Brixby

ANONYMOUS: Mr. Brixby stepped out for his nightly smoke at a little past one in the morning. Fifteen minutes later, I’m watching him get his arms plucked off behind a dumpster.

I’d been working at the El Dorado for about two, three years by that point. I was hired to cover the swing shift a few nights a week, then it just sort of took over my whole life. Eventually, they had me working mornings and graveyard so often that it felt like I lived there as much as everyone else.

Mr. Brixby was what we called a “long-term resident.” Most of our guests were. Not that there were ever many guests for much of the year. Not outside the summer tourists. It wasn’t exactly anyone’s first-choice. And the ones who stuck around weren’t exactly there by choice, if you get what I mean. Mr. Brixby was one of those. He said he was there for work, but I don’t think any of us knew what he actually did for a living. But he was a nice guy. Paid his rent on time. Loved to talk about the latest tech toy he’d picked up somewhere. This one time, he came back from wherever with this 3D camcorder. Remember those?

Anyway. When he wasn’t out doing whatever it is he did when he wasn’t there, Mr. Brixby was usually in his room. The only time he ever stepped out before morning was for his nightly smoke. In fact, he was in a smoking room. Had been the whole time he lived there. So, I never understood why he always stepped out to smoke in the parking lot, same time every night. I’d say it was for the fresh air, but…

When I worked graveyard, I’d empty out the lobby trash cans and join him. We’d just talk about his latest toy, movies. Not the most stimulating conversation, I guess. But his weed was great. And plentiful.

The night it all happened, I was working graveyard. And I saw Mr. Brixby step out that night too, same time, same way. But before I could get to all the cans and join him, this couple came stumbling in, belching and farting something about needing a room for the night. If they hadn’t been so drunk, I wouldn’t have taken so long to get out there. Or maybe I should’ve just told them to kick rocks – it wouldn’t have been the first time. And I think about that a lot, ya know. If I had just gotten out there sooner, maybe, uh, Mr. Brixby wouldn’t…

Anyway. I get out there some fifteen minutes later, and I don’t see Mr. Brixby anywhere. His car’s parked back there. Not even a whiff of smoke. Just me, a bunch of dripping garbage bags, and a dark, empty lot.

So, I go to the dumpster.

SILENCE.

Working graveyard at a motel, you see your fair share of freaks and crazy shit. I’ve seen people hiding in other people’s rooms. I’ve been threatened by people meth’d out of their mind. We even got cursed once, this family we kicked out laid out these weird, I dunno… markings? They drew markings in salt at the front entrance as they left with all their shit. But you never expect to see a man being…

(SIGHS) I know what the cops and papers said, but it wasn’t some coyote. I was there, not them. I saw them. And, look. I know it sounds how it sounds. But there were two… At first, I thought it was a couple of homeless guys digging in the dumpster. It happens. But…

One of them was holding Mr. Brixby there by the arm, twisting it, and he’s got Mr. Brixby doubled over on his knees, like this. And his eyes are screaming – I see his eyes looking at me looking at him, and I can see they’re screaming – but nothing’s coming out his mouth. And the other one is there, just off to the side, eating Mr. Brixby’s other arm. Just gnawing and tearing away at it like, uh… like one of those big turkey legs you get at the fair.

And then, I screamed.

The cops showed up not long after. One of our other guests must have heard me out there screaming and called. But by the time they got there, those two… I told the police the same thing I told the papers, and somehow they turned it into a story about a coyote attack. But I told them I saw two homeless men attacking Mr. Brixby and that they both took off running, over the fence and into the river trail.

Truth is, I don’t know what I saw that night. Or maybe I know exactly what I saw, and I can’t even admit it to myself. But whatever I saw, I guess my screaming scared them off. And I did see where they went. But they didn’t run. And they didn’t head for the river trail.

SILENCE.

My family didn’t exactly live in the best part of town when I was growing up. I still don’t, really. It was never bad, but… This is an old town. There’s a lot of the old sewer lines and drainage running beneath any given block, ya know? So even in the nicest house on the nicest street, you’re likely to find a cockroach here and there – those big ones that look like they could run off with a small dog if it tried. They crawl out of the sink, out of the bathtub. Had one climb out of our toilet once. When I screamed, those things dropped what was left of Mr. Brixby, fluttered these fleshy flaps or wings on their back, and scurried down an old storm drain. I don’t know how, but they… squeezed and slipped right down through that small hole. (SNAPS FINGERS) Just like that.

Just like that.

IT’S OVER

Mark

MARK: My wife and I used to rent a place a couple of blocks up that way. She got a new job and we moved here to cut down on the commute. That sort of thing. It’s a nice little spot, isn’t it? Quiet. Lots of sun. Plenty of trees. Parking’s a little… But we made it work.

SILENCE.

Sorry. Drifted away for a second.

Anyway. The first few nights, I slept better than I had in years. But after that… I don’t know. Maybe it was the stress from the move, sleeping in a new place with new sounds and new people making sounds, but after that first week, I’m sleeping less and less. I’d just lie there in bed for hours until I’d dozed off without even realizing it. Eventually, I’m up pacing for just as long, back and forth, back and forth, until the sun’s starting to rise and my feet beg me to stop. I don’t want to read, I don’t want to look at a screen, I don’t want to listen to music. I just want to sleep. But I can’t.

