Friday, May 27, 2022

My Doggy Bodyguard

I feel so safe with Mr. Loomis having my back. For you see, he's my bodyguard.

It's not like we chose him to do this job. We didn't train him for the position. No, he's taken it upon himself to keep an eye on me 24-7, never letting me out of his sight, always following me even into the bathroom (which is becoming more of a communal experience in our house; not only does my wife have the uncanny accuracy of a heat-seeking missile while tracking me down whenever I'm sitting on the porcelain throne, but when you toss in two dogs into the small bathroom as well, it makes for a very unsatisfying time, if you know what I mean. But I digress...).

I have to wonder if Mr. Loomis feels he's doing a good job. Let's look at the facts: A) He's all of 22 pounds; B) He's fourteen years old; C) He's extremely hard of hearing. I have to kind of wonder what this little furry old man would do in case someone broke in. Piddle on the floor? What would he do if I fell and couldn't get up? Stare at me like I'm just one big bone as he always does?

Maybe it's in the breed. The Lhasa Apso dog originated in Tibet, where they were bred to be indoor "alarm dogs." They were taught to bark at fire and intruders. This makes somewhat sense, I suppose, in that Mr. Loomis doesn't want me to accidentally set myself on fire, but he rarely barks. Really, the only time he does yip is if he's pissed off at his sister, Bijou, or he wants to be noticed.

My other theory is perhaps something bad happened to his previous owner (we adopted the bonded duo) and he doesn't want to see history repeat itself. This kinda breaks my heart a little bit, but it also explains his neurotic tendencies, especially toward me. I can't sneak off to the kitchen without his shadowing me.

Now if only someone could explain why he's constantly licking the carpet. Maybe he just wants a steady diet full of fiber(s). (I know, I know, sorry, sorry, sorry...)

Speaking of furry critters, did you hear the one about that big corporation in Kansas City whose upper management is largely composed of werewolves? You haven't??? What's wrong with you??? Here's your chance to better yourself as a human being by reading my morbidly amusing horror tale, Corporate Wolf.


 

Friday, May 20, 2022

Bait and Switch at the Grocery Store

I didn't want to do it.

I never envisioned myself doing it.

But, recently, I went full-on Karen on a poor, hapless assistant manager at our neighborhood grocery store.

(Hangs head in shame.)

It really wasn't her fault either. I kinda knew that at the time, but when you're mad, you're mad. Yelling always helps. Well, not really... Or does it?

Anyway, my local big chain grocery store was running a promotion, the kind they do so often. If you're a card-carrying "Rewards" member, this entitles you to special sales, promos, gimmicks, and all kinds of crap. This week, the featured promo was if you spend $65 bucks on groceries, you'll get 65 cents off a gallon of gas. In this day of inflation with $4.00 gallons, that's what I'd consider a SCORE!

So, I start piling unwanted junk into my cart. Lessee...gotta have those bacon-wrapped jalapeno peppers, can't live without stuffed mushroom caps, french onion dip I need to sustain. You know, all the essentials. Anything to get the cart to tally up to 65 bucks.

So, the old check-out guy rings me up. When I get my receipt, I notice my 65 cent gas deduction isn't on there. I think, no problem, an oversight, I'll go directly to customer service and have it corrected, not the first time.

So the young girl grimaces and says, "Did you ask for it?"

"What?"

"Did you ask for it? You have to ask for it now."

Crickets. So many crickets. 

"I've never had to ask for it before," I say.

"I know," she says, her grimace growing. "It's a new rule that just came down from corporate. You have to ask the cashier for the discount."

My crickets slowly morphed into rockets red glaring. "It wasn't advertised! If that's not illegal, then it's highly unethical!" By this time, I'm gaining quite an excited crowd of looky-loos. Surely I'm on YouTube somewhere.

"I'm sorry, sir. It's not my rule."

"I'm not happy about this." I thought, wow, those strong words will show her.

"I know, I'm not happy about it either," she says.

"Well, can't you give me a break this once?" Like I'm pleading with a cop to let me go with a warning or something. "Can't you honor the gas discount since it wasn't advertised?"

"I wish I could," she says. "But it's the new corporate rule."

