Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Grumpy Christmas Story

For several years my house became the mutually agreed assembly point for my in-laws and their overly complicated but short Christmas Day celebrations. At first I sort of enjoyed their company, most of my in-laws are highly intelligent and if we avoided politics the conversations could be quite stimulating. It sure as hell beat my family's tradition of spending several hours talking trash about whomever was being ostracized at that moment. A problem I solved by volunteering permanently for the job.

The other benefit of spending a holiday with them was the fact their usual habit was to show up on Christmas morning, spend precisely two hours catching up. Once that was out of the way the “experts” would proceed to the kitchen to either warm up something cooked earlier or outright prepare a special dish. The actual eating part of the ritual would just take about an hour with the following clean-up done by those lowly individuals who culinary inexperience would have resulted in bodily harm had they trespassed into the kitchen during the preparation phase.

The final segment lasted three to four hours, required because of the affect of consuming a near mutant turkey long overdosed with growth-hormones, consisting of everyone either on the couch or lying about the living room floor. Once everyone recovered their senses it was a mad dash to get back on the road or catch a Christmas Day flight to the other end of the country. The net benefit of those abbreviated warm family fuzzies was that no one was exposed to each other enough to fray nerves or set off a dormant desire to strangle the living shit out of a particular family member. I thoroughly enjoyed such visits since it allowed me to savor the rest of my Christmas holiday after they left in relative silence and peace.

Now choosing my house for all this unbridled affection had a lot of it had to do with the location of the retirement home for my wife's parents, which at first was an upper-crust golfing subdivision just off Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. If you've never been to Hilton Head it is not a terrible place to spend a holiday, but about fifty zillion other contentious human beings have already discovered that same fact with all them desperate to enjoy the balmy breezes and the overwhelming number of truly fancy restaurants.

I will say this, if anyone has a surefire scheme for suddenly jumping in front of a car and getting clipped for the resulting insurance money without getting killed, Hilton Head is the place. At any given moment you can throw a rock onto the crowded roads and easily hit an ultra-expensive Benz, BMW, Lexus, or any number of other supreme luxury cars. In fact, given the number of massive SUV's with suspiciously darken windows sharing the roads, a person could begin to believe some sort of summit of world leaders was taking place there. Believe it or not, Hilton Head was once the home of a thriving African-American community but the combination of golf courses, marinas, five-star restaurants, and full scale mansions has caused it to be overrun by the unabashed wealthy, not unlike how rats would act invading a full corn bin.

The second reason my house became the default meeting place was that my mom-in-law and dad-in-law eventually left Hilton Head and moved to Manning, South Carolina. Never heard of the place? No worries, it is a small town situated on the edge of Interstate-95 and has all the innate country charm its population of undereducated and overly religious folks can muster. Only the extreme Bible thumping Upstate of South Carolina can rival their growing enthusiasm for things like Donald Trump, civilian-owned assault weapon collections, and the impending second coming of Christ.

It was the discovery by my dad-in-law of a hidden lakeside golfing community that curled his toes in glee enough to make him decided to abandon the Hilton Head area. Since I'm not a golfer, I simply cannot appreciate how not having to wait long hours for a tee time can make someone like him want to move to such a backwoods place.

Now having the in-laws come to my house for the holiday pow-wow was not without its issues. The most memorable one happened about six or seven years ago when my dad-in-law somehow got a hair up his butt one Christmas wanting everyone to dress up for dinner. We're talking suit and ties for the guys and nice formal dresses for the ladies.

Right off the bat you have to understand the relationship the rest of my in-laws had with my now late dad-in-law. The best way to explain this is to compare him to a silverback gorilla with everyone else his troop of lower-ranking underlings. What dad-in-law wanted everyone quickly sought out to supply, even though they might bitch and moan to the point I began to believe they had been in contact with my blood relations. Honestly, I would not be betraying any secret if I write that neither my mom-in-law nor dad-in-law every had any overtly warm feelings about me. To them I was semi-redneck their precious daughter had the misfortune to meet at a Jimmy Buffett concert and decided to start dating.

Quite frankly, I was flabbergasted and befuddled by his desire to dress up for an occasion that every time before we all just worse things like slacks, polo shirts, and maybe shoes. My traditional Christmas dinner attire was jeans and a clean surfer t-shirt, and if the weather was warm enough I would ditch the pants for my comfortable cargo shorts. Putting it bluntly, I do not get dressed up for any normal reason. If I have to wear a sports coat I'm probably on a cruise ship enjoying tropical sunsets. If I have to wear a suit and tie someone has died or is getting married, which in truth I believe is essentially the same thing.

