom together. One said he was gay, the other said he was straight. Why a straight guy wanted to do that, I have no idea. They weren’t very good. Nigel went on a tirade and said some extremely homophobic things, being mean, and shaming them. Mary Murphy joined in. I used to respect her, seeing how she had been an abused wife and had found herself and ditched the abuser and become famous. But she showed she could be just as abusive. I was ashamed for the entire show. I think the next week Nigel came on and offered a somewhat tepid apology “if anyone was offended”. Not even owning up to what he had done. I cannot respect such a person and don’t want to watch him mouth platitudes week after week. And the try outs are annoying as hell. They bring out a couple hundred barbie dolls who come out in their Annette Funicello two piece and say “Hello, my name is Lauren and I’ve been doing tap and ballet since I was in the womb.” Apparently, she just jetéed out of Mom. Ballroom dancers rarely do well because of the screwed-up system. A ballroom dancer needs to work with a partner. SYTYCD is supposed to be all about partnering, yet all the tryouts are solos, except for the few ballroomers they let on. And then, if they have to do a dance for their life performance, it’s a solo. What the hell do they expect a ballroom dancer to do? In the past, there was a ballroom couple, husband and wife, who both made it on. When he had to do a dance for his position on one show, he got a cape and threw down a paso doble that wowed the crowd. When his wife was faced with a similar issue, she just did sets of cha cha and salsa shines. It’s kinda stacked against them. And they are always the best at partnering. And it’s reverse racist. A few years ago, a black girl who was a hip-hop dancer was on. When she flubbed the waltz, Nigel made excuses for her because she didn’t have the background. Later when a white kid had to do a krump, he was castigated because it looked “too polished”. He didn’t look “gangsta” enough. I call that reverse racism.  Or just plain old racism. It is what it is.

Maybe DTWS needs to take a page from the past. There was a dance show, Superstars of Dance. It was hosted by Lord of the Dance himself, Michael Flatley. You may remember him from Riverdance and Feet of Flame (or as I call it Feets on Fire). What most annoyed me about the program was that as it came on, they had a metal globe turning. It faded into the background as the name of the program came up. But the globe was turning the wrong way. With the thousand and one people involved in putting on the show, no one noticed that? It went on for about five weeks. They never fixed it. But on the positive side, they had a panel of judges, there were either six or eight. And they decided who the winner was. None of this letting the unlettered public decide. People who knew what it was supposed to look like did the deciding. Maybe DWTS needs to go back to that.

And speaking of TV gaffs, I remember another back in the late 70s, circa 1979. I was at the fraternity house preparing to go to a football game on a Saturday. The TV was on for ambience. And of course, Saturday morning cartoons were on. By the late 70s, animation had gone to the dogs. I grew up on the classic animation of Hanna Barberra, Wiley Coyote, Bugs Bunny, Huckleberry Hound. Not the wooden animation that was to come. I saw the writing on the wall with Johnny Quest. They went for realism with the characters, but the animation was atrocious. And looking back, the race baiting of Hadji was terrible, and what exactly was the relationship between Dr. Quest and Race Bannon? But by 1979 diversity was coming along and we had the first black superheroes. The cartoon I remember being on that morning was Superstretch, Microwoman and Baby Plaz. Yeah, it was as bad as it sounds. But every time there was a station break and they showed the title, they misspelled microwoman. They had MIRCOWOMAN. Once again, how had no one noticed that? But I have digressed far afield. Bottom line: DWTS is in trouble and I’m prepared to abandon ship.

I was not sad to see Kate leave the show. She had shown some capabilities, but I never warmed up to her. Don’t know why. And there was no big opening dance number. First, they’re chintzy with the Halloween dances and now no opening number. Budge must be very tight. Another sign they may be on the ropes.

Two dancers were disqualified for failing to dance ballroom. Sean proved that not only can he not dance ballroom, he can’t dance other genres either. As if there was any doubt.  All I could think of was that if you put him in Navy whites, he’d look just like the Pillsbury doughboy. AND JAZZ IS NOT A BALLROOM DANCE.

Sad that they wasted JVDB on a pajama dance. After the judges waxed poetic about its beauty I rewound and watched again, but still didn’t see it. Carrie Ann talked about the difficult lifts that had never been executed before. WTF. We see that stuff every time they allow lifts. Yes, the lifts were nice. But we’ve seen that before. I think the judges just got 10 happy. CONTEMPORARY IS NOT A BALLROOM DANCE.

And another thing. The highest scoring couple was supposed to get immunity from the throw down and an extra two points. By my score card, Ally and Sasha scored 30 as well as JVDB and Emma. So why did JVDB get the pass? Also cool that the two pros who got perfect scores are married.

The other two disappointments were Kate and Lauren. Coincidentally, both were jives. My eyes may never recover from Kate and Pasha’s costumes. They had more and better kicks than Lauren and Gleb but were so messy. Way out of sync many times.

And Gleb, what happened? You have a possible winner on your hands, and you give us this? It was entertaining and toe tapping, but those were the wimpiest kicks I’ve seen this side of Kate Gosselin (remember she looked like she was trying to get something stuck to the bottom of her shoe to fall off?).

Kel is bringing it now they’re down the home stretch. There was a stumble at the end. Loved the Star Trek Next Generation uniform with the side apron.

Hannah and Alan. 3 jetés? Wow! Lotsa fancy footwork goin’ on. White shoes after Labor Day? Faux pas on Alan.

