<![CDATA[Honesty Is Not Contagious - Rants]]>Sun, 17 Dec 2017 16:46:29 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Self-Annihilation]]>Mon, 18 Dec 2017 00:32:28 GMThttp://honestyisnotcontagious.com/rants/self-annihilation"Come my children gather round.
For I have sweets most profound.
Guaranteed to absolutely astound.
Some may even confound,
But the daring will be blessed
To be able to attest
Having got to ingest
Wonders one has never guessed."
 
I'll confess
To being curious what might manifest.
So paid the coin, and the barker ferried me within
To witness, tongue, touch, and listen
To delights beyond comprehension.
Words alone barely offer definition,
The spectacle remains, to those who've never known,
A reality that cannot be shown.
A photo might come close,
Yet like the most poetic prose
Hardly offers a sense of the aromatic,
Sensual caresses eliciting ecstatic
Cries demanding orgiastic
Pursuits of the orgasmic.
And when the hour expired
I found myself as if fired
Shot out into the street
Where reality could not meet
The ambrosial stimulation I needed,
So, unaware the hunger seeded,
I offered every penny I possessed
Until destitute, the fiend addressed
My lack of funds with a suggestion
I didn't hesitate to question.
 
He said, "Don't be nervous.
Perhaps you could work in my circus.
We always need players,
Part of the party makes you payer.
Well, enough to justify
Whatever needs you wish to satisfy."
 
Signing the parchment he produced
I instantly realized to what I'd been reduced.
So sought to drown sorrows,
And not worry until tomorrow's
Sun rise heralding my setting
I embraced this all-wetting
Psychedelic phantasmagoric
Circus of wonders euphoric
But now tainted, it grew dysphoric.
Exponentially less pleasing
Until the street dealer came teasing
 
He said, "There are layers
Each depth to answer evolving prayers,
But the price is steeper. 
Nothing better gets cheaper."
 
And so began my descent from whore
Into horror.
I took comfort in being a nightmare
Beyond compare.
Cannibal cuisine,
Sex in the latrine,
Gore beyond the mean
Set by the obscene
Mary Jane Kelly scene;
I went to the depths hoping to vanish
In the abyss, perhaps even banish
Any shred of a soul,
So have nothing to toll
My passage to Hell,
Forever hoping to dwell
In this circus infernal.
But no matter what my diurnal
Ambitions devised
I always unintentionally realized
No matter how well hid
I could not undo what I did.
Yet, perhaps I'd become demon enough
To convince the barker in manners rough
To let me go.
So I went to show
The devil I'd become,
And when he saw, he bid me welcome.
I demanded he release my soul whole,
And he started laughing out of control.
 
He said, "Dearest fool,
Let me impart a simple rule,
You should treasure as a jewel.
Before you incline
To anything asinine,
Read the contract before you sign."
 
He handed it to me then,
And reading I began to grimly comprehend.
I could quit at my choosing --
Fate within my control.
So the soul
Was always mine for the losing.
He destroyed me
Simply by allowing me to be.

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<![CDATA[Sazerac Backlash -- Empty by Drips -- Electronic Voice Phenomenon]]>Sat, 09 Dec 2017 01:03:00 GMThttp://honestyisnotcontagious.com/rants/sazerac-backlash-empty-by-drips-electronic-voice-phenomenonI've been getting ready to do some spoken word for the Coffee & Whiskey variety show fundraiser.  As such the story I penned for this week's post is dropping next week.  Mainly I'm hoping to have a video, or at least audio of me performing it tomorrow.  If you live in the Chicago area, please come on by.  There's going to be a lot of quality acts.  
In the meanwhile, I decided to put up some fresh art.  The three pieces below are entitled "Sazerac Backlash", and "Electronic Voice Phenomenon 1 & 2", and "Empty by Drips".  I mainly enjoyed putting together "Electronic Voice Phenomenon 1 & 2" because because it reminded me that simplicity is usually the best move, a lesson I learned after crafting "Sazerac Backlash".  However, it's all good stuff.  Enjoy!  ...and remember you can find all this on our Instagram as well:  https://www.instagram.com/jackblankhsh/​
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<![CDATA[Daddy's Comin' Home for Christmas (with a shotgun)]]>Sat, 02 Dec 2017 22:15:58 GMThttp://honestyisnotcontagious.com/rants/daddys-comin-home-for-christmas-with-a-shotgunSo a while back I did a creepy little video for the holidays.  It was about a man who straight up loses his mind during an alcohol fueled depression, and murders his family with a shotgun.  However, I always felt the music and vocals could've been better.  In addition, I thought the video itself might have been too simple.  Yet, I left it alone because I'm not big on constant revision.  After a certain point you have to say this is the best I can do, I'm happy with the product, and whatever improvements should be aimed at the next project.