I quickly told my wife this suit and tie thing wasn't going to fly with me. Actually I compared it to such things as a heavy lead balloon floating up in the air or the success of a submarine designed with a screen door. She at first she just poo-pooped my objections, then after I didn't let the subject go sort of hinted that I would be rewarded with wild monkey sex if I went along. It was her failure to cement the promise which resulted in my withdrawal from the agreement. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice saying you have a headache I'll buy because I'm a decent guy, fool me a third time and I'm the blithering idiot.

Well, that particular Christmas Day finally came and the usual suspects piled into my house around 6:30am that morning. It was all a happy affair, with still no explanation as to why we had to dress up when the time came to eat. Since this shindig was happening in my house and with no real explanation as to the reason for the dress up party I would go along, in my own way.

By the time I arrived to the dining room everyone else was already seated. My wife's brother was wearing some nice suit with a tie that looked like rattlesnake skin. A good choice since few that know my bro-in-law for longer than twenty or thirty minutes consider him to be such a reptile. My wife, her mom and sister were all wearing dresses that would allowed them entry into one of the swanky restaurants to the already mentioned Hilton Head Island. My dad-in-law took the cake though, he looked like he was trying to impersonate Marlon Brando's character from the first “Godfather” movie.

His attire was appropriate since the look of surprise and then anger he directed at me would have scared most people. See, I decided to “dress up” for Christmas dinner by wearing a colorful Hawaiian shirt, my cargo pants, and my docksider shoes, without socks. I do admit to having gone as far as ironing my cargo pants because they were quite wrinkly.

Dad-in-law's face turned rather red those first few minutes, enough that I sort of worried I might have gave the putz an aneurysm. No such luck, dinner eventually proceeded as usual with everyone doing the expected hasty retreat after recovering from the turkey induced fog. Dad-in-law did get over my protest actions enough to personally say goodbye to me as everyone filed out. A gesture that was unexpected, not because of my fashion antics but because he was usually the first person out the door.

No one should get mad at me for disrespecting the man back then or even now since he has passed on to the great Republican heaven/golf course in the sky. As the father of a rambunctious daughter I fully expect that holiday karma to come back to me in spades. Its just that I will welcome the aftermath still wearing my damn Hawaiian shirt.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Spockalypse Now-Idle Thoughts on Star Trek

With the new Star Wars film about to explode onto our neurotic society, most normal people probably missed the collective groan of despair and frustration that issued forth from a large number of Trekkers/Trekkies after the release of the trailer for new Star Trek movie. While only ninety-four seconds long, during that time we hear “music” from the Beastie Boys while catching glimpses of the starship Enterprise literally being torn into small pieces as if it's a dastardly banker's incriminating financial spreadsheets being fed into a paper shredder. Yeah, there are the ubiquitous brief scenes of the crew uttering clever one-liners while facing numerous dangers on a hostile alien planet. But the real puzzle for me is the scene where Jim Kirk for an unknown reason jumps over an odd obstruction using a trail bike from our era. We then cut away to see Kirk and some attractive but mysterious alien falling from the sky only to be suddenly transported away and plop hard on a transporter pad with the young captain give one final funny one-liner.

Hot looking female alien notwithstanding, unfortunately, the trailer for “Star Trek Beyond” makes it appear the movie is just another dumb-down action flick that happens to have characters from Star Trek.

Being open and honest, and showing my utter geekiness, I actually got excited when I learned of the trailer's imminent release a few days prior. The first two installments of the rebooted Star Trek universe known as the JJ-verse, while being financial successes, left many of the long-time fans as cold as a chunk of ice sitting on the surface of Pluto. For those people without an appreciation of that forlorn dwarf-planet's distance from the sun, that is damn cold! 

The buzz about the new movie, entitled “Star Trek Beyond” was that it would make up for the sins of both previous movies but mainly the horrendous “Star Trek into Darkness” that, among other travesties, tried to pass off the villainous, Khan Noonien Singh, as a white, British dude. How a seriously muscular guy that was supposed to be from south Asia became a wry but much smaller person from cloudy and drizzly England was never answered.

