RSS Feed

I Want My Money Back

i-want-my-money-back-image

I Want My Money Back ~ By Allen Kopp

What has been seen cannot be unseen. Time lost cannot be recovered. Money wasted cannot be regained. The nominees for recent movies that, to me, were a complete waste of time, money, and effort:

Birdman ~ If the first thing you see in a movie is Michael Keaton in his underpants, you know it’s not a good sign. And, if Michael Keaton in his underpants one time isn’t enough, you will see Michael Keaton in his underpants again later in the movie. Birdman is a boring, pretentious, incomprehensible, talky-talky-talky-blab-blab-blabfest. All the characters do is stand around and talk. The most honored movie of the year, grabbing every award in sight. Everybody wet their pants over this one. Except me.

Gone Girl ~ Based on a novel I have no intention of ever reading, Gone Girl is about a married couple who don’t have such a good marriage. She’s a children’s author (ho-hum, I’m bored already), and he co-owns a bar in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, with his sister. She wants to spice things up in her marriage, so she tries to make it appear that he killed her and, after she has done that, she goes into hiding. She’s a devious, unlikeable, psychopathic, black-hearted bitch. Wait a minute! She is exactly the kind of despicable wife he deserves. This movie is like an episode of Dr. Phil. Excuse me while I locate my vomit bag.

Noah ~ Not much at all is known about Noah from the Bible, so the screenwriters here concocted a completely fictitious story with movie star Russell Crowe as Noah, complete with computer-generated animals. They’ve tried to make the story relevant and trendy by inserting references to the environment. They can’t bring themselves to refer to God for fear of offending anybody, even though God is an important, though unseen, element in the story. Noah is a religion-based movie seemingly made by people who don’t believe in anything other than their potential for box office profits.  A bizarre, fabricated, disappointing story that bears no resemblance to anything in the Bible. What a load of horse hockey!

The Martian ~ A pedestrian sci-fi fantasy starring my least favorite movie actor in the universe, the smirking Matt Damon. He’s stranded alone on Mars after his astronaut colleagues think he’s dead. Well—guess what?—he’s not dead. He’ll have to figure out a way to survive alone in the hostile Martian environment for over a year; that’s how long it’ll be before anybody is scheduled to return. He uses his own excrement to grow potatoes as a food source. Classy, isn’t it?  The Martian is a derivative, implausible, completely predictable exercise in tedium.

Still Alice ~ She’s a classy lady, a professor at a prestigious university, married to a renowned doctor. She lives in a beautiful house and is mother to several handsome, accomplished, successful children. When she’s only about fifty, she develops early-onset Alzheimer’s. We watch her as she forgets where the bathroom is in her own house and wets her pants. We watch her as she completely falls apart, not even being able to remember how to kill herself. Still Alice is like a story line to a soap opera or a TV disease-of-the-week movie. Manipulative and distasteful.

Life of Pi ~ A boy/man is traveling across the ocean from India to Canada on a small ship. His family owns a zoo in India and, because of financial difficulties, they are moving the zoo, which means all its animals, to Canada. A terrible storm wrecks the ship carrying the zoo and kills everybody on the ship except the boy/man and a few of the animals. The boy/man is lost at sea on a lifeboat with the surviving animals. He develops a special relationship with a tiger. Years later, the boy/man (now a middle-aged man and no longer a boy) tells a friend with whom he is having dinner that maybe none of it ever happened. A pointless, slow, uninvolving, dull, over-produced (in 3D no less), tedious story of survival at sea. If you enjoy seeing animals die (even if they are computer-generated), then, by all means, don’t miss Life of Pi.

The Counselor ~ At the end of The Counselor, my first thought was: I wouldn’t want to have to sit through that again. It’s about a lawyer who lives in Texas close to the Mexican border who discovers a way to make a lot of money to satisfy his appetites: get involved in drug smuggling. Of course, he must deal with unsavory types, and things don’t go as he hoped they would. He discovers the truth to the adage: If you lie down with dogs, you get fleas. Don’t waste your time on this tawdry dud. It’s two hours of your life you’ll never get back.

World War Z ~ The world is experiencing a zombie influx. No one is safe. Movie star Brad Pitt might be just the hero to save humanity. He has a wife in blue jeans and two shrieking daughters in deadly peril. World War Z is a lame, silly, bloodless, predictable, big-budget horror film. The scariest thing about World War Z is Brad Pitt’s hairdo.

Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp

What That Poor Woman Must Be Going Through

what-that-poor-woman-must-be-going-through-image-1

What That Poor Woman Must Be Going Through ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp

Marcelle was all about beauty. She owned Marcelle’s Salon of Beauty on Second Street, between Fife’s Package Liquors and Bold’s Auto Garage. She was so good at the art and science of dispensing beauty that all her customers had standing appointments. Friday was her busiest day. All the ladies in their golden years wanted to look good for the weekend, but especially for church services on Sunday.

Carmen Gance was the last to arrive. Her appointment wasn’t until eleven, but she always came early. She helped herself to a cup of tea and sat down to wait her turn.

“How’s the arthritis?” Otha Talley asked her.

Carmen knew that Otha only asked about one’s ailments so she could talk about her own.

