Dog’s Day

Timing was everything.  Look normal.  Don’t draw suspicion.  Still, he couldn’t focus on anything…

I no longer remember what the prompts were for this piece. I believe one was “The lizard crawled through the window,” another was “internationally recognized warning sign,” and finally, I believe the last prompt was “doodling in the margins of big yellow pads of paper.”

 

Sid sat transfixed by the digital clock on the dashboard of his ’87 Olds, the dark gray vinyl cracked and chipped beneath the hot Texas sun.  It was 5:30 and he wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  His blue Cutlass, wedged tightly between a Greyhound bus in front and a tanker truck behind, hadn’t moved ten feet in as many minutes.  Trapped high above the city streets on the Pierce Elevated in the heart of downtown Houston, if Houston had a heart, he thought. His week had been hell and this day even more so.  On the surface, this day was no different than so many others spent in this endless line of rubber, steel and glass, snaking back through the sweltering heat of summer, but that wasn’t the whole of it.  Today was the day for which he’d waited and prepared for years, really for all his life.

He looked at himself in the rear view mirror, sweat dripping from his balding head and bearded chin.  “Damn this Texas heat!  Damn this traffic!” he said to his image, but he knew it wasn’t the heat, even though the AC hadn’t worked in this piece of crap for over a year now.  No, it wasn’t the heat.  He’d waited all week for this day, excited and afraid, ever since he’d gotten the email late last Saturday.  There in the midst of innocuous prose were the words he’d hoped for and dreaded for so long, “The lizard crawled through the window.”  The time had come.  Now, hating every minute of delay, each hour an eternity, he crawled towards his destiny.  This past week at the firm was spent doodling in the margins of big yellow pads of paper as paunchy old wind bags rambled on about projected losses and declining markets.  Timing was everything.  Look normal.  Don’t draw suspicion.  Still, he couldn’t focus on anything but today.  All week long it was all he could think about.  Could he do it?  Should he do it?  He was nearly paralyzed, caught between faith and reasoning.  The whole city was caught in an urban paralysis, frozen in its tracks, unable to untangle from the knot of congestion and commerce.  With all the warnings and all the news flashes, here it sat, frozen in place with nowhere to run even if it did know what lay ahead.

Somewhere ahead, unseen to Sid, wreckers towed away the last of the arterial blockage and the traffic began to nudge along, picking up speed bit by bit.  Finally he reached his exit and trundled down the ramp to the city streets below, stopping in front of a dilapidated warehouse with a barely readable, century-old sign, on its side announcing some defunct company, and hawking a product long ago forgotten.  The metal door screeched open, resisting him as though in some feeble attempt to stop the inevitable, a last and pitiful defense.  With an almost casual glance up and down the street, he returned to the car and eased it into the cavernous hole, stopping just inside the door to pull it shut behind him, and locking it, now his defense against prying eyes.

From the trunk he pulled out a large toolbox and a crowbar.  Strewn about on the floor in haphazard fashion were several large wooden crates marked “Machinery” and “Machine Parts”.  All bore the address, Smith and Jones AG Equipment Company, Inc. and were marked, “Made in India,” or “Made in Germany,” or “Made in Belgium.”  Sid attacked the boxes feverishly, prying the packing crates apart and laying the contents neatly on the floor.  Every now and then he would move a part from one spot to another and replace it with some other piece freshly emerged from the packing material.  Soon it was all unpacked and he stopped to survey the “ingredients.”  Wiping his brow, he opened the toolbox and set about assembling all of this into one large, complex apparatus.  Done, he grabbed up a broom and began to quickly sweep the packing material to the back of the room, where several heavy sheets of rusting iron leaned against the wall.  Strewing the Styrofoam in front of them, he pried them away from the wall with a long bar from another pile of rusting metal scraps.  They crashed with little noise, leaving the wall behind exposed.  There the wall had fresh plaster applied and he tackled this with renewed fervor.  Soon he had an opening a man could move through at a stoop.  Grabbing a flashlight from the toolbox, he ducked into the low opening into the space beyond.  It was barely a room, more like the bottom of a ventilation shaft.  But there was room enough.  In the corner, sat a black metal case, internationally recognized warning signs plastered on all sides.  Sid lifted it with a grunt.  Tired from the previous hour’s work, the thing weighed more than he’d expected.  Gripping it with both hands, he shuffled back to the opening and heaved it through, following immediately behind.