You know the reaction to the trailer was overwhelmingly bad when both the director of the movie, Justin Lin, and one of the screenwriters who plays Scotty in the new movies, Simon Pegg are immediately mobilized to play damage control with the hardcore fans. The problem is of course the diehard Trekker purists like me who see Star Trek as something other than a money making venture for the Paramount corporate suits residing in their ornate corner offices. As far as the suites are concerned they have the hopelessly addicted fans by the geeky balls and figure if you have control of them, their hearts an minds will follow.

Giving the JJ-verse devil its proper due, there are a few good things about the rebooted Star Trek. At the top of the list is the cast. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, and the rest all do a fantastic job with their characters and even fresh them out more given that Sulu, Uhura, and Chekhov were never more than glorified window dressing in the original series.

Secondly, while “Star Trek into Darkness” was a totally mangled homage to “Wrath of Khan” that in a wiser world would be flushed down a toilet and forgotten, it did have a moral message about the evils of militarism and preventive war that should have made any supporter of Bush/Cheney cringe under their theater seats. And you can curse me as a sexiest pig if you want but I did personally enjoy the scene where Alice Eve, playing a young Carol Marcus, showed off her athletic body to a visibly shaken Jim Kirk. Almost makes me feel sorry for the character of David Marcus, the future offspring of a carnal union between Jim Kirk and Carol. This offspring of the two first appears in “Wrath of Khan” and quite frankly I found David Marcus a whiny twit and was happy the character was killed off in “The Search for Spock.” 

Most important of all, despite their numerous and often fatal flaws both the JJ-verse movies are mega-parsecs better than that William Shatner directed abomination call “Star Trek: The Final Frontier.” Sometime in the late 1990's I attended a Star Trek convention where the original Scotty, James Doohan, spoke to the adoring crowd. During his much to short speech, we quickly learned William Shatner is a pretentious dick with delusions of godhood. That egotistical absorption is the only explanation I have for his attempt at writing and directing a Star Trek movie. The Great Bird of the Galaxy and creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, considered the story apocryphal and was about to sic his high-paid legal attack dog on Shatner to stop the movie but the Paramount execs stepped in and green lighted the project. Thankfully the next film,“Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country” was one of the best movies of the franchise and allowed the original cast to sail off into retirement in a dignified manner.

Arguably, the high point for Star Trek came during the third season of The Next Generation series. With the terrible first season and anemic second behind them it was during the third year that Next Generation took off to expand and further develop the universe Gene Roddenberry created. “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” easily took over when Next Generation flew off the small screen to do movies. In fact I'd rate the character of Benjamin Sisko probably the best captain of them all. Look Jean-Luc Picard was awesome and Kirk could get the chicks, but when the omnipotent scalawag Q pops onto the station Sisko kicked his ass when his antics become too much.

Now, as much as I liked the character of Katheryn Janeway, “Star Trek: Voyager” did in fact have the most throw away episodes in the franchise. The one that about ruined the series for me had the crew of Voyager finding a 1940's American pick-up truck drifting in the depths of interstellar space. After bringing the truck on the ship they find it still containing water in the radiator and fuel in the tank. How such substances did not boil away in the vacuum of space was never answered but this assault on basic science was only made worse when one of the characters hops in the driver's seat and easily cranks the truck up. Adding even more icing on the implausible cake, a few minutes later in the same episode they find Amelia Earnhardt in suspended animation on some obscure planet. Interest in the early twentieth century aviatrix has long exceeded the attention spans of the population once concerned with her mysterious disappearance over the Pacific Ocean not long before the beginning of World War Two. But I did giggle a little while watching this episode given that Earnhardt's fate once spawned numerous conspiracy theories along with many futile attempts to locate her remains. Not one of those anxious zealots ever thought of looking on the other end of the galaxy, that's just sad.

Soon after that Paramount Corporation made an attempt to create their own television network and took Voyager off syndication and tried to use it as the cornerstone for the endeavor. It wasn't until I signed up for Netflix a couple of years ago did I get to view most of the series' episodes. Many are quite good and the holographic doctor is one of the best characters in the franchise.

The introduction of a new Star Trek series always forced the fans into an uncomfortable period of adjustment before finally accepting the characters and scenario. Unfortunately for the last series,“Star Trek: Enterprise,” exhaustion was setting in with the fans and general public. Combined with the fact that we were dealing with a prequel set over a century before the adventures of Kirk and Spock many of the fans went into shock and weren't not able to accept it. Which is sad because many of the episodes are some of the best in Trek. The biggest fault I had with the series dealt with the monochrome nature of the crew. With the exception of the helmsman and communications officer the rest of the crew screams an overabundance of North American white people. Such a situation was fine for the original series made in the 1960's but not the first years of the twenty-first century.