“All cleared up,” Carmen said.

“How did you manage it?” Leona Woolrich asked.

“Easy,” Carmen said. “As soon as I stopped complaining about it, it went away.”

“We should all try that,” Marcelle said.

“I don’t have arthritis,” Doris Fingers said.

“Well, if it works for arthritis, it should work for anything,” Marcelle said.

“I have pain in every inch of my body,” Otha said. “Can you imagine that? Absolutely everything hurts.”

“Even your female parts?” Leona asked.

Especially my female parts!”

“Drink a bottle of whiskey every night before you go to sleep and that should help,” Arlene Braithwaite said.

“Thanks, dear,” Otha said. “I’ll give it a try.”

“Did I tell you the latest about my nephew, Charlie, and that crazy wife of his?” Leona asked.

“Now, who did Charlie marry?” Doris asked.

“You know, dear!” Leona said. “He went over to China and put down ten thousand cold, hard ones to get himself a Chinese wife.”

“Why did he do that? Couldn’t he get himself an American wife?”

“Well, you know some men like the Orientals. American men believe that an Oriental wife will be submissive in all ways.”

“It doesn’t quite work out that way, though, does it?” Carmen said.

“No, honey, it doesn’t,” Leona said. “At least not in this case. They were only married two years and she decided to call it quits. You know how they talk. She said, ‘You tebble husband! You asshole! Me go back China! You kiss China girl yellow ass!’”

“My goodness!” Doris said. “That’s a remarkable interpretation! You should go on the stage!”

“Well, anyway,” Leona said. “She left him and now he has to scrape the money together for the divorce.”

“The world’s all screwed up,” Arlene said. “We already know that.”

“Speaking of ‘screwed up’,” Carmen said. “I heard that Midge Mulvehill’s son Todd came out as gay.”

“I’m so happy for him!” Doris said.

“Isn’t he only about thirteen?” Otha Talley asked.

“He’s twenty-seven,” Carmen said. “He was thirteen fourteen years ago.”

“Oh.”

“Yes. Oh. And that’s not all. He’s dating a doctor.”

“A male doctor?”

“Well, if he’s gay, he wouldn’t be dating a female doctor, now, would he, dear?”

“I’m sure I know nothing about it.”

“That poor woman!” Leona said.

“Who?” Doris asked.

“Midge Mulvehill. What that poor woman must be going through!”

“Why?”

“Having a gay son.”

“Would it be better if he was a serial killer?”

“Yes, I think it would. At least a serial killer is normal.”

They all laughed and Leona looked embarrassed. “I guess I didn’t mean it quite the way it sounded,” she said.

“Maybe you’d better just keep still on that particular subject, dear,” Doris  offered.

“Well, anyway, to each his own!” Arlene said. “Live and let live!” She raised her can of Coke all around as though delivering a toast.

“You always were so good at clichés, dear,” Carmen said.

“Time for your wash, Leona,” Marcelle said.

“Please don’t talk about me when I’m gone,” Leona said, standing up and going into the next room with Vivian, the little shampoo girl.

“She’s aged so much in the last year or so,” Doris said.

“I think her mind is really slipping,” Otha said.

“She’s putting on weight like crazy,” Carmen said.

“Speaking of putting on weight,” Arlene said, “have any of you seen Richard Helm lately? He was always so good-looking and now he’s an absolute blimp since his mother died.”

“Poor thing,” Doris said. “I heard he’s absolutely eating himself into oblivion with grief.”

“Of course, one wonders why he never got married,” Carmen said. “He was always so manly. When I was young, I was absolutely crazy about him. All the girls were.”

“There are rumors about him, I’m afraid,” Otha said.

“What kind of rumors?” Arlene asked.

“He goes on these mysterious trips three or four times a year and nobody knows where he goes.”

“Maybe he’s a secret agent,” Doris said.

“I don’t quite see him as the secret agent type,” Otha said.

“What then?”

“I think he’s leading a double life.”

“Now that his mother is dead,” Carmen said. “He can do whatever he wants. He got plenty of money from her estate.”

“Somebody needs to make it their business,” Arlene said, “to find out where in the hell he’s going and what in the hell he’s doing.”

“You do that little thing, Arlene, dear,” Doris said. “You make it your business.”

“Why should I give a shit what he does?” Arlene said.

“That’s the first sensible thing I’ve heard you say in a long time,” Otha said.

Leona came back into the room with her hair dripping, a towel around her shoulders. “I heard every word you bitches said about me,” she said. “Just because I’m in the next room doesn’t mean my hearing is defective.”

“Uh-oh!” Carmen said. “We’re caught! And are we ever embarrassed!”

“You all are a bunch of swine!”

“Truer words were never spoken,” Doris said.

“You’re just a hypocrite, Leona,” Otha said, “among all the other things you are. Do you expect us to believe that you don’t talk about us the minute our backs are turned?”

“Of course not!” Leona said. “Some of us have honor if others of us do not!”

They all laughed loud and long. Leona looked at them, stone-faced, and then she too laughed. “Give me a damned cigarette,” she said finally to Marcelle.

“I didn’t know you smoked, dear!” Carmen said.

