I had a lovely conversation with this fine gentleman as we passed each other on the edge of the woods.
The year is wrapping up. The temps have dropped and not returning to balmy for a while. Holiday shopping is full swing. Hopefully, I will be done with mine this week.
The legs and feet are feeling much better after 4 weeks of being off of them. I will have to get serious about a diet after all this. I am just happy to stand without stabbing pain 🙂
Wow, I have cleared out a ton of old work off The Desk Of Endless Tasks. Now, I can get the fun stuff done. The amount of housekeeping drudgery that can accumulate is just plain shocking.
Geek Tank Radio has been fascinating over the past few days. I got to see the preview to Marvel Entertainment Live. The costumes are amazing and the stunts are thrilling. Takes the kids and enjoy a well done arena stunt show. I also got to sneak a peek at the new animated movie Spider-man: Into The Spider-Verse. This is a plain and simple entertaining movie. The sense of humor is respectful of the genre and age appropriate. Load up the kids and Spidey fans, get lots of popcorn, sit back, and enjoy.
The Fix-It Up show continues down the path of humorous advice while getting upstaged by our callers. Happily, the squirrel still visits and we are having a good time.
I need to get back to writing my own material, but right now, I am about as creative as cabbage. So we shall see what gets the keyboard flowing.
Well, this year is sliding into the final curtain call. Over all, I don’t really know what to think of 2018. On one hand, I managed to get a lot of bills paid and a lot of mundane stuff done. Both radio shows have been a lot of fun to do and seem to be growing every week. Who knows, with the new attention at IHeartMedia to podcasts, we might even get nominated for some king of award or another.
2018 also had its share of delays and pain. I finally managed to get my big job projects wrapped up to a point I could take some time and get my poor feet and legs treated for plantar fasciitis. My word to the wise is take care of your feet. Pain is not normal so get it checked sooner not later.
At the convention this past weekend, I got to meet, interview, and ultimately drive David Dastmalchian to the airport. This is an actor to watch for bigger and better things. Best known as Murdock on the new MacGyver series, he was simply amazing. I have been blessed in my career as a minor convention/radio personality to work with great people. David should be on the verge of a major role breakthrough. It was a pleasure to work with him. You can check out the interview here:
A quick word about the Fix-It Up show. If you have not heard it yet, click over and listen to episode or two. The show has come a long way in a short period of time and just keeps growing. Joe and I are having a great time doing the show in spite of the fact that we have to get up at dark:30 to get to the studio in time.
I know I was told repeatedly as a young man that time sped up as you got older, I never argued that point, but, I had no idea time had an overdrive. This year has both gone way too slow on a couple of points and managed to completely fly by on all the rest of the adventures that are my daily life.
The Desk Of Endless Tasks and I are getting back on speaking terms. Hopefully, I will get back to being a full member of The Amazing Society of Done. I have a lot of projects that just need to have the “Done” stamped on them.
Artemian Update: My tank of desktop minions are doing swimmingly. We are now a couple of generations down the road and going strong. Yes, they are relaxing to watch.
Geek Tank Radio: The fan count keeps going up. Apparently, we are growing in popularity around the world. I have to tell you that is very cool to think about. I hope our madness is bring a bit of geeky joy to the world. To listen just look up Geek Tank Radio on the I Heart Media App.
The Fix-It Up Show: The callers really make the show. So far, no one has been able to stump us but I am sure someone will :-). Right now the funniest part of the show is what the audience doesn’t see or hear and that is the squirrel invasion going on outside out studio window four stories up. Every so often, we get treated to a bird vs squirrel throw down outside our window. It makes staying focused very difficult and we have enough trouble with that as it is.
Time is not just flying by right now. It is leaping forward in huge gaps. I can not believe it is October already. Well, at least the heat is breaking and we can get down to some reasonable temperatures.
Geektankradio.com has been going just fine. The show continues to grow and spread across the globe. Seriously, the show is now searchable on the I Heart Radio/Media’s app. That is allowing the world to discover the madness that is the Geek Patrol. If you haven’t heard the show, click over and check it out. It has lots of geeky news and pop culture.
The Fix It Up Show is just too much fun. Joe and I keep discussing the foibles of do-it-yourself and other topics of home care. The callers are great and we literally have months of material and stories to try to cover. Joe now thinks he can stump me one of these days. So far, I get him every time. Listen to the show, come up with a question or two for me and call into the show and be live on the air with me Saturday mornings from 8 to 9 in the morning 600 WREC AM and 92.1 FM.
The Mid-South Pyrate Blades were featured by the Hooks Central Public Library and The Friends of the Library last Sunday for their Talk Like A Pirate show. We had literally hundreds of guests come through the library. Not only were we fighting this year, we also get a pirate games are with booths for the very popular games, Ring the Hooks ( get your ring on the suspended hand replacement hooks), Ring Around the Rat ( through a ringer around the standing rat mounted on a basket), Rat in a Basket (toss three rats into a swinging basket), and The Memory Game (match the pirate symbols etched on the bottom of cute little skulls). Yeah, it was a great day.
I have a new story published in the “End of the World Potluck” edited by Robert J. Krog. I enjoyed writing this one. I love dark characters.
Here’s a snippet from my, “A Choice Made”.
“I’m here, just like you asked.” Thor Everdall stood at least 30 feet away and leaned backwards against a tombstone. The two men stood still as they sized each other up. Thor had gained some weight and had a different hair style, but, fundamentally, had not changed much. John, by contrast, had the hard look of man locked away for 15 years. His face wore too much stress and pain for his age.
“I didn’t think you would actually show up.” John had pictured the moment for all his jail time. Now, with a glowing sky and the world ending, it jumped from a dark dream to a hallucinatory reality.
“We don’t need to do this. You’re out. You could try to enjoy what little life we have left.” Thor remained relaxed in spite of the topic.
