Friday, September 21, 2007

EVOLUTION (short story)

Russ Mars
© 1970
November 13— There’s a wart on my hand. It’s on the palm of my right hand, where my thumb meets my wrist. I don’t know how it got there; I suppose a little grain of sand or a sliver of wood was embedded under my skin. I don’t believe it came from a toad (that’s just a silly wives’ tale about warts coming from toads). I first noticed the warts last summer. It was just a minute bump with a little black speck in the middle. I tried to pick it off, and I made it bleed. When it healed, it was bigger.
I had a wart in the middle of the same thumb right where the swirl of my thumbprint was, and the hole was crisscrossed with teeny lines of skin. It looked a lot like a spider web and it made me sick to my stomach when I looked at it. But the wart I have now is bigger.
January 17— The wart on my hand is gone. It got smaller and smaller and the only thing that was left was the black speck, then that disappeared. It didn’t leave a scar; that’s good because I hate scars.
January 24— I have a wart on my elbow. It’s bigger than the one that used to be on my hand. It hurts. I wonder why the other wart didn’t hurt. This one has two little black specks in it, one next to the other. They look like two little eyes. I’m certain this wart didn’t come from a toad because I’ve never touched one with my elbow. How ridiculous!
February 9— The wart on my elbow is gone. It looked as if it sank into my skin, slipping deeper every day as if my skin were quicksand and the wart was some poor creature caught in its midst. My skin finally covered it. Now there’s nothing there.
March 3— I have a wart on my ear. It sure does look funny! My whole ear is swollen and red. I thought the wart was a big pimple at first, the way it made my ear hurt. But it looks like the warts I’ve had before.
April 2— The wart is gone. I woke up this morning and looked in the mirror and it was as if it had never been there.
July 6— I haven’t had any more warts since the one on my ear went away. I’ve also been holding a lot of toads this summer. But no more warts. I guess that (croak) goes to show (croak) that toads don't cause (croak) warts. I’m sure glad (croak) I don’t have any more (croak) of those disgusting warts. Croak! Croak! Croak!




Russ Mars

© 1995

If I were a hot-air balloon

I'd dance among the clouds,

I'd carry you away, my love,

far above the crowds.

Away from cloying fingers

of memories painful still,

sailing faithful to our hearts,

true to God's good will.

Toward my rainbowed canopy

you'd reach with love and trust,

ever certain that no matter what,

I'd hold you as I must.

I'd hold you gently and free from harm,

and carry you swift and sure,

I would take you ever higher,

and you'd always be secure.

If I were a hot-air balloon,

these things I'd surely do,

But I'm not this, I'm just a man,

so this I promise true,

to love you always faithfully,

and walk forever next to you.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

THE MYSTERY STORY (work in progress)

Here's one that began as a short story, then I realized it's probably a novel. I haven't touched it for some time, but now I feel the urge to bring it out of mothballs. What it will be is a mystery to me at this point, but I want to tell the story, whatever it is. Perhaps the reason I'm suddenly interested in finishing it is to avoid working on my current novel! Nonetheless, in its incomplete state, it's a mystery in more ways than one, so it's working title is simply...

Russ Mars
© 2006

"Ya know, there's nuthin' as temptin' as a locked door," said the old shoe-shine man as he ambled down the dimly-lit corridor. "But there's nuthin' in there 'cept mops and brooms and cleanin' stuff that you shouldn't be messin' with, son, though it ain't normally locked. Now come away from there. Where's your folks?"

"No, mister, you don't understand! He — he pushed her in here," the little boy cried as he twisted frantically at the door knob and pushed and kicked at the door, the loose red curls atop his head bouncing wildly.

"What fool thing you talkin' 'bout, son? Who's in there?"

"They're in there! I think he's hurting her! You gotta help me, mister!"

The tiny boy began to make frenzied leaps at the door, ramming it with his shoulder, and with each impact, he expelled a squeaky grunt. Falling to the floor in a heap, he would quickly recover and fly at the door again, his forty pounds barely shaking it.

