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JennaGlatzer
06-06-2005, 05:30 AM
Okay, finalists, your next challenge has arrived...

This week, your genre is comedy and your setting is a cemetery.

1500 words or fewer.

Deadline: Monday, June 13, 11:59 p.m. ET

Good luck!

DJP
06-09-2005, 01:38 AM
Poetic Justice

by Darla Paskell



Widow Melina smiled at the sun and inhaled the rich lilac scent.

Her burden was lifted, regrets she had none. She read from the stones as she went.

Kiggins and Hapsburg, Truman and Bass brought memories of friends from her life.

A grave for a child, ‘Our Sweet Little Lass’, then ‘Kathy Lee, my cherished wife’.

She paused in the graveyard to rethink a thought, the choice that she’d agonized over.

When the day came and her battles were fought, where would she lay under the clover?

She’d had a husband and although he’d fled, she’d never accepted the break.

Now he was buried and when she lay dead, it’d be with him for their family’s sake.

Yet when she approached plot seven row three under the towering oak.

A woman was there whom she hated to see, she pushed down her anger and spoke.

“What are you doing, measuring here?” she eyed up the tool in her hand.

“What does it look like, Melina my dear? I’m sizing up my piece of land.”

“You-your land Jenna? My dear, I think not. You hated the man, so you say.”

The elderly ladies squared off on the spot, years had led up to this day.

“I paid all my dues,” Jenna exclaimed, “I have a right to this place!

You’ll let me keep it, I won’t be shamed!” Her vehemence purpled her face.

“Bedpans, soiled sheets, vomit and stink, the filthy old thing he became.

Caring for him drove me daily to drink. Thoughts of this day kept me sane.”

“Then why would you possibly want to be here, and lay next to him for all time?

I’m sure you once loved him,” Melina did sneer, “back in the days of his prime.”

Jenna’s eyes glassed and a wicked grin grew. “I’ll be buried with torturing things.

You can’t imagine the stuff that I’ll do. He’ll see what eternity brings!”

Melina recovered from images mental and said, “Sorry sis, but no luck.

My darling grandchildren, so sweet and so gentle, for them my decision is stuck.”

The women regarded each other a trifle, then Jenna’s arthritic knee gave.

Squeals of the weak she tried hard to stifle, and clutched for support the next grave.

Panting with fury while hanging her head, her face on the rock, wet and dank.

‘We love you Mommy’, the epitaph read, ‘love always CC and Frank’.

Grasping for leverage, she spied a dirt ball and heaved it with all of her might.

Which wasn’t that hard (at her age and all), but it landed at just the right height.

Melina the lady all proper and prim, she always was beautifully dressed.

The pale pink cotton, on Jenna’s mad whim, was muddied between sagging breasts.

What humiliation! “How dare you, you twit!” Melina fired mud-ball times three.

How her arms wind-milled during the fit! Jenna crawled for a sheltering tree.

Howling and screeching, the women, they fought. Neither was willing to cave.

Sweating and dirty, swearing and hot, they battled for one future grave.

“How un lady like!” Jenna called out, ducking the oncoming swing.

Then grinning, said “I didn’t have any doubt you could do it, Melina, old thing!”

“Always pretending to be a Miss Priss, all manners and doing things right.”

Melina responded by clenching a fist, “Come on, you battleaxe, fight!”

And so the two ladies carried on ‘till groundskeeper MacAllister came.

The audience watching the battle of will stopped traffic on Birol and Main.

Then who should come bouncing up Saritams Street, leading her aging dog Ray?

None other than Sarah Kira McSweet, and she wasn’t coming to pray.

Singing the latest by Pepperland Rhush, she danced up to stand by the stone.

The two older ladies concealed in the brush listened to Sarah K moan.

“Hey poochie pie,” she crooned to the mutt, “what do you think of this place?”

“You’re going to help me get out of this rut.” She nuzzled the dog to her face.

“To be rich with his money, I have to supply a McSweet to lie next to his grave.

Lucky for me, you’ll be first to die. Thank you for being so brave.”

She set the dog down on his soon to be home and watched as he hunched on the dirt.

He emptied his bowel by the brand new headstone, she laughed like a natural flirt.

The ladies were fuming, and whispers began, how could he do that, the coot?

He’d hired the stripper, the sickly old man, but will her his money to boot?

Add insult to injury, leave in a clause to give her the one piece of ground.

This couldn’t be true, but it gave them pause, some answers would have to be found.

