My Father’s Pajamas

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My Father’s Pajamas
~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp ~

Susan pulled into the driveway of a two-story house and turned off the engine. The man sitting beside her, whose name was Knox, rubbed his hands along his thighs and looked nervously over at the house.

“I’ll just leave,” he said. “I’m not going in there with you.”

“Don’t be silly,” Susan said. “My mother is probably watching us out the window this very minute. She’ll wonder who you are.”

When she saw he was still hesitating, she said, “It’s all right. You can leave whenever you want.”

She got out and motioned him to follow. She led him across the yard and up the front steps to the porch. Before she inserted her key into the lock, she turned to look at him to make sure he was still there.

“As you can see,” she said. “It’s a big house. There are four bedrooms upstairs and another bedroom off the kitchen. We have plenty of room for houseguests.”

“I don’t think I should…”

She plucked at his coat sleeve and pulled him inside behind her.

The house was overheated and had an old smell about it, as if to announce to anybody entering: Old people live here.

Knox stood inside the doorway awkwardly, his hands in the pockets of his coat. A very old woman entered from another room and stopped in midmotion and when she saw Susan and Knox.

“It’s me, mother!” Susan said. “I’m back! And I’ve brought somebody with me this time.”

“Who is this?” the old woman asked. She had a great shock of white hair sticking out all over her head. The thick glasses she wore magnified her eyes many times, giving her a rather freakish look.

“His name is Knox,” Susan said. “I met him in the park. I invited him to come home with me and he very graciously accepted.”

Who?” the old woman asked.

“Knox!” Susan said loudly. “His name is Knox! Don’t you think he’s nice-looking? That wasn’t why I chose him, of course, but I suppose it had something to do with it. He has blue eyes, mother. Same as you.”

What?” the old woman said.

“And he’s just the right age. I don’t mean I know how old he is, but he looks the right age.”

“Hello,” Knox said to the old woman. “I’ll only stay a minute.”

“Well, why didn’t you say so?”

“I’ll show Knox upstairs to the guest bedroom,” Susan said. “He can take a shower or do whatever he wants while I fix dinner. I’ll get some of father’s clothes out of his closet for him to wear.”

“What?” the old woman said. “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“I know you heard every word I said, mother! There’s nothing wrong with your hearing!”

“You’ll have to excuse my mother,” Susan said to Knox when they were upstairs. “She’s a bit eccentric and she is old.”

The guest bedroom was commodious in every way, with its own bathroom, a huge walk-in closet and lots of natural light.

“I think you’ll like this room,” she said. “It’s always been my favorite room in the whole house.”

“I can’t stay here,” Knox said.

“Why not?”

“Does this look like the kind of room I belong in?”

Susan laughed. “You’re going to have to forget all that,” she said. “It might help to keep an open mind and be open to new experiences.”

“Your mother doesn’t like having me in her house and I can’t say I blame her,” Knox said.

“Don’t worry so much. I know how to get around her.”

She went to the closet and brought out a pair of pants, a shirt, a belt and a pullover cashmere sweater. She laid the things on the bed and then took some things out of the dresser drawer, which turned out to be a man’s underpants, an undershirt and a pair of black socks.

“These things belonged to my father,” Susan said. “He’s been dead for years. Wear them in good health.”

“I can’t wear your father’s clothes,” Knox said.

“Why not?”

“I shouldn’t even be here.”

“I’m going downstairs now to cook dinner. You can take a bath, a shower, or do whatever you want. I know you’re thinking you only want to leave, but I hope you’ll at least stay for dinner. I’m thawing out some trout that I bought and there’s a lot more than my mother and I can eat.”

“I don’t know,” he said. “None of this seems right.”

“Maybe you need to think of it as your lucky day. The day I found you in the park.”

“My lucky day.”

“In the bathroom beside the sink is a brand-new razor that’s never been used. There’s also a toothbrush, a washcloth, a towel and lots of soap and shampoo. I think that’s everything you need. I’m going back downstairs now. I’ll close the door so you can have your privacy. I know men like their privacy. You can lock the door from the inside if it makes you feel better.”

“I don’t think I should do this,” he said.

“Put these clothes on that I laid out for you. I’ll wash your old clothes, or we can put them in the trash if you want. I won’t insult you by telling you how awful they are. Now, if there’s anything else you need, just let me know. I’ll be in the kitchen. Oh, and tomorrow I’ll trim your hair if you’ll let me. But please wash it first.”

“Trim my hair.”

“Yes. I’ll let you know when dinner is ready.”

While she was in the kitchen, slicing potatoes, her mother came charging in with the crazed look in her eye.

“Who is that man?” she demanded.

“I told you, mother. His name is Knox.”

“What is he doing in my house?”

“I invited him.”

“How long is he going to stay?”

“As long as he wants. We haven’t discussed any long-term arrangement yet.”

“I’m going to call the sheriff.”

“Why?”

“There’s an intruder in my house and I want him removed!”

“He’s not an intruder if I invited him, now, is he?”

“What do you know about him?”

“Nothing.”

“Where does he come from?”

“I don’t know.”

“Who are his people? What does he do for a living?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you going to wait for him to slit our throats?”

“He’s not going to do that!”

“We don’t know anything about him, so we have to assume the worst.”

“All you have to do is look at him to know he’s not that sort.”

“I’m going to call the sheriff.”

“You’re not calling anybody!” Susan said, turning to her mother with the knife in her hand. “I might slit your throat if you don’t stop being so silly!”

“As long as that man is here, I’m not staying in this house another minute! I’m going to go stay with my sister Edith.”

“Your sister Edith is dead.”

The old woman starting crying. “So, I guess that means I don’t have any place I can go!”

“You don’t need a place to go!”

“I don’t know how you can treat your mother this way!”

“This is not about you, mother!”

“What is it about, then? Are you starting to go through the change?”

“I want a friend, that’s all.”

“What about your Sunday school class?”

“They’re just a bunch of gossipy old women. I don’t have anything in common with them.”

“Maybe you should try harder.”

“Look, mother! I spend all my time in this house with you. You’re the only person I ever see or talk to.”

“That’s not true!”

“I cook your food and wash your clothes. I keep your house clean. Life is passing me by. Maybe I want more from life than being your nursemaid.”

“Well, what do you want?”

“I don’t know! I’m going to find out.”

“Are you going to marry that man?”

“I might. It’s too soon to know.”

“He might be a rapist!”

“He might be a lot of things. He might have a wife and eight children. You can’t go through life being afraid of everything and everybody.”

“What are you afraid of?”

“Nothing. Everything.”

“What kind of an answer is that? Are you sick? Do you need to see a doctor?”

“When I need to see a doctor, mother, I’ll let you know.”

“Is that man going to spend the night in this house?”

“I don’t know what he plans on doing. I want him to stay but I can’t force him.”

“Are you going to let him make love to you?”

“Of course not, mother! I don’t think you need to worry about that.”

“Well, I’m going to a hotel! Will you please call me a cab?”

“You know how to call a cab, mother. You’re just being melodramatic.”

“No, on second thought, I’m not going to a hotel and leave you alone in the house with that man! When there’s an unsavory character in my house, I want to know what he’s doing every minute.”

Dinner was uneventful. Knox ate the food that Susan put in front of him with his head down. She was gratified to see that he had put the clothes on that she laid out for him. He had taken a bath and washed his hair and he did look much improved. He still needed a haircut, though, and a manicure.

Susan’s mother sat with her arms close to her sides, feigning fear. She cried the entire time she ate and sniffled into her hanky for effect.

“How do you like the fried potatoes, mother?” Susan asked.

“Greasy. I can’t eat them. They give me heartburn.”

“Do you like the fish? It’s just the way you like it.”

“No, it tastes funny. I think it’s going to make me sick.”

“Would you like some salad?”

“No, I’ll just eat some of my candy before I retire for the night.”

“Too much candy isn’t good for you.”

“What do you care?”

She stood up then, nearly falling, and made her way out of the room.

“Your mother doesn’t like me,” Knox said.

“No matter,” Susan said. “She doesn’t like me, either. I’ve always been a disappointment to her.”

“I should go,” Knox said.

“Where?”

Once again he gestured over his shoulder with his thumb. “I don’t belong here.”

“It’s dark now and raining. Spend the night. You’ll have the guest room all to yourself. You won’t be bothered. There’s a lock on the door. You can lock yourself in.”

“I can’t pay you for any of this.”

“Tomorrow we’ll have a little talk while I’m trimming your hair. You can tell me about yourself, as much or as little as you want.”

“Maybe there’s nothing to tell.”

“Everybody has something to tell.”

“Maybe there’s nothing worth telling. I’m less than nothing. I’m nobody. I’m not worth mentioning. I’m not worth a second of your time.”

