Heat Sink

heatsinkAn old friend of mine, Janglespurs Smith, was the sole survivor of a recent heat sink incident in the city of Orange, California, where scads of unwary people in his neighborhood perished abruptly during a freak cold snap when their body heat, without warning, dissipated into the frigid air, leaving them with what local climatologists described as an “energy deficit, the enervating effect of cold weather.” Which is a fancy way of saying that the poor devils froze to death. Miraculously, nearby citrus orchards, however, managed to escape unscathed.

That Janglespurs survived at all is only because he happened to be soaking up to his nose in a hot bubble bath at home, immersed in Bernard Cornwell’s novel, Sharpe’s Fury, based on the real events of the winter of 1811 that led to the extraordinary victory by the British over the French at the Battle of Barossa in Spain, instead of performing something constructive like scraping ice off the sidewalks . . . which, as it turned out, was exactly what his panicked neighbors were doing, and subsequently died for their efforts. I have a theory that the denizens of Pompeii ended up pretty much the same way whilst shoveling volcanic ash from their respective doorsteps instead of paying closer attention to what Vesuvius had in mind. On the plus side, though, it has been a field day for latter-day archaeologists and grave-robbers who like to putter about in ancient people’s calamities.

When the bubbly surface of his tub water started to ice up, Janglespurs, not to be detoured for a moment from Richard Sharpe’s cliff-hanger operations, adroitly applied his left toe to the hot water knob, brought the temperature back to its original hearty state, and turned to page 342.

Steve Pulley

Posted in Stories | 4 Comments

One Too Many

onetoomanyAggravaria Solipsis suppressed a giggle. She’d had one too many. But it happens on occasion when one’s had too many. Suppressing giggles, that is. In Aggravaria’s case, it was due to finding herself. There she was, standing — or rather tottering — outside Moe’s Tavern, freezing on a starlit night, and minutes before having it explained to her by a fellow drunk that her surname was a misnomer.

“Aggarabavaria,” he’d slurred between drinks, “you definitevelly are no slopisnitis.”

“Whaddaya mean, Arnie?” she slurred back, downing another cocktail. “‘Course I-yam. S’right here on my driver’s licensh . . . lishense. Take a look fer yerself.”

She fumbled in her purse, then peered closely inside, rooted around, looked up at her drinking companion.

“Left it at home, Arnie. Jest haffta take my word for it.”

Arnie waved a forefinger at her, shaking his head. “That don’t cut it fer me, babe.”

“I ain’t no babe, bub,” she replied with a curt slur, or a slurred curt at this point, swaying dangerously on her bar stool. “Nope. I . . . I’m . . . I’m . . . Lessee, um, hey, Moe,” she addressed the owner and bartender of Moe’s Tavern, who was cleaning up someone else’s spilled mess on the bar, “wh-who the hell am I, anyhow? Tell this guy, willya? Tell this shmoh I’m no babe.”

“She’s no babe, Arnie,” obliged Moe. “Mrs. Solipsis, I think it’s about time you got home.”

“Damn straight, Moe. You calls’m as you sees’m. I’m on my way as we shpeak.”

She managed to slap down too much money on the bar, told Moe to keep the change, and started for the door.

“Mrs. Solipsis, you can’t drive home in that condition. Do you want me to call somebody to pick you up?”

Aggravaria waved a finger no. “Moe, you ferget I live ‘roun the corner. I walked here. I’ll walk home . . . well, I guesh shtagger home. He-he! See . . . I mean shee . . . I may be sluh . . . suhlightly eeneebrated . . . eeneemeeniebriated, but I’m not so drunk I can’t fine my way home, okay? Nite, Arnie. Nite Moe. Nite everbody.”

All six people in the tavern returned her ‘nites’, and she exited through the door into the cold, starry night.

“Brrr, it’s c-cold out here!”

It sobered her slightly, enough to start her in the right direction for home. As she walked a few steps away from Moe’s, she remembered Arnie’s comment about her name, stopped, then surpressed a giggle.

“Whatta he mean I’m no Solipshis? ‘Course I am. Ha-ha! Best damn Solipshis he’ll ever meet. Says so right there on my birth certificate: Algarrobilla Cougat Solipshis.”

She thought some more, frowning. “That ishn’t right. Umm . . .” Then very slowly, “Aggravaria Illa Cogitat Solipsis. There it is! Ha-HA! Gotcha, Arnie!”