The frail black man turned and began to shuffle out of the corridor, calling over his shoulder, "I'll go get someone to help. You listen to ol' Jessie now, an you jes' settle down, son, jes' settle down. I'll get someone," and he moved back out into the waiting area of the bus terminal. As he made his way across the worn black-and-white-checked linoleum toward the front as fast as he could, which was only slightly faster than his usual pace, he could hear the dull thud of the boy's body against the door becoming fainter and fainter.

Arriving at the ticket counter, Jessie put his polish-stained hand lightly on the shoulder of a plump woman standing at the agent window. "'Scuse me, ma'am, but I need to talk to the man here."

"I beg your pardon. I was here first," she said, shrugging off his hand and giving him a cold stare.

"Yes'm, you surely was, but there's a little boy…."

"Ma'am," said Virgil, the ticket agent, "let me just take care of this and I'll be right with you."

"He can just wait until you've given me my ticket. I don't want to miss my bus."

"Please, lady," said Jessie, "that poor little boy…."

"Ma'am, your bus isn't leaving for another forty-five minutes and this will just take a moment, I'm sure, then I can…."

"I want my ticket,” she interrupted, “I was here first and I want my ticket. Now how much do I owe you?"

"Yes, ma'am, alright," said Virgil. He glanced at Jessie and rolled his eyes. "Jessie, just a second, okay?" He finished keying the data into the terminal on the counter in front of him. "That'll be forty-two dollars even, ma'am."

Jessie shifted nervously on his feet and glanced back towards the entrance to the corridor, then looked back at Virgil. "Virge, there's a little guy back there carryin' on somethin' fierce…."

"You are a very rude old man," said the woman, stopping the rummaging she was doing in her purse and glaring at Jessie. She turned back to Virgil and handed him the money.

Jessie looked over his shoulder again, then back at Virgil. "But Virge..."

The woman and Jessie both jerked their heads around as a loud bang and crash echoed from the corridor, and the woman squealed, "Ohmygod!"

"What the hell was that?" said Virgil, leaning and staring through his window.

Just seconds after the first, a second loud bang sounding like a door-slam brought the wiry ticket agent out from behind the far end of the ticket counter at a full run.

"Down there, Virge! The cleanin' closet!" yelled Jessie, pointing as he followed at a pace nowhere matching Virgil's. By the time Jessie reached the corridor, Virgil was out of sight, the hallway empty. Jessie could see light glowing from the now open closet at the end, and he'd taken just a few steps more when Virgil poked his head out from there and yelled, "Call an ambulance! For God's sake call an ambulance right now!" and he disappeared back into the closet.

Jessie muttered, "Sweet Jesus, sweet Jesus," to himself as he began his trek back to the ticket counter, still unable to muster any great speed, but now panting and wheezing from the effort. In the middle of the second beseeching of his Lord there came from outside the building the loud screech of car tires and the nerve-jangling crunch-rip of metal against metal, at which he let loose with a very loud, raspy, "Sweet Jeezuus!"

The nasty plump woman, frozen in place next to the ticket window, belted out another "OHMYGOD!"

Jessie, finally gaining a little speed from a combination of adrenaline and momentum, scurried behind the counter. His trembling hand reached for the phone just as a man in blue jeans and a red t-shirt bolted through the front door and ran up to the counter, pushed the plump woman aside and stuck his head through the window.

"There's a lady out front hurt bad," he said. "Got run over in the street by some maniac! Better call for help. Tell 'em to hurry!" and before Jessie could say a word the man ran out as fast as he'd come in.

Jessie dialed 911.


The sheriffs' vehicles sat sentinel at various points and angles around the bus station; red and blue mechanized beacons sent lights inside and out, piercing night shadows, as if the beams were seeking out culprits and clues.

"You're sure?" said Sheriff Adam Inali into his cell phone. He listened for a moment longer and sighed, "Oh, man, what a mess. How's he and the woman doing?" He closed his eyes and pinched at the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger up under his reading glasses. "Well, that's good, anyway. Okay, I should be there in about 15 minutes," he said, and he snapped the phone shut and slipped it back into its case attached to his gun belt. He stared for a moment at his note pad on the ticket counter, made a few more notes, then looked up. "Mr. Dillard, just one more thing I need clarified," he said to Jessie, who was standing a few feet from him, leaning against the counter, "Why didn't you help the kid get that closet open?"

