All Hallow’s Eve

Halloween 2021 3

All Hallow’s Eve
~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp ~ 

(This is a repost.)

Mother stood over him while he ate his dinner of liver and onions. When she decided he had eaten enough, she told him he could go. He ran up the stairs to his room and put on his Halloween costume. A ghost this year, same as last year. Next year he was going to have to be something different. Wearing the same costume more than two years in a row was terrible.

His false face still had dried spit around the mouth, but it was his own spit so he didn’t care. He put it on and checked the entire effect in the mirror, costume, mask and all. Something was missing. Oh, yes, the old derby hat. It was the one thing that made his costume look just a little bit creepy and scary. Without the hat, the costume was just a cheap little-kid’s getup.

Mother was in the living room when he came down the stairs. “Come here, Buster, and let me take a look at your outfit,” she said.

“It’s a costume,” Buster said.

“Oh, don’t you look cute!”

“I’m supposed to look scary!”

“So, where are you going tonight? What are you plans?”

“I’m going tricking-or-treating, mother, the same as every Halloween.”

“Who are you going with?”

“I don’t know. Some of the kids from my class, I guess.”

“What are their names?”

“You want the names of all the kids in my class?”

“Of course I don’t. You’ll be careful, now, won’t you?”

“Yeah, I’ll be careful.”

“Make sure you’re not alone. Wherever you go, go in a group.”

“I don’t care.”


“I said okay, I’ll go in a group.”

“Be home by ten o’clock.”

“Mother! It’s Halloween and tomorrow is Saturday!”

“All right, then. Eleven.”

When he finally got out the door, he broke into a run. The evening air felt good after the stuffy house and smelled good, like leaves and burning candle wax. It wasn’t all the way dark yet, but trick-or-treaters were everywhere, mostly little kids accompanied by their mothers.

He met his friends at the corner by the park. Eric was a skeleton, Stan a hobo, and Squeamy the Lone Ranger. Squeamy’s sister, Oda May, stood apart from the others, smoking a cigarette and looked bored. She carried a rubber-and-fur gorilla mask loosely in her hand like a rag.

“What’s Oda May doing here?” Buster asked.

“My mother wouldn’t let me go out without an adult,” Squeamy said.

“She’s fifteen!”

“I guess that’s enough of an adult.”

“Let’s get going, you losers,” Stan said, “before all the good candy is gone!”

Oda May flipped away her cigarette and put on the gorilla mask and they headed for the neighborhood on the other side of the park where all the best houses were.

It was a lucrative neighborhood. Three-quarters of the houses had their porch lights on. When people took one look at adult-sized Oda May in her gorilla mask, their smiles usually faded.

The treats were good, Hershey bars and popcorn balls instead of stale jelly beans. After three blocks, their bags were starting to get heavy. They sat down on the curb to rest for a while.

“That’s how it’s done,” Oda May said, hefting the bag of candy appreciatively between her legs. “If they’re just a little bit scared of you, they’ll fork over the candy quick enough so they can get rid of you.” She lit a cigarette without taking off the gorilla mask.

“Where to now?” Buster asked.

“I don’t know about you little turds,” Oda May said, “but I’m going to go meet my boyfriend.”

“What about us?” Stan asked.

“You’re on your own. I’ve played nursemaid long enough.”

“It’s all right,” Squeamy said. “We don’t need her.”

“And don’t follow me,” she said, “or somebody’s gonna lose some teeth!”

“Leave the mask on!” Squeamy called after her. “Your boyfriend might like you better that way!”

“What will she do with all that candy?” Buster asked.

“Probably give it to her boyfriend.”

“Who is this boyfriend, anyway?” Eric asked. “Why don’t we get to meet him?”

“He’s a criminal, I think,” Squeamy said. “She doesn’t want me to see him because she’s afraid I’ll tell on her. He’s twenty-three years old. I’ll bet he’s really terrible looking, like a convict.”

“I’d like to see him,” Stan said.

“Hey, I stole some of her cigarettes when she wasn’t looking,” Squeamy said, passing them around and lighting them.

“Boy, I like smoking!” Eric said. “I inhale the smoke deep down into my lungs and let it stay there.”

“Me too,” Stan said. “I’m always going to smoke for as long as I live.”