Ally and Sasha. She was on fire! Where’d she find all the anger she was channeling during that dance? That was the best skirt work since Julianne Hough and maybe even better than her. It was wicked. Damn, girl. Perfect score so deserved.

Throw Down

Ally and Kel. I give it to Ally by a nose. The judges disagree.

Sean and Kate. Best laugh I’ve had all day. Kate by a mile.

Hannah and Lauren. I called it a draw. Hannah looked a bit stiff, but Lauren looked ungainly with her butt rolls. Gleb and Alan had to know they were going to take off their shirts – they were waxed (boo!) So why did they skip the spray tan? The glare was killing me.

Second place is anybody’s game right now. All but one of the deadwood is gone. The five remaining dancers can duke it out and Sean can stomp to the trophy.

HALLOWEEN!

The Hell you say. What’s the big deal with Halloween? Halloween was a big deal to us kids when I was growing up. I mean, wow, an excuse to get candy from the neighbors and eat it until you threw up. Who could pass up on that? And back then you could eat the apples and oranges you got in your bag without examining them for needles and razors. And the dressing up was kinda neat. I loved trick or treating until I was about 12. After that, a Halloween dance at school was always nice. I liked school dances. I wasn’t afraid to get out on the floor and was considered a good partner by the girls. I always had dance partners. And sometimes we’d meet in the upper bleachers or behind the bleachers. But that’s a story for another day.

All the dorms and frats had big Halloween parties in college and that’s when I began seeing outlandish and frequently group costumes. It was off the hook crazy. And I loved it. I was less adventurous. Just give me a sheet and I could rig up a toga. Twine some ivy around my head and, hey, I’m an ancient Roman. Not to mention the toga parties. But again, a different issue for a different day.

            My parents never put up Halloween decorations. Come to think of it, I don’t know anybody that did. I mean some people, like us, put a Jack o’Lantern on their front porch, but that was about it. This was the 1960s and 70s South. Everyone I knew was Baptist and they had decreed that Halloween was of the devil. Maybe they were right.

            What are we celebrating, anyway? All Hallows Eve. The night before All Hallows Day, the day all the saints are worshipped and any saint that doesn’t have a special day, well, this is for him or her. If it’s a Catholic thing, then Baptists are sure it’s a thing of the devil. In Mexico it is El Dia de le Morte, the Day of the Dead. It’s a particularly ghoulishly named celebration of our ancestors. While the whole shebang seems wrapped up in Christianity, somehow Halloween has taken on the trappings of the other side. Who wants to be an angel for Halloween when he can be a first class Satan?

            These days Halloween has morphed into a major holiday. Maybe Hallmark and Hersheys  are to blame. It seems nearly every house in my neighborhood has their trees, bushes and porches wrapped in orange lights. There are larger than life blow up black cats, headless horseman on his steed, with a pumpkin as his head, ghoulish demons or is it demonic ghouls. What is a ghoul, anyway? Ghastly and ghostly heads and streamers hanging from trees. And one house has about twenty skeletons trying to get in. Or are they trying to get out?

            Hope your neighborhood is properly decorated and hope you don’t get TPed. Remember doing that? Of course you do. Happy Halloween to all. This week my story is actually a memoir. It’s about a fun time I had on a Halloween about 46 years ago. Enjoy!

The Ghost of Halloween Past

The summer after I turned sixteen I was allowed to buy a car. We lived way out in the country so becoming self-mobile was an important step. The sudden freedom to come and go as you please was wonderful. No more asking Mom or Dad to take you “to town” to buy things. No more borrowing the family sedan for dates. It was just incredible.

            It turned out one of Mom’s friends at work had a son who was entering college and couldn’t carry his car so he wanted to sell. It was a metallic blue 1966 3-speed Mustang. Probably one of the sexiest cars ever. It’s now a classic. But back in 1973 it was just a seven-year old car. I got it for $500. I was soon recognizable far and wide by my “blue ‘stang”. And it didn’t hurt that girls didn’t mind being seen riding around in such a cool car. I can’t say that I was ever cool, but my cool factor sure moved up a few notches with that purchase.

            But this story isn’t about the car, only what the car made possible.

My friend and I were casting about for something to do on a Thursday night. It happened to be Halloween night. Two sixteen-year-olds and Halloween are usually a recipe for trouble but we were (fairly) good kids. I came up with an idea.

            First you have to understand the situation out in the country where I lived. Our community was about a dozen houses stretched along a couple miles of country road on both sides of a country church. Then there were the outliers farther out or on even further back roads. Our church boasted a constant population of about 100. The local kids wanted to be part of “trick or treat” (free candy, duh) but they had to get their parents to take them to nearby villages where they really didn’t know the people. Also, the people in our community were always disappointed that we couldn’t participate in giving out goodies because no one trick-or-treats in the country. Our church came up with a nice idea. All the members of our church who wanted to give out Halloween goodies would leave their porch lights on. All interested children would meet at the church at sundown. An elder with a pickup truck would pile the kids in the back and drive to all the church member houses so the kids could do their thing. And along the way, they would pick up information about other neighbors, not members of our church, who might also have some treats. Of course, that wouldn’t work in 2019 because it’s illegal for kids to ride in the back of a pickup, but this was a simpler time.

            So, about sundown I picked up my friend and had an old white bedspread. While the kids were inside the church for a required prayer and mini-sermon before the main event, he and I pulled up behind the church. I took the spread and went out into the graveyard beside the church. I crouched down behind a tombstone and waited.