"Like I said, he wasn't makin' much sense an' carryin' on and all. I jes' figured I'd get Virgil to get the key and get in there. I'm an ol' man, what was I gonna' do? I jes' wish now I'da told that lady to shut her darn mouth, that's what."

"Okay, Mr. Dillard, I understand. Thank you," he said. He turned to Virgil on the other side of the ticket window and said, "I think I've got all I need here, sir. Thanks for your help with this."

"Sheriff?" said Virgil, "I heard you ask. How are they doing, the boy and the woman? Tough little kid. After what he did, he should get a medal."

"Well, sir, I guess they'll be okay...physically anyway. She's got some pretty nasty cuts and bruises. Well, you saw. And the boy's arm is broken, but he'll mend. That's the least of his problems. My deputy talked to him at the hospital. Said he and his mom are going to L.A., like you said. Kid said she's got work there and an apartment lined up. She left him waiting here with their bags to run down the street to get some sodas and stuff for their ride. Boy's name is Darin McCardle."

"Yes,” Virgil said, “I told you I saw the boy's mom go out the front after she bought her tickets. McCardle? That's not the name she gave for her ticket. See here," he said, turning the manifest around so the sheriff could see. "Like I told you, it's Fielding — Elizabeth Fielding."

"Yeah, I've got that here," said Sheriff Inali, tapping his note pad. "And that's who I sent one of my deputies looking for. Pretty, blonde hair, right?".

"Uh, huh. And her bus to L.A. is due any minute, but I don't guess she's gonna be on it with her kid in the hospital and all. Anyone find her yet?"

"Sure did,” said the sheriff, “but we didn't know it 'til now. No I.D. on her. Her purse was knocked all the way across the street and lodged in the branches of a rosebush."

"Oh, no," Virgil said, nearly in a whisper.

"Yeah, the lady that was run down out front. It's her."

"Is she gonna make it?"

Sheriff Inali glanced toward Jessie, then looked back at Virgil and said, "She died en route."

"Sweet Jesus," said Jessie.

"I've got to get over to the hospital. Thank you, Gentlemen," said the sheriff. As he headed toward the front door, Jessie fell in behind him.

"Where's the boy's papa? Darin? That his name? Where's his papa?"

"Yes, Darin. Well, Mr. Dillard, the information is a little sketchy at this point, but it looks like there's been no dad in the picture for quite some time. The deputy that talked to him said that, of course, he was still really shook up. I'm going to talk to him right now, and the woman who was attacked."

"Poor little guy. Wish there was somethin' I could do to help. Had no idea, no sir, no idea at all the trouble was so bad. I tried to get'im some kinda help. He was carryin' on so, ya know, throwin' hisself at that door. Poor lady — both them ladies, oh Sweet Jesus, if only I coulda' — coulda' done somethin'."

Sheriff Inali held the door for Jessie, put his hand on his shoulder and walked out behind him.

"Mr. Dillard, none of this was your fault, you know."

Jessie turned and faced him and looked hard into his eyes. His lips parted as if he was about to speak and his eyes were watering up, but then he suddenly jerked his head skyward. "You hear that? Yeah, lookie there!"

The moon was nearly full and in its glow, it was easy for Sheriff Inali to see what Jessie pointed at, though he heard nothing. A large owl swooped away through the sky, then slowly turned and headed back toward them. Once it was directly over them, it turned sharply, climbed higher and arced out of sight.

Jessie lowered his head and looked back at the sheriff, his eyes now much wider than before. "That means the Devil, that owl does, ya know?” said Jessie, nearly in a whisper. “That bird knows bad news…maybe brings it. Learned that from my papa when we'd go huntin' when I was no older than that little guy…Darin."

The sheriff nodded his assent to Jessie. "Many people believe that. My people, my dad's side, that is, are Cherokee. They honor the owl as sacred. The owl has great night-vision and they wish to draw that power to themselves to see in the dark…more to have great awareness."