“My mother told me if she ever caught me smoking a cigarette she’d knock it down my throat,” Squeamy said.

“Doesn’t she smoke?” Eric asked.

“Of course she does. They all smoke.”

“Then why does she care?”

“Because I’m in fifth grade.”

“She’s a hypocrite,” Stan said.

Buster had never smoked before except for a quick puff off his mother’s cigarette when she wasn’t looking. He didn’t like the taste of it, but he wasn’t going to be the only one not to smoke.

Several times, he took the smoke into his mouth and quickly blew it out again. He wanted to have the others see him with smoke coming out his nose like a dragon, but he wasn’t sure how to do it without inhaling.

“Don’t you like smoking, Buster?” Squeamy asked.

“Yeah, I like it all right. I smoke all the time when my mother isn’t looking.”

“Well, finish your cigarettes, ladies,” Eric said. “We’ve still got a lot of territory to cover.”

They went over a couple of blocks to another neighborhood where the treats were bound to be good. They covered several blocks, both sides of the street, in just under an hour.

“My bag is getting really heavy,” Squeamy said. “I think I’d probably better go on home now.”

“Somebody gave me a guitar pick as a treat. Isn’t that weird?”

“Hey, it looks like it’s going to rain! If our bags get wet, they’ll bust through on the bottom and all our candy will spill out!”

“What time is it?”

“I think it’s about a quarter to ten.”

“I think we should call it a night.”

Some older kids, sixteen and seventeen, came up behind them with the intention of stealing their candy, so they began running furiously into the dark to get away from them. Stan knew the neighborhood better than the others, so they all followed him.

He led them around in a circuitous loop over to Main Street, where there were lots of lots of lights, people and cars.

“I think we outran them!” he said.

“Can you imagine the nerve?” Eric said. “We’ve been out all night trick-or-treating for our candy, and somebody thinks they can just come along and take it from us? What is the world coming to?”

Some of the businesses on Main Street were giving out treats. A lady at a bakery gave them day-old pumpkin cookies, which they devoured like hungry wolves.

A man standing in front of a tavern was giving out treats from a large plastic pumpkin. “You kids need to be home in bed,” he said.

“If we come inside, will you give us a beer?” Stan asked.

“Come back in ten years,” the man said.

There was a big crowd at the Regal Theatre, a long line of people waiting to buy tickets to the Halloween double feature: Bride of the Gorilla and The Terror of Tiny Town. Anybody in costume could get in for half-price.

“If we had enough money, we could go,” Stan said.

“Aw, I can’t stay out that late,” Buster said. “My mother would come looking for me.”

They were about to walk past the theatre, but Squeamy spotted Oda May in the ticket line in the gorilla mask and stopped. She wasn’t alone, either.

“She’s with a little kid and he’s a cowboy!” Squeamy said. “Her boyfriend is a child and a cowboy! That’s why she didn’t want us to meet him!”

From where they were standing, they all had a good look at the little cowboy. When he turned around to look at the line behind him, Buster saw his face. “That’s no little kid,” he said. “That’s a midget!”

“A what?”

“Oda May’s boyfriend is a midget and his face is all wrinkled! He must be thirty years old!”

“Oh, boy!” Squeamy said. “I’m really going to tell on her now!”

“I think we should go over and say ‘hi’ to her,” Eric said.

“No!” Squeamy said. “She’ll think we’ve been following her!”

They stood and watched Oda May and the midget cowboy move up in the line. When it was their turn, Oda May moved around behind the midget, put her hands on his waist and lifted him up so he could buy the tickets and then set him down again. Several people in line behind them laughed, but they seemed not to notice.

“Now I’m seen everything!” Squeamy said. “Can you imagine what their children will be like? I don’t even want to think about it.”

“Let’s go,” Stan said. “It’s ten o’clock and it’s starting to rain again.”

They decided to walk home with Stan, since he lived the closest. The interesting thing about Stan was that his father was an undertaker and the family lived above the funeral parlor. It was a subject of endless fascination to Stan’s friends.

“I think I’m going to call it a night,” Stan said when they were at the corner near his house. “Thanks for walking me home.”

“Do you mean you’re not going to ask us in after we’ve come all this way?” Squeamy said.