“Enjoy. Enjoy life. My life ended that night. The night you ruined everything in my life.”
“Really? The night I ruined your life? You mean the night you got so drunk that playing Russian roulette seemed like a good idea. The night you and Sarah got so drunk that pointing a gun at each other in bed was a good idea. That night? Is that the night you’re talking about?” Thor kept his voice level and his gestures to a minimum. He didn’t want to completely set off John just yet. However, he knew they were going to have to hash it out for a while.
John didn’t show any signs of anger, just intensity. “Yeah, the night you left bullets in my Colt 45 revolver. The night Sarah took one of those bullets to the chest.”
I am still digging out of the most impossible summer schedule. It is amazing how things can grow to absorb every waking moment of your life. I have to admit that when some says something like, “When you have a little spare time,” i just look at them them a dead pan “What do you want?” It is just easier that way.
I admit that the Desk of Endless Tasks is getting a little deep. Numerous projects are moving slowly through the grist mill. With anything that resembles luck, numerous wonderful projects are going to wrap up very quickly. I am eager to start making announcements.
GeekTankRadio.com continues to grow and find new listeners. Now that you can go to the IHeartMedia.com and look up the show by name. It is fun hearing from new fans around the world.
The Fix-It-Up show is seriously picking up steam. Apparently, a lot of people around Memphis enjoy trying to stump Joe and I with their home repair and other projects. So far we have had questions from raccoons in the attic to living edge tables. This show is a live call in show and goes so fast to us in the studio. It feels like we sign on and a few minutes late we are signing off. We just can’t believe an hour has flown by.
I also managed to sneak in a live appearance at Movies by the Lake at the AgriCenter. The movie that night was Pirates of the Caribbean, so our Mid-South Pyrate Blades got invited to be the opening entertainment. We had a complete blast “fighting” with the kids. I was amazed at how many people attended this event. We have already been invited back to another event so we will have to be bigger and better.
The summer heat keeps up the intensity. It does make getting simple things done more difficult. Nothing quite like sweating buckets every time you try to do anything outside. Happily, GeekTankRadio.com and the show involve being inside an air conditioned recording studio. The show keeps rolling right along. More and more people discover our brand of silliness each week. One day we may be fabulous enough to be media guests at something major like Comic Con in Dan Diego or DragonCon in Atlanta. One can dream.
The Fix It Up Show continues to overflow its cup every week. The number of fans tuning in every Saturday morning is growing exponentially. The fun of doing a live call-in show is the fact that you have no idea what is going to happen when you put that caller on the air. Happily, the callers are learning to call in early and wait in the holding queue. Don’t wait until the last 7 minutes of the show to call in with the 7 part question. Three of four callers sitting in the queue right out of the gate makes the show move so much faster. I do like the suggestions that we up the show to two hours. Yes, I am sure we have more than enough content for two hours. Personally, I would just really love it if the show started an hour later. I am just not a great morning person. If you know me, that ain’t a news flash.
I am happy to have my computers all back up and working. The mundane world more or less went super nova over the last 6 weeks leaving very little opportunity for my quality time at The Desk of Endless Tasks. A couple of weeks ago, I was attempting to sneak in a quick hour or two when my trusty monitor of several years reached the end of its tenure on my desk. The poor thing simply gave out. No worries I think, next time I have some time I will just swap it out for my back up monitor. A few days later and the swap is made only to have the back up work fine for about 30 minutes before it made a high-pitched whine and died. I finally have a new monitor purchased and in place. It is nice to feel back to together and at one with the Desk.
Just a personal reminder to forgive minor mistakes in your life and find joy in the things you do. You just don’t know when the living time will end for you or those around you. While I have lost a few close friends and family this year, I have also lost a lot of people who impact your life from the edges. People and their families that may not deal with you directly , but their presence is felt everyday. Find a way to keep each and every day just a bit sweeter and richer.
My day began about 2:30 am and is still rolling. I will have to admit that even I am getting a bit tired. I do need to get on to bed as I have to be back at the IHeartMedia studios by 7:30 am to get ready for the Fix-It Up Show. This show is a lot of fun. It is a good old fashioned call-in show. You never know what you are going to get, so you have to stay on those mental toes. GeekTankRadio.com is still rocking along. That show has grown and grown. It is fun getting outed by members of the public as being a “voice on the radio”.
Here is this week’s short story, My House. It is literally the story that launched my writing career. If you have ever had to deal with a raccoon, you will truly enjoy this situational short story.
This is actually a fictionalized account of a real event. I somehow or another managed to get myself talked into helping to evict a rather malicious raccoon from a friend’s attic. The hairy beast turned out to be an albino. Read albino as a savage, throat ripping, ill tempered, gravity defying, cute ball of white fur and teeth. I am convinced that if raccoons ever figure out credit cards, the human race may be in for a bad time.
If you had been there that fateful Saturday afternoon, you would read the story and ask me where is the fiction? It was quite the afternoon’s adventure, but in the end, the furious fur ball wound up in the animal carrier. As a side note, the wildlife rehab center that took in the wayward beast named it “The Exorcist”.
Brian couldn’t believe his eyes. His new house was a wreck. Not the usual mess of moving, someone had trashed the place. He walked in and looked over the shredded paper, dumped boxes, and broken glass. He sadly shook his head and walked back out to his car. He searched through boxes until he found his cell phone.
“Hello. Yes, I would like to report a break in. Um, I’m just moving in and I stayed at a motel last night. When I got here this morning, the place was a disaster.” Brian walked back into the house as he talked. He walked through the house shoving boxes with his foot describing the damage. “No. It doesn’t look like anything is missing. It looks like someone just dumped everything.”
Brian finished giving his information to the police dispatcher as he walked up the stairs carefully stepping around the clothes strewn down the steps. He said thank you and good-bye as he reached the top landing. Brian put the phone in his pocket while he passed more overturned boxes. As he stopped and looked back at the stairs, he remembered unlocking the door this morning. In spite of the mess, this didn’t look like he had been robbed.
