Friday, December 8, 2023

Pharmacy Etiquette

You'd think I'd know how to behave in a pharmacy, right? Apparently not. It's not like I haven't been properly schooled either; my wife is a pharmacist and my daughter has worked in one, so no problem. Except ask the very Angry Karen who I managed to hack off at the pharmacy last week.

Of course with the holidays quickly approaching, several days before Thanksgiving, my body decided to betray me. 

"Ha ha!" it railed. "You were all set to gorge yourself silly so I'm stopping you from doing that! Poof! You feel like a poo-poo platter!" (Quick juvenile sidebar: I used to enjoy ordering poo-poo platters at Chinese restaurants. Not because I liked the food; no way! I just enjoyed saying it out loud and having a little giggle. Yes, I'm six years old. But I digress...)

So, my wife takes off to enjoy being with the family, leaving me home in a pile of tissues and hacking my lungs out. Naturally, I thought I had Covid. Again. So I took a test. It was indeterminate. There were two red lines. What? There was no protocol for two red lines. 

I waited and took another test the next day. Still same strange results. Huh, I thought. Either I'm dead and in the Twilight Zone or something seems off.

Sure enough, the two tests had expired. Back to the drawing board with yet another test. This one came out as negative, but after inspecting the various packets and stuff, one of them had expired by several months. Another test was enjoyed by my nostrils and flooding eyes!

Finally, I bit the bullet and went to Urgent Care. Now the only thing I hate more than going to the doctor is going to Urgent Care. Here, you'll generally wait for hours and hours and hours in a waiting room packed with the sickest people this side of a Covid ward. But this time I had a plan. As they opened at 10:00 A.M., I decided to get there, wait it out in front of the doors like a Black Friday Walmart Raider, and get a jump on the sick masses.

I got in. And of course, first thing they wanted to do was give me a Covid test. Fun! While I should've been packing myself silly until I was sick with all sorts of high carb foods, I was having my nostrils tortured by Nurse Ratched.

So, bronchitis, bla, bla, bla. They phoned it into a nearby pharmacy (my regular one was closed on Sunday because no one is allowed to get sick on the Lord's Day.).

I gave it a good hour before I showed up. The pharmacist on duty was young and angry, clearly wanting his Sunday back, didn't speak until I did, no time for pleasantries (in fact everyone I dealt with there NEVER spoke to me first, the onus always being on me), and not once even looked up at me. "It'll be...thirty minutes," he said. While I sat down, he repeated this line numerous times to other customers, always with the well-rehearsed pause in the same place as if he was actually giving the time frame ample consideration. I mean, AS IF.

While I sat, coughing behind my mask, a long line of other drug-needing customers lined up. Sure enough after thirty minutes of drudgery (there oughta be a law against vapid non-stop Christmas music in public places this early), the eye-contact-avoiding pharmacist blipped out my name. I jumped out of my chair to go approach him. And he ignored me.

I thought, well, maybe I'm in the wrong line. So without giving it a second thought I raced over to the clerk at the pick-up line.

Using awkward hand gestures, I said, "Um, that guy over there just called my name."

The clerk is looking over my shoulder at the other waiting customers, anywhere but me. Man, what charm school did they all graduate from?

But then it hit me...did I just cut in line? Surely not. I mean, my name was called. And I'd already done my due diligence by waiting in line the first time, so my behavior is perfectly acceptable. Right? RIGHT?

By the time my bout of doubt and second doubt had fully ensnared me within its nefarious clutches, I could feel unrest at my back. Daggers, even.

I turned, mustered up an awkward smile, and said to the first person in line, "Hey, I'm sorry if I cut in line. I didn't mean to... I'd already  waited in line before and, um, he just called my name...and, um..." My hands and thumbs gesticulated in every direction, seeking out visual aid in my time of need and failing me horribly, rendering me into a drunken traffic cop.

The woman in charge of the restless natives was ballcapped, young, dressed in expensive looking designer workout clothes, and very, VERY angry. She said nothing. I kinda was expecting a small smile, maybe a handwave, a "oh, you're fine."

Instead I got the most hateful glare, slow shake of the head, and upturned sneer I've ever been accorded. She followed up with an arm-fold and a very audible snort through her inflated and enflamed nostrils. Absolutely spewing out her incredibly self-entitled rich, white yuppie anger. 

In the halls of CVS, I faced down the fury of Karen Unleashed.

I've seen how things like this can escalate on YouTube, so I hauled ass, arms full of prescriptions, out of there.

Later I asked both my wife and daughter if what I had done constituted poor pharmacy etiquette. To my relief, they both said no, since I'd already waited in line.

