Happy Halloweenie Ghouls and Boils ( #TBT )

Hold out your eyes for a Halloween treat.

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Hold out your eyes and I’ll give you a little insight plus the beginning and the ending of Smoke Free.

Smoke Free is a weird little story conceived in the smoke of a brush pile. The photos below show the cover; the first photograph and the finished cover.

Smoke Free is probably the only book cover we have not changed at least a dozen times. The truth is I have never wanted to change it. I love this cover and the image of that little pumpkin smoking a cigar never fails to amuse me. (I have the husband to thank for that.)

I had never heard of Irwin Smutter before that day and he (like the cigar smoking pumpkin) still amuses me with his absolute weirdness; him and the bizarre world he resides in.

Okay, here you go.

In the beginning…

Irwin marched down the stark white hallway with the impudence of a man on a mission. At the end of corridor, a glass door awaited with the words FREE YOUR SELF painted in large gold letters. He raised a curled fist to knock but decided against it. Easing the door open he called out, “Yoo-hoo. Is anyone home?” when no one responded he grudgingly entered the room and scanned its contents.

The room appeared empty other than an oversized sofa. Irwin reposed himself against the frigid vinyl, crossed his feet and sighed. A lively timbered scene covered the wall opposite the door, designed in such a way it almost looked like a window. Beyond the dull sheen of the pretend window was a forest where rays of sunshine cut through a smoky haze. The remaining walls were un-textured, pale and bare. The room smelled of sandalwood and acetone, a bizarre sweetness that sickened and comforted him at the same time. Irwin shifted nervously on the stiff upholstery in search of a warm spot. There was none.

The faux leather, the lifeless walls, the fake window – it was all too unsettling. Nothing is real, he thought, stretching his arms until his hands met above his head. Fads! The world has been reduced to kooks, phonies, and fads. Reassured by his own summation, Irwin interlaced his fingers and stretched further. When the joints in his entwined hands refused to pop, he rested them at the base of his neck.

Smoking cessation. Yeah, right. It was not Irwin’s idea. Irwin enjoyed smoking. The pungent smell of a fresh-lit cigarette made bitter coffee sweet. Smoking was one of the few things he looked forward to each day.  A good smoke, a little booze, a lot of caffeine and Evie.

His wife, Evie was a non-smoker and she did not mind, she had never complained, but again, Evie never complained about anything. Evie was a saint.

So what am I doing here? Peer pressure. That was the only logical explanation. All of his friends had stopped smoking months ago. There is nothing more annoying than an ex-smoker. Irwin’s mind zigzagged trying to connect the dots, the trail of crumbs that had lead him here to this place where he was expected to free himself.

Evenings at the local tavern were not the same, instead of cheers and jokes the gang sat around bellyaching about a handful of smokers in the far corner. It wasn’t fun anymore. Irwin thought as he strained to recall the last time he had hung out with any of them, the last time he had stopped by the saloon on the way home. He could not remember. A few of his buddies had dropped by the house for a beer once or twice a week but then…

It occurred to Irwin he had been isolated for some time; cut off from society. Who needs them? Not me, I don’t have time for chewing the fat. He dug his heels into the armrest, tensed his abdominal muscles and forced a few halfhearted sit-ups. I’m healthy, a hell of a lot healthier than those slobs. Heck, Frank can’t see his ding-a-ling without a mirror. Irwin laughed aloud at the image of his friend groping for his penis. Poor bastard, he groaned, starring up at the flat alabaster ceiling, Frank’s a good guy. The kindest, most nonjudgmental man I have ever met… hey! Irwin bolted upright, Frank is my best friend.

When the sparkle abated from the realization, Irwin flopped back into a prone position and began a set of leg-lifts. Good ole Frank. Poor bastard. Dean and Will, now there is a couple of bonafide jerks!  Irwin scoffed to himself, holding his un-embellished feet at heart level, Health fanatics! You can smell Dean a mile away— wreaking of curry and cumin. And Will, with his dead man farts –methane poison. Both of them—with their stained yellow skin.

Irwin snickered at the memory of Frank again, the last memory of the saloon he could clearly recall. Dean and Will who were frequently referred to as Mutt and Jeff, and the sight of their jaundiced eyes–unwavering.  Long, lanky Dean slumped over his mug of warm Bud, squatty Will knocking back shots of cheap Vodka and the rank cloud of gas that always followed them.

“Dang! What are you two eating?” Frank had asked. When neither answered he pressed on, “It smells like you’re on the verge of shittin’ a dead man. What are you little tree huggers eatin’? Are y’all eatin’ people?” Irwin recalled Frank’s hearty laugh at his joke and smiled, until he remembered the response. Dean– shivering but never looking up.  Will with that cocky glare, wriggling his thin eyebrows and slamming his glass down on the table for effect, grinning through pink jagged teeth. “No one under the age of eighteen.”

