Friday, June 30, 2017

The Reader - Week 26

Behind Closed Doors

The homicide detective was about to look around the rest of Andy’s house when he heard the sound of a key in the front door lock. He stepped back, into the backdoor foyer, so that someone entering wouldn’t be able to see him. He heard the sound of the door opening, and then footsteps in the kitchen. He saw a fifty-ish woman step up to the table and begin to rifle through the papers that were there. She would quickly scan a page, and then go on to the next one. She seemed to be looking for something.

“Can I help you?” said the detective, stepping into the kitchen. The woman, startled, flustered, jumped.

“I’m Lieutenant Mitchell, homicide, and you are… ”

“Homicide! Omygosh, I didn’t know Andy had been murdered,” sputtered the woman, “My name is Evelyn Thompson and I… I used to live here, with him.”

“He wasn’t murdered, this is a routine investigation. He died in custody, apparently of a medical condition. I’m here to see if there is anything that might shed some light on this man. You were his girlfriend?”

“At one time. I moved out a couple of weeks ago. We had been estranged from each other for several months before that,” said Evelyn, “The fire was out.”

“You know something about these papers?” asked the officer, “Looking for anything in particular?”

“These are his stories,” said Evelyn, “He wrote constantly. I’m looking for any that are about me.  I was going to confront him on the issue, I didn’t know Andy was dead, obviously he isn’t here.”

“These stories… a touchy subject between you two?”

“They were his life, his only life, he had ceased to live in the real world. I don’t want anything he might have written about me to get out. I’m moving on, I’ve found someone new, I don’t want him screwing up my new life, like he did my old one.”

The detective stood silently for a few moments, then spoke; “Is there anything you’d know that might help out investigation, about these stories, or anything else, as far that goes?”

“You have his keys?”

“I have the ones  he had on him when he was picked up the other night.”

“There is a room in the basement that he always kept locked… ” said Evelyn, “… if you have the keys the answers to out questions might be found in there, there wasn’t a great deal of depth to the man. He kept the house clean, almost neurotically.”

“Did he have any weapons, or was he interested in explosives or chemicals?”

“No, no, none of those things. He was the most boring person on earth.”

“Yet you did live with him, for some time?”

“Two years. I was lonely. He didn’t help that situation much.”

“You don’t know what it was that he kept locked in the basement?”

“No. It was one of the things we fought about. He would go in from time to time, then come out with a briefcase. Then he would get in his car and then come back a couple of hours later.”

“Let’s take a look.”

They went downstairs and Evelyn led the detective to the room with the locked door. The door was massive, weather-beaten and old; almost comically out of sync with the rest of the furnishings in the house.

“Three deadbolts,” said the Lieutenant, “Assuming they are all locked, it should be easy to get in. If they aren’t all locked, we'll have to try each one singly, then in pairs.” The detective went to work, trying various combinations. When he felt the door move slightly in its jamb he pressed the latch lever and slowly pulled the door open a crack.

“Are you sure you want to see this?” said Lt. Mitchell, “Usually this kind of secrecy is reserved for porn, or worse.”

“I would be really surprised if it was anything more exciting than a stash of Beanie Babies,” said Evelyn, “Like I said, he was the dullest person on earth. I’m only interested in what concerns me.”

“O.K., let’s do this thing,” said Mitchell.

The Reader is serial fiction, published every Friday

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Last Birthday Party

Kevin, Cathy, Me, Sister Jean, Frank, Kirby and Keith

Woo-hoo! A party!
I was turning seven, these might be the happiest pictures of me as a child in existence. We had quite a few of the neighborhood kids there, enough so that my mother bowed out of the preparations, letting my father cater the whole affair—cake and ice cream. Lots of ice cream.

Frank, Cathy, Kevin, Me, Kirby, Jeannie, Delroy, Arlen (standing)

If Arlen doesn’t look so happy, it may be due to the fact his family had never had ice cream (they might not have had a refrigerator, there were still ice-boxes in use then) and my dad let him eat as much as he wanted. Arlen ended up getting his stomach pumped.

