Friday, October 18, 2013

Like a Boss!

Hey there WYMOP readers!

I am about to get in the car and head out to Worcester to to attend Rock and Shock with the New England Horror Writers. I'm going to have some fun, see some seriously weird stuff, and hopefully sell a few books.

The flip side of that is I'm not going to have time to post anything later on this weekend, and by Sunday night I should be a tired, burned-out shell of a man when I walk back through that door, sooooo... y'all get a WYMOP post early!

Cool, isn't it? Wish me luck! If you're in the Worcester area (and by 'area' I mean within 500 miles) then you should stop by this weekend and say hi!

It's short, it's sweet, and it's fairly complete... and here's the story!

~ ~ * * ~ ~

Handsome is eleven now, and in the sixth grade. This means a new school, new teachers… and a new way for him to get there. This year, Handsome is riding the bus.

Queue the dramatic music: “Dum dum-dum!”

Yeah. Terrific. After being chauffeured to school every school day of his entire academic life, my boy’s finally got to get out there to meet the bus on his own.

Like I said: terrific.

As a result I was worried about the boy using his head. They live on a very busy street and there is no sidewalk on their side of it. This means that he’s either walking in the breakdown lane or crossing the street to the sidewalk over there and then crossing back once he’s parallel to the corner where he gets picked up.

It’s a bit of a nightmare. I’ve been imagining all sort of terrible things happening as a result of inattention, either on the part of my son or the motorists around him.

I’m a dad. Worrying is what I do. The fact that I write a lot of horror fiction doesn’t help —  it just means my imagination is both well exercised and well-stocked with the stuff that frightens me.

Last night Handsome mentioned how cold it is becoming in the mornings for his walk to the bus stop. Casually, trying to maintain my admittedly minimal ‘cool’ status with the boy, I said “So, do you walk in the gutter or cross the street on the way there?”

“Cross the street.”

“Are you careful?” I said, a bit too quickly to hold onto my cool quotient if the boy was paying attention, but I was a worried dad here. Screw cool.

“Oh, Dad, you should see me,” he said. “I go out the front door and stand right on the curb down there and do this.”

He crossed his forearms over his chest, each hand taking loose hold of the opposite upper arm. He bent his knees slightly, huddled actually, and began to slowly rub his upper arms up and down as if trying to keep warm. I looked up to meet his gaze and saw his expression.

The. World’s. Most. Pitiful. Face.


His blue eyes shone with unshed tears, huge and slowly blinking. His pale cheeks shook slightly as he sniffled. His lips, still bow-like in shape, like a small child’s or baby’s, quivered.

His little lip quivered!

“They all stop, in both directions, and wave for me to go. One lady rolled her window down to tell me to ‘go on, go’.”

He stood up straight and strolled out of the room with a confident strut that stunned me.

“And then I cross the street like A Boss!”

I burst out laughing at right about the same time I stopped wondering if he was using his head out there.

He’s going to be fine.

Talk to you later!

....and just for the fun of it, here's Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake having a #Twitter #Conversation

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Decked by an Angel

Greetings, WYMOP readers!

Do y'all remember that television show from the '90s called Touched by an Angel?

I do. And I had some sort of 'experience' this past weekend when Handsome's mother and I took him to the Topsfield Fair, and he --

Wait. I'm getting ahead of myself here. I'll start again.

...Here's the story:

~ ~ * * ~ ~

“I’m really good at this!”

“He did learn to shoot with the Scouts last year," I said.


Two seconds later Handsome was snatching the $5 bill his mother held out and spinning toward the booth behind him: the one with the cork gun. He laid the bill on the counter only to have it swept away by the woman running the game. She explained the way the gun worked and spread out a half-dozen or so corks in the same spot Handsome’s $5 had so recently occupied.

The game was simple, in concept: shoot the cork to knock the plastic cups off the shelves at the back of the booth and collect the points marked in the cups. The more points you have the higher you could go on the prize wall, at the top of which sat the pinnacle of her prizes: a 3-foot tall SpongeBob Squarepants.