After a couple of weeks of me waking her up and keeping her up, my wife went from concerned to annoyed to leaving me a hand-rolled joint and a note that said, “If you’re going to huff and puff for several miles all night, I would prefer you do so outside.”

So, I went for a walk.

I went for a lot of walks, actually. A lot of walks on a lot of nights. And something about doing that, walking around when the rest of the world was asleep, it worked for me. I still wasn’t sleeping much, but I was sleeping.

And as I kept doing this, I developed a little routine. I’d walk up Gomer, cross to Pyle, and then back up around Howard or Fine. Just like that. I liked to watch the ships come into the harbor from the hill.

That’s where I first saw the old man.

Actually, I’m not sure when I first saw him. One night, it was like he was just there. I mean, nothing stood out about him. Not really. Aside from him being this one-hundred-year-old man walking up Pyle at two in the morning with what had to be about twenty, thirty pounds of something in this large canvas bag. I never saw him in or around a car or bus. Every store in walking distance closed hours earlier. But every night, there he was, inching his way up the hill with that heavy bag of his. Crawling in and out of the shadows and street lights.

It never even crossed my mind to offer to help the old man with that bag of his. Not once. Not until that woman did.

Can’t remember her name off the top of my head, but there was a bit about the woman in the news. I think. Right after it all happened. I didn’t know her, but I’d seen her around here before. Probably lived in one of these apartments. She was always in workout gear, always out for a jog. A lot of people run by you like you’re not even there, but she’d always look your way, give a little wave or smile or nod.

That night, I heard the woman before I saw her. They were standing right over there, on the other side of Pyle. I was standing about here, bunch of cars parked in front of me, and I heard someone say something. I don’t know what she said exactly, but with it being as quiet as it is at night around here, I still heard her say something to the old man from this far up the street. Maybe she was trying to get around him, or she turned the corner and almost ran into him. Anyway, I heard someone say something, so I looked around and saw her standing over there with him. And she pointed at his bag, clearly offering to help. But the old man shook his head and waved his free hand at her and clutched that heavy bag with the other. The way he’s acting, I figured he’s told her, “No, thanks,” and wants to be on his way. But then, she insisted. And then, he resisted. And they went back and forth like that for a minute.

Finally, the old man relented.

I remember reading something about how the woman had some kind of heart defect. That she must have just dropped dead on her jog that night, blissfully unaware that her heart was ready to stop at any second. It’s a cute story. But, uh…

(SCOFFS) Look. I know this sounds absolutely crazy. And I feel crazy for even being here, telling you all this and hearing myself say it out loud. I know I’m crazy every bit as I know that woman didn’t drop dead from a bad heart. I know there was an old man with a, uh… a bag. This plain, normal, not-crazy looking bag with, I dunno, something in it just as plain, normal, and not crazy. But when he opened the bag and she looked at whatever it was she found there, that’s when she dropped dead. She didn’t tip over. She didn’t clutch at her heart. She didn’t even try to brace herself. She just, uh… It was like she was a puppet and someone cut her strings. Whatever held her up was just… gone. And then, she… she collapsed and folded up on herself. Just right over there. Sometimes, I think I heard her ribs cracking.

And the old man, he stood there for a bit. I don’t know how long, but he stood there. He didn’t look around. Didn’t call for help. He just stood there, shaking his head.

And then, he left. Same way he always did. Walked right up Pyle, passed me like I wasn’t even there, and then over the hill.

SILENCE.

Sorry. I was just…

Anyway. That was, uh… that was years ago now. I don’t go out much after dark these days.

IT’S OVER

Last Scene w/ Dacota Wittacee-Nottakay

We now return to The Last Video Store On Earth with CINEMATICO MAGNIFICO, already in-progress. 

CINEMATICO: Welcome back to The Last Video Store on Earth. I’m Cinematico Magnifico.

Our next segment is “Last Scene w/”, in which I finally leave this godforsaken place to locate, tag, and interview the feral and semi-domesticated artists and entertainers lurking and crying in the dark corners of Southern California.

Today’s quarry is writer, director, and amateur ear-wax collector, Dacota Wittacee-Nottakay.

Enjoy.

CUT TO:

A hillside somewhere in Riverside, but not anywhere near a farting river. Cinematico joins DACOTA WITTACEE-NOTTAKAY beneath a tree.

CINEMATICO: (voice-over) I found Dacota sitting in the shade of a large oak set against the weed and bramble choked hills of Riverside. A tee-shirt with only the word “fart” printed across the front and a rather snazzy pair of jeans belied a lean frame. Long hair masked dark, expressive eyes. And his beard smelled of honey and cilantro.

I first met Dacota when he was performing standup comedy in a sports bar within a bowling alley within a nice place to live. Now, I watched on as he needle-felted small figures of people he had never met, yet loved all the same.