The young hussy left with her ailing dog, the wizened old ladies crept out.

Both shocked and feeling as though in a fog, first Jenna let out a soft shout.

Melina chimed in, and couldn’t hold back, the chuckles and giggles just grew.

Both uncontrolled in their laughing attack, a spectacular sight, those two.

His grave had been sh*t on to top off the day, the hussy had pulled a great trick.

His hatred of dogs, as he used to say, nothing would make him more sick.

The battered old women grinned ear to ear, and read out the words on the stone.

“Here lies William Haskins” his birth and death year, then walked off and left him alone.

firehorse
06-14-2005, 07:01 AM
“Dude?”

I knew that voice. I’d always joked that hearing voices was part of my job, but I didn’t mean it literally. Where the hell am I? I couldn’t see anything. I heard what sounded like wind through tree leaves; my back was damp and sore. It wasn't cold, but I shivered uncontrollably, and my teeth chattered. Toto, we are so not in Kansas any more.

“Matt?” I asked. Matt was a character in a short story I’d written a few weeks earlier.

“Dude.”

As I was trying to figure out why a fictional surfer dude – a dead one, at that – was talking to me, my eyes adjusted and I could make out row after row of headstones. The ones closest to me read: Ahab, Julius Caesar, Bambi’s Mother, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern (adjoining graves) and Piggy. I had to think for a second. Lord of the Flies.

“Matt…” He was tall and slender, with blond curly hair, just as I’d imagined. He seemed a bit ethereal, but then again, we were in a cemetery, so I supposed that was to be expected. I tried to remember what I knew about the paranormal. I knew freakin’ nothing about the para-fictional-normal.

“Why’d you nuke me?” Matt asked. “That was mondo rude.”

“Uhh... That was the point of the whole story, dude.” Surfer slang is remarkably easy to pick up and, once adopted, difficult to let go. “You served your purpose.”

He laughed. Not nicely. “Your purpose, more like.”

“I’m the writer.”

“Oh, so you’re, like, God now?”

“It’s just my imagination. It doesn’t hurt anybody.”

I smelled the cigar smoke before I heard the next voice: “Says you.” George. From a film noir satire I wrote. I hear dead people. Dead not-real people.

As I turned towards him, I tripped over a headstone and banged my left shin. “Fuuuuuuuck!” I yelled. Okay, so I’m not dreaming.

“Rough language for a dame,” George said. He looked pretty good, all things considered, dressed in a natty fedora and pin-striped suit.

I bent down and rubbed my injured leg. “That hurt,” I said.

“You wouldn’t know hurt if it knocked you over the head with a frozen pot roast.” His stare could only be interpreted as disdain, bordering on disgust. “Hurt is going ‘tail over teakettle’, as you put it, off the edge of a cliff.” He took a puff of the cigar. “Hurt is learning that your dame is steppin’ out with the fella that killed ya.”

“Dude, you don’t know pain,” Matt said. “Try having your body picked apart.”

“You were already dead, though, right?" I asked Matt. "I hear freezing to death is kind of peaceful.” I sounded like a f*cking sociopath.

“You have any idea what it’s like to be locked in a meat freezer full of, like, human meat?”

“Not really.”

“It sucks.”

George blew smoke at me. “It took ’em a week to find me.”

“You did kill a hooker,” I said.

“No, you ditzy broad, I didn’t. Jack did. I never set foot in a can house all my life. You even knew that when you was writin' it.” He took a few more puffs, and the side of his mouth curled up in a salacious smile. “Though now that I’m dead…” He tilted his head, gesturing.

A woman who looked like Bettie Page in a dominatrix outfit appeared. She cracked her whip, and I jumped.

“You must be…” I trailed off because honestly, I had no idea who she was.

She stared at me.

“This is the dish that Jack cooked.”

“You don’t look like you’re from the 1940s.”

She shrugged. “You got your decades mixed up when you were imagining me.” Another glare. Another crack of the whip. Maybe I should be nice to her. Probably.

“What’s your name?”

“You didn’t give me one. I was ‘a dippy chippy’.”

“Sorry about that.”

From behind me came a squeal, like a cartoon character on helium. When I turned around, all I saw was a stick figure – I knew she was a girl because of the triangle skirt on her lower half.

She stomped her foot at me and squealed again.

“Do I know you?” I asked.

“You don’t remember me?” she asked in that thin helium voice. “Sixth grade. You sent me elephant hunting in Africa! You let those giant beasts trample me. What kind of ten-year-old does that?”

