10/14/10: Way to shame me into updating again by commenting, people who comment! (Seriously, though, hi, welcome, and pull up one of the splintery old orange crates that we use for seating 'round these parts seein' as we can't afford no fancy chairs.)

The rules from
here still apply.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Even A Lady

It would never have worked back home, of course; not for long, not for real. Everyone knew the O'Connells back in Dillimore. Charlie O'Connell had lived there his whole life, the only son of a one-time mayor, and when he came home from a stint in the army with a Puerto Rican wife, he'd stirred up probably three years' worth of talk amongst the whitebread community. They'd raised up five kids in that heartland-of-America town, and if any of those kids wasn't one hundred percent normal? Why, that'd make the gossip rounds too. Whispered comments whenever Mama went by; cheap jokes at Dad's expense. Hell, the younger kids would never see the end of it from the playground bullies, and they wouldn't even have any idea why.

So Maria Inez waited until she was good and shut of that town before she started living as Alex.

Thing about Fort Carson was, it wasn't much bigger than Dillimore. But the army base and the highway between San Fierro and Las Venturas meant that a lot of people passed through, for a few hours or days or even weeks; and it was close enough to Greenglass College for the commute to not be too painful. So a short-haired woman with a penchant for wearing men's clothes left Dillimore, and a small, somewhat delicate guy showed up the next day in Fort Carson. Simple enough. And no one in Carson had ever known Maria Inez, so she just... went away. There was only Alex here. He'd let a couple of friends in on the secret over the last three years, but for the most part it was easier to just let Maria die.

Of course, now Maria's mom -- Alex's mom, even if she wasn't aware that her second-born had been a son underneath all those pesky double-X chromosomes -- had run through Alex's entire stock of excuses, and was finally coming up for a long-overdue visit.

"So you're gonna tell her, right?" his friend Richie had asked. Alex had replied in the affirmative then, but now that he could see Mama's car pulling up in the parking lot outside his apartment building, he was wondering how quickly he could work up a disguise. He had to have an old blouse or bra or something at the back of his closet, didn't he? Or maybe he could just escape through the bathroom window or something, there was always that option.

The doorbell rang, and Alex opened the door, and exclamations and hugs were exchanged as Mama stepped inside. The disguise option was out, then, and the bathroom window even moreso. Which left...

"Um. Mama? There's something I should probably tell you..."

Frickin' continuity. I couldn't even come up with something particularly good for this one, but it was pretty much required, given the groundwork I'd already laid.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Merv turned on her then, one hand clamping down on her bony shoulder, the other rooting itself in the thin hair on top of her head. Her endless carping turned into screams, beautiful screams as the muscles in his wrists and arms and back flexed; and when her head tore loose from her neck, it did so with a glorious meaty rending sound and a fierce spatter of hot blood.

"Well?" she added, in her finest buzzsaw screech -- the woman was old and frail, but still had a pair of lungs on her. Merv sighed inwardly as his fondest daydreams once more made way for reality. Not that Julia wasn't a hell of a woman, better than a man like him deserved, but goddamn, her mother...

"No ma'am, Mrs. Feldman," he replied -- seven years he and Julia had been married, but God forbid he refer to his mother-in-law by her good Christian name; nossir, that was one liberty that Mervin J. Kincade was not in a position to take. "I most definitely am going to do that first thing tomorrow -- just as soon as the boss comes back from vacation, y'see."

"Hmph," the old bat replied. She craned her neck forward, glaring up at him as though expecting to skewer him with just that look in her eye... that haughty you-never-deserved-my-daughter look that he didn't know how he had managed to put up with this long. That, in fact, he couldn't put up with anymore. And wouldn't. The force of his clenched hand smashing into her face was enough to slam her back against the wall; he pinned her there with the other hand, and kept punching, and punching, and punching. She wasn't giving him any look, now, not through the welter of blood that had previously been her face.

Merv blinked. "Are you even listening to me, Mervin?" she snapped, hands on hips, practically sneering at him. "You'd best get your act together, young man, or my Julia may just start realizing just what a mistake she made in marrying you -- "

"Yes ma'am," Merv interrupted, speaking quickly so he could maybe get out of this conversation before she could get on his case for that, too. "I'm real sorry, ma'am, but I promised I'd help Julia set up for dinner, and you know how I hate to disappoint her."

He hurried out of the room, though not quite quickly enough to avoid hearing her mutter something about how it was already too late for that.

The story about promising to help Julia was, of course, a lie; but she was pleased enough when he showed up to help carry things to the dining room table. They all managed to sit down and start eating with a minimum of snark... and then the smoke detector in the kitchen went off.

Julia jumped up from the table. "Oh, my pie!" she exclaimed, and rushed back through the kitchen door. They could hear her in there, pulling open the oven door and muttering over its contents.

A flicker of movement caught at the corner of Merv's eye, and he felt another of those stifled sighs coming on. Mrs. Feldman was taking in a deep breath, no doubt to fuel her latest nagfest at his expense. He started to turn toward her --

-- and froze.

She was choking.

The old bat hadn't bothered to actually finish chewing before starting in on him again, and now she was actually choking on something.

For a moment he sat there, listening to his wife's movements in the next room, and watching the weak struggles of his mother-in-law across the table.

Finally he rose from his chair, set his napkin down carefully beside his plate, and headed into the kitchen to see what he could do to help.

Are mothers-in-law really that shrill in real life? I realize that in the wacky wacky sitcoms and whatnot they are awful harridans that exist only to torment and humiliate their put-upon sons-in-law (assuming we're talking about the wife's mother, which is the case in the comic). But does that actually bear out in reality? I can't really speak from experience, seeing as I don't have a wife; but, I mean, people aren't nearly as simple as TV tends to make them out to be, so I'm thinking that this relationship is probably generally more nuanced.