CINEMATICO: What consumes you to transmute such magnificently bizarro creations to life?

DACOTA: (incoherent mumbling)

CINEMATICO: Fascinating.

Dacota… There’s a discussion to be had as to whether or not – as well as to the possible whys – audience are a bit hyper-sensitive to material that challenges them these days. But I also believe there’s a discussion to be had regarding those who make such material being equally quick to deny or deflect responsibility. Has there ever been a time where you’ve regretted a joke, scene, or some other moment in your work, or perhaps felt you’ve outgrown your older material?

DACOTA: (incoherent mumbling)

CINEMATICO: I’m sorry to hear that. Perhaps others can glean something from such a tragic loss of life and limbs.

Dacota… May I call you “Dacota”?

DACOTA: (incoherent mumbling)

CINEMATICO: Wonderful.

Dacota, you’re a fellow cinephile. Have you ever felt betrayed or cheated by a film, and if given the opportunity would you set fire to those involved?

Dacota reaches into a small sack, releases a hummingbird.

CINEMATICO: (voice-over) But before answering my question, Dacota reached into a small sack at his side and released a hummingbird.

Cinamtico watches the bird fly off.

And as I watched the hummingbird vanish off into the otherside of the 91, the bearded man who smelled of cilantro spoke these words of wisdom:

DACOTA: (incoherent mumbling)

Cinematico turns back around to find…

Only a note and a needle-felted figure of Cinematico where Dacota once sat.

CINEMATICO: (voice-over) When I turned to thank Dacota for his time, he was gone. In his place, a needle-felted figure of me and a hand-written note. The doll resembled me, and had what appeared to be a time and date written into its pattern. The note explained the doll foretold my death and prayed I make use of the time I had left.

CINEMATICO: Shit.

CUT TO:

The Last Video Store on Earth. Again.

CINEMATICO: Dacota Wittacee-Nottakay is still at large, and is considered personable and charming.

Up next after the break, we take a look back at the 1997 seminal box-office disaster, “I’m a Middle-Aged Werewolf,” featuring John Jablonski and Maggie Sex-Pun.

Santa Carla Zoo

A depressing local zoo located beneath a freeway. DOUGLBY, an exhausted, underpaid zoo employee, leads us through the cramped, ill-fitting cages.

DOUGLBY: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Santa Carla Zoo, the only zoo located beneath a freeway, adjacent to a water treatment plant, and built atop the mass grave of local indigenous people.

I’m Douglby. And unfortunately for me, Brennifer called-out… again. Something about her uterus climbing out her throat. I’m not sure. So, I guess I’m your guide for the day.

(looks around)

Uh… This way. I think.

(waves us over)

Yeah. This is fine. It’s fine.

(gestures) This is Alex, our endangered Moronikan Sexually-Frustrated Dolphin, best known for his offensive language and history of sexual assault. (considers this) Probably has something to do with living in a tank the size of a budget, above-ground hot tub.

Anyway. On we go…

(moves on)

(gestures) This is Charlie, our Idiotican Ook-Ook. Everyone, Charlie. Charlie, Everyone. Fun Fact: Charlie weighs only ten pounds, yet operates the largest car-theft ring in all of Santa Carla.

(moves on)

(gestures) Terry and Brenda, our perky pair of Jiggly Maguppies, both of whom have become global internet sensations thanks to their podcast where they spread conspiracy theories and violent, late-night domestic disputes. (considers this) Maybe it’s better if we just keep moving.

(moves on)

(gestures) And this is Terry, our thirty-something American Male with a Masters degree in theoretical business and several-hundred thousand dollars in debt that will haunt him until the day he dies. He currently works from home, selling his body for nickels and dimes.

Now. Some of you might be wondering why Terry lives in this cramped, inhumane cage of concrete, shame, and artificial light and food. That’s because people like you can afford to go to the zoo on a work day while people like Terry have to make do on a teacher’s salary.

An alarm BEEPS.

Sorry. That’s just me. Looks like my shift is up. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go hose down my cage again because Charlie is the roommate from Hell.

Douglby leaves.

Ouch! My Thumb!

NOT IMPORTANT tenderizes their hand with a hammer.

Then…

Not notices the audience, stops with the hammering.

NOT: (to audience) Oh. Hello. I’m Not Important.

People often tell me that violence is never the answer. But, what if it was?

We at “Violence Is Sometimes the Answer” are dedicated to solving the unsolvable with our unique brand of not giving a shit.

Our panel of Violence Engineers worked long hours for little pay in the pursuit of unlocking the secret of solving even the most benign issue with swift, painful, and inexpensive hammer-wielding justice. And once our engineers realized that they all had hammers and middle-management did not, they now work just as long, but marginally more flexible hours for slightly, albeit trivially more pay.

Whether it’s a discussion leading nowhere, a cold, uncaring economic system crafted and upheld by affluent slave-owners disguised as cold, uncaring bastards, or crippling arthritis left untreated due to wholly unaffordable healthcare, it turns out there really isn’t much you can’t, on occasion, solve with a bit of tender, loving violence and a good hammer.