That was the last birthday party I ever had.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 6 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Little House on the Prairie

More from my scanning project. This one was shot at my grandparent’s house, summer of 1969. A “not-so-big house”, before they were fashionable. Three rooms down (one unheated), two rooms up (virtually unheated.) A little attic behind the paired windows. Outhouse in the barn. I had never printed this before—there was a flaw in the negative (easily fixed nowadays.) But there was more than just the house. Zooming in, I saw my grandmother, by the pump, talking to my father. My little sister was walking into the house. Another warm summer day, one of many spent there in my childhood, although my childhood would soon end as I was soon to move out on my own. My grandfather died soon after, and then my grandmother had to leave the little house; the world had changed. It was no longer safe to leave your house alone, burglaries were rampant in the countryside.

Little sis became quite a handful in her teen years, but that's another story.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Reader - Week 25


Coroner’s Report on Andrew J. Larson, WM, DOB 10-21-60, DOD, 7-10-15

Subject had been admitted for observation after an apparent mental breakdown, was administered an anti-psychotic drug which stopped his agitation. Subject was examined the next day, was alert and responsive, but would not, or could not speak. The next morning he was found in his holding cell, unresponsive. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful. No sign of trauma on the body. Suspect appeared to have been in fair physical condition, with a general muscular atrophy typical of a sedentary lifestyle. Blood and tissue tests showed no trace of drugs or poisons, his stomach was empty. Full autopsy revealed no obvious cause of death. Subject probably died of a non-symptomatic heart condition. Awaiting further tests.
The homicide detective didn’t understand why he had been assigned to do a follow-up on the death of this guy. Not the kind of thing he would normally handle. Nevertheless, his boss wanted a background report on the house and anything it, just in case there would be any complications. There had been three other deaths in the holding area over the last couple of years, CYA.

The house was a nondescript 50s Cape Cod, just like all the other ones on the block. The grass had been recently mowed, no flowers, only a pair of Arbor Vitae—one on either side of the front step. The detective went around to the side of the house. He looked in the garage. He saw an older Camry sitting amidst the usual clutter of yard tools. He would check that out later. He had the key to the house, part of the late Mr. Larson’s effects when he was picked up. Letting himself into the kitchen, he noticed the decor—lots of pink, probably original. The air in the house was stale, but it didn’t stink. On the table was a pile of papers. Looking through them, he quickly realized that they were stories. He picked up the top one and began to read:

                    The Best Day of My Life

My high-school “rock band” had been together for almost two years. The first year was pretty bad, but the junior high sock-hops where we played didn’t have the most discerning audiences. In the second year, when we could actually play a lot better, we had been playing for teen dances at KC Halls and had even opened a few shows for some of the more “famous” local bands. It was October of our junior year and the school’s homecoming celebration was coming up. Tom, one of the guys in the band, had become friendly with Susan, who was already becoming a singer of note at the local Baptist Church. She had worked up an old soul song from the 60s with three of her friends and needed a band to back them. The guys in the band thought it would be a great idea, we worked up the song and then invited them over to our practice space (in the drummer's basement) to rehearse. I didn’t think of it at the time, but it took a lot of nerve for four teen-aged black girls to walk through our lily-white neighborhood at night. The rehearsal went well, we were ready.

Homecoming was the biggest thing at our school, there were two assemblies, we played for the older grades. We waited nervously backstage as they held the coronation ceremony (Sweet and Lovely was sung) and I practiced my parts on my unamplified electric guitar over and over. We played first, I can't remember what song it was, and then they introduced “The Upsetters” and the roar from the crowd triggered a state of hyper-awareness in me. I had never felt so alive. Our drummer counted it off and did a little intro and the band joined in. We played through the changes once and then Susan came in with a decidedly womanly wail:
Whenever I'm with him
Something inside
Starts to burning
And I'm filled with desire
Could it be a devil in me
Or is this the way love's supposed to be?
The emotional roller coaster had started picking up momentum:
It's like a HEATWAVE
Burning in my heart
I can't keep from crying
It's tearing me apart
And then a little reprieve:
Whenever he calls my name
Soft, low, sweet and plain
Right then, right there
I feel that burning flame
Has high blood pressure's got a hold on me
Or is this the way love's supposed to be?
Another emotional peak:
It's like a HEATWAVE
Burning in my heart
I can't keep from crying
It's tearing me apart
Then the other girls came in, ganging up on us:

