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Marion

Marion 1

Marion ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp 

Bruno loved the carnival, the noise, the laughter and gaiety, the calliope music, the merry-go-round, the shooting gallery and games of chance, the fun house with its crazy mirrors, the man who would guess your weight for a quarter, the fortune teller, the fat lady and the sword swallower. He marveled at how beautiful the Ferris wheel looked, outlined against the night sky in lights of blue, red, yellow and green.

He wore a dark suit as if he had come from a funeral and kept his hat pulled down low over his face. As he walked among the crowds, he felt invisible because nobody looked at him. The air was cool and soft on his face. He ate his popcorn and smiled, genuinely happy.

When Bruno saw Marion, he knew right away she was the one he wanted. She was standing in line at the Ferris wheel, accompanied by not one young man but two. She had brown hair, curled and pulled to the back of her head. She wore a print dress, glasses, lots of lipstick, earrings and a necklace. Her appearance said that she thought quite a lot of herself. She was nothing to rave about but she wasn’t ugly, either.

Bruno watched the three of them, Marion and her two young men, as they got on the Ferris wheel and the fellow closed the bar over them so they wouldn’t fall out. Before the Ferris wheel started moving again, she looked over at Bruno and something passed between them. Call it a spark or a look of recognition. He felt it and he was sure she felt it, too.

The Ferris wheel went around a few times and Bruno kept his eyes on the car that Marion was in. When the ride was over and it was time for her to get out, he was still standing in the same spot looking at her. As she and her two young men walked away from the Ferris wheel, her shoulder brushed lightly against Bruno’s. He stepped back with deference and she turned and looked at him over her shoulder and gave him a little smile that he believed was fraught with meaning.

The next time Bruno saw Marion was at the shooting gallery. One of her young men was trying to shoot the metal ducks and was missing most of the time. When he failed to win Marion a teddy bear, she punched him on the arm and pretended to sulk. Before the other young man picked up the gun to give the ducks a try, Marion cast a quick glance behind her. Bruno was standing beside the refreshment booth looking at her. She quickly looked away, but he knew she had seen him and had expected him to be there.

Then it was on to the merry-go-round. Marion sat side-saddle on the outside horse, her purse dangling from her elbow, and clung to the pole. There was room for only one of her young men on the horse beside her, so the other one stood awkwardly by the horse’s head, holding on to the reins. Bruno stood in a spot so that every time the merry-go-round went around Marion would see him.

Round and round it went and Bruno was there, looking intently at Marion with that fixed smile of his while he slowly chewed his popcorn. And then he wasn’t there. He was playing a little trick on her. He could still see her but he had moved to a spot farther away where she couldn’t see him. When she saw he was no longer there, she craned her head around abruptly as far as the movement of the merry-go-round would allow. Her smile faded and she looked, to Bruno, disappointed.

At Lovers’ Lane, the three of them got into a small boat, Marion between the two young men. The idea was to row across the lake to a little island, from which all the bright lights of the carnival could be seen as in a picture. Bruno let the two other couples waiting in line go ahead of him and then he took the next boat after them and rowed across.

On the island, Bruno stood in the shadows and watched. He knew that Marion wasn’t far away. He heard her shriek playfully and figured that one of the young men was trying to get overly familiar with her in the dark. He saw her running with both young men chasing her. The three of them stopped out in the open and laughed, like children playing a game of tag.

After that, Marion and the two young men went to another part of the island, presumably to neck and to be alone. Bruno waited patiently, though, leaning his back against a tree. He knew Marion would come to him. He smoked one cigarette down to the end and had just lighted another one when he saw her.

She walked across the open space between the trees, alone, toward him. He didn’t know yet if she knew he was there, but soon she would know. He stepped out of the shadows and went to meet her. She smiled familiarly at him and he smiled back.

“Marion?” he said.

“Why, yes,” she said.