“Do you have a body in a casket we can look at?” Eric asked.

“Stan’s right,” Buster said. “I should be getting home, too.”

“I have to go to the bathroom,” Squeamy said. “I don’t think I can wait until I get home.”

“Oh, all right!” Stan said. “You can come in but you have to wipe your feet first.”

Stan’s parents were out for the evening, so they had the place to themselves. Stan took them down to the basement to show them around but made them promise not to touch anything. First he showed them the room where the embalming was done with its white cabinets full of jars and bottles and then a separate room where bodies were dressed and prepared for burial. The most impressive part of the tour was the casket room, where more than fifty caskets were opened up so people could see inside them. Eric, Buster and Squeamy took turns taking off their shoes and getting into a casket to see what it felt like, while Stan closed the lid on each of them for a few seconds and then made them get out.

“My dad wouldn’t like it if he knew we were down here,” he said.

“Let us know when there’s a body so we can come back and see it,” Eric said.

“I’ve seen plenty of dead bodies. It’s people you don’t know. You don’t feel anything looking at them.”

“You are so lucky! I’ve never seen a dead body!”

“I need to get home,” Buster said. “It’s getting late.”

Buster walked part of the way home with Squeamy and Eric, but they left him at the corner by the church and he had to walk the last four blocks alone. He held his bag of candy in his arms because it was heavy and soggy and he didn’t want the bottom breaking through. He didn’t see a single other person on his way home. Everybody was finished for the night. Halloween was over for another year.

Mother was sitting on the couch in her bathrobe and slippers watching a Charlie Chan movie on TV. “Did you have a nice time?” she asked.

“Yeah, it was okay.”

“I’m glad you’re home.”


“I always worry about you when you’re out by yourself.”

“I wasn’t by myself.”

“There’s an escapee on the loose killing people. I just heard it on TV.”

“We just missed him.”

“Now don’t eat all that candy at once. You’ll make yourself sick. You still have to eat your fruits and vegetables.”

“I know. I want to go to bed now. I’m tired.”

She was saying something else as he went up the stairs, but he didn’t hear what it was.

He weighed himself on the bathroom scale, first without the bag and then with it. He weighed eighty-four pounds without the bag and ninety-five pounds with it. Eleven pounds of candy. One pound for every year of his life.

He undressed and put on his pajamas and set the bag of candy on top of the chest of drawers where he could see it from the bed. He got into bed, took one last look at it, turned off the light. Before he could have counted to ten, he was asleep.

Copyright © 2021 by Allen Kopp

I Heard a Fly Buzz

I Heard a Fly Buzz image 5
I Heard a Fly Buzz
~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp ~

I’m in a dark place here and always searching. What I’m searching for isn’t always clear in my mind. Sometimes I’m searching for a way out (or in) and other times I’m searching for something else, but I can’t always say what it is. There are other people here, just like me, but they are also searching and seem just as confused as I am. I bump into them sometimes in the dark—that’s how I know they’re here. Sometimes I try to speak to them, if only to apologize for bumping into them, but I can’t seem to form the words, as if I’ve forgotten any language.

The darkness here is not like darkness anywhere on earth. Sometimes there is flashing green light from above that is like lightning, but isn’t lightning because there’s no thunder and never any rain. I stumble along; sometimes I can see where I’m going and sometimes I  can’t, so I’m always running into things that I can’t see—or can’t see very well. Occasionally—very rarely, though—I see a few seconds of light that is like daylight. I call it daylight, even though I’m not sure it’s light from the sun, and it always lifts my spirits and makes me think I’ve found what I’m looking for, or that finally I’m going to be able to leave this place and go to a better place.

Sometimes I hear sounds but I don’t know where they’re coming from. I hear voices, nearby and far away, but I can never make out the words. I hear music, but when I try to find out where it’s coming from it turns into something else, like a wolf howling or an elephant trumpeting. A lot of confused sounds. When I hear gunfire, it scares me and I think I need to take cover, but then the gunfire stops and I hear screaming and crying, worse than the gunfire.