Long story short, what the Paramount execs and JJ Abrams failed to recognize is that while their new additions to the franchise fail on so many levels to many fans it's not those inaccuracies and mistakes that keep us coming back to Trek. Simply put what keeps Star Trek alive is its vision of a hopeful future where the human race has matured and makes most its decisions using reason and compassion.

Unlike Gene Roddenberry, who in the final years of his life was getting a little weird with his belief that by the 24th century all types of inter-human conflict would be long gone, I still believe that our species can rise above its baser, barbaric instincts. I recently had a chance to read a little of Martha Gellhorn's works, one of the greatest war corespondents in the 20th century and Ernest Hemingway's third wife. In her book, The Face of War she wrote that after years of disillusionment she didn't believe in the perfectibility of man, only in the human race. Contrary to the late Mr. Roddenberry's vision our species will never be free of greed, jealousy, fear, and hate but it is an innate desire to try and rise above those primitive feelings that is our one saving grace. Sure we daily fail at overcoming them and, even worse, at times disgracefully fall back and wallow in the worst aspects of our nature but deep down we all want something better for ourselves and our children.

We know which way we want to go make a better society and world but like a deficient child we just can't seem to find our way there. Religion, for the worst most times, wanted to show us the way but its followers often came to believe their faith made them special and above everyone else. This fallacy has allowed untold rivers of blood to be spilled in the name of some god who remains strangely quiet given how often we are told he wants us to love one another above all else.

As corny and utter ridiculous as it sounds if there is one element of American culture that tries to make its presence known above all the static of banal self-absorption, glorified ignoramuses and egotistical drivel that is so common is Star Trek. Each series clearly states that reason, compassion, and intelligence should reign above just about everything else that governs our society today.

Treating Star Trek like some movie cash cow will never quite work to the degree it has with the far shallower Star Wars. People simply don't expect to hear Luke Skywalker or Han Solo say anything about homophobia or racism. As far as Princess Leia is concerned I didn't hear a damn word anyone said the first time I saw “Return of the Jedi” after seeing her in that shiny slave bikini.

Sure there are Trek television episodes and movies that are nothing but action but always at its roots is the desire to make a statement about our civilization or culture. Star Trek's basic statement is an optimistic view of our future if only we can gather the will and strength to take control of our fate. Given the flood of dystopic and post-apocalyptic movies made today seeing one quality made film where human civilization is successful is not a lot to ask.

Despite my low expectations of the coming “Star Trek Beyond” I will be in the theater the weekend it opens. If it does fail, I purpose a campaign be started to have Disney Corporation buy the Star Trek franchise from Paramount. They tend to make hopeful movies that do quite well in the box office. My other proposal is that Simon Pegg be forcefully renamed Jar Jar Binks and be left stranded on some deserted island. If anyone should be able to bridge the gap between movie cash cow and quality Star Trek, it's him. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

In the Shadows-v2.0

(Author's note: This is a rewrite of a flash fiction story from 2009. Both the first version and this update are seriously dark and uncharacteristic of my usual crappy fiction. This weekend was busy and I had numerous interruptions preventing even the most basic proofreading.) 

As the late night thunderstorm raged outside her lakehouse, Donna Myers lay in her bed too terrified to sleep. It wasn't the storm that had produced the mind-numbing fear that clung to Donna' soul and caused her to break out into a cold sweat that had gotten so bad she could now feel the wetness seeping into the bed sheets. Donna was a far too rational person to be bothered by the whims of nature and understood the thunderstorm was just a product of the unusually hot and humid summer weather.

The storm had rolled into her area a few hours before she went to bed and stalled making it seem a pitched and bitter land battle was being conducted with numerous artillery pieces dueling for supremacy. After drinking several glasses of wine while listening to calming music, Donna believed she was ready for bed and walked up the stairs of her empty and silent house to the bedroom she shared with her husband.
Once in bed, the alcohol in her system caused consciousness to dissolve quickly and her last thought before sleep claimed her was a small plea to a deity she really didn't believe in anymore that the dreams would leave her in peace.

She wasn't that fortunate, sometime after dozing off Donna began hearing the screams of her first husband and knew in a way only possible in dreams that their two children lay next him as the serial killer that had once plagued the southeast region of the United States took his life. When Donna was able to break the grip of the dream the sounds of the thunderstorm greeted her return to reality.