She had been about to ask him how he came to know her name when he surprised her by putting his hands around her neck and squeezing. Her expression changed to one of surprise and then of fear and pain. She put her hands on his to try to get him to stop, but she had little resistance against his far-superior strength. He watched her closely as he strangled her and for a moment he saw the face of his father.

He knew how to apply just the right amount of pressure with the thumbs and in a short time she was dead. He let her body fall gently to his feet. The two young men would come along soon looking for her and he wanted to be gone when they did. He crossed over to the far side of the island and circled back around to the little pier where the boats were kept.

After he left the carnival, he wasn’t ready to go home yet, so he drove around for a while before stopping off at a bar. He sat on a stool, drinking his drink and smoking his cigarette, enjoying the feeling of anonymity the place gave him. No one looked at him or spoke to him. He was nameless and faceless.

When he got home, it was almost midnight. His mother was waiting up for him, sitting on one of the leather chairs in her green bathrobe in the elegant sitting room. She rose to kiss him when he came in.

“Mother, you should be in bed!” he said.

“Did you have a good time, dear?” she asked.

“I always have a good time.”

“I worry when you stay out so late.”

“I know you do,” he said, putting his arm around her shoulder, “but there’s no reason for you to.”

“Your father and I had a terrible row after dinner,” she said. “It has put me in such a frightful state!”

“What was it about?”

“Oh, you know. The usual.”

“Is he here now?”

“He’s in his room,” she said. “Been asleep for hours.”

“Mother, what if I was to tell you that soon we’ll be rid of him?”

“What do you mean?”

“I can’t really tell you now, except to say that we’re going to be so happy when it’s just the two us. We’ll be able to breathe freely and do all the things together we always wanted to do.”

“Oh, if only!” she said, her eyes glistening like a child’s.

“Now, you go on to bed,” he said, “and we’ll speak in the morning.”

“All right, Bruno dear.” She kissed him and was gone.

He walked down the hallway to his own room and closed the door. After taking off his jacket and throwing it on the bed and kicking off his shoes, he sat down at his writing desk. He took a blank piece of paper and wrote two brief sentences (I did your murder. Not it’s time for you to do mine.) in his beautiful handwriting, folded the paper and put it in an envelope. After sealing the envelope, he wrote the address on it of a man he had met one time on a train and left it on the desk standing upright against a book so he would see it and remember to mail it in the morning.

Copyright 2015 by Allen Kopp

Gulwart

Gulwart

Gulwart ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp

I was in trouble. Some people were after me. I had no other place to go, so I went home after more than twenty years. My mother was all that was left of family. I was shocked at how old she looked.

“You’re keeping well,” I lied when she let me into the house.

“I hardly know you,” she said. “If it’s money you need, you won’t get any from me.”

“Want nothing,” I said. “Only to see you.”

“How long?”

“Don’t know yet. I might stay the night and I might not. It depends.”

“There’s food in the kitchen, but you’ll have to fix it yourself. I cook for no one. You can sleep wherever you want, or you can go to the devil.”

“Thank you for your hospitality, mama,” I said, but the irony was lost on her.

The house was the same as I remembered it. So many rooms I had never counted them all. Once a fine house, a house that rich people lived in, but now mostly a ruin. Secret passages and dead spaces in the walls and floors. Creaks and groans from the unsettled spirits, or was it the wind? The nearest neighbor ten miles away.

The room I had slept in as a child was sealed off, so I chose the same room on the floor above, aired it out and tried to make it comfortable. I found some clean sheets in a closet and made up the bed. Old and musty-smelling but serviceable.

I hardly saw my mother for two days. I got myself cleaned up, ate from cans in the kitchen and rested. I was happy in the knowledge that nobody knew where I was. Let them find me. Just let them try.

One evening I was sitting in my room looking out the window with my gun resting on the sill. My mother crept up behind me. I heard her breathing. I reached for my gun and pointed it at her without thinking about what I was doing.

“My god, but you are jumpy!” she said.

“Maybe it’s better if you don’t sneak up on me.”