I know why I’m here. I did a bad thing. I went up to the attic and committed suicide by hanging. As soon as I stepped off the table with the rope around my neck, I knew I had done a foolish thing, but it was too late to take it back. In those few seconds while I dangled at the end of the rope, I struggled mightily to undo what I had done, but the more I struggled and tried to make the rope release me, the tighter it became around my neck. They say when you are hanged you die of a broken neck. My neck wasn’t broken, though. I died of strangulation, pure and simple, which means I was deprived of air enough to go on living. In two minutes I was unconscious and in four minutes my heart stopped beating and I was dead.

What I was seeking was Oblivion. The Great Void. The Divine Nothing. What I got instead was an absolute awareness of what I had done and that I was in a place of torment and confusion. I’m not sure how long I’ve been here because here there is no time; words like “hour,” “minute” and “day” have no meaning here.

One day (or night) when I was crossing a field to God-knows-where, I crashed into a tree trunk. Crashing into a tree trunk was nothing unusual for me, but this tree was different because it was lit by a faint light from above—just enough light for me to see a sign hanging from the tree at eye level. Printed on the sign were these words: Keep going to Wind Mountain and you will find a way out.    

I can’t know who else saw the sign, but I was sure it was intended only for me. I didn’t know where Wind Mountain was and had never heard of it, but I would keep going until I found it. Maybe there would be other signs along the way to guide me. Maybe I would meet another person and could ask for directions. Anything seemed possible. For the first time since coming to this place, I had hope.

I traveled for what seemed like years looking for Wind Mountain but might have been only hours or days. Whenever I tried to ask the people I crashed into if they could direct me to Wind Mountain, they only looked at me in terror and tried to get away from me. They were no help at all. I was beginning to think that Wind Mountain didn’t exist and that the sign I saw on the tree was a hoax or just another cruel trick.

At the end of a long, weary road, I came to a  man in a dark cloak with a hood covering his head. I couldn’t see his face or any part to of him but, since he didn’t recoil from me, I got the distinct impression he was waiting for me.

“I’m looking for Wind Mountain,” I managed to say, and I knew they were the first words I had spoken in this place that made any sense.

The road I had been walking on for so long ended here. The man in the cloak pointed upward and I knew there was a mountain here and I was meant to climb it, even though I had never climbed a mountain before and wasn’t sure if I had the strength.

I turned my back on the man in the cloak and looked up at the mountain. “That’s a big mountain!” I said. “What happens when I get to the top?”

But when I turned around again the man was no longer there. He had disappeared as completely as if he never existed or as if I had just imagined him.

I began climbing. It wasn’t easy because I was weak and tired. When I looked up, I could see light up above, but it was still dark down below where I was. I heard music then, faint and faraway, but unmistakable. I felt fresh air on my face and hands that didn’t have the smell of damp earth or decay. I began climbing faster, getting closer and closer, I believed, to that thing for which I had searched for so long.

It took me years to climb Wind Mountain. When I finally came to the top, there was an opening through which I could see blue sky and white clouds. When I emerged from the opening—like being born—the glorious sunlight blinded me. I covered both eyes with my hands and that’s when I knew I no longer had human hands and arms but the appendages of a different species altogether.

I tumbled clumsily away from the opening and that’s when I saw, rushing toward me, others of my kind. There were five or six of them. They laid me out flat on the ground, either to give me aid or to pluck the gizzard out of my body. I asked for a drink of water in the only language I knew and they looked at me uncomprehendingly. It was going to take some time, I could see.

Copyright © 2021 by Allen Kopp    

It’s Not the Pale Moon That Excites Me

It's Not the Pale Moon That Excites Me image 2
It’s Not the Pale Moon That Excites Me
~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp ~

(This is a repost. It has been published in The Literary Hatchet.)

They sat on the front porch to catch the cooling breezes. Mrs. Llewellyn fanned herself with a cardboard fan courtesy of Benoist Funeral Home and took pulls on a bottle of “medicinal” whiskey she kept in her apron pocket. Miss Clemson, the nearest neighbor, sat on the steps close to Mrs. Llewellyn, holding her hands demurely around her ankles to keep her skirt in place.

“Gets mighty lonely over at my place sometimes,” Miss Clemson said. “Especially of an evening.”

“You should have found yourself a man to marry,” Mrs. Llewellyn said.

“I still might.”