It wasn't just at night that Donna was tortured, sometimes during the simplest daily activities she would be overwhelmed by the horrific visions of her dead children and husband. During those moments she would seek refuge in some quiet corner wherever she might be at the time. Several times she had been pulled from places like the storeroom of the nearby grocery store to an empty office in the public library. A longtime resident of Watertown area, stunned but caring residents would at first try to calm Donna then help her return to the lakehouse, the one place she felt safe during the daylight hours.

For those reasons Donna had become a recluse hardly ever leaving the Georgian-style home she and her new husband, Robert Myers, began building after they got married five years before. The house was a gift from Robert, a successful artist and her first husband's college roommate and longtime friend.

Eight years before, after Robert Myers heard of the death of his friend and his children he rushed to Donna's side to comfort and support her. Himself mourning the death of his best friend, Robert ended up clearing his schedule right after the murders and spending months in Watertown helping Donna to pick up the pieces of her life. Three years went by with Robert and Donna themselves becoming best friends as each helped the other find the courage to move beyond their shared loss.

Robert taught Donna the meaning of gentle patience, never demanding anything while always being there for her, even though it hurt his career, as the dreams began to plague her both day and night. Quite by accident Donna realized three years later that she had developed feelings for Robert. When told this, Robert confessed that he had fallen for her back during their days in college. That when Daniel and her became serious about their relationship he made a pledge to say nothing and just be happy for his two friends. After both confessing their mutual feelings the two proceeded slowly with exploring their growing attachment. Neither wanted to do anything that would seem disrespectful to the memory of Daniel or the children. But a few months later Donna felt she had to move on with her life.

A little over three years after the murders Robert proposed to Donna on the site where the lakehouse was to be built believing she was ready to have someone in her life again, Donna accepted without hesitation. Donna threw herself body and soul into supervising the construction and then the decorating of the new house hoping it would conquer the persistent nightmares that refused to release their grip on her. The only place Donna couldn't touch, or even visit, was the boathouse constructed on the lakeshore that Robert had built. It was his sanctuary and place where he did his work while at home.

For a while, all the planning and activity the construction demanded of Donna kept the dreams at bay to the point she began to hope that even that part of her past was beginning to fade. Which was a relief to Robert's agent who wanted the man to travel again because his prolonged absence was hurting his career.

Almost immediately after Robert resumed his travels the murderous dreams returned to haunt Donna both day and night. The only time they abated were the times Robert was home or the even rarer occasions when he took Donna with him.

As the thunderstorm continued outside the house Donna became uncomfortable with the emptiness on Robert's side of the bed. This time he was somewhere in Europe overseeing a showing of his paintings and sculptures and would not be home for over a week. Unable to sleep, she got out of bed with the intention of walking out on the porch and watching the storm. With the lightning cracking behind her she caught a glimpse of herself in the bedroom dressing mirror. She stopped to admire the tight and sheer nightgown she wore and the athletic body it revealed underneath.

After being married, Robert had strongly but gentle urged Donna to get into shape saying it would help her mental health and add passion to their sex life. Donna shivered in pleasure at the thought of Robert's eventual homecoming and the things they would do together. Part of Donna realized that their lovemaking was less a joining of two people celebrating their feelings but more a frenzied animalistic coupling whose only real effect has to hold her mental demons at bay for a few days.

Still looking at herself in the mirror, Donna saw how the periodic flashes of lightning illuminating half her body while leaving the other half mired in darkness. This caused her to reflect on the differences between the two men that she had married. Daniel had been a gentle, caring lover who only wanted to show his devotion to her. On the other hand Robert, not long after they had married, had begun asking Donna to experiment with her sexuality. She resisted at first, but Robert continued to be firm and it was out of fear of him walking out that Donna eventually surrendered. At first Donna just played along but under Robert's careful tutelage she slowly began to enjoy the new feeling and experiences he had opened up to her.

It was a massive crack of thunder that pulled Donna from her reverie. After grabbing her robe Donna hurried downstairs and went out onto the porch stopping briefly at the kitchen to pick up her cell phone. During the construction of the house she had insisted that the large porch that was supposed to only face away from the lake be extended nearly all the way around so she could sit outside and look upon the gentle waters of the lake and see the boathouse Robert used as his studio. During his days at home Donna would often sit on the porch and wonder what Robert was creating inside.

Taking a seat in one of the wooden rocking chairs, Donna look out upon the lake and dark boathouse. The storm had finally begun moving out with the lightning and thunder growing increasingly distant as the minutes passed. With the storm receding, the insects and frogs opened up with their eternal chorus bringing some peace to Donna's mind. A soft silver colored quarter moon sailed clear of the clouds providing an almost ghostly lighting of the area around the house.