Also: every character name in this one is lifted from a webcomic which, in its original incarnation, was one of my favorite Keenspot titles back in the early days of that particular collective. This is because I randomly decided to name the husband Merv and then found it amusing to go with the theme. A delicious ham sandwich to anyone who spots the ref! (Void in the state of Idaho.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


"...and they say that to this day, you can still hear his footsteps in the night when the moon is full... The Phantom Fence-Stringer!"

For a moment, there was silence.

"That's it?" The fire had died down considerably, casting those gathered on the other side of it more in shadow than in light; Evan's laid-back drawl was recognizable enough, though, especially as strained by abject terror as it currently wasn't. "No. That's just dumb, Bran."

Brandon slouched back and crossed his arms. "Oh, like you could tell one better?" He glared around the circle at everyone he could see. Liz was visible enough on his right, with Ken sitting primly on a square of blanket beside her; Camellia was sitting with her back propped up against a stump on his left. Patty on Ken's other side, and Mara and Evan across the circle, were almost invisible. Everyone else looked bored, though. Except Cam, who mainly looked embarrassed for Brandon.

"Of course I could tell one better," Evan replied. He reached out to throw another log on the fire, and the flames kicked up enough to illuminate his grinning face. "Hell, Patty could probably tell a scarier campfire story than you can, and she can't even tell a knock-knock joke without messing it up."

"I know a good one where it's a rabbit," Patty chimed in helpfully.


"Look," Brandon replied, glaring across the circle at Evan. "It was my idea to go camping, and my idea to go camping here in what is, like, the spookiest forest in the world. So if none of you have big enough imaginations to be the least bit scared when I tell a totally awesome ghost story? Hey, that's not my problem."

Mara shifted uneasily. "Look, I think maybe we're all getting a little too involved in this whole 'scary story' thing, so why don't we -- "

"I've got one."

Ken had been pretty quiet all day, so when he spoke up now, everyone looked toward him. He was still sitting on his blanket, shoes removed and set carefully by on the grass. He was staring straight ahead, whether into the fire or beyond it, Brandon couldn't tell.

"I've got a story I could tell," Ken went on evenly. "It is a tale of sorrow and vengeance, of horror and loss. It is not -- " His eyes narrowed. " -- for the faint of heart."

"Showoff," Brandon muttered.

"It begins on a night much like this one..." Ken began...

"...and the heads were still there," he finished up some time later. He rose from his seat, calmly slipped on his shoes, and nodded to the rest of the group. "It's pretty late, so I think I'm going to turn in now. Good night, everyone." A flashlight clicked to life in his hand, the circle of light dancing ahead of him as he made his way across the campsite and into his tent.

For a moment, silence.

"So," Evan said finally, in an almost unrecognizable voice. "I'm never sleeping again. How about you guys?"

The opening bit came to me when I first saw this rerun come up yet again; the rest was written after a night spent watching about four episodes of the anime series I'm currently working my way through on Hulu. All the character names and personalities in the story are at least partially based on characters from this particular series, although I had to take some liberties since I'm not *actually* writing about, say, the hilariously neurotic son of the Grim Reaper.

At least I'm not taking the liberty of putting up a rerun without even admitting it's a rerun, though.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


That was Arthur, though -- he didn't wear all black and hang around in graveyards or anything, but he still had a few peculiar hobbies. One of those hobbies was reading the obituaries. Any time he was out somewhere like a restaurant or a coffee house, chances were good that he'd round up all the abandoned newspapers and page through them till he found what he was looking for, sandwiched in right before the classifieds or on its own page at the end of the Lifestyles section (a placement that Jim always found hilarious). Right now he was looking at last Thursday's New York Times. Any set of obits provided the potential for some interesting entries, but major papers also gave Arthur the chance to do some celebrity-spotting as well.

"Oh, hey, sweet!" he added, around a sip of the double-mocha-whatever that Lindy had foolishly left behind when she got up to use the restroom. "Here's someone famous... Austrian opera singer. 'Peter Johann Martin Franz Kiesl died blah blah, former Lieutenant blah...' oh, a Nazi opera singer, nice, I bet he got all the chicks... 'buried at Zen... Zensomething Cemetary in Vienna.'"

"Zentralfriedhof," Emma provided. She actually did enjoy graveyards, or at least reading about them on Wikipedia. The biggest one locally was Valhalla Gardens, which was one of the modern ones that looked like a golf course when you drove by, and therefore bored Emma to tears.

"Yeah. That thing. In Vienna." Arthur took a swig of coffee... his own, this time. "Well, one less Nazi left in the world, I guess. And a famous musician! I'd say that counts as my dead celebrity for the day."

"Oooh, dead celebrities? Who croaked?" Lindy asked, coming up from behind Arthur and slipping back into her seat next to Jim. "Was it Glenn Beck? Please tell me it was Glenn Beck."

"Nazi opera dude," Emma replied. "Peter Johann Maria Something Something."

Arthur picked the paper up again. ""Martin Franz Kiesl. Died in his bed, aged eighty-six." He paused. "Oh. Didn't have any family, apparently. I guess Nazi opera singers don't get all the chicks after all."

Lindy frowned. "Peter Kiesl? He's not dead."

"He wha?"

She leaned forward. "Arthur, my parents are opera nerds, remember? Kiesl's not dead. Dad was going on about this at dinner the other night... they got mixed up and buried some other guy in his grave, or something. 'A minor industrialist', whatever that means."

Arthur looked disappointed. "Hell. An industrialist? That doesn't count as a celebrity at all."

Yes, that's right. I just wrote a crossover between Pluggers and 9 Chickweed Lane. And I am not one bit sorry about it either.

I think I managed to do it slightly less wall-of-text-fully than McEldowney, too.