“At your age?”

“I’m only fifty-four,” Miss Clemson said. “And, anyway, the world don’t revolve around no man. I know plenty of women manage just fine without a man orderin’ ‘em about the place.”

“Well, I’ve had four husbands and I can’t say I’d recommend it,” Mrs. Llewellyn said.

“There’s a rumor going around that you just received a proposal of marriage from a Mr. Chin. Is that right?”

“Yes, a Mr. Chin asked me to marry him,” Mrs. Llewellyn said, “but I turned him down.”

“Is he a Chinaman?”

“No, why would he be a Chinaman?”

“Well, that’s what the name sounds like.”

“No, he ain’t a Chinaman.”

“Well, what then?”

“I don’t know what he is, but he ain’t no Chinaman.”

“Why don’t you marry him if he wants to marry you?”

“Well, for one thing, he’s covered with scales.”

“You mean like a snake?”

“Exactly like a snake.”

“I guess a woman could get used to a few snake scales if the man was a good man,” Miss Clemson said.

“I don’t think I ever could. I’d have to turn away when he was gettin’ dressed, or at least turn the light off.”

“Maybe he’ll just shed them scales in the woods during moltin’ season and not have them anymore.”

“Why are you so interested in Mr. Chin’s scales?”

“Well, if he’s marriage-minded, maybe the two of us ought to meet. We might strike up a real lively friendship.”

“The next time I see him I’ll send him over your way,” Mrs. Llewellyn said.

“Will you really?”

“When you see them scales, you might change your mind.”

“Well, I really don’t think I’d mind the scales all that much as long as he keeps them hidden during the daytime when he’s dressed. The scales are not on his face, are they?”

“Not yet.”

“As long as they’re not on his face, I think we’d be all right, then.”

“The scales is not the only reason I don’t want to marry Mr. Chin,” Mrs. Llewellyn confided.

“What, then?”

“I don’t want him moonin’ around over my granddaughter Laura Louise all the time.”

“Oh, yes. I almost forgot about Laura Louise.”

“She lives with me, you know. I’m all the family she’s got left since her maw killed herself in the river.”

“Do you think Mr. Chin might be particularly drawn to her?”

“I think he’d never stop starin’ at her.”

“Well, if staring’s all he done, that wouldn’t be so bad.”

“Yeah, but the starin’ would lead to pawin’ and the pawin’ would lead to other things.”

“I think I see what you mean. She has turned into a right pretty little thing.”

“She’s got her womanly wiles. It’ll just take the right man to bring it out in her.”

“Do you think Mr. Chin might be the one to do that?”

“I think any man might do it, even one covered in scales.”

“Does she still go swimmin’ naked in the river?”

“I don’t think she swims naked no more, no. Not since she accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as her personal savior.”

“The Lord certainly works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.”

“Don’t He, though?”

“There for a while she seemed headed down the road to damnation.”

“Most of that was rumor. You know what nasty tongues people have.”

“They said she was havin’ an affair with I-don’t-know-who-all, even Dr. Birke in town.”

“She went to him for a bladder infection. He treated her and she came home and that’s all there was to it.”

“That’s not what people says.”

“Do you think I care what people says?”

“No, I know you don’t care.”

“But, I’ll tell you on the other hand. I didn’t definitely turn Mr. Chin down.”

“What? You think you still might marry him?”

“If that’s the way the chips fall.”

“What do you mean? What chips?”

“Well, since Laura Louise has got herself so keen on religion, she thinks she might want to dedicate her life to the spreading of the Gospel.”

“You mean as a lady preacher?”

“Well, something like that. She’s got it into her head that she wants to go to Darkest Africa and become a missionary.”

“Darkest Africa? What would she do there?”

“She’d teach them headhunters to put down their spears and accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal savior, same as she done.”

“Lord, I wouldn’t want to go to Darkest Africa!” Miss Clemson said. “I’d be scared out of my wits every minute!”

“That’s because you’re an ignorant woman. Them missionaries get training before they go. They learn how to deal with them natives and make their sit down and read the Bible and listen to hymns.”

“Well, it might be right for some people, but I don’t think I would ever choose that kind of life for myself.”