            The kids all came filing out of the church in their various costumes. There were about ten of them ranging from about 4 or five up to about 12. They climbed in the back of the truck all excited. As the driver turned on the engine, I rose up from behind a tombstone with the bedspread over my head. I raised my arms and started loudly moaning. At the squeal from the first kid who spotted me, I began moving toward the truck. Soon all the kids were screaming in fear and glee at the Halloween ghost. The driver, seeing what was happening sped off and the chorus of squeals died into the distance.

            Totally pleased with myself, I got back in the car and drove about a half mile in the opposite direction the truck had gone and pulled off into a wooded road so my car was hidden. I stood beside the road in my white disguise. Soon I heard the roar of the old pickup coming my way. I raised my arms and waved them back and forth. The truck driver began blowing his horn to get the attention of the kids in the back. As they sped by me they were all shrieking once again in glee.

            After they had passed, I drove to an old farm house and parked behind the barn. I went out into the field beside the house and hid behind a bale of peanut vines. This was one of the last stops. As the last kid was climbing into the back of the truck, I stood up and began running toward the truck waving my arms and howling. The kids all began screaming, “Go! Go!” to the driver. He timed it and pulled away just as I was getting close. I ran after the truck a little ways still carrying on. The kids were loving it.

            That was it for the night. My friend had only gone along for the company. He stayed in the car and told me alternately I was “weird” or I was “crazy”. But he had a smile when he said it.

            On Sunday there was still a little chatter among the young kids about the ghost they saw Halloween night. My friend and I never told anyone. So, if you were a kid who saw a ghost while trick-or-treating on Halloween night in 1973 in eastern North Carolina, I’m the Ghost of Halloween Past.

DWTS 7 Halloween

Halloween. The night we all wait for. Next to Freestyle night it is the most anticipated. And this year was such a disappointment. For my money, this was one of the most iconic of Halloween pieces. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpDY5-rrck0

That had mood, it had madness. It was scary. Still gives me chills. That’s what I want. It was lacking. There was no mayhem, no joi de vivre, it lacked that je ne sais quoi. For one thing, it looked like they cut the budget. There were none of the Busby Berkley show stopping cast of thousands dances we’ve come to expect. And Sasha is still in. When he’s not tied up with a partner he usually creates a little mayhem. I miss that.  

Hell, everybody got 9s. Half of them got all 9s. Everybody got at least one nine except Sean with his three 6s. You would think with all those 9s that there was some good dancing going on. And there was. Some of it was very good, but, like I said, no show stoppers.

Kel and Witney. What a rocky horror. He was nowhere near as good as his zombie helpers. They made him look bad. And why zombies? There were no zombies in Rocky Horror. I want to see Transylvanian Transvestites. I know Witney has the IQ of a dance shoe and I guess Kel never saw Rocky Horror, but you’d think somebody involved would have noticed the disconnect. His dancing was way rocky and the horror was that they gave him 9s for that monster mash mess.

JVDB and Emma was the second best of the night for me. I usually like my VWs light and ethereal, but this dark waltz was evocative of the infernal and drew me in. It gave me chills. I loved it. And I don’t give a damn about lifts if they ain’t calling other faults such as not enough time in hold, developés, etc. I’d have given them a 10.

Ally and Sasha. Lots of roundness. I don’t usually think of tango as having a lot of roundness. Costumes annoyed me. I hate the Joker. Good tango content though.

Hannah and Alan were awarded a DNP. What do I know from jazz? It was entertaining.

Karamo and Jenna. He earned his boot off the show.

Lauren and Gleb and Argentine Tango. I absolutely adored every second of it. I have a special affinity for the song, Whatever Lola Wants. I loved the kiss of death and the reverse rise. It worked with the music and brought chills across my body. So so good. She almost fell which means they lost a point, yet they got straight 9s. I smell a 10 in the making. I think the judges were as captivated as me. There was a problem, though. While they were talking to Tom, you could see that Gleb only has one hole in his neck. Did he get bit by a snaggletoothed vampire?

Sean and Lindsay were spookily awful. Loved Len’s comment. The awfulness that is Sean continues. And what the heck was a Frankenstein’s monster doing in a coffin? Or the mummies? They were better dancers, by the way. It was a Monster Mess. They almost got him in the bottom two. I had all my fingers crossed. I’m sure they’d toss him if they could get him there. But I’m afraid the Trump crazies will keep him afloat.

Kate and Pasha. I loved the song and the singer sounded so much like Chris Isaaks. A beautiful rumba. The song at least. What happened on stage was cause for arrest. She was flashing those fat legs and hands all over the younger man. And why do they think putting him in a silver suit and soot on his face makes him a wolf. Looks more like Flash Gordon was working under the hood. She did have one very nice spiral.

Team Trick was the Dream Team. They had the best celebrities, no duds. They should

have owned it, with 10s. I was less than blown away.

Team Mistep. It was quite cute. Best part was Kate’s kickline with the boys.

Unfortunately, I didn’t particularly care for either song. Whatever happened to the big budget think pieces like this? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TP-J5fEbVrU

DWTS 5

Apparently the magic of Disney missed my house. Bah humbug. Mostly pedestrian dancing at best all round with a few exceptions.