They sat for a while longer without saying anything. The house was quiet. Knox went to sleep sitting at the table. While he was sleeping, Susan looked at his hands and fingers, his face, his hair, his nose and mouth. If he knew she was scrutinizing him that way, he would have spoken sharply to her and walked out the door.

A crash of thunder woke him and he stood up from the table. Now is the moment of truth, Susan thought. Instead of leaving, though, he crept up the stairs and went into the guest room and locked the door. She hoped he would find the pajamas and dressing gown she left out for him. She wanted him to have all the good things she might give him.

Copyright © 2021 by Allen Kopp

A Thousand Others

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A Thousand Others
~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp ~

In September 1921, Mr. Fatty motored the three hundred miles—in his custom-made, $20,000 automobile—from his home in Hollywood, California, northward to San Francisco, for a much-needed hiatus from the arduous pursuit of making motion pictures. Mr. Fatty was, you see, the biggest star in Hollywood. People adored him. His pictures raked in prodigious amounts of cash.

If you ever saw Mr. Fatty act on the screen, you knew why he was so popular. He was funny. He was charismatic. He was charming. He was talented. He was Good with a capital G. He deserved the million dollars a year, tax-free, that he raked in. He deserved all the love, all the fame and popularity, that the world had to offer. He deserved it all, except, perhaps, the fate that awaited him in San Francisco.

On arriving in that picturesque, seaside city, Mr. Fatty checked himself and his entourage into his luxurious suite on the twelfth floor of the finest hotel. He refreshed himself with a bath and a brief nap. After taking some pills to pep himself up, he ate a steak sandwich and then began drinking prodigious amounts of alcohol.

The party guests began arriving before the sun went down. They were picture people, directors, producers, writers, and other actors; acquaintances, friends and friends of friends; flappers and party girls and party-girl flappers; would-be actresses, girls who would do anything with anybody to get their big break in motion pictures. Some were no more than fifteen, fresh off the farm. They took pills to crank themselves up, to make themselves happy, to make themselves lose whatever inhibitions they might still have.

And they were loud. They were raucous. They were crude. They were unleashed. They consumed bootleg hooch by the barrelful. They danced, some of them alone and some together. They removed part of their clothing and then all their clothing. They sang, they brayed like animals, they screamed, they whooped. They tore down the curtains and busted up the furniture. They coupled, on the couch, on the floor, in the bathroom, the kitchen, standing up, lying down, wherever they happened to be.

Any number of the unattached girls made a play for Mr. Fatty because they knew he was a major player in motion pictures. One kind word from him could get them in to see Hollywood’s top producers and directors. Making Mr. Fatty feel especially good, even for just a few minutes, might be the one little thing that could launch a motion picture career.

Some of the girls, of course, already had a few screen credits. They had played waitresses, maids, or “extras” in crowd scenes. They all hoped to be able to stand out from the others, to be noticed and get a chance to play the really substantial parts opposite the handsome, sleek-haired leading men who set their hearts aflutter.

May Beasley had appeared in twelve different motion pictures, but in most of them she didn’t get a screen credit because the part she played wasn’t big enough. She could play any kind of part—she could even sing and dance—but she thought of herself first and foremost as a comedic actress. She just hadn’t had the chance yet to prove to any influential person just how good she was. She could change all that if Mr. Fatty would just notice how pretty she was and how eager to make good.

Mr. Fatty noticed May, all right. He kept his eye on her as she moved like a cat around the room with a drink in her hand, flirting first with one man and then with another. Sometimes she danced her way from one person to the next, in time to the syncopated jazz music. He found her quite fetching. He couldn’t keep his eyes off her gyrating buttocks; he was sure she wasn’t wearing any underwear.

May also kept her eye on Mr. Fatty until he sat down on a French divan, where she went and sat beside him and put her arm around him, giving him a closeup view of her breasts. She whispered in his ear and nuzzled on his earlobe in the way she knew that drove men wild. He was so drunk and so high at that moment that he would have liked anything she did.

They kissed—a long, lingering kiss. He could have taken possession of her right there, but he was still a little conventional and didn’t like doing the things in public that he loved doing in private. He took her by the hand and led her into the bedroom, discreetly closing the door.

Mr. Fatty and May Beasley were in the bedroom for hours. The more playful of the party guests listened at the door, but heard nothing. They could only imagine the scene that was playing out, knowing as they did what a prodigious lover Mr. Fatty was.

The hour grew late and the party guests began to drift away. Mr. Fatty emerged from the bedroom, disheveled and sweating. The remaining guests cheered him, whistled and hooted. He smiled, wiped his brow, and bowed dramatically.

“You must have worn poor old May down to a nub,” someone said.

“She’s sleeping it off,” Mr. Fatty replied. “She’s feeling no pain.”

Mr. Fatty went downstairs for a bite to eat, telling everybody the party was over until next time. He hoped all his dear friends had a lovely time. He wanted everybody to have left by the time he came back upstairs to his suite because he needed to rest before driving back home. Au revoir, my dears! Until we meet again!

Late the next day, back home in Hollywood, Mr. Fatty received an urgent telephone call from his lawyer. Word was about that May Beasley was seriously injured from the treatment she received at the party in San Francisco. She had a ruptured bladder and was bleeding internally.

“What did you do to that poor girl?” the lawyer asked.

“Nothing that I haven’t done to a thousand others,” Mr. Fatty said.

“They’re saying you sexually assaulted her. If she dies, I’m afraid there’s going to be big trouble.”

“Should I go back up to San Francisco and see about her?”

“No, just go about your business. Go back to work at the studio. I’ll call you when I know more.”

Mr. Fatty went to work and for two days heard nothing. He was sure May Beasley was going to be all right. On the third day, he received another urgent call from his lawyer. May had developed peritonitis and was gravely ill.

“You weigh three hundred pounds,” the lawyer said. “May Beasley weighs a hundred and eight. People are saying you ravished her, crushed her.”

“I’m sure I didn’t do anything to her that hundreds of others haven’t done,” Mr. Fatty said. “She loved every minute of it.”

“She didn’t show any signs of being injured when you were with her?”

“None at all. She’s an actress. She’s just trying to get attention.”

“I hope that’s all it is.”

One week after the party, May Beasley died. The press ripped Mr. Fatty apart. They were calling him an animal, a cad, a monster, a ghoul, a fiend. Suddenly he was made to represent all the excesses of Hollywood and picture people: the heavy drinking and the use of narcotics and reefers; free love and out-of-wedlock birth; sexual perversion and the switching of the genders—feminine men and masculine women. In short, the casting aside of decency and the Christian values that made this country great.

To show his heart was in the right place, Mr. Fatty offered to pay all of May Beasley’s hospital and doctor bills. While his friends saw it as a magnanimous gesture, others saw it as tantamount to an admission of guilt.

He believed he should attend May Beasley’s funeral, but his lawyers and the studio bosses advised him to stay away. The last thing he needed, they said, was to show his face at her funeral and be inextricably linked to the tragedy of her death. He needed to begin thinking how he might extricate himself from the scandal and limit the damage done to his career and his public persona.

Mr. Fatty felt so sad about what happened to May Beasley, but the biggest blow of all came when his lawyer told him he was being charged with first-degree murder and must surrender himself to authorities in San Francisco.

He knew the world and he knew people. He had a few friends and admirers who would always believe in him, but the majority of people chose to believe he was a monster, a defiler and murderer of innocent young women. They were the ones, he knew, who would not rest until they had flailed all the flesh from his bones.

Copyright © 2021 by Allen Kopp

Entre Nous

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Entre Nous
~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp ~

She spotted him in the park. He was a man of indeterminate age, dressed in a tattered green overcoat, badly in need of a haircut and shave. When he knew she was following him, he stopped and looked at her. She smiled. She had so many things she wanted to say to him.

“How are you?” she asked.

He shook his head and started to walk away.

“I saw you and I wanted to speak to you.”

“If you’re from the mission…”

“No. I’m not,” she said. “I was wondering if we might sit and talk a while.”

“No!”

She took hold of his arm, gently. He let her pull him to a bench. She sat on the bench and he had no other choice but to sit beside her. He looked at her apprehensively.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “I’m not the police or anything, and I’m not from the mission.”

Now that she saw him up close, she saw he was younger than she at first thought. His eyes were a startling blue. He had tiny lines around them, but except for that his face was unlined. His hair was prematurely gray, in need of a trim. He smelled of tobacco and alcohol.

“Just on my way,” he said.

“Where?”

He gestured with his thumb over his shoulder.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” she said. “I only want to talk to you.”

“Why?”