Brian stopped when he saw the attic stairs hung half down. He wiped his mouth nervously and stood very still trying to hear anything. All he could hear was the pounding of his heart. Quietly, he crept over to the stairs and listened again. Again, he heard nothing. He reached up, gripped the dusty steps, and pulled. The loud groan of rusty springs made him jump in spite of himself. Brian exhaled loudly and rubbed the back of his neck to relieve the sudden tension.
Abruptly making up his mind, Brian began to climb the creaking steps up into the darkness of the attic. Gingerly, he raised his head above the floor level and looked around. The first thing he noticed was the heat. The attic was oppressive with heat and humidity. As his eyes adjusted to the gloom, he could see the locked trunks sat untouched. The boxes of Christmas decorations, however, had been spread out all over the place. The bulbs had been broken and all of the cords tangled into a mess. The little bits of broken glass glinted in the low light. The feeling of being watched began to creep down Brian’s neck. He looked behind him. He couldn’t see anyone. He looked up at the roof. There was no one there.
The feeling of being watched grew. A nervous sweat broke out on his forehead adding to the heat and humidity. He forced himself to take one more step up the ladder. The sweat beaded up on his forehead rolled down his face.
“Hello. Anyone up here?” Brian’s voice sounded dry and weak. There was no answer. Nothing moved. The hair on the back of his neck began to stand. If there was someone up in the attic in that heat, Brian decided to leave them there. As Brian climbed down the steps, he didn’t feel welcome in his new home. He went downstairs and then outside to wait for the police. He needed to see sunshine. The gloom of the attic hung in his mind.
He felt relieved to see the police car coming down the street. The massive oaks that lined the way swayed gently in the warm morning air. Brian stood up as the car came to a stop. A large well-groomed man in a sharp, blue uniform got out with a metal clipboard.
“Sir, did you report a break in?” He asked in a friendly business-like tone.
“Ah, yes I did.” Brian answered as he walked towards the door. “I’m just moving in, so I stayed at a motel last night. When I unlocked the door this morning, this is what I found.” Brian opened the door and stepped back to let the officer enter first. The officer walked around for a moment then asked, “Do you have an attic?”
“Yes, just up the stairs.” Brian motioned to the stairs as he nodded. “Careful, there are clothes all over them.”
“Have you noticed anything missing?” The officer asked over his shoulder as he walked up the stairs.
“No, the place is just a big mess as far as I can tell.”
“Were there any windows broken or damage to any of the doors?” He asked from the top landing.
“Not that I could tell.” Brian answered from the stairs. He followed the officer to the attic stairs. “They were half down when I got here.”
The officer seemed to be looking for something on the steps. Brian had a guilty feeling he shouldn’t have touched the attic stairs. The officer turned to Brian and smiled.
“Sir, you’re not from Memphis are you?”
“No, I was just transferred here from Kansas with the hub. Why?” Brian was very curious now.
“Well, sir, I think I know who your prowler was. You have raccoons living in your house.” He nodded as he talked.
“Raccoons? Are you serious?” Brian looked around at the mess in disbelief.
“Look, here, do you see this print?” He asked pointing to a spot in the dust on the attic steps. Brian leaned in to look at the small handprint with sharp fingernails. Brian nodded yes. “Was this house empty for a while before you bought it?”
“Yes it was, about a year and a half.” Brian answered still looking at the print. “You mean raccoons could do all this in a night?”
“Yes sir and then some.” The officer turned to face Brian. “This is Midtown, and the animal control people tell us that there may be more raccoons here than there are people.”
“Well, what do I do to get rid of them? I can’t have them tearing up my house every night.” Brian looked around at the damage and truly began to worry.
“You can call an exterminator or you can get them out yourself. Most folks put a bright light on in the attic. They don’t like light. I put a radio on a loud station and mothballs in my attic when one moved in a couple of years ago at my house. He left the next day. I just patched up the hole he made to get in.” The officer closed his clipboard and put the pen back into his pocket as he talked. Brian listened intently to the instructions.
“That will work?” Brian asked hopefully.
“It should. If not, you can always call an exterminator.” The officer walked towards the stairs. “Just look around the edge of your roof for any holes or loose boards. After they move on, just close it up so they can’t get back in.”
Brian followed the officer down the stairs and out the front door. “Thanks for coming by. I guess I need to go to the store today.” Brian extended his hand. The officer shook it firmly.
“If you have any more trouble just give me a call at the station.” He handed his card to Brian. “Just ask for Officer Dixon. You have a good day.”
“Yeah, thanks,” said Brian as he watched Officer Dixon get in his car and begin to talk on the radio. Brian turned and went back inside. It was going to be a long day.
Brian finally took a break about lunchtime. He had cleared away most of the mess downstairs. The rest, he shoved back into the boxes. He was hungry and still a little cross. The second moving truck hadn’t shown up yet and it had the rest of his furniture including his bed. Brian looked out the window at the street, again. “I know you guys will show up as soon as I leave.”
Brian locked the door behind himself and pulled on it just to make sure it was secure. He walked around the house looking at the roof edge. He saw a couple of places that could be loose. He sighed and shook his head. He saw a large tree branch extending over the edge of the roof. “So, that’s how you guys come and go. Well, I’m going to fix that.” He said out loud to the raccoons that were supposed to be there.
The movers, of course, sat in front of the house when he got back from the hardware store and a drive through. He unlocked the door to the house for them. Brian then sat down on the hood of his car to eat his sandwich and watched as they moved in his bookshelves, more boxes, and finally his bed. The moving team worked quickly. Within thirty minutes the rest of Brian’s possessions had been placed in the house. Brian sat on the front steps for a few extra minutes of sunshine before he went back inside.