She tottered a few more steps, stopped again.

“Arnie don’t like it? Fine. Whatta I care, huh? It’s my exishtence, isn’t it? My experiensh, my consciousnesh. Damn shtraight I’ma Solopshish!”

Aggravaria Solipsis nodded conclusively, gave herself a thumbs-up, and once again, somehow, safely wobbled her way home.

Steve Pulley

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quid pro quo


Note to readers: This is the first time I’ve invited a contributing guest to my blog. Keith Biesiada, a friend and fellow writer, has a droll sense of humor that never fails to tickle me, and the piece below I think exemplifies it so well that I asked if he would allow me to share it here.

I signed on with Facebook recently, something I swore never to do.  Now I find that I am addicted.  [My wife] Diana has voiced her concern and asked me to stop, but I just give her a knowing grin, cross my fingers behind my back and make the raven promise: “Nevermore!”  She believes that Facebook is a gateway to more insidious social networking sites, such as Twitter.  One day after work, I arrived at home to find our apartment crammed with various friends and acquaintances.  One after the other they told me how they loved me and that they knew I was strong enough to work out my problems but that I needed help and that I should seek it out with a professional.  Nonsense, I told them.  I affirmed that I was perfectly fine and would brook no further interference into my personal life.  Yet they persisted.  One of them suggested that I explore the therapeutic effects of bridge or bingo. “Bingo?”  I said.  So now I play bingo instead of going on Facebook.  I went once a week, then twice, three times, etc.  Soon I was going twice a day and winning.  I was winning a lot.  The old ladies were giving me dirty looks.  “He always wins,” they said.  I was winning so much that I didn’t need to work and quit my job.  Diana told me that bingo was a gateway to other forms of gambling but I just gave her a knowing look, crossed my fingers behind my back and Poe, Poe, Poe!.  But she was right.  I began to play online poker and that got me to thinking that no one could stop me, that I was invincible and could never lose.  So one night I ran away from home.  I hitchhiked to Atlantic City, primed to take Trump for all he was worth, but then I arrived and was confronted by a shocking reality.  All the casinos had closed.  That sobered me up.  Diana had reported me as a missing person and I soon found myself surrounded by state troopers, all holding bingo cards in front of their faces as protection.  They brought me home and when I opened the door the apartment was again filled with various friends and acquaintances, all smiling.  There was a bundt cake on the coffee table, iced with the words “Welcome Back!”  Now I sit at home nights and rub Diana’s feet.   Each and every night.  One day she confronted me and said that foot massages were gateways to back massages and the like.  So now I write and prompt other writers.

Keith Biesiada

Posted in Anecdotes | 1 Comment

A Cracked Mirror

acrackedmirrorThe poltergeist got in through a crack in Beasley Breakwater’s medicine cabinet mirror in the guest bathroom. The fact that Beasley rarely if ever had guests in his apartment made the poltergeist break-in a piece of cake. No doubt the poltergeist had caused the crack in the mirror in the first place, since that’s basically what poltergeists do: make life miserable for designated persons.

But first, a little background on the phenomenon: According to Wikipedia, ” . . . a Poltergeist (German for “noisy ghost” or “noisy spirit”) is a type of ghost or other supernatural entity that is responsible for physical disturbances, such as loud noises and objects being moved or destroyed. They are purportedly capable of pinching, biting, hitting, and tripping people. Most accounts of poltergeists describe the movement or levitation of objects such as furniture and cutlery, or noises such as knocking on doors. They have traditionally been described as troublesome spirits who haunt a particular person instead of a specific location . . .” Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poltergeist

Rather than own up to the cracked mirror probably being his own damn fault — which miraculously it was not in this case — Beasley Breakwater at first blamed it on the upstairs neighbors who had recently moved in. He’d heard someone, or perhaps a large kangaroo, jumping up and down in their bathroom directly above his own. With that supposition glued in his mind, he marched straight upstairs and banged on the alleged perpetrator’s door. An exotic-looking woman, who from her build might very well have been a sumo wrestler, opened. That clinched it for Breakwater, in a way both figuratively and literally. She was doubtless working out with barbells in her bathroom. Now Beasley was no slouch himself, it must be allowed, but even he had to admit that he was outweighed, out-muscled and outclassed by this amazon and in no position to raise much hell with her without suffering serious and possibly crippling consequences. He therefore wisely chose discretion as the better part of valor to be his ploy of choice in this case. He gallantly removed his hat and offered her his most conciliatory smile.