But try telling that to Karen, Angry Queen of CVS. Undoubtedly, it's my fault, though. Had I kept my mouth shut and not offered an apology (even though I didn't think it truly necessary, just covering the bases), then I wouldn't have fed her flames of self-righteous indignation. Akin to feeding online trolls, sometimes I just can't help myself.

Let this be a warning, friends. Beware of Karens in pharmacies. They're mad, they're there, and they want to see the manager NOW!

While I've got bad decisions on my mind, consider poor Shawn Biltmore. Stuck in a dead-end, miserable drudge of corporate nonsense job, his love-life is also going nowhere. Until he gets bitten by a werewolf. Things change. And not necessarily for the better. Yet it doesn't stop Shawn from forging ahead from one bad decision to another. Yes sir, it's corporate satire at its fiercest, funneled through the lens of a horror tale and more werewolves than you can toss a stick to. Check out the horror, suspense, and dark humor of Corporate Wolf. Tell them Karen sent you. And then demand to see the manager.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Revenge of the Angry Drunken Dads!

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to Lawrence, Kansas , the Angry Drunken Dads return! Some of you may recall my first dangerous sojourn to Lawrence last year for the Father's Day celebration with my brother and nieces to the University of Kansas, my alma mater (and if you don't remember it, go refresh your memory HERE. Go on... I'll wait). What's supposed to be a celebration of fathers and their kids at college has--and still is--a reason for dads to go wild, show extreme bad behavior, get stupid hammered, try to relive their glory days, and get in fights. It's AWESOME!

First of all, it never ceases to amaze me how my nieces aren't embarrassed by me and their dad; I couldn't even imagine my parents stepping foot into a bar without disturbing the living daylights out of me. But, hey, as long as the girls are good with it, I'm in!

We started our annual adventure by visiting my niece's sorority house. Well...that's not quite accurate; it was a fraternity that the sorority was now living in.

"What? Where're the frat boys?" I asked.

My niece replied, "They got kicked off of campus. So, while they rebuild our house, they put us in here. It's got mold everywhere."

Huh. The mind boggles about how bad the frat guys must've been to get kicked out of their house and off campus. Furthermore, I wondered what they did to accumulate their mold collection. Needless to say, I washed my hands frequently.

And while in the bathroom, there were a couple of girls in there.

I hollered, "Hey, don't worry about me, I'll just be over here at the urinals." 

Now one thing we hadn't considered on our excursion was that Drunken Angry Dads are generally solitary creatures, not prone to running in packs. Which is why my brother and I ended up looking like the girls' "two dads." In the spirit of angry drunkeness, we decided to embrace it and run with it, enjoying introducing ourselves as their two dads. And it STILL didn't embarrass the girls. Tough crowd, tough crowd.

Onward HO! Luckily, the ex-frat house was just a hop, skip and jump away from the girls' favorite bars. But on the way there, we ran into a couple of dads who were threatening everyone on the street with keg stands. (For the uninitiated, keg stands are where you do a handstand on top of a keg and drink as long as possible; I don't get it either, but those are just some of the rules of the Angry Drunken Dad Convention.)

These two little drunk dads were trying to coerce all of us into doing a keg stand.

They hoisted one of my nieces up and barely managed to keep her there. 

"C'mon," they said to me, "your turn."

I looked at these small men and scoffed. " guys can't lift me."

"Oh, we'll get you up," said the runt of the litter.

I passed, unwilling to throw my back out for a keg stand. However, I was talked into drinking some nutty cocktail out of a community bucket that another drunken dad was passing around. Throwing caution--and germs and sickness!--to the wind, I sipped mightily. (And, lo, it came to pass that I fell sick the following week!)

First stop was Bullwinkles, the bar where a very drunk girl gave me a five minute head massage last year. Sure enough, she was there, getting her drink on. But this year she had forsaken me, having taken up with another old bald guy. She's got a type. Ah, such a fickle head massager.

In the crowd, drunk dads bopped about to the blaring rap music, twisting their feet, shaking the two-fingered pointy rap deal, and painfully trying to look young and cool. Among this year's celebrities was Steve Bannon, who obviously was on the run from Johnny Law, hiding out in a Kansas college bar. Here I am in front of Bannon.

Too loud to chat, the rap music blaring at ear-busting decibels, we pretty much drank in silence. Some idiot girls brought in two tiny "purse puppies" who were clearly terrified and shaking by the crowd and noise. Time to go!

On our way to the next bar, I asked, "Is rap the music of choice these days? I don't get it."