Still, as time went by, I started thinking why not go back to this piece?  I can do much more now than when I first crafted it.  The video is still simple, but the timing on some edits is much more solid.  Also, using modest effects I think I added an extra level of visual creepiness.  It's not technically in HD, though I find that's a good trick for hiding low budget effects.  In addition, the music is much better than the original, and some lyrical changes were made to fit the music better.  I also redid the vocals. 

If you didn't catch the original release don't sweat it.  This is a better version.  Does that mean in three years I'll drop some other revised edition... I hope not, but only time will tell.  And if you already enjoyed the original, I get a feeling you'll like this even more.  In the meanwhile, enjoy "Daddy's Comin' Home for Christmas..."

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<![CDATA[Manson Eyes]]>Tue, 28 Nov 2017 23:34:14 GMThttp://honestyisnotcontagious.com/rants/manson-eyesWandering the ruins
giddy in the aftermath of august
decades since '69
broken bricks, bars,
and a décollage of quotes --
living a hundred years in one day
yet no idea what's been said.
Words seem repetitive
while no way the same:
tramp, bum, hobo;
boxcar; jug of wine --
happy to be a scribble
any way anyone could define.
Straight razor
held too close
by a vanishing ghost.
Pope in the hills
pulling the lever
thinking it clever
attempting to trigger
what few can figure.
 
A murky reflection
in a fractured mirror
resembles a coyote,
and Christ on the cross
howling at the moon
summoning the lost
children of the corn
come calling
Matthew, Mark, Susan,
Tex, Luke, and Linda;
Big Patty in the kitchen
fetching utensils
to turn a white gown red,
and leave a fork in the dead.
The family just extensions
of what society bred
strays well fed
by sight of those eyes
in the looking glass
begging a question
no one asked
or answered
though everyone does.
 
If the murders start
will there be
anyone left?

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<![CDATA[National Christmas Kick-off Day 2017]]>Fri, 24 Nov 2017 22:24:02 GMThttp://honestyisnotcontagious.com/rants/national-christmas-kick-off-day-2017With the Redskins battling the Giants, one can't help wondering if some epic story is hidden beneath the surface.  That a football game, or any sporting event could be more meaningful than the simple details is hardly new.  However, notions that perhaps, just maybe, there's an underlying current -- if the Redskins win ancient native gods will rise up, spectral entities emerging in the stadium to slaughter the white devils. 
 
Such thoughts creeping into the foreground I find myself rooting for the racist titled team.  It's odd to current company, given they've never seen me so enthusiastic about a sporting event.  Even hockey, which I enjoyed enough to play as a youth, I rarely leap out of my seat shouting, "Murder that motherfucker."
 
And it isn't until Debbie the bartender passes me a shot to soften my mood, whispering, "You know if those gods come back, you're fucking white." -- I realize I'm rooting for my own destruction.  No doubt.  Yet, I long for it just the same.
 
Not from sense of social justice, simply the extension of a booze twisted thought aspiring to indirect suicide.  For it's been a rough run the last few hours.  I don't even remember coming into the bar.  The spiral is circling the drain, though what bothers me most is that I feel an odd guilt not wanting to go down the tubes. 
 
Hours earlier, stomach empty and head clear, I took a deep breath then plunged into the maelstrom of family.  Opening the door I literally walked into the barrel of a gun.
 
Dad grunted, "Oh, it's you.  There've been robberies." 
 
Instead of uncocking the pistol, he uses it to shoot the top off his beer.  Tucking the gun in his pants he waves for me to follow.  I've learned over the years not to say no to a man with a gun. 
 
In the living room I find my brother.  He looks like a whale beached itself in a recliner.  Seeing me he gestures at his kids.  My nephews and niece immediately spring into action, turning the chair so he can face me.
 
"How's things?" he says jolly.
 
I shrug, "It's been better, but I can't complain."
 
Work is nothing to talk about, not during family gatherings.  I'm sure most folks like to mention job nonsense, however, in my family, such conversations always end with the parental declaration:  "You're wasting your life."  So it's always safer simply to stay vague.  If the bills are paid, and no begging ensues, that's all Pops wants to know. 
 
Besides, I've no desire to inform anyone that selling bootleg porn is not a booming industry.  Maybe if I sold it to children, but then I'd have to deal with tweens.  That kind of unpleasantness I don't need.
 
Mom emerges from the kitchen.  She hugs me.  The aroma of dinner wafts off her, and my mouth starts watering. 
 
She says, "It's just going to be us this year."
 
