Thursday, May 3, 2012


Chapter 9 from the huge short story/novella REDWOODLAND,
available on Amazon

FROM THEIR SEATS on the thick green grass so perfect it could almost be fake, Joe and Leanne took in the Haunted Fernden view stretching below before them. Off to the side, a bright green tent was pitched. Hers.
“It’s beautiful,” Joe said. In the distance could be heard mad howls of glee as the train picked up speed and went through the trees. Leanne leaned back on an elbow.
“What should we do for dinner?” she said.
“That’s a good question. I think they have some places to eat in the middle of town. There used to be real restaurants down there. I can barely remember—I guess I was about two or three—my mom and dad thought it was a pretty big deal when the town got bought up for Redwoodland.”
“Big deal in a good way?”
“No, big deal in a bad way.”
“Well, I hate to change the subject but it’s five-thirty now. What do you say we head over and find something? I’m starving.”
“I don’t suppose we need to take our stuff with us?”
“I’m just taking my card. I’m not worried about leaving my pack in the tent. Everything’s on camera. Besides, I haven’t really seen anybody else around.”
“I saw one couple walking through town.”
It sounded to Leanne like Joe nearly said another couple. He almost did, and it almost spoiled something magical and dream-like by being manifest and rushed. Neither was attached. Both felt relaxed. They knew everything about each other and nothing at all, and when Joe realized how uncharacteristically quickly the clicking was going for him—as indeed it was for her—there came to his mind rich with resonance and sounding just like Taj Mahal an inner voice which said, “Everybody’s got to change sometime.”
It was the off season. Also, people were having to save more and more longer and longer to finally get to go in the summer when the cool clean air of the tall green trees was a strange safe haven, and if people weren’t spending their lives saving for summer then it was winter they were saving for at Redwoodland instead. The park was far from empty. Still, the colorful homes and shops of the stately Victorian town, simultaneously possessed of quaintness and majesty, frozen spotless in bygone time, today all ran for Joe and Leanne.
They reached a restaurant. A menu placed in an ornate window with white and blue trim was available for perusal. Both agreed it looked good, but were surprised to find inside that the sounds of cups and utensils clinking in a low hum of chatter belonged to the animatronic guests, activated when Joe and Leanne broke an invisible beam not far outside the door.
Off in a corner played a player piano. Joe and Leanne grabbed a couple of trays and examined the foods displayed in windows to be unlocked by swiped cards. Joe got the Zesty Herb Chicken Supreme dinner plate, a chocolate mousse and a Guinness. Leanne went with the Dungeoness Delight dinner plate, a chocolate mousse and a glass of chardonnay. In each case, the removed selection was immediately replaced by another exactly like it from behind.
Upstairs at a balcony table the lighting was low, just a few tables lit with what appeared to be candlelight dimmed by the tinted glass of small round candle holders glowing on the middle of each table. Joe and Leanne sat down next to an animatronic family.
A turtleneck-wearing man sporting sideburns and a perm sat opposite a woman with feathered hair and a large open collar. The kids, a boy and a girl, were hanging on the ornate wooden railing, swinging their lifted knees and hanging with the rail under their arms. The couple seemed to have just recently received their drinks.
“By the way dear,” said the woman, “did you watch ‘The Bob Newhart Show?’”
“No dear,” said the man. “I watched ‘Starsky and Hutch.’”
“I can’t wait to watch ‘The Brady Bunch,’” proclaimed the beaming animatronic boy. “I can’t wait to watch ‘Scooby-Doo,’” announced the smiling animatronic girl.
After dinner Joe and Leanne took in the theater. Every step of the way, the necessary sights and sounds were activated, effects tripped by unseen beams broken by the strolling pair.
While they watched the Fernden Theater production of “Camelot”—the animatronic cast all convincingly local—the only thing Joe could think about was whether he would be seeing any action that night. He hated to reduce the magic down to bare terms, but he really did want to know. It seemed like she was putting off some heavy signals in that direction, but then again, perhaps she was merely feeling comfortable and friendly, and totally capable of setting him straight in a firm and unmistakable manner at any given moment should he take any liberties and instigate the need to define clear boundaries. Which would suck to have to hear.
“It says here in the playbill we’re welcome to explore the theater,” said Leanne. “Want to?”
“Sounds excellent,” said Joe. “Let’s explore.”
Backstage in the wardrobe area, upstairs in the costume department, then back onstage with the animatronic cast singing about how there used to be a really great place and time seemed strangely depressing to Joe, mostly just from still not knowing, but he brightened up heading back to the cemetery when Leanne crooked an arm through his and walked with him that way all the way to the top of the graveyard’s biggest crypt.
It was night, though due to the lights not especially dark, and had been a big day, but Redwoodland never closed and Joe and Leanne were hardly tired at all. The crypt was made of some sort of stone, flat on top with a raised lip running the circumference on which they sat. Except for a large faux two-handled concrete urn at each corner, the top of the crypt was bare.
“So are you going to sleep in the tent with me tonight or what?” Leanne said.
“Well, I kind of figured.”
“You liar.”
“That’s true. Do you…want to head on over?”
“What is wrong with you? You have to say the one thing that ruins the entire evening?” Leanne laughed. “Look at those stars.”
The stars were not as bright as they used to look. Redwoodland never closed.
“Okay,” she said. “I guess we might as well head on over.” She took him by the hand. “Did you just hear that sound?”
“Sounds like one of the effects in there must be broken.”
“They have scary robot things in the crypts?”
“Well, I guess so. Sure, why not?”
Whatever it was, it certainly sounded odd. They stepped from the top of the crypt to a low wall near some stone stairs and went around to the front where they tried to peer in through the bars of an iron door.
“I can’t see anything,” she said. Now the noise had stopped.
“Me either,” he agreed. They gave it another moment.
“All right.” She took him by the hand again. “We may as well go get the damn thing over with. But remember, clothes on, no touching . . . .”