“I didn’t until this moment, dear,” Leona said. “Now, tell me, which of you assholes have seriously been considering gender reassignment surgery?”

“What kind of a question is that?” Arlene asked.

“My mind is slipping. Remember? There’s no telling what I’ll say next.”

Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp

The Gap of Time ~ A Capsule Book Review

the-gap-of-time-cover

The Gap of Time ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp

The Winter’s Tale is one of Shakespeare’s later plays and is less well-known than many of his other plays. It’s about King Leontes, King of a country known as Sicilia, who has a wife, Hermione, and a best friend, Polixenes. Hermione is about to give birth to a baby. With no proof at all, Leontes gets the idea into his head that Hermione and Polixenes have been having an affair and that Polixenes is the father of the baby that Hermione is about to have. When the baby is born, it’s a girl and Hermione names her Perdita. Leontes can’t stand to look upon the baby and threatens to dash its brains out. Rather than killing it, however, he agrees to let a character known as Antigonus take the baby away and “cast it to fortune.”

Antigonus takes the baby to the country of New Bohemia. A terrible storm at sea kills Antigonus, but Perdita is delivered safely to land. A poor shepherd and his dimwitted son named Clown, played by Jerry Lewis (just kidding), find Perdita and raise her as their own. Fast-forward sixteen years. Perdita is now about seventeen years old and has fallen in love with Florizel, the son of Polixenes, the one-time best friend of King Leontes of Sicilia. (Coincidence plays a very large part in this narrative, as you can see.) Polixenes apparently knows who Perdita is and is violently opposed to the match. Florizel and Perdita escape from New Bohemia and end up in good old Sicilia.

When Leontes meets Perdita, he is attracted to her, not knowing she is really his own daughter. (Yuck!) The shepherd who raised her and his son, Clown, show up (just when needed) with proof of who Perdita is (apparently articles that were left with her when they found her as an infant). Everybody is reconciled and Leontes admits that he wronged his wife Hemione and treated her unfairly. When he sees a statue of Hermione in a friend’s home, it is so lifelike that he wants to kiss it.

The Gap of Time is a novel by the English writer Jeanette Winterson. It is a “re-imagining” of Shakespeare’s play The Winter’s Tale. All of Shakespeare’s characters are now hip contemporary characters. Leontes is now an unlikable jerk with a foul mouth known as Leo, head of a big company known as Sicilia. Hermione is a singer (wouldn’t you just know she’d be something like that?) named MiMi. Polixenes is now Xeno and he’s gay. Just to keep things contemporarily politically correct, the shepherd is now black and is known as Shep. His son Clown is now Clo and he and Perdita consider themselves brother and sister, even though he’s white and she’s black.

So, The Gap of Time is a Shakespeare play with the Shakespeare part removed. I’m not sure what the point is here. Did the world really need to have The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare “re-imagined” by a contemporary writer?  Does Jeanette Winterson add something that Shakespeare left out? Do Shakespeare’s characters need to be updated and made to sound groovy and hip like characters in a Sylvester Stallone movie? Do we really need to have any of Shakespeare’s plays “dumbed down” for a contemporary reading public? (The vast majority of the public never reads a book.)

The Gap of Time is engaging at times with some good dialogue, especially in the first half. There’s a lot of claptrap interspersed throughout the novel about time, about how time affects its players, and about how time…I’m not sure what time is supposed to do here, and I’m not sure exactly the point that Jeanette Winterson is trying to make about time, but I do know that time is of immense importance to this story.  Am I to conclude that time heals all wounds and wounds all heels? If you think you want to read The Gap of Time, don’t. Instead get a copy of Shakespeare’s play, The Winter’s Tale, and read it. You’ll feel a lot smarter for it.

Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp

Lion ~ A Capsule Movie Review

lion

Lion ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp

Five-year-old Saroo lives with his mother, his older bother, Guddu, and his younger sister, Shekila, in a small village in India. The family is poor but loving and close-knit. Saroo’s mother can’t read or write. Saroo and his brother scavenge coal and exchange the coal for food. When Guddu goes out at night to look for work, Saroo insists that Guddu takes him along. When Saroo becomes sleepy, Guddu leaves him on a bench at the railroad station. Many hours later when Saroo wakes up, Guddu hasn’t returned. There is nobody around at all, so we assume it’s the middle of the night.

In looking for Guddu, Saroo boards an abandoned train that is just sitting there. He falls asleep on a bench on the train and when he wakes up the train is in motion. He’s locked in and can’t get out and can’t get anybody to hear his cries for help. Two days later the train is 1600 kilometers away in Calcutta. Saroo is alone in the big, frightening city. He, of course, doesn’t know where he is, nor does he understand how he got there. He is just alone on the streets with hundreds of other children in similar circumstances.

Saroo experiences kindness from strangers, but he also knows that he must be wary of them. A seemingly kind woman takes him in and feeds him and gives him a place to sleep, but Saroo overhears that she is going to give him to a man, for what purpose Saroo doesn’t know. Another kind man spots Saroo on the street outside a restaurant and takes him to the police. The police question him about where he comes from, but they speak a different language, so Saroo isn’t able to tell them anything. When he says the name of his village, they don’t know what he’s talking about.