Hot and tired, Brian realized that the shadows had grown long outside. He looked around downstairs. Most of the kitchen had been put away and the furniture was where he wanted it. He’d even put most of the books on the shelves. Brian looked at the mound of boxes and packing in the front room. He would throw all that out tomorrow. He looked at the bag from the hardware store and decided it was time. He picked up the bag slowly walked up the stairs. He had found his portable radio earlier and put it at the top of the landing. He took the extension cord out of the bag and plugged it in. He unwound it as he climbed up the attic stairs. The mess from last night still lay on the floor. He would clean this mess up after they were gone. He set the radio down to one side and the bag to the other. Sweat was already starting from the heat. It felt like a sauna in the attic. Brian stood up and unscrewed the old bulb from the socket. He put in a 150-watt spot light. The attic lit up brightly.
“This ought to brighten things up for you guys.” He said firmly. Next, he plugged in the radio, set it to an alternative rock station, and turned up the volume. As the sound blared out into the attic, he pulled two bags of mothballs out and opened them. He picked up a loose box top and poured them into it. The smell hit him. “Whew. I think I’m going to leave. Good night wherever you things are.”
Brian looked around and didn’t see anything moving. The feeling of being watched was making the hair on the back of his neck stand for the second time today. He shrugged his shoulders and went back down the steps with the bag. He closed the steps then pulled a screwdriver and a latch kit out of the bag. With a grim smirk on his face, he installed the latch on the bottom of the steps and locked it. Pleased with the results, Brian turned and went downstairs.
One quick check around the first floor and Brian decided it was time for a shower and dinner at the motel. He locked the door and pulled on it, just to be sure. He took a few steps away from the house and looked back. He could hear the radio softly out there. On an impulse, he walked around to the side where he seen the loose boards. As he looked up, he thought he saw something move. It was just a brief flash of white. As he stared, a chill ran down his back and felt as if he were being scrutinized. Two reddish pink spots like eyes caught his attention. They glared malevolently at him from a space between two boards for a moment and then they were gone. All of the hair on the back of Brian’s neck stood up again. He shivered involuntarily. Brian decided it was getting late so he turned and walked away quickly.
In the morning, as he pulled up to the house, he saw three raccoons disappearing down the storm drain in front of his house. They were huge. He remembered them as small fuzzy animals with bushy tails and dark masks on their faces. These things were the size of mid-sized dogs. Brian got out of his car and walked over to the drain. As he looked in, he shouted after them, “And stay out you hairy little freeloaders. This house is mine now. Go tear up somebody else’s place.”
He stood up and walked rapidly to the door. He knew something was wrong as he touched the doorknob. That same cold chill ran down his back. He shivered as he unlocked the door.
“Oh my God!” He gasped as he looked around. Everything had been thrown over. The tables, the chairs, the bookcases, everything was on the floor.
“You little bastards! You little hairy bastards!” He repeated with more anger as he looked around. A noise at the top of the stairs made him inhale deeply. Brian stormed to the foot of the stairs, kicking a path as he went. He grabbed the railing and stopped. A wave of hot, moist air hit him. At the top of the stairs, he saw those eyes again, reddish pink and glowing with hatred. Brian felt the sweat start to roll. His eyes locked with the glowing points of maliciousness. He couldn’t blink, he wasn’t sure he could move. The glowing points went out and Brian heard something large walking off into the upstairs of the house. Brian looked down at his bare hands as they shook and took a step backwards.
Almost in a panic, Brian feverishly looked through his car for a phone book. He ripped it open to exterminators. An ad about animal and pest control caught his eye. The woman on the other end of the phone agreed he had a raccoon problem. She said she had someone in the area and they would be by shortly. Brian decided to wait in the car.
About an hour passed before Brian saw a pickup truck with a pest control logo on it pull along side. Brian got out of his car as the pickup pulled into the driveway.
“I understand you got a raccoon problem. Hi, my name’s Dale.” The young man said as he got out of the truck.
“Ah, you might say that. They keep trashing the place at night. Nice to meet you, I’m Brian.” Brian answered as they shook hands.
“Well, let me take a look and see what we got here.” Dale tested a large flashlight and picked up a large wire live trap out of the back of the truck. “Let me guess, they’re in your attic.”
“Yes, they are.” Brian nodded in agreement. “Just up the stairs and then there is a set of attic stairs.”
Brian led the way to the door and opened it for Dale. They walked in and surveyed the mess. “This is the second time in a row that this has happened.” Brian said as he picked up a chair and set it upright.
“Yes, sir, they will sure do a job on a place.” Dale agreed then continued, “I’m going to set the trap upstairs.”
“You go right ahead.” Brian watched Dale as he took the steps. He couldn’t get those eyes out of his mind. He could hear Dale walking around upstairs. Brian checked to make sure the air conditioner was on while he waited. He heard Dale coming back down the stairs. The man looked pale and sweaty.
Dale nervously said, “I set the trap upstairs. Just give us a call if you… um… we catch anything. Here’s my card with the number on it.” Dale seemed in a hurry to get outside. “I have a few more stops in this area tomorrow. I’ll check back with you tomorrow afternoon if I don’t hear from you sooner.”
Brian had to follow him outside to say, “Okay.” Dale already had the truck started and was backing out. He waved as he pulled away. Brian shook his head and walked back inside.
Brian stopped in the doorway as he heard the sound of an object being dragged across the wooden floor upstairs. Brian thought his heart would stop as something came crashing down the stairs. The animal trap rolled to a stop at the landing. Brian scratched his head nervously. He walked over the chair, sat down, and stared at the trap. What in hell was that thing upstairs?
The longer he sat there, the madder he got. This was too much. No dumb animal was going to run him out of his new house. He remembered passing a library on Poplar Avenue on his way to the house. He would start there. He needed more than his bare hands to evict this thing.