“Laura Louise is all the family I got left. All my children and grandchildren has died or run off and left me. Laura Louise is the only one left to sweep out the house and fetch me what I need and cook me a little supper of an evening. She’s the only one left to keep me company in my old age. And she’s the only one to see that I’m put into the ground proper when my time comes.”

“Oh, I think I see what you’re sayin’,” Miss Clemson said. “If Laura Louise goes off to Darkest Africa, you could still marry Mr. Chin and he could do all them things for you that Laura Louise does now.”

“You catch on quick.”

“But you’d only marry Mr. Chin if you don’t still have Laura Louise at home?”

“That’s right.”

“I’m sure the Lord will work it all out for you. He’ll come up with the solution that’s right for all parties concerned.”

“I guess so,” Mrs. Llewellyn said.

“I think I see somebody comin’ up the road now,” Miss Clemson said.

“That’ll be Laura Louise, come from service.”

“Good evening, Laura Louise, dear!” Miss Clemson said in a loud voice. “How are you? There’s going to be a lovely full moon tonight, did you know that? It kind of puts you in mind of romance, don’t it?”

“Hello,” Laura Louise said.

“Them services are gettin’ longer and longer, ain’t they?” Mrs. Llewellyn said. “I’ve been waitin’ for my supper.”

“Your supper will just have to wait, gran,” Laura Louise said. “I just got some good news at the end of service and I’ve just got to tell you what it is!”

“Whatever could it be?” Miss Clemson asked.

“I’ve been accepted in missionary school in Memphis, Tennessee! School starts in two weeks. It’ll last for two months and after that I’ll go over to Darkest Africa to do the Lord’s work!”

“My goodness!” Miss Clemson said. “That is excitin’ news, ain’t it?”

“How long will you be gone?” Mrs. Llewellyn asked.

“Oh, I don’t know! Years and years, I guess! Isn’t it wonderful? Brother Rabbit arranged the whole thing over the telephone. He told the people in Memphis what a good worker I am and how dedicated I am to the Lord. They told him to send me on up. They can’t wait for me to get started.”

“That’s fine,” Mrs. Llewellyn said, “but who’s goin’ to do your work around here while you’re gone?”

“What work?” Laura Louise asked.

“You would say that, wouldn’t you? That’s because you’re so selfish! What work do you suppose? Cleanin’ and cookin’ and washin’ and all the rest of the housework waitin’ to be done, that’s what work!”

“Why, I don’t know, gran. I guess you’ll have to get yourself a hired girl to help out, won’t you?”

“And just where am I goin’ to get the money for that?”

“The Lord will provide.”

“I think it’s just wonderful!” Miss Clemson said. “You were turnin’ out to be such a tramp around these parts, takin’ up with any man that would give you the time of day—including Dr. Birke in town—and now just look at you! The Lord has taken a-holt of you and turned you around into the kind of girl He always wanted you to be! Praise the Lord!”

“I’m just so excited about it I’m about to burst! I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep a wink tonight!”

“Well, just go on in now and get started on my supper now,” Mrs. Llewellyn said. “There’ll be plenty of time later to be excited.”

“Do you want to stay and eat supper with us, Miss Clemson?” Laura Louise asked.

“I don’t think so, honey, but thanks for askin’. I need to get myself on home.”

After Laura Louise went into the house to start cooking supper, Miss Clemson turned to Mrs. Llewellyn and said, “I think I hear wedding bells!”

“Whatever do you mean?”

“Well, now that Laura Louise is goin’ off to Darkest Africa to be a missionary, you’ll want to marry Mr. Chin as fast as you can so he can do all your work for you, won’t you?”

“Not so fast! She thinks right now that she’s goin’ to Darkest Africa to be a missionary, but what if I say she’s not?”

“You mean you gonna try to stop her?”

“I think I’m goin’ to pay a call on Brother Rabbit at the church tomorrow and tell him to stop meddlin’ in my affairs. Laura Louise ain’t nothin’ but a child and she’s almost feeble-minded to boot. She needs her grandma, her only living family, to look after her and keep her safe. She can’t be goin’ off on her own to no Darkest Africa to be no missionary. She’d be a babe in the woods. Why, they’d eat her alive!”