"I'm not happy about this." I keep chanting this like some kind of delusional mantra from a crazed bag lady. "I'm not happy about this." I hang my head, shaking it in disbelief. The further I travel through the store toward the exit, the angrier I'm getting. I can feel my face simmering with fireworks rage. I start yelling and cussing, Karen gone wild. "Goddammit! Had I known about this I wouldn't have bought sixty-five bucks worth of this crap! You didn't advertise it! That's illegal! Bait and switch! I'm not happy about this!!! I'm not happy about this!!!"

I'm getting louder and louder, truly looking and sounding like a schizophrenic bag lady pushing my cart by this point, yelling at no one in particular.

By the time I get to the car, I'm shaking. Ten minutes later, I'm home and feel really kinda bad about the way I treated the poor, hapless assistant manager. I've been searching for her for a month now, hoping to apologize, but haven't found her. I hope I didn't cause her to quit.

Meanwhile, the corporate office still hasn't replied to my Karentastic ranting messages. I wonder why?

While on the topic of bad behavior, there's plenty on display (of the "normal" and supernatural sort) in my darkly comic suspense thriller, horror, mystery, satire werewolf extravaganza, Corporate Wolf. Give it a look-see and learn how not to compose oneself in a corporate setting. (And how not to eat your coworkers). 





Friday, May 13, 2022

Melissa Etheridge...Unveiled!

I've got nothing against Melissa Etheridge. She's never done anything to me. But apparently she had to my friend. So in my endless efforts to uncover foul play and various hoo-hah through my intrepid reporting, I bring you this amazing expose! Hype! Ballyhoo! Maybe not even true!

I have a long-lasting friend. We'll call her "Carla." Carla went to Leavenworth High School in Leavenworth, Kansas, as did grammy-winning, multi-platinum superstar, Melissa Etheridge.

But all was not right with Ms. Etheridge. Apparently, she claimed to be dying (I'm not sure what the illness was). So Carla and her classmates decided to toss a fund-raiser and make all kinds of money to donate to Ms. Etheridge.

But...she didn't die. I'm pretty sure her classmates were waiting and waiting and waiting, the longest death watch in history. They got sick and tired of waiting. Anger spread around like wildfire.

And then...graduation! Ms. Etheridge beat feet on to fame and fortune, while the rest of her class wondered how they'd been scammed.

Okay. First all of my disclaimers: I don't know how much of the story is true. Oh, I have no doubt that Carla was telling the truth. But could it be possible that Ms. Etheridge was sick and miraculously got better? Or had it been an epic scam? Did Ms. Etheridge just want attention? High school can make desperate kids do desperate things sometimes.

Beats me.

I would've pressed it with Carla, but clearly she didn't want to talk about it any more, still carrying that ol' high school grudge. When you'd mention it in passing, Carla turned Hulkish and wanted to smash. I wasn't about to get in her way.

Years later, Ms. Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 and successfully beat it. Today, she's known for being a big cancer awareness advocate. Good for her! But she still owes Carla and her classmates!

We'll probably never know the truth. The only truth I know is that Ms. Etheridge won't be welcomed to come through Carla's window anytime soon.

Speaking of intrepid reporting, you won't find much of it in my historical ghost extravaganza, Ghosts of Gannaway, although it is (very loosely) based on the true events of Picher, Oklahoma. Excluding the ghosts, horror, characters, and story line. Everything else is true, though! (Mostly...kinda...sorta...maybe...)



Friday, May 6, 2022

I Have a...(gulp) Deviated Septum!

Hi. My name's Stuart and I have a deviated septum.

Greek chorus: Hi Stuart!

Not too long ago, my wife said, "I think you have a deviated septum."

My first response? "Well, thanks a lot! Rude!"

Honestly, I had no idea what it was. But just say it out loud. Go on, do it. I'll wait.

See what I mean? It sounds like I should be on the sexual offenders list or something. I suppose I should go door to door in the 'hood and introduce myself and tell everybody that it's part of my parole requirements to let them know about my deviancy.

Let's take a minute and break the term down. "Deviated" is derived from "deviant," which of course mutated from the ancient Greek term, "deviantus." And we all know what a deviant is, right? According to that know-it-all Webster...

...it means "departing from usual or accepted standards, especially in social or sexual situations."

Yow!

"Septum," of course, comes from a body part that was frequently used in Roman orgies ("Septumus"), later morphing into "Septic," and everyone understands what septic tanks are used for. (Of course, I'm going wildly on speculation here, but whatever; if major "news" outlets can make up stuff, so can I.)