She laughed and put her hands between her knees and looked up into the trees. “I guess you could say I’m a student of human nature.”

He shook his head and looked at his hands.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“Knox.”

“Is that your first name or your last name?”

“Just Knox.”

“All right. My name is Susan Morehouse. I believe in laying all my cards on the table. I’m forty-seven years old and not the least bit sensitive about my age. I live with my mother on Independence Avenue. My mother was over forty years old when she had me, so you can imagine how old she is now. It’s just my mother and me. My father died at age sixty of cirrhosis of the liver.”

He started to stand. She put her hand on his arm. He remained.

“Do you have family?” she asked.

He shook his head, which she took to mean no.

“Are you a mental patient?”

He smiled, for the first time, and shook his head.

Are you a drug addict?”

A shake of the head.

“Alcoholic?”

Another shake of the head.

“I won’t ask how you come to be an aimless bum in the park. We’ll save that one for another time.”

“I have to go,” he said, gesturing with his thumb over his shoulder.

“Go where?”

He shrugged, meaning anywhere and nowhere.

“The truth is, I don’t think you have any place to go.”

“I don’t see it’s any of your business,” he said.

“Would you like to come home with me?”

“No!”

“I know it sounds terribly forward, but I don’t have a lot of time to waste on amenities.”

“No!”

“I wouldn’t expect anything of you. You wouldn’t have to do anything. You wouldn’t be bothered. Only my mother is there. She’s a very old lady, nearly ninety years old. You can stay as long as you want and leave whenever you say.”

“I can’t,” he said. “I’m not well.”

“Do you have anything contagious?”

He shrugged and looked up at the sound of a dog thrashing through the leaves, chasing another dog.

“I’ve never done this before, you know,” she said. “You’re the first man I’ve ever approached like this.”

“I don’t think so,” he said, but she could see he was softening.

“Nobody has to ever know about it. It’s just between you and me. Entre nous, as the saying goes.”

“No, I don’t want to go with you.”

“My car is just over the hill.”

He looked up the hill as if imagining the car on the other side.

“All you have to do is get in the car. I’ll drive. It’s just a few miles.”

“I’m not going with you,” he said.

He stood up when she did, though, and walked over the hill with her. She touched him on the arm and looked at him every few feet to encourage him. When they came to her car, she motioned for him to get into the passenger-side seat, reassuring him, once again, that she meant him no harm.

Copyright © 2021 by Allen Kopp  

Choosing the Right Kind of Poison

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Choosing the Right Kind of Poison
~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp ~

The shoes were on sale; he saved eight dollars. Instead of giving the eight dollars back to his father the way he should if he was completely honest, he would keep it. He would add the eight dollars to his growing savings. He was sure he would need it later on.

He left the shoe store with the bag containing the shoes under his arm. He was on his way to the book store when he saw, half a block in front of him, someone who looked familiar. She had her back to him, but he had seen her so many times, for so long, that he knew who she was. He half-ran to catch up with her before he lost her in the throng of pedestrians.

“Mother!” he said.

She turned and looked at him. He had startled her, he could tell.

“Anson!” she said. “I didn’t expect to see you here. What are you doing downtown?”

“Shoes,” he said, holding up the bag. “For school.”

“We’re just in town for a couple of days,” she said. “I was going to call you and ask you to come to our hotel and have dinner with us.”

“How’s Tony?”

“Who?”

“Your husband.”

“His name is Richard. He’s fine. He flew in for a conference at the university and I came along with him this time. It was a chance for me to see Dr. Spaulding.”

Dr. Spaulding? Are you sick?”

“No, just routine. Just a checkup.”

“Don’t they have doctors in New Mexico?”

“Of course they do. It’s just that I’ve been going to Dr. Spaulding for twenty years and I think he’s the only doctor in the world.”

“Are you going to have a baby?”

She laughed. “No. Why would you think that?”

“Isn’t that the way it is with newlyweds?”

“Not this newlywed.”

“I figured I’d have a half-brother or -sister by now.”

“Richard’s nearly fifty. I think he’s had enough of fatherhood.”

“I can’t say I blame him.”

“There’ll be no new offspring.”

“No! Really! Why did you see Dr. Spaulding? You can tell me the truth. I’m not eight years old.”

“I told you. Just a little run down. I’m anemic. Nothing too serious.”

“Is that all?”

“Nothing startling or dramatic, I assure you.”

“You look pale.”

“I stay out of the sun as much as I can.”

“You live in a state where there’s nothing but sun, and you stay out of the sun?”

“Well, tell me. How’s school?”

“Boring. It starts again in two weeks.”

“Are you excited?”

“I think mortified is more the word.”

“You still don’t like school?”

“I can’t wait to be finished with it.”

“And then what?”

“I don’t know. I’d like to go live on Mars or, if that turns out to be a bad idea, I think I’ll probably join the circus and be a clown.”

“Whatever you do, it’d help to get a good education first.”

“That’s what everybody says.”

“Maybe you should listen to them.”

“I think I’ve had enough of school. I learned how to read and write. What else is there?”

“I don’t know where you get your cynicism. You don’t get it from me.”

“It skips generations.”

“Have you had lunch yet?” she asked.

“No.”

“There’s a good place to eat down in the next block. Let’s go have some lunch.”

They sat at a booth beside a window . She lit a cigarette and smiled. “How have you and your father been getting along?” she asked.

“He’s been in a bad mood with me all summer.”

“Why?”

“He signed me up for swimming lessons and I refused to go.”

“You refused? Don’t you want to learn to swim?”

“No!”

“Why not?”

“I hate the thought of undressing in front of all those strangers.”

She laughed and blew smoke out her nose, a trick he had always wanted to master. “You’d better not ever go into the army.”

“I won’t. They wouldn’t want me.”

“I think swimming lessons would be good for you. You’d get plenty of exercise and you’d get out of the house and mix with people your own age.”

“When you were fifteen, would you have wanted to take swimming lessons?”

“Probably not. I would have avoided it like the plague.”

“Exactly! Don’t you think I ought to be able to decide for myself on a matter so important?”

“Fifteen-year-olds usually do what their parents tell them to do.”

“Not when it comes to swimming lessons.”

“I don’t think I should weigh in on that argument. That’s between you and your father.”

“I very subtly threatened suicide if he made me do it. Take the take swimming lessons, I mean. He’s been steering clear me of since then.”

Anson! You didn’t!”

“Yes, I did!”

“You shouldn’t threaten suicide. It makes people think you’re crazy. There’s insanity in the family, you know.”

“Yes, I know. So, if I did it, it shouldn’t surprise anybody too much.”

“You wouldn’t really kill yourself, would you?”

“Oh, I don’t know. It’s a thought. There’s a new thirty-story building down by the park, with an observation deck on the top floor. It would be so easy to take the elevator to the top floor and take a dive. That’s three hundred feet. Nobody would even pay any attention to me until I was a pile of goo on the sidewalk.”

“Anson, that’s horrible!”

“So, how is that new husband of yours?”

“You already asked me that.”

“I’m asking again.”

“He has high blood pressure and eczema but except for that…”

“Does he still wear a suit all the time?”

“It’s his job.”

“Is he a model?”

“No, he’s not a model. He’s a businessman.”

“Oh, a businessman! I get it!”

“We’d love to have you fly out to visit us sometime. Maybe spend Christmas with us. You must see the desert.”

“I’ve seen the desert in Lawrence of Arabia.”

“The American desert isn’t quite like that.”

“Aren’t all deserts alike?”

“That I couldn’t say.”

“How are Richard’s daughters? Are they both still alive?”

“Yes, they’re still alive.”

“How old are they now?”

“Rachel is seven and Veronica is nine.”

“Oh, yes! Rachel and Veronica! They’re the reason I can’t come and live with you because the house you live in is too small.”

“Anson! We’ve been all through that! Your father and I decided it was best for you to keep on living with him. You wouldn’t want him to live all alone, would you?”

“I think he’d like to be rid of me.”

“When we move to a bigger place, we’ll talk about having you come and live with us. In the meantime…”

“It’s easy to keep putting things off, isn’t it? That way you’ll make sure it never happens.”

“Anson, that’s not true!”

“If Rachel or Veronica dies, you’ll be sure and let me know, won’t you? Then you’ll have room for me. I can come and take the place of the one who’s dead. Sleep in her room.”

“Anson, that’s not funny!”

“You could always poison one of them, you know. Your least favorite of the two. I can do some research on some poisons, if you’d like. You’d need to get a good non-traceable poison.”

“Anson, that’s enough of that kind of talk! Nobody is going to poison anybody!”

“Well, it’s a thought, anyway. You can mull it over and get back to me.”

“You seem preoccupied with death. Death should be the farthest thing from your mind. You’re still a child.”