“Well, I don’t know,” Miss Clemson said. “It certainly seems the Lord is pointin’ her in that direction and if He’s decided it’s the right thing for her to do, then He’ll make it happen, no matter what.”

“Well, we’ll see about that.”

“Are you really goin’ to see Brother Rabbit tomorrow at the church?”

“I said I am, didn’t I?”

“Do you want me to go with you?”

“No, I’d rather go alone.”

“Well, good luck, but I don’t think you should go pokin’ your nose in. Laura Louise is a grown woman and if she’s decided she wants to go to Darkest Africa to be missionary, then I think you should just let it alone.”

“Do you have a granddaughter?”

“You know I ain’t. I ain’t ever even been married.”

“Well, until you have your own granddaughter, you can’t know what it’s like to have her leave you and go off to Darkest Africa to be a missionary.”

“Well, all right, then, honey. I won’t say another word about it.”

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think my supper is about ready and I’m hungry. I don’t like to be kept waitin’.”

“All right, honey. I’ll go on home now and eat my own lonely supper. And after I’m finished and all the dishes are washed up and put away, I’ll get into bed and look out the window at the big old sad yellow moon. It’ll remind me of all the things that might have been and never were.”

Copyright © 2021 by Allen Kopp

Gender Ambiguity

Rita Hayworth
Gender Ambiguity
~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp ~

They sat in a semicircle in front of the television. Old black-and-white movies, they agreed, were the best thing to watch on TV. Not only were they clean, but they brought back memories of happier times.

“Rita Hayworth is certainly a lovely woman,” Ivy said.

Woman!” Jane said. “Don’t you know she’s really a man?”

“Rita Hayworth is a man? I don’t think so!”

“Hell yes, she’s a man! Everybody knows she’s a man!”

“That must have come as a surprise to Mr. Orson Welles,” Vernon said.

“He knew she was a man before he married her.”

“How do you know so much about it?” Ivy asked.

“I read those newspapers they sell at the supermarket checkout,” Jane said.

“Of course, that makes you an authority,” George said.

“I know what I see. If I see it in print, I believe it.”

“Haven’t you ever heard of being skeptical?”

“What’s that?”

Myrtle sat forward in her chair and pretended to burp her baby, a lifelike doll made of rubber. Everybody turned and looked at her.

“How is Baby Doe, Myrtle?” Ivy asked.

“He’s the best baby in the world,” Myrtle said.

“That’s because he’s not a real boy,” George said.

“Is he eating his carrots?”

“Oh, yes! He eats everything I give him!”

“We believe what we want to believe,” Vernon said with a roll of the eyes.

“Do you know today is my birthday?” Ivy asked.

“I don’t think so, dear,” Jane said. “I think your birthday is in December, isn’t it? Right before Christmas?”

“If I want today to be my birthday, then it’s my birthday.”

“How old are you?” George asked.

“You should never ask a lady her age,” Jane said.

“I’m as old as I want to be,” Ivy said. “If I want to be twenty-one today, then I’m twenty-one.”

“There you go!” Vernon said.

“I wouldn’t want to be twenty-one again and have to go through all that shit again,” George said. “When I was twenty-one, I was in jail.”

“What for?”

“They got me on a robbery charge but I was innocent. I was in the slammer for two and a half years.”

“I’m surprised they let you out,” Ivy said.

“I paid my debt.”

“I thought you said you were innocent.”

“I was.”

“Then why did you owe a debt?”

“Twenty-one was so long ago that I can’t even remember back that far,” Jane said.

“Wasn’t that about the time Lee surrendered to Grant?” George asked.

“It’s time for me to put Baby Doe down for his nap,” Myrtle said. She threw the baby by the arm behind the couch, hitting the wall with a thud. “He’ll be fine until his two o’clock feeding.”

“Whatever happened to your husband?” Ivy asked.

“He’s still in the war,” Myrtle said.

“What war is that?”

“Isn’t there always a war going on someplace?”

“When was the last time you saw him?”

“I don’t know. I think it’s been about fifty-seven years.”

“But what about Baby Doe? Are you saying that somebody besides your husband is Baby Doe’s father?”

“Of course, not! What kind of a tramp do you think I am?”

“She creates her own reality,” Vernon said, “which is not altogether a bad thing when you think about it.”

