Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Gotta Be Me

By John McDonnell

“How’s your new girlfriend, Larry?” Murphy said one evening when Larry the alien was tending bar at his joint. “The exterminator?”

“She doesn’t like that term,” Larry said. He was feeling out of sorts, and his shape was shifting between a musclebound Nordic bodybuilder and a six foot gray blob.


“She prefers ‘rat whisperer’. She has a real empathy with rats. She can talk to them.”

Murphy shuddered. “I guess it takes all types.” He poured another shot of whiskey from the bottle on the bar, and downed it in one gulp.

“Is something bothering you?” Larry said. “You seem upset.”

“How can you tell?” Murphy asked.

“I was trained to feel humans’ pain. Maybe that’s why I get so unhinged.” Larry twitched, and he turned into a little man with a facial tic and hair that looked like it had seen the wrong end of 50 thousand volts of electricity.

“Yes, well you’ve probably figured out that I’m having problems at home. Dolores wants me to ‘upgrade’ this joint: hire a chef, start serving fancy meals, decorate the place and book entertainment. Entertainment! Have you ever heard of such a thing?”

“Not until now.”

“Singers, dancers, God knows what else,” Murphy said. “I don’t want any of that in here, and if I change the place my regular crowd will stop coming.”

“The females of your species think too much.”

“You can say that again. Too much thinking. It’s the cause of most of the problems in the world.”

“A brain can be a terrible thing in the wrong hands.”

“So what do I do?” Murphy said. “I have everything I want here: a nice, friendly bar where guys can come to drink and watch sports on TV. I don’t want to mess it up by serving little sandwiches and putting tablecloths everywhere.”

“So you’d rather have a dozen unshaven men eating pretzels and drinking beer while they watch a boys’ game on that ancient TV than have 30 tables filled with couples eating filet mignon and drinking expensive bottles of wine?”

“My point exactly,” Murphy said. “Who would want that?”

“Interesting question,” Larry said.

“Do you have any suggestions?” Murphy said.

Larry’s shape shimmered, and then he was standing there in a gold lamé tuxedo, a Vegas updo, and enough jewelry to bankrupt a hip hop record company. He snapped his fingers, then struck a few poses and launched into “I Gotta Be Me”.

Whether I'm right or whether I'm wrong
Whether I find a place in this world or never belong
I gotta be me, I've gotta be me

Somehow there was an 11 piece band backing him up, all in gold tuxedos, with a choreographed horn section and a drummer hitting rim shots. A spinning disco ball appeared in the ceiling and a thousand points of light reflected off Larry’s spangled tux. Murphy wasn’t too fazed by it, because things like this happened to Larry all the time. In fact, he was counting up how many beers he’d be able to sell to the band after Larry finished this number.

Just then Dolores walked in and when she saw Larry and the band she got a look like someone who’s just received word that a forgotten relative with the net worth of a small Caribbean nation has died and left his entire estate to her. Her eyes lit up and she clapped her hands.

“Oh, Murphy, I didn’t think you were listening, but this is EXACTLY what I wanted for the bar. Where did you get them? They’re terrific! And who’s that singer? Is that. . . Larry?”

“He’s just having one of his fits,” Murphy said. “It’ll be over in a minute.”

“What a voice!” Dolores said. “He’s terrific. Murphy, you have to hire him. You’d be the hottest nightclub in town with these guys playing.”

“Dolores, please,” Murphy said. “I know this place is just a hole in the wall, but it’s my hole in the wall. I just want to keep things nice and quiet.”

“It’s too late for that,” Dolores said.

The band launched into “I Feel Good,” and Larry started doing splits like James Brown. The doors opened and in minutes the place was filled with couples dancing, clapping, and looking for someone to mix them martinis.

There was an MC, and he was yelling, “Outta this world!” every time Larry did a split. The noise was deafening, and Murphy took his whiskey bottle and retreated to the back room, where he cast aside his shot glass and took a slug directly from the bottle.

Copyright John McDonnell, 2010. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Amateur Night

By John McDonnell

“Halloween is my favorite holiday,” Cole said, looking through the Trick or Treat bag that the little boy dropped when he ran away screaming after Cole jumped out of the bushes in his clown costume. “I get to scare all these stupid little kids and take their candy.”

“It’s so easy,” his buddy Ted said, tearing open a bag of M&Ms and pouring its contents down his throat. “Little kids are all afraid of clowns.”

Cole had an orange fright wig on, and a clown costume with baggy pants and big shoes. He had painted his face white and put big red lips and a red bulbous false nose on. He was 17, and it was the third Halloween in a row that he had pulled this stunt. Ted was dressed in a hoodie and sweatpants. He just went along to help carry the candy they stole from the kids. This year they had tried a new neighborhood, because there was talk that parents would be out watching for them in their usual haunts.

“We still don’t have anything crunchy,” Ted said. “That’s my favorite. I don’t really like chocolate that much.” He had chocolate dripping from his mouth when he said this.

“Yeah, let’s keep going,” Cole said. “This next street over has some big old houses. I bet they give out a lot of candy.”