In the midst of life we are in death.”

“Anson, could we talk about something else, please?”

“What else is there?”

“I’d like to buy you something while I’m here. Do you have everything you need for school?”

“Yes, mother, I do.”

“How about a winter coat?”

“It’s August, mother! Nobody thinks about a winter coat in August.”

“Winter will be here before you know it.”

“I might be dead by then.”

“How about a suit? Do you need a new suit?”

“I have two new suits that I’ve never worn.”

“Socks? Underwear?”

“I have plenty as long as I remember to do the laundry.”

“You can’t think of anything?”

“I would like to have a cell phone, but your former husband says I can’t have one.”

“Why not?”

“Too much of a distraction, he says.”

“I think he has a point.”

“I wouldn’t let it distract me! Honest! Everybody I know has a cell phone. I’m the only one without one.”

“Do all the poor kids in school have one?”

“Of course they do! They might not have any money for lunch, but they all have their cell phones.”

“Things have certainly changed since I was in junior high school.”

“I don’t need any clothes, but I do need a cell phone. That’s not too much to ask, is it?”

“Anson, I don’t think you can honestly say you need a cell phone! I think you can go on living without it.”

“There’s an electronics store just a couple blocks from here. They have lots of cell phones to choose from and I’ll bet they’re not as expensive as you think!”

“Do you want me to give you the money to buy it?”

“No, I want you to go with me. We’ll pick it out together.”

“Would it make you happy?”

“It would make me so happy!”

When his father came in from work at six o’clock, Anson was sitting at the kitchen table, learning how to use his cell phone.

“What do you have there?” his father asked.

“A cell phone.”

“Whose is it?”

“Mine.”

“Where did it come from?”

“The electronics store downtown.”

“I told you you’re too young for a cell phone. It’s too much of a distraction from your studies.”

“I know, but I met mother downtown…”

“You met who downtown?”

“My mother. Don’t you remember? The woman you used to be married to?”

“You just happened to meet your mother downtown?”

“That’s right.”

“And she bought you a cell phone.”

“Yeah. She asked me if I needed anything for school and when I said I needed a cell phone, she bought me one.”

“I told you I didn’t want you to have a cell phone.”

“I know, but mother was going to buy me one, so I couldn’t exactly turn it down, could I?”

“I want you to take it back to the store, get the money back for it, and send the money to your mother.”

“I won’t do it!”

“And tell her not to interfere again!”

“I’m keeping the phone!”

“No, you’re not!”

His father reached across the table, grabbed the phone out of Anson’s hand, and smashed it against the wall.

“What did you do that for?”

“I told you ‘no cell phone’ and I meant it! This is not going to be like the swimming lessons! If you want to go on living in my house and expect me to support you, you cannot openly defy me. I won’t allow it!”

“I know why mother left you! You’re an ogre! She couldn’t stand being married to you! She told me so! I don’t know why people like you become parents in the first place! You’re a terrible father!”

“That’s enough, Anson! Go to your room!”

“I want to go live with my mother. I can’t stand living here with you any longer!”

“Suit yourself, you ungrateful little…”

Anson didn’t hear what his father was going to call him because he ran into his room and slammed the door. He wouldn’t leave his room again. He would go to bed and stay there. He wouldn’t eat any dinner. If he never ate again, he wouldn’t care.

He had some sleeping pills he had been saving that he filched from his mother before the divorce. He poured them out onto his palm and counted them. There were twelve. He took two and after he got into bed, he took two more and then two more. He turned off the light, got into bed and kept taking the pills until there were none left. He didn’t know if it was enough to kill him, but he could only hope.

He pulled the covers up to his chin. It wasn’t even all the way dark outside. Soon he began to have a funny feeling in his head and a sick feeling in his stomach. He hoped it was the beginning of death and that it would be quick.

Before he drifted off—maybe for the last time—he saw his mother’s face with the little wrinkles around the eyes, the orange-colored lipstick, and the hair tinted the color of a red fox. At first he didn’t know where he and his mother were, and then he saw they were in a high place. Yes, they were together on top of the new thirty-story building over by the park. They smiled at each other and joined hands and jumped. The best part was they never fell to the ground but floated off together into the infinite sky, and they were so happy.

Copyright © 2021 by Allen Kopp

Do You Take This Clown?

Do You Take This Clown image 5

Do You Take This Clown?
~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp ~

(This short story is a re-post. It has been published in the Australian literary journal, Skive.)

Mercy Buckets felt pains in her midsection. She knew there was something inside her that needed to come out. She checked herself into Clown General Hospital, believing she was dying. After a clown doctor did a perfunctory examination, he knew right away what was wrong with her. She was about to have a clown baby and, being the silly goose she was, didn’t even know it.

Almost at once she went into clown labor. When she was being wheeled into the clown delivery room, she didn’t know what was happening and became distraught.

“Somebody help me!” she screamed, her round red nose quivering with emotion. “They’ve taken my clothes! They’re holding me prisoner and they’re going to do awful things to me! Somebody call the clown authorities before it’s too late!” 

Nobody called the authorities, of course, or anybody else. A clown nurse clonked her on the head with a frying pan and after that she was quite manageable. She wasn’t able to help in the birth of her child, being unconscious as she was, but Dr. Stitches managed just fine, with the help of several clown nurses, and delivered her of a perfect baby boy.

When she woke up, she was in a bed in a little room all to herself where everything was so white and shiny she thought for a moment she might be in heaven. She heard sounds from behind the closed door but they seemed remote and far away and comforting in a way. She felt funny as if all her bodily parts had been stretched and then allowed to snap back into place. She still didn’t know what had happened to her.

In a little while a smiling clown nurse came into her room to check on her. “Are we feeling better now?” she asked. She had an upturned nose that resembled a sweet potato and a huge head with great waves of flame-red hair.

“Who are you?” Mercy Buckets asked.

“I’m Nurse Precious,” she said. “I’m here to take care of you.”

“But where am I?”

“You are on the third floor of Clown General Hospital.”

“Have I been in an accident or something?”

Nurse Precious laughed. “We do have a wry sense of humor, don’t we?”

“I want to go home.”

“Of course we do, but we’re not ready yet. If you and your baby get along well, you should be able to leave by Tuesday.”

“Me and my what?”

Nurse Precious looked at Mercy and wrinkled her brow. “You don’t remember why you came to hospital?”

“I don’t remember anything.”

Nurse Precious looked at Mercy’s medical chart. “Oh, I see,” she said. “They had to put you out, over, and under during the birth. You haven’t even seen your baby yet.”

“If you don’t tell me what you’re talking about right now,” Mercy said, “I’m going to walk out of here and take a jitney home, even though I am wearing a bed sheet with nothing on underneath.”

As if on cue, the door opened with a suck of air and Nurse Nimbus came into the room with what looked like a bundle of dirty laundry in her arms. “Here we are!” she said cheerily. She laid the bundle on the bed beside Mercy Buckets and pulled back a flap to reveal the face of a small animal.

“Ugh!” Mercy said. “That is the ugliest thing I ever saw.”

“You be sure and think of a good name for him now,” Nurse Precious said.

The two nurses linked arms and twirled around in a little jig as if that were part of the ritual that Mercy was unable to understand.

“But what is this thing?” Mercy asked. “It doesn’t even look like a clown. It looks like an ape. It’s all covered with hair.”

“Why, it’s your baby, dear,” Nurse Nimbus said. “What else would it be?”

“Are you telling me that thing came out of my body?”

“Well, the stork didn’t deliver it, if that’s what you mean,” Nurse Precious said, laughing at her own cleverness.

“Take it away!”

“Oh, you have to feed it, dear! The little fellow is hungry.”

“And just what do you have in mind that I feed it?”

Nurse Precious and Nurse Nimbus exchanged a significant look and then Nurse Nimbus discreetly exited while Nurse Precious showed Mercy what was to be done.

Later in the day, after the baby had been fed and taken away again, Mercy was dozing when Dr. Stitches dropped by her little room to see how she was doing. He was wearing a long white doctor’s gown and a rubber chicken on each shoulder like epaulettes. On his old head was a powdered wig like George Washington, only pink.

“Well, well, well,” he said. “That was quite a harrowing scene we had in the delivery room this morning, wasn’t it?”

“Who the hell are you?” Mercy asked, irritated at being awakened.

“I’m only the old fellow who saved your life and the life of your baby,” he said.

“I want to go home. My clown mother and clown father must be worried about me.”

“All in due time, my dear.”

“And when I leave, I’m not taking that thing with me.”

“What thing are we talking about, dear?”

“The little animal that they say came out of my body.”

“I take it you are referring to your son?”

“I go. It stays.”

