Saturday, May 28, 2005


In hindsight, many years later, Gordon realized that the old lady at The Corner Store had been an agent of fate. At this particular moment, however, he mistook her for just another annoyance in a day full of them.

"And you're sure no dolphins were victimized?" This was the third time she had asked this question. She gazed up at the cashier with gray and vaguely expectant eyes.

Behind the counter, he sighed and smoothed his red apron with a restless hand. "Miss," he said, with astonishing equanamity, "I can call the manager to confirm this for you, if you like, but I know for a fact that no sea mammals of any kind were harmed in the production of this product."

The restless hand removed a box of graham crackers from the rubber conveyor belt. "Shall I read the ingredients one more time for you?" A large, hirsute finger tapped the side of the box.

"Would you mind?" came the inevitable reply.

Gordon, in line behind this amazing exchange for the duration, tapped his own figers unconsciously along the tops of Darby's six pack. I would mind, he thought, very much.

Clearing his throat, the cashier began to read. . .


Richard Cody, 2005

Saturday, May 21, 2005


It was a day like any other, which is to say it was like all the rest. Dull and flat and interminable, it extended weeks into the past, an uninterrupted line of gray static. No, thought Gordon, counting down the days beneath the long limbed and golden ladies of July, more like a pile or a mountain. Yes, a mountain of days dull as stone piling atop his shoulders. Heavy. Suffocating. Precarious.

Considering a moment the ladies of July - three of them, bronzed goddesses of flesh and silicone and shiny blonde hair posed achingly on a beach somewhere in Southern California - he wondered what it might be like to have them piled atop him.

He dismissed the thought almost at once as lewd, beneath him. No matter he had spent most of his teenage years desperately spilling his seed to just such glossy distortions of woman.

"You wankin' off, Gord?" Darby piped up from his desk adjacent. "What about that fax, man?"

Gordon realized that the printer had finally spat out the last of an 18 pager. He shuffled the pages together and read the senders name.

"It's Hanley again." he said, looking from the calendar to the clock, "And hell if it isn't 10 minutes to 5." Gordon was beyond irritated at the thought of staying late because of that crazy old man.

Ah, but this whole business was crazy, wasn’t it? He and Darby being paid $18.00 an hour, each, to sit in this stuffy office - affectionately called, The Stall - day after day receiving faxes from every loony in a five hundred mile radius; to enter manually (aka type) the content of those faxes into a database already bursting with weird tales of hypnogogic revelation, trans-dimensional entities, magical workings, UFOs and other such occult ephemera.  The questionable content of those faxes aside, it was insane because even a non-business man like Gordon could see that the operation, whatever its obscure goal, could be streamlined in so many ways. But the owner, the woman who had almost been his mother-in-law, strange old Emma Jason, was determined to keep The Stall running just as her father had.

In any case, it was just too typical of Hanley to send in a multi-pager ten minutes before they killed the lines and locked the door.

"Get outta' here, Gord. I'll take it this time."

Damn, that Darby could be such a . . . fucker (Ginny always insisted he was a putz) but then he'd surprise you and do something not only unexpected but nice.

"Thanks, Darby." he turned from the printer and The Ladies of July (already 28 days old) and reached Darby the fax. "You're a saint."

"Nah. . ." Darby grunted and grabbed the crisp pages. "I just get a kick outta' old man Hanley's crazy vernacular!"

Gordon reflected on his co-workers more often than not "colorful" lexicon. Darby spoke a form of English that was dyed, stained and painted with expletives in rainbow shades. Not that this fact detracted in any way from Darby's observation. Jed Hanley lived just 20 miles outside of town ( in an isolated farm house known locally as The Bone Museum because of the former tenant's use of the place, and its overgrown acreage, as a burial ground for more than 20 young victims) but he might just as well have been faxing transcripts to them from another planet.

Not a native Californian, as he was fond of pointing out, Hanley hailed, as he said: "From some 'ere 'round about Dunwich country, back East."

Darby snorted. "Get a load of this," he said, studying the transcript and putting on his best quotation voice:

"Gentlemen (if you be in gentlemanly moods. If not the joke is on me),

Since our last correspondence I have been plagued sore by fears of
misapprehension. We are each of us in accord, as I believe it, with the facts and the assumptions concerning that experiential state known by the shuffling masses as "reality". It is, if you take my meaning, a sponge-cake. If my meaning is not taken, then the joke is on you.

Of course, being the wise gentlemen we imagine ourselves to be, sure of our respective places on this tiny planet rotating around a dimly glowing star in the backwash of a galaxy like a grain of sand, we know that there is indeed a joke of cosmic proportions being perpetrated upon us, each and every one. The horror of our situation is, there is no punch line."

A moment of silence followed as Darby scanned the remaining pages. "Goes on like this for another seventeen and one fucking half pages!" he exclaimed. "You better get outta' here before I hand this thing back!"

Gordon knew that Darby was half-joking at best. Switching the 'phone and fax lines over to night with a practiced hand, he gathered his bag up from under his desk and slung it over his shoulder. "You don't have to tell me twice."

Darby grunted. "I wasn't gonna'."

"I know." Gordon smiled and made his way between the short rows of desks to the door. Darby's voice, rising from afterthought behind, chased him over the threshold and into the softly gathering blue of the late summer evening. "Pick me up a sixer, huh Gord?" I'll pay ya' when I get home!"