"Maybe both is true,” said Jessie, again in a whisper. “What happened today sure is evil, yes sir, sure is. You think you gonna catch that man soon?"

Sheriff Inali searched the sky, saying nothing. Finally, mostly to himself, he muttered, "I guess I could really use that owl's help now.” He then looked back at Jessie, shook his head, and said, “So you could hear it, huh? That's really something."

Jessie smiled. "Yeah, I hear pretty good still. Ears still work pretty good. Could hear them big ol' wings whooshing through the air, yes sir. I know someone else who's gonna need a lot of help. The poor little guy, Darin, he's gonna need help. Anything I can do, you jes' let me know, Sheriff."

"I'd say there’s more than your ears that still work just fine, Mr. Dillard," and he gently touched his left index finger to the middle of Jessie’s chest. With his other hand, he reached out to shake Jessie's hand, and Jessie's returned grip, he noticed, was remarkably firm.

"Please, jes' call me Jessie. I'm jes' ol' Jessie, sir."

"Alright then, Jessie, I'd better get over there now."

(to be continued?)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

THE DRUMMER (short story)

Photographer: Robert Landau

Russ Mars
© 2000

“Make a wish, any wish at all. What would you wish for?” Of course the old man didn’t respond because I hadn’t really spoken to him...hadn’t spoken at all. But that’s what I wanted to ask him as I stood and watched him. Why did he do this? What was he looking for? What was the dream at the end of all his nights here?
I figured him to be Chinese...maybe Korean. Pulled back into a ponytail, his thin, salt-and-pepper hair hung to the middle of his slumped back. His shoulders barely moved and his crinkled eyes locked on something far beyond the farthest end of the street as he beat out the monotonous rhythm on the miniature drum set that looked like a child’s toy. Tharump ba bump bump, tharump ba bump bump, tharump ba bump bump badoom ba bump bump. His drumming was self-accompaniment to tonally flat vocalizations of 50s and 60s pop hits. The beat changed but little as he began each new song in a voice more devoid of talent and inspiration than his drumming.
I adjusted my stance and looked up and down the promenade. Even at midnight, shoppers and browsers thronged, providing ever-shifting waves of audiences for the street performers who displayed their talents in between the carts and racks of the vendors of trinkets, crafts and food. Enough people crowded around most of the shows that those at the back had to crane their necks and stand on their toes to see the act, but not so for the drummer.
For twenty minutes, as I sipped my coffee, I’d been his only spectator other than passersby who would whisper among themselves, laugh and move on. He’d sung five songs, the breaks between them mere seconds. Any time day or night, weekday or weekend for the past year that I’d come here to browse, shop and people watch, he was here. On no occasion I could recall had he ever been still at his drums or not singing. Never were there more than a dozen people watching him play and usually fewer, if any. The coffee can a few feet from his base drum, put there to receive tips, seldom contained more than pocket change, occasionally a lonely dollar bill.
I’d bet a week’s salary that anyone who played as much as he, day in and day out for hours on end, would undoubtedly and eventually show some improvement, yet my ears knew that in his case I’d lose my wager. If I had such an apparent lack of talent and ability for a thing, I’d have given up quickly. Why didn’t he? No doubt there’s virtue in persistence, but his acceptance of reality seemed to be lacking. He sucked.
My curiosity finally overriding my sense of propriety, I stepped closer to him as he ended a song with a cymbal crash. I held up my hand to keep him from launching into another musical tragedy.
“Excuse me, sir, may I speak with you for a moment?”
He lowered his bony hands and the aged, splintered drumsticks into his lap, and merely nodded.
“I’ve seen you play many times, and I’m impressed with how hard you work at it.”
That’s not really what I wanted to say, but I’m not completely tactless.
Again, he nodded once.
“Well, I was just wondering where you hope to take your...uh...musical career? If you could make a wish, any wish at all, what would it be?”
Before the old man could answer, a small child of about five or six with black, straight hair and dark, almond eyes scampered between him and his drums and climbed onto his lap. “Can we go now, Grandpa? Can we go eat? Do we have enough?”
The drummer lifted the child from his lap and set him down gently but firmly next to him, and put an index finger to his lips as he patted the child on the head. He turned back to me and fixed his eyes on mine. With no emotion and in a deep, calm voice he said, “I’d wish you would put a dollar in my can.”

