Moonshine Mayhem in McKinleyville

Moonshining

Circa 1950, The Arcata Union Newspaper

Mystery Murders in McKinleyville Continue

“Locals say the horrific murders are happening during full moons and claim it’s an ancient Yurok curse.

This reporter was unable to get anyone in town to go on the record about the supposed curse.

All that’s known for sure is the victims were all horribly mutilated. County coroner reports have been consistent in the analysis that it was probably a wild animal attacking people.”

McKinleyville is a small town that proudly harkens back to its early pioneer days and independent citizens. A sign posted, as you come into town over the hill, says, “McKinleyville – Where Horses Have The Right of Way.”

It was a quiet unincorporated town without its own police force. The city fathers contracted with the County of Humboldt for protection.

As can be imagined, response times were often slow when an emergency happened in Mack Town (what the locals called it) because it was located 21 miles north. Residents of McKinleyville did their best to solve their own problems.

Grandpa Zeke was a moonshiner. His whiskey took the paint off metal, but was popular throughout the county. His still, set up east of the populated area of Mack Town, was a hand-me-down from his father.

The old man came into town every Sunday to sell his Hooch to the church-going husbands who bought his whiskey after church services were over, in a back alley. Children loved him because he was always telling tall tales.

Four months after the brutal murders began Zeke started showing up in town every night at the local bar. It became the talk of the small community. Old Zeke was buying commercial whiskey instead of drinking his own product.

Even more puzzling, Zeke wasn’t talking with anyone. He sat at a small table alone. After drinking steadily for an hour, or more, Zeke would start babbling gibberish about werewolves and moonshine not mixing very well.

The town fathers became concerned when the owner/bartender, Bob Goldswaith, told them about Zeke’s recent drinking habit during a town meeting. It was decided that two of them would have a talk with old Zeke the next time he came to town.

They found Zeke the next night drinking at Bob Goldswaith’s bar. The old man was well into his cups when they greeted him.

Zeke…how are you doing old friend?” one man asked.

“Are you okay? I never saw you come to this bar in my life,” the second man asked, with a touch of concern in his voice.

Zeke looked at the two town fathers. He knew them well. They were among some of his best customers. “You boys will think I’m crazy if I tell you what’s happening,” he drunkenly replied.

“No! Not, at all!” they protested.

Zeke poured some whisky from the bottle in the middle of the table and invited them to pull up a chair.

“About four months ago some fella showed up at my still. Said he was looking for a safe place to stay in the woods. I said, safe from what? Myself, he said. Well, I can tell you right now, I thought that sounded odd.

“Said his name was Walt. No last name. I told him there were plenty of places to stay. I showed him a redwood that a natural hidey hole at the base. He thanked me and I went back to my still.

“The next day, I was sampling my latest batch of moonshine when Walt showed up. He asked if he could have a snort and I handed him a cup. Then another. Pretty soon he was getting lit up and telling me stories about his life.

“I was getting tired when the moon came out and Walt jumped to his feet and howled like a wolf! For a brief moment I thought that was the damnist reaction I’d ever seen from my Hooch!

“When he started getting hairy and dropped to all fours, I got up and ran like a buck chasing a doe in heat! 

“Ran all the way to my cabin and sat there in the dark shaking like a leaf.”

Both men had skepticism edged on their faces, but one still asked, “So, what happened next?” 

Zeke picked up the bottle and took a healthy swig.

“Nothing. Nothing else happened that night. About a month later Walt showed up as I was tending my still. We stared at each other a long time before he apologized for scaring me. Said he was a werewolf, but did his best not to kill folks, just animals.

“I wasn’t sure what to do, so I offered him a drink. He gladly accepted. We talked until the full moon came out and he ran off howling again.

“It wasn’t until the third time that I saw Walt, that I suspected he was killing people. By then it had become routine. He’d come by on full moons to swig my moonshine and murder my neighbors.

“So, I did the only thing I could, and destroyed my still and my whole stash of moonshine. It was apparent Walt could’nt hold his liquor and got murderous when he drank it. That was three weeks ago.

“The next full moon is coming up tomorrow night. Recon we’ll see if my plan worked out and Walt went back to catching animals instead of humans.”

As It Stands, what could be worse than a drunk werewolf?