“We need to have a little talk.”

I sighed and put the gun back. “I don’t think we have anything to talk about,” I said.

“You need to know some things before I die.”

“Are you going to die?”

“I’m older even than you think. I was fifty years old when you were born.”

“Yeah? The less said about that the better.”

“The house is yours when I cross over.”

“Is that because you love me so much?”

“No, it’s because you’re the only one left. I’d rather it belonged to you than to a stranger.”

“If you’re dead, you won’t even know.”

She sat down on the bed and put her hands on her knees. “I knew you’d come back,” she said.

“So you think I’ll go on living here after you die?”

“You have to carry on.”

“Carry on what? Being the resident ghoul?”

“It’ll take somebody of my blood.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Do you remember that trapdoor in the basement?”

“The one you were always telling me to stay away from?”

“There was a reason why I didn’t want you to go near it.”

“You were afraid I’d fall down in there and drown? Wasn’t it full of water?”

“No, it’s never been full of water. I just told you that so you wouldn’t be over-curious.”

“What was down there, then?”

“Come along with me. I want to show you something.”

One of the last things in the world I wanted to do was to go to the basement with my mother, but I slipped on my shoes and followed her. She stopped in the kitchen and picked up a bowlful of what to me looked like food scraps and garbage with a rotten tinge.

When we came to the basement door, she handed me the bowl of slop to hold while she fumbled with the keys. The door swung open on its squeaky hinges and I followed her inside.

The house was built into the side of a hill, so the basement sloped downward. She went to the farthest side, nimbly dodging the crap that littered the way. She seemed to be able to see in the murk better than I did.

“Haven’t been down here since I was about twelve,” I said.

At the trapdoor, she waited for me to catch up with her. “Now listen,” she commanded. “You won’t be able to see anything, but you can hear.”

She opened the trapdoor and poured the contents of the bowl down it.

“You use it as a garbage dump?” I asked.

“No. Listen.”

I didn’t know what I was listening for, but soon I heard it: a low growl followed by the definite sound of chewing.

“Do you hear it?” she asked.

“What is it?”

“It’s a gulwart, one of maybe only five or six in the world.”

“What’s a gulwart?”

She closed the trapdoor and we went back upstairs. In the kitchen, I sat at the table with my back to the wall. She filled the kettle with water and put it on the stove.

“What’s a gulwart?” I repeated.

“It’s an animal,” she said.

“You have an animal living under the basement floor?”

“Yes.”

“Is it like a mole or a gopher?”

“No, much larger than that. Much more ferocious.”

“Is it a kind of lizard?”

“I don’t think so. I’ve only seen it once and that was just its eyes and the top of its head.”

“And you feed it garbage?”

“Kitchen scraps, but sometimes other things, too.”

“Like what?”

She had a coughing spell and when she stopped coughing she said, “You might as well know the truth. I sometimes have to feed it a body, preferably a live one. A dead one will do, though, if it’s recently dead.”

I laughed. “I think you’re playing a joke on me.”

“Did you ever know me to play a joke on anybody?” she asked.

“So, let me see if I’ve got this straight,” I said. “You kill people and feed them to the gulwart?”

“The gulwart kills them.”

“Who are they?”

“Oh, people who come snooping around where they shouldn’t.  Sometimes hunters who come into the woods to kill my animals.”

Your animals?”

“An occasional bum or two. Sometimes people who have committed crimes and are hiding out in the woods. They all deserve to die.”

“And this you do all by yourself?”

“Your brother Kerwin used to help me until he hanged himself in the attic.”

“You never told me Kerwin killed himself. You said he died in prison.”

“I thought it best to keep the truth hidden.”

“You fed him to the gulwart?”

“His dead body, yes.”

“And you want me to pick up where he left off?”

“I want you to carry on after I’m gone.”

“Feeding the gulwart.”

“That and making sure nobody ever knows about it. The last thing we need is to have people snooping around.”

