Meet Duff Chapter 1
It’s Monday. Morty was going to blow his head off. When the Lumberjack appeared, he laughed in his face, wildly swinging a double edged AXE. He whispered in his ear. “Pull that Trigger–Shooter! Go ahead–Sweet Cheeks!”
He lowered the gun. A casket appeared in the woods. It silently urged him to climb in and slam the lid. The Lumberjack grabbed him by the shirt, hoisting him off his feet, nose to nose.
“Hello, MY FAT JEW BOY! I’m goanna bury you deep where no one’s goanna find you! A FAG’S goanna dig you up a thousand years from now saying–Look it here fellows, see what I found, it’s some freaky bearded monkey man with his mouth wide open! He must have screamed himself to death from being buried alive!”
Morty smelled the minty tobacco chew the axe man spit out. The spittle mist sprayed in the air and blew back in his face. Brown juice dribbled from Lumberjack’s mouth dripping down his stubbly rough cut chin.
It hit Morty like a ton of bricks!
Why was he taking crap off that ASSHOLE? He was holding a GUN! ONE PROBLEM. He was ninety nine per cent CHICKEN SHIT. He wasn’t goanna put a cap in his ASS anymore than he was goanna put a bullet in his own HEAD.
FLASH! Morty was in the casket. The lid slammed shut. It was total darkness, and he heard that obnoxious loudmouth talking.
“SEE YOU IN THE NEXT DREAM–SHOOTER!”
BUZZ! The alarm went off at half pass eight. He woke with sweaty brow, watery eyes, heart pounding out of his chest, and the brightness of the morning sun in his face. He rolled out of bed like a blob.
Haphazardly brushing his teeth, he looked in the mirror eye to eye. There stood the old frump.
He emptied his bladder. The last drops he sloppily shook missed the bowl running down the seat in long yellow streaks. And then, his conscience heard his wife’s voice–Morty, Lift up the Seat when you PEE, Please!
Nag, Nag, Nag! So–this is how MY life ends! You gaze in the mirror one day and don’t recognize the old FOOL looking back? You READ your Horoscope and pencil in cross word puzzles? You watch your PISS run down the toilet seat! You have dreams of Lumberjacks in your face threatening you with an AXE?
He did the NORMAL. He sucked in what was left of last night’s DOOBIE. He took a hit, all his troubles faded away, and he walked down the stairs to a brand new day.
Pam was gone. Millie and her got their hair and nails done at a neighbor’s house. He opened the store. Customers filed in throughout the day like aggressive cockroaches plundering every corner of Finkelstein’s Mini Mart.
Most of these human army ants were those blessed strangers he knew he’d never see again. They were the ones who kept the doors open–one cup of black coffee and frosted doughnut at a time. They drove off to directions unknown.
The morning newspaper exploded in bold red letters as he read his horoscope and penciled a crossword puzzle.
“CHANGE IS COMING!”
What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Horoscopes feed feeble minds! The shadow man had been trying to tell him this all along. But, no matter how loud it spoke, imaginary fingers plugged his ears. The VOICE might as well have been in Russian.
This was the last gas station before telephone pole infinity. Beyond the store lay miles of empty acres, broken barb wire fences, and fields of dry weeds–all the way to Ohio–The modern lure for the STRANGE and the BEAUTIFUL.
Hours later, Pam walked in. She stuck out like a fragrant spring flower hopelessly trapped within the middle of a pungent field of weeds. She sat in the chair next to his squeaky rocker. She towered two to three inches above him. She exuded that leathery motorcycle babe beauty that never goes out of style.
Secretly, Morty felt he didn’t deserve such a girl because she looked too sexy good. He secretly feared, some young hard-cock Harley biker would stroll on in. He’d say a few slick words and she’d believe all his sweet talking bullshit. He’d sweep her off her feet with empty promises and lies. A bunch of sweet pathetic nothings! Words come so damned easy and so cheap. TALK, TALK, TALK, BLAB, BLAB, BLAB, I’m the Man, I’m the Man! He’s a Rambler and a Gambler and a Fucking Bull-shit-er! He’d throw her over his shoulder and carry her away like Prince Charming NEVER to be seen again. She’d finally escape her boring lackluster marriage. I’d DIE a LONELY OLD COOT!
She busted through his thoughts like a surprise fire cracker pop. She playfully wiggled her black and orange nails in his face while tickling his nose with her gray tightly woven ponytail like a Barber’s Duster.
“Very Hallo-weenie!” He sneezed, rubbing his nose, wanting what he said to sound like a compliment.