 

The Dentist’s Dilemma

The devil is in the details

p10003331Francisco Caputa, DDS, was ready for a life change in the summer of 1938.

He was sick of living in New Jersey, and had no roots to keep him there. His practice of five years was successful, but terribly boring.

That’s why when his cousin Alesandro Carbone called and said he was retiring from his dentistry practice in Bisceglie, Italy, he asked if anyone else was taking his place?

When Alesandro said no one was, a crazy thought went through his head. Move to Italy? His ancestors were from Bisceglie. He only spoke broken Italian, but the allure of moving to an exotic location like Italy was strong.

A month later, after selling his practice in the small town of Millstone, Francisco  moved to Bisceglie. At first, he stayed with his cousin while he searched for office space and an apartment.

Two weeks later he was ready to open. Alesandro helped him settle and vouched for him among the townsfolk. It wasn’t long before he had a steady flow of customers. The people were friendly, especially when they found out his family once lived there three generations ago.

A month later, while drinking at a bar, a drunk Allesandro was talking about the special visitors who sometimes came to get dental work done…at night. “They pay well, just don’t pester them with questions,” his drunken cousin warned.

That sounds strange to me,” Francisco responded, slurring his words while trying to focus on what his cousin was telling him.

“I assure you it’s an old practice, dating back hundreds of years, here in Bisceglie,” Allesandro explained.

Francisco woke the next morning with the worst headache in his life. He’d never consumed that much wine in one setting. While splashing water on his face at the bathroom sink, he vaguely recalled a conversation about “night visitors.”

Two days later an elegant card was hand-delivered to him. The beautiful hand-written script was bordered with Black Roses. It said: “Appointment at 9 p.m. I look forward to meeting you.” It was signed, Count Massimo Barzetti.

The hours slowly drug by. Francisco was torn between curiosity and dread as he puttered around his apartment. At ten to nine, he walked over to his office which was just a short way from the apartment.

Oddly, the streets were empty, unlike a few nights ago when he went on the drinking binge with Alesandro. He unlocked the door to his office and flipped on the light switch. No light. Frowning, he found his desk and lit the candle on it with his Zippo.

It was a small office with just two rooms. One with a dentistry chair and acudaments, and the other a bathroom. The waiting room consisted of his desk and three old wooden chairs by the window.

Promptly at 9 p.m., Count Massimo Barzetti, appeared outside the front door. He seemed to be waiting for something, so Francisco opened it for him. The tall thin man was dressed in a black casual suit and gold tie.

Once inside, he introduced himself and said it was time for his monthly cleaning and whitening. As surreal as it seemed, Francisco still managed to function and extended his arm towards the room with the dentistry chair.

“I’m going to need power,” Francisco said in a daze.

The count waved his arm and the electricty was restored. He then calmly got into the chair and leaned his head back.

When the count opened his mouth, Francisco reeled back in fear and loathing. The sharp fangs were tainted by old blood!

It’s really alright Mr. Carbone. Your great-grandfather was a good friend of mine. I must say, I’m pleasantly surprised to find out that my new dentist has local roots. It’s not in the contract, you know.”

“What contract?” Francisco managed to squeak in his suddenly high voice.

“It looks like your cousin forgot to mention this to you. He’s a sneaky one, I’ll give him that. As they say, the devil is in the details! According to the contract, there is only one Dentist allowed in Bisceglie, and he can’t quit his job until he finds a suitable replacement.”

The room started to spin and Francisco felt faint with fear. He had to ask what happened if the “new” dentist decided to leave?

The count smiled warmly and said he’d be locked up in his castle where he’d become a taste treat for his guests. “But it’s never happened before, and we’ve been doing this for untold generations.”

Francisco’s choice suddenly became crystal clear.

“When was the last time you flossed?” he asked.

As It Stands, I admit to having an unnatural interest in vampires.

 

The Ghouls Night Out

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It was just after midnight when Cindy, Laura, and Tonya arrived at the trendy restaurant in Newcastle’s graveyard.

Blood and Bones offered the very latest in human cuisine and was a good place to be seen.

They were just good old country ghouls who enjoyed mingling with wealthy vampires and werewolves. When their waiter arrived, a zombie in a tuxedo, they ordered Hors d’oeuvres of boiled eyeballs and pickled ears.