Handsome started shooting. Cups fell. The booth girl did the math —  and Handsome was standing right in front of us again, hands clasped beneath his chin in puppy-dog-eyed supplication.


Another $5 bill was swept away, another half-dozen or so corks spilled across the counter-top and Handsome was firing and reloading the gun like there was no tomorrow.

And then he was back before us again, blue eyes shining.


And again. And again. So many times I lost track, but I was pretty sure that $5 at a time that girl was collecting from Handsome the sum total of the National Debt as Handsome tried to build up enough points to walk out of there carrying that SpongeBob. I was there, I saw it all happening, but if anything I was even more helpless than his mother to resist Handsome’s blue-eyed onslaught.

Wait. Looking back I believe I misspoke: he wanted enough points to walk out of there with me carrying that SpongeBob for him.

Handsome’s point total climbed through ‘Small’, then ‘Medium’, growing higher and higher. I started asking passing folk if they could spot me a fin. Handsome kept playing. I kept panhandling. I had tied one of my legs back so I looked like an amputee and started affecting something that was either an accent or a speech impediment, I wasn't sure which, in order to keep some coins flowing into my cup before he tipped over: she added up his point total and he was barely into the ‘Large’ category. Barely, but there!

“I’ll take him,” he said, pointing a triumphant finger at the stuffed annoying sea-creature. He could barely speak for the smile on his face. It wasn’t there long.

“Sorry, hon,” said booth girl, “that one’s a ‘Jumbo’.”

He looked at the chart to see how many more points he would need for a Jumbo prize, then looked over at us. He saw I was busily working the crowd holding a ‘Will Work for Food’ sign, and turned back to booth girl with a dejected expression. He finally walked away from the booth carrying a 2-foot tall dreadlocked banana. A ‘Rastananna’.

Then he saw the next booth. Waist-high basketball hoops and half-sized basketballs.

“I’m really good at this!”

He ran to talk to the booth barker as I sat on the ground and wondered what my shoes would taste like.  Despair crept up behind me and brutally clubbed me with a goofy-bat leaving me almost laughing, though my expression was that of a baby with terrible gas.

“How do I get up to your ‘Jumbo’ prizes?” Handsome said, cutting through all the BS like an 11-year-old with nothing to lose.

The booth guy, having watched the entire SpongeBob Saga unfold before him, looked to where we waited for Handsome. I had given up all hope and was lying on my sign sharpening a knife while Wife flagged down passers-by, trying to find one that might be interested in buying one of my kidneys.

“Do you have a job, son?” said the booth guy, giving Handsome a flinty squint.

“Uh… no,” said Handsome, taken aback.

“Well, then we ain’t even gonna talk about the Jumbos,” booth guy said, his words pulling me up and out of my poverty-induced coma. Hope. The man had given me hope.

There had been clouds on the horizon all day, and over the past half-hour they had been closing in, blotting out the blue sky and eradicating the light. As far as my tear-blurred eyes could see was shadow and darkness across the land… and then there was Light, a single, brilliant shaft that pierced the clouds to fall full upon the face of this man who could tell Handsome ‘No’.

An Angel. I had found an Angel. It was just like the television show.

I spun about, listening for an Irish accent. Looking for a white dove to fly overhead. Was decked by a large black woman I hugged, mistaking her, in my fervor, for Della Reese. Though to be honest, I’ve heard Della packs a mean left hook.

The clouds parted and the skies cleared as Handsome came back to us with the purple ball he’d just chosen from the lowest tier of prizes. My heart sang. I looked over to my Angel, trying to thank him with my eyes, and he nodded back with a twinkle and a grin. We moved off through the crowd to see the rest of the fair, and I was both bright of eye and light of heart…

… until…

“Oh! I’m really good at that!”