“Screw it.” Irwin said aloud as he swung himself into a sitting position. He grabbed the package of Camels from his shirt pocket. Despite the shaking, he managed to free a cigarette without breaking it. He tapped the filter against his palm a few times and gently set it between his lips. His right hand habitually swept the pocket of his 501 jeans to retrieve the Zippo. Irwin studied the chrome lighter, rubbing his thumb across the engraving. “I loved your heart too Evie.” He whispered. Within the sound of two clicks, a beautiful orange flame emerged. Irwin closed his eyes and pulled the smoke deep into his lungs. The hissing crackle of dried tobacco had always eased his trembling. The feel of his Zippo, a gift from Evie, had always soothed his mind. I LOVE YOUR HEART was barely visible after years of stroking. He exhaled and imagined the writings of e.e. cummings. i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart). He fantasized about Evie, her soft white breasts against his back as she convinced him to be more accepting of lowercase letters and lower class people. Perfect breasts that now–

Just before The End…

Irwin and Evie spent their days and nights exploring endless trails. Time meant nothing to them now. Irwin was not sure how long he had been in this place, but it had been long enough to learn a few things. One: the sun never goes down. Two: there is no need for sleep and three: sometimes the boils come on slowly. He consoles himself with knowing Evie never minded his smoking.

Happy Halloween!

Available wherever e-books are sold.

Smoke Free narrated by Troy McElfresh

Playing with Frames (Mad Monday)

How about that frame? Isn’t it cute?

Of course it is. Maybe a little lame… a lame frame ( 😀 I crack me up) but cute nonetheless. Facebook turned me on to the idea.SMOKE FREE

So what am I mad about now?

I’m mad in a good way about the sheer funness (yeah, funness is a word – look it up) in creating frames but I’m kind of pissed annoyed that Facebook would not let me use the actual book cover for Smoke Free because of the cigar. Yeah, it sends a bad message and encourages smoking. WTF?!

And I love this book cover…

The hubby designed it and that cigar was his special touch.

Smoke Free

Anyone that has read Smoke Free knows smoking is the least of Erwin Smutter’s problems. LOL. But hey, I ain’t judgin’ and I do not want to be the cause of someone picking up a stogie.

I would rather you pick up a copy of Smoke Free instead.  For 99¢ or less it might cure you. 😉

 

 

And Heeyy, don’t I look mad as a hatter and bat-shit cRaZy  in this frame? Well I am supposed to, it tis the season. HaPpY HaLloWeEn Y’all!

selfie smoke free

Skippy Red (Mad Monday)

skippy red

Skippy Red

In the house where he lived void of laughter and kisses

In the room where he smoked and the little dog pisses

Where the ghost of a bloke stirs a foul reminiscence

Lies the frame of a maimed Skippy Red

~

Go down, go down poor Skippy Red

Alas, alas no water to tread

No ropes, no planks, no breaking of bread

In your world of endless abysses

~

Go on, go on let sleeping dogs lie

A new crib for you, twas a good day to die

Hoist a fresh cup, here’s spit in your eye

Abaddon is better off dead

Farewell, farewell Skippy Red

MORE (531x800)

 

From MORE: Short Stories & Such

Short Stories & Such Audio narrated by Robert Scott Sullivan

Roses from Ishmael (Friday’s Free-for-all)

Friday’s Free-for-all is a freaky little story I wrote a few thousand years ago. You can read along and/or listen to the narration by Robert Berliner.

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Roses from Ishmael

Ishmael thought the flowers would be a nice touch. Roses were her favorite, red roses to be exact. These were slightly black around the edges and void of fragrance, but they were roses nonetheless.

“You’re not old enough to remember when roses had a smell are you?” he asked the cashier as he handed her a twenty dollar bill.

“No sir, I guess not.” She replied handing him a rumpled one along with thirteen cents in change.

“I bet you’re not even old enough to buy beer.” He said tucking the flowers under his arm. The young woman gave a weary smirk and he shoved the change into his coat pocket. “I guess it doesn’t matter as long as you’re old enough to sell it.” Ishmael yanked the eighteen pack of Bud Light from the counter and strolled to his truck.

Just outside of the city limits he reached across the seat and twisted the first cap off of a tepid bottle. The clanking of the glass was comforting and the warm beer eased the queasiness in his stomach. He downshifted and let the black Chevy pull itself along the narrow country lane as he sipped the Bud and drank in the scenery. The summer heat had taken a toll on the coastal Bermuda that waved its browned tops as he drove past. Ishmael nodded and gestured back, feeling a kinship. But relief was on the way, the weatherman said as much when he interrupted the radio host to announce tornado warnings in effect until eight o’clock this evening.