Tuesday, May 1, 2012



Six edgy stories concerning the
marginalized, the disenfranchised . . .
and the dehumanizing forces of the corporate machine.

In the Table of Discontents we find:

Resurrection of the Lizard” – A Jim Morrison android living in the redwoods develops a cult following.

I Am Become Celebrity” – In a world where genetically-engineered pop stars reach their peak before they’re even born, unemployed Serling Young finds himself ready and willing to do anything for fame.

Age of Indigents” – Homeless conservative Everett Fagle experiences inner growth living in a hollow redwood.

Rhapsody Grove” – Growing success with Victory Eviction Services rewards Rich Christianson with the coveted chance to attend a prestigious private gathering, but at what cost to his beautiful, dutiful wife?

Trip Van” – A Hippie wakes up one day to find the world is not at all what it seemed.

Redwoodstock” – For desperately unemployed George Hicks, a Woodstock-like concert held in Humbaba offers an out-of-this-world opportunity.

From "Rhapsody Grove"...

            Women weren’t allowed at Rhapsody Grove. Cops out front screened everyone coming in, and did their damnedest to make sure that the rich white men inside enjoyed a nice safe private time together doing things they had to hide. Here they could do their Hillbilly Heroin unhindered by fear of reproach, for here they all had something on each other. More punitive punishment, greater freedom for government torture, increased weapons contracts, ideas for new invasions, ideas to increase corporate freedom and crack down on the people, these of course were the topics of choice always on everyone’s mind.
            This was during daylight hours. Father Hatter introduced Rich to friend after friend after friend. This was a warm and accepting assemblage of open-minded, like-minded, conservative-thinking men who shook hands with well-oiled techniques geared toward economic opportunity and financial advancement, it still being daylight hours. Rich spotted the giant owl, the forty-foot owl carved out of wood that towered on the far side of the secluded lake, and wondered as he followed Father Hatter from friend to friend to friend, what was going to happen there before the owl that night . . . .

From "Age of Indigents"...

Nobody knew about the tree. It wasn’t like he stayed there all the time, squatting in the little cave provided by a redwood hollowed by fire, staring out the hole, staring at Tree Vee, watching his life go by, blaming it on the liberals. There were cans to collect, lots of bottles with deposits waiting. Two months there seemed like two years. He was thirty-seven, and lost twenty pounds already. Most of that was beer belly, but he could see in the loose flesh of his forearms and feel by the sharpness of his cheekbones that the hunger which he now felt all the time was eating away at him, hollowing him, leaving his insides charred like the silvery blackness of the fire-ravaged redwood.
            More and more of his days were spent simply sleeping. Partly this was because he was simply so tired. He didn’t have the energy for all the walking required to go anywhere. Also now he was a month into the worst case of athlete’s foot he ever had. He tried washing his feet in a creek running through the forest, but the creek had the yellow foam of some secretly dumped pollution collecting in places where shiny black mushrooms lined the banks, and even though he tried to avoid it, his feet developed a rash all the way up to the ankles at least as bad as the athlete’s foot.
            So what he did was he went out at night. There was a drinking fountain at the junior high school that would have been perfect in terms of seclusion, but the junior high was shut down due to lack of money. Everett blamed the liberals for that and took to rinsing his feet in a fountain at the high school, always only late at night, when the relative certainty that no one would see, coupled with painful desperation, temporarily overcame his fear, and he wouldn’t only rinse his feet but load up plastic bottles he had found and take those with him back down to his tree. That wouldn’t be until nearly morning, because the animals were active at night, and the subtle furtive sounds of their activity filled him with terror of being nipped or worse by something with rabies or without . . .