"No freeloading cunts," Pops says.  Secured in the ass groove he's honed in the couch, Pops drinks his broken beer bottle.  Nodding in agreement with some thought, he frowns.
 
Mom grabs my arm, "Come on.  You need to see the bird."
 
I follow her into the kitchen.  She cracks open the oven.  Peering inside I see glistening ham covered in pineapple. 
 
Mom giggles, "The turkey tried to fool me by being a pig, but I knew better."
 
Crusting a margarita glass with her own blend of Vicodin and Xanax, she asks if I'd like a cocktail.  I ask if she'd like me to fix her one.  Her eyes tear up. 
 
"Lord no," she says, "You go watch the screaming box."
 
Shooed out of the kitchen I join my brother and Pops.  Intrigued by absences, I ask my brother where his wife is.  The ten minute explanation of her confinement -- too fat to leave the house -- is made less tragic by the farcical fact my brother is trying to sell the house.  Apparently, his family plans to move into a larger home; however, they can't afford the means of moving Momma until they sell the old place.  As such, they've been having open houses with her still confined within. 
 
"Mixed results," brother says, "But I'm sure we'll find a buyer."
 
Pops grumbles, "Sure you won't."
 
I agree with Pops, but in the interest of holiday conviviality, "It's just a matter of sticking in."
 
The niece and nephews make their way over to me.  The trio is getting less afraid of me over the years.  They used to be terrified of the death metal werewolf who infrequently visited; and I don't blame them.  I once punted my nephew when he came running at me.  His mother insisted the kid wanted a hug, but I know a dangerous gremlin when I see one.  Yet, as time's gone by we've softened to one another.  I suspect them less of evil, and they trust me to be kind.  So I hug them each.
 
Thanks to my brother using them as servers the kids are great at fetching things.  I send them to the kitchen to get me a beer and whiskey.  They depart happily.  As such I can't help wondering what I'm helping them become.  This kind of enabling is never good for anyone. 
 
A flash bang grenade explodes in the living room.  When the cacophony clears Mom is standing in front of the TV.  Looking serene she says, "Diner is served."
 
Pops and I head off.  The niece and nephews return to push Daddy's chair into the dining room.  The table is covered in an array of food worthy of a billionaire's buffet.
 
Gathered together we say a prayer -- Mom improvising, "Lord, we hope the only Lord, thank you for this bounty.  I especially want to thank you for expediting my exit from this evil world of robot mailmen, government vampires, and all around vultures."
 
"Amen," Pops says.  Glaring to kill any follow up, he eyes the room like a sweeping dagger.  My brother glances my way.  I shrug, and focus on opening a bottle of wine.  Having trouble with the cork prompts Pops to toss his gun at me.  Fortunately I'm able to manage without shooting the bottle open. 
 
Pops says, "Suit yourself pussy," and dinner commences. 
 
We gorge.  No other term applies.  The feast is magnificent; Mom out did herself.  Yet a certain awkwardness is present.  Pops keeps sneaking a look at Mom, sometimes reaching over to pat her hand saying softly, "Great meal honey."
 
Every time he does my brother clears his throat, and I nod to acknowledge noticing.  Still, we act like nothing's unusual, continuing to feed until there's no room left in any belly.  There doesn't seem to be anything else to say.  Every time an even remotely serious topic surfaces Pops cuts it off.  It's almost like he suspects backdoor maneuvers aiming at indirect access to some forbidden topic, and in a way, he's right.
 
I say, "So I went to the doctor the other day."
 
"Fuck your doctor," Pops interrupts, "They don't know everything.  You keep ya dick wrapped, you'll be fine." 
 
No arguing with that, and no desire to explore it further, not with my Pops, I let the conversation shift. 
 
But eventually there's no way anyone can eat anymore.  The nephews and niece pass out in food comas on the floor.  Pops undoes his belt.  As usual I offer to help Mom with dishes, but just as usual she shakes her head.
 
She says, "If I don't do it right the sun won't rise."
 
According to her I know how to do dishes well enough for the ordinary every day, but don't know how to appease the dish gods on special occasions.  Maybe if more people did the world wouldn't be the way it is.  So, offer made and predictably rejected, I leave her to it.
 
Pushing my brother into the living room we soon drop into conspiratorial whispers.
 
My brother says, "What the fuck is up?"
 
"Hell if I know."
 
We try not to speculate, waiting instead until Pops enters.  He sees us, the looks on our faces broadcasting our thoughts.
 
He says, "Don't."
 
"What's up?" I say.
 
I can see Pops feeling along his belt line for the gun, having forgotten he left it in the dining room.  Sighing, shoulders slumping down, he trudges to the couch.  Taking a seat he says, "It ain't good."
 
