Headless in Seattle

“Ho, ho, ho!” Santa’s laugh greets those who enter the toy store. Glenn Murdoch, the shop owner’s son, has cleverly hooked up the recorded cheery greeting so it will play each time someone opens the door. Glenn is also responsible for the Christmas music that flows outdoors, as he has installed a horn to work as a speaker to funnel music from inside the adjoining hardware store to the outside. Much merriment is in the air in Olde Towne, a little place the locals sometimes refer to as “Seattle” due to it being in a different worldly dimension yet parallel to the Seattle that exists in the Pacific northwest of the good ole U.S. of A.

During the Christmas holiday season, the atmosphere in Olde Towne is akin to that in the North Pole, where elves busily build toys to get ready for distribution. Everyone in Olde Towne is baking and decorating for the holiday. With all the goodwill and high spirits, no one would ever believe the decapitation of Will’s head. Though one may argue, as did Will’s disheartened wife, that it had been due to Elmer Hadley being drunk from spirits that caused Will to lose his head.

The fateful day occurs one afternoon, when the locals are gathered outside in the town center to decorate the evergreen fir tree. Tables are spread around, replete with Christmas cookies and pitchers of eggnog, both spiked and unspiked. Elmer Hadley, the consummate tree and shrub clipper, unknowingly drinks the spiked eggnog, gulping more cups than he usually does, as his secret crush, Mary Weathers, makes him nervous. So much so that he picks up his prized sharp shears to impress her and proceeds to demonstrate his prowess. By sheer inches, he misses trimming the tall shrub next to Will and instead, cleanly, clips off Will’s head. Thinking fast as a nearby witness, Glenn immediately retrieves Will’s head and places it in the nearest icebox.

Despite Elmer’s faulty judgment, his talent as a superb clipper did result in a smooth cut. (This will later allow the town surgeon to easily stitch Will’s head back on, although the re-attachment will happen after Christmas since the surgeon is currently away for the holidays.) Meanwhile, Will works headless, though heedless, in Seattle, confident in the eventual reunion with his head. Though Olde Towne is in parallel dimension to Seattle, it operates under different rules of physics and physiques.

As for Elmer, he has sworn off eggnog for the rest of the holiday season. His polished work on Will, though most unintentional, had strangely impressed Mary, who is now sleeping well for her secret crush on Elmer is reciprocated. Who knew Elmer would make the cut?

[Based on actual figurines displayed in a winery north of Seattle]

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Eye Sees You

Deep through the gnarled trees sits a shack with a broken door and half a roof that only a select few know even exists, and they never get a chance to talk about their experience. Every Halloween, a path appears to young trick-or-treaters, who follow the carved pumpkins lining the walkway up to the small porch decorated with homemade ghosts. The rundown shack is transformed into a cozy, brightly lit cottage. A smiling woman promptly greets them and invites them in. No one has ever solved the mysterious disappearances, although from years past there used to be a story behind them.

The story begins with an ailing woman believed to be practicing the black arts. A large cauldron hangs on a hook in the fireplace that dominates her small house. Whispers about her started when she would bring strangers into her home, but no one sees them leaving, or being out and about. But then again, no one has really befriended her to know the intimate details of her life.

Though what happens inside her private shelter is unknown, many have heard groans of agony that go on and on. Because the village comprises of people barely getting by on their own, they lack the energy to investigate the disturbing sounds. If they can see their kinsfolk, then all is well in their own world. The witch at the other side of town can do what she wants as long as she stays away from their business. In their thinking, better them (the strangers) than us.

One night, 10-year-old Caleb decides to sneak out to explore the cause of the whisperings about town and the whining that can’t be explained as the wind. Any warnings made to him by his parents and friends are not enough to keep him away from learning more about the woman they describe as a conjurer.

Creeping up to a murky looking window on the side of the so-called witch’s cottage, Caleb rubs the sleeve of his jacket on a lower corner of the window. His eyes widen when he sees the woman bent over someone down on the floor. From his vantage, he  only sees  a pair of legs encased in torn pants. An unholy wail penetrates through the thin walls. The woman seems to overpower the struggling person, whose helpless kicking eventually ceases, along with the lament. Suddenly, his surrounding is too quiet. Caleb feels the hair behind his neck prickle, as if someone is watching him. He turns around. Seeing nothing, he returns his gaze to the window. He yelps in surprise when his peering eye directly meets a dilated pupil. Fear overcomes him, as he tries to shake himself loose.

“I see you, boy.” The cackling is too close to his ear. Unable to move, he feels hands grab him.

“I seize you . . .” More cackling follows as he is carried inside the house.

“Help!” Caleb finds his voice, as the woman shuts the door and places him on a cot.

“So you want to know what goes on here, do you?” The woman’s face is a blur as Caleb’s eyes tear up from realizing his folly. Rotting smell around him makes his eyes water even more. He still cannot comprehend how he was detected.

“Eye saw you,” she says, as if reading his mind. “But Eye is getting old, so you came at the right time.” She laughs some more, as the boy’s last thoughts wonder what she means.

The next morning, Caleb’s house turns chaotic when his family notices his absence. Their efforts prove fruitless even when their friends and neighbors help search the neighborhood. The only place left to look is in the vicinity of “that woman’s house.” Feeling assured that their large number will protect them, they march to the witch’s little dwelling. As they approach the humble looking house, they hear someone chanting inside. Those facing the door start pounding on it, but the chanting continues, while the angry crowd is ignored.