Just seeing the boathouse did provide some extra relief to Donna but the menacing specter of her dreams never went away. Robert's hectic travel schedule was a mystery to Donna and she only vaguely knew that Europe was several hours ahead of the American east coast. Looking at the cell phone in her hand, Donna was tempted to call Robert just to hear his voice. Robert had never been away from home this long with seven or eight days to go before he returned.

Hoping she would not disturb him, Donna dialed his personal cell number and got only his voice mail. She tried four more times, leaving an increasingly desperate message each time pleading that he should call back so she could hear his voice. Realizing how she sounded, Donna became embarrassed and stopped calling and just sat in the rocking chair listening to the sound of a nearby bullfrog and watching the soft moonlight reflecting off the ripples in the lake. Under the influence of the peaceful setting, almost against her will Donna was overcome by sleep.

She again slipped back into the dream and found herself inside some sort of warehouse. As in all other times before, Donna was a formless entity that could see and hear everything but not intercede on events. In the dream Donna drifted towards the screams of her husband, Daniel and the children writhing in puddles of their own blood, their bodies grotesquely mutilated but somehow retaining the ability to plead for her to come save them. Despair welled up inside her bodiless form forcing her to retreat from the area. As in all the other times, Donna began to feel the presence of another entity, one that made her feel cold and corrupted. As she fled down the endless passageways of the warehouse, she could feel the dark force coming closer. Worst of all, as it pursued her, Donna would begin to feel a bizarre desire to become one with that darkness.

Donna suddenly awoke in the rocking chair momentarily not remembering coming outside at the end of the thunderstorm. When the disorientation passed she looked at the clock on the cell phone seeing only a little over an hour had passed with no messages from Robert. Still feeling as if the evil force in her dream was hovering not far away she began looking for another refuge.

Donna had no family or any real friends she could call. Her family never liked Robert and had drifted away as the years passed. What friends she did have weren't the kind who would come to her aid in the early, dark hours of the morning. The only place that did offer any hope was Robert's boathouse. While he had always made it clear that she was never to enter his studio, Donna figured it was the one place she could feel his presence and calm her panicked soul. With no where else to turn or run, she walked back into the kitchen and retrieved the set of keys to the boathouse Robert thought he had successfully hid from her.

Minutes later she is walking up the steps to the back entrance of the boathouse looking for the right key that would unlock the door. Robert was sure to be angry if he ever learned of her violating his privacy but Donna rationalized her trespass as a last desperate measure to save her sanity. She told herself that when she got inside she would use the time to calm down and wait for Robert to call, once he had chased away the demons she would leave making sure to leave no evidence of her presence. Despite the terror churning in her mind, a part of Donna was curious to see a place that had been forbidden for her to enter the entire time she was married to Robert.

After unlocking the door, she stepped inside and instinctively felt for the light switch and flipped it up. With the lights now on Donna saw numerous unfinished paintings along with with shelves with various supplies along one wall with a stack of blank canvases in one of the corners of the studio. To Donna most of Robert's works were highly abstract to the extreme and held little meaning for her. A few though, hanging on one of the walls were dark and sinister with glowing red eyes off in the distance watching an almost Norman Rockwell-like scene of happy and normal people. Donna had seen similar works when Robert brought her along on one of his promotional tours. Robert's paintings were often acclaimed by the critics for their primal, foreboding nature and she herself had come to enjoy the darker side of his character in their physical relationship.

As she studied the unfinished paintings, Donna noticed the door leading to another room of the boathouse. Figuring she had already violated the rule on entering in the first place, it mattered little if she unlocked that door as well and looked inside.

The room was windowless and the air inside was stale and heavy making it hard to breath. Turning on the light revealed a bookshelf with several rows of homemade DVD's stored inside neatly labeled cases. A medium-sized television was sitting on a small table with a cheap DVD player hooked up to it. Taped to the walls of the room were old newspaper clippings of various murder cases and crime scene photos.

Browsing the pictures on the wall Donna was shocked to find photos of her children and husband laying dead in the location their bodies would ultimately be found by the police. Confusion then a different fear welled up inside Donna as she realized that none of the photos were official police pictures, they all were taken with a cheap camera someone might buy at a drug store. Donna's mind went into overdrive trying to find a sane reason why Robert could possess such pictures. No longer worried what Robert might say about entering his studio, she tore through the collection of DVD cases looking for, and finding one with Daniel and the children's name attached.

