"The modest man's 'Trailer Life'"
(What follows is the first installment of a new feature we will be running from time to time. It is called The West Virginia Surf Report Short Story Album. This page's album is Queen's THE GAME and here 'tis: -Ed.)
Play the Game
In late March, while cleaning a set of venetion blinds, Shirley Bailey slipped. Twice.
She had been trying to keep her recent purchase of the 3M Company a secret from her husband, planning to save the news until after their living room furniture returned from the upholsterers. She had many times envisioned breaking the good news to her beloved Charlie on fresh furnishings. However, her enthusiasm would not allow this scene to take place.
Her beloved Charlie was raising nine kinds of hell about his uniform allowance when her first gaffe occurred. "You're right," said Shirley, "seventy two dollars won't hardly buy six months of underwear. But I bought 3M. Oh shoot!"
At this point her right foot found a "starch slick" on the linoleum floor and her body began moving in slow motion. The venetion blinds were "tossed" behind the refrigerator and she began doing Help! imitations across the kitchen. She landed like an off-duty Danny O'Day on the bit-filled dog dish, every bone in her body broken.
Beloved Charlie was silent for a brief moment. Then he said, with a Quinn Martin grin, "Honey your spine's showing."
I love a good dreary, rainy Monday morning. They never fail to perform as a finger-snap in the face of the Sunday daze.
Sunday's are a dog. Nothing's open, nothing's on, and nothing's shaking. Boring with a capital BO.
So I look upon Mondays almost as an event. However, I was hardly prepared for the events of last Monday, the Monday of the dragon attack.
The forecast had called for rain so I had risen early that morning, about seven AM. After putting some navy beans on to cook, I settled down to mend the Fenway Park bullpen tarp. (A mother's work is never done.) That's when things took a turn for the weird.
A special report came on the television. I knew it was important because the set wasn't even turned on at the time.
The announcer looked like that bass player from New England, of course you know who I mean, I forget his name. Anyway he told of a new strain of meat-eating giraffes developed by the Russians or possibly Switzerland, I can't remember which.
Hundreds of these horrid creatures were reportedly being parachuted onto US soil in the Florida/Washington state area, causing mayhem and terror in the streets.
The press had given the genetically confused animals the tag Pete's Dragon. It was named after Pete Shoemaker, the first American casualty.
Some expert on such matters came on, seated in front of a blue wall with words on it. He said that giraffes are naturally peaceful animals, that ordinarily only eat leaves from the tops of trees. He said that in this instance they probably viewed humans as some sort of "meat tree" and added that they probably meant no harm.
I wasn't taking any chances, so I killed myself.
Another One Bites The Dust
Dad tore down buildings. That's how he made most of his money. He used to joke that he tore down other people's lives to build one of his own. Dad was a real winner.
He was a heavy equipment professional. He knew all the tricks of the trade and talked the lingo. I remember he used to refer to a bulldozer as a dozer. That always knocked me out. I said, "C'mon Dad, I need a glossary!"
As far as I know Dad was the best there was when it came to demolition. But because he was so big-hearted we never seemed to have enough money. Whenever Dad would have to set a price for a job he would always quote too low. He said he didn't want anybody to take advantage of him, so he wasn't going to take advantage of them either. He razed the old Empire Federal Bank building for some corn and a ham.
Because the money was so tight, Dad was forced to take a job typing up classified ads at the newspaper. He worked twenty hours a day and spent three hours driving to and from work. He had to have his facial hair burned out with wax.
During this period I remember Dad as being pretty grouchy. He was tired, true, but it was something more. His job at the newspaper just wasn't working out. He was ruining typewriters.
Dad explained that after spending twelve hours banging the hell out of concrete and steel it was hard to maintain a soft touch. "A repeating dash was not meant for these hands," he said.
When it became apparent that the paper was going to replace him, he tried to swallow his bedspread. Mom found him the next day on the floor with only about a third of it hanging out. We pulled and pulled but it was too late.
Need Your Loving Tonight
Greta and her parents signed The Contract for Life on the end table, just like in the commercial. And just like in the commercial, everybody felt real good about it afterwards. Greta called her brother at college to tell him the news. And Mom and Dad had the document framed and assigned a special place for it to hang.
“We’re really happy about this Greta,” said Dad as he emerged from the overhead storage space in their garage, “but it isn’t something you wanna go and advertise.” “Oh I know daddy,” said Greta, “but we’ll all know it’s up there and what it stands for.”
“Well I hope you don’t think you need a legally binding contract to count on your old man,” chuckled Dad as he lovingly put his arm around Greta. “What is this, the Church of the Latter Day Saints?” laughed daddy’s little girl.
That night, in celebration of “closing the deal,” Greta and her friends jumped in a 1971 Nova and drank themselves to the threshold of a coma.
Greta awoke the next morning in a real-life painting, Ghastly Head with Dry Oats. “Oh shiiiiit!” she growled through the paste wax, “that’s it, no more.” Greta was in the eye of the storm, in limbo before the “upright” hangover kicked in.
“OK young lady, let’s talk - jeez that smell.” “Oh, c’mon Dad. Come back later OK?” “No way babe, we’re going to talk now, so get up.” “Ohhh!” Greta moaned into her pillow, “hand me my robe.”