First off JAZZ IS NOT A BALLROOM DANCE. They go on and on about it being a ballroom competition. Well JAZZ IS NOT A BALLROOM DANCE.  WTF guys. Get with the program. Nextly, CONTEMPORARY IS NOT A BALLROOM DANCE. Why can’t they get that through their thick heads? And I imagine throughout the season we will be continually subjected to this awfulness and they will add in Broadway, and Charleston, and Bollywood. Why not add in tap, pointe and ballet? They call it a ballroom competition. Then do freaking ballroom dances.

Three of the celebrities scored a DNP for the night. That’s Did Not Participate. That’s better than what would happen at a real dance competition. They would get a big D for disqualified.

Ally and Sasha. Meh. She did a lot of what she was supposed to do.

Kel and Witney. It was jazz.

Kate and Pasha. I liked the QS and polka parts. The rest was just jazz.

The dance of the night for me was Sailor’s VW. And that was mostly because of Val. That man knows how to shape a dance. It was the only dance that moved me to chills. Softer than air, a well done VW like that just captures my heart. I loved it.

JVDB and Emma. Yeah, everybody loved it. It missed the sharp edges and life of a real PD. You want PD look at this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHdBpB1A7iM  Possibly the best PD ever on DWTS. All the things he did, JVDB missed. Watch the two side by side and there’s no comparison. What JVDB didn’t do is make me believe it. Simple as that.

Turn Alan loose on a smooth dance and you usually get a thing of beauty. He is so much like Val in that respect. This was no exception. Hannah was lighter than air. It was dreamy and soothed me. I could have done without all the smoke. I’d like to see the dancers’ feet. Hannah is beautiful and dances beautifully.

Finally, a samba and a good dancer. Lauren’s samba was passionate and had a lot of wow factor but something was missing. I kept glancing at my arm waiting for the chill bumps but they never came. I’m not sure what it was. Cool moves. We even got a samba roll although we had a weird camera angle at the time. And what was Gleb yelling about during the dance?

Karamo needs to go. I like him. He’s funny. We finally get a samba and he gives us this? I’ll be kind and call it a valiant effort. But about as wooden as my desk. No bounce, no hips, no rolls. Len called it right when he called it “stompy”.

Sean’s quickstep should be renamed the slowstep. Simple and a mess. Yet it was his best dance yet. And the sad fact is, he will probably win this season. Trump has tweeted his support so the Trump crazies are all going to vote for Sean. Just like last season when a no talent disc jockey won because the entire state of Arkansas voted for him or the season before when that stumblebum baseball player came in second. Having the judges decide who gets saved may protect the show from travesties such as Juan Pablo di Pace, but it won’t prevent idiot voters from making some clown the winner and turning the show into a circus. If they can ever finagle Sean into the bottom two they need to jettison him when they have the chance. I’m not sure they’re going to have the chance. I’m pretty sure he’s going to win. For the people who care about dance, watch who comes in second. That will probably be the best dancer. It’s gonna be a throw down between JVDB, Ally, Lauren and Hannah. Maybe Sailor. I don’t believe she’s got the legs, but she does have Val. There’s a lot to be said for that. An Ally/JVDB final would be fun. Pit husband against wife – Sasha vs. Emma.

DWTS 4

DWTS 4

What a great night! Full of hooting and hollering, laughing and chills and loving the dancing. And not a dud in sight (I’m being kind here). I’ve always considered Leah Remini one of the more unpleasant celebrities to don the shiny shoes. I guess she’s something of an acquired taste. I think I love her as a judge, though. Anyone who’d stand up and yell at Len for a 4 paddle is okay by me. I loved the madcap ambience she lent to the ballroom. Len may never be the same. Maybe they should adjust his meds.

My full on favorite of the night had to be Ally and Sasha’s jive. Hot dang, that’s how it’s done! She was channeling Tina Turner for all she was worth and getting it. I was totally covered with chills from the moment the silver dress came off. Oh my god! So good. I had a flashback to 12 year old me sitting up past midnight on a Saturday night with the TV turned low to watch them on the Midnight Special. I was enthralled with those four women spinning like dervishes, only a suggestion of a dress, hair in the wind. Wow, it got my blood up. Still does. Here’s a flashback. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzQnPz6TpGc If that don’t make you dance, you got no soul.

My other full on chill blade moment was Lauren and Gleb. OMG how good was that? So flowy, with shaping and swaying. Lines and stretches galore. A Classic. I always liked that song anyway. Hey, I’m southern. So sue me. And kudos to Gleb for not waxing. He’s the only male dancer on the show with the cojones to show a little chest hair.

Then there was Sailor and Val. Someone needs to tell him the manbun is really not working for him. But on the ballroom floor it was a wow performance. Fun and fringy. I love her joyous smile and legs for days. As Len would say, a proper cha cha. Mom crying in the audience was so touching, but could her boyfriend look any more like a goober?

JVDB and Emma had one of the better QS in a while. He kept it smooth and moved with confidence. You always had the sense he was steering and knew where he was going. Not seeing that in the other men yet. Again a great rondé. He was robbed. It was much better than Kel. A point of order. I hate people who say “We’re pregnant.” No, your partner is pregnant. As the guy, you have done your part. You are not pregnant. Now she does her part. She is pregnant. Ain’t no we about it.

I liked Karamo and Jenna’s tango. It looked mostly like a paso doble, but it did have intensity. He totally owned it, no doubt about it. From the wink, he had me hooked. Hmm. That didn’t come out right. Anyway, phooey on Carrie Ann for her lift obsession. But Karamo needs to stand up straight.