I winced, both at the comment and at her appearance. I was never a visual artist, but apparently I hadn’t been very good at character development, either. “I was reading a lot of Hemingway.” It came out more as a question than an answer.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw – no, it had to be a mistake.

“Sarah, this is Dad,” he said as he walked to join the others in front of me. As if I'd mistake him for Katharine Hepburn or something.

“Dad?” I ran to give him a hug, but he backed away. “I miss you,” I said. “How are you?”

“Dead.”

Fair enough.

“Dad, you’re dead, but you’re not fictional.”

He cleared his throat, my father’s trademark way of getting the floor. “Sarah, remember in 1993, you wrote a comedy sketch about breakfast at our house? I think you called it SAT Breakfast."

“Yeah, sure. Somebody from MTV’s The State stole it out of my wastebasket later.”

“Do you remember how it ended?”

Oh sh*t. My fictional brother had shot my fictionalized father.

“That was only because you – that character – wouldn’t shut up about analogies and logic questions and grammar and percentiles and #2 pencils.”

“That doesn’t change the fact that you killed me.”

“I’m sorry, Dad. But it was funny.”

He cleared his throat again and gave me a stern look, the teacher in him coming out. “You know, Sarah, killing characters is the cheap way out in comedy. Any half-wit can kill a character. It takes talent to end a sketch differently.”

“Point taken.”

I looked at the lineup. Bettie Page was missing. Keep the conversation going.

“So, uhh... Can you guys interact with these ones?” I gestured towards the headstones I’d seen earlier.

“Oh yeah,” said Matt. “Huck Finn is totally righteous.”

“He’s not dead,” I said.

“Wrong-o, dude. Once a writer dies, his characters have no future, so they come here.”

“Cool.” Not really, but it seemed like the right thing to say. “Can I talk to Huck?” He was my favourite literary character of all time.

“No way, dude.”

“What about… Ahab?” Another guy with whom I identified.

Matt shook his head and folded his arms across his chest. “You gotta be one of us.”

“Who do you hang out with, George?” I asked.

“Fella by the name of Miles Archer. Was Sam Spade’s partner before he got killed.” Right. The Maltese Falcon.

I looked at Stick Girl and raised my eyebrows. She gave an exasperated sigh. “Dick and Jane.”

“They’re not dead.”

“Sure they are. Didn’t you ever see the movie Dick and Jane Drop Acid and Die?”

Oh yeah. I saw that at Kim's Video on St. Mark's Place.

Before I could ask my father the same question, I was – slam! – face down, on the ground, my legs tied together.

“That whip makes a pretty good lasso,” George said.

I could feel Matt, George, Stick Girl and my father surrounding me. I tried to speak, but someone was holding my face in the dirt.

“Turn her over,” Bettie Page said. And I was on my back, looking up at the others. Someone had tied my hands, too. Bettie put her heel on my throat and nodded at George, who took a rock and – fuuuuuuuuck – my knees!

Then Matt, of all people, stood over me with a gun. Where’d he get a gun? I hadn’t given him one. Maybe Huck Finn had. Before I even heard the shot, I felt – fuuuuuuuuck – my ribs! I couldn’t look down, but I was pretty sure I was bleeding.

“Sorry dudes,” Matt said to the others. "Not as good a shot since I’ve been dead.” He exaggerated the word for my effect.

“You can’t kill me,” I whispered, using as much energy as I could gather. “I’m a real person. I’m not fictional.”

“Aww, dude,” said Matt with a creepy smile. “That’s so totally wrong. You wrote yourself into the story. Now you’re as fictional as the rest of us.”

As everything faded to a silvery brightness, George leaned over, tipped his fedora to me and whispered: “Welcome to the cemetery.”

BlueTexas
06-14-2005, 07:20 AM
Not in Heaven, 1487 Words.

By eight o’clock that morning, the mist was a thick blanket, dusting the cemetery in a colorless haze. Ellen had walked the paths between the burial plots a dozen times, yet she wasn’t tired. Her legs gave no complaint, and she noted with approval how she hadn’t noticed her joints that only yesterday had ached with every step.
The funeral home crew had arrived moments ago, and were preparing for a graveside service under a faded green canopy tent the cemetery caretaker had produced. Ellen saw the casket, but didn’t approach it. She already knew what she’d find in it.

Then the cars began to arrive, bearing her family, whom she hoped would behave in a manner befitting her memory. But memory didn’t seem quite right. After all, she was still here, standing in the rainy cemetery, even if the only wet thing about her was her shoes.