Dr. Stitches made a note on his clipboard and looked at Mercy over the tops of his Ben Franklin glasses. “You wish to give the baby up for adoption?” he asked.

“I don’t care what you do with it. We’re not even the same species.”

“Hmm,” he said. “Mother exhibits marked ambivalence toward baby,” he said aloud as he wrote.

“My clown mother and clown father are going to die when they find out about this. They don’t know I was ever even with a man. Hell, I don’t even know it myself!”

“So, you have no knowledge or recollection of the act that brought your baby into being?”

“I don’t know anything except that I want to go home and forget that any of this ever happened.”

“You’ve had a shock,” Dr. Stitches said, patting her on the shoulder. “You just rest now and don’t worry about a thing.”

He left and in a few moments Nurse Precious came in and gave Mercy another clonk on the head to calm her down.

When she awoke she was confused. She had been dreaming that a giant chicken was holding her down, trying to put its beak into her mouth. She sputtered and picked some imaginary feathers from between her teeth. She realized then that someone was standing beside her bed and that someone was her own clown mother, Clarabelle Patootie, and her clown father, Petey Patootie. They had both been clown headliners in the biggest show in clowndom but were now retired from the show business.

“My dear!” her mother said, realizing at once that Mercy was awake. “Your clown father and I have been frantic with clown worry.”

“It’s not what you think!” Mercy said, trying to sit up. “I swear I don’t know where that thing came from!”

“Now, now, now,” her mother said. “We’re not judging you. We’ve just had a long talk with Dr. Stitches. He told us the whole story.”

“I’d like to hear that story myself,” Mercy said.

“It’s going to take some time to sort this all out.”

“Have you seen that thing?”

“Yes, we saw him. Our grandson. He’s a fine little fellow.”

“Yes, but he’s some kind of a gorilla or something. I never saw anything like it before in my life!

“You just rest now, dear. You’ve been through a terrible ordeal. We’ll talk it all out later.”

Petey Patootie never had much to say. He always let his clown wife do the talking. He patted Mercy on the hand and looked into her eyes. “You hang in there, old girl,” he said. “We’ll be here if you need us.”

She dozed off again and didn’t know when her clown mother and clown father left. The next time she opened her eyes, she saw a huge clown face looming over her. As she screamed and sat up in the bed, the clown face withdrew to a safe distance.

“Who the hell are you!” she said. “Why are you standing over me like a spook?”

“It’s Mr. Ticklefeather,” a voice said. “I was leaning close to see if you were asleep or only faking it.”

It took her a moment to see the clown from whence the voice came. “You act like a crazy person,” she said. “You scared me nearly half to death.”

“Well, I am sorry, I’m sure,” Mr. Ticklefeather said, putting his hand over his mouth.

“What are you doing here?”

“I came as soon as I heard.”

“Heard what?”

“You know. About the b-a-b-y.”

“Why would that concern you?”

“Well, I’m assuming I’m the f-a-t-h-e-r since we went out together that one time.”

“Stop that spelling! We went rowing on the lake. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t result in a baby of any species.”

“Don’t you remember when we kissed?”

“That doesn’t do it, either.”

“You finished a hot dog that I started and we drank out of the same cup.”

“Mr. Ticklefeather!” she said. “Don’t you know anything about the birds and the bees? You are not the father!”

“Who is, then?”

“That’s just it. I don’t know!”

“Oh, my!” Mr. Ticklefeather said.

“No, no, no! It’s not like that, Mr. Ticklefeather! I don’t know who the father is because there is no father!”

“What do you mean?”

“We’ll save that one for another time.”

Mr. Ticklefeather had only a moment to look perplexed because the door opened and Nurse Precious came into the room bearing the bundle of dirty laundry again.

“Time for the little chappie to feed again,” she said in her sing-song, setting the bundle beside Mercy on the bed as Nurse Nimbus had done earlier and pulling back the face flap.

“Oh, no!” Mercy said. “How many times a day does this happen?”

“It never ends,” Nurse Precious said.

“I want a bottle! Bring me a bottle with milk in it, or whatever it is they drink! I’m not doing that other thing again!”

“I’ll leave,” Mr. Ticklefeather said.

“No!” Mercy said. “I want you to see this odd little baby, even though you are not the father.”

“It’s better if you feed it the old-fashioned way,” Nurse Precious said.

“It won’t matter with this one because I’m not going to keep it anyway,” Mercy said.

Nurse Precious produced a bottle from the folds of her uniform and handed it to Mercy. As Mercy held the baby in the crook of her arm and held the nipple of the bottle to its baby snout, Mr. Ticklefeather leaned in to get a better look.

“He looks a little like me, doesn’t he?” he said.

“He doesn’t look a thing like you!” Mercy said. “You have nothing to do with him at all!”

“He looks like a Percy to me,” Mr. Ticklefeather said. “I’ve always liked the name Percy. How about if we name him Percy? Percy Ticklefeather. I like the way that sounds.”

“You can name him Boll Weevil, for all I care,” Mercy said.

“I know this is going to sound funny to you,” Mr. Ticklefeather said. “I know I’m not really his father, but I wish I was. Since he doesn’t have a father, or at least doesn’t have one that we know about, I’d like to take him and raise him as if I really were his father.”

“I don’t care what you do with him.”

“Since you are the mother and, to the world at least, I’m the presumed father, how would it be if we get married and bring the little fellow up properly, in a home with a mother and a father?”

Mercy looked at him with disbelief. “Why would I want to marry you?” she asked. “I don’t love you. I hardly even know you, even though we went rowing on the lake that one time.”

“We can get married and figure out together who the father really is and what really happened and when it happened. All will be revealed in time.”

“No,” Mercy said. “I suppose I should thank you for the offer, but I won’t ever marry you or anybody else. Not if having peculiar babies is the result.”

The baby drank the entire contents of the bottle, belched and went to sleep. By and by, Nurse Precious came back to collect the baby to take him back to the nursery.

“I’m going to take him,” Mr. Ticklefeather said to Nurse Precious. “Mercy Buckets wants nothing to do with him.”

“Are you his father?” Nurse Precious asked.

“In the absence of the truth,” Mr. Ticklefeather said, “let us say yes. I am the baby’s father.”

“Very well,” Nurse Precious said, slinging the baby onto her shoulder. “Come with me. You’ll have to sign some papers saying you assume full responsibility for his upbringing.”

Mr. Ticklefeather beamed with satisfaction and pride. He followed Nurse Precious and the baby out of the room without saying goodbye to Mercy Buckets.

Mercy got out of the bed and walked slowly to the window. She opened the blind and, looking out at the sky, saw the full yellow moon beaming down on the tired old world, exactly the way it had done on the night she and Mr. Ticklefeather went rowing on the lake. She felt tears welling up in her eyes. Agreeing to give up the baby to Mr. Ticklefeather, who wasn’t really the father, made her feel sad and lonely and a little bit sorry for herself. 

Copyright © 2021 by Allen Kopp

Porch Light

 

Summer Evening by Edward Hopper

Porch Light  
~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp ~ 

(Note: This is a re-post. It has been published in Dew on the Kudzu, a Journal of Southern Writing.)

Nola was reading a book sitting beside an open window in the quiet house when she heard a soft knock on the door. It was eleven o’clock at night and she wasn’t wearing very much, but she went to the door and opened it anyway. She was feeling lonely, and a little blue, and was glad for the chance to talk to someone.

“Oh, hello,” she said, when she saw Roy standing there. She was neither happy nor unhappy to see him.

“Is she asleep?” he asked.

“For hours.”

“Why don’t you come out and talk to me. I’m not in any hurry to get home just yet.”

“Oh, all right. I suppose I could for a little while.”

She turned on the porch light and stepped out the door.

“What is that you’re wearing?” he asked. “Is that what you sleep in?”

“Of course not! After I took off my uniform, I put this on to try to keep cool. I wasn’t expecting any callers.”

“It looks like your brassiere and your step-ins. And pink, at that!”

“Well, you shouldn’t be looking. If your delicate sensibilities are offended, I’ll go put on a robe.”

“No, no, no, I don’t care what you have on. It’s your porch and you’re a grown-up person and it’s too hot to wear a robe.”

“It was over a hundred degrees today and will be again tomorrow.”

“It’s hotter here than the Sahara Desert in Africa. Did you know?”

“We’ve still got two more months of summer,” she said. “I don’t know if I’m going to last. I just wish it would rain.”

He looked up at the clear, star-laden sky and held out his hand. “Not a chance,” he said.  He sat on the porch railing and she leaned her backside against it beside him. A moth fluttered crazily around the light.

“Do you want a cigarette?” he asked.

“I’ll just take a puff or two off yours.”