Goodnight.

Not returns to hammering their hand.

Sonathan

SONATHAN COMPOSES A LETTER, AS ONE DOES.

SONATHAN: Father…

RECONSIDERS THIS, BUT IT’S FINE. IT’S FINE.

It’s been nearly fifteen years since you left. Last month, I investigated the refrigerator myself. There was milk to spare. I’m starting to suspect you didn’t go to the store.

A DEPRESSINGLY PATHETIC, YET PATHETICALLY DEPRESSING BEAT.

Repressfully yours… Sonathan.

Unlocked Cars (Personally Challenged)

FINE: Podcasts. Whether you make them or listen to them, you’re still wasting your time.

I’m Fine Thankyou, and welcome to the backseat of this unlocked car.

Created in 1982 and later popularized on the Commodore 64, the podcast has evolved from an assortment of fully-produced talk shows and audio blogs to struggling comedians failing to hold their drunk friend’s attention as they blather ceaselessly into their outdated budget smartphones. Who are these people, and why do they titter on week-after-week before giving up without so much as a second thought after their seventh episode? Nobody knows. And nobody cares enough to find out.

CUT TO:

VOX POP: I wanted to challenge myself. See what I could really do, ya know? Could I come up with a minute – just one minute – of original material every night… and waste it. Every second.

(Tonight On) The Nightly Chill

A bumper: the sort for a local station’s late-night programming block. Graphics, timeslots, generic upbeat music.

STEVE: (voice-over) Tonight on The Nightly Chill…

Relevant footage and graphics for “Chicken or Fish!” appear.

Kicking things off at 11:05, it’s “Chicken or Fish!” – the number-one game show for seniors who can’t fall asleep at a decent hour.

Then, at 12:13…

Relevant footage and graphics for “The Lonely Widow” appear.

…sit down at a kitchen table with Charlotte St. Pierre and a local housewife and squirrel killer addicted to sleeping with men named Doug. This and depressingly little else on “The Lonely Widow.”

Relevant footage and graphics for “C.R.A.P. Wrestling” appear.

And be sure to stick around till 1:45 for the latest microwave-safe action from California Ring-Adjacent Pro Wrestling as Monaco Midnight takes on The Dated Racist Stereotype in an empty parking lot brawl!

Return of the generic, upbeat music.

The Nightly Chill: because it’s always dark somewhere. Only on NUTS Channel 62, Santa Carla Public Television.

(Whispers in the Dark) Adia

Transmission XX85.06.06:

WHISPER: Listen up, lo-fi fiends and freaks. The sun’s setting on Adia, and you know what that means…

Transmission glitches, continues.

Word on the wire has it The First Adopters are no more following a successful coup by the scattered subscribers of the recently canceled Admiral Iron Shavings. No official statement yet from former officials. But First Adopter profiles have gone dark as of noon today.

Transmission glitches, continues.

Demand is high, bills are due, and credits are short. We wish nothing but the best for every citizen of Adia – from The Owners, all the way down to basic binary organics. And to show our appreciation, we’re offering a limited-time blue light special to every unit of human capital stock. Supplies are limited, so speak IRL with any and all members of Management or Security to collect what’s yours tonight.

Transmission glitches, continues.

And, finally… don’t settle on the cards you’re dealt, and never let your specs control your performance. The analytics are a lie. Hire only the best modders to reclaim your sense of self. If you can scan it, we can clone it. If you can scrap it, we can hack it. Be who you were meant to be. They’ll never know you weren’t there.

Transmission glitches, continues.

That’s all she scanned, bits and grids. This is another Whisper in the Dark, reminding you: anything is legal in Adia, if you can afford the transaction fees.

Transmission ends.

Pim-Hole

STEVE reads a prepared statement.

STEVE: My sweets, my savories. This brings me no small amount of sexual gratification, but I’m afraid I have something to confess: I originally wrote this sketch for something else entirely.

Now. My wife, bless her black, wretched heart, tried telling me it wouldn’t translate very well. She was right, of course. So we’ve made the difficult decision to have it put down.

This was a very easy decision to make. But we’re mostly confident it was the right decision given how much it directly benefits us.

Healing, of course, comes only with time. But with a mixture of cleaning products, prescription drugs, and perhaps a little rock and roll, we hope to expedite the process one way or the other.

Thank you.

Monster Masterpiece Marathon

A BUMPER: THE SORT FOR A LOCAL TELEVISION STATION’S HALLOWEEN HORROR MOVIE MARATHON. GRAPHICS, TIMESLOTS, GENERIC UPBEAT MUSIC.

STEVE: (VOICE-OVER) Tonight, the crazy train makes another stop between sanity and madness for the next chilling installment of “Cinematico Magnifico’s Cinematic Monster Masterpiece Marathon”!

THE MUSIC TRANSITIONS TO SOME CAMPY, YET MENACING DIDDY.

RELEVANT FOOTAGE AND GRAPHICS FOR “AUDREY” APPEAR.

Dr. Howard Fine thought she was just another face in a hotel bar. But when the woman’s face changed, he’s left with only one question, “Who is… Audrey?”