The moment he walked out into the sunshine he felt better. The short drive helped him to make up his mind. That animal had to go today. Walking through the library, Brian found the helpdesk in the center of the first floor.
“Ah, excuse me,” ventured Brian.
“Yes, what can I do for you?” An attractive middle-aged woman turned to face him.
“Well, this may be a little strange, but I need some advice on how to get a raccoon out of my house. I have already done the light, radio, and mothball thing.” Brian explained. He looked at her with hopeful eyes.
“Um, let me see if I can find someone that can help you with that.” She answered looking around the room.
The young man standing at the end of the counter leaned over and said, “I might be able to help you.”
“I hope so. Those things are about to tear my house apart.” Brian answered.
“I have to get them out of my granny’s attic every year. Every so often, you get a tough one that won’t go on his own.” He explained. “They’re the ones you got to persuade to move on.”
Brian liked the way the man said persuade. After the beating his house had taken the last two days, he was ready to persuade something the hard way.
I have a pair of welder’s elk hide gloves. The long ones.” The young man was pointing to his bicep as he talked. “My granny doesn’t want me to hurt them so I reach down the wall, grab them, and stick them in a carry box. Once I have them all, I take them outside and turn them loose. Then, I patch up the hole.”
“A carry box? What’s that? Something like you put your dog in?” Brian asked.
“Yeah, you can get one at any of the big pet stores around here. There’s one on Madison not far from here.” The young man finished by saying, “Be careful, they can bite pretty good. Just get a good grip and don’t let him spin around on you.”
“Thank you. I saw those gloves at the hardware store yesterday. That helps a lot.” Brian shook his hand then he asked, “Can these things have pink or red eyes?”
The woman behind the counter, who had been listening, said, “Yes, sir, they can. We have a small population of albinos here in Midtown. They are white with pink eyes.”
The young man nodded in agreement then said, “And they are real mean. Good luck.”
“Thank you, both.” Brian said as he got ready to leave. “You’ve both been very helpful.” Brian began to like the soft southern accent and friendly atmosphere of this town.
On the way to the door, a young woman with long, dark stringy hair walked up to him. “There’s something more you should know.”
Brian stopped and looked at her. “Yes.”
“The Choctaw have legends about spirits in animal form that can take over man’s places. Only the very brave can hope to win over one of them. Here take this. It may help you.” She handed him a crystal of some kind on a leather thong. She turned and walked away into the book stacks.
“Thanks.” Brian said tentatively. “I think.” He muttered to himself as he put the crystal in his pocket and walked to the door. There was obviously more to this town than met the eye.
The afternoon sun shone in the windows as Brian grimly stood in his living room. A couple of new bags had been thrown on the top of the mess from last night. He began checking himself to make sure he was ready. He retied his athletic shoes and pulled up his socks. Over his blue jeans now resided white kneepads. He adjusted the matching elbow pads before putting on an old leather jacket. Next, he put on a catcher’s mask and pulled hard on the thin straps. He picked up the long leather gloves and broke the plastic tie that held them together. He pulled them on with a determined look on his face. Brian took a deep breath as he looked at the stairs. He picked up the animal carrier in one hand and a baseball bat in the other. He just felt better carrying the bat.
Brian listened intently at the foot of the stairs. He couldn’t hear anything. Slowly, he stepped over the useless trap and started up the stairs. Even though he had not seen the malevolent red eyes yet, a line of sweat started down his face. His heart pounded with each step. He reached the landing and peered around. The upstairs had sustained even more damage than the last time he had ventured up here.
“Damn.” Brian said softly as he surveyed the damage. As he shook his head from side to side, Brian began to feel the cold sensation of being watched. The hair on the back of his neck stood up again. He shivered in spite of the warmth of the coat and the sultry air. Almost without thought, he set down the carrier and leaned the bat against it. With a gloved hand, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the crystal the strange young woman had given him. He slipped the leather thong over his head and dropped the crystal inside his shirt, better safe than sorry. Right now, he felt like he could use all the help he could get.
He jumped hard as a Christmas bulb hit the hardwood floor and exploded. “All right, enough is enough, you hairball.” Brian growled as he tried to calm himself. He gripped the bat hard and picked up the carrier. Something moved in the attic. Brian stopped. The radio wasn’t blasting. He could hear it playing, but it wasn’t on the station he had left it on and the volume had been turned down. Brian started to lose his nerve. He could call the exterminator again and let them deal with this. He stood there for a moment longer as he listened to that thing romp back and forth in the attic. It seemed to be mocking him, daring him to come up.
Brian gritted his teeth together and gripped the bat hard. He grew angrier now. Another bulb crashed to the ground. “That’s it!” Brian shouted. He strode over to the attic steps that hung down in spite of the latch he had installed yesterday. Brian threw the carrier up into the attic and slammed the bat into the springs on the steps. The ring of metal springs was tremendous. Brian heard it jump and cry out in surprise. Brian smiled in revenge at the sound. He quickly started up the stairs. Just as his head cleared the floor, he was pelted with mothballs. The mask deflected most of the pieces, but they still hurt and stunk. Brian leapt up the last couple of steps and turned in the attic. He looked for the hairy little beast. He held the bat in front of him like a samurai sword. His heart pounded fiercely and sweat rolled down both sides of his face. The heat grew even more oppressive.
A sound; Brian spun around and batted a wad of tangled cords away that had been thrown. Brian breathed heavily now.
“YAH!!” Brian shouted. “Go on, get outta here!”
Brian saw a flash of movement and heard his own heart skip a beat. He stepped forward, careful to avoid the attic steps. His knees felt shaky, but his eyes blazed. There in the far corner, the glowing eyes appeared. Brian swallowed hard. “It’s just an albino, they got pink eyes.” He said aloud to himself. Brian lunged forward and yelled, “Yah!” again. The eyes blazed out in a dark red light and a box flew into the air at Brian.