She kissed his forehead hugging his bear like body. She loved him as much as any woman could love any man.
“What’s wrong, Morty?” She said this in that motherly tone that makes boy and man alike feel as though everything’s goanna be alright, even though it won’t be.
I’m busted! Pam always knows when something AIN’T quite right! That woman reads me like a book!
“You see, I had this dream,” he slowly and reluctantly dragged on.
“Yes, go ahead,” she eagerly waited.
“Well–this creepy Lumberjack came at me with a double edged razor sharp AXE–that’s all!”
“So, it’s LUMBERJACK with an AXE trying to BEHEAD you! Oh, that’s all! OK–go on.”
Her impatience grew as Morty seemingly dragged his feet ever so slowly.
He finally blurts out, “What do you think! It scared the Holy Hell out of me! That ASSHOLE was goanna chop me to pieces and bury me alive! He said some FAG’S goanna dig me up a thousand years from now. Something about some bearded freaky SCREAMING monkey man! ME! I was the Monkey Man!”
He wasn’t about to tell her about the gun to his head in the dream. He wasn’t about to tell her how depressed he felt these days. He wasn’t about to tell her he didn’t feel like a MAN anymore. He wasn’t about to tell her that he actually woke up CRYING like a baby wah wah. She’d see something Freudian in all this. She’d say he needs to go to some head doctor and get some man therapy where they hold each other’s hands and discuss their Latent Homosexuality.
“Oh Morty, it was only a dream! Dreams can’t hurt you, SWEETIE!”
She stroked his forehead. But, it didn’t really make him feel any better, this time. Even though she stroked him, he still felt alone. There was something about the future that haunted him. He wasn’t looking forward to the coming years. The coming years meant closer to DEATH.
“Hey, it was a damned nightmare! It seemed so real. I could smell stinking chewing tobacco breath! Didn’t you know if you die in a dream, you wake up dead as a doornail!”
“Oh Morty, that’s only a wives’ tale! No one wakes up dead! Maybe, you need to see a THERAPIST!”
See, what did I just say!
Morty didn’t believe in doctors unless he was lying in the middle of the road bleeding to death ready to chirp his last breath.
The front screen door slams sending a sharp bolt of electric shock right up his spine. The sudden jolt activated his eye tick making it flinch rapidly.
It was like MAGIC! POOF! And, there SHE appeared! There stood this young Tom-Boy. Cute as a button, she measured a strong four feet tall, with pink T-shirt, Jeans and Tennis shoes. She had freckles, a pixie turned up nose, short pink hair, even pink lipstick. She was the extraordinary PINK GIRL. She looked like an Angel from Heaven, standing there.
Got to fix that God damned door before it sends me over the edge!
The girl points to Morty while looking at Pam. “Is Gramps a Hippie?”
They looked at each other wondering where the youngster could have heard that ancient “H” word!
Pam looks down. There was Morty’s jiggling belly fat hanging over his belt.
“Yeah, he is, well, sort of a Hippie, I guess.”
He rocked his creaky rickety old rocker, amazed as the stranger girl in pink boldly hops up throwing her arms around his neck whispering she loves him kissing him on his white bearded red Santa Clause cheek. The pink handle of a sword slung around her shoulder whopped him on the side of his head about ten times as she jumped up and down on his knee.
“Why is your hair so long, Gramps?”
What’s with that sword?
“One day a long long time ago, I decided to stop getting haircuts. Then, it was a matter of time. My hair grew longer and longer. Long hair used to stand for Peace and Love. It doesn’t mean a damned thing, NOW! You might as well shave your head, walk backwards, and wear your Momma’s Wig!”
“What’s your Momma’s Wig, Gramps?”
For no apparent reason, she began giggling like kids do. Then, she yanked on Morty’s beard and hair like a jockey riding his racing horse through the finish line photo.
He yelped in pain. She released hold of him jumping off like some pink striped assed wild ape girl.
Befuddled, rubbing his head and beard pain away with his finger tips, and growing knot on his head from the sword handle, his eye began twitching.
“Where’s Gray Boy?”
Pam says, “He’s sitting right here!”
Morty rubs his head in pain. He’s always the one who seems to get hurt.
“No SILLY! He’s my cat!”
“Maybe, your cat’s playing in the garden right now. Go, around the corner and take a peek!”
He wanted the girl out of the store before she came back for another handful of hair and whopped him on the head with that sword handle one more time.
There’d been some trampling in his garden lately. There were toddler sized footprints in the mulch. The veggies had been plundered.
She didn’t move. She stood staring at Morty’s beard. She gazed at his hair with a questioning look. Her thumb was in her mouth. Morty was on high alert.