“What if I say no?”

“I said no at first, too,” she said.

“Why don’t you just kill the thing, whatever it is?”

“I would never do that. It knows the secrets of my heart. Of yours, too.”

I thought for a minute and wished I had a cigarette. “The thing must have burrowed in under the house,” I said. “If you stop feeding it, it’ll go away.”

“It’s been there for hundreds of years,” she said. “It won’t ever go away.”

“Like a family curse?” I asked.

“Make me one promise,” she said.

“You know I’m not good at promises.”

“Be here when I die and feed my body to the gulwart.”

“How about if I just call the funeral home and have them come around and pick you up and get you ready to go into a grave like a normal person?”

“That won’t do.”

“Who will feed my body to the gulwart when my time comes?” I asked.

“That’s a problem you’ll have to figure out on your own,” she said.

When my mother died, it was in her sleep with a tiny smile on her face. I was happy she had a peaceful death. I wrapped her in sheets, read some Bible verses over her because I thought that’s what she would have wanted, and took her down to the basement and fed her to the gulwart.

On a spring day the bad men from my past caught up with me. I had gone for a little walk in the woods. As I was coming around the house to go back inside, they were just standing there looking at me. There were five of them. Piper, the leader, was pointing a gun at me.

“We all pay for our sins,” he said. “Now it’s time for you to pay for yours.”

I knew they wouldn’t shoot me on the spot because if they did they wouldn’t get what they came for. “How are you boys doing?” I said.

“We’re just fine now that we’ve found you,” Piper said.

“I never knew I was so popular.”

“You know what we want,” Piper said.

“What makes you think it’s here?”

“It better be here, or we’re going to peel all your skin off and feed it to the hogs.”

“Well, come on inside, all of you. We can’t talk out here. It’s going to rain.”

I held the door for them as they came inside. Piper kept the gun pointed at my back the whole time.

“Sit down, boys, and make yourselves comfortable,” I said.

Balbo, the former boxer, hit me in the gut before I had a chance to re-close the door.  I went down and couldn’t get back up again for a few minutes.

“There’s plenty more where that came from,” Balbo said.

“Come on,” Piper said. “Let’s not hurt him until we get what we came for. Then you can kill him all you want.”

“How about a drink?” I said. “There’s plenty of liquor in the house.”

“Got any food in the house?” Howard asked.

“Sure,” I said. “I’ve got lots of food. My mother recently passed away, so it’s just me now. Why don’t you fellows just relax and I’ll grill some steaks and we’ll get this party going?”

“Got any scotch?”

“Sure, I got scotch,” I said. “I’ve got scotch, bourbon, vermouth, wine, beer. Anything you want. I’ll make a pitcher of Manhattans. How will that be?”

“Go with him,” Piper said to one of the other men. “If he tries to get away, shoot him.”

“Oh, I won’t try to get away,” I said. “I promise.”

I had become a pretty good cook from all the years I lived alone. I grilled some steaks, baked some potatoes and whipped up a salad. I put the food on the table for them. In a few minutes they were asking for more steaks.

It was the liquor that got them, though. They were all lushes. I kept the liquor flowing. I set the bottles on the table so they could help themselves.

Outside there was a thunderstorm brewing. Every time there was a flash of lightning, Piper looked at the window and flinched.

“Nothing like a good thunderstorm,” I said. “I ordered this one special for the occasion.”

“We’re not going back tonight,” Piper said. “We’ll stay here until morning,”

“Glad to have you,” I said. “I’ve got plenty of room and I don’t get that many guests.”

“Shut up, you!” Balbo snarled.

“Yes, sir!” I said.

In that way, with their judgment impaired from the liquor, I was able to get them down to the basement and to the gulwart one by one. They were stupider and easier to trick than I ever gave them credit for. By morning the thunderstorm was over and I was thug-free.

