Monthly Archives: April 2016

King Frog

Stadely drove his ‘69 Pontiac down a dirt road through the trees. After an hour of bumping and dipping over rocks and potholes he pulled into a clearing on the edge of a muddy ravine. Hundreds of naked bodies writhed and twisted in the gorge below to a pounding bass line. Stadely grabbed a rifle from the seat beside him and got out of the car. For a minute he rolled a cigarette with the gun rested in the crook of his elbow. He watched the young women and men move below, mud covering the faces and beards and breasts. Well, well, well… Stadely heard someone say. He turned to see a motorcycle cop wearing reflective sunglasses. The officer put his gloved hand on Stadely’s shoulder.

Stadely looked down at his rifle then back to the cop, seeing his own spidery reflection in the silver lenses. I’ll be in and out quick, Stadely said. He looked back down at his gun.

That’s what you told me last time, said the cop.

But the policeman didn’t follow as Stadely walked over the bluff toward the ravine.

When Stadely got to the edge, he took off his clothes. Soon he was slogging into waist-high mud, careful to keep the rifle raised above. He smeared mud over his face and shoulders and was then lost in the crowd, no one paying the rifle any heed.

At one end of the ravine was a giant cleft in the side of the sloping wall that the mud river appeared to be flowing out of. Stadely moved toward this hole, feeling muddy girls’ fingers touching his shoulders and back and hair as he went. The music got louder the closer he got, violating his eardrums with abrasive, electronic pounding.

When he entered the cave he raised his rifle to his shoulder, pointing it into the shadows ahead of him. The crowd thinned in the darkness and now the music was accompanied by the breathless gasps and cries of an actual orgy in progress. Stadely continued on deeper into the darkness until the sex noises faded and even the music was faint. Eventually he trudged up a slope out of the mud river and onto a slimy cave beach. A torch hung up on the rock wall beside a wooden door carved with ornate patterns. Stadely stood muddy and naked, his rifle leveled now at the door. Bartholomew! he called out. I’ve come back!

After a minute, the door swung open. A giant frog stood there, wearing a golden crown and a crimson robe. Stadely stumbled backward. His hands shook as they gripped his rifle. The frog advanced, opening its giant, toothless mouth. Inside the huge mouth floated the disembodied head of a beautiful woman. The woman’s dead eyes stared and Stadely felt his bones go cold. The frog closed its mouth and swallowed the head. Friend of yours? the frog finally asked. It then grabbed Stadely by the neck and squeezed. Stadely was forced to drop his gun. He had to use both hands to pry the slimy fingers back.

That—was—my—wife, Stadely said, between gasps. The frogs eyes laughed. You should have told her to stay out of the ravine, it said. Its mouth opened again and closed around Stadely’s head. Stadely reached up and jammed his fingers into the monster’s eyes and held on as the frog flailed back and forth. Finally his head popped out, dripping with gooey green fluid. He fell to the ground, holding his neck. Then he rolled over to grab his gun and fired up at the thing’s chest, emptying all fifteen rounds. The frog king fell forward, crown toppling, hissing and whistling its final breaths before it splatted down on the mud.


When Stadely climbed up out of the mud river, the motorcycle cop was still waiting. He watched as Stadely brushed off as much of the mud as he could before pulling his clothes back on. He said nothing as Stadely walked past and got into his Pontiac.

The music was still thumping as he pulled away. He could hear the bass a mile or so down the road as the wind dried the mud in his hair. But fresh tears streaked down through the dirt on his cheeks. He cried all the way to the Turnpike. After he merged into the speeding traffic he felt a deep sense of peace. He hummed to himself until all coherent thought dissipated and his mind was finally blank.



Real Dreams

Mal bit the side of her cheek to stay awake. As the rhythmic noise of the subway shuddering down the tracks lulled her, she bit and felt the sharp pain of her teeth grinding her own flesh. But just as her eyes closed again there was a terrible squeal and an explosion of glass as giant, papery arms burst through the windows, cutting down passengers at random with blue laser beams firing from twisted, writhing fingers. Mal stood and almost slipped on the rushing river of blood. She took hold of one of the giant monster arms and tore at the paper skin with her nails, ripping holes in it. The monster’s gelatinous blue blood sprayed on her white blouse and her face. She half-expected it to melt her skin but it didn’t, and the little that had landed on her lip tasted like cupcake frosting. The arm she’d torn then swung and knocked her off her feet. She landed hard on one of the benches then tumbled down to the bloody floor.