“Good afternoon,” he began.

“Yes?” she asked, casual suspicion of a stranger arching an eyebrow, though he perceived her as sizing him up for a quick snack.

“Who is it, Mom?” called a voice from within, possibly that of an adolescent girl.

Mom swiveled inclining her head toward the voice. “I don’t know yet, hon, maybe another damn solicitor,” she shouted, then returned to Breakwater. “My daughter wants to know who you are.”

“Ah. Well, not a solicitor, I assure you. I’m your neighbor downstairs. The name is Beasley Breakwater.”

The woman turned her head back again. “Says he’s Beastly Breakwater, our downstairs neighbor!”

“Uh, that’s Beasley,” corrected Breakwater.

“Beastly Breakwater?!” cried the girl from within. “Ohmigod! Awesome! I gotta see this guy.”

A few seconds later a buxom girl in her late teens — a smaller replica of her mother — bounded forth. She gaped at him a moment, a goofy, admiring grin on her face, then nodded approval. “Oh, yeah!”

“Where are your manners, young lady?” said her mother.

“Huh? Oh . . . sorry. Howdee do, Beastly?”

“Grenadine?” her mother retorted severely.

“What? Um . . . well, what!”

“That’s no way to greet this gentleman.”

“It isn’t? Oh . . . right! Sorry again. I meant, how do you do, Mr. Beastly . . . I mean Mr. Breakwater.” She giggled.

“I apologize, Mr. Breakwater. My daughter never made it into finishing school.”


Breakwater waved his hand dismissively with a nervous grin. “Not a problem, not a problem. Uh, my first name — unfortunately, it seems — is Beasley, not Beastly.”

The girl looked crestfallen. “Not Beastly?”

“But,” he continued, still in placatory mode, “you can certainly call me Beastly if you like, uh, Grenadine. I don’t mind. In fact, I think it may even be a little flattering.”

Grenadine’s mother managed to look embarrassed. “I should say not! I misunderstood you, Mr. Breakwater, and I apologize. Grenadine, you will address this man by his proper name.”

“Yes’m,” the girl said contritely, then muttered almost inaudibly, “liked Beastly better.”

The mother gave the girl a withering look, then returned her gaze to Breakwater. “Now, then, what can we do for you, Mr. Breakwater?”

Breakwater was now in a quandary. If he said he’d come to complain about the upstairs noise directly over his bathroom and the cracked mirror, he ran the risk of alienating his new neighbors, which he’d decided would be both unwise and surely unneighborly toward newcomers. But the damned mirror! The landlord certainly wouldn’t replace it for free, but he was loath to shell out money to replace it out of his own pocket.

“I, uhm . . . ,” he began.


“I . . . I-I just came down to welcome you and your daughter here,” he finally blurted in defeat.

She smiled openly then. Beasley let out a silent sigh of relief. “Really? Why, thank you very much, Mr. Breakwater. None of my other neighbors on this floor have bothered to drop on over yet. That is so very sweet of you to do. Oh, and excuse me, I didn’t introduce myself. I’m Francine Mackleroy. But please call me Fran.”

“Pleased to meet you, uh, Fran . . . and Grenadine.”

“Everybody calls me Gren . . . except my mom,” the girl replied. “Well, some call me Grenada, Grenade, Grenadier, Gremolata, uhm, Gremlin . . . and, well, there are those who call me Fatty, but those snots are taking their lives into their own hands.”

“Grenadine . . . ”

Grenadine was not yet to be silenced. “And then there’s this little nerd in my grade who calls me Abdominous. I could have decked him for that, sure, but somehow it makes me laugh. I mean, how many chubby girls do you know who’ve ever been nicknamed Abdominous?”

“Grenadine, enough!”

Breakwater stifled a guffaw.

“Nice to have met you, Beastly . . . I mean Beasley. I mean Mr. Breakwater.” With that, she gave him an impish wink and quickly retired.

“That girl,” said Fran, shaking her head, but stifling a chuckle of her own. “Uh, say, Mr. Breakwater . . . ”

“Please . . . Beasley.”

“Beasley, then. Won’t you come in and join me in a cup of tea or coffee?”

“Oh, I don’t want to impose . . . ”

“Not a bit! I’d be delighted. And, after all, you’ve come all this way upstairs to welcome us. It’s the least I can do. Ahem . . . and if you have time, I even have some bear claws I can heat up. Made ’em myself.”