I was inspired to write this story by my many, many visits to 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica when I still lived in Southern California. It was one of my favorite places to hang out and people-watch, especially on hot summer nights. Since relocating to California's Central Coast, it's one of the very few things I miss about Southern California.

BEAT THE DRUM NO MORE (short story)

Russ Mars
© 1998

Billy Bob Hagood lay on his side behind the toppled, rotting tree trunk, clutching to his chest the treasured, high-powered hunting rifle his daddy had given him on his fourteenth birthday. In the last twenty years, he’d brought down countless prey with the highly accurate Winchester, but none as frustratingly elusive or threatening as that which he now stalked in the shivery dawn of the hushed Alabama woods. His pulse thundered in his ears, and he silently cursed the visible frost each panting breath formed, fearful his position could be seen.
He cautiously rolled from his side and raised himself enough to peer over the moss-covered log into the dense brush, studying each detail of the wooded terrain ahead of him——every rock, every gully, every bush and tree, every inch of the leaf-covered forest floor——for any movement, any potential cover in which his quarry could be concealing itself. Usually the creature just kept moving——going and going——ever relentless, but Billy Bob was certain that by now its reserves were exhausted and it would have to stop soon.
Billy Bob was near collapse from the pursuit begun nearly twenty hours before. Then, he wasn’t prepared for a protracted hunt when he sighted the critter as he drove his pickup down a dirt road on his way to check a fence line. He grabbed his rifle from the rack behind him and ran across a pasture just as the fluff of its stumpy tail disappeared into the edge of the woods where he followed, and he was able to follow only by brief glimpses that never afforded a clear shot. Obsessively, he gave chase on into the night, finally tracking it by ear alone. He had to stop the vexatious creature.
As he continued to scan the woods through the lifting morning mist from behind the log, his object of pursuit darted from behind a thicket and crossed his field of vision about two hundred yards in front of him. Billy Bob jerked the scoped rifle up and lay it to rest on the log, sighting in on a blur of white and simultaneously squeezing the trigger. The echo of the shot boomed through the forest, but the rifle’s projectile thudded into another dead log as the intended victim scurried behind it.
“Damn it all!” he bellowed, and flicked forward the bolt of the rifle in preparation for another shot, but as he looked through the scope no target presented itself.
He jumped up from his spot behind the log to charge the new hiding place of his enemy, but his legs had cramped from having lain atop the damp forest floor, and as he leaped over the knee-high log, his legs gave out. He stumbled and fell face first into the bed of leaves. The rifle tumbled to his side and the impact caused it to fire. The hot lead bullet tore through his boot and plowed a strip of skin from his ankle. At first his wound wasn’t felt, his frenzied state and the initial shock of his fall preventing the pain from registering. He rebounded to his feet to continue his charge, but the second he planted the wounded foot the stinging fire of pain penetrated, and he crashed down again, cursing.
His rage-filled charge left the adrenaline coursing through him and helped him ignore the pain. After quickly pulling off the torn boot and seeing that it was only a flesh wound, he pulled the boot on again, grabbed his rifle, and, half limping, half running, headed for his enemy’s lair. The varmint must have shortly thought his pursuer’s dilemma assured his safety, but Billy Bob’s quick recovery startled it into panic-stricken flight from behind the log. The second his prey sprang into sight, Billy Bob planted himself, raised his rifle, and squeezed the trigger. This time the large caliber slug found its mark, disintegrating the creature into a spray...bits and pieces clinging to low-lying branches and scattered all across the damp forest floor.
Billy Bob hobbled toward the few remains of his victim in order to confirm that he had been, indeed, successful in his mission. Balancing on his good leg, he extended his injured one and nudged the pieces with the toe of his boot. Really, only three identifiable pieces remained among shreds of white and pink cottony fluff——a torn rabbit ear, a single “D” battery, and a tiny bass drum.