Back at the apparatus, he carefully opened the box.  Abandoning all caution, he lifted the dull metallic rods from the case, one by one, and inserted them into his machine.  What did it matter to him?  It would all be over soon.  With the last rod in place, he closed the machine cover.  From a velvet wrap, he removed a small palm-sized box, a thin wire trailing from one end.  Connecting the wire to the apparatus, he unwound it several paces back.

“This will do,” he thought.  He lay the box on the floor and returned to the car.  From the back seat he lifted a small, well-used prayer rug.  Slipping his shoes off, Sid returned to the box and unfurled the rug, laying it gently on the floor.  After a moment’s reflection, he determined which way he should face, then knelt down, bending low upon the carpet, his head pressed against the course fibers.

His finger found the button.

“In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.”

He pressed and knew no more, his soul swept away in the nuclear blast to meet whatever destiny awaited the faithful dead.

Last Christmas

The Challenge:

Create a written piece from one or more of the following prompts.

Don’t save me Prince Charming, I’m busy |  Jig on tombstones |“Uh oh! Someone’s….FABULOUS!”

Here’s my attempt…

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Christmas Party

Sharon stood on the ledge, her eyes squeezed tightly shut.  Her chest heaved as she sucked in air between sobs.  Her intent had been to jump, but she hadn’t found the courage.  As she had worked her way away from the window, she nearly lost her balance when she stepped on a loose brick.  In that instance, she realized she didn’t want to end it all.  Unfortunately, going back inside seemed as scary as plunging over the edge, so she stood frozen in place, crying.

“Sharon!” a voice spoke from the window.  It was Ron.  Mr. Head Stuck Up His Butt Ron, the office Romeo.  The sounds of the office Christmas party drifted past him.

Don’t save me, Prince Charming!  I’m busy!” she shot in his direction.  He was such a baboon, she thought.  He thinks he’s God’s gift to women.  She couldn’t stand him; he was a wart on the face of humanity.

“What are you doing out here?”

“What does it look like?” she said, sniffling now as her sobs subsided.  “I’m taking a walk, Einstein!”

“If this is about last night, I’m sorry!”

“You conceited prick!  A girl contemplates suicide, and naturally you have think it has to be about you,” she swore.  “Believe me, you’re not worth the trouble.”

“Well then, what is it?” he asked, one foot now on the ledge.

“Why should you care?” she dared to open one eye and shot a glance towards the window.

He had both feet on the ledge now and was cautiously straightening up, his back pressed against the window.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” she warned.

“Look, I know I wasn’t very…nice, last night.  I…I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“Oh, what did you mean to do?”

“I didn’t mean anything.  I wasn’t thinking.”

“Ah, a moment of honesty!” she exclaimed.  “Is this a breakthrough?”  She scooted further down the length of the building, as he began to make his way toward her.  “You’d dance the jig on tombstones, you’re so thoughtless,” she added.

“Sharon, I’m sorry!  She didn’t mean anything to me.  I don’t even know how it happened!”  he said as he moved closer.  “Her husband has been so bad to her.  I  felt sorry for her.  I was trying to help.”

Uh oh!  Someone’s…” she began, as he stepped on the loose brick.  With a shout, he flailed his arms, and plummeted to the ground.  “FABULOUS!” she finished.  Having reached the next window, she slid it open and stepped through.  Moments later, she joined the growing crowd on the sidewalk.

“Who is it?” she asked innocently of Bill from Accounting who stood at the edge of the throng.

“Ron Strake, Sales.”

“Oh, what a shame!” she exclaimed.

“No kidding!  He had so much going for him!  Who could have seen it coming?” Bill commented.

“Really!” she agreed.  “Who could have?”

What’s REALLY at the End of the Rainbow?

The Challenge:

Create a written piece using the prompt below.

What is REALLY at the end of the Rainbow?

I am  fairly certain that there was more than one prompt, there always was and normally, I challenged myself with writing a piece using, not one, not two, but all three prompts.  Apparently I did not rise to that challenge on this one.