The main dish they picked out was bar-b-que ribs, a chilled gut salad, and livers smothered in human fat.

“I still remember the old days,” Cindy said, while chewing on a pickled ear. “We had to hunt around for food and usually ended up with skimpy grave leftovers after the vampires and werewolves were done feasting.”

They toasted with a round of sparkling spinal fluid.

“To progress!” Tonya declared as she drank hers in one gulp.

Laura was delicately sipping hers when she saw a tall dark vampire who looked a lot like Elvis Presley. He was moving from one tombstone table to another casually greeting everyone.

Bela was the genius who came up with The Blood and Bone franchise that now spread throughout New England.

His black hair was swept back in a ducktail. His pale face made his red lips stand out like blood rubies. His black pupils were obsidian orbs that never blinked. The cape he wore over his fine black suit was lined with scarlet red satin.

Tonya saw Laura’s attention was elsewhere. Focused on Bele.

“Isn’t he a snappy dresser?” Tonya asked Laura.

Cindy whispered, “Here he comes,” and hurriedly swallowed the rest of the eyeball she was enjoying.

“I hope the food is acceptable Ladies.”

“Oh, yes…” they agreed in unison.

“You must be new. I don’t recall seeing you here before. I have an eye for pretty ghouls and would have noticed you.”

They were charmed. Finally, Laura spoke up;

“We’re from the hills about 10 miles from here. Not much happens up there, and we get bored. So, we like to have a ghoul’s night out once in a while, and go to a city. You’re right. This is our first time here.”

“How quaint,” Bele noted. “You should know there is a dress code here, and ragged blue jean shorts and low cropped blouses are not on the list.”

As It Stands, I’ve always enjoyed the classic monsters and this is a silly tribute to the genre.

 

Pete’s Last Hope To Stay Out of Hell

Do, or Die

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Questionable souls, standing in line, waited for one last chance to save themselves from the fires of hell.

There were two lines that stretched into infinity. One coming into the arena, and another going out.

The sounds of the Celestial Games filled the air.

“Do you have any idea what our challenge is going to be?” Pete asked the hulking soul in front of him.

“I heard it was different for every soul,” the hulking soul named Tyson replied.

The cacophony of sound increased as they walked into the enormous coliseum packed with Saved Souls seeking entertainment. Super sports fans. They were so good that they didn’t have to compete to stay out of hell. They went directly to Heaven after dying.

God sat on a huge golden throne on the other end of the coliseum. He was wearing a baseball cap and a sports jacket that glittered like diamonds. “Let the games begin!” he roared.

The games consisted of a variety of sports. Baseball. Football. Basketball. Hockey. Soccer. Golf. And boxing. The contestants were assigned a sport. Those in the football line had to tackle famous running back Gale Sayers before he got a touchdown.

Sayers, was one of the happy souls that got to play the game again…and again..in his version of heaven. Determined souls slid right off him as he barreled for touchdown after touchdown.

The souls that were assigned basketball had to make a basket with Wilt Chamberlain guarding them. He happily swatted away desperate shots without working up a sweat.

Those souls in the baseball line had to get a hit against Sandy Koufax. When it came to hockey, the souls had to keep Gordie Howe from scoring a goal. The souls assigned to golf had to play – and beat – Arnold Palmer in a 3-Hole sudden death.

There was one line – in the center of the coliseum where the souls waiting to fight against Mohammad Ali, were groaning out loud with fear.

Pete was in the basketball line. He watched Tyson dribbling the ball around Wilt…looking for a shot. Finally he thought he saw an oppening and took it. Wilt smiled and waited until the last second before sending it into celestial orbit.

Pete had a few basketball moves, but never played with an organized team. He grew up playing street ball. The were few rules in that version of basketball. He stepped onto the court and was handed a ball.

Pete looked up at Wilt who was smiling at him.

Flashback.

Pete and a four teenage friends are playing pickup basketball at a local gymnasium. Their team is playing one of the tougest groups of thugs in the neighborhood. The “No blood – no foul” rule was in effect.

The other teams center was taller than anyone in the gym. His arms looked unnaturally long and it was nearly impossible to get a shot past him. The game was tied at 19-19 (a point for every basket). It took 20 to win.