I turn my brother's chair so we can both look Pops in the eye.  Impossible tears float in his eyes.  He starts to speak, says nothing, and holds up an empty glass.  I go to the liquor cabinet, fetching a bottle of high octane whiskey.  After gulping a burning shot, gasping through the sizzle, Pops says, "Your Mom is dying.  Cancer.  I can't say how long."
 
Things start to blur after that.  I took a long pull from the rocket fuel bourbon.  My brother did the same.  Then Pops.  Then me.  The bottle going between us until almost entirely drained.

This might seem arbitrary, a narrative addition out of nowhere, but that's what bad news is.  It applies to no logic, or any convenient timing.  It arrives unexpected, unwanted, and thoroughly undeniable.  The only choice is to accept, or deny, and I have never been one to deny the downside of reality.  It's too blunt to ignore without being willfully ignorant.
 
Mom popped out to announce desert would be on the way shortly.  None of us knew what to say.  So we said nothing.  We just enjoyed the time together -- the best apple pie in the world.
 
And when the night ended, my brother and his kids driving off, I gave Mom a big hug.
 
Squeezing her too tight -- she whispered in my ear, "You can't squeeze it out."
 
She knew we knew. 
 
The night's consumption kicked in, and I found myself in the local bar screaming at a television, believing old gods might be satisfied by a football victory.  Yet, at one point I couldn't help laughing.  Mom washing dishes to be sure the sun rose, her son shouting at a game to change the world -- we were oddly close in that moment.  I knew then, no matter how much I missed her, she would, in a way, always be with me.
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<![CDATA[Awash in a Sea of Broken Glass -- Gentle as a Thorn]]>Sat, 18 Nov 2017 01:08:15 GMThttp://honestyisnotcontagious.com/rants/awash-in-a-sea-of-broken-glass-gentle-as-a-thornTook a break from writing to put together a few simple art pieces.  As usual I don't see the need to explain my thought process too much.  I just started slapping things together, and eventually drifted into the images you'll see below.  Working in a sort of abstract vein, the way I do, it doesn't make much sense to plan things out logically from the beginning.  I like to play around with the image until something connects with my imagination.  By extension, I hope you experience a similar response.

Anyhow, National Novel Writing Month is coming to a close, so you can expect regular stories again soon.  Though for flash fiction appetizers there's always our Tumblr page (https://jackblankhsh.tumblr.com/) as well as the Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/HonestyNotContagious/).  I can't say for sure if I'm going to finish a full novel by the close, but I'll be far along with a solid rough draft.  It's called Killing Lake Michigan: a love story.  More on that as it develops.  

Meanwhile, enjoy:  Awash in a Sea of Broken Glass, and Gentle as a Thorn.

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<![CDATA[Cliff Divers]]>Sat, 11 Nov 2017 06:40:27 GMThttp://honestyisnotcontagious.com/rants/cliff-diversI.
A carbuncle crown
Grown to shine in Hell.
Who fell so well,
Anoint with ooze from the swell
Disciples who've knelt
Pledging to be smelt
Melt down and die-
Cast to guard the rye
From catchers who might
Not let children fly right
Off a cliff running free
Into eternity.

II.
She sleeps inside her scars
Dreaming of cars
Racing drivers praying
Steel nerves will earn
More than the burn
Found in twisted metal --
At the bottom of a drop
Full speed nonstop.
If they'd only settle
For being chicken
There could've been a million
Moments kissing --
what's been missing
Drove off a cliff
Leaving what if...

III.
Entombed in a pyramid of pills
The thrills seemed worth the chills
Freezing sweat the fever spills
When the party ends;
His temporary cure sends
A relief hiding the infectious toxic
Twist of the perfectly imperfect exotic
Blend of poison and antidote.
Then cliché wrote
How he too succumbed
Following the tune drummed
Pied Piper leading,
 dancing off a cliff
Wondering what if...

​IV.
The graveyard shrines built to glow
Illuminate ghosts with a brilliance
Living eyes rarely seem to show
Resulting in unintended consilience.

Whatever the means of measuring
A life's defined by one's treasuring
The seconds ticking to zero,
Countdown to death's arrow

Bulls eye every time -- no question.
Yet, that doesn't equate to evidence
Of an excuse to indulge prepossession
Towards meaningless's eminence.