So, putting what we've learned here together, apparently I suffer from a perverted posterior.

"I do not have a perverted arse!" I said, rather defensively.

My wife (who suffers no fool, which is odd she likes me) set me straight.  A deviated septum occurs when your nasal septum is significantly displaced to one side, making one nasal air passage smaller than the other. 

"Oh," I said.

It all makes sense now. I guess. It explains why my Covid mask nose clenchy thing is always swayed to one side. I suppose it might lend some explanation as to why I snore on my right side, but not my left.

Naturally, my dentist had to throw in her two cents. "Hmmmm," she says.

"'Hmmmm?' What's 'hmmmm?' Don't 'hmmmm' me when I've got tubes and your fingers in my mouth! Level with me, Doc! Are my teeth falling out??? What fresh hell does 'hmmmm' mean???"

(Of course this all came out as "Mmmm? Wha mmmm? Nah mmmm ee en ah gah uuh ah yah eeee..." Dentists always want to chat when your mouth is stuffed with fingers, tubes, and tools.)

"I believe you might have sleep apnea. I'm seeing signs of it."

So, I go in for a six-month check-up, and suddenly I'm leaving with this bagful of apparatus that I have to plug into my nose and strap over my head, chest and fingers. And supposedly sleep with.

"That'll be $400, Mr. West."

"What??? But...but...I didn't have any cavities! My insurance is supposed to pay--"

"We'll see you tomorrow."

As expected, I couldn't sleep, nothing new there. But this went the extra mile. I felt like a cyborg with all kinds of unnatural new add-ons not conducive for a peaceful night's slumber. I logged in maybe one hour tops.

After a month of not hearing from them, I gave the dentist's office a call. 

"Oh, sorry," says the dentist two days later, "I guess I missed the email. It looks like you have mild sleep apnea. We can hook you up with a device...let's see, it'll run about $2,500."

"$2,500! Because I snore? I can't afford that! That's crazy! I just wanted to get my teeth cleaned! Besides, I snore because I have a devia--"

"Um, there's no need to tell me about your personal life, Mr. West." (Okay, she didn't really say that, but I call it "taking artistic liberties." Sounds much better than lying.) "I would really recommend you get the device. Unfortunately, insurance won't cover it."

"$2,500!"

"That's correct."

"You do know that the results probably aren't correct, right?" I explain. "I mean, really, I only slept an hour. You understand that, right?"

A rattle of paper. "The report says here...that you have mild sleep apnea."

I knew she wouldn't listen. So, I decided to at least hear her out. "Okay, how intrusive is this device? I couldn't even sleep with the stupid test equipment on."

"Well, it's two pieces. The lower piece juts out your lower jaw."

"What??? I'd never be able to sleep with that! It sounds tantamount to torture!"

Long silence. Very long silence. "It's true some people can't sleep with it. But I would recommend you try it."

"$2,500 is a lotta green to throw down on an experiment I know I'll fail, " I say.

"I would recommend it."

Of course you would. "How 'bout I just lose some weight to stop my snoring?"

"I suppose that might help," she says, clearly doubtful that I can accomplish that goal.

"Well, how's that gizmo gonna fix my deviated septum, which is probably why I snore?"

"Mr. West, really...if you're going to talk like this, I'm hanging up now."

We went back and forth for some time, neither one of us coming to a settlement. Fighting dentists is harder than battling lawyers. I'm not sure who charges more either.

The moral of the story is never get a deviated septum.

Speaking of everything deviant, there's quite a few deviants running throughout the Dandy Drop Inn bed and breakfast. Maybe even some serial killer(s). But you'll have to check in to find out what I'm talking about. I understand their peach cobbler is just to die for! That's Dread and Breakfast, definitely (not) recommended by Oprah!




Friday, April 29, 2022

The Madness of March

Now I know why they call it "March Madness." You see, it's a sickness. I know only all too well. For you see, I too, recently succumbed to this horrible ailment, reducing me to screaming like a lunatic and bouncing off the walls.

Thank God I got better. It was touch and go there for a while.

Okay, those who know me understand that I'm not a sports guy. Gasp. Choke! Shocker! Anyway, I never have been and honestly thought I never would be. But this insidious March Madness is highly infectious, a pandemic of rabid sports fans gone wild.