“AH HELL!” He shouted as he punched the box to the floor. It was too late. He saw the animal leaping for his face. Brian fell back throwing his arms up, swinging wildly with the bat. It slammed in to his chest. Brian crashed to the floor with the impact. All he could see were the flaming eyes and flashing white teeth. Brian tried to roll, but it held him down. The long canine teeth locked onto the facemask. A hellish growling filled his ears. He dropped the bat and grabbed with both hands for its throat. He could feel the claws through the jacket. He got a grip on it and started to squeeze. He felt the hot, fetid breath of the beast on his face as it snarled. Its feet and claws were everywhere. He became aware of one sliding down the side of his neck.
Brian recoiled from the sudden shock wave that hit the beast. The creature was thrown off Brian out into the middle of the attic. It lay there stunned. Brian got to his feet and with a gloved hand fished the crystal out of his shirt. It must have touched the talisman and been whammied by it. Brian saw it get to its feet, shaking its head.
He picked up his bat as he looked the creature over. It was easily twice the size of the raccoons he saw this morning. It had thick white fur and blazing red eyes. Brian could feel the malevolent intelligence of its gaze, but he refused to be intimidated. The beast growled low in its throat.
“You didn’t like that did you?” Brian asked feeling braver. “You didn’t like that at all.” It stood up on its hind legs like a human and showed its wicked teeth as if in answer. “So, you’re one of those spirit things. It doesn’t matter.” Brian shook his head for emphasis. “You’re leaving. This is my house now.”
It lunged for his legs, but Brian got the bat there in time. They circled each other slowly, both staying just out of range. Brian stared hard into its eyes as they moved. It glared back. Brian could feel it try to intimidate him. It needed to make him afraid. It lunged suddenly to the right and Brian swung at it. It leapt into the air and landed on the bat. The impact and the weight pulled the wooden weapon out of his hands. It didn’t give Brian time to recover. The beast leapt into his face. Brian reeled back under the attack. He grabbed its back and pulled with all his might. Brian screamed as loudly as it snarled. As it pulled away from his head, they locked eyes again.
“Bite this,” Brian said coldly as he reversed and pulled the beast to his chest. The massive shockwave knocked him down. He fell back over the trunks. He struggled to his feet as fast as he could. The white beast just stood there, dazed. He ran forward and kicked it as hard as he could foot ball style. It bounced off the ceiling and crashed to the floor. The creature made an almost human moan. Brian grabbed it by the hind legs and began spinning.
“I told you this is my house and I want you out, NOW!” Brian let go and flung it through the gable. The thin wood shattered. There was a thunderclap, then quiet. Brian staggered over and looked out the hole. There was nothing, but pieces of his gable on the ground. Brian walked back over to the trunk and sat down heavily. The radio still played softly. Brian slumped back and stated triumphantly, “It’s my house now.”
My goodness, it is not even officially Summer yet and it is hot. It is like baking biscuits on tinfoil on the dashboard kinda hot. With the heat has come lots of work. We can just keep pounding along and dealing with it. Happily, The Fix-It Up Show is a hit. We are getting lots calls and great questions.
On the gardening front, everything looks good, just have to keep it all watered with the temps. On the wine front, 5 gallons of blackberry wine is now aging, 5 gallons of peach and apple are still fermenting, and we just put 5 gallons of strawberry on to start. I will keep y’all posted on the progress.
Dive into your Summer reading with great expectations and enjoy.
This week’s Summer Short Story:
I had just seen a special on the Hope Diamond and its now traceable history. The topic of the infamous curse had been carefully woven throughout the report. This led me down the path of what is a curse? How do you know something has a curse on it?
A curse doesn’t seem to work unless the victim is told that they have been cursed. A normal item seems to remain inert until the well meaning know-it-all blurts out that you happen to be the owner of the dreaded cursed object.
So just how does a curse actually work? What psychological mechanism trips at the phrase? I have a feeling that it is the exact opposite of a faith healing. Both operate on the power of suggestion.
I had already started the crime story, but I didn’t like the emotional breakdown angle on its own. However, the psychological nudge provided by the cursed gems proved to be the magical ingredient that I needed.
By The Numbers
“Okay, everyone, this is by the numbers.” A masculine voice directed from under its black and blue camouflage hood. The same mottled material covered every inch of his body. It appeared to be a soft cotton body suit that resembled a high tech ninja costume. Even his light boots had soles of dyed black cotton. His two companions dressed in similar outfits waited on him to park. Each outfit possessed its own unique color mix. The suits did their best to diffuse the general outline of the individuals, but they couldn’t hide the obvious muscularity of the three of them nor could the black and red suit hide its wearer’s obvious female charms. Blue turned off the car’s headlights as they rounded a corner into the park behind the museum. Red checked the electronics equipment in her bag. Each piece had to perform flawlessly. The man in the back seat wearing the black and green double-checked his ropes and other gear. The three of them moved in practiced unison.
As the car rolled to a stop under an immense oak tree next to a paved water drain, Blue inconspicuously pressed a switch hidden just under the edge of his seat. He parked the car and turned to the others.
“Comm test.” Blue lifted his hand to his covered right ear and pressed a hidden button. Red gave him a thumbs up sign. He pressed again, and Green acknowledged that his earpiece worked. Blue put the car keys in a Velcro sealed pocket at his hip. They exited the car with no further words. Green handed each of them their equipment packs while he shouldered the ropes and a small crossbow. Red adjusted the straps on her bag, and attached it to herself like a fanny pack. Blue slid on his pack then inspected the other two; no real reason to look them over, just habit. He nodded and they nodded back, time to get this job done.