Also, I am not proud of my dialogue.  I suck at dialogue on a good day.  This was a quick piece and mostly unedited, so…

Anyway, this is my attempt…

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dungeon

“What was that?” I asked aloud, my own voice echoing back to me in a sinister whisper not my own, as though someone stood in the shadows mocking me.  Turning around to study my surroundings once again in the flickering torchlight, I saw only the damp, moldy walls of the lowest dungeon.  With each step I took across the debris-strewn floor, crunching noises erupted from beneath my feet.  As far as I could see in the unsteady light, the carcasses of various rodent and vermin, some of them human, lay in heaps scattered across the floor.  A shudder went down my spine.  The smell of it all beat upon me—the perfume of death and decay.  The only sound here, the relentless traffic of water, seeping through the floors, the walls and ceiling.

I remembered my foolish boast, “What is there to fear in the dungeon?”  What indeed?  Steeling myself to my mission, I pressed onward, down one of the many narrow, low-ceilinged passages honeycombing the bedrock foundation of the castle.  The path wound its way ever deeper beneath the earth.  Not the slightest hint of air current stirred through this death maze.  How could he be alive after all these years, in these conditions?  How anyone could live a week in this filthy hell, I could not fathom, but two decade?  Impossible!

After an interminable time, the passage leveled out and I entered a cavern with iron cells built along its walls.  Holding the torch up to each as I passed, I began searching for the one that held my father.  What I saw here cannot be described: creatures, no longer human, staring out at me with vacuous eyes, their sweet, syrupy, sticky…smiles of delirium and madness, drooling little trails of spittle through the filth that covered their half-naked bodies.  The stench of it all threatened to overwhelm me; several times I retched until I thought my stomach itself would heave out upon the floor.

Finally, in the last of the cells, I found him.  I knew him.  Perhaps it was his spirit that gave him away to me; certainly it was not his appearance for he had aged beyond the intervening years.  Somehow, he had survived—his gaunt frame only the slightest whisper of his former self.  But his spirit was indomitable.  I could see it his eyes.

“Father, I’m here! I’ve come to rescue you!”  I choked on the words as I fumbled frantically with the locked  gate. The key I had acquired fit easily, but try as I may, it would not turn.  In my haste, it broke off in the lock.

“It is no use,” his voice grated, like the rusted gate, it had not been used for a long time.  “It has been bewitched.”

I fell back, startled to hear him, and hopeless at his words.  “But there must be a way!”

“No, but all is not loss.  I have waited for you.  I knew you would come.”  He erupted in a racking cough, blood appearing on his lips.

“Father!”

“Don’t worry.  Death will come as a relief to me here.  I will at last be free.”  He smiled weakly.  “I have waited to tell you what only I can tell.  They have tried again and again to get it from me.”  He coughed again, this time the blood flowed more freely.  He wiped it with the back of his hand.

Incredulous that he had managed to keep his secret against every effort to pry it from him, I was excited that the answer would soon be mine.  So many had died attempting to attain it.  And, many had killed, as well.  I leaned against the rusting bars and strained to catch his words.

“There’s,” he gasped, “There’s a…” and he collapsed dead upon the floor.

I grieved there by his cell for as long as the conditions would allow me.   When I could bear it no longer, I made my way up the wending path, to return again to the world of light.  I could not grieve deeply for a man I barely knew, but I felt a deep satisfaction that my traitorous uncle would never know the answer to that question.  It never occurred to me that he would not believe my father had not told me.  When the guards met me as I emerged from the secret passage, I suddenly realized it had all been too easy, that I had been allowed to “rescue” my father, in the very hope that he would divulge the precious secret.  Now I sit in the very cell inhabited by my dead father, to scribble these words upon the damp walls for no one to read, and to ponder the question my father died refusing to answer, “What is REALLY at the end of the Rainbow?

A Recipe for Success

The Challenge:

Create a written piece using one or more of these prompts.

Tail of two Gypsies | Inquiring minds want to know | Something based on a superstition that proved the superstition right!

Here’s my attempt…

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narrow building

The bookstore went almost unnoticed as Kali shuffled by.  I say shuffled, because Kali was deep in a funk, a treacherous, black funk, the morose sort that consumes your every thought, dragging you down into a dark whirlpool of despair.  It was just this sort of funk that had Kali shuffling down that particular street on that particular day.  Her boyfriend of nearly three months, a personal record for her, had not called her for two straight days.  And what’s more, when she called him, his line was busy!  This was not good and could mean only one thing—he was growing cold.  She’d seen it before and it always hurt, but never like this.  This time she was truly in love!  She had to do something about it; only, she had no idea what.  That’s why she was in such a funk and nearly passed the old shop.