He lit up and handed the burning cigarette to her.

“I might call Nellie in the morning,” she said, “and tell her I’m sick and can’t make it in. It won’t be too much of a lie.”

“I thought you were going to quit that job.”

“I can’t quit until I have another job lined up.”

“Let’s go to the park,” he said. “It’s too hot to go home. We can spend the night under the stars.”

“I can’t. I have to get up in about six hours and go to work.”

“I thought you were going to call in sick.”

“Well, I haven’t definitely made up my mind about that yet.”

“I’ll have you back in time to go to work.”

“I can’t stay awake all night and work all day.”

“You won’t sleep anyway in this heat.”

“I’m usually able to forget how hot it is and go to sleep about two o’clock.”

“And then you have to get up at five.”

“And the whole rotten routine starts over again. What a life.”

“Let’s run away together.”

She laughed and blew out a spluttering stream of smoke. “Where to?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. “We could hop a freight train somewhere.”

“Oh, sure! That sounds worse than what I have now. As lousy as my life is, I at least have a bed to sleep in and food to eat.”

“If you ran away, you’d be free of everything here. You could start over somewhere else.”

“What would I do about my mother?”

“Send her a postcard.”

“You’re not being very practical.”

“That doesn’t get you anywhere.”

A police car drove past, slowed almost to a stop, sped away again.

“Must be looking for somebody,” she said.

“I didn’t do anything,” he said.

“Are you still looking for a job?”

“Off and on. I could maybe go to work for my uncle if I wanted to, but I don’t want to.”

“Doing what?”

“Moving furniture.”

“That doesn’t sound very promising.”

“I applied for a job as an usher at a movie theatre downtown, but I probably won’t get it.”

“Why not?”

“Don’t want it.”

She watched the fireflies in the yard and didn’t say anything for a while. “Can you see us going on this way for the next forty or fifty years?” she asked. “Until we die?”

“I don’t think about it much,” he said.

“I think there has to be more to life.”

“Maybe tomorrow will be better. That’s what you have to hope for.”

“I might get married to somebody someday,” she said, “but it’s going to have to be to somebody who can take me away from all this.”

“You wouldn’t marry me?” he asked. She knew he was joking.

“No,” she said. “You’re a bum like everybody else I know.”

“Well, that can always change. I haven’t completely given up on life.”

“Go to school and become a doctor or a lawyer,” she said. “Then I’ll consider marrying you.”

“I’m lacking some necessary ingredients for that,” he said. “Namely, money and ambition.”

“You can’t be a bum all your life.”

“Who says? My father has been a bum all his life and his father before him.”

“Maybe you’re better than that.”

“My mother wants me to join the army. She’s threatened to throw me out of the house if I don’t do something.”

“Maybe that’s what you need.”

“If she tosses me out, can I come and live with you?”

“No. You and my mother wouldn’t get along.”

“You see how it is? If it’s not my mother giving me grief, it’s somebody else’s.”

“What a life,” she said.

“Are you sure you won’t go to the park with me?”

“It’s late. I need to try to go to sleep so I can get up and go to work in the morning.”

“What a life,” he said. “My room is so hot I can’t stand to lie on the bed. I put a quilt on the floor underneath the window and sleep on it naked until the sun comes up.”

“I really should be going in now.”

“Will you go to the park with me tomorrow night?”

“Maybe.”

“Something good is going to happen tomorrow,” he said. “I just know it. Maybe a thunderstorm.”

“Good night,” she said.

“Good night.”

She knew he would leave whenever she told him to. He wouldn’t try to kiss her or touch her, the way some would. He never did that; he wasn’t that kind of a boy. She had known him so long. He was more like the brother she never had.

She went back inside and turned off the porch light, locked the door. She went to the door of her mother’s room to make sure she was still sleeping and then she walked through the dark house she knew so well and got into her bed. Far off in the distance she heard the low rumble of thunder that could only mean one thing. If she stayed awake long enough, she might see lightning and hear some rain on the roof.   

Copyright © 2021 by Allen Kopp 

A Mate for the Monster

The mate for the monster.

A Mate for the Monster
~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp ~

(This is a re-post.)

The monster is seven and a half feet tall and as strong as ten men. He walks in a frightening, slow-gaited, halting manner. He has a bolt in his neck; his face is stitched onto his enormous head. He probably doesn’t know that he is made up of body parts from dead people (and if he did know he wouldn’t care). No matter where he goes or what he does, he scares people without even trying. That’s what makes him a monster.

He lives in a lonely castle on a mountaintop. He has no friends and his days are empty and pointless. His brain is not so addled that he can’t ask himself why he was ever created in the first place. He has recently taken to talking a bit and, when he’s not smoking cigars, drinking wine, or running around the countryside scaring people, he says things like, “Love dead—hate living.” This is not a good sign.

The mad scientist who made him, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, and his equally mad colleague, Dr. Pretorius, see that the monster is not happy. He is not fulfilled and is not living up to his full potential as a monster. After much thought and deliberation, the two mad scientists decide that the monster needs one thing above all others: a mate who will appreciate him for what he is and won’t be repulsed by the way he looks or by his crude manners. They toy with the idea of creating a male mate but that just doesn’t seem the thing, somehow, so they decide they will create for him a female mate.

Dr. Frankenstein sends his hunchback assistant, Fritz, out on a midnight graveyard run. From the graves of the newly dead, Fritz will gather the body parts needed to cobble together a female mate for the monster. He knows just the place, he says. Leave everything to him.

Now, Fritz has never been overly scrupulous about where he gets what he needs. He isn’t above going to the village and, seeing a lone woman standing on a corner singing a song, hitting her in the head to subdue her and then strangling her. When he makes sure she’s dead, he puts her in a burlap bag and throws it over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and goes back to the castle. He knows Dr. Frankenstein will never ask questions as long as Fritz delivers the goods. The woman was just a nobody anyway. She’ll never be missed.

Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Pretorius spend about two weeks creating what they think is a perfect mate for the monster. They take as much time as they need without rushing; they want to get every little detail just right. When the next violent thunderstorm occurs, they will be ready to harness the lightning.

They don’t have long to wait. All day long the next Saturday the sky is turbulent and dark. Finally, at night, a fearsome storm comes down the mountain, tearing at the castle walls. The wind howls and the rain falls as if a spigot has been opened in the sky. The lightning seems to be exactly on top of the castle, as if made to order. The two mad scientists place the as-yet lifeless body of the female mate on a table, connect the conductors that will attract the life-giving lightning, and hoist the table upwards through a hole in the ceiling.

The monster knows what is going on in the laboratory and paces his chamber nervously. Dr. Frankenstein has told him he must stay away until they are ready for him to see his mate. He combs his hair; he tries on several suits of clothes but nothing seems just exactly right. He fears that his mate will be afraid of him and will try to get away. He wonders if he will have to tie her up or club her in the head to be able to get a kiss from her. He lies on the bed and watches the storm out the window until there is a knock at the door; it’s the hunchback Fritz telling him that Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Pretorius are ready for him to come to the laboratory.

When the monster sees his mate for the first time he is a little disappointed. She is standing between Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Pretorius and she’s swaying from side to side as if she might fall over. Her hair is very high off her head and frizzy as if electrified; white strands on both sides resemble bolts of lightning. Dr. Pretorius has dressed her in a flowing white gown that goes all the way to the floor.

She tries to pull away when she sees the monster standing in the doorway, but Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Pretorius hold her by the arms. As the monster walks across the room to her with a welcoming smile, she screams a piercing scream that rattles the castle to its very foundations. The monster is not put off by the scream but advances toward her. When he is face to face with her, Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Pretorius let go of her arms and withdraw to the dark recesses of the room. She surprises the monster by hissing at him like a snake, which he finds very arousing. When she screams again, he puts his enormous hands around her throat to get her to shut up. And so begins a great romance.

Dr. Frankenstein proposes a toast and they all have a friendly glass of champagne. They break the champagne glasses in the fireplace for good luck and then Dr. Pretorius, who is also an ordained minister, marries the monster and his mate so there won’t be any question of immorality going on in the castle.

They all live happily for many years to come in Castle Frankenstein on their mountaintop. Eventually Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Pretorius—even Fritz—all die because they are just ordinary men. The monster and his mate, however, live on and on. Through studying the writings of Dr. Frankenstein—and also Dr. Frankenstein’s father and grandfather—the monster has learned how to prolong his life and that of his mate for a very long time. The next thing he is working on is how to resurrect Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Pretorius from the dead. If he is able to do that, there will be no stopping any of them.

Copyright © 2021 by Allen Kopp

Society Wedding

Society Wedding (2)

Society Wedding
~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp ~

(This is a re-post.)