She found the DVD case close to the end of the collection. Donna knew her marriage to Robert had long since changed her in ways that would have been inconceivable to the version of herself that had married her first husband all those years ago. But that morning the rest of her soul slipped away as trembling hands inserted the shiny disc into the player and turned on the television. Frozen to the screen, she watched and listened to Robert drag the unconscious bodies of Daniel and then the children to the place where they would be killed. His commentary a psychotic rambling of who he thought should live and who should die.

The actual murders of the her babies were relatively quick. But their screams of terror as the person they knew as “Uncle Robert” inserted the syringe into their arms that brought them to a final silence was everything Donna had heard in her nightmares. Robert didn't share that mercy with his supposed best friend, Daniel.

“You were never good enough for Donna,” Robert hissed as Daniel choked on his own blood from the near surgical cuts that his torturer had done on his body. “You could have done so much with her,” Robert continued on, “molding and shaping Donna to become a supreme individual. But what did she become with you? Nothing but a frumpy housewife, I'm doing her a favor by removing you and the children from her life. After you are gone and I send a few more sheep to the hereafter to throw any possible suspicion off me, I plan on going to her as the grieving friend looking just to help her through this nightmare. After that, she will be mine, I'll teach her things that you never could with your pathetic normal lives. She'll resist at first but I seen what lies deep within her soul, Donna is like me and I'll bring that out and we will live a full life together. Eventually, I'll bring her out on my little trips to further cull the sheep.”

Donna ignored Robert's continued rant and even Daniel's final moments on earth. Robert was right, he had ever so slowly but insistently changed her, molded her, and yes, brought out the lurking darkness that she knew always existed inside her. Donna's skin crawled to think not only what she had done to make Robert happy, but what she had come to enjoy. Donna felt more that violated, she felt infected by the monster that had taken the lives of her most precious family.

Donna knew she was ruined, her soul and spirit had long since been corrupted beyond true salvation. More than that, she knew Robert's last words were true, on a few occasions while accompanying him on his artistic tours, Robert had allowed her to taste ever so slightly the pain of others. She knew the cruel flame he kindled was not something that would ever go away. Her last revelation was the knowledge that the dreams that had plagued her for so long were not of her family pleading for her to come and save them. But one of warning, that she was being stalked by the creature that had killed them.

Donna knew her only hope of redemption was a plan that oozed like ice water through her mind, but it was the only way. She slowly left the boathouse, not bothering to either close or lock the doors she had opened. On the walk back to the house, she took time to enjoy the sounds of nature and the slight glow of light beginning to appear over the eastern horizon.

During her time in the studio Robert had left several messages on the cell phone, but she didn't bother to listen to them. Once back inside the kitchen she picked up the receiver on the phone mounted to the wall and dialed three numbers.

“Please come,” she said in an eerily calm voice, “immediately to the Myer's residence on Lake Shore Drive, in the boathouse you'll find evidence to the identity of the serial killer from five years ago. Remember, go to the boathouse, that is where all the answers lie.” The duty officer on the other end began asking question but all Donna did was to lay the receiver on the kitchen counter. Donna then calmly walked back up to the bedroom she shared with Robert and sat in the reading chair next his nightstand.

An eternity later she heard the sirens and the sounds of tires on the gravel roadway coming towards the house. She waited until the cars stopped and them listened to the police moving towards the boathouse. The chair was Robert's favorite place in their bedroom, from there he could look out the bay windows and see his studio. Once Donna saw the police step inside the boathouse she leaned over, opened the top drawer to Robert's nightstand, and pulled out the revolver. As the sounds of the monstrous discoveries inside the boathouse reached up to the bedroom, Donna slipped the barrel inside her mouth and pulled the trigger.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Things that Can't be Unseen or Forgotten

The following event occurred over two years ago and is only now gotten to the point that my personal statue of limitation for uncomfortable and creepy situations has expired.

While I can never be called a prude or a strict goody-goody moralist for the most part I am not overly familiar with most people except close friends and certain family members. The best way I can describe myself is that I am quite formal around most others to the point I can seem standoffish. Over the years there have been numerous instances where my behavior and intentions were grossly misjudged which ultimately caused a considerable amount of hurt feelings.