As he pulled into the drive he sucked the last bit of suds from the third bottle, took a deep breath and sighed. Her car was parked in the usual place. He felt hopeful, nervously adjusting the flowers and dusting the fallen petals to the floorboard before popping a wintergreen disc into his mouth. The mint clung to his cheek like paste as he gagged, the stench of evergreen causing him to heave with panic. A mouth full of juniper berries was an unpleasant memory to say the least. His tongue darted and swept in search of spit and after several sweeps he managed to be rid of it. When the candy landed Ishmael kicked at the dusty drive covering it and his boot in a fine white powder.

“Honey I’m home.” He called from the kitchen. “Arianna? Sweetheart? Are you still here?” he spoke gently as he made is way toward the guest bedroom.

The squishing of his boots on wet carpet went unnoticed as did her silent cries. “You’re in there aren’t you?” He asked pressing his hand to door. “Speak to me, please?” Ishmael ran his fingers across the buckled paint and continued, “Ari- I’m sorry. You have to believe I never meant to hurt you. You believe me don’t you?” the man’s statement was honest but how could she believe him? He knew how she loved her perfect house; how hard she had worked to make the quaint space a home. He knew too that it was him she loved, only him but his jealousy blinded him to the fact. “I was only trying to make a point… a stupid point I know but I never struck the match Arianna. It was an accident. Can you forgive me?”

A sharp snap came from the other side of the door and his heart dropped. He made his way back to the kitchen and tossed the roses into Tuesday’s dishwater. How many Tuesdays had passed? Her silence set a new record. She had never shunned him so long and the guilt that urged him to buy the flowers – the same remorse he felt every time he lost his temper was quickly being replaced by irritation; an all too familiar annoyance building in the pit of his stomach. It would simmer there until it bubbled over and rumbled through his empty gut lapping against raw nerves, reviving memories of every rejection and hurt feeling he had ever known.

Ishmael felt the heat rise in his face and throb in his ears as he gripped the counter to steady his frame. Trembling he strained to recall what the therapist had taught him. It was not working. The only happy thoughts he owned were of her and they had been supplanted by unbearable memoirs, images of unforgiving eyes. Her eyes once bright and smiling now flamed and pierced him with accusations. The same eyes that gave him comfort now cut him to the bone. She had a way of doing that – shaming a man without a word and shame was a thing he hated.

He had been ashamed for as long as he could remember. Even as a small boy, before he had ever heard the word or perceived its definition – he felt it. He ate shame for breakfast and bathed in it before going to bed each night. He knelt on it as he said his prayers and iced his beer in it and sometimes he hid it in a bundle of flowers. Yes shame was his unfaltering companion, the one sure thing he could count on.

Jutting his face toward the heavens he prayed and waited for an answer.

Oblivious to the first drops that landed Ishmael continued to pray. As the rain drenched his upturned face, mingling with his tears he steadied his breath and waited for an answer, an absolution that refused to come. Instead the wind swirled in the open roof above him showering his blistered face with twigs and scorched bits of fiberglass, a foul reminder of things that could not be undone.

“Am I beyond forgiveness?” He pleaded toward the thundering sky. “Will you always be angry with me?”

Ishmael tried to stoop amongst the debris, to kneel if for no other reason than sheer exhaustion but the charred drywall held his fists. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!” he croaked, his throat too dry to scream

“Damn you Arianna!” He cursed through cracked lips, unable to summon any moisture, unable to summon anything. Not so much as a heave could he muster from the memory of juniper on an elementary playground. He would now welcome the kicks of a bully in canvas sneakers, the scratching of coarse pungent needles against his face and the bitterness of their berries.

Ishmael heard the machines approaching; he could hear the men talking just prior to the wall landing. They used words like ‘total loss’, ‘unsalvageable’ and ‘condemned’. Words he had come to terms with, things no amount of roses in the world could fix.

He laid his head against the sooty timber that permanently fixed him and asked once again, “Arianna? Ari-honey are you here?” and again she refused to answer.

From Once Upon a Dead Gull available in digital or audio

Once Upon a Dead Gull Cover (420x640)

Written by Janna Hill

Narrated by Robert Berliner

Spirits of the Dead

Spirits of the Dead (aka Visits of the Dead)
Edgar Allan Poe, 1809 – 1849

EAPThy soul shall find itself alone
‘Mid dark thoughts of the grey tomb-stone;
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.

Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness — for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still.

EAP in chainsThe night, though clear, shall frown,
And the stars shall not look down
From their high thrones in the Heaven
With light like hope to mortals given,
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee for ever.

Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,
Now are visions ne’er to vanish;
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more, like dew-drop from the grass.

The breeze, the breath of God, is still,
And the mist upon the hill
Shadowy, shadowy, yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token.
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!