My brother says, "Yeah, I didn't get it at first either. But I've come to accept it." So if my brother accepts it, all is right in Lawrence, Kansas.

Next stop, Loogies! Now at this bar, the music of choice was '80's alt rock, one of my faves. So maybe it was the excessive amount of beer or maybe it was just my jam, but I turned into one of those be-bopping drunken dads (but not angry, mind you, not yet). 

My niece was saying how her hardest class was The History of Rock and Roll. To which I just expressed shock.

"C'mon, how hard can it be? You got the blues, Chuck Berry, Elvis, then the Beatles, and finally rap. Boom! History!"

I proceeded to quiz her on who the current singer blasting over the speakers was. I was absolutely appalled that she didn't know who David Bowie was. What are they teaching these guys in college anyway?

Earlier I said that everyone at KU listens to rap. Another thing they all do is vape. Every last student there. Smoking is so outre these days. In fact the only smoker I saw was Steve Bannon (natch). But every last damn student was toking away on their little boxes. Naturally, we had to make a pitstop at one of these vape shops.

Now, I've never been in one of these places before and doubt I ever will again. First of all, it smelled like Steve Bannon's socks being burned in a fireplace. Second, it's outrageously overwhelming. There was a massive wall just loaded with different flavors, types, scents, whatevers. Huge sensory overload. There was a ginormous section devoted to Mike Tyson flavors alone (and of course when I think of vaping, I think of Mike Tyson. Or whatever).

My brother asked the little hippy working there what good "ice" flavors he had.

I proffered, "Hey, what about Vanilla Ice?"

My brother giggled, the girls looked embarrassed, and the clerk sneered at me and yelled at me for leaning on the glass case.

Our next stop on the Angry Drunken Dad tour was a bar so crowded we couldn't even get to the bar, so we abandoned ship and went to Leroy's, a pool hall. We gathered into a recently abandoned booth and drank.

Soon, though, a couple guys in their late twenties or early thirties came up and stood before us, saying nothing.

"Oh," I said, not wanting to get in an Angry Drunken Dad brawl, "did we, um...ah...did we take your table?"

"Yeah," said one guy, "we just went to the bathroom." Which was kinda weird. I knew women went in pairs to "powder their noses," but I didn't know guys did. Oh, wait! Maybe they were "powdering INTO their noses."

Anyway, the guys settled down, one wandered off, and I thought the other guy would never leave. Turned out he played for KU back in the '90's so he had a LOT to say about the Jayhawks football team. We ended up on a friendly note, he wanting to shake hands. And I suddenly developed nervous not-knowing-what-to-do etiquette. First I offered a fist bump, then retracted, slid into a regular handshake, pulled away, and ridiculously ended up in an old-fashioned "soul hand shake" the kind that hasn't been a thing since the '70's. No idea why, chalk it up to beer and my desire to be cool. And like so many other Drunken Dads, I failed miserably.

Of course we had to end up at the Hawk. Now "The Hawk" was my college hang-out back in the day, a cheap place to drink (Thursday nights were quarter draws!) and go nuts. But, my oh my, how times have changed. I honestly don't understand how college kids can get their drink on at the crazy prices (and vaping ain't cheap). Having had a particularly grotesque experience at the Hawk last year, this year was pretty much the same, down to that ever-present odor. In fact, every bar we went to had that oh-so-familiar smell. The scent of higher education!

Here we met one of my niece's friends, the fourth starting quarterback for the Jayhawks. If only one more quarterback had been injured in that day's game, he might've gotten off the bench! Still, it didn't detract from his own set of groupies hanging all over him.

As day turned into night and more Drunken Dads staggered about, delusional in their beliefs that they were still the Kings of the World, another group became readily apparent, particularly in their despondency. This would be the Dejected Dormitory Dude pack.

Thin as rails, unable to afford (or pick out) stylish clothing, sporting haircuts that only a mother could love, they were easily identified by their round-shouldered dejection. When they'd leave the bar, it wasn't the boisterous Hey-Ho, Let's Go of the frat rats.

No, I could practically read their thoughts, having been one of the downtrodden myself many years ago: "Oh well...struck out again. May as well go back and play Grand Theft Auto."

As we wound down our exciting Angry Drunk Dad Day with a delicious (except not) dinner at Quik-Trip, a sudden epiphany struck me.

"Hey," I asked one niece, "do the moms act this way on Soused Mother's Day?"

"Oh, yeah," she answered with an eyeroll. Man. I, for one, am gonna move heaven and earth to crash that shindig next year!