Russ Mars

© 1996

“You stubborn old goat, it says ‘Mildred Faragut,’ and you know good as anyone else, she ain’t out there no more. I tell you, send it back where it come from. Why you waste your time, three times now, dragging it out to my place is beyond me.”
“I can’t help she done run off on ya,” said Cyrus. “Can’t say I much blame her though, contrary coot that you are.” He dragged his gnarled finger under the address scrawled on the coarse brown paper that covered a small box. “Lookit here, it says ‘Faragut Farm, Bent Oak Road,’ and by golly that’s your place for as far back as I can recollect, Elliot, so I reckon this be yours.”
“I don’t give a damn! Just return to sender, Cyrus. Is that so blasted hard to do? Just send it back!”
Elliot had slogged four miles through wind-driven rain last night to return the package to the tiny post office inside the general store, and this morning had found it again on his doorstep. Barely keeping his temper with Cyrus Winger, storekeeper and town postmaster, because Cyrus knew damn well that Mrs. Faragut had been gone for nigh on six months. Elliot had no idea where she was and, a month ago, had finally gotten rid of the few items she’d left behind. He certainly didn’t want her mail…or any other reminder of her. What was done, was done.
“You see any other writin’ on this here?” Cyrus said, shaking the package at him and pointing to the blank spot that should have contained a return address. “Send it back where?”
“I guess them kinda’ problems just be yours, bein’ mailman and all,” said Elliot.
“No sir! My job’s to make sure folks in this town get their mail. If you won’t come get it, by golly, even if I got to stop by your place on my way home at night from now ‘til doomsday, I’ll do ‘er. Now just take it and let’s be done with this here nonsense.”
Elliot made no move to take the package from Cyrus’s outstretched hand. He glared at Cyrus, said nothing, and pulled his soaked coat in at the front and walked back out into the rain. By the time he got home it was dark, and as if driven away by the night, the storm had passed. Elliot ate some biscuits and sausage gravy, and turned in.
Now, with the morning sun streaming in the open front door, Elliot stared down at the package sitting on his doormat. He stooped down and picked it up, shaking his head. He considered tossing it in the fireplace but just couldn’t do it. No matter what Mildred had done, she still had a right to her mail.
“That man’s stubborn as an ol’ mule,” he muttered to himself.
Elliot, figuring that Cyrus was already heading in to open up for the day, retrieved his coat from the back of the chair next to the stove where he’d left it to dry the night before. He pulled it on and, clutching the package, started down the muddy farm road.
Walking up the town’s main street, Elliot approached Cyrus’s store and saw Cyrus Winger’s battered, red pickup truck, ‘U.S. Mail’ painted on the sides in faded black letters.
“Good!” he thought, “We’ll get this settled once and for all.”
“Mornin’, Elliot,” Cyrus said to him when he walked in. “I sorta thought you just might be headin’ in here this mornin’. Now what might I do for ya?” Cyrus said, grinning.
“You know damn well what you can do, Cyrus. You can take this here package and, and—I don’t much care what the hell you do with it, long as you don’t bother me with it no more! I’m gettin’ damn fed up tryin’ to make shuck of it, walkin’ all this way.”
“Don’t be hollerin’ at me, Elliot. I won’t have it. I been trusted with official U.S. Mail, and it’s my duty to make sure it reaches its delivery. Nothin’ or no one is gonna keep me from doing my duty.”
“You crazy sonnabitch! You’re taking this duty malarkey way too serious. Mildred ain’t with me no more, and I don’t want her mail out at my place ever again,” said Elliot.
“I brung it to you. You got to take it,” said Cyrus with a finalizing nod of his head.
“I got to do no such thing. I’m leavin’ it here, and there ain’t no more to be done,” said Elliot. He slammed the package down on the service counter, and turned and stomped toward the door.
Cyrus reached under the counter. “Hold it right there, Faragut!” he commanded.
Elliot spun around to give Cyrus another piece of his mind but got no chance to say another word. The room thundered. Elliot’s back slammed against the door from the impact of the big lead slugs that tore through him. Dark, wet crimson flowers blossomed on his chest as he slid down the door and dropped to the floor.
Cyrus Winger kept the smoking muzzle of the old Colt six-shooter trained on Elliot lest he needed the incentive of the three remaining bullets to stay down, but he lay still, no doubt dead before he hit the floor.
By the time Sheriff Cole Titus arrived, Cyrus had put down his gun. The sheriff handcuffed him and put into the back of his cruiser. Cyrus offered not a word or a struggle.
What in God’s name got into you Cyrus? Are you plumb loco?” asked Sheriff Titus as they headed down the highway toward the county courthouse and jail, but he got no response. “I swear,” said Titus, “I heard tell of these kind of things from the city, but I never...what’s the dang deal with you postal workers?”
Cyrus, silent, stared out the side window and grinned.