People like to talk, especially people excited about something new. The museum director and a local reporter had given the world a televised tour of the new completely automated security system that had been installed for the “Great Gems of History” tour opening to the public tomorrow morning. The director proudly proclaimed that the uncut stones from the Ottoman Empire, the fabulous jewelry of Catherine the Great, and all the other exotic pieces were completely safe. Their website and brochures gave full tours of the facility and the other exhibits that you should see while at the museum. Prepping for this job had been very simple.
They ran along the paved drainage careful to avoid the thin trickle of water running down the center. The mottled outfits made them nearly invisible to the human eye. They moved through the darkness as if they were part of it. The park during the day was wonderfully landscaped. At night, the careful rows of bushes and shrubs provided perfect cover. Reaching the first goal had been easy. Just across the lawn from the museum, as if on cue, all three began adjusting their gear for the next stage. Headlights appeared around the side of the building. One of the security guards made his regular rounds in a golf cart. The cart didn’t make much noise, but it made enough to cover the sound of soft footsteps. As soon as the guard drove around the next corner, they sprinted for the building.
The three of them regrouped behind one of the massive banners adorning the lawn. Behind this huge sheet of material, only their feet could be seen, and only if you knew what to look for. Green dropped the ropes and looked up at the roof. He took an educated guess at the height of the wall and selected the proper weight grappling hook attachment for his quarrel and rope. He loaded and cocked the crossbow. They stood perfectly still listening for any sound that would give away the approach of an unexpected guard. Green pulled the trigger and the rope began to sail skyward. As soon as it fell slack, Green switched to his climbing gear. Blue looked at his watch then pressed a finger to his right ear. Green and Red both pressed buttons on their watches. Time was now their best friend and worst enemy. The rest of this operation had to happen in perfectly timed synchronization or they would face the penalties for failure.
Green pulled hard on the rope to set the hook. Thanks to the pictures of the museum, the rope had been dyed the same color as the brick. It became nearly impossible to see where it went just a few feet above them. The rope threaded easily through the climbing rig, and Green began scaling the building. He moved with practiced comfort and great speed. Blue looked at his watch as Green disappeared over the top of the building. They had already managed to get ahead of schedule, good. Another rope soon dropped down from the night sky. Blue quickly tied it into his own belt harness and gave it a couple of tugs. He jumped into the air and literally ran up the wall. He passed Green on his way down as the counter balance.
Blue untied himself and let the rope drop. He walked over the maintenance door and knelt before it. He pulled a lock kit from the back of his glove and got to work. A few moments later and Green reappeared on the top of the building. He switched out the rope and pulley arrangement then dropped over the side again. Within seconds, Red arrived. She untied her rope and walked directly over to Blue. He stood up and turned the doorknob. Together, they disappeared through the doorway leaving Green behind.
Red and Blue both put on night vision goggles while they descended the stairs. Red pulled a very small electromagnetic field detector from the top of her bag, and scanned the door at the bottom for electrical fields. The field tester showed negative. She stepped back and let Blue inspect the door. It proved to be locked from the other side. He easily picked the lock and turned the knob. The door still wouldn’t open. They looked briefly at each other then back to the door. With the hinges on the other side, there was nothing to attack on this side of the metal barrier. Blue looked around them, and ran his hands across the wall to his right, common sheet rock. He pulled a wicked looking hook knife from a sheath on his left forearm and stabbed it into the wall. Red moved back a couple of steps and let him work. He cut a tall rectangle of sheet rock from between two studs and then pulled the insulation out of his way. The interior layer of wall fell easily to the hook knife creating a bypass around the padlocked door.
They both looked at their watches as they walked quickly down the hall. The door had cost them precious seconds. Red switched devices every few steps. Each scan came up clean until they reached the stairway to the exhibit hall. Red pulled an aerosol can out of her bag and began spraying it like air freshener. The theatrical smoke drifted to the ground and stairs revealing the infrared beams on each step to their goggles. She carefully looked over the stairwell and made a decision. She sat down, pulled off the cotton bottom boots, and replaced them with a pair that had a thin coating of rubber over the cloth. Blue followed suit silently. Once his boots had been changed, Blue pulled a square of cloth and metal out of his pack and released its catch. A portable camping stool snapped to life. He slid it to the base of the stairs even with the banister. Red stepped up and onto the narrow ledge of metal. Step by sliding step, she climbed the banister. Blue stood and watched as she gracefully made it to the top. Once she was completely off the rail, he climbed up and began his assent.
Red began her scans again. The nice reporter on television had told the world a master control existed somewhere on this floor, she had to find it. The news show had been vague as to exactly where it been installed, but they had shown the security room from the inside. If someone examined the broadcast very closely, they could have seen the view out of the glass plate in the door. All she needed to find was the hallway with the bathrooms. On television, they had been on the left, so the control room had to be on her right. She moved slowly scanning for motion detectors, none so far and the bathrooms came into view.
The master control door used a magnetic pass card. No problem Red thought as she switched devices. She put her wired pass card in, and punched in a command on the small console. Numbers began flashing through the display. A few seconds later, she heard the gentle click of the lock releasing. After a quick scan of the door for any other electrical fields, she was in. A quick look around the room revealed nothing new to her. Other than a few extra boxes here and there, everything sat exactly where the news media had shown it. She stepped over to the computer, moved the mouse, and watched the screen appear. To her delight, it had been left logged in. A few mouse clicks later, and the alarms to the displays sat in commanded silenced. She checked her watch then pressed a button on her earpiece. They were making good time again. Blue should be up the stairs by now and ready to make the swap. The uncut stones from the Ottoman exhibit made the perfect target. The raw stones had been easy to fake in paste. They used real gold to make the replicas of the ornamentations. It might be years before anyone guessed that the real stones had been replaced. By that time, they would have been cut and sold, never to be found again.