I felt a chill as a cloud passed overhead, then decided that directly over me was the place to be. I looked up at it, craning my neck back just in time to catch one fat raindrop, right between the eyes.

“Oh, @#$%.”

I started to dig out my sign again…

~ ~ * * ~ ~

So that was how I discovered it costs just over $90 an hour to entertain an 11-year-old at the Fair. Next year I think I'll just fly him out of town and put him up in a hotel for the ten days the Fair is in town.

It'll be cheaper.

Talk to you later!

....and this week's funny little video is brought to you by my friend Larisa, who posted it on Facebook so I could watch it again and again and laugh every damn time. Enjoy!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Nun Better...

Hi there WYMOP fans!

Late again, I know, I know. I'm sorry. In my defense it has been a crazy couple of weekends here: last weekend was the Granite State Comicon, while this week was the Harvard Bookstore Warehouse Weekend, so I spent both weekends helping man the New England Horror Writers' sale table having loads of fun and selling oodles of my books... if by 'oodles' you mean three or four a day. Maybe. Almost enough to pay for the gas I used to get to the events, but it was a lot of fun anyway.

So here's my post, late again, as I said. My apologies to my reader.

...and, here's the story:

~ ~ * * ~ ~

So there I was: pausing momentarily at an intersection, and according to the click-click-click of my directional I was going to take a left. I was all alone there, the only other car in sight coming straight up to the other side of the intersection. They were no worry for me, though —  it was a four-way-stop, and they wren’t even here yet. I eased off the brake and onto the gas and started through my turn.

— and that other car actually sped up a bit and blew off the stop sign, cutting me off as they took a right.

My tires gave a little chirp as I stomped on the brake, and I came within an inch or two of taking a bite out of the steering wheel as my jeep jerked to a halt. I started out with “Son of a bitch”, and the language would have gone downhill from there if I hadn’t been so shocked. I’d gotten a quick glimpse of the driver as the car blew past me, just inches from my grill. It had been quick, but like I said it hadn’t been from that far away, and it had been… it was...

It was a nun.

The black habit, the white wimple, the whole thing had flashed by as she cut me off like a sixteen year-old boy trying to impress the girl in the passenger’s seat. I sat there for a second or two, just letting it sink in and watching her car rapidly disappearing in the distance... then stepped on the gas and went after her.

I wanted to see this flying nun in action.

Wanting and doing, however, are two different things. I leaned on the gas, and I’ll admit I was speeding, going fast even for me. This was Massachusetts after all, where speed limits are more like suggestions and students here major in math just so they can explain their way out of the ticket, but I was going fast enough that I was actually nervous about getting spotted by the police.

I may be cool, but God is not my co-pilot.

I couldn’t catch her. I could see her up ahead, and there weren’t any traffic lights that slowed me down, but I just couldn’t catch her. She lefted. She righted. She lefted again, all of it with a smooth minimum of deceleration that left me struggling simply not to lose her, nevermind actually catching up. I kept picturing a little old lady in my mind: wearing a habit, with a bobble-Jesus mounted on the dash as a nice counterpoint to the death’s head shifter knob clenched in her gnarled and arthritic hand.

Finally, a straightaway! Though in my imagination a cop lurked behind every tree and bush along the way, I put the hammer down and started to gain on her. There was a part of me that reveled in the chase, feeling a burst of pride at even this small success; but there was another part of me, a smooth, logical part that thought it was just all kinds of smart, that pointed out that though I was chasing, she was, technically, not running, and actually had no idea I was back here with her tail lights in my mental cross-hairs.

And still she almost lost me.

The rest of me got together and told that logical part of me to have a nice cup of “Shut the #$%@ up!” and got down to the serious business of nun-hunting. It was going pretty well for nearly a half a minute… and then the straightaway ended. I was close enough to the Driver Superior that I saw the end of my bit of luck before it actually happened; up ahead I could see cross-streets and traffic, exactly the type of driving terrain I had been doing so poorly in a minute ago, and my heart sank.