On Saturday evening the sixth of August, marriage vows were solemnized between Ponselle de Fortenay von Hoople and Roger Melville Arcotte-Devaney III. The bride is the youngest daughter of Sebastian Fortescue de Fortenay von Hoople and Mitzi Upjohn de Fortenay von Hoople, both of whom are leading lights of café society and the yacht club set. The groom is a well-known champion polo player and scion of the Arcotte-Devaney manufacturing fortune.

The flower-laden ceremony was held in the lovely gardens of the palatial country estate of the bride’s parents, Forty Winks. The Right Reverend Everett Yawberry Lovell officiated, with a thousand invited guests in attendance, including the governor, Luther Addison Biggs, who is pleased to call himself friend of the family and business associate of the bride’s father. Also in attendance were the renowned novelist Miss Millicent Farquhar Meriwether (whose latest novel, Just Hurry Up and Die, is a huge success), and Broadway hoofer Miss Beulah Doakes.

The bride wore a lovely seventeenth century-inspired gown made entirely of Neapolitan lace that just about swallowed her up and made her look like the dress was walking down the aisle on its own. She chose as her maid of honor her lifelong friend and confidante, Miss Penelope “Pinky” Peebles, who, since she is a midget, was given a stool to stand on to make her as tall as everybody else. Those honored to be bridesmaids were Miss Vesta Cundiff (daughter of the well-known film actress Lola Lola), Miss Marguerite “Tiny” Cadwallader, Miss Fricka Wagstaff, Miss Beryl Belladonna-Stammers, Miss Veronica “Hambone” Turlock, and Miss Hildegard “Puffy” Mannering. In a unique twist for any wedding this season, and, in keeping with the outdoor setting, all the bridesmaids were dressed in costumes representing different birds, from the familiar robin to the sweet mourning dove.

The groom chose as his best man his brother, Mr. Bryce Errol Fennimore Arcotte-Devaney. Groomsmen were Mr. Antonio “Little Tony” Delessio, Mr. Justin Marburg Phipps IV, Mr. Franklin Lester Shumway, Mr. Percy Sherwood-Upjohn, Mr. Troy Biggerstaff, and Mr. Gideon Elijah Gottlieb. The men of the wedding party wore matching linen suits inspired by the planter of the pre-Civil War South, with broad-brimmed Panama hats and black patent-leather knee boots.

The bride’s mother, Mrs. Mitzi Upjohn de Fortenay von Hoople, was a standout among the ladies in her dress and hat made entirely of chicken feathers. She wasn’t able to speak with the beak she wore, but those who know her considered this a great advantage. The father of the bride, Mr. Sebastian Fortescue de Fortenay von Hoople, was the life of the party in his tuxedoed gorilla costume, complete with porkpie hat and cigar.

The mother of the groom, Mrs. Clara Tubbins Arcotte-Devaney, was dressed entirely in black in honor of her late husband, Mr. Roger Melville Arcotte-Devaney II, who died last fall when he fell into the ocean on his return trip to the United States from his travels abroad and was eaten by sharks.

The newly married couple departed on a honeymoon trip around the world on the luxury liner The Virgin Queen. When they return from their travels in about six months, they will reside in their renovated Fifth Avenue townhouse that reportedly cost twelve million dollars, a gift from the bride’s father. Part of the year they will reside in Palm Springs or in the chalet in Switzerland the groom inherited from his father.

This reporter had a chance to chat with the excited bride and groom before they ventured into the world on their own. The bride kissed this reporter on the cheek, leaving the imprint of her lips, and whispered in his ear, “I want a good write-up; no funny business, or my father will have you killed.” The groom gripped this reporter’s hand and, in his booming baritone voice, announced that he wanted him to come back in about ten years and see how many “little bluebloods” they have been able to “pop out” in that length of time. The bride squealed in mock outrage and punched her newly minted husband on the arm.

As the couple made their way to their waiting limousine, the assembled crowd shouted out their good wishes and threw handfuls of rice. The bride’s mother held a handkerchief to her beak and sniffled as the car drove down the winding drive and through the immense gates. She retired to her room in exhaustion as the guests began a drunken bacchanalia that would last until long after daybreak.

Copyright © 2021 by Allen Kopp

Standing at the Gate of Heaven

Standing at the Gate of Heaven ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp

Harry Hawkins had not lived an exemplary life. He was frequently harsh and impatient with his wife and children, with the result that his wife was afraid of him and his two sons grew up hating him. He despised his wife’s mother and her other family members and was jealous of his wife’s devotion to them. He was intolerant of anybody whose political or religious views were different from his own. He complained and found fault with everything and everybody, nearly every minute of every day. In short, he was a joyless man who led a joyless life.

In the last few years of his life, with his health deteriorating, he was afraid of dying and going to hell. Believing that religion might save him, he joined a splinter religious group and believed everything that representatives of the group (essentially salesmen) told him. He was promised a place in heaven by these godless know-nothings, if only he would do as they told him to do for as long as he lived. Since he lived in a fine house and seemed to have enough money, they persuaded him the best thing was for him to donate, every month, a certain percentage of his income to the church. This he readily agreed to do, surprising his wife, his sons and anybody who knew of his parsimonious nature—he had always been known how to pinch a penny until it cried for mercy.

Every month at the first of the month he sat down at the kitchen table and wrote out a sizeable check (enough to support an ordinary family of four) to the church. He believed he was “storing up treasure in heaven.” (What the church did with the money was not known, but the church fathers were known for their penchant for little jaunts to Mexico.)

He attended every church service and was always on call when somebody from the church needed a service he might perform, such as a ride to the doctor or a few dollars for medicine or to pay the light bill. If a special kind of cake was needed for a church dinner, he didn’t mind going to the bakery and buying an elaborate and expensive cake made to order, which he paid for out of his own pocket. He never complained, never balked at anything the church asked him to do. If, however, his wife or one of his sons asked him to do something for them, he was always too tired or was running a fever and needed to be in bed.

For the first time in Harry Hawkins’ life, he was beloved. He wanted to love back, but he didn’t know how. It didn’t matter that he didn’t love, though; he was doing more than enough to get what he wanted.

Harry Hawkins suffered a heart attack and then another and then another. After he was discharged from the hospital and feeling much better, the church fathers paid him a call. He had never let them down. He had proven himself to them time after time. He might always be relied upon. They had decided to go one step farther and make him one of them. There was a special (secret) ordination ceremony in which he re-affirmed his unshakeable belief in the teachings of the church. After the ceremony was over, he believed he had done everything he needed to do. He would certainly be admitted into heaven. Easily.

After a few more months of precarious life, he succumbed to his various afflictions while a patient in the hospital. After a period of darkness (let’s say three days), he found himself standing outside the gate of heaven. He waited patiently with a forbearing smile for someone to come and let him in. From what he could see from where he stood, heaven was everything he expected: golden light, feathery clouds, celestial music.

Finally the gate keeper came out of hiding and peered at him through the golden bars of the gate.

“How may I help you?” the gate keeper said with a hint of impatience.

“Are you going to let me in?” Harry Hawkins asked.

“Are you sure you’re in the right place?”

“Of course, I’m in the right place! Open the gate and let me in!”

“People are sometimes misdirected, you see.”

“Well, I’m not!”

“How do you come to be here?”

“I died and then I came here. End of story. What more do you need to know?”

“Where is your spirit guide? Did he bring you here?”

“I don’t have a spirit guide! I don’t even know what a spirit guide is.”

“You shouldn’t have come here without being directed by your spirit guide.”

“Listen! Who are you anyway?”

“I’m the gate keeper.”

“I want to speak to your superior!”

“I’m afraid you’ll have to talk to me.”

“This is heaven, isn’t it? You have no right to tell me I can’t come in! You’re just a nobody!”

“I’m terribly sorry, sir, but I believe you’ve been misdirected. We’re expecting no new arrivals at this time.”

“If I could reach you through these bars, you ass, I’d push your face in! Open these doors right now and let me in!”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that, sir.”

“Why not?”

“You’re not supposed to be here, sir. You’ve been misdirected.”

Harry started stammering and was about to cry. “Now, listen, fella! I know you’re a right guy and I know I’m in the right place. I’ve known for years that I would go to heaven when I died. I was promised a place in heaven.”

“Who promised you?”

“Some very important people in my church, that’s who!”

“Oh, I think I’m beginning to understand! Was this promise somehow based on lucre?”

“What does lucre mean? You need to speak English here!”

“Was money involved? Were you promised a place in heaven depending on how much money you gave to the church?”

Bingo! You’re not as dumb as you look, Jocko! You are absolutely correct! I gave mucho money to the church over the years! Look it up!”