After months on the streets of Calcutta, Saroo ends up in an orphanage. The orphanage people try to reconnect him with his family by running ads in Calcutta newspapers, but nobody comes forward to claim Saroo. A kind welfare woman informs Saroo that a couple in Australia wants to adopt him.

Saroo travels to Australia and is taken into the home of John and Sue (David Wenham and Nicole Kidman), an almost-too-good-to-be true, middle-class Australian couple. (David Wenham played a pumped-up Greek warrior in the movie 300.) Twenty years go by and Saroo grows into a man. He is smart, decent and respectful, everything John and Sue hoped he would be. Sue tells Saroo after he is grown that she and John opted not to have any children of their own. “There are already enough people in the world,” she says. When she was twelve years old, she says, she had a “vision”  that one day she would take a “brown-skinned” child into her home and give him a better chance at life.

As happy and well-adjusted as Saroo is as an adult, he can’t forget his family back in India. He becomes obsessed with finding them again and letting them know what happened to him. When somebody tells him about Google maps on the Internet, he spends many hours looking for clues to where he came from. Even if he finds the place, he has no guarantee that his family will still be there, or that they are still alive.

Finally, his searching pays off. He recognizes features on Google maps that he recognizes from childhood. When he learns the name of the place, he knows it’s what he was trying to say, but he was saying it wrong. He travels to the place in India that he has located by way of Google maps. More than twenty-five years have gone by since he disappeared. What will he find when he returns to his childhood home?

We never know where Lion is taking us. Where we end up is not where we expected to be. It’s an engaging and emotional (real emotion as opposed to melodrama) movie with many fine touches. If you are capable of being moved by the plight of a homeless five-year-old boy in the slums of Calcutta, India, you will be moved by Saroo. He’s like a little animal with a haunting voice and enormous brown eyes. He loves his mother, his sister, and his brother, and he wants desperately to find them.

Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp

Split ~ A Capsule Movie Review

split

Split ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp

Split is an odd little horror film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. It’s about a seriously disturbed man (James McAvoy) with twenty-three personalities. He abducts three teenage girls (not for the usual reasons) by spraying them in the face with something that knocks them out and driving off with them. When they wake up, they find themselves locked in a place with no means of escape. They believe they will die, but that doesn’t keep them from hoping they will find a way out.

The odd thing about this man, the three girls soon discover, is that he is different people at different times. At one time, he’s Dennis, an authoritative man dressed in black; at other times, he’s Patricia, a lady who speaks in carefully modulated tones; and then he’s Hedwig, a boy of nine whom the girls try to finesse into letting them go before Dennis comes back. Hedwig talks like one of the Bowery Boys.

The disturbed man is being treated by a fashionable (and apparently very expensive, considering the surroundings) psychiatrist named Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley). He appears to Dr. Fletcher mostly as Barry, the fey fashion designer. When she tries to call forth any of the other personalities lurking behind Barry, he resists. When Dr. Fletcher is alone with him in her home/office, he seems menacing in an understated way. The music score adds to the feeling of menace we feel when Dr. Fletcher is alone with Barry. She, however, doesn’t seem to be the least bit afraid of him. She’s an expert on multiple-personality disorders, but even she seems to underestimate his capacity for evil. She doesn’t know, for example, that he has abducted those teenage girls and is holding them prisoner in his lair. (Just exactly what is his lair? We don’t know until the end of the movie.)

With all the man’s personalities, he talks about unleashing yet another one, the twenty-fourth, that will be worse than all the others. He calls this one the Beast. Dr. Fletcher takes a familial interest in her patients and truly wants to help. She goes to the man’s lair (she knows what and where it is before we do) and discovers the Beast in a most disadvantageous way (to her). She also discovers the abducted girls, or at least the one that remains. We are left wondering at this point what happened to the other two girls. One of them crawled through a hole in the ceiling, after which the man tells the other two girls they will never see their friend again. We assume, without knowing, that he caught her trying to get away and killed her.

Split is not overly violent or gory in the way that this kind of movie usually is. The bad man in this movie isn’t nearly as creepy or as twisted as, say, the killer in The Silence of the Lambs. He is more given to psychological terror than physical violence. The movie is engaging enough without being what we would call “entertaining” in the traditional sense. There’s a sense of suspense and unease, but it could have been a lot more effective if some of the missing gaps had been filled in. For example, how does the disturbed man come to be in the place where he hides the three teenage girls? Does he live there? How can he do what he does and not be seen or detected? Exactly what is his motivation for abducting the girls? We see right away that it’s not about sex, so what is it? He wants somebody to dance with him? That isn’t enough. The abduction of the girls just seems like a plot device that doesn’t play out.

Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp

Mr. Fellowes

mr-fellowes

Mr. Fellowes ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp

“Ella! Ella! Ella! Oh, baby! Give me a great big kiss! Woo! Woo! Woo! Woo! Ella! Ella! Ella!”

The boys hid behind parked cars as they chanted. Ella Peebles walked on, her head down, trying to ignore them. She didn’t know who the boys were, but it didn’t matter. All boys were the same to her. She hated all of them.