Realizing that he couldn’t get around, or shoot over their center, Pete dribbled to half court. Without even trying to drive and pop against their big man, Pete stopped and took aim.

He always had a good set shot. The range wasn’t impossible. He’d made many shots from there before. The center was content to let him make the shot. Everyone else was closely guarded.

Pete fired away. The ball arced and came down smoothly, barely moving the net in its descent. Game over.

“C’mon man! Bring it on! “ Wilt said, with a note of irritation.

According to the rules, a soul had to drive on Wilt and score. But Pete was never too worried about rules. This was sudden death. A deep breath…and Pete released the ball!

As It Stands, this tale was for all of you sports lovers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Drink at Dewey’s Bar

The End To An Era

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Dewey’s Bar was a good place to get drunk and disappear.

It was located next to a unique wormhole that only allowed for time-travel to the planet earth. Life forms from throughout the solar system enjoyed visiting Dewey’s place. Things were always hopping. Good times. Sometimes romance.

The parties at Dewey’s Bar were known to inhabitants of 100 solar systems and galaxies. The owners liked to brag that whatever happened there, stayed there. It was a rogue planet only accessible by extensive criminal contacts and a safe escort through thousands of air mines.

Lonecust, a space raider from Earth, loved Dewey’s bar.

The obnoxious drunks repelled him. But he had to admit it was a good place to get hammered and meet other beings. He watched a lithesome Venusian sip her cocktail like a real lady with her delicate mandibles. Two Martians were laughing at jokes a chubby Neptunian was telling them.

A group of traveling entertainers from Zreeeren, a nearby solar system, were doing magic tricks in an effort to hit on some hot chicks from Jupiter. The background music blended with all the languages being spoken in the cavernous bar.

The thing about Dewey’s bar was that it was a haven for criminals since the earth was formed millions of years ago. Outcasts always populated the tiny dwarf planet that was home to Dewey’s.

For a moment – a zano second – Lonecust thought about backing out of his deal with the Teronnet Federation. But he knew he didn’t have a choice. The device they planted in his chest would explode if they thought he wasn’t going to go through with his agreement.

Actually, it was a fair trade, if it wasn’t for blowing himself up with the rest..

Earth was going to be spared the wrath of the Teronnet Federation if he planted the bomb behind the bar and blew up this dwarf planet. Of course, he understood that they expected him to be blown to hell with everyone else.

Still, he thought, there was hope, as he sipped a Plutonian boilermaker. If he could jump into the wormhole right after planting the bomb (that second), he’d end up somewhere in Earth’s history.

Nostalgia unexpectedly brought a tear to his eye. How long was it since he had his first drink at Dewey’s bar? At least 30 years. In one swift movement Lonecust jumped over the bar, stuck the magnetic bomb onto a keg of moon beer, and melded into the wormhole by the mirror.

The next moment Lonecust was sipping a beer at Dewey’s Bar in Scranton, Pennsylvania circa 1952. It was 2 a.m., and the owner, Mike Dewey, called for a last drink.

As It Stands, I suspect there will be a time when time travel is commonplace.

 

Why The Talking Turtle Snapped

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Everyone that knew Sheldon was amazed that he had a talking turtle. 

They would ask him where he found this talented turtle, but he only gave a sly smile in return.

Every since he shared Terry (the turtle) with the world last week, both had become instant celebrities.

Terry’s high voice sounded a lot like Don Knotts. One night they were guests on a Late Night TV program and Terry told the host to go screw himself! The audience roared in laughter. The host’s face turned crimson.

Sheldon was stunned. What happened? Where did that comment come from? On the way home that night he kept thinking about Terry’s words. They were off script. That shouldn’t have happened.

Something had to be wrong with the artificial intelligence chip he inserted behind Terry’s scaly skull. It took him two years to develop that tiny little brain. He even lost his job at the laboratory six months ago when they discovered he was conducting unauthorized experiments in artificial intelligence.

He didn’t let that setback bother him however. He lived alone and had a fair amount of money in his checking and savings accounts. He set up a new work area in his basement and spent all of his waking hours tinkering with the chip.

When the day came that he thought it was time to test the chip in a host, he went out into his backyard and retrieved his pet turtle Terry. He thought about using his pug as a host, but realized he’d have to cut his vocal cords and he couldn’t bring himself to do that.