For the dead have nothing the living want,
But reverse the coin, and see why any haunt
Is so depressing for the deceased
Watching jewels like sand released,

Fly, floating out of hand
Whipping granular cloud
Drifting off a cliff to land
Stinging eyes of the coffin crowd.]]>
<![CDATA[Melting Skulls]]>Fri, 27 Oct 2017 21:06:55 GMThttp://honestyisnotcontagious.com/rants/melting-skullsWasn't really sure what to do this week.  I know I should keep on a spooky vibe given that it's Halloween, so to that end I put together "Melting Skulls".  Not much else to say because I think they speak for themselves.  Enjoy!
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<![CDATA[Why I Quit:  The Corn Maze part 2]]>Sat, 21 Oct 2017 20:55:27 GMThttp://honestyisnotcontagious.com/rants/why-i-quit-the-corn-maze-part-2​Using my phone’s flashlight I hurried along the path.  The trail zigzagged etching a crooked route over a mile long.  Low lights ahead shone on gruesome, unsettling displays – twitching crucifixion victims, gargoyles with glowing eyes, grinning deformed hillbillies in lawn chairs.  Traversing the maze meant heading from one illuminated oasis to another.  Eventually the path blossomed, opening onto clearings filled by set pieces, everything from a dollhouse full of sinister living puppets to a butcher shop serving humans chopped up by a giant wearing a pig’s head.  (It was there I passed the previous maze goers.  They huddled in a corner, while Pete -- nice guy -- squealed at them, swiping the air with a meat clever.)  
 
All along the shrouded path performers lurked in the shadows.  Hidden by corn stalks they remained invisible until customers came too close.  Then the haunters struck.  Some lunged out snarling.  Others strolled alongside patrons, growling and rasping before slipping back among the stalks.  A few merely stood in the middle of the road, silently forcing maze walkers to go around them, anxiously uncertain what might happen.  Paraphrased Shakespeare came to mind:
 
"What are these, so wicked and wildly attired; that look like nothing on Earth, yet are on it?"
 
Running through the labyrinth I passed the witch’s coven boiling babies, and stumbled beyond the densely fogged lair of the corn monsters – faux fog whiting out everything until the other side – before passing thru the bone orchard.  Several posts planted in the ground allowed an assortment of bones to hang from an array of wires.  In the dark it looked like the bones floated in midair.  Meanwhile, a weeping angel shuffled through the bone orchard.  Her broken wings dragging along the ground, getting filthier with each step, she avoided maze patrons rather than went after them. 
 
Some folks took that as incentive to harass her, chasing the angel about the orchard.  When they did she cried out, begging them to stop:  “Why are you doing this?”  And for most this caused a realization about their behavior that compelled them to leave quickly, ashamed and disgusted with themselves.  The few contemptible enough to remain, taunting her further prompted skeletons to silently emerge from the shadows.  Distracted by the advancing skeletal horde the assholes took their eyes off the angel long enough for her to jump up, grab the wiring, and seemingly floating she unleashed a demonic bellow that would've unsettled a dinosaur. 
 
Aunt Daphne said, “Point there is to make customers the horror, sort of turn the tables on them.  I get though some cunt-brain gonna be a dick, so alls I think is yay if it works, if no then won't do it next year."
 
Although I doubt the bone orchard worked on everyone, not all horror is gore.  I’m sure, if nothing else, it provided a lasting memory.  And what people said about, what they did when they saw it reveals more about themselves than they may intend to admit.
 
However, my destination lay beyond the orchard.  I wanted to stake out the final corridor.  Where the path finally led to the exit an alcove in the corn allowed a performer to hide.  As maze goers breathed a sigh of relief, the exit in sight, that performer could come charging out wielding a roaring chainsaw, chasing them out on a final scare. 
 
Unfortunately the chainsaw didn’t fully work.  The mechanism had been disabled so that, though the engine rumbled the teeth didn’t rotate – all bark, no bite.  Still, it’s hard not to get spooked when a six foot three inch screaming weirdo comes out of the dark swinging a snarling chainsaw.
 
Slipping into the alcove I turned off my flashlight. 
 
Terry, the aforementioned giant screaming weirdo, said, “Sup?”
 
 “Just looking to cause a few scares.”
 
“Cool.”  Terry passed me the chainsaw, “I’m gonna get a soft pretzel.  Have fun.”
 
She pulled off her mask, and handed it to me.  I donned the leathery patchwork, supposedly human flesh, and tried to suppress a mad giggle.  Terry disappeared, while I waited for victims.
 
The chainsaw softly puttered. 
 
"What's that?"
 
"I don't like the sound of that."
 
I tried not to snicker.  When the nervous patrons neared the exit I revved the engine.  Heads turned just in time to see me running at them.  Those who ran I chased a short distance then hurried back into the maze, in thru the exit to once again hide and await victims. 
 
I heard whispers:
 
"I think I saw someone."
 
"Another fucking loser."  (This is why the chainsaw doesn't actually work.)
 