“You’re not there,” she said, more to herself than to them. “You don’t exist.”      

Ella was fifteen. She knew a girl one year older who went out with a boy just one time and ended up pregnant. Ella wasn’t going to let that happen to her. Just the word was awful: Pregnant. What a terrible, disgusting word! You’re sick for nine months and then this awful little thing comes out of your body and you have to feed it and take care of it for the rest of your life and put up with its sass. You are never free again to do the things you want to do and you’ll never have any money to go to the show or buy a magazine or an ice cream cone because the baby will take all your money and all your time.

She knew the chanting boys were out to get her pregnant. That’s the one thing boys wanted most. She heard it in health class in a girls-only lecture and slide show. The message of the lecture was clear: Don’t let your guard down and let boys get you pregnant! The awful sperm penetrating the egg! Could anything be more revolting? It only took one boy and it only took one time. It was just too easy and the consequences were too awful for the girl but not for the boy. After the boy gets you pregnant, he’s free to go and get somebody else pregnant. He can keep doing it over and over again, as many times as he wants. If God wasn’t a boy, things wouldn’t be the way they are.

When Ella walked through the door at home, she heard her brother Percy laughing. Laughing was better than crying. She went into the kitchen and saw Percy sitting on Mr. Fellowes’s lap. Mr. Fellowes was mother’s latest boyfriend. He was showing Percy how to drink beer out of a can and smoke a cigarette at the same time, which, he said, is something you must learn to do when you spend a lot of time in saloons. Mother was sitting at the table, too. She was laughing so hard her mascara was running down her cheeks and she had to keep wiping it off with her fingers. It was odd to see mother laughing that way because she took a lot of pills and drank whiskey straight out of the bottle and was usually either crying or knocked out in front of the TV.

“Oh, I wish I had a camera!” she spluttered out around her laughter.

Percy was nine, small for his age. He was enjoying the attention from mother and Mr. Fellowes. He held the cigarette between his fingers and took a puff on it and waggled his head like a girl.

“You should see yourself!” Ella said. “You look so silly!”

Percy stuck his tongue out at her and hopped off Mr. Fellowes’s lap. He wasn’t ready just yet to give up being the center of attention. He minced and waggled his hips from the stove to the refrigerator and back, while mother and Mr. Fellowes roared with laughter.

“You look just like a little queer!” Ella said.

“Ella! That’s not a very nice thing to say to your brother!” mother said, suddenly serious. “Where do you hear words like that?”

“Every day at school,” Ella said. “People say it all the time.”

“Well, not in this house!”

Mother pretended to be a righteous mother in front of Mr. Fellowes, but Ella and Percy knew otherwise. When she got mad enough, she could swear and rant better than any sailor. She could also slap people in the mouth and throw dishes across the room and break them against the wall and then make Ella clean up the broken pieces. Ella had just learned the word hypocrite and she knew that’s what her mother was. A person who pretends to abhor the thing that he or she really is.

Ella stood in the kitchen doorway and looked at mother and Mr. Fellowes. He was a large man with a lumpy body and a bald head. He wasn’t good-looking, but mother said she was finished with good-looking. They’re the ones that get what they want out of you and then they go off and leave you high and dry. Mr. Fellowes was the reliable type who could provide a woman with exactly what she needed. Sure, he wasn’t exciting, but who needs it? A home and security are much more important.

“Wash your hands for supper,” mother said to Ella and Percy. “Mr. Fellowes brought us supper and we’re all going to eat together.”

She began taking the stuff out of the refrigerator. There was a whole chicken, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and a bag of donuts. Percy wanted to get right to the donuts, but mother told him he couldn’t eat any of those until he had had a good supper.

Ella sat down at the little square table with her back to the wall. Percy sat across from her, mother to her right, and Mr. Fellowes on her left.

“I want a leg!” Percy squealed. “And I want some potato salad!”

While Ella was pulling the meat off a thigh with her fork, she felt Mr. Fellowes’s eyes on her. When she looked at him, he smiled and winked.

“How’s the world been treatin’ you, princess?” he asked.

She shrugged and said, “I’m not a princess.”

“She’s too ugly to be a princess!” Percy said, his mouth full of potato salad. “Princess is pretty.”

“Well, she needs to fix her hair up and wear a bit of makeup,” Mr. Fellowes said.

“I don’t know about makeup,” mother said. “I don’t want her lookin’ like a tramp before her time.”

“A little bit of makeup won’t make her look like a tramp,” Mr. Fellowes said. “Too much makeup could be bad, but a little bit applied artfully might make all the difference.”

“I don’t want any,” Ella said.

“He’s only trying to be nice,” mother said. “You don’t have to get snippy about it.”

“It’s all right,” Mr. Fellowes said. “I grew up with three sisters. I know all about the moods of young girls.”

“I’ve tried to get her to get a nice hairstyle,” mother said, “but she just doesn’t seem to care about it.”

“She’s at that age,” Mr. Fellowes said.

“Could we please talk about something else?” Ella said.

“You really do need to have your hair cut and styled, honey,” Mr. Fellowes said.

“Hey, I’ll get mine cut and styled!” Percy said. “How would that be?”

