Friday, February 22, 2019

The Scent of Crime

Ooh, la, la! My mother needed the perfect scent for her apartment! Naturally, I had no idea how bad it would get. Ready? Here we go...
"I want something you spray," she says, "I heard it on the TV the other day, like laundry."

"Okay, Mom, do you want a laundry spray or an air freshener?"

"No! I want what I heard on TV!"

We departed on yet another grocery store adventure. In the cleaner aisle, I pushed for the cheapest air freshener, trying to save some time. "So, Mom, it's cheap. It's, like, three bucks cheaper than the name brands."

"No, no, that's not what I want," she says.

With my patience already half-spent, I say, "What is it you want?"

"I told you, it smells like laundry!"

Before a full-on brawl broke out in aisle 14, I introduced her to the myriad of brands and smells: "Lilac," "Chamomile," "Cinnamon," "Fresh Spring Day," "Chinese Restaurant Trash on a Sweltering Day," "Sweaty Jock Strap," it goes on forever.

While I'm down on my knees reading the various scents, she starts spraying these things everywhere. Not just a piff. Full-on mace blasting. Then she's walking into the mushroom clouds, inhaling like an exhausted bagpipe puffer.

"Mom," I yell in a sorta stage-whisper, "you can't do that! You're stealing!"

She ignored me. Probably didn't hear me, whatever. Mortified, I huffed off, thinking my worst nightmare was about to come true: being prison cellmates with my mother ("Here, Mom, take this shiv!" "Why? I'm not Jewish!"). 

By aisle 15, I'm thinking she probably can't find her way out of the store so I go back.

Bent over, she's still inhaling,  snorting huge clouds of toxins. The store smelled like daisies and ass.

"Mom, stop it," I pleaded, looking around for the grocery store police. "We need to go."

"Okay, okay," Mom finally says. "Where's that cheap deoderant you told me about?"

Sigh. I knew the cheap one's what she'd go for and the ozone coulda been saved a bit if she'd listened to me in the first place. I toss the cheap one in the cart and move on. But, wait, where's Mom? I turn around and she's wiping her hands off on hanging gloves. Takes a good couple of minutes to do it, too.

Now, both of our pictures are on post office walls everywhere, the notorious grocery store bandits.

Speaking of unnatural odors, something smells fishy in the underbelly of Kansas. Read about these Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley.

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Flappening

No, not a new M. Knight Shyamalan film (but my following anecdote's still more thrilling than "The Happening"), this true tale of horror actually happened. And it can happen to YOU, too. Beware...

It's been so stupid cold in Kansas lately. So cold it would make a gang of street-tough penguins roll a polar bear for its coat.

My wife and I are bundling, layering (I vow to no longer make fun of long underwear), and snuggling.

The other night I disrobed and jumped into bed. Pulled those blankies up tight to my chin. My wife soon followed and, in the process, yanked the blankets from beneath my chin.

"Dang, honey, cut it out! I'm freezing," I screamed like a slasher movie victim.

"I know," she said, "it's the worst. But, you know what's even worse?"

I thought about it. Couldn't come up with an answer. "No, what could possibly be worse?"

"When you come to bed late, and I'm almost asleep, you flap the covers," she said.
Well, first of all, I don't flap. Flapping is what the aforementioned penguins do. Or my mom when she's angry at a store clerk. Me? I don't flap. Second, of course, the only other reason for a good, hearty blanket-flapping is the Ernest Borgnine-validated "Dutch Oven." I'm not gonna explain it here, look it up. (Hey George Foreman has his grill, Ernie used his device to torture Ethel Merman, the reason his marriage to her ended in 32 days). Finally, sheesh, how bad could a sheet flapping be? Hyperbole much? I mean, really.
"C'mon," I said, "even if I do flap, it can't be that horrible."

"Oh, really?" She picked up the blankets and started flapping them.

It truly was terrible.

"Gah! Okay, okay, stop! I give up! Cut it out!"

She said, "It's awful, right? It's like someone turned a fan on beneath the sheets."

Sigh. As usual, she was right. It felt like a harsh breath blasted from Mother Winter's lips.

People, don't let this happen to you. I've got an eye on my future flapphishness. Winter is hell.

Speaking of hellish winters, you probably might want to stay clear of the Dandy Drop Inn (essayed in my historical documentation, Dread and Breakfast), where there's a mean storm a'brewin'. Checking in's easy. Checking out only happens in the six feet under sorta way. (Cash or check only, please).

Friday, February 8, 2019

Sixty Years of Grease!

Have you ever wondered what sixty years of grease looks like (and I'm NOT talking about a reunion of the cheezy musical, either). Well, we uncovered this disturbing sight when we moved out an old range from a house we bought for my daughter.

Wait. Let me back up.

Maybe you remember my kvetching about when my daughter and her two dogs moved into our house not so long ago: Hell-Spawn Hound Dogs. It soon became apparent the only way to get these needy dogs of destruction out of our house was to move them into their own house. Besides, my daughter couldn't keep commuting two hours a day to work.

So. We went house shopping in the small Kansas town where she works at a bank.

One realtor proclaimed his advertised house as "Ready to move into!" (Maybe if you're a rat.) The carpet was alternately black and green with hair and urine stains (I hope those were pet urine stains). One house visibly sloped to the side. We'll just call another house, "The International House of Mold" and leave it at that. I didn't think we'd make it out of that house of horrors alive. Things got worse from there.