#

Dolly and her husband Bill were in the first dark car to park at the edge of the grassy lawn. She stepped out onto the wet cement curb, turning her ankle sideways. She braced herself against the car, cursing under her breath. Bill stood on the other side of the curb, watching the rest of the family exit their cars and pick their way through the damp, uneven grass in heels and polished leather. His brother Rick stopped every few steps to wipe the bits of grass and muck off his perfectly polished shoes.

Vanity, Bill thought smugly, has always been the family curse.

“Damnit, Bill, aren’t you going to help me? Dolly was still perched on one foot, leaning against the car, looking at him with wide doe-eyes. “I could stand in the rain until I was drenched before you’d think of me.”

Bill ignored her barb and helped her across the lawn to join the others, seated now in folding metal chairs squeezed in close under the canopy in an attempt to avoid the rain.

#

Ellen watched them gather, and saw her family painfully with new eyes. True eyes, was more like it. She hovered at the back of the group, behind the chairs. They chattered mindlessly, not one of them lamenting their sorrow out loud. She watched as her son Rick pulled and straightened at his clothes, ignoring his silent daughter sitting next to him, her face swollen with grief. Bill and Dolly were at the back, and Ellen listened as Dolly berated him for thinking only of himself.

True enough, Ellen thought, but that’s what you get for marrying him. He’s been that way since he was able to speak. She was surprised at her unkind thought, but then again, shouldn’t they be focused on her today?

Ellen walked row by row, evaluating them all. This one’s clothes were far too tight, that one wore her make-up like a painted whore. She was contemplating her nephew’s needless slump when the minister at the head of the service area cleared his throat.

“We gather here today to honor a beloved wife, mother and grandmother who has touched all our lives in numerous ways,” he began. Ellen took a seat at the back. She was never one much for church, but this promised to be interesting.

“We can be certain that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus the Christ our Lord."

Certain or not, Ellen thought, I’m still here on earth and not entertaining my glowing reward, now am I?

He continued on into the eulogy, and Ellen half-listened in favor of watching the mourners, until she heard the minister recall the many times Ilene had brought flowers from her lovely garden to grace the church altars on Easter Sunday. She listened as he extolled the many virtues Ilene had shown in her dedication to the Sunday School programs after she retired as a grade-school teacher. Ellen, dead or not, felt the heat of anger rise from her belly to her cheeks, flushing them red. She’d never kept a garden and she sure as hell had never been a teacher. She could barely stand her own children when they had been young and bratty.

She stood, and the minister’s eyes flicked to her and back again, but he continued on.

Did he see me? Surely not. She exited the row of chairs and walked toward the front of the gathering. She didn’t know any Ilene, and this sure as hell wasn’t Ilene’s family sitting here all calm and quiet.

Too angry to worry about propriety, Ellen approached the casket. Spatters of water from the canopy’s top edge had dampened the pillow on which her mortal head rested. Small rivulets of rain ran back from her forehead into the coif of her gray hair. She reached to smooth the raindrops from her face, and as the rain passed though her ethereal hand, she realized that the forehead down there didn’t belong to her anymore, anyway.

Ellen turned her attention to her family, facing the lot of them. They weren’t looking at her, her casket, or the minister. She realized that none of them were even listening—they hadn’t even heard the mistaken name!

“Hey!” Ellen called. “Hello in there! Don’t you hear him?”

A little girl in the middle that Ellen thought might be a great-granddaughter blinked rapidly with large, widened eyes, but no one else so much as twittered in their chair. She turned to the minister. Had his voice faltered for a moment? Maybe.

Ellen moved to the front of the congregation, and stared directly at her son Bill. “He’s using the wrong name!” She was almost shouting now. The little girl’s mouth opened in an O of surprise, but she gave no other sign. Bill stared dead ahead with blank eyes.

She turned now to the minister himself. His speech had broken up a bit at her last outburst. Maybe this man of God had a bit of a keen sense to him. She didn’t recognize him, but that was no surprise. She was a Christmas and Easter churchgoer and only that because her neighbors would have noted her absence. Now standing directly facing him, she said “Minister, you’re giving the wrong damn eulogy.”

He stared right at her, and Ellen felt as if he was seeing not only through her, but deeply into her as well.

“I’m not Ilene! I’m Ellen Porter, and you’re a fool!”

The minister took a step back, but he continued on, his prayer book held in front of him.