“Greta, signing this contract thing doesn’t make it OK for you to go out and get drunk anytime you like, you know.” “I know,” she sighed, getting to her feet. “Well - enough talk, let’s start,” he said, producing a deck of cards. “What? What’s this?” “I don’t guess you read the clause I added to the contract, did you?” “Clause? What clause?” “The strip-poker clause. Boy, I’ve been waiting to do this since you started budding.”
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Mr. Harrison seemed content before the X-rays. H was making a comfortable living. None of his children had turned out particularly bad. And he and his wife had an almost Reaganesque relationship going. But the X-rays revealed a nasty tumor the size of a chest of drawers.
"Why!?" he screamed as the doctors had told him the news. At the same time his mind was screaming, "will it have to be removed?!"
He wasn't alarmed at the life-threatening aspect of the results. Oh no, Mr. Harrison simply liked being fat. And he wanted to stay that way. He had personal reasons.
You see, when he was a young up and coming salesman for Static Electronics (computers run by sweater) Mr. Harrison was very ambitious and overly conscious of his image. He and his young bride (Mrs. Harrison) often entertained in their home to supplement Mr. Harrison's reputation.
It was at one of these gatherings, in the summer of '62, that the only blemish on the Harrison marriage occurred. Mr. Harrison had amassed an impressive collection of administrators, supervisors, and various superiors at a dinner party. Mr. Harrison believed he was in a position for a promotion and had been planning this "event" for weeks. He was very happy with the turn out.
About three-fourths of the way into the evening, tragedy struck. Mr. Harrison was "talking shop" with two of the guests when a slightly tipsy Mrs. Harrison made a crack about his speed impediment (Mr. Harrison could not pronounce capital letters). The world collapsed.
Mr. Harrison, feeling prickly heat, handled the situation with as much dignity as he could muster. He excused himself, went to his bedroom, and removed sheetrock.
For three days Mrs. Harrison caught hell from the dawn's early light. She cried so much that her tear ducts were dry heaving. Mr. Harrison was mad. On the fourth day he went to see a lawyer.
Mrs. Harrison, fearing divorce, was pleased when he returned a changed man. He was the old Mr. H again. Why he saw the lawyer, she did not know -- and wasn't about to ask. She was just glad to see things returned to normal.
And aside from his eating habit, things stayed normal for almost twenty-five years. Mr. Harrison eventually became Vice President of Static Electronics and only raised his voice toward Mrs. Harrison once during that period (a trivial argument about her forgetting to return a load of Safeway pallets). The Harrisons became the perfect American couple again. Until the X-rays.
Mr. Harrison opted not to tell his wife about the tumor, he decided to keep it. During the early months of 1986 the chest of drawers became a dresser with full-sized mirror. He died fat and happy.
When the will was read Mrs. Harrison predictably "got everything." But there was one small hitch, a rider added in 1962. It was a request from Mr. H: "At my burial ceremony it is my wish that Mrs. Harrison perform as my sole pallbearer."
Rock It (Prime Jive)
Charleston, West Virginia. Quick -- what are you thinking? Well, if you're hip enough you're thinking Liquid Slit, the greatest thrash band on the planet. And if you're hip enough you know the story of their rise to fame. But for all you musical retards, here goes:
Liquid Slit was formed just as the first rumblings of punk hit the Mountain State, 1983. They are comprised of two former member of Groin Biscuit, Bobby King and Lester Rowe. And three alumni of the late, great Armpit Heir, all named Soap Scum.
Their unique blend of hardcore and rebellion made them an immediate curiosity on the Charleston club circuit. Their pumped up version of "60 Minutes Theme" garnered them national attention as well.
After a misguided stint as opening act on the over-hyped "Still Don't Call Us: The Sugarloaf Reunion" tour, the band began negotiating a recording contract.
On the strength of their homemade single, "It's Hard to Think of the Sun as a Star," Liquid Slit secured a two-album deal with Valley Bell, a local dairy anxious to get into the music business. The table was set for a major commercial breakthrough.
Black Soap Scum produced the tracks for the band's now classic first album, "Stains Under Where?" It was written, arranged, recorded, and mixed in a ten hour blow-out at The Ranch. Inventive originals ("A Reagan Polyp Bracelet") laced with inspired covers (Elton John's "Song for Guy") helped make the album an unqualified local success, selling almost 678 copies. Nationally, however, the band couldn't buy shoes.
When "Stains Under Where?" stiffed (no pun intended) a major rift developed between Liquid Slit and every other human, especially those at Valley Bell. The band members felt the dairy wasn't promoting them as aggressively as it should. The dairy said suck sauce. So Blonde Soap Scum pissed in a carton of VB milk onstage, and the troubles began.
Valley Bell made it clear that the next Liquid Slit album would be its last for the label, and that they could count on even less promotion than on the first one.
Liquid Slit counter-punched by hiring
its own publicist. With Valley Bell contractually obligated to pressing
one more record, they planned to make the best album they knew how, have
it promoted from the outside, and possibly land a major label deal. And
Valley Bell could do nothing but sit and watch, or so they thought.