But then there was another little bit of luck that went my way. The traffic light ahead flipped red, and so did Sister Andretti's brake-lights as she slowed to a stop. I had been closing the gap, and if this red light was just long enough…

It was. The road split here into two lanes as it approached the traffic signal: the left lane was for left turn only. No. Did I need to go left? No. Did I want to go left? Oh, Hell no —  but what I did want to do, quite a bit actually, was to get a glimpse of the little old woman of God who drove a car with such speed, such skill, such verve.

I pulled into the left lane moving like I was going to run the light, but all I was trying to do was get up there and have a little time to see her before the light changed and my holy quarry disappeared with a blast of exhaust and a stretch of burned rubber.

I made it. I powered down to the stop line and took a nice, sweeping look at my surroundings, just checking everything: oncoming traffic, the surrounding house or two, even an imaginary squirrel in one of the trees to my right. It would have been obvious to anyone observing me that I was looking at everything, and not focused entirely on the driver of the car to my right.

… Who turned out to be a girl of 18 or 20. Maybe 22? Maybe. The dark habit and white wimple I thought I had seen turned out to be black, curly locks held back and out of her face by a white headband. She was laughing and talking animatedly, only holding the wheel with one hand while the other held a cell phone up to her ear.

A small, internal part of me died, just a little, to see how deep into her conversation she was. As I sat there remembering the smooth, practically professional way she had taken those turns and realizing she had apparently done it almost completely on auto-pilot, the light changed. With a head-tossing laugh that I swear I could hear through both our raised windows, she stepped on the gas. I imagined her managing the wheel with but a single finger as she powered along the road, disappearing around a bend about a quarter-mile ahead while I sat there, waiting for the light to change and allow me to take a left I really didn’t want to take. My head was hung slightly in a sort of manly Massachusetts-driver shame that was tempered somewhat by a little bit of pride: that was the next generation of Massachusetts drivers right there, and if she was any indication then they were well-equipped to uphold our state’s driving reputation.

Even better equipped than me.

The green arrow above my head lit up, indicating that I could now take that left turn. I stepped on the gas and swung onto this new road, deciding I’d just see where it took me.

Talk to you later!

~ ~ * * ~ ~

When I went to YouTube and looked up 'Funny Nuns', this was on the top of the list. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The One

Greetings WYMOP readers!

This is late, I know, and I'm sorry. I actually had it written, but this past weekend I was at the Granite State Comicon huddling behind a couple of sale tables with some of the other members of the New England Horror Writers, and both Saturday and Sunday nights I was pretty tired... and I forgot to post anything.

My bad. I'm sorry. So here's the story:

~ ~ * * ~ ~

This weekend at the Granite State Comic Convention Handsome has decided to accompany me for one of the days as Neo, from the movie The Matrix. He got the clothes and he got the shades, and he actually looks quite a bit like the character of Neo from the movies… but a blonde Neo.

Neo (for those of you who never watch any movies there under your rock) is played by Keanu Reeves, not an actor noted for his golden locks. Rather the opposite, I fear: that Canadian bastard has some of the blackest hair never to come out of a bottle.

Out of a bottle… now there’s a thought!

So I shelled out $3 and picked up a can of spray-on hair color —  basically spray-paint for the head. I’ve never used the stuff before (not even way back in the past when I had hair) and the thought of experimenting with it at six in the morning when I was just trying to get out the door and to the convention just did not appeal. That was not the time to find out it didn’t work, or was just a terrible mess, or some other television sit-com disaster, so instead of waiting until Sunday morning…

...I waited until Handsome was firmly ensconced in his chair in front of a game of Minecraft, and I pounced! Before he knew what was happening I had whipped a towel around his neck like some back-alley barber.

“Hey!” he said. “What are you doing?”