Hannah and Alans paso was so fierce. She knew what she was about and she went for it. There was a deadly calmness to her reminiscent of an assassin or, even better, a black widow spider. But she kept letting the grin slip out. It kinda ruined if for me. She’s got it going on. Just needs to control that face.

I seem to be the only one not blown away by Kel and Witney’s cha cha. It was competent and workmanlike. I didn’t see the Cuban motion the judges claim they saw. I think they were fooled by the wiggling around in non cha cha moves. Where’s Len when you need him to call them on stuff like that? Not bad at all, but I’ve seen comparable in Greensboro. Sorry for the inscrutable comment.

I assumed Kate would grow on me. Seems I was wrong. I’m just not liking her. I was trying to subsume myself into a sexy tango and all I could think was “fat legs” “bad hair” and “pinched face”. Len and Bruno called it. She missed the character. Sorry maybe it’s just me. I’m not a fan. But still, not a bad dance.

I gotta say I am a Sean Spicer fan. I’m so pulling for him. Three times out and all he gets is latin. The man can’t catch a break. His body just ain’t built for latin. Let him try a waltz or foxtrot. Tonight he was so entertaining. Lindsay was dancing like nobody’s business keeping the attention off him. And it mostly worked. He walked around like the General on inspection like he usually does. But there were hints of paso in there. My favorite part however was the faces he made. Just like the ones he made when he had to lie for Trump.

Lamar. Thank goodness he’s gone. He didn’t even do one full measure of VW in hold. It was his best dance and I’ll give him props for gracefulness and lyricism. He’s just not a dancer.

Next week is Disney Week, God help us.

Looks like Ally, Hannah, Lauren and JVDB are the odds on favorites for the finals. That’s my prediction.

Best comment of the night: Lauren “No more sixes, praise the lord.”

Best face. The look of surprised befuddlement on Lindsay’s face when she heard she and Sean were safe. It totally said “how the hell did that happen?”

Mea Culpa

I owe a big mea culpa to Lauren and Gleb. I said she dallied with 20 men on TV. That was Hannah. Lauren was on some singing show.

I was out for a medical procedure yesterday and my computer was out for one today. We are both recuperating. Thus, no new story this week. I did spend a good bit of time editing three versions of The Fourth Reich today. I have the original and the “clean” version for submitting to a website that wanted clean sci fi. I liked some of the clean version changes so I now have a revised version. I kept all the cursing. Let’s face it. That’s more realistic. I kept von Hoek’s prey as Jennifer. The captain can’t have all the fun. Dr N’duru (changed from N’dutu) shows her marksman chops and Jonesie gets to kick more Nazi ass. I like the extra scenes. You also find out who Jennifer fantasizes about. It ain’t the captain. I’ll post it once the editorial changes are more than ink stain and lemonade on paper -I had technical difficulties at Panera. Their tables are just long enough for three piles of paper and a pick two. But the lemonade didn’t want to share. According to the web the story has way passed short story and is about to pass from novelette to novella. The length will hinder getting it published anywhere unless I serialize it or make it a part of a book of short stories. I guess I could add more episodes about where they land next. That was actually in my first version but i liked better the idea of ending it with the dive into the wormhole. Spoiler alert: They survive.

And best news of the week, I now have 3, count ’em 3, short stories picked up for publication. Two will be in Ariel Chart Literature Review, an online only mag and my third will be in Down in the Dirt which has a hard copy distribution. No money changed hands. From now on I’m only submitting to paying mags. I got my validation now.

DWTS 2

Night Two

Like a Sergio Leone movie gone wrong, the night was a mix of the good, the not so good, the bad and the ugly. Strangely enough, I can allow five dancers into the good category. Please understand I am being very generous here. Very generous.

Hannah was the real standout. It was a long wait, but her dance gave me minor chill bumps. Call them proto chill bumps; not the full Monty. Still, it was the only time all night. Len was right (it does happen on occasion), it was the best dance of the night. It actually looked like what it was supposed to be. So many of the dances missed that fundamental mark. But she’s also a ringer. She admitted up front that she’s been in dance classes since she was 3. She said she had stopped for a while. I noticed they didn’t mention how long she had stopped. Ten years? One year? A month? She’s got an edge no one else does. Not exactly fair. But it should be fun to watch. Alan is a bit like Mark Ballas. He can take her to the finals, but he tends to choke. He may torpedo her at some point.

I don’t know Kate Flannery and don’t exactly like her yet. I think she’ll be an acquired taste. Not much foxtrot going on, lots of side by side. It was good, but too Broadway. And I got distracted by the dancing spacemen in the background. Or more exactly, the spacewoman, with the form fitting space suit.

I so wanted to love JVDB after last week’s tango, the only dance I got to see. And his agility and extensions are wild. A mid-air split? A rondé over Emma’s head? Dang, he’s rocking 42. But dancing is more than acrobatics (although they do tend to like the acrobatic dancers). I was not blown away by his cha cha at all. He did one little segment of hip rolling and apparently that was the Cuban motion section of the dance. Didn’t see it again. I got to the end and said “that was it?”

I loved Karano’s spot. The practice segment was more entertaining than the dance. He is such a cutup. I couldn’t stop smiling from beginning to end. That helped to assuage the pain of his quickstep. Not so good, but as Carrie Ann said, it had pizzazz. And in this competition, pizzazz goes a long way.