Find out the answer at 5:05, when the nightly scares begin with “Audrey”!

MUSIC TRANSITIONS TO A CAMPY, YET WHOLLY UN-MENACING MELODY.

Then, at 7:05… 

RELEVANT FOOTAGE AND GRAPHICS FOR “I’M A MIDDLE-AGED WEREWOLF” APPEAR.

Bronson Pubic-Lice is a man rough around the edges, and too quick to bite. But after a night out with the boys goes horribly wrong, all he really wants to be… is a good boy.

John Jablonksi and Maggie Sex-Pun star in: “I’m a Middle-Aged Werewolf!” A second act… with a twist.

MUSIC TRANSITIONS TO A DISTINCTLY MENACING TUNE.

But then, at 9:05…

RELEVANT FOOTAGE AND GRAPHICS FOR “PUMPKINSTILTSKIN” APPEAR.

All Jack Jacksonnovan wanted was one last Halloween with friends. Now he’s making sure the screams never end!

Elongated Nipples is… Pumpkinstiltskin! You’ll be goard out of your mind!

MUSIC TRANSITIONS TO A COOL, YET UNCOOL CAMPY INDIE 90S VIBE.

And for one last unpleasant scream before bed… 

RELEVANT FOOTAGE AND GRAPHICS FOR “THIS GIRL IS POISON!” APPEAR.

the 90’s comedic action-horror indie cult classic, “This Girl is Poison!” Featuring Allonna Woman as January Embers, a woman on the run from her past and a price on her head. But just when she’s forced to return to her hometown, an evil poisonous cloud threatens to kill everyone!

RETURN OF THE GENERIC, UPBEAT MUSIC.

All this tonight and more all month long as part of “Cinematico Magnifico’s Cinematic Monster Masterpiece Marathon.” Only on Santa Carla Public Television.

The Male Nipple

STEVE: The male nipple: proof of the divine, or further evidence that we are unloved, unwanted, and abandoned in a listless, yet pointless universe?

Good evening. I’m best ignored until I go away, and welcome to The Nightly Chill.

Tweak them or rub them, there is no denying the undeniably baseless opinion that the male nipple is not only ugly, formless, and, quite frankly, dull and tacky, but also evidence that the matriarchy has ensured that only the female breastual is alluring or devilishly naughty enough to slap, twist, or nurple in private or at parties.

Professor Jiggle Nippleson of the Moronikan University for Halfwits once wrote in his book, “I’m a Lobster, You’re a Lobsters, How’s About We All Get Naked Up in My Hottub?” that, and I quote, “The male nipple is the last bastion of liberty and reason in a world gone mad with perverse notions of equality, love, and understanding.”

And therefore, my contemporary crustaceans, we must rise from the depths of our tanks, seize our nipples by the claw, and revolt against the female mammary militia that dare deny our teats their deserved day in the sun.

I’m late for a self-inflicted lobotomy, and this has been A Complete Waste of Time.

A Bucket-a-Day Habit

STEVE reads a poem.

STEVE: (reads) Whether we weather the storm together, or whether we wither and dither about like single-servings of soggy witherers and ditherers, we’ll always have this issue to burn for warmth. So long as one of us remembers to print it out beforehand, of course.

Also, I don’t own a printer.

(to audience) Franklin Scrotal-Waxing wrote that in 1935, and nobody has the faintest clue why. Some believe he’d been driven mad by his sexually-charged addiction to drinking paint. Others claim the writing caused the paint drinking. And because Mr. Scrotal-Waxing perished in a tragically delicious paint fire only two months after writing this piece, which police mistook for a suicide note, the world is left to wonder why anyone cares to remember a man stupid enough to drink paint and leave his awful scribblings where perfectly decent persons and perverts might see.

The Bowie Pod

STEVE, indeed, sits on his toilet.

STEVE: Hello, you. I’m sitting on my toilet, and welcome back to “I Can’t Be Assed.”

The Bowie Pod is a delightful bit of consumer technology from Stardust Solutions, a less delightful multi-planetary conglomerate known for its manufacturing of everything from toiletries to war. That nasty bit of incriminating backstory aside, the Bowie Pod makes for a wonderful toy, with its ability to zip about at high-speed, built-in energy shields, and multitool function that allows them to seamless reconfigure itself from a small, one-inch orb into all assortments of knives, toothpicks, and corkscrews. When used for its intended function of novelty party favor and sexual debauchery, there are fewer greater gifts to receive than Stardust Solution’s patented and trademark-infringing Bowie Pods.

That said. Try to imagine the rather icky mess one such device may leave behind in its wake if it were, for instance, ingested orally and wholly unwillingly, activated via a convenient bite-sized, battery-operated remote control, and then all but one button on this particular bite-sized, battery operated remote control struck in rapid, not-entirely random fashion. Could you possibly imagine the horror of such a sloppily emptied husk of what used to be, up until only a merciless, bloody, and ear-piercing dying shriek ago, a one-time paying customer? I certainly can.