“What’s your name, girl?”
“Allison.” She said this softly, somewhat shyly with her head down. She tapped her shoe on the wooden floor. There’s a hole through one shoe and he could see her big toe with pink nail polish through a holey sock.
She peered down the isle as he followed her eyes. “Happy Hallo-weenie girl–Go ahead, get what you want! It’s OK.”
He felt he was somehow rewarding her for all the hair and beard pulling.
She made a beeline, running by mounds of Toilet Paper, bottles of Aspirin, grabbed a bag of Beef Jerky and walked by Comic Books to the candy rack. She pulled an energy drink from the refrigerator carelessly slamming the fogged up door seemingly almost breaking it off the hinges.
That girl knew exactly what she wanted. It was a scene out of fighting grabbing women in a frenzied half off department store sale. A cloud of torn paper floated down like confetti as she whizzed back. She chomped a chocolate bar like a salivating puppy devouring his first thick meaty bone stick.
“Shouldn’t you be in school?”
“Gray Boy jumps at Butterflies and Grasshoppers!”
He walked over to a trail of trash picking it up.
Morty looks down at her.
“And, where does your CAT do that?”
She points out the front door.
He looks up to the woods.
“You mean, there?”
“Up there! Up there!”
“What’s that book under your arm?”
“Is it his Bible?”
She looks back at him.
She sucks the chocolate off her finger. She points again to the trail across the street which zigzags straight to the top of the hill.
He looks out the door.
“How old is he?”
The feral girl giggles.
“He lived in my room.”
“Really–I think I had invisible friends when I was your age. Does your MOM know where you are?”
She looked at Morty like he was nuts in the head.
“He lived in my closet.”
She had chocolate smear on her lips. It looked exactly like she had just applied brown lipstick over pink.
Still chewing, “I used to call him Waldo, but he didn’t like that. It made him really, really mad.”
Hum–I guess someone finally found Waldo? He laughed, offering a napkin to wipe her mouth.
She stared at him, yanked the napkin out of his grip wiping her lips immediately handing it back dirty.
Morty looked inside the girl’s purse to an Energy Drink, bag of Jerky, and extra candy bar.
“Is that all you’re goanna eat?”
“What about you? Aren’t you hungry? Don’t you want my world famous peanut butter and jelly sandwich? It’s time for lunch, you know.”
“Why is your eye doing that Gramps?”
Twitch, twitch, twitch! It starts twitching more.
“I guess my eye is winking at you because you’re cuter than a furry little PINK bunny rabbit!”
She giggles. “Bunny rabbits aren’t PINK, Gramps!”
“I think they ALL are now!”
Morty looked closer.
He looked at what appeared to be a pink handled play sword.
She mimics Morty’s twitching eye laughing out loud jumping up and down.
Kind of rude, but that’s a kid for you. That’s what kids do.
“Do you know how to use that thing?”
She gives him a sure nod. She stands a Karate stance. She bows. And, in an instant, she pulled the sword out of its case. She did a few quick movements and slices, whirling the larger than expected glistening piece of what looked like sharpened steel, in the air. She thrust back and forward, around her head and to each side in calculated movements yelling Karate yells.
She then withdrew, bowing respectfully. She tossed a candy bar to the ceiling cutting it in three even pieces putting the sword back in its sheath in time to catch two of them in her tiny hands and one in her mouth. She was as speedy as a poison spitting pink viper.
She knew exactly what she was doing; demonstrated by deliberate, well rehearsed strokes and jabs. She handled herself like a well trained swordsman. The performance was jaw dropping impressive.
Before Pam and Morty could get in another word edgewise, Allison ran over giving each of them a hug and kiss. She skipped to the front door chirping, “Come up, meet Duff, meet Duff!” Before they came to their senses and got off their chairs, she hopped down the steps to the gravel driveway with running crunching footsteps.
They could hear giggling as she skipped across the road. This girl was a happy child. They could see this gray cat joining her on the trail. It jumped up into her arms like a trained circus cat.
Within minutes, that girl ran up to the crest. Plain as day, there was someone holding a Lantern. You could see her sword reflect a flash of silver light. Allison, the Cat, and a very short stranger turned and walked in the forest.
Morty shook his head, wrung his hands, cracked his knuckles, and decided it was high time to light up a number.
“I guess the girl found her cat!”
“It found her.”
“That girl’s pretty good with that sword, huh Pam?”
“She’d slice and dice your ass in short order. Not to change the subject Morty, but your friends came by the store yesterday while you were napping.”