Mother started laughing again. “You’re a regular little comedian, aren’t you?” she said.

When the meal was finished and Percy had eaten three donuts, Ella stood up and started clearing the table. Mr. Fellowes had just lit a cigarette. He grabbed Ella by the wrist and pulled her onto his lap. She tried to get away but he put his arms around her and held her against his chest.

“She’s a little big for lap-sitting,” mother said.

“Nobody’s ever too big for a little lovin’,” Mr. Fellowes said.

“Let me up!” Ella said. “Your cigarette smoke is going right in my face.”

“Indulge me for a little while, girl. It’s been a long time since I had a pretty girl on my lap.”

“What about me?” mother said.

“You’re past the girl stage, I’m afraid. You’re now in the matron stage.”

“I don’t think I like that!”

Mr. Fellowes nuzzled his face into Ella’s neck and held her tight.

“She’s never been what I would call an affectionate child,” mother said.

“Don’t take this the wrong way,” Mr. Fellowes said, “but I think you need to take yourself a good bath.”

Percy laughed and mother slapped him on the arm to make him stop.

After the dishes were washed and put away, mother and Mr. Fellowes left to go to the show. Ella and Percy turned on all the lights in the house and sat in front of the TV and watched detective and doctor shows until time to go to bed.

The next morning Ella awoke with a pain her side. Her nose was all stopped up, she had a headache, and her eyes looked puffy. When she realized what was wrong, she had a mortified feeling unlike any she had ever felt in her life. It was like finding out she had a fatal disease and would soon be dead.

While Mr. Fellowes was holding her on his lap—in his arms—at the supper table, some of his sperms went inside her body and penetrated her eggs. She was—that horrible word!—pregnant. She must have breathed them in through her mouth and nose. That’s the only way it could have happened. Mother would die when she found out.

At school she could barely sit still and pay attention. When people spoke to her, she didn’t hear what they said because her mind was preoccupied with the predicament she was in. In gym class, which she had always hated anyway, she fainted during calisthenics and the gym teacher told her to get dressed and get herself to the nurse’s office right away. She might have something catching.

The nurse was out for the moment, but Ella made herself at home and laid down on the cot against the wall behind the file cabinets. She felt better lying on the cot because nobody could see her and the nurse’s office was quiet and cool.

In a half-hour or so the nurse came back and when she saw Ella on the cot, she asked her what was wrong.

“I got sick in gym class,” Ella said.

The nurse stuck a thermometer in her mouth and took her blood pressure. She had a fever of a hundred and one and her blood pressure was high.

“Now, tell me what’s wrong,” the nurse said. “Your clothes are soaked through and you’re pale.”

“Nothing’s wrong,” Ella said.

“Okay. Go on back to class then.”

“If I tell you what’s wrong, will you promise not to tell anybody?”

“Cross my heart.”

“I’m pregnant.”

“Uh-oh! That’s not good, is it? Who’s the boy? Do you know?”

“What boy?”

“The boy who impregnated you.”

“There’s no boy, except the ones that were yelling at me on the street yesterday, and I don’t think that’s when it happened. They were too far away.”

The nurse sighed and looked over her shoulder as if she might find some help there in another part of the room. “Okay, tell me what happened,” she said. “I’m here to help and I promise I won’t tell a soul.”

“It’s Mr. Fellowes,” Ella said.

“Who is Mr. Fellowes?” the nurse asked.

“He’s my mother’s boyfriend.”

“So, you had sexual relations with Mr. Fellowes?”

“No.”

“Who, then? Who did you have sexual relations with?”

“Nobody. Not even myself.”

“Have you and your brother been experimenting?”

“He’s nine. He still believes in the Easter Bunny.”

“Okay. Well, we’re not getting anywhere, are we?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“If you’re pregnant, there has to be a boy or a man involved.”

“It happened yesterday.”

“What happened?”

“Mr. Fellowes’s sperms got inside my body somehow and broke open my eggs. I knew as soon as I got up this morning that I was pregnant.”

“This happened yesterday?”

“Yes.”

“And you did not have sexual relations with Mr. Fellowes?”

“Are you kidding? With my mother and little brother sitting right there?”

The nurse stood up and got a wet washcloth and put it on Ella’s forehead. “You just lie here for a while until you feel better,” she said. “I’ll call your mother and she can come and get you and take you to a doctor to find out what’s really wrong.”

“Please don’t call my mother! I think it’ll just about finish her off when she finds out I’m pregnant.”

The nurse went out of the room. When she didn’t come back right away, Ella knew she was calling her mother. It was the last thing she needed.

She stood up off the cot, feeling light-headed, and went out into the deserted hallway. All the way down at the far end were the doors leading out of the building. She put her head down, thinking that would make her less noticeable, and walked to the doors as quietly as she could.

The sunlight hurt her eyes and she thought she was going to be sick again, but she rallied herself and got away from the school as fast as she could before anybody saw her.

She walked a long way, a couple of miles at least, to the edge of town and beyond. She came to a high bridge that she remembered like a bridge from a dream. It was on an old highway that nobody used much anymore because a new one had been built.