This time I didn't wait.  I burst out swinging the chainsaw wildly.  However, none of them ran.  So at the exit I simply receded back into the darkness. 
 
Such is life. 
 
Some screamed.  Some laughed.  I couldn’t help smiling when I overheard a little girl tell her parents, “This is how you run from a psycho.”  She made it to the other side of the pumpkin patch before realizing I'd stopped chasing her long ago.
 
At midnight the sound systems crackled as Aunt Daphne got on the P.A., “Well, folks seems another wicked night is behind ya.  If ya like, come on back tomorrow, but for now, head on home… before our ghouls get hungry.  Muh-hahahaha!”
 
And with that Wilson’s Pandemonium Pumpkin Patch closed for the night.
 
#
 
Around the campfire Allison, Frank, Glenn, and I swapped stories. 
 
Allison said, “I caught three stoners trying to hide in the dollhouse.  Someone always wants to stay her overnight.”
 
“I had to make some kids stop fake-fucking the pumpkins.  We got li’l kids around.  Can’t be humping the fucking pumpkins,” Frank said.
 
Glenn said, “I heard we got two shitters.”
 
I said, “Jessica told me the same.”
 
We all raised our glasses, “Spooked so bad they shit their pants.”
 
We laughed.  We howled at the moon.  We watched the fire die down just in time for dawn to take over.  It felt like home.  And that worried me a bit because I didn’t look forward to watching home dissolve simply because the season ended.  Yet, it seemed inevitable.  Nothing lasts, not even the best of times, so it seemed time to perhaps ride out on a high note.     
 
The nomadic actors eventually retired to their RV, and I ventured to the concession stand to brew myself coffee.  I wanted to be alone, but inside I discovered Aunt Daphne deep-frying candy bars.
 
Never knowing a reason to be gloomy around her, I bowed, “Hello pumpkin queen.”
 
She smiled, “You and them been up all night?”
 
I shrugged, “Work don’t start ‘til after dark.”
 
“True enough.”  She pulled out the basket, and dumped sizzling deep-fried delights onto a plate.  Talking aloud, though not necessarily to me, Aunt Daphne said, “Doc sez I’m not s’posed to eat this shit no more.  Too chubby.” 
 
“Then don’t eat it,” I said fumbling with the coffee maker.
 
She replied, “I’m your boss, I tell you what to do.”
 
She laughed.  Aunt Daphne glowed brighter than the sun.  She knew how to frown, but I suspect she never saw a need for one.  Yet, this morning something in her eyes seemed off. 
 
It compelled me to ask, “What’s on your mind?”
 
She shook her head, “Same dumbass shit every year.  Parents get pissed cuz their kids get spooked.  They bring their children to a scary place then get mad at me for building it.  Can you believe that?”
 
I nodded.
 
She sighed, “Problem is – you hear about the shitters last night?”
 
Chuckling I said, “Yeah.”
 
“I guess Jessica really nailed some kid whose daddy is just too damn important to have a son who shit himself in the corn maze.  He called me this morning making all kinds of noise.”
 
Hearing the coffee start to boil I felt a knot in my stomach.  I got a feeling where this might be headed, and it seemed like dumb luck the bomb didn’t fall on me. 
 
I said, “He wants you to fire someone.”
 
Aunt Daphne chomped on a bar.  After chewing a moment she replied, “He wants Jessica, though he don’t know who to blame.  We’re all the same bunch of fucking nuts to him.”
 
Sighing I said, “Then if it doesn’t matter who goes fire me.  I’ve broken enough rules, putting hands on customers and such…”
 
“Sounded like they deserved it.”
 
“It should be me anyway.” 
 
Finishing a bar Aunt Daphne said, “I don’t want to fire anyone who hasn’t done a damn thing wrong.”
 
Nodding I said, “Fine.  Then I quit.”
 
Folding her arms across her chest Aunt Daphne said, “Oh, so you expect me to lie?  Tell folks I fired someone I didn’t?”
 
“Then I guess I’m fired you fat old dumb bitch.”
 
She lightly slapped me, not even hard enough to kill a fly.  Pulling me into a tight hug she whispered, “Don’t think I don’t know this is about something else.”
 
I squeezed her back then walked out.  My pay would come in direct deposit, so no need to linger I went to my car.  Climbing in I started the engine thinking, “At least I won’t have to say goodbye.”
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<![CDATA[WHY I QUIT:  The Corn Maze part 1]]>Fri, 20 Oct 2017 21:43:54 GMThttp://honestyisnotcontagious.com/rants/why-i-quit-the-corn-maze-part-1​“‘Oh my god, it’s eating my brain!’
 
“‘This is not the job that was advertised,’ I said.
 