If you gotta do paso, you gotta do skirt work. I remember Kate Gosselin set the bar for awful skirt work many seasons ago. She played “peekaboo, can you see my undies” rather than whipping it around. Best ever was Julianne Hough and Apolo Ono. She’s a pro, but that’s how it’s done. That said, Lauren had some credible skirt work. Gotta give her credit. Best shot was in practice when the skirt got tangled around Gleb’s head. The dance had moments of sass, but mostly looked like community theater and mediocre acting.

That was as good as it got. The good news is it has to get better. Doesn’t it?

The Not So Good

As for Sailor’s rumba, the best thing was that it actually looked like rumba and not vertical sex. I saw recognizable steps. But she was wooden and flat footed. She also had the best come on smile ever. I’d give her a ten paddle just for the smile.

I kinda liked Kel. I think he’ll grow on me. But I think I’m being too generous to put him in the Not So Good category. His dance contained recognizable samba steps like the judges said, but Bruno called it when he said it didn’t look Latin. It lacked anything that would make it look like a samba. No bounce, no life. Just blah. Yeah, I think it belongs in the bad category, but I’ve already written this so he gets a pass.

The Bad

Ally and Sasha got 20 points for their VW. What the hey? Who was the short guy standing in for Sasha? That couldn’t have been the real one. He was awful. He walked around, never had any lift, never achieved take off. Totally earth bound and klunky. And he’s the pro. When they were in hold and spinning, none of the ones were recognizable. Just plain awful. Best part was her Princess Di sapphire and diamond earrings.

I hated to see Mary Wilson go. There were many other candidates who were more worthy of the boot. She’s this year’s icon, our diva. No, she can’t dance at all, neither can several others. She couldn’t keep up with the foot work, but she was channeling Tina Turner for all she was worth. So, so sad to see her go.

Which leads us to the ugly.

Ray was the least ugly of the pack. His opening looked like me in the morning stumbling around looking for my shoes. And trying to straighten out my back. Len called it. Ray just walked around.

Even Lamar knows he’s in over his head. And that’s pretty deep considering he’s about seven feet tall. And what colorblind person designed their costumes? His shirt and pants were different shades of green, just close enough to clash. And it wildly clashed with the color green Peta was wearing. At least it added interest. He’s my pick as the next to go. Please.

Sean, the man we all love to hate. As the kids would say OMFG. That was soooo bad. First off, when did Shut Up and Dance become a tango? There was no tango about it. Same with Sean. I spent the dance alternating between wild laughter and loud groaning, and throwing popcorn at the tv. No tango in the house tonight.

I think Hannah, JVDB, and Kate are the ones to watch. If Sasha finds his lost groove, he’ll put Ally in the running. And never count out Gleb. I think Lamar will go next, then Ray. As I said, we love to hate Sean so he may stay around longer than anyone expects, just so we can gape at the train wreck. It’s definitely time for a double elimination. Get the dead wood out and start working the rest.

I still need to do some work on the site. I’m a dinosaur and everytime I converse with wordpress help they just confuse me with technospeak. I think I need to hire someone to fix up my blog the way I want it to be.

A Dark and Stormy Night

I have a dim memory of an old episode from the tv series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” about a storm and some nervous nurses waiting it out. Something about a nurse killer on the loose. In the final scene we find that one of the nurses is the actual killer. She was a big woman and I think she was a man in a wig. Anyway, that errant memory flittered through my mind and left a seed. Storm, nurses, murder afoot. After a wrote it, I had to go with a tongue in cheek title. Hence “it was a dark and stormy night.”

A Dark and Stormy Night

            A dim flicker of light glimmered at the office window. Candace, ‘call me Candy’, Johnson barely noticed as she continued inventory of the med stocks for what seemed the hundredth time that week. A few moments later a soft rumble could be heard in the distance.

            “Storm’s coming in,” Denise Patrick said. Master of the obvious, Candy thought sourly.  “It’s supposed to be a big one,” Denise continued. “I just heard about it on the radio.”

            “Just my luck,” said Candy, slamming a cabinet door.

            “Huh?” asked Denise.

            “Just my luck to draw the late shift in this rustbucket place with a storm brewing. By midnight we’ll have bedpans all down the hallway catching water from the leaky ceiling.”

            “It leaks? That can’t be very safe.” As I said, thought Candy, master of the obvious.

            “No, it’s not. But we’re not St. Joe’s. We’re a poor little clinic run by a poor little hospital in a poor little section of Philly.” Candy decided the only upside of the situation was they had no patients in their care for the late shift. The decidedly downside was that she had to work it with Denise. She wasn’t sure exactly what it was about Denise that rubbed her the wrong way. Pretty much everything. She was a mousy little hausfrau, seemingly afraid of her own shadow. She didn’t appear all that bright and Candy wondered how she ever got through nursing school. Candy, on the other hand, was a plus size blonde, brassy and full of life. She sashayed her way through her daily rounds, flirting with the patients, keeping up a light banter. It kept the men’s spirits up and she didn’t mind the occasional pat on her fanny. God knows some of them had seen horrors she’d never know. A smile and wink for our brave boys cost her so little, she thought. But working the late shift sucked. Especially with a freak storm coming in. But they were stuck until two am when the overnight relief came on.

            There was a bright flash of light through the window. The rumble came quicker this time.

            “It’s moving fast,” Denise offered.

            “Good, maybe it’ll do it’s thing and get the hell out of here fast, too. I hate having to dash out to my car in the pouring rain.” Another flash, shortly followed by a louder rumble.