Here she fluttered her eyelashes just a tad. This took Breakwater aback somewhat. Did she just flirt then, or did something merely get in her eye? He wondered if it might be prudent to withdraw while he still could. But of course the bear claws decided him otherwise. He accepted Fran Mackleroy’s gracious invitation and stepped inside the apartment where he was pleasantly surprised to see how beautiful she had arranged the living room, and said so. She beamed.

“Thanks! I’m glad you like it. The kitchen’s thataway.”

It was halfway into his second bear claw and animated conversation that Breakwater decided to broach the subject of the cracked mirror. He realized that he was probably still treading on very thin ice in spite of hitting it off quite well with the woman, so he had to do this with some finesse, diplomacy albeit not being a strong characteristic in the man.

“By the way, Fran,” he began, “have you . . . by chance been hearing any strange sounds since you’ve moved in?”

She frowned slightly. “Strange sounds? I don’t know what you mean.”

“Uh, well, I can’t vouch for the plumbing in this complex, but I heard kind of a bang recently and then found a crack in my bathroom mirror. Wasn’t sure if it was a slight earthquake or maybe, uh, a sonic boom.”

“A sonic boom? I thought those were outlawed ages ago over urban lands.”

“Me, too, but what with recent sword-rattling going on in Washington, I thought maybe our Air Force was doing special drills or something.”

“Not to my knowledge. And you say your mirror was cracked?”

“Yeah. The strangest thing.”

He watched her mulling it over, and waited. He also nibbled more on his bear claw, nearly swooning how great it tasted. Please, God, he prayed in silence, don’t let me muff this one. She glanced at him, gave him a quick, grateful smirk for liking her pastry, and returned to her ruminations. Finally, she cleared her throat.

“You know, Beasley, I’ll be frank with you. I didn’t feel any earthquake, nor did I hear any sonic booms. It’s actually been kind of quiet around here. I never hear a peep out of my next-door neighbors. In fact, sometimes I think their apartments are vacant, or they were murdered in their sleep and nobody has investigated yet.”


She grinned. “Just kidding, just kidding. But the fact is, they don’t kick up a fuss at all. And both Grenadine and I try to be likewise. I mean, we aren’t exactly quiet as mice, but we do pretty much keep things down to a dull roar at most. At the same time, this cracked mirror deal puzzles me. You say you noticed it right after hearing weird sounds?”

“Yes. Kindalike . . . oh, I don’t know, maybe barbells dropping on the floor?”

“My word! Barbells? Coming from your bathroom, you say?”


“Mmm . . . ” She glanced at Beasley for a moment with pressed lips, as though deciding whether or not to say something.

“Mmm?” Mmmed Beasley.

She squeezed the tip of her nose, still hesitating, then cleared her throat. “Poltergeists,” she announced.

Beasley blinked. “Poltergeists?”

She nodded. “Call me crazy but, mm-hmm . . . gotta be that. You’ve got a poltergeist or poltergeists in your bathroom.”

“Well, uh, I don’t know anything about that . . . ”

“Maybe not, but I do.”

“You do?”

“You bet I do. Well, not directly, of course, but my grandparents, God rest their souls, were battling a whole passel of them for years where they lived, Nearly wrecked their tavern up in Montana.”

“Your grandparents owned a tavern?”

“Yeah, in Hamilton. Damned poltergeists plagued them for years. Kept tipping over beer glasses, trashing their garbage cans, breaking bottles, upturning tables and stools, marauding the storage room. Finally had to get rid of the place. Sold it to some city slicker from back east.”

“And it couldn’t have been local rivals?”

“Well, that’s what everybody told my grand-folks, but they were convinced otherwise. Too many weird things happened there they didn’t think people were capable of pulling off. Had to be poltergeists.”

“So you think I have poltergeists?”

“Well, I can’t swear to it, of course, but it sure does smell of poltergeists to me.”

“What do you think I should do?”

“Well, I’m certainly no expert, but there are some things you could do that might get rid of them. I never tried any of them myself, but I never had a poltergeist infestation. I heard these from my grandparents, but just so you know, I can’t claim they ever were experts, ending up having to sell their tavern over the devils, and all. Still, I guess these can’t do any harm.”

“Tell me.”

“You a religious man, Beasley?”

“Um, to tell the truth, I’m not affiliated with any outfit, but I do believe in God.”