Then Susan returned, baring her heart:
Sometimes I stare in space
Tears all over my face
I can't explain it, don't understand it
Ain't never felt like this before
Now that funny feeling has me amazed
I don't know what to do, my head's in a haze
And then, in all her glory, Susan wailing, moaning, with the girls urging her on, more and more, right to the end:
It's like a HEATWAVE
Burning in my heart
(Like a heatwave)
Can't keep from cryin'
(Like a heatwave)
It's tearing me apart
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
(But it's all right girl)
(Go ahead girl)
Yeah Yeah
(Well it's all right girl)
Hoo, Yeah
(Ain't nothing but love girl)
I feel it burning
(Don't pass up this chance)
Right here in my heart
It's like a HEATWAVE
Looking back, I realize that on that day it was the closest that we ever got to being liberated from the societal chains that kept us bound in our predefined roles, never meeting again that way, never, never

Underneath the last page, attached with a paperclip, was a blurry old snapshot:

The Reader is serial fiction, published every Friday

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Two Women Without a Man

Scanning some old family snapshots, I came across the above image. From 1944, my mother is on the right with one of her friends. It was an interesting time. With millions of men away, there were millions of young women working in factories, many of them right off the farm, and living independently for the first time, with new opportunities. The album contains many pictures of my mother with her friends—they were having the time of their lives. But this picture was special, when I turned it over I found this inscription to my mother:

Needless to say, my mother never talked about having had any “special” girlfriends, her own “honey bun.” In little over a year after the picture was taken the war would be over and the girls would drift apart, most of them getting married and starting families.

“That doesn’t mean anything,” said The Weaver when I showed her the picture and the inscription. Well, maybe it doesn’t mean something specific, but it does have meaning.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Reader - Week 24


              Admission Summary: Andrew Larson, WM, DOB 10-21-60

Police were called to William’s Pub, “A man acting strangely”, subject had been ejected from the pub after reacting to the bouncer’s request for a cover charge. Subject insisted that the bouncer had been murdered the night before, that subject had been interviewed by police as a witness. No recorded incident of any kind in police records for the previous evening. Subject began to harangue police officers, but was incapable of making any sensible remarks. He was not considered a threat to the public, and was transferred to County Welfare agents for transport to the county medical facility for observation. Subject apparently under persecution delusions, thinking that a murder had been covered up, that his girlfriend, known only as ’Jennifer’ was being stalked and may have been abducted by a man from a former relationship. Injected 50MG Thorazine, subject became calm and was placed in holding cell to be evaluated in the morning.

Andy woke up alone, in a cell. He had had a variety of dreams, of having been arrested and given an injection, but he could not verbalize what had happened to him. He sat on the edge of the cot, his head reeling, trying to make sense of the previous 24 hours. An orderly came in with a breakfast tray: Orange juice, oatmeal, toast, and a glass of water. He couldn’t eat. After a short time, the orderly returned and took the tray, saying nothing. A guard came in and signaled that Andy should get up and follow him. Andy could barely stand, but did manage to leave the room and walk down the hall, ultimately arriving at an examination room.

The room had a desk, with three chairs on one side, and one chair on the other. Behind the chairs was a large one-way mirror. The guard motioned to the single chair. Andy grasped the table as he sat down, he felt as if he didn’t grab something he would keep going down until he hit the floor. There was a window in the room that overlooked a drab courtyard surrounded by blank walls. After a short wait, three men holding notebooks and wearing lab coats entered the room and sat down opposite Andy.

“Good Morning, Mr. Larson. How are you feeling?” said the man on Andy’s left.

Andy could think of what to say, but was unable to talk. He made a sign with his hands as if he were writing with a pencil.

“Can you tell us your name?” said the man in the center.

Andy shook his head and repeated his pencil movements.

“I’m sorry, it is not possible to give you writing tools at this time,“ said the third man, “We’ll meet again, tomorrow, you might be able to talk then.”

And the left the room. The guard came in and brought Andy back to his cell and locked the door.

Andy began to cry.