“And when my husband sees Baby Doe, he is going to be so happy!” Myrtle said, tears in her eyes.

“What is your husband’s name?” Jane said. “I haven’t ever met him.”

“His name is Percival, I think. Unless he’s changed it.”

“Why would he change it?”

“He’s impulsive that way.”

“Fifty-seven years is a long time for your man to be away at war.”

“Don’t I know it? I get so lonely for him sometimes I think I’m going to go mad! I don’t know what I’d do without my little Baby Doe.”

“My own children were never much of a comfort to me,” Jane said. “They never liked me very much.”

“That’s because they had a witch for a mother,” George said.

“And if you want to know the truth, I never liked them all that much, either.”

“How many children did you have, dear?” Myrtle asked.


“That’s a lot for somebody who doesn’t like kids!” Vernon said.

“Where are they now?”

“I don’t know. Some are dead, I think. Some are in prison.”

“Hey!” Ivy said. “The movie with Rita Hayworth is over and another one is beginning.”

“Which movie is it?”

“This one stars Bette Davis.”

“Oh, I like her!”

“It’s the one where she steals Olivia de Havilland’s husband and drives her car through a fence and breaks her neck when the police are after her.”

In This Our Life,” Vernon said.

“What a memory you have for an old bastard!”

“We just watched it last week. Don’t you remember?”

“Is Bette Davis really a man?” Ivy asked.

“No, I believe she’s really a woman,” Jane said. “I’m not too sure about Olivia de Havilland, though.”

“I think Olivia is definitely a woman,” George said.

“I wouldn’t be too sure of that.”

“What is that movie where Lana Turner and John Garfield kill her husband?” Ivy asked.

The Postman Always Rings Twice.”

“Yes, that’s it. I’d like to see that one again.”

“Is Lana Turner really a man?”

“She started out as a man,” Jane said, “but she had a sex-change operation. Now she’s a woman.”

“Maybe she’ll go back to being a man again,” Vernon said.

“Anything goes with those motion picture people.”

“They get sick and die just like the rest of us,” Jane said. “Beauty fades and then what do you have?”


As if on cue, Nurse Tillinghast came into the room, rolling the medicine cart.

“Time for your meds, people,” she said in her voice that was like fingernails on a blackboard.

You take it,” George said. “I don’t want any.”

“Just what the doctor ordered,” Nurse Tillinghast said. “Take your meds and then you can get back to your movie.”

“We were just discussing whether Lana Turner is really a man,” George said. “We’re about evenly divided.”

“A lot of those movie actresses are really men, or so we’ve been told,” Ivy said.

“Everything is all illusion, you see,” Vernon said.

“I wish I had nothing better to do,” Nurse Tillinghast said, “than sit around all day and talk about which women might really be men.”

“Are you really a man? George asked.

“That’s for me to know and you to find out!” Nurse Tillinghast said. “To you, I’m just a sexless dispenser of meds. Now take your meds and let me get on with my rounds.”

The meds were handed out and swallowed and Nurse Tillinghast pushed the cart out of the room.

“What is that movie about a women’s prison where they have a cruel matron who shaves somebody’s head?” Jane asked.

Caged,” Vernon said.

“That’s it! Tillinghast looks just like the cruel matron in Caged.”

“The matron’s name is Evelyn.”

“That’s right. How do you remember all that stuff?”

“I’m having a really lucid day today. Tomorrow I might not remember a thing.”

“Come to think of it, I think Nurse Tillinghast really is a man,” George said. “She has a big nose and big hands.”

“That doesn’t mean anything,” Ivy said. “I think we should accept at face value all we see. That’s what God wants us to do.”

“How do you know what God wants?”

“I talk to Him all the time!”

“It’s all illusion,” Vernon said. “We create our own illusion. If you want to believe you’re talking to God, then you’re talking to God. If you want to believe that Bette Davis is really a man, then she’s a man.”

“Yes, isn’t it wonderful?”

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

Entre Nous image 2
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.”


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.


He gestured with his thumb over his shoulder.

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


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.


“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.


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?”


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


“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

Choosing the Right Kind of Poison image 5
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?”


“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.


“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.”


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

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


“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?”


“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?”


“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