It resided in an ancient, dilapidated building that leaned precariously against its neighbor for support.  In the store window squatted an extremely fat, black cat atop a humongous pile of books.  Above the door, attached at just one corner by a chain, a wrought-iron sign dangled dangerously, swinging in the breeze.  On it perched a stuffed owl, barred, if I’m not mistaken, holding a book in one talon and gripping its iron perch with the other.  Above the owl, in faintly gilded gold letters, were the words, “Ye Olde Book Shoppe” and beneath it, in smaller letters, “Inquiring Minds Want to Know”  And if that weren’t enough to get the attention of any even moderately curious girl, the front door swung open all by itself.

Kali entered.  Inside her eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light.  Everywhere there were books, books in great, huge stacks, books laying all jumbled across the tables,  piled in heaps under the tables and even in the aisles.  It was unlike any bookstore Kali had ever seen.  In the center of it all, behind a dark mahogany counter, surrounded by mountains of books, stood an old woman, her spectacles thrust down to the very tip of her nose.  Silver hair framed her face like a halo Kali had seen in Renaissance paintings.  Skin the color of ivory stretched tautly over her tiny frame, with not a wrinkle or blemish to be seen.  Kali knew in an instance that she was old beyond belief: her eyes gave her away.  Piercing and intelligent and warm all at once, they spoke of more than any one lifetime could possibly behold.  And even though they were what caught and held her attention, Kali could never recall afterwards what color they were.

Kali realized that she had been standing for some time simply staring at the woman.  She blushed and stammered, “What a lovely store you have.”

“Nonsense!  Balderdash!  Say what you mean, not what you mean to say.”  The woman retorted in a surprisingly sharp voice.

“But I did, it is a lovely store.”  Kali said defensively.

“Interesting? Yes!  Quaint? Maybe.  A mess?  Most definitely!  Lovely?  I don’t think so!”  The woman pushed her glasses up and looked as if to study Kali more closely.  “What is your name, girl?”

“K-k-kali,” she answered, a bit put off by the woman’s abrasiveness.  With a little defiance, she added, “And yours?”

“And what are you seeking?” the woman asked, ignoring Kali’s cheek.

“Seeking?”  Kali repeated a bit perplexed.  “Nothing!”

The woman chortled.  “Everyone is seeking something.”

“Not me.”

“No?”

“No!”

The woman paused a bit, searching Kali’s face.  Then she said, “No boy problems?”

Kali’s amazement showed.  “How did you know?”

“Close your eyes and turn around three times.”

Too confused to resist, Kali did as she was told.

“Now, with your eyes still closed, move forward and pick up a book.”

“Which book?”

“Any book you want, but you must keep your eyes closed!”

Kali moved forward gingerly, her hands in front of her, groping air.  She came upon a pile of books and felt her way along them, fingers exploring first one book (too heavy), and then another (too big) and another, each one inspected, weighed, judged and rejected, all with her eyes clamped shut.  At last, she gripped a little cloth-covered book with raised stitches along the binding.  Her skin tingled at the touch of it and warmth spread through her as she held it.

“This one,” she said tentatively, half question, half statement.

“Keep you eyes closed,” the woman barked.

“How much does it cost?” Kali asked.

“Everything and nothing!”  The woman was suddenly at her side.  She took the book from Kali’s hand and then returned it to her wrapped in crisp paper.  “When I tell you to, you can open your eyes again, but don’t look at the book until you are again in your own room.”

“Now,” she whispered.

Kali opened her eyes and nearly fell over.  She stood upon the very street she had shuffled down before entering the store.  The woman was nowhere in sight and neither was the store.  In its place an empty lot squatted between hulking buildings.  Kali blinked several times as if to clear her vision.  She felt numb, dreamlike.  It wasn’t real, she thought, until she looked in her hand.  It was the package of brown paper tied with cord.

“Oh, my!” she said aloud, “It really did happen!”  She fumbled with the string, trying to work it over the corner of the book.  Then she remembered what the woman had said.  Slipping the package into her purse, she hurried to get to her room and see what she had bought.