Speaking of crashing events, you might want to stay away from the Dandy Drop Inn, a quaint little bed 'n breakfast located deep into the Midwest. There've been rumblings that some of the people visiting aren't the most...well, friendly of folks. Checking in is easy...checking out's killer. Read all about it in my helpful travelogue, Dread and Breakfast.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Hazardous to pests and oafs

Sometimes I just can't help myself. Blessed (or cursed, more like) with an innate sense of curiosity, said curiosity has gotten me into a few messes during my lifetime. And yet, none quite as messy as a couple weeks ago.

I was upstairs in our office, fiddling around on my computer when I noticed a strange new item I hadn't seen before.

What's this strange, yet oddly compelling and weirdly attractive item I've never seen before, I pondered. Where did it come from? What is its purpose? I'm absolutely drawn to this mystery item with the attractive design wrapped around it, so much so that I MUST hold it.

So, curiosity drew me to it. Or I should say curiosity drew it to me. And you know what they say about that poor, damned cat, right?

I clutched the mystery obelisk around its middle and it clutched me right back. I gasped, a short intake of shock. 

What fresh hell is this? Why won't it let me go??? Am I in a Hellraiser movie???

I shook my hand, panicking, yet the stubborn object held on, much worse than my several Super Glue mishaps in the past. I jumped out of my chair, used my other hand to pull it away, yet that hand became equally ensnared around the insidious man-trap. Using my body, I pushed it up against the wall. Now my shirt was glued to the damned, damnable object from Hell.

Hopping around the room, waving my arm like a hillbilly who bit off more than he could chew (or vice versa) when he went noodling for the king of catfish, I flailed into plants and knocked over lamps.

"Help," I screamed. "Help! Help!" But it was to no avail. I was alone in the home. Unless you count my freaked out dogs who were just staring at me.

Finally, through the grace of God (and leverage, can't dismiss leverage), I managed to dislodge the hellish man-trap and flung it across the room.

My hands still sticky, I phoned my wife. Stat. "WHAT was that damned thing?"

After she was finished laughing at my trauma, she said, "A gnat trap. You're not supposed to pick it up. Duh. Now go wash your hands thoroughly."

Well. Did I feel stupid. But in my defense, there was no packaging. Packaging that might've said...oh, I dunno..."Warning! Harmful to pests, insects, and big, dumb, oafish men." Furthermore, why in the hell would the manufacturers make a pest trap attractive?

It's not like a pack of flies (are they "packs?") say to one another, "Hey, Charlie, check out that way-cool design on that decidedly retro-looking obelisk over yonder!"

"Wow," says Charlie, "I find myself strangely compelled to land on it to check it out further! But look out for the big, dumb oafish man sitting next to it."

Instead of a compelling design, I would rather have them imprint "WARNING! STICKY AS HELL!" all over it in big, bombastic, dreadfully dark letters. I doubt it would make much of a difference to gnats.

Speaking of guys who make some really dumb decisions, meet Tex McKenna, the protagonist of my Tex, the Witch Boy trilogy (well, quartet, kinda). But unlike me, Tex is a teenager, so making bad decisions is tantamount to growing up. (There's, um, no excuse for me, however.) Tex is also a witch and embroiled in a serial killer murder mystery at his high school. It's complicated. To find out how complicated, check the books out here!

Friday, November 17, 2023

"I Don't Want To Die For David Sedaris!"

We had tickets to go see David Sedaris, had 'em for a long time. But the closer the show date came, I started having doubts. Something I couldn't quite put my finger on.

I had no doubts regarding Sedaris, a particularly insightful and amusing anecdotist. But with the show in October quickly approaching, my doubts began to solidify.

The day of the show, I was getting dressed. Kinda hemming and hawing and dragging my feet.

"This shirt feels too small. Does it look too small?" I whined to my wife. Standing in front of the mirror, I looked like a tightly packed sausage, splitting at the casing.

"Does it feel comfortable," she asked in return.

"I guess. If I suck my gut in."

"You can suck your gut in for David Sedaris," she said.

Then it hit me. Jackpot! The answer to my doubts about going to the show that night. "But...but...I don't want to die for David Sedaris!" 

For you see, it was the time of the year and I had yet to get my new Covid shot. Now I know that these days it's practically de rigueur to stop worrying about Covid and move on with your life. But not too long before this October play-date, I had attended a funeral of someone who had passed away from the dreaded disease. And from what I'd been reading, the newest Covid strain was making a dent into people once again. I wasn't quite ready to throw the mask back on (and how did I tolerate that for as long as I did?), but the old creeping, crawling, scary fears were coming back.

Now, don't get me wrong, it wasn't for lack of trying that I'd failed to acquire my shot. I'd been trying for three weeks.