The host had to be silent so it wouldn’t compete with the chip’s voice. That’s why Terry was the perfect host. He continued to program the chip after implanting it in Terry’s neck.

Word recognition. The ability to intelligently talk with someone. Long memory. Constant evolving learning process. Weeks of conversations with the chip inside Terry brought amazing results.

The chip learned how to believe it was a turtle. The Don Knott’s voice was on a whim. Sheldon thought Terry kinda looked like him. A sense of humor never hurt anyone. Right?

Back in the basement. A day had passed since the disastrous late night TV debacle and Sheldon and Terry were deep in conversation.

“Let’s see if I have got this right,” Sheldon said, “You didn’t like him joking with you?”

That’s right,” Terry replied between bites of lettuce.

“Where’s your sense of humor Terry?”

“It’s highly over-rated. Who needs it?” he replied, before digging back into his meal.

The whole incident raised some alarms for Sheldon. It was obvious he couldn’t control what Terry said. No more interviews. Who knew what could happen? He needed more time to study Terry.

He stayed at home working most of the time in the basement while Terry liked to sit on his pillow in the corner and watch the small screen TV Sheldon had set up for him. Whenever he saw a comedy, or people laughing, Terry got upset and made hissing sounds.

“What the hell?” Terry shouted one night when he turned on an old re-run of The Ghost and Mr. Chicken starring Don Knotts.

“Sheldon!” Terry screamed. “What’s this?” 

Sheldon hurried over to the corner and asked “What’s the matter Terry?”

“That skinny bug-eyed idiot has my voice!”

“It’s a good voice” Sheldon weakly defended.

“Everyone laughs every time he opens his mouth! The guy’s a laughingstock! Is that what you think of me?”

Sheldon felt trapped. “Listen, I didn’t know you weren’t going to have a sense of humor. I like Don Knotts. I’ve seen all of his movies and use to watch him on Andy of Mayberry.”

Terry was no longer listening. His anger reverberated throughout his shell. He wasn’t a clown. He had pride. Turtle power! From that moment on, he planned on how he was going to get his revenge.

As It Stands, this very short story reflects my concern for the growing science of artificial intelligence…with a twist.

 

 

 

 

 

It All Started When The Pot called The Kettle Black

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A spirited discussion was taking place in the kitchen.

A spate between the spoons and the forks was threatening to make the butter knives leave the drawer in search of a more peaceful place.

Everyone seemed on edge.

Then a pot called a kettle black. Well, that did it! The two banged into each other and sent the plates and coffee cups flying off the counter. This moment had been building up since they moved in a month ago.

The copper kettle started causing trouble the first night there. In no uncertain terms the kettle informed the pots, pans, dishes, silverware, glasses, and cups – that it ruled the kitchen.

The human used the kettle five times more than he did pots or pans. A bachelor, he didn’t like to cook. But he sure enjoyed his tea.

This self-appointed status largely went unchallenged for weeks, with only occasional grumbling coming from the pots in the lower cupboard. The pans were pretty low-key and stayed out of the brewing feud.

Brooding one day, one of the pots decided to break all the rules. Again. That damn kettle was insufferable. When the human got home the pot intended to have a few words with him. It was early morning.

The human stumbled into the kitchen, stretched, and yawned. Then the pot asked him to open the cupboard door. Without even giving it a second thought, the human opened the door and stared dumbly inside.

When the police arrived after the 911 call, a neighbor reported hearing screams inside. They entered the house and found a man  dead on the kitchen floor. He had cuts and bruises all over his body. It looked like the kitchen imploded.

The kitchen drawers and cupboards were emptied of their contents. Curiously, nothing was broken. Everything was gathered up and put in a box after the police were finished examining every piece.

A year later the police department held a sale of unclaimed items with the proceeds going to a local charity. One of the first things to sell was a big box of kitchenware. Everything from pots and pans to a copper kettle.

The happy couple were just starting out, and they needed everything for their new home. That night voices came from the kitchen.

“You two ignore each other,” a pair of coffee mugs warned the pot and the kettle, “or we’re going to end up in that damn box again.”

As It Stands, I’m dedicating this story to Alfred Hitchcock, a master at throwing a wicked twist into a story.