I was grateful to the gulwart and I was beginning to understand what my mother had meant about not wanting to kill it. I would stay around for a while and see what happened. The five bodies, I’m sure, would keep the gulwart satisfied for a while. A long while, I hoped. In the meantime I would keep feeding it garbage. I had even stopped being afraid to go down there alone.

Copyright © 2015 by Allen Kopp

American Sniper ~ A Capsule Movie Review

American Sniper

American Sniper ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp 

From producer/director Clint Eastwood comes American Sniper, the true story of Chris Kyle, the Navy Seal (Sea, Air and Land) who became something of a hero and a legend during four tours of duty in Iraq due to his sharpshooting skills. With at least 160 confirmed kills, Chris Kyle became the most successful (deadly to the enemy) sniper in American military history.

Chris Kyle is a Texan and starts out wanting to be a cowboy, but he is moved to serve his country when it is attacked on September 11, 2001. He joins the Navy Seals and finds himself fighting the enemy in Iraq. After one tour of duty, he has the deep conviction that he is still needed and signs up for another tour, and then a third and a fourth. With a wife and two small children at home, he is torn between his duty to them and what he sees as his duty to his country.

Bradley Cooper, who we have seen in a lot of other movies lately, plays Chris Kyle with a clenched-jaw Texas accent that at times I find difficult to understand. Once again, we are left with getting the gist of what is being said without the actual words. No other actor could have played Chris Kyle any better, though; he even bears a strong physical resemblance to him.

American Sniper isn’t a justification for war and isn’t making a political statement. Rather, it is about the people who fight the war (one person in particular) and the actions they must take to survive and to help their fellow soldiers survive. If that means shooting and killing a woman or a child who is lobbing missiles at Americans, then so be it.

Not the least amazing thing about American Sniper is that Clint Eastwood is still making action movies like this in his 85th year.

Copyright © 2015 by Allen Kopp

Mr. Turner ~ A Capsule Movie Review

Mr. Turner

Mr. Turner ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp 

J.M.W. Turner was an English landscape painter who lived from 1775 to 1851. The new movie, Mr. Turner, is a stately (slow-moving) look at his life and times. Timothy Spall plays Turner and the movie was directed by celebrated director Mike Leigh.

While Turner (known to his friends as “William”) was a profoundly gifted painter whose work influenced landscape painting for generations, the movie focuses more on his eccentric private life than on his work. He lives with his elderly father and calls him “daddy” until the older gentleman’s death. He never marries but fathers two daughters with a shrewish woman who comes around periodically to berate him and his work and to tell him how worthless he is. He cares little for the woman or the two daughters but must, seemingly, tolerate them. (When one of the daughters dies as a young woman, he barely bats an eyelash.) He has an unattractive housekeeper, one Hannah Danby (she reminds me of the character actress Margaret Hamilton, who played the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz), with whom he enjoys furtive sexual congress from time to time. He travels a lot, seeking inspiration for his work, and it is on one of these trips that he meets Mrs. Booth, a widow with a soothing nature. The two are drawn to each other, not for the sake of physical appearance (“When I look in the mirror, I see a gargoyle,” he says.), but for what each sees in the other. He has a dalliance with Mrs. Booth that lasts eighteen years or so, in effect leading a double life apart from his life in London. He is at the home of Mrs. Booth when he dies at the age of 76 of a heart ailment. Hannah Danby is, wordlessly, left with a broken heart.

Mr. Turner is an English art film, rather than a mainstream movie, so its audience is limited. Turner is very jowly (or at least that’s the way he is portrayed here), so I had a little trouble understanding what he was saying, especially in the early going. The other characters are, mostly, more intelligible. Sometimes we are left to catch the gist of what they are saying, rather than the words themselves. All in all, though, Mr. Turner is a fascinating glimpse, for the serious moviegoer, at the life of a nineteenth century genius.

Copyright © 2015 by Allen Kopp

A Woman Named Ruby

Ruby 7

~ A Woman Named Ruby ~

(This is for my old friend, Rick DeGrant, who departed for the other shore on November 25th, 2014.) 