“I don’t wish to be rude to you, sir, but you’re not supposed to be here. You’ve been misdirected.”

Harry covered his face with his hands and began crying. When he was able to speak again, he said, “So, what am I supposed to do, then? Am I supposed to stand here by this goddamn gate like a crazy person throughout all eternity?”

“No, sir. You don’t have to do that,” the gate keeper said. “Your bus will be along shortly.”

“Bus? You have buses here?”

“Yes, a bus will come along in a little while. All you need to do is get on the bus and it will take you where you belong.”

“Another part of heaven? Is that where the bus will take me?”

“Just get on the bus.”

Harry opened his mouth to ask another question, but the gate keeper was gone.

He wiped away his tears and composed himself, gratified at what the gate keeper had said. A bus would be along to take him where he needed to go. Another part of heaven, no doubt. What else could it be?

In a little while, an enormous bus parted the clouds and came roaring to a stop in front of the gate. With a smile and without a moment’s hesitation, he got on the bus, ready to be kind to everybody.

The other people on the bus were faceless nonentities, but he didn’t care. He didn’t feel like talking to anybody, anyway. He took a seat about halfway back and continued to smile, happy that his problems were over.

From where he sat, though, he could see the face of the driver in the mirror above the driver’s head. The driver, who seemed to be the only person on the bus with a face, was looking at him, watching him, in the mirror. The bus swerved to avoid hitting a porcupine and he was thrown a little off-balance. He caught himself on the back of the seat in front of him, and when he again looked at the driver’s face in the mirror he knew he had seen those eyes before: they were the eyes of his own father.

His father was a difficult and unlikeable man, dead for thirty years. It all came back to him, then: how he hated that man when he was growing up;  how that man belittled him, called him names, and how he made him feel he was less than nothing.

He wasn’t looking only at his father, though. He was looking at himself, seeing himself, for the first time, as he really was.

“How cruel is life!” he said. “I never wanted to be like him! It wasn’t my fault!”

But the other passengers on the bus paid no attention. They all had problems of their own.

A sudden rain storm came up and the bus trundled on.

Copyright © 2021 by Allen Kopp

The House He Lived In

The House He Lived In ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp

Sid Bone was small for his age. He was the boy in school with the funny clothes: the pants too big and the sweater too small, the shoe with the flapping sole and the holes in his socks. His classmates never invited him to any of their parties because he wasn’t the party type and, anyway, he had a funny smell.

Sid Bone would never grow to manhood. When he was twelve, his liquor-addled mother gave him sleeping pills to make him unconscious and then she wrapped an electrical cord around his neck and strangled him. She just couldn’t take care of a twelve-year-old boy anymore, she said. It cost too much money to feed him and just having a kid underfoot all the time wore on her nerves. Without him, she’d be able to get her life in order, get off the booze, find a decent man. Then, later on, when everything was jake, she’d have another baby and they’d all be happy. Maybe the new one would be a girl who would take care of her in her old age.

After she sobered up a little, she was sorry for what she had done to Sid Bone. She would never have had the courage to do it if she hadn’t been drunk. She sat in her easy chair and blubbered and wailed for a while. Since there was no one to hear her, she let loose with some anguished screams. After she had cried herself out, she gave a little laugh, peed in her pants because she couldn’t get up, and reached for the bottle again.

After a day and a night spent in the chair, drinking and feeling bad about her terrible life, she made herself get up and go into the bathroom and clean up, wash her face, comb the mats out of her hair and put on some clean clothes. She was going to have to call the police. They would send someone out. She needed to make herself look decent and presentable.

She had the story straight in her head. She worked out all the details. Her boy, Sid Bone, had met with a bad accident. She had been sick, sleeping in the other room; she didn’t hear a sound and she wasn’t even sure what happened. When she found him lying on the bed, unconscious, she tried to revive him, but, of course, it was too late. He must have done himself in because the kids at school laughed at him. There could be no other explanation.

For a while, several days at least, Sid Bone didn’t realize he was dead. He woke up in the morning and sleepily went to school as he always did. He thought it was a little funny that his mother wasn’t in any of her usual places, on her bed or sitting at the kitchen table, but he didn’t mind her not being there; he could manage fine on his own without her.

At school, he sat at his desk all day long, as he always did, doing what he was supposed to do: listen to teacher talk, copy problems off the blackboard, read this or that book, get up for recess or lunch. Then when school ended, he walked home as he always did. The next thing he knew, he was getting out of bed in the morning to start his day all over again. He had no recollection of anything in between.

On the fourth day, Sid Bone knew something was different; something had changed. Somebody new was sitting at the desk he had occupied all year. When he went to the front of the room and tried to ask teacher about it, she didn’t seem to see him but instead looked right through him. He turned around and faced the room at large, thirty-two of his classmates, and screamed Hey! in his loudest voice, but nobody looked up or turned their heads in his direction. It was if he no longer existed.

Not knowing what else to do, he went upstairs to the nurse’s office. Miss Faulk should be able to look at him, touch his head and tell what was wrong. She was better than any doctor.

Miss Faulk wasn’t in her office, though. The only person there was a woman he had never seen before, sitting at Miss Faulk’s desk, writing. When he paused in the doorway, she looked up at him and motioned for him to come into the room. He was a little relieved to know that somebody was seeing him, even if it was somebody he didn’t know.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” the woman said, standing up and coming around to the front of the desk. He saw that she was quite short and her face was crisscrossed with tiny lines like a road map.

“You have?” he asked, genuinely surprised. “Do you know me?”

“Well, I know of you. I’m Miss Munsendorfer. I used to be a teacher here a long time ago.”

“In horse-and-buggy days?”

“Not quite that long ago. We had cars then.”

“I was looking for Miss Faulk.”

“She’s not here right now, but I am here.”

“I wanted to see if Miss Faulk could take my temperature or something and see if I might be sick.”

“I think I can tell you you’re not sick.”

“How do you know?”

“You’ll never be sick again.”

“How do you know?”

“You don’t need to come to school anymore, either.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know how best to explain it to you, so I’ll just show you.”

She took him by the hand. Before he knew it, they were outside on the playground and then they were walking down the hill away from the school. Then, in the beat of a heart and the blink of an eye, they were in the church on Windsor Avenue.

“What are we doing here?” Sid Bone asked.

“You’ll see,” Miss Munsendorfer said. “Just be patient.”

The church was full of people, a funeral in progress. There was a closed casket at the front of the church draped in yellow-and-white flowers. All the people in the church looked solemn. Some of them dabbed at their eyes. An old man, a minister, was standing at the pulpit talking about evil in the world and how the only way to accept it is to recognize it as part of God’s plan. The words coming from the minister’s mouth sounded funny as if they were being spoken underwater.

Just when Sid Bone was looking out over the sea of faces in the church, picking out the ones he knew, Miss Munsendorfer touched his hand again and they were outside, moving away from the church and, once again, before he knew what was happening, they were in a different place: they were standing on the street where he lived.

The street was there, of course, but the falling-down house that he lived in with his mother was gone, as if by magic. In its place was bare dirt; even the junk and debris in the yard were gone.

Sid Bone was beginning to catch on. He wasn’t especially surprised the house was gone; he would have been more surprised if it had still been there.

Miss Munsendorfer again took him by the hand and, again, in the beat of a heart and the blink of an eye, they were standing in the hallway of the women’s penitentiary two hundred miles away.

“What is this place?” Sid Bone said. “I don’t like it here.”

Miss Munsendorfer pointed into one of the cells. When Sid Bone turned his head and looked, he saw his mother in the cell, sitting on the bed. She looked a human wreck: dejected, wretched, forlorn. He turned away before he started to cry.

Miss Munsendorfer again took by the hand, standing in that hallway of the women’s penitentiary, and in a flash they were back in the nurse’s office at school. Miss Faulk still wasn’t there.

Sid Bone found himself overpoweringly sleepy. He lay down on the nurse’s cot they kept in the corner for the suddenly ill and Miss Munsendorfer covered him over with an army blanket, tucking him in the way a mother would, with all but the kiss goodnight.

“Are you an angel?” Sid Bone asked her.

“No, I’m not an angel. I’m only here to help you.”

“Okay.”

“But you don’t need my help any more. You can do the rest on your own.”

She patted him on his shoulder and then she was gone.

When he awoke, he was in a place he had never been before. There were flowers and birds and lots of trees; animals of all kinds, but even the lions and bears wouldn’t hurt him because they were tame and gentle; he could walk right up to them and tug at their fur and they would only look at him. There were also people, some of whom he remembered or thought he remembered, but they left him alone whenever he wanted to be left alone. Most surprising of all, it never rained or got dark until he was ready.

Copyright © 2021 by Allen Kopp