The Reader is serial fiction, published every Friday

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


The other night, while on one of my evening rambles, a car-full of teens pulled up to me and asked if I was a “local.” They were looking for the old insane asylum. I gave them vague directions and asked if they were looking to make a “deposit.” They laughed, and then asked if there were any other haunted places in town that I knew of. I had a little chuckle myself at that question; the whole town is haunted—if you know where to look:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Big Daddy Wag’s

Minnepaul Music

The neighborhood music store was a popular place in the late 60s. There was always a social aspect that one didn’t find in the downtown stores. Coupled with a fair amount of herbal enhancement, one of these was truly bizarre. Wagener Music was in a converted storefront, home of “Vox Village” where one could buy all the harsh-sounding Super Beatles one could afford, or, if you were friendly with “Big Daddy”, he’d let you borrow a WHOLE BAND’S WORTH for that ‘special’ gig. Hearsay had it that he sometimes had a stash of Mexican weed upstairs in the safe for his “regulars”. He even sold televisions!

Needless to say, inventory control problems sprang up and this place only lasted a couple of years. Much more on this legendary establishment here.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, June 09, 2017

The Reader - Week 23

Jazz Hands

Andy went out to the garage. Opening the service door, he noticed that Jennifer’s car was no longer there and his own car had been put back in its usual position. Andy wondered how she could have done all this with him noticing. He went back in the house, and looked for any sign from Jennifer. Going to the bedroom and looking in the closet and drawers, he saw that all her things were gone. It was as if she had never been there.

He went back out, this time to the trash can, to where he had put her bloodstained dress. The can held only his usual garbage from the previous week. As he pondered this mystery, stupefied, he began to hear the sound of a band playing, wafting in from the nearby park. On impulse, thinking that perhaps he could clear his mind, Andy started to walk the two blocks to the park, as he had done many times in the past. When he was a child, living with his parents (in the same house where he now lived), the park was a refuge, a place to play childhood games, and a place for more complicated games when he was a teenager. They used to have bands in the park when he was young: but only “square” music for geezers. Now the bands that played were actually playing much older music relative to their ages than the squares did then. Andy hoped that Jennifer would be there.

The group on the bandstand was playing a mix of late 60s and early 70s music, FM rock staples, the music they had grown up with. There was a cluster of young women in front of the band, halfheartedly trying to dance to the sludgy mid-tempo folk-rock that the band was offering. There was one dancer, however, who was truly inspired. She was lithe, with a bounce to her movements that made it seem that she was even lighter than she looked. She began to interpret the songs via “jazz hands.” For a few moments, Andy forgot Jennifer as he watched her mesmerizing performance. He wished that he was young again, that he had been a dancer, that he would have had a chance to make it with her, even if only for a day, if only just to talk to her while he stood near her fire. When the song ended, Andy’s reverie snapped and he turned and began to scan the crowd. He saw a woman standing in the back, in sweats, near the pavilion. From the rear, it looked a lot like Jennifer. Making his way through the crowd, he soon reached her.

“Hello,” he said.

The woman turned around. It wasn’t Jennifer. He acted dumb, as if he hadn’t been the person who spoke. Andy became agitated, he needed a drink. He left the park and headed toward the Pub, wondering if it would be open for business again so soon after the shooting. Everything appeared to be normal as he approached. Stepping inside, he saw no trace of the events of the previous night. The booth where he and Jennifer had sat, as well as the floor near the door, had no trace of bloodstains. It was a little past eight and the crowd was sparse. The band was setting up their gear and everything appeared normal. Andy wondered who would be working the door that night. He sat down at the bar and, trying to act casually, ordered a beer, drinking it in a hurry. He ordered another. About halfway through that one, Andy began to feel a strong buzz from the alcohol.

“Excuse me, but there is a cover tonight.”

Andy looked up.

It was the bouncer that he had seen murdered the night before.

The Reader is serial fiction, published every Friday

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Almost Famous


Summertime is usually the slow season for blogging. My site meter goes from some to slim (and from slim to none on occasion!), it is tempting to say “See you in September, suckers!”  I have been know to throw in a summer re-run or two, but if I stay away too long I get itchy fingers.

So, you can imagine my surprise last week when my ‘hits’ started doubling, then tripling! I was at a complete loss until I Googled ‘Flippism’ and found out that the new season of House of Cards featured an extended riff on flippism! I've never seen the show, although I have had hits from television production companies in the past. The rush of interest has subsided somewhat, but it is still high, I imagine I'll be getting a steady trickle of curious fans from now on.