Sure enough, the street was teeming with children in their Halloween costumes. Every one of them had a parent, however, and Cole was afraid to scare the little kids when their parents were nearby.

“Damn,” he said. “Nothing happening here.”

“Yeah, but look at that house,” Ted said, pointing to a big Victorian style house with turrets and gables and a wrought iron fence around it. “It’s all lit up, and there are tons of kids coming out of it. They must give a lot of candy at that place, otherwise the kids wouldn’t be there. Let’s go and just pretend we’re trick or treating. Maybe we’ll get some crunchy candy.”

“Sure,” Cole said. “I’d rather scare some kids, but what the hell.”

By the time they walked up the long paved walkway most of the children had left. There was one small girl dressed as an angel walking down the steps from the porch, and she seemed to be alone. Cole didn’t see a parent around, so when the girl walked past him he pushed her down and took her bag.

“Hey,” the little girl said. “That’s my Trick or Treat bag!”

“Get out of here, kid,” Cole said, making a scary clown face at her. “Beat it, before I do something nasty to you.”

The little girl ran away crying.

Cole and Ted heard something behind them, and they turned to see a very small man on the porch who was looking at them. He was a midget, dressed in a clown outfit, with baggy polka dot pants, a black bowler hat, and a brown coat that was too big for him, with a large yellow flower in the lapel. He was grinning at them.

“That’s the spirit of Halloween,” he said. “Come up here, boys, and let me take a look at you.”

Cole and Ted went up the steps and the little man ushered them through the big oak door to the foyer of the house. There were circus posters hanging on the walls, newspaper clippings, and the smell of chocolate in the air.

“Let me shake your hand,” the little man said. “I always love to meet a fellow clown.”

Cole held out his hand and the little man clasped it firmly in his. There was a smell of electricity, a buzzing sound, and Cole jumped a foot in the air, then fell on the floor with a dazed look on his face. The little man laughed heartily at this.

“The old handshake buzzer,” he said. “Gets ‘em every time.”

Cole slowly got to his feet, but his eyes had a vacant look.

The little man turned to Ted, held out his lapel, and said, “Doesn’t this flower smell wonderful?”

Ted bent over to smell and got a squirt of something in his eyes. Within seconds his eyes were on fire, and he howled in pain.

The little man laughed again, and ushered the dazed boys into the living room, directly over a trap door that opened when they stepped on it, sending them tumbling down to the basement below.

Immediately there was a very loud growl, and then the sound of screaming and people running for their lives.

The little man adjusted his flower, smoothed his long coat and called into the kitchen. “You don’t have to worry about feeding the Beast, dear. I’ve found two amateurs who will provide him with an excellent supper.”

“Why thank you, dear,” came the voice from the kitchen. “And if there’s anything left over, I’ll use it for the next batch of chocolate. It’s always nice to add a little crunchiness, don’t you think?”

Copyright John McDonnell 2010. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Big Hearted Fella

By John McDonnell
“It’s not goodbye, Sue, not at all.” He took another forkful of the fish and put it in his mouth. “This is delicious fish, by the way. Never had anything like it.”
“Don’t change the subject,” she said. “You’re saying goodbye.”
“No, I hate goodbyes. I hate endings.”
“But you cheated on me. I found the pictures on your computer terminal.”
“Now, Honey, I told you, I’m a man who can’t be tied down to one woman. My heart is too big. I see a beautiful woman and my heart turns flips. I’m a lover of beauty, a sentimentalist, a softie. That’s all it is.”
“We had vows.”
“I didn’t mean to break our vows. I had good intentions when I made them. I just, I just can’t help myself. You forgive me, don’t you Honey? Please say you do.”
“How can I forgive you? You cheated on me. Do you want some more fish?”
“Yes, I do. It’s delicious. I know what the problem is. It was hard for you to open up to me, wasn’t it? You don’t open up to many people. I think this will be good for you, it will open you up to new possibilities. We’ll all be friends. It’s a beginning, a new beginning for us, don’t you think?” He was getting very flushed, and there were beads of sweat on his forehead.
She watched him closely. “A new beginning?”
“Sure, that’s it. It’s a new chapter in our relationship. I’ll still see you, along with Dakota and Mandy, and maybe one or two other girls, but we’ll have such good times. Don’t you think that’s better, Honey? A beginning instead of an ending? Gee, it’s awfully hot in here. And I’m having trouble breathing. Honey, why are you looking at me like that?”
“It won’t be long now,” she said.
Suddenly he slumped over and fell to the floor. He looked up at her with wild eyes, questioning.
“Can’t move?” she said. “That’s the poison working. The fish you liked so much, it was blowfish. A delicacy in Japan, although it’s also very toxic. You have maybe an hour of consciousness, and you won’t be able to move during that time, but you’ll feel everything I do to you.”
She went over the drawer where she kept her utensils, opened it and pulled out a large carving knife. She ran her finger delicately along its razor sharp edge.
“It will be interesting to see how big your heart really is,” she said.
Copyright John McDonnell, 2010. All rights reserved.