She was about to leave the room when the cover to one of the boxes caught her eye. The hand scrawled label read “Widow’s Point”. She scanned the box. The field tester’s display showed nothing. Red carefully raised the lid to expose layers of wrapping tissue. She pulled the packing away to reveal a hand carved mahogany jewelry box. She lifted it out and opened it. As she gazed, Red took a couple of steps backwards. She found the chair with her foot and sat down. Before her eyes sparkled the infamous Widow’s Point diamond hairpin and broach. Legend had it that every woman that owned these cursed jewels had committed murder. Some had killed to get them, others to keep them. The level of craftsmanship could only be described as magnificent. Tenderly, she lifted each in turn admiring the fire in the stones and the artistry of the gold, utterly captivated.
Red must have lost track of time, her earpiece buzzed relentlessly with the return signal. Annoyed at the interruption, she punched the proper button to stop Blue from buzzing her again. The rules of the job stated that they take nothing outside of the plan. All of the jobs had to be done by the numbers with precise timing. At the moment, she didn’t care about the rules. Red wrapped the diamond hairpin and broach back up in the velvet they originally nestled in and shoved the entire bundle into a leg pouch. She repacked the original box and turned back to the computer.
“What are you doing? Let’s go.” An angry whisper came through the earpiece. It was Blue, furious at the slight delay. She moved the mouse back through the arming process then quickly repacked her gear.
Blue had nearly reached the bottom of the banister when she caught up with him. She could tell by his body language that he wasn’t going to be happy when they got to the car. Blue stepped off the banister allowing her to begin her descent. As she made her way down the thin metal rail, she could feel his eyes on her, on her leg. He would make her leave them here. The rules clearly stated to take nothing that hadn’t been replaced. He wouldn’t let her keep them. Each step closer to the bottom made her angrier. She never got to pick the job. The men always did that. They would be nothing more than petty thieves without her. Blue could pick locks, but he would never get through a good surveillance system. All Green ever did was climb walls or dig under things. He would be worse than useless without her around. Red only had a couple of steps to go. She gritted her teeth. After all the jobs they had done, they never kept anything. She decided without quarter to keep these. The glow and fire of the stones still hung clearly in her mind.
Blue stood at the bottom, ready to go. As soon as Red stepped off the stool he collapsed it and hid it in his pack. He nodded to her and motioned to go. Red started walking. As she passed him, she felt him brush up against her leg. She knew he could feel the bundle stored in the pouch. She felt his hand on her shoulder stopping her. She was going to keep her hidden prize. As she spun to face him, her hand found the hook knife in its sheath on his outstretched arm. As their eyes met, she slashed across his throat with all her might. His hands flew to the gaping wound. The hood and material kept the blood from flying, but it couldn’t be stopped from leaving his body with every heart beat. Red stood perfectly still as she watched him crumple to the floor. She picked up his pack with the night’s work enclosed and took the car keys from their hidden pocket. She stepped away as the pool of blood began to expand around him.
Red turned and walked back the way she had originally come in. She went though the sheetrock bypass and up the stairs. At the roof, she pressed the call button and waited for the answer from Green. He couldn’t let her keep them. With Blue gone, he would think he was in charge. She got a wait response from Green, fine. She had more work to do. Red looked over the pulley system mounted to the roof ledge. She began to make adjustments. The all ready signal buzzed in her earpiece. She was ready all right. The safety rope now looped just the way she wanted it. She gripped the safety release rope in one hand and lowered her self off the edge with the other. She would act as a partial counter weight to propel Green to the roof to recover his equipment or so the plan said. She passed him half way down with perfect timing.
At the ground, Red turned and saw Green tangled in the loops of the safety rope. He turned to look down at her as she pulled the release. He only fell about ten feet, but that was more than enough to break his neck as the safety rope snapped taunt. Red released her climbing gear, took a quick look for any guards, and then ran to the drainage ditch. She patted the bundle in her leg pouch as she walked back to the car. She could take her time now. She felt that she had all the time in the world
Red unlocked the car and slid into the driver’s seat. She dropped Blue’s pack into the passenger seat. She started the car and set the radio on the station she wanted. Feeling oddly liberated, she pulled away and flipped the lights on. What was it Blue had said earlier? This job was supposed to go by the numbers with precise timing. Well, this time it had gone by her numbers. She would train a new team, and this time she would decide what jobs to do and what to sell.
As the car approached the main road, the oil light popped on. Just like a man to forget to service the car when it mattered most. Red shook her head. The rustle of material reminded her that she still wore her hood. She stopped at the intersection and pulled the material from over her head. During the second her eyes were covered the oil light changed from red to blue. She shook her head to relieve her hair of the tangles. The oil light began flashing. Red leaned forward and tapped it. She had never seen it do that before. The engine died. As she turned the key to restart the car, the doors locked. She leaned back in the seat and screamed. Her time had just run out. She achieved her goal. She would own the Widow’s Point for the entire rest of her life. With precise timing and always by the numbers, Blue always drives, Green is always access, and Red is always electronics. Now, she knew beyond a doubt what “by the numbers” truly meant as the car exploded.
Well, it had to happen some time, sooner or later, the early summer heat is rolling on in. Happily, the gardens are all set up and ready for the growing season. My next gardening experiment will be the hanging strawberry garden. I have everything set up and planted. I just need a better support system. There is a lot of dirt to be supported. However a quick trip to Lowes in the morning should supply everything I need.
The ponds look good and the catfish is waiting on me each evening for dinner to get tossed into the water. It is amazing how much everything in there likes really cheap dog food.
Some days, the fates decide to smile a bit. I needed to match up a few projects with the right people and by nightfall everything lined up nicely. I have lots to finish and we should have some great new releases coming up very quickly.
The Desk Of Endless Tasks is clearing up a little bit. I love hitting the “Done State”. We are both trying to trim down for the season.
Thank you all for the amazing growth at Geek Tank Radio (www.geektankradio.com). Every week the show reaches thousands of new listeners all around the world. Tell your friends and listen in. 🙂