“‘Help me!’ the professor cried.
 
“‘Okay, but...’
 
“‘Now!’
 
“‘Keep up that attitude you can save yourself.’
 
“The professor’s head exploded.  His body fell.  He looked like a kowtowing ragdoll.  The remains of his head slumped to one side, a spectral serpent coiled inside the burst skull. 
 
“One of the graduate students whispered, ‘What do we do?’
 
“The ghost snake hissed at me.
 
“I threw up my hands, ‘I’m out.  I’m done.  I quit.’
 
“As I walked out of the haunted mansion I could hear the students screaming.  Glancing back I saw blood thump-splat across a window.  A grad student jumped through the glass, but the ghost snake, now grown to anaconda proportions darted out, snagging her in midair, and pulled her back inside.
 
“Shaking my head I said, ‘Well, not everybody’s cut out for academia.’”
 
From the back of the crowd a teenager shouted, “Bullshit.  This guy’s full of shit.”
 
I sighed.  There’s one every evening.  My glare parted the audience leaving me with a straight line of sight to the teen. 
 
I said, “It’s good to be skeptical.  How about you come see this picture then?”
 
I waved my phone at him.  Smugly he approached where I sat.  I patted the bale of hay as I scooted aside allowing room for the boy.  He snatched the phone out of my hand. 
 
“What am I looking at?”
 
 “Can’t you tell?” 
 
He frowned, “It looks like a blurry room like in a basement.”
 
“Look closer.”  I licked my lips.  He held the screen closer.  When it got about an inch away I swiftly smacked the phone into his face. 
 
Dropping the phone he jumped up shouting, “Ow!  What the hell?”
 
The audience laughed.  As the kid stormed off I saw his friends already swarming to mock him.  Picking up my phone I noted the time.
 
“Hey everybody, the hayride starts up in a minute.  So if you’re inclined I recommend heading that way.”
 
The crowd dispersed, some to the hayride, others to elsewhere.  Those who went elsewhere soon found themselves getting scared by costumed haunters.  Spook crew members leapt from behind piles of pumpkins, bales of hay, or from around buildings.  Delighted shrieks of terror echoed all over the pumpkin patch, and on occasion those who fled from the hired ghouls found themselves chased for a bit. 
 
A group of young kids ran screaming from a fiendish scarecrow, who angled away from them to trouble me for a cigarette. 
 
Handing Jessica a smoke I said, “Almost quitting time.”
 
She sighed a cloud, “Not soon enough.  How’s my makeup?”
 
“A little runny, but it’s creepier that way.”
 
She shrugged, “I guess.”  The sound of the tractor starting caught her attention.  Perking up she said, “Hayride.  I gotta go.”
 
Tossing her cigarette away she bolted.  I couldn't help smiling.  Like many of the employees here, especially the couple of teenagers, she treated this job like the only time she got to openly be herself. 
 
Jessica liked to lurk in the cornfield as the hayride passed by.  She placed herself towards the end, an ear pricked to catch anyone complaining about being bored.  Target acquired she leapt onto the side of the cart, letting loose a banshee wail.  So far she got one kid to piss his pants, thereby earning management’s approval. 
 
Watching her sprint away infected me with her enthusiasm.  I decided to finish the night in the corn maze.  Stomping out her cigarette – fire hazard – I headed to the entrance of Daphne’s Diabolic Corn Maze, part of Wilson’s Pandemonium Pumpkin Patch. 
 
As usual I stumbled into the job unintentionally.  Over drinks and darts a fellow informed me his aunt ran a spooky corn maze about an hour outside Chicago.  Planning to pump in unsettling sounds, she needed help installing audio equipment.  I possessed the skills she needed given my previous, albeit brief stint working the recording gear for a professor and his ghost hunting crew of misfit grad students.  (Never mind that that gig ended badly because I didn’t fail to do my job.  I recorded everything, right on down to the professor’s head exploding -- pop.) 
 
But I took the job in the pumpkin patch because it sounded fun.  Not many employment opportunities grant that perk.  Plus, it seemed like a short gig.  However, setting up the sound equipment led to me lending a hand building sets which turned into other offers. 
 
By the time we opened for Halloween season I founded myself working the concessions stand, spooking folks in the corn maze, and by direct request of the pumpkin queen, Aunt Daphne Wilson, occasionally telling scary stories to small crowds.  Not everyone gets to terrorize people without having to deal with real life consequences.  Chase a couple kids down the street with a chainsaw; well, the police are liable to shoot such a person.  But here in the Pandemonium Pumpkin Patch I could do just that, and get paid to do so.  Sometimes folks even thanked me for terrifying them. 
 