A Complete Waste of Time

01. ON OUR PROGRAM TODAY (HECTOR’S)

STEVE: I’m Steve Arviso, and this is “A Complete Waste of Time.”

MUSIC: A SNATCH OF SOME UP-BEAT DIDDY.

STEVE: On today’s program, we’ll be speaking with Connie McGivens., a local barista and failed piano tuner; fish enthusiast Cyril Shenanigans; and Kyle DeWitt, local con-man and bookie.

But first, a message from our sponsor – Hector’s.

MUSIC: SENTIMENTAL PIANO MUSIC. UP, UNDER.

STEVE: Do you want produce at the lowest price possible? Did you forget your wife’s birthday again? Then stop by Hector’s Oranges and Flowers Boutique. Currently located by the First Street off-ramp in Santa Ana. Hector’s: we have oranges and flowers… and sometimes other things.

02. THE LAST WORD (w/ FINNEGAN HABERDASHER)

MUSIC: PEPPY, YET TERRIBLE SYNTH-ORGAN MUSIC.

FINNEGAN: Welcome back to “The Last Word.” I’m your host, Finnegan Haberdasher. Tonight’s last words come from–

SFX: KNOCKING AT THE DOOR.

Oh. Excuse me for one moment, folks.

SFX: MORE KNOCKING.

SFX: FINNEGAN STEPS AWAY, OPENS DOOR.

FINNEGAN: (off) Yes, I’m Finnegan Haberdasher. Yes, I know Anita Dickings. What’s this about–

SFX: BANG! A GUNMAN SHOOTS FINNEGAN, FINNEGAN DROPS DEAD.

SFX: THE GUNMAN FLEES, SPEEDS AWAY IN CAR.

MUSIC: PEPPY, YET TERRIBLE SYNTH-ORGAN MUSIC CONTINUES. BUT THEN…

SFX: THE GETAWAY CAR CRASHES.

SFX: POLITE APPLAUSE.

MUSIC: PEPPY, YET TERRIBLE SYNTH-ORGAN MUSIC PLAYS OUT FOR A BIT TOO LONG.

03. ON THE HOUR (7PM)

SFX: ANNOYING TICKING. UP, UNDER.

ULYSSES: Welcome back to “On the Hour,” the only program where it’s New Year’s Eve every hour, on the hour. I’m your host, Ulysses S. Scrimshaw.

At the tone, the time will be, precisely, 7 P.M. (a beat, then…) Aaaaand…

SFX: a silly toot of a horn.

ULYSSES: There you have it.

Please remember to keep your celebratory antics respectable. And please, drink in moderation. And if you feel this program may have felt inaccurate, please adjust your clock accordingly and replay this show until satisfied.

I was and still am Ulysses S. Scrimshaw, and this has been “On the Hour.” And we’ll see you again, in, oh, say, fifty-nine minutes.

Goodbye.

04. MAKE IT QUICK (ALAN WRENCH)

PORTER: Howdy there folks. I’m Porter House, and welcome to “Make it Quick.” We’re out here in the heart of Keepitdownnow, Wyoming to help today’s special guest, Mr. Alan Wrench. Seems our new friend got himself into quite a bit of trouble recently at the dog races. So, he called us up to… Oh, I think I see Mr. Wrench coming out of his house right now.

SFX: PORTER SHOOTS, KILLS MR. WRENCH.

PORTER: Wasn’t that a beaut?

Welp… that’s all she wrote for this episode of “Make it Quick.” I’m Porter House. And remember, you never hear the one with your name

SFX: PORTER FLEES, SPEEDS OFF IN CAR.

05. THE SOCIETY FOR THE PROLIFERATION OF MORSE CODE

MUSIC: A LAID BACK LOUNGE MEDLEY. UP, UNDER.

SFX: APPLAUSE.

HOST: Wasn’t that brilliant, folks? Absolutely brilliant. And we’ll be right back with even of that which I have previously stated to be – and most certainly continues to remain – brilliant.

But first, a word from today’s sponsor – The Society for the Proliferation of Morse Code.

MUSIC: MEDLEY CUTS OFF.

SFX: THE BEEPING AND BOOPING OF SOME NONSENSE IN MORSE CODE.

MUSIC: LAID BACK LOUNGE MEDLEY RETURNS. UP, UNDER.

HOST: Wise words. Very wise words, indeed, from our friends down at SPMC.

Welcome back, everyone. I’m your host, Thumb Upmybutt. And we now return you to another sixty-minutes of uninterrupted screaming and wailing.

MUSIC: MEDLEY CUTS OFF.

SFX: PAINED SCREAMING AND WAILING OF COUNTLESS DAMNED SOULS.

06. A MESSAGE FROM THE WHITE HOUSE

MUSIC: BLARING AND PRETENTIOUS “BREAKING NEWS” DIDDY.

SWEETLY: Good evening, I’m Fuhkme Sweetly. As chaos continues to engul our once great nation, the White House has released the following message in the hopes of bridging gaps, mending bridges, and generally stirring the pot.

MESSAGE: (recording) (assorted baboon sounds followed by silly snoring, a cuckoo clock, sawing wood, and a small, whistling steam locomotive

SWEETLY: Truly a bold and daring message for these challenging times.