About half way there, she realized that she hadn’t paid for it.  This pulled her up short.  That couldn’t be right.  That would be stealing!  But what did she say, “Everything and nothing?”  What was that supposed to mean?  Was it a riddle?  She hated riddles!  Nothing means it’s free and everything means it isn’t.  So which is it?  How could it be both?  It made her head hurt.  Shrugging it off, she continued on her way, perhaps just a little less excited as she had been.

Once in her room, she cut the string with a pair of scissors and ripped the paper off.  The cloth cover was orange.  Her favorite color!  The title, hand-lettered in purple ink, was “Recipes for Success” and beneath it, in smaller bright green letters, “A Collection of Curses and Spells by Gilda Hogsbreath”.

Kali’s hand trembled as she turned the cover.  On the facing page, a poem was inscribed.  It said:

On these pages

words of power

Comfort in your darkest hour

Be not hasty in their use

For they will not

abide abuse

This one thing is sure

If your heart is not pure

What you speak will transpire

But not as you desire

Heed this warning

Or else!”

Kali frowned.  Or else?  Or else what?  She turned the page and the backside was blank.  “Well, that’s a silly poem, isn’t it?” she thought.  “And not a very good rhyme, either!”

She began flipping through the book, perusing the titles at the top of the pages, things like “Find Something Lost”, “Put an End to Gossip”, and “Put Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder.”  Every recipe listed ingredients under the title and beneath that, instructions.  One called “You Call the Shots” sounded promising.  Its ingredients included, “a pinch of dry mustard, two drops of hot pepper sauce (the green ones), a sprig of clover, hair of a one-eyed cat (Calico) and three toe nails from a large dog, among other things and the instructions called for a quarter moon on a Tuesday between midnight and 2 a.m.  Very strange!  She continued to flip the pages until at last she stopped on a page in the center of the book.  At the top it said, “Make Him Stay.”

“Hmm…” she thought aloud, “This sounds interesting.”

The page contained a short list of necessaries: the tail of two Gypsy moths, ½ cup of white vinegar transfused with two crushed garlic cloves, an article of clothing from the intended target (preferably something intimate) and a dash of cayenne pepper.  She could do all of this, except the intimate article of clothing.  She had none of his clothes.  That would be difficult, especially if he wasn’t seeing her.  The directions were even worse:  grind the moth tails into a fine dust (very easy) and add a dash of the pepper.  Sprinkle entire content over the article of clothing.  Pour the garlic vinegar over all and roll up tightly.  Do this on date with significance to both you and your target.  Hide it in a dark place for exactly 240 hours, remove and wear.  Your beloved will follow you like a faithful pup.  Drawn to you like a moth to the candle flame.

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I know this is not complete, but it is what I produced in response to the above prompt (plus a few edits).  I love this character.  Kali and the disappearing book shoppe have found a place in my heart and I want to do something with this some day.  Until then, I share it with you.

 

 

 

Must Come Down

The Challenge:

Create a written piece using one or more of the following prompts:

She could fly! | 10 minutes later he bought the largest suitcase he could find \ Rock solid conviction

Here’ my take on it…

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falling

She could fly!  He was sure of it.  And so, based upon this rock solid conviction, he launched her over the edge of the balcony.  Or at least, that was how he played it. For a brief moment though, it appeared she would indeed fly—that terrible moment when she seemed to hang suspended in the air.  Their eyes met, terror and disbelief bulging hers to insect proportions.  Then gravity kicked in and she plummeted to the pavement four stories below.

Of course he would plead insanity, if anyone ever caught him.  He had carefully laid the groundwork for such a plea over the last several months.  He had filled notebooks full of nonsensical, pseudo-scientific babble about human flight and unleashing the hidden power of the mind.  He’d even published one such paper online.  Everyone said he was crazy.

He had intended to sit quietly at the desk, revising his notes.  He wanted to appear calm and unsuspecting when the police arrived.  But he was restless and unsure his plan would work.  He argued with himself for a moment.

“Stick to the plan.  It’s a good plan.  It will work!” said one part of his brain.

“You’ve got to run.  You’ve got to get out of here!” said another, perhaps more reasonable part of his psyche.

Ten minutes later, he bought the largest suitcase he could find at Wally’s World.  He’d go back to the apartment and stuff it with as much as he could fit and take off.

By the time he returned, there was already a crowd gathering at the complex.  This new plan was flawed, he now saw—he’d never get back to the room without being seen.  Sitting in the car, he watched the activity.