Not too long ago, I visited my daughter. She said, cool, but we have to watch the KU basketball game for the tournament championship.

I grumbled and groused, begrudgingly gave in, thinking "how bad can it be if the beer's flowing?"

Turns out, pretty damn bad.

A little background: By all rights I probably should've been excited about the University of Kansas Jayhawks being in the final game. KU is my alma mater, after all. But anytime you have grown men playing with balls and other grown men painting their faces and screaming like banshees at the grown men stuffing balls into nets has always just made my eyes glaze over. I always thought that I'd never fall prey to such barbaric behavior, especially when there's really nothing at stake other then grown men shoving balls into nets.

I was wrong.

My daughter and I started watching the game. The beer's flowing nicely. I'm finding myself becoming increasingly interested in how KU is faring. At half-time, KU's down big and my daughter is pretty much resigned to their losing. But I stand by them. I'm starting to call them by their names like we're pals. I claim ownership and start saying things like, "Oh, we really blew it there" and "We were fouled!" By the end of the game--and it was a real nail-biter--my daughter and I are standing up, jumping, and screaming at the top of our lungs, "That's how we do! That's how we do!" (That statement shamelessly ripped off from Jaden Smith defending his dad's actions  at the Academy Awards. And that's ALL I'll ever say about that travesty.)

See what I mean, though? This March Madness is nefarious, reducing civilized people into screeching baboons and forcing them to proclaim ownership over a team of grown men playing with balls. (In truthfulness, this actually occurred in April, but the Madness carried over).

Whew. I wasn't proud of my my barbaric behavior. (You don't suppose multiple beers had anything to do with it, right? Nah, I didn't think so).

March Madness is aptly named. It's a disease. A bad one. (Actually "March Madness" is used as a sort of brand name for the NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball Tournament. I can see two reasons for it being named March Madness: 1) The real name is a mouthful and a half. By the time sports maniacs spit out the full name, their enthusiasm will have been spent; 2) It's a nefarious illness. Duh.)

Won't you help me stop the March Madness? Please send all donations to me c/o Twisted Tales of Tornado Alley, P.O. Box Scam, Hickville, Kansas.

While on the topic of horrible, infectious diseases, something bad is affecting the miners of Gannaway, Kansas, and I'm not even talking about the ghosts and hauntings. No sir, the "yellow-eyed fever" is turning Gannaway's inhabitants downright homicidal. Come on over, pay a visit, kick your feet up, but don't dwell. It's a might downright scary town. Read all about it in Ghosts of Gannaway!


 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Assault of the Comic Book Geek

I have a confession to make. I'm Stuart and I used to be a comic book fan. There. I said it. It's kinda weird, though. When I used to be a comic book geek, there was a certain uncoolness and shame attached to it. Nowadays, it's considered cool, even chic. Figures. That's me, always falling and drowning in the wave of cool.

Anyway, thanks to the ginormous Comic-Cons and shows like The Big Bang Theory, comic book geekery has achieved new levels of acceptance. Hollywood goes out of there way to court the army of geeks.

But I'm going to let you in on a little secret...comic book geeks can be downright mean, scary, even.

I know, right?

Let me lay down some hard to believe facts.

You know, when I was a kid, my parents would drop me off at the local big comic book store once a month. There I'd lose myself for hours, adrift in a sea of four-color tights and fights.

Yet the cranky old guy who ran the place hated me. I wasn't sure if it was me or he hated kids in general, but he was downright mean to me. He made me feel like I shouldn't have even been in the store, always yelling and barking at me around his cigar. Huh. Funny. You'd think that comic books were, oh, I dunno, kinda aimed toward kids.

But that's not even the worst comic bookery transgression that had happened to me.

I once saw a couple of older comic book fans nearly get into a fight over who would win in a battle between Submariner and Aquaman. Harsh words were shouted over the comic book counter, the Marvel fan nearly in tears. I left before blood was drawn. (Personally I'd root for Aquaman to kick whiny Submariner's arse.)

Comic bookery can get mean.

The worst comic book trauma that happened to me was at a cheap comic book convention in a Kansas City hotel. I don't even remember why or how my brother went with me (he was as anti-comic book as they come), but somehow I'd talked him into it.