My realtor buddy turned to my daughter, said, "Sarah, your town sucks."

Finally, we went back to the first house we looked at. In comparison, it seemed a hella lot better. Hey, at least it had a basement (cracked though it was), instead of all of those scary crawlspaces where, undoubtedly, bodies were buried.

So we bought the house. And have been working on it non-stop since, trying to make it habitable. Gotta get those dogs outta our house.

The problem is, the previous tenants (who'd been in the home for sixty years) had forgotten how to clean.
Really, really gross. Moving the dangerous range outta there exposed what sixty years of grease looked like. It wasn't pretty. Imagine "The Blob" if it was black. I went to town scrubbing. (Somehow I always get stuck with the less glamorous and triply gross jobs in the "World's Most Expensive Dog House.") Hours later, it finally came clean.

Proud of my handiwork, I turned to my wife, said, "You know, this is kinda fun. Maybe we should flip houses for a living."

Until the pain set in the next day and I came to my senses.

Speaking of creepy towns in Kansas, how about visiting the twelve or so sites on my spooktacular tour of Haunted Kansas? Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley, just a nightmarish day trip away.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Deaf and dumb is no way to go through life...

Well, I've always been dumb. Just ask my friends and brothers. But suddenly, I'm deaf, too.
Okay, okay, not quite deaf, but pretty much overnight, I woke up with substantial hearing loss.


So I'm now deaf and dumb, just one step away from being like "Tommy" (but I sure play a mean pinball).

How did this happen?  One day, I'm fine, the next thing I'm hearing things from inside a barrel. At first, I poo-poohed it, justified it as, "Ah, I just got fluid in my ears, no big deal, happened to me alla time as a kid."

Two months later, I got a little concerned. "Hmm, this doesn't seem right," I suggested.

I went to a clinic doctor, who said, "Yep, you've got fluid in your ears. Take a nasal spray." I did. It didn't help. I went back to my regular doctor. She said, "Huh, that's odd...I can't see anything wrong with your ears."


Off I trotted to an ear, nose, and throat specialist (who oddly enough shares an office with a dermatologist; yeah, I don't get it, either). So, the doc's tossing about some guess-work, sticks me in a sound-proof booth where another doctor straps electrodes to my scalp, and tortures me with a hearing test.

I flunked. The doc came back in, waving the failing grade paper around like my mean tenth grade English teacher, and says, "Yep, looks like nerve damage."

"But...but...doc," I said, "I'm too young for this to happen! And it happened over-night, no gradual hearing loss or anything!"

"That's how it always goes," he said, hardly the voice of reassurance.

See, if it had happened gradually, I might've had a chance to get used to it. Maybe eventually shake hands with the idea. But, instead...BOOM!

"So," continues Doctor Ear, Eye & Throat, "what I'm gonna do is punch a hole in your worst ear-drum, then fill the inner ear with a steroid. You'll have a 50-50 chance of getting your hearing back."


"Come with me."

Down the hall I shuffled. Nurse Rachet forced me onto a bed and demanded I sign no-fault papers. Wielding a terrifyingly long needle, the doctors eyes sparkled as he said, "this is gonna sting for...oh, I dunno, six seconds."

"Wait...what's that? I don't...AIEEEEEEE!"

It didn't just sting, it made me kick and jerk like a hanged man. (Six seconds, my arse.)

About a week later and after I'd nearly given up hope, the treated ear improved. For two miraculous days, I could hear fairly well again. reversed course. Depressed, I trudged back to the doctor.

"Doc," I said, "now I'm dizzy and both ears aren't working."

"Hmmm, I think you have Meniere's Disease."

"Wait...what? Now I've got a disease?"

He explained Meniere's as where fluid sets deep into the inner ears and is treated with a diuretic. "So, we'll treat that," he continued, "but let's go ahead and puncture your other eardrum, too."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold up a sec! I don't think that... AIEEEEE!"

So, here I sit several days later, writing this from the bottom of a barrel, hoping to regain my hearing. I mean, some of it's come back. But I'm an all or nothing kinda guy.

It's not all bad, I suppose. For instance, as an unexpected bonus, I hear inexplicable music from strange objects. My white noise sleep machine mysteriously plays polka music. The fan in the bathroom favors '50's doo-wop.

Also, my weekly shopping trips with my hard-of-hearing mom have become even more fun...

"What do you need, Mom?"



"Did you say something?"


"I asked you what you said!"

"I can't hear you! Gah! We both need hearing aids!"

"Not me, Stuart, but if you need to urinate, go ahead."

People wonder why the mother and son in the toilet paper aisle are shouting at one another.

Still, it's an uncomfortable sensation when your body begins to betray you, a sign of fatalistic aging. Something I'd taken for granted finally had had enough of the one-way relationship, and sent me packing. Humph, thanks for the memories.

So, okay, okay, I'm not totally deaf, but it's scary. Worst case scenario is I'll have to get a hearing aid (I'm NOT going to be like my mom). But I'm still totally, totally dumb as anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis can attest to.

Speaking of dumb, there are a lot of characters making poor and dumb choices in my short story collection, Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley. Furthermore, warnings of unnatural things generally fall on deaf ears. Check it out.