As such I occasionally thought, “This must be what it’s like to be a priest.”
 
Carried by a crisp cool breeze, the aroma of deep fried dough wafted through the air.  Clusters of teenagers moped everywhere like globs of apathy.  Young children giggled, picking out pumpkins with their parents.  Machines out in the corn quietly, steadily fumed columns of faux fog that made the field seem to be on a smoldering hell-mouth.  The fog rolled across the grounds, shrouding the floodlights in a cinematic manner.  Nearing midnight, it felt like any horror could be possible.
 
A banshee wail cut through the quiet.  Customers flinched.  Employees all acquired knowing smirks:  Jessica the scarecrow struck again. 
 
Three fiendish haunters presided over the entrance to the maze.  Glenn, a psycho hobo covered in smeared blood, Frank, a classic killer clown, and Allison, a teddy bear with a skinned face.  Frank irregularly burst into hyena-like cachinnations, while Allison softly growled, holding up her face-skin with a cutesy, blood stained paw.  They flanked customers, herding them into a loose line by the maze’s entrance.
 
Flashing a wide grin full of scummy teeth Glenn stood at the opening in the corn.  In a gravelly voice he announced the rules, “Listen closely.  None of our performers will touch you, so please return the favor – do not touch them.  Stay on the path at all times.  No running.  No flashlights.  No photography.  No hope, all ye who enter here; you four come on now into the hell that awaits.”
 
And so another bunch entered the maze.  The giggling pack of pre-teens could soon be heard shouting in happy horror.
 
Nearing Glenn I overheard him mutter, “Why’s that always get my dick hard?”
 
It’s a certain kind of person who goes in for hired spooking.  The pay is not great.  The hours often feel longer than they are.  It requires enduring heaps of boredom and scorn.  There’s always someone unimpressed enough to feel the need to tell a ghoul it isn’t frightening; and it takes fortitude not to turn the moment then and there into a real horror show.  If I had a dollar for every smartass I didn’t stab – I may have choked a few while shouting, “It’s all make-believe,” but they got out alive.  Like any kind of performance art it’s a job devoted to those brief shining moments when the screams are real, or a customer’s eyes are smiling.
 
Glenn, Allison, and Frank belonged to rare breed of performers.  They toured the country in an RV, cruising from seasonal gig to seasonal gig.  In the summer they did Renaissance Faires, haunted houses in the Fall, and Christmas towns in Winter.  In-between they auditioned for any local plays, and even staged what they called “guerilla theatre” by simply tossing down a cap, and performing scenes for whatever coins came their way.
 
Allison told me three times, “We’re on the subway in New York, started doing Hamlet, and next thing I know – no joke – we’ve done the whole play.  And what with it being just like the three of us, it got kind of schizo, but fucking fun.”
 
That last bit sums up the average hired haunter:  kind of schizo, but fucking fun.  After all, it’s madness to stand silently in the darkness, waiting patiently to step out of the shadows for all of a second hoping your audience will hurry from you screaming because in the end they aren’t meant to stand in silent appreciation of one’s portrayal of a zombie, slasher, swamp hag, ghost, demon, etc.  The goal is to be an unwelcome presence safely encountered like the police.

Working here reminded me of the first time I went to a concert.  I felt surrounded by like minded folks.  For some belonging is a rare feeling, and in this place the scare-makers and horror hounds truly belonged.  Back in the everyday ordinary world wearing corpse paint to a the grocery store gets odd looks, maybe even the manager asks a fellow to leave the store even though he's just buying the fixings for risotto -- I will get revenge on that store, mark my words -- but in the Pandemonium Pumpkin Patch the freaks rule.   
 
I asked Glenn, “How’s the night?”
 
He shrugged, “We got a few left then we’re shutting down.  You comin’ by later?”
 
Glenn and company stayed on the grounds, camping out of their RV.  On occasion we stayed up for hours afterward swapping stories, passing a bottle around a campfire, and enjoying the rural silence. 
 
“I might.  I’m gonna duck in, cause a few scares.”
 
Frank said, “Try not to be a dick.”
 
 “I’m only a dick to the dicks.”
 
Frank nodded, “Yeah, but when you dragged that guy into the middle of the cornfield...”
 
Cutting him off, “I got lost too.”
 
“Not the point,” Frank said.
 
I added, “He slapped a living doll.  Those ladies aren’t older than fifteen.”
 
Glenn interjected, “You both got good points.  I think where Frank is going, though, is ’s been a quiet evenin’.  We wanna keep it that way.”
 
Sighing I conceded, “Fair enough.”
 
"Alright then."  Glenn stepped aside, "In ya go."
 
So I went into the maze.  
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