“Okay, forget the religious ploys. Here are the secular ones: First, don’t use a Ouija board; they draw spirits.”

“No problem. I don’t even know what a Ouija board is.”

“Good. Next, smudge sticks. These are bound bundles of sage. You light them up and waft the smoke around your apartment.”

“Smudge sticks.”

“Third, ignore the poltergeists.”

“How’s that?”

“They like attention; feed off the stuff. If you ignore them, eventually they get bored and go bother somebody else.”

“I’ll be darned.”

“Yeah. Just don’t send them up our way!”

They both laughed.

“Moving on. Sprinkle salt in entryways. Poltergeists hate the stuff.”

“Kinda like snails?”

Fran nodded, grinning. “Greenery. Poltergeists don’t like it. We can’t plant any evergreens here in the complex, I would imagine, but you can keep pots of green plants in your apartment.”


“That’s all I got.”

Beasley sighed. “Well, I don’t know if any of this will work, but I’ll give it a go.”

“Again, this stuff comes from my grandparents. I’ve never tried any of it myself.”

“All the same, I thank you.” Breakwater glanced at his watch. “Listen, I’ve taken way too much of your time. I should go. Thank you so much for your delicious bear claws. They were absolutely delicious. And I’m so glad I’ve met you.”

They both stood up. “Listen,” said Fran, “let’s keep in touch, okay? You’re welcome here any time. And thank you for taking the time to welcome me and Grenadine as new neighbors. Hey, Grenadine!”

“What, Mom?” cried the girl from her bedroom.

“Say goodbye to Mr. Breakwater.”

“Bye, Mr. Beastly!”


Breakwater laughed and then returned to his apartment, lovely thoughts floating through his head. He decided he liked Fran Mackleroy and her daughter just fine. And he also decided that maybe, just maybe, Fran might be a very nice match for him. He looked forward to seeing her again. True, the poltergeist theory seemed a stretch, but hell, if it ended up bringing the two together, more power to them!

Meanwhile, upstairs, Fran Mackleroy, fuming, thundered into her daughter’s bedroom. Grenadine was rocking quietly in her computer chair while reading a book. She looked up at her mother with a seraphic smile. “What’s up?”

“What’s up? I’ll tell you what’s up, young lady. I better never catch you dropping those damned barbells of yours ever again on the bathroom floor or anywhere else!”

Grenadine nodded, smirking. “You’re welcome, Mom.”

“What do you mean by that, you little brat?”

“Well . . . I guess you never would have met that nice Mr. Beastly — or should I say my potential future stepfather? — if they hadn’t slipped out of my hands.”

Steve Pulley

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My Wife Is Batman

Dark Living Room At Night Color Grading  Owen's Photolog Classy Decorating DesignMy wife is Batman. Well, maybe more precisely Batwoman. Or, I suppose you could also say: Batgirl, Batgal, or even Bathottie (pronounced bat-hottie, not bath-ottie) would also do equally well. She is a hottie, after all. The point is, when she learned much to her horror that her name Barbastelle is the eponym of a European bat and not a mashup of Barbara and Estelle, she stopped talking to her parents for several years. And, all along, I thought rightfully so.

. . . Until early one morning I found her hanging upside-down from a rafter in our den.

Suddenly being confronted with the fact I was the husband of Batwife (yeah, I think I’m settling on Batwife; not only does it have a certain je ne sais quoi that the other options do not, it also better describes my intimate relationship with the woman) came as something of a shock, I admit it. At first I didn’t even see her aloft. When you traipse into the den at that hour of the morning, and with the lights still off, your eyes are usually focused on the floor, not the ceiling, so you don’t end up stubbing your toes on the kids’ strewn-out toys, or tripping over the ottoman or the coffee table in front of the TV set and cracking your head wide open.

Then I heard a gasp and then an expletive. Alarmed, heart pounding, I looked around, but saw no one. It never occurred to me to look up.

“Here I am.” This was followed by a resigned sigh from somewhere.

“Barbie?” I usually call her Barbie, since Barbastelle seems a little long a name to be using between spouses all the time, not to mention her antipathy toward its meaning.

“Look up, Goosebumps.”