            “Lordy, I hate storms.” Candy noticed Denise babbled when nervous. “We used to have bad ones back in Kansas. Big storms, and sometimes tornadoes and hail. I just want to crawl into a cellar and hide.”

            “Well, our cellar is over that way,” Candy nodded with her head, as she lifted a load of towels to be sorted.

            “I can’t go down there,” Denise looked at her with fear bright in her eyes. “That used to be the morgue. I don’t dare go down there.”

            “Don’t tell me you’re a nurse and scared of dead people?”

            “I just haven’t had much experience around them. I’ve only been a nurse for a few years.”

            “Well, honey, it’s something you’ll just have to get used to.” Candy figured Miss Mousy’s patients would be dropping like flies from her tepid care. Candy kept her men’s spirits from flagging with her brazen sexuality. She didn’t dial it down, and her men responded. She was a very popular nurse.

            A brilliant flash and crash almost simultaneously made them both jump. It was followed by the rattle of a hard rain hitting the flagstones outside. Over the next few minutes there were multiple flashes and the rumbling never stopped, rolling and echoing through the air and seemingly through their bones. Candy thought it sounded like a bowling alley with the constant rumble of the balls. Maybe I’ll get Hank to take me bowling this weekend. We haven’t done that in ages, she thought with a smile. Hank was back from the Pacific with everything intact. She was so afraid he would return with a loss of limbs or a shell-shocked zombie like she had seen so many times over the past months. Or not return at all. Stop thinking about downers, she told herself. Hank’s home and all is right with the world. The war is over.

            A sudden massive crash shook the entire building. Denise screamed and her pile of towels flew through the air.

            “Wow, that one was right on top of us,” Candy said. Then she silently chided herself. Now who’s stating the obvious?

            Candy felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned but no one was there. Then a cold splash of water hit her nose. She looked up and got hit in the middle of her forehead with another cold splash.

            “Oh, Hell’s Bells. I need a bedpan for this leak. You take the back hallway and check. I’ll finish looking around up here.” Within the next half hour they found fifteen leaks and had bedpans in place collecting the spillage.

            “At the rate the rain’s falling, we’ll have to empty them before the next shift comes in. What a gruesome night. Glad I’m going home and not coming in.”

            Over the next hour the flashing and rumbling would sometimes abate for a few minutes but always came back with renewed vigor. Candy didn’t know if it were multiple storm fronts or the same storm just circling. Either way, they were receiving severe punishment from the elements.

            Another particularly violent crash hit and the lights flickered and then failed altogether. Denise emitted a short shriek.

            “Oh, ain’t this just grand,” Candy said sarcastically. She had several other choice phrases that came to mind but didn’t want to totally offend Denise’s delicate sensibilities. The sudden darkness was total. After a few moments their eyes had adjusted but it was still nearly impossible to see anything.

            “The generator’s supposed to kick on when the power goes out,” Candy complained. “I wonder why it hasn’t tripped yet?”

            “I don’t like it.” Candy jumped because Denise’s voice was right at her elbow.

            “I think there’s some candles in the supply cabinet. Let me check.” Candy groped her way to the supply cubbie behind the nurses’ station. Within a few minutes she had a couple of white tapers lit and sitting on the desk.

            Candy had just said, “Well, ain’t this comfy,” when the phone rang.

            “Bellhaven Clinic,” she said automatically into the phone. “Oh, hi, Ray. Yeah. Yah don’t say. Well, the power’s out. No, it didn’t kick on. Where? Crap. He said what? No. No. I said hell no.” She listened for a moment more and slammed down the phone.

            “What?” Denise wanted to know.

            “The main road’s flooded. Ray said our relief might not be here till daylight. We have to stay all night.”

            “But, I don’t want to.”

            Candy glared at her. “You think I do? I would walk out on ‘em, but the road is flooded so I couldn’t get home anyway. Either way you look at it, we’re stuck. By the way, Ray told me how to get the generator on. We just need to push a button on the side.”

            “Oh, good. Where is it?”

            “In the cellar.”

            “Oh.” Denise’s eyes were wide.

            “Oh, for Pete’s sake. Are you that afraid of the cellar? Come on. I’m not going down there by myself.”

            “But there used to be dead people there. There might be spirits.”

            “Oh, for crying out loud. Come on.” She roughly grabbed Denise’s arm in one hand and a candle in the other.

            Once in the cellar they found that other undiscovered leaks had let water in and there were small puddles in various places. They found the generator and, sure enough, there was a big red button on the side. Candy pressed it. Nothing happened. She pressed it again, holding it longer. The generator made a wheezing noise. Then after a few burps it began a soft hum. Looking up toward the door they noticed a soft glow meaning the emergency lighting was working. They hustled up the stairs, ready to leave the dank and disquieting place behind.

            The emergency lighting was just sparse dim lights that did little to enlighten the place and nothing to dispel the gloom. Still, they could see.

            Candy decided it was time for a break. She plopped down in a chair at the nurses’ station and picked up her Hollywood magazine. She ruefully noted it was two months old and she had read every article at least twice. She tossed it aside.

            “Well, I ain’t doing much else tonight. I’ll take my double time pay sitting on my bum. How about you, Toots?” Denise approached the desk looking fearful and browbeaten.

            “Yes. Me too.”

            “That’s the spirit, girl. Show some gumption.”

            Denise picked up the Hollywood magazine and looked at it. After a moment her eyes grew wide.