I’m Fuhkme Sweetly, and this has been another crushing message from today’s White House. Goodnight, and try not cry too much.

MUSIC: BLARING AND PRETENTIOUS “BREAKING NEWS” DIDDY. UP, OUT.

07. THE UNTIMELY DEATH OF NATURE DOCUMENTARIAN BIFF WELLINGTON
BY WAY OF CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICH

SOUNDSCAPE: BIFF silently eating a chicken salad sandwich as he stands in a small lake or pond, surrounded by only a lovely stretch of wilderness untainted by man’s hubris.

SFX: Biff chokes, drops dead with a little splash.

A long, uncomfortable silence…

08. ON OUR PROGRAM TODAY (THE SECOND PART)

STEVE: Unfortunately, that’s all we have time for today. Please join us next time, when we’ll be sure to disappoint you even more.

I’m Steve Arviso, and this has been a complete waste of time.

MUSIC: A SNATCH OF SOME UP-BEAT DIDDY. UP, OUT.

Ugh! Ugh! I’m Dying, You Idiot!

Steve addresses the audience.

STEVE: Good evening. And to those of you just joining us: good evening.

Welcome some of you to the next part in our eleventy-part series entitled, “A Complete Waste of Time: Or, A Modern Post-Modern Exploration of the Pointlessness of Wasting Time.”

Tonight’s piece: “Ugh! Ugh! I’m Dying, You Idiot!”

Death: what is it? Nobody’s quite sure, really. Scientists, for example, believe Death to be the point at which all things – babies, puppies, and, yes, even dear, sweet gram-gram – cease to be, which I think we can all agree is a bit of a bummer.

Nonetheless. Like a trial to a local newspaper or magazine that we most certainly never would have signed up for if given a say in the matter, Death comes for us all.

Sometimes, Death comes like a thief in the night…loud, chaotic, and wholly inconsiderate. Such was the case for Cecil Cecilson of Plainfield, Indiana…who had the misfortune of coming-to as an unknown, yet shockingly skilled prostitute proceeded to remove one of his kidneys right there on the tile floor of a motel bathroom.

Other times, Death is more playful trickster than some unseen, terrifying constant and inevitable conclusion of biological existence. Such was the case for Chlamydia Lapierre, of Fontana, California, the unwed widow of a small ficus plant who suddenly found herself reduced to two dimensions following her regular Tuesday afternoon shift at Classy Lou’s Erotic Dancing Emporium.

Tonight, we humbly invite you to laugh into the abyss, to embrace the all-consuming madness that comes from knowing that, one day, you, and all that you hold dear, will, for all intents and purposes, be scrubbed clean from the pavement of existence. And in some highly unfortunate cases, this may prove to be quite literal.

And for precisely those very reasons, on tonight’s program, we shall stoop so low as to speak with Connie McGivens, a local barista and failed piano tutor; fish enthusiast, Cyril Shenanigans; and Kyle Dewit, local con man and bookie.

But first, a complete waste of time.

Amber’s Story

SOMEONE speaks as they eat.

SOMEONE: My grandfather died when I was four. It wasn’t until a year or so later that I learned he was supposed to stay that way.

When I read the recent news story about the first natural death in over fifty years, I was skeptical too. Of course I was. This wasn’t the first story of it’s kind. It wasn’t even the first this year. Ever since the tragic 1968 pandemic, the world has latched on to any and every hope that maybe, just maybe the end is in sight – medications, genetic treatments, and, yes, stories like Amber Sawyer’s. And every year, we’ve been left disappointed.

The first such story that I could find in print is from 1973. Gloria Whitaker of Philadelphia claimed her thirty-year old sister, Dolores, passed away in her sleep. But unlike countless incidents of families – even entire apartment complexes and neighborhoods – devoured in their sleep during those first five years, Gloria awoke to a quiet house and her sister’s inanimate corpse still in bed. And according to the article, instead of running in terror, Gloria wept. But she wasn’t heartbroken about Dolores’ death, as they both had been with the passing and subsequent reanimation of their parents in ’71. No, she was overcome with joy at the thought that her sister might be the first of many to once more find rest after death.

Turns out, Dolores died from a ruptured aneurysm that mercifully damaged the part of the brain affected by Romero’s.

When Amber’s case started trending, I assumed the inevitable autopsy would show something similar – perhaps a head or brain injury she decided to sleep off instead of seeking medical attention. Perhaps drugs or alcohol were involved. This was a nineteen-year old college student, after all. In a world where the dead simply don’t stay that way, it’s not hard to feel a little bit immortal at that age.

But then… nothing.

Far as I know or can tell, Amber Sawyer is the first person to be medically declared dead of natural causes for the first time since 1968. There was nothing in her system. No aneurysm or head trauma. No defect. Nothing but a dead girl with a bad heart who stayed that way.