“I’m dead, you know,” said Ellen, matching his step. “And I’m not in heaven.” She reached up to run a finger through his wispy hair. “If I’m not up there, I think you have a problem. You’d better start calling me Ellen.”

The wind picked up a bit, and the minister grew pale. Spidery veins on his neck began to pulse in red beats, his breath coming in small gasps. He had stopped speaking, and Ellen could hear her family shifting restlessly in their hard chairs. The rain came down now in heavy splats, and the wet wind was now soaking not just shoes but skirts and hats and the lapels of Rick’s finely made jacket.

The minister set his lips firmly together, and whispered to Ellen, “You’re not there. Not there. Not there.”

“Minister Duncan, is there a problem?” asked a woman from behind Ellen, a voice she didn’t recognize.

“No, ma’am,” the minister choked out, “everything’s fine. Shall we continue?”

He got no reply, but began to intone about how deeply he knew Ilene’s family would feel her loss. Ellen, now sure he could indeed hear and see her, had lost what patience she had. She knocked the prayer book from his hands. It thumped softly as it hit the wet ground.

He bent to pick it up, softly muttering “Holy Father, she’s not there. Not there, not there…” His color was alarmingly pallid now, but Ellen’s placid family took no more notice of this than they had his words.

As the minister’s hand neared the book, Ellen edged it to the side with her foot, causing him to almost lose balance. Minister Duncan tottered, but grasped the book. He threw his shoulders back, and began a prayer.

“Our Father, hallowed by thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven…”

Ellen, tired of the game, moved close until she was nose to nose with the praying minister. She raised her arm slowly, and his eyes followed it. She put one finger to his lips, shushing him as she would a small child.

What little color remained on his face drained to the palest of whites, and he fainted dead away.

The little girl giggled, and Ellen, facing her family, smiled.

William Haskins
06-14-2005, 07:49 AM
Night of the Poe Toaster



by

William Haskins



I was halfway through my third bong hit when Duncan burst through the door with that look on his face and his jacket dripping with the unlocked treasures of a breakfast burrito.

“Come on, man!" he said. "Let’s go!”

I looked up at him and blew out an impressive cloud of smoke. “Where we goin’?”

“Road trip, dude!” he replied, fanning away the smoke. “I emailed you about it last night.”

I got up and pulled a T-shirt over my head. “I’ve been blocking your emails for months.”

“Well, come on, man. We gotta get going.”

I shrugged, slipped on a jacket and took one more hit for the road, and then followed him out the door. I honestly had nothing better to do.

Duncan’s battered Oldsmobile was pulled alongside the curb, and I immediately saw someone in the backseat. I climbed in and a pasty-faced butterball of a teenager, clutching a video camera and smiling uncomfortably, leaned over the seat. “I’m Bronco.”

“You a cowboy?” I asked.

Confusion crept across his face. “No. Why?”

“Bronco…” I said. “It sounds like a cowboy name.”

He shook his head and watched Duncan get behind the wheel. “I just had bronchitis a lot when I was a kid,” he said, melting into the seat.

“Now. Where the hell are we going?” I asked Duncan.

He looked at me and smiled. “Baltimore. Here, read this.”

He handed me a page ripped from a magazine, with a fresh salsa thumbprint on it.

It was an article about how, every January 19th for the past 56 years, a mysterious stranger has visited the Baltimore grave of Edgar Allen Poe, stealing into the cemetery in the middle of the night to lay three roses and a half-empty bottle of French cognac on the writer’s final resting place. It went on to interview people who show up year after year, to quietly and respectfully watch the ritual from Westminster Hall.

I saw what was coming. “No way,” I said.

Duncan shot me his devious eyes. “Hell yeah, man! You kidding me? A buncha goth fags just stand around and watch this guy, year after year! Nobody even tries to talk to him! You have any idea how much the tabloid shows will pay for a video of me unmasking the mysterious Poe Toaster?”

I felt sick. Of course, this kind of half-assed plan wasn’t without precedent for Duncan. Not by a long shot. Just a year before, he had stolen the controversial art piece American Beauty, a jar of piss with a bikini-clad Barbie doll floating in it. But his getaway was sloppy and, during the twists and turns of the chase, the jar rolled off the seat onto the floorboard and shattered.

He outran the cops, but they tracked him down a few days later—by following the stench of urine.

“You’re outta your god damn mind,” I said. “Why can’t you show a little respect for tradition?