At my grocery store, I thought I could waltz right in, wait five minutes and get jabbed like I'd done in the past.

"Do you have an appointment?" asked the pharmacist on duty.

"Ah, no...I didn't know I needed one."

"Yes. We're kinda short on vaccine this year, so we're only doing it by appointment."

So, I needed to cut a little red tape. No problem. I whipped out my phone and asked, "So...what's your phone number?"

She looked at me incredulously, tolerating no fools. "You CAN'T just call now for an appointment." I could tell she struggled to tamper down an eyeroll. "We don't have any openings until next week."

"Okay. So...can I sign up now?"

"It's best if you do it online." She tapped on a flyer with the website address.

"Fine!" I huffed and screamed on the way out. "But if I die, it's on YOU!" (Note: I only imagined shouting this last line. Not even I'm that big of a jerk.)

When I got home, I prepared for battle with technology. Great, I thought. It says I need good, clear photos of my health insurance card.

So, through extraordinary pains and effort, I took photos of my card. As a cute bonus, I held it up next to my face to show the pharm tech my winning smile. I emailed the pics to my computer and began to complete the process of online appointment setting.

But the mindless automaton behind the process told me, "I'm sorry. We can't find any stores in your area."

WHAT? I was just there! Stoopid, stoopid, stoopid damn automaton couldn't find a grocery store right in front of you, grumble, brumble, grumble...

So, Plan B... While picking up a prescription for my wife at our local pharmacy, I asked the pharmacist, "Hey, do you have to have an appointment to get a Covid shot?"

She said, "No, we take walk-ins."

I checked the time. "Great...but I can't do it now. I've got somewhere to be." (Like she cared about this or something.) "I'll just come back tomorrow! How does that sound?"

"Sounds good," she said in a manner that was decidedly not so good.

The next day there was a different pharmacist on duty. "Hi, I'd like to get my Covid shot!"

"Well, we have plenty of the vaccine on hand, but we're doing it by appointment only," he says.

"What? But...but...but..."

"And we're pretty full up now. I think the first opening Monday."

"Okay," I groused, "Sign me up."

He taps another flyer. "Scan this and do it online."

Once home, I go to work. Photos of insurance card? Check. Did it find my store? Check. Will I be able to sign up for...for...

"I'm sorry," the screen read. "At this time there are no available appointments." To make matters worse, the automated response didn't sound "sorry" in the least.

Out of desperation, I went through all of the local (and near local) pharmacies and grocery stores I could find on my phone, frantically searching for the life-saving vaccine. I struck out time and time again. It was quite a different scenario than when the vaccine first hit here. At that time, the government was actually paying people to get vaxxed. Now you couldn't buy a shot.

Finally--FINALLY--I was able to beat the system and schedule an appointment a week out from the date. Days after my David Sedaris show. Gulp!

You know, I had Covid once before. But mercifully, it was after I'd had the first shots, thus rendering what could've been a death sentence into about four days of misery. I don't have time or patience for Covid deniers. Frankly, I can't even believe there are such a thing. Anyone who believes that Covid isn't real is an idiot and a walking insult to the three million plus people who've died from it. So kindly keep your stupidity to yourselves. Along with your germs.

I survived the Sedaris show (and had forgotten my mask, too, showing how used to life without it I had become!), but the two guys behind me had me scared. The only two guys constantly coughing throughout the sold-out auditorium.

While I'm mulling over stupid people, guys don't get any dumber than Zach, one half of the protagonist team in my comic mystery Zach and Zora series. It's that old cliché of a dunderheaded male stripper with a heart of gold who can't help but stumble across corpses all the time, until his long-suffering, usually pregnant sister, Zora, has to find out who the true murderer is. Be there for all the laughs, murder, mystery, and wicked dance moves you can handle. Start at the beginning with Bad Day in a Banana Hammock!

Friday, November 10, 2023

Mr. Fix-It Has Gone Missing!

A feeling of dread fell over me like a purple bruise-colored storm cloud. Again, I checked that I had the right hours on Mr. Fix-It's shop. Yep, 10:00 A.M. The neon sign in the window declared "Open" in bright, cheery, yellow letters. Yet it didn't match my mood as I pulled on the door handle again, just making sure I hadn't lost that much muscle mass due to aging. Or maybe latent OCD. Either way, it remained locked.

I rattled the door, thinking that possibly Mr. Fix-It--another victim of inescapable aging--had pulled a morning siesta, dozing off behind his desk while watching day-time, screaming TV. My hands cupped, I peered into the store-wide window. Nothing. Not even a shining ray of hope beaming from beneath the bathroom door.