“Friends? I have friends? Who are these so called friends of mine?”
She reads off a note signed by a Melvin, Chip, Al, and the Devil.
“Never heard of those jokers!”
“They said to drop by the Hemlock Motel. Drinks are on them.”
“What! Are they serving Hemlock! How do I know they’re not goanna ambush me, gang bang me and slit my throat in a Motel room!”
“Well, they acted like they were your best friends! Two of them were dressed like Praying Mantis’s and the other was wearing a Devil costume.”
“What about the forth?”
“He looked like you–a NERD!”
“Funny. So, what did they buy?”
“A bunch of crap! Bourbon Whiskey, Cola, Big bag of Potato Chips, and a bunch of Pepperoni Sticks.”
“They probably got my name off the sign outside. They were probably all drunk. You know how Alcoholics are. Anyway, look Pam, that girl forgot her book!”
He took a deep lung filled drag off the roach he pulled out of his shirt pocket blowing smoke up to the fluorescent lights above. There was a gang of flies cruising around in circles buzzing like insane airplanes. They buzzed in circles louder and louder flying into each other like Kamikaze pilots. They became flying Ninja fighter planes buzzing and buzzing and buzzing.
They both heard heavy footsteps. They turned. The huge monster man grabbed a pack of water bottles from the refer. Morty did a double take. He looked familiar. Morty was visibly moved. There was a six-foot five man standing before them.
“Hello. Is that a–all?”
Morty was nervous and his hands were trembling.
“Where you headed?”
“Oh–what is your business there, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“I’m a stage hand for Grimes.”
There was a mumble that sounded like–something about a “Shooter.”
“What did you call me?”
“What do you mean?”
“Did you call me Shooter?”
It was now obvious this man was a Gentle Giant.
The man paid for his water. Morty sacked it up for him.
The large man’s eyes begin to well up with tears.
“I’m sorry. I’m having a hard time keeping myself together. My Mother just died. ”
“I’m terribly sorry.”
Pam cuts in. “We understand. Is there anything we can do?”
“Oh, I’ll be OK I guess–in time.”
He thanks them, walks out and drives off.
“That guy could pass for the Lumberjack in my dream!”
“Who’s GRIMES, Morty?”
“I don’t have a clue.”
Morty didn’t want to explain that one.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, you asked him.”
She wondered what he was keeping from her. She has a way of digging it out of him.
“Something you’re not telling me, Morty?”
“Oh, no, I just thought he called me SHOOTER, that’s all.”
She looks at him reading his body language.
“That guy could tear someone a new asshole!”
“Yeah, Morty, maybe yours!”
‘He seemed so hurt.”
“It’s terrible thing seeing a grown man cry!”
“No better Son than one who loves his Mother, Pam.”
“Yeah, like Norman in PSYCHO.’
“No, not that kind.”
They did their daily store duties. Morty took an inventory list. Before they knew it, it was getting darker. He looked out to the field across the street. Yellow sunflowers began to look like dimly lit fire flies. The trail cut like a knife to the top of the hill.
It was like a lazy man’s broom waited until the wife turned her head. In a twinkle of an eye, it was minutes before 5 PM. Twinkling starlight replaced sheets of orange and red sunset. It swept another forgettable day under a good mother’s favorite rug.
Morty looked up. He liked that weird colored sky above those hills. There was a mood about it. It felt like something bad’s goanna happen to some poor soul who walked up there alone. It’s always something you read about in the local paper, because it didn’t happen to you.
Morty saw a lantern the last two nights when he opened his upstairs window. A breeze blows through the screen, at the same time from west to east every day. It’s as predictable as the setting sun. He heard that song. It sounded olden like tradition. It was soft celebration music. He didn’t know if it was Irish, American, or German. For all he knew, it was black as African. It had that Jamaican metal drum ting to it. It had haunting bagpipes from within the forest trees. It was a potpourri of sound that blew through the air like the sweetest perfume.
There was music coming from the hills. He thought he started hearing it when the Lumberjack twin look alike drove away. It was faint like before. He liked it. And, he was starting to like it a lot more. It was soothing, it was heavenly. It was familiar and the sound made his bones stop aching. He thought he knew that song when he was young. It was like he knew it in another lifetime. But, somehow he had forgotten the name. He wanted to remember again.
A lantern popped out. It waved to and fro. That person knew what they were doing. They knew it affected Morty. He stared at it. They knew how to reach him. It penetrated him down to his gnarly toes. The music knew him well, better than he knew himself. It knew his soul. It felt so familiar, yet distant and vague. Morty turned his attention to the black book the girl left behind. Hum…