I was looking around, searching for rare back issues of an independent artsy-fartsy comic book called "Zot (years later, my tastes were exonerated in that the auteur behind Zot, Scott McCloud, produced a critically acclaimed and land-breaking "bible" on the art of comic book storytelling)." 

Anyway, I was mulling over one kid's boxes of comics. He asked me, "Is there anything in particular you're looking for?"

I said, "Back issues of Zot."

This fat, pimply-faced kid whosevoice had barely just broken shrieks in laughter. "Zot! Ha! You're looking for Zot! Zot!" He turns to the dealer next to him. "Zot! Can you believe that? He wants Zot!" Unbelievably, this assault went on for minutes while I just stood there dumbfounded, shocked into silence.

But my brother, hot-head that he can be, sure didn't stay quiet.For once he defended me. "Shut up, Beaver!" (He did kinda look like Jerry Mathers.) "What do you like? Do you get off on She-Hulk? Take the X-Men to the bathroom with you?" It went on and on and got very ugly.

Beaver did shut up, turned into thirty shades of red, and sank into his folding chair. I grabbed my brother and we got the hell outta there before the comic book police showed up.

It's pretty sad when comic book geeks turn on one another, so much for brotherhood in comic bookery.

See what I mean? Comic bookery isn't for the faint of heart. It's a deadly business.

While I'm on the topic of deadly business, Leon Garber's possibly in the most deadly kind of business (outside of comic bookery, natch). Accountant by day, he's a serial killer by night. Not to worry, though, he only targets the worst possible people around. The problem is someone's hunting him now. Worse, it's his former employer, Like-Minded Individuals, Inc. It's complicated. A trilogy's worth of complications. Check out the first book, Secret Society, here.



Friday, April 15, 2022

When Dogs Murder

Psst... There's something dreadfully wrong with my daughter's dog, Baron!

Don't let his cute looks deceive you! He wears those well-earned Debbil's Horns for a reason.

Let me 'splain...

Last weekend, I was visiting my daughter and dog-watching for her so she could go gallivanting across the Midwest. Now, to take on the daunting chore of dog-sitting means I have to sacrifice sleep for the cause. For you see, her two dogs are "bed dogs." Personally, I don't think any dog should be a bed dog (especially when one of them is several hundred pounds of red coon hound who inevitably takes up 90% of the bed), but, hey, they're not my dogs and it's not my house.

So, there I was, tossing and turning, fighting for dominance over the bed with the coon hound. But he's not the problem. It's the other one I'm wary of, needing to keep an eye on.

For you see, once I finally did knock out for the night, I felt a very strange sensation. A presence in my face, the way you can intuit someone in the dark, silent as snow.

I open my eyes and my daughter's Beagle is standing over me, hovering, quiet, still as a statue, snout close to my face. Unnerving doesn't do it justice.

What did he want? What did it mean? Why didn't he lick me, at least, or maybe yip, whine, or bark?

I got nothing, except for a case of cold chills.

When my daughter returned the next morning, I told her of my odd, nocturnal, alien encounter.

She said, "I know, right? He does that." She gave it some more thought and added, "Do you think he's plotting to kill us?"

Yes. Yes, I do think that very, very much.

You guys have all heard the horrific story of some woman in France who got wasted, passed out, and her dog ate her face off, right? Fun, I know, but who knows what Baron's plotting. Maybe a fate even worse then face eating. Or perhaps he was envisioning how my face would taste, one step away from giving into his secret cravings.

Who really knows what goes on in the minds of dogs, particularly with my daughter's sociopathic, murderous Beagle? I think he's just biding his time, waiting for the revolt to begin so he and his cohorts can finally turn the tables on their human oppressors and put us in collars and make us go to the bathroom outside in the snow.

All I know is I'm keeping one eye open the next time I sleep over. Of course that would probably be the first delectable morsel Baron would go after.

Speaking of nefarious plots, have a look at my darkly comic and suspenseful serial killer trilogy, Killers Incorporated. There's so much plotting, back-stabbing, murder, mayhem, and action going on, it took three books to unravel my tale of serial killers versus the evil corporate world (psst, the serial killers are the good guys. Kinda. Sorta. It's complicated.). The first book is Secret Society, followed by Strike and Killer King. Whaddaya waiting for? Go!