An ambulance arrived and the paramedics leaped from the vehicle and rushed through the crowd as police officers urged people to back up and let them through.  For a moment, he panicked.  Why an ambulance?  Could she be alive?  Was it even possible?  But then he thought that it wasn’t unusual for an ambulance to be called to such a scene.  No, she was dead.  She had to be!

As he mused, a neighbor at the back of the crowd spotted him.  Grabbing a police officer, she pointed to him.  He noticed.  “Stay calm,” he thought, rolling down his window as the officer approached.

“Are you Mr. Schlimmer?  Alfred Schlimmer of 18101 Crowely Street, Apartment 401C?” the officer asked.

“Yes, sir.  What’s going on?” he asked.  It occurred to him that he might bluff his way out of this yet.  “Is someone hurt?”

“Sir, there’s been an accident.  I need you to shut off the motor and step out of the car, please.”

“What’s this got to do with me?”

“If you would just shut off the engine and step out of the car, sir.  I’m sure we’ll clear everything up.”  The officer looked past him to the large suitcase on the back seat.  “Are you going somewhere, Mr. Schlimmer?

“Oh, that?  That’s just an old suitcase I was going to take to Goodwill.  I’ve been toting it around for ages, I just keep forgetting to drop it off.”  He lied smoothly.  He liked the sound of it; it came across so matter-of-factually.

Suddenly, the officer unholstered his gun and leveled it at the window of the car.  “Mr. Schlimmer, step out of your vehicle now.  Open the door slowly.  Step out and place your hands on the hood.”

“But I don’t understand?  What’s going on?  What did I do?” he was beginning to panic now.  Other officers, noticing the kerfuffle, swarmed to join them.

“This is the last time I’m telling you this… Get out of the vehicle.  Now!”

“But, but, I…” he stammered.  The officer ripped the car door open and dragged him from his seat and throwing him against the car, kicking his legs apart and pressing his face against the still hot hood.  First one arm was bent behind his back, then the other, as the cold steel of handcuffs encircled his wrists.  “I don’t understand?  What’d I do?”

“You are under arrest for suspicion of murder.  You have the right to remain silent.  Everything you say…” the officer droned on, but he was no longer listening.  What had gone wrong?  How did they know?  This couldn’t be happening!

“What’s up?” a newly arrived officer asked.

“This is the husband of the victim,” was the reply.  “He just told me that the large suitcase in the backseat there was some old thing he was supposed to have given to Goodwill.  It’s still got the tags from the store on it.  I think he’s lying and that he had plans of running away somewhere.”

The words echoed in his ears as they walked him to a squad car and tucked him away in the back seat.

“But she could fly!” he sobbed.  “I know she could!”  In his mind he thought, better go for insanity.  He blubbered all the way to the police station, too stupid to realize it was over.

Strange Uncle

The Challenge:

Write about a strange relative.  Here are a few random words, to incorporate together into a narrative: 

book |  vessel  |  lifesaver  |  vagabond  |  bottom

Here’s my attempt…

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war of the worlds

My uncle is a strange one.  I mean he was really something once upon a time—way back, during the war, he had been a hero, a true lifesaver.  Many owe their lives to him.

After the war, he wrote a book about an alien invasion. He wrote convincingly, with strong conviction, as though it was non-fiction.  In fact, it read more like a well-written history, than a science fiction story.

Shortly after it was published, he popped a blood vessel in his brain—no one could make any sense of anything he said after that.  He quickly hit the bottom.  Now he’s a vagabond, an honest-to-God bum.  The last time I saw him he was stumbling down Main Street, clutching a ragged doll and singing softly to himself.  He didn’t recognize.  Looked right past me.  I’ve tried many times to bring him home.  But short of locking him up, he won’t stay, so I’ve given up.

I have the original manuscript of  his book.  It was delivered by mail one day, right after his aneurysm.  I read through it again this past summer and the strangest thing happened—a note I hadn’t noticed the first time, fluttered out onto the desktop.  On it, scribbled in my uncle’s scratchy hand, it read, “If you have received this manuscript, it means that they got to me.  They’ve finally shut me up.  I don’t know how, but I know that something dreadful has happened to me.  I am missing, or I’m dead, or perhaps even worse!  The aliens have so infiltrated our society, and I am no longer able to expose them.”

Imagine that!  What an old coot!