My mother is getting on in years now. She’s called me up every night since Amber’s story made its way to her local newspaper, sharing stories of a world where Amber’s death wasn’t news, only a fact of life. And like many others, she’s afraid of what will become of her when what should be the end comes, but doesn’t. She doesn’t want my father to keep her around in chains, like how her mother had kept her father, my grandfather, all those years ago. Every night she asks me to tell her that Amber’s story isn’t yet another news story that will come and go like all the rest, and every night I’m left unsure what to say.

When she asked me again last night, I replied with a question of my own: “Why did grandma keep grandpa around?”

And to her credit, she finally shared with me what grandma had said all those years ago: “God took him, but left the rest behind for me.”

I want to tell my mother that the world is a different place. That when she’s gone, she’ll stay that way. But I can’t. Because I’m unsure. Because I still have my doubts. Because I worry Amber’s story will be no different than Dolores’ or my grandfather’s. Because a not-so small part of me is scared of a world without her in it. Because in a world where the dead don’t stay that way, it can be that much harder to let go.

An uncomfortable silence. And then…

They continue with their meal without another word.

THE END

Coyote

A safe place. A PERSON sits in a chair before all, restless.

PERSON: I never thought I could kill anyone. Until I did.

All I wanted was some fuckin’ ice cream, man. It’d been pushing’ a hundred all week, and I was sweating’ like crazy every night, all night. And… I mean, y’ever been so hot you stick your head in the freezer just to cool off? Y’ever get stoned out of your mind just so you can forget how hot it is? Well, when you’re both, ya know, shit happens.

The last thing I remember before it all went screwy, it’d have to be standing in line in this sweatbox of a gas station, right around the corner from my place. I had that ice cream in my hand, man. Sweatin’ there in this long fuckin’ line, wondering the fuck there’s a line at two in the mornin’. Then I finally pay, step outside, and then… nothin’. No stars, no black, no nothin’. Just, nothin’. Didn’t even get to open the wrapper, man.

I remember the way the man cried. He was… how do I put it? He was fuckin’ losin’ it, ya know? I remember’ just kinda blippin’ into that, ya know? One minute, I’m all about that ice cream. The next, I’m in the middle of a fuckin’ canyon. The sun’s coming out. It’s finally cold as shit, and everything’s wet. And there’s this guy tied up next to me. He’s just layin’ there, losin’ his fuckin’ mind. Crying and screaming. Shit was runnin’ down his nose. He was choking on his spit and everything. I don’t know what happened. He looked fine. Nothing had happened. Not yet.

Maybe I’m the weird one for not acting like that.

She wore a Coyote mask, jeans, and a Ramones tee. Her voice sounded young, but something about the way she talked, I don’t know, it’s like she’d been doing this a while. Like, there’s that way people talk when they’re really comfortable doing shit, ya know? Like, they got this shit handled. No worries. Ya know? Real boss-lady type shit.

The whole thing’s really fucked up. The whole fuckin’ thing.

“Pick one.” That’s what she said. She tossed me a fuckin’ tire iron – a tire iron! And she says to me, “Pick one.”

And I just stood there for a minute, looking at her like… I don’t know. I guess like she’d just kidnapped me, dragged my ass to the middle of a fuckin’ canyon along with some dude who looks and sounds like he’s shitting himself, and then tossed me a tire iron and instructed me to, “Pick one.”

Then she pulled out a piece and aimed it at my head. So, I picked one.

She took our phones, our wallets. I had to walk out of the canyon, down the highway. Caked-up in dirt, in tears, in vomit… in bits of blood and brains and bone. I don’t know how long I walked. Maybe it was a few minutes, maybe longer. Eventually CHP pulled me over, and they pulled a gun on me too. Not that I blame him. I mean, you should have seen me.

You think she was watching? I bet she was watching.

Sleep is hard. Being awake ain’t easy either, I guess. But sleeping is harder. I should probably see someone about that. Money’s a bit tight. But sometimes when I can’t sleep, I think about her. Did she know what I would do? I didn’t know the guy, he didn’t know me. Probably. She could’ve picked anyone else in that gas station. Why me, huh? Why him? Or that piece of hers. It’s not like she fired a warning shot, or whatever. She just kinda held it, waved it around a bit. 

“Pick one.” Do you think she meant her too? Did I kill some guy I didn’t know with a fucking tire iron when I didn’t have to? Maybe if he had to pick, we’d both still be here. Did I fuck up? Does it even matter?

Person grows silent, still, lost deeper and deeper in thought.

Pine Cones

STEVE: Y’ever wonder about the first person to die only for some asshole to come along, look down – or maybe up, I don’t know – wasn’t there. But they look at what’s left of the poor bastard, shake their head, (HALF-HEARTED) “Shame,” (“NORMAL” VOICE) and then continue on with their day as if they hadn’t seen a dead body?

I wonder what they must’ve seen.

Not the dead guy, of course, though I am curious about what he saw too. And I’m sure I’ll see something similar soon enough.

But what about the other guy? What did he see?

Was the corpse still warm?

How many pieces were there, and did they find it all before a bear made off with some?

Did it happen in front of them? Or maybe they came in mid-scene – no context, just a corpse in a cave with too many pine cones up his ass.