I went to my car, thought I'd wait it out. In the car, my mind rattled like a maraca tossed around by a bratty toddler. 

What could've possibly happened to Mr. Fix-It? It reminds me of that true crime mini-series I watched where nobody knew the housewife had been brutally slaughtered behind her locked doors. Mr. Fix-It's gotta be raking in the cash for all of those high-dollar repairs. A victim of robbery. Better call Five-O.

But before I did that, I called the store number and watched carefully as I sat parked mere feet from the front window. Looking--no, hoping--for movement inside.

Instead, I got a cold, metallic, recorded voice. A voice that sent ice slaloming down my ski-slope of a back. A voice from beyond the grave. "Hello, you've reached Mr. Fix-It. I'm sorry we're unable to help you right now because we're with another customer. Please leave your name and number and we'll get back to you shortly. Have a nice day."

I held the phone glued to my ear as the line went dead. As dead as Mr. Fix-It, no doubt. Slowly, the phone dropped to my side. Could I be misreading the happenstances? I squinted, looking inside again. Maybe Mr. Fix-It was helping a secret customer in the back room, a celebrity perhaps who wanted to keep a low profile, not wanting to let Joe Public know that he had a vacuum cleaner on the blink. 

But...but...there ARE no celebrities in Kansas City. Yet...the recording steadfastly insisted that Mr. Fix-It was with another customer.

So, I waited. I picked up my phone, dialed in 911. My finger hovered over the button, close to detonating. 

But what would I be detonating?

Wait, just wait, wait a gol-darned minute! What if Five-O suspects me? After all, my fingerprints are all over the door handle, my DNA smeared onto the plate-glass window. Maybe Mr. Fix-It had even installed a security camera, capturing footage of me, madly yanking at the door. No, better to keep it cool. That's right. Play it cool, reallllll cool, the way I roll.

So I rolled out of there, taking back roads all the way home, my gaze glued onto the rearview mirror, looking for Johnny Five-O's red and blue cherries to be twirling a psychedelic light-show of guilt, guilt, GUILT.

The following week I had many restless nights, unable to sleep. Wondering if I did the right thing. 

What if I'd left Mr. Fix-It, laying in a pool of his own blood, gasping for breath, holding onto dear, sweet life, scrawling my name in his own blood and implicating me, thus sending me down the river, where I'd end up in the Big House, wearing caked-on deep-blue mascara while holding onto a big thug's belt-loop?

What other options did I have? Friday night as I lay in bed, sweating, expecting the worst, and knowing that the even worse worst was just around the corner, I made up my mind. A decision that would undoubtedly change my life forever.

After my sixth night of sleeplessness, I decided to return to the scene of the crime.

With great trepidation, I drove to my destiny, fearing I'd see yellow tape in front of Mr. Fix-It's store, designating it a crime scene. I pulled in front of the store, parked and turned off the ignition. No crime tape, but the cops had probably already been there and were looking for me by now, APB's posted city-wide. The neon light in the door still proclaimed "Open," but that didn't signify anything. I wondered if Mr. Fix-It still lay rotting in the back room, starting to stink by now, flies buzzing around his corpse and starting to lay eggs in his ears.

Then...suddenly...the door swept open. Broom in hand, Mr. Fix-It stepped out!

Near tears of relief, I jumped out of the car and ran to Mr. Fix-It, my voice trembling as much as my hands.

"Mr. Fix-It," I screamed, "I've been so worried! I was...I came here last Saturday at 10:20 and you weren't here!" My arms wanted to wrap around Mr. Fix-It's neck and pull him into a long, loving embrace, but my mind--somehow, wisely--forbade the move.

Mr. Fix-It took a step back and said, "Oh. On Saturdays, we sleep in a little bit and don't get here until 10:30."

My mouth dropped. A blood red veil shaded over my line of vision. I stumbled back a step, felt my hands shaking again, this time not out of a sense of great loss and morbid fear, but out of an uncontrollable, inevitable, building rage.

"What?" The only word I could mutter.

"Saturdays we like to take it easy and grab an extra half hour of shuteye before we get here, " he said, smiling a very dumb, caught with his hand-in- the-cookie-jar grin.

"But...but...your door...your website...says you open on Saturdays at 10."

"Oh, well." Still grinning like a mischievous school-boy who'd been held back for fifty years, he shrugged.

"God dammit," I raged, "maybe you should fix your stupid website! Or how about you fix your DAMN ALARM CLOCK, MR. EFFING FIX-IT!"

Another shrug was his way of apologizing. "What can I say?"