Russ Mars
The deafening sound of its madly fluttering wings drowned all rational thought as it settled on him and began to feed. It sucked at his frustration and irritation, gobbled annoyance and disgust, and gorged itself on the pain of patience stretched to the limit. Lapping nourishment from his soul, the creature’s strength grew and compelled his frenzy.
The actor’s plea changed abruptly to a rasping cough as Vince Fulmin’s wrist tightened against his Adam’s apple. Held from behind, he dared not struggle. Vince’s other hand pressed the point of a foot-long chef’s knife against the actor’s ribs, and a quick lunge would penetrate deeply. The director and production crew stood frozen at the back wall of the sound stage where Vince had ordered them, using the little man’s life as leverage.
“Shut the fuck up! I been listenin’ to your bullshit too fuckin’ long! I’ve had it! Had it!” Vince screamed. “Ya been yappin’ at me in that moronic voice, and telling me the same old shit for years. I just can’t take it anymore, P. D.!”
Vince was shaking and sweat poured from him, the temperature on the set rising steadily from the floodlights as well as the oven being used in the kitchen shot.
As hot as it was, the crew was cold. Chilled to the bone with incredulous shock and fear, they stared at Vince in wide-eyed terror. They could see their coworker — their friend — gone over the edge, but couldn’t see what he saw, or what had descended into his life.
For months it had plagued him. A black butterfly would swoop down and somehow meld with his soul. There, fed by a thousand petty irritations, it would grow. As its size increased, so would Vince’s outrage at annoying intrusions into his consciousness — and so would the drive to eradicate these intrusions.
“Wha...what do you want?” P. D. gasped. “Vince, name it. We’ll work it out, just please ease up —”
“Shut up!” Vince hissed through clenched teeth. “You ain’t got a motherfuckin’ thing I want. I just want you out of my life. I don’t want to see you. Don’t you get it, P. D.? I don’t want you to be anymore!”
“Vince, take off for a while. Take a long vacation. We can shoot this one without you. It’s okay. Really!”
“Oh man! You really don’t get it, do you, you fat little freak,” he shrieked, hysterically. “It’s not just here. I turn on TV and there you are. Radio! Same thing! I don’t have to look at your pasty face, but I still get your squeaky little voice and nauseating giggle. It used to be cute, but it’s gone way beyond cute. Makes me wanna puke!”
“Please, Vince, don’t hurt me,” the pathetic little man sobbed. “Oh, God, please let me go.What have I done? Tell me. I just tried to do my job!”
Vince tightened his hold on P. D.’s throat and screeched maniacally, “That’s right, beg for your life you little white freak. Suffer! Feel what I feel! You did this to me — you did this to yourself! Goddamn you! You’ve gotta pay for this! You’re gonna burn in hell. You’re gonna burn,” he bellowed, arching back and lifting P. D. off the floor, his legs kicking and twitching.
Vince sucked air in great heaves, his heart pounding. Now fed by raw rage, the winged creature surged with power. It fluttered desperate urgings to Vince. Its anomalistic nature demanded destruction of the spiritual chaffings upon which it fed.
Vince shuddered with an orgasmic adrenaline rush and plunged the huge weapon deep into the body of his vexatious hostage, then slammed the razor-sharp knife forward, cleaving the man’s doughy belly. He dragged the dangling halves across the room, and using his free hand, opened the door to the oven. He stuffed him inside and before slamming the door, prodded the mess with his index finger.
“Nothin’ says lovin’ like something from the oven, does it, Doughboy?”
Vince giggled.