“Just sit still and play your game,” I said, shaking the can as per the instructions. The rattle-ball inside the can (See? I told you it was spray paint!) clattered away, causing the boy to ignore his game and twist about in his chair in fear.


“It’s black hair coloring. I want to test it out a bit before we have to use it to Neo-ize you Sunday morning, okay?”

“Oh. Okay.” He turned back to his game. “Just do the back of my head or whatever.”

“I will,” I lied, and started spraying away. In a series of short bursts I painted the back of his head black, then moved around to stand beside him, cupping a protective hand around his ear.

“What are you doing?”

“Keeping this stuff from getting inside your head. You’re welcome.”

The spray hissed. The ball rattled. The spray hissed some more as I worked my way around to the other side, leaving blackened hairs in my wake.

“You might as well do the whole thing,” he said, leaning a bit to the side to keep his screen in sight.

“Now why didn’t I think of that?” I said as I finished the job.

I hit a few spots a second time, throwing a little better coverage onto places where the natural blond was struggling through.

“Okay,” I said. "Hit pause, or get to a safe spot or whatever you have to do, but I want to take a look at you.”

He did what he needed to, then turned in the chair to face me.

“Not bad,” I said, doing the nodding thing combined with the raised-eyebrow thing: the impressed look thing.

“Lemme see!”

He flailed off into the bathroom, then came back demanding some eyebrows. I obliged. He went back to stare into the mirror again, and when he came back to me he was all smiles.

“I’m getting the coat,” he said, hustling past me to fetch his long leather jacket. When he tried to breeze by me again on his way back to the mirror I put out a hand to stop him, then held up his thin black shades. He too them and, grinning like a fool, slipped them on as he stepped into the bathroom.

“I am so Neo!”

He was, too. He strolled around the house for a while dodging imaginary slow-motion bullets, but then it was time to clean up.

“Can’t I just wear it to bed?”

“Nope. I know how well it goes on now, and how well it stays in. Now I want to know how easily it comes out.”

So I sent him in the bathroom again, sans leather and shades, and told him to take a shower and wash the hell out of his hair. With water. And soap. At the same time.

Sometimes you have to break it down for him like that, be that specific.

The door closed. The water ran. This had all gone splendidly, so much better than I’d expected, and I began to think it was going to stay that way. I began to think that God was going to let me have this one.

I should have known better.

“Dad? Can you come here?”

I went to the bathroom to find a naked, towel-wrapped Handsome standing in the propped-open door. His hair looked… different.

“Have you been through the shower already?”

“No,” he said, and he looked a little embarrassed. “I was trying to wash it out with a facecloth first.”
I looked past him to the sink: the full-to-the-rim sink. Full to the rim with both water and suds, and some of those suds were a bit black.

No, they were pretty black.

So were the puddles along the vanity top and the floor.

So was the facecloth draped and dripping over the edge of the sink. The white facecloth. Well, it used to be white. Now there were some white-ish parts left around a pitch-black center that seemed to be spreading fast.

“Yeah,” he said, seeing my expression. “I think the sink needs to be cleaned.”

I heaved a big sigh, then looked down at my toes for a minute and made a quick count to ten. Handsome wisely chose that moment to get into the shower, which had been running all this time, just steaming away. I drained the sink and started cleaning the vanity. I used the destroyed washcloth to clean the counter and wash out the sink, then I started trying to clean the cloth itself.

I soaped it.

I rinsed it.

I soaped it.

I rinsed it.

I kept doing this again and again, not really paying attention to how long I was standing there at the sink, just using the repetitive motion as a kind of meditation exercise, just soaping and breathing and rinsing and repeating until I was perfectly calm.

Then a voice came from the shower, penetrating my calm like a bullet through glass:

“Hey Dad? I think the tub needs to be cleaned…”

My sneakered toes came into view as a sigh cut through the room, and I started counting...

Yeah. Fatherhood. It makes me laugh.

Talk to you later!

....and, just for the fun of it: Babies!