Sunday, March 30, 2014

it isn't only crocodiles that cry, part 4: meatballs in the back

original story by horace p sternwall

originally appeared in the may-june 1945 through the jan-feb 1946 issues of throat grabbing tales

adapted for the 21st-century by chuck leary and roger "peg leg" wilson

illustrated by danny delacroix and eddie el greco

part four of thirteen

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous episode, click here

doreen was originally from nebraska.

if people asked her from where in nebraska, she would say "dinkville" or "hicksville" or "poopville" because she didn't want anybody to know exactly where.

she didn't want anybody to be able to track her down in case she had to lie low and wanted to go back where she came from and hide.

like most of her fellow humans, she was paranoid in some ways but totally didn't give a fuck in others.

this phenomenon has been called the "new bipolar brain" by some experts - as opposed to the old bipolar brain with survival on one side and religion on the other. or something like that.

but you already knew that.

but right now doreen didn't have any home town in nebraska to go back to anyway, because the only two people who had been connecting her to it - her mom, alison, and her younger brother keith - were here in the big city.

enjoying doreen's hospitality. until - ha ha ha ha - they found someplace better.

with the bag of groceries in her arms doreen kicked at the door. maybe one of the two morons inside would hear her and open the door.

more likely not. she had been through this before.

doreen was not the sharpest piece of glass in the gutter but she was einstein compared to the rest of her family.

that was not an opinion but a natural born cold hard fact.

nobody opened the door. doreen put the bag down, got her keys and opened the door, picked the bag back up and went inside.

keith was sitting at the table with buds in his ears looking at his phone. no surprise there.

alison was looking out the window.

"didn't you hear me?" doreen asked. not that she really cared.

"i was looking out the window."

"yes, i see that you are looking out the window. are you looking at anything out the window?" doreen put the bag on the table and keith took the buds out of his ears and started taking stuff out of the bag.

"i was watching to see if that guy came back."

"what guy?"

"that guy you were talking to."

"i was talking to a guy?"

"yeah, right outside. i saw you, don't try to deny it."

doreen thought for a second. "oh, that guy."

"yeah, that guy."

"he was nothing, just another creep."

"but what did he say?"

"i don't know, the kind of things creeps say - that he was the prophet, or he was the hand of fate, or some shit like that."

keith had taken all the stuff out of the bag. "where's the chef boyardee spaghetti and meatballs? i said i wanted chef boyardee spaghetti and meatballs!"

"they didn't have any," doreen told him. " i got lasagna instead."

"did you ask?'" keith persisted. "did you ask if they had any in the back?"

"fuck no, i didn't ask if they had any in the back. you'll live, if you have to eat lasagna. and i got some stuff for salad, too. you should start eating healthier."

"salad! salad! fuck that shit! are you trying to kill me? ma, she's trying to kill us!"

doreen laughed. "death!" she turned to alison who was still looking out the window. "that's what that guy said - he was death."

"you are death," said keith. "you and your salad."

"death! " cried alison. "you should be afraid." she kept looking out the window. "but he hasn't come back. yet. "

"he isn't coming back," doreen told her.

"if he comes back, " said keith, " you can invite him up for some salad."

doreen ignored him. "come on," she said to her mother, "you want to help me make the salad?"

"no, i'm too old to learn new things."

"go back to the store," keith said. "and ask them if they have any spaghetti and meatballs in the back."

"fuck you!" doreen grabbed him by the hair and tried to smash his face into the table. "i'm sick of your whining, o k? if you don't like what i buy, go get some money of your own and buy your own fucking spaghetti and meatballs! or anchovies or caviar or anything else you want, o k?"

keith twisted his head out of her grasp. "where am i going to get any money?"

"panhandle! when i was your age i'd put in a thousand hours of panhandling."

"i'd rather not do that."

"oh, i'd rather not do that!" doreen mimicked. " why don't you just grow up? and grow a pair."

"he's sensitive, doreen. like you used to be. some people just don't have it in them to do things like beg from strangers."

"maybe they better learn." doreen went over to a drawer and took out a small but sharp knife. "now if neither of you two parasites want to help me make the salad, maybe you can just sit quietly and not bother me while i'm working."

alison finally moved away from the window. "i can heat up the lasagna. i can do that."

"great." doreen took the tomatoes and celery and the big purple onion off the table in front of keith and carried them over to the small space between the sink and the microwave.

"i think maybe we should heat up both cans, don't you?"

"go for it." doreen started chopping up the celery.

"that onion is the most disgusting thing i ever saw in my life," said keith. "i ain't eating that. it looks like something that fell out of frankenstein's asshole."

"you'd eat it if it was cut up and cooked on top of a pizza."

"that's different!"

doreen didn't answer.

alison started opening the cans of lasagna. "do you think i should put them on a plate or in bowls?"

"they fit better in bowls and they don't spill all over the microwave," doreen told her.

"but they get hotter if you put them on a plate," said keith.

"thank you, julia child," doreen told him, "for your expert advice."

"i'm thirsty. don't you have anything to drink?"

"water. a whole fucking city reservoir full of water."

"i want some red bull."

"red bull." doreen started to laugh. "he wants red bull. i think it costs more than fucking heroin. is that the last fucking straw or what?"

"now doreen, you know he's just teasing you. you were the same way when you were his age."


"we both really appreciate what you are doing for us."

"except mick wouldn't talk to us the way you do," said keith.

"mick!" doreen waved the little knife at him. "but fucking mick isn't taking you in, is he?"

"let's not bring mick into this," said alison. "let's just all be nice and enjoy a nice dinner."

alison and keith and mick and doreen were part of a world wide migration not only from the virtually obsolete "countryside" but from small towns and cities into a handful of mega-cities dotting the globe with consequences for the very nature of "humanity" which as yet are not even shadows on the walls of the future…

but you already knew that.

part 5

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