By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, June 05, 2017

Art vs. Nature

Icelandic Cabbage, Hólavallagarður Cemetery, Reykjavík, 11 October, 2015
“What is the point of making a picture which is meant to be like Nature, when everyone knows that this is the one thing which a picture cannot be and should not be and must not be? Who thought up the theory that Nature is a matter of sight alone? Those who know Nature hear it rather than see it, feel it rather than hear it; smell it, good heavens - yes but first and foremost eat it. Certainly Nature is in front of us, and behind us; Nature is over and under us, yes, and in us; but most particularly it exists in time, always changing and always passing never the same; and never in a rectangular frame.”

~Halldór Laxness, The Atom Station

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, June 02, 2017

The Reader - Week 22

Disappearing Act

“Jennifer?” Andy tapped at the bedroom door. There was no response. He turned the knob and peeked in. Jennifer wasn’t there. Everything seemed in order: the bed was made, all of her things appeared to have been put away. The picture of the baby was on the night stand. Andy went to the closet, it was empty. He even looked under the bed. He went to every room in the house, calling her name. She could have gone out the front door, he thought. It was odd that she hadn’t said something to him, or she could have left a note. He went outside, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. He checked the garage, her car was still there.

“She probably went for a walk,” he thought. “She’s not used to living with someone, or maybe she didn’t want to disturb me.”

Andy went back to his proofreading:

Riding in Cars With Boys.

There was a subculture of what was called “cruisin’.” To join it, you had to have a car (driver’s license optional), some buddies, and a route. The route included a circuit of the old “ballrooms” that ringed the Twin Cities. Some of them were little more than glorified roadhouses, built in the pre-prohibition era, serving as speakeasy’s during the twenties, and hanging on in the sixties, when the explosion of youth culture meant that every Friday or Saturday night had a dozen or more choices for the well-wheeled teen to find some action. My buddy Dan has a 59 Plymouth station wagon that he referred to, for some unknown reason, as “Captain America.” Maybe it was the sense off freedom that it offered. And it was a way to pick up girls. One Friday night in late March found three of us guys, Dan, Larry, and me, taking off in the “bomber”, looking for action.

Going to McDonald’s was still an event then, although they weren’t so numerous as they are now, sometimes you had to make do with cheesy knock-offs like “McCarthy’s” where you get a hamburger and fries with a Coke for 35 cents, even cheaper than McD’s. McCarthy’s was out on Bass Lake Road and, after having fueled up with some salty, greasy grub, we headed out a little further, to the old Bass Lake Ballroom. We got there after nine, the local band, The Del Counts, were just finishing a rousing cover of the Four Tops “Reach Out”, they were incredibly good. We stayed for a while, but Larry had found a trio of girls who wanted to go for a ride. We went for a ride, Dan and one of the girls in the front seat, with two of the girls in the back seat with Larry and me. We parked out by Crystal Lake, a notorious make-out spot, as romantic a place as you're going to find in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. Pretty soon one of the girls and me ended up in the back of the wagon, thoughtfully furnished with a foam pad. For some reason, Dan was obsessed with Bill Cosby, he had a number of his albums memorized, and proceeded to faithfully reenact them. With this soundtrack, the two of us in the back began making out, hot and heavy. I didn't know what Larry and ‘his’ girl were doing in the back seat, but what is was, they weren’t Cosby routines.

After a while, Dan ran out of material, and one of the girls said that they had to go home. The two of us in the back re-arranged our clothes and Dan dropped them off.

As far as we were concerned, they disappeared of the face of the earth. We never saw them again.

Jennifer still hadn't returned after a couple of hours and by this time Andy was seriously concerned. He went back into the bedroom to see if there was possibly a note or any clue to her disappearance that he might have overlooked. He looked around, the bedroom seemed a little different somehow. Perhaps it was the lighting, he thought. He looked at the bed and the nightstand.

The baby picture was no longer there.

The Reader is serial fiction, published every Friday

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

                                                                                     All original Flippism is the Key content copyright Stephen Charles Cowdery, 2004-2024