Yes, believe it or not, her pet name for me is Goosebumps. I know! It’s really Gustavo Baker, aka Gus Baker, named after Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, a Spanish post-romanticist poet and writer, playwright, literary columnist, and artist of the 19th century. My father contended that we were descendants of the famous man. Let’s not even go there, other than to say that about the only Spanish I know is “¿qué pasa?” and “¡qué lástima, pobrecito!” Anyhow, Barbie did not like to call me Gustavo, since I only knew enough Spanish to say “¿qué pasa?” and “¡qué lástima, pobrecito!”, and even less in Portuguese and Italian, so in her eyes I didn’t rate being called Gustavo. And she wasn’t really all that crazy about Gus either. So I became Goosebumps. Being the wily woman that she is, she convinced me that I gave her goosebumps whenever we got to fooling around . . . in a titillating way, she assured me.

I looked up. There she was. Hanging there from a rafter. In her pajamas. I couldn’t tell whether by her toes or by her heels. Had she been in her nightgown it would have been more provocative, of course, but in any case it was still too dark to see that well.

“Barbie? What are you doing up there?” I said. I realize I’m not the brightest light bulb in the house at this hour when it comes to asking the right questions, but then again I wasn’t yet fully awake . . . and it was, as mentioned, pretty gloomy up there.

“I can explain,” she said.

“And I’m sure you can and will, darling. But could you please come down here to do it? I fear that in that position all your blood might be flowing into your brain and you’ll pass out and fall and hurt yourself. And the fact of the matter, it’s also giving me a crick in my neck looking up at you like this.”

“Okay, Goosy, but don’t freak out when you see my wings.”

Steve Pulley

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Never Hit a Man With Glasses

neverhitamanwithglassesNever hit a man with glasses
for kissing you with drool.
He likely mistook your luscious lips
for tasty cordon bleu.

Steve Pulley

Posted in Poems | Leave a comment

Knot in the Floor: A Halloween Story

knotinthefloorRocío Solería saw the knot in the living room floor after the workers from Terra Firma Flooring, Ltd. had renovated the existing hardwood boards and re-stained them . . . the wrong color. It was supposed to be gunstock but instead turned out more of a rosewood, and not only reddish, but also several shades darker than she had asked for. Rocío was not a demanding person by nature, but the hateful change of tone had uncharacteristically pissed her off. And from where had this unsightly knot emerged? She had not noticed one there before.

Rocío got down on her hands and knees to eye it more closely, and immediately became further incensed to find that the knot in the floor was also loose. In other words, it probably meant that beneath it there would also be a hole. She did not need a hole in her living room floor. She rocked the knot back and forth with the nails of her forefinger and thumb, and within seconds extracted the knot, revealing what she had expected: a hole. And not just an ordinary hole, but an abysmal hole! How far down did it go!

¡Maldito sea! ¡Estos hijos de su madre!” she swore. Then blushed. “Oops!”

She quickly looked around to see if any of her children were present, then remembered that they were staying over at their father’s house for Halloween. Rocío and Frank had divorced three years earlier, and so their three kids played merry-go-round between homes every couple of weeks. She wouldn’t see them again until the coming weekend. She loved them to death, but with some guilt she also had to admit to herself that their periodic absence was a respite so she could attend uninterrupted to her profession as a novelist without having to worry about attending constantly to their needs. But she would miss them this year for Halloween. They all looked so cute, making their rounds in their scarey costumes and oversized tote bags for treats.

But back to the hole! She leaned forward again and peered more closely, then stuck her index finger into the gap all the way to the hilt, pulled it out, looked at it, then sat up, frowning. Something was very wrong here. She knew enough about floors that under the hardwood boards there should also be subflooring on which the hardwood supported itself. There was no way she should be able to stick her finger that far into that hole if there was a subfloor beneath. Why hadn’t the floor people picked up on that? Or had they caused it? No, that wasn’t possible because they hadn’t even removed any hardwood boards. They’d merely re-sanded and re-stained them, and any repair work would have been minimal and cosmetic. So what the heck was going on here? She inserted her finger again, this time feeling around. She realized then that the hole was only as wide as the knot, for her finger touched subflooring along the edges.

“Curiouser and curiouser,” she murmured, remembering “Alice in Wonderland.” Which suddenly triggered another memory from that same book, this one of a certain poem:

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!

How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in,
With gently smiling jaws!

Rocío let out a frightened yelp, and jerked her finger from the hole. “¡Carajo! I mean ¡caracho!

She slapped her hand over her mouth at the vulgarity, what her mother would have swatted the hell out of her for, along with a good tongue-lashing, and maybe a mouthful of soap for good measure. She shivered at the thought, shook it off, then inspected her finger, still intact, and sighed. “¡Idiota! Is it possible I’m suffering from Halloween Terror Syndrome at my age?”