“Tradition?” he screamed, looking a little unhinged. “What tradition? A buncha geeks hanging around a graveyard? What about the great American tradition of making money and being on TV? What about that tradition, huh?”

“You’re an idiot.” I said, closing my eyes.

“Yeah, well, we’re about to get paid.”


*****


It was dark by the time I awoke to Duncan singing along with the radio. It was “The Walrus” by the Beatles, and, even tangled in the cobwebs of sleep, I couldn’t ignore the irony of him yelling, “I am the eggman!” while chunks of his breakfast still dangled from his jacket.

But when I heard the line:


Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allen Poe


I bolted upright and was wide-awake. I’m not a superstitious man, but I know an omen when I hear it. All I could think about was that miserable little bird-faced man, so unappreciated… so despised in his own time. And the thought of a tool like Duncan humiliating him in death was too much for me to handle.

“Change of plans,” I said, grabbing the wheel. He backhanded me in the mouth and we fought for control of the car while Bronco shrieked and tumbled around in the backseat. The car spun around and slammed into a lightpole.

Duncan dragged me out of the wreckage by my hair. “What the hell’s your problem, man?”

“Other than hanging out with jerkoffs?” I said. “Why can’t people just pay tribute to somebody they admire without some prick like you coming along and screwing it all up?”

Duncan’s eyes flashed. Pure crazy.

“You ain’t gonna stop me,” he said, pulling a .22 out of his waistband. And, as he stood there bowlegged, hand trembling, I swear he looked just like Don Knotts.

“He looks just like Don Knotts,” Bronco observed from the back seat.

“You know,” I said, “I was just thinking the same thing.”

“We’re doing this, you hear me?” He aimed the gun at my face. “Bronco’s gonna film it and you’re gonna keep your stupid mouth shut… if you wanna get your cut.”

“Give me the gun, Duncan.” I took a step toward him.

He shot at the ground in front of my feet, and I took a step closer. “Duncan, I swear to God… if you shoot me—“

He shot again. This time, he took off the tip of my little toe.

“You bastard!” I screamed. “You psycho motherfu—"

“I told you!” he said. “I told you to shut up and play nice! Now get in the car.”


*****


We got to the cemetery well after midnight. The street was eerily quiet, but a faint light shone in the church window, where a handful of nosy silhouettes peered out. We snuck over the fence into the shadows of the graveyard. Others had staked out strategic locations, so we fumbled through the darkness to a small thicket near the grave.

And we waited.

After what seemed like hours, we heard hushed whispers, and saw a solitary figure, dressed all in black, enter the graveyard. He walked slowly, calmly—but with purpose—across the icy ground.

The stranger stood in front of the headstone and arranged three roses on the grave. He lifted a bottle of cognac and drank a toast, then set the half-empty bottle down among the flowers. He bowed his head, but only for a moment, and then turned to leave.

Duncan chuckled. “It’s show time.”

“I ain’t gonna let you do this,” I told him.

He brandished the gun and whispered between clenched teeth: “You screw this up for me and, so help me God, I’m gonna shoot off more than your stupid toe.”

And, with that, he leapt from the thicket and accosted the poor stranger, badgering and mocking him. A collective gasp rose from the shadows and, within seconds, the bushes emptied and the church door swung opened and Duncan was beset on all sides by an angry mob.

The mysterious stranger extricated himself from the chaos and escaped with his anonymity (and his dignity) intact—leaving Duncan to absorb a vicious beating from two-dozen sleep-deprived Edgar Allen Poe enthusiasts. I watched with delight.

“You getting all this?” I asked Bronco.

“Oh, yeah,” he assured me. “I’m getting it.”

A few minutes later, the police arrived and dispersed the crowd before hauling Duncan off to jail, bloodied and beaten. Something about it just felt right.

Silence fell over the cemetery again, and Bronco and I emerged from the shadows and walked to the grave. I picked up the bottle of cognac and poured some on my mangled toe, then tipped the bottle up for a long gulp. I handed it to Bronco and he took a swig.

We stared at Poe’s grave for a moment and a cold wind coiled around us. Bronco poured some of the cognac on the ground, and we watched it seep into the frozen earth.

“Nevermore,” he said, solemnly.

I had no idea what the hell context he was using it in, but I agreed completely. Nevermore.


*****


By the way, we sold the footage of Duncan’s brutal asswhipping to “A Current Affair” for five grand. Bronco used his share to buy new camera equipment.

As for me, let’s just say my morning bong hits will be covered for a long, long time.