Ruby Upjohn, Ruby Goldfarb, Ruby Hagwell, Ruby Pickles, Ruby Fudge, Ruby Bankhead, Ruby Sherwood, Ruby Tubbs, Ruby Costello, Ruby DeFazio, Ruby Peebles, Ruby Hackles, Ruby Ludlow, Ruby Fuddles, Ruby Jitters, Ruby Feeney, Ruby Butts, Ruby Wang, Ruby Smoot, Ruby Fish, Ruby Gambini, Ruby Weiner, Ruby Frogley, Ruby Bumpus, Ruby Zasa, Ruby Farquhar, Ruby Pompadour, Ruby Clutch, Ruby Toddler, Ruby Peabody, Ruby Jerkewitz, Ruby Buggs, Ruby Cornblatt, Ruby Blathers, Ruby Dalzell, Ruby Shockley, Ruby Wooley, Ruby Wimpy, Ruby Belanovi, Ruby Slapwell, Ruby Snitley, Ruby Flywheel, Ruby Frankfurter, Ruby Dunkfeather, Ruby Chin, Ruby Arbuckle, Ruby Clapsaddle, Ruby Bumble, Ruby Davenport, Ruby Dejesus, Ruby Dill, Ruby Diesel, Ruby Ghostley, Ruby Dibble, Ruby Gooch, Ruby Hardapple, Ruby Hoyden, Ruby Mangles, Ruby Polkratz, Ruby Mims, Ruby Nugent, Ruby Punsley, Ruby Poovey, Ruby Rickets, Ruby Teetlebaum, Ruby Dithers, Ruby Waddler, Ruby Snork, Ruby Tudball, Ruby Hunsdorfer, Ruby Oglethorpe, Ruby Pilbeam, Ruby Flan, Ruby Buckles, Ruby Glasscock, Ruby Woo, Ruby Gulwart, Ruby Mushnick, Ruby Zorina, Ruby Stickles, Ruby Turnblad, Ruby Fishpaw, Ruby Ziffle, Ruby Van Peep, Ruby Wagstaff, Ruby Gribble, Ruby Dillweed, Ruby Moonlove, Ruby Snitzler, Ruby Hogwaters, Ruby Clohessy, Ruby Bobolinski, Ruby Ouspenskaya, Ruby Nermi, Ruby Nankler, Ruby Bitchelli, Ruby Lupino, Ruby Pasquesi, Ruby Shumway, Ruby Hogchow. A hundred and one were not enough.

Copyright © 2015 by Allen Kopp

The Grey Wolfe Storybook 2014 ~ An Anthology of Poems, Essays, Stories

The Grey Wolfe Storybook 2014

(My short story, “Bye Bye Blackbird,” is in this collection of stories about childhood.)

Grey Wolfe Publishing is pleased to announce this collection of  twenty-four poems, essays, and short stories about childhood memories. 

100% of the proceeds from this book will go to support Michigan’s special needs children. 

Now Available: $12.50

May be purchased at this link:

https://squareup.com/market/grey-wolfe-publishing

Write to Meow 2014 ~ Anthology of Stories, Poems, Essays

Write to Meow 2014

(My short story, “Cotton,” is in this collection of stories about cats.)

Grey Wolfe Publishing is pleased to announce the generous collaboration of authors from around the globe for this spectacular collection of 226 pages of poetry, prose and personal essay, all in tribute to cats!

100% of the proceeds of the sale of this book are going to support the extraordinary work of Almost Home Animal Shelter, a no-kill shelter in Southeast Michigan.

Now Available: $18

May be purchased at this link:

https://squareup.com/market/grey-wolfe-publishing

Or on Amazon at this link: 

http://www.amazon.com/Write-Meow-Lisa-M-Wolfe/dp/1628280697/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1421282938&sr=1-1&keywords=Write+to+Meow+2014&pebp=1421282943887&peasin=1628280697

 

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