So I took out a gun and shot him. Hey, it's Kansas.

(The story you've just read is true. Sort of. Kind of. Maybe if you're really drunk and half-out of your mind, it's true. Whatever, it's true enough.)

Speaking of huge-ass lies, most of my books are filled with characters spouting them. That's where the mystery usually comes from. I mean, come on, how many murderers tell the truth right up front? Check out my Amazon page to get started! 

Friday, November 3, 2023

The Curse of Halloween 2023

The day after every Halloween, a curse falls upon our house. No, for a change, I'm not talking about American politics. That's a curse of a different sort.

Rather, every day following Halloween, something shrinks in our house. This year it was a wine glass.

Check out the photo above...

No, it's not a hoax! Not a dream! Not an imaginary story! And we didn't buy cutesy Matryoshka doll wine glasses to nest within one another.

These matching set of glasses were gifted to my wife this year at a work party. And they were of the same size. 

Not anymore.

After using them Halloween night, my wife put hers into the dishwasher. The next HAD TURNED INTO A SHRUNKEN HEAD VERSION OF IT'S FORMER SELF! AIEEEEEEE! *Choke!* *Gasp!*

Perfectly reduced including the slogan upon the glass, identical in every detail but size.

"The curse is back," I said.

"I know. And I really liked those glasses," said my wife.

" do drink smaller wine portions than me," I volleyed, trying to be the optimistic, "glass-half-sized", I mean, the "glass-half-full" kinda guy that doesn't come easily to me.

I suppose our curse started about four years ago. The first thing we noticed that had shrunk around Halloween was the economy, and hence, our budget.

Now I hear all of you supernatural pooh-poohers saying, "That's no curse! That happened to everyone!"

I say thee NAY for I have the startling facts that I'll lay out upon you.

The following year, I awoke after Halloween and threw on the EXACT, SAME (REDUNDANT) SWEATSHIRT I'd had on the night before. Yet...and had mysteriously shrunk, particularly around the gut! The night before it had fit. But the cold hard facts were plain and staring me in the face: we had a Halloween curse upon our household.

You want more facts? The next Halloween, THE SAME THING HAPPENED TO MY JEANS! I couldn't even button them the following morning! And they hadn't been in the washer or dryer either!!!

Clearly, our house is built upon an old Indian burial ground. Hey, I don't make stuff up. I'm a hard-hitting journalist who just reports the facts. And I believe all of the facts presented to me on TV and the internets.

While we're on the topic of all things spooky and Native American supernatural hijinks, check out my book, Ghosts of Gannaway. It's another hard-hitting piece of journalism about a cursed mining town, culled from the true facts of yesteryear. And every...WORD...IS...TRUE! (Well...except for the stuff about the curse, the ghosts, the haunted museum, the murders, the...)

Friday, October 27, 2023

Nightmare in Aisle 26

My grocery store has decided to change up its "perks" program. Ordinarily, this shouldn't be an issue. But it's different when the damn program doesn't work. (For the uninitated, the "perks" program gives the grocery shopper gas savings and special deals on food; my wife and I used to not believe in such crass mercantilism and invasion of privacy, but with the gas prices what they are these days, we've become believers.)

So, I have an established card with the old "perks" program. Stupidly, I thought it'd just roll over to the new program. But, no, things aren't ever that easy. Before my weekly grocery shopping run, I stop in at the customer service desk. But there's no customer servicing to be done and no one in sight. I wait...and I wait...and I wait. Meanwhile, just a few feet from me is a young clerk, standing there, doing absolutely nothing but avoiding eye contact with me.

Finally, a woman appears. I asked "Do I need a new perks card? Or what?" (Because I'm already getting a little huffed.) A deer caught in the headlights, her eyes flutter to and from, panic overtaking her. 

"No," she finally says, "but you'll need to activate the new program."

"Great! Activate me!" I proofer my old card like it's Willy Wonka's golden ticket.

She refuses to take it. "No, no, I can't do that. You'll have to wait until 9:00 before the lady who's going to do it gets here."

"Okay, whatever, guess I'll go get my shopping done." Usually it only takes me about ten minutes to whip through the store. But since I had a grueling 25 minutes to kill, I took my time, lollygagging around in the medical aisle, reading all the labels like some kinda weirdo.

Ding! 9:00! I head back to the customer non-service desk. "Hi! I'm back. Where's the perks lady?"

"Um...she's not here yet. Why don't you go do your shopping and come back?" she says, while I'm leaning on an obviously full cart.

Suddenly, the non-helper kiddie clerk starts shouting, "She's here! I see her, Jan, she's here! Finally, she's here!" (I realized the kid's job was to rat out other employees and not much else.)