The lack of response from inside makes someone in the group speak up, “Let’s just tear it down.” The crowd pounds harder until the door finally cracks open. When they barge in, Caleb’s mother weaves herself in and gasps, “Those are Caleb’s night clothes!” A child-sized shirt and matching pants are strewn on the floor, but the only person in sight is the homeowner, who continues to chant and smile at the crowd without any concerns.

“What have you done to my son?” Caleb’s mother shouts at the woman, but is hesitant to touch her as the woman doesn’t look right in the head.

Between Caleb’s clothes as evidence of his possibly being been there and the woman’s lack of communication, the frustrated crowd decides to be the judge and jury. They pull the woman outside and threaten to hang her if she doesn’t reveal Caleb’s whereabouts.

The woman only laughs and says cryptically, “He has a good eye. He makes a good watch.”  She continues to laugh as they place a noose around her and give her a final warning to talk or die. Her laugh turns to a gurgle as the rope tightens and someone kicks the chair from under her feet.

A stillness settles on the crowd as they realize what they’ve done. Amid the crying of Caleb’s family and friends, the crowd disperses to go back to their homes. Since that day, no one has ever spoken of the event and nobody has dared return to the woman’s place.

As years have passed, an eyeball wedged on a tree across from the old shack continues to behold the transformation that happens every Halloween. A single tear drop falls for every trick-or-treater trapped inside the hovel.

Face Time

Meghan sighs as she sees the night slipping away too soon. Almost ten in the evening and she still has no date. She swipes the photo to the left, but soon changes her mind and swipes it to the right. She reads the brief profile of the guy she decides to pursue: “Enjoys anything that rocks — rock candy, rock climbing, and hard rock. Rock me hard!” She snickers at the last sentence.

“Oh yeah, baby,” she thinks to herself.

She texts him: “What flavor rock candy you like?”

Seconds later a response comes back: “Cherry”

She texts back: “I’ve got on cherry lip gloss.”

“Yum,” flashes on Meghan’s iPhone screen.

“I wish I was somewhere listening to hard rock now,” she types in, hoping to get something going soon.

“You’re playing my tune. Want to hang out?”

Meghan likes that and keys in, “Sure . . . when?”

“Let’s face time,” he messages back and adds his number for her to call.

“Cool,” Meghan thinks as she punches in his number.

A toothy grin dominates Meghan’s phone screen. She catches her breath as her eyes rake over the green cast of the face with bulging eyeballs and stained teeth that seems to take on  a countenance that doesn’t look human at all. As soon as her brain registers the freaky visage, a scream escapes through her lips, now quivering from repulsion. Laughter from the screen erupts just as instantaneously.

She throws the phone across the room, screaming and hearing the laughter. She realizes she’s just been goblined*.

*Goblined – when a person gets startled, surprised, or freaked out by a goblin; usually occurs when a person least expects it. These are Halloween times . . . the countdown begins . . .

Love Lettuce

Image: Pixabay

Leticia loves looking at Lenny while they lunch in the library lounge over little bowls of lettuce. She thinks starting with the Iceberg lettuce will help break the ice. Her friend, Rose, recommends she follow up with a robust salad laden with Romaine lettuce to get the romance rolling. Alternatively, she could offer a plate of spicy arugula as Lenny is anything but a “regulah” guy. To match Lenny’s Boston accent, Leticia finds she has to offer a bolder fare. Let us hope that endive makes the perfect ending to their growing love for each other.

The Carnery

Image: Pixabay

The daily grind grounds Pete to the ground, like the meat he grinds to make the daily meatball grinder, the star of The Carnery, his eatery and meat shop. Day in, day out, Pete is like the meat he first pounds with his mallet. His routine is not much different from how his father described his own time at the cannery back in the day. Nor the stories his grandfather told him way back when he was a carney. Hard work is stamped in his DNA. As Pete pounds away at the meat, he thinks how Connor, his son, seems to be enjoying the fruits of his labor. Pete sent Connor to the best schools and drummed into his head the idea of seizing every opportunity he sees. As a high-powered Wall Streeter, Connor is today a true carnivore.

Kill the Angel by Sandrone Dazieri (a book blurt)

This is the second of a book series about an emotionally damaged savant, Dante Torre, who is unlike any other hero. The first book, Kill the Father, is when we are introduced to Dante, who as a child was abducted and spent much of his years growing up isolated in a silo. While there, he developed his skills and sharpened his senses, as means to survive and eventually escape. The second book has an antagonist whose years from birth to puberty resemble Dante’s early isolation. Unlike Dante’s, the antagonist’s fate takes an evil turn that results in multiple tragic events. Through Deputy Police Chief Colomba Caselli, a traumatized law enforcer who experienced her own share of violence earlier on, Dante finds himself once again helping solve a crime that begins with a train full of dead bodies. Set in Europe, the story is full of fascinating characters and twists that make you want to skip sleeping.

The list below is in the order I’ve read Dazieri’s books. Expect this to grow as I enjoy more of his work.

Kill the Father
Kill the Angel

Mean Business on North Ganson Street by S. Craig Zahler (a book blurt)

The writer of this book has also written and directed two movies – Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99. His treatment of the book is not much different in how he evokes images of jarring violence and graphic gore. Here, such intensity is combined with snappy writing and colorful characters. The book tells a story about a disgraced detective, Jules Bettinger, who is transferred to the “armpit” of America. This is a place where crime is the mainstay; it’s safe to say the ratio of crime-fighters to criminals is comparable to one person’s chances of winning the lottery. Not wanting to see his family live in the same city where he works, Bettinger suffers daily through an 85-mile one-way commute from home to his “new” police headquarters.  But his work is even worse. He soon finds himself in trying to solve a double homicide that causes a string of events of increasing violent consequences and shocking climax.