The train screamed to a halt at 14th Street. Firemen and police had arrived on the station platform but the creature made mincemeat out of them- severed body parts bouncing in every direction. The bulbous head with its six rotating eyes jammed in through the broken subway window, searching for Mal. She was now trembling in the gore, crawling away sideways like a crab. The thing then burst into flames and the platform and subway car filled instantly with black smoke. Mal sprang up and felt her way toward a broken window in the back, stepping over slippery body parts. Just as she climbed through the window the subway lurched forward again and she landed hard on the platform.


When her eyes opened in the darkness she saw a beam of outside light filtering down through the haze. She could just make out the half-dead monster writhing back in the shadows. She got to her feet and stumbled toward the light. The staircase leading up to the street was littered with laser-cut arms and legs but strangely no torsos or heads. She stepped gingerly over the appendages, some which were still clutching police-issue firearms, and finally reached the light of day. A few young paramedics rushed past her, back down in the tunnel. That won’t do any good, she whispered to herself.

Even outside the air smelled toxic but everyone on the street went about their business as though nothing had happened. Mal stepped into a nearby pizza joint and wiped blue monster blood off her face with a handful of napkins. Take it easy on those! the unshaven man behind the counter said. Two—she started, finding it hard to talk. Two cheese– and she had a coughing fit before she could continue.

Just then a monster arm smashed through the back door of the pizzeria, spinning lasers cutting through stacks of cardboard pizza boxes. When the pizza guy’s head tumbled off his shoulders Mal took off running, not stopping until she was ten blocks away, running up the stairs of her grandmother’s brownstone. She pounded on the door. Let me in, she screamed, her voice hoarse. Finally she heard the chain slide and locks clicking.

There, there, her grandmother said, pulling her into a tight hug. I seen it all happening then I just closed the blinds, love. Sometimes you just need to close the blinds and pray when they get you it’ll go quick.

Mal sat down to a plate of her grandmother’s spaghetti and budget cola. There was a comedy on TV about clownish Nazis. She wanted to whistle along to the show’s theme song but she found herself nodding off. Screams from down in the street faded as her real dreams finally took over.



Pappy’s Legacy

Fulbertin came down the staircase, one hand on the bannister, one hand pressed tightly against a gaping chest wound. I’ve been shot, Margaret, he told his sister. She’d been reclining on the couch in a nightgown and now set her plate of breakfast eggs on the cushion beside her. Then she turned toward the kitchen. He’s finally done got himself shot, Mama! she belted out. Fulbertin leaned against the newel post and his whole body sagged.

Mama came to the doorway in her apron, rolling pin in one hand. Blood dripped from Fulbertin’s chest to the hardwood floor. We need the police, he said in a weak voice. Police? exclaimed Mama. What has police ever done for us?

Nothin’ but put our sweet ol’ Pappy behind bars! said Margaret.

No, we ain’t callin’ no police! We ain’t goin’ through all that again! said Mama.

Fulbertin slipped off the post and lurched toward Mama. She knocked him in the head with the rolling pin and he hit the floor. Pappy would have wanted it that way, she said. When you wake up, honey, you’ll understand.

Just then a tall figure appeared at the top of the staircase. His eyes were inset and feline beneath a black homburg. His mustache was thin and sharp. In his gloved hand was a Colt .45. I suggest you bury him in the backyard, he said. Where no one will see.

We only bury dead people around here Mister, Mama said. And Fulbertin ain’t dead. He’s restin’ ‘til he comes back round to his senses. There was a terrific blast and the tall man tumbled headfirst over the bannister. He landed in a bloody heap at the foot of the stairs. Mama looked down and saw Fulbertin on his side clutching a smoking Smith & Wesson. Fulbertin then crumpled forward, the gun dropping from his bloody hand. A cocker spaniel tore in from the kitchen and hopped onto the couch to eat the remaining eggs off Margaret’s plate. Mamma glared at Margaret.

It ain’t my dog, said Margaret. It’s Petey’s dog.


Later that night they dragged the bodies out into the back. Margaret went rooting through the closet for a shovel. Mama came downstairs. We gonna need more lime, she said. There’s another one up there.


The next morning was Sunday. Margaret and Mama sat at the picnic table on the back patio. They were dressed for church and each had a plate of bacon and eggs in front of them. They ate in silence, gazing out at the three fresh mounds of dirt in the backyard. Occasionally Margaret tossed a piece of bacon down to the dog. Time for church, Mama said, pushing her half-eaten breakfast away. Yes, it certainly is, Margaret said.

They got up from their chairs. After they’d moved into the house the spaniel jumped from a bench onto the table. He looked up for a minute when he heard the car pull out of the gravel driveway, then lowered his head and licked their plates clean.