            “What?” Candy asked.

            “Are they really making a movie about that man who killed those seven co-eds? That was so awful. Why would they make a movie about it? I was almost too scared to go to work for a week after it happened.”

            “Sorry, hon. Blood and sex sells. It’s gotta have one or the other.”

            “But that’s so awful.”

            “Yeah, and it’ll make ‘em a bazillion bucks. People love a good horror story. I think they call ‘em slasher movies. You know, like Hookman or the Midnight Caller or the Scarecrow.”

            “I don’t know about that. All that kind of stuff scares me. Especially the Scarecrow.”

            “Listen,” Candy said loudly. Denise clutched her heart. “The rain. It’s stopped.” They both noted how quiet it was for a moment. There were more flares followed by rumbling, but it was no longer directly over them. It still rolled and echoed, drawing out each rumble. “I think we’ve survived the worst of it,” Candy said with as much enthusiasm as she could gather. She looked at the clock and it was just now two am. She should be getting off right now. The long night loomed.

            They went to the front window and looked out. There were no street lights, but by the occasional flashes of lightning they could see tree limbs scattered about. Some lawn furniture was missing or overturned. The yard crew had their work cut out for them. But the rain had stopped.

            “You don’t really believe all those slasher stories, do you?” Candy asked. “They aren’t real. Just stories people tell to frighten each other or the kids.”

            “Daddy said the Scarecrow is real. He wouldn’t tell me a lie.”

            “Well, maybe. But I think he’s overblown. One kook kills a few people wearing a scary mask and everybody goes crazy. I bet the others are just copycats. Or didn’t even happen. There is no demented serial killer running around killing, killing…”

            “Nurses.”

            “Well, yeah. I don’t believe it.”

            “I wish I was that sure.”

            After a few more minutes of desultory conversation Candy said she had to go to the ladies’ room. She could tell Denise didn’t want to be left alone but she was damned if she’d invite her to the bathroom. The girl needs to grow a spine, she thought. Then she got an idea of a fun prank. After finishing her business, she quietly slipped out of the lavatory and crept to a linen supply closet. She grabbed a pillowcase. Using her scissors she cut two eye holes, and drew some black lines on it with a felt pen. She pulled it over her head, cinching it around her neck with a draw cord. She pulled an abandoned old black great coat from the closet to hide her nursing whites. She crept up the hallway, just out of sight of the nurses’ station. She picked up a bedpan, dumped out the water and tossed the pan into the room. The clanging of the pan startled Denise, eliciting a shriek. Candy jumped into the room using the lowest voice she could muster and said “The Scarecrow has come for you!”

            Denise’s earlier shriek was nothing compared to the scream she now emitted. She ran from the station screeching as if all the demons of hell were after her. Barely able to contain her laughter, Candy pursued her down the hallway. Denise ran into a supply closet and closed the door behind her. Candy thought, what an idiot. Now she’s cornered. I guess I need to teach her how to handle an emergency.

            Denise was crying, trembling and hyperventilating so hard she could hardly hold the door handle. She braced herself to keep the Scarecrow from opening it. Oh lord, I’m so scared, she thought. She looked around to see if there were any type of weapon or protection in the closet but it was too dark. She just trembled and moaned, holding on to the knob as if her life depended on it. She never heard the click as the door was locked from the outside.

            After what felt like hours of kneeling hanging onto the knob, her hands began cramping. She whimpered, not daring to let go. She kept catching herself almost falling asleep, jerking upright each time. Finally she did not catch herself and fell into a fitful exhausted sleep.

***

            Denise jerked awake. At first she was disoriented, finding herself on the floor in a closet. Then the fear grabbed her heart like a vise. The light coming under the door was brighter than the emergency lighting so either the power was back or it was morning. She carefully twisted the doorknob. Or tried to. It refused to move. She realized it was locked and she was trapped inside.

            As she considered her predicament she also had another realization. The monster who had chased her last night was wearing a white skirt and shoes under the black coat. It was Candy all along. She played a mean trick on me, she thought, feeling incredibly foolish. Gathering her courage, she rattled the doorknob. She shook the door, shouting, “Candy, let me out!” She beat on the door and pleaded with Candy to let her out, but no one came. She was kneeling by the door crying when she heard sounds outside. Fear still spiked through her, but she knew she needed to get out. She heard what sounded like people talking. Multiple people was good. That would be safe. She pounded on the door, yelling for help. In a moment she heard the click as the door was unlocked. The bright light of day blinded her as it was opened and unknown arms pulled her up. She fought down the urge to struggle against them.

            “It’s okay. You’re safe now,” said a man’s voice. As her eyes adjusted she could tell he was wearing a policeman’s uniform. “It’s all over now.”

            “I was locked in,” Denise began, not knowing exactly what to say, totally disoriented.

            “That’s okay. Come outside and have some coffee.” That sounded like a wonderful idea so she allowed the officer to lead her outside to an ambulance where there was coffee and some doughnuts.

            Denise looked around. There were a number of official looking cars in the parking lot.

            “Where’s Candy?” she asked.

            “You need to drink your coffee first,” said the policeman.

***

            Inside two detectives were conferring.

            “Well, the MO is the same. Slashed from side to side. She bled out in minutes. The same message written in blood. I don’t know why he didn’t take them both, like over in southside last month. Maybe he didn’t know she was hiding.”

            “She was lucky. Looks like she barely escaped the Scarecrow.”