I actually blame this on my size and appearance. See, I stand over six-feet, five inches with a body type that suggests a different life path could have saw me become an NFL linebacker. Add to that a general facial expression which one army drill instructor told me point blank would easily scary the hell out of an already nervous recruit tends to makes it difficult for some people to judge my true demeanor. In fact, one cold morning at Fort Carson, Colorado a rather meek second lieutenant came around the corner of a building in the motor pool and saw me pulling radio equipment out or a vehicle. Somehow I startled the guy because he immediately snapped to attention and salute me like I was a full bird colonel or something. One word of advice to any young soldier or potential recruit who might read this, if something like this ever happens to you quickly respond back the proper way because the last thing your budding military career needs is a bitchy little officer hounding your ass.

I'll also admit my own sense of humor is almost incomprehensible to many, which by itself throws a huge monkey wrench in how others relate to me. When the main form of humor of those around me involves fart jokes and funny events concerning their redneck adventures while I laugh at Monty Python and Patton Oswalt comedic routines its hard for either to identify with the other. Once again I'll admit that I am a pretentious snob who sees the zany antics of those appearing on such shows as Duck Dynasty frankly beneath me and anything else appealing to the lowest cultural common denominator.

Taking all this into consideration it shouldn't surprise anyone that when my son, Darth Spoilboy, started dating I kept a respectful distance from his various girlfriends. On occasion I've seen how other dads act around their son's girlfriends and while I'm sure it's all innocent and good-natured hospitality, I frankly wouldn't feel comfortable acting in a similar manner. So you might understand how the following incident totally creeped me out.

It started on a Friday with me going to the individual laundry hampers in each room and essentially dumping everything in the floor in front of the washer and beginning the weekly process. Since my workweek begins on a Sunday night Friday mornings are the start of my weekend. Unfortunately, during that time the other members of my family are either at school or work, which leaves me “free” to do the required chores. That always means laundry, and to be honest not only have I become quite good at the job it is not unusual for me to enter a zen-like state when folding the clothes. Believe it or not, I have actually found that the motions of taking a chaotic item out of the dryer and returning it to a state of order quite spiritual. I liken my folding of clothes to videos I've seen where Tibetan monks create beautiful and exceedingly intricate sand art only to destroy once their creation is completed.

During those moments time ceases to have any real meaning with the universe and I becoming one. In fact I often just sit on the floor in front of the dryer and just pull out and fold the clothes there and just use the laundry basket to transport everything back to the rooms they belong.

It was during one of those quiet and spiritual moments that I pulled a rather odd item out of the dryer. It was skimpy, lacy underwear that in all honesty probably came from a place like Victoria's Secret. Yeah, this was one of those times that proved I was never the sharpest knife in the kitchen drawer because I sat on the floor for almost a full minute wondering who that sexy undergarment belonged. Excuse the disclosure of far too much information but lets just say that as the custody of the family laundry I knew neither my wife much less my daughter wore anything like that.

When my poorly wired mind finally came up with a possible owner of such a mature and small undergarment I dropped the item and began crawling away from it as if I had stumbled upon a highly radioactive alien lifeform that wanted to drill a hole in my skull and suck out my brain like watery apple sauce. Okay, please no one write comments or send me emails trying to inform me what it meant that my son's girlfriend had her underwear in his dirty laundry, trust me I'm slow at times but this was a no brainer.

The problem I had was how to dispose of the garment since I sure as hell didn't want either individual to know I knew the damn thing, and possibly others, were in the family laundry system. The creepy part in all this was me sorting through the mound of dirty laundry on the floor in front of the washing machine looking for those particular items or anything else that might belong to my son's girlfriend.

After searching I came up with six items, not all of them undergarments, I couldn't readily identify and I threw them, and all my son's clothes, back into his laundry hamper. If young Darth Spoilboy asked me why I hadn't done his laundry my intentioned was to claim I forgot and tell him it was his chore that particular weekend. The two lovebirds showed up at the house a few hours later and I found that I couldn't look the girl in the face. There are just some things I DO NOT want to know about people and the style of underwear they like is quite high on that list.

Thankfully, the two broke up a month or two later, it was never more than a normal high school relationship with one of them losing interest. Needless to say I was quite happy with that turn of events since after the incident because I always felt I needed to leave the living room when they were at the house watching television.

My son is in his second year of college now and came home yesterday not only with a load of dirty laundry but also his new girlfriend. Old habits die hard and I think Darth Spoilboy believed I was going to include his clothes with the rest of the usual laundry. He was quite puzzled at my strong reaction when I told him I didn't care what possible events he had planned for his weekend back home, he was going to do his own damn laundry.