So, the new woman (who seemed to me to be much too old for green dyed hair, but whatever, it takes all kinds) rolls up to the the customer service desk and the initial woman--Jan--fills her in. "Marsha, you've got to start activating the new perks cards."

"What?" Marsha is stunned by this news, her mouth opening and closing like a land-locked fish. "Nobody told me that!"

"Well, they just told me. This gentleman has been waiting for you." Jan juts a thumb at me while they both pretend like I'm not there.

At long last, Marsha pastes on a smile and turns to me. "Follow me."

I follow her to a desk with a "Perks!" sign on it near the front door. Marsha then starts playing with two different tablets, growing more agitated and flustered.

"I'm sorry, sir, but the system's not letting me in." Then she whips her phone out. "Let me try on this."

So, I'm waiting and waiting and waiting, standing in front of green-haired Marsha fiddling around with two tablets and her phone. "It's just not working, sir. Hang on a minute." She gets up to leave, takes a look at me, then decides I look suspicious and comes back to gather her electronics. "I'll be back shortly."

Meanwhile, another older woman with a very menacing glare rolls an empty cart up next to me. I say, "Looks like this might take a while."

"Yeah, I can see that," she says, staring at me while not seeing me, not really. "While we wait, perhaps you'd be interested in seeing my nails. They please a lot of people."

Okay, my supposed ten minute grocery gathering trip just grew stranger. "Oh, um...sure...let's see your nails...or whatever."

She stands up from leaning on her cart and wiggles her fingers, giving them that special jazz hands touch. Little eyeballs and ghosts and spiders adorn the tips.

"Ohhhh, that's really....ah...that's must really like Halloween."

Ms. Spooky-Fingers face puckers up and she glowers at me. "Why would you say that?" she says and shakes her head.

Thankfully, Marsha rode back in to my rescue. Completely out-of-breath, she huffs out, "Okay, I think we've got it worked out." She starts back to fiddling with her armada of electronics. Again frustration sets in. "Hmmm...I don't know why...wait! Here we go!"

Over to the side of us, the little kiddie clerk narc pumps a fist and shouts, "Yesssssss!"

Marsha begins to quiz me about my life. By this time, we've gathered quite a group of "Perks Desirers," many of them grumbling about how they couldn't sign up online or how they've had to come back several days or how their savings wasn't counted at the gas pump. But Marsha is relentless, asking me my address, phone number and age in front of the crowd at my back.

Suddenly, Marsha "Jeckyll and Hydes" back into frustration again. "Why won't this let me in? It was working a minute ago! Why the... What's going on with...DAMMIT!" She counts to ten, takes a breath and says to me, "I'm sorry, sir. Why don't you go do your shopping and come back."

I sigh and wave a game show hostess hand over my full (now melting) cart.

She excuses herself again and bolts, leaving me at the mercy of Ms. Spooky-Fingers again.

"I don't care as long as I'm out of here by ten," she says. "I've got to go get a shot in my eye again."

I sigh, do an internal eyeroll and know full well I shouldn't get sucked into her spiderweb of craziness. But I can't resist, either due to the social niceties of humanity or just dumb curiosity. "Ohhh? Do you have macular degeneration?"

Again, she gives me the evil eye. "Nooooo! I had a stroke in my eye! Can you believe that?"

"Um, well, no...I guess not. Did say how it happened?"

"No! I was on the phone waiting for six hours, too!"

Please, Marsha, please come back, please come back, please bring your green-haired self back and...

My prayers worked! Marsha reappeared like a green-haired, out-of-breath genie!

"I'm sorry it's taking so long. Yesterday, the system went down. I've got to talk to the assistant manager about this."

So, we're all waiting for the assistant manager to come down and pull a perkish hail Mary. I'm stuck between Ms. Spooky-Fingers and Marsha of the Green Hair getting angry at electronics. Finally, the little rat fink clerk shouts, "Ahoy! Here she comes, Marsha! She's here!"

Some young kid (I've eaten potato chips older than her) enters the fray and says, "I'm sorry, everybody. The perks system is down again."

There was a good hour-and-a-half shot out of my day. " am I supposed to get my gas points?" I ask in a pissy manner.

"Oh, the old cards still work."

Huh. Imagine that. Maybe they should've told me that ninety minutes ago. Just another perk of the store, I guess.

Speaking of perks, you'll receive absolutely none from reading my books. But I would recommend you do so anyway. And why not start with my ghostly mystery, Peculiar County? (It's my personal favorite of all of my books. There's your damn perk!)