She walked out onto the bridge, squinting in the sunlight, and when she was about halfway across, she stopped and looked down at the river. It looked ugly and dirty; moving fast because there had been a lot of rain lately. Limbs and cardboard boxes and other unidentifiable things floated along with the current.

She eased herself over the railing and stood on a little ledge not more than three inches wide. She had to turn her feet sideways to be able to stand on it. When she closed her eyes, she could hear the river and feel it churning, eighty or so feet down. With her eyes closed, it wouldn’t be so bad. She wouldn’t have to see the water as she jumped in. And when it was all over she wouldn’t have to go to school anymore. No more worries ever again, about being pregnant or anything else.

Tilting her head back as far as she could in the awkward position she was in, she saw birds nesting in the framework of the bridge high above her head. Something seemed to have upset them. They were flying around frantically, squawking and ruffling their feathers. They made her forget for a moment about everything else.

While she was watching the birds, a red pickup truck stopped on the bridge. She had to turn her head to see it. A man got out of the truck and walked over slowly to her. He wasn’t an old man but not so young, either. It was hard to tell exactly what he looked like because he wore dark glasses that kept his eyes hidden and a cowboy hat like cowboys wear in the movies.

“You shouldn’t be playing here on this old bridge,” he said. “It’s dangerous.”

“I wasn’t playing,” she said.

“What are you doing, then?”

“I wasn’t doing anything.”

“Are you a runaway?”

“No.”

He took hold of her arm and helped her over the railing. “You’re just a kid,” he said. “Does your mother know you’re here?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you here alone?”

“Yes.”

“Most kids would be in school now, unless you’re special in some way.”

“I’m not special.”

“Do you want me to give you a ride back to town?”

“I just left town,” she said. “I think I’ll just keep walking.”

“Suit yourself,” he said. “Don’t let the wild animals get you.”

He got back into his truck and drove away. Ella watched him until he was out of sight and then she walked the rest of the way across the old bridge and down a hill. Weeds and wild flowers grew on both sides of the highway. She smelled something pleasant and flowery but she didn’t know what it was. She saw a fox looking out at her from the brush and it made her feel that she and the fox had something in common.

Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp

I Have Never Known the River Ishcabob to Flood

i-have-never-known-the-river-ishcabob-to-flood-image-1

I Have Never Known the River Ishcabob to Flood ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp

I was in a place where I had never been before. I was buying a house next to a rocky river. The house was four stories tall and there were four houses in a row, all the same shape and height. (Things seem to come in fours here.) Mrs. Goldoni was the woman from whom I was buying the house. She had white-blonde hair like Jean Harlow but that’s where the similarity ended. Her face was very wrinkled and, due to an arthritic condition, she sometimes walked parallel to the floor like an insect. Think of a cockroach or a cricket and there you have the image I’m trying to convey.

I was on the top floor looking out the window at the view. “What’s the name of the river?” I asked Mrs. Goldoni, who was standing on her hind legs fussing with the curtains.

“It’s the River Ishcabob,” she said.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it,” I said.

“It’s a popular tourist attraction.”

“Does it ever flood?”

“Oh, no, sir!” she said. “Why would it flood?”

“Where I come from the rivers flood and cause a great deal of damage.”

“I’ve lived here all my life,” Mrs. Goldoni said, “and I’ve never know the River Ishcabob to flood.”

“That’s a relief,” I said. “I don’t like floods, especially if they inconvenience me.”

I had been talking to Mrs. Goldoni over my shoulder and when I turned and looked out the window again, I saw hundreds of workmen swarming over the river and on the rocky beach between the house and the river. Just a few seconds ago, they hadn’t been there. They were moving very fast so I couldn’t see what they were trying to accomplish.

“What are those workmen doing?” I asked Mrs. Goldoni.

“They’ve incurred debt, sir,” she said.

“What kind of debt?” I asked.

“Not the kind that has to do with money.”

“You mean like moral debt?”

She laughed her tinkling laugh. “I wouldn’t expect you to understand yet, sir.”

“Understand what? Am I missing something?”

Mrs. Goldoni chuckled and dropped to her tiny, clicking feet and skittered out of the room.

“What kind of arthritis is it that makes you walk like that?” I asked, but of course she was gone and didn’t hear me.

After lunch, I noticed a little room in my house that I hadn’t seen before. There were two steps going up to it and at the top of the steps were French doors just like my Aunt Susie had between her living room and dining room when I was a little boy. When you see the doors, you can’t keep from opening them.

“What’s in here?” I asked Mrs. Goldoni, who just seemed to appear from nowhere.

“Oh, we don’t go in there!” she said.

“This is my house!” I said “I think I’ll go wherever I want!”

When I opened the French doors, I could see they hadn’t been opened in a long time. Gobs of cobwebs came loose in artful drapes, and little chips of paint and tiny slivers of wood fell on my head.

Mrs. Goldoni was standing at my right shoulder looking anxiously on, and when I turned my head to look at her, I realized there were other people standing all around me.

“Who are they?” I asked Mrs. Goldoni.

“Oh, they’re always here,” she said. “They won’t bother you.”

“This is my house,” I said. “I came here to get away. I don’t want lots of strange people hanging around.”