She laughed then . . . until she remembered why she was down on the floor in the first place. She uttered another imprecation, made quick amends, stood up and headed for her phone, dialed the number of Terra Firma Flooring, gave the hapless man who answered a piece of her mind, who consequently promised to send their expert over the very next day to survey the situation.

Night came, Rocío turned on the porch light and handed out candies and cookies and chocolates to festooned witches, demons, ghouls, zombies, space aliens, lords, princesses, angels, rock stars, and only God knew who else, feigning fright or delight at each one, depending on the costume.

At last, the pre-diabetic hordes thinned out and finally ceased, and she turned off the porch light and those in the living room and kitchen. She’d bring in the carved pumpkin heads and other Halloween decorations skirting the front door the next morning. But for now she wanted to put in two or three hours of work on her current manuscript, “La sublevación de las abuelitas“,* before she conked out. The novel was a fictional account loosely based on the so-called “Graffiti Grandmas Revolution” in Lisbon, Portugal, back in 2015, in which a bunch of grandmothers joined Project “Lata 65” (Aerosol Can 65), a collective that taught adults and seniors what street art is and how they could express themselves through it. Rocío had a feisty grandmother of her own, also an artist, though with paint brush applied to canvas rather than spray paint applied to somebody’s wall, but nonetheless with the same ardor for social justice.

When at last Rocío had pooped out and decided to retire to bed, she made a last round of her house to make sure that all doors and windows were battened down, alarm system on, and all lights off. That was when she saw a beam radiating from the infamous hole in her living room floor and shining onto the ceiling directly above.

She was sure her heart stopped then for an instant. Then it began to pound. For a full minute she stood stock still, her flesh crawling, and if she had hackles, then surely they would have been standing tall as well. It wasn’t like the light was somehow shining through from the basement. Her house did not have a basement. When she rented the place, there had been no talk of a basement, nor had she seen any evidence at all anywhere of either an inside stairway or an outside cellar door to a basement. Ergo, there was no basement and, hence, not supposed to be a light of any kind shining from that condenado hole in the floor!

So why was a light shining from that damned hole?

Rocío knew, from the wisdom of countless horror movies, that you should never ever-ever enter old abandoned Victorian mansions, investigate strange moaning sounds coming from the attic, or explore dark, clammy basements in the middle of the night. Things never go well if you are boneheaded enough to do so, which almost invariably happens in countless horror movies, and in spite of every kind of dire warning. And yet well aware of this, Rocío found herself all the same drawn mothlike toward that very shaft of light she sensed meant doom.

As she tip-toed toward the object of her terror and then slowly got down on her hands and knees to crawl, it suddenly occurred to her the true reason why she’d left Frank. It wasn’t because of irreconcilable differences. It was because the sinvergüenza never was around when she really needed him.

“Frank, you bastard,” she whimpered, and timorously peeked into the hole.

Steve Pulley

* “The Insurrection of the Grandmas”
Source: “La entrañable revolución de las abuelas grafiterashttp://www.playgroundmag.net/noticias/actualidad/abuelas-viral_0_1541845812.html

English Translation:
The Beloved Graffiti Grandmothers Revolution
Lata 65 is a group of graffiti grandmothers that is turning both the network and the streets of Lisbon [Portugal]upside down.
When your grandmother went out for her daily walk, you might have thought she was going shopping, or perhaps taking a stroll in the park, or visiting her group of gossipy friends. The truth is that you were not totally wrong, because the grandmothers, seemingly simple as we might perceive them, are in fact balls of fire. They have a huge voice, an excessive force and a desire to live that sometimes is hard to believe.
The grandchildren of a group of grandmothers in Lisbon must also have been astonished when they saw their beloved grannies appear in the news throughout the world thanks to Project Lata 65 (Spray Can 65), a collective that teaches adults or seniors what street art is and how can they express themselves through it.
With the help of professional artists, these ladies have demonstrated that some artistic manifestations and political weapons are not exclusive to young people. Beyond the curious viral phenomenon, Lata 65 has managed to give life to some walls of the poorest neighborhoods of the city, turning the project into something much bigger and more important than it was in the beginning. Prepared for festivals and for many more actions, the components of Lata 65 have much to say, and to draw.
These women are true warriors.
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