“You’ll get used to them,” Mrs. Goldoni said, “and you’ll forget they’re even here.”

“Lord in heaven,” I said. “What have I got myself in to?”

I swung the French doors open as far as they would go and stepped inside the little room, which, to my surprise, had pink wallpaper on the walls. A tiny window kept the room from being without light. I took a few cautious steps into the room, with Mrs. Goldoni and the others behind me.

In the little room were hundreds of obviously very old, gold pocket watches suspended from gold chains, displayed on racks.

“What’s all this?” I asked.

I reached out to pick up one of the watches to get a better look and Mrs. Goldoni said, “I wouldn’t touch those if I were you!”

“Why not?” I said. “They’re in my house. Anything in my house belongs to me, doesn’t it?”

“They’re haunted,” she said.

I turned and looked at her, not sure if my ears were working right. “How can a watch be haunted?” I asked.

“If you don’t leave them alone,” she said, “you’ll find out the hard way.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“You’ll stir up some mean merde if you’re not careful!”

I knew just enough French to know what she was saying. I refrained from handling the watches any further while promising myself I’d find out more about them later.

After I reclosed the French doors and the crowd around me had dispersed, I decided to take a little walk outside and have a look at my immediate environs.

The “beach” between my house and the river wasn’t pretty. It was very rocky. You could walk on it, but only with sturdy shoes. I walked down close to the river and turned and looked at my house.

There they were: four, narrow, four-story houses of identical shape; almost like four pillars. The four houses were so close together, there wasn’t even room to park a car between them, but that didn’t seem to make any difference because nobody here seemed to have cars, anyway.

My house was the third house in the row, if you count from the left. I figured that all the other houses were occupied, but I knew nothing of the people who lived in them. All I knew was the fourth house in the row was a “bed and breakfast” run by an old woman who looked as if she had at some point in her life been smashed flat. I wasn’t quite sure what a bed and breakfast was, but I knew it to be some kind of commercial enterprise. I would have to let the smashed-flat woman know that I didn’t intend to take any kind of merde from anybody.

When I turned back to the river, I saw the workmen moving around furiously. One man who came near to me slowed down long enough for me to make eye contact with him.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“You’re not supposed to ask questions,” he said.

“Why not?” I asked.

“You’re not supposed to talk to us.”

“What kind of a place is this?” I asked.

And then I went furniture shopping. There was a piece of furniture I wanted for my new house. I didn’t know what it was or what purpose it served, but I only knew I had to have it. After looking around for a long time in the store, I found one I liked. It looked like an old console TV in a wood cabinet, but nobody had those anymore. A salesman in a suit hovered near me. He spent a lot of time with me while I made my selection.

Finally I found the one I wanted to buy. The salesman said it cost four hundred dollars. I told him I’d take it and I wanted it delivered.

When I went to pay for the piece of furniture, the salesman told me it was four thousand and four hundred dollars.

“I thought you said four hundred,” I said.

“Oh, no, sir!” he said. “Its four thousand and four hundred.”

“That’s too much!” I said. “The thing’s not worth that much money.”

I found another one that I liked better that was nearer to the price I wanted to pay, and when I got home it was waiting there for me in a big box.

The pleasant-faced actor named Kyle Chandler was in a recent movie I had seen. He wasn’t the lead in the movie, but he played the brother of the lead. In the construct of the movie I saw him in, he had a congestive heart condition and died, even though he was only forty-five. We saw him dead in the hospital morgue when his brother, the lead character in the movie, showed up to identify the body.

Anyway, when I got home from buying my piece of furniture that looked like an old-fashioned console TV in a wood cabinet but wasn’t that because nobody had those anymore, Kyle Chandler was there and he was waiting to help me take the thing out of the box. We got the thing out of the box and were struggling with it to get it to the place in the room that was just right for it, when Kyle Chandler grabbed his chest and fell to the floor on his back.

Lying on the floor, his eyes were closed and he seemed to not be breathing. I leaned over and put my ear against his chest. There was no heartbeat. I realized then that all the people who had been standing around me when I opened the little room with the French doors were there again.

“Somebody get a doctor!” I said.

Nobody made a move to do anything, so I began thumping Kyle Chandler on the chest where I thought his heart must be, the way I had seen it done in the movies. I put one hand over his heart and hit the top of my hand with my other fist as hard as I could.

Kyle Chandler sputtered and opened his eyes. He looked at me and smiled. “What happened?” he asked.

“I think you were having a heart episode,” I said, “but you seem all right now.”

He stood up, smiling, not seeming to realize he would be dead if it hadn’t been for me.

At the end of the day I was lying on the floor with my biggest cat on top of me. He was purring and covered almost my entire body. I felt, as always, comforted by his warm and loving presence. We were listening to the fifties station on satellite radio and Little Richard was singing You Keep A-Knocking but You Can’t Come In!

There was a woman sitting behind a desk a few feet away from me, but she didn’t seem to notice me. I found it very easy to pretend she wasn’t there. Mrs. Goldoni was right—I was getting used to those people in my house and wasn’t bothered so much by their presence. I still didn’t know who they were or why they didn’t leave since it was my house, but I felt sure all would be revealed in time.

Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp